FREEDOM AND NEAR DEATH: ANDREW IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC,
BEGAN OCT. 7, 1989
Parents have to let go at some point. If they don’t want to let go then their kids will take off anyway. That is our experience.
About the time the Berlin Wall came down, both Andrew and Kevin took off. Left the nest to explore the wider world. I think it was October 7, 1989…the Berlin Wall came down a month later…both boys just took off in different directions. We didn’t know why their rite of passage occurred on the same day but it did.
Kevin headed EAST for Slovakia and a job teaching English in a high school for $125 a month. Slovakia was in the throes of sudden independence and at
the same time the ties to Soviet Union were severed. The new Slovak state was looking to the west for help and young people like Kevin and dozens of others took low paying jobs to help the Slovaks re-establish links with the West in a post Soviet world.
Andrew headed WEST with no particular goal in mind except a tour of the islands of the South Pacific with Australia as a possible end point. They crossed North America by car. Cheap cars…wrecks that could still move. Drove them until they died. I hope they were licensed properly but looking at
some of them raised doubts…and hackles on the back of our necks..
We had no control over either boy and just hoped our years of parenting had pounded some common sense into their heads.
This short story deals with Andrew and his friend Keith Merker. Kevin’s story will come later when I can afford to convert his slides into digital form.
So Andrew and Keith made it safely to the west coast and then flew to the South Pacific. They did a little island hopping. Found some work washing
windows of stores along the way. Easy capitalism. Just buy a pail, squeegee and a mop…then offer services for any price customer willing to pay.
Sleep wherever there was a empty beach with a few palms. Eat whatever was cheapest even at least one chicken killed by a passing car. Road kill.
“Plucked and cooked it on the beach, Dad.” he said later when he returned alive.
It was a world tour that only the young could even consider. We did provide some money when things got tight. But, amazingly, there were very few
cries for dollars and cents. People in places that are idyllic seemed to just take the boys as they were. Wanderers like Voltaire’s Candide. Someday
I hope Andrew reads Candide but that is unlikely now that he is an adult…married with kids of his own and a business to run. Those easy days in the South Pacific were days of ‘sweetness and light’ for sure.
But not entirely.
DATELINE: 90 MILE BEACH, NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
“God this is a great place. We can drive for miles and miles along the beach and never see another car.”
“Pull over here, let’s do a little windsurfing…maybe spend the day. and sleep the night away on this spot of heaven.“
“Got a loaf of bread, peanut butter and lots of water….we’ll be fine.”
And so they did…clowned around as below. But heading for disaster.
“OK, Keith, let’s pack up and head for Auckland.”
“We better get a new pail, Squeejee and Windex…see if we can raise a hundred bucks or more….sleep in the car.”
“This car seems almost too good for us.”
New Zealand roads are narrow with lots of curves…too many curves.
“Watch out…WATCH OUT…A CAR ON WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD.!!
“COMING RIGHT AT US…BRACE YOURSE….!
And so the freewheeling days ended in a head on collision when a local
driver decided to take a wide speedy swing around a curve with vision
obscured by rock and perhaps dense vegetation and towering Kauri forest.
“My leg’s caught … motor pushed back …trapped.”
“Need a pry bar…sit still…here comes a police car…”
People dragged out the injured … all surprised that no one was dead for the two cars were total wrecks as you can see below.
“What are your names?,” asked the investigating officer Archie Clarke.
“Andrew Skeoch and Keith Merger…Canadians.”
“What do you boys plan to do now?”
“Do not know.”
“Why don’t you stay with my family for a few weeks while you recover from your injuries. My wife is willing.”
And so they became house guests of a New Zealand police officer. He took them surfing…took them hunting for wild pigs…fed them…humoured them. Very lucky lives they led.
I think we sent them money to get back to Toronto. Lucky they took these pictures. Luck? Lots of luck. I remember a comment by Napoleon Bonaparte when appointing officers for his grand army. “Give me the lucky ones!”, he said. Napoleon would would have wanted Andrew and Keith as officer types I think.
NOTE: I have simplified the story by leaving out several things. And no doubt there were many things that Andrew left out when telling us the stories of the South Pacific. it was a miracle they did not get tapeworms from eating that road kill. and a bigger miracle that they did not become road killed themselves.