Tuesday, March 27, 2012


That's roughly pronounced pair-uh-canoe-ee.  Purakaunui is a small village near Long Beach, just north of Dunedin.  Long Beach was our destination on Otago Anniversary Day, which is a holiday for the Otago region.

Like most things, going to the beach in New Zealand is different.  As a Hoosier drives--carefully--along the roads that lead to some truly amazing, unpopulated, pristine beaches its in the back of the mind to listen for banjos playing or the squeal of distant pigs.  But that does not happen and you simply ignore the posted road signs.  Four-wheel drive is highly recommended.

The beaches are fantastic playgrounds for young and old.  Molly, Camilia, and Nathan found this incredible old tree with rope swing.  There were no signs warning of the inherent dangers, probabilities of death or loss of limb, and as I started to say "be careful" I caught myself and I let them have fun.  They did.  So did I.

When you come to New Zealand, if you plan to swim in the ocean, bring a wetsuit or rent one.  The water is cold and its a necessity. Molly and her friend Camilia are creature of the water, so a little chill was not going to stop them. . . 

. . . because they could warm up in the sun or lay in some of the tide pools which were warmer.

When you go to the beach, you should pay attention to the tide tables.  If you go when the tide is low, you get a glimpse of some interesting biological, geological, and physical phenomena. 

I am not a biologist.  These are limpets attached to a rock.  I understand that they are monovalve shellfish.

This is Camilia's dad, Blair, walking through one of the beach caves.  The surrounding igneous rock is basalt, the direct result of volcanic activity in this area millions of years ago.  You can easily make out the layers when you are standing next to them.

Sand ripples.  Same in both hemispheres, but cool nonetheless.

This is me on the beach.  Behind me you can see the caves in the cliff face.

Molly out in the water.  There are kayakers behind her in the distance.

The drive to and from the beach is another reason to be thankful for Dramamine.  Most of the roads, including the main roads, undulate and reduce to single lane tracks.  The coast road above Port Chalmers is beautiful, however, and worth filling a couple of air sick bags.

Port Chalmers from McAndrew Road

It was a great day.  Many thanks to Camilia and her family for sharing it with us!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


On Wednesday after school, Alan (Columba Maths Teacher) took us out on the Otago Peninsula to Sandfly Bay.  I thought that Sandfly Bay was named for the highly annoying biting insect.  This is incorrect.  Sandfly Bay is aptly named after the sand that flies in your face and every crack, crevice, and orifice open to the prevailing north-east wind that lashes at the coast.

Sandfly Bay is also a great place to see wildlife.  We saw native New Zealand birds called Oystercatchers.  Alan told us there are always sea lions on the beach and he was right.  We saw several HUGE Hooker Sea Lions basking in the sun as well as a mother and her pup playing in the dunes.  At the far end of Sandfly Bay is a yellow-eyed penguin sanctuary.  We did not see any as we were there too early in the day.  There is a nice blind set up to observe the penguins as they come up to the shore and head up the cliff side to nest.

 Sandfly Bay is a good hike up and down some fairly significant sand dunes.

And you think free range chickens have it good?

An Oystercatcher. (not my photo)

Lion's Head Rock and surf.  There were about a dozen surfers out today.  Many were American students from the University of Otago.

Molly with a very large sea lion in the background.  

A very large sea lion with Molly and her friend Caroline in the background.

The sea lions cover themselves with sand.  They are very good about letting you take their photo but you should stay a good 10 m away.  AN upset sea lion is not a good thing.

Mother and pup in the dunes.

Molly and Caroline buried in the sand at Sandfly Bay.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Alternate names for this post: calamity, cataclysm, . . .

. . . catastrophe, disaster, . . .

The really fun thing about this is the above commercials are usually followed by this one:

The faster you go . . .

Top of the T goes before me . . . top of the T goes before me . . . top of the T goes before me . . . 

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Otago Harbour and the Otago Peninsula are volcanic formations and Harbour Cone is the remnant of an extinct volcano. Harbour Cone rises 315 m above sea level and provides some spectacular views.  On Saturday it provided another tramping opportunity and Molly and I again went with the Duke of Edinburgh club.  This time, however, the skies were clear and the air was warm.  

This is the ruin of an old farm house or, more likely, a shepherd's cottage.  The nook in the center was a fireplace.

Columba College's Duke of Edinburgh club makes for the top.  In the low center is Natalie (from Hong Kong) doing her Julie Andrews impersonation.

Otago Harbour and Broad Bay from the top of Harbour Cone.

Old, weathered tree.  I just liked it.

The Highcliff Road is one of the main roads on the Peninsula.  Two cars can pass by each other as long as the occupants take a deep breath and hold it.  Bring the Dramamine. 

The trail leading up to Harbour Cone is called the Bacon Trail.  It starts at the end of Bacon Street in Broad Bay.

Of course, if you stand atop Harbour Cone and look in the opposite direction from Otago Harbour, there is that lesser known body of water, the Pacific Ocean.   If you maximize the photo, look about 5/8 to the left side, and squint you can just make out the edge of the earth.

