Letters to Willow #10

Hello there pup!Hope alls well across the ditch our baby! 

Our last day in Queenstown was magic, well on the mountain anyway.

Up early again for the first bus up, and we were rewarded with gorgeous soft snow, and after an hour or so, the sun came out in all its glory and we were in a sparkling winter wonderland! 

We started off warming up on the magic carpet and Alta runs, before hitting the sugar bowl for a few laps, then up to Curvey Basin and another stop at the ice bar! This time it was all of us, G2 & G3 got brave and came too!

We all successfully made it down, and hit Sugar a few more times, making the most of the magic conditions!

I’m happy to report that the whole family managed a few jumps on the Park run, with Dad being the bravest and taking on the most! 

He did come unstuck at one point and has the skin off to prove it.

We’ve absolutely loved our time on the snow, and will be saving every penny to get back to it in a few years (or quite a few). Might try Aussie slopes next time!

It’s definitely one of the more expensive past times. But such a great experience!
One more hairy bus trip down the mountain, and we were straight off, hitting the road to our current destination of Te Anau.

It was a gorgeous drive, following Queenstowns lake for a great part of it.

More sheep than I’ve ever thought possible, and gorgeous views!

We were very surprised to see pandanus palms poking their leafy heads out of beds of ferns!

An unidentifiable squeak in the van seen a driver change, with mum taking the wheel while Dad “investigated” every square inch of the interior.

He’s weird like that.

We arrived here shortly before sunset, and were again rewarded with the most beautiful vista.

The lake here is stunning, dark and flat, surrounded by mountains, the distant ones with snow caps.

Mum and G1 spotted a sign for underground Trout viewing along the lake, and convinced G2 and G3 to accompany them.

Dad opted to stay at the van, and partake in some NZ gold.

The rest of us chased the gold of the sunset, and ended up walking the entire length  Of the town, back to where we entered town, to see the Trout, and take in the gorgeousness of the Lake!

Mum and I were very glad that none of the girls have read or watched IT, as the “viewing” area was quite suspect. Particularly in the fading light.

But we soldiered on, mum going in first, put our $2 in the slot, and pushed through some old turnstiles into the viewing pit, I mean room.

It was actually pretty cool.

There were half a dozen Trout doing their thing, and mum and the girls are a sucker for any type of aquarium, so alls well that ends well.

We trekked on back the van, some of us whining about how far we’ve walked on this holiday, some of us complaining that our knees hurt, and one us assuring everyone that it wasn’t that far, and I think I can see it!

Mums a trooper.

The camp kitchen here is smick-o, so it was really lovely to cook up a quick dinner, and get sorted for our day tomorrow.

And boy, I really don’t think there’s any better feeling than showering after a 3 day spell.

We’ve all ditched the thermals as the weathers certainly not snow conditions from here on out.

Every muscle in every body is making the crew know their alive, skiing is an awesome all body work out! And with no end of activities on the horizon, were making the most of our rest time.

And the free wifi!

Having said that, I’m out!

We love you little Willow!

Nigh nigh pup,

Love Stan xx

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Letters to Willow #9

Hello our little Willow!Today we watched the sun rise from the bus trip to the Remarkables, arriving to christen the icy groomed snow!

This was scary and difficult to manoeuvre, and our first day free skiing, putting all our lessons to use!

It only took around an hour for the snow to become beautiful again, and we managed to get the little girls up to the Sugar Bowl, so we were a full big slope skiing family!

It was beautiful! Overcast and cool, but the sun still came through, glistening off the gorgeous white snow, and making for a stunning day! 

We had a bunch of runs down the big slopes, with Dad and G1 the only crash victims! 

Beauties too!

Then we sent G2 & 3 down the smaller lifts, and Dad, G1, Mum & I hit the big one(second biggest actually), Curvey Basin, for the Ice Bar!

It’s a much bigger, and faster, chair lift to the top, and not far from there to the ice bar!

