kiwis and their kiwis

an air b&b&b (binos in bed with breakfast)

kiwi. photo credit: Vee Snijders/ (we couldn’t get a pic ourselves)

now in new zealand: pure pods, (at a pretty price); glass houses, from which to avoid throwing stones. and to view mother nature.

tokoeka (pronounced toko -EE-ka) pure pod, on stewart island, off the coast of the extreme tip of southern new zealand, is just the place for a) astronomers looking for a bright, unobstructed night sky while under covers (even the roofs are made of plexiglass); or for b) conservationists and naturalists seeking to prevent the encroachment of predators on endemic wildlife; or for c) birdwatchers pining for a peek at the elusive kiwi, the shy national bird that only comes out at night (except for the photo above).

tokoeka pure pod

pure pods are the brainchild of grant ryan, a self-styled “serial inventor” who has come up with what he calls “the cacophony project”, to help make new zealand predator-free in order to “bring back the cacophony of birdsong”, perhaps as in “snap, crackle and pop”. (hey, he’s a cereal inventor!)

ryan’s pure pods are essentially one-off apartments (pods). they are constructed mostly of glass/plexiglass and situated in secluded spots (like mountaintops). tokoeka, on stewart island, is surrounded by a predator-proof fence that allow kiwis (birds) and other rare and defenseless creatures to roam free. they needn’t fear being eaten by the possums, rats, cats and other predators that european settlers (wingless kiwis) introduced to new zealand a couple centuries ago along with their horses, cows and sheep.

kiwis (the people) love their birds (the kiwis). so these pods are designed for maximum viewing convenience. people (mostly kiwis) can watch the birds (mostly kiwis) from the comfort of their beds (mostly mattresses).

so how do kiwis (people) watch birds (kiwis) that only come out at night? tokoeka pod is equipped with red night lights that don’t disturb the kiwis (birds), so people (mostly kiwis) can watch the nightlife.

full disclosure: we didn’t see a single kiwi (bird) in three nights at the tokoeka pure pod. we tried. but frankly, we fell asleep as soon as we settled in, (we were exhausted and the beds were awfully comfy) and each time we’d get up in the middle of the night to “take care of business”, there were no kiwis to be seen. therefore our conclusion: kiwis were on holiday. but anyway…

the kiwis (people) on stewart island are friendly, knowledgeable and talkative about their feathered friends, which they’ll tell you are best seen on ulva island, a slip of terra firma a ten minute ferry ride away from the stewart island’s only town, oban. ulva island is strictly for the birds. no people, and no human detritus (trash)


the ferry service to ulva island appears to be the region’s chief industry, except for maybe the grocery store and pub/kitchen in oban, the island’s “commercial hub”. the kiwis (residents) seemingly comprise an omnipresent gaggle that congregates around the pub in oban to spread the word about the glories of ulva island (and anything else you’d like to talk about).

oban’s waterfront hotel/pub (center) and grocery store “supermarket” (right)

ulva island is surely among the best bird sites in the underworld (south of the equator). it’s predator-free, unspoiled by anything as refined as a cafe or coffee shop. other than portable toilets, and the ferry landing, it is virgin territory. the only exception is the primitive paths installed so visitors can find their way. (no one’s disappeared in a few weeks, at least.)

it’s walkable from coast to coast in less than an hour, even counting multiple stops for viewing the vast array of “in your face” avian species. i

the one character who made the biggest impression, however, was a kaka bird, unique to new zealand, who distinguished himself by alighting on the tree on the front deck of tokoeka pod and eating it, right in front of visitors. that’s right. eating the tree, branches, bark and all. it was evident he’d been working on it for some time, because many of the branches were reduced to gnawed-off stumps.

the kaka, a ravenous bird with an appetite for trees

this feathered fellow was so unafraid of human intruders, he posed happily for photos from a distance of about three feet (one meter) as he chomped his way through the branches. it’s easy to see why he’s fearless. he’s got nothing to be afraid of. stick your hand within his reach and whoosh!, captain hook.

and now about the rest of kiwiland. and soccer. women’s soccer, to be precise.

the trip to new zealand was not, as a reader might have been tempted to infer, about birds. it was really about the women’s world cup draw, which was staged in auckland, on new zealand’s north island. the 2023 women’s world cup will be held in australia and new zealand in july-august. denmark is among the qualifiers, so we were there to attend the draw. the big news (talk about burying the lede) is that denmark is in group c, pitted against china in its first match of the tournament. that game will be in perth (australia) next july. group c’s four nations also includes england, one of the tournament favorites, so the danes will be hard pressed to progress from the group stage to the knockout stage of the competition. stay tuned next july for updates.

