Off The Beaten Track in Aotearoa

On the Etiquette of Sharing a Platform


My Dear Dream Reader,

You may remember a post from our road trip, all about Mount Taranaki. After days of waiting he finally revealed his true glory. And I showed my appreciation by clicking hundreds of photos on my phone. From each new vantage point I snapped them.

Late that afternoon, as  the sun dropped towards the horizon, one of us, okay – it was me, had the bright idea to drive up the mountain. We could watch the sunset from Dawson Falls car park. It would be romantic, I thought. Not to mention beautiful. And a great opportunity to snap more photos – mountain at sunset photos.

We’d been up that road once before, two days earlier. But the weather had been agin us – interpret that as freezing cold, low cloud, sleet! I was inadequately equipped. I discovered there’s one thing colder than wet socks: standing barefoot on wet tarseal. (It’s a long story, but it involved getting a photo of the tunnel of green on Manaia Road from the best angle, before the light disappeared … hmm … the things I’ll do for a phone photo!) First thing the next morning I found the only shoe shop in Stratford and bought a pair of boots.

This time would be different, I reasoned. I had my boots, a puffer jacket, a rain coat. What could possibly go wrong? John, being the sort of guy he is (read outdoorsy and generally obliging) agreed. “Hurry,” I said. “The sun’s setting fast.”  In fact if I didn’t know better I’d say the sun had overheard my suggestion and just to spite me had begun to go down rather more quickly than was entirely warranted. No wonder Maui felt the need to slow it down in olden times!

“It’ll be dark by the time we get there,” I complained, wishing I’d come up with the bright idea sooner!

“Don’t worry,” said John. “There’s the viewing platform, we’ll get some great shots from there.”  As if that changed anything about the light – but I didn’t say.

There was no need for concern. Despite the long drive through those dark tunnels of green on Manaia Road there was enough light at the car park for phonography.

There weren’t many people there. A school party, heading off for a weekend’s tramping on the mountain. And another, smaller group on the viewing platform. Attracted no doubt, just like us, by the perfect conditions, I thought.

“That’s a TV camera up there,” I said to John, squinting. I am bespectacled these days and in the vision department there’s been a certain loss of acuity.

“No”, said John, with authority. “That’s a back pack.”

And then he said, heading towards the conveniences, “I’ll meet you up there.”

No matter. I was after photos, pink tinged ones.  It’s true I was preoccupied, in the way bloggers can be.  I was composing the day’s post in my head. I bounded up the thirty or so steps to the platform, noting with some pride how effortless it seemed; all those hours at the gym, I said to myself, they pay off in so many little ways. One day I might write a post about that, too, I thought.

At the top, there were four others who, when I arrived, did go very quiet. Taking in the majesty of the moment, I thought.  And why wouldn’t you I thought. We were on the slopes of a volcano, one that is overdue for a major eruption by about a hundred years, if you believe what’s written. We had an incredible view of the cone. Such places deserve silent respect, I thought as I pulled my trusty, if slightly battered, pink encased iPhone out of my pocket and began to click. I even toyed with the zoom function – although I know its usefulness in such situations is limited. As one of my sons has explained to me, “It’s a digital zoom, not optical, which impacts on the quality of the photo”. Basically, it’s not much good. No matter, I was having fun in sublime surroundings.

John eventually came up the steps – rather slowly. Slowly enough to make me feel even prouder of my current level of fitness – he’s always been the mountain goat of the family.

“Isn’t it fantastic?” I say to him.

“Yes,” he said, sotto voce – a teeny fact I failed to take fully on board.

There were some quiet murmurings from our companions. They’d turned 180 degrees and were taking photos. I followed suit.

“Corker, eh,” I said to John, in my very best Kiwi accent. I was excited and it came out rather more loudly than I intended.

It was corker! We could see Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe 130 kilometres away. I reckon if I’d squinted hard enough I might have been able to make out the Pacific Ocean. (Okay, that’s probably pushing it but I have stood at the top of Ruapehu and been able to see both the Tasman Sea and the Pacific. Proof, as if I needed any,  we live on a small island)

All the while I kept on clicking that phone.

John was strangely quiet – taking the odd photo but not as many as me. He was watching the others. I was not. Eventually he asked one of them, “Where are you from?”

“France”, said the young gentleman.

There was something in the tone of his voice that should have given me pause;  as if he thought we knew him.

By now I’d turned my attention back to Taranaki. As had they. The mountain was dark against the sky. I moved to the front of the little group. I often do this. Being short, I’ve noticed over the years that if I pluck up enough courage to push my way to the front of a crowd people generally don’t mind – much.

And here’s the shame of it: I thought, My country, my volcano, I’ll push on through. I told my sister this later. There as moment of quiet on her end of the phone followed by the sound of choking. And then she managed to  squeak out, “ Shades of Billy, already.” Sometimes she can be just a little harsh. (Click the link, if you really must know why she’s making such an attribution.)

Picture me, dear reader, my little pink iPhone held high above my head to get the best, the optimal  photo the iPhone camera can manage. (iPhone 4s – for the technical experts.) Afterall, I’m seriously in to phonography now!

Picture me, as I noticed, that beside me was a man with a camera; the lens a foot long. And it was not focussed on the mountain, it was on the young man with the gorgeous French accent John had talked to. That camera looked ridiculous beside my iPhone … wait … you think that should be the other way around?


Picture me, dear reader, as I paused and glanced further to my left and noticed not only was there a photographer but, yes, there was a TV camera trained on that young man!

It was then that I determined one hundred iPhone photos from that particular vantage point were more than likely enough. I slipped my phone into my pocket. “Great view,” I told our foreign guests. “Enjoy your stay!” It’s true they might have winced as I exited not stage left nor right, but down those steps as quickly as dignity would allow.

Safely back at the car, John suggested we get out our thermos out and have a cup of tea.

No way! I declared because right then that TV crew sent up this!


A French Camera Drone

A French Camera Drone

I couldn’t help myself, I had to snap it!


Moral of the story:

  1. My vision might not be quite as sharp as it used to be: but don’t trust my husband’s!
  2. If it looks like a TV Camera it’s probably NOT a back pack even if you are on a mountain.
  3. When it comes to platform etiquette, quite probably those who got there first do have a prior claim! Strange how that applies to so many things.
  4. Or, put another way, it’s wise to check out one’s platform companions before barging on in.
  5. Pride, about anything, including completely unrelated matters (the gym!) always goes before a fall.
  6. One’s sister, rightly or wrongly, will  call it as she sees it, even whilst choking on her laughter.

And this last is because when I told her the story, in addition to her heartless Billy reference, after she finally got her breath, she squeaked,  “You know you’ve turned into one of those women we used to see on the TV: they’re a type, Jill.” Mrs  Hyacinth Bucket was mentioned.

I liked it more when I reminded my sister of dear laughing, bumbling, well-meaning Miranda Hart.

And then she declared, choking again, “You’re going to be famous! You’re going to be on French TV announcing to the world: ‘Corker, eh!'”

Thanks for that, D!

So, my dear Dream Reader, Hyacinth or Miranda? Who will it be?



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