Duffy trip south island

Duffy Books Trip 2 – Queenstown and Dunedin

It’s cool to read. It’s cool to achieve. Books rock.

That’s the Duffy motto. Another thing I found myself saying a lot over my time down South to the kids was

If you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything

I assure you I didn’t plagiarise the phrase from Doc Emit Brown from Back to the Future, I credited the hell out of him as Back to the Future was a recurring star in my yarn.

“Who wants to guess my favourite movie?”

“ME ME ME ME ME!”

“It’s got a really cool dude in it who plays guitar and skateboards, and he goes back in time and meets his parents when they’re his age…”

Single out a raised hand. “Yes?”

“Ben 10?”

“Nope… yes?”

“Barbie and the Crystal Unicorn?”

“… nope. It’s got a time traveling car in it…”

“BACK TO THE FUTURE!” a few would shout at once.

Interesting what kids remember.

 

moody southland

Moody early morning shot on the way to Queenstown for the day

 

I had the weekend off so spent all Saturday in Queenstown, the most touristy and gorgeous place in New Zealand. Action packed with bungy, skydiving, tourists and cafes up the wazoo, I love visiting Queenstown whenever I get the chance.

I rose at 6am, showered and hit the road. Once there, I ate a whole lotta food and drank a whole lotta coffee and read my book. I walked around too, but I spent 80% of my time stationary and reading.

 

Queenstown beach

Sun made Queenstown even more beautiful than usual. Lying on the sand and hearing kids play made it funny.

 

After walking through the shops, around the frisbee golf course and through the rose gardens, I drove to Historic Arrowtown, a gold rush settlement twenty minutes drive away, and wandered through the curious, eerie old Chinese opium huts, imagining what it may have been like in the 1800s.

 

Chinese huts Arrowtown

These huts reminded me of The Luminaries, Man Booker Prize winning book written by 26 year old Eleanor Catton. Which I read all 1000 pages of – goal!

 

I finished the book I was reading, I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, while chowing down on a steak sandwich from an Arrowtown pub. The 900 page detective thriller novel had snuck up on me. I enjoyed reading it and barely noticed how much I thought about it, craving it when I was at work, wishing I could read it while driving, letting my coffee and toast go cold over breakfast as I pored over it.

It’s now one of my all-time favourite books. I am Pilgrim. Check it out. Apparently the author is writing another two books centred around the character Pilgrim and there is talk of a film adaptation. Which makes me very happy.

 

Hayden J. Weal Oteri beach

Oteri Beach – Burt Munro used to race his Indian motorcycle here, setting a world record of 136 mph.

 

I got back to Invercargill late at night and stayed up until 5am binge-watching Masters of Sex, the drama comedy TV show starring and produced by Michael Sheen. Dr. William Masters, a well respected obstetrician, finds himself ostracised by the scientific community after choosing to study sexual arousal.

After a deliciously fatty feast at The Bach cafe (Invercargill’s best cafe, Southland populace unanimously agrees), I drove to Oteri Beach. Ten kms West of Invercargill, the sand is hard enough to drive on so you can have a ball speeding around the 26km-long beach, the same sand Burt Munro used to drive upon.

 

Invercargill winter gardens

The Invercargill gardens are a joy to walk through. The best bits are the colourful flowers.

 

I wandered through the gardens, amusing myself by lying to children. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Sunday is the most popular day to walk through the gardens and I passed by many families, the young children playing in the fountains or pushing each other on the swings. Two little girls were playing with the brass statues that surround the fountain. Three squirrels, frozen in place hovering over their brass nuts, were being prodded and poked by them.

“Did you know,” I started, getting the girls’ attention. “These squirrels used to be real, but they were turned into statues by an evil witch because they were greedy?”

“No,” the braver of the girls said loudly. “They’re just ornaments.”

“Ah, I wish it were true,” I said. “They might come back to life one day, once they’ve learnt their lesson. See, they used to steal nuts from other squirrels, so the witch decided they’d learn a lesson if they were forced to stand here and watch all the kids playing. She thought maybe they’d see how to share and be more compassionate.”

“And that one,” I went on, pointing to the giant eagle who faced the playground. “He used to flap his wings, frightening people and making them fall over. So the witch made him be the Watcher of the playground. Now he has to look out for any bullies and make sure everyone is safe when they’re playing.”

The girls shrugged and kept on playing.

 

Clockwise from top left: New River School, Lumsden school, Tisbury School, Mataura School.

Clockwise from top left: New River School, Lumsden school, Tisbury School, Mataura School.

