Odd place-names prove to be an excellent magnet

	Cosy Nook, in Southland. PHOTO: SOUTHLAND EXPRESS
Cosy Nook, in Southland. PHOTO: SOUTHLAND EXPRESS
You don't need to be certifiable to indulge yourself in distinctly odd fantasies. The world would be as dull as a diet dinner if we couldn't savour our favourite daydreams.

I speak not of the ordinary fantasies like winning Lotto or finding a decent Devonshire tea. No, I mean the fruitier flights of fancy - the ones whacko enough to give other people pause.

My mind takes a particular head trip when I pull into gas stations. This began when I had a job where the hours were long and the responsibility unrelenting - and all that was better than going home.

I'd pull up to the pump on the way to work, put in the nozzle, and begin pouring. As I watched the dollar and litre dials whirl, the same fantasy entered my mind. Always.

I wasn't filling up to plod to work. I was doing it to travel north - away into the sunshine. Each litre that clicked past the dial took me another 10km up the road. I'd pay the cashier for a full tank and then, instead of turning left to the Sydney office, I'd turn right, hit the expressway, and cruise north. To who knows where - the Gold Coast, Noosa, Tallebudgera Creek?

I'd phone the office and tell them: "It's hit the fan in Surfers' Paradi - I mean Queensland - and it'll take a week to sort out. You guys get on with things, and only phone if it's critical" (i.e. not more than twice a day).

But I never did turn right and just drive on - what bloke with a Presbyterian upbringing could?

The mad work pressures are gone now, but still the petrol-pump fantasy returns. Last week I was filling up at Frankton, and as the litres indicator spun, I felt a surging need to suddenly hit the road to - yes, Riverton, that would do.

Riverton has been called "The Riviera of the South", and indeed the two places share something important in common. Both are situated beside the sea.

I zipped past home, grabbed an overnight bag, and hit the highway. After finding a room, I walked the beach, had my fish and chips and then, rather than taking on Riverton's chic nightspots and buzzing casinos, read a thriller. Well pleased with the day's escape, I turned off the light.

Next morning, breezing along the road that crosses our southernmost coast, I had to slam on the brakes. I'd sped passed a signpost pointing to a place called Cosy Nook.

I'm a sucker for places with odd names - I find it hard to pass them by. The day before I'd diverted from the main road into Nightcaps. What reasonable person would let a place named Nightcaps pass unattended? (Or a nightcap at the pub).

I have a history of missions to places chosen because I fancied a weird name. I signed on for a trip to Goondiwindi with a Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, because who would not feel called to a Goondiwindi?

It's most intriguing feature was the Goondiwindi hotel, where the barman poured beer from inside a wire and steel cage, and gingerly pushed it out through the barricade to the patrons. (This cage allowed him to survive in his job past 1pm).

Or Rumjungle, a few clicks off the road out of Darwin. Rumjungle had the region's most popular swimming creek because it was the only one without crocodiles. But Rumjungle had also hosted a high-grade uranium mine which supplied the American military. People hadn't understood the run-off from the mine's slag heap might be as dangerous as the crocs.

My most eccentric (read "idiotic") name-chasing journey took me to Zamboanga, a place name which sounds like an exotic jungle outpost where you discover Dr Livingstone. And Zamboanga was the title of an ancient Hollywood movie which promised it was "filmed with a native cast".

While writing a series from the Philippines, I had a few days spare, looked at the map, and there it beckoned: Zambo-bloody-anga. An invitation to kit out in a safari suit and pith helmet.

Because Zamboanga was (and remains) a centre of conflict with Moro Muslim rebels, it gave me a valid excuse to go there, while also putting another weird name on the list. I didn't buy the safari suit, but I did indulge in the vanity of a column datelined: ZAMBOANGA.

Which in the names list, is up there with Cosy Nook, a small Southland bay which I can report is, well, a cosy nook.

But if it becomes your fantasy destination, be warned that the only visitor accommodation in Cosy Nook is small squat building. Its signage states simply: "The Long Drop Lodge. Short stays only."

 - John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.



Du'vauchelles, Banks Peninsula, day trip.

Devotions? I'm not going to devotions! I have my own faith.