An Introduction to Queenstown

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June 6th 2016
Published: June 13th 2016
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I can't really use words to describe how beautiful it is here and how amazingly everything has turned out. The first week, it rained almost every day. We glimpsed peeks of the mountains through clouds, but the clouds were low and it was a cold rain that fell.

On my first day in Queenstown, my mission was to find a job. I knew that jobs and houses were next to impossible, and I was determined to stay here because my gut told me to, and it's never been wrong. I went to my hostel and checked into my room. When I walked into my room, there was a girl sitting on her bed who sat up with a start. She thought I was her reflection. We were wearing the exact same outfit. This is how I met Elizabeth--the Kiwi everyone said I wouldn't find in Queenstown. Elizabeth is loud and fun, and we got along immediately. We went into town together and stopped at Salvation Army. A girl poked her head out of the dressing room and asked if a dress she was trying on looked good on her. This is how we met Claire--an American girl passing through Queenstown for a few weeks. We assured her the dress looked great and took her out of the store with us to walk around town. I lost them when they went to move Claire's car and I went to print out CVs, so I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around handing out my CV (resume) and looking for jobs. I was told by almost everyone to come back in 2 weeks or a month. Boo. I found Elizabeth later at the hostel and went to bed early for my first night.

Most of my days were relatively similar. I woke up and walked around town and outside of town with my CV handing it out to bars, restaurants, hotels, and stores. I applied for every job that came up online and constantly messaged people about houses. My hostel was incredibly cliquey, but Elizabeth and I got along really well. At night we went out with Claire, and two days after I arrived, so did the Dutch boys I had hitchhiked with! We all had a blast on nights out together and spent days together too (along with my CVs).

Back in Blenheim I attempted to start applying for houses in Queenstown. I sent out an inquiry to one house and got an application back, which I filled out. The guy told me to email him once I got to Queenstown, so I did. He said the house had been tenanted, but he'd let me know if more came up. I kept sending things out, and his company had a few rooms listed on TradeMe (sort of New Zealand eBay/craigslist but less sketchy). I inquired into a house outside of town, and we set up a viewing for Friday. On Friday, he listed another room, so I asked to see that one too. I took the bus out to Sunshine Bay and looked at a cozy house of 8 people where I'd have a room in the basement for $180/week plus bills. I told him I'd take it, and he said good. The other people looking at the house were no-shows, but it's Queenstown so there were about a billion people looking at each room. He drove me to the other house in Fernhill (a bit closer to town, but wicked high up) where I'd have a room in the attic of a 5-person house for $220/week including bills. I looked at the room, took one look out the window, and said, "this is my first choice. I'll take the other if I can't have this, but I want this one." The view from the window was of the snow-capped mountains and the lake. It looked like something out of a picture. He told me he'd get back to me by the end of the weekend and let me know about the house. Cue me stressing out all weekend.

On Friday, I had met a guy at my hostel named Ryan. He's from Foxboro, MA (where the Pats play) and was in Queenstown to hike. I decided to go on a hike with him Saturday morning, so at 7:30 we woke up and set off on the Ben Lomond trail. It was a bit rainy, so I chose to wear my hiking boots, running leggings, running long-sleeve, sweatshirt, and flannel. I also had a headband and gloves in case it got cold. When we started, I was taking off layers. Then we got out into the open and it started to rain. We ran into some goats on the side of the trail. It rained some more, but it was just a light drizzle. We got to a really open area north of the tree line and hiked up a little hill to get the last view we would see that day. We could see Lake Wanaka and mountains forever. We got to the saddle, and a sign said 1 hour 30 minutes to summit. It was SUCH A LIE. As we hiked the saddle, we watched the clouds race over the edge. The summit itself peeked through the clouds every so often, but we could see absolutely nothing below us. We kept going for it. We were chatting about camps (Camp Calumet for me, Diabetes camp for Ryan) and traveling. I asked him if diabetes camp is like regular camp but with more snacks. He said yes. Diabetes camp sounds fun. We yelled at and pleaded with the sun to come out. The clouds kept racing by above and below and around us. We kept going up. I had all my layers on at this point. We got to a steep part and saw snow! We both danced around for a little bit, very pleased at ourselves for the discovery. As we kept going up, we started walking through snow on the trail. It got deeper, but only a few centimeters deep. There were footprints from past hikers, but they were ice, so we had to sort of navigate around them. A few times we had to stop to brace ourselves against the wind. Everything started going numb. We kept going--determined not to let the mountain beat us. We slipped and slid our freezing bodies up that mountain. By now we were soaked from the rain, and neither of us was prepared for snow.

I don't know where the top was because 2 hours after that 1.5 hour sign, probably only about 50-100 meters from the top, we called it. We turned around and started heading back. We both fell a lot, and at some points the wind was so strong that we couldn't walk and legitimately thought we were going to get stranded on top of the mountain. We slowly made our way down, but once we got past the snow point, the entire trail had turned into a muddy river. Ryan had terrible shoes he had borrowed from a friend, so he struggled more than I did, but we were both miserable. I couldn't feel my fingers or ankles. I don't think I've ever been so cold in my life. All conversation stopped as we navigated our way downwards through the muddy brush and along the walls of the river that had been a trail an hour earlier. We finally made it back to the sign and, after flipping it off, we attempted to open our backpacks to get some granola bars. I wanted one so badly but I was so cold that I couldn't feel enough in my bag to get one, so I gave up. Ryan ate his, and we kept on, the cold rain pouring down on us above the treeline. We ran into some other hikers coming up and yelled, 'Don't do it! The sign is a lie! It's not worth it!" through chattering teeth. Finally, FINALLY, we made it to the trees. I managed to get a granola bar out of my pack. I had to rip it open with my teeth because my fingers didn't have the dexterity left. It rained the whole way down, and we had some shelter from the trees, but now we had rivers and wet leaves to contend with. More falling ensued. We made it down, though. It was an emotional roller coaster. The hike was full of stress, anger, cold, fear, hunger, relief, frustration, happiness, and wonder. By the time we got to the bottom, it had stopped raining and the sun had come out. Of course.

And, of course, the next day I was sick. I still managed to apply for about 8 jobs, but mostly I laid around the hostel drinking tea and checking my email every 10 seconds or so. I booked myself into the hostel for one more night even though I didn't love that hostel. In the evening, I updated my email and...I GOT THE HOUSE IN FERNHILL WITH THE VIEW. I danced around the room and told everyone I knew. Everyone had said housing was the hard part, and I found a house within a week of arriving in Queenstown. NAILED IT.

On Tuesday I paid the $914 bond to reserve my place in the house, and I booked myself into another (much better) hostel called Sir Cedric's Southern Laughter. I couldn't move in until Sunday May 22. Tilly (my friend from the winery) came to visit from Wanaka, and we hung out in my hostel for a bit, and I was lamenting about how behind I was on Game of Thrones, when the other guy sitting at the table said, "oh. I have all the episodes. Do you want them?" YES. He gave me Game of Thrones and half listened to/participated in my and Tilly's conversation, which is a solid foundation for a friendship. Tilly and I left for a little while and drove along the lake for a bit. She had to leave eventually, and I went back to the hostel and waited for Elizabeth to get off work and meet me. We watched Game of Thrones in my bed and then called Adam (the guy who had given me the show/new best friend) so we could watch the most recent episode.

The next morning Elizabeth and I decided to go on an adventure in her new car. I ran into Adam in the morning and invited him along. He had to be back at 5 for a house viewing, which we said was no problem. It turned into one of those days where you hang out with the same people from sunrise to sunset. We drove in Elizabeth's car to Glenorchy, the tiny city on the northern part of Lake Wakatipu. We pulled over to take pictures often and learned a lot about each other and Elizabeth's car (which has no heat and is a mermaid. Named Ariel). We got to Glenorchy and walked along the dock to take pictures and look out over the mountains. We got sandwiches at a cafe in town and decided to go eat lunch in Paradise--about 15 km away. We drove down a dirt road next to a lake through a fairy forest. When we came to a river (small stream), Adam took over driving. We forded the rivers and made huge deals about it. We celebrated when we arrived in Paradise and decided to see if we could make it to the end of the road. The drizzle kept making bright rainbows against the snow-capped mountains. New Zealand never seems like a real place, even when you're in it. When we got hungry enough we pulled over and walked around a moss-covered forest eating our sandwiches. We drove a little bit longer but found a river that we did not think the car could survive. So we turned around and went back to Queenstown. Back in town we went to a bar and had tea by a fire. Ariel has no heat, so we needed tea and a fire. Elizabeth and I ended up driving Adam to his house viewing in Goldfield Heights and waited at the top of the road for him. For dinner we went to a Mexican restaurant called Sombreros where we all wore sombreros and a colorful poncho that turned out to be a tablecloth. After dinner we all went back down to the hostel and hung out in the hot tub until we decided to go to bed. It was a phenomenal day.

