Monday, December 13, 2010

things about stuff

A short series of observations of my ten weeks of gallivanting. There is more to come in the new year but the blog is likely to go a little quiet over Christmas on account of me doing my best to switch off for those precious days of rest and relaxation.

Thing and Observation....should have been a table but you cant make one on blogger

The rumours are true: Aucklanders are in the fact the worst drivers in the country. I had more near misses in Takapuna than in the whole of the South Island. Notwithstanding that, the foreign drivers of Maui campervans are the worst drivers in the UNIVERSE. Ignorant of the most fundamental driving rules, their ability to career gaily across the centreline on the windiest of cliffside roads is unparalleled. Thanks guys, go home soon.

The condition you develop when you sleep in one musty hostel room after another for an extended period of time. It does not leave when you return,, leaving you to do such mad things as write blog posts at 5am just to empty your head.

Despite our reputation for a cafe culture throughout Kiwiland, the best coffee is elusive. Just when one needs a boost only deliverable by a cup of the magic stuff (or things much less lawful) you find yourself in some burg that has the Four Square supermarkets convenience counter listed in the tourist guides under ‘cuisine’. Suspicious? Rather!

Kiwis love maps. Just having one with you, poring over it quietly (trying to figure where the **** you are and where civilisation is) in a cafe makes you the centre of attention. All manner of friendly characters are happy to offer the most detailed directions to you, drawing squiggles all over the map in a helpful fashion. There is a window of perhaps eight and a half seconds between somebody beginning to tell me directions and when my eyes glaze over and my brain squelches out my ear and runs away. Nevertheless, their spirited efforts were appreciated.

New Zealand is famous for the degree of sheep populating our fair land, but we dont view them with the same amorous intentions of our pals across the ditch of course hehe. Our woolly flatmates are however, slowly being eclipsed in number by cows. Rampant dairy conversions everywhere there’s a spare space means that, chewing gently on their grass, often with a wily sparrow perched on their head, their presence is constant. However, when they are munching in a wetland, or standing ankle (do cows have ankles? Don’t know – will check) deep in a meandering stream I am prone to involuntary fits of rage.

Thanks to Didymo I have cleaned my boots about forty times in the past ten weeks. I have cleaned my boots twice before that in four years of ownership. If they could talk they would say wtf. I am quite certain most travellers are not so careful so, while i applaud the efforts of MAF to put signs up everywhere I don’t know how effective it will be.

When the hostel TV room is inhabited by often drunk nitwits, the towns social spots consist of a single motorbike surrounded drinking trough, and the world outside is a little to creepy to dawdle around internet helped me to kill many a lonely, boring evening. In theory I should have been inputting data, but I didn’t because I lack discipline in the extreme.

Something Marie lacks in the extreme

I had not seen seals until this trip and I was super chuffed to do so. I was furious however at the gut-wrenching attack on them in Kaikoura. Further making me see red, was the impudent fisherman who later claimed that the seal population was ‘out of control’. By this I assume he means that they have a healthy and thriving population and are not utterly destroyed like everything else. The dear poppet went on to say that they ‘steal all the fish’.
When I read that I let out an involuntary yelp. The SEALS are STEALING our fish are they? Um no dear, we are the incursion into the food chain and the ocean is not a FRICKING PANTRY YOU IGNORANT WANKER. Anyhoo, I have recovered now *smiles calmly*

Driving through Aotearoa is much like driving through a giant farm – because it is one. I venture to suggest that if every kiwi spent ten weeks staring at grass and troughs and not a lot else they may also question the free ride we are giving to farmers in this country. We fiddle about with rules governing the smallest things you can imagine, where farming is the elephant in the room, subject to comparatively bugger-all rules. You could say they produce food and should be given some flexibilities – but enough is enough. Our natural capital is being eroded faster than if it was planted on Wall Street and something urgently has to give.

Lots of my friends have checked up on me very regularly through this trip. It’s heartening and I think they are better than awesome. That length of time dawdling around by yourself, although interesting, is tough when you’re away from those you love. The text messages and emails asking me how and where I was were awesome. Thanks to those – you know who you are. It is possible that my penchant for wandering off and getting lost promoted their concern for my welfare, but I’ll take them as read.

Kea are awesome...their distinctive screech and tendency to make life hell for any rubber fixtures nearby is a source of great delight to me. When I returned from the Franz Joseph Glacier, I was faintly disappointed that one wasn’t industriously tugging at the wiper blade of my rental car. I always think when animals do things like that; it’s the mischievous forces of nature getting her own back for our centuries of ignorance of her laws. It would have amused me no end, but the only kea in sight was sitting quietly up on the cliff, perched in a tree (hopefully plotting a devious manoeuvre on a Maui campervan).

I took a fair ton of warm clothes on my trip. Weighted down on its axles, my faithful wingroad carried it all – all the time. I was cold exactly twice on the trip. Once on a freezing random morning in Taranaki, and another time for about an hour on Lake Ellesmere. Other than that I had temperatures in the twenties and two periods of rain in the entire time. I am drought it seems, it spread along with me. Sorry folks *awkward silence*

During my childhood which some may call nomadic I have visited and lived in towns with residential populations less than the average primary school. Of course those people were Australian and much less cool than us, but nevertheless the phenomenon of the small town is familiar. It is nice to sit in a cafe though where everyone knows everyone and the gossip flares with the doorbell over and over. I hope the people in those towns do visit bigger towns and other countries from time to time as it’s not hard to see how one many begin to think they are the centre of the universe as far as they can see it. Nevertheless, the warm familiarity must make a hometown like that a soft place to land (even if the coffee tastes like engine oil).

The leftwing contingent in society that is urban always bashes farmers, people that eat meat, people that eat gluten, people that go fishing, people that marry their cousins (no wait, that’s a fair criticism) and appear to have a picture of rural folks as being raving tories screaming around on diggers. While this is no doubt true for some, especially when one’s livelihood intersects with any one of the activities mentioned above, there is a groundswell of community activism in rural areas of New Zealand. It’s not enough to just SAY you care and take another sip of your double-shot vanilla latte. When one puts themselves in the shoes of those on the land every day, the pompous spoutings of the Ponsonby crowd does grate.

There are more cheeky and pointless things to say but I have to get ready to return to my office now. Overall my trip showed me that New Zealand is an amazing country, blessed in all ways imaginable. We have destroyed a fair chunk of it, but theres much more to save and many ways to do what we do better. Cue Bob the Builder theme...

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