April 9, 2011 Comments Off on Golden Bay
The next morning, when Simon went to check out, he ran back to the room to tell me Deb wasn’t at the desk. He’d left the key on the desk and we rushed to throw everything into the car and get away without seeing her. We were winding our way up the tortuous drive when Simon said prematurely, “I think we’re going to make it!” So of course she appeared right away, waving happily, as she does. She wanted to know where we were going. “Abel Tasman,” Simon lied—we were going to figure it out on the way. “Oh, wonderful,” she cried (it had been one of her recommendations). “And what will you be doing there?” Simon and I gave each other a panicked glance, then said, “We’ll figure it out on the way.” Deb’s face contorted for a moment into an expression of the utmost fear and incomprehension as she tried to take in the concept of not knowing where you were going, but she covered it with a smile and said with a forced laugh, “Well, aren’t you lovely!” After that she let us get away, after recommending the Store. We dutifully stopped at the Store, which made okay food, but the staff was apparently foreign and uncomfortable both with English and with running a restaurant, and it was pricey and not great. In short, I don’t know what all the fuss is about—Lonely Planet recommended it, too. WTF?
It rained all day, which was fine because we were driving. This happened for almost the entire trip: it didn’t rain except when we were driving, which worked out great. We lucked out big-time. We got all the way to Takaka Hill in one go, where we stopped to take a break from the horrifically winding road: we went to a lookout, where it was too cloudy to see anything, and then to Ngarua Caves at the top, where we took a 45-minute tour that was pretty nice. I had a flashback to that wonderful time they call High School, where you ask a question because you are intrigued by what the lecturer says and everyone else sighs and rolls their eyes at you. We were accompanied on the tour by a Kiwi couple and a bunch of German college-age kids, who kept giggling at everything. Simon and I reckoned they were making penis jokes the whole time (it was that kind of laughter), although once the guide directed our attention to a stalagmite that was just asking for it, and they didn’t make a peep. Go figure. Simon says they were probably making deep philosophical comments about Goethe and maybe Plato’s Cave. Probably somewhere in between. There were moa bones in the cave (not in situ) which the guide claimed to have excavated himself, from this very cave. The jury’s still out on that one. He passed them around and that was when I asked my question: Did the moa have solid bones, or was this just heavy because it had been mineralized? Other people scoffed, and the guide didn’t know, and asked if I was a veterinarian or a nurse. I wanted to say, “No, but I passed fourth-grade science.” It was cool anyway, good limestone formations, and creepy-twisty. I think it was the first cave I’d ever been in, and that seems like an important thing for a geologist to do, so it was a good experience.
Eventually we made it to Takaka, where we checked into a hotel whose elderly proprietress was a character straight out of Wallace & Gromit. Her voice had the same pace and lilt to it, and the same accent, I thought (maybe she was British). She was just adorable, and (in contrast with Deb) Simon and I wanted to just sit and chat with her, and were disappointed when she tactfully insinuated that she’d better get back to work. We loved her.