23 March 2005

Conquering the Cook Straits

Sigh, blue day, can't think of anything interesting or cheerful to put down. However, I am determined to try.


Can't say Gemini Ganesan was a fave of mine. Still, I quite enjoyed him as an old man in movies like 'Unnal mudiyum thambi', Avvai Shanmugi, etc.


Have to finish packing (haven't even started yet) tomorrow (Thurs). Aussie trip looms ahead (leaving March 25). Got the visa after last-minute dramas. Has been confirmed that we are going to Sydney too.


Work's a drag. Time to start searching, maybe? Look at greener pastures (they all look green anyways in NZ). Either way, time to get out of the rut, comfort zone, whatever.


And I have to put this down. Time and again, I've said that the media here reports negatively on India. Or they will use pics with captions that say, a beggar on the streets of Calcutta (or whatever).

A couple of weeks ago (when I was too busy to blog), we had gone to the Saturday Vishnu Sahasranamam gathering, when someone was collecting help money 'for a boy from India who is going to try and cross the Cook Straits'. We all contributed _ fairly generously.

And the next day, Aditya Raut did indeed become the youngest to cross the Cook Strait. And this was a Page One story here. I don't know what sort of coverage Raut got there. But for once, it was actually, way to go, India!

15 March 2005


Last weekend (Sat afternoon, to be precise), we went off to do some PYO (Pick Your Own). For the Indians here at least, PYO makes a lot of sense.

Instead of buying green chillies and eggplant (as brinjal is called here) at exorbitant rates, it makes good sense (and fun) to drive for an hour-and-a-half to a farm, swelter in the sun and pick your own. Nah, not really, but the novelty is what makes it good, plus the satisfaction of picking really fresh veggies. Basically, a different kind of time out.

So we did do it. Us and another friend's family. T'was the first time that Nandita and Shiv had come.

We went beserk as soon as we sighted the eggplants. Already, the bigger ones had been snared by the early Indian birds and we salvaged the medium-sized ones with great gusto. The people who came in on Sunday would have had to go back with no eggplants at all. I must've picked about 14 kg, as I picked for a couple of friends as well. Got my hand pricked well and truly by the thorns on the eggplant stems.

Nandana had a great time picking tomatoes and strawberries. She then wandered off to pick some red onions and garlic, just to see what it was like to pull them up from under the ground. I picked capsicum and then we both settled in to pick chillies.

As usual, I went overboard. They were so many differnt kinds. So, we picked some jalapeno chillies and then some Mexican ones (they are the bajji milagai that we get back home). Then I picked some super chillies, which are really, really hot.

Then, the main chilli picking. Cayenne chillies, which are our usual everyday cooking chillies. Nandana and I picked and picked. And while my back groaned, my head started pounding too. Still, we gamely picked, while Shiv and the others started taking the buckets of picked produce to the farm entrance to be weighed.

Finally, we had about 2 kilos of chillies, so decided enough was enough. I marvelled at an elderly Indian man picking next to me. He had picked twice as much, and all of them neat and clean without stalks or leaves (the stalks make up 5 to 10 % of the produce weight).

My next worry, where do I find the space in my fridge to put all this stuff?

Another thought _ would have been easier to just get all the stuff send to me from Auckland, where it isn't all that expensive.

Still, I wouldn't have given up that fun for everything. Plus the pleasure of cooking and eating really fresh veggies _ ummm, those eggplants were heavenly.


And I have cleaned and frozen most of the chillies, to be used over the next few months.

Nothing beats the thrill of PYO, not even my sore back!

All the way up the North Island (and down)

That's basically what we did.

Travelled by road all the way from the southernmost tip of hte North Island (Wellington) upto the northernmost (well, almost, as Auckland is right there on top).

Beginning Thursday (March3), we covered one tourist spot daily and by Monday, had the whole thing pretty well sassed up.

Thursday, travelled all the way to Taupo (five-and-a-half hour drive). Saw all the main volcanoes (Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu) and the not so big ones too. Then, that evening, drove off to Craters of the Moon, Huka Falls and then had a lovely walk by the lake.

Craters of the Moon was awesome. It is a valley surrounded by lush greenery, in which smoke steams out of vents and holes in the ground, from the thermally active Wairekei area. Incredible.

