Monthly Archives: November 2009

Postcrossing Day

From Japan – Fish Eagles.

This card is from lovepostcards.  I enjoyed finding out about the ‘fish eagle’  and I also really like the cute stamps on this card.




The info on the back of the card – well at least the sentence that is in English – says: “Fish eagles migrate to Hokkaido to pass the winter.”

I think it looks like a Stellar’s Sea- Eagle Haliaeetus pelagicus. See pictures and further information here   and let me know what you think.  The Stellar’s Sea-Eagle is a very large raptor – a bird of prey – like Bald Eagles, to which it is related.  It hunts during the day for salmon & trout. It will also eat other fish, small seabirds and mammals and also steals food from other birds. Its scientific name means something like ‘eagle of the open seas.’ 

Its territory ranges from northeast Russia to Japan and North Korea. It breeds in Russia and spends up to six months of winter on Hokkaido, which is the northern-most large island of Japan. These birds are very rare and feature in Japan’s Red Data Book  There are only about 5000 of them in the world. Like many raptors they have been affected by lead poisoning due to eating the remains of animals that have been shot with lead pellets.

 A further possible risk for the Stellar’s Sea-eagle is, strangely enough, wind power!!!  Hokkaido is the least developed of Japan’s main islands, but is getting into wind-power in a big way. It is not completely understood how wind turbines affect migratory birds (there have been some investigations in Europe), but as well as the obvious physical risk of flying in to one, there is thought to be disturbances caused by the changed air flow and low-frequency sound produced around wind turbines.

So what a quandary. In earnest attempts to develop environmentally friendly power sources, nations may be endangering some bird species.

From Italy – Church of Madonnina in Prato

Chiesa della Madonnina in prato


This postcard is from Manuela who lives in  Italy. The city features is Varese, which  is in the province on Lombardy, in the north of Italy.  Varese is 55 km from Milan, but Malpensa International Airport for Milan is located there.  It is quite a multi-cultural city, with workers from all over the world living there., including many who work in Milan.

Varese is best known for being the site of a UNESCO World Heritage location (something that many Postcrossers are interested in, for my readers who are not Postcrossers.)  One of the nine ‘Sacred Mounts’ is located here.

The nine Sacred Mounts of Northern Italy are groups of chapels and other architectural edifices constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries, dedicated to different aspects of the Christian faith. In addition to their symbolic and spiritual significance, they also possess notable characteristics of beauty, virtue and pleasantness, and they are integrated in natural and scenic environments of hills, woods and lakes. They also contain very important artistic remains (frescoes an statues)”. With this motivation, in 2003 the UNESCO registered the site “Sacred Mounts of Piemonte and of Lombardia” in its World Heritage List.   

More information can be found  here at the Sacri Monit website.  

The building that is the focus of this postcard, however, is the Church of Madonnina in Prato. The name of the church means ‘ Madonna in the Meadow’  which is a reference to the Virgin Mary who is the mother of Jesus in the Christian faith.   The church represents “one of the most authentic examples of devotional Baroque style architecture in Varese.” (Whatever that might mean! I even read a Wikipedia article about Baroque architecture, and I still don’t know.)  But anyway, it looks kind of interesting.  Below is a little video that I think shows some of the history of this church. If you speak Italian you will find it even more informative – I just got to look at the pictures.  

From Finland –  

Finnish Wildlife

Marzze's message

This is a very nice card with some cute birds on it, but there is no information on the back of the card.  The only thing I can’t read is PAINETTU SUOMESSA TRYCKT, but I don’t think that tells me the names of the birds.  If anyone has any ideas – especially about the little family in the middle picture, please leave me a comment!


A Great Mail Day!

Two out of the five residents got lucky anyway. 

Two of us had a good mail day!

