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Driving underwater

In Auckland for my Father-In-Law’s 70th birthday party, we nipped out to buy some groceries and came back with a new car. It happens. The evidence is parked in our garage at the bottom of the garden.

Since my life isn’t challenging enough, I volunteered to drive it home to Oamaru: 1300km over four days – actually, 1400km with a detour via New Plymouth. It was going to be EPIC: wacky adventures, amazing experiences, vaguely creepy but ultimately benevolent strangers, the thrill of the open road.

Only two things threatened to interfere with that romantic vision: 1/ I was driving a fucking Toyota Prius, not a Ford T convertible; and 2/ my travel companions: two children (mine), one of whom takes entirely after me, which is an awful lot of potentially hazardous high-voltage complaining.

But I’d heard the weather is great this time of year, so that decided it.

My original plan consisted of messaging a friend I hadn’t seen since my wedding twelve years ago to say, “How are you? Would love to catch up! Hey, how about I stay at yours tonight? You can meet the kids!”

I was relieved to have committed minimal time, energy and strategizing to that particular plan when it turned out she had moved from Wellington over a year ago.

After a minor route adjustment, we were on our way to New Plymouth to stay with my Aunt-In-Law.

Exploring Mokau

Exploring Mokau

Ok, yes, sure, we can talk about the Prius, why not? To date, our primary family car has been a 1996 Toyota Hilux Surf, which we basically chose for the dog. Otherwise it has a number of advantages: it’s big enough for the whole family, it can drive over boulders, it has a towbar for motorbikes. On the downside: it isn’t the safest car on the road and doesn’t guzzle gas so much as gleefully wallow in it.

We needed a sensible second family car (Andrew: no, the Celica does NOT meet that description- yes, I know it fits everyone but we have to kind of wedge the dog- no, acceleration speed is not a critical factor in- look, we’ve been through this and- just no. Why? BECAUSE I FUCKING SAID SO) therefore Husband looked into what might suit our my requirements. Which were: size, safety and a minimum of four fucking doors PLEASE.

The Toyota Prius was by far the cheapest circa 2010 model that met all the given criteria with the added bonus that, as a hybrid, it does about 3000 miles to the gallon.

A door-friendly car that doesn’t feature at least eight cylinders is a major concession for Husband; a symbolic farewell to International Mysterious Manliness. I’m not sure he’s as inspired by the car’s ultra-low carbon emissions as the technology behind it. These cars are amazeballs: the battery is charged by the kinetic energy produced by the car. And when I found out the driver’s seat is heated, my toasty ass was just so fully on board.

One minor issue is the main car display, which is entirely in Japanese. According to the navigation system – which bizarrely features tiny swastikas, along with other symbols that wouldn’t look out of place tattoed across a Triad’s forehead – we spent a lot of the trip driving underwater.

The navigation display with tiny swastikas

The navigation display

This was slightly problematic on the first day, since Google Maps wasn’t working on my mobile and, after leaving SH1 at Taupiri, I had no idea where the fuck we were. I navigated by the stars until Andrew’s plane landed mid-morning and he called to offer technical support. He advised enabling the setting to connect to data services when roaming, which resolved the problem.

I’d never driven the SH39 to New Plymouth – Hobbit Country – and it was spectacular. After four hours of solid driving, the kids and I stopped on the coast at Mokau for a late lunch and some exploring.

We arrived at my Aunt-In-Law’s early enough for Finn and Saoirse to fully investigate some heavy-duty Duplo. Later, while the children slept, I looked into the ferry crossings for the following day. The only sailing we could realistically make was the Interislander at 14:45.

The AA Distance Calculator predicted the 353km journey to Wellington would take 5 hours 4 minutes. However, I preferred Google Maps’ estimate of 4 hours and 30 minutes; and I figured half an hour was quite enough time sitting around the Interislander carpark with kids fresh off a four and a half hour journey with – say – an extra hour added on for coffee, snacks, snuggles, dropped water bottles, phantom widdles and nappy related incidents; and – I don’t know – another half an hour for roadworks, detours and flat tires.

I aimed to leave at 08:00hrs, latest 08:15hrs, which meant we were on the road by 08:30hrs.

We just needed to cut down on the flat tires.

There was no paper

There was no paper in the back of the car

After three hours, we stopped at a BP for 20 minutes which somehow ended up being 40 – but not a problem – we were blazing down the SH1 bang on schedule – when Saoirse yarfed in the back.

