The Big Day Pt. 2, and the consequences
Trip Start Apr 16, 2011
69Trip End Ongoing
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We arrived, and the pilot was happy. So sharply into overalls, a quick briefing and we were jumping into the tiny plane. So Ash was in the back, sat right in front of his guide, and then me sat up on the lap of my Scottish guide like a little kid. Apart from the pilot there was literally no more space in there. As we started climbing the Scottish lad started connecting all his gear to mine, handling me much like a small child. Good times. The nerves were starting to rack up by now, this was real
Myself and guide were sitting right next to the door, so would be first out, when it opened. The pilot gave his signal, and the air was soon rushing through. Tight swivel round and there I was, legs dangling out the door, braced up in the instructed banana position. Below me was sky, and lots of it. I was pretty anxious now. And with a 1, 2, 3 we were out of there. For the first second it felt fairly weird, but then as we dropped it just felt so free and all I could do was smile. We spun round and round, and I could see snow-capped mountains, blue sky and endless blanket of white cloud below us. It all seemed like another world up there, and something quite spectacular. From what I remember the parachute was pulled, a slight shock that was, then we were heading through the cold. Here we experienced a fair bit of cold snow in the face, but it didn’t really matter. Once through we’d arrived into dusk, which made for some interesting colours as we finished the drop. Here I was able to whip out the camera and take some snaps. Then it was legs out straight, braced for landing. We seemed to come down fairly fast, but it was all good. The Scottish lad had done well. Apparently he’d been singing Happy Birthday to me during freefall. Didn’t hear that.
Back on ground, I waited for Ash to come down
With all that out the way it was time, so I made sure our 'party room’ got kitted up in their best party gear. Over to the bar we headed and joined the rest of the new bus crew. The plan was to enjoy it, but take it steady with everyone’s respective hikes the following day. The first drink was pretty relaxed. Then a cake and card was delivered, with some very sweet messages inside. Probably the highlight from Jay, telling me he loved me. New boy Jeff also gave me a cheeky kiss. Next over comes a shot tray delivered in front of me. Uh oh, steady night you say!? A ski-run; essentially 3 very strong, rough shots in a row. Next we started up Ring of Fire after some much debated rules. Anyway, guess who was getting screwed over immediately?
A killer pool game was kicking off, run by the bar, prizes available so involved we all got
The morning after, and I felt fine, so it was full on banter. The lads were out slightly earlier, on the full day hike. Slightly later, Me, Jeff and Jamie were making our way over to the office ready for the heli-hike. En route Jamie revealed she was considering deferring it, simply not being able to handle her hangover. I explained it was such a glorious day, the sun shining, how could she be considering such a thing! She was bringing the vibe down, me and Jeff were fine. As we checked-in, sat down and waited for the routine go ahead something changed. Something in me. I immediately crashed, feeling worse and worse very rapidly. Now the thoughts of being stuck in a helicopter, feeling like this were making me sweat. On finding out there was also an afternoon session, it seemed sensible to defer till then.
Back to the hostel for a quick nap to refresh ourselves. On waking again, had the hangovers resided? Absolutely not. Lying on my top bunk, I felt even worse. Jamie had made her decision, and asked mine. I didn’t want to be pathetic, but really I was to fork out a lot of money to do it; so in this state it would have been a waste
A few more hours and the full day hikers returned. Some laughed at us, others were just plain out disappointed. One sad consequence of all this was that we had to now ‘hop-off’ the bus, having to say farewell to the group. I almost welled up as Jay asked me so disappointedly if I was definitely not getting back on the bus tomorrow. It was sad, we had our own song, Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ we’d sung together impromptu throughout our time together. As the night was coming to a close the group gathered up and I cut the cake that had been stewing in our warm room all day. Things didn’t get too emotional with Jay hitting a sugar high after about 3 massive slices. If only we’d discovered this earlier.
The next morning the lads were shipping out and it was reluctant goodbyes, of our own making. Soon enough me and Jamie were heading over for heli-hike check in again. The pilot was happy so we got all geared up as necessary. As we were sitting round, the guide going through the safety briefing (don’t run into the chopper blades etc etc), excused himself with his walky-talky kicking off. He looked back at us, sorrow over his face, "Sorry guys, the pilot’s not happy, he doesn’t think it’s safe to go up." ‘Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatttttttt.’
