There were three reasons why I couldn't resist the vegemite, strawberry, and cream cheese sandwiches. Firstly, they looked so fresh and well prepared, secondly, they could have been a regional delicacy, and thirdly, I was just plain hungry. And anyway, I was always up for an adventure.
I was passing through the small town of Makarora (and by small, I mean it consisted of about 9 or 10 buildings), between Wanaka and Haast in the South Island of New Zealand. And by passing through, I mean I was stuck there because a mudslide had just covered the bridge a few hundred metres up the road, blocking the only access to the West Coast from that direction. Three diggers were working furiously to clear the way.
The first thing I noticed when I rolled into town was the sign for the Makaroa Wilderness Resort, the large realistic eyes of an owl peering out from the billboard at the passing traffic. As I pulled into the carpark I found that this wasn't a resort as most of us would imagine it, with swimming pools and a golf course, but rather a cramped little backpackers hostel. However, there was a bar and cafe attached, which would suit me just fine.
It was the sandwiches sitting in the little food cabinet that really impressed me. As well as the vegemite/strawberry ensemble that was soon to become my breakfast, they had salami and jam, honey and egg, and beetroot and banana. However, my absolute favourite was the selection of empty sandwich cartons marked "For Those With Food Allergies".
With a full and slightly churning tummy, I crossed the road (which was now filling up with campervans and cars who had also discovered the inconvenient roadblock), and had a look around the dilapidated shacks that made up the airfield. Two planes and a helicopter stood in the icy mountain air, the main form of transport for the hunters and trampers who use Makarora as a base. A faded poster for jet boating on the nearby river was pinned to the rickety old fence, and both poster and post had seen better days.
It took them six hours to clear the road. The road workers, who looked like they had shaved with spoons in the dark, watched as the cars and buses negotiated the track they had made. I guess then they were looking forward to heading up to the cafe for a nice cup of tea and a sandwich. Or perhaps that should read a nice cup of tea sandwich... [more ]