"Hello from the shaky end of the world" Kakapo2's Profile
25 March 2013
I will not answer Forum questions and emails asking travel questions about New Zealand anymore. The reason for my retirement in Feb. 2013 was that Forum answers did not count towards the ranking anymore. I had spent hours and days answering Forum questions individually, not leaving me time to post a lot of travel tips on my pages. In the meantime VT has a general ranking and a separate Forum ranking. This does not change my view. And apart from that I am bored to answer the same questions over and over again.
Read the tips I have posted before running out of time due to answering nearly 2000 Forum questions extensively, not just with a few words or two sentences. I will not add any new tips. I might update old Christchurch tips. Enjoy!
25 February 2011
I am really humbled and thank you all so much for thinking of me and my family (incl. Kimi the Bear!) after the devastating 6.3 earthquake that hit Christchurch three days ago. We live next to the epicentre in Lyttelton, and this time we were hit much harder than in the 7.1 quake last September. The house has damage all over the place and it looks chaotic, but there is no structural damage, so we can stay in our house. We had power restored the next day and water after five days. Given the circumstances we are perfectly fine. And again thanks for your thoughts and wishes.
My photos of our house and the CBD here:
as I have been living in New Zealand since 2004 (after immigrating from Germany) I have started my travel pages with tips and stories about life and travelling in my new home country. So this is my most expansive page - but long not finished. I was just a bit bored with NZ only, so I have started to write about Germany including a page about my home town (well... village...) named Gingen which is called "The Pearl of the Fils Valley", has Germany's oldest dated church inscription and cheeky locals named Schnapper (Snappers). Big pages I added in 2008 are Berlin (January), Dresden (October) and Kuala Lumpur.
Interesting destinations on my Australia page are Canberra and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The latter is a fantastic place near Canberra for meeting kangaroos, emus and other wildlife in the wild.
Some day I will write more about my trips to other countries (I have the choice of about 50). Let's see how far I will get... A big problem is that I have travelled a lot before the digital photo age, and I hate scanning...
On my pages I do not intend to deliver full travel guides for the sake of having mentioned everything. I have looked over many pages on VT, some are delightful, others just chew on facts that you can get from every printed travel guide. Many Off the Beaten Path tips are not off the beaten path at all. And I do not see any sense in writing a "Things to do" like: "Go to Akaroa, it is nice there." Or: "Cross the Harbour. There is a nice picnic spot." I also hate tiny rubbish tips although even some top-rated VT members write such crap, splitting up the description into a million tips, so they can get more ratings.
What I really like is the forum where we sometimes can give very helpful and specific tips. I just do not enjoy answering questions like: "Which places should I visit during my four week holiday in NZ?" This is absurd. We have all those travel pages, so people can read and get ideas, and it would also help to have a look in a printed guide before going into details. Apart from that I am happy to help with advice and research.
What also amazes me is that people always ask how the weather will be in a certain month at a certain destination. Of course, nobody could ever tell you! Not even the three-day weather forecast for New Zealand by professionals has ever been correct ;-) We sometimes have winter in spring, summer in winter, and almost certainly we get strong wind when I start spraying the plants in the garden ;-)
I think weather questions are only important if you want to know in which months certain countries normally experience weather phenomens like hurricanes, tornadoes, rain season etc. But sure, I can understand that the weather question is important, as we all want to have perfect weather during our most precious time of the year.
For New Zealand I can tell you that winter is the best season for visiting the glaciers on the West Coast as there it rains less in winter than in spring and summer. And if you are lucky you will have a great holiday even in a less favourable season and others who travel in summer experience rain, snow and cold.
Have fun and enjoy your life and holidays!
I wanted to add some thoughts about VT. We have had lenghty discussions in the forum about ratings and friendly support. With the latter I mean the rating of friends' tips in return for rating friends. If just the people could be honest and rate tips according to their value. But here we find rubbish tips adorned by five stars, and really good tips with three stars only. I got enough these days when, by coincidence, I saw that one of my Bora Bora transportation tips is listed with two and a half stars. This means that some people must have rated it with two stars or even less.
It is a tip in which I had put a lot of effort and time in order to help other people who want to travel there, with links and information you would struggle to find in travel guides. Whereas I write other tips as a kind of diary and personal memories, this tip was created just to make other people's travels easier. At the same time I spotted a five-line tip of another member without any links rated with three and half stars.
