Songlines – Bruce Chatwin which we re-read after visiting the Red centre and Far North
Cicada – Moria McKinnon. Highly recommended and written by a colleague of Paul’s that comes from Western Australia and now lives in Canberra
Island Home by Time Winton and Australia Day by Melanie Cheng both of which Lois discovered during our travels
Movie: That’s Not my Dog! Unfortunately this does not seem to be available on iTunes or Netflix in Canada but if you ever have a chance watch it and you will be surely be laughing out loud. It is a film of a real life party where all of the guests are comedians and the whole production, with some musical interludes, is them telling jokes (rated R)!
In Māori mythology, Rūaumoko is the god of earthquakes, volcanoes and seasons. He is the youngest son of Ranginui (the Sky father) and Papatūānuku (the Earth mother), (commonly called Rangi and Papa). His movements (explained in various stories) account for earthquakes.
To visit Christchurch is to get some sense of what a city goes through after a major, sudden onset disaster. New Zealand has always experienced earthquakes and the latest series to hit the Canterbury region began September 4, 2010. This quake, which occurred very early in the morning, caused widespread damage to Christchurch and surrounding areas, but no fatalities. A shallower but closer quake shook the city at midday on February 11, 2011, resulting in 185 deaths and major damage to land, buildings and infrastructure, nearly wiping out the old downtown area, where 80% of the buildings were affected. Two more quakes in June and December 2011 caused further damage. The central business district was “red zoned” and cordoned off for 800 days. Seven and one half years later, while life has returned to the city centre, many large buildings, including the Post Office, remain boarded up awaiting removal or reconstruction. Restoration of the historic provincial government seat, shored up by steel girders, is scheduled for 2029. Shipping containers were put to all sorts of uses, creating pop-up coffee shops or piled high to reinforce unsound buildings or to create a temporary mall, the latter now replaced with a brand new shopping centre. A decision to reconstruct the Gothic Revival-style Anglican Christchurch Cathedral has only just been taken, the ruins of this landmark sitting as a painful reminder of the devastation. We were intrigued by the transitional “Cardboard Cathedral”, designed by Shigeru Ban and rapidly constructed using reinforced cardboard tubes, timber and steel, with eight shipping containers forming the walls. Nearby is an outdoor installation of 182 white chairs donated by relatives of those who died. 115 of these deaths occurred when the 6-storey CTV building, declared safe in December 2010, collapsed and caught fire in the February quake.
We spent a fascinating morning in the compact museum, Quake City, learning more about the earthquakes and their impact, including very moving video testimonials from people who were immediately affected. In one video clip, a police officer on duty at the time in the basement of the police station described having to escape with 6 prisoners as the station began to flood. Emerging from the damaged building with the men all handcuffed together, he managed to find a judge standing in a nearby square and quickly organized an ad hoc bail hearing for two of the prisoners, with the terms written out on a paper receipt! When the police station had to be demolished later, 40,000 people ignored the call not to watch the controlled destruction!
It is salutary to think that the Canterbury events were small compared to many others that happen across the globe, and even with all the help and support that a developed country can give, it will still be decades before the city fully recovers. While many residents left while the central district was closed, some have returned however, and, together with workers brought in for the rehabilitation effort, the city’s population is now greater than it was in 2011.
Life goes on and there is great coffee (see below), excellent food and warm hospitality. The Heritage Hotel which had undergone a seismic upgrade in the 90’s, has a lovely bar with a good menu. Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Puna o Waiwhetu, built in 2003, which also survived relatively intact, introduced us to New Zealand artists of the 20th and 21st Century. Above the main stairs is a great piece by Bill Culbert called Bebop, which has a fascinating provenance.
A walk along the Avon River and through the Botanic Gardens was a peaceful contrast to the destruction and rebuilding in the centre, with the exception of the Holiday Inn sign standing alone overlooking the Avon.
Coffee notes: The Caffeine Laboratory: single origin Ethiopian- 9/ 10
C4 Coffee – many locations – 8.5/ 10
Christchurch Art Gallery
Parkinson’s Disease Note:
Given our findings related to other countries it was not unexpected that we learned that the prevalence of PD in New Zealand is much the same as in other countries. When we were in France we discovered that pesticide exposure is now accepted, for worker’s compensation purposes, to be an occupational risk for PD. In New Zealand we found a news report that exposure to Trichlorethylene, used as a chemical solvent had recently been accepted to be a cause of PD in a veteran who had been a sailor in the New Zealand Navy.
