Sunday, September 14, 2008


And so to Christchurch to pick up our hirecar. With 1.3 litres of pure power, representing the pinnacle of Japanese engineering, ladies and gentlemen I give to you the Diahatsu Sirion.

I was labouring under the misapprehension it was pronounced the Sir Iron, which sounded like a steel-clad Arthurian nobleman, proud and robust. In fact it's pronounced Syrian, a race of people next on George Bush's hitlist. Never mind.

Not the first vehicular-related mistake we made that day. The second, arguably more significant, was not taking the extra $17 a day insurance to cover tyre bursts and windscreen chips, as within 20 minutes of leaving Christchurch a passing lorry opposite hoofed a rock into the windscreen, leaving a sink-plug sized welt in the windscreen. So that's $350 up my shirt to start with.

But 3 hours and 250km later we realised why we were here, as the first snow-capped mountains were revealed, followed by Lake Pukaki, with its water so clear, and reflection so perfect, that if you stood on your head only the loose change falling up your nose would give away which way was up. Our first taste of proper New Zealand. And it tasted good.

By 7 o clock we had reached our destination. Eerily quiet, poorly lit and seemingly made entirely out of timber, Twizel itself was one of those towns where, if aliens landed, you probably wouldn't find out about it for about 6 weeks.

It was only ever intended as a pit-stop and not a bad place, but the sound of duelling banjos was ever-present in our ears.

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