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Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I've been around a good bunch over the last few days, having met most of them, of course, in the kitchen. Jase and Jo, a couple from London, have proved to be real down to earth. We've had a lot of conversations here and there over breakfast or dinner. Jase has come from slightly similar circumstances to myself. Having sat one day questioning whether or not this was 'his lot' he decided to go and see a bit of the world. Shortly after, he sold his house and got on a plane. He'd originally arrived in Thailand with his mate, though this didn't go wholly to plan. It wasn't long at all before his mate panicked and got homesick. He flew home more or less immediately. Shortly after, Jase started getting cold feet too and paid for Jo to fly out and join him. They've travelled together comfortably ever since. They left a few days ago to head for the North Island. The first I knew about it was the other morning. I hadn't seen them for a couple of days as they'd been visiting other places. I'd got my head in the side of the van when Jase came running over. They'd stopped by to say goodbye. He offered to treat me to breakfast, which was a wonderful gesture. Twenty minutes later we were sat in the Scarborough Café right on the beach in Sumner where I'd been twice previously with Shinyhead. It's really peaceful and pleasant there; you can just sit with your tea or your muffin and look out at the waves lashing right alongside the café. The odd thing again was the weather. The wind was strong this time, cold and blustery yet the sea was like a sheet of glass with only the odd, occasional patter of a wave. Totally confusing, especially after the last two visits with Shiny.

This was my last day at the Top 10 Holiday Park for a couple of days as the site had become full and I had to move off. It had been pre-booked for nine months or so in anticipation of the floods of Lions supporters that would be around for the game on Saturday night. I landed on my feet luckily as Amanda offered to give up her floor for a couple of nights. The Top 10 Holiday Park isn't very big at all. It's the best I've come across in terms of facilities but by no means is it particularly roomy. Apparently, six hundred supporters were staying here on Friday, followed by a whole van squeezing one thousand on Saturday. I can only imagine the chaos. I ventured in to town on the Saturday to watch the game with Amanda. Cathedral Square was packed with Lions fans. Apparently, over twenty thousand fans had flown in from the UK to follow the Lions tour since it had started in June. We queued for over half an hour to gain entry in to the Holy Grail and it was over two hours before the game had even started. This was the big one too. The All Blacks vs The Lions, first test. I noticed that the 'Sky TV' crew were already in there filming the energy and the tension. The atmosphere was electrifying. Old Jacko was up in the rafters in the 'reserved section' looking down on us minnows like we were small caged animals. He'd been granted his luxury seat through his company and looked quite smug until it became apparent to him that he was the only Lions supporter on the whole stand. I can't say I've ever seen so many Welsh people (outside Wales) stood in the same place all at once. There were more Welsh in there than any other supporters. The Lions got a stuffing again, which was disappointing for some, but still, the game was good and the atmosphere even better.

The following morning I packed up and headed out to find some breakfast, eventually checking back in to the Top 10 in the early afternoon. When I got there I found Kieran and Flo. I'd met them around the same time as I did Jase and Jo and had spent a few meal times and evenings with them, sharing banter. They're good folk. The first night they arrived they had just flown in from Oz and Kieran was full of questions on what to do and where to go. He's from Northern Island and lives in the South of England with Flo. They'd released a bit of equity in their home and had decided to take a round the world trip for a year. Though he seemed alright, I was unsure how to take him at first. He was very forward and abrupt, quite the confrontational sort. But before long I'd took a real liking to him. He actually means well, just says things without thinking (he actually doesn't care much for how people take what he says, and more often than not ends up being quite funny without realising it.) Flo's a diamond, completely laid back and easy going, down to earth and seems to love his ways more than anyone. It's quite endearing to watch her watch him. So when I turned up on Sunday afternoon he was all smiles and called me over to their van. A classic example, try and imagine the accent: - I'd just sat down on the edge of their bed-cum-sofa. Kieran had his head in the fridge. 'Hey d'you wanna beer mate?' (I'd got a real bad head too. It's the last thing I wanted.) Before I could turn it down he'd got two out of the fridge and cracked them open. He took a long swig and stared hard at the can. It had Canterbury Draught written on the side. 'I can't bloody stand these. That's the only reason I offered you one, so where d'you get to last night?' That's Kieran.

Later on in the afternoon a young lad came in to the kitchen with a small portable television and asked if anyone was interested. Well if anyone was interested it was tough shit anyway. It was Kieran's telly now. He stood at the worktop excitedly, bent down to waist height and glared in to it with a huge enchanted grin, twiddling knobs like a kid with a new toy. His six weeks in New Zealand were going to be perfect. It was written all over his face. Flo's eyes were pointed upwards.

