Our Kiwi Kousin

. . South Island Swanie!

The youngest and tallest of the Ten Cousins went to New Zealand. He and wife Julie live on the North Island. Adventurous souls, they have been planning a tour for a while now. So recently they just did it: Hopped onto their motorbike and off they went. Here are some extracts and pictures from Solly’s – or Swanie’s – account of their trip.

New Zealand South Island Trip – Feb 2021 – On a fully-laden bike – 230kg all-up – we left home in New Plymouth for Wellington. 

– OK, luckily not this bike – theirs was a bit newer –

Visited Wellington CBD and the Te Papa museum. Julie went to see the WOW (World of Wearable art) exhibition while I went to see the Gallipoli exhibition (https://www.tepapa.govt.nz/visit/exhibitions/gallipoli-scale-our-war). The next day, Saturday, friends took us to see parts of Wellington that we never get to.

Then it was the ferry to Picton and from there to Cheviot via Kaikoura, where in 2016, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake lifted the land by a few meters to lay bare a rocky shore that had been underwater for millennia! That shake, 350km from us as the crow flies, had us so scared that we moved out of the house that night!

– on board the ferry –
– Kaikoura – exposed seabed after the earthquake –
– Julie taking a break in Kaikoura –

Down the coast to Moeraki of the famous Moeraki Boulders on the beach.  We stayed in a cabin in the Caravan Park and the manager at the park said the boulders are just twenty minutes’ walk along the beach.  Or on a walkway just off the beach. After about half an hour we had not yet reached the sandy beach and could see the boulders in the distance about another two km away. I said to Julie Don’t worry, I’ll call an Uber once we get there, and we kept walking.  As we got to the sandy beach, a red Audi with two elderly ladies came driving past us and waved.  We saw them stop later to walk their dog on the beach. As we approached, the Bull Terrier came running straight at us and just wanted to play. I managed to calm it down and started talking. The two lovely ladies said they would come up to the boulders and pick us up if we’re still there. How’s that?  Who, in their wildest dreams, could have wished for a V10 Audi A6 5.2FSI QUATTRO AVANT Uber? I offered to shout them a drink at the local, but JJ, the owner of the ‘Uber invited us to her house for drinks.  What a stunning artistic lady she was. She said she was 70, but she looked more like 69.  This was one of the highlights of our trip.

– Dunedin Station Building –

The next day we left Kaka Point in the rain again and rode through the Catlins via Slope Point to Invercargill where the Burt Munro bike rally is held. More gravel roads. The bike was very dirty by now, but was behaving well.

– Solly: In some places even the dogs can climb a tree –

Invercargill was alive with bikes from all over the country. The Burt Munro Challenge is NZ’s biggest bike rally and runs for four days with several events like drag racing, beach racing, street racing, circuit racing and speedway with the odd bit of hooliganism mixed in. (Ooh, Solly would have hated that! 😉 ;-). The first two days in Invercargill was the typical blustery, rainy weather of Southland, but luckily after that it cleared up.

Next day it was off to Manapouri just about twenty km down the road to join the Doubtful Sound overnight trip.  Katie the KTM had to sleep in the public car park overnight, chained to a drain grid. Unfortunately I did not take a picture of that.

We got on a boat and travelled across Lake Manapouri; then a one hour bus trip over the gravel Wilmot Pass to Doubtful Sound and onto another boat. Cruising down the sound with the mountains towering above you on both sides is amazing. Down the Thompson Sound back to the Tasman Sea for a beautiful sunset. We briefly saw two Beaked whales before they took a dive.

Doubtful Sound, which is located in the Fiordland National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is absolutely picturesque. Please check out this link. https://www.fiordland.org.nz/visit/fiordland-national-park/

Like the Trout Farms in South Africa, there is a Salmon farm in Wanaka where you hire a rod, catch some Salmon, pay by weight (a very reasonable price compared to the supermarket) and then you can have it cooked there or take it with you. One can get carried away quickly so I limited myself to two fish. We had one there, prepared hot smoked and sashimi. The other we swapped for cold smoked and had that for breakfast the next two days. Delicious!!

Then we took a boat trip to an island in Lake Wanaka called Mou Waho Island. On this island is a pool about 150m up via a fifteen minute walk with some beautiful scenery.

From Wanaka it was over the Haast pass to the West Coast via the aptly namesd Blue Pools and numerous waterfalls. Beautiful road!!

After Jackson Bay it was up the coast to Fox Glacier and Lake Matheson a short ride away. We walked 3.5km around the lake – amazing scenery.

The next morning we took a helicopter flight up to the glacier where we landed on the snow. What an experience!

From there it was up to Carters Beach at Westport where we stayed at a lovely park near the beach.

