Matthew's News and Gossip: 03/01/2003 - 04/01/2003

Matthew's News and Gossip

A man with no talent, but armed with a digital camera, can waste lots of bandwidth

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

OK, here's the piece I wrote last week about my end of NZ trip and the week in thailand, now with photos! The trip to Taiwan will be up shortly but this is a fun one so read this too!

So I drove from Wanaka to Queenstown with the intention of finishing my paragliding PG1 course there. (Here's a map of the south island to help) The first day because of some wierd incident on the hill the day before, when my instructor got beaten up by some rival school's stringer, we couldn't go. So instead I went on the LiveWire adventure course. Queenstown is the self proclaimed adventure capital of the world. If you're not throwing yourself off something attached to a parachute, a bungy, a swing, a paraglider or nothing at all -- then you have nothing to boast about in the pub at night. The Live-Wire was a bit like a corporate team-building course and you're roped up to everything, but climbing 35ft up a pole, standing on the top and jumping for a trapeze 2 meters away is still bloody terrifying (and I was the only one who caught the trapeze apart from the 6ft4 Irish lad!). All the Live Wire photos are here, but not all of them are of me (as if you care!).

The next day I did get to go paragliding and completed 7 more high flights over the next 3 days thanks to the help of Lisa (on left here) my young (10 years younger than I thought as it turns out) and very, very spunky instructor at Adventure Paragliding. My last flight was over 14 minutes so I was pretty chuffed. My main buddy was Peter from Doncaster, although we managed to meet a few random people in the pubs and I was a little hungover most mornings. There are several paragliding photos incuding a sequence of me flying under a big green "wing" and landing on my feet(!), and some of Peter landing and others flying here.

I escaped from Queenstown and drove my trusty car north (at 6 am, hungover after St Patricks night) to Peel's Forest 2 hours south of ChristChurch. Rangitita Rafting provide a good day out near where they filmed some of Lord of the Rings. They claim the river to be Grade 5 at all water levels but it wasn't really (absolutely nothing like Cherry Creek on the Tuolumne which I did with JB and Joe Gatto a few years ago). But it did have two good stretches of grade 4-5 rapids in about 3 hours total rafting. Given that most of the punters in my boat were total beginners, it was just as well that it wasnt too wild! Plus they gave us a decent lunch and dinner all for well under the cost of a days rafting in the US!

I drove from there to Christchurch, through a plain filled with the biggest hedges I've ever seen. Apparently Christchurch was founded by a bunch of Oxford based religious nuts but luckily I didn't meet any. I went to stay with Stephen Burley's cousin Katherine and her husband Luke, whom I found out lived in Berkeley, and attended some second rate university there for 6 years. They put me up for the night and promised to look after my car as I took the long, long flight via Auckland, Sydney, Bangkok, a seedy hotel for a few hours in Bangkok and finally to Phuket (again!).

The occasion in Phuket was the stag night of longtime Taiwan hasher Barens T Wang (AKA Barry King). Organized by JB RaeSmith and attended by scads of drunks from all over Asia. I arrived Thursday at 3 and finished drinking at Sunday about 8. The bash went on and on, with my nomination to serve as Tom MacDonald (who didn't make it) and to have to drink his drinks as well as my own helping to ensure that I had no idea what was going on. Luckily Mark Dolan took a few surreptitious photos of his own that I have added into mine. Interspersed in the bashing was a canoe trip to James Bond Island where luckily someone else paddled so the boys could "drink their way out of trouble", some excellent fun at Paintball, a run/walk, and the rather surprising discovery of Lucy (Bettina's friend who I meet "Grape Grazing a few weeks back in Australia) in my room when I got back from drinking late late on Saturday night! She was of course forced to come on the lunchtime drinking on Sunday where she gave a better account of herself than many others! In fact many of the boys were very surprised with the early morning discovery that there was a tall white squeezy toy in my room, and the legend exceeded the reality by only a small (well, actually huge) amount. Several pics of the canoe trip, the bash, and the sunday drinking are here. Several others you'll have to ask me for separately although this anonymous individual may claim his prize at the door (Lucy isn't too impressed!)!

By Monday morning Lucy and I were alone and ended up after some discussion going to Krabi and onto Ralei beach (where I'd been in October) for some more rock-climbing -- she'd vetoed my beach only plans at that stage. I did rather better at climbing in March than I had the previous October, mostly because I can just about use my left knee now. However, maybe it was the 3 massages I've had since I got to Thailand that have helped! Lucy looked pretty pro, but kept coming down because she claimed to be scared (I think she was just stroking my ego!) Here are the climbing photos.

