Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sunday in NZ

Yesterday we drove along the West coast, quite slowly as we had booked a hostel in Franz Joseph in advance.

Stopped at a glacial lake where a young woman was just taking her canoe out, she was the only person around in this quiet and beautiful place. She told us about DIDYMO -(its also known as Rock snot!) there are lots of notices about this around, warning about it, but nothing to tell you what it is!

Apparently is it a noxious plant, brought in by an AMERICAN, which looks like brown snot and covers rocks and vegetation, and spreads like the blazes. I wonder when we will get it in the Uk?

At Franz Jo we were in a small self-contained unit so could cook etc, but it does mean less contact with other travellers. Nearly all of them seem to be German actually. We took the car up the dusty track towards the glacier, and then walked the last bit through a track with interesting jungle and piping birds.

Access to the actual glacier is forbidden at the moment due to the awful rainstorm which has made everything unstable, but we had a good view of the blue ice from about a quarter of a mile away. The mountains covered with clouds above the glacier. Our first glacier!! A white/blue immobile torrent.

Lots of love to all the Scots and yourselves. Mumbo.

The weekend

Douglas and I decided quite a while ago that we would go up to Scotland this weekend to make up for not being at his Dads 70th Birthday party a while ago (douglas was in hospital)

The reason I didnt disclose this earlier will become apparent when you get to Saturdays bit!

We came up on Friday, left very early in the morning and drove the long, long way up to near Dundee where D's brother lives. We arranged en route to meet him and his two kids, Aileen 10 and Andrew (14 I think) at a Boarders book shop ) Even better than Waterstones!!) Of course, being book lovers, this was a very bad idea.. well.. for our bank balance anyway :-) We came away with 3 books, and having got early Xmas presents for both kids.

We got to Bro in laws, and said hello to his wife and very enthusastic dog. Everyone, minus dog had to rush out to see the Xmas lights being lit (I think Nephew (alias Pengper) was playing his ? tuba ? there?) so we sat on neice, and made tea.

It was lovely to sit down with this part of Ds family over a meal and chat, but then Pengper had to rush out to Boys Brigade, his mum and dad went off to a fund raising Ceilidh they had to attend.

We were very tired after the long drive, so headed up to bed long before they returned.


After a slow start, we chatted a bit more, ;exchanged hugs and kisses, then headed off down a little further South to meet up with David and Sandy for lunch (Ds dad and step mum) We met at an outlet for Blackwells, who produce various quality tinned and jarred food, and had a lovely lunch with them, catching up on what they are doing etc.

We then headed on to see Ds sister, her partner and her two boys, they live near Stirling, so we didnt have much further to travel, thank goodness.

Its great to catch up with so much of Ds family in a weekend, although the driving has been very tiring. Nice to see the new house they into less than 2 weeks ago!!

We sat in the dining area of the kitchen and waited to spring the surprise we had been planning for a while..

Ds and DSILs mum, Elaine (Known also to me as DMIL, Dreaded Mother In Law) had been invited over for tea, but had no idea we were there too!! It was such a pleasure to see the look of stunned delight on her face when she saw that her "Wee boy" and his wife were there sitting in the kitchen, larger than life!!!

As you can imagine, we had a lovely evening, then watched Mission Impossible 3 (quite a good film!) before zonking out on the air bed in the lounge, as Elaine stayed over. Sadly, as we are not the thinnest couple, the air bed protested slowly during the night, and slowly lost its pressure a few times, so we had to get off and pump it back up again :-)

We think it got down to about -6 'C or less last night because everything has turned into a winter wonderland, and the cars are all throughly Jack Frosted!! Even now, at 3pm the temperature has not gone up past about -2'C. Brrrr

Elaine went back home after a late breakfast, and DSIL and I went shopping in Stirling and came home to defrost and have lunch.

Everyone has gone to the local Leisure centre for a swim and sauna whilst I type this up. Im going to have an afternoon nap, as D wants to drive back home during the night. The traffic will be much less bother, and it means we have the whole of Monday off work to recover.

I'm sure they will come back having had a lovely time!!

Simon in Jordan

Hey there,

I hope I find you all in the very best of health. I promise I'm trying to cut down on these e-mails, but as so much happens I may be forced simply to make them a little less portentous and trim all the flab.

Jordan is effectively a ridge of plateaus stretching south, with the Dead Sea Rift Valley down one side (I hope I've given an adequate idea of that), and the desert on the other. It's scored by dramatic Wadis (dry river valleys), and as the inhabitants don't want to take up precious agricultural space, their villages trickle down the sides of these Wadis, which makes them very picturesque, although the individual houses are pretty ramshackle given the usual response to
only paying taxes on finished buildings.

The first place I visited was Karak, which sits at the junction of 3 Wadis, and is crowned with a magnificent Crusader castle. The scenery is incredible, with views down to Sodom & Gomorrah, but the place is pretty undersold, even the hotel manager was flabbergasted when I said
I wanted to stay 2 nights. Most people just visit the castle and bugger off. It is a pretty amazing castle, and you really get a feeling for what it must have been like to live there in medieval

The town itself is very Jordanian though, and everyone seems sublimely happy. Some guys were riding around town all day, clapping along to their music. Others were just having a good old sing-off in their car whilst it was parked. Instead of people slowing down to try and get me to use them as a taxi, they just wanted to shout "Welcome!".

Everywhere you go people are desperate for you to have some tea. It's often flavoured with mint or thyme, but always with LOADS of sugar. It's effectively trad Red Bull, and after a day walking around your teeth feel syrupy and your heart is racing. I think it comes from their Bedouin heritage - they are very proud of being Bedouin here, as opposed to Egypt where they're seen as troublemakers and terrorists - think Gypsies with Bombs.

If you go for walks in the countryside then you see their Black Goat Hair tents all over the shop, and you can hear their kids for miles. Often you have conversations such as the following:


"La, shukran." (no thanks)


"La, la, mut shakreen."


However, I have been very grateful when they've given me lifts on their tractors, and they seem to be expert cooks - the smells which come off their camps are lovely and their dishes make a welcome change from Falafel and Kebab on the countries menus.

After Karak, I went to Dana Nature Reserve, the most dramatic Wadi of them all, with its head in the clouds and its base 400m below sea level. It's full of life, and remarkably free of litter (well, it is now that I carried out loads of it - my old headmaster would be proud). You can walk for miles (mostly straight up or down) without seeing anyone, just hearing the birds cry or a soft breeze blow.

The Wadi walls are all twisted sandstone & limestone, and the sun sets straight down the Wadi - its one of the best I've ever seen. I went on lots of hikes including one to the top of a dried up waterfall with a drop about the height of the Arts Tower - to be honest it makes the
soles of my feet hurt just thinking about it. Does anyone else have this physiological reaction when thinking of huge drops?

I visited another Crusader castle, this one with a secret passage which winds down through the rock almost vertically to emerge next to a spring. Thanks for the head-torch, Tez, though even with this and my mag-lite it was like staring into an abyss as the sheer steps plunged to the maw of darkness below.

Finally I arrived in Petra. What can I say? It's awesome, literally. Plunging down the sinuous Siq and emerging in front of the Treasury is an unforgettable experience. You know the Treasury, it's the one that's in Every Picture Ever of Petra, the one they used in Indiana Jones. It seems to bring about mass hysteria in the tour groups when they reach it, whooping and clapping. I climbed high above it one day and it sounded like children's hour at the local swimming baths.

What is lovely is that as soon as you get off the main track you pretty much have the place to yourself, bar some goats and lizards, and some sneaky Bedouin who pounce upon you with tea. You can do loads of hikes and scrambles up the surrounding mountains, and it really is fantastic. Striding out amongst the Neapolitan swirls of the rocks and coming face to face with a magnificent tomb around almost every corner is incredible.

