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Posts Tagged ‘Queenstown’

The time has come, the Walrus allegedly said, to talk of many things. Going home and (re)starting professional lives are topics I’m not sure I’m ready to discuss. But we leave New Zealand tomorrow, so the time has indeed come. I recently approached the Walrus to see if he could help me come to terms with the end of our year-long journey. Here is a transcript of the conversation. Please excuse his language.

“You’ve traveled many miles.”

It’s true, Walrus. But wouldn’t kilometers be a more appropriate unit?

“And I suppose ‘zed’ is now the last letter of the alphabet? You filthy ex-pat.”

Sheesh. Forget I even brought it up.

“Grrrr. Fine. But you owe me a salmon steak. You’ve traveled many…miles…and now you must leave.”

I thought you would tell me something I don’t know. Like how to cope with all of this coming to an end.

“What are you taking with you?”

Um, basically everything I brought over minus my jeans. I spilled paint on them while woofing in Waiheke so—

“No! No, no, no!”

I know. They were my favorite jeans. It sucks.

“You materialistic bastard! What are you taking home that doesn’t fit in your bag?” 

Is this a riddle? Because I’ve got to say, I would’ve asked Owl to help with this last blog post if I wanted to answer riddles.

monkeying around on the Routeburn Track

monkeying around on the Routeburn Track

“Name one thing you’re taking home that won’t be in your bag!”

Jeez. Alright. Well, I guess I have like twenty more facebook friends than I did at the start of the year.

“Whoop-d-effing-do! I average fifty new friends a day. I have more twitter followers than Anthony Weiner—“

You know what, forget about it. I’m trying to answer your questions but you’re just being a jerk.

“You’re right. I had sea horse for lunch and it’s not sitting well. Sorry to take it out on you. So you’ve made some friends this past year?”

Yes.

Our flatmate Pete snapped some pro-level photos at Ohau last weekend. You can check them all out at peteoswald.co.nz

Our flatmate Pete snapped some pro-level photos at Ohau last weekend. You can check them all out at peteoswald.co.nz

“What are some of your favorite experiences with them?”

Well last weekend we went skiing in Ohau.

“Oh-a-who?”

No, you’re thinking of Oahu, the main island in Hawaii. More on that later. I’m talking about Oh-how, a small mountain two hours north of Queenstown. We caravanned up with our flatmates and six other friends. Rented out the Glenn Mary Lodge—a quaint and cozy compound built by a couple of ski aficionados in the 60s—and made lots of memories.

class photo in front of Glen Mary Lodge

class photo in front of Glenn Mary Lodge

“What kind of memories?”

We drank a lot of home-brewed beer. So the memories are a bit hazy. But charades on the first night was pretty funny. Guys versus girls. I can’t even describe how we solved “Jumanji.” It was inappropriate, even for your standards. And the meals were quite an undertaking. The girls made dinner each night. Spaghetti bolognese and chicken stir fry—

“Mmmmm.”

Yeah. Well the stir fry was delicious. They mixed sweet chili sauce with the soy sauce and it was dynamite. But if I’m being honest, the spag bowl could’ve been better. The pasta was severely over cooked and—

“I hope you didn’t tell them that!”

Of course I didn’t.

“Phew!”

But Tim did.

“Uh oh.”

Yeah. So that put the boys on cooking duty Sunday morning.

driving down from the mountain on Saturday

driving down from the mountain on Saturday

“How’d that go?”

We had two things going for us. One, everyone was hungover. Ohau just happened to be hosting “Scottish Weekend” on Saturday night so we snuck into that. They had a decent cover band that played a lot of U2 songs. I’m not sure why. But it was a lot of fun until they brought up a bag piper and put a microphone in front of him.

bonfire on shore of Lake Ohau

bonfire on shore of Lake Ohau

“Why would anyone think that’s a good idea?”

No clue. So we fled to our lodge with our eardrums in shambles and went to sleep with aspirations of impressing the ladies with a world-class breakfast.

“What’s the second thing?”

Huh?

“You said you had two things working in your favor for breakfast.”

