Thursday, June 29, 2017

Skiing Mt. Hutt

The ski season is finally upon us and we had the staff training on the mountain at Porters the past weekend. All in all the entire experience was actually rather fun, considering that training is mostly boring in nearly ever job. But this one saw us meting pretty much the entire crew on the mountain and getting out on the mountain to have a look at how the lifts operate. At the end of the three days all of us had a good idea of what to expect and what is expected.
The next week saw us settling in to our house at Benmore station and meeting all the others that I'd be living with in that time, too. We have Mark, an English guy I have stayed with at the hostel before, Nick (American from California), Lena (German), Flo (German), Chris (German), Gershon (err, don't really know, lot's of places), Hans (Kiwi) and me. The house we are in is really good to. We had a fire and TV installed whilst we were there and the heat the fire puts out is just ridiculous. The owners are also friendly, all being farming kiwis and looks like we got a good deal here (plus we are on the way to the Porters ski field and don't need to use our own cars).

Between going to Christchurch rather regularly and buying shopping and other gear a few of us managed to get a bit of skiing in on the our neighbouring mountain of Mt. Hutt. Due to location reasons they already have enough snow to open, but not enough for all runs. Most of the others managed to go to the mountain fairly soon, but the day all of them went my ski gear had not yet arrived from Germany (thanks to mum for that). They arrived the day they were all gone, and after a few parties to meet up with our other colleagues and a Rugby game between the All Blacks (NZ) and The Lions (UK), Hans, Lena and me managed to get a ski in to Mt. Hutt.
Awesome day to start of with it, too. Most of the Canterbury Plains was covered in a thick layer of clouds and Mt Hutt was sticking out of it. So for the better part of the day we skied above the clouds. Well “skied”. I'm the only one of the group that skied that day, as Hans and Lena both snowboard. But after some awesome views and fun carving the day was coming to an end.

Back at the house most of the others left for a party again (bit to soon for me and I was knackered from skiing) and Nick and me were the only ones left at the place. Shortly after it was bed for me, but a brilliant first skiing in New Zealand.  

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Taylors Mistake

Another day, another walk. This time to the outer end of the mountain range I have been hiking on so far. Izzy left for a road trip by bus today. As it left from the airport early in the morning I offered to drive her. No bus ran to the airport at that time and as I do have a vehicle now it was no problem. Also the airport isn't to far away either.
After dropping her of and returning to the hostel I had some breakfast and then got a few things sorted out on the laptop. The weather had been predicted to lighten up in the afternoon. It wasn't raining, but the clouds were thick with little wind. Means that the temperatures were also higher then yesterday.
The clouds still hadn't lifted once I had finished lunch, so I packed a snack and set of towards Taylors Mistake. The small holiday town is situated at the inlet for the Lyttelton harbour, so it was a bit of a drive. In the end I had to cross a part of the small range near to the coast to get to the start of the hike on the other side. Driving up I noticed the rather heavy weight of my car, but it got me over no problem. At the top I had a pretty good view in to Christchurch, so I parked the car and set up my camera in a small park. After the time lapse had finished I packed up and carried on to Taylors Mistake. 
Once arrived in the town I set of along the coastline. To be honest, most of the track didn't feel very New Zealandish, it looked very much like Scotland. Probably the reason a lot of English settled here in the first place. The trail was nice, a well gravelled stretch and I didn't meet to many other people (Tuesday). Saw more sheep than other people. At the tip of the of the hill range a few fortifications had been set up in world war two to deter the Germans from getting close. No idea what interest they had in New Zealand nearly 80 years ago. Even if the Germans lost then, New Zealand (and by extension Australia) is/are now overrun by young Germans anyway.
Walked around the hill and got back on to Summit road which runs all along the top. On all the walk I have done so far, I've had to cross it. Once I reached the Taylors Mistake again I had to go back down to the beach to get to my car. A bit of a steep walk, but nothing to bad. Some surfers were trying their best in the waves washing on to the black beach of the town and a few did manage to catch some waves.

Back at the car I headed of towards the hostel again, but stopped along the way for another time lapse and some photo shots of the sunset lighting up the sky.  

