Blog Editors note! Our Illustrious leader was way too busy trying to keep the bus/bike on the road for our trip to have time to allow his creative juices to flow and write for the blog. The amount of work he put in to plan and organize this trip (he did it all by himself) was huge, and for that we all thank him from the bottom of our hearts. He is a mensch! Please grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy his lack of sleep/coma induced ramblings. Hopefully they entertain you as much as he entertained us over the past 30 days.
Musings by Samuel S. Oh’Night you’re travelling companion( I know you’ll get this one Carol)
Wow! Just got back into town late last night only to discover I forgot where I parked my truck and when I did find the dog gone thing the battery was dead. The adventure seems to continue even when you think it’s over.
I left Fiji late yesterday and I arrived almost the same time on the same day, you gotta love that international date line thing, but the actual over 24 hours of transit getting back is not something I relish. I do often ketchup or mustard it though? (sorry, lack of sleep) I have had some time to ponder the last 30 days during my recent travel legs home sitting next to a wonderful, short but full figured Indian Lady in the spacious confines of Pacific Airlines seating, I believe it is called “The special Hanoi Hilton seating” similar to the rooms of the hotel of the same name during the hay days of the Vietnam era. I’m not entirely sure but because of the close proximity to my seating partner, you couldn’t help but snuggle, I think I may have inadvertently become a very close relative according to some Indian custom I was unaware of. I also can’t explain why I have recently acquired a strange appetite for Buttered or Tandoori chicken, that and the fact that I now believe I am engaged to this ladies third daughter has my mind a spinning but I am also strangely looking forward to meeting my future Indian dumpling.
Getting back to the story, I thought I might throw in my two cents worth as I did promise Lyle I would contribute to the blog. Although this will be ex post facto (I had to look it up too) I’ll see what I can remember and share some of what really actually (that ones for Dad, Mike) happened as the stories often change over the course of time. Since I can’t remember what I had for breakfast some days, some of the facts over the last thirty days might become a little blurred and I will apologise in advance for any inaccuracies.
As I glance back at many of the blog posts I am reminded by my brother and our cousin the value and enjoyment they received from the updates of Team New Zealand 2013 and how it was a great way to follow along on our little adventure. It got me to thinking that I may have dropped the ball in regard to contributing as everyone else took the time to record some insights into their personal reflections and my obvious lack of follow through with Lee Lee (AKA for Lyle, ask him to tell you the story).
I did manage to make some cryptic notes for the days I was responsible for but never managed to get them typed for a variety of reasons, none of which probably hold much water. So let me take you back, way back, way way back almost 30 days to a land down under. Scratch that, I mean way back to a land next to a land down under called Aotearoa and is pronounced Ah Tee Ah Row Ah and is Maori for “the land of the long white cloud” or also known as New Zealand. Ok, for a moment there I thought you may have forgotten where all this stuff happened but now that we’re both on the same page here it goes.
In recollecting some events you often want to block out the less desirable stuff that happens but often they seem to be the best stories. So let me begin by recalling my better understanding of what a “Hole in the Ozone” means. Yes I was reminded by the group as they arrived that it was mentioned several times in our many pre-briefing meetings the importance of sun screen in this part of the world but I figured I had a great base, looking like a pale fish from the “Great White North” and figured what could really happen in about three or four hours of a semi-overcast day. Well let me confirm to all reading, the Ozone Hole apparently is not some propaganda made up by the sun screen manufactures, you do in fact burn much faster and can achieve a wonderful fire engine glow after only a few hours of exposure in this part of the world. A theory I was able to examine and confirm on a more personal level achieving the ooh so sought after scalded look. I barbequed my arms and hands and managed to burn two horns into my forehead as the sun found its way through the vents in my bike helmet, a subtle reminder that sunscreen good, sunburn bad. Let the molting begin and really what would an adventure holiday be without another round of second degree burns to prevent any kind of sound sleep for the next foreseeable few days? On the plus side, it was mentioned that the yellow travel shirt I break out for these events was wonderfully accentuated by my glowing red arms and pronounced horned forehead. Okay, that was day 1.
Here’s your sign!