the world cup 2023 mascot greets “a guest”

on the way north from the south island, a stop in wellington is almost mandatory. it’s the capital, and it’s mid-country, on the southern tip of the north island. while there, it’s worthwhile to pop in to zealandia; which is, you guessed it, mostly about birds. last time in “en-zed”, we did the night tour of the sanctuary, this time we tagged along with our host and honorary danish consul general karen puller for an afternoon outing. karen lives only a few blocks from zealandia, so for her it was just a a routine walk in her back yard.

so…what’s to see in the bird sanctuary? lizards! tuataras to be precise. (ok, it’s mostly about birds, but…) these non-threatening reptiles hide there, living mostly on insects and other microscopic characters too small to be of concern. they’re darned hard to see. it took me nearly five minutes of looking at this bit of underbrush to make out the tuatara hiding in the photo.

“en-zed” and oz are sure to be on the radar next winter, southern hemisphere time, as women’s world cup play begins. we’ll be paying close attention. meanwhile, back to the kiwis.


a mariner’s rime in christchurch time

At length did cross an Albatross,
Through the fog it came;
As if it were a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name.

–from “the rime of the ancient mariner”by samuel taylor coleridge (1798)

the albatross’s “vast archangel wings” as melville described them in “moby dick”

the albatross has captured the imagination of southern ocean seafarers since, well… ships. it certainly captured ours. a visit to aotearoa/new zealand was a chance to observe the “largest living thing in the air“, a sea bird with a three-meter wingspan.

like a horseshoe to a magnet, we were drawn to kaikoura, a seacoast village up the road from christchurch, the south island’s largest city. kaikoura bills itself as “possibly” the albatross capital of the world!

And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner’s hollo!

in nautical folklore, having an albatross hanging around your ship meant windy weather. it was a good omen back when seafaring vessels were powered by clean, renewable wind energy. in aotearoa’s maori culture, the majestic bird has been venerated since the first waka (boats) arrived from polynesia centuries ago.

a royal southern albatross tails our boat

conversely, having an albatross hanging around your neck; not so good. that’s what happens when you shoot the good luck albatross that’s been tailing your ship…

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!
From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—
Why look’st thou so?’—With my cross-bow
I shot the ALBATROSS.

… and the bird dies and the fair winds fade, and your superstitious shipmates start giving you the evil eye. it’s a heavy burden.

that’s exactly the story of samuel taylor coleridge’s “rime of the ancient mariner”, a mainstay of english literature since nearly a century before clean but unreliable wind power was jostled aside by combustion engines that “fowl” the environment.

in his lifetime, coleridge never actually saw an albatross. nevertheless, it is through his poem that generations of english-speakers have come to use the expression “having an albatross around one’s neck” to mean “bearing a heavy burden”.

Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

a statue of the ancient mariner with albatross hung from his neck at somerset, england; where coleridge wrote “the rime”.

in coleridge’s “rime”, when the albatross dies, clouds evaporate and the air hangs like a blanket, turning the ship’s deck into a rotisserie.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

without rain, fresh water supplies are gone with the wind. shipmates drop like flies, unlike albatrosses, who have built-in desalination systems that allow them to drink seawater and expel the salt through their nostrils. (really!) leading to perhaps coleridge’s most (mis)quoted verse,

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

and one of monty python’s hilarious sketches. (warning: rough language)

natural desalination

winter is off season for albatross watching, so it was just us and the skipper embarking on our “albatross encounter” from kaikoura.

the flock was waiting for us. five different species of albatross and all kinds of petrels made it a diverse group. (though lacking in equity or inclusion). unlike the human world, the laws of nature are unchallenged in the bird kingdom. survival of the fittest rules. as the albatross swoops in with a whoosh, smaller birds scoot out of the way.

the albatross schools the black petrels vying for a peck at the scrap net

we come a-hunting coleridge’s bird
not with arrow and bow;
but camera in tow,
by combustion engine spurred.’

a bad coleridge impersonator, 2021

the skipper has brought along a net filled with fish scraps, and as he drops the scrap net in the water, a scrap begins. the scrappiest are the albatrosses, first in the pecking order. next are the black petrels, who scrap playfully among themselves while waiting for leftover scraps. smaller species hang around until the big fellows are done, then scrap among themselves for the scraps of the scraps. we have a front row seat.

