Saturday, April 12, 2003

Saturday 12 April
Changi Airport, Singapore

just a quickie at the free airport internet terminal..
there is something very spooky about loads of people wearing face masks..
now to date there has not been a single case of SARS transmitted via aircraft airconditioning systems or airport lounges..
but hey if it makes people feel secure..
it's just wierd that's all..

and also strange is catching the end of the Man U Newcastle game on the airport sports area..
2-6 not looking good for the magpies..
all we need now is a good result from Blundell Park against Palace..
I've a feeling it's not going to be broadcast live to Singapore Airport, sadly, and mystifyingly..

I've left NZ time behind.. it's just about 2.00 am there.. and it's nearly three in the afternoon in the UK..
here, halfway back, it's near;ly 10pm
my body clock will be wrecked.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Friday 11 April
Aukland

probably the last post, as it were, from NZ - the flight home starts at midday tomorrow.. and I get back to LHR at 5.30 local time on Sunday morning.

By lunchtime on Sunday I'll be back in Nottingham, wondering why the cat doesn't recognise me.

these won't be the final reflections on NZ.. but the thoughts just now are terribly mixed.. I've had such a brilliantly fantastic time, as I almost always do on long bike rides... but this one is special as it turned much more into a holiday and relaxed break.

and now it is about to end.. and the weather is still in the late summer rather than autumnal mode.. mid 20 degrees again today.

so what early reflections shall I offer about the country and the kiwis..?

well the country is astonishing in its beauty.. the youthfulness of its geology and demographics are what makes it unique.. as I cycled through the steam of the thermal regions, or past the glacial valleys and morains, or through the earthquake torn regions, or across the volcanic landscapes, I really did get the feeling that the land is still not sure if it has settled down yet... there is still some landscaping to be done I reckon... and the smoothing out by erosion hasn't gone very far yet.. there are still a lot of edges and bumpy bits... pointy peaks and creased up craters..

and the people are still in the mix too...
Aukalnd is a huge magnet for many people.. and the distribution of the population makes little sense yet.. with 25% of the population in the south island, and 300,000 of them in ChristChurch, it doesn't leave a lot of people to spread around the rest of the South Island.. yet the people there call it the Mainland, in a raher peverse defiance.

and in the North Island, where Maori culture is much stronger, and Aukland gathers up 1 million people, and is the biggest polynesian city in the world.. and yet in places feels like a suburb of Seoul..

overall, I have a huge respect and admiration for the Kiwi outlook on life... generally in my experience, Kiwis smile a lot, they ask how's it going of total strangers a lot, they greet people and offer a kia ora readily and freely...
the simile is hiding the secrets of NZ - the scenery that they don't tell you about - the wine that they don't export to the UK supermarket shelves... they are keeping the best for themselves I reckon..

on the other hand, there is a self-consciousness about some kiwis... they recognise their limitations and it holds them back a bit.. better be careful how I put this - I don't want to sound stereotypical or make racial generalisations...
NZers are not going to set world politics alight... there isn't a lot of news emanating from NZ.. politics in NZ is a bit contrived and inconsequential... let me explain.. the PM, Helen gosh I can't remember her surname, had to apologise to the americans for a true but ill judged remark... the aftermath of this, and the debate about whether she should publish the full text of the letter she sent to Condaleezza has been the main topic of NZ political news for the past week.. one news bulletin found a way of dragging the item out to fifteen minutes.
but this is partly because there was no other news..

I go back to the fact that world events happen when New Zealand sleeps.

and then there is sport - there's always a rugby story to fill out the rest of the bulletin... the Blues second row forward grazed his knee in training yesterday... let's ask former test player Rough McTumble what impact this might have on the next round of the Super-twelve challenge cup?

but this sounds as if I'm belittling what is a great place to visit... and to belittle the friendship and hospitality I've encountered here..

If you'll still have me after those remarks, New Zealand, I'd like to come back... thanks, and kia ora...

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Thursday 10 April
Aukland
last night I enjoyed the privilege of one of those occasional pieces of theatre that change your perspective..
a youth theatre production by Theatre Marae - Whakapapa Tamaki
a moving beyond words piece about survival and recovery and thriving through their art and vigour and physical exhuberance for a group of 50 Maori young people who had suffered a series of abuses and misuse of adult power.

What moved me most was their freedom of movement, gesture, song and poetry.. they performed a haka that put the hairs at the back of your neck in vertical salute.

