When we went to Australia in their winter 2 years ago, it was sometimes a bit wet, bit windy, but in the main it was jumper and jeans weather, except for the day we flew from Melbourne to Cairns – the day the runway needed to be defrosted, New Zealand, we knew was going to be a bit different.
Once we got to Franz Josef the weather did take a turn for the better, and we really were blessed with great weather for the rest of the trip. Everything that was dependent on the weather happened.
We had chosen to stay in Queenstown for 6 days, we didn’t have much planned for this time, save the stargazing which had had to be delayed because of the cloud – but that was the only thing that was delayed! I had booked horse riding near Glenorchy and it was agreed that I would use the hotel pick up. I woke up on the morning of the ride, which was also the morning I had booked the KJet for Martin and Eleanor, to my iPhone weather app telling me it was -8° Celsius (17.6° Fahrenheit). I am not a fair weather rider, but when I am riding I do like to feel my hands and feet. 2 hours of a beautiful hack on frozen ground did not allow for anything faster than a walk for the most part. Twice we trotted but the conditions were not great for an exhilarating ride. Great scenery, and part of it was were Lord of the Rings was filmed… but that kind of went over my head. The photo is actually taken on the riverbed. The Rees river was also non-existent, but is much fuller in spring and summer. I was thankful I was allowed to keep on my lovely fur lined snow boots (yes they really are the purchase of the year!)
Meanwhile Eleanor and Martin went on a “high adrenaline boat ride”. There were a number of companies we could have gone with, all similar prices, except that KJet in the in the winter did a discount for the 10am boat. Both of them thoroughly enjoyed the rivers and 360° turns on the lakes at high speed, but when we met back up again, Martin said that he felt his “eyeballs had frozen”.
The next day, Eleanor and I went snowboarding. We had gone skiing in February 2015, prior to that I had done a bit of skiing at school and then with friends, many moons ago. But I have always wondered what snowboarding would be like. In 2015 I was not brave enough to book a whole week of lessons, nor will I be doing so in the future (for me at least). A day on Cordrona nursery slopes was lovely, though I would have liked to have seen more of the slopes, my ability was not up to it. Cardrona sits between Wanaka and Queenstown, we booked a package in Queenstown and on the Friday morning Eleanor and I were collected by bus and driven up and up and up into the mountains. She went for her group lesson, I went for mine. 2 hours later I had spent more time on my backside than I would have liked. In our group of 8 beginners we spent a lot of time waiting around, sat down. After lunch, 2 of us returned. I spent the afternoon again on my backside. One moment I would be “gliding” down the mountain, the next I was flat on my back. (Ok I have romanticised the language – I wasn’t gliding anywhere, I was slipping and sliding.) This didn’t just happen once, but many, many, many times. My proudest achievement was nearly taking out a 3 year old girl skier, as I glided over the back of her skis with my board, I grabbed hold of her, keeping her upright as I pivoted around her falling in a heap at her feet. But I kept the little girl upright, and I didn’t swear or cry in front of her.
Eleanor got to grips with it pretty quickly. I will be going back to having my feet independent of each other on skis. They do say to give snowboarding a chance, maybe not the 4 hours I dedicated to it. Two days later, when Eleanor pointed out a massive bruise on my bum, it was agreed no more snowboarding for me. Eleanor’s best bit of the holiday has been declared as snowboarding.
The next day was a non-adrenaline day. Not least because I couldn’t walk very well having put my body through a lot of demanding manoeuvres the two previous days. We drove out to Arrowtown. A gold rush village established in the 1860s when gold was found. It really hasn’t changed much as many of the buildings have been preserved, it is still a one street village, but with independent cafes, and shops. It was also a base for around 60 adventurous Chinese gold-miners, but their settlement is apart from the main village. The buildings have been partially restored, and you can see that life as a Chinese miner was tough.
The settlement of the Chinese serves as a reminder that that the group were self sufficient. They were not part of the village settled by the Europeans, they were marginalised both in life and in death as when they died they were either buried outside the cemetery walls in unmarked graves or in a separate part of the graveyard. A river runs past the settlement, and this made for a lovely winter’s walk. (Eleanor has spotted that many of my photos are taken of them from behind… this is because I have usually stopped to take some photographs, they then walk on, leaving me behind not wanting to wait)
Snow and hard frost is of course beautiful to look at but not so beautiful when you have to drive in it. Thankfully, we had taken our friend’s advice to get the bus to Milford Sound. The day we went, the roads were treacherous. Even driving to Te Anau the day before we went to Milford Sound, we had been warned of black ice and of 34 cars that had parted company with the road the previous day. The warnings had come from the lovely ladies that run Bracken Hall in Mossburn. We stopped for lunch here between Queenstown and Te Anau, and whilst it was warmer outside than in the Hall they served great homemade pies. Bracken Hall is an old memorial hall lovingly restored by five women of the village. It now houses an upmarket souvenir shop, post office and a cafe serving meat filled venison pies and chicken pies, besides other homemade food. We hogged the gas super sayer. That in itself was a reminder that this was winter. The reminder about the driving was heeded and we made it to Te Anau safely. A couple of days later, we drove back to Queenstown, and mountains that had been devoid of snow save for just the tops on our way to Te Anau were now covered in a dusting of snow. Winter was setting in.
When we arrived in Auckland, North Island, having had some delays in Queenstown due to overnight snow and low temperatures, we were glad that we were only going as far south as Rotorua, since many areas in the midlands/south of the North Island got a lot of snow closing many roads. Rotorua got some snow, though by the time we got there it had all melted.
Winter in NZ is beautiful, we will be doing winter in China this year too, thereby having winter twice this year. When we arrived back in China on the 21st July, we were greeted with 40° Celsius heat (104° Fahrenheit!), roll on winter again.