Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Lime Bush and a Cloudy Bay

After many winding turns from Auckland I arrived at the Bay of Islands - Paihai (pie-hey-ye) to be preicise and only minutes before two insane bikers that I passed while they were going 50-60kph down a hill and around some pretty sharp curves. (Iwas going slower than they were at some curves)

Checking in at a local backpackers, I noticed a lime bush with some luscious looking fresh fruit which made me think of a gin and tonic, which made me realize how thirsty I was and how refreshing a gin and tonic would be- especially with a fresh picked lime. Shortly afterward, while in the liquor store comtemplating at least the tonic water to go with a lime, I noticed a chilled bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, a "must try" wine that was highly recommended by friends. Perfect for a cloudy day in the Bay. Later I found a restaurant that was a BYOB, which afforded the opportunity to open the lovely bottle.

As I sat sipping my Cloudy Bay, a gentleman took a table near mine. He ordered a bottle of red wine and appeared to be writing notes. When he ordered dinner, I assumed he was traveling solo, and in a scene straight out of the movies, I asked the hostess (who also was the owner with her chef husband) to ask whether the gentleman was dining alone, and if so, whether he would like to share a table. To my relief he enthusiastically agreed, picked up his wine and joined me. (The hostess had this devilishly delicious smile on her face as he moved to my table and all the other tables were definitely taking note, I observed.)

As we dined, we compared notes on places visited, reasons for being here, and the relative merits of New Zealand. Michael is a 55 year old upstate New Yorker with a significant other who does not care to travel, but who doesn't mind his going off for weeks at a time. He has been traveling NZ for almost 2 months, having arrived with absolutely no itinerary. And this is where background and personality helps the independant traveler when plopped down in the middle of a country not knowing much if anything of where they are. If you are a resourceful person to begin with, then you will fall back on those instincts and do things like: 1) Read travel guides to see what others who have carefully researched the area recommend 2) ask everybody you meet what you should be doing while here and 3) Roll with the punches. It is an experience, both good and bad, and you will learn something from both. Not everything will go well, some things will seem humorous in retrospect and others will just be unpleasant. By asking around and knowing what he wanted to do, he was able to get himself invited on a very private white-water rafting trip with some of the nation's leading outdoor adventure-seekers - reknowned bikers, mountain-climbers, artists, etc. , each tops in their sport or field (but note - NOT in their work field. They choose to work to live, rather than live to work so what they do for a living is, to them, irrelevant. He considers himself the luckiest man alive to be able to live the way he does. He has taken time off to deliver boats for friends to the Caribbean, traveled about Europe, and been to many other exotic destinations. He was off the next day to sail the Bay of Islands for a few days with someone he met, after which he would be heading home.


The weather was blowing and threatening rain so the morning's planned sail onboard the Sydney to Hobart racer, Wild Thing didn't work out, but my backup plan worked out just fine! Parasailing 2100 feet over the water was a blast!!!! Because I was too light, one of the boat handlers had to go with me as ballast to keep the parachute stable, so I had a local tour guide with me pointing out all the sights and letting me know exactly what to expect at each turn. Very reassuring until he decided to clown around and do a header in the harness. The boat handler brought us down just low enought that my feet were in the water and my buddy's head was dunked. He loved it.

He's a local who for many years had said "No way - You have to be crazy to do that" but after he had been working for a while the owner insisted that he try it so he could relate to the customers better. One try and he was hooked. He said that since then he has probably been up over 100 times. Asked how many times the line breaks or accidents happen, he said none that he has seen, although once the line did break (in the U.S.), but the customers just floated down to the water very gently. So he's pretty sure that that is what happens. Oh, that's sooooo reassuring.

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