5th Sept 2007:
Summer is returning to Oz after what feels like the shortest, warmest winter ever with just about five weeks of cold as opposed to my more regular five months in Ireland: it doesn't feel normal!
So, in an effort to experience some really cold weather before the hot Aussi summer, I'm now on my next trip to... ice cold New Zealand!
I'm flying to Queenstown with Air New Zealand. I've had a good opportunity to experience many different air carriers over the past year and a half, and this particular airplane with Air New Zealand has the dubious distinction of having the least amount of leg room, and its winning that title by a long margin. Using the highly scientific Time-International-Magazine-as-a-measuring-tool, the leg room equates to 3/4 of the length of the magazine. Still, being so close to the snoring person in front of me, the sound of which drowns out even the roar from the jet engines, is a nice distraction from the only available in flight movie: Mr Bean 2.
This is a two part flight, with the first leg being from Sydney to Auckland (North Island of New Zealand) followed by a connecting flight to Queenstown (South Island). The captain was refreshingly honest about the weather we could expect in Auckland, describing it as "miserable"! The rest of the flight crew were friendly but just as direct: today was the first time I had ever heard a flight crew member shouting at someone, though whoever unbuckled their seat belt and stood up seconds from landing into Auckland when the plane was nearly level with the buildings outside was clearly looking for some stern words...
Flying into Auckland provided my first glimpse of the country and my first thoughts were green, hilly, lots of farms, wet: looks a LOT like Ireland!
As I'm writing this, though, I am on my way to Queenstown and we are flying over forests with snow-capped mountains. In fact, I've never seen such an impressive landscape. There are French kids behind me and every couple of seconds there are shouts of "REGARDEZ!!!" as we look down on snow capped mountains which tower over valley's below.
Its nice to see the snow as my main focus on this trip will be skiing. Having never done it before, I don't know what gear to hire or where the best places to ski are. Apparently I have to get something called a "ski pass" and will probably need to get one or two ski lessons before I hit the "black slopes", which are apparently the most challenging. Thankfully, though, the hostel I'm staying in has promised to sort everything out for me which is convenient.
Well, the plane lands shortly: let the next adventure begin!