The Catlins: waterfall heaven and sheep flock hell

19 November 2019

It rains a lot here. I reckon I might have mentioned that once or twice already, and the fact that this is quite probably the wettest spring New Zealand has known in a couple of decades is little consolation.

But things have got better in recent days. On the west coast it rained pretty much all the time for days on end, whereas here in the Catlins we at least get periods of cheerful sunshine mixed in with torrential downpours, spiteful hailstorms and banshee winds. And the good news is that, of course, all the water has to go somewhere. They say this place is waterfall heaven.

McLean Falls

Having parked up, the loop track to McLean Falls is meant to take us about 30 minutes, but our excessive activity of the last few weeks is starting to take its toll. We’re both carrying minor injuries, and hobbling along rather than striding out is the best we can manage.

But it’s worth the effort: at 22 metres high this is the tallest waterfall in the Catlins. We hear the tumultuous crashing long before we catch sight of it, white water tumbling heroically over the main drop, then cascading over a series of smaller terraces.

Worshippers in ancient Japan, followers of Shintoism, revered creations of nature which exhibited a particular beauty and power – such as waterfalls. Standing here today, mesmerised by the majesty of MacLean Falls, I think I can understand something of their viewpoint: this place is magical, spiritual even.

A monstrous, ill-disciplined regiment of sheep

Before long, however, we’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Driving to the next waterfall on our list we find the way blocked by a monstrous, ill-disciplined regiment of sheep moving en masse towards us along the gravel road. During our first five weeks in New Zealand we’ve seen fewer sheep than we’d anticipated. And now we know why: they’re all here, on this remote back road in the Catlins, standing between us and Purakaunui Falls.

I stop, kill the engine and wait for matters to unfold. The road is wide, so there’s plenty of room for the flock to pass safely. But they’re plainly spooked and having none of it. The guy driving them doesn’t help matters much, leaping from his quad bike, yelling and thrashing the road surface vigorously. With what? A crook? A branch torn from a nearby tree? A whip, maybe? I can’t quite see what Mr Whippy’s using – there are several hundred sheep in the way – but he’s causing a commotion, making one hell of a noise. And all to no good purpose.

The sheep are panicking, eyes bulging, milling around frantically. They don’t have the courage – or the wit – to move past my stationary Toyota Camry. Eventually a rebel group decides on full retreat, and makes a run for it past Mr Whippy and back up the road they’ve recently walked down.

They don’t have the courage – or the wit – to pass my stationary Toyota Camry

Old Man Whippy’s incensed, and sends his demented sheepdog off in pursuit. It catches up with the deserters and cajoles them back into the flock. Another gang of malcontents makes a new break for freedom. Once again the dog hurtles off in pursuit and ushers its quarry back into the fold. And still, not one single sheep will venture past my static motor.

Matters continue in this vein for some ten minutes. Mr Whippy’s close to apoplectic now, and I’m beginning to feel sorry for him. He’s trying his best, but clearly having one of those day’s that shepherds must dread. If I don’t take control of the situation he’ll most probably have a heart attack.

I fire up the engine, and edge forward slowly through the mass of crazed sheep, nudging them gently aside. At last one of them slips past me and into the promised land, a stretch of wide, totally empty and whip-free road behind the car. Where one sheep leads the others soon follow, joyously living up to their reputation.

At last the road ahead is clear, apart from Mr Whippy. He’s trying to regain his dignity, pretending everything went according to plan. As I drive past him I wind the window down and smile sweetly.

“G’day mate,” I say to him, waving cheerfully.

What a prat, I think to myself, seething silently.

Purakaunui Falls

“Like a wedding cake,” is how our guidebook describes the 20m high Purakaunui Falls. “Three tiers of splendour,” it goes on to explain, evidently clocking the fact that very few of us have a wedding cake fashioned from white water and mucky grey rocks. This all sounds a bit desperate to me, but when we get there we can see the waterfall is quite special.

The website waterfalls.co.nz says Purakaunui Falls is the most photographed waterfall in New Zealand. How do they know that? Are there armies of men with clipboards stationed at each of the 258 waterfalls on their list, interrogating visitors as they leave, demanding that all selfies be declared and counted?

Or is there a secret sliver of code in Instagram and Facebook, code that logs all photos of New Zealand waterfalls on to a mysterious Excel spreadsheet at waterfalls.co.nz head office?

