Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Parent's Own Words.....

I asked my parents to write a bit about their visit and their thoughts on New Zealand. They didn't let me down! Great reading - I know where I got my love of writing from now!


Our first visit to ‘Godzone’ was way back in 1990. We flew in to Auckland from Sydney, where George had spent 3 months installing and commissioning a flight simulator for Qantas Airlines, spent a week doing the ‘touristy’ things on North Island then over to Blenheim for a short stay with Ken and Margaret (Ken was best man at our wedding in 1967).

After a delightful time with them we wended our way over the next few days down the West coast road -- Westport, Punakaiki Rocks, Greymouth, Franz Josef and Fox glaciers then turning inland heading for Queenstown.

George decided that, rather than follow highway 6 for Queenstown from Wanaka, we could follow the ‘hypotenuse’ route via Cardrona and get the benefit of seeing some spectacular scenery at the same time. What we failed to realise at the time was that beyond Cardrona the pavement road ran out and the unmetalled road began!!

Not too bad to start with, nice and smooth and fairly level. Then came the descent into the back end of Queenstown – steep, winding and no safety barrier!! Definitely NOT to Vivien’s liking especially as she had a wonderful view of several hundred feet almost straight down on her side of the car!!!! “Stop the car for a mo.” she says. George dutifully stops the car thinking she wanted to take a snap!! Oh no! She then proceeds to walk down the road hugging the side furthest from the drop shouting over her shoulder “I’m not getting back in that ruddy car ‘til we hit level ground.”

She meant it too... still walking...

Needless to say we eventually got to Queenstown (without too much walking) and enjoyed it so much we stayed two days instead of the planned one.

The reason for this little tale is to put into perspective a little exploit, which yet again demonstrated George’s bravado (or should it be foolhardiness?!) during our recent visit last December.

Helen and Warren decided to let us loose on the roads in their Subby Legacy whilst they got ready for, and went to, Helen’s works bash (see Folks in the Boonies). Off we went, mid morning, to tour around the local area and take in the sights and sounds of the Canterbury area. Whilst cruising around Viv said “Oooh that should be interesting. D’you fancy driving over New Zealands longest road bridge?” Not one to turn down a new experience George says “You betcha doll” and off we set. To cut a long story short it was one of the most boring moments we had in NZ! The so called longest bridge was nothing but a raised piece of concrete road over the, admittedly very wide, Rakaia river.

Looking at the map we spotted a road which led down to the mouth of the river and decided to investigate. Half an hour later we had the magnificent Pacific Ocean in our sights. And what a sight, not a person to be seen for miles until George spots some figures in the distance fishing.

Now George isn’t a fisherman type, just a nosey Pom!! “Let’s go and have a look” he says and before Vivien could utter a word points the nose of the Subby towards what looks like a reasonable track (which other cars had obviously used) along the head of the beach.

A couple of hundred meters later it went strangely quiet in the Subby as both of us realised the Subby was struggling for traction. Beads of cold sweat broke out on George’s furrowed brow. Only one thing for it, pedal to the metal and pray. After all this car should be able to cope, it’s a four wheel drive. Scrabble, scrabble, scrabble. Cripes we’re slowing down!! Then suddenly a nice level firm patch with lots of tracks. Gotta turn back, mustn’t stop; give Viv impression I know what I’m doing. Spin the steering wheel, boot the gas pedal, throw up lots of dirt and point the nose at the first track that looks as if it’s the way back. Uh oh, there’s a six foot wall of loose sand and gravel straight ahead which a Land Rover would have been proud to conquer. A quick prayer with closed eyes. On opening eyes the windscreen was full of bright blue sky. Just then the Subby decided it wasn’t worth going into orbit and turned its nose earthwards landing in a commendably graceful fashion before scurrying off to the car park where we began. Phew, got away with that one. Turned to the still silent Vivien and said, nonchanently, in true Fred Dibnah fashion “Did ya like that?!!!” There was no comment!!!!

After that little excitement we decided to go for a stroll along the beach. On getting out of the car we were faced with the results of George’s sojourn into the wilderness, the car was FILTHY!! It was covered with a thick layer of what can only be described as powdered rock. It looked as if it had just survived driving through a volcanic dust cloud!!

Panic!! “We can’t take the car back in this state.” says Vivien. So after our stroll we set off to Ashburton to find a car wash not, as you’ve probably guessed, via metalled roads. Oh no, the scenic way via dusty dirt roads along the coast. Well at least the dust cloud was behind us all the time. At least I think it was because we couldn’t see out of the back window!! Got to a petrol station with a car wash and came away gleaming. Then we thought ‘hang on, the car is now cleaner than it was this morning, the kids are going to smell a rat and if we tell them what happened they’ll never trust us with the car again’.

The next hour or so was spent concocting excuses for the superclean Subby. We were concentrating so much on the excuses that we forgot about the fuel in the tank. Ooops, down to ¼ of a tank, never mind Methven is just up the road. What we didn’t realise, in rural Canterbury most things close at 5.30pm, it was now 6.15. Yup, everything sure is closed around here. Never mind we should be able to make it back home, we can get fuel tomorrow. “Oh no we can’t” says Vivien “we have to pick the kids up from Christchurch later tonight.” Nervous giggle from George!! Right, featherfoot the throttle, turn off the aircon, delay using headlamps for as long as legally possible, cut down the consumption as much as possible. Passing Sheffield and a glance at the fuel gauge, gulp, 1/8 full. Reduce speed to what is practically a crawl, more beads of cold sweat!! Kirwee, Aylesbury, rivers of sweat. The suspense is unbearable waiting for the first signs of fuel starvation. Then suddenly, salvation, the welcoming lights of West Melton and, more importantly, an open petrol station. That fuel tank took an awful lot of filling!!

The journey into Christchurch was a joyous one culminating in the best kebab we have tasted for a long time. About an hour later the mobile phone rang, we expected a call from Helen to say they needed taking home. It didn’t happen! Again, see Folks in the Boonies.

Nothing for it but to go back to Waddington to pack for our second trip to Queenstown.


Nice one, folks!

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At 3:01 AM, Anonymous Mike said...

hahaha, sooo funny. I cant see either mum & dad or us ever being allowed to use helen and woz's car again - when i was out with helen one afternoon i managed to get her a flat by teaching her how to do handbrake turns on gravel :)

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