Peace and quiet …for a wee while!

Well I find myself alone at home in the peace and quiet – a rare moment!  It is the end of an endless week but the time seems to be flying by and there are now only 4 weeks until the next holiday!  Practice exams are over, seniors are back full of good intentions after getting their exam results, the juniors are restless and ready for the reality of longer, warmers days that we have had  but a glimpse of in the last week or so and we are all looking forward to the opportunity to get outside and shed some layers.  But the climate is fickle and capricious; do we dare to shed the layers and feel hopeful, or will tomorrow bring a change of wind and a drop in temperature?  Who knows, but I, at least, take every scrap of sun and warmth and milk it for all I can!

So why am I alone in unaccustomed peace, you might ask?  The answer is that Nigel left for Australia at 6am and the boys are at squash coaching.  The peace will be short-lived as I will go and pick them up in half an hour, but we are without Nigel for a whole two weeks.  He is attending a string of conferences in various places in Oz over the next 15 days and conveniently has 4 days with nothing to do in the middle!  Good planning!  He had trouble packing as he couldn’t work out how hot it was going to be, poor thing!

Meanwhile, the boys and I will cope I am sure, and we are starting off this weekend with Aonghas’ hockey match and then a caving trip in Shangri-La in Waitomo – I’ll try and remember the camera this time!  Looking forward to it, will let you know how we get on.  Right then, better go and pick them up ….. Oh forgot to say I have two new children ,,,, a little soldier and a little girl!

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A Trip to the Snow

Ngarahoehoe
Ngarahoehoe

We have finally made it to the Snow! ( Should have posted this before Midwinter madness… but forgot it was here! )

After much discussion, trawling the internet for accommodation and perusing the weather forecast we finally booked three days at Whakapapa.

Snowplough King!
Snowplough King!

Two excited boys and probably equally excited parents set off, car packed with winter woollies for the three hour drive to Mount Ruapehu.

..and all because the lady loves...
..and all because the lady loves...

We arrived in National Park Village too late to get skis and stuff so headed to the chalet and settled down for tea.  The mountain had been closed all day due to high winds but next day dawned clear and bright with stunning views of Ruapehu and Ngaruhoehoe.  Off to the ski shop where the boys and I were quickly sorted but half an hour later and on his 7 zillionth pair of boots later we were still waiting for Nige to fit his knobbly feet into rigid, unforgiving plastic!  Up to the slopes then and we were a trifle nervous about whether we would need chains or even if the van would get up the hill!

Ruapehu
Ruapehu

However, no problem, though only four-wheel drives and chained vehicles were allowed right to the end of the road; the rest of us had to park lower down and then use the free shuttle buses to get to the resort.  Lachlan was itching to get on the slope and was keen, as only a 14 year old boy with little imagination can be, to just get to the top of the mountain and ski down! We had decided to book the boys into lessons so Aonghas went down to Happy Valley and Lachlan went up to the Rock Garden, and we had a couple of hours to ourselves to explore!  We spent the afternoon skiing the mountain taking turns with each of the boys and by the time we dragged them away from the slopes they were both skiing confidently.P7170009

Next day we put Aonghas into another lesson which gave him a real boost and then we hit him with the Rock Garden!  It’s amazing how resilient kids are; despite lots of wipeouts and a good amount of tears, frustration and temper Aonghas still wanted to go back up and ski down again!  Lachlan bulldozed his way inelegantly down the upper mountain in a neanderthal snowplough but loved every minute; he survived a mega wipeout on his first ride on a T-bar and was soon riding them like an expert!  Two happy but exhausted boys were out like lights the moment their heads hit the pillows!

ups-a-daisy!
ups-a-daisy!

We paid the price of not remembering how dehydrated you can get on the ski slopes – Aonghas suffered that evening and was quite sick but a good night’s sleep and plenty of water and he bounced out of bed the next day as children do!

Ready to go!
Ready to go!

We were vindicated in our decision to take our hire stuff back the previous evening when we awoke to a mountain disguised as a fuzzy grey cloud!  Made our way home with a sense of achievement and a determination to come back for more!

Aonghas in Happy Valley
Aonghas in Happy Valley

More mid-winter madness and the Glorious 12th!

