Friday, August 24, 2012

Explosion at Waterfall Creek

A glorious sunny day in Wanaka doesn't have to be spent skiing the white stuff on the hill, although it's pretty tempting to do just that. But this year I told myself I'd do more than just ski, that I'd try and be more of a tourist as well, so last Friday I hired a bike and headed off around the lake to cycle to Glendhu Bay.
Glendhu Bay is a sheltered inlet which hosts a caravan park and not much else. Spectacular mirror like reflections of the surrounding peaks, a vista of snow covered mountain ranges and Mt Aspiring in the distance make this bay a really popular summer holiday destination. But at this time of year the water temperature is a chilly 10 degrees, so the caravans sit in abandoned rows waiting for Spring.

A trail exists from the town centre all the way to Glendhu Bay, so with a packed lunch, the iPhone and Olloclip I headed off for the day. I cycled along the shore to the solitary spindly willow in the water (google Wanaka and you are sure to see a shot of this tree) and dutifully took my own mini series of photos, before heading off again.........only to find I had a puncture.
Since I was still in town it was a mere 15min walk back to the hostel to grab another bike, then I was off again. The path meanders along the lake shore, through some small forested areas then joins the lake again at Waterfall Creek. I'd jogged out to here last year, from now on it was all new territory.
Crossing the creek on a bridge, the path begins to climb as it hugs the cliffs above the lake. Formed by glaciers, most of the lake's circumference is steep and rocky, with only a few small beaches and inlets. It makes for great elevated views and a fairly rigorous ride. But flying down a hill and around a corner I am suddenly brought to a stop by a very loud explosion! I look around to discover nothing more spectacular than a full blowout of my rear tyre. Bummer!!

Still within mobile coverage I call the hostel, and soon Ian drives out to try and fix my second puncture in an hour! A new inner tube won't solve the problem of a rip in the tyre, so I abandon the bike with Ian, and continue on by foot. Much slower, but in actual fact easier to appreciate the magnificent scenery.
Lunch is enjoyed at a picnic table down a minor track with a million dollar vista.
A cliff walk above a rocky shoreline with two shags drying their wings - I would have appreciated the zoom lens for that shot.
A secluded beach
Mt Aspiring peeks out from some wispy clouds
At the end of my walk it's a simple matter of thumbing a lift back into town from one of the many cars returning from the ski fields.

links to all the rest of my New Zealand pictures here

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Food porn in Queenstown

What to do when the weather looks lousy and you don't feel like heading up the mountain to ski in zero visibility yet again? Go on a road trip of course. Where to on a wet rainy day? How about Queenstown to eat oneself silly.

I managed to convince two Japanese girls with a car to join me, so one Monday we headed off to Queenstown with a list of eateries to visit. Ami planned to buy a Go-Pro, but both Ai and I had only gastronomy on our minds. First stop Cafe Vudu for their pan au chocolat, but unfortunately already sold out. The rest of the pastries looked pretty good too, but just nearby was Patagonia Chocolate, which has divine hot chocolate with chilli, even diviner icecream, and some pretty awesome looking chocolate as well. Having devoured our hot chocolate and icecream it was time to visit what is a Queenstown institution, and the main reason we'd made the trip.

Fergburger. It's so popular they don't even bother advertising. The queue waiting for their gourmet burger means you can wait a good 45 min, and people happily do.  I think we only waited 20 min, enough to down a half of Speights at any rate! And when it arrives you tuck in to a rather large succulent beefburger. Yum!!

And the verdict? Well the hype doesn't live up to a better than average burger I'm afraid. But I'm happy that I've tried the Ferg because I can now confidently side with a lot of the Wanaka crowd who declare Red Star Burgers are better. Yep, I agree. Fergburger, you just ain't worth the trip!!

Following our Fergburger we hit a few sports stores, Ami bought her Go-Pro, Ai and I loitered in the tourist office, then we headed back to the car, past the British Lolly Shop. Gobstoppers, humbugs, all sorts of sweet temptations. Oh well....

Next stop Arrowtown, an ex goldmining town just out of Queenstown. It has some quaint old buildings, a museum, numerous ye olde worlde shops and some nice cafes and restaurants. It's also now the preferred place to live rather than tourist and hotel infested Queenstown down the road. I can see their point, especially when the first cafe we spied on leaving the carpark was, ummmmm, Patagonia Chocolates again!! After more icecream and cake, we wandered around, through yet another lolly shop, then rolled back into the car for the drive back home to Wanaka.

And guess what? Next month Wanaka gets its very own Patagonia Chocolates store. So there'll never be a need to go to Queenstown again!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Two steps forward, one step back

Imagine you are scared of spiders. Not hard to imagine really, it's a pretty common phobia. Mostly you don't encounter them too often, and when you do you scream with fear and panic and are completely incapacitated until some helpful individual disposes of the offender. Then the adrenaline rush slowly settles and you are able to get back to what you were doing, if a bit exhausted from the experience.

