Rain and more rain

On Thursday night the weather forecast wasn’t looking good for Friday, with heavy rain predicted in the mountains, but the rest of the weekend looked ok, so we were up bright and early on Friday morning ready for our adventure. Lytteltonwitch arrived just after 8 (wearing an identical black bookcrossing t-shirt to me! I couldn’t be bothered getting changed, so we decided we’d just have to be the Bookcrossing Twins for the day), and after a bit of mucking around while MrPloppy and I tried to get cats out from under the bed (Saffy’s still not talking to me after I resorted to the drag-by-scruff-of-the-neck technique) and into the kitchen (where they’d be spending the weekend with several large bowls of food and water), we headed south.

We’re developing a bit of a regular pattern on our trips south: first stop is always at Rolleston for petrol, with a book or two released in the petrol station (we often get good catches from there, for some reason – on this trip I released Jennifer Fever by Barbara Gordon, which has already been caught); then a stop at Dunsandel to release a book in the information shelter (A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving); then another release stop at Rakaia, at the giant fish (The Tortoise Shell by Fanny Frewen). We spent a while at Rakaia while lytteltonwitch searched for a geocache, but it was too well hidden, so no luck. We thought we were going to see a catch as we were leaving Rakaia, because a bus load of people pulled up and some of them started setting up a picnic on the table where we’d left a book, but they just moved it out the way without showing any interest at all.

Lytteltonwitch had another geocache to check out in Ashburton, and this one we found easily (well, she and MrPloppy did – I wasn’t too keen on sticking my hand into dark, potentially spider-infested places to look for it, and anyway, I was more interested in the monument in the middle of the park we were in, which said that it had once been a cemetery where early settlers were buried (and presumably still are) – I wonder how many people who use the park realise they’re walking over unmarked graves?). I released Firebird by Janice Graham in a tree.

By Temuka the rain had started, and it quickly became too wet to want to stop to release books or hunt for geocaches. So we carried on to Waimate to visit otakuu. Of course, most people wouldn’t consider Waimate to be on the way to Mt Cook, but when have we ever taken the most direct route to anywhere on a bookcrossing expedition? 😉 And anyway, she had some books for us that she wanted released at the Hermitage. So a cup of tea stop at otakuu’s it was.

By the time we left otakuu’s, it was nearly lunchtime, so we decided to have lunch in Waimate, and stopped at the first cafe we spotted, the Savoy Tearooms. We walked in the door, and it was like going through a time warp! I remember going to this sort of tearooms with my Granny about 30 years ago – wood panelling, picture of the (very young) Queen on the wall, plain wooden rectangular tables and chairs laid out in regimental rows, upright piano in the corner, and a cabinet full of all the Kiwi delights you never see in city cafes any more: lamingtons, belgium biscuits, cream buns… the only concession to the 21st century was an espresso machine lurking on the end of the counter. And it wasn’t as if this was a contrived attempt at retro kitsch – it was all utterly genuine. It was obvious that they’d found a formula that worked somewhere back in the 1950s, and saw no reason to change it. The best thing of all was that the prices were similarly retro: the special of the day was a roast lamb dinner for $8!!! Needless to say, we all had lamb for lunch, and it was wonderful – tasty tender meat that was obviously farm-killed (nothing that’s been through an abattoir could ever taste that good), roast potatoes and pumpkin, mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, thick gravy… I think every trip to Dunedin from now on will involve a side-trip to Waimate!

Of course, I had to leave a book there. Next time I’ll have to take a suitable book for a themed release (I’m thinking something by a NZ author and set somewhere in the 1950s-70s – maybe a Janet Frame?), but this trip I just had to settle for a random book out of the release box: The Tomb of Reeds by Sarah Baylis.

Stuffed to the gills with lamb, we headed up the back road to Kurow (where we stopped for a loo break and I released The Electric Crocodile by DG Compton) and then along the string of dams up into the high country. At Avimore there was a roadblock (we found out later there’d been a fatal car crash, so they’d blocked the road for several hours) where we were directed across the dam and up the other side of the lake to Benmore. As we crawled slowly along the road (it’s a very narrow road, the rain was very heavy, so most of the diverted traffic was moving slowly, apart from the odd idiots taking stupid risks to overtake), I suddenly recognised the area as being where we went for a camping trip many many years ago (I think I would have been about 8 at the time) – this was the first time I’d been back along that road ever since. Brought back a lot of memories! (Mainly of my best friend of the time seeing how far she could push me out into the lake on a lilo, and then getting scared and swimming back, leaving me stranded because I couldn’t swim!)

At Twizel, we stopped for petrol, and got a shock when the attendant called me by name and then asked “have you been releasing books around the town again?” It took me a few seconds to realise that he’d read my name off my credit card when I paid for the petrol, and that he’d obviously recognised the bookcrossing logo on our t-shirts. He told us he’d found a bookcrossing book in Twizel a few weeks ago, but we said it wasn’t us that released it, because we hadn’t been to Twizel for a year. I didn’t mention the fact that I’d just left Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig on a display stand as I walked into the petrol station…

To be continued… (probably after I get back from Wellington)

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