July: to the Realm

Posted by Patrick Lam on Monday, August 2, 2021

Table Of Contents

Kia orana from a tropical island! I’m writing this from the Cook Islands, which have been self-governing since 1965, but belong to the Realm of New Zealand. They are the only other country I can currently go to and come back from. I was feeling a bit warm walking around today in the partly sunny and somewhat humid weather.

What to report for July? Just a normal non-teaching term month, really.

  • Helping two of my master’s students finish their theses.
  • A trip to Rotorua (Hobbiton mid-winter feast, and climbing).
  • A trip to Auckland and Great Barrier/Aotea Island.
  • Cook Islands trip, which started at the very end of the month.
Tarawera ascent; Hobbiton beekeeper; view from Mount Heale Hut on Aotea Track.

July posts

This one was pretty big, which partly explains the lack of other posts. Too many trips? Yes, and also heaps of picture processing.

I wrote up the resolution to the Arthur’s Pass mishap in June but only posted it in July. Couldn’t really post it out of order so I had to write up the rest of the trip before posting anything.

What’s going on in the world

Oops no trips to Australia for at least 8 weeks (probably longer!). At the Auckland International Terminal they made a boarding call for Sydney. The gate agent said that it didn’t look too popular (there is an outbreak there right now, after all). I guess I could actually go to Australia but not come back for the foreseeable future.

However, there was an announcement announcement (or was that an announcement announcement announcement?) about New Zealand’s borders on August 12. We’ll see how that goes.

New Zealand is still being lucky and smart with respect to COVID. How long will that continue for? We never know. But I’m impressed by how they do seem to be keeping up with the world news; now accepting that an 8-week vaccine spacing may be better.

NZ vaccine rollout: so far so good. People worry a bit and the opposition and media seem to be stoking fears, but the rollout continues to be ahead of schedule (2M doses to date, with total population 5M). It’s pretty clearly now the #1 best country to be in at the moment.

Actually, the Cook Islands is even better, with more than 100% of the anticipated eligible population having received a first dose (their anticipated count didn’t include temporary workers). We tourists, and under-16s, are the only people who can get COVID.

Punanga Nui Market in Rarotonga.

Taiwan has almost beaten its latest COVID wave, while Australia is struggling, and Vietnam is really struggling. Not enough vaccines and delta look like a terrible combination. Singapore looks to be having a wave comparable to Australia’s, maybe a bit smaller.

More than 100% of eligible Cook Islanders have received first doses.

Canada’s still doing OK for now although numbers are trending a bit up. Alberta’s stated relaxation of restrictions is bonkers at this stage in the pandemic. NZ modelling shows that vaccines are not sufficient at 80% of eligible fully-vaccinated: test-trace-isolate still required to control outbreaks. Alberta is not at 80%. Somehow I saw a Quebec delta prevalence of 5% which is strangely low. Waterloo now seems above average but not an extreme outlier compared with the rest of Ontario.


In other news, both Canada and New Zealand have or will have indigenous women as Governors-General: Mary Simon in Canada and Cindy Kiro in New Zealand. The Canadian choice, I hope, followed better process than the previous one.

The other July thing in Aotearoa is Matariki. It totally makes sense to have a mid-winter holiday in a temperate climate. Yuletide, anyone? Now we can see the days start to get longer. Still not sure about the heat. (Cook Islands definitely warmer though!) We went to the Ahi Ka festival at Wellington’s harbourfront and enjoyed the food trucks.


Speaking of weather, a fun fact I learned today: Australia ranges from 10°41’ S to 39°08' S, or 43°38’ S if you include Tasmania. New Zealand overlaps it, going from 34°24’ S to 47°17’ S. Montreal (45°N) and Toronto (43°N) are at comparable latitudes to Wellington (41°S). Auckland is significantly closer to the equator, at 36°S.

On the other hand, Rarotonga is at 21°S, which is within the latitude range of Australia (surprise!) but at the mirror latitude to Hanoi (21°N) and the Big Island of Hawai’i (19°N). In fact I’m just sitting on the mirror side of the equator from Hawai’i. That’s why it feels tropical and why the geckos are just hanging out here. But that’ll be for the August summary.


I finally finished the Routeburn track pictures!

Selected pics from the archives: meeting up with Jens on Conical Hill; Routeburn Falls; crested grebe in Queenstown; kakariki at Otorohangu Kiwi House; seal at Cape Palliser; Patuna Chasm Walk; Routeburn Lake Howden deconstruction infrastructure; crevasse jumping sheep at Turakirae Head; fighting kea (photo credit: Marie-Pascale Desjardins)

To do:

  • [December 2020] Dunedin climbing, Silverpeaks
  • [January] Hump Ridge Track
  • [February] Jumbo Circuit
  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • [April] Avalanche Peak, Mount Somers Track
  • [June] Rotorua (airport walk)
  • [July] Hobbiton
  • [July] Aotea

Close to wrapping up the big 2020 trips, plus a couple of one-day albums with lots of pictures that I haven’t listed above. Those one-day albums take up a surprising amount of disk space though: Willowbank wildlife reserve is 2.4G, Kapiti Island is 3.6G. I’d better get some of those off the hard drive soon.


