Category Archives: Adventure

stories relating to adventure and travel

Boarding 102: A very different day

Still buzzing off of the back of our previous snowboarding success, another weekend boarding was penciled in and last week Lisa and I headed back to Cardrona to pick up where we left off and become boarding pros.

The weather conditions for the day couldn’t have been better to be fair, waking up in the morning the sky was clear and the sun was shining, much better than 2 weeks before, having an adventure in the middle of a crazy storm. Although the day was clear with good visibility there was still some pretty crazy wind whipping across the mountain.

We decided that the best thing to do would be a lesson during the morning that included a lift pass for the full mountain for the afternoon, that way we could pick up some extra skills and then have time to go and try it all out. At the start of the day they asked us if we knew how to link turns and the overconfidence kicked in and I said yes. When it was time to start moving and show what we knew things went wrong pretty quickly for me to be perfectly honest. I hopped up on the board thinking that after my single days previous training I would now be a Pro but apparently that isnt quite how it works. Moving off seemed to be fine and I started to pick up some speed, right turn… all went ok but things felt a bit wobbly. Left turn… BOOM and hes down! I hopped back up as quick as I could, a little in shock at the fact that I had even fallen down so easily and then BOOM, down again! 3 more times I hit the deck before getting to the bottom, very confused about where all my skill had happened to go.

It turns out that the first day we had gone happened to be the perfect conditions to learn to board in. All of the fresh snow and relatively little wind meant that the it was nice and soft making all the turns really smooth and quite easy. By the end of the day we had been carving the mountain and flowing as we boarded down. Today the snow was more like ice, hard and slippy making turning much more difficult than before and adding a lot of unexpected speed. The change of conditions made it feel like learning all over again from scratch, although the basics seemed to be down(like standing on the board and tightening bindings) everything else seems to have completely disappeared. Even the most basic of turns seems to have slipped away from us, turning into opportunities to just plow into the ground.

Luckily for us we still had a lesson and the tips they gave seemed to do the trick and slowly things started to come back. In a away I am quite glad we did learn on the day we did since it was definitely a confidence booster, although that first part of the morning was certainly a confidence killer!

In the afternoon I decided to try my luck up the mountain, trying out the McDougals beginner run. Lisa decided better of it and instead volunteered to play the part of photographer for my little attempts and I’m happy to say that she somehow managed to make me look quite good!

Getting onto the chair lift attached to a snowboard for the first time was a little daunting as I wasnt sure exactly how I should have it but I soon figured it out and was on my way. As the lift started moving the first thing you noticed was how quiet everything was… so so quiet. No wind, no creaking of machinery, not even any noise from the people playing below. Nothing. It was so peaceful being able to look around and see everything and such an amazing view. The unfortunate part was that this phenomenon only lasted for about 30 seconds as once you cleared the cover of some of the low hills the wind really started to kick in. Up at the top things were a whole different story! The wind whipped around the mountain, picking up the previously fallen snow and stirring it up into a whirlwind. Visibility seemed to just disappear, only opening up for brief moments before washing away just as fast.

Up at the top of the run the conditions were very changeable keeping you on your toes… or heels as it happens. In places where the slope was shielded from the wind all of the fresh snowfall from the previous night made the board flow and everything seem silky smooth… for a moment. All of a sudden you would come off of this smooth snow and onto something closer to an ice sheet, accelerating quickly and, as a begginer, getting a little scared. Most of the time I spent on my heel edge, trying to slow down and keep some sort of control. Although I like to think that I boarded down the mountain I think a relalistic description is that I managed to get from the top to the bottom without crashing, breaking the whole way and getting very lucky.

After a couple of runs it was time to call it a day. By then all the heel breaking had managed to burn out my muscles but I didnt feel confident enough slowing down on my toe edge so had to just go with it. Althogh I fell down quite a few times I have to say that I had another awesome day and amazing weekend.

It still amazes me all the things that seem to just be on your doorstep in this country, some of the most beautiful sites and amazing activities only a few hours drive from home.

Life is good.

Snowboarding 101

Last weekend the South Island of New Zealand was hit with some pretty severe weather. Actually that is probably a bit of an understatement… Shit got wild! A huge storm came down the east coast ravaging everything in its path and putting most of Otago (the county I now call home) into an official state of emergency. The Techbox store in Timaru had to be closed due to all of the flooding outside as the petrol station across the road from it ended up underwater by quite a considerable amount. Luckily (and I am not sure quite how) our store survived unscathed with water lapping up against the door but not quite making its way inside. Further down in Dunedin panic was setting in and people were sandbagging their front doors and preparing for the worst… I on the other hand was completely oblivious to any of this starting to happen and instead was focused 100% on going away to Wanaka to try out Snowboarding for the first time in my life in one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been.

I was fortunate enough to get off work early on Friday and picked up Lisa before making our way inland to Wanaka where we would be staying for a few days during our trip. A few people did question our decision to travel during the storm (which at that point was just a little rain in Dunedin) but we headed out anyway and took a steady drive. Luck again was on our side and our drive into Central Otago was completely uneventful! Apart from a little rain things actually cleared up about half way there and the rain came in again when we finally arrived in Wanaka so we thought that everything was just a little over hyped by the media. It wasn’t until we sat down in a restaurant for dinner and overheard someone on the phone talking about a big power outage in Cromwell and how bad the weather was in Dunedin that we thought we best check up on things a little more.

Land slip near my house

I happen to live on a hill and our landlord put in new drainage in the summer to keep everything clear so had nothing to worry about, Lisa on the other hand lives on the flat in an area of reclaimed land that is quite notorious for flooding so was a little more worried than I was. She had already prepared by moving all her things off of the floor and onto the bed just in case things took a turn for the worse which thankfully never quite eventuated. The back garden did eventually turn into a small lake but her bunnies were nice and safe in the top floor of their hutch tucked up nice and warm so all was well there.

After a night of restless sleep we were up bright and early to head to the mountain only to find out that due to some fresh snowfall overnight there would be delays in things opening. The power outage had also affected the Ski resort causing multiple ski lifts to be offline due to them not all having independent generators to power them. For us, none of this really mattered anyway as it just meant time to get a coffee first things and a leisurely start to the morning.

The drive to the entrance of Cardrona was nice and simple as its pretty much flat but after you enter the gates is where the real fun starts. Since I didn’t have any snow chains for the truck we had to leave it at the bottom and go up on one of the shuttle buses that they have running there which was quite an experience. The road up the mountain is steep, windy, and covered in snow and the fog kept on rolling in dropping the viability to just a few feet at times. When the fog did clear for a moment though the view was epic, looking down on all the snow-capped hills and mountains across the valley was simply stunning.

you know its cold when your hair is frozen solid!

For a first timer at a Ski resort I expected to be a little lost and confused but things turned out to be much simpler than expected. The evening before we had gone into the Cardrona ticket office in Wanaka where they had sorted out our RFID cards and tickets for our first timer package which then saved us time when we got to the top. Instead of more queueing at the ticket office onsite we instead headed straight to the rental section to grab our gear and get ready. Grabbing boots and getting fitted for the snowboards couldn’t have been easier and only took us a few mins before we had all our gear and were set to head outside for our first timer beginner lesson. One quick beep of the card and there we have it, snowboarding boots. Another beep, and there is a board to go with them. Beep! Now I have a helmet and some gloves, quick and easy, just how I like it. We didn’t need to rent any snow clothing as I had borrowed some from my friend Jazz and Lisa borrowed some bits from her bother and already has a range of snowboarding jackets that looks like normal coats (she knows how to be warm and look fashionable!).

As we trudged outside into the snow and wind with our boards under our arms both of us were getting quite excited and I felt like a little kid that couldn’t want to get going! Without having to venture too far we found our instructor for the day, a nice Scottish guy called Rob, who was going to teach our little group the ropes. I can’t speak highly enough of Rob and how great he was at teaching us and explaining things throughout the day. He not only had a good way of describing what you needed to do but was also extremely patient and just seemed to love what he was doing and turned everything difficult  into a fun game for us all to enjoy.

Boarding = Happy

The first part of the training for me seemed to be the hardest by far as the simple techniques and balancing exercises seemed to put a lot of pressure onto my foot and bad knee which made me a little anxious that I wasn’t going to be able to participate for the whole day. I persevered through  and soon realised that it was more the standing still while we were being shown everything that was the issue for me and doing the actual skills wasn’t a problem. After figuring out the basics of how to stop strap our feet in, move about a bit and stop when we needed to we headed to the beginners slope to start making our way down and get the hang of things. The beginners lift wasn’t working but to be honest the slight gradient of the hill didn’t really need a lift and we all just walked up each time after we had completed a little run and a new task set by Rob. When the lift did open later in the day I quickly found out that due to the queue and speed of the lift it was actually much quicker to just walk up anyway, plus you got a bonus workout!

The morning session seemed to fly by before we broke up for lunch and grabbed some food. At no point through the day had I been cold and in fact had been far too warm most of the time so I took that opportunity to strip back a few layers (always dress in layers for cold weather for exactly this reason) to dump with our stuff. The only moment that we were cold all day was sitting outside eating our sandwiches since the cafe area was packed! My body was perfectly fine but after a few mins in the cold wind without gloves I couldn’t feel my fingers which goes to show how good snow gloves really are.

