Next Stop – New Zealand!

From Melbourne we spent two full days at sea before arriving at New Zealand’s South Island. The first day was spent on the ship admiring the views and wildlife in the Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sounds, which it turns out are actually Fjords – the on board Naturalist explained the difference between the two features. We were lucky enough to get clear views of the Milford Sound which is more commonly draped in a thick mist. The temperature at Milford was icy, with cool winds coming down off the mountains.

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While cruising the sounds we were able to sea seals, dolphins and albatross in their natural environment. As well as mountain waterfalls going right into the sea, and amazing lines in the water where the freshwater from the mountains mixed with the salt water from the sea. A truly stunning welcome to New Zealand!

Onwards from the sounds was Dunedin, a city built predominantly some Scottish settlers, including the nephew of Robert Burns. The name comes from the name Edinburgh as that is where it was fashioned on. The timing of our visit could not have been better – the day of their largest annual market – Thieves’ Alley Market Day – the origins of which we’ve thus far been unable to ascertain! We were sure to visit the Cadburys’ Chocolate Factory while we were there with the awesome chocolate waterfall, although sadly pictures were not allowed on the tour 😦 Turns out the Kiwis like their chocolate with marshmallow in the middle.

Our final stop on the South Island was Akaroa, a beautiful natural harbour formed my a crater of an extinct volcano that has merged with the sea on one side. To get out of Akaroa and over to Christchurch we had to ride up and over the crater edge in a coach. Christchuch was really poignant; almost exactly six years on from the massive earthquake and there is still much evidence of the destruction that occurred. After our bus tour of the city we went to a nearby nature reserve to see the Kiwi birds and Kai Apline Parrots, as well as a Maori culture experience which included seeing original Maori huts and a performance of traditional Maori dances.

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Damn that’s quite a dam! Plus our next leg begins.

The last thing we did in Sydney before moving on was go and see the city’s largest dam. It was hot day, but well worth the visit. The area that had been flooded is huge, and it was all planned in advance even down to building a settlement for the workers to come out of the city to live in with their families. When the levels are low there are old roads visible from the viewing platform.

The dam has a visitors’ centre which is free to enter and has loads of information on the history of the dam area including a video about the settlement and building process. The settlement is still there today, and still inhabited, although obviously the building work was finished many years ago. The area around the lake is a nature reserve, so the wildlife around the dam is left to its own devices which is evident in the size of some of the fish in the lake.

The next part of our epic adventure was boarding our cruise ship for the middle portion, and main event… A cruise round New Zealand! We boarded our ship at Sydney Harbour and sailed around the coastline to Melbourne before heading onwards to New Zealand.

In Melbourne we wandered the city and checked out the Old Melbourne Gaol which is a preserved building showing the history of hanging, imprisonment and the stories of some more infamous convicts that have been held there. We also took a walk along the beach on the way back to the ship, avoiding the water and burning hot sand. There is a lido there that used to have a defence wall to prevent carnivorous sea creatures entering – we couldn’t quite understand why it’s not there any longer 😉

Dingos, Crocs, Taz and the City

 

Lots of lovely regular posts from me at the moment, while there’s reliable broadband to be had. The next chapter of this particular adventure commences Sunday and then internet access may become more unpredictable and slower… Then again it may not…

Yesterday we went to the local Wildlife Park, Featherdale. We were able to see lots of Aussie animals, including free range kangaroos, and stroke a Koala. The weather was much cooler with rain and even thunder in the evening. It has been pretty dry here in the last six months – the rain was very welcome.

Then, today we went into the city. Naturally we saw the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge; we also saw the Cathedral and adjacent park and a beautiful restored building which now serves as a high end shopping centre – The Victoria Building.

And back “home” on the double decker train…

Mountains, Rainforests and the Ocean

With the epic lack of sleep and the big time difference, it took a couple of days to get our body clocks kicked into gear. Much fighting to stay awake, very early nights and unnatural waking hours were contended with. However Tuesday I think we finally got on top of it. Now to sort out the messed up appetite…

Turns out Sydney was having a heat wave when we arrived so we headed for the Blue Mountains on Monday where it was about 10C cooler (still 36C though!). But not before being lucky enough to see wild roos munching grass in a field at the side of the road on Sunday!

The views were breathtaking. We had a picnic in a quiet local park before heading into the tourist attraction to ride the steep railway, skyway and cable car, as well as take a stroll around boardwalked sections of the rainforest below.

Pretty amazing stuff, all from a disused coal mine that was transformed into the tourist attraction that’s there today.

