Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Skiing the Remarkables

Our ride into Queenstown, the long journey first across the Canterbury plains then central Otago, Mckenzie country, Mt Cook, Omarama, Cromwell and the Lindis Pass finally brought us to the outer fringes of Queenstown. Along the windy road you will see a small hydro plant and the narrow gorge along the River into Queenstown where the jet boat scoots along... Jet boat is not for me.. I dislike payiung for being thrown around for half hour, at a high speed and getting wet at the same time.. they call that fun!!!?

So it was with trepidation that we boarded a creaky old bus, me clearly being double the age of anyone else
on board... most were enthusiastic snowboarders with all their gear and the driver, looks like he was still wet behind the ears.... he had problems operating the gears.

A distinctive burning smell and handbrake in need of attention confirmed my worst fears that this was the budget way to ascent to the Remarkables... I had already decided to descend a different way, as we were on a time limit to reach our dinner destination at the Gondola resturant.

After an very early and light breakfast, we spent the next part of an hour picking up young snowboarders some of whom kept us waiting... for which the driver reprimanded them!

This is where we are headed... is there enough snow up there...
Finally we were on the road to the Remarkables... 8 kilometres it said. We drove and we drove and the old bus creaked and groaned and slipped and slid on the very wet and slushy roads. No snow on the road up to the Remarkables the two way croaked to the driver.. "Oh well that is a relief" I thought. Then the smell of burning rubber quickly replaced the feeling of relief with intense fear.

My young daughter asked, "What was that burning smell, is it the brakes or the bus?" It is all fine I told her, as we slid almost off a precipice ... they drive up here every day... .I tried to reassure her, with heart palpitations way above the normal rate!! I thought well we are almost there, surely... 8 kms must have passed by now...

Then I see a sign... declaring boldy.... "THE REMARKABLES ; YOU ARE HALFWAY THERE" Egad I thought another half an hour of this torture!! Gripping the seat tightly, the bus lurched as the driver chucked it down to first, having to stop completely first, then have the tyres skid and slip as they desparately tried to gain grip on the gravel mush beneath them...

Finally we made it.. now the bus driver said BE here at 4 or else we leave without you... You must tell us if you come down any other way ring this mobile number otherwise we will send the ski patrol out looking for you!!! As I alighted at the ski field, I saw some wonderfully new four wheel drive buses greeting us.... that is the way I am going down I thought, not with "old Bertie" and its questionable braking ability and "Bevan the Bus Driver come troubled youth"!!!) So better report in that I am going to use an alternative shuttel bus to return to town.

We made our way up to the centre, awash with bodies in snow suits, veritable kids with snow boards and skis and proceede to book our return journey with a different bus company. Apparently shuttles leave the mountain every  hour or as soon as they fill from 2 pm onwards. After making the phone call to the first company, to save the ski patrol looking for two not lost souls,  we checked in to get our ski Id Card, microchipped to follow our progress no doubt, ( does the CIA have people here???) and were measured for clothing, boots, and skis... "no you can't hire Gloves, for hygiene reasons Madam" so after leaving my daughters at home and passing up the opportunity to buy a $3.50 pair of gloves at Aldi, I had to buy a $30.00 pair... well they do have a captive market, where else could I go and you could not ski without gloves, unless you were inviting Jack Frost to get up close and personal!!

The Beginners ski area - The Remarkables

And we were here, I was showing my daughter the extent of my antiquated knowledge of downhill skiing I learnt more than 30 years ago, but mostly we just followed every one else and eavesdropped on a few ski lessons... in the Beginners bowl... but she quickly got the hang of it, having cross country  skiied in Norway several years before.

From here we jumped ( literally ) on the chairlift, to the Tubing area. With skis on, it is no mean feat for a 10 year old to manage this without assistance. What happened to those nice, strong men who helped you out on and off the chairlift??? In this age of economic rationalism, they are gone, replaced by a Safety officer, who replies to your request for assistance, with a lackadaisical "You will be alright!"  That is confidence, and as accurately anticipated, he was quite wrong. Getting on, was fine, but getting off quite another story.

I was busy verbally assisting my daughter in getting off, which she managed with incredible finesse, that I left alighting from the chair a fraction of a second or two, too late!! By which time, I had to jump, with skis on remember!! And the sharp decline on the slope meant I lost my balance and fell over right in front of the turning chair!!! Great... not a soul to help you there.... Good on you New Zealand Tourism!!

I got up with the help of my daughter, humiliation enough, and then I was so relieved to see a friendly face approach me, but alas, she was out to take photographs, the "rip the- tourist- off- money- making scheme at work again!!! Snap snap snap... I hope she did not get one of me A over T at the top of the chairlift????

 Riding a Rubber tyre tube down a huge slope is a real blast in the snow. We tubed for an hour, and probably reached speeds of 30 km/h.
Tubing Area

The tubes are pulled up the slopes by a rope tow, which has to be held taut, for me in a position that was between my legs...!!! Eek! But this saved walking up the hill in the snow with snow boots! And made for more downhill runs... Of course, the ubiquitous Tourist photographer was there too!!! I think two photos cost me near to $70.00 so beware!

After several more hours, I was utterly exhausted and needed some fuel and asthma medication to continue. So we returned to the beginner area instead of attempting the intermediate runs, where we had fallen over too many times to remember....

And despite seeing a nasty beginner snowboarding accident which to me looked like a flip gone wrong, we had so much fun, going up, coming down, going up, coming down, throwing snowballs, sliding down the snow cave/tunnel etc.  And the view from the Remarkables was well.... Remarkable, astounding, and awesome! I have gotta go back.... But I did feel like the oldest one there!!!

At least on the way down, we had a vehicle that was built post war!! Was probably only a few years old and even though we were very close to the edge, I did not feel in any danger at the least. I wonder how Bevan and Bertie got on????
Something to ponder about.....
The road to and from the Remarkables, looking down towards Queenstown and Lake W.

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