'A raw clove of garlic and a pint of Mac's please?!'

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March 18th 2008
Published: April 16th 2008
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Franz JosefFranz JosefFranz Josef

The view down the valley
We sit in a quirky café full of old radios, some as big as side-boards, drinking flat whites, long blacks and hot chocolates and spread the map out on the floor. Like in Mary Poppins, I want to jump into the map, but everyone's too busy pointing at different parts of the island they want to visit. Exhausted someone says 'enough!', the map is folded and we get into the car, too much planning, let's just get on the road.

The stereo doesn't work, so Sean takes these luminous yellow speakers out and props them up on his backpack. 'Jaysus, they're from a Sony sportsman' someone says and we reminisce about the late 1980s to the sound of good tunes. We stop in Hokitika and it's a lot quieter now the festival is over. We go to this café that's called something like '100 Teapots' and true enough there are teapots fancy, big, small, gaudy and kitsch proudly on display. The ladies working there are all frantic and anxious, each order seems to confuse them greatly, and the queue is long but we're in no hurry. When it comes to our turn we smile sympathetically as we're told '...no, none of those left, no none of those either, and it will take twenty minutes to get wedges, but we can have our sandwiches now, our tea in a few minutes and no, we've none of those either...'. They must take kindly to us as we're given extra portions to make up for the delay, so thumbs up! Ali spots Pancakes with banana and bacon on the menu and orders it thinking it will come with one or the other, but it turns out it comes with both (I'm actually quite fond of them). Afterwards we drive a while before spotting a sign for a lake, so Gertie's brakes are applied and we go for a stroll finding a wooden pier, a great place for a post lunch sit and yap.

Later we mosey on down the road, letting Gertie decide where to take us. We stop in a small town called Ross, it seems pretty sleepy and we poke our noses around a few doors, calling into an old pub where every square centimetre is crammed with interesting bits and bobs. There's a sign saying they have cabins so we ask the owner if we can have a look,
Lake Wanaka at duskLake Wanaka at duskLake Wanaka at dusk

Even the ducks were serene
he shows us and we decide that we'll have a look around further (they're pretty basic) Across the road Ali spots a sign for a 'Curio Room' and so we go over where the woman who lives there tells us sadly that 'since my parents died last year, I haven't opened it.' We hint (heavily) that we're still curio-us, but the lady isn't biting, so we decide to go onto this other hostel called 'the old church' a few miles away, which unsurprisingly used to be a church. On the road, someone decides that it's pretty creepy to stay in an old church and starts telling ghost stories (featuring four people travelling in a car called Gertie...you got the picture). Everyone joins in, and it gets gruesome real fast. We pile out and look around the gorgeous picturesque old church, deciding that it'll do. Then we go off in search of food and booze, and head to the next town where the 'Puke Pub' does possum pies. The stories start all over again, and then Sean puts on spooky music and Alan starts talking about how the landscape reminds him of the Shining and all of a sudden I have
Paddy's Day in WanakaPaddy's Day in WanakaPaddy's Day in Wanaka

Aoife, Ali, Sean & Alan
a shiver down my spine and am a bit creeped out (it doesn't take much).

We pass this car parked on the side of the road, the owner indicating something to us, we think maybe it's a breakdown, and then that starts a whole load of creepy stories about breakdowns/fake breakdowns/grimness/doom/bloody death. A few minutes we pass another car doing the same on the other side of the road and then cop on that there must be an accident ahead. Sure enough there is, and the road's pretty shut down by the sounds of things, so we turn around and head back to that town Ross again. After having our tea (sadly no possum on the menu) we decide on a quick game of pool in the old pub we were in earlier.

This is Ali's first game ever and to be honest we're all not sure whether she's hustling us as she pots some pretty cool shots. She also christens the balls, 'plains' and 'fancies' which to be honest is so ace that the last time I played pool (in Chile where we are at the mo) I couldn't remember what they were called before. But then
Teapot, Sean, HokitikaTeapot, Sean, HokitikaTeapot, Sean, Hokitika

We return to the scene of earlier culinary crimes for lunch
we did play a good bit of pool over the road-trip. The fire is crackling and the pub is quite lively, full of truckers and men talking over pints.