After seeing this I am inclined to say this downrating is the making of equally bad-spirited and bad-mannered people who try to downrate me in general for either keeping their overall rank or in particular to keep me out of the top 5 for this specific destination. Whatever the intention is, it makes me again think about the value of ratings, the ever-hot topic on VT.
The only thing I can say to anybody who expects his/her tips being rated by me is that I will give honest ratings. Do not expect five stars if your tip about accommodation, restaurant or transportation does not include any link, or if you add five sloppy lines to a photo in a Things to Do or General Tip. I do not expect any rating for such short tips and note this if I do it. If you do not want to honour the time and effort I put in my tips for shonky personal reasons that are beyond my imagination, you better do not rate my tips at all than resort to such primitive practices. If you feel better by downgrading other people you are a poor soul. Be assured of my insincere condolences.
I have taken all photos on all my pages, if not stated otherwise, so I have the copyright. Please do not use my photos in any kind of publication, and - because it has just happened - not on your Facebook page or any other social website either. The same applies to my texts.
Favourite travel destinations:
Australia - Red Centre, Western Australia
New Zealand - of course ;-)
USA - South West, all those red landscapes; Joshua Tree Nat. Park
Chile - Atacama Desert
Peru - Macchu Picchu
Mexico - so many places... Best moment: top of Popocatépetl
France - Alsace, Britanny, Pyrenees, castles of the Loire, Médoc, Le Puy-en-Velay, Carcassonne, Provence... well, nearly every place!
South Korea - the mountains, all those nice people, kimchi and pipimpab!
Germany - Lake Constance (Bodensee), Ries (Nördlingen), Kesseltal (nearby), Schwäbische Alb, the Alps, Neuschwanstein, Heidelberg, Ostfriesland, Erfurt, castles on the Rhine... and let me remind you that the highest church spire of the world is not in Cologne but in beautiful Ulm on the Danube (Donau) where I lived more than 20 years!
Switzerland - all those pristine lakes and idyllic towns.
Belgium - the cities of Wallonia
... and so many other countries I have been to!
Barcelona - Paris - Rome - Brugge
I speak German, English, French, Spanish...
I have forgotten a lot of my Portuguese and Italian...
(I had English and French at school, studied Spanish and the basics of Italian at university, learnt Portuguese in a language school in Sao Paulo)
I can read and write Korean
I speak some Czech
I do horoscopes. In the meantime I have an astrology programme on the computer. To me horoscopes are less to look into the future but to analyse the present, and think about yourself. It is good to give people a chance for a self-assessment by discussing the analysis.
I lay Tarot cards.
I once was quite good in palm reading but not anymore... Not enough practice.
I believe in the magic of pendulums for finding energy rich spots in nature.
Mediums who say they can find lost and dead people nearly never prove it and just rip off people and play with their hopes.
Favourite writers and books:
Pablo Neruda's memoirs
E. Annie Proulx - for her art of describing details
Bill Bryson - travel writing at its best; especially his book about Australia makes me laugh from the first to the last page.
Mascha Kaléko - poems with words floating as softly as caresses
... is too diverse to list everything but I only like music with clear melodies and not just noise.
Bands with unique styles like Queen, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, many Beatles songs.
Pop music from Coldplay, Matchbox 20, Ronan Keating, Bryan Adams, Jon Bonjovi, Dido, Take That, Robbie Williams, Roxette, James Blunt, Daniel Powter, and so on. Yes, I really like boy bands LOL
My all-time favourites are the Bee Gees.
Country Music from Johnny Cash, John Berry and Shania Twain.
The Ballads from Heavy Metal Bands.
Spanish, South and Latin American "cantantes" like Alberto Plaza, Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Ricardo Montaner and Luis Miguel.
French pop and chansons from Pierre Bachelet, Gérard Lenorman, Serge Reggiani, Charles Aznavour, Michel Sardou, Florent Pagny and lots more.
Italians like Nek, Umberto Tozzi, Zucchero.
The NZ heroes Crowded House, Finn Brothers, Dave Dobbyn, The Feelers.
My old Germans Drafi Deutscher ("Marmor, Stein und Eisen bricht") and Trude Herr ("Niemals geht man so ganz"), Peter Maffay, ... do not really know the new ones... just missed them, so far away from home, and "Aussie" (LOL Austrian) Peter Cornelius.
