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Published: January 27th 2011
The Mighty Beard
I am in the process of growing it back
Hello from Queenstown! After I left Christchurch I went to Dunedin (pronounced Dun-ee-din) by way of a 5 hour bus ride. The bus depot was in the middle of town which was only 2.5km from the hostel I was staying at (Elm Lodge, which was situated on Elm Row, which contrary to popular belief does not have a single elm growing on it) but the relative elevation of the two was something like half the elevation of the Himalayas, and I bet you can guess which one was higher. Despite my rather viscous purge of detritus I had acquired while I was the proud owner of Helga, I still had way too much stuff.
Two English girls on the bus were also going to the hostel and despite our best hopes, the hostel management would not send a vehicle down to pick us up. We walked the whole way up, the girls sensibly with only a medium sized pack and shoulder bag each, while I had my big pack nearly bursting at the seams with a tent, sleeping bag, pair of jandles, and plaid jacket secured to the outside, in addition to my daypack strapped to my chest stuffed full
of everything that would not go into the larger pack. To top it all off, I also had my cooler bag with food and spices, thank goodness I had enough common sense to do away with what was left of my baking materials! To make an embarrassing story painless, we made it to the hostel, and I am happy to note that I was not the only one winded and red in the face!
The city isn’t that interesting, I took a few pictures but nothing was really all that memorable. The hostel was pretty nice and there were some great people there. There was an impressive video library where I saw a DVD that literally changed my life. If you are technically savvy or have access to a younger person who is, download the New Zealand made movie “Black Sheep” (not that I condone piracy of videos or music in any way, I just totally do it myself because free is cheaper than not free). It’s about genetically engineered zombie sheep with a taste for blood! I actually saw it twice because after I described it to a girl from the hostel, she insisted we watch it immediately.
The girl who was so interested in such a B grade horror movie was Lauren, from Israel but born in Canada so I initially mistook her for North American due to the accent. We later planned to see some yellow eyed penguins, but renting a car was unfortunately not an option because it was too late by the time we called them on Saturday they would be closed all day Sunday. The plan to rent the car came about because there is a tour you can take there, but it costs $85 a head and we deemed it not worth it. There are penguins in other parts of New Zealand!
The next best thing was the Speight’s Brewery tour! How does one relate to the other in the remotest sense? The easiest answer I can possibly give you is that it makes sense to a backpacker. The tour was pretty good, there was a large section on the history of the brewery, a long tour through the production floor (actually it’s done over several floors) and then to the tasting room. There were only 3 instructions given for the tasting, 1 form a line and move around the
This is the view you're met with driving into town
bar counter clockwise, 2 hold the glass in your left hand (Speight’s is brewed for the “Southern Man” who need their right hands free either to shake hands or throw punches), 3 tilt the glass and don’t let it touch the tap. The 4th but hinted at rule was that the tour ended at 7PM so we had the whole of 15 minutes to sample what we could.
We teamed up with several German guys who were also on the tour and we decided to go on to a pub down the street. There was some live music, but it seemed that the talent was more interested in learning how to say cheers in German (Prost with a rolled R) than they were in playing! I was somehow talked into shaving of the mighty beard I have spent the past 2 months cultivating so the following morning I took the majestic beast off. My face is now cold in the wind, and almost sadly barren.
I decided to go to Queenstown with Lauren
for the fun and excitement it promised to bring, so I set to getting rid of even more stuff with slightly more reckless abandon so that I might actually be able to walk around with my gear. After sending a little more homeward and donating the other stuff to the backpacker fund (free stuff pile) we were off to the bus depot and Queenstown!
Queenstown can be the only town on the face of the planet were you can see Para gliders soaring around a mountain chateau that is connected directly to the town by gondola, while a speed boat tows a Para sailor around the lake where multiple jet-boats (speed boats with water jet engines that drive at breakneck speeds up rivers that aren’t deep enough to get your knees wet in) are tied up, and that’s just what you can see from the bus driving in! In addition to that, there are 3 places to bungy jump from, the worlds highest swing, skydiving, horse treks, ATV (which they only refer to as quads here) tours, and a handful of hiking tracks. The town’s registered population is something like 5000, but this number swells to 18-21,000 in peak
One of the many tethered at the docks
summer season due to all the backpackers.
