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Published: August 27th 2009
Two wonderful friends we made in London
We returned from Africa (unemployed and homeless hahaha) with 6 days left before the final leg of our amazing adventure. It had been 17 months since we flew out of New Zealand on the 1st March 08 and it is time to return. Its just about as scary returning, as it was leaving because you suddenly realise that you still have a mortgage,your unemployed and a little older than when you left the comfort of your stable job, to explore the world. We were too busy in London to dwell on our fears. There were places in London we hadn't seen, accounts to close and friends to farewell.
The London transport system is brilliant, off the plane, on the train, 10 minutes walk and we're home. Well back to El's and Michael's at Morton Way, to collect our box of belongings. El's kindly drove us to Islington. Since we gave up our flat in May we have relied on the kindness of others to house us between trips (mainly El's and Michael). Our final days were spent with my niece Ragani and her partner Glenn. They allowed us to doss in the living room of their Islington apartment. They came
A final walk along the Thames
to London, on their big OE six years ago and show no signs of returning. We had already sent home three cartons of accumulated possessions so all we had was the few clothes we returned with from Ghana and a box of belongings we had left in London. It felt like there was so much to do and see. I hadn't been to a hairdresser in 5 months. Anita hadn't shaved her legs for 2 months. We hadn't been on the London Eye or experienced Shakespeare at the Globe I had been making mental notes of the London sights still left to visit and as we planned our schedule it became clear that the most important task was to say farewell all the friends we had made in the UK and thank them for the hospitality and kindness they had shown us. We have enjoyed many wondrous sights in the last eighteen months however what is most heart warming is the wonderful new friends we have made and the people we have met. Consequently we based our last week in London around saying our goodbyes at various fine eateries. After Ghana the London dining seemed gastronomically exciting. In between we
A concrete marvel.....did not impress
took a final stroll along the Thames, did some last minute shopping to replace our discarded clothes and took in a final Westend Show, Oliver.
We had tried to see Oliver before we went to Ghana but had lucked out waiting for returned tickets. On this occasion we chose a matinee. We were in luck. There were tickets left however at £45 each we would be some way from the stage and with my failing eyesight I would have some difficulty seeing the show clearly. However we decided to go for it with Anita asking me if I would OK from the £45 seat, in the hearing of the ticket seller. The ticket seller asked if I had a disability, if so he could offer special tickets in the boxes for £25 each. I'm not keen to take advantage but Anita jumped at the chance of getting “a perk”. So there we were seated on the best seats in the house, right above the stage with a box (seats 8) to ourselves! The show was brilliant and we went away happy chappies. Our favourite remains The Lion King with Dirty Dancing and Oliver second The Sound of Music not
We had to put up with 13 beautiful days on the beach
far behind and Blood Brothers a distant last. How lucky have we been? And so Friday afternoon the 31/07/09, without incident and alone, as we arrived, we left London heading to Hong Kong for the first of our 3 stage journey home.
We have really enjoyed our time in”old blighty” and have had amazing time. There will be things we don't miss and aspects we will miss dearly. We have made lots of new friends and cemented our relationship with old friends and so it leaves a final thank you to: Michael and Els, Flavio and Clara, Dave (my black brother) , Zoey and Tony and their girls, Sham and Chris, Chris, Katrina and Zac, John and Jude, Marion and Richard, Jenny (flatmate), Jenny and Chris (Wales), Glenn and Ragani, Stephen, Emma and Jo, Karin and Mat, Annalise, Malinda, Rick and India, Frank R, Mervyn, All the staff at St Albans and St Johns St Probation, Suzy Gearing (our UK daughter), all the friends we made in Italy, Croatia and Ghana.
Hong Kong is amazing in the way it has developed. So many islands connected by bridges and tunnels with towering buildings and apartments everywhere. I thought London
Anita new friend
Lilly and Anita take a break from their 7-30am walk
was crowded. Well let me tell you compared to HK its nothing. In HK there are people everywhere, they even picnic on the pavement in the parks. Not that there is a lot of grass or room for that matter. It's a real concrete jungle and not my cup of tea at all. Shopping seems to a favourite pass time and most of the shop assistants are very aggressive, not just in the markets. I was looking to buy a camera in Nathan Rd. I tell you the shop assistant had so many cameras in front of me and the bargaining was so intense I left the shop completely confused and not even sure about what camera I had bought. I got back to the hotel and checked the price on Amazon to find I could have bought it cheaper on line. I went back the next day to have a go at him and try and get some money back but again he got the better of me tied me in knots. Assistant 2 Lindquist 0 . I think I lost about £25. We enjoyed our stay at a very comfortable 4 star hotel. Not usually our style but
What a contrast from sand to snow. Taylah and I enjoy a day at Coronet Peak
very nice for a change and extra enjoyable after 2 months in Ghana. I suppose the thing I don't like about hotels is that they are very impersonal and isolating . I have a couple of funny stories to recount.
