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Wintery tales from Wellington

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 23 August 2011 | Views [483]

Snow in Wellington - quite rare to have this view for three days

Snow in Wellington - quite rare to have this view for three days

Apart from having short days and low indoor temperatures, winter can also be very nice if there's a good drop of snow. For the first time since our arrival we've now seen a decent white layer covering all of the hilltops around us, Ngaio itself, and even the area directly at sea level. While it quickly turned to slush at low level, we have used snowchains to travel back home from a friend in Newlands. Actually, we went there to drop off some stuff including our snowchains but quickly had to change our mind.

A good southerly blast kept the temperatures low for many days, with many office workers wrapped in extra clothes, using warm water bottles and stressing the electrical infrastructure because of all electric heaters. Gas-fired systems are still quite rare here, so even our 6-star Greenstar office has some electric heating.

While Mika gave her knee a rest and skipped the weekend trip, Hans joined a tramping club trip that was also affected by the snow. First of all there was uncertainty if we could reach our destination anyway, but on Friday the road was good, and even the farm track was confirmed to be rideable. The club van made it nearly to the front door of the lodge before it got stuck in the snow, but from there it was only a 2 minute walk before we could roll out our sleeping bags.

The intention for Saturday was to head into the hills (from about 500m to 1600m above sea level), walk along a ridge and drop into a hut, returning the same way on Sunday. First bottleneck was the flying fox - a little platform on a steel cable where hard labour was required to get 8 persons and their packs across. As usual the first bit up from the river was steep, the snowy scenery was lovely and munching on some almond fingers (kano's in good Dutch) kept the energy levels up. The higher we got, the deeper the snow got, until we ended up in nearly waist-deep snow. The fluffy stuff was too soft to put crampons on, so we tried to blaze a trail but gave up after 40 minutes (and only 250 metre!). The pictures will explain why we decided to turn back (just slightly influenced by the idea of using the wood burner in the lodge).  Slipping down the mountain in sloshy snow eventually the flying fox was reached, arm muscles could be used again to get everyone across, and the rest of the day was filled swapping big stories, eating good food and snoozing on the bed.

Meanwhile Mika had signed up for another working bee, planting trees with some neighbours on a track below Mt Kaukau. The initial turn-up was small (only Robin and Mika) but fortunately a few others joined in later, some familiar people passed and planted a few trees, and in the end most walkers on the track were asked to help with tree-planting .. and they did! 29 trees have a new home now. True community involvement and good fun.

Another few days to count down before our jobs end - at least, for the moment. Quite a few farewell drinks and dinners, so we may not reach our target of eating the last 3kg of pasta to empty the kitchen cabinet this month - it'll be there when we come back! 

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