My landlady in Hamilton very kindly offered to take me to the station and we went pretty much on the route the bus had taken the day before and skirted the lake so I got one last look. Arrival at the station was in plenty of time and I took my bags to check them in. They plonked my big bag on the huge old weighing scales and it was up to 23 kgs, oh well I have nearly a month to sort that out. I got my boarding card and was sitting in the seat right behind the one on my first journey. The train arrived and I settled myself in with no companion again, On one hand that’s good you are free to get up and down, but on the other hand it would be nice to have someone to chat to for a while. But a good window seat for taking photographs.
Off we set on the way to Ohakune which is the next stop after the National Park. Again I had chosen it because of its close proximity to the National Park and I was considering hiring a car so I could access some of the sights more easily. I had booked a bike for the Monday afternoon and also spoken to the bike company about doing the Old Coach Road and they said they provide a shuttle service to whichever end I wanted to start at, one way being a steeper climb than the other. In the end I decided against a car as there seemed to be enough walking around the area.
The journey was beautiful and we started a climb into the mountains.The climb into the mountains was spectacularly beautiful but also there were many amazing engineering feats such as viaducts. But the most important one is known as the Raurimu spiral which takes the train on a route which has some serious bends and goes in a full circle as well. There were times when I could see the locomotive from my seat in Coach D. I managed to find a couple of pictures which give the a visual of the way it works. Without this route the train would have had to circumvent the mountain and that would have added a considerable time to the Auckland to Wellington Journey time which is about 10 hours.
We then went over a viaduct which was relatively new, and we could see the old viaduct in the distance, I actually saw these close up on my bike ride, but more about that later. Below are some photographs of the journey.
When we arrived at National Park so many people got off, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision about getting off at Ohakune, too late to change my mind now. I was in the dining car towards the end of my journey having spent a little time in the viewing car and I heard them say that they stop at Paraparaumu. I had been told when I booked my ticket in England that the train didn’t stop there southbound, and this was planned as my next stop. I had already booked accommodation and really wanted to stop there for the beach. So I had planned to go to Wellington and get the local train back. When collecting my luggage at Ohakune I asked the train manager, who said, Of course we do, and told me to ring the enquiries number on my booking confirmation and they would change my ticket to allow me to stop there. What a relief I wasn’t looking forward to that extra lugging of the bags around the station in Wellington.
Next find a taxi, none around, no signage for taxis, and no Uber’s available. The train confirmation definitely said there were taxis available. There was a shop on the station platform which sold tea, coffee, beer and designer clothes, I know that’s the last thing you would expect. So I went in and asked the young woman in there if there were any local taxis. She said no there were none. People usually get picked up by shuttles. I explained where I had to go which was some three kilometres away and she very kindly shut her shop to take me there. She refused to accept any money from me, it really touches my heart when people are so kind and go out of there way to help you like that. I made a mental note to make sure I bought a coffee when I was on my next leg and I also have a leaflet as she had some lovely pieces and she does free international postage, so I may treat myself when I get home.
Anyway on with the story, and here is where I had my first real disappointment. I had booked a little self contained cabin and I must admit I was really looking forward to staying there. Oh boy it was awful. There was a horrible musty smell which hit me as soon as I went through the front door. It had certainly seen better days. The bedroom was on a mezzanine floor, the stairs were quite steep and the bannister rail at the top was loose. The duvet cover and pillowcases had been put on the bed, but not the sheet. Unfortunately this meant that I saw that there were two sheets of foam rubber on top of the mattress and they weren’t very clean. So I had been there five minutes and was already dreading the prospect of being there for five nights. Anyway I gave myself a talking to and set off for the town to get some supplies. Feedback said it was five minutes to the local shop, not sure which shop they went to, but it was a good 25 minute walk into town. The town itself seemed quite sweet, I went to the supermarket and thought I might need a glass or two of wine tonight so bought a bottle of red. Something I am trying to resist in the effort to continue to lose weight but needs must, it was a definite need tonight. I went back to my little home and this was when I discovered that the shower dripped and echoed through the place and I was unable to stop it. It was like torture. There was no internet, but there was Sky TV, a whole four channels, brilliant. The sofa was a bed settee and after sitting on it for five minutes the seat cushions sank into the mechanism for the bed. What else could possibly be wrong with this place you might ask? I soon found out. It was freezing, I put the heater on and I made a hot water bottle, yes a hot water bottle. Then I fell asleep on the sofa under a blanket with my hot water bottle how sad is that!
