Thursday, 28 January 2010


I always knew that emigrating would bring mood swings, and it hasn't all been me bouncing around like a little puppy. There have been moments where I have wondered whether it was all worth it, and what we were really doing so far away from friends and family.

Fortunately, those moods don't tend to last very long...

Yesterday was really a euphoria day :-D I got into town ready to meet up with my new colleagues. Whilst I'm not going to be starting until the 8th Feb, Kerry is leaving on Friday, and wanted to introduce me to Kevin, my new boss, who started on Tuesday, and also the lady who is doing my job at the moment, and who will be moving on on the 18th to study in Oz. I also had to meet up with my HR rep, who needed to get some paperwork from me, and also get me to correct a mistake I'd made on my tax form (it really is confusing until you've had it explained to you!)

I arrived a tad early, and so had a bit of a chat with the receptionist whilst I waited for Fiona to come downstairs. She's just finished learning level one of the NZ sign language, so it will be interesting to see if we can get together and find out what the differences between OzLang and BSL are. Then I headed into the break-room with Fiona to go through my paperwork. This was the first "bounce" point. Most break rooms have a kettle and toaster, a microwave if you are lucky. This one, with a floorprint of at least three quarters of our house, not only had the above, but two huge fridges, a dishwasher, a toasted sandwich maker, an oven and an outside patio with a BBQ! One of the team was about to get married, so they were going to have a celebration morning tea for him, and someone was making scones - the smell was amazing! I'm actually going to be working on the twelfth floor, and this was on the second, so I think I will need the exercise on the stairs just to work off all the extra goodies I'm going to be eating! (plans already afoot to take pre-mixed cookie dough in...)

There were a number of conversations regarding the fire drill that they had just had, and I was able to talk about the Innogistic fire drill which had actually included a real fire... Cue being jumped on with excitement at the thought of another fire warden on the team, so I might have accidentally put my hand up for that... But only if I get paid to go on the First Aid at Work course - the receptionist is also about to go on one, so I might get to sneak on that with her (I am missing my First Aid qualification - it lapsed in October, and I don't like the fact that I'm not longer qualified). Not even started yet, and they are going to pay for my training!

Then the next major bounce point - Fiona had talked to the payroll team, and had got me a definitive statement of how much I am going to be paid, both for my first week, and then on a fortnightly basis. There was a little bit of confusion on my part; I had got the fortnightly one almost bang on (not bad given that I was working with last year's tax figures), but the first week was quite a way out. Then Fiona pointed out that I'd miscalculated the number of days, and I'm actually going to be paid for two more days than I had anticipated. So we are going to be nearly $400 better off in that first pay packet! It still doesn't get us out of Challenge 3 (below), as we are still going to get quite close to the bottom of our bank account before I get paid, but it does mean that we shouldn't ever hit the red.

Then Kerry, Kevin, Julia and I went out for a coffee, and we just yacked in the coffee shop for an hour. We did occasionally touch on work (in particular, some of the team building and social events that happen on a regular basis - the last one was that each floor had to create their own golf hole - my team won the best overall, with a map of New Zealand, which included a (full) paddling pool as Lake Taupo; the testing team used some of the computer equipment to rig up a mechanical device which randomly spat the ball out in a number of different directions! I'm waiting to be sent over some links to information that I need to read over the next week so that I'm not going into it completely blind on the 8th.

After we'd finished, and they'd all gone back to work, I took advantage of being in Wellington to go over to the Central Library. Now that I have an employer here, and have my offer letter to prove it, I can have a library account that I don't have to pay for. And I got out two books on playing the accordion - whilst I'm having fun footling around, and am starting to get the hang of some of the key jumps, I'm also aware that I could be picking up some very bad habits, and I want to see if I can stop those before I start.

By the time I got home, I was almost bouncing through the ceiling, and, as it was a glorious day, I decided after lunch that I wasn't going to stay indoors, and instead went off for a little walk up the Hutt Valley River. Well, little. It ended up being about ten miles and took just under four hours. But it was brilliant!

The flowers were out,

the butterflies were flying, and occasionally landing long enough for me to get a decent shot of them

and the view down the river was amazing!

