Christchurch charms

We landed in Auckland and after a quick overnight stop, travelled on to Christchurch. After the country had experienced a heat wave, the tail end of a cyclone hit the island causing major disruption and some coastal damage. We now find the temperatures considerably lower at around 18c and plenty of rain – not far off the Irish summer conditions now.

Christchurch city centre is still in a sorry state, 7 years after a devastating earthquake struck, killing 181 people. Many of the cities oldest buildings were affected including the Cathedral that the city is named after. There are many parts of the city that are still empty or roads closed down or rubble sites. However the New Zealand ingenuity shines through with many pop-up businesses, car parks and even a ‘pop up’ Cathedral made of materials such as shipping containers, polycarbon and cardboard. It sounds like a very ugly affair, but as you can see from the picture, its really very elegant.

We visited the Antarctic centre in Christchurch, which was the stop that Captain Scott and his expedition stopped in 1901 to prepare their supplies before travelling on to Antartica. Christchurch has been a key centre for Antarctic explorers ever since and houses an impressive visitors centre. In the visitors centre you get to see some of the rescued little blue penguins , experience what a snow storm feels like when it hits -24c (bloody cold, I can tell you), and see a 4D Ice voyage film where you are shaken, stirred and liberally sprayed with water.

As part of the experience we took a ride on a Hagglund, which is an amphibious all-terrain vehicle specifically designed for arctic conditions. That sounds tame, but was more like a roller coaster ride, as they took us through a specially designed assault course to showcase its capability.

After the excitement of the Antarctic, we took in the serene surroundings of the Botanical Garden. The range of trees and plants is wonderful to see and the rose garden had a riot of colour. In addition to the amazing trees and plants, there were some wonderful sculptures. We even got to meet a mother duck and her Ducklings. Very cute.

 

 

And what about this cute little rainbow we saw.  Anything strange there?

Next stop Waimate for our next working experience.

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Hawaii Farming Adventures

We completed our first farm experience this week and it has been an enriching experience.  Our hosts, as well as being lovely people, were very knowledgeable about the land, the plants and the history of Hawaii, that we certainly got a much richer education than we might have anticipated.

A lot of the produce that they sell is mainly herbs and aromatics such as mint, tarragon, chives, ginger, turmeric.  These are easy to grow, but there are not many farmers providing these organically. Other produce on the farm, some of which we were able to enjoy during our stay including Papaya, Tangelos, Lemons, Limes, Guavas, Avocados and Mamey (yep, we’d ever heard of that one either). They also had tea, coffee plants that are not harvested on site, as well as pimento’s chillis and black and red peppers.  I’m sure there are more that I have forgotten to mention, but that covers the main ones.

Our duties during the week including harvesting the herbs and aromatics and weeding the beds, which provided plentiful supply of both.

Other duties included chopping down roots of  Christmas Berry Trees – these are very large trees that have a beautiful canopy which you can see all over the Island. Although lovely to look at, they are classed as invasive and do need to be manged. Any branches that were chopped down were used to mulch the beds. The Ficus (Fig) tree, commonly referred to as the banyan tree (because of its habit of sending down roots from its branches for stability and growth) also got a bit of a short back and sides. But the picture below is not the one.  This one was a glorious example in Honolulu. Note the two doves in the middle. They’re real.

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We also did a bit of dry stone walling.  Only one section in the photo below, not the whole thing, as it was sticking out and making deliveries difficult to the property.

Stone wall

We re-used  volcanic rocks from the section of stone wall that we demolished, or found more around the property, such as the lava rock, which is a surprisingly strong, but relatively light weight material.

The wall is essential to keep out the wild pigs, roosters and other animals that would ruin the delicate crops.  The roosters are everywhere and can be heard crowing throughout the night.  Here’s a picture of one that was wondering around the airport, just as we were transferring to the next island. He’s in fine condition for a wild thing.

Rooster

 

They have thrived on the island under their own steam.  Other wild herds you might not expect are Donkeys.  Apparently when farms started to use machinery and the many vehicles left by the military after the second world war were widely available, the donkeys were just left to roam and have since become large wild herds. We didn’t see the donkeys, but here’s a slightly blurred roadsign to prove the point.

Donkeys

It’s hard to capture the beauty and peacefulness of the place.  The smells were heady. Colours stunning. The coffee plant which is part of the Gardenia family has a beautiful rich smell and there were many other vibrant colours all around us.  One plant that came into flower in the wooded area when we were there (a rare occasion we were told) is the Jade Vine.  Very aptly named, as the photo below has not been photo-shopped, this plant is really a very vibrant colour of blue-green.  Everywhere we looked, nature was showing us here amazing glory.

Jade

The last new experience for us was a very early ‘lights-out’ warning one evening.  Apparently the Termites were swarming and they would attack buildings where lights were on – as if guiding them to their feast.  Most of the time it was best not to think of the many little insects and bugs that might be out there.

We now move on to the smaller islands of Maui and Kauai to experience a bit more of this Hawaiian paradise.