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When hunting goes bad...


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Author Topic: When hunting goes bad...  (Read 722 times)
robman
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« on: February 12, 2009, 09:43:10 pm »

Part II..

The ground here was covered with a tracery of trails which met and crossed each other and never seemed to peter out like the ones made by red deer, although each path never went any great distance, it would always intersect with another one. The result gives several options every ten meters or so and you just follow roughly in the direction you wish to go.
It was after ten O'clock when we got back to camp, time to cook dinner. This consisted almost entirely of meat, as it generally will when men do their own cooking. I fried six sausages made from the ewe that lost the lottery at home a few months back, two of these I swapped with Malcolm for a piece of backsteak from the animal he had bagged the weekend before. Simon had a bit of leftover ravioli or something, which went down a treat tipped on top of them and eaten straight from the pan.
Not long after, I spread my bush shirt on the floor of my tent for a mattress, crawled into the old sleeping bag and was soon asleep with the dog snuggled comfortably against my leg.
At another time I may have sat up drinking too much coffee or Lion Red while gazing awestruck into the three dimensional skies with a carpet of stars that city dwellers rarely get to see. Or maybe lain awake pondering the extremely volcanic nature of the area with Lake Taupo only a few kilometers away, its lakebed slowly rising and falling like the belly of a sleeping woman.
Sleep was the victor however and so remained until the morning chorus of the tuis dragged me from the arms of Morpheus.

