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A detour to Arrowtown and then Te Anau

It was just as well we enjoyed the sunny day at Queenstown. The clouds were already gathering as we drove away. Today would be a short drive to the village of Te Anau on the shores of the lake of the same name. But on the way we took a short detour to the restored village of Arrowtown and its beautiful museum.

On the way we crossed the Shotover River, home of one of the best-known jet boat adventures. It’s pretty, as well.

As mentioned earlier, this area was opened up by gold miners. Alluvial gold was found in the Arrow River in 1862 and the miners flocked in to make their fortune. As in Australia, hopefuls came from everywhere, and as in Australia the Chinese were not popular with the European miners. They were forced to set up their dwellings at the edges of town. Reading through some of the exhibits in the town’s museum, I got the idea that eventually a certain level of respect developed. But the Chinese were not entitled to New Zealand pensions. In fact, while much is said about Australia’s white Australia policy, New Zealand wasn’t much better. I found this article interesting.

A rainbow over Arrowtown

Chinese people in any case generally wanted to be buried at home with their ancestors and did their best to make arrangements to go home before they died, or have their bodies taken home. Dave told us about a ship taking home 500 deceased Chinese which sank in Hokianga in 1902. There’s a memorial in Arrowtown set up for the Chinese and it is visited – if only for a few minutes – by the many Chinese who visit New Zealand every year to pay their respects. [1]

You can read a bit more about Arrowtown’s colourful past here.

By the 1960’s the town’s population had dwindled to a few hundred. But since then, the town has resurrected its history. The old main street looks as it would have in the town’s hey day and you can visit a reconstruction of the Chinese settlement down by the river. It’s a short drive from bustling Queenstown, a nice break when people get sick of flinging themselves off bridges with rubber bands around their ankles.

George and I had a great time wandering around the museum. In fact, once or twice he was quite naughty. Then we took a stoll down the main street.

George chatting with some of the locals

We beat the rain out of Arrowtown but it followed us along the hills as we headed for Lake Te Anau. It’s possible to do a day trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown but it’s a helluva day. Breaking the journey at Te Anau was sensible. We got a chance to admire the beautiful scenery. Being Australian, all that green in the pastures along the range of hills was something different. Except maybe if you’re Tasmanian.

By the time we reached our hotel, the weather had set in. We couldn’t see the other side of the lake and although the township was a short stroll from the hotel, Pete and I, having actually crossed the road to the lakeside during a brief break in the drizzle, decided staying in our digs was prudent.

George looks over at the lake

Like most of our group, we had lunch at the hotel. After the disappointment of the seafood chowder in Queenstown I hesitated for a moment before I ordered. Folks, it was lip-smackingly delicious, thick and hearty and full of seafood, served with grilled bread. We had two nights at Te Anau and a LOT of people ordered the seafood chowder as an entree. I certainly did.

Our server at lunch was a young South African named Henk. He was here with his fiancée who we met at dinner and also at breakfast. They were due to go home next week for the off-season but then would return and apply for permanent residence in New Zealand. Good luck to them.

While at Te Anau we were offered the chance to visit the glow worm caves, an optional extra to the tour. You went across the lake in a boat, where you had to crouch twice to slip under a couple of low-hanging rocks to get into the cave. Then you travelled in a boat, in the dark, to see the glow worms. Dave made it clear it was cold, damp, and claustrophobic so nobody could pretend they hadn’t been prepared. I am a bit claustrophobic – getting stuck in a lift in London for a couple of hours a few years ago wasn’t exactly pleasant – but perversely, I’m not too bad in caves, so I was game. Until Dave said you had to sit bolt upright in those little boats as though you were having a school photo taken. The whole trip would take about two and a half hours. My back tapped me on the shoulder and told me to forget it. So I chickened out.

As it happened, the tour was cancelled. Apparently the water level in the cave had risen so much in the cave that the tour wasn’t possible. But hey – this is the internet. Come and join me.

We enjoyed another lovely dinner. Tomorrow we would be off to Milford Sound, where I would tick off another item on my bucket list.

 

A day in Queenstown

The lake from the road outside the hotel

Sunshine! We’d almost forgotten what it looked like. It glinted off the water, sparkled off the fresh snow on the mountain peaks, streaked the native grasses with golden highlights. I’d like to say it warmed the skin, but the air was still cool.

Queenstown from the peak

After breakfast we caught the local bus downtown and walked up the slope (slowly) to where a cable car took people up to the top of one of the peaks overlooking Queenstown. It was beautiful up there, cold and crisp with wonderful mountain and lake views. In keeping with Queenstown’s image as the adventure capital of New Zealand, you could take a bungee jump or a sky dive or go along to the luge track to hurtle down the hill on little carts with wheels (I imagine in Winter it’s more like the toboggans you see at the Winter Olympics). https://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/ We were grateful for our thick winter coats, bought for a visit to Europe in Oct/Nov a few years ago but barely used.

