Monday, September 24, 2012

NZ Visit - Southern Week

Continuing the multitude of too-brief visits, I said my goodbyes to Elizabeth & Cara at Wellington airport & flew south to Timaru where Dad & Adele were waiting for me.  With not having seen Dad in the three-plus years I've been away (two and a half years for Adele), it was great to see them again.  It's a relatively short drive down to Oamaru and amongst poring (& laughing) over family photo albums we headed out to the Brydone (was there another choice?) for a meal.

The view from Mum & Dad's place hasn't changed much
The fleeting visit to Oamaru over (it's never been home for me), we headed down to Dunedin to pick Mum from university (only eight months since I last saw Mum in London, but of course great to see her too).  It was an afternoon's worth of leisurely driving through Central Otago to get to Adele's place in Wanaka.
Adele gave me heaps for taking this photo through the windscreen, so I should share it
We stopped in St Bathan's for a quick look at the old mining town (bypassed by the highway, so it's pretty quiet) and a pint in the pub.

This passes for an old building in NZ, nice pub it was too.
We were about a day out with the timing for the skiing, missing the biggest dump (60 cm) of the season just.  Still there was plenty of spring snow to play in for Wednesday afternoon.  High winds dictated that we go to Treble Cone - alas only half of their chairs were running.  When I say half, I mean one - a little smaller than the skifields I'm used to over this side of the world.

Still, with the setting above the lake, the snow-capped mountains surrounding and the high country not covered in snow - Treble Cone is one of the more beautiful ski areas I've skied at.  As this was my first ski since the shoulder operation, I was keen to just test the shoulder out gently for the afternoon.  (Bizarrely, the guy that hired me the skis comes from the same village that I live in here in the UK.)  Being mid-week & partially closed, the ski area was pretty empty and Adele & I had a good time on & off piste and I was well pleased with my shoulder.

Wednesday was set aside for tiki-touring.  As we got close to Lake Hawea, we could see a big storm rolling in from the west across the mountains.  We quickly did an about turn and headed south for a very pleasant day exploring old Cromwell (the town was flooded when the Clyde dam was built) and old hydraulic mining sites around Bannockburn.  There was a good hour-long stroll around the old mine workings - the gold was in the sedimentary rock & extracted by what was basically washing the side of the hill away with deluges of water.  This involved rather ingenious & large systems for storing and then directing the water to where it was needed.  The landscape was strangely reminiscent of the badlands of both Alberta & South Dakota in some ways.
Part of the mining area - original height would have been slightly higher that that on the right of picture

One of the bigger reservoirs & not a very interesting photo
That storm really did roll in that night as we were going out for dinner & the rain was still pelting down early in the morning.  The time that I was awake that night was pretty much spent thinking that I wouldn't get to go for a mountain-bike ride with Adele (who thankfully has finally discovered while I've been away that MTBing is pretty cool) that morning before we headed back to Dunedin.  But peaking out the curtains at seven o'clock the sky was strangely clear.  I hustled off to rent a bike - I wanted a bog-standard hardtail but the shop was so disorganised that I ended up with a softtail 29er for the price of a hardtail, score.

Riding from home, we were quickly climbing up the Sticky Forest.  My leg work at the gym while shoulder was recovering seems to have paid off, the hills weren't much of a problem - although that may have been those big wheels turning.  The trails had drained pretty quickly & we stayed relatively mud-free. We skirted around the edge of the lake to Albert Town before crossing the Clutha River.

The object of the crossing the river was to get Deans Bank Track - a recent DOC project.
Wonderful get-up borrowed from Adele - my old Dobies shorts & a commuter jacket
A few switchbacks to get up on to the plateau before north-west
Pretty spectacular spring morning ride

It's a well thought out loop & I imagine a very fast loop if it's properly dry - we had a good time checking it out.  Once again I was pleased with how my shoulder stood up to its longest ride in a long time.

Heading back to Albert Town, you can just make out the new trail down there

So that was a great ride out, about four hours and interrupted only by Adele somehow managing to gouge her big chainring in to the top of her calf - still don't know how she was able to do that while riding uphill.  Back to Dunedin that afternoon, coincidentally good friends the Careys (where I had one of my 30th celebrations) were down visiting (youngest daughter) Fiona - so that was a good excuse to have another meal out, not too mention seeing James & Becca (I lay the blame of me moving to Canada for a year firmly at their feet - not that I'm complaining about that).

We even remembered to have a family photo, I'm sure I'm not that much taller - must be the cowboy boots
Goodbyes were said Saturday morning (best I don't dwell on that too much) & I was back up to Auckland for a final pack, check progress of Andrew & Shelley's kitchen and then fly back to London via LA.  After years of people saying how much of a hassle security is at LAX when in transit, it turns out that is all false - we didn't even have to go through security again, unlike at Hong Kong.  Home Sunday, back to work the next day to find that I was being sent to Italy the following week for work.  That was a real shame.

1 comment:

  1. That view from your parents house brings back some good memories from my travels!