Saturday, October 19, 2013

Out, South and Back!

Science in a Van are still recovering from our Term 3, 2013 Tour of (lots of) New Zealand. We had a fantastic time and would love to share some of the great stuff we got to see and do ... be prepared ... some are a little geeky ...

The tour all kicked of in Whakatane on Te Ika-a-Maui/North Island. The fantastic Janie from East Bay REAP organised our tour of this stunning region. Thanks to Janie we had the privilege of visiting some of the smallest schools we had ever seen. Alan in particular found it fascinating as he grew up in London - it was a bit hard for him to get his head around a school being made up of under 20 students! Didn't stop us from performing like we were in front of 200 kids lol. We even got to visit Raukokore School which was part of  the 2010 film BOY

We then headed over to Te Waipounam/South Island (stopping off for a good roast NZ lamb roast dinner at a good friends place in Wellington) then down to Nelson/Richmond area to visit schools there. 

Kaikoura turned out to be very interesting! This is where we experienced the Planet Earth and Beyond strand of the science curriculum for ourselves. Science in the Van felt the earthquakes that were based around the Seddon region. Didn't put Alan off his fishing though - he dragged up this sea creature ... do you know what it is?


Science In Van kept headed south and eventually reached Christchurch. We had so much fun at the the International Antarctic Centre - it's got it all from how to survive exploring Antarctic to meeting little blue Penguins. Some of the exhibits were factual and informative ranging from great displays to a room that explained the session at Scott base and there was some engaging hands-on stuff too - 4D films and chilling snow storm simulations.

Our favourite bit was definitely the Hagglund ride. First developed in 1974 by the Swish Army this vehicle has two connecting cabins capable of carrying 16 people, weighing 4,500kg. It has a huge amount of power which is useful - during the ten minute ride we were never on the flat - we were in the mud at strange angles and even became buoyant at one point! It obvious why they use these to explore the Antarctic.

Christchurch is definitely evolving as a city after the earthquakes and lots has happened since our last tour of this area in 2012. We loved the 'gap-fillers' that have emerged in the empty plots around town. 

Food is always good here. Alan tried the 2013 Gold Medal winning pie. A fabulous Bacon and Egg pie, at Kidds Cake and Bakery, which had a welcome dash of tomato sauce for a bit of moisture in the pie.

The Fairlie museum was a real box of delights. Alan expected a few displays and a collection of things from around the area - but there was so much more The Museum is on the site of a "smithy" run by Joseph Binney. 

Next door was the Mabel Binney's Colonial Cottage which seemed like it had been frozen in time. It had household items and farming equipment. Even the buildings the collection is stored in is part of the collection. The old railway station was moved to the museum and now is lovingly looked after and used to house the collection.

The main museum is full of wonders but across the road is the motor heritage pavilion is a whole other level. This vast building which is just another example of the amazing achievements of the volunteers. 

Alan, as usually, turned into a five year old and was totally in his element here. Pictured below is a beautiful old Ford. Legend has it that the owner gave this car to the museum in 2006. She was 100 years old that year and she planed to by a new car! 

The next one is a fine example of Kiwi ingenuity. It's owned by Tom Gallagher a farmer on the Ashwick Flats. He took a 1948-50 Bedford chassis and built the body around it. The body is made out of old army ammo boxes which he collected from surplus store. He started this project in 1966 and it took about a year to get finished. This museum is totally worth the five buck entry free and also has a great little cafe. 

Next up was Dunedin, so much history in this place and lots of hills. We often discuss how it's good to understand the science behind materials so you use the right material for the right job. The next image is of the St. Dominic's Priory built in 1877 by Francis Petre. These were some of the first building to be made by pouring concrete. Unfortunately these building have not stood the test of time. One of the main reasons was due to them having no reinforcement rod in the concrete. 

Emily's mum came down for a few day and we all caught up with Alan's magician mate - Jonathan Usher. Good guy to know ... he has a collection of pin ball machines! I know what you're thinking ... we were working hard too .... 

Invercargill was the next stop. Lots of great things in this cool city but Alan was most excited about the history surrounding Burt Munro. Burt Munro worked out of his shed in this area and spent 20 years working on a 1920 Indian motorcycle. Some of the conversions on the motor cycle were crude and a bit heavy handed. Even so, n the 26th October 1967 he rode his bike at the time trails on the salt flats at Bonneville USA and broke the under 1000cc world record (this record still stands). He was 68 when he set this record on a 47 year old motor cycle. Burt was a mad man genius and his spirit was wonderfully captured by Anthony Hopkins in the 2005 film The World's Fastest Indian . Also if you are in the area vist E Hayes & Sons were you can not only see some of Burt's original work but also many fine bikes set in one of the best hardware stores Alan has ever seen. Invercargill has a great history so the local museum is a must see. 

All of a sudden we were doing our last shows in Greymouth and Westport and we were on our way back to Auckland! Wow - we did some miles (well kilometres actually) ...

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