Where is Queenstown? You can see it on Google Maps here.
The much awaited New Zealand Ski Trip is finally here! It’s a trip for a total of 9 days, which includes me, Marissa, Kent and JB. Eventhough it’s just 9 days, we seem to have done sooo much. It’s suppose to be just a ski trip, but we obviously did a lot more than just that. It’s not the first time I’ve been to New Zealand, but it certainly is the first time for me in Queenstown. As some of you might know, I’ve been hooked with snowboarding since I started snowboarding last year. I was determined to go to NZ, ’cause of the apparently ‘better’ snow. It will be JB’s first time, Marissa’s 2nd time, my 4th time, and Kent’s million-th time. Haha.. Kent’s being skiing for 5 years?
BUT.. I wasn’t as excited about it this year as I was last year. Probably because I know I’m going to Switzerland (for work) when I come back from this trip. As experienced last year and the Hardkor3 weekend, I have not been too lucky with snow, and this trip is no different. This season is suppose to be the best winter season for NZ, and even the week before I departed, there were reports of huge amounts of snow dumps. But I was soon to discover the opposite when I arrived. I guess the timing was a bit bad. Anyway.. here’s the highlights of each day..
Day 1 (26th Aug) – Kent came and stayed over last night. Made it all easier for us to go together. JB is flying from Brisbane, so we will meet up with him at the Christchurch airport. The trip to the airport was a breeze. The 3 of us flew and got there about 2:00pm. It’s definitely colder than Sydney. Since JB hasn’t arrived yet, and I went and picked up the rental car. It was a luxurious Nissan Maxima, with V6 power! Not bad!! When JB eventually arrived, he gave his usual praise about himself and how he now looks like Clark Kent without his glasses. Anyway, it was then a 6 hours drive from Christchurch to Queenstown. We didn’t really stop too much along the way. It was definitely dark when we got there. We managed to find our hotel (Coronet Alpine Hotel) which is actually 10 minutes drive out of Queenstown. It turns out to be very close to Shotover Jet! Most importantly it was less than 20 minutes drive to Coronet Peak, our first skiing destination tomorrow! However, Marissa seems sick. She was pretty quiet for the entire 6 hours drive, which JB is happy with 🙂 Doesn’t look like she’s gonna make the first day of skiing tomorrow. The boys managed to drive back to Queenstown and had dinner at “Ferg Burger”, the restaurant that was recommended by Darren. They had funny burger names like ‘Bun-Laden’, ‘Sweet Bamby’. I had a ‘Codfather’!
Day 2 (27th Aug) – First day of skiing. Snow report says there has been a couple centimetres of snowing overnight. Hey, that’s better than Thredbo! Marissa is definitely not going today. Looks like she caught a flu from someone at work! What a start to the holiday! Myself, Kent & JB drove to Queenstown and got ourself some rental snowboard gear early in the morning at Toad Rental. It’s the cheapest place I can find, so the boards aren’t the greatest. On the way up to Coronet Peak, we assumed it would be an easy drive up. The view was beautiful as we got higher and higher up the mountain. It was a smooth drive, until we hit the ‘Must Fit Chains’ stop near the top. Our nightmare begins, as non of us have fitted snow-chains before. We pulled over to the side along with all the other 2WDs, and started to figure it out. We tried to ask for help, but he wasn’t too helpful, so we were on our own. After about 45 minutes of marking around, we finally got it!! The feeling was almost as good as snowboarding itself! Anyway, it was about 11am already! Tried to teach JB at the beginner’s area for a bit. But eventually had to leave him by himself. As expected, he was complaining just how much ‘work’ it is to snowboard, and was discouraged relatively early. Me & Kent went to the top and explored other blue trails. As expected, the snow was fluffy and dry, althought I would have liked MORE snow. But it was definitely quite fun. It’s not quite as big as Thredbo, but the trails were nice and windy. Definitely enjoyed it. In the later half of the day, even tried the performance boards for free! Mine was an ‘Option’ top-of-the-range, and I’ve gotta say it’s KICK-ass! Poor JB was by himself all afternoon. But eventually found him, and went home around 4pm. Marissa was still sick in bed.
