Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Masculine tendencies

July 22nd, 2011

"Like being in ****** Berlin" explained Franz. He was Dutch. Sharing a room in Nelson Youth Hostel, I’d mentioned I’d never had to look to hard to spot the odd German. In just about every country I’d passed through. He didn’t seem exactly smitten by them.

If he felt frustrated by them, this quickly faded as we discussed our missing room mate. Neither of us having actually seen her. For this was mixed accommodation. And the belongings strewn across the suggested a woman. Or a very effeminate man.

Whoever it was returned about one in the morning. Still asleep when I left to catch the bus north. Buried beneath the duvet. A woman I thought. Or a man in a wig. Can never be sure these days.

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Rolling along

July 8th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "dome onion". Bit more tricky this one. How the Kiwis describe their nation state

We were making good time our driver explained. Pale white faces around the bus suggested few were surprised by this. His joviality the only constant as we plunged down the steep, windy mountain roads. Safe hands. White knuckles.

We’d made good time to our first cafe stop a little earlier. Murchison. Might also have been the name of the small town on whose edge we sat. I’d missed the sign as we’d sped in. Short break. Enough time for tea, toilets and a few photographs. Felt a little guilty using their facilities as I’d no intention of buying anything. I’d my flask and sandwiches.

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Sound bites

July 7th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "Willington". Capital of New Zealand

"Makes a McDonalds Big Mac taste like a biscuit" explained Steve, our driver. With enthusiasm undiminished by the comatose state of most of his passengers. Seven twenty three am. Sunrise. Good-humoured descriptions of cafe stops ahead. Home-cooked snacks on offer. That sort of thing. Commentary fresh. Chunky, snappy sound bites. Buoyant. As if he’d only made the journey the day before. Anxious to share the experience. Felt you were travelling together. Or at least I did. Most people by now asleep.

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Onward

July 6th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "fear". What you pay when you get on a bus

6.45 am. Remarkably jovial. Baseball cap. Bomber jacket. Navy blue. Chill morning. Shorts. Rummaging around for his shades. Our driver. Early bus to Punakaiki. Still dark. Now checking off names. Where was I staying? At the hostel. Which one, he asked? YHA I replied. She’d come and pick me up, he explained. Couple of miles outside the village. Apologetic he couldn’t drop me off at the door.

Nelbus

Friendly reminder to a young man at the front of the bus to keep his food stowed away. We’d be stopping for tea about nine fifteen. And there’d be pies. And then "Onward" announced our driver. His name Steve.

Fellow passengers, mostly young travellers. Backpackers. A few Japanese. Save for our man at the wheel, I’d have been the eldest. Portly chap in his fifties. Bounded about whenever we stopped. Shepherding his young flock from luggage trailer to the small bus. Too few of us for a full sized coach.

And a Canadian woman. Sure I’d seen her the previous evening in the hostel. On the face of it late forties, but the eyes said differently. She’d smiled at me when I’d arrived at the bus station. Early.

[Author’s note: Steve makes several very welcome appearances as the story unfolds. For which, following feedback to his employer InterCity buses, he’s been awarded a particularly well deserved Certificate of Merit!]

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Thought for a friend

July 5th, 2011

Candle

Nelson cathedral. Inspired by Ute I’d ridden with back in Germany. Together with her husband Manfred. She’d lit a candle in Regensburg cathedral. For safe travels. I’d followed suit. But today wasn’t quite the same. Lighting one for a friend. Hers a different journey. Spirited fight against an aggressive cancer.

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Bearing up

July 5th, 2011

bikeshop

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "steers". Climb these to go up a floor

Bit of a glib statement. Heard it a few times. Just pick up spare cartridge bearings from a local manufacturer. Yep. Frequently pass them on the road. Maybe not. Until now. Or at least a stockist. I’d wandered into a local bike shop. On the off-chance. Wanting to replace the spare set I’d already used for the front hub. Too many different types for them to stock. But there was a place I could try down by the docks.

Bearingshop (2)

Bit of a challenge. Trekking down to Nelson’s port. Eventually finding the shop. Helpful chap. But just one of the type I wanted. And I needed a pair. He could get more overnight, but I was off early next morning. So he suggested a second stockist. Just around the corner.

Bearingshop (1)

And viola. Set of cartridge bearings. Secretly pleased I appeared to know what I was talking about. I’d asked for generic R8s. Imperial sizing. For an American front hub I’d explained. No bemused looks.

Bearing

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No jacket required

July 5th, 2011

Jacketcomb

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "Won a Pig". Canadian city

I wouldn’t have minded as much if I’d bought a cheap jacket. But I hadn’t. Supposedly reputable manufacturer. And I’d cared for it. Used only the recommended cleaning products. But to no avail. Sleeves de-laminating. Hood retainer unsticking itself. And now the main zip had broken. Rendering the whole thing quite useless. Alas, out of warranty. And even if it weren’t, I simply couldn’t afford to be without a waterproof.

So I’d been obliged to find a replacement. Quickly. Fortunately Nelson having a number of outdoor shops. Managing to find a heavily discounted Goretex jacket. Man enough to do the job. Not my choice of colour for riding on the road. Blue. But the saving irresistible. Enough to afford a bright fluorescent over jacket to compensate.

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Playing for Poland

July 4th, 2011

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "pigs". Used to hang washing out on the line

Smorgsborg. Generous spread. Germans. Loud. But good spirited. Enthusiastic. Nelson Youth Hostel. Monopoly. Wehrmacht edition I thought. Playing for Poland.

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Nelson City

July 4th, 2011

Cathspire

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "Frugget". Small warship

Nelson, I’d discovered, was a city. Not a big one mind. But it did have a cathedral. Nor was it the smallest of cities. Certainly bigger than St Davids in Wales. But a city nevertheless. A few notable visitors over the years. His Royal Highness The Duke of York. October 2005. Coincidentally Chairman of The Outward Bound Trust’s Trustees.

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Giving

July 4th, 2011

Liam

Today’s Kiwese word or phrase: "ruck otter". Type of cheese

Friendly bunch in Nelson. Actually, that pretty much seems to go for much of South Island. I’d met Liam at a pedestrian crossing. Waiting for the lights. I’d not sought to engage in conversation. It’d just happened.

He’d spent time in London. Golders Green. Working now in the social sector. Philosophical chat. The importance of giving something to others. I’d agreed. Wholeheartedly. Gave him his freedom to escape after twenty minutes or so.

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