Planes, kayaks, helicopters, and buses

I've arrived in Queenstown, the Aspen of the Southern Hemisphere, and adventure capital of the world. Tomorrow I do the Thrillogy 3 bungy jump package. The first is the original bungy jump, 43 meters from a bridge into a river. A.J. Hackett is the inventor of this crazy sport. Then a heart-stopping 134 meter drop from a gondola--that's the Nevis. My palms are sweaty just thinking of it. Finally, the Ledge, a bungy in which you're attached at the waist so your legs are free to run towards the ledge as you hurtle off into nothing. Crikey!
I've done so many activites I can barely keep it straight. I've kayaked on the open sea and through mangrove tree forests. I've seen dolphins leaping from the water within swimming distance of the beach. I've watched as sperm whales came to the surface of the ocean to breathe, and snapped away like mad as their tales waved to the sky as they began their descent back down into the water.
I've travelled in kayaks, sail boats, former World Cup racing boats, catamarans, touring ships, helicopters, small biplanes, mini prop planes, touring buses, trolleys, double decker buses, taxis, hydrojets, luges, gondolas, and quad bikes. I've jumped out of planes, off of sky towers, and tomorrow I'll add to that list. I've sky dived in Nelson, trout fished in Lake Taupo, abseiled in the dark down into Waitomo cave, and white water rafted over a 7 meter waterfall. I've seen fur seals, a million sheep and cows, a hundred different types of birds, and every form of sea animal except the giant squid.
I've been in New Zealand for a week.
What an odd mix. The country is filled with laid back Kiwi folk, but they love their shots of adrenaline. I'm getting addicted to signing "In case of death" waiver forms.
I've made a whole lot of great friends here. You get to know each other quickly when you spend every night together drinking as a sport. Crown Lager (crownies), Victoria Bitter, Mac's Gold, Speight's. All interesting new beers to try. The girls love to make me drink these shots of butterscotch schnapps and Bailey's--they're called, ahem, cock-sucking cowboys. Way too sweet for me. I threw a beach party in Nelson at a lifeguard shack and we all stayed up late teaching each other drinking games while the ocean lapped the beach. Hey Karen: I taught everyone the animal drinking game. Everyone quite enjoyed it.
Meanwhile, l learned that Orion's belt is actually the base of a saucepan. It took me about an hour to realize that Kerrin was saying saucepan since the Aussies pronounce it soss-pin. I thought she was saying "swordsman" and I was like right, it's Orion the swordsman. It was our very own "Who's on First" routine, aided by a few too many bourbon and cokes and vodka shots.
I'm the only American in this group which is somewhat surprising to me. I gather that a popular foreign impression of American now is that we're arrogant, litigious, self-centered, and rude. It's actually quite sad how poor our reputation is internationally. I'm trying my best to be a popular ambassador of our country. I've been trying to be a bigger personality than I usually am since I am on my own. It's working, I think.
This morning I took a helicopter up to Fox Glacier and hiked up it with crampons. I had my camera with me the whole way, with an assortment of lenses, and I felt like a National Geographic photographer trying to navigate with all that gear on. Fox Glacier was stunning. We were so fortunate--the clouds were low, so initially it looked hopeless. It rains 200 days out of the year here in Fox Glacier so many people never get the chance to see it from the sky.
Then, suddenly, a break in the clouds and a group of us rushed up. On the way back, just as the helicopter lifted off, it started raining. I like to think that the heavens cleared the sky for a few hours just for me.
Okay, I need to get off of this computer. There's so much to do I've just detached from the rest of the world, though I did watch Powell's presentation to the U.N. and have read up on the Columbia tragedy.
There are so many moments each day where I just get this big wide grins on my face because life is so good right now. It really is.