By the afternoon session  the lifts had started back up again but at first we continued on the practice slopes, honing our skills turning and stopping without falling over. I may have gotten a little over zealous at one point which involved me flying down the hill, trying to stop on my heals and hitting a little bump before plowing the front edge of my board into the snow. The fun thing about doing this is that you slam face first into the ground at pretty high speed! My Juijitsu training came into effect at this point as I happen to know how to fall without doing myself too much damage and the fresh snow also helped me walk away with nothing but a bruised ego and the new sense that I maybe needed to do things a little more cautiously although this was not the last time I would face-plant today!

Almost look like I have a clue…

After more practice we all reached a point where we were confident enough to head up the mountain on the main beginner Chondola (a combination of a Goldola and a Chair Ski lift) to do our first real run down the mountain. Yet again Rob became invaluable in keeping the team together and directing us on things to look out for and what the signs meant which is again a little daunting as a beginner. Pretty early on I managed to make a fool of myself for a second time by repeating the exact same fail as before but this time with even greater speed. I am not sure how, but somehow I yet again managed to dodge any injuries and brushed myself off and carried on. It took us a while to get back to the base starting area as we made sure to stick together and wait for each other but the feeling of just being up there was amazing. Whenever the visibility would clear up the views from up there were breathtaking. I would have taken more pictures to share with everyone but my gloves were a bit of a right fit making it quite an ordeal to get them on and off so they mainly stayed firmly on and my phone in my pocket.

By the end of our inaugural run down the skyline track it was time to start packing up and heading home. It wasn’t until we were on the bus heading back down to the car that I realised that with all my crashing and bashing I had managed to rip a hole in Jazz’s ski pants! I couldnt believe it since id not even noticed the breeze but I must have done it while practicing the one footed technique before the ski lift when I may have accidentally done the splits and fallen over. As a good borrower I obviously let Jazz know and sent him the money for a replacement pair straight away, fair is fair. On the bright side though I still saved money borrowing everything else so cant really complain.

I cannot rate the day highly enough and now I am just fizzing, waiting for a time that I can get back up there and give this all a try again. Watch this space as I am sure there will be a Snowboarding 102 coming soon!

As an extra special bonus we were also treated to a stunning sunset over the lake in Wanaka to yet again remind me why I love this country so much.

Wanaka Sunset

 

 

Hockey and Helicopters

When travelling all over the world one of the times you tend to really miss friends and family are the special occasions like birthdays and Christmas. Since its July its an easy guess that its currently the latter that has left me thinking about home.

Last year my birthday in NZ was pretty pathetic to be brutally honest. Due to a combination of good friends leaving to continue their travels, people having plans and just not having that many friends in the country, my birthday essentially consisted of me sat at my desk in the office working late then getting Chinese food on the way home. Sad to say but that was about the top of the excitement factor for my 31st birthday. With that in mind I was determined not to have a repeat performance this year and, with the efforts of quite a few special people around me, that was certainly not the case this year.

Unusually for me my birthday celebrations started a few days early for me this year, on the Sunday before my actual birthday (on the Wednesday). Lisa’s parents were kind enough to invite us over for some afternoon tea and we had a mini bday celebration with some of her family and close family friends. Somehow the weather turned really nice in the afternoon even though we are currently in deepest winter, so for about 2 hours Lisa and I ran around the garden like idiots playing football with the kids while the real adults looked on shaking their heads. Fun was had by all and many a goal was scored even if some were by questionable means! Lisas Dad made an amazing apple cake and Lisa had also arranged for a custom chocolate cake from a local bakery so it was cake, cake and more cake. After dinner was boardgame time where I have to admit that I was beaten at chess by a child. A very good child mind you and we did win one each….but still, someone a third my age so maybe I am not as good as I used to think!

When the day of my actual birthday rolled around I made the decision that I didn’t want to work for the day so booked it off and instead just tried to enjoy myself for the day. The “relaxing” start to the day didn’t exactly happen though as somewhere along the way I had agreed to get up for the 6.30am boxing class at the gym followed by breakfast with Ellie. If you ever want to push yourself then a 6.30am boxing class is certainly the way to go. Pressups and skipping at that time will certainly wake you up! After milling about the house for a bit it was time to meet Lisa for walk by the beach and a nice lunch before heading home to go mountain biking.

…..and I didn’t go biking at all. Now I did have every intention to get out on my bike and hit the trails, I had ever laid out all of my biking clothes ready to go. What I wasn’t reckoning on though was our temporary cat returning and wanting to chill out with me. Over the last few weeks we have had a cat keep appearing at the house and just wandering in as we open the door. We haven’t fed it but it still seems happy enough to just come in and chill out for a while. The cat has been named Doggo since Luke wanted a dog instead of a cat and he/she seems pretty relaxed. Anyway, when I got back from lunch with a full stomach and a cat that wanted to cuddle the idea of biking in the cold seemed to take a back seat. There I laid on the sofa for the next 3 hours until I finally had to get up and get ready for the BJJ and MMA classes I had also decided to go to to round off my day of combat sports. Safe to say that I managed to get through the BJJ class ok, however I then got quite punished at the end of the MMA session with a Doghouse round where I had to go for 12 mins, taking on a new opponent every minute. It doesn’t sound that hard until after the 3rd minute when you are too gassed to move properly and these fresh faced people keep attacking you!

Once I picked myself up off the floor and had a quick shower it was time to head out for dinner with some friends to round off the evening and end a pretty awesome birthday.

…At this point the questions should be “This has got zero to do with Helicopters or Hockey” however if you are patient and keep reading we will get to that.

Unlike any other birthday that I have had this one managed to stretch its way out to a whole extra weekend of adventures, some planned, some spontaneous and some planned in secret for quite a while.

Saturday morning the was the start of the second weekend and even more birthday treats. Lisa and got up in the morning and drove out to Queenstown for the weekend to take part in the festivities of the winter festival. Arriving quite late in the afternoon we wondered about for a while before grabbing some food and the heading to the Hockey match that evening. It is the second Hockey match I’ve ever been to and Lisa’s parents bought us tickets for by bday gift which was awesome of them. Although the ice rink in QT is tiny, the fans are plenty rowdy and loud and there was quite an atmosphere going on given that it seemed like no one (including the players or refs) knew what was going on! ….maybe that was just me though. Hockey is a pretty fast paced game so its hard to tell the difference between an innocent penalty and a blatant one but I am still not sure how something didn’t get sent off for punching another guy in the face in front of the ref!

The rest of Saturday night was pretty chilled out with the rest of the fun happening on the action packed Sunday. After getting up and leaving the hotel as late as possible the original plan was to walk up to the top of the lookout hill and go for a ride on the luge before leaving to go for by bday surprise at 1pm. Arriving at the hill we thought better of the whole thing and instead got tickets to take the Gondola up and back down again which in hindsight was the best choice since we were a bit strapped for time in the end. Along with the Gondola up we also got tickets to go on the Luge at the top which I have never been on before but have always looked at every time I’ve been there. The Luge is definitely something I would do again in a heartbeat and was over far too quickly. The QT Luge is basically a 2 different tracks from the very top of the hill to the main Gondola station full of twists and turns and even the odd jump if you’re brave enough. You ride down it on little carts where you control the speed by pushing the controls forwards or pulling back and try your best not to spin out on sharp corners by going far to fast. Safe to say I failed this on my second run and ended up sideways. I was a little overzealous with my speed, trying to keep up with Lisa who had smashed me on the first run down the hill and left me for a gonner.

After the excitement of our first little mission it was time to go and finally find out what this bday surprise was going to be. It had been kept very well hidden for quite a while now and I was pretty excited, especially when Lisa told me that she had impressed herself with this one. Anyone who has ever met her will know that when it comes to gifts she has an unnatural talent to always get the right thing and find amazing things for people all the time. Not quite sure how she does it but she does just manage to get even the rarest little gifts that fit just right. When this girl gets excited then you know it is something you should be excited for too.

With instructions to drive towards Cromwell and make sure I was dressed in warm clothes we headed off on a 30 min drive. My brain was going for all of the potential things that it could be but nothing really added up with the information I had been given. I was told to wear good footwear as my feet might get wet, but when asked about the rest of me apparently that would be dry. The only thing in my mind that this could be would be snow… but we were driving away from it…

Finally an instruction, “turn right here”, and then I saw it Heliview Flights. We were going in a Helicopter!

Now obviously this makes sense when thinking of how I could get to snow from nowhere near the mountains but this was ruled out pretty quickly in my mind as I was aware that Lisa was scared of heights so never expected that to happen. She had decided to face her fear though and I couldn’t be prouder or happier as I have always wanted to go in a Helicopter so this was just a perfect birthday gift.

After having the safety briefing and waiting for the chopper to arrive we were underway in such a relaxed and smooth way. The best thing about it was that at no point was Lisa scared which made things even better. We could both look out of the window and take on the scenery while the pilot narrated away and told us what we were looking at. The bonus of the trip was that we also got an alpine landing as part of the trip and somehow got absolutely perfect weather for the whole experience. For a few weeks leading up to this the weather had been a bit hit and miss. The night before it had rained pretty hard but today the sky was clear with a few wispy clouds and the sun in the sky. The best bit though… SNOW! So much deep snow on the ground and we got time to run around and act like kids, jumping in the air and taking awesome pics of our best efforts. It eventually got a little chilly on the old hands but that was just an excuse to go back and take another drink of the provided hot chocolate that we had with us. As a bonus on top of all the other bonuses so far I also got to sit in the front on the way back and see the amazing view when you are in a completely open cockpit.

