Local Heart, Global Soul

September 5, 2010

Damage reports…

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s been a hectic day… since very early in the morning we’ve been on the phone to New Zealand trying to reach family and friends. (It was Saturday Morning here in The Netherlands, but Saturday Evening New Zealand time.)

I grew up with Earthquakes, they are a fact of life in New Zealand since the Indo-Australian Plate and the Pacific tectonic plates share an unhappy join that runs nearly the entire length of the country.

Because these are among of the biggest and most active tectonic plates in the world, and New Zealand is a country encased along the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire” we get the full works, boiling mud pools, geothermal hot springs, active volcanoes and …naturally, earthquakes.

Growing up in New Zealand I’ve experienced at least six “decent shakes” … I remember once as a kid  (roughly 13 years of age) that we had out-of-town visitors and my sister and I were sleeping in a caravan in the garden so that guests could sleep in our beds inside the house. In the middle of the night I woke to a low growling rumble and an unfathomable movement, lifted the curtain and looked out onto our veggie garden, it was a bright moon and a clear night and the outside light was on as well, so what I saw has been etched into my brain forever.

The entire garden was still there : neat rows of carrots, yellow beans, peas, potatoes  etc remained in their lines, but, instead of nice and flat and normal looking, it was all moving, and I could actually see waves  about 30 cm ( approx. 1 foot) moving though the garden, exactly as it is when you stand on a beach and see  small waves roll in to the shore.

Evenly, rhythmically, one after another. the earth was rising and falling as just as water would have done and I remember looking in wonder as I saw carrot tops in the trough of a wave, then on the crest, then back in the trough.

It was like the solid earth was actually made of water, and it acted like it. I wasn’t afraid, I was in awe and somehow it was so sudden and so strange that it simply didn’t occur to me to be scared.

The noise was more disconcerting, if you have never heard the earth moan then trying to describe such an amazing sound is difficult in the extreme. Imagine the rumble of thunder in the earth instead of the sky, it has a deep voice and it was long and mesmerizing and yet it also sounded like a familiar sound in a very very wrong place.

After watching the last wave roll past  about 15 seconds later and have the caravan settle back onto an even keel, I distinctly remember saying out loud, “Earthquake, I want to sleep”, and then I simply dropped the curtain, rolled over and did so.

It was no big deal and my sister slept though the whole thing, so apparently did our guests and I think that my the time my Father did a prowl of the property to look for damage, I was already asleep again.

It’s standard practice for all New Zealand School Children to do not only Fire Drill, but also Earthquake Drill, At  one of my former workplaces I was part of a Civil Defense team and we did courses on negotiating earthquake damaged buildings to search for survivors as well as First Aid.

With more than 1200 Earthquakes per year in the South Island alone, most are felt only by the delicate needles of super sensitive machines and probably quite a few animals that people assume are “a bit out-of-sorts today”  as humanity blissfully goes about their business, unaware that the earth rumbles kilometers benieth their feet.

I’ve felt at least six decent earthquakes in New Zealand, some single jolts, some long and slow rumbles that seemly took ages to end. None of them  compare to Saturday’s magnitude, when in Christchurch New Zealand,  at 4.35 a.m. an earthquake hit that was 7.1 on the Richter Scale.

Connecting with friends and loved ones has been a massive relief… the last call came this evening, to friends who have a home, their own business and who look after a house in Christchurch that we own and rent out on a full-time basis. The evening News here has already told us that there are miraculously no fatalities from this earthquake, so we know our tenants are ok, but our house is of an age that means it’s in the larger of the risk categories, so we are wondering how that fared.

The news is just though.. Their places are fine, ours almost so…we are now short of a chimney in the living room, it landed in the driveway, but  only the top half came off so and apart from that all damage is minor so it will be a reasonably easy fix.

We, like many sensible New Zealand home owners  knew that this day would one day come and invested in a special Earthquake Insurance Policy. so documentation of the damage is the order of the day, photos and probably screeds of Insurance forms in due course to fill in and submit. It could have been far far worse.

Our friends’ Shop and home are structurally fine, not a crack, but stock is all over the floors of the shop and it will be time consuming to clean up.

My Father reported large amounts of broken glassware, crockery and breakables that got flung  unceremoniously out of cupboards and some cracks in the walls that look a bit dicey, he was more amazed that some of the  cast iron chess set pieces were flung more than 4 meters across the room, I can attest that those pieces are heavy little beasts.

My Mother passed away almost 20 years ago from cancer and my Father has been in a relationship for about 13 years now,  in recent months the pair tied the knot to make it “Official” at a super quiet ceremony at the Registry Office and Himself and I sent a hand-painted Delft Plate to celebrate the event. (Hand-painted, from the Porcelains Fles in Delft, means craftsmanship, and in this case it also means .. expensive, very expensive).

Since it took six weeks to get there, it only arrived last week and my Father positioned it on the wall last Thursday.  In a small twist of fate, it’s pretty much the only thing that didn’t fall off the walls in their house less than two days later!

(ergo God likes hand-painted Delfts ware???) Hmmm…. or has a sense of humour.

