Friday, November 11, 2016

The Time is Now

I’m furious. What message are we sending to women in America, the world even? That a man who admits to sexually assaulting women, that boasted about it, that didn’t even realise why it was wrong is now the president of the united states. It’s a fucking joke. Except it’s not even funny. 


I’m ready. Let’s do this.


There was loud cheers around the room. We were geeing ourselves up, we were in the zone – we were ready to show the world the privileged man can’t fuck with us anymore.


In the silence that followed, a woman in the audience held up her hand. As we turned to look at her she blushed deeply but still spoke, her voice wavering only at the start.


I guess I worried. Not that I’ll be killed or put in prison. But the legacy I’ll leave my family. They’ll say we’re crazy, that we’re not right in the head. They’ll destroy who we are in the media, they’ll tell lies whether we succeed or not. I guess I don’t want people to think of me as a crazy woman…. 


She stopped suddenly and the silence that followed was palpable.


Gillian walked towards her and held her hand. 


Yes they will. Men and other women will call us crazy,  call us bitches. But history will prove us right. Like it did for Susan Anthony, Emily Davison, Kate Sheppard and all those magnificent women who stood up for what they believed in. If our actions help even one woman realise it’s not ok for a man to touch her without consent or more men to realise we are not commodities to be bought and sold then I’ll be happy. If we keep fighting, eventually people will understand why we’re fighting and they’ll join us. The time is right. The time is now. 


The time is right! The time is now! 

The time is right! The time is now!

The time is right! The time is now!

The time is right! The time is now!

The time is right! The time is now!


We had a plan. It was time to execute it.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers....

.....For the sleepers in that quiet earth.

The final passage in the greatest novel ever written, which I have just finished reading for the - well, knows how many times! 

I remember studying Wuthering Heights in my English lit A level class. At that point I had loved the Laurence Olivier film version, being a devotee of classic English films from the 1930s onwards and I was horrified to discover on watching in a classroom full of modern gals and one guy how ridiculously overacted it was. I suspect I had already read the book as in my teens I also enjoyed classic literature but until we dissected it in class I had quite forgotten the relationship between the children of Heathcliff and Cathy. Which as I read it now in my 30s seems the more interesting and romantic part. Most films don't even mention this part of the story, feeling the love between Cathy and Heathcliff is the more dramatic love and the other part is just closure, or worse, filler. Like a teenage pop song, it suggests love that hurts is the most truthful form of love but in my mind that's just dumb. The way Cathy treats both Heathcliff and Linton is disgraceful, even if she felt she had good reason for doing so. I never doubt that she loved them both, just how much compared to her own self love. Heathcliff is no better; he has been demolished and seeks only to do the same, even to his own detriment. 

The Tom Hardy television dramatisation is the most authentic to date I think, as Emily Bronte didn't write a love story just about Cathy and Heathcliff, she wrote the full circle of love, revenge, love and redemption. She wrote about warring families and rivals and loneliness that can only come from living in those wind blasted moors. Who doesn't want to experience passion and love that exists beyond the grave? But everyone knows deep down, that's not true love. So when the book concludes, finally with a couple who know that life shouldn't be full of anger and resentment, who have no desire to live in their parents' destructive shadows and it is heart warming. Indeed it is a beautiful thing and a Wuthering Heights is a beautiful, smart and timeless novel. Like the author herself. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

I saw a shooting star last night....

So finally we are in Bora Bora, Andy's dream holiday destination - this has been a holiday of bucket list achievements! We arrived yesterday from Raiatea (10 minutes flight time!) and I have to say, the view from the plane as we were coming in was stunning. A perfect island in turquoise blue lagoon and dotted with sandy motus. I've never seen anything so beautiful, it really does look like a true paradise. The boat journey over from the airport (it's on its own Motu) to the Hilton Nui resort (which also is on its own Motu) was amazingly gorgeous and the arrival into the resort definitely has the wow factor. 

We arrived a couple of hours early so whilst we waited for our room we thought we would have a spot of brunch and a glass of pop to celebrate. Our happiness slightly marred by the tiny potions (we'd hoped to share food to save money, but that's not an option here!), the uncooked fish in the first burger we got and the dull ex army American sitting next to us with his Texan child bride who felt the need to talk to Andy (pretty much exclusively) about his entire life history. Still, we are in Bora Bora so it's hard to complain! And even with the ridiculous prices of the food (which I don't resent, but I do resent when it's not actually that nice) we are still here in paradise. 

When we got to our room - holy crap! The guy took us on a golf buggy to our room and then explained all the features and all I could think was, what do I want to play with first?? Is it the giant round bath? The walk in wardrobe/vanity room? The massive bed? The TV that comes out of the bedstead? Or the fricking amazing deck area with sun loungers, hammocks overlooking the water and the steps into the lagoon, the actual lagoon?? Get out man, we can work shit out ourselves! I have too many things to do in this room and only 3 days to do them in! In the first hour of getting into our room, we snorkelled around the coral beneath the overwater bungalows and lazed in the hammock. Heaven! We had dinner in the restaurant after happy hour cocktails and then walked back to our bungalow, where we sat outside on the deck looking at the stars. We even saw a couple of shooting stars (I wished on them, but they were only satellites, it's wrong to wish on space hardware.....) and it was so perfect. 

This morning we accidentally got roped into the continental breakfast (an outrageous $40 a person, for breads and fruits!!! Though when the bill came it weirdly was zero, oh well! ) and then we watched the Spain v Turkey game. In our giant bed. On the giant TV screen. Bliss!  After more snorkelling and lazying we ordered some burger lunch to the room (when in Rome) and then we continued with the lazying again. It's a hard life. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sunny days in Raiatea

The weather didn't really get better in Huahine, but still it was a great place to be even in the rain. Mainly because Samantha and Toriki who owe the Motu lodge we stayed in are lovely, lovely people who we both liked very much and their way of life is inspiring. 

