Google Street View Great Barrier Reef?

Street View for Google Maps revolutionised the way that we find our way but now they have taken it to another level entirely with Underwater views.

This means that for the first time ever, anyone with an internet connection will be able to take a virtual dive on selected sites on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Underwater Earth project uses data and imagery from the ground-breaking Catlin Seaview Survey project – a series of expeditions aiming to explore and survey the health of coral reefs worldwide.

Based at the underwater research station on Heron Island, the team has surveyed and captured the underwater environments of Heron and Lady Elliot Island and are currently anchored on the northern reefs of the Coral Sea.

Armed with cutting-edge cameras and underwater robots controlled by specially designed Samsung Galaxy tablets, the team are able to capture up to 50,000 panoramic underwater images and stitch them together into a navigable “reef view” panorama.

As well as enabling the casual punter to go for a virtual dive and learn more about the marine environment, the expedition will also make a significant contribution to our knowledge of the world’s oceans through a publicly available Global Reef Record database.

This database will enable scientists worldwide to monitor the health of coral reef systems worldwide and their response to climate change.

The project’s chief scientist, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute calls the project a “game-changing scientific tool that scientists around the world will have at their fingertips”.

“They will be able to monitor change in the marine environment now and in the future,” he said.

“Marine scientists researching any aspect of the reef will be able to study these environments from any of the surveys we conduct.”

The first Catlin Seaview expedition launched on September 16 this year with 20 separate reefs on the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea scheduled for surveying before the team moves on to overseas locations in 2013.

The project is funded by international insurance company Catlin and University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute.

To take an underwater tour, go to:

 

Rough Times Ahead!

If you are into white water rafting, there's only one place to be next year...

White water rafters from around the world are looking forward to the IRF World Championships in Rotorua and Kawerau, in the heartland of New Zealand’s North Island from November 13 to 24, 2013.

And in a short time, some of them will get a preview of the conditions, the courses and the rivers the world championships will be raced on next year.

Pre-Worlds event will be run from Friday October 19 to Sunday 21.

On Friday October 19 the Sprint and Head to Head race will be on the Kaituna on Friday.

On Saturday, the Slalom will be raced in Kawerau on the Tarawera.

The finale will be the Down River race on the Rangitaiki, on Sunday.

(PROGRAMME)

Up for grabs will be selection for the New Zealand team for 2013 and the Australian National title.

“We are coming over to win that Aussie title and make sure we are at the world champs, next year,” says Kris Kingston, from Team Cairns in Australia. “We are really hungry – three of us competed in Bosnia in 2009 and would love to compete at another worlds, especially one on our doorstep.”

It is also a chance to assess where they stand against other top international teams.

“Team Japan are coming to the pre-worlds and they’ll be a benchmark for where we need to be in 2013,” adds Kingston.

It’s a homecoming for him. He’s originally from Tauranga and grew up rafting on the rivers of the region.

"I have a bit of experience with rivers in the North Island, but it’s a while ago," says Kingston. "For the rest of the team, it’s all new, so they are really excited."

Takuya Ikeda from Team Japan is keen to experience the world championships rivers - and also a slice of Kiwi lifestyle.

“It’s always a pleasure to get close to New Zealand nature," says Ikeda. "And to meet the locals and experience the culture."

Ikeda has rafted in New Zealand before.

"I was a river guide in Queenstown twelve years go and I am really glad to be returning to New Zealand."

For Michal Rasek, from the Czech Republic, the chance to race on the same rivers as next year was too good to miss.

“We love competing against strong teams like Japan and the local teams on their own territory,” says Rasek. “We know New Zealand is a beautiful country with fantastic rivers so we are looking forward to the trip, having fun and catching up with friends in the other teams.”

For Raewyn Larcombe, of the New Zealand Rivers Association, having teams from around the world here is a dream come true.

“Our crews are very competitive and successful and racing against the world’s best on our own great rivers is a real opportunity for not just gold medals, but also to build the sport in New Zealand,” she says. “We are seeing exciting growth at the youth level and throwing them in the deep end at the worlds will only help their development.”