Atop the High Place of Sacrifice, a little Bedouin woman sits offering tea and playing a wooden recorder. Her spastic playing is possibly some of the most inspired I've ever heard, and you can hear it when the wind carries it to you on other mountain tops. I was going to make a joke here, but unfortunately I can't remember the names of any Free Jazz Female Recorder giants from the past. Soz.

There's also some good Calls to Prayer here. One of the Muezzin sounds so maudlin its like some Eastern Blues Lament. When you here it from inside Petra itself the rise and fall of the voices all melds into one rolling exhalation, once a breeze started up at that exact time and it felt like the breath of God.

Today I went further afield to Little Petra, a suburb, where one of the houses retains its paintings. These are 2,000 year old paintings which retain a Renaissance freshness and style. I then went round the corner to a village which was abandoned about 6,000 BC. It had been in use for the last 4,000 years before that, and marks the transition from Hunter Gatherer to Agricultural society. It feels like having a peak at the dawn of man.

But now it's time to move on I fear, I don't want to get stuck in the way of the great migration of the Hajj, which is coming soon, and devours all hotels and transport in its path. You Don't Fuck With The Hajj.

Keep smiling, remember that I love you all, even (especially?) the bad ones,


Saturday, 29 November 2008

Birdsong in sunny warm NZ

Hi there,

How different is this to your cold weather... Its sunny, incredible views of the Southern Alps with snow in the distance, empty roads.

We travelled along the West coast yesterday having paid another visit to the Pancake Rocks near our hostel. Stopped in a town called Greymouth, which was much more attractive than the name suggests!

Got some hay fever stuff from a pharmacy, as I had failed to realise that it is hay fever time here - not too bad, just a bit of a nuisance. Stopped at this little place called Hokatika at the Birdsong hostel - it is beautifully decorated by the owner's wife with pictures of the local birds, each room has a special one, and we are in Spoonbill.

The only snag is that it is on the main road, but it quietened down at night and we slept well. Having booked in, we went on a drive recommended by the owner, Neil from Congleton, Cheshire (!) into the hinterland of the mountains.

We got as far as the Hokatika Gorge where there is a really scary suspension bridge which wobbles when you walk across it, with a milky blue fierce river in a canyon beneath. We went back via a glacial lake, much of it on a gravel road but so well engineered that no decrease in speed was required.

After supper we walked along the road to the Glow Worm Dell, a bit of the bush with a path in it, masses of little lights, same animal as in the cave we saw from the boat. Off to the Glaciers today, Franz Joseph and Fox.

Love to all, Ma and Pa.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

BBC Good Food Show, Birmingham

Today Douglas and I got up early, got sorted out and went down to the NEC near Birmingham by about 9.30am (it opened at 9) and went to the disabled car park, which was still about 20 mins walk away from the exhibition halls. Luckily nearly all of this walk was inside.

We got our tickets a while ago.. we decided to do the "disabled and helper" thing, and so i as the carer got in free!! We took Margarets wheelchair, and although most of the time D sat in it, and i pushed, as it was a very long way round, and we were there till about 3pm, I had a few goes too when i was flagging.

There were loads and loads of stalls selling everything from museli to chillis to washing up cloths.. chocolate and steam cleaners too! We had a taste of loads of things, and purchased a few, but only in moderation :-)

Our most expensive purchase was a very nice new potato and other things peeler, oh and we switched our energy tarrif (gas and elec) to National Trust, and decided not to get a new Steel (knife sharpner) at £90 for Douglas.

We were so glad of the wheelchair, because during the day we procured little bits of this and that, leaflets here there and everywhere, and would have ground our feet into the ground without something to hang it all on!!

At one point I saw a stall selling chilli dips. D loves chilli, so I put a tiny bit of bread into one called 100% pain (thinking the name just meant very hot) I gave it to him, and almost immediatley I could see he was in agony. The stuff was hot enough to blast a rocket into space. We purchased an emergency bottle of water from a nearby coffee stall, but he was still in so much pain that they gave him a cup of milk - very good for calming burning mouths down. After a cup and a half of milk, his poor mouth had calmed down somewhat, but the nasty bitter taste still remained.

I also had taken a dip of a less hot chilli sauce, which was burning my mouth up, and the water didnt quench my fire. In the end I had to take a mouth full of milk and just hold it there to soothe things - even though I really dont like milk and it tasted disgusting.

It was a great experience. D drove home, and we got back to a waiting set of moggies at about 6pm.

It was nice having a day off for the food show.. who knows what we will do with the rest of our mini holiday?!! Dear reader, you will just have to return to this blog after the weekend to find out what we did (if anything blog worthy occurs!)
Today we left Nelson after a very comfortable stay with Robin and David Hall.

Yesterday they took us for a terrific tour of the Nelson area, starting with a short walk into the Abel Tasman Nat. Park. It is right by the sea, so we started by walking across a marshy area where the river comes out, on a wooden walkway.. We saw a little blue heron (NZ type) with something in its beak; it was an elver, and the heron was having a hell of a job trying to eat it! In the end we left it still strugging.

We went back to Kaiteriteri, an absoutely idyllic sandy bay with rocks and gently breaking waves - bright sun . Robin had made a picnic and we sat and eat it and watched a party of school kids with kyaks, very colourful, and I thought how M & L would have loved it. In fact all of you would love ALL of it, it is truly fantastic here.

After that, David and Robin took us up a most beautiful valley where David's ancestors settled in the 1840s - he showed us where all of them lived. At the top of the valley is a little white church in a place called Dovedale, and all the graves of all his ancestors on the hillside. It was very special. On the way back we saw a memorial to Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear science, who was born and brought up at Brightwater, near Nelson. A super day concluded with having fish and chips and then watching TV, one of the Tribal Wives series.

Today David and Robin showed us Nelson cathedral, the organist was playing Christmas music and it was v. impressive.

Then we set off for the West coast - knowing that because of the torrential floods of a couple of days ago the road had been blocked. When we got to the blocked bit, they had traffic lights, and were furiously removing giant boulders which had crashed across the road.

Once again the scenery defies description, vast mountains and roaring rivers, some blue, some green, many stops to look.

At about 4 pm we arrived at Punakaiki where I had spotted a hostel, and there are the famous Pancake Rocks. For $66 we have a room in an empty house near the main hostel, twin beds, sitting room, kitchen, etc. with great view and about 200 yds. from the sea.

Paul is cooking at the moment and I have bagged the computer, $2 for 20 mins. (EEEK it just went off and I thought I had lost the lot, but put in another $2 and got it back!) Only snag, sandflies.

Lots of love to all, mumbo.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Email Wed Morning from South Island (I think)

Hello there! It's weds morning here, and we have had our first night with Robin and David Hall in Nelson. The have been very welcoming and hospitable and they are very funny too!

We had a good crossing from Wellington despite awful weather forcast, sun came out as we went up Queen Charlotte Sound which is very narrow, the boat has to creep along avoiding rocks. There are huge mountains all around. (Wellington, folks is at the south tip of North Island, and Nelson is very near the North tip of South Island!! Have a look at this map and see for yourselves)

We were very tired after the anticipation of the day's journey, woke terribly early, so after a while we stopped and had a brief sleep. Nelson had had 4 inches of rain over a 36 hour period, so the sea and all the rivers were chocolate coloured and roaring. We were lucky that this was over before we arrived!

We had a trip round Nelson with David driving us, saw a memorial to all the settlers who arrived here in the 1840s, David's family amongst them. They had a tough time, had to dig up the seed potatoes because they were starving. Today we go to see Abel Tasman reserve, with Robin and David.

A lovely set of photos!

Wendy has kindly sent over some lovely photos, including one of her, Brian and the parents on the balcony of their house!!

There are too many to fit into this blog, so follow this link and have a look a the lot :-)

Wendy.. you are a star!! They are really lovely photos, and bring the whole trip alive.

