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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

A case of Clyde-itis

NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 8 December 2008 | Views [668]

Welcome to Clyde. Population: 918

This town may be a little dot on a map of the South Island, but it sure holds a special place in my heart. A wee while back I was thumbin' it near Milton (home of the "odd kink in the road") and I was picked up by a gorgeous Kiwi lady named Cathy, and her daughter, Micky. Whilst I was heading to Invercargill, they told me if I'm near Clyde, ring them and they'll make me some Maori food.

Two months later I thought I'd ring these ladies back, and they were like "c'mon ova" and off I went, with my thumb out and backpack in hand. As I travelled from the rain-soaked, lush, green West Coast, I ended up in the dry, rather barren, brown stretch of Central Otago, a five-hour drive away. It seems that only in New Zealand you can have such dramatic changes in the landscape occur so quickly. Sunderland St. is Clyde's main street, and the street that Cathy and whanau (family) live. Clyde is a former gold-rush town and historic buildings, including an old Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) line the main street. This place is kind of like Arrowtown without all the tour buses. It's also the terminus of the Otago Central Rail Trail: a 150 km that is often cycled or walked. Cathy is divorced and has four children: Dave (22), Micky (16), Ella (14), and Claudia (10). Their dog's name is Flo; what's unique about Flo is that she's black with a very distinct white spot on her leg that makes it look like she has a bandage on. As I stroll, let me explain. Clyde is a dinky little wee place. There is a primary school, a musuem, a petrol station, a Four Square and a couple of other shops. Most of the historic buildings are no longer used for their original purposes: the post office is now a restaurant, the BNZ building is now a cafe, the courthouse is now a home, the butchery is a small shop, and the general store is currently unoccupied. Cathy's home is more than 110 years old! Even getting to Clyde is a bit interesting; you have to make a turn and drive down a hill to get there, and if you're driving from Cromwell to Alexandra you could easily breeze by and miss it. Just behind town lies the mighty Clyde Dam, and if it weren't for the dam Clyde would be flooded because behind the dam is Lake Dunstan (Dunstan is what Clyde was called when it was founded). Clyde basically has two areas: "Old Clyde" and "New Clyde" as I put it. The newer area basically is recently-built homes but not much more than that. The old area has the historic buildings and older homes.

Going into "Alex" with Cathy the next day, it was really hot! You might wonder why it's hot and dry here, but the Southern Alps create a rain shadow. Alexandra's most well-known monument is the clock on the hill. Micky, her bestie (best friend) Richard, and I all got pizza and then they did their thing and I did mine. Needing some exercise I took off up toward the clock. It looked far but it didn't take very long to get up there, to the point where you could actually hear the mechanics of the clock. It was very hot and I was sweating, but what a view! I feel like I'm in Arizona the landscape is so surreal. That night, Cathy's friends Tanya and Spade were over, and we were having a "boil-up." Spade is a big bloke who admires my pounamu carving that I made a few days ago. A "boil-up" is a Maori cooking method, and we boiled together kumara, pork ribs, potatoes, and doughboys. A "doughboy" is basically a dumpling (it reminds me of a place called Doughboy Bay on Stewart Island). Maori food is very good, and damn was tonight's meal tasty! After our feast, we sat out back and relaxed, and let the night take over!

Clyde is also famous because the Clutha River runs right through it. It's New Zealand's largest river by volume (NZ's longest river is the Waikato), and there are various dams built but none more well-known than the Clyde Dam. There's a song called "Dam the Clutha" by Dusty Spittle, a famous Kiwi singer. I bring all this up because this is where we took Flo for a swim today. It's hot out, but the water is cold and perfect for her but not for me. As Cathy threw the stick I watch Flo swim after it like an otter! Immediately I thought it'd be fun to go kayaking down the Clutha but it's very swift and therefore inadvisable without a guide. As we headed back, Cathy and I spotted some California quail (introduced in the 1800s for game hunting) and then at home we made another delicious tea (dinner) of steak, mashed-potatoes, and silverbeet. You must remember: in New Zealand "tea" is dinner and a "cuppa" is a cup of tea.

Of all the places in Central Otago, I must say Clyde is my favourite; I must've been here four or five times at least! It's the type of place with that special charm that you'll really miss. Cathy's friend, Christine, who is from Waimate, laughed when I told her about how much I love Clyde and she was like "Oh yea, I always get a case of Clyde-itis". Once you visit, you'll visit again. I'll visit again Clyde


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