Monday, December 25, 2006

Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas!

Being the my first ever Christmas away from home this was always going a strange experience. However it was made a very fun time because I seemed to get more presents than ever, particularly from AT and CT as they sent me a lot of gifts where the recommended age was 5 and upwards. The "upwards" limit didn't phase me that much - there's nothing wrong with getting a 22 year old a slinky. If anything it won the "gift of the day" category hands down.

Santa came a brought fried eggs and bacon. Unorthadox gifts granted, but welcome nonetheless.

Hurrah! Gin! Rob clearly now knows me too well.

Enjoying the outdoors on Christmas day? Unheard of. Rob with his new rugby ball and me building Lego. Yes, Lego.

Caught in the act of being a Geordie. Cheers Mam!

Me and Righteous P chilling like Matt Dillon on penicillin in the park after kicking some conversions.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Ben Lomond

Team Pownall arrived a week or so before Christmas and there was much rejoicing! Having driven down from Auckland over 3 days, they were determined to get to QT to see us lot for Steve's Birthday (Emma's Dad). To celebrate, the following day we had a few plans. First off we walked (more scrambled) up the Ben Lomond track - a very steep day walk starting in QT. Off we went.
View from half way up the Ben Lomond track. The Remarkables are in the background.

More views and a rest stop. Was a hard slog.

We didn't quite make it to the top as it was absolutely brass. Shame. We had to get down to the Skyline Gondola to do some luging anyway. Climb a 1700m mountain or downhill go-cart? Hmm.

Me grinning like a cheshire cat while thoroughly beating Steve. He didn't win no matter what he says.

For a treat in the evening we went to a fancy swanky restaurant and ate very small portions of food for very large sums of preverbial fat cash. Was very enjoyable. The maître d’ was wearing a pink shirt mind.

Team Pownall. Rachel, Steve, Deb and Em.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fall with such grace...

So I jumped out of a plane. I say jumped when I was pushed. His name was Grant and you would get the impression that he didn't like me, but he was kind enough to attach himself to me and have the decency to have done over 11,000 skydives previously, so he knew what he was doing.

Up here the world curves the wrong way.

Immediately when you "jump" out of the plane the knee-jerk reaction in your mind is "What the HELL are you doing?!" Falling out of things into nothingness isn't the most natural of things for a human to be doing and to tell you the truth we're more of a landing-dwelling species. I've always found myself as being on or near to ground at pretty much all times throughout my life so far and found that even flirting with gravity for kicks can be dangerous (broken limbs a-plenty).

Above the clouds.

I did the jump over by Wanaka, about an hour from Queenstown. From the plane as we were climbing up to 15,000 feet you could see Mount Cook 120km away so was pretty lucky to get such a clear day and fantastic views.

The famous dream of falling, but I didn't wake up at the end. For some inane reason you had to dress as a clown.

Everyone point at cloud 9. There was quite a party going on.

Knowing the vague physics of collisions I didn't really rate my chances of body-checking the world at a fairly quick speed but thankfully the parachute opened successfully. I was a bit annoyed at "Grant's" selection of parachute. Could have at least picked one with flames or a go-faster-stripe. Manly pink? Don't think so.

Was a fun trip, glad I did it, but for some reason it wasn't the extreme rush that I was expecting. It's more of a "blink and you'll miss it" experience. I dread to think of the dollar per second burn rate on it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Hanging Around

Paragliding's more sinister sister, hang gliding, is quicker and more queasy that its sibling. They really like to push you to extreme G's, not something to be done the morning after some ales. We took off from the same point as the paragliding, Coronet Peak, where the views are long and stunning and the drop is considerable.

The Wakatipu basin. BIG. Capital B, capital IG.

Trees from above. An unnatural angle to view them from if you ask me.

The way they take the photographs is quite amazing. The balance that the midgets on the end of the pole possess is second to none, particularly when you bear in mind the high winds and lack of harness. You'd think it was just a remote camera, but it's not. I've seen them man, they're real.