My Father experienced three decent sized after-shocks just in the time I was on the phone to him… (approx) 45 minutes… so clearly the dust hasn’t settled yet.  His earlier walk around the neighborhood revealed mostly a pattern of tumbled brick chimneys… a reoccurring theme it seems. ( He took his out a few years back when a Heat Pump was installed and rendered it obsolete)

Other friends mercifully reported mostly inside damage, rather than structural damage to their homes. The Inside mess is substantial in some cases, but well, they were all very thankful that everyone was safe and well and whilst the loss of sentimental items was morned,  it was better those than losing one or more of the family. One friends’ extended family lives closer to the epicenter  30 kilometers to the north west of Christchurch  though, and their homes have fared far worse.  My heart goes out to them as their homes are currently no longer habitable and  may or may not be  repairable.

It seems that some people got tipped out of bed by the shaking, others couldn’t get off the bed, but no one I know slept though this one, and that others are, quite rightly rather nervous about every little tremour that has subsequently been felt. Since several of these after-shocks have measured 5 on the Richter Scale, I don’t blame them.

I can only hope that this is as bad as it gets… they have been without phone for part/most of the day, ditto  electric power, but those have been quickly restored and all they are missing now is running water. Everywhere I am hearing heartwarming stories of people popping in to check on neighbours, help out the elderly, and community spirit by the bucket-load as people help out with clearing bricks from pavements and drives, check if people have food etc.

To see the far greater damage in the Central Business district in the center of town, one thing is very clear, the lack of fatalities is surely only due to the sheer luck that this earthquake occurred at 4.35 am in the morning when people were tucked up in their beds.

For this I am very very very very very very very Thankful.

To see if there is an earthquake happening near you right at this moment, click here…

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/quakes_all.html

Edited to add an even better link:

http://www.geonet.org.nz/earthquake/quakes/recent_quakes.html

September 4, 2010

So you Think You are having a Bad Day…???

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND,The Hague — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Kiwidutch has a restless night, stomach appeared to have forgiven me… it lied.

Wake at 5.00 am, I was organised enough to sort everything  I needed for a quick shower and get-a-way so that Himself and the kids could respectively sleep on…

I left the last of my Conditioner in Portugal, we had to many other goodies to bring back and there wasn’t much left in the bottle, stupidly I remember this with wet hair and the shower running, so do I ?

(A) streak starkers through the house to the cupboard we keep as a pantry and hunt for a new bottle (do we even have a new bottle?  Himself does the shopping and puts it away and he sleepth)

There’s an older energy saving bulb in that room and it takes several minutes to produce more than a dim light… Little Mr’s cars and Playmobile are scattered on the floor (remember I’m severely accident prone)

(B) just grit my teeth and try and get comb though regardless of tangles…

I take the lesser of the two painful routes and choose option (B) Ouch anyway, and hair loss today looks like  crime scene evidence….ok, grin and bear it.

Neat pile of clothes, sneakers for driving…  but where are the socks? Grrr.. forgot those, in cupboard other side of sleeping Himself. He’s a light sleeper and once woken can’t usually get back to sleep.

The fold-up drying rack has socks on it… somewhere in the mass of bras, kid knickers and general smalls… drying rack is next to pantry cupboard with hazards listed above, no other option this time… a quiet creep into the dimly lit room finds me successfully squinting and groping around the clothes… YES, socks (and there are mine! even better)

..but the Playmobile strikes on the way out… a small plastic figure wearing a crash helmet disguise  pierces into one of  my bare feet and forces me to mumble forcefully on zero volume as I hobble into the hallway.

Dressed without further injury I let myself out onto the portiek but the light sensor isn’t working (again) and I can’t see the stairs below  (or anything) well.. gotta tell Himself it’s on the blink again,,,

Get into the car and go to drive away.. Ack, I’m wearing my reading glasses and not my driving glasses … out of the car, back upstairs, but due to stupid light not working getting my key back into the door quietly was a tad trickier than I planned…

Nothing for it, the glasses have to be in the bedroom… Sorry Love…

Opps.. not here after all… where? …”out of reach of kids in the living room?”, ok… yep.. Apologies to Himself, sneak out Take Two…

Big (new) Roadworks on the other side of the road going to work.. gotta remember that for the trip home…check.

Arrive work… I have a neat bag of cooked white rice for the fridge for later… Good.

Splitting headache a little while later.. not good,  pills in my handbag… well usually yes, but I tossed things out whilst looking for the driving glasses, the pills didn’t make it back… Grrr.

About half an hour later it wasn’t just my head giving me grief, my stomach is back in the business of mutiny… here comes that crampy feeling, luckily the Ladies isn’t far away.

Settled? not quite… two more fast walking trips to the Ladies are required in the next hours, but it’s manageable. I have my own office, just keep quiet and last the day…

Meanwhile, a very very weird family situation has developed .. it unfolds even stranger than fiction (details private) resolution and some answers will come tonight hopefully…

Lunchtime… I plonk my rice from the fridge to the plate, cover and shove it into the microwave in the kitchenette to nuke… last time I did this it was stone cold in the middle, I add a little time… whilst I wait I go sort a difficult case out with a colleague who’s now smiling (actually trying not to laugh) because I need to keep excusing myself to go to the Ladies next to his room and he’s already seen me do the Ministry of Silly Walks this morning …

I told him that all of me is back but my stomach is dragging the chain on getting working again… but these later gripes are all false alarms.

