Oscar up the Gog

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Spared no expense....
Fri 26/06/2015 09:58 PM


Well - apparently $7 jaffle toasters are worth about what you spend on them... not a lot.

I felt like jaffles the other night, and I don’t have a convenient fireplace to make proper ones - and Kmart had cheap toasters.

A week later and I was using it again - and it tripped the safety fuse. 

Don’t trust it anymore - but I guess I got my money’s worth.

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Back to the Island...
Sun 14/06/2015 12:10 AM


"We have to go back"...

No - not the island from Lost. I’m talking about Isla Nublar, from Jurassic Park.

It’s been over 20 years since the original Jurassic Park movie came out. We got two sequels set on Isla Sorna (Site B) but we haven’t been back to the original island.

This week Jurassic World opened in cinemas - so I made the trek.

Ok - so I didn’t go to a tropical island. Instead I went to Melbourne.

Why? Well, Melbourne has an Imax - and I figured Jurassic World is a big enough movie to be worth the trip. 

So with Tom, Tim, and Jim accompanying me (mainly because it was a cheap trip to Melbourne for them), we headed over the strait. Hit some of the Lego sales, and caught up with Mike in time for the movie itself.

So the verdict? 

Well - I had a blast. 

I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan - so more adventures in that universe are always welcome. And because we were back on the first island - they could tie some stuff directly back to the first movie. Props and sets from the first movie cropped up - and made sense within the story. Even Mr DNA got his brief cameo.

Some of the characters were very stereotyped, and some of the plot was overly predictable. But I really enjoyed my time back on the island. 

It certainly doesn’t reach the heights of the first movie - but it might be the best of the sequels - I’ll have to watch it a few times to decide.

It’s apparently making a killing at the box office too - which may mean we get more JP movies.

Life will find a way....

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Lego Animation
Sun 03/05/2015 09:23 PM


I got an SOS for my cousin asking for some help with some Lego animation for her school project. She’s doing a video on conflicting world views, and wanted some extra scenes to use as background in addition to the stuff she’s filming herself.

So it was a good excuse to break out my webcam and software and have another crack at making some Lego animations (which I haven’t done in ages - not since I had the webcam and software even).

Although the requested scenes won’t make much sense on their own - they might be amusing. If you want to have a look I’ve uploaded them to Youtube.


Hope they help Gabs! Good luck with the rest of it.

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Repeating the past
Tue 31/03/2015 09:45 AM


Back in 2002 I was sitting in a cinema watching Attack of the Clones. As the battle for Geonosis raged, I remember thinking to myself "I'll need a DVD player for this".

Ignoring the fact that my judgment may have been clouded by the excitement of the moment - the decision to get a DVD player stayed with me. This was back when I was at school - so it was quite an investment to purchase a DVD player, which was quite expensive at the time. But all my refusing to buy snacks paid off, and I got the first DVD player in my circle of friends - this was back when VHS still ruled.

I got the DVD player before Attack of the Clones was available on DVD - so of course I needed a DVD to watch.

So I got a copy of Fellowship of the Rings. This was only the standard release, but I watched it many times (including all the extras).

Fast forward 14 years - my original DVD player still works, but it's dying, so Turks got me a Blue-Ray player for Christmas (cheers mate). Although I jumped on the DVD wagon reasonably early, I've held off on Blue Ray until now. Not for any real reason - just a lack of motivation. But as I now have a player - I figured I needed to invest in a Blue Ray movie or two.

As with my first ever DVD, my first Blue-Ray was Lord of the Rings. Sort of repeating the past.

I've been thinking about updating my Lord of the Rings movies to the extended editions anyway - so the fact that I now have a Blue Ray player seemed like a good excuse. Not only that - I was exploring New Zealand and visiting some of the locations from the movie - so it was an even better reason.

So my first Blue Ray was the Extended Version of Lord of the Rings (on a whooping 16 Blue Ray disks) purchased in New Zealand.

It's a souvenir of the trip in addition to being some awesome movies.

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New Zealand Part 3
Mon 02/03/2015 01:14 PM

Day 9 - a quiet day

Woke up and then went back to sleep.

After the excitement and constant movement of the last week or so, I took today pretty easy. Slept in, did some washing, sorted some of my stuff out, and caught up with my blog. Didn’t get out of here until after midday.


