Breaking down in Huntly, and related delights
I'm wondering whether I was subconsciously trying to extend our stay on the Plains, which have become, despite or because of the fact of their unpopularity with most tourists, one of my favourite pieces of New Zealand. I certainly didn't feel in any great panic, as I wandered away through the mist to search for some discarded fence-wire with which to jammy open our door. Skyler was less enthusiastic about the prospect of an indefinite stay amidst the sodden dairy farms, torpid rivers and unvisited wetlands reserves of the Plains, and summouned a mechanic from the nearby town of Ngatea with her cellphone. I didn't feel any great worry, either, when our ageing machine staged its mutiny outside Huntly, and we had to pull onto the strip of gravel and weeds which separates the incorrigible traffic of State Highway One from the broad deserted Waikato River. I decided that we must have run out of petrol - my complete innocence of mechanical matters precludes me from making any other diagnosis, when car engines suddenly stop working - and headed for the station at the other end of Huntly. Walking through the beginnings of a rainshower in the dusk, with diesel fumes and smoke from the coal power station across the river in my nostrils, I pitied the occupants of the flash vehicles which rushed past me on their way towards Auckland.
I was walking on hollow and hallowed ground, over the winding coal shafts which miners dug a hundred years ago, and beside a river had once carried scores of waka at a time, as well as the ironclads of an invading British army and the paddlesteamers of the early twentieth century. I was walking towards the site of the Huntly riot of 1932, when the people of the town laid siege to the mining company's store and sent shivers up the spines of the bourgeoisie of Auckland, who believed that a 'red army' might be preparing to march on their city from the coalfields of the lower Waikato.
As I pressed on into Huntly I noted, with considerable satisfaction, that there was a liquor store and a pub between me and the gas station.
Further away through the dusk was Taupiri, the sacred mountain of the Tainui people, the resting place of Princess Te Puea and Tawhiao and other heroes of the anti-colonial cause, and the site of legendary Labour Party leader Harry Holland's dramatic and perhaps symbolic death at the beginning of the '30s. Did the Aucklanders floating past me in their SUVs, thinking about the TV dinners they'd eat when they got home to Howick or Takapuna and the facebook gossip they might have missed during their sojourns from civilisation, have any inkling of the delights and insights they might be missing, because they hadn't broken down in the little town of Huntly? I wouldn't mind breaking down there again.