Today I went and spent the afternoon with some fine people, Bas and Lyneke. I'd met them at Port William Hut, at the end of Day One of the North West Circuit. We'd stayed up quite late listening to the rain pelting down on the roof of the hut like nine-inch nails. It pounded so hard we had to raise our voices to talk. They were doing the NWC too and had started a few days ahead of me but had turned back, as Bas had grown concerned that his ankle might not go the distance. He kindly gave me some of his firelighters, which I'd completely forgot to include (!) and had generally offered good all round advice, namely that tomorrow I was going to encounter little else other than deep, thick mud. They were really nice people, Dutch, who had moved to New Brighton just outside Christchurch. They gave me their number and asked me to look them up when I got to Christchurch as they wanted to hear about how I got on over the following ten days. They also offered to let me stay over and take a shower if I needed to. I know, I know, it's just friendliness time and time again. Bas' motives made perfect sense though. In all the years they had travelled, they too had been shown immense kindness and support, so they just wanted to return the favour, to 'pay it forward' as is so common in the world of the wanderer.

So this I did. I spoke to him yesterday and we agreed that I go round to 13 Effingham Street at around 1.30pm. 'We live just over the road from the beach. The three of us can go for a nice walk.' Sounded good to me. I pulled up at 1.30pm. Bas was out on his bike. Lyneke walked me through to the garden and showed me the vegetable patch and composting area. Bas and Lyneke are among the most inspiring people I have ever met. Bas is one of those who knows everything. Not in an arrogant 'no, no, no, let me correct you there' kind of a way, he actually does. He takes an interest in everything. He likes to understand everything. And he's good at everything. He's the sort of guy who, when he talks, he engages you. You can't help but be extremely interested in what he's got to say. If there were others in the room, chances are they would interrupt their own conversations, stop chewing for a moment and push one ear a little closer in his direction. He's just sat sort of chap. They have a lifestyle that many would dream of, yet they live life very modestly. They've already travelled the world. A few years ago. They didn't do the all popular one year 'round the world' ticket though like so many do. 'Took us a good five years or so,' Bas recalled. They did it on bikes! Push bikes with basic supplies and a tent strapped to the back. Say no more. They only work six months of the year now, living year-round on what they make in six months. Lyneke plants trees most of the time and tends to their self-sufficient garden project while Bas shoots off all over the South Island guiding small groups on biking tours around the more breathtaking parts of New Zealand. Incidentally, he's six foot five and has those long, powerful legs that could propel you anywhere in an instant. I can imagine him momentarily squatting down and taking his measure, before springing off like Spiderman, projecting himself perfectly, high up on to the roof where he would mend a couple of broken tiles.

We sat round a table in the afternoon sun, under a huge pergola with coffee and biscuits as Lyneke modestly (at my request) brought out Bas' portfolio: a big, bumper lever-arched folder full of magazine article after magazine article detailing their extravagant cycling adventures. They ranged from the depths of South America, all over Africa and Europe to Australia, plus loads of places I'd never even heard of. These two were legends in the Dutch biking world. But here's the bit that blew me away. Bas had written all the articles. He writes in his spare time for pleasure and profit. He'd done all the work, the spectacular photography and the stories. They're fascinating people. They live frugally and make enough in their short working months to allow them to adventure hard for the remainder of the year. This year they're planning to go down the West Coast before heading inland to do a bit of mountaineering. They even offered to let me stay at their place, adding that I might have to be alone as they were off to the West Coast potentially next week. Lyneke then commented that it might actually be better to have someone around the house just to keep things 'lived-in'. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How much kindness can one person take? I mentioned that I was waiting to hear about a job in Queenstown and that my own plans are very much up in the air at the moment. It turned out to be a really pleasant afternoon. Following a brief walk up and down the beach I offered to drop Bas off in Christchurch to pick up his car. He was going to cycle in but I just thought it made sense. He accepted kindly. I said my goodbyes to Lyneke and we headed off. As I dropped him at the garage he made one final gesture: 'If you ever get in to any trouble, or find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, just come and knock on the door. You can stay as long as you like. And don't be embarrassed either. You're welcome. Don't even ring. Just turn up. Anytime. You know, if you get ill or something and you just need someone. Just turn up mate.' We shook hands, he got out and I drove away.

I know I'm here for a reason and that I'm meeting the people I'm meeting for a reason but this is starting to take the cake. What a thing to say to someone.

After dropping Bas off, I got a call from 'Barry' (Chicken's boss). She'd passed on my number bless her and he'd called up asking if I was interested in working in Queenstown. Well that was a simple question. We spoke for a while about the sort of work it involved and he asked me if I could send a resume over to him by email. I agreed I would go in to town in the morning and do just that. He seemed pleased enough, so I headed straight back to camp to get started on constructing one. Of all the planning I'd made before leaving England in September, I didn't even think of bringing my CV, yet it would've been so simple. At worst I could have emailed it to myself. Damn bugger blast. Good positive news though!
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