It’s a carona only bar, but they do sell Mulled wine, so mum got to get a taste of Game of Thrones, whilst sitting on top of the world! Just like John Snow!

The trip down was great for mum and I, and from this point on she skied the best she has yet!

Either the wine, or the 2 previous days of lessons, we’re not sure which, but will stop by the ice bar tomorrow, just in case!

We had to cut our ski trip short by a few hours in order to get our van prepped for our departure tomorrow.

Then we hit Queenstown for our final NZ souvenir run, another exploration of the harbour, and a quick cocktail and mocktail trip to the minus 5 Ice bar, a little bar completely made of ice!

It was very cool (literally and figuratively), so we didn’t stay long!

From there, Dad went to catch the fight, which none of us care for at all, so that’s when we shopped!

We met up for a lake walk and then to Winnie’s for dinner. This bar/pizza place, is very cool also, not literally! It’s full of cool memorabilia and very warm (real) fireplace. And to top all that off, they open the roof (yes, the actual roof) on request, when it gets too hot!

Awesome!

We’re home now in bed, waiting for Dad who’s gone to check out the casino.
With or without him, we’re hitting the slopes again in the morning for our last day here in Queenstown.

We miss it already!

Well goodnight little Willow, we love you lots! 

Your Aunty Mandy sent us a beautiful photo of you today, you look beautiful and happy, and we’re so happy your in wonderful hands!

Lots of love, Stan xx

Letters to Willow #8

Hey there willow willow Willow! Straight off the bat we’ll let you know that we have dad extra love today for you, and we even chose a sausage dog card for him, with you and Dukey in mind!

As far as lay days go, today was pretty good!

We slept in, had a BBQ breakfast, then walked up to the Gondola station, and caught the sky line up the mountain for our birthday luge and lunch!

Once again it’s no surprise who was freaking out on the Gondola. You guessed it, Birthday boy.

He sat with his back to most amazing view, and was more concerned with getting to terra firma, than the vista!

Once up, it was another chair lift up again to the luge station!

I rode with Mum, as I’m far more comfortable with her steady pace, and safety corners. Even if we did come to a complete stop at one point. 

It was far more enjoyable meandering our way down, than screaming down full tilt, like the others.

We lunched with a beautiful view of Queenstown, and caught the Gondola back down for a quick visit to the Bird park, and seen our first Kiwi! 

They’re fascinating animals! Closest to mammals of all the birds. With marrow in their bones!! They also lay an egg that makes up 20% of their weight! The equivalent to a human giving birth to a 4 year old! 

Very cool little birds!

From here we ventured back into town, and caught the bus to the Kawarau bridge for the Zip Line!

Sadly it was too late in the day to Bungy, so Mum and G1 had to miss out.

We all took the Zip Line instead, and still had a great experience! 

Mum told the guy doing the harnessing that it was Dads Birthday, so once mum and him had finished their turn, he pretended to unhook dad, then pushed him down the zip line backwards instead! 

We all know how dad is with edges, so it was pretty hilarious to all us on the deck! And dad took it well too! 

Bussed back into Queenstown, we had a wander through the CBD, checking out the wharf and the lake, which we’ve so far only seen from afar.

It’s so beautiful!

Such a cool district which I’d love to spend some time in!

We visited a few stores (candy shop) and decided on a reverse dinner, so grabbed some Mrs Ferberger Gelato, before heading back to the van park for a BBQ dinner!

It’s been a funny day of weather, rainy, then sunny, then rainy again tonight. 

We’re headed back to the slopes tomorrow so are hoping some of this rain translates to snow on the Remarkables!

Anyway, we’re off to get our thermals, snoods and beanies ready for tomorrow! 

Nigh nigh Willow,

Be good for your host family, we love you

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #7

Our dearest Willow!I write tonight very weary! What a day! Once again we beat the sun, though even in our haste we only managed to get the 3rd (quickest by a mile, ask Dad! He was peaking out worse than ever)bus up the mountain! Thus ensued a very manic boot, clothing and ski pick up, with hundreds of other mountain goers, including at least 4 school groups! 

