"It's not much but it's ours"

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

It is exactly a year ago today that I arrived back in the UK after my "trip of a lifetime" to New Zealand ( via Singapore and Australia )

reading the below makes me incredibly nostalgic

Simon and The Three S's ( Singapore/South
Island/Sydney )

2004 was the worst year of my life.

The death of my beloved mother, the "joys" of turning 40 and the stresses and strains of work combined to push me pretty close to being one of those people of whom neighbours say " he seemed so normal" on the 9 o clock news.

Turning 40 was a real eye opener. What did Britney sing? "Not a girl, not yet a woman" something like that anyway. Well,in my case it was more "Middle aged but, not yet ready for a bus pass" but the brain addling confusion was, I guess, similar between me and
the queen of midriff revealing trailer trash. I just didn't get married twice.

So, as all good self help gurus demand, I made some lists. Things I was going to do in my 40th year that would show

a) I was not going to begin to age gracefully
b) I had achieved some success in my life and was happy to use some of the rewards to reward myself ( copyright Anthony Robbins "Awaken the Giant Within")
c) I was prepared to acknowledge my deficiencies and do something about them ( Hats off to Steven Covey chanelling Deepak Chopra )

On my list were just three things

1) Get my teeth fixed. For years I had stared in the bathroom mirror at a mouth resembling an abandoned cemetery . No one else seemed to notice, but I did and I hated it. So, now I am proudly sporting a metal mouth and have teeth whizzing around my mush like piano keys during a performance of "Ragtime Cowboy Joe"

2) I had a made to measure suit. Rather fetching it is too in a dark Herringbone. I am hoping to wear it on occasions other than when I am referred to as " the accused"

3) Finally, I decided I needed a holiday. Not just a few days tacked on to a business trip here and there or a quick weekend of eating embryonic animals in Madrid, but a real one with more than one weekend involved an everything.

Fortunately, my colleagues were more than understanding of my need for an extended break. Rather too understanding, damn them. Don't they realise I am indispensable? Their world will fall apart without me? Apparently not. In fact, I suspect that some of them
would have helped me pack and I was faced with far too many cat calls of "when are you off?" than is good for someone in my elevated position.

Still, the support of colleagues was a blessing and I set about booking
my trip. Well, rather AMEX did. I decided to place most of it in the
hands of their travel team with a bare framework drawn up by me and soon they came up with an itinerary which was both hugely exciting and
cost the equivalent of the GNP of a new member of the EU. Still, I decided, there was no point going on "the holiday of a lifetime" ( copyright Judith Chalmers ) if I was going to stint on the cost.

New Zealand has always fascinated me. A country the size of the UK with a population the size of Bridlington. Stunning landscapes shown to their best effect most recently in LOTR trilogy, even if most of that was, in fact, created on a computer, I found out later and, most importantly, some of the best wines of the New World. It seemed natural then that New Zealand would form the bulk of my time away with stopovers in Singapore to meet a friend and Sydney to persuade
myself that it really is "the best city on earth , mate" as so many of its citizens ( who strangely all seem to live in London ) take every
opportunity of telling me.

So followed 19 days which were, if truth be told, as enjoyable as they were healing as they were life changing.

I always arrive at the airport stupidly early. In fact, my colleague Zaro and I compete to see who can be there more early.I suspect that one day one of us will book into one of the Heathrow hotels for the evening before a late afternoon flight the next day "just in case"

In my case, it was because I was flying business on Singapore Airlines and wanted to check out the free nuts in the lounge which I heard was rather fun. It wasn't, being rather workaday and nowhere near as fun as the SAS lounge in the same terminal which has a shuffleboard and magazines in Swedish. Still, I made my self comfortable, read the Daily Express ( which made me distinctly uncomfortable -"cut the balls off orphans to teach them a lesson" that kind of thing ) and soon passed the hour and a half before I was due to board with a brief stopover with my traditional pre flight meal of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon at Chez Gerrard ( as meals in an airport go, it was far from terminal, ahem )

