There’s nothing quite like waking up to the sound of tui, traipsing downstairs to a breakfast surrounded by a menagerie of union and mining regalia, and joining working class heros; old and young, for a bit of kai. As Michael Joseph Savage and David Lange looked on; the Clarion Tour team shared a meal at the famous Formerly Hilton Hotel, in Blackball. The small town is not only the birthplace of the modern labour movement, but still remains at the heart of mining projects on the West Coast, just five minutes from the Pike River Coal mine.
The elements of the Coast spared us today as we sped south to Hokitika and rolled up our sleeves among the litter and trash of the Westland District capital – not that there was much litter to collect. Even so, the dedicated Clarionites searched high and low, in underpasses and along beaches; to collect a dozen large bags of rubbish. Mayor Maureen Pugh expressed her thanks to the group on behalf of the several-thousand in the district. She said she was surprised the group could extract such a swathe of litter in what could be the cleanest town this side of Eketahuna, but commended our hard work. Maureen and the great folks in Westland provided a scrumptious lunch at a near-by Fish and Chip shop. We enjoyed our hot parcels on the wild beach, while contemplating how lovely New Zealanders were. Including Peter Power, Vice President of the Hokitika Branch of the Labour Party, who runs a local motel and Blues/Country station aptly named ‘Blutry.’ Running on 88.1 FM, Peter’s station has earned the ear of hundreds of Coastie listeners. He met us and we discussed the merits of both our shared Social Democratic values, and living on the Coast, which after a couple of days; we were already keen to stay on!
But with a schedule to keep and a Central Otago eager to receive some Young Laboury-goodness, the team piled into the Clarion bus and headed south. Although the elements had spared us in Hokitika, the clouds came out for the trip past the iconic glaciers that adorn the South West Coast and into the Haast Pass. The clouds became rain, and the rain became a torrid of torrential precipitation -and as much as we pleaded; Vice President and Clarion Taskmaster-in-Chief Ella Hardy ruled against a silly chilly endeavor.
With the sun rejoining the tour on the other side of the Pass, the picturesque landscape came to life and we cruised to Wanaka where a hot meal and a good rest awaited us. Onwards and upwards to Queenstown, where our exhausted team laid down their loads and rested for the night.
Tomorrow brings more laughs, lunges and LabourLove. A bit of Plunket mucking-in I hear. We can’t wait!