Thanks :-)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Mondays news from NZ

Brian looked after us today, we went to a couple of the museums in Wellington which were really good, especially Te Papa - very child-friendly, so I liked it!

We managed to extract some cash from a bank with difficulty, had to use the old Halifax card, Nationwide apparently no good. (ohh hope thats only one bank!!)

In one of the museums there was a film about the wreck of the Wahine in the 1960s in Wellington harbour, a ferry, great loss of life and of course a lot of film - terribly sad. And tomorrow we sail to the South Island. The weather is not looking good, rain and mist and gales predicted. These days they are more keen to cancel sailings in such conditions. Fingers crossed!

Paul and Brian had a long walk in a wildlife area near Lower Hutt while I sat in the car, it is marvellous country and so close to Wellington.

Chris Cossham and his partner Joanna came this evening for coffee - we feel really sad to be parting with all the family, but hope they can come and see us some time.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A dramatic email from Simon!

Hey there,
Well, it's been a week since I've last written and it's been an eventful one! I'm currently sitting about half a K from Petra in Jordan, and I'll try to keep things fairly brief though this may spread over a couple of e-mails.

I got out of Dahab and made my way up to Nuweiba, an attempt at a seaside resort near the port that has the ferry to Jordan. Those of you that know my dream of living somewhere shit by the seaside will guess how my heart leapt at this empty town, all infrastructure and no buildings or people. Checking into my hut I gasped at how empty the radiant beach was, till I attempted to enter the impotent sea. It varied between ankle and knee depth for a hundred metres or more, and there were barriers of razor sharp rocks to cross.

My first attempt failed and I had to regroup and formulate a plan of attack based on the colour of the sea. I eventually found a passage of nearly all sand and made a brief foray so I could claim a pyrrhic victory.
Still, I lazed in a hammock and caught up with reading. I wandered round the empty spaces between the impressive roads where hotels and tourists should be. I gaped at the closed casino designed like the mud mosques of Mali. I found a paper which reduced some of my Guardian related pangs (the Al-Ahram Weekly - who knew there was so much going on in the Middle East?). And the next day I set out bright and early to catch the Ferry to Jordan.

I was worried when I finally made it down to the port, as it was almost eleven, the ferry left at twelve, and I'd heard the port was somewhat chaotic. All the roads for miles around are a queue of trucks waiting for their turn to get the ferry. As the daily ferry could only handle about 20 at the most, and as there must ahve been 500 trucks at least - it could be quite a long wait. Once inside the port I wandered around. A lot.

I sat down watching as the ferry pulled in, reasoning that this would mean I wouldn't miss it. An hour passed. Nothing happened. No-one even got off the ferry, even though it was teeming with passengers. Finally an Italian lady spotted me, who happened to speak good arabic. She told me that had to go through immigration in a vast warehouse, and once I'd done that, came and got me and made me sit with an Argentinian couple she was also shepherding.

It was at this point that we met Hani. Hani was the ferries engineer, and he was very proud of his American accent. Strangely though, the American accent he had chosen to copy was that of a ludicrously camp New York party organiser.

"Get owt af tooooooooooooown! You ahr soooooo crazy! Letmeshowyoumy PIC-tures. This is my girlfriend. I HAVE SEEN EVERYTHING, ifyaknowwaddImean. She makes me wanna EXPLOOODE. Oh, I am so beautiful in this picture, I am not this beautiful now. Wait, DID I SAY BEAUTIFUL? I mean handsome, people will not know whether I am a she or a he! This is my friend! If he was not my friend, I would hit him in his private parts."

He then proceeded to try and convert me to Islam.

The ferry finally set off at sunset, and was full of people lolling about & praying on the decks. Once in Jordan I stayed a night in Aqaba, then decided on a whim to move on quickly, perhaps because I had been munched thoroughly by Mozzies the night before. I was heading to Karak, a hilltop town crowned with a magnificent Crusader castle, and the next bus heading there went down the Dead Sea highway. I nodded off.

I awoke to a different world. The sky had become overcast and a small sandstorm was blowing. Visibility had gone down to 100 metres or so. The palette had reduced to grey & yellow. In scattered places the sand was uncovered and drifted & duned, but mostly it was covered with a grey ash, the Gomorrahn remains endlessly tumbling in the wind. Every footprint or tire track disturbed it leaving bright yellow scores on the ground, a landscape of Richard Longs. A camel stood astonished. A tightly wrapped girl chased goats home on donkey back. If the scenery was biblical, it was the book of Revelations.

The road swept downward, and the sandstorm lifted, but we were still bleakly surrounded. Occasionally mountains hazed into view, grey-purple like solidified clouds. Scrubby shrubs were bleached by the dust. The earth lay cracked & useless where the memory of water remained. Its day of happiness was long gone.

Here & there the hubris of life determined that crops must be grown. The sand was scraped back into great dykes defended by a hydra's mass of green tentacles, unlike any tree I'd seen before. In between there was palms, withered vines, and great seas of verdant lushness. I never saw anyone working there but there were occasional sentinels staring bewildered at the invasion of green. I swear one time I even saw a bird above such artificial oases.

It seemed strange to start at sea level yet keep descending, heading into the Earth's wound. The air grew palpably thicker, the passengers pensive and glum. A small child whimpered softly but could get no succor from her parents. Still we continued our mad rush down to the well of tears.

The road finally erred towards the rose red mountains in which Petra dwells. The earth became beetroot stained, sometimes tending to purple. Goats and hasty shelters against the enemy sun became more frequent. A huge Potash factory loomed into sight, towering above the southern Dead Sea. Here the water has been divided into great salt pans, depriving it of its precious cargo. A truck headed out into the murk along one of the dividing roads, if Limbo exists it is due North of The Arab Potash Co., Jordan.

We veered right amongst the tortured crags & pulled out gasping from the soup of the valley. As we raced lorries up switchbacking roads, our only consolation was the evening redding in the west. Darkness fell, and I was in Karak.


P.S. Not all of my e-mails will be this overblown, I promise! (yeah, right lol)


Sat 22 Nov.

The day started with a phone call from Thomas, telling us that snow may be expected over the weekend. Very difficult to imagine when in such warm humid place. (Hooray we have got to Sunday and no snow here in Yorkshire, but family in Scotland have had a fair bit, much to the younger ones delight)

The morning was spent in great activity, getting ready for the big family get-together. Amanda arrived first with her husband Chris Coad and boys James and Tom. (I think Amanda is my 2nd Cousin) It was really super to see them, after so many years. We caught up and I showed them the pics of the ancient Cosshams, including some of Philip Cossham. Tom looks like Philip and we thought that James reminds us of Toby! (I play runescape with Tom!!)

Christopher arrived, looking really great - he reminded me of Tony,(his later father, i think) Paul thought he saw traces of Hugh and of Bill. We got on really well. It would be terrific if they could visit the UK, but apparently it is very expensive because of the exchange rate. Thank goodness we have heard very little about world economics recently. Brian's daughter Tracey and her partner Garry came too.

In the evening we sorted out some of Wendy's shell collection, and looked at Paul's pics on the computer. He is very pleased with the new camera.

Sun 23rd Nov

Brian and Wendy took us down to Wellington in the car, and we saw the Old St. Paul's church (wooden, like the one in Auckland) and went up to the Botanical Gardens in the cable car.

The gardens are huge, full of enormous trees, and a lovely rose garden and tropical greenhouse. We had lunch sitting in the rose garden.

At 1.30 we visited Amanda so that we could see where she lives. They have a splendid cat called Holly, a very placid tabby. Tom held him and he just drooped over his arm. (wish ours would do that lol) We then went on to Christopher's house in Tio Tio Road, where Wendy and Tony used to live.

Chris has done lots of work on the house and has made it really special, full of individual touches, strong colours on the walls. He has two beautiful husky dogs which have a big run in the garden, very gentle and un-threatening. Soft fur. Chris provided coffee and cakes in the garden overlooking the harbour.

