Saturday, 11 December 2010

I want to go sightseeing.

Congratulations.  Upon uttering those words, you have just become my most hated person of the last five minutes.  Don't worry, my fickle nature coupled with my mediocre attention span mean that at some point in the next five minutes I will move onto someone else.  Or maybe just revert back to someone on my regular hate list, but until that point:  Well done you.

Am I being a bit harsh with this?  I've been back and forth.  Sure, we all like a bit of sightseeing.  There is nothing like being a tourist in say, London.  Have a walk around the Tower of London, it was built by Jesus probably.  That's over 2 thousand years ago!  And they chopped off peoples heads and put them on spikes or something.  And it has the Crown Jewels, and ravens, and Beefeaters and stuff.  Wow.  And look, there's Buckingham Palace, it's a billion years old and is where the Queen does her poo's.  And Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge, and look at all these buildings!  They were all here since the dawn of time, and survived wars, and the Great Fire of London and stuff, and they were lived in by important people with numbers after their name!  Stare at them all, agog, with your mouths open and dribble your intelligence all down the front of your shirt!  Fascinating stuff.  And it was, despite my general tone of sarcasm, awesome when seeing these structures steeped in centuries of history for the first time.

But here's the newsflash.  You are in New Zealand.  A country that was only invented a few hundred years ago.  And furthermore, you are in Queenstown, New Zealand.  A town established a mere 150 years ago.  If you can find a structure more than 3 minutes old here, I would like you to show it to me.  And in return, I will direct you to the only sightseeing bus in town.  It runs a 3 hour tour, one hour of which is you walking around Arrowtown which granted, is quite quaint - it looks a little like a town from the Wild West - but still no more than 150 years old.  The rest is a visit to the bridge A.J. Hackett first leapt off, a winery visit, another bridge, and a lake.  It's a different lake to the one you sleep next to in Queenstown, I'll grant you that.  But it is still a massive expanse of water, and these lake things really don't tend to differ much.  You know what though?  They do it on a genuine red double decker bus from London, which may just be the oldest thing for miles.

So yes, technically speaking there are sights, but I can't help feeling most people who tell me this want sights like you get in big cities, like the sights I (historically accurately) described in my second paragraph.  And can't help but wonder if maybe they get a little disappointed with the lack of them, and it leaves me thinking that if they wanted to go sightseeing instead of throw themselves off or out of something, that they may be vacationing in the wrong town.

It's not technically sightseeing, but you could go on a Lord of the Rings tour, that horse that still has plenty of flogging potential over here, especially with The Hobbit being announced, but you may have the same problem I have with that one.  Want to know what that is?  I thought so, settle in and I will tell you.

I was never a fan of the books, I never read the books.  For some reason growing up they didn't really appeal to me.  But then in my later youth once I discovered I could get into bars, reading went out the window.  And there is something about having 'Lord' in the title which implies some sort of camp escapade.  The Lord of the Flies (a book I did read once) is pretty brutal, fair enough.  But Lord of the Dance?  Camper than Christmas.  Lord Lucan's claim to fame (besides the speculation of his death/disappearance) must be that he is the only man in the history of Homo Sapiens (snigger) that would ensure Freddie Mercury came second in a Freddie Mercury look-a-like competition.  Even in the 12 days of Christmas the Lords are a-leaping.  You could be as hard as nails but as soon as you call yourself a Lord you may as well skip around all day telling everyone how fabulous you are.  The prime example being Chris Eubank, the self-proclaimed Lord Mayor of Brighton.  Sure, he was a boxer and could probably floor me with a flick of his little finger, but come on.  The guy wears jodhpurs and talks with a lisp.

The films however were obviously a big event, so I watched them.  All three films, which I believe to have taken around 23 decades to watch.  So as a result I have just seen them once.  And this means that every time someone points out a piece of land and says "Do you remember the battle of Scaramanga when that guy with the hairy feet and pointy ears threw that spear at that horse with the cardboard horns?", I have to look inquisitively at them, say that I do remember, and then feign a look of dawning realisation when they tell me it was filmed there.  For about 2 seconds.  Within an eon of footage.  They may as well just ask me if I remember that time I scratched my arse when I was 7.  Without a photographic memory on my side I would have to take a physical photograph of the site, go home, print it and rent the Lord of the Rings (all three, because they never tell me which one it's from), grab a haemorrhoid pillow and sit through every minute of them once again whilst holding the picture up next to the T.V. until that particular scene comes on the screen, pause it, make a note of which film it is and at what time the scene crops up on the DVD, and then commit this to memory so that next time I am round a friends house and we decide to have a Lord of the Rings marathon I can jump in at just the right time and excitedly shout "I've been there"!

That's not to belittle the amazing scenery round here, it is overwhelmingly astounding as I have said before.  It's just that it's not really a town built for sightseeing in the immediate locality.  It's more a town of locally putting yourself within inches of the jaws of death, and on a larger scale a vast expanse of beauty and serenity.  Like Milford Sound, somewhere I visited again recently but this time staying overnight.  I saw it as an opportunity to spend a little bit of time out of the bustle of Queenstown.  A time to be with myself, though not in that way (okay, maybe once in that way before I went to sleep).  A time to relax and contemplate.  And in that state of loneliness I discovered that I may be a bit of a paradox.  A lot of the time I don't like people, but conversely when alone, I really manage to piss myself off.