Monday, May 22, 2017

Witch Hill

Last night when I came back, Shane and me had a new room mate. Izzy, a young woman from England. We got talking a bit and found out that both of us had nothing planned for today, so we decided to do a hike together. Most of the others in the hostel had to work as it was Monday, so in the morning after breakfast and making some sandwiches for lunch, the both of us headed out towards the mountains on the other side of Christchurch.
I've sort of come to not liking Christchurch that much. I'm sure it is an interesting city for people who like bar crawls and history of earth quake stricken city's, but for one as me that enjoys the rural areas more, it just isn't my sort of thing. A few days to view a couple of things, but not weeks. So the past few days have seen me increasingly driving to the foothills and beaches to get away from the town. Today was no different and once the car had been parked Izzy and me set of up through a valley to the top of one of the hills. The valley turned out to be a lot nicer than I had anticipated. Before leaving I'd done a short look at the semi-planned route from a satellite picture which showed no features what so ever, just shrubs and rocks. At the bottom of the valley we encountered an older women on a bike clearing the path from a tree that had fallen over and gave her a hand until the bulk of it had been taken of the track. Walking up we got our shoes and trousers muddy, as the rain and cold of the past few days had not helped in keeping/getting the track dry. To both our advantage it meant that the track was closed for mountain bikers, as that took a bit of the watchfulness out of walking. Still, paying attention was a must, as the same reason it was closed for the bikers meant that we were slipping and sliding across the tracks at occasions.
Further up we were meet by some sheep (what were we to expect, it is NZ after all) and saw some fellow hikers and bikers on the tarmac road running along the top of the ridge. The same one I had traversed the day prior. Once we reached that it was a short walk further before we got of the road again to hike up a hill known as Witch Hill. Getting up was a short but exhausting experience. I thought that Izzy was up behind me the entire way as I couldn't hear her huffing as much as I was, but it turned out (rather funnily) that she was thinking the exact same thing. Reached the top and had a brilliant view of the Canterbury Plains, Christchurch underneath us and the Southern Alps in the distance.
Short note: It is really weird for me to say that any other mountain range in the world is the Alps, coming from the original, but that's what they are called.
Once pictures had been taken and warm clothes put on, back down it went. The day was a lot better than the previous one, with not a cloud in site and the wind had slightly died down, but the air was still chilly. Had a quick stop for lunch once we got in to a wind sheltered area along the Summit Road again and then proceeded to walk down a bike track back in to the valley. Looking at some of the trails there, I had to think how much skill you need to come down there. Some of the tracks I would not touch with my mountain bike, but then again it's probably built more for downhill biking. Going down on foot was interesting enough, as the wet earth and pine needles were a challenge to manoeuvre. We reached a walk able track once we got down in to the valleys again and carried on until we got back in to town. Then it was only about half an hours walk to the car. On the way we got ambushed by a cat that wanted some cuddles, weird behaviour for a feline.

Back at the car, back to the hostel with a quick stop for some shopping and then to put the legs up. A really nice walk with some good scenery on a day just made for being outside.  

