Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
105Trip End Jun 08, 2006
My dad, aunt Elizabeth, and aunt Sue (see two entries previous) all have the same father, Robert McGarva, but different mothers. My philandering grandfather spent much of his life in New Zealand and that far-away side of the family have never met their Scottish relatives. So it is with curiosity and mild trepidation that I call Elizabeth and agree to meet up.
Elizabeth has given me directions over the phone and before we know it we have turned off the main road into a small village called Athenree near Kati Kati. We pull into a cul-de-sac and look for her house. One of the neighbours sees me and comments that ´you must be the relatives from Scotland come to see Elizabeth´
After saying hello, Elizabeth takes us into the little bungalow, and makes us a nice cup of tea. It feels like visiting someone in Scotland as there is nothing particularly that marks out the environment as anything different from back home. She offers to do our large pile of washing and we hang up our damp camping gear to dry. Soon we meet her new partner, Steve, who arrives back from work in a Toyota Hilux 4WD towing a trailer with an assortment of lawnmowers on board. As a fulltime lawnmower man he has over 50 customers in the area. Ensuring that he cuts every customers lawn once every two works means he has to cut an average of 5 lawns per day. Rainy days means he is often playing catchup and placating concerned customers. This sort of work pulls in NZ35-NZ50 (about GBP 14-18) per hour; a reasonable paying occupation.
In the evening Steve fires up the Barbeque and cooks up some steaks for us. It seems that the Kiwis love their barbies just as much as the Ozzies. We have a chance to share some stories with Elizabeth, and she shows us some photos of Grandad. She has a book of his Robert Burns poems which apparently he treated like his Bible, and two hat badges bearing his numbers from the New Zealand and British Air Forces.
Next morning we go for a drive with Elizabeth around the local area
We drive into Waihi, where we take a look into the tourist information centre which seems to be staffed by geriatric volunteers. We watch a video about the local open cast gold mine which I am surprised to learn has produced thousands of tonnes of gold bringing in millions of dollars over the many years of production. We drive up to a viewpoint overlooking the mine where we can see the gigantic crater that has been dug out of the earth. It is amazing how from the mainstreet of the town less than a kilometre away one is completely unaware of this industrial monstrosity lurking in the suburbs. I work out that it is hidden because the miners have dug the middle out of a hill, so that whatever aspect one takes of the area you cannot see inside, like a volcano, unless you climb to the top.
We take a couple of snaps beside the giant dump truck which has been parked up permanently beside the mine
In the evening we go out to the Returned Servicemens Association (RSA) for a bite to eat. I am amazed at how big and busy the place is. It seems to be the social centre of the community for many people. Rachel and I are signed in as guests and we head through to a cavernous dining hall already full of people. We place our orders and receive an electronic buzzer to inform us when our meal will be ready. The menu reads just as one would imagine the menu or a typical English pub would be with the only exception that there is a wider choice of fresh fish. I start to think that perhaps New Zealand is closer culturally with England than even Australia. The food comes in big tasty portions and we enjoy the mealtime banter. The club has vast panoramic windows which afford a great view of the surrounding countryside and many of the guests sit on the verandah outside. Unfortunately not all the windows are open as one unobservant customer walking outside discovers to his detriment, bouncing his plate of sausages and mash off the highly polished glass onto the carpet.
Next day Rachel and I say sad goodbyes to Elizabeth and Steve, and set off back to the airport in Auckland, driving our boring underpowered automatic Toyota Corolla
And so we leave Austalisia and head off to a new continent - South America.