Monday, 25 December 2017

New tramcar on the city circuit
I have spotted a new tramcar on Christchurch Tramways. R Class, No.1888. was making its first revenue run on Christmas Day 2017.

 ``New’’ is not quite the correct expression. It was built in 1934 by Clyde Engineering, Granville, NSW, for use by the NSW Government Tramways. Numbered 1088, it ran on the Sydney tramway network till 1959 when it was donated to the Sydney Tramway Museum. It had been on lease to MOTAT in Auckland prior to being shipped to Christchurch where it was repainted at Ferrymead Heritage Park by Tramways Heritage Trust people and prepared for a new lease of life.  The original predominantly green livery was replaced with light blue enabling 1888 to stand out from other Christchurch city tramcars.
No. 1888 is on a 20-year lease from Sydney Tramway museum. Howard Clark, chair of the museum, was in Christchurch to see the tramcar arrive in the city. He approved of the new blue and cream livery and its renumbering from 1088 to eighteen eighty-eight.
I cannot think of one thing wrong with it, ’’ he said.  ``Its new livery suits the type of tramcar it is.’’

 Its light blue and cream livery will make 1888 stand out from the other city tramcars. It is expected to be a great asset to Christchurch Tramway owing to the increased numbers of visitors and capacity required on the extended tram route.  The new addition brings the number of Christchurch heritage trams to seven. One is the popular Restaurant tram No. 411 also leased from Sydney Tramway Museum.
Interesting heritage features retained include notices in the saloon.


Sunday, 17 December 2017

Community recognition

I am not one to brag by blog. But until last week I would have had no idea what a Civic Award looked like even if I tripped over one. Luckily rather than tripping over, I was presented with one by Lianne Dalziel, mayor of Christchurch. It was in recognition of my efforts in getting the New Zealand World Peace Bell to Christchurch. It has been a prominent feature of our Botanic Gardens for 11 years. It was one of about 40 bells worldwide gifted, from Japan, to countries that had contributed significantly to world peace. Along with being a venue for peace-related gatherings, the bell site is also a meeting place and sanctuary in Christchurch Botanic Gardens. I had been nominated for the award by David Bolam-Smith.

