3 December 2018
Ian was up and out by 09:30, having confirmed by phone with the excursion company that they would be flying today. He was taking a small fixed-wing plane to Milford Sound, then a two hour boat cruise, and a return flight to Queenstown, subject to the weather.
Cornelia and I hung out together for an hour or so at the apartment. She watched some Paw Patrol that she hasn’t seen for ages (I’m trying to wean her off the very annoying Danger & Eggs) while I booked up our accommodation in Australia, as well as emailing a surf school in Port Macquarie about taking us on for four days, as part of our enthusiasm to learn a new skill, or at least improve one! I was amazed at how much I managed to get done… 😉
I tried ordering an Uber, but the first two attempts were unsuccessful with “Your ride has been cancelled” messages being received, with no other explanation. I waited awhile, before trying again, this time more successfully. A chatty little Cornelia clambered into the car with Wins as our driver, who was wearing his shades down over his face the whole time. It was quite unusual!
Anyway, he drove us perfectly well to the cable car station, where we joined the long queue to redeem our voucher for the ride up, and our luge trips. The queue went surprisingly quickly and in no time, we were heading upwards in our little cable car with two guys from California, who told me how they’d been unable to do a paragliding session as they were too heavy! I was quite surprised (they were by no means overweight – a little taller than average and well built perhaps!), so reassured them that the world was mad and that only the other day, I’d been asked if I was Cornelia’s grandmother… So, we all had a good laugh at each other! Cornelia went on to amuse us all, telling them how I would die before her, but Daddy was even older, so he’d die first, but as she was a child, she was still growing, so she was okay. She is hilarious.
At the top, we walked through the cable car building and down a short steep slope to a chairlift, which would take us up to the start of the luge run. Before we could get on the chairlift though, we had to choose our helmets for the luge. They were helpfully colour-coded, and while mine was easy to find and fit, it was a bit more difficult with Cornelia, whose head is too big for the yellow XS and too small for the red S. Eventually, we went with the red, but argh, I caught the skin under her chin in the strap’s clip, and the poor child was screaming while I tried to unhook it without pulling her skin any more. Oh God, I felt dreadful, but she was very brave and once the initial pain and surprise of it all had passed, she managed to calm herself down, saying “Don’t ever take this helmet off and put it back on again, Mummy!”.
Tears dried and nose wiped, we had a chairlift to ourselves, waving at the camera that took our photo on the way up. At the top, we joined another queue for “first time today” riders and when we reached the front, a cheery Irish girl showed me how to operate it: hold the handles with both hands, pull back to stop, release slightly to move forward, turn to the left or right. Once I’d passed the brief check to make sure I was happy with how it operated (and she was happy with me!) we were on our way. Weeeeeeeeeeeeee! It was so much fun! Cornelia had a terrific time, whooping her way down, and laughing with pure joy and adrenaline. The track is 800 metres downhill, and so it took us a couple of minutes before it ended, where we excitedly jumped off, and ran around to take the chairlift back again.
This time, we didn’t have to go in the “first timers” queue, and like old pros went over to receive our luge again. As we were driving tandem (Cornelia was sitting between my legs), we weren’t allowed to do the “red run” but it didn’t matter, as we whizzed down even faster and more confidently the second time. And no, we didn’t crash or cause any accidents!
Once we’d finished I (carefully) removed Cornelia’s helmet, and we went to check out the photos that had been taken on the course. Now, I’m not saying we didn’t miss having Ian with us, but it did mean that I didn’t have to check if it was okay for me to spend money on buying the photos that, to me, are such a brilliant memory of a happy time. There was a guy in front of us who’d been on the luge three times, and was coming to find his photos, but the girl serving was surprisingly rude to him, saying it would take her forever to scroll through the photos looking for his photos and he should’ve come ages ago. To be fair to him (and I said this to both of them), nowhere does it ask you to come immediately after each ride. The ticket just says “Luge photos on sale!” and there is no barcode system that you get in most theme parks to quickly and easily identify your photos. She did eventually find some (I also said that I didn’t mind waiting if she wanted to look through them), but he ended up leaving, pretty pissed off, and didn’t buy any. And I’m not really surprised.
But she was lovely to us, and she was like a completely different person when she served me and Cornelia, even inviting Bugsy to sit up on the counter and look at the photos on her screen with her. I had noticed our chairlift number, so we were quite quick to find, and we found six photos in all, and I bought four of them. Ian would be thrilled….!
It was nearly lunchtime, but I had promised Cornelia a chocolate ice cream, which we ate in the glorious sunshine at the top by the cable car, before visiting the souvenir shop for, yes, a few more little purchases. Then we took the cable car back down to the town – Cornelia said it was much scarier on the way down, and I could see why she’d think that! It is the steepest cable car in the southern hemisphere. At the bottom, of course, there was another photo of us in the cable car, so for good measure, I got that one too. Just so we’d have a complete record of the day for Daddy…
From there, we walked into town, and found a cafe for lunch. Cornelia had a baked potato with cheese and beans, and I enjoyed a fresh chicken salad. She has really been so sweet and such good company today, and she said to me “It’s been ages since it’s just been you and me, Mummy. I’ve really enjoyed it.” And my heart melted a bit. :o) (Of course, we all love Daddy, but it’s nice to be appreciated on my own!)
I’d been waiting for Ian to contact me to let us know if the plane had been able to return or not, and given the amazing weather we’d had all day, I was feeling quite optimistic that he had. (The alternative would’ve been a four hour drive back in a coach.) Sure enough, just as we finished lunch, he texted to say he was back at the airport. I rang him and asked him to collect us from town, and just as Cornelia and I were playing on the pavement (walking sideways, then forwards, on the crazy paving stones), he appeared!
He had a couple of wounds from his adventuring… a cut on his arm, where a woman who hadn’t listened to instructions from the pilot had pulled herself into the plane by grabbing the door handle instead of the correct handle, which resulted in the door sliding onto his arm and cutting it. She was quite unapologetic, apparently. Hmm, just as well I hadn’t been there! His second accident was self-inflicted. Having been critical of everyone taking careless selfies, he stepped backwards to take a photo and didn’t check behind him… and scraped his leg on a bollard. Whoops! The flight itself had been wonderful, although he was in a plane with six Germans, and one of the women in front of him threw up almost immediately. Her husband was completely unhelpful and uncaring, but karma is sweet and on the way back, both of them were throwing up. Ian had said they were quite an unpleasant family and not at all friendly, which is quite different to all of the other German, Austrian and Swiss families we have met on our travels.
We walked up another steep hill to the car, and soon we were home again, and while Cornelia took the opportunity to watch some more Paw Patrol, I went out for my last run in Queenstown. It was so hot! The car thermometer read 26* as we drove back. Anyway, I panted my way around, stopping for a quick detour to the river, which was as breathtaking as ever, and returned sweaty as always, to cook dinner. I did wash my face and hands first…
Once we’d wolfed our way through pasta bolognese, Cornelia had another little dance party. This time, she only had time for three songs, and she chose the Hokey Cokey, the Music Man and Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes, and there we all were dancing around the front room again, having a wonderful time. She had her bath, and I read her her bedtime stories. Her and Ian had fallen out again during bathtime, so in order to reduce everyone’s stress levels, I suggested I finished the bedtime routine. After an initial scream about me leaving too soon after our post-story cuddle (which I completely ignored), we didn’t hear another peep from her.
For the rest of the evening, I wrote up another few days of Cornelia’s scrapbook and stuck in the various bits and bobs, and we caught up on a few overdue emails. It feels as if we are more or less on top of things which is refreshing!