Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Life, New Plymouth

The beautiful snow capped Mt Taranaki as Amy flies out.
A move to a new life in Taranaki living with Kent and Eryn Deverson promised a nice summer spin on what had been a good stint of winters. A random phone call from Kent one day during our regular Frisbee golf led us on the journey to New Plymouth. Kent is very convincing and the idea of summer by the beach with surfing, gardening, swimming in the pool, brewing some beer, making cheese and all that sort of stuff sounded good. 
Felix helping in the garden

Things fell into place for us reasonably quickly. I got a job for a landscape gardener at, Plantation House Design. Amy loved the time she spent reading by the pool, walking or running along the costal walkway, and working on artwork. I quickly bought a surfboard and a skateboard but some wild weather of rain and wind kept us house bound for the best part of the first few months. When able to get out, we enjoyed our time outside, the beautiful coastal walkway was always a nice way to get some fresh air both cycling and walking.  

Running faster than the traffic
On Eryn's request we participated in the Classic Hits relay team for the Round The Mountain Race. We had a mixed team of runners and walkers. Amy and my legs were right on midday one after the other and it being the first nice day in months we got scorched. Amy did a 8km walking leg and I went hard for my first run in 16 months and smashed 11.9 km in 58mins 25secs! Made for a sore week at work recovering from that. 

Peter and Thomas hanging out at the park

Henric & Mary

Thomas, Amy and Henric with a view of Lake Wakitipu

While in Queenstown, Amy and I ended up becoming good friends with another couple, Henric and Mary. Henric is from Sweden and Mary is from Nelson. They met while working at a ski resort in Switzerland and have been bouncing around to different countries, living, working and just generally trying to be together. We got on quite well with them as we obviously share similar experiences and interests. Henric worked at Rata with John, and our relationship began by bumming rides up to the ski field with him. Eventually we were skiing with Henric almost every day that we would go up. To repay him for driving us up the mountain, we would often invite him and Mary over for homebrew or just head off to happy hour with them.
Thomas and Henric playing around in Wanaka
The four of us opted to head over to Wanaka one day. We had lunch and a beer at Kai Whaka Pai, went on the Wanaka Beer Works Brewery tour, including delicious tastings and had a very casual and windy game of Frisbee golf. Everyone, even another group of players, was stoked as I achieved the accomplishment of getting a hole in one!!! It tried to rain on us but it didn't really, instead we finished our game while the sun set through the clouds and a storm came rolling in. It was an amazing sight to see, and made for some strong winds and wonky Frisbee throws!
Thomas, Amy, Mary and Henric with Lake Wanaka
Just before we left Queenstown, the four of us made a trip to Dunedin for a craft beer and food festival at the Forsyth bar stadium. We were all very much looking forward to this. While heading that way we decided to swing by the Catlins and make a mean road trip out of the day.
We had the wild early start of something like 5.30am and had the most beautiful drive south along the lake past Kingston and right through Southland, passing places like Gore. It was just such a wonderful time to be driving with a long sunrise and beautiful scenary. Not that the others saw much more than their eyelids, while I saw it all from behind the wheel. We went to Kaka Point, Nugget Point and walked through Tunnel Hill. Straight over to Dunedin though, cos the fancy beer awaited.
Nugget Point
We all bought around the 50 dollar mark for tokens, which is how you purchased food and beer. I meticulously planned every drink I had and loved most and a few new breweries stood out to me. Those being the Velvet Worm from Dunedin and Golden Eagle from Christchurch. Henric and myself got very jolly off our beer sampling and Henric happly blew the bank on lots of food too, being a chef and all. Amy was a good girl and was our sober driver all the way home back to Queenstown. She did say we were very annoying passengers on the ride though, and getting lost in Dunedin and driving through the dark and snow across Central Otago made for a awesome day.
Enjoying some delicious beer and good company

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Remarks - Park Rats and Powder Hounds

Thomas going 720 over the 40 foot jump at The Remarks
With all the time in the world, well at least all the time in the season, we were set to ride hard and make the most of a good snow year at the Southern Lakes. We pretty much just rode as much as we could handle, until we either were too sore, too tired to wake up or occasionally too hung over. I (Thomas) spent a good 30 days on the various mountains and Amy over 20 days out. Lots of those days, up with John and Kel, various friends- like Henric and Mary, or Andrew, who came down from Christchurch. Quite often I would just end up taking a run or riding a whole day with new friends I had made on the chair lift.

