With the windshield wipers slapping time I seemed to sluggishly break through the fog in my brain into a kind of hazy state of consciousness, suddenly aware that I was driving ok, but on the wrong side of the road. In times like this I find it important not to do anything hasty. Through the fog, rain, and spray I could barely make out the red tail lights I’d been following just ahead of us. No reason to panic so I just kept repeating my Down Under mantra, “Keep Left!” which I’m finding works pretty well for most everything in my life these days.
One wind-whipped blustery dinghy ride, a bus ride, a train ride, a 90-minute flight, a shuttle ride to a motel clear across Brisbane, a 4:am wake up call for another airport shuttle ride back across Brisbane, a 3-1/2 hour flight across the Tasman sea, and finally a two hour rain soaked drive in a little white Toyota Yaris, has had it’s way with me and it hasn’t been pretty. Improperly caffeinated, we pulled into something brand new called The Farmer Center just at the edge of town and found a minor miracle. In an austere, stark, almost Dansk-like, nearly empty interior a cute young Chinese cashier said yes they have coffee, how would you like it? At least I’m sure she thought she was speaking English and used some of those very same sounds. That’s when I saw it. A pot of brewed coffee. You see, Dear Escapees, the Kiwis have got it into their minds that the epitome of good taste and refinement is a thing called a long black, instead of an effing cup of coffee. It’s a fiddly expensive thing where you get a tiny cup of espresso with an accompanying glass of water and you mix in enough water to approximate a cup of coffee. It costs double and you have to do the work yourself.
So as I say, after several halting fits and starts I resorted to pointing and pantomime, I was not to be denied and while trying to interpret her blank stares I came to the realization that the Kiwis can’t understand me just as much as I can’t understand them. Perfect.
Properly caffeinated now the stark reality of driving all day in the fog, rain, and spray — let’s agree to call it FRS — began to weigh upon me. Marce, my personal concierge, cheerfully pointed out the high points along the way like ‘that would be coastline filled with lovely ocean surf if it weren’t for this fog’ and ‘that over there is a field of wet sheep, all doomed, see the way their tails hang down?’
I haven’t mentioned that we Escapees have joined another shopping quest and this time M. has determined that I really should have a waterproof jacket, but at a price that reflects good value, as the Aussies say. Should have just brought my foulies.
Soon after a few hours of splashing about, we pulled into Oamaru, not today’s main event but kind of a quirky fun stop we’re prone to from time to time. It’s called “Steam Punk HQ” and from M’s disbelieving stare when I questioned what it was I’ve got to assume everyone knows about this phenomenon but me. It’s kind of found Victorian Industrial Futuristic art…with a twist.
After a long damp drive to Moeraki in worsening conditions we realized that the long list of criteria for a more substantial waterproof jacket for me would have to get more flexible and as luck would have it, you enter the Moeraki Boulders Beach through, wait for it, the gift shop. After a long search we found that water resistant would have to do. We suited up at the car. Boots, water proof pants, jackets, and hats. Some of the crew opted for gloves and scarves. It started to rain in earnest as we slip-slided down the steep water-logged moss-covered steps down the cliff toward the beach. I imagine they have a nice beach here but it’s FRS and high tide so there’s not much beach to see or walk on.
We’re not good with tide tables even at the best of times but it’s not like we have a choice so it’s slog down the sodden beach, take the photo, tick the box, and head back to the car. A few more hours of FRS driving found us up on the third floor of the Dunedin Law Courts Hotel buried under every blanket they had, with both electric blanket controls turned up to 10.