Monday, 22 February 2010

Road Trippin'

We have already established that I am lazy, and that I am a very bad tourist. The worst, in fact. Present me with the most beautiful scenery in the world and the chances are I will sit and people watch the whole time whilst making snidey, derogatory, and if I may say so myself hilariously witty comments about the gurgling bum-wits staring open mouthed at the natural beauty I should myself be bum-witted about.
For example, spending three and a half months in Wanaka in New Zealand, then coming home. I traveled all the way to the other side of the globe and didn't venture out of my temporary home town that much at all. Yes, it's true. I was berated by friends for that one, so wanted to do something about it this time round.

Way back at the end of 2009, I managed to get my hands on a pair of tickets to see Faith No More in Christchurch. For the uninitiated, Faith No More are by far the single greatest band ever to have come into existence, until they split 11 years ago. My excitement at the reformation, and upcoming tour, was immense. I purchased the tickets at home on the internet, but yearned to take them to a house up the road, drop them off with someone, then pick them up later and half run, half skip home clutching them tightly in my hands and waving them in the air like a Frenchman with a white flag, all the time feeling like I had just got the last golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. The girlfriend suggested incorporating this into a road trip. Take in a bit of Faith No More, catch up with friends in the North of the South island, and then come back down the West coast, which was an immensely complicated conversation for someone like me who still has to do the whole Never Eat Shredded Wheat thing accompanied by pointing to understand where each one lies to comprehend.

So we set off on Monday afternoon. She had to go into work so I stocked up on gummi bears and busied myself in the toy section of Warehouse while waiting, a shop not unlike supermarkets in the U.K. in that it's handy because it sells everything under the sun but deep down you want to leave empty handed because it's really all shit. In fact the toy section comprises of no more than 3 aisles, one of which I generally ignore as it's mainly dolls, and a 33 year old man hovering around a doll section in a shop is generally about as welcome as Kevin Costner in any one of his films. I paced around waiting for a while, and went back and forth between the cd/dvd and the toy section, out for a cigarette, back in wandering around, and was collected probably a good 15 minutes after I had been tagged as a potential shoplifter.

The second stop was Christchurch (the first being Burger King on the way out of town). It was a journey very reminiscent of travelling from South to North in England. The further North we got, the dingier landscapes became and the worse the weather closed in. We traveled up past Mount Cook, and through the nearby glacial fed, milky blue lakes Pukaki and Tekapo, which I am sure would be hilariously renamed to Bukkake and Takeapoo by the type of person that hangs around toy aisles in shops (as an aside to anyone who isn't down with the ancient Japanese art of Bukkake, it's a little like the ancient art of Origami, but with less paper and more ejaculate). We entered Christchurch approximately 6 hours later and found our accommodation, which was to be a hostel called the Jailhouse.

As you can probably guess from the name, Jailhouse is an old jail converted into a hostel. Built in 1874, used as a jail, and a military camp, it finally closed in 1999 and was bought and converted into a hostel in 2006. It's a novel place to stay in, and when you think about it hostels and jails have so much in common it's a surprise this hasn't caught on more often as they are both cramped, noisy rat infested hell-holes full of mental delinquents and ass rape. There are a few rooms which have been preserved with prison art on the walls, but the rest have been decorated, given comfortable beds and installed with televisions, and it would be so incredibly lazy and exceptionally obvious to insert a joke here about it being like a British prison but with less Playstations, and pool tables, and full body Swedish massages with happy endings or whatever else people are up in arms about prisoners getting these days that I'm not going to do it. After a long drive up there, we checked in and pretty much crashed out on the first night.

The next day we awoke and set out to fix a chip in the windscreen caused on the way up to Christchurch, and to get new windscreen wipers. Having been to Christchurch before, I was still not convinced that there is much to do there, and to be honest even being there brings back memories of the Masturbating Israeli so I was happy our time was occupied with essential errands. We also took the time out to visit Warehouse Extra, which had all the promise of a regular Warehouse, but with Extra. Extra what? you may well ask. Extra stock I think is the answer. Just a regular warehouse, but bigger and more full of the same shit as regular warehouse. Crestfallen from this experience, we went out to catch up with a friend of the girlfriends for lunch, and then headed back to the hostel where she caught a nap, and I bounced around with excitement at the prospect of Faith No More being but a few hours away. The gig was awesome. I felt a little old inside the arena, not because of a low average age, but because I really felt the need to tell people off for smoking inside. I started to feel young again when I noticed a guy at least 10 years my senior standing next to me. Until he pulled out a pipe and stood there smoking weed. I won't go into the details of the gig for fear of sounding like a gushing teenager, but needless to say after 18 years of waiting to see them again, I wept from all four eyes.