I woke up about midnight and decided I better go and get into bed although I wasn’t relishing the thought. This was when I realised that all the cabins around were empty and I started to feel really isolated. I spent the next two hours trying to sleep wrapped around my hot water bottle. Then I started researching other places to stay. A lot of soul searching went on that night. In the morning I made a decision to move out and find a hotel, I knew I was not going to be happy there, and I was already worried about how I was going to get back to the station. It really was the best thing I could have done. I found a motel quite near the station and they came and picked me up and the minute I walked into my lovely warm room I felt the smile return to my face. The couple were lovely and there was a big kitchen where I could cook for myself. I was soon settled in and resting up after the stress and disappointment of the day before. I didn’t take a photo of the place but saw one in the window of an estate agent which is below. They look so cute, and I am sure during the season they are great, but not for me. Interestingly this was an AirBNB and when I wrote to the host to cancel he never responded. Then the systems seem to get really mixed up and gave me a refund based on a combination of two currencies, so reducing me refund significantly and also the time difference seemed to impact it as well. I did eventually get my money back and of course there was no point in reviewing the property because he was not communicating so he would not write a review for me. Anyway let’s close that book shall we.
Safely ensconced in my new place I had a quiet day and the following day was bicycle day.
I went into town a little earlier and had a late breakfast in a local cafe, the large latte was huge and I managed to hop on to the WiFi of the bank next door and pick up my mail. Then I took myself off to the sports equipment shop where a lovely and lively young man got me sorted out with a bike, and arranged for a shuttle to come a little earlier for me because by now I was starting to realise what I had let myself in for. There was a schematic view in the shop of the hills and although I was doing the easy route from Horopito to Ohakune there were still a lot of hills. I tried out the bike and the front wheel was wobbling all over the place and I couldn’t change gear. So he took it back and there was a problem with the bike it wasn’t just me thank goodness. The next bike only had one set of gears and seemed ok. The shuttle had arrived and so off we went. I asked the lady who was driving me if she had always lived here and she started giving me a potted history of her life, including the death of her mother at the age of 15. She asked me if I had been to New Zealand before so I started talking about coming here when we lost my sister Helga and I got really emotional. I have to say being in New Zealand has been a very emotional experience for me. I completely understand why Helga fell in love with this country and wanted to live here. But I am finding that I can’t even talk about her without crying. I wonder if I didn’t have the opportunity to grieve properly at the time because I had Erik with me. Although I did feel like I went through the process. Who knows, all I know is I am sitting on the ferry writing this and crying again. Just like I cried in that shuttle bus on the way to my cycle ride. Its inexplicable to me why I am constantly in a state of heightened emotion. Maybe she is here with me, making me cry, bad sister
So the first part of the cycle ride is down and up a small incline but on horrible gravel and they had suggested when talking through the route that it’s is better to walk that bit because the gravel can be quite slippery. I slid all over the place walking it, thank goodness I didn’t attempt to get on the bike! Having done that bit I got to the gateway which was the start of the trail and as I was standing there pondering my fate so to speak the Great Northern Railway train went past heading for the 13:45 arrival at Ohakune. The people in the viewing car were all waving at me, so I gave them a big wave back, so funny that was me two days ago.
