Saturday, February 28, 2009


Bananas in the shops

So, what about all these bananas then?
They were first farmed over 7ooo years ago and are currently the world's largest fruit crop.
So we should be concerned, right?
Our grandparents would have eaten a variety called 'Gros Michel', a banana with a creamier, more intense flavour. Sadly, this variety of banana is now extinct.

Bananas at the market

We replaced the 'Gros Michel' variety, with the one you find in shops now, the 'Cavendish' banana. Named after the English Duke of Cavendish in 1837.
Since bananas are seedless, the fruit is basically grown by cloning; billions of genetiacally identical bananas - which explains why they are suseptible to the same disease. The 'Panama disease' that is destroying them!

Green bananas on the tree

Bunches of bananas are called 'hands' and the individuals are 'fingers'. The fruit stay green while they're on the tree and only ripen, go yellow, once they are picked.
When the farmer picks them, this causes the release of ethylene gas, which makes them ripen, change colour and change their sugar content from 1% to 80% !
If you want to ripen a banana quickly put it in a paper bag with a ripe apple. next day, ready!

Banana wall, ripening

Because space is at an optimum, they are often ripened in 'walls' before going on the shelves.
You can buy: banana bread, banana cake, banana beer, banana wine, banana yoghurt, banana custard,etc... even banana juice - which tastes strange!

Banana juice in boxes

The Hindus call bananas 'kalpatharu' and new husbands give it to their brides as a symbol of fertility. You can see why if you think about it!
India grows 20% of the world's bananas (17 million tons a year!) and India has 670 types of bananas. In the world there are over 1000 varieties of bananas - some wild bananas have teeth-shattering seeds.

Bananas ripening stages

The Victorians were so offended by the phallic shape of bananas, that they were sold peeled, sliced and wrapped in foil! The E.U. are currently trying to grow a straight banana - but for different reasons.
We can even buy a banana holder for children's lunchboxes and have programmes on the TV such as 'Bananas in Pyjamas'. There are banana boats, songs:'We have no Bananas', and pop groups, like Bananarama!

Banana holder for lunchboxes

In 1904 the banana split was invented by David Strickler, from Pennsylvania. It cost 10c and he even made specially shaped dishes to hold his creation, called a "boat". His rival tried to make a similar product, but left the bananas unpeeled, big mistake!
You need to look out for red bananas too! We had some in Fiji!

Banana split

And finally, thre is even a special spider which has a yellow body and lives in bunches of bananas - it's called the 'Banana Spider' and you wouldn't want it to bite you! It's the world's most venemous spider, so look carefully in those bunches when you pick them up!
Here's a photo of me with one, aren't they beautiful!
I wonder if our grandchildren will ever taste a banana?

Banana spider

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


There is an epedemic underway - in a matter of a decade it could wipe out this fruit that so many people rely on.
The banana!
By the way, the banana tree isn't a tree, it's the world's largest herb, and the fruit is actually a giant berry.
Anyway, it's under threat and the girls and I are worried!

The disease is called 'Panama disease' because that's where it was discovered, and it's a fungus which is transmitted through water and soil.
One species of banana is already extinct!
More to follow...

Monday, February 23, 2009


Sky Tower

Sky Tower stands at 328 metres,the Burj Tower in Dubai measures in at 818 metres! Buildings seem to be getting taller again! So, anyway, today we decided to venture into Auckland for an adventure!

Sky Deck

We made it up to the top level of Sky Tower ! The tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere!
To the very top!

Sky jumper!

It's called 'Sky Deck' and you have to go in a glass elevator to get there, glass door, glass floor...

Through a section of the glass floor

It's quite disorientating on the first level, the Observation Deck. Lots of silly tourists posing on the glass floors and people jumping off the top and stopping on the way down to wave at you!
Made my stomach feel funny watching.

View of One Tree Hill and Auckland City

A separate lift takes you even further up, to Sky deck, which revolves and has 360 degree views of Auckland - it was fabulous!

Don't the cars look small?

I can now add it to my list of Towers.. Eiffel Tower, Sky Tower, Kuala Lumpur Tower (that was 452 metres!), Tower of London, Leaning Tower of Pisa, St Mark's Tower - for someone who's scared of heights, it's not bad!