graceful in flight, albatrosses are hopelessly clumsy on land. watch this short video clip recently captured by an “albatross cam” in new zealand.

coleridge’s influence on albatross mythology is so powerful i can’t help examining my own superstitions as we drive south toward our next stop, christchurch. the city has borne a heavy burden over the past decade.

the Ōtākaro/avon river drifts lazily through christchurch, probably the most english city outside england. punters in edwardian costume ferry tourists along landscaped river banks in handcrafted flat-bottomed boats.

at a bend in the river, the boat pauses at “oi manawa”, maori for “tremor” or “quivering of the heart”. it is a memorial to victims of the most violent earthquake to hit “the shaky isles” (as they are known) since the first european settlement more than 200 years ago.

it was lunchtime on a summery afternoon, february 22, 2011, when christchurch shuddered mightily. some of the city’s tallest structures crumbled in clouds of dust. entire districts were laid waste. on the streets, falling rock and debris crushed cars and busses.

the quake measured 6.3 magnitude, less than a 7.1 jolt five months earlier. but while the first tremor killed no one and caused minimal damage, the second was much closer to the surface, and its epicenter was just a few kilometers from the city’s central business district. when the earth erupted, structures weakened by the first toppled like bowling pins.

the riverside memorial wall bears the name of each victim etched in marble. it is a curious list. all names are written in latin letters, but many also in a foreign script. and rather than alphabetical order, the names of victims are grouped together with those they knew and loved.

of the 185 who died, 115 were in one building, the canterbury television headquarters. it was home also to a school where foreign nurses were studying english and taking medical classes. of the dead, 53 were nurses, 28 from japan. the victims included citizens of 16 countries.

a tribute to israelis killed in the quake

a decade after the tragedy, the wounds still burn. healing, physical and emotional, is achingly slow. so many people moved away after the quake that christchurch shrunk. once new zealand’s second city, it is now third.

one healthy sign: the historic christ church cathedral and its magnificent tower had at first been written off as a total loss and slated for demolition. seven years later, that decision was reversed, and work on resurrecting the structures has begun.

still, however, a sense of foreboding hangs over the city. an albatross. everyone knows it’s just a matter of time till the next big shudder.

the entire length of the southern island is riven by one of the world’s most active geological break points, the alpine fault. geologists are expecting a great quake, the “once every 300 years” variety, at any time. the last “really big one” was in 1717. that’s 304 years ago.

a website tracking the island’s seismic activity shows more than 130 quakes of magnitude three or higher around aotearoa/new zealand in the past month. smaller tremors number in the hundreds.

a few miles from oi manawa earthquake memorial, another albatross roosts.

the canterbury islamic center sits on a broad suburban street directly across the city’s main park from the earthquake memorial. the cast iron entry gate to the al-noor mosque stands welcomingly wide open.

it’s been just over two years since 40 worshippers were mowed down in a hail of bullets during friday prayers. eleven others were slaughtered minutes later at another mosque nearby.

some of the worshippers murdered at the christchurch mosques

as in the earthquake, the victims had come to christchurch from many places: bangladesh, egypt, fiji, india, indonesia, iraq, jordan, malaysia, mauritius, new zealand, pakistan, palestine and turkey.

the only outward sign that this was the site of the country’s most heinous crime is a banner hung along the front fence, over a shelf filled with flowers and painted rocks. inside the gate stands a modest stone of remembrance, unveiled by prime minister jacinda ardern, who earned plaudits for rallying the country in its time of grief.

standing at the entrance, i am overcome at the enormity of the evil committed on that spot. the mosque seems encased in a bubble of calm drowning out the hustle-bustle of the city. cars appear to travel in slow motion as they pass. a stain touches the city’s collecive soul.

as i snap a final picture and turn to go, a woman walks by. as she passes, i manage a weak smile of acknowledgement.

