Sunday, January 25, 2015

Winter adventures in Colorado

After their three weeks in New Zealand I travelled back with our nieces to the US, which gave me the perfect excuse to go and visit Gill in Colorado and meet my god daughter Mallory who is already 18 months old. Aaron and I had previously been to visit Gill in the summer of 2012 and had some great summer adventures with Gill and William (who was then 12 months) and Gill's dogs - Reka, Maxx and Sacha. So while Aaron has been riding his bike in Rotorua I have been having some winter adventures in Colorado. Despite a little jet lag, getting used to the altitude and a short lived stomach flu, we have been out downhill skiing at A-Basin, dog sledding, and sledging with the kids.

Gill's house in a winter wonderland

We were lucky enough to get some fresh snow the night before skiing and got some lovely powder to ski in. Unfortunately the altitude got to me in the mid afternoon and I was struggling to breathe. But it was great to get my ski legs back and get some nice runs in on relatively empty slopes, with no lift queues. Only one tumble in the soft powder when the light was a little flat and there were some hidden bumps underneath...

Gill at the top of A-basin ready for a run down in the powder

Helen coming back down

Dog sledding
Gill now has 5 dogs - Reka, Maxx, Sacha, Meg and Maya. Normally they just pull Gill along on her own, but they have been doing a lot of training for an upcoming race and they managed to pull 2 (well 3 of us) of us on the sled up a gentle hill and then back again in a couple of hours. A total of 9 miles - great weight training for their 10 mile race!

Gill was even brave enough to let me drive the sled a couple of times. There were some fast moments when we started off, but the rest of the time it was pretty steady with a bit of help pushing/scootering the sled up some of the hilly sections. You had to be on your toes in case of the dogs needing to stop or them seeing a squirrel and taking off to chase it. Fortunately Meg is a very good lead dog and you don't have to steer very much - just leaning the sled to make sure it follows the dogs around the corners, which were pretty gradual on this particular track.

The view from sitting on the sled - you can just see my boot toes at the bottom of the photo

Turn around point. Gill with her team - Meg at the front, Maya and Sacha next and Reka and Maxx closest to the sled.

William and Mallory have been really enjoying sledging so they have been out a couple of times this week to play. Mallory even went by herself for the first time today and then refused to get out of the sledge as she was having so much fun. I'm sure there will be a lot more sledging and will give her something to do while William is learning to ski this winter.

William and Mallory in the sledge

Hopefully we will get some more skiing and dog sledding and plenty more sledging, playing and relaxing next week before I have to leave this winter wonderland. Thanks for looking after me so well Gill!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rotorua Trip

Mount Ruapehu on the way up

Dan on top of Tokorangi Pa. Lake Rotorua in the background

A very hot Kerosene Creek

Bubbling mud

Waikato River just before Huka Falls

Kinloch from W2K Track

A very busy Spa Park

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NZ adventures with Emma and Kortney - Part 3 return trip

Unfortunately it was time to leave Queenstown and head home. After packing up and cleaning the house we spent the rest of the day driving to Christchurch via lunch at Lake Pukaki with amazing views of Mt Cook.
Mt Cook with the amazing turquoise Lake Pukaki in the foreground

We made it to Christchurch and spent the evening with our friend Dan.

Aaron sharing his chocolate mousse - devoured within seconds!

The next morning Dan and his partner Charlotte took us for brunch and showed us around the centre of Christchurch, which is pretty empty with many buildings removed... but things are starting to be rebuilt. In the meantime there are a bunch of temporary quirky sculptures and thing to entertain the tourists and locals around town - including a laundromat-dancefloor - which we spent a couple of minutes shaking our booty along with some other tourists who joined us. Finally we went to check out the container mall.

The cardboard, temporary cathedral

Weird sheep? Lego like? 

Oversize garden furniture

The Dance-O-Mat

The container mall

Unfortunately we had to drive north and catch our ferry.... the end of the south island road trip and adventures. 
Passing the time on the ferry playing the girls new favourite card game...

