New Zealand Tour 2013
Banks, Boats and Bees
Before we even left the UK there were a couple of dramas.
First, on arrival in Manchester with 400 Duty Free cigarettes, Lofty promptly announced that he was going to quit smoking during our tour.
Regular progress reports on this Lourdes-like transformation will of course feature in my diary.
The second drama occurred as I went through security at Manchester Airport chuckling loudly about the newspaper vilification of Luis Suarez for his diving admission.
Too late, I saw the Liverpool FC tattoo on the burly scouse security guards arm, and as he pressed a button to flip my hand luggage into the 'High-Risk' lane, the longest and most thorough search Manchester Airport has ever seen took place.
Despite this we have arrived safely in New Zealand after a 57 hour journey via Copenhagen, Bangkok and Auckland. We are now in Nelson, South Island.
Even though we have only been here a few days, the banter and chirping has already started from the UK.
Posh Margaret, Doncaster's real First Lady, has had a disaster with her planned cruise to New Zealand via Argentina.
Her cruise has been cancelled due to the delicate political situation, and the vessel is still in dock at Southampton.
I suppose the Argentinians got really worried when they heard that 'Margaret would be sailing near the Falklands on a very big ship.'
Thankfully Margaret has made urgent rearrangements to her plans and will sensibly be joining us in Queenstown by air.
We have also heard from Herbie. I'm so glad you have decided to come, mate:
"I am only going to read that blog as long as it doesn't sound like a commercial for the Kiwi Tourist Board. The real truth about that country will out when I get there."
Actually it won't, Herbie. You will only see the inside of an airport, a plane, a motel and a rugby ground on the tour you have planned for yourself.
That is akin to me saying that I will see, assess and judge London after spending two weeks in Pentonville Prison.
And I'll wager you are flying cattle class. I have to confess, Lofty has probably convinced me of the benefits of paying two thousand pounds more to fly Business class.
On our two hour flight out of Manchester to Copenhagen, which lifted off just as the blizzard closed in like the last Nazi plane out of Stalingrad, he came up with the worst excuse I have ever heard for ordering a free double brandy at 10.30 am.
"Well its nearly midnight where we are going to in New Zealand. And I always have a nightcap before I turn in." He said to the stewardess.
On arrival at Copenhagen we left the airport and ventured into the City, which was colder than Manchester, with snow sweeping the streets.
Indoor entertainment was urgently required and we visited the Glyptotek (museum) to see the large collection of original Gauguin, van Gogh and Monet paintings.
This was okay, but it probably wasn't as much fun as the happy hour at the station bar on the way back to the airport, where we managed to buy 4 pints of Carlsberg each for half price, meaning it probably cost the same as we normally pay in the UK.
The walls of the bar were bedecked with signed Liverpool shirts, so I thoroughly enjoyed my Friday night session.
Our flight to Bangkok was uneventful and on arrival we were directed into a Thai Airlines lounge which had Sky Sports, shower and bathroom facilities and were treated to free drinks , and free chinese food which was delicious.
However the main difference between the business and economy class is basically that you can lie down after eating the aircraft meal - judge for yourselves whether the extra cash is good value for money.
When we arrived at Auckland at about 1.30pm into thirty degree sunshine we had to rush round to the domestic terminal in our fleeces and cold weather gear carrying all the luggage for our flight to Christchurch - and after picking up the hire car we finally found a motel just outside Christchurch at around 6pm.
As I say, the total journey time was 57 hours so I was feeling rather tired as we checked in and I failed to hear our hosts name as he introduced himself.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that - did you say you were called Kelvin or Calvin?" I said.
How quickly I forget!
I got chatting with Kelvin and showed him the Addis Army web site on his laptop. I kid you not , within an hour he was wandering round the motel singing "Summer Holiday."
After a few beers and a gigantic Sunday roast evening meal at the next door pub , The Woodend Tavern , we turned in and the following morning hit the road for Nelson.
Breakfast was taken at the local 'Pegasus' Golf Course, and the kiwi pronunciation of the place, ' Pigasus', was an entirely appropriate description of how we felt after eating the gigantic mixed grills served to each of us.
