Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-

I`m not a drug dealer, I don`t need a cavity search…

I`m not a drug dealer, I don`t need a cavity search…

2007-10-04 to 2007-10-07

After my melodic welcome into Fiji, I was quite unprepared for the abruptness of the customs official in New Zealand as he directed me to `Gate 4`, the strange inflexion in his voice gave me a strange sense of foreboding. With my customary good naturedness I thanked him but then noticed that `Gate 4` was boarded off, out of sight of the rest of the arrivals. Ok then, stay calm…

I was greeted by a lady that told me to hand over my passport and take a seat. I looked around and saw several custom officials discussing with predominantly Asian and Indian travellers what they were about to do.

“Sir, I am going to make a thorough inspection of your bags. I must ask you first however, is there anything in there that will cut my hand when I go through it?”

“Madam, please calm down, I am just asking you what these pills are for?”

Hmmm, ok, what am I doing here? I had seen enough `Border Patrol` programs to know that at the very least this was all being filmed and I looked up and saw several cameras. You know what, it`s harder to look perfectly calm when you are innocent than when you are trying to look innocent! My furtive imagination got the better of me for a minute and I had all sorts of images of drugs having been planted in my bag or worse again, a big man stretching some surgical gloves and informing `that you are well within your rights sir to deny a body cavity search but….`

Just as I was wondering how my Mam would take the news that I was using my one call from the NZ Customs to call her and say I needed a lawyer because I wouldn`t let some guy poke me up the bum, another lady informed me that I was indeed sent to the wrong gate and to enjoy my stay in New Zealand. Well, yes, I think I will now that the threat of imminent carnal knowledge had been taken away.

I had met Ben and Emma on Beachcomber Island earlier this week and they made that fatal, if commonplace, mistake of saying “Hey, if you`re ever in the neighbourhood, you must call in!” Ordinarily this will elicit a cursory, “Sure, of course I will, thanks” but you have all the assurance of a slice of buttered bread falling butter side down (say that ten times quickly!) that this will never happen. Well, nearly never happens!

I was on a bus to Tauranga on Friday and Ben and Emma picked me up from the bus stop and brought me to their parent`s home. Another thing that you might want to watch out for when you casually invite me to call in sometime is that you shouldn`t live in a huge, beautiful house on an island with stunning views of the lake. I might never leave!

I met Tina and Graham, Ben`s parents and his brother Daniel and we sat down to a beautiful lamb dinner. Daniel is looking at potential universities around the world to go to and his Mum would love him to travel so she engaged me to try and be a positive influence and show him the merits of travel. Being altogether more comfortable being a disruptive influence on most people, this was new ground for me so I decided to take him for a drink instead!

It was a good night, testimony to which was Daniel lying on his back in his kitchen after I`d forced him to drink 5 large glasses of water at the end of the night. Yep, I think I could get good at this `positive influence` business, maybe I should sign up to be a Big Brother?!

Ben took me to Rotorua the next day to the Maori Park, Te Puia. As we approached the town itself, my nose was invaded with a smell so rank that I nearly choked. It was so bad that I was worried that Ben might actually be very sick indeed, because no amount of beer or German sausages could have combined to form this smell. I politely said nothing, fearing my friend would soon have to have his own cavity checked as I was convinced that his innards must resemble the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. So I gritted my teeth and bore the brunt of it.

When I opened the door, instead of the sweet comfort of fresh air, I was assaulted by this smell that could only have come from a rotting corpse who had drowned in a pool of Guinness caused by a marathon egg sandwich eating session. Relieved in one way that my friend Ben wasn`t capable of generating such a smell naturally, I enquired as to what it was.

“It`s the reason so many tourists come to Rotorua” he said cheerily as my eyes began to water, “to see the Sulphur Hot Baths” Surely not, but it was true as we queued up to go into the park, the wind easing, then worsening the smell as it swirled around us. Ben laughed it off, saying I would get used to it and it would wear off soon enough. Rather like a tattoo I presumed. It was stifling and this town took the lead, by some considerable margin, as the smelliest place I have ever been to …. and I`ve been to India!

