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

It's s small country, isn't it?

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From:       Stuart
Subject:   It's a small country, isn't it?
  Date:         25th January 2005
     Motueka, Tasman Bay, Nelson, New Zealand


"You're from England are you? Do you know Mr Mitchell?" the young girl asked, clearly expecting that I would. She seemed so sure I figured he must be someone I'd met on the road. "Is he living in South Island?" I asked. "No England, he's got a wife and two kids… both girls," she added by way of clarification, "…but I don't know their names." I thought hard, "Ummmm I know a Jenny Mitchell," I offered. "Oh right, that must be his wife then." the girl said with certainty. She smiled, pleased that I knew someone she knew.

There's well over 50 million people in the UK and we don't even know half of the people in our own village. New Zealand has between four and five million nationals and they're very mobile. As well as moving around their own country for work or holidays, about a million at a time are travelling or working overseas. Everyone seems to know everyone else and it's really not that unusual to keep bumping into the same people as you travel.

"Stuart, stop there's a barbers," Kirstie shouted from behind me as we rode into Motueka in search of a haircut. I swerved and pulled over to the kerb. There was no barbers but instead I found myself staring at a friendly and almost familiar face. "Hi there," I said returning the friendly smile. "So you made it then?" said the shorn-haired woman. Beside her sat a smiling older woman with her partner grinning out of his dark set face. It took me several seconds to place them without their Peruvian hats. It was the Staring family whose eyes we first met over 1000km and six weeks ago in Omarama and then again in Tekapo. "Good to see ya," said the mum, "What brings ya here?" "We're looking for a barbers," I said, "looks like you might know a good one." The shorn-haired one giggled and ran her fingers through the fresh shaven spikes on her head. "Cheapest salon in town's out near the high school," she said proudly. We passed a few moments exchanging pleasantries and catching up. Turns out the Starers live further up our route on North Island and know some of the other people we're due to meet up there. "See you again soon," said the mum with confidence as our paths parted once more.

The sign above the door said 'Shirley Snipps Hairdressing Salon.' The children pushed open the door and ran in. "We're family on a haircut," announced Matthew. "Got my peppermints," said Cameron, scattering them onto the hair covered floor. The two stylists got to work, turning me into a carbon copy of the shaven haired Starer. The cut was neat and square with a small adventurous spikes on top. When they finished with Matthew, he swung around on the chair and beamed into the mirror; his hair was smooth and neatly trimmed with a perfect fringe. When Cameron had finished picking the hair off his peppermints, he bounced off the stool with a grin; his mop was randomly cut, due to his wriggling, and was now gelled and spikey all over. "I'm smooth," said Matthew. "I'm spikey," said Cameron. The stylists had given us haircuts to match our personalities. The haircuts proved a turning point in Cameron's understanding of himself. As I dressed him for bed later that night, he emptied the contents of his pockets in a pile on to the floor. "Spikey put sand in his pockets," he explained. "Spikey wear jamas now Daddy." He now refers to himself as either Spikey or Cameron, depending on his mood.

Square, Smooth and Spikey outside Shirley Snipps

A week or so later out of the corner of one eye I caught a familiar stare at another roadside camp, this time not just staring but waving.



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