Rather pleasingly, I found myself upgraded to first class on the flight to Singapore and turned left upon entry into the 747 to be greeted by a handful of seats in a space that would normally seat 50 in most airlines. A rather charming stewardess made a valiant
attempt to pronounce my name ( a game she willingly practiced throughout the flight with varying degrees of success ) and gave me a glass of Krug. Something told me this would not be an altogether unpleasant experience. It wasn't. With seats the size of a small double bed, sixty movie channels to watch and food that would pass for decent in many provincial
restaurants, the 13 1/2 hours did literally fly by.

Given the joys of crossing time zones, I left Heathrow bang on 11am on the 19th of January and arrived in Singapore exactly one month later. Well, in fact it was 7am on the 20th, but the effect on my body clock was much the same. I deplaned (is that a word?) with
slightly wobbly legs ( nothing to do with the best part of a bottle of Krug I had drunk
on route, I resent that implication ) and scurried towards the immigration clutching my landing card which bore the welcoming missive
"DEATH FOR DRUG SMUGGLERS- IT IS THE LAW" and imagined all sorts of Midnight Express type scenarios and every person in uniform (
even if they were cleaning the bathroom ) wanting nothing more than to hang me upside down and beat a confession out of me with a bamboo cane )

Nothing of the sort. I was through immigration, after being charmingly dealt with, in a matter of seconds and my bags were first off the carousel. Result!

Now, everything is cheap in Singapore including the cabs from the airport to the city ( about �4) but, as I was early, I decided to try their
MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) I am not quite sure why. I don't "do" public transport at the best of times, but as I was too early to check
in, I thought I could see some of the city and pass some time. For about 60p, I hurtled on the clean, quiet and pleasant train to the City Hall
stop in about 20 mins with at least 5 people offering me their seats as I had heavy bags. The only sign that I was in a mechanical society
where control is king were the many announcements not to eat on the trains or to linger at stations " to keep the stations pleasant for other users"

I was still way too early to check in at my hotel ( the functional but harmless Stamford Hotel in the Raffles City Complex )so I availed my
self of their hospitality suit, showered, shaved and went out to hit the town while they fluffed my pillows and put in the requisite amount of cotton buds.

Singapore appears on my limited time there to consist entirely of two things. Shopping malls and Food courts. Quite often the two are
combined, but just in case anyone gets hungry on their way to the food courts
they have the hawkers markets en route to stop at for a snack. Now, food courts in the UK and US are a thing of shame. Slop houses called
things like "Yellow Pagoda" and "Uncle Ken's Alabama Brisket" all serving
food that looks the same whatever nationality it is supposed to represent. Not so in Singapore. Even in the high end malls, there are
a huge variety of stalls all offering perfectly decent food representing the three main cultures ( Indian, Malay and Chinese ) and
a mix of the three. The food is freshly prepared and, in the Raffles City complex , I stuffed my face with a mixture of Nasi Goreng, Laksa and Chicken Rice for about Sing$10. Not bad at all.

By the time I had finished that lot, bought a few things I had forgotten to pack and pottered around a local bookstore in a search for one of our books, my room was ready and I was able to check into my room on the 27th floor, change into some lighter clothes and check out the town.

It was well over 30o when I stepped outside and the heat hit me in the face like a wet haddock and I was soon drenched again. I can understand why all the air conditioned malls were so crowded. Still, like all good Englishmen out in the midday sun, I carried on
regardless and soon found myself in Chinatown and sampling a bowl of Pig Organ Soup and Cheung Cheuks ( he had a large sign which "Pig Organ Soup King" so who was I to turn down a challenge like that? It was, to be fair, very good, fibrous chunks of meat in a light gravy and for S$3.00 a nice way to break the empty hours between breakfast and lunch.