Later we all went to a bay where Paul and Wendy looked for Pau shells, Chris walked his dog, and Brian and I hung around on the beach. We had a tour around Wellington Harbour which is enormous, did nearly all the coast-line.

On coming home we finished up some of yesterday's party food and then watched a DVD which Chris lent us, a very doom-laden Horizon from 2005 about Global Dimming.

The dimming is due to particulates in the atmosphere which reduce the amount of sunshine, and mask the global warming. We are dooooomed. (or is that Dimmmed?)

Much love from mumbo - Off to Nelson soon!

Friday, 21 November 2008

A big update :-)

Well, as I told you Wendy and Brian turned up yesterday afternoon at the Motel in Masterton.
It was super to see them. I had better get back to a chronological account.

On Tuesday we went to a geothermal area called Wai-O-Tapu. It has a geyser which is stimulated into activity every morning at 10.15 by having a small quantity of soap flakes poured into it! After a couple of minutes it erupts (surface tension in the area below having been affected) into a water-spout about 10 ft. high.

A large crowd sits in the arena to watch it, rather like a Roman amphitheatre, all wielding cameras. Rather contrived, or, as the Rough Guide puts it, ignominious. But the rest of it was absolutely amazing. We walked on a well-defined path through a landscape full of craters lined with coloured mineral deposits, belching steam or glooping water and mud. Then on a walkway across a shallow lake of many colours, orange, blue, green, gently steaming. We walked for a couple of hours, jaws well dropped, never seen anything like it.

Wished Chris Lee could see it,(family friend) his excitement would have known no bounds. Nearby is a large mud pool, one of the funniest things I have ever seen, all over it gas comes up with a really rude glooping sound, and spurts of mud shoot into the air! It's a challenge to photograph the mud in mid-air.

The next amazing thing was the Huka Falls, where a brilliant blue/green river is forced through a narrow rocky canyon and roars out into the river below. It is part of a hydro-electric system, but the rocky channel is quite natural.

In Taupo, which is by a large lake of the same name, we had to go to a second choice hostel, but it was fine apart from no email. We had a room with kingsize bed and a single bed, loo and shower, use of kitchen, and a light breakfast, for $70. Oh, and electric blankets! We had a meal out for a treat, at a Thai restaurant, where Paul had TWO lamb shanks and I had duck and ginger. We watched the sun set in the wrong direction over the lake.

Weds. 19 Nov.

We decided to stay in Taupo and see the volcanic area south of there. There are three volcanoes, all snow-capped, and we drove round the whole area and then round Lake Taupo. On the outward journey, we noticed that we had 2 police cars behind us, so observed the (rather slow) speed limits very carefully.

On entering a built-up area, Paul went rather slower than necessary, and after that one of them peeled off. The other one stopped us. Oh dear. But he said 'You're going too slowly!' Then lectured us about not holding people up and causing them to take risks. The best bit was that he was from Wakefield! (The result of this will probably be that we get a speeding ticket). (what, speeding ticket for going too slowly???)

The scenery on the west of Lake Taupo was limestone, like the Mendips on steroids.
In the evening we sat by the lake and watched a few local boys swinging from a rope and out over the water and then sploshing in. Water crystal clear. We chatted to a couple from the South Island who emigrated to NZ 30 years ago, and they invited us to coffee when we are in Christchurch!

Thursday 20 Nov.

Difficult to sleep, thinking about the journey to Masterton, not knowing how long it would take. The drive to Napier on the coast was through another set of astonishing mountains- by the time I get to the South Island I shall have completely run out of adjectives. Napier has a lot of Art Deco houses.

South of there we (I) decided to stop for coffee, and we turned off to a tiny village where the Old Library had been turned into a gift/coffee shop. A lot of confusion when the lady in charge thought we were with another person and charged them for our coffee!! Sadly the mistake was noticed. (you skinflints, you... lol)

And so to Masterton, to the motel. In the evening we went for a run into the country with Wendy and Brian, up an unsealed road into a gorge with river at the bottom. We saw some large pigeons called Kereru, world's second largest, only found in , and got some photos. Then fish and chips and back to base.

This is a Kereru

Friday 21st November.

This morning we all went to Castle Point on the east coast, where there is a lighthouse and a couple of beautiful bays, usual vivid blue/green sea, watched terns diving for fish. We had lunch at a pub in its sunny garden and then drove back here to Wellington.

The house is really super, perched on a hillside with big views over the bay - you may have seen Brian's photos. (yes their house is lovely - I have seen photos) Now we really need to chill out, we have done so much!

More soon, lots of love, mumbo.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A hurried email!

We have just arrived at Masterton where we are meeting W &B. (Cousin Wendy & Hubby Brian) I am using their computer which is not on broadband, they may arrive any min. so hurried as usual!

Monday 17th Nov: Long drive back along the Coromandel, again twisting narrow road and views of little coves and blue/green sea. Arrived at Rotorua, and chosen hostel was full, so we were sent to another which looked dodgy (Spa Lodge Backpackers) but actually was fine and very cheap - $58, shower, kettle, double bed. Super tabby cat. Rotorua full of holes, steaming and bubbling quite extraordinary. Lovely smell. Maori village on lakeside, a ceremonial square with meeting house and church (!) and all the little houses look quite ordinary, but they all have a communication with the underworld, and they use them to cook on!! Our hostel had a spa pool and Paul cooked himself in it after supper, came out like lobster.(see picture on previous post lol)

Tuesday 18th I see that I did email you about Rotorua, oh well never mind.

Wendy has arrived so I have to be quick.. Briefly, we visited some thermal areas incredible exciting and I shall do some FINE WRITING about them when we get to Wendy's tomorrow, can't do it justice at the moment. Weds: drove round Tongariro Nat Park, look it up, 3 volcanoes with snow on top.
Today, went to Napier to look at Art Deco houses and long drive here.

Will do better next time.

My nose is sunburnt.

Heaps of love, mumbo.

I was putting this on my blog with one cat curling round my feet yelling for breakfast (Lilly) and the other cat walking past the computer screen as slowly as he could, very meaningfully! (yes, thats Billy) I better go make them happy and give them their breakfast now, like a good human should!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

The NZ saga continues in a few days..

Just an interim post to say parents are not near any internet cafe at the moment, but normal service will be resumed when they get to their next destination.. Brian and Wendsy house.


Wish I was with them :-)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The answer ..

why you have to be quiet in the glow worm cave!!

Follow this link :-)

Monday, 17 November 2008


Morning! Its Tuesday here and a bright sunny day.

We are staying in a hostel with a double bed plus shower and kettle and small sink for $58, and there are 2.6 $ to the pound, work it out.. (I did its about £21.50)

We cook in the backpackers kitchen and of course that is cheap. Petrol is $1.58 a litre,(59p) so about half the price of here. Car hire for 5 weeks was about 550 quid (no pound sign on this computer!)

Yesterday we drove another very twisty and scenic don't know how many miles to Rotorua. Hostel of first choice was full, were sent here to a place which looked iffy but turned out quite ok. It has a spa pool filled with water from the subterranean layer.

We walked to the lakefront, and to a Maori village where all the houses have a stinky bubbling pool or vent in the garden, which they use for cooking! All over Rotorua there are strange escapes of steam and ominous smells - it has been built over a very active volcanic area and its as full of holes as a colander. Very interesting.

There is a beautiful little tabby cat here. Paul spent ages in the spa pool, he was the only one in it, enjoyed it very much and came out like a lobster.

Look! I found a picture of my dad!!


We shall look at some more of the volcanic bits today and stay in Taupo tonight. Still nothing from Emma about how to pick up her key - may ring her from Wendy's.

Glad your visit from T&K went well.

Much love, Mumbo xxx


Editors note- the italics are my notes.. I moved the posts around a bit to make the time line easier, and it wont let me do blue comments.

