Sunday, 12 January 2014

There and Back Again

Leaving Wellington, we decided we would lodge at the Foxton home of our Grandmother. It would have made more sense to stay at Rotorua, halfway across the island, but there was my Dad, whom lived in Levin, and was set to visit Nana at Foxton tomorrow. I hadn't seen him in about 10 years, and from the very beginning of this trip I knew that I would have to meet him again, one way or another, as if it was some obligation. It was hard to imagine at first, but having finally reunited with him, I was so  glad that I did. Yes, that below is a friggin' boat/convention centre behind us. We spent about four hours together before we had to go our separate ways again - Dad had work, and we had to make our way back home. With few stops along the way except for Tongariro, we made haste back to Auckland - back to work; worries and Wairau Road. This trip hadn't taken up much of my life - only a few days, but I came back feeling enriched, having got in touch with my family, my roots, and the countryside. I had reunited with relatives for the first time in years and even decades - Auntie Rose; Cousin Ben; Grandma Joan; Grandad Graham, and met some I never knew I had - My Grandad; Cousins Timmy and Laura and Aunt Suzanne.

But this is a travel blog, and that is the main point - to most people this was nothing more than an ordinary 5 day road trip, filled with nature; beer; beaches; beer; fish and chips; beer and more beer, but for a recovering hermit like myself, it was enough to give me a hunger for travel - and got me thinking of the future. If this cross country trip was enough to touch my imagination and wonder, what did I have in store for that trip to Asia my auntie promised me in 5 months time? I had 5 months to prepare for a whole new journey

'Health & Wellbeing'

Voyaging the Elements

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Days In Wellington

Waking up in Levin after another excellent sleep, we had a breakfast of bacon and eggs, then enjoyed a long drive for Wellington. It was exciting to see the capital, but the buzz of the sheer imagination of great cities like Beijing and Seoul overwhelmed the pretty image of Wellington, as it appeared around the corner we drove. It was a sparkling seaside cityscape just like Auckland, but so much more humble - more quaint and traditionally New Zealand - it felt modern without losing its Kiwi aura - quirky and lush. I'd definitely recommend a tour of the Beehive and Parliament, but make sure you bring shoes - unlike Antony, who had to quickly rush out to the nearest footwear outlet to buy a pair. It is ironic that a Marae requires you remove all footwear, whilst the Government buildings demand the opposite.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Rancid Rotorua to Manawatu

We weren't going to proud ourselves on a trip from Auckland to Wellington in 6 hours, because we would have preferred the enjoy the scenery while we could. We decided we would spend the night at the Rotorua home of our Auntie Rose, and so we took State Highway 5 into Rotorua, the Westernmost district of the Bay of Plenty region.

Arriving in Rotorua, my Auntie Rose welcomed me into her home, the traditional quarter-acre section. It could have been awkward meeting a relative again for the first time in so long, but it wasn't. Were people outside of Auckland naturally more welcoming, or is it just my anti-Auckland perceptions and confirmation bias? We went out to have fish and chips and met many of the locals. Regional life is all about the community, and it shows. It was amazing enough to see Rose for the first time in so long, let alone meeting the five year old cousin I didn't know I had - Timmy. I wasn't even aware of this cousins' existence prior to entering the door, and half an hour in, I'm playing lightsabers and pistols. I hadn't had much experience with children, and was delighted to discover how fun it could be - until the first half hour passed and I slumped into the chair, ready to pass out. It was hard to explain to my energetic, playful cousin that I needed to 'get off my feet' and 'take it easy' - the concepts don't seem to exist to most 5 year olds. Actually. After a brilliant night's sleep - probably due to the lack of Auckland, we were set to hit the road immediately after breakfast. Mum, Antony and I would make our way by the Honda Civic. Auntie Rose and Timmy would be traveling down to Levin to see family members. Arriving in Levin, I had a funky time with all sorts of relatives, and perhaps the most significant was Auntie Suzanne, teacher and veteran globetrotter, whom will be mentioned on many future occasions in this blog. She told me she was getting a new job and Korea, and would like my brother Antony and I to come see her. She proposed that we travel across China and Japan, see the pandas, climb the Great Wall, visit the DMZ and Hiroshima amongst other things. The prospect seemed overwhelming, and the amount of planning involved seemed incomprehensible. But all the traveling so far had given me a taste for more, and I was determined to see that it happen.

Through Manawatu-Wanganui, the final sight of green grass before Desert Road

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Coming Down For Air - Waikato

I had woken up about about 5 o'clock - probably the first time since the road trips as a child I used to take, what, 10 years ago? I had not seen Dad since then, nor much of my family down south since then. To be perfectly honest, I had barely left Auckland since then. I wasn't accustomed to waking up this early, but it was enough that I look forward to the sun rising upon Rural New Zealand. We were leaving from Glenfield, North Shore, Auckland. This home of ours, where we moved to at the start of 2013, was bought by our grandparents. It wasn't quite Torbay, where I had grown up, as the silence of night had been replaced by applied exhausts and police sirens. We were heading to Wellington, the capital city I had never seen before. What memories did I have beyond Auckland? Besides a few road trips to Foxton or Northland to see grandparents. We weren't going out with the exact intention of seeing relatives - we were interested in seeing an exhibition at Te Papa museum, although I knew somehow I'd end up seeing Dad, somewhere along the way. I find that the journey is the greater reward than the destination, and I never think too much about where I'm going. If anything, I am always a little saddened to reach the end of any journey. I don't think about it too much, instead resigning myself to enjoy the scenery and take photographs where I can. I wasn't thinking about where I would stay or what I would do, and I certainly didn't predict that the exhibition would be very average, but the experience of meeting family members I hadn't seen in 10 years or more, or those I had never met at all, would make this trip to Wellington so memorable.

Into the Stratosphere