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‘Oh My God your hair is on fire!’ was the cry, followed by insane laughter and much pointing as I took my head out of the traditional stone pizza oven on New Years Eve. As it turns out, you light a pizza oven in the middle with a long pole and not, as I chose to do, with your head and shoulders inside the damn thing. How was I to know? Oh and Yes the laughing people were quite correct in that, my hair was, actually on fire and steaming away! So I now have green hair. Yes, you heard it, the top of my head has turned green, as well as being a little bit shorter. Nice one!
Oh and it gets even better. The New Years Eve party we got invited to was at a wonderful place in a deserted town, on a deserted beach, in the middle of absolutely nowhere on the very bottom of the south of the south island of New Zealand, simply stunning. Okay, so this place was a dream. It was like the guy that owned it said, ‘Dudes I want a beach palace but it must be chilled, I want a massive spa surrounded by decking. Oh and a sauna that is wood fired. Oh and whilst you are building it, surround it by huge trees and make it with a big stone fireplace so that I can see the stars by fire light and candle light. And yes, I also want a huge chilling decked area with a lower level fire pit in the middle so that my mates can all sit around with their feet on pebbles watching the fire. Oh and I want the biggest gas fired BBQ and traditional stone pizza oven that you have even seen in a Swiss style area. Then I want a massive garage and enough decking to land a helicopter on and and and……………you get the point.
Well as the hours ticked by about 20 of us Spa’ ed, Sauna’ ed, Drunk, Danced and Pizza’ ed our merry way to midnight when someone suggested we put our photos on as a slideshow on the outside TV/Video projector (oh did I not mention that as well?)….well the pictures ran through to various ‘Oooohs’ and ‘Ahhhhhs’ of our travels, and I sort of wondered off doing, stuff. As it approached midnight the laptop was getting low on battery and then it happened, dear god then it happened. With seconds to go midnight, it dropped into sleep mode and there, fixed on the screen (well, projected onto a white sheet stuck in a tree) 8 foot by about 6 foot was none other than a picture of my bare arse! Happy New Year 2009 with my bare arse mooning the assorted viewers and revelers. Sweet Jemus there it was, like two white snowcapped mountains separated by a dark raviney crevasse, bottomless in fact. I’m not sure what Mr Freud would say about the long lasting effects on the human psyche of that, probably that he couldn’t be arsed to comment.
Right, so listen up. Old Wordsworth here was given a new Quill and some ink for jolly old Crimbo, so this one is going to be a long one to kick start your funky new year (when is it acceptable by the way to tell some to bugger off when they wish you a Happy New Year? 5th Jan? 9th Jan? 20th Jan?)…..so print this off and read it on the tube (congrats Darren Goldsby on the new posting, GOD of City IT), read it on the bus, in bed, on the loo, which ever pleases you most. I like to think that judging by all the comments we keep getting, these little stories bring a small glimmer of warmth to an otherwise cold and bitter winter in the UK, of course it might be all b()llocks and I need sedating but until they catch me and get a needle in my arm I’m free to write on…..!
Well, I guess that everyone has their own stories and stuff of over the Christmas period so I won’t say much other than we met up with Cameron and Amanda from the UK who are here on holiday for a month to meet their family and well, they and their family just opened their doors to us and were incredibly welcoming. We even went shooting on their huge farm, as you can see Blondie was quite a skilled marksman. Sore shoulders, a box of clay pigeony things and about 8 boxes of ammo later we were all quite happy. Even the ‘Long Drops’ seemed quite fun when you are pumped up with shooting prowess. Long drops by the way are outdoor toilets that essentially are a tin shed with a loo seat on a box and a drop of about 10 or so feet into, well, a pool of poo. Suddenly McDonalds toilets don’t seem too bad, or even a Peruvian Night bus loo maybe.
