Day 9: Driving rain

Day 9: Driving rain
Te Anau, New Zealand

Te Anau, New Zealand

We left Queenstown this morning heading to Te Anau, where tomorrow (weather and roads permitting) we will be taking a day trip to Milford Sound.

It was a great day for driving, with strong winds battering much of the South Island today, and rain. We saw footage on the news of a caravan being blown over. Even so, the lead story on the news was Australia eliminating England from the Rugby World Cup and how this was expected to damage England’s economy because no one would be going to the games any more, or watching them in the pubs.

But I digress. It was a relatively short driving day for us, about 173 km. We stopped for coffee at Kingston at the foot at Lake Wakatipu before venturing carefully on to Te Anau. It was still raining and windy when we arrived, and the Milford Sound road was closed. Not a good sign, although better weather is forecast for tomorrow.

We arrived in time for lunch, then checked into our motel, which is a complete contrast to our room in Queenstown. Kramstable has his own room, and it’s all very cosy.

We considered doing the glow worm tour but decided since we’ll be having such a big day tomorrow, we wanted to rest up a bit this afternoon. We went to the Fiordland Cinema instead, to see a short film flying through the Fiordland National Park. It was simply spectacular, and it’s a gorgeous cinema with huge plush seats. What an amazing place!

We contacted our tour guide for tomorrow to confirm everything was good, and he says that everything is booked in and they’ll be picking us up tomorrow morning as scheduled. Really looking forward to this!

Dinner was at a nearby hotel. It was an all you can eat banquet, which we hadn’t known when we booked, but the bonus was that kids ate for free – and Kramstable loved it. We were the first people there, so got the full attention of the chef. The food was great, and the desserts were enough to break even committed sugar-free devotee me. One of them was this amazing trio of chocolate, vanilla, raspberry panna cotta blancmange something straight out of the 70s. The chef told us that he insisted his staff learn to make puddings, because no one makes puddings any more. It was good.

After that it was back to the room to watch Doctor Who. We party hard here!


Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown

Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown is beautiful, but mega-touristy. It reminded me of Strahan but times 100. We got petrol. It cost $112 to fill a 70 litre tank. I’ve never paid more than $100 for a tank of petrol before. Eeep!

We had a list of cool things that might be fun to do today. We’d already checked out the gondola and luge last night, and decided that was one thing we had to do. We weren’t sure how the weather would hold up, so we thought we’d do that first. It was a fairly short walk from our motel to the gondola station, where we bought tickets for the gondola and 10 luge rides – which was actually cheaper than getting nine rides. We figured we’d sort out who would do what rides once we got up there.

The gondola ride was pretty cool. Great views of Queenstown. We had coffee at the top before heading over to the luge. We had to pick out our helmets first and then jump on the chairlift to the top of the hill where the luge started.

When you go on the luge, you have to start off on the blue track, which is the scenic track that is suitable for anyone over 110 cm. Kramstable and I could do this one! Before your first ride you get some instructions on how to manoeuvre the luges, so that you have a vague idea of what you’re doing before heading off down the track. It was heaps of fun!

We did two runs together (sort of) on the blue run, then Kramstable and I did a last run on the blue (he was too short for the red run), while Slabs braved the red run. We generously decided to let him have our last ride on the red run, while we had a walk around and found a photo vantage point along the run. We then spent a seriously stupid amount of money on photos of us on the luge because we couldn’t take any ourselves, and it’s not like we’ll be back any time soon to do it again. (This excuse can justify anything!)

Back down the hill (mountain?) on the gondola and onto the Fear Factory – New Zealand’s scariest haunted house – which Kramstable had been looking forward to all trip and way before we even left. He and Slabs had been onto their website and found out everything about it. It was pretty much all Kramstable had been talking about since he’d found out about it. He was so excited! I was pretty much terrified that I’d be the one to call “chicken” and be pulled out and wasn’t even sure I wanted to go in.

However, I wasn’t going to let a 9 year old defeat me, so I took a deep breath and went in. It was pretty cool. I think being at the back was an advantage because the horrors that sprang out got Slabs, who was in the lead, first. I say no more. Go do it yourself. Kramstable was terrified. We survived.

