Note to readers: travel hiatus

March 13, 2017 • 12:30 pm

I’ll be in New Zealand for a month starting Wednesday, but as of tomorrow (Tuesday), posting will start becoming lighter.  As I’ll be traveling a lot, and am not yet sure where I’ll be at what time, I’m not certain how often I can post updates on my travels. What I can say is that I’ll try. For sure I will be on both North and South Islands, and in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson, and Queenstown, as well as in smaller towns that non-Kiwis won’t recognize.

Grania will be putting up the Hili dialogues during that time, for which I’m grateful.  We haven’t missed a day of these since they started. Caturday Felids and Readers’ Wildlife posts may be sparse, as will general posting.

I ask you to bear with me until I return, and to refrain from emailing me more than once every ten days or so, as my access to email will be sporadic. The one exception are New Zealanders who might want to say “hi” on my travels. To those who have offered to meet me or host me, many thanks, and I hope to see as many of you as I can.

Also, don’t unsubscribe, thinking that the site is dead, for we’re inching up on 50, 000 subscribers, which is a Big Dream of mine. (In fact, subscribe now.)

And I promise to post, with photos, as often as I can. There are fantastic landscapes, keas, kiwis, pavlovas, lamb, and all kinds of friendly people, comestibles, and animals—not to mention wine. These I will photograph. Sadly, I will almost certainly miss seeing the one animals I want to see: the kakapo—the world’s only flightless parrot. They are sequestered on an island for their own protection from predators, and they do not allow visitors.

Until then,  E noho rā!

A kakapo (which I will not see)

61 thoughts on “Note to readers: travel hiatus

  1. My reader (feedly)says there are 5K other followers. So in a way you already have more than 50K subscribers! Congrats, have a nice trip and thanks so much for this blog.

  2. Readers, if you haven’t seen the YouTube BBC clip below of a kakapo please do. It ends hilariously. (So Jerry will be safe.) Copy this in.

    Kakapo – Last Chance to See, Stephen Fry

  3. Kakapo are occasionally on exhibit at the Auckland Zoo (usually sick birds being treated and the like), and there’s also a traveling ambassador kakapo named Sirocco, who is occasionally sent on tour. So, you might want to check with the Auckland Zoo.

      1. As a world famous biologist, can you not pull some strings to visit Codfish Island? I understand they permit researchers and conservation workers. You should qualify. You are not just any lookiloo tourist.

  4. Bon voyage!

    With luck, I’ll have email working again before you get back. If so, you’ll get at least one email from me saying as much. Whether or not you get an additional two…will depend on circumstances….



  5. Totally off-topic…just had a couple pleasant middle-aged ladies come to my door to sell me Jehovah — first time in quite a while.

    I kept pressing them for why they believed that the Bible is reliable, that Jehovah is real, etc., etc., etc. — all while giving them examples of why I’m confident in the things I’m confident about.

    So…even as I dropped pebbles, pointed out that you can see air (compare the sky with near hills and distant mountains), feel infrared solar radiation, even observe the CMB using the equipment the guy with all the amateur radio antennas sticking up from his house a couple blocks over must have…

    …all they would do is repeat that they believed such-and-such, without giving any reason for their belief.

    I’m sure I didn’t dent their faith, but I’m hoping I might have scuffed the paint job a bit.



    1. When I was at University, I had a lecturer who had dropped out of priest training school. He told me he never got Jehovahs except for one time. He invited them in for a cup of tea and sat them down. As soon as the Bible was mentioned, he wheeled out (literally) a small bookcase with a Catholic Bible, commentaries by the Church Fathers, etc, and proceeded to show them that they had misunderstood. Apparently he enjoyed it more than they did, since they left abruptly and never came back.

      1. I doubt it…they seemed in a bit of an hurry to leave, especially after I encouraged them to independently verify scientific facts for themselves. Told them, for example, that, if they had the time and inclination, they could breed their own new species of fruit fly.

