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London to Auckland – stage seven.  The story of the recent adventures of one of our volunteers.

New Zealand – January – March 2020 – A ‘Holiday’

New Zealand was the finale to our overall tour and we decide to cover less distance and take as much time off as we could – so we treated it as a sort of touring holiday.

In January 2020 we flew from Melbourne to Christchurch in South Island and cycled south to Dunedin.  We then cycled to Queenstown…

Around the mountain near Queenstown New Zealand‘Around The Mountain’, Near Queenstown, New Zealand

….and then across the Southern Alps and up the very rainy west coast of the South Island to Nelson before crossing to Wellington on the North Island and on to Taupo, where we stayed with a very inspirational octogenarian, Irene.  Irene’s husband passed away 2 years ago, so she joined warmshowers as a way of meeting new people, despite her already active life. She regularly cycles and goes hiking so that she can stay fit enough to go skiing every year! During our time with her we went open-water swimming in the local lake, walked for miles as she gave us a tour of the area, taking us to a farmers market as well as some amazing waterfalls and forest.  She was great fun to be around as well as interesting and thoughtful.  A hugely inspiring lady and if I am half as fit and active as her when I turn 80 I will be more than happy!

Our inspiring octogenarian IreneOur inspiring octogenarian Irene!


From there we followed the tourist trail to Rotorua and Hobbiton where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit where filmed….

…and proceeded north to Auckland. Our route took us even further north to Kerikeri where we started to get concerned about the Coronavirus outbreak and its associated travel restrictions. We were aware that the major airlines were grounding their fleets and borders were closing, so we decide to return to the UK earlier than planned. As it was, we only cut our tour short by 2.5 weeks, which is nothing in the grand scheme of things and we were very glad that we made this decision when we did as our original fight home was cancelled a few days later!

Since our return to London we have had to adapt to a new, very different, life from one on the road and coming back to London in lockdown was not something we could ever have imagined when we set off on April 2018.  But it has given us time for reflection on what has been one of the most fantastic experiences of our lives.  One life lesson that we keep coming back to is the kindness of people.  By reading the newspapers and watching the news you could be led to believe that 99% of the world is dangerous and bad and only 1% is good.  This journey taught us that the reality is the exact opposite – it’s 99% good and 1% bad! There were only two occasions where we felt uncomfortable in our surroundings – once in Greece and once in India.  The rest of the time we experienced so much kindness, help and generosity from people – many of whom had so little, but just wanted to help two strangers.  And it has hopefully taught us both something about being nice to strangers and how even the smallest acts of kindness can mean so much.  Our journey also reminded us of the value of seniors in society – something that many in the western and ‘developed’ world seem to have forgotten. I have only mentioned a few of our interactions, but we had many more, all of which reminded us both that being older in years doesn’t make people any less interesting, and that their wisdom and experience is a valuable resource that is often overlooked and under-utilised.

hobbit home

Re-integration after a tour of this length was always going to be a challenge, but in the current climate it has been quite a shock. However, we are thankful that we have made it home safe and sound and ready for our next tour whenever and wherever that might take us. And we are also grateful that we set out in 2018 and didn’t wait until our original start date of spring 2020!

Martina Doherty

Author Martina Doherty

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