March 31st 1983

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Kirsten, Val, Andy

This morning continued (for me) much as the night had gone on, not feeling at all well, being able to eat nothing.  It was a fine morning tho’ , + Val + I went for a walk along the beach.  We seem to have moved beyond passion, but to companionship so early?  Ah well.

Around lunchtime, we decided to move on to the festival site, so we could pick ourselves out a decent site, but we really needn’t have worried – we were very nearly the first ones there, + could have pour pick of the entire place, with the exception of the rugby pitch.  We took our time, pitched tent, + even took time out for tea + crumpets, but as the sun went down + the wind picked up, I found it all too cold + unpleasant, + went off to bed.  They were supposed to be having some sort of informal concert in the evening, so I asked Val to wake me for that.  The others ate + talked, + Steve + Alison turned up, pitching their tent near us.

After a while, everyone wandered over to the Hall, but when Val + I went over, we couldn’t find anyone, so on the assumption they’d all gone to the pub, we walked up there.  There were plenty of people in the pub, but no folkies, + specifically none of our friends, so back we headed to the domain, + eventually found them all upstairs in the rugby clubhouse.  It was a complete non-event there tho’ – just one or two people strumming, but no more – not even a singalong, so after a time we drifted back to bed.

Illness really does take the fun out of stuff, but this appears to be a pretty dismal start to the Festival.

March 30th 1983

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Kirsten and Malisse (not quite ready)

Andy collected us, as arranged, at 9 or so, + mercifully we were ready.  We then drove to collect Kirsten, who wasn’t.  However, after not too long a wait, we were packed + squeezed into the car, Malisse too coming as far as town.  Stopped at a second-hand shop, which was most fortunate for me, as I bought a pair of training shoes.  The place was relatively expensive, but still saved me money.  Town next, + chores – collecting photos, applying for visa extensions, Post Office, meeting up with the others at a coffee shop, where I had a chicken sandwich – this may be significant!  Shopping came next, which seemed to cost a fortune, but is, I suppose, for quite a few days, for quite a few people.  All such things delayed us, so that it was some time before we departed Christchurch + drove north, arriving at Amberley, the venue of the Folk Festival, + some 30 miles north, in the late afternoon.

We camped on the beach, away from everybody.  The place was beautiful, but so very, very cold, with a relentless wind blowing in from the sea, so soon after dinner we went to bed.  I wish that was all there was to tell, but I was up several times during the night, with my wind matching the ocean’s.  A couple of times, I only just made it to the toilet (a long way away) to have a great elephant trumpet voluntary of a fart announce the bubbling onrush of diahorrea.  Not pleasant.

Apologies for the far more detail than you needed description of my affliction. As I’ve said, a vital aspect of travelling… but there’s no need to inflict it upon you.

There’s a sign of another time – referring to my new purchase as “training shoes” – in those days, trainers were people.

Awaiting home

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Which is the name of the joint production we are putting on with Compass, the poster for which is shown above.  The blurb for our half of the show is not at all a bad summary, all the more so since it was gleaned from the very few words I gave to Leah at Compass.  There are a couple of minor errors – not all live in the Holiday Inn (the others are at Best Western), and more importantly the name of the company is wrong, since I gave them the wrong name, mis-remembering or mis-reading the name Frishta had given me, which should be Zhvan, Farsi for “a happy place”… or at least I very much hope so.  Frishta was understandably a little annoyed with me, but I think we have it sorted now.

Seeing as the performance is one week and two days away, it was a little disappointing that we had only two-thirds of our cast there, with Abdulaziz having to attend a meeting with his lawyer, Naomi somewhere in London, and Sherwan unable to attend until the actual day (at least I knew about this one.)  But actually, I was relatively reassured.  They have all made an effort with their lines, and though they are struggling and stumbling, I was (for me) relatively strict, insisting they did not rely on their books – it is only storing up trouble for later, and more crucial, times.