We made an early start the following morning to head up to Motueka. It was a long drive, and we finally arrived early evening, grabbed some alcohol and food, met up with some friends, and went back to their place. Their house is as close to a living embodiment of a Beatrix Potter book as you can get. They share with the lady that owns the place, an English couple, four cats, too many chickens to count, some chicks, roosters, and a talking magpie. All animals that ensure a good, unbroken nights sleep. "There's a chicken in the house......AGAIN" is a sentence I really never thought I would hear in my lifetime. Motueka is quite typical of a quiet, New Zealand town. On entering, you have a feeling that there is only one road in, and no roads out. Quiet, unassuming, and despite not-quite-throngs of people milling around it still has the feel of a ghost town. We spent the evening at home enjoying a quiet few drinks over a game of Wii bowling, a terrible, terrible game. Because I lost.

The following day we set off to see some of Abel Tasman. The heavens opened and it rained hard, so we did the only thing you can do faced with that situation - pub. We sat in the pub, caught up, chatted a while, watched as a bird continuously flew into one of the windows in a desperate but largely failed bid for freedom, and as soon as the rain passed headed out to see some of the sights. Which culminated in a game of mini-golf. A terrible, terrible game. Because I lost. After more sightseeing, we grabbed some more beer, pizzas, and went back to chill and watch the Olympics.

From Motueka, we made our way to Hokitika down the west coast of the country. The scenery on the way down the coast is stunning until you get to Greymouth, which looks so shitty they didn't even bother to try and dress it up with a fancy name. The only reason I can think for it to have been called Greymouth is that Shittypoo Town was taken. As you drive past, as we did, you can smell a faint whiff of stabbings and teenage pregnancy in the air. We got to Buller Gorge, and stopped at what was claimed to be New Zealands longest swing bridge, spanning the Huxley River. Much to my dismay, my illusions of recreating the final scene from the Temple of Doom were short lived as it turned out to be a rather robust affair, but being the kind of 33 year old that hangs around toy aisles in Warehouse, it was fun to walk as fast as I could without holding on.

We also stopped off at Pancake Rocks, which are rocks. And they look like pancakes. When pancakes are stacked that is. They are essentially a heavily eroded limestone area where the sea bursts through a number of vertical blow holes during high tides. I can't really elaborate more than that for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am sure you can imagine what a stack of pancakes in rocky colours looks like. Secondly I don't actually know much more than that. And thirdly, the only wikipedia entry for them is cut and pasted into the above sentence. Once we got to Hokitika we checked into the hostel and went out to grab some fish and chips. Hokitika is a town much like I described Motueka. Nothing much happening, but it looked and reminded me very much of Sandford from Hot Fuzz.

Finally from Hokitika we began the final leg of the journey back into Queenstown. We went via Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, although we didn't have the time to stop off and explore either. We did however, take a dirt road down to Gillespies Beach, about 20km West off the Fox Glacier highway, and had crisp sandwiches for lunch. We then stopped off at the Gates of Haast, a single lane bridge over a gorge with massive boulders, nearby Thunder Creek Falls. A popular destination for both tourists and sandflies alike, which resulted in so many bites that the other half ended up with a cankle.

For those interested, most of the photographic evidence that I completed this journey can be found by clicking here. Though being a typical crap and lazy tourist, all I did was point and shoot, and have no idea what most of them are of. Aside from the shots of the only train I have seen here in New Zealand, which was about 73 miles long.

Since arriving back, the only thing I have been doing aside from working, is trying to delay my return to the U.K. by going through the visa application process. Part of this was a full medical, which came back clear which is a result. I don't have syphilis, I don't have the HIV, my blood is good which is a rather nice compliment I have not received before, my piss is a fine vintage, all in all it seems I am not dying of anything which is always a good start to a Tuesday. Testicular examinations were not included, I was informed, but was told I should check them at least once a month. The rest of the examination was a little awkward after I told the nurse I check them far more than once a month.

After 3 weeks of waiting, and stressing purely because denial of the visa would mean going back to the U.K. and doing something grown up with my life, it came back approved so I now have another winter season down here to look forward to. Fuck yeah.

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