... and classic music light - which means, I am not very much into operas but love Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Smetana, Brahms, Johann Strauss, and the great voices Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, José Carreras, also Popera music from Andrea Bocelli, Amici, Il Divo.
My favourite classic piece is the "Va, Pensiero" Chorus from Verdi's Nabucco.
White Nights - Pappa ante portas (Loriot) - Dirty Dancing
March of the Penguins - The Postman (who delivers Pablo Neruda's mail)
Pasta, Spätzle (swabian pasta) with a thick creamy sauce
Margarita, Pina Colada, Pisco Sour, Caipirinha
Kimi is a very lucky bear because he has travelled a lot. He is the star of a New Zealand travel guide I have written but for which I have not found a publisher yet, although I have got some good critics of publishers. One problem is that sometimes I just contact the wrong publisher, another problem is that many publishers do not want to try something new, as children's books normally are illustrated with watercolour paintings and not with photos, and my book shows the bear in real situations. The thought behind it is that kids take their favourite toy animal on their trips, and Kimi could give them a lot of inspiration and make travelling double interesting.
Actually I am working on a DVD in which Kimi introduces you to the New Zealand animals.
I have photographed Kimi in any situation you can imagine, in the airplane, bus, car, on ferries, boats and the tramway, at the most beautiful locations in NZ, with birds, plants, in the supermarket, with fish'n'chips, at the teddybear picknick in the park, at the rugby, cricket and netball. The Maori group KoTane at the Willowbank in Christchurch even introduced him to Maori culture. And other friendly people assisted me to deliver a full insight into Kiwi life and lifestyle.
Kimi's most exciting experiences were with birds. Long time I had not dared to seat him beside a kea because I was afraid those cheeky parrots could destroy him. So I made a photo montage. But then my husband convinced me to risk it, with him right beside the bear to save him in the case of emergency. We put a little piece of grain bread on the bear's paw and waited for the kea to take it. But surprise, surprise: The kea did not dare! As he had never seen such a creature before he thought it would be sensible to first watch it. So the kea walked up and down, and up and down in front of the bear at a little safety distance, and stared at the bread but did not take it. Perhaps he would have dared an hour later... The proof how intelligent those birds are.
On the other hand we were surprised of the cheekyness and risky behaviour of the flightless wekas. I sprinkled some potato chips around the bear to attract the wekas and get my photo of them together with Kimi. When they had eaten all the chips they looked around, looked at the bear - and one weka approached him and bit him in the ear twice, so he fell over! I was too surprised to take this photo LOL But you can be sure I quickly saved Kimi from being attacked a third time ;-)
I still have a lot of fun taking Kimi to places and photograph him in new landscapes and situations. And I will carry on until I find a publisher ;-)
If you want to see more pictures of him and his adventures... He has now (October 2008) started his own VT page, his member name is Kimi_the_Bear.
For some years I have painted a real lot. First watercolours, later on silk. The silk painting had started with painting silk ties - fantasy flowers and birds, hobbies, professions, sports and humour. Then I started agglomerating panoramas of landscapes and cities in a vertical way, and this led to do the same on large silk screens. I have sold quite a lot of those ties back in Germany, also shops sold them.
But I could see, the more I wrote and the more time I spent on the internet, the less time I had for painting. So since some years I have not painted a lot, just in some intense painting attacks and then big, big breaks again. I have painted a dummy for ties with New Zealand motives but I have not really carried on yet. But I have everything ready on my mind ;-)
Since living here I was busier painting walls and ceilings. And the internet and Emailing my friends back in Europe takes a lot of my time. But I do have my artist's studio in the attic, and I am confident that I will find my way back into inspiration for this relaxing hobby.
If you are interested you can see more of my paintings on my external homepage.
Sometimes people ask what my VT name Kakapo means, and why I am Kakapo2 while no Kakapo1 exists.
Ok, the latter was a VT problem. I tried to register as Kakapo because I had seen that there was no other Kakapo in the members list but the system would just not accept me as Kakapo. So I added the number and it worked.
The New Zealand Kakapo is the world's only flightless and nocturnal parrot. Two superlatives in one bird. Well, this suits me, as I have two home countries, two personalities, I am as rare as the bird, just my mating habits are not as eccentric ;-)))
Read more about the Kakapo on Kimi_the_Bear's VT page:
Taking notes during a UEFA Cup game in the 1970s I decided at the age of 13 to become a sports journalist. I had always loved writing - I already wrote little novels for my friends aged ten, sometimes hidden under the sheets at night because my parents wanted me to sleep at night LOL But from then on it was journalism, and it was sports - which was the combination of my two major hobbies.
