31st MAR 2012


Out west there was a speedway event that caused a bit of fuss every now and then. As it was occasional most locals didn’t mind it going on compared to the daily roaring of the lions over at the nearby zoo. Here, the thrumming of the idle engines and the throttling of the gas excited all the families that had come to see the 67th FIM Speedway Grand Prix World Championship at Western Springs Stadium. The event pitted 16 international motorcycle racers against one another in a competition to see who was the fastest at the speedway.  The 413m speedway track was mainly dirt with the surface a bit damp and loose which helped the racers slide on their bikes when banking corners. The kick spray of loose dirt followed the racers as they powered through the course. At the starting block, 4 racers lined up for each heat each spaced a couple of metres apart, and before they shoot off into the circuit a procession of racer chicks perform a choreographed dance for the audience. With tight racing suits and matching mono-colour to each racer the chicks did a routine with whirling umbrellas to the song “Club Can’t Handle Me”, “Wild One” and many others. The 25 second routine was then cut short and the announcer called out the names of the racers as they revved up their engines. The race official does the last checks and then lets them speed off. The course lasts for 4 laps with the 3rd being signaled with a yellow flag with a black cross (for the last lap signal) and the finishing line waved with the familiar checkered black and white flag.  The whole 4 laps could be done in 1 minute (5-10 minutes between heats), which made the heats run very quickly so having 20 heats sure showed plenty of talent with each racers getting 5 goes racing different opposition. Racers go in an anti-clockwise direction. For nearly all of the circuit the racers leaned on their bikes and steadied the banking with their left foot which slid over the dirt track. The footwear they use must have been very abrasion resistant to have it dragging the whole way. The winner’s songs played to the cheering and clapping  audience as the announcer chimed in with the winner’s name. The ranked finishes in the heats (1st=3pts, 2nd=2pts, 3rd=1pt, 4th=0pt) meant point accumulation towards the speedway knockout stages so that 16 racers get reduced down the top 8 semi-finalists. Heat 21 and Heat 22 were the semi-final knockouts stage for 8 racers going down to 4. Then Heat 23 is the Big Final for the last 4 racers to decide the World Championship title. An American took the title with a Pole being runner-up and a Dane being 3rd place. The tournament had been well received and added much spectacle for the people watching it. We just hope that the lions don’t start complaining about the noise and fuss humans make.




4th FEB 2012

Nin Hao,

Dragons have an auspicious nature and a divine place  in Chinese astrology and mythology so it stands to reason that people born under the cycle of the Dragon should appropriately be proud, noble, dignified, passionate, magnanimous, self-assured and strong. Admittedly, these are a pretty broad range of traits to describe anybody but it’s always nice to have a bit of an ego boost from saying you’re a dragon. And if you’re a Dragon, then welcome to the Dragonbrand of good luck and success.

The Auckland Lantern Festival was once again held in among the trees and gardens of Albert Park. In the daytime, I took a few photos and spotted a few new lanterns for the Dragons of this city. And of course the rehash of older lanterns. Performances of traditional Chinese song and dance was the main feature here.

Down on Princes St were the food stalls of various Asian origin including Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and many more fusion types. People happily dodged one another to get to buying and devouring the snack food. The smell of delicious consumables made every stall a beckoning solution for hunger. Though, in order to not smell like a deep-fried chicken one would pass through quickly, avoid wafts of smoke and aerate in the breeze. Every now and then the Lion dances and Dragon dances did their performances outside the food stall entrance. Onlookers milled around taking in the atmosphere. Kids smiled and shouted with excitement. Adults took photos and videos, clapped whenever they could. And all congregated to form an encirclement of viewership. The clanging of the cymbals and percussion lending it’s energy to the performers. The Dragon dance amuses me the most. The skill was in the performers not tangling up or tripping over the body of the dragon when they were doing a cross-overs, overpasses and rotations.

As the night drew closer, I went about taking night photos of the lit-up lanterns. The lanterns were looking impressive as per usual. The newest lanterns were the Dragon and Taniwha plates which were a perfect pair to celebrate the Chinese and New Zealand relationship of friendship and community.

The Beijing Chinese rock band to finish the festival was called the “Way of the Dragon Spirit”. A techno-rock band using both traditional and modern instruments to make their music. Thoroughly enjoyed the music, the night and fireworks at the end of it all. We hope that Dragon was pleased . . .



Hope Springs Eternal

17- 19th JAN 2012


Road signs and markers could’ve told you that you’ve reached the town boundary. By the same token (if you’re familiar with it) you could’ve been also told that you’ve reached Rotorua by smelling the welcoming sulphur in the air despite the best endeavours of the car air conditioning. I’d entered Rotorua from a 3 hour drive from Auckland in a rental I picked up the day before. It was just a further short hop southwards of Rotorua to a site called Paeroa Range where I planned to check up on contractors working with grout injection pumps. Over the next few days my job was to check for any signs of movement of the structures while the work progressed to improve ground conditions, but the real fun part was what to do after work finished early morning of the 19th and I had some time up my sleeve to spend before heading back to Auckland.

I had driven past the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley several times when driving out of Rotorua for the job and had spotted the Te Puia geothermal springs as a neat little place to check out. Te Puia takes up 70 hectares within the geothermal valley where tourists could check out the famous Pohutu geyser, some 500 alkaline chloride geothermal hot springs, 65 geyser vents (active and dormant), and the geological formations of silica and sulphur. The usual reception and souvenir buildings open up the various tracks people could go through to different areas of Te Puia. Guided tours start here where busloads of tourists were being herded around. Most were lead to a revamped Maori settlement (Te Puia Rotowhio) made into a museum including informative cultural videos, portraits and photos, banners and posters, waka boat displays and old Maori artifacts. Historically, the Maori first established the Te Puia fortress on the site in 1325 and used the geothermal pools for heating and cooking. Te Puia also houses the NZ Maori Arts and Crafts Institute which facilities training in Maori wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving, and other traditional Maori crafts.

Of the active geysers, Pohutu would be the largest and most entertaining. Pohutu was even named by the Maori to impress being that it pretty much can be called “Big Constant Splash” in English. The geyser erupts water jets up to 30 m high every hour. The other geysers like the Kereru Geyser, Te Tohu (Prince of Wales Feathers) Geyser, Te Horo (The Cauldron) Geyser and the Waikorohihi Geyser. These reside on Geyser Flat and aligned on a shared fissure which means the activity of one geyser would affect the activity of neighbouring geysers. For example the Te Tohu lets off a gradually increasing jet 9 m high a little bit before Pohutu erupts. On some occasions the Waikorohihi blasts a 5 m high jet followed by Te Tohu and then finally with the jet at the Pohutu.

The mud pool called Purapurawhetu means “Star Dust” and draws it’s name from the clusters of bubbling mud which resembles a twinkling star map in the sky.

Ngararatuatarara was used for Ingo. It involved lowering fresh ingredients (meat and vegetables wrapped in leaves) in a flax woven baskets and letting it cook in the boiling water pool. The geothermal heat would infuse the food with a unique flavour.

Further up from Geyser Flat would be Waikite Geyser; a dried out geyser venting a weak volume of steam. The last eruption was in 1996 in which heavy rainfall had infiltrated the geyser and suddenly there was boiling water bubbling within the 8.5 m deep vent.

I had come around full circuit to the exit and as per usual I made time to buy a few trinkets. I bought a Tiger’s Eye gemstone which was carved into a fish hook for a necklace. I strung around my neck and it held close to my heart. So with renewed enthusiasm for the new year, I’d come away with a new feature in my apparel and I was very much hooked onto the feeling of hope springs eternal in the human heart.




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