Monday, August 8, 2011

Beautiful One Day...

When travelling everyone wants the weather to be perfect. This is no truer than visiting snow fields. Perfect weather at the snow is full of contradictions.

Firstly everyone wants the snow to be fresh and deep. For this to occur the temperature has to be cold. Snow is a form of precipitation. The conditions have to be just right for snow to form otherwise the precipitation falls in the form of rain or hail.

Snow beautiful – rain, not.

Despite the need for cold wintery conditions to create the much desired snow, visitors to alpine areas still want it to be a day of brilliant sunshine. Not sure where people expect the snow to come from if there are not clouds in the sky.

Of course the perfect conditions at the snow is bright sunshine during the day and snow blizzards over night when we are inside eating, drinking, partying, recovering...

From a recent trip to Mt Buller I have also learned that perfect snow conditions occur outside of school holidays and weekends. In fact Monday’s are the best day – everyone has returned to work following a “weekend away”.

No queues for hiring equipment. No queues for getting on the lifts. No queues at the restaurants, cafes and bars.

Importantly there is room on the slopes. There is room to ski/board at speeds that are just so slightly faster than one can stay in control. There is room to change direction both intentionally and involuntarily. There is room just to stop and take in the views (if the weather is perfect)

The perfect alpine experience however relies on my than the weather conditions. It is the food. At Mt Buller the perfect end to a day on the slopes is a bag of fresh hot cinnamon donuts. Sold at the exit from the Village they are the perfect (if not healthy) accompaniment for the bus ride back to your car/chalet. A good glass of wine (mulled wine is perfect for the conditions) sipped between mouthfuls of freshly prepared cuisine with some good company.

The perfect end to a day on the slopes is the removal of the ski gear and changing back into street clothes. Bulky jackets and pants, beanies and gloves all serve an essential service but they are not comfortable or in the most part flattering. There is no more perfect feeling though, than removing the ski boots. I maintain that only better feeling is the relaxation of the sphincter after a really good poo.

After all are we all after a really good snow dump?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Adrenalin Rush

I enjoy an adrenalin rush when travelling. I am halfway through my plan to white water raft on every continent; I have jumped out of planes; been flung through the air on a human sling shot; have done bobsledding on an Olympic run and have been charged by rhinoceros.

In New Zealand I have added to the adrenalin pumping activities by spending an afternoon navigating my way through a ropes course. From the outset I need to point out that calling it a ropes course is misleading. The only ropes are those attached to the safety harness. The course itself is steel cables and planks of wood. A “steel and wood course” however sounds more like an accredited trade course at TAFE than an adventure activity.

Each of the activities in themselves are not that daunting. Walking across a swinging bridge and a 40foot long piece of perma-pine that is 60cm in diameter, easy. Suspend them 30feet in the air though and they do strange things with your mind.

Suddenly your balance resembles that of a footballer after a Brownlow Medal night or a television “personality” by the time the Gold Logie is announced.

Logic plays no part in the process. At the end of every apparatus the only way down is to be lowered by the instructor using the ropes attached to your harness. In other words, you have to fall off. You start with the lower and easier apparatus so you learn to trust the instructor and the rigging. Yet this knowledge disappears the moment you start to climb up the support pole for the next activity. For the duration of the activity the mind battles with the thought that falling equals death, then having completed the task having no fear about falling to the ground when instructed to.

Can we talk about the instructors for a moment (rhetorical)? This is a sadistic group of people. Sure they are encouraging and skilled at motivating people to step outside of their comfort zone. But they get way to much pleasure out of seeing people squirm and cry and be paralysed with fear. My instructor happily let people dangle or drop them a few feet when he thought they were relaxed.

He was also skilled at using the harness and safety rope to pull people away from the support poles so that they were forced to walk, shuffle, crawl or at least fall. It is to be noted that on the giant swing - which commenced with the most amazing rush as you fell towards the ground from the 30ft landing until the rope gained tension and started its parabola – he gave the women an opportunity to jump and have control of their start, for the men he just pushed them off.

Free fall abseiling 100m into a poorly lit cavern also gets the adrenalin flowing. Also an abseiler has (or should have) complete control of their own descent, a mind still fills with a mix of exhilaration and dread. Exhilarated because of the sense of freedom and possibility and the beauty of what you can see and feel. Dread because of the alternative conclusion, and the fear of what you can not see. Does it make it better or worse that when repelling 100m that you can not see how quickly the ground is coming up to meet you?

Caving, whilst spectacularly beautiful, and peaceful, comes with its own adrenalin pumping aspects. What happens if I get stuck crawling through that tight space? Is the water in the creek running faster, is it the beginning of a flash flood? Cave-ins happen, ropes break, ladders fall and wild animals call caves home. Anything can happen in a cave, I know, I have seen it in the movies.

Zorbing? What is Zorbing? The large inflatable balls that you can get inside, made famous in Coke-a-Cola advertising. These balls move surprisingly slowly but are still adrenalin filled. Rolling uncontrollably down a hill inside a ball is a lot of fun. There are a few litres of water in the ball to reduce the friction and therefore the possibility of injury. It means that you just slip and slide around inside the ball until it comes to a stop. Sharing a Zorb ball with an amazing woman wearing an equally amazing bikini is also sure to get the adrenalin pumping.

Having successfully negotiated these activities, imagine my embarrassment when atop the Tower in Auckland I could barely stand up. Built into the floor are a number of glass panels so that you can look through to the ground 220m below. The signs indicate that the glass is as strong as the cement used in the remainder of the flooring. Despite the signs and being inside a building I went week at the knees and had to drag myself onto the glass and be coaxed into letting go of the handrail.