The next thing I remember was the gang arriving at the airport and our immediate “go to jail” card being drawn. We stayed the first couple of days in Christchurch at an old prison converted to a hostel in the last few years. I had a few mishaps as I was transferred to another cell forgetting some personal items in the transition. The lost articles were recovered and as inmate #8675309 I found the innovative coed showers very progressive and prisonee. I found it very interesting that soap on the rope was issued to all incarcerated, probably to avoid any unforeseen incidence, and then I woke up (sunburn related).
Go directly to Jail!
Marvs Jailhouse Room
Moving on to leaving Christchurch and the wonderful transportation respite we all had on a New Zealand highway for 4 hours in the scorching sun. The van was moved into the shade as best we could just before it died and then we all enjoyed many hours in the lovely New Zealand country side waiting for the replacement vehicle as I passed the time talking to the nearby cows wondering where I lost my stuff in the jail and urinating on as many bushes as I could find but this time armed with sunscreen. Just a quick side note that I’d like to pass on is that electrical fencing is not to be experimented or toyed with and it is has become apparent and evident to me that water and electricity DO NOT mix, nuff said. As I slowly sauntered back to the van contemplating my chat with the cows (no, they didn’t talk back) and new found respect for electricity, I remember the conversation of constipation being discussed by the van crew. Now, usually it takes a few more days to get that intimate in the group setting but we were setting some speed records in the being open department and less so in the moving down the road department. With the van being broken we all had a chance to visit a little longer and get to know each other a little better. All I know is that in the days to follow it was quoted about prunes that “I coulda’ had two, but no… I had to have ten” became our group mantra as we all lightened up in the days to come in more ways than one, nuff said.
Lookin for a Ride!
Next, I seem to remember our first cycling day as it was in the rain toward Nelson. Now ironically, Nelson, New Zealand has the most sun days per year statistically in all of the country and it so happened that it was the one day in our 30 days of travel that it rained the whole day in a country suffering the longest dry summer in over 30 years, go figure? During our ride we encountered another cyclist from Scotland by the name of Johnny, or was it Scotty from Johnnyland? No, it was Johnny from Scotland who was cycling self-contained (all the stuff he needs packed on the bike) who had just come from cycling south east Asia (Thailand, Laos and Vietnam) and it was the first time he’d seen rain in over three months. Imagine his luck? He was just beginning his New Zealand ride, as were we, and it was great to have him join our little bike troupe for the day. He did seem to get a bit annoyed at me when I continued to ask him to say “Dylithium crystals” and I think that at my 7th request he would no longer say “I’m giving the engines all they’ve got captain” but it was fun while it lasted. He did manage to share a story from his childhood in between my continual requests for his impersonations from Star Trek (that one’s for you Larry) that went like this.
Eager to ride in the rain??
It would seem that Johnny had a new teacher in his youth that was trying to make use of her psychology courses from Uni (A little New Zealand 4 yah). She started her class by saying, “Everyone who thinks they’re stupid, stand up!” After a few seconds, Little Johnny stood up. The teacher said, Do you think you’re stupid, Johnny?” Johnny replied, “no ma’am, but I hate to see you standing there all by yourself!”
I know you’re probably thinking what I thought. Is this guy the real Johnny? I’d like to think it was. Safe travels my Scotties little softy (a Charmin aphorism).
My next recollection brings me to my second confirmation that the ozone hole is for real. I went for a dip in the Hanmer Springs hot pool with about 20 different pools of varying degrees to pick from. I particularly enjoyed the 36.6 pool over the 38.8 pool but then by an act of nature accidentally adjusted the temperature to 37 degrees Celsius (or 96.6 degrees Fahrenheit) all I’m sayin is thank goodness for chlorine and it was an accident. Nuff said.
Soaking the boys!
The pools were covered above by grand tarps and umbrellas to protect swimmers from the sun, but noooooooooo, I had to enjoy the sunshine and crispified (New Zealand dermatological term) my shoulders and upper back just so that I could keep my record intact of burning myself every few days. I was just beginning to start sleeping as the swelling in my hands and the blisters on my arms were beginning to subside as well as that constant stinging feeling when I discovered that one apparently needs ones back to sleep on at night and I was continually reminded of that fact for the next several days. Did I mention the hole in the Ozone layer down here? Remember, sunscreen good, sunburn bad!
