Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Blasts from the past

I wasn't sure what I'd remember of NZ from my previous visit in 1979/80, when I was 12. The answer so far has been 'not much', though partly because I haven't revisited many of the same places. The family did a 3 week tour of the South Island in 1980, but myself and brothers were more interested in jet boats and swimming pools than scenery, and though I definitely remember Milford Sound, it was more for the dolphins, seals, and the thrill of driving through a long tunnel than for the waterfalls and soaring peaks it's famous for.

But had a couple of flashbacks in recent days. The drive from Picton to Havelock is only about 25 miles but I remember it taking forever. In 1980 we took so long that we arrived after the petrol station was closed, and the following day was Sunday, so no petrol for sale back then. We were only able to head on to Greymouth because a Havelock local offered to siphon some petrol from his lawnmower! And while opening hours may be more convenient nowadays, the road is just as twisty, I doubt anyone could exceed an average of 20mph, especially when driving an elderly Nissan Sunny. Very scenic, if you're not in a hurry, but if you are, travelling this region by boat makes much more sense.

Another thing I remember is the waterfall in the photo, because even at 12 I realised that the concrete thing at the far side was an awful eyesore doing its best to spoil the view. I didn't remember where it was, or even that it was in NZ, but anyway, these are the Maruia Falls, created by the Murchison Earthquake in the 1920s, and this is only a fraction of what they'd be capable of after a wet spell.
The real nostalgia fest will be my return to Masterton in the North Island, where we lived in 79/80. I remember the layout of the town, our house and garden, and my school very well, and am looking forward both to seeing them and to semi-scientifically analysing how closely they fit my memories. Of course, school and house may have been knocked down by now!
But anyway, prior to wallowing in the past I've committed to cycling the Otago Rail Trail, so heading down towards Dunedin for my last few days in the South Island; currently back with the Donaldsons in Christchurch. Have spent more time than intended in the South (I've put back the date of my return flight from Auckland to Brisbane), and still not seen the glaciers, been to Mount Cook, or taken part in the permanent party that is Queenstown. But can't do everything, and you'd need a lot more time than I've got to do everything NZ has to offer. Maybe on the next trip....

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