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
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.
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
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..
You know they are a liar
"Terrible grammar! They should be ashamed of themselves!"
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...