Sunday, 28 October 2007

Reunion in Auckland and Christchurch

After enjoying the Auckland scenery and the vulcanos, doing loads of nice walks, meeting nice people in my tiny hostel I went to pick up my friend from Belgium, Eefje. Eefje and I got to know each other at the climbing club in Dublin. Although we are living in a small world, this was less of a coincidence because Eefje planned to get out here to do some nice hiking with me for a month!! Our reunion was full of good hugs, a lot of laughter and a nice bottle of wine to end the day!

On Saturday we flew straight to Christchurch because people were telling us that the South Island is way more beautiful for hiking. And there we had another quite enjoyable reunion with a friend from Ireland, Patrick. We got to know Patrick at the climbing club as well. Patrick moved over to New Zealand 4 years ago and never left the place. Again, we exchanged big hugs, we smiled and talked and since Patrick had 2 parties to go to, we just went along as well!

Halloween parties to be exact so this is what we looked liked after trashing Patricks wardrobe:

Eefje, the perfect housewife and Maaike, sleepy in her pyjama's...Patrick was Polypro-Superman. No questions asked, but let's say the reunion was just splendid!

The next day Eefje and I did some serious hiking planning, figuring out where to go and what to do. We have three four day tracks ahead of us, some kayakking, a lot of stunning views and excellent company. And now here it comes, just as we wanted to get a rental car for these four weeks,

Patrick chipped in the offer again (which I had forgotten) that we could use his mini van for the next four weeks! So, great great great, we have a car!!! We have a tent also, but there is a matrass in the back, so we can sleep in there too. Nice and cosy... So big, massive thank you for Mister Patrick himself: he is the best!

And of course, the car needs to smell nice during our travels, so I put Guusjes present in: a vanilla scented thingy with a very nice message! (just in case: not all who wander are lost...) So not many blogs for the next weeks or so, but loads of stories and pictures afterwards...WAUW!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Small world...truly!

First blog in another new country: New Zealand. I arrived on Saturday, I took the bus to town and I had the nicest bus driver ever. He showed me around the city when all the rest of the people got off.

The next day I walked to town (I am staying at a very cosy, wee little hostel outside town) and I 'sniffed' the city to get a feel of the place. Although everyone is telling me to go to the South Island straight away because it is much nicer, my conclusion of that day was (and I am sticking to it!): New Zealand has a great VIBE, even Auckland. I don't know why, but I had the same feeling when I got to Ireland 5 years ago. So that is very promissing!

No pictures yet, because well, taking pictures of the town is not really appealing. But I have 2 stories though:

story one:
I went to the Auckland Museum yesterday to learn more about the Maori people. Great museum, good exhibition. They had a display on all the Melanesian and Polynesian art, language, customes and cultures: they were saying people from Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea and all the tiny Islands in the Pacific have huge similarities within several areas of their culture. People travelling from as West as Papua New Guinea to as far East as Tahiti should be able to see the similarities. But they were saying, not many people are actually going to all those places.... As if I knew this when I was planning my world trip: I was in Papua New Guinea, I am here now (=NZ) and I'm heading to Tahiti in three months...So my planning turns out to be 'culturally correct'!

'weird' story two:
Several months ago an Irish friend of mine, Mark, who I know from the diving club in Dublin, tracked me down via my friend Patrick in Christchurh who I know from the climbing club. Mark turns out to be travelling around the world as well and next month he is going to be in NZ too, so great to meet up. That for one is bizar. To make it more bizar; he knew I know Carole, another friend of mine from Dublin with whom I lost contact. Turns out that Carole is leaving NZ today to go home (!) and that she is leaving from Auckland. So I just spend the day with her in Auckland and it was great talking to her again! Small world, really. And she gave me her SIM card, so as of today I have a number in NZ. First I have to figure out how it works though....I hate mobiles...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A brand new experience!

After travelling and working on the farm the past few weeks I am in a completely different but exciting new world...I am in a terribly sweaty Darwin, at my cousin Imke. Imke and I didn't know each other that well until 6 years ago. Around that time I was working in a pub in the Outback near Darwin: we knew that we were both in Australia, but we did not have each others email addresses. By weird coincidence we ran into each other in Darwin (20 million people in Australia and you run into someone you know...). Since then we kept in touch and 2,5 years ago Imke was in the Netherlands with her daughter Josie. We had an incredible nice time, so meeting up here would be great fun guaranteed.

Imke still lives near Darwin, in a place called Humpty Doo (see sunset at a nearby lagoon). Josie is 4 years now and Josie has a little brother, 7 months old Liam. And that's where the new world starts: until now I have not spend more than one day with really young kids or even babies. Yes, I have lots of experience with bigger kids (yes mum, I know, I can still be a kid), but the tiny ones...Oh no, I am too afraid to 'brake' them.

So my cousin warned me that it would be full on. And guess what, I surprised my cousin and myself; I absolutely love spending all my time here. Of course the kids are no perfect angels, but that makes it all more lively! On the right you can see the moment Imke decided to dump 'het pierebadje' and get a bigger pool.

