8th to the 9th of October 2011
Shortly around 2pm it waas time to leave the very picturesque Wanaka. Could definately stay longer next time.
Taking in the view
Our driver was Allen, one of the older members of the team but full of information.
We had a very interesting talk concerning the effects of 1080, the controversial “poison” used to control possums, rabbits and stoats. Derived from the bark of Africa’s Acacia trees, and used for generations of witch doctors, it is considered a natural compound and does not seem to build up in the environment. But only time will tell of course. Allen’s face literally lit up when I asked him to explain 1080 to me. I don’t think he gets many people actively interested in it.
You Scream, I scream, we all scream for Icecream
Stopping at Mrs. Smith’s (or something like that) fruit stand, we had a chance to pick up some fruit or veggies, or, like most of us,
some fresh fruit icecream. The concept was pure genious, choose your icecream, choose your fruit, its all combined and comes out as a soft serve. I chose raspberries with a touch of banana in cookies and cream icecream. DELICIOUS!!!!!
Oh don’t get your hopes up, this isn’t me going to fling myself off a perfectly good bridge. Instead it is our beloved Pompom. We went with the home of the bungy, the Kawarau Bridge, 42m over the Kawarau River and the world’s first commercial bungy site. It is shorter than others but it is the original. At least they don’t use vines. He also opted for the head dunk (you jump off the perfectly good bridge and get “dunked” in the freezing cold river up to your shoulders – perfectly good idea…not). 2 seconds of sheer adrenalin. I am quite happy to stand and take pics thank you very much.
We pulled into what could easily double as a European ski town. That is at least I think so as I have never seen one in person. It was stunning, at the base of the ski slopes at the shore of a large lake and our hostel, Bumbles, was right on the lake front on the edge of town. We had arrived at 5.30pm and we only had 3hrs before the England vs France rugby game. So we dumped our stuff and set to painting faces. We had managed to find some “paint”, if you can call it that, at a $2 store in Wanaka. It was more like an oily base, but it worked and I soon had Tom and Amy with full on English flags and Amelia with a French flag. As I was friends of both I got a small flag on each side, we did consider painting my face with the Swiss flag as I was neutral… We took a couple of pics at the lake side, then off to dinner.
Allez lez bleu
The FERGBURGER… da da da daaaaaaaa
Everyone who knew I was heading to Queenstown made me promise to get a Fergburger. Little did I know what gastronomical experience awaited me. I chose the tropical and paid my $13.50. As we waited we saw people handed their large bags of burgers and watched as the hefted them out the doors. Then it was our turn. HOLY SHITE!!!!!! When I pulled mine out I realised it was bigger than my head. I didn’t even know they made buns that big. I swear it must have had half a pineapple on or something. We all set to devouring and all you heard were the occasional grunt of pleasure or the expression of concern
at being able to finish it. I was the only one unable to force it in, leaving 1/4, but I did eat off all the bacon. I was also the only one
that somehow managed to get sauce all over my fingers and face. What can I say I love eating with hands.
Go England / Allez lez bleus
Now thoroughly stuffed twice over we waddled over to the pub for the rugby. We went to the Altitude bar attached to the Base hostel and
met a whole bunch of other Magic members. One of the great things about traveling with Magic is you often end up having a friend
at the next town that you met on the bus before. As Magic customers the hostel had some specials including 2 for 1 and free shots at the end of the game. You got to choose your winning team and if it won there would be a $500 tab at the bar for the supporters. The night was fantastic. Pompom (Tom) was in full spirit, even though he is a football/soccer man.
Pompom has spirit
We watched as England, butter fingers all the way, lost to France and then we danced the night away with supporters from both teams.
I had chosen England so was not able to join in the free drinks. France lost to Tonga for pete’s sake how was I to know the English must had a greasy pile of chips before hand as they didn’t seem able to hold onto the ball. There was a group of 4 frenchmen that hung out with us and one of them seemed interested in dancing with me. It was great fun until he started to wander around apparently surveing his options.
the not so impressive frenchman
Finally just ignored him just as I closed the night out with a very cute aussie who I had actually noticed at the beginning of the night. Unfortunately he was heading out in the morning. Should of had the courage to talk to him earlier.
The night came to an end at 1.30am as the bar closed with a number of police trying to corral the French and the random kilted Scot who was flashing everyone. A good night for sure and rather proud of myself for hanging in there as crowds are not my thing and most times I just want to go home to bed.
The next morning
We rolled out of bed just before 11am. Was fantastic to have a good lie in. After coffee we looked at each other and realised, even after copious amounts of alcohol, none of us seemed hung over in the least. Our only conclusion was that the bar must have watered down the drinks, even the shot of tequila straight from from the bottle. Good for our health, but sneaky, very very sneaky. We decided to skip the Altitude bar and head to the SA vs Aus game that evening.
