Tag Archives: New Zealand

Top 10 awesome landmarks of New Zealand.

New Zealand.

A nation of unspoilt panoramic scenery, ancient cultures, rugby, hobbits and bored but ingenious nutters.

New Zealand is in the middle of nowhere. Nobody knows where we are, nobody cares where we are, we are a complete global insignificance and that’s the way we like it. One side effect of being in the middle of nowhere, being diligently ignored by everyone, is time. Time to quietly sit in your shed through the long winter nights and think. Very occasionally inspiration will strike! From the midwinter gloom a voice will bellow out in the night, echoing from the dimly lit shed out across the misty fields “I’ve got it! What this town needs is a really massive ………………”.

New Zealand has a bewildering number of ridiculous landmarks. Every tiny town seems to have one. Every council wants the biggest/smallest/tallest/widest something in the World/Southern hemisphere/Australasia/this far South of Turangi.

We (HandMadeMummy and NerdDad) will start our top 10 countdown with some honourable mentions. We wouldn’t want to leave anybody out, and someone unstable enough to spend all their spare time making oversized fruit out of fibreglass probably shouldn’t be trifled with! (Boom! Boom!)

Tirau’s (tee-rao) corrugated iron sheep and sheepdog (the inspiration for this post, seen on a previous Top 10 post) are a visitor centre and gift shop. It is probably the only place you can walk up a sheep’s bum and buy a coffee. Although Tirau is fantastic with heaps of strange corrugated iron creations, including the eyeball, Top 10 has been there and done that so we didn’t include it.

Other honourable mentions go to Taupo’s fish, Rotorua’s Agrodome sheep and Te Anau Takahe, Waitomo Apple and the Geraldine Jumper.

But now onto the Top 10 (Dumroll Please)

NUMBER 10 – The Turangi (Too-rang-ee) Fisherman

Turangi Fisherman

Turangi Fisherman

Turangi is the self styled Trout fishing capital of the World. At the bottom of beautiful Lake Taupo and the entrance to the atmospheric volcanic central plateau it has a bit of tough time standing out so you can’t blame it for blowing its own trumpet. In order to remind people driving through the town just how good the fishing is here they erected a giant silhouette of a fisherman, I wonder how many people it has persuaded to stop and try their luck.

NUMBER 9 – Te Puke (Teh Poo-Kee) Kiwifruit

Handmade Mummy in the Kiwi Fruit

Handmade Mummy in the Kiwi Fruit

Te Puke is in the centre of kiwi fruit country and so it was fitting that some bright spark decided to open a kiwi fruit themed tourist attraction. You can take a tour of the kiwi fruit vines in the kiwi fruit shaped golf cart train, buy kiwi fruit themed products from the gift shop, eat kiwi fruit in the cafe and at the end of your visit you can climb the massive kiwi fruit slice that stands at the entrance. The slice must be at least 20m tall and has a staircase inside it so you can climb up and take in panoramic views of the….erm….kiwi fruit!

NUMBER 8 – Cromwell (Crom-well) Fruit

Handmade Mummy with the Cromwell Fruit

Handmade Mummy with the Cromwell Fruit

Cromwell sits in Otago wine making country, all around there are amazing wineries making some of the best Pinot Noir in the World. These wineries sit in some stunning countryside which you can more often than not take in from their restaurants whilst enjoying their amazing wine. However someone in Cromwell decided that this beautiful scenery and award winning wine wasn’t enough to attract people to the area, they needed something else. Giant fruit were the answer.

NUMBER 7 – The Gore Brown Trout

The Gore Trout welcomes you!

The Gore Trout welcomes you!

Gore. The name says it all. Buried in the depths of Southland Gore is a town that services the large rural community around it. It does however have a very handsome brown trout that has recently been repainted at great cost.

Nobody knows much about Gore really, that is we don’t know much about it because, unlike the other astounding constructions, we haven’t actually visited this one. We kept it in because we felt there was a place in the top 10 for a random mahoooosive fish.

NUMBER 6 – Te Kuiti (teh-kwitty) Sheep Shearer

The Te Kuiti Shearer

The Te Kuiti Shearer

Te Kuiti is the self-styled “sheep shearing capital of the world”. Like a wooly Pamplona, each year Te Kuiti runs sheep through the centre of town. The animal rights guys think it’s baaaaabaric but how can you object to such a ewemungous event? The highlight of the Te Kuiti year, if not the whole Southern Hemisphere year, is the New Zealand Shearing Championships. This statue commemorates this and serves as a monument to all the stubby and black wool singlet wearing men toiling in shearing sheds nationwide. He is reputed to be the world’s largest shearer at 6m high.

