Days 24 & 25 Homeward Bound

We are collected for our final journey across Christchurch to the airport. Bag drop next and it turns out that we could hardly have packed better. We have exactly 53kg of belongings and although one bag was 23.2kg, we made up for it with the others being 15kg and 14.8kg respectively. Common sense prevailed and we were not asked to redistribute anything.

The flights home are largely uneventful, although three flights, each longer than the last, is less favourable than the opposite, which we experienced on the outgoing journey. Unfortunately, the thirteen hour flight from Singapore is full and we were unable to secure aisle seats, so the occasions when we can leave our seats are governed by the habits of the young lady (with the bladder capacity of an elephant) on the aisle. Aeroplane food is never exactly haute cuisine but that supplied by Qantas is better than most. I do wonder when the recent wave of anti-plastic feeling is going to impact on airline catering, which involves a ridiculous amount of single use plastic. Our belongings are swabbed for explosives. Fortunately, this is restricted to our hand luggage. We speculate what will happen if they test our cabin luggage, which contains the clothes Chris wears to fire the musket. Fortunately, they don’t seem to have done this.

It seems really odd to be away from our New Zealand conference routine and the friends we made there. I keep wondering where Maurice is and wondering why I can no longer hear an Irish accent in the background. Many of us will be reconvening for the Unlock the Past Alaskan Cruise in September and we are certainly looking forward to that even more now. I give up trying to work out what time my body thinks it is and intersperse dozing with Suduko solving.

We now have six and a half hours to wait for our coach. Time is spent waiting while the luggage carousel is fixed, it having jammed when only two-thirds of our belongings had been retrieved. We were expecting to be too hot in our New Zealand appropriate winter clothes but the coach station is chillily air conditioned and not the most comfortable place to wait for such a long time.

DSCF0500I manage to pass the time on the coach by falling asleep. One minute we were in Heathrow, next I knew we were at Tiverton. Despite having a wonderful time, it was good to be home, even though I have come straight back to full-on job we must not mention. The tropical weather while we’ve been away has had a drastic effect on the garden and the grass is now two foot high. It will have to wait until other catching up is done.


Days 21-23 New Zealand Society of Genealogists Conference

Still not firing on all cylinders and equipped with a very unflattering over the ear and round the head mike, I deliver my keynote presentation about the story of Isabella Fry. It is the tale of an unfortunate woman, chocolate and a very bad man, which appears to go down well. Afterwards, we choose to stay in the main hall to listen to our friends talk about DNA. Firstly Michelle Patient and then our housemate for the duration, Maurice Gleeson. After lunch, Maurice is up again, this time talking about using DNA to identify unknown world war 1 casualties. By co-incidence, he was focussing on the Battle of Fromelles, which is featured in Barefoot on the Cobbles, although I don’t name it. Maurice used the session to launch the ‘Commemorating the Missing’ project. This encourages people to look at the list of the world war one soldiers whose bodies have never been recovered and ‘plant’ a virtual family tree on their behalf. Thus, if bodies are recovered in a location that links to those personnel, it might be possible to contact relatives so DNA can be obtained. I have already committed to ‘planting’ trees for the six Braunds on the list and we do already have relatives who have taken DNA tests, although obviously, it would be their decision whether or not their results should be used in this way.

There is a session on New Zealand School records and then I have to summon the adrenaline to talk about One-Place Studies at the end of the day. People are taking pity on my lurgy ridden state and keep pressing medication into my hands!

Det7qRgVMAAF8WVWe are taken to the Chateau on the Park for the conference dinner where we have an unusual but very tasty, hot/cold buffet mixture and delectable but clearly not very good for us desserts. Chris ‘entertains’ all-comers with the delights of seventeenth century barber surgery. We do present to adults on a regular basis but the addition of alcohol has an effect on the levels of audience participation! At the request of the maitre d’, one of Chris’ patients is a young waiter, who enters into the spirit of the thing. Fiona, our self- appointed chauffeur and also the overworked conference convenor, explains about the psychological impact of the earthquake on Christchurch residents.

