Archive for May, 2007

I’d give my right arm to be that funny

the very briefest of blogs.

on the way back from work today i passed two signs (and no i don’t need to see a doctor about that)

1) A company called ‘Need a Nerd’ – for all your techie needs

2) outside a carpet shop of all places – ‘I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.’

Here endeth the blog.

Advertisements

The only reason I feel secure

Every night I spend a while trying to identify a good place to park the car to sleep. As mentioned before I can get a bit paranoid and scared of the dark, so ensuring I find somewhere I feel secure is important.

After the cinema last night, I drove round three different beaches looking for somewhere to park. On two occasions a random car turned and made me feel so uneasy I had to drive off to somewhere else. I’m sure there was nothing in it, but I knew I’d not sleep till I felt secure.

In the end I rolled up where I’d had my earlier, unsuccessful surf. It was ideally suited, far enough from the road but not too far, had civilisation in sight but civilisation didn’t really have me in sight. Perfect – so I thought.

I awoke in a panic at 5am as a dirty great trash collector pulled up to empty the bin in the car park. The guy got out and had a quick look in the car and shook his head. I smiled and went back to sleep, security is an illusion.

From Whakatane I drove west to Tauraunga, a fairly sizeable place and apparently worth a visit. I ended up at ‘The Mount’ or Mount Manganui, kind of like a wee holiday town at the base of Mt Manganui just outside Tauranga. It’s quite a summer holiday resort place so on a Friday morning in winter it was quite quiet. Fuelled with coffee and pancakes I walked up the track to the top of the mount. Reminded me of the climb up Arthur’s Seat but warmer. It was full of young, enthusiastic looking people doing some orienteering thing and even running up the tracks. I tried not to look too out of breath and sweaty as I lent against the tree for support.

Now I was left with a choice. I hadn’t really expected to get this far on my trip, so I wasn’t sure what to do with my last day. I could’ve driven 4 hours on dirt tracks to get Waikaremoana and possibly even Mahia for more surfing. But I’ve been to those places before so I figured I should really go somewhere new.

So I turned south to Rotorua. It’s the place with the lakes and all the volcanic stuff and lots of hot springs. It’s probably the most visited place in the north island. Which is of course precisely why I hadn’t been there before. It’s described in the Lonely Planet, as a tad commercialised. The LP only ever says nice things about places, reluctant to call a spade a spade, so this couldn’t have been complimentary.

So I admit I went, not wildly optimistic about the place. In the end I got there and it was big and (comparatively, to the rest of my trip) full of people. It smelt horribly of sulphur, no matter where you went. It was cloudy and there were of course no waves and no ocean.

In the end, I stopped in the car park of a supermarket, looked at the map and drove 2 hours further south to Taupo, where I at least knew there were ducks.

Taupo is the big lake in the middle of the north island. Like a smaller version of Lough Neagh, but much prettier. The town is at the north end of the lake and the south end is Ruapehu – the giant volcano we go skiing on. It’s a nice place.

I ate KFC in the car parked on the lakeside and finished off ‘the posionwood bible’ and felt wonderfully at peace and calm in the sun streaming through the window. Or it may have just been the ducks.

In the end I sat and read for 3 hours solid, and when the reading was done I just sat till the sun went down and then I drove the two hours home to Napier in the dark. Good trip. Enough said.

Where the sharks breed

When I woke in Hicksville, I mean hick’s bay sorry… it wasn’t as wet. Though still cloudy. I didn’t hang around. The road from the east cape to the bay of plenty is long and a tad windy, lots of it being one lane hugging cliff faces. Nice scenery but a lack of cafes for brekkie. I found one by 11am that turned out to be lovely, so nice I had two coffees.

Windswept bay after dramatic windswept bay, and no where was there even a road down to the beach front. The one beach I could get down had a pretty scary looking swell and in the surf guide it said it was a shark breeding ground. I avoided that. Presumably the sharks breed here and then go to Australia or South Africa to eat Australians or South Africans. I’m pretty sure they don’t attack people here.

Just outside Opotiki there was finally a decent beach and lo and behold (what I thought was a mirage) a van selling coffees (proper espresso stuff none of your filter muck). A combination made in heaven. The sun even came out so I sat on the car with my latte reading ‘the poisonwood bible’ and getting very angry at the power of a story.

