Leaving the Land of The Long White Cloud
Trip Start May 31, 2008
33Trip End Jul 31, 2009
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Almost as though awoken from a hypnotists trance the RobDY2K+9 Travel Blog is BACK as I am relinquished from the spell The Land Of The Long White Cloud has cast on me.
Sat aboard LAN flight LA 800 somewhere roughly 4kilometers above the south pacific ocean I now look back at my last 8 months in New Zealand and the time I have had here.
I left my blog consumed by the 9 - 5 (well - 07:30 to 15:30 if I was on the early shift!) working for Wesfarmers Insurance Division at Lumley Insurance in my Service Desk role. A comfortable job, conveniently located in the middle of Auckland working with a great bunch of people in a lovely environment right down near the harbor - I could not have asked for more from a job.
Special mention must go here to my awesome team, Daniel Nimmo (the foundation of our team), Daniel Williams (aka 'Heavy D' - the life and soul of the Service Desk) and our esteemed team lead Mr Simon Edwards, a more typical Gooners fan you could not expect to meet - an all round top South Londoner. A right motley crew and no mistake (Oooo - the NOISE we made in that open plan office!), but also a team which knew how to work hard as well as how to have FUN, a crucial element to working on any service desk.
Another s pecial mention to our guru and mentor, Mr Iain Palmer, a stand-up guy who provided the experience and knowledge to allow us all to keep the business running, a man without whom we often could not operate....
So working at Lumley was all-gravey, and the balance a job on a shift pattern offered was appreciated as I did my best in the final third of 2008 to socialize and find my feet in what was at the time a pretty grey and somewhat uninspiring city. I've gotta admit that there were times when Auckland felt somewhat dull, traipsing up and down Queen Street looking for inspiration in the same old bars and hang outs limited by the futility of no car and a pretty rubbish public transport system. Couple this with a flat-mate/best-mate embroiled in a relationship with a girl which usually resulted in him pissing off away at the weekend in said girlfriends car and what you had was a rather unhappy Rob.
Admittedly my heart was still in England at this point and only time was going to change that.
I guess the real turning point for me was thanks to Party Marty and his magic bus. A Kiwi Socialite in only the way the perhaps gay men can be (this guy spent his LIFE out and about partying and made a full-time job of it), Marty is a man of great legend amongst certain Aucklanders. I believe this legend will not be tarnished as he has now relocated to Dubai I believe, preserving his reputation by going out at the top of his game. but his legacy prevails due in no small part to events such as the Magic Bus which he organized and got a bunch of people together to get pissed on a bus all day at various pretty great spots around Auckland, with loud music and booze on the bus in between spots (BYO of course!), all culminating in a party at the top of the Auckland Sky City hotel penthouse pool for a private party with DJs and a bar (if you'd run out of your own booze). What this event demonstrated to me was both some great new spots to hang out in Auckland but also a rather marvelous social scene which I had yet to tap into. Admittedly the way things turned out I am only really in touch with two people from the bus party (hello Emma and Nick!), but in a dark moment of un-inspiration the Magic Bus gave me new hope that I could actually grow to quite like this Kiwi life!
Hooray for that!
Next highlight of the year was definitely Rhythm and Vines. These shenanigans came about thanks to one of my musical hero's Public Enemy announcing their addition to the bill to make what looked like a good festival into a real hum-dinger of a line up. Sufficiently convinced, Chris and I bought tickets and set about planning 5 days of hedonism over New Years in sunny old Gisbourne (sight of Captain Cooks first landing in NZ history fans!).
