Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Another day of grim weather! Visit to the zoo and consoling sorrows in the pub

PHIL: Day 59/14 April

A walk around the zoo in the evening
Weather worse – unstable north-westerlies with intermittent heavy rain. Another pilot forum in the hotel to dispel the boredom. This time I am asked to give my views on passenger handling and technical matters such as bogus spare parts. 

A good audience representing most NZ pilots who seem to appreciate my input. It’s difficult to address a group in such remote circumstances without appearing as a patronising colonialist.

In the evening we are invited to a private viewing of Hamilton Zoo which is thoughtfully laid-out but the interesting specimens have mostly been put indoors for the night before we arrive so a few bush pigs and wild dogs are about all there is to see. 
men 'at home' where they belong!

Hamburgers and a weak punch drive us to Cook’s pub to spend a free $50 voucher but well worth the effort as the former Oddfellows building is sensitively converted and the lone live guitarist plays a passable rendering of JJ Cale’s ‘After Midnight’ at my request.

On the way home – Allie driving as she has consumed rather less wine than Andy or I – we get ‘pinged’ (as the Kiwis put it) in a speed camera so Andy has a crisis about the likely size of the fine.

ALLIE: DAY 59: Saturday, the 14th of April

Again no flying but a fun night out at the zoo and a local pub
What a shame! Again howling winds and rainy all day long. So again no flying. I try to take it easy now and just give in to fate. Energize myself with jogging and a swim, then a long extended breakfast. Go down to the post office to send off our travel books on NZ to my Dad and get some bottles of wine for our upcoming island stay. Then it’s time to join the rest of the balloonists for a talk on maintenance and safety.

a few animals are still awake...
At 3.00 we are having a briefing down at the tent of the launch site. The weather man starts off by showing us a picture of balloons just to remind us of what we are supposed to be doing here! The rest of the briefing is about the cash draw competition for tomorrow mornings flight. It sounds to me like the golden golf rules of St. Andrews. 

What happens if the balloon knocks down the pole? (The flight manual tells you that all about this), May I move my balloon at the launch site to get a better angle? (We are distributing numbers that mark your take off site), May I grab the cash box with a stick? (No, just minutes ago it said you may only grab it with your fingers!) and so on…Phil and I are not into serious competitions anyway, so we got bored very quickly with this kind of nonsense.

The evening flight is cancelled but we are invited to go to the zoo! What an alternative! Actually I didn’t mind. At least something to do and see. 

So at 5pm we are all at the Hamilton Zoo and a warden shows us around the cages. The sad thing was that of course most of the animals have been taken inside after closure at 5.00 and the only animals that remain, are pigs (actually quite funny colourful ones), African hunting dogs, some Wallabies and a few monkeys. But no kiwi! What a pity!

with Pete and Caren in their cosy camper van
So I will have to leave NZ without having seen the famous national bird. A barbeque dinner is set up for us and we are fed with salads and hamburgers. Not really our kind of diet. 

Pete and his wife Caren rescue us with an invitation to their camper van to try some really special liquor wine, a Winslow 2003 grape wine, made of the grapes that were covered in ashes after the 1997 Mt. Ruaphehu eruption. Escaping the “great auction of the balloon fiesta” we retreat to a nice pub downtown called ‘The Cook Bar and Restaurant’.

This building dates from 1874 and was used for various matters like storing sand soap (obviously a hit in Australia in the late 19th century) or making corsets! But this evening we just enjoyed some very good 60ies live music and NZ red wine.

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