Reading War and Peace
Thursday, August 18, 2005
I know this is a bit delayed, being well over a year since the last entry, but I had always intended to make a final post. We arrived in New York with mixed feelings. Partly caught up in the clamour and vibrancy of the place and partly in despair that it was the last stop. Only Joe had any real enthusiasm for going home but Joe gets excited about everything.
To add to the general depression of going home Andrew decided that having been itching for weeks the problem wasn't going away and he thought he had scabies. After waiting in a clinic for several hours the doctor he saw agreed. But having reached this conclusion from a safe distance on the other side of the consulting room how the hell did he know? He was also miserable enough not give Andrew sufficient cream to treat the whole family so I had to repeat the whole process the next day.
It was however at the William F, Ryan Community Health Center that I finally completed reading War and Peace. Someone asked me just recently if it was worth the effort and I would certainly say it was. My only criticism would be that there were too many battles in it. Seeing as out of the three words in the title one of them is war this maybe seems slightly unreasonable. As someone who also thought the film Gladiator was spoiled because it had too much fighting in it I should maybe just learn to take more notice of the titles.
New York wasn't just about nasty burrowing critters and finishing big books. We visited our fair share of museums Eddie's favourite being the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, set on an old aircraft carrier. Everyone was also intrigued with the Guggenheim Museum both because of its amazing shape but also because of it's attempt to convince us that several thousand dead flies stuck on a large bit of board can be classified as art.
And of course no trip to New York would be complete without sailing by the statue of liberty to give her a cheery wave and an ear popping lift ride to the top of the Empire State Building. Here Joe managed to make the security guard very touchy by seeing how far he could lean over the edge.
So our few days in New York flew by and now we're so well back into our old routines at home that sometimes it feels like the whole trip was over in an instant. But sometimes I watch the boys dealing with a situation that I know they can take in their stride because of their travels and I wonder how many other situations will occur where that will also be the case. And I have read in their school work glimpses of the mayhem of Dehli or the exhilleration of reaching 'the furthest south we ever went'. And as if to mirror all the things we have already forgotten I'm sure there are also those memories that will always be with us.
Monday, April 19, 2004
After a brief and exhaustingly hot trip through the shimmering crustiness of Death Valley, where Eddie spent his birthday, we took the most direct route we could, which turned out to be not very direct at all, to the Sequoia National Park. The fresher air was a relief and there was certainly something inspirational about knocking around with living things that have already been knocking around for over two thousand years more than you have. It also prove a good spot for enjoying a few more chapters of War and Peace, by the way. Unfortunately the giant sequoias only reach their magnificent size and age at elevations between five and seven thousand feet and as night fell so did the temperatures. We went from struggling to keep cool in Death Valley to feeling chilly fully clothed inside our sleeping bags.
We therefore changed our plan to go to Yosemite, equally high and presumably equally cold, and headed instead to the road movie drama of Route One. The trouble is it's not easy pretending to be a soave fifties movie star when you're trying to keep a less than soave camper van on the right side of a narrow winding road. Apart from the cliffs and the rolling waves we came across a huge group of elephant seals apparently just waiting to have their photographs taken.
On Saturday we abandoned our gas guzzling home on wheels and were quite relieved it was someone else negotiating the six lane highway into San Francisco. We're staying at the Youth Hostel which as Youth Hostels go is very comfortable and classy. The neighbourhood however is not classy and on arrival the receptionist suggested which roads we might want to avoid. We decided to ignore this advice. Having been travelling for five months with a limited wardrobe we felt we were scruffy enough to blend in. Also we figured it was important for the boys to see all aspects of the American dream, the insane and the homeless the crowd as well as Macys and Tiffanys.
Tomorrow after a ridiculously early start we have a long flight to New York, last stop.
Friday, April 09, 2004
Leaving the Grand Canyon we drove along mile after mile of straight road through dramatic red sandstone. Navajo land, with only the odd tatty roadside stall selling Indian blankets and jewellry. It was beautiful and yet slightly overwhelming, like one of those dreams where however hard you try you just can't seem to get moving.
The road on the horizon stayed stubbornly in the distance until eventually we reached the respite of Zion National Park, with trees and spring flowers nestling amongst another stunning canyon. We discovered the reason for the greenery when in the space of two days there were two big thunderstorms, the second of which sent a bolt of lightening down a tree about thirty metres from our camper van.
The couple in the van immediately under the tree accepted their fifteen minutes of fame graciously and showed all the other campers who traipsed over nosily the scarred tree and the broken off bark and branches.
