Archive for April 18th, 2010|Daily archive page

Milford sound

In Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm

The trip upto Milford sound reminds me of the savage land, a mythical remote time trapped tropical enclave in antartica, where dinosaurs and sabre toothed tigers still roamed and humans fought to stay alive. It is primitive and raw and again with all things kiwi so very very beautiful. The spray is whipped into your face by the strong winds which press upon you, the mist is so thick and dense it occludes the end of the sound, it’s not cold, the hooded waterproofs are to keep you from getting dampened by the spray whipping from the waterfalls which spill off the green mountainsides, hundreds of meters to us cruising below. You can tell when we get out to the tasman sea, and open water because the pitch of the boat changes, moving from a gentle roll to a sharp longer lunge. Feel more queasy on the coach drive back than I do on the boat itself.

Stand at the bow of the boat, the Milford monarch and let my face be drenched by the spray of the waterfall we’re stopped under, looming over the boat the captain tells a story about the falls which I immediately forget, but he has a nice calming authoritative voice, and he speaks in the slow tones of one who is used to speaking to groups of people. Close my eyes and try to feel each drop of snow melt on my face, my skin. The cruise round the sound, though all of the sounds in the area are fjords, hence the area being called fjordland, reminds me of the ferry from north to south island and the journey down queen charlotte sound. It seems captain cook named the sounds incorrectly as a sound is a passage to the sea made by a river and a fjord is a passage to the sea made by a glacier, I’m not sure whether the glacier was advancing or retreating at the time, but the captain utters the useful fact that it moved at either eight feet, or eight meters a day when normal glaciers move a quarter of that distance in a week.

I find myself taking photos even as everything seems to blur into one. New Zealand and the beauty it contains can be a bit overwhelming, you have to look away every now and then, close your eyes and try to come back to it afresh.

The road to Milford has been closed for the last four days because of the epic even for this region amount of rainfall they’ve been having. On average they get 8-10 meters of rainfall per year here. 8-10 meters and you can see it spilling off the sheer cliffs that jut into the low charcoal clouds. Rivulets of water running down the moss covered faces of the mountains, well they look like rivulets as you pass from the safety of the coach but they are vertical rivers meters wide. The bare grey outcroppings, and the uprooted and twisted trees stripped of foliage, that appear occasionally are the space where a landslide or avalanche has occurred, falling thunderously into the valleys and plains which lie below, ripping up trees as they go, and blocking this largely handbuilt route from one version of paradise to another.

Queenstown Cartel

In Kiwi, out and about, travelling, tunnnneeeee! on April 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Standing watching another covers band, this one is called the cartel, they occasionally play their own songs in between the kings of leon and the clash – did the clash do I fought the law, if so the clash, if not someone else who did do that song. But they take so long between songs, there’s the obligatory sip of drink, move to the amp, fiddle with guitar, speak to crowd before they play the next song. Where’s the seemless blurring of one song and the next? Have I been spoiled by the breakestra and will no other band live upto their well oiled skill and musicianship. Maybe it’s too much to ask for a local band to be better than average. Maybe they need more rehearsal time? I on the other hand need to stop being in bars where they are playing rock on the real… It’s just depressing, no offense Allan, Rich, Lucy, Vikki and my other rock loving friends.

And this place called world bar, which is usually a euphemism for black music, just like urban has become, is playing host to the aforementioned rock covers band.

So I bounce, too old to stand around watching chunky, square girls flirting hard in their too tight short red dresses, and their knock knees. And head to a place called tardis, which is at the end of cow lane, when I arrive they are playing brickhouse by the commodores, followed in short order by a dangerdoom track which has Talib kweli on and then a mash up of welcome to jamrock and hip hop by dead prez which I find extremely exciting…

But it is populated by the dj, barman, and two mans dem sitting at the bar, plus me when i join them. But despite the lack of eye candy I find myself happier straight away…

The dj is a young guy called ned, who dj’s under the name mr feet, he’s good, nice smooth mixes, a knowledge of tunes before his birth, working off a laptop so i’m assuming he’s using ableton or some other equivalent, but I’m not being a purist, I don’t even dj so what can I say, but he makes my evening/morning a happy one and puts me in a good frame of mind for the jaunt across the pacific and my month in new York when it’ll be all good music all the time and not a hint of rock at fucking t’all…

