Tag Archives: Queenstown

Hockey and Helicopters

When travelling all over the world one of the times you tend to really miss friends and family are the special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. Since its July its an easy guess that its currently the latter that has left me thinking about home.

Last year my birthday in NZ was pretty pathetic to be brutally honest. Due to a combination of good friends leaving to continue their travels, people having plans and just not having that many friends in the country, my birthday essentially consisted of me sat at my desk in the office working late then getting Chinese food on the way home. Sad to say but that was about the top of the excitement factor for my 31st birthday. With that in mind I was determined not to have a repeat performance this year and, with the efforts of quite a few special people around me, that was certainly not the case this year.

Unusually for me my birthday celebrations started a few days early for me this year, on the Sunday before my actual birthday (on the Wednesday). Lisa’s parents were kind enough to invite us over for some afternoon tea and we had a mini bday celebration with some of her family and close family friends. Somehow the weather turned really nice in the afternoon even though we are currently in deepest winter, so for about 2 hours Lisa and I ran around the garden like idiots playing football with the kids while the real adults looked on shaking their heads. Fun was had by all and many a goal was scored even if some were by questionable means! Lisas Dad made an amazing apple cake and Lisa had also arranged for a custom chocolate cake from a local bakery so it was cake, cake and more cake. After dinner was boardgame time where I have to admit that I was beaten at chess by a child. A very good child mind you and we did win one each….but still, someone a third my age so maybe I am not as good as I used to think!

When the day of my actual birthday rolled around I made the decision that I didn’t want to work for the day so booked it off and instead just tried to enjoy myself for the day. The “relaxing” start to the day didn’t exactly happen though as somewhere along the way I had agreed to get up for the 6.30am boxing class at the gym followed by breakfast with Ellie. If you ever want to push yourself then a 6.30am boxing class is certainly the way to go. Pressups and skipping at that time will certainly wake you up! After milling about the house for a bit it was time to meet Lisa for walk by the beach and a nice lunch before heading home to go mountain biking.

…..and I didn’t go biking at all. Now I did have every intention to get out on my bike and hit the trails, I had ever laid out all of my biking clothes ready to go. What I wasn’t reckoning on though was our temporary cat returning and wanting to chill out with me. Over the last few weeks we have had a cat keep appearing at the house and just wandering in as we open the door. We haven’t fed it but it still seems happy enough to just come in and chill out for a while. The cat has been named Doggo since Luke wanted a dog instead of a cat and he/she seems pretty relaxed. Anyway, when I got back from lunch with a full stomach and a cat that wanted to cuddle the idea of biking in the cold seemed to take a back seat. There I laid on the sofa for the next 3 hours until I finally had to get up and get ready for the BJJ and MMA classes I had also decided to go to to round off my day of combat sports. Safe to say that I managed to get through the BJJ class ok, however I then got quite punished at the end of the MMA session with a Doghouse round where I had to go for 12 mins, taking on a new opponent every minute. It doesn’t sound that hard until after the 3rd minute when you are too gassed to move properly and these fresh faced people keep attacking you!

Once I picked myself up off the floor and had a quick shower it was time to head out for dinner with some friends to round off the evening and end a pretty awesome birthday.

…At this point the questions should be “This has got zero to do with Helicopters or Hockey” however if you are patient and keep reading we will get to that.

Unlike any other birthday that I have had this one managed to stretch its way out to a whole extra weekend of adventures, some planned, some spontaneous and some planned in secret for quite a while.

Saturday morning the was the start of the second weekend and even more birthday treats. Lisa and got up in the morning and drove out to Queenstown for the weekend to take part in the festivities of the winter festival. Arriving quite late in the afternoon we wondered about for a while before grabbing some food and the heading to the Hockey match that evening. It is the second Hockey match I’ve ever been to and Lisa’s parents bought us tickets for by bday gift which was awesome of them. Although the ice rink in QT is tiny, the fans are plenty rowdy and loud and there was quite an atmosphere going on given that it seemed like no one (including the players or refs) knew what was going on! ….maybe that was just me though. Hockey is a pretty fast paced game so its hard to tell the difference between an innocent penalty and a blatant one but I am still not sure how something didn’t get sent off for punching another guy in the face in front of the ref!

