We recently enjoyed a brief road trip around the central part of the North Island of New Zealand. The scenery was spectacular, the food was world class and it was a wonderful way to relax and re-energise. The Coromandel Peninsula is an area of New Zealand we had never visited before.
I puzzled about why, when I was a 19 year old backpacker travelling New Zealand with my friend Suellen, we didn't go to this area. I soon realised that we'd probably been advised not to go there because we were hitch-hiking (oh yes, those were the days of being 10 feet tall and bullet proof!). It is an area where any lift would have to take you to the next 'big' town because there was nothing in between.
Fast forward to now and we relished being in such lush countryside driving through predominantly dairy and fruit farms, observing the bee hives carefully tended on most produce farms, the pigs, ostriches and alpacas. In other parts of the peninsula we drove through lush rain forest and beside stunning coastal scenery, more beautiful than anything I've seen anywhere.
The highlight was taking a cruise at Whitianga. Ken from Cathedral Cove Scenic Tours was the perfect host, knowledgeable, fun and aware of each of his clients, making sure we got the photos we wanted, were warm enough etc…… All the little things that make for an enjoyable tourist experience.
With my professional interest in career change and my personal interest in people's stories I couldn't help but ask him how he came to be doing this work. With delight he told me that he and his wife had always planned to move to this area but a redundancy hastened the process. Rather than moving five years later, as planned, they made the move to the Coromandel Peninsula and bought the tourist boat business. He looked at me and said, almost in a boyish way, "This is my work. This is what I do every day. How lucky am I!"
He had no idea that my professional life is spent helping people make major career changes, nor did he know what joy those words would give me. If only everyone could feel that way about their work!
Undeniably, where he works is spectacular. Enjoy these photos taken on the cruise, which includes Cathedral Cove and other scenery which was featured in movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.
Getting off the beaten track has always been my husband, David’s, idea of a good holiday. It’s something I enjoy too, especially when it means that you meet the local people rather than other tourists.
On our recent 2 week holiday in Thailand we planned the holiday to give us variety – Bangkok and Phuket on either end of a five day tour, with a driver and guide, through the Mae Hon Song province of Thailand. It wasn’t the actual itinerary that appealed to us, although the countryside is beautiful, but rather that we would be meeting people from several different remote hill tribes close to the Myanmar border.
To spend time with people who still live fairly traditional lives is a precious privilege in our world, as technology reaches into the most remote villages rapidly changing the expectations and lives of so many. But that is what we were able to do, and it was an experience that I’ll always treasure.
This photo shows David, our guide Ay and driver Goh, with the most remarkable family I have ever met. Their home is small and humble, their facilities basic, and their furniture non-existent, with the exception of two stumps of wood to sit on (probably brought in for us to use). But within that home it was inspirational to see the love, co-operation and determination to create a great life. The parents were both outgoing and obviously understand the importance of exposing their children to the outside world. They have raised their children to be friendly, confident and ready to take on the world! At some time they had an American student live with them for months and she ensured that the older girls developed excellent English. The younger two are being taught English by their older siblings. The eldest girl recently left home to study nursing at University so we didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her but we did hear how much the family was missing her. The second girl, Ann, also wants to studying nursing. Om, the third daughter, plans on becoming a teacher and hopes to return to the local area to teach the local children. The little boy, Dom, was quite shy and initially agreed with the family that he’d be a rice farmer like his dad, but then quietly shared with me that he’d like to be a doctor. Number 5, engagingly known as Email, is still at the dancing and swirling stage so our communication consisted of smiles and giggles, but those smiles and giggles were pretty special!
I was curious about how they studied at home. After all the house consists of two small living areas, two small sleeping areas and a tiny verandah. I was told that sitting around the fire, in room that is used for cooking and eating, the children all do their homework and help one another as they can. There was a TV but it was broken and covered with a cloth. Computers are accessed at the local high school and no-one seemed too concerned that they didn’t have access at home.
Yes, it is a simpler life, but a life that is rich in the things that really matter.
By Jenni Proctor