My move-in day was Sunday May 22, and on Friday I got the car that Mike and I had discussed in Blenheim. Elizabeth and I celebrated by me driving her to work in Arrowtown and then us driving up Coronet Peak together. The car is...swell. It's a 1997 Honda CR-V named Helga with a questionable transmission. Over the last month, Helga and I have gotten to know each other really well, and she's a champ. On Saturday Elizabeth had the day off and Adam and I were still unemployed (sort of. Adam is a snowboard instructor at Coronet Peak and had not started his job yet), so we decided to take Helga out for a drive. We picked Elizabeth up at her hostel where she hopped in the car holding a cup of tea and a sandwich baggy full of cold pasta (with sauce). Adam proceeded to flip out over the pasta in a bag and made it his mission in life to teach Elizabeth how to be a lady. We started driving south on the lake towards Kingston, but the weather was foggy and there were no views of anything. We made it to Kingston on the south end of the lake and had some cakes and skipped rocks in the lake. The clouds started to clear on the way back and there were crazy rainbows.

ON SUNDAY I GOT A HOUSE. Elizabeth had to work, so Adam and I got up bright and early and packed my car so I could move in at 10. The girl who lived here before me was checking out at the same time I checked in and the process went quickly. When we went up to inspect the room, Adam knew all the questions to ask, which was great because my thoughts were, "it's a room. It has a bed. I am happy to have a room that is mine. The end." Adam checked under the mattress and the bed frame and the guy wrote loads of stuff down. Thanks, Adam! We set up my bed with all my new bedding and went to the Warehouse to get all the supplementary things (hamper, mug, etc). I was the first one with a house! I did all my grocery shopping the next day and had Elizabeth and Adam over for dinner. They basically lived in my house for the first couple of days. I have four housemates but rarely see them. They're clean, which is nice, and they don't seem to mind me constantly having people over.

The next exciting day was Tuesday. ADAM GOT A HOUSE. Elizabeth was off work so the three of us went over to to his half of the duplex, which is BEAUTIFUL. It was empty and clean and absolutely gorgeous. We named it the mansion and camped out on the couch. The house didn't come with any appliances--only basic furniture, so we had to do a huge trip to the Warehouse. We took Helga out and packed her up with $500 worth of pots, pans, bedding, dishes, trash cans, etc. We put boat and jacuzzi on the list too, but Adam hasn't bought those things yet. Then we went and bought all of the groceries. My poor car barely made it up the steep driveway. We unloaded everything and set up Adam's house. Adam made stew and we celebrated.

On Wednesday morning I had an interview with NZSki for a position in Guest Services. It was a group interview that I had to prepare a 2-minute presentation for about a recent accomplished goal. Mine was about teaching English in Budapest. The group interview was really easy because it was basically a chat with the other interviewees and the head chef for Coronet Peak. When we left that portion I learned that my one-on-one interview was at 1:30pm that day. I went back to Adam's for lunch where we had leftover stew. I drove back for my group interview and barely made it because parking was a nightmare. I ran into my friend Jack in the interview whom I had met on the Halong Bay cruise in Vietnam back in December. Small world. My interview was with the three department heads for Guest Services. I chatted with them for about 25 minutes and was hired on the spot! I was STOKED. I told Adam and Elizabeth the good news and spent the rest of the week wondering what to do with myself because what do you do in Queenstown when you aren't handing out CVs anymore?

Tilly came into town for real, and we've spent the past couple of weeks hanging out all together. There's a lot of cooking and watching of Game of Thrones. We are still going on adventures, and I've started work up at Coronet Peak, where we've officially opened for the season. There aren't as many rainbows now as there were in the beginning, but that's because there are more sunny days. The view from my window is amazing, and the view from the break room at work is incredible. I have managed to move to a place all on my own and have found a house, job, and a car within the first month. I am so proud of myself and so happy with the friends I've made. It's going to be a good winter.


13th June 2016

on finding the house, the car, and the job! Have a great winter season.
13th June 2016
Queenstown from Above

A Room with a View!
Friends, views, adventures, sun, snow, a job and a home--sounds perfect. I'm just rather shocked at how expensive those rooms are. Hope your job covers it easily, but with your luck so far, I'm sure it will!
16th June 2016
Clouds on Ben Lomond

Stunning view
Nice one

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