Tuesday, 29 October 2013

My better half and I had a lucky escape when we left Fiji on Friday last, for the following day was Hash day at Pacific Harbour. I have received a report on Saturday's run, which was set by Ding Dong, and is well worth reporting here, as it ably verbalises what an interesting time can be had when attending a Hash run. They are normally enormous fun, and, for the last eight years of our stay in Fiji we really looked forward to the Saturday Hash run. The author of the report is the ever-erudite Wigless who has been known to run a half-marathon in the morning, set a Hash run after lunch, and then run the Hash run he set immediately after having set it.

All Hashers have a nickname.

'Lady' is Wigless' faithful mutt, that in dog-years is about 97 years old.

Here followeth the report:

BTW, Saturday’s run was a classic, set by Ding Dong. Only 5 runners set off in pouring rain and we walked through the jungle just across the river from the land I own at the end of Kamba Place.  We got through to the dirt road before Ding Dong said that we’d missed a turnoff up a hill, so we backtracked and found the path.  It was still pouring down and because the trail had been laid in newspaper it was disintegrating rapidly but we pressed on up some precipitous slopes which had been made difficult to negotiate by the mud.  Down the other side in sago swamp and wandering around like souls in purgatory in a sort of tropical Lord of the Rings landscape with rain pelting down making the swamp more like a lake, the grey skies made even more gloomy by the dense foliage overhead, looking for bedraggled newspaper that’s difficult to spot even in the best of circumstances.

Howard was saying that we’d eventually make our way back to the track that we’d just come from, which I took as meaning back to the dirt road.  I was up in front blazing a trail (as the proper marks were just a distant memory - in Ding Dong's case a very distant memory).  So after sloshing through swamp and getting slashed by the thorns I turned right up the hill again and started making my way around to the road.  By now Ding Dong, Crazy Water, One Hung Low and Soul Sister were all getting pretty tired and I wasn't feeling too chipper myself as I’d been for a 20k run with Lady that morning.  Goodness knows how she was feeling as a result.  Anyway by about 5.45 p.m. Ding Dong felt that we were heading in the wrong direction and, once I realised that he was trying to go back to our outward track out rather than to the dirt road obviously I agreed, so we headed left back through the swamp.

So left turn it was and then another left and by now it was 6.30 p.m. and we could hardly see anything.  I was guided by the sounds of Diwali big bangs from Mokasoi and was following that until darkness fell.  We couldn't even see our hands in front of our faces and so everyone held on to the shirt of the person ahead.  Being the first in line all I could do was hold on to the spiny leaves and trunks that I came across as we shuffled forwards at about 100m an hour.  Eventually it got so thick that Ding Dong and Crazy Water were battling a bit with bending down and were calling out stop so they could extricate themselves.  Stopping in sago is a bit of a lottery and 9 times out of 10 wherever you stop seems to contain ferocious ants.  So those stops were only about 15 seconds which was causing a bit of anguish both for the bitten and those left behind, albeit by only 4 or 5 metres.  At one point we stopped and stayed absolutely quiet to listen for more fireworks and that caused Lady, who was about 2m to one side, to start whinging much better as she thought she was lost and we’d left her.

At 7.30 p.m. they called it a day and said they’d sit for the night.  I was keen to carry on as I couldn't think of much worse than sitting in crotch deep water being bitten by mosquitoes for 10 hours.  Even blundering on as slowly as a squashed slug was better than doing nothing as both Ding Dong and I felt that we couldn't have been too far from the river.  Anyway, we did sit for about half an hour until Crazy Water remembered he has a tiny LED bulb on his car key ring.  He then shuffled about getting one or two palm fronds for us to sit on and eventually I suggested we carry on for as long as the battery lasted.  Amazing how something so puny as one tiny bulb can make such a difference in the pitch black.  In the land of the blind the one eyed man, etc.

We struggled through what is the thickest section of sago swamp it’s ever been my displeasure to battle past and after 15 minutes (or 50m) I broke out and could see the sky.  20m further on, there was the river so we waded across it and ambled back to Ding Dong's house.  Got back at about 8.30 p.m., covered in mud with ankles, legs, arms and hands slashed and lots of pointed sago thorns sticking out like sea urchins.  A night to remember.  The apr├Ęs was still fairly good, all things considered.  Pity you weren't with us to enjoy it.

