Tuesday, 22 February 2011

"Tired But Happy" News

A very long time ago when I was in Std 2 or 3, part of our English lessons was to write little essays in our "News" exercise books. When our news was interesting enough we got to read it out in front of the class. I noticed that most of those chosen always ended with "We went home tired but happy".

Fast-forward 50 years, I do have a piece of news, though perhaps not too worthy of a classroom broadcast but which did indeed ended up with us reaching home "tired but happy".

"Tired" because of the somewhat hectic (but manageable) logistical issues of a small entourage, and "happy" due to the joyousness of the occasion - which was our son Amin's engagement to Dr. Hanis, a Terengganu lass about to complete her housemanship at Queen Elizabeth's Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.

Mum-in-law to-be marking Hanis's "taken" status :)

With Cikgu Hassan and Puan Samirah, Hanis's parents

Thanks to all who have joined us at the ceremony in Kuala Terengganu.

With that we now have two sons whose hearts have been captured by pretty "mek ganu" working in East Malaysia.

Two weddings in the pipeline this year kiddoes, and the gang have already asked about colour themes. Adeen wants beige for his and we think lime-green would be nice for Amin's.

As for the over-riding concept, shall we just stick to SIMPLICITY?

After all, as Leonardo Da Vinci observed " Simplicity IS the ultimate Sophistication ". YES, I agree...

Mulling over that little "eureka" moment, I shudder thinking of the daunting tasks ahead and the next 2 trips to Kuala Terengganu. Will people come home "tired but happy" then?

We will have to make it so, Insya Allah.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

And Finally, Kiwi Diet, Tails and Baked Chicken

At The Wobbly Kea Cafe in the tiny village town of Arthur's Pass along state highway 73:

"His is Long Black", me referring to hubby, "mine is Flat White, please... and hers is Pearl Gray...

ooops... I mean Earl Gray"

You can't order plain simple coffee or tea at these places, you've got to tell exactly how you like them. With some imagination, it does sound like you're describing yourselves... sheeesh

"Would you like anything else, sandwiches, fish and chips?" asked the barristo, upselling.

"Oh... do you have any scones?"

"Yes, we have diet scones..."

"DIET scones? That's interesting... does that mean you forego the cream?"

"Cream? We serve them with butter and jam"

It was then that the penny dropped.

"Aaah, you meant DATE scones! I thought you said DIET scones", me laughing

"DATES, yes DATES...I'm sorry... I have this accent...." she laughing and her supervisor, too

Feeling smug about out permaisuri English, we sat by the window to enjoy our date-inundated scones with our afternoon tea and coffee.

Sated and warmed up, we put on our rain-gear and took a walk up a mountainside to take a closer look at the Punchbowl Falls.

The waterfall in the distance

Some steps to be tackled...

The Punchbowl Falls

On the way back we were treated to a magnificent display of the southern skies at sunset.

The next day, checking-in at out last pit-stop in Christchurch:

"We booked 2 singles originally, but can we have 1 triple room instead?", hubby requested.

"Yes, we have 1 triple available" said the lady manager.

She gave us some forms to fill and sign, while she processed the payment.

"Here are your keys. Please take your choice of milk from the refrigerator over there, thank you..." pointing to the fridge by the wall "...while I get you your tails"

In New Zealand, the motels provide you with a bottle of fresh milk, either full-cream or low-fat, which you get upon checking-in.

But "tails" whatever they may be, are a first for us. Could be cookies...

A few minutes later she knocked on our door. It was to be our second lesson in Kiwi pronunciation.

"Here you go... here are your tails"

And she handed us a set of fluffy blue.... T.O.W.E.L.S!

Tails? I could have grown one while laughing MAO...

We had less than 24 hrs in Christchurch as we had to leave the motel at 4.30 a.m the next morning for the airport.

We had to see the Pacific Ocean. It was sunny but windy and invigorating.

Killed some time at the Botanic Gardens before shopping for souvenirs downtown. Malaysian sales-girl Fei-fei from Shah Alam gave us an extra 5% discount for letting her practise her bahasa melayu.

