“There and Back Again…”
This is the equivalent of that postcard you scribble out on the flight home and pop in the postbox along the road from your own house. I reckon it’s a pretty good sign when you’re having too much fun on your travels to find the time to write about it…
“Not all those who wander are lost…” J.R.R. Tolkien
After an adrenaline-fuelled first couple of weeks swinging off bridges and rafting down rapids, I got behind the wheel once again and did some road-tripping. After playing a game in one of my favourite places in NZ, Taupo – we’ll gloss over the hockey for now – I continued through the North Island up to Tauranga. Having (theoretically) ‘grown up’ in Jersey, I have good reason for being a bit of a beach snob. However, after trekking up the summit path of Mount Maunganui in the sunshine to look down on the white sand of Maunganui beach, I can safely say that this place ticks some serious boxes. It’s pretty mindblowing to look out across the ocean knowing that the next landmass is Chile – about 6000 miles away.
One of the awesome things about this trip has been having the chance to catch up with friends – Brits abroad and Kiwi mates who live further away than I would like them to. The day after Tauranga, I also managed to pop in and visit my fantasy cousins in the Shire. Maybe this just makes me a weird Lord of the Rings nut, but there’s something pretty magical about going in a hobbit hole and drinking a cheeky (hobbit-sized) beer in the Green Dragon Inn. A hike up to Wairere Falls and our brilliant day in Middle Earth was complete.
Time flies when you’re having fun and 2000km of road-tripping later, tournament week in Whangerei, Northland was suddenly around the corner. We stayed in a beautiful location in Tutukaka and relaxation is pretty important when you take on the challenge of seven games in nine days. The standard of hockey was definitely better than last year and the ‘Central Caterpillars’ and I gave it everything. We essentially just missed out on a semi-final place by one goal, leaving us all gutted. Having said that, it was a brilliant week – we played some exciting hockey and I loved being part of such a fun and gutsy team. It’s always great to have the chance to step out alongside top players you’ve admired as an opponent, but it’s also nice to see younger players making their first mark on the game at a high level. I hope I’ll get another chance to wear the Central colours…
After the tournament, I gatecrashed the winners’ party (thanks for having me Auckland!), caught up with more friends and did a final bit of exploring with my trusty tour guide and general legend, Jules. Most of our travels usually seem to revolve around food but as well as filling our boots we fitted in a day trip to Waiheke island for more beach wandering and a stunning winery, a morning at Takapuna Beach on the North Shore, and a very windy view across Auckland from One Tree Hill in Cornwall Park.
After another amazing adventure with some amazing people, it was finally time to set off on the long journey home. The really, really long journey. I’m very happy to be safely back home with the boy and feel ready for the special and exciting few months ahead. But there’s just something about New Zealand that makes me feel like a little part of me belongs there too.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” The Lord of the Rings