Damn Drunken Hoons...

Thursday morning failed to dawn. We’d been staying a slightly more swanky motel than normal, one with a couch and a microwave and a kettle and stuff. And, as an added bonus, just because Russell and I were so damn manly, they threw in a power cut.

Now that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Little power cut. OK, so we couldn’t use the microwave, or the kettle, or the shower, or the heating*, or anything else powered by the magical electric pixies, but we still had the couch, right? We could sit on that to our heart's content. And we did. Man, we sat the hell out of that couch.

Apparently what happened** was that a pair of hoons*** ran out on a $500.00 bar bill at half two in the morning, screeching off in their hight-powered sports car for the sort-of-nearby town of Franz Joseph. Looking for somewhere else to get another bucketful of the demon drink. Now this is a pretty long, wiggly waggly road that threads through the mountains, across floodplains and glacial moraines, but hoons are hoons, so off they went. About five minutes from Franz Joseph they careered off the road and into one of the big concrete poles that hold up the power lines. BANG! Wiping out all the power from just south of Franz Joseph to somewhere I can’t remember how to spell way, WAY down the coast.

Then they drove off. Damn drunken hoons.

So the early start Russell and I were meant to get, never materialised. It’s a lot more difficult to pack your bags when it’s pitch dark outside and you’ve got no lights.

After yesterdays glacier-related disappointment -- couldn’t actually get anywhere near the damn thing, remember? -- and the horrors of dinner**** we were planning on doing a shoot to Franz Joseph to see if their big chunk of moving ice was feeling any less shy. Only with all the sodding about, it meant we couldn’t leave Fox until the sun was far enough up the watery sky to let us see our own socks.

In order to make up time, we skipped breakfast in Fox -- probably not a bad idea, I get the nasty feeling that if they’ll happily marinate fish in Fanta, they’ll probably serve rice crispies with Marmite-infused semi-skimmed – holding out till Franz Joseph instead. Where we blundered into the World’s Grumpiest Waitress competition. Semifinals.

Then Russell and I clomped our way through the mist and fog down the valley carved out by the glacier, picking our way over boulders and through the concrete-like silt deposited by the beast as it retreated back up towards the mountains. Battling like manly men across the debris, fighting our way through the weather, surrounded by waterfalls crashing to the valley floor from the hills above, and Japanese tourists pushing wee kids in baby buggies, grinning and taking photos. Which kind of spoiled the whole Sr. Edmund Hillary thing we had going.

But the glacier was well worth the trip. A huge wall of dirty ice, forty-feet high, with a heart of unnaturally glowing blue. Apparently it’s been growing for the last few years, slowly making its way back down the valley under the weight of all that snow.

Slightly more intrepid souls than us were clomping their way up the side of the mountains for a guided tour in the drizzle, but Russell and I didn’t have enough time to be intrepid -- due to those damn hoons and their power-cutting antics – so we had to do with a few photos, a bit of drinking it all in, and then a slog back down to the car park. Next stop Christchurch.

At least that was the plan. By the time we’d driven the four hours to Arthur’s Pass, it was closed with snow. So we turned around and drove another two hours to the next one up ... and that one was closed too. By now the whole place is in darkness, and the snow’s hurling itself out of the sky. The roads are getting increasingly crappy, and Russell decides that as I’m from Scotland I’ll have a lot more experience driving in snow than he has. So for the first time in the whole trip I am entrusted with the car. Woohoo!

Or it would have been, if we could have gone much faster than three miles an hour on the slithery tarmac.

So instead of a couple of hours, straight across the country to Christchurch, we ended up having to go all the way up the west coast, and around the northern tip of the South Island. By the time we finally pulled into Christchurch it was three in the morning, we’d nearly knocked down a couple of seals*****, everyone was asleep, and the lovely roast lamb the lovelier Ange had made was all cold and clingfilmy in the fridge.

All in all, not the most relaxing of ways to finish the last day of our Great South Island Adventure. But if those bloody idiots hadn’t crashed their car into that power line, we would’ve been over Arthur’s Pass long before the snow hit.

Damn drunken hoons.

*New Zealand in the depths of winter, remember?
** And I say ‘apparently’ for legal reasons, this is just what we heard.
*** A great New Zealand term for ‘young tosspots’.
**** Not as bad as the BUFFET OF DOOM, but still pretty horrible: fish fillets in a citrus sauce with boiled tatties should have been reliable enough, but the cirtrus was orange, and the sauce was sweet. So it was a bit like someone pouring Fanta all over a packet of fish fingers. And the tatties were ... let’s be nice and call them al dente.
There seems to have been a bit of theme in New Zealand cuisine where they like to put sweet sauces with meat. I think it’s meant to be all nouvelle and swank, but it’s actually seriously sodding nasty. Stop it! Bad New Zealand chefs, naughty!
***** When the weather’s crappy they like to shuffle out of the water and up onto the road, where it’s a little bit warmer. Doesn’t help that they’re the same bloody colour as the tarmac in the dark.

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