Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Where's the snow?

I arrived in Christchurch on 29th June to positively balmy weather. It's supposed to be winter, but New Zealand is experiencing warmer than usual temperatures, meaning all that snow that fell in May has melted. Oh dear!

Never mind, it was great to catch up with friends in Christchurch, including ski buddy Sonja and husband Chris, who kindly stored my skis and a few bits and pieces for the last nine months in their garage loft. I stayed with Yuri and Ollie, went for some glorious walks along the coastline from Taylors Mistake, and visited a craft market where I bought the most elegant Oliver Twist wooden bowl. It's hand turned, from a piece of Rimu rescued from an earthquake demolition. Something beautiful out of all that destruction...

As there's no snow most of the ski fields are yet to open. The large commercial fields have opened, relying on artificial snow to keep their trails skiable. But off piste? That's a no go...

None of the smaller ski fields between Christchurch and Wanaka were open, so instead of driving down via Tekapo I decided to head down the east coast and visit Oamaru. Oamaru has an old Victorian era harbour precinct and some stunning sandstone buildings. It also has some interesting galleries, antique shops, and a couple of penguin colonies.

As I was driving along the coastline, the town reminded me of somewhere. There was a perfectly nice beach with a railway line alongside it, a road, and a whole lot of buildings facing the other way with a main business street and frontage facing away from the beach. Yep, here was Geraldton's doppelgänger.

After a night in Oamaru I headed up the "pigroot" to Central Otago. This road was the original road taken to get to the Goldfields from the coast, until they built the railroad further west. It's a scenic road, and being a fair way north of Dunedin, doesn't get the traffic that the newer highway further south gets. And it was a glorious day.

Up on the Central Otago Plateau I headed through Ranfurley and turned off to visit St Bathans. This is an old gold mining town, that has a flooded sinkhole in the middle of town called The Blue Lake, which makes for a pleasant tramp around on such a sunny day.

Then I headed to Wanaka, checked in to my hostel for the winter and worked out what I would do until the mountain opened.

I'd come here to do a ski instructor course, so rather than wait a couple of weeks, I spoke with Dean (one of the Rookies managers) and got myself fast tracked on to a course that had already started, with the plan to do my Level One exam next week. The baby slope at Treble Cone was open, and this was where the training was going on. A perfect environment for learning how to do wedge turns.

For the first time in my life I learnt to do wedge turns. I'd not had lessons when I first started to ski, and learning to do wedge turns slowly and accurately, with precision, takes a considerable amount of effort and concentration. Everyone was amazed at how hard it was to get these right, mainly because we've all developed bad habits that need to be broken. And nobody but instructors spend more than a few weeks of their entire time skiing wedge turning before progressing to learning parallel turns. Learning to be a ski instructor is like learning to ski all over again. Which is one of the main reasons I'm doing the course, so I can ski better.

We're expecting some decent snowfall in the next 24 hours, and more on the weekend, so just hopefully the rest of the mountain will open soon. Meanwhile I'll be on the baby slope practising those wedge turns and doing my exam. After that, I'll get a chance to do some free skiing before starting training for my Level Two exam.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Two weeks to prepare

In between returning from Indonesia and jetting off to New Zealand, I had two weeks to finalise my preparations for walking the Bibbulman Track. Because 4 days after I return from New Zealand I begin.

I'd already decided my packing list and my itinerary, but much still depends on whether a new bridge over a major river will be built in the next three months. If not it's a 30km plus diversion, which is a rather long hike to do in one day. The old bridge burnt down in Feb 2015 and they've just raised the money to rebuild it.

So for a good week I spent all day every day dehydrating food, packaging it up using ziplock bags or a vacuum sealer into individual servings, and distributing meals into the 10 food drops I'll need for the 2 month walk.

This turned out quite good, because Australia Post sells prepaid 3kg satchels in packs of 10. Perfect!

I got mightily sick and tired of the high pitched whine of a glorified hairdryer in the background, and couldn't bear to hear it going all night, and then it died. Luckily, a friend stepped in to lend me hers, plus I began using my oven as well, and then my dehydrator began working again. So for a day or two I had all three going full bore. I shudder to think what the electricity bill will be...

I learnt how to make beef jerky in the oven. It's extremely easy, and so awesomely tasty that I had to immediately package it all up before I ate it!

I experimented with a few instant pudding mixes, because camping without dessert options is just plain criminal!

I made my own quinoa savoury protein energy bars, which also got quickly wrapped and popped in the freezer before I demolished them.

And then I packed my backpack, minus a couple of items of clothing (some thermals I'm taking to New Zealand first), and weighed it, complete with all the food for the first 8 days, but minus water and a few electrical items which I'm still undecided on taking.


I think the preparation has been worth it.

Now to go skiing.....