Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Years in Arrowtown

(I wrote this a few days ago, but haven't had an internet connection.  Will-J's foot is fine after two days - apparently he was either more surprised than hurt or has bionic healing powers.)

After a fair amount of wheeling and dealing, Catherine showed up in the new car:

Within an hour, we were on our way to adventure in Queenstown, and the way was littered with beautiful blue rivers, waysides, and fruit stands.  Which of course leads to “fruit creams,” a food of genius in simplicity: take hard vanilla ice cream, and then crush it with berries in a spinning auger-like machine to create a smooth blended fruit ice cream.  This is almost as earth-shattering as meat pies, which are now part of our steady diet (meaning that we are on our way to gaining ten pounds).  Here's the magical machine:

Soon after, we are driving among wild skyscraping peaks looming over perfect vineyards.  Clouds are blowing by, and off, of the mountains – finally, after three hours’ drive, here is what we came to see!
We pull into the Arrowtown holiday caravan park, expecting something like a Forest Service campground, and instead joining about five hundred erstwhile Queenstown New Years revelers blasting dubstep.  There is a clear campground hierarchy – the white wine set from Aukland has rented posh condos in town and is eating prawns/steak at the local fine establishments.  The inexpensive white wine set from Christchurch has rented cabins in the caravan park and is enjoying the same.  The white-wine from a box set has brought their caravan trailers and is enjoying sausages off the grill.  The microbrew set from Sydney have brought their brightly-colored rented minivan caravans and are…blasting Pink Floyd?  Yes, indeed they are blasting the saddest music known to man (besides Radiohead) on NYE.  And the Red-Bull-and-vodka set have brought their cheap tents and are eating crisps from the bag.    

After obtaining an overpriced spot on the rugby pitch, Will-J jumps out the car, he’s running somewhere he shouldn’t, I’m after him - he pushes me off, does a spin move, and suddenly he’s on the ground clutching his foot.  He says he stepped on a sharp rock.  Ten minutes – we don’t even have the tent up yet.
So now we’re with the 500 erstwhile Queenstown New Years revelers blasting dubstep, but now we’re also in our small tent with a five-year-old in pain.  We can’t go anywhere because we’ve already seen drunk drivers out and it’s only going to get worse.  And then the rain starts.

(Longish aside: the rain in Dunedin.  We live in a relatively dry place [Denver].  Dunedin is not dry.  As I write this, it is raining, and has been raining for about 12 hours.  There is a good chance that it will be raining at about the same steady consistency tomorrow morning.  We knew this was coming, but we’re not used to it yet.  We know that we can get used to it, however, because I hiked the Long Trail through a stretch of at least ten days of rain, around Denali through five days of rain, etc., and because Catherine lived in Corvallis, Oregon.  I keep saying things like, “Yeah this is some pretty good rain, but it’s not as hard as it was when I was living in London that one winter, or in Seward that other winter.”  But, to be honest, it’s some pretty good rain.  And, like I said, we’re not used to it yet.)

We are able to get Will-J to sleep, and for awhile we watched the show of kids getting ready for Q-Town New Years Eve.  See, the idea is to stay for cheap at the campground, pre-game heavily on (oddly popular) bourbon/coke canned drinks (and/or other drugs), get dressed to the (mid-90’s) nines, and then take shuttle busses for a night on the Q-Town.  Except that it’s now pouring rain, and the ladies dressed to the nines are tottering around the campground on heels in the mud wearing plastic ponchos over their mini-dresses.  The police arrive, and are already removing some belligerent party-people at 9 p.m.  Plus there is a lost dog, and some other issues.  Too bad for them – we are in our four-season extra-sound tent.
I wake up at midnight to muted fireworks and some huzzahs.  I note that it is still raining.  The floor of the tent appears wet.  I wake up at 2 a.m. to pee.  I note that it is still raining.  The tent is completely soaked through, but I am dry in my high-tech sleeping bag cocoon.  Or beloved son is snoring peacefully.  At 6 a.m., the family is awake.  Catherine’s sleeping bag is soaked through.  Will-J’s sleeping bag is soaked through.  Will-J has abandoned his sleeping bag in order to sleep on top of Catherine, where it remains dry.  We depart the caravan park immediately (in the rain).  I contemplate blasting the radio, but don’t have the heart (and plus there are no stations).  Later, Catherine tells me I missed some more fun when the shuttle busses returned at 3 a.m. and the youthful revelers found their flattened and soaked-through tents.

We stop in Cromwell for coffee, and it is here at the BP station that I have a cultural experience.  There is a just-so older Kiwi guy at the counter, presiding over his very neat convenience store and nicely arranged breakfast meat pies.  I see the price list for “coffee” and tell him I’d like “coffee.”  He says, “COFFEE?  JUST COFFEE?  WHAT DO YOU MEAN, COFFEE???”  He says it in his wonderfully gruff Kiwi accent (more on that later) that intimates I have asked the dumbest question ever.  I’m confused.  I’m at a gas station and I want coffee.  He motions towards a gleaming La Marzocco espresso machine and says, “FLAT WHITE?”  Yes, I will have a flat white.  Yes, the gruff older Kiwi gentleman who looks like he once played for the All Blacks will make me a non-foamy latte at 7 a.m. on New Years Day.  It is delicious.  Thank you sir.  And I’ve learned something about New Zealand this morning.

We go out to the car, and the clouds have parted for the moment.  We’re looking at two bright green mountain ranges with matching rainbows – it looks like one of the colorized segments from “Breaking the Waves.”

We enjoy our coffee.  Will-J is quietly sitting in the car – his foot isn’t hurting.  Everything is okay.

And everything is okay, until an hour later when Will-J throws up all over himself in the back of the car. 

We spend a few hours at the Dunedin urgent care waiting to be seen by the very nice, very young doctor, who is thorough and polite, and who directs for Will-J to get an X-ray of his foot.  Which is given by an equally nice, equally young woman who instantly convinces Will-J to be perfectly still.  Soon after, we are looking at the beautiful, un-fractured inside of Will-J’s foot.  His bones are still far apart and growing towards each other – the doctor shows us the growth zones.  His foot looks like the Platonic ideal of a healthy young boy’s foot.  The doctor gently applies a compression bandage and sends us home – he’ll be fine in a few days.  The staff tells us that because we have work visas the total cost is $45.

Will-J says now he’d rather go to the beach, and I think he’s right.

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