Sunday
As soon as I awoke I knew I had trouble. My left eye felt like a gorse bush had taken root in the night and everything I did made it worse. I was first up again, raked up a couple of handfuls of manuka debris from the surrounding scrub which soon had the fire started and the billy on.
The eye was getting worse by the minute and making the other one go out of focus but I tried to be stoic about it and carry on as if nothing was wrong. Malcolm and John got up out  their bivvies and Malcolm had a look at it to see if there was anything obvious that he could hook out with a piece of folded toilet paper, this being our medical kit.
"Just a bit of a cut in the white bit" was all he could see.
Tea, tea, coffee, coffee, a muesli bar and we were off for a morning hunt. No matter how I tried, I couldn't do any thing right. I had been so preoccupied with my eye that I had put my noisy tramping boots on when I got up without thinking, added to this was my one-eyed clumsiness. If there was anything in the vicinity to trip over, my feet would be drawn to it like a magnet. My nose had started running because of my eye which was streaming tears and I was having trouble keeping my balance..
For all that we covered a bit of ground. Another of the ubiquitous bulldozed logging skid tracks gave us good access to an area on the opposite side of the quad track we had come in on from Saturday's hunting. We left the track after about ten minutes and made our way as quietly as we could into a small basin with a reasonably open understorey. Soon deer trails became apparent and we started using them to our advantage, the passage of many hooves had swept most of the beech leaves from the narrow network of paths and so made for quieter stalking. Working up towards the rim of the basin, my dog began doing her winding dance, head high, drinking in a scent which was carried on the air currents. This usually means there is an animal nearby because scent doesn't hang around in the air like it will on the ground. It wasn't long before we found the source, a recently vacated bed set high up near the flatter ground, complete with scuff marks made by the hooves of a rapidly departing deer.
Waiting a few minutes first, we set off very slowly in the direction the dog indicated. Malcolm informed me that sika will sometimes come back for a look if they're not sure of the cause for their alarm and we were hoping this may be the case.
I was blundering again by now though and making a lot of noise, we came upon some more empty beds, one with a wet patch next to it where a deer had urinated.
Shortly we hit the quad track and I decided to let Malcolm go on alone, I was a liability and he would have more success without me. He crossed to the other side and I made my way back to camp.
I arrived to find John alone, Simon had gone off to try to catch a trout and John was having a nice relaxing lie around, keeping the fire going whilst napping. It seemed he hadn't got much sleep the night before even though he had a foam mattress, he kept rolling off it and waking up on the ground.
The next four hours or so passed in a welter of pain, I packed my gear in short bursts between sitting down feeling sorry for myself and I had lost my sunglasses sometime since the previous day.
A shot from the direction Malcolm had gone in signalled his success but I couldn't have cared less. I just wanted to get out of there and find a doctor.
He returned a half hour later carrying a yearling hind and finally we were able to get moving. Simon hadn't returned from his fishing yet so we packed his gear on my quad and departed for the end of the road where the utes were parked. Malcolm would return for him after dropping off the gear.
I had been a bit apprehensive about riding back out with my vision playing merry hell but John graciously lent me his sunglasses, this brought a vast improvement.
I spent a bit more time loading up than I had the day before, spreading the load more evenly and making it more secure. The scene of the backwards flip was a doddle going down, just ride it like a sled to the bottom then fix a rope to the back of Malcolm's Big Red to get up the other side. It's amazing the difference four wheel drive makes to those machines.
John remained at the crossing with a pick and shovel to improve the track while we went on. The guys that use this track have a tacit agreement to try and improve things whenever they pass through and it pays off.
Back at the road and in the shade of a pleasant campsite, I am offered a welcome cup of tea by a couple from near Waihi while I wait for the others to return. My eye has improved but I find I am missing the keys to my ute. Simon still has them in his pocket from when he used it to fetch his fishing rod the day before.
They all arrived after about forty five minutes, I was able to move the ute and load the quad using a bit of higher ground and some planks. Driving back down the gravel road towards SH1, I notice after a couple of kilometers I'm only doing about fifty ks and wonder why. A glance at the gearstick confirms that I am driving in third gear, I shift to fourth and make a few embarrassed comments to Simon who says he was wondering why I hadn't changed gear, I simply hadn't noticed.
At Malcolm's place in Turangi I am able to ring home by cellphone, it's after four O'clock by this time and I relate a few of the more lurid details of my adventures to my wife, which is a dumb thing to do. She is now worrying about me driving home. John wants his sunglasses back and I plan to buy a pair from a gas station in Turangi. When I remove them however, I am instantly blinded. My eyes have become so sensitive to bright light that yesterday's warm friendly sun has become today's agent of torture. An offer of ten dollars is turned down...they are only cheapies and an agreement is reached for their return back in Auckland.
I could have spent the night there with the others but I had to be at work in the morning, so after a few muted farewells I was off.
I must have filled up with gas at some point but I can't for the life of me remember doing it. Within an hour of leaving I have become a hazard on the road, drove straight past the Mangakino turnoff and had to turn back for it. I stopped there and bought a couple of V drinks which I guzzled back to back. The stretch from there to Te Awamutu is a blur. I found that by alternating a series of different head positions and covering my left eye with one hand for a short period, then uncovering it and pressing on my forehead just above the eye would give me about a hundred metres of driving with focused vision before it all went fuzzy again. The sun was low in the sky by now and beating mercilessly through the screen.
I stopped at the Waipapa reserve to let the dog out for a refreshment stop. There is a constantly running supply of water from a pipe which takes it from above a small waterfall emerging from the nearby bush. "Just the thing" I decided, my face is all hot and swollen by now and I have a raging thirst, so after a long drink, I splashed the deliciously cool water  over it.
This had an effect similar to vinegar on my eye and I reeled back to the ute spitting obscenities through gritted teeth.
The last fifty ks from there to Te Awamutu, I can barely remember. I know I was screaming obscenities and pounding the steering wheel a lot. Shaking my head and trying to focus on the road. None of the little tricks I had learned were working for more than a few seconds at a time and I was following the general outline of the road, using the white line as a guide while saving the bits of concentration for when an oncoming car approached.
Now this is the stupid bit, about halfway, I was back in cellphone range and I could have stopped on the side of the road and rung one of three brothers in Te Awamutu, or my stepmother, to come to my rescue. But no, Mr Independent doesn't want to be a nuisance. I have become the injured dog that will make its way home, dragging a broken limb only to collapse at the back door.
By the time I reached Kihikihi, I was having to swivel my head from left to right at intersections to avoid moving my eyes in their sockets.
Three hours after leaving Turangi I wobbled through my older brother's back door with my lip trembling like a small boy who has skinned a knee.
" I'm in a spot of bother", I blurt.
The last leg.
 