TSS Earnslaw sails away

Down below on the lake the TSS Earnslaw returned to its berth. We would be sailing on her this afternoon for our visit to Walter Peak Station, which was part of our tour. There’s a sort of submersible shark thing you can ride in and also those water jets that shoot you up in the air. But… it’s been a few years since I did my solo sky dive and the water looks a bit chilly for getting wet. We settled for admiring the view. We did think about the wildlife park near the cable car, but even at a reduced price, $88 for two was a bit steep to get a look at a kiwi (bird) and a few other animals for maybe an hour or two, so we mooched around the town and the wharf.

George on the Earnslaw

It’s a picturesque spot, nestled between the mountains and the lake. The last of the Autumn leaves added colour. The town’s very much orientated for younger, fitter visitors. There are many shops offering tours and adventures, and many, many of the staff are Asian – which indicates where most of their tourists come from these days. I noticed an article in a local paper which claimed there’s been a large drop in tourist numbers since the Christchurch massacre – especially from Australia. That surprised me. The idea of not going ahead with our holiday didn’t even occur to me.

Drinks on the Earnslaw weren’t exactly cheap

We filed onto the TSS Earnslaw promptly for a 4pm departure. The lovely old steamer was launched in 1912, the same year as the Titanic but obviously the ship hasn’t suffered the same fate. The wind had picked up and it was a bit choppy on the lake. The late afternoon sun lit up the mountains on the far aide of the lake and gave us a lovely, bright view of Walter Peak station’s homestead where we would be having a buffet barbecue dinner. It’s a high-country property running sheep and cattle. There’s a way in by road during the warmer months, but when the snows arrive it’s access by boat only. The beautifully restored homestead offers accommodation and farm stays as well as day trips. And why not? Tourism helps to keep the old steamer going and offers extra income.

The Colonel’s homestead

Like every dinner we had on the tour, it was delicious. The buffet offered seafood, soup, shellfish for entrée, then all manner of salads and vegetables to enjoy with barbecued fish, pork, venison, lamb, beef and/or chicken. After all that there was a wide selection of sweets, all served in small containers so you could mix ‘n match. Here’s some more info with food porn.

After dinner we made our way to a covered outdoor arena to watch a young man tell us about the property and show us how a sheep is shorn. The property runs merinos for wool and (I think) perendale for meat and he’d brought in a perendale ewe which had never been shorn before for this demonstration. Control of the beast, he explained, was vital. Sheep are prey animals and will run – after they’ve kicked you. He explained that while we might think it unkind to shear the sheep at such a cool time, shearing was vital to the sheep’s welfare. Dags and dirt collect in the wool around the animal’s belly and hind quarters in particular, so those parts are trimmed up regularly. Besides, they were well adapted to being shorn. This ewe’s skin would have doubled in thickness within 24 hours – and of course, the wool grows back.

All the while our host’s two-year-old short-haired border collie (cunningly disguised as an Australian kelpie) curled up beside him. He’d had to tie Kim up for now, otherwise she would have been out in the sheep paddock doing her thing. These dogs love to work. When he’d finished shearing, he sent Kim out to bring in the five sheep he had in the holding paddock. She shot off, a silent streak, and had them back in a couple of minutes. The real affection between the man and the dog was a joy to see.

Then, just to prove she’s versatile, she and her handler escorted us back to the Earnslaw for the trip back to Queenstown.

Tomorrow we’d be off to Lake Te Anau – on the doorstep of Milford Sound.

Gosh! We’re in for a heat wave!!

Today on one of the TV morning programs the young woman reading the news announced that after a brief respite, the continent would be returning to heat wave conditions. Adelaide would soar to 39 tomorrow and 41 later in the week. This was after a ‘scorching’ Christmas and New Year, with everyone urged to stay indoors in the hottest part of the day, drink lots of water, and look after the old and the very young.

What a load of bollocks.

Adelaide has a Mediterranean climate. That is, dry, hot summers and cool, wet winters. Temperatures of 39 and 41 are par for the course. Every. single. year. We call it Summer.

There were warnings of a heat wave up the Australian East Coast over the holiday period, with Brisbane expecting temps in the mid-thirties. Ooooh. Shock-horror. We’d be surprised if the summer temperatures in Brisbane weren’t in the mid-thirties.

I lived in Perth, which also has a Mediterranean climate, between 1955 and 1996. The day our migrant ship arrived in Fremantle in 1955 the temperature was 100°F – it was 14th April, well into Autumn. During Summer Perth routinely has a week and more with temperatures over 40C every day. As I recall, February was the hottest month when cyclones building up North would push hot, humid air down to the city. Heavy cloud formed a blanket preventing the heat from escaping. We’d pray for rain which rarely came, while the temperature stayed over 40. We didn’t have air conditioning at home and neither did schools. That was how it was. You shrugged and went about your business.