It has just taken me ages to sign in the this place's computer....

Reading your blog at James's yesterday, Simon's contribution is SO much more interesting than ours!!! (Personally I think BOTH are as fascinating as each other!!) Oh well.

Yesterday we drove from Cambridge to the Coromandel, which is quite a long way - everywhere is quite a long way, especially when it is all twisty and hilly. The drive along the coast was stunning, the road is quite narrow and right by the sea, which is a brilliant blue/green and all shades in between, studded with many jagged islands. ( It's a volcanic area. )

Stopped at Coromandel Town, where we found the best bead shop I have ever seen, run by a lady from Kent, very friendly even though we didn't buy one bead. I did wish you could have seen it Anna! (I can't beleive she didnt buy one.. not even one!! gah!!! How COULD she??)

We went on to a place called Hahei, near the Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach, where there was a smaller choice of hostels, and the best one had no doubles in the backpackers, so we had to have a cabin with ensuite at the (not) vast cost of $120 (divide by 3 roughly). The hostel is set in beautiful gardens, birds piping away. Very spacious and comfortable. I used kitchen in the backpackers to make usual bacon and veg. meal which pleased Paul.

We walked to one of the Bays, the Gemstone Bay, pretty hard on my joints but worth it for the views. Very good bird life, all sorts, nesting swallows in the viewpoint roof only inches away from us.

Paul has been for a jog this morning on the beach, and we shall move one towards Rotorua, not at all sure where we shall stay tonight. It is cooler thank goodness, and rain is forecast. Oh, snorkelling is off here because it is too rough, but we plan to shoot off to the Caribbean fairly soon so he can snorkel there. (really?? another "SKI" holiday?? wow!! cool! )

Lots of love, Parents. XXXXXXXX

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Less exciting news from home

Thos, Kt and the kids arrived at about 6, a little earlier than we thought, so we rushed around getting everything ready.

I sent first Thos, then Kt up to read this blog to catch up on the parents adventures. They think its brill!!

The meal went well, and everyone enjoyed it although I don't think it was as good as it could have been...

I think next time, I would start the cooking an hour or so earlier, because I ended up cheating and deep frying the potatoes instead of roasting them, cause we ran out of time, and the meat should have cooked for another hour or so because it was rather chewy (I aint getting braising beef again!!) Oh, and the apple crumble needed more butter in the crumble and more time in the oven.

After tea we all sat round chatting, then Leo and Carlo started being normal little brothers (causing mischief) so I brought Leo up here and plugged him into a game of collect the bananas or something.. a kids game I found on the Internet for him. All was peacful for a while, but swapping over to let Martha have a turn was a bit difficult.. Leo adores computer games, and finds it hard to tear himself away (Hmm I cant think of any other family member who EVER plays on the internet lol)

They went at about 8pm, Douglas and I settled down for a quiet end to the evening on the sofa, and as usual I woke up to find I had drifted off whilst snuggled against him, and missed a chunk of the Antiques Greed Show programme.

After posting Parents, Simons and then our news.. Im now off to bed!!

Simon and the last of Dahab

Hey All,

Have to leave Dahab now and run North to make it to Jordon before Wednesday. It'll be a shame to leave behind this lovely little town, though the fact they've really started pushing the Bob Marley does make a little easier to accept. I was Bob free for the first week but they went for it on the Saturday and haven't let up since.

There is a lack of Trustifarians
, thank god, but still THAT album seems synonymous in most people's minds with kicking back and letting go. "I love ALL Reggae, from No Woman No Cry to I Shot The Sheriff." Gah.

Still, I can't really be that grumpy. I've finished diving now and have my Advanced - the night dive was incredible. We swam without torches and the luminescent plankton sent fairy dust off every finger and fin movement, trails of light spinning behind us. When we got to the Canyon fish with glowing eyes were milling in its depths - as we free fell in they piled out past us. Just astounding.

When I haven't been underwater, I've also had some good times in the evening. There's a bar that does occassional live music. First there was a German band doing Celtic music (a rendition of Dirty Old Town being one of the more bearable ones), and naturally one of them looked like Matt.

They were followed by a really woeful Rolling Stones cover band. The soundcheck was long and painful (Wan. Waaaaaan. Waaa
aaaan Twoo-ooe. Wan wan wan wan twoeeooeeoo) before the singwer mockneyed through songs you loved until he rendered them dirt.

Finally he invited the German band back for a 'blues jam' which was deeply embarrassing for all, and I thought I caught 'Matt' contemplating the eternal pain of existence whilst shaking a tambourine in a sort of bluesy fashion.

Still, all good things must end, and I'll probably be back here at some point, or summat. I'm looking forward to eating less burgers and pizzas, and also being a bit more on my own rather than attached to someone who is really quite a nice fellow (though when he and the Aussie got together the casual racism, homophobia and sexism naturally rose more to the surface), but who spends his days waiting in the room for me to finish Diving so we can do stuff. I'm looking forward to filling my days myself a bit more, though naturally I hope I continue to meet nice people throughout.

Hope all's well back home. Missing you all. And reading the Guardian in my dressing gown.

Love, explosions and joy,




It's Saturday am here and another bright sunny day. We woke up a bit late but went with James to the Farmer's Market in Cambridge (C. is the equivalent of Newmarket in the UK, horse city). Bought some beautiful apple juice and bread.

We are going to have a relatively quiet day today because tomorrow we set off for the coromandel peninsular. It has been great staying here, such relaxed and welcoming hosts and very comfortable. Interesting cooking from James, lots of herbs of course!

Yesterday we took Joyce out in the car to a nearby lake, a reservoir but very mature. It is near where she lived years ago with John. We got a picnic and sat and watched wildfowl on the water. By about 2 pm she was tired and so we took her back to her residential home, and then drove to Hamilton, about half an hour's drive, to see the Hamilton Gardens. These consisted of a VAST rose garden, all roses perfect as is the norm in NZ.

After that, a set of Paradise Gardens, in different national styles. The best was the Indian Garden, enclosed in cool white marbe, fountains and rills, brilliant orange bedding, and at one end a loggia with a view over the river far below, which is the size of the River Wye. It was uncomfortably hot, but cool in this garden. Then back to Cambridge where we found a supermarket and bought chocs for Vanessa's birthday, and a flowering plants for Joyce's, today. Lots of emails this morning.

Anna I don't know why we had to be quiet in the glow-worm cave, but it made it all the more impressive!

I will contact Emma, have had an email from her giving her phone no. but no key pick-up details..Paul is stacking logs.(one of his favourite activities!) Will email you from the Coromandel when I can.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Our Saturday

Douglas and I did a bit of our normal weekend housework on Friday, including cleaning the kitchen, and doing 2 loads of washing, so on Saturday morning we could have a lazy start for a treat.

When we eventually got up, we put two large chunks of beef in a dish to marinade with some red wine and other good things, as we have invited Thos, KT and kids round tomorrow for Sunday evening "lunch".

I also sorted out the New Scientist to be posted out on a regular basis for Douglas who reads it regularly (it works out cheaper than buying it in the shops!) also we went onto ebay and purchased him a lovely new pair of slippers as his last ones are coming apart at the edges.

A bit later I stewed some cooking apples, made some crumble topping, and had fun chopping some mixed nuts up into little bits to make a nut loaf. We normally buy chopped mixed nuts, but its quite hard to find them in decent quantities, so a while ago we got a big packet of non chopped ones.

I peeled and sliced the apples, did the crumble topping and chopped the nuts in front of the TV watching some of our usual Saturday night trash (yes sorry I like the X factor, and Douglas enjoys shouting at the TV!! ) All I will say about my preparation is I'm glad we are leaving the hoovering till tomorrow hahah!

Nut loaf has chopped mixed nuts, mixed herbs, a couple of eggs to bind, garlic, chopped mixed tomatoes, breadcrumbs and anything else that I see whilst wandering round the kitchen.

