Monday, June 8, 2009

Akaroa - in the Rain

With the Southerly hemming us in and the weather terrible in Christchurch, there was no real point heading over to Mt Hutt and the Alps as there would simply be nothing to see. However, as I had never been to Akaroa in my life, despite the rain, Liz decided we would go down there as there's a few art galleries to see and some top notch views.

Driving down it was very wet. Water coming off the hills and spilling onto the road, making it quite treacherous. Cattle and Sheep had their own Antarctic 'islands' as they were totally surrrounded in flood water.

We arrived in Cooptown and stopped to look at the gallery. I've tried finding out more about Cooptown before writing this, but there is nothing on the internet at all about it, except in Maori which I can't read. I can tell you though. It was wet. And small. Very small. Blink and eye and you would miss it. So just in case you do miss it, I took a few photos for you..

This was just over the road from the gallery. As you can see it wasn't the brightest day weatherwise. And it was COLD! Freezing in fact.

But this wasn't a deterrent for hardy tourists like myself. And definitely not a deterrent for these hardy southlanders like Liz. They're used to this weather!

Just to let you get the drift of Cooptown a bit more - here's another image of it's most populous residents...

And for those are now enamoured of the place, I found your weekend getaway for sale. Needs a teeny weeny bit of tender care, but could be easily be your next 'do-up' project.. I'm sure the capital gain on it would be through the roof!

It's a cutie really!

Onwards up the hill we come to the top, and the lookout for Akaroa. To mark this spot I took the photo despite the weather...

If it had been a lovely clear sunny day - this is what I would have seen instead...

(Photo taken by another tourist, not me!)

The difference is quite marked don't you think??

At this lookout, there was a hotel, and two old cars were parked outside it. The owners obviously sensibly ensconsed in front of a fire having hot devonshire teas. However the car was interesting, and because of the lack of 'vista' to photograph, I photographed the car instead...

If anyone can tell me what kind of car it is, it would be greatly appreciated. My knowledge of cars doesn't go further than the colour of them! I believe this is the Old Great Yellow Car.

Akaroa in itself was very charming. Old villas and cottages, lighthouses, boatsheds. It's a very historic place. Land ownership passed from Maori into Colonial government in the early 1800's. One of the whalers who put into Akaroa Harbour in the late 1830s was a French captain, Jean Francois Langlois. Langlois returned to France with a land deed signed by some local Maori, believing he had purchased all of Banks Peninsula. The Nanto-Bordelaise Company, with tacit support and assistance from the French Government, decided to found a French settlement on Banks Peninsula. It sent out the Comte de Paris, with close to 60 settlers aboard, in 1840. The settlers were mainly French, but included a handful of Germans.

The French Government also sent out a warship, L’Aube, under Captain Lavaud, to support the settlers. There was a French naval presence in Akaroa Harbour until 1846. By the time the French arrived in Akaroa in August 1840, New Zealand was already British, and the Union Jack was flying from a flag staff on Green’s Point. It had been raised a few days earlier to demonstrate to the French arrivals that the South Island was British. Despite this setback to the plans to establish a French colony on the South Island, the French settlers remained, and their descendants are among the present-day residents of Akaroa.

By the 1850s, after the founding of the Canterbury Settlement and of Christchurch in 1850, the French were outnumbered by settlers of other nationalities, especially British. The small French village of the 1840s, with buildings which had a markedly French look about them, became a typical New Zealand colonial town, with buildings that followed mainly British architectural precedents. But Akaroa has the distinction of being the only town in New Zealand founded by French settlers.

The architecture with the original buildings still havce a french influence. As it was raining, I took the photos from the car...

I could easily live in a cottage like this. Providing it had a fireplace. A big one. And Batts in the attic.

This is the old historic Shipping Office of Akaroa..

It has now been transformed into luxury accommodation, in the form of a two bedroom apartment which you can rent out for $180 a night. It doesn't have a fireplace, but it does boast electric heating. That person under the umbrella is Liz. She had tried to move the wheelie bins away so I could take the photo without them in front. (She's a wonderful photographer's assistant!) But obviously the people who had stayed there last had drunk too much, as they were too heavy to move, so the photo now shows you how Akaroa deals with their rubbish as well!