Huka Falls, yawn, anyways, been there, seen that. Lake walk, pleasant, but not too much so , as we were really hungry by then (in spite of that fact that we had been junking on fast food practically all the time, as you do when you are on holiday).

Next morn, off to Rotorua, home to a thousand gushing geysers, boiling mudpools, sulphurous smells and the Maori. Went into the Whakarewarewa thermal park, which also had a bit about Maori art and culture. Plus, I hadn't been there the last time I was in Rotorua. But this time around, the smell of sulphur wasn't so strong. Nor were there too many sudden small eruptions under our feet.

Did the animal park of Rainbow Springs and then ended up at the Polynesian Spa. Spent more than an hour in the mineral spa. Sheer bliss!

The next morn, went off to the bus station to get the bus to Auckland, travelling via Waitomo. Had one of our bags stolen. Thieves lurk in the most unlikeliest of places, apparently. Periamma said she had had two of her bags stolen when in Switzerland.

After 3 hours, were in the glowworm caves at Waitomo, magical really. We first went in to the stalagtite and stalagmite caves, before going by boat into the actual glow worm caves. Although the lesson in biology sounded yucky, the actual sighting of the glowworms was nothing short of magical.

Then, a nice lunch at a wayside restaurant and then off to Akl, while watching the movie `Armageddon'. Reached the Akl Sky Tower (tallest tower in the southern hemisphere and one of the tallest in the world). You can bungee jump from the top, but I wasn't tempted.

Then, stayed the night at my cousin's place, put P'ma and P'pa on the plane to India on Sunday.

Sunday afternoon, one of the highlights was an unlimited south Indian meal of pongal, idli, dosai, vadai, chutney, sambar etc at Saffron. As we don't have any hotels serving S.Indian food in Wgn, this was a real treat for us. That too at $10 ea.

Then, went ferrying to Rangitoto island, a hour-an-hour ride from Akl harbour. Rangitoto is the youngest of Akl's 50 volcanoes (most Akl suburbs are sitting on volcanoes called Mt Eden, Mt Roskill, One Tree Hill, etc). And we actually climbed right to the top of this mountain. One-and-half hours of sheer and demanding physical labour. Even the kids (Nandita and Sourish) did 75 percent. Fantastic. And the view from the top was to die for. The way my heart was pounding after that climb, I thought it would actually come to that!!!

Left Akl after Monday lunch and was back home by Monday eve. Real hectic and brilliant trip. Enjoyed by all of us.

14 March 2005


Awoke this morn at about 4 a.m, and draped the duvet over baby, who was freezing outside it. Went back to bed, when it went rock, rock ............fairly strong rocking, and while I was summoning up the energy to pick up baby and run under the doorway, it stopped. Idly, I thought this must be close to 6 Richter as the movement was more than last time.

TV said it was 6.4 Richter. Right, fairly big one, still not much damage. This turning out to be a very active year, seismically. Chk out:

Have to complete my post on trip up North. And a few other things. Meanwhile, that's it for Monday morning blues.

1 March 2005

Autumn is here!

It was a glorious but very brief summer. When it was hot, it was killingly so, with dangerouly high UV radiation levels and the temperature touching 30C in the Hutt. This being the equivalent of about 40 C in Chennai, it was extremely uncomfortable. But that's long gone now.

There were a few perfect days in-between though and we did enjoy them, doing all the walking and sight-seeing then.

Today's the first day of autumn. In three weeks' time, we end daylight saving. It will really seem like winter then, as it gets dark by 6.30 - 7 pm.

Never mind, Autrmn has started with a bang. Off to Auckland tomorrow via Taupo, Rotorua and Waitomo.

There's a huge lake in Taupo _ one of the largest inland lakes in the world. Its the size of Singapore and was created by the largest volcanic explosion in history.

Then, we'll do all the boiling mudpools, volcanoes, geysers and Maori art and culture in Rotorua.

Waitomo has glow worm caves. We'll go boating into the caves. At least, that is my expectation.

From there, upto to Auckland. Will see the Sky Tower there (tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere) and then will farewell Periamma and Periappa, as they leave for India from Akl.

We'll be back after spending a day with cousins there.


Gets nicer still. Trip to Aussie for Easter (March 25). Melbourne and maybe Sydney, and will do all the touristy things there too!

Will probably be the most evenful autumn I have had in NZ. Back on Monday from Akl.