Well not the power of story itself just the power to denounce something (say biblical Christianity) with a stroke of character and narrative. I find myself getting angry both at the characters and the simplistic conclusions drawn on occasions. Though not a complaint really, if it makes me think a bit then it’s something, as long as I remember to think.

It is an immense book, I would recommend it to all, says a lot about the terrible things man has done in the name of GOD. Gives you a wonderful perspective on points of view. We have so little idea about how the religious appears to the irreligious.

Sorry, spiel on literature over (for now…)

From Opotiki I drove to Whakatane, which sounds quite rude if you pronounce it the proper Maori way. It’s actually a lovely wee place with a few decent cafes – in fact I judge towns solely on whether or not they’ve got nice cafes so that’s unfair. I found a wee secluded spot down the beach front and took the board out again.

Waves that look quite impressive from shore can be pretty pitiful when you’re out on them. These were just waves that tended to break on themselves and had no actual forward motion so I spent a lot of time just standing and quickly sinking. I gave up after 20 mins.

The other good thing about Whakatane is that it is a cinema. So I watched the 5pm showing of Pirates of the Caribbean with all the kiddies screaming laughing and talking all the way through it.

And yes I loved it. I will love it no matter what they do with it. Even if I found myself rather lost on occasion trying to work out who was betraying who at any given time. I just love pirate stories. The older I get the more I seem to like fantasy and sci-fi (though you’ll not see me at a star-trek convention). I imagine (cynically of course) that my childhood imagination is failing me and I’m just buying into someone else’s imagination. Like the bit in ‘Life after God’ with the guy in his twenties who despairs for life cause he’s scared there’ll be no new experiences in life. That makes me sad.

I got out of the cinema about 8pm and with nothing else to fill the evening (i could write a ‘things to do in whakatane when you’re dead’ couldn’t I?) I bought a sandwich and went straight back into the cinema to watch ‘Hot Fuzz’

Now the Irish may have all the best music but there’s little argument that the English have all the best comedians. I’m a huge ‘spaced’ fan (the tv show where simon pegg/nick frost/edgar wright made their name – if not their money) and it’s just pop culture/parody/reptitive comedy motifs at its very best.

There were a grand total of 4 of us in the cinema. Me and three hoodied (though i’m sure they didn’t see the irony) teenagers.

It made me laugh, made me laugh out loud, it made me feel smug cause I thought I spotted lots of the references to other films and TV shows. But I’m not sure if it was of any ‘value’ in any way. By which I mean it didn’t inspire me to question or affirm what I hold dear, I could see no higher purpose in me watching it. Save for entertainment and endorphins. Not that I’m saying that’s a bad thing in and of itself. I dunno what do you think? I have no snappy answer, even to whether it matters or not.

Movies, songs, books, tv shows are all deeply ingrained within me. Most of the time they just go in there and sit in the memory bank, to be brought up again in pub quizzes or the eternal ‘cartoons were better in my day’ debate. In recent years I’ve taken to analysing it all.

Everything I watch, read or lets just say ‘consume’ gets interrogated as to what it’s saying and whether or not what it says holds up as truth. I’m so passionate about truth that I want to sit down and have a chat with all the lyricists and novelists (with coffee of course) and debate what they were talking about. You’ll never find out where people are coming from if you don’t listen to what they say.

Which is why I have difficulty in categorising something like hot fuzz. In a lot of parody and satire it’s hard to find an agenda. And if there is one it’s mostly deflating something full of it’s own hot air. And so I’m comfortable with it – there is really so much hot air about and it’s hard to think of many things that couldn’t do with being taken down a peg or two (and please oh please start with me…)

Hicksville

There were cows nibbling at the wing mirrors when I woke. Cows are dumb.

Started the morning with a bush walk around (and over) one of the hills surrounding the bay. As usual it’s loosely marked, and involves a few wrong turns and getting lost in deep bush like Lothlorien or somewhere. All adds to the experience.