Or maybe it’s just fake news, which seems to be all the rage these days? Whatever, Purakaunui Falls is pleasing to the eye and deafening to the ear, and definitely worth a visit despite our close encounters of the sheepish kind. However there’s no time to dilly-dally as we still have one more waterfall to visit today.

Horseshoe Falls

In fact, on our final trek of the day we get two waterfalls for the price of one. Horseshoe Falls and Matai Falls are located on the Matai Stream in the Catlins Forest Park, within a few hundred metres of each other. Both are given three stars by waterfalls.co.nz, one fewer than Purakauni Falls. By way of contrast Mclean Falls, which we visited first today, rates a massive five stars. So, in other words, we’ve got this all wrong, saving the worst until last.

Matai Falls

“Worst?” That’s way too harsh. In a land blessed by so many waterfalls there are inevitably winners and losers, and in the waterfalls.co.nz beauty pageant Horseshoe Falls and Matai Falls are – relatively speaking – losers.

And yet, if we had these waterfalls back in the UK folk would go wild about them, poets would pen verses in their honour and photographers would snap away at them madly in the hope of getting their work published in the annual Countryfile Calendar. Here, however, they are merely ‘also-rans.’

Which just goes to show that here, in New Zealand, we are indeed in waterfall heaven

To the end of New Zealand: Stewart Island

15 November 2019

We’re on our way to Stewart Island, New Zealand’s third largest island. It lies 30 kilometres south of the South Island, across the Foveaux Strait. There’s no car ferry to Stewart, so we have the choice of flying in an eight-seater aircraft or taking a passenger ferry that has room for a few dozen victims.

I use the word “victims” advisedly as this crossing is notoriously rough. But the plane journey is also infamous, and the locals – who know about these things – say that if you want to visit Stewart Island you have a choice between 20 minutes of terror and 60 minutes of horror. We’ve opted for the latter, but first we’ve got a drive of several hours to get to Bluff harbour at the southern tip of South Island.

On the way we drop in at the Clifden Suspension Bridge. It’s trumpeted as a historic landmark, but one thing we’ve learned since coming here is New Zealand is so lacking in old stuff that anything that’s been around for more than a century attracts a lot of interest.

If I were being churlish I would say that it’s not a patch on the similarly named Clifton Suspension Bridge in the UK, but at 112 metres it represents a decent piece of civil engineering for a remote part of New Zealand in 1898/99. A single lane bridge, it was originally used by horse and cart traffic and later by motor vehicles, and remained in operation until 1978.

We make one more stop before parking up for our trip to Stewart Island, when we call in at the Invercargill Water Tower. It’s one of several water towers we’ve visited on this trip, and although it doesn’t sound at all interesting in our view it’s a bit of an architectural gem. The New Zealand History website says that it combines utility and beauty, which sums it up nicely.

It’s time to park the car at the harbour and board the ferry to Stewart Island. Our luggage is place into bins and loaded on to the back the boat by crane, and a few minutes later we’re ready to set off.

Luckily the sea is relatively calm, but the crossing is ruined by some of our fellow passengers, a large group of rowdy young men evidently on their way to a stag party on the island. The beer flows freely, and the young men behave boorishly and shout a lot as the alcohol kicks in. Oh, such nostalgia, we could be back in the UK! …

… Until we arrive at Stewart Island, that is. The island policeman has been tipped off about the yobs’ arrival, and is there at the quayside to welcome them. He takes them aside and gives them a stern lecture on what is and is not acceptable on this island whose resident population is 380 civilians plus one policeman.

Stewart is a law-abiding island. We’re told that there’s only ever been one murder here, in the 1840’s. Nobody was arrested, but we’re reassured that investigations are ongoing and an announcement is expected soon. I think I’m going to like this place.

But for now there’s no time to explore. We need to get to our accommodation and sort ourselves out as soon as possible, because at 10pm tonight we’re booked on to a kiwi-spotting expedition. This will be our best opportunity to meet up with New Zealand’s most iconic bird, and we’re on high alert.

Will we or won’t we see a wild kiwi for first and probably the only time in our lives? Check out my next post to find the answer.

Hello campers!

15 November 2019

Visitors to New Zealand are promised “the open road”, in other words lots of tarmac and not much traffic driving on it. And in places it’s true that other vehicles are thin on the ground, just the occasional logging truck hurtling towards you recklessly, or the odd 4×4 overtaking with scant regard for either the speed limit or basic common sense.

