Day 860 – NEW ZEALAND: That’s all you have?!

Arriving home, I arrived home to about five boxes of stuff. Stuff from life in Japan. Stuff from life from university days. Stuff I had sent home during my journey. Photos, books, electronic stuff, shoes, a suit (I used to wear that every day), a guitar…

Before long, this stuff was strewn all over my bedroom. There was no order to my unpacking, nor any idea even why I was unpacking at all. All I wanted to do was to be with my precious stuff. My…precious…

But then I started to feel positively gluttenous. “Man I have so much stuff” I thought. “All of it has such intricate memories attached to it too…but oh so much stuff.”

It was enough to start getting me down. I mean, I lived out of bags that had a capacity of only 60 litres for 2 years! And here I am surrounded.

So much STUFF (at home in Christchurch, New Zealand)

But things were quickly put into perspective when my sister-in-law took a glance into my room and said “That’s all you stuff?!” as if to say, “Is that all you’ve got?!”

I quickly realised that it’s all relative. “At least you can fit it all into one room,” my Mum commented as I was grieving over my horrid western cosumeristic materialistic hoarding tendencies.

I think she’s right. Balance is good. At least I can fit all my stuff into one room. It’s all about perspective.

Day 859 – NEW ZEALAND: Give me direction!!!

Coming home…no…arriving in Christchurch was actually a hugely depressing thing. Like physiologically depressing. Like anxiety, butterflies in my stomach.

For the last three days since my arrival at my parent’s house, I have been feeling very down. I got to meet my family, which should have been a fantastic experience. It was wonderful seeing them all again, but all the time I couldn’t help but envy their settled-ness and direction. They all had jobs. Many of them had families. And me? I had an airy fairy idea that I would write a book. I have no idea how to write a book. I have ideas where I might start in that process (reading over all my blog material), but still…

So, to tide me over in my state of frustration of not being on top of things, for better or for worse, I have entered the Motatapu Icebreaker 2009 marathon event. This is a 50km run across a high country station between Glendhu Bay (Wanaka) and Arrowtown. As soon as I entered, I felt a lovely rush of excitement. Such a familiar rush. When you decide to do something, something that has a tangible and measurable result, but you know that you actually haven’t attempted such a thing before, and have no guarantee of success.

But I’m the kind of person that needs an excuse to be physically active. Just running around the block a few times a day for the sake of keeping fit doesn’t appeal to me. To have a tangible goal to work towards is such a powerful thing, as I can attest to from my various individual goals over ther years (Cycle to London, skate across the US, skate across China). Or of course, to just decide that I will cycle or skate to work rather than drive the car (accidental exercise), which is probably the most no-brainer method of keeping physically active, without even having to go out of your way to do it!

But anyway, back to the rush. I was excited not only by the prospect of doing something I’ve never done before, but also because it gives me a tangible goal that I can work towards while I sort out other aspects of my life. So…to the training I go.

In other news today, The Press (the local Canterbury paper) ran a great article on my journey. The longboard I am riding is a board I made with my own hands during University. It is a super heavy plywood core fibreglass beast. I was stoked to get back on it!

The Pres article in Chrisrtchurch 26th Nov 2008

I also had an interview with RadioNZ which you can listen to here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/__data/assets/audio_item/0005/1793993/aft-20081126-1410-Skateboarding_around_the_world-m048.asx

And yes, I do realise what 12,000 + 12,000 equals. My sincere apologies to those listeners who may have been offended by my apparent lack of arithmetic skills.

Day 858 – NEW ZEALAND: A family reunion

You may notice that even though my “journey is over”, I am still counting days in the titles of my bog posts. This is for a reason. It because my journey is not over yet. Coping with post-journey trauma (as I feel like I am experiencing right now) is as much a part of the journey as sawing handles off stuff to save weight was a part of the journey way before I even left Japan.

Drilling holes / 穴あけ

Who needs handles 2 / ハンドルなんて要らない!② Who needs handles (Cone Wrenches) / ハンドルなんて要らない!

Making my cycle touring tools lighter pre-departure in July 2006

So, on Day 858 of my journey around the world by bicycle and skateboard, I got to meet up with my extended family whom I have not seen for two and a half years. We had a potluck dinner at my parent’s place (everyone brings a dish to share). Present were:

  • Mum
  • Older bro Mark and his wife Eline and their two daughters (Zoe and Hayley) who I have not met (born while I was away).
  • Nana (Mum’s mum)
  • Aunty Les (Mum’s sister)
  • Aunty Jenny (Mum’ sister) and husband Nigel
  • Cousin Tim
  • Cousin Hannah
  • Cousin Richard with wife Leanne and daughter Makayla

Some of the family in Christchurch, New Zealand

So that’s twelve adults, one toddler, and two babies.