Let`s see? I’ve covered the Ozone thing, let the molting begin, losing stuff, Johnny and the Dylithium crystal thing, the miraculous pool warming a few degrees. What else? Oh yah! Constipation and prune connection. So far New Zealand has definitely set a new standard in adventure.
Which brings me now to Franz Joseph, famous for the glacier of the same name and named after the Austrian Emperor and also adjacent to Fox Glacier named after a small furry four legged creature that has been known to hunt chickens? I think this is one of the days I am responsible to record something for.
While Lee Lee was getting worked over by a big boned Swedish Fraulein named Helga. Named after her Olympic power lifting Grandmother and frankly anyone who has “Got hands, will massage” on their signage illuminated by a glowing red light has got to be a professional. A few days back Lyle had an incident on a terrible mattress back in the beach town of Punakaiki as Carol was apparently on top. This particular bunk bed with the extremely poor mattresses left poor Lyle with boulders in his lower back and a slight wince or smirk in his smile, obviously due to the evident pain I would imagine(wink, wink, nudge, nudge). While Lyle was getting his back fixed Jamie and I went on a whirly bird ride up to the glacier (Franz Joseph) and did a 3 hour glacial ice hike. It was very cool! (Did you catch that? It took me a whole afternoon to work that in)
They went thataway!
Now this Heli-hike that we were on had me ponder something that has been on all our minds since we got here. It would seem that Kiwi’s have a saying that goes “sweet as” and it has been defined as awesome goodness and we were all wondering, okay maybe just I was wondering, where this derived from. Now let’s be clear it is not “sweet as …” implying some kind of verbiage to fill in the blank. It is simply “sweet as” and that’s it. Now upon hearing this saying without the advantage of print for clarification one could understandably make the mistake of hearing something a little different. This hypothesis has led me to the following possibility as to the origins of this saying and was inspired on this particular heli-hiking day.
As Jamie and I got off the helicopter and down off the make shift Heli-pad allowing the next copter to bring in the next six hikers and remove the other six people standing by after completing their glacier hike. It was as I was re-applying my sunscreen for the 5th time today, faithfully wearing my mirrored sun glasses to avoid premature glaucoma and after a very close examination of the glacier that I happened to glance at the next six young lady hikers in their hiking apparel of wind breaker, ice protecting jacket right down to their hiking boots and then up a little bit to their “Daisy Duke” shorts (you might want to Google that one). You might know where I’m going with this and I’ll try not to be so obviously obtuse but as I was enjoying nature it dawned on me that there could be some connection between “sweet as” and the possibility of the term evolving from “sweet as’ is”(you might want to sound this one out as spelling may vary). As I was admiring the glacier and the hikers on it, not objectifying but simply admiring, and internally thanking the inventor of mirrored sun glasses it was apparent to me that the term “sweet as” could conceivably be a shortened version of what I was currently witnessing. That would be the nature part I was talking about a second ago. Forgive me for being crude but it could be successfully argued that what many witnessed that day, and I just happened across in a passing glance as I was examining my hiking boots and solving a calculus equation in my head that I was definitely witnessing some very nicely fitted shorts. Now since this is a family show I can’t just blatantly come out and say that I saw some “sweet as’is” on the glacier that day, so I won’t, but I’m just sayin’ that short shorts may have been a contributor to the derivation of “sweet as”. I could be wrong on that definition but I am dead accurate when I say that there was a collective sigh of sadness among all the men enjoying nature that day on the glacier when the 6 young ladies took off from the Heli-pad. “Sweet as”, awesomely good, well it does seem an appropriate definition come to think of it. Nuff said.
