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Posts tagged ‘interislander’

Technically in Cork

Recent events have prompted me to muse with delicate frown and pursed lips on my history with transportation. The origins of this tempestuous, codependent relationship can be traced back to:-

  • 1984: Twelve years old, and for reasons that will remain forever obscured by the mists of time, I was required to catch a bus from Dublin to be reunited with the bosom of my family in Limerick. After a long journey, the bus shuddered to a stop. I sat there long after the remaining passengers disembarked, kicking my legs and reading a ‘Bunty’ magazine by streetlight.Half an hour later I was getting cold, so alighted and, keeping an eye on the coach in case it took off unexpectedly, I backed up to the only human life-form present and enquired when the bus would be leaving for Limerick. Which is when I found out the bus was not going to Limerick.

    Also, I was technically in Cork.

    I must be able to blame this on some family friend or relative – I mean WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR A TWELVE YEAR OLD CATCHING A BUS?

    I was gasping for a wee, so I decided my first priority was locating the bathroom. Then disaster struck: I had no money, and access to the toilet cubicles required a 2p piece. (If you think I sound pathetic, really it was WAY worse.)

    Luckily, there was a 20cm gap between the foot of the door and the floor. I stuffed my bag in, thereby committing myself, then wriggled under the door after the bag. It was a tense widdle; I was terrified someone with 2p might creep in and burst into my cubicle and accuse me of weeing for free.

    Afterwards I went outside, sat on my bag in the deserted carpark, and considered my predicament. Luckily, my parents had equipped me to deal with adversity. Back then, what that meant was that I knew how to make reverse charge phone calls, rather than identify perverts. Indeed I wouldn’t have recognized a pervert had he asked me to sit on his knee and waved a flesh-coloured stick at me, but man could I place a reverse charges phone call.

    I rang my mum, who was good enough to accept the call.

    “I’m in CORK!” I sobbed, suddenly struck by the tragedy of being abandoned in a strange land.

    The next bus to Limerick was the following morning, so my parents arranged for me to stay with some people they chose at random from the telephone directory.

  • Circa 1993: On my first business trip, I missed not one but two flights AND lost my passport and ticket along the way. I finally arrived in Switzerland 24 hours late. Thought I’d blogged about the incident, but it seems not, so can’t provide a link. If anyone wants the grisly details I’ll see what I can do.
  • 2000: Job interview in Bahrain. The Interviewer arranged a ticket for collection at Dubai Airport. Even though I arrived a full half hour before the flight, the Emirates representative claimed the check-in was closed and refused to hand over my ticket.“All right,” said Husband during an emergency debrief. “Call The Interviewer, and tell him there was a problem with your passport. No- your residency visa. An issue with your residency visa, and you’re sorting it out, and will get the next flight in two hours.”

    “Ok. Problem with residency visa. Next flight. Check.”

    I dialed The Interviewer: “I MISSED THE FLIGHT!”

    He hired me.

    Can’t explain it.

  • 2000: Fast-forward three weeks to a business trip to Bahrain to meet The Company’s biggest client. My phone rang at 06:00. It was The Floridian, formerly The Interviewer.“I’m at the check-in counter. Where are you?”

    “I’M IN BED.”

    However, not only did I catch the 07:00 flight – triumphantly arriving at the airport 10 minutes later – I even had time to demolish the buffet breakfast in the Emirates lounge.

  • Probably 2005: Róisín underestimated timing from Paddington to Heathrow (so entirely her fault; I have a signed confession). Emirates Airlines – at this stage totally accustomed to me – rescheduled me on a later flight. At the baggage check, I realized I had left my mobile phone in Róisín’s handbag (don’t ask. Just . . . don’t). Located a pay phone and called Róis, who returned to Heathrow to give up the phone.
  • Possibly 2008: Husband and I arrive at Dubai Airport, totally overexcited about our first ever skiing holiday: two weeks in Austria. We had booked a hire car, arranged accommodation; we were sharing the chalet with friends who were en-route.Passports: CHECK! Tickets: CHECK! Luggage: TRIPLE CHECK!

