Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Queenstown hangover

I changed rooms in the YHA and met a nice couple from Birmingham, Chris and Jo. They were on the Magic Bus destined for Queenstown the next morning too, so we had our alarms all set. I washed my clothes a second time, the machines making them dirtier than when they went in. Then I strolled off to the bar, late and promising myself to go home early given our early start.

It was another night of pool and partying. One Dutch guy told me how he was an Ireland soccer supporter after seeing them play Holland under Jack Charlton. He also followed Celtic because of their Irish support. Tired of this sporting talk, I turned back to the pool. Not a good move. I nearly had a fight with a guide from that afternoon's walk when he and another guy tried to skip the queue to play. I stood my ground and the bar manager backed me up. However, when they pressed the issue she decided she wanted no fights in her bar and turned the table off. The guide promised to play me tomorrow.

Tomorrow is another day and, having kept my promise and gone back to the hostel at 12.45, I awoke reasonably refreshed. Little Japanese Man was sitting in the dining area slurping his tea and eating muesli with chopsticks. I stuck to my spoon. 7.30 rolled around and I went to get the bus. Our new driver, however, seemed to think it was nice to have us stand around in the rain (and rain it did, torrentially) while he decided what bus to put us on. As there were nearly 80 passengers, once more we had two buses. Eventually we had our seats and were moving.

I read Lillian Hellman's introduction to the Hammett collection (I usually read introductions last in case they tell me too much about the book). Hellman and Hammett were lovers for many years and her short piece is as eloquent a tribute and as fine a portrait of real love as you'll probably ever read. It makes me sad to think of them both now in the past. Curiously enough, they were pals with Nathanael West (author of 'The Day of the Locust') when he ran a hotel in New York.

The rain continued all morning and wiped out many a photo opportunity, but by lunchtime the sun was out. The 'highlight' of the afternoon was stopping at Kawarau Bridge to observe the bungy jumping. After telling us to wait at the entrance where he would guide us through the centre, our driver went ahead and we only met him when we got bored of hanging around outside. The boredom set in again after thirty odd jumps, but we had to wait for our skilled driver to decide to appear before we could go.

The inventor of modern bungy equipment, Henry Van Asch, claims that bungy jumping challenges our mental obstacles, our decision making, our willingness to trust others and technology. Bollocks! It's a money making scam that needlessly terrifies thousands of Japanese tourists. Certainly AJ Hackett the pioneer of the activity comes across as the quintessential blond himbo. You may take from this that I did not participate in bungy jumping. I am sure were I to, I would be a fervent convert and urge all and sundry to leap from a perfectly good bridge. I didn't, however, and I don't.

Eventually we made it to Queenstwon and my hostel. Firstly I was greeted by Rebecca and Kristina who had a 'small gift' for me. They'd bought me a tiki, that is a small carved Maori amulet, often of greenstone or bone. I was completely chuffed. Once again I think them very sincerely. I am wearing it now. Then I got to my room where a young, blonde English girl sitting on a bed bid me hello. Like the weather the day can turn from grey to sunshine just like that.

Queenstown, apart from its adventure activity capital status, is also party central. A few English people who had been in my dorm in Wellington warned me of watered down drink in the World Bar, famous for selling cocktails in teapots. Watered down or not, after meeting in the Red Rock bar, we headed down for our teapots and stayed there. I got home with a monstrously good burger (I asked for blue cheese and they really used blue cheese) at around 4.

At 7.00 the idiotic German guys in the room let their phone alarms play military anthems for around five minutes, apparently through an amplifier. I resisted all but the most mumbled comment and went back to sleep. Close to 10 I had to get up to change room (I had initially only booked one night and they had no more beds except in an 8 bed dorm). I will chill for the day. By the way the lovely English blonde, Lizzy, has a blog which can be found at I must admit the whole setup looks a great deal better than blogger.

By the way, the lakeside views here are spectacular.


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