Skyline and luge races
Almost everyone wanted to go up the chair lift and go luging down the track. I didn’t want to luge and almost skipped the chair lift, which would have been a big mistake. Stina and Mans, Swedish, who had partied harder than any of us, decided to run up the mountain and meet us there. Well then, of course, that seems like the perfectly natural thing to do. The rest of shook our heads and headed for the lazy man’s ride. It was $25 but when we were up there, the views were amazing. As we stood and took pics on an absolutely gloriously blue sunny day, the tandem paragliders came over our heads and headed out to glide over the city. I envied them as part of me has always wanted to try it, but fear and cost had held me back.
stunning view of Queenstown
Stina and Mans were already waiting for us and while the others went to go get themselves sorted for the luge carts we went in to grab some water and a coffee. Then we went out to watch the kids play and take photos for them.
Tom, Amy, Stina, Amelia, Me, Freya, Mans
What a pretty picture
It did look like a lot of fun and was actually more like go cart racing than luging. As we enjoyed the sun, Mans decided to do some sit-ups and pushups. This guy is truly amazing, makes one feel quite inferior. Once everyone was done we gathered and decided to head down. Mans and Stina would run down, of course and the rest of us would cable car. While some of them went to go take photos at a cool spot I ran to the loo then sat and waited for them…right next to the paragliding hut…
A crazy idea
As I sat there and watched people go in and out of the paragliding hut and leave for their flights with their pilots, a crazy thought came to my mind. So I built up the courage and after a couple of false starts went into the information hut. The guy didn’t try and sell it, I had said I would be coming back and might do it then. But he did end with this statement:
“well we are weather dependent, today is perfect and you are here…”
As I stood outside with the pamphlet clutched in my rapidly becoming sweaty little paw, I started to have visions of me being able to do this, to jump off a perfectly good mountain and hope a thin piece of material would hold me up. But I needed the others to give me that final push and they were taking an awfully long time. I started to think they might have left without me. Just as I was nearing the point of running in the opposite direction and heading home they came around the bend. I couldn’t say anything by then and just held up the pamphlet, in my now sweaty and very shaky hands. They were a little confused:
“Hey, What? You want to paraglide? You? Now? Really?? Yes you should!”
The took me by the shoulders and guided me in. “I think I want to paraglide, no I do want to paraglide, I think”. It was a cost of $199
but with things like this the sheer fear took over my usually cheap skate mind and I could barely comprehend the cost. I was shaking so much that I don’t think my signature looked anywhere close. But it was accepted, I even got a free t-shirt. I then had about a 15min wait till my pilot came up. I had hoped the others would walk with me to the start or wait for me at the bottom, but they had other ideas and I was too nervous to articulate how much it would mean to me. Oh well, just go with the flow. While I waited I chatted with the young fellow in the hut. He was from Scotland and was doing some training flights with these guys until he could get his tandem license. This group was the only one allowed to fly over the city and 2 of the pilots were the Queenstown safety officers. So I assumed they had a high safety record. It is amazing how long 15min can be when you are waiting to meet your pilot to jump off a mountain with. But eventurally Jaimie, my pilot, showed up and we headed to the top.
What the hell am I thinking
I was shaking so badly that I was afraid I would fall out of the ski lift we had to use to get higher up the mountain. Jaimie then used a quad bike to take the shoot up and told me to walk, he would return the bike and meet me at the top.
This direction to fling yourself off a cliff
I think they make us walk to diminish any possible fight we might have left in us before the flight. I am fairly certain the steeper the hill the shorter my legs. Just as I was getting to the top Jaimie caught up with me. Damn I really need to get fitter.
The cliff..doesn't look that high right?
Jaimie was a kiwi, although I thought he was Aussie at first, so there was a definate chance he might drop me after we took off. He had started paragliding after being convinced it was a great hangover cure. It didn’t cure the hangover but he was addicted and ten years later he hadn’t died, yet. I made him promise that he was not going to get me addicted, as I already had a rather expensive hobby with scuba diving. He said he would do his best to avoid it!
He got me buckled in, in between laughing at how much I was shaking, I made the disclaimer that I would most likely scream and there was a high potential for foul language. He replied with:
“I love it when they scream”…
My instructions were as follows:
– I am going to look back to make sure the shoot catches the wind (always a good thing)
– you look forwards and when I say so take a few steps then run us off the moutain (run us where????)