We rehearsed what we could, in an ad hoc sort of way, running through all the paired scenes which reflect their encounters with officialdom, as well as, crucially, Godot – we had Ali, and this is his major contribution.  Admittedly, we did have me standing in for Abdulaziz, and I am a little more reliable, but in general, it went well.  With one definite hiccup.  They all wear clown noses for this scene, sponge ones which just sit on the nose.  Except that there was no way that Ali’s would stay on – his nose is too broad and flat.  But that will be sorted – I did think of Copydex (a sort of adhesive), but Val is going to fix elastic on to his.  (The remaining issue is whether I need to do the same for Abdulaziz, as he was not there to try his on, but am concerned that I am now wandering into unconscious racism.)

But then we decided to run the opening scene, and somehow stumbled into a run-through of sorts, which had some gaps, but also proved to everyone that we could do the whole play.  Like I say – encouraging.  My one major concern (other than the logistics of getting them all there on time) is that they will not be loud enough.  Hard enough for most performers (just listen to Anthony Hopkins going on about it) but especially so for desperately inexperienced actors dealing with talking in another language.

March 29th 1983

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Christchurch cathedral

With the absence of a clock, we couldn’t tell whether or not we’d made an early start.  However, by the time we got into town, it was later than we’d thought.  Business first, of course.  We visited the Ministry of Labour, to enquire about extending our visas – without an extension, we couldn’t afford the time to go to the Folk Festival.  Somehow, we had contrived to leave our money + bank book in Andy’s car, hence were unable to show evidence of funds, + thus obtain the extension on the spot, but the girl didn’t seem to think there would be a problem, so we went right down to Air NZ to change the date of our air ticket.  Without the tickets themselves, I was anticipating horrible problems, but with the aid of a computer it seems to be a breeze.

What was left of the morning, we spent looking at + for shoes for me.  Without much luck.  In the afternoon, we saw “Gandhi”.  It’s been hailed as a masterpiece, + I think it probably is, tho’ I found it different to what I had expected.  Less emotional, less sensational, more reasoned, more weighed.  Ben Kingsley was magnificent, a triumph.  An overnight star, I suppose.

Met Steve again during the intermission – I knew I said I’d like to see him again but this is ridiculous.  He, Alison + Trish had come in just to see the film, but it seems he too will be going to the Festival, so we shall undoubtedly see him there.  Val + I bought fish + chips on the way home, then spent the evening chatting, watching telly, + (for me) getting this thing finally up to date.  Which is where I am now, doing precisely that.  Having done precisely that, I’m off to bed.

What is it about us and clocks/watches!? It seems to be a perennial problem, though I’m sure I have made reference at various points to obtaining an alarm clock.

As for our trip to the Air NZ was clearly, had we known it at the time, a glimpse of the future. We were still in the pre-digital world, where paper tickets (not to mention things like travellers’ cheques, photography on your phone, even actual letters) were all-important. Nowadays you just turn up at the airport with your passport (still just about hanging on) and your phone.

Good to run into Steve again, with more to come.

March 28th 1983

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Kirsten, Andy, Malisse, Chris – a tickling session, I think, in which I am attempting to assist Andy.

Took our farewells of Steve this morning – I’ve grown to like him a lot over the past few days – he is very definitely one of the people I would like to see again.  Then the 3 of us drove into Christchurch.  I’ve been predisposed towards the place ever since I read about it, + my first impressions confirmed that sentiment.  We drove straight to the centre, Andy collected his mail, + we had coffee.  Then, just as we were about to leave, Andy spotted Kirsten’s van, + we shot up + parked next to them just as they were finalising the sale of it.  Talk about whoops of surprise + delight.  Not only had they relieved themselves of the van, not only had they made a healthy profit on the deal, but young (34 years young) Andrew had appeared out of the blue as if by magic.  The girls, Kirsten + Malisse, were both very excited, so we all went to a favourite coffee shop, where they treated us to coffee, salad, + cake – we could all unwind.  Kirsten also mentioned a folk festival over Easter weekend, which appealed to us, + possibly altered plans for an almost immediate departure down to Fjordland.  However, that was for the future.

For the present, we drove Kirsten back to her camp ground, + then drove out to Lyttelton, Christchurch’s port.  It was good, tho’ even better was the drive over to Sumnor.  The wind was fierce + wicked, + we sat in the car watching an immensely skilled windsurfer battle against what seemed to be an impossible wind. 

