Wanaka, New Zealand: One Last Hurrah. Ok Maybe Two.

The plan for my final days in Wanaka were as follows (keep in mind that these are the proverbial ‘Best Laid Plans’): On Thursday, just less than one week before I left, Garth and Mike were going to take me Yabbie-ing (Yabbies, and the process of Yabbie-ing will be clearly defined in just a moment); Saturday would be my final night at work; Monday was Super Bowl … Monday in the afternoon as well as my leaving party in the night, so Mike and I had a day of getting drunk planned. Tuesday would be my day of rest (and atonement for the aforementioned day’s activities), and then Wednesday morning I would leave Wanaka on the 10:15 bus to Christchurch.

Remember, that was the idea, and we thought we had it planned pretty well. As you’ll see, when it comes to me, very few things ever go the way they’re supposed to go, especially when alcohol is involved.

When I was in second grade at Wildwood Elementary we did a fun little project where we were given (assigned) pet crayfish, or crawdaddies, from the local pond. I’m not quite sure who went out and caught these things, or whether they were actually from the local pond, but we “played with” and “cared” for the little guys as much as any considerably squeamish 7-year old computer geek could “play with” and “care” for a mini-lobster. I named mine Blackie, I believe.

As weird as it was, it’s stuck in my mind as one of my more interesting childhood memories, and I actually think about it quite often (and ask myself questions like “why wasn’t I as grossed out then as I am today of those things?” and “Pet crayfish?! What were those teachers on??”) As it turns out, the Kiwi brother of the crayfish is the Yabbie, and I’ve been capitalizing the name because it sounds like the kind of name you’d find attached to an old sailor. On Thursday, Garth, Mike and I went Yabbie hunting.

Here’s the thing with Yabbies: they are incredibly stupid. One can, and we did, catch an entire day’s worth of Yabbies with just one piece of bait. The method involves tying a piece of meat to the end of a piece of nylon fishing line, the other end of which is tied to a long stick. According to Garth, “they’re bottom-feeders, so they’ll lie off to the side of a fast-moving part of the creek to feed off what flows in.” You drop your meat-on-a-string into the shallow part of the creek and just let it sit there so that the Yabbies can get a whiff of it. Soon, you’ll see them start appearing out of the mud and branches that collect on the banks of the stream. They’ll pounce on the meat and sink their pincers into it, which is your cue to pull the line out of the water, hoping that the bugger hangs on. Then, you swing him over to the bucket, and while holding him over it, give your wrist a flick and whiplash the line so the little guy gets tossed off the meat and into the bucket. That’s it. If the Yabbie gets away? Just place the meat somewhere in his path, and it will be like his first love all over again, as he pounces on it and goes for round two.

If you find a good spot, you can stand in one place and catch Yabbie after Yabbie (and often the same Yabbie multiple times), until there are none left. The Yabbie Amber alert system seems to have some critical design flaws. Primarly, that there is no alert system. Most of the time you’ll catch two or more at the same time as they fight over who gets the meat.

The day was overcast and it even started to drizzle a bit as we were preying on the elusive Yabbie. We Yabbie-ed for a couple hours and then ate a quick lunch out of the back of the Nissan SUV we borrowed from Simon. Jodie, a new-hire, was covering for me from 2-4, and I had to be back to finish the shift.

Have you ever heard of ghostriding the whip? At the bar one night this couple from the UK were telling me of how surprised they were of the popularity of boy racers. ‘Boy racers’ are kids who have pumped all their milk money into souping up mediocre cars and racing them around the streets of New Zealand towns. “The worst thing we have right now is people ghostriding the whip,” he said. “What’s that?” And that’s when he educated me on the gloriousness that is ghostriding.

To put it as simply as possible, ghostriding the whip is this: You throw your car into 1st or 2nd gear and let it slowly roll along the road. Crank up some good dancey-hip-hop-type music and, while the car is still moving, get out of the vehicle, dance around/on top/in front/behind/whatever the car, then get back in and continue driving. For some of the best examples of ghostriding, check this and this out.

After that first night at the bar, I introduced ghostriding to the boys and had been talking it up for some time. Mike and I had dreams of ghostriding my Subaru down road into town one night after work. Or, even better, using Nugget’s car (affectionately known as The Skip), so we could Ghostride the Skip. As we were navigating through the off-road tracks to get back to the main road after Yabbie-ing, Garth and Mike start suggesting a ghostride attempt. I agreed, it would be pretty cool to ghostride the whip with a classic, beautiful New Zealand background. We talked about how we would theoretically pull it off enough to convince ourselves to do it. And so, when Garth parked the truck and we mapped out our path, it finally hit me that we were about to ghostride Simon’s SUV.

We surveyed the area and finally agreed on the best course. Garth’s camera was positioned and we did a test run, with the car slowly rolling into and out of frame. We marked those stage-right-enter and stage-left-exit points with rocks so we’d know exactly when to jump out of the car and start dancing. While Garth and Mike got in and started the car, I started the camera. Unfortunately, Garth has yet to post the video from this momentous occasion, so I can only give you my best account.

You see a gorgeous mountain and farmland backdrop, with a flat pasture in the foreground. Several seconds after the video starts, a white SUV slowly drives into the shot from the right. Garth jumps out of the driver’s seat and dances around to the camera-facing side and does his best ghetto-dancing. Mike and I stay near our doors and shake what our mothers gave us. We’re still dancing as we roll out of the shot. Sadly, you can’t hear the music from the car (it’s The Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Hypnotize’), but I think you can feel it.

Laughing our asses off, we drove back to Wanaka and I got reported for work. That night Rene the boys hosted a dinner at our place while I worked and cooked up the Yabbies with some veggies and sausages. They left me a plate which I obliterated the next day for lunch. The Yabbies were surprisingly good for how ugly they looked.

That Thursday was just another great day in New Zealand. A time, when I look back now, during which I should’ve been more appreciative of the casual, laid-back lifestyle. And of all the great friends who were willing to spend the afternoon teaching you how to catch slimy mud-dwellers and then dance like idiots with you around a moving automobile.

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