Basically, I believe the ‘news’ broadcasters are sensationalising normal events. I also have to wonder why these announcements of heat waves are always accompanied by images of people sun bathing at the beach? Sun bathing in temperatures of 35+ is NEVER a good idea and never was, yet the footage is never accompanied by suggestions that keeping covered up and in the shade might be wiser.

The other day I received an email via a friend of a friend of a friend about REAL heat waves. The content was pretty much what you’ll read on this The Higgins Storm Chasing Facebook page with a few bits highlighted and some changes to fonts to make it more dramatic. (I went looking for verification, you see.) This is a partial quote.

“The earliest temperature records we have show that Australia was a land of shocking heatwaves and droughts, except for when it was bitterly cold or raging in flood. In other words, nothing has changed, except possibly things might not be quite so hot now!

Silliggy (Lance Pidgeon) has been researching records from early explorers and from newspapers. What he’s uncovered is fascinating!   It’s as if history is being erased! For all that we hear about recent record-breaking climate extremes, records that are equally extreme, and sometimes even more so, are ignored.

In January 1896 a savage blast “like a furnace” stretched across Australia from east to west and lasted for weeks. The death toll reached 437 people in the eastern states. Newspaper reports showed that in Bourke the heat approached 120°F (48.9°C) on three days.

Links to documentary evidence (1)(2)(3) [Note – these links go to newspaper reports in the Australian Government’s public archives, Trove.] The maximum was at or above 102 degrees F (38.9°C) for 24 days straight!

Use the several links below to read the news reports at the time for yourself.

  1. By Tuesday Jan 14, people were reported falling dead in the streets.
  2. Unable to sleep, people in Brewarrina walked the streets at night for hours, thermometers recorded 109F at midnight.
  3. Overnight, the temperature did not fall below 103°F.
  4. On Jan 18 in Wilcannia, five deaths were recorded in one day, the hospitals were overcrowded and reports said that “more deaths are hourly expected”.
  5. By January 24, in Bourke, many businesses had shut down (almost everything bar the hotels).
  6. Panic stricken Australians were fleeing to the hills in climate refugee trains.

As reported at the time, the government felt the situation was so serious that to save lives and ease the suffering of its citizens they added cheaper train services.

What I found most interesting about this was the skill, dedication and length of meteorological data taken in the 1800’s. When our climate is “the most important moral challenge” why is it there is so little interest in our longest and oldest data? Who knew that one of the most meticulous and detailed temperature records in the world from the 1800’s comes from Adelaide, largely thanks to Sir Charles Todd. The West Terrace site in Adelaide was one of the best in the world at the time, and provides accurate historic temperatures from Australia’s first permanent weather bureau at Adelaide in 1856? Rainfall records even appear to go as far back as 1839.

Lance Pidgeon went delving into the National Archives and was surprised at what he found.

The Great Australian Heatwave of January 2013 didn’t push the mercury above 50C at any weather station in Australia, yet it’s been 50C (122F) and hotter in many inland towns across Australia over the past century.”

You can read more about Lance Pidgeon and the Adelaide meteorological station, at forgotten -historic hot temperatures recorded with detail and care in adelaide.

All of this brought to mind the recent claims that the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is fiddling with historical climate records. They’ve homogenised figures and glitches in their equipment have filtered out some of the lowest temperatures. Jo Nova is a climate change sceptic but it’s worth reading what she has to say about historical climate data. BOM scandal: “smart cards” filter out coldest temperatures. Full audit needed ASAP! By the way, it was Lance Pidgeon who noticed the Goulburn anomaly as the recorded minimum temperature changed from -10.4 to 10, then disappeared. [4]

I have to wonder, I really do, about when a normal summer became a shock-horror heat wave.

And just as a reminder – I don’t deny the world’s climate is changing. I just don’t believe we Humans did it, or that we can stop it. ‘Believe’ is the wrong word, since the reasons for climate change are supposed to be based on science. As far as I’m concerned the climate models are dodgy and based on insufficient and sometimes spurious data. There is sufficient scientifc evidence to suggest that climate change is dictated by large, slow factors, such as the sun’s cycles, the movement of tectonic plates and subsequent shift in ocean curents. We have to learn to adapt.

 

 

 

Just another lazy Sunday

The thing about being retired is which day of the week it is doesn’t matter much. In fact, you know those questions they ask old folks to see if they still have mental capacity? One of them is ‘what day of the week is it’? Just as well I have a computer because otherwise, quite often I wouldn’t know. The state of the shops and car parks is a bit of a give-away. Even with every-day trading, at around 1pm on Saturday afternoon, Hervey Bay shuts down. The roads empty – although there are still plenty of people in Bunnings or the Mall.