It is also an exciting time for New Zealand paddlers, like Paul Roozendaal.

He’s competed at World Championships in crews that won bronze medals in 2003 and 2010 and who were just seconds out of the medals in Costa Rica in 2011.

“Getting the exposure on home ground will definitely help introduce the sport to New Zealand,” says Roozendaal. “With up to 60 different countries coming here to paddle our awesome rivers at the World Championships next year, it will also boost our tourism and rafting industry.”

Roozendaal feels international rafters will enjoy the experience.

“Our rivers are so clean with some flat sections and exciting rapids and all close to Rotorua,” he enthuses. “And it’s not just the water they’ll like, but the ferns and all the native bush that surrounds the rivers - and of course there are no spiders or snakes,” adds Roozendaal with a laugh.

“I’m really looking forward to having all the friends I have made in the sport in my home town.”

 

 

 

 

Travelling Solo

“Never miss an opportunity to make memories” – a piece of advice given to me by a friend a few years ago. This single sentence opened up my life. After completing a 2 year contract in IndiaI decided to spend a few months travelling before heading home to New Zealand.

Travelling solo is not my preferred modus operandi. I’m a sociable introvert, who prefers the company of good friends to intrepid adventures, although if I can combine the two I’m delighted. Randomly browsing through a Lonely Planet guide while waiting for a friend, I was suddenly gripped by a desire to extend a two month trip to Europe visiting friends to a four month journey exploringTurkeyandEastern Europe.

My trip could not have got off to a better start. A lovely Italian man invited me to go to a Turkish bath house then treated me out to dinner at a seaside restaurant. The next morning we breakfasted at theIstanbul’s Egyptian Spice market then sat inSultanahmet Squareenjoying a Turkish coffee. A hasty farewell when my Italian friend realised he was about to miss his flight left me smiling – the delight and the ease of both hellos and farewells, the anticipation of two months full of chance encounters. I felt open to a world of possibilities.

A few hours later I was sitting by the sea feeling vulnerable and hurt having been duped by an elderly Turkish man who had offered to show me around. Despite earlier protestations that he would never expect money and he was merely visitingIstanbulfor a few days himself, he later demanded a large sum and became unpleasantly aggressive. It feels foolish now, and I’m shocked at my own naivety, but the touts inIstanbulare pros and I was easy game. Retrospectively, both the Italian traveler and the Turkish con artist provided a valuable initiation into the delicate balance that is travelling as a solo female – saying yes to possibilities while keeping yourself safe along the way. After my rollercoaster start I set off fromIstanbulon an incredible 2 month journey rich in great experiences, delightful people, fabulous food and fascinating lessons in life and local history.

Travelling on your own, particularly when you’re not a 20-something party animal does have its challenges, but I’d recommend it in an instant. For those thinking of giving it a go, here’s a few tips to consider:

1. Cultivate traveller’s intuition –learn how to listen to your instincts. This isn’t just about heeding warning signs when a situation seems to be turning negative, although that’s certainly part of it. There’s a hugely positive side to intuition –hearing about a place that captivates your imagination, listening to whims and possibilities.  If you have a hankering to get somewhere or see something, follow it through. Walking the Lycian trail inTurkeyand visiting the Marmarus region ofRomaniaboth sounded like challenging places to negotiate on my own. They became the highlights of my trip.

2. Develop strategies to manage the down days. ‘Blah days’ are inevitable when you’re backpacking, whether it’s a dose of travelers fatigue or simply an overdose of rowdy British Eurail travelers at the hostel. Whenever I hit a low I took a ‘day off’ and found my way to a lovely café, a book store and a music store, deliberately avoiding anything touristy. These days became days I relished.

3. Plan an adventure and invite someone along. I feel grateful towards the many people who invited me to join them on their day trips or to dinners at quaint restaurants. Play your own part by picking up a stray at the hostel and asking them to join you on an adventure for a day.