Things lined up perfectly on the trip to make for an eventful weekend and some memories that I will not quickly forget.

It is the times like this that I appreciate and cherish the most. The vivid memories of happy times and experiences that people always reach for. I am so lucky to have people around me who took the time to make my birthday a great one and thankful to all of them. Especially lucky to have a girlfriend who is so cunning and planning that she can pull off such an amazing surprise… my only issue now is that its her birthday soon! Best get planning!

Baby Steps

Its seems far too easy to get into a position where a simple task feels like a behemoth that we can never quite tackle. A position where what should by a 5 min job feels like it will take weeks out of your life and so should probably just be avoided all together. That is unfortunately what has seemed to happen to me lately, especially when it comes to writing this blog and doing some drawing.

From looking at time stamps and records I can see that I’ve not managed to publish anything onto my website or picked up a pen in nearly a year and I am finding it quite difficult to figure out a way to explain why. It is not because I have stopped enjoying those things or even because I’ve not had time, its just because I seemed to have gotten so far behind on things to write about and things I was going to draw that catching up seems daunting.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to adventures I’ve had more than I can shake a stick at in the last 12 months, so much so that I wouldnt even know where to start! Ive been home to surprise my dad for his 60th birthday, Mountain Biking with friends, hiking local trails, offroad driving, Jet Skiing, drone filming, ocean swimming, river dipping, lake front camping, new year drinking, hungover feeling, beach walking, star gazing and sunset watching… all to name but a few! Ive been to Mauritius, the UK and toured the south island of New Zealand a whole second time without a single word of it making it to this page and for that I am sorry. Im not just saying sorry to those of you who are following my adventures now and reading this shortly after I type it, I am saying sorry to my future self who has to hold onto all of these memories in his head as they were never comitted to print.

As anyone know me is aware, I do seem to love to talk and with that is also a love for the written word. I feel as if I have done myself a disservice by not taking the time to use that skill and start writing about all the things that Ive been doing in both the present and the past.

There is not going to be any specific or measurable order to the things that I start to write about as I think that dwelling on all of that is one of the reasons I’ve left this so long in the first place. Instead I am just going to pick a subject and write, nothing more. Of course I’ll add in a rough date if I know one so that someone can pick through and figure out a time line for all of my adventures but for now its a simple job of pen to paper, or rather fingers to keyboard.

Keep your eyes peeled… or don’t… either way is fine with me.

Day 8: New Years Eve (Morning)

It was morning in the camping shed in Motueka and I woke up from a great sleep in an actual bed. Things are looking up. As with the last few mornings it was time to find the largest body of water possible and jump in it to get clean. In this instance though there wasn’t really any located that close to where we stayed so we had to settle for using the nice hot showers instead. On one hand that does kind of takeaway from our adventuring ways but in another way it was a hot shower before a day out in weather that looked to be crap so it was probably the best idea we’ve had so far.

Our efficiency packing up our things and leaving has gotten better and better as the trip has gone on and we were that early leaving that we managed to get to Kaiteriteri in time to beat the morning rush. To be exact, we were that early that we were the morning rush! When we arrived the sea front contained us and… well… no one. Seems that if you get up a little too early for sleepy seaside towns you have to find a way to amuse yourself for a while.

After parking up and getting a breakfast of whatever was kicking about in the car at the time we headed to one of the Kayak rental places to find out what the info was on renting one for a bit. It turned out to be a really reasonable price for a few hours and even though our original plan was to go in the afternoon when the weather was better the guy at the stall convinced us to go a little later that morning. Apparently it is better to go while it is still a bit overcast rather than in the blazing sun and the guy seemed pretty confident so we went with his suggestion and mooched away to amuse ourselves for an hour before they were ready for the quick induction and to kick us out onto the water.

When it was time we headed back to the beach side 1451510843177 (1280x813)shack to get out safety briefing and grab our equipment. With everything we seem to attempt our start is usually a bit of a joke and gets better as we go along, this was no exception. The girl giving us the briefing then asks us to help her drag the kayak down to the shore to get us in it and on our way with Craig helping her at the front and me at the back. When we got to the sea Craig just kept walking as she did. The difference with that scene though is that the instructor was bare foot and Craig was still wearing socks and trainers, seemingly oblivious to the ridiculousness of the situation he was key to.

Moving swiftly on before to many questions were asked about damp footwear, we headed out to sea in our kayak, destination split apple rock. We had been it as a place to go from the start of our adventure and even just starting the paddle out we could see why. The entire of Kaiteriteri is beautiful, picture perfect, postcard style scenery. It is the type of place that gets people jealous when you post a photo there… which is exactly what we made sure to do as often as possible! It took a little while for us to get into the swing of things and get our paddling in tune but as soon as we did we were an unstoppable force. At one point we even had a race against a French couple in another boat and smashed them. There may have been a possibility that they were not aware we were actually racing but I think that detracts from our victory so we will just skim over that for now. We paddle around the rock pools and out into the open ocean towards our destination out on the horizon.

I feel I should let you all now that we had not actually done that much research into our destination, and by much I mean any. We were aware it was a rock that looks like its a bit apple split in 2 and we were also aware it was in the ocean near where we started but other than that our information was limited. This is where the handy map we were given when we set off came in handy… sort of. The map wasn’t exactly accurate and didn’t really have a scale on it which lead to our second mistake of the day. On the map there were 6 beaches that we had to pass before we would get to our destination and by our calculations we had been at it for about 20 mins and so far only passed one beach. As we looked out at the open water we realised that we had quite a way to go ahead of us before we would get to our DSC_2250 (1280x720)destination and since this was literally the only thing we had planned to do the whole trip it was time to get a move on. With the motivation that we needed to achieve our goal and a little team work we became an unstoppable paddling force, flowing through the waves like a majestic… thing that’s majestic… you get the idea! Minutes of silence passed as we concentrated on our stroke form and power to get to the point that currently looked like a dot in the distance. How anyone that is unfit manages to get out there and back in a few hours is completely beyond it.

It was at that point that we noticed the tour group that had left 20 mins before us in their kayaks pulling up onto a beach in a little cove back in land. Obviously the amateurs would not be able to make it all the way out like Craig and I would. Instead they had settled for stopping on a little beach by some caves and a massive sort of rock… that looked split.

“Craig…. How many rocks do you think there are out in the middle of the ocean in this exact area that look like the thing we are looking for?”
“Not sure but that cant be it as ours is miles away”
“…Are you certain because that kind of looks like a massive apple that is split in two?”
“We can check it out but I doubt it, we have miles to go yet!”

No prizes ladies and gentleman for guessing what we had stumbled across, not 25 mins from when we started. Only the exact place we were looking for. It turns out that the scale on the map is so bad that is classes the big beach that we had passed as multiple little beaches, split up where there were some rock formations. If we hadn’t spotted that tour group we would have probably ended up on some sort of missing persons list, surfacing somewhere on the north island a few weeks later!

Our next fail was bring the Kayak into shore. We were aware we needed to bring up our rudder before we hit the shallows and that we needed to power towards the beach which wasn’t an issue, the problem was that we forgot how quickly we needed to get out of the craft. And by we, I mean me. I was at the back of the kayak so when we hit the beach and slid up it all was well, for about 10 seconds. At that point the next wave came in, washed over my and soaked me. Yey for me being smart!

It was at this point, as we looked around at the other people on the secluded beach, that we realised that everyone had a picnic apart from us. Turns out the kayaks have a nice big hold in the middle where you can put things like a picnic, or your shoes, or a Frisbee…..Damn we have no Frisbee. All we did seem to have was mobile phone signal and a beautiful sight which lead to a couple of Skype calls home just to try and wind people up a bit. I think we succeeded which was at least one positive spin we could put on our failures so far, I mean apart from being in paradise of course!

Back on the kayak we realised that we had loads of time to spare so our mission now turned to trying toDSC_2252 (1280x720) get into as many of the little coves as we could and dodge all the rocks long the way. We got back to the start point with loads of time to spare so decided to try attacking the more precarious shallows to see we were as good as we though. I am sure all of you are now expecting me to say how we fell in but on the contrary, we become kayak masters! Drifting in and out of the shallow pools, moving with the waves, reversing and doing 3 point turns. We had it all. Craig and Dan were an unstoppable team. We even beat the French back to the beach too so that’s 2 wins under our belt!

It was now the part of our day that we had dreaded. Attempting to find accommodation in paradise, on New Years Eve with no prior booking. Fun times ahead…

I’ve decided to split the post here as I think I keep writing things that are far too long which is the reason I never seem to get anything published that often.

 

Another one bites the dust

20160517_222033It has gotten around to that time again when another of the Dunedin backpackers makes their move and heads off into the sunset. The time has come for Craig to finally depart and go travelling for a bit again to see a bit of what the world has to offer. As right now Craigis in Hawaii for a while living the dream, then New York then finally heading back to the UK with this chapter of New Zealand adventure over.

