Hamilton is excellent!  …. which was quite a surprise because the general response to our travel plans was “why?”, or “oh dear” closely followed by “why?”.

To answer this question I have been explaining about the gear shake down and the availability of a train plus hotel plus campground. However, I can now also add : some amazing gardens, a very nice little town, a gorgeous river and a very pleasant Main Street with a good variety of restaurants and cafes. To sum up, we had a very nice time and enjoyed Hamilton thoroughly. There were of course some low points but isn’t there always.

The trip down was a little more eventful than we first planned as I received an email from NZTA saying that all the train lines were shut down in Auckland over Easter due to electrification work. This didn’t quite fit with our confirmed train booking so I did some investigation and was told that our train would look very much like a coach for the first part of the journey and would then revert to the more traditional train type of train journey once we got to Middlemore. Looking on the bright side, being an optimist by nature, I decided that this was excellent news as it would allow us to shake down the on/off coach capabilities of our trailers as well. The Husband was not amused. It had already taken a great deal of ‘salesmanship’ to get this hare-brained plan ‘approved’ in the first place, so the ‘coach’ news was not well received. I do have to sympathise. We were traveling on a driverless electric underground metro system some twenty years ago in Lille, France, and it is very tiresome (and a little unbelievable) that Auckland has only recently decided that ‘this electric train thing might actually be a good idea’. Of course, they are still not totally convinced about these new-fangled tunnel things that you can use to make trains go underground. I wonder how many decades it will be before the idea of automated driverless trains occurs? It just seems so 19th century to shut down the complete Auckland rail system for days at a time.

I can report that the trailers go very successfully on and off both trains and coaches with not a murmur from any officialdom, even with the wheels still attached. The train was superb with excellent food, comfortable seats and even your very own power socket!

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We arrived and took a very circuitous route from the train station to the town by virtue of getting lost. During this time, we made the relationship decision that when traveling the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ would be banned. Statements such as “I think your idea was preferable” and “That decision might have been flawed” would replace the highly inflammatory “you were wrong and I was right” statements. We are, of course, still working on this … it may take some time. We also decided that handles are necessary for these occasions so I have added ‘order handles‘ to my ToDo list.

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We booked into our hotel room, which was very large but also a bit tired. The curtains did not draw fully and there was no soundproofing between us and Hamilton’s boy racer circuit, a.k.a the main street. Luckily we could pull out our ‘we’re CBD Aucklanders’ version of the famous ‘That’s not a knife, this is a knife’ Crocodile Dundee quote. Living in the central city, we have cultivated the ability to sleep through major boy racer drag races, drunken fights, lunatic arguments between drug addicts and their hallucinations and even the much louder relationship breakdowns that always seem to come to a head at 4am right below our apartment window.

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We picked up the bikes from Veloexpresso, which turned out to be excellent brand new and stylish Schwinn Coffee and Cream city bikes, and rode them back to the hotel. All was now set for the most excellent adventure. We did a little cruising around and checked out the river and the local architecture, bought some provisions for the next days camping and took advantage of some of the excellent cafes and restaurants.

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Our beautiful bikes

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Local architecture – someone somewhere decided that what this villa really needed was a block work extension!

During a particularly fine cup of coffee, the Husband came up with a completely new concept that I think has some excellent applications. Having a mild ‘senior moment’, he replaced the word Lycra with Velcro and came up with the idea of a ‘Velcro cyclist’. Instantly I could see the possibilities. Image how useful it would be to new cyclists that have trouble staying on their bike. Carrying stuff would be a breeze, just slap it on to your furry outfit and it sticks. Say good bye to slippy pedals and drafts gaps would be a thing of the past … the applications are endless.

The next morning we headed over to the camp ground and set up camp. We put up the tent but the Husband was not happy – something about feng shui. So we repitched in a slightly different place. The ground was very hard because of the drought so we bent several of our special extra strong cross-style tent pegs and the Husband had a special Easter manifestation. The Husband, being a man, chose to push the pegs in with his hand rather than using the handy rock we had found. Presumably, using the rock demonstrated some sort of manly weakness, or perhaps it was just plain stupidity. Either way, the result was a bloody cross branded into his palm. It was Easter Sunday after all.

The camping went well. The trailers once again performed admirably and went in and out of the tent vestibule like anything. We ended up removing the wheels and stacking them up on top of each other.

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In this configuration, I think all of the luggage including the folded bikes would fit very neatly.

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We also tried out liquid fuel with the multi-fuel stove this time around. The Husband read the instructions, a decision based purely on his ability to see the tiny writing, and I followed them. It worked very well and was not any where near as scary as the 50 page instruction booklet (10 of which were dedicated to ‘Hazards’) would lead you to believe.

The weather was mixed with a little bit of everything, which was quite useful for our purposes. The main environmental problem was flies. I haven’t seen so many since we lived in Australia, they were everywhere and extremely persistent. Living in an apartment, we don’t deal with insect life very much at all. We might find one fly a year that has managed to navigate the central city and find its way into our apartment building. I spent quite some time one evening trying to capture two flies and evict them from the tent without gaining any new immigrants during the process.

On the Monday we went over to the Hamilton gardens and were thoroughly impressed. We spent hours exploring and discovered some beautiful places. It gave us the opportunity to shake down the strolling around, taking photos and commenting on the planting that we will need to do on our Trip. I think we’re ready.

There were little touches of Europe scattered about:

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Italian gardens

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Monet’s garden at Giverny perhaps?

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The Tuileries in Paris? (if you squint a bit)

Unfortunately, the last day dissolved into an argument (about nothing) that wasn’t resolved until the journey home. We eventually came to the conclusion that the equipment was performing admirably and without fail it had done what it said on the tin. The bigger problem we had was the organic part of the trip, ourselves. We have resolved to work on some communication tactics because after extensive testing of the fight and flight techniques we have used over the last 20 years, we have decided they don’t work and we need an alternative approach. We thought we might try talking to each other. I know it’s radical, but were going to give it a go.

We took a taxi back to the station … just to check it out, of course. And the trailers went in and out like anything!

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Equipment updates

The cutlery roll was excellent and I was extremely pleased with my handiwork. The pyjamas were spot on and even though the camp ground was not invaded (except by flies) I felt comfortably prepared.

Contrary to my predictions, everything fitted into our bags and the trailers with ease and there was plenty of space left over. I feel confident that we will have plenty of room for a years worth of belongings. The only tweak I would make it to add some bags to separate different types of belongings – a bag for tops and one for bottoms for instance. The duffle bags are excellent but are prone to chaos as there are no separate areas within them. This freaked out the Husband a little as I was writing an ‘equipment tweaks’ list and one entry was ‘separation bags’. Out of context, it looked very much like I was preparing for relationship outcome number two. The only worry I have with the separation bags is that it may become a Russian doll equivalent in packing, where you have so many bags within bags that you end up with more ‘container’ than ‘contents’.

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