On today’s episode of me sorrowfully yearning to be back in the land down under, I take you to Queenstown, New Zealand. I had no idea I would be so moved by this energetic city, but between the extremely kind people, breathtaking views and endless list of adrenaline-pumping activities, a piece of my heart lives in the “adventure capital of the world.” This trip took my Pop Pop and me on a bus ride through The Remarkables mountain range and over it via private airplane, on a boat on the Milford Sound where we saw seals and dolphins, on my first helicopter ride, and more. Just watching this video puts the largest smile on my face, and I hope it gives you the slightest idea of how incredible New Zealand is.
Whitmanythought 1: I hope to return to New Zealand and see the rest of this magnificent country!
How does one spend the last day of a ski trip? Ripping it, of course. My dad, grandfather, uncle, cousin and I headed to Keystone Mountain Sunday morning with much excitement due to the bright blue skies and sun shining over us.
If we could have combined Sunday’s weather with the snow conditions of the other days, it would have been absolutely perfect. Regardless, Sunday was a beautiful end to an exciting trip. The first half of the day consisted of all of us shredding together, and then my uncle and cousin left me, my grandfather, and dad to do the job—and we definitely got it done! To my surprise, we stayed on the mountain almost as late as we could to take advantage of every run we could.
As I have said, this ski trip has been an extraordinary one. We lucked out with fresh snow three of the four days and the temperatures stayed high enough so I did not freeze my fingers off.
Secondly, I am super proud of my improvement. My dad joked that my new ski outfit contributed to my better form, but to be honest, my new ski goggles gave me way more visibility than my old ones, which upped my confidence and pushed me to not shy away from quick turns down steeper terrain. Nothing feels better than my uncle asking, “When doesn’t she kill it?” and me genuinely feeling proud of myself.
Finally, as I have mentioned, it was so special being with my family over the last few days. Goofing off with them made the days light, but also made me want to show off what I can do a bit more. Nothing beats being in a competition with my uncle to see who can spray the other one more with snow, singing Taylor Swift as my dad simultaneously sings classic rock on the chairlift or being pleasantly surprised when my “mini-me” cousin flashes a “thumbs up,” something I often do, for a photo together.
This ski trip was different. It was more relaxed, but somehow more fulfilling. I will miss hearing man-made avalanches in the distance, seeing my dad carve a line around me and feeling like I am on top of the world as I gawk at the mountain peaks surrounding me. I may be done on the slopes for a while, but I cannot wait to get back on them next winter!
Day three of skiing brought more amazing conditions, but best of all, it brought my family! I was super thrilled to be on the mountain Saturday with not just my father and grandfather, but also my aunt, uncle and two cousins who are Colorado natives.
The day was bound to be interesting because my whole family is not all at the same level of skiing, so there was some pace-adjusting to do. The morning actually went by quickly despite how relaxed it was. We had an early lunch, and then the rest of my family left the mountain to watch the Eagles’ playoff game at the lodge.
So then there was two. Although I was super excited to ski with my whole family, there is nothing like some daddy-daughter skiing. To make up for the slow morning, I firmly suggested that my dad and I take the T-bar up to the bowl of the mountain, the highest point that surpasses the tree line. A T-bar is a lift that two people rest their behinds on as they grab onto the cable and get pulled up the hill, skis on the ground. My father was quite skeptical about this because he thought it would be too cold and snowless up there. However, he was pleasantly surprised to find untouched powder and a wide open mountain peak for us to explore. He enjoyed it so much that he opted to do it again! This is the type of skiing that left my thighs burning and my heart racing.
From a family-filled, slow morning to a fast-paced afternoon with just my dad, Saturday ended up being an incredible day at Breckenridge Resort. To make it better, I caught half the Eagle’s game with my family at the lodge, where we animatedly cheered them on around the television. I do have to admit that Taylor Swift played in the car on the way to and from the mountain, and I’m not confident that the fresh snow, comfortable temperatures and Eagles winning was all just a coincidence. I suppose I can leave that open for interpretation.
A few days ago, a sweet little memory popped up on Facebook: my first blog post on Whitmanythoughts. I cannot believe it has been a year since I started writing about my travels. I feel like I have written so much, yet have so much more to share.
I often wonder what will happen to my blog after I finish my time here in Australia. I know I won’t actually be traveling for quite some time, so I won’t have so many new and exciting things to write about. I can definitely see my content changing a bit to adapt to my (not as cool) lifestyle back at home. I do want to focus on my feelings a bit more and incorporate them into my writing so it is not so cut and dry. In the end, I realize I control my blog and as long as I like it, everything is dandy. In reality, every day is a new adventure, and I know I will have things to talk about.
Plus, this is WhitmanyTHOUGHTS for a reason: I have oodles of thoughts and I want to share them. I have so many things constantly swirling through my mind that I would love to turn into “thought” posts. I am not looking for fame with this site, and I am so happy with the 100 followers that I have. Although it would be nice to turn this blog into something larger in the future, I am so contented writing for the sake of my own memory and for my family.
I do have so much to still share. I have posts from my weekend getaways in Italy last summer as well as my extended trips in Australia this semester saved in my computer, yearning to see the light. Although I won’t be “traveling,” I have so many exciting things coming up in the second half of the year, from summer at the shore to a Fall Concert Series 2.0 to hopefully spending some time with international visitors…but I will just keep it at that.
My global travels may soon be over, but the adventures continue. Life is beautiful. It is not always perfect, but one thing I have been reminding myself is that life does not give me obstacles that I cannot handle. Here’s to the last year of travel, here’s to my time left in Australia and here is to the next year of Whitmanythoughts.
Whitmanythought1: This has been the most epic year of my life and I am so thankful.
Whitmanythought2: How do I still have friends on Facebook with all the posts I share?
Whitmanythought3: Can I just keep travelling for another year?
I never thought I would visit Costa Rica. I never thought it would have the impact on me that it did. I am so thankful I got to experience the people, the food and the sights this country has to offer. Hopefully I will be back one day to see more.
Until then, I can play this video of memories over and over.
We got back from our ATV adventure around 2:30 in the afternoon and we were not exactly sure what to do. My dad was set on surfing, but also wanted to go to the shops and take the golf cart for a spin, my sister wanted to relax and I just wanted to do something. After a little bit of debate, we decided to have a more relaxing afternoon and explore the campus of the Marriot and then hit the beach.
I had never driven a golf cart prior to this trip, so driving it was quite exciting. We took it up, down and around the pavement stone streets of the resort before heading to the local beach. The beaches here are not as much for taking a towel and laying on like the ones at home. People do hang out there, but it is not quite like I am used to. We decided to walk up the shore a bit and we noticed a lot of debris. Apparently that is because there are several rivers that feed into the bay around the corner from this beach that pick up garbage and carry it through into the ocean. As we were leaving the beach, we spotted some macaws, which was the first time I saw them in the wilderness. The birds are so elegant when they soar through the air and their feathers are so vivid in color.
We drove back to the hotel where we did our own thing until dinner time. I took this as a chance to get one more dip in the pool, which I did earlier in the morning prior to breakfast. How many times will I be in an infinity pool overlooking the ocean in Costa Rica? Unless I am marrying a celebrity, I needed to take advantage of this opportunity. My dad also joined me, as I suspected, so that was nice as well.
Finally, it was time for dinner and we all piled in the truck and ventured off to a stunning boutique hotel on the edge of a cliff that has a huge amphitheater that overlooks the water. It was dark once we got there, but if you look here, you can see what I am talking about. The grounds were gorgeous and the food was absolutely delicious. The coolest thing we discovered was the noise of large frogs. It is hard to explain it, but it sounded like the motor of a tiny motorcycle off in the distance. Once we had enough of the bugs trying to eat us, we headed home to pack.
Tuesday night was the perfect ending to a remarkable vacation. I never thought I would visit Costa Rica, let alone zip line, ATV and boat through the rainforest, interact with the monkeys, catch 40-50 pound tuna or swim in an infinity pool overlooking a beautiful coastline. I was sure lucky to do this and I hope one day I can live like this again. Until then, Pura Vida!
I cannot believe this is my last day in paradise. Of course, we packed it with exciting adventure.
After breakfast, we drove to Jaco once again not to surf, but to rent ATVs. These are basically like mini jeeps for off-roading. It was very simple to rent them, and within a few minutes of filling out papers and petting the place’s dogs, we were on our way.
Luckily, Mr. and Mrs. Kopp have done this several times before, so we didn’t have to worry about getting lost. This was another first for me on this trip, and I was ecstatic to go explore the rain forest. It was extremely intriguing to see so many homes lower in the mountains. It was so fascinating because these people are living in the middle of the rain forest, yet have beautiful ranches, landscaping and pools to make gorgeous properties. There was a decent amount of homes for sale along the way, and I wondered how often a house sells back there.
Our first stop was at the peak of one of the mountains that overlooked the valley. I was surrounded by lush green trees and plants below me and it was a sight to see. It was a bit foggy, and there were clouds below and above us.
Our next location was through a private property we paid extra for to gain entry. The locals use our entrance fee to survive and upkeep the area. Being in the mountains, they need to be resourceful when it comes to making money. The roads here, as well as the rest of the roads on which we traveled, were dirt and simply carved and flattened into the mountain. The dirt is a rich red and very moist, so it is perfect for packing. The roads in this private area were lined with drainage along the side as well as small trenches dug into the road that fall off into the roadside runoff system.
After some long and twisting downhill riding, we reached our destination: a small waterfall coming down the mountain that lead into a creek. Although I realize there are waterfalls much more grand than this one, it was still a beautiful sight to see—and climb. How could I not climb up the waterfall and see more? It was basically calling my name. Climbing it was fun, although I was scared to touch something poisonous or run into an unfriendly critter. After exploring the area and taking in the soothing noise of fresh water flowing naturally through the mountain, we were off to our next stop.
After the waterfall, we drove through another town deep in the mountains. These homes were also impressive. There were stores as well as a school and a church lining the roads. What baffled us the most was the fact that people somehow moved all the materials necessary to build the town, or pueblo, in the middle of the rain forest.
We rode through the town and found our way back to dirt trails which eventually lead us to a few attractions. We passed a “Tarzan Swing,” which is basically a platform you jump from hundreds of feet in the air and once you feel like you’re about to fall to the ground, it starts swinging and you get a beautiful and adrenaline-filled view of the valley. My dad was freaking out about it, but I secretly wanted to give it a try.
We were headed to the Macaw Botanical Garden, which I thought was just another lookout point on the mountain where we could see some macaws. I was wrong. This is like a peaceful nature resort in the middle of the rain forest where people can travel to for relaxation, hiking and the enjoyment of nature. The main building was completely composed of wood and it was an open tetra decagon (I’m not quite sure about the shape) with an open lounge area and bathrooms on the bottom floor and a few rooms on the top floor. The getaway had minimal electricity, no Wi-Fi and no internal conditioning system. This is definitely a place to which I would escape to find a peace of mind away from the hustle and bustle of my own life. The gardens surrounding it were huge: there were cabins, yoga platforms, multiple ponds beautifully landscaped by lotus flowers, pineapples, black and red bamboo and hundreds of other types of beautiful plants. I only saw a small part of the grounds, but I was in awe. It sounded beautiful as well, with sounds coming from birds and reptiles alike. I would love to hear how it sounds at night.
Finally, we needed to head back, considering we were hours over the rental time for which we paid. We hauled back, occasionally stopping for pictures of the terraced farms, cows and horses. We also passed some more homes that were smaller and more shack-like, but still served their purpose and were just as easy to admire. To our surprise, we found a large log cabin that looked like it belonged in Vermont.
Our ride home was fast and fun—until we got a flat tire. Luckily we had cell phone service, so we dialed the ATV rental shop and they came to our rescue. It was an incredible experience I will never forget and the perfect way to end a great vacation. However, the day was not done yet!