I became interested in the World Peace Bell while a reporter on the Press newspaper. I discovered a reference to a mayor of Shikoku, Japan, Chiyoji Nakagawa, who in 1954 had a huge temple bell cast using coins from member countries of the newly-formed United Nations. The bell was subsequently placed in the UN forecourt, New York, mounted on soil from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nakagawa’s message in gifting the bell was; what happened to my country should never happen to any other.
The success of the World Peace Bell was such that further bells were cast and gifted to countries that had made notable efforts towards attaining world peace.
I considered the actions of Mayor Nakagawa were brave. I then thought similarly of the actions of New Zealand Prime Minister, David Lange, initiating New Zealand’s anti-nuclear policy 30 years ago.
I visited my first World Peace Bell in Cowra when on leave to write a story about the NSW town’s annual cherry blossom festival. The Cowra bell is one symbol commemorating friendship between Japan and Australia resulting from the 1944 tragedy of the Cowra prisoner of war breakout during which some 200 Japanese were killed by Australian gunfire. Four Australian guards died. Many share the same Cowra cemetery.
During the 2001 Japanese winter I had an opportunity to travel to Soya misaki, northernmost tip of Japan, to visit a World Peace Bell.  A temperature gauge at Soya misaki recorded -22 Celsius. Quite a breeze was blowing. The nearest landmass is Siberia.
My subsequent story in the Press was sent to the World Peace Bell Association in Tokyo. The organisation distributed the story to worldwide World Peace Bell chapters.
This provided the opportunity to start negotiations to fulfil an ambition to have a World Peace Bell gifted to New Zealand. Being a keen cycling traveller, I offered, as part of the deal, to cycle the length of Japan.
In the meantime I found out that the World Peace Bell Association had previously approached Wellington with the idea of gifting New Zealand a bell.  Wellington City principals had little enthusiasm for the gift.
Capital cities were preferred locations. But I knew the Australian World Peace Bell did not go to the capital.
I also knew Christchurch, in 2002, had been declared New Zealand’s first Peace City. The concept was founded when a Christchurch peace activist, Kate Dewes, had a Peace City submission accepted by the UN Security Council. Also many of New Zealand’s peace promoters were Christchurch people.
I was advised that if he could swing the World Peace Bell for Christchurch the then mayor Gary Moore and his council would support it.
I signed the agreement with WBPA CEO, Tomijiro Yoshida in Tokyo on August 21, 2004. 
Next day with my partner, Haruko, we flew with bicycles and gear (brought from New Zealand) to Wakkanai City. We were taken 30 km to the cape by a group from Wakkanai City Hall. Once there, we unpacked and assembled our bikes.
Following a ringing of the Soya misaki World Peace Bell the 4200 km journey began. It was our first of many bicycle journeys outside New Zealand.
We had allotted a three month stay in Japan. That was sufficient time to ride to Soya Sata, southern tip of Honshu (69 days) and a ride around southern Kyushu to Kagoshima City, then part of Shikoku and finally to Kurashiki (sister city of Christchurch), finishing the journey in Osaka.
Among highlights was the Atomic bomb museum of Nagasaki. There, I spotted a panel listing countries that had made significant efforts towards world peace.
To my delight New Zealand was Number One.
That evening I opened an email from Barbara August, of Christchurch City Council’s International Relations advising the New Zealand World Peace Bell had been cast was to be loaded onto the Japanese Peace Boat making its first voyage to New Zealand, calling at Auckland.
David Given, then curator of Christchurch Botanic Gardens, suggested the site for the bell. He welcomed an item from Japan saying our Botanic Gardens represented a society descended from Britain.
In the 21st Century that was no longer the case. Christchurch was multi-cultural. Besides, he had Asian plants he was keen to make use of.
A healthy camphor tree close to the World Peace Bell grew from a cutting obtained from a camphor tree that sprung up soon after the Nagasaki bombing on August 9, 1945.This was despite predictions nothing would grow for at least another 70 years.
Cuttings went to several destinations. The tree lives on in Christchurch, New Zealand.


Monday, 11 December 2017

                                      Leaving more than footprints

I  enjoy writing about people who are inspirational. I recent interview is a case in point. I met Mike Lowdon and Tina Morrell representing a foursome training hard for a trek to Everest Base Camp from March 24 to April 15, 2018.

In addition to their arduous trek they will be raising funds to rebuild a home in the village, Khumbjung, destroyed in the Gorkha earthquake of April 25, 2015. The Sherpa family is presently living under canvass. The mother, Tangii, is unwell and needs medical help. The foursome’s mission is labelled Project EBC. The four are Mike Lowden aged 56, Tina Morrell 50, Bette Chen 37 and Fergus Flannery 19.

``We Want to make a difference,’’ says Tina Morrell.

``As individuals we had had an ambition to do something challenging we had not done before. We eventually crossed paths and struck a really good friendship.’’

Mike is business development manager at Ideal Electric. Tina is involved with Toastmasters and marketing.  Betty is the IT and digital marketing expert at Landpower agricultural machinery. Fergus is presently walking the Aotearoa Trail, the length of New Zealand.

``It is a massive undertaking over about nine days,’’ says Mike Lowden.   
``The distance is not  the challenge. More so will be acclimatising to altitude and coping with altitude sickness. We will climb over 5500 m.’’

Other expected challenges include food. Meat is not good owing to it being old when consumed. The team will likely be lacking in protein. Flying into Lukla airport at the start of the trek is another challenge, it being considered one of the world’s most dangerous. It was constructed in 1964 under the supervision of Sir Edmund Hillary.

The team has been involved in hill walking, running marathons and specialised altitude acclimatising training.

The trek has been booked  with Anne Young Trekking Adventures,

``She put us in touch with the Sherpa family we want to help,’’ says Mike Lowden.

Mike is no stranger at being involved in events. He organises an annual spin bike event at Ideal Electric in Montreal Street, Christchurch. It is dubbed Tour de Montreal and is run during the famous Tour de France cycling race. The event raises funds for Special Olympics. The experience over six years has helped Mike with Project EBC.

