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October 21st, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,New Zealand

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Mike had thought ahead to my arrival, and had taken a day off work today to ride for a day with me. Since I was taking the most back of back roads as possible, last night we came up with a suitably out of the way route from Hamilton to Kawhia via Raglan. By the end of the day, we had only made it to Raglan, due to all very legitimate reasons (excuses).

It was not until 10am that we finally left Mike and Stephanie’s house in central Hamilton. Their son Joel had already made a beeline for my recumbent before I managed to get to it.

Joel on the Street Machine GTe in Hamilton, New Zealand Joel on the Street Machine GTe in Hamilton, New Zealand

Mike had to make some last minute adjustments to his panniers, which he hadn’t used for a few years, but soon enough we were off. Mike had kindly agreed to carry half my gear, to make things easier on both of us.

Test-riding the bike with panniers in Hamilton, New Zealand

We were only about two minutes into the ride when a semi-disaster struck. Once again in true Chernishov style Mike took off like a man possessed and took me on a winding rollercoaster ride through a park he had once walked through. While walking, he had never noticed the ditch. Luckily, or unluckily depending on how you look at it, Mike did notice the ditch from about 5 metres away as he sped towards it at 30km/h on wet grass with slick tyres and heavy panniers on. His lightening fast reflexes meant that he only fell on his knee at about 20km/h.

Back home after 5 minutes of riding in Hamilton, New Zealand

I couldn’t help laughing, but it was clear that Mike and his bike were both worse for wear. We limped back to Mike’s place to repair him and his bike.

By 11am after a quick stop at Pack n’ Save (grocery store chain in NZ) we were finally on the road and out of Hamilton.

On the way to Raglan, New Zealand

The plan at this stage was still to try to make it to Kaphia, about 80km away on windy gravel roads. It was a big ask to make it in time (Stephanie was scheduled to come and pick Mike up at about 7pm), but we were confident.

And then we took a side road. Quite easily just as steep as the road over to the Wakhan Valley in Tajikistan

. The only thing it had going for it over that road was that it was not sandy, and wasn’t at 4,300m in altitude.

By lunch we realised that we were still only 1/3 of the way to Kawhia. It was an easy decision to decide to cycle to Raglan and call it a day instead.

Recumbent panda on highway 23 towards Raglan, New Zealand

Blatted down the other side of the steep hill, and ground out the final 17km to Raglan.

It was about 2km to Raglan that we realised something that could have saved us a lot of energy. Stephanie was going to meet us to take Mike back to Hamilton. In the car. We would put Mike’s bike in the car. In the car.

We realised that we had carried my tent, sleeping bag, electronic gadgets, all the way to Raglan, when we could have had Stephanie bring it in the car. There was no need to split the gear between us to make things easier. We could have just gone with no gear at all.

Oh well…the scenery was nice.

New Zealand Green Party banner on the way to Raglan, New Zealand

Arrived Raglan with great hoots of joy and copious amounts of helmet hair. It was a headwind all the way.

Mike's helmet hair in Raglan, New Zealand Raglan, New Zealand

Raglan, New Zealand

Raglan, New Zealand Raglan, New Zealand

Tea (dinner) was a generous helping of fish and chips, the grease soaking deliciously through the newspaper wrapping. Mike reminded me to savour the clammy feeling of dissipating humid heat as I released my embrace on the warm package. It is all part of the New Zealand fish and chip experience.

Rob is happy with his fish and chips in Raglan, New Zealand

We ate the fish and chips on a rug with a slither of a view of the Raglan bay as we sheltered behind a tree from the cold wind.

Raglan, New Zealand

Today, I laughed more than I have for a very long time. It was fantastic to have deep belly laughs, gasping for air. Spending time with someone I know and have common experiences with…what a luxury. I didn’t feel like staying the night at Raglan, so we stuffed the two bikes (and all the gear we had lugged unnecessarily to Raglan) in the car, and we all headed back to Hamilton. A great day out. Not at all pointless.