20160517_222029
Craigs Replacement 🙂

For a final fair-well we decided to head down to long beach and have a little fire in a cave. Even though it was freezing out it seemed like a good idea at the time so we bought a bag of kindling and drove down to the beach. After having a quick look about we lit a fire in the conveniently created fire pit and then chilled out listening to music.

As with last time we had a fire on a beach Craig wondered off to get some firewood and cam back dragging a tree, this time with added seaweed for extra flavour. We managed to actually get the fire going for quite a while and burnt most of the tree and some other bits of wood we found enough for a few hours.

20160517_222518Id like to say that we sat there and had deep conversations about the world, life and everything inbetween but instead we just sat there for a few hours and watched the fire burn again. To be honest thou that was a great way to spend the night and a decent way to see Craig off.

 

I’ll miss you buddy 🙂

 

P.s. Forgot to mention that we also had a glow in the dark Frisbee and it was AWESOME! As it turned out ht wind was far too windy to even attempt to play with it properly but it still made for some fun as it lit up the ground when you did nice low shots. At one point we did also think we had lost it too when I threw it and the wind got it and dragged it miles away into some bushes. Luckily for us finding a glow in the dark Frisbee at night tends to be an easier job than at daytime and it also happened to land exactly on a path so we got quite lucky. Cant wait to play with it again 🙂

(Craig) Allans beach

IMG_20160508_114038 (480x640)Whenever people ask me what I like about Dunedin it always comes back to the fact that there is still so much so see an explore all around the area. Every weekend I try and get out and see a new sight, maybe a beach or a walk somewhere but always somewhere new and the great thing is I still have hundreds left to do.

It has gotten to a point that we no longer even plan where we are going to go as there are just to many hikes to do. Now we just pick a direction and drive until we find something interesting.

On this occasion we hadn’t even really planed to go in the first place so it was super last minute, yet we seemed to end at yet another awesome beach, in this case Allans Beach. Before we got there we didnt even know it existed, we just picked a road and eventually ended up at a car park that then lead to the beach.

20160508_111337 (1280x960)We made our way onto the rocks at the far end of the beach and probably spent about 15 mins just watching the water flow in and out of a small inlet as the waves came in. The seaweed in the inlet became almost hypnotising as it swayed with the movement of the ocean in the light blue, clear water.

After a bit more rock climbing and a look into the crystal clear water Craig climbed up on top of a rocky outcrop and suddenly got the urge to jump. Being that he is due to go home in a few weeks and this beach shares a name with him it seemed the perfect time and place to do it.

20160508_105624 (1280x960)Stripping down to his boxers and shoes (we know how he likes to go in the sea with those!) he dove in, making a pretty awesome slowmo video. In fact he liked it so much he did it twice!

Take a look 🙂 https://goo.gl/photos/ntodZA2hN7TsfimaA

Another day another adventure.

 

Zorb Football

On Saturday I played one of the hardest sports of my life, Zorb football! It looks like just a bit of fun (and it is) but no one told us it was going to be an intense workout too.

I think this picture sums up the way everyone was feeling about it. That pic shows 3 people laid out on the floor but I promise you there were more. The best thing is that this was after our very first go at it, 5 minute session! My heart rate was over 100 constantly, even when resting in between sessions and according to my watch I burnt about 800 kcal in the hour we were there with only 20 mins actually being play time.

If anyone is thinking about it for a laugh then I certainly advise it. It can be a little tough on the legs so my advise is to just curl up into a ball if you get hit and ride out the storm.

For anyone wondering my team won 4 nil 😀

Day 7: Sand Dunes

An air bed. Who would have thought that such a simple thing could bring so much pleasure to a grown man. Waking up in a tent and not feeling like a cripple is definitely the way to go and the way I will always camp in future if I have the option.

As had now become a tradition of the trip the first thing to do in the morning was to dive into the biggest body of water that we could find, which happened to be Golden Bay, right next to our camp site. With a little persuasion we managed to convince some of our new travel acquaintances to do it with us and live a little. The issue that we had today though wasn’t due to the temperature of the water, but rather the depth. The water in Golden bay was beautifully warm but that was due to the fact that it was only a few inches deep. The super shallow bay allowed the sun to warm the water really easily but didn’t do much for our plan of diving under for a wakeup. At first we thought we would just have to walk a little further out, but after about 200m we realised it wasn’t going to get muchDSC_2246 (1280x720) deeper so we all just had to dive in and lay down to get properly covered. As far as we are concerned this still counts towards our mission even if it felt more like a warm bath than a brutal wakeup.

After packing up and finally saying our goodbyes it was time to head up to the very top of the south island, our furthest point before starting our journey back down towards home of little old Dunedin. Our goal was to get to Wharariki beach at the top of the bay and chill out there for a while before making our way back down to Kaiteriteri where we wanted to go sea Kayaking.

The drive up the coast was scenic and beautiful and as always eventually lead us to a dirt track for us to drive along to get to our final destination. At the very end of the track was a packed car park and a little cafe that DSC_2244 (1280x720)seemed to be doing plenty of business on the warm summers day. Although we were apparently near the sea the carpark actually ended in a little grassy valley with signs showing that it was about a 20 min walk to get to the actual sea. We grabbed the essentials (Frisbee and water) and started making our way there over the hills. After about 10 mins we hit sand but still hadn’t yet seen the sea. Before us were huge dunes flowing as far as we could see. Luckily there was a signpost pointing us in the direction we needed to head to get to the main part of beach we were after so we followed the sign and stream of people down towards the water.

To say the sand was hot i
s an understatement. The white sand was somehow the temperature of fresh lava and made for an interesting walk. With each step the aim was to bury your feet as deep as possible to the cooler sand underneath to get away from the inferno on the surface. This actually made us move pretty quickly across the beach to get to the cooler sand at the waters edge where we could actually stand without getting 3rd degree burns.

Now was the time that I had been waiting for. The sun shining, the weather calm and a Frisbee to throw. DSC_2242 (1280x720)Life cant get much better than that. Even with maybe a hundred people on the beach, the area was so vast that there was no one anywhere near us. It wasn’t even an issue to just dump our stuff down and start wandering towards the sea throwing the Frisbee about. Craig even decided to take things a step
further and venture our into the sea for a bit of a swim to see how far he could get.

After relaxing for a while we took another wonder around the area so see what other hidden treasures the coast had to offer and managed to find a few more little enclosed bays with rocks towering around them, yet again more beautiful sights that none of my photos can do justice to. Our exploring ways were cut short again by the searing temperature of the white hot sand. Recently I was talking to Craig about this day and mentioned that this is what I was up to writing about and the first thing he said to me was “Do you remember how hot that sand was?!?”. Even 5 months on the first memory of that day is burnt feet.

After finally clearing off of the beachDSC_2247 (1280x720) and letting our feet cool off it was back to the car to continue the adventure. Earlier in the week we had been advised to visit a place called Te Waikoropupū Springs… or just Pupu springs for anyone like my that has trouble pronouncing full Māori place names correctly! Pupu springs is known for its amazing water clarity, for years being the clearest water in the world until it lost its title to Blue Lake in 2011 (which also happens to be in New Zealands South Island). Due to the way the water comes up from the springs and some other science that someone better than me has probably explained elsewhere, the water ends up looking crystal clear with an average viability of 60+ meters which is just phenomenal. After a bit of driving and a few wrong turns we made it to the springs just as it started to rain but that didn’t really dampen our spirits…. see what i did there! Bad jokes aside, the water was amazing. It is hard to really describe it as everyone has seen water before or been to a swimming pool where the water is clear. All I can really say though with this is that the water seemed almost completely calm, just shimmering on the surface from the fresh springs underneath, yet unlike a swimming pool it was there were plants and features under the surface to see. There is no swimming allowed in the springs for obvious reasons, as DSC_2248 (1280x720)im sure it would get hazy pretty quickly with everyone kicking up sediment from the surface, but that being said, even with the rain the water was some of the most inviting I have ever seen. I know a few people who hat the idea of swimming in lakes or oceans just because they are scared of what is under the water and I am sure those people wouldn’t have been scared here… if they were allowed of course

After leaving the springs we were on a mission to try and get some accommodation and not really having much luck looking online. Most places seem to be fully booked up but after a bit of ringing around we managed to find a place in Motueka, not too far from where we had planned to have our next adventure in Kaiteriteri. The accommodation was on a camp site, but rather than camping we ended up in what can only be described as a shed with bunk beds. Now to most people this would have been terrible but for us this was just perfect. A bed I didn’t have to blow up and a roof we didn’t have to construct seemed like a real win. To top it off we even had plugs to charge our phones while we slept, luxury or what! We are really moving up in the world now.

Day 6: Aladdins Carpet

I awoke in my tent to the sound of a groan. It was the noise of an old man attempting to rise after a rough nights sleep on hard, cold ground. At first I thought it was Craig until I realised that the noise was emanating from my own body. Everything ached. Everything was sore. It turns out that when you are not accustom to sleeping in a tent much then going “back to basics” can be a little harder than expected. Our foam rolls (henceforth on our travels known as “Aladdins Fucking Carpet!”) were far too thin and constantly rolled up at the ends. Craigs had the added benefit of having some silver foil on it which I suppose would help if we needed to cook a chicken in an emergency but mainly did bugger all for us.

