Monthly Archives: May 2014

Saturday Antarctic excursion

Today, I wanted to surprise Kylie, so I took her on an impromptu date to the Antarctic.

Well, as close to the Antarctic as I’m likely to get – for the foreseeable future, anyways. Christchurch is actually only about 1,800km from one of the main Antarctic base camps – not all that far, really. We visited the International Antarctic Centre which, aside from providing tours and a range of activities, is actually the gateway for people venturing to the coldest, windiest, and driest continent in the world.

Kylie was quite a good sport about it; I sprung the fact that we were going on a date on her late Friday night, while we were waiting for a bus to take us to see Maleficent– which was very good, by the way – and that she wouldn’t be able to sleep in on her Saturday. Although I refused to tell her where we were going, she agreed, and we left for the bus stop around 10:10 Saturday morning.

She didn’t know where were going until we got off the bus and saw this:


We checked in at the main counter, and one of my fears was relieved; I had thought I’d have to plan out our order of activities, but that wasn’t the case. A nice lady at the counter gave us a little map and wrote times beside when we should go to specific activities. First up: a ride in a Hagglund.


The Hagglund is an amphibious Antarctic vehicle – and these were authentic ones. We boarded for the ride – but first we took a selfie.


The ride consisted of a trip around a unique course designed to recreate conditions of traversing the Antarctic tundra. Contrary to what you might believe, the ride wouldn’t be smooth; blowing winds spread dirt, gravel, and ice chunks over the surface, making it a bumpy ride, which we experienced. We also went up some steep inclines and plummeted down – the jostling had us gripping our handholds for dear life – and finally went through a small pond that was three metres deep. The Hagglund handled it with ease.


After our ride, we entered the Explorers’ Legacy room. It had lots of props, like a cabin, flags, penguins, and more, and also had changing lights and weather conditions, including a sunrise and “snow” (bubbles).


Showin' em who's boss

Showin’ em who’s boss


Next up, we went into the “snow and ice experience” – a room kept at -8 degrees Celsius, with snow and an ice slide and some cool props like an igloo and snowmobile. We put on authentic Antarctic coats, even though -8 is a warm spring day in Canada.

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Every half hour, an “Antarctic storm” would sweep through the room, gusting up to a terrifying 35kph and dropping the room’s temperature to -18.4 degrees Celsius with wind chill. This was a neat experience, as the lights went out and a voice crackled over a radio warning of an incoming storm. It reminded me of the day in April when I left home, except not quite as cold.

After we escaped from the Antarctic storm, we went to see a cool 4D movie about journeying to the Antarctic. The seats moved, we felt the cold spray of the ocean – and some seagull poop that hit us in the face – and saw some stunning cinematography.


After that neat little experience, we went to a gallery of Antarctic memorabilia, including rocks and fossils, equipment, food samples, and much more. There was a station where you could dress up in authentic gear again – we didn’t bother with the pants, gloves, boots, hats etc., but I tried on a jacket that looked a lot like a Western University official Canada Goose jacket.


Finally, we wandered into the Little Blue Penguin exhibit. These guys are the smallest species of penguin, and, as you’d expect, are adorable.


It’s actually quite a touching story – each of the penguins (there are about 12 I think) were rescued. They all have some sort of disability which would have made it highly unlikely that they survived in the wild, and were brought to the IAC to live their lives. One, named Marty, was born with her left leg paralyzed, and so swims in a peculiar fashion; she also has her own spot near the corner of their enclosure.


Another one is missing a leg, a few are blind in one eye, and one, named Toto, is 23 years old and has cataracts and Alzheimer’s. Only two per cent of penguins live to age 20 – most last six or seven years – so she’s truly remarkable. We stayed around for feeding time, and then visited the gift shop to pick up some swag. Kylie got some shirts and kindly purchased me a coffee travel mug.

All in all it was quite a fun day, with immersive experiences and a bit of education thrown in to boot. It almost makes me want to visit the Antarctic…although I’ll probably settle for just going home.

Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes




Categories: Adventure, Blog, Christchurch, Early Saturday, Holiday, New Zealand, Place to see in Christchurch, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Handling wood like a pro

Happy hump day all y’all! I’ve worked for a week at my job handling wood now, and I’ve come up with a list of imperative dos and don’ts you need to follow, should you ever find yourself surrounded by wood.

