Friday, 28 February 2014

FSO - Stained glass

There must be some stained glass somewhere in town but every time I tried to think where I might find some, I came up blank.   But I do have heaps in my archives.  They aren't big and  grand, most of them are quite simple and suit perfectly the simple little wooden churches they adorn.  They aren't literally in my town but all are in Northland, the province in which I live. 

I think the Anglican Church at Awanui is the northern most church I have photographed.  Come to think of it, there must be some in the tiny settlements further north, I must go north again and see if I can find them.  I'm going north next week but maybe not that far. 

 Anglican Church, Awanui

In some of the small rural churches in the north, there is a lovely mix of Maori and European influences.   St Peters, Punguru is, I think, the best example of this.

I love the blues and greens in this church window at Rangi Point.  It reflects perfectly the colours of its environment, sitting as it does right on the banks of the Hokianga Harbour.

And finally, the lovely little window of the smallest church in New Zealand near Te Kopuru.

That was a neat topic.  I'm looking forward to having a look at the submissions from the rest of the FSO group here.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

He waits

When Bernie was a little feller I must have spent a lot of time waiting for him to catch up.  He did have short legs but that wasn't the main problem.  He was always looking around, taking things in.  Taking him to places like the zoo was a nightmare because he would stop to look at something, completely forgetting to keep his family in sight.  He was like that still when we had a day at the zoo with his sister and nephew, when he was in  his 20s and it was much harder checking that he hadn't strayed from the group than it was looking after 3 year old Michael.

We did a complete role reversal when he showed me around his world in Brasil.  He spent a lot of time waiting for me and my old legs to catch up.  It was up to him not to lose me and to keep me safe.  

Bernie commented on my post about the Iguacu Falls that there are some places where all you can do is stop thinking, open up and try to let it all in.  That applies equally to my holiday and the many wonderful sights we saw.  I took in as much as I could, I hope I don't forget a minute of it. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Moments with children

I wonder why it is so difficult to communicate with adults if you don't speak the same language, yet so easy to have fun with children regardless of the language barrier. 

One day when Bernie and I were out and about in Foz do Iguacu, we spotted a nice looking restaurant with tables under huge trees and live music, jumped off the bus at the next stop, walked back and found ourselves a table.  At the next table was what looked like two generations of a family.  The father/son was diagonally opposite to me, a big fellow, very handsome, wearing a pale blue shirt declaring he was from Argentina. A little boy sat beside him.

A little girl wandered by, looked at the little boy, walked past and sat on the top of the steps up from the street.  The man and I noticed the look and smiled at each other when the little boy got up and followed her to the steps and sat down close beside her.  Their backs were to us but they looked so cute, their little heads close together.   A few minutes later the girl walked away and the little boy returned, crying, to the family. 

Not long after there was a repeat performance.  The girl sashayed by, the boy followed, it looked like he was rebuffed and he resorted to tears. 

Then she came back again!  It was too much for the little boy.  This time he took another direction as he headed towards the girl and picked up a stone out of the garden and had it raised and aimed before his father reached him.  I probably shouldn't have laughed out loud.  Father was very cross with son and the family left shortly after. 

They'd been gone a while when I turned and saw the little girl standing beside me, smiling playfully at me.  She indicated she had a toy and held it up for me to see.  I realized then the boy had wanted her toy and she wanted to be friends but wasn't going to part with it.  I reached out to touch it and saw that it was a toy camera.  She lifted it to her eye, popped her head around the side and indicated I should pose for a picture.  

I wasn't going to miss that opportunity.  I posed for her, reached for my camera and indicated that she should pose for me.  And, bless her heart, she did a personality change, dropped her head and smiled up at me in the sweetest, most innocent fashion.  I bet she even knew that that was her good side.

On my way back home, on the flight from Montevideo, Uruguay to Santiago, Chile I had a window seat for the flight over the Andes and beside me was another little dark haired, dark eyed beauty with her mother on the other side of her.  Her father and brother were on the other side of the aisle.  The little girl invited me to play naughts and crosses with her and then what we call hangman.  She beat me soundly, of course, I had no idea what words she chose.  She mother kept telling her to leave me along and I kept telling her it was fine, I was happy.  You don't need words for conversations like that. 