However, as we’ve headed into the tourist hotspots of the south-west, we’ve encountered busier roads. The buses taking tourists to and from their Milford Sound cruises seemed to come along every minute or two, and down at the harbour they had a whole car park to themselves. Definitely not what we expected, or wanted to come across in a remote corner of New Zealand’s South Island..

More common and more annoying still are the motor homes, and their irritating little cousins, the camper vans. They’re all over the place down here, buzzing around frantically like wasps round a jam sandwich. Whole sections of car parks are made over to these monsters, but that doesn’t stop them encroaching on to the space set aside for ordinary car drivers like me.

However I will admit we have fallen slightly in love with the Jucy camper vans. Their lime green livery and cheeky decals of a mini-skirted young lady blowing a kiss stand out amongst the white vehicles that dominate New Zealand’s roads (I would guess that at least 80% of cars and vans here are white, including ours – BORING!).

As well as the image of the flirtatious young lady, Jucy camper vans are emblazoned with pithy aphorisms and slogans, like “The glass is half full … and the other half was delicious” and “Always take the scenic route … especially if you’re lost.”

Not exactly worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, and it makes you think doesn’t it – locked away in an office somewhere is a young marketing executive who’s getting paid to think up stuff like that. But never mind, it’s simple, harmless fun, and god knows we could all do with some of that right now.

Jucy camper vans (or Jucy Lucy vans as we call them) are plainly targeted at a specific demographic: young, hip and adventurous, so you’ll never see me and Mrs P inside one. And anyway, at my time of life I relish sleeping in a bed with a decent mattress located within stumbling distance of a sanitary, flushing toilet. If only we were 40 years younger!

A glass or two of red

9 November 2019

When we came to New Zealand we expected to see plenty of evidence of wine production, and we haven’t been disappointed. This is hardly surprising: wine is big business here, supporting 16,500 full-time jobs and earning NZ$1.5 billion a year from exports.

New Zealand is best known internationally for Sauvignon Blanc, and also has a growing international reputation for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and methode traditionelle wines.

We’re staying a couple of nights in Gibbstown – on the outskirts of Queenstown – where we’re told they produce award winning Pinot Noir. And, joy of joys, our package includes an hour of wine tasting each evening.

I’ve never been to a wine tasting before, so this promises to be a novel experience. A dozen of us are standing around the main man, a lad who tells us all sorts of stuff about how special the wine from around here is, thanks to the climate and the soil and …. and what else? Sorry, don’t know, wasn’t listening at all, I was just thinking, for god’s sake man, shut up talking and give us some bloody wine.

He’s a young lad, nice enough I suppose but obviously wet behind the ears, and he makes the fatal mistake of asking if anyone has any questions. Silly boy!

There’s two Aussies amongst our group. They tell us they come from a wine producing region in the outback – Kowabunga or Buggeroola or some such place that no-one’s ever heard of – and they plainly think they’re the dog’s bollocks when it comes to wine.

The Aussies start asking all sorts of nerdy questions, not because they care about the answers but so the rest of us will worship at their altar. But it fails miserably because we’ve all seen through them, and nobody really cares about production techniques or sunshine amounts or bee proliferation or whatever, all we really care about is when are we going to get some bloody wine?

Finally the Aussies shut up, and laddo dishes out the first of the samples. It’s a Riesling, and to my palate about as rough as an unsealed mountain road after an earthquake. The only way is up, as they say.

Laddo moves on to the reds, and we work our way through four or five. I know that in a proper tasting your supposed to swirl it around in the glass, stick your snout in and sniff the bouquet, and then swill the wine around in your mouth before spitting it out. Spit it out? No way, we paid good money for this wine tasting experience so we’re bloody well going to swallow.

As the tasting continues the wines improve, or perhaps I’m becoming more relaxed and less judgemental? A couple are really quite pleasant, although a bit pricey for someone whose palate is as unrefined as mine. Laddo thanks us for attending, and looks a bit crestfallen when nobody offers to take a case or two off his hands.

Feeling warm and mellow we retire to the winery’s adjacent bistro, where there’s a special deal on dishes paired with wines from the tasting. Well why not? we ask ourselves, and settle down to order dishes that are paired with our chosen favourites from half an hour earlier. The food is rather good, and of course the wine tastes even better when accompanied by a meal.