Sunday’s a bit the same.

Oh – and Wednesday is bin night, so we have to remember that one to put the bins out for collection. Still, if we forget we’ll know Thursday morning when we see the rows of bins outside everyone else’s house.

Butcher bird doing exercises

The animal life doesn’t give a damn what day of the week it is. This morning a butcher bird came to tell me he was waiting for breakfast. We give him small pieces of bacon rind. He eats the first piece, waits with the second piece in his beak, then I throw a handful out. He (and a couple of others) eat their fill then take the rest back to the nest.

Then the resident lorikeet couple  came to the veranda. The male comes up and virtually knocks on the door. “Where’s ours, missus?”

If it happens to be bath morning we get a hootin’ hollerin’ bunch of bathers in the bird bath. It’s very popular with everybody except the miner birds who still prefer the Big Blue swimming pool and the adrenalin rush of bathing in danger.

You might recall I mentioned a couple of weeks ago our mango trees were covered in fruit? Not anymore. Most of it has fallen off. Even so, there’s something out there that likes unripe, hard mangoes. The windfalls have been chewed by rats or possums, maybe both.

After another very dry month, a large storm system swept past last evening, slapping the Bay area with a sideswipe as it headed out to sea. After a bit of sound and fury it dropped 9mm of rain on our grateful garden. We’d like some more, of course. What else is new? But then, in Australia it’s boom or bust. In a month’s time we might be begging for some dry spells.

The beautiful city of Bordeaux

The city at night

The River Royale docked at Bordeaux in the evening so that we could be taken on a night tour of the city after dinner. We boarded open-topped buses and were driven around the city streets while our local guide pointed out the various attractions. I have to say it was just like driving around any other city by night. However, it’s obvious the people venture out at night. The city was packed at 10pm, and many people sitting outside restaurants and bars waved as we went by.

The main drag

We passed on the walking tour of Bordeaux next day. There’s only so much fun in ambling along behind a sign-carrying guide with twenty other people, even with the option of little tastings on the way. We did our own thing, starting at a walk along the esplanade next to the river, busy with joggers, skate boards, bicycles, and walkers. Then we wandered through this beautiful town along winding alleys into squares. It’s all very clean and very safe, as are the trams.

street art

The site of a famous well

It wasn’t all beer and skittles, though. We were standing in a packed tram when the driver slammed on the brakes. Since the vehicle was very crowded we all got squished but not too damaged – except for Pete, who sustained a bruise and a cut leg. It bled a bit, but he’ll live.

The wine museum at night

In the afternoon we visited the wine museum (Cite de vin) which looks a bit like London’s gherkin and is supposed to resemble a wine carafe. It’s a wonderful resource if you have the time and the interest. I confess we were more interested in the free glass of wine and the nice views from the top floor.

The beautiful cathedral

Joan of Arc

In our wanderings around the city we came across the cathedral and went inside. I would rank it up there as one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever been to.

All in all I’d give Bordeaux a big thumbs up. In fact the whole trip was interesting because of the excellent tours. We learned something every day.

From here, we’d be going back to Italy – and a whole new, very different adventure.

Appellations, Terroir and sauterne

Grape vines and Chateau Guiraud

Monday dawned hot and still. The temperature was forecast to reach 38+ (100F) and we were warned to take water with us on our journey to a chateau that made sauterne. Making wine is a delicate art and it has its own terminology. I tend to work on the basis that “I likes what I likes”, so don’t expect a detailed essay on how they make the stuff. Suffice to say they use different types of grapes which are aged in concrete and then in oak for a certain amount of time. Wines will also mature in the bottle but while it’s true that a very old bottle of grange hermitage or the like might be lovely, most wines are created to be consumed within a few years of being bottled – especially whites. Blending the various types of grapes together is the art of the vigneron. Me, I just like to drink the stuff.

The wine industry in Bordeaux is strictly controlled to ensure quality. Each vineyard (or chateau) is allowed to sell only so much wine, based on the size of the property. The vines cannot be irrigated and many vineyards have reverted to organic practices (ie no insecticides). The number of bottles of wine is also controlled. Wineries are issued with labels with individual numbers. We visited Chateau Guiraud, which is organic.

Flower gardens invited pollinators and they’ve even created insect hotels with nooks and crannies to encourage the discerning tenant.

Flowers and an insect hotel

The insect hotel – accommodation for a multitude of guests

The vineyard had a whole garden devoted to various varieties of tomatoes. I don’t recall how many – let’s call it ‘lots’.

Lots of tomatoes

To get an idea of how long this area has been settled and cultivated, this is a heritage listed Roman road.