And after leaving Anaura bay it hits a bit of a down hill slide. Both in terms of weather and pretty sights. It’s here that the rural desolation of the east cape kicks in. The settlements I pass through are terribly run down, the last paint job being the late 70s. Now some would say this adds to the rustic chic but I’m not sure the locals would agree.

In Waiparo bay i stop at the beach and make myself some coffee (the other problem with being run down is lack of a decent espresso joint…) and wait for the sand flies to find me yet again. I sit on the bonnet reading ‘the poisonwood bible‘ with the sun on my back. Looking at the sky it looks like it might be the last I see of it for a bit.

There is, of course no surf.

State Highway 35 abandons the coast for the next 60 km or so and I stop only in Ruatoria for lunch. The most Maori of towns in a nearly totally Maori area I feel a bit out of place. Not cause I’m white (though I am always as obvious and unbearably white as they come), but because I’m not wearing wellies and don’t have 6 dogs in the back of my ute. This is sheep country.

A few minutes earlier SH35 was brought to a standstill as 150 sheep were being herded down the road. There didn’t seem any great urgency in herding them. The dogs were lazily sniffing each other’s butts and seemed happy enough for me to do all the herding as I drove into the crowd

I got the universally accepted symbol of acknowledgement for my efforts from the farmer, a nonchalant lift of the index finger and a nod.

Back in Ruatoria there’s a chap in wellies riding a horse down the main street. I can hear distant banjos…

North of Ruatoria there’s not much. Just 30km of road and then the ocean. You have a choice, 20km east there’s the cape itself with compulsory lighthouse. Or you can begin your slow trip west to civilisation

East every time. Tourists/travellers/tour buses are drawn somehow to the points of the compass. That there’s somehow something virtuous in seeing them. It’s a claim to fame for the brochures, and something to fill the time for the traveller like me – and what is travelling if not filling time between meals and coffee.

The dirt road is windy and hugs the base of sand stone cliffs, and separates the beach and the relentless pounding waves from eating away at the cliffs. The type of waves that are nice to stare at from under a hat and some gore tex before hastening back to the car on a cold winter’s afternoon. So no, I didn’t try surfing here.

The lighthouse (the most easterly in the world…) is a top a hill towering over a farm. You have to walk through their front yard to get there. It’s a pretty white lighthouse though surprisingly small. When I get to the top I can see a blooming big island about a mile further east. Right where – if you were a ship rounding the cape, being guided by the lighthouse – your course would lie.

This seems just silly, as if they were trying to make the ships crash by putting the lighthouse in the wrong place. This before I read the sign about how the original lighthouse was on east island (cook really needed someone with a bit of poetry on his boat…) before the keeper lost three kids, almost went mad and half the island slipped into the sea. I stand corrected. Best put the lighthouse on the main land then…

The one cool thing about being at the world’s most easterly lighthouse is that you can think yourself into all kind of geographical and temporal muddles. Just thinking that if I go a few hundred miles east then it’ll still be yesterday. I get easily confused. When I come home (via LA) in July I’ll be circumnavigating the globe for the second time in my life and by my (dubious) reckoning that gives me two extra days and so somehow gives me the edge on everyone.

I consider parking the car on the endless sweeping beach, facing the terrible, never ending waves, staring at the bleak, but achingly beautiful cliffs framing the dramatic picturesque bay, but I realise I’ll never have enough adjectives to make it through to morning.

As I resolve my dilemma it starts to rain. And I mean really rain. Decision made (sleeping in the car is alright when you can spend all evening lying on the bonnet for entertainment) I head back to civilisation to look for a room for the night.

Te Arora is another hicksville, wellies everywhere but no horses. I look at the map wondering where’s next and my eyes surely deceive me, could this actually be right, the next town on the map is – Hick’s Bay. I’m not making this up. Thinking that someone somewhere has a wonderful sense of irony (turns out it’s named after one of Cook’s crew – surprised he didn’t name it ‘one of my men’s town’ or something equally creative).

I end up in Hick’s Bay holiday camp, a collection of run down wooden huts with a shop, a lot of rusting caravans, a chip van and a cinema (the world’s most easterly cinema! Oh give it a break…) of all things.

I desperately want to go to the cinema but am too embarrassed to ask as I’m sure I’ll be the only one in a leaky tin hut watching sponge bob square pants or something.