    Bags sorted, we proceeded to passport control. I went to the e-gate, already planning where I should wait for Andrew, who was at the manual passport control. When I scanned my fingerprint, a buzzer sounded and a big, red X blinked on the gate.

    The man on the passport desk beckoned me over.

    “My finger’s not working,” I giggled, wiggling the digit at him.

    I forgot how ineffective charm is on airport security.

    “Your rrresidency visa,” said the administrator. “It is expire.”

    “Oh. Well. No problem. I’ll renew it when I get back. I’m going skiing!”

    Never have I been more mistaken.

    Never has Husband come closer to divorcing me.

    In a vain attempt to conquer the moral high ground I told Andrew to go without me, but he opted to stay. For a while it looked like he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the airport, since he was fully checked onto the flight. He sulked for roughly a year. He still wins arguments on the strength of that ONE LITTLE INCIDENT.

  • Near miss: Once, I got to the boarding gate for an Emirates flight before realizing I had left my passport and ticket in a tray at the baggage check.

Cause for concern: deterioration in BP Connects’ sandwich range

Having established the house was not flame-grilled spicy Cajun flavour, we struck out for South Island last Wednesday morning.

The convalescent car was loaded down with the essentials: one dog, a box of unspecified kitchen utensils, the waterblaster, two flatscreen computer monitors, three laptops, a coolbox full of pickles, the bright blue clamshell paddling pool (because you never know when your feet will get unbearably hot on a roadtrip) and the trailer stacked with Husband’s two KTM dirtbikes.

We had a non-refundable booking on the 18:25 Interislander ferry, so left The Outlaws’ house in Mount Wellington at 07:30. By our calculations, as long as we averaged 75kph – a conservative bordering on insulting estimate for Husband’s style of driving – this was PLENTY OF TIME to drive 660km and allow for snack stops, beverages, lunch, some leisurely sight-seeing, walking the dog and (of course) paddling.

The only downside was what to do with ourselves when we arrived far too early for the latest check-in of 17:30.

Another paddle, perhaps.

See? That’s the beauty of transportable paddling pools.

Now, unfortunately, what our calculations did not account for was kilometres of road works along the SH1. Another unforeseen variable: the diversion through Palmerston North during rush hour. Also Andrew’s shopping spree at Repco, and the pit-stop for a dash of spot welding on the trailer.

So, the trailer. When we first moved to Waitakere, we acquired this accoutrement to denote our status as Westies (the others were: wearing thermals under t-shirts, making fashion statements with fleece, and wiping our noses on our sleeves). We bought it on Trademe – where else? – and considered it a grand investment until we discovered the frame was riddled with rust.

At least this gave Husband an opportunity to weld with purpose as opposed to practising his MIG welder on random pieces of scrap metal lying around the place, but even after A LOT of practice, the trailer was still somewhat short of a heavy-duty industrial-standard towing apparatus.

Andrew originally intended to transport the two KTM dirt bikes AND his Honda road bike on the trailer. When he tested this arrangement, apart from the trailer being too small to physically accommodate three snorting motorbikes, the weight of the Honda alone – over 220kg, or about as heavy as a baby hippo with an unchecked appetite for water lilies– made the trailer bed sit on the axle stops.

Andrew asked MarkJ if he could leave the Honda at his place.

Just south of Auckland, Andrew decided it was the ideal time to start worrying about the trailer’s unsteady gait. Since he was already aware of this, I can only presume he was bored. The previous night, I had followed in the MR2 as Husband towed the trailer behind the Surf; I submitted a full report on the trailer’s vigorous lean to the left and tendency to weave around the road independent of the car. On occasion, it actually looked like the trailer was attempting to overtake the towing vehicle. And Husband can’t have failed to have noted the ‘BANG!’ whenever the trailer negotiated an obstacle e.g. a leaf, crisp packet, piece of gravel etc.

In other words, I’m not sure why the trailer demanded his attention more than – say – the shocking state of Repco’s customer service, or the ever diminishing range of BP Connect’s sandwiches, or cyclists victimised by lorries, or whether New Zealand is really as environmentally friendly as advertised.