Andrew, Thomas and Amy on a great spring powder day.
When it had been snowing, we were the fiercest powder hounds on the mountain. We would be racing to get on the first chair lift of the day. We would be methodically knocking off runs to ensure we rode the most powder possible and got the most fresh turns. Quickly I worked out that the best way to shred fresh powder turns was to hike up to the top of the various ridge-lines surrounding the ski area basin. There were plenty of open faces, bowls, chutes and cliffs all laying practically untouched, due to the steep nature and substantial effort required to hike to these runs. This is where we had the best turns, deepest powder, biggest drops, scariest moments and enjoyed the best scenery. You can see from the photo above, the area to the left dropping off behind the large ridge-line - my playground.

Amy at the top of Outward bound, good girl for skiing outside the ski area boundary with us!
John was a good sport following me up most the terrain. But I was so proud of Amy and her progression. She started coming everywhere with us. Learning lessons along the way, mainly that she should not follow my tracks directly. As I tend to aim for the gnarly terrain, she would often end up getting stuck about rocks or cliffs. But she skied the big runs with us, making dope turns and not too many complaints along the way.

Ski down, hike up.
Unfortunately it didn't snow every night and after a few days the powder would pack and freeze firm. So on these days we would head over the the terrain park. A lot of good fun in there, but at least a bit scarier for me because it hurts to fall on packed snow and rails etc. This didn't slow us down too much though. I quickly progressed to the big park, with 30 to 40+ feet jumps, down rails and boxes and even a gap jump over a container. Progressing from 360s to 540s and even the occasional attempt at a 720! I never made the landing on that one, nor did it look steezy doing it, but I tried my best. This was probably the most terrifying thing about snowboarding for Amy though, more so than any of the back country riding she did. I did put her through a few unerving moments.  A few times over the big 45 footer my feet would get away from me and from the top of the park where Amy would be watching she would just see me diapering beyond the horizon with my feet above my head. Somehow though, due to the steep grade of the landing and some panicked flailing mid-air, I would recover to just land very heavily on my hip instead of my head. Amy herself started hitting the jumps in the beginner park and even some rail boxes too. It wasn't a bad way to spend a sunny day with amazing scenery all round and a good dose of adrenalin.

One mild spring day, John called me out. I was talking up a storm about how I wanted to snowboard  naked.

Going el'natural down our favourite Homeward Run.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Mullet

Not much really needs to be said here. The most amazing hair style worn on the head of a Deverson!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Queenstown - The happy place

Not a bad view of the Ernslaw and the Remarkables
As long as I've known Thomas, I've known that its been his dream to live in Queenstown with his brother John. So off we went. Thomas and I went into life in the south knowing that we wouldn't even bother with jobs, but instead happily being true ski bums. Life in this little town tucked in between the Remarkable mountains and the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu was simpily amazing. With a balance of outstanding scenary and skiing adventures to a vibrant nightlife, of which we knew of every local or happy hour special, made for fun filled days followed by sociable evenings. For the lives of full time snowboarders, full time frisbee golfers and full time happy hour goers, Queenstown was the place to be. We lived in the flamboyant 'Rainbow Cabin,' and although it was tight with the four of us, we had an unobstructed view right across the lake to the the Remarkables and it looked right round to Coronet Peak too. It was a million dollar view and your soul couldn't help but shine taking it all in.

The self proclaimed Rainbow Cabin

As he always does, Thomas got himself brewing. He and John ended up making quite a few brews, and even sourcing the water right from Lake Wakatipu itself. Brewing right on our deck, with the mountains all around him, was definitely a nice place to be making some beer, and drinking it too. We became quite good friends with one of John's work mates, Henric (from Sweden). Soon beer became our currency, as we did an exchange where Henric would often drive us up to the ski field and we'd repay him with homebrew and some food after riding. Henric loved Thomas' homebrew and definitely didn't mind being paid in beer instead of money! Good thing too because we had way more beer than money at this point in time.

It became nearly ritual for Thomas and I to play frisbee golf once we got back from snowboarding. The course through the botanic gardens was right on the lake and since it was free and entertaining, we were all over it. It was so much fun, and the boys in particular were serious about keeping score and recording their averages and fought to become the best frisbee golfer in the family! We should have been getting better, but it seemed like the further into the season we got, the worse some of our scores became. The weather wasn't helping though, as it was very difficult to throw a frisbee with gail force winds blowing. Often frisbees landed in the lake, rolled down hills and Thomas did have to wade out into the lake a few times to retrieve frustratingly wobbly throws. Our favorite spot was after the ninth hole perfect for a mid round rest, you could just step out of the trees and it was like you were standing in the most remote corner of the country. Looking up Lake Wakatipu in two directions, flanked by jagged untouced snow and tussock covered mountains, with wind clouds and sunsets, how could anywhere be more beautiful. It was a romantic spot too, appropriately chosen by Thomas for a surprise gift, a beautiful New Zealand necklace.

