New Zealand Tour 2013
Driving in a Winter Wonderland
I'd like to start this diary with a piece of negative comment about New Zealand especially to please Herbie, the Dark Lord of Addis - I had a horrible hangover last Friday morning.
Our last day in Nelson had started badly. First, Lofty almost reversed our hire-car into a tree.
"I wasn't expecting to see that." He said.
After a testing drive through scenic countryside in blazing sunshine up to Havelock and Pelorus Bridge, we retired to the Vic Brewbar for some beer and an evening meal.
Tufty had recommended this place to me and he was absolutely correct - it is excellent - probably the best pub in Nelson.
After a wonderful meal we relaxed to watch the live entertainment - a performance by top local group "The House of Kramit".
Clearly Simon Cowell is not yet involved in suggesting names for pop groups in New Zealand.
After the show I was led astray by 'Steve the Leeds fan' , one of the bar staff at the Vic Brewbar, who fancied an after-time drink and seemed to have an intimate knowledge of all Nelson's late bars and nightclubs - Lofty having long since retired to bed.
After about twenty pints, I cannot remember much about our boozy night out except for somehow arriving back at our hotel at 3am - in the full knowledge that Lofty & myself had booked a sailing trip to the Abel Tasman National Park at 9am the following, sorry, same morning.
More like Un-able Tasman in my case.
I am still capable, it seems, of absorbing beer like a sponge, but my recovery powers are sadly all but gone.
Maybe I should vote for a change of my Addis Army name from Midnight to Twighlight.
Thankfully Lofty bailed me out that day by doing the driving on his own after our boat trip - all 260 km down to a place called Westport, in fact.
Just to show that I am not positively biased towards all things 'New Zealand' I have to report Westport as a 'miss'.
Nowhere near as good as our own Southport - our Westport motel was another of these hardboard and balsa wood constructions and the owners must have known in advance that Lofty was arriving - there was a sign over the sink reading:
"Thanks for doing the dishes."
What a depressing place Westport was.
We ended up watching kiwi tv that evening due to the complete lack of viable alternative entertainments and it was a toss up between "Knight Rider" and "Midsomer Murders."
One would have to conclude, therefore, that New Zealand has not quite caught up with the times on the tv front - but don't despair kiwis.
There is a great new series from the UK coming to your screens later this year,
"Inspector George Gently!"
Leaving Westport feeling in a better state than when I had left Nelson, the journey continued - to Franz Josef Glacier.
We booked into a motel called the 'Rainforest Retreat' and even as we were checking in, coach loads of young, mainly female backpackers were arriving at regular intervals.
That evening, the motel would be a maelstrom of surging hormones and testosterone - and that was just from Lofty.
When we checked out, the lovely young lady behind reception asked me to give the Rainforest Retreat a favourable review on Trip Advisor, as they had received a number of recent complaints about the behaviour of the backpackers.
"Its okay, you wont be getting any complaints from Lofty!" I said.
As is common in New Zealand as we travelled down the road, at the various stops we made, we kept bumping into the same people.
An elderly Dutch couple engaged us on our walk back from the glacier.
"Nice to see you again. Are you two living together?" the lady asked.
Blimey, I knew they were permissive in Holland but there are limits and boundaries!
I asked her if she had enjoyed looking at the glacier.
"I have seen too many glaciers. We were in Schwitzerland this year and I saw lots and lots of schnow."
For a moment, I imagined I was conversing with Steve Maclaren.
Also an English couple , who told us that they had flown up to the top of Franz Josef Glacier the previous day and spent ten minutes on the ice throwing snowballs at each other.
I did not belabour the obvious point that they could have done this at home for a fraction of the cost.
On our previous visit to the West Coast in 2008 there was much debate as to which of the two glaciers, Franz Josef or Fox , was the better one.
I have to say on the evidence thus far, Franz Josef is the winner. In full sun it looks very spectacular indeed.
We had a two hour trek to the glacier face - on the way there, Lofty's walking pace was rather disinterested and slow.
When we reached the end of the trek we were confronted by a metal fence with the following warning sign attached to it:
"Don't be the next victim. Stay behind the barriers."
I couldn't help thinking that our friend, Gaz the Diplomat, would have had something to say about that sign.
On the way back to the car from the glacier face, Lofty skipped along the track like a mountain goat on speed. He had left his fags and lighter in the glove compartment!
Sunday morning was FA Cup day for us, given the time difference, and I managed to watch my beloved team on a dodgy live downstream, which Lofty found on his laptop.
I'm not sure which website he was using, but at half-time a number of scantily clad Russian women popped up on the screen offering dubious sexual services.
We had booked a trip over Fox Glacier and Mount Cook by helicopter for Sunday morning, which dawned clear and incredibly sunny.
I had been a little nervous about this trip, but was immediately reassured when we called into the helicopter office and the lad taking our booking looked exactly like a young Glen Chapple - we should be safe as houses here!
Normally these copters take six people to the top of the world but fortunately our party was restricted to just four - myself, Lofty, and a kiwi couple, Mr & Mrs Henry from Waikaia.
Our pilot, Brooke, was rather young and Kevin Henry asked him about his flying experience.