Drove back to Christchurch, out to the campground, + tho’  neither Kirsten nor Malisse were there, we fixed a sandwich,+ I rang John + Pat, the contacts we’d made while in Tongariro.  Fortunately, all was well, + we were invited to stay… as we had hoped + expected.  Andy dropped us round, + this time it was his turn to watch us read mail.  Our passports had arrived with Australian visas – excellent.  Gill from Fullers had written to say we had to pay more money for our air ticket – not excellent.  Otherwise, application forms for IRD nos, + a letter from my mum, tho’ not Val’s.  Odd.  Said we’d see Andy tomorrow, + spent the evening with John + Pat.  They share a huge house with 4 others – all of us ate together, after which J + P took us on a drive around the night sights of the city, both from within + without – we drove up onto the hills above the city, + with the clear night had a lovely view.  J + P are very kind, but not our sort of people at all.

Slight plot-spoiler – this was not the “end” of Steve, lest you think I am ignoring him. But good to re-connect with the girls, all the more so since it was unexpected. And the opportunity to receive mail was always a red-letter day. Otherwise, we are moving inexorably towards our departure from New Zealand, as evidenced by talk of air-tickets etc. This will be our first commercial flight since we left, so not at all a bad effort. And (very mildly) better for the planet too, though we didn’t know this at the time, and our avoidance of flying was cultural and financial rather than ecological.

March 27th 1983

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Andy, Val and Steve on Oliver

Today was Andy’s birthday.  I felt rather better, tho’ not good.  So was unable to partake of the enormous + spicy breakfast Steve was making.  He is a very talented young man – he cooks, sews, juggles, + plays an excellent blues harmonica… tho’ not all at the same time.  I wish I had a quarter his skills + energies.  We had a very lazy day, mostly games of cards punctuated at regular intervals by spells of eating.  Dinner was a real feast – spaghetti, 2 quiches, blackberry+ apple pie, cheesecake, + birthday cake.  Even I managed a bit of most of those.  Come evening we sang, tho’ not a terrific amount, + then played charades.  Val was the undoubted star, because of her obtuse mind + mouse interpretations.  There were 2 more in the party by now – a loud young Australian lady called Alison, + a quiet young Englishman called Ken.  I still don’t know from where he sprang.

At least the mystery of the 2 additional people from yesterday’s photo is cleared up… though only up to a point (see last sentence.) Otherwise, it appears we spent our time eating and playing – nothing wrong with that.

March 26th 1983

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At Trish’s house – Val, Chris, Trish, Mandy, Steve, Andy, Ken

Not a good day for me.  The night went well, in that we slept, but yesterday’s vague feelings of discomfort overnight hardened into definite sickness – a pounding headache, with feelings of nausea.  I ate virtually nothing all day.  In terms of the weather, the day also deteriorated fast, from a brilliant morning to windy grey to heavy rain.   This last occurred while we were on town, forcing us to shelter in the tea shop, + then, when we were kicked out of there, in yet another Arthur’s Pass National Park shelter.  It was a pretty bleak place for, altho’ it was pretty crowded, none of the laggards had bothered to light the stove.  This we remedied, + then sat there for an hour or so, listening to the rain + playing cards.  Val eventually obtained a weather report from the Park office, which suggested the weather wasn’t going to change, so we decided to miss out on Arthur’s Pass, + head on to Christchurch.  Steve rang some friends of his on the outskirts, arranging for us to stay there tonight, so we returned to our camp-site, pulled up our tents, + headed out.  Even before we left, the sun was shining, but I think that shows what different weather conditions on either side of a continental divide can be, rather than the weather forecaster’s ineptitude.

We stopped just twice on the way to Kirwee, so that others could a) visit a geological feature, and b) visit a pub, but I just slept in the car both times.  And then we were at Kirwee, a beautiful big old farmhouse, inhabited at the moment solely by Trish, a young Australian housekeeper + her many animals.  I can write no more about today – I stayed up only long enough to be polite then went to bed,  Somehow I sweated my way thro’ the night.

I am sure you must be growing weary of my constant litany of illness, possibly as much as I was going through it. Am I a hypochondriac? Probably, a bit, more by way of allowing illness to dominate my day, rather than making stuff up. But I do also seem to get ill a lot (as later events in my life have testified – I have certainly got more than my money’s worth out of the NHS.)

