Falls Creek.

It seemed like a long wait for the ThoughtWorks ski trip to Falls Creek (aka ThoughtCarver – although I don’t work for TW anymore, it will be part of my life for a long time yet it seems!). I had been counting down the days since getting back from Kuala Lumpur. After endless Skype calls, with unreliable internet and dubious sound quality resulting in a lot of our conversations being along the lines of “huh? what did you say? I can’t hear you!”, Silvio and I would finally be in the same place, and able to have a normal conversation :) Oh yeah, and I was pretty excited about my first time skiing in Australia too.

I have to admit though, Aussies don’t seem to have a very good opinion of their snow quality – I was led to expect soggy slush, short runs and bad conditions, and I was pleasantly surprised by the skiing in Falls Creek. But I’ll start as usual, at the beginning of the trip, with the journey …

I flew to Melbourne to meet Silvio, where we’d rented a car to drive across Victoria to Falls Creek. I was desperately impatient as the plane began the descent into Melbourne, it had been a long two months, and the taxiing from the runway to the gate seemed to take for-eeeevvvv-a … until finally, the moment of reunion at the gate! We grinned like daft idiots all the way through the airport, but I didn’t care, it was a nice feeling.

It was a pretty long drive from Melbourne, over five hours … and we still had to find snow chains, since it’s a legal requirement in Falls Creek. Thanks to Google and TomTom, we found Ray’s ski shop along the way, and then finally, FINALLY we arrived. It was bloody freezing, and raining! We parked the car in the last available spot in a cold, windy car park and luckily there were parking attendants to drive us back to our apartments, where the rest of the ThoughtCarvers we were sharing with were already cosy in front of a log fire with red wine … didn’t take us long to join in!

Thursday morning the mountain didn’t look particularly inviting. A heavy cloud hung over it, drizzling cold rain on the village streets … we almost gave it a miss, but eventually bundled up in ski gear and braved the low visibility and high winds for a few pretty good runs. My legs were a bit shaky on the first run down, but Silvio was off like a shot, and then on the second run he led the way into the soft, ungroomed snow. Like an idiot, I followed – well, couldn’t really see much else to aim for – but my legs were not quite ready for that! I was a bit all over the place on my skis that first day, but at least the snow wasn’t too slushy or icy, even if we couldn’t see where we were going. The runs were all very short and over too quickly, but the chairlifts were also short so not too cold (except for Scotts Chair, where the wind seemed to blow right through me) and there were no real queues. I pretty quickly discovered that most of the black runs were comparable to hard red runs in Europe, although there were a few with some decent steep slopes and moguls.

Snowy mountains

Thursday night, Silvio had one goal: MEAT! We went to the Falls Creek Country Club which was described on the website as the best place in town for a steak, it was pretty quiet but the steak was good. When we left it was snowing fairly heavily, the roads were white and we left trails of footprints back up the road … this was promising for the skiing conditions the following day!

Friday was definitely better – although there were still times when the clouds closed in, there were also moments of sunny, clear runs. The first two heats of the Age Corporate ski race were held, and many of the ThoughtWorkers were participating – I watched a few, most weren’t too competitive, but some definitely were (coughDuncan). Everybody had to do the course twice, it was fairly short though – I ended up taking Silvio and Alex-no-brakes-Ong’s jackets down the slope for them while they competed (better for speed, apparently, did I mention some people were competitive?), I must have looked a right sight in my own bulky ski gear, with two more jackets tied around me on top!

Sarah finishing in style

Friday night, we all headed out for drinks at Tom Dick and Harry’s. ThoughtWorks had sponsored some pretty cool jackets for all of us, which most people had worn for the drinks, so we were pretty easy to spot as a group. The drinks were put on for the racers, so there were lots of other corporate groups there too – Sarah managed to get talking to a guy from another company who happened to have a tiger suit (wtf?) – she later convinced him to trade it for her ThoughtWorks jacket. I haven’t yet seen proof that the deal went through, although he did wear it (and partly remove it) in the next bar.