So I head out from tardis to another place called subculture downstairs from a bar called monty’s, as head down the stairs he’s playing brickhouse as well, is this song following me. I lean over the bar to get served and the dreadlocked bar man gives me a bottle of monteiths cider for free. Result! Subculture has more bods in it, more people playing at hip hop, and as the dj mashes up i know you got soul and I don’t love reggae I’m thinking I should bail. How comes those songs that I believe have been confined to cultural obscurity inevitably come back to haunt me around the world, where they are revered as floor fillers. The dj isn’t as good as ned, his tune selection is about keeping the crowd involved rather than serving the cognoscenti, ned was pretty much playing to himself and me and the barman, this dj has the responsibility of keeping a crowd dancing, whether they know what they are dancing to or not. Got to love how about to be lovers will bump and grind to any song at any tempo! Doesn’t that make a mockery of the club your in and the music your listening to? Just dry hump on your seat, this also relates to those who feel the need to salsa to all music’s outside of Latin, yeah I can see you can salsa, and your girl is excited to be wriggling her hips in a rhythmic fashion but your dancing to electric relaxation, nod your head and two step like the rest of us. Taking up too much space for no good reason, find a room for your extended foreplay you muppets!

So the dj has managed to empty the dancefloor with his electro stylings and I’m sitting here waiting to see what he plays to bring the people back into the fold, is he a good shepherd or will he let his flock wander away to an interesting night somewhere else? I’m giving him ten minutes to play something interesting then I’m bailing…

He’s playing some non descript drum and bass, I nod my head because I love drum and bass, but it’s not a big tune, I should note that I haven’t listened to drum and bass properly for like five years and I have no idea what the prevailing sound is, but this just sounds like identikit drum and bass, nothing original about it, and just like one of the dragons I’m out!!!

I step from left to right there’s nothing that he’s playing that surpasses the big tunes from ten years previous, nothing that touches, Leviticus, or warhead, or share the fall, it feels like dnb has stood still.

I head back to tardis and become adopted by the drunk man at the bar who plays rugby, not sure whether it’s professional, he looks a bit chunky round the middle to me, or is a happy amateur, more than likely, who is drinking in this bar and enjoys being here because no one knows who he is, he regales me with how he can dance and has rhythm except when he’s drunk, this is all good as tardis has now captured a lively late night crowd and it’s two going on three. Drunk rugby man has a conversation with the manager of the bar, to ascertain how drunk he is, as in New Zealand as in Australia, your not allowed to serve anyone who is visibly drunk, drunk man does a passable impression of someone sober and is given a pass, however when a police car rolls down twenty mins later and there are long conversations between barman whose from Rochdale and is mightily happy they are top of division two (anyone know who their manager is by the way) and policewoman about drunk man. Finally after much communication police woman rolls away and drunk man who has been absent makes an appearance, gives me some money to buy him a drink and is promptly thrown out, and I am accused of being his friend. I feel aggrieved for all of a minute then drink the rum and coke that drunk rugby man had purchased me and wind my way the five mins back to my hostel. Good first night in Queenstown.

Touring new Zealand

In all about the ride, bike, Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I’ve seen about twenty or so brave or foolhardy souls cycling across new Zealand, most on the south island, generally in bunches of twos and threes, and a few solo. Me in the comfort of my car and them struggling along, panniers fully loaded, some with a trailer as well. Those on the south island by the west coast wrapped up in waterproofs, as the rain hammered down and I was glad to be ensconced in my car cocoon. And it’s not just the weather it’s the terrain, continuously up and down, over the islands many hillocks, hills and mountains. New Zealand is one for the granny gear. Whilst at the summit of the crown range , the highest sealed road in new Zealand at 1076 meters. I spy a tourer struggling upto the top of the hill. His name is phillip and he has been touring non stop around new Zealand for the last eight years. He has a jesus saves flag attached to his bike, and he tells me he was cramping up as he reached the summit. He puts on a head scarf, some leggings and zips up his jacket. His bike has three water bottles, two rear panniers, two front and wide curved Multi position handlebars. He looks exhausted and is heading towards wanaka from queenstown. We both mention that it’s all downhill from here. I take his photo, shake his hand and wish him good luck.

And send out a silent chapeau to each and everyone i’ve passed, and wonder whether the flat will have enough space for a touring bike!

Rain rain go away

In Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:55 pm

It is now half ten in franz josef and it has been raining since I walked away from the glacier at six. And it’s biblical amounts of rain, just big fat drops, falling heavily from the sky. Sometimes it’s light a thin drizzle, more often than not it’s a weighty mass of water, pummelling the windows, roof, your hood if youre unlucky enough to be caught out in it. So the cards come out, as do the books, laptops and the old DVD films on the communal big screen tv.