We seem to have been rather unfortunate with our choice of hire car, a Mitsubishi Lancer. This seems to have the same design flaw that our Nissan had last time we were in New Zealand , with the windscreen wipers coming on each and every time Lofty indicates to turn left or right.
The trip was punctuated by road-works hold ups, in one case the raging river torrent during the last few weeks had eaten away the entire left side of the road - I will never complain about pot-holes again.
The trip was also punctuated by Lofty being attacked by a swarm of killer bees at a Scenic Viewpoint - the hornpipe he performed as the bees zeroed in was hilarious.
You would think that all that smoke would keep bees away.
I have offered to buy him a Winnie the Pooh outfit with an accompanying hunny jar but he only had a one word answer to that suggestion:
Our mid-journey stop was at a small ex-gold mining town called Murchison.
The accommodation we found here was wonderful - an old bank , which had been converted into a holiday let!
'The Old Bank' had two double beds, three single beds, three sofa beds and eight armchairs, so we managed to squeeze ourselves in for a couple of nights.
Contrary to public perception and maybe also that of my ex-employer, I have never slept in a bank before, and immediately claimed the Managers Office for my room.
Lofty slept in the Vault , which I thought was appropriate on every conceivable level.
This wonderful property was owned by Phil & Mary Rickard, a lovely British couple. Phil looks ridiculously young for his eighty years of age, and he took Lofty and myself out for a tour of some of the scenic wonders of the locality in his 4 x 4, which we would not have been able to reach using our hire car.
Phil and Mary also invited us to dinner on our second night, which we were delighted to accept.
When quizzed as to whether all guests were treated in such royal fashion Phil replied:
"No. But you two mentioned the magic word - cricket!"
Our first Addis Army Anzac recruits of the tour!
Whilst in Murchison we sampled the Buller Jetboat Experience. Having been Jetboating in Queenstown with Shotover Jet on the last trip we knew this would be enjoyable but the advertising for Buller claimed that this would be "Three times better than Shotover", so we were in a state of some anticipation.
When we arrived at the Jetboat site to our horror we realised that to reach the jetty, we had to walk over a 110 metre long metal suspension bridge over the thundering River Buller below - this resembled the rope bridge featured at the end of "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."
I took a deep breath and stepped out. Very shaky and very high. The noise of the river below was deafening.
As I reached the other side after about three minutes I turned to see Lofty standing in the middle of the suspension bridge.
He was static. As mobile as a Terracotta warrior. Oh sh*t.
Eventually realising that as he had the Jetboat tickets , he would have to make his way across, Lofty finally crossed the bridge, much to the relief of the gathered audience of tourists.
His language on reaching safety was not repeatable here. Suffice it to say, his cessation of smoking would not start today.
The Jetboating was not three times better than Shotover. In fact, it was about ten times better.
Our driver, Mark Allen, only had the two of us in the boat and he performed all kinds of showboating flips and spins, turning the pair of us black and blue and drenching us both very thoroughly in the 50 minutes or so we were on the river - which is about three times as long as the punters get with Shotover, from memory.
A wonderful 'extreme' experience - Mark took some photos which will hopefully at some point find their way onto the Addis Army web-site.
Lofty, I think, was by now getting a taste for extreme activities, as he persuaded me to return to the other side of the Gorge by Comet-line over the river - which we both enjoyed.
This had nothing whatsoever to do with him not wishing to walk back over the swingbridge, of course.
We have now arrived in Nelson. It isn't a bit like the original Nelson in Lancashire, near Burnley.
I had been requested by our Addis mate Tufty to call into a local pub called the Vic Brewbar, where his 'friend' Chris was working, to say hello.
This we did, and the barman shouted Chris from the kitchen to read Tufty's introductory text message, which he had already supplied to me.
"So I know him. I admit it. What of it? You two aren't from the Vice-Squad, are you?"
We have invited Chris to hook up with us at the Wellington Test, so hopefully another Addis recruit in due course - cheers Tufty.
Finally, I'm sorry that there has been no mention of cricket whatsoever on this diary today.
But more importantly I can update and inform you all - that Lofty hasn't packed in smoking yet!