Re­turn Kaik­oura of the Post­card

NZ Today - - LETTERS -

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.

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