"What is the difference between a man and a boy?" asked Dick, as we careened from pot-hole to pot-hole along the track. Victor contemplated, shrugged, before replying, "I can think of several differences, but I'm not sure which one you're looking for." "The cost of their toys," answered Dick with a smirk. As well he might.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I had better go back to the
beginning, the place where all stories start. This particular
story begins with Victor Atallah's scheduled stop in Masterton,
heart of the beautiful Wairarapa. Rev. Atallah had come to Masterton
to speak in the Reformed Church, and we were hosting him for a
half-day, a night, and another half-day. We had planned an address
to the congregation in the evening, followed by a coffee-morning
at our house the next day. Then off to Silverstream, after lunch.
The evening address was very well attended, but it was only a
small group that gathered in our lounge-room the next morning.
Dick was there too. That was our biggest mistake, letting Dick
in the house.
Oh, he's subtle. I've got to give him that. You know the kind
of person I'm talking about. The sort that makes a suggestion.
A ludicrous suggestion. Something that's really over the top,
and they know it. But they want it. So they put the suggestion
as a joke. And if everyone laughs the idea out of existence,
well, it was only a joke after all. Not a serious suggestion.
If, on the other hand, someone is foolish enough to bite....
Victor bit. "Victor, if you want, we could always take the
coast road to Silverstream." Ha ha ha. Big joke. Everyone
smiles. The coast road to Silverstream, yes, that's a good one.
Now Dick and I like to go fishing together. We often use lures.
Dick knows all about lures. It's just a pity that there are
some people who do not.
There's Victor, all wide-eyed and innocent. "The coast road
to Silverstream? Is that good?"
Like a satellite dish in a tracking station swivelling to home in on the signal. Like a hunter whose eyes suddenly spot the deer and lock onto their target. Dick was rivetted. "You know if you really wanted to, we could probably organize it."
"Is it good?"
"Is it good? Some of the best scenery in the North Island!
Rugged, beautiful. A place few New Zealanders get to go. You
need a 4-wheel drive. I've got a land-rover..."
"I've got a land-rover." Those words are still reverberating
in my skull. It is the stuff of which nightmares are made. I
am still waking up screaming at night. My wife tells me I keep
mumbling the words, "I've got a land-rover," "I've
got a land-rover," over and over again.
I tried to find excuses. "How long will it take? We have
to be in Silverstream in four and a half hours, you know."
"What, it only takes three hours? Oh." "Is there
any chance we'll get stuck? There is? Victor, we might get stuck,
you know. Do you mind if we get stuck, Victor?"
Victor assured us that he did not mind if we got stuck, so long
as we did not mind that he would not be getting out the vehicle.
He had his clean, pressed suit to think about. If there was
any digging or pushing or wading or swimming to do, Dick and I
would be doing it. Honestly, I tried. But what could I do?
The die was cast.
The route took us down to White Rock via Martinborough. From
White Rock we would take the 4-wheel drive track along the coast
to Cape Palliser. Then it would be back inland on real roads,
plain sailing all the way to Silverstream. "A three hour
tour." Wasn't there something like that in the theme song
for "Gilligan's Island?"
I must admit the drive down to the coast quite exceeded my expectations.
The road was good. The scenery was impressive - the Lord has
blessed New Zealanders with access to some very beautiful country.
The company was congenial. Victor is a gold-mine of information
about the church-scene around the world. And Dick is a gold-mine
of information about the countryside between Masterton and White
The drive from White Rock to Cape Palliser, well, that's a different
kettle of piranhas. We appeared to be the first vehicle on the
track after heavy rains. So we were definitely trail-blazing.
In several places slides and wash-outs had covered or removed
the track completely, sometimes necessitating its complete re-invention.
Once or twice, the track veered dangerously close to the cliff
edge, inviting foolhardy travellers to their doom on the jagged
rocks grinning up at us from the maw of the sea below.
Dick is a real showman. He knows just how to build up the adrenalin.
I particularly liked the way he pretended that the land-rover
was threatening to stall. And the master-stroke when we came
to the steepest part of our journey. Dick, ever ready with his
gold-mine of technical information, tells us that this is just
about the maximum slope a land-rover can handle without winches.
