Home' LOTL : Feb 13 Contents I agree and ask Xelia if all Kiwis have the daredevil spirit
running through their veins, just trading in their leather
plates and armour for North Face skiwear. “I guess we live on
the edge of the world, so we treat life on the edge as normal!”
The next day, we’re off on a spine-tingling drive through
Wanaka and up to Cardrona Alpine Resort. Although the
Remarkables (“Remarks,” as the locals say) are closer and
more accessible, it’s Cardrona where the Kiwis like to ski.
The snow is better, the runs are wider, and the crowds are
kept to a minimum.
On the drive, I ask Xelia about the legend of the Cardrona
Bra Fence (I’m pretty sure she’s on to me now). I’d read about
a fence on the side of the road somewhere in sheep-farming
country where it had become weirdly customary for women
to hang their bras, hundreds at a time. “Unfortunately,
the District Council removed the bras in 2006,” says Xelia.
“There were around 800 bras before they shut it down.
The Council thought it was an eyesore and a distraction
for drivers.” We drive on through the completely braless
winding roads. The higher we get, the harder it is to see.
Everything is white.
Aotearoa is the Maori word for New Zealand; roughly
translated, it means “the land of the long white cloud,” and
up here in these heavenly surroundings, the description
couldn’t be more apt.
Although it’s September, the snow hasn’t
begun to diminish. When we reach the
slopes, I tell Xelia that I’ve never seen this
much snow before. “Really?” she asks me
with a smile on her face. “I haven’t been up
this season because we haven’t had a very
good snowfall.” I look around in amazement,
because it’s white as far as the eye can see.
Once we’re boarded up, we wait at the chair
lifts to be given the all clear by the snow
officials. We slide our snowboards along,
making the first tracks of the day.
I’m not a very good snowboarder, but I
spend the day with that Christmas time pop
standard ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’
playing in my head. The
snow is so thick and
powdery that it cushions
my falls, and the turns I
manoeuvre make me feel like
I’m surfing in soft waves. I meet
Xelia at the end of the day and tell
her about the awesome powder I’ve been
carving up. She laughs and says, “It’s so cute how
you think this is powder. I go off-piste [backcountry] skiing
up here and have been in snow so deep I’ve been stuck up to
Xelia and I are already playing out some sort of read-
between-the-lines Xena and Gabrielle relationship. But
this farm girl can’t wait through six seasons of unrelenting
subtext, so we hit the bars of downtown Queenstown.
There’s a great mix of bars in the heart of town, dotted
around the cobbled lanes. After a few après ski drinks, you’d
almost think you’re in Europe. There are backpacker bars
where you can get lost in a sea of twenty-somethings doing
an organised pub-crawl. Or you can settle into one of the
many wine bars where the fire is roaring and the ambience
Queenstown has the highest bar-to-person ratio in New
Zealand and that’s no surprise, given that what goes up
must come down. After a day of bungee jumping, alcohol is
Honestly though, I was coaxed into the first jump almost
through trickery. Taken to the Kawarau Bridge, which boasts
the world’s first commercial bungee jump, I was told we
were there just to participate in some people watching. After
I’d taken a few quick snaps of the brave, incredibly fearless
people throwing themselves off the 147-foot bridge, Xelia
says, “Well, now that we’re here, you may as well jump.”
For this sort of thing, perhaps “unprepared” is the best
possible frame of mind. Before I know it, my legs tied
together with rope, I’m standing on the edge of the bridge.
Sensing my fear, the bungee masters of AJ Hackett (bungy.
co.nz) are kind and very slowly count back from three before
I stretch my arms out like Jesus on the cross and fall forward.
The blood rushes to my head and I hold my breath, frozen in
position, not even able to scream. Until—bounce—I reach
the length of the rope’s tether and realise I have survived.
It’s now time to scream, and I do so for several minutes.
The best feeling about bungee jumping is knowing that it’s
over—and you’ve accomplished something that most people
would never even attempt. If it weren’t for my benign crush
on Xelia, my warrior princess, I’m not sure I ever would have
either. I wouldn’t say that it’s better than sex, but it’s up
there with foreplay.
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