The rest of Saturday night was pretty chilled out with the rest of the fun happening on the action packed Sunday. After getting up and leaving the hotel as late as possible the original plan was to walk up to the top of the lookout hill and go for a ride on the luge before leaving to go for by bday surprise at 1pm. Arriving at the hill we thought better of the whole thing and instead got tickets to take the Gondola up and back down again which in hindsight was the best choice since we were a bit strapped for time in the end. Along with the Gondola up we also got tickets to go on the Luge at the top which I have never been on before but have always looked at every time I’ve been there. The Luge is definitely something I would do again in a heartbeat and was over far too quickly. The QT Luge is basically a 2 different tracks from the very top of the hill to the main Gondola station full of twists and turns and even the odd jump if you’re brave enough. You ride down it on little carts where you control the speed by pushing the controls forwards or pulling back and try your best not to spin out on sharp corners by going far to fast. Safe to say I failed this on my second run and ended up sideways. I was a little overzealous with my speed, trying to keep up with Lisa who had smashed me on the first run down the hill and left me for a gonner.

After the excitement of our first little mission it was time to go and finally find out what this bday surprise was going to be. It had been kept very well hidden for quite a while now and I was pretty excited, especially when Lisa told me that she had impressed herself with this one. Anyone who has ever met her will know that when it comes to gifts she has an unnatural talent to always get the right thing and find amazing things for people all the time. Not quite sure how she does it but she does just manage to get even the rarest little gifts that fit just right. When this girl gets excited then you know it is something you should be excited for too.

With instructions to drive towards Cromwell and make sure I was dressed in warm clothes we headed off on a 30 min drive. My brain was going for all of the potential things that it could be but nothing really added up with the information I had been given. I was told to wear good footwear as my feet might get wet, but when asked about the rest of me apparently that would be dry. The only thing in my mind that this could be would be snow… but we were driving away from it…

Finally an instruction, “turn right here”, and then I saw it Heliview Flights. We were going in a Helicopter!

Now obviously this makes sense when thinking of how I could get to snow from nowhere near the mountains but this was ruled out pretty quickly in my mind as I was aware that Lisa was scared of heights so never expected that to happen. She had decided to face her fear though and I couldn’t be prouder or happier as I have always wanted to go in a Helicopter so this was just a perfect birthday gift.

After having the safety briefing and waiting for the chopper to arrive we were underway in such a relaxed and smooth way. The best thing about it was that at no point was Lisa scared which made things even better. We could both look out of the window and take on the scenery while the pilot narrated away and told us what we were looking at. The bonus of the trip was that we also got an alpine landing as part of the trip and somehow got absolutely perfect weather for the whole experience. For a few weeks leading up to this the weather had been a bit hit and miss. The night before it had rained pretty hard but today the sky was clear with a few wispy clouds and the sun in the sky. The best bit though… SNOW! So much deep snow on the ground and we got time to run around and act like kids, jumping in the air and taking awesome pics of our best efforts. It eventually got a little chilly on the old hands but that was just an excuse to go back and take another drink of the provided hot chocolate that we had with us. As a bonus on top of all the other bonuses so far I also got to sit in the front on the way back and see the amazing view when you are in a completely open cockpit.

Things lined up perfectly on the trip to make for an eventful weekend and some memories that I will not quickly forget.

It is the times like this that I appreciate and cherish the most. The vivid memories of happy times and experiences that people always reach for. I am so lucky to have people around me who took the time to make my birthday a great one and thankful to all of them. Especially lucky to have a girlfriend who is so cunning and planning that she can pull off such an amazing surprise… my only issue now is that its her birthday soon! Best get planning!

Round 2: New Zealand Adventure

It seems like only yesterday that I snuck back to the UK to surprise everyone but it is now time to head back on my travels and leave the UK again. It was great to see loads of friends while I was back but also a shame that I didn’t get to see everyone that I wanted. It didn’t really help that I returned home smack bang in the middle of what is to me, Hayfever central! Struggling to breath and wheezing all of the time is not exactly what I would call an attractive quality and certainly didn’t help when it was time to socialise or go anywhere. Next time I am back I will be sure to avoid June like the plague as I am completely allergic to June in the UK. Its not for me so I’m not going to do it any more.

On Monday night I started my epic set of flights back to the New Zealand to bring me back here in the heart of winter (which seemed a good idea at the time!). Safe to say I knew mentally that it was going to be cold, however DSC_1690 (1280x720)physically my body was not quite prepared for the chills when I first landed in Queenstown. Dont worry though (mother) I am now wrapped up warm in my new winter clothes and with the sun shining on your face it isn’t actually that bad, a cool -2 today but feels comfortable.