So off I went, at first it was a wide trail, it had been the link between two sections of the railway line until the viaducts were built and then fell into disuse quite quickly. The terrain was pretty rough but I was sort of coping, and then came to the first bit of a hill. I soon found the combination of the terrain and the hills made it quite impossible for me to get enough speed up going down one way to give me the impetus I needed to get up the hill. The gravel in some areas made going down slippery, you need to have breaks applied and there are lots of hairpins and sharp turns at the bottom of hills so you have to go down quite slowly. There were a couple of quite big hills and pushing the bike up these hills was hard work, I was soon removing layers and feeling the pain. On some of the flat parts of the trail the rocks and tree roots were treacherous again meaning that I had to walk rather than ride. I had my endomondo app on so I knew how far I had gone and that the whole route was 14 kms. My lap times were getting longer and longer and I started to worry that I wouldn’t make it back to the shop before they closed. The young man had assured me that if they had gone home I could just ring the number and they would come out because they all lived very close by. I had also asked him what the chances were of getting a puncture because I had to admit my husband is the one that always fixes those for me! He said not to worry he could get out to me in a bike if I needed him.
So I was making slow progress and I was also surprised by how narrow the trail had become quite quickly and by how high up I was with sheer drops albeit wooded to my side and many hairpin bends. There was one point where on turning the hairpin there was virtually no ledge and I had to try and push the bike ahead of myself as there wasn’t room for me to push it by my side, that was really hard and scary with a sheer drop to my side. So as usual I was battling in places with my fear of heights, I was finding it impossible to cycle and and I was becoming quite tired. Another woman passed me at one point and we had a chat about the skidding and the terrain but clearly she was managing much better than me. I then had a thought about my recovery when I was resting and remembered Thomas, my trainer, saying that when you have used a lot of strength you needed to give yourself more time to recover. By this time I was over the worst of the uphill and I started to do this and found I was able to power through more. I was also quite tired before this and once when trying to get on the bike I almost fell over. I had to give myself a stern talking to about that, because I realised that no one else might come past and I didn’t want to be lying here on my own until someone found me! Or falling off the edge never to be found. The proper rests started to help and I got to about eight kms and started to be able to cycle more and more as it was mainly flat or a gentle gradient down hill, even managed a few small uphills. But I have to say even then there were times when I don’t know how I didn’t go head over heals over the handle bars. I realised on this journey that I had gone into this completely blind, I was completely outside my comfort zone and I felt very very alone. But my determination and resolve to complete it got me through. There were also some amazing moments. I talked earller about the new and old viaduct. I actually stood on the edge of a hairpin bend underneath the new viaduct taking a photograph of both the new and old even though I was scared. It was hard to believe how these viaducts had been built when you see the sheer size of the chasms they have to cross. The woodland canopy I went through was very beautiful and once more I was stunned by the sheer beauty of this country. When I got to about 11 kms I was now back on a wide track mainly grass and as I came out of the woods there was the most fabulous vista of rolling green countryside and that was should a great moment not only because of the beauty but also because of the fact that I had made it though to the other side. The very nice young man rang me to check I was ok and offered to pick me up at a car park below. It meant I only did 12 and a half kms but what the hell, it was the biggest hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I think I could have walked it faster, well maybe not. Would I do it again, let me think, no probably not, but I may be up for learning how to do mountain biking. The one fatality was one of my tops which somehow ended up with a big rip in the back. Small price to pay. I took myself out for much deserved dinner that night and a Gin and Tonic and a couple of glasses of wine.
The next day was a little jaunt into town which by the way was about a 5km round trip, coffee in my local coffee shop and a late lunch early dinner in the local bar. I did some writing and bought some stamps for the New Zealand set of postcards, and early to bed. I must say though the what surprised me most on the Tuesday morning was that my body was not hurting in the way I expected it to after the walking cycle experience, I am clearly much fitter than I think even if I am crap at mountain biking.
So Wednesday was my last full day in Ohakune so I did three shortish walks, two in the mountains one was only ten minutes but interesting in that there were plaques talking about life and death in the forest, and how the trees that have fallen become hosts for new life, with all sorts of other plants growing out of them, and leaves falling provide a bed which helps then animals and insects survive. I then did an hours walk which once again took me up high and on the edge and then back again. I walked into town and then took the river walk out of town. I should also explain that there is a river running through the forest with lots of different streams feeding into it and it runs through the town too, so when walking in the mountain you can often hear running water. The walk along the river was very peaceful. There is a lot of gorse in the area and also lots of yellow lupins which look like they grow wild and they have a slightly different leaf formation. I had to cross the river on a bridge about half way down the track. There was a limit of eight people on the bridge at any one time. It was quite a bouncy bridge and I was laughing to myself as I crossed it because I imagined bing on the bridge with my boys. I knew they would be jumping up and down in it just to wind me up.
