The nikau grove

Monday 18 October 2021 – Auckland Domain.

Having finally restarted work on the novel I’ve been meaning to write for at least the past two years I managed to distract myself again with an idea for a short story. I’ve not achieved much with the novel though I at least have the broad concept. I’d completed enough research to finish a historical timeline that gives context and background to the plot, and then stupidly left the notebook I wrote it in back in London. I’ve now redone that work and typed it into a spreadsheet so at least I can’t leave it somewhere again, though typing takes away some of the pleasure and spontaneity of hand writing notes. I have a new notebook, which sadly still remains unsullied by ink or pencil lead. I hope to change that situation soon.

The short story I have embarked upon is partly set in Auckland Domain so it was fortuitous timing to get a call from mum asking if I would like to meet her there for coffee. I immediately said yes, packed the camera in a bag and power-walked my way up to the domain, surprisingly the walk took less than 30 minutes. Auckland is smaller than it appears from car windows.

We picked up coffee and a wee treat each from a café and had a pleasant half an hour chatting by the duck ponds. There were very few people about. After going our separate ways I wandered around taking some photos to use as visual prompts for the short story, though I have chosen to not upload them. This statue from 1955 does not appear to have an official name, though it seems to to be known as ‘The Three Muses’.


Naturally all the other photos were of trees, there are some magnificent trees in the domain and I have a tree obsession at the moment. My next planned photowalk should have no trees at all, maybe.





Eleanor and I have walked though the domain a couple of times recently though stuck to the roads on both occasions, as I was walking down the grass bank taking photos of the big open trees I discovered some bush tracks I didn’t know existed. There seem to be three of four interlinked trails here and I chose to walk down the Nikau Grove, and wow, that was a great choice! The nikau is New Zealand’s only native palm they can grow quite tall and have an old-style house-brush shape when allowed to grow free. I really like them for their usually quite reliable geometry, though in a dense grove of both mature and immature trees they are a chaotic mess of crisscrossed lines, bright reflection and deep shadow, and great to look at and photograph.



It was absolutely my sort of place to take photos and I’m definitely coming back here once I get my hands on the tripod legs that are stored at mum’s house, I shipped the head over from London and have been waiting to reunite the two pieces. It was just a little too dim for hand-held photos and there was just a little bit too much glare off the shiny reflective fronds in those rare places where the midday sun penetrated the cover.



It had rained heavily overnight and the small stream that runs through the trees had overflowed and was utilising the well worn path as the water made its way down hill. I managed to avoid getting wet feet by hopping from one side to the other. It almost felt like a jungle adventure, and with a bit of imagination it was a much needed, though very tame, thrill.


All in all it was a very enjoyable and unexpected day out.

Now Phil, less procrastinating and get back to story writing!

P.S. I now have the tripod legs.

Bright City, Big Lights.

Thursday 07 April 2016 – Hong Kong.

Given we were in a seventh floor room overlooking a street full of bars and restaurants it was really quiet in the room overnight, the gentle hum of the air conditioner keeping out any residual street noise and providing a white noise hum to send us to sleep. It was another comfortable night, I don’t think we have had a bad bed once on this holiday – remarkable!

We had breakfast in the hotel, bread, eggs, cheese and coffee while we discussed what to do for the day. We decided to keep it fairly low key and headed out of the hotel aimed for the nearby Hong Kong History Museum. I took a photo of our very skinny hotel. The Perkin.


We arrived at the museum just before a large group of young school children. We had only just got started on the excellent History of Hong Kong exhibit before we were overwhelmed by a wave of short people. We let them pass us by before we carried on. They were the first of many groups of children, well behaved children I will say.


The museum was really interesting, we spent a lot longer looking at the exhibits than I would have expected. Coming from New Zealand I am quite used to seeing Chinese culture around, dragon dances and lantern shows have been a feature of Auckland life for quite some time. Not so in London where there is only a very small Chinese community, and one that is pretty non-existent where we are in the north east. El found the lanterns and dragons and costumes quite fascinating.


As usual I was fascinated by the trees – I love the roots on these young trees, not sure if they are baby banyans.


I also really liked the paper bark trees outside the museum. The bark is incredibly paper like.


It was lunch time when we hit the streets so we decided to head to the iSquare Tower and check out one of the many restaurants there for lunch. They looked a bit fancy, lots of white table cloths and very expensive menus. We found one that was not too bad, and was nicely high up on the 29th floor. I wasn’t really bothered by the menu, just wanted the view, and it was pretty good. The food was not bad either.


After lunch we took a round-about walk back to the hotel and headed up to Kowloon Park, another one of the big green areas in the middle of town. It is quite a nice park, well patronised by local workers enjoying their lunch as well as plenty of tourists enjoying a bit of solitude and green away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist and shopping areas.