When they announced we were about to fly over the Andes I asked the little girl if she'd like to swap seats with me and her mother said OK.  We managed this without words.  I'd loved going over the Andes on my flight to Brasil but this was even better.  I could see clearly over the little one's head and she became so excited she put her little hand over mine and squeezed it every time she turned to look at me to see if I was loving what we were seeing as much as she was.  Her dark brown/black eyes were dancing with delight, perfectly delightful to see.  

The little one kept leaning around me and asking her mother something.  Eventually her mother asked a stewardess to interpret for her.  She wanted to know where I came from and where was my "father".  Nova Zealandia meant nothing to her but her mother explained it was a long way away. 

There wasn't time for her to change back to the seat beside her mother before we landed in Santiago and it was obvious she was a little scared as we descended.  At first her little hands went into a yoga tall man to thumb pose, and she said, "umm".   I joined in and her mother looked away a bit embarrassed.  But her fear became too much and her little hand crept into mine and held tight.  In South America they clap when a plane lands, like a well done and thank you to the pilot.  We joined in the clapping and her beautiful eyes were once again dancing. 

When I was waiting for my bags after we left the plane, I was nearly bowled over by a little pair of arms around my legs.  I kissed the top of her head, and then she was gone.  

I wonder how long she will remember me and her flight over the Andes!  I know I won't forget her.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The falls

I've started this post at least ten times and each time delete in exasperation at my inability to find adequate words to describe my experience of the Iguacu Falls.  

I know the only time I can remember when I've had a similar feeling was snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef in 1973.  That was the only other time I've been totally overcome by the beauty of nature.  At least with my head under water I didn't feel the need to find a word to describe my feelings.  Here I came out with "Amazeballs"; my grand-daughter Jami would have been amused.  I wanted to roll all the descriptive words I know into one, and it still wouldn't be enough.  Magnificent and glorious are the only two words I can think of that come close.. 

There are 275 independent falls over 2.7 km (1.67 miles). Many small islands along the 2.7 kilometre long (1.7 miles) edge divide the falls into numerous separate waterfalls and cataracts, varying between 60 to 82 metres (197 to 269 ft) high. The number of these smaller waterfalls fluctuates from 150 to 300, depending on the water level.   At one spot, visitors can be surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. 

The Devil's Throat, Garganta del Diablo, which is the U-shaped start of the falls was perhaps the most impressive part.   It's a long and narrow chasm, the highest point of the falls, measuring 82 m high ( 269 feet), 150 m (492.1 feet) wide and 700 m (2,296 feet) long.

Legend has it that a god planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In rage, the god sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall.

I felt that every individual fall was, by itself, just beautiful.  I like waterfalls. 

I don't usually enjoy being with crowds of people but I barely noticed the crowds around me.  I was acutely aware that I was sharing this experience with my son, but the rest of the people might as well not been there for all the notice I took of them.  I snapped out of it a bit when on the walkway and noticed some people were wearing raincoats.  I often don't understand other people but this time I was really puzzled by why anyone would not want to dull the experience by not feeling the mist from the falls on their face, in their hair, on their bodies.  It was wonderful to be so close to that majesty and to feel, even in a very small way, a part of it.  A good drenching never hurt anyone on a hot summer's day.  It was refreshing and I thought I'd need a lot of refreshing before climbing all the way back up again.  I didn't need to, mercy of mercies, there was an elevator.

We returned two days later for my birthday treat, a boat ride under the falls.  See that boat down there?  I'm not in it but was on 27th. 

What a special way to celebrate a birthday!

Thank you, Bernie, for bringing this dream place to life for me.  We made so many memories. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

FSO Eating and drinking

A paragraph or two with photos featuring your favourite cafe, coffee shop or restaurant and that tells us why it appeals to you?
I went to town on Wednesday armed with my camera.  I had a plan for where I would go for lunch, even what I would order and take pics.  Yes, well!  Time has taken on a whole different meaning now that I'm retired.  I popped in to where I used to work for a catch up and talked for hours, then had another long chat with a friend who also has a son living in Brazil.  In the hardware store I ran into another lady I haven't seen in years and we trotted off to the store cafe for lunch together.  No, that's not my favourite cafe but I did remember to take a photo. 

