Wednesday, 24 October 2012
this week i didn't drown or send deathcar2000 plunging off a mountainside or get keelhauled by pirates or nibbled to death by fiordland crested penguins or anything
It was decided that this weekend a cruise in Fiordland National Park would be had. There were two choices; Doubtful Sound or Milford Sound. Doubtful won over Milford partly because it has a cooler name, but mainly because it's easier to get to. Not least because the only road to Milford got blocked by an avalanche on Friday night, and work was still going on to clear some of the 500 tonne boulders out of the way. Apparently the rocks are too hench to break apart by regular means, so they're drilling holes into them and blasting them apart with explosives. Kaboom! I suspect that it's little more than a weak excuse to blow stuff up - good for them.
We drove down to Queenstown Friday night, checking into our shitbox hostel just after 11. The next morning we left early to get to Manapouri, where the cruise kicked off. We got on a boat that took us across Lake Manapouri, dropping us off at the other end next to what is apparently the Manapouri power station; but it looked more like some villainous lair to me.
From there it was a six mile coach journey along the moderately precarious Wilmot's pass to the end of Doubtful sound and the start of our cruise aboard the Fiordland Navigator.
The weather was cold and wet, which meant that by and large, we were cold and wet; but the upside was that the lakes hidden from view way up in the hills and mountains were overflowing and there were waterfalls everywhere. The landscape has been sculpted by glaciers over millions of years, lending the whole place a lovely baroque feel that Slatibartfast would surely approve of. Great jagged chunks of granite rise almost vertically out of the waters; moss clings to the rock and creates an environment in which seeds can begin to grow and eventually forests form on the rock, all the roots locked together to form a huge arboreal toupée. It's absurdly pretty, completely wild and raw, and mostly made me think of Jurassic Park.
The ship took us out all the way to where the Sound meets the sea for a bit of seal spotting, then headed back in to seek calmer waters so we could engage in various activities. Eventually we made anchor in Precipice Cove, and I got to do a spot of kayaking in the rain. There's probably some sort of knack to kayaking where you don't use the paddle to scoop up quantities of freezing cold water and tip it down your sleeves, but I don't have it. Then dinner, then bar, then sleep... The ship set off early the next morning to make the most of the morning sun. A few dolphins were swimming alongside us briefly, a handful of penguins could be spotted huddling under the trees on a few rocks, and with the sun out the place got even more ludicrously pretty. There was a bit more pootling about, and then the return journey - much the same as the outward trip, but in reverse and with a lot less rain.
We got back to Manapouri about midday on Sunday. From there we drove up to Te Anau and suckered ourselves into doing some glow worm cave tour thing - it was kind of expensive for what it was, but very cool nonetheless. No photos, because flash photography freaks out the glow worms; they feed off the light and swell to immense proportions, consuming people and boats in single mighty gulps (possibly).
Back to the hostel in Queenstown to eat some crap dinner, and then we went off in search of a pub. Queenstown has many of these, but we settled for the one that provided entertainment courtesy of Taxi, a jazz funk trio. There were six of them. I'd like to think that a jazz funk trio is one of those special numbers; much like a baker's dozen is equal to 13, a jazz funk trio is equal to any number you can think of (albeit governed by complex algebra based on floor space, critical funk mass and the division of beer money). They were awesome and unexpected, and seemed to be taking it in turns to try to derail each song by freaking out and playing some insane solo. The drummer was most successful in this respect; everyone else had to stop playing while he smashed the crap out of his drumkit for a solid two minutes... you could see their brows furrow in concentration as they struggled to pick up a beat to get back in with... damn, they were funky.
The following day was mostly spent driving back from Queenstown. We took a slightly different (longer) route, winding through some steep and twisty Crown Range mountain roads to get to another pretty lakeside town, Wanaka; and then the rest of the long drive back home.
There was the delicate whiff of burning clutch in the air by the time we got to the top of Crown Range; but apart from this DeathCar2000 took it all in its stride and is exceeding expectations, in so far as it is still running and showing no signs whatsoever of ever stopping ever. It has turned up more surprises in the last week or so; underneath the passenger seat I discovered a pair of socks (urgh), the case for Now32 (thankfully empty - phew) and a Black Eyed Peas CD case which contained no Black Eyed Peas, but two Ministry of Sound Dubstep compilations. Dubsteb is infinitely better than the Black Eyed Peas; but only one of the front speakers works in DeathCar2000, and the rear speakers don't seem to cope well with low frequencies; so anything to loud and/or bassy comes out as a painful, repetitive crackling sound. The sound of speakers dying. The sound of butchered music.
Still better than the Black Eyed Peas.
Despite these minor indiscretions, DeathCar2000 easily ranks somewhere in the top three of cars that I currently own.
In recognition of my various nautical antics, this week's sinister foreign confectionery was the "Reel Rainbow Big Fish".
It was supplied by the vending machine at work in exchange for the princely sum of $1.50. I have never seen one for sale anywhere else ever, which could mean that the company that produces them does so exclusively for the benefit of the employees at my workplace; or it could mean that they stopped making and selling these things years ago, and the old stock is just sitting in the vending machine waiting for suckers to buy it. Probably that one. The Reel Rainbow Big Fish is a lump of dense sugary pink marshmallow covered in brown chocosubstance, and nothing more. It's like a teacake; but without the biscuity layer, fluffy marshmallow and actual chocolate coating. Also it is bigger, and almost shaped like some kind of hideous malformed fish. I did not care for it. If I saw a Reel Rainbow Big Fish in the street, I would fight it.