        But, if they do, that’s okay. As I wrote, they were pleasant people, and I wouldn’t mind guiding their science education.



    2. Might have had some effect on JW’s. They seem a bit more sincere to me than Mormons, who I suspect are really sent out on the missionary rounds mostly to reinforce their own belief.

      I sometimes see JW’s at the train station, with a little stall and a sign saying “Life can’t be just random chance.” I guess I should go over to them and agree that it’s also natural selection as well. Or say why I think they are over-emphasizing the importance of genetic drift.

      1. When my grandfather was staying with us, we had a visit from the JW’s. My grandfather was a Methodist / Presbyterian / Congregational lay preacher. They debated happily for an hour, and came back the next week, and the next for about 5 weeks. I don’t think anyone convinced anyone else, but a good time was had by all.


  6. It’s hard not to enjoy NZ. I was there 5 weeks and couldn’t get enough. Watch out for sheep on the road and other tourists getting used to driving on the worng side! Relax and enjoy the ride.

  7. You can still see kakapo in places like Fairy Springs.

    Also, don’t forget to try the cheese. I really like NZ cheese!

    1. Ah, and the wine. Marlborough (Blenheim area ) makes superb whites. Many great grower all over the North end, etc. Some vineyards are fine restaurants and B&Bs.

  8. Try to go to Nelson (S.Island) a delightful place where I have worked on several occasions.The Saturday market is a delight.
    A cousin was involved in a programme to help the kakapo when the population was down to seriously low levels. The numbers are up now but there are worries about genetic deterioration.

  9. The late Douglas Adams made a series of programmes about endangered animals for BBC Radio back in the late 1980s. The kakapo was the subject of one of these programmes, and Adams described its flightlessness in his own unique way:

    “Sadly, however, it seems that not only has the kakapo forgotten how to fly, but it has forgotten that it has forgotten how to fly. Apparently a seriously worried kakapo will sometimes run up a tree and jump out of it, whereupon it flies like a brick and lands in a graceless heap on the ground.”

  10. Bon voyage! Have a wonderful trip. Looking forward to all the pictures, especially of the noms…

  11. Have a great time ,see if you can visit Baldwin Street in Dunedin ,it is the world’s steepest residential street .

  12. Ah, I’m envious. I never seem to get enough of NZ and I’ve only been to the North Island. I hope you get a chance to visit the town of Rotorua. I’m looking forward to visiting the country more often after I move to Melbourne next month.

  13. I suppose “God speed” is not quite the right thing to say. Stay safe, anyway, and have a great time. We will be expecting lots of pictures, not least of noms and booze!

  14. Have a great time. I’m jealous, I haven’t been to the land of the long white cloud since I was a mere boy. So much to see there. Are you going underground rafting to see the glow worms Waitomo Caves? and you must try and photograph a tuatara, the only surviving member of the order Rhynchocephalia.

  15. “For sure I will be on both North and South Islands, and in Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson, and Queenstown.”

    What, all at once? Or just until someone reads your first post and collapses the wave function?



  16. I am looking forward to seeing photos of the trip and hearing about it when you can post the adventures.
    I am very grateful Grania will be continuing with the website while you are away.
    Bon Voyage….I’m jealous.

  17. If you go to Dunedin, the railway station is worthwhile seeing and on Stuart St which takes you from the city centre to the station there is an English style pub with hand pumped ales at proper cellar temperature.
    In Queenstown there is fergburger which usually has a very long line but the burgers are worth the wait. I always have a sweet Bambi which is venison. I found that vensison pies and burgers are nice but not venison steaks.
    Hopefully you don’t get any earthquakes in Christchurch. When I last visited a few years ago, it was around a year or two after the major quake had hit which damages a lot of e city along with some casualties. I was sitting outside a pub having a lovely pint of ale when the ground started to shake. People started to freak out and shout and people were running out the door of the pub and others outside were telling them to stay in. I found out later that that was because during the major quake, a lot of people that died had run out of a building and were hit by falling debris. If they had stayed inside they would have been ok. After the shaking stopped we all trotted to the other side of the road which had a high, sturdy sandstone fence running alongside it. Soon after an aftershock hit which caused tbis wall to shake violently from side to side and so fearful of it falling on us we had to stand in he middle of the road. This was all th day before I was flying back to Sydney and all that afternoon and night there were many aftershocks and I was worried my flight wouldn’t go but luckily it was ok.