Helping others is in his genes. It may simply be assisting someone experiencing problems in his workplace.

The team is self-supporting enabling all fundraising to go to the house rebuild project.  Buckets have been rattled in workplaces. A Givealittle page is linked to their Project EBC Facebook page.

A recent presentation at Zonta Club of Christchurch-Canterbury went well creating interest amongst professional women.

``We have raised $1700 in just a month,’’ Says Tina Morrell. The goal is $25,000.’’
Mike says 2018 marks 65 years since  Sir Ed summited Everest with Tenzing Norgay

``Who better to have as inspiration than Sir Ed? We will be giving back to the community as Ed did. It’s going to be fantastic.’’

Project EBC contacts:
FB Project EBC

Thursday, 30 November 2017

When out on my bike I meet Santa
One day while out on my bike I met Santa Claus. It was some years ago (about nine) when I was in Roveniemi, known as the Capital of Lapland.  With my companion we had pedalled in stages south from the Norway/Finland border to arrive in Roveniemi.
The town at 66 deg. 30 minutes North claims to represent the Artic Line. But it is in reality about six km south of the Artic Line. The Artic Line position changes each summer. It is calculated as the point north where the sun sits above the horizon at midnight. 
We had cycled to Roveniemi from the Norwegian town, Tromso, which is 300 km north of the Artic Line. Tromso also boasts the world’s most northern brewery.
A feature on the outskirts of Roveniemi is Santa Claus Village. My guide book recommended we give it a miss unless we have children in tow or were prepared to feel about age four. We ignored the warning and entered a large log cabin, a suitable looking home for Santa. I must say it was quite impressive, something like Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop might have dreamed up. A large mechanical device in the ceiling was designed to slow down the earth’s rotation enabling Santa to travel the entire world in just one long night. Well that was one long-time mystery finally solved. We did meet Santa, deemed to be the genuine guy and dutifully had our photo taken.

He was remarkably convincing. In a cultured voice he asked where we were from. Having told him ``Christchurch, New Zealand,’’ he looked curiously thoughtful. I was compelled to ask, ``have you been there?’’
``Only on business,’’ he replied.
Other Roveniemi highlights were enjoying whisky in a pub convincingly devoted to writer Ernest Hemmingway.  (Hemmingway never visited Finland) and visiting the world’s most northerly McDonald’s. We arrived in time for breakfast only to find it did not open until midday.

I was carrying a spare rear tyre purchased in Tromso. I didn’t need it so it eventually went onto my commuter bike. I was worried about a tyre wearing out. What I should have been more worried about was my Aorta was about to peel apart. The Aorta is a principal blood channel to the heart. It peeled apart soon after arriving home in New Zealand. That’s another story.  


Friday, 10 November 2017

Happy countries

National Geographic issue November 2017 has an inspiring cover story THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS.  What can we learn from Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore –the most joyful places on the planet?

It would seem riches or possessions are not prerequisites for happiness. So New Zealand’s recent philosophy of rewarding the well off at the expense of those not so well healed is not the way to go. For all that, on world happiness surveys, we Kiwis do quite well, even slightly better than our Aussie neighbours.
Governments being seen to look after its people goes a long way. In other words social democracy. Feeling secure knowing a safety net is there when needed is appreciated. Having a purpose in life, enjoying one’s job, is another element for happiness. Being able to laugh a lot is an indicator. My employers at Christchurch Tramway score brilliantly on the laughter scale.  Happy people typically work no more than 40 hours a week and generally do some hours of voluntary work. They are likely to belong to clubs. 
I have never been to Costa Rica. Its success partly relates to it not developing large farms as did other Central American countries.  Costa Rica is therefore not dominated by an influential landholding class. Small property owners have elected presidents whose priorities include education, clean water and affordable health care.
I have been to the two remaining happy countries. Singapore did not appeal personally. Maybe I need to take another look? Singapore rewards hard work and ensures those on low salaries are supported with housing subsidies. The multi-ethnic society is also built on harmony and respect.
Denmark, on the other hand, appealled greatly and topped my expectations as a friendly country for travellers. Fact I was a long-distance bicycle traveller was undoubtedly in my favour. Denmark is a great supporter of bicycle commuting with those commuting on bikes outnumbering those in cars in the capital, Copenhagen.
Denmark’s highly-acclaimed social democracy does not come without a cost. The Danish pay higher taxes than would be tolerated with good grace in New Zealand. They agree, however, that they get excellent value for the tax they pay. Happiness appears to rely on agreeable government/society partnerships.
But are the Danes really happy? Judge for yourself from a few images I captured in the Copenhagen CBD.  



Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Scott statue returns to its plinth on cnr of Oxford Tce and Worcester Boulevard
Visiting the restored Robert Falcon Scott statue a few days after it was hoisted onto its plinth was a memorable occasion for someone (myself) brought up to admire British heroes. Captain Scott was a special hero owing to his fame been built on extreme endurance and adventure. That especially appealed to me when growing up in Christchurch.

Scott and four companions reached the geographical South Pole on January 17, 1912 only to discover Norwegian Roald Amundsen he had beaten them by 33 days. Amundsen intended to be first at the North Pole but on discovering someone else had got there first. Was it Frederick A Cook or Robert E Perry? (Both Americans). In any event he turned his attention south infamously saying he was in a race with Englishman Scott) to the South Pole.
Scott, interestingly, never claimed to be in a race. He continued his expedition as planned, continuing with his considerable scientific work.
What cements Scott’s Antarctic adventure and making him a ``Boy’s Own’’ hero was his death along with his companions on their return from the South Pole. His statue in Christchurch, New Zealand, is the work of Scott’s widow Kathleen Scott. She travelled to Carrara in Italy and carved the 2.5 tonne statue from marble in less than a month. Marble, she reasoned represented Antarctic snow and ice.
She was in Christchurch for the statue’s unveiling on February 9, 1917. An inscription on the statue is from Scott’s diaries he kept till he could write no more:
I do not regret the journey that shows Englishmen can endure hardship, help one another and greet death with as great a fortitude as ever in the past.  

The statue secured its pride of place in the city for the best part of a century. Then, on February 22 2011, it toppled during the devastating Christchurch earthquake. It broke into three pieces. Its eventual repair, costing around $NZ 500,000, included fitting Scott’s marble legs with four carbon fibre rods. And the base sits on a plate and a spring, the latter in the plinth. During a future seismic event Scott is likely to fare considerably better.
I did note that nothing had been done to complete the unfinished-looking hands.
A visitor from Sydney was also taking photographs.
``Aha’’ he said, Sir Edmund Hillary was a great guy.’’

As tactfully as I could, I corrected his mistake, pointing to a plaque in the pavement, unveiled by Sir Ed in September 2007, to commemorate Christchurch’s long association with Antarctic exploration.
Incredibly, just days later the Scott statue was again in the news. It had been criminally vandalised. Scott’s staff had been removed and was found, broken into three pieces, in the river. A detail, a pouch, from his jacket had been taken and has not been recovered.
Without his staff, Scott’s arm is raised in a salute, or wave. We might be persuaded it is a century-old gesture to an, arguably unscrupulous, Norwegian who claimed to be in a race to the South Pole.   



Sunday, 15 October 2017

Model railway extravaganza

A week has gone by since the annual Christchurch Big Model Train Show in Pioneer Leisure Centre. When a final count is made it is likely the show attracted an excess of its anticipated 10,000 visitors over the two days. The 30 or so layouts were outstanding. Some were new to the event. This year’s ambitious theme was Youth and Technology. Many layouts were run by PCs or smart phone apps. That’s the way of the future for the hobby.

Also ensuring the future were the youthful exhibitors. 15-year-old Celyn Bennet had his Tussock Flat layout accompanied by his 3D printer demonstration. I also spoke to 11-year-old William McDowell with his inspiring William’s Wonder layout. He told me he had grown up in London where trains rushed past his home every two minutes. He designed his layout of ascending circles but was told it would not fit into the assigned space. Then his grandfather, a retired structural engineer, visiting New Zealand on holiday spent a lot of time carefully measuring. The upshot is it worked out.
William was keen to bring his unfinished layout to the show having been impressed by layouts at last year’s show. He had two trains running well which drew the onlookers. The show’s committee helped William with additional items for scenery. I will follow William’s railway modelling with interest.