The Sunday begins with our seventeenth century presentation. Yesterday’s sessions were very well received but now I am feeling as if I am giving of my best. There is an overwhelmingly positive response afterwards, which gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. I listen to a double-handed talk on ‘Research Tips and Tricks’, which includes a very effective use of Power Point as a way of recording family history from the ’other Fiona’. I then listen to a story-telling session from Margaret Copeland, an historical interpreter who represents the wife of the goaler of nineteenth century Lyttelton Goal. I have to leave before the end to prepare for my own Facebook Generation talk. It was very well attended (there are three streams of lectures) and there was a real buzz afterwards, with plenty of questions and comments.

In the evening, we have invited a few fellow members of The Guild of One-Name Studies round to our adopted home. We are feeling more and more like riotous students by the minute. We have an hilarious evening, with the humour partly fuelled by the fact that the local pizza house names its offerings after the seven deadly sins. One of our party ordered a ‘Twelve inch lust’, no comment! There was also this hysterical attempt to take a picture with all of us in, using the time on someone’s precariously balanced phone. We had a lovely time but we are obviously showing our age, as our guests had left by 9.15pm and we managed to keep the house in very good order. Our hostess has been incredibly generous with her home and my early blog comment about Hokey-Pokey ice cream led to the freezer being stocked with the same – yum.

The final day already. I can’t believe it has gone so fast. I listen to Fiona talking about The Time Travelling Genealogist, encouraging us to record our own lives as part of our family history. Her ‘Memories in Time’ business has some great products and it is a very good presentation. Next, I learn about the ‘Decimation by the Invisible Enemy’, which is about the appalling effect of the Spanish flu on those on board the ship the Tahiti. I finish the conference with my ‘Remember Then’ session. I wondered how it would adapt to an international audience but judging by the reaction, nothing was lost in translation. It is sad to say goodbye to people who have become friends. We have had a wonderful time and have been looked after exceptionally well by all concerned.

Four of us take a trip to the Antarctic Centre in the afternoon. Included is a ‘Hagglund’ ride, deemed to be unsuitable for those with heart conditions, of a nervous disposition or who are pregnant. I briefly debate the wisdom of this and decide I should enter into the spirit of the thing. The Hagglund are the all terrain vehicles that are used on Antarctic expeditions and we career across a track hanging on tightly. It was a bit on the bumpy side but pales into insignificance in comparison to sand-dune buggy riding, so I survived unscathed. We pat some huskies and watch the blue penguins being fed. These are all rescue penguins, who would not survive in the wild. Then a chance to sit and relax whilst watching a 4D film. We don the approved glasses. It turns out that this is not as relaxing as all that, as the seats tilt alarmingly, to simulated power boating across a lake and at intervals, water is hurled in our faces.

We are then collected for a meal with some of the conference organisers. This is followed by Te Reo Maori lessons, which are being put on, free of charge, by the owner of the Fush restaurant. He is concentrating on teaching us ‘pidgen’ Maori, where we substitute English words for those we don’t know (which is most of them). We had already picked up that Maori is not actually pronounce Mawree but more like Mardi. Te Reo Maori was not originally a written language and there is no equivalent of the letter s for plurals. Instead, what comes before the noun indicates several, rather than one. So ‘the‘, followed by something singular is ‘Te’ but if it is plural, ‘the’ would be ‘nga’ (pronounced nar). This is great fun but my inability with languages has not undergone a great transformation and the fact that it is in the evening after a very hectic five days does nothing for my concentration. Somehow, this ends up with us appearing on Maori TV news, fortunately not at the point when it all caught up with me and my eyes closed momentarily.

Then, after reluctantly bringing our last evening chat to an end, comes the applied mathematics that is our packing. We have a baggage allowance of 30kg each; easy, 60kg you’d think. But we only have three bags, one small one having gone to meet its maker on the outward journey. We cannot be deemed to have one and a half bags each, so two of these bags cannot contain a total of more than 30kg. In addition, no one bag must weigh more than 23kg. Effectively, this reduces our total allowance to 53kg between us providing we can, without the aid of scales, distribute our belongings appropriately between the bags. If you think 53kg is a ridiculous amount of luggage for two people, you’d be right but remember that we have three sets of seventeenth century clothes, including hefty shoes and numerous heavy surgical instruments. I also have the clothes that I abandoned in Peru that have been, very kindly, brought to me from Australia. In addition, we have also picked up a few things from the conference and our preceding trip, which have to be accommodated.