Having met my match for geeking about music earlier in the month at Deschlers on High Street in Auckland when I first met Klara and her friend Sally, I set about persuading my new best friend to come with Chris and I and our slightly less new friends Rob (from Luton) and Tina (a cracking Leeds lass I tell thee). Due to Klara's enthusiasm for live music and bands as well as my enthusiasm about P.E. playing it didn't take much persuading and soon we were getting acquainted with NZ's first EVER 3 day summer camping music festival. Hell yeah! This gig was smokin'! Alright, so we were older than most of 'the kids', but a two day warm up at BW Campgrounds pre-party ON THE BEACH in a location which easily stands up againt your Byron Bays or Noosas in Aussie (complete with kick ass Bikini Jam - deffo gona put few pics of the winner up fellas!) followed by 3 days worth of New Years madness in a BEAUTIFUL OASIS of a vineyard in the lush Hawkes Bay hillside was enough to leave me thoroughly satisfied and keen for another bash next year.
Seriously, R&V is as good as any medium sized festival in Europe and comparisons kept being made to Rob Da Bank's Bestival on the Isle of White by Chris and I, a true complement if you've ever been. DEFINATE HIGHLIGHTS for me include being PUNCHED in the face whilst off mine at the front of the crowd for P.E. (amazing how being in front of Chuck D makes one a tremendous ambassador in the face of physical violence and I was soon shaking hands with my 'nervous in crowds' large Maori Assailant), more euphoria to Shihad (put bluntly, the Kiwi Oasis) on NYE night itself, a New Years Kiss from the lovely Roberta McCaul which totally blew my mind (as well as serving to fetch my heart firmly back to New Zealand from Leeds where it had been 'loitering' for the past 6 months - CATCH UP HEART!!!! - THANKS Bobbi!) and finally, dancing in the woods to hard-out Drum N' Bass whilst the first sunrise of 2009 rose above me whilst watching various staunch party people soak up the last act of a wearing yet highly enjoyable PROPER festival, a first I feel for New Zealand at large. GREAT VIBE!
Totally fabulous memories I will cherish, however not as much as the friendship with Klara which BLOSSOMED after R&V due to an impromptu road trip to Mount Manganui for my second visit there after being WELL impressed the first time I visited the place with my folks and Hannah back in 2004. The place had only changed for the better and Klara and I had a blast, the perfect end to a sweet two week Christmas holiday the sort of which you just don't get in that frosty Northern Hemisphere!
Talking of Christmas, extra special thanks must go to Cassandra and her Mum for putting Kristen, Christopher, Jeremy and I up at her place for a homely Kiwi family Christmas. At a time of year when one can become most homesick, being welcomed into the bosom of another family is the perfect antidote to the distance between oneself and ones loved ones. I guess also that you can't wish for anything more whilst travelling than the cultural experience of living with the locals, especially at a time of celebration and we were treated to the works with regards to a Kiwi Christmas in Hastings with a family Champagne BBQ breakfast and a full dinner out in the back garden in the blazing Eastern Sun (people - the sun there is MEAN!) Great job Mrs Wilde, THANKS again to you and Cass!
A gentle social rhythm developed after Xmas, with regular visits to Dechlers and Cassette #9 with Klara and Sally, who I continued to fall in love with due to their impressive Kiwi Indie-scenesters inside knowledge and their recommendations of gigs to attend and bands to see which I trusted implicitly! Their recommendations never failed me ONCE!
Hardened drinkers also MUCHO BOOZING prevailed, ESPECIALLY on a school night (but admittedly only when I was on the late shift), much to the delight of my co-workers at Lumley who generally laughed at my hangovers and generally still-drunken state on a Friday morning (and a Wednesday morning eventually when Cassette's cheap drinks on it's student / backpacker night eventually won us over on a Tuesday night, particularly with the allure of $4 house drinks and $7 teapots, the Long Island Iced Tea being my particular specialty, despite horrendous heart burn usually the next day). Many tales of weeknight drinking and debauchery kept the service desk entertained the next morning and I've gotta say I enjoyed trying to remember telling the tale, ESPECIALLY when I looked at my camera phone photo's and the bits and pieces of the puzzle of the end of the night inevitably came together - we've all been there right?
