Your browser (Internet Explorer 6) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.
X

Posts tagged ‘New Zealand’

Post

Christchurch and lockdown

I’ve spent the last five nights in Christchurch due to my replanned itinerary after my Dunedin Fringe show being cancelled.

As it turns out, the entire Dunedin Fringe festival has been cancelled in the past week due to the coronavirus.

Despite my petulance and moaning about ticket sales at my other shows, I’m lucky I did get to perform any of them and that the festivals even went ahead in the first place. At the moment, the 2020  Edinburgh Fringe hangs in the balance. The organisers are still insisting that it’s going ahead, mainly so they don’t have to give refunds for registration fees to thousands of performers.

In other places I’ve visited on this trip, I’ve made an effort to get out and see things. But the mood has changed pretty dramatically within the last week due to that pesky virus. As a result, I’ve mainly tried to avoid contact with people. Although this isn’t the easiest thing to do when staying in hostels.

I also tracked down one of the last remaining face masks in Christchurch.

And I’ve been desperately hoping that the sniffles and sore throat I’ve got isn’t anything more serious. The sniffle started on Stewart Island after the colder temperatures there, so there.

Originally, I’d booked to fly home on 25 March. But the airline I’m flying with changed my flights early last month due to the coronavirus. In another strange coincidence, the end of the day tomorrow is when New Zealand closes its borders, stops flights, and goes into lockdown.

I’m going via Hong Kong, which will close its borders with NZ minutes after my flight arrives there. It’s all feeling a lot of like Indiana Jones rolling underneath a closing door. I’ll make sure none of my hats get left behind.

Being caught in the midst of a global pandemic isn’t quite how I saw my trip ending. Still, it’s certainly a new experience – just not one I’d choose.

Post

Stewart Island

After visiting Gisborne and Napier, the third and final location on my list of places I didn’t visit in 2007 was Stewart Island.

Stewart Island is famous for its bird life, as it is without many of the invasive rodents and other small predators that blight much of the rest of the country.

On the ferry over, I saw an albatross or three. Make no mistake, these mothers are huge.

And three of the birds I saw at Zealandia – the NZ pigeon, the tui, and kaka parrot – have all struggled for numbers in years gone by. I can relate (Audience numbers? Fine, forget it). Yet within minutes of checking in at my hostel, I saw all three of these birds in the garden.

My encounters with rare birds didn’t end there. Insert your innuendo here if you must.

There was another bird I had never seen at all as it is one of the very rarest. I am talking about the kiwi. These small, flightless creatures are teetering on the brink of extinction with around 68,000 left in the world. This is down from several million a couple of hundred years ago.

Stewart Island has the largest population of wild kiwi anywhere in the world, which was one of my main reasons for visiting there.

They’re nocturnal, meaning that spotting one is a much trickier prospect. On my first night, I went on an impromptu walk along the coast for a couple of miles just as the sun was beginning to go down. But alas, I didn’t see a single kiwi.

On my second night, I heard there was a pub quiz at the island’s only pub. A couple of people at my hostel asked if I’d like to join them for it. As it turns out, I am quite partial to a pub quiz.

It was in the pub where I had my first pint of Export Gold lager since 2007, when I drank countless glasses of the stuff. It was pretty bland, so it’s nice to know that some things do the stay the same in an ever-changing world.

Back to the quiz, I should add that on the team of four, it was only me and Ian who knew anything.

I told the others that they needed to get the answers right, but they clearly weren’t listening.

And despite our best efforts, we came up five points short of the winners in third place.

I’m allowed a night off every now and then. And my show isn’t called How To Win Every Pub Quiz, meaning I can continue to perform it. Still, not winning does sting.

After the quiz, I decided I decided to go and look for some kiwis.

It had been raining, which fortunately meant that there weren’t as many kiwi spotters out as usual. The rule is that the more kiwi spotters are out, the fewer kiwis will be as they’ll get scared off.

Two minutes walk up the hill from my hostel, there’s a rugby pitch that I was told was a decent place for spotting them.

With no torch and just using my phone, I was going to find it tricky. I stayed very still for a couple of minutes and kept listening out noises and looking for moving shadows.

I thought I could see a small shadow moving, so walked closer to it. And there it was, a genuine wild kiwi.