Days 19 & 20 Workshops

A sensibly early start to avoid the rush hour sees us heading into Christchurch. My first, of two, ‘Writing up your Family History’ workshops is held in the impressive looking Christchurch Boys High School. The precise location is the former stables of the Deans’ (yes Martha, that is where the apostrophe goes) Building, which has recently been refurbished as the school archive, following the earthquake. Nineteen participants are present to hear me croak my way through the day. Actually, thanks to being heavily medicated, I am not a croaky as I was. The students are lovely and the day seems to go well. Back home to conserve my energy in order to do it all again tomorrow. Chris has been introduced to the resident bull in my absence and survived; our hosts breed champion Lowline cattle. He has also been cleaning the van, prior to us returning it tomorrow.

The next day, I am back for my ‘repeated due to popular demand’ ‘Writing up your Family History’ workshop. Different students give the day a slightly different feel but there seems to be plenty of enthusiasm. Chris successfully returns the van and Apollo agree to refund us for the replacement fire that we had to purchase. At least now we don’t have to work out how to get it home. We travelled 1804km, or 1121 miles in our van and it is sad to say goodbye to it, even if it was beginning to malfunction – still, we have more to look forward to.

After the workshop, we repair to the historic and impressive Riccarton House, former home of the Deans family, for a meet and greet. It is certainly a stunning property, although the severed animal heads on the wall seem somewhat unnecessary. We meet and we greet. Most of my students from the past two days are present and some people I am connected with on social media.

Then we are taken to our home-stay location, where the owner has kindly moved out to allow three conference speakers to hold wild parties enjoy her home. On the way, we pick up some exceptionally tasty fish and chips from a shop called Fush, which is how the locals pronounce ‘Fish’. This ‘house-sharing’ makes it hard not to feel like we are students again. We stay up later than we should putting the world to rights.

Days 17 & 18 Akaroa and Beyond

I am still trying to convince myself that my nose and eyes have not turned themselves into taps – just keep taking the medication. Today there is a slight mishap whilst emptying the chemical toilet. One of our party inadvertently drops the lid down the pit into which the contents of said toilet are destined to go. Someone therefore has to retrieve the lid from the hole into whence it has gone. I played no part in this procedure. We have distinct jobs whilst on the road, mine are things like trying not to get us lost and making sure all the cupboards are locked before we set off. Emptying toilets is not on my list.

119 30 May 2018 Leaving AkaroaWe drive into Akaroa and learn that there will be no boat trips today. We are cynical enough to wonder if the predicted winds have been exaggerated in order to justify cancelling a loss making trip, on which we may well have been the only passengers. The tour booking lady says it just means we will have to come back. Sadly, that is unlikely but we are glad we visited Akaroa anyway. It is a distinctive, slightly hippified community (plenty of crystals and crafts on sale) with a French flavour. We suspect it is the holiday home location of choice for the wealthy of Christchurch. It is marketed as an ‘historic’ town, with many of its original, mid-nineteenth century buildings. We visit the very interesting museum and learn about the town’s history, its Maori heritage and development from a whaling station to an agricultural area and now a tourist centre. A would-be French colonist arrived with French and German settlers in August 1840, just as New Zealand was being assigned to the British, giving Akaoa a mixed national heritage.

The area became well known for producing seeds for cocksfoot grass, which was the pasture grass of choice in Australasia. The museum, which had the advantage of being free (donations are welcome), is partially housed in the old court house. There is an impressive collection of old photographs, these include a couple with a surname that we recognise. There are/were properties called Clovelly and Ilfracombe in the town, so we suspect a local connection.

Whilst I attempt to recouperate whilst doing yet more Suduko, Chris is trying to work out why, when our water tank is full, no water is coming out of the tap. Fortunately, as this is our last day dependant on the van, it is not the problem it might have been. If the van is going to malfunction, let it be when we no longer need it, that’s what I say.

The next day, we manage to pack up all our belongings without too much trouble and set off to Woolstone in Rangiora, just north of Christchurch. Thanks to excellent directions, our only mishap was to turn slightly too soon and end up detouring round a Christchurch shopping centre. Our hosts make us very welcome and drive us round the locality, so we can learn about the area. We are staying on this farm for the next two days. I am slightly less germ ridden today, although my voice is still somewhat deep and interesting.


Days 15 & 16 to Akaroa

107 27 May 2018 Moeraki BouldersToday we leave Dunedin for Timaru. Martha has recommended a stop off at Moeraki Boulders and who are we to disagree? I am not sure of the precise geological term for these enormous ball-shaped rocks and with limited data allowance, I can’t look it up. They appear to be huge geodes and one has cracked open. Definitely worth a stop.