Brother Mark and family (!!!) in Christchurch, New Zealand

Leanne and Richard and Makayla in Christchurch, New Zealand

I spent most of the night sitting and feeling like a small dazed animal. There were only three additions to the family present, but it felt like more. I mean, it felt like there were babies everywhere. Everywhere. And I had blissfully forgotten just how emphatically and with gusto my family (mostly the females) agree on every topic that is ever discussed during family gatherings. I hear that in many families the noise often eminates from disgreements. Not in my family. Everyone agrees, and agrees loudly. I felt like a fish out of water.

I was impressed by, and felt a renewed respect for my older brother Mark. He handled his daughters like a pro, seeming completely at ease with them. Not that I would expect anything less.

Brother Mark and daughters in Christchurch, New Zealand

Zoe, Mark’s eldest daughter, plucked up the courage to let her Uncle Rob a kiss goodbye when they left. It was a special moment. A new life in the making, a life in which I am part of in family…wow.

Day 857 – NEW ZEALAND: END OF THE JOURNEY

I’ll let the video tell the story. Once again I apologise for the lack of the Youtube version of this video. Uploading to Vimeo has proved to be more reliable than Youtube, and as I type the video is still uploading to Youtube. So without further adue…(direct link: http://www.vimeo.com/2347163)

I awoke this morning feeling jaded after far too much excitement over the last week or so. Not that I was complaining. The week spent with the girl I met in Blenheim was fantastic, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I was on the road early today. About 7am. I woke at 5:30am in my tent and I was instantly aware that this is the last day on the road. There would be no sleeping in this morning. The first 30km towards Christchurch was spent in a daze of euphoria. I had to remind myself to stop and eat. Excitement doesn’t last long when the body is demanding sustenance. Landmarks sped by one after the other, my mind reminiscing of adventures I had had in the past in each location. The turn off to Hanmer Springs (I once did 160km/h along that road in my Aunty Les’s car) . The small town of Amberly (always went through this town on the way to Hanmer Springs). Leithfield Beach (had bonfires there during a Christian camp at university). Woodend (good old Woodend!).

Before I knew it, I was entering the outskirts of Christchurch. Suddenly the rush wore off as the reality hit that it was almost over. My mind was awash with thoughts and fears…

Wow, Christchurch has changed, I thought as I cycled past gated communities of all things on the outskirts near Kaiapoi. Gated communities?! I thought. What is this, the paranoid USA fear of the boogie-man? I had seen plenty of gated communities in the US, guarged by 24 hour security. That would never happen in New Zealand, I thought way back then. So what has happened here in Christchurch? Is there such a culture of fear developing that we all of a sudden need gated communities?

Speaking of fear, anxiety is at an all time high right now. What is causing that? I probed deeper into my psyche and realised that I had an almost paralytic fear of normality. Does this end to my journey mean that I will slowly just ease back in to existing rather than living?

But this is reality! I suddenly realised as I watched people going about their business. Shopping, driving, walking…our real life tangible existance, this is our reality. For the last 2.5 years I have witnessed humans of every culture in wonderful vibrant existance. The passionate Chinese couples making love noisily in the next room over in the small inns in China. Old men dragging me out of the cold into a tea house full of laughing, cursing people in Turkey. Achmed in Tajikistan, struggling to support his family on the meagre income from his electrical repair business, but still smiling and exuding life and showing generosity and hospitality. North Florida ‘rednecks’ enjoying Christmas with family…I could go on and on. This, this is it. Family, friends, community, our planet. This is it. I spend so much time looking to the future, when here is what really matters. Now is what really matters. We are reality.

I also realise that I have been globally stimulated. I can no longer consider New Zealand as the only potential concept of home. While I am ‘coming home’, I am not coming home to a family home. Of my parents, my brothers and my closest extended family, only two individuals still live in the same house as when I last lived in New Zealand five years ago.

As I cycled through downtown Christchurch, I felt a detachment from everything and everyone else around me. No one knew that I was completing such a huge adventure. Even my Mum did not know that I was arriving. My cell phone was out of battery power, so I couldn’t tell her that I had arrived a day earlier than anticipated. I arrived in Cathedral Square in the middle of Christchurch, and I felt nothing. I had arrived at my physical ‘destination’, and essentially the journey by bike and skateboard was over.

I sat there for a few minutes, saying nothing. And then, in a profoundly Forest Gumpish sort of way, I muttered under my breath “Well I suppose I should go home then.”

I cycled from the city center out to Aidanfield, a super new suburb on the outskirts of Christchurch city. So new in fact, that maps at service stations for the area did not show my parent’s street on them. After a short search, I got some directions, and made my way to my parents house. Sound planning, wise decisions, and hard work seems to have paid off for them, I thought, as I surveyed their typically modest, but well laid out new home. Set on the edge of a reserve, there are pukeko, phesants, ducks, hares, magpies and wrens that wander across their back yard.