One of the remarkable things I noticed in the park is that no smoking is allowed, highly unusual for Asia, and very welcome. I would like to be all PC and say I stand firmly against global corporations and the evils of companies like McDonalds, but I would be lying – well I am firmly against rampant globalisation, but I do like a cheese burger or two every now and then! We saw some people eating ice cream and decided we wanted one as well, the only ice cream stall in sight was McDonalds and the thought of a vanilla and sweet potato ice cream was too tempting, it was really nice too.


The park had some really good banyan trees to check out, the roots growing down from the branches and working their way into the ground are just quite amazing, nature at its most interesting and wonderful.


There was a water bird park, with a collection of flamingos, which I found a little bizarre.


I loved the rhinoceros hornbills in the aviary.


As the park edges up against some of the older and more residential parts of Kowloon, there are a number of residential tower blocks nearby, this block was just massive. Growing up in Auckland with a ‘quarter acre block’ – a decent size garden, I am just not sure I could really live in something like that, I definitely could not have children there. Each to our own I guess. If I was born here this would just be normal!


We left the park mid-afternoon and walked back to our hotel, which was not too far away, these two banyan trees made for a nice photo sculpture.


We had bit of a rest in the room before heading back out again, stopping for a glass of wine or two in the bar downstairs. We walked up Nathan Rd past the shopping centre and an entrance to the park we had visited in the afternoon.



We walked up through the early evening, the streets were crowded and it was nice feeling the buzz of a busy city in the evening. Not having a tripod I didn’t take many photos, and those I did were hand held.



We headed to the night market, and pretty much stumbled across it, sort of by mistake. It was vaguely interesting, as El said at the time it was like Walthamstow market, but dark. Maybe.


We were going to eat somewhere near the market, but most places were really busy, and we kept on going looking for somewhere to stop, but pretty much gave up in the end.



This place was not a food place and I did cut the first name off, but this is what we first saw when we came across it.


I have been looking for a really good example of a building covered in bamboo scaffolding, and naturally only found one in the dark, the light makes it look even more frightening.


We ended up back by the hotel without finding anywhere to eat so decided to go local and eat Mexican in the same building as the hotel. They did have the most amazing margaritas, massive. I had two Smile


That was pretty much the last act of our Hong Kong trip, and the good news is I survived unscathed, bonus!

The next morning we checked out and headed to the airport for our late morning flight. We had the world’s speediest taxi driver, luckily the roads were clear and we possibly set a record for the transit from down town Kowloon to the airport.

We were all on the plane on time, and were then advised there had been delays ‘in Chinese airspace’ and we would held on the ground for between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Joy – we already had almost 13 hours in the plane ahead of us. It was not the nicest flight, long and boring and I watched a stream of really bad movies.

It was a day time flight and as we were heading west we followed the sun all the way. There were moments when the sky below was free of cloud and the scenery was amazing, miles and miles and miles of nothingness, desert and dunes and occasionally a road blasting through. I assumed we flew over Mongolia and the Siberian steppes. I tried to take some photos on El’s camera but could not get to focus much past the dirt on the window.



We landed in London a little late and that was the end of the holiday. A good holiday!

I love this photo El took of me yesterday, my favourite holiday photo. I looked relaxed and by this stage my legs were not radioactively white.


Bright lights, Big city.

Wednesday 06 April 2016 – Hong Kong.

We had a fabulous time in New Zealand, and leaving was tough. I really enjoyed seeing my family again and with such nice weather for most of our time there, being outside in the warm sun was very pleasant as well. But things end and it was time to move on. There will be no more lovely cool pinot gris for a while.

Rather than heading directly back to London we decided to break the trip and take a couple of days in Hong Kong. El had never been there, and I had an ill-fated work trip there back in 2007. Unknown to me I had been quite ill for a while with a bacterial abscess growing in my liver. It finally hit the day I arrived in Hong Kong for a five day work trip. I spent one day in the hotel and then eight days in hospital, where they made me well enough to fly home to New Zealand. I didn’t see much of the city at all. I was hoping for much better fortune this time around !

Hospital 2007

After almost 11 hours of flying we arrived in Hong Kong first thing on Wednesday morning, the flight was OK, I dozed a little bit but would hardly say I slept. We decided to get a cab to the hotel, we had pondered getting the train, but the cab was hardly more costly, and seemed a reasonable option for brain dead passengers. As we had an overnight flight and arrived at 7:30 am I had decided to book a hotel room for the previous night so we could go straight to the room rather than having to wait till mid-afternoon. This was a wise decision, it gave us a chance to change, have a shower, a coffee or two and a wee relax before heading out for the day.

The ride in from the hotel was less painful than I expected, and the view was similar to that from the airport, a heavy low sky resting on the top of high rises. Which is not really representative of what HK looks like, it is surprisingly green and lush and hilly! The pollution at first was terrible, I am hoping it cleared rather than we got used to it as I didn’t notice it at all later in the trip. Early in the ride from the airport my throat was sore and my eyes burnt. The smoggy fog did clear and stay gone later in the day.


