Sunday, November 5, 2017

Gore Bay & Paua Hunting

In the last week I have been moved from Kaikoura to a small beach town south of most of the road sites. A place called Gore Bay, with it's main town being Cheviot. Well, “main” may be a bit of a far stretch. Cheviot probably has 300 people living it at most. The switch in location was due to the way to work taking ages. Cheviot and Kaikoura are about the same distance to the job, but not passing through all the roadworks means we save a lot of time. What sometimes took two and a half hours now can be done in a consistent half an hour. The new place is really good, too.
Anyway, in Gore Bay I now had entire free day this weekend, after spending yesterday shopping in Christchurch for groceries and watching a movie. Managing to pry myself out of the comfy bed in the morning and after some breakfast and exercise I set of on a walk to explore the surrounding area. There is a track leading up in to the limestone hills surrounding Gore Bay (forgot the name of the trail) and I decided to have a bit of an explore. The sign pointing out the track mentioned that the walk would take two hours, so I had all the food and water with me for a lunch at the top. A lot of the trail seems to be in dire need for repairs, as some of the pathways close to the stream running through look to be in threat of collapsing in to the stream bed. But they held me so they can probably hold nearly anybody. Hiking along the bottom area of the track I came to a section which took me through the stream, but it had fanned out and created a kind of swampy area overgrown by high grass. Initial thought was that this could be a risky area to traverse, but then I reconsidered my instincts from Australia that there would be no such things as snakes in there (snakes love those conditions, perfect for hunting amphibians). Climbing up I got to the top in approx. half an hour. 
At the top with the view overlooking Gore Bay and the hills towards the inland I meet two Kiwis who were in Gore Bay for a short weekend vacation. Had a bit of a chat to them, mainly about the work going on on the roads and rails to Kaikoura. Not much later back down, which was a lot faster than going up. All in all the two hour return trail took about 45 min. Not satisfied yet, I headed to the beach and along that. Seeing as the tide was out about three dozen people were on and around the beach, clambering over rocks and out in the shallows with wetsuits on. Pretty obvious what they were after, the New Zealand renown paua. Gore bay seems to have pretty large specimens of them, according to all the ones on display throughout the beach town. Shoes and socks of I decided to try my luck, too, but at the end of it all (after clambering over rocks and kelp) my search was rewarded with a moderate sized shell of a paua. No food inside it, though, so I'll have to try another day.
Once the tide started coming back in again I was back to the house for a bit of a read and writing the blog.

Length: 6.5km

Time: 1 hour 45 min.  

Monday, October 30, 2017

Kaikoura Peninsula Walk

Well, today’s plan was another walk. This time I didn't want to send my poor car through the gruelling track to the bottom of Mt. Fyffe. To much of that and it won't have any shock absorbers left to carry on driving.
So today I decided to do the Kaikoura Peninsula walk. Last time I was here I also did that, but today promised to be much nicer weather (again). Setting off, it was actually a bit to hot for my liking, as I started sweating straight away. But, well, summer isn't like winter. If it's to hot you just have to suck it up, as there comes a point were you can just not take any clothes of any more (especially in public).
The walk to the start of the Peninsula track took me through a bit of the town, past some historical sites and a roadside shop selling cooked crayfish. Might have to try that at some point, never had crayfish before. The beginning of the actual walk is where a decent amount of seals come to laze around on the rocks in the sun, so on good days there are a lot of other people there taking pictures of them. As I've already seen a fair share of seals I skipped that part and carried on straight to the walking track. 
Up on the hills you walk along a mowed grass track taking you to different points explaining different things about the history and environment. Down bellow I could hear seals calling out and I think most of them would have been the young ones from what I know and could catch from the sounds. There are some tracks down closer to the colonies, but I decide to carry on and after an hours walk ended up in the South Bay of Kaikoura. The town has also expanded in to here and today it was especially busy, due to a horse race being on. With my unpredictable allergic reactions to horses (seems to only happen in spring around said animal) I stayed clear of that and went back up the hills to get to the town centre and the accommodation I have there. Quick two hour walk with a lunch break in between, a lot of black birds hanging around and not to many people.

