Archive for February, 2013

Conference trip day six

The weather looked to be deteriorating with dark clouds hovering.  We had breakfast, cleaned up, and checked out.  We walked a short distance down the street and got a taxi to the airport.  He drove through the new tunnel which cut the time in half.  We had left far earlier than we needed to so we had a lot of time to wait.  We checked in, went through all the rigmarole, and sat for a coffee after browsing the shops.

We had seats in the middle of the plane so again we had no view.  I watched the movie “Seven Psychopaths” which was disappointing.  It wasn’t funny, it was overly violent – I just didn’t get it.

On arrival at Auckland, we had to wait before we could disembark as there was a sick child and ambulance guys came on board to check it out.  They asked where the family was from and we feared being quarantined.  Thankfully we weren’t.  Boss was singled out for searching again, then we walked to the domestic terminal.  We had another long wait there.  We had toasted sandwiches for ‘dinner’.  The plane home was delayed.

The flight back was during darkness but I did see some town lights and the sunset was stunning.

H was at the airport waiting.  Headed home, uploaded photos to show her, talked for a bit, then crashed.  I slept for 11 hours.


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Another day of vendor appointments.  We got to one conference session in the morning, missing the keynote (via Skype).  After lunch we attended a keynote.  She was not a particularly good speaker, the subject wasn’t particularly relevant and we both started nodding off.

There was a panel discussion.  Again, we had trouble staying awake so decided to miss the rest of the sessions and go for a walk along Southbank for some fresh air.

It was mid-afternoon but there were plenty of people of all ages at the artificial beach.  We wondered how these people got the time…

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There were plenty of ibises and crows again, but I  also saw a Willie wagtail, a bird that looked like a cross between a weka and a pukeko, a bird that I think was a currawong and another mynah-type bird.

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We reached the cafe area and saw a lizard just lounging at the feet of  some patrons.  It watched me as I took photos of it.  Satisfied that we’d seen some sights, we sat for a while before heading back for final conference drinks (after all, it had been paid for).  One of the waiters looked exactly like an extra from Lord or the Rings – he was very tall, fair-haired (dyed) and fine-boned.

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At the hotel we overheard the receptionist recommend a restaurant to someone.  We figured we’d check it out as well.  It was Valentine’s day, however, and there were a lot of couples on the streets looking for places to eat.  The restaurant recommended was busy but we only had a short wait before being able to sit outside.  We had the special of the day with the house wine and it was very nice.  A sudden downpour didn’t drench us as we were under cover and the staff were quick to lower the screens.  The rain didn’t last long at all and the streets were basically dry on our return.

I phoned my cousin’s wife on the Gold Coast and we had a bit of a chat.  There had been no time at all to visit her, my other two cousins or aunt in Brisbane.

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We had a leisurely breakfast before we had to be at the first session of the day, which was an interesting keynote.  Then we had heaps of appointments with vendors.

It rained, both before we headed out in the morning, and just before lunch.

Boss wanted me to take her place at a vendor’s lunch presentation as she went to another.  We were late because of the last appointment running late.  I went along but their food was not at all appealing and I was hungry, so I left and ate a more substantial lunch in the exhibition hall.  I then sneaked off to visit the nearby art gallery.  It took a while to get there so I only had a brief time to quickly look at a couple of rooms of paintings before I had to return for a relevant afternoon session.

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We went to a final keynote speaker (who was interesting if not particularly relevant) before heading back to the hotel.

In the evening we had the conference dinner.  The band was good but they played loudly so it was difficult to talk with others around the table.  We were right near a speaker too and the bass was so loud I could feel it in my chest.  The food was average.  The music that was played before the dinner was good, with the likes of Van Morrison and Sade – music I could dance to.  The music after the dinner, when people got up to dance, was the usual 80s pop which I just do not enjoy dancing to.  I danced a little while the boss sat and watched, but soon gave up and we left early to return to the hotel and bed.  There was no point staying to chat when you couldn’t hear.

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Day three started with an early breakfast at the conference centre.  I went to a first-timers’ breakfast (first time to this particular annual conference) and the boss went to a vendor’s breakfast.  I sat at one of the circular tables and got talking to the people on either side of me.  The person on my right was from Melbourne and looked just like one of my cousins (also in Melbourne) – short (shorter than me), fair-haired, and round-faced.  She was very pleasant.

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Boss and I met up after registration and headed to the opening address and first keynote speaker.  For the rest of the day we were pretty much busy with vendor appointments.

In the evening we were invited to a fancy restaurant by a representative of one of our bigger suppliers.  We met at the Aria restaurant at Eagle Street pier.  It is co-owned by Matt Moran of the Australian Masterchef series.  The food was tasty (as you’d expect) and artfully presented (as you’d also expect).  The wine, chosen by the sommelier was a very distinctive white wine – very nice.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the bottle to see what it was.  I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway.

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Traffic noise in my room was considerable so it took me ages to get to sleep, and then I kept waking up every two hours. I woke at 5.30am (when it gets light) and stayed awake. As a result we both had breakfast early and had time to kill before the all-day meeting at QUT.

QUT borders the Botanical Gardens so we decided to visit them. There were plenty of crows, ibises (which my boss hates, calling them Egyptian death birds) and Rainbow lorikeets. There were also birds that looked a little like mynah birds. As we wandered back we heard a kookaburra. We had no idea where it was and it didn’t call again to locate it, so we didn’t go searching. However, looking towards its direction we spotted an unusual tree, called an African sausage tree. To me the fruit looked like elongated potatoes. My boss said they looked like elongated kiwifruit.  They ranged in size from 6 inches to over a foot long.  Quite a few were on the ground and when we picked one up it was very heavy. We then realised it probably wasn’t a good idea to stand underneath them – one falling fruit could cause serious damage.

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We finally headed to the meeting room on the 12th floor of a QUT building right near the river. The room itself had no windows, but the adjoining room for tea and coffee had a balcony overlooking the highway beside the river.

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During one of the breaks a crow sat there and kept calling. I love those birds (and their sounds – it’s the sound you hear in the background of just about any Australian soap opera, etc). I like anything raven-like. The closest we have in New Zealand is the magpie, which isn’t the same.

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The ladies toilet had a view across the river!  I’ve never been to a public toilet with a view before (and the first private toilet with a view was in the hotel room!)

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The artificial beach, Southbank

At the end of the day-long meeting we invited a fellow New Zealander at the meeting to see the view from our hotel room (we had compared notes on accommodation and hers was sadly lacking, she said). She was impressed. We then headed down Queen Street arcade in search of some dinner. We ended up in a seafood place on a corner. I ordered barbecue chilli prawns. The prawns were big but the chilli sauce was disgusting, tasting like some cheap tomato-based, supermarket-bought, budget brand. A pleasant evening, nonetheless.

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H dropped me off at the local airport at 8.45 am. We arrived at the same time as my boss. We had a coffee while waiting to board the short flight to Auckland. I had a window seat and marveled at the clear view of Mt Taranaki in all its unclouded splendour.

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Further north I admired the beauty of some inlets and discovered later that these were Kawhia harbour and Raglan. For some reason I forgot to take photos, but they looked stunning.

On arrival, we walked to the international terminal, checked in, and browsed the shops. I saw a rather lovely t-shirt but there were none in my size. We boarded the plane and discovered, much to our dismay, that there was no window at our seat – just a wall. I could see a sliver through the window in the passenger seat in front of us only. Very disappointing. I watched the movie “Sapphires” which was enjoyable.  The boss got singled out for body searching on arrival. The weather was fine. It got quite hot waiting for the shuttle bus (or van). The bus driver was a refreshingly funny guy (so typically Aussie).

Our hotel (which was actually partly residential) was in George Street in Brisbane. We were on the 32nd floor. We opened the door to find a reasonably-sized lounge and large balcony area with table and chairs and a stunning view. A double bedroom also had a sliding door leading onto the balcony. We discovered the second bedroom off a corridor. Both bedrooms had bathrooms. There was even a laundry area. We were impressed. Boss let me have the bedroom with the view (and even the bathroom had a view).

