WQW #18: Travel/Transportation: Planes and Boats and Trains

Boats and Trains and planes  – such life- changing journeys and fun adventures I have had over the years.

“All the greatest adventures start with a boat trip”

My first major experience of adventurous transportation was on a troopship. The TSS Captain Cook II was an aging troopship which departed Wellington Harbour on Guy Fawkes Day, 5th November 1959 amidst a backdrop of fireworks displays and streamers.

I vividly remember the fireworks bursting over the harbour hills as we excitedly scrambled around the decks, holding the paper streamers that were the last tenuous link with the people left behind at the wharf. After the last streamer stretched and snapped, it was time to find our little berth which was to be our family home for the next three weeks as we slowly steamed our way across the Tasman Sea. 

Rough seas and violent seasickness are the most vivid memories I recall from those first seven days as the boat rocked and rolled across the Tasman Sea and up the West Coast of Australia to Freemantle, the port of Perth. Oh – and the ‘crossing the line’ ceremony was indeed a momentous event of onboard ship life.

We learned that the equator was an imaginary line not the big bump in the water we had been told to expect as we crossed over in the middle of the night.    We experienced the full ‘crossing the line’ ceremony which consisted of being hoisted onto a canvas chair perched above King Neptune’s pool filled with evil smelling foamy water, having green lather rubbed into our hair, made to drink foul tasting ‘poison’ and then being tipped backwards into the firewater pool was all part of the adventure.

Although I didn’t know to at the time, this was to be this troopship’s final  voyage. And yet, my travel and transportation adventures had barely just begun. 

Even the seasoned  traveller had a first flight”

My memorable first flights:

Aboard a DC6 plane flying back to New Zealand in three 7 hour flights meant airsickness, viewing beautiful coral islands and the night lights of Brisbane.

A spontaneous 4 seater plane trip to Christchurch with my friend, her pilot husband and our first babies. The pilot fence- hopped a couple of times and then landed in a field.

A Bristol freighter trip to Wellington with 3 young sons – 40,000 rivets flying in close formation.And that wind on arrival nearly blew us all away!

An impromptu single-engined plane trip from Nelson to Takaka when the mountain road was closed yet I still had workshops to do over the marble mountain. 

The  Metroliner  (nicknamed the flying pencil) on a cold frosty morning where the pilot had to use paper towels on the windscreen to see where he was going.

A float plane from Wellington to land on the water in the Marlborough Sounds where I live on the beach front.

And then came the big jets – and many long haul flights.  Endless departure lounges, empty flight gates and jet lag.

 “The train is a small world moving through a larger world.”

My train travel adventures started with my first job.  After a week of training in Invercargill, the southern most city in New Zealand, I boarded the steam-powered overnight train to return to Christchurch. Sitting in an unheated carriage all night with no pillow or blanket should have discouraged me from train travel forever, but it didn’t.   Since that early experience, there have been many train trips throughout Europe. 

Whether it be trying to sleep on an overnight train from Milan to Paris, where we shared a couchette with a Russian  fashion buyer and a Japanese Cirque de Soleil dancer, to being mugged on the express train to Charles de Gaulle airport, train travel is an adventure unto itself.

From standing in the dining/bar car on the Eurostar for the trip from Paris Gare du Nord  to London St Pancras under the English channel train, to our ‘walking’ from Milan to Venice!  Well, it took us almost the whole trip to find an empty carriage so we effectively walked the length of the train as it chugged to Venice. We had indeed ‘walked’ for the duration of the train trip.

In Switzerland we were nearly kicked off the panoramic train through the snowy Swiss alps to Interlaken -wrong tickets!  

In Sweden, father and son watched an All Blacks rugby match as the train trundled us to a beer festival. 

In Italy, we were returned to the railway station to catch the last train back  to Bergamo after yet another beer festival. (An occupational hazard when your son is a Swedish brewer) Thank goodness the train actually arrived as we had no clue as to where we were. 

From Munich to Verona, we took the slow train due to the scenic route being closed – a tad disappointing for us.  

The train from Frankfurt to Prague was almost uneventful in comparison although the train was stringently scrutinised by border control.