No blue skies today, and a very definite drop in temperature, but it was still stunningly beautiful! And boy was it busy!

The school groups I mentioned were packed full of little pros, cutting past is in perfect snake formation, with perfect pizza stops, all day! 

They were so great to watch!

G2 and G3 went back to their lessons today, having another fabulous day with a new instructor! Poor G2 had a pretty bad crash on her last run of the day, hurting her knee. But she skied down the mountain, and will be well cared for with some dencorub and chocolate!

G1, dad, mum and I went back to our lessons too! New instructor and some new ski buddies, we hit the big slopes of Sugar Bowl today! Up there is an awesome area called the Park, (or something like that) with heaps of jumps and sliders! Our instructor had us all go over a jump and put a bunny hop at the top, which was great fun! G1 came off, but not badly! Then it was down the windy, narrow terrain to the next run! Precarious is an understatement! But it was also great fun!

Adrenaline is a wonderful thing! And we’ve all done “the tunnel”, which is also super cool!

After a quick lunch, Dad ditched the lessons to “free ski” while G1 and I went back for some more learning!

G1 was cleaned up by a snow boarder (bastards), and I by an out of control skier in jeans, but all up, another fantastic day on the Remarkables, and we’re all a lot more confident and able!

We were the last bus down again, but better traffic today put us in town early enough to sort tomorrow’s activities, and hit the world famous Fergurger! We were expecting an hours line up, so we’re pleasantly surprised to only have a 10min line, and 15min wait once ordered! We had enough time to stop off and get Dad something special for his birthday tomorrow, and by the time we got back, our burgers were done! 

It was a beautiful walk home, with the moon sitting above the lights of the gondola above pines on one side, and the mountains with their Fluorescent snow capped peaks towering over the glittering town on the other! If I haven’t said it enough , it’s so darn beautiful here!

And yes, the burgers were all they were cracked up to be! Deliciola! 

A few beers and more regaling of the days crashes, near misses and fun, and it’s finally time for bed! There’s honestly no better feeling, except of course taking off ski boots after a big day skiing! Man those things are tough to wear! I love seeing everyone doing the ski boot swagger! All good until you need to descend the stairs!!!

Well, that’s me out Willow, we have a huge day planned for Dads birthday, but I’ll share all that with you in my next letter!

Love you buddy!

Love Stan

Letters to Willow #6

Hello baby Willow,Hope this finds you well! Please know we miss you lots and think of you often. We’ve seen very few dogs since we’ve been here actually. And I think today is the first day we haven’t seen sheep!

Plenty of white fluffy stuff though!

Oh my gosh! Best. Day. Ever.

I know it’s still early days, but it takes the cake so far!

Brilliant blue sky reflecting off pure white snow! Everywhere!

We were up before the sun (again), and walked into town to catch our bus up the mountain. You know how Dad is with edges, so it would be no surprise for you to know that he was peaking out, just a tad! I’ve never seen switch backs like it in my life! And so high! So so high!

The Remarkables are very aptly named I can tell you that.

They’re simply stunning.

Once through the madness of fitting boots and clothes, we grabbed our gear and were off! 

G2 and G3 went to the kids lessons for the day, and though quite reluctant at first (G3 especially) they had a fabulous day, and are skiing at a higher level than us! They mastered the mini magic carpet, then the big one, and ended the day on the chair lifts on a green run!

Dad, G1, Mum (and I) had a great American instructor named Mandy. She was very patient and helpful, and lead us through the ranks of mini magic carpet and the big one (side note, the big magic carpet is a double conveyor that runs up the learners slope. It’s totally enclosed in a big clear tunnel and is super cool! Not literally as it’s very glass house-ish inside. Someone even skied into it). Then we progressed up to the chairlifts and some green runs! Even taking on a tunnel! G1 had herself a fall, which was sweet revenge as she earlier plowed into Mum and I, very near knocking me out of my pocket, and sending a cold dusting of snow down mums pants.