I better leave this one alone and focus on a less controversial topic and discuss my utter fascination with the Possum Nipple warmers I came across the other day. You can’t make this stuff up people, it’s the fact Jack. Let me just backup a second and clarify something that may be helpful with this sensitive area (that one was a freebie). Nipple warmers and the Metric system have a connection that I will attempt to explain. I had to give this one a little more thought than the “sweet as” definition above. Yes, New Zealand is also on the metric system of measurement for distances on the highways which include meters and kilometers but they also have a less known, but equally impressive system of measuring distances. It hasn’t quite caught on yet but it incorporates our fury little friend the Possum and I like to call it the Possummetric system (trademarked Marvism). Now the Possum was originally introduced to eliminate other varmints but as they discovered that the land dwelling indigenous birds were easier prey and they had no natural enemies in New Zealand they flourished and have since caused almost irreparable damage to this fragile eco system with both flora and fauna. These little fellas are so plentiful in New Zealand that in addition to signs indicating kilometers to a destination the country highway system has carefully placed at least one possum every kilometer of this fine country. The beauty of this system has each kilometer marked with a uniquely positioned possum all with a look of utter surprise in their eyes (when the head is attached) as well as being as flat as a pancake to make them easy to travel over. It just so happens that they are all playing possum to boot, coincidence? I think not. I have also noticed a less precise system of measurement incorporating rabbits every other half kilometer and also the cute and equally thin hedgehog designating fewer road distance indicators and let’s also throw in the less popular gopher. Let’s say that we’ve seen a lot of wildlife in this country but more in the form of a diorama and less of the living breathing variety. You know I believe New Zealand Tourism may be toying with a new advertising slogan, “Come and Visit New Zealand a Taxidermists Dream”, but they have not officially adopted it. One other particular marker of note was a sheep that had its legs kindly draped over on each side of a railing and facing the traffic so that he could happily greet all oncoming traffic with that blank stare. I’m not sure but the sheep was an obvious indicator of a longer distance as we only witnessed one. Incidentally, because of all the sheep in New Zealand I was able to find out where virgin wool comes from, apparently it comes from the sheep that run the fastest. And I did not know that!
Yes and that is why the Nipple warmers are related to the Metric system. Lots of dead Possums equals lots of kilometer markers, equals lots of pelts, equals what to do with those pelts, equals and yes you guessed it, extra nipple warmers for everybody! I haven’t quite discovered the novelty as my left one keeps falling off, similar to George’s left ear plug not be able to stay in, but let me tell you that I’ve found that they are a sure fire conversation starter in the hostel dormitories. Okay, if you just remember where virgin wool comes from that may be enough and you can forget about the nipple warmers, but don’t tell me that these warm fussy dual delights haven’t piqued your interest. Let me just say that I’m going to sleep well tonight as this is one area I haven’t burned, yet, and they are admittedly, surprisingly warm (the right one is for sure).
So let’s synopsize the last few days: In jail, got burned, broke down, hot pooled, got burned again, lost some stuff, got constipated, started the molt from the first burn, we eventually did ride our bikes and rode a century ride (100 possummeters or AKA 100 Km day), got unconstipated, saw some “sweet as”, started the second molt and oh yah, I dropped my toothbrush in the toilet. It has definitely been a full week and I can’t wait for the next one. Just a little clarification on the tooth brush incident, as I was simply taking care of some oral hygiene issues one morning and was in the usual rush the tooth brush slipped out of my hand and onto the top of the sink, bounced off the wall, deflected off the adjacent toilet tank lid and then did a perfect “triple sow cow” in the half pike position straight into the bowl for a perfect 10 entry, all the while with my arms flailing and mouth frothing trying to catch the blasted thing before it did a perfect plop right into the toilet bowl. Here I was my stunned eyes wide open, my mouth full of toothpaste and a perfectly good toothbrush resting in what appeared to be very clean water. Now I know what you’re thinking, did he or didn’t he?(to be continued)
You know I think I forgot to mention one other activity we did on our glacier heli-hike day on Franz Joseph. As we were waiting for the next helicopter to extricate us from the glacier, our small band of hikers spontaneously broke into song to pass the time. It was one of the finest renditions of “Don’t worry be Happy” I can ever remember being a part of and it seemed an appropriate end to an interesting day. I believe it was Jamie who started us off and it was our new Chinese friends in the group that finished the chorus off with a sheep call, out of respect for New Zealand sheep, that brought a tear to everyone’s eye, especially Jamie’s. It was a fitting end to another adventure.
Then we just went out for an interesting dinner where Rommie, our fine server, who had just returned from a secret military exercise that removes all short term memory. We enjoyed an almost 2 hours dinner foreplay time with no appies before our food finally arrived and not exactly as ordered. The restaurant was a bit embarrassed by the delay and mix-ups that they gracious cleaned out the dessert showcase and offered us some lovely expired sweets just before midnight. It was speculated that Rommie’s dad just might own the restaurant and might explain why the young lad may not have found his niche quite yet. I asked young Rommie if he was not really interested in being a waiter and he promptly replied, “Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?” a rhetorical question that seemed to sum up the evening perfectly. It was a long, late dinner and good because we were all so famished and it just seems to make for another simple anecdote. Good luck my young friend as you may want to consider organ donation as a short term employment opportunity, for the restaurant-ith is not your forte-ith. I think that about sums up the day I was responsible to record something for and as I said, not all my memories of these events may be entirely accurate but I’m sure you get the gist.