Sadly, I didn't get very far along the river, just between the Kennedy Good Bridge and the Pomare Rail Bridge - the two lines above where it says "Lower Hutt".

Next time I do the walk, I will definitely make it an all day, and probably catch the bus to the start of the river.

It's not as peaceful as the scenic reserve or the hills, mainly because the trail runs between the river and the main road into Wellington! It's also more densely populated; not only are there housing estates dotted along the first part, but also people are naturally taking advantage of the gorgeous weather to go for a swim. But it was very enjoyable for all that, and had the distinct advantage of being pretty much flat all the way!

My legs are punishing me today, though, so I've been a bit quieter, getting some writing done (an attempt to get a short story written before a competition deadline on Sunday), and I may even get the third Maori lesson done :-)

Monday, 25 January 2010


Well, the job offer has come through the post, and the acceptance (along with a whole ream of paperwork) signed and sent back. The last hurdle, which I was only told about Thursday afternoon, is that the notice of appointment has to go up on their intranet for five working days in order for anyone internally to challenge if they felt that they were treated unfairly. However, I've not been told that that will be a possibility, so I'm not going to worry about it!

We have a few challenges to sustain us over the coming weeks:

1) Saving money
Whilst the first pay day comes at the right point to stop us running out of money in our NZ bank account, it is only going to be eight days' pay at the most, as I will be starting midway through a pay run. By the end of the next fortnight, we will be ever so slightly in the red... (by less than $100) I would still like to avoid transferring any money over, so we have a challenge to save ourselves that $100 over the next five weeks. It can be done, I'm not stressing about it, and it is going to be interesting to see what we can cut out of our lives without too much trouble!

2) Learning Maori
One of the clauses of the Treaty of Waitangi gives the Maori "exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties." The word on the Maori version for "properties" more properly is translated as "treasures" or "precious things", and this includes language. The upshot for us is that a number of places will offer beginners' Maori courses for free, and my home learning kit (with 20 20 minute lessons on CD and a workbook with nice pretty pictures) arrived in the post on Friday. It is designed to cover over 4 weeks - a lesson a day. I think the first two weeks will be easy, whilst I'm not working, but it will be interesting to see if I can keep it up once I'm at work.

3) Learning the accordion
As it made the sea-voyage without any problems, I am determined to have a good go at playing the accordion. I think the fact that I have a reasonable understanding of music (particularly keyboard) will help, but it is still going to be a challenge to get everything moving correctly (after about 20 minutes' playing, my arms start going numb!) Fortunately, once I start work, I am allowed to join the Wellington library; at the moment, we can join as outside members and pay a fee for every item borrowed, because we aren't living in the Wellington district area. However, having an employer with an address in the Wellington area gets round this rule, and the Wellington library has a number of "learn to play accordion" books.

This last weekend was a very Sci-fi orientated weekend - on Friday, we went into Wellington to meet up with a friend who was introduced to us (through Facebook) by a couple of sci-fi friends in the UK. It turns out that we have a lot in common as well as Sci-fi, and it was a very pleasant evening. I will definitely be looking forward to doing that again!

Then on Saturday, we had our next Board meeting of the Wellington Phoenix Sci-Fi group. As it was actually our side of the Bay, we decided that it wouldn't be too much trouble to walk over (thus saving us bus fare). The first fifty minutes or so were really pleasant, and included the discovery of a walk along the Hutt River, which I will do if the sun ever deigns to show its face again! The last thirty minutes were a bit more interesting - whilst it was only a short distance on the map (and we thought that we were going to be very early), it was almost all uphill! We definitely got our exercise for the day (particularly as we had already done an hour or so walk up and round the market and shops - fortunately, as it was throwing it down, our neighbour was also up at the shops and offered us a lift home), and so didn't feel too bad about snacking on chippies (crisps), chocolate and wine! A very good evening was had - lots of laughter and fun, and very generously were given a lift home as well.

Once again, I was able to reflect on how lucky we are to have the Sci-Fi community - I think that this has helped us to avoid some of the bigger issues that other people have found in emigrating; we have a social group that is instantly welcoming, and who I feel that I have known for years, rather than a matter of months.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Sorry for the silence over the last few days - I didn't want to jinx things when they seemed to be going so well (having heard of people who had got to reference stage and then been told that the interviewer hadn't actually got approval for the job!)