Late breaking news: SCAM paper rejected. Probably the best thing to do is to target one of the testing conferences. Aside from that, just a bit of ECE 198 work (TA bidding, syllabus polish), and helping grad students finish. Hoping for an ICSE submission as well. I had predicted that July would be less intense for work than June, which is pretty accurate. Still pretty much tracking a full-time job. Worked 20 days, talked to students on 17 days, number of workdays is 21. One of the weekly chats-with-students was from the Rotorua Public Library.

Goals for August: OK this month I really will do the NSERC Alliance proposal. I did work on it in July. Also, ICSE submission (I hope); helping two students finish their master’s theses. I think that’s really quite enough for Dean Vacation Season.


Invited to join the PLDI 2022 program committee. Accepted. Finished some OOPSLA 2021 paper discussions. Gave advice about future sabbaticals in New Zealand. Attended a demo about examify.ca although that’s not relevant to my own teaching in the next while.


Rotorua redux, Auckland (Albany) and Aotea Island.

  • 🚶 Walking distance: 151km (thanks Aotea!)
  • 🚲 Biking distance: 40km (kinda rainy)
  • 🚗 Driving distance: 772km (lots around Rotorua/Tauranga)
  • 🚗 Taxi distance: 30km (bunch of airport trips)
  • 🚌 Bus distance: 174km (I included Tarawera’s shuttle)
  • 🛩 Plane distance: 5012km (WLG-ROT, TRG-WLG, PPQ-AKL, AKL-GBZ, GBZ-AKL, AKL-WLG, WLG-AKL, AKL-RAR)
  • 🚆 Train distance: 56km (Wellington to Paraparaumu)
  • 🚡 Cable car distance: 0.7km (1x)
  • 🏍 Scooter distance: 12km

New means of transport for this series: scooter (Cook Islands)!


  • Aotea/Great Barrier Island Track. Only ran into one other pair of hikers going the opposite direction to us. Did more hiking on the second day than intended, oops. Like with many hikes we changed this one at the last minute, this time to extend by a day. Aotea Track highly recommended. Not actually far from Auckland but feels that way. Rare birds (i.e. black petrel)! Kiwiriki track kind of makes you think you might encounter more birds but it’s just muddy slopes.
  • Mauao (Maunganui) Summit Walk: like Mount Royal I guess. 232m of elevation.
  • Kaharoa Kokako Track: maybe we heard kokako? Google Maps navigation got us there later than preferable.
  • Mount Tarawera: must be guided by Kaitiaki Adventures; extremely high reward-to-effort ratio; could also take a helicopter but I think that’s less rewarding.
  • Blue Spring—Te Waihou Walkway: pretty easy, scenic, between Tauranga and Rotorua. Seems to get all of the people out for a Sunday walk from Tauranga, busy.
Tarawera; Blue Springs; Kaharoa Kokako Track (no kokakos sighted); Tauranga from from Mount Maunganui; me on Hirakimata summit (Aotea Track).

Other sports

Tournament: Auckland Open. 1W 1L will get you a bronze medal in a pool of 6 here. The win took 10 seconds. The loss went almost the full time, got countered twice as time was running out and I was trying to attack more. Next stops: South Island and North Island Championships in September.

Missed a couple of judo practices when not in town, though arranged my trips mostly to not miss practice. We did extend the Aotea trip by a day at the last minute, since flexible flights are still a thing. Only made it to one weekend practice since I wasn’t in town much on weekends.

Did get to the climbing gym twice, climbing at Sheridan Hills twice, and Turakirae Head bouldering once.

Hebe @ Sheridan Hills (take more draws than you think you need); me at Turakirae Head (credit: Joshua Ma).

Travel planning

Since I’m only in New Zealand for a limited time, I planned some trips, and now I have what seems like a lot of trips outstanding:

  • Paparoa Great Walk (#8), August
  • Abel Tasman Great Walk (#9), September
  • South Island Championships in Christchurch, September

These are micro-trips: I think they’re just for a long weekend, maybe 4 days. There are a couple of outstanding tasks for these trips but the first two are mostly booked. Christchurch not so much. Abel Tasman is pretty logistically easy (depends on how much you want to pay Golden Bay Air), while Paparoa is a bit harder, and we’re going to tack on more of the West Coast as well.

Travel planning legit takes a lot of time. But maybe I’m too much of a control freak to outsource it. There are bespoke travel agencies like Up Next Destinations which would probably book the kinds of trips I like, but where’s the fun in that. It’s kind of the kind of thing I could see myself doing if I didn’t have this full-time gig already. But I’m also willing to put up with things that others aren’t.

Other updates

Free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for Canada Day while finishing up the SCAM submission. Took a 30 minute break just before 10pm to get there. In fact I had a pie, a Montreal-style bagel, and Ben & Jerry’s on July 1. All the ethnic foods… all I needed was poutine.