I’ve only received two Postcrossing cards until today, which I was being to feel a bit hard done by about, as I’ve sent out eleven. But today I got three, all at once, from Japan, Finland and Italy. (Plus emails for two received that I sent.) Total randomness that three postcards sent on different days from completely different parts of the world end up together in my postbox.  I was amused.  And happy.  I’ll be off shortly to do a bit more research about the pictures on them.

 But before I go here are some photos of the other lucky mail recipient opening his courier parcel.


This sellotape is pretty tough Mum

Thanks for helping me Mum




If I shake this end it should come out


How do you get this cardboard thing off?


Right, we can go play now ......








Does he look like a Kyle…… ?

Well, I got sucked in. I guess you have to expect that when you volunteer at a place like the SPCA. This is Kyle.

Is this a Kyle?

He’s home visiting with us at the moment to see how he gets on with the dogs.  So far he does not sit still for 2 seconds when I go in to see him (he’s hanging out in the bathroom) so these are the best photos I can offer.  He smooches alot and purrs like a jet engine, so he definately loves humans anyway. The manager says he must be someone’s pet, but no one has claimed him after 12 days, so he’s up for adopting.

But the question is: Does he really look like a Kyle?? That was the name he got allocated when he got brought in, so we can change it if he stays.

Slightly better shot

Anyway, if any of my doggy readers out there in cyberspace have hints  or stories about introducing adult dogs and cats to each other, now is the time to tell me.  No matter where you blog, or if you don’t, you should be able to comment.

BTW – I’d forgotten how cat logic works. He has got a big pile of comfy blankets in the corner. He has chosen to snuggle down on the damp shower tray……….

Neve, the Outreach Therapy Pet

…. at least, Neve has passed her first assessment towards becoming a therapy pet.

This is a programme that has been operating in our largest city, Auckland, for some time now. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of our little rural town is hoping that we are going to be the second place in New Zealand that has this programme.  It seems that the rest homes are keen to have pet visits, and one school is keen to have children take part in the ‘Read to a Pet’ programme.

future therapy pet

Future Therapy Pet practicing her smile.

So Neve had a great time at her assessment this afternoon, and smiled and wagged happily through having her tail pulled and ears mussed and wheelchairs run at her, umbrellas opened, people crowding her, meeting strange dogs and people and other such indignities. She failed dismally at ‘not -eating -the –bowl-of –food- randomly-lying -on -the -floor’  when off lead,  but everyone’s allowed one failure.  (I guess we will have to work on that one a little more!!!!)

Next I have to do some training and pass a police check, we have another assessment within an establishment like a school or rest home, and then if it all works out, she’ll get her own little Therapy Pet bandana, and we’ll be able to start doing regular visiting in whatever establishment we get matched with. We’re looking forward to it!

Link for more information about Outreach Therapy Pets.

Video of some of the  Auckland Outreach Therapy Pets.  I suggest you turn the music off…….. remember, you have been warned!!!    🙂


From Russia

My second ever Postcrossing card received arrived today, just when the suspense was almost too much for me.  I can see that this is a hobby that leads to the development of patience!!!  It is from Iavrile (Kate) in Russia. 

From Iavrile (Kate)

Peter the Great Bridge, Saint Petersburg, Russia

From Iavrile (Kate)

Kate's comments

The picture is Peter the Great Bridge in Saint Petersburg.  It crosses the Neva River, which has the third greatest volume of any European river after the Volga and the Danube.  The bridge itself is a compression arch suspended deck bridge. This is the same type of bridge as the well known Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia.  A compression arch bridge can have the deck hanging, or suspended, from the arch as in these examples, or the deck can be above the arch, an example of which is the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge over the Colorado River in Arizona, USA.

A bridge was first suggested in the area of the Peter the Great bridge in 1829, but the actual process of building a bridge only began on 1907, prompted by the tragic sinking of the passenger ship Arkhangelk . At that time, by ship was the method of crossing the Neva River.  A contract for building the bridge was quickly settled on with a company from Warsaw, Poland, and signed later in 1907. Though the bridge was not open for traffic until 1911 it was formally opened on June 26th, 1909  – exactly 200 years after Peter the Great won a battle called the Battle of Poltava in a  war between Russia and Sweden. The bridge carries 4 lanes of vehicle traffic and 2 tram lines.