I had a few problems with taking the tests for the Ministry job; the outsourced company did not believe that Linux was a valid operating system; whilst I could take their practice tests without a problem, as soon as I tried to start the real thing, I got a splash screen telling me that as I wasn't using Windows or a Mac, I couldn't proceed. Unfortunately, all the library internet computers are also Linux as it is a free system which has a much lower virus risk than either Windows or a Mac (and is therefore preferable for a system where anyone could download anything!). However, when I talked to the HR lady, she did not have a problem with them setting up the tests for me to do in their offices.

So on Monday, I headed into Wellington to take the online tests. This was in a different building to the one where I had had the interview, which is a good job, as the interview building was right in the middle of the area where Prince William was visiting and the crowds were heaving! The tests themselves were a lot nicer than the practice ones, and, although I didn't finish the numerical one, I was a lot happier with how they went (and, despite what I had been told at interview, they were just numerical and reasoning, there wasn't a psychometric test there at all). I left the offices in glorious sunshine about an hour and a half later, and the crowds for William were still there (his flight had been delayed due to fog at Wellington airport). However, I decided not to hang around - I'm not the best person in a crush, and it's not as though I'm that fanatical about the royal family!

By the time I got home, the test results were waiting for me - I got 54/60 for the verbal reasoning (and all six were ones which I wasn't sure about on the check-through), 37/40 for the numeracy (but I ran out of time after doing question 37...). When I spoke to Kerry on Tuesday (he'd been off sick on Monday), he actually opened the email with the results in whilst on the phone; his reaction - "54 out of 60? That's good. Numeracy? Well now, that's just showing off!"

He's been talking to my references (both of them were from my previous company - it's been quite tricky having two references from the same job, but as that was over 5 1/2 years, and I've not the foggiest where to direct people for Sure Start (particularly as the DfES has significantly changed over the last few years!), I didn't have much choice...), and then had to get final sign off for the job. Which is why I've been waiting to let everyone know how it was all going!

But I got a phone call from Kerry this morning - the formal offer letter is now in the post. I'm not going to start until the 9th Feb (or that week), but I'll be meeting up with Kerry and Kevin, who is taking over Kerry's role and who will be my boss, for coffee next week. The icing on the cake is that he has got a significant increase on the salary - his reasoning is that no-one in the department was allowed a pay rise last year due to the recession, and so he wanted to get the raise in early in case it was the same situation next year! It's far over and above what I was expecting, even after he said that he was going to try to get me a bit more, and will definitely allow us some significant spending and saving money on a monthly basis. The joy is that my first payday (they pay fortnightly) will be just before the money runs out in our NZ bank, meaning that I won't have to transfer the rest over from the UK until the exchange rate is back in my favour (it seems to be getting better, but then it's had little rises over the last couple of months, and then slumped back down again!)

In other news, we have also had the delivery of our goods from the UK - the delivery men arrived half an hour early, and, even with having to turn the lorry round and come back as they'd missed the house the first time, they were still gone in 40 minutes! So far (touch wood) we've only had three significant damages, and all were mildew related - one of my coats, John's leather boots and one of our holdalls. We've still got a couple more things to check, but *touch wood* we should be all right. We're still unpacking - I thought we'd packed a lot more coat hangers than we did, so we are going to have to go and find some more. We've also got to earthquake proof our big book-cases before we can load them up (just bracket them to the wall), and probably pick up a few more cases to replace the ones we couldn't ship. The one little bummer is that the mattress that we had borrowed (and were going to buy off of our friend) is actually about half a foot too big for the bed! So we are going to be heading to the Salvation Army to get a second hand one to tide us over (a little bit icky, I know, but even with the higher pay, we'll have to wait a few months before we can afford a new one - I hadn't appreciated how expensive they are!)

I also had another walk yesterday; with some glorious sunshine instead of our promised rain, I wanted to see if I could get a bit of ridge-walking done. This walk was definitely one for appreciating colour. The sunshine filtered through the trees, highlighting particular details, like the huge buttresses on this tree, which I had to scramble over to avoid falling off the edge of the path on the other side

The tree did need the buttresses - it seemed to go upwards forever

When I got out to the ridge, I headed back towards the radio masts, and took one of the paths that headed down the other side of the hill. The contrast between the two sides was amazing, even in just a short space of time; the air was cooler, and the breeze that little bit stronger. Rather than the scrubland on top of the ridge, or the dense forest of the reserve, this road had a mixture of trees,

including this amazing manuka tree in full bloom,

bushes and flowers

I also came across a phenomenon that I have never seen before. Whilst heading up the hill back towards the ridge, the sun was eclipsed by a particularly bushy tree

Now, what isn't particularly visible in this photograph, and I believe that I only really saw it because I was wearing my sunglasses, which have a dark green tint to them, is that along the high cloud, the light was refracting off the crystals, and the cloud was striped electric blue and pink. I've tried to crop the photo down to the specific area of the cloud and then had a bit of a play with it to try to get the same effect as if you were looking through my glasses:

It isn't quite the same (the colours that I saw were more delineated and crisp), but I hope that you can get an idea of the vision, and can understand why I was standing there for about five minutes with my jaw hanging open! I haven't been able to find anything similar to it on the Google images, so if anyone can tell me what causes this phenomenon (and therefore whether I'm ever going to see it again!), I would be very grateful!

Back up on the ridge, and as the clouds passed overhead, they cast their shadows on the hillside, deepening and emphasising the folds in the land:

The route back home was interesting to say the least. I had spotted a path that I'd wanted to follow (at the up or down decision on the walk I did on the 4th Jan), and so happily took it this time. The path forked a few more times, and I started to get a little bit concerned that I'd gone wrong (I wasn't lost. Just directionally challenged...), particularly when every path that I tried to take to get me back to the entrance did an Alice through the Looking Glass and just led me further and further away, on the wrong side of the "V" shape of the reserve. Any sensible person would have retraced their steps at this point and gone back along the familiar path, but I never make any claims for being sensible! I was getting a bit more worried when I started going through land that was obviously being used for logging; had I strayed onto private property without realising it? Fortunately, I bumped into an elderly Scottish gentleman who was taking his English pointer for a walk. He asked me if I knew where I was going, and I confessed that I thought I'd taken a wrong turning. He very kindly directed me to his garden, and said that I could get out to the main road that way. After startling his wife (who obviously wasn't expecting to see a rambler appear!), I was out on the main road, and headed home. Lesson obviously learnt - I shall be a bit more careful next time I'm exploring!


I haven't abandoned the blog, promise! I've actually got quite a chunky post to go up, but I'm waiting for a bit of news before I post it. That news *should* come through today, but I don't know if it is going to be email, phone or post...!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Another walk post

(Hopefully I have updated my Blogger settings correctly - apparently Google doesn't know where New Zealand is and, after I changed my settings to say that I was here, it decided that our time zone was GMT-8. Only 21 hours out, then...)

This is just a quick one - as it was such a lovely day, I decided to take another walk up the fire break to see if I could do a bit more ridgewalking. Unfortunately, it was a little too hot for that, and so I decided to come back down the reserve again.

It was absolutely glorious in there - the trees shaded the heat from the ground, but it was still warm enough to remind me that this is summer...

The whole reserve was serene. The wind gently rustled in the canopy overhead, occasionally dislodging a dry leaf, which, as it fell, sounded like rain. There were the ever present cicadas, performing the aural equivalent of a rainbow, always ahead and slightly to the side, but never visible. The birds, again, were all around, but, apart from a Piwikawaka and a Kereru, who both came over to say hello, were only audible. But I could hear the Riroriro, the piwikawaka, the ever present tui, and one with a very distinctive call that I cannot identify from anywhere on the internet!

It was just fantastic, and I know where I will go after a stressful day at work in order to unwind and feel at peace with the world!

Little happy dance!

