The Talking Cockatoo
As you might know by now, I am a bird lover. Although I prefer them to live in the wild, I also feel attracted by birds in aviaries – and if only I stand there and express my regrets that they have to live behind bars…
It makes me sad when they climb up the meshfences. But as I am no militant bird escape aid and do not carry pliers to cut wires with me, I think they might enjoy me talking to them and stimulating their brains.
So Kimi the Bear and I spent quite a long time chatting to a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in the aviary of Timaru’s Botanic Gardens. Well, Kimi had a look, and Aussie – as I named the cockatoo – and I chatted. Kimi was already pleased that Aussie was not afraid of him, as this species at Wellington Zoo and the Ashburton Domain had been on earlier occasions. (See photos of evidence on Kimi’s pages.)
Aussie did not bother Kimi getting close to him and nearly poking his nose through the mesh but he was not really interested in him. He would not even have tried to bite the nosy bear. Instead he climbed up and down the mesh.
But he was mostly interested in me. While I was photographing some canaries taking a bath and shaking the water off their feathers, I suddenly heard a “Hello!” from the neighbour’s department, and that was Aussie who wanted to lure me the two or three steps back to himself.
Of course, I immediately did this, and with a big smile on my face I greeted back with a “Hello!”
Aussie rolled his tongue in his beak, and ruffled the feathers around the top of his beak, and gave me another “Hello!”
This went on about ten times, me and him repeating “Hello!” alternately.
I would have loved to know if he had learnt other words, so tried out some. For example: Aussie, Cockatoo, See you, How are you?, and: “Do you want biscuits?” – because this is what one of his cockatoo brothers at the Willowbank in Christchurch says ;-)
Aussie squeezed his ear against the mesh, as if he wanted to listen closely to my words, and be sure, he listened carefully, and said nothing when I got the wrong words, but gave me an immediate “Hello!” when I said: “Hello!”
After a while a young French couple arrived – they, another couple kissing on a bench in the Rose Garden, an old lady and me were the only visitors in the Botanic Gardens at the time – and had a look at the birds, and I gave them a wave and said: “Come here, this bird can talk.”
They were so very pleased and enjoyed me chatting with Aussie. They might have thought I was a bird whisperer, and I would have loved to leave them with this belief, but I really had to go. So I said they should try it with “Hello”, and so they did, and eventually Aussie would speak. I said good-bye to Aussie by saying “Hello!”, as he loved it, and left, happy that those French people gave the beautiful cockatoo some more minutes of entertainment.
Be sure, when I come back to Timaru I will visit and talk to you again and try some new words.
If you happen to visit the Botanic Gardens, say Hello to Aussie, and repeat it until he takes an interest in you. A little bit of patience is all you need.
Wam gear for Winter and Summer
Always pack wollen gear when travelling in winter, can get VERY cold. although warmer in the afternoons. Expect frosts in the winter mornings. In summer a swimsuit is a good thing to have, especailly with all the RIvers and Beachs avaible to swin at. A good pair of walking shoes would also be of use. you can walk almost everywhere in Timaru, there is also a lot of day tramps in the region
the yellow eyed blue Pinguin
when driving from Timaru towards Dunedin, you can't miss the wee Town of Oamaru, it's beautiful white Buildings and the Homeplace of Janet Frame, one of NZ best known Writers...if you like to know more, mail me or visit my Oamaru page
but most people come for the little yellow eyed blue Pinguin, I don't blame them, just so unique to NZ and so in danger. signs will greet you all over the place..so take care..especially when on the Road at nite...they're crossing!
What the Phark is this?
You might wonder what the phark is this? Even this word (phark) I write and you have never heard before.
No, no, this is not correct. You HAVE heard it before. You have only not read it this way.
Read it out loud – with a long a and neglecting the r - and you will know.
I assure you, I normally do not even use this word. Believe it or not. Better not. But I normally do not write it. You can believe this.
We are in Phar Lap town, as Timaru is the home of Australasia’s most famous racehorse ever.
Get into the details of this story in my Off the Beaten Path tip. You might not be from New Zealand or Australia and most probably have no idea who the phark this horse is.