“what are you smiling at? she snaps back.

time will heal christchurch’s wounds. but the “archangel wings” of that damn albatross cast a long shadow.

to paraphrase coleridge

“a sadder and a wiser man

i rose the morrow morn.”


land of the long white cloud

clouds hang along the mountains around glenorchy, where many scenes for the “lord of the rings” trilogy were filmed

say the name. aotearoa. [it’s pronounced aɔˈtɛaɾɔa. or “ow-TAY-rwa”]. it could soon be on the “a-list” of united nations member states.

ok. it’s new zealand. at least for now. but the indigenous name change movement seems to be gaining steam (or at least cloud vapor).

aotearoa means “land of the long white cloud” in the māori language of new zealand’s first settlers. it’s easy to see why they chose it. during a three week visit to aotearoa/new zealand, so many strips of cotton fluff lay draped along the landscape we began to wonder; are they real, or are they memorex (computer generated)?

we became suspicious when we met ian taylor, founder and c.e.o. of animation research limited, a pioneer in computer generated imagery (c.g.i). animation research is based in dunedin, one of the southernmost cities on the planet.

interestingly, dunedin is only a laser beam away from where those cumulus streams were draped around towering peaks, just as a party of dignitaries was touring new zealand’s south island. coincidence?

from humble beginnings, raised by his māori mother in a north island village, sir ian has risen to the heights of the c.g.i. industry. if you’ve watched the master’s golf tournament, formula one racing, major league baseball, test cricket and the like, you’ve seen virtual eye’s innovative storytelling technology, which is revolutionizing how people watch sports.

virtual eye’s graphic overlays add so much to the experience of real time televised sports there’s hardly any point battling masked crowds to watch in-person anymore. and it’s all done from dunedin, half a world away from most major sports venues.

so hanging a virtual cloud around the mountains of tolkien’s middle earth? don’t be surprised if one day sir ian and company are outed for projecting clouds against the mountains, just for giggles. they’re good.

looks like tolkien’s mt. doom?

after all, aotearoa is imagination central. one of its claims to fame is that it’s where tolkien’s “hobbit” and the “lord of the rings” trilogy came to life. we suspect one of sir ian’s band of c.g.i. wizards is named gandalf.

honestly though, we have no proof. it’s just a good conspiracy theory. a really good one.

taylor and company were at their proudest showcasing the virtual eye coverage of this year’s america’s cup yacht race. the race was on home turf (surf), and the kiwis successfully defended the “auld mug” they won in 2018. it was the fourth time they’ve won in the last eight races. three other times they’ve finished second. yacht-a yacht-a yacht-a, as seinfeld might say.

c.g.i depiction of the kiwis crossing the finish line to win the 2021 america’s cup

the roving ambassadorial entourage also had a taste of aotearoa’s other big sport, rugby, at dunedin’s forsyth-barr stadium, the scene of past and future world cup matches.

the all blacks, the kiwi national team, are a rugby legend. they’ve won three of the nine rugby world cup competitions. the south african ambassador dumped a little rain on the kiwi parade, however, noting that the springboks have also won three, and are the current cup holders.

the all blacks perform a haka before a match in the 2011 rugby world cup competition

unfortunately, the all blacks weren’t there to perform a traditonal māori welcome haka. (they did play fiji in dunedin in july, however.) but for kiwi youngsters steeped in rugby lore, forsyth-barr is a field of dreams.

speaking of young kiwis, we did receive a welcome haka from the youth of dunedin. not as ferocious as the all blacks, but a sign of the current revival of māori language and culture among aotearoa’s emerging generation.

click the pic for a taste

at every stop our welcome included māori language and customs. at one stop we were given cards allowing us to taste the words with our own tongues.

and at every stop, unfailingly, the greeting was the māori “kia ora”.

kia ora is the national greeting, not a small car

dunedin’s otago university is not only the oldest institution of higher learning in aotearoa, it’s the southernmost university in the world. during our visit there, a power point presentation by university administrators was done with māori language visuals and english subtitles.

dunedin’s public art gallery is currently featuring an exhibit that elevates māori and indigenous voices, titled “hurahia ana kā whetū – unveiling the stars”.

when it came to elevating voices and unveiling stars, dunedin’s mayor aaron hawkins took us to the art gallery for dinner. after the main course, three of the waiters revealed themselves as frauds. they weren’t waiters at all, but opera virtuosos in aprons, stars of dunedin’s opera otago, the longest-running opera company in aotearoa.

so after serving our supper, they sang for our supper; a performance worthy of la scala, except we were sitting on stage, and la scala ticket prices are a few octaves higher.

i had the presence of mind to video the grand finale, an audience participation number that brought down the house.

click on the pic to watch.

a rousing rendition of “that’s amore” brought the house to its feet.

if dunedin was the main course of our “magical diplomacy tour”, queenstown/glenorchy was a luscious dessert. en route to queenstown, the bus pulled into highlands motorsports park, a competition-tested 4.1 km racetrack boasting a few jewels.

pernille settled in behind the wheel of a radical sr3 race car. i was a bit nervous. spoiler alert: damages were minimal.