Normal torch lights blind kiwis, which is why people use red lights when going out spotting. So I shined my phone light at my feet for a bit of visibility and moved a little closer. This then got the kiwi’s attention and he started coming towards me. I kept backing away, as I wasn’t sure if he was curious by the moving light or about to launch an attack with that hard beak. In hindsight, I’m fairly sure it was a defensive manoeuvre to kick me off his turf.

In any case, it was a privilege to see such a rare and legendary animal up so close.

Kiwis might be endangered, but they’re feisty little creatures. This was proven a couple of minutes later when another kiwi – presumably a male – appeared and a fight ensued in the bushes.

I was originally planning to stay on Stewart Island for four nights. However, finding out the hostel I was staying in only had two toilets spooked me enough to reduce this by a night.

As with most things I get worried about, the reality never turns out to be as bad as my head has been preparing for.

It was a small hostel and many people would leave very early in the morning, mostly to go hiking. As a result, I never had to queue for the toilet once.

Worrying and thinking of alternatives is one of my brain’s coping mechanisms.

Another example of this also on Stewart Island when my phone was playing up. For some unknown reason, I couldn’t access my phone settings. I took the most obvious course of action and went for Restore to Factory Settings.

When a blank screen then greeted me, I thought I may have to make the journey home without instant access to flight details, addresses of accommodation, or train tickets.

Thankfully, someone also staying at the hostel was a developer of Android apps and he fixed it.

I’m now in Christchurch, where I’ll be flying home from in four days time. I’m hoping these plans don’t get changed.

Post

Wellington

I checked out of my horrendous hostel on Monday and don’t think I’ve ever felt the same level of euphoria when I’ve left other places.

I booked into somewhere around the corner with similarly bad reviews. The main reason is that I have an ensuite and don’t have to share it with 30 other people.

It could easily pass for decent student digs. While it’s not exactly perfect and the kitchen between eight rooms doesn’t have any saucepans, it’s pretty much five-star compared with the last place.

Also on Monday, I went to a place called Zealandia. It’s a nature reserve covering 225 hectare of forest, all on the outskirts of Wellington.

They’re using it to increase populations of endangered birds and native trees. So it’s surrounded by a high perimeter fence to keep out rats, ferrets, cats and other mammals brought here from overseas that might be partial to eating a bird or two.

As a result of this high fence and all the greenery, it has a Jurassic Park feel to it. Thankfully, there’s nothing in there that eats people or anything that will spawn mediocre sequels.

I really enjoyed walking around there for most of the day and discovering stuff.

It was established in the early 1990s and despite this being my third visit to Wellington, I don’t know how I wasn’t aware of it previously. I’ve explored a lot more of Wellington than I have before this time. Staying in a horrible hostel was certainly motivation enough to get out and about, and it also helped that I’ve not been hungover all the time.

Bagpiper update. In my fifth separate city on this trip, I heard the bagpipes. This time, I tracked down the bagpiper. He claims he hasn’t been following me around on my trip, but I’m not sure I believe him.

I’m writing this on my phone as I hear his music. There is a something I find oddly soothing in bagpipes.

I suspect the Fringe Gods dispatched him here after I got my show application sorted for another Edinburgh. I did it in an internet cafe, using a customised version of Word that had been set up for Chinese speakers. Editing wasn’t the easiest thing to do when the computer kept wanting to add Chinese characters. But I eventually got it done.

Tomorrow I head to Invercargill for a night, then over to Stewart Island. It will be the furthest it’s possible to get from home, excluding Antarctica. 

Post

NZ Fringe 2020 – Show four

Audience numbers for last night’s show thankfully picked up a bit. And while hundreds of people were lining the streets with the Wellington Pride parade, I managed to get around 30 people in.

The audience were great again. Although I would have liked a few more people in through the door, I’ve been very lucky with the people who have come through said door this run.

As it worked out, I actually ended up selling fewer tickets with each succesive show. This is a handy parallel with my last four Edinburgh runs, where each year’s tally is lower than the last. If the coronavirus is still widespread by August, then this record will almost certainly continue.

I would say that I’m not over here for the money, but it’s simply not true. Based on two shows last year, I thought I would make double the amount from four shows this time. Now I no longer have a full-time job, I need all the money I can get. Expectations ruin everything.

