“Not all those who wander are lost”

Sometimes the journey is as much fun as the destination. Yesterday’s trip from Fairlie to Queenstown, a journey of just under 300k with a predicted drive time of three hours 25 minutes, took us almost eight.

And for once the delay did not involve mechanical meltdowns or comedic catastrophes! Though as we drove there was a lot of remembering previous
Trips and associated good and bad times!

Before we left I had had a lovely country run of about 40 minutes, enjoying the wake up sounds, sights and smells of small town New Zealand. Sheep, cattle, birdsong, woodsmoke. This was followed by a cooked breakfast and a soak in the hot tub. I seriously want one of those.

We were packed and on the road by 10am. The cloud hung low and squeezed the odd drop of water onto the windscreen, occasionally meriting the use of the wipers. It was a short drive to Lake Tekapo which seems to have been ruined by overbuilding. It is so different from when we came as kids, staying in relocated Ministry of Works houses on the lakefront, feeding the power metre with 20 cent coins and learning to skate on the outdoor rink.

I finally got my Denheath custard square and a coffee which I ate, parked overlooking the lake. It was very still and looked very cold. Low cloud obscured the mountains. From here we continued south through the Mackenzie Basin. I am more used to seeing deep golden tussocks against a brilliant blue sky. The low cloud made it very grey and bleak looking. We came across a surreal Lake Pukaki which glowed slightly blue against the cloud. It was very thick and low here. No photo ops for Mt Cook today!

Andrew threw me onto my bike and I picked up the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail. I loved it. Zipping along a well formed but still rugged trail, the blue glowing hint of a lake to my right, the distant hum of the main road to the left. Just me, my bike and a lot of bunnies. Andrew picked me up again at the top end of Pukaki by the canal inlet. These southern lakes are all linked by massive canals which move water around to feed the massive power hydro scheme. Fascinating engineering.

From Pukaki the weather was more fragmented. Sporadically the cloud would lift and we would be treated to a hint of a vista. The colours remain vibrant and would reflect beautifully in the still waters of the many lakes. Sadly I knew my little camera would not do it justice. I committed them to the photo album of my mind.

I needed more food! How or why I am not sure. I don’t eat this much at home. Omarama offered some ancient fried food or any selection of stodgy carbs. I chose to wait.

We continued south through the Lindis. Wow. It never ceases to impress me. I do live in a beautiful country. And eventually my starvation was relieved at Tarras with a bowl of creamy potato and garlic soup. I had been chilled for some time. Andrew and I do not operate on the same heating system. He was driving in a t shirt with the window down. I had a merino top, a thermal top and my windproof fleece, my winter weight cycle tights, and my beanie and gloves. I was still cold. But the driver’s needs dominate.

There was a merino store attached to the cafe. As all the signs said, “Your Icebreaker comes from here.” I fell in love with a little merino dress. Unfortunately they didn’t have it in my size otherwise I would have bought it. Very disappointed.

We carried on past Lake Dunstan, bypassing Cromwell and through the Kawarau Gorge. Again I continue to be wowed by this scenery. Despite my unsubtle hints we drove past the original home of the bungy, instead stopping by Lake Hayes for a bike ride. It was 4pm and the sun was dropping quickly. The low sun and the lifting cloud lit the lake in a golden glow. The trail looped the small lake. It was a busy wee trail with us two biking and maybe 50 people out walking or running. Andrew found it tough, telling me it was further and hillier than his commute to work. I. Loved. It. Swooping up and down the hills, relishing the view at every corner.

We got back to the car right as the sun set, to the minute. Perfect timing. And drove the final kilometres to Queenstown.

We are treating ourselves with lakefront room at the Copthorne, about 1k from the centre of town. It was dark by the time we got to the room but I think we will love our view.

We finished the day by walking in to town and having a meal at Speight’s Ale House. I may not need to eat today. Yeah, right. (Oops wrong beer ad.)

Cover photo: Lake Hayes at the start of our bike ride
Title: As we drove through some of the country used to film the Lord of the Rings series, it seems fitting to title my blog with a quote from Tolkein himself.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Grey. Dark. Damp. Drizzle. Dreary. Describing the weather outside. It is quite uninspiring.

I am sitting on my bed post long run, pre coffee with a friend. The clocks went back overnight. We are officially into winter time. This morning I woke at 6:30am according to the clock, most of which are still in yesterday’s time zone.

I got up, tripped over the cats, more than once, and prepared for my long run featuring hills. In new time I left the house just after 6am. The ground was wet underfoot. Precipitation of some description had occurred during the night. The early morning was eerie. It reminded me of the morning of 9/11 which had had similar weather. That day though I imagined all those souls lost in the rush to get to wherever they were headed. I have checked the news headlines – no similar mass deaths have been reported.

It was a plodding sort of day, as it is when you need to clock up 30k. I ran towards Hagley Park. Visibility was poor and the few cars out and about made their presence known only by matching orbs of light. It was quiet.

Hagley was surprisingly devoid of human life too. I cannot remember seeing anyone through here. I left South Hagley, short-cutted through Tower Junction and headed down Barrington Street. There was more traffic and the occasional pairing of cyclists heading out, clad in lycra, headlamps flashing. Recently there has been a lot of discussion about cycle safety and should high vis wear be compulsory. The only thing hi vis about what I was wearing was my bright blue and orange Camelbak. Though Andrew asked me later if I was wearing a headlamp. Oops, no!

And then I was at the bottom of Hackthorne. 10k done. 20 left to do. It was time to head up. And up. And keep going up.

Now I was seeing other people, walking, biking, running. All ages, all shapes. I saw people I knew, two mums from dancing, a group from another running club, and others with whom I just swapped greetings. A fine drizzle coated me with a film of moisture. My hair was dripping. About 100m ahead people blurred into the grey haze. It was the sort of morning many would just roll over and catch some more zzzzzs. But the diehards and dumbarses were out there doing it.

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And that is my wow today.

Good on everyone who got a bit wet and a bit sweaty and a bit puffed this morning. I am sure whatever you did was your equivalent of my 30k (with 12 of those pretty much climbing). I am sure with whomever you shared your exercise time appreciated tye company, whether it was your usual training buddies, your partner, your dog, or the random voices in your head (pick me, they all cry!).

I hope your post exercise cuppa was just what you felt like – I had a ginormous bowl of trim flat white, and gluten free pancakes with banana, bacon and maple syrup whilst reading the Sunday Star Times at The Cup. Andrew being the best training support person a mad runner could have collected me from there.

And I really hope someone else reads this and is inspired to get out and do it even if the weather is a bit crap. Because it doesn’t matter how much money we throw at it, or what scientific advances are made, we cannot change the weather. And for most of us, most of the time, it is not too bad.

“When it’s pouring rain and you’re bowling along through the wet, there’s satisfaction in knowing you’re out there and the others aren’t.”
Peter Snell

Cover photo

Contents photo: taken from Sign if the Bellbird looking down Lyttelton Harbour.

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A plethora of Wows

My body is stiff and sore. A small price to pay for sleeping crooked in the car as we drove home last night from our holiday.

Was it only two weeks?

It was one of those holidays where every morning I woke and thought I could go home today. This has been good. A simple word but it satisfactorily sums up the days.

I was offline and so could not post all my wow moments. There were a lot. As the heading says, a plethora. I started to get quite fussy about whether or not a moment qualified.

In no particular order these were the moments which made me feel good. Amazed. Wowed!

The sea. I have never seen it so clear. Even quite a distance out to sea you could see the bottom. At the 5 knot buoy I could see the wheel rim anchoring it to the sea bed. Of course the downside was I could see all the marine life. Real and imagined. Although the beach was patrolled daily by a couple of eagle rays, and once by a shark (which has never happened before), I only saw jelly fish and one flounder – while I was swimming out deep. Phew!

My sons. Robbie in particular. A typical teenage boy, who is growing so quickly and always tired. But there were girls in camp for the day. They were staying over two rather big hills at another beach. Robbie decided to bike to visit them. It was a 90minute ride in each direction – I know because I biked home with him in the evening.

Then a couple of days later Robbie decided to run the Abel Tasman Coast Track. A good 40 kilometres of trails and hills and beaches. It took us 4 hours and 45 minutes but he kept going, never complaining. Fuelled on Powerade, jet planes and a bumper bar. He would not borrow a running pack so carried his drink in bottles in his school back pack. Legend!

Jonny – Captain Jonny. Worshipped by young Sam (aged 10) in the next camp. Jonny played cricket with him, and took him out boating a lot. Insisting Sam sat down and wore his life jacket. I love seeing the boy who used to follow around the big boys, being a big boy role model himself. Jonny also impressed a lot of the adults with his prowess at camp cooking – the bread cooked on the campfire and the mussels were highly praised.

Friends. Old friends. New friends. We camped next to a family we had met last year. Mum Linda. Dad Brian. Three teenage kids like us. Through them we met Sam and his family, John, Mo and little Phoebe. And Sue and Bruce. Many laughs, banter, jugs of Pimms, swims and runs were shared. The highlight was one perfect summers evening which began with a big shared meal and ended up with a male chest waxing session.

Old friends. The people we have camped with for many years. Catching up after a couple of weeks, or months, or even years. We update each other on our lives and we talk and laugh a lot of crap. The boys too, just pick up on friendships forged over many summers. Growing from little kids with plastic buckets and spades and toy trucks, to young men with big spades and real boats. And always the card and board games when shade or sitting down is required.

Other friends. A woman my kids and I went through Playcentre (a pre-school group) with was camped with her family. We spent a good hour or two catching up. An old university friend of my husband’s who we hadn’t seen for 15 years. Running into (literally) a family breakfasting at a hut while Robbie and I were running the Abel Tasman track. They were walking the track. The other mum and I decided each other was familiar but this woman was Australian. Finally linked it back to Playcentre (again) – she had spent two years in Christchurch when her kids were very small. There were other links like this – New Zealand is just a small village!

Special moments in time. The realisation that you perhaps are the only person who will ever witness this moment. One in particular was while I was going for one of my longer swims. I had woken early – for holidays. It was about 7am. The camp was asleep and I felt too tired to run. I wandered down to the beach and the sea was glassy with a small swell rolling to shore. Swim time. The sky already cornflower blue. The sun high and slowly sending the temperature higher. I decided to swim out to a small fishing belt sheltering the night in the lee of the bushclad headland. As I rounded the stern of the boat I really was amazed at the sheer simplicity of the scene. White boat reflected in the marine blue sea. Two symmetrical fishing booms extended port and starboard, crisp black straight lines stark against the sky. The only sound was me swimming, breaststroking the water. In the distance the golden beach, a long stripe of sand, and then the differing greens and blacks of the bush, silhouetted against that sky. Still blue to all compass points. I head back to shore. Already the first puffs of wind are ruffling the sea. By the time I am walking up the beach, the camp has woken. The moment has passed. And not long after that the boat weighed anchor and sailed quietly back to work.

The night sky. This was one I wasn’t gong to add. Because why it does wow me it has since I was a little girl and allowed to stay up around the campfire until we could see the first “sputnik” – satellite passing above. Now, there are so many satellites it appears half the stars are buzzing around. I actually have to admit I didn’t see any this year – mostly because I was in bed before dark! But on my midnight wanderings to the toilet I loved seeing the milky way. Picking out the constellations I know – Venus big and golden, Orion’s belt, and of course the Southern Cross, the constellation of home! Coming home last night I was mesmerized by the stars. Jonathan was somehow navigating by taking photos of the night sky with his iPhone and telling us which direction we were travelling – the modern day sextant.

And then I saw the moon. A small wedge of lemon, compete with a thicker rind. Crisp and succulent against the inky black of space.

Wow.

These moments and memories will sustain me for the next year, and beyond. Yep. A simple but truly delightful holiday in a simple but delightful place.

The lagoon at low tide

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The shared meal with friends

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Awaroa inlet at dawn

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Captain Jonny and First Mate Robbie

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Nudity!

Well, that grabbed your attention, didn’t it?

Today is the first day of 2014. I woke about 6:30am. I was cold in bed. It was not very light outside. I could hear quite persistent rain drumming on the roof of our bach. I rolled over and tried to get warm.

I had had thoughts, back in Christchurch, of welcoming the new year in ceremonially with a dip in the lake. No way. Not with that rain. And I was still cold. I made a cup of coffee, put my winter pjs and fluffy socks on over top of my skimpy summer ones. Then with my headlamp on I read my book. Andrew was still sleeping. Eventually I fell asleep again.

When I woke it was after 9am. Back home I am a terrible sleeper. But when on holiday I make up for it. Anyway it was still cold, even with a fire burning. It was still raining. I stayed in my pjs, adding ugg boots to complete the look.

Late morning it cleared slightly. I grabbed that opportunity to go for a bike ride. Wrapped up in multiple layers of merino and fluro, topped with beanie and gloves I set off for the Tophouse circuit. It was 90mins of undulations, some tar sealed, some shingle roads. I enjoyed it all. Yes I got wet and muddy – again. I returned to an empty bach. The boys had gone to play with Robbie’s bow and arrow, shooting at inanimate targets up Teetotal Flats. I pondered having a shower or just getting into dry running clothes, knowing I needed to run later on. I went for running clothes.

More book. More rain. More food. More cross-stitch. More rain. More sleep.

Late afternoon and I am antsy. All this sitting and eating is not good for anyone. I decided to run and do my strength exercises. Destination West Bay via Peninsula Track. It was an easy run to West Bay. I started my exercises – 12 mountain climbers. I heard thunder. The clouds were black. 12 press-ups. More thunder.

Not keen to be killed by lightening as I ran through the bush I decided to head home. I stopped and did some more exercises – 12 walking lunges, 12 tuck jumps. More running. 12 lateral jumps over a drain, 12 sideways jumps. There was no more thunder and the sky was brightening. This weather is confused. 12 jump squats, 12 prisoner squats. I came to a little track down to the lakefront. It was like a private beach. A lightbulb moment! I went down to the beach. And walked along. It was very secluded. Only about a metre of stones between the manuka and the lake. There was no-one around. Would I? Could I? Carpe diem and all that. I did. Stripped off all my clothes but left my socks on and strode into the lake. Expecting the water to be freezing I was pleasantly surprised. It was a quick dip but it counts. My first ever skinny dip!! Ok so I still had my socks on but otherwise I would just slip on the slimy stones. A number of strokes. A full submersion of my head. Yes, definitely counts.

I got out and put my clothes back on. 12 bicycle crunches, 12 v crunches. I carried on running. And met a lot of people also taking advantage of the short break. What they thought of me running along, dripping wet hair and grinning like the proverbial cheshire cat. Who cares. I finished my run with a 30 second prone hold and 12 burpees. As I left the lake to run a circuit of the village, I looked up towards the lakehead. The cloud had lifted and I could see fresh snow on the tops.

As I sit here in this cosy bach with the fire blazing, it has suddenly become very dark. There is a lot more thunder now. And lightening. The wind is blowing strongly and the rain sounds like it contains ice. But inside I am glowing with the first wow of my year done and dusted. My first skinny dip. Hard to believe that I had got to this point in my life without trying it, but actually the opportunity had never arisen.

Now it is time for more nudity – a hot shower and then back into my pjs and ugg boots.

Almost a new year.

And almost time to officially start my “50 things which make me go Wow!”

I have a problem. Well, actually I have a lot but this one is pertinent to my blog. What constitutes a Wow moment/occasion? It seems I am incredibly easily wooed by the beauty of nature and incredibly unimpressed by my own acheivements. Often even other people’s acheivements.

For example I am sitting here, in a dinky little bach in the bush at Lake Rototiti. There is music playing. No-one here knows what it is. We are just randomly selecting cassette tapes (yes, they still exist) from the bach owner’s eclectic assortment. At least the current selection is infinitely improved on this morning’s action songs for mother and child. Out the window I see the bottom of the St Arnaud ranges. The tops are up in the cloud. Between me and the range there is a lake but we cannot see that from the house as DOC has decreed the bush must be allowed to grown without intervention. I see the bush. And hear the birds.

Just an hour ago I was mountain biking in the bush and the rain. Every so often the rain would cease momentarily and the sun would lighten everything up. Sun on wet tussock. Gnarly grey matagouri and whiskery green old man’s beard. In the distance violet mountains and heavy black clouds. I took a photo but I doubt it could do it justice. It was one of those glimpses the mind needs to capture with its own snap shot. Yes. A Wow moment. I will return at a later date to explore the concept of banking memory snapshots.

Yesterday I swam the length of the foreshore in the lake. It was possibly my first ever proper “training” swim in the lake. I have swum for fun and for fitness out to the 5 knot buoy but this was proper swimming. Wetsuit. Goggles. Swimcap. Overarm. What I noticed on my return lap as I breathed to my left side was the stunning view to the top of the lake. A view I am most familiar with from land. From the jetty. From a boat. But never from water level. It was one of the most scenic sights I have ever seen. Almost monochromatic with the grey cloud, darker grey mountains, deep green bush and still lake reflecting all. Oh that was a Wow moment.

Through this blog it is going to become apparent how much I love New Zealand and the ability I have to enjoy it. I love that I grew up in a family which taught me to love the great outdoors. I love that I met a man, Andrew, with a similar background. I love that we have taught our kids to appreciate camping and adventures. I especially love that I am fit enough to just get on my bike or put on my running shoes and get out there and really take advantage of the freedom and beauty with which I live.

So back to my question. What constitutes a Wow moment? I am thinking it might be the beauty of light reflected against a stormy background. It might be a different viewpoint than one I am used to seeing. Or it might be sitting here having a glass of wine while my two teenage sons cook dinner (hot ham, chips, mushrooms) and outdo each other with puns, and realise that Andrew and I have created two really nice people; three if you count Juliet who is at home with the cats and chickens. Yeah, I look at my family often these days and think Wow!