Archive for the 'road-trip' Category

An Ocean and a Rock – Part 3

Woke very hot and sweaty in the tent. The sun had been shining strongly since 5am and last night’s bacon had left me with a dreadful thirst.

Otherwise a wonderful night’s sleep.

But farewell to rosse’s point and it’s overly expensive (but very pretty) campsite where the showers were one euro extra.

I had to be in greystones for 6pm, some 180 miles away. But I had time. Time I though to lie by a lough on the Shannon water way and doze off in the sun reading the Irish times.

Hunger got the better of me and I ended up eating fish and chips in a retail park car park in Carrick on Shannon wishing I had a canoe with me.

(Me and wee phil have great plans to canoe from Fermanagh to Limerick in September. We originally planned a week but some basic initial research makes me think two might be more appropriate. Or that a motor cruiser might be even more appropriate)

The difference between the roads in NZ and Ireland is the views. In NZ you were bowled over by spectacular scenery at every corner and there were endless view points to pull in and take photos.

It’s just that in Ireland they built all the decent roads through the flat boring bits of the country and you’re continually given glimpses of stunning vistas just round the corner or over the hedge. But they’re always just out of reach and require actual effort to see.

None of that was convenient for today’s trip. So I drove cross country listening to whatever was loud and raucous and losing my voice in the high notes getting my right arm burned as it sat out the window – the hazards of driving south west in the afternoon in the northern hemisphere.

I did make an ill advised detour round the Wicklow hills, geting horribly and wonderfully lost up shady country lanes filled with nothing but flashy looking SUVs.

I stopped briefly at the sally gap to admire the quite spectacular view and the weather. On a sunny day I’m not sure I’ve seen anywhere nicer than Ireland.

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And so I pulled into Greystones about 5 pm and promptly paid 50 cent for the priviledge of almost getting locked in the public toilet at the beach. I have still no idea why the exit button was at ground level. Answers on a postcard please.

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Sat in the shade trying to avoid more uv on the already crispy right forearm and waited for transfarmer to come pick me up.

After a night of volleyball, singing, pub and cigars with lots of lovely people such as soapbox and smallcorner (and lots of other people who are just as lovely but don’t have blogs), I’ve managed to score a free room with ensuite. As fun as sleeping on the beach is I’ll not complain.

An Ocean and a Rock – part 2

This is, as the saying goes almost as good as it gets. Back against the Volvo facing the sun, full belly, mumford and sons and a setting sun.

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But more of that when we get to it.

Rained most of the night. Not that I noticed it. The tent did me proud. Woke to a grey but at least a dry day.

Packed up and waved goodbye to the duke of edinburgh group with their house sized packs on their backs.

I had planned originally to scale the heights of slieve league (the sixth highest sea cliffs in Europe wouldn’t you know) but the weather seemed to have other ideas.

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Half a mile up the track the track ended completely and all that was visible was the mist at the end of your nose. You could hear the sea some several hundred metres below but you couldn’t see it.

To be perfectly frank (though only if I can still be garth) I hadn’t a notion where I was or which direction to walk in. I ended up with a view like this:

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Caution and the voice of wee liz in my head turned me back.

I found the car park full of malcontented Frenchmen bemoaning the dreary Irish weather preventing their attempt at the summit. Though all this is assumption. They may have been talking about garlic and onions or talking about detonating bombs in the south pacific for all I know. I’m pretty sure they didn’t mention the youth hostel – beyond that is conjecture.

[brief interlude.  There’s a guy on a ride on a ride on lawnmower driving in increasingly smaller concentric circles round my tent. I’m not entirely sure I want my toenails cut at this juncture]

from there I took the long and windy road (they’re all long and windy round here) back to Killybegs and beyond stopping only to lie on the beach for a while reading cloud atlas in Fintragh bay. The sun threatened an appearance.

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Through Donegal town and on to Murvagh beach where I simply fell asleep with the seat back listening to whatever Sigur Ros had to offer.

I had already by this stage decided on the camp site I’m now in. By the usual method of looking at the end of the road in the map and seeing what’s there.

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So at 4pm I rolled into Rosse’s point. Which may just he the definition of sleepy Irish village. The island across the bay from the camp site is for sale. I know this because there’s a big sign on it saying  ‘for sale – oyster island’. I’d love to know much. Imagine starting on the property ladder with your very own island. Beats a semi in suburbia.

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There is also another Coney island just across from the oyster island. That brings my total to 4 Coney Islands now.

I opted for a camp site – the need for a functioning toilet and personal hygiene becoming of greater significance as the day wore on.

And after a quick dander round the night life (there is none) and a quick pint and the paper I’m back at the site with my back against the volvo, full belly, mumford and sons and a setting sun.

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Oh yes that’s where we started wasn’t it.

An Ocean and a Rock – Part 1

I am somewhat addicted to the road trip. I am also somewhat addicted to my Volvo. I am yet to get round to sleeping in it but plan to make every effort on this trip.

But first some background.

