Daily Archives: April 5, 2012

Give way, Kiwi turning right.

They drive on the correct side of the road down here in New Zealand.

Hurrah for correctness on the highways. Britishness. [Wipes away patriotic tear.]

But, things are not quite as they seem.

At certain junctures, ahem, junctions such as cross roads and the like… you give way to those on your right. Seriously counter intuitive for this motorist. At a roundabout, this is all well and good. I’m with you on that. But elsewhere

It’s a bit lottery.

For example: Approaching a junction on a main road, where you are turning left into a minor road. The oncoming motorist turning right into the same minor road. Who gives way? They take precedence. You let them cross in front of you. As far as I was concerned this contravenes the rules of roadgoing physics. Add more road users into the mix and it confuses the heck out of me.

How on earth did such a situation arise? On what premise? [Outraged of Britain.]

The Kiwi driving rules with regards giving way are in line with the maritime principles. Apparently. The sailors among you already knew that, right?

So endeth a short blogspot… except… there’s a twist.

On the Friday afternoon we arrive, we collect a budget, used (150k) rental car from the super helpful ANZED. (More on the mighty Bluebird in a future post.) We are then sternly notified that on the Sunday, the ‘give way’ rules will be changed to match UK laws. By which I mean we sit down in the office and get a mini highway code exam.

My initial reaction? “A change in the Highway Code? Oh good, I think, that’ll make it nice and simple.”

For me? Yes.

As for all the Kiwi road users…

How the newspaper cartoonists see the change

Happily we are not party to the Monday morning commute when carnage would surely ensue.

A minor first for my travel existence.

When was the last time you travelled to a country for the laws to change whilst you were there? A law that actually affected you?


It’s now approaching 2 weeks since the rule change and you still see all sorts of hesitation at intersections. Such shenanigans are not new however: it’s always been thus we are cheerfully told by the locals. Thankfully the roads are so blimmin’ quiet here that it makes little difference. Although perhaps there are heaped car wreckages at the junctions in the cities awaiting tow trucks as I type… It’ll be great fodder for the  local “in car footage shock and awe” show Road Madness. Which is a leading contender – by the way – for the title “lamest/tamest reality TV show in the world”. Believe me, it needs the spice a road law change might bring.

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Kiwi cultural anomoly that could land you in a spot of bother #17

Mine’s a large one.

Kiwi cultural anomaly that could land you in a spot of bother #17.

Drinking someone elses booze.

Surely a faux pas anywhere you plaintively cry?

Well, yessss, but just so you’re aware… if you turn up to a barbecue/dinner party/social evening in NZ you bring your own.

Not an offering. Not a gesture. You bring your own drinks and drink them. Then be sure to take the leftovers home with you.

With a glint in my eye am thinking of several Brits who’d get in serious trouble here. (You know, those who pitch up with a bottle of Blue Nun and then mainline your Chablis.)

Stories are relayed where new arrivals, fresh off the boat, have gone for a bite to eat and been given increasingly cold shoulderness by their hosts. This gets worse as they help themselves to the resident vino whilst ignoring their own.


Although part of me loves the British awkwardness that would ensue from such a situation. Whole ’70s sitcoms are built on a lesser premise…

I’ll blog about other differences in due course.

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C’mon Crusaders!

When the ground shakes, your town falls to bits. So does your sports arena. So in Christchurch their lovely, modern stadium is off-limits. Still there, still carrying sponsors logo, but no one is allowed in. Tragic.

In these parts rugby is particularly important. (More important than to something other people might rank highly. Religion for example.) Then the loss of your playing field is somehow even more distressing.

So we are very happy to get tickets – Cheers Stuart! – for the Christchurch Crusaders first home game for 22 months.

Packed to the rafters in the new “temporary” stadium – built in record time – waving Crusaders flags we ‘welcome’ the Free State Cheetahs on to the pitch. Says the commentator dryly “give thum the rispect they deserve. They’ve had a blaaady long fl-oi-t.” We silently wave our flags as the South Africans run out.