It was at this point that we remembered our wild and manly claims that night before that jumping into a large body of water was going to be our new road trip ritual. Yesterday the lake water had turned out to be far more inviting that we ever could have imagined, however the large waves of the Southern Pacific seemed to leave a little more to be desired. The key thing is thought that we are both men of our word and a deal had been struck. It was time to suck it up and dive into the ocean.

Much can be said for the energy giving properties of caffeine to do a good job at waking up in a morning. Its warm, taste and slowly brings you around to have a focus for the day. Dunking yourself under the crashing waves of the sea on the other hand has an affect 20 times stronger in a fraction of a second and makes you feel alive like nothing else can. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t jump under the waves and think “Wow, I am so happy to be alive right now”, what actually happened is I jumped in, scream “HOLY FUCK CRAIG, WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE DOING??!?” and ran back out again. Sometimes I guess we feel alive against our will too. In hindsight I am glad I did it. It isn’t something that used to be on my list of daily activities and was certainly outside of my comfort zone but that is what adventure should about. Doing the things you are not sure about doing just because you can. In the moment though I was freezing cold, regretting life decisions and well in need of the traditional wakeup coffee!

DSC01975 (1024x768)Over the course of the trip so far most of the days drives have been relativly short but quite tiring. Every day involved some driving and some adventuring but we realised that we had not really travelled that far, yet we had quite a long way to go. With this in mind we made the decision to use the day to make as much progress as we could and do a long drive up the coast and across to the Able Tasman national park all in one shot. This meant about 5 hours worth of driving for the day but would then put us into the area we wanted to be in for us to relax and chill out a bit more for the next few days. The things about New Zealand though is that just going on a big drive can be part of the adventure. Around every corner the scenery changes and we spot more and more natural wonders and amazing sights. These sights are not advertised tourist locations, but rather just little added bonuses on the trip. They are the type of things that would attract a crowd in the UK but over here they are just yet another amazing outcrop of islands or cliffs or gorge or river.

As we headed north there was one attraction that we did want to stop off at which was the Punakaki Pancake Rocks further up the west cost. The pancake rocks formed over 30 million years ago under the sea and then over time the seismic activity has lifted them out of the water for the elements to then cut away at the rocks and leave these strange and amazing pieces of natural scenery. Due to the way the tide comes up into some of the caves below there are also blow holes that water sprays up and out of at certain times of the day. Unfortunately we were not there are the right time for this, but just watching the DSC01969waves crash against the cliffs was enough to get a decent enough idea of just how powerful the water was and how crazy it would be to be caught inside one of those caves. The ocean is such a powerful beast and moments like this make you realise it and respect it for that.

As we were exiting the little loop track of the Pancake rocks we looked over and spotted a familiar face. Hundreds of miles from home and we bump into another person that we know! This time it was my flatmates friend Amy with her Son Mekalo who were on an adventure of their own up the west coast. It was such crazy timing as if our timing was off by just a minute we wouldn’t have been in the same place at the same time and would never have even noticed each other. Its so weird how that happens here, yet also quite comforting in a way. No matter where you are there always seems to be a friendly face if you really need one.

We hit the road again and headed across the country, taking our way to Takaka on the North coast around Golden Bay. Even thought the drive took hours the miles just slipped by as the scenery forever changed before us.

Eventually we hit Motueka on the coast, only a small hop over some hills from our final destination for the night. In our mind we only had about 30 mins to go as it seemed pretty close on a map but we hadnt bothered to zoom in on the map and see just how windy the road was that lead across the pass. On closer inspection the entire road was switchbacks and hairpin turns stretching for miles and slowing our progress right down. It would have been fine if we were the only ones on the road but we somehow managed to get ourselves stuck behind the slowest cars in the whole of NZ who slowly struggled to get up the steep hills. Every few mins we would say “just a little further” before taking a turn and seeing even more road stretched out in front of us.

When we finally made it to Takaka the place was packed.DSC01983 It seemed like everyone had had the same idea as us and gone there for their holidays. The streets were lined with people and cars and we knew we could possible find any accommodation there so we went into search mode to try find somewhere to find a bed for the night.

We eventually found a place at a campsite just down the road, at which point we realised that camping in New Zealand is serious business over the Christmas break. There must have been a thousand people on this massive site, most of them Kiwi families having their Christmas breaks away. Most of the tents were more like temporary encampments then the sort of thing I was used to seeing. Many of them having shelving, tables and whole kitchens set up inside of them. Outside sat the truck with bikes in the back, kayaks on top, towing a boat along for the ride. This was not an uncommon occurance and it seems to me like the Kiwi dream involves staying in a tent to afford all the toys to have fun all day. To be fair enough the place was a hive of activity with good facilities which is more than we could ask for.

We ended up getting one of the last available places that happened to be next to a British and American couple that were travelling together. They had been in a car accident the day before that had written off one of their cars and had then all piled into one car before continuing. They came around a corner to find another driver on the wrong side of the road and had to swerve into the ditch to avoid a head on collision. Luckily no one was hurt but it did make us much more aware of the dangers that could be lurking around any corner as we continue our trip.

The 6 of us chatted away all night as the sun began to set. I would love to tell you what we talked about for hours on end, however a combination of a long day, time passing and lots of ciders means that I cant really remember much.

What I can remember is that we ended up taking a wonder out onto the beach before heading to bed to sit and watch the stars. Out there with nothing much around the sky was so bright and the stars some of the most amazing I have ever seen. Yet another day of adventuring down and another amazing day spent with great people.

One last consolation was that after the fun nights sleep on Aladdins carpet I ended up going into a store and buying an air bed. BEST PURCHASE EVER! Should have done it days ago!

 

Day 5: An unexpected awakening

Waking up in a tent on the hard ground made me realise that I am not as manly as I had first thought. It is one thing to go camping but quite another to insist you don’t need anything between you and the ground apart from a sleeping bag. We had done the latter and were quickly regretting our life choices.

The morning was crisp and we awoke with the sunrise in the early hours in that way that only people camping can; Completely awake yet still a little tired. It was time to put our wakeup / washing plan into motion and start what was to become a bit of a morning tradition of jumping into the largest body of water available the moment we get up.DSC_2209 (1280x281)

Heading down to the lake filled me with excitement and a little dread. Jumping into a lake at 6am is exactly the sort of thing our adventure was all about, making awesome memories and doing things we wouldn’t do in our day to day life. On the other hand though this was a lake…at 6am! Egging each other on we made our way down the jetty until we were faces with the expanse of seemingly freezing water in front of us. We both knew that we needed to get it over and done with as soon as possible, in and out, job done. but that still doesn’t make it any easier to throw ourselves in.

Still caked in dust from quadding the night before we counted to 3 and jumped into the freezing lake ready for a shock…. but there wasn’t a shock… and it wasn’t a freezing lake. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t warm by anyone’s imagination but it certainly wasn’t even slightly as cold as we expected. Our experience with water so far in New Zealand has mainly been either the cold South Pacific Ocean around Dunedin or the Glacial lakes of central Otago so this was a happy little surprise. Such a great surprise in fact that we ended up staying in the water for about 10 more minutes, climbing out to just jump back in again. A proper manly shower that made us proud of ourselves.

After getting ourselves clean it we managed to complete DSC_2227 (1280x720)another task to makes us feel like real men. as we started to drive out of the car park we noticed that a piece of plastic on the bottom of the car was hanging down. Nothing major just a little missing clip but something we felt the need to fix none the less. Time to use the only 2 tools we could ever need, Duct tape and cable ties. People always ask me why I have these 2 things with me in one of my bags at times but they dont realise the amount of things you can fix in an emergency with these 2 little things. In this case we just needed 1 little cable tie and boom! Job done! High fives all around and then onwards.

New Zealand may be a little larger than the UK in terms of land mass, however it turns out that it is actually a really tiny place when it comes to bumping into people you know (as will become even more apparent the more I post). In this instance my friend Kim happened to be visiting her parents in Greymouth and decided to meet Craig and I in Hokitika for a day of adventure and to act as our personal guide. Out first stop (after taking pictures of the famous Hokitika driftwood sign) was to head down to the gorge around 30 mins out of time. Somehow our aimless driving with lack of signposts somehow managed to get us get us where we needed to be, a short walk from yet another amazing view that New Zealand happened to offer.

DSC_2219 (1280x720)After walking down and winding path through the trees Hokitika Gorge is quite an unexpected, eye opening sight. Never in my life have I seen water the colour as it was here, a turquoise blue that looks as if it has been edited somehow to get its unnatural colour. The reason for this amazing colour is that the river is fed from cold glacial waters that get mixed in which silt as it churns down the river causing this hidden natural beauty. Although the scenery was beautiful there did happen to be quite a few sandflys in the area and anyone who has had experience with them will tell you that they are no fun at all. I actually posted a picture from the gorge at the time and got a photo response from CB who had quite a different experience there. When he had gone the water had been mixed up with flood waters and browney grey flood water was surging past the spot where I took my photos. It almost made it look like everything had been faked since the views were so different.