Maxwell Rd Hawkers market is one of the best known of the food courts in town and, as I wandered in, I was confronted by about 30 or more stalls offering a bewildering array of food. The majority of which, I have to admit, I had not clue No1 what they were. Still,faint heart never won a fair meal and I soon targeted a small stall called Zhen Zhen Porridge which seemed to have the biggest queue.
Rather stupidly asking the man in front of me ( in true Michael Palin style )" do they make good porridge?" I was given very strict instructions
to order only the fish belly and century egg porridge which I duly did. What came was a large bowl of congee with slices of white fish (I don't know enough fishy anatomy to tell if it was what it claimed to be
) and one of those slightly disconcerting grey eggs which often taste as unappetising as they look. Was it tasty? sure. Was it worth queuing 40 mins for? Nope, but that's what holidays are all about I guess, new experiences. Even if there is no reason to ever do them again.

Post lunch, I began to fade so retired to the comfort of my air con'd room and slept the sleep of the righteous until it was time to meet up with my chum Wendy, who lives and works in Singapore,for a drink. She was a bit more rushed than I had hoped as she had to collect her small son from somewhere or other, so our time together was just enough to sit on the balcony of The Long Bar at The Raffles
Hotel and share a towering plate of assorted snacks ( glutinous rice cakes, Sweet shrimp and Satay ) and a quick drink. Deciding long ago that pink drinks were not my thing, I eschewed the offer of a Singapore Sling (created in this very bar ) and had a watery gin and tonic while she sipped on a mineral water as driving with even a trace of booze in your system is a strict no no.

After our hurried meeting, I had time on my hands and pottered around the hawkers stalls around Purvis Rd until I came upon one that was offering up tiny squidlets deep fried whole. Never being one to turn down anything fried, I partook of a large plate of the squid with some gravy noodles and an unfeasibly large bottle of Barron's Pale Ale. All very good and enough to send me sated to bed and a good nights kip.

My flight was not until 9pm, so I had the whole day to kill. So, I began it in stalwart fashion with an hour's run in the luxurious hotel gym. Retaining my pass for later in the day, I checked out and stored my luggage and went to explore some more.

I hopped in a cab up to Little India and found myself in a maze of streets that could easily have been the back streets of Delhi or Calcutta.
The smells were the same, the noise was the same and I had just as many people trying to sell me crap while all giving me that smile that only Indian hucksters can manage. Great fun

Afterwards, I walked in the park by the harbour. It was a national holiday that day although I never quite got to the bottom of what
holiday it was, so the roads were quiet, but the parks were filled to the brim of people having picnics and a good time ( neither of which I am sure I totally approve of ) so I found a quiet spot and sat for an hour or so and read my Rough Guide to New Zealand and pondered on the adventures ahead.

One bowl of hot & Sour soup later, I was back in the hotel gym, availing myself of the spa and steam room and relaxing before changing into a fresh set of clothes and heading to the airport for my flight to Christchurch where again, I was through customs in seconds flat and,
before going to check my mails in the Singapore Airways lounge I wandered around the extraordinary array of shops on offer to
the transit traveller. The airport is well set up for those who are connecting directly to other long haul flights. Transit hotels who sell
blocks of six hours so you can sleep and shower, free movie theatres, gyms and enough opportunities to part with cash to keep even Ivana Trump happy. Me? I bought a magazine for S$10 and went and ate the free food in the lounge.

The flight itself was entirely uneventful apart from being asked not to laugh so loud while watching Dodgeball as others slept. As is often the case on such a flight, I struck up a conversation with the man next to me who turned out to be an extraordinary chap who set up respite centres for the parents of severely disabled children to take their offspring so both parents and child could get a break. Such was the
success of his first centre he was now being asked to set them up all over New Zealand. A remarkable fellow.

More time zone confusion. I left Singapore at 9.30pm on the 21st Jan and arrived in Christchurch in 1952. Well, actually at 12 midday on the 22nd, but 1952 is in many ways how New Zealand first appears.