Instead I wash (first for everything eh?), drink coffee (old habits die hard) and eat fish and chips from the van (possibly the most easterly in the world, though I see no sign, must remember to mention it to the woman…) and read.

There are few famous kiwi films (lord of the rings was of course made here but is hardly a kiwi film). One that is worth watching is ‘the whale rider‘ filmed in one of the bays I came up through. As east coast ngati poru (maori tribe) as it gets. And that’s what this place feels like. Even down to the young girl singing and dancing in the chip shop. In some ways it at least feels like something authentic.

Would prefer to be back at Anaura bay lying on the car on the beach, but I think it’s even raining there now too. Change in weather may lead to a change of plans. More driving and less lying on a beach in the sun. I know what I’d prefer.

Happy when you’re happy

My first memory this morning was that of a WW II spitfire crossing the bay in front of me. And in the dream I was having it made perfect sense. And then I woke and struggled to reconcile why a WWII spitfire would be strafing an unpopulated bay on the east coast of NZ. As the fog slowly cleared – the fog of sleep that is, it became clear that there were no WW II spitfires in the area, only milk trucks on the road behind me.

The sky was again all kinds of wonderful colours. I pinched myself again, not to wake from the dream but more to convince myself that I was actually blessed enough to be here. There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote with a lot (but never quite right…) truth that the greatest thing in life is to realise you’re happy when you’re happy. Not like all those miserable twenty something’s bemoaning their lost school and uni days. Oh wait that’s me…

30 mins down the road I’m at Waihau bay. The type of place that’s so beautiful that really no one else should be allowed to see it and definitely shouldn’t be able to put such lovely bachs on.

The waves were good and the sea was empty. I obliged and threw myself all over the place on my board. Inhaling most of the surf. Great stuff.

Next stop was Tolaga bay – apparently the most populated bit of the east coast. Must be at least 500 people in one place. They even had a school, and a hobo fishing from the bridge. Indeed I doubt he was even a real hobo, just employed to look scruffy.

So I sat in the café, beside the supermarket, opposite the Tolaga information centre (which was empty and was bizarrely playing a tape of Jimi Hendrix live), and supped my latte (they always do good coffee wherever you are) and read my paper and eavesdropped on the conversations of the unemployed mums (sorry, being a mum in no way makes you unemployed, but these one’s were) beside me and silently judging everyone in sight – mostly in positive ways it must be said.

Outside the town was a 3-hour track to one of the places our dear friend captain Cook landed on one of his first visits here. It was a cool wee track, though full of sheep and cows, who I never quite trust, convinced that one of these days one will charge at me when I’m not looking and cause me all kinds of damage.

And I’ve ended up at a place called Anaura bay, recommended to me by a few people since my arrival. And justifiably so. A largely deserted, couple of mile long crescent of golden sand, surrounded by hills of native bush and a barren craggy island just off shore.

The sun is shining, it wouldn’t work if it wasn’t would it? The campsite at the end of the dirt track is a voluntary pay one and apparently closed out of season and is now full of sheep, but the gate is unlocked and anyway I just park on the beach anyhow and I see no one to complain.

There is another ‘less than nothing’ surf, so I just go swimming, sans wetsuit, so a tad chilly I realise. In the end I just sit on the bonnet of the car with the setting sun on my back and reading my Kerouac book and remembering that Vonnegut quote. As it gets dark, a quarter moon comes out, bright but not quite bright enough to read by so instead I just lie  back on the bonnet with a few extra layers on and stare at the stars thinking the world’s in a terrible state of chassis… but sure ain’t them stars pretty…

If the amoeba don’t get me first

I’ve had better nights sleep. And I’ve had worse. Like being crushed in 17F from Joburg to Sydney or one time cramped in the wet porch of a vango force 10 in a rainstorm in the mournes, just shivering my way through to morning.

So as I say I’ve had worse. Sleeping in my car gives me the simple satisfaction that it can be done. And I did it. Lying on your back it’s really remarkably comfortable. Tucked up in my sleeping bag staring at what I can see of the southern stars through the window.

