Day 172: Dr Wheldon I Presume

Day 172. The weather has been unbelievably miserable today, heavy rain, high winds, so much so that the windscreen wipers were useless for quite a part of the journey. I set off towards Rotorua via the pacific road but wanted to see Lake Waikaremoana (sea of rippling waters) so took a detour to Wairoa then across to the lake. Most of the journey from here was on unsealed roads, in this case roads which the rest of the sane world would call dirt tracks. The scariest thing about this road was not the surface but the people coming in the opposite direction, they would invariably be going too fast seemingly out of control in a power slide towards me and then just at the last minute they would pull over and miss me. It’s like a sort of ballet on ice, but just on pebbles in a car at high speed, so probably not like it at all really! The lake was sadly a bit of a disappointment as the heavy rain, mist and low cloud (the lake is nearly half a mile above sea level) meant I could see very little, however between the odd break in the cloud I could see how impressive this place must be on a clear day. The views were stunning with steep drops into the lake on one side of the road and an equally steep rock face shooting up on the other. But the weather was now really bad, the rain loosening the stone and soil on the cliff faces and at one point rocks and soil fell into the road in front of me. Rather stupidly I stopped to take a picture of this only to see more rocks heading my way so I jumped back in the car and quickly headed to a safer place while the road behind me slowly became blocked.

The journey took quite a while partly due to the long winding roads and having to negotiate frequent landslides, for one I had to wait over thirty minutes before a digger came to clear it. Luckily I was warned by an oncoming car otherwise I’d have driven straight into the bright orange mass of sandy soil as another car in front of me had. What makes driving on NZ’s roads even more than a little dangerous is that you not only have to contend with landslides but also near misses with random herds of cows and the odd random horse. Luckily I just avoided both of these.

As I arrived in Roturua I started to get worried about the car as there was a really bad eggy smell. Eventually I figured out that there was no problem with the car but in fact the entire town of Roturua stinks of eggs as rather dangerously the town is built on a huge geothermal site. Pretty dangerous as geysers have been known to pop up through peoples living rooms, that’s geysers and not geezers, although this latter type popping up in your room could also be quite bad! After finding a hostel I prepared to meet Dr Wheldon which I thought would be really bizarre, although meeting with this guy has always been bizarre, but at this point I hadn’t seen anyone I knew for over six months. Not a long time, but relative to life time quite long without communicating with someone you know.

Unlike my standard backpacking method of visiting countries, Dr Wheldon has an unorthodox way of visiting countries, whereas I’ve paid for my journey with hard earned cash, he’s piggybacked on so-called experiments! There just happened to be an experiment he had to do in Australia, which all nuclear physicists say just so they can have a nice holiday. There probably isn’t even a research lab in Australia! But he just had to get a ticket, fully paid for, which included going to Australia via Los Angeles, Fiji and NZ just as it happened to be cheaper! If you asked Dr Wheldon whether it was valid to spend thousands of pounds on performing an experiment that someone else could have done for him in Australia his reply would be “Yes, I like Fiji!” Anyway, I was still looking forward to meeting him and thought I’d better start thinking of one liners I could say when I first saw him as I knew for a fact that he’d be doing the same.

“Dr Wheldon I Presume”

“Have you farted, it stinks of eggs around here”

“Of all of the bars in all the world you had to walk into mine”

“I said I’d give you that £5 I owe you when I got back”

“Fancy meeting you here”

“Do you know, there’s a guy back in the UK who looks exactly the same as you but he’s a complete fascist”

“Sorry did I forget to give you your keys back”

“I don’t believe it, I’ve come half way around the world to get away from you”

and finally the classic.

“What the fuck”

So with one-liners in hand I headed to the pub fifteen minutes early as I always hate being the last one there. I walked into the Churchill’s Bar which was quite scary, there were only two other people inside and both were bar staff. Just as I ordered my Guinness from which I was surprisingly given more in change than the money I gave, Carl walked in. Errrr, all the one liners I’d been planning for a week had gone. I suppose it was the pleasure in seeing a friendly face after all this time, I just smiled and laughed but this gave him chance to do his one liner. “Don’t I know you”, didn’t think of that one! Actually it might not have been me as after all of the sun of Asia my hair and skin had gone funny and I’d lost a stone thanks to a friendly parasite. During a pint and dinner at the Fat Dog we chatted, which I have to say was a bit one way as I just went on about everything that has happened to me over the past six months, the poor sod couldn’t get a word in but luckily for him I’ve practically lost my voice now.