A pleasant drive, amazing scenery, and a brilliant BBQ, all before the most epic night out of the entire trip. Who could save us from this madness? This was a job for the Human Barfly!

Monday 31/03/08

I left Westport with only an Apple for breakfast. We were almost immediately dropped off for a walk-activity atop of Cape Foulwind. A gorgeous landscape, and I took loads of great photos due to the relatively early sun. I’m not properly refreshed as I lost another towel, couldn’t find my second one, and so had to use a t-shirt after my shower instead. Proper backpacking! Need to buy one today if possible.

Driving down the coast now to Lake Mahinpua and the Poo Pub for tonight’s party. The gang is going to try and get either a Masks themed party, or a Superhero party going.

I had checked the internet for two seconds before we left, and a mate from back home had left a facebook comment along the lines of “Why would you want to jump out of a plane?” Seems like a normal reaction perhaps, but some other people would stick at something a bit more reactive or dare I say positive, like “I can’t believe you did that.” Having a mate from the same place, background and life as me, question the “why” of a skydive, made me have a “traveller” moment.

I am realising that I am on this trip because I am me. I wanted to do it. I wanted to go it alone and have an adventure. Made me acknowledge a few differences between me alone vs “me with the guys.” For the better I think. That self-knowledge is what I came here to find, and to hopefully refine, hone and keep.

(Writing on the 1st)

Costume Party. Mega. Am in a knackered mood. Gonna sleep on the coach. Just making a note to myself here to remember to write about the party, Uncle Les, “losing” my jewellery, and Possum Pete later. Ugh…


Okay, I am now in a pub at the YHA in Franz Josef, with a pint and in front of a roaring fire. So much happened yesterday! Before we got to the Poo Pub, we stopped off in Greymouth to buy supplies for the costume party. I ended up spending about $20, which was a bit much for a relatively crappy costume. I created my own Superhero - The Bar Fly!

When we pulled into the “Mahinpua Hotel” we were greeted by Gandalf’s cousin, Les. All 84 years of him. We could hardly hear what he was saying from the back of the coach, but the gist of it was all about keeping the rooms clean - which makes me feel slightly guilty, as our room was in a bit of a state when we left!

I took a walk to the absolutely gorgeous beach next to the pub, and went for a stroll in the sea. The current was very strong! A few folks joined me, but I headed back ten minutes before the other guys. This was an error, because just after I left, a fisherman reeled in a small shark and decapitated it in front of them all…

(Writing on the 2nd)

Woah, okay, got distracted there! Niall, Laurence, Stephen and Ciara came in for food and a drink at the bar, which for Niall, Stephen and Laurence turned into a full-on drinks bender! So, I am now two days behind on the diary, and will attempt to catch up now…

So, after the beach we all retired to the dorms to put together our superhero costumes. After creating a brilliant design for the t-shirt, The Amazing Bar-Fly was born! The goggles and badminton racquets meant I couldn’t see or touch much at all, but I re-arranged the costume somewhat to make things easier.

Those guys were hitting the spirits in the dorm, I stuck to beer (and later a bottle of wine) for sensible reasons. It was a quality evening, and everyone was hammered.

After being warned how expensive the native Ponamu jewellery could be elsewhere in the bigger towns, I decided to purchase some directly from Uncle Les’ bar. It could have been clever marketing, but to be fair it did seem a lot cheaper than the previous places I had visited. So, somewhat merry, I bought some for both myself and Hazel. Eventually, Les himself put in an appearance at the bar…

Hang on, totally forgot to mention tea that evening! Les himself cooks steak for the whole coach, and it was mega. I even tried and loved the Venison, which was in a slightly spicy sauce. I never normally eat steak, but it was good. So yes, epic food that lined our stomachs, sort of, as we all got hammered.

Poor old Koru ended up having his ear chewed off by one of the Canadian girls, she was giving him stick about “not telling anyone about a broken glass” on the floor, failing to accept that he doesn’t run the pub! Poor guy just called it a night, which is a shame as it was another chance for our driver to bond with us that went up the swanny.

I tried bonding with Les, but I have no idea what I was talking to him about. Think I bored him half to death. I remember him saying “I am going to make a cup of tea” then he never reappeared. Managed to get a picture with him though.

Needless to say, we trashed the place. Somewhere along the way, any memory gives up on me, and kicks back in later as I was searching all over the grounds, in the rain, with a torch, because I thought I’d lost the new Ponamu jewellery as well as my wallet etc. Turns out it was all in my bag… So, the soundtrack for that day? Well, I can’t think of a gimmick and so I choose:

SOUNDTRACK: “She sells Sanctuary” by The Cult
Because I managed to find it and play it on the jukebox. That simple.

Oh and “Curse You Gambler!”