On our last day we took a tour with Eco tour and Maneva who was our guide was a passionate and knowledgable Tahitian Frenchman. He picked us up first from the Motu jetty and explained the other guests would be French so he would do a half and half tour to keep it easier whilst at the sites. When Andy asked him how he'd learnt such good English he replied "I've had a lot of girlfriends". The other guests were a family of thoroughly metropolitan Frenchies (Prada glasses, clean, well ironed clothing, fun floral shorts for the teenage boys) - but they seemed very nice although their English was as good as our French and again it felt fustrating to us that we hadn't really bothered to learn some conversational French for our holiday. Next time for sure. 

We were taken to the marae first and Maneva took turns with each group to explain the importance of this place before the Europeans arrived and also how it was easily given up when the missionaries arrived with their more exciting God who had more stuff. Then we visited a small vanilla plantation/shop, a marae that hasn't been restored in the hills, but where the dead have been disturbed and a beach where the 1st queen to unify the island arrived in a drum, having escaped her family in Raiatea - annoyingly I didn't make a note of her name and now am unable to find it with a Google search (seems Google and wiki only want to talk about the rulers who dealt with the Europeans...) and as he was driving us round Huahine Nui he explained a lot about not only the history but also its current political and social status. He pointed out Cook bay to us, the first place James Cook had moored in Huahine. Apart from the electricity lines it probably looked pretty much the same when my ancestor saw it as today!

The last official stop was the mahoosive blue eyed eels in the river. He fed them and they slithered and writhed towards him whilst we took photos. Eels really are ugly. And I could only sing the "Eels up inside you, finding an entrance where they can" song in my head. A fun fact - apparently when these eels are ready to die they go into the ocean and swim very deep (to avoid detection as they have no defence mechanisms at all) to join up with their families in Fiji and give birth before they die. 

Before dropping us off Maneva took a detour via a distillery where we had many free shots of organic and locally produced fruit liquor and schnapps. Lovely stuff and we bought some to take home. Finally, tour over he dropped us all off in Fare and recommended the Huahine Yacht club restaurant for lunch. It was very nice, right on the front and it seemed calmer and more lagoon like than our side of the island. Andy and I shared a fish burger and chips, yum. (The portions are seriously on the big side here). Then after a little shop we were picked up by Samantha and her baby and taken back to the Motu. I was equally impressed and disturbed by Samantha's driving whilst holding a baby, talking on the phone and / or trying to appease crying baby (who was in a seat but there was no seat belts I keep him in place) so we did our best to distract baby from the back on the ute. Turns out he liked us, we got lots of big grins and giggles. 

When we got back Toriki showed us his vanilla plantation; a lot of hard and constant work goes into it and it was fascinating stuff. Then after a spot of packing and signing of Paul's book, we took some beers over to Samantha and Toriki's and had a lovely hour or so just chatting. Really hope we can keep in touch with these lovely people! 

The next morning at 5.30am they took us and all our luggage back to Lapita village, where our journey in Huahine had began. Samantha bought us breakfast for the water issues even though we told her there was no need and arranged a lift to the airport for our short and bumpy ride to Raiatea. Was very sad to say goodbye to her! And even a little sad realising we'll never see fish / cat again, even if he did spend the last day sulking as Andy threw his dead half mouse gift away. 

We had arranged a car in Raiatea and after picking up our retardly expensive automatic we drove anti clockwise around the island. The island is very dramatic and as it had been raining there were crazy waterfalls from the mountains. The water on the west coast is very muddy so it was only as we got to the south of the island we saw the beautiful blue lagoon we'd been missing from our Huahine experience. Sadly there are no real beaches around the island (and the few they have are part of hotels) and the only snorkelling options are via boats out to the Motus. We drove into the main town / city Uturoa, only to find it was all completely closed. Because it was Sunday....silly religion. So we just drove to our air BnB place instead, thankfully finding a supermarket on the way to buy a few essentials (Wine, bread, frosties).    

Fare Nyimanu is at the top of a hill and the vista is wow! amazing. You can see Huahine in the distance and the gorgeous lagoon below. Outstanding. The house, or studio as it really is, is cheap and cheerful. As in everything is very cheap (including the rent for a place in French Polynesia) but really the decor is quite depressing instead of cheerful (weirdly Samantha & Toriki stayed here earlier in the year when baby was sick and they needed to be near a hospital). Take from example, the basic white fridge that someone chose to put orange autumnal wallpaper over. Or the turtle poster in a plastic frame. Or the monkey ornament made out shells with a jaundiced face, holding a mouldy peach (unsure of peach is meant to be mouldy or if that just what happened to it). Why? Who thinks that'll be nice touch for the guests?? It was especially hard coming from Motu lodge, where everything felt as though it had been carefully thought out. But regardless of the tiki tackiness it is fine, the bed is comfy, we have a TV to watch football on, a kitchen that works and hot running water! And the pool area is amazing. Although this sits very close to their property, they have been very respectful when we've used it. The host Titaua is a lovely woman, although again if we'd bothered to learn French I think we would get more out of our stay here. 