Mum and Dad's pad in Aidanfield, Christchurch

After calling Mum to get the combination to the key holder (and her spouting her surprise at me getting home sooner than expected), I settled down into a comfy couch over looking the reserve.

To clearly convey how I felt at that moment, it is important that I relay an event that happened a few days ago. I didn’t get around to blogging about this, but on that day a cousin of mine forwarded me a link to The Zeitgeist Movie. “I’m afraid that much of what is in the movie might be true,” my cousin, a regular church goer, told me. “It has shaken my faith, and I am in a major Christianity crisis,” she continued. She said she was concerned that her faith that she had been brought up on was not true. We were chatting on Gmail chat at this time, and I told her to wait for two hours. I was going to watch the movie there and then. Watching The Zeitgeist was perhaps one of the most important things that happened to me while on this journey of mine, and it had everything to do with my faith as a Christian.

The Zeitgeist is a movie about “What does Christianity, 9/11, and the Federal reserve have in common”. In the first part of the movie, it more or less deconstructs the Christian religion as a myth. Much of it I agreed with whole-heartedly. The scare tactics and false teaching and un-loving nature of the church. Terrible stuff. I have always disliked fundamental Christianity for that very reason. What came as a surprise was the movie’s arguements for how the historical Jesus may never even have existed!

In any case, I was left shaken, and unsure of my belief in the bible any more. I started to think about all that I had been taught in church.

  • Some good people won’t get to heaven! one tract I read in my university days expounded. It’s only through an acceptance and knowledge of Jesus that will get you there. You and your friends and your family who don’t accept this are doomed if they reject this message!

This I think sums up what I couldn’t figure out about Christianity. Yes, Jesus taught love. Yes I believe that love (love for other human beings, love of your body, love for the earth…) is the healthiest and most pure principle that us humans can live by.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

But what about that niggling wee issue of salvation and heaven and hell and damnation and non-acceptance of certain ways of life (read homosexuality)?

So, back to me sitting there on my parent’s couch. I was feeling anxious, because I was fairly certain that I was going to have to tell Mum that I could no longer accept the Christian faith. Son gets back from life-altering experience and has rejected all that he has grown up to accept and know. How tragic for a parent could that be?

In reality, I neededn’t have worried. After discussing the issues through with my Mum and Nana, I was feeling better not only for having the courage to air my doubts and confusion, but also feeling better in that my Mum and Nana’s sanity was intact. They had thought about these same issues, and I gathered this as the general response:

“The older I get, the less I realise I know about God,” said Nana. “He is far too magnificent and his ways are far too mysterious for me to know fully. He knows the heart of every person, and he is the perfect judge. Neither I nor anyone else can see the true intent in a person’s heart, so who is anyone to judge but God.”

So I wouldn’t say that my existential spiritual crisis is entirely over, but things are better in my head. I cannot accept that there is no God (I have seen way to much of His creation to doubt that existance), so “there is a God” it is. And if I can learn more about the heart of God through biblical scripture and honest truthful teaching, then so be it.

No one said it was going to be easy coming home. And I can testify that it ain’t no walk in the park so far.

Day 856 – NEW ZEALAND: Kaikoura to a church about 130km south of there

It was hot today. The hotest day I’ve had in New Zealand since arriving a month ago. I pushed on over hills and through the heat today, and stopped at St Paul’s church near the main road in a town whose name I do not know. I spent from 5pm till 9pm there reading and eating (pasta and pasta sauce), and was not disturbed. So I set up camp and fell asleep in awe that this is the last night of my journey on the road. It could not have been a better last free-camping spot.

A church

Tomorrow is it. A day that will go down in history in my life. The end of the road, so to speak. Right here and right now I have complicated emotions. Just live in the moment, Rob. What will come next will come next.

Day 855 – NEW ZEALAND: From Marfels Beach to just south of Kaikoura

A howling tailwind was my best friend today. All day. And just as well. There were some big rolling hills between Marfels Beach and the Kaikoura coast.

All Blacks sign near Ward, New Zealand

But once I was on the coast, it was all systems go.

On the Kaikoura Coast, New Zealand

To me, the scenery was very familiar. I had to remind myself to stop and take photos.

A man on the rocks taking photos of seals near Kaikoura, New Zealand A seal on the rocks near Kaikoura, New Zealand

Near Kaikoura, New Zealand

I stopped at Kaikoura to cook dinner (pasta and pasta sauce). As I was eating, a local guy arrived on a very peculiar bicycle. It was designed so that when you turn the handle-bars left, the bike turns right, and visa-versa. He could ride the thing like a pro. I could get no further than a few centimeters.

A reverse-turn BMX bike in Kaikoura, New Zealand

I camped on the coast about 10km south of Kaikoura for the night.