NUMBER 5 – Taihape (Tie-Happy) Gum Boot

The Taihape Gumboot

The Taihape Gumboot

Taihape is wet. Very Wet. Situated roughly in the middle of the North Island, South of the ski fields, it’s a small country town with country interests. Farming, hunting, fishing, the great outdoors …. all of which are miserable with a leaky gumboot. Gumbots are of paramount importance in Taihape, they even have an annual gumboot festival and a song about it. All hail the Taihaope Gumboot.

NUMBER 4 – Otorohanga (oh-Toe-Row-hong-a) Kiwi

The Otorohanga Kiwi

The Otorohanga Kiwi

OK, so a massive national icon isn’t that strange we suppose. This one however has a flag on his bum and had an all blacks jersey for the world cup. Otorohanga is the self styled Kiwiana town and has displays of Kiwi items all over the place, all six buildings, including a rather fetching Kiwiana walkway that has cabinets that tell you stories about New Zealand. Nobody listens to the stories they just press every button, play every story and tune simultaneously leaving the brain wrenching cacphony for the next unwitting tourist that passes by. Otorohanga is a fantastic little town, if you want to understand New Zelanad culture just take a wander around; you’ll learn more here about New Zealanders and how they think over lunch and a stroll than you will in five hours at a museum (oh and make sure you visit the Haddad’s shop, it’s a tourist attraction in its own rite).

NUMBER 3 – Paeroa (Pie-row-ah) L&P Bottle

Lemon & Paeroa

Lemon & Paeroa

L&P (Lemon & Paeroa) is New Zealand’s answer to Cocacola. It is “World Famous in New Zealand since ages ago” and a national treasure. Some ingenious Kiwi guys in the 1940s flavoured the local mineral water with lemon and an icon was born!

NUMBER 2 – Manaia (Man-eye-ah) Loaf

Nerd Dad and Handmade Mummy with the Manaia Loaf

Nerd Dad and Handmade Mummy with the Manaia Loaf

What do you do if you are a small town whose main employer is a bakery? You have a giant fibre glass loaf of bread made to welcome people to the town of course. They have been making bread in Manaia for over 100 years so it is a pretty important industry to the town. Unfortunately the giant bakery has gone into receivership so the loaf now stand as a reminder of times gone by and gives passing tourists a chance to add to their “photo with a crazy fibreglass sculpture” collection.

THE MAGNIFICENT NUMBER 1 – Ohakune (oh-ha-koo-knee) Carrot

Handmade Mummy gives the Ohakune carrot a cuddle!

Handmade Mummy gives the Ohakune carrot a cuddle!

To us the carrot is a glorious sight as it means fun on the snow is about to begin. Ohakune is a ski town being the gateway to the Turoa skifield on Mount Ruapehu (a live volcano, how rock and roll is that!). It is also in the middle of veggie growing country, hence the carrot. It was originally used in an ANZ Bank advertisement but was given to the town afterwards to recognise the fact that the majority of carrots grown in New Zealand come from here. The towns people were delighted and erected the carrot on the edge of town so everyone would know that Ohakune is built from carrots. It is a patriotic carrot too, turning black to support the All Blacks in the 2011 World Cup, I’m sure the team felt much happier knowing the carrot had their backs!

So that concludes our guest Top 10 for Russell’s blog. There is much more to see in New Zealand, come and visit us some time! As they say here it’s CHOICE!

Nerd Dad and Hand Made Mummy.

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Small Boy Fun

Following my recent post mentioning small boys liking ross things and bugs I had a fantastic small boy moment today thanks to The Wife. She noticed a Tree Weta just outside the front door – off I ran for the camera.

Wetas are great big gnarly bugs that live here in New Zealand. They are nocturnal and live in burrows in the ground or in trees (depending on species) emerging to hunt invertebrates at night. This specimen’s body was about 8 cm long and wonderfully gnarly!

Image

Gnarly Great Big Tree Weta
(Gnarlius Buggus Maximus Awesomeus)

They aren’t particularly dangerous unless you are an invertebrate. Their jaws are pretty hefty and they can give you a nasty nip. This species of Weta is pretty puny by the way, the Giant Weta is even bigger (as the name might suggest). Incidentally Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop in Wellington is named after these fantastic beasties.

So why am I sharing this? What has it to do with being a Dad or bringing up a nerd? NOTHING. I just love big gnarly bugs and this one lives on my porch!! How awesome is that?

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The Dad to push the wheels for the car pod for The Boy goes shopping.

The Boy made his first foray into the supermarket the other day. I thought it a little unkind to introduce him to one of my least favourite places on earth at such an early age; but we had no food and we were hungry. I was quite happy to subcontract dinner but The Wife wouldn’t play ball. Funny how wives do that isn’t it?