On day 2 of being here (Monday?) we took the car back and then shopped in the main town / city Uturoa. It reminded us both of Maumere in Flores. A dirty town with cheap clothes and food stores and tacky gift stores (actually, not sure Maumere had any of those....). I had wanted a Tahitian dress but couldn't find one I liked so instead I bought some fabric to make my own. Now I just have to make my own....we found a cafe that was showing the Italy V Belgium match so watched that before going supermarche shopping. Honestly, one of my favourite things to do in a new place is going to the supermarket, I love to see all the different and similar stuff in the aisles. Hilariously a lot of produce here is from NZ! Anyway with our food shopping out of the way we met up with Titaua and she gave us a lift home.  

And here we will stay until we leave for Bora Bora on Thurday morning! It's saving us a lot of money being so far away from all the restaurants and bars which means more to spend in the millionaires paradise of Bora Bora. Plus it's been nice just hanging by the pool looking at the view, reading books and just chilling. And then as a final reason, Andy has got man flu so doing anything is not an option. Poor love! Fingers crossed he'll be better for Bora Bora. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Back in time to Tahiti

We are now back in the land of cheese, bread and the French. A sleepless night on the LAN plane back from Easter Island (damn you turbulence) and 4 hours sleeping on the floor in Papeete's airport, made for tired Smiths on our arrival in to Huahine, but almost like she'd thought of that, our wonderful Air BnB host Samantha had arranged for a pick up and drop off at the fancy hotel (Lapita Village) she works at, until the Motu lodge was ready for us. So our first few hours were spent reading / sleeping by a pool and then eating an amazing nicoise salad and drinking French wine. When Samantha picked us up in her 4WD we were ready to go shopping for some essential supplies (as in a weeks worth of food and beer) and then we enjoyed the gorgeous 30 minutes drive from Huahine Nui to Huahine Iti and then jetty to Motu Marimaora where the lodge is. Samantha took us over on the boat, a 5 minute pootle across to the Motu and her husband Toriki met us off the boat with their cute little baby. They own a vanilla plantation on the Motu so the rental accomodation was almost as an afterthought but they have made it beautiful. Very Japanese in style and full of lovely Polynesian wood and ornaments. Oh, and it comes with a hungry little kitten. He is quite tenacious so unless you really hate cats you should probably just accept your house guest! 

The first morning we spent snorkelling in the reef in front of the lodge - the current is quite strong so it takes a lot of effort to head upstream, but on the plus side you get back to the lodge in no time at all - lots of colourful fish and even some purple coral. Then the rain started. And the wind picked up. And none of these things stopped for 2 days. And the water pipe broke so no water!  Thankfully we had overprepared with food and beer and Toriki and Samantha bought us lots of water so we were all good, but the mozzies had a field day with us sitting inside - at one point it was harder to find a non bitten part of my skin then the bites.....It was also really. fustrating that we were on Huahine and were not able to get out and touch it. There are no automatic cars on the island and it was too wet and windy for an enjoyable scooter ride. But after a few hours of whinging we got our shit together and booked a tour with Eco Tours for our final day (tomorrow). 

Today the weather had improved enough for a snorkel and a kayak ride, plus we were honoured to be invited to watch the opening game of the Euros 2016, France v Romania in Toriki's house. It was an average game, but Payet scored a wonder goal to win the game in the 88th minute so we had happy Frenchmen and it was the prefect result.And now as I sit here writing this, looking out over the lagoon the sun has come out. Finally! The fucking sun has come out! Sunny days make a happy Nine. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Easter island. So much more than Moais!

Today is our last day in Easter Island but honestly, we could both stay longer. I came here for the Moais but I take my leave of it in love with its kindness and beauty as well as its history. And this weather has been amazing! So sunny. We've done all the archaeological sites on our map, some with Patricio of Green Island tours as mentioned in the last blog and some on our own, either walking around or in a rental car (note, rentals are ridiculously expensive, especially if you can only drive auto! Our Suzuki 4WD which we named Lgartha, was $120 NZD for 24 hours but worth it,for the freedom of going wherever we chose). 

And of course we ran the Rapa Nui half marathon. Which hands down is my favourite half so far. The hills that I'd been dreading, tiny in comparison to Auckland's and the apparent loneliness of the long distance runner was a myth. There were some supporters as we left Hanga Roa but the other runners were amazingly supportive with their thumbs up, clapping, waving or smiling at you. This was most apparent at the half way mark when suddenly you were running back in the direction you had come from and facing those still to turn around. Andy took off and ran at super fast pace (1hr 44, a PB!) and he ably assisted for a few kms by our dog visitor from the night before and I ran at my pace, thanks in part to a random man, runner number 82, who just kept and set the pace with me between 5 and 10 kms. I feel bad for finding my mana / power and sprinting on ahead of him after this, but he understood I'm sure. I cheered him in at the end and he seemed happy! It was nice to have a running buddy and pace setter again after so long (damn you VS for giving up on running and moving to England). I had a killer playlist and my form felt good. Only at 20km did left knee show some pain but I told it to fuck off and I kept on running, finishing at around 2hr 20. Andy was waiting for me as usual, and after we cheered a few more people in we left, and had a celebratory beer (Escudo) in the sun at Pea bar. Then walked / hobbled to Krava, one of our favourites. I had a veggie sandwich and it was amazing, avo, greens, tomatoes and nothing else! Then we went back to our hotel for a well deserved and unavoidable nap.

After I woke up I got some horrible news by email that was expected but still painful to receive. So before the ceremony we headed to watch the sunset at Ahu Tahai, the closest reconstructed platform of Moais and as the sun set behind these statues of wonder I thought of Darryl, and Alistair too. Darryl who knew about living life to its fullest and together her and Alistair did just that. Big loves always. 

The sunset was beautiful but over too quickly. So we headed along to the awards ceremony, expecting nothing but then my name got read out....Bronze for my age group, such an honour! We are still waiting to see the results as it's probable Andy got in the top ten....will update you when we know.  