The flights back to NZ were straight forwards enough on paper but proved to be slightly more problematic than usual which isn’t too much fun when you have only just done the same trip a few weeks before. It all started with issues in getting to Manchester Airport in the UK before I even managed to leave. My dad was able to give me a lift to the Airport which was great, however we had to leave at about 5pm in order to get there in time for the flight which put us bang in line for rush hour traffic. At first it wasnt too bad with us managing to get past the roadworks on the blocked up St. Georges Bridge to carry on our merry little way towards the M62… this is where it all started going a little wrong. There had been a “police incident” on the M62 westbound (the way we were going) causing the motorway to be completely closed for at least 2 hours. Luckily we had the radio on as we were setting off and heard the announcement before we got too stuck in the inevitable traffic jam and managed to divert across snakes pass and take the back way into Manchester. The trip took longer than expected but I still managed to get to the Airport in time so that was the first panic averted.

When I was booking all of my flights my travel agent said that she was able to get me some really good transfer times which on paper seemed great. In reality though it wasn’t quite as fun. When I arrived at Dubai Airport I found that I had about 1 hour until my next flight. “What is your issue then?” I hear you all mumble to yourselves while reading my first world complaints. Well the issue is that I was not flying from the same terminal as I have done on all my other flights or that I had just landed at. Instead I had to transfer to terminal C. Now for anyone who has not been to Dubai Airport please note: It is massive! Like super massive. Each terminal is huge in its own right, then there are all the gates that come with them. When I checked the board I was correct in thinking I had about 50 mins to get to my gate, but the question was…. “where is my gate?!”. After a 15 min walk and a 5 min shuttle train ride I made it to terminal C to discover that I was on gate number 53, another 10+ mins walk away. Now I know how to do maths and I know this amount of time is much less than the 50 mins that I had but remember these are airport times. Your flight time is not your boarding time as boarding closes 20 mins before takeoff meaning I started to panic and then rushed my way there, making it in time but feeling flustered. Down the ramp to the plane I went… only it wasn’t a plane… It was a bus. A big bus mind, but not quite big enough to take me the 8000km that I still needed to go. It turns out that for terminal C they have all the gates but the planes get parked in what seems like a massive, well, plane park. Scores of jets all stuck together like they have been abandoned there, yet all ready to go at a moments notice. The bus ride here took us about another 20 mins as we got stuck behind traffic (slow moving baggage car) and then it seemed for a while that the driver had misplaced our plane the same way you would do at a big shopping mall car park. Eventually we found it and manage to board it and finally I was able to relax… until I woke up.

On the plane from Dubai to Sydney I managed to fall asleep for a while, only waking up for the announcement that we were now coming in to land… In Bangkok! I have been to Thailand before. I enjoyed my time in Thailand… but i did not book a ticket to Thailand. *Insert Panic* At first I was worried that I had gotten on the wrong plane but realistically in this day and age with security checks and the like who could possibly do that. It would have to have been a monumental mistake on my part and the airlines so I calmed down a little and stayed quiet as I didn’t really want to be “that guy that got on the wrong plane” anyway. It turns out that I was on the correct plane, however there was a stop off in Bangkok that for some reason was not mentioned anywhere on any of my tickets. This then lead to what can only be described as bureaucratic airport fuckery as I then had to leave the plane, walk through the airport, queue for a while, go through security, walk back through the airport, go through more security, have my bag checked, go through boarding pass check and then sit in the gate room next to the plane I just got off for 20 mins before getting back onto the same plane…. In the same seat. I understand that they need everyone off to make sure someone does stow away or something and they also need to clean it for the new passengers that will be getting on, but why couldnt they have just looked at my boarding pass then and stuck me in the room to the side? How was a secretly going to get some sort of smuggled item onto the plane? Surely if I was an international criminal I would just have left my criminal stuff on the plane I was about to get back onto! Madness. Anyway onto the plane I got and the trip continued.

australia-v-europe (340x379)Not many people seem to understand how vast Australia is. For most of us it is at the other side of the world and we know it is big but since it doesn’t have anything near it on the map for reference we don’t really understand. Australia is bigger than Europe and takes hours to fly across. This meant that we were flying across Australia as the sun started to rise and got a beautiful view of the red sky stretching across the horizon to the East of us. This was the first time I have landed in Sydney in the day and I must say that our decent into Sydney was quite impressive, even though the weather was pretty poor at the time. It is possible to see many of the famous landmarks such as the harbour bridge and opera house as you come in to land which I suppose saves on getting a helicopter ride over the city. Unfortunately I didn’t have a window seat so couldn’t really get any photos so hopefully my memories last me for a while yet.