I remember the rice and go rescue it.. hot, bloomin’  heck  it’s  less nuked and more Chernobyl-ed…

About 20% of it is edible, then I got to the part that was less cooked rice and more  extremely dead carbohydrate… (semi-cremated in fact)… even with my brand new teeth I had trouble chewing the first mouthful. Since I didn’t want to risk breaking new teeth I binned it ( the rice.. not the teeth)… and went to go to the Canteen and get bananas.

I needed to go to the bank too… wallet? .. um… wallet? oh, yes,  left at home with the headache pills after the rummage for glasses, I remember now.  My key-pass for work contains a chip that you can load cash onto and use in the canteen…  I have the key-pass to open doors at work, so it’s good for getting to and  paying for banana’s but won’t cut the mustard with the Tellers I’m sure for withdrawing cash at the bank.

A few more work hiccups ….

and my stomach is making me feel green again… no, No, NOOOOOOOO!!!!

Driving home… remembered to avoid this mornings roadwork’s .. took next best route home… Grrr they are digging THAT up TOO!!! (typical!) Third time lucky but it’s not a little detour and it takes ages to get home.

Even my working week this week has started and ended on a Friday, and I start stupidly early, every man and his dog seems to be driving home on  a Friday between 3.00 and 4.00 pm… Come on people, MOVE when the light is green please, I’m sitting in my car with an ominously growling stomach and need to get home…

I get honked at for letting four cars in from a side road that’s notorious to get out of , … get a LIFE people behind me, there is a Tram coming (never mess with a tram!) AND the light ahead is red! So I would have gained four whole car lengths and then had to stop anyway!, big deal! One particularly aggressive car behind me overtakes wildly at the next corner and flips me the bird as he passes… ( Nice Weekend to You Too Mate…)

Phew, home, and no road-kill, intentional or otherwise…

The family situation take priority and plans of action put in motion.

Stomach is still on the blink…  open my Email before working on  finishing my post for the competition…

First email message is from New Zealand rings alarm bells and my heart sinks:

(Saturday) morning  at 4:35am  earthquake  7.4 on the Richter Scale located 30km west of Christchurch .. extensive damage…

We are 10-12 hours behind NZ in time depending on how day-light savings time is rigged, so this happened somewhere between 4.35 -6.35 pm this afternoon (Friday) .

A lot of my family and friends live in Christchurch and I anxiously wait to hear that they are all well and OK, …. communications are of course very limited at present as rescues are made and services are prioritized.

At least the building code is strict and enforced and no corruption cuts corners in construction, but it’s still bad enough to be under State of Emergency and I will still worry until I know everyone is ok…

.. So, My bad day? Compared to this in NZ?... what bad day???

So what if I’m not 100% right now?.. you know? ..I’ll live !

Priorities… they need a shake up now and again ( just not literal ones)

July 2, 2010

The Netherlands v Brazil … nailbiting in Orange…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m interrupting your Singaporean Tour transmission because something veeeeery important is happening in the Netherlands today.

Well, to be exact the action will be taking place in a brand new stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, but most of a nation back here will be sitting on the edges of their seats nervously in anticipation as they await the result of a duel of the sporting kind.

Just in case  you have been out of range of radio, television or computers  in the last 2 weeks… the Football World Cup is currently taking place in South Africa.

By “Football”  I mean the Football that European’s, Asians, South American’s play… the game that’s bizarrely called “Soccer” in the other remaining  places that play this game.

The Group rounds kicked off on the 11th of June, eight groups of four teams each, played each team in their own group, the three points for a win, two points for a draw and zero points for a loss were tallied and the two teams with the highest points in the group go though to the next round.

The two teams with the lowest points in the group, go home.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

So, by this method, 32 teams become 16…. and then the Elimination Round begins…

New Zealand ( the “Kiwi” section of “Kiwidutch”), have been in the qualifying 32 teams of this World Cup… since Rugby (the “All Blacks”) is by far the biggest Sport in New Zealand, and Football, the poor relation, nothing at all was expected of New Zealand’s team, (the “All Whites”).

Amazingly, instead of fulfilling the predictions that  the All Whites would be the proverbial New Zealand Lamb to the slaughter, (and pass the mint sauce), they held all of their opponents in the Group stage to a Draw… including Italy, who were the defending World Cup Champions, and who  finished last in the final Group score.

New Zealand may have gone home already, but they went home with their heads held high and feeling like winners. Good on Ya Kiwi’s .. I was cheering you on all the way!

Now that the All Whites are out, I can feel free to take my Kiwi cap off and replace it with one of Dutch colours LOL (Dual nationality has it’s tricky moments I’ll admit).

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

So.. back to explaining the workings of the World Cup…

The winner of one Group, play the runner’s-ups of the next Group, and since it’s  Elimination from now on in, the winner of this match goes forward and the looser goes home.  And in this manner, 16 teams got whittled down to 8.

Still with me? Good. So…  This is where we pick up the story in the Netherlands. Eight teams are now in the Quarter-Finals.

The Dutch have made it to the Quarter-Finals.. that’s good news.  Our next opponent is Brazil.. that’s not quite so good news.

