I'm going to write this blog post a little bit differently than I usually do. I will just upload the photos, write about the corresponding adventures, and attempt to do so in (mostly) chronological order.
After landing in Queenstown we took off in rental minivans (on the strange side of the road) toward Lake Tekapo, for training at Round Hill. Above is a photo of Ales, my technician, and myself setting up skis (and a GoPro) early in the morning. The sunrises from Round Hill were spectacular most mornings, and I took a pretty epic timelapse one morning, of which this photo belongs to :)
There is an observatory at the top of a large hill near Lake Tekapo, and Resi, Jim and I decided to hike/jog up to the top one day for carrot cake and chai. 'twas a delightful and yummy post-training adventure.
We did some stair jumps/sprints to the top. It was so beautiful and sunny from up there, and the view of all the surrounding mountains is seriously impressive.
Exploring with this girl is one of my favorites ;) Miss you Resi.
Lake Tekapo is a gorgeous giant. There is something so mesmerizing about its blue waters, especially at dusk. Resi and I went down to the water a few evenings to decompress and breathe the big air.
There's something inspiring about being around other creators. When I'm around people who are constantly drawing, taking photos, creating things, and pushing their limits I find myself embodying that same mindset. And I love it. Because that is where I find my sweetspot--in moments of being nearly overwhelmed by projects, deadlines, and forced creativity. I thrive so well in the presence of other driven artists and innovators. Thank-you for pushing me, for showing me how to be my best by striving to be yours.
And now for a few photographs, without the chatter
I have been doing a lot of group photo projects where I ask people to get together when the light is low and have them pose in different positions, holding them for a few seconds each, in order to get the ghost-like image above. Resi is such a good photographic experimental subject :D
After a week of training Round Hill (a week there is enough!), we drove back to Arrowtown for some speed training in Cardrona. The weather was poor when we arrived (rainy and gross), so we ended up taking 2 days off and recuperating before 4 days of Super-G and GS skiing. On the few days we had off, I was working hard on an art project (a ceramic-ski collaboration! more on that to come soon), but Martina thankfully dragged me outside for a walk one day.
Getting outside after the rain really cleared my head. The scent of wet dirt and growing things was essential to the progress on my project. And the colors! The firework-like bursts of reds and greens spotting the hill-sides is something I love about the wintertime in New Zealand. It feels more like spring, like things are coming to life, blooming, and showing their color.
Walking around near Arrowtown provided a totally different color scheme than the one we saw at Lake Tekapo (as you can see from the two series of photos).
Martina and I stopped at an art gallery on our way to the river trail. I really enjoyed the landscape oil paintings that one of the women was working on (far wall). She had an incredible eye for catching the lighting, which is one of my favorite aspects of New Zealand: the way the light hits the hillsides and mountain-tops, creating shadows and pockets of light that seem surreal to the naked eye.
The image below is actually a shot I took from the top of Ohau, but is a good example of what I mean by the magic lighting:
It was a bit of a gloomy day when we went out for a walk, but there were pockets of brightness and adventures to be had. The river trail that begins in Arrowtown is one of my favorite walks to take after a long day of skiing or staring at a computer screen...
(a good place for handstands)
There is a little historic village where Chinese miners settled in the mid-1800's. The sizes of their huts are incredible. Talk about tiny homes! It was really amazing to peek inside and see what life was like for them back then. Simplicity was key: the only elements inside the huts were fire pits, sleeping areas and a tiny space for cooking and sitting. Their uncomplicated way of life is at once humbling and inspiring.
Training in Cardrona got better every day, but by the time the snow was hard it was time to pack up and head to Ohau for the last stop of our training camp.
I have been to New Zealand many years, but this was my first year traveling to Ohau. Ohau is a tiny resort in between Queenstown and Lake Tekapo, a few kilometers off of the main highway. Ohau Lodge, where we stayed, is settled right above Lake Ohau and about a 20 minute drive up to the ski area. It's an adorable little hotel with delicious food and incredible views of the lake and mountains. The photos above are of Ohau Lodge and it's beautiful surroundings :)
The skiing at Ohau Ski Fields is really special. It is such a tiny resort, with a local community feel, friendly vibes, and a few great runs. The training in Ohau was really impressive: steep, challenging and icy. Our coaches watered the hill a few days before we arrived, and it turned out perfect! There was a little hike (10 minutes or so) from the top of the chair up to the ridge overlooking the Southern New Zealand alps. We went up there originally to take photos for a naked calendar we're working on for a fundraiser (yep. you read it right), but the views were so incredible that I ended up hiking it twice and taking many photos of the endless mountains (above).
There is not a vast amount of free skiing at Ohau, but the small amount of off-piste skiing is really fun.
Alice and I got to go heli-skiing one day....which was incredibly lucky and INSANELY fun!!! I posted a video on my Instagram page with some clips from heli-skiing (@lalalaurenne) please check it out!
Another example of the light/shadow/hillsides and crazy colors that comes of it all.
Ski camp flew by, as it usually does down in New Zealand, and time came for me to pick up my Jucy van and my man and take a road trip. I made the drive, yet again, back to Queenstown to pick up the van, stayed the night, and took off for Lake Tekapo to pick up Tommy the next afternoon. Above are some bee-boxes that I stumbled upon while taking a pee-break with Megan on our drive back to Tekapo.
As we got a fairly late start, we didn't make it too far on the first day and ended up camping near Methven. The van we rented was amazing--with the bed up top, there was plenty of room in the main part for our stuff. There was even a little pull-out table, a fridge, two gas-burner stove tops, and a whole kitchen setup. We ended up cooking almost every meal while on the road, and thoroughly enjoyed living out of such a small space (still larger than the Chinese huts...). It was nice to keep things simple, and have a home that was mobile for a few days.