It’s funny on all my walking I find my mind wandering to different places as you do and then I half trip over a stone. So I have to learn to be focussed and not let my mind wander too much and keep my eyes on the trail.
I had by now taken to spending time in the local bar writing everyday, and having a glass of wine and a bite to eat, all the food was very enjoyable. I had to do it there because I had very little WiFi in my hotel. 500Mg that goes no where these days. I spent some time that day talking to the owner of the motel and he was saying times are really hard there, the AirBNB culture has really taken a toll on their business and really they only have good business during the winter months then business is very minimal. The town council won’t do anything to attract people into the area during the summer and just seem to be stuck in the mud. It’s a real shame because it is a lovely little town, but a lot of the restaurants and even motels close down in the summer.
My last day I went for my daily wander into town and did some writing and had an early lunch because I was moving and so wouldn’t have much food in stock, well none and didn’t know what local shopping would be available on my arrival. Then I took a last walk down the river, and went to the station for my cup of coffee with the lovely young woman who helped me out on my first day. It was I have to say the best cup of coffee all week and when I told her that she asked me were all the others awful. I had to laugh, no I said, they were good, but yours is great. The train came in and it was time to depart for Paraparaumu. See you there.
My journey down North Island was very much dictated by the train journey and deciding where I might want to stay at the stops, based on what was around. It’s about the journey not necessarily the sight seeing. So Hamilton was because of the Waitomo caves which are by no means nearby and there is no public transport to get there.
The journey however was a complete joy. I arrived at the Strand station on the appointed day at the appointed time in my usual Uber. Everyone else seemed to be walking which put me to shame! But I did have more luggage.
The train was a delight. I was given my boarding card and my luggage was tagged and put in the luggage car. Coach D seat 7A madam. Three coaches of seating, one cafe and bar coach one luggage coach and a one open viewing coach right up front and a huge locomotive engine. Very comfortable and apparently the train was going to be full but I had two seats to myself for my journey. The windows were huge and there were skylight windows above them as well. There were some screens down the centre aisle with the map and headphones. There was a commentary and when they had something to say it beeped and a yellow bar came on across the top of the screen which changed to green when they started talking. Really interesting commentary. There was an announcement at the start stating that Wifi was not available on board however the latest version of Windows Vista was available, operated by looking to the left and then looking to the right. Very effective operating system if you ask me.
I arrived in Hamilton far too early for my check In at the AirBNB which was with a family this time. I had decided to go and find a hairdresser after all it had now been eight weeks and I know it’s hard to believe the silver was showing. There were no available taxis and they didn’t do left luggage because the station is only open when the train comes in. Surprise surprise. Anyway it was only twenty minutes walk into town so I decided I could manage that. But I hadn’t got as far as the end of the platform where an old man in a car was stopped waiting for me. Where are you going, the town centre, can I give you a lift. Now I know I am not supposed to take lifts from strange men in strange towns but he looked harmless enough so I took him up on his offer. Then I realised the car was a courtesy car from a car repair company. It soon became apparent that although he was harmless he was a little slow behind the wheel.... will I survive this five minute journey I thought, especially after he went the wrong way and he’s lived there all his life, no I am not joking. He told me voluntarily that his car was in the shop because someone had run into him. I believed him honestly. Anyway he eventually set me down and I proceeded to walk the length of the main road looking for a hairdressers. Needless to say I was at the wrong end of the high street but having doubled back and almost given up hope I realised I should have looked on the Google god, and found I was within feet of one. So by the time I got in there and they had a slot straight away I was glad of the rest from carting this baggage around. I was also extremely thankful for the old mans lift.