Mum took 2 chairlifts to nail the take off, but had it down pat by the end of the day. It was an unbelievable view from the chairlifts! And we cannot wait to get back tomorrow and get on some higher runs! 

Pretty sure we’ve nailed our pizzas, and can sufficiently turn, slow down, and most importantly stop! Learning control of those skis is a hard won achievement! And Aunty R will be pleased to know, so far so good, no yard sales! 

It’s been really wonderful and worthwhile having the little ones in seperate lessons, as we’ve spent the evening regaling stories from each group! And it’s lovely!

If I may wax lyrical for a moment. This place really is on another level of beautiful. The environment is so very different from home. Where the NQ sun hits you like a snowball to the face from the minute it crosses the horizon, the sun here is like a shy glance from a lover, just enough to make you close your eyes and turn away with a smile. 

It’s so subtle, almost soft. 

(but yes our noses all got burnt and it did get super hot today). 

And the mountains themselves, when you watch them on the descent, with the little teeny town that is Queenstown, with its teeny tiny winding river, and teeny tiny lake, teeny tiny houses and fields, surrounded by these gigantic mountains, like great stone guardians, with snow dusted atop them all like icing sugar on some crazy Heston creation! I really can’t help but thank the gods for creating such perfection, and thank my lucky stars that I’m able to come on trips like this, and share the moments with those who can’t be here. Like you Willow. 

It truly feels like I’m in a snow globe! 

We seen the day out at Fat Badgers, a pizza and beer shop that sells massive pizzas, pretty big beers, and has bloody big heaters!! Not to mention a great atmosphere! Though that’s also a lot to do with the crowd!

Hope you’re enjoying your letters, and getting a feel for NZ! The crew are off for hot showers, Celebrex and perhaps a hot baileys for mum, a rum for Dad, hot chocolates all round for the girls, and then the warm embrace of sleep! 

Mum reckons she can already feel the day’s aches creeping like frost into each and every muscle! Yet still super excited to do it all again!!

Nigh nigh Willow, we love you 

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #5

Hello our Willow!Tonight we write from Queenstown! We’re settled in for a few days, booked into a van park with pine mountains all around, and walking distance to town!

We were up before the sun again in Dunedin this morning. Ready and checked out in time for our first adventure of the day. 

Now if mum found her perfect street yesterday, the girls found theirs today! But instead of ye-olde-everything, it contained the NZ Cadbury Chocolate Factory!

The reviews were mixed online, but for the Earl crew, it’s a 4 star tour! Only losing a star because you don’t see the actual manufacturing (and because there’s so much marshmallow coated stuff. Eeewwww)

We were given more than enough chocolate, the whole this was super interesting, the guide was funny, and they had cool stuff in the gift shop! Yes Aunty D and Aunty A, the kids are getting chocolate souvenirs! 

And my little Willow, you wouldn’t have been able to come, as we learnt that chocolate contains theobromine, which is lethal to us hounds!

Using our very smart, sugar laden noggins, we decided to venture next, to the worlds steepest street! Yes, the worlds steepest! Baldwin street. 350m long. Doesn’t sound much, but the incline is a killer! We went with the intent of just having a look, but couldn’t resist the climb! 

Remember the German kid off the Simpsons “Don’t make me run, I’m full of chocolate”! That was us!

But we made it!

Peeled our coats off at the top, caught our breath, and back down to get our certificates! They had the famous Jaffa roll only a week before, so there were scattered remains of this tasty treat everywhere!

It’s a really cool thing to do, I’d definitely even chuck it on the “must do” list!

After a disappointing lap at NZ fish and chips, we scooted off to our current destination.

The trip was crazy bendy! Like a match car track! Curling around along brilliant green and blue alpine rivers, and through rolling (utterly, totally, amazingly rolling) green hills, scattered with yellow flowers, sheep of all different sheered-ness, fluffy cows, and unimaginably steep fence lines! 