Did a spot of caching close to Jason’s and then headed into Pukekohe to restock on a few groceries and grab a couple of caches there too. Met up with Jason (who’d been at work) at his place in the evening, so we headed back into Pukekohe for tea on our way to Auckland. This time we had the burger from Burger Fuel that we’d eye’d off a few days back. It is officially the "fush n chups" burger, and while expensive, was very nice. Burger Fuel sits somewhere between the standard burger joints, and Burger Got Soul.

After tea we headed into Auckland. Jason had called the BlastaCar crowd to see if the Hamilton site would be open tonight. Apparently it wasn’t, but the Auckland track was - so we headed into town.

Blastacars is drift go-carts. Jason loves it and has been back to the Hamilton one a few times now.

It was fun, but as predicted, I’m not much of a drifter.


I had two 15 minute sessions while Jason stayed on for another. By the time I got off, my legs were aching - the seating position isn’t right for me apparently. Still, I’m glad I’ve done it - but it’s not something I’d rush back for, especially as it’s not exactly cheap.

By the time we got back to Jason’s, it was almost midnight (which is very late for Jason). If I can wake up in time tomorrow, I aim to head out again - northwards.

Day 10 - Northward trek

Today I went for a drive. The end.

But what a drive!

I got up as Jason headed off to work. I can’t remember what time I left, but it was around 9:30 I think. Anyway - I reloaded the trusty Outlander and headed back towards Auckland (feels strange as I was only there last night). Followed the motorway straight through this time - Auckland is massive and takes a long time to get through, especially when you reach the traffic congenstion (it wasn’t bad when I was there as I’d missed the worst, but it still slowed me down.

On the North side of Auckland there’s a toll way. You can get around it for free, but I put my $2.40 into the slot machine to take the faster route.


^ Random little waterfall I stopped at to break the journey.

As most of the trip was just driving, there’s less to report today. By lunch time I found a little waterfall 6km off the main road so went for a drive to check it out and make myself some rolls (it feels good to be back in the swing of cheapskate living again after traveling with Jason for a while - odd as he’s the broke one).

The country feels like diary farming initially, but then reaches the coast and there’s the normal seaside towns with little shops etc. Stopped besides the beach to send Mum a "Happy Birthday" email at one. The beaches up here are much nicer than the ones I’d seen on my loop to Wellington and back - instead of the ugly black sand, they have proper sand up here.


^ A proper beach!

At  Ruakaka I pulled into the town for a look. Reasonable sized town with a wood-chip port, but the impressive thing was the mountains you could see over the bay - not massively high, but with very impressive rock formations on top - the sort of thing you could imagine being the lair of some ancient nazgul or something. I marked it on my map as a possible spot to return to on the way back.


^ This looks like a very epic location to me.


^ Quite a few old mission houses up here.

Then it was inland again through more farming land. Nice trip, but nothing incredible. Then I came to the Mangamuka Pass. This incredibly twisty and cambered piece of road was awesome - much more fun than the go-carts last night!


^ My sort of road!

Eventually I got to Kaitaia, the last major town on the North. I’d assumed it’d be small, Bridport sized, but apparently it’s quite a bit larger - halfway to Devonport sized. Stopped here to grab a couple of caches for reasons that will become obvious later on in the song, as well as some tea. By this time it was 6PM and I considered finding some accommodation in town as it had started to drizzle, but I couldn’t find anything cheap on the net, and the forecast for the top of the North, Cape Reinga, was sunny. So I decided to push on (after tea).

I grabbed some drinks from the supermarket, and then found a restaurant specialising in Roasts. These seem to be more common over here - they are fairly cheap and fast (not fancy resturants). Anyway - I had quite a nice lamb shank, but it was the vegies I was dying for. Between the takeaways and Jason’s vegie-free diet, I haven’t been getting anywhere near enough. Looking forward to some serious vegies when I get home ?

Anyway - after tea I headed out of town. Still had 100km to go to the camp site, and I figured I wouldn’t quite make it in daylight. I was right - when I arrived there was still some light in the sky, but none on the ground. I’m not quite at the North-most tip, but I’m pretty close, only a couple of km away. It’s a formed campsite like some of our National Park ones. You sign a form and put it with your money in a box - $6 a night. There are long-drops and apparently even cold showers (although I haven’t found them yet - it’s dark). Quite a few people around - but I’ve got a spot of lawn to myself. Doesn’t matter much as I’ll only be here overnight.

I can see the water from my tent, I can’t see the beach as it’s dark, but I’m assuming it’s sandy. I’ll take a look around in the morning.

So that’s it for tonight. Happy Birthday to Mum!

