Thursday, January 27, 2011
Road trip III: Sex is everywhere, but no where around me
Like the TV series, MASH, which ran three times as long as the Korean War in which it was set, this Road Trip story is reaching Cecil B. DeMille-esque proportions, greatly out-distancing the actual trip upon which it is based. I'll see what I can do about wrapping it up.
My last waking act before leaving Windy Wellington was to return to one of the hundreds of coffee outlets I'd been churning through over the previous few days, to buzz my brain a little more while I sorted out some onward accommodation using the free Wi-Fi.
After many false starts, bogus postings and rude landlords refusing a two-night stay, I eventually got onto Frank, a beach house property owner from Napier who answered the phone with, "Awwr shut! ... ah, hello? Frank speaking...". Frank's engine had exploded moments before I'd called, and he was swearing blue, kiwi murder as he stood stranded on a country road.
"Yeah, thut should be no worries ... fuck ... just come up and we'll sort everythung out when you get here [boom!] ... shut, nooooooo... [click] beep beep beep...".
So with a gullet full of caffeine, a well-rested Hambones and Mrs D wrestling with a plethora of chords as she tried to get the sexy Kiwi GPS navigator working, we started on our way out of Welly ... just after a final supply run to the ironically-named 'New' World. In no way is New Zealand more like 1980s suburban Melbourne than in its supermarkets; when I was a wee one, Coles supermarket was known as Coles' New World, and walking through the doors of the Wellington New World, the surroundings immediately had me reminiscing about climbing into one of those hard plastic trolley seats, and taking a massive dump in my daks.
The setting was flawless 1980s; tins of food were stacked in precarious, delinquent-child-attracting pyramidal displays, the trolleys were massive, deep and without the modern child-safety straps, and there was a tobacco counter up front at which stood four or five old ladies in plastic shower caps trying to buy cartons of ciggies with loose change.
Mrs D and I went crazy with the nostalgia of it all and filled that stretch-limo trolley with all kinds of stuff you haven't been able to buy in Australia for 25 years. As we approached the checkout, we were more than a little sheepish in anticipation of the expected whack this was going to make in our savings.
The first pleasant surprise we received at the checkout was a surprisingly pleasant young man ringing-up each item with a smile, a laugh and a generally amiable disposition (something we haven't experienced in Australian supermarkets for at least two decades), and the next wonderful gift was that the African-famine-saving haul of 1980s groceries we'd just procured totalled exactly what it would have back in the '80s!
Are you kidding me? All through our trip in NZ, all we ever heard from people we met, or on the radio, TV current affairs programs or in the papers was that Australians' salaries were 40% higher than Kiwis', and that economists were tipping this inequity to rise in the next year by 20 - 437% (depending on the disgruntlement of the person relaying the story – "Err, it's not fair. You Australians get it easy. We're thinking of leaving and going over to live in Aussie 'cause it's just too expensive here"). And yet there we were, with the biggest hoard of groceries since Henry VIII decided he was going to up-size Christmas dinner, costing only about 40% of a regular grocery bill back home! Get some perspective, Kiwis! We might get paid more than you, but it costs you nothing to live, eat, own a vehicle or an ocean-view property.
So with that warm feeling one gets from having a wallet still full of cash, and with our mouths full of pineapple lumps and 'chocolate fush', we nudged out of the New World car park, and thanks to the seductive, dulcet tones of 'Dulcie', the sexy Kiwi GPS, we were on the highway and heading-off on the Road Trip proper with some classic Black Seeds dubbing it up on the stereo to help us on our way.
Within moments, sophisticated, windy old Wellington was behind us, replaced by stretches of farmland dotted with periodic communities of New Worlds, McDonalds-es and Bunnings Warehouses. The suddenness of the city's disappearance reminded us just how small this country was, and while musing over this, as if to hit the point home, we emerged from a deep valley and were looking out over a spectacular, sun-swept bay with dramatic, mountainous islands shooting-up out of the sparkling water. The road along the shoreline was as tight and spectacular as our own, much-lauded Great Ocean Road, with the adrenaline-pumping bonus of no safety barriers, and we were thoroughly pumped as the dramatic views and Salmonella Dub's Dancehall Girl created an expectant air of exciting adventures to come.
As we passed through Palmerston North, university town to many of our Kiwi friends, I exhaled a deep sigh of relief that I had stuck to my guns and refused Mrs donkey's demands that we book a night's accommodation here. Apart from Massey University, the only other thing Palmy is famous for is that at least one of its residents features on the evening news each night, usually for having beaten, killed, raped, eaten or been practicing polygamy with a neighbour and/or family member. I quietly locked the doors as we cruised down the main drag, and gunned the Epica through the red lights to ward-off University pranksters and/or armed car jackers.
As with Wellington, we were through Palmy in a jiffy, and before long were hurtling along a windy, barrier-less road through a spectacular gorge at ridiculously dangerous speeds thanks to a massive cattle truck balling down on our arse. This deep canyon seemed to be the sluice via which inland communities emptied their refuse into Palmerston North, and before long we were cruising though the quaint little town of Woodville, where we stopped for a break, a leak and an ice cream.
The latter was sourced from a wonderfully, 1950s-looking dairy in the main street, and we took our 30 cent (!) treats a block down a side street to a magnificent local park. What I have failed to describe to date is the great contrast between the colour of the Australian countryside and that of North Island New Zealand – NZ is so spectacularly green! And this public park was just incredible. Reverently we each took off our shoes before tiptoeing onto the fluffy, emerald carpet, and then grinning guiltily, we stood waiting for some old Kiwi, Mr McGreggor-type to come running over to us waving a shovel and shouting, "Git off the grass, wull yous!". But we soon realised that this lush, well clipped and rolled public lawn was fair game for all, and judging by the indifference being displayed by the bike-riding teenagers wandering across the furry floor over yonder, such facilities appeared reasonably commonplace.
We stuck around in that park for about two hours, lounging back on the soft grass beneath the swaying oaks, and watching Hambones amuse himself on the gravity-defying, 1950s safety standard play equipment. After a while we also came to take a little interest in the other park users, and to notice certain behaviours and circumstances that bound them.
Firstly, over the course of an hour, a gathering of young teens swelled from three to about twelve, comprising tough, fit, young white boys in low-slung daks, and similarly-conditioned girls in cut-off denim shorts and crop tops. They would move from one set of play equipment to the next, flirting and laughing together, almost touching and then breaking away again. They seemed intimately familiar with each other and ... well, bored.
From time to time, one would call out to similarly-aged citizens walking along the park's periphery, or through the middle on the immaculately curated paths as they pushed prams containing wee, crying babies.
The original group continued to wander from the swings, to the slide, laughing and flirting and occasionally splitting off in couples to hold hushed conversations beside the thick oaks, before outing a shrill laugh and re-joining their friends.
As we packed-up and headed-off to join potty-mouth Frank in Napier, I reflected that despite the lush surroundings of Woodville, like so many small towns the world over, there was very little to occupy young people such to prevent the kind of boredom which can rapidly slide into circumstances which may ultimately anchor them in the very place which offers them so little stimulation. I had no doubt those swinging teens (no pun intended) would soon be joining their park-traversing compatriots during infant-sleep-inducing perambulations.
Fine green grass might keep the mid-week golfing ladies busy, but for the youth of Woodville, it's not quite enough to steer 'em clear of the rough. Pic: http://www.hickerphoto.com/putting-green-shot-oliva-nova-golf-course-valencia-12635-pictures.htm