While in Christchurch we read that the effects of the earthquakes on the mental health of persons with PD had been studied using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Interestingly no significant differences were found comparing status before and after the earthquakes.
The University of Otago, based in Dunedin, boasts the city has produced many of New Zealand’s greatest novelists, poets, artists, scientists, journalists, musicians, athletes, business people and leaders. Dunedin comes from the Gaelic word for Edinburgh. The city celebrates St. Andrew’s Day and its streets, lined with classic Victorian and Edwardian architecture, are named after streets in the Scottish capital. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area had a lengthy occupation by the Ngai Tahu, the principal Māori iwi (tribe) on the South Island. The region of Otago takes its name from the Māori village of Otakou at the mouth of the harbour. Its takiwā (tribal area) is the largest in New Zealand, and extends from Blenheim, Mount Mahanga and Kahurangi Point in the north to Stewart Island in the south. The New Zealand Parliament passed the Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act in 1998 to record an apology from the Crown and to settle claims made under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. One of the Act’s provisions covered the use of dual (Māori and English) names for geographical locations in the Ngāi Tahu tribal area. Ngāi Tahu actively owns or invests in many businesses throughout the country; tourism, seafood and forestry, and property.
For us, the main draw to the region was the Otago Peninsula. Our guided tour by Elm Wildlife Tours (we were a group of about 10) took us out of Dunedin, past Port Chalmers (which will be visited by over 130 large cruise ships next season), to Taiaroa Head and the Royal Albatross Centre. On the way. Shaun, our guide, talked about Dunedin’s history. During the land wars, Maori prisoners from Taranaki on the North Island were brought to Dunedin as forced labour between 1869 and 1881. The Maori prisoners came in waves, with the first group of 74 – known as the Pakakohe group – sent to Dunedin in 1869 after Titokowaru’s War, an armed dispute in the mid-to-late 1860s, sparked by land confiscations in south Taranaki. The prisoners were held at Dunedin prison and transported to work sites on many city projects, including the Dunedin Botanic Garden’s stone walls. They were eventually followed by 137 of Te Whiti’s “ploughmen”, also from Taranaki, who were detained without trial after peacefully resisting European occupation of confiscated land and brought to Dunedin in 1878-79. 21 Māori prisoners died during their time in Dunedin and were buried in unmarked paupers’ graves in the Northern Cemetery. The death toll included 18 of the 74 prisoners put to work at Andersons Bay.
The day was grey, windy and cold, but we hardly noticed, so captivated were we by the scenery and intimate sightings of exotic marine wildlife. The peninsula is home to the world’s only mainland (ie, non-island) nesting site for Albatross. The Royal Albatross has a wingspan of up to 3.6 m and can live at sea for years on end. Right after fledging, the young fly direct to Chile! Non-breeding birds and juveniles 3-4 years old cross the Southern Ocean to feed in South American waters before circumnavigating the globe to return to the breeding area. They mate when they are between 6-12 years of age and live into their 40s. We were not able to see down onto the nests without paying for an additional tour, but we did catch sight of a couple of adult birds in flight, as well as the smaller Buller’s Albatross (Mollymawk) flying out at sea.
Back in the van on the way to Saunders Point, our guide pointed out more birds, notably, two Little Owls, a Sacred Kingfisher and Pukekos. At the point, we walked down a steep set of steps to the beach to watch New Zealand Fur Seals on the rocks. Young seals were playing in rock pools developing the skills to leave, younger pups were waiting for their mothers to return from foraging to nurse them. We then walked down to a private sanctuary on another beach. The area is leased from the local farmer by Elm Wildlife, who have planted indigenous trees and shrubs above the beach to encourage Yellow-eyed Penguins to seek shelter and nest. The area is separated from the fields and grazing sheep by a wire fence. At one point our guide Shaun had to rescue a newborn lamb that had wandered from its mother and had slipped under the fence, perilously close to sea lions lolling in the sea grass.
We were very near to several Hooker’s Sea Lions, one of the rarest of sea lions, in particular, three females (unusual for this colony) not yet at maturity, so were avoiding the males; and a large male corralling three young male pups, apparently practicing for future mating ventures. We were told that, despite their awkward movements on land, the sea lions could outrun us, if necessary. We kept a respectful distance from the large male!
We had noticed a couple of Yellow-eyed penguins swimming back to shore and making their way up the dunes. From two hides, we were able to watch several waddling up the grassy slopes and also observed a couple preparing for the breeding season. The male was sitting in the nest area and the female was standing guard outside!