I note from comments on Facebook that the Glorious 12th is upon us!

Life goes on and I read with envy the summer holiday exploits of friends in the UK as we don our winter clothes and wrap up against the cold. Can’t complain though, as the extreme low temperatures seem to be behind us and spring is in the air. It is true that we have had some very cold weather but it has also been clear and bright.  Of course we have seen rain and fog, and had some cold, damp days but the overall impression is of a bright, cold winter.  Over the last few weekends Nigel has been working hard in the garden digging, pruning, shredding and building, and we now have two raised beds for vegetables.  I have pottered about tidying up the straggly plants, weeding and pruning.  Everything seems to grow so fast here, especially the weeds which almost appear to come through as fast as you pull them out!   We will have to really work out a good composting and mulching system as we produce so much garden waste.  We have already drastically pruned some of the smaller trees, had a reasonable go at the lower branches of some of the bigger ones but probably need some advice on how to attack others.  We have plenty of ideas and plans for the garden and are quite excited about what we can do.  It has been interesting working out what sort of new plants we can grow outdoors here;  Tamarillos, oranges, lemons, peppers, chillis, feijoas, passion fruit.  Mmmm… can’t wait!

I had a setback in my learning how to say “No” campaign, (remember, part of the moving to New Zealand strategy of not getting too involved and over stretched).  A couple of weeks ago I found myself responsible for the Year 12 PE ski trip – my colleague who should have taken the group had to pull out at the last moment so I was asked if I would step in – sorry Sue, I said “yes”.  How could I not? Can’t resist the opportunity to go skiing and Zara needed help….. After complicated arrangements with Vicky, our Principal about where she would leave the minibus key for me to collect at 6am so that I wouldn’t disturb her and her husband (they were using the minibus the evening before), I arrived at school at 5.45 to find the school gates locked!  Zara had left me an incredibly detailed set of instructions for the 3 day trip but had omitted to mention that I would need a code to open the school gates!  I looked to see if the pedestrian gates were open but they too were locked.  I had a feeling that if I could get in the sensors would be activated once I drove the bus towards the gate and it would open.   After some agonising I decided I would have to phone Zara and see if she knew what the code was – she didn’t!  So, encouraged by the fact that the girls were starting to arrive I decided to jump the gate and hope that my intuition about the sensors was right.  Luckily it was and we managed to get the van out and loaded up, and then we were off.

The good weather on the down made it a quick trip and we arrived at Whakapapa in good time to have a full afternoon on the mountain.  Just as well as it was the best weather of the three days!  Nevertheless, it was bitterly cold riding the chairlifts as the wind blew the snow into our faces and soaked us to the bone.  Despite a heavy snowfall during the night the mountain was closed the next day, apart from the Nursery slopes, due to high winds – reminds me of Scotland!  The girls showed great ingenuity in skiing all day, still having fun and making it a challenge on one busy ski slope with one lift and a very long queue!  At 9pm the sky was crystal clear, the stars were out and competing with the lights of the piste-bashers which were moving around the mountain like huge extra-terrestrial robots.  At 5am there was no change – we started to think that the weather forecast was wrong and we would have a good morning’s skiing.  At 7am a cloud descended and shrouded the mountain – no wind so the lifts opened and off we went!  The snow was great under the skis but we couldn’t see it – a bit unnerving when you are the only ones on the mountain and can’t see the edges of it!  Luckily we had dug the minibus out of the snowdrift the day before and pointed it downhill so we had no problems getting away and back up to Hamilton.

The following weekend, Lachlan went to the same place for his Sports Development Snow trip …. he had two days of glorious blue skies and the benefit of the huge snowfall when we were away.  He was one of only three skiers in the group as all the rest were beginner snowboarders, so the three of them skied for two days with the instructor – a great experience!  He came home full of excitement as he had been asked to be a reserve in the school ski team!  He is off to the North Island School Ski Champs in a couple of weeks, and though it is unlikely that he will compete,  he will get to ski for five days with some top skiers and get extra coaching.

Don’t know if we will get away skiing again as a family – we’ll see what the weather is like in the Spring holidays.