Well, thank you everyone for your good luck wishes - they meant so much :-)

I had a bit of a rush in the morning - on top of it being an evilly early start (well, given that we are used to waking up at 7 and then dozing till 9, having to be out of the house at 7.45 was nasty!), the train then ended up running about five minutes late, and, as it was packed with commuters, it took me five minutes to get out of the station. Unfortunately, as I'd only left 15 minutes to get to the interview, I therefore only had 5 minutes, and it was exactly 5 minutes walk away! So I was a bit out of breath when I got in; fortunately, they weren't waiting for me, and I was able to sit and chat a bit with the receptionist to regain my composure (she lives up the line from us, so I was able to get a bit of information about the train services).

The interview itself went ok - nothing "zingy" - I was able to answer all of the questions, using examples from my previous job (which is the way they like doing things here). I liked the two interviewers, Kerry, who is doing both this role and the managerial one, and Dion, who is one of the key internal customers of the role - we were able to chat as well as be more formal. However, I didn't really walk away with the feeling that the job was in the bag. It also didn't help that I wasn't coming from a government background, and, early on in the interview, they said that Kerry's position was also being replaced, and the person that they'd got in came from a similar background to me; a private IT position, rather than within government. As the position includes providing advice and support around procurement policies and practice, I didn't think that they would want two people who didn't have that much internal knowledge of the policies!

As I left, I was told that they had a number of other people to see that day, and they would let me know on Monday (Kerry was going to South Island for a long weekend on Thursday morning).

So, I wasn't overly hopeful. I did perk up when I got to the station, and popped into the supermarket there to find that they are doing instant coffee at about half the price of our local supermarket. As we were down to our last cup, I picked up a packet of very good Espresso!

We were going out in the evening to our next Sci-fi meeting, so I made us a cooked lunch, rather waiting for an evening meal, and generally bimbled round the afternoon. (Scrabble on Facebook is a very good way of passing time, particularly if you are playing with someone in the same room as you...)

Then, just as we were thinking of having a little something for tea (we picked up a *very* nice coffee and walnut cake at the farmers' market this week), the phone rang.

It was Kerry, and as I wasn't anticipating being called before Monday, I presumed that it was bad news.


They have decided to offer me the job! Apparently I gave them the confidence that I could do the job, and I also learnt the value of being friendly to everyone - they had asked the receptionist to do an informal opinion on the candidates - and she liked me, too!

It's not a formal job offer yet, as I have to do an online psychometric test and they have to talk to my references first, which won't happen until Kerry gets back from holiday. However, all being well, I will start work as a Contracts Adviser for a government ministry at the beginning of February. The pay is good, and will cover our outgoings with a little bit left over for fun stuff. And, even better, they get paid fortnightly, which means that I will get paid before the money runs out (well, until I'd have to organise the next transfer over from the UK). Just. (we will have less than $400 in the bank - we'd run out 4 days later!)

The Sci-fi meeting was therefore especially good - we were at a new pub for a "what I did on my holidays" chat, and I've found a *very* nice brand of cider!

And to make the week even better, our belongings have now arrived in New Zealand, and have been checked by MAF, with nothing needing to be cleaned. So all we have to do is wait for Customs to clear them, and then we will have all of our stuff to play with, too!

So huge smiles all round - it really takes away the stress. We still have to be careful financially until I get paid, but once that has happened, we can really relax and enjoy our new home!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Fingers crossed, please...

Well, the offices are slowly coming back after the Christmas holidays, and I had a phone call today from a government ministry who would like me to go in for an interview at O Dark o'clock on Wednesday. (I didn't think that government departments opened before 9!!) It's for a job that I'd love to do - essentially working on the "other side of the fence" to the role that I had in the UK, assisting with the creation of tenders and contracts within the Ministry, and then monitoring the suppliers once they have won the contract. I know that I can do it, and do it well - the trick is now to convince the interviewers!

So, please keep your fingers crossed very tightly for me at 7.30pm GMT on Tuesday (8.30 am Wednesday New Zealand time) - now I need to go and actually read what I put on my CV and application form! ;-)