– Ready? Go go go
Oh shit!!!!! I couldn’t go anywhere as, yes the shoot did inflate, but it also meant that the wind against the shoot held me in place and no matter how hard i tried I wasn’t pulling us anywhere. Then Jaimie turned round and ran us off the perfectly good stable mountain top. My response went something like this
-Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh sh&% sh&% F*&^% F*&^% f*&^% ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
aaahhhhhh, smile for the camera, ahhhhhhhh
That continued for the vast majority of the flight. After he had reminded me to open my eyes, and to breathe, and to release my death grip from the rather delicate equipment, I realised how amazing it was. There was about 10 seconds of pure heaven, just after he said “its about as close to being a bird as you can get”.
high as a kite
I marvelled at the quiet, at the rush of wind in my face and ears, the sun on my skin… Then he made an abrupt turn, my ecstasy changed to exilharation combined with a healthy dose of FEAR!!!! We skimmed over the tree tops, buzzed the skyline cafe and headed over Queenstown. The view was spectacular and as the expert pilot that he was, Jaimie was able to take some photos with his handy camera on tripod contraption (photo cd included in price).
The other side of paragliding
I was just beginning to relax, enjoy the views and the feeling when Jaimie informed me there were 2 styles of paragliding. This and what we were about to do.
– You may want to hold on again and remember to breathe.
In the next seconds we were doing a death spiral, or flipping over or doing both, I am not exactly sure as I was screaming so hard that I couldn’t breathe. There was actual a second or two that sheer terror seem to strike me. Meanwhile Jaimie was laughing in my ear. After the deathdefying stunt he kept telling me to breathe and open my eyes
– But I can’t do both at the same time!!!!!
All too soon, but still unable to breathe normally, we were coming in to land on the rugby field. So after skimming a house and choosing our spot to the right of some lads playing touch rugby I was given a new set of instructions as the earth appeared to be rapidly growing nearer.
– As we land take a few steps and stand up
Trying to remember to keep my eyes open I started running in mid air in preparation, but apparently I only remembered that part and not
the stand up part. We landed, gently, and then Jaimie stood there as I still swung my legs and said:
– you need to stand up
The best I could do was hunch over, as I was hyperventilating and shaking so much that my legs could barely hold me. My trusty pilot thought I was kidding until I showed him just how much I was shaking.
– you need a beer
– will it come with a straw as I don’t think I could hold the glass
I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, laugh, curl into a ball or jump up and down. All I could manage was breathing, barely. He showed me the video he had shot, which involved screaming and swearing and me with my eyes closed. Of course I paid the extra $20 for it. After a good 10min I was finally under control enough to walk. I said cheers and attempted to walk in a straight line to the pub to meet the others. The only downside of the whole adventure was not having someone waiting there for me afterwards. It is times like this that you really wish you had someone to share it with.
Jaimie you promised not to get me addicted, well you failed, I dream of going up again and am going to have to find a group in my home town. The only problem is, the only way I can afford it is to marry a paraglider, so if you know of any single ones, let me know, you owe me for getting me hooked on paragliding!
Free as a bird
SA vs Aus
The only word I could use to explain the feeling I experienced walking away from the landing spot was euphoric. I barely noticed where I was going and had to think hard to remember which direction to go in. The others texted me to say they were going to the store and to meet them in the pub. I replied asking for at least 1 of the 5 to join me as I didn’t want to sit in the pub alone. Mans and Stina joined me. We grabbed a free beer from the coupons Jaimie had given me then headed to meet the others. This was going to be a tough match but I hoped South Africa would continue my high and win through to the semi-finals. Throughout the entire game SA had 80% of the field. We played better. but somehow the blooming Aussies managed to slip through and win by 2 points. It was devastating for the current world champions. But what you going to do, there are only so many times you can say
we should’ve won! But at least my paragliding high was still there, with only a few notches knocked out of it.
We all headed back to the hostel where we had a group meal of burritos with sour cream and salsa. Amazing for a backpackers, but when you go in on it as a group it works out really cheap. Then we sat and did photo swops and chatted about how we all met. It turns out that Amy, Amelia, Stina, Mans and I had met the 1st day of my Magic bus in Christchurch. But we hadn’t really chatted. We had then picked up Tom, aka pompom, in Picton and only then did we end up chatting. And here we were a group of 6 good friends all promising to visit each other in the relavent countries.
Dinner with friends
Once again it was time for farewells. Monday morning, early, Tom, Amy and Amelia headed out for the Milford Sound cruise. They had to leave 6.45am and even though most of the dorm was awake I will never understand why one of them would use a hardryer and then put their hair up in a ponytail. It takes all types. We said farewell and hugged, I will really miss Tom he was like a little brother. I lay in bed for another 20min then went to make some coffee and say farewell to Stina and Mans who were heading onto Dunedin. These 2 cousins are just so full of life and so open and honest that you can’t help but love them. They will be deeply missed too, but it is a great excuse to go to Sweden.
Stina and Mans
I left an hour later to take the bus to Invercargill, followed by a bus to Bluff and finally a ferry to Stewart Island.
Queenstown has been one of my favorite stops, and it has everything to do with friends, Ferburgers and throwing myself off a mountain top.
I will be back!