Friday, December 5, 2008

New Zealand on a whim

So when I started this blog I swore to myself I would be good, post often and not let it get washed to the wayside. Two months on and there has been a distinct lack of blogging. Typical.

Anywho, I now have a chance to do a post on the travel side of things. At the end of last semester I was getting itchy feet, what with having been in the county for several months and not having any plans for the Christmas holidays. Vac work was originally supposed to take up my time, but no one wanted me (or maybe it was because I only applied to one mine and they didn’t want mechatronic engineers.. hmm.. well organized Thomas). Sooo, I had to come up with other plans. A quick browse of and I discovered the only place I could afford to go to was New Zealand. No problem there, its a nice place, and the weather is better than in Australia, so a few indecisive days and $450 later I had myself I ticket.

What to do, that was the next question. I like the idea of flying, for no particular reason. I was always very impressed when I was a kid and we drove past those people running down hills with big kites strapped to them. I get the feeling I’ve explained my reasoning somewhere in another blog, so long story short I am in Queenstown, with no real plans other than I want to get my PG1 paragliding license!

Day 1:
I arrived in Christchurch on the 1st and gave the people I had hired a car from a call (Apollo, got a car for under AU$20/day). The car, a 4ish yr old Toyota Getz, was very abused. It had more scratches and dints than I could fit on the damage report form. At this point, I had a car for 15 days, a flight home and that was it. It was very relaxing. I had picked up a few hostel brochures, so I drove into town to Thomas' on Hereford. For $22 a got myself a bed for the night, very reasonable. It was a clean place, not too much to it, but the staff were friendly, and it was close to the centre of town.

Day 2:
Spent a night there, then bought some groceries and headed south. I didn’t really have any plans, but I figured I wanted to go in the general direction of Queenstown. Had a few issues with my lane turning into a big pile of gravel at the beginning of the 79, just across in the train line, so that was my excitement for the day. Found a friendly panel beater in Geraldine who fixed it up for me for $80 cash after he finished work, so that was nice. Could have claimed it on insurance and the such, but for $80 it really wasn’t worth the hassle. Spent a night camping at Lake Tekapo, on Lake Alexandria Road I think. Nice little spot, $5pppn and very quiet. Little bit of unsealed road at the end of it, but its easy enough to walk if your worried about the car.

Day 3:
Next day made it all the way to Frankton, just outside of Queenstown. Detoured via Arrowtown, with the thought of going to Macetown. Turns out it is a 4 hour walk, or 4by4 access only though, so that plan failed quite abruptly. Ended up continuing on to Frankton Motor Camp for $14/nt. They had awesome showers, a kitchen (with pots and pans which could be borrowed from reception) and a awesome view. Unfortunate that it rained all night and it took me all of 4 hours to get the tent dry enough to pack up, but other than that it was great!

After having packed up my tent (and I cant stress how painful it was waiting for it to.. it seemed to be getting wetter rather than drier most of the time), I drove the quick 6km to Queenstown and found myself a hostel (with the help of Decided on Bumbles Backpackers (28 pppn), which was a good choice. A 5 min walk from the town centre, it has off street parking, a well equipped kitchen and reasonable beds. I even managed to score a non-bunk bed which was very exciting. Explored Queenstown, bought myself a few knickknacks (love the pink store) and booked my PG1 course. All the hostel stuff seemed quite enthusiastic about it, which I was surprised by, I thought lots of people would do that sort of stuff.

Day 5:
Today! WELLL... at 8:45am I called up Elevation Paragliding to check the weather. It was a go, so at 9am, their van pulled up outside the hostel and in I jumped. It was a morning, so unsurprisingly I was completely unprepared, with no food, water or sunscreen. I was warm though.. with my fancy new thermals I bought yesterday. The instructors, Keith, and an English lady(whose name evades me) picked me up. We then picked up a French family with 3 daughters under the age of 5. They all seemed quite well behaved though. Off we went to the training hill, just outside of Queenstown.
At this point, I am running out of internet time, so I am going to steal a bit from an email I sent Amanda:
Had my first paragliding lesson today.. all was perfect (blue sky, 18 degrees, almost no wind) while we set up and the instructor explained everything too me.. then just as he strapped me into the harness, the wind picked up to 35-40km/hr! Which apparently isnt good when you are trying to learn.. The paraglider has a constant speed to 35km/h, so if you take off into the wind you are standing still or going backwards...
Anywho.. we waited a while and we had a lull in the wind, so I took off. At this point the instructor is telling me "okay, we are just going to run down the hill and you will feel the sail take your weight and pull your heels off the ground and then you put it right back down again." All went well, until I actually tried it. A gust came along, and next thing I know he is saying "Just go with it! Your not THAT high, oh crap, pull down, pull down!!" By this stage I am about 2 meters up haha. But I got it down nice and safe and IT FELT AWESOME!!! I FLEWWWW!!!! like a bird! I love birds :) They’re so lucky.. I bet they don’t have to double check all their lines and stuff before they take off though haha.

On that note, I feel I should really get outside and see the real world for a while.. I have a quite exciting Buttered Chicken and rice waiting at home to be cooked... I know your all jealous.

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