Thursday, 27 January 2011

Matiu/Somes Island

On my day off today a girl from work and I went to Matiu (Maori name)/ Somes Island (English name). Its a small island in Wellington Harbour which was discovered by the great Maori explorer Kupe over 1,000 years ago and he named the island after his daughter. Today it a nature reserve, isolated by water from mammalian predators introduced by the Europeans such as rats, mice, possums and rabbits which have devastated New Zealands native plants, insects, reptiles and flightless birds. We took the only morning ferry at 10am and when we arrived we were directed to a cabin and told to search our bags for any insects, plant material or animals. Apparently about 5 years ago on a similar island a mouse had actually found its way into someone's picnic and had to be 'isolated.' He then gave is a little safety talk and told us about the history of the island, the animals there. We were given maps and told to stick to the paths which made a circuit around the island with one going down the middle.

The island has not always been a reserve, it was used from the 1870's to the 1920's as a quarantine island for new people coming into the country. Any ship with ill people on board had to hoist a yellow flag and go the the island rather then Wellington, to keep smallpox and other diseases away. During WWII it was used as a camp to keep Italians, German and others suspected of being traitors. in most cases people were just there for having a different accent the it was much like the Americans keeping the Japanese in concentration camps only the conditions weren't as bad. The men worked for about 6 hours a day the spent the rest of there tie doing what they liked, just feeling confused as to why they were there. It was also an important defensive position for protecting Wellington and large guns were kept there to keep the German's away. After that it was used as an animal quarantine zone for any new live stock entering New Zealand before being turned into a nature reserve in the 1990's. introduced species such as rats were eradication and native New Zealand plant and animal species were re-introduced.

We saw the animal quarantine buildings, the small visitors centre, the lighthouse and the WWII gun bases. We also saw lots of skinks, geckos and birds. We also saw the Weta, a creature which the famous Weta workshop and Weta digital studios are named after. They are giant cockroach type creatures which are as old as the dinosaurs. They are ugly!!!! There is an iguana type creature called a tuatara (too-aah-tara) which is only found on New Zealand which was introduced to the island. On our first circuit around I saw the tale of one disappear into a hole, much to the disappointment of my friend who was desperate see one, having never seen one before. So after lunch we had plenty of time till the ferry and walked around the circuit again. We were just approaching the hole where I first saw the tuatara when my friend through here arm out to stop me and grabbed my camera. At exactly the same spot where we were earlier was the tuatara sitting out in full view absolutely still, watching for pray. We go a few pictures then left it in peace. The only downside to the day was that we didn't get to see any penguins, but we were told they were nesting and may not come out till the evening.

All in all a nice day out and it let me escape the city for the day and learn a little more about Wellington's history :-)

Sunday, 9 January 2011


So I'm living in Wellington and so I thought I'de tell you a little about the city. I also realised I never wrote about my tour of parliament here or Dean's movie tour while I was job hunting so I'll write about those here. Dean is an actor who was a pilot in Avatar and on his days off he takes small groups around to the sights of Wellington, not jsut the film studio but other places of interest. It was a tour from a local which combined history and the movie industry. The parliament tour is pretty self explanatory. I also went to the Wellington City and Sea museum so here is a bit of info collected fro all these places.

Firstly Wellington is the worst place in the World to put a capital, seriously there is no place worse in the world.
The city is built on three major fault lines and 11 minor ones, one of the major lines even runs under the parliament building! Which means Wellington is just one big earthquake waiting to happen and when it does it will be like a house of cards, as Wellington is build on a few hills. Then there is the weather, its not called Windy Welley for nothing!! There is not land at all between Wellington and the Antarctica which means when there is a southerly it is freezing cold wind. When it comes from the east or west then it is forced through to Cook Straight, the bit of sea between the north and south island. This makes a sort of wind tunnel which intensifies the wind even more so there is a 3 out of 4 chance that the weather is going to be bad. The record for the strongest wind speed was over 250km/hr and that was only because the measuring equipment blew away.

Wellington was made the capital in 1865 replacing Auckland because they thought it would be better to have the capital in the middle of the country which means today it is a mixture of serious politicians and buisnessmen and an artsy alternative young scene. There really are some crazy people here, two universities, more cafes per person than New York and lots of second had shops and boutiques. When the politicans first moved to Wellington they came by boat, the White Swan, as there was no road back then. On the way into the harbour they the boat sank and they thought the records of all the parliamentary matter would be ok as they were in sealed metal boxes. However, only one of the many boxes of papers survived which meant that when parliament first sat and an issue was raised someone would shout 'it went down with the White Swan' and after a few years things got settled and order was restored, the lost records were re-written. However every once and a while whenever an issue is raised and there aren't any records of it, perhaps it was lost or the MP has simply decided to drop it, you can still here 'it went down with the White Swan.' New Zealand only has one house, as the House of Lords never did anything so elected to dissolves itself in the 1950's. The High Commissioner, the Queen's representative, chooses the Prime Minister, normally the leader of the party which has one the majority, much like the UK.

