Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ivory Towers Lodge, Fox Glacier Village, NZ

I don’t have much to say about Dunedin itself. It was a city. Had a museum. You know. My hostel, Chalet Lodge or house or what have you, was quite nice. No bunks, only five beds in the room (and it was quiet, so I only had one roommate per night), AND they did my laundry for $5. It was pretty sweet, especially since there was something in my bag that didn’t smell so good. They even have a ghost there, and a sign that all ghost sightings were to be reported to the manager. Only problem was that it was up a beast of a hill, but it seemed that the only quiet, smallish hostels were indeed up beasts of hills.

BUT, the good part about Dunedin was that though the magic of the internet I got hooked up with S, who invited me over for dinner with her family two nights in a row. She and her husband C have two kids who think that visitors are the coolest ever and did I want to see this pokemon game and look at this dance and it was all very entertaining. S even let me embarrass myself heartily on her spinning wheel. It trounced me and I was demoted to spindle practice.

As a quick aside I’d like to note that if there’s anyone out there with an entrepreneurial spirit, you should think about bringing bathroom ventilator fans to this country. In lieu of fans they just leave the bathroom window open. Now, I’m all for saving the planet and whatever, but one of the main places I want warm is the bathroom, thank you very much. So, you know, if you’re into that sort of thing, go for it.

Right! Anyway. After the second dinner with S and her family, we went to my first knit night. It was small but friendly, and nice to be around so many knitters. I managed to almost finish a sock, which got completely ripped out the next day. Alas.

From Dunedin I went to Queenstown, a place I was steeling myself to have to endure rather than relax in. Lonely Planet had it described as adrenaline-junkie, party-animal town, which, as you may have gathered, is not so much my scene. Fact remained, however, that there were plenty of athletically-inclined things to do there, from bungee jumping (oh HELL no)1, a canyon swing (a “bungee variation,” according to Lonely Planet), jet boating, white-water rafting, river surfing & sledging (sledge = sled), skydiving (NO), and plenty of other things, all of which are quite expensive ($100+).

I decided to be frugal and pick two. With the canyoning ticket, the trip to Milford Sound, and the hostel I was spending $350 for 2.5 days in Queenstown. Ouch.

That being said, canyoning was awesome. And terrifying at points. I didn’t know much about it, and actually have no idea why I picked it over all the other non-height-based options, but after I got the brochure (after I booked it) I started to get worried that I wasn’t going to be fit enough to do it. There was noise about how you should be an active adult, and considering I couldn’t make it up the bitch of a hill getting to my Queenstown hostel (well done, self, picking hostel on a worse slope than the one from the night before) I wasn’t feeling terribly “active,” and there were noises about climbs and other things that I wasn’t fully sure I was able to do, and what if they had to stay behind because of me? Augh, that would be so embarrassing, and maybe I should just cancel now and hide under my bed for the rest of my trip. Or intentionally sprain an ankle or something.

I did go, and the first thing they did was to suit us up in the appropriate protective gear – oop, no, the first thing was to have us sign away our right to sue them should they screw up and break our legs or kill us or whatever. Woo hoo! Love those. Right. So, full body wetsuit, socks, booties, head sock, harness, life jacket, and helmet. I felt like the queen of style, right there, let me tell you.


After a brief hike through the woods they had us submerge in glacier water 6º C, or –595º F – the water we would be spending the trip trudging through – and then climb a ridiculously steep hill to a zipline. I haven’t done a zipline since middle school, and all I remember was that I spent most of it backwards and trying to turn myself the right way around. This go around was about the same.

Then they had us abseil/rappel down a vertical (vertical) cliff. For those who aren’t In The Know, abseiling involves attaching yourself to a rope and having someone lower you down the cliff while you walk backwards, perpendicular to the rock. Ha.