Let me see if I can start to “bring this plane in for a landing”? I know you want it to end but I am in a self-induced sleeping coma on overdrive here after 30 hours of travel and at 6 in the morning local time trying to regurgitate a few short stories before collapse and I can’t seem to stop myself. Don’t worry, it will be over soon.
Coming back from New Zealand reminds me of a story I once heard about relating to the US Space program. It would seem some time back a young US Commander was re-entering the atmosphere after a mission in space and due to some complications lost consciousness during re-entry and crash landed in New Zealand. Unbeknownst to him he did not know that he was in a New Zealand hospital. As he groggily came to he asked the young nurse by his bedside, “Did you bring me here to die?” she looked softly into his eyes and replied, “No sir, we brought you here yesterday”.
It might make more sense and be easier to understand if you try saying “Today” in an Aussie or New Zealand accent (therefore “To die”). You get it now? I know, hilarious eh. It really is time for bed.
What other few things could I share before Jamie and I start singing the Lawrence Welk goodbye theme song we all memorized back in the day, I know I’m dating myself.
Let me just say that I was very diligent in sun screen application after my first two incidences and the ladies also continued to remind me, but low and behold I soon discovered once again the power of the dreaded ozone hole and the power of the sun. I was just cycling along minding my own business on a stretch of road that was our only point to point cycling day option, from Wanaka to Queenstown on the old Cardrona Road, and soon discovered a whole new respect for monster puking hills, or in this case, only one big monster puking hill. I did take the time to get off my bike and re-apply my sunscreen because I promised all the mom’s on the trip I would behave and put it on. It was a challenging day as the summit never seemed to come but I just continued to persevere like in the old days as I would just slowly tromp up a hill one pedal at a time only to find my brother Michael doing push-ups or chin-ups waiting for his older brother to make it up the hill. Ah, the memories. It’s funny how little things change, I still climb hills the same way and I always look for Mike doing his push-ups at the top. Mike was not here this day but an amazing welcome from the crew awaited me at the summit to the pass of the highest paved road in New Zealand. They had lunch ready for me as we took some pictures of the amazing valley into Queenstown, New Zealand and watched as the planes approached the airport actually flying below our observation point. It’s not very often you get the perspective of looking down on a plane as it comes in for a final landing, at least for me. I did manage to complete the ride with my compadres Lyle and George into Queenstown as we enjoyed an amazing hair pinned downhill after the summit and then the mission to reconnect with the support ladies cruising around in the very busy Queenstown downtown to find our accommodations for the next three days. The ladies did awesome navigating through heavy traffic pulling trailers with bikes negotiating left side driving and the ever popular traffic circles that are the intersection of choice in this country. It was only after we got settled at the hostel that I noticed I couldn’t sit very well. It would seem that as I cycled the whole day in the beautiful New Zealand sunshine that my shorts where low enough and my shirt was high enough in the back to create a very nicely shaped half-moon burn just above what happens to be my actual full moon. Coincidence? I think not.
Celebrating the Summit!
I kindly asked Lyle to have a look as it was a stinging pretty bad and he asked if I was trying to moon him. It would seem Lyle and I are almost on the same level with Larry and Murray (a story for another day, but let’s just say they are very close friends now). Under closer examination, just above my blessed assurance, I had tattooed another burn that was shaped like an umbrella and it was easy to visualize cause the pole was in the perfect place of my crack a lacken you know what. I had branded myself for a third, second degree burn and was comfortably able to moon the group under the guise of a medical examination among friends. Good things do come in small packages. This was another untimely and unfortunate incident as I also like to sleep like Dolly Parton and with this new affliction nights were proving to be a difficult thing. Sad thing is, I had almost completed the molt of the first two burns when I had the good fortune of coming across a shower somewhere in New Zealand these last few days that had a showerhead that could also be utilized to strip chrome off of bumpers. My exfoliation was almost complete but now with the words of “Oops! Here I go again” ringing in my ears, the process begins anew.