At first Josie was shy, but that went away quickly. Now I can wrestle with her without a problem, I can eat her alive (always screaming big time when I chase her), I can throw her away in the pool, I can steal some kisses of her and I can get a little bit angry with her if she does something naughty. She even calls me ' mum' sometimes. Of course by accident; Imke and I have to laugh and Josie gets really shy then.

Liam deserted even quicker. In the beginning when he cried, I could pick him up, but I could not get him quiet. The next step was that I could get him to calm down as long as his mum was close by and now, I can 'hush' him to sleep, he follows me around when he's looking for 'a mum' and he gives the biggest hugs anyone can ever give me.

In the meantime I'm spending lots of quality time with Imke as well. I am teaching her a bit about her new computer, we wrote a letter of interest for a job Imke would like to have (and they have already called her for an interview: great stuff!) and I am just helping Imke around the house to give her a sense of holiday as well.

We do a lot of walking, swimming and once in a while we go to the pub to have a nice ice cold beer...Being with small kids you have to watch what you are doing though...See picture above how I got confused...In the meantime Josie is picking up a habit almost every young kid does: finishing the beer bottle...

Anyway, after 2 weeks of babies and kids (I held a 3 day old baby today even though I told the mother better not too, because I am not used to the little ones...I'm learning though!) I am off to New Zealand on Saturday. But before that some kids logic (true story!)

Setting: Maaike and 4 kids of each 4 years old in the pool (of course all the mothers were taking advantage of my energy and they were taking a relaxing day off with Imke next to the pool...)

Kid 1: Maaike, who's mum are you?
Kid 2: Yeah, who is your baby?
Me: I do not have a baby.
[silence and 3 pairs of weird eyes and one normal pair-Josie- were looking at me]
Kid 1 (definitely the most rude one): But you are old!
Me: Well yes, I am old enough to have a baby, but I don't have one yet.
Kid 2: Ok, so you are a kid still.
Kid 1: Yes you're a kid!!
Me: No, not really, I am a grown-up without kids.
Kid 1: Ok, I get it, you are a big kid!

Kids logic: you've got to love it. And it's true, totally true!

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Herberton: the relaxing place

The world is treating me well. More than 2 weeks ago my friend Helen (left) came down to hot Cairns to pick me up and she took me to their place. Six years ago I worked for Helen and Duncan at their organic farm; then I planned on staying for 2 weeks, I ended up staying for 2 months so that says enough about how Helen, Duncan and I got on!

We were reunited at their new home near Herberton (semi-Outback) and we just picked up our friendship where we left it 6 years ago. Of course some things were still the same, some things were different.

Things which were the same:
- We talked a lot, and if I say a lot, I mean constantly… (sorry Helen for keeping you off work…)
- Helen and Duncan made me feel very very welcome. Perhaps these pictures give you a clue about the indescribable nice atmosphere at their place.

- I did not use a computer for the entire time, I did not watch TV (except 2 movies…) but I did listen to a lot of real Australian music, thanks to Duncan. AC DC rules…

- Duncan’s cooking qualities (left) have not changed, so every single meal was a big hit!
- I worked in and around their farm doing loads of things like taking care of the animals (horses, goats, chickens), cleaning the stables, creating new gardens, cleaning in and around the house. In short: making myself use full after travelling for some months made me feel good!!
- I slept like a baby, every single night. Fresh air, good food, casual work and excellent company wear you out…
- I met loads of their good friends which (by no surprise) turned out to be lovely and inspirational people.
- I have laughed a lot. Again… Still.

Things which have changed:
- Well obviously their house: they have bought a piece of land (bush) and they are planning on building their own house. For the moment they are living in a ‘shed’. Well, that’s the official name, but I genuinely think it’s one of the most romantic spots I have ever been.

- Almost every second day we went horseback riding. Yeah! It was great, really great. Trotting along in the bush, going for long and short rides and I even had a lesson from a good riding instructor. (Picture shows Duncan, Helen and Viola)

- I slept in a caravan next to their house, their shower was very idyllic (open views into the bush) and their toilet was optional: either wee behind a little tree and get great views late at night or use ‘the hole in the ground’ with, well to be honest, another great view!

- I made some good new friends: Roger (the dog) and the horses Rocky (I knew him already), Condor and Spot (‘my’ horse, see picture).

- Duncan and Helen wanted to do some preventive fire burning so if there is a real fire threat, they are safe. They decided to wait until I was there. Best decision ever! They did not know I am a little pyromaniac…So off I went on their four wheeler (a quad) and burned the place. And then sit back close to the fire to watch it and listen to it. GREAT!

Anyway, I really relaxed at their home, their land and their bush. Their company and their animals gave me the ultimate relaxing feeling. Well, I was already very relaxed, but I did some good thinking about living in remote areas and why I am so much enjoying my travelling and just loving the little things in life. Sounds tacky, but I still feel I am one of the luckiest people in the world…

In the meanwhile I am in Darwin, in another very enjoyable place where I feel very welcome again: at my cousin, Imke! More stories will follow soon(ish)!