Well, that took care of the epic part of the roadtrip brief.

I swear: she threw up mandarin segments untouched by human teeth, and an entire cheese stick still in one piece. Might even have been still in the wrapper.

No warning: twenty minutes before she redecorated the back of the car

No warning: twenty minutes before she redecorated the back of the car

I managed to pull onto the verge, put the hazards on, and fished Saoirse out of her carseat. We were an hour out of Wellington and she was absolutely putrescent; I changed her clothes and spent twenty minutes trying to soak up the boke with baby wipes. One and a half packets; a bitter exercise in futility.

By the time we were back on the road, complete with soggy supermarket bag of rancid clothes, we were officially Really Quite Late. At quarter past two and without any warning, Google Fucking Maps adjusted its Time to Destination from 5 minutes to 15.

THE FUCK?!?

Interislander rang again: “Are you nearly-“

“Yes, I’m fiftee-ive- fifive- no, I mean fifive- fuck!- FIVE minutes away. See you soon, byeee!”

I didn’t answer the phone next time it rang.

We were the last car to board.

In the food court, Saoirse recovered enough to eat Finn’s fish and chips as well as her own. Finn and I couldn’t manage much for the throbbing stench of stomach acid.

Fish and chips on the Interislander

Fish and chips on the Interislander

In addition to top-class hospitality, my lovely friend K in Blenheim provided full laundry service complete with folding. Late that evening, I dumped Saoirse’s carseat in K’s bath, chipped off the chunks and attempted to shampoo the padded parts on the straps.

Five days later, it still smells.

From Blenheim, we drove to Rakaia to stay with my friend Sinéad who has two children the same ages as Finn and Saoirse. This was the first time the kids demonstrated anything other than perplexing good cheer in the car, when Finn suffered a psychotic episode:-

Finn> “Stop! Stoppit! Stop saying ‘rabbit’! Mum, Saoirse keeps saying ‘rabbit’- NOOO! She said it again!”

Me> “Er-”

Saoirse> “WABBIT! WabbitwabbitwabbitwabbitWABBIT! HAHAHAHAHAAA!”

You can tell she’s my child.

During one of our daily phone calls, Andrew asked me whether I was enjoying the trip. It was hard to beat a couple of hours sipping margarita with Sinéad in her spa pool; that was pretty good.

But, in fact, I loved spending time with my children. LOVED it. Both responded to having my full attention to talk about the nature of free will and laws of physics . . . only kidding; mainly itemizing all the toys in Finn’s bedroom and shouting beep! beep! at lorries.

Despite having done the trip several times BC I underestimated how massive it was. They were phenomenal; they amazed me, awed me, both of them. Saoirse sat there chortling whenever she saw a tree; and Finn was so considerate – opening Saoirse’s water bottle and raisin packets for her and sharing out snack bars.

Finn (halfway from Picton to Rakaia)> “Mummy?”

Me> “Yes, sweetheart.”

Finn> “I’m happy. This is my happy face.”

Finn> <gurning at the rearview mirror>

I couldn’t have asked for better company.

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

Waffling

On Saturday, in a stunning coup reminiscent of The Great Espresso Machine Victory of 2008, I held my nerve in a tense battle of wills to procure a waffle maker on TradeMe. I’ve been looking for a waffle machine for AGES – a whole week since I came across a recipe for waffles (get this: you chop up pecan nuts and put them IN the batter, so they get waffled along with the waffles).

It has only been used twice, and was a bargain at $13. Although, I had to drive up to Hibiscus Coast to collect it, so I suppose it wasn’t that much of a bargain if you count the $20 of diesel that fuelled the 2 hour round trip.

As a special, missing-Husband treat (and as an alternative to pancakes), I tried the waffle machine out this morning. Two minutes and thirty five seconds for the perfect waffle. The plates are non-stick, so no oil/butter/grease is required; the waffles just peel off. So they’re much healthier than pancakes – until you drench them in maple syrup, I suppose

Preferably rancid

Since the Puppy Biscuit Freakshow, I have fed Jed an essentially raw food diet. He’s a big fan of fish, particularly tinned mackerel; loves chicken carcasses, necks and gizzards; savages veal bones and lamb flaps; and will take your arm off if tripe or offal is on the end of it.