Same shot, different angle/camera.
Lake Pukaki on my way to get Tommy. I had to stop. The lighting was remarkable.
We took off from Methven and headed toward Arthur's Pass. That afternoon we made it to Castle Hill, one of the places we both most wanted to visit, and explored for a few hours through the gigantic maze of rocks. The photo above was taken from Castle Hill, of a hill side opposite the Park, as the sun was going down.
The sky was such a brilliant blue that day. We were so incredibly lucky with the weather during our van camping trip...it didn't rain or snow one day. It was slightly cloudy one afternoon, but otherwise bluebird and gorgeous.
The climbing at Castle Hill looked fantastic. I was slightly sick at the time, and barely had enough energy to walk, but touching the rock with my bare hands made me yearn to move up. Someday I'll have to go back for a climbing trip. And I'll definitely attempt to scale this mushroom rock (above).
My colossal shadow, threatening Tommy's form.
As the sun began to move behind the snowy peaks, the moon showed itself. I became intrigued by my 300mm zoom lens during this trip to NZ, and used it to take many of the mountain peak shots you'll see in this post.
I love the way these rocks took such funny, cartoonish forms. They seem to be playing with each other, making jokes, dancing.
There were a few small ponds around the Castle Hill rocks, and they created fabulous reflections....
A neat rock-archway
Happy adventurers soaking up the sun.
Tommy watching the sun go down.
Sheep and a blue reflective stream, from atop Castle Hill
As the sun went down, the cold air began to permeate our clothing layers. So we jumped back in the van and hit the road, in search of a camping spot. We stopped in the town of Castle Hill, which was a tiny, quiet little village. Set in the midst of the mountains, it seemed like a peaceful place to rest, but we couldn't find anywhere to camp. So we continued up Arthur's Pass, and as it started to get quite dark we passed Lake Pearson and pulled off of the road to settle for the night by the water. I suppose we should have foreseen the freezing temperatures as we were near the lake and up high in the mountains, but we froze our buns off that night with no plug-in or heater.
Our home by Lake Pearson
A beautifully frigid campsite.
The above photo was taken by Tommy :)
After awakening quite early with the cold and first light of the sun, we stepped out of the van to a pleasant surprise.
There was a thick fog being lit up and colored by the rising sun. The frost was biting and weighty, but the birds didn't seem to mind.
Through the thick of the early morning fog we saw 2 black swans playing nearby....
I saw black swans on two different occasions on this trip through New Zealand, and it was my first time actually eying them. I didn't even know they were a real thing....?!
Cute little duck butt.
After nearly freezing my fingers off, we decided to take off in the van to find a spot in the sun to cook breakfast.
We ended up stopping in the town of Arthur's Pass for some coffee and gas, then continued down the West side of the pass toward the coast to find some warmth.
We found a perfect spot in the sun (above) and cooked some bacon and enjoyed the view. Then it was down through the green rainforest and off to the coast.
We moseyed on down the coast, with no solid plan of a camping spot that night. After passing through Franz Josef and stopping for a soak at the hot springs, we decided to head to Fox Glacier and check it out for the evening.
The next day was my birthday, and I was looking to explore. We had a slow, easy morning before deciding to cover both the beach and the glacier in one day. So we headed down to Gillespie's Beach, just 10 miles from Fox Glacier, for some playing in the sand.
A close-up of the foamy wash.
Tommy either put this sign together in a matter of seconds while I wasn't looking, or just magically found it on the beach near where we were walking. It worked out perfectly :)
After a long walk down the beach and back, we headed back to the van to cook some lunch and plan our glacier trip.
Flowers on the walk back from the beach
Reading while Tommy cooked lunch in the van.
We hit the road and headed back up toward Fox Glacier, which we could see the bottom of, jutting right out of the rain forest.
We parked at the lot near the trailhead and walked/jogged up to the base of the glacier.
The river running down from Fox Glacier
Looking down from the top of the glacier hike. Those were some nice green-laden rock walls!
Post-glacier and rainforest ogling, we hit the road and headed back over Haast Pass, by Hawea Lake and finally landed in Wanaka for dinner and drinks at the Federal Diner (awesome spot!). On our drive back over to the Eastern side of the mountains, we stopped to see the ocean one last time, and Tommy snapped the below photo while I was driving:
We stayed with some friends in Wanaka. It was nice to sleep in a big, comfy bed that I could sit up in, but I did miss the feeling of waking up in the van. Upon waking in the morning, we headed into town for some breakfast and exploring. Wanaka is an awesome town, set on a stunning lake and bustling with energy (the above photo is . There was a market in town when we were wandering, and we did some shopping, walking, and lots of eating before heading back to Ohau.
Tommy really wanted to skate Wanaka's skate park
Seagulls on the shore
Meandering all morning around town was nice, but it was time to get back in the gym. We stopped for a pizza and hit the natural food store before cruising out of town and back to Ohau for 2 nights. Tommy was heading back to ski camp, and we were ending our road trip basically where I started.
Luckily they had plug-ins at Ohau Lodge, so we spent two more nights in the van while Tommy skied and I worked out, wandered, and took photos. I packed my things and prepared to leave.
Old rust on an old faming machine in front of Ohau Lodge
"The Shining" hallway of Ohau Lodge
It was a short but successful road trip. We saw many mountains, hill-sides, plains, waters, glaciers, grasses, trees, and skies. There aren't many sunrises or sunsets that beat the ones you witness when in New Zealand. I am already looking forward to returning once more.
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind