March 17th 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 0

Choices – we could walk on to Totoranui + take the water-taxi south to Ketetahi.  Cost – $15 per person.  Or walk to Totoranui + share a taxi out to Takaka.  Since we had discovered that there was nobody else but our sweet selves to share a taxi with,  that would have cost us $13 each.  Or we could have continued to walk the trail following the coast around the peninsula, but we were short of food.  So the final solution (tho’ nothing like as drastic) was to walk out to Takaka, 33 kms away.  We made an early start, in order to catch the tide out.  Quite a pantomime crossing the estuary.  Shoes + socks off to start with,  but the cold soon forced them back on.  Then off, to cross a stream.  Then on, then off, then on, and then, just 50 yards from the far bank, thick, black oozing mud forced them off again.  Freezing black mud oozing up thro’ the toes.  We emerged, looking as tho’ we had black socks on, cleaned off most of the muck, + pulled on socks + shoes over the rest of it.

The first part of the walk was good, very good – we polished off a comfortable 13 kms before feeling we had earned breakfast.  That, however, proved a doubly disappointing event.  First we discovered we had left the porridge behind – I had looked forward to that over each + every km – + while we were eating our meagre substitute of bread + jam, a van passed, our first real chance of a lift.  This double loss depressed our spirits somewhat, + converted what had been a pleasant hike into a rather tedious plod, especially since the landscape flattened out.  Eventually, however, we passed sufficient houses for the prospects of a ride to increase considerably, + as it happened, a ride was got.  The donor was an elderly gentleman, full of interesting stories of his early days in England.  He dropped us off in Takaka, pointing us in the direction of a recommended coffee shop.  Where we met Andy + Kirsten.  They both seemed highly delighted that we’d got out of the Park, + tho’ they were on their way out of the place, they promptly turned around + went back in to sit + talk with us + watch us eat banana pancakes… they were quite beautiful.

We then indulged ourselves in the luxury of looking thro’ a most excellent second-hand shop, + tho’ I nearly lost the purse, we also found a couple of good books – A History of New Zealand, + a hardback copy of one of H E Bates’ Larkin adventures.  Dope is alright; bibliophilia is my real drug.  Confirmed with Andy our meeting time, + then said farewell once more as they 4 disappeared in their van, + we 2 took to the hitching trail.  An old man took us half-way to Motueka, Val riding in the cab + me in the back of his pick-up.  I had the better deal – the weather was beautiful, + the scenery dramatic – big, towering hills.  He dropped us outside his house, in the middle of nowhere, but we soon got another ride.  The guy was going almost to Nelson, so altho’ we had thought to spend the night in Motueka, + we would arrive in Nelson too soon, it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, so we decided to go all the way.  The Takaha hills were remarkable, + we would have liked to have stopped + took a better look – we couldn’t, of course.  That’s one of the pitfalls of hitchhiking.

He dropped us in Stoke, an outskirt of Nelson, where we were rather lost.  As is so often the case, the big distances are a piece of cake, it’s the last 10 miles which cause all the problems.  Nobody seemed to know anything about buses, but in desperation, just standing there in a normal shopping street, I threw out a thumb + an old guy pulled up straight away.  He only took us a couple of miles (tho’ I can’t complain about that – every little helps) but made us pay for our trip by forcing us to listen to a sermon when we stopped.  He even offered to pray for us, an offer which we politely refused.  One meets all kinds, doesn’t one.  This still left us 2 or 3 miles out of town, so we walked.  We’d already walked a long way today, + were now tired + hungry.  Or at any rate I was.  And that long long struggle along the waterfront from the Kentucky Fried Chicken into town was about all I could take.  But we made it.

I called Gus to tell him we reckoned on having a beer before heading out to their place, if that was alright.  It wasn’t.  He gave us a story which may or may not have been genuine that a friend of Joan’s was occupying the caravan.  He suggested no more, so I took the hint that there was no place for us, + said we’d be around to pick up our stuff in the morning.  We were left in a bit of a spot here, having now, being without our tent, to discover a place to rest our heads.  We paused only briefly to satisfy our other need, + bought some cheap + tasty fish + chips, + then began to wander out to the nearest motor-camp, + fix up a caravan.  This prospect filled me with no delight whatever, but by good fortune we ran into a Swiss guy who had a list of respectably-priced guest houses.  We followed him to No 19, Collingwood St, + eventually managed to locate the old lady who ran the place.  It cost, of course – $20 for the 2 of us – but was worth it, in the circumstances (exhaustion.)  A lovely old place, just like the sort of bed + breakfast place one can no longer find in England.  (At least, that is the impression I have – probably there are still hundreds about.)

Nelson

We spent only about half an hour in the pub, not because we didn’t enjoy it, + then returned limping to the delights of a large double bed.  (I should emphasise that it was only me who was in poor condition – Val is hale + hearty + disgustingly fit, while I not only have nothing like her stamina, but also seem to attract a new ailment every day – she thinks I’m going gammy on her.)

Quite a day, it seems, with quiute a variety of experiences. 30 kms (more or less 20 miles) did seem a bit of a stretch, so I was pleased we were also able to hitch for some of it.

The book was “The Darling Buds of May” – much recommended, and still sitting on our shelf. In fact, it sparked quite a collection, of hard-back novels (and indeed, many other genres as well) of books produced by The Book Club – not as tacky as it sounds, as these were faithful re-prints of original works, using the original covers, etc. We now have hundreds.

And very good to re-connect with Andy Newson, first because he was a most companionable companion, secondly because he had a car!

But all mildly spoilt by the reaction from Gus. It really was very strange. We had had a most convivial evening with bthem, and thought we had got on well, but the next morning there was (as I remarked at the time) a curious atmosphere, and this was confirmed by our unceremonious dumping. People can be funny, but there’s no good worrying about it.

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