Didn’t sleep particularly well last night, was awake and I think asleep throughout, kept looking at my watch, sometimes it was two thirty, then four, then five, then seven and time to wake up. So feel drowzy now but don’t want to go to bed.

Internet connection here is an extortinate $2 for twenty mins, fuck that for a game of horses, walked down to the Internet cafe that is made out of an old bus and got two and a half hours for just over six bucks.

Franz josef glacier

In Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm

You know when people come back from some journey round the way as staunch ecologists, wanting to save the planet and every living thing on it. I know why that is. Having seen the immensity of the glacier Franz Josef, and the gravel, rock, pebble strewn path it created as the ice retreated, I am filled with awe and respect for the power of nature, you see it here in new Zealand everywhere, round every corner. Franz Josef is a prime example of that. When you drive down the glacier access road, before you get halfway along it’s length there is a sign saying this is where the glacier used to be in 1750. It is kilometers away from the glacial front. And I mean kilometers.

The huge scar left in the earth by the retreating ice is so savage, so huge, this flattened v the edges now softened by trees and foliage and the low clouds, heavy with precipitation, squatting above the hills. They sweat and steam, as if just recovering from a work out, or is it the clouds breaking apart on the mount tops? You see them, you stand in awe, and you trek upto the blue white ice that sits at the mouth of a spewing, surging, in full spate river, but the river is created by the melting ice, and it flows full and powerful, the rumble and growl echoes down the valley, in the background to all things.

See the colour co-ordinated explorers walking behind their guides, wrapped up in their waterproofs, hiking boots damp from fording rivers, giving me quizzical looks as I stamp up river, swrve 3/4 jeans on, and my wheezing trainers, hissing with every step. Eyes wide at the spectacle in front of me. That I’m able to get so close to this piece of ancientness. After the pancake cliffs and blowholes of Punakaiki, the limestone erosions of Truman’s beach and the sights inbetween I’m going to have to reaffirm my Eco credentials. Suddenly have the desire to revamp the creative department of whichever NGO will have me.

Travel days

In Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm

You get into a place, you know you’re not there for a long time, you’re there for a good time, so you hit it hard. Wheels touchdown, bags hit the floor, shower, shave and shit and your hustling for the living breathing heart of this space you’ve just arrived in, willing to suck the marrow out of it.

Conversely the day you leave, or more precisely the day before you leave is a drag of packing, thinking, last minute panic attacks about what’s been left and where, but then panics over it was where you put it after all. A slow treacle of a day, not allowing yourself to do anything because you can’t miss that travel connection, it’s an early start and if you don’t make it,  it blows to hell everything else and you’d be more than unhappy if this plan didn’t come together.

So i pussyfoot around, at once listless but wanting to do more, to see more, I wander aimless. Looking for, I don’t even know what! Looking for something that will cement the experience I’ve had here, the cherry on top, the missing piece of this travelogue, slotting right in and making sense of it all. Watch the natives at play, at ease, living another day of their lives as I slide through making no impression on them even as I record and memorise the impression they leave on me. The way they walk, talk, eat, spit, sit, laugh, dance, shout, pout.

I take one last walk around town, because i’ve packed everything up, and only have the clothes i’ve got on and my toiletries available. Say a silent farewell to the occupants of the common room, computers on laps eyes lifting to look at the big screen tv showing movies all day. Lights are on in the room, set alarm lay down, cover eyes wait for sleep to come. And it does or I think it does, and I’m not sure how much rest I get because I’m awake as a gaggle of girls speak into the night, the light is still on and the dorm is full. Two or three other guys and five or six girls. They are European, the sing song nature of their accents, their propensity to slip into their native tongue and then back to English is confusing and then endearing. They are from scandanavia. Holland, Belgium. They have little in jokes. I lie there in between wakefulness and sleep. Waiting for true sleep to claim me, wondering when they will head out into welingtons night. The giggly coversations, the constant one upmanship feels like the prelude to going out. But they don’t this is just the interraction before bed. There is flirting with the two Spanish guys, in a giggling breathless way, and admonishment from a couple of the girls. What is the female term for cock blocking, cunt blocking? There seems to be some of that going on. But the women are generating more of a boisterous ball of energy, too much to say in too short a space of time. Have they come back from drinking then? Will they ever slow down, shut up and let me get some sleep? Will the one who keeps singing let’s talk about sex stop doing so?

I vow when I awake at six o’clock to prepare for my departure as loudly as possible as payback, switch on all the liths and bang my bags around and see how they like it.