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Christchurch

Christchurch has been a rather dreary, but nonetheless an, experience. First of my primary reason to travel to the “capital” of the South Island was to have an interview with a prospective job at one of the ski fields. So far the only one that has offered me such, two others wrote back in that time saying they were unfortunately fully staffed already (sort of surprising, since I had written to them in February).
On the way to Christchurch I passed some of the iconic scenes of the South Island of New Zealand. No use what so ever, as the complete days travel we had a heavy fog. The bus drivers talked of the grand view over Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo to the mountain range in which Mount Cook is located. Didn't see a thing.
Once in Christchurch I got to the hostel I had booked in and I reckon I got a fairly good choice. Not a raving party hostel, as my money is slowly going down and I want to be able to sleep at night, but close enough to the city centre. The only down side is that the nearest cheap supermarket is about 30 minutes walk away. Bit more exercise then.
The day of the interview came and I thought I had stuffed it up completely. The boss interviewing me is from exactly the same place in Germany I am from. Füssen to be precise and he knows my ski instructor boss at home (Hanse) personally (or did a few years ago). Half the interview was about the actual job and half was about how things are at home.
Shortly after the interview I got an email asking if I wanted the job and that I could have it. Without much mucking around I accepted and am looking forwards to working on the snow fields for four months. 
After getting the job situation sorted out I was a bit more relaxed about my financial situation, but one thing I was sorely missing was a car. Spending a couple of months in Australia with one showed me what sort of freedom you can get with only an own vehicle. Expenses, too, mind you. A rough calculation of my old car in Oz got me to a five digit sum over the course of the entire time I had spent there. But I wouldn't have traded what sort of things I managed to do with it. So the week after the interview I had a look around cars. In the beginning I just went to dealers, but after viewing a few cars that backpackers had I expanded in to that seller field, too. Turned out it was good that I did, as a lot of backpackers are currently fleeing the cold and winter of the South Island to go back home in to summer in the Northern Hemisphere or the tropics. Absolute buyers market at the moment, which reflected in the prices. Also I had driven a few cars of dealers and the last one I looked at was a piece of garbage. Mind you, he only wanted 1700$ for it, but that probably reflects the condition of the thing. In the end I purchased a Honda Odyssey 2003 Model from two German backpackers. All is already set up for camping and I can sleep the nights away in the back. Once purchased I got a check on it done and only needed to repair things worth 200$. 
Once those days had passed I wanted to get out and explore the surrounding are of Christchurch a bit more. I was getting sick of the interior city and needed to see a bit more. Unfortunately the days following saw a lot of rain and cold weather come in, not the ideal conditions for hiking. The Southern Lights were showing up again, too, but no luck with the clouds hanging above. Once a day with a bit of sunshine arrived I took a quick drive to the beach and had a walk there. The next day I popped by a lake south of Christchurch, Lake Ellesmere. The weather was biting cold and the wind was pushing the car around, so after a very short walk I hopped back in and drove back to Christchurch and the warm hostel.
The next day I was starting to get fed up, so I packed all the warm clothes I could fit in to my bag and headed of to the gondola on the other side of Christchurch. Didn't take that, but walked up next to it, safe in the knowledge that should it start to pour down I had a fast way of getting down. The weather held, but it was still freezing in the wind. The Southern Alps are covered in snow, which is hopefully a good indication of the season to come, and even the hills near to Christchurch that I was walking around on had a light covering of snow. After getting to cold I walked back down, hopped in to the car and decided to finally update the blog again.

Currently in a nice warm room in the hostel felling good at having gotten some exercise done.  

Friday, May 5, 2017

Queenstown Hill

Over the past couple of days I have started getting a bit nervous. My bank card hadn't shown up yet and I'm leaving the hostel on Sunday to travel to Christchurch for a job interview on one of the potential sky field. Having the post chase me around is not what I had in mind with something as sensitive as a bank card.
But today all got good. I found the awaited letter in the letter box of the hostel and contained was my bank card. Got all the first steps sorted out and found out that my first superannuation payment has come through from Australia. The sky was blue, the day was warm and so far I had only had good news. So in the afternoon I decided to do the Queenstown Hill, the hill I had to stop at last time due to my cold.
Set of after having a lunch of fried vegetables and walked up the hill for a good one hour. The closest thing I can compare it to is the walk to the middle station of the Alspitze, both length and gradient wise. The were a lot of other people on the way up and down as well, so I wasn't the only one using the blue sky of the day to take a walk. The first part of the walk is to actually get to the start of the walk at the top of Queenstown. Queenstown is a city built on the side of a mountain/hill leading down to the water and I had to reach to top of the town first. That was the shortest part, after that the longest one goes through a pine forest with a few deciduous trees in their autumn colours here and there. After the walk through the forest you reach the top of the tree line, which seems to happen rather sudden here in NZ. Then it's more shrubs and rocks everywhere, but the scenery just gets better and better. Underneath one, Queenstown is nestled in the gorges with Lake Wakatipu stretching out in the deeper parts of the valley. At the top you are treated with a stunning view of the Remarkables (a mountain range with a sky field in them) stretching along the other side of the lake. The pictures I've put on here hopefully serve it justice. 
Spent a short while at the top having a drink and just enjoying the scenery of snow capped mountains and blue lakes in the valley before heading back down again. On the way I had a chat to a guy from Hong Kong who was flying his drone around (a Mavic Pro, one I have been looking at) and then raced down at a fast walk through the dark pine forest.

