Thursday, 12/30- Shining Star, Hokitika
Short hops travel day today. In the am we traversed more excellent mountain roads, broken with stretches of pasture. The sky is blue and clear and the air is crisp. New Zealand often exists in a cliché of weather and scenery.
It is 8:50pm and the sun hasn't gone down yet. We didn't eat until 8 mostly because we had no idea it was so late already. “Why am I so hungry? Its still early, isn't it?” “Holy crap, its 8!”
On our drive we went through a place labeled Doubtful Valley. Being the wits we are, and almost on cue, I said, “I dunno about that,” and she quipped, “Are they sure?” High comedy. Sticking with the fantastic names for places theme, we also drove through a so-tiny-it-takes-longer-to-make-a-joke-about-the-name-than-to-walk-through-it town called Crushington. This requires all caps. CRUSHINGTON. Better. I would go see any band that said they were from CRUSHINGTON. If I had a band, we would say came from CRUSHINGTON, right next to Brutalville, across the river from Metalliton.
We notice, or rather noticed again, that Captain Slow's cab is very big. My wife is very far away from me when I'm driving. It's a two hour trek to touch her knee and holding hands requires a warm-up, smoke signal communication, and a packed lunch. No fooling. I could barely see her.
I think I forgot to mention the one-lane bridges we've been traversing for the past two days. We get a sign warning us a few meters ahead, the suddenly two lanes become on and I either have to yield or go, but I better be paying attention or someone is going to be reversing on a narrow bridge. No problems so far. Kind of intense though.
Speaking of intense (Now accepting the award for Most Awkward Segue...) more of those Drive Safe signs were cracking us up. Today we went by one that had a picture of feet with a toe tage, you know, like at the morgue, and the text says, “SPEEDING TICKET.” Wow. And to go along with the intense signage, this in one of the countries that has put those awful pictures of lung cancer and mouth rot and throat death on their cigarette warning labels so as to make perfectly clear what you may be getting yourself in to by buying this particular product. The major tobacco companies have way too strong a grip on our own FDA to let anything this honest happen in the good ole US of A. More and more I question our right to even own the moral high horse, let alone trot around on it like we do. (Just so you know, this somehow ended with me arm wrestling Bill O'Reilly in my head while Glenn Beck cried. No, I'm not sure how I got there. Something about his belief that stronger is better. Would be cool, though.)
The roads here seem singular in purpose- to go from A to B. Not to advertise the latest Will Ferrell abortion or a body spray that makes you smell like perfumed crap. Like so many other parts of New Zealand, the roads reflect a very high level of eco-awareness. Sure, its a swath of concrete cutting through the forest, but no more than is absolutely needed. Signs everywhere remind travelers to care for their surroundings and here people actually heed those reminders.
I think I need to learn to do metric conversions off the top of my head. I feel like a dummy trying to go from miles to kilometers, or standard to metric weights or volumes, or Fahrenheit to Celsius. If I don't learn a foreign language I can at least figure out the math everyone else on the planet is using.
We stopped today at a tiny mountain town called Reefton. Not for the night, but because they are having Summer Festival things every day for a month and a half and today was horse racing. Must see!
Turns out this is a big deal for Reefton, who's population had to be at least 600, maybe 1,000. The whole town (the whole town, maybe one disaffected teen was sulking in a dark room somewhere) was gathered at the rugby pitch/race track to cheer and wear their race day finest. It was Reefton Trots, which means the jockeys actually sit behind the horse on a little chariot and get pulled. We sat and watched two races, cheered, did not bet, ate some local fair food, and blew the mind of a young teenage girl. She was standing in front of us in line for chips (fries) and was sneaky checking out my toe shoes in that sneaky-but-not way teen girls have. So I wiggled my toes at her and we said hi. She asked where we were from and when we told her she shot a wide-eyed OMG look at her friend and squeeled, “Hawaii!” with standards teen girl excited hand-flutter. Angela remarked afterwards that we were probably the only Americans there. We, friends, were exotic!
Well Hokitika looked great and exciting in the brochure. Not so much live, but not bad. It was the end of the business day by the time we strolled in. Will be better tomorrow I'm sure. They have a Sock Factory and Museum shop with much yarn and fleece. Joy. Hike planned for tomorrow too.
After we got back we took chairs down to the beach, our camp is mere meters from the ocean and I can here it from Captain Slow. It was very nice to sit and read and listen to the waves. We don't do it enough at home.
Across the street is a glowworm dell. We checked it out in the daylight and its pretty, but I guess around ten when it gets really dark, the worms light up. So we're doing that later tonight, I'll let you know how it goes.
Glad not to be driving tomorrow. Long walk/hike will make up for lack of running.
*A Short Time Later*
Very impressed with the glowworm dell. When we got there only a few were glowing, sparse pinpoints in the black, but over time more and more appeared until we were surrounded by living nebulae. I refuse to be cynical or too cool about this. Tiny animals that are invisible in the daylight but at night they light up? That is an awesome trick of nature. The only problem? Tourons who shine flashlights higher than foot level. But I'm too enlightened (get it?) by our free (yay!) glowworm experience to get too lit up (Ha!) over dim people (Haha!)
Living constellations, galaxies, and nebulae. Very pretty. Very amazing. Worth the cold but short walk. Too dim for pictures.