Newsletter - June 2005
Inspiring families to live adventurously, promoting independent family adventure

The Family Adventure Project and Family on a Bike e-newsletter

Welcome to our June 2005 update
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Talofa, as they say here in Samoa, where Stuart has taken to wearing a floral skirt, and our diet consists mostly of tarot root and bread fruit; good for the waistline, but not so good for two picky children who prefer chips and tommy sauce. We've been here soaking up the South Pacific sunshine and acclimatising to doing nothing after six months of pedalling everyday. Getting here involved a little time travel as we crossed the international date line and arrived the day before we left New Zealand. And things move so slowly here that we'll be surprised if tomorrow ever comes. It all takes a little getting used after the hectic time we've had since our last newsletter.

Thanks to all of you who sent congratulations on Kirstie's pregnancy. Many of you sounded as shocked as we were when we found out ourselves. Let's just say it was a welcome accident that's added an exciting new dimension to our family adventure project and opened up the possibility of adding a Kiwi, Samoan, American or Canadian to the family on a bike. Kirstie is particularly pleased to be able to say she cycled the length of New Zealand carrying not one but two children. Anyway, she is pleased to have finished the cycling before the bump got in the way and is now adapting to life as a pregnant backpacker.

When is a family on a bike not a family on a bike?

The last six weeks has involved a mixture of new, challenging and often quite bewildering family adventure experiences since we flung our bikes into the sea at Cape Reinga; the place where Maori spirits slide down a tree into the sea to return to their Polynesian homeland. Post-cycling, we trapped Stuart in a campervan for a week to see how long it took him to spontaneously combust travelling 'the easy way'; we put Kirstie crewing on the smallest most cramped yacht in the world to see if she'd sink or swim, and Matthew and Cameron have been fully immersed in Polynesian island life, with all it's unfamiliar food, customs and climate.

Family without a bike - yachting, campervanning and backpacking

Here's a little something about how we got on nearly a month ago now when we crash landed in Samoa.

The shock of the new

Four uniformed security guards closed in on us, circling and silently moving us closer to the airport terminal. They swapped glances, and two of them consulted in low voices; their terrorist and drug training had clearly never included the more pressing menace of a toddler tantrum on the runway. It was close to thirty degrees in Apia, the capital of Samoa, where our two boys had been woken up after only an hour's sleep and Matthew was furious. To add to his disgruntlement our in-flight meal had been cancelled due to turbulence, we had no milk or water to re-hydrate ourselves, and we had just dropped into the South Pacific at midnight, approximately a day before we had left new Zealand. The airport band in their short sleeved flower power shirts and garlands turned up the volume, trying to lift Matthew out of his strop with a few tunes. Unfortunately "Beautiful Samoa" was drowned out by the furious screech of "Want to get back on the plane." He stamped and punched and screamed, totally unaware of how much attention we were attracting, as people stopped watching the band and stared at us instead. The dreamy music made no difference; there was no way this angry bundle of sweat was about to be serenaded off the flightpath by two guitars and a double bass made from a bucket and a long piece of string.

Distressed by all the commotion, Cameron began to cry, clinging to Kirstie as she dragged the sticky two year old, Puppy The Wuppy and four pieces of hand luggage into the terminal. Stuart followed, forcibly hauling Matthew along and trying to lift our baggage from the conveyor belt, while Kirstie unsuccessfully tried to buy some local currency with a credit card. Then, with a little help from both customs and excise and immigration, who seemed keen to close the airport for the night, we found ourselves in a brightly lit arrivals hall. "Talofa, talofa, welcome to Samoa." The boys stared wide eyed at the distinctive looking man who appeared from nowhere. His long pointy beard almost touched the waistband of his multi coloured skirt as he tipped his Australian bushman's hat and grinned widely. "The Wickes family I presume?" This was Steve, the owner of Ecotour Samoa who had taken control of a month's worth of our travel budget earlier that day. And for the next week at least, our entire lives would also be in his control as we had signed up for an ecotour of this unfamiliar country. "Right, time to go island hopping, everyone happy? The boat is waiting for us at the wharf." We tried to put on happy faces as hungry, exhausted, and dripping with sweat, we followed our new leader. He effortlessly grabbed our bags and sprinted in flip flops towards a bus emblazoned with a green turtle emblem. We had put ourselves in the hands of Crocodile Dundee.

Cameron meets the Green Turtle Bus, his new preferred mode of transport

"Welcome to Manono Island," said Steve, "time to get your feet wet." He jumped off the small metal boat where we sprawled on the floor like refugees surrounded by luggage and boxes. He then scuttled ashore while the ferryman and his mate unloaded bags, boxes and two of Steve's own children who had slept for the entire bus and boat ride. We took off our shoes and socks and stepped over the side. The warm water and deep soft sand caught us by surprise. Stuart lifted the boys ashore, one at a time. "It's hot Daddy," Cameron giggled as he dipped his toes gently into the water. A lightbulb glowed dimly in a thatched wooden shelter beyond the beach. "Come up to the falé and meet your host," said Steve leading us past snoring locals up a sharp coral path towards the light. Outside the falé, he introduced us to the silhouette of a Samoan woman. "Stuart, Kirstie, I'd like you to meet Tauvela." She smiled, offered a limp handshake, then signalled for us to take a seat in the falé and summoned a man wielding a machete. Movie scenes of cannibals on remote South Pacific islands flashed through our heads. The warrior stood menacingly beside us while they exchanged words in Samoan, then with a sudden burst of energy he hacked two young coconuts off a tree and drilled two holes in them with a corkscrew. Tauvela popped two straws in and handed them to the boys. The kids looked at the coconuts with bemusement. Tauvela pointed to the coconuts and then to the kids. "There you are boys," said Steve, "lovely coconut milk." It was cool, sweet and refreshing in the heat of the night. "Yuk, don't like it," said Matthew quickly. "Yuk, yuk," copied Cameron spitting his out, "I'm tired. Want milk and bed." Steve pointed us towards a thatched roof standing on stilts over the sea. "There's your falé," he announced cheerfully, "no need to get out of bed to watch the sunrise."

