Geoff Thomas
Geoff Thomas on fishing

Geoff Thomas: Heaven for big boys

Richie McCaw waits for the next target to appear. Photo / Geoff Thomas
Richie McCaw waits for the next target to appear. Photo / Geoff Thomas

"There are 3500 golf balls down there," said Lloyd Ferguson, pointing to where the Clutha River bent round a large oxbow down in the valley.

The challenge was to try to get the ball across the river. "It is 300m to the other side, but the drop helps."

Ali Williams let fly with a massive drive and the little white ball disappeared into the haze. A distant splash marked his ball's arrival - a metre short. The next shot made it.

Lloyd holds the record - 17 in a row to the other side of the river.

When it comes to having fun in the outdoors, it is pretty hard to find a better place for packing a raft of adventures into a morning. Lloyd's home looks over the river and the choppers park on the front lawn. But the farm, a short distance from the airport at Wanaka, has been turned into one big playground.

So when Richie McCaw called and said, "Ali wants to take the groomsmen out for a morning of clay target shooting before the wedding", the machinery clicked into gear.

The party of six was ferried by helicopter from Queenstown across the Cardrona Saddle to Lloyd's place. Then it was straight down to the river where the jet boat was waiting. Guests were given a souped-up whiz up and down the river, flicking past rocks and skirting overhanging willows before Lloyd handed over the controls. Of course, being super-competitive types, it became a challenge to try to blast off caps with stinging willow branches at high speed. Richie was looking forward to the delivery of his own new jet boat and was mapping out the route down the river from Wanaka to the adventure park.

"This is our local gun club," said Lloyd as he pushed a button on a remote, causing a clay target to fly up from behind a ridge. A range of automated traps throw targets from every angle and there is even a flurry where clays come over a hill in waves. Not wanting to stoke the competitiveness too much on such an important day for Ali, a couple of targets heading straight to the guns were set up and they were blasted into dust.

A crosser from the side added spice and, when the scores were lined up, Ali was top gun. He had the same result a few days after the World Cup final when he was on a large boat against some strong opposition.

The mornings spent duck shooting while repairing broken jaws and feet were paying off.

"Never bring a knife to a gun fight," was Sean Connery's mantra in The Untouchables. Well, that wasn't a problem at Lloyd's place. A metre-wide cross-section of tree had a large bulls-eye pitted with thousands of holes. It looked as if it had been shot at close range with a giant shotgun. "It has only been there for three months," said our host. "You have to get four of four in the target," he added as he showed how to lob the heavy throwing knives so they spun in lazy loops before thudding into the wood.

The first two bounced off, so he moved the thrower forward a half-step. Thwack! The knife quivered in the target.

Ali and Richie were the champion knife-throwers.

"We had a throwing axe but somebody broke the handle," said Lloyd. That was OK - the knives worked just fine.

Then he produced a wicked looking compound bow and said: "Draw it right back and look at the point of the arrow. Aim low." He pointed to a hay bale sporting a large bulls-eye. "If you miss the target altogether, [the arrows] disappear over the hill." The arrows flicked across the small valley and pinged into the hay. Nobody missed, although the bulls-eye was hard to crack.

"We are building a jet sprint circuit," said Lloyd, pointing to a small pond as the ATVs roared back to the house. "We've got a 1200-horsepower sprint boat that can get to 180km/h in 2 seconds."

As the boys prepared to be whisked back to dress for the wedding, Lloyd asked innocently: "What else would you like to do? Wake-boarding behind the jet ski or the helicopter? Pest control, shooting rabbits out of the helicopter? Cross-country quad biking?" When it comes to toys for boys, this is a little slice of heaven and plans fell into place for a rematch after the wedding - this time with TV cameras.

- Herald on Sunday

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