Two previously shaken Christchurch women take a day out to offer support and cake to the currently shaken Wild West coast.
The recent predicament of the 29 nine miners and the resulting fallout left in their wake, necessitated an emergency run of home baking to the Greymouth township.
A last minute invitation by a pharmacy guild board member AKA my bestie to join her on a mercy mission to the town’s two pharmacies had me hurriedly clearing my calendar and packing my day bag.
The 50th birthday party celebrations attended the night before is not recommended as a good prerequisite for traversing the Otira Gorge. The restorative sausage roll at Springfield petrol station did little to restore or assuage the nausea.
Once loaded up on fuel and saturated fats we headed west according to Patrick our friendly Tom Tom cyber compatriot.
Toting banana cakes and savoury muffins cooked that very morning by the gifted chemist/epicurean, nestled in their baking tins and tea towels, we ventured deep into the pass awed at the encompassing grandeur. After snaking our way through the precarious roads, motion, sleep deprivation and a propensity for narcolepsy took over. I was blissfully brought back by the gentle humming; word for word of the “Mum” CD that had been loaded into the sound system in the absence of cognisant adult company by the driver. The dulcet tones of a Bryan Adams old favourite; Heaven revamped for the 2001 Twin Towers tragedy thrust us right into the required melancholic mood for our entry into the scene of the tragedy.
We drove into the town centre following our nose and Patrick’s instructions and quickly found the first pharmacy and then the second about 100m down the road. We then parked our car dangerously close to the local fish and chip shop. Drawn like a moth to the flame, I lingered with intent outside, willing additional saturated fats into my system via osmosis.
Refocusing on the job at hand, we gathered our home fare, wrapping one cake and hiding it in my large handbag allowing us the convenience of concurrent visits. The first pharmacy was pleasantly surprised at our spontaneous visit and offer of nutrition and support. The two female owners worked on stoically whilst simultaneously explaining the events and reactions of the locals over the past week. We listened attentively and offered in person support by the mere fact of our presence. Commission over, we travelled to the next pharmacy, a smaller operation. So as not to cause an overkill, I left it to the expert and waited outside gauging the feeling of the immediate township.
The central township was surprisingly un-overcome by grieving locals or media; local and international, tripping over each other for more breaking news. I strained my eyes for glimpses of Peter Williams and his TVNZ entourage. The closest I got was a well dressed man in covered shoes with a notepad loitering at a doorway. A lone helicopter buzzed overhead.
We entered a florist shop and felt the tension of the overrun staff. We later learned that the mother daughter combination; a popular form of business ownership in this town, had sustained a loss at the hands of the Pike River mine explosion but were compelled to comply with the unprecedented demand.
Another dress shop we ventured into also was unsurprised or perturbed by the company of obvious outsiders and surmised that we were also foreign media.
A final stop at a local watering hole to form the ultimate measure of emotion, we took up residence at an outdoor table and observed first hand, general townspeople behaviour. The local cafe owner brought us out our fifteen dollar roasted vege salad with accompanying sauvignons without entering into any local banter. Whether they do or do not usually was uncertain.
The only sign we found of the elephant in the room residing in Greymouth was the two signs we had seen haphazardly pinned in local retailer’s windows heralding sympathies to the universe or to whoever passed.
Giving Pike River mine a respectful wide berth, we departed shortly after 3pm a week exactly after the first explosion. We later learned of just missing a third explosion.
Bathed in a virtuous glow we headed home east with only the sounds of the rattling empty baking tins and the B side of the CD as company.