In other news, we have had a great couple of days with Judy and Scott who came down from Auckland for a Wellington visit. They came over for Sunday lunch - my first bit of formal entertaining in the new house, and, even with a couple of minor issues (the stuffed chicken breasts took an hour to cook instead of 20 minutes - lesson learned that they shouldn't be piled on top of each other, and we had mismatching cutlery and crockery (particularly glasses and pudding dishes - I had my pudding on a pyrex lid!), I think it all went very well - we had a really great time. Then John and I went into Wellington today to meet up with them, and we spent the day strolling round the Te Papa museum, and chatting a lot more! (Scott and John didn't get much of a word in edgeways with Judy and me chattering away :-) ) We also went up the Cable car and had a little bit of a wander in the Botanical Gardens, with a very friendly young sparrow, who had obviously only just been pushed out of the nest - he came up to us whilst we were on a bench, hopped to our feet and opened his mouth! Unfortunately, by the time I could slip past and get some seeds from the grass to feed him, he had flown away and only came back to bother some other tourists. I'm sure he will do very well if he learns to target the workers when they are out eating their sandwiches!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Om nom nom nom nom

This week has been a bit of a slow one - after the walk on Monday, we have been very lazy, just pottering round the house (more job applications!) and the greenhouse.

I did have an interview with a temp agency on Thursday - I'm really not going to hold my breath that they will find me work, but at least I've managed to get out there and brush up on my interview skills.

We also had our first house inspection today - very easy, given that we don't have that much yet to clean up!

And I've been playing with my netbook - it is a Linux based system, and I'm still not very confident about using it. However, I had a few major browser crashes earlier in the week where the whole browser froze on me. The only way of getting rid of it was restarting. So, after doing this a few times, I got fed up with the fact that I couldn't just go into a Task Manager and End Process, the way you can in Windows. A quick Google later, and, actually, yes you can! It's almost as easy - you need to open up a terminal, but then it is a couple of quick commands and you can kill any process :-D So, I'm learning slowly but surely. It's not as easy as I'd hoped it would be, but I now have some very helpful websites to look at (thanks, Ben!) and am getting used to shifting back into a way of thinking which is very similar to MS-DOS.

Our cake-man wasn't at the market this week, so I decided to make cookies so that we could have an afternoon snack:

However, I realised after I had done this that the cookies took up the eggs that I had bene intending to use to make an omlette for tonight's supper. I did have a couple of quick and easy options (fishcakes, doing another stir fry), but I fancied trying something different...

The breadmaker (which has been doing stirling work making a loaf every couple of days - and the bread is *so* much better than the shop bought stuff!) also has a pizza dough setting... We haven't had pizza since before we left the UK...

So I mixed the ingredients as per the bread recipe, chucked it all in, and got myself a nice lump of dough after an hour and a half.

Then, with the addition of a bit of tomato paste, cheese, onions, pepper and kumera (NZ sweet potato), and rolling the crust around some cheesy garlic butter (well, if I wasn't going to have any garlic bread to eat with it, this is the next best thing!), I got this:

and after twenty minutes or so in the oven, it looked like this:

and it didn't take very long to turn it into two empty plates!

Very yummy, and I'll definitely be doing that one again! Even better, the bread machine has a "delay" setting, so I can even mix the ingredients before going to work, and have the dough ready for me to turn into pizza when I get in :-D

Monday, 4 January 2010

Hayward Scenic Reserve (warning - photo heavy)

There are also a couple of photos of an itty bitty pretty spider further down - just warning those of my readers who don't particularly like spiders...

Well, it was a glorious day today, after a window rattling storm last night, and I decided to take another trip out to the reserve. This time I remembered what the name was! (well, I took a photo of it as an aide memoire...)

I timed it this time, and it is actually a whole 25 minutes walk from our door to the stile

(see what I mean about the steps up?)

The woodlands were as quiet as they were on New Year's Day, just me, birdsong and insects, including dragonflies:

The ground was a little wet underfoot from the rain of the night before

There was a real "jungle" feel to the bush.

And I wasn't kidding about the tree roots being used as steps:

The path was very steep at times

and after about half an hour of climbing, I came out to the same fire break that I had been walking in on New Year's Day (so, phew, I wasn't trespassing!)

The dusty ground was covered in insects (memo to self, next time take repellent!) Fortunately, none of them seemed to be biting (at least, I haven't come up in lumps yet...), and I discovered the reason just the other side of the sign post:

The view here was magnificent

and I played the "I can see our house from here" game. (unfortunately, I have better eyes than the camera - the best that I can give you is that it is just above the grey patch to the right of the white blob (which is Waterloo Station), just above the right edge of the track)

But there was still quite a way to go

and as I got higher, the views got even better!

