Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Holiday Roads

We had to laugh when the road ended at a barn. But it wasn't the giddy pink-cheeked laughter of rollicking fun. It wasn't the forced nervous laughter of polite embarassment. It lay somewhere between a laugh of exasperation and a wild-eyed laugh of madness.

Our road surface had downgraded twice already and what we were driving on when we reached Annedale was not really even a road---just mud-ruts covered with gravel and neglect. Annedale was, for what we were able to tell, pretty much just a collection of several farm houses along a winding dirt road slung over some very green and in most other situations no doubt extremely lovely hills.

Google tells me that the road is called "Te Mai Road" though there were no markers or signs indicating this. I found on this map here where I think we ended up.

We found ourselves there after a series of missed turns while heading down Route 52 out of Wellington towards our weekend accomodations at Sharika Farmstay. It was our first time outside of Wellington since arriving in NZ, and a trip we'd been saving up for since we got here. Like many trips out into the unknown, we departed with songs in our hearts and a buzz of excitement in the car and we arrived with near-total exhaustion and a sense of profound relief.

I was navigator during our trip. Though I think Joanne may disagree.

Our first mistake was to miss Route 52 entirely the first time we went through Masterton. By "our" here I mean "my" since I was the one with the fanciful bit of terrestrial illustration called the AA 2008 Taranaki, Lower North Island & Wellington Visitor Guide open on my lap. We entered Masterton on SH 2, blew past our turn off and continued on SH 2 until we were overcome by the creeping sense that "...this doesn't look right." It took us a good five minutes for it to build to the point that one of us said something. I think it was Joanne.

We back-tracked to Masterton, answering a barrage of questions from the back seat about why we were turning the car around in the middle of the country and, mindful of the poorly marked turnoff and scrutinizing every sign, turned down a completely new completely wrong road and charged forth with confidence.

We'd been so successful at Carterton, the previous small town, in sidetracking out to Stonehenge Aotearoa to have a look at the curious rural reconstruction of the famous druidic astrological timekeeping monument or sacrifical virgin amphitheatre or whatever it was that the proto-Britons had laboriously constructed near Salisbury thousands and thousands of years ago. We had strayed off the highway, failed to actually visit the monument (it has hours) and returned to our path with such simple ease that I was feeling pretty confident in our ability to bush-whack our way through the NZ countryside by the time we'd reached Masterton.

Our second missed turn took us to Tinui, a small, charming out-of-the-way place that we were actually very happy to have discovered. After only two missed turns it was still pretty early in the day and Tinui fell into the category of "happy accident" when we rolled up on sort of makeshift gift-shop and museum and borrowed their skeleton key to open the old schoolhouse which had been converted into an outbuilding bathroom. We took lots of pictures. They had tons of artifacts from earlier times---the war, the running of telephone lines, early farmsteads and sheep stations. It was all fascinating stuff and Tinui deserves at least a post of its own some day.

The third, and biggest mistake, and one which I have to take the most responsibility for since it was a plan which I'd not only suggested in the first place but also lobbied for strongly, was that rather than back-track to Masterton and The Known World and try again to reach Route 52 (the third time is, after all, the charm) I proposed we push on through Tinui and meet up with Route 52 a little farther along at Alfredton. The road to get from Tinui to Alfredton didn't seem much different on the map than other roads around the area, so how bad could it be? I just hated the idea of backtracking again---heading in the generally desireable direction of north and east seemed preferable to me and after some discussion we headed out.

Now, to the credit of the AA 2008 Taranaki, Lower North Island & Wellington Visitor Guide the nice fat highway that we had originally been driving on--SH 2--was demarcated with a thick red line and the two lane road that we'd turned down to mistakenly head towards Tinui was a thinner orange line. They were definitely different types of roads. The road that I'd lobbied successfully to take from Tinui to Alfredton was mostly of this thin orange type except for a segment that was thinner yet, and yellow. We discovered later when I actually looked at the map key that this meant "unsealed road." What was lacking, however, in this description was a parenthetical indication following it saying "(never under any circumstances try to go here)" or "(WARNING: max speed 10 kph)" or "(traversal may vibrate your eyeballs loose)" or "(takes 5 years off your car.)" Unfortunately we had to discover these things ourselves.

So that brings us back to the Barn at the End of the Road. I can tell you that the bags of road trip candy were out and sweets were being distributed as we crept back up the muddy gravel looking for the turnoff we'd missed. We eventually found a sign "Annedale - No Exit" that seemingly hadn't been there before and made a right on a road that indicated Alfredton. It wasn't for at least ten minutes on that road that anyone was comfortable that the "...I don't think this looks right" feeling was going to subside completely. We took the increasing prevalence of road signs to be an indication that we were on the right track but it wasn't until the unsealed road gave way to actual blacktop that anyone felt much relief.

When the sound of tires crunching on gravel at 15 kph was replaced by the sound of tires singing on asphalt at 100 kph we were still not ready to talk about the experience of the previous hour and a half, though coils of tension were starting to unwind a little. By the time we rolled into the farm we'd resigned ourselves to our generalized road-weariness and felt tremendous relief that things were where they were supposed to be and all was right in the world.

1 comment:

Dr. Cathy Ezrailson said...

Nothing like a sense of confidence that comes with not knowing the territory...I have had that experience, myself - charging forward...sure that my "wits" and "intuitive sense of direction" will get me there. Glad you were able to recover your bearings and find the farm. Can't wait for the next installment. Glad you are back on as I miss your postings.