Kia Ora! Hello, Greetings!
A year ago today we flew out of London, Heathrow on our way to Rio to begin our family gap year and round the world adventure! We’ve travelled for 365 days! We’re half way there, enjoying time in New Zealand.
I’ve been thinking about all that the kids are experiencing and learning. Several times along the way, we’ve found ourselves transported back millions of years to learn about how the universe and the world were created at planetariums and various museums, where we’ve learned how countries were formed from the first great continent of Gondwanaland, when the Southern Hemisphere was mostly land and the northern hemisphere mostly ocean. About ice ages, the beginning of humankind and how people travelled little by little to populate the ends of the earth over many millions of years…
This week at the Auckland planetarium we learned how our sun is really a star with perhaps just another 25 million years to burn (is this correct?) and how it is a pretty tiny star compared to several others in our universe! Layed back in our seats and staring at the planetarium dome above us, we watched a show about a travelling space dog, we landed on the moon, found ourselves flying past Venus and Mercury and almost reaching the sun! The kids have been wondering if they’ll get to do this kind of travel in ‘real life’ !
We’ve become world explorers. We’ve learned about so many other explorers of the past 1000 years – Pacific Islanders who travelled by giant canoe (Wakas) between their different islands over thousands of miles, guided only by the tides, the stars and weather patterns, and eventually coming to the great islands of Aoterea (New Zealand). We’ve witnessed the similarities in their traditions and language – ‘Iorana’ in Easter island ‘Ia Orana’ in French Polynesia, ‘Kia Orana’ the Cook islands, Kia Ora in New Zealand all meaning ‘hello’, ‘welcome’, ‘greetings’, ‘may you live long’ and ‘thank you’!
We’ve retraced the steps and journeys of some of these explorers – like Francisco de Orelana who made the very first journey the full length of the Amazon, naming it for the Amazonia warriors seen on its banks!
Time and again we’ve encountered Charles Darwin (in the Galapagos most famously, but also in Patagonia and the Falklands, where he started making notes on flora and fauna that would later contribute to his theory of evolution). We in turn have learned of the evolution and extinction of different animal species and human races and of threats to our fragile world, endangered species and even our solar system.
We’ve followed in the footsteps of Captain Cook too (in the south Atlantic, and right across the South Pacific to New Zealand) and seen through his eyes some of the same amazing and discoveries! The incredible Moai statues and burial mounds in Easter island (Cook even blew one up believing it must contain treasure! It is much how he left it today) the strange naked Yamana people living in Tierra del Fuego, the ceremony of human sacrifice being made in Tahiti which Captain Cook actually took part in!
We know too now of the life and times of some of those settlers who came around the world to find a new life, make their fortunes, dig for gold, or gum, or to bring Christianity. They came from Britain, Europe and Russia. And we know of the huge impacts and changes those European discoverers, missionaries and conquerors wrought on the indigenous populations in the many different places we’ve seen.
Last week, we experienced a Maori welcome ceremony in which Dad got to be our chief and rub noses with the Maori chief after an intimidating display that would have has us running a mile a 100 years ago!
Meanwhile, we’ve experienced the wonderful and gentler welcomes and farewells of the Pacific Islanders, with flower and shell garlands offered to visitors with a huge smile!
We’ve learned too about war, poverty, human cruelty and ignorance and terrifying natural disasters that have devastating effect on the human and animal world. We’ve asked many questions and found that we don’t have all the answers!
Well, today we thought we’d celebrate a year away with some extreme fun in the adventure capital of the North island of NZ, Rotorua!
After seeing bubbling mud pools, steaming coloured thermal lakes, a geyser eruption and racing down a hillside on a giant luge yesterday, I wondered if we could match the excitement today!
After a gorgeous morning exploring a forest of giant redwoods with some new friends from Australia, we headed to Agroventures to test their guts!
Lara was first up with a giant swing! ‘I’ll do that!’ she said, though had to go up with an instructor because she wouldn’t be heavy enough to release the cord and they thought she might not be able to pull it herself! No problem though! She was cheered on by quite a crowd! Then they all tried out skydiving above a giant wind tunnel – pretty hard work, followed by a head to head race on the Shweeb (perhaps the future of city travel – cycling in a glass ‘pod’ on suspended rails, we’re told Boris has considered it for London) and then a gutsy speedboat ride doing 0-100kmph in 4.5 seconds! ‘Can we do it again please?’ was their resounding cry after almost every ride!
That just wasn’t enough so they had an hour on the ice rink, in town centre for the winter season, before exploring the weekly night market then heading off for a celebration dinner! Tomorrow we’re planning to let them roll/slip down a hill in a huge plastic ‘zorb’ with some hot water thrown inside, there wasn’t time today!! Then we’ve booked a canopy tour. They would probably Bungy too but the girls are too young and Ben is too light! I’m keeping quiet about that as Martin is keen to see me take the plunge but it’s not on my bucket list this year and I’m a terrible coward with heights!
I hope you’re enjoying coming along on our travels through the blog and we’ll keep trying to catch up and stay up to date with our stories! We have fun writing them and picking our favourite pictures to include. Please tell us anything you’d especially like us to write about or share more of. You can now see an up to date summary of the trip on ‘our Adventures So Far‘ and our plans for the next year are now on ‘Draft Itinerary Year 2’
One year into our great adventure, at 10, 8 and 5 you may wonder how much of this have they taken in and how much will they remember? They look so young in the photos from a year ago, yet to me it seems like yesterday! They surprise me how much they do remember, especially people, unusual experiences, making friends, and particularly when they look at photos! Tonight we went through photos over supper, re-telling wonderful memories and reminding each other of different places, encounters and new friends made!
They’re bolder and gutsier than ever and we’re so proud of them, needless to say we are very excited to be planning a second year to explore the world on the way back round!!! Our year has flown by and we feel privileged to have spent so much time together with them.
A year ago we left the UK on a world adventure! The children certainly seem to have become travel addicts and adventure seekers! It’s great to hear them telling people ”oh, we’re travelling around the world ….. For two years!’ so proudly. Twenty years ago, Martin and I were both exploring the world, before we met each other, becoming travel addicts ourselves! Forty years ago, my best friend left the UK with her family to live in New Zealand. We’ve been staying with her in Auckland. What a wonderful treat its been to catch up and stop a little while with a good friend and also to all make friends with her son Jack, who’s Zoe’s age.
Ben will be 11 when we return home next year in 2014. My father was 11 in 1914, it was the beginning of the 1st World War. I know little about his life then but I know that when he died in 1978, he’d never had the chance to leave The British Isles. I guess we are more than making up now on his behalf! I wonder if, in another 100 years, it will still be possible to travel this freely or maybe my grandchildren will be visiting the moon and planets for real with their kids (and dog) instead!
Kia ora! Thank you (for reading along with us and putting up with my ramblings!) and may you live long!