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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

BLACKED OUT

So went the headline of the local rag, the Ashburton Guardian, one afternoon. You see, the night previous, at around 8:30 or so, the power suddenly winked out. Danie and I were watching the telly and shooting the breeze when the power went. It's cold as hell right now down here, so we had both heaters going as well, so at first we thought a fuse might have blown.

Well a quick look out the window made it obvious that at least the rest of the neighborhood had been affected. We hung around for a few minutes, found a couple of flashlights and waited to see if it was coming back on. It clearly wasn't, so we hit the road.

Ashburton isn't all that big, really. It's 3 main suburbs with a central town district. Not a whole lot happens here. It's just this side of what you might call a 'one stoplight town'. It's kind of nice to be here, after living in the sprawl that is Newport News for so many years. So we're driving around, and the only lights we see are the emergency back-up lights at the hospital and the headlights of other bored and curious Ashburton drivers.

I was halfway hoping that at least the Subway or Pizza Hut still had power, since I hadn't eaten yet, but they were blacked out too. In about fifteen minutes we had seen all there was (or wasn't) to be seen in Ashburton and so we headed back home.

With nothing else to do we just sat there in the dark, trading stories. He told me of a time in Africa when he and some friends had gone camping somewhere in Zimbabwe. They were Australian friends of his and they had never been to Africa before. Well, out in the bush at night with nothing but starlight and a dying campfire, these guys were getting pretty spooked by the sounds of the jungle. There is some sort of animal called a bush gorilla or something, that is about the size of a cat but it has this really loud, sudden and obnoxious hooting noise it makes, and it only makes it at night of course. These little gorillas are attracted by light and noise, so naturally they lurk just outside of the range of sight and without warning will start calling out to each other in a booming fashion.

When the guys heard these they were getting pretty shitty, as Danie put it, meaning getting scared and angry at the same time. He was just laughing at the guys the whole time and explained what they were. Now these guys wanted to go have a look for them, maybe shoo them away, so they grabbed some long sticks and set out into the bush with their flashlights.

Unfortunately for one of the guys, he came across one of these gorillas and shone (shined) his light right in its eyes. It was a juvenile gorilla, and being arboreal creatures they live much of their lives in trees and at that young age are still eagerly learning how to climb. So this guy, with his big stick held out in front of him in a defensive manner, pokes it right towards the little gorilla to scare it off.

Well that backfired because the gorilla immediately grabs onto the branch and starts climbing up it towards the guy, hooting all the way. To the gorilla, this was just practice! Needless to say, the guy dropped the stick straight away and ran back to the safety of camp and Danie couldn't stop laughing.

Danie told me another Africa story, wherein he and some guys had been out hiking and camping (can't remember what part of the continent they were in) and they had several dogs with them. They awoke one morning to the far-off sounds of the dogs barking. Something had startled them so off they ran into the bush.

Danie and the guys knew something was going on, so they struck camp and headed out after the dogs to see what had riled them up. They hiked off the trail through underbrush and forest, and every now and then they'd get a glimpse of the dogs barking at something in the woods, then they'd give chase and bolt after whatever it was. Finally, the guys came across a huge boulder in their path, that was sort of split down the middle.

The dogs had been somewhere beyond this rock as they could hear them barking still, but suddenly their barking turned to yips and they could hear the dogs running through the brush straight back towards them.

Danie knew they had finally found something and pissed it off, but he had no idea what was coming after them.

In a flash, the dogs leapt through the split in the boulder and took off past Danie and his mates back the way they had come. Right on their heels a huge boar emerged from the other side of the rock and went charging at the guys.

Danie and one other guy scrambled up one half of the split boulder, out of the way of the boar, but the other guy decided to try and outrun the boar and he took off into the woods back towards camp and their jeep.

The boar went after the guy and would have caught him, but luckily since the dogs had been chasing it for a while before it got pissed off, the boar became tired and soon gave up. Soon after, the guy came back with the car and rescued Danie and the other guy from the boulder and they got out of there.

About this time, the lights suddenly came back on, and it was around 10:30. So we had only lost power for a total of two hours, which isn't so bad, yet if you go by the huge headline in the next day's paper - BLACKED OUT had been written so big it was the entire front page - you'd think we were still without power at that point. Like I said, though, not much happens in Ashburton.

I really like this little town, though, and people here are really down to earth and they all remember your name. It's got all you need to get by, although I sure am glad Christchurch is only an hour away. Unlike Ashburton, it doesn't shut down at 6:00 every night and, even if you lose power in your part of town, there's likely a Subway open in a nearby suburb.

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