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Posts tagged ‘map’

Book, first letter ‘D’, four syllables

For weeks, we’ve been meaning to call into the Makana Chocolate Factory. At least, I’VE been meaning to call in and coerce Husband to accompany me all the time bitterly contemplating why it should be necessary to apply force to get anyone into a CHOCOLATE FACTORY! With FREE SAMPLES!!! As stated on the flyer I’d picked up in some gift shop or other.

The factory was practically on our way into Blenheim; a small detour, at least according to the (same) flyer. The map implied the factory was just off the SH1, about three car lengths along Rapaura Road just before the next left turn.

This turned out to be somewhat erroneous and would still have been misleading even had the map stated ‘not to scale’. We were looking for a U-turn about 3km down Rapaura Road when we came upon the factory.

Our plan was a ruthless hit-and-run, the objective to ensure the FREE SAMPLES!!! were as plural as possible without resorting to blatant theft.

We got off to a promising start: a FREE SAMPLE!!! of macadamia butter toffee crunch and a citrus jelly square. After snorting that down, we prowled around the gift shop.

“If there’s anything you’d like to taste, just let me know,” said the saleswoman.

Score! I thought, I OWN her.

In fact, although she looked deceptively mild, she was cunning  and remorseless. I underestimated her. The hunter became the hunted. There’s a famous book that I can’t remember the title of but it begins with ‘D’ (possibly vaguely biblical, three-four syllables), where the protagonist’s family is slaughtered and he exacts terrible retribution upon their executioners, and it was totally like that, but only a little bit.

I made a rookie mistake – no, actually two: I MADE EYE CONTACT and then – even worse – INITIATED CONVERSATION.

I know, I know.

After establishing that business was humming due to the factory’s location on the tourist wine trail, the saleswoman said:

“I can always tell, when customers walk in the door. Which ones will buy, and which are just mean, cheap, useless, freeloading time wasters.”

(I’m paraphrasing, but that’s roughly what I heard.)

“Really?” I said, “so which are we?”

“Oh, I couldn’t say.”

Of course, we bought two boxes of chocolates. I was determined either to a) prove her wrong and stick it to her; or b) justify the saleswoman’s initial favourable impression of us as thoughtful, generous, decent, unfreeloading customers.

Bitch.

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My country

Of all the countries I’ve lived or visited, I love Ireland best. Perhaps I always will.

Of course, I am shamelessly biased. Partly I find comfort in the familiar; or it may have something to do with the smell. That is what first hit me fresh off the plane at Kerry Airport; specifically, the bucolic bouquet of sheep shit.

I have always likened New Zealand to Ireland (or the other way round, according to your allegiance), but the Kiwi landscape, although similar to Ireland, has more style and glamour. It has a better frame: the mountains are higher; the valleys are lower; the lakes are deeper; the sea a keener blue.

Yet Ireland has a shabby charm that will always endear me. There are still roads the Ordnance Survey classifies as B-grade, which are barely tarmacadamed tracks fortified with grass. You expect to round a corner and find a pipe-smoking countrywoman churning butter. Farms are commonly delineated by hedgerows.

But it is the interplay of weather and light that casts a unique spell. The good days are beautiful, but the changeable days are magic. If you don’t believe in leprechauns, banshees and fairies, you can understand the origins of the mythology. When the elements can’t decide what to do, they just throw the whole lot at you.

Apparently, the Irish summer has been terrible. The weather brings out a touch of the obsessive compulsive in the Irish, so every time they’ve spoken to me over the last few months, my parents have bemoaned it at length.

“The weather is pure bitter,” my mother would say in grief-stricken tones. “Feckin rain. We had a day there – Tuesday – or, it could have been Sunday – and the sun came out for three hours in the morning. No, now that I think about it – wait – it was the afternoon. And I think it was Monday. That was it; that was our summer. Three feckin hours long.”

When I arrived in Ireland last week, I refused to believe them.

“You brought the sunshine with you,” said my mother, darkly. “It won’t last, mark my words.”

Well, given the country’s reputation, her prediction was safe enough. After three days of stuttering sunshine, it has been inclement.

Shortly after I arrived, Danny and I walked up to Curraghmore Lake from the Black Valley. The Black Valley lakes were still underneath a moody sky. It remained grim until we reached the lake, when the sun illuminated great tracts of surrounding landscape. We watched the scudding clouds buffet the sun, but it never quite managed to reach us.

Two days ago, I stood on top of a hill in a sun shower, looking out on billowing veils of rain to the north and bright sunshine to the west, bound by a full rainbow.