In Australia if you want a wine in a restaurant you’d ask for the name of the grape or blend. Eg semillon sauvignon blanc, or shiraz cabernet sauvignon. In Bordeaux they’d look at you funny. You ask for a wine from an appellation. Rather than me paraphrasing what it’s all about, have a look at this page. From there, we heard about ‘terroir’ which is a combination of weather, soil, microclimate and the like as it pertains to an appellation. Get the real description of Terroir here.

Today we were going to be shown the process of making sauterne. I’d always thought of sauterne as a sticky, a dessert wine. But as we would discover with our tasting, it’s really not. Sauterne is made from Sémillon, Sauvignon blanc, and Muscadelle grapes that have been affected by Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. Our guide explained that while most vineyards fear fungal outbreaks, it is essential to make sauterne. The fungus sucks moisture from the grapes, increasing the intensity of the flavour. It’s a bit like making wine from raisins.

This area combines conditions that increase the likelihood of botrytis occurrence. The vineyards are in a triangle of land bordered by the Garonne River, its waters warmed by the sun, and the Ciron River, with cold waters shaded by overhanging trees. When the Ciron flows into the Garonne the mingling of the cold and warm water causes mists which are ideal for the fungus to form – which is a perfect example of ‘terroir’. Our guide explained that harvesting the grapes is labour-intensive. The pickers only take grapes which have been sufficiently affected by the botrytis. The vines will be picked over several times, so the pickers need to be knowledgeable and available. As a result, pickers usually come from surrounding villages. Each new picker is supervised for the first season to make sure they know what they’re doing.

Our heads full of information, we tasted two of the chateau’s wines – a young sauterne, and an older one so we could taste the difference age makes.

Wines for tasting

 

Chateau Cazeneuve

From here, we went on to Chateau Royal de Cazeneuve – what we would automatically think of as a chateau – a castle. Owned by the Dukes d’Albret since the 12th century, the chateau is still owned by the same family. During the 16th century it was the home of King Henri IV and his wife, Margot. Queen Margot was another high-born lady who enjoyed herself. Henri had many mistresses and Margot used to meet her lovers in a cave in the forest. What’s good for the gander and all that. Louis XIII and Louis XIV both stayed at the castle, as did Edward I of England. France’s death duties are crippling and having renovated the castle, the baron elected to use it to make a living by encouraging tour groups, and conducting events and lunches such as the one we enjoyed there.

The lunch menu – absolutely delicious

Lunch remnants with the remains of the sauterne

After lunch we were invited to tour the castle and grounds before setting off to rejoin our boat for the trip back to Bordeaux. We actually did some sailing, arriving just on sunset.

Lazy summer days

While my friends in the Northern hemisphere complain about the short grey days and the long cold nights, we in the South are either enjoying long summer days, or complaining about soaring temperatures. Many of us are also enjoying the summer holidays. For us, Christmas signals the beginning of the big break before work resumes around February. That includes the media and the TV stations. It’s the time of yet another re-run of shows like The Big Bang Theory, Thirty Minute Dinners with Jamie, or Nigella’s cooking show. Ho hum.

But Wait. There’s cricket. You can’t beat a few days on the couch watching an international test match, or a one-dayer, on TV. The boxing day test is a highlight of the sporting calendar. I recall one year, Pete and I both caught a flu while on holiday, so we holed up in a motel room and watched the boxing day test from bed.

While a lot of people think cricket is slow – and it can be – I think test cricket is an absorbing game of strategy and tactics. Played over five days, six hours a day, in any weather except rain, it can be physically and mentally draining. The one-day form (50 overs a side) is more exciting, but less challenging for the players, and the 20 overs a side version (T20) is called the Big Bash League for a reason.

I watched a one -day game yesterday, between England and Australia. Oz batted first and only managed 261 runs, which is pretty ordinary. Seemed the Poms were going to have our lot for dinner. As our batsmen and the fielding team trailed off for the lunch break, I remembered a famous one-day match played many years ago between Western Australia and Queensland.

It was in the 1976-77 season. My then-partner and I had been visiting family. They also enjoyed the cricket so we listened to the match on the radio. Because it was played in Perth, Perth viewers couldn’t watch the match on TV. (The idea was to get crowds to the ground, but at over 30,000 there already, it was pretty much at capacity.) WA was all out for 77 in 23 overs. (Back in those days an innings was 40 overs, with 8 balls per over. Today it’s 50 overs with 6 balls per over) Our team was going to be creamed. So my partner and I went home.

He turned the radio back on after the lunch break. I confess I wouldn’t have bothered. I’m not a masochist, and the Queensland team was undoubtedly going to win. After all, their line up included Greg Chappell, who became Australian captain, and Vivian Richards, who became West Indies captain. Both of them are amongst the top ranked batters in the history of the game.