Part of our package deal was a tour of HK. We caught the bus and proceeded to the first stop which included a ride on a Sampan to view the style of life on the various Sampans in the harbour, boring, no problem. Next stop were those bloody manufacturers outlets that they take you too. In this case they were selling jewellery. Of course after a brief glance I was off for refreshments in the show room . After 30 minutes I decided to head back to the bus. I couldn't see Anita and assumed she had also got bored and left before me. I'm sure I heard the guide say the bus would be over the road so that where I headed to be confronted with a small alley full of buses. Had I taken notice of which bus we were in........NO. Not seeing anyone else or I decided to go back to the main street and wait for everyone else. After about 30 minutes and no sign of the other I went back to the buses and asked a driver, who didn't speak English where my bus might be. He explained that I was to be picked up in an alley on the other side of the road. Back I went but could I find the bus. No bloody way. What I did find was a rear exit to the shop. I still didn't see anyone. I was in trouble now because when waiting previously I thought they would have to come past, now with the knowledge of two entrances I was worried I may have missed them. I waited another 30 minutes going backwards and forward but all to no avail and so I made my way back to our hotel by public transport and then phoned the tour company so that Anita (and the tour guide) could stop worrying about my whereabouts . WORRIED ABOUT HIM your joking.................
Anita's side-swipe : The tour guide blamed me for Tony absence and seemed to hold me accountable. He was shocked when I refused his offer to get off the bus when he was ready to move on. He insisted I wait at the taxi rank at Stanley Street Markets (the next stop) in case Tony rocked on over to catch up with us. I was less concerned that the tour guide I think. I kept having amusing thoughts like “Jilted at the jewellery shop” ( instead of the alter) . Some people will do anything to avoid carry their own back pack (Tony had left his on the bus). After all Tony has travelled the world, was and adult and generally has a good sense of direction.
The second entertaining incident occurred the next day at the Mong Kok Markets. Anita and I had been browsing at the markets when a guy approached her about helping with a survey. Anita was clearly not interested and indicated that her mouth was full as she was eating pineapple. I agreed to be interviewed briefly and started answering the questions, instead of Anita. When I had finished, Ian, held out two scratchies telling me that I would win a prize for helping with the survey. I won a bloody T shirt that was meant to read “I got lost in Hong Kong”. Anita thought this was hilarious as I had missed the bus the previous day. Ian insisted she take the other scratchy. Anita obliged, scratched and won one of the 5 major prizes. This caused much excitement from Ian because he would get a bonus of $500US. Before putting us in a taxi and sending us to headquarters at the Gold Coast, Hong Kong, Anita was told she had won either a Sony laptop computer, a dream holiday or $900 US cash. Our excitement levels rose at Anita's luck. She was really hoping to win the laptop or or the cash. However we were told we could not to scratch the final box, that would reveal the prize until we had completed the selling interview, that would last at least 90 minutes. When we arrived at the Gold Coast (Hong Kong, hahaha) we were met by a salesman who proceeded to give us the sales pitch in attempt to get us to buy a time-share or interchangeable holiday accommodation. The sales guy worked out pretty quickly we were not the “glitzy types” and told us he would need to go through the motions. He was still pretty convincing and nearly two hours later Anita scratched and discovered she had won a dream holiday in Thailand. Which in fact equates to seven nights luxury accommodation for two adults and two children under 12 . This has to be used within an 18 month period. It sounds strange but we felt disappointed, selfish and greedy for feeling disappointed. I guess the other two options would provide immediate gratification where as the holiday is in the future. Accompanied by the fact that we have just spend the last 18 months travelling. I guess holidays are not uppermost in our mind right now. Nevertheless not a bad stroke of luck, that we will no doubt appreciate in the future. By the way the name of the company is Absolute, just in case you want to goggle it.