The bar-man, a tall man with tumbling grey hair and a face that looked as though it could tell some stories, comes over and asks us if we're going to stay after all. We thank him but say we're staying down the road. He says his name is Marcus, tells us to use the juke-box and even takes my mug (I'm driving) and makes me more coffee just cause he's nice. After a few more games of pool we're getting into it. Marcus comes back over and has a chat with us, puts some Cold Chisel (his favourite band) and a bit of Creedence Clearwater on the juke-box. Later still he comes over again and it turns out that he's from Perth and has a real love of Ireland, he even has a tatoo of the Ogham alphabet, so we show him our wedding rings (which have each other's name in ogham on them) and he shakes his head, delighted.

The bar empties out and it ends up being the four of us, Marcus and a man called Darryl, who's living in Colorado but has bought some land in Ross and is celebrating, and we have a great night. Marcus has travelled all around the place, and tells us about South America and Ireland back when he was there in the early 1980s. We remember it too, but I suppose My Little Ponies and Transformers weren't what he we went to Ireland for. At some point he brings out bulbs of garlic and don't ask me how but he talks a good talk and so all six of us sit there eating a whole clove of garlic each, it's quite solemn actually that bit. Later he tells us all about Spongebob his mate who lives in Franz Joseph and tells us to call in on him as he makes great pizza.

The pints are flowing and needless to say at some point we decide that we'll just stay in the cabins rather than the Old Church the craic is so good. He gives us advice on where to go on our road trip, and we talk about San Franz Disco (Marcus's name for Franz Joseph) and Rota-vegas (Rotarua, not sure if Marcus came up with this one though) and of course about life, the universe and everything in it, a great night. When we go to bed we realise there's no bedcovers and when the heater is on, it's one of those old fashioned coil ones above the top bunks, I wake up feeling as though my face is cooking.

The next morning, our heads thumping and our hearts happy, we sit in the kitchen eating our breakfast chatting with this couple from Auckland who happen to walk by when Marcus arrives in to say goodbye. And then when we were packing our car, Marcus arrived again carrying a big brown paper bag filled with the freshest of vegetables - peppers, tomatoes, onions, chillies and of course garlic - straight from his garden. We were overwhelmed with his generosity and hospitality, he's a great guy. Gertie set off down the road to the Puke Pub for some possum pie, sadly it is closed but we go into the shop across the road, which is a very strange shop full of all these signs warning you not to touch anything unless you're buying it and threatening your life
Glacier, conqueredGlacier, conqueredGlacier, conquered

Alan's post-glacial glow
if you stean anything and also moaning about tourists who moan, moaning about how hard they have to work. We guess it's a joke but we're so wrecked that we don't really get it, and so we look from a distance at possum hats and dresses. Outside there are deer and goats so we feed them, they get into the grub, licking our hands, mmm.

In Whataroa we stop for lunch - lots of cheese, bacon, wedges and coffee to make us feel more awake. A gang of bikers are chilling out on the front porch and Ali wants to leave with them and become a Hell's Angel. The people working in the bar get very flustered over my order of a long black with cold milk on the side and so I order a flat white getting flustered myself. Later they and the cook come out to meet us and we chat for awhile. The man from Auckland that we talked to that morning comes walking by and we feel like we live there or something, bumping into people like that. On we drive arriving in San Franz Disco (remembering Marcus). We're pretty wrecked and book into a
Franz JosefFranz JosefFranz Josef

Alan lurks in a crevasse
tour of the glacier the next day (the lads are going 'extreme' and go for a full-day while Ali and I opt for a snooze in the morning and half-day on the ice). That night Sean and Ali cook a yummy pasta dinner using loads of Marcus' fresh tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onion, mmm delicious. Cream-crackered we fall into bed and when I wake the guys are already glacier bound, but rolling over for another few hours kip is soooo nice that I don't regret not going.

Ali and I get all togged up for the ice-hike and get on the bus. After a small tramp we see the glacier up close and it's pretty amazing, a river of glacier water gushing by. Even closer we see how dirty the ice is at the bottom, and the occasional falling chunk of ice or stone adds to the atmosphere. Robin our guide helps us put our 'crampons' on the bottom of the boots we've borrowed. They are quite noisy making that nails on blackboard sound I'm so fond of. The group breaks into smaller groups and we head up the first stage, which is steps that the guides have cut into
First to 45?First to 45?First to 45?