But nobody had figured on D.K. Lillee, one of the greatest fast bowlers the game has ever produced, and then at the top of his considerable powers. In the rooms during lunch WA’s team captain, Rod Marsh (one of Australia’s legendary wicket keepers), tried to gee up the side – “There’s a big crowd here. Let’s not let them down. Let’s make them fight for it.” To which Lillee responded, “Make ’em fight for it be buggered. We’re going to beat these bastards.”

Dennis reckoned WA could win. He blasted Viv Richards with four bouncers in the first over. In those days batters didn’t wear helmets and those balls are whizzing through at 130km (about 80mph+). Then he bowled him with a good length ball. One down. David Ogilvie hit a couple of fours before he, too was given his marching orders. But now the Qld score was 2 for 23, and they only had to get 78. Should be a doddle. Next batter was Greg Chappell, who had made a century on debut on the WACA ground not so long ago.

Remember I said cricket is about tactics? Rod Marsh (wicket keeper, standing behind the batter) signaled to Dennis Lillee to bowl a bouncer down leg side, expecting that Chappell would try to hook the ball. Rod was moving into the expected trajectory of the ball before it was bowled. Chappell tried to glide it down to the boundary and watched it land safely in Rod’s gloves. Dennis had 3 wickets for 11 runs, and the rest of the WA players knew they were in with a chance.

The rest, as they say, is cricketing history. Queensland was bowled out for 62. It was only fitting that Our Dennis took the final wicket of the day.

The late seventies and eighties was a great time for watching cricket.  Reading through a list of the men who played that match was almost a who’s who of Australian cricket, not to mention the great Viv Richards who was spearhead of the all-conquering West Indies team for many years. Such a shame the Windies is now a spent force, although individuals do make their mark (and a lot more money) playing in the Big Bash and India’s T20 league.

But that was then. The match I was watching that jogged my memory ended up predictably with England easily defeating Australia. But we still won the Ashes in the test cricket series!

Here’s a little video about the Miracle Match which will give you some idea of what it was like. It’s just over 7 minutes long. Ah, the memories.

There’s a book based around that match, with biographies of all the players. Here’s the link on Australian Amazon.

Did somebody mention tennis? Summer, Australian open? Oh, that. Two people grunting at each other as a ball whizzes from one side of the court to the other. For me tennis is right up there with formula one, just below grass-growing as a spectator sport.

But to each their own.

Who you gonna call?

This is a tale of woe we want to share with you because it’s interesting – and it’s a great example of ‘buyer beware’. It’s technical, so read on at your own risk.

Like everyone else (almost) on the planet, we believed we had to have a third party anti-virus system on our computers. We’ve had a few over the years – Macafee, Norton, AVG. A few years ago we switched to Avast’s freebie, then I decided to upgrade to a paid plan because it countered risks like malware. We had the Premium package, and have run that for a couple of years. Last November, I splurged on the $80 secureline option which was supposed to secure my internet connection.

In the last few weeks, around Christmas time, Avast started coming up with error messages informing Pete, whose machine is connected to the router, that such and such network had been changed from private to public.  At first, we didn’t take much notice, but as it became more common, we paid attention. We didn’t even recognise some of the network names. We couldn’t find out anything much about the message, so we contacted what we thought was Avast’s Australian online support. This was conducted via a chat interface.

Peter explained the issue and asked if the network switching from private to public was something to worry about. Yes, was the answer. We were transferred to someone else, who put us in contact with technical support. The tech’s name was (apparently) Jones. He asked for permission to take over the machine so he could check the status of the firewall and settings. Since we were connected to Avast we granted permission, and the conversation proceeded. Here’s a transcript.

11:36 AM Connecting…

11:37 AM Connected. A support representative will be with you shortly.

11:37 AM Support session established with Jones.

11:37 AM Jones restarting application as Windows system service

11:37 AM Connecting…

11:37 AM Application running as Windows system service

11:37 AM Connected. A support representative will be with you shortly.

11:38 AM Support session established with Jones.

11:38 AM You have granted full permission to Jones. To revoke, click the red X on the toolbar or press Pause/Break on the keyboard.

11:38 AM Remote Control started by Jones.

11:39 AM Jones: Hi, May I have your full name and your email address please?

11:39 AM Customer: Gret Johanna van der Rol g[email protected]

11:39 AM Customer: Greta

11:40 AM Jones: Thank you, May I chck your fire wall settings?

11:40 AM Customer: Please do

11:41 AM Jones: Thank you, please dont move your mouse while I check

11:47 AM Jones: do you see those errors?

11:47 AM Customer: Yes, windows update failure

11:48 AM Jones: Most of the services were got effected. It seems already the security layer of your computer might have severely got effected  that may allow others to access your computer without any authorization anytime.

11:49 AM Jones: Did you download anything from internet recently?