Sydney Airport transfer times were similar to all the others meaning I had to rush to get where I needed to be and didn’t have time to wonder around at all or get something to eat. Normally this would be a good thing but after you have been on the move for about 30 hours with minimal air plane food sometimes you just want to grab something to fill you up. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be on this little trip so I had to make do with what was available while dreaming of food on arrival in New Zealand. For some reason the flight from Sydney to Queenstown was actually pretty cold. Normally the flight has a little chill from the air conditioning but is still suitable for T-shirt and shorts. This one needed me to reach for my hoodie and zip on the bottom of my trousers to my shorts (because I am a prepared traveller now a days) just for me to keep warm.

DSC_1694 (1280x720)Arriving in Queenstown was when I got my first blast of the weather that was to come. In QT there are no big gates or fancy loading bridges, just a set of steps and a quick walk across the runway, the icy blast of air hitting you as you step out of the door of the plane. Safe to say I wrapped up tight and rushed into the terminal. Passport control wasn’t too bad even if they did want to ask me plenty of questions about why I was back and how I had managed to travel for 4 months without working (and I don’t think “because I’m awesome” was what they wanted to hear). After that was all done with luck was back on my side sending the daily bus from the Airport to Wanaka to the stop 10 mins after I got their so I could head straight across to Wanaka without having to mess about in QT for the night first. Just over an hour later I was sitting in Speights Bar in Wanaka, sipping a cup of coffee in the warmth and feeling happy with myself for my little life achievement.

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As I am sure none of you want to know, Wanaka is still beautiful and looks even better now with a nice dusting of snow on top of the mountains. Now is when the real works starts as I look for a job, then somewhere to live and possibly some transport as well.

As they say though one step at a time 🙂

 

Another beautiful Queenstown day!

When I arrived in QT yesterday it was already getting late in the afternoon and things were starting to wind down. The sun was making its way over the bay and although I still got a couple of hours of light it was certainly getting to the end of the day.

Waking up here today has been a different paragliderexperience and really stunning. I decided get up early this morning and go for a little run before checking out of my hotel, the idea being to at least offset a little of the fast food and rubbish that I have been eating with some healthy activity. I was only out for about 30 mins but I suppose that is better than nothing. When I got out of bed it was freezing and I thought that maybe that was it and I had missed the summer completely. I still layered up though and went for the run, staying in the sun as much as possible to get some of the heat. When I checked my phone it said that it was 8 degrees which isnt really much better at home at the moment.

As the day has progressed the weather has taken a turn forGoldala the better. The super clear sky means that the sun has managed to heat everything quite nicely to a comfortable 19 degrees and so T-shirt and shorts weather is in full effect without any of the crazy sweating that Thailand had to offer.

Since I had nothing better to do today while waiting for CB to finish work and come across I decided to just continue my exploration and take a goldola to the top of the peak overlooking the town below. The view from there is seriously impressive and being here is making me wish I had a better camera with me. The Action cam and phoneare good for most things but not as good for taking pictures of the epic landscape that I keep finding myself in.

officeToday wins the award so for for best office for the pics taken at the very top of peak at the highest point that I could get to. All I have done today is wander about, look at a view and then take a walk into woods yet I feel quite accomplished with my day so far. I think it helps that I had the run this morning and that when i was in the woods earlier I also started jogging with my back pack on to burn a few extra calories. I dont like running all the time but sometimes when the scenery is just right and you have the right music on walking just seems like the wrong pace to be at.

CB is now on his way across from Wanaka and I cant wait to meet up with him and start our little adventure. I have no cluebikers what my plans are for the rest of my time in NZ but I think speaking to him will help and after today I think being here is going to be a really positive experience. Whatever happens I certainly need to come back to Queenstown again and rent a bike to go on the downhill trails. All I keep seeing is guys on bikes coming up on the lifts with their bikes strapped on the side and then disappearing into the woods to shred their way down. I certainly need to get a few runs in while I still can before the snow starts to make its way here.

Cant wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Breathtaking Queenstown

I have been here for only a few hours but I am already slightly in love with Queenstown.

