Settling in to Wanaka

June 2009

I intended to make Wanaka my home, but turns out I didn’t have to try very hard at all. The town basically reached out, grabbed me, and has been giving me a big ‘ole bear hug ever since I arrived.

I realized I could not keep paying for hostels, so I moved from the Purple Cow to the Base Hostel so that I could work for accommodation at the Mint bar. Working at the Pipi Patch base bar to get settled in town had worked so well for me in Paihia before I got my job with Excitor and Fullers so I figured why not do it again. This time I really fell in love with the job. I had planned on doing some more traveling then coming back to town, but I soon realized just how competitive the job climate was in town. Apparently loads of people head to Wanaka and Queenstown every winter for the ski season, and there is nowhere enough work to accommodate everyone. I fell in love with working at Mint bar and the people there were awesome so I decided to take on a paying job full time there and settle down earlier than I expected. People were flocking to town in droves looking for work so I was lucky to have gotten in when I did. The Pipi had been more of a chilled out little beach dive bar, but Mint bar was more like a club, with dark mood lighting, a sick sound system, and different Djs and performers from Oz and further coming in to perform most nights of the week. De la Sol was one of the highlights. Working nights works out well too as it left me my days to go on hikes, explore town, and also saved me money I would have been spending out at night drinking.

My parents came to visit in early May, and my dad and I did the third highest bungee jump IMG_0631in the world: AJ Hackett Nevis in Queenstown. It was incredible.  I’m pretty sure the highest bungee is in South Africa, so looks like I’ll have to make it there soon! The jump is from a cable car suspended in the middle of a canyon, and 134 meters below is nothing but rock and water to catch you. My dad is deathly afraid of heights so this was a huge triumph for him. I remember growing up when we’d go skiing he would always say “momma daddy momma daddy momma daddy!” when we were on the lifts, and we always thought he was kidding. I’m pretty sure that was no joke now. I hate to admit it, but his form was better than mine. In fact its partially what helped me to jump. Damn that man looked graceful jumping off that platform.When you waddle up to the edge with your feet tied together and look down its hard not to panic. I made myself focus on jumping out and attempting a graceful swan dive so that I wouldnt just be thinking about whether or not I would feel any pain before I died if my rope broke and I crashed head first into the shallow water below.  I always imagine Zach Braff yelling “EAGLE!” when I watch the youtube videos of our jumps.

I took my parents for a 10 day road trip showing them the incredible sights around the IMG_0609South island and also demonstrating my mad driving skills on the left side of the road and right side of the car. Its a miracle we all made it through unscathed. My mom might be a little emotionally scarred but no serious damage was done.

We started out in Christchurch, and ended up back in Wanaka, where I showed them IMG_1188around what would be my new home. Before they left I got more good news, I had also been hired at Cadrona, one of the biggest ski fields in the Southern Hemisphere. Which says a lot considering it only has 3 real lifts (though the website lists seven? I believe calling the magic carpets on the learners slope a “lift” is a bit of a stretch of the imagination.). Looks like I was going to be a very busy little lady.

I moved out of the Base hostel at the end of May once I started getting paid at Mint bar and moved into a shack down the street. You really can’t call it a house. There were 8 of us in total, five in the house and 3 in the vans parked around it. Classy eh? All sharing one kitchen, one living room, and yes, you got it, one bathroom. It had everything I wanted though, great people, a great location just minutes walking to town, and cheap rent with no bond. I moved in with Brigitte (Canadian) and Dave (British) who were my friends from Paihia up in the North island, and then in the house were also two British brothers Ben and Lee. Then Danny and Matt both lived in campervans outside the place and were both kiwis. The 8th roommate changed a few times. First it was an Aussie stoner named Kirin who turned out to be unintentionally hilarious. Kirin lived in the van out back, which was an actual van, not a campervan, without heat or any real space so he didn’t last long. He left us and in his place we got another Aussie, but hardly a replacement. We got a 40 plus year old man with no family, no job, and no credibility to make me feel at ease with his ever-so-shady presence in a house filled with 20-something travelers. The British brothers also owned a real beaut of a campervan (heavy sarcasm included) which they preferred to park in the front of the house to fully encompass the place in a square of vans and glory. Brings a tear to the eye to think of it now, mainly because it was such an eye sore it’s still a painful memory for the retina. The Brothers Grimm like to tag me as the van in their facebook pictures as for one reason or another I slept in the thing half the season. All in all, the house was a constant party and a brilliant good time.

I had a blast settling in to my trashy rat-infested house (yes, believe it or not I LOVED living in that house) and my job at the Mint bar was a amazing. My manager Roz is literally the funniest woman I have ever met. If I ever meet Ellen I bet she might give her a run for her money, but I’m not sure; Roz had me in stitches literally every night I worked. Tam and Abby were two other bartenders who ended up being two of my best girl friends, and the guys were a laugh as well. Sexual harassment was more a part of the job description than serving alcohol, dished out and and happily encouraged by the guys and girls alike.

For Abi’s birthday one of the Security guys offered up his monster trucking adventure park IMG_0686for a staff outing. We all got to go out and drive a GIANT school bus on monster wheels. He took us four-wheeling and demonstrated some of his skills as a show stuntman. I think it will be hard to top for Abi’s next b-day. Not every day you get to go monster trucking is it?

But this is still all before the ski season even started, oh my the stories I have to tell…

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