the park’s showpiece is a $2.3 million aston martin vulcan. no driving, though. it’s in an on-site museum, just for racing enthusiasts to drool over. an attendant is always on duty to wipe up after tourists.

there’s also an attendant standing by to clean up after visitors to the men’s room. it’s often needed at the “orange man” urinal, where people lining up to pay “respects” have to mind their pees in queues.

according to “peer reviews”, the big mouth is a fan favorite, though it’s easy to miss while snickering. if you do miss, urine good company. there’s a lot of miss-chief, (and not much privacy.)

next up, queenstown; and glenorchy, where the clouds go on forever and the mountains meet the fjords.

the “dip-pack” debussed at glenorchy (if you can deplane, you can debus) for an end-of-tour group photo in front of the old red boat shed, with the spectacular mountains in the background. (see left). a professional photographer stood by with a ladder to capture the moment, (see right). but we got nary a peek at the peaks. photo bombed by a cloud.

whaddaya think? a diabolical plot? the animation research folks, maybe? just asking. for a friend.

instead we assembled on the shore behind the shed, in front of a thin sliver of drab hillside sandwiched between a cardboard gray sky and a dishwater gray lake. the inverse of a long white cloud. very clever, sir ian.

the gang of 52

the faces in the photo are small, but the tallest fellow in the back row center with a tan coat and scarf is jonathan austin, acting chief of protocol for the kiwi ministry of foreign affairs and trade. he and his team of sally forrest, fiona fowler, penny mitropoulos, alistair ferris and martin waikara herded diplomatic cats with aplomb during four action packed days, but they couldn’t overcome the diabolical cloud conspiracy.

as our magical mystery tour bus rolled back down the winding road toward queenstown and flights home to wellington and canberra, the curtain over the mountain peaks began to lift. it was a tease, just enough to fuel a final frenzied, but futile cell phone photo op of the fantasy land where the orcs roamed in the lord of the rings trilogy.

pernille and i elected to stay on a couple more days in glenorchy to retrace our daughter’s steps trekking after her semester abroad at the university of auckland in 2018, and to search for the fabled canyon stream known as the “orc-chasm”. (it’s real; no faking!)

we rented a cabin a stone’s throw away from the glenorchy landing. that evening, the sky was crystal clear as pernille went out for a sunset stroll to survey the local bird life.

the next morning, we peeked out our front door to see the snow-capped peaks peeking through. a long white cloud was draped along the surface of lake whakatipu. of course.

lake whakatipu

oh, and the bird pernille had spotted the evening before? a peeking duck.

gabby, shown here, is actually not a duck; she’s an albatross. she’s the city icon of dunedin. more on her in the next installment.

we spent the day hiking the routeburn track, considered among the world’s premier scenic trails. even on an overcast winter day deep in the southern hemisphere, it’s easy to see why glenorchy is a magnet for backpackers, lord of the rings fans, māori history buffs, or anyone who can get there by hook or by crook.

a place this gorgeous has attracted big bucks and big names, some you’d instantly recognize. there’s a spa catering to international jet setters embarking on “wellness adventures” to “rejuvenate the human spirit”.

then there’s paul and debbi brainerd, and camp glenorchy. it’s not a scout hangout. it’s an “eco retreat”.

paul brainerd might not be a household name. but back in the 80s, as a computer programmer in seattle, washington, brainerd developed a little thing called “page maker”, which in combination with the apple macintosh computer launched the desktop publishing revolution. he is actually credited with coining the term “desktop publishing”.

brainerd was eventually bought out by adobe. with the leftover change, he switched careers to philanthropy.

paul and debbi founded camp glenorchy in 2018 as aotearoa’s first net positive energy visitor destination, generating more power than it uses. they keep asking “what if?” the answers are promising.

time magazine listed camp glenorchy among the world’s 100 greatest places of 2019, and one of 44 “must go” accommodation destinations.

in retrospect, we wonder whether paul brainerd the desktop publisher and ian taylor the c.g.i. innovator might be old friends. it could explain a lot.

a parting photo as we drove away

we’ll be back, land of the long white cloud, whatever you call yourself.

the challenge — it’s a wero

pernille gets a nose bump

no red carpet, but a red tongue, a red flag the morning after a blood moon, and the pointy end of a spear greet the new danish ambassador to new zealand

hongis all around!! it was a big day at government house in wellington. the travel ban is lifted! hallelujah! aussies and kiwis can visit each other again. and the traditional maori greeting, the “hongi”, or nose bump — discouraged for more than a year — is back.

a “hongi” or nose touching, is a sign of welcome.

and so it came to pass on may 27th, under a cloudless sky, the morning after a blood red moon and a total lunar eclipse, a trio of spear-carrying warriors danced across the lawn of government house to challenge a group of new arrivals.

it’s the beginning of a welcoming tradition known as “powhiri”, as explained at

The powhiri is the ritual ceremony of encounter.

