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Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free - Tactical Ninja

Dec. 16th, 2013

12:43 pm - Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

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Last week I had to go away for work for a couple of days. Nothing new, that. Only this time, instead of going to anywhere central, I was going to places where it's hard and expensive to get a plane to. So nobody batted an eyelid when I opted to hire a car and drive it.

Road trip!


I used to road trip alone all the time, when the YoT was living with his father up north. That was a 10 hour trip each way, although I shaved it to eight and a half once. I really enjoyed the hours of driving through changing countryside, listening to music and being forced by circumstance to not be constantly distracted by the other things I have to do.

When the YoT got old enough to fly, that all stopped, and I haven't done a decent road trip on my own for a very long time. I didn't realise how much I missed it until I did it again.

Although, don't buy a Holden Cruze. The one I had was shite. Not in any major ways, but it took its time thinking about what gear to be in before picking up the pace, and on the downhills I could take my foot right off the accelerator and it'd still speed up. I'm used to driving a manual, which is always in the right gear and which can engine brake. Basically, driving this thing made me feel like a crappy driver, all accelerator/brake all the time, and I didn't like it.

It did have a good stereo however. The problem being that where I was going the radio didn't reach and most public radio is full of stuff that makes me go *gnng* in between the music anyway. So I stopped in Wanganui and bought some CDs out of the bargain bin - Greatest Hits albums from Bob Dylan, The Doors, and Sublime.

What? I have bogan roots and it seemed like the right music for a road trip. Mostly I listen to electronic music with no lyrics in other situations, but solitary road trips require music you can sing along to. Bite me.

Anyway, I discovered that in Wanganui, they have the best street names. I had to go up this street:



To get onto the No 2 Line that would take me from Wanganui to Rangitikei, coming out at Hunterville. The countryside around Wanganui is rolling and lush:


Hello, I love you won't you tell me your name


And I was really glad I'm not prone to hay fever, as the poplars are flowering right now. All that stuff on the ground is from the lombardys.


She lives on Love Street, lingers long on Love Street


Lombardy poplars were planted a lot for shelter and for their structural addition to vistas in the late 1800s and 1900s. They were eventually replaces with trees that had better root systems to hold the land together, and the only ones left are now old. And dangerous. They are brittle and come down in strong winds.

Once I got to Hunterville there was a quick run up past Taihape past this iconic sign:


Father? (Yes son) I want to kill you.


and then a right turn at the top of a passing lane onto a nondescript little road known as the Gentle Annie. From about 1km up this road you could see where I was going:


I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more


That range of hills in the far distance? I would be going over them. The area is known as Inland Patea and the ranges are a convergence of the Kawekas, Kaimanawas and Ruahines. There's nothing between me and them except sheep and grass, pretty much.


And keep your eyes wide, the chance won't come again


Coopworths, I think. At least, those ones are. The higher you climb towards the tussock, the more the sheep change, through perendales at Erewhon to the full-on Halfbreds (anything that is half Merino is a halfbred in NZ) of Ngamatea.

Ngamatea is one of the reasons I chose this road. Once the biggest sheep station in the North Island, nowadays they only farm 7,000 hectares (just over 17,000 acres). Back in Ye Olden Tymes I worked there - they have the biggest woolshed in New Zealand at 18 stands, and ours was the first gang in years to fill it. With 18 shearers, 12 woolhandlers, 2 woolclassers and 4 pressers, it was a bit of a party. Here is a photo of me from said Olden Tymes:



Taken at sunset, February 1998. We used to drive the 20 minutes out to the main road to smoke a doobie because doing it on the farmer's property was frowned upon.

