July 7, 2008

Snowboarding at Whakapapa

(I had typed this up in my laptop at the end of the day, but had no Internet access so could not upload it until July 14th)

I had an awesome day today!

We thought of waking up early enough to catch the 8am shuttle to Mt Ruapehu, but we couldn’t get up so we stayed in bed until about 7.30am before finally rolling out of bed and down to the kitchen for breakfast. We found out that the roads would only open at 8.30am anyway, so there was no point waking up that early.

We had breakfast of Indomie Goreng and I made a hard boiled egg too, but I was too full after the instant noodle, so we brought the egg along in a bag with some Brunch bars and bananas and water bottles. We dressed up and then drove to Whakapapa and had chains installed on the front wheels of the car so that we could drive up the icy roads to the slopes.

We took a very slow drive up the mountain, where I found it freezing collllddddd… We parked, and then took a long walk up to the rentals area, and signed up for lessons (Discover Snowboard for me, Next Step Snowboard for Jin). Then we took a ski lift down to the Happy Valley slopes which was the beginner slope.

Jin already had boots and a snowboard, so I went to get mine. Jin taught me to put the boots on. When I went to get the snowboard, the guy was very cheeky… he told me to face one way, and then he suddenly gave me a push… and it was all to find out my stronger foot. He said that he did it to one girl, who then kept walking and he had to call her back.

Jin’s lesson would only be at 12 noon, but Discover Snowboard was every half-hour, so Jin suggested I also take the 12 noon lesson so that we wouldn’t be waiting for each other unnecessarily. It was only 10.45am, so Jin suggested that I try a fair bit of snowboarding. She taught me to bind my left (front) foot to the snowboard, and then tried to teach me to scoot with one foot. I was horrible at it 😛 She also tried to teach me to use the edge (heel or toe) and I couldn’t manage it. I kept falling over and I was really frustrated. I also tried strapping both feet in and wasn’t really much better at it.

Sze the snowboarder!
Sze the snowboarder!

Finally at about 11.30am we decided to head back up for our lesson so we took the ski lift back up the Happy Valley slope. I waddled over to where a group of people with snowboards were waiting near the “Whakapapa School” signs and at about noon, a group of instructors came out to speak to us. They split us into under-13s (9 of them) and over-13s (7 of us). Fortunately I wasn’t the oldest one – everyone else was probably in their late 20s or in their 30s. I was the only Asian though; everyone else were whites who seemed to be from or are staying in NZ.

They started by teaching us to glide with one boot strapped in and the other boot free; and then to try to turn the board with the one boot still strapped in. Halfway down the slope, they told us to strap the other boot in, and then told us to try to balance with the board; and to stop the board, to lift our toes so that the heels would dig into the snow. Then we were to try little turns by lifting our back toe up, and pressing our front foot downward. I kept falling 😛 I was horrible at the turn. Managed it at one point though. However there was once I collided with another beginner and getting all tangled up with him.

After trying it all the way down, we took the lift back up with one boot still strapped in the board, and as I got off the lift, I fell… Fortunately one of the instructors was there to help me down.

This time, they taught us to use our toes instead of our heels; i.e. by digging our toes instead of digging our heels. Using the same concept to turn, we would need to flatten our front foot, and dig our back toe in. I managed this better than the heels, although I also kept falling.

The important thing is, as one of the instructors told me earlier, was to keep my hips square with my legs; to keep my body straight, and to always keep my knees bent. For the toe-digging, the torso should be straight, and the knees bent; knees can bend ahead of the snowboard.

The lesson finished about 1.45pm, and I was about to have another go when Jin came down. Jin told me that she had been the only one in her class, and she had her own private lesson, which was so cool!! I tried to glide down (not very gracefully), and then decided to go for lunch. The queue at the ski lift was long so I suggested we walk up. I regretted it as it was really tiring to carry the board uphill…

In the Happy Valley cafe, we got some hot chocolate and some hot fries… after we got warmed up, we decided to have another go on the slopes.
The wind was getting quite strong at this stage, but we decided to try anyway. I fell numerous times, cursed several times, but more or less go the hang of it with the toe-digging way instead of the heel-digging way.

We got in line for the ski lift (wasn’t going to climb back up again!!!) and some idiotic white guy cut our line, by conveniently chatting up this white girl in the next line, and glided in front of us.

Jin and I on the chair lift
Failed attempt at camwhoring

I fell again as we got off the lift… this time very ungracefully. I fell sitting on the back binding of the board… AND IT HURT!!! It hurt so bad I fell on my back and slid all the way down the small slope, and my hat came off. I was kinda in other people?s way, but I couldn?t get up because I was in pain. One of the men manning the lift took my hat and gave it to me and told us not to block the way. It was embarrassing, but hey, it hurt!!!

I had to wait a few minutes for the pain to subside, before I strapped on my boots again and had another go down the slope. The wind was really bad this time, and when we reached the foot, they said the lift was going to be closed soon (about 4pm). Jin and I took off our boards and held them as we went up the lift. We strapped them on again one last time and then glided our way to the rentals section where I returned the board and boots. Then we took the other lift back up the carpark.

I had a fall and slipped on the road once, and hurt my right ass and my right wrist. The injury wasn’t serious, but it was still painful nevertheless. We finally made our way to the car where horror of horrors… the battery was flat. Jin had accidentally left the car lights on!!! We tried asking the car next to us if they had jumpstart cables but they said they didn’t, and they left us without offering any other help.

Fortunately that very morning Jin had signed up for comprehensive motor insurance over the phone, and she called roadside assistance. It would take 45 minutes they said, to get someone from Whakapapa Village up, and since we didn’t have a choice, we removed our boots, crawled to the back seat where we had brought a duvet from her home, and snuggled there trying to keep warm. There was a jam on the roads as people were trying to drive down anyway, so we convinced ourselves that it didn’t make much of a difference.

AA came up in 30 minutes instead of 45 minutes, and in a matter of minutes had the car jumpstarted. We didn’t even need to wait or anything, we could straightaway drive off!

Our AAngel
Our AAngel

Our chains were removed before we barely started down the roads; but I suppose it was easier downhill than up, and Jin made it very slowly down the hill. We got back to the National Backpackers, and had a nice warm shower each. At about 8pm we went down to make dinner – Indomie Goreng for her, pasta cheese bake for me, this time with garlic and pak choy; and we had a fried egg each. Jin told me that some people have been pinching our milk though, as there was only 2/3 left – we had only used a little bit this morning for our Milo. Well… I suppose you can’t expect much from a budget lodging like this. Anyway, we cut fruits for dinner, and then went back up to bed.

Jin’s asleep now, and I’m awake typing this. I took a painkiller, and I hope that my bum won’t be too sore… as we want another go on the slopes!! Thinking of doing ski this time, although would love to try snowboarding again. But I only have 2 days here, and I might as well try the works.