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New Zealand!

Written on: Sunday July 29th, 2007

A journal entry from: The long flight away from home.

New Zealand!


As of the last blog I was still trying to find a way to go either x-c or down hill skiing before school started again. I looked long and hard at being able to go and do a week of x-c skiing here in Australia, but it was just so expensive and I couldn?t find any off mountain accommodation. Kim had left me a $100 coupon for a travel agency that he hadn?t used and I therefore decided to go see what kind of travel packages they had. It turned out I could go to New Zealand and do some skiing for more less the same price as doing it here in Oz.


It was kind of a spur of the moment thing since I was running out of time before school started again, so I decided to go for it. I ended up getting a 6 day package with flight, accommodation and 2 day lift pass all included for a reasonable price. My flight departed Melbourne last Friday evening and took 3 hours to get to Christchurch (North Eastern section of the South Island). Due to poor visibility the captain had advised us that we were going to attempt to land but that there was a good chance that we would have to continue on to Wellington (southern part of the North Island). This would have made me miss my connecting bus the following morning, but fortunately we managed to land alright.


After going through customs I found myself a shuttle and got dropped off in front of my hostel for the night. I took a little walk around and found some food and then called it a night. It was pretty hard to fall asleep due to the fact that the time was 2 hours ahead of Melbourne. So if I tried to go to bed at midnight my body felt like it was only 10 p.m. and to make matters worst I had been staying up till 2 in the morning for the past 2 weeks watching the tour de France on t.v. Therefore, I ended up not being able to sleep until about 4 in the morning for the first 3 nights.


I caught my bus the following morning at 8:30 and was now in for an over 8h drive down to Queenstown. As bad as it may sound it was actually quite nice, the scenery was really nice and once we got into the mountainous area it was very beautiful.  By the time we had arrived in Queenstown it was already dark. I finally found my way to my hostel after having previously gone to the wrong one on the other side of town. I quickly checked in and walked back into town to try and rent some skis for the next morning before all the shops closed.


I managed to rent some skis and buy myself a ticked for one of the morning shuttle buses heading up to the mountains just before everything closed. The hostel at which I was staying was pretty nice but I was stuck sharing a room with 9 other strangers, this for me is not considered a good time. I woke up at about 6 a.m. after another agonizing night of little sleep.


Queenstown has about 4 different mountain ski resorts all within a 1 hour drive, and I had decided to go up to Coronet Peak, which I was told currently had the best snow conditions. It was about a 40min drive up to the hill but I couldn?t help but start to feel a little disappointed as we were driving up. Although the mountains around Queenstown are a faire size with elevations over 2000m (relatively small on a world scale) only the top third is considered a ski able area. To make matters even worst, the area was currently having one of its worst snow seasons ever with only a base of 50cm and no new snow in over 2 weeks. Coming from Northern Ontario it?s safe to say I was less then impressed with the snow, and it was not at ALL what I had expected. All that being said, I knew I had to make the most out of it and keep a positive attitude.


After getting my lift pass I quickly got over to the chair lift and headed up to the peak. Fortunately for me, the weather was really nice with a high of about minus 5 degrees Celsius (which others were calling cold) and the view by far made up for the poor snow conditions. The view from the top was absolutely breathtaking, with snow caped peaks all around you with open lakes and valleys bellow. You quickly get a good feel for the magnificent landscape used in the filming of the ?Lord of the Rings? series. I skied hard for the better part of the day and to give the place the credit that it deserves I could definitely see how amazing the skiing could be if given the fresh powder they usually have.


After catching the shuttle back to town I was still pretty disappointed with the conditions so I thought of what I could do the next day instead of skiing so that I could make the most of my few days in the country. I ended up being able to bring my skis back and get a refund for the second day and trade in my lift pass towards a day bus/boat trip to a place called Milford Sound. Milford Sound is wrongfully called a Sound but is actually a Fiord that is located in Fiordland on the south west coast of the South Island, it was ?created during the Ice Age, this fiord knifes out to the sea. Native forest and sheer cliffs rise from the inspiring waterway to a height of several thousand feet and gigantic waterfalls tumble into the fiord from lofty mountain-locked lakes?.