Day 3 (28th Aug) – Marissa is feeling better, so she’ll be coming today. We had our hotel breakfast, with the usual servings of bacon, baked beans, cereal and juices. Anyway, at least JB will have a beginner to company her. We went back to Coronet Peak. Marissa has definitely improved, and can ski without falling very often. But the challenge this year is that she can’t get off the ground as easy. Something to do with her tummy growing bigger i think 😉 Coronet Peak does have a pretty long beginner trail, and we all went up to the “The Big Ezy” trail. Even JB was improving, and can at least stay up for quite a while. I had a 1-to-1 session with him to help him a bit. Looked a bit suss with 2 guys holding hands snowboarding down the slope. I’m not tooo concerned. I had a pretty big fall though, and inadvertently scratched my face. The scratches were pretty big, and I think it’s more from the goggle than the fall itself. I need a proper-fitting goggle. It got much windier in the afternoon. So much so that we could take a picture with the flags all standing up (see picture). We eventually decided to go home a bit earlier than yesterday. Spent the time relaxing in the hotel spa, drinking and playing pool for the rest of the night .
Day 4 (29th August) – It’s our rest day today. We decided to explore Queenstown a bit. Queenstown is a bit pretty place, and rather upmarket compared to Christchurch and every other small towns I’ve been to in South Island. First activity of the day was to go up Skyline Gondola to check out the views of Queenstown. In fact, me & Kent walked up the mountain. JB & Marissa took the easy way up. It took me & Kent probably almost 1.5 hour to get up there, but the view was worth it. It’s exactly like the picture cards I’ve seen of Queenstown, except better. There’s even a down-hill cart-racing track up there, which they call ‘Luge’. Only me & Kent went. Nice little fun ride down. We deemed ourselves ‘Luged’ with our stamps. There was even a bungee jumping platform up there. Of course, all of us were too chicken to take that on. For lunch, we went back down to Queenstown mall and took Darren’s recommendation once again, and went to Winnie’s Pizza restaurant. They didn’t have fancy names for their pizzas, but they were damn good pizzas, with a very ‘old’ character atmosphere. Definitely one to come back for. To finish it all of, the place was filled with hot photos of women in the men’s toilet. 😉 Not kidding.. The rest of the afternoon, we just spent it strolling around the lake and checked out the casino there. It’s been a pretty relaxing day, but it’s obvious that JB has caught the flu as well. It doesn’t look like he’ll make it tomorrow.
Day 5 (30th August) – Yeap.. JB is sick. He won’t be making it today. The rest of us are heading to “The Remarkables”. It’s a bit further, and I had a feeling it won’t be as good as Coronet Peak. Funnily enough, there hasn’t been snow here for something like 2 weeks now. So, I wasn’t looking forward to ‘quality’ snow there. However, it is higher up than Coronet Peak, so the view should be better. The drive up was definitely longer, and as expected, no snow chains required so the snow can’t be that good. I was surprised when I got up there though. The Remarkables is like a little hidden valley high high up the mountains. There were surprisingly quite a lot of snow, but most were man-made. A magic-carpet ride took us to the main area from the car-park, which is a nice little touch. The beginner area was much bigger, and I spent most of the morning with Marissa, while Kent went on his own. There wasn’t much blue trails at all, but plenty of black runs. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it quite a bit in the beginner’s area, as the runs were very long. Even Marissa enjoyed it. There is certainly a lot of park features for jumps & tricks. In the afternoon, I tried to go up high for the black runs, but that was a mistake. They were all ‘ultra-steep’ and narrow runs. Pyschologically, it really does feel like if I make a mistake, I’ll fall all the way down the mountain. Definitely didn’t go up again. Kent reckons he was bored pretty quick. The day was over rather quickly though. The drama of the day? Marissa lost her rental board. Someone else must have made a mistake, and took hers. Luckily though, there was another that sat around that looked just like hers. We waited quite a while (almost everybody has left!) and then decided we’ll take that one. Hopefully our rental shop can’t tell the difference when we returned it! When we got home, as expected, JB was still dead lying on the bed. In fact, his snowboarding days are over for the rest of the week!
