Flanders in NZ 14 – Such Great Heights

I recently submitted my timesheet clocking in a little more overtime than my social life appreciates; so to continue the theme, I’ve been piecing this blog together from Friday night through this past weekend to finally get it out.

The past month I’ve been working on a project with many hours of construction site time and monitoring. I think Keith officially hates my alarm clock. Despite the hours, the project is quite fun, and I got to ride in my very first crane basket last week! Doing bridge inspection pre-my current job, I found myself in bucket trucks and cherry pickers, but never dangling off of a crane. New experiences in conquering vertical elevation last week!

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Crane over Christchurch

I couldn’t resist the Queen Elizabeth parade wave on our ride back down to earth…

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Float Parade

Last Saturday the Crusaders (the local favorite in Super Rugby) played the semi final game against the Sharks (from Durban, South Africa). Despite the tiny temporary stadium, 2 cheap seats were still left and we snagged them right away. It was fun to see another rugby game and eat another meat pie :). Whats great about the Crusaders is that a good portion of the team are also on the All Blacks–quite the stacked team! The Crusaders crushed the Sharks. But spoiler alert, they played in the finals last night versus the Waratahs (NSW, Australia) and lost by one point–32 to 33. Definitely a lot of disappointment in Canterbury last night.

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Crusaders Rugby @ the “temporary” stadium

Last Saturday I worked in the morning and Keith and I were talking about what we should do the rest of the weekend. Aparently our neighbors were thinking the same thing, as they then knocked on the door asking if we’d like to join them on their Sunday trek to Mt Hutt (popular ski field near Chch). We live in a duplex and really couldn’t have ended up with nicer neighbors. They hail from the U.K. and recently purchase a pretty intense 4WD van. So at 6am we climbed in their van (which may be the most pimped out van I’ve ever been in–skylights everywhere, curtains, and glowing sound system included) and headed to the mountains.

If you haven’t been following for 2+ years I was at Mt Hutt in this post in 2012, and was excited to bring Keith back and teach him how to ski. Despite only being on the downhill slopes a few times in my life, learning to walk on cross country skis has appeared to make me an adequate downhill skiier. We signed up for an all-day package which included a lesson, spent some morning time on the bunny slope teaching Keith what a pizza was, and then headed up the chair lift for the first time right before lunch. Keith did a great job, and the more comfortable we both got with the trails the more we rushed back into the lift line. By the end of the day we even started talking about doing a weekend trip to Queenstown to check out the slopes there (although with the heat waves we’ve been having this winter not sure how feasable that is!)

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(from top left clockwise) – Chair Lift Fun and view, Keith skiing, Kea parrots attacking a truck, Jen skiing

I was surprised to learn, this time around, that Mt Hutt is over 7,000 ft high–far larger than Mt Washington in New Hampshire. The cold elevation definitely helps when there is no snow ANYWHERE else in the plains. It’s been an extremely mild winter over here thus far. Looking at Mt Hutt’s webcam this weekend all the snow we had previously is already gone.

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View down to the Canterbury Plains

I’m currently already sitting within the next weekend so another new post will be up shortly and then…Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!

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New Zealand 16 – At 10:30 we break for tea…

I really enjoy site visits – not only do they get me away from my picnic-table desk, they involve true hands-on learning. Being in Christchurch, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of interesting buildings and, more importantly, how they react when they’ve been slammed with lateral loads. Before I geek out my blog too much for family & non-engineer friends I’ll share one of my top site visit experiences from this past week–

We arrived early at a local college dorm to take a damage survey. I met with the very friendly staff who showed us to the rooms we needed to look at. Upon getting ready to leave, the staff member exclaimed “oh, and at 10:30am we all break for tea, so I’m assuming you’ll join us?!” How can you say no to that? We hurried with our work, went to tea time where we received some homemade banana bread, warm coffee, and tea. After our short break we received our next invitation to join everyone for a fresh lunch. Lunch consisted of homemade muffins, tasty soup, and an amazing salad bar. My colleagues and I had a short discussion about trying to slowly move into the college campus or at least keep coming up with excuses to need to come back, but alas, we finished our survey and drove back to our banana-bread-less office. By far tops my list of friendliest site visits I’ve experienced in Christchurch! (we try not to assume that this is just a bribe for us to write a favorable report…)

Onto the weekend. Remember that it’s nearing mid-winter here? Therefore, we took full advantage and woke up at 6am on Saturday morning, packed our layered merino-wool selves into the ford focuses (foci? <–we’re still debating on the plural form) and headed to the ski slopes. They tend to avoid plowing the roads in New Zealand and salt is a definite NO. Therefore, chains are typically required when traversing the mountains in a tiny-front-wheel-drive car. I had the pleasure of snapping this blackberry sunrise photo while I let my coworkers deal with the tire-chaining process.

Sunrise on the slopes

Mt Hutt

The crew had a long and fun-filled day on the mountain. It was no Colorado, but it definitely helped us make some fun use out of this cold weather.

The crew enjoying the winter weather

Rather than sleeping in on Sunday I volunteered to journey to the west coast, back to Hokitika, to finish up souvenir shopping with two coworkers. The west coast is an “easy” 3 hour drive away. Arthur’s pass is in the way, so despite swerving around some dodgy roads you get a pretty nice view. Again, my blackberry camera can barely capture this–

Highway 73 never gets old

Time in Hokitika was short — purchasing gifts, eating lunch, and walking along the beach for a while. It made me remember that my State-side friends were all enjoying warm beach trips this past weekend. However, what is going on with the U.S. east coast?! If Keith hadn’t mentioned the debris all over DC’s 495 highway I would have found out by watching the New Zealand T.V. news this morning. Yes, obviously New Zealand was having a slow news morning, because I learned all about the small population of the U.S. without power in the greater D.C. area. They even had a local correspondent on-the-scene discussing the power outage crises.

West Coast

Well, power-outages or not, I have approximately 65 hours until I’m back in the D.C. area and I couldn’t be more excited. I received a small taste of home this Monday morning when one of my coworkers arrived from vacation with 3 bottles of ketchup and several bags of Dunkin Donuts coffee. What a great way to start the week off 🙂

A lil’ bit of home