A summer of love evolved personally after I met Anna at Christmas in the Park (the Domain) and our relationship grew over the next three months, bringing a whole new level of contentment to my NZ experience. Getting to know a lovely young woman and her friends, as well as learning about her city as HER home is something I recommend ANYONE who is single and overseas experience. It's BRILLIANT! Suddenly I was getting to know the rather posh suburb of Remuera, catching the train in to work, spending weekends discovering the beaches of the North Shore (Long Bay being a particular favorite and special memory for me) and meeting a whole new bunch of lovely Kiwis who welcomed me into their lives as one of their own very quickly. Its gotta be said they're a hospitable and relaxed bunch these Kiwis, and they're generally a lot less intense than some of the folk from next door (G'Day AUSSIES!).
My next holiday after Rhythm and Vines was spent with my Mum and Dad who came to visit in Feb and with whom I covered the North East and Northland of NZ. Hiring a 'Spaceship' we learned how to travel together again (having last travelled in NZ 5 years ago) and how to live in each others pockets for two weeks. Initially there was the usual family tension but in no time really we learned to get along and have an adventure together, checking out some of NZs finest beaches, restaurants and countryside and clocking up an impressive few thousand Kilometers on the Spaceship.
Highlights for sure are Pihia and Russell, both with Anna and my folks and again with just the olds for a return portion as well as visiting Waitangi where the Kiwi nation was established in the 1800s. I also have fond memories of our last night together as a family in a shitty little caravan just off Takapuna beach laughing our asses off (a wee bit tipsy on Red Wine) at just how we had managed to save what was possibly the smallest, most cramped accommodation of the trip for our last night! WTF!!!??? fº
So - my last few weeks were full of various farewells and send offs, first for Anna who departed for Mexico a week and a half before I left and then for myself. A Mexican themed party in Anna's house was one of the parties of trip for me, made extra special by the fact that Klara and I got to DJ together! YES! fº
An Easter weekend in Christchurch with Anna's family was another treat, again getting the full Kiwi family experience (as well as a VERY thorough tour of the farming town of Ashburton where Anna's family are from). A family station wagon was hired for a trip to Akaroa where we went on a boat dolphin spotting which was a definite highlight, as well as the overwhelming beauty of the place itself.
Last but not least I must mention my best friend and now former flat mate Chris, a man without whose friendship and companionship would have made my time in NZ intolerable. Yes, people referred to us as married (we got bitching and moaning and rowing down to an enjoyable art form!), we called each other 'husband', we physically fought LOTS - (play fighting of course - he ALWAYS beat me despite me kicking his ass week in week out at the gym), we got HORRIFICALLY drunk together and made cocks of ourselves, offending people (mainly Chris actually), we kept each other awake with our shagging, we annoyed each other with our little domestic habits, but most of all we were TOTAL BEST FRIENDS, we told each other all our thoughts and feelings, all our hopes and fears, our deepest secrets (which we both were guilty of then broadcasting!) and we LAUGHED OUR HEADS OFF together, LOTS at MANY silly, ludicrous and down right immature incidents of tomfoolery. I hope your knee gets better Christoph! I love you bro!
SO - on reflection, I feel there was no box left un-ticked. Actually, I failed at my main objective of becoming a good surfer, but people - that shit takes TIME! With that in mind, as I said goodbye to my best friends and colleagues today I resolved to come back to the land of the Long White Cloud in 2010 and learn to surf PROPERLY and to probably go to Rhythm and Vines 2010.
Chile beckons and Argentina shortly afterwards... swine flu abounds. People on the planes are wearing masks! The world has changed in less than a week and I travel in a world gripped by panic. HARDEN UP I say (as the Kiwis are so fond of saying). As Metallica and specifically 'Papa' James Hetfield said in 2008 on the anthem to survival 'Broken Beat and Scarred' (my personal source of strength and Chris and my 'press up song'!) from the AWE INSPRING DEATH MAGNETIC - 'WHAT DON'T KILL YOU MAKE YOU MORE STRONG!'
Remember that people!
Regular service will now be resumed on this blog... Laters!