    1. I’ve been in Chch for three weeks now and there hasn’t been one little twicth of an aftershock (which were happening daily last time I was here).

      On the other hand, State Highway 1 between Kaikoura and Blenheim (north of here) and the rail line are still closed from landslides along the coast during the Kaikoura swarm of earthquakes, and will be for many months yet.

      When in Christchurch, Jerry could well ask to be driven through the Red Zone alongisde the river between the city and New Brighton. It’s now just like a giant park with occasional roads running through it, otherwise all grass and trees. The curiosity is that it was all built-up leafy suburbs, after the earthquake the whole area was condemned as unsuitable for building (since the shaking caused liquefaction and settlement of the ground, twisting all the houses). For a while it looked just like a midwest ghost town, with empty (but not visibly wrecked) houses and weeds growing in the streets. Now the houses have now all been removed, just leaving all the trees and shrubs that were in the gardens. It feels bizarre for anyone who knew it from a few years ago.

      The other thing that always surprises me is just how many trees there are. When it was a suburb, most of the vegetation was overshadowed or obscured by intervening houses. Now the house have disappeared there is nothing to hide the trees.


      1. P.S. The Tranz Alpine train from Christchurch across Arthurs Pass to Greymouth and back starts running again on March 22nd. (It was suspended for 6 ? weeks following a huge scrub fire in the mountains between Springfield and Cass, which severely damaged a bridge. Nature is NOT being kind to South Island). It’s quite scenic and well worth the trip.


        1. Yes, such a beautiful place and so many natural disasters.
          The New Zealanders certainly are a friendly bunch for all their troubles.
          I was surprised though that hardly anyone I spoke to has that strong accent we Aussies like to impersonate. The fush and chups one.
          In addition to your recommendation for PCC I would add to if he can, get someone to drive him south from Queenstown. I’m not sure if it’s a lake or a river but it’s one of the most beautiful sights with the deep blue water in the foreground and snow capped mountains behind. I have driven it and had to struggle to keep my eyes on the road.
          That was a great trip, driving south from Queenstown to the bottom of the South Island and then crossed the bottom and drove north to Christchurch stopping at Dunedin along the way.
          Milford Sound is also worth visiting although it’s a little difficult to get to.
          There used to be an old sailing ship on the sound that you could spend the night on and it had kayaks you could use as well as fishing I think.
          I went there after my first time walking the Milford Track or I should say tramping which is thr NZ word for it. I’ve walked it twice now and would certainly like to do it again before my legs give out completely. I have always done the non guided where you carry all your stuff in and out but they have guided walks where your stuff is sent to the next hut (by helicopter I think).
          The first time I walked it there was a story of a young woman in the walk a day ahead that had bought new boots and hadn’t worn her in. Her feet got so bad she couldn’t carry her full backpack so people shared carrying some of her stuff between them. I bet she wasn’t too popular.
          One of the rangers told us that occassionally the walk becomes impossible to finish due to rivers flooding and everyone has to be airlifted out. If that happens you have to pay for airlift which I’m sure would not be cheap.
          All this reminiscing is making me want to go to NZ. I have Aussie friends that are spending 9 months over there and I am hoping to visit them in Queenstown for the ski season.

          1. South from Queenstown the road runs alongside Lake Wakatipu between the lake and the Remarkables (mountain range). The river outlet from the lake isn’t there, it runs east from just beside Queenstown itself, through the Kawarua Gorge.