Day 854 – NEW ZEALAND: A rest day at Marfels Beach

I needed the day off, so after she packed up and took of for work in the morning, I returned to my tent and slept and read for the remainder of today.

At Marfels Beach, New Zealand

I am reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert at the moment. It is an interesting book so far, and I look forward for her conclusion at the end of the book. Heather, my host from Blenheim, loaned me the book after she had reccommended it to me. The book is about the author’s pursuit of pleasure (food and language in Italy), spirituality (Yogic meditation in India), and a balance between the two in Indonesia. I have made it as far as the end of the spirituality part of the book.

Day 853 – NEW ZEALAND: From Blenheim to Marfels Beach

I left Bleheim on a high this morning. Carried over from yesterday, this high was. I was cycling and singing like a madman. This lasted about 20km before I hit the wall. “Um, Rob,” my body cried out to me, “I don’t care how happy your mind might be right now, but I need sustinence.”

I did manage to get by on some snacks, and pushed on to MarfelsBeach to make it a short day.

I know I should be more concerned about this fact (dodgy to get involved with someone this soon approaching a huge life change), but I can’t get her out of my mind. The girl from the last few days. Never in my 2.5 years on the road have I thought “Man, I wish so-and-so was here with me”. Today I was thinking that at Marfels Beach.

At Marfels Beach, New Zealand

Deal with it my inner voice told me, and I pulled myself together and went for a wander down the beach to the rocks to collect mussels for dinner. Big, fat, juicy green-lipped mussels. Absolutely fantastic. At low tide here you can rip massive mussles off the rocks without putting your hand in the water.

Beautiful green-lipped mussels off the rocks at Marfels Beach, New Zealand

It was on the way back to my tent that I got an awesome surprise. I saw someone walking towards me on the beach, but I didn’t recongnise who it was. It was not until we were only 20 meters away that I realised it was her! I’m sure this episode will stay with me for a very long time. Totally unexpected, she had driven the 40 minutes out to the beach to see if she could find me. Talk about stoked. We walked back to the campsite arm in arm brimming with excitement that we had another chance to hang out.

Luckily she had brought her own tent with her. I don’t care how nice the person is, no one is sharing my coffin-sized tent with me!

Marfels Beach Campground at night, New Zealand

Day 852 – NEW ZEALAND: Is life being kick-started again?

[blog post re-written due to mysterious loss of original]

Well a most interesting thing happened today. I decided to ask a girl out on a date. In hindsight I think I felt a little like Andrew Steyn, the lead character in the 1980′s film The Gods Must Be Crazy (see http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0089933/quotes for quotes). All flustered and not sure what to do, rather than just being myself.

While I was rushing to find some concert or something to go to (doesn’t everyone go to concerts on dates? Like in the movies?), and finally giving up on that idea (we were in Blenheim after all), she ended up suggesting a much more pleasant option: go for a hike in the hills.

Chilling in the Wither Hills, Blenheim, New Zealand

I had a great time, and we really get on well, and have plenty in common. I’m thinking I would almost rather stay in Blenheim than carry on to Christchurch and face reality…but unfortunately the journey must be finished.

So with plenty of reservations about the big life transition up ahead, we have agreed that we should at least see each other again at some stage in the future…

A most unexpected event!

Day 850 – NEW ZEALAND: To Upper Moutere

I feel somewhat bad for not giving Neil MacNeil more credit on my blog. He is one of the masterminds behind www.g-raff.co.nz and a former workmate of mine during my time working at Asia Pacific University in Japan. Neil has been a behind-the-scenes master of the universe with regards to keeping the 14degrees website up and running during my trip. At one particular time, the whole site got horribly hacked, and Neil came to the rescue.

Anyway, I was stoked to be able to travel to Neil’s place today in Upper Moutere to speak at the local primary school. After a slight debacle with the bus not being able to take my recumbent bike, I ended up having to borrow Heather’s car for the overnight excursion (thanks Heather!).

Driving for any decent distance since I left Japan two and a half years ago, the drive from Blenheim to Nelson was an interesting experience. Blenheim to Nelson, 128km, the sign declared. What felt like only minutes later, another sign claimed 100km to go. I felt like I was doing an astro-warp of some kind. Ah the wonders of modern technology.
I arrived in plenty of time in Upper Moutere to go for a walk with Neil and his two Italian sheepdogs…

Enzo gets a safety lesson in Upper Moutere, New Zealand

The pair of dogs, the breed of which I forget, are the only ones in New Zealand, and of only a few pairs in the Southern Hemisphere.

I was also greeted by Neil’s wife Michelle and their family of young sons. Jack and Joe were a two and four year old dynamic duo, with Alfie the youngest still not quite sure what to make of the stranger in the house.