And here's one from last Wednesday:



The red tussock is gone from around the sign, the trees have grown up some, and both the sign and myself are a bit more worn than we used to be. It's hard to explain why this place appeals so much to me. I think maybe it's because it's high and wild and you have to work at living there. It's probably one of the most isolated places in the North Island (although I see the Gentle Annie is tarsealed all the way through now). I know that the emotive violins of Bob Dylan's "Hurricane" combined with threatening rain made the perfect backing to the drive through this station. The right side of the road:


To see him obviously framed, cant help but make me feel ashamed


The left:


to live in a land where justice is a game


After Ngamatea you drive for a little while longer, then start to drop down off the range, through the steep grade that gives the road its name. My folks brought me and my brother through this road in a Ford Transit van when they moved north after immigrating in the 70s. Back then most of the road was gravel, and it was Mum's introduction to country driving in New Zealand. She said she had nightmares for ages afterwards.

At the bottom is a metal dump with this view:


It's hard to keep my soul on the ground


After that you're driving through forestry and then farmland until you reach the flats of Hastings.. *yawn* In Hastings I actually had to do some work, then again the next morning. The trip home through Central Hawkes Bay was hot. It got up to 26 degrees as I passed through the velvet hills and rich white sheep farms and vineyards, thinking it was like a sanitised version of the Wairarapa. LA Woman burned ironically as I passed Dannevirke's surprised-looking Viking..




.. and Dad popped up in the back of my mind and reminded we of why we never listened to The Doors when I was a kid..

If they say I never loved you
You know they are a liar


"Terrible grammar! They should be ashamed of themselves!"

*cough*

The Brunch Bagel and a slightly scorched coffee there, then left at Woodville and throught the ever-increasing dairy farms of Pahiatua and Eketahuna, 100km roads all the way to Featherston. Coming up the Tuks after a scorching trip through the long strung-out southern Wairarapa towns, the temperature slowly started to drop, until at the summit it had got down to 17. And it was raining as I got home.



Pretty much sums it up really...

Comments:

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From:kehleyr
Date:December 15th, 2013 11:48 pm (UTC)
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Awesome photos :-D
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From:fbhjr
Date:December 15th, 2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that sounds like quite a trip!
Great photos!
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From:t_c_da
Date:December 16th, 2013 12:08 am (UTC)
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They keep changing that welcome/farvell sign in Dannevirke, getting more and more tame and less and less real life Dane. It used to be the sort of Viking you wouldn't want to meet any time...

Norsewood's wooden wheels are pretty cool though...
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From:tatjna
Date:December 16th, 2013 12:15 am (UTC)
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Never mind that the whole horned helmet thing is a stereotype based in pretty much zero evidence..
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From:t_c_da
Date:December 16th, 2013 03:10 am (UTC)
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Since when did (the collective) we ever let a little bit of reality get in the way of a good story? Particularly if someone is making a bit of coin out of it....
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From:susandennis
Date:December 16th, 2013 12:48 am (UTC)
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I found this on my friends/friends list and loved it!!! I haven't been to New Zealand since the mid-90's but the funnest things about my trips were just exploring all of the nooks and crannies. I was always surprised to meet Kiwis who had never been to the other island or even to other parts of their own - past going to the airport or something.

Thanks for the 'trip' both real and down memory lane.
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From:richaarde
Date:December 16th, 2013 03:07 am (UTC)
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I was amazed to realize that there were people that lived in northern New Jersey that had never been to New York City. One guy I used to work with had lived his entire life within 10 mi / 15 km of New York City and had never actually gone there until my job sent him there on an errand.
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From:susandennis
Date:December 16th, 2013 03:10 am (UTC)
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That is wild. I guess I was just shocked about New Zealand since it seems to me, that ever single corner, nook and cranny is just beautiful and worth a visit.
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From:richaarde
Date:December 16th, 2013 03:48 am (UTC)
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If the pictures are any indication, New Zealand absolutely is a beautiful place. It's on my bucket list.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 16th, 2013 04:06 am (UTC)
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New Zealand is beautiful, there's no denying that. However, it has its ugly spots - the Hauraki Plains are nothing but endless flat paddocks full of cows, for example. And South Auckland is just loads of box houses. And you can find equally beautiful scenery in any other country - the US has geology that's way more spectacular than anything you'll find here.