Next stop on the days tour was Greymouth its self and a spot of lunch at a brewery before emergency CD shopping. We still didnt really have any music on our travels and kept going out of radio reception so this seemed like a priority. I DSC_2228 (1280x720)cant even remember how long it has been since I bought a CD and after trying to shop for one for 10 mins I remember why! It just seems to difficult to find an album that you might want to buy when there is no search function! It seemed like every CD was Christmas music or boy bands which wasn’t exactly what we wanted. We luckily ended up finding a rare Radio 1 Live Lounge CD so were pretty chuffed about that.

One of the key things about our adventure was that we were not booking any accommodation before we set off and this day was not an exception. This meant that we did end up having to scout about at the last minute to try and fine somewhere. As it happened there was a space left at a little camp site in a town called Rapahoe that we headed to, just outside of the Graymouth town centre. The site was run by an old couple and to say it was strange was a bit of an understatement. The showers in the main building were built into the lounge / kitchen area and there were lots of little strange trinkets all over the place. As it happened we managed to get the last spot on the site, the downside was that we had to pay for a powered site, yet we just had tents and nothing to plug in. That wouldst have been too bad of a bullet to bite if we didn’t return from dinner later to find more people camped out in the middle of the volleyball court!

DSC_2237 (1280x720)Our little plot for camping actually turned out to be located in an awesome place. The ground was rock solid and full of stones but the proximity to the beach was pretty amazing. By going out the back of our plot and through some bushes we were right on the beach with an amazing view of the ocean. It was a pebble beach with plenty of driftwood and as the sun started to set that night we wondered down the beach, found a nice little alcove an made ourselves a fire. At many points along this trip it seems like Craig and I actually had a little romantic time and you know what, we bloody well did! Nothing like chilling on a beach with a fire while watching the sun set.

As the temperature started to cool and the fire started to cool it was time to take ourselves of for yet another of our infamous early nights (we are such party animals!). As a bonus we had purchased ourselves some foam bed rolls to sleep on in an attempt to be comfier than our previous nights sleep. Hopefully they manage to help take the sting out of the crappy stony ground.

The sun had set on another epic day with many more to come.

 

Just your Average Sunday Hike

I am aware that writing about a current even when I still haven’t written about 4 months ago may seem 20160403_111659 (1280x960)a bit odd but it sometimes just seems a bit simpler to get it done quickly and keep my brain moving on to the next thing. It is with that in mind that I give you a micro story, complete with pictures, of the little hike that we went for on Sunday.

When it comes to a story there isn’t really much to tell to be quite honest. Craig, Kate and I decided to go for a random drive and figure somewhere out to go for a walk and that is pretty much all that happened! We started driving down the peninsula and kept looking for signs to the many walking tracks that are around the area and 20160403_112517 (1280x960)eventually found a little track leading down to a beach in the distance. The weather want too great but we were in adventure mode so didn’t really care as we headed down the hill.

One of the best things about being in Dunedin is the views. When you are living your day to day life you can almost forget about them until they suddenly sneak up on you and catch you off guard. This place is only 15 mins drive from my house and I never even knew it existed until we went for the random drive. Heading down the hill the dark clouds started to roll in but 20160403_112416 (1280x960)we were undeterred with our waterproof jackets and iron will. It wasn’t until we had been walking downhill for about 15 mins that it dawned on us that also meant a long uphill walk back to the car!

A little bit further on the rain started. Luckily it wasn’t too windy and we were all pretty warm from the walk. As we wonder and chatted away we were treated to the most standard of sights in New Zealand, a young Kiwi boy running up the hill in the rain wearing just a thin 20160403_113532 (1280x957)T-shirt and shorts… Barefoot! The track was full of gravel and stones but it just didn’t seem to bother him at all as he powered his way up the hill, making us look like wimps with our jackets and comfy shoes.

By the time we had got down to the water the rain was really coming down and it turns out that after a year of use my waterproof jacket wasn’t very waterproof any more. Not only that but my trainers and hat also started to leak which is never really a fun time. We only stayed on the beach long enough to take a few pictures and then start our way back up. It was at the start of our assent that Craig pointed to a weird tree and commented “How bad must the wind be out here to do that to the trees?”. These trees look like that had been through some harsh times growing up, that’s for sure!

Anyway after a trudging back up the hill we were back in the car, home, warm and showered before lunch. The perfect little Sunday morning adventure.

 

Day 4: Quad Adventure

I awoke from my slumber on the 4th day of our trip to the sound of Merle sneaking her way out of the room at about 7am. She wasn’t very loud, I just happened to be awake already given the hayfever induced coma I had slipped into early the evening before. Merle was on her way to do a skydive over the Frans Joseph Glacier but unfortunately returned about half an hour later as all the flights had been cancelled for the morning. The thing that I have not quite got over yet is how changeable the weather DSC_2182 (1280x720)can be here in New Zealand. One moment it can be sunny, the next cloudy with rain. In fact many of these different weather patterns can even happen in the same day! As it happened, on this day heavy fog and cloud had moved in during the early hours of the morning and was so thick that you couldn’t even see the mountains that were clearly visible out of our window the night before. Since this seems to be a bit of a common occurrence here they just moved her dive to the afternoon and rescheduled. The bonus of this was that it gave us all some time together in the morning to do something together so the general consensus was to do the 1 hour hike to the terminal face of the glacier.

The hike to the glacier turned out to be more of a “casual walk” than a hike but I suppose it was at the right level for us given what we did the day before. Yesterdays hike was a constant climb the entire way, mainly on single track and over tree roots. DSC_2186 (1280x720)Today it was almost completely flat ith a few rocks to get over. The reason for this was that the whole area was situated in the river delta and the flowing river had carved its way through the valley over the millennia to leave an arid landscape crushed rock, big and small, with the occasional driftwood tree looking like a little twig in the epic landscape.

At first we were a little disappointed that there was not a real hike to sink our teeth into but soon we all quickly agreed that a casual stroll was probably all we could muster anyway. The only issue with going on the free version of the glacier hike is knowing that you cant got anywhere near as close as the people that are paying for the guided tours. With the “turn up and go for a walk” version that we were doing the hike eventually ended about 500m from the actual face of the ice so nowhere near to really see it as well as we would have liked but that is all we could manage. Along the way there were large chunks of ice that had been brought down from the glacier and just sat by the side of the trail for DSC_2164 (1280x720)people to take pictures with but that is about as close as we got. Although it is a bit gutting it also makes total sense from a safety perspective. We may have been conscientious hikers but there were plenty of other people there that day that didn’t have a clue or even the right footwear to have gotten anywhere near actual ice and would probably have died if let loose near the top. A bit of a PR nightmare that I am sure the NZ tourist board want to avoid. Still, we managed to get some decent pics and Frankie came through for us all by being the one that snuck along a bag of ciders for the gang. It may have only been one little can each, but it was cold and well earned on a warm day and that is all you can ask for from a summer cider.

After our uneventful decent Merle headed off to do her skydive while the rest of us grabbed some lunch in a local cafe. We had only just finished eating by the time she was back. At first we thought it must have been cancelled again but it turns out that they are just stupidly efficient when it comes to throwing people out of aircraft in New Zealand. Within 40 mins she had DSC_2168 (1280x720)been briefed, gone up, jumped and been brought back to town. Job done! It wasn’t just the planes that were that efficient either, the helicopters had their timing down to an art while landing in town. In the town centre there are around 6 or 7 helipads, however at any given time there must be about 15 helicopters in the air at once. All these choppers are taking turns in taking the tourists on the various different flights on offer around the mountains, some even stopping and landing for the clients to get out and stand on the ice for a while. This means that there is a constant juggling act going on with choppers landing, refueling and taking on passengers in almost a constant cycle. Often they have their passengers swapped and are back up again with the space of a few minutes, not even bothering to power down their engines. It is quite a sight to see how precise the whole show is and to them imagine that they do this constantly, nearly every day of the year!

DSC_2195 (1280x720)
No Bikes. No Drones.

After lunch it was time for us all to start parting our ways. Craig and I had booked to go on a Quad tour but the others needed to start making way across to the other side of the island so were hitting the road a bit earlier than us. It was emotional saying goodbye as even though we intended on seeing each other again over the next few days there was a possibility we wouldn’t bump into each other and then all the cool kids were leaving the country leaving Craig and I left. The hardest thing about travelling so much that people never seem to mention is leaving the friends that you have met along the way. Yes travel helps you make new friends and experience things you never dreamed of but it is also sometimes crushing when you have to say goodbye to those amazing friends you have just made because your lives are going in different directions. I am happy to say that I have kept in contact with a lot of people I have
traveled with and met along the way and would certainly love to see them again, the only issue is that the world is a big place and when everyone returns home it suddenly becomes much harder to keep in touch. Yes we have the internet and Facebook which really helps but it is not substitute to sitting on a hill, talking crap and watching the sun go down with a like minded friend.

