Spills, thrills and the allure of the familiar

Our campervan travels on North Island have come to an end after five weeks on the road and we’re back in Auckland for a week’s R&R before flying down to Christchurch on South Island for Christmas.  

Christmas! Never have we felt less Christmassy with temperatures in the high 20’s. We keep getting surprised by seeing images of Santa and Christmas trees in the shops while at the same time everyone is buying-up picnic gear and heading off to the beach. It seems so incongruous, especially when we have been regaled with stories of deep snow back home. I have concluded too that tinsel doesn’t work properly in full sunlight. 

Christmas carol concert in the park with friends

Our travels have seen us work our way down the east coast of North Island before heading inland to tackle the more mountainous central areas. We have largely freedom-camped (being cheap like that) rather than stay on formal campsites, which means we are often ‘getting down with the youff’; and mainly German ‘youff’ at that, who are working and travelling their way around the country on a shoe-string. 

We have discovered that if we stay just one night at a site it is relatively easy to move on the next day, but as soon as we stay a second night, somehow we find we have put down shallow roots and the place has become home.  Whether this is a general experience or just a Theodoreson thing I can’t judge but there is a definite allure in the familiar which militates against constant travel.  ‘Home’ is the safe place, even when the loos are a bit indifferent (and believe me we have become experts on the relative merits of the different sorts of public toilet we have encountered en route).

We tackled, for a second time, the Tongariro Alpine crossing having been thwarted five years ago by a rumbling volcano and thick cloud, this time managing to complete the 20km walk AND get to see the sights on the way. It is humbling being in such barren surroundings, or at least it would be if it wasn’t for the fact there are 2,000 or so other souls on the mountain with you at the same time. So much for living in the wild!

Barren wilderness
The volcanic crater
… and lots of people to share it with!

One great tip by the way, if you are contemplating doing a long walk of similar ilk, is to cut your toenails before you set off! A former guide told us he had lost count of the times he has had to physically carry people off the mountain because the pressure of walking downhill for 10km had caused people’s toenails to rip off. (Sorry if that thought has put you off your cornflakes).

And the spills? For those that are familiar with my cycling exploits it will come as little surprise to know I had a bike ‘incident’ – this time flying over the handlebars and ‘face planting’, having hit a rock on the way down a craggy path. Sally was on hand to mop up the blood, but not before she had taken a photo. She really missed her calling in life and should have been a photo journalist. 

Your correspondent immediately after the crash
… to add insult to injury

The day in general had not gone brilliantly from a wellbeing perspective having earlier survived an electric shock from a fence designed to keep people out rather than stock in, followed by the discovery that the path we were travelling on had become flooded in the intervening period and we had to wade through what was now an extension of the lake on the return leg of our ride! It had its compensations mind you, as the campsite we were staying on could best be described as Paradise.

Dunham’s Point Reserve
Sunset over Hamilton

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12 Comments on “Spills, thrills and the allure of the familiar”

  1. Didn’t realise you had taken a nasty tumble after your electric fence incident :(. But what amazing views to compensate for the tumble.
    Looking forward to seeing you in 5 days!!

  2. Thouroughly enjoy Ian. Nothing like hearty laughs before enjoying breakfast! (And no… No cornflakes). Blessings and joy in the Christmas season! Terri n Keith

  3. Amazing trip and yes I remember how “un Christmas” everywhere felt 3 years ago! Glad you’ve recovered Ian … nasty!
    Have a wonderful time on the South Island (my favourite)

  4. Ian and Sally,

    I got the blog details from Andrew after my last Audit Committee – we are now both ex CC. I think you are putting in a good bid for the Bear Grylls of Church House, bloodied and wet but unbowed ! We are off to Bahrain on Boxing Day to meet out first grandchild – Reuben who was born on December 2nd. In the meantime have a splendid warm Christmas – we have had a few of those during our expat years.

    1. Welcome to the blog Hywel and congratulations on your grandparent status! I am not sure about the Bear Grylls comment – New Zealand, at least on North Island, is a pretty sanitised place when it comes to real adventure. Health and Safety is the new rock and roll which feels very different from when we were here five years ago.

  5. I am really enjoying reading about your adventures – hope the various blood/ electric/ water/ credit cards incidents have not detracted from the joy, freedom and relative peace! My daughter and her fiance arrive in NZ in four or five days and will be driving a similar camper van so look out for a UK/ German combo!! Hope you had a peaceful but different Christmas.

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