If these photos don’t speak a thousand words, I apologise for the photographer’s incompetence.

Blackberries

24 September – blackberry pickers stalk their prey

Star blackberry eater

25 September – gatepost near Bunane Bridge

Church at Bunane. Composition inspired by The Incredible Di Mackey

B-grade road: the pass between Lackabane and Castle Rock

26 September – as we drove into the Black Valley, Danny said: “Look! What’s that?” And there on top of a ridge, a horse was silhouetted against the sky. We expected it to rear up on its hind legs and let forth a terrible neigh that would spread terror into the hearts of horse and human alike. But it just nibbled on some rock and then wandered off to stand on another

The Black Valley, Lough Cumeenduff from the south road

Danny foraging for doughnuts at Curraghmore

Curraghmore Mountain hogs the sun

1 October – Old Kenmare Road after rainfall; coming out of Torc Forest

Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, from the Old Kenmare Road

On the Kerry Way looking north, to the east of Windy Gap

Natural affinity for squirrels

My legs are killing me.

Today we went orienteering at Shank’s Pony near Kaukapakapa (that place is still easier to write than to say. Barely). Husband doesn’t mind the orienteering, but is not fond of getting out of bed. While I registered, Husband worked on his enthusiasm with a cup of coffee in the car.

Last week at Stag’s Roar, we did the 3.8km Orange course. This time, I was looking forward to something a bit more challenging.

“The red courses are quite technical,” said the woman at registration. “I would recommend a beginner’s course.”

OH, SHE WOULD, WOULD SHE?

Could she not see my rugged mien, feel the accumulated years of navigational savvy, smell the faint scent of Irish 1980s woodlands on my skin? Could she not sense my natural affinity for squirrels?

There was evidently something wrong with the woman, but I wasn’t about to turn down such a blatant challenge.

“Red 2, please,” I said.

“Are you sure?” She eyed me doubtfully. I was outraged, especially since she was wearing a pair of clogs.

CLOGS!

“How much?”

“Have you orienteered before?”

“Of course!” I snorted. Could she not . . . <as above>.

“The terrain is quite tricky and there’s lots of climb-”

“GOOD! I love hills! More the merrier, that’s what I say! I hope they’re REALLY VERY STEEP!”

Aaand that’s how we ended up doing the 5.0km Red 2 course.

It took us 20 minutes to find the first control – see Friggin Fig 1 below. The line of trees off the north of the track was obvious, yet for reasons that will remain classified we followed the track west to its conclusion and splashed around in the stream for a while. Or more precisely, around 15 minutes.

Friggin Fig 1

However, we hit our stride and charged down checkpoints 2-6. Husband and I were on fire, heartbreakingly in synch with each other and the universe.

The leg from checkpoint 6 to 7 was a kilometre long, which was when I started to wilt. It crept up on me spontaneously; one minute I was hurdling a fallen tree, the next I was negotiating with my legs for every step.

“Come on Niamhie!” bawled Husband, sprinting up a field. “This bit’s flat!”

He ran out of puff around checkpoint 9. I could tell, because when he found the control he kind of whimpered, instead of waving his arms around roaring: “OVER HERE! IT’S OVER HERE!”

Technically, this course was much more advanced than last week’s. There were few giveaways; you had to be right at the feature to access the control. Some of them were stuffed down rabbit holes and one was half eaten by a cow. We finished the course in just under two hours and have been subdued ever since.

To your right! Look! Over there!

Action shot: Husband tears off towards the finish. All right – he balanced on one leg for this photo, but you’ve got to admire his beauty and grace, like a constipated gazelle

Husband channels Chariots of Fire: note the proud chest, the splayed arms, the agonised grimace. Unfortunately, some of the essence is missing due to Husband’s trying to run in slow motion. Really takes it out of you – and I should know

Right hand rule

I was getting quite adept at jump-starting the Mazda when Husband stripped off his shirt and glistened manfully in the sunlight. Oh yes, and he also sorted out the starter, exorcised the hazard lights, and fixed the driver’s window. The button now works in reverse to the rest of the electronic windows, but ‘works’ is the word to focus on here. (That reminds me, I really should go and wipe the greasy handprints off the inside of the window.)

We also got an air freshener.

After all that, Husband decided the Mazda didn’t suit his boy-racer image and talked me into buying a 1993 Toyota MR2. It’s a two-seater targer-top, which is quite possibly The Most Impractical Car in the World. (In the interests of fairness and full disclosure, I’d better point out that Husband claims the Yukon is the current titleholder.)