No No No dear reader.... no cats, no Douglas get put in, even if they are wandering round the kitchen at the time.. lol.. nothing goes in that a good veggie would turn their nose up at! Oh, If i'd had some PNB (PeaNut Butter) a good dollop of that would have gone in.

Tomorrow morning I will prepare the potatoes and give them their first boil, then put them in cold water until later. We have to boil them twice to leech as much potassium as we can out of them, as Rabbie (D's kidney) does not get rid of it as easily as "home grown" healthy kidneys do.

Lets hope that everyone enjoys their meal!!

I do hope you are getting as much pleasure as we are from the copied emails that my Parents and Simon have sent us.. we love each new morsel that drops into my email box!! Lets hope there is more to add soon.

Sunday morning in NZ

Just having a quick go on the computer before we set off for The Coromandel. (This is where New Zealanders go on holiday. From the map, Its in the North West of North Island, NZ and looks lovely!)

Yesterday we were fairly inactive, slobbed around here, wandered around the little park in the middle of Cambridge where there is a lake with kingfisher flying to and fro!

We went out for meal last night with Joyce, James and Vanessa, big popular restaurant in Cambridge. Good food and people-watching. .

Will send more when I can, Lots of love, mumbo.

A Sandy Simon Update

Hey Kids,

I hope all is well in the world of you guys. I can only say that if the weather has been poor in Blighty, I've probably been getting wetter over here - no, it's not raining in Egypt (ho, ho, ho), I've been doing my PADI Open Water & Advanced Scuba Diving courses.

It's pretty amazing. The water here is warm and clear, the fish & coral abundant, varied and colourful. For anyone who hasn't scuba dived before it's a little akin to very chilled flying through an alien world. The fish go about their business with very little concern for your intruding ways, living out a million dramas. Little Nemo fish buzz about in groups, being bullied by the faster punk versions with go faster streaks. Occassionally a Lion fish dreadnought floats in, fin spines bristling, munching anything that brushes against its deadly venom. Luminescent parrot fish zoom past straight up, a grin on their face, whilst striped butterfly fishes nibble at the tiny jelly fish that float past.

Our instructor is a great big mexican (Primo) with a good sense of humour, which definitely helps. Getting through the Open Water is actually quite tough as there's loads of reading to do and quite a lot of skills to master. I've been doing this along with an Ozzie called Troy and a Canadian called Angel. She had quite a lot of trouble at the beginning because she's carrying a lot of, um, buoyancy, but she seems to have mastered it now. It does take a bit to get the hang og maintaining the right level, but once you ace it it's amazing. The first time we did a proper dive round a reef when we were in control it was amazing.

Since then we've been to some amazing places. We've toured amazing coral labyrinths, stumbling across a huge school of Barracudda, and been to an incredible fissure in the sea bed called the Canyon. It's so clear you feel like you're slowly falling into this great crack in the earth, and then you travel along it into this great chamber called the Fishbowl, full of hundreds of fish. I'm not sure if it was the nitrogen narcosis, but when I came out of another opening, I was surprised at how close the sky was, forgetting that I was still underwater! We're going back there tonight to do a night dive. It's a full moon, so we may not have to use our torches, just rely on that and the luminescence of the plankton down there.

We've also been out to the infamous Blue Hole, a massive hole that descends 130m into the reef. You drop into it and swim underneath the lip, then out over a coral saddle and into the big blue. As we were cruising around we saw some beautiful, rich, rich red Sea Anemone. They have little fish that live in them and attract bigger fish over to eat them. The Sea Anemone stings the big fish and they both eat it! The Sea Anemone is so pretty though, an undulating lava-lamp of redness flowing over the reef.

Anyway, enough about my undersea adventures. It is really nice down there though, you just feel comfortable and right, especially when you get quite deep. That might be the nitrogen again, though!

Dahab itself is lovely, set against ranges of mountains behind you, and looking out over shimmering Saudi Arabia. The beach front is fairly touristy, but all the hassle is done with a smile and a joke - Egyptians tend to have a great sense of humour. As time has gone on we've found all the cheaper Egyptian eats on the back streets, where the goats roam, and it's well good. The seafood is amazing as well, had lovely Red Snapper, Grouper, Shrimps, White Snapper, etc.

The weather is impeccable - there was one day in which there were a fw clouds, but they soon cleared off. It's always in the twenties - the midday sun is hot but I'm normally underwater.

In a couple of days I leave to head up and get the ferry to Jordan. I'm going to visit Petra, and do some treks and scrambling in the desert, living with some Bedouin and riding some camels (hoping to catch some Camel races too!).

Let me know how life continues. Keep smiling and taking care of yourselves and each other.

A sandy bucketful of love to one and all,

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Whilst we were sleeping.. parents enjoyed another day!

It was great to chat this morning, how amazing modern technology is.

We have had a great day, went to a town about 30 miles away where they have some kiwis in captivity, which is the only way most people are going to see them. They are such a quaint shape, with no arms/wings and a round bottom.

Then we went to a fantastic cave where you go on a boat (for a short trip) and in complete silence and darkness look up at the rocky ceiling which is covered with glow-worms, it looks like the Milky Way many times over.

One of the things we particularly enjoy is seeing the gardens which are filled with the most brilliant and healthy roses, and indeed they grow on the roadsides, apparently wild.

We nearly didn't go to the daves because it was a bit expensive, and then I thought: 'the kids would say OH GO ON DO IT, spend the money!' (Yeah too right! So glad they went!!) So we did.

It was well worth it.Have learnt quite a bit about cows, horses, farming etc. NZ has no foot and mouth, blue tongue, or indeed any of the dreadful diseases we have in UK. They only feed their cows on grass, no additives. James and Vanessa breed thoroughbred horses. Last night we got up to witness the birth of a colt, at 2.30 am. It was born by the time we got out into the field, mum was licking it.

This morning it was on its legs (very long and spindly) and wobbling about.The impression of Northland that remains is of endless, endless, endless beautiful scenery.

Tomorrow we shall take Joyce out. (She lived in the Old Surgery when parents lived in Garden House in Weston S Mare) We may visit Rotorua from here, but not sure.

Dearest Parents.. please continue to enjoy your S.K.I holiday!!

(S.K.I., according to my dear father, means "Spend Kids Inheritance") hahahah!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A Phone Call !!!!!!!!!!!

Douglas and I went out this evening with a lovely friend I met whilst travelling to work on the tram. Dovina is a short bubbly lady originally from the Phillipines. She is a bit like the Duracell Bunny.. full of energy, bounce and enthusiasm, and we hit it off first time we started chatting on the tram stop.

I dont see her much on the tram any more as a work colleage gives me a lift in, so it was great to catch up, and have a moan about our days.

Douglas also had a fair bit of moaning to do about his diet.... after a visit to the hospital he has been told his blood sugar is up a bit, so as well as having a low potassium, low cholestrol and low all sorts of other things diet, we can now add the Diabetic Diet (Joy!!!) It wont change much, and as usual, after a bit of a moan hes back to being his postive happy self.

When we got back from our evening out, we were settling down to watch some joint telly trash when the phone went!

Loud and clear, from the other side of the world, there was my mums voice!!! It was about 9am "their" time and 8pm over here. They are now spending a few days with some friends from Weston Super Mare days.

Mum said they were planning to go to a cave by boat to see some glow worms, and Dad said that NZ is a bit like England, but about a million times more beautiful and lots of tropical plants to try and identify. The are having the time of their lives, and sounded so very happy :-)

I hope to hear more about these glow worms and their adventures soon, if their hosts dog does not lick them to death first :-)

What a lovely end to a spendid evening.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Backpackers hostel in Russell

We are in a backpackers in Russell now.

It is beautiful and full of character, but we are the only people here! Apparently the tourist trade is very quiet here. It is a gorgeous place, in the Bay of Islands, lovely beach and views.