So the most adrenalin filled experienced was not the ropes, swings, beautiful women, inflatable balls or even NZ drivers (refer to previous blog). Sitting down was the most exhilarating activity I did.

I must be getting old.

Before long I will be wanting to go to China...for the tea!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Zealanders think they are sweet as…

It is hard when on a driving holiday in a foreign country to not meet people that live there, no matter how hard you try. I was fearful because of my predisposition to easily assuming local accents. On my last trip to New York I had adopted the accent by the time I collected my luggage. The NZ accent amazes me not because of their unwillingness to voice vowels but because all utterance (even from the most burly Maori nightclub bouncer) seems to be surprisingly high pitched and always ending in a questioning upward inflection.

I was also fearful of blatantly laughing at the accent having made jokes at the countries pronunciation for days prior to my trip and for much of the three hour flight.

The accent, as it happened was not the thing of which to be most fearful.


I grew up in Adelaide where no-one wants to be overtaken or have someone change into the lane in front of them. People will knowingly alternate their speed from fast to slow just to prevent a change in the order of cars on the tarmac. But Adelaidian drivers are a picture of road etiquette in comparison to drivers in Auckland.

In their defence not all of the road problems are the fault of the drivers. For example the main highway heading south out of Auckland merges from four lanes to one in a distance of less than 50km. his does not help traffic flow at any time but especially at the beginning of a 4 day weekend when the entire population appeared to have journeyed to Auckland just so that they could all travel south on the morning of the first public holiday.

This however does not explain the consistent desire to slow down while on highways – with no posted change of speed limit – as the highway bypassed smaller towns. The high way did not pass through the town in some cases it passed over them or usually 1km or so to the side of them. None the less all traffic decided it important to slow to half the allowed speed limit.

When finally on the open road, cars of all makes and models appeared to be speed limited at 80km/hr a frustrating 20km/hr below the speed limit. Why New Zealand? Why? I used language which in my family is usually reserved for dad when repairing the washing machine.

The only thing that equalled the frustration experienced in the traffic was the absence of sign posting for roads and major attractions. Having driven round in circles for 15-20 minutes looking for one attractions we phoned the proprietors for directions only to be told to stay on the road on which we were already travelling until we saw the sign and turn right.

The road we were on came to an end at a waterfall without passing any signage. The road parallel when we got on that did lead to the attraction, which was actually on the left and not the right. The only sign we saw was at the driveway only meters from the attraction that was so obvious that at distance no sign was assisting with directions.

When it comes to fashion curvaceous women of Maori descent should not wear cream coloured leggings as outerwear over the top of black underwear. Strike that no woman should wear cream coloured leggings as outerwear over the top of black underwear. Even with someone like Megan Gale it is what you do not see that makes her alluring.

The favourite people we met in New Zealand were not locals at all. Instead they were students from Columbia. They were visiting the land of the great white cloud – get this – to learn English! I thought it would make sense to go to a country that actually spoke the language you were hoping to learn. Let me state the English language has FIVE vowel, in this order: A, E, I, O, U.

The German tourist we met in Bay of Plenty was the least favourite person we met. She followed the example of her forbears as she occupied areas that were not hers. She elbowed everyone away from the hotplates while she prepared her Aryan food. Like all invasions, there was a down side to occupation, not allowing others into the kitchen meant she had to do all of the dishes.

It must be said that in general the locals, which included a number of ex-patriot Irish working in NZ as guides, were extremely welcoming and friendly. Don’t quote me on that, a statement so inflammatory can be seen as “un-Australian” by Australian governments and could result in expulsion from the country.

Monday, April 18, 2011

5th Show - "Freakuent Flyer"

Take #1 - Again I said "I will count to 3"

Take #2 - not sure they are any more organised

A great audience for the fifth show including the Clint the guide dog puppy. Lots of laughs and people willing to join in. Weirdly the heckles came after the show as they were leaving. Still got the last word - and some extra laughs. I really appreciated the second round of applause by a group of the audience as they passed me in the corridor as they were on the way out.

You have heard the rumours and Tuesday night will be your last chance to see Freakuent Flyer. Tickets still available through TicketMaster and at the door. Artists get in free with your participant pass.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Freakuent Flyer - Hump Day

Night four of seven. Great size audience. Performing at Hotel Discovery (backpacker) tonight was the first night we managed to get any of the backpackers to attend the show - great work Tamm. There were also a number of walk ups which is exciting - thanks to previous audiences for their positive word-of-mouth. A big shout out to the two Asian backpackers for your excited participation in the photo.

Audiences are growing with Sunday being a sell out! To see what the buzz is about get tickets to Saturday or Tuesday shows.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Night 3 - Freakuent Flyer

Take #1 - Muriel was not ready

Take #2 - so much better as Muriel had got herself organised!

A small but great spirited audience. Had the chance to meet them all by name. Definitely in the mood for a good laugh. A small audience means there is a lot of chance for extra material - like DVD extras (if only I was filming a DVD)
Only a few tickets left for Friday night show. Sunday SOLD OUT. Still tickets available for Saturday and Tuesday show.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Freakuent Flyer (Melbourne International Comedy Festival) - Show #2

22 people in the audience tonight and they all appeared to enjoy themselves. Still laughing in all of the right places. I only lost track of where I was up to once but again James-the-Sound-Guy kept me on track. Explored some improvised material that went down well...special thanks to the Australian armed forces for their inspiration.

Thanks to audience members took the time to speak to me/shake my hand after the show, I am thankful you came along and relieved you were amused by my stories and songs

Still tickets available for the next couple of shows. Other artists are free with their participant passes