YOU GOTTA FIX WHAT'S BROKEN BUT WHAT'S LOST STAYS LOST - robmellors

HANMER SPRINGS

We left Kaikoura with some reluctance but headed off into the back country, taking the Inland Kaikoura Road to Waiau and eventually to Hanmer Springs. This road winds around the Seaward Kaikoura Range and the Amuri Range and it was a beautiful run through farming country, following the Mason River into Waiau. Here it joins the impressive Waiau River which opens out into a rocky inland delta area as it flows down the Waiau valley

Hanmer Springs itself is a Thermal Reserve. In New Zealand thermal activity is never far under the surface and at places like Hanmer it comes up through the ground in the form of hot water. Hanmer is also surrounded by mountains so in the winter it's a ski resort and in the summer a thermal resort attracting thousands of visitors, both foreign and Kiwi. However, as it's only about 90 minutes away from Christchurch a large proportion of visitors are day trippers so we had no difficulty securing a bach with the help of the wonderfully helpful girls at Hanmer Holiday Homes.

We could have gone for a long soak at the pools on the day we arrived but we thought that it would be nice to do that after having gone on one of our planned walks over the next few days.

The hinterland of Hanmer is dominated by the Hanmer Range and the vast bulk of Mt Isobel. At about 1,640 mtrs not a huge mountain but challenging enough to hike up, especially by the route we took which was a very tough scramble up a very long ridge line with some nasty and slippery bits of ground. However, the views from the top were worth all the effort. As far as the eye could see there were mountains and way down below us was the Hanmer Valley, spread out like folded linen. Going back down the same route was a little hairy, especially for Jane who doesn't like loose shale and rocks at the best of times. Reaching our car gave us a real sense of achievement. But perhaps we congratulated ourselves a little too early.

Instead of a rewarding bath we just went back to our bach and prepared a meal at which point the first of our mishaps occured. Crunching on a nut I thought that there was some grit in it. Unfortunately, it wasn't grit but part of my tooth. Something to do with my age, I think. We checked with some of the locals but although Hanmer gets thousands of visitors it's not fertile ground for a dentist and we were told that the nearest ortho was near Christchurch. Well, we were due to go that way to get to Arthur's Pass a few days later and as the tooth wasn't giving any trouble I thought I would just put up with it and get to see a dentist later.

The events of the following day put teeth problems well and truly into the shade. We had been told that one of the really good shorter walks out of Hanmer was the Dog Stream Waterfall. A drive on some gravel tracks through the Hanmer Forest Reserve brought us to the start of the track. It was, indeed, a good walk and the 41 mtr falls were very picturesque. Looking at our map we saw that we could link into a forest walk to make this a circular rather than linear jaunt. And we are always keen to discover new sights.

For the most part the walk was wonderful, perhaps even better than the waterfall route because the larch trees were thinner and the track gave some good views of Hanmer and the valley. All was going swimmingly until nearly the end ouf our walk when the track suddenly came out into an area of land which had been clear felled. The problem was that the hillside was extremely steep and although there was a clearly marked trail it was over a lot of chewed up ground making the going extremely treacherous. The rock was loose and dreadful but to get back to our car we had to follow the route, however bad it appeared. Although we could see the end of this dreadful section I knew it would take quite a time to get down. I just didn't know how long it would prove to be. We set off gingerly but the inevitable happened. One of us had to slip and it just happened to be Jane. Unfortunately, in falling she instinctively put out a hand to stop her and immediately let out a real yell of pain.

Something was clearly wrong with Jane's right hand and it made her go into a virtual faint. She simply couldn't move for the next 40 minutes and I couldn't imagine how we could ever get down the hillside without the help of the rescue people.There was not another soul around but eventually Jane did feel able to move and we inched our way down to a lower car park and eventually back to town.

Jane was convinced that all she had done was to damage the cartilage in her hand as she wasn't in too much pain but the pharmacist to whom we went for a support bandage persuaded us to go the the excellent medical centre in town. Without too much waiting she was seen by a trainee doctor who sought the opinion of a qualified doctor as she thought the wrist might be fractured. The other doctor also diagnosed a fracture but as there is no x-ray facility in Hanmer he told us we must go to Christchurch 24hr Surgery. As a precaution the arm was plastered with a back slab (a lightweight plaster of paris) although Jane was still convinced that the wrist was not broken.