Aoife and Ali battle it out over the hostel's table in Wanaka. Many, many games were played...
the ice. They have to do this every single day and during the day have to hack away at the ice to ensure the path is ok to go up. It's pretty intense Robin there chopping away with the axe and I find myself thinking of the Shining a lot (thanks Alan for putting that in my head the day before). When we get up further it's pretty amazing, and I have this nanosecond moment where I think 'this is a river of frozen ice' and imagine it melting and being swept away. We see an ice-cave and walk down through an arch which is quite steep. When we rest Robin lets us use her axe for photos and I can't resist saying, 'here's Johnny' as I bash the ice. We yap with a girl called Catherine from the North Circular Road in Dublin and all to soon it's time to come down again. We leave feeling exhilerated and as though we should have done the full-day hike. We're starving so head into a café for some nachos and as we finish the two lads walk by. I nearly don't recognise Alan (the beard he started growing is getting big
A picturesque pier A picturesque pier A picturesque pier

Somewhere on the road to Ross
and he looks very outdoorsy) and they are totally buzzing, we go for a pint and look at their photos, they had to go through some very narrow and deep crevasses, but absolutely loved it. Later we go out to find Sponge-bob and sure enough he's there making pizzas. We get two huge ones with Kumara (sweet potato) and extra cheese. They're like pies, deep dish and gooey with stringy melty cheese and absolutey divine.

The next day we head off again after finding out that the ATM is broken. 'Aw we'll be grand' we say and on with the music and away with Gertie. We stop at this viewing place where you can see whales sometimes. The view is amazing but we don't see any whales. Later we think about going for a swim on this beach and walk down, getting bitten by sand-flies as we walk. The bites are lethal, hurting a little when they happen and then getting so scratchy for days afterwards. Still the beach is spectacular so we wander around, paddling a bit. A big wave surprises Ali and I and we get soaked much to the amusement of Alan and Sean, who incidentally
This way trouble liesThis way trouble liesThis way trouble lies

An eerie iron man points the way on the road to Ross
saw it coming and decided to photograph it instead of warning us, nice. After a few more hours in the car we decide to stop in Haast for some food. Sitting out on the deck we see this Chaplinesque drama where these young guys drive off with a load of stuff sitting on their roof. Onlookers shout and wave their hands to alert the guys, but being complete idiots the guys just rev up the engine louder and accelerate faster, the stuff on the roof being distributed all over the place. About ten minutes later the guys come back. They must have realised what happened, and they stop every now and then to pick up their stuff. Gas. We decide to get some groceries in town and hopefully an ATM, before heading off to Jackson Bay to find somewhere to stay if we can. There are groceries alright, and even a six pack of sassy red Mac's beer, but no ATM, so we head off with some food and the last few notes and coppers. Jackson bay turns out to be tiny, a pier and a fish restaurant called 'The Claypot' and that's about it, we wander down the pier

The lake is a flooded mineshaft, and is over 90 metres deep!
watching the boats and enjoying the beautiful view. Later we stop off in this backpackers place called 'Jimbos' which turns out to be three portacabins bedecked with mod cons, the doors unlocked and Jimbo nowhere to be found. It all looks so cosy and nice that we're charmed with the idea of staying there. We drive off for a ramble on the beach, passing by this very strange little house with loads of wellington boots upturned on sticks and a fake (I hope) skeleton dressed up... cue more freaky horror stories. When we reach the beach we're greeted by happy dogs and a load of holiday makers travelling in buses turned into campervans are sitting on deck chairs with beers chatting, smoking and looking at us. We yap to them for a while and wander down the beach.

By the time we get back there's still no sign of Jim. There's a sign saying it's twenty five dollars per person a night so we count out all our change, even turning our bags out and fumbling around for our coppers but we only have ninety three dollars twenty cents so we're short. It doesn't look like the type of
The famous Empire Hotel, RossThe famous Empire Hotel, RossThe famous Empire Hotel, Ross

Our home for a very memorable evening!
place to take visa. But we want to stay, surely Jimbo will understand. Ali and I go in search of his house and find it (there's a sign on the door saying 'JIM LIVES HERE'), but there's nobody home, so we write a note to shove under the door-knob. As we do, we hear this voice thunder out from the garage saying 'are you there?' and both of us leg it, stopping a few yards down. 'It must have been a ham radio in the garage' I say doubtfully. We're not going back anyway and head to the portacabin. The guys are nowhere to be seen so we ramble around the rooms looking for them. As we chat about Jim and head into the bedroom suddenly 'AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH' they pounce out from behind the door.

