Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Sunday 24th Feb 2008

No car, no problem
Seem to keep waking up bright as a button at 2:30am. Forced myself back to sleep (I should easily be tired enough) and woke up at 6am. Watched the sun rise over the city from this great vantage point, breakfasted then headed into town in the Old Lady. Parked up for free right in the middle of town (imagine doing this in London?!) under the 'Casual Parking' rules of which I know nothing about but hey ho. Bagged some more camping gear and then booked my car hire. A bit turns out there are no cheap cars in Picton so I agreed to pick one up in Christchurch. That's a five hour detour by bus, but being as cunning as a fox with a degree in cunning at the University of Cambridge I had discovered that Christo is the biking capital of NZ and therefore the best place to grab a bargain top end bike - my search had been rather fruitless in Wellers. Bike technology doesn't seem to have hit the Kiwi capital yet. Booked some accommodation 'Dorset House', and I quote "Lovely 135 year old weatherboard home with a grown up atmosphere, large regal lounge with log fire ... beds instead of bunks and only a short stroll across from expansive parklands. Sounds perfect, and all for $51NZ, that's les than £20.

West Wellington, not Wellington West
Tina in her absence had thoughtfully arranged for someone to pick me up and transport me to the Sunday meeting at 4pm. Sure enough a knock came on the door and before I knew it I was being whisked to Lyall Bay by Debbie Rollins and Taylor. There I met the West Wellington posse (woe betide if you got the two names the wrong way around!). 'Lawrence' gave us an illustration laden talk on coping with the anxieties of life (anxieties, what anxieties? NZ is waaaay more laid back then England), it was fascinating to listen to all the Kiwi accents. My 'i' rule has holding true, but I must make an ammendment, boths 'o's *and* 'u's retain their normal pronunciation, it's 'e's, and 'a's that transmute into 'i's. The hall was spacious, airy and with huge window, perhaps a sign of the religious tolerance and respect engendered by the middle-class forebears of this nation. In England those windows would have been smashed on a weekly basis!
Met a young lad called 'Brad' who was heading for the cricket at the Westpac Stadium (affectionately known as 'The Cake Tin' to the local because it resembles a big silver cake tin) on the Sunday of the test so we swapped he-mail addresses.
Wayne Rollins next stepped up to the plate. A large than life man with a passion for life, people and cars introduced himself and took me for a spin around the Wellers coastline in his 5 litre Ford V8. It reminded me of Dave Shaw and Pete Bell' boat that used to yank us out of Lake Windermere like rag dolls - that deep throated gurgle, I'm not an 'engine man', but phwoar!
Wayne and Debbie invited me back to their pad in the Brooklyn district, just underneath the wind turbine, we dined on topside an hand picked raspberry filo. Yum. After receiving guided tout of Wayne workshop I was dropped off at Lani and Pieter's where I watched Australia thump the Indians (again) in an ODI then again collapsed in bed, tired and excited about catching the ferry tomorrow.

Next stop Picton ...

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Saturday 23rd Feb

Awakened by heavy rain outside, my body clock and eating patters are somewhat confused after spending 28 hours in transit what with the sun seeming to go up and down almost as many times as the stewards brought us meals (seven meals I think - I lost count and just ate whatever was put in front of me regardless of what time my body thought it was, so at tea-time Adam Tummy Time we were being served cereal and so on). Tina, Lani and Peter were on a weekend excursion to Christchurch so I had both their houses to myself in exchange for feeding the cat once a day, whose name is Gary but is a female, hmm, maybe he/she is from Bangkok? This seems quite a good deal as L&P have Sky Sports and an even better view of the city.

Drove into Lyall Bay to buy some camping provisions in Tina's loaded Toyota van. This van has massive character and I love driving it, it's a white estate car but with no seats in the back. It's no spring chicken but it reminded me of my first car which was a bit battered about and so you didn't mind bombing about in it as if it didn't matter if you pranged it on every available obstacle in the road. Lunch was served up at the Lyall Bay surf shack, the food was top and the banana smoothie felt like it was some sort of elixir of youth.

Local Planet
Whilst browsing maps at the Lyall Bay surf shack (as is my custom) a very friendly lady asked if I was alright, I asked her where I could go mountain biking in Wellers and she proceeded to give me a blow by blow account of all the places I should visit on the West Coast of the south island proclaiming that the Lonely Planet guides are quite an eye opener for locals as those who *really* know where to go can offer much better advice. 'Just ask a local honey' she said, 'you'll have a great time'. So after jotting down her top tips in my diary she then scribbled her name (Sandy) and number if I wanted a tour of Wellers when I return in early March. I have to say the Kiwi's so far have been nothing but very very friendly. I do have a slight problem communicating with the locals thought because I have become so conditioned of not expecting strangers to talk to me that I'm like a mute when someone pipes up and says 'hello'. Even the shop keepers ask how you are before selling you anything! It's so different to England, the locals seem to want visitors to get the most out of their time here rather than resenting every single one of us.