Well that changed our plans somewhat as we hadn't intended going anywhere near Christchurch but there was no other choice. In the South Island full medical facilities are few and far between. So, back to the bach to pack and make arrangements. We told the girls at the letting agent we would be checking out early the following day but Mistress Fate had other designs for us that day. I thought I would wash the car windows, which I did. I don't know if it happened then or at some other stage but it was only later that night that I realised that the only key to the hire car was missing. I do have a habit of mislaying my keys so we both knew they had to be somewhere. Perhaps they had got into the packing by mistake. So we unpacked the bags and checked. Not there. Outside then. Not there. In the rubbish? Well, when a bloke came to pick up the rubbish the following day he kindly ripped open the rubbish bags. No jangly key there.

Wherever we looked, no matter how many times we searched, turned out all our clothes and repacked them, it made no difference. Our only means of driving to Christchurch was staying exactly where it was, in the driveway outside the house which we had to vacate by 11 am the following day. You can imagine it was a bit of a sleepless night and I was up at 5.30 am having one last search in the daylight, visiting every place we had gone the evening before to make sure the keys hadn't turned up. No such luck. Lady Fate was keeping this one all to herself and gloating in the corner. We even blamed a cheeky little chaffinch which had turned up the previous day to beg food but a chaffinch couldn't half inch a set of keys and we hadn't seen any magpies around. At one point in the proceedings a large bumble bee came into the room and when I tried to shoo it out I got stung on the finger. It was just one more mishap but an easy one to shrug off.

So, our plans of getting to Christchurch early, going to the hospital and then moving back on to our schedule were disappearing rapidly. The only thing for it was to phone Apex, the hire car company, and get them to courier a spare set to us. We'd then have to drive the car to Christchurch airport were they would take the car to a local Toyota dealer to have another key programmed from the master. These modern keys all have chips in them and losing one is a costly business. In our case NZ$455 (about £240). Nothing for it then.

The only courier company that Apex could get to deliver that day said that they would be in Hanmer with the key by 3pm that afternoon. It meant that we would be late getting to Christchurch so the lovely i-site people booked us into a central holiday park. That way once we'd been to the hospital it would be a short drive and we could spend the rest of the evening in the city - maybe go out for a meal or something.

The wonderful Lisa at the letting agent said not to worry about checking out by 11 am. The bach wasn't booked that day so we could leave anytime we liked. We could relax a little, have a stroll round town and maybe go for that bath. Ah, well, no; that would involve Jane's carefully plastered arm dripping a chalky white substance into the blue waters of the hot pool. Told you we should have gone there the first day.

However, our troubles would soon be over and our luck was beginning to change. 'You think so.' cackled that evil old Mistress Fate, but we didn't hear her until 3pm had come and gone and no courier van, so no key. It transpired that the courier's van had broken down and he wouldn't get to Hanmer until 4.15pm. Well, let's make that 5pm by the time he limped in, shall we? Lisa felt so sorry for us she gave us a bottle of wine to wash down our troubles. What fantastically wonderful people these Kiwis are.

This was definitely not our day but at least we didn't now have to worry about Christchurch's Friday evening rush hour traffic. Hooray for that. We made it to Christchurch in 90 minutes (me driving, of course, Jane cradling her fetchingly white arm), threw our things into the holiday park and were at the 24hr surgery (sort of an NZ equvalent of our A&E) by 7pm. On a Friday evening. With dozens of other hobbling patients and screaming kids.

The next 4 hours were interesting if only to see how NZ handles minor injury cases - very well from what we saw. There was an orderly who came around several times with tea and coffee (decent coffee as well, this being New Zealand), the medical staff were excellent and we had a great time chatting to a Kiwi family. The dad was there having tripped on some concrete and had a badly gashed knee and a dislocated toe. We compared injuries, talked about past mishaps, had a few laughs, and got to know each other as much as you can as strangers in a hospital. It made the time go by in an entertaining manner at least.

The x-ray confirmed that Jane had a closed fracture of her radius bone. This is good because the likelihood of displacement of the bones is considerably lessened but, of course not good because it's still a fractured wrist on her dominant hand. At first the doctor gave us the hope that a lightweight cast could be applied but when we told him we would be flying home in a few weeks that idea was scotched. Lightweight casts are rigid and as the arm will swell in flight that would cause Jane a lot of discomfort. Regrettably the answer has been a full plaster cast with an expansion groove cut out of it. So the fetching white 'glove' is still being worn only this time it's a lot heavier.

Now, you might think that Mistress Fate has won the day. We know her game. She wants us to have such a miserable time that we give up on New Zealand but it hasn't worked. OK, some things are a little difficult but we are still enjoying ourselves and we have had nothing but kindness and sympathy from everyone we've met. Apex even reduced the price of the replacement key for us.

An arm in a sling and plaster can be a talking point and get you chatting to some interesting people. And Jane just loves telling people how I lost the car keys just when we needed them!

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