As for the photo, I don’t know who Mandy and Ken were, but maybe this photo is out of sync.

March 25th 1983

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Andy’s Holden (christened, apparently, Oliver)

At an early hour we crawled out of our nylon paddling pool that we sleep in – it had been a wild wet + windy night, + our tent had done its usual inept job at keeping the rain out.  Such is life.  It was useless waiting for the tents to dry off, so we just pulled ‘em down, packed ‘em up, + got in the car.  Drove to Greymouth, the next big town, the main task being to stock up on our stores.  We planned to go to Arthur’s Pass + spend a few days there, going on a hike or 2.  At least the others did.  Not only did I no longer have any footwear other than a pair of sandals, but during yesterday’s exertions I’d also managed to aggravate my knee so that it was worse than before.  So, I reckoned to find myself a cosy nook while the others plodded up mountains.  God, Greymouth was cold.  Andy + Steve are good companions tho’, quick, funny, + constantly getting at each other, without getting ratty.  Andy managed to cop Steve with a huge cream bun in the kisser.

Moved on to Arthur’s Pass in the afternoon, stopping off to look at the scenery, the flowering rata bushes, + the birds.  Visited yet another Visitor’s Centre – after a while, most of these places blur into one.  Topographical maps, profiles, stuffed birds… tho’ this one did have a stagecoach as well.  We then went to one of the park’s camping areas.  This was  no more than a patch of grass, plus a shelter.  The shelter was very new, a glassed polygon building, only without a door.  Its big asset was a woodstove, which we soon had blazing.  We needed it too – the weather was freezing.  We dragged a picnic table inside from the picnic area, + so were able to sit in relative comfort, eat a meal, + while away the evening with laughter + cards,  before braving the temperature  + going to bed.  It was our sleeping bags’ sternest test yet – we were true mummies, with just a face peering out… tho’ I was also wearing socks, long johns, + a shirt.

This diary, as well as being a record of almost every meal, is also a log of my various ailments – feet, stomach, knees, and (largely by implication) mind. Apologies for the litany of woe, but do bear in mind, it is me that is writing the thing,and it is more a record of what was going on in my head at the time, too often with brutal and destructive effect, at least so far as I am exposed to the world. All right, the limited world who read this, now or in the future. And inevitably my physical well-being, or lack or it, predominates.

But it really was pretty cold and miserable, we were moving south, and the antipodean winter was on its way. So it was as well that, from a social point of view, we had good companions.

March 24th 1983

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Val using the 3-wire bridge

It rained all night, + was still doing so quite heavily this morning, but after a respectably hearty breakfast, we felt pretty much ready for anything… even the trip back.  The river had been bad enough before – now any thought of crossing the river other than by bridge was out of the question.  So the wet weather track it had to be, this time with truly the weather to match.  And a right plod thro’ the mud it proved to be, too, far worse than before.  Which finally did the dirty on my boot, I reckon.  This time it wasn’t the glue that gave way but the stitches, + tho’ Val did a splendid job of binding it up with string, enough for it to last out the trip, that, I’m afraid, is it for them.  Even with the weather tho’, the walk back was far more pleasant – no worries about time, + extra company.  The hairiest moment was encountering a really primitive bridge.  On the way out, we had encountered a small, virtually negligible stream with 3 stout wires strung from the trees passing over.  It had seemed rather irrelevant to our purposes tho’, as we had merely stepped over the stones.  Now, it was an entirely different matter, since the small stream had become a raging torrent, + those wires represented our bridge.  Steve gave a whoop of delight, + leapt on, then Andy took his turn… Val + I could only look at each other in total dismay.  However, do or die, I thought, + climbed on.  The idea was to walk along the bottom wire like a tight-rope walker, only using the other 2 wires as banisters.  To be fair, in practice it was pretty easy, but I was glad to be at the other end.

…and Chris

And eventually, after much plodding, weary plodding, we were back at the car.  Wet… but safe.  A change of clothes, + a quick drive to the nearest pub, where we demolished 3 jugs + a few pies, before heading to Westport.  There we spent time + money on a little shopping, before moving on once again.  Steve was still with us – an extra body in the car suited us just dandy.  We pulled in for the night at Punakaike Camp Site, about the best value we’ve encountered in New Zealand, with good modern facilities at $1 a head.  The weather was pretty appalling still, so it wasn’t much fun pitching tent in the rain.  Ah well. The place was a bit over-crowded, that was its trouble – there was a large party of schoolkids in, but that couldn’t be helped.

