Australia / Pacific

All that glistens….The Solomon Islands

When Spanish explorers came across this group of Pacific Islands, they discovered alluvial gold and thought they had found the source of the biblical King Solomon’s wealth.  Hence the name the Solomon Islands was coined.Solomon

I am unsure where to start when writing about my time in the Solomon Islands, as I like to keep my blog positive.  But I was disappointed.  The local people are great, and very down to earth.  But I feel the ideology and greed of the more influential people is exploiting this country instead of building a long-term vision.

*Intensive logging is destroying the countryside, great scathes of woodland is being felled daily.  Dirty brown tracks run through the countryside, and large tankers float off-shore awaiting the next tug boat full of timber.  This industry has undoubtedly driven a significant economic boost for the country but at a cost.

In a similar vein, only a minimal number of shops and companies appear to be owned by locals.  Instead a large flux of predominantly Asian investors are running Honiara’s economy, with locals continuing their less profitable traditional practices of fishing and selling local produce in the cities markets.

Now for some more encouraging and interesting pieces of information about this Pacific country – Hooray!

  • The Solomon Islands has some fantastic snorkelling.  The waters are crystal clear, and there is a multitude of colourful fish.  Shark gracefully glide through the waters close by, the blue starfish are huge and there are even occasional crocodile – not convinced this is a good thing!  Several divers regularly return to this destination.
  • 10% of the population is blonde, this is the highest proportion of any non-European influenced country.  The high incidence of blonde hair is due to a specific protein.
  • One of the local dialects uses the same word for blue and green, the two most prominent colours, but has five different words for “fart”!
  • Shell money is still used on certain islands, although it’s typically more of an offering during wedding ceremonies, rather than your weekly groceries.

 

* On a more positive note the logging practice is under review and has actually slowed recently.

Categories: adventure, Australia / Pacific, beach | 1 Comment

Destination Melanesia….

It seems the 136th largest country in the World, the Solomon Islands, is barely on the global radar (unless you are a diver).  I will definitely need to do some full on research whilst travelling to find out more about this nation.

Yikes!!

Yikes!!

I will also need to be on my best behaviour as swearing is illegal.  Interestingly you can be sued by those within earshot and can even be jailed.  Let’s just hope I don’t come across any of their venomous sea snakes or salt water crocodiles whilst snorkelling then!

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: adventure, Australia / Pacific, beach | 1 Comment

New Zealand, the return continued….

Oh wow, how Auckland has changed in the last six years.  Why did I leave it so long between visits?!

Wynyard Silos

Wynyard Silos

Due to hosting a flurry of major sporting event, including the Rugby World Cup in 2011, and the Cricket World Cup earlier this year, the city has invested in further developing the city.  A whole new area by the wharf has been built.  The Wynyard Quarter has somewhat of an industrial look with stacked shipping containers, girders and boat funnels dotting the waterfront.  Its now home to the headquarters of some of New Zealand’s largest banks, and these ride high alongside several new eateries running the length of the concourse.  I think it’s a great addition to the city.

I would be lying though if I said I didn’t also visit some of my favourite places which are still going strong, and met some of my old friends.  I definitely got my money’s worth from my beanie, as the icy wintery chill was in full force for my trip – this part of New Zealand I do not miss.

However sadly I didn’t have enough time to properly revisit this beautiful country.  With only a few days in Auckland I didn’t even get the opportunity to have a pie!  I just have to come back, and this time I won’t be leaving it for another six years.

 

 

Categories: Australia / Pacific | Leave a comment

New Zealand, the return….

It seems such a long time ago since I was living in Auckland, and sadly I have not returned since.  However this week I am returning after six years!NZ

Can’t wait to visit the place I called home, and see how much it has changed.  Oh and of course have a pie.  They have the most amazing pies in New Zealand….

There are other great things of course in the Land of the Long White Cloud, these I will write about in my next blog.

 

 

 

Categories: Australia / Pacific | 2 Comments

Hello Melbourne…..

….. what treats do you have in store for me?  To be honest I rather believe this gritty artistic city is making my life harder than necessary.  Oh yes Melbourne has some cool stuff happening – galleries, cafes, a quirky music scene plus impressive and fun bars.  On the otherhand it’s been keeping me on my toes.

  • I have been stranded for thirty minutes in a lift with eight other people.  Conversation was poor and included Gangnam.  The temperature was beginning to spiral out of control and disturbingly there was talk of removing clothing.  Wall space was insufficient for everyone to lean against so a rota was discussed.  Hmmm that’s bankers for you!
  • 80% of people I have met asked within the first ten minutes whether I have a bike.  Melbournians are obsessed with this form of transport, it’s some sort of cult.

    It's ninja knitting!

    It’s ninja knitting!

  • I have been attacked by a bird.  I failed to see the offending creature but it hit me full whack on the back of my head and managed to claw my face, narrowly missing my eye.  If I thought emu’s could fly I’d have sworn it was one.
  • Ninja knitting is the go.  Lampposts, post boxes and anything stationary is decorated with colourful woollen designs.  It’s awesome!
  • Weather is a favoured topic of conversation; it makes me feel very much at home.  Though note to people who’ve never been to Yorkshire the temperature there never gets close to 40 degrees.  Plus Australian cities appear to have no drainage systems, so the slightest downpour means you are wet from the tips of your toes to your knees.
  • People are extraordinarily friendly, and often conversation springs up at the most unusual times.  Initially this made me feel rather suspicious, but have got use to the chatty nature of Melbourne residents.
  • I got caught jay walking, fine is in the post…. There was no moving traffic in the vicinity so it’s just ridiculous.