I'll reflect some more and get some better language to describe the power of the piece..
for now, it is worth saying that art cannot make good the abuse, but it has the power to go to the hurt place and clean the wound...
and the theatre of these young people did that and more.
Thursday 10 April
Aukland

and surely Mariners are now doomed following their defeat at home to a lack lustre Wolves...
running out of games chaps... come ON Grimsby..

here are a few more snaps of NZ




this one is where Captain Cook landed in December 1769 in the estuary of the river he called the Thames..

and this is the room at the Galsshouse where I stayed with Scott and Matt in Waiheke Island
nice eh?

and this is me at the thermal park, wearing a wry smile.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Wednesday 9 April
Aukland

serendipity has smiled on me again... I'm here in Aukland and at the same time there's a festival of arts for young people, with some UK artists and practitioners courtesy of the British Council..
I atended the opening ceremony on Monday - the Powhiri.. a powerful greeting and challenge and welcome delegates and bless the proceedings.

last week I was on the Coromandel Peninsula and did a long coastal walk from Fletchers Bay to Stoney Bay... here are some of the views along the way...







this last one is an area where old gold workings are being claimed back by the native bush..

and this one is a cow...



and soon the whole adventure comes to an end... hey ho
Wednesday 9 April
Aukland
after a fantastic few days on Waiheke Island

seeing Scott and Matt... in their fabulous dream palace the Glass House..
this is what it looks like


and this is the view at sunset


and here is Rachael on the Sunday we drove over to Piha.. se earlier entry..


I'll post these and check that they work... then if they do I'll load a couple more views..

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Sunday 6 April
Aukland
city of rain and mists and mellow fruitfulness...
it is autumn after all

it has rained all day.. but luckily I was in the car of dear friend and former colleague Rachel who took me out for a drive over to Piha.. a surfers' beach on the west coast of the Aukland isthmus..

we lunched in Ponsonby at the Atlas deli which more than a little reminded me of my reguklar staurday mornings, orming around Nottingham and reading the dstaurday morning papers over a long latte..

ther are more Austin 1100.. what is it with these old english cars.. RAchel told me she had an Austin Allegro.. now there's an admission... and I saw a Morris Minor buzzing around the streets of tCoromandel the other day.

Mariners slump to 23rd in the First Division table following a defeat at the hands of Leicester.. bah... even with a game in hand it doesn't look good... come on guys..

It has started to feel decidedly autumnal over here.. and I'm beginning to look forward to spring in the UK..
mind you while you now have the majority of the sun in your hemisphere, the temperature here is still in the 20s.. and close and humid with it.

discovered there's a British Council festival of arts for young people over here in Aukland this coming week.. so there's something else to catch up with.. the sunset has just blasted some pink off the boiling clouds.. could be a better day tomorrow.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Saturday 5 April
Aukland
city of sails

and rain
arrived here on the ferry this arvo - after a brill few days on the Coromnadel Peninsula..
add Lorokeets, kingfishers, bell birds and wild turkeys to the wildlife..

thanks to Jan Manager and colleagues at the Coromandel Info centre for suggesting where to go... Mrs Manager was especially helpful.

I'm meeting up with former colleague Rachel tomorrow.. in the rain.. and former colleague Scott on Waiheke Island on Monday.. but it's now definitely wind down mode now.. getting more photies sorted hopefully and posting stuff home in advance of the flight..
which all being well is next saturday.. as long as the health authorities let us fly in to Heathrow via Singapore.

cheers

Friday, April 04, 2003

Friday 4 April
Coromandel
been oin a long hike today across the top of the Peninsula.. fantastic clear day with views across the Sound to Waiheke Island and the Aukland Bay area..

and yesterday a day of exploring the area round here with a ride on the narrow guage railway up into the native bush.. replanted by the unique Barry Bricknell.

hey - they are showing 24 twice a week out here which should mean that we have caught up with the UK.. so just to check.. Jack is in trouble with Nina again?
he should never turn his back on her... and now it may be too late..
saw an old Austin A35 yesterday.. bright green, but chugging along.
and there was a Austin 1100 driving around - the car we had when I passed my test in 1967.. and which I used to knock Wilf Spence off his Vespa scooter...

you can tell that the end of the adventure is nigh.. the quality of news is decidedly dodgy..
more anon and from Aukland..

