Thursday, 3 December 2009

Blow-Out At Mount Cook

I have to be careful; I mean I could spend way too much time on things–family things–that are only relevant to me. I’ll try to proceed with caution, and not over indulge myself too much in all this family business.

These next two days, Thursday and Friday, had a heightened feeling of eventfulness about them; exploring Dunedin, visiting the house my Father grew up in, and the most fascinating thing - talking to the relations I knew ‘relatively’ little about.

From right to left: Nicola, Carol and myself, outside Dad's childhood abode.

Also getting a perspective, not just of my Father’s life beyond the context of my own (perspective) and my immediate family’s relationship with him, but gaining a greater knowledge of his family’s view of what he did with the rest of his life. 

It might sound like a cliché, but It really did help me get closer to seeing him more as a real person and not just as a Father figure.

Nicols Creek, named after Great Great Grandfather, David, who bought the land believing the newly developing railway system would be routed through it, and hence he'd sell it to the railway company for a huge profit. Characteristic of that time, it was a 'get rich quick' scheme that didn't quite go to plan.

Thursday, I played golf with Alan and Nicola, and enjoyed every single
cold, wet and windy minute of it. I’d looked forward so much to just getting out there and hitting a ball around. 

Alan’s a neurologist, and when I learnt that the clubs I’d be using belonged to an anaesthetist colleague of his, I told him the old gag about the woman and the anaesthetist.
It goes like this:

A woman has sex with an anaesthetist, and afterward she says, ‘boy, you must be really good at your job’.

‘Why do you say that?’, he asks. 

She replies, ‘because I didn’t feel a thing!’.

Alan said he’d tell the joke to his friend; I was kind of surprised he hadn’t heard it already, I mean, there are so many musician jokes, and we musicians know just about all of them. So don’t all who work in the medical profession know every doctor joke?

Talking of jokes, my Father was famous for a few, and Nicola reminded me of one as she drove through Dunedin. Bringing the car to a halt she announced, ‘we’ve now reached the dead centre of town’.
I was slightly puzzled for a moment, then I turned to my left and saw a huge cemetery. 

This actually is where my ancestors are buried, but no one seems to know the exact location of the graves.

On the Saturday morning we visited the Otago Farmers Market, next to the railway station. It has a good feel to it.

The parking is just across the street in the Cadbury’s car park, and they’ve come up with the most fantastic idea.

I can’t recall all the details of what led up to this being put in place, but I think there had been one or two problems with how the Cadbury employees car park was being used, perhaps it was a legal issue.
In the end they decided not to have an official charge for those who wanted to park there on a Saturday morning, instead accepting donations; every penny taken (by volunteers) goes to charity.

We bought one or two things at the market, bread, cheeses, before starting out on our journey to Mount Cook.

Pictures taken on our journey to Mount Cook:

Lake Pukaki

Left to right: Sir Edmund Hillary
and Carol at Mount Cook

Travelling back from Mount Cook en-route to Christchurch, only about 15 / 20 kms into the journey on highway 80, and on a couple of occasions I was thinking to myself that the van was feeling slightly unsteady; I figured it was probably something to do with the camber of the road.

Then, suddenly, very suddenly, my concerns were more focused on whether or not I could keep the vehicle on the road. It was the back of the van that seemed to be gliding, swinging to one side and then to the other.
This had never happened to me before, and it was extremely unnerving!

If ever there was affirmation for the argument to keep ones speed down this was it; I swear, if I’d have been taking full advantage of the 120 kph limit I believe the vehicle would have at least ended up on its side - or maybe even in Lake Pukaki which ran along the left side of the road. 

As it slowed, I guided the camper off the highway and onto a gravel covered area between the road and lake. It was an early Saturday evening; the weather was absolutely beautiful - the sunlight bouncing off the water. And there I was - in the middle of nowhere, the rear near-side tire was in shreds; I was very tired - and somehow I had to summon the energy to change the wheel on this monster.

Carol was fantastic. She asked where the handbook was - it was in the glove compartment.
She found the ‘how to change the wheel’ section, and began shouting instructions at me.

“You’ll find the car jack and the wheel wrench by the base and to the right hand side of the drivers seat”, she began.

I followed each move to the letter, but did struggle to locate a good position under the van for the jack. It took forever to raise the vehicle even just slightly. I eventually felt confident enough to start loosening the lug nuts; yes, of course, there is always one that won’t move. It was impossible; it appeared to have its corners rounded slightly, so whenever the lug wrench reached a certain torque it lost its grip and slipped off. 

It was becoming more a test than anything, a test of my strength of character, and I felt that I was failing.
I was having to stop periodically to get my breath back and collect my thoughts.

I looked at my hands - the ones that were meant to play guitar, not work on cars - they were black, and one of my fingers was cut and bleeding. The two colours contrasted nicely.

‘If I could raise everything a little more’, I thought then I’d be able to turn the wheel around slightly and get a different angle of attack on the nut.
No, the whole thing wouldn’t go any higher, the jack position was proving to be at fault; there was only one thing to do, and that was to start all over again.
I reversed all that I’d done, then moved the bus backwards to a more level area - I figured that might help.

Now I placed the jack underneath the axle - an alternative position as shown in the handbook - and it seemed to be working. This time the problematic lug nut was in a different position, and with a lot, and I really mean - ‘a lot’ of huffing and puffing, the nut moved slightly, and then a bit more. I got the wheel off and then managed to get just enough height on the van to slip the spare on.

We were back in action, back on the road - yes; totally exhausted and with an enormous feeling of uncertainty - just waiting for the next thing to go horribly wrong. Of course, as the miles pass, in this case - as the kilometres pass, a most organic, unmeasured, process takes place, as calm gradually reintroduces itself - replacing and displacing all notion of catastrophe with unquestioned surety.

Lake Tekapo

Later we parked up at Lake Tekapo for the night. I hate to repeat myself, but the location and the views were absolutely incredible; but what do you expect? - we’re in New Zealand for Christ’s sake.

1 comment:

  1. It is amazing to follow your words, because on the one hand you are just "talking" to the readers, like a friend. On the other hand you sometimes achieve poetic top performances.
    You should write a book, Ken.