11:49 AM Jones: From a non reliable resource

11:49 AM Customer: Free books from Instafreebie?

11:50 AM Jones: Okay, Let me check one more thing

11:50 AM Jones: Please wait

11:51 AM Jones: Do you see that, windows has stop defending itself

11:51 AM Jones: The defender is not working anymore

11:52 AM Customer: Yes. Can you turn it back on?

11:52 AM Jones: Sure, Even If I turn it on the onfection on your computer might turn it off soon

11:52 AM Jones: Let me show you something important

11:54 AM Jones: I hope you cane see the number of infections

11:55 AM Customer: Yes. What should I do?

11:55 AM Jones: We need to get rid of all these values fast, they could alter the functionality of software on your computer and may finally crash it. Eventually when the other programs are executed, even more programs may get “infected” with these self-replicating infected files.

11:56 AM Customer: Sure. How do we do that

11:56 AM Jones: Not to worry, We will do that for you. we found the exact locations to fix it. Today we will do a complete clean-up of your PC, fix your email issue, secure all the Pc and email ports, reconfigure all infected programming files, so that this issues is fixed and your computer would be safe without any data loss and computer crashes.

11:56 AM Customer: Excellent

11:57 AM Jones: Now for me to perform this task, we have few fix options for you. Let me give you a brief about the options. May I?

11:57 AM Customer: Yes please

11:58 AM Jones: 1. One time fix [Manual Clean-up + Today”s Fix] : $179.99

  1. Unlimited Tech support & Protection Plan for 1 Year : $299.99 (Includes today’s fix)
  2. Unlimited Tech support & Protection Plan for 2 Years : $399.99 (Includes today’s fix)
  3. Unlimited Tech support & Protection Plan for 3 Years : $499.99 (Includes today’s fix)

* The Unlimited plan also includes today’s fix.

* We will also install a calling card on your computer wherein you can reach our technicians automatically just by one click at any time.

Benefits of Unlimited Tech Plan : (Best value for money)

  1. Help to protect your privacy, data and online identity.
  2. Support for all kinds of Software related issues.
  3. Security against hackers programs, Viruses, spywares.
  4. Complete manual check-up periodically
  5. Cleanup of Registry & infected files.
  6. On Demand System Security Check.
  7. Fixing will be done in no time.
  8. We are just click away, no hold time to reach us.

I would suggest you to go for the long term as there are several issues on your PC and better value for your money.

12:00 PM Customer: Isn’t this what we’re paying Avast for, so this doesn’t happen?

12:00 PM Jones: the truth is no anti-virus is fool proof, so that’s the need of manual clean-up of any threats like Trojans, spywares at least once a month so that you can eliminate any threats immediately. This is where the human intervention is required.

12:01 PM Jones: Manual clean up is completly different from software clean up

12:03 PM Customer: I’ll do the option 1. Please make sure everything that should be turned on, is.

12:04 PM Jones: We will ensure that all the issues will be fixed

12:04 PM Jones: Shall I proceed with the one time fix

12:04 PM Customer: Yes please

12:06 PM Jones has sent a link: daskanini.com

12:08 PM Customer: Jonesy, we thought we were talking with Avast.  How did Log Me Rescuue get involved.

12:09 PM Jones: We do support for Avast products

12:09 PM Jones: Logmein rescue is the remote tool which is used to take the remote control

12:09 PM Jones: Thats a third party tool which everyone use

12:10 PM Customer: So who are you?

12:10 PM Jones: We are daskanini LLc

12:10 PM Jones: We support for Avast products

12:11 PM Customer: Well we’ll talk to Avast before we do anything.

12:11 PM Jones: Okay, I understand that, we gurantee 100 percent fix, if not you will get your money back

12:14 PM Customer: Send me your email address so we can get back to you, shortly.

12:18 PM Customer: You still there?

12:19 PM Customer: Email [email protected]

12:19 PM Customer: Thks

12:19 PM Customer has revoked all permissions.

12:19 PM Remote Control by Jones stopped.

12:20 PM You have denied full permission to Jones.

12:21 PM Jones has ended the session.

We started getting suspicious at the size of the fee, although we seemed to be trapped between a rock and a hard place. So we got an email address, and closed the call. Then we did some homework.

First , note this statement.

11:51 AM Jones: Do you see that, windows has stop defending itself

11:51 AM Jones: The defender is not working anymore

In fact, when a third-party product like Avast is installed, Windows Defender has to be turned off.

