Location: Franz Josef, New Zealand
As David Frost used to say, "Hello, Good Evening and Welcome". Yes Alister is back and he has a question for all of you lovely people.
Why is it that whenever someone uses the phrase "No Offence" at the beginning of a sentence, 99% of the time they end up offending you, and when it's used at the end of a sentence, more often then not they've already said the offensive thing? Unfortunately I've had three different people say the phrase to me over the last week, once in Taupo, and twice in a place called Nelson, and on each occasion, some neanderthal drunken halfwit has passed some racist comment at me. Under the circumstances I've had to grin and bear it seeing as on all occasions I was in small towns with people surrounded by mates, and in a strange way, their ignorance made it hard to hate them, even though it really annoyed me. Anyway, for anyone else of colour thinking of heading over to the Land of the Long White Cloud, here's a brief survival guide based on my experiences while here.
a) As a black man, do not wear sunglasses, even if the sun is hot enough to burn up your eyes. You are liable to be mistaken for Stevie Wonder, even if you can't play a musical instrument to save your life, and are not legally registered as a blind person!
b) Do not go into a supermarket. Most of them sell bananas and apparently they're the only thing I would possibly consider eating, despite the store having hundreds of other products to choose from.
c) Apparently the concept of a black man coming from London is an alien concept to some people as all the black people in the world are apparently still living in Africa, probably in a mud hut doing all kinds of evil witchcraft and shaking ju-ju beads. I have promised that on my next visit, I would bring one of the elders of my tribe, wear ceremonial robes, bring my spear, and chant the songs of my fore-fathers to make everyone feel comfortable.
Well that's my personal gripe out of the way, and it's important that I don't tar all New Zealander's with the brush of the ignorant few. However we can now focus on gossip and information of a far more salacious matter!
So where am I you may well ask? Well since last week when I was in Taupo, which is in the middle of the North Island, I'm now in a place called Franz Josef, halfway down the West coast of the South Island and inching ever closer to my ultimate destination of Queenstown where I'm going to stay with my friend Lisa and her boyfriend Paul. I'm getting extremely excited, not only because I'm looking forward to seeing them, but because fingers crossed after tomorrow, I won't be on the Kiwi Experience bus anymore! Now don't get me wrong, it's been a great way to see large parts of the country, and I've met some really nice, and some not so nice people, but events (particularly over the last week), which I'll go into more detail about later on, appear to have desended into a Club 18-30 atmosphere! Plus when you're used to your own space, spending 16 days on a bus with mainly the same people ALL THE TIME, and spending your evenings and nights with mainly the same people ALL THE TIME has started to get on my nerves a little bit. But at least the end's in sight although I'm still deciding how best to manouvre my way around Australia in two week's time. Any suggestions that aren't too expensive gratefully received.
Well I believe that those of you reading this in England have been hit by a large quantity of snow over the last couple of days. You may be surprised to know that I'm a bit jealous of you right now. The weather here has taken a turn for the worst and I'm currently hiding out in an internet cafe made from an old bus, listening to rain thudding down on the roof. In a lot of ways it's actually quite cosy in here, but I'm a bit frustrated because I am meant to be in a helicopter right now, flying up a glacier and then hiking around it, getting my own snow and ice fix. However unfortunately, the mountain in question which was clearly visible yesterday, has currently disappeared under a massive cloud of fog, with no sign of dissipating and the trip has had to be cancelled. I understand the reasons why it's been postponed, but I'm hoping that the weather improves later on today as this trip is one of the things that I really wanted to do while I was away. If I don't do it today, it's unlikely I'll come back here while I'm away due to the amount of time I've got.
So after last week's adrenalin packed edition of my travel adventures, this week has been virtually the opposite and I haven't done anything remotely energetic or exotic since. After reviewing my bank balance last weekend, I noticed that money was leaking out of my account quicker than Ben Johnson on steroids and have decided to put a temporary hold on expensive activities for a while. The upside of this has been that I've done absolutely loads of walking and seen a lot of amazing scenery. The bummer is that although I've taken loads of photos, although they all look different to me because I was there and remember the atmosphere of each place, all the photos look virtually identical so by the time you get to look at them, you'll be bored rigid.......guaranteed!
"Not another bloody photograph of a lake!"
"How many flipping mountains did you take a photo of?"
"If I see another photo of a tree, I'm going to whack you round the head with one!"
"Why have you photographed so many sheep? Why are you always hugging and stroking the sheep???"
.........so you've all got that to look forward to.
