Friday, November 09, 2007

how many Americans does it take to light a gas ring ...?

Our trip to Fiordland was adventurous from the outset, starting with the drive there.

We reached the gateway town of Te Anau only to find that the only road into Milford Sound was closed. We had to hang around until 11am the next morning for the avalanche risk to be downgraded to moderate and the pass reopened. It was all very reassuring.

As we came out the other side of the lengthy tunnel that marked the summit of the pass the rain was absolutely torrential and we could only just see the mountains towering hundreds of meters above us through the mist. When they did come into view they were covered in streams of white water cascade down the rock faces, as though someone had poured an enormous bottle of milk over the top of them.

Fortunately we saw Milford's brighter side the next day as we set out on our kayak trip on a glorious sunny day. The high rainfall here (as much as 200mm in a day is not uncommon) means you can actually drink directly from the sea; the fresh water can't mix quickly enough with saltwater, so it sits on top in a murky tea-coloured layer up to 12 meters thick. Kayaking was a great way to see the spectacular scenery of the fiord, although the increasingly windy conditions after lunch meant the return journey was quite exciting as we battled to paddle through meter high waves.

I didn't hold out high hopes of seeing much on my scuba diving trip the next day, but I needn't have worried - it was fantastic. After descending through the top layer with almost zero visibility, we reached a thin layer where the fresh and salt water is still in the process of mixing together (from inside my mask it looked a little like a computer generated special effect), and once through that, the visibility magically improved to 10-15 meters. It was my first cold water dive, and so everything was different - fields of kelp swaying in the current, black coral (actually white), enormous lobsters and a huge octopus.

Back at the lodge in the evening I entered the communal kitchen to cook dinner to discover the faint aroma of gas, and a middle aged American lady turning one of the gas rings on and off repeatedly. As she turned to me and asked how it worked, I had to try my very hardest not to sound patronising as I replied "I think you need to light it ..." and pointed to the cigarette lighter on the counter top.

Returning from the van with some more food I was amazed to see she had been joined by another lady and they were taking it in turns to switch the gas on and off while the other tried to light the gas ring using the lighter. As a strategy it reminded me of operation troop surge in Iraq. And it was equally successful. After a couple of minutes it all got too painful to watch and I had to go and help them out, unsurprisingly it lit first time.

Perhaps this is just another example of people to beginning to lose their traditional skills in our technologically advanced society. It made me glad I'd read Bushcraft:an Inspirational Guide to Survival in the Wilderness before leaving the UK.

Something told me Ray Mears would have been proud of me that evening ...

End the seven day itch ... VOTE NOW !!

It's all getting horribly scratchy in the neck area, and I must say I'm now really looking forward to getting the razor out once you guy's have voted. Thanks for all your sponsorship so far - and for those of you who haven't yet you can do so by visiting the donations page. Don't forget to use my unique code of 160527 when making your donation. You can find out more about Movember and their charitable work by clicking here.

I've now received a number of suggestions and I've whittled it down to a shortlist of two, the Magnum or the Pimp. I'll be taking votes until midnight UK time on Monday, just add a comment below. As an extra incentive to make a donation, votes from readers who have sponsored me will count double.

Apologies to my readers in the US for the content of this post, in particular Cathy and Sean. I just couldn't resist capitalising on the gilt-edged opportunity, although something tells me I could get my just reward in a couple of weeks time as I try and clear US immigration sporting my new 'tache. Although I suppose I should be grateful no-one suggested a Bin-Laden ...


Sandy Boyd said...

Actually my 'pimp' suggestion came well before I you asked for suggested styles. I was just calling you a pimp to make myself giggle!!xx

paullangham said...


Don't shave you've got hair just at the wrong end of your head.

Jane Starrs said...

Mark, I think it will have to be the pimp look ..... but do I really want my daughter to travel round the world with such a disreputable looking character?