Monday, 14 April 2008

Thu 13th March 2008

With a heavy heart and not wanting to leave I said 'farewell' to Wanaka. It is an unspoilt version of Queenstown. Much less commercial, as one wise-beyond-his-years lad from Sheffield observed, 'the only thing to do in Queenstown is spend money', the onl.y thing to do in Wanaka be happy! To gain a measure of a town I make it a habit of asking the locals in a roundabout way if they are happy with where they live. To a man (or woman), without hesitating the Wanaka-strians would all return the same gentle head-nod and knowing smile. They know where their bread is buttered, they're just hoping the Queenstown property explosion doesn't ruin their tranquil life. It's got a great snowboard/ski scene going on in winter too, come on Team Rear, what are you waiting for!?

Past Haas
Fired up the Pulsar's engines and roared up the Haast Pass, a famous road that leads to Haast, another place where nothing exists except sandflies. Had a Fish Sandie (butty) from the only place that was remotely open. After ordering my food and being given an order number, my digits duly came up and I went to the serving hatch to pick it up. I pointed to my plate and asked if that was mine (number 35 as it happens). The chef, who looked more like a hunter than a kitchen hand shrugged his shoulders and said 'Facked if I Know'. I appreciated his candor if not his customer service! I sat outside and chatted to a German bloke and a Kiwi couple who were headed up the pass on their bikes, cycling around the S. Island with all their gear in panniers. I have admiration for these types but it definitely goes in the Not For Me section. I mean, why would ya?

The Gathering Storm

Cruisin' on up the West coast the cloud had gathered and the drizzle was a comforting reminder of home. Along the west coast highway you cross bridges that are single file and some have train tracks on the too. I'm not too sure how to negotiate them properly so I usually check to see if there are no trains then make a bolt for the other end. So far so good.

Hitchhiker Guide to the Glaciers

Picked up me first hitch hiker today. A bedraggled figure had it's arm up unsuccessfully trying to flag down passing vehicles in the steady rain. My mind flashed back to the only time when I've ever hitch hiked, which was in January of this year. Two very kind English blokes gave me a lift to Tignes Le Breviere after I'd managed to get stranded in a village that had no buses or taxis in the French Alps at 11 o'clock at night in a freezing blizzard. Twas blowing a gale and I was really thankful they'd pulled over. Remembering this act of altruism and deciding it was time I did the same, I wound down my window and the green blur I'd spotted moments ago had turned into a very pretty girl called Mia from Israel (well in Me Shand!). 'She's brave' I thought as I asked her where she was going. 'Fox Glacier' came the reply. It was 50k up the road and on my way. Her eyes brightened up and she jumped in. After doing the necessary introductions it turns out her name was Mia from Israel, she'd been waking for a few days and got split up from her mates and now it was raining and a long way from her base. At this point I noticed that I'd unintentionally also given a ride to a small army of sandflies that had befriended Mia on the rode. The thing was tho that she was totally covered up in hiking gear whereas The Shandyman was in shorts, flip-flops and a t-shirt. After 30 minutes of air kung-fu whilst trying to drive I was happy to kick Mia and her winged admirers out of the Pulsar.

A Bit Of A Sweat On
The cloud was on the floor and so stopping at either the Fox or the Franz Josef Glacier was not an attractive prospect. I tried to get accom. in FJ but twas super-busy, so I launched into an excellent take away lamb curry and got a big sweat on much to the mobile van-man's enjoyment. As anyone who's had a Ruby Murray with me before will be well aware that The Shandyman has the unique ability to sweat over 13 litres of water an hour when consuming anything that is remotely spicy. The van man kindly recommended me a Sprite which would increase the effect of the capsicin, naturally I obliged and left a huge pool of water and natural salts infront of his curry van. The trail I left behind was not dissimilar as if a 6ft slug had just been doused in salt and melted all over the pavement.

Just The Ticket
Pressed on up the West Coast aware that I was probably missing the best scenery on the island but I'd been in the car all day, bitten to death everytime I got out to take a picture and even punished by the blighters for doing a good deed. The weather was Bir-minging-ham and there was nowhere for me to lay my head near the Glaciers. The Pulsar knew it was time to crack on and responded as such. Me and The Pulsar had become an inseparable team, Batman and Robin, Chakademus an Pliers, Shandy and The Pulsar. My affection for the little beauty has grown to such an extent that I frequently find myself waving at fellow Pulsar pilots, so far no one has waved back. Anyway, me and 'The Pulse' are hooning it northwards on the SH6 when I rounded a left hand bend pretty much sideways on only to see an officer of the law coming the other way looking somewhat perturbed at the rapid nature of my progress towards his bonnet. I looked in my mirror and saw he'd put his red lights on and so I thought a wrist-slapping and fatherly chat about driving more sensibly would be the result. I throttled back and parked up waiting for the fuzz to deliver his message of peace and love, cos that's all he can do right? Can't catch someone speeding going the other way, that would be impossible, so I metaphorally held out my hand for a quick slap with the ruler. The conversation goes like this:

'Going a bit fast around that corner sir',
(innocent shrug of shoulders) 'about a hundred I guess' – hehe, he can't tell exactly how fast I've been going,
'Bit faster than that I think, I got you at 127',
'Damn!' ... but he can't prove a thing right? We walk to his cab and he shows me his speed (91) and mine (127), I protest that it was at least 140k bend in the dry but he's having none of it.
'Engines a bit hot sir' he notes,
'This is a 1992 Nissan Pulsar XL with afterburner' I retort.
By now he's warmed up a bit and offers to kindly knock a few kph's off my actually speed so that my fine isn't as large. He pulled out what looked like a restaurant menu with a list of minor traffic offenses we'll call 'Starters', some hefty main course ones like being drunk at the wheel and then a list of oh so sweet Desserts. Yep, the NZ police force, much like the British, specialize in speeding-fines, you can have them with anything from icecream, cream, chocolate sauce, custard, marmite, yogurt, even low fat speeding fines if you're just over the limit or the house special heart-attack in a bowl fines that mean an instant ban at 140kph+. I opted for the tasty looking $170NZ 'Exceeds 100kph by 25kph' main as the officer apologised for writing me the ticket saying that he has to serve up a certain amount per month in order to meet targets. No worries pal, you give me the ticket, I'll be in 'Stralia, come and find me. To be fair the bloke himself was alright, I didn't have the heart to tell him that these sort of short-sighted money-making (lack of) initiatives will undo hundreds of years worth of respect earned by his force amongst the community as has happened in the UK. One final thing, for those who know The Shandyman, they know he can't keep a straight face when when having a joke, so when the fella asked me my occupation it took every muscle in my face not to beak out into a massive grin when I said 'Rally Driver'. Hehehe, and the geez wrote it down after a quick glance at the Shandies poker face and The Pulsar's racing lines.

Hokitika and the Kiwi Way
Rolled into Hokitika (Hoky) on petrol fumes alone (no petrol stations for 100's of kilometers at times here) and checked into Stumpies, a clean and cheap hotel/motel. I happened to meet the MD of a micro-brewery that night. I was tired and not much conversation so he told me that the 'Kiwi Way' was to just rock up and say hello to anyone and everyone. He's right, and that is what they do, they have no false pretenses or surreptitious expectations like that; it'' perfectly normal just say 'hello, how you goin' and move on from there. It's quite liberating when you give it a try, and a bit like the North of England was maybe when I was a small boy 20 years ago (I'm guessing). Early night, needed the sleep.

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