So what does your’s truly do? I promptly signed up to do the highest bungy jump in New Zealand, the Nevis! This bad boy is a 134 meter drop from a suspended cable platform to the river in the valley below. The one major fault with my plan was that I signed up to do it 2 days after we arrived in Queenstown so I had the whole of 48 hours to start thinking about what I had actually signed up for. AJ Hackett, in all their wisdom, have a policy of no refunds.
The following few days were filled with sampling local cuisine such as the Ferg Burger (Queenstown’s most famous hamburger, decent enough, but probably not worth all the hype all the backpackers give it) and searching for a certain bar named The Tardis (Lauren is an avid Dr. Who fan, I’ve even seen the first 3 seasons myself thanks to the music, movies, and tv shows I got from Tobias back in Tauranga ). Besides that we explored the city and went to several of the sights, including the gondola ride up
to the restaurant/ridiculously overpriced everything shop and really got to see the whole town, not to mention the bungy jump station just below the viewing balcony, which looked stupidly high to me being on the side of a mountain, but this one was a mere 40 meters! My anxiety was growing and I had only an hour before I was supposed to go.
My travel companion was exceedingly sympathetic to my plight (see extreme sarcasm) with words of encouragement like “The worst that could happen is that the cable breaks and you hit the ground dead!” and “They do this all the time! The equipment is probably worn out and they’ll be super complacent!” Jeez, thanks for the compassion Lauren.
It’s odd that I think about it now, but I had almost no apprehension about the skydive which hypothetically should be a lot more dangerous than a simple bungy jump, but there are statistics and hypotheticals, and there’s the way you actually feel about something. The 2 seem to be rarely aligned with one another.
The time came after the 45 minute bus ride when we arrived on the mountain where they had everything ready for us
and the dozens of other who had gone that day. We got harnessed up, and were tightly strapped in (not that I would have preferred for the harness to be loose, but all the guys walked with a pronounced waddle) and waited our turn to get on the tiny “Deathtrap gondola” (my name for it) that would ferry us out to the platform. We managed to survive the voyage to the platform and each waited for our go. While waiting, I made the rookie mistake of looking through the Plexiglas strip that ran across the floor and saw the 1,340,000mm plunge. My turn eventually came up as I dreaded it would and my legs were strapped together while I sat in the most poorly secured chair I could imagine (there was a little bit of play around the base and when you leaned back the chair shifted about a centimetre towards the jump ledge, just enough to take a year off the end of your life) and had the cord hooked up.
Out of the chair, shuffle shuffle and I was at the ledge, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! And I flung myself over the edge. About 2
seconds into the fall my jaw is locked and I say nothing but my brain has caught up enough to be thinking “*Censored* *Censored* Oh holy *Censored*” An additional 2 seconds go by and I get the notion to shout something which I believe was to the tune of “YEAAAAAAAAA!” I continue on until the cord stretched to where I was slung back skyward where I believe I was able to articulate the most intellectual observation I could muster at that point which was “FUCK YEAAAAAAAAA!” (pardon the language but I was somewhere between falling to possible death and being flung to possible death). At the top of the second bounce I pulled the cord attaching the hook to my leg straps so that I was only attached at the chest ring by the harness. A few bounces later and the clamp came down the cord and hooked up to the bottom of the bungy where the connector was attached, and reeled me in.
I had thought that the jerk at the bottom would be quite violent, but it was actually extremely gently, you slow down for a half second where the cord stretches out and you are stopped
Enthusiasm is just oozing out of me
for an instant before you are shot back up. I’d be lying if I said that the fall itself wasn’t a little scary, with the rocky river coming at you at 32 feet per second per second, but that was something in the back of my mind behind the actual jumping part of the experience. All in all it was a lot of fun and I’m glad that I made myself do it in spite of my apprehension.
The day following Lauren and I parted company, she went north to Fox Glacier while I headed to the far south to Stewart Island, I had intended to go there from Dunedin but the great thing about backpacking is that plans can change on a whim.
I’m actually writing the end of this here in Oban, Stewart Island but I’ll wait until I get back to Invercargill to give you the full account of my activities here.
Talk at you again later!
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