After our heartfelt goodbyes the dynamic duo headed off to the riverbed for our quading adventure. I hadn’t been on a quad bike in years so was really looking forwards to it, especially at the discounted rate that Craig managed to find online. At first we had to mess about proving our competency driving in circles and around a little track before we could head out into the wilderness but as soon as we did it was loads of fun. Smashing through puddles and muddy ditches it amazing and so much fun. It is certainly something I want to do more often, maybe even getting my own one day if I ever figure out where I could go to ride it. The view of the mountains as we got further away from town was amazing and the guides were really great, telling us a bit about the area when we had a little rest half way. They were both locals who had grown up in the area so knew it like the back of their hand. The most shocking thing for us though was that they used to have to commute 2 hours each way to get to school each day which completely blows my mind. Out in back country NZ there isn’t really that many people so it makes sense that they would have to go away to school, but doing that journey on a bus every day just seems like a bit of a nightmare. This is the cost of paradise though I guess.DSC_2205 (1280x720)

 

By the time we had finished our mini ATV adventure we were covered in dust from the rocky riverbed. It was all over our clothes, on our skin and (for Craig anyway) in our hair too. The worst part about this though was that we had nowhere to go that we could even get washed off. Our next spot for someone to stay was still a few hours away so we brushed off what we could, jumped into the car and headed on our way.

While we had been travelling about we had heard about all of the Department of Conservation camp grounds that there are all over NZ and so we decided to check one of them out. These camp grounds are owned by the government and are a bit more of a free for all than strictly organised plots, however if DSC_2197 (1280x720)everyone plays fair then it works out really well. The cost per night is $6 each (around £3) and you just fill in a little tag, put your money into a secure box and pop the tag on your tent. Simple as that. For that cost you end up with a basic camp site with toilets, an area to wash dishes and somewhere to get drinking water. It isn’t anything spectacular but it is all well maintained and in our case it was also next to a beautiful lake that was also a stones throw away from the ocean. It was time to make use of the BBQ’s that we had brought with us so we busted them out and and had ourselves some nice BBQ beef burgers while the sun slowly went down. The more I blog about this road trip the more it is going to sound like “Dan and Craig’s romantic getaway”, and yes we have been told a couple of times that it sounds like were a couple (especially after our evening walks on the beach!). Bellies full we went back to our tent, still dirty and covered in dust like the manly men we were with a plan to also wash the way manly men do, by jumping into a lake first things in the morning. With our simplistic plan drawn out it was time to hit the hay and get a good nights sleep and see what the next day has to bring.

Day 3: Rob Roy Glacier

One of the key points of the adventure that Craig and I had arranged was that we hadn’t really arranged much… or anything for that matter. Aside from the plan of spending Christmas Eve and night in Wakana we had exactly zero plans of what to do for the next chunk of days that we both had off of work. Our rough goal was at some point to go sea kayaking in the Able Tasman national park, however we hadn’t even put a date on this and didn’t really have anything planned any further than that. On Christmas day Frankie had suggested that we go and take a look at the Rob Roy Glacier that isn’t that far from Wanaka and so that’s what we did (we are very easily influenced).
DSC_2133 (1280x720)The start point of our hike was only about 35km away in a straight line but took us well over an hour to get there on the long and winding roads of back country New Zealand. Since the road doesn’t lead anywhere other than to the start of the track there isn’t seen to be much point in putting in a tarmac road which means suddenly at one point along the way you hit a gravel track and have to slow right down to avoid stone chips and huge pot holes. The other issue with driving on the gravel roads was the amount of dust that it all kicked up. It wasn’t even an option to have the windows down as the amount of dust that would come in through the windows would have suffocated us in an instant. Behind the car a huge dust cloud blew over the fields letting everyone within a few miles know that we were on our way. Passing other cars on this one lane road was also quite DSC_2138 (1280x720)interesting as after you manage to get past them you then have the issue of not being able to see anything for the next few minutes while you wait for the dust to settle around you, effectively driving along blind, hoping that there isn’t anything else coming to take you out! The constant dust was also broken up with other obstacles such as little streams or quite large fords that we had to cross. Luckily for us we had taken the 4×4 Outlander so got through without a hitch but I really wouldn’t have wanted to be in a small car given the size of some of the streams we had to cross. At least it made us feel like real wilderness warriors out to have ourselves a proper adventure.
DSC_2143 (1280x720)After the excitement of the drive we got to the car park at the start of the trail and were a little disheartened with our expeditionary efforts when we noticed all the standard, small, rental cars that filled most of the car park. It seems that no matter how much of an adventurer you think you are there is always a tourist on holiday with a rental car they don’t give a shit about that will go harder and further than you would dream!
After getting over our now deflated egos we all stopped to actually take in the scenery for a moment as we were all blown away by it. Just from the car park the view way amazing with mountains all around us and the river flowing by. After being cooped up in the car for so long the only thing that everyone wanted was to get out and start walking so it was bags packed, water topped up, sun cream on (yes even me) and Santa hats on heads and then onwards to glory!
DSC_2153 (1280x720)The beautiful thing that I will never quite get over about New Zealand is that whenever you think you have found the best view of the most perfect of scenes there is always one that is 10 times better around the next corner. On the way up on our hike none of us were really that well prepared or in the best of shape (given the night of drinking beforehand) and a few times we had almost said to ourselves “Ok this view is amazing, there is not point going any further.” Yet each time we had decided to just go for another 5 minutes and ended up seeing yet another amazing thing, be it the birds, rivers, waterfalls or mountains. As we eventually got to the top of the hike we were greeted by the terminal face of the Rob Roy Glacier at the other side of the valley to us, waterfalls cascading down the mountains as the snow and ice slowly melted. It was quite an awe inspiring moment as every now and again you could hear the whole mountain groan and crack as the ice slowly shifted and melted away. Pretty sure we got a few group selfies to commemorate our achievement, however it seems that none of them were on my camera so Frankie / Merle, I need those pics!
DSC_2157 (1280x720)Although the way up was quite a hard climb, the way down for me was personally the harder challenge. Ever since damaging my knee when I was 14 I have had problems walking down hills. The issue is that my knee on my right leg is weaker than my left meaning that when I go down on it I end up dropping quite hard and in a bit of a clunky manner. This becomes uncomfortable really quickly and makes walking down steep inclines quite annoying. To combat this though I have found that bizarrely running seems to not cause me a problem at all since the movement is different which means that whenever I walk up a big hill I end up running down it as its easier. This often makes me look like a bit of an idiot but I also actually quite like the challenge and it can be quite fun. On this occasion though it wasn’t as fun as I would have liked. To add to the knee problems I was also having a bit of a bad attack oDSC_2150 (1280x720)f hayfever, complete with blocked noes, runny eyes and difficulty breathing. This unfortunately is one of the downsides of having Christmas in the middle of summer. My hayfever was so bad at one point that I could hardly see and kept having to squint to even be able to see where I was going. This is not the best of combinations when running down a precarious mountain but needs must so I just went for it. With my rucksack straps pulled tight and my friends informed that I wasn’t being a dick and did need to run off I set off down the hill at pace, flying past other tourists both ascending and descending while still wearing my Santa hat. I admit I did get some strange looks along my way but also quite a few nods and smiles which evens it all out and although I could hardly breath or see I did have quite a lot of fun along the way.
DSC01914 (1024x768)One of the other motivations for my extra burst of speed was the call of nature. On my way down I had started to really need a wee but there was literally nowhere to go. Because the track was so steep into the side of the gorge there wasn’t really the ability to go off the track much and as there were so many people there was constantly someone around the next corner who could have seen if I stopped in the middle of the track to pee on a tree. The only option was to get all the way back to the car park and use the proper toilet down there. So on Boxing day while wearing a red Santa hat, sunglasses and a backpack I practically sprinted down a mountain with snot running out of my nose in order to go for a wee! All in all I must say this is one of my greatest accomplishments as I did put in a damn good pace. I had got down the track, to the toilet and was sitting by the river cooling off my feet for over 20 mins before everyone else finally joined me. As my friend Mr. Richardson once said “There is nothing better for a personal best than needing the toilet” and I don’t think a truer statement can be made.
DSC01927 (1024x768)After a little rest and relaxation it was time to make a move and start making our way to our next location for the evening, Frans Joseph. Due to the mountain ranges in Otago it can cause some issues when it comes to driving. Although we had driven an hour north of Wanaka we had to drive all the way back there in order to drive north again to get to Frans Joseph since it was the other side of the lake. Since we were doing this we had just taken the 1 car all the way to the track which did save fuel etc. but it did mean we had to get back to the car park and sort out the stuff in the cars before heading onwards on another 3+ hour drive. At this point the hayfever had won me over and I had to play passenger for a while and let Craig drive. For the next 3 hours I sat in the passenger seat with my eyes closed hoping for the stinging to stop so that I would be able to open my eyes. Unfortunately I had no such luck and by the time we got to Franz Joseph I just headed straight to bed to try and sleep while the other got dinner and made some plans for the next day.
Even though the hayfever did take me out of action and I deeply hate having it I am happy to say that it didn’t ruin my day and my memories of the day are still all positive. I am still so glad that I did it and got to share the experience with some great friends.