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Wednesday 2 April
Coromandel Town

This is probably the last hard day of cycling today... about 60 kms along the coast and over two terrific hill climbs to get into the Coromandel Peninsular.
Thames was named after the river that Captain Cook explored and landed further up river..

The ride along the coast was beautifiul and for the first time in an age there was a wind behind me.. I zzinged along for a couple of hours until I hit the hills... they took an hour each to get to the top of... and the gradients in NZ are much steeper than would be found in the UK or US..

I'm now bumping into lots of travellers I encountered before... met up with Crystal from Canada who went skydiving at the same time as me.. (did I mention that I tompoked myself out of a plane at 15,000 feet?)

no sign of the other members of the Lindon Puffin fan club though... they must be around here somewhere..

OK, a couple of days tramping around the north of the Coromandel, then the ferry over to Aukland on Saturdaay.. then Waiheke Island Mnday and Tuesday... I guess that's about it folks..
another update soon..

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Tuesday 1 April
Thanes

and I can say pinch punch first of the month before most of you have seen off March..

so here I am at the base of the Coromandel peninsular.. and this is likely to be the last section to ride before I start to think about heading towards Aukland and the flight home.. already the end of the great kiwi adventure is looming..
and what an adventure.. today I followed in the footsteps of Captain Cook and stood where he landed just up the river from here.. He named the river the Thames... but the local Maori tribes have claimed it back... the landing was fullu occupied by cormorants, looking for all the world like the souls of dead sailors.
shortly afterwards I was stung by a bee, which is slightly odd, I haven't been bee stung for over 30 years, and I wasn't sure how I'd react.. you hear such dreadful things these days,
nothing much happened.. I got the sting out, slapped on some anti-histamene cream and peddled on.. the neck has been a bit sore.. but nothing compared to the itching of the sandfly bites.

Thames is a pretty little town, established 1867 when the gold rush started... strange to think that gold rushes were happening all over the globe and not just to California... and just as my house in Nottingham was settling into its existance as home to the doctor of the local workhouse.

yesterday the rdie was through another goldfield, and the workings are still in the hill side, although the native bush is reclaiming at a staggering rate. The steel hawsers left in the hill side are almost indistinguishable from the tree roots that srround them.

The Coromandel is a jewel and I'm heading higher tomorrow.

not much other news - Grimsby appear not to have played lately.. no doubt due to the internationals that have taken up much of our interest.. er, Lichtenstein??
and news from home and of the war sounds dreadful.. how can they get away with this?

time to go and cook... I'm cooking lemonfish tonight (a kind of shark, apparently) in a tomato salsa... with fresh pineapple to follow.. the fiejoa I ate the other day tasted like a kiwi fruit with the texture of a pear... and very nice too.
Tuesday 1 April
Thanes

and I can say pinch punch first of the month before most of you have seen off March..

so here I am at the base of the Coromandel peninsular.. and this is likely to be the last section to ride before I start to think about heading towards Aukland and the flight home.. already the end of the great kiwi adventure is looming..
and what an adventure.. today I followed in the footsteps of Captain Cook and stood where he landed just up the river from here.. He named the river the Thames... but the local Maori tribes have claimed it back... the landing was fullu occupied by cormorants, looking for all the world like the souls of dead sailors.
shortly afterwards I was stung by a bee, which is slightly odd, I haven't been bee stung for over 30 years, and I wasn't sure how I'd react.. you hear such dreadful things these days,
nothing much happened.. I got the sting out, slapped on some anti-histamene cream and peddled on.. the neck has been a bit sore.. but nothing compared to the itching of the sandfly bites.

Thames is a pretty little town, established 1867 when the gold rush started... strange to think that gold rushes were happening all over the globe and not just to California... and just as my house in Nottingham was settling into its existance as home to the doctor of the local workhouse.

yesterday the rdie was through another goldfield, and the workings are still in the hill side, although the native bush is reclaiming at a staggering rate. The steel hawsers left in the hill side are almost indistinguishable from the tree roots that srround them.

The Coromandel is a jewel and I'm heading higher tomorrow.

not much other news - Grimsby appear not to have played lately.. no doubt due to the internationals that have taken up much of our interest.. er, Lichtenstein??
and news from home and of the war sounds dreadful.. how can they get away with this?

time to go and cook... I'm cooking lemonfish tonight (a kind of shark, apparently) in a tomato salsa... with fresh pineapple to follow.. the fiejoa I ate the other day tasted like a kiwi fruit with the texture of a pear... and very nice too.