By the time we leave I’m feeling as mellow as a newt. I’m happy to admit that there’s lots I don’t know about wine tasting. Fortunately we’re here for two nights and so we can have another free go tomorrow. Why not? After all, practice makes perfect.

Kaikoura: earthquakes, seals and Marmite misery

30 October 2019

We’re spending our three nights in Kaikoura in an upmarket B&B, or “homestay” as they call it in these parts. Our room faces a soaring, snow-capped mountain, and is a haven of peace and tranquillity.

It wasn’t always this way. We ask our host, Neal, about the Great Kaikoura Earthquake, that struck almost three years ago, on 14 November 2016. At a magnitude of 7.8 it was the second largest earthquake ever recorded in New Zealand, and inevitably caused major damage and disruption.

Neal explains that Kaikoura was totally cut off by road for several weeks, and although the main State Highway 1 running south was re-opened a few days before Christmas it took a further 12 months for the same Highway to be opened again to the north of the town. These were dark days for Kaikoura, but Neal notes that it brought out the best in people, who all rallied around one another at this time of greatest need.

But worst of all for Kiwis up and down the country, the earthquake resulted in the untimely demise of the Kaikoura-based New Zealand Marmite factory. This was widely regarded as a national tragedy, and was the catalyst for some unspeakable displays of anti-social behaviour whereby a few disreputable individuals quickly worked out what the earthquake meant for their favourite savoury spread and bought up as many jars as they could carry.

Marmite hoarding did not become a capital offence, but from what we’ve been told, many die-hard lovers of the sticky, salty, dark brown food paste would have voted for just that in a referendum.

Some smart-arses proposed that this was a good time for more Kiwis to embrace Vegemite, the Australian alternative to Marmite. However this was widely ridiculed: after all, the die-hards asked, what true-blooded Kiwi would ever willingly insert anything Australian into their mouths?

Neal is an ex-pat Brit who’s lived in New Zealand for nearly a decade. We ask him if earthquakes and Marmite wars haven’t made him question his decision to move here. But no, he, like every other ex-pat Brit we’ve met since arriving here, has no regrets. New Zealand has a future but the UK, it seems, has only a past, so it’s time to bid farewell to the Mother Country and move on.

We bid farewell to Neal and head north. In Kaikoura itself there are no obvious signs of the earthquake, but once we’re outside the town the impact becomes more obvious. State Highway 1 is still under repair at various places, and we limp painstakingly from one set of temporary traffic lights to the next. It will be another year before the work is done, but although the delay is a bit frustrating you can’t help but admire the progress that’s been made since the devastating events of November 2016.

It wasn’t only the humans who suffered because of the earthquake: young New Zealand Fur Seals also found their lives disrupted. Close to Ohau Point, young seals used to swim from the sea upstream to a pool at the foot of a waterfall where they would cavort and play, much to joy of the tourists who would go there in droves to watch the action.

The earthquakes put a stop to all that. Fortunately, however, the seals still gather on the rocky shoreline at Ohau, where plenty of parking and a massive viewing platform have been provided for tourists who want to watch them. I find it encouraging that at a time when so much needs to be repaired, the authorities are still willing to invest in eco-tourism, confirmation perhaps of this country’s green credentials

We break our journey at Ohau to savour the fruits of the investment and are delighted to see dozens – perhaps hundreds – of seals lounging, and occasionally squabbling on the rocks and in the rock pools. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries European sealers drove the New Zealand Fur Seal close to extinction, but with the outlawing of seal hunting numbers are recovering.

We’re also pleased to be able to see some shags nesting on of the rocky outcrops

Despite the sickening sealing industry of two centuries ago, and the more recent tragedy of the Great Kaikoura Earthquake, the fortunes of the New Zealand Fur Seal are clearly improving.

It’s great to witness this inspiring example of nature fighting back.

Singing the All Blacks blues

25 October 2019

Ever since we arrived in New Zealand the country has been in the grip of World Cup fever. The rugby union World Cup is in full swing in Japan and the New Zealand All Blacks, the current holders of the title and widely acknowledged to be the best team in the world, are expected to win.

By world standards New Zealand is a small nation with a tiny population. Rugby union is the one sport at which this country excels, and as such it is a source of national pride which helps bring people and communities together.

