Sunday, February 12, 2017

Praise for the American Honeybee and a Quiet Night in My Bunk

Windy Auckland is known as the "City os Sails." It is home to thousands of sailing vessels, and almost all America's Cup teams include one or more Kiwis. Unlike this reluctant sailor (me), ambitious sailors love the feel of their boat slicing through 20- to 30-knot winds, while leaning over the gunwale to balance the keel as she heels.
Auckland is also the jumping-off point for a dozen other adrenaline-pumping sports that attract hordes of youth from around the world: zip-lining, surfing, skiing, sky-diving, rafting, and, perhaps the most popular: bungee-jumping. It's in all the ads and is the talk of the hostels.
Being closer to a retirement home than a triathlon, Pope and I are inclined to engage in more sedentary sports: scenic bus rides, happy hour at the brewery, short walks in the hills. The peer pressure at the hostels in enormous, though. So today we headed out of Auckland to join the young'uns in more ambitious activity...and ended up settling for what is perhaps the ultimate sedentary sport: soaking in a hot tub.
Ah! But it was a natural hot tub! We bypassed the "swimming pools" fed by thermal springs--think children and chlorine--and headed straight for Hot Water Beach. Where hundreds of tourists in flip-flops congregate every day at low tide to rent shovels and dig their way down to hot magma. Or at least to the hot springs under the sand, the outlets of boiling magma deep inside the planet. The highest temperatures in the sand reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit or so.
Now, about those honeybees. I am mildly allergic to almost all insect poisons. Bee and wasp stings in Michigan, Virginia, or Colorado will swell to the size of a quarter and cause discomfort. I carry Benadryl everywhere, and an EpiPen, just in case. Never had a serious problem.

Today I felt the wrath of a New Zealand stinger. And it was a very serious problem. I was driving as we left the outdoor soaking chambers. A few miles down the road--YIKES!! I tried my best to keep the car on the narrow switchbacks while screaming bloody murder and swatting at my back, where something fuzzy was inserting hot knives in my back and twisting them, just for effect. Needless to say, I barely missed tumbling down the cliff in our right-hand-drive Nissan.

Was I really that much tastier than the locals? Was it a honeybee, wasp, or nefarious Kiwi plot to drive tourists away from the hot springs? The pain and numbness radiated down my arm and up my neck for the next eight hours, even after Benadyl.

Zip-lining? No way; it's in the forest with spiders and beetles. Bungee-jumping? No way. I'm way too chicken. Think I'll just retire to my favorite haven for sedentary seniors: my bunk. And nurse my aching back muscles while leaving the ambitious athletics to the 20-year-olds.

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