Tuesday was supposed to be hot again, so we headed to the coast to find cooler air. The boys both went in the sea, I did not. Unfortunately we ended up leaving a hot sunny area for an area that was overcast and incredibly breezy. It barely managed 22C, despite being over 30C back ‘home’. Oh well, my uncle has a pool so the boys jumped in there for the afternoon 😉

Journey to the Other Side

So, three or so years ago I made the decision to emigrate with the children. I started saving up money and secured a job. Then, two years ago, just as I was going through the Visa process, and transferring my Midwifery registration over, there was a query about a hereditary health issue. The issue meant I would not get the permanent residence family visa that we needed, not with my existing health history as well. So, I had to turn down the job I had been offered.

Now I had around £8,000 in the bank which I’d saved to go towards funding the big move. It seemed only right to use the money for a once in a lifetime experience that included the country we had been planning to relocate to. Sixteen months ago I booked a cruise to do just that. The cruise sets sail in four days.

Where were we going to move to? New Zealand!

Now, I have family in Sydney, Australia, which is where the cruise happens to sail from, so we decided to arrive a week early and stay with them. I also tagged a week in Auckland, New Zealand onto the end of the cruise before we make the epic journey home. And epic it certainly was to get here:

To get to Sydney we began our journey from Cornwall, England, at 5am on Thursday 26th January (Sydney are 11 hours ahead, so that makes it 4pm down under). We boarded a coach that then took over six hours to get to Heathrow Airport. At Heathrow we had a nine hour wait for our first (!) flight departure. I had already prebooked a lounge for comfortable seating, electricity and food and drink.

Our first flight left Heathrow at 8.30pm that same day (7.30am on 27th January is Oz), arriving in Singapore nearly 13 hours later (9.20am GMT, 5.20pm local time, 8.20pm in Oz). Then followed an almost six hour wait for the 2nd flight. We were able to obtain transit vouchers which we exchanged for the transit lounge, which again had power, comfortable seats, food and drink and SHOWERS! We also explored a butterfly garden (although being the vening all the butterflies were fast asleep!), a Koi pond and the Pikachu Skytrain (monorail).

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The second flight was ‘just’ 8 hours long, landing in Sydney at 10.30am on Saturday 28th January, local time (11.30pm on 27th January back home). There we were met by my uncle and taken to our accommodation (their house 😉 ).

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It was a very long and very tiring journey. Not much sleep was had by any of us; aeroplane seats are incredibly uncomfortable. Also there were moments when I dreaded the neighbouring passengers. Flight one: just before we prepared for landing (descent had not yet begun) a small child in front of us started vomiting, clearly he was unwell – I am dreading that one of us may have caught his bug during the long flight. Flight two: stranger sat next to me spent the whole flight sniffing, coughing and wiping his nose on his sleeve – again I dread catching his cold. Thankfully we’re all still well – phew!

Magic Milestones!

My son was the one that had the special privilege of spending the night at the home of his very good friend. And a great time he had too!

Ordinary Hopes

We all worry about our children.

We worry that they will be unhappy or might not make friends or might struggle with all manner of things. Will they read at the “expected time” and to the “expected level”? Will they be able to “keep up” with the other children? Will they be “good enough” at school?

We all worry.

But when your beautiful child has a complex range of disabilities those worries really are in a whole new league.

One of my greatest wishes for my son is that he will have true friends.

It is a simple wish really but it has been a huge worry.

Because, whilst his wheelchair is obvious, what you don’t see from photos is his learning disabilities or social difficulties. Yet those differences can make a child stand out as being “different” just as much as the wheelchair does.

And sometimes those difficulties can…

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Are we OK, you and I, after you voted to destroy my dreams?

Andrew Reid Wildman, artist, photographer, writer, teacher

I feel like someone has taken something dear to me, my identity, my connection to my continent, and they have killed it. If you voted Leave, I hope you are prepared to take responsibility for what you have done, and that you do not regret it. It is over to you now, to sort out. Some friends view my reaction as an affront. That I am ‘dissing” them. It is not. It is just that you have killed something that was precious to me. You have created a country around me that I do not recognise, which feels broken and insular. That was your right to do that, you voted the way you thought was best. And you won and I lost. But in so doing you destroyed something. Many of you are now regretting your vote. Save your tears, I do not want to hear them lest I scream…

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Dry Run With Friends

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A weekend of dry weather and friends wanting to wild camp in their converted camper locally meant we jumped in, with our nowhere near ready set up, for a single night test run.

It differed from the planned adventure in July in several ways:

  • Our car is far from ready
  • We are far from having everything we need
  • We have a foster dog at the moment, as well as our dog
  • The weather is nowhere near as warm as we hope it will be
  • It was only one night, and was very local
  • So we had a lot less gubbins than we will have – but that’s fine because the storage isn’t quite sorted yet

Despite these differences there was much value in doing it. It helped to spot things that were or were not needed as well as any pitfalls from what we already had – for example the carabiners for the bags were not big enough to go on the handles above the doors as planned.