My brother Rex has just what I need..a Barbara. She goes into nurture mode so seamlessly you'd think injured people arrived on her doorstep daily. Optrex, a cold compress (not just a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel, a genuine Elastoplast one kept in the freezer) and Voltaren, the wonder drug of  aging fools who don't know their limits, appear within seconds.... "And you'd better have a biscuit with that because it will give you an ulcer if you eat it without food".
The Optrex helps a bit and a plan is devised. Rex will drive me in my ute to the A&E in Hamilton, Barbara will follow in their car. With a bit of luck they will work some magic and I will carry on home from there with my vision perfectly OK again.
With sinking heart I surveyed the waiting room on our arrival...
"Waiting time 1 hour", and there are a dozen new victims lined up at the counter in front of me. I stand in line for five minutes, all the time trying to find a way around the obstacles in my head. It's now 8 PM, we're going to be here for at least two hours, it will be 10 PM before I leave for home, if I can after someone has been poking around in my eye. This may make it worse for all I know.
Suddenly I realise that I can focus again, I can also swivel my eyes with only a bit of minor discomfort. The Voltaren has kicked in and I can almost see normally. I looked around at the trapped multitude in the waiting room and made a decision.
I sidled over to Rex and told him what miracle had occurred and that I couldn't expect him and Barbara to wait around there all night, so I would carry on to Auckland. After all, it's not much over an hour from Hamilton and the Voltaren should last the distance without wearing off.
His relief, although well hidden, tells me he thinks I have made the right decision.
After assuring them both that I'm now fine and thanking them effusively, or apologising for being such a bloody nuisance, can't remember which, probably a bit of both, I set off on the last leg.
Everything is just dandy until about Ohinewai. The wonder drug is a traitor and a saboteur. It has lulled me into a sense of false security in order to get me alone with its ally...pain.
I'm soon reduced to my range of tricks from before, changing the angle of my head, covering one eye, all the rest of it but I don't have so far to go this time and I'm in cellphone range. I had told my brother not to phone home because I didn't want my wife to know I was driving back. This would have worried her even more than she was already and as long as she thought I was safe in Te Awamutu I was happy.
So I toughed it out again.
At Mercer there are the endless road works. The temporary speed limit signs go past as fuzzy blobs with a confusing array of different speeds, 80, 50, 80 again.
On the straight road before the old power station, where the Taniwha lives, I encounter a more contemporary monster. The road is looking very intact and nothing threatens, so I assume the speed limit sign I pass says 80. The blue and red strobelights of the police car have me puzzled as they suddenly come to life a couple of hundred meters ahead and I assume he is leaving his parking spot in order to go somewhere fast and do something useful.
He is not and he positions himself behind me, giving off the unmistakeable cop body language (or the automotive equivalent) which says "Brace yourself, you're about to be screwed".
I Stopped.
I moved quickly, I had to keep him away from the front of the ute due to the expired registration sticker. If I could keep him busy at the back, he might not bother to check it.
I had, of course, blundered into a trap so well laid and sprung I couldn't have done better myself. In fact, his hunting had been more successful than mine.
"65 Ks in a 50 K area," he said, "can I see your licence please?"
I tell him about my eye and explain the difficulty with reading the signs. He shone his light on my face and almost drooled with pleasure as he said "If you can't see properly Sir, you shouldn't be driving should you?"
I back down, he writes a ticket. "Why has this bit of road got a 50K limit?" I asked him as he filled it out with his glee bubbling just below the surface.
"New seal," he said proudly, nodding towards the surface of the road a couple of meters away.
I stared at the surface of the road and saw how worn and glossy it was in the lights of a passing truck, bullshit.
I didn't say anything though.
"There you are Sir," he gloated as he tore the ticket out of his book with a flourish. "Eighty dollars fine..blah blah blah"
I drove away carefully thinking the headlights behind me were his. At least he hadn't bothered to drag his fat arse far enough to check the rego, saved me two hundred bucks.
It was only on reflection that I wondered later, if I was such a threat to road safety with my insane speed of 65Ks or if I was damaging the surface of their "new" seal, why was that fat turkey so fucking happy?
The short break from driving had one positive effect, I was seeing a bit better and I realised it was the constant focus into the middle distance that was causing the problem, a bit of a spell brought relief for a time.
The rest of the journey passed uneventfully, if a little slowly. I rang home as I came into Henderson to let my wife know I was going to be there in a few minutes and as I had suspected, the phones had been running hot.
"Where are you?" Half angry, half concerned. "Why didn't you stay in Te Awamutu?"
I made all the reassuring noises I could think of and a short time later, came to a halt in my parking spot at home.
My wife met me as I unwound myself from the confines of the ute and I was the small boy all over again, contrite as she gave me a severe telling off and hugged me at the same time and swore that I was never allowed out of her sight ever again.
I lugged my pack inside to exclamations of alarm at the swollen reddened thing my eye had become and found my dinner still waiting in the microwave. I was suddenly ravenous, apart from the muesli bar at breakfast and a biscuit at Rex and Barbara's, I hadn't eaten all day so a feed of roast beef, veges and gravy disappeared rather quickly, even though it was about four hours old.
The local A&E was almost deserted at 11.30PM and it only took a few minutes before I was whisked into the care of a very forthright Doctor who was in his mid fifties. He spoke in rapid-fire bursts without wasting a single word and looked like a janitor. I trusted him immediately and completely.
The first thing he did was to snip the end off an ampoule of something ending in 'caine' and dripped it into my eye. After seventeen hours of torment, the relief was almost a palpable thing.
"Put your chin there and look into the light," he barked ...."Nothing in there, just a bit of a stab wound, must have gone straight in and come out again."
I agree with him, yes that was what happened.
"Probably an allergic reaction to something, put some of this ointment on it, here's a patch, see you later.."
I fell into bed at 12.30 AM still reeking of woodsmoke and wearing the same underpants and tee shirt I had been wearing on Friday when I left..

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