Although I was full of a rotten cold, this was a particularly good day.  As you walk up (or down) the steep incline that is the Bacon Trail, you have to cross Highcliff Road just below the ruins.  I sat on a little bench there for several minutes and enjoyed the sun, peace, and quiet.  This really is a wonderful place.

Monday, March 12, 2012


If you took the excitement of a close IU-Purdue basketball game at Assembly Hall, the determination of the stalwart fans on a particularly cold Sunday on the frozen tundra of Lambeau, and a healthy dose of the bleacher section at Wrigley Field on a hot summer day (after several Old Styles) you still would not come close to the devotion of the average Kiwi to Rugby.

On Saturday, Molly and I attended out first rugby game: the Highlanders versus Waratahs.  The Highlanders' home base is Dunedin's new Forsyth Barr Stadium, built for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.  Australia's Waratahs were the second team to take on the local lads who came in to the game with a 2-0 record.  We had exceptionally good seats along the goal line. According to one of my colleagues, in Dunedin you have two favorite teams: the Highlanders and whoever is playing against an Australian team.

I won't go into the rules of rugby or how the teams are set up because I don't understand it and, apparently, most Kiwis don't understand it either--at least not all of it.  However, they did let me in with my camera, I did not have to go through security, and they gave away free stuff (like the flags you see in the pics below) to the kids.  Peyton who?

The Columba College cheering section

The Zoo.  
This is where the young/drunk/mentally deranged sit. The music is non-stop.

Would you expect a team called the Highlanders to be without marching bagpipers?  I should say not.

This is not the Highlanders mascot but the Oceana Gold Nuggets (basketball) mascot.  Kind of like seeing the Phillie Phanatic at a Lions game, but hey, its New Zealand!

I call them the Blue Woman Group.  They dance in front of the Zoo during the entire game--except when making fun of the opposing team during warm up.

Oh, yeah--there was a game too!  Here are some highlights:

The Waratahs took the lead early with a couple of penalty kicks (worth 3 points each)

During a "line out" the ball is thrown in bounds.  The teams literally hurl teammates in the air to capture the ball.

This is not a game for the timid.  We did see one Waratah score a try (5 points) but got his leg broken in the process.  No, really. 

Here is Highlander Aaron Smith scoring a try.  Don't know why they call it a "try." It should be a "succeed." (Caveat: I pulled this pic off the internet--my pics aren't that good).

After the game, the Highlanders come to the stands and thank the fans, particularly the kids.  Molly had her Highlanders shirt signed by Hosea Gear.  Mr. Gear is also a member of the New Zealand national team the All Blacks and is quite a sports hero.

You can see highlights (including the broken leg) here.  The Highlanders won the match 18-17 and are now 3-0 in Super Rugby.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Last week, Ian rode with me while I drive the school vans.  The purpose of this 'test drive' was to make sure I knew how to fill out the logbook, to become familiar with the operation of both the old and the new van, and to generally make sure I would not kill anyone while operating a Columba vehicle.

Driving in New Zealand is an educational and challenging experience.  There is, of course, the aspect of driving on the left side of the road to deal with.  With a little thought, not insurmountable, especially with my experience driving on the left while living in the UK.  The main troubles with driving in New Zealand are the "Give Way" rules.  Currently in NZ (and nowhere else in the oil consuming world) you give way to vehicles crossing or coming from your right.  The means if you are driving on the left side of the road (and you should be) turning left, you must allow the oncoming car on the right side of the road to turn in front of you.

Intuitively, all non-Kiwis will see that this is a serious flaw in New Zealand's rules of the road. The theory is that the intersection should be treated as a roundabout and you should yield to the right.  But now, even the Kiwis see that this is not a good idea.  At 5 AM on Sunday, 25 March 2012, the law is changing and the rule is that all traffic turning right is to "give way to a vehicle coming from the opposite direction and turning left. This applies at cross roads, T-intersections and driveways where both vehicles are facing each other with no signs or signals, or the same signs or signals."

Coincidentally, vacation time for all New Zealand law enforcement, emergency, and medical personnel has been cancelled during the last week in March.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Columba Sports Day

On Wednesday, Columba held its annual Sports Day.  Sports Day is an all day affair dedicated to track and field and many other events.  The ENTIRE school participates in one way or the other, students representing their houses (Girton, Iona, Solway, and Braemar) in the competition for house points.  The girls are encouraged to be creative (but appropriate) in wearing their house colors.

The differing interesting points here, if you are use to the American education system, is that it involves every one at the school and they want to be involved.  If the girls aren't involved in the athletics they are involved in the festivity, the cheering, the camaraderie.  Even some of the staff get involved.  Yours truly was one of four teachers who 'competed' in the 3000 m race.

Students arriving at Logan Park

The whole package.


Molly runs the 100 m relay for Girton

These girls dressed as 'cheerleaders.' 

Blue Man Group expands?

Molly does the long jump.

The 100 Metre Relay.

Students who qualify in the various events get to represent Columba at the Otago regional competition later this month.  Staff who ran the 3000 m get paracetamol and a cup of tea.