Day 6 (31st August) – Marissa was not interested in going today. Me & Kent went to Coronet Peak ourselves, by taking the shuttle bus offered by the hotel! We only knew that this free service existed today!! Should have read the brochures more carefully before I came. JB is still pretty sick, but managed to explore Arrow Town nearby for the day with Marissa. There hasn’t been any snowfall since the 2nd day we arrived in NZ for Coronet Peak. Apparently, this mountain was well-known as ‘Rock Mountain’ as well. We experienced the meaning of this term ourselves today! With our ‘performance’ board that we rented from Quest yesterday, I was looking forward to trying it out. But, the snow was just tooo hard. I did just one run, and gave up. What’s even worst, the wind came just after noon, and the lift was stopped. I knew our day was over. Kent & I managed to ring the hotel to send the shuttle bus up to take us back home. Disappointed.. but at the same time glad. The afternoon was just spent in Queenstown, where we returned our boards. I took the decision to go to Milford Sound as a day trip tomorrow and bought the tickets. At least this would take care of Marissa & JB who didn’t come here solely for snowboarding. Indeed, Marissa was happy about it when I told her.
Day 7 (1st Sept) – First day of Spring has arrived! What a perfect time to spend it at Milford Sound, where I was promised fantastic scenery and great views. We had to wake up really early for this one, as our coach leaves from Queenstown. JB was feeling a little better, and at least could pull a few of his sarcastic jokes again. That’s how you know the guys is getting better 😉 The coach trip was with ‘Kiwi Discovery’, and we had a pretty witty coach driver who make funny commentaries once in a while. The coach ride was long, but definitely a better idea than driving there ourselves. We were treated with stops along the way like Te Anau (where I tasted a veal pie), Mirror Lakes and the Chasm. As we go deeper and deeper into the Fiordland National Park, the scenery went from flat grounds, to higher and grander mountains. On the way, we get to see absolutely fanstastic waterfalls, scary glaciers, long underground tunnels, and even stopped to taste the ‘all-natural’ mineral water. JB, with his usual sarcastic comments, said it tasted like tap water. Further into the coach ride, we were told of stories of extinct birds which were suppose to be largest in the world, the people that died building the road tunnel, and the old hunting methods of deer. Eventually we arrived at the Milford Sound where our cruise starts. Just as expected, it was kilometres after kilometres of high mountains. The difference is these mountains are so dense full of trees and bushes. It’s suppose to be a rain-forrest! Kent did what he’s good at, i.e. taking heaps and heaps of photos, which I am very glad now. There were sky high waterfalls as well, to finish off the cruise. The day has been both educational and worthwhile. And to make it even better, we ate at Winnie’s again. This time there were a lot more people, but we managed to find a seat.
Day 8 (2nd Sept) – Believe it or not, it’s almost the end of our trip already. We packed up, had our last breakfast at the hotel, and started heading towards Christchurch. Before that, we stopped to check out Puzzling World & Wanaka. Puzzling World was pretty amusing, and educational at the same time. We definitely had fun with picture taking (See photos), and some wacky physics. Then there was Wanaka town itself, which to me, looked like a smaller version of Queenstown. I’ve heard a lot about the skiing here, and will probably be my next skiing destination. Further up South Island, we stopped by to check out a salmon farm as well, where we had a chance to feed the Salmon for free. Then, there was Lake Pukaki where we observed some crystal clear blue water. We were gonna head up to Mount Cook (Highest mountain on the south), but was told by the tourist office that it’s too windy today. Managed to even fit in a dramatic encounter with a cop, which I thought was gonna turn around and stop me for speeding (doing 160km/h at the time). Fortunately he stopped the car behind me instead. *Phew*.. By the time we got to Christchurch, it was almost 7pm. We found a relatively cheap hotel quickly, and finished the day having dinner at a Korean restaurant in the city.
Day 9 (3rd Sept) – Last day of our trip! Our flight is in the afternoon. Managed to check out my property on Stanmore Road, which my agent hasn’t been renting out for ages! There wasn’t much shops open, so we headed towards the beach, and had breakfast at a fancy cafe. We reflected on our trip all morning. I enjoyed it. JB reckoned he would have enjoyed it more if he wasn’t sick. Kent is leaving for UK this month, so we are already talking about coming to UK to visit him! And even Canada where we discovered Marissa had aunties over there! The time eventually came where we had to go to the airport. We said our goodbyes to JB, as he will be flying to Brisbane.
Overall this has been a memorable trip. While I didn’t enjoy the ‘rock’ mountain, the first days of snowboarding was good. The last few days of sightseeing definitely made up for it all. Then, there’s the Switzerland trip coming. I’m leaving tomorrow (5th September)!! Talk about a hectic! I only have ONE day rest, and I’m off again!