Shaun later dropped us off at Etrusco for our 7:00 dinner reservation (no time to change or wipe off our muddy shoes!), where we enjoyed good pizza and Pinot noir in the Savoy Hotel’s lovely Edwardian dining room.
The next morning, we packed up our bikes to take a 6-hour bus to Christchurch. We were lucky to be able to get a taxi of any kind to the bus station as Pink was performing that evening and all vans were booked up. The local newspaper’s banner was printed in pink and some shop windows featured pink displays. The covered rugby stadium where the concert was being held has a capacity of 36,000 people.
We were interested to learn about New Zealand’s relationship with its “first people’s”, the Māori, who make up 15% of the population (Indigenous Canadians = 5% pop; indigenous Australians = 3.3% pop.) 85% of Māori New Zealanders live on the North Island. The Māori language – Te Reo – is an official language of the country, along with English. In 1993, legislation provided for Māori representation in Parliament proportional to their representation in the general population.
The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document, has long had a certain stature for Lois. Through that Treaty, the British Crown and Māori people agreed on a set of principles for the establishment of the nation state of New Zealand. While the treaty has assumed the aura of a constitutional document, its legal status is a matter of debate. Unlike in Canada, where Aboriginal and treaty rights are recognized and protected under the Constitution, New Zealand has no formal written Constitution and the the Treaty of Waitangi has not been protected by legislation.
Māori differ from many other indigenous peoples in that they have not lived in New Zealand since “time immemorial”, but rather migrated to the islands between the 9th and the 12thC AD. Māori oral history describes the arrival of ancestors from Hawaiki (the mythical homeland in tropical Polynesia). It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th C that Europeans and others arrived, first explorers (Abel Tasman and James Cook), sealers and whalers, later missionaries and settlers. With French designs on the territory and concerns over lawlessness, England responded to requests from settlers and some Māori chiefs to sign a treaty with the Māori, asserting British sovereignty over the islands and guaranteeing Māori property rights and tribal autonomy. Māori signatories of the Treaty of Waitangi were primarily from the North Island – the South Island was claimed by the British through the doctrine of “discovery”, despite the fact that Māori also inhabited the South Island.
In the decades following the signing, conflict arose over significant differences in the English text and the Māori text, resulting in the New Zealand Wars. Most significantly, under the English version, Māori conveyed “sovereignty” to the British Crown (article 1); but in the Māori version, they conveyed “kāwanatanga” (“governorship”), but retained “tino rangatiratanga” (“chieftainship”, a concept somewhat analogous to self-determination) over their lands, villages and taonga (“treasures”). Thus, many Māori believe that they retained sovereignty and gave away only limited rights of government to the Crown.
During the second half of the 19th century, Māori generally lost control of the land they had owned, some through legitimate sale, but often due to unfair land deals or outright seizure in the aftermath of the New Zealand Wars. In the period following the Wars, the New Zealand government mostly ignored the Treaty and a court case judgement in 1877 declared it to be “a simple nullity”.
In 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was established to consider claims by Māori against the Crown regarding breaches of principles of the Treaty and to make recommendations to government to remove the prejudice and provide recompense. Since 1985, the tribunal has been able to consider Crown acts and omissions dating back to 1840. This has provided Māori with an important means to have their grievances against the actions of past governments investigated. More than 2000 claims have been lodged with the tribunal. By 2010, legislation had been passed for settlements with a total value of about $950 million. Three early settlements – Commercial Fisheries ($170 million), Waikato-Tainui Raupatu ($170 million) and Ngāi Tahu ($170 million) – and the 2008 Central North Island Forests agreement ($161 million) make up the bulk of this amount. Treaty settlements currently cover more than 60% of the total land area of New Zealand. However, Māori have expressed concern that the value of the settlements is grossly out of proportion to the value of what has been taken from them, amounting only to an estimated one to three per cent of the valued of their total loss. Further, the Government will not consider rights over certain resources, including oil and gas, as the basis of redress for breaches.
A 2011 Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, noted the “extreme disadvantage in the social and economic conditions of Māori people in comparison to the rest of New Zealand society”. While theTreaty settlement process has been instrumental in assisting to provide Māori groups with an economic base for their future economic development, numerous obstacles to Māori economic development remain. The unemployment rate for Māori in 2010 was 14 per cent (compared with 6.6 per cent in New Zealand overall),
In the morning we began climbing out of Cromwell along Highway 8, the only way we could get through the Cromwell Gorge to reach the Otago Cenral Rail Trail at Clyde. Not far out of Cromwell, we rapidly determined that the road was unsafe for us: a fair amount of traffic including large trucks, two lanes, almost no hard shoulder, a rumble strip, hills and bends and a gusty wind. Plan B was quickly devised. We cycled back down into town to the Grain and Seed Cafe and called the local taxi to ferry us the 26 km to the trailhead.