Mike and Stephanie's garage in Hamilton, New Zealand

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October 20th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,New Zealand

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There was not even a hint at a suggestion that I was to be sleeping in my tent last night. Ann from Nikau Caves and Cafe showed me to an upstairs room at the cafe. “This is your room for tonight,” she said. I tried to quench my amazement at the beautiful solid rimu countertop in the living room of the upstairs living quarters. It was about 2.5 meters long, at least 10cm thick, and about a metre wide. It set the mood for a relaxing natural feel to the place. I had no trouble falling asleep that night as I gazed at bright stars in the inky sky through the window.

No one was about when I got up at 7am. Ann had told me that she was unlikely to be back at the cafe until after 8am. “Just help yourself to bread and jam for breakfast. There are eggs and bacon there too,” she said as she and Peter left the night before.

I needed no further encouragement, and tucked into the remaining loaf of rich bread from last night. I put it in the toaster, but to no avail. The stuff was so dense it would have taken quarter of an hour to toast. It was good enough without toasting anyway. I ate it slowly as I watched the early morning sun paint the hills (and sheep) orange.

Nekau Caves, Waikaretu, New Zealand

Thanks to Peter and Ann, I was out the door refueled and refreshed by 8am. Thank you so much!

Waikaretu, Waikato, New Zealand

I backtracked a little to pick up another gravel road that would take me most of the way to Hamilton. The hills, like yesterday and the day before, were a fluorescent green, punctuated by a bright blue sky.

Limestone geography near Pukemiro, Waikato, New Zealand

Here and there along my route for today I would join Highway 22, but by the looks of the road conditions, it was obvious that it was not much of an arterial highway. Lichen lined the roadside.

Very quiet Highway 22 near Pukemiro, Waikato, New Zealand

I pedaled on to Hamilton, where I met Mike Chernishov at his work on the outskirts of Hamilton. I was keen to try out his strange looking upright bike. So I gave him my bike to ride. In true Chernishov tradition, he was off like a shot on the thing.

Mike on the Street Machine GTe in Hamilton, New Zealand

I’ve never seen anyone let loose so soon on a downhill stretch before on a recumbent. He was flying. A few close calls, but he made it home in one piece, with me huffing and puffing to keep up. The tyres hanging off the side of the bike are his, by the way.

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October 19th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,New Zealand

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I was smiling this morning as I packed my tent away and watched as the sun slowly climbed over the low hills. Dew covered everything, but my tent dried quickly once it was draped over some convenient dry brown gorse in the sun. The dry dying gorse was in stark contrast to the lush green grass and native bush surrounding me. The herbicide was doing it’s thing well.


I was a little taken aback by the bridge above. It crossed the Waikato River just a few hundred meters down from where I was camped, and my first thought was “Hey! They’ve copied the Balclutha stegosaurus bridge!”. Balclutha is a small town in Southland, the region of the South Island of New Zealand that I grew up in. Crossing the stegosaurus bridge in Balclutha on the way north to central Otago each Christmas holidays for camping was always a highlight.

The view from the fake Waikato stegosaurus bridge was nice enough though. The Waikato River reminded me of the Clutha River.


I made it to the small community of Pukekawa just in time for the morning service at the Pukekawa Methodist Church. The modest congregation of eight was visibly taken aback when I walked in during the first hymn of the morning. The service started at 9:30am, and I got there 5 minutes late.

After recovering from the shock, the remaining three verses of the hymn were completed, and we all sat down. “Welcome to church!” the lively pastor said. “Were you the one on the strange bike back there? I passed you a while back. I thought it was a piece of gym equipment you were riding!”

“I’m cycling down to Christchurch,” I said, not bothering to elaborate on any other details.

The service lasted an hour, including a sermon centered around the beginning of Ephesians chapter 4. Unity among believers.

After the service, I was chatting with the congregation outside as I watched the three-strong Sunday school climb a tree on the corner of the small church property. The kids were at least five meters or more off the ground in the tree. All three of them girls. Not a word of reproach or warning from anyone sounded as they yelled out “Look at us! We’re so high up the tree! We’re going all the way to the top!” I love New Zealand.

I got a few offers for lunch, and in the end I decided to cycle the 10km or so to Susan and David Bovill’s place in Onewhero. I was glad I did. Once I was off the not-very-busy highway 22, I was into another world altogether. Worlds away from China. In more than 45 minutes, only three cars passed on the quiet rolling hill sealed road. I breathed in the tranquility deeply.