I have been purchasing his food from a variety of places. Chicken necks and gizzards, and lamb flaps from Pak ‘N’ Save; lamb bones and chicken mince from Countdown; chicken carcasses and lamb neck chops from The Mad Butcher.

In the meantime, I have been researching more economical sources of dog food, since it costs more to feed my dog than Husband (although this may be because there is no longer any room in the freezer for Husband’s food). Also, Jed eats anything up to 2.5kg of meat a day.

No, that’s not a typo. He now weighs 30kg. I am concerned he is developing love handles.

Last week we purchased an ancient freezer on Trademe for $50. It came with a fridge, so Husband’s food bill is likely to increase significantly now that he has somewhere to store beer. We installed the two appliances in the garage.

Thus equipped, I spent $100 on approximately 60kg of assorted animal carcasses from Bombay Petfoods. The grub arrived this morning.

Here is Jed surveying a months supply of food:-

0905 Dogfood

The weather was not as soggy today, so we pootled around the yard for a while. Here are some more pics:-

0905 Jed stalks rock

Jed stalks a rock from his favourite spot in the yard: on top of the trailer.

0905 Husband considers a dogs life

So THIS is what a dog’s life looks like: Husband tries out the kennel run.

0905 He is a catch

Husband stalks wife.

0905 Jed and bone

Jed and his favourite type of bone: old, manky, preferably rancid.

0905 Jed shows bone who's boss

Jed gets to grip with bone

Surprisingly cranky

Mountain biking in Woodhill today:-

Husband: Why didn’t you cycle down that hill?

Me: You mean, apart from the fact that it’s semi-sheer? Let me count the reasons. First of all, I don’t really fancy breaking a fall with my sprained wrist. Secondly, it’s been a while since I mixed it up at Woodhill, so I’m taking it easy. Thirdly, I have a puppy trying to jump through my spokes, which is distracting. Fourthly, I have a husband who stops dead without warning randomly and lethally. Fifthly and sixthly respectively, I am tired and surprisingly cranky. Finally, I urge you to bear in mind that I do not share your cavalier attitude towards life and limb whether mine or anyone elses’, OR your wilful disregard for the laws of gravity.
<note: I did not actually say all that, but I successfully communicated the gist>

Husband: But you rode down there before-

Me: Well I was younger then, and more carefree-

Husband: You mean last year?

Me: YES, LAST YEAR!

Damn that memory card to hell, damn it

On the way to Karekare yesterday, Husband’s own driving made him nauseous. Thankfully, he revived sufficiently to walk Coman’s Track along the cliff edge, then north to Log Race Road via Mercer Bay Loop.

In a bodaciously muppetacious move, I forgot to replace the memory card in my Canon. The photos below were taken with my Sony Cybershot.

Now, I love my 450D; I do. The shutter makes a gratifying noise that is halfway between a click and a whirr, and I can do lots of stuff that I can’t describe (and half the time can’t do either). And the image quality nearly always defies my best efforts to under- or over-expose it, or focus my finger instead of the subject etc.

However, using the Sony again reminded me how handy it is. It takes three seconds to whip it out of the case and slide the lens cap, just in time to capture the dragonfly alighting on the one daisy within three kilometres.

In contrast, preparing the Canon for photography is a full-scale production: taking off the camera bag, laying it flat, unzipping it, taking out the camera, choosing and affixing the lens, removing the lens cap and storing it (turns out throwing it on the ground is only a time-saving strategy in the short term), turning the camera on, tweaking the settings. Then one must spend a reasonable amount of time maintaining artistic integrity and fermenting the inspiration. By which stage the dragonfly has gone through three life-cycles and night has fallen.

But I kinda missed it.

0902-karekare-beach

Karekare Beach from Farley Point

0902-mercer-bay-loop

Mercer Bay Loop path

0902-mercer-bay

Mercer Bay

0902-husband-slashes-through-the-bush

Husband dodges charging tree

0902-deadlyjelly

Self portrait

0902-husband-stays-connected

Husband keeps up to date with current events

A medium adventure

This afternoon, Husband and I are driving to the Coromandels, camping overnight, and walking the Pinnacles Track tomorrow. So if, by remarkable coincidence, you are also walking the Pinnacles Track and spot us, be sure to stop and say hello and share your biscuits.  Deadlyjelly – that’s the blog, not me referring to myself in the third person – will be back on Sunday morning with photos.

Hope the weather improves a bit; Auckland is overcast and a bit sullen at the moment

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