The problem came when I tried to lie on my front – the only way I seem to be able to get to sleep. The bend in the middle tends to arch your back in ways it’s not meant to go. Either that or you just hover in the middle with all the weight on your chest and legs. I saw 3am appear with no notion of sleepiness. From 3 to 6am I think I slept. At least I dreamt so I presume I slept.

I woke to see the sky turning orange and watching the white caps on the sea. I crawled out of the car to a silent and empty beach and a glorious vista of reds and oranges as the sun came up. Alas the surf was as benign as the evening before so I popped over to the other side of the peninsula to what is described as a beach with a ‘good wave for learners’ in the surf guide Jess had given me.

So it wasn’t massive towering waves, with me tucked under the crest looking staggeringly cool. But it wasn’t shore break and it was consistent right to left break, not too far out so I didn’t have to paddle too far.

And the new board did me proud, I stood nearly every time, but still suffering from a tendency to lose the crest of the wave and be left standing on a stationary board. I like this surfing lark.

By this stage it was 8am and I’d been going for two hours. I cooked some porridge on the gas stove in the car and waxed my board – yes I know all the lingo now!

Next stop was the Morere hot springs. Geo-thermal energy is a feature of NZ geography. Exploited for either energy or making tourists smell of sulphur, it’s wonderfully popular.

This place was something out of the cold war, at least the concrete and paint was. The water was dark green with floating red bits in it. It was wonderful. The type of heat that makes you dizzy when you stand up, your baroreceptors wondering what’s going on.

I had the main complex to myself, which was also pretty cool. The guy who’d charged me the meagre sum of 5 bucks for the pleasure had also told me that there were a further 3 pools about 10 mins up a track.

Now there are few occasions when you’ll regret bringing footwear with you but my list of occasions when I’ve regretted not bringing footwear is lengthening by the day. I love going everywhere in my warehouse shorts and a t-shirt and no shoes/sandals. I just like the idea of bare feet. That sounds weird written down, I’m sure it made more sense in my head.

I am immediately regretting my decision to leave the sandals in the car but I persevere. Mostly from the thought of being embarrassed having to go past the ticket guy again and partly from some kind of masochistic tendency. Like some kind of painful pilgrimage. I’m convinced someone had been along before me and sharpened the stones.

At the end of the track were three baths of different temperatures. One was ice cold, one had a rather large and intimidating Maori guy in it who refused to acknowledge my existence (really quite unusual in NZ), and the third seemed to be heated for poaching eggs or splitting the atom. I was stuck with the third option, if only cause I was cold from the walk up in my togs and couldn’t go to the cold pool and going to the pool with the big guy in it would have been simply asking for trouble.

I eased into the (very) hot pool, wondering how long it would be before human flesh actually begins to cook. In the end I get into my knees and simply sit there with the rest of me above the water.

Given that my mate the big guy isn’t into polite conversation I search the walls for something to read. All I can find is two signs. One – beware hydrochloric acid with one of those skull symbols. Two – keep your head above water when swimming to avoid the risk of amoebic meningitis.

The second one grabs my attention and makes me immediately withdraw what little of my legs are in the water. I have no desire to get amoebic meningitis. Largely cause it’s bad form for doctors to catch diseases they’ve never actually heard of.

Pools done with, I drive on to Gisborne as the clouds roll in. I’ve been here once before, for a weekend with 20 of the docs from work all crammed in a wee beach house. Wonderful weekend. I look back a the photo of us all and realise there’s only about 5 of us left at the hospital. Maybe it was the amoebic meningitis…

I have recommendations from Forbes about a quality bookshop in Gisborne. Something I’m most excited about as there’s a definite lack of a decent bookshop in Hawke’s bay. Some people like bookshops with character with a pleasant owner with inside knowledge. Now I’m not averse to these but to be honest I prefer a good old multi-storeyed, stacked shelved, impersonal Waterstones. ‘yes i’m happy just browsing, leave me alone…’

This was somewhere in between and actually had a wonderful coffee shop attached. So despite having neither Coupland, Vonnegut nor any CS Lewis, it still scored reasonably. So between browsing (‘yes I’m still happy browsing!’) and coffee (served by a pretty American girl who was lovely and made me drop my change in confusion/embarrassment) reading my new purchases (‘the poisonwood bible’ and a Jack Kerouac book) I filled 3 hours.