We ate at Haka Hone, the place recommended by Patricio and it was amazing. I should mention that prior to the half marathon we went to a pasta party and picked up our race pack, where we met a nice Aussie lady called Emma, who was running the full. The pasta party was funny in that although the organiser was bilingual, the guest speaker was the first South America to climb Everest and he only spoke Spanish so what followed was a half hour tale of bravery and endurance told completely in Spanish. The worst parts were when the Spanish people in the audience laughed as this just reinforced that we had no idea what was going on! Anyway at the restaurant we met Emma again, eating at the table next to us with her tour group. We swapped emails so if we ever make it back to Adelaide we will have a few people to meet up with now. 

So now we are just chilling in the sun, reading and writing and then at 11pm we'll get on the plane and head back to Papeete. And to be fair, that's nothing to be sad about, as we will be staying on our own Motu in Huahine for 5 days! But I definitely leave a bit of my heart here in Easter Island, and who knows, maybe one day will come back. 

Highlights are too many to list, but for the sake of lists, as I do like a good list, here my top 10 things to do in Easter island -

1. Do a full day tour, preferably private and maybe with Green Island Tours (recommended!) of all the major sites. This will help your understanding of the island and history.
2. Hire a car and do the rest of the island and favourites again. Including chilling time at Anakena beach, the most picturesque beach I've seen.
3. You have to go to Rano Rako quarry and also Ahu Tongiriki but you should do this on a tour to help understand properly (see no.1)
4. Ohi sushi, some of the best presented and tasting sushi I've ever eaten. 
5. Te Moana restaurant for Chilean wine, good music and an excellent sunset.
6. Haka Hona restaurant for good music, Mahina (Easter Island beer) and sunset viewing.  
6. Do the Rapa Nui half marathon, or full or 10k....whatever floats your boat! 
7.Krava restaurant for its fish, rice and salad platter. Simple but oh so beautiful. Plus you can buy wifi from the Internet cafe upstairs and use it whilst drinking Escudos here.
8. Ice cream from Pea cafe. Whatever Crema Islanda flavour is, it's gorgeous! 
9. The Museum and Ahu Tahai are within walking distance of Hanga Roa so worth doing together, but you must do Ahu Tahai at sunset. Along with everyone else! 
10. Sit with a book on a grassy verge overlooking the sea or Moais ...wherever takes your fancy and just live in the moment! 

A special mention should go to the dogs of the island, completely wild but not at all feral (unlike Cooks or Tahiti). These dogs seem to be pets of the island, well looked after and fed and there as a companion when you need them! 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Te Pito O Te Henua - finally

We flew to Easter island from Tahiti yesterday; somewhere I have always wanted to go since I first read about the remote island in the South Pacific, thousand of miles away from the nearest landmass. Where ancient people made giant stone statues that no longer stand; where tribal wars, explorers and Chilean slave traders almost killed off the population entirely. On many an occasion I looked at the island through Google, tracing the island's coastline in search of Moai, and researched flights from New Zealand.

Then somehow, it became easy. A 5 hour flight from Papeete and here we are. Most people were transiting through and carrying on to Santiago, but the 30 or so of us that got off the plane for good were met with leis from our hosts and driven away. First impressions from the airport to Hanga Roa were of a sleepy town. The hotel Taura'a is at the end of the Main Street / town; unfortunately the hosts seem to belong to that group of people in the wrong line of work - they seem perfectly good people but they had no desire to offer information - in the way a good host always wants to shout about their piece of home - so without a map or welcome book to read in the room of the many activities to do and places to eat we decided to head straight out and see what we could find. 

The Main Street has gift shops, coffee houses, supermarkets and restaurant galore and even a fantastic sushi restaurant (Sushi Ohi) where we took a punt of ordering from the Spanish menu and happily both got what we wanted! An afternoon nap later, we went back out to explore and I found our 1st Moai - then promptly got told off by a passing Rapu Nui man on a scooter for getting too close to the statue. But as I now know the Moais are actually figureheads for burial chambers, I very much understand his anger. 

After a wander around the harbour we settled on Te Moana as a good place to have a beer or two and some snack food. Note, snack food in Easter island falls on the American side of the scale - as in, could feed 4 people as a main meal. We sat outside, waiting for the sunset and watching the surfers whilst eating a giant bowl of smoked fish tartare with avocado and toast (looked like dog food, tasted amazing!) and drinking beer. 

On a whim we ordered a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon wine and enjoyed the music (Parov Stelar!) and people watched. Instead of sensibly heading back to our home, we decided to have another drink on the way in a random and deserted restaurant. Then some more food and another beer at a deserted pizzeria ran by an very odd man. The pizza was like no pizza I'd ever seen before; oval shaped dough with veggies, sauce and cheese piled high on top. Still, after 4 beers and 1/2 a bottle of wine it tasted pretty good to me. 

The next day was the full day tour with Green Island Tours. Our guide was Patricio, a Chilean man who married a Rapu Nuian and has lived here for 40 years. He certainly knows his stuff and really understands and loves this island. We went first to pick up a park ticket, you need one to go into any of the national park sites which is pretty much anywhere of interest on Easter island. You can get them as soon as you exit the airport but I couldn't see the ticket office there and in keeping with his not arsed demeanour, our host hadn't bother to mention this fact to us when he picked us up. 