It’s not like I have any idea where I head to. I lay the map out on the table the day before and look for the bits with the fewest roads and go there.

Turns out there are an exceptional number of places in Ireland with little bays and little beaches and not very many roads.

But I have to picture what all of these look like in my head. And in my head they’re always sunny – which is always hopeful in Ireland. Either that or look them up on google and inevitably there will be lots of photos from flickr or videos on YouTube by some german guy. It gives you the gist of the place.

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So anyhow. I’ve now ended up in Malin Beg. Somewhere west of the west of Ireland. West donegal to be precise. I don’t think there’s much between me and the Americas. Except the Atlantic ocean of course.
I drove 3 hours solid to get here through mist and fog – just to get here and find that it’s, well misty and foggy…

I still think it looks pretty sweet.

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At the car park a duke of Edinburgh group were pitching their tents, a slightly concerned but impatient school teacher in attendance – “have you put the water on to boil yet, what are you two planning to have for tea?”. All that kind if thing.

The two blokes seemed to be loving it. I’m not sure the same good be said of the girls. Though I can’t really blame them if I had to walk Slieve League in the fog and rain I’d be pissed off too.

Funnily enough that’s what I have planned for tomorrow.

The beach is about a 100 yds below the car park (it may only be 50 but I’m kind of crap with vertical distances and 100 yds sounds like the kind of thing someone might say) and was thankfully deserted apart from the dying embers of a camp fire that I presumed someone had left.

So I pitched the tent. The nice new one I treated myself to for the birthday. The one I’ve only put up the once when me and skeeno tried it out in the living room.

So of course I put it up wrong to start with. It was to be expected.

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Stoked the fire has best I could with the conveniently stacked fire wood and lit the mini grill and got the burgers going.

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Only to find a rather sheepish young polish woman walking towards me wondering if she could maybe have some of the firewood that her and her boyfriend had collected for their camp fire this evening.

Oh dear. I appeared to have stolen not only their lit fire but also their firewood and ideal camp site on the beach.

I felt immensely bad about this. Not that they had left anything to suggest that it was their camp fire. It was just a fire and a pile of wood.

I decided against an ill advised rant about possession being nine tenths of the law – being somewhat uncertain as to how the law stands in relation to ownership of a fire already in progress.

After recent events in Belfast I could just picture the news headlines – Norn Irish prick steals vital heat source from homeless immigrant.

Turns out she’s polish and the boyfriend is Irish so all round I think I’m in the clear.

I did feel bad enough to go round the beach and collect them some new fire wood. It salved the conscience somewhat.

So with tent erected and burgers cooked and fire blazing – well maybe not blazing, more ‘smoking intensely’ – I can finally settle down to read the book in peace. Though it does seem like an awful lit of effort just for that.

Postcards from far away part 7

Right. Last one you’ll be glad to hear.

Woke in Glenbrittle for the last glorious time and tried to pack up the tent in the howling gale. It didn’t go well. Will have to re-pack the whole thing when I get home.

You can get off (or indeed on) Skye via the bridge or the ferry. Coming from the north of Scotland we’d come across on the bridge. For the sake of completion we figures the ferry off would be good.

At 30 mins it’s hardly an odyssey but worth it for the photos I think. I think if it wasn’t for the tourists it would be hard to see it as viable.

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We bypassed Mallaig for the scenic route to Fort William. Which was all camp-sites and little beaches.

The weather held off long enough for a decent view of Nevis as we drove in to fort William. Just enough time for us to decided that “yes of course… just not enough time left to climb it old chap, otherwise we’d be up it like a rat up a spout old boy. Yes spiffing, pass the brandy…”

Physical activity avoided we dandered round fort William and found that they’ve finally closed down the really dodgy cinema that we used to go to. To be honest that was all we were in Fort William for.

Farther down the road we stopped at the Bridge of Orchy for the night. Despite the rather odd name it’s set in spectacular countryside and on the path of the west highland way – the track that runs through the highlands and seems popular with the ageing slightly overweight walker. Which is rich coming from the young skinny kid who drove there and didn’t even walk…

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Two nights of “sleeping” in the tent had caught up with me and I was asleep shortly after Chelsea finally put Liverpool to rest for the evening.

Despite having effectively all day to get from the bridge of orchy we still got into Stranraer just 30 mins before the boat sailed.

I’m almost looking forward to going to work tomorrow. And it’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to say that. Maybe I needed the distance, the time away from the place, the sunshine and the altitude and the craic. Maybe I just needed the holiday.

Not that I’m quite that naive. Me feeling generally miserable about life is not so easily blamed on work (as much as I would like to), nor even on dad dying (which was most inconsiderate of him).

There are no sound byte answers. There is no “know it all”, slightly self righteous and arrogant so and so (like me for instance) just round the corner who will say “you know what your problem is…”

The only single common denominator that I can find in it all is me. What a surprise that all this narcissistic naval gazing would come up with such an answer.

Back to the real world I think.

Postcards from far away part 5

Woke to the view of the harbour in Portree and a quality brekkie and a sit on the pier reading Volf.

