Well, the conference is over and holidays have well and truly begun...yipee Forgot to tell ye bout the v strange smoking rules in Tokyo...there are painted no smoking signs on the footpath and no smoking guards patrol the streets on bikes to make sure nobody is smoking outside of the designated smoking areas at the corners of some streets...but when we went out for food on the Wednesday, there was a couple of Japanese guys sitting next to us and when they finished eating they lit up, despite the fact that it was a relatively enclosed area and we were still eating!! Crazy!!
Spent a few hours in Sydney with a grand-aunt on the way from Tokyo to Christchurch. She met me at the airport and we headed to Circular Quay and walked around that area and into the botanic gardens. Saw the opera house, the bridge and the general harbour area - it's a gorgeous harbour. We had to keep stopping for breaks everywhere there was a seat in the shade, not cos she's 83, but cos it was too hot for me! Felt like high 20s or low 30s!! Some crazy people were doing their daily jogging in the midday sun and some were even running (and jumping!) up and down this massive flight of steps - I was tired just looking at them!!
Finally I arrived in Christchurch late on the Friday night - the day before Paddy's Day. I met up with Hazel and Nicolas there, aswell as a friend of Hazel's (Adam) from Dunedin who had driven up for the weekend to hang out with Hazel. Didn't spend much time in the city itself - the others had checked it out the previous day. But we got to go out to some of the hills and beaches to the south of the city thanks to Adam and his car. It was lovely - fabulous weather which surprised us all! Unfortunately late in the afternoon the clutch went in Adam's car just as we arrived at a major intersection on the Christchurch ring road...we all had to get out in the blistering heat and push the car through the junction much to the amusement of other drivers...
Later that evening we went to a pub a stones throw away from our hotel for some Paddy's Day festivities. It was a good night, altho' the pub had been busy when we'd gone for breakfast that morning and so by the time we got there some people could barely stand never mind hold a conversation. The music was good tho' and we were all kitted out with our 2 euro shop supplies that we'd brought with us (tricolour feather boas, hats etc...photos will follow when I get home!)..
The following day myself, Nicolas and Hazel rented a car and drove up here to Blenheim in the north east corner of South Island for the conference. We stopped for lunch on the way at Kaikura, but it was so windy there that we didn't do much but eat... We nearly got blown off this viewing point at the centre of the peninsula and there were so many white horses on the sea that there was no chance of spotting any of the whales or dolphins that the area is famous for.
The conference (on shellfish safety) has been great. Lots of science and lots of schmoozing. The social functions were great. Lots of delicious wine and shellfish. Traditional Kiwi BBQ on the Monday. Apparently the opening function had a haka display - but we didn't get there for the beginning and missed it! The mid-week tour was to Nelson Lakes National Park - the first and only cloudy day we've had so far! Went for a 90 minute walk guided by a lady who knew lots about the flora and fauna. Saw a weka and heard some keas. The conference banquet was last night - a very late affair - I really did feel sorry for people who had to present this morning! There were at least 20 people here from Ireland including us, the Marine Institute, BIM and Food Safety people. There was a NZ/Ireland night on the Tuesday for delegates from both countries - lots of singing and drinking - great craic. This evening myself, Hazel and Nicolas have invited Robin and Vivienne (our supervisor and his wife) to a BBQ at our motel - they're bringing the alcohol, we're cooking the food...won't be too hectic tho' cos Hazel is catching an early morning flight tomorrow and we're all pretty shattered from the week. Myself and Nicolas pick up our rent-a-dent tomorrow morning and are heading west to Golden Bay...hope the weather holds...sorry to hear it's all cold and snowing back home