Al's Holiday Snaps. Coming to a computer terminal near you soon! Expected release date - late April 2007.
Alright then, that's enough filler. Let's just cut to the chase shall we. What's been going on out there? Well apart from my redneck experiences in Taupo and Nelson, and a whole heap of walking as I've already mentioned, genuinely there hasn't been a lot to really shout about. I spent a night in a really cool lodge called River Valley in the middle of no-where which was pretty idyllic and where I ended up playing a drinking game called "The Mouse Game". Low on intellect and high on stupidity, it fulfilled all the criteria for a drinking game. For the record, all you need is a saucepan lid and a collection of tampons and away you go! Yes I know it's not classy but what drinking game is. Anyway it helped to pass away about an hour of time!
I spent a night in Wellington, New Zealand's capital city and was disappointed that I couldn't stay longer as it's easily the best city that I've been to in Kiwiland. Much, much more lively, interesting, and cultural than Auckland. I would easily recommend it to anyone going in that direction in the future.
However all the drama of the last week happened on Wednesday night in a place called Lake Mahinapua which is in the middle of nowhere, slightly south of a town called Greymouth.
Within this little backwater is a pub called the 'Poo Pub' (yes you did hear me correctly!) out in the middle of nowhere! It's run by an old man named Les (he's 81 years old), and for the last 14 years, he's been running nights at his place for people on the Kiwi Experience bus. This means that virtually every night for the last 5110 days, he's hosted a fancy dress party where youngsters come and look very stupid and get very drunk. And on his walls, he's stuck a polaroid picture of every bus group that's been through his doors. The pub is amazingly grotty and dirty, but that kind of adds some charm to the place.
In an attempt not to shame myself completely and after originally saying "I ain't going! No-one's gonna make me dress up if I don't want to", I made the effort and went dressed as a very dodgy looking fireman (the theme was professions). Now what was strange about this was that I didn't know that the following were classed as professions............
a) transvestites (I thought this was a lifestyle choice, not a profession?)
b) He-Man (He came with a sword and dressed in a pair of red pants bought for 10 cents from a second hand shop. He hasn't stopped itching since! Now since when did being a cartoon character count as a profession?)
c) Ghostbusters (again not a real profession)
d) A man dressed in a paper dress???????? (you tell me!)
e) A caveman (What's going on? A caveman wasn't a profession. It was a way of life back in the day)
f) Dennis The Menace (see point b)
......however all of these and more showed up on the night.
There were prizes given out for the best costume and it's safe to say that I came nowhere near to winning 1st (or even 50th) prize. I won't bore you with the majority of details from the night, suffice to say that at the end of it all, I spent the night in a dormitory with 3 cross dressing Swedish guys who were getting a bit too close for comfort with me during the earlier part of the evening. one man came as He-Man in a pair of red pants that he'd bought in a second hand shop for 10 cents (please tell me that you've never bought pants from a second hand shop before?). My room got gate crashed by a group of very drunk Danish girls at about 3:00am looking for guys from another room, and that at one stage when I went to the toilet in the night, I was confronted by sounds of a (now how can I put this delicately?........) a sexual nature coming from one of the shower rooms!!! The gossip network informed me the following morning that apparently, He-Man proved that he did indeed "Have the Power", and got it on with a Welsh female Ghostbuster (Well who else ya gonna call!). Another 3 or 4 slightly less public get togethers also took place during the night, and my sympathy vote has to go to poor Alfonso from Mexico who was sleeping on the bottom bunk in one room, and had to put up with one of the guys, and one of the Danish girls cavorting in the top bunk while he was trying to sleep!!
And over the past 7 days, it's been becoming more and more like we're on a school journey! There's a group of about 8-10 girls and guys who appear to be swopping partners virtually on a daily basis. I thought most people didn't enter the swinging scene until later on in life, but I can vouch for the fact that it's alive, well, and definitely thriving amongst the late teens, early twenty-something crew. It takes a lot to make me feel old, but I almost hear my self tut-tutting at the craziness around me on a daily basis.
So hopefully, tonight is my last night amongst the mayhem. When I email next week, I will have escaped the hedonistic, alcohol fuelled madness, and should have had many sophisticated conversations with Lisa and Paul about the state of the world today, philosophy, how to bring peace to the Middle East, what's been happening in EastEnders and Coronation Street, and has Victoria Beckham eaten a meal recently!
I'd better be off, but I'll hopefully be back online soon.
Take it easy everyone, enjoy the snow while it lasts, keep warm, and look after yourselves.