Day 11 - the North


Well apparently I’d forgotten to dry the tent out after the last time - so it started out damp, which wasn’t grand. Combined with the very heavy dew, things got a little wet. Ah well - it was only the pillows and things - I haven’t been keeping much in the tent as I knew that was a risk.

Woke up early as normal in that tent (give me a decent tent and stretcher and I’ll sleep for hours) - so got up as dawn was breaking. I hadn’t found the fabled showers, so got dressed and decided to hit the road. I wanted to go Cape Reinga which is the most Northerly accessible part of New Zealand. So I left my tent to dry off and headed to the Cape. The only people there were those who’d camped in the carpark (not sure why you’d bother when there was a great campsite down the road) so I initially had the walk to the cape to myself.


^ The lighthouse is the most northerly part that is accessible to non-hiking visitors.

This area is important to the Maori religion - apparently it’s where the spirits go on their way to the afterlife. Dunno about that - but they ask you not to eat while you’re out there (the sign isn’t very prominent and I was stuffing my mouth with rolls for breakfast when I spotted it). Doh.

In some ways the cape isn’t as impressive as I’d imagined - there’s a light house and some nice rugged coast, but it just doesn’t feel as epic as I’d expected. Not sure what I’d expected. Still, I’m glad I made the trip. Took some photos near the lighthouse to prove I made it.

In front of the lighthouse is where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. It’s not just a point on a map either - you can see the confused waves - going both directions!


^ The Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.

On the other side of the bluff is a walking track that leads down to some beaches - but more importantly - also has a geocache on it. As I’d started caches in NZ, I realised I was very close to my 200th cache (not including GCA ones) so I decided that the northernmost NZ cache was worthy of the honour (I’d checked them out online a few days ago).

Yesterday when I was in Kaitaia I’d investigated the caches out here and written the co-ords in my notebook as I figured I might not have signal. That day someone had been out here and found most of the caches - but they’d logged a DNF against this one. So I wasn’t sure how I’d go - but gave it a whirl anyway. Unfortunately it’s either very well hidden or gone, as I couldn’t find it either.


^ Kia Ora is like "G'day" in Maori.

So after trekking around Cape Reinga the sun had come up and it had gotten hot (NZ is certainly not cold during the days this time of year) - so I was dripping with sweat when I got back to the Outlander.

This isn’t quite the Northernmost part of NZ, but it’s the Northernmost part you can easily drive to. If I had a 4wd or hiking gear it might be different - but alas, it’s just me and the Outlander. I did spy a lot of tracks leading off the road though - if Oscar was here we’d go exploring.

Headed to a nearby lookout and found the cache there - my 200th! Not quite as awesome as the very Northern one - but pretty good.

Then back to the campsite and a cache down there. All these caches were done with zero phone signal - using my trusty old yellow Garmin GPS. Seems far more accurate than the iPhone, just not as convenient.

Packed up my mostly dry tent, and finally located the showers. Just cold water in a shelter with no doors. I found an empty stall and hung some clothes in front of the doorway to discourage anyone else from trying it - and had a very quick cold shower. Felt really good after the walking I’d been doing (I did mention the days were hot didn’t I?).

Anyway - left the camp site and stared the slow trip south. I wanted to take more of a look around than I’d managed on the way up. Especially the part I’d done in the dark the night before (apparently those epic waves I’d seen were actually sand dunes).


Called into a side road that led to some giant Sand Dunes. There was a bus there hiring out sand boards so you could surf down - but I left that to the backpackers and kept going. There was also vehicle access to the beach which looked far more appealing - if I’d had the right car and more time.


So back to Kaitaia for some more fuel and food - and then southward again.

Back over the awesome Mangamuka pass, which was so fun I did it twice! At the summit there’s a walking tack into the jungle, so I went half a k in to find a cache and then back out. Very pretty (once you get past the rubbish dumped at the start) and no snakes to worry about (I also haven’t seen any leeches, but not sure if that’s just luck or if there aren’t any).


^ The walk from the top of the pass.

So when back in the Outlander again, I drove to the bottom of the pass, and did the whole thing again - this time with my camera mounted on it’s tripod in the middle of the car filming the trip. I wasn’t pushing it at all (holding the camera steady) so we’ll see how it looks.


^ Filming the pass, just cause I could.


^ Not exactly a Go-Pro mount - but it worked.

The weather was cracking up - so I got on the net when I had signal and booked into a cabin at the Whangarei caravan park. Dearer than a tent site, but given the rain that fell during tea, it was very worth it.