Before I jump into the drinking part of the story, I do want to talk about the beach. Another perfect memory, staring into the setting sun on a westerly coast, golden sands flowing non-stop all the way to both my left and right horizons. This stretch of coast was in the middle of nowhere, and was totally uninterrupted. I had a few minutes to myself before some of the other guys joined me, and we larked about for a bit. Before they joined me, I remember the feeling of being half a planet away from everyone and everything that I knew – and it felt Epic. Gold. Ginormous. Waves. Achievement. The World. Possibilities. Endless.

Plus, a fisherman decapitating a shark with a machete.

I was obviously quite sore that one of my mates back home had seemingly just dismissed my life-changing skydive with an Internet “Meh”. Perhaps it wasn’t meant as a dismissive “Why would you do a Skydive (you idiot)” and more of a supportive “Why would you do a Skydive (you BLOODY MANIAC!)” Still, why would I do a Skydive? To say I have done it. To add another chapter to My Story. To add a capital L to the sentence “To say that I have Lived.” All this, and I was only halfway through the trip. Bring. It. On.

There is nothing I could write here that would do justice to The Poo Pub, nor to just how spectacularly hammered everybody (except Les and Koru) got that night. This was the big party of the whole trip, and it is billed as such.

At this point I would encourage you to pause and do a Google search for “The Poo Pub, New Zealand.” Somebody, somewhere must have done a brilliant write up as to what this place was, and maybe even why it decided to take on a bonkers Kiwi Express night-out most evenings of the year.

If not made clear in the diary, The Poo Pub is a remote bar and hostel somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Mahinpua on the West Coast. ‘Pua’ pronounced ‘Poo-ah’, hence ‘Poo pub.’ It is ran (or at least owned) by an authentic New Zealand Cowboy / Farmer / Wizard called Les, who is at least 184 years old. As if Les was not busy enough, his business decides to not just open its doors and bedrooms to a bus load of Kiwi Express backpackers most nights, but he actively has the night at The Poo Pub promoted to be the most outrageous party of the trip.

This is why we were briefed beforehand by Koru, and had to stop in Greymouth so that we could all vote on a party theme, and buy costumes accordingly. This is why when you first step off the bus, Les treats you to the most epic barbecue you have ever had – all to line your stomach in advance of the drinking session. Almost every surface of every wall inside Les’ pub is covered with Polaroid photos of previous Kiwi Express parties, all on their own alcohol and venison BBQ-fuelled epic party.

Our own group Polaroid photo, is just a drop in a vast ocean of drunken Poo-Pub Polaroids. Perhaps there is some weird 'Shining' or Dorian Gray thing going on. Les gets us all so drunk, that we trap a piece of our souls in those Polaroids forever, allowing him to feed on the fragments, so that he can live for another 284 years.

I jest, of course. In my arrogant short-sightedness, I was still putting myself under the illusion that “I’m a little bit different to these drunk guys, right?” – thinking that I would be able to have a nice sensible grown up chat with Les about what it is like to be 384 years old, and to run a pub at the edge of the world. It is fairly obvious that I must have just spouted incoherent nonsense to poor old Les, asked for his picture, and drove him off to bed through sheer boredom. Sorry Les, sorry.

He was a cool guy though. During the BBQ, he saw that I had wolfed down my venison portion, as it was amazing. I figured he had to stick to set portions, as there was at least 40 of us to feed, plus his regulars. Instead, he clocked my empty plate.

“You’re finished?” he says.
“Er… Yeah.”
“No you’re not.” BANG. Another slab of BBQ venison hits my plate.
“Get that down.”

Note: I had never had Venison to this point, and apparently, I “never normally eat steak" – I don’t recognise that version of myself!

I was rather proud of my totally original tongue-in-cheek superhero, the Human Bar-Fly. I even came up with an original logo! A fair few other unique superheroes manifested that night, the best costumes making do with what little props and finances backpackers have to hand (i.e., not much). One of the Manc-Lads had a (brilliant) card-playing theme going, and invented Gamblor! Complete with catchphrase for enemies who were defeated by him at cards. “Curse you Gamblor!” We had a fair few Mexican wrestlers (I drew a ‘Captain’ logo for Laurence, but I’ve no recollection what the second half of his name was meant to be. Captain Crazy?), Pirates, a Mummy, a Bee, a few lads in Togas (bin bags), a Fairy and at least two Rambos.

But the Avengers have nothing to worry about.

The Poo Pub and the antics of all who have been through there, and survived, need a good old Google search to do them justice. My only niggling thought then, as now, is Why? Why invite this drunken madness down upon your home and business? Do places like The Poo Pub rely on the tourist trade? Specifically, a large chunk of trade from the Kiwi Express?

Les, of course, could just be “mad for it” at 484 years old. But even if this were the case, our next stop at another business on the West Coast, Bushman Pete’s Museum, would answer the question without a doubt - they must need the trade. Nobody would invite a bus load of hungover backpackers, post Poo-Pub, to their business unless they absolutely needed to. And Bushman Pete, of Bushman Pete’s Museum, struck us as a guy who didn’t much care for sober museum visitors, never mind whatever it was we could be described as after our adventures at Les' place. Read on...