We were excited to finally be on the “Rail Trail”, which passes through some spectacular and remote areas, only accessible now by foot or bicycle. So, we were disappointed to soon find that the path surface was rougher than described and not at all easy to ride on with our fully-loaded touring bikes. The gradual climb up from Chatto Creek to Omakau was bumpy, tiring and slow, our tires skidding in the sand and gravel, the weather cold and blustery. Stopping for tea at Muddy Creek Cafe, we assessed the feasibility of carrying on for another 100 kms in these conditions, particularly in view of rain forecast for the next day. We decided another Plan B was warranted! We rode up the street to a Shebikeshebikes to inquire about the possibility of a shuttle service or bus that would take us and our bikes to Dunedin. Luckily, Karen was sympathetic and helpful and put us in touch with another company, Bike It Now!, who happened to be running a shuttle between Clyde and Middlemarch the next day. We arranged with them to pick us up at the Muddy Creek Cafe the next afternoon to take us back to Clyde, where we could catch a bus to Dunedin.
We then cycled the last 7 kms along the highway to our lodging in Lauder, the wonderful Muddy Creek Cutting B&B. The B&B is in a characterful 1930’s mud brick farmhouse, with a cozy sitting room with a blazing log fire. Kevin, the co-owner and chef, provides home cooked meals, which, for us was a delectable vegetarian feast made from locally grown produce, washed down with Letts Gully(!) Pinot Noir and ending with enormous slices of homemade black currant pie with whipped cream. Kevin had worked as a volunteer in Sierra Leone in the 80’s and has travelled broadly, so we enjoyed trading stories and chatting with him.
Encouraged by Kevin, we borrowed a couple of their mountain bikes the next morning and carried on the trail for another 7 km across two bridges and two tunnels to get to the top of the Poolburn Gorge. On wide knobbly tires and with suspension, the ride was efficient and pleasurable and we were able to get to see some of the most spectacular scenery of the trail.
We eventually left the B&B, cycling back down the Rail Trail to the cafe in Omakau (we missed those knobbly tires!), where we had lunch and waited for our ride. In Clyde, we stayed in another delightful hostelry before catching the bus to Dunedin the next morning. At the bus stop at an old railway station, we had to remove the front wheels and mudguards of our bikes and wrap the chains, but the bus driver was clearly used to dealing with bicycles and helped us load all our gear onto the bus.
New Zealand’s South Island is considered even more beautiful than the North Island and it’s easy to see why. Rugged fiords, snow-capped peaks, deep gorges, raging rivers and fertile valleys reminded us variously of the BC Coastal Range and Okanagan valley, English moorland and the Yorkshire Dales, all with the addition of thousands of sheep! The temperatures were slightly cooler on the South Island -we were told that snow in September is not uncommon in Queenstown – but as we travelled east, we noticed trees beginning to bud and fruit trees coming into blossom and even the occasional daffodil. We realized that spring has been a constant and delightful feature of our trip since leaving the cherry blossoms of Victoria in May!
New Zealand has a fairly extensive cycle trail system, but as yet the routes are not linked by cycle-friendly roads, nor are they generally paved. We had read that the Otago Rail trail was suitable for all bicycles, so we had planned to cycle that trail, via the Queenstown trail.
Heading out from Queenstown on a clear bright morning, we followed paths around Lake Wakatipu, along the Kawarau River, past the scene of the Pillars of the Kings from Lord of the Rings and then on to the Kawarau Bungy Centre, where the sport started in 1988: the video is not of either of us! The Queenstown trail, which is designated as more suitable for mountain bikes, was a bit slow-going, but manageable, the surface a fine gravel with some rocky sections and many steep, windy inclines and descents. At the end of the trail near Gibbston, we had to ride on Highway 6 through the Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell. The road was narrow at times and the hard shoulder intermittent and covered in treacherous winter grit. Fortunately, the traffic was not as heavy as it might have been. Out of the Gorge, we were pedalling past orchards and vineyards, reminiscent of the Similkameen Valley. The valley is apparently renowned for its winds which we soon discovered as we met a strong northeasterly head-on close to Cromwell. It was chilly and tough going at the end of the day.