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The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for December 13, 2007

Excel loos

I am, to some extent, a connoisseur of toilets and my opinions of a place will often be affected by the quality of their public toilets. So far on this trip I have refrained from commenting on the many different qualities of toilets I have come across, although now I feel the time has come to refer to a particular experience I recently had.

In Portobello - a small town on the Otago Peninsula (just East of Dunedin) we stopped off to use the amenities. Chris was the first to visit said toilet “ExcelLoo” - a self cleaning toilet with lights outside the door to indicate whether the loo was engaged or otherwise (Think Virgin train’s loos), it even warned that after 10 minutes within the toilet, a “loiterer alarm” would go off. Hmmm. Anyway, on entering, I must say I did not find it particularly clean (nothing to do with Chris I hasten to add). I also noticed piped music - nice touch. The toilet paper was dispensed automatically at a touch of a button - unhygienic surely? I had to press it twice to get a decent amount for example.

The toilet would only flush when you started washing your hands (again an automated process - your hands even lit up with the red sensor light), or if you pressed the button to open the door - this meant that the toilet flushed, two or even three times - presuming you washed you hands that is.

We came across them again in Dunedin itself, although disappointingly no piped music this time. I must say that they seem to be a waste of money, in my humble opinion!

Penguins, seals and albatrosses…

We’re in Dunedin, formally called New Edinburgh. It’s nothing like Old Edinburgh, but the street names are the same.

Nearby coastal wildlife abounds and we have enjoyed Yellow-eyed Penguins (they look rather like Gentoos - who gave them a genus all of their own?) and Little Blue Penguins waddling ashore in the dark, scared of skua’s that arn’t present (penguin evolution is a slow process).

The New Zealand Fur Seals we have met so far are surprisingly unaggressive compared to their southern cousins, but still smell bad. We had some fun with New Zealand Sea Lions on the beach yesterday; Fiona was alarmed when two medium sized boys started running towards her (one was herding the other - practice for herding females later on and had no regard for Fe’s presence!).

We visited the Royal Albatrosses on Taiaroa Head. $30 NZ for 30 minutes albatross watching is rather steep - birds should be free! With a telescope you could get a reasonable view from Amarona, across Otago Harbour. It was nice none the less.

Bird attacks

Whilst Chris is an avid bird fan, I must say that although I like looking at them, when they start getting a bit close I’m kind of nervous (a while ago some gulls got upset when they thought I was coming too near their imaginary nests - I was scared, but Chris told me I’d be ok as long as I had a hat and a stick!).

Whilst coming back down a hill from a walk to Sealy Tarns near Mount Cook we heard a New Zealand Falcon calling so we stopped to try and see it - it turned out that the bird had a nest nearby and was trying to warn us off - to add to the effect, the falcon suddenly started swooping down and trying to attack us. Since I didn’t have a stick (although I now had a hat on) I was definitely more scared than before - these birds have bigs claws - I clung onto Chris and cowered. Luckily he is taller than me - therefore the bird would get him first. He was quite excited by it all - encouraging me to look up and see the talons bearing down upon me, oh and eye contact apparently puts them off - alright if you wear glasses perhaps! Needless to say I wasn’t keen to hang around for long, and continued to cower - missing my chance in a lifetime to see a bird of prey at such close quarters. Not sure I’m too distressed about that.

Quality broadcasting from NZ

We’ve been enjoying New Zealand radio transmission. They have several staions that play lots of music from the 70’s and 80’s and none of the modern rubbish (ooh, I am old).

I feel it necessary to pass on couple of juicy titbits of spoken word:

1. An advert for The Shed Magazine: it contains articles about anything you can do in, or with, a shed. Sounds slighlty deviant, but if this tickles your fancy try

2. News item: A man was charged with being in possession of a fence post (among other more serious misdemeanours). Can you be charged with that under Scots or English Law?

Tourist sheep

During our travels we have noticed a curious phenomenon - tourists behave rather like sheep.

Let me explain: on our second day in our new camper van we approached Lake Pukaki - a beautiful blue lake with Mt Cook behind. We pulled into a small side road, parked and stopped to admire the view. Unfortunately, our van was visible from the main road and before long ten other vehicles followed our lead and our seclusion was gone.

Now, this irked me slightly - it was our spot! But I did feel even more sorry for a German couple prancing about on the shoreline. They were about to enjoy a private skinny dip in the glacial waters - a brave event under any circumstances. They modestly glanced up to confirm their privacy before the final bit of their undressing and looked slightly surprised to see 20 people staring at them. Oh dear!

Being German, they carried on regardless and even filmed the event. Marvellous stuff. What would we do without Germans?

We first noticed this phenomenon in Mexico (the sheep thing, not naked Germans - we noticed them a long time ago). Being vegetarian we would choose our restaurant based on whether it served something we could eat rather than any qualitative assessments. So we’d sit down in a completely empty establishment of entirely mediocre quality and before long it would be full of gringos not enjoying their meat.

Our new abode

Last week we picked up our new camper van. We were slightly apprehensive since we’re going to be in it for two months, and the last one was fine, but basic to say the least (and this current one was even cheaper). We were therefore very pleasantly surprised to discover it had fridge, two hobs, a grill, electric pump tap and even fluffy towels and a duvet - luxury! We’re easily pleased nowadays! Oh, and the fold up chairs even had cushions - so posh! The table and seating area inside the van turns into the bed and so we have seating for about eight people - so if you’d like to come round for dinner - we even have a spare bed in the roof!

We can in theory stand up in the van which is also a nice change, although Chris still succeeds in banging his head at least once a day - think we might have to get him a hard hat for Christmas (if his head lasts that long!).

Needless to say we are enjoying our new found luxury accommodation and have been taking it to lots of nice places - there’s loads of free, pretty camping places if you look hard enough!