Originally it was named the Emperor Peter the Great Bridge, which was changed to Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge (or Okhtinsky  for short!)  in 1956, and then renamed as Peter the Great Bridge in 2004. Today people use both names.

So my exploration of the world today has been a history and bridge building lesson.

Autumn Retrospective Part II

So, onto the second day of this part of our trip. We stayed the night in a very small township called Twizel. This really is a very remote little settlement, several hours from anywhere of significant size, and it’s very cold in winter and very hot in summer. Not much of New Zealand experiences ‘continental’ weather patterns, but this is one of the places that does. Twizel  owes its existence to the fact that much of the South Island’s electricity is generated from hydro power – that is, nasty big dams put across most of our rivers of any significant size.  It was intended to be a temporary town, and it still has something of that air about it, but has now become a bit of a tourist area.

Old Iron Bridge

Our first cache of the day was actually a backtrack to Iced Over which I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. The first new autumn highlight of today is  GCPBZQ Old Iron Bridge . This required a wee scrabble down the bank, but nothing too serious, and the scramble also provided for a unique photo opportunity with a different angle on the bridge.

This bridge is near the breeding centre for the Black Stilt   which is one of New Zealand’s most rare birds.  It is possible to have a guided tour   of the facility courtesy of the Department of Conservation.  We didn’t do the tour on this trip, but did on a previous visit to the area, and had the bonus of being the only two people on the tour.  Well worth the tour. (We have also had the rare privilege  of seeing the Black Stilts in the wild in a slightly different area.)

There are a number of other caches in Twizel, and the surrounding area, as well as on the journey south.  A good one, if you want a….. ummmm…..  close-up encounter of a proctological nature with a giant black stilt statue, is GC1GZ1Z Black Stilt Market  !!!! 

Autumn Cachemobile

Above Aviemore Picnic Area

These next two photos are both in the area of  GC19JD2 Aviemore Picnic Area. It is indeed near a picnic area, but it’s no picnic getting to the cache itself. A short but rather steep drag up a hill that will have you puffing (unless you’re a hillwalker of course)!  We could, in theory, have taken the cachemobile up the track, but seeing as it will fall over on its side a little more easily than your average 4wd vehicle, we opted for 2leg drive instead.  I have to confess we had as much fun here playing in the leaves and taking photos as we did finding the cache.

And while we’re talking of hill walking, Avimore is a good Scottish name isn’t it, and together with the next cache you’d wonder if we were suffering a little from spacial displacement, as the caches we visit next are near the Benmore dam.

Near Benmore Dam

There are  two caches that we did near here. They were: GCH5HA Hill Top View And GC19JD0 Benmore Dam Lookout  which would be an awesome place to be standing (if it’s allowed) when the slipway had water thundering down it. You would be well damped by the spray shall we say!!  It is basically a drive by, or walk by, depending how you approach  – we walked across the top of the dam, but Hilltop View is, obviously, up a hill.  Bitsprayer must walk faster than us, as from memory I’m darn sure it took more than 5 minutes.  There are one or two more cache along this track, but for some reason we didn’t do them.  I think time was catching up on us.

We did a few more caches as we carried on down State Highway 83 though the  Waitaki Valley , travelling beside the Waitaki River  to the really tiny settlement of Kurow  which was our destination for the night.

On the Island

Kurow had its downsides. It was here that something strange in the air made both our brains and our GPS go haywire. Our GPS in that it misplaced a whole great swathe of its mapping – a big section right across the country from east to west, including Kurow.  So we had the novelty of caching with just the arrow to guide us.  And our brains in that we somehow managed to leave our gas cooker at the camping ground, and to decide that we would walk up a big hill. This photo, though, is from a cache that we did before walking up the big hill. You can almost see it  (well, not really!) in the summit photo below. See that ‘island’ in the middle of the river??  The photo is taken there, just opposite the cache GC188BE Waitaki Island . It was a rather difficult find as GZ was tricky to pin down and the area a bit rubbishy, but more scenic views almost made up for it.

