Eighty days in Queenstown

“My name’s Alice, and I’ve been a Queenstowner for 80 days now.”

*pause for applause*

Ok so it’s not exactly much of an achievement, but this Jules Verne inspired milestone has allowed me to reflect a little on my experience of the bubble that is Queenstown. I use the word bubble as this is how it has been described to me on several different occasions.

Like so many of us here, I came from a ‘proper job’ abroad, getting paid ‘proper money’, saving some, spending much on frivolities, unnecessaries in an attempt to capture the happiness that all those people on the advertisements have because they’ve got the newest 3D Ready-HD-Plasma-Flat Screen-Moron Box. I myself had a totally unnecessary convertible, roof down, Armani shades on… shit it’s raining. Thing is, I wasn’t all that satisfied with real life. Bit too serious, bit too boring, bit too middle England.

Real life… now I have been told that Queenstown is not real life. The Winter season has begun and there is actually snow on the mountains. We work, we ride, we party, we’re skint, we work, we ride, we party, we’re skint. I’ve got a little secret for you though. I think we’re mostly happy. We’re happy because we work with friends, we ride with friends, we party with friends and we’re skint with friends. Now if that’s not real life, or at least what real life should be then call me Phileas, bring on the next 80 days, this bubble isn’t popping any time soon.

Putting the hitch in hitchhiking

It might be perfectly safe in Queenstown, everybody does it, it’s the alternative alternative to driving, but still, you never know what you’re going to come across…

I had been in Queenstown for about a week and I was heading into town for a night out meeting up with a friend of a friend who I met once in Hong Kong a couple of years ago, you know how it goes. It’s pouring down with rain and I’ve just missed the bus. There’s not another one passing for another half an hour. Slightly hesitantly (it is my first time after all) I extend my left arm followed by the thumb.

Almost immediately a girl in a bright yellow car with flower stickers in the back window pulls over and yells for me to hop in. I jump in grateful to be out of the rain and that she’s not an 18 stone trucker with a glint in his eye and tobacco in his teeth. We set off into town.

Not one minute into the drive the blue lights start flashing, and she comes out with, “ah crap, they’re gonna pull me over for speeding.”

Me: “Ooops”

Her: “S**t, s**t, s**t, you’ve got a driver’s licence right?”

Me: “Errrr yeah… you mind if I ask why?”

Her: “I’m only on my learner’s, I shouldn’t be driving”

Me: “Brilliant”

The, may I say, jolly nice policeman, who comes over to the window asks for her documents and then, of course mine due to the fact that she tells him I’m supervising her. Now, I have a UK licence, not an NZ licence so I’m not actually allowed to supervise her, you know, due to the law. She has to say her name into the little black box, then I have to say my name into the little black box as if I had been the one who had been speeding, I mean really, and then off goes the jolly nice policeman to check all the details. At this point I decide to say no more, to the policeman or to the irresponsible young lady in the driver’s seat.

Policeman: “Whose is this car?”

Her: “Mine”

Policeman: “It’s not registered to you”

Her: “I just bought it, we haven’t exchanged the paperwork yet”

Me – under my breath: “Awesome”

Policeman: “And your registration’s out”

Her: “Aw really, is it? I didn’t realise”

Me – under my breath: “Yeah, sure”

Policeman: “I’ll just be a minute”

The police officer walks back to his car to write out her rap sheet, speeding, driving unsupervised, expired registration and warrant of fitness… and she turns to me with a wry little smile and says, “I am way too stoned for this”

Me – out loud: “You have got to be kidding me!”

The jolly nice and maybe slightly naïve policeman comes back to the car with her list of misdemeanours and due to her legal and now acutely evident physical inability to drive, the keys and custody of the car are handed over to the only sober and responsible person in the car… that would be me.