-the beautiful west coast road –

From Carters Beach it was a three hour trip via the beautiful Buller Gorge to Nelson.  By now there was a serious front pushing in from the South and warnings of severe weather for the West Coast. Lucky for us, that bad weather was following behind us. God is a biker! The West Coast has an average of 200 days a year of rain. We managed to experience the days that were sunny!

From Nelson a short ride to Picton via the Queen Charlotte Drive. Queen Charlotte Drive is only about 40km long, but it takes about an hour.  Speed limit is 50km/h and there would be about six corners or more in every kilometre and the surface is not the best. Lots of slips make the tar sag down the slope so one has to be very vigilant, but the scenery makes up for it.

After nearly 4000km we were happy to be back home, sore arses and all. Sorry, no photos of those!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Solly says his ‘other hobby’ is distilling! – I hope to find out more soon.

Let’s Save Us Some Souls!

(A re-post -I went looking for my ‘missionary’ post to link to, and couldn’t find it. Turns out I’d posted it only on my seldom-visited Apache Adventures blog. So without apology, I thought I’d also post it here).

The new preacherman at the Christian Church of Apache Oklahoma, looked me up after he’d been in town a while and invited me over to his place. Turns out he was interested in becoming a mission-nary to Africa and wanted to meet one of the real-deal Africans he’d heard and read so much about. Maybe suss out just how much we needed saving?

A HUGE man, six feet and nine inches tall, Ron Elr*ck wore a string tie, a 10 gallon stetson and cowboy boots, making him damn near eight feet tall fully dressed as he stooped through doors and bent down to shake people’s hands. I met his tiny little wife who was seemingly half his height, and two lil daughters. He was an ex-Canadian Mountie and a picture on his mantelpiece showed him towering over John Wayne, when Wayne was in Canada to film a movie.

Soon he invited me to join him on a ‘men’s retreat’ to “God’s Forty Acres” in NE Oklahoma (the yanks are way ahead of Angus Buchan in this “get away from the wife and come back and tell her you’re the boss” shit. I mean, this was 1973!).

– me – – Ron –

I had made it known from my arrival in Apache that I would join anybody and go anywhere to see the state (and get out of school – I mean I’d already DONE matric!). So we hopped into his muddy pinky-brown wagon with ‘wood’ paneling down the sides – it looked a bit like the ’53 Buick Roadmaster in the picture above, or this Chev Brookwood maybe?

We roared off from Caddo county heading north-east, bypassing Oklahoma City and Tulsa to somewhere near Broken Arrow or Cherokee county  – towards the Arkansas border, anyway. Me n Ron driving like Thelma and Louise. Hey, you think they based the 1991 movie on us? We should get royalties, surely?

– me – – Ron –

Non-stop monologue on the way. He didn’t need any answers, I just had to nod him yes and he could talk uninterrupted for hours on end. At the retreat there were hundreds of men & boys just like him, all fired up for the Lawd, bellowing the Retreat Song at the drop of a hat:
“In Gahd’s Fordy Yacres . . !!”We musta sang it 400 times in that weekend. If I was God I’d have done some smiting.

We left at last and headed back, wafting along like on a mattress in that long slap wagon, when Ron suddenly needed an answer:
Had I ever seen a porno movie? WHAT? I hadn’t? Amazing! Well, jeez, I mean goodness, he felt it as sort of like a DUTY to enlighten me and reveal to me just how evil and degraded these movies could be.

– I remember less soap bubbles –

So we detoured into Tulsa. Maybe he regarded it as practice for the mission-nary work he was wanting to do among us Africans? We sat through a skin flick in a seedy movie house. It was the most skin ‘n hair ‘n pelvis ‘n organs this 18yr old boykie from the Vrystaat had seen to date so it was, after all, educational. Thin plot, though.

