In Search of Families In Search of Adventure
A Family on a Bike Tour: New Zealand, Samoa, USA and Canada 2004/2005

Band of brothers

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From:       Stuart
Subject:   Band of brothers
  Date:         19th December 2004
     Lake Pukaki, MacKenzie Country, New Zealand

Puppy The Wuppy and Matthew are inseparable. They travel together, sleep together, play together and PTW gets introduced to everyone we meet with a ventriloquist's 'woof, woof, I'm Puppy.' He has his own pet passport, lead, collar and drybag for inclement weather. Matthew is very law abiding when it comes to Pup, accepting with good grace that there are certain places a dog cannot go, "Pup needs to stay here Dad. That red sign with a dog means no dogs doesn't it?" But he's also perpetually inquisitive, wanting to know why things are the way they are, "Dad, why are no dogs allowed here?" The loss of Puppy would be very difficult for our Family on a Bike.

Cameron is a copycat, so wherever Pup goes Lamby goes too, but only if he can find him. Lamby gets left in the buggy overnight, whatever the weather, and his absence is rarely noticed by anyone. While Puppy is led everywhere, Lamby is…well more of a sheep, following blindly, and foolishly trusting his owner. When will he learn?

Matthew and Cameron were both excited about our trip to Mount Cook. They would see a glacier, walk a rocky trail, enjoy a wild camp under the mountain. Mount Cook is a special place recognised by its status as a National Park and World Heritage Area. Aoraki (as it is known to Maori) is also a place of special cultural significance. Aoraki has Topuni status; a Maori cloak of protection given by tribal chiefs, in a tradition derived from the customs of the Ngãi Tahu tribe.

Looking up the Tasman Glacier in Mount Cook National Park.
Mount Cook (Aoraki) concealed by a cloak of cloud

In Maori tradition, the mountain is the physical manifestation of one of the most sacred of ancestors of their tribe. In one of the Maori stories of creation, the South Island of New Zealand was created when a waka (canoe) carrying four celestial brothers set out to sea on a mission to find new land. No matter how far they travelled they found no land and so tried to return to the heavens. But, as they set off into the sky, their waka fell into the sea, overturned and turned to stone. It came to rest with one side higher than the other, forming what is known today as South Island with the high mountains of the Southern Alps in the West and the great plains in the East. To save themselves, the brothers climbed onto the higher side of the waka where they too were turned to stone and remain to this day as the mountains Aoraki, Rakiroa, Rakirua, Rãrakiroa, bound to one another but retaining their own definition and character. Just like two little people I know.

Spending such a lot of time with the boys on this trip has given me the chance to see with greater clarity the different skills, talents and characters that these two young boys have. Just like the mountains, they are bound together but separated by the differences in their personalities. As an ex-working Dad, it's been something of a new experience for me to be with my kids around the clock, deal with their likes and dislikes and learn how to relate to the differences in them. And as we travel around, as parents and chiefs of our little tribe, we do our best to place our own cloak of protection over our boys whilst giving them the freedom to play, explore, learn and further develop their skills, character and sense of independence. It's a privilege to have the time and resources to be able to do this.

On our trip to the four stone brothers, some little differences in the way Matthew and Cameron relate to their 'pets' (Puppy and Lamby) have a made a big difference to the structure of our family unit. While Puppy The Wuppy was given a guided tour of the alpine village, enjoyed dinner out, and slept snug in his owner's bed, Lamby was left abandoned somewhere in the shadow of Mount Cook, struggling to keep warm in fresh overnight snowfalls. It was a few days before Cameron noticed his pet lamb's absence but he was and remains quite philosophical about his loss. "My Lamby's still in Mount Cook," he announces as he tries to secrete Puppy The Wuppy into his own buggy. And while these brothers fight it out, Lamby lies with his new brothers, Aoraki, Rakiroa, Rakirua, Rãrakiroa, bound to them by an accident of fate.



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