Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NZ Visit - Northern Week

Ben & Gina's upcoming wedding finally provided me with the motivation to spend considerable money & annual leave to return home to New Zealand for a brief visit. I was a little concerned that a wedding at the end of winter would mean that I would have a rather cold & gloomy visit home.  I need not have worried, it was a generally stunning & warm fortnight - especially after all the prior rain I was told about.

I had planned for my inbound flight to arrive on my birthday - much better than the other option of missing one's thirtieth through time zone changes - & was very pleased that favourite sister, Adele, made it all the way up for the night's celebrations.  After picking up the rental car & navigating new roads, we made it to Mt Eden.  Andrew & Shelley's house (they have returned to NZ after many years in London - the latter few during which I spent a fair bit of time with them) was in a fair state of disarray as the kitchen area was gutted for next week's new kitchen.  It was a gorgeous & warm day to head up Mt Eden with a good old steak & mushroom pie to catch some views of Auckland.

We decided a local B&B was a much better option for sleep than a rather crowded lounge next to a (de)construction site - so after a jet-lag induced nap, it was time to wander up the road to Mt Eden Village & the bar where I'd organised a small gathering to see a lot of people at once.  I recommend having a birthday when visiting home - it's a good excuse to get everyone together.  A most enjoyable night catching up with many old friends - a little odd for me being the only one that knew everyone else & therefore having to actually mingle & talk to everyone, imagine that!  Was my usual slack self at taking pictures of people, but pretty pleased with this one.

Another clear morning was enough excuse to wander around Mission Bay with Adele in the sun, before having lunch with cousin David & dropping Adele at the airport.  Straight down to Waihi Beach & the farm, where strangely Rosemary & the children were missing (gone to Te Puke).  While Dave continued milking the cows, I had another big nap before a bit of a boys night eating well too much down in the village before returning to watch the All Blacks.

Sunday Brunch with catching up with Tori & Greg down at the Mount before strolling along Main Beach reminiscing (my first school is not too far away).

Up in to the hills behind Tauranga to check out Bruce & Sue's new property (they've recently moved from Pukekohe) before taking the back roads in to Te Puke for another gathering/birthday celebration. It seems plenty of kids have arrived since I left, there were almost as many children running around as there were adults (not running around) that evening.  Penny excelled in the cake department, yet again, & there was the general abundance of food that comes from a good Te Puke shared dinner.



I've just realised that the rest of the week continued in the same way - I drove a fair bit & saw scores of close friends & family.  I'm still tired from the return flights & going straight back to work, so it's to the highlights we go.

I was thrilled that my first bike ride post-shoulder operation was in the Redwoods & on my singlespeed that I haven't ridden for over three years (I brought it back with me, it's now assembled & awaiting Thursday's after work ride).  A relatively easy ride which the shoulder & legs handled admirably.

More Auckland outings with Shelley & Amelie in the sun, plenty of good food too.  By the end of the week, I'd seen that Auckland is actually quite a nice city - if you can get down to the water.
From Devonport
Auckland City from Devonport
Rangitoto Island from Devonport

Other good visits included a return to Ironmaking at NZ Steel; Pukekohe visits to my old flats; and a coal dinner.  The wedding was down south of Hamilton on a vineyard (who knew there were such things in the Waikato?) halfway through my visit.  It was just warm enough for the service to be outside (but that's easy to say when you wore a jacket & weren't one of the ones with bare shoulders). It was a super sweet service & most excellent to see two close friends clearly so happy; the food & cake wasn't bad either.

One last stop before the South Island was necessary in Wellington to see Elizabeth, Nigel & recent-addition Cara. I've not been more thrilled on hearing a friend was expecting a first child as I was when Elizabeth told me she was pregnant, so there was much delight in catching up with this expanding family. In what seems to be a common thread of these visits, the food was once again scrumptious.

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