Actually the Dutch have beaten Brazil several times before,  both teams have star players in top form… both teams have been playing well, although, Brazil was held to a nil-nil draw with Portugal in their Group round, whereas the Dutch cruised though their group with three wins.

Brazil however have a big “Name”  in the football world to live up to…  and have won the World Cup more times than any other nation. This  means that more often than not they are able to put the right cards on the table (or rather balls in the back of the net) when it matters most.

That said, they meet one of the most on-form Dutch teams ever in the history of the World Cup, so when today the referee blows the whistle at 16.00 Dutch Time, it will be a battle of the titans, a match of closely matched equals,  and a nail biting ninety minute duel  of skill on a football pitch.

There can only be one winner… in these Elimination rounds,  8 will become 4… Will we go on? Will we go home?  Only time will tell.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In the meantime,  since the first game on June 11th, Football Fever has hit the Netherlands and houses, neighbourhoods, workplaces and shops are all decked out in the Dutch national colour of Orange.

Why Orange? Well, the British have a Royal house of Windsor… the Dutch have a Royal house of Orange… only in Dutch it’s spelled “Orangje”  and pronounced ” Oh rung ya”.

The other popular war cries of the football pitch are “Hup Holland Hup!”  .. that’s pretty much translated as “Go Holland Go!” and “Orangje Boven!”  …literally” Orange on top” and the colours of the Dutch flag are Red, White and Blue, and the national symbol is a Lion… so we are not short of some very distinctive colours and icons  to celebrate with.

Traditionally the more upmarket the neighbourhood, the less decoration you will see in the streets… our Little Mr. was inconsolable that there is not a single orange flag in our street ( that may change if we get though the next round mind you) so Himself has strung orange flags the length of our living room, and several kids in the street have made beautiful kid drawings and  taped their home made posters of support to the inside of their  living room windows…

That said, if you REALLY want  to see the party get started, then you have to know that certain streets in certain neighbourhoods  show decidedly less restraint in showing their support…  and should not disappoint.

first, some “regular” support…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

..a boldercar full of football books and magazines…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

… Balconies…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This flag has an added stork..(the symbol of  The Hague)…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

But honestly… this is nothing… lets get serious about showing our support !… this is more like it...

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This Turkish run take-away is supporting too…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

.. although they seem more than a little confused… Shoarma is an Egyptian specialty, popular in the Netherlands, and a Kabap is a Kabab…   but the mystery sets in because ” kapsalon” means “hairdresser” and clearly multi-tasking the two would not be a terribly bright idea…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

um… cheeky support with sauce?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Get your sunglasses out…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

All that’s left now, is to sit on the edge of my seat at 16.00 and become a bag of nerves, whilst we see if our team come out winners or losers …  So unless you are logging in at your computer from Brazil, I  hope that you too will do your part and cheer loudly with me… Hup Holland Hup !!!… Orangje Boven !!!….

June 7, 2010

When Public Opinion came back to bite the Multi-National…

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

First an apology, I meant  to post this a few days ago when were still in the New Zealand travel mode…

Secondly let me tell you a story about David and Goliath …nooo, not the Biblical story but one that revolves around that principle, and thirdly, lets throw chocolate into the story.

(Now your ears pricked up and you are warming to the idea, I can tell LOL)

Remember what we did when we have jet lag, are still on a 12 hour Dutch time zone difference and our little family of four are wide awake at all hours of the New Zealand night?

That’s right, we went grocery shopping at a 24 hour supermarket close by.

A strange thing happened there too.  Ok,  I grant you, taking a four and eight year old grocery shopping at 3.00 am is already a bit strange…  a lady,  (with a uniform on and logo that showed she was clearly a shift worker)  saw me standing looking at the chocolate selection, came over and said: ” I wouldn’t advise you buy the Cadbury’s love, take the Whittaker’s instead“.

Now, we looove Whittakers chocolate so I didn’t take much persuading.

Then, whilst I was putting our items though the checkout, the cashier spied the chocolate and told me that she was delighted to see that I’d chosen Whittaker’s.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Huh? why all these comments about chocolate?

The kids were starting to get to the stage of their supermarket experience that involved wanting to drag race and crash test shopping wagons, so Himself hustled them outside whilst I sorted the bill.

Since the little fidgets were waiting I couldn’t linger for an explanation. Needless to say I walked out to the carpark  a little bemused and puzzled.

Jet lagged brains don’t excel in retaining information so once back at  the camping I promptly forgot about it and was only reminded again when we visited my Aunt and Uncle later in the trip.

Conversation turned to foodie items that I missed when I was not in New Zealand and as a well known long standing 100%  New Zealand made brand, Whittaker’s chocolate entered the conversation.

My Aunt, stopped and gasped, “ You didn’t buy  Cadbury’s did you?” there was  a tone in her voice, disapproving… “Noooo“, I reply, “ I bought Whittaker’s”   “Good!” she replies, very firmly.

Now she really has me wondering,  I suddenly remember the supermarket incident and ask her what on earth is going on between Cadbury’s and Whittaker’s? Here’s what she tells me:

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Cadbury’s is a long standing brand  of chocolate in New Zealand, there is a factory in the South Island city of Dunedin.

