Lou had been working hard to get the car details out and about in the hope of a quick sale of it and all the camping stuff that we had. Of course, it is never that simple and we had had no bites at all from the posts she had put up.
For our final period in Auckland, she had arranged for us to stay at a workaway in the Mt Eden area. Right up on the hill at the end of the road, the house was at the end of a steep drive. Rented by Kharen, a single mum and Alex, her lovely 12 year old daughter, she had decided that with the hours she worked, the large garden would never be brought under control unless she got help and so her looking for workaways. It was great fun. We lived in an enormous room on the ground floor with probably as much floor space as our flat in Stockbridge. We were able to spread out, clean, wash and repack all the stuff we had acquired in NZ, separating what we would take back to the boat and what would be left behind.
The work on the garden entailed everyone getting involved. I did the noisy stuff and cut down some trees, Lou and the girls weeded and picked out huge numbers of unwanted bulbs and I even managed to do a little carpet laying to the outhouse, converted into a hideaway for Alex. I tried to make a new shelter under the deck area with a large tarp which looked good until the rain came. With not enough angle and too little tension, it failed. I understand that Kharen will try again with more angle and perhaps supports fitted too.
Of course it wasn’t all work. We had some great meals and chats with Kharen. Hannah was particularly appreciative of her time with Alex, someone who shares her love of art and is in this person’s humble opinion, exhibiting a considerable talent already. There was a visit to the Auckland Zoo where Hannah, near beside herself, got to see a baby giraffe (for those not in the know, her very, very favourite animal) and even a Kiwi in a special low light environmental area. No photos allowed though, so you get to see the sign.
We had a good time doing the last real mall shopping we expect to be able to do until we either see Australia or perhaps the UK. Clothes were delivered back to Op shops, more clothes were handed down by Alex and bags were packed. I managed to run around a variety of boat shops and found most of my shopping list – new bearings for the main track, an acid wash for the water generator, West System epoxy, a gel coat repair kit, bulbs and copper strip being the main items. Lou continued to try and get rid of the car but we still had no luck. In the end, we took it back to the company that we bought it from, signed it in to their care for sale and left it with them for eventual disposal. It may take a while but we should get some money back in time.
We also managed to run out to see the Hobans for an evening, the Workaway family we stayed with back in November. We yet again had a lovely time with them and I hope that we will see (at least!) the kids on our side of the world when they spread their wings. Lovely people.
We left NZ with a big smile on our faces. We had had a wonderful time, staying with four great families and meeting many more good people as we travelled around. We were regularly blown away by the hospitality we encountered and the help and advice we received was excellent. Our thanks to you, the Shafts, Hoban, Sell and Hope families. You were wonderful and we hope that one day we will be able to return your hospitality.
And the sport and the outdoor lifestyle? Just marvellous. You don’t see many smokers (priced out of existence – $25+ a pack and rising at 10% a year) and you rarely see overweight – people are just too busy at either some sport or just out tramping. As someone said to us, there is as much pride shown here for someone that gets even to a district sports team as getting good exam results. The number of small towns we drove through with huge signs up, congratulating pupils getting in to a junior NZ team was great to see.
NZ is still a young country and there remain historic difficulties due to the land grabbing tactics of the original white settlers from the Maori clans. However, the modern acceptance and integration of Maori culture and acceptance of the debt suggests that the country is in a far healthier state than say USA, SA or Aus are with their indigenous minorities. The mania for rugby helps, of course. Don’t think I met a NZ child who didn’t know the haka and wasn’t intensely proud of where it came from!
Although we liked the cosmopolitan nature of Auckland, we both thought that it is getting too big , with an influence that is becoming even more pervasive than London is to the UK. I’d suggest that if there are to be problems in NZ in the future, it will be because of this seemingly unchecked growth and the hoovering of resource, personal and finance, from the rest of the country. Whilst I enjoyed the warmth of the North, the majesty of the South Island attracts me massively and I’d love to explore that better. What a place. I think, as I have said before, it is Scotland on acid.
Would I go back to NZ? Could I live there?
In a heartbeat.
Best thing I can say about a place, really.
NB. Be aware all views stated here in the singular form are solely the views of the author. They may or may not be subscribed to by the long haired Admiral!
PS. We will be returning to the UK on 6 Dec 2017. The flights are booked.