Friday, April 16, 2010

On the road... (yes again)

There's a thousand stories I'd love to write and so many tales I'd tell if I had a moment or two to spare!

(I certainly do not have two moments... not even one. but I'm sneeking this post in between moments.... I’ve got to leave something here on this blog even if it’s jumbled and messy.)

The first great thing I’d talk about if I had time would be that I’ve finally made it back to New Zealand for the first time since I visited there and vowed to stay about 13 years ago. It was always my intention to move back there to but of course life has a way of delivering fate in unexpected ways.As it turned out for me I have spent all those years living in the Northern Territory of Australia.

13 years later I finally managed to return but this time with a wife and kids… I was really hoping that everyone would like it there as much as me. They did! For some reason I feel a very strong pull toward NZ as a potential home. There are plenty of reasons why it appeals to me, here are just a few:

Fresh air, Fresh fish, Fresh fruit and vegetables, Fresh water, Less people, Nuclear Free!, Treaty of Waitangi, Great bush walking, Sea Kayaking, Reasonable rainfall, It’s cooler than Darwin, good soil for growing food, Cycling… / Marked Bicycle Lanes on roads…

(Wood Carving @ Ship's Cove)

(Sheep... Of course)

We only had a week there and spent it touring around the Top of the South Island. First stop was Hanmer Where we spent a whole afternoon just lounging about in the hot pools. Next we wound our way up to Kaikura, where the views of the mountains are spectacular, the coastline craggy and we saw our first seals for the trip. The road north of Kaikura was narrow but smooth and criss crossed the railway line between steep hills and the rugged east coast. There were small caravans selling fresh crayfish all the way along. There was very little native vegetation until Picton (my wife’s favorite spot). From Picton we took the Mail boat out on a tour of the Marlborough Sound… This was a most awesome tour! Both Captain/Guides were really great giving us a very informative commentary and revealing their love for this very special place. On the cruise we visited an Island full of rare native birds… (quite unafraid of humans), saw penguins, Bottle-nosed dolphins and Blue Cod.

Bottle-nosed Dolphin

Little Blue Penguins
(Little Blue Penguins)

I finally made it back to Nelson a place that I fell in love when I first visited. It had changed a fair bit in 13 years but I still found it quite special, actually having a little more time to look around I found it even better than I remember it. They have bike lanes all over the place, the beach is really nice, the children’s playground was just like the ones we had when I was a kid and there was a real sense of easy living.

Bike lane Nelson NZ
(Bike lanes in Nelson)
From there we headed out to Greymouth and stopped at heaps of great spots along the way. Finally returning to Christchurch in time to catch the tourist trams around the town, visit the Arts Centre and Museum before riding the Gondola to the top of the hills behind the city!

For one day between landing in Melbourne and heading out to NZ we stayed with family and I visited some of those old places from my past I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been absorbed with thoughts about my youth (again) and wondering about places, things, people and everything else that occupies the space where and when I spent my youth. I wandered around my parents garden and was impressed with the water tanks they’d installed and the amazing amount of fruit their citrus trees were producing in a tiny sliver of soil only a foot and a half wide between a paved path at the side of their house and their neighbors fence.

(Citrus Trees at my folks place)

water tank
(Wize water use)

I took a ride down to Wastonia and visited an old apple tree that is still surviving quite nicely between the main road and the railway line. I noticed that a really old Pampas Grass that had some how taken root in the steel fence of a railway bridge had managed to survive at least 20 years of rough treatment and I wandered down Wattle Drive which is an old street that has never been paved in all the time that the suburbs of Watsonia and McLeod have been developed. As I rode along the old streets I spied out all the old fruit trees that had been planted 40 years ago and were still holding on quite nicely. There were pears, apples and plum trees in many of the yards. A particularly old part of the Neighborhood had several fig trees, which must have been popular when the suburb was first established and the trees have endured along with their now elderly gardeners.

Apple Tree (Residual resillient plant)
(Apple tree surviving against the odds)

Pampas Grass, against all odds
(Pampas Grass holding on)
The times are changing and gradually the old people are moving on or dying. I’ve been told that it is becoming a real-estate hotspot and younger people are starting to move in, properties are being subdivided and one by one the old fruit trees are being removed. It’s a little bit sad really but who knows maybe in another 20 years I’ll be able to go back and find one or two of those old fig trees standing in a forgotten corner.

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