Sunday, March 15, 2009

All Roads Lead to Queenstown

Covering february 9th to february 17th

After the Kepler track I took a day off to rest my feet and get my bearings. I didn't want to sit idle for too long as I felt I was behind schedule, so I booked a kayaking trip on the Milford Sound for the next day. I figured it would be a good way to be active and still be able to rest my legs. I was a bit concerned about the weather as it'd been quite bad all day. The weather in the Fjordlands is very temperamental however, and the next day was as beautiful as anyone could've hoped.

I was in a double kayak with Tiphaine, or San, as she prefers. San is french. Very french. Passing a waterfall on the way to Milford, everyone went "ooh, ooh!" and pulled out their cameras, except San, who nonchalantly took the cigarette from her mouth and exclaimed "Iz o.k."
She dresses like a pirate, a very beautiful pirate mind you, and she is great fun being around and a marvel to study. Fortunately she has a great sense of humour and doesn't take herself too seriously. We coordinated our double-kayak very well, but then again, that's what you'd expect from two people whose names mean stuff like "Divine Apparition" and "Beauty of God" isn't it? ;)

The kayaking was amazing and generally very relaxing. Unlike the cruise boats, we got right up to the cliffs and we were only meters from the NZ fur-seals resting there. The waterfalls were magnificent too, and we got as the kayaks could go.

The road from Te Anau to Milford is studded with a plethora of sights which were as varied as they were beautiful.

The next day San and I went horseback riding. It was ok, but honestly I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to gallop. I understand the safety issues, but what's the fun in trotting? Besides, galloping is far easier. And we wore helmets.

Fuck yeah. Helmets!

That same afternoon I hitch-hiked for the first time in NZ. Hitch-hiking is extremely easy in New Zealand. Anywhere I stood, I didn't wait for more than 20 minutes for a ride.

That evening as I left the hostel I'd chosen, the town revealed its true identity to me. I was standing on a hillside with mountains on three sides. Beyond the town in front of me, I could see jetboats zipping around cruise-ships and steam-boats on the lake. Above me, hang-gliders were looping and the screams of para-gliders reached me even as I stood wondering at their madness. Before my feet lay the thundering adventure metropolis of the world, Queenstown. She had something to offer!

It's hard to describe what Queenstown feels like. It reminds me of Don Rosa's rendition of Klondike at the height of the gold rush days in his "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck". There's a fortune being made here for the people running the adventure businesses, and a fortune to be spent by everybody else. The key to my backpacker's room had the allure of 2 for 1 prices at two different bars in town, which resulted in five consecutive nights of drinking. Every bar has a theme for each night of the week, and thursday was Wet T-shirt contest at the Buffalo. Madness I tell you. Madness!

My infamous and insatiable hunger eventually led me to Fergburger, which just so happens to have the best burgers I've ever tasted. Whoever thought of making a burger of such quality and then put bacon and blue-cheese in it surely deserves the nobel prize! (note: said burger goes well with a pinot noir.) This town could easily make me a very poor man!

I decided to go for some adrenaline, and I thought about doing the Shotover Canyon Swing . In a flurry of quick decisions I ended up booking it for that afternoon and fear started churning in my stomach right away. Fortunately, I'm fairly well versed in that particular anticipatory kind of fear, and I was able to put it out of my head for most of the day. Remember what I said about worrying? I'd made a decision.
Of course. I am not as perfect as I sometimes lead myself to believe, and a tingling sense of panic had me itching all day, whether I cared to admit it or not. I showed up at the meeting point way too early and found it very hard to speak. The team I was going with had around ten people, and my fears that I was the only nervous one were quickly abolished as I looked around the bus. Someone piped up, asking the driver what it was like. "Oh, I haven't tried it. No way! I've seen what happens to those people!" He was joking of course. The bastard.

They led us up a narrow dirt track and after around 300 meters we came to the all-too-shabby looking building we'd be jumping from. Looking down that valley, it hit me what I was doing.

I have a motto: It's okay to be scared, as long as I do it anyway.

Me: There's no way I'm doing this!
Jumpmaster: okay, cool. If you just put on this harness.
I put on the harness.
M: There's no way I'm doing this!
JM: What's your name?
M: Jophiel
JM: Hello Garfield. Is there any physical handicaps we should be aware of?
M: I'm from Denmark
JM: Well, apart from the obvious ones I meant. Just walk this way. Look, this is where you'll be jumping.
What! the! hell! am! I! doing!
JM: We'll just check if your harness is secure. Wait is this supposed to be loose?
Assistant: I don't know, it'll probably be alright. This looks wrong though. Nevermind, just let him do it.
They mess with your mind like that. They are not good people.
M: There's no way I'm doing this!
JM: Do you see the camera? Give it a smile.
I made the weakest attempt at a smile ever.

I knew how to do this. All I had to do was to wait for that milisecond where my mind wasn't thinking about where I was, jump, and worry about the rest on the way down. I found it, I jumped, I panicked.
But I knew immediately that this was the best, most intense thing I'd ever done! I did two jumps in all, the second one hanging upside down.

That evening Sarah (from Invercargill) came to Queenstown, and the next day I took her to paradise. Paradise, however, turned out to be overrated. Far too many sandflies. The road there was gorgeous, but fairly tough, and offroading in a Nissan Bluebird is a death-defying act.

This afternoon I arrived in Wanaka. Wanaka has much the same offering of adrenaline pumping activities, but it's a smaller, quieter town, and a welcome contrast to the kind of "hyper-life" I lived in Queenstown. Despite this, I've already booked a full-day canyoning trip for tomorrow, and a voluntary ejection from an airplane in flight for the day after. Awesome!


Bozo said...

Heya Joph, that looks insane, had actually seen it on the telly, but much cooler when you actually know the face :)

We did a skitrip last week, and we talked about your blog, we know you want all these nice pictures to go with it, but we also want updates faster, so what if you post your textwalls a bit more often and then do pictures when you find a suiting upload place?

Jophiel said...

That might be an idea!

Right now I actually have everything uploaded, it's just a matter of spending time on putting it together. I'll pull myself together, quit the perfectionism, and get some more stuff up soon.

Thanks for the idea, good to know that you're reading and want more :)