Monday, 30 September 2013

Changing the world; one cup at a time....

It's nothing new that as human beings, we are directly shaping the earth's landscape.  Our civilizations are built on it. In my home country, from the Salisbury plains to the mega city of London, mankind has constructed on, manipulated and taken from the land to benefit our lives and expand.

And expand we have.  At 7 billion strong the human race are a success story, living in a range of climates and terrains.  Where city populations were once kept in check by ruthless viruses and diseases, medical advances have enabled people to live long, happy lives.  But as our lives take us away from nature and rural lives, we think very little about where the clothes in our wardrobe, the water from our tap and the food on our plate comes from.  We think very little (if nothing at all) about the rubbish we put in the trash and where it goes. As the supermarket aisles are full of tuna, we don't question that over fishing is a problem.  In our modern lives, we don't necessarily think about the consequences of our actions.  We blame governments, multi-national companies and even entire countries.  Its easy to look at China and give them a 'tut,' but is anyone (at least those from a western society) free to judge?  

When I think of my own carbon foot print, I feel guilt.  During my travels, I have seen some of the world's most beautiful places; the great barrier reef and the coral gardens were amazing ecosystems that showed the frailty of nature in the hands of man.  I was so blessed to see wild dingoes mingle, koala's hangout, whales breech and sharks swim.  It hurts to know my lifestyle choices could mean that the ecosystems that support them could one day collapse.  

Like a lot of people out there, I want to start making baby steps to creating a more sustainable lifestyle.  However, when you are in the middle of 'travel' (although I have been based in Queenstown for seven months now!)  its difficult to find ways of not feeling like your killing the rain forest. My life is riddled with mass consumption and wastage.  I love to drink coffee/tea  thousands of miles from where it was grown.  Everything from the supermarket is packaged and the normal produce is so expensive, I don't dare look at the organic section.  It's obvious to say I love the internet too, I dread to think have much energy my internet searches burns.

I thought about shunning society and joining a commune. But my hair is not long enough and I'm scared the other hippies would laugh at me.  

I decided on a keep cup.  What a lot of people don't know is that the 'paper' cups you get in your local Barista are in fact coated with plastic and are quite difficult to recycle.  And the world gets through a lot.  If you have at least a few cappuccinos a week, think how many cups you've used  this year.  And that's just you, what about the billions of other caffeine addicts.  I've been trying to be strict with myself, only getting a take away if my keep cup is at hand.

So yeah, it feels a little naive to say 'I'm doing my bit.' because I'm not, but it's a start to better habits.

If there is anyone out there with any helpful tips on being a little more conscious of the environment while you travel, I'd really like to here.

Monday, 23 September 2013

The End of my Ski Season

Yesterday I worked my last shift up at Coronet Ski Field. Unfortunately, as I want to work the whole summer season on the Milford track, I must finish at the ski field a little early. Two weeks prior to the scheduled close. This is to do with my working holiday visa requirements, which I might bore you with one day.  And so, its farewell to a routine and lifestyle I've got used to.

For me, working a ski season has been a positive and eye opening experience.

Growing up in southern England, where you only get snow about twice a year,  local ski fields weren't setting up shop but hey, maybe in the next ice age.  Ski trips to Europe weren't exactly economically viable. I'm not dissing this, it was my parent's decision to have more than two children and as the youngest of four, my existence depended on this.  Bad luck older siblings, you could have been spending the spring holidays making tracks in the Alps, instead you got rainy days playing cards in Bued. Ha! Don't feel too sorry for them readers,  they once ganged up and mugged me but more on my repressed memories later. The point I’m trying to make is that growing up, I was never exposed to this sub culture and never thought it was something I'd come across.  But on hearing the stories and adventures of friends, working a ski season has been on my list of goals.

I came to Queenstown for this purpose and if my application for a ski field was unsuccessful, I'd just work in town and buy a lift pass.  From when I put in my job application in to when I got a call for an interview was a space of three months. I was so nervous about the interview, I knew how much I wanted this job.

Being part of the ski season, not only was it a great incentive to learn to snowboard (more on this later), it allowed me to work in a fantastic environment.  I will never go as far as saying I was happy to wake up in the morning and go to work.  I'm not a morning person and I'm never happy when the alarm goes off.  But as soon as I got on the bus to the mountain everything was good.  I enjoyed  the view as the sun transformed the landscape.  I enjoyed being surrounded by enthusiastic, cheerful people and a department I really loved.

Throughout my work and travel, I've experienced a lot of  employers, all with their own ideas on how to treat their workers and what they expect from them.  Coronet Peak has been one of the best.

Sometimes I don't think you know how you feel about a place until you leave.  On my last day, I wasn't itching to go but felt sad and reluctant to say any goodbyes.

