April 11th 1983

posted in: Innocents Abroad | 1

Weather splendid again, so we decided to check the costs of a scenic flight around Mt Cook.  Drove to the (appropriately named) Mt Cook Airline airfield, hoping that, by by-passing the tourist officer, we might be able to secure a better deal.  At least, that was Andy’s hope.  He is a great believer in offering cash as an incentive to lower prices.  I find the practice almost obscene, partly because of an inbuilt pessimism, mostly because of British reticence, fear of being rejected.  In this case, I also thought that Mt Cook line was far too big an operation to be swayed by such an offer – one deals with little cogs, not big wheels – and I was proved right.  The regular price for flights was far too steep for us paupies, so, not without several wistful looks at the aircraft sitting there, we re-entered our own humbler vehicle + drove off.  To our surprise, we were soon presented with another opportunity.  Driving past another airfield, we saw a small plane come in, so we let Val loose upon the pilot to try her charms – this being a smaller outfit, the personal feminine touch had more chance of working.  And did.  Val was able to wangle 2 $45 to fill up the plane, for $30 apiece.  This, we decided, was about as good as we were likely to get – theonly question was who were to be the lucky recipients.  Kirsten had already said she didn’t want to go, + Andy seemed to think Val had earned the flight, so it was left to him + me to fight it out.  Quite peacefully, I assure you, I called heads, the coin landed heads, so I got it.  A bot of a waste, in some ways, since Val could take the photos for us both, but then photos aren’t everything.

The best part of the flight, for me, was the take-off – I always get a real buzz out of that, whether it be in a Cessna or a Douglas.  We hurtled along a grass strip, + then up.  The weather was terrific, the scenery magnificent, + we shot picture after picture of mountains, glaciers, ice-fields + rock faces.  It was all so beautiful that it soon lost its novelty value – the world is defined by contrasts, I suppose.  A bumpy ride it was, too – which I imagine is only natural in the mountains.  We were up something like 45 mins which was about as long as I could take.  Certainly worth the $30… but not really much more.

We re-joined Andy + Kirsten at the adjacent camp-site, where they were taking advantage of the facilities, so we too showered, + then had coffee + toast.  Now for the sad part – when we left, one of our blue plastic mugs, brought all the way from Mexico, we left sitting on the wall.  Funny how one become attached to things.  When travelling, they almost take the place of friends, + provoke a positive sense of loss when they depart.  Tho’ I think I’m like that with objects wherever I live.

We drove on to Wanaka from here, arriving when it was quite late, + the place was just about closing down.  We did consider just camping down by the lake, but as we were looking around, quite a strong wind seemed to come up, so we decided to head for the shelter that a motor-camp might offer.  That came as a huge relief to me – it’s not the nights out in the open that bother me, but the evenings, which I find cold + depressing.  We pitched tent, then prepared for the evening meal.  A strangely unpleasant affair it turned out to be.  Kirsten had bought a big bottle of wine for us all, to commemorate her imminent departure… tomorrow.  She became tiddly + giggly, + I suppose I encouraged her, having drunk a glass or 2 myself.  This time it was Andy who was in a bad mood, + I was slow to cotton on to the atmosphere.  Val wasn’t, + in turn became upset at what was going on.  Eventually, of course, the evening finished, but it was a bitter one.

Looking back, I feel some guilt that I did not do what I now feel I should have done, which was to graciously concede my plpace in the plane to Andy. It would have been a kind gesture (and I do try to be kind, despite occasional appearances to the contrary.) But there is no good regretting it now. But sorry Andy, if you are reading this (and I think you are.)

To talk about objects as friends, almost with personalities – can’t talk about others, I suppose, but we did take this to a ridiculous degree. You will have noted that they were pretty much all christened, alliteratively so – Walter Walkman, Nick Knife, Steve Stove, etc, and we still remember most of these names (even without the diary to remind us) some forty years on. Childish? Yes. probably, but then I don’t have any qualms about that. I think that any Drama teacher has to maintain their inner child, or they wouldn’t be able to play, to do the silly things they do. All right, I do.

As for the evening described, a pity that our relationship ended so sourly. Of course, I have shown that I was ambivalent about Kirsten, but that is the danger of a diary, especially one so (at times, painfully) honest as mine. What I felt at the time, I wrote, but forty years of reflection lend those thoughts an unkind, judgmental perspective. There were aspects of Kirsten’s company which were enormously attractive – her sense of fun, her fiddle-playing, her feistiness – witness the water-throwing incident.

  1. Pamela Blair

    I love flying in small planes–I’ve done it twice, once in Alaska and again in Utah. It felt like we barely skimmed the tops of the mountains, and the views of the terrain were so much more intimate than those from a commercial plane. You’ve evoked memories of those flights for me with this leg of your trip. And I’d also say that flipping a coin was a good way to resolve the dilemma–or, Kristin and Andy could have had their own ride, after you and Val returned.

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