More shopping in the centre of Wellers and then saw a mountain bike guide book for $30NZ. I couldn't resist and subsequently have read up on the dazzling array of rides available on both islands. I called in at a bike shop in town and enquired about getting a decent spec'd hire bike. Nowt doing, looks like I'll be better buying one and flogging it at the en of my trip.

A Mountain Bikers Epiphany
Having partially completed the camping shopping mission I headed home but got a little distracted and made for the Wind Turbine which stands as a solitary sop to the under resourced NZ power industry. I followed the signs up a windy single tracked mettled road before parking up and havng a nosy. From here I could not only see the whole of Wellers but I began to realise the vast potential of the mountain biking around here. There was a fair old network of single and double tracks, marked and unmarked. I consulted my newly acquired '340 Rides in NZ' book and sure enought there looked to be some good 'uns eminating from here. For the first time I began to get my bearings in this awkwardly shaped city - the coastline juts in and out and Wellington kinda has a hammerhead looking extension to it that really screws up your bearings. Anyhow, by now I'd got a taste for the biking and cranked up the Toyota and rallied her down the windy track only to be met by a lonely figure trudging up the road looking like he's just survived an H-Bomb attack. The tall gangly youth had his arm in a blue sling and was covered in bike crash marks. 'Ouch' I thought as I sped past in the opposite direction, then I considered how far he would have to walk up to get to the top so I backed up and he turned around looking hopeful. I asked if he wanted a lift, without hesitation he jumped in. Turns out he was on a practise run for the Kiwi national downhill MTB championships and had took a stack. He'd had to walk all the way to Wellers Hospital (miles!) get his broken collarbone patch up then trudge right back up the hill. Now I've broken a collarbone or two in my time on the bike and believe me it hurts, so to see this kid walk five mile plus there and back bust up resonated with me and I had to give him a lift even if it was just for the last mile or so. We chatted about the local riding and he enthused so much I was itching to get on a bike. I dropped him off just shy of the radar 'golf ball' overlooking the city and he hopped over a fence to his campsite. Good lad, the world needs more of him. This episode mae me instantly change direction on this trip. having taken advice from all quarters it seems like tramping is the thing to do in NZ, however, I'm not *really* a hiker, not yet. I prefer biking, I love the speed, the challenge of a lung busting climb, thigh cooking ascents, the endorphin rush and ofcourse the views. Coupled with the fact that I can hardly walk two yards in my hiking boots thanks a ridiculously innocuous footballing incident last week my mind was made up: this is going to be *my* holiday, I like riding, so that's what I'm gonna do. Thanks for the advice guys but this is The Shandyman's time. Ever since I came to this conclusion I've had a spring in my step and eager anticipation about my tour de sud. Come on!

There's something about a bashed up car
Headed out to Island Bay in Totoyta Corolla 1.3 estate, by now the car was feeling like a long term girlfriend, a bit temperamental at times, mind of her own, you know all her faults and quirks but if you're gentle enough with her she's eager to please filly and despite a few rough edges will always put a smile on your face.
Island Bay
Fancied a cold beer after a long day on my damaged feet so pulled over at 'the bach' (pronouned 'batch', Kiwi for batchelor. Quite appropriate as I ordered a beer por uno. The place (run by a wisened looking Maori woman who looked as hard as nails) didn't have an alcohol license so ordered a meal and got a complimentary glass of wine. The meal (Scottish fillet') was delicious with properly coookd veggies ( bit pak choi like) and the wine quaffable, I ate ad ruminated on the past couple of days as the sun set over to the wests casting a warm yellow light on the glass-like Cook Strait. Bowled into New Town to catch a bit of ODI cricket o the way home and got talking to a Scottish bloke called Ian who'd lived in Wellers for 20 years. He discussed the peculiar driving habits of Kiwis who apparently always drive in the middle of the road and are hell bent on catching up the car infront and then sitting behind them interminably. He was a nicec chap with a proper Kiwi tan and neat white beard, he informed that New Town was busiest on a Friday and that if I was headed out on the town to go striaght into the city. He seemed pretty happy living in New Town, we parted as he went out for a roly. I dorve back to Vogel Town and crashed out infront of the remnants of the ODI game at Lani and Pieters.

The Seagul has landed

We landed in Wellington airport, much to the relief of my fellow passengers some of whom have been privy(boom boom) to my 28 hour bum-bugling. The runway is a thin strip of tarmac bordered at either end by the sea, the reverse thrusters kicking in very aggressively so that the plane didn't career into the sea at the other end which points towards the South Island, the mountains of which can be seen from the southern shoreline of Wellers.