After managing the assault course that is immigration and customs in New Zealand and filling in a landing card that was Tolstoyan in length, I hopped in a cab driven by a pleasingly direct Kiwi called Tony ( who was to be my unofficial driver for my time in Christchurch ) and headed towards the harbour of Lyttleton and the home of my
pen pal, Lizzie.

Lizzie and I began writing to each other some two years ago after contacting each other via a food website ( sad, but true ) Lizzie was a
recent emigre to NZ and finding the adjustment slow going. I was, as always, happy to encounter new people. Particularly smart, funny ones, so we have been exchanging e-mails on a regular basis as both our lives suffered the usual slings and arrows that life has to offer. But, we had never met.

That did not deter Lizzie who has taken on the pre requisite mantle of Kiwi hospitality ( on top of her own giving nature )with aplomb and there seemed to be no question that I would stay with her both on my one night at the beginning of my time in NZ, but also the two nights before I headed to Sydney.

Lizzie is one of those remarkable people with whom you feel entirely comfortable as soon as you meet them and I was soon chatting happily to her in a coffee shop in the small port of Lyttleton. The town itself has developed from being a rather rough working port
to a slightly bohemian home for artists and the like who want to escape the relative expense of Christchurch. It still retains some elements of its past and is still a working port with the comforting clank of containers being unloaded forming the soundtrack to many balmy nights,but it is a very agreeable place and the views from L's charming house at the stop of a very steep hill, were stunning.

During the day, we bumped into a couple of L's friends in the town and an impromptu get together was arranged and I found myself on the other side of the harbour enjoying the hospitality of L's best chum Yolanda and her partner as they fired up the barbie ( a religion to challenge
Anglicanism, I found ) and proffered beer after beer while I drank in both them and the remarkable sunset. I have no idea how we got home that night, but I am glad I set three alarms or the holiday could have ended in tears

The phone shrieked its alarm at 5am and I staggered out of bead with a head as thick as the Shanghai White Pages.

I had a train to catch and my "Chauffeur" Tony was due to pick me up at 5.30am. I showered quickly and went to sit by the gate with my luggage so as not to disturb Lizzie from her Sunday slumbers.

Bang on time my transport arrived and I was whisked to the small Christchurch train station where I was due to collect the Trans coastal Express to Picton where I would be joining a four day guided hike around The Queen Charlotte Track (c50 miles in 4 days )

Luggage checked in, I was soon sitting in a forward facing window seat, crappy David Baldacci novel in hand and ready for the five hour trip to the northern tip of the South Island. I can't recommend this journey strongly enough. The train is comfortable and the views of the coastal areas of the South are unbelievably beautiful. On route I saw dolphins, whales and also passed through many of the vineyards of the Canterbury and Malborough regions including Pegasus Bay ( producer of the best NZ Reisling ) and the famous Cloudy Bay. Oh, one word of warning though. Don't eat the food! I didn't, but saw enough of it to see that it was as unappetising as that offered on its British counterpart.

I arrived bang on time to be met on the platform by an engaging young woman called Haylee waving a sign with my name on it and ferried to my workaday but satisfactory hotel to clean up before the pre-hike briefing.

After a a fabulous leg stretching run around the harbour, I arrived at the offices of the Malborough Sounds Adventure Company to meet my fellow walkers and was concerned to see that not only did they all seem to be at least 20 years older than me, but they also all seemed to know each other and had been on many walking holidays
together before. Bugger. Now I new that, given the cost of the trip,the chance of me happening upon some bright young things was limited,but I thought there may be at least some people who were closer to my own age.

Slightly put out, I sat through the briefing, collected the advance bags in which we were to repack the things we would need during the
hike so they could be taken on ahead each morning to the resort at which we would be staying
each evening, and went off to my hotel slightly crestfallen at the thought of spending the next four days with a group of "doddery olds".