The hills and the fire break path stretched off to the horizon

The hill was really rather steep, and there was always one more peak once I crested each hill, and I was very grateful to the man who passed me as he was heading down and told me that there really wasn't any further to go once I got to the top of this climb. "Unless, of course, you want to go to the radio and telephone mast. But this is the top of this ridge."

See what I mean about the steep hill?

On the other side of the ridge was Arakura

The fire break, being bare of any real vegetation, had a very interesting layered rock structure

Unfortunately, slightly crumbly underfoot, particularly when trying to go downhill!

I then took a look over to see how far the masts were that the man had mentioned.

It didn't look that far...

At the top of the next hill

It doesn't look too steep!

However, I hadn't learned my lessons from the climb before. Yes, it was that steep!

But this really was the last one

There was the occasional splash of colour amongst the green bush

Just the other side of the masts, there was a look out giving a magnificent view of Wellington

I then spent quite a while paparazzing a Tui until it got bored of hiding from the camera and flew away:

and decided to take a different route back to the one that I came up (and I did not fancy heading straight back down the fire break - too much of a potential to fall and break my ankle, and I didn't fancy being part of a mountain rescue!

I loved the way the different tracks were given names

As I got to a break in the bush, I could see the road that ended in the Reserve entrance - whilst I was high up, it couldn't be that far to go, could it?

I was glad that the track had been marked, as it was squishy underfoot and, at times, it seemed like I was actually walking down a stream rather than a path (fortunately, I only slipped once, and managed to keep myself from going over completely)

I kept on seeing this plant with orange berries. It was obvious that they weren't poisonous to birds (as I could also tell where the birds perched after eating them!), but I wasn't going to take a chance and see what they tasted like!

(a bit of Googling later, and I suspect it might be a Coprosma robusta karamu, and therefore not poisonous. I think I might have to get myself a book of edible NZ plants for next time I go out...)

As I headed downwards, the track changed name, and I wasn't sure whether I trusted the new one...

I could cope with the 'zig zag', but if I was actually walking down a creek, then, given the dampness of the path further up, I could easily find myself wading...

Round the bend I startled a Kereru (more prosaically known as a Wood pigeon, but I prefer the Maori name!)

Feeling a tickle on my hand, I looked down and saw this little fellow. S/he was absolutely tiny - as a guide to scale, the links on my watch are 9mm long...

(and, ooops, the time on my watch was the time I'd said to John that I'd be home... Fortunately, I had the phone on me, so I was able to give him a call and say that I'd be a weeny bit longer!)

Once more, I was glad for the sign that had confirmed that this was actually a track when I had to jump across a crevice in the ground.

I crossed the stream that ran through that crevice a further four times whilst zig-zagging down the hill - fortunately, that was the only jump.

Whilst most of the bush was varying colours of green with ferns and trees (very little grass), there was the occasional colourful plant.

I got to an interesting intersection - a T-junction where the options were down:

or up:

Neither looked particularly promising! And, whilst pondering, I did end up having the Zaphod / Lift argument from HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy
"We'd like to go Up, please."
"Have you considered all the possibilities that Down has to offer?"
"Like what?"
"Well, the basement, the heating system, the microfiles. It may not sound like much, but it is an alternative."
I decided to go Up...

Then I got distracted by a Piwikawaka (boring name: Fantail). This little bird must be collecting the agonised screams of twitchers - it landed on a branch almost directly in front of me, called a bit and fluffed out its tail to make sure that I'd seen it, then waited for the little whir of my camera focussing, held his pose, then took off as the shutter clicked. And landed on another branch close by! I got quite a few photos of undergrowth and trees before I got a couple which actually had him in it...

Fortunately, Up was the right decision, and I emerged back onto the main track about five minutes later. Another five minutes down the hill, and I came to where Down would probably have emerged from, so I think I would have been ok going that way, too. But as it was close to quarter to six, and John had expected me home at five, I decided that I would have to return to explore that path another day...

I got home just after five past six - three hours after I'd set out - I think I've avoided sunburn (thank you factor 30) and had a brilliant time!