I had booked a hotel right in the centre of the tourist section of Kowloon, on Knutsford Terrace, a pedestrian only street full of bars and restaurants. When I booked the room I didn’t know this. I was really nervous that we were going to have noisy nights as we were only on the fifth floor. Luckily I was very wrong, and we had two great nights. I could not say the same about the view from the room though!


I do love Asian scaffolding, Bamboo is immensely strong, but I am not sure I would be standing on that deck.


It was late morning before we headed out the door, we had no real plan in mind. Stroll down towards the harbour and see what happens and what we felt like doing was as planned as we got. It was only 21 degrees, cooler than New Zealand had been, and not particularly humid either. Perfect weather for strolling.


The museum section down at the waterfront was closed for renovation, which was a shame as quite a large area of harbour side was closed as well. I really liked this building though.


Above the hoardings around the closed museum and on the far side of the harbour, loomed the magnificent International Finance Centre tower (IFC).


The view on either side of Hong Kong harbour is magnificent, tall towers and steep hills make for a great sight.



We were down by the Star Ferry building and it seemed rude to not get a ferry over the harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.



The Sky 100 tower on Kowloon is equally magnificent !


We stopped for lunch in the mall in the IFC, sadly it was only on the 2nd floor and not right up there with the big views.


From first observations, Hong Kong seems to be quite a new city, most of the buildings look to have been built in recent times, so it was quite nice to see an older and lower building deep in the shadows of the towers.


We walked through the central streets of down town Hong Kong and I have never seen so many high end brand shops, all the big names were there, more than once in some cases.


Though we didn’t catch one, there were a lot of trams on the lower, flat streets of down town Hong Kong. Vast sections of both down town Hong Kong and Kowloon are reclaimed land, and there is still a huge amount of work reclaiming more land from the sea. I heard that the IFC tower has foundations 44 metres deep!


We walked past the headquarters of HSBC and the Bank of China, both with their theme on the lion.



The French mission building really stood out as we started to wind our way up the lower foothills, as did St John’s Cathedral behind it.



We were looking for the Peak Tram, a funicular that went from the lower foothills up to the top of Victoria Peak. Built in 1888 it has been ferrying tourists up a very steep incline to the peak. It is quite a piece of engineering and is larger and steeper than I imagined. It is also very popular and we were lucky on our ride up to not have to wait long at all. There were much bigger queues going up when we got back down again.



There is a further climb up a series of escalators once we were off the funicular, though the view out of the window was a taste of what we would see from the top.


There was a southern US shrimp restaurant at the top, bizarre. We are in Hong Kong, not Louisiana. It even sold Forrest Gump souvenirs.


The view from the Peak is amazing, we had an OK day, we could at least see some distance, and we could see all of HK and over to Kowloon. I took a lot of photos, living in a large but low rise city, I love all these big towers, not so sure I would like to live in the middle of them.







We were up the top for a while, and had a bit of a walk around before heading down. The viewing platform is a rather odd shaped building.




With no sleep last night and being quite a walk from the hotel we decided to catch the funicular back down again rather than walk. Back down at almost sea level we walked through a small park towards the main shopping area. There are a few little parks around, for all its masses and height it is quite a green place, pleasant in parts.


Back down at the harbour side we caught one of the old Star Ferries back over to Kowloon.




That tower is really big!


It was a 20 minute walk back up to the hotel.


After a brief rest we decided to head to the bar downstairs at street level and have a couple of drinks before heading back out again, purely for hydration of course.


We decided to do a harbour tour tonight, there is a light show at 8:00pm every night over the harbour, with a lot of the building owners on either side lighting up their buildings or shining lasers into the sky, the photos we saw before hand made it look very spectacular, and a trip on a harbour is always a good thing. The walk back down again was more interesting at night, there is a lot of neon here.



I really liked this guy’s variation of ‘guy floating in the air’ – especially dressed as a monk in front of a giant CK advert…


The light show was a bit of a flop really, very unexciting. I am going to blame the clouds that swept in over the harbour, obscuring some of the lights, and rendering the lazers pretty much useless. It was hard to see what, if anything was going on. I did take a load of photos though, a lot were deleted as these were all hand held.








The show was a bit too long, and surprisingly it got quite cold, something I really did not expect. I was not dressed for coldness and got a bit shivery on the boat. I was glad to get off and walk back up to the hotel. We didn’t fancy anything big for dinner so grabbed some bread and cheese from an M and S on our street (it is so British here).  We retired to our room to eat and drink a glass of wine sitting on our bed watching a Japanese football team play a Chinese team in the Asia Cup.

It was a long old day, but really good and neither of us ended up in hospital.