To complete my time in Gisborne (where it was now grey and raining) I wandered the empty main street with the ‘old and the bored’ and found another three bookshops – none of which sold any Kurt Vonnevgut books. The third was a wonderful second hand bookshop which was simply a unit with books piled randomly and a few seats strewn about the place. The owner said hi and offered me a cup of coffee as I entered the door.

He identified my accent as from NI (and not Scottish like most do) and when he found out I was from Portadown he told me he’d played footy with former Portadown players with names ending in McCoy or Kennedy. This was the 70’s and I wasn’t born I tell him.

He has at least heard of Vonnegut, though of course has none in stock – dying is the only way to get famous and sell books. He has never heard of Douglas Coupland. I spend a pleasant 30 mins there, wondering at how many books there could be actually written in the world. I managed to find a gem of a newspaper comic strip book, a Toni Morrisson book, a kiwi novel and a book by some Spanish guy I’ve vaguely heard of.

I drive out of town and up the coast and find the wonderful Pouawa bay which has a nice picnic area set up for free camping. I’m treated to a nice rain shower and the best rainbow I’ve ever seen. It’s 7.15 pm and I could have fallen asleep hours before now. I don’t think the ‘bed’ will cause any problems tonight. That’s if the amoeba don’t get me first…

Rugged coastline and empty beaches

I have another week off, with no specific plans or obligations. This to compensate for the 14 days straight I swapped into following this.

The east coast of the north island, once you get north of Gisborne, is largely a deserted rural, coastal community, populated by less than 5000 people. Nothing but rugged coastline and empty beaches. Bit like Donegal but with better weather and marginally better roads.

I’ve yet to make it north of Gisborne, each time being distracted to lake Waikaremoana or some other picturesque spot. This time I’m determined. Though day one completed and I’m still an hour south of Gisborne, so maybe it’s not going so well.

It is of course, the equivalent of late November here. Which means it gets dark at 5.30 pm but not that it’s cold. It’s still sunny and I’m still wearing shorts. I managed to leave the flat at 5.15 pm, after a hasty pack following the olive picking.

Previously on my little solo expeditions I’ve stayed in campsites or hostels, this time I’m trying something different. I’ve realised that my car would make a lovely one person camper van. The seats go completely flat and I’d have a secure, lit structure to sleep in.

I have the surf board (must give he/she a name) on the roof, the guitar, the gas stove and the bike. Some grub, and a bag of books and I’m off.

I’ve made it to Mahia, a former island, now a peninsula north of Napier (about 3 hours of winding roads). It’s apparently a legendary surf spot so I’m expecting great things.

The bit that took the time was finding the appropriate spot in the dark to park the car. My first bet was right out on the peninsula, miles from anything. And, while scenic (even in the dark) it was flippin windy and the sheer darkness (no moon at all) was a little bit scary. I still have this childish fear and paranoia when I’m camping and travelling by myself, that around every dark shadow is a gang of thugs willing to do vile murder upon me. Though the fear has perhaps kept me safe from harm on a few occasions.

But after a bit more searching I’ve now found the ideal spot. About 10 m from the road, about 5m from the beach in a wee hamlet of about 20 beach front houses. There’s the odd streetlight, but not enough to keep me awake. I’m parked about 10m from the ‘no camping/overnight stay’ sign. There’s symbols on it banning tents, caravans and campervans, but none of stupid Irishmen willing to sleep in their car, so I think I’ve found a loop hole.

Since arriving I’ve spent an hour on the beach in my shorts (and three layers and a woolly hat but shorts none the less!) staring at the southern stars and just able to see the white caps of the breakers in front of me. Glorious moment.

The next few hours I’ve spent eating bananas and crisps and writing and reading. So much writing in fact my eyes are dry and tired and I’m worried I’m running the battery in the car flat. It’s 11pm and the sun rises at 6.15 am when I’m sure the police will be waking me and painting an image of an Irishman in a car on the sign and putting a line through it.


About

May 2007
M T W T F S S
« Apr   Jun »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031