Thomas Woermann, also aged 11, had his Tinyworld N-gauge layout. It also ran very well. He told me his father had built two layouts and provided the necessary inspiration.
The Marklin Club turned out their impressive layout as did One Track Mind, the latter presenting a long-time favourite of Lyttelton in 1963 on the occasion of the visit by two immaculately restored F class locos.

The Blenheim modellers got a lot of attention with their perfect operation of a US train of oil tanks. It was one of the few layouts where trains ran at scale speeds.

An interesting small layout depicted a Japanese urban scene. Ironically the keen young modeller was Chinese.

New to the show were dioramas, instigated by committee member Arthur Linnell. Dioramas were from beginners, mostly very young, and accomplished modellers. All were exceptional.
Acorn models provided trophies for the show. Guest speaker for Saturday evening’s exhibitors’ get together was long time tramway historian John Shanks. He told us how getting involved with restoring old tramcars side-tracked his railway modelling.

An entirely satisfactory two days of model railway on show. If I have a wish for next year it will be a twenty-first century layout with abundant renewable energy modelled –wind turbines and solar panels. Of course the trains will be electric powered. 


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Auckland’s nearby boisterous coastlines

I prefer to exchange the tangled chaos of cities for the agreeable chaos of nature. In Auckland I head west to the forest-covered Waitakeres and boisterous western coastlines beyond. Much of the best of it is within Karekare and associated Piha. All about 45 km from Auckland CBD. It is a rugged region of wild, treacherous seas, weather-sculptured headland cliffs, and waterfalls amongst lush nikau palms.
Little surprise then, the beaches have provided locations for movies, arguably the best of them being Jane Campion’s 1993 drama, The Piano. It stars a moody Sam Neil contrasting with an aspiring Anna Penguin.

More recently Piha’s unpredictable surf pounding cliffs and iron sands has provided the location for Television New Zealand’s long-running reality series, Piha Rescue. Filmed from 2001, story lines are based on activities of Piha Surf Lifesaving Club which has been guardian of the iron sand beach for 75 years. Sold around the world with varying titles, the last of the series ran this year.
Another guardian of the iron sands is the crouching 101 metre-high Lion Rock offering an opportunity to scramble partway up on a formed track for a bird’s eye view.  Occasionally people have wandered off the track and become hapless victims of another version of a Piha rescue.
It is the waves dividing on Lion Rock that inspired the Maori name Te Piha meaning,`` the ripple of waves at the prow of a canoe.’’

A Karekare gem are the 30 metre-high falls of the same name, reached on a short easily-graded track from the beach-front carpark. For a diehard South Islander brought up to enjoy a spectacular southern landscape, these falls nevertheless have great appeal. Suspect I am impressed by the play of light through lush nikau palms (Phopalostylis Sapida) providing an amphitheatre for a pool popular for swimming at the foot of the falls. The nikau species, the world’s most southern palm, is endemic to mainland New Zealand.  Nikau provide a canny sub-tropical look to these coastal landscapes. Other prominent natives are the ubiquitous tree ferns and cabbage tree/Ti-kouka along with the spectacular scarlet pohutukawa, known in summer, as the New Zealand Christmas tree.
Closer to the beach I discover a Maori carving and associated information panel, Wai Karekare. The popularity of the coastline ensured pas to inhabit and protect local Maori.

These days dwellings represent the quaint age-old Kiwi bach. In nearby Piha, the humble Kiwi holiday home is increasingly being up scaled to sophisticated dwellings.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

                                         Hobsonville Point visited

I have been to Hobsonville to check out the new home of Paul, my oldest son.
Paul recently shifted into a newly-built three bedroom apartment in Grey Warbler Road.  Hobsonville Point is about 40 km west of the Auckland CBD. Non-peak travelling time is about 25 minutes.
It is an appealing new town sited on a former RNZAF Base and jutting into the upper Waitemata Harbour. It is believed to be named after New Zealand’s first governor, William Hobson. Streets and contemporary features are named after birds, fish, and one-time military sites. Quirky decorative street features include bird-feeding boxes. Buildings comply to a colour scheme.