Then imagine that you want to get from one place to another, but to get there you have to pass through a route inhabited by big hairy spiders. At every turn there is a spider that if you look at it will crawl all over you, maybe settle on your hand and just sit there. You know these spiders won't hurt you because they aren't actually venomous, and if you don't look at them, but just concentrate on the path you are following, then they won't even attempt to crawl over you either. Now you really want to get to your destination, because the views and experiences along this path are just amazing. Just don't look at the spiders, or they'll crawl all over you. But if you take the initiative and touch them first them something magical happens.

Some of the paths to your destination have less spiders along the way, but the paths with the best views and experiences have lots of them. Some paths are crawling with so many spiders that you just have to plough through them, and every time you hit a spider it magically turns into a beautiful rainbow and the experience is just amazing!! Arriving at your destination having touched the spiders and created multiple rainbows, you feel exhilarated!!

But, and here's the big but, you have to conquer that fear. Because you can't even start on that path when you know that at the first corner is the biggest, ugliest, hairiest spider you have ever seen. And if you avoid looking at it, there's yet another one at the next corner. And, oh my god, there's one crawling across the road in front of you. Go on, just go for it and make your first rainbow!! Make lots of them!!

This is a pretty good analogy for my mental state whilst skiing, because at times I can be at the top of a steep slope and be completely incapable of making that first initiation, or continuing it with another. I have the skills to ski well, in most terrain, but at times my body completely gives up. It reverts back to a child like persona of crippling incapacity that the logical me is fighting to suppress. Which makes me so angry and frustrated at myself. Which doesn't help.

Over the last 3 weeks of skiing I have had some magical moments when everything worked, the fear was totally gone and I linked turn after turn off piste and on and arrived at the bottom with a grin from ear to ear yelling "yahoo!!" to all around. At other times I was close to tears, pushing the fear down enough to just get going, fighting walls of panic whilst traversing steep slopes, then totally losing control and falling in an angry heap. Yes it's all in my head, I know I can do it. "Just face the danger". What a mind fuck!!

I'm yet to meet a ski instructor who learnt to ski as an adult, so although they can be supportive and encouraging, they can't be empathetic to the level of crippling panic that overwhelms me at times. Learning as a child, before that nasty demon fear enters your psyche, is the way to go. Bad luck if you don't grow up in a ski resort or your parents aren't rich enough to give you that opportunity.

The trouble is that this sort of fear is mindless. Phobias are completely illogical, but it is possible to overcome them through both graduated exposure and psychological management. I'm trying the former by skiing at a technically difficult mountain, getting lessons, and trying to get enough hours on snow that my body can start doing the right movements without me having to think too much. I could go and ski at Cardrona, which has flatter, wider terrain, but that would be giving in to the demon, and that just isn't going to happen. Sure I'll do a few days over there to ride with friends, but in the end, it's the steeps of Treble Cone that I need to conquer.

To use a windsurfing analogy, I'm at the gybing plateau, where you have all the skills to do a carving gybe, but you just can't put them together. The speed through the turn evades you, you don't know what to do with the sail, you can't get the timing right and you keep falling into the water. Then you start to get it. One or two here and there, then more consistently. With time on the water you start to get 30%, then 50% then 80%. Then suddenly, you are no longer thinking about how to do it, you just do it, and now you are thinking where to turn, not how to turn. You are now totally in tune with your board and sail and can now go anywhere.

At times I have been tempted to give it up and take up snow boarding (apparently less of a mind fuck than skiing) but I'm not someone to just give up so that totally isn't going to happen. Recommendations have included listening to music whilst skiing, and smoking a good thick spliff. I don't think I'll be taking the latter option, mainly because my history under the influence of weed isn't pretty. I can't even make a peanut butter sandwich, imagine how incapable I would be on a big slippery slope with a couple of planks strapped to my feet? I've tried the music option, but am still working on the right playlist. Work in progress.

As for the psychological management, there's a couple of techniques I can use, involving relaxation/meditation techniques. I think I should be a bit more persistent with these. Not so easy in a busy hostel, but there's always a quiet spot by the lake somewhere.

In the meantime, I progress slowly but surely, with a day here and there when I regress dreadfully. I have to stop beating myself up about these, and just accept that if I persist, I will overcome the fear, and the steeps, bumps and icy patches and one day crest that plateau where skiing comes naturally. Each day it's a bit better, and more and more I am overcoming the panic, touching the spiders, and making rainbows!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Movie Trailer

It's just a start, but here's a wee taste of what it's like skiing the piste at Treble Cone. More coming soon. Just click on the following link and it'll take you to the movie.

Ski Goddess's Wanaka Holiday Trailer