Unfortunately, I only made marginally more than last year.

Nevertheless, all the shows went well and it’s given me an excuse to come back to New Zealand again. Smaller audiences also meant I could have more fun riffing and dicking about with less admin to worry about. That’s very much how the show was forged and it is ultimately where I feel most comfortable.

As I have said many times over the years, I’ve always found failure easier to handle than success. Mainly because I’ve experienced more failure than success. But there’s no pressure or expectation that comes with failure. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on without worrying about sustaining anything.

It’s just as well I’m putting together a new show then.

It’s actually a relief that I won’t be doing Dunedin Fringe. I don’t think it’s healthy to compulsively check sales figures multiple times a day and then getting frustrated that the numbers haven’t increased.

And on another positive note, I have one night left in the worst hostel I’ve ever stayed in.

I won’t miss being woken up by my next door neighbour having lengthily phone calls with his partner on loud speaker, who sounds much like one of those garbling adults in Charlie Brown.

Tomorrow morning, I checkout of this dump and will never return. I may even steal a knife and fork out of spite.

They say a week is a long time in politics. It turns out its also true when staying in horrendous accommodation.

Post

NZ Fringe 2020 – Show three

I’m writing this while I’m waiting for my washing in a laundrette.

My hostel does have a washing machine, but I wouldn’t trust it based on everything else in that place.

Although it’s probably going to cost me twice as much at this laundrette, it at means that I can avoid spending time in that awful hostel and my clothes hopefully won’t come out smelling like rotten flesh. Actually, mouldy peanut butter is a far worse smell. So I will go with that instead. Just two more nights, just two more nights…

Onto show-related matters, I think I had about 36 people in last night. So, just over half full. I’ve never known an instance where the Wednesday and Thursday shows are busier than the ones on Friday and Saturday. But this is the situation I find myself in.

Attendances have been down across all my shows. I’m obviously not going to blame my lack or promo when I can blame other factors.

They were another good audience who all seemed to really enjoy it, with many saying nice things afterwards.

It’s my final show of the run tonight. At the moment, it’s looking like it’ll be the quietest. But it is a Saturday and people are around. And as I often say on here, you never truly know how something is going to go until it actually begins. 

Post

NZ Fringe 2020 – Show two

It is definitely quieter this year in Wellington as far as audiences go. I think that there are a few reasons for this.

There are meant to be more shows on this year, meaning potential audience reserves are spread further. And the coronavirus could also be making people stay in slightly more, probably to guard their mountains of toilet roll they’ve panic-bought.

And there is another reason that a lot of people who would have wanted to see my show already saw it last year.

It is a new quiz apart from two questions, even if I am using some of the same material to set things up for later. But for the most part, it’s a different set. So one mistake I probably made was not giving the show a secondary title.

I was called out on using a few of the same jokes by a reviewer from Art Murmurs. She gave me a glowing review last year and it’s nice she enjoyed it so much that she wanted to see what I was doing for it this year. But she also said she was disappointed I’d rehashed some of the content from last year.

I’m fully aware of how complacent and lazy the show has made me in terms of writing material. And this is why I’ve made the decision to write a totally new hour for Edinburgh next year and am likely to put HTWAPQ into storage. After six years, I could do with a new challenge. So I expect this year’s Edinburgh Fringe to be my last full run with HTWAPQ.

Nevertheless, the reviewer gave me some amazing quotes. Such as this pearl:

“Love appears to be the epitome of those times you are in the shower thinking, ‘Oh, it would have been really cool if I had said THAT’, the Armando Iannucci-ian repartee a skill I greatly admire.” 

Being likened in any capacity to Armando Iannucci is perhaps one of the biggest compliments anyone could pay me. I’m not quite sure what she means here though. If it’s Armando himself, or the shows that he writes. Because Alan Partridge is certainly an influence on my quiz host twat persona.

The second show last night was also a good one, even if I could feel it dip slightly somewhere in the middle of my set. I had about 40 in, which is 20 tickets from being sold-out.

Afterwards, I met up with my friend Chloe for a drink. And I managed to magically turn one pint into five. It was the most I’ve drank in one evening on my trip. My 22 year old self would be horrified, and likely suffering from a much worse hangover.