Oh. Yeah. No, that was a lie. The breakfast was terrible. We basically threw a bunch of eggs, hashbrowns and butter together and fried up some leftover deli ham. Thankfully everyone’s hangover masked how disturbing the meal was.

“You’re pathetic.”

I know.

“How was the skiing?”

flat photo at top of Ohau: Brodie, me, Meg, Sophie, Pete, Sarah

flat photo at top of Ohau: Brodie, me, Meg, Sophie, Pete, Sarah

Unforgettable. The mountain’s only chairlift is a creaky two-seater. But it never got boring. We did some amazing hikes and skied fresh lines. We packed a picnic lunch and washed it down with a cold beer, Kennedy style.

“I’ve got to ask. Why does everything come back to food and drink with you?”

Hmmm. It does, doesn’t it? I never noticed. I guess this year’s been a big change for Meg and me in terms of dining.

Spag bowl night. Thanks for dinner girls!

Spag bowl night. Thanks for dinner girls!

“What kind of change?”

Well in New York we ordered out most nights. Maybe we’d whip up some rice-a-roni if we got home early enough, but the majority of our meals came in stapled styrofoam cartons. And then there was lunch. I probably ate Chipotle three days a week.

“I know. I saw the pictures before you left. That was some nice paunch.”

Hey! I’ve lost fifteen pounds this year.

“You’re like Al Roker circa 2003!”

Be nice.

“Sorry. How’d you do it?”

We became good home cooks. Well, Meg did at least. She’s mastered so many different recipes. Potato-leek soup, red lentil burgers, slow-cooked beef braised in red wine, homemade hummus, pumpkin risotto—

“Enough. I’m dribbling all over my tusks.”

Meg and Kate whipping up a delicious and waist-friendly meal

Meg and Kate whipping up a delicious and waist-friendly meal

Sorry. But yeah, she’s become an amazing cook. And I’ve elevated my culinary game from non-existent to barely competent. I actually went to the grocery store last week and checked out with a basket of carrots, potatoes and cabbage. The closest I ever got to those ingredients in New York was watching a St. Patrick’s Day episode of Law and Order.

“Sounds like you two have made some healthy lifestyle changes.”

Yeah, I guess so. Life in New Zealand is more active. It helps when you have mountains in your backyard, but I think kiwis are more motivated to get up, get out and have adventures. Ed Hilary is on the $5 bill. Nothing against Washington and Lincoln, but I think that captures the different cultures nicely.

“Do you think you’ll bring this active lifestyle back with you?”

I hope so.  We’ve gotten a lot better about exercising, spending time outside, and just saying yes to new experiences. I guess it depends on what we do next. When we lived in New York, work would always come home with us. Maybe not physically, but it was a focal point of our lives and conversations.

getting ready for a morning hike in Glenorchy

getting ready for a morning hike in Glenorchy

The people we’ve met in New Zealand are not trying to make fortunes. They have day jobs that allow them to make a living and enjoy life with their friends and families. I think we already knew that the jobs we left behind weren’t the answer for us. One thing we’ve come to realize is that life is too short and the world is too big to waste time doing something that doesn’t make you happy.

“What next? Move to Maine and join a commune?”

Yes. A Walrus hunting commune.

“Grrrrr…”

Our next move is a three-day layover in Oahu. The plan is to catch some rays in Honolulu so we don’t look like pasty lepers when we try to re-assimilate back home. We haven’t lined up jobs or anything so obviously we’re apprehensive about our impending unemployment. But we both have clear ideas of what we’d like to do, so the plan is to pursue those avenues and see what happens.

“What will you miss the most?”

The people. We’ve befriended some incredible people. I’ll miss the little things like swapping stories over a home-cooked meal, playing ping pong with Pete and Brodie in our frigid garage, and all the impromptu activities we did together: ice skating in the botanic garden, kayaking on the Hawea wave, launching ourselves into a foam pit off giant trampolines.

“So many activities! What else will you miss?”

The laid-back lifestyle. The views. The mountains, the waterfalls and the lakes. The ability to step outside our house and take a picnic hike up Queenstown Hill. There’s so much raw natural beauty here; and although we always reminded ourselves not to take any of it for granted, I know we’ll miss waking up to this every day.

Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps

Lake Wakatipu and the Southern Alps

“What type of emotions do you feel right now?”

Excited to see everyone at home. Sad to be leaving this amazing place and our new friends. Really sad actually. Any advice?

“A wise man once said to cherish the memories and make a badass photo album.

Then that’s what we’ll do.

“That wise man was me.”

Cheeky Walrus.

a

 

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Eliott and I always skied during winters back home, but our trips were limited to a few days a year. This winter we’ve been able to do our first real season. Our mountain, or ski field as they say in NZ, is called The Remarkables. The actual mountain is only 15 minutes outside of Queenstown, but the base is a treacherous, 30-minute drive further. And that is where this post will begin….

Driving up the remarkables access road- a white knuckle thrill ride in itself

Driving to the base- a white knuckle thrill ride in itself

We approach The Remarkables access road at about 9am on Tuesday morning. The gravel road is coated in snow, making it difficult to differentiate between land and air at the edge of the road. We are armed with a pair of tire chains and only a vague idea of how to use them. Our Subaru joins a caravan of its siblings and we begin winding slowly up the mountain. Eliott’s driving skills are tested as he navigates hairpin turns and avoids the unmarked edges of the cliff road. After rolling, sliding, and climbing for 30 minutes we finally pull into a spot at the top.

The Remarkables in all its glory

Clouds recede, unveiling The Remarkables in all its glory

Frigid Fresh mountain air assaults our faces on the chairlift up to Shadow Basin. You can see the entire mountain from the lift. It’s blanketed in white and pockmarked by jagged brown rocks of various sizes. There’s not a tree in sight, which is a first for North American skiers. The trails lay open in front of us and the absence of trees allows you to carve your own path across the mountain.

Old Man Bart starting his hike up to the "Toilet Bowl" basin

Old Man Bart starting his hike up to the “Toilet Bowl” basin

After a few warm-up runs we’re ready to start hiking. There are only three chairlifts on the mountain, but there are a lot more peaks to be skied. We coast over to the patroled boundary and pop out of our skis. Onto the shoulder they go and into the boot tracks we start climbing. Ten minutes later we’ve reached a new peak and three untouched chutes lay below us. The views are breathtaking- their only competition is the hike itself.

One of our favorite hikes, The Chutes

The upside to every hike is its downside

Down we plunge into the powder. There’s not another skier in sight. It takes a few turns before you realize that the only sounds you hear are your skis crunching through snow and your own breathing. We stop halfway down the chute and look out across a small alpine lake and the frosty range of mountains laying in front of us. The sight and sound of silence is invigorating. There’s nothing like it- pure, untouched beauty.

A panoramic view from the top

A panoramic view from the top

The sun starts to set and the lifts come to a stop as we ski down for the last run of the day. But the fun’s not over yet. Après ski hour begins at 5, and it’s very rude to show up late. Brew, bros, and a fire are the fare for the night.

Mulled wine and a fire on the deck, a perfect finish to the day

Mulled wine and a fire on the deck with the Belfast crew

We know, we know, it’s a hard life that we lead. But someone’s got to do it because these mountains can’t ski themselves.

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Since moving to Queenstown we have “flatted” with three Kiwis and two Brits. We have learned a lot about their cultures–New Zealanders love Pat Benatar; British people have tea upwards of five times a day. And I’m sure they’ve learned a great deal about ours–Americans make snarky comments at the television during reality cooking shows.

But the most interesting thing multi-cultural cohabitation has taught us is that we speak three different kinds of English. Here’s a list of unique New Zealand words and phrases. Just like a middle-school vocabulary list, we’ve included definitions and used each word in a sentence–specifically, a sentence pertaining to our trip.

bach: a cottage

Last weekend, Meg went to a lakeside bach with two of our flatmates. (Our other flatmate and I had to work 😦 )

bbq at the bach

bbq at the bach

boot: car trunk

The boot of our subaru is filled with tennis racquets and beach towels.

capsicum: sweet peppers (red or green)

Meg and Sarah recently planted capsicums in the communal garden.

car park: parking lot

On our Milford road trip, Cate did calisthenics in the car park.

entree: appetizer

The prawn entree at Fishbone comes with two jumbo shrimp.

flash: sensational or fancy

Our subaru is very flash.

