The Full Nelson

Saturday, January 27, 2007

We got into Nelson early enough to take a look around for a few hours before dinner and did just that. The city is quite small and very touristy. Every city here seems touristy, which is probably why the kiwis strive so hard to find crazy stuff to do in the wilderness. I would want to escape too. We grabbed some wine (and me some olives) and I actually found an ice wine, which, to be honest, is not really great as far as ice wines go, but it is local and was only $15 NZ. So what can I expect? It certainly wasn’t awful. The bottle of red I got had Monkey in the title and was not great either, but again was worth the $10NZ price tag.

The group of us had dinner (burritos) and cracked open the wine. We all sat around chatting and drinking and were having a great time. It’s nice when everyone is together and visting. Then we went out on the town and hit several bars. I only spent $12 for the night, which I’m quite happy with, though I suppose I spent more if the wine earlier is included. Everyone is also happy to share and try each others’ wines and foods, which is very nice because we get to try a lot of stuff that way. I had a chat with Katie about the company she’s working for and how they do things and we called it an evening.

The next morning I was on cooking duty so I got up early to get breakfast set up. Which basically means cutting up some fruit, putting out the bread and jam (boysenberry), and yogurt. I think I’ve convinced Katie that we could have crepes or something in the morning quite easily, so I’m hoping for a warm breakfast sometime soon. I tried to use the internet but the cafĂ© didn’t like IP6 very much and logged my computer off irretrievably right when I was about to start a video chat with my dad and in the middle of uploading my photos. Today, the rest of the group minus two or three people (Lana, Amanda, Rachel) went skydiving. I’d already done it (and not found it that much a rush) and decided to spend my money trying out hang gliding instead.

The weather was pretty dodgy in the morning but cleared up by midday, so I was able to actually attempt a run off the mountain type of take off instead of being towed behind a plane. We drove up the a large hill on the edge of Nelson and there were lots of people up there already, paragliding and hang gliding. Just to be up there and watching everyone was cool enough, but I was going to get to do it. To be honest, I was already more nervous than skydiving because there’s a lot more that can go awry with a glider than a parachute – wing stalls, spins, more difficult landings, etc. But we strapped ourselves into a harness, got the glider set up (well, they did this since they didn’t want a novice doing something wrong), and I passed my camera off to the really hot English girl that was Kevin’s assistant. Unfortunately, she didn’t think it important to photograph herself. Then, to the edge of the hill, 1… 2… step… step… run run run run and we were airborne.

It was really an amazing thing to do this, moreso than I imagined. Right after takeoff, we were speeding down and then climbing up, moreorless stalling, and then back down again, as we hunted updrafts. You just fly through the air like a bird, looking for these thermals and updrafts and riding them. We climbed over 1000 ft. from our takeoff point, and were pretty much right at the floor of the clouds before we sailed on and out over the city. Turning is just a matter of leaning your weight. And because we were riding these thermals in spirals upward and there was a lot of up-down motion, there was a bit of nausea involved. Also, the harness didn’t fit quite right which means that a lot of weight was on my feet and my lower back got pretty sore. But it was all worth it to just be up there in the breeze floating around. We also did some stalls, steep turns, and other fun stuff. Then we came in to the landing field over a soccer game and rolled to a quick stop.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group seemed to really enjoy the dive. I watched Brad’s video after and they all seem so excited, I’m a little sorry I didn’t go with them – it probably would’ve been a little more fun with people I know. But I certainly don’t regret the hang gliding. We got back and I was on cooking duty again, which today was… sandwiches. I remember reading a review of someone saying that they ate better here than at home and I feel bad for them. Though their group probably wasn’t led by a vegetarian. After dinner, I wound up doing almost all the cleanup by myself. All the while, one member of my group was sitting at a nearby table chatting loudly (and, I won’t lie, inanely) and the other was just hanging out upstairs. To the loud one’s credit, she washed almost four small cutting boards and put in about two minutes of work. And she also decided she was above helping prepare the sandwiches. I would’ve called her on it, but I probably would’ve snapped completely, so I grabbed my iPod and cranked it up instead, and finished it on my own. The next night, one of them made it up to me by getting groceries on my behalf, so we’re getting along again.

We sat around in the lounge that night (me, Chris, and Brad) and chatted with a guy from Toronto who has been abroad for a couple years in Europe and New Zealand. The cooking drama was forgotten and we had a good time. The next day we went wine tasting, Brad, Chris, Anthony, Katie, and myself. On the tour with us were, amazingly, two girls from Davidson. Talk about a small world. We had some really nice white Waimea Sauvignon Blanc that is probably the best white wine I’ve ever had, as well as some decent pinot gris and chardonnay, though I wasn’t really a big fan of the chardonnays. Dinner was a definite effort on the part of this particular cooking group, and was a definite step in the right direction – curry, rice, garlic bread. That’s more like it. We did a little shopping for food, I did a lot more internet stuff to get you guys up to date, and then came back and packed for the next couple days. Tomorrow, we head to Abel Tasman, some by foot (me) and others by kayak. We camp there for the night, spend the next day there, and then those that walked kayak out while the others walk. It’s supposed to be a nice park, I just REALLY could use some weather that isn’t rain. I’ll settle for cloudy and cool, but please for the love of all that is holy, no rain tomorrow!

Nelson Photos

Wine Tasting Photos

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