Published: July 1st 2006June 29th 2006
The Bourgening adrenaline junky in me needed one more big hit. Just one hit like. Then, I promised myself that I would abandon this dangerously fast lifestyle for a job and a mortgage. Newzealand would provide ample oppurtunity for a fix to remember. - Irvine Walsh eat your heart out.
The weather had turned ugly and New Zealand was experiencing its coldest winter in a decade. Freezing rain fell outside the window of my room at the massive Aukland Central Backpackers, and the cold temperatures drove my hostel mates and I towards the bottle. A night of taking advantage of NZ's 24 hour drinking began, and at 5 am I found myself at a 70's disco watching the people beside me snort lines of herbal ecstacy from a mirrored table.
When I opened my eyes the next morning, I remembered a promise I had made the night before to help a random stoner fix his house. I called the number and let it ring. It was nearly noon, but I had woken him up. When he picked me up 20 minutes later his first joint of the day was already lit. We spent an hour carrying scrap wood to
a dumpster, at which time he decided we needed Pizza Hut. One more hour of work and it was decided that he needed another joint. He was now too stoned to work so he sent me home for the day...
Taupo is a town which owes its existance to its beautiful surroundings on the shores of a massive crater lake and in the shadow of The Lord of the Rings Mount Doon. We arrived on the first sunny day in weeks. It was a sign from the sky gods to jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet. 16 of us packed inside the tiny twin engine propellor plane and took off. The instructors ate sandwiches and made jokes about falling to our bloody end. They strapped us to our Tandem instrucors. I watched as all of the other teachers explained step by step what was going to happen. I looked back at my partner, hoping for, at very least, a word of encouragement. He said nothing.
Seconds later the door to the plane opened and people began hurling themselves outside. I began to have regrets. I never did enough drugs, had enough sex, or climbed enough
mountains. It wasn't my time to go. But before I could think of a way to back out I was free falling at 200 km an hour towards the earth. It was cold. I remember realising that I wasn't wearing any socks. The view was phenomenal, and the feeling exhilerating. As my cheeks flapped violently in the wind, I began laughing uncontrollably. Laughing because I was alive. The chute opened and my partner and I floated gracefully to the ground, making small talk on the way down.
The next morning I would attempt to hike the Tongariro Crossing; a 9 hour trek past crater lakes and dramatic mountain passes. The heavy snowfall had closed the pass for the past week, but thankfully we found a local guide with a van and climbing equipment crazy enough to take us out despite the weather advisory against it. The snow was waist deep and the weather was treacherous. Half way up the Devils staircase, the weather turned, and within minutes we were trekking in the middle of a full blown blizzard. We had to turn back. Once more I tested the boundaries of safety and reason; once more I lived to tell
The bad weather was not just restricted to the high mountain passes, and by the next morning all roads leaving Taupo were closed. And so, 4 more days were spent sitting in the hostel jacuzzi, awaiting a change of fortune. The life of a backpacker isn't easy. Some days I long for the predictability and emotional stability of the daily grind. If only, I thought as I sat in ther hostel sauna with two beautiful bikini clad girls, drinking beer, I could be sitting in an office doing data entry. If only.
A night on the town in Wellington, a day at Marine World in Napier, and 3 glorious days of hiking and mountain climbing in Mount Maganui flashed before my eyes...
Monopoly is a game which embraces the ideals of Capitalism in its purest form. It is also a game which I fancy myself a bit of a conniseur of. And so, on a quiet afternoon in Mount Manganui, NZ, I was delighted to find myself at a Monopoly board with three Russian backpackers. I had not begun to consider Russia's long Communist history, or the ramifications this might have had on the board
Clare and I
after surviving the jump
game playing skills of three products of said history. We chose our pieces. ("Sorry gentlemen, There is no Hammer or Sickle in Monoploy"). I kept this off color joke to myself and reached for the puppy dog. The game began. I was shocked and apalled at the strategic and tactical errors being made my three Bolshevik companions at every corner. Prime real estate was passed up, properties were traded like baseball cards, and when I grew dominant and the inevitability of my victory became clear, the three resorted to cheating to try to stop me. I heard a deep seeded feeling of frustration rumble inside me. My competativeness for Monopoly had long been dormant, put to sleep by Vikki and Darcy after that unfortunate incident at Sharon King's cabin, but I could feel it stirring. It wanted out. I bit my tongue and laughed it off. This was not the time or place to ignite a cold war I couldn't win.
The game went on and the Russians fell one by one. It was only a matter of time before my Scotty Dog would wag his cute little tail in celebration of his decisive victory over the Russian back
packers and over the last remnants of Communist ideology. It was down to me and the thimble. My Boardwalk and Park Place hotels had been profitable, and if I secured Pennsylvania Avenue, a new phase of construction would begin on my Green properties. His only reliable source of income was his control of the railways and utilities. Then, I watched as he raised his hand and reached, out of turn, towards his thimble to pick it up. "I quit, you were going to win anyways and I have to take a piss." He had quit, robbing me of the taste of victory and dismissing my dominance as something trivial.
I worry for the future of Russia. Their lack of understanding of the market sytem, as well as their inability to see things through to the end will be detriments in a future that is increasingly competative and cut throat... Oh ya , I forgot... It's just a friggin board game.
I am in Aukland, Its early. I stumble out of bed and attempt to pack my backpack in complete darkness. I may very well miss this flight to Fiji.
New Zealand is the best country in the
world to live in. The cost of living is reasonable, the people are modest, warm and genuine, the geography is dramatic, and the adventure sports are plentiful. I reluctantly say goodbye to NZ, knowing that I will be back someday soon with a one way ticket and a bigger suitcase.
More pics to come.
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