The air base had its origins in 1924 when land was put aside for sea and land-based aviation. Hobsonville maintained TEAL (former name of Air New Zealand) flying boats until they were retired in 1967. The Air Force relocated to nearby Whenuapai in 2001 and 167 ha were rezoned to become a compact town.

Presently Hobsonville Point has 3000 residents. More than 1600 dwellings have e been sold. Average price is $730,000. 11,000 dwellings are expected to be completed by 2023.
 Recreation has been included with several ks of walking and cycling tracks around the point.  Catalina Bay, named after a twin-engine amphibious flying boat, is a community hub with transport, farmer’s market and other facilities. The ferry wharf has displays depicting local history along with notes on wildlife. Hobsonville Point was originally favoured with kauri forests. Hobsonville ventures in the planning include development of over-water dining in Catalina Bay. Already, schools, parks and sophisticated playgrounds are providing the necessary infrastructure for families.

For myself, I approve of a town of modern design cosy structures in a location with a get-away-from-it -all atmosphere. Another plus is Hudsonville’s proximity to the generously-forested Waitakere hills and their associated impressively-wild western coastline. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

                                             Amused by my tea towel

I had being buying Selaks Reserve Chardonnay and enjoying my daily glass or three. But I inexplicably missed out on a free tea towel offer that came when buying two bottles. I sent an email to Selaks and they kindly sent me one. It’s a beauty using a play on words to present an agreeable line Great Minds Drink Alike. 

The Selaks wine bottle label is one that typically catches my attention. I was therefore interested to do a little research.
Marino Selaks, aged 24, arrived in New Zealand from Croatia in 1906. Most things about his adopted country were agreeable apart from olive oil and wine not being a part of everyday life. He was used to a bottle of wine being on the dinner table. He bought a market garden, orchards and a winery in Auckland and went to work. With other Selaks’s arriving from Croatia, winemaking became a family business creating the traditional European wine styles. Later Selaks produced New Zealand’s second sparkling wine and exported to Australia. A setback was in 1956 when the government acquired the vineyard for part of the North West motorway. Cabernet Sauvignon had just been planted for the first time.
Alternative land was purchased and more grapes planted, this time 5000 vines of the latest varietals. Land was also purchased in Marlborough, the home for New Zealand’s distinctive Sauvignon Blanc.
Success hinged on decisions of what might work and, in true kiwi style, giving it a go.
An enlightening video can be viewed on

In the meantime I chuckle over Great Minds Drink Alike.
It’s a rare, pleasant, change to have amusement when drying dishes.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Viewing from afar
Putting distance between myself and the city has been my long-time destination choice. As far away as possible. Preferably where mountains rise above inland lakes and native forests.  Circumstances frequently dictate distancing myself has to be a tad more modest. In Christchurch we are lucky. In a short time, even cycling or walking, we can have a vast view of Canterbury simply by ascending the nearby Port Hills.

Popular with locals and visitors is the ride up in Christchurch Gondola, actually a cable car, from the Heathcote Valley. In a handful of minutes one is whisked to almost 500 metres astride Mount Cavendish. The cabins travel a 1000 metre-cable to the Top Station.
Views are outstanding. To the west are the Southern Alps foothills and to the north the view is over the sweep of Pegasus Bay to the Kaikoura mountains. On a suitable day paragliders use the gondola summit as a convenient launching point. In another direction the view overlooks Lyttelton Harbour and its busy seaport appearing like an animated miniature train set from this vantage point.

 A not-to-be-missed thing to do is to enjoy an hour or so with coffee and add-ons in the Red rock Café.
For a rundown on the café let me introduce you to café manager Vanessa Murphy.   
She may surprise, shock even, with her announcement, ``lolly cake is a café speciality.
``And it’s not just the children who eat it,’’ laughs Vanessa.
More to my liking would be a savoury muffin. If tempted by the plush food cabinet a Panini or croissant would do the trick. Vanessa then announces ``the works’’ scone?
That’s a date scone with jam and cream.
She has been Red rock Café manager for 18 months.
Her husband, Dominque, is the chef working a floor or so down.
``In the dungeon,’’ laughs Vanessa.
Everything at Red rock Café is made on site.
 A blackboard menu is available from 10 am to 4 pm. It chalks up burgers, fish ‘n chips and other yummy options.
Cabinet food is made fresh to keep pace with demand.
Healthy options include fresh fruit salad and special children’s offerings.

