Friday, December 26, 2008

Graduations, reunions & a spot of riding, of course.

With the mix & match roster of being the relief supervisor, December has been a bit of a mess as far as routine goes. But that can hardly be blamed entirely on work rosters as there have been a few little trips around the country. First up, was Adele’s graduation in Dunedin – I managed to fit in six days down south. Flying in to Oamaru for the first time (it has always been fly in to Christchurch or Dunedin & then drive to Oamaru) was quite exciting & small planes are just great – you get that feeling of the tail slewing all around the place on take off & can watch the pilots & the instruments from your seat. I was amused to see that the emergency response vehicle at the airfield was a rather dated Nissan Sentra (all three doors of it) – after that I was even more thankful for an uneventful landing. Out for dinner – the start of too much food, a pity the table smelt like it had been cleaned with a bacteria-ridden cloth, it was like being back in the flat again.

Thursday, I made the mistake of wearing jeans for the trip up to Timaru. It turned out to be stinking hot & Dad & I spent the afternoon traipsing around houses – it turned out that the first one we looked at was the best & Adele & I are now in the process of buying it together for her & another doctor flatmate to live in. After a trip to the accountants, which was pretty much an excuse to talk about mountain-biking in the North & South Islands, it was off to pick up Adele from work (where she had the tragic finding of no air-con in the hospital) & back out to the chosen house to give her a look. Having concluded that house-filled afternoon, Adele quickly packed for the weekend & it was back to mighty Oamaru (mmmmm roast).

More unpacking & repacking later, we managed to leave on time on Friday morning for the trip down to Dunedin. On the way we stopped & looked at the farm that is being cut up in to lots & Mum & Dad intend buying one & building on it for their retirement (if that ever happens). With mountain & estuary views, it’s a nice spot – although it maybe a little cold that far south. While Mum was at an appointment & Adele picked up her gown, Dad & I did the honourable Pheasant thing & read the paper. That exhaustion over it was a rush to check in to our rooms, get flashed up & then back to the university for an appointment with a photographer. Lots of photos ensued, thankfully not too many with me in them. In between Mum giving & gleaning photography tips, there were plenty of us looking suitably proud – a shame we never got one of the clock tower without a pesky red car in front of it. More rushing around as Dad & I hurried out to the airport to pick up my Uncle flying in from Australia & Adele got ready for the med. ball that night. Having arrived at the airport, we quickly realised when there was no sign of Geoff that we had no idea which flight he was on, which airline he was flying with or even if he had come direct from Sydney or via Auckland or Christchurch – so we went to a cafĂ©. He eventually turned up. Couldn’t go too wrong with a steakhouse for dinner that night, even if we did have to sit in the fishbowl at the front of the restaurant.

Off to Med school prize giving for Adele, Mum & Dad while Geoff & I lazed around & ambled around the university & Dunedin on Saturday morning. After lunch it was off to George St to watch all the graduands parade on past towards the Octagon & Town Hall. Brisk walking between town & the hotel & another change it to slightly flashier clothes & it was off to the Town Hall for Adele's ceremony. Due to our lower status, Geoff & I were relegated to another hall to watch it all on the big screen - this turned out to be a blessing as apparently it was ridiculously hot up the top of the town hall. Much pomp & ceremony later I'd seen a few people I recognised & missed a few I should have recognised & Adele finally graduated as a doctor - well done. Following the guest speaker, who typically talked a lot about themself, it was a good night of socialising with various friends & family.
As we had Geoff with us, it was the tourist route home on Sunday morning - via Middlemarch & Dansey's Pass. The biggest surprise of this was meeting the mother of one Adele's best friends from her days in Te Puke in a charming cafe in Middlemarch - got to love NZ. Another beautiful day (I'd been pleasantly surprised by the weather so far - all Dad wanted was rain for the farms) & nice trip over the Dansey's punctuated by a flat tyre on the way down & we were back home again. Monday the weather packed in & was spent pottering around & applying for the house loan. Flying home Tuesday morning the huge 19-seater had a whole four passengers on it (as opposed to three whole passengers & two halves) - back to work just for a change.

