Books, Lit Fests, News, Movies, Art, Fashion and TV of course... "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - GROUCHO MARX

My Photo

I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Long before slow travel evolved into the current fad, Bala and I became pros at it. Not for us the 10 day, 10 city adventure. We like to take it slow, we like to avoid hotel rooms, we like to meet the people, eat with them, drink with them. That possibly explains why Ketut and Janet's abode in Ubud has such enduring charm for us. But this is about New Zealand.

A missed flight, no perfect connections, amazing help from Singapore Airlines, right from the ground, customer service to the ticketing staff, Aneesha, Dhruv and I are finally on our way to the City of Sails - Auckland. It's a beautiful flight. The kids are so exhausted, they refuse to budge even when the plane lands. Much nudging later, we are on terra firma.

First stop, the first of many to be checked at counters. I'm expecting the usual hostile response. So imagine my state when an immensely warm smile followed by:
"How are you doing this morning? What about the children? Had a great flight?"

Before I can even mumble anything appropriate.
"You are a journalist?"
"Yes, Mam."
"Do you meet Bollywood stars?
"Sort of, if filming them from a distance counts."
"You know I'm a big Bollywood fan.
"Really? Who do you like the best?"
"I don't understand all of them, but I like that beautiful Miss World, was it, her name's with A."

No escaping Aish-Abhi trail, even if you sorely wanted.

"I'm not surprised they chose to fly through Auckland," I tell the lovely lady behind the counter.

The tables are quickly reversed.

"Did they?"
"You bet, all the way to Bora Bora, if the media reports are right this time round?"
"Awww, I wish I could have seen them."

Are the multiple Bollywood award organisers listening? Another market waiting to be tapped.
On a springing Bollywood note, we line up for the next round of clearance.

A sniffer dog and a cop seem to be heading my way.

"Sir, I have food in my bag. I need to declare it."
"Mam, are you travelling alone with children?"
"Yes, I am."
"Follow me."

The next thing I know I'm past the next lane, sniffer dog in tow.
The immensely kind cop points me in the direction of the food clearance lane.

"Have you declared everything in your form?" the official asks.

There is an immediate affinity here. The official is from India, within a minute he has switched to Hindi, he tells me he moved here from Haryana, the first couple of years were tough (aren't they always) but now he and has family love it here. He is thrilled to learn that I'm from Chandigarh. We may have been strangers a minute ago but our lingo, our shared capital, our movies are an immediate connect. I'm quizzed yet again about Bollywood. It's almost turning out to be an emotional homecoming. I've got to pinch myself to believe this is my first visit to New Zealand and that too to only one part of it.
With that we are finally in Bala's safe arms. Several maps, bags and GPS in tow. Before we can get out, we've lost our parking ticket. Murphy's law? $30 poorer but blessed with a whole new set of verbal directions, map blind Bala and I are on our way to explore just one part of North Island. Often when I look back at our journeys and our spirit to drive on with our directional blindness, I'm surprised. Luckily for us, apart from sending us in circles, the GPS hasn't died on us. It doesn't fail us as we start the absolutely stunning drive from Auckland to Rotorua.


Every where you look, it is a picture of loveliness. It almost feels like you are driving through a post card, you've got to keep pinching yourself to believe this is for real. This much beauty, the well travelled hubby tells me is only to be found in Scotland. For now, I'm not blinking, I want to take in all I can. We make it to Rotorua in time to find Mountain Road, just off Clayton Road, head into our lovely cottage. The only thing missing here is Goldlilocks I tell our hostess Gill. It's drop dead gorgeous. She helps us settle in, with much needed tips on ways to use the fire and the the big saviour thermal blankets. She also makes one of the finest recommendations for dinner. For a change, my meal tastes better than Bala's. If you aren't blessed with a sweet tooth, avoid anything that says caramelized. That's how the lamb shanks arrived. Expectedly, none of us wanted to bite into it.

With sights like these, we expectedly fall in love with Rotorua and would have stayed here for the rest of the days. But the cottage is taken, Gill tells us. Leaving us with no choice but to vacate.

If move we must, then it's got to be to Coromandel. Take a look to see why......

We've sort of studied the map. We imagine the drive to be as smooth as the ones we've embarked on so far. What we have factored in is the fact that when we enter Coromandel on the GPS, it reads it as the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula. Once we touch the tip, it calls for reprogramming to Coromandel Town. We arrive at Thames expecting straight roads, only to realise the journey has only just begun.

For someone who hasn't ever taken on hill roads - the drive upto Hillside doesn't count, mind you - this is a good 50-60 kilometres of circuit training. This is precisely what my pal Jen Ding had warned me about.

"You look down and you feel you'll drive into the ocean."

Yes, that is the sinking feeling.

Things aren't made any better when Aneesha decides to revisit her Social Studies lesson.

She is the front seat navigator.

"Daddy, is that the Pacific Ocean?"
"It is the deepest ocean in the world. It's in my book."
"So if we slip we'll be in the deepest ocean."

Perish the thought, I tell myself. It's hard. The undulating landscape continues. We take several breaks to give everyone a way ahead of us. We want to relax when we feel like the mountains are kissing the sky, when the sea seems to stretch into infinity. It's hard.

A good two hours, slowly, steadily we make it to Coromandel.

I spot a little farm stay though we decide to take a quick round of town to decide where it is we want to stay. 10 minutes later, I'm chatting with Brian, getting a quick tour of his charming home and settling for his cottage with unmatched views of the coast and the mountain. I couldn't have asked for more.
Anshy and Dhruv are delighted.

They've got bulls to feed. A fisherman to chat upto and what else - but sheep.

Yes, they outnumber the residents of New Zealand. And yes, you've read it right.

These beauties are everywhere. Grazing away through rain and shine. They are temptation enough to make 'woolly volunteers' of our eager beaver children, who made it to stage to feed them through a bottle.

Labels: ,