As we post this, we have already been in New Zealand for three weeks … so it is time to post a journal entry about our month in Melbourne and our time in NZ so far.
Our main purpose in going to Melbourne was to spend some time with some of Susan’s family (cousin Karen and her family) and our friends Shelley and Mike.
We landed in Melbourne on Feb 25th, close to 11pm … it was quite the experience getting into the country, going thru multiple customs and immigrations lines, answering many of the same questions, and then getting chosen to go thru the dog sniffing line … we understand the need for security, but holy cow … that was something.
Culture shock occurred over the next couple of days for us … coming from Koro and Savusavu in Fiji to a city of over 4 million … wow … we were also staying in downtown Melbourne, which added to the overwhelming noise, concrete, frantic pace, and people everywhere. We did adjust during the first week or so … but …
It reinforced for us how important it is for us to be close to nature, and in a more tranquil setting, and smaller community. Being in any big city now for us at this point in our lives would be short term only.
Melbourne has an exceptional transit system with lots of timely information available and it is easy to use … a bit complicated figuring out the fares, but it uses a card system, so it keeps track of how much you’ve spent and how much is left before you need to top up your card. It was very handy for us.
We got to spend a couple of evenings the first week there with Mike and Shelley, spending hours just chatting … it was great to chat with them in person rather than via Skype (Skype is great to keep in touch, but nothing like spending time together). Mike and Shelley were kind enough to let us use their apartment for a week while they trekked off up north to spend a week with Shelley’s Mom and partner Harvey. While we were there, we decided it was a great time to do a detox (a scaled down cleanse), with the Victoria Market close by. We picked up a supplement kit and lots of fresh organic fruit and veggies and away we went … we had cut down on our coffee, chocolate and ice cream intake prior to starting, so very little withdrawal symptoms were experienced (and green tea, which was encouraged, helped too). It went well, as was easier to do than we thought, and we felt very well after completing it … but the coffee, chocolate, and ice cream sure tasted good afterwards!!! As a result though, we now understand that eating vegetarian some of the time is possible; there are alternatives that were quite acceptable to us!
After a couple of weeks downtown, we went to a suburb called Ripponlea, which was closer to where Susan’s cousin lived, and a short train ride back into the city to see Mike and Shelley. Also, we were only a short train ride to Brighton beach, which we went to a couple of times. Very nice … but the ocean was a lot cooler than Fiji or Costa Rica!! (Spoiled as we are). Ripponlea was a wonderful little suburb, with small family run shops, and enough free range chicken, fresh fish, and organic products to keep us quite happy. The place was small, but quaint and big enough for us… there was a great park to run in as well.
We got to spend a wonderful afternoon and evening at Susan’s cousin’s Karen’s place … a lovely visit with her family (husband Tony, children Lloyd and Charlotte), and her Mom Shirley. We were able to watch Charlotte’s (Karen’s daughter) basketball team play two games, both thrillers as they ended up winning the championship tournament to end the season – very exciting! After the semi final game we all went out for a meal to a place near their house and Brighton Beach, it was lovely to spend time with them all.
We spent more time with Mike and Shelley too, visiting some local places and enjoying Williamstown and St Kilda with them… and the best hot drinking chocolate – EVER! We were able to have a short visit with Shelley’s Mom, Caroline and her partner Harv as well … we enjoyed meeting them and hearing about their adventures in Oz as well.
Overall, Melbourne was okay … a nice place to visit and all that … very expensive compared to other places in the world that we have spent time in and that is good to know. If we ever come this way again, we will definitely make a point of spending time in Cairns up north, as we’ve heard so many good things about it … the climate and nature would be right up our alley… and Mike and Shelley love it there too!
We have experienced quite a bit in the first three weeks here … travelling around in our little “camper van” (we use the term quite loosely) … we rented a customized small Nissan van, that really only has a bed in it, with some cupboards and storage areas. As well, it comes with a portable propane stove, a coole, some dishes and cutlery, and no heater once the van is turned off. Oh well … it was an experience, driving a four cylinder up and down and around the windy roads of NZ. We went to a number of touristy spots, including Tauranga, Rotorua, Coromandel Peninsula (hot beach and Cathedral Cove), Raglan (surfing town) … we made a point of stopping at waterfalls, small private thermal pools, and of course beaches to watch the sunrise and sunset. As the nights got cooler (very cool for us), we decided to stay in a couple of small cabins at campgrounds. The NZ way of camping is more “communal”, using a large communal kitchen, no picnic tables, no waste water dumping at your site, or BBQ/fire pits (not like Canada eh!). Interesting …
We’ve certainly enjoyed NZ so far … especially: FOOD (seafood, fish, avocados galore, pears, kiwis, apples) and NATURE (beautiful waterfalls, thermal areas, beaches and coastlines). Some challenges for us so far … very aggressive drivers (or good drivers depending on your perspective, 100K speed limit on windy narrow roads … craziness!), lack of organic/spray free veggies and fruit, absence of off the grid living (no solar panels anywhere), the tremendous amount of clear cut logging for cattle (dairy cows – they are everywhere, as many as sheep!), and the majority of the natural sites have been privatized, just like in N. America … paying for entrance to a lot of them.
The biggest surprise for us so far is how similar NZ is to Canada, just in a much smaller land mass. As we drive along we see sights similar to the Canadian coasts, the mountains, the forests, and even the rolling hills and flat lines of the prairies (just no grain fields). It’s a little spooky at times, (after our drive across Canada last year) that so many places here look and feel like places we experienced last year. More Craziness.
We have now settled in to our new home just outside of Kerikeri in the northern part of the north island. It is a lovely little cottage, exactly our style, simple but efficient and comfortable. We are looking forward to hunkering down for a couple of months here, taking steps towards our future goals (some online training courses etc), and taking some day and overnight trips up north to see the northern tip of NZ, the road less traveled… and a 90 mile beach!
We hope you enjoy our latest pictures … keep in touch, as we love hearing from you all.
Love, hugs, and Namaste!
Rick and Susan