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Drove to the north west of the island (yesterday was the north east) stopping for photos of the sweeping moors and old churches while listening to page cxvi.

Skye is a pretty big place, geographically anyhow, despite the fact that all the people seem to live in Broadford or Portree.

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The north west seems to be one of the more deserted areas and more than anywhere seems to remind me of NZ – and let’s face it all this is an attempt to get back there.

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We stopped at Dunvegan where the Mcleods had murdered the Macdonalds in huge numbers in 1550. They attacked by surprise while they were all in church. Not that one group were heathen and the other Christian. Both were Christian be they still murdered each other. Maybe there’s a common denominator that’s not religion running through all these. We seem to be able to do horrible things to each other no matter what our creed.

There are memorials to all this on the penninsula. A reminder that whole communities once inhabited this place before it became the dominion of the sheep.

People lived and died here on the western most parts of civilisation. They lived and brought up their kids overlooking the western isles knowing that the clan divisions may bring their downfall at any point.

What would they think of us?

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Me and sparky sat in the ruins of one of their houses and held our own communion service. Here at the end of the world we broke bread and wine (or biscuit and whisky) and had a few readings from the gospels and declared the joy and hope of the resurrection. CHRIST is risen, hallelujah.

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Here at the end of the world I recommit myself to the faith, the hope and the glory. To the great story that I find myself in but yet do no comprehend. I do not often know why I stick with it. I keep thinking of the quote from the disciples that “where else o lord would we go”.

Here at the end of the world I acknowledge my brokenness and struggles, the immense sense of loss that accompanies everything I do these days.

Here at the end of the world I find the tears and the laughter that will take me home.

Anyhow.

By this stage the sun was out and determined to make up for it’s absence over the past few days. The windows were wound down. The sun roof was open, the sunny tunes (unsurprisingly I only have about an hour or so of these on the iPod) were on. I was stopping every 5 mind or so for photos of the rapidly approaching mountains.

The Cuillins are truly spectacular. Huge, ridged, stony mountains that seen to explode from the earth.

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They fill me with me with awe and fear in equal measure.

At the base of the mountains beside a gravelly beach lies Glenbrittle camp-site. Which has jumped to number one in my all time favourite camp site list.

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Huge soaring mountains in the background, a sweeping sun lit bay in the foreground. Camp Volvo was established. We didn’t even need the awning I’d designed for the car. When I planned this trip this type of campsite was what I had in mind.

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I finally got to try the portable BBQ that Morsies had bought me for Christmas. Despite needing 4 firelighters to get it started (the consequence of leaving my charcoal sitting out the back of at john’s all winter) it cooked up a storm accompanied by some coffee, some red and the chorizo sausage I bought in Inverness.

By now it was only 7pm and I hadn’t even started the Sunday times.

The sun sets and leaves us campers surviving by the glow of propane and the shelter of the nylon. This may be British summer time but I am currently wearing a hat and 7 layers on top and 3 pair of trousers. I am exceptionally cosy it must be said. That in itself is kind of satisfying.

The Cuillins raise their intimidating profile in the background. Weather permitting we’ll have a go.

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Postcards from far away part 4

Most of what you do on an island like this is largely weather dependant.

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And the weather has not exactly been great. The west of Scotland is famous for rain and it is not prone to disappoint.

We woke to a wet, rainy day. With a bit of cold thrown in for good measure.

I left Spuddy down to the port to catch a ferry over to Mallaig. In order to reach home he has a 13 hour journey ahead. First I leave him to the ferry for a 25 min journey to the mainland. From here he gets a 5 hour train that runs from Mallaig to Glasgow. He texted and told us it was like Northern Ireland railway back in the bad old days.

At present he should be in Glasgow waiting for a bus to the airport for a flight to Belfast. He has a full iPod and a laptop and a few books. He’ll be fine I’m sure.

You could get to Capetown in less time but to get the the short distance between west Scotland and Ireland takes 13 hours.

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Anyhow. That leaves be and sparky up to our own devices with a Volvo and a full tank.

We drove north east through countryside that was virtually identical to Donegal with weather to match. Some quality driving. And to be fair to Skye it finally stopped raining long enough for us to get out of the car an explore a bit.

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The wind did it’s best to deter us but we weren’t to be tired. I figure if Mcdowell got blown over the cliff then I could just live off the insurance money.

We even climbed a mountain. 500 meters of mud and heather and wind. Great bant. Good photos.

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Skye continues to amaze me. If I was a Celt in the 5th century I’d move back to the Mediterranean and open a casino in a principality, not move to Skye.

But it seems that they did. And they built houses and castles and farmed and subsisted and survived.

Like most things before the 18th century I’m not really sure it happened. Stranger things happen though eh?

History aside it’s a pretty place when covered in microfleece and gortex.

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Now I’m in portree in a pub with no reception for the phone and every word of the Saturday Guardian. It’s the type of pub where the hairy wanderer in the corner can bring his dog too.

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All good.

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Postcards from far away part 3

Sitting in a hotel on the isle of Skye with a working wi-fi connection. Catching up on the whole blogging thing.