Thursday, January 8, 2015

NZ adventures with Emma and Kortney - Part 2 Queenstown

We spent the first day in Queenstown just chilling out and enjoying the view from our friends house we were staying at and shopping for supplies. We did brave a short dip in chilly Lake Wakatipu in the late afternoon.

Emma braving the cold waters of Lake Wakatipu

The next day we headed in to Queenstown and while Aaron was visiting the doctor to get his man flu checked out the girls went shopping! We then headed up the Gondola and had lunch overlooking Queenstown and Aaron and the girls spent the afternoon racing down on the luge.

Emma and Kortney in the gondola

Emma and Kortney heading up to go luging

Aaron and Kortney whizzing past!

View down over Queenstown from the top of the gondola

The next day Aaron and I went up to Lake Alta for a morning walk and then in the afternoon we took the kayak out on the lake.
Emma in Sprite... 

Looking back from the lake towards the house (middle one in the top row)

Wednesday we took a jet boat ride from Queenstown down the Kawerau River - with the driver throwing in multiple 360 degree turns along the way - making sure that we all got a little wet! Our friend Rebecca arrived in the afternoon to catch up with us for a few days.
Kortney, Emma, Helen and Aaron in the jet boat still dry at the start!

Thursday was our final day in Queenstown and Aaron and Rebecca booked a shuttle to go mountain biking over towards Coronet Peak and Skippers Canyon. Kortney, Emma and I headed up towards Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu to go for a horse trek along the Dart River. This is the area where Lord of the Rings, Prince Caspian and a number of other movies have been filmed. In the morning the clouds were low - but they burnt off and lifted to reveal the spectacular scenery. The riding was good and we even attempted a couple of trotting sessions along the way, and had to cross a couple of braids of the river.

Emma, riding a horse called Ben, and Kortney, riding Yankee, along the Dart River

Kortney on Yankee

After 2 hours riding along the river our legs were like jelly - so we drove out had lunch and did a short walk at the start of the Routeburn Track to stretch out the legs and enjoy the beautiful beech forests and mountain scenery.

Emma walking through the beautiful beech tree forest

Emma and Kortney with the clear Routeburn River

Saturday, January 3, 2015

NZ adventures with Emma and Kortney - Part I road trip along the west coast

After spending Christmas in Oregon with the Lyman family, Aaron brought our nieces - Kortney and Emma back to New Zealand for a 3 week visit. They spent the first couple of days in Wellington getting over the 3 hour (+ a day) jet lag and sorting out phones etc.. and having a brief look around we headed down to the South Island for a 10 day road trip.

Day 1 - We had an early start on the Ferry on New Years day and then headed down the coast and inland to Hanmer Springs. We stopped a few times along the way to see the seals and some views. After a rather full on day of driving we had a relaxing evening hanging out in the hotpools at Hanmer Springs.

Emma, Kortney and Aaron on the ferry

Seals and the pups

Relaxing in the hot pools at Hanmer Springs

Day 2 - we headed towards the west coast, stopping to do a couple of short walks along the way at Lewis Pass and then the start of the Kirwans track north of Reefton to see a rather crazy tunnel swing bridge. Unfortunately the girls got to experience the menace that is sandflies.... and clearly they are both pretty tasty... especially Kortney. We ended up at Franz Josef. 

Emma on the swingbridge

Kortney in the tunnel

Day 3 - The weather gods were kind to us and first thing in the morning there were few clouds and the sun was shining on the west coast. This is a region that gets up to 10 m or rain a year.... so this was an unexpected surprise. We had a nice walk up to the glacier (or as far as you can get these days). Then we continued south to Haast then back inland towards Queenstown - with a short stroll to the blue pools to break up the drive.... Finally making it to Queenstown.

Emma and Kortney with Franz Josef Glacier in the background

Emma showering under a waterfall at Franz Josef

Blue Pools