In Colorado, we loved the Durango to Silverton narrow gauge railroad so much we did the return trip too.

From the Kuranda Scenic train and Skyrail trip in Australia to the Hungerburg funicular cable car in Austria, and from  gondola rides in Queenstown to the London Eye, these unique methods of transportation have helped me to ‘feel the fear’ of heights and do it anyway. 

It’s hard to imagine I have had an irrational fear of falling down stairs for most of my life yet due to having to use various forms of travel transportation, I can now use escalators, gondolas and glass-floored elevators.  How far I have come in my transportation adventures from that first overnight steam train trip? 

“The mode of transportation you choose to travel on your life’s journey matters less than the wisdom of it’s driver.”

Written in response to WQW #18

Day 17. Sorrows of the soul

Life is so endlessly delicious – or is it? Endless is how life should be but endless it is not. This year I have lost three close friends.

Delicious is such an emotive word. It means sweetness but to lose a lifelong friend is not sweet. Bittersweet maybe. Sad to lose a friend but happy to have known them. 

The end of life is not delicious. It’s sad, so sad and final. Here one minute – gone the next. How can such a vibrant life no longer exist in this world?

The breathing is over. The dreaming is  forever. The dreamer did not awaken. We are often told they have ‘slipped away’ or that they have ‘passed away’.

 To where?  Their passage of time has finished. Their time has come. Their life is not endless but was it delicious while they had life? 

So many ways to describe the ending of a life but delicious is certainly not one of these.  Those left behind are heartbroken yet is it not the dead whose heart has stopped?  Broken?

 Sorrow – it is so hard to describe this feeling. It comes in waves catching me unaware, crashing like a rogue wave upon a calm shore. Unearthing hidden feelings expected to never be felt again. 

Like an old rubbish tip exposed by the stormy seas, the shores and beaches are polluted again.  A rescue effort swings into action to prevent further destruction and contamination of the environment but what of the broken-hearted?  What can we do with our exposed sorrowful thoughts and feelings? 

The bad and good memories come flooding back to disturb my present calmness. 

There are the five stages of grief as described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. However, there is a sixth stage, that of Meaning.  And so I seek meaning to understand this pain of their departure. Why them?  Why now? Why not me?

Why has losing my friends been harder for me than losing my parents or my sister? Or even losing a relationship with my remaining siblings? Why was the sting of their rejection not more painful than losing my friends? 

The quality of the relationships might be the answer I seek. Loyal and true is the best way to describe my special friendships. To lose these friends feels so unfair but to whom?  Am I just feeling sad and sorry for myself? Is this just  a necessary part of the life experience?  My next lesson to be learned?

This is is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, July Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’

The First Ten Years – Part 1 – How I got my name

The last light of the day
The setting shining its las light across the sea

I was born on 14 March 1950. The other big news event of that day was  that of a half-grown female leopard escaping from Auckland Zoo.  Like Caesar, the Ides of March  (15 March) was not a good day for this leopard as it only got to eat half a possum before it was hunted down and shot dead by the local army officer. 

This news story lead the front page of the Christchurch Star-Sun even superseding the news from the Malay Emergency.  Also mentioned was the King of England awarding a gallantry award to a NZ officer for his role in Malaya.

No wonder the event of my birth did not  make the headline news that day.

I was named after Liana Angelicci – an Italian school teacher my father met in Piarocco, Italy during World War II.  He emphasised it was a platonic relationship however he was in a war torn country; he was a shell shocked machine gunner who had seen service in Egypt as well as Italy. Who knows the real truth? My feeling is that he took comfort where and when he could and perhaps that helped him survive those stressful times. 

Many years later, both my parents went to Italy on a 27 Battalion reunion  tour. They found that little village of Piarocco and Liana’s old house, knocked on the door and discovered she had married a doctor in the next village and moved away.  Whatever happened, I do feel a special connection with Italy. Growing up, I did not know of anyone else who shared my name. I love my name as it is quite unique. I feel that it has strengthened my sense of individuality. 

The dictionary definition of Liana means a ‘clinging jungle vine” I like to think that I am tenacious rather than clinging. I can survive through tough times and I seldom give up despite at times being in a less than nurturing environment.

Does our name influence who we become?