Yesterday M and I slipped back into Cambodia after a very quick four weeks away. J had only managed three weeks, keeping some holidays in his pocket for our backpacking, train hopping trip down the Italian 'boot' at Christmas time with B, our 'growed up' kid, who has yet to make it to the Penh. It was a much anticipated and very busy trip with a great deal of travelling around trying to fit visits in with friends we hadnt seen in the two and a half years since we'd been back, while spending as much time with B as possible as we hadnt seen him for nearly a year.
He was in fine form. Taller, if thats at all possible, mature, articulate and comfortably independent refusing most offers of cash and new clothes- 'I just have to learn how to budget better...'- but he did allow his parents to feed him as often as they could. He showed off his flat, his scooter, his favourite lunchtime haunts and his office and we even managed to coerce him into spending a few nights with us at our hotel while we were in Wellington.
We ate dinners together, went to the movies, caught a local jazz/reggae band, that sounded a lot like Simply Red but looked more like basement grunge, at Te Papa's marae and had weekend holidays in Masterton, Auckland and Palmerston North.
Of course being the middle of winter in New Zealand it was cold but with the exception of our two weekends in Auckland, when the dreary rain and fog seeped through our merino and tickled our skin into goosebumps, we woke to dry days and a fair bit of bright antipodean sunshine.
(A giant Nikau Palm by Ian Athfield in Civic Square Wellington)
While B was at work we managed visits to some favourite capital places. The first place was Te Papa Tongarewa- The Place of the Treasures of this Land- or simply Our Place, which it almost was for quite a few years.
(Sizing up the colossal squid )
M was about 4 when it opened and we made our first trip to one of the coolest places our capital city has to offer. There were plenty of naysayers at the start- a huge FREE contemporary museum housing many of our nations treasures, our taonga...
( In front of the museum's copy of Tiriti O Waitangi, New Zealand's founding social document, our bicultural agreement, both celebrated and protested annually on the same date, Waitangi Day, New Zealand's version of a national day. Signed on the 6th of February 1840, at Waitangi by representatives of the British Crown and about 40 Maori rangatira, the treaty was controversal from the start. The Maori version has some fundamental differences regarding the possession, ownership and sovereignty of the land and it's taonga. More than the document itself it has been the decades of discussion, debate, marches and land occupations and the outcomes of the Waitangi Tribunal- exclusively charged with the right to determine it's meaning, intention and spirit- that have helped shape the relationships between our nations people, the Maori and the Pakeha and thus shape us as Kiwis.)
(The 1974 Holden Stationwagon transformed by artist Jeff Thomson using the rusty discarded corrogated iron from the roof of Napier's Criterion Hotel which Thomson drove as his only car for 3 years around both New Zealand and Australia. It's aerial bent into the shape of Australia the Holden's country of birth.)
( Te Papa's traditional meeting house, Te Hau ki Turanga, one of the oldest and most significant meeting houses in existence, sits in the Mana Whenua part of Te Papa)
(The carvings depicting the legend of how Maui slowed the Sun on the roof of the more contemporary meeting house on Te Hono ki Hawaiki, Te Papa's urban marae. )
(A giant unique piece of Pounamu, New Zealand's greenstone, gifted to the museum by the Kai Tahu, in the marae. It sits in a fountain of running water, like the streams and rivers where it is found naturally, with large grains of sand which you are encouraged to use to help rub the oxide off the taonga. The pounamu symbolises the solid, permanent foundations of Te Papa’s Marae, Rongomaraeroa. The wairua or spirit of the pounamu protects traditional Maori values in all the ceremonies that take place on the Marae. Sadly one of the ceremonies that took place while we were in New Zealand was the Tangi of the museums Chief Excutive, Seddon Bennington.)
(Ko hine te iwaiwa, ko hine korako, ko rona whakamau tai- The two controllers of the tides, hence her full name Rona-Whakamau-Tai by Robyn Kahukiwa)
Built on reclaimed land the sea licking its foundations and one of the worlds most active fault lines at the doorstep (literally) but it still stands 11 years on, it's still free and it still holds much to keep our now older and more worldly wise family immersed and entertained.
Here is M (on the left) standing in Cook Strait, named after the first European to sail through it, the bit between the North and the South Islands of New Zealand. The watery bit that connects the Tasman Sea and the South Pacific Ocean. The Maori call it Raukawa Moana, Moana meaning sea and Raukawa, a native tree. It is considered one of the most dangerous and unpredictable waters in the world yet nearly everyday Ferries push their way through the swells and strong currents taking passengers and vehicles from one island to the other.
The upside down kiwi shaped bit on the bottom left of the photo is Golden Bay , place of warm sunkissed, sandy holiday memories. On one holiday we went all the way out onto Farewell Spit (the long thin beak like bit) in The Gypsy, a huge lumbering MJR Model Bedford with a Dutchman who was as entertaining as the scenery was absorbing.
Move further towards M's feet and you get to the Marlborough Sounds; bays, beaches, crystal clear blue waters, heaven high ridges, wine, mussels and no cell phone reception. We have tramped (hiked, rambled, scrambled, plodded, ambled, walked- often carrying supplies in backpacks of varying size and weight) most of the Queen Charlotte track and run a few legs too. We have scaled ridges and taken in views like this:
This holiday, though, we mostly stayed in the bit between M and J's feet. The bit at the bottom of the North Island. The bit with a reputation for wild, windy weather, a besuited population of bureaucrats and an abundance of good coffee.