So I'm off to Taiwan tommorow (Friday) for the Barry King wedding. If my liver survives and I don't get SAR, I'll write more from Australia!
posted by matthew  # 11:14 PM 

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Quick one. I'm a little peed off with my new Handspring Visor which has developed a bad habit of crashing and losing its short term memory when I change the batteries (which it seems to need new ones of every 20 minutes) and I've lost a long piece I was going to post here as a result. However, I've been in Nelson (where I was before) learning to paraglide; I've now done three high (High!) flights and am halfway towards the basic PG1 certification. Here's the rest of the Nelson paragliding shots (there'll be more from Queenstown in the next edition!)

As my instructors Andrea and Richard left for the weekend, I went down in my new (New? it's 20 years old and cost $300 US) car to Hokitika. That's half way down the incredibly beautiful west coast of the South Island (of NZ). The first two hitchhikers were dour German scientist Mark and Sylvana, a glamorous blonde Swiss snowboard instructor. We saw the hanging bridge, a seal colony and the very cool pancake rocks at Pukitika National Park. My hitch-hikers bought me a beer after I dropped them in Greymouth. This was pretty freaky as I ended up narrowly escaping a drinkdriving charge (having initially failed a compulsory breath test then passing the more accurate one they use to check it) at the edge of town. No 4th Amendment here!! The trip down the very beautiful west coast of South Island NewZealand is here.

I had an interesting time at the Wildfoods festival in Hokitika, incluing eating HuHu grubs, grasshoppers, Mountain Oysters, etc, etc. All the photos are here. The full set includes me eating lots of disgusting things and some others including Patty, Jason and a couple of random Kiwis who's marriage I think I ended.. (This was the first place on my trip where I met many Americans, BTW).

I next went down to Franz Josef Glacier and had a great day being guided around inside the canyons, crevasses and tunnels up on the glacier. The Glacier walk is here.

I was supposed to go on a big hike (the Copland Track) with Patty from Oregon but she flaked and went without me a day earlier than we'd arranged. So instead, the next day, I went with a couple of hitch-hikers (Darrow from New York and Monika and Amelie from Germany) down to Wanaka, stopping off at a bunch of places including Ship Creek where we saw a wonderful impromptu show from the dolphins out in the waves. The Dolphin show
is here

In Wanaka I went to the Puzzle World, played Golf (it was everyone's first time except for me but it only cost $10 NZ!) including parring 3 out of 9 holes (pretty flash, eh!) and on the Wednesday went on a beautiful hike with amazing views of the lake Wanaka, and went to the very fun Cinema Paradiso--a combined cinema/gourmet resturant run by a mad and amusing Scot. The movie was "Y Tu Mama Tambien" which is Mexican and full of sex. I tried in vain to encourage my hot date Nicola from Cockfosers into the spirit of things! Here's the drive to and fun in Wanaka up.

The shots of the Diamond Lakes trail in Wanaka, and my contunied paragliding adventures in Queenstown will be up soon. Oh yeah, I'm in Thailand again now, but you'd have guessed that wouldn't you!
posted by matthew  # 3:48 PM 

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Well it's been a wild week in New Zealand. I escaped Sydney after ten pin bowling with Chris Cuthbert, Sally and their kids Oliver and Christian, and their friends. Chris came to pick me up in his very flash new old Aston Martin, which was great although the heater was stuck on! Sally won the ten pin bowling of course. That night we had a great dinner; Stephen and Annabelle joined Chris, Sally and Christine Forster (Nick was AWOL) at a nice Chinese retaurant and we bored each other about old times and who had the biggest willy back in 1987 when the girls last saw one. After a final dinner and improved babysitting attempt (aided by the cartoon of Peter Pan on video) I ran away from the Burleys to New Zealand.

The flight out of Sydney gave some spectacular views of the downtown and the coast, (all in the Sydney set) and there were some great ones also of the New Zealand coast. I spent one night in Auckland and flew straight to Nelson at the north of New Zealand's south island. My first day there was spent at the doctor (as I think I have gout in my foot and it hurts!) andf my first night there was spent with a young Korean student called Ally (as in McBeal) who told me she liked beer and tried to drink me under the table. Apparently she was seasick out kayaking the next day.

I went on a three day kayaking trip the next day, led by a guide called Shay working for Kiwi Kayaks. We went into the Able Tasman national park (or rather just off it). Along with me our group had a couple of young-ish German girls (Jeanette and Steffi), two glamorous Danish midwives (Ulla and Ann-Lus), a german-Swiss couple (Cosa and Elma) and an English lad called Ben. Other than putting up with Ben's snoring and winding Cosa up into some choice rants about America and the world, it was a great trip We saw a few seals, the odd penguin and lots of beautiful coast line. Because the coast is so well hiked (tramped in Kiwi lingo) there are very well set-up camp sites with real loos and even toilet paper! But they are next to gorgeous beaches and at times I felt that I was back in Thailand, especially when the Danish girls stripped off to their bikinis! Highlights included lots of hard paddling, meandering very close to frolicking seals and sailing in a raft of kayaks.

All the Abel Tasman pictures are here
posted by matthew  # 5:51 PM 


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