After a cuppa, we headed to the shops to buy some food for breakfasts. We saw that Target was still open so browsed. There was an amazing variety of clothing and I found, almost immediately, a pair of slip-on sandals which were comfortable and cheap. I’d been looking for just such a sandal the whole summer without success. I also bought some plain black undies (which also seem to be hard to find in local shops). Boss bought a few items and then we headed to a supermarket and agreed on bread, marmalade, fruit, juice, and for ‘dinner’ just a range of antipasto, pheasant pate, French bread and crackers. We ate the antipasto on the balcony as the sun descended. All that was missing was wine.

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A very satisfying end to a long and tiring day. We went to bed at 7pm Brisbane time (10pm NZ time), exhausted.

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On Saturday morning I headed over to my bro’s place.  He had some freshly killed lamb to give me.  It was a very pleasant drive.  The countryside around my brother’s place is brown, or rather, the colour of straw.  Bro thinks they may run out of water.

We sat in the shade of a tree and had cold drinks and talked.  He had been playing his football manager game, and before he shut down the computer I showed him the video H took in October.  The video was of a day at their place, feeding lambs, playing Siedler, wining and dining.  H had set it to music.  Bro loved it and laughed at the way she’d captured everything so well with the camera angles, people’s expressions, etc.  He copied it over and then we had lunch.

After lunch we headed over to visit G who was working at the Tinui shop.  We had a look around then left her to it while we headed to the pub and had a beer.

G returned home after 4pm.  I stayed for dinner, retrieved some lamb from the fridge and headed home.  Again, another very pleasant drive, and I got home before dark.

On Sunday I was to pick up H from Wellington airport.  I’d decided to make a ‘day’ of it and visit the zoo.  I arrived about 11.45 am, later than I had intended, but it was just as well.  I had allowed myself about 2 hours at the zoo before heading to the airport.  The zoo is small, but it’s even smaller now with fewer animals to see and most of them hiding from the midday sun.  I had to admit it wasn’t a good time to visit.  I saw chimps, giraffes and baboons and that was about it.  I’d seen the whole place in an hour and felt cheated of my $21.  I sat in some shade to have lunch and shared crumbs with a duck, then basically went round the whole zoo again in the hope of seeing some animals who may have come out from their hidey-holes.

On my second ‘lap’ I caught a glimpse of a cheetah and a glimpse of the tiger in its cave.  The sun bear had come out so I took heaps of photos of it.  Part of the zoo pictured on the map was blocked off but I eventually found my way to the meerkats.  The poor things looked like they were trying to dig their way out of the enclosure or look for an escape route.




The chimps looked completely bored.


On the whole, I was disappointed.  There wasn’t much to see.  They’ve dismantled many of the horrible old cages, but the shells have been left and there’s nothing in its place.  They seem to have spent time and money making the zoo into a sort of theme park for kids, with the animals merely being incidental.  There were a lot of themed props – huts galore, a jeep, a tuk-tuk and other props, and an area next to the lemur where kids were banging on lids or drums.  I felt really sorry for the animals – having to put up with that din all day.  It pissed me off.  I also hated the fact that music (singing) was playing constantly near the sun bear and tiger.  Give the animals a break!  Instead of spending money on kiddifying the place, they could have invested in non-reflective glass so you can actually see the animals instead of your own and everyone else’s reflection, and clean the glass regularly!  I saw no birds or reptiles.  They did have a brief show with a parrot flying around, but that was the only bird I saw.



Just before I left, I saw the lion.


They are working on new areas of the zoo, including a walk-through aviary (about time).  Until they’ve finished that, I don’t think it’s worth another visit.


I still felt sorry for the animals.  Although their enclosures are bigger than what they used to be, they’re still tiny when you compare it to what would be their natural habitat.    And I don’t think a zoo should be an entertainment area for kids.  More education about the environment and endangered species would be better.  When you hear kids calling monkeys chimpanzees and lemurs monkeys, and the parents not correcting them, then you know there needs to be a hell of a lot of education.

I left for the airport and saw the plane descending as I drove down the hill.  By now, I was sweltering in jeans.  The forecast had been for cloud and 23 deg.  It was a blue sky and closer to 28 degrees.

H was tired and hungry but I had some food for her.  We stopped at Pukerua Bay for her to stretch her legs and get some fresh air.


Homeward and H cooked some fresh lamb chops with salad.  🙂





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