4. Learn the art of being a nobody. This can take some time! At the start of my travels I felt some trepidation – who am I without my friends, my job, my extended network? Am I even interesting to talk to? The great things is, the main thing travelers are interested in talking about is (no surprises here) travelling. Conversations tend to be about where, when and now. It’s easy to be a listener and you’ll soon build up a store of your own stories. When someone got too pretentious I enjoyed dropping into the conversation that I’d spent the past two years inIndia(Indiaequals big points in travel circles apparently). Generally I loved hearing about the different places people get to and the different ways they got there. There are some incredible travelers out there!

5. Throw away preconceptions about age. If you’re in your thirties, you need to accept that most of the people you will be hanging out with will be less than 27. This was occasionally frustrating, but only rarely. In the end you are as young as you feel and I love being thirty-something.  Don’t underestimate how engaging and refreshing it can be to talk with an enthusiastic 18 year old. Special mention must, however, go to Murray, an octogenarian West Aucklander travelling throughCappadocia, who was one of the loveliest conversationalists I met along the way.

6. Do some research. I know the old Lonely Planet guide is not the be all and end all of travel guides, and I like to leave plenty if room for ‘hapenstance’, but gosh those maps and accommodation guides can come in handy! Try arriving inTransylvaniain a thunderstorm at midnight without a map to get you to your hostel (and in my case, thankfully, a small group of travelers heading in the same direction). I like to slice my Lonely Planet up so that I can carry a few pages around with me. The ‘dangers and annoyances’ sections are worth perusing and reading about places to visit can be tantalizing. There are also excellent online travel forums where you can get ideas and advice.

7. Think about having an ‘I want out’ option. It is possible that you won’t enjoy yourself as much as you’d hoped. After two months on the trail my funds were getting low and I was becoming blasé about seeing new places. It was lovely to hop on a train toViennaand spend a few days with a close friend. Don’t become a travelling martyr! It’s your trip and you can end it when you want.

Now that I’m back inNew ZealandI have banned myself for looking too closely at travel books for a year. I’ll need a bit more money in the bank before I can head off again, although I’m keen to give couch surfing a go. In the meantime, I have a lovely store of memories to draw upon and the knowledge than an adventure is sometimes only a ‘yes’ away.

 

 

 

Look Up!

 The clear, unpolluted skies of Queenstown will provide the perfect setting for Skyline Queenstown’s new stargazing experience.

Thanks to Skyline’s magnificent location and Queenstown’s long winter nights, guests on the company’s new Skyline Star Gazing tour will be able to get closer to another world than ever before.

“The view from Skyline is out of this world and this is an opportunity to explore the night sky from a rare and unique position,” said Skyline General Manager Lyndon Thomas.

Perched high above Queenstown, and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, keen stargazers at Skyline will have the opportunity to access a ‘hidden world’ not seen by the naked eye, and impossible to see in many other locations around the world.

Skyline Star Gazing will take visitors to a specially-constructed area high above the main complex, where there is no trespassing light, allowing for an unbelievably clear view of the night sky.

Top-of-the line telescopes will give stargazers the chance to view an amazing array of stunning sights, from the iconic Southern Cross, to nebula, planets, the Milky Way and other galaxies.

The star gazing tours will be headed up by experienced astronomer and Skyline Star Gazing Co-Ordinator Matt Hall, who said winter was an exciting time of year to be exploring the night sky.

“The centre of our galaxy sits right above us in the winter months,” he said. “There’s simply so much on show for us and we’re able to actually look into the past, something which blows most peoples’ minds!”

Mr Hall has joined Skyline Star Gazing from the Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo and brings with him over four years’ experience as an astronomy guide.

“This is a really exciting tour, tailored to suit the needs of each individual group, from first-time star gazers to the more experienced,” he said.

The clear views will be provided by two portable high-powered Celestron telescopes brought in specially from the US, which can automatically track points of interest giving everyone time to see the sights.

Guests on the outdoors tour will have no trouble keeping warm, with high-quality Canada goose down jackets provided.

Skyline General Manager Lyndon Thomas said mankind had always been fascinated with the stars.

“With most not easily viewable from major cities or requiring a journey to an out-of-the way observatory, Skyline Star Gazing should have universal appeal,” he said.

“Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world with an excellent selection of restaurant and bars, but there aren’t too many tailored options when it comes to enjoying our natural surroundings at night."

“Nightlife in Queenstown may be found in the skies above us, not just in bars and restaurants.”

Skyline Star Gazing joins the range of diverse experiences on offer at Skyline Queenstown that already includes mountain biking, Skyline Luge, Skyline restaurant and Kiwi Haka.

Skyline Star Gazing will run from 23rd August to mid-November on from Wednesday to Sunday nights and will take approximately 75 min (not including gondola). Tour times will operate from 6.30pm to 7.45pm and 8pm until 9.15pm.  A third tour from 9.30pm to 10.45pm will run if the second is full (some tour times may vary depending on light).

KJET ramping up for a wet reception

Queenstown’s newly re-branded Jet boat company is set to show off its ”thrilling” new look as warmer weather heralds the start of the busy season.

Kawarau Jet -- now re-branded to KJet -- is gearing up for what is always the busiest time of year for the company as warm, long days make for perfect Jet boating conditions.

“The beautiful long summer days in Queenstown enable us to operate for longer hours, with trips running from 8am to 8pm,” said KJet Sales and Marketing Manager Melinee Kong.

Established in 1960 and still locally owned and operated, KJet’s new look is set to make its mark on visitors to Queenstown looking for the ultimate Jet boating experience.

“We have a whole new look and style that reflects the thrills on offer on the trip,” said Ms Kong.  “We’ve re-vamped our logo, imagery, website and brochures, as well as the branding on boats and vehicles.

“We’ve got a newly-expanded frontline team settled in for the season, who you’ll find in the centre of Queenstown on our new-look Queenstown Main Pier.  We’ve been busy!”

Ms Kong said it was always an exciting time leading in to the start of summer and everyone was ready for what they hoped to be a bumper season.

“We offer thrills, adrenalin, 360-degree spins and sheer rock faces.  As if that wasn’t enough, we’re the only Jet boat company in Queenstown offering an hour-long trip covering 43km through the crystal-clear waters of Lake Wakatipu, the Kawarau and Shotover rivers.

One thing that hasn’t changed for the company is its team of Jet boat drivers.

“We’re lucky that our Jet boat drivers have all been with us for many years, which means there’s a great amount of experience amongst them and they’re all raring to go for the busy season,” said Ms Kong.

“We’re renowned for being a personal experience and the fact we take the time to stop, get closer to nature, talk about some of the history of the rivers and the area, means our guests always feel they’ve been looked after.  So of course, the personality and experience of the drivers is fundamental to that.”

The culmination of all of the hard work to re-brand from Kawarau Jet to KJet will be celebrated with an official launch event later in November.  But for now, the company is looking forward to longer days and offering those renowned Jet boating spins and thrills.

Queenstown bar does it's bit for world peace

The spectacular Remarkables mountain range viewed from the deck of renowned Queenstown bar The Boiler Room, provided the perfect backdrop to a music video recording which will go global.

Five Queenstown bands gathered on The Boiler Room deck earlier this week to record Kiwi music footage that will form part of a global concert to celebrate UN World Peace Day.

Filmed and recorded by ‘Busted Queenstown’, the four hours of footage has now been sent to London for editing down to a 45-minute set that will be used as New Zealand’s offering for the Jammin4Harmony global concert.

Jammin4Harmony brings together cultures and music from around the world through online exposure and co-ordinates global concerts for peace.

Twenty-nine countries will be taking part and the music collection will be streamed live around the world tomorrow (September 21) to celebrate UN World Peace Day.

The Boiler Room Operations Manager Jason Whalley said he and his team were “hugely privileged” to be part of such a poignant event.

“The concert is to celebrate peace and harmony all over the world and what better way to do it than with live music.

“Local Queenstown girl Gemma Carroll from Calico Duo has been the driving force behind this, so when she approached us we were very proud to provide them with a venue that ‘screams’ New Zealand.

“Nothing says New Zealand more than the view of Lake Wakatipu and the snow-covered Remarkables – it worked brilliantly and the performances were outstanding.”