Okay moving onto other things and sad news briefly; Gone, Expired, Kicked The Bucket, Pushing Up The Daisies, Carked It, Passed Over, Gone To Meet The Maker, Died, well these are all terms used to describe the death of someone. That’s the news I got on New Years Eve about my Granny. Granny Nina Scard (My Mum’s Mum) aged 94 left the wicket after a lengthy and memorable innings in the Welsh arena and went peacefully across the river to join my Aunty Jenny, and my Mum where ever they are in the sky. I like to think that they are all reunited at last and are all enjoying a long ‘Whiskey Chat’ in some bright place somewhere nice. Mum, Dad and Daughter reunited at last. So I guess it isn’t all that bad after all. Still, there’s not much of my family left now though apart from my lovely Cous Kathy and her Dad and Sis Fran, oh and perhaps my Great Old Uncle Wenmouth Harris in deepest darkest Wales, anyhooo. (Great news Fran on the bump)
Moving on to lighter things, I went for a job at a Blacksmiths down here and the guy said, ‘Have you ever shoe’ed a horse before?’ I shook my head and said, ‘No but I did tell a Donkey to f()ck off once’. So I got the job.
Let me tell you about 1000 Waterfalls Road. Simply put, an area about the size of Cornwall sits on the bottom left hand corner of the south island and its named Fiordland. (correct spelling)There are about 2 roads that cover the entire place so you need a boat to get around. One of these roads runs up to a place called Milford Sound (bizarrely where my mum was born in Wales). There are lots of signs saying 150km each way and NO FUEL STATIONS. The day we chose to go up was quite a stunner. Armed with an overflowing tank of diesel and a spare can we headed off into the drizzle, which turned to rain and then sheets of rain. NZ was gripped by quite a storm that day as 100mm of rain fell in 24 hours (that’s 10cm’s!!). The MET office recorded 1000 lightening strikes in 60 minutes!
The road was incredible with stop off points to look at stuff every 5 or 7 km or so. Mirror Lakes, Ranging Torrents, Deer Leaps and well over a 1000 waterfalls dropping off the edge of huge mountains and falling hundreds of meters to crash into foaming pools. The highest we saw was one where 3 falls drop into a pool at a height of 295 metres. At the very end of the drive you meet a dead end where the boats leave to do the cruises but in that weather it seemed pointless so we chose to go next time we are here, so when we live here we have something else to do. The only downer is the Sandflies. These things make mosquitos look like fluffy cuddly pets. They make a B line for you and bite you in milliseconds but unlike mozzys, they have no respect. Currently, after a couple got into our cabin a few nights ago we have been bitten all over the place. We each have about 15 bites in our armpits (each!!) Blondie got bitten on the eyelid and across her lady bumps. I even got a couple on my eyebrow. So I have declared war on them with numerous sprays and whacking sticks! I even had to shave off my beloved beard, so it’s gone and the Broke Back Mountain comments can now stop thankfully.
Flandering was quite an experience too. This is a sport as well as a hobby down here. Essentially it involves taking something the size and shape of a tennis court net with a couple of large poles/sticks on either end and about 3 meters of rope with a big loop on the end in the water. Two of you walk out into the sea/river at an hour either side of low tide. One goes chest deep and one goes waist deep. Weights hold the bottom of the net to the sea bed and floats keep the top, er, well afloat strangely enough. You then huff and puff your way through the water for a few hundred meters or so before arching back to the beach to see what you have caught. The record is something like 26 in each drag. We managed 5 Flanders and 1 Soul from 7 drags. Jerry boffed them over the head with a big stick as I looked the other way for fear of (a) fainting and (b) throwing up. (yeah I know I can see people who know me well saying ‘Skone-Bobbits you disgust me’ but I ‘aint no killer like). So after the execution we took them all back to the beach house, and within an hour of pulling them out of the water we were tucking into them around the table. Makes you kinda feel like a real man, well more of a man than ordering them from TESCO with your small tear off ticket in the queue behind the fat women who smells of dog meat. Special thanks to Jerry, Nadia, Julie and Bill for being so utterly wonderful.
