I’ve noticed something strange, I’m headed north and everybody else seems to be headed south. Even the hitchhikers are on the opposite side of the road, so I can’t even pick one of them up in hope of fuel money. The other thing is, everybody is travelling on one of the many organised coach tours that go around. I haven’t met anyone as yet who has bought their own wheels and are just traipsing around. Back home, I would avoid the bus or coach like Superman avoids Kryptonite. They are always late (unless you are late in which case they are early) and they never go were you want it to go. If you do manage to catch one then your fellow passenger who sits next to you will be the village idiot, or the local tramp who goes around all day to stay out of the rain. It doesn’t look like that here though.
As I write this I am sitting in the lounge of the Adelphi Hotel; in Kaikoura north of Christchurch. One half is a modern bar, with pool tables and sport on the flat screen telly, but the side where the hostel is, is like stepping back eighty years or so. In the lobby is a large log burning fireplace, blazing away with its chimney reaching up through the floor above. At the reception desk is a sign inviting you to ring a non existent bell. Behind you the wind keeps blowing the main door open, which is why all of the leaflets are held in place by elasticated netting. All the doors, roof beams and wall panelling is of heavy wood, oak probably. In the main lounge is a pool table, more panelling and three large settees. Lighting is provided by electric lamps on the walls and from two chandeliers, judging by their position and one or two tell tale unused copper gas pipes, it’s not hard to imagine the place lit by flickering gas light. Especially with the large fireplace. The only nods toward modernity are the three coin operated computers in the corner and one of those televisions that is perfectly square, and has a box on the back to hold in the workings. Bloody ‘ell; we ‘ad one ‘o dem when I were a’lad! As you climb the stairs to the rooms, hanging on the walls are pictures of Kaikoura from a bygone age. Fishermen with long white beards and stern faces stare at you from across the ages, women wearing long billowing swimsuits help small children paddle in the sea. In this picture yet more children wash themselves from a basin in the yard, and in this a group of tourists clamber from a charabanc, blinking away the last of their jet-lag. Oh hang on, that’s the window.
This morning I awoke with the sun hitting its target in my eyeball once more, because the curtains had fallen down in the back of the van. Again. The Australian lady, who the garage told me had fitted out everything, had held the curtains up using microscopic hooks that self-tapped into the roof lining. Every night so far it has taken me nearly half an hour just to pull the curtains shut. If the hooks didn’t pull themselves out of the roof lining and get lost between the seats, then the stupid wire that acts as a curtain rod would wrap itself in the fabric of the curtain. If I turned over in the middle of the night and my leg caught the even the tiniest molecule of the fabric, the whole thing would fall down. I could see where she had tried to improve her design, ribbons and safety pins had been strategically placed to fasten to various handles and air vents. It didn’t work. I needed something more….industrial. Being a man from a race that invented industriousness, that shouldn’t be a problem. After staring at the problem with a bottle or two of alcoholic refreshment, and a quick walk to the local hardware shop, I selected the theme tune to the ‘A-Team’ on my music player and set to work.
Sitting in the bar afterwards, the tour gets back. The whale watching had been cancelled because of high wind and they had all just been for a walk around the peninsular. There is a brilliant spot, they tell me, where you can see the town and the mountains and the bay. I know, I drove up there on the way in, I tell them. Oh, they ask, do you have a car then? Yes, and today I fitted it with fully retractable curtains using only a sharp knife and two garden poles! Unfortunately they weren’t German, so the conversation changed after that, and eventually I won second prize at the pub quiz. The prize was a NZ$25.00 bar tab.
I had met these folk off the bus seen the same thing they had. We’d had a laugh. Yes, you do meet up with other p and eople on the tour bus, and things are probably more organised with what to do and when to do it. But I can leave here tomorrow when I want, and they have to go at early o’clock in the morning after a night in the pub. I noticed their bus doesn’t have toilet facilities whilst I can pretty much stop when I want. But that night, I had to drink lemonade because I had to drive a little out of town before kipping down for the night. Even I can’t drink twenty-five dollars worth of lemonade at eleven o’clock at night. Since the tab was for one night only, I bought a round with it (not much, three pints). Tonight I’m stopping in the hostel, I have a couple of bottles of beer with me and the car is parked in the car park. It’s a Friday night and I’m off to the pub for a drink!
Mini count :- 9, Follow Me! on Google Earth, Adelphi Hostel. 42 24’01.04″S 173 40’51.30″E Swampy’s, 41 27’38.56″S 173 57’46.48″E