Located at the Steamer Wharf overlooking Queenstown Bay, The Boiler Room frequently hosts local bands and strongly believes in the importance of supporting local artists.

The bands that took part in the Jammin4Harmony recording were Gemma Carroll and John Healy of Calico Music Duo, Nick Farrer, Tahne Brown, brothers Dave and Antony Waldock of A n D along with local legend Charlie Gibson.

Mr Whalley said Queenstown had an amazing amount of local and up-and-coming talent.

“We have amazing artists right on our doorstep here in Queenstown and it’s fantastic to think that talent will be displayed all around the world – and from our deck!”

Travel with a purpose

An unforgettable Himalayan trekking adventure came with an added extra of benefitting the local people and environment of Nepal.

When I found myself in the enviable position of having a few weeks spare to go globetrotting, I made a conscious decision to fulfil a long time dream of trekking through the Himalayas.  However, as I explored the options available – from self guided treks to small group travel - I stumbled upon an opportunity previously unknown to me.  Community Project Travel.

Community Project Travel seeks to actively benefit the local peoples we interact with while travelling, safeguard the ecosystems we explore and contribute to the sustainability of travel in the region we’re visiting.  If you’re after a rich, interactive, ‘hands-on’ travel experience – community project travel is the ticket.

I’d always dreamed of travelling overseas and lending a hand in some form or another.  However, my idealistic teenage fancies of pursuing a career in aid work had faded and I’d ended up in the much less altruistic occupation of a freelance TV producer and writer.  Understandably I was apprehensive about what someone like me really had to offer the developing world in terms of skilful application.  But adventure travel company World Expeditions assured me I’d be put to good use regardless of how well (or not) I could swing a hammer.

With seven to eight departures to different countries and causes a year, World Expeditions’ Community Project Travel itineraries vary in both length and physical exertion.  Their itineraries include departures to Nepalese monasteries, Tanzanian schools, Australian marine turtle protection programmes and Peruvian footbridge projects amongst others.

The focus is on projects in communities that have little to no access to aid or funding.  So travellers lend a hand with the knowledge that without their efforts no other option for development is available to the community they have helped.  I signed up for a community project in northern Nepal that would buy and transport building materials and then make repairs to the dilapidated state of Saramthali school.  Isolated at a high altitude, the school had no other hope of receiving either materials or labour for repairs and maintenance.  Children were unable to attend in the depth of winter due to the leaking roofs, open windows and general disrepair of the school buildings.

My adventure began in Kathmandu, the remarkable and chaotic Nepalese capital.  Here in a comfortable hotel I met the rest of my trekking companions, a group of around twelve from NZ, Australia and the USA of various ages.  We had lots in common around what we wanted to see and do and threw ourselves with a vengeance into all that Kathmandu had to offer.

After a couple of nights on the town and a day seeing the sights of Kathmandu we left the throng of the capital behind and set off by bus through the Langtang mountains towards northern Nepal’s Ganesh Himal region.

Away from commercial trekking routes we trekked along the ridgelines of the Ganesh Himal for five nights and six days – walking through lush rhododendrum forests and soaking up extraordinary views of snow capped Himalayan peaks as far away as Tibet.  Not once did we pass any other trekking group or foreigner.  The only traffic along the way consisted of local farmers shifting their livestock to different pastures.  Often we’d stop to chat to the locals, with our sherpas and guides interpreting for us.  One 11 year old boy we met was in awe of us – not because we were from the other side of the world – but because we’d arrived from Kathmandu.  It turns out he’d never been.  In fact, he’d never seen a car or a bus before – only planes overhead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking for around 6 hours a day carrying only a daypack, we stopped regularly for hot tea and some incredible picnic lunches each day before arriving in camp with our tents up, ready and waiting for us. Evenings were spent getting to know the sherpas, guides and others in the group over long dinners consisting of three or more courses.  World Expeditions is renowned for its gourmet catering, but the meals throughout the trek surpassed even my wildest expectations with a huge variety of delicious dishes appearing each night.