It turned out that before getting this job he had worked on dodgems, and then graduated onto Jetboats.
We reached the plateau of Mount Cook safely, joking apart , and were allowed ten minutes to walk around in the snow and take photographs.
For any 'Lord of the Rings' fans who may be reading this, we walked on the very patch of snow where Boromir first touched Frodo's ring - and decided that he would like a piece of the action for himself.
The helicopter flight was simply sensational and despite this being expensive, I would advise as a 'must do' for anyone visiting this part of New Zealand.
On Sunday we travelled to Wanaka and in the evening ate in a great Mexican restaurant called Amigos.
This place had as a feature a 'Chilli Wall of Death' whereby punters were invited to order the hottest item on the menu, the 'Deathwish Chilli', and eat this against the stop-watch.
The current record holder had swallowed the lot in 56 seconds and for this, qualified to eat free in the restaurant every week until his time was beaten - the present leader posted his record in February, 2012! After his travails in Melbourne when we won the Ashes, Lofty asked to be excused from this challenge.
Monday morning dawned especially early for me with the receipt of a series of excited text messages from my pal Doubter of Dobcross, who was watching the FA Cup tie at Boundary Park. In case you hadn't guessed, Doubter is an Oldham fan.
"35 minutes to go and Oldham are leading 3-1. Following Latics, its the hope that kills you!"
Congratulations to Oldham on their famous victory but Doubter please remember in future when texting me that when it is 5.15pm in Mumps, it is 6.15am in New Zealand.
To my scouse security scourge at Manchester Airport I can only offer the following words of consolation - as far as we were concerned, your team stayed in the FA Cup competition for one day extra, as they were not knocked out here until 6.57am on Monday morning!
During Monday we were due to travel to Manapouri but it was becoming more and more of an effort getting Lofty moving in the morning.
I am not a morning person myself, but my God, if anyone has the details of a good New Zealand shop selling tasers, defibrillators or just plain old sticks of dynamite, please forward these on.
When we finally got going we drove to Frankton Leisure Centre to source our cricket tickets.
The lovely lass on reception, Laura from Stafford, had not seen such a shipping order for tickets before but she struggled through manfully and patiently with our inordinate list of unusual requests so many thanks Laura and please don't forget to mention the Addis Army site to your dad!
Not many people from New Zealand go to Stafford for their holidays, I bet.
With nearly 2,000 km on the clock we eventually arrived in Manapouri for our boat trip the following day, a sail on Doubtful Sound.
Driving past our motel, we went straight to the boat jetty to check that our trip was booked and in order.
Astonished, we noticed that the jetty was called 'Pearl Harbour.'
Now some of you might think I am making the next bit up but when we arrived at our motel, which was Midway down the promenade, to check in, we were greeted by a large group of Japanese tourists - and it turned out they were staying in the next unit to Lofty and myself.
Using an empty beer tumbler against the wall, Lofty quickly deciphered the Japanese code and discovered that they intended to arrive at Pearl Harbour before the other tourists on the trip in order to get the best seats on the boat.
Accordingly, we set our alarm for 6.00am but alas, even after skipping breakfast and making this supreme effort, the Japanese party beat us to it.
They had made a surprise approach under cover of darkness.
The boat trip across Doubtful Sound was spectacular in the extreme, aided by continued superb weather - the locals here are actually now complaining that it is too dry and sunny.
The trip was only slightly marred by the presence of an oddly dressed and wacky couple from Auckland, Dan and Nicks, who treated the passengers to an unabashed display of complete crassness. Three hours of David Brent-like 'Business Guru speak' was bad enough, but when they got out their lunch of Weight-watchers beef chilli, spread on crispbread - which resembled a dog-turd canape, Lofty and I both started to retch. Things didn't get any better when Dan started removing his clothes, and this was followed by a lot of inappropriate snogging-what a complete pair of prats.
Before we leave Manapouri a little word about the exceptionally informative fire safety notice in our motel room:
"In the event of the fire bell ringing, please leave your room through Exit Point A - the door. In the event of Exit Point A being unavailable, please use Exit Point B - the window."
And a word for our friendly Fijian barman, Shalvin, who gave me the following useful advice after I returned from our Doubtful Sound trip peppered with sandfly bites:
"An ice cube is soothing and good after you have been bitten. But mainly just remember, sandflies f*cking hate Man Utd fans!"
We are now in Bluff, southernmost port in New Zealand. Next stop Antarctica, in fact.
We have a day trip tomorrow to Stewart Island , which is a bird sanctuary and kiwi reserve beloved of naturalists.
Lofty and I will be playing golf and drinking lots of beer instead of trying to spot the wildlife.
I am ending this diary now as I am fully sated on New Zealand Scenery - the last two weeks have been stupendous, but I no longer crave scenic views and photos - like a man who has dined on fois gras and caviar for weeks, I now long for beans on toast.
In three days time we will head for Auckland , scene of Herbie's impending arrival in March, where I expect to be greeted with bad weather, poor accommodation, and a high probability of being mugged.
Oh, and Herbie - New Zealand, South Island is probably the best place in the known Universe. Or any other Universe, for that matter.
A pity you wont see it!!
Love, Midnight xxx