This goes out to all those readers who don't live close to either Laurie or I... or who we haven't had a chance to contact yet... We are both home, safe and sound. Yes, you read right, we are home, each in our respective provinces. It's been a long journey, and don't worry, there are many stories yet to tell, so I'll be writing about the trip for a while yet. Truth of the matter is, sometime in August, we made a decision not to save money just for the sake of saving money, but instead to actually enjoy our trip and do all the interesting things we want to do in each specific area. Knowing how this decision was going to affect the length of our trip, I decided that I needed to be home for my cousin Tyler's wedding (I really couldn't stand the thought of missing it by a mere 2 weeks). Everyone at home was still expecting my trip to last until November, so I decided that maybe I'd let them keep thinking that, and find a way to simply "show up" at the wedding... Much plotting and scheming later, I found a good family friend who was going to the wedding and willing to pick me up from the airport and host me at her house until the wedding. And NO, I DID NOT go and steal the bride's thunder... I got there plenty early and hid in the front lobby of the church, surprising various family members as they walked in. I am pleased to announce there were no heart attacks, and no one who was surprised thought it was a bad idea for me to surprise them. (I did get comments from a few people that I shouldn't have surprised family in such a public place... but COME ON, where else makes a great surprise?) My immediate family barely even looked surprised. Mom's first comment? "I knew it!" She states she figured I couldn't miss the wedding. Mothers.
Here's me hugging a surprised Tyler...
And now a surprised mom (with the rest of the family in the background.)
I did manage to surprise a few other people along the way, but I think I'm about done with that exercise, so I'm making the homecoming a bit more public by posting on the blog. To all of you faithful readers who've been missing the blog postings, I blame it on our whirlwind trip through Europe, as I really didn't have much time or energy at the end of my days for typing or posting blogs. I suppose it's about time I finished off our New Zealand portion of the trip...
First, I suppose I need to reiterate the poetic license bit... I may have exaggerated the inclines of the volcano hike by a little bit. I will say that they definitely felt that steep to me, but Laurie is adamant that it wasn't quite that steep... do you trust the mountain girl or the prairie girl? I suppose it's all in the experience. Once we finished that experience, we did a little portion of the Stray bus tour over again in order to get ourselves a free ride to Hamilton (we'd already paid for the tickets, why buy another bus ticket?) Why Hamilton you might ask. Hamilton was conveniently close to Trevor and Judy's place in Cambridge. How do I explain Trevor and Judy? Easiest explaination is that Trevor grew up with Laurie's dad many many moons ago! Yes, we very much enjoy staying with people who are our parent's ages. They can be SO MUCH FUN, and amazing hosts... plus they often have houses big enough for us to at least get a mattress on the floor or a spare room. Our weekend there was jam-packed with stuff to do.
Saturday was a car rally. Okay, so that's not my usual kind of outing, but really, you have to explore the things the locals enjoy, and it was fun. We got there early enough to get seats overlooking the sharpest hairpin tour on the whole track, I got pics of the fastest car clipping the corner...
And later we checked out the pit crews as they did their timed car-fixer-upper-thing-a-ma-bob. ya. I took pictures for dad, maybe he'll know what they did... I know they replaced one part, changed all the tires... um... I think they fixed the alignment...
Half the fun of a car rally is picturing yourself driving the cars, and picking out odd facts that no one else cares to notice, like the fact that most of the cars had the steering wheel on the left side of the car, which we thought was odd for New Zealand, where the driver is normally on the right. And then there's the quality food you get at events like these... um it was a choice between hotdogs and steak sandwiches. Laurie got me exactly the toppings I wanted without me having asked her to get me anything... I think we've been travelling together too long.
That evening we went out again, but first we had to put on makeup...
can you guess we went out to a sporting event? Yup. Rugby, the national sport of New Zealand. CAN'T go to NZ without seeing at least one local game. Seeing as we were staying with people from Cambridge, that's the team we were cheering for. Sadly, they were against one of the best teams around.
They were pounded to a pulp
It was a blast though. The crowd gets soooo excited over everything. At first they only got excited for big things... near the end they were going nuts for every time their team even managed to get the ball. Amazing how priorities change when there's not much hope of winning left.
Judy took us out the next day to Tauranga, where we had a nice walk around, ate some icecream, and headed back via the scenic route. We even drove past the area where Hobbittown was filmed. Sadly, we still remained too cheap to pay to actually go see hobbittown. Here's the hillside just to the right of the road that leads to hobbittown!... (any questions will have to be referred to Lord of the Rings fans, they'll know what hobbittown is)
We finished off with some relaxing days hanging around their place. We also packed up a box of stuff each. When we began travelling around NZ we made the decision that there was no way we were going to continue on with a suitcase and a backpack each plus one other small bag. So we repacked everything into one suitcase and the two backpacks, and locked up the rest of the gear in a luggage storage area. It is amazing how little you actually need to travel. It is quite possible to travel with one pair of pants, a few changes of tops and one set of pajamas, plus a week's worth of undies and socks. (Oh, a jacket and shoes) No one could believe that we made it on so little luggage. So, knowing what we actually NEEDED, we repacked all our stuff at Trevor's place and mailed home a box of stuff each, leaving each suitcase half-full (ready for souvenirs and shopping in Europe)
Bright and early...well maybe not so early... around 11am Sept 5th, we were picked up by the shuttle service taking us to the airport in Auckland. Wow, I've been in so many airports since then, I'm blanking on what we did when we got there, and I don't have Laurie beside me to jog my memory... give me a second, it'll come to me ....................................................................................... I think ................................................................................................................................................................................................. hmm, here's a good arguement for not writing late at night!
Well, that break was productive... I figured out we passed through approximately 24 airports on this trip, and I am no longer capable of remembering Auckland airport... it was that interesting. So anyways, we flew out at 3pm Auckland time, flew for 12hours and arrived in Bangkok after managing to stay awake for most of the flight. We walked from one end of the airport to the center, eschewing all chances at using the moving sidewalks because we REALLY really really needed to move and get some sort of exercise after sitting that long. Once in the center we read the tv screens, informing us that we needed to switch levels and walk back approximately the same distance. Along the way we stopped at a bathroom, where after doing the natural bit, we pulled out wet-wipes and had the closest thing to a proper wash-up of faces, armpits and other sweaty areas, as you can get while in transit. I think we were there maybe 15-20 minutes. We then continued our power walk to the far end of the airport, went through security again, kept walking... I think we must have walked a total of 40minutes since we got off the first plane... and as we arrived at our gate, they were giving the final boarding call. Yikes! Just made it! Twelve more hours of flying, this time catching as good of a sleep as we can get on a plane, we arrived in Madrid at 8am local time.
We were exhausted after all that flying, and it was nice to know that we had a hotel room waiting for us. At this point we had no patience for public transport, so we hired a taxi, and managed to explain to him where we were going (neither of us really knows spanish). The hotel had a room we could check into early, so we gladly took our stuff up the 4 flights of stairs, and took turns napping and showering, before heading out for the day. I'll tell you more later, but yes, we did stay up until late that night, with the hopes that by not giving in to fatigue, we could reset our internal clocks to the proper time for sleep.