There, I can make it through an entry on here without moaning about my accommodation. Although I did have to resort to my other token subject of Edinburgh Fringe. 

Post

NZ Fringe 2020 – Show one, plus more accommodation gripes

Having completely sold-out both my shows at last year’s NZ Fringe, it was an simple decision to come back this year.

Only this time, ticket sales are much slower and I can say fairly confidentially that I am unlikely to match last year. Bizarrely, the first show on Wednesday night had the most presales, when it’s usually the weekends that are busiest.

There were 46 people in out of 60 for my first show, which is a decent number for midweek. And they were a great audience, so I cannot complain about the people who were there.

Tonight and tomorrow are looking about half full, which should pick up a bit nearer showtime.

My main concern is for Saturday. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect to sell more tickets at the weekend. Only at the moment, I’m barely scraping double figures. I’ve since learned that this is probably because it clashes with Wellington Pride.

Hopefully it’ll pick up, but you never really can tell. In any case, I will try to put on the best show for whoever does buy a ticket.

Now it’s time for a moan about my accommodation. If I thought it couldn’t get any worse then I was very much mistaken.

The hostel I’m staying in is appalling. It actually feels more like a prison. There’s no ventilation in the rooms and the windows don’t open, so there’s no fresh air. There is a fan contraption thing in my room, which I have going on all the time to avoid suffocating.

My room also has a musty smell to it, much like the long-abandoned attic of an elderly relative.

There are three male toilets between 50 rooms.

The showers have has their tap outside the shower curtain. And I’m fairly sure the nozzle on the shower I used on my first night is from an actual garden hose.

The kitchen has flies buzzing everywhere, and this evening there was a mountain of washing up in the sink that had been abandoned, topped with a bowl that contained some watery tinned spaghetti.

There is a cleaner I see every day. But I have no idea exactly what he does, as the same stains and grey clumps of hair and miscellaneous other matter remain fixed. I’m starting to think he could also be a figment of my imagination.

It is completely my fault for booking the cheapest option on Expedia before doing any research into it.

There is a plus side to all of this. Before I arrived, I had been trying to extend my stay here by email. Fortunately, I wasn’t able to do so.

Within two minutes of arrival, I knew there was no way I’d be extending my stay. I booked somewhere else for the extra nights, but I’ve since found out that this new place also has a similarly poor reputation.

I’m now counting down the days I have left in this toilet bowl, before I’ll have somewhere else to complain about. Just four more nights, just four more nights…

Post

Napier

From having my own room and bathroom, I am now back to the world of hostels. Around me, I can see paint peeling off the ceilings, and tears in the wallpaper covered up with gaffer tape.

And it’s also back to questionable hygiene, with clumps of miscellaneous food clogging the kitchen sinks and dried poo smeared on the wall of toilet cubicles. In fairness, I’m glad it’s not the other way around.

Still, at least the owner doesn’t sit about four feet away to my right and talk at me as I’m trying eat the breakfast he’s cooked.

This is my first visit to Napier and it is now one of my favourite places in New Zealand.

The weather has been good and it’s right next to the beach, even if the currents are too dangerous to swim in most places. There are a couple of points where it is safe. Although Napier has pebble beaches, which I normally prefer to sand. But some of these pebbles are small and coarse and the rocks can be very sharp. I tried to go for a swim, cut my toe on a jagged rock, then had second thoughts.

It’s famous for its 1930s art deco architecture. But for me, there’s very much a 1950s feel about the place, with some cars from that era also driving around town.

If they wanted to remake Back to the Future, Napier would a make perfect Hill Valley. It’s even got two town squares to choose from.

Although they can’t remake Back to the Future as Bob Gale will stop anyone from doing so, and I think this is ultimately a good thing. That said, if Taika Waititi directed it and set it in Napier, I would certainly want to see it.

As for what I’ve been doing, I hired a bike on two occasions. One involved a 30km round trip down the coast to a couple of vineyards to try some red wine. As I was cycling, I handily sweat off the alcohol, so there were no safety issues with that at all.

The second bike ride involved going up the other side of the coast. I went through some wetlands, got slightly lost, then the chain on my bike fell off three times. I preferred the vineyard ride.