Susan and David treated me to a great relaxed New Zealand Sunday lunch of dark wholemeal bread, rich tomato soup, cheese, and some fantastic muffins made by David’s mother. “I realise what I forgot,” David’s mother exclaimed. “I forgot to put the sugar in them!”

I wouldn’t have noticed. The date and carrot muffins were delicious. As was the soup, bread, and copious amounts of cheese that I consumed. Thanks Susan!

Susan and David Bovill in Onewhero, New Zealand

Susan called ahead to the Nikau Caves and Cafe and let them know that I would be coming. “They’re a great Christian couple that I’m sure would let you camp on their property,” she said.

Wairamarama-Onewhero Road, Waikato, New Zealand

The ride to Nikau Caves, on the route that I chose to take, was a grueling roller-coaster ride on deserted gravel roads along a ridge high up in the Waikato hills. Over the period of 4 hours, I climbed an aggregate total of 1,100 vertical meters. And I loved every minute of it. Not one vehicle passed me for the whole afternoon. Stopping in a sheltered spot out of the wind, I was able to savour the rich natural atmosphere.

Quiet country roads near Onewhero, New Zealand

Tree ferns towered above me, providing sporadic shade from the intense sun.

Tree fern near Onewhero, New Zealand

Tree fern near Onewhero, New Zealand

I finally rolled into the Nikau Caves and Cafe carpark at around 7pm. The sun was getting low on the hills, and where the hills blocked the sun, it was cold.

Ann and Peter run the very un-touristy Nikau Caves. They have grown children, and bubble with enthusiasm and passion for life and where they live. I can’t blame them. The location of their 7 month old cafe at the caves site (which has been running as a commercial venture for 15 years) is second to none. Nestled in a small alcove in the limestone hills, the cafe with its massive north-facing windows looks out onto classic Waikato rural scenery.

Nekau Caves, Waikaretu, New Zealand

I didn’t get the chance to visit the caves themselves, but the positive energy of the whole place would be enough to get me back there someday.

Ann bakes amazing bread (for sale at the cafe), and treated me to as many slices as I could handle of a new variety she had been experimenting with. It was as close to a solid stout German bread as any bread outside of Germany will come. Fresh out of the oven, Peter and I sat down and devoured slice after slice with good cheese and salami. Washed down with a darker than dark homebrew beer made by Peter and Ann’s daughter’s husband, and the appetizer was complete.

Emily, the wife of said beer brewer, also happens to be the women’s shearing world record holder. Peter has also been shearing for all his life, and despite the rigors of his chosen profession and the fact that he is approaching 60 years old, he is not stopping yet.

Nikau Caves is a fascinating place, even if you never get to see the caves…

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October 18th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,New Zealand

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My first full day back on the bike. I feel strong enough, but my mind is still on skateboard pace, so I’m taking it easy. Which is very nice indeed.

Cycling through Auckland into South Auckland and finally into the rural Waikato region was a blur of good old New Zealand culture. I was well and truely re-discovering my homeland.

A well rounded meal in Auckland, New Zealand

A local dairy provided some interesting signs that I would never have noticed had I not just spent the last five years overseas. The L&P and pie sign above, and the billboard below screamed New Zealand. Tents, Simply Red…

Typical dairy in Auckland, New Zealand

I had the occasional rain shower throughout the day. Typical Auckland weather, I hear. When the clouds are overhead, you are shivering, and when the sun is out, you’re roasting.

I enjoyed the blue sky intervals immensely. I’m quite sure I do not recall such brilliant blues since Texas, more than 9 months ago.

Traffic lights in south Auckland, New Zealand

Soldier statue in Papakura, New Zealand

Needless to say, I did not feel as though I was ‘home’. I felt like I was in New Zealand, but this is the North Island. So many subtle things make it an entirely new experience. Not to mention the fact I’ve never spent any decent amount of time in the North Island.

