Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-

Bring on South America!!

2007-10-13 to 2007-10-17

I set off next day towards Christchurch on the Tranzalpine train, apparently one of the top 5 train trips in the planet causing me to wonder what saddo has done so many of them that they could have a top 5!?!

I was picked up by my cousin Mel and it was great to see her again! I had been here Christmas 2001 so there was a nice familiarity about the place. The first thing that we had to do was to put on a wash for all my soaked clothes from the glacier, my cargo pants ironically coming out of the washing machine dryer than when they went in!

There was a `pizza party` on at a friend`s house so we went there with a bottle of gin and the promise that we would just stay for a few and then see Christchurch properly. But this was no ordinary house. They had their own pizza kiln built outside which was cool and Matt, one of the housemates took us on a tour of the place. Inside there was a band playing to an empty room, silently frustrated with their manager for booking them this gig I presumed.

Outside they had a bath with logs underneath it for an `outdoor heated bath experience.` Hey, whatever floats your rubby ducky I guess? Then they had some reed huts in their garden for anyone that ended up crashing at their party house, a degree of foresight that I found comforting.

I met Gustro, a bicycle taxi driver who assured me that despite his appearance, which was distinctly psychotic, he had some Irish in him. Now on my travels I have found that I should not be quick to judge, but let me make this clear, this guy was a dead set, stark raving lunatic. He would shout what he said with such exuberance that it literally scared me and this feeling was not diminished by his eerie high pitched laugh. When he said he had to go to work, I actually felt relief, but we had to give a ceremonial Maori goodbye which meant touching nose twice and then pressing foreheads with eyes open. I thought he was going to nut me!

They had an outdoor, homemade sauna, a clay house surrounded by bales of hay and Mel and I were encouraged to join them. Matt passed us a dirty towel and comfortingly told us that `it has only been used once!` We wisely declined his kind offer. Matt was an accountant but somewhat let his profession down when he said that `3 times $335 is $900 dollars, oh no, wait a minute it`s closer to a $1000` I have his number in case anyone wants to do a dodgy tax return!

Sensing that the night was getting away from us, I asked Mel if she wanted to call it a night or go into town. She assured me that she was ok to carry on so we caught a cab.

“Into the city please mate” I said and then to Mel, “Are you sure that you are up for this?”

“I think that you under restorate me” she stated emphatically

“Ah mate, take us home to Linwood”

Next day was art and crafts day as we tried to glue my passport back together. I think it will pass most careless inspections! I flew back to Auckland and met Jen and Bec who I`d last seen on Mana island in Fiji. She brought me to their hostel`s bar where Yoshi, resident Japanese boarder was engaging in the national Nippon sport of Karaoke. He joined us afterward and with one of those infectious carefree attitudes where he clearly doesn`t realise that he is a pain in the butt, he proceeded to listen to our conversation and then take 4 words out of it, repeat it, scrunch up his eyes and rock over and back while cackling!

After a while, instead of it becoming wildly annoying it was actually piercing our defensive walls and it had us all in stitches, wise old Yoshi!

“So do you intend to work when you get to Sydney, Jen?”


“Am, I hadn`t given it much thought but it looks like I will have to because I am really running out of money”


And so on and so forth!

Next day I was off to the Bay of Islands, as much to get out of Auckland as any desire to do more travelling. The South Africa v Argentina match was on and my brother was giving us regular updates by text from Ireland which I relayed to the bus from our “Irish Correspondent!”

When we got there to Paihia, I took a boat over to Russell, which was formerly the first capital of NZ and where they had their oldest bar in the country, the Duke of Marlborough, est 1827! Aw bless, a mere pup of a pub by Irish standards as I recalled Durty Nellies out the road from my house that was est in 1620 and wasn`t even our earliest. It really gave me a sense of how relatively new this country was and how far they have come in just 2 centuries.

That night was Karaoke night again (I seem to be finding them with incredible regularity now) and our new group partook with vigour. My rendition of `Closing Time` inspired one German lad so much that he jumped up and gave us an inpromptu pole dance, fearing from my lyrics that maybe his chances to exhibit his skills were ever decreasing.

I went out next morning and played 9 holes of golf on a beautiful course which we were lucky to get on as it was a Plumbers Society Corporate Day out. As we approached the 6th hole, there was a lady there giving out free shots of Tequila and despite not having had breakfast, we accepted her generosity and followed it with a bite of lemon, well at least I was having something nutritious! Tequila for breakfast then, I wonder if that`s the last time I will be saying that with South America ever looming.

Back in Auckland now killing a few hours before flying to Santiago. I am a little anxious but equally as excited about it. South East Asia, around Europe, South Africa, Oz, Fiji and now NZ have all had proficient English speakers so my opportunities to find myself in dicey situations have been curtailed but my lack of Spanish should ensure that I find more than a few where I am going.

Gili, an Argentinian/Israeli that I met in Paihia said that she thought I would be mugged within 4 hours of arriving in South America, instantly assuring that she would never get a job in the tourism industry. She proceeded to tell me horror story after horror story, my particular favourite was her friend who had been out drinking with some `new friends` who had convinced him to check out in the middle of the night, give them all his stuff before they dumped him naked in a rubbish tip! I am quietly confident though of my drinking ability to ensure that I won`t end up in any bins, naked or otherwise.

There did seem to be a pattern however to the stories, after you were mugged and beaten up by the desperados, they seemed to show at least a modicum of decency by invariably dropping you home afterwards (naked rubbish guy excluded of course!).

So now I am on Mugwatch, a 24/7 alert along the same lines as a Suicide Watch for those so inclined.

I just want to get past the first 4 hours to be honest….!!


Sorry, no habla espanol!

Westin Gourmet

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