You could jump into the swimming pool!

View of Harbour bridge

View of Maritime Museum and Harbour

During the year of Sky Tower's construction - the driver of the crane, going up and down for that time, would have travelled the same distance as climbing Mt Everest 4.5 times!
It uses 51,600 watts of light power at night, to look pretty!

View from the Observation Deck

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Devenport Festival on the beach

It's an annual event which now costs over $200 for a family - so we weren't impressed with the entry fee.
The beach is closed off to the public and wine tastings are available inside, for a price, and foods of every kind are available - giant pans of paella, sushi, whole pig roasts. Music tends to be jazz and the place was packed!

For some peace and quiet we headed for the Main Street, which was lined with buskers and cafes - it was like an alternative party!
Then, up Mount Victoria for the views and photos - no yachts like last time.

View from Mt Victoria in Devenport

On Shelley walk, by the festival

Mt Victoria views over the harbour

Another gloriously sunny day and fun to be had!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The Mayor of Auckland in the Parade around the village!

I did a blog on Howick Historical Village in November - but we went back for their 'Living Day' today ..
there was a parade with pipes and drums and the Mayor of Auckland joined in and gave a rabble-rousing speech about Auckland!

Pipes and drums

Everyone was in fencible attire and the games were 'splat the rat' and 'toss the wool' ( be a tosser!), hit the coconut and hopscotch.

Outside the historical residence


We discovered what 'bodging' actually was originally - hasn't the meaning changed! Greg was very good at it!

Inside the church before the service

We even attended a service, but apparently I sang the hymns too loudly - never!

The vegetable garden, complete with scarecrow

The gypsy palm reader was quite scary - she seemed to know a bit too much!

Sophia playing 'splat the rat'

Raupo sign

The buildings were interesting - when you arrived as a new migrant you could build yourself one of these - a raupo - or live in a tent - for the first three years! Although, I expect that after that five month voyage sharing one bunk with your whole family, you'd think you were in the lap of luxury!

The actual raupo where you lived for the first three years!

Monday, February 16, 2009


Waiheke Island on the ferry this morning - sun shining and blue skies...
We headed for Onetangi Beach which is mum's favourite place at the moment.

Soft, white sand; hushed, quiet bay; lovely cafe with red umbrellas and delicious food..

She's eyeing up a flat here at the moment and I thought you might like some pictures of the view from the balcony and the beach..

View from the balcony

Rangitoto from the ferry

Girls posing on the ferry

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Spot the difference!
Went to Titirangi Market today, marzipan croissant and latte in the cafe and browzing the arts and crafts with mum - then came up to the roundabout!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Temperatures have reached the hottest in 137 years!

Humidity was at 100% last night!

A MetService weather station at Whenuapai Air Base has recorded the hottest temperature reading ever in Auckland.

Temperatures peaked at 32.4 degrees Celsius, equalling the previous high recorded in the Auckland Domain in February 1872.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Banner for the airport - and it's a BIG banner!

Mum arrived from Fiji yesterday - the plane was early - the banners were out!
Have been shoppping, beaching, cooking and gossiping since she arrived!
Found a lovely restaurant on the beach for dinner - the Windross Restaurant - will take overseas visitors, when they finally arrive!

Monday, February 9, 2009


Girls with Dragons

Sky Tower lit up red for New Year

It's an annual event, going to Albert Park to celebrate the new Chinese Year amidst hundreds of beautiful feature lanterns specially imported from China.

Beijing made out of paper lanterns

We browsed dozens of delicious food stalls and picnicked on the grass with candle-lit paper lanterns. There was non-stop free entertainment included the Nine Lion Puppet Theatre from Zhejiang.

There were craft stalls, martial arts demonstrations, a schools’ lantern making competition, fireworks, lion dances and most of all the whole park was lit up with hundreds of coloured lanterns.

Sky Tower was lit up red, to celebrate the Chinese New Year...

The detail on the lanterns was amazing

Sophia's favourite were the watermelon lanterns and Jessie liked the Lion Dancer.