Well, where to start. The first few days of the trip have set the bar so high that the chances of us ever coming home may fast recede into the distance. After 30 hours of eating rubber food with my knees round my earholes, the sight of Hutch’s grinning visage at Queenstown airport was a welcome one. Even the fact that the camper van which was to be home to 3 strapping six-footers for the next two weeks was little bigger than your average people carrier didn’t dampen my mood.
Justin arrived a few hours later to complete our wolf pack for the first stage of the trip. Jet lag and a total lack of sleep on the flight dictated an early night. Justin and I, taking the ‘top and tail’ shift in the bottom bunk, were awoken early the next morning by Jim’s head popping down from above asking if we fancied a Jet Boat trip.
The Shotover Jet Boat takes you down the river, through canyons, over white water and disturbingly close to overhanging rocks at speeds of up to 80 kph while throwing in the odd 360 degree spin. It was awesome fun even though there is a point where your face is so cold that you are convinced you will never be able to move it ever again.
Not content with this flying start to the trip we then headed out of the city to Jack’s Point golf course which we were told is just about the most scenic in New Zealand. Even the club pro’s assertion that ‘some people say it’s better than Pebble Beach’ did not prepare us for quite how stunning it is. Surrounded by snow capped mountains and wrapped around the shores of the glistening Lake Wakatipu with skydivers plummeting through the clouds directly above our heads, we spent as much time taking photos and filming the scenery. Which probably explains the surfeit of golf balls we left strewn around the course.
In searching for somewhere to watch Scotland take on Georgia we realised we had the choice of pretty much every premises in the whole city. The World Cup is everywhere and if there is no match on then bars are showing reruns of matches from the immediate and distant past. The place is heaving with rugby supporters with Argentinians, English, Irish and Aussies particularly in evidence. Every shop is full of merchandise with the official RWC golf glove probably the most random piece we’ve seen thus far.
Thursday saw us move the adrenaline sports up a notch as we took on the 134m Nevis Bungy Jump, the highest in New Zealand. Justin and Hutch have done it before but I was popping my Bungy cherry. We were accompanied by some Irish and Scottish lads, all of whom were rather more buoyant about the impending jump than they were about their respective teams’ chances in the rugby. The nerves didn’t really kick in until everything had been fastened on and I was shuffling towards the ledge.
That ledge, as you look out across the mountains to absolute nothingness, is the most petrifying place I have ever set foot. There is nothing for it but to launch your finest Chris Ashton swallow dive into the abyss. The thrill is phenomenal, the biggest rush I have ever had. The day was topped off by the sight of Hutch, whose harness had got stuck between his feet, being winched all the way back up to the platform upside down with his head rapidly turning the colour of a Wales jersey.
Dinner was taken at the adjacent table to Martin Johnson and his back room staff who hopefully were taking note of the tempo, physicality and amount of quick ball on show in the highly entertaining match between USA and Russia.
We will be back in Queenstown in 10 days or so for more thrills and spills. If you have never been there, go. Now. It’s epic.
Then it was off to Dunedin, via Ranfurly and a spot of curling (yes, curling) for Justin and my first taste of live action at this World Cup. I think that will have to be a whole new blog entry on it’s own once I have finally processed the events of an awesome weekend.
by Stuart Peel