What's the saying again? 'when one door closes another opens.'  By definition season work must end, but change is not always bad.

Thank you Coronet Peak and its staff for giving me a pretty amazing experience.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

A job in the wilderness

With the seasons changing and our time in Queenstown coming to a close, I'm looking forward to our next adventure.  A couple of days ago, me and the man were offered jobs working in one of New Zealand's most remote and beautiful locations.  

For the summer season it looks like we'll be working as lodge attendants on the Milford Track. Only accessible via land on a 53.5 km walking track, it will mean weeks of living in the wilderness.  Back to a life of , generator power, rationed chocolate, thinking time and no internet or tv. This will have its challenges but also be an experience of a life time. It may also lead to me becoming a certified nerd and getting into bird watching. I am genuinely excited about this. That's the kind of person I've grown up to be. I've also been wanting some time away from it all, where I can work, save some money, focus on some hobbies and start thinking about my next move.  And dare I say it, I actually want to get some writing done.  Some dreadful 'creative writing;' that thing I've been blocking out since finishing uni. Perhaps I'll inflict it on the world again.

Working in the Australian outback and sailing on the Soren Larsen, I have an idea of how such isolating spots can affect you, but still I want to do it all again. 

 It will mean we'll only have a few weeks between leaving our apartment in Queenstown and then starting our training, so a  mega road trip will have to wait a while. However, two weeks will be enough to fit a few things in and have a proper 'holiday.' I feel all we've done since getting to New Zealand is work (except for out recent trip to Dunedin) and so a break would do us good.

Still, with a few weeks left on the ski fields and a couple more weeks after that in Queenstown.  I'll keep you posted on developments. x

* Picture via Pinterest here.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A trip to Dunedin

After 6 months in New Zealand, we finally spent a night out of Queenstown. After getting word that some friends would be in Dunedin, we booked two days off work, got a room in the city and bought bus tickets.
The adventure started with a morning panic to get ready but as soon as we sat down on the coach, everything was smooth sailing. In our four and a half hour journey, I was blown away by the countryside. From the orchards and the little farm houses, to the never ending fields of sheep, every thing  was so god damn cute. I've never seen grass so lush and vivacious in colour.
When we got to our destination, we were given the best time.  I put this down to three factors.

1. Friends.  Meeting up with great people wherever you are is always good. Unless its some where war torn, or sStoke-on-Trent. Catching up and then receiving some excellent kiwi hospitality was the icing on the cake. I especially appreciated the bacon and eggs cooked for us.

2. Our hotel. After searching  for a bargain deal, I was expecting Southern Cross to be a let down. It ended up exceeding them. For someone used to 5 star hotels this place wouldn't get them excited, but to me it was pure luxury. A proper bath, free hot beverages, flat screen TV and a bed so comfy I didn't want to leave.  And did I mention the bath robes. They had proper ones so you know this place was classy. 

3. The weather. I'm pretty sure Dunedin is not always so sunny. But for our two days in town the sun kept on shining. It made drinks in the sunshine all the more appealing.

We didn't spend our time rushing around Dunedin trying to see as much as possible. There was no hurry. We looked up at the fantastic architecture, visited the Chinese gardens and the settlers museum, which being a history geek I love that shit.  We were having such a great time, I hardly got my camera out.

When we took our bus back to Queenstown, I tried taking some blurry bus pictures of the countryside, but it just can't show how beautiful it is. Come visit and you'll see.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Spring is here. Oh no wait....

I looked out my window and thought 'This must be spring.'  The blossom trees were out, the birds were a singing and the sun was out in force.
To celebrate, I walked the Frankton trail. An easy walking trail next to the lake, this is the perfect lazy paced walk (no hills!).   With the help of my trusty headphones I got lost in imagining this place in summer and how awesome it would be. There is so much room next to the lake, everyone can have a space.

Daffodils? I mean come on - this is definitely spring right?   Apparently not. The next day it snowed. Although it didn't lay in town, the snowline came down pretty low.  My day dreams of swimming in the sun came to an abrupt halt, but I did head where Snow is not a problem.

So now you'll find me in limbo, wanting a warmer season and yet still begging for the white stuff.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Bluebird days

When a night's snowfall is followed by a sunny, bright day, the phrase 'bluebird day' is used.  It is the perfect conditions for skiing/riding. You get to enjoy the fresh powder without a lack of visibility or frostbite. For the last few days Coronet Peak Ski Field has been enjoying some great weather conditions.

  The day after the snowfall, my morning commute up the mountain was one of the most beautiful I've had so far.  With the sun coming up over the mountains, I couldn't help but feel this was going to be a good day.

    On my lunch break I even got to have a quick ride, taking in the view from the very top.

But  it wasn't until the following day I was free from work and able to make the most of a sunny riding day.

It has been a good week to be in Queenstown.

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