Diary of The Travelling Seanchai :-

100 pints of Guinness with a lot of Ice Please!

2007-10-08 to 2007-10-12

I have some favourite spots on this planet and Queenstown in the South Island of NZ is one of them! Winter is ski season and during the summer, it is the adventure capital of the world. Large numbers of people going out every day trying to kill themselves by bungee, ski dive, rafting or a multitude of other adrenaline inducing ways and then wanting to go out that night to celebrate their existence! As Frank Sinatra sang, it`s my kind of town!

I met Jess, whom I`d met last in Langkawi, Malaysia last February. She was now working in one of the backpackers so I went for a walk while she finished working. There had certainly been some development work but the town still held it`s charm. I had last been here in 2001 for Christmas and one bar in particular, Pog Mahones, had led to my romanticism of this place.

I was sitting in the pub then, minding my own business but regarding everyone elses, when I noticed the bouncer getting jumped by 3 guys. Out of boredom as much as any sense of chivalry, I ran out, clattered into one guy and punched another by which time the bouncer had got the better of his attacker and they ran off. He brought me back in to the bar and despite the fact that he was sporting a massive black eye, thanked me and told his workmates to give me a few pints from his tab. Needless to say they all gave me free pints for the evening and I was even allowed back for after hours staff drinks.

The next night saw my new friends getting swamped by the busy bar so I offered my services to just pull pints (on a `one for them, one for me` basis!) Again they let me stay back for `staffies` and I had found one of those great pubs! Well to make a short story long, I kept going back there over my three weeks in New Zealand, breaking it up with trips to Christchurch, Gore and Dunedin. I was as suprised as anyone else when they told me that I had gained a space on that most hallowed of Halls of Fame in an Irish Bar – the 100pt club!

I suspect that it was more an honourary reward that they were bestowing on me (no-one could drink that much in a few nights, right?!) but I was strangely proud! A friend had sent my 100pt shirt to me in Sydney and a picture with my name on the plaque and now I was in Queenstown again to see it for myself…. except it wasn`t there.

I looked at the board and there were new names on it, I was convinced that they had covered it over and I am almost ashamed to admit, I was bitterly disappointed! I couldn`t believe it, my faith in this shangri-la of towns, shook to its very core!

But when I went in there with Jess a while later, looking past her I saw that there was another plaque which had been moved from it`s original place and there my name was boldly blazened! My fickle love of the town was firmly restored and when I told this story to Ash, the manager, she gave us our pints for free! I LOVE THIS BAR!

I booked a trip to see the famous, if improperly named, Milford Sound which is actually a fjord. I had never seen a fjord before (for some reason, fjord is a fun word to say!) It really was beautiful as we cruised around it but the 4 hour bus journeys over and back did something to dampen my appreciation of it!

On returning to my backpackers I bumped into Conor who had won the Irish Bachelor of the Year competition that I had been in years ago (filling in last minute for someone that had dropped out and left them in the lurch, I wanted to make that clear!) so we and his mates had a good night out.

Jess, in her capacity as a tour operator, had taken time out on her day off to plot my activities and trip for the rest of my time in NZ. This was handy but also somewhat disconcerting for someone who tends to make things up as I go along. And believe me, as I was running up the road at 6:45am the next morning to my shuttle bus after `sleeping in` I wasn`t at all convinced that this was the way forward for my travels!

Still I made it and I found myself heading to Franz Josef Glacier. I had never been on a glacier before but it seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do to take a trek on it. So bedecked in my four layers of clothes, my boots, crampons and ice pick I joined the `fast group` and we prepared for our ascent. Contrary to our title, progress was painfully slow as our guide had to cut out `steps` for us every couple of feet. It was cold and wet and all this waiting around was seriously detracting from the sights around us.

The rain sleeting down on us did little to raise our spirits but later in the day we did get to some difficult terrain which ironically cheered us up, particularly when a young lad from Chile had a pretty big fall off a set of steps and had he committed himself to a few rolls on landing he would have definitely ended up down a deep crevasse! Not that any of us wanted to see that, but you can now understand our levels of boredom!

Still, on occasions, when you looked at these huge `waves` of ice, knowing that you were on a moving glacier and seeing the brilliant blue of it all, it was truly impressive.

But getting back to the hostel, I discovered that my decision to bring my passport, rather than leave it in the comparatively more risky hostel room, in so much as it was destroyed! All my stamps had run into each other, a few pages had fallen out from getting so wet and one of the pages were torn. Hmmm, not good. As some of my friends have said, when I`m not losing this blasted book, I`m trying to destroy it!

I used one of the girls in my room`s hair dryer to dry it out (who ever thought I would be happy to be holed up with a flashpacker!) and I went out to join my group for dinner, drinks and pool. A good night was had by all and we parted that night, safe in the knowledge that it was unlikely we would ever see any of us again!

Feel free folks to drop me a message, I love getting them and ye slackers have been poor save for some loyal disciples. Would love to hear from ye!


 Bring on South America!!

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