Being back in Tairawhiti/Gisborne is, for me, akin to slipping on my comfiest shoes whilst sighing contentedly in the knowledge they fit like a glove. A perfect paradise. For ME. It’s important to highlight that last word.
Having relished posting a daily blog for over two weeks during our journey here, this past week I’ve no longer felt enthused to sit at the keyboard for a few hours keeping you updated. For that, I apologise. Apart from soaking up the endless joys of being back ‘home’, there’s been heaps of admin to sort out, as well as starting to rekindle friendships and spend time with family. Oh yes, and I’ve been working too – it’s not all R and R despite how it may seem! Early morning and late evening Skype or Zoom meetings across the world are taking a bit of getting used to!
Anyway, I’m sure you’ll understand there are a few challenges when shifting your life from one hemisphere to another. Barry’s recently spent hours drafting a few posts of his favourite images from places we visited last year – so I’m hoping he’ll be getting those posted in the coming weeks. I’ll do my best to keep you updated on where we are and what we’ve been up to – probably weekly. I’m making no promises, though. It’s an extraordinary time in our lives.
For now, sit back, relax, and check out some snippets of our re-introduction to ‘The First City To See The Sun‘.
Catching Up Highlights
I landed at the recently refurbished (and not yet completed) Gisborne airport in the early evening of Sunday 6th September. My sister’s birthday as it happens. We’re staying with Barry’s elder brother, Ray, who visited us for a few weeks in 2018, in a gorgeous Art Deco house on the banks of the Taruheru River.
I’d sadly missed the spectacular 30th birthday celebration party for Barry’s son Tom the evening before. Not long after arrival, we walked to Tom and Miriam’s place for a get-together eating takeaway pizzas by the fire. We felt most ‘at home’ with the blazing log burner!
The following day, we met up with Jamie, Nate and Tom for lunch at The Flagship Eatery, where Tom used to work. The food was delicious. There’s no shortage of places to dine or drink coffee (or wine/beer!) in these parts. Jamie and Nate flew back to Christchurch that afternoon – we’ve made plans to see them again in November.
Self Portraits Millennium Wall
I doubt there’d be many places in the world who chose such a unique way of marking the millennium as this. Alongside the harbour-wharf is a wall, chock-a-block with ceramic tiles of the painted faces of local children. Tom and Jamie have their self-portraits among them. Jamie and Barry had previously attempted to find Jamie’s picture but been unsuccessful. This time, Nate used his ‘escape room’ experience, to calculate that they were fixed in alphabetical order! From there, it was reasonably easy to find …
Tom’s is the one to the right of the drainpipe, he must’ve drawn the short straw, but at least it’s easy to spot – apparently the pink-winged figure is a Pokemon. Could it be Gilgar? Our ten-year-old grandson would probably know …
In a city (yes, Gisborne is a city, despite not having a cathedral!) with a population of 35,000 as of June 2019 (it would’ve been less in 1999), getting all the children’s faces on a wall is possible.
Doing It Right – New Zealand COVID Tracer
Each day I’m more aware of the ways New Zealand is ‘doing it right’. I’m conscious, however, of opposing viewpoints. Especially news around Sweden who tackled the pandemic very differently, relying on ‘herd immunity’. Some proponents are suggesting it was a good move – despite killing hundreds of their elderly population. Time will tell I guess who got it ‘right’. One thing’s for sure, the UK and the USA haven’t. That’s not in question for me. I’m rooting for Jacinda, and her team of 5 million thank you very much.
We downloaded their ‘Track and Trace’ App early on, and there’s a QR barcode to log in at every place we visit. Here in Gisborne, the prevalence of COVID-19 has been minimal. To date, they’ve had just four cases, and I’m pretty sure no deaths.
It feels like we’re a world away from the global pandemic now. I’d love to transport all my loved ones here from the UK – but I’ve given up trying over the past 19 years to convince them this is THE place to be 😉
A Few Simple Pleasures
Barry and I generally get along splendidly. We’ve visited our Chiropracter Laura Jackson, who got to grips (literally!) with all our ageing aches and pains. We have much in common. There are also undoubtedly things we disagree on. Something Barry’s missed while living in the UK is the taste and texture of kumara; the NZ Sweet potato. He’ll be making up for that whilst here!
I’ve been eagerly anticipating picking wild freesias from the dunes of Wainui Beach, where we married in December 2009. On Wednesday I caught up with a dear friend, Anna, who drove me there after a luscious lunch in the sunshine at Crawford Road Kitchen.
The smell of these colourful flowers is indescribably wonderful, triggering innumerable magical memories for me. Wainui Beach and Makarori, have similar impacts. Have you seen the inspirational film ‘Whale Rider‘? This is the filming location, on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. My nephew, Harry, will recall with embarrassment, the time I took him to watch it in Exeter, in 2002, because I unashamedly cried through most of it! Not because it was sad, though parts were, but because I yearned to return.
The Power Of The Wind
I don’t believe wind direction in the UK makes as much of a stark difference to the weather as it does here. I could be mistaken. It’s been rather chilly here at the start of spring. The weather mostly depends on the direction of the wind. It’s been howling up from the South Pole – freezing! An easterly over the Pacific Ocean crab from South America, generally brings rain – which can hang around persistently for days! Conversely when wind crosses the ranges via a ‘north-westerly’, it brings sublime warmness! We’ve had a bit of all those this week I suspect. Yesterday it blew a hooley, driving rain much of the day, with occasional hailstones.
Not unlike the UK really, it’s very changeable. I’m hopeful we’ll get some more settled spells soon. We’re on foot mostly, which is fine and good for our health. I’m loving visiting the places I adore, having a coffee, doing a spot of shopping for essentials I wasn’t able to pack. Just not on the cold and wet days! The coffee is always delicious – and served perfectly. I’ll be enjoying many cups with friends over the coming weeks and months.
Last night we gathered to celebrate the 61st birthday of a dear friend, and this evening I’m catching up with the gorgeous woman who accommodated mum and me in January/February 2016. We’re dining at The Works, another splendid eatery here.
I truly am in my Nirvana here in Aotearoa.
“Nirvana is a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. In Hinduism and Buddhism, nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person’s individual desires and suffering go away.”https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/nirvana
Being our usual impulsive selves, we’ve paid a deposit on the ex-rental campervan Barry found while we were in Managed Isolation, that I visited last Sunday. We’ve booked a one-way flight to Auckland for 29th September, the day after my 61st birthday, when we’ll pick it up. In the meantime, I’m waiting for the withdrawal of a portion of my NHS pension, invested here, while the rental company we’ve bought it from prepare it for us. We’re confident ‘Wenderkreisen Camper Van and Motor Home Rental‘, who we’ve purchased through, will provide a fabulous before and after-sales service.
Check it out – it’s perfect for our budget and future journeys around Aotearoa, The Land Of The Long White Cloud: