When you set off on a road trip it’s good form to make friends with the locals. They come in all shapes and sizes, the locals: big and small, young and old, lively and lazy, scruffy and cute-as-hell. Since we’ve been in New Zealand I’ve made a point of getting to know a few of them, and now is probably a good time to bring you up to speed with the best of the bunch so far.
In Picton we spent a couple of nights at Kippilaw House, a comfortable homestay run by Margaret and Bill. Margaret’s breakfasts are to die for, and the couple’s dogs are wonderful too. Floyd is six or seven years old, and obviously loves living in a homestay. He greets strangers with a deafening bark, but only because he’s heard that’s what guard dogs do.
Floyd’s bark is definitely worse than his bite. He’s plainly delighted that Margaret and Bill welcome a constant stream of guests into their house, guests who like me are only too willing to scratch his back and rub behind his ears. He also likes to relax on the sofa and lap up the adoration heaped upon him by every human being who happens to pass through Kippilaw House.
Floyd shares the house with his old buddy Clyde. Clyde’s a lovely chap, 16 years old and rather portly. He appears to spend most of the day snoozing., content in the knowledge that his best pal Floyd is keeping the guests entertained. But when there’s the chance that a mug like me will give him some attention he wakes from his slumber and presents his ears for tickling.
Much to Mrs P’s dismay cats appear to be a bit thin on the ground in New Zealand, but one evening in Picton we were walking out to get dinner and met a fine young fellow down by the harbour. I greeted him warmly, and he was only too pleased to offer his head for stroking.
In typical moggie fashion, the meeting was on his terms and as soon as he knew he’d won me over he hurried away, presumably to find another new best friend. Poor Mrs P was holding the camera and never got to say hello to him at all. Pig sick, she was.
Omau Settlers Motel is an unpretentious and comfortable motel near Westport, close to Cape Foulwind. The motel doesn’t do food, so we nipped next door to the Star Tavern for dinner, where we were greeted by Guv, a giant golden Bull Mastiff.
Actually, “greeted” is stretching a point; Guv was laid out in the doorway, snoozing. He hardly batted an eye as we entered, and probably he qualifies as New Zealand’s least attentive guard dog. But let’s face it, built the way he is he doesn’t need to do anything to act as a deterrent to ne’er-do-wells. As threatening as Mike Tyson on steroids, nobody’s going to take risks with him.
By the time we’d eaten our dinner Guv had stirred, and the gentle giant wandered over to bid me a fond farewell. What a lovely lad he is.
Lee and Karen, hosts at the Omau Settlers Motel, are a jovial and friendly couple who share their property with two dogs. The older of the two likes eating carrots. Or maybe he just tolerates eating carrots until he’s offered something more enticing?
But the undoubted star of the show is Alfie, or Alfred the Great to give him his full name. He’s a nine months old Chihuahua, and probably the cutest dog in New Zealand. I fell in love with him instantly, and even Mrs P – who prefers cats to dogs – was smitten.
Within seconds Alfie and I were the best of friends, so Karen took a photo and a minute later I was starring on the motel’s Facebook page (see below).
Alfie is a great dog, and so tiny that I could easily slip him in my pocket and kidnap him. And believe me, I was so tempted …
Of course it’s great to make friends with the locals and, as you can see from the preceding paragraphs, I’ve been free and easy with my friendship since arriving here. But what about the other way round; what if the locals take a shine to us?
And here we have a problem. After leaving Cape Foulwind we’ll be heading south along the west coast, the land where the sandflies rule. We read up about the Sandfly Menace back in the UK and since arriving on these shores countless Kiwis have warned us that these tiny insects are likely to make our lives hell, biting and sucking our blood until we’re begging for mercy.
So, while I’m always pleased to make friends with the locals, I sincerely hope this particular gang won’t want to make friends with us.