Queenstown to Auckland

Trip Start May 31, 2008
Trip End Jul 31, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Monday, July 28, 2008

I write from the harbor side in Auckland from where I last visited 4.5 years ago. It doesn't seem as though this city has changed all that much in the time in between, but really I'm not sure there was that much room for improvement anyway!
Queenstown treated me well. It was an experience I will remember by and large for the snowboarding which really came good at-the-last, but beyond that I was reminded that Queenstown is achingly beautiful at every turn.
My good friend Chris and I stayed at Reavers Lodge, a little out of the centre and up a steep hill. I had to keep reminding myself that the hill was great for a little extra exercise every day as it was often quite wearing! The view from the lodge looked out onto Lake Wakatipu from our balcony and across to the left down towards Coronet Peak. Much like Leh in India, snowcapped mountains abound all around. Queenstown usually welcomed the day with a little more mist around the peaks than Leh, but generally by the end of each day this would have cleared up to reveal a deep blue sky. Considering it was the depth of winter there the climate was very tolerable, sure one had to wrap up on occasion but in the sunshine it was lovely.
Our rides up the mountain painted a different picture, particularly on our 3rd day out. Snowboarding in Queenstown is a very different experience to my limited experience in the European Alps, largely as there is no accommodation on the ski resorts. At the very least all visitors must experience a car journey of half an hour to get to the slopes. Being not so fortunate as to have our own wheels Chris and I caught the bus which picked us up from the apartments next to ours. Pick up commenced to Cardrona at 07:15, arriving around 9am after a number of other hotel pickups. The return bus departed the mountain at 16:15 so this example was quite a long day in all.
The bus and lift pass for a day cost $112, my board, bindings and boots $42 and helmet and goggles $15, so roughly a day at the mountain cost 60 quid a pop... not cheap if you're going to do a lot of boarding...
The first two sessions of our experience were at Coronet Peak, only half an hour away from Queenstown. It was nice to learn that the park had had a $20 million redevelopment at the visitors centre making for a pleasurable chill out / lunch spot with lots of nice shops and many of the other usual facilities (eg Board Hire, lockers etc). These were in great demand on our first day as it was the last day of the school holidays so there were many families and kids tearing it up across the park.
It's always a little nerve wracking getting on a board after a while, never mind when it's busy with lots of kids! I was last riding snow in Feb 07 so it was a relief when I found my Mojo once again on my second run down the mountain. With the confidence established (in part attributed to the decent Burton gear I had hired) I was able to explore the place a little. It didn't take too long to get to know the mountain and by the end of the first day we had done many of the runs. This gave me an appreciation of how lucky we are in Europe to have the seemingly endless runs stretching for miles in across boarders around Italy / France and Switzerland.
Day two at the resort was less crowded but plagued by very icy conditions and compounded snow from the number of visitors the day before. Things were still good enough to enjoy the place and the two of us focused as much as we could on improving our riding while enduring what was developing into quite a bitter cold. At the end of our session we both agreed that the place was good but somewhat limited due to its size.
After a rest day where Chris visited Milford Sound and I started my job-search we then moved on to a new spot having been advised that another mountain range 'The Remarkables' needed more snow. With the forecast looking better for Cardrona we were stoked to arrive and discover actual snow to ride on as opposed to hard, unforgiving ice. There was unfortunately a price to be paid for this pleasure which was frustrating - some very limited visibility.
I remember the first time I ever went snowboarding back in '97 being quite besotted with the experience of boarding in a white out. I seem to remember thinking it was like floating in the clouds, almost like flying. Age and experience has taught me to be more cautious (or more of a wuss!) and this time it didn't take long for the shine to wear off being unable to differentiate the sky from the ground. Certain spots were better than others and we also got the feeling that the resort was a lot bigger than Coronet Peak but it was pretty hard to be sure!
My birthday two days later was a different story. The birthday gods were smiling and the best (and only!) present I got was much improved, clearer conditions to appreciate the place. And what a place it is. Captains Bowl in particular was a joy to ride on and the piste is much wider than Coronet Peak, giving a wealth of opportunity for a different ride almost every time down the same run.
As we'd been riding for a while Chris and I were both able to move on to some practice riding Switch (in reverse) and even took on a few jumps, an amazing way to finish our snowboarding adventure.
Soon afterwards the slopes were forgotten as we celebrated my birthday with some drinks around town. Queenstown has some nice bars with a generally good atmosphere. However, it being my birthday it wasn't long before I was a bit tipsy and by 1am a floor walking bouncer had spotted a glazed look on my face and decided I'd had enough. I hadn't been doing anything; I was just stood at the bar and was a bit taken aback. However, I went quietly only to realize that I had forgotten my Hoodie. No amount of pleading would persuade any of the staff to let me get my top, pretty frustrating when you only have a rucksack full of clothes and limited funds. However, my Hoodie was found by someone we'd met and returned to me, a nice extra bonus for my birthday.
The last part of our time in Queenstown was spent mooching around the lake, paying Crazy Golf, checking out the local parks and going to the Kiwi Sanctuary where we saw two of the famous strange little birds as well as an interesting wildlife show and a Maori cultural show which was really impressive (and a bit scary!).
After a good couple of flights up to Auckland on Sunday I now find myself staying at Ponsomby Backpackers until Chris and I move into our CBD flat and looking for work here. It's always a bit of a challenge arriving in a new home and trying to establish oneself, a real rollercoaster of emotions from the recruitment agents office to the cheap office wear store (The Warehouse - "Where Everyone Gets a Bargain") there is always hope, uncertainty and WAITING, never easy to get through. Am trying to remain positive and proactive, it's still early days and the initial feedback is that there is work out there. Fingers crossed I get find something before I run out of money! J
More to come when I get the job!
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