Vanessa and Dominique work together on food selections. Bottom line is, ``what customers want.
``The café is going very well,’’ says Vanessa. We meet a lot of wonderful people. Some arrive having walked the Bridle Path and Crater Rim Walkway.’’
As a working environment, it could not be better.
``The 360 deg. view changes every day. We can be in sunshine when the city is under cloud. Or we can have snow when Christchurch doesn’t.
``This time of year (July and August) we see glorious sunsets by the time the last Gondola descends at 5.30 pm.’’
I ask if she fields any unusual questions.
``We are frequently asked `how do we get to work?’’’ she laughs.
This is my choice of time of the year to visit. It’s when snow generously plasters the mountains.
A two-way cable car ride costs $28 for an adult. A better choice is to purchase an Annual Pass for $65, or $139 for a family.
An annual pass entitles unlimited rides and also includes the same on the Christchurch Tramway. It also offers discounts in the well-stocked gondola shop at the summit and other company attractions.
I’m on my way.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Hands on an an Aussie icon

 Aussies have been accused of taking over Kiwi treasurers. If so, I can tell you it’s not a one-way street. Right now a great Australian icon is languishing in Kiwiland.
It is understandably a heavy item being 18-carat gold. It is worth $A200, 000.
 Having put on a white glove, I was privileged to hold it and have my photo taken.

The 2017 Melbourne Cup is touring three New Zealand locations. Christchurch was the first stop on Friday August 4.

Incredibly, a new Melbourne Cup is manufactured each year. Since 2003 the bright golden cup has toured 31 Australian and New Zealand destinations. Dubbed Emirates Melbourne Cup Tour, this year it started on July 1 in West Wyalong, rural NSW, where gold used by ABC Bullion was mined.
The Cup will return to Flemington in time for the race that stops a nation on the first Tuesday of November.
In Christchurch the Cup along with a small accompanying care group was transported from New Regent Street to Arborista in High Street Mall aboard heritage tramcar No. 152. The event added one more celebrity to the tramcar’s repertoire.
It has carried Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip; HRH Prince Harry, the Dutch royal family, and the 2017 Melbourne Cup.

Clutching the cup was racing’s legend jockey, Scott Seamer.(pictured) His first ride was in 1987. Since 2000 his prize money has exceeded A$ 42 million.
Tram driver Ken Henderson asked Seamer what it felt like to presented with such a cup.
``Very good,’’ he replied, ``especially when it is filled with money.’’
Scott Seamer won the 2001 Melbourne Cup aboard Ethereal trained by New Zealander Sheila Laxon, the first woman to coach a Melbourne Cup Winner.
A pleasing touch was the cup being taken to a rest home to visit 93-year-old John Osborne.
``Igot to drink beer from one of those 65 years ago,’’ he said. He had been itching to get his hands on one again. The customary white gloves was a new experience.
Osborne won the Melbourne Cup in 1952 aboard Dalray trained by Clarrie McCarthy.
``Dalray was seen as a winner when we arrived at Flemington. He charged from the back of the pack.   I was cheered by the Aussies as if I was one of their own.’’
I might sound like a racing devotee. Truth is I am not. I have a small interest owing to reading Banjo Paterson verse and a great book by Will Lawson, When Cobb & Co. was King.
Lawson writes about punters arriving on horse-drawn coaches for the trial event in 1860, then the first Melbourne Cup in 1861. It was won by Archer. The 1860s marked the beginning of the demise of horse-drawn transportation in Australia.

On the first Tuesday in November Kiwis will join their trans-Tasman neighbours in pausing for about three minutes 20 seconds for the call of the Melbourne Cup. In 1993 Kiwi punters spent $9.3 million on the race.
Suspect I will not be betting and may not even tune in to listen to the race.
But when I was asked on Friday if I would like to hold the Melbourne Cup and have my photo taken, I very much appreciated the opportunity.