Near the summit of the big hill some foolish person had placed a cache.  GC11BHP Kurow View  so of course we had to walk up there and get it. It’s a relatively small hill by world standards I expect around ( ~ 450 metres, or just under half a Munro, to where we went), but in a state of unfitness it was quite a big enough hill for me.  From a caching POV it was one of those where you spend 2/3rds of the time walking in the opposite direction to the arrow, watching the ‘distance to cache’  increasing instead of decreasing as the zigs lead you away from the cache while the zags temporarily lead you back in the right direction again.   Luckily the track was in pretty good shape (unlike me), the views were good,  the vegetation interesting and a husband who took hold of the GPS and refused to tell me what it said, motivated me to the top! The journey up was quite pleasant actually but the last bit was chilly chilly chilly.

Below 'summit' of Kurow Hill

 To quote our log:

Very very chilly for the last 100m or so today – I’m sure the wind was blowing right off the snow on the futher away peaks. Thanks to our sponsors Macpac, Columbia, Fairydown and other assorted companies we added a few extra layers of clothing and located the cache while remaining reasonably toasty warm!

We also found the best lemon muffin in New Zealand at the one and only café in Kurow, before continuing on our way to historic Oamaru  home of both the Little Blue Penguin  and NZ’s most prolific cache placer!!

Autum Retrospective

or rather 'Leafed Over.'

'Leafed Over' vs ' Iced Over' ?

So, that’s our first month on broadband –yes, we’ve finally joined the civilized world after quibbling over the expensive of it for months. It does look though like we haven’t purchased  ‘enough’ for our base plan as PB has already had to buy me a couple of top-ups during the month.  But, I waffle and digress……

Does this photo seem somewhat familiar? It’s one of a series taken at the cache Iced Over, another of which has been used for the header photo for this blog.          

I was reminded by the autumn photos on the blog, Where the Fatdog Walks,  that I intended to write a post about my header photo. As I change the photo from time to time I will also add a post about the photo.

I have a fondness for autumn photos, perversely because the part of the country I live it does not really have distinctively visual changes of season. So I’m always on the look-out for lambs and blossoms in spring and golden leaves in autumn when we are travelling.

On this trip in April 2008 I got a good dose of autumn colours. Our caching trip took us from Geraldine to Fairlie and past Lakes Tekapo & Pukaki and down the Waitaki Valley. We found 31 caches on our journey between Geraldine and Oamaru, and enjoyed the stunning autumn  show along the way.

Some of the highlights in the many postcard perfect settings are illustrated by the photos below.

Sheep thieves!

Sheep thieves imortalised

This short multi – A Dog’s Tale GC17F6X  – is in the little settlement of Fairlie at the start of the “Mackenzie Country”.  This statue of Mackenzie and his dog Friday is the first WP. James Mackenzie was rouge and outlaw who made his name in sheep theft. His exploits are part of the early history of this area, and his ‘fame’  is such  that the area now bears his name. He is reputedly of Scottish origin and an interesting read can be had here  telling more of his story.

We must have collected our numbers correctly for the cache as we found the final to be not too far away – close enough that whichever direction you are travelling this cache is quite accessible without great delay to your travels.

The next cache I would like to highlight is  Te Kopi Opihi GCTF57.  Te Kopi Opihi is the Maori name for this pass, known as Burke’s Pass to the Pakeha.   Burke’s Pass has its own little website with some brief  info.

The inscription on the monument reads:

“To put on record that

Michael John Burke,

a graduate of Dublin University

and the first occupier of Rancliff Station,

 entered this pass—known to the Maoris as Te Kopi Opihi—in


Oh, ye that enter the portals of the Mackenzie to found homes,

 take the word of a child of the misty gorges

 and plant forest trees for your lives!