Extra large sizes in South Auckland, New Zealand

I ate Burgen bread sandwiches with avocados ($1.50 for a bag of four) and cheese and tomatoes for lunch at a small park in South Auckland. The park was full of Saturday afternoon playing children. After so long in ove-protective societies in Europe, Japan and the US, I was happy to see children running across bark-chip covered playgrounds in bare feet. Clambering on play equipment, interracting joyfully with complete strangers after only a few moments of hesitant glances.

Playground in South Auckland, New Zealand

Parents would throw a half-hearted word of warning here and there, but laugh and shout “I told you so” when their or another’s kid got clobbered on the head with a fast-moving tyre.

Playground in South Auckland, New Zealand

Rain showers sent kids scampering for the shelter of trees, only to rush out again as soon as the rain passed. I recalled how I used to view rain showers as a kid. As I’m sure those kids viewed them. The rain started and it stopped. There was nothing you could do to pre-empt its arrival or forecast its departure. Now I know better. A quick look at the sky in the distance and I was able to plan my departure from the park to have at least half an hour of sunshine before the next shower. Knowledge diminishes mystery, I thought as I biked away, a little envious of the kids’ ignorance, and pondering how my attitude towards adventure may have diminished over the years.

Drive Sober near Pukekohe, New Zealand

I was surprised to see Asian-looking temples as I cycled. I later learned that they were Sikh Temples. Another thing to look up at some stage, as I know nothing about the faith.

Temple in south Auckland, New Zealand

Pedalling on south, I finally shook off most of the traffic as I made my way through Pukekohe on Highway 22. Things started to quieten down, and despite it being only 5pm, I was ready to stop and camp for the night. Just past the small town of Tuakau, the road dropped down to the banks of the mighty Waikato river. I found a secluded spot off the road a few meters from the water, and set up camp. I relished in the evening quiet and calm. This is what I started the journey for. Quiet campsites surrounded by nature. Around me were lush green New Zealand plants, the sounds of native New Zealand birds, and a gentle giant river flowing on beside me.

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October 17th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,equipment,New Zealand,planning/prep,recumbent bike

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Waaay back in Switzerland when I decided to send my bike back to New Zealand, I got a shock when I did some research on how much it was going to cost to get a regular sized bike box to New Zealand. I was even considering just leaving the bike in Switzerland due to the high cost. It was going to cost 300 Pounds Stirling to get it to New Zealand. Big bucks.

The only solution I could figure out was to try to get the bike into a smaller box. That way, I would be able to send it surface post via the local post office, rather than through a dedicated shipping company. This meant that I had to take the bike to bits big time. The bike is full suspension, so the frame breaks down into three separate bits. With no intention to re-use the cables etc once I got back to New Zealand, I threw those out. I did the same for the chain tubes. Putting the thing back together and getting all the parts took the better part of two days.

I got the bike together in the end, but not without some improvisation.

A standard recumbent bicycle uses a chain three times the length of a standard upright bicycle chain. Often the chain runs through plastic tubes to stop the chain from rubbing on clothing, and to keep dirt off the chain. After 12,000km, the original chain tubes on my bike were well and truely worn, despite them being made of low-friction PTFE plastic.

Even in Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand, I could not find PTFE tubing in the correct size (15mm outside diameter, with at least 1mm wall thickness). So I had to settle with the slightly less friction resistant polyethelene garden irrigation tubing.

A small but significant challenge was moulding the tubing to my use. I had to straighten the tubing, which was easy enough (pour boiling water down the tubing while holding the tubing upright). I also had to spread the ends of the tubing in order to prevent the chain from catching on the edges of the tube.

TOP TIP: How to Spread the Chain Tube Ends for a Street Machine GTe Recumbent Bicycle

For this trick, you’ll need three things; a bottle of Finish Line chain lube, a cup of boiling water, and your chain tube cut to the correct length.

How to spread the ends of a chain tube for a Street Machine GTe recumbent bike How to spread the ends of a chain tube for a Street Machine GTe recumbent bike

How to spread the ends of a chain tube for a Street Machine GTe recumbent bike

Put the end of the chain tube in the boiling water for 30 seconds.