Sarah had her eyes on this suit …

The drinks were flowing on Friday and we got steadily more rowdy as we progressed to The Man bar. Andy Tam was particularly good fun that night, until eventually somebody decided to make sure he got home :) We discovered the foosball table, which brought back memories of playing in Berlin with Alex … this time we played against each other, Silvio and I won by a narrow margin (I’m pretty rubbish). Some randoms decided to challenge the winners but I told Alex to take my place, they almost won as well :)

Saturday would be our final day of skiing since we had planned to leave around lunchtime on Sunday, and it was also the second day of the race, with two more heats down a smaller slalom. Silvio had decided to try a new technique that involved bashing down the poles as he skied past them, it was successful in terms of getting him a pretty good time, but less so in that after finishing the second race, he had some pretty nasty bruises on his arms.

Julie

As he finished, I was pretty excited, he had almost equalled Julie’s time which was bloody good, she’s done a lot of racing in the past and in fact she beat Duncan that day too, which she didn’t let him forget (I hear there are now two new email aliases at ThoughtWorks now … ibeatduncan and ilosttojulie!). After Silvio raced, he sat down in the snow complaining about his arms being in pain and trying to use the snow to ease the bruises, but I didn’t really clock on how bad it was until the ski patrol arrived (two of them!) They were incredibly efficient, and even offered to take him back down the slope on a stretcher – which I thought was kind of funny, although when one of them pulled up on a skidoo I did think it might have been exciting to get a ride on that :) Eventually they left us with an ice pack after filling in about seventeen forms, and I continued to tease him for the rest of the day for being such a drama queen.

Saturday night, it was back to The Man for food and more drinking … but we sneaked out before the dancing started (sorry, Sarah!) Sunday, I crammed my gear back into my suitcase – I swear, no matter how tidy I am at home, whenever I go away, my suitcase seems to just explode everything out the minute I arrive – and Silvio headed off to the cold, windy car park to get our car. He was gone for ages, and I was wondering how he could possibly have got lost walking up one road … until I saw him walking back, waving his phone at me and asking why I hadn’t answered his (five) calls … must remember to take that thing off of silent sometimes. It turned out that the car wouldn’t start: the battery was flat as a pancake. Nobody else had jump leads, not sure I’d know how to use them safely anyway, but there was roadside assistance man with a truck who headed up the hill to help us. He attached the cables, and the alarm promptly started to go off – but with power restored, once that was disarmed we could at least get the car going again. Apparently it happens quite often :( anyway, we were sorted and heading off to the airport, with a few stops in the city along the way to trade ski gear for work clothes.

Although it was an awesome trip (and expertly organised, thanks Julie and Andy!) and I was sorry to leave the snow behind, it was also pretty good going back … we flew together back to Sydney and spent a couple of days enjoying Manly before Silvio had to head back to Bangalore for his second and final semester as a trainer at ThoughtWorks University.

I think we might have enjoyed Manly even more if I hadn’t forgotten my keys on Monday morning, resulting in two pretty hungry and tired people slouching over the table in the Wharf Bar after work until my new housemate Matthias finally arrived home at 10pm to let us in :( We sat watching the rain sluice across the harbour and worried about the bags we’d left in the porch of the house, which luckily were still dry when we finally made it back!

Quackers made it to Falls Creek – of course!

So on Wednesday morning, not only did I say ciao to Silvio but my friend and housemate Viviana was also heading off on a two month trip to Europe, so I am now missing both of them. Ah well, not long to go now until my own big holiday – heading back to the UK to watch my little brother get married, which I can’t believe has come around already. I will be squeezing in a quick weekend in Singapore on the way though …

Today’s the day.

It’s finally here, well, almost. And I got the blog ready just in time!

Thanks to my lovely Mum and Dad for, well, loads of stuff but also for the pictures in the header. I could have looked on Flickr but I wanted pictures that had some kind of personal meaning. They’re very photoshopped but I was happy with the end result.

Now I must head off and fix up a small bug on the Divecrew website before I head off to the other side of the world, then finish the packing and I’m off!