Haere Mai

After something like 460 days on the road, I am back in New Zealand. Not quite home, but close enough. I flew in to Auckland yesterday, returning to NZ for the first time since last February. I was met at the airport by my parents, and my older brother Cameron. Being met by family I think did make it a proper homecoming, and I’m happy to be here. I realised over the last few weeks that I was ready to go home, and now I’m happy to be here. Don’t ask how long I’ll stay, I don’t know for sure – but I’ll settle down here for a little while. Sooner or later the road will call to me again, but for now, New Zealand is home.

Apart from the cold and rain, I had a nice time over the last few days on the road from Mt Gambier to Melbourne. I hit the Great Ocean Road for some stunning scenery and great riding along the coast. I also got a bit of a boost when Jackson came out to meet me at Port Campbell, along with Jen and Andre. It livened up what would otherwise have been just a quiet night in a nice little coastal town.

As I got closer to Melbourne, the towns changed noticeably. Once I got within a practical weekend home distance from Melbourne, the price and quality of homes went up dramatically. Suddenly everything was “architecturally designed” and prices were “on application” (i.e. too expensive for you). This was also reflected in the eating and drinking establishments. Gone were the schnitzel nights, and suddenly meals were available that didn’t come with gravy and chips. Bring in the nice cafes and meals you would be happy to get in Italy instead.

Navigating in to Melbourne didn’t prove too difficult, although it did requite four pages in my notebook. I more or less followed this route which followed nice country back roads, and then bike paths as I got closer to Melbourne. Quite a nice way to approach a city along the waterfront. It did get a bit messy with the construction happening around the Docklands area, but I was highly impressed by the interim bike paths put in around the construction area. Other places might have just shoved the cyclists onto the very busy road. And yes, for those doubters, the bike paths were being well used by cyclists.

I stayed with my brother Jackson, in Prahran, a nice suburb with fantastic eating options – although it seems that nearly every suburb in Melbourne has great eating options, the dining out scene in Melbourne really is sensational. Nice location though, and very easy for us to get up to the “G” via train. I ticked off another of the “things to do list” – I went and saw an AFL game at the MCG. Even if you don’t understand much about Aussie Rules – and very few non-Australians do – it is a classic Aussie sport, and the MCG is one of the great stadiums of the world.

I flew Air New Zealand, partly because they have a very nice setup in their new planes with on demand movies and TV you can watch the whole time you are on the plane (rather than waiting until after takeoff), and partly because it feels like you get home just that little bit sooner. The crew is usually fairly relaxed – here’s a few quotes from cabin announcements made during the flight:

“If your mobile phone does not have a flight mode, it’s probably time you bought a new one”

“Any passengers caught smoking will be asked to step outside”

And on arrival to NZ:

(Immediately after landing) “You may now switch on your mobile phone and receive text messages. If you wish to really annoy the person next to you, you can also make calls”

“For those of you who have been away from New Zealand for a long time, you will be pleased to know…that absolutely nothing has changed”

Not the sort of thing you’d expect to hear on a Singapore Airlines flight.

One other minor note – HSBC has promptly repaid the fraudulent debit card transactions. Just under a week after first reporting it, they repaid it. They didn’t even ring back to get any more information. My story, and the account history, were pretty solid though. Just have to get my replacement debit card. I’ve also ordered a replacement debit card through Kiwibank, to replace the one stolen last year, so hopefully I’ll get both of those shortly. Until then, I’m living on the credit card…

My bike is still in its box, and I’m not entirely confident that it will all come out OK, but I’ll deal with that if it is broken. A couple more days in Auckland, then I’ll head north. I’ll then try and do some wrap up posts over the next few weeks.