Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
When I was travelling around back in August I spent 2 nights by Lake Tekapo. Partly because I needed to spend more than one night in the same place to get some rest, but mainly because it had caught my eye on my way South.
On the afternoon I arrived, it was a beautiful sunny day. I went for a walk and soon found a little spa with an ice rink and decided to go for a skate. Rental skates are incredibly uncomfortable but I managed about 3 hours before I couldn’t take the pain any more. It turned out to be a typically friendly place, like all of New Zealand!
The first couple I spoke to were from Christchurch. The guy was clearly showing off (my bets are he’s an ex hockey player) while his girlfriend was struggling just to stay upright. They both just laughed at each other and had infectious personalities. They told me about how tough things had been since the earthquake (February 2011). They’d lost their house and the insurance didn’t pay out, so they’d started a new life in Auckland. They had come down to the South Island to see his parents, who hadn’t felt like leaving Christchurch, despite their own housing difficulties. Christchurch hasn’t recovered much in the time since the earthquake, but it is still an inspiring place to visit. And that couple were inspiring too.
Next I got chatting to an English woman and her daughters. She was struggling to get moving around the rink with the two wee girls, who were 4 and 6. “I don’t know why I thought I’d manage this” she laughed as I went over to offer some help .I took the girls for a while, one by one and taught them a bit about how to keep steady. We’d lap their mum and sister a few times before swapping over again. She thanked me and explained that she was on her own with them on holiday. She’d moved over from England to Australia to be with the kids’ dad, but things hadn’t worked out. She’s got a life for herself there now though, she seemed pretty happy.
I spoke to several older New Zealanders who were not skating, but just taking photos of those of us on the ice. I was pretty flattered considering I am not very good at skating, but I love to go fast, and I think they were doing long exposures, so they seemed pretty chuffed with me. Cocky ex-hockey guy did the skids that throw up loads of ice too, that entertained them to no end.
The last lady I spoke to arrived later on in the session, when things were a bit quieter. She was around 50, and she, seemingly in her own little world, quietly practiced pirouettes and turns. She was not bad, but clearly no professional. She told me this was her nearest rink, a couple of hours drive from her home town, and she came out here whenever she could to “train”. She just did it for fun. I really admired her, I don’t imagine many people in her peer group understand why she does it, but she just gets on with it because it’s what she loves to do. No training, no routine, just dancing on ice. Really sweet lady.
After all this, we were all getting a bit lazy. We’d go on for a couple of loops and then sit on the benches by the side. Good thing too, because then the Russian Ski Team came along to do a training session. Yeah.. Completely out of the blue, I imagine the coach had to do some quick thinking as the snow was pretty poor for most of the season and I’m sure they didn’t fly down under just for a holiday. He had the girls pulling 3 of 4 of their team mates along the ice with a harness for strength training. They just looked like a bunch of girls giggling and falling all over the place on the ice most of the time, reminded me of skating in Murrayfield with all my pals as a teenager, but then every so often he’d get pissed they weren’t taking things seriously and they’d do a few laps with serious faces on, before bursting into giggle fits again.
Anyway that’s my skating story. Sochi reminded me I actually skated with Olympians this Summer, in a roundabout sort of way haha. Too bad that wasn’t their sport.
I should have posted more when I was in NZ, but I had very little internet so I kept a diary instead. Maybe I’ll post the photos some time.