Doing the Moke

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

'Too many people spend money they haven't earned, to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like...'

- Will Smith

One of the text messages I received on Christmas Day said: 'Happy Christmas! Hope u have a great day, with good company and lots of good food and drink..' To me, that pretty much sums up what Christmas should be about, and luckily for us it was. It was a real belter.

I'm sure there are many who wouldn't dream of spending the two nights of Christmas in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, running water or a flushing toilet. But it was a Christmas I'll never forget. Everyone who didn't have to work had been invited and the turn out was quite a good one - one big family for the day. The only one missing was Chicken (poor bugger had to work, spending Christmas alone staring at the walls in the gatehouse) which was an awful shame, and the Mannion, who was elsewhere feathering her love nest.

We set up camp right next to Moke Lake, an emerald green stretch of sparkling crystal clear water, which sits right in the middle of the mountains. It's a blissful setting and once we'd pulled up and dropped the anchor, the fun began. James had already set up the generator, lights and tunes and before we knew what was going on we were in full swing. The music flowed nicely and the barbecue sizzled constantly as people stepped up throughout the day to nurture huge succulent cuts of meat. The air was filled with that smoky, meaty homeliness and food was dotted about in abundance; roast turkey, huge bowls of fresh Greek salad, tortilla chips, snacks and dips and fresh fruit hacked up into thick juicy chunks. Even the occasional shot of tequila was handed round to keep everyone topped up. There were constant games of footy, rounders and volleyball, all with drink related rewards or forfeits and if that wasn't enough, there was plenty of swimming and fishing down by the lake to keep everyone happy. When Tamsin's two kids woke up under the magic of the stars in the early hours of Christmas morning, they found themselves well pressied up, proving that you don't have to live in a house with a chimney to get a present off Santa. What a great Christmas for them though; lying under the stars in the mountains straining to hear the sleigh bells!

Seven of us had previously chipped in for a share of 'The Keg', which we had sat overnight in a small inflatable kiddies boat filled with ice, ready for Christmas day. By the time we cracked it open and filled the first vessel, it was ice-cold and we were sorted. What really shocked us was its shelf life. We'd half expected it to run out by the early evening and everyone had got their own box of 'plan B' at the ready, but it just kept going and going - it was a joke. James eventually squeezed the final pint out on Boxing Day morning, knocking it back with a smile at breakfast!

Both evenings concluded with us all sat round a warm crackling fire while Jez and I thrashed out some songs to a jovial gathering. It turned out to be a great Christmas (certainly one with good company and lots of good food and drink) and having spent so many Christmases with my arms wrapped round an overstuffed belly, sitting half-awake trying to struggle through the same old shite that they show on telly each year, this one turned out to be quite a colourful change.

I was very impressed with Moke Lake. Considering it's only twenty-five minutes away from Queenstown along the Glenorchy road it makes for a perfect getaway at only a moments notice. It's right out of the way of the hustle and bustle of everyday civilisation and is blissfully quiet and peaceful. I can't wait to go back there. The other special privilege you get from being somewhere so remote is that there's no man-made light to ruin the view of the stars. I took myself off in the wee hours of Boxing Day morning to have a quiet moment with them. To be completely surrounded by mountains under the stars in the middle of nowhere is wonderful. It fires you up from the inside, it's so magical, so personal - you should try it... I stood for a few minutes in my own little world turning round and round following the undulating silhouette of the mountain line. Without light to spoil it, the sky above was incredible - a proper Christmas present! The Milky Way seemed to stretch vividly from one horizon to the other and there was a brief moment, as I stood facing north with my jaw hanging, that I saw a shooting star dash across the sky from the west. What a blessing. One of those rare, special moments for those who were looking, or who wanted to see. A sign maybe? I'd certainly like to think of it that way..
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