They Look Like Coloured Cauliflowers

Tues 21st Feb

It’s a good job we got a good walk in yesterday; it’s pouring down this morning. We left our salubrious patch of gravel (with a mountain view) and drove to the nearest town which was Franz Josef (I still don’t know who he was, must make better use of wifi time). We found a cafe with wifi, had a coffee, sent messages to the kids, posted a load of shite on Facebook and never gave Franz another thought. The town is nice but very touristyfied (it is a word, you know what to do) – not really our thing and as it was still raining we drove to Okarito, which is where we have a gig tonight.

Okarito is on the coast about thirty minutes from Franz Josef and the weather was very different there, it was sunny and warm. It all has something to do with weather fronts, mountains and coast lines (however it did piss it down the following day).

Okarito has a resident population of about thirty, but quite a few more during the summer. It was established as a port town in 1865 during the gold rush. At one point there were over a thousand people living here. The venue for our gig was Donovan’s Store. Donovan’s was built in the 1860s and was originally a hotel. James Donovan (what a man, read the info on the pic) bought it around 1890 and with the help of his wife Eva ran it as a general store for over fifty years until shortly before his death, at the age of 88, in 1956. The building continued to be used as a store until around 1987 when it was bequeathed to the Department of Conservation. It’s now used as a community hall, which (with the help of Gemma van Breek) is how we ended up here.

Gemma and her partner Bas run the Okarito Kayak Centre; they took it on a couple of years back from some friends who’d moved away. Their friends arranged gigs at Donovans, so Gemma took that on as well. They also look after some holiday lets which is how we got to be staying in this gorgeous place.

As you can see from the photo, Donovan’s is only a small place, Okarito is tiny and remote and this is our only gig on the west coast of The South Island. Financial madness, but what a great place to go to.

We ate at Gemma and Bas’s house. Kip and Gemma discussed gardening and were talking about various plants and flowers. Dave and Bas didn’t understand and looked puzzled. Someone mentioned Hydrangeas. Bas, “Are they the ones that look like coloured cauliflowers?”

While we had our rhubarb with coffee ice cream, Bas went around the campsite to persuade, cajole and beg people to come to the gig (Gemma took a dish of rhubarb and ice cream to Donovan’s for Bas later on). The campsite, by the way, is run by the residents of Okarito and the profits from it fund their water filtration system. Isn’t great what you can do when you talk to your neighbours?

The gig was our final one of the NZ leg of this tour. It was a good laugh and folks seemed to enjoy it. We had a running battle with the audience trying to get people to sit on the front row. No one was up for it. After two songs and with the help of Bas we removed the front row of empty seats. Gotcha.

They were well prepared for the kind of folks you get at a Winter Wilson gig.

We met a young couple there from the USA (the lad just made his own banjo), a lady from Canada (another offer of accommodation), a couple from Tewksbury in the U.K. and another young American lad who was wearing a Lames United FC shirt, (it’s the football team he plays for). He had of course heard about the mighty Lincoln City’s domination (so far) of the FA cup. Good news travels far and wide.

One thing Okarito hasn’t got is street lights. We’d walked carrying our instruments the two hundred yards or so to the gig. It was light when we arrived and total darkness when we left.

Kip “Hasn’t your phone got a torch on it?”

Dave “Yes it has but I left it at our digs.”

Kip, “What’s the point in having a mobile if you don’t carry it?”

Dave, “What’s the point in carrying a mobile when there’s no reception within twenty miles?”

Both, “Oh bollocks.”

We walked back, bumping into various things and in total silence aside from the continuous screeching of the Clackety Bugs (the Latin name for cicadas. Bas told me. It’s true – look it up.)

We’d mentioned before the gig that we’d like to have a go at kayaking so Bas told us to get down there for 9am the next morning and he’d get us sorted.

He was true to his word and by 9.40 am we were in a two-man kayak on the lagoon, catching the incoming tide to help us to get up the creek to the rain forest.

We were equipped with waterproof jackets, a dry bag, a map and a good talking to from Bas as to where we should go. “Keep the poles that mark the channel to the river on your left going out and on your right coming in. When you’re coming back don’t go past the landing stage, as the tide will be going out by then and the current will drag you to Australia. But don’t worry the sharks will eat you before you get there.”

The only things that remained dry were the waterproofs. We didn’t get them on in time, (there’s a clue in the name “rain forest”) and they stayed in the dry bag (the dry bag got wet on the outside).

Our paddle technique was akin to the cotton wash on our machine back home. We got lost several times. “Which side of the poles?” “That fucking map’s upside down.” We sacrificed more flesh to the evil bastard sandflies and had a thoroughly good time.

Gemma and Bas are expecting their first child in June. We would love to get back here and meet that kid.