Hair in much better state I then went in search of a pedicure having asked for advice at the hairdressers of course. So feet and hair done tick. Lunch next, I went into a local pub attached to the local casino, yes tiny town with casino on the Main Street. I opted for the mussels and they were huge, but they were also very chewy. A big disappointment I must say. My landlady messaged me and picked me up from there which was great and I was doubly thankful. Arrival at my digs went without incident she knew where she was going. My room was fine, but by now I wasn’t feeling too good, possibly the mussels. Anyway I had a fairly quiet evening after visiting the local supermarket for one or two bits and the next morning felt much better, got my washing up to date and then set off for the day. I went to the Hamilton Lake, Lake Rotoroa, which was really beautiful. I walked around the complete lake twice, seeing people going in the opposite direction as they did the same. Eight kilometres in all, the first time around I was quite slow because I was taking lots of photographs and the second time around I was more focussed on getting my heart rate up and trying to get to under eleven minutes per kilometre. Although I did stop for a picnic lunch about halfway around.
I have to say it must be a beautiful place to live, there were houses almost all the way around the lake, and a fabulous children’s playground. A beautiful rose garden as well at the entrance and a lovely young girl dear heading all the roses, she said it was very theraputic.
It was a lovely day and there were many birds around and lots of chicks. I saw ducks and geese and coots and some pukekos. Very funny looking birds they have very big legs a bit like a chicken only longer. Their feet are jointed like toes and they can hold a piece of bread in one foot and then peck from it. The funniest sight though was if one pushing another along from behind with his claw. I wondered if it was some sort of mating ritual but the other bird was being pushed along and taking absolutely no notice, so maybe not. I did see a pair getting it on later but didn’t see the associated mating ritual if there is one. I saw a drake desperately trying to impress a duck at one point with his colourful neck feathers all fluffed out. Another woman and I bburst out laughing at the sight.
The bus back and made myself a bit of dinner and had a chat with one of the girls and the man of the house for a while and then left them to their dinner and to prepare myself for my next train journey to Ohakune the following morning.
i really I enjoyed my short stay in Hamilton and who cares if I didn’t see the caves. See you In Ohakune
The weather being stormy in Fiji made parting much easier than it would have otherwise done. Up at the crack of dawn in order to leave at 6:30 for the required three hour check in at the tiny Fiji airport. I thought breakfast didn’t start until six thirty, but it was six so I had the bonus of breakfast before I left as well. Gilda was up to say goodbye and see you in Melbourne and I left in my taxi.
After all that the flight was delayed for nearly two hours but they gave me a thirty dollar voucher for food. I waited until about 10:45 before I attempted to eat anything and was informed at Burger King I had to spend it all. Which I did and then proceeded to throw most of it in the bin. Who ever comes up with these concoctions needs there head examining in my humble opinion. Beef burger, bacon cheese onion barbecue sauce tomato and goodness knows what else. Disgusting. The milkshake was ok. I didn’t even eat the chips, I really don’t know what came over me or why I went there or even why I bothered to try and eat. Lesson learned.
Finally we were on the flight and left about midday. Lunch was served oh dear more food! Arrival in Auckland and the usual customs questions. I got through all that with no problem, not that there was going to be one, and then went and sorted out a phone for myself. This was much cheaper than the US and I now know why, it’s so slooooowwwwww and I can’t see the screen when the sun is shining on it. Excellent purchase. Oh well I only need it to find my way or order a cab as long as I have WiFi I can manage. Then into my usual mode of transport to my serviced apartment. It was very small but actually it was also very nice, clean, modern and had everything I needed. Apart from the fact there was a two GB limit per day on the WIFI.
One of Erik’s judo coaches moved to New Zealand a couple of years ago. Who is Erik I hear some people say, he is my nephew and he has lived with us for the last ten years since the loss of my sister Helga. When Erik came to us one of the things he wanted to do was judo. Helga and Erik were living in New Zealand when my sister passed away and he had done some judo there. So my husband did the research and found a Judo club across the river in Dartford Kent. The Holmes brothers were heavily involved in coaching the elite team which Erik soon became a member of and were a fantastic influence on Erik, he made it into the England squad for his size and weight which was really down to their hard work. I had been in touch with Neil who lives in Whangarei, and agreed to visit the following day on the bus. So I sorted out my bus tickets and then went out in search of food and to see where I had landed.