Thomas showing off his frisbee skills 
Feeeling the heartbeat of the lake
Taking after Uncle Thomas
At the end of August, we had a Deverson family reunion of sorts in Queenstown for Thomas' sister Charlotte's 30th birthday. A whole flock of Deversons arrived from all over and never had all of us ever been together. Such calamities and good times it was. Thomas and I were stoked to babysit Elliott one night, and we loved every minute that we got to spend with him. He is the most intelligent two year old and we loved talking to him and playing with him. All together, we spent time in Queensown itself and even visitied historic Arrowtown. The highlight had to have been watching Thomas' mum bungy jump. What a lady, she didn't even hesitate! 

Living in Australia for the first two years of his life, Elliott had never seen snow, so the whole family headed up Coronet Peak and let Elliott play in the snow! We made snowballs, a little snowman, and he even got him strapped into a snowboard. No doubt he will follow in his crazy Uncle Thomas' footsteps in the future, hitting 20 meter jumps and cliff drops like a pro!

Thomas and Elliott from Coronet Peak with the Remarkables Ski Field in the background

Just walking through town you might not know what you were going to stumble across. Often a cash strapped backpacker would be busking or occasionally a dude with a piano on wheels would be sitting right at the lake playing music almost as beautiful as the scenery surrounding us. One day we stopped and watched as they filmed the TV show 'Jono and Ben at Ten' right on the shore of the lake. Some days there would be slacklines strung up between trees, with friendly travelers and locals walking or attempting to walk the tightrope, or even doing tricks! 

Thomas trying to walk the slackline 

Thomas at Sunshine Bay

John and Thomas paddled across the lake to Kelvin Heights one sunny day in the canoe that came with our cabin, and played golf on other days. And after fine weather Thomas also snuck in some downhill mountain biking from the top of the gondola. We walked the tracks along the lakeshore to Frankton and out to Sunshine Bay, but to be honest we didn't need anymore exercise. It was the middle of winter, and we lived Queenstown up to the max, but hang on, we haven't even talked about snowboarding yet!

Devo Bros enjoying life

Monday, October 28, 2013

Winter Games

Skiers warm-up run on the halfpipe
Due to Amy and my lack of working or as society would put it, "doing anything useful with our lives," we decided to help out and volunteer at the Queenstown Winter Games. This was a world class event for international skiers and snowboarders being part of the qualifications for the upcoming Winter Olympics. A bonus of volunteering was to get the best seat in the house, a free lunch and some extra day passes to Cadrona Ski Field. Amy did one day at Cadrona and one at Coronet with me and I did a few additional days on some very snowy days at Cadrona. Our duties varied but Amy mostly enjoyed her role as Start Marshall for the Ski half pipe qualifiers, while I was a slipper. Basically, Amy called for the athletes up next to get ready and line up and I slid down the pipe smoothing out the tracks every so often. At Coronet, in appalling snow conditions we were gate judges on the Slalom ski racing. We had to ensure the skiers passed correctly through the gates. With no second chances, we felt very uneasy that our call could end their chances to the Olympics. Luckily, neither of us had to record a missed gate.

Amy and I in our fluro volunteer vests.
Having the games in town was a very cool experience. The opening ceremony was legit with athletes coming into the ceremony on jet boats and all the usual hoo-haa associated with a big event like this. There was a 'Village' set up in the centre of town where each evening they awarded medals, had bands playing and had snowboarding films playing. This was also where we could get a free drink for each day of volunteering we had done. 

We used one of our free days sking to go to Cadrona and see the Snowboard half pipe qualifiers and have a good ski around the field. We were very inpressed with the snowboarding and I even headed out into the back country for some powder and a few hits on the big booter formed by a windlip.

Getting gnarly with a 360 tailgrab off the booter

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dana Down Under

Dana and Amy at Hobbiton Movie Set

While we were spending time in Connecticut in May, we were telling our friends about our plans to head back to New Zealand. My friend Dana got the brilliant idea that perhaps she would come with me (Amy)! Being a high school English teacher, and having summers off, she really wanted to relax and treat herself with a well deserved holiday. So when I got back to the states, we set about planning our trip down under.  Taking advantage of Thomas' generous and hospitable relatives all over the country, we did a fantastic job seeing and experiencing heaps in just under 3 weeks.

