Six Days in Godzone

I have just got back from a very quick holiday in New Zealand. With the trip only lasting six days it didn’t give me time to catch up with as many people as I would have liked to have seen. However, I still did manage to see a little over 30 family and friends, including a number of members of my extended family whom I had not seen in over two years.

The highlight of the trip was two days of Bluebird skiing conditions at Mt Ruapehu. It takes around 4 – 5 hours to get to Mt Ruapehu from Auckland. So to make the most of the day I got up at the insanely early hour of 3.20am on Thursday morning to do the drive to Whakapapa Ski Field. I arrived at the ski field just after 8am, got my ski gear on and hit the mountain.

After a few runs down the Knoll Ridge and Valley T-bars I ventured out into the Far West area of the mountain. Despite having skied at Whakapapa many times over the last seven years I have never encountered a day where the weather has been good enough to go out to the Far West so the first time heading out there made this trip especially worthwhile.

After a few runs down the western slopes in ankle deep powder I decided to traverse back to the main area of the mountain, just as the cloud rolled in and the visibility dropped to only a few metres. Because of the poor visibility I managed to get a little lost on the traverse back and ended up dropping in on one of the chutes above Hut Flat. This run is an extremely steep double black diamond and I am quite proud that I conquered it, even if it was an accident – because I doubt I would have gone down it if I had known fully where I was going.

I stayed overnight in Ohukane on Thursday night and ventured up to Turoa Ski Field on Friday morning. There is a lot more snow on the Turoa side of Ruapehu and for the first time ever I saw snow in the forest on the drive up to the ski area. The top part of the road was very icy and despite having hired a fairly powerful car it still struggled at about 20km/h up the final 3km of the road. Friday was another Bluebird day and the snow conditions at Turoa were even better than Whakapapa the day before. The powder wasn’t as deep but there was much better coverage across the mountain which meant I was dodging around rocks.

Despite both Whakapapa and Turoa being on the same mountain and run by the same company the two fields have quite different characteristics. Personally I prefer Turoa, all the times I have been up the staff have been extremely friendly, and there is much more open terrain to explore without needing to do long traverses.

Before I went to the ski fields one of my friends had disputed that I was any good at skiing – being a computer geek and not playing sports gives me that reputation – so I set up my GPS on my phone to track one of my runs down the mountain… and… I managed to get through 2.3km, 700 vertical metres in six minutes with an average speed of 23km/h and a top speed of 39km/h – a result that I am very happy with.

The remainder of my trip in NZ involved visiting extended family in Wanganui and catching up with many friends from my former university and workplaces. As I write this I am on a plane back to Sydney and I am already missing home. I may be biased as I am a kiwi, but New Zealand is simply the most amazing, friendly, and adventurous place I know. Australia may be my current abode, and the world may be my oyster, but New Zealand will always be my home.

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