All Blacks flags, shirts and memorabilia are everywhere

Unsurprisingly therefore, wherever we’ve been we have seen All Blacks flags, shirts and memorabilia, and ordinary Kiwis have wanted to talk to us about the competition in Japan. On our flight from Palmerston North to Christchurch we were even treated to some rugby-themed chocolate cookies. Over here, rugby gets into everything.

Rugby-themed cookies, courtesy of New Zealand Air

New Zealand have been doing very well, as expected, so your average Kiwi is feeling quite chipper. However in the semi-final they are to play England, who’ve also had a good competition to date. Over here the semi-final starts at 9.00pm, and our host at Bushy Park homestead has arranged for the match to be shown on a large-screen television in the lounge.

About 15 people are crammed into the lounge. Someone asks brightly “So I guess everyone here’s supporting the All Blacks?”

“No,” I reply in my best English accent, “We’re backing the other lot.”

A murmur goes round the room. It isn’t hostile – New Zealanders are decent folk, and the only people they really dislike are Aussies – but it’s more like an expression of pity. They know the All Blacks are the best in the world, and are worried that we’ll be humiliated when they give England a damn good thrashing.

The match starts and the Kiwis are confounded. The English are playing out of their skins and the All Blacks aren’t being allowed to settle into their normal rhythm. After a few minutes the English have scored and a sigh of dismay echoes round the room. Mrs P and I say nothing, just keep our heads down and pretend we’re not there. But inside we’re deliriously happy.

The New Zealand contingent are confident their boys will turn it around, but England continue to outplay them. Half time arrives with the All Blacks still well behind and looking out of sorts.

Our host, in an attempt to distract his guests from the disaster unfolding in Japan brings a Puriri moth for us to admire. There’s been a hatching this evening, and there are hundreds of them flying around the homestead.

Puriri moths are huge and green and, in the case of the males, desperately tragic. They spend up to seven years as a caterpillar and no more than two days as an adult moth. Their role is simple: to mate with a female Puriri, after which their job is done and they swiftly fade away and die. Such is their limited life expectancy that the males are born without mouths, so a post-coital snack is clearly out of the question.

I wonder, as we all gaze sympathetically at the wretched male Puriri, if this isn’t a metaphor for England’s game against the All Blacks, a brief and dazzling performance lasting just a few minutes followed pretty much immediately by an inevitable decline and fall.

But no, I’m being unnecessarily pessimistic. England start the second half as they ended the first, and although the All Blacks score they never seem likely to overhaul their opponents. Slowly, disconsolately, our fellow spectators quit the lounge before the game is over, quietly singing the All Blacks blues. By the time the referee blows the final whistle and England start their celebrations only Mrs P and I, and two grim-faced Kiwis, remain.

It has been an extraordinary experience, watching this match with a bunch of people to whom it plainly means so much. In the days that follow several New Zealanders speak to us about the game. They are magnanimous in defeat, and say their team was outclassed and England were worthy winners.

The New Zealanders are down but not out. Rugby union means far more to citizens of this country than it does to the English. There will be an inquest, a re-evaluation and some re-building. Probably a few heads will roll. But as Bill Shankly once said in relation to soccer, rugby union isn’t a matter of life or death in New Zealand: it’s far more important than that.

Don’t expect New Zealanders to be singing the All Blacks blues for long.

The Maori way

18 October 2019

In their desperate pursuit of the tourist dollar most nations present a sanitised view of their history. The marketing men know that when on vacation most tourists want a bit of gentle fun and some light entertainment; very few want to be exposed to the inconvenient truths of the country they’ve paid to visit.

However Mrs P and I are made of sterner stuff. From the outset we’ve been determined that when we leave New Zealand we’ll know more about the Maori people than their traditional dances.

Kohutapu Lodge gives us better opportunities to explore Maori culture and the challenges facing the Maori people than the traditional New Zealand vacation would allow. Run by Maoris who are plainly determined that we should understand the reality of life for their fellow tribe members, Kohutapu Lodge offers a warts-and-all insight into life in the nearby Maori township of Murupara.

We learn about the desperate socio-economic plight of Muruparu residents, and the gang culture that thrives in this isolated rural community where opportunities for gainful employment are few. The people who run the Lodge are determined that their guests should be more than just passive witnesses to the realities of life in Muruparu, so they arrange for us to visit the local school.