            The Milford road is one I love to drive on, it starts off from Te Anau going through beech forests, then as you go over the saddle into the Hollyford Valley the scenery dramatically changes to alpine, the temperature drops (thanks to all the snowfields perched on top of the mountains around, kept topped up by the high West Coast precipitation), and the valley is a U-shaped glacial valley with sparse vegetation. Not sure how much snow would be left right at the end of summer, though.


          2. There used to be an old sailing ship on the sound that you could spend the night on and it had kayaks you could use as well as fishing I think.

            I did that trip in 2000 and can thoroughly recommend it, if it still runs. The accommodation was somewhat “bunkhouse”, and I embarrassed my wife by keeping everyone awake with my snoring, apparently. We did the kayak thing, and got bitten to death by sandflies (what I would call midges). I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

            And the Remarkables are well-named.

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  19. Damn Jerry, I am really envious of you. I’d tell you I hope you have a great time but I won’t bother because I’m sure you will.

    Perhaps you could try your hand at a travel book next? Or a television show? Something along the lines of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations but with your own Evolutionary twist.

  20. Very best wishes for your travels in N Z, Jerry. And good luck with TSA at LAX, if that’s your route! Give me Dubai or Changi any day.

    1. Ah, forgot about JAC’s traditional probs with TSA. Ceiling Cat willing this trip will be the exception, but if not I look forward to an entertaining post about their outrageousness. 😀

      Bon voyage, Jerry!

      1. He’ll be okay because he has TSA pre-clearance and the NZ end of things is a pleasure compared to in Canada & the US.

        1. “the NZ end of things is a pleasure compared to in Canada & the US.”

          ONLY when compared with the TSA. Filling in a lengthy detailed ‘Arrival Card’, waiting in long lines for Immigration and then long lines for Customs & Agriculture…
          Oz is as bad.

          The first time I flew to Paris (3 years ago) I had to fill in an Arrivals card for *transit* in Sydney. Well they gave them to everybody on the plane, I can’t recall that mine was ever collected. Blah.

          Finally arrived in Paris, I was heading towards the Immigration official when I realised with dismay that I’d never filled in my Arrivals card. So I thought back carefully and nobody had given me one. This is because – they don’t bother with them! So he stamped my passport, I collected my bag, wandered past three or four guys wearing Douane jackets through the door into the Customs hall… no, wait, what? This was the airport concourse. Customs? – I’d just been through it! Total time taken about 10 minutes, most of which was waiting for my bag.

          As for travelling across the borders to Italy and Switzerland – it’s Schengen. I love the sight of closed and disused Customs buildings.

          Seriously, there’s more bureaucracy involved in catching Eurostar through the tunnel to London than there is arriving on an international flight in Paris.

          Not to mention that public transport here (and that includes ways of getting to the airport) is, if not completely borked, then seriously crippled. And taxis are ridiculous prices.


          1. I just travelled back into Canada from Las Vegas & the line was terrible for customs. I think it always is when you’re returning. Long long lines, followed by scanning your passport at the computer terminal after you filled in the paper while coming in on your flight. Then another guy you talk to then another guy who takes your card.

            1. I wonder why all this is necessary in NZ, Oz, US, Canada and Britain when it isn’t necessary in France? Could it be that the EU isn’t as bureaucratic as we’ve been led to believe?

              (I’ll let y’all know what Russian customs are like in a couple of months time. Probably.)


              1. It’s probably because the EU isn’t collecting tax and duties on other EU members where Canada and the US does. You are allowed so much that you can bring back duty free depending how long your stay is in the US.

  21. Don’t know if this fits your schedule/interests, but I just read an article on Peter Jackson’s Great War Museum in Wellington. The photos there are in color, not the typical B&W, because as Jackson points out, the soldiers saw the war in color. Sounds worth a visit.

    1. ? 😉

      Not that I follow any variant of rugby at all, but as I understand it, in NZ, ‘League’ != ‘Rugby’.

      It’s very much a minority variant, though IMO less boring because they don’t seem to stop for shoving matches* all the time.

      * called ‘scrums’, I think


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