Also went to an exhibit, Ningyō, on Japanese dolls.


Got a couple of things:

  • a second generic 2TB external hard drive. I was getting somewhat worried that there was only one copy of the unprocessed pictures. Now there are two copies. After I process the pictures I upload them to my home computer in Waterloo, but I’d rather not do that too many times (it’s slow). Price matched the sale from PB Tech at J&B Hi-fi. (A post from 2020: what’s your backup strategy?).
  • I finally got packing cubes (also known as packing cells). I sort of had some before but now I have a bunch: some Osprey cubes which are super light but also opaque, and then last season’s Kathmandu cubes which were on clearance, slightly more heavy but with windows. At this stage of my current trip everything just goes in the bag, but it helps for a while.
  • We’re comparing an ecosa and a Winkl bed. Got the ecosa at a thrift shop. Verdict’s still out. Ecosa is firmer, Winkl is kind of like sleeping on a cloud, but a bit sinky.
  • Given that we had a new mattress, we also needed a bed frame, so we got one from Upper Hut via TradeMe. Good deal. Needed to rent a CityHop van to make that happen.
  • Got my knives sharpened at the Harbourside Market (first Sunday of every month).

I also helped kickstarter a LEGO kakapo kit. They’d reached their max number of units for NZ/Australia but were still willing to ship them to Canada, so I did that. I wonder when my blue judogi is going to arrive from Canada.

Gear maintenance: repaired (sewed) the case for my avalanche probe aka stick clip.



  • Trader Jack’s is pretty good in Rarotonga, and sometimes the only option too.
  • Vili’s Golden Wok: I enjoyed my dumplings, which were not actually xiaolongbao (no soup), but similar. MP had dan dan noodles. Like in New Zealand, she found them too sweet.
  • Tuakata Cafe: I think this was literally our only choice on a rainy Sunday (ok, August 1, but close enough) for lunch. Had my first young coconut drink. Also a fairly standard lamb curry.


  • Café Laz: I often have Turkish food while travelling in New Zealand. Iskender isn’t really iskender. But I’ll have lamb on fries. Here was better than most.


  • Ken Yakitori: Free cabbage! Sauce extra. Also, pretty similar to the yakitori place we wandered into in Tokyo once, except that I could understand what I was ordering.
  • Sal’s New York Pizza: It’s a chain. I went to a location in Albany. OK but not great. I had one slice of pizza (and some other food) the day before weigh-in and was pretty light.


  • Hobbiton mid-winter feast (link is to the evening banquet tour, which is similar but not identical): I mean, we didn’t go specifically for the feast, but it was highly competent too. Hobbiton is really well done as well.
  • THE BAKER in Tirau: has great Google reviews. As I recall, the eclair was first-class, the almond croissant decent. The pie was good too, although not as superlative as Patrick’s Pies. Also Tirau has a bunch of corrugated iron art.
  • Kebab and Pizza in Putururu: I said I went to a lot of Turkish restaurants, didn’t I? Good enough that we went there twice. Not as good as Café Laz. The lamb is good, I found the chicken not as tasty as it could be.
  • And Rice in Rotorua: I think I had the ramen? Again, good but not superlative. The Ramen Shop in Wellington can be superlative. Would go again. Curious to see how they do their onigiri. I used to have grocery store onigiri before judo practice in Switzerland.

I also made sausage gravy for bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie. About the same number of new restaurants as June actually.


  • Wild Journeys by Bruce Ansley. Retellings of some fairly epic NZ journeys. Author says he’s not that hardcore, and I guess it’s relative, but still pretty hardcore for an average person. Sailing around NZ’s extreme points does seem pretty hardcore. The writing is pretty lyrical in a Garrison Keilor of NZ way.
  • Kurdish Women’s Stories edited by Houzan Mahmoud. The title describes the contents pretty well. These are generally not happy stories, but the women are fighting on, just to live their lives. The world should not be this way.

The Wellington City Library email notification system broke. Maybe I shouldn’t rely on it? It’s worked so far. But I don’t seem to have accumulated any overdue fees (which they should abolish).

Social events

Pretty social. Only a bit of double-booking…

  • birthday party
  • judo social
  • get-together with people we met on the Routeburn
  • SPG social

More words

I did pictures not words last month. Backlog remains the same.


  • I seem to have successfully shifted everything to Kindred and only paid TD $5 in service fees for July for things I couldn’t switch in time. Was annoying. Could get hydro and water to autopay but they say they want blank cheques. Also, making sure I have enough NZ$ is a bit annoying, though easier than it was in early 2020 at one income and 85% salary (sabbatical pay).
  • Almost everything is closed at 8PM on a Sunday night at WLG. There’s also a Greek restaurant next to the airport that looks good if I ever get there when it’s open.
  • Went back and fixed some aspect ratios for pictures from 2020 posts. My webpage’s sliding gallery is easy to add pictures to but works really poorly when pictures are different heights: text jumps around, ick.


Typical month. Teaching is soon but it’s the light term (1, not 2, courses). Lots of domestic travel (plus one international-lite trip!)