Our first stop was Hanga Te'e, followed by Akahanga. Both showed broken Moais and Patricio explained how this was done by the short ear tribe, who had arrived at the same time on the island as the dominate long ear tribe, likely as their slaves (and probably picked up from New Zealand!). There is no known date for this colonisation of Easter Island but common belief dates it around the 14th century AD. After centuries of being leave workers the short ear tribe finally rebelled and wars broke out in the 17th century. When the short ear tribe triumphed they pulled down all the Moais. By the time the first explorers (late 18th century) found Easter island the Moais were all laid on the ground, face down. 

He also explained that these platforms, Ahus, were actually burial chambers for the great Chiefs of each tribe and their bloodlines, when one chief died his body would be dried out and placed under the stone platform. Then a Moai would be carved in his honour and placed on top of the platform. Then when another prominent member of that tribe died he too would be placed on the platform and it would gain another Moai. The lesser members of the family were cremated and their ashes buried under rocks by the platform. Around these Ahus would have been villages, with tiny houses and chicken coops and vegetable patches, a which have all now been scattered around the island due to disrestful rule, British farming walls, thievery and tsunamis.  Around Akahanga this was easier to see, as now Rapa Nuians govern their own national park they have made various reconstructions of how the village would have looked then. 

The highlight of this trip for me was the next stop, the Rano Raraku which was the quarry used to create all those Moais. As we wandered around the heads (with buried bodies!) Patricio showed us the cuttings in the quarry face, where Moais has been carved directly from the volcano face and only moved once the Moai was ready. This was so they would only use what was needed to make one Moai and at any one time several Moais were being carved at the same time (the small ears would have been the ones carving) Many still sit in the volcano waiting to be finished. The thing that blew my mind the most was that the heads around the grassy slope were the finished articles waiting to be taken, almost like a shopfront. So your chief's recently deceased? Wander over to Rano Raraku, pick the one that most fits his size and then transport it back to your village and add the final features that make it unique to your chief, and of course the red hair (top hat). Stick it up on the platform and voila! The perfect tribute to your fallen chief. Of course, no one still really knows how those Moai were moved from the quarry, or up on to the platforms but Patricio's theory was by mana (magic) and after wandering around today I like this theory the best. There was only one female Moai (Easter island was a very patriarchal society) and also one small eared man Moai - no one knows either why these two were created. 

We stopped here for lunch, empanadas and local Easter Island beer, Mahina. Both the porter and pale ale is highly recommended! After lunch we went to Tongariki, the reconstructed platform of 15 Moais. An earthquake from Chile created a tsunami that hit both Easter island and Japan in the late 80s which caused the fallen Moais here to be moved 300 metres further inland. This prompted a Japanese company in 1990 to begin restoration as a means of advertising a company. The Japanese are apparently regular visitors to Easter island and hold it in great respect and to show even more faith they returned a Moai they has taken from the island. If only Chile, Britain and the many others would do the same.....Anyway, for 4 years this company painstakingly recreated the Moai using images from before the tsunami of the fallen Moais. It's magificent to see. Around here lay the ruins of the village with visible petroglyphs. 

We stopped at another petroglyphs site, Papa Vaka where again the turtles, doubled hulled canoes and sharks where very visible in the volcanic rock. We also stopped at Te Pito Kura, which not only has one of the last standing Moais (drawings made by a European ship in 1888 of this statue standing tall prove it outlasted the rebellion wars but then sometime after this it was toppled too) but also a rock bought from the great island the ancients came from. This was believed to be an island somewhere between Tahiti and Hawaii, that suffered some horrible fate that required all its inhabitants to find a new land. The leader, Hotu Matu'a led his people (and those slaves) to Te Pito O Te Henga and with him he bought his shiny round magnetic rock as a talisman. Like the Motaeki boulders in NZ, is was a perfectly spherical shape but unfortunately we could not confirm the magnetic qualities as there is now a wall around it to prevent touching. Scientists believe it's actually a meteor. Either theory works well for me.

The final stop of the full day tour was Anakena beach,(which is also where the half marathon ends!) it's a beautiful white sandy beach with several more resurrected Moais and imported Hawaiian coconut trees. We took a walk around, had a little paddle then stopped to just watch the waves coming in and going out again. Very peaceful place and one we will revisit before the week is out. The drive home was via the half marathon route (only backwards) and it helped quell some fears we'd been having about the hills!

 Patricio showed us Haka Honu, a cafe on the harbour front that is great for sunset viewing so we got out there and said goodbye to him. It was a brilliant tour and he was a great guide, We ordered a snack to share (see previous point about food sizes) and a couple of beers and looked at all our photos. After a brief respite back at the hotel, we went to the Internet cafe to get wifi codes (the readily available internet promised to us on the hotel website has not worked since we got here and surprise, the host did not seem to care when we told her!) and sat ourselves in the restaurant Krava downstairs.   We ordered a tuna, rice and salad plate to share and watched some of the Chile v Mexico football game whilst also catching up with the world on Facebook and with emails. 

Such an amazing day in one of the most beautiful places in the world! Life is good. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More adventures in the South Pacific

On day 3 we got up and went for a run - it was ridiculously hot! We started our 10km run at 7am and it must have over 25 degrees already! Not the smartest move but still, more half marathon training under our belt! After this, it was a spot of reading on the beach, a snorkel over the Motu opposite and then lunch at the Hisbiscus hotel again (mainly because it was so close). On the way back to our hotel I heard a restaurant playing actually good music (OK, Duffy but it made a change from 90s ballads or island music.) As we entered the Plantation Bar and Resturant the music changed to Me and Mrs Jones so happily we ordered a beer each. It's a cool set up, tables on the deck in shade but a fence separating the bar from the road for privacy. There was a Resturant inside and possibly a dance floor given the shiny disco ball already lit at 2pm.