Traditionally the process served to discover whether the visiting party were friend or foe, and so its origins lay partly in military necessity. As the ceremony progressed, and after friendly intent was established, it became a formal welcoming of guests (manuhiri) by the hosts (tangata whenua or home people).

at the appointed time, a band of maori men and women gathers in front of the flagpole (which by some coincidence is flying a red and white danish flag). they are accompanied by a band of soldiers; in fact, a military band, some armed with trombones and trumpets, one with a sword, others with actual guns.

the visiting party approaches, prompting three warriors to raise spears, advance on the newly-arrived party, and issue the ritual challenge, the “wero”.

acoss the vast expanse of lawn came three warriors, hesitantly

the warrior chieftain dances forward, making loud noises and gesticulating with his spear. he then lays a token (taki) on the lawn, while maintaining eye contact with the lead male of the visiting party.

the lead male (in this case, me) then approaches the warriors, all the time maintaining eye contact with the chief, and picks up the taki.

eyes must be focused on the maori warriors while retrieving the taki

a successful taki pickup seems to satisfy the warriors of our friendly intent, which prompts a warm greeting to the arriving ambassador (a hongi). she is escorted to a platform, (covered in red) from where the force commander invites her to inspect the troops.

pernille pretends not to notice lint on one of the soldiers’ lapels as she inspects the troops

good news! the troops pass inspection. we are all then invited inside, where pernille gives a brief (but brilliantly crafted) introductory speech, conveying personal greetings from denmark’s queen margrethe, and hailing the friendship between denmark and new zealand.

both, she points out, are nations composed of islands. each has two main islands and lots of smaller ones, though denmark also has a spit of land that is actually attached to a continent.

pernille then hands over her letter of accreditation to new zealand’s governor-general patsy reddy.

dame patsy responds with a welcome address, assuring her there was no harm intended by the warriors on the lawn, and reflecting on the similarities between new zealand and denmark. she notes the two nations are tied for #1 on the world anti-corruption index and both are in the top ten of the world’s friendliest countries.

with that, pernille is officially the danish envoy to new zealand.

there’s time for a group photo of dame patsy and ambassador pernille along with two gentlemen of sparse hirsute foliage (not much hair), and karen pullar, the danish consul in wellington.

the standard photo

the photo is followed by a quick round of handshakes and farewells, then we’re out the door into a waiting limousine to whisk us back to our hotel. total time elapsed: 15 minutes.

next is a short walk to a dockside restaurant for a celebratory glass of bubbly and lunch in the warm late autumn sunshine. time elapsed: two hours.

oh , and about that blood moon. just by a stroke of luck i had decided to go for a run at dusk along wellington’s waterfront the evening before the credentials ceremony, forgetting that a lunar spectacular, including a total eclipse, was on that evening.

as i reached the intersection leading to the harbor, an orange sphere hovered above the horizon. sunset? sunrise? ok, we’re in a new country, maybe they do things differently here. but surely not evening sunrise?

out along the bustling pier, pedestrian traffic almost came to a halt as people reached for their cell phones to catch the spectacle. it became an instant social media sensation. “pier reviewed”, even.

then something unexpected began to happen. as i ran along the waterfront, the moon’s relationship to the hills across the harbor kept changing, giving the illusion that the orange ball was rolling up the crest of the mountain, until it dropped below the horizon.

i stopped to take a picture as the moon rose for the second time, then continued my jog. but as the altitude of the crest went ever higher, the moon disappeared again.

by this time, darkness was descending over the city, and as i witnessed my third moonrise of the evening, the reflection shimmering across the water brought the harbor to life, as moon replaced sun as the dominant light source.

we faded to “pillow land” long before the lunar eclipse hours later. (eclipses don’t make great cell phone photos, anyway.) but the next day we woke to an internet full of pictures that made ours look wimpy by comparison. one in particular was the money shot below by AP photographer mark baker over sydney harbor.

 Photo by Mark Baker/AP/Shutterstock

but seeing three blood moonrises in one night? that’s “luna-see”.

it’s a warm welcome and sendoff as we set out for three weeks of exploring kiwiland.