When we left for New Zealand in October, Winter didn’t even enter my mind: my backpack was full of shorts, bikinis, and a couple of jumpers for the notorious Wellington wind. Who knew where we would be by April – perhaps Australia? But this was before: we had no idea how fast time would fly or how much we would love this country. As the summer came to an end, I knew I wasn’t ready to leave, so I started to think about how to make the most of a New Zealand winter. We’d been told it got pretty cold, rained a fair amount, and New Zealand houses were generally freezing due to their lack of central heating; with so much of this country’s highlights being weather dependent, travelling for another two months felt risky, and sleeping in the car would definitely not be a pleasant experience… And then it hit me: snow!
A conversation with Natasha and Koen – a Dutch couple we worked with at the Punakaiki café – set this plan in motion. They were talking about their plans to snowboard in the South Island; “You’ve never done any snow sports?”, they asked me. Suddenly, a plan for the winter months became so obvious and exciting: learn to snowboard. Why snowboard, not ski? It was an instinct, and when a friend gave me his old board, it seemed like fate. Having gone up the mountain four times in the last six days, more than ever it feels like the best decision – I’ve found something new which I absolutely love; that I’ve made happen on my own, making the most of the complete freedom we have in this country.
Mt Hutt and Methven always seemed like a great option, and went to the top of my list when Hayley decided to stay on the West. Queenstown might be lots of travellers first choice, with its buzzing nightlife and incredible location, but this makes it extremely expensive and difficult to find accommodation: it always seemed like a place better to visit rather than live. Methven has all the perks of a small town, but as the base for Mt Hutt comes to life in the Winter, more than tripling in population size – houses filled with temporary staff and hotels with visitors enjoying the mountain. There is still the expectation that everyone knows everyone, and residents take pride in the relationship between the town and mountain, which only exist because the other functions: it’s a town which ebbs and flows, but keeps at its heart a community who love where they live. Once again, it seems that I’ve seamlessly slotted into a new life, never once feeling like I’m suddenly on my own on the other side of the world… and this post becomes yet another tribute to this wonderful country and its people.