Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Zealand. Power, mussels, clowns

This land has held a claim on my imagination for what must be 40 years. From the earliest of geography lessons topped up over the years through all the various medias and most importantly the people I have met from here. Nothing but images of a lot of unique beauty mixed in with familiar British-esque landscapes and sound, fun people have come from this land. So I came with high anticipation, held in check by the possibility that reality did not measure up.
Batty flew in and then flew through Auckland customs, much to my delight...horror stories of fumigation and detailed inspections aimed at thwarting foreign bugs from landing are abundant, so the vigorous clean that she had before leaving Singapore passed the test.
She started first turn on her new engine and everything was perfect for this new land....well apart from the rain and wind that lashed with the enthusiasm of Scotland at her most determined.
My cousin Rachel was performing at the Wellington Festival, so I headed south with the aim of seeing the show before it ended in a few days.
Some early scenes on the road to Wellington
Riding Batty with her new engine was like riding a new bike. Not only was she quieter, smoother, easy starting, and smokeless, she was also a bit more powerful, pulling 50 mph with relative ease on the flat with a tail wind....apparently I read that they under rate the power to 10hp for US regs, but the actual power is more like 14-15hp. This may not seem a lot but to me it is takes her to a new level of thrill.
The first 700 miles have been on diesel to run her in, but have now switched to 50-50 with veg oil, after changing the engine oil....all seems fine and will increase the ratio of veg oil bit by bit.
In a service station on the road to Hamilton, I was 'picked up' by Trevor Power. Batty had caught his eye and prompted a chat. This led to an invitation to stay, which after a ' no no no, yes' answer I greatfully accepted. He plugged in his address into the Garmin and said see you there. It was a few more hours on down south, and as I arrived Trevor filmed me as he ushered the way into the huge garage and just beside, another garage that had a full workshop with surgical like layout and cleanliness. It turns out that his son Karl is the national Motorcycle Enduro champion, a fact that I only squeezed out of him much later. Modesty is another fine trait of these folk.
Trevor set too and sorted out a few bits on the bike that I had moaned about, and then his lovely wife Rachelle called us for a mouthwatering dinner.
'Where next' was asked. I explained about Rachel and the suggestion was made that I might like to stay at their cousin Mike's chalet in Ohakune, it was pretty much on the way apparently. 'No no no, yes please' I replied. Mike and his wife and daughter popped in after supper and they showed me a very good kids book they had been writing and illustrating. Although a little more of a literary agents task, we discussed various options and tweaks that could be thought about.
Mike's chalet at Ohakune
Tamara, who jumped on the back of Batty for a ride down the mountain, and then joined me for lunch.
Ohakune is a ski resort a day's drive away, I got there late afternoon.
It was a lovely place to be and I stayed a couple of very relaxed and welcome nights there.
Another days drive had me down in Wellington and I was staying with Caroline who I had met along with Charlotte, Hannah and Wil on Lake Malawi 2 years prior (see blog) and had loosely stayed in touch with. So I arrived at her Mum, Annabel's house and was warmly greeted, given a sumptuous room and entertained to a wonderful dinner with the family. A brilliant evening and super hosts for 3 nights.
A curious spectacle that I have seen a number of times, inquiries for a rhyme or reason have been unsuccessful

Mike, Annabel and Caroline
I joined Rachel for coffee the next day and caught up as we then went up the gondala to the top of the Wellington botanic garden and strolled back down the hill.
That evening Caroline and I went to the show. The hilarious and highly skilled CIRCUS RONALDO playing to full houses every night. Rachel is a sort of clown musician, having a cousin who makes you laugh with hundreds of others, is a special feeling.
Rachel in the hot house

The big top
 Zealandia is wildlife preserve right in the hilly suburbs of Wellington and a 15 minute walk from my hosts. In short this area of several square miles has been mammal proofed (no mammals in NZ before man arrived) and native reptiles, birds and trees etc have been encouraged to populate it. It is doing so well and their 500 year plan to restore it to a pre-man state is very exciting. The only plan I have ever heard of that is longer is one in Germany 70+ years ago.

The ferry to the South Island the following day was at 1 o'clock which gave time for farewells and a quick good bye with Rachel.
Zed, to me, was an important ambassador for NZ, who I had met over 20 years ago through his girlfriend Rosie, a Dorset friend.
Rosie and Zed on the deck
They are in the process of building a house in the north of the South Island, spending a few months a year taking an empty idyllic plot on the shores of Ohingaroa Bay, and building a state of the art house that unashamedly looks like a stealth bomber. It is a couple of years away from finish, but will be just amazing.
Dinner was a Mutton Bird.... a rare feast, and only allowed to be hunted by Maoris. The trick is to boil it 5 times till the saltiness nearly goes, and then a delicacy not far from a kipper in taste, is enjoyed.
Apparently the local water teams with snapper and Zed is a very enthusiastic fisherman. In the morning he and his 2 neighbours, Lindsey and Richard, and I boarded Zed's fine fish killing vessel for a day at these, as it turned out, illusive fish. It was of no matter to me as we were in unbelievably beautiful surroundings, however our skipper was mercilessly ribbed for not finding them.
Lindsey, Richard and Zed

Rosie was due out in a couple of days time so I went off on a tour of the area and explored the top north east of the island.
Near Farewell Spit
The beach by Shambhal, where I stayed a night
'Harry Lyon-Smith' I heard yelled across the road as I was tucking into a delicious mussel pie. The makers in a local town of Havelock had been recommended to me by Zed as the best. Low and behold there was Rosie and Zed coming across the road intent on a pie snack as well. Alas my pie was the last one, but their quiches were also pretty damned good luckily.
It had been too many years since Rosie and I had caught up, and it was lovely to do so.
I was planning to leave in the morning, but Lindsey showed up early saying that he was off to get a few fish that day, so we joined him and collared a couple of snapper before pulling up some mussels from one of the many farmed beds (all apparently encouraged by the musselmen, as it is good for local PR). Luckily Zed and Lindsey are strong fellows as there are tons of mussels on the ropes and 2 large buckets were filled.
Rosie with the first snapper
Spoils of the day
A view from the house ruined
Zed and Rosie making it look an easy life
A delicious dinner followed that could not have been fresher.
It was here that my mac laptop decided that it was in heaven and died. Bit of a pain, but the route that Zed had brilliantly worked out with me needed to be moved about a bit so I could head for Christchurch and resurrect her.
It was a great days ride as Zed and Rosie, who had toured the country extensively, put me on to a 50 mile farm road called the Moulsworth that took one high over the Marlbough state through exciting gravel roads and fords rising to over 4000 ft.
Much of the roads I traveled were surrounded by vines, and a few familiar ones
Coming down from Mouldsworth

 PS. Here is a small piece I wrote about the advantages of breaking down a lot...on Jupiter's Travelers

1 comment:

  1. Look like we cross !!I have been watching all the way up for a old bike with a big smoke !! :-)
    I just arrived in Wellington yesterday

    Enoy your trip in south Island
    Max (Honda win 100 from the river Kwai)