How life has a way of challenging the misconceptions of the stupid. Deciding on a quick beer in The Yacht Club, the rather nice hotel next
to mine, I wandered in to find the "wrinklies" all seated around a table and well into their umpteenth bottle of wine. Before I knew it, I had
been plonked in the middle of the table, plied with excellent Sauvignon Blanc and made to feel entirely part of the group. Soon realising
that, far from being unlucky, I was with one of the most interesting group of people I have encountered for many years. Retired in most cases, their numbers comprised of surgeons, professors, CEO's and more. On top of which, they were more than able to handle copious amounts of wine ( a theme that was to be explored in some depth over the next four days ) I stumbled back to my hotel after sharing a passable supper, looking forward to better getting to know my companions over the next few days.

It was grey and dull and that was just my head!

But, I quickly showered and grabbed breakfast and waited in the hotel lobby for the van to collect my bags and take me down to the pier where I would meet my companions, collect my packed lunch and deposit my luggage

Before we set out on our route march, we were to have a boat trip to Matuara Island. A sanctuary just of the Queen
Charlotte Sound. En route, it was hoped we may see some dolphins and other rare wildlife. We were in luck. Not only did we see a large school of Hector's dolphins, we also saw many rare species of birds, seals and even a brown Kiwi, practically extinct until a few years ago.

Then the walk began in earnest. The Queen Charlotte Track runs for around 80km around the very northern tip of the South Island and while being classified as a "moderate" hike or Tramp as the Kiwi's call them, it is bloody hard work with long stretches in the sub
tropical rainforest, even longer stretches in the open and at the mercies of the heat and with some extraordinarily steep hills that seem to go
on for miles. I wondered about the ability of some of the older members of the group to cope, but was once again shown my place as David, a retired consultant surgeon in his late 60's, scampered ahead of all of us like a mountain goat.

Our two guides were a delight. Ray, a gnarled 68 year old brit who had moved to NZ over 30 years ago and Marylyn, a true Kiwi woman, beguilingly open and scarily "outdoorsy" The soon had us moving swiftly from Ship Cove, where the boat had disgorged us and heading off on the 8 miles to our first port of call, Ferneaux Lodge.

The tour is well organised and each night we would be staying at beautiful resorts accessible only by the walkers or by water taxi.
Each day would comprise of a walk of around 10-12 miles with a stop for lunch and a couple of stops to make tea or "billie up" as
Ray called it. Each night would be a meal with some OK wine included and we soon all agreed to run a tab ourselves to sample some of the better wines on the lists. I think it was fair to say that the resort owners were very happy with the amount we spent on wines each evening.

Around 4pm we arrived at Ferneaux Lodge and I was show to my delightful cabin and soon changed from my clothes, wringing with grime and sweat from a hard day's walk, into some fetching blue swimming shorts in which I hurled myself off the jetty into the welcoming azure blue waters of the cove.

Later, a pre dinner beer and an unremarkable but welcome meal later. I retired to bed and slept like a baby.

I awoke at 5am with the sounds of the bush Robbins and Bell Birds ringing in my ears and thought I would go down to the water's edge to
do some stretches. Big mistake. It seems that 3 million sandflies also do their morning exercises at that time and most of that involved biting me. I spent the next three days itching like buggery and trying not to scratch swollen bites. Ho hum

Still, after breakfast and making our lunch from the smorgasbord on offer, we set off on what would be the easiest day of the walk. Just seven miles over easy terrain preluded with a detour through some virgin rainforest to see a ancient waterfall. Well worth the

The day passed quickly. The beauty of these walks is that with natural breaks, one finds oneself switching from conversation to conversation with some remarkable people and discussing some fascinating things. From the nature of the pharmaceutical industry in China( Mark) to the exegisis of the Lucan Gospel ( David ) to the vagaries of planning permission in Gurnsey ( Sadie ) and so on.

With just one stop for lunch, as always in a place of unreal beauty, we arrived at Punga Cove by 2pm which gave us 5 hours to chill out and enjoy the tranquility of this lovely spot. I found that my bags were already in my room and I had been given the best room
in the resport overlooking the cove from atop a steep hill. A long walk, but well worth the effort.