We departed New York in the early afternoon and enjoyed 19 hours of flying. With a bit of a long delay through customs in Auckland and a hilarious conversation explaining "Fashion rainboots" vs gumboots to the customs guy, we shuttled our way into Auckland city to catch our immediate bus to Matamata.

As a Lord of the Rings fanatic, Dana insisted she needed to go to Hobbiton and tour the set there. I was indifferent, but tagged along and had a fantastic time. The set was so impressive, and with a gorgeous, sunny day we couldn't believe it was winter. A surprise pint of our choice at the Green Dragon Tavern at the end made the whole experience unforgetable. The bus continued us on to Rotorua where we were to be met by Alan Deverson. Having never met him before, I chose a "Deverson" looking man in the crowd of waiting people and hoped it was him! Luckily, it was!

Dana and Alan
 We were absolutely blown away with Alan's hospitality. He drove us around Rotorua on our way to his house, and the tour didn't stop till he dropped us back at the bus the following evening. Having been up since 3am NZ time, we were nearly about to crash, but were pleasantly forced to sit through an amazing four course meal, complete with Alan's own caught and smoked trout and homemade limoncello. The following day was completely scheduled for us, with a drive down to Lake Taupo passing Wai-o-Tapu mud pools, Aratiatia Dam, and Huka Falls. Alan dropped us off at Te Puia Maori Village on the way  back into town where we saw their kiwi birds, mud pools, gyesers and a traditional Maori performance. The afternoon included another tour to lakes, the Redwood forest, and Buried Village, until dinner and then off to the bus stop for a 12.35am overnight bus to Wellington!

We had a gorgeous Interislander Ferry ride through the Queen Charlotte Sound, and once we arrived in Picton we picked up our rental car, and Dana easily convinced me to head to the waterfront. Once there, I was shocked by seeing Thomas sitting on a bench, and after not seeing each other for five weeks, it was a bit of an emotional reunion. The two of them had planned this surprise, and thankfully Thomas could drive the rental car all the way to Golden Bay! (With a stop in Nelson for a craft beer pint of course!)

It took us more time than we thought it would, but we drove through the dark up and over the terribly windy Takaka Pass, and made it to our accomodation in Collingwood and went to an awesomely local and totally Kiwi pub for dinner and a pint, watching the replay of the Crusaders Rugby, and trying to teach Dana the rules. A fantastic idea to wake up super early the next day, we ran to the beach in time to enjoy the most magnificent sunrise we've ever seen.


Whakariki Beach
We drove 20 minutes further north to Whakariki Beach, and the scenery didn't disappoint. Not a sign of human life what-so-ever, we got to enjoy the entire beach to ourselves, and we did as we ran in the surf, played in the caves and took heaps of pictures. We spent the rest of the day driving back to Picton, stopping for delicious pizza in Takaka, saw the 3rd clearest water in the world at Pupu Springs and stopped again for a pint in Nelson, and let Dana drive on the other side of the road for the first time!

The next day we bused down to Kaikoura and spent 3 hours exploring. We met a man from Estonia and invited him to join us on a walk to the seal colony. The views were spectacular as always, and the seal pups playing in a pool was the highlight of the day. We then caught the next bus to Christchurch where Thomas' Gran was waiting to pick us up, with a delicious home cooked meal waiting for us. We didn't have much time in the city, but we caught up with a few friends, showed Dana the beaches, enjoyed fish and chips, walked through CBD and even went for a drive through the porthills with Tony Deverson! And enjoyed a delicious dinner and some craft pizza with him that night too!
Thomas' favourite place, the Port Hills

A long bus ride through some of the most gorgeous parts of New Zealand, left us in Queenstown. We enjoyed a meal with John and Kathrin, but prepared for our immediate departure the next day to the Catlins! Renting another car (thanks Dana!) Thomas drove us through Otago, and we made it early enough to check out some sites before heading to Malcolm and Carolyn's house. We stopped at Kaka Point, where we collected paua shells, Nugget Point and went for a walk through Tunnel Hill. We were able to really teach Dana some rugby that night while we watched the final match, and to Thomas' great surprise, there was a Rally Car race on the next day! We got up early, headed over there, and watched as the cars zipped along the gravel roads that we had such a hard time driving on the day before! We made the most of the rest of the day, heading to the highlights of the Catlins: Slope Point, Porpoise Bay, Petrified Forest and many waterfalls.