Anyway, during a practical expression of fretting, Husband discovered a crack in the trailer’s suspension arm. It appeared to be getting steadily worse. We stopped to have it welded, but the gap reopened within 50km.

By now well behind schedule, we had no option but to carry on. For the rest of the trip, it seemed entirely likely that the trailer would disintegrate, most probably at 100kph.

By the time we hit Taupo, it was obvious there would be no paddling in the Interislander terminal carpark.

When we were diverted to Palmerston North, we knew we were officially Extremely Late.

“We’re not going to make it,” said Andrew cheerfully.

 “Look, we’ll be there around 17:55-”

“They won’t let us on,” asserted Andrew confidently.

“Oh, come on! It’s a full half hour before the ferry sails! D’you think I should phone Interislander-”

“For what? Tell them to hold the ferry for us? PaHA!”

“NO, YOU BERK! TO TELL THEM WE’RE ON OUR WAY AND NOT GIVE OUR SLOT TO SOMEONE ELSE!” I said, even more shrilly than the sentiment comes across in print.

“Nah, waste of time.”

Husband flogged the car into Wellington. By driving slightly above the legal limit, we arrived at the Interislander terminal at 17:52. The man at the check-in booth didn’t even reprimand us; no pithy comments as to our presence relative to check-in time. He didn’t even laconically suggest that we were ‘cutting it a bit fine’.

When I got to the ferry lounge, I just burst into tears. There was wailing (muted).

We finally arrived at the house – late – although for the last few kilometres I think we dragged the trailer rather than towed it.

Ducks: a savage species

So the next post was to be an account of the great road trip home from Oamaru. I am pure MORTIFIED to be writing about it so long after the event. At least two weeks’ hindsight bathes the trip in a warm, rosy tint – what I can recall of it.

Although we were sailing the following day, we planned on hitting the road early. At least, that was MY plan. Husband being an off-the-cuff, extemporaneous, free-spirited, spontaneously impromptu, much like a dandelion in the wind sort of type (i.e. completely disorganized), he decided to plaster Her Goatiness’s kitchen around the time we should have been blazing a north bound trail out of Timaru.

Then he and Agent of Death disappeared in the Red Truck, and reappeared with a MIG welder.

For anyone wondering why a MIG welder was required for the journey home, I never quite got to the bottom of this. I asked Husband, and he said its purpose was: ‘to weld stuff’. So now you know as much as I do.

There followed some heated discussion about how to transport the MIG welder, along with three times as much baggage as I had arrived with – and that’s not counting the emotional variety.

Since the welder was roughly the width of the car, Husband suggested lashing it to the roof rack. Then he debated the merits of lashing the cool box to the roof rack – and the dog – or maybe the dog would fit IN the cool box – except the cool box was full of blue cod, lamb chops, abalone and dead ducks.

By this stage, I was all for lashing Husband to the roof rack, but we eventually fitted everything in the boot in a precariously wedged jumble of bags, MIG welder, cool box, camping chairs, and dog.

The journey from Oamaru to Picton was largely unmemorable. In Picton, we stayed in pet-friendly Aldan Lodge Motel (which I would have no hesitation recommending unreservedly but for their website featuring a picture of some slut with savage seventies hairdo in a bathtub. Our studio unit had a shower, which was thankfully accessorized only with a soap dispenser).

The following morning we were up at 05:20hrs to catch the 06:05 Interislander ferry. True to form, we set off later than ideal; tensions flared when I thought Husband was about to drive over a two-foot high kerb and let out a piercing scream; then – and I’m still not sure how we managed this given that every road sign in Picton directs you to the Interislander – the ferry, after all, being the whole POINT of Picton – we got lost on the way to the terminal.

But that was all so much dramatic tension: we made the crossing. We took our time driving up from Wellington and, about 30km south of Turangi, turned west off the Desert Road towards Mount Ruapehu. After driving a few kilometers up a gravel road, we stopped to introduce Jed to snow.