The trip involved a couple of slides, and at one we couldn’t quite see what we were in for, but followed directions just the same. They held our life jackets, we crossed our legs and arms, and they let go. Next thing you know it’s not the easy drop you were thinking, and your sinuses are packed with water. Mine felt larger when it was over, and I haven’t been nearly so congested since. Scrambling to the surface and looking back you realize the it’s actually quite a fall and what were they thinking and GOLLY that was cool.


Some (easier) slides and jumps later there’s the option of climbing up to a ledge, what I estimated to be about 4 meters high, and jumping off into the water. Being a little delirious from having an unstuffed nose for once, I decided to go. After climbing up a vertical cliff face involving clipping carabineers to safety lines and hauling oneself up with ropes and things, you look out what is, in fact, a six meter drop, eeeeee.

It turns out that my comfort level for jumping into water is at about four meters. When I’ve gone that far and still haven’t hit the water I panic. Lived to tell the tale, though, and enjoyed the adrenaline rush.

And I might’ve come out and hugged the rocks, laughing and wide-eyed with terror.

The other zipline offered a little more responsibility than I was happy about. We ziplined over the deepest pool, then unhooked our safety ‘beener, pulled on the rope that was keeping us in the same place, and lowered ourselves down to the pool.


As soon as I undid the knot that would allow me to get down my lifejacket shifted right up under my chin, which was very attractive, which is, of course, when the camera got pulled out. Foxy lady!


The final jump was about as high as the previous big jump, but more exciting because you had to be specific about where you jumped so as to not hit a rock, and had to bend your knees, because the water wasn’t tremendously deep. I almost didn’t do it, but did, and may have yelled “ OH FUCK!” on the way down. I also jumped wrong, but managed to keep from injuring myself.

The wrong way to jump

My serious OMG face

(My “oh my god I’m alive I just might vomit” face)

A few more easy slides and the group emerged the freezing water fast friends. The fear and cold bonded us together. They don’t have you wear gloves because you need to have good grips on the rock (I guess), and their recommended method of warming up your hands is to straighten your arms at your sides, hands flat and pointing out, and pumping your shoulders up and down. I came out of a pool at one point to find four of my compatriots standing in a line, arms straight down, hands out, bouncing their shoulders. It was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time, and I told them they looked like a chorus line. One guy started can-canning.

My fears about being too weak were denied, though it’s three days later and I’m still sore. Two women didn’t make it through – they (or maybe just one, and her friend joined out of solidarity) was too freaked out by the heights and who knows what else.

A German woman on the trip, K, and I decided to go out for a coffee after the trip, and we found a café and sat as close to the fire as we possibly could to warm up.


We ended up getting dinner as well, and I splurged because it’s not often I actually allow myself to do that. It did involve some measure of plugging my ears and going LA LA LA LA NOT THINKING ABOUT MONEY LA LA LA.

During dinner we discussed tattoos, and I learned that the popular tattoo for women these days – the one on the coccyx – what some of us in America call the “tramp stamp” is, in Germany, called “arschgweih.” Literally, “ass horns.” HA!

We went to a bar afterwards (LA LA LA LA LA LA LA) and played no small amount of pool. A Dutch gentleman who was being summarily ignored by his two young companions was watching us play, and I think my lack of natural billiards-ability was causing him actual physical pain.

In the end I was reminded why I don’t go out to loud, busy pubs at night, and was happy to head to bed early. I took two Sudafed to keep the snoring/7am sneezing down, and while my body felt like a sacka hammers, I couldn’t sleep. I saw 4:30am and was awake before my 7:30 alarm. Nice.

1 When I told my mom that I was headed to the bungee-jumping capitol of the world she said “Don’t do it,” in that mom-to three-year-old-with-a-hand-in-the-cookie-jar voice. “Or at least don’t tell me about it.”

1 comment:

Janice in GA said...

No amount of persuasion will convince me that ANY right-thinking person EVER goes bungee jumping. Or skydiving. That's just crazy talk.

I could handle slides and climbing down (as long as I was on a rope.) Jumping down into a dodgy pool where you could get hurt? Not worth the risk for me. But I loved reading about you doing it, especially since you were successful!

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