Size matters.


When it comes to wood, size is everything – so much so, in fact, that if a piece of wood is off by more than three millimetres, it has to be recut. There’s an age-old adage that says something like “measure twice, cut once” – I didn’t bother looking up the exact words – but that’s actually an understatement if anything; you really need to measure five times, cut once, then measure the wood you cut to make sure it’s right. Also continue to measure periodically, as the blocks tend to shift slightly, and 1mm is all it will take to ruin you. My saw partner and I spent two hours yesterday unstacking a pallet of cut wood to shave off five millimetres from the ends, because the kids who cut it weren’t careful. New saying: measure all the times, and then cut.

Handling wood can be messy.


I learned this extremely obvious one the hard way. On my first day on the job, I wore my other pair of jeans – for the record, I had two pairs: my black ones I wear every day, and some blue ones; I’ve since bought more – and they immediately went from nice jeans, to work jeans only. Little wood pellets, sawdust, dirt, and paint now adorn my formerly-classy jeans – and even a quick rinse in the washer won’t fix that now.

Wear the proper protection.

Well this is a classic one. When dealing with wood, it’s necessary to use protection for your safety, as well as the safety of those around you. The people in charge say that, when you’re cutting and stacking wood, you don’t need to wear safety glasses, just ear plugs. False. I can’t count the amount of times –okay it’s seven – where I’ve had to stop because a bit of dust leapt off the wood right into my eye. It doesn’t help that we have giant doors there, and the wind blows through them all day every day. I also went about ten minutes on my first day without gloves; that was dumb. So, so dumb.

Be gentle but firm with the wood.

If you’re getting the wood onto the belt in order to cut it, there’s a technique to it. You have to use physics and science and whatnot to swing it on. However, if you do this too violently, the long-ass wood will snap, which is really damn inconvenient. You have to roll the wood, coax the wood, but you can’t let it rule you. When stacking cut wood into piles, it’s okay to kick it into place, but not too hard. Your steel-toe boots can damage the poor thing.

Don’t try to handle too much wood by yourself.


The biggest wood I’ve had to handle thus far was planks of the stuff measuring 3.6 metres. That’s pretty long wood. Since the planks are relatively thin, handling one is no problem; however, if there are two or three stacked on each other, I need my partner’s help. It’s important not to try to take on more wood than you can handle, because it can cause things to get messy and slow down production. Remember: don’t be afraid to ask your partner for help handling large loads of wood.

Embrace the wood jokes.

As a worker in an all-male plant handling tons of wood, you have to be able to take the jokes that inevitably come despite you doing nothing at all to bring it upon yourself. Also, for some reason, the radio station on in the factory – side note, it’s called myFM…weird! – always plays Timber by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha (did I spell that right?), and when it comes on, it’s appropriate to do anything from smirking when she yells timber, to singing and dancing along with the song. As long as the boss isn’t around, anyways.

Follow along with my adventures with wood!

Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes



Categories: Adventure, Blog, Christchurch, List, New Zealand, Travel, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning to handle wood

Hello lovely people! Also, non-lovely people; I don’t discriminate.

Let me start off by saying in the last two days, I’ve seen and handled more wood than I’ve ever had to before.




Last weekend, I grew weary of living the dream – that is, I got bored with not having anything to do all day, plus my bank account was a little lower than I liked – so I applied to a bunch of jobs. I got an interview for two; the first was a temp agency, the second a courier position. I didn’t get the courier job because I surprisingly failed a New Zealand geography test. Fortunately, the temp agency interview consisted of watching some videos and filling out paperwork. I went in at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, and left at 11 a.m. with a job lined up for the following morning. I’ve been working there for the last two days, and the first day left me incapacitated and unable to write about it – it involves working at a pallet-building company from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. We’re not allowed phones on the floor, but here’s an approximate picture of what it looks like.


It’s not hard work – it consists of cutting, stacking, nailing, or painting wood. It surprisingly doesn’t get all that boring, and the time goes pretty quickly. The only problem is that to get there I have to walk 15 minutes, take a bus, and then walk another half-hour. But for 115 bucks a day I’ll put up with it.