Revas featured in my post last week, too.  It's definitely top of the pops to me when it comes to eating out.  It's been something of an institution in Whangarei since 1976, I remember I tasted my first ever pizza from that first little 'Pizza Parlour'.  Twelve years later it was still going strong, moved and became a licensed restaurant near the waterfront. Up until then eating out meant dressing up, going someplace where you didn't feel comfortable, coping with pretentious waiters and paying through the nose for the privilege. 

Whangarei developed the Town Basin in the early 90s and in 1995 Revas were invited to open the town's first waterfront restaurant in the new development.   The new Revas had an open fireplace, generous seating inside and outside, and views to live for.  Despite being much larger than their previous premises, it retains the laidback charm and intimacy of the earlier restaurants, including local art on its walls.  

Lovely as it is inside, I always prefer to sit outside, along the verandah looking out at the boats moored in the marina, watching the occasional traffic on the water. 

Fi, from Four Paws and Whiskers  commented last week that she always thinks of Rivas as the place the french traitors ate before the Rainbow Warrior bombing (in 1985).  Before moving to Auckland to carry out their deadly mission, French agents off the yacht, Ouvea, visited Reva‘s and signed her guest book. Two weeks later, the Rainbow Warrior lay sunk in Auckland Harbour, victim of the explosives brought into NZ aboard the yacht. The agents’ moment of carelessness turned out to be a crucial piece of evidence in the subsequent investigation and charges being laid against them.

It will be interesting to see where other FSO contributors like to eat and drink.  They will be here.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

The dam, the birds

I know what I’m going here, I’m putting off a post about Iguacu Falls.  And I know why.  I know, no matter how hard I think about it I won’t be able to come up with words to do them justice. So today we’re skirting around the falls, visiting other places in the area.

Opposite the end of the road into our hostel is Parque das Aves, a bird park set amongst over 40 acres of forest.  There are over 500 birds from 150 species, both indigenous and from other continents and, in most cases, visitors can be in contact with them without restriction of netting and cages.   Some of them did appear to be actually posing for the cameras.  I was thrilled by the exotic colours of birds I’ve only ever seen in pictures.

I really like this park, the paths are well maintained, everything in the surroundings feels natural.  And a big plus, it has water stations scattered around where we could top up our water bottles.   Why other tourist attractions don’t provide them is beyond me.  I guess they want your tourist dollar.   


Our day out to visit Itaipu was shared with James and Kelly from Sydney who were on the last leg of their 3 month long honeymoon in South America.  Couldn’t have asked for better company.

Something went wrong with our booking and we couldn’t do the tour of the inside of the dam but we were able to do the external bus tour and watch the video show.  Unfortunately, the commentary on the video was in Portuguese with Spanish sub titles so wasn’t much help to me.

This was what I call a bloke’s tourist attraction, it seems to me that men appreciate facts and figures more than I do although I couldn’t help but appreciate the magnitude of the operation.  Itaipú is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, according to a worldwide survey conducted by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

It's a joint venture between Brasil and Paraguay and stands on the border of the two countries.

The total length of the dam is 7235 m. The crest elevation is 225 m.
The spillway has a length of 483 m.
The dam is 196 metres high, equivalent to a 65-story building.

 For the construction, the course of the seventh biggest river in the world was shifted, as were 50 million tons of earth and rock.
The amount of concrete used to build the Itaipu Power Plant would be enough to build 210 football stadiums the size of the Estadio do Maracana.  

The iron and steel used would allow for the construction of 380 Eiffel Towers.
The volume of excavation of earth and rock in Itaipu is 8.5 times greater than that of the Channel Tunnel and the volume of concrete is 15 times greater.
Around forty thousand people worked in the construction.

