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Posts tagged ‘sh1’

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.

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.

Only 41,851,439 more feet to go

Finally, the photographic evidence:-

090824 By the river

Husband risks life and limb.

090824 Husband and Jed

So I’m not sure what Husband was up to in this shot. He was either winding up for a rousing chorus of ‘I’m Every Woman’, or he might have been stretching.

090824 Jed and tree

Jed gets to grip with a tree.

090824 Wet dog

If there is any body of water in the vicinity, you can be pretty sure Jed will be straight in there.

090824 Still wet

More like a drowned rat.

090824 Contemplation

Jed considers his career prospects. Something outdoors, maybe in the forestry industry.

090824 Dusk

Dusk by the sea.

090824 Mt Ruapehu

I would hazard a guess this is Mount Ruapehu and a tufty rock. I should really write these things down (well, the tufty rock is obvious).

090824 Snow

Husband tries to talk Jed into sledding.

090824 Digdigdig

Background: mountains;
Foreground: Jed’s arse, as he attempts to tunnel to Ireland. He gave up after three feet.

090824 Floppy ear

Puppy strikes a pose.

090824 Husband

Husband works up a smile of sorts.

090824 Evening cloud

Evening closed as we drove north to Turangi, and I looked back to see Mount Ruapehu stalked by great banks of cloud.

090824 Mountains

Another one which doesn’t quite translate to print. We took a quick detour up Kaimanawa Road so that Husband could complain how cold it was at The Pillars of Hercules. This was the view at the T-junction giving back onto SH1.

090824 Sunset

Introduction to frozen water

090723 Logs

Although we emailed sporadically, and I met up with Helen when I passed through Dubai on the way to and from Ireland last year, the reality is we don’t know each other that well. Up to recently, all we had in common was a mutual appreciation for floating in briny water in a manner similar to giant gherkins.

Still, three months ago when Helen asked me to join her on a road trip during her week’s holiday from Dubai, I thought it was a marvellous idea. The open road, floaty skirts, the drowsy scent of pollen, floppy hats, sunglasses, takeaway coffee.

As the date approached, I got increasingly anxious. What if Helen and I ran out of conversation? What if we fell out over fuel? What if Helen bit Jed? What if my snoring kept her awake all night?

Happily, my fears had no basis in reality. On the Sunday morning, Helen’s friend Cathy saw us off with cheesy muffins and roasted pears with cinnamon.

In Tokoroa, we stopped briefly at the lookout point above the town, where Jed tested the limits of his digestive system with a MacDonald’s cheeseburger plus wrapping and an empty crisp packet.

We stayed with another two of Helen’s friends, Kim and Seamus, on their farm just south of Tokoroa. They have three boys, Kieran, Mossie and Padraic; a poster of the nine times tables on the bathroom door; and the ‘ladder of certain doom’ on the fridge. We spent the evening chatting over a bottle or several of wine.

Next morning, Helen and I drove on south, giving Jed a run at Huka Falls.

090723 Huka Falls

The Falls

090723 Helen and Jed

Helen and Jed

090723 Me and Jed

Me and Floppychops

We stopped in Taupo for lunch and a pair of walking boots for Helen (to wear). I also bought a Tongariro 260-T19 topo map, and a Kiwimaps New Zealand Compact Travellers Atlas with six large scale regional touring maps and nine city and town center maps. It was tremendously exciting to know my location.

We arrived in Turangi in the early afternoon and checked out our accommodation: a spacious two-bedroom chalet for $120 at Creel Lodge next to the Tongariro River. The bathroom door featured a map of recommended trout pools along the Tongariro River. It really inspired my bowels – although not as much as the nine times tables.

I had brought two mountain bikes on the rack on the back of the Hilux Surf. After check-in, we returned to Reception to ask about the biking trail to the Pillars of Hercules.

“Where does the trail start?” I asked.

“No idea,” said Richard.

“But it’s on the Creel Lodge website.”

“Really? What does it say?”

“Er. Two hour bike ride, easy grade, fifteen to twenty minutes drive from Turangi Village.”

“Sounds lovely. Be sure to let us know how you get on.”

I whipped out my topo map and located the Pillars of Hercules. We drove about 10km south on the SH1, then turned left onto Kaimanawa Road. We parked 2km up the road, and biked up a logging trail that ran to the south west. Considering Helen had never set arse on a mountain bike, she did exceptionally well.

090723 Helen gets to grip with biking

Helen gets to grips with biking

090723 Coffee break

I don’t know if you can tell from the photo (above) that the cold was bitter in the late afternoon. It was a gradual uphill route, and a section of the trail was overgrown, so we soon warmed up. The puddles were all iced over – Jed’s first introduction to frozen water. He was understandably cautious about this this dangerous, unknown and potentially threatening new experience: galloping towards the puddles and leaping into the middle of them feet-first.

The path eventually gave onto a crazy Kiwi swingbridge, suspended hundreds of metres above the Tongariro River below. Jed was entirely dubious: he ventured out a few paces before scuttling back to firm ground, gaining a little more headway each time; then shot past me in the middle of the bridge to gain the far side where the whole process started again.

090723 Swing bridge

090723 Jed

090723 Pillars of Hercules

We carried on to the Urchin Camping Ground, then freewheeled down the main road back to the car.

The following day, we got up early and biked up Tree Trunk Gorge and north (this time) to the Pillars of Hercules again. In a bizarre phenomenon, although we returned to the car the same way, it seemed to be uphill in both directions.

We were on the road by midday. I am delighted to report that by the time we reached Auckland six hours later, far from running out of things to say, Helen and I had barely even started

090723 The way back

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