Of course, when the Crusaders run out its utter pandamoneum. Unusually so say our hosts. Rugby is not to be supported frivolously. Not here. (Matches are oft spectated in analytical, chin rubbing fashion and it is a sombre occasion if the home team loses.) On this occasion the organisers have gone all out with mascots, those flame-throwing geysers when a try is scored, Crusader clothed knights on horseback charging round pre-show and – WTF? – cheerleaders.

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Happily the Crusaders win and the capacity crowd go home happy.

Small Beers are buzzing from the experience.

Note to self: when introducing offspring to new sports/activities pick a good'un.
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Items in our rucksacks that have been invaluable by Gilly

Rucksacks themselves have been brilliant (thanks to the staff at Cotswold Outdoors in Cirencester)

Credit card – has taken a bashing

Passports and visas – wouldn’t have got far without them

Walking shoes – worth every penny

Single duvet covers and pillow cases – used most nights to sleep in, whilst in India

Sarong (thanks for the tip Stella) – most useful on the beach and sitting on in India (plastic bus and taxi seats get very hot!!)

Suncream, sunglasses and hats – to protect the pale Beer skin

Umbrella – for sun and rain

Maxi dresses for the girls – it’s important to feel a little bit glamorous at times

Wet wipes – used to ‘wash’ the kids with in India and keep hands clean

Quick drying travel towels – needed for the beach and cheap motels (where no towels provided)

Headtorch – great for night walks and when there is a power cut!

Tissues – needed in India for girls when we were ‘caught short!’

Laptop – downloading photos, emails, blogging, skyping, storing guides, itineraries etc,etc.

Nail scissors – (why do nails grow so much quicker on holiday??) Also used by kids for cutting out stuff. Remember not to leave in hand luggage though, as I did with my first pair and was marched to security in Singapore airport!

E books – reading in airports, long journeys on the beach etc

Electrical tape – wrapping up belongings to fit in the bags, verrucae cure

Card game (WHOT) – played with kids on long journeys and used to make card towers

Rosie – for Josie

Nintendo – for Morgan

GSOH (Good Sense of Humour) Essential when travelling for 85 days with your family!

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Christchutch Contained

Difficult to ignore the whole earthquake thing here in Christchurch. Especially as it’s still going on. Fourteen in the past week. (5th April 2012) We were sat having dinner with our hosts when a minor one shook the house (17.11 24th March). They didn’t flinch. Their instinctive, subconscious calibration is used to it. I slightly touched cloth. Mrs B didn’t notice. It was a little like a big truck rumbling past the house: here and gone just like that.

You can Track it all up to the minute here.

Since the big shakes – as the locals sometimes refer to the series of earthquakes that have struck – much of the city centre is what’s called the red zone. In essence, you’re not allowed in. Verboten. No excuses. Not just the high rise bit either, there are many, many properties that are off limits for fear of collapse. So the ubiquitous shipping container, the kind you see on the back of a truck on the motorway, has been called into alternative use.

Landscaped shipping containers

One such alternative use is retail unit. The small and attractive temporary mall in central Christchurch is a cleverly arranged jumble of shipping containers. A little decorative gravel here… a shrub there… a few throw pillows: I like what you’ve done with the place.

Then, on the road past – geographical clue in the title – Redcliffs we see a less decorative, purely functional alternative use of containers. This time they are stacked two high for hundreds of metres, prescribing a boundary between falling cliff and highway.

The wall at Redcliff

Close inspection reveals their being filled with half a dozen or more 2 tonne sacks of gravel. They are essentially a heavy-duty fence, a retaining wall to contain bouncing rockfall. Perched above these are very many Clifton Hills properties that are closer to the cliff edge than originally constructed and – you have to say – intended. Heartbreakingly, some have already gone over, others merely on borrowed time. Some properties at the base of the cliffs are walled in by the containers, their back gardens a mass of scree. It must have been terrifying in the event.