What a difference having some company along made, despite the rain, despite the mud… and both Andy and Steve were splendid companions. And actually, despite both Val and I finding the bridge daunting, we coped with it fairly easily.

March 23rd 1983

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Chris on some bridge or other

A change in the weather overnight to the stuff the West Coast is famous for, grey, misty rain.  Drove north again, stopping off at a gold mine, which in fact proved to be very interesting, being a blend of the old, with loads of old tunnels, tools etc, all without cosmetics, + the present day, in that the thing is still working, still churning out gold.  Churning is not quite right – they produce about an ounce a week – but the guy was obviously knowledgeable, if a little over-technical in his explanations – + had some fascinating rocks.  A side note – how difficult it is to find new words – fascinating, remarkable, interesting… ah dear, I’ll try to stick to good in future, I think.

The gold mine

Arrived at Westport, shopped, + then on to Little Wanganui, + one end of the Wangepeka track.  We had told Andy that we would probably join him tonight at the final hut, especially since, according to his book, it was an easy two and a half hour walk.  Quite a little jaunt, we thought.  Ha ha.  It turned into something very nearly approaching a nightmare.  To begin with, we had to set off on the wet weather track – the true track led straight across the river, + we didn’t fancy getting our feet wet.  Not that the wet weather track was much better – very muddy.  And in that it went a good deal out of the way, plus we were picking our way gingerly over the mud, it slowed us down a lot.  Eventually, breathing huge sighs of relief, we emerged from our forest, + the “dry” track re-crossed the river to join us.  Right, we thought, now we can make some progress.  Only not for long, as the true track promptly took a right turn + disappeared across the river, + we, still reluctant to dangle the tootsies in what was really quite a powerful little river, headed back into the forest + mud.

We were beginning to become a little worried by now, as the light was fading, + visions were floating before our eyes of spending the night out in the open.  Eventually, we decided that if the other track, the true track, went on the other side of the river, that was where we had to be, so in we plunged.  It was very powerful – Val was very nearly swept off her feet – I think it was only the thought of the camera round her neck that kept her erect – but we made it across, + immediately set off at a mad gallop.  I think you can imagine our feelings when after just a few yards the track indicators switched back to the left bank.  Over we went once again (me taking the camera this time) + once again did our level best to keep up our speed + spirits charging thro’ the mud + undergrowth.  This really was a worrying situation.  Worst of all, I knew from the map that the hut was on the other side of the river, + the thought of crossing that river again filled me with no delight whatever.

The actual note (not a reconstruction)
Val crossing the bridge to the hut

Great pepper up for the spirits when we arrived at an old hut + found a note from Andy, telling us he was 15 mins away.  Wowee!  We really pushed on then, even if we hadn’t before.  And what a whoop of joy we gave when we saw not just the hut, not just the smoke coming from the chimney, but also a swing bridge across the river.  A good bridge too – exciting stuff, the crossing.  Andy was there too, welcoming us, even stronger when we produced the bottle of wine we’d lugged out.  In the warmth of the cabin, our fears seemed as nothing, but they’d been real enough at the time.  We passed an extraordinarily pleasant evening, the 3 of us, plus Steve, an American guy we’d met before briefly on the Abel Tasman walk.  We ate well, drank, + then sang just about the entire extent of our collective repertoire.  So all turned out well.

So, quite the adventure, all 5the more exciting (and worrying) for being unexpected. Still, what doesn’t kill you… etc.

You may have noticed an upswing in the number of photos I am posting, when a couple of months ago I was searching desperately for anything vaguely relevant, including more photos of Haruru Falls than you could have thought existed. It is just that this particular part of our trip was especially well-documented (from a photographic point of view) so it seems a shame not to share them. And we are coming towards the end of our New Zealand stay, so this is the last time they will be relevant… and I have still left quite a few out! There is (spoiler alert) another barren period to come, later in our trip. so maybe I will squeeze some more in there.