I was bang in the middle of the University area, I walked down to the Main Street called Queen Street, presumably after my namesake Liz, and at that end there were many many fast food places. The place was absolutely buzzing with students or a very young population which I assumed were students. I walked a bit of a way down Queen Street and the I saw a poster with Björk’s name on it. It was advertising a concert my the Blackbird Ensemble in collaboration with the Q. Special guests Teeks, Anna Coddington, Jessie Cassin and Sarah Belkner, directed by Claire Cowan. Right I thought when is that on the 8th to 11th November. So I worked out I could go on the 8th. I got quite excited about it to find something like that quite by accident yet again serendipity was working for me, and I continued on my exploration.
All the convenience stores were pretty awful in terms of what you could buy in them so I decided to eat out at Nando’s which was the only place I could see that I felt I wanted to eat in after such a terrible day with food. They have a slightly different formula than in England, you go in, choose, pay and then sit down and they do take away as well. I thought I would sit and eat. Unusually for me I ordered a starter just some hummus and pitta, and a sort of paella with chicken and veg. I was waiting for quite a while and eventually a waitress approached me holding two plates, she gave me my starter and then put my main course down on the other side of the table. I said you are joking? She apologised and walked away. As I had already paid there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it, so I proceeded to eat them both at the same time. Then another young lady came along and asked me how everything was. She she got both barrels but in the nicest possible way. She apologised and said next time everything would be perfect, my response to which was “there won’t be a next time”. It was so funny she looked physically startled. Off she went. Just as I was about to leave the first waitress approached me and apologised once more and gave me the money back for my starter. Well they tried I will give them that. Off I toddled up what was one of the steepest hills I have every had to climb back to my apartment and the safety of my bed.
Another early start to catch the bus to Whangarei.
As serendipity would have it the bus stop was two minutes walk from my place. I had been told when I was booking my trip that buses up to the Northlands were non existent or completely unreliable. Well this is a new bus service and I was very impressed. My friends at Greyhound could learn a thing or two. They check you in on a hand held device with the first four digits of your booking reference. They know who they have to pick up and where they are getting off. I am sure Greyhound could buy the system off the shelf!
Anyway on the bus and it was a great ride I have to say you probably know by now that I enjoy seeing countries from a bus or train. One of the things that struck me was how green the hills were, in fact everything is so green, and of course it’s spring. But I have a feeling it’s been like this all winter. I was told that they go brown in the summer with sun burn. A bit like me. So it was a three hour journey but went really quickly and I was actually sitting upstairs at the front of the bus, so a fabulous view. One thing which amused me was every shop in every little town or suburb of a town or city calls itself the name of the town and then really what they do. So if you applied that to the shops in South Ockendon you would have South Ockendon Vets, South Ockendon Hairdressers etc. You certainly know where you are.
Finally I arrived and was met by Neil and Kezia in their Holmes Clinic vehicle. Neil recently set up his own clinic specialising in Osteopathy and is doing well and enjoying life. They took me to a beautiful place with an Art Gallery and cafe. The view was phenomenal is all I can say. This island is so beautiful. We had a lovely lunch and caught up on how NZ was treating them and saw some great pieces of art including furniture which was so amazing. I could have spent a fortune but you will be pleased to know that I managed to resist the urge after all there is no room in my bag.
Then a quick return to the bus stop for the return trip. In fact it was the same bus and lady bus driver. I had seen some things I wanted to photograph on the way back, so made sure I was on the right side of the bus. Unfortunately the front seat was already taken so I had to take a seat further back but I managed to get some good photographs particularly of the harbour which was just amazing in terms of it being right in front of the skyline.
