Thursday, August 26

Living on the Edge

The nearest I get to danger is running my fuel tank down to the last few miles worth of gas.

Excuse the double negative, but I've never filled-up the tank when it was not in the orange.

And yet I've never been stranded on the roadside.

Last night on the 20-mile commute home, my credit card would not work. "Shit, fuck, piss", as my grandmother would say.

My fancy-dan car has an electronic gauge of just how many miles I can travel before running out of fuel.

This is the first time I hit zero.

Sunday, August 22

Fire Hazard

Took a quick walk down to the local mall last night. In the entrance way of the Sears they've put 3 comfy chairs pointed at a TV playing a Michael Jackson movie.

At various junctures whole families were sat watching the TV. What next? A kettle and snack tin?

Of course I know why Sears did this, but I also question the logic of making it a pain in the ass to enter a store because some low-income family are camped in the entrance way watching the King of Pop.

Then again, why am I complaining about a lack of entry point into Sears?

Finally. That's a toilet roll in the bottom of the picture.

Phrases I thought I invented but didn't

Years ago I thought I was the first person to do the Queen Latifah spoonerism of Queef Latina. Turns out I was not, and indeed someone does a tribute act under the same name.

So, yesterday I was driving to work and got myself into a giggle when I converted Horse Whisperer into Ho Whisperer.

A quick google this morning, reveals this news story from 6 years ago.

Damn.

Thursday, August 12

I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it

ATM not working at FJ

Final bus journey this morning takes us from Franz Josef up to Greymouth where we will be taking a train to the East Coast of the South Island.

And what a finale we have for a bus driver. This is another video as audio, but I can only describe this guy's vocal affect as cheesy DJ, plus blowhard, plus showman, plus bus driver. (or Simon Bates with a NZ accent)



Wanker. No doubt.

He didn't shut up the whole trip, but we did stop for tea. So using our last $5 bill we shared a cuppa, and went to see the animals in the yard.

The best parts of this whole trip have been the animals. A friendly cat in FJ, a camel ride in the outback, Koala action in the suburbs of Sydney, a Kea in Milford, or a kid goat in the middle of nowhere.

The stop we made is apparently a town, with just 2 residents. And they sell themselves as the roadkill café, but I'll always remember them as the place where 2 baby goats were joined by a pushy Joey sniffing Anne for potential food.

Later we stopped in a supermarket for one last chocolate run. There is Cadbury's stuff that they don't sell in England. It's a chocolate heaven down here. Back on the bus (and the driver was late) we headed for the last part of our trip.

The TranzAlpine train takes you over the Southern Alps to Christchurch.

Along the way the train stops at Arthur's Pass. Many people jump out to take a photo.

I create my own angle. Pure bonus that a coal truck with UNLOAD was stopped on the next track.

We arrive in Christchurch and flop into our 8th hotel of the trip.

Tonight dinner is in a Belgian restaurant. It's the best food I've had all trip. With a full belly and one too many Stella Artois we head back to our hotel.

Along the way we notice that the Pointer Sisters are playing in town tomorrow. Pah, a day late. And Robin Gibb (the one that is neither the lead singer, nor the dead one) is playing soon after.

I'm ready to head home and back into my routine, but the hotel bar throws us one final photo op. As the lounge pianist tinkles away, this crazy overly made up broad sits herself down next to me.

Man I love me a silly wig.

A few hours sleep, and I'm up again at 2am. In the lobby trying to prepare to beat the jetlag. Just me and a hotel receptionist named Xong.

It's time to go home.

Wednesday, August 11

A Second and a First



Whoo hoo!!!! Another day, another helicopter ride to the summit of a glacier!

We get bonus helicopter action because we have to pick up another couple from the next town which was an hours drive away, but is only 5 minutes in the chopper.

The glaciers are spectacular, and hard to fathom for scale until you realize the tiny spec down there is a group of hikers.