What sets NZ apart I think is that all our scenery is crammed into a very small space. So you can go skiing on a volcano in the morning, and surfing in the afternoon, kind of thing. People seem to like that.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 16th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
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I think Kiwis tend to see their country as small and isolated and missing out on what the rest of the world gets - so you'll find lots of people here who've travelled extensively in other countries but never bothered with travelling internally.

I (mis)spent my youth working in itenerant shearing gangs, so I got a good look around the back blocks. I thoroughly recommend them. ;-)
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From:susandennis
Date:December 16th, 2013 04:17 am (UTC)
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Actually, tatjna, that's exactly what I meant only I left out the otherwise well traveled part!

We found people in places like Napier who had been to Seattle and never been to the South Island. And, your explanation makes sense. Thanks.
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From:richaarde
Date:December 16th, 2013 03:02 am (UTC)
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I haven't been able to do a good road trip in a while. I'm long overdue. Maybe I'll do Vermont in the summertime... It's the only state in the northeast US that I've never been to (except for briefly clipping the corner of it on a family vacation when I was a teenager).

Fantastic scenery in those pics. The lay of the land reminded me of southern and central California when I was there this past summer. (There are mountains in the eastern US but the ones in the west are higher and much more dramatic)
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From:tatjna
Date:December 16th, 2013 04:17 am (UTC)
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I am told that Vermont is beautiful in the autumn, so I'm guessing it has lots of deciduous trees.

Meanwhile, every time I've been to California it's been in the middle of a drought so I don't think I've seen it at its best. And the hills in those pics are a bit unusual in that they are foothills to a large volcanic plateau that covers the central North Island. You don't even notice you're going up them really, then suddenly you're above the bushline on the highest alpine highway in the country, a flat desert plain dominated by Mt Ruapehu which is an active volcano. I guess that's why they're a bit dramatic. ;-)
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From:richaarde
Date:December 16th, 2013 04:42 am (UTC)
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Much of the northeast is beautiful in the autumn. The foliage on the trees make for a spectacular show in October and early November, the exact timing depending on latitude and elevation.

California, particularly in the south, is always arid. Although you probably were there on a bad year, precipitation is always scarce there. Los Angeles goes to Herculean efforts to supply itself with drinking water.
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From:crazedturkey
Date:December 16th, 2013 06:13 am (UTC)
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Oh I love how green Enzed is. (Well most of it anyway) lovely trip - I enjoyed the read, thank you! Made this droughty Aussies day :)
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From:tatjna
Date:December 17th, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
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We stole all the rain. And the possums. ;-)
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From:nick_101
Date:December 16th, 2013 06:49 am (UTC)
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Sounds like a great trip. I like the pictures.
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From:tatjna
Date:December 17th, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
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I should definitely do it more often.
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From:meathiel
Date:December 16th, 2013 08:16 am (UTC)
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Lovely scenery ...

I have to admit I'm not very fond of road trips. The only one I usually do is to Leipzig for Wave Gotik once a year ... that's about 500 km one way ... thanks ... enough for my taste!
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From:tatjna
Date:December 17th, 2013 09:58 pm (UTC)
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I am less keen on road trips when I'm not driving, and I've found that I can only tolerate road trips with others if they are the right sort of people. I hate faffing and don't enjoy being tied to someone else's schedule, so unless we're all pulling in the same direction I'd rather road trip alone. ;-)

But I can totally understand not being into it too.
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From:adam_0oo
Date:December 22nd, 2013 05:45 am (UTC)
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"Coopworths, I think. At least, those ones are. The higher you climb towards the tussock, the more the sheep change, through perendales at Erewhon to the full-on Halfbreds (anything that is half Merino is a halfbred in NZ) of Ngamatea."

You can't just make up like, seven words you know.
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