Otorohanga: Kiwiana town

kiwiana town Otorohanga

Recently we stayed a couple of nights in Otorohanga (in the Waikato district, sort of middle-north in the North Island). As we travel about in various places (New Zealand, Australia, America come to mind) we like to see what towns and cities call themselves. I don’t mean their actual names, I mean the little epithets they give themselves (is epithet the right word?: “an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned”). Perhaps they are just slogans thought up by someone on the local council or tourism board!

Wellington, where I live, is sometimes called Wellywood, a pastiche of Hollywood in homage to the Sir Peter Jackson-led film industry we have here. More often it’s called Windy Wellington, but that isn’t a positive image for tourism so the label “absolutely positively Wellington” was invented. You want positive? Absolutely! Actually, I see it wasn’t meant to be anything big, but caught the imagination and stuck. (click the link to see its origins.)

The silliest one I think I ever saw was “Foxton, the Fox Town”. Continue reading


Riding the rails to Whangamomona

20170227_141113Last week we did a day trip with Forgotten World Adventures using golf carts converted to run on the disused rail line from Okahukura (near Taumaranui in the North Island of New Zealand) to Whangamomona.

This rail line was closed in 2010; which seems a shame as it took more than 30 years to build in the early 20th century and includes 24 tunnels and 91 bridges. However, Ian Balme saw an opportunity and negotiated a lease with KiwiRail and started the business in 2012. There are high maintenance costs – especially clearing the line after each winter, which helps explain why the rides aren’t particularly cheap. But with lunch and morning and afternoon teas provided and a return ride, we thought it was worth it. Continue reading

Travels in Communist Europe – 1981

visa-berlinNow it is relatively common for New Zealand school children to take school trips to other countries, but when I was young it wasn’t at all common. It was too expensive – and perhaps it just wasn’t considered something worthwhile. I grew up in the North Island inland town of Masterton and had one school trip to Nelson in the South Island, and hockey team trips to New Plymouth and Napier.

My first overseas trip was when I was 18 or 19 and it was to Melbourne and parts of Victoria (Australia) with the under-23 Wellington women’s hockey team. We came last in the hockey tournament, but I enjoyed the travel. The next year a friend and I went to Tonga (briefly) and Fiji for a holiday and about 16 months later I did my ‘big OE’ (“overseas experience” – almost a rite of passage for young New Zealanders). I was in the UK and Europe for eight months, based in London when I wasn’t travelling, which I was most of the time. Continue reading

Banishing boredom in Ferrara

I have just finished reading Ali Smith’s 2014 novel How to be Both (Penguin). It is in two parts – one is narrated by a Renaissance artist, Francesco del Cossa (although Smith spells it Francescho) and one part by a contemporary teenage girl living in Cambridge, England. I read in a review that half the books were published with the artist’s part first and half with the teenager’s first (George, for Georgia, is her name). The version I read began with the artist’s story, which is the most challenging stylistically (and, at times, I found it a bit boring). I found the teenager’s story much easier to read and more interesting – I think I’d have preferred to have read a version with her story first! Of course, I’ll never know now. The artist is in our times, but it’s unclear (to me, at least) if he’s meant to be a ghost/spirit or is actually imagined by the teenager and her friend for a school project. That’s about all I want to say about the book – there are plenty of online reviews for those who want to know more. Continue reading

Journey on the Main Trunk Line

DSC09585 19 March 2016: it’s 6:45am and I’m leaving my hotel at the top of Auckland’s Queen Street to walk to the Strand station, where Kiwi Rail’s Northern Explorer departs from. This is a recent move from Britomart Station – the Strand is another 1.5 kilometres on and it’s just as well I walked it yesterday to see how long it would take. To confuse the unwary (or non-Aucklander) there is another building labelled Railway Station between Britomart and the Strand – only now this contains apartments. They were ready for us though, as the concierge had a map to hand out showing the route to the Strand. It’s not well sign-posted. Continue reading

Tararua Forest Park

I’ve just returned from a night at the Holdsworth Lodge in the Tararua Forest Park, near Masterton. The park and the hut we stayed in are administered by the Department of Conservation.

New Zealand’s forest parks differ from national parks. There are 19 forest parks whose primary purpose, in most cases, is to protect the catchments of forested mountain ranges throughout the country. They generally provide a less restricted range of recreational activities than national parks and reserves.[1] Continue reading

‘Nature and culture in harmony’

“It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; – and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, first published 1813)

My title ‘nature and culture in harmony’ comes from the 1996 television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – Elizabeth Bennet’s uncle Mr Gardiner says it in the carriage as they are on their way to visit Pemberley House. However, I don’t think it appears in the book, but is likely to be an adaptation of the quote above. Continue reading