Today I chose to wear my Elvis sunglasses. The King loved glaciers. Everyone knows that.



Afterwards back on terra firma, I had an almost as equally impressive sausage roll.

Continuing the theme of 'shit not working right', the fire alarm went off in the hotel after lunch.

The ATM machine is still down too.

For the afternoon ... another first. A full body massage by a man. Well a French man anyway. It was just like a normal massage except he also massaged my stomach? This was weird. Afterwards he told me I carry my stress in my shoulders. Funny, nobody ever said that before ...

Pre-dinner, we checked on the ATM machine. Still down. The book store next door has a great selection. I picked out 4 paperbacks only to realize at checkout that they charge 'remote location' prices. Holy shit.

I also take on a statue of the extinct, but still alive in crossword puzzles, flightless bird, the Moa. It wins.

Dinner is back at the sausage roll place. The restaurant is run by a British lady, so I have the French Onion Soup.

For dessert she suggests a Lemon Posset. Posset? Sure I'll try that.

Turns out it is Lemon Curd with a cookie. When I confront her with my synopsis she seems displeased. I ask whereabouts in England she is from (Salisbury). I tell her that in Yorkshire we put this on toast, not in a saucer with a cookie.

Making friends wherever I go.

One more lap of the town. ATM still down.

Tuesday, August 10

QT to FJ

I realize my NZ posts are a little angrier than my Aussie posts. I'm loving NZ, but I found the Aussie people to be much friendlier. Back on the bus and the difference between Aussie and NZ drivers is palpable. Aussies are upbeat and lack any kind of snideness. The NZ guy starts with an instruction to not buy any peanuts - as he is allergic. Miserable bastard. What am I going to do? Smear them on his face?

Today is an 8 hour ride from Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier.

An hour in, we stop at a fruit stand. They sell dark-chocolate covered ginger. Delicious! For brunch we break for a pie and a flat white coffee, meanwhile the scenery is just splendid.

Back on the bus and still without any peanut products ... and the bus will not start.



10 minutes later and a few hits with a massive spanner, and the engine splutters to a start. Our allergic driver tells us that we will be changing coaches at the next stop in 20 minutes.

20 minutes later and there is the new bus, full of passengers. Those poor bastards have to switch buses with us and take the 4 hour trip to Queenstown on the chugging old piece of crap, while we take this slightly photoshopped Awesome bus to FJ.



Our hotel in Franz Josef costs $200 more than the population of Franz Josef. How is this sustainable?

For dinner the hotel serves a degustation menu. Eiko is our über-attentive Japanese server. Add Thias the wackily accented receptionist and you have to ask where the hell do the staff come from? And why?

The food is so so. Again.

A walk thru Franz Josef takes about 3 minutes. They have one ATM machine. It is out of order.

We also see a black cat that naturally loves Anne.

Monday, August 9

Outdoing T-Pain

This morning we boarded the bus with 37 Chinese people. What a pushy and rude set of fuckers they are proving to be.

Meanwhile, Brian our tour bus driver is nice enough but I am growing tired of the NZ trait of not pronouncing the vowels 'a' or 'e' correctly. Instead they use an 'i'

Example - "We will be meeting at tin pist tin" means 10:10am.

If he longs for six, I have no idea if he wants half a dozen, or to get laid.

We are headed for Milford Sound and along the way are some of the most beautiful Alpine views I have ever seen. Imagine Austria and Switzerland, but switch out bespectacled tall blond Germanic people for directionless camera-happy Chinese fucks.



The Cruise.

Well if the buffet was as good as the scenery we would have been eating in France.

We took more than 300 photos, shot video of waterfalls, and seals and penguins. The light was incredible, and for the most part the Chinese group stayed inside the boat. It's possibly the most incredible journey I've taken, and I got to say "Oh Shit, get your towels ready ..."

Afterwards faced with a 4.5 hour bus-ride with a bunch of poisonous commies, or an ultra expensive helicopter ride we chose the latter.