Then I sleep, properly, as they pretend, comedy snores forced out to their muffled amusement…


In Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:51 pm

It’s windy up on the sun deck, one of the few bits of the ferry where you can get outside. It’s windy but not really cold. Wellingtonians talk about the weather and the wind alot, when you can see it change as often and vicariously as they do, it would be weird if they didnt talk about it.

Ben, a friend of Gussy Gus’ explains there are two types of wind in Wellington, northerlies, winds coming from the north which are strong, and southerlies, winds coming from the south which are strong and cold as they come straight up from the Antarctic.

But sitting right up here on the very top of the ferry, you can tell it’s a northerlie, strong gusting but I don’t feel cold.

Grey clouds scud low overhead, moving faster than I’ve ever seen a cloud move apart from in timelapse. Zooming overhead, covering the blue sky that appears infrequently in the gaps. Rugged green coastline, promitories and coves move slowly past, a panorama of hillocks, the tips of which are covered and uncovered by the fast moving clouds.

The quiet thrum, and the soothing grumble of the engines is disturbed every so often by the screech and squeal of groups of schoolkids who are shown the exterior for a few minutes, the fresh air stirring their blood as they cavort and gambol up on deck.

And as we head out over open water across the cook strait I sleep.

I grumble to consciousness as we enter the Tory channel, steep slopes of green jutting out of the water. The wind dropping to nothing before bullrushing you as the ferry picks it’s way through the waterway. Hear the snap, whistle and rustle of clothing as they billow and bellow.

The vertiginous hills either side, rippled and ridged, beautiful? (find another word) secluded coves revealing then concealing themselves as you pass by. The clouds splitting occassionally to let a moving searchlight of sun through to  illuminate a hill. The countryside so rugged and seemingly inhospitable is home to a smattering of houses sitting on the edge of the water, lonely box structures stuck into the base of the hills.

Move slowly towards our destination, not sure how fast we are going, speed and distance are so hard to judge onboard. The sky darkens and lightens, threatening to rain, then spitting showers envelop you, the path we’ve just forged now shrouded in mist the earth that thrust so vigorously out of the water now almost disappeared.

Truman beach

In Kiwi, travelling on April 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Standing on the pebbles which form Truman’s beach, just a kilometre or two away from Punakaiki i am utterly and totally amazed by the beauty that is set out before me. I was struck dumb yesterday on the drive down from Picton. New Zealand may have one tenth the population of England but it has nine tenths of the beauty. The ruggedness of it, defies description, at least by me. I spent the whole journey trying to take photos whilst driving to record what I was seeing, then wanting to pull over at every scenic spot to take some shots. But if I’d have done that I wouldn’t have got to my destination until gone nine at night.

I don’t have the words to describe what I’ve seen of New Zealand it goes beyond picturesque, beyond beautiful, beyond breath taking, awe inspiring, it just is so magnificently gorgeous, not just one part but around every bend in the road, every ascent up a mount, every descent into a valley, every river you cross over there is something more stunning and affecting.

As I drive down the coast road there is a miasma of fog and spray generated by the incoming waves, a misty sheen blurs everything, turning everything into soft focus, Vaseline at the edges, the roar of the ocean, the tang of salt water, the whitecaps of the waves as they fold over themselves as they reach the beach and roll agonisingly close to your feet, which dig a little deeper into the shingle beach.

I’m staying in Te Nikau retreat which sits in a bit of rainforest, thick foliage right in front of the door, the kitchen is an angled atrium off the side of the dorm with a large herb garden planted under the awnings with you. Truman beach is an eight min walk through dense undergrowth, it is wilderness, it is New Zealand, just one more beautiful spot in a cavalcade of beautiful spots.

I do believe that New Zealand is the most beautiful place I have ever seen with my own eyes.

Morning after the night before.

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Hit Wellington hard last night, see previous post for details, woke up early, working off five hours sleep to return the hire car. And I’m supposed to be going out on a three hour ride this afternoon, then drinks and dinner with leslie an old university bodkin.

I’m recovering with a breakfast at ernesto on Cuba st, and it’s good, hitting exactly the right spot, the music’s low enough to be almost subliminal but I won’t hold that against it. The suns shining bright outside and there’s flesh on display and I could get used to this cafe living. This indoor/outdoor existence where the sun makes a substantial appearance in the calendar, and sunglasses are a must have rather than a fashion accessory.

There are lots of mothers and twentysomethim daughters out, getting coffee and I wonder where the fathers and sons are.

