New Zealand Odyssey

by Jennifer Bryce

Strolls along the docks, the Katherine Mansfield portraits, the fresh, lush gardens of Wellington’s ‘Town Belt’ have blurred as life is taken over by a recalcitrant clothes washer. Our essential clothes are locked in a malfunctioning machine in our holiday apartment – the office is unattended until 8.30 am, and we have to leave at 7.30 am to catch a plane to the South Island.

7. Wellington historic site

Wellington humour: seen on Lambton Quay

We would get our washing done – the machine has a drying cycle – then, packed and ready for our trip down south, and we would go off to a play at the Circa Theatre – a pleasant way to end our few days in the nation’s capital. So we thought.

NZ washing machines 4

Now we can’t think beyond retrieving our clothes. I look up the appliance brand on the Internet: frequently asked questions. There are questions for stove-tops, refrigerators and dishwashers. No-one in the whole world has questions about clothes washing machines, and certainly not, how do you get the clothes out? If only, if only … We went out in the morning, leaving the machine busily washing our clothes, with a drying program selected. When we returned the clothes were washed but still a little damp. We could have removed them and draped them over a clothes horse provided – they would most likely have dried in the warm afternoon air. But no. May as well use the machine to get them completely dry. Just how do you run the drying cycle alone? Before we knew it, the machine was washing our clothes again. We tried to stop it. And that’s how we got it into this petulant locked door routine. How many times have we turned it on and off at the power outlet? It stubbornly resumes its non-door-opening program and once again water is draining and gurgling. Incomprehensible technology is the most frustrating thing in the world. One day I will die of high blood pressure after fuming at some technical device.

NZ washing machine 1

We refuse to be defeated by a machine, although it has seriously spoiled our afternoon and looks like taking over the evening. There is a 27-page instruction booklet – well, not a booklet, photocopied pages. We discovered that only every second page had been photocopied. The apartment’s manager kindly arranged for a complete booklet to be delivered to us. That was at 4.30 pm, before the office closed for the evening. Now, at 5 pm, an answering machine invites us to leave a message. I run down to the office in the hope of catching someone working back, but the place is in darkness.

My partner is reading the tome of instructions for the umpteenth time. I take a less logical approach and pummel the door. Then I try pushing it in as hard as I can and suddenly releasing the pressure. No luck. Maybe we should sneak down and buy new socks and undies before all the stores close? I play with the dial. The arrow has been pointing to ‘off’ – a position from which one would expect the door to open. Pushed to the limits of my creative resources I wonder whether in Germany (where the machine was made) perhaps it is the base of the arrow that is the indicator, not the head of the arrow? Something to do with being in the Southern Hemisphere? I swivel the pointer around so that its base rests against ‘off’. Hey presto … open!

The clothes aren’t dry, having had two if not three unnecessary washes, but they are out of the machine! We drape them around the room with glee and race off to eat fish at ‘The Green Parrot’ and attend an excellent performance of Lori Leigh’s Uneasy Dreams and Other Things, based on Kafka’s idea of metamorphosis. Maybe having one’s clothes locked in a washing machine is a bit Kafkaesque …

17. Queenstown Remarkables from Lake Wakatipu

The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu

A few days later and New Zealand is no longer associated with clothes washing. Around Queenstown we take in the snow-capped Remarkables, Lake Wakatipu, and the lushest greenest fields.

25. Queenstown walter peak farm visit pet sheep

Walter Peak Farm near Queenstown

We take a steam boat to Walter Peak Farm and stroll around in the sun – lambs, alpacas and delicious date scones. We drive to Te Anau and see the rare Takahê bird with its magnificent brassy and blue feathers. We walk around the lake to Dock Bay, and distant sounds of motor boats accentuate the peace.

37 Walk to Dock Bay LAKE TE ANAU

On the walk to Dock Bay, Lake Te Anau


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Dock Bay, Lake Te Anau

On a warm and sunny day we take a boat tour up Milford Sound – the waterfalls are cascading, the bush is humming and adolescent fur seals are basking on rocks.

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Chasm at Milford Sound

Why would you want to go anywhere else in the world? If you are going on holiday for scenery, you couldn’t do better than to come to New Zealand’s Fiordland.

82 Kea near Homer Tunnel

Kea, near Homer Tunnel, Milford Sound