A few days ago when traveling with Jason we’d discussed Indian Curry - but only discussed it as Jason can’t stand anything spicier than tomato sauce. Ever since then I’d had a craving for Indian, so I found myself an Indian restaurant and had a very nice lamb vindaloo. I only had the medium one, but it was very nice - Jason’s head would have exploded if he’d tried it.

Tomorrow’s my last real day in NZ. I’ve got a list of things to try and do - we’ll see how it goes ?


Day 12 - Winding Down

Last night I wrote down a list of things I wanted to achieve before leaving New Zealand - and I managed to tick most of them off today.

Last night I re-organized the car - so it was much more compactly packed today. Roughly in groups of things that are coming home, things that aren’t, and things I need today. Loaded them into the car and headed out to complete the items on the list.

First up - find a cache. I’ve been trying to get a cache each town I stay in - and this one was a beauty. Merged my love of Star Wars and Caching - but I can’t say much more in case you want to tackle it.

From there the next thing on my list was the Piggery Bookstore. This is apparently the largest second hand bookstore in northern New Zealand - and is therefore famous. The name hails from the original store which was located in an old piggery - the current one has moved locations, but not names. Didn’t find much I needed - although am a few books heavier now.

Next up was either the Glow Worm caves or Kiwi North. I’d hoped to do both, but time was getting on, and the glow worms were 30 minutes back the way I’d come (they weren’t open last night) so I ended up settling for Kiwi North.

Kiwi North is a museum with a Kiwi enclosure and birdlife rescue centre. My main purpose was to see a normal Kiwi as the previous one I’d seen was the white one (an oddity). But I figured I’d take a look around while I was here.

Was greeted by the very friendly staff, but warned they were expecting an invasion of school-kids that day - so I’d best head through quickly if I wanted to miss them. Turns out they were late - so I wasn’t impacted.

The normal brown Kiwis are far harder to spot in a dark enclosure than their white cousin had been - but I (and a few other tourists) were able to sit for a while and admire them. They can be really quite quick when they want to be!


^ A pretty poor photo of a Kiwi (they feed them like this accasionally as well as the grubs in the leaf litter).

As well as the Kiwis there were more of the Tuataras and some surprisingly large geckos. They also had some stuffed examples of predators, so I now know what a Stoat is (I’d heard them mentioned at Mt Bruce but didn’t know what they were.

Had a look around some of the exhibits in the museum. Some Moa fossils, some Maori stuff, some military exhibits, and even the shell of a giant crayfish. A little bit scattered, but interesting.


^ A rather poor photo of a stuffed Kiwi - but it's a little clearer than the one from the dark enclousure.

Outside they had  more exhibits in buildings around the area - but as the schoolkids were invading and I was still considering heading for the glow worms at this point, I was about to turn around and head back - when I saw the steam rising behind some of the buildings.


^ Where there's steam, there migt be a steam engine!

Kiwi North hosts both a full size railway (very short, but standard guage) and a model railway (the sort you can straddle) - both are only open on some weekends. But sure enough, the full size Loco was steaming up at the station. I stopped to take photos - and the driver saw me, and invited me into the cab for a ride!


Apparently they’d been trying to fix a seal on one of the pressure valve things (Turks would know) and were giving it a test run. Hence there were no carriages or anything - just me, the driver, and the fireman. I had a good yak to them (mostly they did the talking) while they put the engine up and down the short run - only to decide that the gasket they’d used was no good and would need re-doing. Had a bit more of a chat while they stopped for lunch, before heading off eventually. Turks would have loved chatting with them - and Jason was very jealous too when I told him (when he was at Kiwi North the train wasn’t running).

By this point I gave up on the glow worms, as impressive as they sounded, and was heading back toward Auckland when I spotted a car wash. That was another thing I’d had on my list. Not the wash itself so much, but the vacuum cleaner. I cleaned the leftovers that had built up by dumping the tents in and out - hopefully there’s not much for the rental crowd to complain about.

So back to Auckland. It was only 2 hrs - but I was tired so it felt far longer.

In Auckland I thought I was following the GPS but it didn’t mention an intersection so I ended up in the wrong lane and off the motorway heading towards the CBD. I managed to get back on track and return to ToyCo (where I’d picked up the Lego Spaceman lamp) or more importantly, the JB HiFi besides it. This was the cheapest place I’d found in my travels for the movie I wanted - so I picked that up.

From here it was back south towards Jason. I’d been planning to call past his work site to take some photos for him - but the Auckland traffic struck again. Massive queues with very little movement. Took me half an hour to make a couple of kays.

Eventually made it to Jason’s via Pukekohe where I picked up some stuff for tea.  Steak, bacon, and some vegies for me (Jason won’t eat them) as I was hanging out for some.

Then trying some of the whiskey Jason had bought at the airport on the way over, and my Southfarthing Cider (as I’m not sure I’m allowed to bring it back) before the annoying task of trying to pack everything. Why did I bring so many clothes?

I’ve even had to ditch the boxes the Lego came in - that’s how bad it is!

Anyway - that’s it for tonight. Tomorrow I’m heading back to the land of Aus. Catch you then!

Day 13 - There and back again...


^ Jason's Place


^ Jason's Kitchen

Jason woke me up before he went to work (as we’d agreed). Said farewell, then he went off to work, and I got down to packing. I’d done a fair bit the previous night - but had to repack again this morning to get everything in.

As Jason is a broke bachelor with almost zero chance that his mother or fiancée will come to visit, his house isn’t as clean as it might be. So I’d bought some cleaning supplies and gave his bathroom a bit of a clean and left the supplies for him.


I also left quite a collecting of stuff, the tent, an eski (chillybin), a couple of plastic crates, a fan etc. At least some of which should prove useful.


I left Jason’s after doing a double-check (I don’t think I left much behind I didn’t mean to) and headed into Pukekohe to do some last minute shopping. Among other things I got a small lock for my bag - not to keep people out, but to try and stop it from popping open (it was rather full).

From there it was back into Auckland. Not too much traffic this time - I was late enough to miss it I guess. As I approached the airport, I swung off the motorway to find a petrol station which was easy - but half the road was closed for roadworks, so I couldn’t go back the way I’d come - and I couldn’t find a way around them either - and the GPS wasn’t much help. Eventually I found a way that looped back to the Motorway and got back on track - thankfully I’d allowed myself heaps of time.


Returned the Outlander to the rental company. I’ve  doubled the kays on the poor thing - it’s certainly been on a journey with me over the last two weeks. It only had 4,000ks on it when I picked it up, and had 8,000 when I took it back.

The rental company isn’t in the airport, but they have shuttle-busses that take you back and forth, so I caught that and was soon deposited at the Auckland international terminal. Checked my bag in and settled down for a wait. Had a look around the shops and watched an episode of "The 100" on my laptop - and eventually my flight was open.


^ I'd been quite enjoying the L&P drink while in NZ, appparently it comes in Chocolate too.

Apparently it was completely full, but that didn’t make much difference to me. Had a window seat so relaxed for the trip and watched a couple of shows on the entertainment system.

Landed in Australia and had to change our watches to reflect the local time (so not quite as late as it felt) and head through customs.

No issues, although I did have to declare my swimming gear - but as it had been washed and dried it wasn’t an issue.

Because I was going from International to Domestic I had to collect my bag and re-check it in. Unlike Auckland, I had to wait around for a while until the bags turned  up (apparently we’re slower at this than NZ). Grabbed my bag and headed for domestic checkin.

This is where things got a little more interesting - they ran through the spiel of asking if I had things in my bag - and one of them they mentioned was ‘lighters’. I did have a lighter in my bag - so I told them. Apparently lighters are ok if they are in carry-on but not in checked. That’s assuming the lighter doesn’t look like a shot-gun.


^ Lego Lamp Spaceman demonstrating the shot-gun lighter.

The check-in chick wasn’t sure what to do with the novelty lighter, so spoke to her supervisor. As it had never been filled with gas (still had the “no gas” sticker on it) they decided it could travel in my check-in bag, but it would have to go as "restricted". So they put a special label on the bag, and I had to escort it to a security entrance where someone collected the bag manually and took it to the plane.

After that I had time to grab a drink and get through security and to the gate - but didn’t have to hang around for long at all after that.

As the hop from Melbourne to Launceston wasn’t very full, they announced they were looking for people to sit in the exit aisles - so I signed up. Scored a window seat with heaps of leg room, and the seat beside me was empty - so pretty much perfect.

A short hop into Launceston where I was met by Mum and Emma (Dad was with the car still). My bag didn’t come out on the conveyer like everyone else’s - it was manually carried out by a bloke and I had to sign for it.

We found Dad and the car, and I was delivered to Emma’s place where the trusty Forrester was waiting for me. Chatted with Em for a while, then drove the Forrester back to Mum and Dad’s for the night. It won’t take me long to get back in the rhythm of driving a real car - no push-button starter etc.

And that about wraps things up - that’s my trip to the North Island.

Will be saving up to visit the South Island when I can!


^ Farewell from Middle Earth... for now...

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