Meet Godzilla The Goat, the ultimate All Black. We have been to see him in his homeland down under. There might be a touch of brown in his fur, but that does not change much. It is the personality that counts, and his is as all-black as they ever come.
All Blacks is a phrase used for New Zealanders of all shapes and fashions, originally invented for the national rugby team. They live in a third world country in a first world wrapping we were told on arrival, and we do see the point. New Zealand bureaucracy tells us to have our Swiss driving licenses, very clearly marked «Driving License», translated from English into English before we are allowed to rent a car. Street signs are totally out of fashion, at least they were nowhere to be found then we tried to navigate around Auckland. Tourists are encouraged to stay in overpriced motels featuring goofy-looking staff and bad Internet coverage. And; our Auckland hotel shamelessly promotes tax ovation by giving us the choice between an airport taxi payable at full price by credit card or at a 40 per cent discount if we splash some cash.
We came to NZ for two reasons. We wanted to have a look at a country we did not know too much about, and we wanted to see a friend we had not seen since he emigrated from England 16 years ago. Our friend and his wife lives at Animal Farm, some 25 minutes drive out of Auckland. They share their life and land with a good tempered horse, a bad tempered lawn mower and a few pieces of wildlife that move in and out at will without really asking for permission.
We visited the farm a couple of times and tried to get to know as many of the inhabitants as we could. Resident Cat has had a hard life as a youngster and does not really like being cuddled. She escapes our heartfelt love and makes it for the door, where she is met by Resident Chicken. For most cats a bird would be a potential free lunch, but in this house the chicken is obviously top dog. She muscles her way past the cat and makes it for the living room, where the house owner chases her out by throwing a loaf of bread at her. The commotion attracts Resident Duck that is given the same treatment. All the bread land in the garden where the duck’s lunch is promptly confiscated by the chicken, who in the meantime has eaten her own.
Yes, my good friend the house owner admits while watching the feathers fighting for the food outside his window, there is of course a possibility that throwing food at animals in order to get rid of them actually will encourage them to come back for more. The idea has struck him, but he has only lived there for ten years and he has not been able to come up with a better idea just yet.
It does get worse, however. In an enclosure across the yard lives another tenant with views on food. Godzilla the Goat was originally hired as a lawn mower. He does the job rather well, but he is so violently territorial that nobody dares to walk his lawn whether it is cut or not. When we dared to approach his fence he immediately tried to hook our arm behind his horn. Had he succeeded he would not only have broken it, he would most likely have detached it at the shoulder and taken off with it.
Goatzilla’s owner kept his distance. He has learned his lesson. Last time our friend dared to enter that particular part of his own property he got a horn up his shorts and was only a split hair away from being castrated. The only one with the brains to stay clear of it all is Resident Horse, who spends his days with his own friends in his own paddock in safe distance from the rest of the crowd.
As for us the bewildered visitors, we also kept our distance after learning the basic rules of Animal Farm. Having gotten a driving license sorted we took to the road for a four day trip around parts of the NZ North Island. The coastline along the East Cape is beautiful. The beaches look great and the vegetation makes the country look like one huge garden. The sheep and cattle are in abundance and they grace on low, rolling hills that are green even in the late autumn month of May. Still, we would probably prefer to be there in the November spring. In May it gets dark soon after 5 pm. We drive for a day, we find a hotel in the dark and we do not really know where we are until we are ready to move on the next morning.
The hotels, bytheway, are themselves worth a chapter. New Zealand does not have a very well developed tourism industry. You can end up driving quite a few miles longer than planned looking for places to stay, and when you find one you pay more for a motel in the NZ outback than for a hotel in central Auckland. On our second day we ended up in Te Puia Springs Hotel, a long and low and rather elegant looking wooden building that had history and tradition written all over it. We were met by the owner, a middle aged guy with white beard, sagging jeans and a woolen cap under the hood of a big, dark sweater. This was how he looked when he showed us the parking, later when he checked us into our room and also when he served us dinner some three hours after that.
A brochure we picked described the place as «newly renovated», which it probably had been some time in the 1950ies. By now the bathroom paint was peeling of, the water taps were loose, the windows were wet with moist and the panes were rusted shut. The corridors were wide and windy and long and empty and half the light bulbs were dead.
We went to bed that night feeling like characters out of The Shining, expecting Jack Nicholson to come breaking thru our door with an axe in his hands.
However, we will for sure be back in New Zealand. There is more coastline to see and more gardens to enjoy. There are more sheep to photograph and more roads to roam. We will have a camper car next time, so we can bring our own motel. If we wait a couple of years maybe our friend at Animal Farm will have had the courage to confront and eat his most dangerous piece of garden equipment. We know that old goats are a good bit chewy when barbequed, but there are other options. We are certain that Goatzilla could be turned into a quite useful Irish Stew if he was boiled for a day or three. We sure will send his owner a relevant cookbook for Christmas.