Sure it was outrageously over-priced, but it was a once in a lifetime chance (except we are planning to do it on Wednesday also).

Our pilot was Snow. Top bloke. He took us up the side of the Fjord, over plateaus, and landed on the glacier.

I'm not in shock over the price of the helicopter ride. I am in shock that I agreed to a $20 souvenir photo. The photo he took is just like this one taken with my camera phone, only crappier, then printed out, and then slapped onto a commemorative card.

After the shortest hour of our lives we were whisked away by taxi back to our hotel, where we changed and then went out to dinner. As we returned some of the Chinese bus passengers were in the lobby.

They walked in front of me. Again.

Sunday, August 8

Mud to Snow

8th of the 8th!

This morning we did the whole Rotorua mud and volcano thing.

Sulphur pong abounds, but the whole thing is like a mini Iceland.

The Maoris seem to dislike using contractions.

Anne touched the close-to-boiling hot water, because she loves a challenge. I didn't, because I don't.

The airport at Rotorua demands that you check in 30 minutes before departure! So here we are sipping coffee and waiting for the plane to arrive slap bang in front of us. We will probably even see our bags load. The terminal has a big Kia Ora sign on it. In Maori it is a pleasant greeting. In England it is a cheap concentrated Orange drink.

A quick stop in Christchurch and then onto Queenstown. We bumped into an American couple who were going bungy jumping. I felt old when I told them we we going on a fjord cruise instead.

The old theme would continue, but firstly how about this for a view from our hotel window? Queenstown is the hip-daddy-o ski-board, danger-sport capital of the Southern Hemisphere. Bars full of youngsters drinking beer and saying whatever the NZ equivalent of 'dude' is (it may be 'dude').

Dinner was the worst Mexican food I have ever had, and I've had Mexican food in England.

Saturday, August 7

Good times with a little mix of buzzkill

This guy is possibly the biggest fucking douche in the Southern Hemisphere. And will go on to compete against the Northern Hemisphere champion.



He is John our bus driver, and he seemed to take immense delight in telling everyone that he would leave if you were one second late, and he continued to comment on his disdain for certain professions, ethnicities, and political concepts. Meanwhile his commentary on the local disused power station was stimulating. Not just a dick, but a boring dick.

We went to the Glow Worm caves. Anne was up for it until the guide used the word maggot. Then she could not get out quick enough. It's pretty one-note in it's attraction. Sit on boat in pitch black caves, look up, worms glow. Exit.

In Rotorua our hotel smells of rotten eggs, but that's because it is sat next to a volcanic site, and offers spa treatments using what are essentially disgusting stinky elements.

It is raining. Like a bastard. But we are still enjoying ourselves and preparing for a night of Maori culture.

I write this ahead of the event. The Maoris ... Fuck them. I've had an assful of their pre game Haka. Were supposed to be all respectful of their customs, that is basically a hugely camp theatrical dance that is meant to scare us all. It doesn't, but if I laugh, swear or even yawn I'm the bad guy?

Could be a good night ...

... later, well it was actually a great night. The Haka went off without annoying me too much, and the singing and dancing was all in good spirits. The traditional feast (Hangi) cooked in earthen ovens was the best food of the trip so far.

On the way back the coach driver made each nationality sing a song. The French guy turned to the coach and said, "Anybody know Edith Piaf?" The stony silence told the story as he meandered into a solo rendition of La Vie en Rose.

I managed to be English when the Americans sang and vice versa.

So the Maori people won me over, and New Zealand beat the Aussies at Rugby. Two big wins for the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Friday, August 6

40

It's my birthday today. I am 40. I share a birthday with the day they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. I am also the exact same age as douche director M. Night Shyamalan.

So were off from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zealand.

Back in Business Class, but the check-in woman was a prize c*nt. First prize in fact. Thanks Qantas.