 As the Hinano Amber beer was served to us the music switched to I believe I can fly..... Seriously ....and was closely followed by Ronan Keating. Oh well. It was a nice beer and a good opportunity to watch the locals. Two sets of mothers and sons ate food together as it was mothers days. The women both wore pink dresses and the sons sadly looked old enough to be their husbands. A sign that sun ages you I guess. 

We left and walked back to our room for afternoon naps. We started on the shandies when we woke up. The advantage of having the beachfront bungalow was that we could sit there and watch as the sun set without needing to join the others on the beach but that night we were slightly distracted by the fact I'd packed the wrong passports. As in, our NZ passports when we had 9 months earlier booked the Easter Island flights using our British passport numbers.....a frenzied email later sent to LAN but it was hard to shake the fear we might actually not be allowed on the plane.

 To cheer us up we decided to head to the Mayflower, a restaurant that was known for being a bit fancy and offering something a little more than the usual pacific fare of tuna or mahi mahi in coconut milk. It was amazing! It was a lovely cosy dining area and the food was out of this world good. Without wanting to go all AA Gill on you, Beautiful Shrimp dumplings to start (after the obligatory bread rolls of course, I've missed this European trait of giving you free bread with all meals but my figure hates it. Bread is my kypronite!) and then I had lobster ravoli (as good as Carlos in Donny!) and Andy had grilled tuna and both were really special. We treated ourselves to a carafe of Cote du Rhone wine and then lemon meringue pie for desert. Noms! 

The next morning we woke up to discover an email reply from LAN that simply said, thank you we have updated your passport details....oh the relief! We packed up and sadly left Fabienne and Elvis, the brilliant hosts at Fare Miti. A shuttle bus picked us up to take us back to the ferry terminal but due to a few inconsiderate beings not turning up on time for the bus our time got later and later until the driver was clearly speeding along the windy roads to get us to the ferry on time. We turned in with 10 minutes to spare but there was a taxi in the bus space and a few angry words were exchanged until finally our driver got out of the bus, climbed into the man's taxi (he was helping people with their bags) and moved it for him. With minutes to spare we got on our ferry and away we went. Back to Papeete, which it turns out is as much of a shit hole in the day time as it was at 1am. 

Because our flight to Easter island wasn't until 3am the following day we booked a cheap hotel opposite the airport. But decided to head to the intercontinental hotel a few miles up the room to utilise their pool and restaurant. Which it turned out was a good way to while away a few hours. Back to the room to watch some friends episodes on Netflix, and a quick visit to an ok Chinese restaurant for tea and finally it was time to head to the airport. And this is where we are now! 

Monday, May 30, 2016

New adventures in the South Pacific

Every journey I go on, I take a little notebook with me and jot down all our experiences, from food places and bars to randoms we meet but our departing Auckland to fly to Papeete was all chaos with a worrying lack of preparation and in my disorganised state I forgot my notebook. So instead of risking forgetting everything i thought I would write it here, I guess that's what's a blog is for, non?

We flew down in to Papeete at 1am, gaining our Friday back which is always nice. In an effort to save money in French Polynesia (something we heard would be difficult) we decided not to book a hotel for the 5 hours before our ferry to Moorea and just find somewhere to stay awake for those 5 hours instead. The first hurdle was the language barrier. We had both taken French at school but that was 20 years ago and our taxi driver didn't really speak English. She agreed to take us to the ferry terminal though she was clearly confused about why we want to go there at 2am when the first ferry wasn't until 6am. I had heard about a food market, les Roulettes that I thought was close and somewhere we could sit after the food trucks left after 2am but the driver couldn't understand me. If we had bothered to learn a few French phases we could have asked, well, where is a good place to kill 5 hours unmolested and maybe with beers? Lesson 1, learn to speak the language!

She drove around the ferry terminal and it was dishearteningly abandoned and all locked up. Eventually she stopped outside the ferry terminal entrance which just happened to have a couple of dodgy looking nightclubs opposite. Not really what we were looking for, but we couldn't stay in the taxi for much longer. We thought to stand outside the ferry terminal gates with all our luggage for a few hours but as we paid the driver a Tahitian woman leaned over the railings to one of the nightclubs and asked what we were doing, and strongly advised we did not hang around this area with our belongings as they would be taken. 

So we entered the Ziouziou nightclub - which also doubled as a karaoke bar - to the amusement of all the drunk Tahitians inside. We felt uneasy, but got a beer ($13 a bottle!!) and sat in the corner attempting to draw zero attention to ourselves and to stay awake. It was mostly women but as the evening went on we realised some men too, who we had originally thought were women until we heard them sing. Apparently this is a thing in Tahiti, men who were raised like daughters and so continue dressing and acting this way into adulthood. 

And in the end people were friendly enough and left us alone and the karaoke wasn't too horrific, and at 4am when they kicked us and everyone else, we made our way over to the ferry terminal entrance only for a lovely security man inside to appear only moments after asking, "Moorea ferry?" And then letting us inside the complex and locking the gates behind us. 

The ferry ride is only 25 minutes long and it is the top rated thing to do in Papeete on TripAdvisor which possibly says more about Papeete than it does the ferry ride. To be honest I slept through most of it's all nighters are not really a thing I do much any more so I was pretty sleepy. I also slept for the most of 40 minutes taxi ride to our hotel too. 

What I I did see of the island though looked stunning. Extemely dramatic, big peaks of volcanic cliffs and forest and then every now and views of golden sandy beaches. Like the interior of Rarotonga but so much bigger. Or Hawaii without all the infrastructure. We arrived around 7.30am to our hotel, Moorea Fare Miti to be told our room would actually be available as the previous guests had left earlier due to an Air Tahiti strike. Briefly noticing the amazing room, a traditional Polynesia hut right on the beach which is beautiful, we went into our bedroom, turned on the fan, and slept for 4 hours.