I think I’ve managed to get the headache under control, and the rooms kinda stop spinning when I close my eyes.

I’ve read back what I wrote the night before and I considered toning it down, tweaking it, editing it slightly. But live by the notes on the iphone, die by the notes on the iphone. Record your thoughts at the time, and don’t regret a one of them. It’s what I thought and they are the honest thoughts, of an angry denied hip hop boy. Sometimes you’ve just got to take what your given, unless your drunk and want more before you go to bed.

Three piece on Cuba st

In Kiwi, out and about, tunnnneeeee! on April 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Please note this was written during the evening, as I got progressively drunker. Apologies for the hating at the end.

Whilst walking away from awful hostel bar up cuba st came across this great funky jazzy three piece drums double bass and guitar, they were all kinds of awesome, melding their own compositions into a long freaking jam of a jimi hendrix tune, which I can’t quite put my finger on, no got it now voodoo chile. Fucking superb. I mean like out of this world kind of superb, if I hadn’t given my last pieces of change to the band up the street who were busking to get to Manila, they would have had it. I’m seriously thinking about breaking a note to give them some dollar. Only thing is, as always, I’m amongst a group of sitters and watchers rather than interacters, no head nodders or foot tappers, apart from the odd hippy and me. It’s like they can’t find the center of the bass or if they can they aren’t willing to show it. I’m supposed to be on a mission to find a bar playing good tunes but I might just stay here all night or at least until I find out what they are called, cause the are all sorts of super dope and ms bickerstaff you would love them….

If they are not influenced by the breakestra and the bad plus I will eat my hat…

And it is a nice hat as well.

Street beats they are called, awful name, good band.

I then adjourn to the southern cross where a four piece band are murdering “it’s your thing”, sucking all the grit and soul out of that beautiful song and turning it into something that a couple can happily jive to, and they do. Plus cider costs nine bucks and I’m out looking for someplace better to be…

Then it’s a long walk along the seafront looking for someplace else to drink. I’ve passed the Matterhorn which has been recommended on Cuba st as well as Good Luck. But it’s early and there’s no harm in taking a quick fifteen min jaunt down the road. Imagine soho and bricklane joined at a t junction and you’ve pretty much got Wellington covered, one street cool and interesting, one just out to get the out of towners.

I roll back to Matterhorn and get involved with one of the barmen about why cachaca is classed as a rum when it is cane spirit, and he says it’s down to the Americans. Damn Americans! It seems rum is made from the molasses and cachaca is made from the sugar cane juice, the by product of heating sugar cane. And the Americans call it Brazilian rum rather than rum, though my barman informs me that an expensive rum by Zacapa, which is the good stuff that made me miss my flight to sydney is made the same way it’s classed as cane juice but let me tell you the Zacapa is a great fucking rum. Get it if you can.

Scottish bar girl Claire whose been here two years, but hasn’t seen the beauty of New Zealand and is off to Cuba courtesy of Havana club for four days, then gives me a shot of Appleton estate 8yr old as a gift for this being my 1st night in Wellington, it is beautiful… She also has a very nice sleeve tattoo.

So after Matterhorn I end up in Good Luck which is just down the way and down a set of stairs amongst a load of young bods playing at hip hop, as jay z’s New York or Empire State of Mind as its officially called blares out of the speakers, making shapes and stepping from side to side. Want to tell them that shit won’t fly amongst black people until the dj plays “dreams of fucking a rnb bitch” by biggie and I lose my goddamned mind…

Then watch the dancefloor empty as the infamous, original queensbridge murderers rolls forth. Fucking lightweights. What do you know about hip hop? I want to shake each and every one of them. But what would be the point. They only know what’s played to them on the radio, they don’t feel hip hop deep down in their soul, feel it like it’s their skin being shook and shaken. It’s a shirt or a pair of jeans they can put on or take off. Fuck that it’s my skin the only way you can get it off me is by skinning me and killing me in the process. Fuck you and your I can choose this or that. I didn’t choose it, hip hop chose me. In it till I die…

The dj plays a composite of hip hop by dead prez with some other song, after blister in the sun by violent femmes, no vocal just the beats and I wonder if he knows how disrespectful that is to those who know what hip hop is about, it casts a shadow across my soul. I love that song so much, properly, not even lying, and this dj denigrates it by mashing it up with something else and not even playing it properly, why fucking bother! I’m starting to hate him a little bit, actually a lot, bastardising the music I love for the know nothings filled with alcohol who’ll dance to whatever rnb nonsense has been played on the radio that morning. I spit on you, or better, I shit on you….