Distance: 10.5km

Time: 2 hours

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mount Fyffe, Kaikoura

Quite a bit has happened since the last blog update. So much for keeping things updated more regularly...
All throughout September we worked at the ski field, with not as many closed days as at the start of the season. Had some fun times on and of the field with most of the staff, be it skiing or hanging out.
Then came October, with the last week of the season being the holidays of New Zealand. Considering that the holidays were in full swing, the weather did not really cooperate. We had one really nice day on a Saturday and the rest of the week was a mess of cloud and rain, even a bit of snow at some points. The last day was one of the most interesting by far. Standard procedure every year at Porters is, that at the end of the last day all the staff help pack up the area. This means that all the fences, all the spring boxes of the Tow-bars and all the crash mats get tidied up. We finished all that at about six o'clock in the evening, after having closed down the lifts at about two PM. Mark and me had some of the best jobs, as we were on T2 and T3. The weather was absolutely horrific at the bottom and at the top it was blowing a snowstorm. So much in fact that the Tow-bars had to be closed to the public, so ski patrol could do avalanche work. Means Mark and me got a few free runs in on the safe stretches and it was really good snow. A nice finish for the end. Later whilst packing up the spring boxes at T3 one of the ski patrols released a small avalanche, which, had it carried on to far, might have gotten us whilst we were working.
The next day we had the end of season party. After the whole staff devoured and entire lamb on a spit we had a bit of a party at the Longframe (workers hut) up on the mountain.
A few days later the whole Benmore crew went for a last day in Christchurch. Thanks to Nicks organisation in Sheffield we ended up doing some climbing in a forest where they had set up routes through the trees. Doing that I noticed how unfit I have become. Either the ones in Pfronten are easier or I just haven't kept up my exercise (I reckon later). Concluding that we (after some heavy debating) went and had an all you can eat meal in one of the restaurants around the town, before heading out to Hanses parents place for a last few drinks. After the goodbyes, Mark and me returned to Benmore, and so ended a fun few months at Porters. 

A week later I got a call from Dean (my boss at a hay contracting job) if I was available (yes) and if I wanted to go work up near Kaikoura. The town had suffered a severe earthquake about a year ago, and the recovery works are still under way and will be so for a long time. As I am still saving up money to go sailing with Dad once he sets of, I agreed and later the next day saw me driving a tractor up to Kaikoura to help with transporting stuff in a trailer where trucks can't go. The first three weeks was pretty much just work and getting stuff sorted out (inductions, picking up my car from Sheffield, etc.) but today was the first day I actually managed to go out and do something.
Last time I had been to Kaikoura I'd done a walk up one of the mountains, called Mt. Fyffe. The weather was not the best that time and I was also battling a cold, but needed something to do.
So here I was again, this time felling healthy and a nice day out and about (also testing out a new calorie tracker). The drive there went across some gravel roads which I don't think my car enjoys to much and after having a fast change of clothes at the bottom in the car park I started walking up. Man, am I out of shape, but I still managed to get further than last time. I had lunch at a lookout point a fair way up and then continued further up for another 20 minutes to see the other side of the mountain. Going all the way up is slightly out of area of comfort right now, as the top turns in to rather alpine terrain. About three hours from the bottom there is a hut you can stay in and the top is about five hours from the bottom up. So after snapping a few pictures just after the lookout point I turned round and went back down. This is the part where I miss having a bike, but the gradient is rather step in the first half. Still, my legs noticed the downwards walk more than usual.

Once back in the car and heading for Kaikoura I met James on the way (a work colleague) and had a wee chat.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Craigieburn Skiing

Sitting down and thinking on it for a while I can think of a reason why most people, including me, seem to not be able to keep their blogs updated after a few months of travelling. As I have travelled for the last two and a half years, it has become a normal state for me now. I no longer have a constant place I live at or extraordinary things happening in the area I'm settled in, as I tend to travel and stay at those places that many take of work for to visit and spend a lot of their earnings on. For me this has all become semi-normal, so not something I would write in a blog which I reserve for special occasions.
Thinking about this, I will tray and get in to writing more often again, as in the years to come where ever I may settle down, I will most likely regret not writing about all the things I did whilst younger.
On to the happenings then...

A week ago my flatmate Mark said he wanted to go to Craigieburn for a ski. A bit of back-story on Craigieburn is in order I think. Most places in the world you here about skiing are giant ski fields, owned and operated by corporates that have a lot of money and tourism interest in their areas. Hidden away in the Southern Alps of New Zealand you'll occasionally find another type of field, the ski club fields. These are small, sometimes family run businesses that have not got large developed infrastructure or even good access roads, but they are what New Zealand skiers like and love. On busy days you'll find even these small fields won't have a lot going on. Craigieburn is somewhat famous from what I have heard. Our neighbour and work college, Luke, mentioned that he even heard stories about that club field as far as Canada. A quick video look on YouTube found some people saying it can be the poor man's heli-skiing. So being only a few kilometres from Porters we had to check it out at some point.

