After that, the real fun started. Oh, well first we went to breakfast (brunch?) and then headed back to see our new Russian friends. Valery had organised a Grand Day Out with his friend, Vadim, who apparently 'really likes women' but 'not in a womaniser sort of way'. Hmm. A, the check captain, said we would probably wake up in a ice bath minus our livers. When we got there, Valery expanded with 'Vadim he very big man, he likes food' which began our preparation for what was to come.
We sat outside on Valery's patio waiting for Vadim to arrive (I tell him two o'clock but he not here so come, I show you good view).
We talked about Russia, and churches, and how New Zealand has churches at every intersection, and how Valery's wife is in Russia visiting their son. I think we may have talked about politics and revolutions but I'm not entirely sure of what he was saying. I asked him how many children he had and he seemed unsure. I have two, he stated, but, I do not know of the others, you see, when I was young man I had many women. I was womaniser. Ha ha ha.'
Vadim arrived, to much barking from Maria's dog, 'Daughter'. We blinked, blinked again, and wished for sunglasses. Possibly around 6'5", Vadim was garishly dressed in bright yellow tracksuit bottoms, an orange T-shirt, and a navy jacket with an even brighter yellow lining. Not to mention the blue/red/orange/yellow runners. He made his way unsteadily onto the patio, there were introductions all around, and then Valery waved us off. We settled in to Vadim's small van, and careered off down the road, Vadim talking loudly and happily about everything and anything, in a strong Russian accent, every now and then flooring it and then suddenly realising a corner was coming up, slamming on the brakes and yanking the steering wheel in the appropriate direction.
There's a viral video circulating on Facebook of a toddler reading a picture book. He spells out every letter, for example P-A-R-A-K-E-E-T and then exclaiming 'BIRD!' Or S-H-A-R-K and 'DOLPHIN!' It was a bit like that with Vadim. We would pass lots of politician banners and placards and L would ask politely 'is it election time in Auckland?' And Vadim would answer 'yes, yes, yes' with a pause and then 'yes, the roads are only really busy for one or two hours a day' or another time, she attempted 'I'm glad we had a cup of tea before we left the house', I continued with 'yes that was good' and Vadim announced 'yes, you want coffee - we will stop and get some" careering to the side of the road to a BP that sold coffee.
'Ha ha ha ha,' Vadim would laugh at himself every other sentence. 'Ha ha ha ha my friend he say how do you be so strong, and I say I get up every morning, I drink two hundred fifty grams vodka and then, I go for walk. Ha ha ha. He say, Vadim, I get up, I have two hundred fifty grams vodka, fifteen minutes later, ha ha ha, I pass out.'
There was a lot of talk of food. 'You want lamb? You do not buy lamb from supermarket, no no no, yucky yucky, you go Muslim people, they cut throat, it is very fresh, yummy yummy' and 'i go fishing, six, seven hours, I catch snapper, Marlin, easy peasy, yummy yummy.' Everything was either 'easy peasy' or 'yummy yummy' or 'yucky yucky'.
He took us down an amazingly scenic winding road to a secluded beach (ice bath? Liver?) which would have been breathtakingly beautiful if it wasn't so heart-stoppingly terrifying. Playing placid Louis Armstrong all the way there, it was quite a surprise to have loud techno on the way but, but perhaps appropriate with the swerving, swaying, hanging-on-to-seat belts we were doing.
We heard about Mr Stalin, of Mr Lenin, of the 6 million Russians Mr Lenin had killed, and of the 80 million Mr Stalin polished off, half the population of Russia. We learnt how if you had money in Russia you were ok, but if you didn't, it was hopeless, and how cold it was in Siberia. He hunted wolves in Kazakhstan, Tigers (I forget where), but gave up on those when he witnessed one taking a fifteen metre leap towards a hunter. He had a half-wolf that loved him, but hated all other humans, and he went diving and lost a fishing knife in a shark. He ate dogs in Korea, and horses tasted the best of all. He worked in the security force for a Russian president and owned a car company that sold luxury cars, had a wife but she left him and he wouldn't take her back. A lot of it was unintelligible, and there was a lot of smiling and nodding.
Bethells Beach with its black sand and volcanic outcrops
The beach he took us to was pretty cool, with black sand. The Western side of NZ has black sand, apparently, with the Pacific side's white, and it was incredible to see the sparkling black and feel it soft and clean between our toes.
We walked the whole way along, with a lot of huffing, puffing, and talking, from Vadim, and explored a cave at the end.
Vadim and his amazing outfit
Vadim told us of a penguin he met while diving near there, and how it came up to him for a cuddle. He explained how he wore a 5mm wetsuit to stay warm, and I looked at him and wondered how he possibly got into a wetsuit. He showed us the plankton washed up on the sand, creamy on the black, and explained how the snapper followed the fish that followed them, so it was almost fishing season.
Plankton residue on the sand
He showed us all of the different volcanic rocks, and told us where the river came from up in the hills, and how there was a lake up there, so clear you could see the fishes swimming at the bottom. He found little swirly shells for us and explained it was the only beach in NZ where you would find them.
From a cave
In the cave
When it was time to leave, he told us he would take us to a park, and buy us bread to feed the birds. No kidding, he bought an entire loaf for each of us, and once there, identified every species and told us facts about them. There were geese, both Canadian and otherwise.
Black swans and a duck of some kind, I forget the name, but apparently they're quiet. Eels and catfish in the lake, that came up to snatch the bread from the swans, and little Australian ducks that dived to the bottom. He seemed so proud of it, his little lake.
Sadly it was soon time to go home and say goodbye to Vadim, who we thanked profusely. Maybe if we come back to Auckland we will see him again!