Yeah, right!

Wigless has supplied a Google Earth picture so that we may visualise their adventure. The creek is known as the Qaraniqio, or "Shark Hole".

Sunday, 27 October 2013

We were astonished to see the growth in the garden on our return. We have had 212 mm of rain so far for the month (130 mm of that on 8th Oct) so it hasn't been exactly dry. 

While the spuds have decided that conditions are perfect, the sweetcorn and peas have not liked the conditions at all as we've had only about a 10% germination rate from them. The lowest temperature we have had in our absence was +2.1°, with the mean being 12.4°.  

Saturday, 26 October 2013

SWMBO and I left our son's house in Fiji yesterday at 08:45 and made our way to Nausori Airport 72 km away. We arrived in good time (Fiji Airways insists that you check in 3 hours before the departure time) after explaining to the nice policeman why we overtook a 15 kph truck on a double white line, that Fiji authorities love to put on a long straight.

The flight was due to leave at 13:10, but, as everybody was aboard by 12:50, we cranked up the engines and took off at least 15 minutes early in B737-800 DQ-FJF. We really thought that this was an auspicious beginning as we had been told by one of the airport security guys who recognised me (in a good way) that the previous 2 flights out of Nausori had been dogged by delays and cancellations. The half-asleep lady at check-in managed to put us in separate rows, but we managed to sort this out once aboard.

We arrived in Auckland after an uneventful flight, and made our way to the Domestic Terminal in the inter-terminal bus. We normally walk, but on this occasion, there was a strong cool wind and a light rain, which threatened to develop into something more serious on the 10-minute walk between terminals.

A long queue awaited us when we went to check in, so we opted to check ourselves in at the self-check-in stations provided. The first check-in terminal was U/S, the second said that it was only for something that we weren't. We finally found one that was just right for us. However, once we checked in and checked our boarding passes, we found that our arrival in Wellington was quite a bit later than our supposed departure from the same port for Nelson. Luckily, we were advised to hang on to our luggage while we sussed out what was going on.

Turned out that Wellington was doing what it does best and flights through there were experiencing delays. We chose to camp the night here and continue in the morning.

An all female crew landed us safely in Nelson at 08:25 this morning. The Q300 greased onto the runway in a very work[wo]manship manner, that would have impressed our old Dad.

Home again.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A trap for Kiwi drivers in Fiji, is the propensity of Fiji cops to book you if you are going over the limit before you pass the sign. In my case, this morning, I was doing the same thing as 4,000,000 Kiwi drivers and that was on approaching the "Open Road" sign , which is just the unpainted reverse of the sign saying you are entering a 60 kph zone, and was speeding up as I approached it, when a nice gentleman, holding something resembling a hair dryer jumped out in front of me and signaled that I pull over. 

The nice man, who, going by his uniform turned out to be a policeman who directed my attention to his hair dryer which had numbers that registered '74' and '345' on it. He explained that these numbers indicated the speed I was doing  and the distance I was from hair dryer when he clicked the button. He then explained with brutal logic, that as the sign was only 340 metres away, that 5 metres inside the 60 kph zone, I was doing 74 kph.

So, caught like a rat in a trap, I could only produce my New Zealand licence, and apologise that I no longer possessed a Fiji one due to the dact that I no longer resided here, and was in fact due to fly  out on Friday next. After noting the details on a piece of paper on his clipboard, his gaze lingered speculatively on me as he weighed up the chances that I was spinning him line, which, I suspect in his world was a very regular occurrence. For once I buttoned my lip and waited. Finally, he handed my licence back, and with a small smile, said "Good luck."

"Thank you, Sir," I said, and hastened back to the car before he changed his mind!

Needless to say, a chastened Kiwi's driving was a model of impeccable behaviour for the rest of the day.


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Known in Hash circles as 'Mermaid', island princess and granddaughter Hayli pauses for the camera.
Yesterday I was very pleased to join a motley crew on a jaunt through the jungle with a few of the remaining Pacific Harbour Hash House Harriers.