Lots of driving today. From Perth to Inverness in one run through some of the most pleasant and unpleasant weather I’ve ever seen in one day. Good scenery. Good tunes. Good times.

In Inverness we were in t-shirts in the sun. 20 mins up the road alongside Loch Ness we were fully wrapped up. The joys of Scottish weather.

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The Loch Ness monster is an odd kind of myth. Though it seems to make a lot of money from the looks of things.

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One of the great joys of road trip is the actual driving. I have always loved driving for the sake of driving. Not the speed or anything just the bant and the tunes and the scenery.

The standard iPod rules are as follows. Everyone gets to choose 3 songs at a time. No same day repeats.

Humerous place names of note
– Wick
– and a B&B ran by a guy called William Dick. Just imagine the nicknames.

Ended up on Skye. Which was the whole point of the trip in the first place. Skye is just as fantastic as I thought it would be. This is somewhere I have always wanted to come.

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The weather on the way in was a bit dubious and scared us out of camping so we ended up in a lovely wee b&b overlooking the Scottish coastline. It’s kind of like Donegal on a good day.

Good feed. Good ale. A cornetto sitting on the pier watching the sun set. This is about as good as it gets. Apart from the cold. Having driven 500 slightly zig zagged miles across Scotland I think we’ll probably find ourselves ensconsed here for the rest of the trip. Bring it on.

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Postcards from far away part 2

Last post was on the ferry right?

Lost of driving to Edinburgh. Lots of sleeping done by the boys in between choosing songs.

We have a fairly standard system in place. Everyone chooses 3 songs in the ‘on the go’ play list on the iPod. 3 songs. No more no less.

Generally no repeats in the same day allowed. Spuddy always tries to get as much as possible by choosing obscure U2, 10 minute b-sides.

Passes the time at least and keeps the bitching to a minimum.

Edinburgh is a simply lovely city. On only my second time there I love the place. Good buildings. Good parks. It has a bug hill in the middle and a castle with a few of the sea. What more could one ask for.

Cities like Edinburgh make me want to live in a city.

Good restaurants with pretty waitresses and nice parks and a functioning (though debatable) public transport system.

We went to the royal college of surgeons museum to look at brutal dental instruments and stare at obscure bits of pathology before penicillin and CT scanners and the germ theory. Fascinating stuff. Highly recommended.

Met up with young Miss Quinn who kindly fed us and provided us with profiteroles and a walk along the beach.

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Stayed the night with the Orrs in their wonderful almost Dickensian house with the great old grandfather clock and the mice (who failed to make an appearance).

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The hospitality was of course exquisite. I am always amazed by the way people will go out of their way to provide for us bums in the midst of busyness and jobs and all that. Rest assured it was much assured.

Bed was taken to with great gusto.

Today was originally intended to be a day in the hills helping Dave bag another Munro. Unfortunately the Scottish weather had other ideas and made us give up at Crianlarich and sit in the restaurant trying to come up with a plan B.

Plan B was drive back down the road to Perth to go to the cinema and watch gran turino. There were limited options.

Going to matinees always makes the day feel much later than it really is.

Found ourselves a B&B and a decent Italian restaurant to fill the bellies. Poor sparky had been struggling all day with a good old man-flu but managed to have a good go at a steak and crawl off to bed.

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Dave made his way back to Edinburgh and me and spud headed out to see what Perth had to offer.

Turned out that was a pub ran by a guy from Newry. All very pleasant really

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So far road trip has been most productive and positively social having managed to catch up and put the world to rights with two very good friends who I don’t see nearly enough of.

However there has been a distinct lack of reading with the feet up and a very definite lack of sunshine. The former at least is soon to be corrected.

Postcards from far away part 1

(As this is now the third time I’ve had to write this it will be understandably brief. The other two drafts have been lost into the ether. The joys of mobile blogging)

We got an early boat to Scotland for road trip. Me, sparky and spuddy. Everyone very tired.

Looking forward to it. More to follow.

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Swallowed in the sea


Getting from one place to the other in the quickest possible time is not nearly as much fun as going the really roundabout way. I’m shocked that I’ve been living here for 26 years and still there remains parts of this country I’ve never seen. My parents were good and I’ve been dragged over most of it in a touring caravan as a child at one point or another. But still the discoveries are all the more fun when you make them for yourself.

Having Saturday night free (I like Saturday nights free to sit in by myself and read books – another blog in itself) and no obligations till the following night I packed the Volvo with all the essentials (tunes, coffee, book, guitar, mac, camera, series 1 of Spaced) and headed for the north coast on a mini road trip.

Happiness is a car, some tunes, some decent weather and a full tank. Though a full tank in the Volvo will cost you the same as a return flight to NZ, and will only get you as far as Tescos and back once a week but hey who’s counting?. The joy of the Volvo being that when the oil runs out I’ll just park it in a field, put an awning on it and live in it for the rest of my days.

