Almost as soon as you leave the Grey District and pass into the Otago region, you see a change in the scenery. You still have the endless mountains and pass spectacular mirror clear lakes and gushing waterfalls, but you lose the jungle. The mountains as I left the coast behind became bare, covered only in grass. I drove into Wanaka, situated on the shore of the lake which gave the town it’s name, and was pleased to see that they had managed to tone down the blatant tourist trap image that spoiled Franz Joseph a little. Along the lakeside, the bars and cafes maintained a relaxed atmosphere and whilst there were many people about, it didn’t feel busy. I had a scout around and found a campsite by the lake a short distance from the town centre, a nearly deserted place called Outlook Bay Motor park. After parking up and sorting out bedding etc, I decided to enjoy something that had eluded me so far in my travels. Sunshine. Yup, the sun had finally decided to pay an extended visit and the temperature was up in the mid twenties. Unfortunately, mountain bike hire here costs more than the moon, so I was once more on foot. A handy signpost pointed me down a small path that ran around the bay back toward town and I decided to take this. A pleasant stroll by the lake, with the waves lapping gently and the sun shining, was just the thing after a long drive. After 15 minutes I was quite hot, even though my shirt was off, and there was a slight breeze. After 30 minutes I thought I must be getting near town now, surely? Why hadn’t I thought to bring a water bottle? Thirty more minutes passed and vultures had begun to circle overhead, I had to resist the mirages of a cold pint of cider. Dunking my head in the lake helped, but not for long. Eventually, and encouraged by a sign telling me that I was only 2km from town, I staggered into a bar on the lakeside and ordered a pint of beer. And then another, seconds later. The bar was busy, and the only seat was at a table with a single occupant, a chap in his mid twenties carrying a small backpack. Grateful for the sit down and taking off my flip flops to the delight of my feet, I got into conversation with the chap opposite me. He was German (there’s a surprise) called Patrick and was travelling alone etc, the usual things to kick off with. He was returning to Christchurch for the flight home, so no chance of a travelling compadre unfortunately. We finished our drinks and since neither of us had any particular need to be anywhere else, we had another. By ten thirty we were; to put it bluntly, steaming rat faced of our tree four sheets to the wind blind stinking drunk. Since the pub was shutting (early, I know) we bid each other farewell in the way those high on life and lager do, and went our separate ways. Now, I did know the way home, didn’t I? I contemplated the options, I could’t call a taxi because I’d sawn off my arms to pay for the drink. I could go back the way I had come, nice and easy but takes an age and it wasn’t lit. Or I could walk back through town the route I had driven through earlier, in daylight and with a map. It didn’t seem to take that long in the car… I remember walking briskly, peering closely at every road sign. I walked out of town and left the streetlights behind… I talked to myself as I walked, imagining I was James Bond being briefed by Q. “Do pay attention 007, it was left at the roundabout, up to the end of the road, right at the junction. Then you keep going past the roadworks, which won’t be there because it’s night time so ignore that. If you get to another roundabout you’ve gone too far and’ll have to go back.” Time had no meaning, I wore the self guiding flip flops that only drunks seem to have and I rode an invisible scooter which meant I got to places sooner than a sober man would. On the road to the motor camp, a long stretch of gravel made near pitch black by trees blocking the tiny bit of light from the stars, I came across a group huddled around a camping stove. A group of Chinese lads were camping illegally at the side of the road. I was James Bond, so I sneaked up as close as I dared and watched them cooking. I bit my tongue to make sure I didn’t blurt out ‘Hubble, Bubble Toil and Trouble!’ as the scene popped into my head of the witches. God I wanted a kebab. I started to walk again, and as I past I politely bid them good evening, making them all fall about in surprise, almost knocking over the stove. There was much Chinese swearing and cursing as I melted into the night. I found my van and slept soundly until morning. The next day, I discovered I had lost my sunglasses the night before so had to go into town to buy new ones. Given that my head was pounding like a brass band, and the sun was out again, sun glasses were a must have article. I parked and found a place that sold them cheaply, no point buying expensive ones if I’m just going to keep losing them. Upon my return to my car, I found a ticket stuck to my window. I had been fined for ‘Being parked facing the wrong direction on a two way road.’ NZ$40.00 to be paid blah blah blah. If I’d have been flying home the next day, I would have tossed it away and thought nothing more of it. Some people would’ve anyway. Guess I’ll have to be more careful about my things next time I get into an impromptu drinking session, and also remember to park facing the right way around.
Mini Count:- 17 Its creeping slowly toward the 20 mark!
Sorry, running out of time for Google Earth Co-Ords today! Look up Wanaka, New Zealand.