The next day I took it easy in the morning made some breakfast for myself, bacon and eggs. I was going on the train the following day so I thought I would check out where the station was. I set off in the early afternoon and followed my little map. I found a street called Whitaker Street, Erik’s surname, it was so steep there was no way I was going to attempt to go down it! So I took another route which fortunately was less hilly. When I arrived it was a locked up cabin, well more like a steel box. They only open when the train is leaving or arriving which is six times a week. Three down the North Island to Wellington and three back up.
So I carried on around the city and ended up at the opposite end of my namesakes road, the posh end. This was were all the Louis Vuitton and such other shops were our equivalent of Bond Street or Knightsbridge. I walked the whole length to get to the theatre I was going to in the evening. I went in for a glass of wine and picked my ticket up. Really lovely restaurant in there so I booked a table for six thirty. The show started at eight. Dinner was lovely until dessert. There must be something about Auckland waitresses. My waitress was definitely swanning around as if she owned the place. That is the only way I can describe her demeanour. When she came to enquire if everything was ok I could barely understand her, it was like all the words just came out in such a strange way, it wasn’t an ordinary is everything ok type of sentence, I just nodded. But to get to the nub when she served my dessert she just snook up behind me and the plate appeared on the table in front of me, I nearly had a heart attack. No tip for that service.
Anyway less of the moaning about waitresses. On to the main event. The All is Full of Love concert. I don’t profess to be a Björk fan by any means, and to be quite honest know very little about her music. Obviously the attraction for me was this was something new and she is Icelandic so a fellow country woman. I found out that the concert was in honour of her 50th birthday, how can she be 50, but then again how can I be 64?
The music director of the show is a long time Bjök fan and had arranged some of her all time favourite songs for the Blackbird Ensemble. The Ensemble was made up of a number of multi talented professional musicians. Some of the instruments were violin, cello, drum kit, other percussion, keyboards, harp, harpsichord, two saxophones, tambourine, umberella, guitar, horn, electronic and four voices. I am sure I have missed something there. When the musicians came on stage they were all dressed in white boiler suits, with various amazing headdresses and some form of lighting on them either on their person or on their costume. The singers were also dressed in white and had costumes based on some of Björk’s famous costumes, again all with some sort of lighting. It was quite a breathtaking appearance I actually said Wow out loud. And so the music began and I was immediately transported into a new world. It was beautiful, and I now have to start listening to her music. At one point a member of the audience stood up and thanked the music director for bringing this to Auckland and everyone applauded. I was attending the review, and was able to take photographs and video, so I have attached them but apologise for the poor quality. All I can say was that I loved very minute of it and it was worth travelling across the whole world for that one night.
So that was Auckland, next stop Hamilton. I must say when I planned this tour of North Island I didn’t think it would be quite as whistle stop as it seems but time is limited and the objective is of course to not only see the country but to try and be in the country not necessarily just as a sightseer.
After three cool and cloudy days in LA it was good to be in the sun again, I think I am becoming addicted to sunshine.
The flight was absolutely fine, I was pretty exhausted by the time we took off having had little sleep the night before and it being 11:30 pm. But I stayed awake for dinner and watched one movie, then made the effort to sleep which I was able to do off and on during the flight. Breakfast was served about four am Fiji time, and I had a lovely chat with the man sitting next to me. He was 89 and lived in Seattle, he still travels a lot and was on a tour with a four day stay in Auckland followed by a four day stay in Fiji. There is hope for me yet... it is just great to see people still being adventurous at that age.
Musicians welcomed us at the airport. The airport was exceptionally clean and bright, pretty new I believe and everyone was really helpful. My taxi was not there, information chased it and then another driver said he was passing my hotel anyway and he had room so he took me. Arriving at the hotel I was greeted by Paula, Paul in English. He started calling me Liz straight away and that became Queen Liz later on in the day. He had been proudly showing me our Queen on Fiji coins. I had put a change of clothes in my carry on luggage because I knew an early arrival would mean my room wasn’t ready. So here I am sitting by the pool having coffee which cost 70p. Looking at the sea, a little tired but generally very ok.
