Christmas in Queenstown
between all the unpacking and organising, we managed to get out
for a few bike rides. On one occasion, we headed west out through
a town called Wakefield, and then down a smaller road toward St.
Arnaud. We'd been planning to take in a loop that would have us
climb over Reay saddle, then turning back toward the main road
and over Spooners Saddle. We got a late start, and had just stopped
at a side road to have a look at the map. The side road would
take us back to Wakefield, and looked pretty interesting. We were
just discussing what to do, when we noticed a car stopped nearby,
and this fellow approached us. We started chatting. He asked about
the tandem and I asked if he was from Massachusetts? He was wearing
a Blue Ribbon Barbecue T-shirt (from an eatery in Newton Massachusetts).
He was thrown that my accent detector was that good, but I then
pointed out the shirt. Of course to be honest Jim has a pretty
distinct accent, and it would be pretty easy to guess.
he and his wife Shelley had stopped to take an amusing picture
of a forest sign in front of a completely clear cut area, and
happened to notice us with our tandem. They are also tandem riders.
He, indeed was from Massachusetts and she was from Colorado. They'd
just been married and had moved to New Zealand for two years.
They were travelling around WOOFing. WOOF is Work on Organic Farms,
and is a very inexpensive way of seeing the country. In trade
for food and lodging, you work on an organic farm. We'd met another
American couple doing this earlier. They had really lucked out
with their experience and stayed in some pretty cool places, where
they got to play quite a bit as work a little. Jim and Shelley
had made some great friends in their WOOFing travels and were
currently working at Tophouse near St. Arnaud.
But back to the Massachusetts connection. As we
all talked more, we discovered a few degrees of separation in
that a former co-worker of John's worked for the company Jim had
just left - and to make it freakier, this co-worker lived two
houses away from us in Chelmsford. We decided it was pretty cool
to randomly meet like this, and exchanged phone numbers and planned
to get together later.
We met for dinner a few days later, and all became
fast friends. Jim even helped John work on the roof one day while
Shelley and I did some shopping. They later became our first official
houseguests for a night. Jim was a bit more serious about finding
real work (John and I are still taking things easy), and Jim had
interviews in Christchurch as well as some further WOOF commitments
on the west coast. But they also had booked a timeshare in Queenstown
for Christmas and invited us to join them for the week.
missed out doing much in Queenstown on our first visit due to
bad weather, and we thought it would be cool to spend the holidays
with our new friends so we made tentative plans to join them.
We investigated various methods of getting there, car rental,
flights, etc., and in the end we actually bought a little van.
We'd hoped to be car free here, but we picked a home without rail
service, and travelling with a tandem can be awkward at times.
Used cars tend to be pretty good deals here, so we looked around
a bit, and found a reasonable deal on a Toyota Lite Ace van.
What I failed to realise was how far we now were
from Queenstown. We'd been there before, and I just didn't really
think about it, or check the distances until shortly before we
were to go. By most estimates, it is a 12 hour drive! I've mentioned
before the lack of motorways here. Most roads are two lane and
often are quite twisty. But the speed limit is 100 kph, equivalent
to speeds on divided multilane interstate highways at home. And
folks do try to drive the speed limit on these little winding
roads - whether it is appropriate or not. And they wonder about
the death toll on the roads. OK, here it is, my first big criticism
of my new adopted country. People drive like idiots. So when I
heard 12 hours, I knew it would likely be much longer for us,
since I tend to be a bit more cautious on those mountain roads.
After all I'm used to much lower speed limits for similar conditions
So we planned to take two days to get down. We got
a pretty late start, as usual and did about 1/3 the first day.
We enjoyed the trip down, stopping and taking in the sights along
the way. We travelled down the west coast past the glaciers and
over the Haast Pass. Let me suggest that you have serious insect
repellent on if you dare to stop for a photo anywhere along the
brought both the touring tandem and our new single mountain bikes
with us. Jim Shelley have single road bikes, and we figured we
could ride with them on the road with the tandem, and share our
mountain bikes if they wanted to go offroad, and we could also
explore some offroad on our own on the mountain bikes. Our first
full day together, we drove out to Glenorchy with the tandem and
mountain bikes and planned to take in a gravel road ride. Shelley
started out on my mountainbike, but traded for the chance to stoke
with John after a while. We had a grand time exploring the area.
The whole time we were driving out to Glenorchy,
John and I were thinking what a great ride it would have been,
so the next day, Christmas Eve, we headed back out on the tandem.
Jim and Shelley had planned some other errands, so we planned
to meet back for dinner. Unfortunately their car died a serious
death, and they got to spend a bit more time over the next few
days car shopping!
Of course this was interrupted by the holiday. The
weather had turned chilly and predictions were for rain later,
so we planned a hike for Christmas morning. We got through most
of the walk before the rain came, but it was misting pretty heavily
when we got back to town. We were quite surprised to find many
shops open, as well as many restaurants. We ended up having a
late lunch in a great Chinese restaurant. By the time we came
out proper rain had set in. So we headed back to the condo to
prepare Christmas dinner and exchange gifts.
next morning was clear and cold, and that rain down in town was
snow up on the hilltops, and we were having a white Christmas
despite it the fact that it is summer! Since it was now Christmas
back home, we all made various phone calls to our families
a day behind. Then I wanted to head off to the local version of
K-Mart and try to get some Christmas lights and a tree on sale.
I had no luck with lights, but did get a nice little tree that
we can set up next year.
Then while Jim and Shelley did some car shopping,
John and I got out for a spin out to Arrowtown. They'd only paid
a few hundred for their car that died, but now were looking at
trying to find something a bit longer lasting. They were actually
pretty lucky and found a great little Subaru at a good price.
Then for our final day, we cleaned out the condo.
Jim and Shelley had a bit of paperwork to do with disposing of
the dead car and getting the new one, so John and I planned a
ride out toward Skippers Canyon. It was still relatively chilly,
but the sun was pretty intense, and made the climb brutal. We
didn't go quite as far as we would have liked, but will certainly
explore it more on our next trip.
It really was great to get away from all the unpacking
and hassle with the house, and truly relax with good friends for
a while. While we were visiting, Jim decided to take a job in
Christchurch. They had looked at a rental house and arranged to
take it to, so now we have friends to visit in Christchurch (and
they have friends to visit in Nelson.)