The wonders of Wakatipu

We had a conundrum last time I posted. Stay in the all singing, all dancing, glitter covered mecca of Queenstown, or save ourselves from an eternity of novelty burgers and rampaging Aussies on vacation and get the hell out of dodge. Tricky choice.  As I said last time, it’s a captivating place and well deserving of it’s name – I found out recently this was derived from being described by loggers in the 1800s as being ‘fit for a Queen’ – which with it’s plethora of adrenalin fueled activities on offer now seems more apt than ever after our Lizzie’s recent skydiving antics. Speaking of the Olympics, it has been pointed out by one Kiwi reader (the only one, I might add) that despite being left trailing behind the likes of the Ukraine, Kazakhstan and whisper it, Australia, they actually finished in a far more respectable 4th in the medals per capita table. That’s right, the alternative, made-up table that no one cares about. The four residents of Sealand should have a crack at this next time I feel, one bronze and you’ve nailed it.

Keeping with the sporting theme, we were gearing up for some ski slope action this time last week. Well despite my 28 year long refusal to even try it, it happened, and I’m delightfully amazed to report I’m typing this with four fully working limbs. Well not actually with the limbs, that’d make even less sense than usual, but I’m pretty much unscathed. After two days of Snowboarding lessons (“Do you actually know which is your toe and which is your heel?”) on an area called The Magic Carpet, we left that safe and magical place and ventured onto a real ski slope. Oh jesus, the terror! And that’s just the chair-lift. Any slight sense of control I had now quickly disappeared; and I was soon pulling off flips and tricks that hadn’t even been invented yet, most of which incorporated fences and/or unwilling members of the public. The crowning glory was a gravity defying sprawl which saw me plummet face first into my own clenched fist. As I gingerly raised my head and emptied my mouth of blood and snow, I just managed to make out a figure swish past with a distinct American voice whooping “YOU TUBE BABY!”. Another 28 years won’t be too long.

As the end of our first week in New Zealand approached, the ‘what next’ decision had to be made. The overwhelming response we’d received from back home was to stay, so yeah, we left. Our friends were heading North to continue their holiday, our current rate of spending meant we’d have been back home by Christmas, and we’d found work at Kinloch. Take the mountains, the lung busting air and the  water so clear and so cold you can actually see your penis quickly hoist itself back inside your body, and move 60km north up to the very top of Lake Wakatipu where no sole lives, that’s Kinloch. Having answered an advert for Work Exchange helpers on a holiday lodge up here months ago, we’d been back in touch and managed to secure some time up here doing just that. Work Exchange is pretty simple. It’s not paid, but four hours work a day comes in exchange for accommodation, three daily meals, laundry, wifi…basically anything your average backpacker would spend money on, aside from the odd beer. On top of that, we’re in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Having managed to do the supposedly stunning drive up here from Queenstown in the pitch black and not see a thing, we arrived to absolute silence and a sky swept with stars. As these made way for vivid blue skies the next morning, it felt like we’d reached the arse end of nowhere, then got a bit further – there’s even a little axe-murderers hut on the lake beach nearby for effect.

We also get free use of the on site kayaks, mountain bikes and hot tub  – you can guess where Jamie and I have differing interests here – and we’re at the tip of the Routeburn Track, one of the best tramping trails in the country, so we should keep ourselves busy. Another thing keeping us busy is the sand flies, and not just any sand flies don’t you know, but all weather loving Siberian sand flies. With their ability to gnaw through clothing and a seemingly insatiable appetite, combined with my willingness to drop whatever I’m doing and chase the bastards until they are DEAD, we’ve quickly formed an intense hatred of each other. If you ever come here, bring fire throwing apparatus.

But first and foremost, bring your camera.

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