Life’s full of ups and downs and you learn to get over them, with or without a helicopter.
It’s something highlighted on a recent New Zealand family road trip. Often exercises in resilience in themselves. And it all turned on the NZ weather, another study in contrasts.
In Australia the weather report is usually “it’ll be dry in WA, dry in the NT, drought in SA, and a few stabbings on the East Coast.”
In New Zealand, it’s literally, “sunny early with destructive winds, Biblical rain, possibly a blizzard with the chance of flooding, landslides, maybe an earthquake and who’d bet against a tsunami”. Every day.
The stunning variability can be offputting for new arrivals, but it’s why the All Blacks are so good. They don’t give a shut (Kiwi accent inflection there).
But tourists do because they have to plan ahead, particularly in the South Island, where all your big ticket tourist items are typically well subscribed. Your Milford Tracks, your Glaciers tours, your seat at a good restaurant in Queenstown round dinner time. It’s put your money down early and cross your fingers elements don’t play havoc.
But you quickly work out weather events, “wee slips” (avalanches) and arguments about what we want to do once we get where we’re going are unnervingly common on Kiwi road trips and can throw plans into disarray. Indeed the road over the magnificent Arthurs Pass had been blocked for months until only shortly before we crossed. Not that we’d have known because the locals are pretty laconic about disasters.
The Franz Joseph Glacier heli-hike we booked had cost a mountain nearly as big as the one the glacier was on. So we were anxious to thread thread the weather needle and tectonic challenges so we could deal with other fears like, will we or won’t we die in a helicopter crash, slip down a crevasse or forget to bring sunscreen.
It was blowing a gale and raining the evening before lift-off, causing even more soul searching. But next day, as is the way with NZ, the sun was shining and the scene so pristine it was hard to believe anywhere in the world could be so ridiculously pretty. Which is again the way with NZ.
The mood in the family unit was really up. The choppers were humming, the motorhomes were clogging the roads and we looked set to go, go, go.
Then, just when everything seemed so right, it went wrong. Some snow bunny from the school of ridiculously good looking back country mountain guides popped out and told us we’d been cancelled. Too windy on the summit. Talk about exquisite kick in the collective family-unit guts. Disbelief mixed with disappointment. It couldn’t have been clearer at base camp. That we would have to suck it up. Not since visiting the live kiwi exhibit an hour earlier had we been in such a dark place.
But you get that touring NZ, as you do in life, and so like the topography of the amazing Shaky Isles, we got back in the rent a car, worked out who’s song list was playing next and got over it, without the chopper.