New Zealand farmers are AMAZING! The patience of saints with the tree wind breaks, and tough as nails with their abseil worthy fences!

Another question for our kiwi crew (aka Stax and Julie), what do they grow for the sheep and cows to eat? Is it pumpkin? It looks like fields of pumpkin, or some kind of leafy vegetable that they are all munching on!

Anywho, we’re here now, it’s been a lovely day, hottest since we arrived. 16 at one stage, and tomorrow, we ski! We sorted our passes this evening, and are all excited to see what tomorrow brings!

Well little one, your guess is as good as mine as to what state the crew will be in when I write again! Mums got her Celebrex and dencorub at the ready, and reckons if her knees held up on Baldwin St, they’ll be fine tomorrow!

We’ll see!

Nigh nigh pup, we love and miss you 

Love Stan xx

Letters to Willow #4

Hey little Willis!Again, hope this finds you well and not missing us too much!

All good here, and another great day! 

Kicked it off with a very, very early morning trek to lakeside at Lake Tekapo! Stars were very beautiful, and even though mum forgot her remote, and lens, we still sat amongst the rabbits for a bit and watched the night! Mum managed to dig G1 out of bed to head down lakeside again to catch the sunrise. Negative 5 and we kept busy waiting with ice cracking on the shore. 

The sun was taking forever and Dad gave us the location for sunrise, so eyes set firmly on this spot, we slipped back up to the van for a quick cup of tea! Aaand, we missed the final rise. Seems dad was quite a bit off with his rising location. Ah well, lucky there’s plenty more sun ups! 

From Lake Tekapo we came upon a fantastic Salmon farm! We fed some very nice looking salmon, and purchased a selection of hot and cold smoked, before hitting the road again. Hydroelectricity is clearly big business here, and they certainly have the dams to fill the grid! Again, hard to imagine water skiing here, but they do it!

A quick side trek to some Moari rock paintings and the clay cliffs, for a salmon taste test and ice water play, and we drove into Oamaru.

Oh. My. Gosh.

Mums favourite town. EVER! If only for one street! 

Harbour Street!

Love at absolute first sight!

We walked along the old wooden slats and rail, next to cobbled street, between limestone buildings with incredible facades and felt every inch of the 1800’s in which it was built! The oldest street in the Southern Hemisphere so the old ice cream parlor man told us! 36 brothels in its prime, the main lady of the night hang out is now a pub, and for every room in it, there are 3 more behind! And it’s haunted! Fabulous! The ice cream was made to a 1900’s recipe and was amazing, though the parlor was originally a barber, and had a wonderfully Sweeney Todd feel! 

All the shops on the 2 streets are done up so wonderfully and just feels amazing! My LOVED it! And to top off this incredible find, at the end of this street is the Steam Punk Headquarters! Another gorgeous original old building, filled with all thing quirky and steam punk! The Portal is AMAZING! We went twice and would have gone more but we had to visit the Steam Punk playground!! Again, great fun and very cool! Dad sat in the van while we played! 

Another tick for Oamaru, are the penguins! We went and seen the wonderful little penguin colony, only spotting one little blue, as it was lunch time. But as we walked around the grounds and looked at the hundreds of penguin houses, we spotted a bunch of fur seals basking in the midday sun! They smell horrendous, but are super duper cute! From here to the Moeraki Boulders where the tide put an early end to our viewing! Like giant dragons eggs in the sea! They are pretty amazing! Through more sheep and giant hedge filled rolling farmland, and into the madness of Dunedin! 

Another cook up in the camp kitchen, and a few rounds of Left Right and Centre, and we’re ready for bed.

Our van park tonight is in the city, but high up enough that it’s quiet, but scary enough that I’m worried to drive out tomorrow! 

It’s a very wide spread, hilly town! Which we’ll explore more on the morrow! 

Sweet dreams our baby willow!

Missing you

Love Stan xx