Our tour bus left town before sunrise and headed south, our driver was very good and had lots of informing new and stories to tell us about the areas we were passing. On the way there we stopped a lot and check out some of the sights as well as did a few short forest walks. Once arriving near the coastline there is a huge line of mountains that separate you and the ocean, as we started to head up into the mountains it quickly became a winter wonderland and we soon had to stop and put chains on (only to take them right off in a few minutes). The road over the mountains was really amazing and even needs to be closed every winter for a few weeks due to avalanches. At one point as we were driving through a mountain valley it between evident that there would be no way to drive over the sheer cliffs ahead and one starts to wonder how on earth you get across such an obstacle. Then suddenly, just when you think there is no possible way around a small tunnel appears in the bottom of the cliff. Our driver told us that it took over a decade to complete the road and tunnel to the ocean since it was put on hold due to WWII. The tunnel is barely wide enough for 2 cars and goes on for about 1.5km.


Shortly after exiting on the other side we got to a very, very small town of less then 100 inhabitants where our boat was waiting for us. The area receives on average an annual rainfall oh nearly 7m., and less then 100 days without rain. So as we got off the bus and onto the boat it was of course raining. The boat was an average size and had three decks, we were given our lunch as soon as we got on and the boat took off and started to slowly head out towards the ocean. Not long after departing the captain told us that there were some dolphins swimming off the back of the boat. I went out to the top deck of the boat and got a few pictures of them. It was really cool to see them in their natural habitat (we also saw some seals on some rocks). It was a really cool area, and the fact that it was raining I found made for a cool atmosphere. The ride was about 1:30h and then it was back onto the bus and back to Queenstown. It was a long day but was definitely worth it.


Once back at the hostel I was upstairs playing cards with a couple of guys and afterwards went back down to our room with one of the guys to get some food. When we walked in he told me that someone had taken his mp3 player and that his things were all moved around. I figured he must have just misplaced them but then after looking up at my bunk I noticed that all my thing had been taken out of my bag. It turns out someone had come in from the street and stolen all of my valuables and some of the other guys things too. The cops came to make a report since there was a lot of stuff taken but the chances of recovering anything are slim to none. I ended up getting my camera, mp3, sunglasses, mobile and clock all stolenL. It has definitely been the lowest point of this entire trip by far. It was nearly impossible to keep a positive attitude after that and all I wanted to do was leave and go back to Melbourne. Fortunately for me I had just backed up all my pictures from my camera on to a usb stick, so at least I would still have memories of the good times I had before the event.


I caught my bus back to Christchurch the next morning but still had a hard time thinking positively of it and was rather grumpy. The next morning I woke up early and took the time before my afternoon flight to go and check out the city. From what I saw it looks like a really nice area and a good place to live. My plane was delayed about 40min but when it did finally come I was happy just to get back on and go back home.


In the end if I put aside the fact of loosing my stuff it was a great but small trip. 6 days was a real tease of what New Zealand has to offer. It is such a beautiful country and has a lot to offer. I will definitely go back some day when I can afford to stay in hotels and rent a car. The place is a hunting and fishing paradise and would make for an absolutely amazing angling trip?.. someday! I recommend to anyone who is thinking of going there to do so, you won?t be disappointed.


School is now back on and a couple of the guys from the Sydney trip are moving into the convent. I?m starting my first phase of my Ontario Real Estate License in less then two weeks. Furthermore, I?m currently looking hard to find a job so that I can slowly buy back all the things I lost. It?s shaping up to be a busy but exciting semester.


Hope everyone is well, Take Care!



From s#2 on Jul 30th, 2007

I've placed the picture of the cristalized trees as the backdrop on my comp at work. BEAUTIFUL!!! You are very lucky to be having this experience.