New Caledonia

In May we went to New Caledonia for 7 nights. Staying in Noumea at Casa del Sole located on the point of Anse Vata and Baie des Citron, opposite the aquarium. The self serviced apartment was excellently located for stunning views across the water and a 2 minute walk to either beach. This area however is well known for its great nightlife so expect it to be incredibly noisy from Thursday through to early Sunday morning.

We had been struggling for months about where we were going to holiday in the pacific. Vanuatu was our first choice but trying to find any information on the activities we enjoy doing was getting frustrating. If you enjoy a fairly normal holiday of beach lazing and typical tourist things then the information is prevalent. But when you want to do out of the ordinary things like track down a particular coffee bean variation, find out where to do SUP or camp overnight on a volcano the tourist books don’t really work so well for you.

Finally, having seen a great Air NZ price for New Caledonia that was the decision making factor. Now to find a suitable apartment and away we went. Why an apartment? To sample and cook locally sourced food of course.

Arriving into New Caledonian waters we came across the stunning turquoise blue water that we expected to see. The reef edge is kilometers from shore meaning NC is surrounded by calm waters protected by the reef. As a side bar, this also means a smaller chance of being shark bait while swimming. Hooray!

Being mid May the height of the tourist season has passed, as have the rain storms. The beaches were generally quiet so yet again we managed to get around without bumping into thousands of others. The weather was still warm (on average 23 degrees each day) and the water still warm enough to enjoy. In fact we snorkeled for 1.5 hours one day without realising it before getting cold.

Pricing of course can be expensive as such a high proportion of food stuffs are imported. However, as with any country if you look to buy in the supermarkets or markets and select locally sourced products then this should decrease the load on your wallet. Even at home this applies, buy seasonal and local and save. Surprisingly though imported french wines were quite well priced. My idea of eating local tropical fruits didn’t work so well. I found the quality of vegetables and fruit at the market not too great and given my terrible cooking skills when it comes to fish I passed this by as well. Next time I shall come armed with some better cooking skills. Most often we shopped at the local boulangerie for fresh bread each day or went to the supermarche.

Having hired a car for 4 days this was an incredible tool to get out of Noumea and explore more of New Caledonia. If I came away with anything further in regards to travel this time it was, your first stop is not the sum of a country. So many people told us that we would hate Noumea. Fair enough, parts of Noumea are quite disturbing, the disparity between the halves and halve nots is visible in many areas and this is not “pretty” for tourists. But this is also reality. While there we encountered 2 protests, both peaceful. These interactions provide a deeper story of the country. Being invited in for drinks with a local shop keeper provided an even better insight to this seemingly perfect paradise. We heard stories of cultural divides, racial tensions, people struggling and people surviving. This talk was able to provide further insight into things we had observed but couldn’t put it into context. For example, a stunning and seemingly fertile landscape yet no dairy cattle? Stunning tropical location but importing many fruit and vegetables? The story given to us was that people don’t want to do the “menial” labour to produce such products. I will leave judgement on this as it is one persons story and there is surely other politics and intrigue that underlie this issue.

Anyway, where I was going with the “you will hate Noumea” advice that we got was that Noumea is not New Caledonia, just as Auckland is not New Zealand. Just because you visited Queen Street and its wharves for the day does not mean you visited New Zealand. There are parts of Noumea we enjoyed, parts we didn’t but more importantly New Caledonia has a stunning landscape of red desert like locations, mountainous coffee regions, sandy beaches, mangrove swamps, rainforests and open plains. The country goes beyond white sandy beaches and snorkeling. And these wonders were just within 3 hours driving time from Noumea central.

On the language – speaking french. I have been taking french private lessons for nearly 2 years now and was very excited to try out some new skills. I was disappointed with my skill set at the time but in hindsight I think I handled it reasonably well. Where my skills let me down is listening. Great at asking what I want but understanding the reply requires a lot more work. This will only come from more practice, increasing the vocabulary and listening more to native speakers. Rapidly spoken french is different from a relaxed teacher/student environment. Be prepared to use french. Unless you are hanging out in Port Moselle or key tourists areas where English is spoken (brokenly) in order to sell their wares then you will get stuck getting further out to the more interesting locations. Remember, English is not a first language here so do the right thing and learn some key words and phrases.

Top things we enjoyed about New Caledonia? Warm sea breezes, warm weather, pastries and bread, cherry beer from Les trois brasseurs, finding a fruiting coffee tree, finding a rare type of coffee bean Steve had been looking for and being able to buy some, excellent apartment, driving through stunning countryside, great company with our friend Jolanda joining us for a few days. Gosh and so much more. Are we going back? Absolutely.

The outer reef
The outer reef
Our apartment block -high rise Casa del Sole
Our apartment block -high rise Casa del Sole
Day trip via Mont Dore
Day trip via Mont Dore
Narly roads
Narly roads
Water crossings
Water crossings
View from our rooms
View from our rooms
Anse Vata beach
Anse Vata beach
Always time for pastries
Always time for pastries
Stunning views
Stunning views

A day in the life of an archivist

According to Wikipedia an archivist is “a professional who assesses, collects, organizes, preserves, maintains control over, and provides access to information determined to have long-term value”. Hmmmm and so much more but this sums it up simply. The catch here is that people need to know you have an archive in order to “provide access” to that information. That’s one of the projects for this year (among many). Not only does the above apply to my role but research into requests ranks highly as well. One request can take any where from a few minutes to days to collate. In a team of 1 full time this works well with limited knowledge about the archive. However if my ideas take flight then I could be in a wee bit of bother trying to fulfill requests for information.

