Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Penguins, dolphins, doing not much & chairlifts.

With the work roster & covering the other supervisors' leave, my brief Chirstmas holiday was a couple of weeks late this time around. Nonetheless, I made it back down to Oamaru for the second time in a month. First time I had been to The Last Post for many years, but a pleasant dinner there all the same. The next day it was Mum, Dad, the softtail & I off down south to the Catlins for a few days. Unfortunately, Adele was discovering the joys of shift work & being a house surgeon & couldn't join us for the weekend.

Going through Dunedin it was great to catch up with the Dunedin Waytes for lunch before we were through Balclutha & winding our way to Curio Bay on the western side of the Catlins. We arrived at the lovely holiday house Mum had rented on the beach to find there was no power - much investigation and the, logical, occurence of a power cut was determined. We settled in to the first of our numerous fresh ham, salad & new Oamaru potato meals. Over the next three days we relaxed a lot (bliss - no phone, cell phone reception, TV, or internet) & read a lot, explored the beach & rocks, went on a few drives to remote beaches, went to Slope Point (the southern most point of the South Island), bushwalked & watched the wildlife. The highlight of the wildlife was the Hector's dolphins playing in the surf just out from the house & the ten or dozen cute little yellow-eyed penguins just around the point. The penguins came ashore from early-evening onwards (they also left early in the morning - but there was no way we were going to be able to see them then!) & were fascinating to watch. Also one of the best meals out in ages in the middle of nowhere at Niagara Falls in an old school house - massive mussels & beautiful snapper.
Our three days of doing not much in particular ended with a typical Pheasant tiki-tour to get us to Queenstown. Managed to take in Bluff (first time I'd been there), Riverton & Tuatapere (funnily enough, been to those places before), and Five Rivers on the way. Itching to get on the bike again, it was quickly assembed in anticipation of riding Coronet Peak in the afternoon. I couldn't wait so thought I might ride to the top of the gondola hill & ride some of the sweet single track down. By ten o'clock I was baking as I rode/pushed up the track (it's been a very long time since I've pushed up a gravel road - possibly Karapoti, two years ago - which I must train for, as that is coming up again in five or six weeks) & conscious of keeping enough energy in reserve for the fun in the afternoon, I got half way up, admired the view, caught my breath & enjoyed the single track down.
Coronet Peak didn't disappoint (except I expected more trails - only two, of the three marked on the map, were open - so not a lot of variety) as the novelty of getting a ride on a chairlift four hundred metres up the hill didn't wear off all afternoon. Of course, coming back down was much better - it took a while to get used to a rock-based track after all the dirt & mud at home. But I thoroughly enjoyed my eight runs down & the chance to perfect riding certain corners, drops & jumps that were causing problems at the start of the day. The views over Wakatipu, The Remarkables & Arrowtown weren't bad either. To save Dad driving all the way back up to pick me up, I graciously rode down the road to the bottom - it was such a burden, ten minutes of pedalling at around fifty or sixty kilometres (slowing down for the hairpins of course). The day ended well catching up with family friends Charlotte & Jane and then the Queenstown (& Christchurch) Waytes.
A mad dash back the next day saw us breeze through Otematata (there's a new shop!), stagger at the sight of all the water spilling over the top of the Aviemore, meetings in Oamaru & then dinner with Adele up in Timaru (where we stayed the night before Mum & I flew to Auckland).

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Another classic New Year's

Yes, I was at work & watched 2009 come in with molten iron spewing out of one of the furnaces at a shade under fifteen hundred degrees. In the general merriment of working one of the guys asked what my highlights of 2008 were. Now that I've thought about it I may as well quickly list them here for posterity (although I'm sure most or all of them will be detailed in preceding postings). First up, the time in Nepal with Mum, Dad & Adele trekking, paragliding & mountain-biking. As a change from all the mountain-biking, a couple of tramps in NZ were pretty cool too - Waikaremoana & Tongariro Crossing/Ngauruhoe. Obviously the trip to UK & Europe mid-year rate up there - especially the week in Tuscany for cousin Sasha's wedding & catching up with friends & family in the UK. A couple of trips to Oz were also great for catching up with Mum's immediate family. To round the year off nicely, Adele's graduation in December is noteworthy after all those long years (with more to come of course).

The shift work that pays for all this is wearing pretty thin, so hopefully when that finishes I'll be able to pick up a few more mountain-bike races/events (I think I only did three last year and missed out on beating my Karapoti time & the Queen Charlotte ride that organised) & I might get some semblance of a social life back as my weekends coincide with most other people's.