While I was there this time round, I took the opportunity to go kayaking.  The weather wasn't perfect, it was raining and there were high winds which meant we couldn't start kayaking in from the point we originally intended to, but when we eventually set off it was great to see the area from a different point of view.  We could get closer to the nature, watch seals frolicking in the shallow waters, paddle next to swimming penguins, and even touch one as the guide dragged a near decapitated one onto his kayak not incorrectly pointing out that "It's not the most ideal way to see them up close".  Being sea kayaks (which are operated by two people), mine - as happened before in my Festive Bitching post almost a year ago - came with an idiot in the back to steer us in the wrong direction and generally almost capsize us while dicking about trying to get the perfect camera shot, an experience I am becoming more and more familiar with, which only makes me wonder if it is actually me that's the idiot.  So with Milford Sound slowly inching it's way nearer the jetboat list of things I am arrogant enough to bore of (along with helicopter rides - I caught one back from Milford - honestly, if I have to go on another sodding helicopter.....) I decided it was time to try out another of the sounds, this time Doubtful Sound, on an overnight cruise.

Doubtful Sound is more remote than Milford.  It's accessible only by boat across Lake Manapouri, then bus over Wilmott Pass (named after 80's 'comedian' Gary Wilmott, as the historians are pretty sure they heard someone laugh at one of his jokes there), before you get to the Sound itself where you embark on the overnight cruise.  It was built in 1879 by brothers Eric and Percy Carruthers, who painstakingly carved it from the rock over a period of 34 years, losing a total of thirteen fingers between them.  Or it was carved by glaciers over thousands of years, one or the other, can't remember which one.  But if it's the latter, it would once again make it a Fiord rather than a Sound.  But this was realised way too late, and they already had Sound printed on the brochures or something, so they stuck with that.  Y'know what?  This isn't a history lesson, Wiki it.  It's an amazing place though, so peaceful, serene, full of wildlife once again.  Seal colonies, live penguins, dolphins, and sandflies.  Those bastard sandflies.  If Celine Dion and Bono ever had a bastard love child, to be honest it would probably be Jamie Oliver.  But if he then pro-created with Mariah Carey (who herself would be the bastard offspring of Chris Martin off of Coldplay and a traffic warden), the result would no doubt be those little bloodsucking harbingers of pestilence.  They have never bothered me in the past, they still don't too much.  The after effects are largely itching a lot.  And I love a good scratch, just ask my bollocks.  But being caught in an eternal cloud of them while kayaking (on my own this time - result) is the most irritating thing on the planet.  As is having them feast off my legs while eating dinner (which incidentally was amazing, they cooked my favourite food on the cruise - a buffet).  Honestly, I have never been involved in mass genocide, but I would imagine they would be marginally worse.

We were taken through to one of the arms of the Sound the following day on the way back inland.  As we approached, the water was like glass, reflecting the imposing beauty of the surrounding mountains.  And as we slowed we were told to take all the pictures we needed to now, as they were going to power down the vessel and ask for complete silence and no movement on the steel decks for five minutes to take in the immense remoteness and the sound of nature as if we were the only ones there.  It was incredible.  An experience marred largely by the fucking Germans sneaking around the deck still taking pictures.  One can only assume that upon arriving home and showing people these pictures they pulled out the first one and said 'This is us approaching the arm before we stopped', and then a second taken not five minutes later saying 'And this is exactly the same shot, but in complete silence.  Oooooh, spooky'.  Despite the fucking Germans (maybe the only thing in the world worse than sandflies), it was still a place I am very keen to re-visit.  Until such time as I get arrogantly bored of it.

Since then I have also been out canyoning.  You may remember I had an interview for them last year.  I can safely say that despite it being great fun, as I spent most of the time trying my hardest not to shit myself I am probably glad I didn't get the job.  It's essentially travelling through a canyon using various means: scrambling, abseiling, ziplines, jumping off rocks (into shallow water in a certain place to avoid other rocks nearby), slipping off rocks (not a valid way of doing it, but one that I discovered to be perfectly safe after doing it and surviving), stepping off rocks (as if you jump you will land too far away, onto more rocks), I had a great time doing it but was honestly petrified for the most part as I am still largely uncomfortable with water.  I did win a t-shirt at the end of the day.  It was a prize given to me for being petrified of the first jump - around 6 metres high into shallow water, into which you have to land with your legs raised probably to stop you breaking them.  Essentially I won a t-shirt for being the biggest pussy, which I think is the first and only time that has ever paid off.

Even though I had an awesome time out in the canyon - the day was great, the people were great, the fact I didn't cry like a little girl was great - I am still not convinced that sports involving water are the way to go for me.  I am still determined to find something to do all summer but it may be on land.  If I don't find something to do while waiting for winter it's going to be a very boring few months.  And there will be another winter, as I have just had my visa renewed until November next year.

England's loss is New Zealand's gain!  There's that arrogance once more.

This will no doubt be the last post of 2010, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish anyone still here after the RSI inducing length of garbage up there a perfectly adequate Christmas, and a fair-to-middling New Year.  It's done smaller because I am not 100% sure who reads this, and there may be some people who do read this that I would wish a really shit Christmas and a bile-infested New Year to.  But try and have fun anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment