Return Kaikoura of the Postcard
In the article “Kaikoura Encounter” in issue #53 Charles Cole Wrote aBout finDinG a staMPeD, Blank PostcarD in the car park at the Point Kean seal colony. It was one oF a trail oF iDentical postcarDs leFt By an EnGlishMan traVellinG the worlD. Charles posteD the carD anD has since hearD Back FroM the Newcastle Man, anD can now sheD soMe liGht on his postcarD Venture anD his traVels.
Isuppose it’s one way of extending your world trip: drop off blank, selfaddressed postcards across a string of countries, then find a pile of them on your doorstep when you arrive home, with more to arrive, in their dribs and drabs, in the following weeks. This is certainly how Ian Robinson found it last year when he returned to his home in Newcastle after his two-month world trip. He dropped off 205 postcards in Canada, U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and he regards the 108 he has received back as precious mementoes, reminders of the places he visited and the people he met.
The 65-year-old ex-civil servant and exradio announcer had never travelled much outside Europe and his retirement gave him the opportunity to do so. A small inheritance from his mother, Mildred, who brought up her three sons on her own, helped pay for the trip, and there is a photo of her on the front of the postcard, beside a picture of the Angel of the North that hints at the Newcastle origins of the card. On the second anniversary of his mother’s death Ian was in Akaroa, and he left one of her necklaces on a rock in Robinsons Bay.
It is a joy to hear the enthusiasm in his voice when I speak to him on the phone, especially when he talks about New Zealand. “New Zealand... (he pauses to gather his thoughts)... my goodness me! I so fell in love... just amazing! Absolutely gob-smacked!”
He hired a campervan for two weeks, driving from Queenstown to Auckland, and found that, because he was travelling on his own, people readily talked to him. “They have an attitude to strangers that is captivating!” (I cannot help feeling that this might partly be a reciprocation of Ian’s bright personality).
Ian rattles off some of the names of the places and the friendly people he met: the salmon shop at Lake Pukaki, the pizza place at Fairlie, the lady who showed him the kiwi and tuatara at Mt Bruce, and the helpful ladies at the i-site in Taumarunui.
New Zealanders certainly responded well to his postcards: 40 of the 108 he received back were from this country, where he spent just two weeks of his eight-week trip. He received 26 from the U.S.,15 from Australia, Hong Kong (12), Vancouver (8), Singapore (3), and one came back from Heathrow.
As one would hope, most recipients wrote a message in the blank space but more than 40 were returned blank, with just their postmark as an indication of where they had been.
Ian handed postcards to some of the people he befriended (like the Chinese honeymoon couple he met at Moeraki, who sent their card back with a Confucian message), but most postcards were stealthily placed in places where people could find them.
The card I found at the Kaikoura seal colony was propped up delicately on the sea wall, between the car park and the beginning of the cliffs, and could have easily blown away. Ian left one card on top of a big carriage wheel in the Kurow Museum, one at the Millennium pavilion in Te Kuiti, and a number at motorway rest areas.
He didn’t want anyone to see him leaving the cards, but was caught in the act in the Boston subway where the statue of a trade union leader with its hand held out was too great a temptation to resist. He saw a man observing the drop and said to him, “You didn’t see anything, did you?” The man denied all knowledge but the temptation for him was probably also too great and the postcard duly appeared back in Newcastle.
Ian was unsettled on his return home and is already thinking about another trip later this year. He has never visited South America before and he wants to return to Vancouver (“a stunning, beautiful city”), as well as New Zealand. “I don’t want to die never having seen New Zealand again.”
And will he be leaving postcards in his wake again? The answer is an emphatic “Yes”. The print shops in Newcastle had better start cranking up their printers.