At 5.00 am, after dropping off the car-keys at the unattended Budget booth in the airport, we were having our tickets processed at the Jetstar counter when the airline staff asked,

"Do you want your bake chicken?"

Are they serving baked chicken onboard, I wondered...

"I beg your pardon?"

"Do you want your BAG CHECKED IN?" she said, more clearly this time...

Sheeesh, these Kiwis... they should come to Malaysia to learn English pronunciation.

And that, kiddoes, was how our motoring trip to New Zealand ended.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A Kiwi Break - The Road To Arthur's Pass

Just as in Peninsula Malaysia, there are several routes in South Island that take you from the west coast to the east and vice versa. One is in the Southern Alps through Arthur's Pass, attributed to one Arthur Dobson in the 1860's although the Maori had long known of it's accessability to the other side.

As for us, we only wanted to get as far as the village post and see what's there. As usual the GPS guided us through the shorter and scenic but not necessarily the faster route. That day the wind was strong and blustery and whistled through the car windows which we had rolled down a little bit for fresh air. It's no surprise then, would it, that they should name a place there "Windwhistle"? Strong winds are the norm there, presumably.

Wind-swept - near Windwhistle

Part of the shorter route is fair-weather road for a good distance about 30km or so i.e. it is unsealed, hence unusable in very wet or icy conditions. Gravelly road notwithstanding, we came across some of the most starkly beautiful scenery of our holidays, only that the cameras we had couldn't do them much justice.

Onto the fair-weather road - grazing land at first

up into high country near Lake Coleridge

typical scenery - desolateness

Lake Lyndon almost at the end

back onto proper road, this is part of the state highway 73
connecting Christchurch to the west coast

Single-lane bridges such as in the picture are quite common on South Island roads, even on highways, and are sufficient to handle the traffic volumes.

It decided to rain when we eventually arrived at Arthur's Pass village - we stopped and ducked into the nearest eating place / toilets - "The Merrie Kea"

Thursday, 10 February 2011

A Kiwi Break - Final Two Days: Fairlie - Methven - Arthur's Pass

Hey kiddoes - I've finally managed to put up the map showing the places we spent some time at on our holidays (needed time to learn this alien mac machine)

Our last two days and still hadn't done the souvenirs. But what was of somewhat greater urgency was the dirty laundry. We always travel light clothes-wise and by then we had already run out of fresh ones. 10 am, the standard check-out time at the motels, we left on a leisurely drive to Methven, our last but one pit-stop.

"Leisurely" due to after-shocks of that second traffic summons I wrote about which hit us just before Fairlie. The police officer was as polite as the first - I guess that comes naturally with the fresh air and unpolluted surrounds. Talking about politeness, I have had experiences of being starred at in European countries but here they did not seem to notice you more than is necessary, like speeding.

It was still too early to check-in when we arrived at the Methven motel but the owner let us dump our load of wash in their machine (2 NZ dollars per load) and recharge our phone and camera batteries which were already on low. While waiting we explored the town which incidentally is popular with skiers in the wintertime. We had some coffee with delicious freshly-cooked tomato soup and rhubarb crumble. The cafe owner was understanding enough to ask beforehand whether we were allowed to have cheese with our soup.

We noticed that some business premises had been damaged by the September 2010 quake and were still closed for repairs. They say earth tremors occur everyday in South Island and were told that we had missed the last one in Methven by 3 days. Come to think of it, it might be nice to get a feel of a tiny shake, wouldn't it?

With laundry, lunch and solat out of the way, we headed for Arthur's Pass driving through both plains and rugged high country.

Shall continue next installment...

This cafe is filled with bric-a-brac which customers can buy.
You take your food at any of those tables



Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A Kiwi Break - Wanaka-Mt. Cook-Fairlie

OK, the next pit-stop was Wanaka. It is a town north-east of Queenstown on the Lake Wanaka. Yes, another Lake. Here we spent the night before pushing off for Mt. Cook the following morning. The reason for Wanaka: the scenic route offers hubby hair-pin bends and narrow roads to test the Corolla by. Not to mention the views.