Our subaru is very flash.

fringe: bangs

Most girls would agree, Zoe Deschanel has enviable fringe.  (that sentence doesn’t have anything to do with our trip, it’s just a true statement about fringe)

gutted: emotionally distraught

To say I was gutted when the Patriots lost would be an understatement.

jandals: flip flops or sandals

November through March is jandal season in New Zealand.

lemonade: sprite or 7up

During the brief period I quit drinking soda, I ordered a lemonade at a restaurant and it caused a relapse.

piss: beer

Flat photo: everyone's drinking piss.

Our flat went to Atlas and we all drank piss.

piss-up: a social gathering involving alcohol

our

We had a piss-up on Lake Wakatipu and drank out of a watermelon.

rattle your dags: hurry up, get a move on

Rattle your dags, “My Kitchen Rules” is almost on. (MKR is an addictive Australian cooking show; we think they put MSG in it)

scull: to chug a drink (beer)

Meg sculled both of these...just kidding!

Meg sculled both of these jugs…just kidding!

serviette: napkin

Cleaning up after guests at the restaurant has made Meg appreciate her mom’s enthusiasm for serviettes.

taking a piss: having too much to drink

Last weekend our flatmate Tom was taking a piss at his favorite pub, 1876, and woke up with this:

Glory lasts forever. So do tattoos.

Glory lasts forever. So do tattoos.

tomato sauce: ketchup

Fergburger makes their own tomato sauce.

Fergburger makes their own tomato sauce.

whinge: to complain

During road trips I frequently whinge about the cleanliness of hostel bathrooms.

zed: Z, the last letter of the alphabet

If you pronounce Z like “zee” rather than “zed,” people will laugh at you.

*********************************************

Don’t worry, there won’t be a vocab test on Monday. But if you ever plan a trip to New Zealand, save yourself some confusion and brush up on this list.

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Tomorrow, March 20th, marks the official halfway point of our time in New Zealand. While the six months have flown by way too quickly, my memories from home also feel eons away. Quite frankly, I miss the good old U-S-of-A and mostly, I miss all of you.

But my homesickness was abated last week when three of my crazy, foolish girlfriends from Hamilton invaded an unsuspecting New Zealand. The authorities were completely unprepared for their arrival. Lisa was actually able to slip through their fingers on an early flight, but August and Cate were not quite as lucky. With only hours notice from Interpol, the New Zealand border police tried to detain the other girls on hopped up charges of narcotraficante and bioterrorism.  Crafty as ever, August and Cate were able to get through.

"Oh my god, we're in...RUN!"

“Oh my god, we’re in…RUN!”

After a whirlwind tour of the North Island (AucklandRaglanWellington) the girls made their way down to Queenstown where Eliott and I hosted them for the rest of their time in NZ. Eliott and I have been working pretty hard at becoming true Queenstown locals since settling here in Feb so it was nice to play host for the week. We showed off our townie status- touring the girls through local hotspots- but also hopped into the car for yet another roadtrip. Here’s a little summary of the highlights from our week with the girls!

Going Hard-core Parkour on Queenstown

After filling up on lamb steaks and sauv blanc we took to the streets of Queenstown. We most certainly did justice to the “loud” and “brash” stereotype associated with Americans. It was just like how I remember (foggily) the good old days in upstate New York.

Supersize me!!

Super-size me

Wine Tasting in Gibbston Valley

The Central Otago region is filled with boutique vineyards and we made sure to get heaps of tastings on our way. This region is particularly famous for their Pinot Noirs. For a taste of your own back home, drop by Whole Foods and pick up the Mohua label.

Taking a bocci break at our favorite, Brennan Vineyard

Taking a bocci break at our favorite, Brennan Vineyard

We capped off the day of tastings with a visit to Lake Hayes, where we had a picnic lunch and rejuvenated our spirits by launching ourselves off the homemade rope swing. We got some big air. I’d say we really nailed it.