We managed to buy some gifts to deplete our Aussie currency, and I bought some warm clothes, because I packed for a summer holiday. I knew it was winter down here, but it is hard to remember what cold feels like during midsummer when Boston is in the 90°F range.

Tomorrow is the 2nd Aus v NZ RU international, so our flight is full of rugby types.

Entry into New Zealand was a breeze. And for dinner we ate atop the Sky Tower. They say the higher you go the worse the food, but this was a pleasant exception.

It also reminded me of the time my Mother-in-Law got stuck on the revolving part of the Stratosphere restaurant in Las Vegas. Her chair leg slipped onto the moving part of the floor, and slowly tilted her chair backwards as she was wedged into the dining table. She kept her cool, while we all tried a daring rescue.

After my wonderful birthday dinner, Anne and I went to one of New Zealand's somewhat pussy-fied casinos. All mindless slots, with skill purposely removed. They don't play craps, instead they play the wacko Chinese dice game Tai Sai.

That's why we lost $150 in 6 minutes then.

New Zealand use the English English word for elevator, namely lift. And the biggest lift supplier in NZ is Schindler.

Schindler's Lifts.

Good to see my maturity levels are yet to drop this side of 40.

Thursday, August 5

Shocker: Emu acts like a twat

Early to rise again, to go on our Eco tour of the Blue Mountains.

But first a sunrise walk to the harbour to see the Opera House and the Bridge. Nothing to add here. It is quite magnificent, and the sky at sunrise added to the memory.

For the Eco tour our traveling companions for the day were ... a Canadian guy who lives in New Caledonia, and his metal-brace toothed daughter and her low-down pant fake-g boyfriend. Dad kept mentioning meeting a South Pacific girl, but I think he might have been over compensating if you know what I mean (I'll post a photo later).

The other party were a Muslim family of 4 from Dubai, they were both funny, and fans of Cadbury's chocolate. So insallah to those guys.


WE PETTED KANGAROOS AND KOALAS

This was awesome.

While I was taking this photo of the World's newest crime-fighting duo another koala (slowly) dived for Anne, and the staff had to grab him. The technique is to grab the arms and walk them out like a toddler taking their first steps. Exceptionally cute.



Meanwhile an emu pecked me silly as I fed the kangaroos, and later it grabbed at Anne's hair. Emus are twats. And that is fact.

We also saw blue penguins, ibis, wombats, dingoes and lots of other crazy feathered-pouched-adorable-killer animals.

But for all the exotica, we also hung out with the regular farm animals. A scene of pure bedlam as goats, sheep, turkeys and chickens all congregate.



Into the Blue Mountains, and a cable car to view the famous Three Sisters, and we rode the most vertical train ride in the world.

Johnny our guide was the bomb, he talked at ease for about 6 hours. Top fella. He's the one in the middle. You can guess who we are are, and which four were from Dubai. Mr New Caledonia? I think he was a bit of a whoopsie you know ... then again, my hair is hardly Action movie quality is it?



Dinner in a former brothel turned pub was fun, and back at the hotel our sleep was disturbed by the TV deciding to turn itself on at 2am. Spooky.

Wednesday, August 4

I remember when rock was young

No early start!! So we decided to do some calisthenics. Thankfully my sister called mid-workout otherwise I would probably have died.

Coffee in the resort square was supplemented with Sigur Ros playing over the loudspeakers, calling all hipsters!

Ayers Rock airport is the Kylie of airports. Small yet cute. It is also full of overpriced ticky tack of an aborigine theme.

On board (and back in coach) we were sat by a guy who used his camera viewfinder as on-board entertainment for all 3 hours to Sydney.

We had a limo pick us up at Sydney ... well a guy with a Vauxhall Vectra anyway. He liked our bags. Bet he says that to all of his customers. It scored him a $2 tip. Unfortunately in Australia that is a coin. A coin seems like such a cheap tip.

Our fancy Dan hotel is too nice for us, as is the view.