We were all soon in the sea and swimming and being introduced by Mark, the Kiwi amongst us, to Kayyaking. Did it. Don't want to do it again. Then for the next 3 or so hours we sat and got slowly sozzled on excellent Clifford Bay SB and chatted amiably aboutnothing.

Oh, dinner was a disgrace and I made a complaint. Mushy monkfish, tinned brined mussels. Truly horrible.

When we set out from Punga, we were offered the option of avoiding what we were told was going to be a "brutal" day, walking12 miles mainly in the open and in 30o heat. Those who chose the soft option could go on to the final resort by water taxi and meet up with the group later on in the day. Only one of the group chose this option and, as we set off up what turned out to be the first of many steep hillsthat day, I was beginning to wish I had joined her.

It certainly was brutal and I was pleased that I has purchased a very fecthing wide brimmed hat in Picton otherwise my head would have become rather more shiny than normal.

Despite the toughness of the walk, this was the day I enjoyed most. More of that scenery, and phenomenal exercise. By thetime we reached Portage for our final nights stay, I was ready for a swim and a decent bottle of wine. Not necessarily in that order.

Portage was the most opulent of the resorts and my room was close to being the size of my flat. The food was better too and was probably as close to haute as I was to come in NZ.

Being the last night of the trip, we all cut loose and ordered just about every bottle on the wine list. Quite forgetting that, although this
was our last night, we still had one day's walk to go.Mind you the resort owner was delighted to see the $700 bar tab we clocked up before staggering to bed.

it is fair to say that as the weary throng gathered for breakfast the majority of the menfolk were a little tired and emotional and it took a huge fry up to persuade us that we should not just stay in bed and recover.

I wish I had. They told us that the last day was quite gentle. BOLLOCKS!! it was. it was harder if anything than the previous day. 12 miles through the bush at a much faster pace as we had a water taxi to catch and it would not wait for us. So a slightly
uncomfortable route march followed with nary a stop and 8 hours later we arrived at the end of the track just in time to hop aboard the waiting taxi where I cracked open a bottle of something sparklling that I had lugged around all day for this very purpose and we all toasted our brave adventures in warm methode as we hurtled back at pace to Picton

That night, by way of farewell, those of us who had not left Picton immediately regrouped at The Yacht Club and got, well, really rather pissed again. As I left for my own hotel and a reasonably early night, I was sorry to leave this group of very interesting individuals many of whom I am sure I shall meet again if not in such astonishing surroundings.

it never ceases to amaze me how you can organise something on a computer in one place and have it actually happen thousands of miles away around the world. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I surfaced early the following morning to find that the Hertz office hidden away on the pier in Picton not only existed but actually had been expecting me and had my car ready. Well, car is too strong a word for it. being on my own and not having huge amounts of luggage, I had taken the budget option and gone for " a Ford Ka or equivalent" What I got was a Toyota Echo. To all intents and purposes a hairdryer with a steering wheel. I could barely fit in it let alone my luggage, but after some rearrangements of the seats, I managed to get all my belongings in to
this lawnmower and headed off towards the Franz Joseph Glacier on the West Coast of the South Island ( stay with me here )

When I had mentioned this part of the journey to any Kiwi, they all gave a sharp intake of breath redolent of when you get a plumber round to remove a blockage from your toilet. I soon realised why. Although there is precious little traffic on NZ's roads, all
the main highways are single lane and very, very windy. It is possible to spend 30minutes behing a minivan full of backpackers all singing
camping songs when you really want to be flying past to your destination. What on paper was a four hour drive turned out to be, as the Kiwi's had all smugly expounded, an eight hour drive.

