Sunday, March 8, 2009

Noo Zulland

Four days in South New Zealand: nice. Whitebait and the local drop: wonderful. Doing it all on someone else's expense account: priceless.

Greymouth isn't glamourous. Neither is Hokitika, and those who live in and around the West Coast would be the first to admit it. But they know that anyone visiting the West Coast is there for one of three reasons:

1. They're visiting family;
2. They're on their way to glacier country, and are going to be tramping some pretty hardcore country, and don't give a flying rat's what anyone thinks of them, or;
3. They like their beaches wild, windswept and cluttered with driftwood.

In other words, you only go to the West Coast on purpose. It's not an accidental kind of place to visit.

Oh and there's a fourth and subsequent fifth reason:

4. You're one of sixty librarians attending a South Island librarian's conference, and;
5. You're a writer, who is there to talk to sixty librarians.

Always one for new experiences, some of the things I did and saw over the four days included, but were not limited to:
  • Flying past Mt Cook in a tiny plane.
  • Eating whitebait, which is a very small, short-season fish, only allowed to be caught non-commercially, after which it is mixed whole with flour and egg like a fritter and fried (often alive), and traditionally eaten between two slices of bread and butter. If you can manage to avoid looking into their sad little eyes, they're delicious, which is how local delicacies are supposed to be.
  • Meeting Joy Cowley, a 600-book icon of New Zealand kidlit; and Stu Duval, a brilliant writer and storyteller who drew a standing ovation at the end of his hour-long Anzac story.
  • Dinner and drinks overlooking a fast-flowing glacial stream as locals fly-fished ... successfully.
  • Being charged $50 three times in a hour for unsuccessful ISD calls home from Christchurch airport. Yes, TelecomNZ, I will be taking this further.
  • The finest pub counter meal I have ever, ever, ever eaten, at Stumpers in Hokihita. You know those meals where you take close your eyes and sigh after each tiny little bite, and and you chew really slowly, because you don't ever want the meal to end? Yuh, just like that. Details follow. (Yes, I wrote them down on a napkin):
Balsamic Glazed Venison
Seasoned venison baked medium-rare. Accompanied by roasted beetroot & shallots rested on new potatoes enhanced in a balsamic & maple glaze.
Oh. My. God. I'd fly back there tomorrow just for another taste. And believe me, when I say that, I'm only slightly exaggerating...

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