The bike part of our trip was coming to an end as we moved toward Picton the ferry port on the North part of the South Island (confused? Don’t be, it makes sense when you think about it) to make our way to the North Island for a week of exploration. We all said goodbye to “Piglet” our affectionately named van as it got us around the Island but not without that expected and persistent squeal of belts as we climbed and challenged the meandering mountainous coastal roads of New Zealand. Now ready to enjoy, maybe enjoy is not the right word, grab the ferry for our almost 4 hour sojourn across the Cook Strait to our next destination of Wellington, the ferry port on the South part of the North Island (confused? Don’t be, it makes sense when you think about it) which also happens to be the Capital of this fine country and has nothing to do with the beef. Yes I was a bit deflated by that so I had the beef Mongolian instead.
I think it’s time to start bring this “ship into port” or should I say ferry? I believe I was trying to do that a couple of pages back so I’ll try again.
Let me just try to finish as the lack of REM sleep is starting to catch up to me now. Can I just say that “I love you guys”? Wow, it would seem sleep deprivation has similar side effects to copious amounts of alcohol but rest assured that the sentiment is genuine. We’ve spent over a month hanging with each other, sleeping with each other, Jamie also likes the top. Cause bunk beds are all over this country and outnumber gas stations by the thousands. We’ve all laughed together, I hope there was lots of laughter? Cried together, I hope they were happy tears? Got plugged together, got unplugged together remembering the team mantra “I coulda had two but no…. I had to have ten”. We’ve celebrated the Anniversaries of Judy and George celebrating their 40th this year, Murray and Sandy their 30th, Lyle and Carol their 25th, the recent marriage of our New Zealand friends Mike and Nicky, a few birthdays of note as Jamie and Sandy will be celebrating a hallmark birthday this year and we celebrated Carols birthday at least once every week this trip. I can still hear the TSS Earnslaw cruise ship passengers singing happy birthday in Mandarin to Carolina and calling sheep once we made shore. I’ve discovered that Jamie loves to watch Chinese movies after midnight (shee, shee, shee), she loves to pillow talk, spontaneously starts to dance on chairs in foreign restaurants and is apparently a very sound sleeper(WWNN). We’ve learned that I can’t seem to make it 3 or 4 days without a sunburn and I hate to admit it but I am now sporting a very new red style V-neck sweater but without the sweater. Always remember, sunscreen good, sunburn bad. But all in all my memories are all favorable.
I seem to have this belief that when a person comes back from one of these vacations I always tend to remember the good things experienced as the bad are a waste of time and find that this holds truer for me as time passes on. I’m hoping you might share that sentiment and that the challenges faced this last month have strengthened your resolve and bolstered your character because you’ve come through it and survived. I thank you Team NZD 2013 for making the journey with me, thanks for letting me ride all the bike legs, and a special thanks to Judy and George who always seem to be behind supporting these crazy adventures and never let the dream die, To Lyle and Carol who always seem to be the first to buy those airline tickets and get the ball rolling, to Murray and Sandy who always are one of the core couples that always participate and contribute in more than just the physical but supportive in their Spiritual zeal, to Jamie who always let me be on the bottom (bunk) and was the first to call me last spring and say “I’m in”. Your friendship and support is something I will always treasure as are the many traveling experiences we’ve shared whether it’s somewhere out our back door or somewhere around the world.
So let me put a “lid on this pot” and just say thank you all again. May your Adventure continue as we settle back into life back home and Judy, let me just say I’m looking at a poster you gave me a few years back and you noted to me that this could be our next theme as it says, “Having a margarita at the swim up bar is nice. It’s just not something you’re likely to remember having done when your 80”. Amen sister!
As this New Zealand 2013 tour comes to a close from an idea birthed out of an invitation from two kind Kiwi travelers to 17 strange cyclists from Canada meeting in a small Italian village pub 4 years ago, it still blows my mind that it actually came to fruition. Just goes to show you, you’ll never know what adventure you’ll meet if you just believe.
We love this trip!!
Thanks for the ride Team New Zealand 2013, and thanks Lyle for the toothbrush, it was a blast.
Soli Deo Gloria
Blog editors note! Thank you all for following our journey and all the comments. You all kept us inspired to write. Till the next trip.