Down under

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Short winter days in Melbourne

I’m entirely unused to spending just a few days in a place that will probably take years to know inside out. Having been to Melbourne several times over the past two decades (nothing like the passing of the years to show how much mileage you’ve gotten along with it), this has by far, been the longest gap in which I’ve eschewed one of the world’s most liveable and coolest city in favour of other far-flung places. With four days, there was just too much to see, too much to eat, so little time. The rich, cultural diversity of this place can’t make it any swankier honestly, and the inner-city ethnic...

Pans and injuries

In the time that I’ve been away, I’ve managed to: scrap the knees and shin on the same leg twice, cracked half a toenail, somehow contract an infection of a nail cuticle (probably caused by hang nail) that made the finger swell, got a gash across my hand from the toilet door (!), grew numerous blisters and ankle bruises from walking too much, suffered a mild heatstroke and a sunburn on the face in the Australian sun. Also got my hiking shoes ripped good, tore some other parts of my clothes. The maladies of travel, as small as they are, remind me that I’m still partly enjoying myself and still...

Sydney the great

Ah, Sydney, the consummate city, to which I was introduced not via its famed beaches and tacky surfing stereotypes but via the bad traffic and even bad-der drivers. “I don’t have to give you any way, you’re in my lane,” the old lady driving the van vented defiantly at another van as she wove her steady way through Sydney’s frustrating crawl. The ready expression of frustration was a welcome reprieve after screaming children monsters (indicative of stupid parenting as well) on the way-too-long 3 hr flight into Sydney from Christchurch. I laughed and thereafter, she launched into a rapidfire list of sights to cover, ending with a certain place that she thought...

Memories

Kathryn the proprietress embodies the resilient spirit of those living in Christchurch who were badly affected by the quake yet chose to remain amidst the city’s reconstruction efforts. The long term effort, as she insists, is eventually good for the economy and employment prospects, with the added advantage of social bonding in the years to come. Yet she believes that she’ll probably not live to see the day the remodelled Christchurch is ready once more; her own property repairs will take as long as 5 years. Driving to Christchurch, one seldom encounters smooth road surface; the land shifts constantly and containers lining rockslide areas attest to that. Half the street...

Whale of a time

Tourist tours thrive in Kaikoura, a small coastal town with a huge variety of marine life to boast of – it was for this reason that I wanted to see whales, after being severely disappointed that the tours had been cancelled for a few days. With nothing else to do, the seal point at Point Kean became the regular hang-out to look at seals who were probably just as bewildered to see humans staring at them. Some looked hung-over after a delirious frolic, others looked apprehensive at the increasing number of visitor vehicles and all of them were plain smelly. The snow-capped tops of the Kaikoura range came into view...

Cloudy bay, cloudy skies

I’ve never driven onto a ship before until yesterday and it was fairly disconcerting not only to see huge 20-wheelers on board parked next to my tiny rental, but also to be treated like cargo freight for a moment. The miserable weather remained miserable just like an irritable old man on the road from the moment I departed Wellington for the South Island at the unholy hour of 7am. The 3.5 hr long ferry ride across the Cook straits in the massive, lumbering hunk of an Interislander ship that was thought to be one of the most scenic rides in the world turned out wet and cold. The boat slowly...

Maori legends that tail us

“The grumpy ones all last the longest,” Dean said gloomily as he looked at Calvin the cat.  Calvin is an old irascible ginger who obstructs the way just so that you can’t walk through a doorway, who glares and stares for longer than is polite, and bites when he gets cross. But he seems to like human company as long as they constantly stand about 5 metres away from him. Dean (along with his partner Jeff) is our latest English-turned Kiwi proprietor up on Majoribanks St/Lawson Place with an acerbic sharp tongue and a dramatic flair who is first in line to shoot odd but bloody hilarious comments on the...

Heading East

The Pacific Coast Highway (SH 35) is a motorway that stretches the entire rugged East Cape of New Zealand’s North Island, and also touted as one of the most scenic drives in the world. We completed our journey along this magnificent but incredibly difficult 420km stretch (possibly longer, since we started off at Rotorua towards Opotiki) first to Gisborne and later completing the other stretch to Napier the next day, and got looks of disbelief from several people after recounting this crazy move of ours for trying this in a day or 2. It was for most part, a completely isolating drives in one of the most remote parts of the country...

Eau de Rotorua

We sped in to Rotorua (as fast as we could given the 3-hr journey that was supposedly meant to last only 1.5 hrs)  and stepped out to the disturbingly familiar fart-like presence heralding geothermal activity. A hasty lunch of Fish and Chips at Oppies – which is a bizarre fast food stand that is a melange of Chinese food and British street fare -, I dragged my poor co-driver to the Polynesian spa and we happily dunked into the geothermal lake pools for a short roll around in hot waters overlooking Rotorua Lake. The bay of plenty is a region of lakes and gorgeous forests. A tip off from the proprietress at...

An eternity in …

An eternity in hell, I swear, is akin to sitting for an interminably long time in a plane to goodness-knows-where. Forget the fire, brimstone and the false preachers folks, the aeroplane, the A380, the 777…cattle class, coach, economy, is the new hell. An eternity in the plane later with no sleep and a rushed stopover in Sydney, the sprawling city of Auckland came into view as a series of inlets and bays that have cut deep into the land, housing what appears to be a sizeable Asian and Polynesian population. Tired and jet-lagged (accompanied with the typical symptoms of gritty eyes, a generally bad disposition and stinky armpits), there was very little...