When we woke up, it certainly seemed like paradise

It was a hot and sticky night. The sand stuck to our bodies as we lay naked on the thin mattresses that separated us from the woven floor of the falé. We slept fitfully, the waves crashing beneath us seemed too close for comfort. As the morning breeze ruffled our mosquito nets we madly scratched at our legs and arms to ease the irritation of fresh mosquito bites. A small nut brown face surrounded by curls peered through a hole in the mosquito net. "Fish and chippies and pancakey for breakfast?" the boy laughed gleefully, indicating that this was far from the actual menu. He ran away as quickly as he had appeared. Kirstie smiled at Stuart, a nervous smile that reflected the discomfort in his eyes. We sat wrapped in our sheets, each aware of what the other was thinking. After six months of having control over every moment of the day and every element of our planning, itinerary and children, we had now handed it over to a stranger in an extremely strange land, and the thought was terrifying. Stuart sat up and looked around at the pastel blue ocean lapping against the falé, the pristine white coral reef only a few hundred metres out to sea and the shell scattered sands. There was no doubt in our minds that we were in paradise, but we had little idea of where that might be, how we should dress for it, what on earth would be served up for breakfast and what the man with the pointy beard intended for our week of eco- education. Kirstie suddenly recalled some of the text and pictures on the ecotour website involving compost toilets, making a fishing rod out of a stick to catch dinner, and building home made underground umu ovens to cook it. And basket weaving, the occupation of the insane. Pulling the mosquito net tighter around her, Kirstie lay back on the sandy encrusted sheet. Paradise could wait.

Soft shimmers of morning in the open fale

What's new on the website?

Sorry to anyone who has been unsuccessfully logging on for postings over the last few weeks. From a simple beach falé, without a phone or proper communications, updating the web has been impossible. But while it may have looked as though things had ground to a halt, we have been writing away and you can now read all about our weird and wonderful adventure in Beautiful Samoa in full, as well as the drama of learning to sail a yacht on our own, and being imprisoned in a tin box on wheels. And since we'll be in the States from the 7th June updating the site should be a piece of cake, an extra large one of course. You can access all our postings from the road index at:

If you want a few highlights then try some of the following. You can read about:
- how Kirstie struggled to find her sea legs in 'Tied up in knots'
- what drove Stuart mad in 'Campervan Crazies'
- our early encounters with Samoan chiefs and their ladies in 'The morning after'
- what's involved in ecotouring in 'Guardian of the Swamp' and 'Finding Farter Crispmas'
- our dealings with the Samoan Health Service in 'Eaten by a tiger'

Big thanks

A never ending stream of people have continued to cross our path and help us out as we've travelled to the top of New Zealand and beyond. Thanks this month to all the following.

- Jette, Niel, Henry, Lewis, Aver and John who invited us to a fabulous family weekend in Waipu and taught us a little about Maori customs and traditions;

- Stu, Win, Craig, Shelley, Morgan and Keeley who served up a wonderful impromptu BBQ, shared toys and clothes with our boys and put us up when Kirstie was not feeling well;

- Craig and Desiree at Pack or Paddle, who showed us around the Far North, introduced us to dunesurfing and retrieved us from the Cape at the end of our cycle tour;

- Nadine, Bernard, Sofia and Sylvan who entertained us on Nanu, babysat Matthew and Cameron and made our yachting adventure possible;

- Terry and David at Great Escape Charters who literally showed us the ropes and gave us the skills, confidence and opportunity to be a sailing family around the Bay of Islands;

- Steve, of Ecotour Samoa, who set up an extremely flexible and insightful itinerary for us in Samoa and his wife Ava and children Nuanua, Stevie and Sosafina who joined us for some of it and made it such good fun.

...and to all those who have brightened up our day, given us a bed for the night or cooked up some chips for the boys. We won't forget your hospitality even if we've forgotten to mention you here.

Moving on again

It's always nice to hear from people so don't hesitate to drop us an e-mail. You can send us a message by replying to this email newsletter or by mailing us at

Since Kirstie is now more than six months pregnant, our plans have changed slightly for the States and Canada. They now involve a six week family road trip up West Coast America from L.A. to Glacier National Park, taking in Disney, Vegas and the Grand Canyon, San Fransisco, Seattle, Bainbridge Island and Vancouver Island, the Rockies and Lake Louise. Then we'll be crossing the States from West to East by rail, finishing our train journey with a visit to three great American Cities; Chicago, New York and either Boston or Washington DC. We've heard America is a bit different from Samoa, astonishingly they don't live on bread fruit and tarot, and only the convicts do basket weaving. But we may be able to convert them to compost toilets; you never know.

And that's it from us for now as we start our adventure in America

Until next time,

Stuart, Kirstie, Matthew, Cameron, Snooko Sninkofart and Puppy The Wuppy
The Family on a Bike :-) now without bikes :-(

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