friday 3rd june
Hello from the land of snow! We have reached journeys end and are now installed in Wanaka, a small mountain town nestling between 2 ranges of snowy mountains and Lake Wanaka.
We left Christchurch and joined our friend Glen, assistant manager of the Fat Camel hostel in Auckland. Kaarin and Terra, 2 American friends we had made in Fat Camel, joined us there, so all 5 of us spent a couple of entertaining days together.
Twizel is a sleepy little town with good access for Mt.Cook. It also had some good 4x4 tracks just outside town, so Andy and I spent a few hours one afternoon following the tracks! This was a good testing ground to get to know the vehicles characteristics, and practise driving techniques for the months to come.
We left Twizel and made the three-hour journey to Wanaka without much hassle, booking ourselves into the famed "Purple Cow" hostel that Jen had recommended to us. There was a Canadian snowboarder in our room, who we later learned was named "Farmer Dave", and an English/Scottish contingent in the room opposite - English Dave, Gordon, Caroline, and Dan. Little did we know this motley crew would form the basis of our first accommodation decision...
The first week has really been spent trying to arrange accommodation and look for jobs, while getting to know as many locals as we can. It is vitally important to become known on the scene as early as possible, otherwise opportunities of employment or accommodation pass you by. On this basis, we have justified our going out every night, pool competitions and excessive drinking!
We hooked up with Vicky and Erin, 2 friends we had met in Wellington and made the Wellington-Picton ferry crossing with. It was a lovely surprise to see them, and we spent a few days kicking around Wanaka before they moved on to Queenstown to follow their journey south. Hope all is well guys, and the Crown Pass wasn't too much trouble...
The accommodation situation is dire in Wanaka. On my last visit 7 years ago, accommodation was relatively easy to come by in Queenstown, and prices were relatively low. Finding long-term accommmodation is the primary bugbear for all seasoneers at the moment - there being very little choice, and high rents expected.
Purple Cow was a short-term solution - with people coming and going all day, there was no sense of security or homeliness.
So English Dave, Gordo, Caroline, Dan, Andy and I have moved out into a backpackers a few houses down the road - where we have taken over one of the backpacker blocks, with a gorgeous view over Lake Taupo and the skatepark(!). See the panoramic shots above...
Andy and I have been riding the skatepark, a popular facility (given the size of Wanaka), with a flexible design giving enough lines to keep us occupied for the time being.
With 2 medium quarterpipes with flatbank in-between, a large quarterpipe, some long blocks, and clover-shaped bowl-bowl-halfpipe set-up, there are some nice combinations that can be pulled. There are 2 other parks within an hours drive; Queenstown (not so good by all accounts), and Arrowto wn (reputed to be similar to Wanaka's design, ie. pretty good).
We managed to get up the Crown range mountains to get some early snow, testing our new boards, checking equipment and binding set-ups. We met a reporter on the mountain car park and got chatting.......with the result I was in the paper - sweet!
Have tried to get up Cardrona mountain (our playpen of choice) - but the snow and ice are deep, and even the 4WD can't handle it without chains - so no success so far.
Rumour has it that Treble Cone may open on 6th June if the present conditions exist - they have put on the snow making machines already. Watch this space...
monday 13th june
Our time recently has been spent skating and waiting for the snow. The weather has warmed up with no fresh snow at nights, so the snow is getting visibly thinner - many of the usual ski areas being patchy or back to bare ground again...
Our ex-army friend "Farmer" Dave Jansen invited us to view a rockface demolition he was handling for the Works dept.
Pitching up yawning at 9am at Mt.Aspiring, Farmer directed us over to the far side of the river for the best view.
Farmer then went on to explain that to get to the other side of the river - we would have to cross it...!
The river was deep enough in the middle to cover the lights and the door almost to the window - 6 times I had to cross this river, praying to God the buggy wasn't gonna hydrolock - shat myself every time...!
Caroline, Andy and I took a daytrip over to Queenstown - for the Frisbee-Golf course and skatepark (terrible!). For me it was a trip down memory lane with some surprising recollections.
We had a compulsary pint in "The World", the bar of choice in Queenstown. Found this cigarette machine, perfectly illustrating Kiwi humour...! Funny...
Our good friend and crew member Dangerous Dancing Dave "The Idiot" Tenant managed to surpass himself by dislocating his shoulder the day before his birthday...playing Ultimate Frisbee!
Top marks Dave - usually it's me...! ;o)
As for me and Andy, we're still skating and waiting...
tuesday 21st june
Andy and I have recently been venturing further abroad, exploring the local area for both general interest and skating opportunities. We came across "Arrowtown", a real gem of a place just outside Queenstown. The whole town has been built in a style remeniscent of the Wild West - possibly due to its gold-mining-town roots.
I have been spending a lot of time trying to organise my birthday party - hiring out a club, some DJs, and showing some skate/snowboard films on the overhead projector. Should be a good bash, but trying to organise the invites, posters and films is proving to be more time-consuming than anticipated...more soon!
Andy and Dave got tickets for the Invercargill Lions vs. Southland rugby match, and went all out for a night on the town, after. Armed with a number of surreal banners, the lads managed to get them onto the televised match a couple of times, drawing them in with the classic "Hoff loves U" tagline. Legendary stuff lads - spread the word...
Andy & Dave had got one over on me, after Andy accidentally poured half a tank of unleaded into the diesel tank(!) when he refilled at Queenstown. Texting me that the engine was dead, with a replacement cost of $3000, they let me sweat for about half an hour, before telling me that the garage had drained the tank/lines in return for a crate of beer, and they were well on their way!
B@st@rds! Revenge is sweet...
monday 27th june - Doms 30th Birthday issue!
My 30th Birthday Bash went off, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake! The theme was "Bad Taste", with most participants sporting some of the most evil styles - I was truely shocked by some efforts! The lengths some friends went to made some of us wonder...?!
In a flurry of activity, I had produced some Bad Taste party posters and plastered almost every shop and communal area in town!
I organised 2 skateboard films and the Lib Tech snowboard promo film, sorted 2 DJs playing Dub Reggae, Hip-Hop and Drum'n'Bass, and supplied snacks! Check it!
The venue was "Red Rock" - my favourite bar/club in town, with a capacity of about 150. Wasn't sure how many peeps were going to turn up, after all the promotional efforts...but Red Rock had a full house by 9.30, and was having to turn people away - so no worries!
With the exception of 2 people, I saw all my Wanaka friends and had the best night I have had in years. Everyone danced and partied throughout the night until 1.30 chuck-out time, even managing to play a little Goldie-Lookin' Chain for all the UK crew! Laughed till we cried...! A fantastic night, the only downside being that now I am 30...!
There has been virtually no snow, so we are still skating much of the time. They have finally opened Cardrona, but Snow Park and Treble Cone ski areas are still closed, awaiting more snowfall.
There is very little coverage currently, and Cardrona only has half the mountain open, much of it with a thin dusting only.
We are hoping that the weather will turn soon, but Snow Park (a dedicated snowboard freestyle park with big jumps and many rails) should be opening in the next week, as they have snow guns to top up the shortfall...we live in hope.