Today we visited a thermal spa which Paul's Uncle Phil visited, and from which he sent letters to the family, Ngawha Springs. Not changed since the 1940s I think, concrete tanks filled with stinking bubbling brown water!!!! A solitary bather, a young Frenchman - don't know how anyone could go in.

We also saw the Hundertswasser Toilets - do look this up. Fabulous, like Gaudi.

There is yet another interesting cat in this hostel, called Fatty, a tabby which has one ambition, to sit on your knee. Not sure where we are going to be tomorrow, have to look at map and have plan of action. Trying to type this while NZ Coronation St. on telly!Give my love to all = mumbo.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A lovely visit to little brothers

We popped over to see Thos, KT and the kids this evening, taking with us a box of huge rockets (fireworks) which we have had for quite a while. Douglas, who in previous years, has been firework mad didnt even buy one this year, in deference to us becoming cat owners.

It was raining tonight, so we decided to cancel the firework and bonfire planned, and just stay in and chat.

Little Carlo is getting very chatty and was telling me all about writing his name, and reading special homework books now he is FOUR and getting to be a Big Boy. It was funny and very sweet to have him sitting on my knee burbling away about school, which he obviously enjoys very much.

M & L had just done an account of their Halloween costumes on the computer with help from Mum - it was lovely to see them happily doing their homework and proudly showing us their "what we did at half term" accounts.

We had a smashing mini tea.. roast peppers with a few nice bits and peices in, and a chick pea salad which was very good too. I had my very first ever artichoke heart (ive never had artichoke before!) it had been pickled then roasted, and had a pleasant very strong flavour!

After a chat with Thos, catching him up on news from Down Under, we came home and watched Antiques Greed (oops Road) Show together. Very pleasant end to the weekend.

D goes back to work tomorrow having been off sick for nearly a month.. I'm sure he will be fine, if very tired when he finishes. I will, of course let you know.

Various bits of info

I got a nice email from Brian Z - honourary cousin from NZ, which is great. I'm putting it here as he kindly has linked me up to where the parents are staying right now. They dont have email so I got a text and sent one back.

Your parents have seen Tane Mahuta (the giant kauri) today and are staying in a small place called Omapere, which is at the entrance to the Hokianga Harbour on the west coast of the North Island.

Omapere, Northland, New Zealand can be seen on Google Earth at:
35° 31.947'S, 173° 23.368'E

Also please see his comment on last post - it also has some great links!!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Devonport etc. Parents news.

Actually no email from you! I may not be able to email for a day or 2 because I don't know where we shall be, so don't worry if there is no news. (oh dear.. so much lovely news from their end and I forgot to send any back. I have done now :-)

This morning we walked to the car rental place and picked up not a Toyota Corolla but a Nissan Sunny - very similar. Recorded all its bumps and bruises, paid the money and back here by 10.15 am.

Mat turned up and we went downtown on the bus to the ferry that takes you over to a village called Devonport, on the other side of the bay. Very gracious houses, huge unknown trees by the water, some shops including lots of 2nd hand bookshops. Got a picnic and ate it sitting on a seat looking out over the bright blue bay with lots of sailing boats. Mat goes sailing once a week.

He seemed very glad to see us, and obviously misses the social life he has at home in London. He is hoping to return to the UK next April, as although he loves the sailing etc, he misses the UK.

Mat and Paul climbed a hill which is an old volcanic plug, and I sat and watched a bizzarely English scene - a cricket pitch with several games going on at once, lots of clapping and cheering from the pavilion.

When we got back I suddenly felt incredibly exhausted, jetlag catching up I suppose, and after supper (bangers and veg cooked in the communal kitchen) crashed out for a bit. My nose is sunburnt, and I am getting hay fever, dammit. Mat says he is getting it too, after all it is their summer! Tomorrow we have an early take-off to the North, to see giant Kauri tree forest, and if we have time to get across to the Bay of Islands.

Another interesting day in NZ for the parents!!

I found a few links.. this one is a photo of a Kauri Tree.. they are HUGE!! And this link is about Devonport. I look forward to seeing photos when the parents arrive home!!

Simons Travels

(Editors notes are in blue)

Dahab is thankfully a much more wonderful place than Sharm. It's still a resort, but on a much more chilled out scale with Arab quarters and far more independent travellers. However, given that I seem to have ended up sharing a room with my new friend somewhat unintentionally it does kind of feel like I've gone on holiday with someone I barely know, rather than a true travel experience so far. STILL, that's actually a nice thing as it doesn't hurt to ease yourself into it rather than ceratin experiences where I've been dropped off in an ex-soviet republic and had to fend for myself whilst dodging secret 'police'.

In fact, I'm having a great time here, lolling around, reading & swimming. Went snorkelling today and saw an amazing variety of fish - most of which are here I particularly liked the Lion fish, Yellowtail Surgeonfish and the Pennant fish, but it doesn't have my favourite which was a different type of Parrot Fish.

Tomorrow I start my Open Water PADI course so I'll be able to start exploring even more. It's all really nice when you combine it with a beach holiday, the backdrop of which is a dramatic range of mountains. The Red Sea is so blue, and has great visibility, and on the other side you can see the hills of Saudi Arabia melting in the distance.

Thanks for all the concern from people about my new limpit.

He's actually a really nice guy and we've managed to spend some time apart which is cool. He did tell me all his theories about the secret elite who rule the world last night but he is definitely not a paranoid freak who will kill me in my sleep and take my money. NO WAY. Nah, he's actually really quite cool and his iPod & speakers have some good tunes on them, so that's all good.

The hostel he said was the best (read cheapest) is full of Koreans so it's nice to have someone to talk to - it is under 2 quid a night which can't be bad, though maybe I'd pay another pound to get slightly upgraded toilets and abit more conducive atmosphere. Still, I was very happy this morning reading under palm leaves on bedouin pillows whilst kittens frolicked and wrestled amongst the cushions. The cats here are lovely, friendly, and ubiquitous - Sarah be warned.

Better shoot, I need to get some food. Just to let you know the weather's lovely, I'm not sunburned, and I'm a few days off having my beard back (phew).

(Anna packs her bags, gets a ticket and heads for the door, then realises that there is no need to travel so far to meet the best cats in the world. One of them is sitting on her desk, chilling, the other is busy killing bits of carpet on the stairs just outside this room)

Wow.. parents in one bit of the world, Simon in another.. what a busy blog!!

Our Friday night

Well, I cant say our Friday evening was quite as exciting as what my parents are up to, but it was very enjoyable!

My colleage Alex had organised to meet those he has left behind in a bar in town for 6pm, so Douglas and I went to bid him good luck and farewell. It was nice change to go for a drink, and lovely to see quite a lot of friends and colleagues who also went.

We were also bidding farewell to two temps (I jokingly called them Special Agents, as one of my colleagues got told calling them "temps" was demeaning) They have worked really hard, doing pretty boring stuff for us for a few months, so it was great that we got to show our appreciation. We are so up to date at work now that we don't need their help any more! After a quick drink and a natter, we went off to have a meal at an "all you can eat" place.

Please, dear gentle reader, do not think for a moment that we stuffed ourselves silly! We did not - we ate very sensibly.

The place had Indian, Thai and Chinese dishes to choose from, so we had small portions from each culture. The food was cooked to a high standard. The marker for this was that D really enjoyed all he ate. Normally he really hates the "all you can eat" type place as the quality can be very poor.

There was plenty of choice for me as a fussy veggie (sadly no Thai options, thats my only criticisim) and plenty of choice for Douglas as a meat eater who must avoid mushroom and tomato amongst other things.

We came home feeling comfortably full having had a very pleasant evening.

Billy and Lilly came to join us in the lounge, and we watched TV till I suddenly found I had zonked out on D's shoulder! lol. I went to bed, followed at some point by my loving husband, and possibly some furry paws (who then woke me at about 5.30am this morning lol)

We have plans for the weekend, but you will just have to come back to find out what we did.

