Australia has a fairly well-deserved international reputation as a land of danger. After all, there are venomous snakes, red-back spiders, people-eating crocodiles, boxing kangaroos, stingers and sharks.
When we first arrived in NZ, I was rewarded with huge admiration from Miss 6’s friends when I fearlessly scrambled under a flight of stairs to retrieve a toy they’d dropped.
“But there are loads of spiders under there,” they said breathlessly. But who cared? It wasn’t as if there were funnelwebs, redbacks, or snakes to worry about! I would never have been so brave back home...
In the same way, Missy also received much praise when she calmly dealt with a cockroach that ran across a desk at school one day. The rest of her friends were screaming and running for cover, as she casually flicked it away from them.
“We get much bigger ones in Australia,” she explained.
And it’s true. Australia has a host of scary wildlife, and I breathe a sigh of relief whenever we're out walking that I don’t have to watch out for snakes any more!
But as the months fly by, New Zealand is sharing a few of her own scary secrets.
A few weeks ago, beaches on the North Shore were closed after five dogs died after licking rocks on the shoreline. Dead penguins and hundreds of fish also washed up on the beaches.
Tests have been done, and at this stage the experts believe the mass poisonings are due to tetrodotoxin, a poison found in puffer fish. The beaches are still off-limits while they work out exactly how the poison is getting there.
More recently, deadly porcupine fish have washed up on the Petone foreshore on the South Island. Again, the beach is now closed to kids and dogs, because the fish are toxic.
And in May, the deaths of hundreds of Ray's bream and snapper on a 60-kilometre stretch of Kapiti Coast beach were linked to wild seas pushing the fish from their normal depth.
And that’s not all. Lately, there seems to be an earthquake or avalanche every week somewhere in New Zealand. Though most of them are thankfully mild, there have sadly been some deaths, and some people have had to evacuate from the homes due to earthslips. Television ads frequently warn Kiwis to prepare emergency kits – non-perishable food, water, batteries, first aid kits etc – in the event of an earthquake or volcano eruption. We’re regularly reminded that a major disruption could occur at any time.
One of the kids’ favourite attractions at the Auckland Museum is a volcano eruption simulator. They squeal with delight as the earth shakes and moves, but to me, it’s just a little too lifelike!
Luckily, the worst disasters to engulf our family have probably been swine flu quarantine, and my busted hand. (By the way, thanks for the inquiries. It’s mending well, but I’m still having physio and have to wear a splint for a few hours a day. The physio involves dipping my hand into hot wax, which sounds weird, but feels gorgeous. The heat just seeps into the ligaments and bones, which makes them a bit stretchier when it comes to exercise them.)
Speaking of gorgeous, we've learned a little more about our kitty visitor - or "Catty" as H. calls her. She's a pet which was left behind, either accidentally or on purpose, when a family moved out (Hard to believe, isn't it?)
She's taken to following our complex manager around as he does his rounds, and divides the rest of her time between him, us, and a couple of other cat-loving families. She's been named Dora, after Dora the Explorer, because she is also exploring the complex and making friends. Whenever she is hungry, thirsty or needs company, she turns up on our doorstep and miaows to be let in!
Don't worry, if any of us move out, the manager and his family are happy to give Dora a permanent home.
Here she is, enjoying an afternoon snooze on H's bed...