Tuesday, November 27, 2012

South Island Tour

Last weekend (Nov. 17th) was the Canterbury A&P Show! The show is such a big deal, Canterbury has its own long weekend devoted to it, so I got the Friday off. I had been hemming and hawing about weekend plans involving Queenstown the whole week prior, but I didn't plan very well and had to make some last-minute plans.

As friday approached I didn't have any plans, so I ended up going to The Show with my housemate Ann, who happened to be leaving that day. It was convenient for me to accompany her since she wanted to go to the show, then catch a flight at about 7:00pm. We drove over to the Canterbury Agricultural Park and queued up to get tickets. After considerable (and frustrating) delay, we managed to gain entry. The whole thing seemed like Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition 50 years in the past - more agriculture, less midway. I managed to get pictures of some of the champs:

The look of a supreme champion

The highlight of the show was definitely when I got to see a round of sheep herding competition. This sounds really ignorant of me, but I think the only reason I knew about shepherd competitions was from the movie Babe:

After Friday's Show, I still had an entire weekend to use, so I decided I'd drive to Queenstown. To make it a little more interesting, I thought I'd take the long way around by driving to the West Coast via Arthur's Pass, then south to Queenstown. It's a drive of about 500km, and being Canadian I figured distance as well as Google's estimate would give me a good idea of how long it would take. I planned to have tons of time to stop for little activities here and there, but I quickly discovered my progress was quite a bit slower than I had been anticipating.

The reason, of course, is that most of the way through Arthur's Pass and pretty much the entire west coast is really mountainous, filled with winding roads often requiring you lower your speed to 30-40 km/hr on the really tight hairpins. It was probably the best driving of my life, even if it was in a little Nissan Tiida. I ended up using the (unfortunately) automatic transmission as a sort of tiptronic transmission, constantly turning off the overdrive and putting it into 2nd gear (it was a typical 4 gear automatic).

The two places I stopped at were Hokitika for some pizza, and Franz Josef village for a coffee and a little peak at the glacier. I decided to run the trail to the glacier, so I was able to go there and back in about 20 minutes, saving precious time. Driving out I gave a lift to a couple of German girls who were hitching a ride back to the village. They were quite certain it was 8 hours to Queenstown from where I was, which seemed *really* out of whack with the distance I needed to cover (something like 300km). Fortunately they were wrong, it was more like 5 and a half, but again I underestimated the ruggedness of the roads.

In the words of some guy I talked to in the village: "you can't go the west coast and not see a glacier!"
I stayed the night at a backpackers hostel for lack of any real plans or desire to sleep luxuriously. I decided that night that I should probably do something the next morning. Remembering a Lord of the Rings DVD extra about Orlando Bloom doing crazy crap in Queenstown, I figured I should do the big bungy jump he did, which turned out to be the Nevis Bungy. The short story is that I was really nervous the whole morning, then I jumped. Did I mention I'm good at telling stories? Since a million people have done it, every short crummy video of the jump looks the same, so I'll just post this generic one and you can imagine it was me:
Proof I jumped. Well, quasi-proof.

The ride back was quite a bit more "boring," at least in terms of what I had done the day before. Like so many things in life, you quickly get used to something when there's a lot of it, including mountains. Not a bad problem to have, I guess.
What a boring drive.

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