One of the highlights of the trek for me was a sunset game of cricket with our sherpas.  My lack of bowling talent had miraculously improved with altitude and the feeling of sharing a game of cricket on top of the world with snow covered mountains above, below and beyond was simply indescribable.

Day seven brought us to the village of Chilaune where we were met with an emotional welcome from the children of Saramthali School.  Leading us along a narrow mountain trail, the excitement continued to build and build as the local kids latched onto each of us, jumping and smiling as they led us towards a group of dilapidated buildings in the distance that they called their school.  As we got closer, more and more children, teachers, parents and villagers began to appear – lining the trail with flower necklaces and pots of red dust from which the traditional bindi was applied to our foreheads.  By the time we’d reached our destination we were covered in red dust from hundreds (no exaggeration) of stabbing thumbs bestowing the good luck symbol between our eyes.  With tens of handmade rhododendrum leis stacked around my neck I felt incredibly privileged to be able to experience and receive such a genuine and warm welcome from these people.

We were then treated to a traditional concert with ancient Nepalese instruments, dancing and singing, before being taken on a tour of the school.  Rotting shutters and floorboards, rusting roofs and a lack of blackboards were immediately obvious.  However the edge of the playground revealed a much more serious and urgent need – the retaining wall holding the ridge upon which the school was precariously balanced was crumbling away beneath the children’s feet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So began our five days of work.  Back breaking, hot, dusty and dirty – I can honestly say I’ve rarely worked as hard or had as much fun.  Lugging hundreds of 40-60kg rocks with the help of a gaggle of incredibly strong barefoot Nepalese women we managed to achieve something resembling a solid retaining wall.  Alternate days were spent inside the school, restoring window shutters and painting blackboards on to the walls.  The feeling of satisfaction at the end of each day was indescribable – I’ve never been so appreciative of a cup of tea or the opportunity after 3 days to wash my (dust encrusted) hair.

Before we knew it, it was time to leave.  Sad goodbyes to the children (we all had our favourites) and the teachers brought some in the group to tears, while others promised to return or write.  Two days of downward trekking brought us back to the road where our bus would transport us back to Kathmandu.

Our final nights in the capital provided a very different experience from those on our arrival.  We now had first-hand insight into the Nepali people and their culture – what makes them tick, how they work, play, communicate and gossip.  Eating, shopping, drinking and sightseeing, we saw Kathmandu in a new light – able to understand and appreciate the chaos for what it was.

When the time came to leave, I packed my bags with a sense of fulfilment not often experienced at the end of a holiday.  I vowed not to forget the smiling faces, the rhododendrum forests in full bloom, the mountain-top cricket or the taste of Nepalese rock dust.  And as it turns out, I haven’t.

Michelle Gimblett

Goodbye Snow, Hello Rubber and Dirt!

Skyline Queenstown will re-open its gondola doors to take mountain biking enthusiasts up to the world-class Queenstown Bike Park when it re-opens on September 29.

After returning from a research trip to Whistler Mountain Bike Park, brimming with tips and ideas, Skyline Mountain Biking Co-Ordinator Brad Rowe is looking forward to the season ahead.

“Whistler has been doing it for 12 years and even though Skyline is new to this, operationally we’re on the right track,” said Mr Rowe.

Located high above Queenstown, the Bike Park offers awesome downhill mountain biking for riders all of all levels, from beginners to intermediates and advanced. The bike park offers the only gondola-accessed downhill mountain biking in the Southern Hemisphere and features over 30 kilometres of purpose-built tracks catering for all levels of riders from families to pro-riders.

Following a hugely successful first full season last year, enabling more than 10,000 riders to access Queenstown Bike Park, the Skyline team is looking forward to an even better season this year.

Thanks to the hard work of Nathan Greenwood of Phat Lines for Queenstown Bike Park, 13 trails will be groomed to perfection and ready for opening day.

“We’re into it, the trails are looking awesome, never better. As hard as it is, to give them the best chance of setting up, I would ask riders to stay off the trails until the season begins,” said Mr Greenwood.

Skyline expects bike enthusiast numbers to continue to grow, and has appointed Assistant General Manager Wayne Rose to manage Skyline Mountain Biking operations.

“Since access to these trails first opened we’ve seen the continued growth of mountain biking as a sport, creating a significant economic benefit for many businesses throughout the region,” he said.

“That benefit reaches out to accommodation providers, restaurants, bars and bike rental operations.

“Skyline Queenstown has adapted its operations to cater for the addition of the mountain biking community and is striving to continuously improve the service provided.

“This season we’re even creating a ‘Bikers Lunch Box’ containing the necessary supplements to keep them riding hard.

“The trails in the park are a labour of love for the local community with crucial financial support from QLDC, Vertigo Bikes, Outside Sports, H&J’s Outdoor World, Queenstown Mountain Bike Club and Skyline for the coming season.

“Skyline Queenstown will more than match the collective contribution of the bike shops and club, to ensure there is funding available to maintain trails to a world class standard.”

While many trails are suitable for relatively novice or intermediate riders, Queenstown Bike Park has also proved a ‘mecca’ for international pros.  World Cup racer Markus Pekkoll of Austria and renowned biking siblings the Athertons were among the many mountain bike stars who visited Queenstown Bike Park last season.

Last season the tracks were the training ground for Hawke’s Bay pro rider Brook Macdonald who later went on to win the final round of the UCI World Cup Downhill Series held in France in July.

Gondola access to Queenstown Mountain Bike Park is available from September 29th 2012 to April 29th 2013.  Tickets can be purchased from www.skyline.co.nz, onsite or by phoning 03 441 0101.

Passes available include half day, full day, three-day, half season and full season passes, with pricing for adults and children (14 and under).

Check out www.skyline.co.nz for further information on mountain biking and a full range of other activities and products available at Skyline Queenstown.

 

The Kingston Flyer Gets Some Marco Pierre White Magic

An experienced chef with a passion for local produce is the perfect person to guide the new look café at Kingston’s iconic train station.

Nestled on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, Kingston is home to the beloved Kingston Flyer steam train. It’s where The Flyer Café’s new chef Andy Lisseman is set to delight diners and train riders alike this summer season. Originally from the UK, Andy’s experience includes a stint at the prestigious Le Pont De La Tour restaurant in London under Chef Tim Powell, a protégé of global culinary superstar Marco Pierre White. Since moving to New Zealand, Andy has made a name for himself at some of Queenstown’s finest establishments, most recently at the highly-regarded Jack’s Point Clubhouse.  Andy brought his passion for local produce to the establishment and while he says he loved his time at Jack’s Point he “couldn’t resist” the opportunity to work alongside the historic Kingston Flyer.  Andy has an affinity with the train as he and his wife are Kingston residents of six years and will soon welcome their first child.

“Living here in Kingston, the train is part of daily life and I’ve always had such a soft spot for it,” says Andy.  “When the train was shut down by previous owners a few years back and I saw it abandoned and run-down, I found it really sad.

“One of my main objectives in this new role will be to showcase the café as a destination experience.   Just like you would travel to a vineyard restaurant, a visit to the Flyer Café for good quality food alongside one of New Zealand most iconic steam trains is going to be a superb day out.”

Andy can’t wait to impress diners with his home-made delights and locally-sourced produce.  The new look menu will feature home-made artisan breads, chutneys and preserves, and an emphasis on local produce.

“Diners can expect to see a breakfast offering with our range of home-made condiments, or a light lunch consisting of freshly made sandwiches on home-made bread, or a seasonal salad of the day from locally grown produce.   One of our stand-out dishes will be the Central Otago Tasting Platter featuring locally sourced products such as olives and olive oils.

“The tasting platter was something we developed for the ‘First Class Carriage’ experience on the train.  You can choose to travel in the gorgeous first class birdcage compartment with bubbles and a tasting platter.  I thought it looked so amazing we had to offer it on the menu at the café as well.

“I’ve always been really impressed by the quality of local produce in this area, and I’m really looking forward to weaving it throughout the menu.  I think it’s some of the best in the world.”

Andy is also expecting his terrines to become a drawcard for visitors to the café.  Terrine-making is another passion for the experienced chef, enabling him to incorporate products such as duck, pork and pistachio.

“Most importantly we’ll be offering excellent wine matches with our food, because we’re lucky that Kingston Flyer’s new owner David Bryce is a wine man.  His background is in vineyards and he still holds a fantastic passion for wine, so he’s sourced some impressive ‘Kingston Flyer’ wines to complement the new menu.  I think diners will be really impressed by the wines we’re serving.”

Andy has been working hard to prepare The Flyer Café for opening day and has assembled and trained his front of house team.  He’s now in the process of finalising his kitchen brigade who will complement his depth of experience.

“The café’s had a good spruce-up with a lot of work on the space over winter and it’s got a great feel to it, definitely somewhere to come and enjoy a meal.

“We can’t wait to open the doors.  We’re catering for a private charter this Saturday for around 80 people which will be a great way to kick things off, then the café will open its doors from next Monday (September 24th),” he said.

The Kingston Flyer steam train officially opens for the season on Saturday 29th September with a gala opening day event.

The season opening will kick off with a ‘Gala Opening Day’ on Saturday September 29, a fun-filled day which will include a car boot market day from 10am to 3.30pm, free music, and discounted opening day fares at $30 for an adult and $15 per child.  Vintage cars and machinery are invited to be on display in Kingston.  The Saturday timetable will see the train operate at 10am, 12pm and 2pm, while on Sunday it will revert to the regular season long timetable and run at 10am and 1.30pm only.

For more information and to reserve tickets for the 2012/13 season go to www.kingstonflyer.co.nz

Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge Chamois Bar & Grill Achieves New Heights

The kitchen team at the Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge Chamois Bar & Grill in Aoraki Mt Cook is enjoying the dizzy heights of culinary success after making the finals of a prestigious ‘wild food’ competition.

It’s been a ‘wild time’ for chefs at Aoraki Mt Cook, who have recently scooped a number of accolades at regional and national culinary fare competitions before making the final of the legendary Monteith’s Beer & Wild Food Challenge.

Chef Kane Bambery’s ‘What a Pig’ dish was picked from more than 132 contenders throughout New Zealand to make the finals of the 15th annual Monteith’s event.

His dish was a mouth-watering combination of braised and slow-roasted pork ribs and pork cheeks, served with crumbed white pudding, Maori potato, watercress, vegetables and apple puree, matched perfectly with a Monteith’s Crushed Apple Cider.

He will now go to Auckland to compete in a live cook-off against some of the country’s most respected chefs and award-winning restaurants on September 24, where a $15,000 cash prize for the overall National Champion will be decided by head judge Kerry Tyack and two guest judges.

The Monteith’s Beer & Wild Food Challenge sees chefs from backpackers to fine dining establishments create New Zealand-inspired wild food dishes matched perfectly to Monteith’s beer or cider.

“It’s been over seven intense weeks of wild food cooking for Kane and the team, so to see them rewarded with a spot in the finals is a fantastic achievement,” said General Manager Nigel Harper.

“This amazing wild food dish is still on the menu at the Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge Chamois Bar & Grill."

The Hermitage Hotel’s kitchen team recently took home a bounty of awards at the Southern Light Salon Culinaire regional competition held in Invercargill. Their success meant they qualified to go on to compete in the National Culinary Show in Auckland last month.

The team shone again in Auckland, where Head Chef Ken O’Connell and Kane Bambery won the New Zealand Regional Team Challenge against teams from around the country in a three-hour competition, producing a three-course meal consisting of 18 plates.

The kitchen team also took out wins in a number of categories, finishing up in total with three title wins, six silvers, four bronze medals and one merit.

“We’ve always had a strong culture of encouraging our chefs to enter competitions,” said Mr Harper.  “We see the effect it has on their confidence, their abilities and their discipline.  It gives young chefs an incredible amount of pride in their work.”

Visitors to Aoraki Mt Cook can sample a wild food experience at the Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge Chamois Bar & Grill, or experience the culinary delights of the award-winning kitchen team at The Hermitage Hotel’s Panorama Room.