THE ROUTBURNE TRACK – Are you David Gold??

 It all happened on day two of our WALK.   Yes you read that correctly – WALK.  I wrote it in capitals to make a point.  I thought that we were going to New Zealand for a bike ride, but somehow there was a three day walk in the Southern Alps thrown in for good measure.  The lovely Karyn, and our good friend Betti, who was coming along as well, suggested it would be just great if we did a bit of a warm up before the real thing.

  Anyway, here I was, walking along, with my full pack, (we were sleeping on the ground in a tent), when I was accosted by a rather distraught middle aged woman with badly dyed blond hair.  She wanted to know if I was David Gold.  As it was raining at the time, and I was fully disguised in my wet weather gear, I at first assumed that she just mistook me for someone she knew.  When I assured her that I wasn’t, I thought she was going to transform into the dreaded five star general who constantly harassed me on our last sojourn into Europe.  I don’t think that she believed me.  Luckily I was saved by Karyn and Betti who were heading along the track in our direction.  She quickly turned her attention to them and mumbled something about David Gold being one of them.  I was about to explain that, as they were both  female, this would be somewhat difficult, but just made a dash instead.  I imagined that she  must have been corresponding with the lovely David and this venture into the wilderness was to be the first real test of their relationship.  She’d possibly been accosting unsuspecting walkers for days.  He may have developed cold feet or was hiding in the bushes somewhere in order to check her out in the flesh.

 So, here we were, on another mountain, in the rain, thunder storms predicted for the evening, snow in the high country and freezing down to 1500 metres.  I was looking forward to pitching the tent in the rain and eating another delightful meal of dehydrated food.  Just open the packet, pour in the boiling water, wait ten minutes, and behold a gourmet delight that would be quite at home in the best five star restaurant.  Karyn assured me that I was having fun, so I just held onto that thought.

 Actually, the Southern Alps of New Zealand are as beautiful as anywhere else in the World.  In some ways, they are even better than the West coast of Canada.  For example, there are no bears in New Zealand.  This has to be a big plus. The reality is, there is not much of anything deadly in this part of the World.  No snakes, spiders and only a couple of lizards that are harmless.  The only exception is their Rugby team.  The All Blacks have been stinging everything in their path for as long as the game has been played.

   Speaking of stinging, there are of course the sand flies.  These little blighters are absolutely deadly if you just happen to be one of the poor unfortunates who are allergic to their venom.  Pick me.  I found this out on a previous trip to the area where I ended up with so many bites that I  pleaded with Karyn to have both my legs amputated.  Ah, but not this time.  I had learn’t my lesson.  I was going to be covered from head to foot and coat any remaining exposed areas in DEET.  Now DEET is deadly, and not just to sand flies.  I weighed up the prospect of shortening my life with each application and in this case  went for the DEET.

 “But what about when you go to the toilet?”.  This was Betti speaking.  She is very smart and always thoughtful.  She’s also allergic to sandflies, so had a vested interest in the topic.  Oh bugger!

 I then quickly dismissed the possibility of a problem as I am generally not known as a lingerer on the Loo.  However the moment arrived when we stopped for lunch on day 1.  I made a dash for the dunny and was travelling quite well while still being surrounded by millions of flies and the dreaded marauding midgie.  And then came the realisation.  THERE WAS NO F…ING TOILET PAPER.  Well, that is not quite the truth.  It did exist, but was safely tucked away in the internal mechanisms of the toilet roll container.  No matter how much I scratched and prodded it failed to be retrieved.  What to do?  What to do?  Here I was, fully exposed, no DEET at the ready and the dreaded mighty NZ midgie gathering for the kill.  They were finally going to get revenge for the underarm bowling incident that has left a scar on NZ/Australian relations ever since Greg Chappell made that fateful decision.

 There was only one option.  Evacuate.  The thought of big red itchy blotches all over my rotunda was enough to throw caution to the wind and head for the cubicle next door.  I will spare you the details of the journey, but you will be pleased to know that I safely  made it.  Enough said.  Now the problem with midgie bites is that I usually have no idea whether I have been bitten until all is revealed a few days after the event.  It was time to just regain composure, soldier on and let fate take its course.

 And soldier on we did, along with what seemed to be most of the rest of the World.  The track was packed with people from all corners of the globe.  We even came across one young Japanese girl who was RUNNING the length of the track.  All over in a matter of hours.  I was as stunned as she was stunning.  I got the impression that this was actually a young persons activity.  Then again, I’m still relatively young and it might be worth a crack one day.  Beats having to carry a big heavy pack and sleep on the ground.

  We had actually tried to book a bed space in one of the huts, but ended up in our trusty two person Roy Rodgers tent.  In some ways it was much better that we were out of the mayhem of the huts and on our own.  They reminded us both of what it was like when we ran school camps.

 And so it eventually came to pass after lots of upping and downing that late on the morning of day three we emerged out of Hobbit country and back into civilization.  Still no sight of David Gold or his would be companion.  I hope she is not still out there searching, as the weather turned really nasty just after we left.  The forecast and the faces of those just commencing their journey told the whole story.

 Now, I suppose that you are all just dying to know what happened in the end.  Well my end actually.  You’ve got it in one.  Three mighty red blotches, right where the sun never shines.  Good thing that I have the little red tube handy.  Should be fully recovered before we take on the Otago Rail Trail bike ride.  I’m looking forward to it.  No big back pack and I get to sleep in a lovely bed each night.  Just bliss.