We call in at a couple of Four Square supermarkets on the hunt for Hokey Pokey ice-cream, which has become a bit of an addiction. Locating the site at Timaru prove to be the most problematic so far. I have taken the precaution of drawing a sketch map. We are looking for Grassmere Street. Would you believe this was the ONE street without a visible name and we have to seek assistance from the information bureau in town. Once on site we do yet more laundry and I do some Suduko, of which I am a new convert. I am trying to pretend I don’t seem to be developing a cold. Five days of presentations when I can’t breath should be fun. Don’t panic conference organisers (if you are reading this) I will be fine!

The next day we continued our journey north along the 1, criss-crossing the railway, with the Southern Alps on our left. In an attempt to appear like I am not suffering from a streaming cold, we invested heavily in medication. The latest bulletin is that the worst is hopefully over and I should be fit for the weekend, even if I will be doing great Rudolph impressions.

Today is the day that we really did need the sat-nav. In an attempt to take the scenic route alongside Lake Ellesmere, we get hopelessly lost. We drive round Southbridge a few times, that would be a few more times that we wanted to and finally ask for help. Eventually, we escape the vortex that contains the very similar looking roads that aren’t the ones we need and find our way on to the Banks Peninsula. This is a lovely drive along twisting pathways over the hills and in to Akaroa. We take a quick look round the town before finding our site, which overlooks the bay. Yet more rainbows are in evidence.

We can tell that we are near our journey’s end. The gas has run out and it isn’t worth purchasing a refill, so we use the site kitchen for our cooking. We are also finishing up the oddments of food that we have in the cupboard. It is like one of those cookery competitions – and what can you create from an onion, chilli powder, chocolate chip cookies and marmalade? An email arrives to say our wildlife cruise tomorrow has been cancelled but that they hope the predicted strong winds will abate in time for us to go in the afternoon instead. This trip has allegedly been voted ‘the best wildlife experience in New Zealand’. It will need to be pretty special to beat the Monarch one but hopefully we shall find out. It is also another of the 101 ‘must do’ activities, so that will be another crossed off the list. Hang on, I don’t actually have the list, who knows how many we may have inadvertently accomplished? The list does seem to be somewhat arbitrary. For example, Akaroa itself is one and the nature cruise is another, two for the price of one.

Day 14 Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour

The bus to collect us for our wildlife tour is five minutes late. I am only a little bit panic stricken. There are just three of us on today’s trip, with Paul in charge. We learn something of Dunedin, which contains many Victorian and Edwardian buildings. It developed due to the 1860s gold rush and used to be the industrial hub of New Zealand, until the opening of the Panama Canal, forced trade further north. The first Europeans on Otago were whalers, who arrived in the 1830s. By 1846, a permanent Scottish settlement had been created, producing cheese and lamb. Now cattle are more popular as there is a huge Chinese export market for dried milk products for baby formula. We see a memorial to Annie Dickenson, who was instrumental in extending the franchise to women. New Zealand was the first country to grant women this right, in 1893. There is also a lime kiln, reminding us of home. The ‘six molars’ is a controversial piece of public art, created at the ‘mouth’ of the river.

The first part of our four activity day, is a drive round Hooper’s Inlet, which is tidal, in search of birds. Paul, our driver and guide is a wildlife photographer and our usual ‘kiss of death’ effect on wildlife seems to be in abeyance today. We get a brilliant view of a kingfisher and also see fantails displaying, pied stilts, oyster catchers, white-faced heron, pukeko and many paradise ducks. The spur-winged plovers, which we also see, came over from Australia in the 1950s.

Next it is off to the only mainland breeding colony of Northern Royal Albatrosses. Taiaroa Head, where the Albatross Colony is situated, was once a barracks and a stone jail still survives. Joel takes us out to see four albatross chicks on their nests. The birds only come to land in order to breed and the incubation period is eighty days. The chicks grow to weigh 9kg, heavier than the adults, before they are forced to lose weight prior to fledging. Their first flight will take them all the way to Chile and it will be about five years before they return to the Otago Peninsula to breed. The adult wing-span is approximately three metres but no adults return to the chicks while we are watching. We also see what is allegedly about 25% of the world’s Otago Shags. We have lunch in the Albatross Centre before moving on to the harbour.

