50 wows for 50 years in one run!

Today is my birthday, my 50th.

I celebrated with a run as I like to do on my birthday. It was awesome.

Andrew dropped me at the start of this track. He arranged to pick me up 90 minutes later at Moke Lake. His parting words were, “you know you are insane!”
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I ran through bush, bird song being the only other sound I heard. It was still. Cold. And almost raining. It was also straight up until I hit this spot beside Lake Dispute.

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A big tough hill, but I ran all the way over it. I might be literally over the hill, but certainly not figuratively!

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I found a cute wee musterer’s hut settled amongst the matagouri and bush. I preferred the musterer’s accommodation we had the other night, but this was authentically New Zealand..

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Then an easy downhill track through a paddock of cattle beast, who carried on eating as I ran by.

Traversing Moke Lake, around the head and back along the shingle road until I met my support person. He had bananas and a peanut slab!

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Wild Wows

Have I mentioned how much I love New Zealand?

Godzone. Not meaning the zone of God but more the country God created for himself, God’s own. Without getting into a theological discussion, let’s just appreciate the most awesome country hidden away at the bottom of the world.

Today I did the Coast to Coast. East coast to west. Pacific Ocean to Tasman Sea. Leaving a city filled with demolition and construction, earthquake damage and still suffering from a massive flood earlier this week. Roadworks and Friday afternoon traffic slowing our departure.

But soon we were travelling west, slowly climbing across the Canterbury Plains towards the purple ridgeline of the Southern Alps. It was a long slow climb up Porter’s Pass as our elderly Pajero struggled with a furniture trailer filled with a tonne of gear. No hyperbole here – we actually were towing a ton.

It is the 25th Wild Foods Festival in Hokitika tomorrow. It is our 24th year of having a stall, or two. The trailer was chocka with the actual stall, which is being erected in the marquee while I blob out in the motel. (Yay for teenage boys!) plus all the equipment and a lot of the ingredients needed to feed the festival goers.

We reached the summit of Porter’s Pass and began the beautiful drive through the alps to Otira. This country is used a lot in film sets: Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and even this great ad. It never fails to impress me. Something about the clean simple lines, contrasting colours. Especially on a day like today. Blue sky, golden tussock, sharp grey rocks, purple mountains, green bush. And the rocks. So many opportunities to be amazed at the construction of a wild country as evidenced by whole hills thrust upwards by some ancient, or not so ancient, subterranean force.

We drive pass two small lakes, leftover from melted glaciers. Traverse the wide river bed of the Waimakariri River, remembering fifth form geography and alluvial plains, shingle screes and braided river systems. Learning is so much easier when you live among it.

A short stop in Arthur’s Pass. We were amused that the Doc centre’s stone wall was fenced off, probably because of “earthquake risk”. Hello, red tape bureaucrats! Arthurs Pass sits right on the Alpine fault, in a cleft in the Alps. If there is an earthquake, the whole bloody mountain will land on the village. Who cares about a five foot high wall? And we won’t mention avalanche risk!

Onwards and upwards over the Otira Pass, down the viaduct and the gorge. Even though these days it is a “feat of modern engineering”, I am always relieved to be down the bottom again.

From there it is a simple drive through Jackson’s, Kumara, and along the coast south to Hokitika.

Kumara is known as being the base for the start of the Coast to Coast multisport race. Also famous for its cop. Today he was hiding as a tradie in a white van. Just past the junction the booze bus was busy catching the revellers who could not wait to start drinking.

It was a lovely journey. Uneventful. I would say let’s hope the weekend continues like this but my “workers” have just turned up and announced they forgot to bring kebab sticks. A necessary item when planning to sell 700 wild kebabs. The only supermarket in Hokitika did not have any. Neither did the main Four Square. But the last wee store they tried had some. We have their entire stock now.

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Solar recharge

Where deepest green meets grains of gold.
Brightest blue reflects in cooling seas.
Totaranui.
The most beautiful place I know.

Winding through the hills
On a road narrow and fragile.
Dust clouds surround our load.
Cicadas herald our arrival.

We drive through the avenue
Of English trees planted years ago.
The sun beats down. Our clothes feel sticky.
As possessions tumble around the car and trailer.
The children vanish into thin air.

They will return. Occasionally.
To eat.
To sleep.
To eat some more.
The only signs of their existence.
Dishes on the table.
Wet towels on the floor.

Meanwhile it is us. Mum and Dad.
Who build a castle out of canvas and boxes.
The sounds of metal on metal ring out across the bay
As poles are assembled. Tent pegs hammered home.
Beds are made. Kitchen organised.
The lounge is on the beach.
My work is done.

For two weeks I live here,
Off the grid as they say.
There is no electricity.
Or cellphones.
Perfect for recharging the batteries.

Before packing it all up.
And driving back to the city.
Until next year.
When we will come again.

I wrote this poem about a place very dear to me. I go there tomorrow. I won’t be able to blog while I am away. But I am sure I will have plenty to say upon my return. Until then.

Ow not wow!

Two days ago I met a wasp. It flew into my left arm as I was running around Lake Rotoiti, an area renowned for wasps, and large sandflies.

The wasp stung me, just the once. At first it was just an angry red mark with a small white hard swelling, about the size of a small coin, a NZ 10 cents. It did not hurt. It did not itch. It was just annoying. I could finish my run, though I was wary of it.

I was running to the head of the lake where I was to meet Andrew and the boys who were boating up. Although I carry emergency supplies and a first aid kit, I didn’t have antihistamine. Or the kitchen sink. I had everything else. Note to self – buy some antihistamine cream for kit. Don’t bother with the kitchen sink!

It was about an hour later that I could spray some Stingose and then my afternoon was filled with packing up and cleaning the bach we had rented for the week. We had given up on the crappy weather and chosen to head home a day early.

My arm was swelling. It was now noticeably bigger than the right arm. And radiating heat. But not enough to illicit any sympathy from any of my boys!!

When we arrived home in Christchurch I put some antihistamine cream onto it.

That night I could not sleep. It was nice to be back in my own bed. The bed at the bach had been playing havoc with my back. But it was a hot sticky night. Aaaah, summer, how I had missed you.

My arm itched. It throbbed. I got up twice in the night to take Panadol and one of Juliet’s hayfever pills. I wrapped a cold flannel around it. More cream.

By the time morning came, my forearm was huge, red, swollen, hard, throbbing, sore, and itchy.

I measured around it. It was 26cm in comparison to my right arm at 22cm. My wrist was unaffected and measured 14cm. My left bicep is only 24cm. Yes, I have chicken arms!

I took more drugs. Used more cream. And put up with mocking derision from three teenagers. “Oh, your biceps are so big. Oh, wait that is just your wasp sting.” “You look just like Popeye!”

I took a nap and slept for two hours. Possibly the drugs. Possibly the restless night. When I woke my arm felt better. I mowed the lawn, with a push mower and tackled two weeks of weed growth. It was lovely to be in the sun, but it did not help my arm.

It grew even bigger. 27cm around the widest part, and the wrist swelled too, into the hand. My wrist was now 16cm.

More cream. More Stingose. I tried arnica too. And wrapped it in ice. Living with a dancer we always have ice packs on the go.

Now almost 48hours later it is still swollen. 26.5 cm and 16.5cm around the wrist. Still itchy but not as much.

It is now annoying me as I have things to do which I cannot.

Oh well, it could be worse. It is, after all, only a wasp sting. And while it has affected me, it is not life and death. Just a normal reaction to a nasty insect. And it will go away. I just need to be a patient patient.

the Department of Conservation’s wasp eradication plan

Dealing with wasps at Lake Rotoiti

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!