Friday was a fab day in the archives with some conservation techniques being put into practice on some photos of a geothermal station that came in stuck together and the discovery of a gorgeous cibachrome print. Most days it is the same routine – collect, sort, appraise, catalog, store but when you get days like Friday, AWESOME!

Christmas washout 2011

Ahhhh the NZ Christmas I remember – potential rain ever threatening on the horizon to wash out the planned BBQ. The day started off lovely and sunny and to be honest there was only a short spell of a drizzle so in all we can’t be that critical. However, the days following this have been increasingly rainy. Darn, 11 days off work and so few sunny days to play in. You have to take those days when you get them.

We had an enjoyable family get together in Auckland where we indulged in pav and steamed pudding. Nigella’s steamed pudding I might add. There was not a crumb left to bring home. BBQ chicken, salad and lots of fun was had with the Secret Santa game.

I spent some more time with 2 mates on Christmas night and enjoyed some beach walks. It’s nice to remember the good things about where you have lived in the past. Auckland doesn’t really thrill me at all these days but it is nice to be reminded that there are gorgeous aspects of the city like accessibility to the beaches and friends there.

Steve has had his normal 3 days off this week but it has been a real downer that the weather has been so terrible. Gone were the plans to tramp up Ruapehu but we did do a short walk along the W2K track out near Kinloch. Stunning location and barely a soul to be seen out there. We stopped on the way back to the car for a hot drink (just because we could).


Aratiatia Dam bike/ride

Yesterday we had galeforce winds and town crowded for the 2011 Cycle Challenge. What a great day with some people buzzing around town, supporting the riders. This morning we have a stunning blue sky and a lake that is dead still. There you go visitors, the lake and mountains have turned on a fine spectacle for you today.

A couple of weeks ago we went for a ride/run after work (love these longer days in Summer). Here are some pictures from that day. Stunning afternoon until going down a particularly steep hill I hit something that punctured my tyre. I continued to ride for as long as I could (yes, not the best idea) but we were AGES from our end point. I need more practice and of course more confidence on the bike. Not so keen on going too fast so need to do some research into some decent handling skills. The picture files are huge so I would not recommend clicking on them to open them up further unless you really want a long wait time!

So this is spring?

I would say that I’m quite the wimp really. Our fire has been going since about April and here it is, already spring moving into summer, and it is only a week since we stopped using the fireplace. I am looking forward to the summer months of warm weather but I will miss the crackling sound and delightful colours of a hearty fire.

The clocks went forward for daylight savings a couple of weeks ago so the days are getting deliciously longer so more time to do those wonderful outdoor activities (once it warms up).

Things have been quite hectic lately with the recent passing of both my grandfathers. I am so thankful that I have had so many years with both of these wonderful men. If I was to think of the first thing that reminds me of both or describes them – for Grandad Sears he is the man from Snowy River and for Grandad Penney he is the sea. This will mean nothing to you but those thought evoke wonderful memories that I hold dear. If you think of a loved one what image, sound or smell is it that instantly makes you remember them?

Naturally at a time of loss you begin to ponder your own mortality and the legacy you wish to leave. What will each of us contribute? What can I contribute? Do I need to? I have no answers, just questions.

I will update on my 100km challenge another time. At the moment many other things are calling such as getting outside and enjoying the fleeting sunshine.

Mid winter here we are

Well to be honest it is well past that mid winter mark but winter feels like it has settled in for a while. When I checked the last time I did a post I was rather surprised. May! What the???

Since then I have visited my nephews in Melbourne, signed up for the Luxmore Grunt, attended the FC ball in Auckland, left FC and now have a new job as an archivist. The months have flown by.

In the meantime illness in our household continues to linger and given the change of job and general laziness of life we have well and truly slipped off the plan. I can tell you now that I can feel the effects of unhealthy eating, lethargy, tiredness etc. Today was our push to get back on the “wagon” as such. With my new role I can walk up to the local butcher but again he has no idea where his meat is coming from. Seriously people, how hard is this???? It’s rather scary to be honest, aren’t these people interested in where their food comes from, how it was grown, what went into it?
I have a hearty beef, vegetable and lentil casserole on slow cook for overnight. This will be a great lunch and dinner for tomorrow instead of mixed beans and tuna (can you say “over that lunch option”).

Anyway that was the small catch up for now.

Half half at this stage

This weeks meals have been focused around not only the locavore (local omnivore) idea but also a slow carb meal plan.