So The Wife set off with The Boy, the car pod for The Boy, the wheels for the car pod for The Boy and the Dad to push the wheels for the car pod for The Boy. The Dad to push the wheels for the car pod for The Boy sulked, a lot. I really did.

I was a bit naughty, I parked in the space marked “expectant and new mothers” and I am neither. I had the wife and she is definitely the latter (and hopefully not the former!).

shopping

As is the rule when I get conned into doing the food shop we do not set foot in the supermarket without a list. Last time I went without a list I spent an astronomical amount of money, bought essential items like Tabasco sauce and a copy of National Geographic (I LOVE National GeographicNew Zealand Geographic is also AWESOME, and considerably weirder). WhenI got home proudly displaying the results of my foraging we didn’t have a whole meal we could cook, just lots of cool stuff (like Tabasco and National Geographic) and, for once, the wife subcontracted dinner.

This time as we neared the door I noticed a definite lack of dog-eared envelope emerging from the Wife’s bag. Just as I was about to query this highly irregular state of affairs out came our list …. on an iPad. Not only was it on the iPad but it was on an app that told you which aisle things would be in! My heart leapt with nerdy pride – The wife is a hopeless Geek after all, albeit a bit embarrassing walking around a supermarket in rural New Zealand with an iPad.

Despite our digital list I still managed to sneak a copy of New Zealand Geographic past “46XX Security” (she was looking at cheese). It was about bugs. Really big hairy bugs. I read it with The Boy, he slept and drooled a bit, I think he likes NZ  Geographic too.

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Why do I like such pointless gimmicks?

Recently I stumbled across another pointless gadget that I decided I wanted whilst looking at the London Design Museum awards. Admittedly I am not cool enough to actually regularly check  design websites, I found it on the Guardian website.

The Little Printer

I found the Little Printer, a gadget so cute and cool I immediately wanted one but had absolutely no idea why. It’s a gizmo with no obvious use, something that does something quite fun but ultimately, in the age of immediate digital information, useless.

The Little Printer is basically a till receipt printer with a nice little smily face that prints little snippets of information that you subscribe to. The makers claim it is like a mini newspaper you personalise. The gizmo receives data wirelessly from the “Bridge” that is connected to your router. You subscribe to different things to be printed in your regular printouts that can be set as often as you want. You Subscribe to different publications, puzzles, news feeds and you can sync it with your diary, to do list and your contact’s birthdays. You can even send and receive personal messages to your Little Printer provided your friends have an account with BergCloud, the company’s website.

You have a cute little printer giving you fun little 2 inch long messages. Imagine a fleet of small printers all over the house. It’s a bit like that scene in Back to the Future 2 when “Your’e Fired!” gets printed on little printers in every room isn’t it?

So, we have established that I kinda want one, but I have no idea why. It’s pointless, a gimmick, a needless creator of waste paper at a time when the world is trying to become paperless.

Now we come to the really shocking part. These launched at £200 (US $259)  they have now been reduced to £169 (US$219). Yes. I kid you not. I nearly swallowed my tounge! NZ$260 for …. a till receipt printer?!?? Whaaaaat??? Are you kidding me? I was expecting it to be say $30, $60at a real push. I can get a wireless  2 sided printer/fax/modem unit for less than one Little Printer that and I live in New Zealand where everything technological is astronomically expensive!

So, what do you think? An amazing innovation? A modern essential? Complete junk? I am really not sure. All I’m sure about is that it will have to get a whole lot cheaper if it is to succeed.

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I know it’s only biology – but I like it!

The Boy is here! He arrived on the 4th weighing 8lb 4oz. He’s small, cute, cuddly and making his presence known. For someone who can’t yet control his facial muscles, let alone his hands he’s doing a very good job of controlling us! Already my days are pretty unrecognisable – hence the delay in posting.

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As super proud parents do, we went for a newborn photoshoot at 10 days with a local photographer. In true nerd fashion we had seen her on facebook and it turned out she was in the next town to us. She really was superb and very slick. NZers in the Waikato should look her up!

His birth was an interesting process from many perspectives. I had to go from Doctor where I run situations to what amounted to Cheerleader, and it took some adjustment. I had to constantly remind myself I was The Wife’s husband and not her doctor. This was especially difficult as it was unfortunately quite a “medical birth” no waterbaths and whalesong here my friends! After various medications, an epidural and lots of pushing and some pulling he was out. Out and screaming.

oxytocin

Oxytocin – The “Hug Hormone”

The biologist side of me knows that I am designed to like my offspring. Oxytocin released by both of us when I hug my Little Man is there to help me bond with him and him to me. I am SUPPOSED to be smitten, to be instantly protective and adoring. I am an animal like all other mammals before me, I’m nothing special and these biological mind control tricks are as likely to work on me as they would on a dog or a badger.

