Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Skiing and boarding on Ruapehu

Well we finally managed to get up to the snow. We chose a great weekend, but then it appears so did everyone else, as there was a record number of people on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu. It didn't seem all that promising from down at the bottom of the mountain as we were sitting in the cloud and it was a misting drizzle, but as we drove up the mountain we came out above the clouds and in to the glorious sunshine. It was quite strange to look down from the mountain on to a blanket of cloud with the only landmarks sticking out being the main north island volcanoes Ngarahoe, Tongariro and Taranaki in the distance.

Volcanoes Ngarahoe and Tongariro sticking up above the clouds

We didn't get the best night sleep on the Friday night as most of the accommodation was booked out so we managed to get a couple of beds in an overcrowded and noisy backpackers. So Aaron was not a happy camper in the morning. As a result we got up to the Whakapapa resort pretty early and we were on the slopes by about 8:30am. Aaron has decided that he wants to learn to snowboard so he has invested in some second hand gear, so he headed off to the beginners slope first thing. I jumped on my skis and went for a bit of an explore and did quite a few runs before the crowds arrived. I met up with Aaron at around 10:30am and he was much happier and feeling quite confident on the snowboard. So I fetched my snowboard from the car and off we went up the mountain.
Aaron - the sruffy snowboarder

The crowds started to build up - but I was very impressed with the organisation of the queues and the good behaviour of the punters. Those Italians and French could learn a thing or two from the Kiwis. However, to be fair even though there were long queues, they were nothing like what I have experienced in Europe during the peak season, so the longest we had to wait was about 15 minutes (20 minutes when one of the lifts stalled and they had to get the mechanics in to fix it).

So we spent the rest of Saturday cruising around the slopes of Whakapapa (pronounced Fakapapa). Aaron really improved his boarding and was really getting the hang of it by the end of the day.

After a night in a rather run down - but much quieter pub/hotel, we spent the next day at the Turoa Ski field on the other side of Ruapehu. The drive up to Turoa is quite different from Whakapapa as you go through some pretty spectacular lush forests - not quite what you expect for driving up to a ski field. Again the weather didn't look promising from the bottom of the mountain but as we drove up we could see flashes of blue sky above and eventually we came out above the clouds.

We both started off on snowboards and went exploring. There were a few icy sections in places - but we found a few runs that were challenging and with softer snow. Unfortunately my snowboard binding broke just as I felt I was improving, so I had to go and get my skis on. By this stage Aaron was doing really well and while I was fetching my skis he even came down a couple of black runs (they don't have red runs here - so these are the equivalent of reds in Europe). He claimed that he boarded much better when I wasn't around watching him.... hmmmm....
Anyway by the end of the weekend he had progressed from almost complete beginner to a pretty good intermediate snowboarder (with a rather bruised and battered body!)

Hopefully we'll get another weekend of skiing in before the end of the season so he can practise his new boarding skills.

Ruapehu unveiled as the clouds lifted on our drive home.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Trip to UK

Flying visit to the UK for my Grandparents 60th Wedding Anniversary celebration. It was great to catch up with my family as living on the other side of the world I don't get to see them very often. I had a lot of fun in the week leading up to the celebration playing with my younger was fun to be a kid again.

Grandma and Grandad

Grandad giving a speech
Clare, Andy and Me

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tip Track

I managed to get out of the nice warm bed and go for a ride this morning. It was seven degrees in the house again this morning and I ate my toast in front of the heater. It took quite a bit of willpower to tear myself away from the heater and venture outside. There was frost on many of the cars down at the bottom of the hill. The tunnel under the airport was nice and warm – I didn’t want it to end. Once I got going though it wasn’t too bad. There were only few high clouds, which were pink in the early morning sun. Coming around the point after Lyall Bay, I could see the Kikoruas all covered in snow.

When I finally reached the gate at the bottom of the Tip Track, it was open so I rode right through. I stopped at the second gate, which was also open, to peel off a layer. I checked the time, it had taken about 35 minutes to get here from the house (I need to leave a little earlier next time). The start of the Tip Track is pretty blood steep. I was in my granny gear and had to slide forward on the nose of the saddle to keep the front wheel from popping up. The first third of the track is like this. It just keeps going up. The second third levels off and has a few rolling hills. The last third gets very steep again and the nastiest corner has quite a bit of loose gravel on it making it completely diabolical. The last bit of it shallows out some so that by the time you hit the top you actually feel pretty good again. It took me about 35 minutes to get from the second lower gate to the tar seal at the top. Simon Kennet can do it in less than 20 minutes – amazing!

The tar seal rolls along the ridge to the windmill. From there I jumped on a track called Car Parts. This is an awesome track that sidles along the side of the hill. It is gravelled so it doesn’t to mucky and has a nice gradient – not too steep either up or down. This track takes you down almost to the start of Roller Coaster. This was the first time I had been on this track, which is mostly downhill and has lots of little jumps both dirt and wooden. It was really fun and I look forward to riding it again now that I have seen it.

From the bottom of Roller Coaster there is another track that would have taken me down to Aro Valley, but I was running short of time and need to get to work. Next time, hopefully.

It is a really fun way to get to work, but a bit tiring. Almost two hours of mountain biking with a 500m climb along the way. By the time I got to work I was ready for a nap!