The 89 degree ascent. Long and steep, covered in loose rubble.
Where is Edmund Hillary when you need him? Winches? If it had
been any steeper, we'd have needed ropes and crampons just to
get ourselves to the top, let alone the vehicle. Maybe
we should have set up a base camp. Hired a few Sherpas.
That was the point at which Dick calmly informed us that the land-rover
was probably going to stall half-way up. Just like it did last
time. The time when he had to roll all the way back down Mt.
Everest again. Backwards. Oh, and had he forgotten to warn us
about the crest of this crag, if by some miracle we should make
it the top in one piece? No? Well, don't be scared when you
come to the top and can't see the track any more. When it just
seems to fall away into the abyss on the other side. There is
still a track there, and Dick is fairly certain he can keep the
vehicle on it when we go over the top.
Victor was amazing. He just sat there, impassive as the Sphinx.
Well, he did say he wasn't getting out of the car. I had made
no such vow.
I rode shot-gun on the back of the land-rover. It was wonderful.
The liberating feel of an icy wind in your face. The liberating
feeling that comes from knowing that you can abandon ship any
time you like, much more easily than those trapped inside the
The main problem was that there was really nothing to hold on
to on the back of the land-rover. Maybe you've never had the
experience of clinging to the back of a land-rover speeding up
a rocky slope at the maximum incline possible for such a vehicle?
Maybe you've never ridden a bucking bronco or a wild bull at
a rodeo, either. Liberating, definitely liberating.
After conquering this Matterhorn, the rest of the trip was "all
downhill," as they say. We only got stuck once. It was
only a half-hour delay getting across a sandy part of the track.
Victor did break his vow at that point. He did get out of the
car. But he kept the spirit of the law. He watched while we
did all the work. The clean, pressed suit, you know.
Ah yes, the clean, pressed suit. We had come through the worst
of the journey. The 4-wheel drive track had been left behind.
We were on a real road now, even if it was gravel. I even remember
making my usual joke to Victor, the one about New Zealand's black
beaches. "Hey, Victor. What's the difference between this
gravel road and the beach? None. There is no difference."
Maybe Dick was paying us back for that comment. Or maybe he was
simply excited to be back on a road where he could open up the
throttle on his land-rover again. Victor and I were celebrating
our survival with a cup of nice, hot coffee from the thermos.
That was when Dick hit the pot-hole. At full throttle. I left
the seat, though fortunately the land-rover has a soft top. The
coffee left Victor's cup. It completed its trajectory in Victor's
lap. On his suit. That, you will remember, is the clean, pressed
suit. The one he was wearing for his talk at Silverstream. The
one which had caused him to vow he was not getting out of the
Victor looked at me. I looked at Victor. He said not a word.
Impassive as the Sphinx. But in that silence, a thousand words
were spoken. "Hey," pipes up Dick, "What is the
difference between a man and a boy?"
* * * * * * * * * * *
Victor Atallah was over an hour late for his appointment with
Rev. Barry James. He was regrettably delayed, due to circumstances
outside of his control. Due to two crazy men from Masterton who
abducted him and took him on the coastal road from Masterton to
Silverstream. That's the five and a half hour tour. Rev.
James was very gracious about it. He always is.
Victor didn't seem too perturbed, either. In fact, I had the
distinct impression he wouldn't have missed it for anything.
After all, we had seen a part of God's great creation that we
would not normally see. And we had been reminded that the Lord
provides even ministers, with their busy schedules, with a variety
of activities for our enjoyment and benefit. For our re-creation.
If anyone else is interested, Dick Kleinjan is thinking about
running tours in his land-rover. He's thinking of developing
it into a business, if there's enough interest. Off-road adventures.
Hunting, fishing, sight-seeing. If you want to know more, contact
Dick. Or Victor Atallah, c/o Cyprus.
Rev. P. Archbald (Masterton)
Back to the Article Index
Faith in Focus /NZ Reformed Church / email@example.com / revised October 97 / Copyright 1997