And here’s another, this time without the same extent of puppy talk and insane, spine-chilling cackling:-

That evening, we stayed at Creel Lodge. The following morning, I hauled Husband out of bed at 06:30 for a walk along the Tongariro River. Husband claimed he was still technically asleep, but that didn’t stop him bitchin’ about the hour of morning and how <expletive deleted> cold it was. He was more unimpressed than I’ve seen him in a long while.

His mood lightened imperceptibly with the dawn and my offer of a hat. However, he was cast back into the black abyss of despair when I produced my cream beanie with the cutest little tomato-stalk design feature on the crown. He must have been really very chilly, because he also donned my baby-blue fleece. Regrettably there is no photographic evidence, but even if there were, I would not be allowed post it: Husband censors graphic images and any mention of his entertaining inability to process alcohol.

Later that day, we stopped in Cambridge to take Jed for another walk. Generally, Husband and I pride ourselves on being entirely responsible dog owners, but we let the side down at Te Koutu Lake Reserve, when Jed plunged into the lake and struck out towards a group of ducks. Husband and I were rendered useless with fits of giggles; we couldn’t even gasp a squeaky recall between the pair of us.

Jed’s such a great pussy that if one of the ducks had quacked sideways at him, he would have been out of the lake yelping and trying to crawl up my leg. Thankfully, none of the ducks savaged him – or us. We all arrived home largely intact in mind, body and spirit – although Husband’s sanity was mildly dented

32 PSI

On Wednesday morning, Husband rang as I finished packing the car.

“How do you feel this morning?” he asked solicitously.

“Terrific!” I said.

“Right, pay attention,” said Husband. “We’ve been discussing how to get you and Jed to Oamaru, and we think the best way is to parachute you in-”

“I’m driving.”

“You’re joking,” said Husband.

“Nope. Little road trip. <Jed: come! Sit! Good boy!> Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a ferry to catch in eleven hours-”

“What?”

“The eight o’clock. We’ll be with you sometime tomorrow.”

“But what about Jed?”

“He’s looking forward to it. <Jed: hup! Hup! GOOD BOY!>”

“Have you got food for him?”

“Course. Stacks of Tux, some dog sausage, half a cow carcass.”

“Is there enough money in the account-”

“Check!”

“Have you got music for the trip?”

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN YAY! Hey – how much air should I put in the tyres?”

“Niamhie, are you sure this is a good idea?”

“Absolutely. You’re so negative. Why are you denying my natural instinct? I was BORN to drive the open road.”

“What if you break down?”

“Eh, some bloke will probably stop.”

“I think you’re mad.”

“Get counseling.”

I mean, come on: it’s not as if New Zealand is that big. Why, it’s not even a fraction of the size of Australia. Well, obviously it is a fraction, but a very, very, very, very small one.

And we were off. We left the house at 09:30hrs, but only hit South Auckland at 11:00hrs after a pit stop to fill up on diesel and air.

I always underestimate the time it takes to get from Auckland to Wellington. Well, obviously, I have limited experience having only done it once before. The AA website estimates the distance from Auckland to Wellington as 658km, or 9 hours and 25 minutes – but they probably cater for the lowest common denominator i.e. tourists trying to locate the accelerator on a campervan. However, it’s a 40-minute drive from Henderson to Auckland Central, and the Interislander specifies check-in NO LATER THAN 1 HOUR PRIOR TO DEPARTURE TIME and they really sound quite snotty about it.

It was a foul day – driving rain. Luckily, I was prepared with Deadlyjelly’s Ultimate Road Mix, a solid foundation of Foreigner, the Erics Carmen and Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Crowded House, Matchbox 20, and Dire Straits, with a dash of Mister Mister and Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

I obviously took full advantage of Bruce, since Husband has declared the house a rock-free zone. He makes the occasional exception for Bon Jovi, Van Halen and Aerosmith – really, any rock band that relies heavily on lamé and/or spandex. However, the soundtrack of our lives mainly comprises female artists that sound as if they are preparing a compilation for their own funeral.

