Sunday, February 23, 2014


Whilst Julian and Bruce have been staying with us, they've undertaken a  project in our garden. When we moved in, the garden was clearly in need of some serious remedial work, having been neglected, so far as we could make out, since the house was built. It had originally contained some nice plants (as we discovered) but had been left to run wild.

One of the first things to be done was to dismantle a structure beside the house, which we believe was a fort for the previous owner's kids to play in. It was stoutly built of fence posts and decking planks, so it took a bit of effort with a long spike and sledge hammer to take it apart. We tried to do it as gently as possible in order to keep the timber.

I conquer the castle

We sprayed all the weed areas, and then began the process of grubbing out the larger unwanted plants. These include aloes and a large flax, which was eventually removed.

Along the way we found a second citrus tree (we'd found one already, almost throttled by the undergrowth), an olive tree and a hebe. These we're trying to retain, so will keep the weeds away from them and hopefully they'll have a chance to grow and, one day, fruit.

Julian and Bruce then built a set of steps to go down the steep part of the garden:

All their own work!

The next stage is to level the piece at the top of the steps and pave it, as this leads to our dungeon. After that, there's more levelling to be done lower down, and we need some more steps up by the top of the garden.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Kapiti Island

Kapiti Island lies 5km off the west coast of North Island, just north of Wellington, and has been a nature reserve of one kind or another for over 100 years. These days it is a predator-free island and reserve, and hosts a number of birds not found on the mainland (except at Zealandia, or in aviaries such as Mount Bruce).

Our original plan had been to take an overnight trip there, but the lodge was fully booked on the weekend we wanted to go so we decided on a day trip. The ferry leaves at 9 in the morning, so we decided we would be better off if we stayed in the vicinity the night before, rather than make an early-morning trek from Wellington. Accordingly, we booked into a bed and breakfast in Paekakariki. This allowed us to visit the Southwards Car Museum in the afternoon, and also to explore a bit of Paraparaumu before heading to our lodgings.

A copper car. Yes.

After dinner we walked along the beach as the sun set in an almost cloudless sky.

That's South Island in the background
I received a text in the morning confirming that they would be sailing that day – which, as the Rauoterangi channel was as flat as a mill-pond, was entirely expected. I guess there are occasions when the conditions in the morning look entirely acceptable for a trip but the forecast is for high seas later in the day when they would cancel…but this wasn’t one of them. We parked by the beach and registered our presence at the Kapiti Boat Club, where we searched our bags for rats and mice, watched a short video about the island and its history, then went outside to board our boat.

Paraparaumu beach has a very shallow slope, so the method of boarding the water taxi is up a gangway whilst it is on a slipway attached to the back of a tractor. The tractor then pushes the boat out to sea until it floats off and is able to make the crossing. The journey is about 10 minutes. At the island, we walked up to a shelter and had a quick talk about the species we were likely to see on the island, and also the ones we wouldn’t see (kiwis, because they would be asleep underground during the day).

Our guide took us part of the way around, pointing out a couple of kiwi burrows on the way, then we parted ways as he took a group on the lagoon walk, which concentrated on seabird life, whilst we took the loop walk up the hill to the lookout point. Along the way we sought out and found various birds, including weka, North Island robins, swallows, and young bellbirds, as well as the inevitable tuis and fantails, often accompanied by whiteheads. We also saw a Pacific visitor, the long-tailed cuckoo, which was being driven away by an angry tui.

Hobbit, wait, kiwi burrows

Mini Babybel

As we returned to the lower level we saw several kakariki, although they weren’t being particularly cooperative in staying still. I managed to get one feeding on flax seeds, but my positioning wasn’t too good in relation to the sun.

As we returned to the lodge for lunch, we found that there were a lot more weka than we’d thought, and I needn’t have been so worried about getting a picture of one – they live around the human settlements and are quite bold in scavenging and stealing food. Also, several kaka turned up at lunchtime – they’ve been known to unzip backpacks to get at packed lunches. The injunction not to feed the birds seems not to apply to the birds themselves – they’ll happily help themselves to anything left unattended.

After lunch we had another walk around on the flat, where we spotted one of the island’s resident takahe (there are 10 on the island, out of a total world population of around 280), and also some saddlebacks, which resolutely failed to come out into a good photography position.

The water taxi took us back at around 3:20, and we had an ice cream in Paraparaumu before heading back home.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Black Caps vs. India

The Black Caps, as New Zealand's cricket team are known, aren't renowned as one of the world's great cricket teams. This summer, however, they've had a bit of a resurgence - first, sending the West Indies home without a series win (beaten in test matches, tied in ODIs and beaten in Twenty20) and now inflicting a series defeat on India in the ODI series. The series had already been won by the time the tour came to Wellington, having won 3 and tied one, but there was still the prospect of being undefeated against what was, until recently, the top team in the world (New Zealand's earlier wins in the series had caused their halo to lose its shine, and they'd dropped behind Australia in the ICC rankings).

We'd booked the afternoon off work, and went to the Featherston bar & Grill for a spot of lunch with my work crowd. A lot of them were going to the game as they'd scored free tickets handed out by ANZ, who are the major sponsor of the Black Caps, and cricket in New Zealand in general. (We'd had to pay for our tickets as I had foolishly used up my allocation on the West Indies test match. Why "foolishly"? Well, the test match had started on a Wednesday - a canny ploy by the organisers to ensure that days 4 and 5 would fall on the Saturday and Sunday, thus maximising ticket sales. I'd got tickets for the Saturday. Unfortunately, they'd failed to inform the cricketers of their cunning plan, and the Black Caps routed the West Indies in 3 days.)

We reached the Stadium in time for the opening ball, and watched as the Black Caps, put in to bat by India (who have won the toss on all 5 matches - someone should take a look at that coin), started off slowly and carefully. Whilst early wickets went down, with Jesse Ryder again failing to advance to a big score, the partnership of Williamson and Taylor put on 152 - Taylor getting his second century of the series and Williamson his fifth 50. As the innings closed, more wickets fell as the remaining batsmen took more chances to advance the score, and they finished on 303/5 with strong scoring from McCullum, Ronchi and Neesham who all hit at a rate of more than 100%.

304 is not the highest score that India have had to chase in this series (they managed to tie at 314 in Auckland) but they made a slow start, and from the beginning the required run rate was getting away from them. Tight fielding from New Zealand also restricted their boundary shots. Although Kholi put on a score of 82 and held the innings together, they put on runs too slowly and by the time the captain came in at 78/4 the required rate was already 8.7 an over, and it continued to rise. By the time Dhoni was out, the tail had an impossible task before them; wickets fell steadily and they were eventually bowled out with three balls to spare and 87 runs short of the total.