First the locavore concept. Wiki explains it in short as “those who prefer to eat locally grown/produced food”. Now when doing a search for this term there are a ton of variations that come back in your search results. I’m trying to keep it simple and true to its original purpose – keep it local, keep it seasonal. Just as we do with many things as humans, the core of the locavore movement has been added to and refitted to suit the needs/agendas of many. For example, some groups propose that taking a product from a local source, shipping across the country, repacking and shipping back can still be deemed as being in the bounds of locavorism. How does that 1) limit food mileage 2) add to the local economy when it is likely the farmer has been paid a minimum where the corporate reaps the ridiculous mark up which is then kept within that city location where the product was packed or into the coffers of the multinational where it is likely the money is sent overseas to their shareholders. Yes, I am throwing wild accusations and huge assumptions out there, but again, stick to number one – keep it local (define for yourself what you deem to be local but don’t kid yourself).

Second – slow carb. This in short means each meal built around vegetables, legumes and protein, with no “white” foods e.g. flour, milk, rice, bread, pasta etc. This results in a meal that slowly releases energy over a longer period (satifised for longer) and no wild swings in e.g. insulin. So far, so good and surprisingly I haven’t missed the milk in my coffee in the morning. I have found having vegetables quite a shock from the usual cereal/yoghurt routine but not disliking it either. I should confess thoug’h that I did get a flat white during the week even though I didn’t get to finish it as I was busy at work. One day a week is binge day when anything goes food wise. I must say though that aside from wanting a proper milky coffee I really haven’t been craving anything significant. Hmmm actually, cheese will be on my list for tomorrow’s binge day.

So how does a slow carb meal plan sit with the locavore experiment seeing as it is not likely that lentils or many bean species are grown here in NZ? There is where the half/half comes in.

It would seem that my plan needs to be reviewed yet again. I was trying to go all out and pretty much have 100% of my plate being sourced within a 100km radius. All or nothing! This isn’t going to happen if my meal plan then also consists of beans highly likely to be imported and that fact that Taupo doesn’t actually produce much in the way of produce within the 100km zone. In fact nil to be said unless you count the backyards of locals. So should my focus be on sourcing as much as I can instead of my gungho all or nothing approach?

To decide this I have to go back to my main purpose or reasoning for going the locovore route. These are –
*healthier eating as the food stuffs should be fresher and better quality as I am eating to the season not chemically stored products,
*decreasing the carbon footprint taken to get the products from source to plate,
*supporting my immediate local economy and producers

By sourcing as much as I can from a locavore perspective then I am at least attempting to achieve these goals. I can truly say at the moment that number 1 has been well adhered to . We can’t believe how much more in the way of in season vegetables we have been eating and also how easy they are to prepare in a number of different ways for a change.

My previous core criteria were:
1. The majority of my weekly main meals must consist of seasonal elements and
2. Seasonal elements must be sourced within a 100 kilometer radius of Taupo
And now:
1. Meals must focus on using seasonal vegetables
2. Locally produced products are to be the priority where available sourced from a 200 kilometer radius of Taupo

Week three

This is way harder than I had envisaged. Surely it can’t be this hard to find out where my food comes from? I am truly appreciating the movement in the UK that set out the providence of many food items in even the supermarket! This is generally OK in the supermarket here (I shop at Countdown) for fruit but the vegetables don’t follow suit. For example I had to work on Saturday so couldn’t get to the markets (they are only on Saturday’s) so we had to get our brocolli from the supermarket. No idea where it was sourced from. I guess I should have asked the staff but trying to find a staff member interested or willing to assist is not such a fun thought. There is also the other vege shop that I mentioned last time that is great at noteing where the products are sourced from but this was shut by the time I got to it.
The next hard area to get any information for is any meat that I buy and also trying to limit what food I buy that is tinned or packaged.
Finally, we have been buying more take out than we should lately due to late night working and generally a lack of a weekly plan due to the late nights. This needs to be brought under control and better managed if I want to do this right. How can I expect anything to change if I don’t change anything?

So the actions for this week:
Visit the last local butcher in town to see where they source their product from and do small shop if within range
Plan our meals for at least the next 2 nights consisting of what we can get locally

My first week

Week one is over on my 100km challenge and so far I would say it has been a bit of a fail. It has been rather frustrating trying to find locally produced products at this point due to the climate in this area not seeming to produce much in the way of produce. Even trying to find locally produced meat is an effort. I am about to head off to the Saturday morning Riverside Farmers Market to get some vege for this week. It is frustrating that there is no fish monger, butcher or really any decent fromagerie there. Darn I miss the markets of Paris and Bristol. Our Bristol local market on a Wednesday morning had everything there including the butcher. Loved it!

Meanwhile I have also been doing our household carbon footprint and the result was quite good.

This was our result as below. What I have taken from this is that I need to get the kitchen waste into the compost more regularly, cut down on the use of the car and look at ways to try and insulate the flat a bit better (as much as we can for a rental unit. There is always more one can do to cut your footprint. Here is our household result. The address to do your own is at:

Today your Household Footprint is 9 times the size of your section.
Energy use: 1498 m2
Wateruse: 372 m2
Wastes: 1834 m2
Transport: 1607 m2

Total Footprint: 5311 m2

Your household footprint is relatively small by New Zealand standards, however we are all still using more resources than the planet can maintain so keep watching the series to find out ways to reduce your impact on the planet and save cash on your household bills.