 

Monday brought with it two schools, and Tuesday three. The kids were as enthusiastic as I hoped, asking hilarious questions I could never have expected like, “What did you eat for breakfast?” and “Do you have a sister or brother and do you like them?”

No children were scared of my video, they all cheered when the building exploded in Hot Rob and laughed when the picture of me as fat dwarf in The Hobbit came up. My throat had began to itch and my voice was fading by this time, from the constant talking or late nights, I couldn’t tell. I was eating fairly well, treating myself to large salads and fizzy Berocca drinks every day, but I couldn’t deny it; it was getting worse. I felt myself sink into the world of the sick.

On Tuesday after being interviewed for the EnSign, Mataura’s local newspaper, I set off to Dunedin. By the time I got there, my head was throbbing and my vision blurring. I drank as much water as I could and attempted to convince myself I was okay.

 

Dunedin Hayden

Dunedin’s Signal Hill lookout is amazing!

 

A good friend’s little sister Sarah took me up to Signal Hill lookout. You can see all of Dunedin from up there, she said. Aha, she was wrong. The mist had rolled in, a drizzle had dampened my festive spirits and the view was nothing but a grey miasma. Instead, we went to Nova, a restaurant in the Octagon and treated ourselves to chocolate desserts and caught up.

I retired early, one hundred pages in to the new book I was reading, I Know This Much Is True, a psychological family drama gifted to me by someone I met on my travels. After talking about books and movies and music, she promised me it was a good read. She was not wrong.

 

The view from my motel room. Despite all the activities Dunedin has to offer, I couldn't drag myself from the floor.

The view from my motel room. Despite all the activities Dunedin has to offer, I couldn’t drag myself from the floor.

 

I woke with an aching back, searing throat and delicate skin. Pitching my coat tightly around me, I sprinted to the corner store and loaded up on lozenges, pills, salves and medicine, then dosed up. Time had sped up strangely and I noted with shock that I was due at St. Joseph’s so I rushed into the car and swerved through the traffic in the pouring rain.

The students of St. Joseph’s were finishing Kapa haka practice when I arrived so I sat in and admired their loud voices, envy creeping over me. However, would you believe it, fate threw me a solid; St. Joseph’s was the first school I visited with a microphone! Where before I was feeling close to fainting, as soon as I stood in front of the hundred or so smiling faces and heard them greet me in a collective chant, adrenalin threw me strength.

I talked and talked, the croaky voice lending me a mystique reserved only for grandfathers, giving my stories a fireplace glow. The video went down a treat and the kids were buzzing about the boxes of books they were being gifted.

I figured out at the second school to give the books out last. The kids couldn’t concentrate on a thing once the book’s had be given, it was trouble enough saying ka kite.

 

Hayden J. Weal dunedin

7am view. Frostily gorgeous.

 

I did finally make it up Signal Hill to admire Dunedin from above. What photography fails to describe is the roaring wind and sub zero temperature. Regardless of the flu and cold, it was beautiful and I stayed for long enough to balance the camera precariously on a stone turret and set the ten second timer. When this was done I hobbled back to the car and turned the heater up to full.

 

Dunedin moody beach

Moody and rough, it was the perfect place to sit for a lemon honey ginger drink and read

 

Bathgate, Carisbrook, Pine Hill, Brockville and Concord schools were all a lot of fun. By rule, I should’ve been blending the memories of the schools together but I still remember the nuances of each school and the unique kids that went there, especially their questions.

“Did you see How To Train Your Dragon 2?”

“I did and I loved it. Did you see it?”

They all yell “YES!”, and I can tell that even those who didn’t see it join in. Even those who are more interested in wedging the glob of snot from their nostrils yell “YES!” because that’s what their peers are doing.

This herd mentality worked to my advantage when I showed the kids my work. I’d explain that the video I was about to show them was ‘funny and scary and very exciting’. After that seed was planted, it ensured they’d laugh, hide behind their hands and cheer. The power to manipulate children is too easily granted and we must wield it with discerning care.

 

Duffy Carisbrook, Brockville, Concord

Carisbrook, Brockville and Concord school.

 

Getting back on the plane to Wellington, I found myself experiencing the same strange sense of loss I get after finishing a particularly good book or film. Like I’d gotten to know heaps of friends and I’d already had to say goodbye without knowing if I’d ever see them again.

I hope to catch up with all of these kids in the future and the way the world works, it’s not an outlandish hope. Fingers crossed for another trip soon! Thanks Duffy!

 

PART ONE OF MY TRIP HERE

 

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