i'm sorry for such a long absence. i may explain myself further in later days, but i did get into a pretty bad headspace in december for various reasons. however, since then, i've been away for a 10-day holiday with my kids in the far north. i've had a project over the last couple of summers to show my girls the country of their birth, which i have neglected to do. i've shown them europe, asia and australia but they had never been to the south island. i rectified that last summer, and this year decided we should explore the far north.
and what fun we had! i deliberately kept away from the internet, from phones and from any kind of news, whether it was papers or television. it was so nice to drop out of everything for a while, to have no demands on my time and no requests for information or assistance, no complaints or negativity. truly bliss. but i'm back, back to my normal life and the real world but feeling much more ready to face it.
before i get into any serious topics (like gaza, for instance), i thought i'd post today about things i've learnt from the holiday.
one is that you shouldn't go from paihia to russell by road on a rainy day. in fact it's probably not good to do so on a fine day. but on a winding, mountainous, gravel and clay road that is about one & a half lanes, and if you suffer from vertigo, it is definitely not a good idea. take the ferry. i was, of course, given the same advice but ignored it. so we had quite an adventure, with me driving at about 30km with my hand on the horn most of the way (the latter was just in case there was a driver coming the other way around a hairpin bend, but i can report that no-one else was stupid enough to use the road that day!)
two is that matauri bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. bayly's beach is not at all bad either, but a lot more challenging. there is absolutely nothing more frightening but exhilerating than seeing a hugh wall of water coming at you, and managing to jump over it. i totally love swimming at the sea. and we are totally a sight on the beach, i swear we get more people looking at us in our full sleeved t-shirts, trousers and headscarves than all the bikini-clad babes showing off their curves! if you want to get noticed, it's definitely worth a try... but i make sure that we never go to deep with all that clothing, and we do swim between the flags, so don't worry, we were totally conscious of being safe.
three is that kauri are totally cool, and it's such a pity that our native forests were so badly pillaged by early settlers. we saw tane mahuta, and took a walk through trounson park, and it was beautiful. i've now become very enamoured of trees, and now think that the cutting down of a large tree is murder. and kauri are definitely the jewel of the forest. i wonder if one would survive in my back yard...
four is that sand surfing is definitely not for me. the coming down is fun, but climbing up a steep sandy hill is pure torture when you're totally unfit like moi. but at least i can say i gave it a go.
five is that the shops in whangarei all close by 5pm on christmas eve. so if you think that you might buy some late christmas presents, you're only option (i'm not kidding) is the warehouse. the town centre was totally dead at 5.30, except for a couple of pubs spilling out on to the pavement. even subway was winding down by 7pm. us hamiltonians were feeling like metropolitan city-dwellers in a provincial country town, and that's saying something!
six is that history is very different depending on whose telling it. we had one version (the maori version) from our guide vern at waitangi, bless his soul. and we had another version altogether from the woman at the mission in kerikeri. no guesses for which version i preferred! in fact, you can see the proof next to my name in the visitors book at kemp house, if you're passing by that way in the near future. we visited the kauri museum at matakohe (?) which is also very settler focussed. i actually was really sad that there was so much settler history preserved yet comparatively little maori history preserved in a similar way. maybe i just didn't go to the right places, but then there were no brochures promoting maori historical sites in any of the motels we stayed at.
i know that there are cultural differences, that maori history is much more of an oral history, that the buildings weren't made out of stone but of more temporary materials so were possibly not likely to last for hundreds of years. or maybe they've decided their history is not for sale, so they don't do that kind of tourist activity. who knows. i know that there were signposts for marae on almost every country road, something we don't see here in the waikato. maybe i should have just driven to some of them and talked to the locals, except that i don't know if that's an appropriate thing to do or even whether there would have been anyone there to talk to. they might have all been down at the beach!
and finally, i'm so glad i don't live in auckland. the traffic coming back yesterday from dargaville to auckland was pretty awful. i guess we're sheltered from those kinds of jams here in hamilton, which is why i love living here. not too big, not too small. as you might guess, i really am glad to be back home.