A relatively short time ago they changed the recipe for their chocolate.  They either reduced or removed the cocoa fats and substituted palm oil instead.

Now as a foodie I know that palm oil  is very controversial as a food ingredient but even more so because of its environmental effects where it is grown.  Deforestation, increased carbon emissions, pollution,  habitat loss to  endangered species are among the negatives of Palm oil.

Not only this, but the switch was made because palm oil is a cheap product and clearly it was a revenue increasing exercise. Then the straw that broke the camels back… the taste.

My Aunt reported that everyone was suddenly talking about how it didn’t taste like the chocolate they were used to before. Whittaker’s, already a popular brand but a small player, held a far smaller market share, began to benefit from the groundswell of public opinion to the changes that Cadbury’s had made.

Kiwi’s not only started talking about it, they also started doing something about it, they voted with their wallets and started buying Whittaker’s chocolate off the supermarket shelves and boycotting Cadbury’s.  This happened to such a degree that the Cadbury’s factory in Dunedin  was forced to close down. Cadbury’s chocolate is now  imported into New Zealand from either Thailand or Australia.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It’s very clear indeed that if complete strangers are making comments to you in the supermarket, that feeling about this runs deep and people are very concerned about the Cadbury’s product.

One thing is clear to me: New Zealand is  lucky to have a long standing family run business that makes a quality product to benefit from this amazing change. For once the Goliath, a “global player” has been taken down the notch and they have lost a vast market share. Worse than that, they have also lost customer goodwill, and anyone with a smidge of business sense will tell you that that is  sooo much more difficult to regain.

Needless to say, Whittaker’s will not be making changes to their recipes and substituting cheaper ingredients… they know they are onto a winning formula if they leave things exactly as they are.

So, the moral of the story is: You may have a vast  market share , you may appear to think that your consumers will not notice or care about your ingredient revisions,  once you know they are unhappy about it,  and you don’t make swift changes to rectify it,   your days as their favourite are numbered.

Usually a company advertises a new recipe with words like “new” and “improved” in this case Cadbury’s appear to have instead made themselves a recipe for disaster.

( two videos by Whittaker’s)

Here’s also why people are up in arms… (video by leokimvideo)

No, this isn’t an advert for Whittaker’s, (although our waistlines can attest to that fact that it’s awsome chocolate) but it is a hopefully an advert for good business sense and not taking your customers for fools.

It doesn’t matter how solid your market position is,  if you think you can do no wrong then you are very much mistaken.  Consumers can chop you down to size fast … faster,  in this case, than a bar of chocolate left on the dashboard of the car on a hot day (and eventually in Cadbury’s boardroom, probably  just as messy).

June 3, 2010

Sequoia 88, a Whopping meal on a Shoestring…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Here’s a Tip for visitors to Christchurch, New Zealand… Especially for travellers on a budget.

Head northwards out of Christchurch on the Main North Road. (The Main North Road leads off the end of Papanui Road) and towards the edge of the city there is a big set of traffic lights at the corner of Main North and Preston Roads.

The entrance is around the corner off Prestons Road  (the car park is behind the bottle store)  and whilst there is a Hotel there, but that’s not where all the cars and people are streaming into.. the people are thronging into the Restaurant.

This is the Sequoia 88, and it’s an “all-you-can-eat” Restaurant.  It’s not what you would call Michelin Star dining, but the secret to their success is a low set price for the food (all drinks are extra, and pay as you go…) and a very wide variety of food.

Basically it’s a hot and cold buffet arrangement, everything from bite sized Fish, Chips,  mini crunchy battered hot-dogs, chips and other fried offerings, a Chinese/Asian selection with noodles, rice, chicken. port and beef offerings, soups, pastas and then the more traditional things like a wide variety of Roast veggies and roast meats carved on the spot…

Then there is the cold section of the buffet, baked fish, numerous types of  salads, crackers and breads, fresh fruits, olives etc and finally a soft ice-cream machine and a waistbursting array of puddings and desserts, also tea, coffee and cheeses.

And the best bit? It costs about NZD $ 25,- per person ( That’s about Euro 13,-) so if you are a budget conscious backpacker and you’ve been getting a little lean during your travels then this is a great place to come.

Most of our Christchurch friends and family also come for another reason.. You can bring a large family group here and  there’s  always the possibility to please everyone with the menu.

Even the fussiest of kids will find something to entice them, and it’s an eclectic mix of dishes on offer so Grandpa can have his Roast Pork,  roast potatoes,  veggies, gravy and crackling whilst grandkid next to him noshes on Chinese beef in black-bean sauce or lemon chicken and Dad tucks into one of the pasta dishes.

To date, every time we enter this establishment we all adamantly say: ” I’m not going to over-eat this time“…  just as everyone we go with does, and when it comes time to waddle back to the car, we all know that we failed.  (sigh)  I blame the desserts.Seriously, it’s ALL their fault.

Luckily for the Kiwidutch’s we only get here every few years and nothing like this exists in The Netherlands so I can use the time in between to ready my waistline for the assault.

Goodness knows you wouldn’t want to do this place every week… unless you were running marathons in between visits.