Which leads me onto another thing, ‘Southern Man’ or ‘Southland Man’ here in NZ really do make you feel inadequate. They are tough, friendly and as hard as nails. I don’t mean in a fighting way, but in a tough hard man way. They hunt, they drink, they play rugby, they fish for their tea, they sheer sheep, they fix trucks and they are men’s men (not in a Broke Back Mountain way like my beard) they really do make you feel like a Pommy limpwristed, shirtliting, soft, shandy-drinking, blouse wearing, poodle walker. You hear stories of people dragging themselves to trucks with broken legs and hiking back across a mountain with a detached arm in the good hand and then stopping off at the pub on the way to A&E for a ‘quick beer’…..well these guys are who those stories are based on. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION SECTION - (Bruce The Sheep Sheerer Voice required) ‘Well what the bloody hell was I going to do, lay there and wait? Wait for who? Nah bugger that, got work to do. And besides, I was thirsty for a beer and needed a sh*t.!’ …..thirsty for a beer and needed a sh*t INCREDIBLE! Total respect to these guys, and they are lovely with it all the way, real men, real nice.
Oh I must add this comment for 2009 which is going to set the bar standard quite high. You know where someone says something so funny or weird that it gets pinned on the fridge door until its replaced by a more bizarre one. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Amanda Smellie’s little corker……… ‘Sit on the sh*tter and take a photograph of the submarine door’…….WTF?
And here’s another good one, we were at Queenstown in Fiordland, which by the way, is horrible, absolutely and utterly horrible. (more about that in a bit)….okay so we were staying at a motor park which is chalets, motorhomes, campers and tents, simply put lots of people travelling from all over the world. Well, the men’s showers and toilets were broken and there it was. There, in front of me was the sign, not just any sign, but THE sign. Possibly, with the exception of a sign saying ‘FREE BEER’ or ‘FREE MEMBERS ACCESS ONLY’ there it was…….yes there it was, ‘TODAY DUE TO CIRCUMSTANCES BEYOND OUR CONTROL IT IS………………COMMUNIAL SHOWERS AND TOLIETS!!! Well you could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Red light, Green Light, GO GO GO. Gentlemen start you engines. 188.8.131.52.1, We are go for main engine start.
So I swing the door open with as much might as Tarzan him very self swinging through the jungle with Cheetah under one arm and a rolled up copy Jungle Times under the other. Now, what I expected to see was a group of at least 6-8, 20-31 year olds in various states of undress with towels small enough to double as a face flannels and lots of steam with at the very least a couple of them having a bit of ‘rough and tumble’ whilst a towel fell off……..did I see that? Did I see that? Did I?…..in a word NO. Firstly there was the smell, oh my sweet God the illusion was shattered but still I continued boldly onwards like Frodo heading for Mordor. Not to fall at the first hurdle I continued. The noise coming from behind some of the stable doors were, well probably what you would expect in an actual stables, but again like Frodo I pushed on, leaving the trembling of the ring behind.
As I rounded the corner to the basins, there was one women shaving her face and another women bent over the sink spitting and gorging at the tap with a rabid white foam around here face like something out of a Kujo movie. (killer crazy dog movie) Suffice to say her voluptuous backside resembled a very large bike park that you could have simply let go of your bike from some 50 foot away and it would self cruise and smack into the stand at full speed. Remember, as you would do when you were a kid jumping off your bike mid ride and let the bike skid and crash to the ground, not here, not her, oh no…..anally guided bike control this one.
Seriously, her butt was so big it was like she had two Kojaks stuffed under her ample ‘tanga thong bikini’………..so in short, IT DOESN’T HAPPEN IN REAL LIFE. Once again Captain Simon Plumms, thank you most kindly for your continued suggestions of, ‘mate you have to check out this webclip, it’s incredible what this women does with a toaster, a space-hopper and a chicken baster, check out etc,etc.com ….by the way am I the only one who will ever admit to being scared sh*tless by those bizarre orange evil looking devil bouncing devices aka Spacehoppers? Mine hid behind the shed for years just snarling at me…..no one else, someone? Nah just me then….right, moving on.
