Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Jungle Japes

We fly out in a few hours for Sydney. It's the last leg of our trip, though it's larger than the previous two combined. This may be bad travel math, but I'm nonetheless set on breaking the trip down this way.

The previous post glossed over our time up the west coast, I feel. Frankly, the area was one of the most beautiful I have encountered and I enjoyed it, despite the considerable handicap of having no source of music until I finally broke down and bought an iPod radio transmitter in Hokitika. In lieu of any other entertainment — we had already realized that we didn't know the lyrics to sing-a-long mainstays like "Wonderwall" and "I Think I Love You" as well as thought we did — we devised a rudimentary game of shouting out the names of the area's many creeks as we crossed them. Whoever didn't notice the little yellow sign first had to echo what the primo shouter said, not unlike the last few minutes of the Parliament Funkadelic's "Flashlight." We crossed over countless creeks, and, adorably, each one is named, likely because the grazing and agriculture economies depend heavily upon riberian rights. Stoney Creek. Viney Creek. Drunkard's Creek. Drowned Man Creek. Friends Creek No. 1. Dizzy Creek. Dismal Creek. Kiwi Creek. Doughboy Creek. Dicks Creek. Kaka Creek. Dry Creek (which had water). Water Creek (which didn't). Rocky Creek (which could have easily been any of the preceding creeks). Flowery Creek (which wouldn't have fit any of them, especially in this early autumn weather). And, of course, Cripple Creek.

Though we passed through Franz Joseph Village in the quick manner than Californians often flee cold climates, we spent enough time in Hokitika to get a feel for it. It reminded me of Twin Peaks, if that fictional town had depended upon marine enterprises instead of logging. I feel like the people there could have all easily known each other in the quaint, folksy way that only exists when it's a town you don't have to live in. The town is also known for its jade and opal markets, though I neglected to buy a carved tiki, freaky though it may have been.

At Hamish's suggestion, we drove through the farm country to the Hokitika Gorge , which he had accurately described as surreal. The river here too glows an odd turquoise color, though even more brightly than previous bodies of water had. As if to add to the strangeness of the place, the gorge was deserted — no tourists, no bugs, no fish and only one bird that we actually saw. I felt like we were trespassing on something special.

That night, we tried to get dinner at a restaurant the guide book touted as serving a surprisingly good possum broth soup. We ran though the rain and arrived at a wholly different restaurant where the kind waitress showed us a better route for driving to our last tourist destination in New Zealand — the Pancake Rocks — and then back to Christchurch, where I'm typing this now. The food was good, maybe even the best I've had so far, and when I signed the guest book, the waitress explained that I could write as large as I wanted, since the place was closing at the end of the week. She said that she didn't mind us keeping her late, way after the dinner rush usually dies down in Hokitika, since she would not get to spend more time there in the future.

The next morning, I found that the Pancake Rocks looked exactly like you'd expect them to. Words can't really relate how rocks could look like pancakes — even rocks carved by the ocean from the most badass, most supafly mineral in the funkosphere, the one and only dolemite. Wait for pictures, I suppose. I can't help but think that the Maori name for the Pancake Rocks, "Punakaiki," is a transliteration of the word "pancake."

Tonight I'll be in Sydney. Wish me luck in the penal colony.

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