For a group wanting to eat out together it’s an easy place to eat at.. there’s something for everyone, and for the budget traveler who’s been counting the pennies and eking out the rations on their backpacking trip, it’s a chance to pack on some calories and enjoy a substantial meal without breaking the bank.

… and yes there is a very large Sequoia tree  on the property too, in case you wondered.

June 1, 2010

To Market, To Market, show me your wares… or Not, as the case may be.

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Our time in Hanmer Springs is at a close, we have to say farewell and head back to the  city of Christchurch for our flight tomorrow. The gifts we bought  here for family have been replaced with ones be have received and the suitcases are bulging. The amount of items that we are leaving in storage with my Aunt and Uncle has grown, things like beach towels that we will  need next next time we are here but are not easy to lug back to the Netherlands each time.

We are counting down the days and are still not ready to leave, Hanmer Springs has a hook in our hearts and the line is begging to be reeled in… just not this trip Hanmer, but one day eventually, for sure.

Every Saturday (at least in the Summer months that I know of) there is a small market on the Green in the centre of Hanmer Springs. Stall holders set up with a variety of crafts and services, everything from hand carved wooden bowls to back massage therapy lessons.

I wandered around with my camera in hand and went to pass by some of the  market stalls…  not looking to buy though since I’d been in the centre of town to say our goodbyes to several local people there and Himself was waiting back at the house with the van and the luggage for me to get back to so that we could head out of town.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Then a strange thing happened, I raised the camera to get one of these shots and from behind me an angry woman’s voice demands that I not take photographs…  I first assume I may have accidentally gotten a child in a close up and she didn’t want me taking photos of her kids…  which I would respect and delete the photos immediately, but no, it’s a lady from the stall directly behind me, they are selling handmade soaps, and she’s now angrily accosting me, demanding that I leave and to definitely not take photos of her stall… wow.. I’m in a public place and I wasn’t even taking photo’s of her stall!

Such rude  behaviour I have not struck ever in a market or public place in New Zealand, so first I stand there rather stunned, wondering what on earth I might have done to provoke this outburst?

I tell her “Sorry, but I wasn’t taking photos of your stall“,  then walk away quickly because it’s an uncomfortable situation and I’ve been so caught off guard that I’m not quite sure what to do, and because I’m preoccupied with getting back to Himself  who’s waiting for me and  wanting to get away to Christchurch.

On the walk back to the house I reflect on what just happened…  Your guess is as good as mine as the the reason that the  Soap Lady was so agitated about the possibility that I might take a photo of her stall…

So… If you fancy guessing the possible reasons, I’d love to hear your comments.

I’ll get the ball rolling…  my wild guess: Is it that she’s doing a spot of less than official selling  today and doesn’t intend telling Mr New Zealand Inland Revenue Department mayhap ?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 31, 2010

Spying out the Land of Dreams and Reality.

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I have a crazy dream… .. a dream of starting a cafe as a sidekick to a small business in Hanmer Springs.

Himself and I have been looking for a larger plot of land with a view to starting an outdoor enterprise with a cafe attached. Of course it would mean that we would have to sell up everything in The Netherlands in order to cover the investment costs, but it would be possible.

The down-side is that we would loose many opportunities by leaving the Netherlands, not least  the amazing school that our kids go to and the fact that Himself’s work is very specialised and not transferable to New Zealand.

My work is also very specialised and  not easily transferable so if a New Zealand enterprise didn’t work out I would not have a fall back option.

Himself’s Mother is 88 years of age and he would find it very difficult to leave her at this moment in her life, she would find it especially difficult to see him go to live on the other side of the world.

But the biggest difficulty is that Hanmer Springs is too small a town to support a secondary school, so the options are either boarding schools in Christchurch or a long daily bus ride to Culverden.  Neither of these options appeal to us  for our kids.

I wish I were brave enough to throw everything into the wind and start the small business of my dreams, but reality is that I’m the breadwinner in the family and that I have responsibilities that weigh heavily.

The  perks in my job contract that stack up too strongly against the risks of an infant business.  The hard work isn’t a problem, nor is the business plan or type of business, it’s the sacrifices that my family would have to make in order for me to achieve my dream.

Himself would love to live here, make no mistake about that… but he’s more practical  than I am, and whilst he’s keen on the idea, all the pieces of the puzzle would have to fall perfectly into place for him to persuaded and rightly so.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

But in the end it would have to be a perfect location, suitable land size and appropriate price, for us to even remotely consider the sacrifice that the idea would have to be made concerning  our children’s education.

We spy a lot of 50 acres on sale in the Hanmer Basin,  it’s land the size we are interested in, but I’m wracking my brains to envisage the actual location since the listing says it’s only 10 minutes drive from Hanmer Springs.

In the end that turns out to be Real Estate Agent speak  and is more like 15-20 minutes.

We head out into the Hanmer Basin to have a look…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There’s a track up the hill…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

And a small grassy knoll around a bend a third of the way up…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Around another few bends further there is another grassy area, it’s pretty big…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

And there’s even a tractor hidden in there LOL…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The fact that it has both level ground and a hill is great, there’s already an access track, also good… but in the end it’s just too far out of town for what we want.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Still, it was worth a look and if you don’t look then you’ll never know… but for the moment reality rules and we dream on…

May 30, 2010

Tie your shoe laces tight…

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Hanmer Springs, in the South Island of New Zealand is a small alpine village with thermal hot springs.