How to spread the ends of a chain tube for a Street Machine GTe recumbent bike

Remove the chain tube and quickly transfer it to the lube bottle cap without delay. Once over the tip of the cap, push down firmly so that the soft end forms to the shape of the cap. Push down enough so that the edges of the tube push past the edge of the cap by about 1mm. You’ll need to really shove hard.

How to spread the ends of a chain tube for a Street Machine GTe recumbent bike How to spread the ends of a chain tube for a Street Machine GTe recumbent bike

Keep the pressure on for about 20 seconds, and then remove the chaintube from the cap. If you remembered to put the chain tube guide on before you started (for a Street Machine GTe) then you can now slide the chain tube into place.

How to spread the ends of a chain tube for a Street Machine GTe recumbent bike

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October 16th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,New Zealand

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I have been blown away by the sheer number of thank you’s and congratulations over the last few weeks since I completed the journey by skateboard. It has been a whilrwind few weeks since completing the trip, and I have been feeling way behind in my blog updates. So, without further adue, a very massively hugely big belated THANK YOU to everyone who has been following my journey.

A week ago I was asked in an interview “What is the one thing you could not have done without during your journey?”

I’m not sure what they expected by way of reply, but for me the answer was simple. “My blog readers.”

To be able to share my experiences with a wider audience was and is one of my greatest joys during my journey. The encouraging comments kept me sane, and having the motivation to regularly process in words and photos what I felt and experienced has been a huge plus. I take my hat off to travelers in past times where being able to instantly share their experiences with others was not an option.

So thank you again and thank you again.

So what is next? That is the question I am being asked with unrelenting consistency now. The answer is quite simply, I don’t know.

I know what the next three or four weeks has in store for me; I will be cycling just over 1,000km from Auckland to Christchurch in New Zealand to officially finish the trip off. I will be blogging along the way, with all the usual photos and video.

After arriving in Christchurch, I plan to continue blogging on this website. Many travel blogs that I come across have plenty of action during the trip itself, but are scant on preparation and post-trip details. I hope to be able to accurately and regularly share my experiences as I explore the answer to the question in bold above.

Currently I have a desire to produce a documentary style DVD about my journey, and put together a book. Where I should start on both of those things, I have no idea. Possibilities are starting to become clearer however, so I am keeping tabs on those.

By the time I get home to Christchurch, I will be broke. I will have around NZ$0 in the bank, with no credit card debt, but I will still have my NZ$10,000 student loan lurking. My current thinking is to try to find a part time job (perhaps at an outdoor goods store) that will allow me to live and work on the DVD and book.

This is all very short-term thinking however, and I am struggling with trying to fit it all into a longer term plan (that does not exist right now).

So, first of all, I’ll just focus on riding down to Christchurch. That’ll do for a start. And yes, I’ll be back on the recumbent bike.

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October 13th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,highlights,New Zealand,vids

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A big thank you to the New Zealand Academy of Sport in Auckland today. Joe McQuillan, a sports physiologist at the institute put me through my paces to see how fit I really am. TV3 National News was there to record the pain! Click on the text link below to view the video.

Skateboarder back from 12,000 km journey puts fitness to test

From the TV3 News website:

In the great tradition of Kiwi adventurers, skateboarder Rob Thomson is back in the country after having completed the longest skateboard journey ever recorded – 12,000 km across Europe, the USA and China.

What does it take to travel under your own power for so long? Does it make Rob Thomson an elite endurance athlete?

Rob took himself and his board to be tested by the New Zealand Academy of Sport.

The epic solo journey took Rob more than 12 months. When he got back to New Zealand, he was curious about what it had done to his body.

New Zealand Academy of Sport physiologist Joe McQuillan agreed to test Rob to see if he had become super fit.

It is the first time anybody has skateboarded for more than six months in a row, so physical endurance data does not exist for that kind of discipline.

The tests included a skin fold test and a strength test, but the key test involved something the Academy of Sport has not done before – pushing Rob to his aerobic limit – using his skateboard on a treadmill.

The results showed he was probably at the same fitness level as someone who competed in iron mans in their spare time, but did not focus on it completely.

Rob was not surprised he would not be considered an elite athlete, as he could take breaks whenever he felt like it on the journey.

“My focus was to travel by skateboard in a human powered way an environmentally friendly way but still have enough energy to communicate with the local people,” she said.