It’s also a pretty good job because it’s basically a free gym membership; while the wood doesn’t weight much, repeated lifting, twisting and placing will have me in shape in no time. Not to mention the hour of walking every day.

In the meantime, a few other things are on the go; I applied to a travel-writing thing which I should hear back from soon – if I win, I get to go on a 10-day excursion through Europe and write about it. I’m also applying for an internship (paid! Suck on THAT Canada) for a popular radio station here, so we’ll see how that goes.

Now, I must be off; I am going to see X-Men: Days of Future Past now. I’ll let you know how it is!


Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes



Categories: Adventure, Blog, Christchurch, New Zealand, Travel, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Visiting Riccarton House & Bush

Sundays exists for the sole purpose of doing nothing. You can lie in bed all day, walk around in your pyjamas, and get piss all done. However, since most days have been like that for me recently, today I decided to get out and see more of Christchurch. Kylie and I went to explore a local art market at the Riccarton House. We took a nice, leisurely walk down there – it took us about 20 minutes – in beautiful autumn weather.


While it was smaller than I expected, it still had some pretty cool stalls.


A lot of the stuff there was handmade, and some of the stalls’ owners were spinning the wool as we watched. The results were pretty cool.



After we browsed for a bit, we noticed a path leading to the Riccarton Bush; this is a fenced off area with no predators allowed in, that contains some of the oldest, largest, and rarest trees in Canterbury.



There was quite big loop trail that went through the forest, and a bunch of different plant specimens to look at. Eventually I got hungry so we left, but not before Kylie got a picture with a big tree resembling the Deku Tree.


Definitely another place worth visiting in Christchurch; the arts market is only on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so plan accordingly. The Bush is open while the sun is up, though, so take your time and enjoy the scenery.

On another note, we also saw Godzilla the other night. Fan-freaking-tastic. It really takes me back to when I was about ten, watching the last version of Godzilla to come out. There isn’t much plot; some guy who looks like a mix between Frodo and Harry Potter is the son of Bryan Cranston and does a bunch of stuff then Godzilla shows up. I also found out that X-men: Days of Future Past comes out on the 22nd here, as opposed to the 23rd in Canada…so I’ll be sure to post a full, spoiler-filled post before you have the chance to see it.

Don’t miss it!

Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes




Categories: Adventure, Blog, Christchurch, Holiday, New Zealand, Place to see in Christchurch, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Places to see in Christchurch: Re:START

Hey all! I’ve decided to explore Christchurch and write about interesting aspects of it. This is my first post in a series called Places to see in Christchurch. Enjoy!


Christchurch, New Zealand, is still very much a city in the rebuilding phase. On February 22, 2011, New Zealand’s second-largest city was hit by a powerful earthquake that killed 185 people and caused an estimated $40 billion cost to insurers. Some economists said it may take between 50 and 100 years for New Zealand’s economy to completely recover.

However, the Kiwis didn’t sit around and complain; they got to work to make things better. One innovation that sprung into being a scant eight months after the disaster is called Re:START – affectionately referred to as the Container Mall.


It’s not only innovative, but beautiful as well. The services there range from coffee, to clothing, to books, to Lululemon apparel, to temporary banks – in fact, since it opened in October 2011, the number of stores has gone from 27 to over 50.




As you can tell from the photos, the stores are set up in shipping containers. While it isn’t uncommon to see all kinds of containers being used for a variety of purposes around Christchurch now, when it was proposed in 2011 it was a unique idea.





The significance of this idea was huge; having shops open and accessible was paramount  for bringing tourism back to the Christchurch Central Business District. While approximately 80 per cent of the CBD was demolished in the earthquake, Re:START is a not only proof that stores can be rebuilt in the city’s heart, but it was also a means to get retailers open much more quickly than they could have been otherwise.



The Container Mall has been operating successfully since 2011, bringing tourism and hope back to Christchurch’s city core. It has everything you’d expect at a regular mall, but has the added benefit of being outdoors. Due to its success, preparations were able to get underway to create a more permanent structure called Cashel Square; you can see them preparing the area here.


From what I understand, the containers that are moved will be used elsewhere for an equally important purpose. Re:START was made possible by an interest free loan of over $3 million, as well as sponsorships – and it was definitely a worthwhile investment.



