What happens when you infuse stunning alpine landscapes with adrenaline rushes, dangerously low sleep, and ten days of alcoholic merriness? Apart from serious fun (and what turned out to be over a month of pneumonia), cue juicy insights and that fabulous travel high.
Sliding off the best corner of the map is a magical stretch of mountains that look as though they’ve been delicately sprinkled with icing sugar. Less delicate however, is the descent into these mountains, which is said to be one of the most turbulent and difficult flight paths you can make in winter. Definitely sifting out the worthy there. But plummeting down through those clouds and bouncing unpredictably along the tarmac is surely one of the most stunning sights to behold. Especially with the bestie grabbing your wrist and squealing in belly-dropping anticipation by your side.
Unfortunately, this was not me, as I discovered at the airport a few hours earlier that I had booked the wrong flight, so was forced to abandon my travel buddies and bolt to the opposite end of the airport to board my own plane. Yes, we paid extra to get adjacent seats – which we DID – but on different planes… Good start.
So there I was, looking out fondly over an empty 25A, through the window, at Queenstown. Let’s establish my morbid fear of all things cold, so a blast of one-degree air when disembarking the plane is about on par with death. Despite this, the view of The Remarkables for the second time this year was still striking enough to settle me till I got into the terminal. Then it was just a matter of circling the tiny airport till the homies landed (side note: ninety minutes alone in an airport with only a handful of stores and unlimited free fudge can only go well, right?).
Any prediabetic concerns were obviously cured by the magnificence of Ferg (all hail) and the first night of an illegal ten-day bender. Not even mid-way through the month and I watched Dry July drown helplessly in the rest of the night. And because luck was in our favour, we managed to coax out the snow, so day one was filled with much midnight snow dancing by the still lake with happy faces that were sprinkled with snowflakes.
This special little town not only quenches all those crazy adrenaline dreams, but even has local activities to amuse you. Where else can you use your frozen fingers to launch a frisbee blindly through a forest of stunning pine trees in the hope that it doesn’t take out an innocent tourist or land in the lake, but rather perfectly in a designated basket that you can’t see? Frisbee-golf is a legitimate thing, and despite taking hours to a complete a course (with mild tricep casualties), is the most entertaining forest activity. And then there’s the main reason for booking tickets: the Luge. Yes, you can race toboggans down a mountain with the pressing fear of getting pushed off the road by a fellow luger, or obliterating a child who’s stopped mid-course.
And when you thought it couldn’t get much better, think free pub crawl. I’m talking limbo contests (double yes) at bars where you can play connect-4 while sipping hot rum chai and being served free shots all night (Dry July was a joke). Nightlife where etiquette is to dance on counters, swing on beams, and run into endless streams of adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers from all over the globe. You know it’s been a big one when you actually delete your late night snap story the next day before anyone’s had a chance to behold its insanity… In this snow-sport hub where people literally bid farewell with “see you on the slopes tomorrow”, predictably we didn’t make it up for skiing the next morning.
When we did manage to get ourselves up the mountains however, it was James Bond-style darting between other skiers and round flags (ft. one fall off the ski lift, getting stuck on the chair as it started going back down the mountain, and an ironic crash through the ‘Go Slow’ sign). Injuries acquired: zero. Score.
The rest of this wintery adventure included running off a cliff into free fall (said limbo contest prize), eye-popping pizzas bigger than dinner tables, ludicrous punch concoctions (NB: shower and shave BEFORE your first drink), late night yoga bliss (hang in there stretchy jeans!), heavily endorsing swimming in icy lakes (friend of the year award), being offered jobs daily in such a employment hotspot, and it wouldn’t be a true Catherine trip without smashing a glass.
After skipping Dry July for good reason, I’ve had five bedridden weeks of a definite Dry August (including many an antibiotic to cure me of what x-rays revealed to be a pretty brutal lung infection) to confirm that it was all undoubtedly worth it.