|Southern Alps North Canterbury|
|Near Otaki,,, a freedom camping site. Breakfast.|
|Mt Tongariro & Ruapehu in the North Island.|
|Auckland CBD from the ferry wharf.|
|Waiting to drive onto the Waiheke Ferry|
|At our destination- our bedroom this morning.|
|The beach around the corner.|
One of the firefighters had organised a morning tea gathering at the fire station for retired fire fighters. He invited me to attend as chaplain because, "well you are their age and you'll know them all." I enjoyed catching up on these guys who had served many years as fire fighters. I appreciated their warm acceptance of me as part of their group. I am fortunate indeed to have these friendships.
Monday..A "Cleansing" Ceremony
At the brewery where I am chaplain there had been a fatal accident a few weeks ago. One of the contractors had an accident and subsequently died from the injuries. I had done a lot of work talking with the brewery workers about it, in an informal way debriefing them. The manager asked if we could have a sort of closure/cleansing ceremony particularly in the spot where the accident happened. Well as it worked out they involved a Maori Elder to go through every area of the brewery praying, finishing in the lift shaft area where it happened. I then had a brief ceremony of memorial and claiming back the brewery as a place of life, laughter and love. (Monday was the annual International Workers Memorial day when those who had died at work are remembered.) The Maori Elder had suggested we ought to sing a hymn or song. While we were following him around the brewery there were whispered conversations about what we could sing. Most would not know a hymn. At the end of my little ceremony I asked, "Has anyone come up with a song?" The had decided and stepped forward with copies of the words of a local song that the brewery had used in an advertisement... I think they had sponsored the song. It is called "I'm a Southern Man"
The gathered "congregation" of brewery workers, managers and executives joined in a not so tuneful rendition of this song. We ended with smiles on our faces, we had claimed the area back as a place of love, life and laughter! It maybe wasn't a hymn, but somehow it was this firm's hymn, and brought that sense of togetherness and life necessary.
In the afternoon on Monday I had a follow-up-from-my-prostate-operation appointment at the hospital. It was the quickest appointment I have had. I was taken right away. We did an appropriate test, she asked questions, she checked the pathology report (there was no cancer found) and she declared that I was now off their books, all clear with my GP left to keep an eye on me. As I walked out I realised I ought to be celebrating. I have had at least two years of uncertainty, discomfort and problems and now I am back to normal.... most would say I am never normal. But I did not have time to celebrate, we were leaving next day for four months away from home.
We have travelled from Dunedin, which is in the most southern quarter of the South Island of NZ to Waiheke Island, which is part of Auckland City in the northern quarter of the North Island of NZ. It is a distance of 1,461 kilometres which does not sound very long, but New Zealand roads are pretty twisty compared to the same distance in many countries. It involved two ferry crossings, one three and a half hours long crosses Cook Strait between the North and South Islands, and the second a one hour trip from Auckland waterfront to Waiheke Island. We left Dunedin about 11 a.m. on Tuesday and arrived at my son's house on Waiheke Island at about 8:45 p.m. on Friday.
- On Tuesday we travelled to Christchurch where we had dinner with our son Simon, his wife Stephanie and their son Theo. They are currently living at Stephanie's parents home so we were grateful for Judy and Grant's warm hospitality. We had been diverted on the journey, because of flood waters, and had driven through floods. We slept in the back of our van in a camping ground just around the road from my son's in-laws house.
- Wednesday we drove to Picton to catch a ferry across to the North Island and drive for about an hour further. The ferry left over an hour later than its scheduled time, and arrived in Wellington an hour and a half later than the time the ticket said. It was after midnight when we drove off the boat to travel to a very basic campground an hour or so further up the road.
- On Thursday a further hour up the road we visited a long standing friend in Palmerston North for four hours. Palmerston North was where we had our first ministry in New Zealand. Sometime after 2 p.m. we drove over 300kms. to Tokoroa, where we shouted ourselves the luxury of a basic motel.
- Friday saw us complete the journey to Auckland, pick up some purchases our Waiheke son had made on line, and catch the ferry to Waiheke Island which left at 7:30 p.m. Here we stay, using our van as a bedroom, awaiting the birth of a grandchild and resting up for a few weeks.
There are two aspects of the trip that have forced their way into my mind.
1. The First is that we live in a very beautiful country! Photographs do not communicate that beauty, no matter how good they are. We drove up with the Canterbury plains, with occasional glimpses of snow capped mountains. (Our first day on the road was a rainy cloudy day.) Driving out of Christchurch on Tuesday, we had a sunny day with the beautiful Southern Alps, snow covered and glistening. The Kaikoura Mountains as a backdrop to acres of vineyards were magnificent. The coastline was simply dramatic in places. In the North Island you drive surrounded by hills and mountains nearly all the way. It simply is a very beautiful country and we are fortunate indeed to live here.
2. Throughout our trip we were prompted by the places we passed to remember earlier trips we had done as a couple or as a family. There were countless times when we said, "Remember when...." Some of the trips were characteristic of "us"... an old vehicle and various adventures. We once had a traveling ministry in a 25 foot caravan towed by an old ambulance, so that produced memories. Our first car as a married couple was a Hillman Husky, and we had several adventures, carrying a tent and freedom camping in that. The "Remember whens..." went back to 1969 and reflected the journey of life we had been on since that date. I began to appreciate again the common history you develop together in a marriage and the shared adventures and memories involved.