If you’re in the area, I’d recommend taking the time to see this gem, situated in the middle of the CBD. The juxtaposition of the orderly container stores against the ruins of buildings and rubble will really make you pause, think, and appreciate the enormity of what happened, and applaud those who did something about it. They remember what happened…


Bridge of Remembrance


…but they don’t let it hold them back.



Yesterday is history, ’tis so far away. Yesterday is poetry, ’tis philosophy. Yesterday is mystery, where it is today. While we shrewdly speculate, flutter both away.


Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes





Categories: Adventure, Blog, Christchurch, Holiday, New Zealand, Place to see in Christchurch, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pictures of Queenstown trip

Hi all!

Not too much to update at this moment in time; I did the extra job on Monday and it was awesome, but that’s really all I can say about it. You know, vows of secrecy, blood-oaths, the whole deal. However, I have uploaded the full albums of our trip to Queenstown! I made them public, so anyone should be able to view them (you may have to be signed into Facebook, not sure). The links are below, enjoy! (Click on the album title, not the sample picture!)


The trip to Queenstown


Queenstown gondola and luge 


Milford Sound trip


Arrowtown Autumn Festival 


Bungy Jumping off the Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge 


Queenstown Gardens and waterfront 


Thanks, and enjoy!

Connect with me:

Twitter: @CamMParkes

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Categories: Adventure, Arrowtown, Blog, Holiday, Milford Sound, New Zealand, Queenstown, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our final day in Queenstown

Hi all! It’s been quite a few days since my last post – blame it on recovering from our Queenstown trip!

On our penultimate day there, if you recall, we went bungy jumping. Well, that kind of took all our energy, so on our last day, we took it nice and easy. We slept in until about ten, and then took the last morning shuttle into town for a nice Subway lunch. After that, we decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and head down to the waterfront.


It really is quite picturesque. I mean, in real life, too, not just in my photo. If you’ve been watching my Instagram feed (it’s on the right side over there) you’ll have seen a few photos relating to apparent sheep molestation jokes; this was all put to rest though, when I discovered proof that in New Zealand, sheep is man’s best friend.


Interesting. Well, sheep may be man’s best friend, but I know for a fact that Kylie’s best friend is whatever animal she happens to see. Today, it was ducks.


After about three hours of Kylie cooing at the ducks, we moved on, and found ourselves in the legendary Queenstown Gardens. It really was the perfect day for a nice several-kilometre hike around the water; I haven’t gone through all the photos, but here are a few nice ones from the gardens.

IMG_6700 IMG_6702

After you walk through the gardens, one of the paths you can take results in you emerging from the trees right along the waterfront. We walked along the pathway there for quite some time, and briefly considered stealing this boat.


In the end, though, we decided it was too much trouble to get wet and swim over to it, so we carried on. Eventually, we found a bench that Kylie sat down on and claimed for her own, forbidding anyone else from sharing it.


She sat there for a bit, and then we carried on. Right as we were approaching our starting point, we saw a cool sight, and something we’ll definitely have to do next time:


At last, we reached our starting point. By this time, it was almost five o’clock, so we headed back to the hotel to rest up. We decided to try dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, and weren’t surprised to find it mediocre, much like our accommodation. Oh well. After that, we packed, played some cards, and went to bed so we could be up for the long journey home.

The nine-hour bus ride is somewhat of a blur; I remember vague images of trying to sleep, getting off to go to the bathroom, and then repeating. Eventually we did arrive in Christchurch, though, and Susie picked us up, even though she was sick. Aw, what a nice Kiwi!

On Monday I get to be an extra in a commercial for some nice cash. After I see how that goes I may continue on with the company, and if I don’t, I’ll be starting the job hunt in earnest – I’ve already picked up a few freelancing jobs in my spare time, so things are good on that front.

And the best news – my IRD number arrived today, so I can officially work in Kiwi Land and not pay 30 per cent tax on it! Yay me!

Next post will be after the extra experience. Don’t miss it, or my photos!

Twitter: @CamMParkes

Instagram: cam_parkes



Categories: Adventure, Blog, Holiday, New Zealand, Queenstown, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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