Last days in NZ...
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I got to my destination several hours late, and saintly Brian and Judy were there waiting for us. Molly is in fridge (=useless) mode again, since time is running terribly short and I cannot ride around as I would like to. Also, my hosts were more than keen to take me around and - contrary to my beliefs - they are all car lovers rather than bike addicts, so no chances of recreating a von Trapp family situation and cycle happily, all together. Hamilton is quiet (very), still has a beautiful museum of (local) Maori traditions where I marvelled at the recently-restaured cerimonial canoe and another maerae. I also had a long walk in the Botanic Gardens, huge and fairly empty, bar some other foreigners - most Hamiltonians were busy with their (rather reckless) Christmas shopping...
After spending a couple of days where I experienced a complete change in climate ( almost a sub-tropical atmosphere, with daily heavy showers punctually between 5 and 6.30 pm), I boarded my coach to Thames and the Coromandel.
In sunny and peaceful Thames I was the guest of Ann and Howard, two local teachers more than happy to take care of me ( how lucky can I be?) and to play the role of guides to my day out on the Coromandel. Never mind the breezy day up on the hills - the views were unbelieveable, hills and peaks, kauri trees, sheep and cows and all. I saw a couple of Swiss cyclists puffing their way up and was overwhelmed with both envy and smugness at the idea (sorry, Molly!)that I was being taken around in total comfort. We circled the Coromandel and then sought refuge in a fantastic chippie by the sea, where I enjoyed my schnapper and kumara chips (a local twist on the theme!). A walk on the low-tide beach, crunching a bed of shells underneath our feet, reaffirmed how lucky I have been in spending time in a country offering unmatched, almost healing proximity to nature. I will surely remember all those varied yet equally beautiful landscapes when I next am engulfed in London's greyness and cold.
I am spending my last hours in NZ in Auckland, where I arrived yesterday at lunchtime. With its population of over 1 mil inhabitants, Auckland is considered the unofficial capital of the country - and this fuels a lot of arguments concerning tax quotas, predominance in culture and trends, etc. What a difference with the peace and quiet of the last couple of days! Traffic is frantic (by standards), people keep to themselves and seem reluctant to smile or pause. I have so far managed to walk to the harbour and to the hq of the America's Cup, to Albert Park and the Domain and even to spend an hour or two in the shops (huge malls again, everywhere..). And yes, made it a couple of exhibitions - in the city's library and at the Art Gallery.
This afternoon I am bound for the airport then, tonight, I will sleep in Nadi, Fiji. I hope to find an internet point in my resort for the final pages of my diaries. Should this be impossible, I will complete them once back to London...but I do not want to think of that just yet!