|Location: Hamilton, New Zealand|
|Local time: Monday, 2:25pm|
Home. After exactly four years abroad, and some 36 countries, I'm back in New Zealand - back in Hamilton where I grew up; back in familiar territory. But only for a month.
There's been so much that's happened in my family during my time away, that I thought it was high-time I came back for a surprise visit. I turned up un-announced on my parents' doorstep, and they were blown away. It was good timing really, managing to catch the end of summer here (after mostly following the sun around the world these last years, returning to a New Zealand winter would be a rather depressing come-down!). I'm also in time for my Mum's birthday, and have managed to catch up with almost all the extended family already.
Although there's cloudless blue skies outside as I type this, during my first week back I was shocked by just how much it can rain here. In fact in some places up north, they received three months of rainfall in 36 hours, and many homes were being washed away. Ah yes, definitely a New Zealand summer.
I've also been pleasantly surprised by how friendly my fellow countrymen are. Customer service is brilliant, and I'm always greeted with a smile and polite, easy-going conversation everywhere I go. People are happy to help, and go out of their way for you. Even the bus drivers are chatty and seem to be enjoying what they do. A helluva change from the grumpy French or reserved Estonians.
I'm only now realising just how amazingly diverse and beautiful this country really is. It's true that you have to go abroad to realise what you have at home. The scenery outside the car window whilst driving through the country is an ever-changing mix of rolling farmland, dense native bush, mountainous peaks, deep valleys, clear rivers or blue ocean. It's what I always told people overseas anyway - "you've seen Lord of the Rings?... well, it's just like that". And it really is.
Anyway, enough patriotic gushing over my country. I'm leaving in three weeks - just in time to miss the onset of winter (or, as I like to call it, 'the long wet').
My brother Brett and I fly out to Malaysia on the 30th of this month. We'll be staying with friends in Kuala Lumpur for a few days, then fly on to Paris and take the train down to Nice. Brett's going to spend time on board Aries with his friend (the same 1929 restored British rescue boat that I helped out on last year), and I'll be going back to the hostel I lived in last year, while looking for another boat job.
In the meantime, I'm going through the many boxes of my stuff that's been stored for me upstairs in the attic at my parents' house over the years. There's lots to throw away, give away, sell, and laugh at ("I can't believe I wore those!"). It's actually quite a nostalgiac stroll down memory lane. And I've been given the use of one of Mum and Dad's cars, which gives me the means to travel the country and catch up with friends and family and take photos etc. This coming weekend I'm driving the 500km, 6-hour journey south to Wellington.
And, of course, there's my shiny red drum kit, which I'm yet to dust off, set up, and bash the hell out of. I've been looking forward to that ever since I left in 2003.
The view from my brother's back yard. It was a nice, peaceful change from the hustle and bustle of Fort Lauderdale the previous day.
Bethells Beach, in West Auckland.
A view from the top.
Brett's dog Freya, an Alaskan Malamute.
There was some good surf that day.
A classic scene.
The 328m-tall Auckland Sky Tower - tallest structure in the Southern hemisphere, and the world's 12th tallest tower.
And its 12m-wide concrete shaft that disappears some 15m below ground level. Not that aesthetically pleasing really.
Three generations... my 94-year-old Grandfather, Dad, and myself.
The completed work of New York street graffiti artist Doze Green, at a club in Auckland the other night. Pretty cool, but the night
started off in a rather spectacular way... a ceiling fan fell onto a guy in the crowd. Everybody was flapping around panicking
and doing nothing, so I called an ambulance, helped tend to his face (which was slashed open from the top of his right eye, across
his nose, and down his left cheek), walked him outside through the crowd (the place was jam-packed), and waited for the
ambulance with him, wondering when shock was going to set in. Helluva way to start off my night. The guy was lucky really though -
he could've lost an eye, or worse.
Roadside art in Auckland city.
Auckland architecture: the new...
..and the old.
A fairly typical NZ Anglican church.
A fairly typical NZ farming scene.
A fairly typical NZ rural road scene.
A fluffy plant.
Unfortunately it's not all clean-and-green here... this is the Huntly power station, on the Waikato river.
I went away to Tauranga for Easter weekend with Mum and Dad. This is the view from our spot on the beach where we stayed.
Looking left down the beach, with Mount Maunganui in the distance.
Looking out at Mount Maunganui beach from the top of the mountain. I ran up it in 12 minutes, had a minor heart attack,
took some photos, then ran down again.
My 9-year-old niece (Zoe) and I, doing headstands on the beach. My 7-year-old nephew Max is attempting handstands in the background. We were quite the spectacle.
Mount Edgecombe (an extinct volcano), from the window of my sister's place.
My niece Zoe... ...and nephew Max.
Mum and Dad's house, from across the park. It's great having the top floor to myself - no-one complains about my mess.
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