Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Tasty Retreat

Millenium glass

I hear you say "So what is a PCO retreat?". A weekend of indulgence, that's what it is.

After helping Mrs C in her business as a Professional Conference Organiser in Hamilton last week, we spent the weekend as guests of Air New Zealand and the Millennium Hotel chain at a retreat in Queenstown - a weekend of fun and fine food. It's a thank you to PCO's for bringing business their way, as well as a way to showcase the accommodation, conferencing facilities, food, beverages and entertainment available in different regions.

Million Dollar views

Mrs C and I flew in later than the others, after a tiring week shepherding 240 delegates at the NZSSD conference, so were hoping the weekend's activities weren't going to be too strenuous. The last one we'd attended had been lavish but came with an "Amazing Race" theme that involved orienteering, fast cars, and Mrs C vowing never to do a bungy jump again. This year's theme was "Moments of Desire", so we were looking forward to something a little more sedate. Of course this is Queenstown, where sedate means being pushed off the bungy platform instead of having to jump.

Our late arrival meant we missed lunch and a round of golf at Jack's Point, but to be frank, neither of us was too worried. We took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep before meeting the other guests over dinner. Over pre-dinner nibbles, we were fitted with new Maui Jim sunglasses and told they would come in handy tomorrow. I was thinking either jet boat rides, paragliding, or maybe a spot of heli fishing might be on the cards. But speculation had to be put aside as we enjoyed a fabulous meal and plenty of Pinot Noir, followed of course by a nightcap in the bar. Thankfully I didn't over-indulge in my love of late-night single malts.

The next morning, we and our colleagues assembled in the hotel car park to see Thunderbirds One, Two and Three.

Thunderbirds Are Go

We were bound for Skippers Canyon. The road that my mum still has nightmares about. A road where insurers still won't cover rental cars and even mountain goats prefer to take the bus.

Skippers Road

I loved it. And as we embarked upon the jet boats at the end of the road, I knew I'd love that too.

Skippers Jet

Skippers Jet

Skippers Jet

I learned from my last jet boat ride to stick my ultra-wide angle lens on the camera, and bring plenty of wipes for the lens. You get lots of spray, even when the pilot isn't flinging you into 360-degree spins. But this was Queenstown, and he was.

PCO Retreat-2521


After the jet boat ride, we were driven up to the owner/operator Winky's house for some hospitality. The weather was less than optimal, but that's never an excuse for not trying to get some nice pictures. I was about two or three weeks late for the best of the autumn foliage, but there was still plenty of gold in them thar hills.

Winky's yard

Iron and Autumn II

After another welcome rest in our hotel room, it was time to join the gang again at the "Moments of Desire" dinner. Several small courses of heavenly cuisine with names I couldn't possibly pronounce, accompanied by a fine New Zealand I couldn't possibly decline. Semi-naked models adorned the room, and a large screen played classic movie "A Streetcar Named Desire". It was a night to remember, as long as you didn't indulge too much in all that wine.

Body Painting 1 Stella!

Rather than use my flash, I thought I'd capture the ambient lighting in the room, so put on my 50mm 1.8 and cranked the ISO on my Canon 7D up to 6400 ISO - way out of my normal comfort zone, but I was pleased with the relatively low noise level. I'm loving that camera.

The next morning we had a tour of some of the very nice refurbishments at the Kingsgate Hotel and took a boat ride on the lake before hopping in a rental and coming home, still tired but more than satisfied and of course, looking forward to the next adventure.

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