After we woke we realised how hungry we were so we wandered down the beach for 10 minutes until we found a hotel restaurant we could eat in. The restaurant at the Hotel Hisbiscus is a pretty soulless affair but it has a nice view so we forgave them the thoughtless non offensive music (which to me is the most offensive music) and ordered pizza, green salad and beers. Lesson 2, eating healthy is expensive in French Polynesia. The green salad, basically a bowl of lettuce leaves, was the equivalent of NZD $8. 

We finally got to lie on the beach in the afternoon and read our books; absolute bliss. The hotel doesn't have a restaurant itself but offers varoius takeaway options to be delivered to the room - excellent! We both chose a tuna option, one with garlic sauce and one in vanilla and coconut and then settled in for our first Society island sunset. I do love a good sunset. 

The food was amazing, and again we choose healthy sides - rice and green beans - and there was enough for next night too. Ah, thrift! We drank our gin and whiskey and played cards until we got sleepy again. 

The next morning I watched as a gecko (who we named Hand Lion) stole across our outside table and then licked the remains of our evening meal up from the tablecloth. You just don't get these experiences in suburban Auckland. 

For day 2 I had booked us a boat trip with Captain Taina, in her glass bottomed boat. It was a small boat, with around 14 people (all pretty old) seated around the side of the glass bottom in the middle. She steered us over the coral to watch the pretty fishes and we followed a few turtles around too. Then we got into the water, with a Sting Ray. I couldn't quite get the thought of Steve Irwin out of my head which did put me off getting too close but Taina fed the Ray and then led it around so everyone could touch them. We got back in the boat and a little further on stopped at a sandbank for more stingray action, and also some sharks. To be fair the Sharks actually weren't that scary as they weren't really that arsed about us. They just circled around us about a lot. There were a lot more stingrays this time and again Captain Taina with the use of two dead fishes led them around so we all could experience getting touched up by a sting ray. Was a very surreal experience but pretty cool! Andy spent most of his time trying to get the Sharks to play with him. 

Back in the boat and Taina took us to a place out in the water, in view of the first Protestant church where a local sculptor had been carving statues for the past 15 years and then dropping them in the ocean. The reason was as a talking point for tourists and as a show of defiance of those early missionaries who forced Tahitians (as they did all across the pacific islands) to throw out their "false idols". It's one of the saddest facts about explorers that by "discovering" these beautiful isles they opened the doors to religion, diseases and outlandish claims to rule over these islands. One of the things that has surprised me so much on this trip is how many French tourists there are here (Captain Taina's boat was mostly French but she did a good job of speaking in one language and then switching to English) Well, you might think, it is a French colony but it is always a long, long way away from France! I can't imagine it's that cheap or easy to get to so I assumed more tourists from this side of the world to be honest. Will be interesting to see what Huahine and Ra'itea are like....

After a brief trip out beyond the reef into the actual Pacific Ocean we finally went to our private Motu for  lunch. Taina made a gorgeous raw tuna mixed with salad, lime and coconut milk which she served in a coconut shell whilst we drank Tahitian rum and pineapple juice. Yum! Then we had swordfish skewers with rice. An amazing meal and very fresh. After our food we had time for more snorkels and then she showed us how to open a coconut and use it and then it was time to leave. Back in time for the most amazing sunset and some cheeky Hinano beers. The evening meal was a bit disappointing after the amazing lunch - leftover cold fish and oily fried from the food truck down the road, although it was exceptionally cheap. 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Adventures in Recordland second draft done!

Today I finished the second draft of my young adult novel Adventures in Recordland which means it's almost ready to share with people....I am excited but scared to let others in to my world. I'm not so good at criticism even if delivered with the best intentions. I love my characters now, what if you all don't? And what if you don't cry at certain parts of the book like I did earlier? But it's written now and I want it to live out there in the world. The hard part is knowing when it's ready to let go.....

Friday, April 1, 2016

Mindful? Pah! Bring on Arty April

Well mindful March was a blow out. If anything it was the least mindful I've felt in years and that pissed me right off. It's been a busy year, both work and social and I've ran out of time to think between the doing at work and the zoning out at home, socialising with friends or galavallanting around Australiasia.

But I've stopped now. A weekend to myself to do the things I enjoy; make lists, watch YouTube clips of The Smiths and Aztec Camera, drink whiskey and most of all, write. And I am. I am feeling inspired and ready almost for my close up. Or Clara's close up. 

So I guess I got mindful at the end of March.....maybe I'll give it another in May. 

April is being arty and I'm excited for this, I just need to make time for it. The first 2 months were food related and food is something I have to do 3 times a day so it's easy to find time. I never thought it would be this hard to make time for the things I really want as downtime so that's a learn. 

Anyway will keep you updated! Back to the Smiths.....

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mindful March

So dairy free February was interesting.... I did make a vegetarian pizza using a fake cheese recipe and it was ok but let's be honest, it was no worthy substitution for cheese. After the 3rd week I had a weekend away with friends and I broke at the Leigh Sawmill with pizza, then the next day with cheese at Ransom vineyard. So, it's fair to say going dairy free will not be a continuing thing; but I will endeavour to only eat cheese once a week as I have been doing re entry anyway as it is sadly my kypotronite. And I would like to give up cows milk; I've been eating soy and coconut yoghurts and that has been an easy change, it's more the milk in tea I will need to get used to! 

