Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
394Trip End Ongoing
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As has generally been the norm wherever I've been temporarily residing, I can more often than not be found most mornings in the camp kitchen, passionately rustling up tea, toast, and a glorious mound of hot, creamy scrambled eggs. It's amazing how many people you meet cooking scrambled eggs. Well so far, that quaint little camping kitchen of the Cunningham's has probably set the record so far - for meeting good, significant folk that is. Since being here, I've seen a number of people stay a night, then pass through early the next day. Others have stayed a little longer. Either way, in general, I've met some belters. Most of them I've shared stories, laughs or valuable information with, certainly enough to swap an email address or two, or even a useful contact name and number for a future adventure or destination. Embarrassingly and typically, I've forgotten a few names already so I wanted to jot a few down so as I don't forget. It all started with Trudi and Dave from Gisborne who shared their enthusiasm of Stewart Island and invited me to stay on their farm if I ever ventured north enough. I don't think I'll ever forget Ngaire and her sister, the two old dears from Auckland who took great trouble in seeking out their big, bumper photo album of Australia and enlightening me with all the history and the glory behind each snap. Then there was Martin and Castella, the French couple and Neville and Diana, the South Africans who live in Nottingham and were full of eye-opening stories and misadventures along south east Asia.
Two days ago I was in the kitchen washing dishes after breakfast. All that there was left to do was pack the van, say my sincerest thanks and goodbyes to the Cunninghams and hit the road. Then into the kitchen walked a girl with a friendly manner who joined me at the adjacent sink to merrily scrub away grime. We got talking and were joined moments later by her boyfriend. We all became acquainted and they introduced themselves as Charlie and John. A little under two hours later and we were still there propped up on the work surface, legs swinging, chatting and laughing in between brief bursts through the rain across the park in order to pay a quick visit. At Lorneville, there's a small cabin the same size of the kitchen joined on to the end of it. This was John and Charlie's for the evening. On my third sprint to the toilet, the other two went back to the cabin. As I dashed back, Charlie opened the cabin door and beckoned me inside. This was a much better idea. They'd got a little heater in there like the one in my van and it was so much warmer. We carried on talking in there. I know it sounds a little cliché but I can honestly say that I felt as if I'd known this fella for ten years. Even between rounds of Ritz crackers and huge wedges of cheese and the odd cherry tomato, we didn't shut up once. And the madness of it all was that by the time we finally forced ourselves to call it a day we'd rabbited right through till gone 2.30am the following morning. The day and night was good though. We laughed hard and for as long as I live I'll never forget it. Especially the story about 'Weasel'.
The next morning we said our goodbyes and they left for Te Anau (Brett & Sylv's place of course) and I got packed up again ready for off. I was all ready to go when I looked up and Chris was waving his arm, calling me over. He was stood outside the main block talking to some chap. This is where I met Sue and Vance. Vance had approached Chris to ask him if he knew how to connect a DVD player up in his caravan. Vance, like Chris, is about as technologically literate as my own folks. After a few blank shakes of his head Chris had obviously decided to rope me in to the equation. What Vance was asking for at first was nowhere near as straightforward as simply connecting a DVD player to a TV, though that's what he meant. I asked him to show me where the caravan and gear was and offered to have a look. Vance 'thanked Chris anyway' and we went over to his van following a little side warning from Chris to Vance telling him to keep the beer in his fridge locked up and out of sight.
You should have seen his caravan. It was like a small hotel suite. Absolute luxury inside with a limited edition Land Rover parked up next to it, complete with brand new, gleaming kayak strapped securely to the bulky roof rack. Within about fifteen minutes, I'd got it sorted and Vance was over the moon. Really over the moon. For him, this meant that he could sit in all day and watch 'John Denver - Live in Concert', instead of watching that 'bladdy Sky TV all the time'. All he needed was one more cable to be able to have Sky, the video and the DVD player connected simultaneously. Then it would ALL be perfect.
Sue (his partner) had previously been living on the road for a number of years, traveling alone in her big old house-bus before meeting Vance and eventually joining forces. We chatted a little longer about mutual plans, circumstances, life in general, the usual stuff and then Sue suddenly insisted that she feed me. 'Real Kiwi tucker' as she put it. So, we all carried on nattering our way through soup and hot toast, biscuit sandwiches and their magnificent rolled saveloy sandwiches smothered with cheese and chow-chow. It was like a small feast. I offered to go with Vance to town to get the other cable he needed and fix it all up for good. So after finishing lunch that's just what we did. On the way back from town he told me how it hadn't been long since he had decided to spend the rest of his years travelling. He explained with a glimmer of adventure how he had sold his farm, replacing it just as quickly with everything he needed for his new lifestyle of choice; a luxurious caravan, a four-wheel-drive and a kayak. I thought it was an amazing decision for a man of his age. 'I don't wanna be the richest bloke in the graveyard you know, it's no good to me there.' I nodded and listened. 'Problem is, I've gotta make the money last. If you can tell me the exact date I'm gonna karkar it, I'll make sure the money runs out. The day before!' With that, he erupted and I chuckled with him all the way back to Lorneville. He's got it right though I reckon, got it made. Even of those of us that have got our health, there isn't a single one of us that can say for how long. He's just one of the few who's making the most. So, so many don't.
Moments after our return, everything was connected up and working fine, faces were smiling and we'd drifted back in to our old conversation. Before we knew it, it had gone 5pm. I couldn't believe it. Another great day with more wonderful people. Not wanting to outstay my welcome I thanked them for lunch and started to make a move. As I did, between them, they insisted that I let them take me to dinner. Oh god. The minute or so that followed was one of those classic, stupidly awkward ones that generally run along the lines of 'Oh no I couldn't,'
'No really, we'd love to,'
'No honestly, I'm fine. I couldn't, I just couldn't,'
'Oh you must let us, we insist.'
I think the final words were 'Oh please say yes.'
Less than two hours later, the three of us were nestled comfortably in the 'Tin Shed', a restaurant of repute in Lorneville. Beautiful it was too, with a huge roaring log fire against one wall, a warm, cosy atmosphere and impeccable service throughout. We all made the most of the seafood options on offer and had a very pleasant evening in there. It seemed an eternity since I had dined out like that, properly I mean. I've been so used to living 'on the cheap' (by comparison), it was a real treat to do something so radically different under the most 'spur of the moment' of circumstances. Cheers!