We are loaned super warm jackets for our Monarch Cruise round Otago Harbour. Our guide is enthusing about what a brilliant day this is for seeing albatross in flight and we are informed that we have seen four different varieties. Just don’t ask me to tell one from another. I take a large number of photographs of the sea where there was a flying albatross a split second earlier.

Finally, it is off to the yellow-eyed penguin centre, hoping to see some come ashore. There are thought to be only about 700 yellow-eyed penguins left and numbers have plummeted recently. We walk through tunnels, which took the landowner six years to dig. These keep us out of the penguin’s view. We are told that we will be lucky to see two or three penguins come ashore at this time of year but today is a ‘buy a lottery ticket day’, as we see seven. I guess that means we have seen 1% of the population! There are also some blue penguins and fur seals to spot. We have been allowed to keep the jackets for penguin colony viewing but sadly, have to return them when we are delivered back to our camp site. Just as we are leaving the colony, the rain that has held off all day, begins. It has been a long day but probably the best of the holiday.

For those interested in bird watching, our bird roll call is as follows:- Kingfisher, Pied Stilt, Pukeko, Fantail, Paradise Duck, Mallard, Oyster Catcher, Little Black Shag, Pied Shag, Black-backed Gull, Red-billed Gull, Otago Shag, Black Swan, Spur-winged Plover, White-faced Heron, Australian Harrier Hawk, Dunnock, Blackbird, Northern Royal Albatross, Southern Royal Albatross, Buller’s Albatross, White-capped Albatross, Australasian Gannet, Cape Petrel, Giant Petrel, Blue Penguin, Yellow-eyed Penguin.

Days 12 & 13 The Catlins

We left Te Anau at 9am in 4 degree temperatures and driving rain. We managed to navigate ourselves to Fiordland Electrical to buy a fire, as we have had to return our borrowed one to Te Anau Top 10. Allegedly this is likely to be the worst New Zealand winter for years. We debate the possible merits of two alternative routes, hoping to avoid snow. We opt for the possibly more risky one, snow wise, which was our original intention and set off towards Manapouri. We travel along the South Scenic Route with no sign of snow. It would probably be slightly more scenic if we could see much of it through the mist and murk. We stop to admire the racing seas and Stewart Island lurking in the low cloud. After a slight detour we find our site at Invercargill.

Not being fans of oysters, we pass up the opportunity to visit the Bluff, where the annual oyster festival is in full swing. ‘Bluffies’ are apparently world renowned in oyster circles. Deciding that we have had enough of getting wet, we relax in the van. Now we are only getting wet from the dripping laundry that is hanging round our ears.

079 25 May 2018 Rainbow, Fortrose, South Scenic HighwayWe safely negotiate our way out of Invercargill, where the street names bear testament to the Scottish/Victorian heritage. Keeping a sharp eye out for the maroon triangles that denote the South Scenic Route, we head eastwards. Today there are spells of sunshine amidst the showers, creating impressive rainbows at Fortrose. Many of the cattle are Belted Galloways and I wonder at the logistics of bringing mammals out to New Zealand from Europe by boat. How much food would be required? What would one do with the results of cows/sheep/deer consuming said food?

The bird life so far has been disappointingly European in flavour, compared to our previous visit; perhaps because we are further south, or maybe it is the season. Today though we do see black swans, pukeko and heron. The Catlins National Park is beautiful and there is very little traffic. We encounter several hundred cattle being walked along the road in the opposite direction. We are used to stopping for cows at home, just not quite so many of them! At Waihola Lake there is a long fence that has been stuffed with hundreds of trainers, presumably odd ones that have been washed up on the shore.

For some reason, we exceeded our internet access at Invercargill, despite doing very little online. This meant that we could not check on the directions to today’s site, which is 2½ km outside Dunedin. It would be helpful to know in what direction. We are know on New Zealand’s ‘motorway’, a slightly more busy dual carriageway, which makes going slowly looking for likely turn off more difficult. Fortuitously, we spot a road sign to Kaikorai Valley. The site is in Kaikorai Valley Road. Adopting the strategy that worked in Queenstown, we take the exit and apart from overshooting the well hidden drive-in entrance, we reach Aaron Lodge Top 10 without incident. So far, we feel not investing heavily in a sat-nav was the right decision – famous last words.