Rae’s Junction Hotel is a grand old lady – old bones with a fresh heart.
Arriving late in the day steaming and saddle sore, we swung through to the old pubic bar to a wonderful scene of family, hot food and live music (of sorts). Lena had bought the shell of the old gal’, sight unseen over a year ago and in that time has been pouring nothing back in but love.
A fast tour was followed by slow showers, then Horse and I sat down with everyone at a large family table and tucked into the best lasagne this side of Livorno. After a triple portion I flopped back with full belly into the arms of an old thread-bare armchair deep in the corner of the old mirrored bar. Soaking in warm sprits of continuous chatter of two families delirious on living.
In time I drifted into a fade, and after saying goodnight I tromped off to my room. Over old creaky floors rich with rumour of intoxicated lovers supporting each other shoulder to shoulder, plus no doubt the odd drunken lament.
My room small was flooded by warm grey twilights glow through net curtains, a single bed on one side paired with a single teal blue hand-basin on the other. The place was timeless and just, well, perfect really.
First bed rest in well over a week, I drifted off to the distant orchestra of bad drumming, electric guitars and peddle powered pianola echoing out from the public bar.
The morning was grey like the previous evening, as I wiped away the condensation from the window and looked out at sou’-easterly squals drifting over the Blue Mountains. It was going to be a slow start and I didn’t care, either did Horse. Only a few small rolling hills and we were onto the Mataura river plains of Southland.
‘I wonder if there were any left-overs?’ Hungry, yawning and scritching a scratch I stumbled off in silence towards the old pub kitchen to raid a fridge.
Waiting it out
Full, we eventually bid farewell mid-morning and turned south towards Tapanui and Gore. An hour later we stopped, stalled, slamming headlong into yet another squal!
“For gods sake!” I screaming as I stood baring down on my pedals getting nowhere. Horse thought better of it and without a word, dismounted and dove head first behind an old elderberry hedgerow to escape. I gave up and followed suit, finding him laying on the leeward side chewing on a blade of grass – looking out into the distance like nothings going on. We waited it out.
“Cup of tea Horse?” I said passing the Tapanui tea rooms. I needed a refresh and besides another squal was racing up the road to greet us. We just got safely inside as it arrived. Like a clean shaven religious zealot touting Gods latest miracle to the unconverted heathens within, it was pounding at the door trying to get an audience, but it wasn’t successful and eventually slunk off down the road to torment another passer by. We sat and sipped at our chuppa, waiting it out again.
But soon it was Gore, and then south. Crossing the old bridge at Mataura and on to Wyndham. The last night, the last camp and the last tall tale before the end of the trail.
Three Rivers Hotel
“Shit Horse!” I said laughing. Neither of us still had yet found a workable solution to refilling our respective stoves, and as a result he had inadvertently set fire to a small area of campground lawn whilst cooking his evening meal.
He looked up grinning, as he scoffed down the last of his dehydrated goodness. “Pub?” He said.
Off we wandered in the twilight, the earlier wind and squal now replaced by evening calm. We entered the Three Rivers Hotel and placed our orders. It was the typical sounds and sights of gibbering tv’s, twinkling pokies, us and a party of three that looked well settled in, judging by the looks of the empty pre-mixers stacked at the table like a strike of weathered ten-pins. Horse and I pulled up at an adjacent table, discussing the day and getting an early night in preparation for the last day to come. It wasn’t to be.
Bryn strode up, arm out and introduced himself, resplendent in puffer vest, walk shorts and sandals he extended a warm welcome to Wyndham – Bryn is a true gentleman. He was closely followed by Malcolm and Barbara, then within minutes we’d covered off religion, politics, motor-cycle racing and were tucking into a round of fat cheese and onion toasted sandwiches thanks to our new mate. Bryn was a Wyndham native, having lived his entire life to date in this wee southern gem, while others had drifted in from all over Southland in the past 30 odd years. The night wore on in a slurry of good beer and better company.
Like many a small town, Wyndham has history and an old majestic shambles of brick warehouses and shops hidden under the rusting rim of an old street awning. As I peered out the window I imagined what it must have been in times past – a river of car headlights frustratingly in search of a park along Ferry Street on a Friday night. Mums bustling for bits and bobs at the drapery, kids ordering banana thick shakes at Lees dairy and all the dads huddled in scrums around lamp-posts, keeping track of traffic and time, whilst throwing the odd envious glance over at the loud laughter emanating from the Three Rivers.
As those moments passed the buildings have remained, but not for long. The bureaucracy of a faceless District Council have condemned Wyndhams history to history. All in the name of new earthquake regulations. It’s simply not good enough to destroy a towns heritage, as without it there is little reason to go and less reason to stay.
Twilight long past we eventually shuffled out into the night, leaving new friends and bidding farewell to the old and condemned.
Today’s top track: Erik Satie – Gymnopedie