The next day we left reasonably early, and drove up the coast to Dunedin. Dana and I went on a tour through the Cadbury Factory, and the three of us enjoyed a VERY kiwi lunch of fish n chips, with tomato sauce and L&P while watching the surfers at St. Clair Beach.

We finished our little road trip with a stop at Moeraki Boulders, which are always such fun to play around.

Dana spent the rest of her time down under bungy jumping and enjoying some days shopping and nights out in Queenstown, and she even did a two day trip to Milford Sound and a two day trip to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Without a doubt she had the time of her life in New Zealand, and will have stories to tell her kids at school this year for sure! Thanks to all those who helped make her time in New Zealand most memorable and for helping show her around this gorgeous country.

Dana, Thomas and Amy at Kaka Point

Queenstown - The Life

My favourite view in town
Getting into Queenstown from London was nearly a bit of an issue. The snowstorm did cause some dramatic scenery to arrive to though. The snow was right down to lake level and just blanketing every inch of the surroundings. This was absolutely the arrival I had dreamt of. Rocking up to the Rainbow Cabin, our home for the next few months, was a real different experience, but a time I will treasure and look back on with so many good memories.
Keeping warn in the Rainbow Cabin
It was a wicked time being back in Queenstown, mostly to hang out, drink beer and go snowboarding with my bro. It was numbingly cold for the first few weeks, cold like I have ever experienced before. Despite it being only -5°c, much milder than what I experienced in Colorado, there was no escaping this cold in the Rainbow Cabin. With the fire cranking the cabin was good, once it cooled overnight, getting out of my tepid bunk bed was slightly difficult. We partied it up with frisbee golf, homebrew, happy hour and got an epic welcome home party with the opening of the Queenstown Winterfest, with fireworks and a concert on the lake with Dave Dobyn. 
At the top of The Remarks with John
Of course this was the first time I had attempted to snowboard since my incident in Colorado only a few months earlier. I thought I was going to be all good, but I was surprised however how niggly my broken leg still was. So what was I to do about that? Ride through the pain and continue to roll with the theory of 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' I am happy to announce that my theory was correct. And off we were, a big season of snowboarding ahead, the mountains packed with snow: The Life.

Ready to rock at the Remarks

Monday, October 14, 2013

London Town

This is England
We had a pretty quick and painless bus ride from Sheffield into London arriving at 11am to give us just two short days before flying out the following evening. Each of us however flying out of separate airports heading to other sides of the world. So it was sad to know we only had a few more days together before more time apart and that our travels in Europe were coming to an end. We didn't let this get on our minds though, we had the whole of London to see!

New London Town
We stayed in the Fullam area at a nice enough backpackers for a very reasonable price of £9 a night each, and they even had a bar where I could have my last British beer. Coincidentally, like most English bars, they don't actually serve any English beers, so a Guinness it was which is technically British at least. From there we whizzed about London town on the Tube and red double becker buses. We got ourselves a unlimited day ticket for transportation at a reasonable price, just cheaper than our nights accommodation. We were able to make the most of our time seeing as much as I believe we possibly could have during our two days of wonderful English spring weather.

Big Ben all light up
The main highlights were you guessed it, the typical highlights of the London area: Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Convent Market etc etc etc. All were great to see, especially for Amy. A few of the more memorable places we visited were the British War Museum. This spiraled up from ground level going through the many and various fights, battles and wars that England and Great Brittan has faced. It was a great place to spend the morning, even had some dress up for us to try on. The London Museum was another highlight of our free attractions. It again went through the ages of the settlement of London Town. It had great displays and information through time of the original settlment, through to the kingdoms, Roman occupation and events like the great fire. 

Playing dress-ups at The War Museum
The final of my highlights was to take Amy to the Tate Modern Art Gallery. I have fond memories of this museum from when I visited in 2008. Modern art can sometimes bring the question, is this really art? There were many and various examples of this on our visit but once again, we did truly love what was on display. Some very strange, graphic and purely brilliant pieces. 

Amy with a double decker bus in Piccadilly Circus
Once again we utilised the services of the local free walking tour to run us around a quick loop of town and give us the usual humorous stories and history. These tours are really a great starting point for any visit to a new city, or even one you have already visited before. Even repeating the tours, which I did on this trip after already having done some of them previously while in Europe, they were still fantastic, with new history, stories and locations.

A highlight for Amy was definitely the British icons of the red telephone boxes and the red double decker buses. For me it was the final pint of ale which I shared in the company of my favourite person in the world. Nestled in a hidden little pub, dating back from who knows when, sitting in some big old chairs next to a very wonky table.

Trafalgar Square at sunset