First Full Day in Auckland

Editors notes will be in blue :-)

We have had our first absolutely great day in Auckland. Woke up feeling SO much better after sleeping like 2 logs. The hostel is a bit basic but very friendly - we are by many years the oldest here.

Weather is coolish and windy, I am glad it is not hot or the contrast would be too great. Auckland has the feel of a colonial place, lots of wooden bungalows with verandahs and tropical trees and plants, and the area we are in is quiet.

Nearby is a really interesting shopping street, and the first thing we did this morning was to make for the Italian bakery! Breakfast in communal kitchen and dining room, got chatting to a Texan girl travelling the world on her own, ecstatic about the new President.

We walked to the huge park called the Domaine where there are a couple of greenhouses - the Winter Garden- one with a mass of beautiful plants in bloom, things that would be OK in an English summer like delphiniums and huge snapdragons, only all bigger and better and brighter.

Then a tropical house with a pool with waterlilies, blue and white ones and the enormous leaves. Oh, before that we went to see the 2 cathedrals - the old one, made of kauri wood, and an ultra-modern one, built when the wooden one wasn't big enough. Both stunning.

Then we went into the Museum, where I really wished Douglas had been with us. The Maori collection was just so impressive, and I know I said I wasn't neccessarily going to be that interested - but we were so glad we did. We took lots of photos for D. Parents were worried that the Maori collections would be very "touristy" and did not want to be party to the "touristicification" of this race of people.

Then we walked to the Parnell Rose Garden, the biggest collection of roses in full bloom I've ever seen. It is Rose Weekend this w/e. We staggered back to the hostel, and were just recovering with a cup of coffee when Mat arrived! (Mat is the same age as my younger brother, and lived next door but one to us in Leicester for many years)

We sat and chatted, and he had booked a table at a nearby pizza place, so at 7.30 we wandered out, and got back at 10 pm. He is coming here tomorrow and taking us down to the car place to pick up our car. Then we are going on the ferry to Devonport which will give us a good view of Auckland and the harbour.

So, so far so good, there are lots of unknown and exotic plants and strange-sounding birds. I am using the email at the hostel and hope it doesn't run out of dosh - so will stop now, and write again tomorrow.

Give our love to all, and to yourselves. From the upsy downsy folk. XX.

Well.. as hoped it sounds as though they are having the holiday of a lifetime!! Please do feel free to write comments on the blog.. you dont have to sign up, just choose the annonymous option, but type your name at the end of your comment so I know who you are. I will pass on any messages in an email over to Ma and Pa when I get them.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

NZ at last

Latest message from Mother :-)

Hello! I am at Carolyn and Malcolm's. We are tired but happy. Soon will be going to our b&b hostel in Auckland.

We had quite a long break in Melbourne, journey seemed interminable at times but on the whole OK. Will try to write more intelligibly when not so tired. Also C&M want us to get off because it will be dark soon.

So sorry this is a bit short, will maybe use Mat's computer tomorrow?

Lots of love to all. Mumbo. XX

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Elvi have landed in Melbourne!!

The Elvi (that means more than one Elvis lol) has landed in Melbourne, and have survived the first leg of their journey.

More news when they have done the next 8 hours!!


For an explanation of the origin of the Elvis joke, started by DMIL and spread quickly round other bits of family.. click here.

First episode - Simons Travels

Dear Readers, Ds brother Simon (as you will know if you are a regular reader) is on his way to Ethiopia to live and write his Philosophy PHd for two years.

His first stop is Egypt, and this is part of his first email to friends and family to keep us up to date on what hes doing.

Its so interesting I thought I would pop it on here!


Pretty good flight over with lovely views, especially over Turkey and Egypt (though I didn't see the Pyramids, was on wrong side of plane). Unfortunately Sharm el-Sheik is a bit of a hole, as a massive tourist destination where everything is priced way over the top. The taxi drivers drive like maniacs and try to stiuff you a l l t h e t i m e, which is annoying, but I got out pretty quickly after a nice swim this morning in the lovely, warm, deep blue ocean.
The ride up here to Dahab was incredible, through a desert of coral coloured sands, with great mountains bubbling out of the plain, all tumescent and pink, shocking against the deep blue sky. Here and there Bedouin led camels for there own sake rather than for tourists. Dahab is a million miles better than Sharm, far more relaxed and down to earth. My hotel is a sixth of the price, and my meal was a tenth of what it was last night and just as nice.
Have hooked up with an alright English guy, though not exactly of my own choice. He's all nice, and fine, and stuff, and it is good to have someone to talk to, but he is a little bit clingy. That should improve over the coming days, or I'll just sneak off...
Better get off now, have to sort some things out. Might be doing a PADI tomorrow or the next day. I'll give more news later.


What a wonderful adventure! I look forward to more news soon.

Meanwhile, D made me a fabulous tea tonight - I asked him to marry me (again) , but he said he was already married and turned me down!! lol He made me veggie fahitas, and made beef ones for himself. He enjoyed his, and mine were totally scrummie!!!!!!!!

Over here in England its fireworks night, so we kept the cats in. Billy - as usual - is chilling on a cushion on the arm chair, looking at a firework occasionally but mainly sleeping. Sleeping is Billys main occupation :-) Lilly is not so happy. She is hiding under our rocking chair looking scared, and won't even let me stroke her. Poor girl.. she will calm down when the nasty bangs and flashes stop in a few days time.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Im a big girls blouse (its official!!)

I visited my parents early this morning to say a final farewell before their holiday starts this afternoon - all was relaxed and happy until I found a rendition of the Botany Bay song on U tube.. at which point to my shock and horror I burst into tears!!! (I'm putting it down to hormones! lol)

So.. this afternoon they fly out, and I have the key to their house.

Anyone fancy joining me for a wild party? Little brother and I are planning a series of Raves to be held in their house in their absence - just leave a post on the blog, and we will tell you the time and place a few hours before it starts.

Drugs, drink, bad behaviour and fireworks all invited inside ;-)

Ok.. the truth.. I will take good care of their house, and promise (almost) no parties will be held there.

Bon Voyage!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Bye bye birdies...

Today was a day of saying goodbye.. first to Ds younger brother Simon who is off to Ethiopia for 2 years to write his Philosphy PhD... then a meal at my younger brothers house to celebrate the start of a 6 week holiday to New Zealand!!!

I will, however sneak in one last goodbye early tomorow morning before I go to work ;-)

I will be posting accounts from Simon (if he sends any lol) and also from my parents here on my blog, so keep coming back to hear any exciting tales!!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Pet update and other stuff

Pet the first (aka Douglas the husband) is doing much better. Hes been to the hospital for his check up and been told to stay off work till the 7th November. He will probably go back on the 7th itself because thats a Friday and would provide a little bit of a phased return.

Pet the Second (aka Billy) is doing well - still waking me up in the mornings by walking up my body purring loudly. He is slowly getting used to the idea that the clocks have gone back, and Im not jolly well getting up at 5am to feed them. 6am is fine, as thats normal getting up time for work.

Pet the Third (Lilly) is still gaining confidence, and at present Im trying to teach her that being picked up is no big deal, and that she dosnt have to struggle and be very scared. This will take a long time, but Im not in any hurry - hopefully we have many more cat years ahead of us (Quick prayer to Bast is said for B&Ls longevity)

Lastly, but by allmeans not the least important, on Tuesday my parents leave this chilly clime, go to Manchester Airport for a plane to New Zealand!!!

We are lucky enough to have relations in NZ on my fathers side, plus a sprinkling of friends from long ago, so my parents are going on a very exciting trip to go see them!!

I intend to blog their journey, by selecting bits of any emails I get from my mum telling of their adventures, so bookmark this blog and come back in about a week :-)