I had grown up in a sports-mad family, the main sport was handball - but I chose athletics because first I hated cheating judges in gymnastics, and second I was very good at throwing which was not common among girls, and I was rather successful at regional level, once even becoming discus champion of Württemberg. But my favourite discipline was javelin.
So already from the age of 15 on I wrote for the local newspapers, and carried on. I was accepted at the prestigious German Journalists School (Deutsche Journalistenschule) in Munich, and then joined the sports department of Südwest Presse newspaper in Ulm in 1980. I worked there as an editor and reporter until I emigrated to New Zealand at the start of 2004, and covered numerous Olympic Games, World Championships in many kinds of sports, the Tour de France, and lots and lots of games of the VfB Stuttgart football team which has just (May 2007) won the German title. Well done, guys!
Here in New Zealand I write as a freelancer for several German newspapers. I do not write a lot about sports as the major sports here (rugby, cricket and - worse - netball) do not interest Germans a lot. But I do cover big sports events in NZ and Australia if interesting German athletes participate, so my stories get printed and I can not only cover my costs but earn money on the trip. Normally I report about environmental and political issues but mostly about the oddities of life in NZ, including animal stories which are very well received by the editors.
Although I enjoy covering big sports events from time to time - mainly to check if I can still work in a disciplined way LOL - I do not miss the daily life as a sports editor. It is stressful, you work late at night, drive back home from football games late at night, have to finish your story by the end of the game, work on Saturdays and Sundays, have little or no social life, have no time when your friends have time, have your days off when your friends work, are away for days and weeks, and in the office you have to cope with nice and not so nice colleagues who cause you stomach pain, like everywhere, meetings, senseless discussions, noise, deadlines, and so on, and so on. It is not the glamourous life you might imagine although I have known many interesting and famous people, and travelled a lot, and have seen places I would never have seen without being in this job. All this can boost your self-confidence which is a good thing.
Of course it is nice to know Jürgen Klinsmann and Jogi Löw, and they know who I am, and be at the same party as Ruud Gullit and touch Diego Maradona. But it is not what makes you happy. When you are old and grey I can still look at the photos which show me together with them, and think of the hectic and funny times, and be grateful that I had such an exciting and interesting job which was my life. But none of them will be around - only your partner, your friends. Never forget about them while leading this exciting professional life. You could end up lonesome.
Now I have less money than before, and I never know how much I will have at the end of the month - but I can breathe free.
I have problems to throw away things. That is why I have been collecting a lot of items over time. So my emigration to New Zealand was probably a good move to get rid of stuff, and reduce my collections.
In this big clean-up I gave up my collections of sugars and paper napkins from all over the world. I sold about 30kg of wrapped sugars on ebay - but had to keep the small container you see on the right of the photo because the lid would absolutely not open. It is a nice reminder of a fantastic collection with really rare series, especially from France.
With the introduction of the Euro I had already been forced to carry my 1- and 2 Pfennig coins which I had horded for more than 30 years to the bank LOL I had kept them so long because it was a tradition in my home country Germany to collect Pfennig coins for buying the wedding shoes, and, well... As I married very late in life, I had a big collection. And finally did not even buy new shoes for the wedding LOL
But I have kept the collection of about 200 dolls in traditional dresses from my trips around the world, and I still have a lot of toy animals. Well, the latter is not a real collection. I just cannot resist to buy them when they look at me with their big eyes from the shelves in the shops ;-) That is how I have become the owner of four big koalas, my favourite animals. Or Kimi the travelling bear whom I discovered on a South Korean market in 1988. Also Lukas the Gorilla, Catlin the Penguin, Jean-Claude the Tour de France bear, Russell the Wombat and more found their way into my heart and home on overseas trips. Two Fritzle alligators, mascot of the VfB Stuttgart football team, remind me of my two decade long career as a sports journalist.
As I also keep an archive and brochures for the VT pages, there is also a lot of paper in the house...
My successful Comeback as an Athlete
By now you should know that I have always been very much into sports although I have lots of other interests. But I am convinced you start ageing dramatically if you do not move your body, and as I am trying to avoid looking like Granny Smith in the near future, I work out in the gym, go jogging, cycling, and walk up the hills at near-running speed. But I do not like the boring gym. I go there because it is great for upper body strength and flexibility.
