Mark Tanner - Adventurer, Writer and Amateur Beatboxer



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A Year Without Sheep

6 October 1999


It has been a year since I boarded the big silver bird and flew out from my beloved hometown of Wellington. A year of repulsive fish and chips, a year of weird accents and a year of bad sheep jokes. But even without the comforts of home, it has been four full seasons of bliss! The colours of autumn, the rain and snow of winter, the blossoms of spring and the sun of summer, have been some of the most terrific months of my life. The time has flown by since this strange talking kiwi boy first set foot on the scenic soils of British Columbia.


After almost 12 months without seeing my dearest parents, on the eve of my 23rd birthday, Rose and Bale waltzed into the Vancouver airport, looking healthier than ever, for a quality 3-week excursion on the Northwest Coast of North America.


In addition some local sites we observed together, Mum and dad spent some romantic time on their own sightseeing some of the attractions in close proximity to Vancouver such as Victoria and Whistler. But, the definite highlight of having them here was the 7-day cruise up the coast to Alaska.


The Dawn Princess - a truly magnificent vessel, was our home for 7 nights. I was a bit weary initially, after seeing the vast majority of our fellow passengers were grey-haired and could have spun yarns about the days before the telephone, and I was sleeping on a small pull-down bed above my snoring father. But after a lap around this great monstrosity, I realized that the ship could potentially provide a superb venue for the week to come.


There was no expense spared on the Dawn Princess. It was a very large ship, dotted with swimming pools and spas. There were theatres at both the bow and stern of the ship, a casino, a gym, retail stores, a library, a video games room, and in the centre of everything, a magnificent, four-storey high, marble foyer, complete with fake palm trees and glass lifts. You couldn't go for a walk without seeing someone polishing the brass fixtures. You were made to feel like royalty. There were many different bars to buy beverages, but perhaps the best feature on the ocean liner was the places to eat. Lavish feasts could be consumed for free around the clock, from numerous locations including a buffet, burger bar, pizzeria, the two formal restaurants and of course, the trusty room service.


Breakfasts were incredible, with a colossal selection of everything you would like for breakfast (except Watties Beans), but the formal dinners were the highlight of the eating agenda. Fine cutlery and 5-star service set the mood for our ritualistic 8:00pm sitting with our friendly dinner companions, a mother, father and daughter of Chinese decent living in LA, and a middle-aged couple from Seattle celebrating their 25th wedding Anniversary. We gouged ourselves with the 5-course selection of fine cuisine every night. Originally we were respectable, and went through the courses systematically in a civilized manner, but after testing the limits, more and more food was ordered, with 2-3 mains of lamb, salmon, chicken, prime rib and lobster becoming a regular occurrence. For a man who likes his food a lot, I was in heaven.


After dinner each night, there was usually some form of entertainment, such as one of the nightly shows, talent quests or a quick blast in the casino. After the olds retired to bed, there was a ceremonial congregation of the passengers born no earlier than 1970, at the ship's nightclub, Jammers. Drinking, dancing, and yacking was enjoyed by all who attended, and after 7 nights of it, everyone knew each other pretty well. Each night, when the pub finally closed its doors, the surviving patrons would stumble their way up to top deck, for a soak in spa under the Alaskan sky.


There were plenty of things to keep us entertained on the ship besides eating and drinking ourselves silly. Myself and our Asian dinner companion sung Karaoke, I got my whipped in an organized table tennis competition by a pimply faced 12-year old, and I was feeling bad about all the food that I was eating, so I attended the ship's gym - quite an awesome experience, riding on the exercycle as huge whales flicked there tails outside the window. Mum and Dad became regulars at the art auction in one of the ship's lounges.


The ship made three stops at some little Alaskan towns along the way, one of which, mum and dad were generous enough to shout us a helicopter ride up to one of the spectacular glaciers up in the mountains.


But like all good things, the cruise came to an end. We stayed with some neat friends of mum and dads up in Anchorage, AL. While there, I caught up for lunch with Victoria alumnae and law guru, Nathan Gray, who was working at a local law firm, with a studly office overlooking the harbour. I realized that two short months in Alaska was enough to turn him from an average kiwi bloke into a spiritual keeper - at one with the land. He had many interesting stories about the great outdoors.


Back in the thriving metropolis of Vancouver, things are changing for me. The old flatmate Karen, moved down to an awesome job as Creative Director for a large Internet company in Seattle. To replace her, is one of our friends, Dave Fahey. After numerous years of managing tree planting operations and fishing boats and a year of living in Vietnam, Dave decided the guys into computers were making all the money, so he took a programming course, and is now some hotshot computer programmer. He is very classic guy, with many tales to tell. Although I missed Karen originally, I am enjoying not having to put the dunny seat down and the having dinners without tofu secretly making its way into the list of ingredients. Living with boys again does have its downsides though, gone are the days of fancy smelling soap and a pube-free shower wall and shower soap.


Les and myself did a triathlon back in August, and although it nearly killed us, we decided to rejuvenate the Shaggy Yaks and enter in the Canada Ironman next August. It is meant to be quite a hard event, so I think that we have a bit of work to do.


I have started playing a bit of rugby again, so I would have someone to watch the World Cup with. It was great to be out on the field again, and after a few flooky runs at number 8 in my first game back, I was honoured with the prestigious man of the match title. In addition to rugby, I was dragged out of bed early one Saturday morning for a bit of Ultimate by the new flatmate, that was good fun. Ultimate is about is big over here as touch rugby back home. I did a bit of mountain climbing, scaling the peak of one of the highest mountains in Vancouver for a magnificent view. One more trip to the sunshine coast and a camping trip in the wilderness in true redneck style with guns and 4x4s were squeezed in just before the end of summer.


The annual Net Nanny boat cruise was a night to remember. Cruising around Vancouver harbour with drinks on the company, was something that had to be taken full advantage of. To add some spice to the occasion, the attire was Hawaiian as was the music. Les and myself drew for first place in the hula competition and the handsome Lance Craven took out best dressed with a landslide victory.


After one year away from God's Own, I have probably grown up a bit. I can say hello in a few more languages, know a hell of a lot about Internet Porn, and have developed a disturbing addiction to 88c slices of greasy pizza, but in all, it's been good for me.


Cruising on the Inside Passage from Vancouver to Alaska

The Annual Net Nanny Harbour Cruise







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