Milford Sound Roadtrip

A visit from friends would not be complete without a little roadtrip now would it? So we hopped into the car for a one-day trip down to the famous Milford Sound. We made sure to take our time on the drive down, stopping for:

Exercise

Calisthenics are KEY to staying alert on a 5 hour drive. Cate, as always, led the class

Calisthenics are KEY to staying alert on a 5 hour drive. Cate, as always, led the class

Bathrooms

I cannot stress the importance enough: hydration, hydration, hydration

I cannot stress the importance enough: hydration, hydration, hydration

And of course a bit of scenery

precious

precious

We opted for the Jucy Cruize (because we’re hip) and were not disappointed by the breathtaking views. Milford Sound is a fiord carved out by glaciers during the ice age. What remains are 1000-meter cliffs that soar high above the clouds and plunge into deep blue waters. It’s home to a variety of marine life including fur seals, penguins, dolphins, and the occasional whale. Rudyard Kipling proclaimed Milford Sound as the “eighth wonder of the world,” and I would be hard pressed to disagree with him.

The team preparing for takeoff

The team preparing for takeoff

You truly feel the sheer power of nature while cruising through the fiords as they rise steeply on either side of the slowly shrinking boat

You feel the sheer power of nature while cruising through the fiords as they rise steeply on either side of the slowly shrinking boat

A collection of cuddly NZ Fur Seals

A collection of cuddly NZ Fur Seals

Paragliding

You can’t come to Queenstown and NOT partake in any adventure sports so Cate and Lisa took one for the team and went Paragliding. These are the nuts that Eliott and I watch from our balcony all day long. They quite literally walk off the side of a mountain with nothing but a crazy New Zealander and a parachute strapped to their backs. August and I (due to a severe fear of heights) volunteered to stay back and document the adventure.

Those small colorful specs in the sky are Cate and Lisa (we think)

Those small colorful specs in the sky are Cate and Lisa (we think)

YOLO!

YOLO!

Local Tramps

DSC03667

This was August’s reaction to the announcement of our 2-hour tramping plans

For our last full day in Queenstown we took the girls on a tramp, or hike, just outside of Queenstown. It’s a two hour loop known as the Crighton Track, listed as a “moderate” incline, but we’d actually rate it “moderate-to-difficult.” Highlights included views over lake Wakatipu, an old-fashioned camping hut, and sore legs.

It was a nice remote hike, so remote that we had to resort to selfies to prove we'd made it to the top

It was a nice remote hike, so remote that we had to resort to selfies to prove we’d made it to the top

Local Dining

As any tramper worth their weight in dirt knows, it’s vital to refuel after a hearty workout. So we treated ourselves to a delicious, nutritious feast at the best restaurant in town- Fishbone. Eliott and the girls got a full tour of New Zealand seafood, sampling Green-lipped Mussels from Marlborough sound, Nelson clams, pacific Bluenose, native Blue Cod, and of course the famous Bluff oysters.

Finally getting to taste and share some of the amazing food that I serve on a nightly basis

Finally getting to taste and share some of the amazing food that I serve on a nightly basis

But as Robert Frost once wrote, “Nothing gold can stay,” and that was the case this week. The girls boarded their plane to Christchurch, Eliott went back to work, and I walked around wearing the worlds biggest sunglasses in an attempt to hide my tears. It was an absolutely amazing week and it went by way too quickly. It was really special to share a bit of our life, here in QT, with friends from home.

Seeing old friends has reminded us of where we were just 12 months ago and made us think about how much this trip will change us. It’s quite hard to tell whether or not we’ve changed at all. I can say for sure that our habits and routines are different. We don’t go to Murphy’s Pub until 4am on the weekends anymore and we frequent the supermarket more often than restaurants these days. But will these changes stick with us when we get home? Will we undergo deeper changes in our personalities and outlooks? I don’t think we’ll be able to tell while we’re over here. It’s something that you’ll have to be the judges of when we finally do get back home, in just six months time!

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The “Southern Hemisphere’s premier four season lake and alpine resort.” As Eliott noted in his last post, we settled into Queenstown last week and we plan on being here for the long haul- well at least until our visas expire.