This next historic building I found is the Coronation Library. Since 1875, residents of Akaroa keen on reading have used this picturesque building as their library. Was built in 1875, and is situated at 103 Rue Jolie. Even the street names are still in French.

I took another image of an old cottage, and have just found out online that this again is quite a historic place in Akaroa. Google is wonderful for that. It's the cottage that Captain Bruce built, an early Scottish settler, he built it for his widowed brother-in-law and his two nieces. It was built in 1856...

One of the oldest surviving houses in Canterbury, the Langlois-Eteveneaux Cottage was built in the early 1840s by Aimable Langlois. He returned to France in 1842.

This is the Fire and Ice building, which was built in 1884, and started life as Akaroa's first Bakery.

By now we decided it was time for lunch, and a quick brisk walk along the waterfront saw us in a cafe offering hot seafood chowder. We couldn't pass that up - it was a perfect day for that food. After lunch we thought this sign would mean a lot to many people..

Back in the car and we drove around the waterfront. I wondered why I saw so many wood pigeons (native pigeons of New Zealand), then realised we were in Pigeon Bay. I'ts not a good photo, but I had everything against me - the light, the rain, the distance it was in the tree..

And then there was the famous lighthouse..

The original Akaroa lighthouse started operation on the precipitous headland of Akaroa Heads on 1 January 1880. One hundred years later, it was moved down to Akaroa Township, after being replaced in 1977 by an automated light. There are now tours of it on request. We didn't request one that day. Too cold!

We did drive down this rickety old road south of Akaroa and I found some old boatsheds...

These apparently do have some historical significance in the area, but I couldn't find out anything about it.

Just before we left Akaroa, we headed into the most delightful art gallery. I saw several pieces of artwork I could have easily bought, for friends and family and myself - but it's the thought that counted isn't it?

But we did spot a quirky piece of art on the side of a building on our way out of town...

I'm not sure what the artist was trying to convey here, because I get the feeling he may be trying to point out that a certain gender likes being on the phone. They'd be wrong though.

Anyway - that was Akaroa - I very much appreciate Liz taking the time to take me to such a spot. And despite the weather, I enjoyed it a lot. I would like to go back one day when the sun is shining though. (Does the sun shine down there?)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

VIP for an Afternoon

Liz had a wonderful birthday on my second day of Christchurch. The weather was so miserable that my camera didn't end up coming out of the bag. However, we managed to fill up the day, shopping (highlight was a pair of woollen witches britches, and a pair of leather boots!), lunching with Liz's friends for a birthday lunch, and then a birthday dinner - Vietnamese Steamboat that Pat cooked up. Boy can Pat cook up a storm. It was the best meal I have ever had.

The following day Liz took Pat and I to the netball. She had been given VIP tickets, which meant we had wonderful seats courtside, and were able to drink wine and champagne, and were served food throughout the game. We were up one end of the goal and so I took a few photos...

Tactix - warming up (Christchurch team was Tactix so that is the team I supported - just as well they weren't playing Auckland!)

The start of the game with the team supporting each other..

Defence - look they're all legs and arms!

Julie Seymour is still in prime fitness, even though she's had two children and is now in her 30's. She's always a joy to watch on the court - and Centre is such a demanding position.

Oooooooo - cat fight...

This is why Tactix won...

And while this game was going on we were scoffing these..

Washed down with this...

It felt funny eating in front of so many people.. And everytime there was a goal the crowds went wild...

All in all - a wonderful afternoon - not bad being a VIP once in a while!

A New Zealand break

At the beginning of the year, when I was still down and out, morose, upset, and struggling with total hearing loss, Air New Zealand Grab-a-Seat advertised flights to Christchurch for $10 each way. I grabbed them, and was booked to go to Christchurch 21st May, coming back on 2nd June. You can't sneeze at these prices.

I emailed my step-sister Liz and asked if I could come and stay. The trip just happened to co-incide with her 30th birthday so that was all good. At the time I was still waiting to see if I would have a cochlear implant by then, so warned her that I could still be totally deaf. It didn't seem to faze her at all. Luckily for all, I was well and truly up and running with my new implant by the time I got onto that flight which was meant the holiday was very smooth communication wise. Made it much less tiring for me too.

Naturally, as it always happens, (ie Minus 31 in Montreal, and 40C in Sacramento), I happened to go south just as a polar blast blew up from the Antarctica in a roaring southerly, leaving bad weather and snow for me to arrive in. I'm not so worried about the snow - I love snow and I'm a good shot when it comes to snowballs.

Liz picked me up from the airport, and then after lunch I suggested we go up the road to the snow, seeing the Port Hills were covered. We then spent the afternoon driving around the Port Hills with Liz being a wonderful tour guide, and me getting my snowball throwing arm back into practise....

There wasn't a huge amount of snow - but just enough to satisfly the Aucklander who lives where it never snows. The views were breathtaking... this is looking over to Lyttelton Harbour...

then turn 180 degrees and you look across Christchurch and over to the Southern Alps where Mt Hutt is (great skiing place which I have yet to visit one day).

This was the only photograph I got of the alps, as the southerly then took over again and gave me rain and low cloud for the rest of the time I was in Christchurch. It blanketed everything so not many photos were actually taken in Christchurch.

We kept on following this road up on the Port Hills..

And came to this memorial which is very old that commemorates the early settlers arriving in Lyttelton harbour and trekking over the hill to settle in Christchurch...

Here's Lyttelton harbour showing the actual Port...

Up the road a bit and we got extensive views over Christchurch and the lovely long but cold beach. I'm not sure how anyone swims in that water in summer - it's mighty cold to me :)

Then around some more to sweeping views of Godley Head...

Eventually the road ended around the entrance of Lyttelton Harbour...

And those hardy enough to have a picnic, had a perfect picnic spot with beautiful views. I guess it would be slightly warmer in summer!!

By this time the late afternoon sun was coming out giving everything a golden look, the perfect time of the day for taking photos.

Especailly when the sun hits the tussock grass...

On our way home now, and a last parting shot of Lyttelton Harbour from the top, while it was still in the sun...

And when that tussock grass is lit up by the late afternoon golden light, AND it's surrounded in white sparkly snow - well - that's just magic to this snowless Aucklander!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cochlear Implant Update

I keep getting little messages in my inbox asking...

'How's the hearing?' and
'We haven't heard you talk about your CI - trust it's going well...?'

...and I keep meaning to give an update but keep ending up being sidetracked. First my gorgeous burmese cat went missing, so I was too busy delivering flyers and trying to find her, so the updates went by the by. Then I took off for two weeks holiday to stay with family and friends in the South Island. I went because I got a $10 airfare to Christchurch, and I am a person that simply can't pass up bargains like that. I got back last night to find yet another query in my inbox asking about my hearing.

So - I now feel I should let you know that....

Yes- I'm hearing. It's really exciting, and I'm doing extremely well.

The week I left to go the the South Island I had my one Month post switch on mapping. The results were....

98% open set sentences without lipreading in quiet. (Now that's more like it - back to my original implant score before it failed!)

98% open set sentencces without lipreading in noise (+5db) Wow - that's incredible - I don't think I've ever got that score before, even with my old original implant which was good.

86% open set sentences without lipreading in noise (+10db). Still pretty good, and still better than my original implant before it failed.

66% single words only without lipreading. This is a score which has doubled, as only two weeks before it had been 33%. So the speech discrimination is improving daily.

Am I pleased? Heck yeah - I'm thrilled as after two years of struggling with failed equipment I finally feel that I'm getting somewhere again. I'm making phone calls again, still not with complete ease, but am able to hold my own and get most of the phone call is about.

I picked up my cat from the cattery this morning and she's spent the day wandering around the house meowing. I found I could hear her call from every room. And I noticed I can now hear when the washing machine finishes.

Just before I went away, I fired off an email to my surgeon to tell him the news, and facetiously asked if I should be aiming for 100% scores. His answer.....

'Why stop at 100%?'

Why indeed? !!