Now he is back in New Zealand, Rob intends to find a job at home in Christchurch.

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October 11th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,New Zealand,vids

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A few weeks before arriving in Shanghai, on the last 300km stretch of the skateboard leg of my journey, the mood on SkateFurther.com was buzzing. An online home for distance skateboarders in the UK and around the world, SkateFurther was alive with talk of the next 24 Hour Ultraskate.

An Ultraskate is where skateboarders skate as far as they can within a 24 hour period of time. It’s really quite simple in the concept. The concept was pioneered by US skater James Peters of PavedWave.org, and he blazed the way with a raft of 24 hour world records including a scorching 300km plus score in 2008. The current world record is now held by Barefoot Ted of the US, with a massive 390km skated.

Josh (Global Ultraskate V in Auckland, New Zealand) Joe (Global Ultraskate V in Auckland, New Zealand)

Anyway, with the Ultraskate phenomenon going global (UK and US skaters would stage their 24 hour events almost simultaneously), I foolishly thought that getting some New Zealand skaters involved would be a good idea. I say foolishly, because at the time that I suggested the idea (http://www.neednotollie.com/node/242), I knew that I would only have been back in New Zealand three days before the event.

But, I was keen to give it a go, and the thought of skating simultaneously with other skaters on other sides of the globe really appealed. For once, I would not be skating alone.

So today, seven longboarders, gathered together through New Zealand’s most active online longboarding community, NeedNotOllie.com, took part in New Zealand’s first ever 24 hour distance skateboarding event; The CanTeen 24 Hour Ultraskate New Zealand. The YouTube version of the video below is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfD_zysfPjg

Despite my fatigue, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ultraskate. We skated a total of 15 hours back and forth along Tamaki Drive in Auckland, with the other 9 hours somehow being eaten up with breaks. I certainly felt like I needed them. We skated though the night without sleep.

Josh pushing during the Global 24 hour Ultraskate V in Auckland, New Zealand

Despite vowing later the next day that “I will never skate again,” I would love to be a part of the next Ultraskate. Three of us managed to skate 230km, with one other skating 215km, and others also pushing further than they ever have before. My previous best was 121km (http://14degrees.org/en/?p=699) on a downhill tailwind day towards Lanzhou in central China.

Thanks to PavedWave.org for such an awesome event!

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October 8th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,highlights,New Zealand

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As I sat in the taxi, being driven through Shanghai to the train that would take me to Pudong Airport, I felt a tinge of sadness. As much as I had become frustrated at trying to understand the ways of the Chinese, I was going to miss this place, I thought.

As I watched through the glass, I noticed small things. The tangled mess of telephone wires and powerlines. The small stinking, mysterious alleyways. The mayhem of millions of discontented building bricks that made up the overbearing mass of skyscrapers. Small shacks cowering under the shadows of the ever reproducing highrise apartments.

Chaos has it’s appeal, I decided. And leaving it left a tension in my gut. Finally I had what I wanted. I was going home. But really, I mean, really…is this really what I want?

I felt the same way as I sat on the Maglev uber-super express train from Shanghai to the Pudong International Airport. The super high-tech German train has a top speed of 431km/h. No part of the train touches the platform above which it floats. At this speed, small things raced away into oblivion. I watched from the super expensive double glazed strengthened windows as development and progress spun by in a blur. Massive wide streets, some newly completed, some older ones under a half-hearted attack from weeds. The streets waited patiently for their coming glory. For now, they are alone in wastelands on the outskirts of Shanghai. Come back in less than 5 years, and those roads will be bustling. Highrise apartments will line the streets, and will stand at attention, crammed into the confines of the grid of those wide roads.

While I am finished with China for now, China will not stop. Progress there is not a grinding wheel. It is a floating super express train, equipped with bullbars and battering rams, charging towards the future at 431km/h.

I was early for my flight. NZ88 from Shanghai (China) to Auckland (New Zealand), departing at 2:15pm from Gate 87. I bought a mexican beef wrap at a waiting lounge cafe. It cost me a ridiculous 5 Euro, and I was dismayed at how light the takeaway package felt. Welcome to the ‘real world’ I thought as I glanced inside the paper bag at the pathetic flop of tortilla and beef. I sat down on the floor next to Gate 87 and chewed on my Mexican Beef Wrap that cost me the equivalent of five days travelling budget in China.

