Beware of Sheep: Taking on Nature and Taking it Easy in Queenstown

Queenstown, New ZealandMilford Sound

Queenstown is a fairyland: snow-capped mountains, shimmering lakes, majestic fiords, and cascading waterfalls.  More importantly, it’s the adventure capital of the world.   If you’re someone who believes that you can’t truly appreciate life until you’ve faced death, then Queenstown is the place for you.  Between jet boating, kayaking, luging, and paragliding, this city is a pleasure seeker’s paradise, assuming that you find knowingly placing yourself in harms way to be enjoyable.  With a generous budget (and insurance plan), you can get your thrills by land, sea, or air.

Personally, I love to do things that scare me, which is good, because I’m a bit of a paranoid hypochondriac, meaning I’m afraid of most everything.  Yesterday, a friend and I took a bus up to Lake Wanaka (please note that the accent in Wanaka is on the first syllable.  I tell you this so that you don’t accidentally pronounce it as if it were the name of a summer camp in Northern Michigan).  The plan was to sky dive from 12,000ft (or as another friend put it: the height when you’re allowed to turn back on your electronic devices).  I never understood the appeal of diving headfirst off a ledge with a giant rubber band tied to your feet.  However, there is something inexplicably exciting to me about the idea of free falling through the sky with nothing but a manly New Zealander and a parachute attached to my back.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate and we spent a day seeking shelter from the wind in the town’s tourist shops, debating over which would be the best souvenir: kiwi-shaped candles, kiwi jam, or kiwi scented body lotion.  I rescheduled the jump for this morning, but the sky was overcast and grey, and no one was flying, leaving me to spend the day by myself in Queenstown.

Looking for a way to justify my 7:30am wake-up call, I set off to climb Queenstown Hill, armed with only an iPod, a granola bar, and the wrong kind of undergarments,.  It’s a fairly easy hike with fantastic views of the city.  However, being up there alone was kind of creepy, as much of the trail winds its way through a dark pine forest, causing me to wonder every few minutes, Is this the spot where I’ll be abducted?  Fortunately, I saw enough fellow climbers to keep me calm, and eventually the path spilled out into a clearing.

As soon as the sunlight (and my breath) returned, I heard the call of a wild animal in the distance.  Seconds later, another animal responded, and I looked up to find two wild sheep trotting towards me.  Sheep attacks may not be as prevalent as bear attacks, but I’m pretty sure that any animal is dangerous when it feels threatened.  Not wanting to get mauled by a rogue ewe, I stepped aside to let them pass.   The sheep continued to talk amongst themselves, but the pair never went by.

Now, I’m no Doctor Dolittle, but I just knew that they were talking about me.  So, I decided to join in the conversation, doing my best impression of a sheep.  From further up the mountain, the sheep team leader engaged my trash talk, no doubt insulting my mother, but the other two remained silent.  I was trying to figure out what they were up to when all of a sudden I was startled by a violent “BAHHHH!” coming from overhead.  It seems that during the diversion, the two sheep had snuck around back and were now standing above me.  Without thinking, I did what any rational, levelheaded person would do. I ran, leaving the delinquent sheep to high five each other behind my back.

Further up the hill, I stopped to tie my shoe.  I looked up just in time to see a flock of sheep stampeding towards me.  I had no idea what to do in the given situation – play dead, look them in the eye, stop, drop and roll?  Luckily, they ceased their charge and left me alone.  Once safely back indoors, I decided to give myself the rest of the day off.  So, while my friends are taking a guided walking tour of the Rob Roy glacier, in the rain, I’m sitting in a café, sipping hot chocolate, and writing a blog entry.  In all honesty, given how intense my life is right now, a warm drink and wifi is about all the thrill I want or need.

Two weeks ago, I was eating dinner in my apartment in Buenos Aires with two of my best friends.  Until a week ago, I was sleeping on an air mattress on the floor of my high school friend’s house in Auckland.  Just three days ago, a college acquaintance was trying, in vain, to teach me to boogie boarding in the Pacific Ocean.  And yesterday, I was sitting in an apartment in Queenstown, warming myself in front of the fireplace and watching Flight of the Conchords on TV.  How does life change so fast and so dramatically?

When I try to wrap my head around all of the places I’ve been, people I’ve seen, and things that I’ve done in the span of fourteen days, my mind wants to explode, or take a nap.  Which probably explains why I’ve been so tired lately.  Today, I don’t need to jump off or out of anything, row down any bodies of water, or tramp up the side of any landmasses.  I’ve had all of the excitement I can handle for the moment, and there is plenty of adventure still to come.  Instead, I’m taking a mental health day, and dedicating some of my precious and limited travel time to those things that keep me grounded: writing, working out, meditating, and listening to music.  I’m even treating myself to an hour in the hot pools.  Besides, I need plenty of rest for tomorrow morning – I have an 8:30am jump time.


1 Response to “Beware of Sheep: Taking on Nature and Taking it Easy in Queenstown”

  1. 1 Josh March 12, 2009 at 9:35 am

    and I thought you were going to say you ran into a buffalo. See, you knew exactly what to do because it wasnt your first time!

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