Thank goodness for the blog! At least now we're back, during times in the coming days, weeks and months when it feels as though we never really left Gisborne, we can look back at the pages of memories, remember the experiences we had, and confirm that we really did live on a narrowboat for almost six months and we'll be returning in 2010.
Prior to mooring in Amington, we made a trip to Alvecote Marina for a pump out and to fill up with diesel. Whilst there Barry noticed a fisherman along the towpath and was just reflecting on the fact that, although we'd seen many of them along our journeys , we'd never really seen any of them actually catch anything from the cut. No sooner had that thought crossed his mind than out of the corner of his eye he saw a huge pike being pulled from the water. Another reason not to swim in the canals; he had some scary looking sharp teeth, and a jaw that seemed as though it could wrap it around your thigh!
Matt and his pike - great catch!
Open wide ...
Alvecote Marina, where we went for a drink with Maggie, Gary and Mikey at the end of June, halfway through our adventures
Last leg of the last day on the cut - back to the mooring
The map on our wall showing how far we've travelled since we started towards the end of April - see the black lines
It was late afternoon before we'd finished all our respective jobs, and we could then leave Northern Pride in very capable hands - as you can see above Joy and Bruce had spent the morning trimming their hedges and weeding in anticipation of their guest. Barry was very reluctant to leave; I thought at one stage he may try chaining himself to her, but thought better of it so he didn't risk being thrown out of England and not allowed back for ten years if he overstayed his welcome.
Our lovely friends Maggie, Gary and Mikey put us up (or should I say put up with us maybe?!) on Thursday night before very generously giving us a lift to my parents in Ombersley (because they didn't see how on earth we'd manage on a train with all of our belongings!), where we spent our last night before heading back on the long journey down under.
Because we flew with Air New Zealand and our outward journey was through the USA, we got to bring 46kg of luggage allowance each. The problem was getting to the airport with it all! My mum and dad only have a tiny car, a Matisse (not sure if that's spelt correctly!), but by some miracle Barry managed to get our four cases and two hand luggage bags in the car as well as the four adults! Amazing!
Waiting for the train with mum and dad
Our travelling 'home' was mostly uneventful; Droitwich to Worcester then to Paddington, then to Heathrow by train; on to Hong Kong, Auckland and finally, after 36 hours, to our home town of Gisborne by plane, the first city in the world to see the sun rise each morning. Unfortunately when we arrived in New Zealand this morning the weather was appalling; around 10 degrees Celsius, pouring rain and driving wind from a sub-Antartic breeze(!) - it's ironic that we've experienced an abundance of sunshine and blue skies in England for the past few weeks so now the climate seems better there than here! I suspect it will be short-lived ...
... and a cappuccino for Sandra
Made it to Heathrow in one piece and with all baggage accounted for
A snack and a glass of wine while we wait for the flight ...
It was almost a full moon - the four lights under the moon are all planes coming into land - it's like a skyward highway!
Barry's father is still going, though we're not sure for how long, and it was good to see him and Barry's mum, sister, brother and son Tom at the airport; as well as another close family friend, Marie. Bless them they'd been to our house and cleaned, tidied, washed and left us provisions, in addition to making two fantastic 'Congratulations' banners - June and Jenny had a competition as to who could make the best one; a difficult choice. They'll be well used as we can also put them up at the next wedding, on 22 December, at Wainui Beach, Gisborne - the 'official/legal' occasion.
We're definitely missing being on board Northern Pride, the house feels so spacious which is good in some ways, but it doesn't have the cosiness of our narrowboat.
We have a focus to concentrate on though; pay off the debts incurred and save for next year. We covered such a huge area of the canals and rivers this year; possibly more than we should have in the time we had available; and next year we plan to see the south of England's waterway system.
We appreciate that we're still very much novices having only experienced six months of boating; but we're considering going from Sharpness to Bristol in 2010 (though I can't believe I'm even suggesting it!), so if anyone has any tips or tales to share we'd welcome them wholeheartedly.