The dogs loved the space, the training leads were ideal for hooking them up to the load D rings in the car (neither has great recall at the moment!). We took the foster dog (Gilda) in the car overnight, and our friends took our dog (Indy) in their van. Gilda slept fine in the bed on the front passenger seat, and Indy slept fine in the bed in the living area of the van.

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The beds fit in beautifully, and both of us found them comfortable and spacious.

There is lots of space under my bed for storage, and I have ordered a couple of Really Useful Boxes to slide underneath. One for kitchen bits and food, and one for dog bits and food.

There should also be enough space on top the the boxes to slide our camping chairs and the ‘bog in a bag’.

 

 

There is a fair bit of space in all the footwells, apart from the driver’s seat, and I have also ordered Really Useful Boxes for each of them – one each for mine and my son’s clothes and the third for ‘bits and pieces’ such as wipes, towels, bog refills etc. There will be space on top of these for other things too.

The cubby holes along the roof will be used for underwear, toothbrushes, toiletries and tablets etc. The door pockets will hold the curtains, sunshades and anything else not already housed.

All in all it was a resounding success, and very reassuring in terms of feasibility. We really had loads of storage space. We’re hoping the weather will be kind, and allow us another test run before our friends set off on the road early next month.

 

Non Diet, Food Replacement?

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A cousin of mine shared something on social media last week. It was an article looking at a meal replacement drink. She, and her friends, were adamant that the author had merely failed to read the instructions properly, or not tried the right flavour. In any case, I had never heard of such a thing before.

I’ve seen, and tried, diet meal replacement shakes (for the flavour, not the dieting qualities I might add), and they’ve always been quite yummy. I sometimes find I don’t have time to eat properly at lunchtime as I’m so busy herding the children in my house (not all mine, I’m earning a living as a childminder presently), preparing their nutritious meals, refereeing disagreements, and ensuring the food is actually eaten. I thought I might try the product in question.

I went to their website and ordered a trial sachet of the flavour recommended by my cousin and her friends, after almost passing out at the prices. It came, and I vowed to wait until I had the time to prepare it carefully and properly, to give it the best chance on the trial run – did I mention the price?!

So, taking heed of the article and comments on my cousin’s post, I started to prepare my drink. Cold water, powder and then blend for 20 seconds. I have a Nutri Ninja IQ, so just used that to blend the mixture, then stuck a straw in it.

First impressions? Not disgusting, but not particularly nice either.

I pressed on, determined to give it a chance. It had a bit of a powdery texture to it, and a really strange taste.

Still I continued. By now I was getting a really horrible aftertaste in my mouth, tasting a bit like sweetener.

I gave up at this point. I couldn’t finish the drink. The aftertaste lingered, and I had to find some chocolate to try and mask it. Some two hours on, and I’m still tasting it. All in all I managed about 200ml.

The sample cost me £4.99, larger packs are, obviously, much more expensive. I think it’s safe to say I won’t be parting with anymore money on this one!

Prehistoric Bread

So far we’ve baked flat breads using the Neolithic (late stone age) and Iron Age heritage flours. The Bronze Age wheat had a failed harvest last year, so that flour won’t be available until the Autumn – we’ll revisit the prehistoric bread then.

To accompany the baking we had a Neolithic to Iron Age workshop at the local museum, and a Hunter Gatherer style foraging walk which included building a fire on the beach and cooking some flat breads on hot stones, together with the foraged plants, seaweed and molluscs.

We’ve certainly covered a lot of extended history around both eras, finding an in depth series of videos on YouTube that covered Neolithic to Iron Age origins from the fertile crescent across to Europe.

The baking surprised us all. There was so much flavour in the breads that were made with nothing more than flour and water. The heritage flours were also much thirstier than their modern counterpart, needing quite a bit more water to form a dough.

For the Neolithic bread, the thinner the better it seems. The thicker patties remained doughy inside, and not as tasty.

 

Slightly thicker breads were best with the Iron Age bread. Just thick enough to rise up a little when cooking, forming a pitta like pocket. Thinner ones were too crispy, and lacked the extra flavour, too thick was still doughy in the middle.

Both prehistoric breads were delicious dipped in houmous, which we realise is not authentic to the period 😛

The ‘recipe’ was just flour and enough water to make a dough.
Leave to stand for twenty minutes before kneading.
Divide into flat patties.
Leave to stand again.
Heat a heavy based frying pan, dry, with no oil or butter.
Cook the patties on each side until done.

For May we will look at Romans, we have our Romans workshop at the museum next week.