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So, we finally released from the Jailhouse in Christchurch, not without being put on record first of course..
We then hopped on a short flight back to Auckland where we were met at the airport, very kindly, by Sally, who’s home we would be staying in for the next couple of nights.
Sally was great mates with Marks sister, Karen, and had moved to New Zealand about 11 years ago. Mark hadn’t seen her in probably 15 years and I’d never met her, but she graciously offered us to come stay with her. She lives about half an our south of Auckland airport in a small town called Pokeno. She lives there with her husband Adrian, two gorgeous girls Tori and Jasmine. Adrian has a bunch of older boys too who stay often, who’s room we nicked and Cane, the 19 year old who lives in the garage and has it too good to ever leave. We can understand that having stayed for a few days – it’s a lovely, chilled out place to be and was an incredibly welcome break after traipsing around the hostels for the last 2 months. No matter how nice or interesting the places we had been before, you can’t get that sense of normality and comfort that you can in someones home. Just sitting chatting, watching TV, listening to the kids place make-believe, playing with the pets, Venus the cat, Freddy the mouse, Princess Chocolate Face the rabbit and the visiting neighbour’s one-eyed dog, Oscar – it really was what we both needed at a time we were starting to feel homesick.
Plus Mark and Sally had a massive catch up about everyone from their school days and looked back at some old photos and her year book from school with some particularly interesting photos of Karen that I had never seen before. They had a great reminisce while Adrian and I rolled our eyes and watched a fantastic documentary on the demolition derby up northlands in New Zealand. If you can find away to watch ‘Kaikohe Demolition’ – it’s a blast!
We’d arrived on Waitangi Day which is a bank holiday to commemorate the day a, still controversial) treaty signed in 1800s between the Maori chiefs and the british. So, everyone was off work and school.
It was nice to chat about New Zealand from an insider perspective and to ask about the odd things that I’d been wondering about or noticed. Adrian is Maori so knows the place inside out and Sally has been there along time but us being there reminded her or some of the silly little differences you notice.
The weather finally perked up and we had a drink down at a bar just outside of town, down by the river which was a lovely settings. It re-iterated to us one of the big differences in New Zealand, outside the cities, much like in the US, if you want to go to a restaurant or pub/bar, you have to get in the car. Although many village pubs at home are closing, it’s not that often you don’t have somewhere you can get to on foot.
We then had a major treat of a lamb roast – oh how we’d missed roasts, which Mark cooked, most impressively, while we chilled out in the garden. We had to honour the ‘land of lamb’ with this huge leg of lamb, accompanied by Kumara, the sweet potato cooked traditionally in New Zealand along with silver beat, kind of like swiss chard, grown in their garden. Yum.
The next day Sally, once again very kindly, dropped us off at our airport motel, but not before we all had a min science lessen in the form of how frogs become tadpoles. They had a tank of tadpoles at the front of the house, which just as we were leaving, Sally noticed, had started to turn into frogs. It’s not since primary school have I seen tiny, baby frogs and more interestingly half tadpole, half-frogs in various forms, tadpoles with just back legs or frogs still with long tails. Not particularly fascinating thing to blog about but it just took me back to when I was young and had more time to look at such things. It’s a good metaphor for New Zealand as a whole. It’s a more laid back, chilled out place and also from a slightly more innocent times. Sally rarely locks her car door, parked out the front of her house. The kids can happily and safely run around the neighbourhood. I can definitely see the appeal of New Zealand for people with families. You not only get so much more space from a property, it is safer and priority is on family and home much more than work.
Anyway, after a lovely few days, our last night, predictably from an airport ‘lodge’ was a bit bleak. The place, although it had a pool, was a bit battered and grim. Our room had clearly at some point been an office as it was off the main lounge, had a ‘Private’ sign on the door and an empty corkboard up on the wall. Most strangely though was on the bedside cabinet they had 3 cards with pictures of dogs – I can not for the life of me imagine why.
We went to the hotel next door for a bite to eat and had probably the only bad meal we had in the whole time we were in New Zealand. Calamari that appeared to be re-constituted fish rather than have any squid in it. Garlic bread that you have in the freezer and has a tiny bit of garlic butter that melts when you heat it up – nothing wrong with that, but at these prices! Marks lamb curry, he is convinced, came out of a tin of dog food. I, myself, was not surprised but was quite disconcerted that my usual ‘safe’ choice of spaghetti in tomato sauce was also pretty gross. How on earth can you get that wrong???
We should have settled into the hotel with a sandwich and a packed of crisps from the garage but hey ho. We needed an early night as we had to get up at 5am to catch our flight anyhow.
Auckland airport was, as ever, super efficient and to our surprise, our cheap flight to Adelaide with Pacific Blue, ended up being with Air New Zealand. This was pure luxury, especially compared to the 2 hideous 10+ hour flights we’d had on the way over to Fiji.
Comfy seats, individual TVs with tons of TV choices (have you noticed TV has become a major luxury in our lives).
The video for the in-flight safety talk was hilarious and culminated in a naked old lady – has to be seen to be believed!!!
The flight was longer than I’d thought, being around 4 and a half hours. Happy with that! I settled down to the pilot of ‘New Girl’ which I liked so much I watched twice – then a bunch of other great new shows, such as Modern Family and Mr Sunshine with Matthew Perry. Mark, disturbingly, watched first a Susan Boyle documetary then Brittany Spears in concert!!!??? You know that you can know someone a long time and sometimes find that you never really knew them at all? Hmm.