The weather is key. Simple glorious blue skies are nice but beaten hands down by sunny skies with intermittent rain or hail showers and with a gale force wind to drive the clouds like wild horses across the sky. This gives the sky the best cloud formations short of James and the Giant Peach. Time of day makes a difference too, coastal road trips are much more fun (and make for better photos) if you get to squint into the sun at some point, and the shadows it makes are immense.

So I got to Ballymena and turned right for Cushendall (one of these places yo see on Angie‘s map on Newsline 6.30 and makes you wonder who lives there), and end up on a windy wee rising road through such places as Martinstown. (a Kiwi name if ever i heard one. Incidentally for the Kiwi’s reading – both of you – there’s a place in NI called Carnalridge.)

All this of course reminds me of NZ (which reminded me of Ireland in the first place). The Antrim plateau has always been sold to me as somewhere bleak and barren and miserable and somehow I took that in a negative way. The road down to Cushendall and beyond is now one of my new favorite places.

I parked in the car park to get out and take photos of the beach and the cliffs and received sympathetic stares from the locals in the pub overlooking the harbour. The standard ‘blooming tourists’ type look. it of course being inappropriate for Irish people to be amazed by their own scenery.

The Antrim coast road is in no way a closely guarded secret, indeed it’s well renowned as one of our better tourist spots. It’s just that somehow I’ve never made it here.

The Torr head road is sensibly singed that it is unsuitable for coaches and buses. Though having driven it I’m pretty sure it’s unsuitable for cars as well, the lanes apparently having been marked out as a cycle path and certinly not wide enough to take a car. But I’m glad it’s still there all the same. I ended up doing  my usual and stopping the car every 5 minutes to get out and take photos and then realise 2 minutes up the road that there’s a much nicer photo to be had. I have now tested every remote car park along the way and driven down every dead end track.

I was confused for a while in how Rathlin Island looked so big and indeed appeared to have mountains further down the coast, till I realised that it was actually the Mull of Kintyre and Scotland beyond.

Beaches and oceans get me every time. As they say in Chile – winner.


One Horse Town

wales08.jpgOn the road again. It has been at least 3 months. I need little road trips to make up for the lack of flying, and general lack of NZ in my life, I’m not sure it takes my mind off things. Probably makes it worse, but then why not live a little eh?…

This is a farewell trip, farewell to wales. Farewell to the valleys. Farewell to Ruabon… where I hear you ask?

Ruabon is a village just south of Wrexham, just over the border in wales. To be honest it seems pretty English, except the signs are in a funny language as well as English, which is I suppose at least like home. I’m not sure what I’d expect to find in a welsh village, but I always expected more of male voice choirs and ex-stereophonics drinking in old men’s pubs. Maybe that’s unfair.

I have two friends from home (uni mates) who work here. To be honest I forget how they ended up here in the first place but I imagine it was pretty random. We’ve made the odd trip over on previous occasions to halve average age in the pub and go to Alton Towers.

But it’s all coming to an end. Both Nicci and Skaters are coming home to jobs in the homeland. They’ve enjoyed wales but its time is done.

So 15 (yes 15 – it’s a good turn out the organising committee are most chuffed) of us by road and boat and air have made it to Ruabon to watch Ireland disintegrate in front of an equally dreadful england team and celebrate as wales play out of their skins against the Frenchies.

So now we sit, packed into the living room listening to Fred’s cheesiest iPod playlist and watching Big G put his all into singing along with total eclipse of the heart, complete with 80s power ballad moves.

It was the best of times it was the worst of times.

Day 5 – Country Roads

One of the nice things about road-trips is that you’ve no real plans for what to do, and if you’re me nothing really else in your diary to keep you busy. As a result you drive where you please, till you run out of ideas or get sick of your companions, or the Volvo breathes its last.

I’d phoned home to speak to Dad and find out how his first outpatient appointment had gone and I suppose that brought a lot of stuff back to me. Talk of chemo and weight and cancer remembering the past 3 months. And I suppose that was road-trip over for me. In my head anyway. I realized I’d not really thought of Dad for 4 days (which was the kind of the point of road-trip) but that 4 days was long enough and I waned to be at home again (which was kind of the point of me not being in NZ).

I’d been away for a year and now I was getting homesick after 4 days. Weird huh?

But we still had the whole day ahead of us and we decided to switch coasts and take a drive through the Wicklow mountains. If only cause the N6/M50/M1 sequence just wasn’t scenic enough.

Two major highlights:

library-5493.jpg1) Glendalough – I have vague memories of this as a kid. Why my parents were walking me through ancient graveyards at the age of 6 is beyond me, no doubt some educational/cultural value… It is kind of a cool place and it scares the willies out of you thinking about sitting out a bunch of Viking raiders up a stone tower in Medieval Ireland – even if St Patrick had already got rid of the snakes…

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2) The general scenery – Ireland does bleakness very well. The vast open expanse of the peat covered hills, topped with cloud and mist. Nice to see from a car at speed. The other bonus was autumn. If it wasn’t for the rain and cold it would probably go down as my favourite season.

