Published: March 4th 2009March 4th 2009
A cheap shot but who can resist taking the puss out of the keewee accint? It's not so easy, in fact well nigh impossible, to be cynical concerning the South Island's environmental backdrops. For a bloke normally averse to sitting behind the wheel, I've taken quite a shine to slowly cruising amongst New Zealand's majestic alpine scenery. Every bend in the road leads to the requisite oohs and aahs from the front seat. One easy hour out of Christchurch and the full roll call of scenic boxes are being ticked off:
. precipitous mountains - tick.
. waterfalls that hang like strings of spaghetti from those mountains - tick.
. babbling brooks/creeks/rivers - tick.
. thick, verdant forests - tick.
. deep blue mountain fringed lakes - tick.
. craggy glaciers - tick.
. Lord of the Rings film locations - tick.
The campervan also allows us the "luxury" of pulling over for the night wherever any of these sights may tickle our fancy, although a few logistical issues needed to be sorted out early on. ie. sleeping arrangements - the loft or the dining area. I was a fan of the loft but Penny was showing a preference for the
lower alternative. Being the man and all, I put my foot down and so upstairs (or upladder) it was.
Day 2 dawns and the score was Colvin 1, Yeates zero. From there on it was downstairs comfort all the way. (no need for the gory details but I no longer fear awakening in a coffin, I've already done it - claustraphobics beware the loft in a campervan).
Now to tread where no self-respecting writer should ever tread in the first chapter - TOILETS. But when you're struglling for ideas, the poo shop will never let you down. So 2 early experiences:
1. The public toilet in Franz Josef. First press the outer green button and the door slides open, inviting the protagonist through to the bowels of something akin to an ablutionary Starship Enterprise. This is followed by a smooth American accent requesting you to push the interior green button to close the previously mentioned door from where you are informed that you have 10 minutes to complete your activities (that must put a lot of pressure on the poor sole struggling to push out a number inside that time frame when I assume the door slides open again to
reveal all and sundry to the passing trade in Main Street). The process is also accompanied by iconic elevator music (for me it was Richard Claderman's dulcit version of "I just called to say I love you"). Latrine heaven and all FREE - (take note Europe).
2. Fox Glacier - can somebody please explain why my lovely wife will not raise even the most remote of snickers at any joke or TV/movie comedy scene - not even THE SIMPSONS! BUT - lock yourself inside a public toilet and she buckles over in uncontrolled guffawing. You'd think my plaintive cries for help may have led to some assistance from the outside, but no, just more outbursts of histerical laughter. For anybody visiting the Fox Glacier, avoid the 3rd toilet from the left at the entrance to the carpark - IT'S A MINEFIELD.
Such minor incidents have been a mere distraction to what has been a sensational first week. The locals are charming and amicable to a fault, we've tapped into the pulse of the Kiwi culture via a brace of earthy Pinot Noirs and we've slogged out a swag of klms on some magnificent trails. I can't believe I've waited 31
Mt Aspiring National Park -
make hay while the sun don't shine
years to return.
Oh, and one final observation (whinge). The Kiwi (the literal one) has been usurped as the nation's National bird. That mantle has been assumed by the sandfly. They are everywhere and as annoying as an English Rugby supporter following the World Cup 2003. Don't forget your insect repellent.
There are more photos below