Time: aprox. 1.5 hours.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

First Week Queenstown

You'd think that being in a new country for a week would have seen me post things regularly on new and exciting experienced I did in that time. Unfortunately, this last week was not the norm in that regard. For starters, I got sick. Badly. A cold which a few others in the hostel also caught. The first day with it, I had committed two others taking a walk with me up a hill behind Queenstown to have a look down. A short way up I had to stop, as I noticed that the exercise was not doing me any favours what so ever. From that point on Emma (Aussie) and Adam (UK) carried on alone and I just wanted to walk back and get in to bed. Unfortunately that would have meant I would have been out of food, which is probably not the best thing to be when sick in bed. Swung by the supermarket and bought a few things before getting back to the hostel and bed. I slept for a good portion of the day, but as a result my jet lag (still I reckon) came in to play and I couldn't sleep the rest of the night.
Due to bad luck I had to take an hour bus trip to the next town the following day, reason being to open a bank account. Now, opening a bank account seemed like such a simple thing. At least it was in Australia. On my second day here I walked off all the banks in Queenstown and the results weren't promising. Westpac had declined straight away. Company policy dictated that I couldn't open a bank account before having a job (along that line) and, well, it's extraordinary difficult to get a job without a bank account. Ergo, problem?! The next largest bank, the ANZ, didn't have a spot free to open an account until three weeks later, which is a very long time to go with pulling funds from over seas. The other bank, a bit smaller, Kiwibank couldn't give me an appointment for a similar long time. In the end I organised an appointment in the next town in Cromwell, where I could go and get everything done four days later. The bank problem seems to be a Queenstown exclusive, as stories I've heard from backpackers in Auckland say that they got in when they walked in to the banks.
Anyways, in the end I went to Cromwell with a cold to open a bank account. There are two buses, one in the morning going there and one in the evening coming back. End of line. Brilliant for when one is not felling to well (sarcasm). What was nice about the journey, though, was that we had a funny and talkative bus driver, which in my situation was really a relief. Also the scenery along the route was stunning. We passed wine fields and bungee drops over clear rivers where rafting and kajaking is possible. All surrounded by the South Islands mountains. I can't wait to travel in an own vehicle again. 
In Cromwell I actually managed to get a bit more than the bank account done. As if to make up for all the bad felling from being ill, I got a lot of good new that day. I'd found out I could get a bit more money from Oz than originally anticipated, due to superannuation I was never going to need. I got my tax file number sorted out, which was made a lot easier with me just having been in the bank and I re-read a job interview invitation I have for a ski field I applied for. Once back I then just dropped in to bed again.
The next few days saw me recuperating and generally not doing a lot past sleeping, reading and watching videos. Most of my survival in that time was in tea, honey and raw lemons, but as of today I feel a lot better.

The past days have been cooling off and just today we have had the first bit of snow on the mountains. Here is to hope to a good season, and quite a few other backpackers are also getting a bit hyped up due to the snow. A lot of people are itching to get on to the snow fields.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Flight to New Zealand