Tonight a 7 course dinner cruise, and more awkward schmoozing. A group of four from my home county of Yorkshire (God's land) were sat close to us. Young guy said, "I don't like wine, I like lager." Good idea to come on a dinner that serves a different wine with each course then ...

Rommel our server was kind even if he is named after a Nazi General. And he slowly got us drunk over the (7) course of the evening.

A faded-beauty cocktail chauntreuse sang jazz standards accompanied by a Japanese pianist.

Sadly the power kept going out. The captain kept apologizing. He was a Captain in a Captain & Tennille manner more than a seafaring leader. This is really audio only, dressed up as video, but you do catch the red dressed singer at the end.



Next to us an Asian girl had a comedy neck to chin injury. Probably too much viola.

Second comedy Asian (sorry if this is offensive), was the photographer, and no we did not buy his wares. He had to come back and re-shoot a bunch of tables. Reason? "No frash".

I tried the oysters. One actually went inside my mouth. But I spat it out again. I am so fucking elegant. I then offered it to Anne (waste not want not) but she declined.

By now the singer was doing Cher songs and Elton John's Crocodile Rock. And I was very drunk. We stumbled, shit-faced, back to the hotel and fell into a deep deep sleep.

Tuesday, August 3

Do you Uluru?

New day, same old early start. Up before Dawn to see the sunrise over Uluru.

Turns out Ayers Rock was not named after 70s Vibesman Roy Ayers.

This time we were on the Aborigine organized tour, instead of paying the White man.

Noticeable lack of attention payed to safety on this bus, and the driver seemed a bit heavy on the foot. Hey ho, we snapped a few silhouette shots of the rock, and then set up at a staging post to shoot the rock at sunrise.



A French couple next to us were taking photos of each other, so I offered to shoot a photo of the both of them with Uluru in the background.

Obviously they did not return the kind thought. They walked off, probably to smoke some Gitanes or read a Balzac novel. Twats.

As Tom Hanks probably said, the sun always rises. After a breakfast at the cultural center (a decent tasting croissant) we were introduced to our fleece wearing Aborigine guide Sarah, and her white Aussie interpreter John.

Sarah spoke Pitjantjatjara, and was of course a fucking delight. At one point I thought I heard her say that Amy Adams is a tour de force in Leap Year, but it turns out she was explaining how to make glue from a shrub.

Our group was a cosmopolitan affair, and of course had one of those pricks that spends the entire time sticking a zoom lens in the face of the guide.

Along the walk in the shadow of the Great Rock we learned how to make fire without a lighter, and throw a spear.

I tried throwing the spear, and it turns out I'm fucking awesome at is, as this video proves.



Our walk finished by the Rock, where we snapped away something silly. Then it was back to the hotel to prepare for another tour ...

Tonight was a doozy. I'm shy. I wish I was more outgoing but instead I shrink in new settings. 10 years ago, Anne and I sat at a table on a ferry going between Greek islands, it was an organized lunch and the sense of relief when we were sat with a Japanese family and a deaf family was tangible.

Tonight we got Japanese again on my side. Meanwhile Anne got a woman with severe Cerebral Palsy, who pointlessly brought her talking typewriter contraption along for the night.

Across from us were two hipsters, who are probably currently tweeting about the equally awkward Brit and American that they had to tolerate tonight.

Tonight was the first thing on this trip that I had a visceral dislike to. But it's still unforgettable!

The event is sold as an award winning evening of food, scenery and stargazing. The food was shit. Actually most of the food so far has been average at best, but I'm not here for the food. The scenery is wonderful, but we were a distance from Uluru. The stargazing guy sounded like Starvros the Greek "stars are great innit?"

Another humorous affect was our MC for the night. He had a soft lisp, that made "Sounds of Silence service" a very wet affair.

For the second night running I froze my ass off. Monkeys with brass balls were shaking their heads.

