In some parts of the world, the 2011 Rugby World Cup is the most significant sporting event for a span of four years, whereas in other regions the event will pass without notice. My readers in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England, and France will no doubt be aware that the tournament has just started (listed in likelihood of winning); although I suspect that people from the other 15 countries who qualified will also be watching with hopeful anticipation of a big upset.
To the purist, “rugby” conjures up a complex dance of shifting shadows that dynamically changes form in response to the situational whim of the opponent. Strength, agility, speed, stamina, and strategy are all required by the 15 players who represent each team, with no time-outs or substitutions (other than when you’re done for the day). The modern rugby game is really fast and furious, with pulsing action often sweeping from one end of the paddock to the other.
To those who are unaware, rugby is not a brutal game of fisticuffs and disorderly conduct. “Football (soccer) is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, while rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen”, or so the witty quote says. Despite the appearance, there is structure and intent behind each players actions, and where playing together as a “team” is essential for success.
The event runs from 9 Sept – 23 Oct, so you may have a difficult time finding flights and accommodation during that time. However, try to watch a game while the best teams in the world are playing each other. Please note that when rugby is added back to the Olympics, it will be the abbreviated Seven’s version of the game (7 players on each team, for 7 minutes in each half), quite different to the full-blown form of the game on display at the Rugby World Cup.
If you’ve never seen a game before then please watch at least one of the upcoming games – but it’s probably best if you have a look at the rules of the game first: http://www.irblaws.com/EN/downloads (Better still, have somebody over to explain it all.)
A visit to Wanaka isn’t usually the top of anybody’s so-called bucket list. After all, New Zealand is a long way away from everybody in the world (except for a small number of hardy locals). However, this vibrant community has been branded The World’s First Protected Lifestyle Reserve for good reason, and it’s worth making the journey from wherever you call home.
Our family visited for a week, and each of us wanted to stay longer. You too will feel the intoxicating atmosphere and helplessly succomb to thoughts of immigration. It’s not just the allure of a picturesque lake surrounded by textured mountains raising their jagged teeth into the crisp and clean southern hemisphere sky, it’s the people who make a place memorable. Wanaka is a melting pot of people on a small and intimate scale, and seems to include mostly those who are friendly and outgoing in nature … whether the few who are blessed to be a permanent resident, or the international travelers who ebb and flow through this gateway to paradise.
While Wanaka feels surrounded by mountains, it doesn’t feel claustraphobic at all; rather it’s invigorating and somehow private, like finding a hidden nugget of gold like the early pioneers so eagerly sought. The town indeed started from gold rush in the 1860’s, although I believe the greatest rewards are the views above, and not what lies buried beneath.
Queenstown is known by many as the Adventure Mecca of the World, yet Wanaka is just a short drive over the Crown Range, and in many respects is the more comfortable and relaxing of the two. The winter thrill seeker is equally close to the treeless ski slopes which overlook spectacular vistas of lake and mountain, while the more adventurous have heliski options that stretch the imagination. Four seasons provide a wide variety for the pursuit of outdoor activity and summer activities abound, although our visit was just in time for the first day of the ski season. I find myself compelled to plan another trip back, for there is so much to do and so many things to see … one week just isn’t enough, nor just one season. What are the immigration rules again?
Rent a warm house with a nice fire during the winter months, preferably walking distance from the lake (not a difficult task). Visit the Puzzling World and make your way through the 3-D maze before enjoying your favourite coffee over the mind-bending puzzles (don’t forget to look for the many optical illusions).