After composing ourselves we give them withering glances and settle into our chosen portacabin get out the cards and try to agree the rules for Switch, arguing over the various types of Switch different people know and eventually agreeing, Sean taking notes in case of future disagreements. A few hands of Switch in and we decide to keep scores. Sean has his pen at the
Pool sharks Pool sharks Pool sharks

This was the first time Ali had ever played pool, she claimed...
ready. A few more rounds in and it's getting going. Everyone's watching each other, cursing it when a 'two' appears from the player before them, unless they have one to put down and then there's double courses on both parties. Another round in and we're all thinking about the Sassy-Red beers chilling in the fridge. The guys eventually offer to see if Jimbo has returned and head off. We chat and turn on the TV and then there's this 'SSSSSSSSSSSSSSCritchSSSSSSSSSSSSScritch' noise from the TV, but we turn it off, and the sound keeps coming so maybe it's coming from outside the window. Ali pulls open the curtains to check and there's Sean in the black night with his torch shining on his face. B*stard. Alan comes in the door completely red and holding his stomach he's laughing so much so I hit him on the head.

The cards are calling us and someone breaks and we crack open the beers. Then all four of us get hungry, thinking of the fresh food in the fridge and the end of Marcus's vegetables, those juicy tomatoes and spicy garlic, just waiting to be cooked. Knives and chopping boards are taken out and as we begin to get cooking there's the sound of tyres on gravel and lights shine in from the car. We chat frantically about the money and who should say what, Sean nominating himself for the job. Jim comes up to the door, looking a bit confused, I don't think he was expecting to have visitors waiting for him. I look at him and then remember all the creepy stories. 'What if this isn't Jim at all? Maybe he's a loonie escaped from prison or a mental home?' Then as he turns to show us something, I notice that on the back of his wellies the word 'JIMBO' is written in white. It turns out that the portacabin we've chosen is the 'family portacabin' so it's seventy five dollars in total not a hundred. We smile and nod, handing him a bundle of notes and coins, delighted with ourselves. He tells us that his wife is away and she normally handles the business, he was out fishing all day. After he leaves we high five each other and have our dinner quickly, wanting to get back to playing cards.

The next morning we head off again, down through

Pulling our own pints after lock-in!
even more beautiful countryside, stopping off to look at Fox's Glacier and the usual random things such as a shed painted camoflage with 'Sssh' on the door. We stand curious and soon enough the farmer's father-in-law drives by and stops to explain all. Later we stop at a waterfall and paddle for a while, then head off past beautiful lakes and the views are so gorgeous that we have to stop again, so our tummies are rumbling as we make it arriving with eighteen dollars twenty cents and practically no petrol to Wanaka. We find an ATM and practically get on our knees to worship it. Then off to have some Gourmet Burgers, where Sean bumps into Serena and Beth, two sound Canadians who he knew from when he was living in Auckland. They are working in Wanaka and are very friendly. We chat for awhile before heading off to find a hostel. We end up spending a few days there, walking and cycling around the lake, playing pool and becoming obsessive about table-tennis (there was a table in the hostel, and if you were staying there during this time, sorry yes we are the annoying people who always used
Oh dear...Oh dear...Oh dear...

Things get hazy afterhours
the table). We celebrated Paddy's Day by doing a tour of the pubs, meeting up with Serena, Beth and a whole other group of people we met, even bagging a green hat from a man called Jeremy who looked like Anthony Kiedis and was very intense, his long black hair swaying as he said 'you care too much about people, that's your trouble' to me, we'd only just met and so I nodded politely. He solemnly placed the hat on my head, I don't know, but thanks for the hat Jeremy!

All in all it was great fun and we weren't even sure if we wanted to head to Queenstown. On the way out of town we stop in 'Puzzling World' where we dash around a maze, knocking five year olds out of the way and pointing at three year olds who were sneaking under the fence saying 'cheater'. There are some really demented holograms, one of a clown freaks us all out. Then we go into this room of disorientation and only find our way out three weeks later. Did somebody say Bungee?


Additional photos below
Photos: 61, Displayed: 36


From these handsFrom these hands
From these hands

Fresh garlic from Marcus' own vegetable garden ...shortly before he talked us into eating a raw clove!
The gang's all hereThe gang's all here
The gang's all here

Daryl, Aoife, Alan, Sean, Marcus & Ali


7th December 2010
Blue ice, blue skies

Cool picture!

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