Driving through Kaimanawa Forest Park south of Turangi, the rain retreated and mist drifted through the trees. Jed was inspired to blow raspberries out the back of the car. The Desert Road was bleak and beautiful.

Apart from a diesel stop in Waiouairouaeaou and the odd five minute break to stretch Jed’s legs, I pressed on. So you will appreciate my joy when I discovered a bar of chocolate Helen had abandoned in the center console. In that moment, I loved Helen in a romantic and entirely inappropriate way. Probably just as well she was not present.

In Hunterville, I pulled over to give my puppy a trot and he lifted his leg for the first time. I am not sure whether it was because I had been on the road too long, or I was tired, or because it was a gorgeous evening with late sun tinting the country with a sepia glow, but I got quite emotional thinking about my little dog growing up and how Husband was not there to see him balancing confidently on three legs.

Coming into Wellington, I called Husband and asked him to book me on the 20:00hrs ferry that left in 45 minutes. The Interislander had closed Internet and phone bookings, but there was plenty of space when I rolled up to the check in booth. The Hilux Surf was the only car, dwarfed on all sides by articulated lorries.

Dinner was a smoked salmon sandwich I had purchased in a BP Connect in Paraparaumu. I had prepared a description of my falsely advertised soggy sandwich featuring the faintest trace of salmon flavour. In fact, it was a superb and supremely salmonly sandwich and I am hard pressed to recall a more satisfying meal. I will also seriously consider serving up Bluebird crisps for dessert the next time we have guests.

Although I was prepared for it, in the end Husband ensured I did not spend an intensely unerotic night sharing the boot with my dog

The long way home

0901-greetings-from-shannon

2300km later, we are home. We decided to take three days for the return bike trip: Oamaru to Hanmer Springs; then to Wellington via the Interisland Ferry; and the final stretch to Auckland.

Since I am now a seasoned biker, I was pretty confident. Leaning was second nature; I could crack walnuts with my core muscles; and boy, could I wear a set of leathers.

Unfortunately, the day we set out for Hanmer Springs, New Zealand hosted a heat wave. To give you an idea how warm it was, Husband ventured into a river for a dip. (If you noticed an arse flexing beside Highway 7, that was probably mine. I hope you liked it.)

When biking under normal summer conditions, I wear a fleece and quilted insert under my weatherproof jacket. An hour out of Oamaru, I shed the fleece and the jacket insert followed shortly after. By the time we reached Hanmer Springs, I wanted to crawl out of my skin and spend three weeks in a nice, dark fridge. Or alternatively, lie down and moan. Since that appeared to be the simpler option, that is pretty much what I did for the next three hours.

That evening, we stumbled into Hanmer Springs for dinner. Afterwards, we propped each other up and supported ourselves to a patch of green by the side of the road. We lay out on the grass and watched the tree branches turn dark against the waning light, and a bird crapping overhead.

“Something just crawled up my jeans,” I said.

“You don’t sound that worried.”

“No, I am. It’s just that I don’t have the energy to do anything about it.”

The following morning, the fleece and insert went back on. We biked through Springs Junction, stopped for coffee in Minihaha, then on via Wakefield to Nelson. Just beyond Havelock, we turned onto Queen Charlotte Drive, which was where a police car buzzed us.

Husband flipped up his visor. “Honey,” he bawled. “I think that police car just checked us. Were we speeding?”

“What’s this ‘we’?” I roared.

“Ok – was I speeding?”

“Most likely.”

“What limit is this?”

“No idea.”

I don’t see much from the pillion, apart from a close-up of Husband’s helmet-clad head. Also, I was busy picking dead insects out of my lipgloss at the time.

Let’s just say that, in a 60kph zone, chances are Husband was charging along at a clip that would make a policeman choke on his doughnut. He pulled into a driveway to await the long arm of the law, while I dismounted to perform some imaginative stretches.

“Can you see them?” he fretted.

“Nope.”

“Quick! Get back on the bike.”

“Shouldn’t you wait a bit longer-”

“No, they had a fair chance.”

There was still no sign of the police as we roared off down the road. They were probably consulting the index of their standard issue first aid manual for ‘Heimlich Manoeuvre’.