That being said, it was not unpleasant and I did make a couple of detours. Primarily to drive along the Rapura rd, home of most of the Malborough regions wineries and also at Reefton, an inconsequential town which had, I was told one of the best fish and chip
shops in NZ. It certainly did and I found myself stopping for an enormo plate of battered fish with thick cut chips and a root beer. Very good
it was too and it fortified me for the last four hours of the drive

I arrived at the Glacier mid afternoon and immediately felt the culture shock of leaving the relative seclusion of our walk. The small town
was packed with tour parties the majority of which Seemed to be from Taiwan, which is the largest growing sector of tourist influx to NZ.

My hotel was the largest in town, most of the others catering to the backpacking fraternity. It wasSparsely furnished, but comfortable enough for one night and I deposited my bags and headed out to walk to the Glacier. It was in the mid 30's as I trudged
the 5km to the edge of the glacier and I soon thought better of my efforts and retired to a local bar and
drank a few Monteith's Old stouts while continuing to plough my way through Baldaci's crimes against the English language.

A few to the good, I sauntered to the nearest decent looking restaurant, where I was introduced to a
South Island delicacy, whitebait cakes. Small whitebait, dipped in seasoned flour and cooked in a
little butter. The end result looked like a rosti but was actually rather good and settled the stomach well
with a glass of Stoneleigh SB.

By this time, the efforts of the last few days coupled with my long drive had caught up with me and I trudged back to the hotel and was fast asleep by 8pm.

Another day. Another long drive.

This time I was up at the crack of dawn and away from the hotel by 7am and pointing my car towards
Queenstown, the epicentre of the adventure holiday in NZ and home of the bungee jump.

The journey was pleasant, with far fewer cars on the road and I was at my hotel in four hours door to door. I was less than thrilled to find that the hotel while rather nice, was at the top of a hill every bit as daunting as those I had faced during my hike and that it was a good 20 mins walk to town and more coming back. One wheezy march up the hill had me squealing "leave me save yourself" to some bewildered German
tourists and I decided that I did not have to see anymore of Queenstown if that is what was involved.

Embarrassed? I should say so. when the bright young thing behind reception said to me " you walked up THAT
hill?" When I replied in the affirmative with some expletives added in, she said "why not use the free
shuttle bus we run every 15 minutes? it's much easier" I slunk away in my middle aged shame and was,
later that evening to be found queuing like a good'un with the other people of my vintage for whom the hill
was one bump in the Earth too far as I headed into the town

Queenstown is, if truth be told, pretty grim. Every shop is an outdoor adventure shop. They all offer jet
skiing, bungee jumping, paragliding etc etc blah, blah blah. While it is blessed with a view to the lake that anyone would kill for and while house prices there are the fastest growing in NZ, I could not help but be reminded of a UK seaside town out of season.

I had a small supper at a South Island institution called Dux Deluxe, a chain of brew pubs which offer
edible food ( no more ) and some very decent range of beers brewed on the premises. I sampled one example of the former ( salt and pepper shrimp and squid ) and
lots of the latter.

One bus ride later, I was in bed and watching Maori TV. Slightly more interesting than walking around

One of the highlights of the trip for me. A day's guided tour around some of the wineries of central
Otago. In the space of a few hours we visited and tried

Gibston Valley
2004 Reisling - fresh and fruity but would be better
when it sits for a couple of years and begins to develop some kerosene notes
2003 Pinot - acrid and smokey and not great. They had
made up for a frost ridden year by leaving in a heavy
toast barrel
2004 chardonnay - unoaked and fruity

Waiki Creek
2004 - Harriet's Rose - a lovely rose, gentle salmon
2003 chardonnay - too yeasty for me and heavily oaked
2002 reserve pinot - wonderful. everything a new
world pinot should be

2002 pinot - a great, drinkable pinot. well worth
trying ( Oddbins at �18)

we tried some others, but my notes are unclear

Blanc De Pinot - fruity and crisp
2003 pinot - again suffering from the acrid smokey
undercurrents of the Gibston

We went to two other wineries after this, but, to be
honest, I had indulged too much and stopped taking

A good day. Made even better by the excellent massage
I treated myself too in the evening.

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