.....Hitching to the hills
More fun times to share since I last wrote, thanks to a lovely four-day stay in Wanaka. We reached this small resort town after negotiating the previously closed Haast Pass (snow) which goes right over the mountains, but it was fine by the time we went through, in fact the sun was shining and the sky was bright blue as we drove into Wanaka, which is so pretty perched right by its namesake lake.
Wanaka is a kind of sister town to Queenstown which is bigger and more touristy and famous for hair-raising "EXTREME" activities such as throwing yourself off a bridge with a large elastic band tied to your ankles or swinging on a large elastic band over a canyon...
Anyway, not much of that in Wanaka, but it does offer the usual, more sedate outdoor recreation type stuff, as well as skiing. Only Ellie and I and a couple of others got off the Stray bus here because it's not a designated overnight stop, but I'm so glad we did because we stayed in my favourite hostel yet. The first night we lucked out and were given an ensuite double room - a private little hut overlooking the lake and mountains - cos it was the only room left. Any night not spent in a dorm room is a bonus and this was a luxurious respite from the bunkbed drill.
But even when we moved into our four-share room it was still super, the hostel was nice and small, really lovely people, great facilities, and the best bit - a black lab puppy scampering around, she was sooooo gorgeous I nearly wept!
When we got there things were just warming up for the season, lots of ski/board dudes wandering round looking for work and a place to stay for the next three months or so, and I have to say I was tempted to join them, such was the homely feel of the place.
So we decided to get in a days skiing here before doing more in Queenstown, and we had the best day! Think it could have been my favourite day of the travels so far. It was the opening day at Treble Cone which is the highest of the skiable Southern Alps and the views from up there were absolutely amazing. We were also blessed with a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky, and what with all the adrenalin pumping action on the slopes (I did occasionally stay upright long enough to get up some speed), it was so great.
The snow situation wasn't great though, only one run open which was a blue at the top and turned into a green, but the whole thing was narrow, steep and icey, and me being a total beginner, found it rather testing... But made it to the bottom in one piece, much to the admiration of a handsome Austrian ski instructor who simply couldn't believe I had made it down such a difficult run. (Don't think I stressed how much time was spent on the deck, I actually shuffled down one stretch cos my ski had come off and flown all the way to the bottom, but he didn't need to know that).
Ooo, should mention one of the funniest things about the day was that we hitched there and back. Never even attempted this before but transport up to the slopes was an extra expense and I asked a few people in the hostel if anyone was going up to share a ride and they said we should just hitch cos loads of people do.
Was really a great success, we walked towards the road that takes you in that direction, stuck out the thumbs and the first car that came past pulled over. It was a really nice older couple all togged up in their ski gear driving a great big 4x4 and they said "are you going to Treble Cone?" Well yes we were. How cool is that?!
Slightly less cool when we had to queue behind four other hitchers at the end of the day and actually look people in the eyes as they drove out of the carpark, but again was a simple enough task and this time hopped in with a couple of Brits over here for the season.
We quickly decided we're going to hitch everywhere now, is a cost saving revelation! (Not really, this was a very specific set of circumstances which I deemed safe, and it really was).
Erm, other than that we kayaked on the the lake - also fun - and went to the local swimming pool in a vain attempt to raise the fitness levels and decrease the extra travel poundage. But also spent rather a lot of time pottering round town and hanging in the hostel keeping warm in front of the log fire (has been the coldest spell yet, got down to -8.c one night!) and competeing with the other hostellers for the lovely puppy, Biddy's, attention.