I suppose you could say I got saved and damned all on one weekend.

~~~oo0oo~~~

footnote:

Ron did get to Africa as a mission-nary. He was posted to Jo-hannesburg. Lotsa ‘sinners’ in Jo-hannesburg, I suppose. I’m just not sure they need ‘saving’ by a Canadian Mountie.

Low Flying in Malawi

We flew in on our first trip to Malawi in 1990. Just me and Aitch. At Lilongwe airport we hired a car from the brochures on the desk, not from the kiosks in the airport. Well, man on the phone said they didn’t have any presence at the airport to save money, but they were nearby, they’d be there in a jiffy. Cheap. I like that.

The airport emptied till it was just us, so we took our bags to the entrance and sat in the shade waiting. There was no-one there but a bored youth sitting in a Honda with sagging suspension, but we were chilled and the airport garden needed birding. Eventually I went back to the desk to phone the man. He was amazed: “My man should have been there long ago!”

‘Twas him. ‘Twas our car: The Honda. “No, no,” we laughed, “there must be a better car than this!” – thinking of the rough roads we’d be traversing. “Come back to the office and choose” said the friendly man. So we did and we inspected their fleet. Well, bless them, of course it was their best car, they’re good people; so off we headed to Kasungu National Park. We were on a safari in a dark blue Honda Civic with Formula 1 ground clearance.

In the park we drove with one wheel on the middle bump and one on the left edge of the road. On the open road we drove slowly and avoided anything above deck. While I was unpacking to occupy our bungalow I froze: a serval! Wonderful! We always love seeing the smaller wildlife. I tried to signal to Aitch as the cat walked out of the long grass into the clearing. I didn’t want to scare it, but I whistled low and urgent. Aitch came out and we watched as it came closer and closer.

And closer till it rubbed itself against my leg!!

We headed further north – to Vwaza Marsh, and then up high to Nyika Plateau, 10 000ft above seal level; then south again to Nkhata Bay, beautiful Lake Malawi and warner weather. The car went like a dream at twenty, and even sometimes at thirty km/hr.

– smooth highway! –

South of Nkhata Bay we suddenly came on a stretch of smooth road! I crept the needle up to forty km/h. Then fifty and eventually sixty! Wheee! “Careful, Koos,” admonished my Aitch, clinging white-knuckled to the dashboard (kidding! sort of). Then we came up to the big yellow grader that had smoothed our path. It moved aside and we went past with a wave to the friendly driver. The road condition was now back to interesting, so I slowed down to forty. “Slow down, Koos,” admonished my Aitch. We’d been doing thirty so this still felt fast to her and I knew she was right, but I had tasted speed . . .

WHUMP! We hit a brick and I knew immediately Fuckit Mrs Tuckit that we’d be getting to know this remote stretch of Malawi. I parked on a low level bridge and leaned out to peer under the car: Oil pouring out the sump. Do you have any soap? I asked Aitch. Here, she said shoving a bottle of liquid soap into my hand. Um, no, a bar of soap. Ever resourceful, she whipped out a fat green stick of Tabard mozzi repellent. Perfect, I said and shoved it in the hole. It went into the sump without touching sides! OK, we’d be here a while . .

– uh oh –
– now the Black-winged Red Bishop – Euplectes hordeaceus – thanks wikipedia –

To break the tension I took my binocs and went for a walk and straight away things got better. “Come look!” I called Aitch “A lifer!” A Fire-Crowned Bishop flitted around in the reeds of the stream we were parked above. ‘Um,’ she said, ‘Don’t tell me that’s why you stopped here?’ Grinning, she made us a snack on the bootlid and we waited. Before too long someone came by. On foot. A few schoolboys who said, Not to worry, we know a mechanic in a nearby village. He will fix it. Great! I said, Would you ask him to help us, please? thinking Actually guys, there’s no ‘nearby village.’

An hour later a car zoomed by without stopping. Unusual for Malawi. Another hour later and a Land Rover stopped, the driver got out and shook his head sadly. He couldn’t help us as he was in a government vehicle. As he drove off we saw his female passenger appearing to give him a thousand words. He stopped and walked back with a 5l oil can in his hand. “I can’t sell you this oil because its guvmint oil, but I am going to give you this oil” he said. Great, we accepted it with alacrity. It was half full. It was a start.

Another hour or so and some figures approached us on foot, one with a greasy green overall and a red metal toolbox on his shoulder. It was our mechanic! The schoolboys had come through!

– my mechanic watches as I tap tap – check tool detail on left –

Soon he had the sump cover off and I started tapping the hole closed using a shifty and a spanner. As I tapped I asked if anyone – perchance – had a bar of soap. Nope. No-one. Holding up the cover to the sun I tapped until not even a glint of sun shone through. I had closed the hole. As we started to replace it, I muttered “I’d give twenty kwacha for some soap,” whereupon one of the guys whipped out a sliver of red Lifebuoy soap from his pocket.

– our rescuers –

Boy! Did the others turn on him! “How can you be so unkind to our guests?” was the accusation and they refused to let me pay him more than four kwacha for his soap, despite my assuring them that it was worth twenty to me. As we prepared to depart after pouring in the guvmint oil, we gave them each a cold can from our hebcooler, paid the mechanic his dues (he didn’t charge traveling costs) and gave them each a cap. I had two spare caps and Aitch had one. A pink one.

1500km later we handed the car back and I told the man at the airport: “Please check the sump. Its leaking oil.” It wasn’t, but I wanted him to check it.

~~~oo0oo~~~

More pictures of our journey from Aitch’s album:

– road near Rumphi –
– up on Nyika plateau – 8000ft above sea level –
– Nyika Plateau very special rolling grasslands –
– sure, sometimes we did save money – I like that! –
– and sometimes we splashed out –

~~~oo0oo~~~

The whole album, as I have now discarded the hard copy:

~~~oo0oo~~~