To help you get your bearings and understand where we’ve chosen to settle, here are some basic stats. Queenstown is nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. It is bordered on its other three sides by the Southern Alps, so basically it’s picturesque from every angle, including ours.

We'll let you know if waking up to this view ever gets old

We’ll let you know if waking up to this view ever gets old

For you cartographers, we’ve also mapped it out here. Queenstown was originally settled by Europeans in 1860, but it was traversed by Maoris in search for pounamu (or sacred greenstone) for many years before that. The local population is roughly 29,200 so while it’s only twice the size of my quiet hometown, Duxbury, MA, it’s still considered a major city on the South Island. This odd statistic is a testament to its vibrant tourism industry.

Some people refer to Queenstown as the “adventure capital of the world” because of the many activities you can enjoy here which include: skiing, snowboarding, heli-sking, jet boating, whitewater rafting, bungy jumping, mountain biking, skateboarding, tramping, paragliding, sky diving and fly fishing. Whew, deep breath. For after hours entertainment Queenstown offers a bevy of bars that provide the answer to our longstanding question, “where are all the young people at?”

World's most dangerous cartwheel- only in Queenstown

World’s most dangerous cartwheel first attempted in Queenstown

So I guess I’d now pose the question to you all- why wouldn’t we want to live here? Queenstown has always piqued our interest, but the truth is we finally pulled the trigger on QT because I was able to get a job. One of our goals for January was to find some work and settle down for a few months. We enjoy our roadtrips and sightseeing, but staying in hostels can get old and quite expensive.  On our latest road trip, with Eliott’s mom, we stopped in Queenstown for a few days and pounded the pavement hunting for jobs. We passed out a lot of resumes and got passed over even more. So at the end, when I thought I couldn’t handle any more rejection I decided to hand out one last resume at a seafood restaurant called Fishbone.

I got a call back that night and after a stressful trial run the following day I received the offer. And today, I’m happy to announce that  Eliott was offered a job at a clothing store called Wild South. We are now both happily and gratefully employed locals. While traveling New Zealand we’ve found the job search to be somewhat challenging, but it mostly boils down to timing and persistence.

 

Oh wait, did you guys ask for a closer shot of the view from our balcony? Here you go

Oh wait, did you guys ask for a closer shot of the view from our balcony? Here you go

A few quick tips for any backpackers that are looking to get some work on the road:

  • Don’t look like a backpacker because everyone knows they’re unreliable…
  • Change your resume to fit your situation. Our engineer flatmate is working as a dishwasher and he didn’t get that job listing his GPA.
  • Be bold. Always ask to speak with the manager and be quick to explain why you’re a good fit.

It’s a squirrel-eat-kiwi world and there are only so many jobs and so many months in the tourist season. You have to pounce on any opportunity, but luckily in a busy place like Queenstown there are a lot of chances to hone your craft.

Once landing the job we started to look for housing the next morning. Similar to the job hunt, the apartment search is all about timing and persistence. We were very selective about the location, setup, and price of the apartments that we pursued so while trademe.co.nz was filled with options we had to look hard for the right fit. Luckily we found Pete and Sophie offering their room in a large house on Queenstown hill. It was the perfect fit- private bath, private deck, huge living area, a ping pong table, walking distance to town, and most importantly AWESOME roommates! Pete and Sophie are moving to Whistler to catch the North American ski season so we slipped into their room at the perfect time and may, if we’re lucky, be able to swap back with them during the NZ ski season. If you couldn’t tell, they’re big skiers, something we’ll be getting back into this winter too.

Boozey brunch with the new flatmates! Reminds us a lot of our weekends in NYC

Boozey brunch with the new flatmates!

So we are now officially moved into our new flat in Queenstown. We kicked off the first weekend with a goodbye bbq for Pete and Sophie, which reminded us a lot of the shenanigans we used to get into at home.  We’re really looking forward to staying in one place for a while. I think it’s an important part of the travel experience. We spent the first four months of our trip wandering across the country, but you only see so much as a tourist. Now we’re ready to experience the kiwi lifestyle first-hand. And as always, we’ll be sharing almost all of the gritty details with you back home!

Climb every mountain, ford every stream....

Climb every mountain, ford every stream

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