Me and Anders enjoying the views. Some people say we got too close up there.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Skippers Canyon: Biking

Went Mountain Biking on my day off down Skippers Canyon, a short drive from Queenstown and the only road in the country that you can't take your hire car down, as it is too dangerous. Having easily mastered dangerous roads in the past, I was more than prepared to take this one on.

The group before set off. Stunning scenery throughout.

We cycled down a custom-made track, through streams, down rocks, under barb-wire and over sheep. Was a lot more hardcore mountaining biking; no major speed just keen balance and major use of the very soft suspension.

Skippers Canyon. Shotover river in the background - was a long drop into the gorge at times.

Bunny hop into one of the many streams. Splash.

Got entirely covered in mud and thoroughly drenched but was a good ride even though it was all downhill.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Too Sweet to Handle

Headline news! Pownall quits her job in the British Lolly Shop. Resulting shockwaves spread across the southern hemisphere. It means no more free sherbet dib-dabs and strawberry boot-lace. There was no rejoicing.

Tons of sweets a day keeps the doctor away. Observe Emma presenting an invisible banjo.
Rest in peace my sweet sweet free friends.
Em got a new job as a PA for the General Manager of some swanky 4-star plus hotel. "Career move" she calls it. I call it high treason.


I am now officially a rock star. Who would ever say no to a free helicopter trip? I'll tell you who, no-one. Now that's fact.

She cost about $2,200,000 USD. Pocket change I heard.

Having never been in a helicopter before, I was giddy like a school girl for the couple of hours inbetween being told I was flying off and actually flying off. The heli we went in was brand new, it even had that "new car smell", albeit was a helicopter. Just got transported across from France where it was made (whether it flew from France or took the ferry I am unawares).

Queenstown from the air. If you look carefully you can see the Penthouse. See it?

After being repeatedly told off by the pilot for yelling "Mayday! Mayday!" I finally settled on reciting as much of the phonetic alphabet as possible. Never can remember what "Q" is. Quebec apparantly, I just checked.

Charlie Tango Whiskey Foxtrot Tea-kettle Barbeque. 10/4 old buddy!

Parked on the top of the Remarkables, one of the mountain ranges overlooking Queenstown. Named as they run True North - South. Geologists maintain that this is remarkable. Indeed. Good views though.

In the background is Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown. The deep blue river in the foreground is the Kawarau and the grey one is the Shotover. Crazy changes in colour, particularly when they mix.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Manic Mondays

First official day of the new job, so what do they get me doing? Well I was up bright and early to go Canoeing. Then I went Jet-Boating. And topped it off with some paragliding.
Hard day at the office.
"The sky's the limit" right?

Tuesday I went white-water rafting; was better than Peru, more hardcore rapids and a long tunnel. And for some reason it seemed a lot less safe and tame than Peru - more thrilling throughout, plus we went underneath the Canyon Swing as someone was doing it; fun to see from the bottom.

On Wednesday I did a Lord of the Rings tour. They basically drive you around to a load of the places that the film was set in a big Landrover. We left Queenstown and headed to the north end of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy. There's some more lovelly scenery up there (as standard), mountains and beach forests. Was good to see all these places, but being sat in a car sucked. I wanted to stomp up all the hills we past. Plus the guide got all her facts pretty much wrong about the films - luckily there weren't any über-geeks present to correct her (apart from in my mind).
Beach forest - spot the elf?
Thursday I actually went to work. There's lots of stuff to remember, we can sell essentially any available product in the Queenstown area so tons of fact and stuff, but I'm sure it'll be a doddle after a while.

Friday was spent Mad-Dog River Boarding. You "cruise" down a river on a body-board, going through some grade 3 rapids and suffer the 4˚C temperature, but it's class! Totally knackering but definatley worth it. There's rope swings and slides and jetski rides to be had, so a barrel of laughs guaranteed despite the simultaneous cramps I got in my calfs at the end.

It's "mad dogg".

Splash etc.

Working 9 to 5. That's the way to make a living.

Milford Sound

Similar to Doubtful Sound, Milford Sound is a fiord that required another bus ride and boat trip to see. The journey was punctuated by many stops and mini walks along the way as the passing scenery was fantastic.

