Sunday, September 13, 2015

Characters of Wanaka

For the last couple of months I've been based in Wanaka, cleaning rooms two days a week, doing a little gardening, and skiing 4-5 times a week. I've done a few lessons, but mostly I've been skiing all over the mountain either by myself, with friends, or with strangers I've picked up on the chairlift.

Getting up the hill has been pretty easy. Mostly I've been hitching rides up and town, and just occasionally driving up in the Nissan Tiida. I've met an interesting bunch of locals and tourists who've been kind enough to pick me up.

Monique and her son Carter have taken me down the mountain twice now. It's quite amusing to get a smile and wave of recognition and be picked up by someone you've met before. Monique is a Kiwi who has lived in France for many years with her French husband and has now moved home to New Zealand. Selling a business and home in France to resettle in Wanaka hasn't been easy, but they are managing. We plan to go skiing together some time.

Mark and the kids brought me up one Sunday. Mark and his family of five have relocated from Christchurch earlier this year to manage the local Medical Centre. The same centre manages the Treble Cone medical clinic, so he and his family get season passes. I didn't disclose my previous occupation...

Carl picked me up in an old Toyota Landcruiser short wheel base, a good 5 years older than my old Troopy. He'd just got back to Wanaka after 2 months travelling around Europe, and hadn't paid his WOF yet. In NZ old cars need to get a Warrant of Fitness every 6 months, and Carl had been away, so suddenly we veered off around the backstreets to avoid the spot where the police car often sits in the morning checking cars and booking those over eager skiers who are speeding. Initially I was a little alarmed by the sudden detour, but soon we were back on the usual road and heading up to Treble Cone.

One chap who gave me a lift down the mountain ranted and raved for the entire trip about his legal fight back in 2008 with the NSW government over land tax. Sometimes a conversation about selling your house in Sydney ends up creating a tirade about a very bitter experience which has ripped his family apart. Ouch, that one wasn't pleasant.

One of the local policemen gave me a lift up the other day. He was chuffed to hear that the amusingly written police reports in the local papers are such a highlight for many readers. Apparently whoever does the Monday evening shift has to do the report for the week, so it's a team effort.

Sometimes friends give me lifts down at the end of the day. Both Phil and Barbs have given me a few rides, as have Lyn and John who I met a couple of years ago (hitching then too). Sue and Graeme have been in my masters classes and I often also ski with them on non lesson days. They live in Dunedin and commute up and down as Sue has a shop there and still works a few days a week. Graeme, like me, is retired. Usually we ski until we're tired then they give me a lift down. Their daughter was a ski racer and represented NZ at the Winter Olympics, so it's interesting to get an insight into the world of ski racing.

Jason sometimes gives me a lift up the hill if he rounds the corner in his bus and I'm still at the hitching spot. Jason drives one of the ski shuttle buses and is allowed to take friends for free. I qualify as a friend seeing as I spent a good deal of money doing a ski trip to Japan with him in February. And I've booked another trip with him for next year. I've even gone skiing with him a couple of times, including with Milan, another of the characters from my Japan trip, who turned up here for a couple of weeks.

There have been so many more kind souls, locals and tourists, who've given me lifts. I can't remember all their names, but I am grateful to all of them. There seem to be less people hitching these days, it's such a pity as it saves fuel, is good for the environment, and gives someone a happy feeling that they have performed an act of kindness for the day.

It's just plain good karma.

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