The Happy Camper: time to cool our jets

In between witnessing historic Irish victories, and hob-nobbing with international rugby managers, our man in the van hits New Zealand’s adventure sports.

Declan Kidney and Sean - a meeting of rugby minds.
Declan Kidney and Sean - a meeting of rugby minds.

AN EARLY MORNING jog brought us in towards Taupo and the area is exposed in all its glory.

In stark contrast to our arrival, the morning is crystal clear; the beaming sun catches off the windows at Acacia Bay further on around the shore.

The wind is still an icy scythe, relentlessly pouring in across the water’s surface from the snow-capped peak of Hauhungaroa. I stop wheezing by the lake shore; turns out this chest cold hasn’t been got shot of just yet.

The day is spent doing a healthy mix of adrenal pursuits and the mundane necessities. Mammy would be proud; I bought a good warm cardie to keep the cold at bay, we did a big shop so our pantry is filled with wholesome goodness. So, after pulling over to whip up a can of condensed soup, we headed jet-boating.

The Irish team’s pre-World Cup camp in Queenstown was the first I heard of jet boating. The boat is basically a massive jet-ski with multiple turbines giving the driver optimum control of the craft. Once we get suited in our (very flattering) blue raincoats and life jackets we’re in the hands of our driver, Mike.

The boat holds 12 passengers and at the end one of our Argentine counterparts tells Mike that he drives like Sebastien Loeb, they are spot on.

The spin around Huka Falls takes us skidding along the outside lane of the river, within touching distance of the cliffs that tower high above. Mike is the most laidback adventure pursuit guide you could wish for, he holds up the safety instructions for a millisecond before accelerating downstream.

He lets the boat slide at speed, left then right. The rally experience comes in the form of both mid-water and overhanging branches, Mike hits the apex of every corner with terrifying precision. By the second lap, my grips on the heated handrail (the only relief from the cold) loosen as trust in the skills of the pilot increase.

‘Inevitably, our time is taken talking to an Irish girl’

Taupo is a centre for adventure pursuits in the North Island. It is almost a shock to the system to encounter multiple nationalities – all are here for the World Cup though. The French behind us shout “spin-boom!” each time Mike signals a 360° turn. The Argentines cower in the front seat as they get wettest and are brought closest to contact with the trees and rocks.

Inevitably, our time is taken talking to an Irish girl. Janet hails from Tipperary but – like the majority of our kind at this tournament – is working in the big continent to the west.

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She has come alone to jet-boating because sky diving was one test of friendship too far.

Like the rest of us, she has been looking forward to this trip for a long time. Her recent stint doing farm work, a necessity for an extension to her Australian visa, seen her milking 650 cows twice a day. It was made bearable by looking forward to this trip.

Gazing out across Lake Taupo, it all seems worthwhile.

Editor’s note: Sean sent the pic with Deccie after he filed this piece. I’m sure we’ll find out what was said when they sat down for a chat tomorrow morning.

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