Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Travel Blues


3AM and we were on the road, traveling in Uncle Graeme's Prado with David at the Wheel. 2 hours of hilarity ensued as we early morning zoomed to Picton. Arriving at the Picton ferry terminal we bade farewell to David and headed onto the ferry. It was still dark and we secured a place for ourselves in the comfortable chairs up in the front observation deck, right under the bridge and over top of the foredeck.

John pulled out the guitar and we settled down for the trip. I went to the work station area and did some work including writing my entry regarding the funeral. Most of us dozed for a while until Priscilla announced she could see dolphins. AS it was pitch black we couldn't test her observation, but Sjoerd went topside to see, and came back to announce it was seaweed not dolphins.

By the time he came back we were able to see the bow of the ship cutting through the water and a faint glow on the horizon. At this point we were only a few minutes away from exiting the sounds into the open sea, and a patch of bright cyclamen pink appeared in the gap between the hills. I went up with Sjoerd on deck and started snapping photos and video of one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. The pink spread gradually wider and wider. The camera just cannot do justice to the sight.

40 odd photos later I came back down to the observation deck, and then settled down for a snooze. By the time we started coming through the Wellington harbour heads, we all woke up and decided to play one last game of diminishing whist. RuthEllen won again! She is unreal! Her husband John continued his strategy of losing by the biggest margin possible, equally amazing!

Disembarking from the ferry we met Steve, Lara's husband. They had looked after the Magna for us in Wellington. John and Rufus and I went to pick up the car, then came back for Sjoerd and Pris and the baggage. We then headed out onto the road north with me at the wheel.

We stopped briefly in Paraparaumu for Maccas, then continued on. A short while later, we were held up in a long line of cars for roadworks. Just as we drew abreast of the roadworks, I crept forward a few metres, and then watched in my rear mirror as the truck behind me kept coming and kept coming and didn't look remotely like he was going to stop, I sneaked another couple of metres closer to the car in front, but to no avail. He finally saw we had stopped and braked, but he smacked the rear end
the car. We stopped and exchanged insurance details etc, before getting back on the road. The traffic sped back up, and we continued north.

Just north of Marton, we entered the spectacular Rangitikei gorge. During this time, we called both Jono, and Dad and Mum on the phone. It was 3AM in the Ukraine when we rang Jono, so that was funny. It was evening for Jo and Frank, Nicki, Melanie and Benji along with Mum and Dad, so we were able to chat with them all. As we pulled out of the top of the gorge up a long hill, the car felt sluggish, and rattled a little on acceleration, I cruised down hill and said goodbye to Dad as we noticed the temperature gauge go ballistic. We stopped right outside a little servo in the middle of nowhere, pushed the car up and got out. Lots of steam and very hot. The mechanic who couldn't really be bothered to help checked it briefly and suggested a tow truck to the next town where we could get it evaluated. We called the AA and were told no problem, they'd be there shortly, but could only take two.

The three lads decided to hitchhike, and after walking about 2 km were picked up by a nice old ex bikie in a van. We had a great conversation with him and his lovely golden retriever while sitting on a sheet of tin in the back of his van.

By this stage we were introducing Sjoerd to everyone as George. George became Sjoerd's alter ego rather rapidly, and sometimes they would even talk to each other. This became intensely amusing to the rest of us who took delight in attempting to work out whether it was Sjoerd, or George who was present at any particular moment. I think George is secretly a rather naughty side of Sjoerd because he delights in getting up to mischief.

At the next town, we met up with the girls again, and were told that the tow truck could have taken us all. The mechanic removed the heater hose that had split, causing the water to run out, and bypassed it. We then filled the car with water and drove up two hills to test whether it was ok or not. It wasn't, so back to the garage. We arranged a towtruck to bring the car to Tauranga where John and Rufus live, and they supplied us with a little diesel station wagon to get us to Tauranga.

It was hard to be positive by this stage, but the provision of a vehicle and the only slight delay to our travel plans was a blessing we focused on. 2 hours later, we were feeling a little less positive as we struggled to be comfortable in the car. John drove from Taihape to Taupo and I slept as much as possible. The mountains of Ruapehu and Ngaruhoe were covered in snow, but I completely forgot to take photos. The sun was setting as we came into Taupo, and I took a bunch of the lovely golden and red autumn leaves with the lake as a background. Also managed to photograph some of the amazing cloud formations New Zealand is famous for. The land of the long white cloud.

I drove from Taupo through to Tauranga, where John and Rufus had arranged a friends car to drive through to Auckland. After a brief stop, we headed off and stopped for 15 minutes and Uncle Meryvn and Aunty Bronwyn's place to say hi. From there I drove through to about 1/2 an hour out of Auckland, where Sjoerd took over and I napped until we got to their place. I went straight to bed after arranging the details of getting away.


At 4AM Sjoerd woke me for a shower and then I packed and headed off to the airport. Sjoerd and Priscilla live in a quaint little house beautifully decorated by Priscilla, who has a great eye for decorating.

I almost didn't leave the country when I discovered that my departure tax hadn't been paid, and I could get my credit card or bank accounts to work, and they wouldn't take a cheque. I had $4 so they took that and I dunno what happened about the rest. I checked my travel documentation but there was no mention of departure tax so that was a trap for the unwary.

I slept for most of the flight then typed this up on my laptop as we prepared to descend to Brisbane.

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