Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not the motorcycle diaries

 Lake Hawea, South Island

Panning for gold

Start of the Routeburn Trek

New Zealand is the land of the public toilet. Never in the history of the world have public toilets been prioritised in the way they have in New Zealand. There are a staggering amount. So much so that McDonalds don't even need to put up a 'customer only' notice on their toilet doors. There's no need. Some toilets, like the one in Picton, have robotic voices that greet you, play classical music whilst you go about your business, and then bid you a tearful farewell. Every time I went in Picton I felt like I'd made a new friend.

If New Zealand's toilets are its international showpiece, then it's gardeners are it's embarrassing illness. In Queenstown, Fay and I stayed at a campsite that had a much needed washing machine. After washing our clothes, I erected a clothesline, not more than 4 feet across, and hung our washing on it. One of the campsite gardeners approached and I suspected that there might be some trouble, so in an effort to pre-empt and appease the situation I offered to help move some debris out the way of his lawnmower. I had misjudged the situation entirely, this character was the lowest form of our species I have yet encountered. 'No washing lines allowed here' he responded, barely acknowledging my gracious offer of peace. 'Why's that?' I asked, eminently reasonably. 'Because someone might walk into it'. It was only then I realised  that I wasn't actually dealing with a member of the same species at all, but a moronic impersonator of a human being, sent from some evil alien race in order to breed with humans, and reduce the average IQ level to such a minuscule number that before we know it we'll be growing gills and splashing around in the mud soup from which we originated. I tried to reason with him 'The clothes line is covered in clothes, you won't walk into it'. 'You've got to move it.' 'But why?'. 'Because someone might walk into it.' In order to avoid this roundabout of logic, I tried a different tack. 'So do you want me to move the van too? In case someone walks into that.' And with that, Fay sensibly intervened and pulled me away, and I went and sat on a toilet friend to calm down.

A couple of weeks later I had calmed down enough for Fay and I to start the three day Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track at the very South West of the South Island. Each day is about 18km and the route follows coastline, alpine scenery and forest, and is tough but entirely worthwhile. At the end of the first day Fay and I climbed a hill and broke out from the forest into an area of some remarkable views. Some of the flora there is fragile and a long wooden boardwalk has been built to protect it, a boardwalk that is covered in chicken wire to assist those who are balance challenged. At the summit of this hill (hill because Fay made me promise never to do it on top of a mountain), I got down on one knee and (whilst grimacing from the pain of the chicken wire) asked Fay to marry me. I had cleverly plied her with mouthfuls of chocolate first and was pleased when she clarified that her initial 'yggghhmmmpphhh' was actually a yes. Fiance that.

The chickenwire proposal

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