Weighed down

Shipping Containers. When they were patented in the 1956s in the USA, who’d’ve thunk they’d get used in such a diverse manner. Post earthquake uses down here: Container as cafe. Containers as shops. Containers as barriers. Containers as homes, apparently. It’s then somehow odd to have a train trundle by at a level crossing with a snake of containers aboard being, well, containers.

On Sunday morning I accept the invitation to go for a run in the hills. (Nothing wrong with a touch of ambition eh?) We drive – my kind of jogging – to collect Ros.

[At this point, to simulate a forthcoming moment, you may wish to open your eyes to maximum wideness and then take forefinger and thumb on each hand and stretch them eyelids further still.]

We rock up to the door and – with no preamble folks, bold as brass – I am invited in to see Ros’ crack.

We are a pretty earthy lot in Wales, but I confess this is a first. [Oh, this is what we’re holding our eyes open for: replicating my facial reaction.] In the event I say nothing and am wordlessly ushered indoors. There are family members present: kinky. Then I am guided toward the kitchen and gestured to a jagged gap across the room with jagged edged ceramic tiles laying unhappily.

No entry

Ah, the crack.

I see.


Anyhoo… one side of the house? Perfectly normal, t’other? A bit downhill (as demonstrated with a ball that appears to be present expressly for this purpose). So the house is fine as a living unit, just 50% wonky and carries the possibility of condemnation. And Ros family were the lucky ones… they still live in their house. Round the corner at K’s the bay window is now a bay hardboard. It looks like the poor guy lives in a squat. Yet again, he’s fortunate to live in his own house.  Unfortunately, his marriage has not survived the tremors. He could soon be living in a shipping container. And not in a trendy, arty, ironic way.

Coffee in a box

Spotted. A T-shirt in the style of a dictionary definition.

Munted: adj (1) used to describe severe levels of damage in Christchurch earthquake (2) used to avoid offending others by saying f**ked in the context above. Origin: Christchurch, NZ Feb 2011

YouTube: When a city falls.

All rather sobering.

Shopping centre - the new and the old

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Sumner Lovin’

Blog titles are a thing aren’t they? What to entitle ones missive? For me, musical puntastic thoughts often ensue when thinking about a place.

Where are we? Well, Oz is a whole Tasman Sea away now and we are in Kiwiland.

Sumner dew

We’ve been in Canterbury for a few days and the blog-song-title choices are multiple. Sumner is a village/suburb to the South East of Christchurch that we’ve gone all misty eyed and gooey kneed about it, hence the heading you can see above.

Whassit like? It’s like the Mumbles is to Swansea. Cream to Peaches. Peters to Lee. Adam to The Ants. [Enough already.] The rental car proprietor at the airport comments that nearby Redcliff are where all the British doctors live. (And this from Singaporean! “I come to Noo Zealand to downshift and now I work harder than evah!”)

We are hosted by Helen, Stuart and their boys Lockie & Cam. As friends of friends we are really pushing the envelope in terms of hospitality, yet they make us feel so very at home we have an instant feel of daily life here.

The Murrays and the Beers

Home cooking, a few beers, rugby, the kids even get to visit the boys school for a morning. (The Boys on Sumner?) I borrow a longboard and have a blissful session riding the glassy break at Scarborough Beach. (Lovely, clean 3′ surf allows me to recover my boardriding mojo after being beasted at Noosa.) We even get to ditch the kids for an hour to go for a grown-up coffee. (Sumnertime… and the livin’ is easy.) Like a grown ups date! Wow.

Sumner School

Blue skies and gentle breezes help. (Sumner Breeze, makes me feel fine.) The weather smiles upon us as we visit nearby bay Taylors Mistake – great name for a beach by the way – and get a brrrrrrrrracing dip in the ocean. (I am still awaiting for the plums to reappear, some hours later.) Whilst the weather is peasant, the air warm, the water temperature reminds us that the this island is in the southern ocean.

From the Murrays front door

There’s a villagey, community, chilled out feel to Sumner. In a good way.

However, it’s not just me on the pun trail in reference to this place.

Although it’s not a song, first prize goes to the local curry house: Indian Sumner.

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