The next day we flew out for Australia feeling unimpressed with HK. Just another big sterile concrete jungle, with millions of people and nothing really to do but shop and spend money. It was nice to be back in Surfers, we both love the beach and for the next two weeks we were blessed with sunny skies, temperatures in the mid twenties and daily walks along the beach. It was great being back in contact with whanau and a bonus to be picked up from an airport and not having to get public transport before locating a hostel in a city unknown to us. Mathew & Renee (son & daughter in law) had just moved into a rented 4 bedroom home with another couple. It was nice and spacious and only 10 minutes walk from Nobby's beach or 90 min walk, south of central Surfers. Apart from an overnight in Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, we didn't try to do much, just enjoy the beach and beautiful winter weather. After a couple of days of sleeping in we got back into routine by setting the alarm for 7am and getting straight up and taking the dog for an hours walk each morning. The rest of the time was spent lying on the beach or restocking our wardrobe for clothes to wear to job interviews. shopping for bargains. OMG our last pay was the 17/04/09. The evenings consisted of sitting on the balcony, talking, eating and drinking. People of say how expensive it is to live in London but apart from cheaper rent and petrol I was surprised how expensive Australia had become and they tell me home is even worse.
Two days before we left for home, I celebrated my 58th year on the planet. The biggest surprise for both Anita and I was the unexpected arrival or Perrin on the Saturday morning. We had been walking Lilly (the dog) and when we got home noticed we had missed 5 calls. We rung back and he told us he was walking along the beach and needed our address so he could get a taxi. It was great to catch up on his life over the last 18 months, especially great for Anita to reconnect with him. Perrin flew home on Sunday evening and didn't get to share the beautiful pork we had cooked on a spit but his mum had packed him a good selection food to eat on the plane, He was also able to take home some of our luggage, which was getting heavier by the day, thereby taking away the hassle of carrying 50 kilos plus around the South Island. I also managed to get a new contact lens. It had only been 6 months but my eyes had deteriorated a little and I was having trouble reading road signs etc. The first day at Surfers I went to an optician and had a test, sure enough it had dropped a notch and he said a new lens should arrive before I left on the 18th. On the 13th he called to pass on the good news however when I went in for the fitting I couldn't see a thing. I suspect that he had made an error but at this stage blaming was not going to assist my cause. He retested me on Thursday, re-faxed the new prescription to Adelaide and on Monday the 17th it arrived, was the evening correct fit and I left with better vision and $400 lighter. The two weeks at Surfers just flew by, we had a great time and left a little browner and a lot heavier, thanks to some fine cooking, a lot more drinking than I am used to and the philosophy of the three Kiwis and a Canadian that place food and drink as a priority in lifestyle.
When we touched down in Christchurch I did not feel the emotional charge I had anticipated. It was still special but not the strong pull I had expected for arriving home after 1u months. It was also a cold, rainy day and we had not experienced weather like this for more than 6 months. I have put the unemotional feeling to our landing in Christchurch rather than our home town Auckland. We slipped through customs, picked up our rental and found our motel without any drama. It was a buzz to see Taylah, our granddaughter, who we hadn't seen for nearly 3 years, waiting at the motel. Her Mum and Granddad had driven her down to meet us so we could take her with us on our journey to Queenstown and up the coast before dropping her back at Blenheim. Dayna has always been fantastic at helping me maintain a relationship with Taylah and words cannot express the gratitude I feel for her ongoing co-operation. You know that's what I love about whanau, when everyone's working together it is the strongest thing in the world, its a shame it so often breaks down because of thoughtless and selfish actions and attitudes. I've probably said it before but of all the places we've been in the last couple of years, it's people that will provide me with my fondest memories. It seems appropriate to visit some of our own country after being away for so long and as always there is family to catch up with, Queenstown being the home of Anita's nephew Richard, his partner and two children.
When you drive south from Christchurch and look to your right all you see are snow covered peaks, this was the first reminder of the magnificent scenery that Aotearoa possesses. I knew we were home and as we moved further south and inland towards Queenstown I re realised that my country is second to none for spectacular views. Over all my travels in the last eighteen months this was as spectacular as I had seen, we may not have the history but mile for mile, scenicly, NZ is the greatest country in the world.....................to be continued on the next blog.
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