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By the time we reach the south end of the M50 it’s dark and rush hour’s just starting and dual carriageway takes us all the way home (along the new bit of the A1 I’ve never been on before, making me miss my last chance for cheap fuel) in the mighty Volvo 850 which, fittingly has covered just under 850 miles in the last 5 days. Good times.

Long live the road trip.

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Day 4 – No fear of falling

To finish off last night.

There was a brief jacuzzi. Though it was just me and Sparky wearing swimming caps (one of those swimming pools) and while it was indeed bubble-tastic it had a bit of a municipal swimming pool feel to it.

We ended the night in the local chinese served by someone we came to affectionately know as smiler. It wasn’t her fault, it just took her a while to warm to us, and a few rounds of ‘hum an appropriate tune when she comes past’. Sparks led with smile like you mean it and I followed with cheer up sleepy jean.

As always it turned out she was a lovely wee lady, who by the end of the meal was asking us where we were from and what we were doing in Clifden. In an even more random set of circumstamces she also had a second job cleaning in the hotel we were staying when we met her the next morning.

We cleared out of Clifden quick smart, the weather still being half reasonable. We had a lovely drive, hugging the coast round to Galway. Made all the better for some random jazz and some early Pete Wilson stuff Jonny had sequestered about his ipod. Journeys are all the more memorable for a cohesive album than just the ipod on random.

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My lasting memory of Connemara is rocks. Lots and lost of rocks. As if the staple crop were not library-5435.jpgpotatoes but stones. Sewn in spring as pebbles and nurtured with copious amounts of wind and pissy weather until they’re ready to harvest in late autumn, fully matured into Ireland’s finest rocks. Plucked from their native dirt and transported a yard and a half to the middle of their current field to take part in a whole new wall of loosely aligned rocks to further subdivide their birth place.

The fields didn’t even have sheep in them. Sheep will eat any type of chlorophyll containing substance but simply draw the line at having to digest and metabolise rocks.

Back to Galway. We ended up in a Jury’s Inn by lunchtime. Getting a much larger room than last night for a third of the price. Most impressed. Right on the Spanish Arch too.

library-5455.jpgTo fill the afternoon we headed to the south side of the bay, through Lisdoonvarna (the home of Europe’s biggest singles/dating event – man I wish we’d got a photo outside that sign) to the cliffs of Moher.

The cliffs are an impressive set of sheer drops overlooking the barren Arran (do you like what I’ve done there…) islands. I didn’t know they even existed till about two years ago.

They charge a modest 8 euro for the parking priviledge and then you’re free to explore and let your small children run wild beside a 300 foot drop. To be fair they have put up a fairly substantial barrier and keep you well back from the edge.

Until you reach the limits of state owned land there’s nothing but a rather large sign telling you inlibrary-5474.jpg three languages (English, French, German and astoundingly not Irish) not to pass go and not to collect 200 as this here land is private land and careful now you just might die.

This advice was thankfully being dutifully ignored in at least 10 different languages (including Irish this time) as one and all hopped the fence to climb a narrow mud path skirting the cliffs to see whether the grass is indeed always greener on the other side.

The wind was fierce to say the least and there was always the awkward question of etiquette when allowing someone coming the other direction to pass. Do you keep your nerves intact by forcing them to pass on the cliff side or risk a hasty death in order to get a smile and a thank you out of the pretty girl comng towards you. After my performance today, I’m pretty sure I’ll be around for a while yet…

On the way back we had one more box to tick (such a hypocrite…). Sparks and the Office had found directions to the house used in Father Ted last year and had done a brief road trip to Galway (and ended up sleeping in the car) last year and got a great photo outside the most famous parochial house in the world.

library-5480.jpgI’d managed to find the same directions, with such helpful hints as turn right at the red phone box. To be honest if Sparks hadn’t already been there we would have turned back, the road becoming more like that corridor in Alice in wonderland that becomes narrower and smaller the further you go along it.

Yet after 5 minutes up an upmarked road (which had been suspiciously recently resurfaced) where the trees and bushes almost met in the middle, the road opened out to reveal a rock strewn ridge in the background with the famous house in the foreground. The toyota corolla parked outside didn’t really fit and the statue of our lady was missing but otherwise you were right there in Ted land.

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Round off the evening with a simply fantastic meal in an Italian restaurant just down the street (from the hotel not Ted‘s house), with lost of pasta type things I couldn’t even pronounce. I had raw beef for starters. Winner.

And so now I’ve abandoned the boys with their Potters (numbers 6 and 7) and sit in the bar on my own on my second run through In Rainbows quietly judging the punters around me. Maybe I could be back in NZ after all.

Day 3 – Harbortown

Having sorted out the brief temporal disturbance, and realizing that we’d almost missed breakfast, we sat down to a feed of sausages, bacon, black and white pudding, eggs and lashings (yes Enid Blyton is alive and well…) of tea and coffee. Our fry in seems to be lacking in potato bread and soda bread, that which makes for the famed Ulster fry. Though I’m not sure I want to make breakfast into a political statement by asking for some. I did wear my Ireland rugby top, though I admit that of all our sports tops that’s the least likely to be politically offensive, unlike the Man United top, which although politically neutral generates a whole new brand of sectarian hatred in everyone’s hearts.