There are only about 900 permanent inhabitants but hundreds of tourists visit every day, and in the school holidays or National holidays that number can raise to thousands.

Luckily Hanmer manages to retain most of it’s small village charm, and is a lovely place for walking as there are forests on several sides and walking paths that lead directly in and out of the village.

We have had a constant stream of visitors and have been enjoying walks in the Hanmer region…

Tie your shoe laces tight and come walk with us…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A carpet of flowers…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

A flax bush…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The Crawford Walkway…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 29, 2010

When Going Boating means bring Stout Shoes and a Shovel…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m still standing at the Waiau Bridge outside Hanmer Springs, New Zealand.

The Bungy jumper didn’t jump but I got some nice shots of the bridge surrounds anyway…

I turn to go and have walked a few steps when a familiar noise halts me in my tracks. a boat, but not just any boat,  …a jet boat.

I was going to tell you all about Bill Hamilton, but when I went to look up some facts, I found that Wiki had written it wonderfully so I’ll quote directly from there (with a little editing for conciseness)

It’s well worth the read because this is an invention that was truly born out of the necessity of trying to get around a high country station and one of the wide shallow rivers that flowed though it.

Sir Charles William Feilden Hamilton (26 July 1899 – 30 March 1978), commonly known as Bill Hamilton, was a New Zealander who developed the modern jetboat, and founder of what is now the world’s leading water jet manufacturing company – CWF Hamilton Ltd.

Hamilton never claimed to have invented the jet boat. He once said “I do not claim to have invented marine jet propulsion. The honour belongs to a gentleman named Archimedes, who lived some years ago”.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

What Hamilton did was refine the design enough to produce the first useful modern jet boat.

Hamilton was born at Ashwick Station near Fairlie in the South Island of New Zealand.

In the 1950s he set out to try to build a boat that could navigate the shallow fast flowing rivers where he lived. The rivers were too shallow for propeller driven boats to navigate as the propeller would hit the river bottom.

He investigated the American Hanley Hydro-Jet, a model which drew in water and fired it out through a steerable nozzle underneath the boat. Even when further adapted it did not work well. An employee suggested to have the nozzle just above the waterline.

When he took one of his early demonstration jet boats to the US, the media scoffed when he said he planned to take it up the Colorado River (U.S.), but in 1960 a Hamilton jet became the first boat to travel up through the Grand Canyon. The critics were silenced further when the boat also went down river through the canyon.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The jetboat was one of three things that transformed the way the New Zealand High Country, the First is of course at the very Top of the List, are the indispensable and highly trained Sheep Dogs, without who’s help, rounding up sheep over the vast distances and rough terrain of High Country Stations simply would not be possible.

The Second is the Jet boat, which enabled farmers to reach pockets of land that had only been accessible by long hard overland hikes or  by vehicles that were regularly cut off by the rivers that navigated though the Stations large tracts of land and swelled quickly in heavy rains.

The Third innovation that transformed the High Country was the helicopter,  Musterers (people who use the dogs to round up sheep) traditionally had had to climb all of the tall peaks, and then, with their sheepdogs, transverse entire ranges, working as a team to drive the sheep down to lower elevations for shearing, lambing or  for feed when the higher altitudes were due to be covered in snow.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

These days the bigger Stations have their own helicopters and the smaller ones will lease one for the duration of the Muster. A Muster done pre-helicopter generally took at least three weeks, now, with the musterers dropped off at the tops of mountain ranges and the helicopter to search out pockets of sheep in gully’s, the muster can be completed in around four days, depending on the size of the Station.

In the “old days” pack-horses would be bought up high into the hills, saddle bags and billy cans laden to the hilt with food, carefully prepared so that it could be easily cooked in one of the bivvy’s (a crude shelter usually of a lean-to variety) and dropped off at a designated spot for “cook” to collect and prepare for the very hungry musterers after a day spent hiking in the tops.

But enough of the Muster, and back to the jet boat….  Not only did the nations High Country farmers appreciate the jet boat, thousands of New Zealanders took to it as well for recreation, especially on the massive braided rivers that are an amazing geographical feature of the South Island.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

If a Kiwi ever offers you the chance to go jet boating up one of these rivers, then seize the opportunity as fast as possible  as it’s an amazing experience that you will remember for the rest of your days. Here’s how it works: First you will need three things.. life jacket, strong shoes and a shovel… You are going boating but you may be spending quite a bit of time walking if you aren’t too lucky.

Two experienced people are essential to the trip, the driver and the navigator…  both know how to deal with the river, but have different jobs to do. This kind of  river is a strange beast,  braided pieces of water that may or may not be interconnected, mostly it can be compared with a Maze. There  will be some dead ends, and the depth of the water will be anything between several feet and three inches deep, alternating regularly throughout the braids.

The braids of water will branch constantly and but since you will be going up river at speed it can be very difficult to know which of the branches will lead to the next patch of deeper water and a bigger braid further ahead and which the boat should take.

The driver sits at the wheel, gaging the depth of the water and adjusting the speed accordingly, the more shallow the water the faster you need to go. The Navigator stands up next to him for a clear view of the river, making split second judgments on which direction to take every time the braid of water splits … and the braids split incessantly.

