Monday, November 28, 2005

Revelation? Turn it up!

Every so often, when I'm feeling a bit stir crazy (and three weeks of solid marking does that to me), I like to take a pile of music, give Webster the weekend off, rent a nice car and drive sedately through the country side. Just getting away was so important that when people asked me on Friday where I planned to go, I didn't actually know. I'd made no booking, but the thought of the culinary and cultural delights of Christchurch beckoned. I might finally get to Akaroa, I thought. But then, I'd promised myself that I'd go back to Lake Te Anau to see how it had been in the 20+ years since I last visited. I decided that when I was finally behind the wheel of the car, I'd let the weather dictate the weekend: nothing would be more miserable than stodging around a lake in the rain, whereas Christchurch would still be bearable.

As it turned out, my mouth got the better of me: as I was handed a coffee, I announced the next one would be in Riverton. Choice made. Budget really came through for me on the car front: instead of the Corolla I'd booked, they upgraded me to a Diamante. It was a bit of a nag (some beeper went off to remind me it was time for a rest before I'd got to Gore) but was otherwise magic: a 6 CD changer, big speakers and the ability to be immensely loud without vibrating the vehicle off the road were its main advantages. Even better than home, where the proximity of neighbours means that I can't really get things cracking on the stereo. It is a little odd, but over the past two or three months, I have fallen off the music-listening habit: my office radio has turned into a wireless and tunes in the morning moan on NatRad rather than the hip Emma Dish, I have hardly put a CD in the player and have been to a total of, what, two gigs since August.

So, the weekend turned out to be a nice re-connection - on my return to Dunedin, I drove up George Street with the windows down, and Lamb's "Til the Clouds Clear" coming to its stormy crescendo and sounding absolutely amazing - as did the entire album (their Best Kept Secrets). I'd played it a couple of times at home, but on a fairly subdued sort of volume, and it hadn't made any kind of impact. I don't know what inspired me to take it with me, in fact, but it benefitted the most from being turned up LOUD.

As for the trip - I did get to Riverton, via Otautau, for a mini pilgrimmage to see my Grandmother's house. Man, that town is looking sad - I remember it being a good wee town, all the shops occupied, it even had a jeweller, which is not bad for such a small place. The jeweller's shop is still there, but has been abandoned. So too have half the other commercial premises. It was good, however, to see my Uncle George's old place, the 4-Square, looking very spruce. The soundtrack for this stage of the trip was nearly all girls - Martha Wainwright, Laura Veirs, Keren Ann, Cowboy Junkies, Portishead and Patti Smith. Fantastic!

The point of Riverton was that I was going to New Zealand's second best cafe, the Beach House, for coffee. Not to be: it was more restaurant than anticipated. Nothing else was happening in Riverton, so I settled in for a glum night at the Globe backpackers and bar, where I appeared to be the only occupant. The drumkit and "open mic" sign were the product of someone's delusion. Huh! Was I wrong. By about 9, the place was hopping - old timers, young local fellows, blokes from the big smoke (that's Invercargill in these parts), hot unobtainable girls, me: I had a great time. I'm sure open mic nights can be pretty dire, and if anyone was to pick a place to have a dire open mic night, it would be Riverton. They'd be wrong. For four, maybe five hours, different groups would coagulate around the instruments and produce old skool hit after old skool hit. Every single one of the singers was better than anyone on NZ Idol - and one just blew me away, doing Come Together and some love song I didn't recognise. I got into a conversation with this girl, Jenna, who was convinced I looked like her brother - it was only the next day that I realised she might be right: Southland is jam-packed with my relatives. The night came to an end when the jukebox got switched on.

Saturday, the soundtrack in the car switched to blokes: American Music Club, Decembrists, Arcade Fire, Joy Division, Nitin Sawhney and Pavement. After Otautau, I was really fearful for Tuatapere, as it was pretty dead when I was there last. In a heroic move, it has reinvented itself as the artistic community of Western Southland - every second shop seemed to be an art gallery of some sort. I was horribly disappointed that the sausage shop was not open: not much of a sausage capital if they can't open the shop of a Saturday! Ooh - and now I have been to New Zealand's deepest lake, Lake Hauroko. I drove up 30 k of metal road, verified there was indeed a lake there, and left. That's me - while I may be the world's greatest couch potato when I'm at home, when I'm travelling, I travel. I'm terrible at spending time at places, or at spending money to participate in activities. So that's why I drove all the way in to Milford Sound, had a beer, and left. Mind you, I think the real point of going there is to take a boat, and I wasn't there in time to do so.

Te Anau has, of course, grown - quite peacefully it seems, with a rather more low key vibe than Queenstown has. And that's where I was today, briefly: lunch in Arrowtown (another place I've been saying I must go to, and I was again horribly disappointed to see that the dairy where I made a small fortune by taking in empty soft drink bottles I'd "found" behind the dairy has become a building site) before driving to Glenorchy. I think that has to be one of our most spectacular drives, and the weather really turned it on, so it was at its best. I'll probably take Webster and go back and spend some proper time there. Soundtrack for today's mission was Joy Division, the Waifs, Dresden Dolls, Ghost Club, Lamb and Johnny Cash. Magnificent.


Blogger Jessie said...

Sounds like a great road trip!

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Tricia said...

I enjoyed reading your travelogue, esp. the musical aspect of it.

Glad to hear that Te Anau still hasn't gone the way of Q'town or Rotorua.

Glad you had a good Toronto trip, too!

7:06 PM  
Anonymous cleanie said...

//Lake Hauroko

they were grading that road when we visited - our old Peugeot got slide off the road and got very stuck ... we waited for hours til someone practical (i.e. farmer) came along to tow us out. it was miserable.

but Hauroko was worth it in the end ... just gorgeous, mystical, untouched, sandflyesque.

10:30 PM  

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