Queenstown NZ. Made famous for, well, AJ Hacket Bungy Jumping and more recently The Lord of The Rings that was filmed around the locale and many years ago for all the Gold rush that happened. But now, it is simply put, a tourist Mecca with no soul. Yes it looks lovely and it is very clean, and really quite expensive and yes there are lots of things to do, but it just misses soul. Let me try to explain what I mean. My home town of Bath in the County of Avon has history, its pretty, its clean, its full of tourists, there are lots of things to do but it keeps its respect and it knows who and what it is, Queenstown on the other hand in my view, doesn’t know who or what it is and has clearly become a tourism wh()re. Let me explain further. Firstly there’s the Helicopters at $350 a pop minimum, Heli-this and Heli-that. Seriously, Heli-Ski, Heli-Golf, Heli-Hike, Heli-Bike, Heli-Shopping, Heli-Popping Down-The-Shops-For-A-Pint-Of-Milk, Heli-If-You-Dont -Heli-You-Are-No one……..Heli-Bugger Off I say. And as for the women who looked at me down her nose at me and said, ‘Oh you haven’t Heli’ed before’, well..!
I felt like yelling at each and every one of them. I wanted to tell them that a private helicopter around New York City for an hour going in and out and anywhere we wanted to including around what was the Twin Towers was much better, but I didn’t. What gets me is that the peace and tranquility and absolute remoteness of The Remarkables Mountain range should be left to it’s quiet serenity and awesome silent beauty rather than having some (really really rude word) or idiot from Birmingham or Manchester yelling ‘Mad For It’ whilst wearing a football shirt of some knuckle dragging, frontally lobotomised, Darwin exhibit football team dancing all over the lovely land with flagrant disregard or respect for honour of the hills and the people who have passed before or after. And they always wear those damn baseball caps on back to front as well and are dressed from head to toe in JJB Sports ’special Chav range’.
Add to this, Naked Bungy-Jumping, White Water Rafting, Canyoning, Zorbing, River Surfing, Jet Boating, Canyon Swinging, Extreme Horse Riding, Paragliding, Free Fall Parachuting, Hanglidering, America’s Cup Yacht Sailing, Para-sending, River Kayaking, Free Fall Horse Riding, (okay maybe not) but you can essentially do what ever you want. Blondie summed it up well when she said that Queenstown has grown into a City with all its trimmings but is still a backwater small town at its core and has therefore lost its identity. People flock to NZ and aim for the main places and one of the Top 5 most visited is Queenstown, over 2 millions people every year in fact. I think what I’m getting at is that it’s Adrenaline Seekers Haven Holidays. People want a fix of adrenaline but they are too lazy to go out and enjoy this incredible country and find their own natural highs. Instead they want to pick up a flier and be taken there by bus, have a photos and a CD taken of them doing a stupid sport and then going off to the next idiotic thing before drinking until 5am and vomming in the flower beds and sleeping on a bench? (Jo Banana this does not include you. nb - Jo did a backwards Gimp Swing (one of the most scariest and dangerous jumps there is, then did a 15,000ft parachute jump the next day from a perfectly good airplane that wasn’t even on fire)
Last part of the rant….promise. Now don’t get me wrong, the people that do Bungy, Heli or jump off a perfectly good bridge or whatever, are quite ballsy but I just don’t get it. Let me explain something, the human body has 4 or 5 regular fatal killers, Heart packing up, Kidneys giving up, the horrid nasty ‘C’ and of course Cerebro Vascular Accidents aka CVA’s aka Strokes. This is where a blood vessel in your head goes pop and you are in a world of trouble IF you survive. Now this is a known fault with the human body and it effects something like 1 in 3 of the over 65’s and 1 in 20 over 50’s and get this, about 1 in 130 over 30 and these idiots want to leap off a bridge on the end of a dangly rubber band to increase the pressure to their head by, oooh about 8 times????? Yeah great idea. Right, I’m getting off my soapbox now. So in short, it’s beautiful, it’s lovely, it’s sort of almost like Lymington in Hampshire, but it is just blooming awful in my opinion………but we did do the Luge cart racing up on the mountain 3 times each and we did the Shotover Canyon Jetboat safari for Karen’s Birthday back on the 7th of Jan, which by the way was hysterical. If that makes me a hypocrite then I’m sorry but it’s quite beauty, and breathtaking scenery was detracted from by the almost theme park fun fair atmosphere.