The Movie industry in relatively new and is a great asset to Wellington and the New Zealand economy. Weta studios (named after a giant cockroach, or weta, which has been around since before the dinosours and was common in the swamps near where the studio was built) and Peter Jackson started making movies together with the Lord of the Rings and Avatar being the most famous. Built in Miramar, suburb of Wellington the studios are world famous. Miramar used to be a bit of a dump, a sort of ghetto or poor area. When our tour guide, Dean's grandparents bought house it was worth about $16,000. He sold it after they died for not much more than that then a few years later Peter Jackson bought about half of Miramar to make the Lord of the Rings and suddenly the land on its own was worth well over $1,000,000. Peter Jackson owns about 5 houses in a row right on the beach in Miramar, they are just normal every day houses in a row of other detached houses spaced fairly close together. Apparently his 5 are joined by underground passages so that they don't get tourists staring and he can have all his actors, producers and assistants can sleep in one area and be on hand work on the movie.

Thats just a little bit about Wellington, I'm sure google can tell you more. It just remains to tell you all about one of the greatest battles of World War II, the battle of Manners Street. American soldiers posted here during the war with Japanese were paid more than the New Zealand boys, they often were more 'modern' and 'sophisticated' and as such got into bars, restaurants, and clubs much easier than Kiwi boys. They were also much more attractive to the local women. As someone put it the Yanks are 'over paid, over sexed and over here.' Apparently one Saturday night some American soldiers made a racist comment to some Maori soldiers and the ensuing riot lasted 4 hours, involved 1,000 people and at least two people died. So there you go!

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


There's this crazy thing people do over here which is walk around barefoot. I don't know why, or what it's supposed to achieve but even in the middle of winter some people refuse to wear shoes. not just on the beach, or in the summer in the park but everywhere. Pavements with shattered glass, dirt track or wherever. They just don't wear shoe's, very strange. I think it has something to do with the love of the beach over here. Auckland is the 'City of Sail's' with over 1/3 of the population having private access to a boat. Many people here also have access to a bach, in fact as many as 50% of the non-migrant population are related to somebody who owns one. This means family holidays spent together on the beach but this has its down side.
Since New Years day 9 people have drowned which is very sad but is a common cause of death over here. Car crashes are another one. Kiwi's are crazy drivers and between winding roads and the 'boy racer' culture over it can be dangerous. The boy racer thing is bad, kids basically modify there cars to make them faster and better for skidding then race them at night. There is also a problem with drink driving but the most shocking of all the stories in the news lately was a thirteen year old boy who drove his drunk relatives home from a Boxing Day wedding as he was the only sober person around and ended up killing his cousin by crashing the car. Over one person a day is killed on the road with holidays being the most dangerous.

Well onto some happier topics after that! The weather is finally settled, after some horrific rain last week we finally have had  few days of good weather. I've found a park close to my house so I can go running again, i seriously need the exercise after indulging over the holidays! Things are back to normal at work, not to crazy. watermelon, corn on the cob and gooseberries have all come in so now is the time to stuff myself with fruit and veg because there won't be as may varieties around this winter.

I also had an epiphany  the other day at work when a customer was asking me about the chilli corn bread. I was telling them about a toasted sandwich I made with the bread, some lemon and chilli halloumi and Waiheke island herb spread which is olive oil and lost of herbs blended like pesto. It was the best sandwich I ever made and I got so excited by the fact that I got 2 add-on sales with the bread. Also talking to people who really loved food just as much as I do made me feel excited for the rest of the day and I was buzzing about this conversation about the sandwich. So I figured I should do the Waitrose Graduate programme if I can get in, so thats decision made. Just got to go to a few more vinyards first, particularly Villa Maria and Oyster Bay, can't wait!!! I'm feeling getting a bit bored of Wellington now and am itching to travel but I need to save a few more pennies first otherwise I'll just have a rubbish time.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Years

Well for a capital city New Years was a bit of a let down, no fireworks or anything. It was a fun night but didn't feel like New Year really, just a normal night out with my friends really. It was a bit strange knowing that when I went to the movies Saturday evening it was only just 2011 in New York! It was also a crazy day at work, not quite as bad as Christmas Eve but still very busy. Hopefully things will settle down now and it won't be so manic!

I've learnt that 'candy' or 'sweets' are called lollies here. That refers to anything and a lollie-pop is just the ones on sticks. I've also noticed that the TV advertising here is a lot more like the American style, loud, in your face not particularly clever or interesting. They also have loads of info-mercials here which are so annoying. Most of the TV shows here are either American, Australian or British, with Coronation Street being one of the more popular soaps. When there is a New Zealand version of a show the budget is never as big. For example America's/Britains next top model always takes the girls abroad for the last few weeks of the series and gies them ridiculously expensive prizes every week. New Zealand's girls got to go away for one week and there prizes are like, one item of clothing from a shop instead of a whole shopping spree.

Happy New Year everyone!!