The kids greet our group in the traditional way, and we then split up to play with them, to talk to them and maybe to inspire them to believe that their lives are not hopeless, that their fates are not already sealed by the accident of their births.

Mrs P and I also spend a morning with Ena, a resident of Muruparu who is a passionate advocate for her community. She tells it like it is, but is realistic rather than downhearted.

Ena takes us to a sacred Maori site, which can only be visited with the permission of the local tribe, to see the oldest Maori rock carvings anywhere in New Zealand. The carvings tell the story of the great Polynesian migration to the islands of New Zealand many hundreds of years ago, and Ena’s pride in their achievement is obvious.

Kohutapu Lodge also provides an opportunity to try out some traditional Maori crafts like basket weaving, and to experience a hangi, a feast cooked using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. Any food left over is distributed to the destitute of Murapuru the following day.

This is not a normal holiday experience; indeed I guess some people would say that it’s no holiday at all. But for us it’s just right. After all, what’s the point of a holiday if at the end of it you are as ignorant as you were at the beginning? Certainly, for Mrs P and I, it’s been a eye opener which will help to shape our sensitivities during the rest of this visit to New Zealand.

Plan B – see more of Auckland

15 October 2019

Mrs P’s flamingo pink mobile rings at 7:30am.  She’s bought a new SIM for this trip and only one person has her number: the local agent for New Zealand in Depth, the specialist travel company that’s arranged our road trip.  

Nobody rings this early with good news, so we brace ourselves.  And yes, you’ve guessed it, today’s keenly anticipated boat trip to Rangitoto Island to get up close and personal with a volcano has been cancelled, thanks to the horrendous rainfall that’s plagued us ever since we landed in Auckland yesterday morning. 

Bloody typical, we’ve been looking forward to this, Mrs P in particular as she has a thing about volcanoes in much the same way as I have a thing about chocolate cake, and now it’s all gone belly-up.  We are, as they say round our way, totally buggered. Don’t you just love it when the gods rain on your parade?

Time for Plan B.  If your travel plans in a big city fall apart the answer is – always – to buy yourself some time by getting the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus.  At least it will keep you dry while we come up with something more exciting.

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The Auckland War Memorial Museum’s official name does it no favours.  As well as covering New Zealand’s role in twentieth century wars, it boasts extensive collections covering the culture of the Maori people, and the country’s natural history.

We’re determined to leave New Zealand a lot more knowledgeable about Maori culture and history than when we arrived, and the Museum turns out to be a good place to start.  There are some fascinating artefacts here, including a marae (meeting house) and a storehouse.  Woodcarving is an important element of Maori material culture, and there are some good examples here.

As for the natural history collection, we have mixed feelings.  Mrs P and I both prefer our wildlife to be alive rather than stuffed.  However, it’s well done and instructional. For example, we learn that the relationship between the size of a kiwi and the size of its egg is eye-watering.  If we’re ever lucky enough to see one in the wild and it’s wearing a very pained expression, we’ll assume it’s a female who’s just laid her egg. Ouch!

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Auckland is dominated by the sea.  Its harbours are major players in New Zealand’s trading relationship with the rest of the world, and in their spare time many of the locals enjoy nothing more than messing around in boats.  Our ticket for the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus includes a free ferry ride across the harbour to the suburb of Devonport, so we get the chance to see Auckland from a totally different perspective.

Devonport dates from the late 19th century, although many of its buildings appear to be in the art deco style of the early 20th century.  The suburb retains more of its period charm, and is less crowded, than the other parts of Auckland we’ve visited.  It’s a pleasure to spend an hour strolling up and down its main street, before diving into The Patriot bar for a meal. 

The food at The Patriot is good, but not so the company.  There are three old guys seated close to us – all Kiwis, by the sound of their accents – debating the Queen’s speech and Brexit.  Why, in heaven’s name, would any sane Kiwi talk about Brexit? For god sake, I flew halfway round the world to getaway from rubbish like that.

But you have to take the rough with the smooth, don’t you?  On the way back to the ferry we enjoy a couple more of Devonport’s highlights; an ancient Moreton Bay fig tree (known fondly to the locals as Arthur) and a magnificent new library. 

How come here in New Zealand they can build brand new, brilliant libraries, while all we can do in the UK is trash a once great library service?