Knowing the river well can help tremendously but since a heavy rainfall in the upper reaches of the Alps can change the water patterns and water flows in the braids within 12 hours, it’s also an art-form to be able to”read” the river. Sometimes though, there can  be a certain amount of guesswork needed.

This massive fluctuation in water levels can be accommodated easily by a jet boat, the pump is sucking water in though the intake and expelling it though a small outtake, the effect of which is that the boat is propelled forwards, and at a decent speed the boat skims over the top of  the water and can operate in less that three inches of water.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

If you are in a branch of the river where the water is say 30cm deep (1 foot) and you can see another branch ahead that looks about the same depth, it’s entirely possible that the multiple links between the two branches are less than three inches deep, but, sheer speed will glide you over this patch and back into the deeper water ahead.

Herein lies the fun bit…  in the above example the navigator can see the branch he’s in and the one he wants to get to and the thin links of shallow water between them, but Nature is not so ordered or polite,  and in reality there are bends in the river, islands, some with just river rocks and stones and others with low trees and scrubby shrubs. Visibility can be clear ahead, or not.

A good navigator can “read” the river quite a lot, and navigate accordingly but there will be some places where it’s simply impossible and a quick decision needs to be taken because you are travelling at great speed. Sometimes you guess wrong and what started as a branch of the river that looked deep, suddenly peters out into a dead end.

The driver has kept the speed up in order to get over the shallows, but all of a sudden there is a gravel bank around a corner and it stands between you and the next main body of water… Jet boats are renowned for being able to stop at almost point blank range but believe me, some of these shallows can disappear into nothingness in a nano-second,  and in which case, no, the boat doesn’t stop in time and crunch, ends up on dry land, or half in and half out of the water.

Either way the boat stops, and without the speed to keep it planing above the water, it sinks down like a stone.I have first hand experience that  jet boats are heavy… and to be honest it’s logical they are are more comfortable being in water and not half on dry land.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This is where the shovel comes in… everyone takes a shovel and starts digging around the boat to make a trench so that it can be floated back into deeper water and you can take off again. Sometimes it’s also not clear where the deep water and the rest of the river has actually gone to…and that’s where the  strong shoes come in, the passengers will take turns to start looking for the deeper water and figure out how to get to it.  Riverbeds are not kind to soft shoes.

It’s not to say that you will have to do the walking and digging parts of th equation because often the rivers are kind and you don’t run out of water… but it’s always a possibility and in a way, if it happens it’s a shock and a giggle, one second you are in a boat skimming over silvery water with the sun dancing off it, next you are half on dry land with a thump and everyone is laughing at the navigator, and grabbing shovels to help out… One thing is guaranteed, no matter  how easy or how difficult the trip you will get the boat ride of your life and laugh more in a few hours than you have in years.

Sadly this type of  really fun “back block no frills” jet boating is not offered to tourists as a matter of course… they get  offered the “safer, deeper water jet-boating experience” in sections of the rivers that are more predicable and reliable.

The tourists get offered rides like this one on the Waiau in these photos.

Is it exciting?  Heck Yes!

…Is it half as exciting as the “off-road back blocks High Country version?”

Well, I’m a High Country Gal at heart so would it really take you three guesses to figure out my answer to that one?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Hamilton_%28engineer%29

May 28, 2010

Bungy my Dear, Spring back to me!…

Filed under: NEW ZEALAND — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

At the Waiau River Bridge, outside Hanmer Springs in the South Island of New Zealand, there’s a second frequently asked question: newer, fresher and less historic than the first statement, ” Hey we are almost there!”

The second question still comes out like clockwork… “Do you think we will see any Bungy jumpers today?

Yep, the Waiau bridge is one of New Zealand’s  Bungy bridges.

We are constantly on the lookout to see if there are any foolhardy brave souls waiting on the little platform, ready to jump.

So far we’ve had no luck, but today I decide to park the car back along the road a bit and to walk over and take some photos of the bridge, river and gorge anyway.

The weather is warm and windy, so it’s a nice chance for a walk and a closer look at the view that usually only flashes by as you drive oven in the car.

I was on the bridge when along came a group of people, and one man all harnessed up, walking with his son.

They all make their way to the center of the bridge, hey I’m about to get some bungy jumping photos!

They are there for a good 10  minutes or more, the bungy ropes are sorted out and dangle over the edge of the bridge.. then I hear a countdown  … Three, Two, One…

Camera at the  ready I wait for the moment when  the guy launches himself off the edge, but it doesn’t come.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

There appears to be some sort of consultation going on, the guy sits near the edge of the platform for another 5 minutes at least.

Eventually it’s clear he’s changed his mind and won’t be jumping after all.

I back off my end of the bridge and the group pass back by when they leave with all the gear. I be honest I respect his decision completely,  I couldn’t do this either.

His son gives his Dad a covert hug as they head down the path away from me… good on you lad, It must have been a tough thing for Dad to admit that he didn’t want to go though with it.

Himself says he might consider a Bungy jump if someone would pay him say a million dollars to do it…

Me,  Never Ever, not for all the money in the world.

(but you already know I’m a wimp, right?)

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