When we collected the MR2, we faced a dilemma. To date, I had fulfilled the role of Chief Navigator and, although I could give you the grid reference and corresponding map number of any street in the greater Auckland region, I am pretty rubbish at getting there without my eyes glued to the map and a spare digit following the route. Husband often turns left or right on whim, which doesn’t help.

So I drove the Mazda home with the A-Z propped against the steering wheel and Husband following in the MR2. By the time I neared Mount Wellington, I was well stressed, what with reading the map while watching the road and fretting about taking a wrong turn because Husband mightn’t love me any more (since I apply strict conditions to my love, I expect Husband does the same).

There is a bizarre right hand rule in New Zealand – or is it the left hand rule? – whereby – and look, you’re going to have to suspend disbelief a bit here. Is it suspended? How about now? Ok. Visualise this: you’re driving along a main road, on the left hand side if you want to avoid head-on collisions. You want to turn left, and the car coming against you wants to turn into the same road, ie their right. Well, YOU HAVE TO GIVE WAY TO THAT DRIVER.

I suppose the NZ Transport Authority were kicking it around one day:

“What about this? Everyone’s driving on the left BUT at roundabouts they go anti-clockwise. Aw yeh? Aw yeh?”

“OR how about: everyone drives on the left except for Tuesdays and Wednesdays? We can tell them it’s to improve traffic flow. HA HA HA!”

“No, I have it. Alright lads, listen up. How about IF someone’s turning right, yeh, yeh, wait- ok, so they’re turning right, and someone else is turning right, no, left, no- WHATEVER, then that guy has to let the other one go. Except if he’s at a stop sign- no wait, except if he’s not at a stop sign. Doesn’t really matter. More obscure the better.”

“<awed silence>”

“Oh god, that’s beautiful.”

Now, I understand the left hand turn rule in theory, but in practice . . . I’ve examined it from any number of angles and maybe you can explain it to me, but it seems there’s just no way to make it work. Although I try.

On this occasion, I was turning right and the car coming against me indicated into the same road. She was moving pretty fast and I made the mistake of pausing. She went to go, then stopped, so I nudged forward, but she whipped around the corner, leaving me stranded across the wrong lane with a line of cars squeezing past.

“Did you see that COW?” I seethed to Husband back at the house. “That was TOTALLY my right of way!”

“Actually, not exactly,” said Husband. You’ll be noticing that after nearly 10 years together, the man still lives on the edge when he’s not preoccupied dicing with death. “If the car is turning left but there’s traffic backed up behind it which wants to go straight ahead-”

“Well how the <expletive deleted> am I supposed to know if they want to go straight when I can’t see their indicators?” I shouted.

Husband: “Yeah ok, it doesn’t make a lot of sense-”

“YA THINK?”

“Anyway, in that instance they have right of way-”

“Ok look, you’re making this up-” I said, getting a bit teary.

“No-”

“You ARE! You’re just- just making it up as you go along! You expect me to drive around this <expletive deleted> country – uninsured – and drive and <expletive deleted> navigate and expect me to turn LEFT! And then you make up some rule – I have no idea why, except you obviously don’t want sex for the next six months – or maybe you’re just trying to wind me up – well, I’M <EXPLETIVE DELETED> WOUND UP!”

I got my own back a week later, when I was driving the MR2 with Husband providing last-minute instruction from the passenger seat.

“Turn left here,” he said and, in my defence for what happened next, I was pre-occupied wondering whether I’d have to apply the handbrake to do so.

“Give way to that car,” said Husband. “Niamhie, the car turning right,” a note of panic creeping into his voice, “you need to give way-”

Now, Husband swears I floored the accelerator but he doesn’t have to swear because I admit it: I did, and thundered around the corner in oblivious violation of the Road Code, inches in front of the other car’s premature bumper.

“What the- what the hell!” screamed Husband. “Didn’t you HEAR me tell you to give way?”

“Kind of, yes.”

“But you ACCELERATED! . . . WHY?”

“Because the rule doesn’t make sense! Not even a little bit! None! Admit it! And ah,” I admitted, “I forgot.”

“Gah!”

The next time we took both cars out at once, Husband offered to lead. After a short distance, I realised Husband’s method of navigation is according to whichever traffic light happens to be green at any given intersection. No idea where the fuck he’s going, bless him. (In case you were wondering, I still love him. Can’t explain it.)

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