Mirror Lake. Does exactly what it says on the tin.

Although filled with stunning scenery, Milford was far too touristy for my liking. There were too many people crammed on too many boats. Plus it was raining and cloudy. Made for grander waterfalls mind you.

A grand waterfall.

The low cloud and mist did make for some eery sights.

Another view. The cliff faces were pretty severe in places - they get a lot of landslides.

We were meant to fly back to Queenstown but due to the weather it was a no go. Maybe next time? I could get used to this life of luxury.

Glow Worms and Low Squirms

The next stop was Te Anau Glow Worm Caves. These caves go for miles underground (otherwise they wouldn't be caves right?) in the limestone rock. Some cool waterfalls and whirlpools kicking around here - reminded me a lot of the underground well in the Goonies. Classic. It was a shame cos we weren't allowed to take photos as they upset the worms.

The man isn't bending down, that's his natural posture after working there for 85 years.

These worms basically make a web of muscus based gloop and then glow like mad. When a not-so-clever moth or the like stubbles towards the light they get stuck and then promptly eaten. It was quite special being in a pitch black cavern in a boat looking at "stars" on the ceiling.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Doubtful Sound

After an early start, a two and a half hour coach ride, a 40 minute ferry ride, another bus ride and 2 blizzards we arrive at Doubtful Sound. This place is seriously out of the way. No one lives around here and the only boat that goes up and down the fiord regulary is the "Navigator". She picks you up just after lunch and tottles around the fiord for about 24 hours.

This place was simply beautiful. Because the boat only had 50 odd people on it and because we were the only ones there, the surroundings created a magical sense of hushed awe - looked like Jurassic Park! As pictures tell a thousand words I'll stop talking now.

When the waters were still you got some brilliant mirror images.

More canny water effects.

We also saw plenty of Kea - they're a native alpine parrot. They only live here.

107 Hallenstein & Righteous P

After deciding to settle in glorious Queenstown, we go house hunting quick smart. As we got here as the ski season was ending and before the summer season had got underway there are empty flats a plenty, so after a few viewing we decided on this little beauty (I say little when I mean massive):

There she blows in all her glory. Don't worry, that's not our car, the Colonel is still rolling along nicely.

We have an official new journey-fun-seeker called Rob. He's from Cardiff. We try not to hold that against him, but it's hard sometimes. His special skills include body-popping, MC-ing and foot-boarding (more on all of those later). So he's moved in with us two and the good times are yet to stop rolling.

Rob aka. The Peruvian Monkey

Job hunting begin in earnest shortly after moving in. Emma bagged a couple early doors; one job working in a bar, the other working in "The British Lolly Shop". She eats sweets all day and has a beaming smile on her face most of the time. Ideal job or what? Rob also got a job in the same bar as Em and, well me being me, I was a bit lackadaisical. I pottered around a bit, had a little shufty here and there. You can't rush into these things right?

Typical view from the Penthouse of an evening. Not too bad.

I did get a job eventually, with a tourist booking company. So I sell tours and activities to people. Perk of the job is that I can do any of the activities and stuff for free. Can't complain. So for 4 days of the week before I started work I went on a whistle stop tour doing as much stuff as I could. Result!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Canyon Swinging

We jumped into a Canyon for fun. The lovelly people at Canyon Swing tie a load of ropes and gadgets to you and then you jump off a cliff. Once you depart the platform you freefall 200ft down into the canyon until the ropes smoothly pendulums you into a giant 200m arc at 150kph. Whoooosh!

The Canyon. After jumping, the person disappears for a while and then reappears tini beyond the cliff miles away. You can still here the shreaking.

There are a number of different ways you can jump off - backwards, forwards, upside down, sat in a chair, tied to a baboon etc. all of which look fun. Some of us did it once, some of us twice. Was a really good adrenaline rush! My final jump was done upside down and backwards, so looking forward I could see the ground. Gulp.
Lisa falling backwards. The poor lass screamed all the way.

Emma diving. Good posture.