So shall your mountain facings and river flats

 be preserved to your children’s children and for evermore.


This pass is 2,200 feet above sea-level.”


Words we could do to heed still today about planting trees rather than chopping them down!!!

Te Kopi Opihi

Thoughtful monument

Just a little further on, if you are journeying south, is a cache called Dog Kennel Mackenzie GCA42C,  which is near a small cairn marking the location of an historic ‘boundary dog’  kennel. This would have been the home of a dog that was chained here semi-permanently to prevent the property owner’s sheep wandering in the days when there was not a fence.  This link shows a picture of the site: Dog Kennel Corner.  Personally I wonder how often the poor creatures got fed, and whether these canine guardians actually spent their time daydreaming of when a sheep would get close enough to provide a small dinner-time snack.

The cache itself here was not an easy find, and not a very pleasant area for searching due to its unfortunate use as a ‘convenience stop.’  However the location is another intriguing little bit of New Zealand history, and worth a few moments pause in your journey, even if you decide not to look for the cache.

Turquoise Treasure

Church of the Good Shepherd

This next picture is pretty much a New Zealand tourist cliché, if ever there was!  This is the Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo.  This link to the NZ Historic Places Trust  gives the official information about the building.   The reason we were taking our picture was to complete the Earthcache Tekapo, the Turquoise Treasure GC18045, which we did on a rather chilly autumn day. I think if we had been here earlier it would have been lovely, but as it was, we got here later in the day and the shadows of the mountains were beginning to fall over us as we were collected our information and taking the required photos.  If one were to search of Flickr or any other photo site, I’m sure a thousand similar photos to this one  – and the church from every other angle possible – have been taken  by passing tourists!!

It is truly a stunning location however, and the view out the altar window inside is awesome in almost any weather.  So if you’re travelling/caching this way it must be on the list of places to spend a little time at.

Another little bit of doggy history of New Zealand is the nearby monument of a collie dog.  (we don’t appear to have a digital pic of this one at present.) The article here from a local newspaper, shows the statue – unveiled in 1968  and carved by a local woman Innes Elliot, then sent to England to be cast in bronze –   as well as explaining  the history.  The monument remembers the part that the humble sheep dog played in the settlement and management of the surrounding area.The local Member of Parliament is quoted as saying to one of the other guests:

 “Even during your term as governor-general you are destined to see many changes in the Mackenzie. Science and modern technology will play a vital part, but the shepherd’s friend and servant, the sheep dog, will remain to muster the profits of pastoral progress.”

And this is in fact  the case as New Zealand’s large back country sheep stations still complete their muster in the traditional way, on horseback with their sheep dogs at their heels – even though there may be aerial support in the way of a helicopter of light plane to direct the shepherds to the mobs of sheep to speed the process somewhat!  

And that brings me back to our original photo and cache – Iced OverGCPC00, now archived.  The cache itself here is(or at least, was) a relatively quick find  just off a parking layby.  The little pond, on the other hand, was one of those tiny perfect spots that most folk just blindly drive past,  but we are fortunate to be shown by the hunt for a small plastic box.  The leaves were literally floating just below the water’s surface, the ducks were paddling amongst them, and an image of peace and serenity was created the stayed in the mind for a good while.

I believe in the depths of winter the pond does ice over enough to skate on, and if you look at the cache log for July 10th 2009, you will see a new meaning to ‘iced over’. Will provoke a sympathetic laugh amongst many cachers!

There are a number of other caches in these areas as well, I’ve only mentioned a few that particularly stand out for me after 18 months of so, and I plan to continue with the rest of our journey down the Waitaki Valley in tomorrow’s post. 

What’s your favourite season, and do you have photos online that show it?

Coments most welcome – everyone should find it much easier to comment on this blog now that I have changed a few settings!