Back in our hotel room, I'm toasty and Anne is watching QI ... she loves her some Stephen Fry.

In the middle of the night Sears called about our dodgy dishwasher .... twice. Each time we told them to fuck off and stop calling. Each time they finished the call with "Thank you for choosing Sears." That's customer service for you.

Monday, August 2

Let's Rock

Let me preface this entry with an Anne quote, "this was my favorite day of the trip so far"

Our first full day began with a crazy early start as Dan the driver whisked us from Alice to Uluru. Along the way we patted a dingo, got all Rod Hull on an emu's ass and cajoled a kangaroo in getting onto it's haunches. We also rode these bad boys. No problem for the ladies, but the camel is not for the testicular gender.

A few stops later we ate some crazy Aussie coconut and jam cake, Anne purchased an $18 bookmark and we had picked up a guy in the middle of the desert who fell asleep on the bus and snored like a bastard before we finally arrived in Ayer's Rock, or Uluru as purveyors of White Euro guilt would have you say.

This afternoon we went to the other rocktastic site in Central NT, The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta for the PC crowd.

The 2 hours hike was an energetic romp, humorously marred by an English woman and her two dildo kids who all wore bright pink sweat jackets with gold text. Poor font choice.

Here are photos of Anne both flanked and snapped by English asses, and me doing my falling down a hole routine.

We also had a group of comedy Japanese tourists who by the end of the hike I longed for. Why? So that I would not have to make small talk with a precocious German teenager, a dull as fuck New Zealander and a pair of pushy Italian photo snappers.

Jess our guide was OK, although using the word nibblies (for nuts) is quaintly infuriating.

And the spider the size of a hand in the ladies toilet made a few people scream. Anne was strangely upbeat about it. Noting that a place full of fecal matter attracts flies and therefore is a perfect trap for a spider.

We of course finished with a campfire get together and I have never seen the sky so full of stars. To see the Milky Way, horoscope stars, planets, Southern Cross all on display was immense, and almost made up for the poorly seasoned comedy meat we ate, in this case kangaroo.

Trudging back to the hotel all we wanted was a shower and a clean bed ... well and maybe some electricity. Sadly our room had shorted out, so we moved to another room. I tried the kettle, result. Anne jumped in the shower and at the exact moment she committed to washing her hair, and thus the use of a hair dryer, the whole (second) room went kaput.

In the words of Beyoncé and her fantastic Direct TV ads, "Lemme lemme upgrade ya". So now we have a room that faces Uluru.

Which is nice.

Sunday, August 1

Wow, first class all the way baby

In No Diggity, they flew First Class from New York City to Blackstreet. We're doing the LA to Brisbane leg instead.

Reclining beds!!! There are buttons and secret compartments everywhere. Anne asked the attendant what the chiseled metal knob on the back of the pod was for. Hanging your jacket was the none sci-fi answer.

Back in coach for the flight to Alice Springs, an aborigine woman sat with headphones watching Leap Year, the tepid pile of shite Amy Adams vehicle. WTF must the indigenous woman be thinking (other than the gaping plot holes and fantastical degree to which you must suspend reality)?



Not that she wanted to but ... Anne could not watch the movie because the douchette in front of us decided to prop her pillow so high it almost hit the overhead bins.

Breakfast was good, but Sanitarium as a brand seems odd to me. So I had a bag of Clinkers instead. Add in Nobbys Nuts and this is lining up to be a double entendre fest.



Also Eminem playing loudly from the radio of the shuttle bus. I'm liking this too.

Lassiter's casino is here, so where the fuck is Bouncer the dog and Charlene (Kylie Minogue) from 1980s era Neighbours?

Our hotel in Alice was fine, so off we went to see the town on a mini tour. I know they like the Outback School of Air concept, but in these days of iChat there is really nothing interesting about home school with Skype.

Met some lizards and snakes. Nothing else to say on that, and finally stumbled into bed after the 30 hours of travel finally caught up.