The drive to Westport was wet and bumpy and almost resulted in a serious car accident when some Muppet pulled out in front of the office.

We kept getting stuck in queues of traffic outside chapels in small towns, as legions of the faithful piled out from mass into the narrow streets to escape the rain.

Just as we approached the doo lough pass the skies began to clear giving us a vista over the hills of Connemara, transporting us from the cloudy damp west coast or Irelandglen.jpg to somewhere just outside Glencoe. If this is somewhere in Ireland you haven’t visited then make a point of visiting it.

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The view did bring about a brief period of giddiness and some minor nudity (note – arses have been [poorly] altered to disguise identity) among the lads but this passed before it was drawn to the attention of the local Gardai (all one of them).

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From there the road followed the river out to where it entered Kilary harbour, the only fjord in Ireland (said in a Father Ted “I hear t’is the largest launduret department in Ireland…” stylee). This is another place you need to see.

At the head of the harbour are the Aasleagh falls. Again worth seeing. In fact it’s all good and I’ll leave the Bord Failte stuff to … Well.. Bord Failte I suppose.

I have this unforgettable places to see before you die book. Which is a bit of morbid and strange title but anyhow… And Kilary harbour is in there, along with the Giant’s Causeway. So I suppose that’s two done. The idea of box-ticking travelling now repels me – even though it didn’t only 2 years ago. Funny how you don’t notice things change in you.

library-5388.jpgWe stopped briefly at Kylemore abbey – a big kick ass 19th century mansion place that was taken over (though not in the military sense) by a bunch of nuns from Ypres who lost their convent (in the military sense) in France during WW2 and were given refuge in Ireland. To be fair they could have done worse, ending up in a mansion running an exclusive boarding school. Vows of poverty eh? Who needs em?

library-5301.jpgAnd so eventually we come to Clifden, a nice wee village that’s seen the benefit of some N6 Euros from Dublin, and now sports a spanking new hotel complex with a mini shopping arcade below.

We get the last room in the place. And while more pricey than a room above a pub in Newport it does give us access to a jacuzzi.

Of note this has been a bit of a soft, southern shandy drinking road trip for Nelly. Yes I do like sleeping in my car, yes I do enjoy not washing for several days in a row and eating cold noodles off a trangia. But I suppose road trip is more about the collective than the individual. And the collective isn’t up for the back of the Volvo (in any sense!!!) or cold noodles or not washing. And well to argue would just be rude wouldn’t it. Yes, rude, wouldn’t dare… Oh yes could you fluff another pillow for my back please… Ahhh…

Day 1- Road to Nowhere

The boys have jobs and stuff and real lives so we don’t leave till after 5pm on Friday, joining the crowds of half-termers fleeing the family home for a small fiberglass box on wheels or a grim B&B on a cliff top.

The idea of weekends scares me sometimes. That you work all week and then spend two and a half days in celebration of freedom from your chosen occupation and then go straight back to it all on Monday. I have this thing against enforced, corporate happiness. That anybody can tell you how and when to be happy based on market and social demographics.

Maybe that just leaves me a grumpy old git who’s emotionally stunted and unable to relate to the majority of the population.

Maybe it just lets me think I’m better than everyone else.

Goodness such self-analysis and only three paragraphs in. Will endeavor to refrain from such.

The mighty Volvo is packed and loaded for the craic, even brought the guitar in the hope of some inspired sessions on a beach somewhere.

The boys (Jonny– who designs and engineers large green machines for separating rocks;

 

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and Sparks – who endeavors to teach young humanoids how to form words and sentences in a cohesive manner)

 

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seem intent on naming the poor car, as if it was somehow unhappy with its current moniker of car and Volvo 850. I’m all for personification of inanimate objects but I’m not sure they need a stereotypical fiddly-dee Irish name for that to happen. And I was never going to let Victor the Viagra fueled Volvo stick. Without putting up a bit of a fight anyhow.

As the west bound M1 petered out we made it through the wall of mizzle and cloud to see a glorious autumn sky and the sun setting. About as glorious as Ballygawley ever gets anyway.

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We got briefly lost in Sligo, thankfully not eaten by the natives before getting on the N15 (funny how planned and organized the roads sound when you give them a alphanumerical title, making a winding lane between farmhouses sound like a major communications artery) to Bundoran.

We’re staying in Mullaghmore, just north of Sligo in what I imagine would be some pretty spectacular scenery if it wasn’t raining and night time. Given that it nearly always rains, then the scenery is only fantastic for about 3 days a year when Bord Failte comes and takes all the photos for the ads.

By the time we got here the restaurant was near closing and we managed to throw a few steaks and a pint of the black stuff down us before a dander along the harbour and making of plans for the morrow.

Hotel is nice, better than sleeping in the Volvo at least. Though I am sharing a bed with a grown man, which always seems to be the problem of three single blokes looking accommodation together.