Everything changed when in September 2007 I saw a brochure of the New Zealand Masters Games. This is a competition for oldies over 30 ;-) I checked the results of the previous year and thought I could do rather well. So I started training for this event, with an unlucky five or six week break after injuring my wrist by kayaking too much in the Abel Tasman National Park...
I participated in the Masters Games in Dunedin in February 2008. And sure - I won three gold medals :-) I competed in discus and shot-put, and as javelin was the last event I also dared to compete in this discipline. Sure, javelin had always been my favourite and best discipline but especially after a break of more than 20 years it also is highly dangerous and injury-prone. (Well, I withdrew after one great throw for safety reasons because my ellbow was sore ;-) The funny thing was that I delivered the relatively worst result in the only discipline I had really trained (discus). Just did not get a feeling for those slippery new apparati... I had trained with a prehistoric wooden discus which I got rather sticky with some drops of saliva LOL
I have not done any special training since then. I was not interested in participating in the Masters Games in 2009 because this would have been too much of a hassle to travel to Wanganui in the North Island. I had hoped to throw again in late January 2010 in Dunedin. But Athletics Otago would not - against the rules of Athletics NZ - allow me to use my own discus, and I had no interest to deliver a bad result. I am only interested in a personal best, not in a gold medal with a bad result. In 2012 I won two gold medals at the NZ Masters Games (discus, shot put), javelin was not on the schedule.
I have always liked birds but since I have been living in New Zealand I am a bird lover. Not a birder yet because I do not know everything yet. But I know a lot about birds, I recognise a lot of them, some even just from their song. I often take the camera and go bird watching.
Sure I am proud if I can watch and photograph a rare bird. But I most love those with whom I can interact a little. The small birds here are less shy than back in Germany, obviously they had no predators in the early days, before humans brought all those horrible rodents, cats, dogs and wild pigs into the country, so many bird species are extinct now.
So my favourites are the fantails as they come into the garden and have a little chat. Some of them I meet nearly every day, and they do not only come close to check if there are insects around to feed on. Every year there are two or three who stay for minutes and seem to chat, and if I talk to them they answer, and nearly sit on my hand. Most times I stand beside a low tree branch, so the fantails can sit there and have their conversation. And me, too, of course! ;-)
Also the silvereyes are super cute. And they are clever. In a cold winter when I feed them and the aggressive starlings chase them away, I go to the deck, and the starlings fly away. The silvereyes stay and feed, feeling protected and favoured by my presence. Also, when starlings argue with each other and start to fight, the silvereyes take their chance to get food from the feeder behind the starlings' backs.
Also high in my list are the robins and the tomtits. The robins know no fear and it happens that they sit on your hand or hat when you have a break in the bush. Their relatives, the tomtits, suddenly sit in front of you to check who has intruded their territory. They approach without making a sound whereas the fantails are chatting and beeping the whole day. When I hear a fantail beep I whistle or talk, and they come. Absolutely amazing!
The bigger ones, the tui and the bellbird, often stay a long time singing if you answer their song. I feed the cheeky wekas on the West Coast, and all those nice ducks all over the country.
I also love interacting with keas although people who live close to them do not like them because those cheeky mountain parrots can do a lot of damage. Perhaps I would react in a similar way if I could not leave anything outside unattended. As this is not the case I enjoy watching them because they are incredibly intelligent.
See my 5 kea travelogues on my NZ South Island page.
Finally... the penguins. Who does not love them when they waddle across the beach and fall on their beaks struggling their way up a hill. Since seeing the "March of the Penguins" I love them even more, as they are such caring and dedicated animals - with even human behaviour. Good human behaviour. They have deserved to be protected, as all the other birds.
Many people are a little disappointed about New Zealand's fauna, as here are no koalas, kangaroos and other exotic animals. And - apart from some keas - no flocks of fearless parrots like in Australia. You have to be rather patient and quiet to enjoy New Zealand's unique animals.
Personal Pages (13)
Written Jul 22, 2007
Travel Highlights and other Peak Performances
Written Nov 2, 2009
Special Member Service: Bird Photos for Allison
Written Mar 17, 2008
Special Member Service for ATLC: Checking the Past
Written Jan 6, 2011
Meeting VT member "elpariente" in Christchurch
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