On the plane, I was instantly transported to a comfortable cabin environment where familiar sounds and sights began to ease their way into my psyche. A flight attendant speaking with a New Zealand accent. Burt Monroe and his Flying Indian was on the inflight movie selection. I had a glass of Marlborough white wine with my smoked salmon and potato salad at the inflight meal. Ready or not, I had begun my transition home.

The flight was direct to Aukland. 11 hours of tolerable airtime, made easier by plenty of films to choose from. I naturally gravitated to the New Zealand selection; Scarfies and The World’s Fastest Indian.

The flight was an overnighter, and we approached Auckland just after dawn. Looking out the plane window, my feeling was neutral. What I saw below me was not home. It was another big city. It was as unfamiliar as any of the multitude of cities that I have seen during my travels. I was about to arrive in New Zealand, but I was not yet arriving home.

Plane on the ground, I walked towards immigration. “Welcome to New Zealand…” the PA system spouted. Wow. I’m actually in New Zealand. I really am, I thought. I felt a surge of euphoria funnel up inside me. I was walking on air. Almost two and a half years, I had never been back. And here I am.

I proudly presented my worn and tattered passport to the immigration officer. “How long have you been away?” she asked.

“Two and a half years,” I said with satisfaction. “I’ve been traveling for that whole time.”

“You’ve worked a little here and there? How have you supported yourself?” she asked, to my great joy.

With suppressed pride I explained my self-chosen path of poverty for the best part of those two and a half years. She was not particularly impressed or un-impressed. “Welcome home,” se said blandly, and I was allowed through.

“Well would you believe it?” I muttered under my breath. “In New Zealand at last.”

I collected my luggage from the rack. My longboard and trailer were safely cocooned in layers of cardboard and cling wrap. I declared my tent and wooden longboard to customs, and they checked them carefully for any trace of biological threat to the New Zealand environment. I did not resent the 20 minutes it took to unpack and repack the longboards and tent. Stringent biosecurity measures are what keeps New Zealand the way it is; green, clean, and beautiful.

My parents and my cousin Rachel were there a the arrivals gate when I finally got through biosecurity. The emotion that I felt as I embraced my Mum and Dad took me by surprise. I sobbed into my parents’ shoulders, tears flowing. There were times during the journey when, in the back of my mind, I thought that there was a slight possibility that I would not make it to New Zealand alive. I was never fearful of my personal safety in regards to people or environment. The open roads however were a life-threatening hazard that I did not underestimate. Especially on the longboard, there was an inherent risk in what I had been doing. To finally feel the embrace of my parents meant that I was finally safe.

Tearful reuniuon with parents at Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Tearful reuniuon with parents at Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Thanks to my cousin Rach for being there and capturing the moment.

A national TV crew was also there to capture the moment, and you can see the story here:

TV3 National News – Kiwi Skateboarder Arrives Home

My first meal after arriving home was lunch at a local canteen. Quite obviously catering for the labour working crowd, the food was quintessential New Zealand. Chips, bacon, eggs, roast chicken. Sweet custard squares and cream filled buns. Bread rolls with more salad and meat filling than bread. And of course MEAT PIES.

I naturally gravitated to the meat pies. Mince and cheese was my choice. “You’re just like Chris (my brother),” my Mum said. “When ever he comes back from Australia, he always has a pie and a custard square!”

Chris, you’re a legend. I would have forgotten about the custard square had it not been for you. So I got myself a custard square too. Such great New Zealand fast food wonder. It was bliss.

The afternoon was spent chatting about family. Went into central Auckland and all agreed how horrible it must be to have to commute into the city every day. Had takeaway curry for tea (dinner) and Rach and I shared a beer as we waited for the curry to arrive. It was good to ponder life together.

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October 4th, 2008 | categorizilation: all categories,China

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I’ve just completed an interview with an online China lifestyle blog Lost Laowai. You can read the interview here:


A great set of questions that had me thinking hard!

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