Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Ok, so these are the rocks that you see when speeding along the coastal road. On our first pass-by, nothing seemed special about them... we were too busy looking for seals.

So on our way back, no longer expecting to see any seals, I see this rottweiler-like head poke out of some long grass. We stop to investigate, and sure enough, it's a seal. And another one, and another one. They are sooooo cute!
Here are the pictures... none of them are that close, since I didnt want to get too near to any wild animal that's significantly bigger than me. ;-)

What was also really interesting is that, once you know what to look for, the otherwise-unremarkable rocks become teeming cities of seals! This shot gives you a better look at that. There's at least a dozen in that shot... can you find them? ;-)

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Nearby Wine Region

So, here in no particular order is the scenery we encountered in the Wairapa region this weekend. Luckily, the weather was ideal for the whole time, and the drive was only an hour long. By "only an hour long", however, my main point is not how lovely it is to be so near something so lovely, but rather that I could not have lasted a single minute longer on that twisting, winding, curling, and at times even death-defying so-called highway, which was little more than a ledge carved out of steep mountainsides. And of course, being a highway, all the local drivers would insist on carrying on at what seemed to us at speeds which appeared borderline insane. Luckily this harrowing part of the drive lasted only for the first half -- during the latter, we saw flat pastoral lands that would not have been out of place back on the prairies. But for the not-entirely-straight road, that is.

We headed to the coast first, as we had heard that there were wild seals to be seen there. At first we saw nothing, but decided to enjoy the coastline anyways. The beaches had black sand, made from the breaking down of volcanic rock. I had never seen it before, and it was an impressive sight. Huge waves breaking on the shore attracted several groups of surfers that we saw along the way. The black, volcanic rocks jutting out from the shore were also very neat -- they have a rough, pocked surface with sharp outcroppings that make the rocks perfect to climb. Shoes grip that kind of surface marvellously, but it is also a surface that you do NOT want to fall onto, lest you wish to be exfoliated like you've never been exfoliated before! ;-)

We got to the end of the road, and though we had been disappointed by not seeing any seals, the scenery was easily beautiful enough to deserve its own appreciation. There was a lighthouse atop a massive cliff with an endless set of stairs that I somehow got talked into visiting, and the first picture on this post is the results of that climb. (Once I had finished being dead of exhaustion and petrified of the height, that is.)

You'd better damn well appreciate it! ;-)

Also accompanying Dave and I on the trip was one of Dave's workmates, a Belgian named Wym. He was cool, and it was neat to have someone else along. One of the neat things about NZ is that there are all kinds of fellow foreigners around, so you get to learn quite a bit about where they're from. So much so, in fact, that a Maori fellow at work once said that he always wished to experience the rest of the world... but it seems, in New Zealand, that one can learn firsthand all about the rest of the world, as the rest of the world seems to always make its way here! This is not as much of an exaggeration as it may sound -- after four months in NZ, I now know more about Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, South Africa, China, the Phillipines, and even Alaska than I had known before. It's very neat.

On an unrelated note, New Zealand's english-dominance has one very pleasing side effect -- of all the people I've met, all the co-workers, friends, strangers, telemarketers, etc, NOT ONE has mispronounced my name. People in non-Manitoba Canada always had a great difficulty with it, which irked me to no end. But not here! Hooray!

Back to the trip itself, we finished up at the coast and left. But it's a terribly interesting thing, what things appear the moment you stop looking for them... more on that later. We went to lunch, then hit the last winery that was open for a tasting. Tirohana offered us a numer of delectable wines to try, and every last one was delicious. Two in particular stood out, one being the cafe-style Pinot Noir (not to be confused with the proper, much more intense Pinot Noir), as well as a dessert wine that absolutely blew my face off. It was sweet, but tart, and not at all syrup-y. Naturally, we bought a bottle of each, then headed to a nearby town, Greytown, for a nice Italian dinner.

After that we headed home. Strangely, the drive through curvy mountaintops alongside gaping abysses tends to be less stressful when the dark prevents one from seeing (and thus, fretting about) the abyss. ;-)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New link!

Have added a new link to our sidebar--Euphemistically Convivial--which is our friends Nathalie and Brian's blog. Karla got to know Nathalie thanks to Nathalie's Dad, who happens to be Karla's old Director at StatCan. Nathalie is also pictured below with the fabulous Karla

Nathalie and Brian are great people, and have a great family--three kids named Julia, Ethan and Noah. The kids were in bed when we were having our party during the Weekend of Mayhem though. 3am is way past their bed time.

Ours too, for that matter.

So here I am, finally

So, I have to say, I am lame for taking this long to post.

Karla, I think everyone would agree, has been doing a fantastic job with this blog. But it's time I put some stuff up too. I sure hope I can be as good and fun and entertaining as she is.

Yesterday I played a full 80 minutes at my regular Saturday afternoon rugby game. And today, I am truly, truly, truly sore. Hurling yourself at 200-250 pound grown men for an hour and twenty minutes will do that to you, I guess. But good Lord is it ever fun. I never knew I liked knocking into people so much. And the beers that happen right after the game are terrific--as you come into the lockerroom, tired, muddy, bloody and sweaty, some guy hands you a Cold One. I don't think anything is ever so tasty as cold beer after a hard physical effort.

Everything is really well organized too. We have uniforms, team socks, fully refereed games, the works! There's an unofficial 'clubhouse' at this bar at the Cambridge Hotel here in town. My team is called the Pink Ginners, my handle is 'Moose'. See me intimidating the competition here and in all my glorious form here.

As for Karla's post on the Mr. OBU/Universe competition, she described everything really well, and I gotta say I had just a great time. Everybody 'backstage' was really cool, and cheered everyone who went out there on in a big way. I still think I should have placed though. None of us internationals (the sock man was from Vermont, USA) got even a nod, and we were bloody entertaining (especially me!).

Anyway, can't really complain. Though I never want to drink a litre and a half of beer that quickly ever again. On the other hand, it kind of helped a fella cut loose, which was definitely a good thing given the competition. It also helped me ignore the dishpit that was my changing room. Ugh. And me trying to get in and out of my good suit.

Will try and keep posting more regularly, and maybe throw up some links to stuff that I come across that I find interesting. Hope it all works! TTFN!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Weekend of Mayhem, Part Two

Dave's Mr. Universe competition was the next day, and fortunately, the rugby that afternoon de-hangover-ified him nicely. However, he did not recover fully enough to be at full form for the beer-skulling contest, which was the first round. Then again, that quantity of alcohol (1.5 L) would be hard to take all at once at any level of sobriety. He downed it all, as was expected by the crowd, but not without difficulty. Indeed, some competitors did not finish theirs, and of those that finished more quickly, there were some digestive consequences backstage.

The subsequent rounds included formalwear, swimwear, and two talent rounds -- one to be prepared by oneself, one to be drawn from a hat. Dave did marvellously with the eveningwear, and despite my persistent encouragement otherwise, had decided to go with the respectable swimming shorts. Alas, how were we to know that such degrees of nudity and silliness were so commonplace, if not expected? The collage above was Dave's competition, which helps give one an idea of the sheer madness afoot. There was everything from stripping, swimming, seranading, drag, Dutch pickup lines, brakedancing, Elvis inpersonation, marshmallow-mouth-stuffing, and even a girl competing for the title of "Mr. Old Boys University". I might have cheered for her more, if she hadnt been relying entirely on skin rather than an actual schtick. Another contestant worthy of creative praise would be Mr. Blue Sock, who paraded through a crowded bar wearing head-to-toe tinfoil. In one fell swoop he tore it from his body, to reveal a lone royal-blue sock to hide his shame. (Naturally, he had chosen a knee-sock for the job, which only made the whole thing funnier.) I'll bill him for my therapy later.

Dave stepped up to the competition well. For his swimwear performance, he smartly had grabbed two props -- my silly Canadian toque and a glass of water. Strutting down the catwalk in a way that would have made Derek Zoolander proud, he reached the end, took off the toque, and in a most sultry fashion poured the glass of water all over himself. The crowd went wild, but not so much so as they did for the chosen-talent portion. Dave returned to the stage in his formalwear and got everyone to clap in rhythm. At this point, he produced a harmonica and jammed on it solo into the mic. While the playing itself was excellent, no one had been expecting this; once they recovered from the sheer shock (note, a be-sock-ed man was actually less shocking to this crowd) they cheered even more wildly than before.
In light of the fierce competition, Dave did not win, though it was agreed by all -- including Mr. Universe himself -- that he at least deserved to place. The night was still a very fun time, and we even met a bona fide All Black, Conrad Smith (between the ladies, naturally). For those less familiar with rugby, the All Blacks are the worlds' best known rugby team, and are known to perform a Maori war-dance called "The Haka" before each game to scare their opponents. While I cannot speak for professional rugby players witnessing this dance, the first time I saw it, I felt a strange but urgent need to hide behind a large piece of furniture. Anyhow, from meeting Conrad I can say that he is far less scary than the dance his team does, and it was really neat to meet a Kiwi celebrity.
Also, in many of the above pictures you may have noticed the lovely Ms. Nathalie -- of Brian and Nathalie, where Brian is the guy with the guitar in the previous post. They're Canucks too, and dangerously enough, Nathalie is just as fond as I am of makeup, shoes, clothes, nails, and all that girly stuff... malls of New Zealand, beware! ;-)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Weekend of Mayhem, Part One

In case further confirmation was needed of Dave's and my mutual inability to keep dates straight, we have gotten it this weekend.
;-) A fortunate turn of events stemming from seemingly mysterious baking behaviour revealed that the Poker night with Brian and Nathalie was in fact a different night than the Mr. Universe competition. (She was baking for the party on a Thursday, thus casting into extreme doubt my understanding that the party was on the Saturday.)

So, a fabulous time was had at Poker on Friday -- so much so, that Dave and I didnt make it home until the next afternoon. ;-) Not too much money was lost overall, and as more alcohol was consumed, there was much enjoyment of Dance Dance Revolution. The potluck (which Kiwis call, "Bring a Plate") was also a considerable success, as the Caesar salad was well-received. One partygoer came a little too close to an untimely death by persistently making guesses as to the secret ingredients -- he just didn't buy that it really was "love". Or lots of garlic... sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. ;-)

The evening wound up around 3AM with an enthusiastic though inebriated round of Karaoke Revolution, which is always a hoot, and later a sing-along courtesy of both Brian's and Dave's guitar skills. It was a good way to wrap up a fun night.

...But the weekend of madness wasn't over yet!

(to be continued...)