I am so very happy though. It was magical, seeing my little man for the first time. Holding him and staring into his grey eyes as we studied each other for the first time will probably be one of the defining moments of my life. It is a bigger deal than any previous life event. the pride and happiness I felt at that moment was better than all my graduations, my wedding and pretty much anything else all combined, and yet ….. it’s nothing special, babies are born every minute of every day. I am not particularly clever or unusual in that my wife has had a baby. In the grand scheme of things – SO WHAT?

I know it’s only biology that makes me feel like this. Pure and simple. It’s only biology but it’s bloody awesome! I have never felt happier!

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Nesting Part 2 – the finishing touches

We have a date! The coutdown is on! 3-3-13 is The Wife’s induction date, which in blog terms is fortunate because both Americans and people who write dates properly will read it as the same date. Buddhists unfortunately would read this as me having a son aged 544 with it currently being the year 2557, can’t please everyone I suppose. Anyway I digress.

With the bestowal of a date the offensive against all things grime has intensified, a “Shock and Awe” approach to bacteria seems to have paid off. I have hoovered places in our house that I didn’t know hoovers could go.

The Boy’s room is painted, the buggy (stroller) with “whoomph folding” is built, the basinet is assembled, the clothes are washed and stacked in age order and the formerly ridiculous 4 x 4 now has a “capsule” bolted in place. I am no longer driving a Remuera Tractor, it is now a Dad Mobile. I am a little sad the “capsule” won’t live up to it’s name, it isn’t going into orbit or to the moon (yes, I know, technically also in orbit) it will be going to the Supermarket and maybe even a longer mission into town, to get a coffee. “The Eagle has landed, can I have two decaf mochas and a Latte”, “It’s one small step for man, and a Cappuchino for Dad”.

Needless to say I am very Very VERY excited …….. and nervous. Wish me luck!

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Just keep smiling, look straight ahead and say nothing – A doctor negotiating ante-natal classes.

I have been worrying about this for a while.

I have heard horror stories from colleagues of blazing rows and pointless futile arguments. Stories of brave warriors confronting unyielding walls of nonsensical pseudoscience and coming away battered and bruised with a very pissed off wife. This doctor is about to enter THE ANTE-NATAL CLASS!

I had been dreading having to listen to some earth mother homeopathist homebirther rant at us about the evils of vaccinations, how they cause plague, epilepsy and …. um… Osgood-Schlatter disease. I forget what is it that stupid people say vaccinations cause again, I would look it up …. but it’s hard to look up unpublished, non existent data (I could probably find the fraudulent data that started it all, if it hadn’t been retracted).

It was with great trepidation that I entered “The Parents Centre”. Antenatal Classes are quite important for us, we live 12,000 miles (literally) from our nearest family so we are rather alone. I was desperate not to look like a prat, psycho or know-it-all in front of potential friends that have only just met us. A surefire way of probably achieving all three impressions would be to have an argument over something like homeopathy or vaccinations with the person running the class. Being the Dad and not the doctor is my challenge.

As it happened, news of my profession slipped out and soon I was being asked “What do you think Nerd Dad” by the “birth educator”. This was embarassing.

Bear in mind I do general and respiratory medicine. The last time I saw a placenta was in medical school, I poked it and it squirted gore at me and I nearly spewed, I know next to nothing about all the medical bits. Saying “You are a doctor, tell me about the complexities of placentas” is like saying to a french teacher “you are a language teacher, how do I say “This constitution in unacceptable” in Swahili?”. I had three options, smile vacantly and make a sort of “uuuugh” noise, Bullshit my way out of trouble (Something I am very good at, given my profession) or impart my, probably flawed but well intentioned rudimentary knowledge of babymaking bits to the class. I chose option 3.

I couldn’t use my usual flippant response to gynaecological questions* which get asked of us doctors in social occasions disturbingly often. Why do people do that? Do  dentists get asked to do fillings on kitchen tables? Do IT specialists get asked to reconfigure routers? … maybe. But why would you bring up your defective bodily functions in polite company …. ever, regardless of the presence of a physician? What do they expect me to do? Excise their mole there and then with a steak knife? Do some intimate examination in the kitchen?

Anyway, I digress. So far the classes have been fine. I almost leaped with joy when the educator answered the question “What about alternative therapies like homeopathy or reiki” with a blank look and “I have no idea, I have seen no evidence for it, ask a homeopathist if you are interested” … I could have kissed her!

So, the not-so undercover foray into antenatal classes is progressing well. We have made some friends, none of which seem to think I’m a psycho.

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The Parents Centre is the organisation providing our classes. There is some good advice on their site.

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* This response is “I’m afraid my recent experience in that area is entirely recreational and as a married man rather infrequent. You had better ask someone who knows what they are talking about.”

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