Once in the jungle, I found it quite strange to recognise an individual tree among hundreds. "Hi, Tree." sez I, "Long time no see."   This elicited a few well-aimed jibes and jeers as we slid and slithered down a steep slope on a bed of millions of mahogany leaves. One had to be careful not to get too much way on as, at the bottom, was a solid-rock lined pool, which, while probably being quite refreshing, may have proved a bit hard on the head, being also quite shallow.

One of the intrepid Hashers, namely One Hung Low, managed to place herself in front of a hornet, innocently going about its business. The poor hornet, unable to change direction in time had to fend off the human with the pointy end of his abdomen. The resulting cry of "Hornets!!"  caused Ding Dong to levitate backwards so quickly that he almost knocked poor Big Bags into the swamp. After checking (carefully!) that we were not going to cause any more inconvenience to the hornet fraternity, we continued up to the top of a hill from which viewpoint we were able to enjoy a refreshing breeze and a great view over the Beqa Channel. Freezing Nuts then let us in a roundabout way back to his hacienda beside Queens Road where we enjoyed a refreshing brown fizzy liquid that, curiously, comes in brown, long-necked bottles. 

Freezing Nuts possesses a tree in his garden that I'd never seen before, which had long stems hanging from it with large numbers of nuts attached. We tried some and they were really quite nice.  Known as 'Vutu Kana', or 'Cut Nut'. 

Blogging has been a bit slow due to other commitments. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Happiness for a 4 year old is a splash in a warm rock pool in the tropical Pacific. Granddad was happy to be there to witness it.

Those sparkling eyes hide the mischief-planning that is going on behind them.

Friday, 11 October 2013

18:00 FST 11 Oct 2013

This was our view from the front porch for nearly 18 years. It's still not bad!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

There's nothing quite so nice as the unexpected cuddle from a two year old grand daughter. It had been a year since I had seen her, and she was understandably reserved, so I kept my distance and sat down with good read, until a little face interposed itself betwixt me and the book. 

Melt the heart of a wooden god.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Seems strange to be more than 2,000 kilometres away from my recently ridged spuds. One of the first things we see in the garden is not quite as colourful as our New Zealand pigeon, but beautiful, nonetheless.

Known locally as the barking pigeon, Wikipedia calls it the Barking Imperial Pigeon. They're endemic to Fiji, and are quite often heard in the still air of the morning for quite surprising distances.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

A mild and sunny spring morning is a marvelous tonic for the soul, and one hardly needs prodding to get out and ridge the spuds.

The 400 mm netting hanging on the fence will eventually go around the garden to keep Brer Rabbit and his buddies out. I was unaware until I went to purchase 'rabbit netting' at the local hardware store that rabbits won't jump over 400 mm. I've taken their word for it for now, but the jury is still out, in my mind.

The two gardens are a total of 1,320 square feet, or 123 square metres, which allows for plenty of exercise keeping the weeds down and the rows ridged. We have peas under the bird-netting, which are purely for munching from the vine, potatoes (Swift, Red King, Purple Heart and Waiporoporo - a Maori spud) and what we in New Zealand call 'yams' but are actually a starchy South American tuber called 'Oca' (Oxalis tuberosathat are a favourite in the roasting dish. 

From here, we can sit with a beer and watch them all grow.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

George and Mildred McDuck deigned to show off the remaining four of their original six ducklings today. They raised nine out of nine last year. The eels must be a bit hungrier this year. Hopefully these ones are now large enough to be a bit too big for eel tucker.

Paradise Shelduck and young.

Friday, 4 October 2013

By popular request (see comment in previous post) I have visited Louie and persuaded him to appear again on the blog. He was bit reluctant at first, as he was being inspected by the boarders, who wondered what he was. 

 "Hi, kids. I hope you don't mind if I scratch my butt on this plow."

 "Can you believe that this thing doesn't know I'm a sheep! Get out of the road, buster, or get run over!"

"Look at me! All four feet off the ground!"

"Can I come into your place and eat the roses? Pleease?" 

"Louie, you're a skite!"