At least we got a sea view. Hopefully it’ll look pretty here in the morning. Prettier than Jonny will anyhow…

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On the road (again)

Nelly is off into the wilds of the west coast of Ireland, with a few muppets in the volvo for a few days. With luck we’ll find Father Ted’s house, the only Fjord (no Mondeo jokes…) in Ireland and if we’re really lucky the holy stone of Clontibbert.

It even appears we’ll be blessed with classic Irish weather. Makes me wonder why I got a car with a sun roof.

So expect the return to old form of a ‘blog a day’, Kiwi road trip, except with less surfing and lying in the sun.

Long live the road trip.

Zen and the art of Mitsubishi RVR maintenance

So begins another road trip blog. I worked out I’ve had three months holiday in the past twelve. That’s teacher’s holidays…

With the lads here, I’d booked a few days off and we planned a wee south island road trip/ski trip. I’d just finished my last night shift, which thankfully had been a quiet one. I drove the 4 hours to Wellington fueled on coffee and chocolate brownies. I flaked out in the car waiting for the ferry.

It’s not really sleep; it’s just a slightly lowered level of consciousness, or cognitive dissociation (as Forbes calls the ICU craziness that patients tend to get). When you wake up you have the slightly warm fuzz in your head from being not entirely awake but I still remember every song that’s been played since I passed out.

The ferry was dark and cold and uneventful, I woke from my slightly obtunded state as we pulled into Picton. We stayed the night in the motor camp in Picton, the third time I’ve stayed there now. Tucked up in my sleeping bag I slept as if it was the last I’d have for a while.
We took the scenic route to Christchurch, if only cause the main road was undergoing road works and was only open for 15 minutes every 2 hours. The scenic route goes down the middle of the south island, criss crossing mountain ranges, rivers and the Lewis pass.

Again, I’m likely to struggle with adjectives again here. The south island in good weather is simply stunning. If you want descriptions then just get a few photos off google. NZ has been referred to as GOD’s own country. Impeccable taste I must say.

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Clear blue skies, about 4 degrees, a light dusting of snow on the peaks of the hills, driving along empty roads, lined by vineyards, turned brown by the winter. Good tunes, good coffee, shame about the company… Only kidding lads. Honestly.

The first warning was when the windscreen suddenly steamed up out of the blue. No obvious reason, just steamed up. Two, actually maybe more like 10 minutes later, I notice the temperature gauge on the dash is reading high. This has never happened before so I’m surprised to see it’s up. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. Does it measure oil, engine or water temperature? Anyhow I knew it was bad.

We stopped at the side of the road, opened the bonnet and stared bewildered at the steaming mass of complicated metal before us. Of course none of us let on we were bewildered. We all pontificated about radiators and valves and pistons and what the problem was. Each of us with as much authority as a democratically elected Iraqi president.
Having found the radiator and the cap and scalded our hands letting out the steam, we topped up with a bottle of NZ’s finest spring water and drove off again. We were in the middle of nowhere, roughly 300 km from Christchurch.

This lasted us about an hour till the needle on the temp gauge started to rise again. Now I’m worried. We follow the same procedure and top up the radiator with about three liters, with the engine running to avoid air locking it (helpful advice from crazy old man who stopped to help us). At this point it’s entering my head that we’re putting an awful lot of water in and it has to be going somewhere. None of us vocalize this.

By now we’ve got four one liter bottles that we’re filling up from streams we pass. The good thing about NZ is that the river water is probably cleaner than the stuff out of the taps. Half the fun is tramping off though fields in search of streams for water. The water so icy cold it hurts your hands to fill the bottles.

We’re running bets on when we’re gonna need to refill the radiator again. Winner gets to pick three songs in a row off the ipod instead of the one at a time that we’ve limited ourselves to.
Best one is when it overheats 200m short of the Lewis pass in the snow, we pull over, open the bonnet and cover the engine in snow to cool it off. This is the sixth stop. We’re getting about a half hour driving at a time, as long as we don’t have to go uphill.

The first place of any size we come to is hanmer springs (pop 750) and on the road into the township we limp onto a garage forecourt. The mechanic is as I expect. Diagnoses the problem from 10 m away (‘I can tell you from here that it’s your fuel pump’) and fills us with fear about what could have happened (‘just hope you haven’t blown your head gasket’ – with the same tone as if al-qaeda had just gone nuclear). He sounds like he knows what we’re talking about. Though that’s not hard. None of us ask what a head gasket is.

Bad news is, it’ll take a few days to repair. So we’re in the middle of nowhere, neither near where we came from nor near to where we’re going. It’s 5pm and it’s below freezing. We’ve now lost our sole means of transport.

Within 60 minutes we’ve rented a new car (the guy even came and picked us up), got a motel, have the car safely at the garage, and we’re sitting in a 40 degree thermal hot spa at the springs. Spud says the key is keeping calm. I say the keys are mobile phones and credit cards.

Between us we get it right.

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.


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July 2020
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