The chilled-out atmosphere and laid back surroundings just seem to fit me so much better than the hustle and bustle of the big city that was Auckland. Added to that is the fact that this place is incredibly beautiful! I mean “best place I have seen in my life” beautiful!

As I type this up right now I am sat on a fine pebble beach on the coast of the lake as the sun starts to set. The sun has gone down behind one of the mountains turning it a little chilly, but sat here looking across the lake everything is still so alive. The mountains are slowly turning golden as the sun wakatipustarts to set in the distance so even though we are in shadow the view is still amazing.

Everyone his gathered around to watch all of the para-gliders and hand-gliders come down from the top of the mountain. There are hundreds of people here sat relaxing and chilling out watching the show, drinking beer and having a good time. By the looks of it about every 5 mins another one seems to be jumping off the top and then making their decent, attempting to land on a floating platform out in the lake. So far at least 20 have come down so far with the para-gliders landing on the mark and the handgliders making a bit more of a scene and ditching in the water before being rescued by the boats. It is a bit hairier for them since they are completely strapped to the bit metal frame so when they hit the water it is a bit more of a rescue then for the para-gliders who just swim about for a bit.

As I have just written that last paragraph I have just witness something amazing and shocking that took by breath away! Firstly one of the para-gliders decided he didn’t want to land on the pad in the lake and instead came all the way in slowly and touched down right on the edge of the fully packed beach. The crowd went wild and it was a true show of skill… That wasnt the amazing thing. Just after he landed a hand-glider decided to come in and do the same. Now the worst case scenario with a para-glider is that DSC_0597 (1024x306)you get hit by a person attached to a big sheet. Hand-gliders are a bit different. With their massive metal frames, when one of those comes at you you take a moment to rethink your life! The pilot came in directly towards the beach which made everyone go silent and the smart people start to scatter a bit before suddenly she turned sharply to cut across the front of the beach by the shore. Please bear in mind that I am sat about 20ft from said shore typing away on a laptop when I hear silence fall and start to take note. After the sharp turn she rocketed across the shoreline about 5ft off the ground and unfortunately got a bit of wind under the wing causing her not to stop and head straight for boat that was pulled up onto the beach as well as a group of people who were sat on the beach in front of me. They didn’t even have time to run away and had to just lay flat on the beach and pray as the hand-glider came over their head and crashed into the beach a few seconds later. I have never seen 400 people collectively hold their breath before however this was certainly one of those times and a time I am not going to forget any time soon. Hopefully someone got it on camera and I will be able to find it online soon as that was seriously crazy stuff! I really don’t know how there weren’t any injuries or fatalities!

Everyone here seems to be here to have fun DSC_0600 (1024x576)in one form or another and you can almost feel it in the air. It has more of the community feel that was missing from Auckland but I guess that is what you get for a much smaller place that’s main this is tourism and action sports. Everyone seems to be into the same things so everyone can get along much easier. There are even a lot of Kiwi’s here who have moved from other parts of NZ so even the local people are not truly local.

Earlier as I was having a walk about I also saw a Jet walker in the bay that was also an amazing site. The woman riding it basically had 2 massive water jet attached to her feet kicking water out at the same sort of power as a fire hose with a big pipe coming down to a jet ski that’s motor and engine was providing the power for her to move about as she pleased. It was such a show to watch as she seemed almost weightless as she danced 15ft above the water, suspended by the jets coming from her feet. She was twisting and turning like it was the most natural thing in the world, while somehow seeming to hold perfect balance all the way through. Occasionally she would lean all the way forwards and dive into the water before flying back out again like a dolphin jumping through the water. I managed to get a video of it so I will get it uploaded as soon as I actually have a decent internet connection.

SunsetEven from the plane in the middle of the day this place seemed beautiful and now in the evening, as the sun starts to set that has been re-confirmed for me. The water is clear, the lake is stunning and the surroundings seem to be perfect. As I landed I text’d CB saying “Wow, I’m not even out of the airport yet and this place is beautiful”. He responded with “Yeah… and where I live is even better”. I really cant wait to see more of the real New Zealand. Auckland was just a stop over, somewhere to land and have a wander but it wasn’t really me. I had some time to relax there but it wasn’t somewhere I would have ever considered living. I could totally live somewhere like this though. Somewhere that I can relax in an evening and look out of the window at an amazing site.

Tomorrow it is onwards towards Milford Sound to see what that has in store. That is world renowned for being pretty so I’m sure we will see some beautiful sites. Honestly cant wait to get started with this adventure properly!