notes from a south island
(Sept 05) My holiday notes of a trip I made to the south island of New Zealand in September 2005. I'll be disappointed if you read the following and don't believe I enjoy experiencing things that are sufficiently outside my comfort zone. In some ways, occasionally far enough outside to feel sick with fear.
The highlights of my trip were as follows:
(1) Learning to snowboard in “the Remarkables”. In case you are wondering, these mountains were so named as being one of only two true north-south mountain ranges (the other is in Chile). My instructor, Dustin, was a South African fellow who was well tanned and well jewelled (of the gold and diamond earring variety). I found his heavily accented instructions highly motivating (note that these instructions did NOT include phrases like “I will beat you with a big stick if you don’t get this right”). On the plus side, I was very quick to pick up technique and speed on my snowboard. On the minus side, I failed to master the art of stopping, which made for some spectacular stacks. Awesome.
(2) Interesting nightlife in a town that buzzed from 10pm each night. A personal favourite was viewing an entertaining bar “entrance” by some Christchurch footballers on their season end annual trip. Captain “star-striker” with vice captain “wingman” and the “goalie” strolled into “Surreal Bar” dressed in (op‑shop acquired) daggy tracksuits, mirrored sunglasses and headbands reminiscent of 1970s tennis players. They made a beeline for the dance floor where wingman proceeded to moon the crowd before they all carved up the floor with the hammiest of dance moves. The rest of the team (similarly attired) arrived shortly thereafter. The boys were a winner with the ladies although, being soccer players, some were more interested in touching up each other rather than the snow bunnies in the bar. As it turns out, there seemed to be a slight challenge for boys travelling to Queenstown. The boys in this town outnumbered the girls 3-to-1 and a fair chunk of the tourists were British lassies preferring to pick up party pills than partake in the sausage sizzle. The odds were shortened slightly as half the lads in town were spotty faced teenagers travelling in packs.
(3) Davey – a Scottish lad in his 11th month of a 12-month working visa (having travelled though Central America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand). Ohmygod! An automatic +2 on the talent rating scale for the thick accent. Sure, I struggled to understand half of what he said, but it sounded interesting. For anyone contemplating Scotland as part of their travels, apparently new years’ 200,000 plus crowd festivities outside of Edinburgh Castle are highly recommended particularly if you like being smashed and soaking wet at the same time (although he personally thought the 20,000 plus crowd in Glasgow was better for a much more intimate experience without the risk of cancellation if the weather was inclement). Scotland in the winter? Crowd festivities activity at somewhere like Carnivale in Brazil is far more appealing.
(4) A helicopter ride from Milford Sound back to Queenstown over the South Island mountain ranges. The pilot was a cowboy so the ride was fun because it was up and down and around these enormous mountains and included a landing atop a snowy peak some 4000 feet above the valley below. This trip went a hell of a long way towards helping me overcome my fear of “at height” snowdrifts.
(5) Doing tandem hang-gliding from 3700 feet. A truly amazing experience. Yes, I signed an insurance waiver. No, not every overseas trip I make involves a death wish on my part. I felt terrified, exhilarated and nauseous as I took off that mountain and time seemed to stop while I was in the air (it was about 20 minutes in real time). I was allowed to steer the hang-glider by myself about half way down. Scary (but not as much as I thought it might be). Spectacular views and a great way to wake up from any slumber. the picture at the start of this post is of that moment...