Was this karma, or just following the prediction of the worsening weather forecast? Either way, it was gutting
Back in the happening hub of Franz Josef Village (it’s not), we ironically turned to drink, the cause of our demise. Now stuck with a vegetarian as a food buddy, and the one tiny food store, it was a frozen vegetable stir fry for dinner. What a taste sensation it was too. We topped off the day with more drink and I pretended to know what I was talking about when chatting UFC with the bartender
Groundhog Day: wake up, and over to the hike centre one again. The first nervous wait, and the pilot was happy so over we were taken to the heli area and kitted up as per usual. A talk through the safety briefing once again, and oh, what’s this, the walky-talky’s bloody kicking off again! My heart sunk, and I froze. Luckily, this time he continued on with the chat. Split up in two groups, we found ourselves in the second. This wasn’t that welcome as I thought the cloud appeared to be closing in.
Anyway, ‘worry worry worry’ over and we were jumping into the chopper. Riding shotgun too. Off we took and the helicopter seemed so tiny in comparison to the surrounding mountains. A few little nudges from the wind, but good fun it was. As we made it into the glacier the pilot started banking the turns, exciting this day, but two days ago could have easily spelt chunk times in the air. The deferred decision had paid off I thought. Now it was time to lap up the breath-taking views, enjoy the ride, and of course get the camera out. Once landed on the ice, some 800m up the glacier it was time to put the crampons on for a walk about. In general it was a gentle ‘hike’ more geared up to lazy, rich people I suppose. We checked out a few of the glacier features in a couple of hours, but rather thank keep writing I’ll let the pictures do the talking in the future.
It was a great feeling returning to the hostel this time a success. An afternoon to kill, I got involved in my washing. On doing it, the next Stray bus arrived in, the much anticipated one we’d be hopping back onto. Obviously I kept an eye open, ready to judge. And off jumped our old friends Rachel, Stacey and Brad, along with a fair few others. As we began to catch up, it appeared the school trip was in full force, with stories, bitchiness, and a pretty much rammed to capacity bus; all a vast contrast to what we’d had so far. All being very overwhelming me and Jamie headed out to hit happy hour in town, to discuss, judge and wonder if things were to take a turn for the worse again.
Just our luck, we’d missed happy hour. On debating what to do, standing at the bar, a local, “John” started cursing us for being so tight. We were just really deciding on drink options. John kept going anyway, and told us he’d pay double for the privilege of drinking in this bar. We got our drinks and clear of John and his ridiculous chat. The slight depression spurred us on to a dinner out treat. I needed some meat after Pam’s (cheap NZ brand) veggie stir fry the night before. A good treat at the same establishment as the UFC chat. The male waiter was an absolute rider, dancing about as he served food to tables. He’d also adopted the same technique as the Thai waiter in Wellington, commenting on how good the food was as he delivered it. The bartender/owner of the place I thought was my mate, following the UFC chat. Turned out not as he told us to take our wine and finish it off, “we want to go home now.” Ridiculous.
One more day to fill now, so as all the bus woke up early for their respective hikes it was no lie-in for me. Let me sleep! This time we got a shuttle over to the base of the glacier for the free walking tracks, sharing it with an English couple who absolutely reeked of smoke. The first walk gave a good view of the glacier. On the way back it began to rain. Searching for shelter, there was nothing. Packed lunch in the rain under my umbrella then. Delightful. Fortunately the rain eased up and the rest of the days walk took in some scenic lakes and stuff along the way. Obviously nailed the snaps each time. A bit of banter with the smoky couple, and also trying not to wet ourselves as she kept ordering him about, “Babe, get a picture of that”, “Babe, get a picture of this.” Turned out she was “babe” too.
Back the hostel it was time for a tea and a chin wag with school trip leader Rachel. As we caught up I tried to tell her my best stories. One instance she literally just turned her head as I was mid-story and began chatting to someone else sat near her. Blanked, I felt like Duncan in the TGS office. I didn’t try again. This is what we’d signed up for. Cooking dinner I learnt of Brad’s “put an egg in it” food philosophy which apparently worked for every dish across the gastronomy board. This was the start of general ridiculous English banter. We began trying to gauge interest for a ‘packing party’ in the dorm, it never happened; everyone probably just thought we were a pair of pricks. Fair.
So it was over to the bar for a few drinks and hopefully a chance to meet the new guys on the bus. This didn’t go so well as I just found myself a reluctant middle man between Rachel and Brad’s bitching. And when they weren’t complaining about each other they were talking about the rest of the bus with the nicknames they’d assigned. There was ‘doomsday’ as she was a ‘miserable b****’. Dutchee, was a Dutch lad, and quite a character. ‘The Twin Towers’ were two tall English lads. Inventive names. I also met a fellow Patrick, German. On whipping out my German chat, he appeared to look at me disappointed. I couldn’t work out whether it was the language barrier, or he instantly hated me. Probably the latter. All in all, it was going to be interesting getting on that bus the next day.