First stop in the park was to the geo-thermal pools where we were treated to some freshly boiled corn on the cob. A Maori lady cooked them while her male counterpart gave us the information on the springs and their importance to the Maori people. I asked a question and when he heard my accent, he came up to me after and showed me his badge. As Maori as the Haka he was, but his name of Robert Paul McGarvey suggested that the Irish have a lot to answer for with their domination of world names. He was one of 13 kids, 9 brothers so the McGarvey name was going to go from strength to strength!

We were given a traditional Maori greeting and performance before we went off to a dark room where we got to see 2 Kiwi birds that had been fooled by the clever trickery of delayed lighting into thinking that it was day time. They are so hard to see at night that I had looked on the Kiwi as almost extinct so I was actually excited to see them there!

That night Ben and Emma brought me to a friend of their`s, Trash`s (honestly) 21st birthday party. When I saw burnt out tyres and skid marks outside his house on our approach I should have known I was never going to fit it, but undaunted I pressed on.

His mother took a shining to me instantly which has as much to do with my accent as it did with the bottles of wine she had consumed. We went to meet the birthday boy and his friends. I have never felt like a 6th grade history teacher as much as I did at that moment. I don`t know what I was doing while this new age decided to butcher fashion but I must have been sleeping (I did feel strangely like Rip Van Winkle).

Hoodies, baseball caps turned to the side instead of straight ahead or to the back, massive white sneakers that I swear I had last seen in about 1986 (ironically the year that most of these had been born) and the latest accessory for any discerning fashionable youth of today, a pair of jeans that actually belt up below your bum showing off invariably some pair of jockey underpants which, bravely I felt, were more often than not in white. How do they stay up? Anti gravitational and it gave rise to the strange loping strides that they all seemed to adopt. I wondered how you even bought jeans that clearly didn`t fit?

Dreadlocks and Mullets were the haircuts of choice and seemed to live in perfect harmony alongside one another amongst this motley crew. Now my olfactory senses are not my best but again I couldn`t help but pick the strange musk of body odour, presumably most of them came from Rotorua where having to shower was optional considering the pong from the sulpher baths.

Sensing my bemusement and deciding that she had to enhance it, Juliet sidled over to me and informed that she was sure that she knew me from somewhere. Hadn`t I been a bouncer somewhere before?

`I sincerely doubt that you were in Boston in 1998 so I don`t think we would have met,` trying to my best `now run along dear` smile and realising that she would have been about 10 at the time. Sheesh…

`You`ve got an accent,` she persisted, showing that her bloodshot eyes were not impairing her hearing, `are you on holidays?`

I informed her that yes indeed, I was travelling and just visiting some friends. To which she replied,

`Are you having a good time tonight? What drugs are you on?`

Ok, taxi for Consi, get me out of here! All the time that I was feeling my mortality and age more so than any other time in my life, Ben and Emma were having a great time! But sensing my frustration, we said our goodbyes.

The next day I spent seeing some more of the sights of this beautiful part of NZ with Tina and Graham but not before we witnessed New Zealand get knocked out of the Rugby World Cup. The nation was in mourning, all except Tina who was delighted because she felt that other sports didn`t get the same coverage as rugby in NZ. She thought that them getting knocked out was a wonderful result and gloated incessantly as such although she did concede though that this would lead to a sharp rise in spousal abuse. Fortunately Graham was an infinitely patient rugby supporter or else I feared that Tina may become a part of that statistic.

I was sorry to say goodbye to my Kiwi family and their hospitality, particularly as they had up until so recently not even known that I existed! But I had to go to Queenstown in the South Island to meet up with an old friend and to see a little memorial to the Consi of a few years ago….


100 pints of Guinness with a lot of Ice Please!

Westin Gourmet

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