 And what they didn’t tell us:
When construction of the dam began, approximately 10,000 families living beside the Paraná River were displaced.
The world's largest waterfall by volume, the Guaira Falls, was drowned by the newly formed Itaipu reservoir. The Brazilian government liquidated the Guaíra Falls National Park, and dynamited the submerged rock face where the falls had been, facilitating safer navigation, thus eliminating the possibility of restoring the falls in the future. A few months before the reservoir was filled, 80 people died when an overcrowded bridge overlooking the falls collapsed, as tourists sought a last glimpse of the falls.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls, Iguassu Falls or Iguaçu Falls?  On one side of the falls the Brazilians call them Cataratas do Iguaçu, on the other side the Argentenians call them Cataratas del Iguazú.  I had decided to adopt the Brazilian way when I discovered we would be staying in Foz do Iguacu, then we arrived at our accommodation, Iguassu Eco Hostel.  Hell, if even the locals are confused, what hope do I have?

Ginger, a former resident of Brasil, commented on my blog today how she loved the people, their warmth, friendliness, eagerness to please.  I'm so thankful that a 5 day stay at the Eco Hostel, gave me the opportunity to get to know some of the local staff quite well.  Bernie enlisted the help of Fatima, our dinner waitress, to procure a birthday cake for me.  She went out of her way to oblige. She was so unassuming with a gentle manner and soft smile, the best thing about dinner each night.  (The food was mediocre at best.) 

I felt a bond with little Elizabet, the maid and breakfast assistant.  She didn't speak English and knew I didn't speak Portuguese but that didn't stop her from trying to chat.  Sometimes we even managed to understand each other!  Other times I'd wave a hand in the direction of our room and say "Filho" (son) and wait for Bernie to interpret for us. 

The day we went to Itaipu Dam I hung clothes on the outside clothesline.  It rained while we were away, I expected to have to put the clothes through another spin cycle but a good fairy had moved them from the outside line to a line under cover.  The clothes were still wet when I went to bed, so I left them there.  When I went to move them again in the morning before breakfast, they were already back on the line in the morning sunshine.  I asked at Reception who the good fairy might be but the dopey receptionist was on duty (he was the only staff member that wasn't consistently helpful).  I checked again later in the day and got an answer.  It had been Elizabet.  I really wanted to thank her myself and not rely on Bernie so I translated a message on the tablet.  That didn't work, (Bernie discovered later she was from Uruguay) but I think she eventually got the message.  

The morning after my birthday Elizabet kept asking me the same thing over and over.  I knew she was asking how something and thought it was how many but figured she couldn't possibly be asking how old I was.  I mean, a waitress would never do that here and I have no idea if that is acceptable in her culture.   This time it was her who indicated she would wait for Bernie to interpret.  Yes, that's what she wanted to know - how old I was.  I didn't notice her chatting to other guests as she did with Bernie, he does have a way with people.  He found out she has never been to the falls that morning and we were leaving later that day.  Otherwise I think he would have found a way to take her there.  He has kind heart.

When Bernie had made the booking for us he had another hostel in mind but I think he stumbled upon a real gem of a place when he booked us into the Eco Hostel.

They told us it was a five minute walk to the falls entrance and I thought yeah right, how long for someone my age?  It was 500 metres down a dirt road from the main road then a few metres to the park entrance and even I could do that in five minutes.  So close yet a world apart.  Its inside the national park, surrounded by jungle-like forest and feels remote and private. 

The grounds are tranquil, peaceful, lovely to wander around in the evening when the birds noisily swooped down into the huge trees.  It was great to relax beside the pool as the daylight faded and listen to the night animals kick off.  And, oh boy, whatever they were, they made a racket.  After dark little fireflies dance around in the darkness outside the restaurant.  That's the simple outdoor restaurant in the background of the shot below.

Loved this place and loved its people.  I will long remember the kindness of Elizabet and Fatima.  
He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!

Monday, 17 February 2014


I had to go to Brasil to hear the earth sing.  I think it was singing, it could have been moaning.

We were sitting in a quiet, round glass building, the Sonic Pavillion,  high on a hill surrounded by eucalyptus and palms and that constant blue sky.   In the middle of the room was a small glass dome over a 633ft hole into the ground, fitted with ultra-sensitive microphones, so visitors can listen to the grinding sighs of the planet.  At first it sounded like a low, growling rumble, something like distant, rolling thunder.  When it cranked up the sound was more high pitched but still with that gravelly pitch.   It was quite spine tingling.  It’s not every day you get to hear the earth sing.