Next, here’s a screen shot of Event Viewer from my machine. This was what Jones was showing us when he says ‘do you see all those errors?’ (Remember, my machine was fine – we were working on Peter’s)

Note the error messages. Scary stuff, huh? Well, no, actually. Scammers use that technique to trick people into thinking there’s a problem.
https://www.howtogeek.com/123646/htg-explains-what-the-windows-event-viewer-is-and-how-you-can-use-it/

The next thing to do was make sure the system on Peter’s machine was clean of any malware. I followed the steps detailed in this PC World article. Make sure you download a malware program such as MalwareBytes before you reboot your machine in safe mode. We were not surprised to discover there was nothing wrong with the machine and made sure to get rid of logmein, the program the scammers used to take over the machine.

We were pretty incensed that the support person had put us through to a scammer, so we contacted the company via email. After some discussion, we learned that we had not been talking to Avast at all. If you google Avast support you’ll see a list of sites purporting to support Avast customers. A couple of them are Avast.antivirussupportaustralia.com and getavast.net/support. They’re all scammers. We should have gone to the Avast site (Avast.com/en-au/support.) There’s nothing Avast or any of the other companies hit by these people can do to stop the scammers. They buy a domain name that sounds right (antivirus support australia). That’s perfectly legal. If we’d looked more carefully at the site, we would have found a very badly written disclaimer in the footer, stating that the company had no affiliation with Avast. But we didn’t.

So, we’ve learned a lesson. However, at least we had the sense to back off and investigate.

Take care out there, people. There are unscrupulous people who want to take advantage of you.

*******************************************************************************

Oh, and by the way, I’ve good a new book out if you’re into SF romance. Not too much romance, lots of intrigue and planet-hopping.

When history professor Olivia Jhutta receives a distress call from her parents, she sets out into space with their business partner, her grandmother, and injured Confederacy Admiral Jak Prentiss to find them. But she’s not the only one interested in the Jhutta’s whereabouts. The Helicronians believe Olivia’s parents have found an ancient weapon which they can use to wage war on the Confederacy.

Jak goes on the trip to fill in time while he’s on enforced leave, helping Olivia follow cryptic clues in what he considers an interplanetary wild goose chase in search of a fairy story. But as the journey progresses and legend begins to merge with unsettling fact, Olivia and Jak must resolve their differences and work together if they are to survive. The two are poles apart… but it’s said opposites attract. If they can manage to stay alive.

Buy it now on Amazon  Google iBooks Nook Kobo  (I’ll add them as they go live)

 

Teaser Tuesday – Starheart #sfrg

Today I’m sharing a short excerpt from one of my favourite scenes in Starheart. Do please note the use of coarse language. It’s one of Jess’s characteristics, so if you object to the F-word, this book is probably not for you. In this scene Admiral Hudson has had Jess’s ship stopped. She has been brought to his office to be interviewed.

_____________________________

Starheart coverHudson hardly had time to make himself comfortable in his chair when his clerk said via his implant, “Captain Sondijk is here, Sir.”

He sat back in his seat, watching the door when she entered. Her grey ship suit was unzipped at the front and the scoop-necked white shirt she wore underneath revealed a tantalizing expanse of breast. The last time she’d been brought aboard she’d dressed for the occasion but this time she probably didn’t even realize. Her eyes blazed with fury as she barged into his office, flanked by a lieutenant and two troopers. No, intimidation didn’t work on Jess Sondijk.

“What in blazes is this about? Annoyed I stood you up?”

“Thank you, Lieutenant, you may go,” Hudson said.

He waited until the door closed behind the troopers. “I admit, I’m not accustomed to being stood up.”

She slammed both her palms on his desk and leaned toward him, affording him a lovely view of her cleavage. “You are not the fucking center of the universe.”

His gaze slid down to admire the swell of her breasts. Nice. Exquisite. Two delicious handfuls. His mouth watered. The prospect of a close and personal encounter with that body was enough to give a man a hard-on.

She pushed herself upright. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. Do you ever think about anything but your cock?”

He leaned back, grinning. “If you flaunt your assets, my dear, you can hardly blame me for looking.”

Scowling, she zipped up her suit.

“Very good. Now sit.” He pointed at the visitor’s chair beside her.

“Go to hell. You have no reason, no right to stop me and impound my ship. I’ve done nothing wrong and I’ve other things to do apart from some … some sort of verbal foreplay with you.” She folded her arms, staring down at him.

“You’re supposed to be having dinner with me at Aristides in a few hours’ time. Instead, you’ve careered off Nordheim as if all the demons in hell were after you. Where are you going and why?”

“None of your business.”

He held her gaze. “We can continue with this for as long as you like. But you will not be moving out of this office, let alone off this ship, unless you can give me a good reason.”

_________________________________

Buy the book at  Amazon B&N Kobo iBooks

About that Clean Reader app…

canstockphoto6077467Of course I’ve got an opinion about the censorship app. But today is my turn on Spacefreighters’ Lounge, so you’ll be able to see me up on the soapbox over there. https://spacefreighters.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/if-that.html

Come on over and say g’day.