The first blog from New Zealand for me. After an agonising long time.
First the background check of what has been going on these past couple of days and what it has taken to get here. About five months ago I had decided to go to New Zealand after my time in Australia. After all they are close together. First of visa, that took a while to do. As people from the UK are allowed to stay two years, I wanted to take my British citizenship and apply to NZ same as in Australia. Unfortunately I don't qualify as a UK citizen, as I have been living in Germany. So after a lot of scrambling around with the German embassy and getting passports sorted out internationally, I got to go to NZ as a German.
Next thing was flight and I reckon I got a really good deal with that one. Due to me knowing pretty sure four months before that I wanted to go to NZ I booked a flight fast and had it go via China (to visit Rhiannon) and Germany (to visit everyone else). In the end I paid 1200€ all together, not bad in my books, considering it was Quantas and British Airways I was flying with, too.
After a 35 hour long travel of which 26 were spent in the plane I got my first eye on New Zealand, the South Island more precise as I was flying in to Queenstown. My body was fed up with planes, me being tall not helping at all. My stomach had had enough of plane food, too. Nothing against what they served, it was very nice, but in the end I wanted something which I could spread out more. Airports just served very pricey things.
The first things I saw coming down in the plane were the tall mountains, which we actually ended up flying through to get to the airport of Queenstown. The top of these mountains is not covered in trees, but only in what looks to be grasses. Lower down the trees start showing up with roads and small towns in them. 
Upon touchdown my neighbouring passenger seemed relived, he didn't seem to like the landing much. Can't say the same for myself, as I have flown so many times now throughout my live I'm desensitise to a lot of the quirks of flying. On the plus side we had a nice sunny day, too, so the views on to the surrounding and the planes reactions were superb.
Upon disembarking the plane we passengers walked along the tar to the terminal to pick up our luggage. I myself was relieved to see my backpack come, as the last time I had seen it was Munich, on the other side of the planet. Picked it up and proceeded through the document check system. For some reason I had the jitters a bit, but there was no reason for that, as everything I had done and supplied was correct and accounted for. Due to that I had no issues what so ever passing through, the only thing I couldn't answer positively was that I had a job or knew someone. That didn't seem to matter to much, so a short while later I stood in the main terminal. I was surprised a bit by the sheer amount of police present for such a small airport, but then again, a lot of people were around that day. Grabbed some money from an ATM machine to pay for any bus or taxi feeds and then outside the airport I had a quick ring around a couple of Queenstown hostels.
A week prior to my flight I started looking at accommodations, which was probably not the best thing I did. Due to an extreme lack of misfortune, everything had been booked out in Queenstown. Everything in my price range at least. I chatted with my Lesley about it (my aunt), who had been to Queenstown before, and she found an accommodation which was the cheapest of the pricey ones. In the end I booked one night in Wanaka, a town an hour and a half’s drive from Queenstown, just in case I found nothing on my arrival or the authorities wanted some proof I had where I was going. In the end though, I got an accommodation in Queenstown, as someone had backed out. Pretty much exactly what I had been aiming for. Also Queenstown probably has the advantage that it is the bigger of the two towns, so to set up things like banks accounts and such it may be a bit better.
Caught a bus, on which I had my fist taste of Kiwi English in Kiwi-land. A guy I had worked with before was and spoke like a guy from New Zealand, but with this bus driver I really noticed. Got dropped of at the hostel I booked in and arranged my room and all. After getting to my bed, I pretty much just lay in it and slept. Waking up two hours later to get my clothes of whilst everyone else went out for some drinks. I myself was just to knackered from 35 hours of travelling.


The next day saw me getting up earlier than everybody else. Most likely due to my screwed up biological clock and partly probably because of them all having been out the night before. I must have been one of the only backpackers awake at that time, as after having some breakfast provided by the hostel (jam sandwich) I went out for a bit of a walk. Sometime throughout the night I developed a headache, probably thanks to not hydrating enough the day before. Drank a lot and had a walk in fresh air. Looking at the scenery again I was reminded of Johannas words, that Queenstown very much looks like Nesselwang. I can happily agree to that, as I really like mountains and snow. The snow part is still missing, but the mountains and forests are more than making up for it for now.
Walked along the shore of Lake Wakatipu for a very short while, as I had to be back at the hostel for checkout. Checked around the town a bit, too, to see where most of the important things are located. Back at the hostel checked out and then walked to the hostel I was staying in for a week. Check in at that hostel was at 3PM, so I was way to early. But in the meantime I left my bags there and went shopping for some food. Had a bit more of a look around the town at the same time, too. From what I can gather of the people there are a lot of tourist here at the moment, as I saw a lot of Asian looking people and heard a bit of Dutch (I think) and German. If the stories of past people I have met in Australia are true, then NZ is full of Germans anyway (again). Did a bit of light shopping nearly had a heart attack looking at the prices, but later on other backpackers told me that it's just Queenstown which is this pricey.

Back at the hostel I just had to wait a short while and then got my room allocated. Fist thing I did was have a shower to clean of nearly two days of travelling before sitting down to write the blog.