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A Whole Year has Gone By!

by Pamela Blalock

It is hard to believe that we have been in New Zealand for a year now. But our passports do not lie. Our hostel membership is up for renewal, and the weather is like it was when we first arrived. It has indeed been a year. And what a year it has been.

It's cool looking back at the diary and trips to see what all we have done. It some ways it seems like a lot, but in others, it seems like we have missed out. The unfortunate reality of having the cats (don't get me wrong, I do adore them) is that we had to settle down. Without them, we definitely could have travelled around quite a bit more.

But instead we spent their time in quarantine travelling and trying to decide where to live. Then we bought them a house. The house has turned out to be a bit more hassle even than the cats. Despite having a home inspection, we have had numerous problems. We almost have the place in reasonable condition, but it hasn't been easy or stress free. Some of the work was critical, like the roof, heat and hot water; some was for our comfort and sanity, like the kitchen, and some was because we can't do math, and the house is tiny, so we needed a shed and a bigger workshop, etc.

We have done a bit of playing in between dealing with the house, and John even took a vacation and travelled around the world. It's been two months since my last diary entry and the same amount of time since he got back. Shortly after John returned I had a couple of job interviews, and managed to get a job. Our friend, Osman should be thrilled to hear this, as he gave us a bit of grief for not getting work right away. The reality of going back to work set in, and I decided to have a vacation. We attempted to hike the Wangapeka After the nasty weather there, we decided that since Nelson had the best weather, we should do stuff in Nelson, so we spent a week doing long bike rides close by. Then we had hoped to get out and ride on the Queen Charlotte Track. The weather out there wasn't so great, so we decided to avoid the track and just do a mini tour on sealed and unsealed roads in the Marlborough Sounds. The weather has been epic recently, but at least it didn't turn warm and sunny for my first week of work. It was for a day, but has been overcast most of the week, so I've been able to cope with not having my days to play. And the timing of daylight savings time was perfect - it started the week I started work, so at least the evenings are light longer.

You may have noticed on the front page that I am leading Betty Rides here. I've been very frustrated with the lack of true recreational rides here. All the clubs just have races. There are no rides on the calendar that are just rides. Even those they call recreational rides are races. They all have an entry fee, numbers, and results. In an attempt to do some social riding, I tried to start a gals ride, but found lots of couples wanted to ride, so the group is now a social mixed gender group. I'm hoping it will grow and gain a life of its own without me. As it gets warmer, we should start seeing a few more folks. We have a nice core group right now, and it's been really nice to get to know some locals, even if most of them are blow-ins like us.

I started this entry with the idea in mind of reflecting on the last year. It has been the best of times and the worst of times. I've mentioned in other entries how it has not been the most stress free thing we have ever done. In fact, it is probably the most stressful thing we have ever done. Some of the stress is a result of work, or rather not working. It's a real dilemma, finding a place to live that is the best compromise of work and play. In the end, we chose a place with nice weather and nice access to play, but not the best for jobs. And in reality, we've realised it's not the best for our preferred play activity. In fact, we've come to the sad conclusion that New Zealand is just not the best place for road cycling. There are very few roads. The roads are lovely and twisty and mountainous and scenic, but they are essentially motorways with high speed traffic. There are NO back roads. Well, strictly speaking, there are no paved back roads. All the paved roads outside a city have a 100 kph speed limit. There are gravel roads, but many of these are either private or are own by forestry companies. We did get a permit from one of the local forestry companies, so we can ride these gravel roads on weekends.

But in the end, it is not enough. We miss social cycling. We miss quiet backroads. We miss our friends. We miss warm houses with insulation and double glazed windows and central heat (or at least working heat in every room). We miss clean air (most folks burn wood for heat, so the pollution here is horrendous). We miss being able to order stuff on line and get it the next day. We miss big box stores, like Home Depot, where you can buy anything, and big bookstores with massive collections of ... well everything, and bike shops with an interesting variety of stuff. We miss Fresh Samantha's and Petite Ecoliers. I miss my van with its working heater and display of the outside temperature. We really really miss our friends. We miss squirrels and cardinals and all the other critters that frequented our birdfeeder. The birds here don't know how to use a birdfeeder! We miss cross-country skiing. I don't miss shovelling. I do miss trees - more than you could ever imagine.


There is a lot of cool stuff here - great scenery, great weather and great people. We have made good friends here too, and will miss them when we leave. The weather is pretty darn good - even with the wet and wild spring. And I've grown quite fond of New Zealand wines, and the asparagus is quite cheap. So is coffee. And it is certainly nice to have a 5 minute walk to town, with a vast wilderness for bike riding only 5 more minutes away.

But in the end, we have come to realise that despite the fact that neither of us is a native New Englander, that New England is now home. We won't be back next week, but we will be going home eventually. So for those of you still there, take care of it for us. And for those who want to come visit us here, do it sooner rather than later. It truly is a great place to visit.