We had lunch at the Atlas Beer Cafe because beer. It has a hand pump. It has nice beers and does good food.

After lunch we went to the XD Dark Ride, which is two different experiences – a 3D roller coaster where we went through a canyon and I hate rolller coasters so why the hell did I agree to do this, and a 3D Zombie killing game (Kramstable picked the game from a choice of three), and yours truly is such an awesome zombie shooter that I won. It might be the first time I have, or will, ever win a shooting game, so you need to mark this day somewhere.

Finally (exhausted and dreading the credit card bill) we went to the Odyssey Sensory Maze, which we’d found out about last night. That was heaps of fun and really cool. If you like balloons and mirrors you’ll love it!

During the afternoon I managed to get some updates on the AFL grand final. Two years overseas on Grand Final day, two wins to the Hawks. Where am I going to go next September to keep the winning steak going?

We had a really nice Malaysian dinner at Madam Woo (fabulous laksa), found the perfect tacky souvenir and headed back to the motel room to read the Famous Five with Kramstable.

P365 – Day 204 – they won’t peck me

We went to watch our local footy team play today. Because there was a function being held in the area we usually go to, we sat on the boundary fence to watch the game.
Juniordwarf got a bucket of hot chips – as you do at the footy – which, after a mix up between him and Slabs over who was holding the bucket, mostly ended up on the ground next to our feet.
As you can imagine, this attracted some very eager seagulls.
The arrival of the birds freaked Juniordwarf out, and was somewhat untimely. Just today we’d been talking about how a time we’d been in a park when Juniordwarf was much younger, and a flock of ducks had descended upon us. He’d been terrified by them. He was asking about that day today, asking why the ducks had come near him (because we had food) and whether they had pecked him* (of course not).
So when the horde of seagulls arrived, he got a bit upset and pulled his legs up on the bench we were sitting on to get away from them. He was worried that they were going to peck him. He kept seeking my reassurance: ‘They won’t peck me?’ he kept saying.
I explained that they were only after the chips, not him, and that they wouldn’t even come close enough to get the chips because they were more scared of him than he was of them.
Juniordwarf was eventually convinced that he wasn’t going to be pecked by a flock of seagulls (a task made easier by Slabs getting him another bucket of chips) and relaxed enough to watch the game. Or at least let us watch the game. He read his books.
And we threw the chips a bit further away so the seagulls could feast in peace and stop bugging him.
The game was a good one. Our team, which hasn’t lost a game all year, was quite a long way behind when we got there at half time, and made a good effort to try and catch the opposition during the third and fourth quarters. Near the end of the game our team had closed the gap, but I didn’t think it was going to be enough. Towards the end of the quarter one of our players scored an amazing goal that just got over the line before it was caught by the opposition defender. We were in the perfect position to see it had just cleared the line, despite the protests from the opposition supporters.
Hipstamatic – really doesn’t work with long shots
Shooting into the afternoon sun (Camera+)
Action! (Camera+)
That goal put our team in front, and shortly afterwards our team scored another goal to win by seven points.
It was pretty good afternoon then. The footy team won, and Juniordwarf didn’t get pecked by seagulls.
* I think Juniordwarf’s fear of ducks pecking him has come from a Dr Harry book, of all places. Dr Harry is a TV vet, and Juniordwarf has a book where Dr Harry walks around the farm checking on the chickens and ducks, and on one page he’s holding a duck ‘very carefully so she doesn’t peck him’. 

P365 – Day 99 at the footy

Today was the second round of the football competition that our local team plays in. It was the first home game of the season.

We go to as many home games as we can, but usually go at about half time, because we’ve found that’s been about the limit of Juniordwarf’s tolerance.

Normally we sit in the area that used to be called the ‘Sponsor’s Box’ but is really open to anyone. It’s a very cosy little glassed in area next to the grandstand, complete with bar facilities. This is the view.

Plastic chairs are a much more comfortable option than wooden grandstand seating, and the box has the added advantage of confining Juniordwarf somewhat. In winter, the heaters are turned on, so it really is a nice place to watch the game.

Going to the footy now is a totally different experience from going to the footy when I was a child. Back then, everyone parked their cars around the oval and sat in the car, beeping their horn every time their team kicked a goal. That tradition hasn’t quite died out in local footy, but it’s long gone in the bigger leagues.