I have ridden a bike more in the last month than in the previous 15 years combined. I never intended to boycott bikes, let alone for this long. It wasn’t a case of forgetting how to ride one, more that I may have forgotten to ride one.

As I write this, I can also hear bagpipes being played. Because if they weren’t being played then I wouldn’t be able to hear them.

This is the fouth separate location on my trip I’ve heard the distinctive Scottish instrument. First in Perth then in Melbourne, next in Auckland, and now Napier. I’ve never managed to track down who’s playing them. I’m fairly sure they’re being played by different people, although it would both be funny and quite sinister if I was being stalked by a phantom bagpiper. Then there is also the possibility that – by doing Edinburgh Fringe so many times – when I’m tired, my brain makes me hear bagpipes. Sort of like a more pleasant form of tinnitus.

I’m getting a bus to Wellington in a couple of hours and my shows start again on Wednesday. 

Post

Gisborne

In many of the entries this year, I’ve complained about how hot it’s been. That all changed in Gisborne.

I had to get a taxi when I arrived because there are no airport buses in Gisborne. The driver said there hadn’t been any rain for two weeks. Well, never fear. Because when I turn up and I’m wearing my shorts, rain usually isn’t too far behind.

And sure enough, it started raining within hours of my arrival and has been doing so a fair amount since. At times, it was torrential.

This week marks the first time since my first day in Perth on 14 January that I’ve not had to apply layers of sun-cream before venturing outside. It also marks the first time in about six weeks that I’ve worn any trousers. I should add that I have been wearing shorts.

If it’s warm enough to wear shorts and not get sunburnt without wearing sun cream, then those are perfect conditions for me.

I’d never been to Gisborne before and I liked it more every day I spent there. When I walked through the town centre on Saturday afternoon, most places were closed and everything looked fairly dead.

I then explored a bit further and there’s a lot of stuff to like there such as the scenery along the coastline and local brewery.

I was hoping to go surfing, but conditions weren’t really suitable for it. The sea was a bit too choppy. And considering I haven’t surfed in almost 24 years, I can hardly claim to be at the the peak of my surfing abilities.

For three out of the last four days in Gisborne, I ate fish and chips. This wae mostly out of convenience as I didn’t have access to a kitchen. As much as I like eating it, I could do with a bit of variety. Fortunately, I was getting all the other necessary dietary nutrients from the hefty breakfast at the B&B I was staying in. It’s back to hostels now, and likely sardines and pasta.

Next week, I’ll be performing again in Wellington. 

Post

Auckland

When I arrived in Auckland in 2007, life felt full of fun, adventure and possibilities.

It was my first time on my own in another country, thousands of miles away from home.

I can’t remember exactly how I spent my days then. I do recall that there was a lot of walking around looking for places to get a fry-up from cafes recommended in Lonely Planet.

I do remember going to the backpacker bar in the basement of my hostel most nights, so a good chunk of my days were likely taken up with hangovers. This also explains the meed for fry-ups. Sadly, the backpacker bar has now closed. But I’ll always have the memories, or lack of them.

In February 2007, I even managed to do three standup gigs in Auckland. A tally I have thus far been unable to top in this city as it’s now pretty much impossible to get a response to emails. But maybe after that poor third gig I’ve been forever blacklisted.

One thing I have been able to do after 13 years was the jump off Auckland Sky Tower.

The Sky Jump is not really a bungee.  You’re just lowered really quickly to the ground with a harness. It is 192 metres though.

In 2007, this was the first thing like this I’d ever done. I have a vivid memory of stepping off the platform with nothing beneath my feet, which is a good metaphor for a couple of decisions I’ve made in life.

Thirteen years later, it was still fun but a little tame compared with the Nevis bungee out of a cable car in Queenstown.

I was originally hoping to bring my show to Auckland Fringe, but was unable to get one of those pesky venues sorted by the registration deadline.

Other than the Sky Jump, I haven’t done a massive amount in my four days here. Although yesterday, I found a craft ale bar and had to sample three pints with my fish and chips. And today, I walked up to Mt Eden today to see the volcano and views of the city.

Tomorrow, I head to Gisborne. I’ve not been there before, so can tick off another part of NZ I’ve been to. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do some surfing for the first time since 1996.