Okay, so nearly done. Oh by the way, as the weather has been so bad my camera has been used for some more ‘relaxed’ images and general photos rather than churning out ‘ooh, ahh and woaooh’ landscapes and so on, but in W53 Fiordland, it’s back to business as usual and W55 the Glacier Storm will tighten anyones pants who likes photographic images.
The Deer by the way are just incredible here, they are everywhere and are no less beautiful each time you see a Stag standing with grace and magnificence overlooking the land and wilderness, not to mention the guy in a combat t-shirt and flip flops sneaking along the hedge line with a bloody great camera lens in his hand, aka, me.
Okay so this blog/story thing is getting way too long so I’d better end, but first, the storm! A massive rain storm blew through the day we arrived at The Fox Glacier which, by the way is just jaw droppingly awesome. (that, by the way, is the only time the word ‘awesome’ is permitted, unlike the thrice sentencely use by a certain breed of citizens from across the pond) I swear if one more of the f…….rs say ‘awesome’ in a long dragged out way where they say ‘awe’ from the left side of their burger eating fat chops finished with ’some’ from the right side of their mouths as they roll the blessed word out…..arghhhh. Any travellers will know what I mean. Seriously, the most I have counted was no less than, 12, yes 12, not 10 not 11 but 12 uses of the word ‘awesome’ in one Coke Cola’d breath load of garbage.
Oh and as we were walking to the TERMINAL FACE of The Fox Glacier we got turned back, but still got a couple of shots off as there had been an accident. Apparently, two Australian Indian chaps popped under the small fence to go and pat the Fox Glacier. As they did this, well for want of a better word, The Fox Glacier gave them a bit of a pat back. Well actually, it gave them a 60 tonne pat on the back by dumping an office block sized lump of ice on their heads. Quite dead, both of them I’m assured. They tried to dig them out with a 10 tonne stone digger bizarrely enough which surprised me as one would have thought that the comments that would follow would be along the lines of, ‘Got one, er bugger, got half a one actually, damn that razor sharp steele bucket claw thing. Hugely ballsy thing to do though, drive a digger up a glacier! We said a small prayer as the sun went down for their families.
So anyhoo, after the storm the skies cleared bang on sunset and off I raced in the 4×4 across fields, through streams, up hills, down hills, chased by dogs I was, scattered chickens, and upset a bunch of quite large ducks and finally I shot file W55 standing on the roof of our truck shooting down into a flooded field bouncing light of the clouds as it darkened around me. I can’t express to you in words or on a computer what these images mean when as a Professional Photographer when you Storm Chase and produce such results that need almost no editing other than a quick crop. I guess in light of the fact that 2 people lost their lives so needlessly this day, that the vividness and raw emotion that almost bleeds from the skies into the flooded pools in some way reflect the fact that the skies were angry and full of power, electricity and sadness. Almost as if their passing enraged Pacha Mama (mother earth apparently) who set the skies on fire to mark their deaths. I guess capturing such work is where people thrive on that one moment that you seek, like a Ballerina on the stage in the middle of The Nut Cracker, or a DJ with the crowd baying for his beats at the bridge, or even a Conductor who holds 80 instruments silent for a split second with a pointy stick thing….you get the point, ha ha ha, I didn’t even mean that but hey, that’s just comedy you can’t write.
Copies of the above available on request.
Right, I’d better go for a lay down and quick rub down with a damp copy of National Geographic before they try to get the needle back in my arm again.
Respect Gangster……….Blog dedicated to my Granny who slipped away to sail the seas aged 94 in Milford Haven, Wales.
Chris and Blondie xx (shorter story next time I promise)