The "scenic" shorter route

You can see the easier but longer route in the centre of the pic

At Wanaka we chanced upon an Indian restaurant serving halal fare, so we had our fill of hot nans, paratha, RICE, veg and meat curries

Lake Wanaka

Wanaka, from our room at the Wanaka Heights Motel

En route to Mt Cook:

First a break at a roman toilet! This was at "Puzzling World" just outside the town

Stark landscape

This is Lake Pukapi

No proper picnic spots there. We simply stopped by the roadside
for a lunch of bread, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, and salad

Driving across a dry creek

Snow-capped Mt. Cook in the distance

A 30 min walk to get a closer look

Kea Point - the lookout point

In the foreground is part of the 13km long Mueller Glacier

On the road to Fairlie - flat terrain now

We were fairly pooped when we arrived in the evening.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Kiwi Speed Fines

"Hello there sir, how are you?" asked the traffic policeman as hubby rolled down his side window.

Didn't I say the Kiwis are friendly?

He then requested to see hubby's driving license and asked about his occupation and date of birth.

Not wanting to raise the cop's curiosity too much as he did the immigrations officer, hubby said he was a retiree.

"I'm afraid you have gone over the speed limit for this road sir, which is 100 kph. My radar recorded your speed at 122 kph. Where are you headed for?"

"Te Anau"

"Te Anau... are you on holiday?"

"Yes sir"

"Unfortunately, I have to write you a ticket and since you have exceeded the limit by 22 kph. the fine will be 170 dollars. I'll explain how you can make the payment after I've finished."

We cringed... 170 dollars! That's about 420 ringgit. Now that is most unfortunate for US - not the policeman nor the NZ economy.

Well... no cruise on the fiord then.

"If you like, you can come with me to my car and check the radar reading", he offered.

I'm not sure if our Malaysian traffic police do this. I know that if our car is captured on speed-camera, the onus is on us to disprove the read-out if we think it's wrong.

When the officer handed us the ticket, he explained that we could pay for it at any branch of the NZ Westpac bank or on-line at the NZ Police website.

Before he walked away, he wished us a very good holiday and to drive safely.

From then on hubby stuck to the speed limit which was always prominently displayed on the roadside especially before a curve, or upon entering a built-up area or a school zone - otherwise I was the one to remind him.

Even that, we were caught a second time because he missed the sign while I was busy fiddling with the GPS.

This time he was doing 79kph in a 50kph zone (being the road was untarred due to maintenance) and because of the bigger difference, the fine was a whopping 230 dollars!

That was another huge contribution to the NZ economy. After that, no more... hubby drove like a little old lady, and if not for the splendid scenery everywhere we went he would have fallen asleep at the wheel many, many times.

So anyone who is taking a road trip in New Zealand, do drive within the speed limits not only for the sake of your budget but above all for your own safety and that of other road users as well.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Kiwi Break - To the Fiordlands

Glenorchy and the nearby town of Paradise were part of the location of "Middle Earth" in the filming of the "Lord of the Rings" movie. I expected a throng of visitors there but it turned out to be pretty deserted. There were only us.

Glenorchy - the northern tip of Lake Wakatipu

In fact everywhere we went on our holiday, from the fiordlands, to the alpines, to the plains - there were not very many people at all. The scenery was always amazing, the atmosphere tranquil, and there was nothing else to do but soak it all up.

Crossing the lake on the way to Te Anau in the Fiordlands in glorious weather

Walking by the Lake Te Anau in the town of the same name. We put up the night here...

... and woke up to a brilliant morning sky and set to drive onwards to Milford Sound

Milford Sound is said to be the wettest place in NZ.
It rained of course when we got there and couldn't see much of the fiord

We walked the marked track - only 20 minutes return

Last snap before turning back to Te Anau and then Wanaka

Rain water rushing down gullies which were dry on our way out

A friendly Kea parrot perched on the wing mirror
while we were waiting our turn to drive through a tunnel

Scenery on the Milford Sound-Te Anau-Wanaka route

We were served a speeding ticket here - 22 kph over the limit of 100 kph