Today we arrived at quarter time, which, in hindsight, was a mistake. Juniordwarf’s tolerance and attention span is really only two quarters, so by the final quarter he was climbing the walls. Literally.

No, it’s not a slide.

I think next time, we’ll go back to arriving at half time.

P365 – Day 33 footy super clinic

OK I have an admission to make. I am a financial member of the Hawthorn Football Club and have been since 1994.
I’ve been a supporter of the (most recently known as) Tassie Hawks since I was in high school. My reason for supporting them is a bit embarrassing (now), but basically I was watching a late night replay of a Hawthorn game, saw this player who I thought looked really cute and decided to change teams. Pretty fickle at the time, but I maintained my allegiance, even after this player (who never became a household name and, to be honest, on close examination of his official player photo, wasn’t really that stunning after all) departed Hawthorn.
I used to be a bit of a sports nut in high school and I knew all the players’ names and numbers, what position they were, how many goals they’d scored the previous week and so on. I was equally obsessed by cricket (and those that knew me in high school may well remember my obsession with Kim Hughes and my devastation at the abrupt end of his career in Australia).
I might add that I was one of the least talented sportspeople at school, by a long way, so my interest was purely as a spectator (and my gig as scorer for the school’s cricket team).
But while my friends were comparing the merits of Duran Duran vs Spandau Ballet (and I deliberately became a Spandau fan to annoy the rest of the girls, who were possibly more obsessed by the members of Duran Duran than I was by sports), I was trying to figure out how to actually become a member of the Australian cricket team or get onto the coaching staff at Hawthorn.
Since I left school, my obsession has diminished to the point that I’m only vaguely aware of most of the players names in the team now and doubt very much I’d recognise any of them if I saw them.
I’ve come full circle, from having a teenage crush on a player to now being old enough to be the mother of some of the younger players. (I realised I was getting old the day I realised that there weren’t any players in the Australian cricket team who were older than me!)
But despite all the changes in my life, following Hawthorn has been one of the constants.
I’m not going to talk about all the controversy around sports ‘stars’, even though it is a topic that concerns me. Like others, I have been shocked, stunned, disgusted and horrified by incidents from different codes of football (and other sports) that have made headlines in recent months. I believe there are a raft of reasons why many of these things have occurred, and that there are many different viewpoints as to who is responsible and what could and should be done better by all involved.
How much is individual responsibility. How much is a sport’s responsibility when they take young men, many of whom are still in high school, and thrust them into a world far removed from the ‘real world’ (consider some of the meltdowns from former child stars, for example). How much is society to blame when some of us hold these athletes up as ‘heroes’ and ‘icons’ and expect them to be role models for our kids. The media? What about the good things sporting organisations do? Is the professionalisation of sport to blame?
There are just so many issues involved, I don’t think there is any black and white, and I could sit down all night writing and still not come up with a clear position that I’d be comfortable with.
Yes, that’s a bit of a cop out, I know. But all I really wanted to do today was showcase my photo of the day, which is juniordwarf at the Hawks super clinic, held this afternoon at KGV in Glenorchy.  It was part of the Hawks Community Camp, where they come to Tasmania for the week and hold various events around the state. 
Yet I still managed to get sidetracked . . .
So today, any kids could come along and join in the coaching clinic. This was the first year of these clinics I’d been comfortable getting juniordwarf involved. In previous years he’d been a bit little and I’d been worried it would be a bit beyond his ability. But the people there said he was welcome to participate, and he could do whatever he was capable of.
Run at the bag . . .

tackle it . . .

. . . get the ball
So we picked out a group of kids who seemed the smallest and juniordwarf had a great time learning to tackle, kicking the ball and his version of handballing. It was fun to watch. The kids were meant to run at the bag and tackle it to the ground, and then handball the ball to one of the players. Juniordwarf’s version was to walk up to the bag, knock it over and then kick the ball off the ground. His handball was a throw and they let him and the other little kids get right up close to the target. The players were really patient with the kids, especially the littlies, which was really encouraging.
Since juniordwarf’s opportunities to play footy have been pretty limited up to now, he did a great job and he had fun, which was the whole point of going.