A day and a half of work was more than enough & Wednesday afternoon the car & bike were loaded up & it was off to Rotorua for the night. I had been persuaded by a Te Puke mate, Brendan (spelt the correct way), to help out on a school mountain bike camp (it didn't take a lot of persuading to be honest). The clincher was it was a day of being shuttled to the top of the largest hill in the forest on a bus & riding down multiple times. It was a bit of fun & there was some amusement provided by the novice riders; generally it was a slow day & we seemed to spend a lot of time sitting waiting for the bus or sitting on the bus - I'm sure that was good riding time wasted! But no up hills was great - just as well as we went further out on the last run around a slight hill most of the riders were pathetically walkers. Still a good day & a rush back in the afternoon to the Franklin MTB club Christmas barbeque - the highlight of which was the rather chaotic game of bike football. Bike football is of course riding around on a bike trying to play football without putting your feet on the ground. Really it was a game of chicken as when the ball found a bit of space four or five bikes (& riders) would rush at the ball & invite certain carnage until the ball was kicked about a metre or so.
Enough frivolity, managed to fit work in on Friday before flying off to Palmy to see Dad (second time in four days - what the?). Dad & all his siblings (five altogether) were getting together for a little reunion - first time in three and a half years - & I didn't really need much of an excuse to head south & catch up with them all & also with mates from my time in Palmy. Not that there all that many left to visit any more - somewhat unsurprisingly. A great weekend hearing all sorts of old stories, eating too much great food (Spostato is always good) & even enjoying a bit of sun (the wind was still there of course & there seem to be more windmills every time I go back) - I never knew there was such a large rose garden at the Esplanade.
After that rather filled week & a half I managed to fit four days of work in (including two shifts) before a smaller trip - back to the Bay of Plenty for more riding (mainly). Armed with the latest edition (7th) of the NZ MTBr's bible - the Kennett Bros book - Luke, Neil & I set out on Saturday for the Tree Trunk Gorge ride. This turned out to be around the top of the Desert Road. Unfortunately, the weather forecast was pretty miserable and funnily enough the weather was pretty poor too. Overcast most of the way to Turangi & then it started raining. The drive down was hardly uneventful (it never is in the Galant - there is always some rattle to listen too & guess where it might be coming from); this particular trip made more exciting by Neil's bike not having been tied on to the bike rack too well. Without wheels (in the boot for various reasons), the bike was rather light & after passing a car (fortunately) along Broadlands I was wondering why they might be flashing their lights at me. As it turned out, Neil's trusty stead was slowly making its way to a drop of certain peril off the end of the bike rack. When we stopped, the barends were a lot shorter from bouncing along the road & it was dangling off the bike rack by only one side of the rear triangle - a close thing indeed.

We made it to the Pillars of Hercules with all bikes in tact (bar ends excluded). The ride started in the drizzle over the new swing bridge, which is so high you can't really see the Pillars, and then proceeded to climb (mostly gradually) for a good twenty minutes through really nice bush (its attraction also due to it sheltering properties). Coming in to a clearing we were all of a sudden sitting on the side of the windy part of the Desert Road & it sure was raining. Due to it being a weekend & miserable weather, there was only light traffic so as we proceeded to get soaked riding up the rest of the windy part we weren't knocked over by any stray cars or trucks. Reaching Tree Trunk Gorge it was downhill for six kilometres, which got us even more drenched, before reaching the start of the shared track.

The track itself was a nice gentle gradient down, not too technical & a lot of fun. It was generally pretty wide for the first descent & the track was covered in lots of small leaves. A chilly ford crossing later it was a pretty good climb up for five or ten minutes - which had all of us walking at various stages. The final piece of track back to the car was more technical & still very enjoyable. After loading up & getting out of our wet clothes it was off back to Rotorua & then Te Puke. Sunday was much less traveling for the ride - a trip over to Rotorua with Brendan & Richard - & a much easier ride - a cruise around A-Trail, Tickler, Bunny Jugs, Rollercoaster (surprisingly overgrown at the start - just shows how popular the shuttle is), Dragon's Tail & the Exit out. A bit of test match watching back at the Wilsons before on the road again home.

With working Christmas Eve & Christmas night shifts, Christmas this year has been a bit of a write off - but I did get a good Christmas dinner at Doug's parents' place (thanks), which meant I didn't need to eat again well in to last night's shift. The Peace has had a upgrade in the forks department - thanks to my first TradeMe purchase in ages - I no longer have to ride a fully rigid bike when I want to go for the one gear option.

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