We pulled into the ferry terminal at Picton around the time the officer was having emergency surgery to remove the half masticated piece of doughnut from his oesophagus.

The motorbike is a bit like a puppy or a third nipple, in that it attracts a lot of friendly attention. We parked beside another bike to wait for boarding, and an old geezer came over for a chat: ex-services blazer, slacks, slip-on shoes, not a shred of hair and a hole the size of Spain in his cranium.

“Nice motor-cycle,” he said. “What size is it?”

I said, “Er. 800cc? I think.”

“No idea,” he responded. “I turned back because of rain.”

“Um,” I said. “Ok. Yes well, we had a bit of damp outside Whangamoa.”

“Can’t say I do, young lady. Where did you get that notion?”

“I’m not really- what were we- ANDREW!”

“Trout or herring?” said my buddy.

“What?!”

“Wait. I’ll put my hearing aid in. Can’t hear a blessed thing without it.”

Turned out our 82 year old buddy was the pilot of the other motorbike. He had biked halfway to Invercargill that day, before turning back. In other words, he was unbelievably cool. Certainly cooler than us.

“What sort of speed can you get out of her?” he said, nodding at the Honda.

“Well, I’ve done” – Husband cocked an eye at me – “100, maybe 110.”

“Miles per hour?”

“Kilometers.”

“Get 240 out of mine,” he cackled.

That evening, we biked from Wellington to <Unpronounceable Name Possibly Beginning With P>, about 45 minutes up Highway 1. Biking at night was strangely mystical: the swirling darkness, the roar of the wind, the thrum of the engine.

This was our second night in a YHA. I spent much of my youth in youth hostels chatting up Danish backpackers (top tip: ‘Would you like some baked beans?’ has limited efficacy as a chat-up line. I would not recommend it).

On the journey to South Island, we stayed at Sequoia Lodge in Picton, an independent backpacker’s hostel. For $70 we had an ensuite double room, wireless Internet, access to the communal spa pool, free chocolate pudding, tea, coffee and breakfast. So I had high expectations for the YHA, which charged roughly the same sort of price.

In comparison, the YHA hostels were disappointing. I’m pretty sure there were fleas in the Hanmer Springs hostel. The one in <Unpronounceable Name Possibly Beginning With P> was better, but the following morning our helmets were covered in ants enjoying a bonanza buffet of dead bug biltong.

I was tasked with de-bugging the helmets. When I went out to the bike, Husband was talking to a German woman who looked like Sylvester Stallone in a long, red wig. Strangely erotic, in case you were wondering.

Husband was saying, “Aw yeh, you’re all right if they don’t catch you.”

I gather he was talking about the police. Evidently, I should paddle his helmet harder.

At Whakamaru we stopped for lunch. Afterwards, Husband spent five minutes on his hands and knees crawling around the bike. He likes to appreciate it from many angles, so I just assumed he had overlooked this vantage point previously.

Turned out we had picked up a screw in the back tyre. The tyre was largely deflated – as, indeed, were we. Fortuitously the café – in addition to having a delectable range of pies, pastries and other baked goods – was across the road from a garage.

There was a fabulously slutty peroxide girl at the garage, with – intriguingly – a Tiffany pendant nestled in the gently oily valley of her lush bosoms. If my squandered vocation weren’t Rock Goddess, I would so totally regret never becoming a female mechanic.

Unfortunately, her job description did not extend beyond the cash register. An uninspiringly ugly bloke fitted a tubeless tyre bung for $10. These are the most amazing things: basically, a rubber compound is jammed into the puncture, which expands inside the tyre and plugs the hole. People seem to be conflicted about exactly how temporary this measure is, but it took us the remaining 250km to Auckland.

I think the trip is best summed up by this little exchange, which probably took place at one of the countless numbers of roadside cafés and diners we visited en route.

I asked Husband whether he was enjoying his road trip.

“Well,” he said, “Ye-ah-hmm. I think I’ll enjoy it more when it’s finished.”

In a rare moment of understanding, I knew EXACTLY what he meant

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