So from the sometime tranquility of Zion we headed down to Vegas. The contrast from the beauty of Zion where mankind has had the good sense to leave well alone to the ridiculous excess of Las Vegas where mankind forgot when to stop, is quite astonishing.
I'm glad we went, but I won't be in a hurry to go back. The one good thing about Vegas is that it's not really on the way anywhere so it should be fairly easy to avoid.
Now appropriately it's Good Friday and we've reached Death Valley. We're in a trendy cafe where the boys are playing amongst the sculptures in the garden and Andrew is enjoying his second cappuccino.
Sunday, April 04, 2004
We had the twenty ninth of March twice. For Andrew and myself this seemed only right and fitting as we lost Oct. 31st in 1989 but the boys are now one day in credit. L.A was weird. Joe was approached by a huge black woman with picture painted nails and responded with a bemused expression we haven't seen since we left India.
Since L.A we have ventured forth into the wild west. First stop the Joshua tree national park which was wonderful and proved that Dr. Seuss was not only influenced by illegal substances.
Next stop the Grand Canyon which is everything we could have expected of it and more. Unfortunately it started snowing shortly after we arrived and my sandals are starting to fall apart. I suppose they've done well.
Internet cafes not easy to come by and expensive so I'm afraid that's it for now.
Friday, March 26, 2004
The home of the Big Carrot was a big success, not least because on the last day Andrew, Eddie and myself completed the Tongariro Crossing, sited by many as New Zealand's greatest one day walk. The path covered 17 kilometers of quite breathtaking volcanic scenery and was certainly worth the exhaustion and the sore feet. The hundreds of other 'proper' walkers with their walking poles and fancy footwear were nice enough not to mention that this was a serious walk and not really for the likes of us with our cheap trainers from The Warehouse (where everyone gets a bargain).
The following day we started back to Wellington where we had to say goodbye to our friends. Sadly we have no idea when we'll see them again. By then Fox will probably have waist length dreadlocks, Keir will be propping up a bar somewhere with a pint in his hand, Pippa will have got lost in her own vegetable garden having taken a left instead of a right at the silverbeet and Martin will be so busy with his second hand bookshop that he won't have time to see us. Incidently Joe would like to apologise for repeatedly referring to Keir as a girl, he thinks he's got it now.
Since then we have returned north via Taupo - good hot thermal stuff, Rotorua - even better hot thermal stuff and finally up to the Coromandel to have a last dabble in the ocean. Our last but one night will be spent here in Whitianga which we are proudly and correctly pronouncing Fitianga. It's the first Maori name we've got to grips with and we're very pleased with ourselves.
Unfortunately, as is the case with traveling, as soon as you get into the swing of things it's time to move on and Monday sees the the start of the last leg of our journey in the U.S.A.
War and Peace has been a bit neglected of late but there's still a month to go and only four hundred pages, it'll be a doddle.
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
I'm skipping off from shopping duties again so I don't have much time . We have moved on from Waimarama to Okahune which proudly describes itself as the carrot growing capitol of the world. Just in case anyone forgets this claim to fame they have a thirty foot high fibre glass carrot at the roadside as you enter the town.
Surprisingly though it's not the big carrot that's brought us here but the magnificent Mount Ruapehu, a still active volcano that is currently making the headlines in New Zealand beacuse there are concerns that the huge crater lake at the top will overflow within the next few months, not good news for all those carrots in the way.
Taking full advantage of our volcanic surroundings we have collected a great many pieces of pumice stone which is currently drying out on the fire place in our cottage until hopefully light enough to transport home. So for any friends or relations who are waiting for exotic gifts from far flung places, don't worry about that hard skin any longer, a piece of pumice stone is heading your way soon.
Monday, March 08, 2004
This will have to be quick as where we are staying in Waimarama is an internet cafe free zone. We've ventured to the nearest town where I've managed to scive off for a bit while my companions are more productively involved in shopping.
There are two things I have learned while staying with small boys and librarian assistants. The first thing is that it takes small boys a very very long time before they get tired of playing sword fights. Throwing stones and lighting fires on the beach are also big hits.
Secondly I have discovered that if you go into a library and ask for some advise about choosing a good book the library assistant may give your individual likes and dislikes a great deal of consideration and suggest something suitable or they may suggest something, "Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow', for example, because that 's what they always suggest to customers who make their lives difficult by asking for advice.
I also have to quickly mention Andrew who has pointed out that he doesn't receive nearly enough credit in this blog for being the tower of strength that he always promised to be on this trip.
Thank you dear.