Holidays 6

I’ve booked the early ferry (7.20) on 2nd Jan. (we have to report at 6.20 I’m afraid!) and the evening (6ish) on the 19th. What I reckon is that we go down to Greymouth on the 2nd via Blenheim and the inland road and stay Greymouth in a guest house B&B (get some fish and chips or something en route) – go to Lake Moeraki on the 3rd which should give us enough time to have a bit of a look at the Fox Glacier and other points of interest. There’s a motel at Lake M. that we stayed at before – bit sandfly-y but otherwise OK – and then over Haast Pass the next day and down to Cromwell. If we leave on the 18th, stay in Christchurch and come on up to Picton on the 19th.

Of course I have been frustrated by the number of shop windows which enchant X (and I fear she is equally frustrated that she doesn’t have long enough to look). We went into a big covered market near San Lorenzo this morning to buy our picnic, and that was fun to see. But the high spot was visiting San Gimignano yesterday – although fraught with misfortunes: (a) we went by train, not having enquired about the bus which was 50% cheaper – we returned that way; (b) we were late so got on without tickets and were charged nearly as much as the fare as a penalty – a minimum, our charming conductor appeared to be saying; and (c) most catastrophic of all, in the hurry I forgot my camera – I could have used a whole film on such a place. Some postcards and a sketch we did will have to suffice for the record.

The Jamaica trip sounds very exciting and I’m green with envy, and if souls can change colour I expect X would be too!

Green with envy

We are here on the Salmon River drinking our white wine and watching the locals celebrating our loss of the colonies. This is no doubt a wonderful continent – the country, the wildlife, the space – we love it. BUT, it is difficult to define why, we would never live here. Wonderful BUT.

They had double booked my seat – a large lady was ensconced in 16F. So – alas [!] they had to put me in CLUB ha ha – a window seat too – end of the saga.

Still the same as ever here – buildings have deteriorated a bit more but the people still as nice – the island still unspoiled. Grenada is off the main tourist tract – cruise ships come and go quickly so are of no real benefit. Yachts and a few private houses who rent out and a few hotels and that is about it. We are enjoying the peace.

She suggests that I go for a short coach tour in Switzerland next spring – given I can sell the house and feel less broke and more energetic, I’d rather fancy going with her.

We can put a bit of the money from the house aside in the hopes of a trip next year. Of course X wants to go via Mexico, the Russian Georgia and Crete – you know her sublime indifference to the dull facts of geography!

He has recently ‘put into the water’ a 33ft motor launch. He bought the hull and finished all the top works himself. It has a $15,000 diesel engine in it and does 27 mph. He described how he had taken it across to the Sounds for Easter, and I must say it sounded a hair-raising trip with ten foot waves and visibility down to a kilometre or two. And he has never learnt any navigation, and only had a little hand compass somewhere tucked away in a cupboard. Apparently he dug it out, screwed it to the woodwork in front of the wheel, and he had a chart from which he managed to get a rough bearing from the north entrance of the sounds to the island and in due course, there was the island in front of him. ‘Good fun,’ said he – which reminded me of the head man of the Air Force who was talking on the radio the other day, and described flying Tornado aircraft at low levels as good fun – by which I gathered that he meant good for the flow of adrenalin!

Time is moving at a rate of knots and we sink weary and sleep 8 hours plus a night (praise be) however noisy the traffic. We did Ostia yesterday and I kept a close eye on your steps – X couldn’t believe we’d covered the whole city. We were there rising 4 hours when our feet and empty tums gave out and we missed out on a lot. I was disappointed X wasn’t as enthusiastic as we were – I must have talked about it too much. It was v. sad how much of the reconstruction was crumbling again and half the gorgeous mosaics covered in sand and even being broken up by weeds – tho’ people are still working on it. One of the joys was having less tourists than in the more accessible places. We had a bottle of vino and water with us which helped on the way and went to find lunch at 3 p.m. The nearest place wouldn’t serve any more and the second was wildly expensive and all fish dishes. We had the cheapest pasta speciality which had – we think – prawns, snails and other unmentionables – but we were so hungry we enjoyed it! We ordered a carafe of wine but they only served whole bottles – the cover charge seemed wasted if we didn’t eat something else so we had a piece of the most gorgeous gateau – and left a trifle light-headed at 4 p.m.! When we got there there was an American couple at the next table who’d also got involved in a whole bottle of wine and he was a riot. He kept telling us he’d never got drunk before and giggling and she kept assuring us she’d never seen him like this – but was sweet and amused about it.

We had a rather queer meal in a takeaway place and ended up for the night in the Railway Tavern – rather surprisingly! – and all the more since there doesn’t appear to have been a railway there for decades. Their drinking habits were very orderly and quiet (and we were in the Residents’ Lounge anyway) – in fact we were more disturbed by someone who seemed to be leaving at 4 in the morning and was insisting loudly on his companion bringing the b. teapot so that it could be rinsed out. An odd conversation in the still of the night.

We had been warned that the sandflies there had been crossed with moas before the latter became extinct so we were glad that another shower absolved us from taking an evening stroll and we slept with the windows tight shut.

We’ve collected quantities of stone from various beaches (on Friday afternoon my trousers got soaked to the knees by one wave I was too busy to notice but I hung them out of the window the last 25 miles which got them nearly dry again – well, the 25 all but the 1/2 mile I needed to get them on again to face the motel office!)

Hong Kong was interesting for two days, but I’d not want to go again, we went on a 3 1/2 hour bus tour, their expensive houses on the hills overlooking the harbour were super luxurious and the usual comparative squalor down by the harbour. The remains of the disastrous tornado of 2 weeks before (of which we’d had no knowledge) had left a trail of rubble behind it, uprooted trees etc. it must have been ghastly for the people who live in boats. They seemed a very light-hearted people and happy, apart from the few aged bag of bones one saw sitting in corners, I wondered just how old they were, I fear the life must age them young, if you see what I mean.

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