Sonic Pavilion is just one of more than 500 art works at Inhotim, which is a contemporary art complex sitting within a 5,000 acre botanical garden, featuring more than 1,400 species of palms alone. It's a place of enormous calm and beauty; a successful commercial venture of Bernardo Paz, a Brazilian mining magnate.

There are two dozen purpose built art “pavilions”, connected by well maintained paths edged by a tropical profusion of trees, pools and lush gardens.  A fleet of electric golf carts transport visitors between installations.   I loved being a senior citizen in Brasil, I was given priority at every cart stop.  The drivers were courteous and keen to be helpful, obviously happy in their work.  There are 1,000 employees, I wonder if they are all so happy, somehow I imagine they are. 

Another installation that captivated me was the Forty Part Motet, in a white room with 40 black speakers raised to eye-level on slim black stands. The artists recorded the individual voices of 40 members of the Salisbury Cathedral choir singing Thomas Tallis's Spem in Alium, a tribute to the first Queen Elizabeth. Each speaker projected just one voice. It was wonderful to sit in the middle of the circle and listen to the full majesty of the choir but even more enthralling to move from speaker to speaker listening to each individual, intimate  voice. 

Below are a few more shots from around the park.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A noisy little visitor ...

His/her name is Kiri.   Georgia says he's a boy with a high pitched voice.  She found him yesterday afternoon out in the bare paddock where the cows have recently finished eating out the turnip crop.   We quickly dismissed it being one of the more common birds we see around the place.  We googled and googled but couldn't come up with an answer to what it was.  Finally I remembered Mr Robert Webb, the Whangarei bird man and eventually found the website for the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre.

I sent off an email with a couple of photos and about an hour later, had a response from Mr Webb  and instructions on how and what to feed it.  Kiri is a skylark.  We hadn't thought of skylarks. I thought it was a hawk, couldn't have been much further off the mark, could I?   It has surprisingly long legs and long talons.  And noisy!  It cheeps constantly, the only time it has been quiet was when we carried it out into the paddock this morning hoping to see a Parent Skylark or that the baby's calls would attract one.  It didn't make a peep.  So does that mean it's happy when it's quiet and that it is desperately unhappy in our care - or the opposite? 

It's been keeping Georgia and me entertained for hours.  It's such a tiny, fluffy little thing, weighs 17 grams (about 5 ounces) and is just 7 cm (a little over 2.5 inches) long.   That makes it about half grown.   We learnt they leave the nest at 10 days old, but don't fly till 20 days.  I figure the cows disturbed its nest and it couldn't find its way back home.  


We've managed to give it a little food and it seemed really happy when we had it out hopping around the sitting room.  But what the hell do I know about baby birds? 

Friday, 14 February 2014

FSO What I love about where I live

So what do I really love about my town?  My town or where I live?  I'm going to concentrate on town today.

Whangarei is the northernmost city in New Zealand. The city population is around 70,000, big enough to provide all the services but not too big.    

We who live in the north make a lot of our laidback lifestyle, the subtropical climate (more than 2,000 hours of sunshine a year) and very few frosts.  No snow here, thank you very much.  I'd have to find somewhere else to live if it snowed, I don't do cold very well.  

I live on a farm, about a 35 minutes drive to town.   I'm happier at home on the farm than I am in town.  My favourite place in town is the Town Basin, a marina very close to the heart of the city, where yachts from around the world moor and explore the stunning coastline of Northland.  

 It's a great place for a coffee at my favourite restaurant, Rivas and look out at the boats.

 Rivas from the other side of the marina

or a look around the speciality shops where modern landscaping blends perfectly with colonial architecture

I like to take a stroll along the riverside from the Artisan's Market, situated on one of the two old bridges that previously took traffic out to Whangarei Heads.

along the walkway past the childrens playground, perhaps call in at the art gallery, Reyburn House.

 Sculpture outside Reyburn House

Past the intimate Riverbank Theatre:

and a number of interesting sculptures.  I like these bird seats.

 until the walkway ends where the river joins a small stream, at the waka (canoe)

Friday My Town Shoot Out is a group blog kept going by wonderful volunteers who love the idea of sharing our home towns and visiting other places through images. We welcome you to participate in our weekly link-ups and/or get more involved as one of our volunteers.  Check out this week's contributions here.