You cannot really escape the Phar Lap pride in Timaru anymore, as they have commissioned a second huge sculpture of the horse and placed it near the entrance of the Racecourse at the northern end of the township. (I wanted to write “city” but when I discussed the city or town issue with a friend some young ladies walked past us and said: “This is not a city!!!” So be it. Timaru Town.)
The reason for this pharkin tip is classic Kiwi humour, as you find it in rural areas. I have not seen anything funnier in the whole country.
And it started like this: My friend has apple grower relatives near Timaru, and we visited together. It comes out, they live not far from the old sparkling white Phar Lap sculpture which stands outside the property in Seadown where he was born. I was rather proud of my knowledge about Phar Lap that I had studied for a newspaper story and my VT tip. But Peter said: “I bet you do not know everything about him.” I answered: “I sure know where his two sculptures are, and all the history.” Peter insisted: “But I will show you something you do not know.” And so we drove off in his 4WD.
Soon he stopped in the middle of the road (no traffic as we were more or less in the middle of nowhere between paddocks and orchards) and pointed to a farmgate where fresh eggs were advertised.
But he did not want to point out the eggs sign on the ground but the sign in the centre of the gate. It read: “Phar Cup”. Phar Cup? (And a yellow plastic cup beside it on a board.) Read out loud… Phar Cup!
We were still laughing when Peter stopped at the next gate. “Phar-Kit”, said the sign.
The next one was: “Pharkinoath”.
The next: “Phar-Coff”.
A huge sign beside it damned the guy who wants to quarry in the middle of this quiet rural landscape, with the words: “Phark-off Quarry”.
Finally someone signed the gate to his walnut plot with: “Pharkin Nuts”.
And then we finally arrived at the white Phar Lap sculpture I had visited before.
What a laugh!
I thought it was extraordinary that a whole, admittedly small community demonstrates such a unique and united sense of humour, blowing a fresh breeze into the soon one century old tale of the legendary racehouse, not taking themselves too seriously. I hope never ever a bureaucrat dares to think that those signs are inappropriate. Believe me, this country of free speech and relaxed attitudes also is a country of political correctness where some killjoys spoil everything. Let me thank those funny guys for those hilarious minutes, making us scream and laugh from joy.
We had driven this road (Seadown Road) before but I would never have given it a thought to look at the names on all those gates. Thank you, Peter, for revealing this masterpiece of local humour.
Best you follow the directions (and sign) to the Phar Lap Memorial from SH 1, north of Timaru. Seadown Road starts in Washdyke, north of Timaru. Turn right here if you come from Timaru. After about 5 km you will see the white horse sculpture on your right. Carry on SLOWLY straight ahead and look at the gates on your left and your right, and you will find all the Pharkin signs. If you are not interested just Phar-Coff ;-)))
If you come from the north, 5 km after the southern end of Temuka turn left into Beach Road. In Seadown (after about 2 km) turn right into Seadown Road and look out for the gates.
See all those pharkin signs in the travelogue about NZ's most hilarious road at the bottom of my Timaru intro page.
The new Phar Lap Memorial at the Raceway
On 25 and 26 November 2009 Timaru celebrated a Phar Lap Festival, honouring New Zealand’s (and Australia’s) most famous racehorse ever. The highlight was the unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue at Phar Lap Raceway north of the township.
The statue was created by Auckland based sculptor Joanne Sullivan-Gessler.
The life-sized bronze sculpture shows the horse in full gallop, ridden by jockey Jim Pike and demonstrating his famous 22-foot gallop stride. The horse gallops over a map of New Zealand with his front hoof placed squarely over Timaru, reminding the world once and forever that he was born and bred in South Canterbury (in 1926). The base of the statue is a water fountain which – so the words of the sculptor – brings the statue to life with the sound of water designed to emulate galloping hoof beats.
Phar Lap was considered a wonder horse that dominated Australia’s racing scene in the late 1920’s/early 1930’s with 36 wins from his last 41 starts. After winning North America’s richest race, the Agua Caliente Handicap in 1932, he died under suspicious circumstances just two weeks later.
A white statue of Phar Lap has been standing at the corner of the property where he was born for many years. This memorial is 5 km from SH 1. You find Phar Lap’s full story in my tip about the white sculpture in the rural suburb of Seadown I had written earlier. Lately I have posted a story about the road that leads to/from this more or less hidden memorial – it is a brilliant example of hilarious Kiwi humour.