After a no-nonsense but very agriculturally-conscious immigration check I picked up th Airport Flyer 91 bus into the centre of Wellington, a 30 minute ride in the rush hour (4pm) and disembarked on Molesworth Street, no sign of my contact Tina, so I did the only sensible thing to do in this situation and ordered a cold beer. I am already finding I'm having to repeat myself to the (very friendly) locals, maybe I should be using more 'I's more, or is that ears?! So I ask for a local bottled beer, the oriental looking lady thrusts a Heineken into my hand, I feel compelled to point out that unless there's been a massive tectonic plate shift, Denmark is still in a different hemisphere to New Zealand. In the end I grab a NZ pale lager-beer and take a seat. Half a minute later Tina bowls up, the old cold-beer trick works every time! We drive back to her house in Vogeltown, a couple of km's SE of the centre of Wellers, it commands superb views over the city and southern peninsular. Tina seemed somewhat bemused that I took a good ten minutes gawp at the view from her apartment. Finally I got a shower, then met Tina's sister Lani and her hubby Peter, we watched the Wellington Hurricanes rugby union team play in the Super 14's ('tis late summer here right now - the Kiwis think the rugby season is starting too early and finishing too late - sound familiar football fans?) on telly and then went into the town to grab a bite to eat ($15NZ for a high-street Malaysian meal, that's about a £5 to you and me). Had a beer in the Irish Bar on the main drag in the middle of Wellers (Courtenay Place) where things were starting to heat up already. It was time for us to head back up the hill. By now I was fading fast and all but collapsed into a bed generously donated to me by Tina, in fact I have at my disposal the whole apartment as Lani and Peter live next door, so Tina moved one door down for the night. Slept.

The art of speaking like a Kiwi

After being in a confined space with half a plane load of the critters I think I've mastered the art of translating Kiwi into normal English. The golden rule seems to be: if in doubt replace the first vowel of every word with an 'i' sound (except 'o's for some reason). For example, a moment ago I thought I was about to get lucky with an air stewardess who asked me if I wanted a 'hid sit'. I winked at her and flashed my dimples to which she looked decided non-plussed and thrust a pair of headphones into my hands. Ah well, ne'mind, at least my theory is holding up, try 'camper van', 'sceptic tank', 'test match'... anything that should be proceeded with the word 'pass' amuses me, try 'passport' using the new formula. To be fair though the English do likewise at times, how about 'pretty'.

A bit of Miles Davis

Has it been a smooth journey? Well, I can't fault the airline (Quantas) who have provided three flights all roughly on time. However I think someone is having a bit of a cruel joke at my expense. Here goes; a couple of days ago I played 7-a-side footy in Leeds - all well and good but for the fact I was wearing a new pair of astroturf trainers, after the match I had a couple of neat holes in my plates of meat, one on each heel. My footwear of choice on this journey are my hiking boots which dig into my ankles deeper than an Alabama tick. The upshot is that I can hardly walk and my ankle have swollen up approaching Elephantitis proportions. To this end I think a tramping (NZ speak for hiking/rambling) may be a little ambitions at present. Coupled with the fact I can't walk, is th fact that I happen to have caught what can only pleasantly described as a gastro-intenstinal-tract (GIT) problem that my nephew and niece had generously shared around the whole Lewis clan. So I've been sat on three different planes and in three different departure lounges with my stomach sounding like a demented washing machine on spin cycle. So, I can't walk and I can't sit still for more than two minutes without having to bolt for the loo. Life can be cruel at times, even more so because on all three flights I didn't even have the luxury of an isle seat, much to the irritation of my fellow passengers. Anyway, after getting over the embarrassment of appearing like a toilet addict to a jumbo jet full of onlookers, I began to find some amusement in my predicament. The symptoms of the GIT had been relayed to me by previous familial incumbents so I knew what to expect and true to form I was not disappointed by the cacophony of noise that I was able to produce, the old arse-trumpet was on fine form, the virtuosity of which reached a crescendo that Miles Davis on speed would have been proud of. I'm not really a connoisseur of such matters but you have to find the funny side when your backside is managing to out-rowdy four Rolls Royce's jet engines with consummate ease.

Wed 20th - Friday 22 Feb 2008: En route

Currently in transit between Melbourne and Wellington. After 27hrs of travel I can safely say that this is the longest journey I've ever been on except for the annual Lewis holiday in one of dad's multiplicity of Series 3 Landrovers - these excursions would often take days or weeks to complete despite the destination being a hop across the Biggar in Dumfries and Galloway (a three hour journey max from the mini-mecca that is Leyland) we had to perform a full engine regrind enroute because Ma Lewis exceeded the top speed of 36mph and the engine blew up. Three days later we disembarked.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Shandy is practising his moves

Looking forward to a boogie tonight, can't wait to lay down a few Tjernobyl Children


Beautiful day here in Stevenage, shoulda brought the kids.

The Shandyman is attempting to burn home made snowboard DVDs for the Tignes 2008 posse staring the indomitable Powers.

Preparing for my leaving doo at The Runner in Hitchin tonight, could be very messy. No photos.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


Looks like The Shandyman is already immune to all the diseases that Thailand has to offer. NHS Direct take a bow. Aparently Malaria isn't as bad as people make out so I'll save a few quid and not bother with that. Malerone Dude.

Monday, 11 February 2008

T Minus Nine Days

Lots to do and not enough time to do it in. This travelling lark is harder work than work its very self.