Eventually I moved to the beach and even ventured into the sea which was beautifully warm. Paula came to find me as my room was now ready and took me upstairs to my ocean view room, which was just as I had expected. I settled in and then made my way downstairs for some lunch and a couple of beers. The hotel had a mixture of young backpackers and more mature clients both couples and singles. The staff were extremely friendly and it was all in all a very relaxing place to be. I spent the day on the beach and then showered and went down to dinner. I was early to bed and think I was asleep by nine. I woke a couple of times and then I was was wide awake at four.
By five thirty I was up and ready for a walk on the beach. It looked as though it stretched for miles, so I was hoping to get my daily exercise in that way. There was a group of young men running together on the beach they overtook me and soon disappeared into the distance. I had walked about half a kilometre when I can came to a water way which was emptying into the sea. The sand was quite dark in colour, volcanic, and the water murky so I couldn’t gauge the depth and where was best place to try and cross. I was wearing long leggings and didn’t want to get them all wet because I am a sissy like that. I could see the runners were on their way back so I thought I will just wait and see where they cross. Ha ha. They all jumped! So I walked back and continued in the opposite direction. I eventually came to a little pier with a private property sign on it. So turned again. So my daily walk became walking this three times which was 4.3 kilometres, mainly on the waters edge so dipping into the warm sea from time to time.
Breakfast when I got in and then onto the beach. I thought I would try a hammock for the morning, just blissful. Gently swaying in the breeze. Reading a little and just being. A very restful day. I joined a young woman who was travelling and an older Scottish woman, who lives in Auckland for dinner as there was a dancing display on that evening outside. I hadn’t booked a table. I hadn’t even occurred to me that I needed to. The Waiter suggested I joined the two ladies at this table. The dancing display was fun and their finale being fire dancing. The three of us had a pleasant evening and got to know a little about each other.
I had by now decided that I wasn’t going to rush around on the island, it was so idyllic where I was I enjoying my morning walks and although I had been away for seven weeks by now I think I had only had two beach days so I was just going to enjoy this as it was. People were dashing off to other islands and or going into Nadi shopping. It was very much a short stay place with people arriving and departing all the time.
Day three and the morning was beautiful, but then the rain started it was really heavy, we were still sitting outside under cover of course, chatting and having lunch. There were five of us ladies by now three from the U.K. one from NZ and one from USA and four of us were all travelling for quite a significant time. More entertainment in the evening, but the rain was still heavy and so it had to be brought inside. It was described as an evening of folk music. Therewere three musicians playing guitars and singing. It was ok but they were not always in tune, and that applied to instruments and voice, which was quite amusing. We were invited to try the Kava which is a local brew, and there is a ceremony which goes around the drinking of it. Yuk is all I can say. It was like drinking mud and it made your tongue numb, but didn’t do much else for me. The entertainment was really background so I felt a little sorry for them as they didn’t get much applause. But they didn’t really earn it. Practice was definitely what they needed speaking as the mother of two musicians
The last day came and the rain was set in for the day, so a group of us sat undercover outside right by the beach and swapped life stories and experiences, drinking beer and just had such a wonderful day. I made a new friend who is going on to Melbourne so I will be meeting up with her when I am there. One of the interesting topics was the menopause, we all agreed it made us a little mad, when I look back on that time I don’t know how I survived in tact at all!
The little pier which I described at the end of my walk on the beach was used as an airport for a tiny little sea plane I had seen flying in and out of the bay. I had managed to get a half decent photograph of it on one of my walks. On this last day myself and Gilda were both desparately trying to get a photograph of it in flight because it passed us a couple of times. We must have looked completely mad running out to the beach everytime we thought we heard it’s engines. Anyway I managed a series of him going past but please excuse the foreground picture of the rubbish bin.
The other fun was with the minor birds who were so noisy and cheeky trying to pick up any food they could. The often few straight into the dining room as it was wide open and once day there were three of them fighting over the food left on a plate which had not yet been removed. One of them was quite vicious to what was obviously a younger and smaller bird. He had to wait he turn in the pecking order.
Then it was over, of course four days is nothing, but I throughly enjoyed myself and am feeling very relaxed and really looking forward to the next stop.