The day Mark and me picked to go was probably the worst day for weather, but it was the only day we had and we took it. Driving there we passed the Porters turn of and carried on through Castle Hill, a village rather popular with climbers due to the boulders placed around the area by glaciers that have now receded. Even to a non climber like me it still looked like one of those typical New Zealand pictures and I'll have to get back there with my camera some time in the next few months.
After passing the club fields of Cheeseman and Broken River we turned of at Craigieburn and took a drive up through the native forest underneath the club field. Something nearly all ski areas in New Zealand miss is forests. Not that this is necessary a bad thing, but my personal taste rather enjoys trees and woodlands to go down through. Most likely a preference from my years growing up in Nesselwang.
After leaving the car in it's designated place near a shed with a generator running for the accommodations and a tractor with a snow plough parked out the front, Mark and me went to get our tickets (at a slight discount due to working on another field) and then returned with our gear, all set and ready to go. The next stage at Craigieburn was to work out how rope tows work. Rope tows are the lifts most club fields use, they are cheaper to operate than T-bars and Chairlifts, but it requires more skill on side of the customer to use. Both of us were Newbies in that area, so we had a ski patrol/instructor show us how things are done. I won't explain the full workings behind the rope tows, as you can most likely find videos on the internet showing what they are. To round things up, it took me three tries to get going, but the experience of being challenged by a new lift after skiing for twenty years was refreshing. 
Finishing the lifts both of us where buffed by winds blowing through the rocky spires of the top, all alone on the ski field. Talking to the ski patrol lower down, we had found out that at that point we were the only people on the mountain, apart from staff. The first run down promised to be an interesting day, as the conditions were so bad and challenging that it was funny. Heavy snow that barely let you turn, an unknown ski terrain, strong and gusty winds and an ever changing weather pattern (sun, cloud, rain, fog, snow, etc. We had it all) ensured that the day was an interesting one. The stops in the upper lodge of the mountain were a must and a nice dry spot to get ready for another excursion out in the elements. Over the day we were joined by a few other people, but all in all the total amount of customers on the mountain could be counted on two hands. Later on in the day, after skiing through chutes and staying just above the rocks buried in the snow, conditions got even more interesting. The top 50 metres were awesome skiing, underneath that line the fall of heavy snow ensured that the slope turned to glue, stopping even the most die hard attempts at picking up speed downhill. Still, everyone was laughing and having a great time. Mark torpedoed the snow at one point and later on in the day we got close to being blown of the top. We didn't manage to walk where we intended to go, but waited things out, as the wind was so strong we could not go against it.
Once the late afternoon pulled in we called it quits, with a long last run down a chute on the side of the mountain to get us down back to the car. Whilst returning our gear we also had a quick drink at the bar and talked to some of the employees there. Most where Canadian and American, something which is in stark contrast to Australia. Most Northern Americans seem to prefer New Zealand (similar climate?).

After a drink it was back home to get all our gear dried out for work again, but I could feel the onset of a flue getting to me.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Porters Powder & Lake Ohau Skiing

Once again a long time without writing anything in my blog. The last few weeks have seen me working the most time, but also getting a lot of time off, as the ski field was often closed due to bad weather. Most of the time this was due to wind, but we have also had a lot of snow over the last few weeks which is pretty unusual for New Zealand, apparently. Working has been rather interesting, actually. It seems we liftys have on of the best jobs on the mountain, as we can see a lot of funny stuff happening to the customers and we are outside a lot. What some people walk away from is surprising (collision with a lift tower, face plant in to a wooden fence, etc.) but sometime things don't work out well. We've had a few helicopter calls going through, but that is the case with a ski field. There are a lot of people I try to stay well away from, and even as an employee the mountain can be an unsafe place. One lifty had a border slip down the lift and hit him in the side of his knee and today another one got his shoe sliced up by a renegade snowboard. Anyway, so far all of us have survived (for the most part, but that story has nothing to do with the operations on the mountain).

Last Tuesday we had a powder day and I fortunately had the day of, so I hired a pair of skies from the rentals which were built for powder skiing and went out for the day with Hans mostly, but also a quick ride with Nick, Logan (NMIT guy), Chris and Flo. The best run of the day I had was coming down Bluff Face, with an unbroken powder line, being the fifth one down. The unusual circumstances with the snow is that New Zealand doesn't normally have this much. Last year quite a few runs were closed the whole season, where as this year everything has been open on a nearly consistent rate. Still, even this amount of snow isn't really enough for me, I'll have to keep my eyes on Canada in a few years time. 
Yesterday was kind of a hard choice where to go. Nick, Hans and Celine (ticket office Kiwi) were heading for Queenstown, skiing in Ohau yesterday and heading for Cardrona today. I really wanted to get to Cardrona, just because of the size of it. But they weren’t heading there until today, on which I am working. In the morning I was still undecided if I should go to Porters for the day or head down to Ohau with them. The journey to Ohau is four hours long. So I'd be driving for four hours, skiing for four and the driving back again. In the morning it was raining here at Porters and the top T-Bars seemed closed in the morning (in the end they were closed the entire day) so I headed south for four hours with the others. We passed Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki before we got to Lake Ohau. The journey up to the ski field had to be done in Celines car, as mine is only two wheel drive and I have no chains. That's the interesting part about New Zealand, too. No ski field has a town at the base of it. All of the ski field have a track to drive up. Probably due to the snow line being so high up.
The first hour at Ohau was mediocre at best. The clouds clung to the mountains, so we had nearly no view what so ever. After the first hour of exploring in fog the clouds broke up and we ended up having a nice view down to Lake Ohau with the barren mountains of the Southern Alps around us. At one point they even opened the ridge line which we hiked up to, and had a stunning view of the surrounding area. Throughout the rest of the day we continued to explore the small family run mountain, which according to the staff was a fairly busy day. Compared to Porters there was next to nothing going on.

At the end of the day we headed back down and I said goodbye for now to the other three. They headed down to Queenstown and I drove back up to Springfield. Along the way I rang Grandma, Mum and Lesley to wish Grandma a Happy Birthday and to chat a bit of the drive away. Back at Springfield I popped in to the pub, were most of the Porter workers were having an evening drink to say hi before heading home to get some well earned sleep.  

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.