So March heralds a new monthly theme, this being mindful. Something I need to find urgently due to work and self imposed deadlines and obvious procrastinations. And then the drive to work causes my anger levels to raise above what I assumed I was capable of. I do feel not in a calm zen place currently but 6 days in I have not really done much to get me there. But next week I will be commuting by bus for 2 days and on Friday I was practising my Hamlet soliqolgy on my way to and from work and that helped calm me somewhat in the Auckland traffic! 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Is this a volunteer I see before me? Get thee to a nunnery!

I have just finished my second shift as an usher / volunteer for the Pop up Globe, which quite literally popped up in Auckland around one month ago to commerate 400 years since Shakespeare's death. 

It is magnificent to look at and even look inside but what I love the most is how magificent it makes Shakespeare's plays appear. 

I studied a couple at school and college and I like Hamlet, I love Macbeth and I can stomach Much ado about nothing but I've always been wary of the ones I never read -how could I understand them if a teacher hadn't already explained the story, the language, the jokes? By seeing them performed live, that's how. As I watch the actors (obviously after I've got the audience safely into their seats) own the stage, speaking in that language it doesn't matter that I don't always understand, I can see what I'm meant to hear. Like films with subtitles, maybe I don't understand the joke but I can see from the actors' expressions what the gist of it is. And special praise then must go to the actors themselves. Young and old, Kiwis and Americans - doing Shakespeare every bit as well as Cumberbatch and Brannagh. 

I watched Romeo and Juliet last week, a play I studied and found tedious in its ridiculous love story. But performed by this company, I found myself laughing at the humour that doesn't ever translate in the film versions, and also I found the relationship between Juliet (Christel Chapman) and the veryemo Romeo (Jonathan Tynan Moss) really sweet. And how brilliant was the dance sequence at the end! 

I also enjoyed the one at the end of Twelfth Night, clearly a theme and a very clever idea. I didn't know Tweflfth night well, but it was saucier than a Carry on film even with the all male cast. And has there ever been a fairer Olivia than Daniel Watterson? 

Next week I will be volunteering at the Tempest- I think this has been my best decision of 2016....

The pop up globe has been doing school performances and seeing the teenagers at the performances has been really good - hopefully people will realise just because the language is old it doesn't mean the story is. Shakespeare is as relevant today as he had ever been and you don't need a degree to understand him - you just need to go to a play and immerse yourselves. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Kia Kaha - 5 years on

It is devastating enough that the earthquake that killed 185 people happened at all but that the 5th anniversary follows only days after another big shake. I can only remember my experiences living there to imagine how people are feeling. 

I don't want to dwell but I do want to post this as a sign of admiration, respect and love for everyone living in Christchurch today and at the time. For all the wonderful things you did and continue to do-  Kia Kaha. X

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Re-solutions, February

January has come and gone and I have been loving my green smoothies for lunch. This will definitely continue!. I can't say I feel skinnier, fitter or less tired but it tastes good and I feel good for doing it. I guess those things will just happen right?! 

So now to February. Dairy free February to give its proper name - which is actually where this whole idea of Theme16 (can I make this a hashtag?) came from. 

I'll be honest, I spent the weekend in Hawkes Bay staying with a friend's parent who was terrified by the idea of cooking for a vegetarian. So it would have been rude to have turned down the gorgeous cheese and onion quiche or the cheese platter at the vineyard. And definitely the ice cream after our day at the beach. But now I'm back in Auckland I have been taken this dairy free thing pretty seriously.....well, except for milk in tea. I love tea and I have probably 3 cups a day with maybe a teaspoon of trim milk in each one.....I doubt that tiny amount is going to fuck up my experience of no dairy for 20 something days....but if anyone knows of a good milk substitute for tea please let me know! 

Anyway, I wanted to use this as a chance to get into vegan cooking - I have the magical Grit diner cookbook of which I have maybe used 3 recipes (but I make them all the time, nom!) that I want to play with. Their tofu bacon is a revelation for us veggies who hate missing out, it means I can have a BLAT whenever I want one! This morning for my Saturday breakfast I made this,

And it was gorgeous! I guess the time thing is what I'll find it the hardest - a scrambled egg takes 5 mins tops, this was around 20 mins. But tofu is a good substitute for eggs and at the weekend I have time. 

I don't miss cheese yet........but I suspect I'll be craving a pizza soon. As a self professed queen of pizza this is what I'll miss the most. But I need to keep repeating the motto "cheese is what makes westerners fat" (a brilliant piece of truism from an Indonesian guy we met in Flores. There's very little dairy over there and when we were there for 2 months eating nothing but rice, tempeh and eggs, I got pretty healthy looking!). I am tempted to give a vegan pizza a try, as I'm not sure Andy will want to go a whole month without pizza even though he'll face the wrath if he eats one in front of me! 

But I am open to recipes to feel free to send some my way! 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Years Re-Solutions

So this year instead of my usual let's make lots of resolutions and then get flummoxed because it's just all too much I decided to make themed months. Theme '16.

First up January - I called it juicing January because it worked as a title (same letters!) but really it's all about smoothies in January. My attempt to drinking a healthy iron fuelled smoothie every day, because I absolutely need the iron and I probably need the fruit too. I also probably need the spiriluna but let's be honest, I have no fricking idea what it does or how it'll help me! But it cost a lot so it must, right? 

Anyway, I must say I'm happy so far with my efforts. It's been hard at work as it means no more fun lunches with work peeps, I just sit at my desk and drink green sludge. And honestly, it tastes delicious! Yes I have to go shopping every couple days for spinach and kale and coconut yoghurt but I reckon in the long run it's cheaper than $15 burgers and it's certainly healthier. I still feel knackered but I think this resolution is a keeper, way past January!