Kids and Critters
At the Flat Hills Rest Stop
Today, I took the bus from Hamilton to Wellington. I didn’t really have a choice. The train was closed for rail maintenance. I didn’t have enough money in my grant to buy a plane ticket. I certainly didn’t want to try my hand at driving on the left side of the road, even if I could have gotten the Provost’s permission to rent a car.
Now, I’ve taken buses before. A short jaunt out into the English countryside. A public bus from Taxco to Mexico City. A chartered bus through the Sacred Valley of Peru. But, I’ve always been with friends and I’ve never had to sit next to a strange man who smelled like stale beer.
If you will recall, I was worried that I would be stuck on a Qantas flight, trapped in a middle seat between two tall football players with broad shoulders pressing against my head. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, I found myself pressed against a window, next to a rugby player who was apparently off-gassing from last night’s pub time . Even better, we were surrounded by backpackers who had not seen the inside of a shower for some time .
Did I mention that the trip from Hamilton to Wellington takes eight hours?
As we pulled out of Hamilton, the bus driver informed us that we could not eat on the bus. If we ate something stinky and the odor made someone barf, we would be responsible for paying the NZ$50 cleaning fee. If she caught us eating, she’d pull the bus over and dump the food in a bin. Oh, and, if we didn’t get back to the bus on time when we stopped for our rest breaks, she’d leave us behind and we could take the “walking bus” to Wellington.
Honestly, it made me feel like I was in an episode of South Park.
The trip wasn’t all bad. I have seen the Shire. It looks an awful lot like Western Kentucky, with Pioneer brand corn growing in the fields. It also looks a lot like Vermont, complete with happy Holsteins munching their way across the hills.
And, I swear I saw more sheep in eight hours than I have seen in the four decades that I have been alive.
About two hours into the trip, we had a mandatory rest break. I bought a bottle of water, a banana and a cheese & onion sandwich, used the facilities and made sure my ass was standing outside the bus with five minutes to spare. The Shire gave way to the mountains — which looked a bit like blue mesas I have seen in Arizona and New Mexico, but with lots of green shrubs and trees growing on top. When we came down on the other side, we had another mandatory rest break at Flat Hills where a goat tried to eat someone’s coat.
I was incredibly glad when we pulled into Wellington. My back was cramped up, my butt was asleep, and my olfactory nerves were shot. The walk to the hotel was short – a good thing since I bashed my elbow a good one when I was pulling my luggage out of the underbelly of the bus. The only bad thing? Wellington is completely dead on Sunday night. Yes, I resorted to eating at Subway. Again.
Written: January 9, 2011