 

*I rather hope the $70 from my jay walking fine goes towards fixing the aforementioned poor drainage system.  Though I actually believe it’ll go on bacon and egg sandwiches….

Categories: Australia / Pacific, culture | 1 Comment

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu….

Recently I bid farewell to Sydney and moved to rival city Melbourne for work.  I thought that a change of scene would be just what the doctor ordered, and more excellent adventures would be in the offing.

It is iconic!

On parting I realised I have written little about the city I called home for almost eight years.  Aside from the iconic images and guidebook blurbs, these are the things that nobody tells you about Sydney:

  • Summer is awesome.
  • Every time you see the opera house it still wows you.
  • Locals are scared of rain; nobody seems to venture out in case they dissolve.  It’s true!!
  • The council makes up any reason for fireworks.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in my life.  There’s a reason Australia has no ozone layer folks!
  • You can see dolphins on your way to work, that’s if you take the ferry.  Nothing starts your day like seeing a dolphin.
  • Suburb snobs are rife.  Like who cares?  You live in Sydney – enjoy!
  • Just because Sydney is a sizeable city doesn’t mean that the scary killer animals daren’t venture in.  Those Huntsmen spiders are beasties!
  • And did I say summer is awesome????
Categories: Australia / Pacific, culture, iconic | 1 Comment

Can Australia get any more random?

It’s a far flung remote island of gargantuan proportions.  Gifted with unique geological structures, unusual characters and a barren eeriness.  What can I say?  Western Australia has all this and more in abundance.

  • Jump into a helicopter and soar over the unique rock formations of the Bungle Bungles, in Western Australia.  Discovered in 1983 by a film crew these stripy smooth rocks cover a vast area of 240,000 hectares and are yet another bizarre Australian geographical feature.

    More bizarre rock formations….

  • Visit royalty in the principality of Hutt River Province.  The personally appointed head of state, Prince Leonard, is an interesting character.  In 1970, frustrated with the Australian tax laws this farmer decided to rebel by creating his own principality.  This “country” has its own stamps, currency and obviously, tax laws.  It’s worth popping in just to meet someone who took extreme measures to dodge tax and won.
  • Feel the eerie silence on Lake Ballard.  Stark metallic structures by Anthony Gormley are scattered across the isolated salt plain.
  • Drive across the Nullarbor Plain.  For the bored, adventurous or just plain crazy this 4,000km journey takes you between Perth and Sydney.  Due to the sheer distance and remoteness, a feeling of pure excitement washes over you when you see another vehicle.  You find yourself waving madly as at a long lost friend.  I don’t think becoming a recluse would work for me…..
Categories: adventure, Australia / Pacific, culture, people | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vanuatu – Duke of Edinburgh award scheme anyone?

This small country in the Pacific consists of several islands, and has an array of treats to offer it’s visitors.  Whilst having a major pull for those interested in the dive scene, I focussed on the more unusual aspects of Vanuatu.

Unbelievable!

  • Climb a live volcano at sunset and stand on the crater whilst huge chunks of molten lava are thrown up into the air right before your eyes.  It’s a crazy firework party complete with huge burning rocks!!  It’s all a bit mad, and just a little scary!

 

  • On the island of Tanna there is an interesting religion which follows Prince Phillip (Duke of Edinburgh) – yes really!  Legend has it that a pale skinned son of a mountain spirit left Tanna to find a powerful woman to marry.  When the Queen of England and her husband visited the island it was deemed that Prince Phillip met the criteria and is therefore revered on the island.  Some villagers also regard him as a God.  Interestingly the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme was being set up whilst I was in Vanuatu, causing huge amounts of excitement and a potential visit from the man himself.
Categories: adventure, Australia / Pacific, culture, people | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Timing is everything in Samoa

Living on a small island has it’s advantages – a laid back atmosphere, community spirit and great sea food.  However the flip side is very expensive cheese!

To the left, to the left

  • By sheer luck I was there for the momentous “road switch”.  In order to align with its’ neighbours and car imports, the Samoan government decided to change the side of the road on which people drive.  On 6am on the Sunday in question church bells rang throughout the small group of islands to signal the switch onto the left hand side of the road.  Speed limits were dropped, and the following day was declared a public holiday to reduce traffic during the introductory period.  Buses weren’t allowed on the roads until their door position was also switched; so cue a roughly cut hole in the side.  Interesting to stand with locals and watch drivers confused at how to tackle one of the few roundabouts in Samoa.
Categories: Australia / Pacific | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Is it Yorkshire? Nope it’s New Zealand!

New Zealand is possibly the furthest place you can get from my home town, in Yorkshire, England.  Yet the similarities are striking – stunning countryside, friendly people, passionate cricket supporters and of course – rain!

Franz Josef glacier

  • Fortunate enough to be seconded to Auckland through work I took full advantage and explored this beautiful country full of outdoor, action packed activities for adrenalin junkies.  Famously home to the bungee, spelunking and zorbing; anything crazy you want to experience is readily available here.  The scaredy-cat side of me kicked in though, so aside from trekking I only participated in snow and sand boarding.  Both were awesome, though I have limited experience/capability so doubt I’ll be strutting my stuff in a halfpipe anytime soon.
  • What I love about New Zealand is the way it embraces its original Maori culture and heritage.  Harmony exists.  A far cry from other countries where the original inhabitants have suffered hardships under new rule.
  • So now for the big question on everyones lips – north Island or south Island?  I’d have to pick the north as my favourite.  Less hype, not quite as much rain and idyllic hotspots such as the Bay of Islands and the Coromandel.
Categories: adventure, Australia / Pacific, culture, trekking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.