Day 2: Xmas in the Sun (Part 2)

As always with my posts now a days I will start with the standard “this is old” but as most of you know if you still even bother to read this, I haven’t been the most conscientious writer of late. Anyway… after starting Christmas morning with a little walk and a hike myself, Craig and Merle sat back and chilled for a while as we waited for our other recruits to arrive. Milan (AKA Frankie) and CJ had also set off from Dunedin on a road trip of their own and decided to meet up with
Frankie was very unimpressed with me scruffing her hair..

us for a couple of days along our road trip. Although our routes varied a little the plan was to just say hi whenever we seemed to be going a similar place and then just take it from there. If we saw each other then great and if not never mind. As it happened though we had already planned on spending Christmas day together in Wanaka and they came to meet us in the early afternoon. It was great to see Frankie with a big smile on her face in full Christmas spirit and I knew that we were certainly going to have some fun over the next few days.

In New Zealand Christmas is hot and that is still something that I find hard to get into my head, yet in so many ways makes a lot of sense. Who wants time off to chill out and relax when it is cold outside and the weather is horrible? The bonus of it being hot means that instead of being stuck inside all day for one big meal you can DSC_2126 (1280x720)instead BBQ all day and nibble on things as you like. This was out plan for the rest of the day and personally I think it went down a treat! Before we set off Craig and I had purchased a few disposable BBQ’s and also loaded up out cooler with meat and ice before we left Dunedin. That way we had everything we needed for a BBQ all by ourselves somewhere on the beach. As it happens though Nick (CB’s friend and house mate) was having a BBQ at their place and invited us all to join them. This is the sort of beautiful Christmas spirit that really made the day and was really appreciated. With our food and drink in tow we made our way over to Nicks house where the BBQ was already well underway and the music blasting to spend the day chilling, chatting, laughing and drinking as everyone should at Christmas. The bizarre part this year though was the fact that we needed to make sure we had enough sheets to create adequate shade away from the scorching sun on the beautiful day.
As a little Christmas gift for Craig and CB I had bought them a little Nerf gun each (while somehow forgetting mine at home) which they opened and proceeded to have some fun with. For the next few hours Nerf darts were casually whizzing around the garden every now and again DSC_2130 (1280x720)when people weren’t looking which eventually made everyone very vigilant the moment things started to go quiet. The thing about drunk people is that they are incapable of concentrating on something and talking at the same time so whenever one of us started to aim up on someone everything would go quiet and your target would sense the danger instantly. The exception to this was the ever sober CB who became some sort of crack shot as the evening went on, sniping people through the smallest of gaps from the other side of the garden much to everyones surprise.
I would love to write loads more on the events that happened at the BBQ and tales that were told, but to be honest I cant quite remember properly. The combination of lots of alcohol and a few months passing by has taken its tole on my memory and although I am sure I could make up some epic tales, I would get called out on them so its best not to even bother. I think the photos though speak for themselves and show everyone had a great time. We had such a good time in fact that by about 11pm Craig, Frankie and myself started our walk back to our hostels as we were feeling the burn of a long day of merriment and were looking forwards our beds. Its a sad thing to say as more people were starting to arrive at the party but I am getting old dammit and I wanted to sleep. Christmas is supposed to be about doing what you want and enjoying yourself and that is what I wanted. The perfect way to end a good day with a reasonable sleep ready for another morning of adventure.
DSC_2131 (1280x720)
Oh one last thing I did remember… my Frisbee! After bringing it all the way from the UK I had then left it in CB’s car 5 months where it had sat and slightly warped with the heat. We grabbed that bad boy out though and had a good play in the street in a way only usually reserved for little kids. Playing Frisbee with friends on a warm evening is for me one of the best memories I have. It is just so simple yet means so much. Suppose that is why the little things in life matter so much to us.
Anyway onwards we go…

Day 2: Xmas in the Sun (Part 1)

Waking up on Christmas morning away from home for the first time in my life didn’t actually feel as awkward as you might have thought. As you get older Christmas starts to loose a little of its shine and growing up takes some of the childish excitement out of the day. Many reasons, including my Grandma passing away on Christmas day, have made me not the biggest fan of the holiday. I enjoy seeing family and watching everyone open their gifts but for me the worst part for the last few years has been those first few hours of the day when I wake up early as always yet there is no one about. Partners spending time with their parents, house mates returning home for a while and me alone in the house with nothing really to do. I don’t say this to try and get sympathy from anyone at all as I don’t wallow around the house and cry or anything, to me it is just another morning except I can’t do anything as the country has shut down.

For the last few years I have always tried to take the edge of this by doing a big challenge on Christmas day that is just for me. A few years ago I challenged myself to complete at 10km trail run on Christmas day by myself around some fields and rivers near where I used to live. Last year I upped my game to “20k Xmas day”, this time taking an easier option and opting to complete the distance as a 15km bike ride and only a smaller 5km run. The point of it was though that it took my mind away from the mundane and let me do something I wanted to do just for me. No one else really new or cared what I was up to on those early Christmas mornings and that’s the way I liked it. To be honest if I had told most people they would have looked at my like I was a fool for even thinking such a thing but this was the way I liked it. The best bit was that last year on my ride at 8am I was heading down a steep hill by the lakeside and as I looked out onto the water I spotted another adventurer after my own heart. Out on the water was a woman on a stand-up paddle board wearing a wetsuit and a Santa hat. We spotted each other and waved and I knew that I had made the right choice in the way I was spending my Christmas morning.

I don’t know why I have just rambled on so much and none of it is really relevant to the story of my road trip but I think it at least sets the scene and gives a little bit of understanding about what makes me tick early in the morning on days when most people want to be in bed. Anyway back to what actually happened this year on Christmas day.

Xmas HatWaking up in a dorm room is something that I am used to now. I crept out of bed, got dressed and headed out towards lake Wanaka, all while trying not to wake any of my room-mates. With my first mission successful it was time to call home and rub it in that I live in the future and was spending the day in the sun and having a BBQ while everyone at home froze and pigged out on Turkey. My calls home were well received with most people still awake and having a cheeky Christmas Eve drink. I even managed to catch my brother out with some of my cousins so got to have a chat to all of them and take part in the merriment. Many positive comments were made about my newly shaved head that I was still getting to grips with myself so they were all appreciated.

DSC_2111 (1280x720)After a hearty English breakfast cooked up by the tag team of Craig and Dan we got our gear together for our Christmas morning hike. This year I had managed to rope in willing recruits to my usual days stupidity, however out here it seemed like the right thing to do anyway. While on the calls home I had already seen dozens of people walking, running or biking about, enjoying their Christmas morning in the best of ways. The attitude over here is a much more active one with everyone taking the idea of “lets get a head start on this Christmas fat I’m going to put on!” and so everyone is active. Our challenge for the day was to climb up Mount Iron to sit there and take in the view. We grabbed our stuff and headed out for the short walk to the hill. From afar it doesn’t look too big but as you get closer it does start to look like a much bigger challenge than people who were drinking tequila shots a few hours before really needed to be engaging in. It is by no means a mountain as the name might suggest but is a steep hill that takes about 30 mins to walk to the top. As we started to ascend we all had a mix of regret and relief. Regret that we had decided to hike up the hill that morning but relief that we hadn’t decided that we should take on the 6 hour round trip of Roy’s peak!

DSC_2112 (1280x720)Thirty agonising minutes later we sat at the top and looked out over the town below. The view made us quickly forget about our aches, pains and hangovers as we stared out over the lake below softly lapping against the snow capped mountains in the distance. Just when everyone thought the moment could get any better Craig and I surprised Merle with our pièce de résistance, 3 bottles of chilled fruit cider that I had hauled up the hill in my backpack. With bottles in hand we sat there in silence, drinking our drinks and taking in the amazing view of our surroundings. Sometimes nothing needs to be said between friends enjoying a moment and this was one of those times.

..Initially I was going to write all about Christmas day in a single post, however it seems like it might be a better idea to split things up a bit and save some for later. I know my writing can end up rather long winded and drawn out at times but you know what, I don’t care. It’s not my profession and I’m not paid to get it perfect (hence not spell checking enough or proofreading ever!). I write to have a record to look back on for the friends who shared the time with me and those who wished they could, so hopefully everyone just appreciates that for what it is.

I hope everyone has a magical Christmas such as that in their lives. Simple yet spectacular.

Day 1: Christmas Eve

Yes, I am aware that this is a month late. No, I dont care because whoever wants to read it will read it anyway. Enjoy 🙂


 

 

Wow. That is all I can start this post with. When we were planning this road trip and thinking about what we could get up to we knew it was going to be something pretty special but that didn’t really prepare me for the amazing trip we have ended up on and the awesome things that I have seen on this trip.

I know all of these posts have been a long time in the making, however I got straight back from the trip and got busy with life again and so it got put on the back burner. I am now on a whole new adventure having not yet published the one before so now is the time for me to get caught up and say what I wanted to say. Even if no one reads any of this I still need to get it all down as these are my memories and times to look back on that I otherwise might not remember to the best of my ability. If I was a smarter writer then I would have written a bit each day and chipped away at it but then again I am not a smart writer (or a smart man at times) so instead I have left it and am now trying to do it all at once.

To at least make a start on it I am currently sat in a bar in Kaiteriteri at near the Abel Tasman national park, drinking a cider and looking out at the ocean. Craig is taking a dip in the sea while I use this rare time that I have brainpower and no hay-fever (YEY!) to at least get something down on “paper”.

I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. At this point it is hard to even remember when that was. It has only been a week since we left home yet it seems like forever since I was last in Dunedin. The run up to Christmas was a pretty hectic one with lots of little extra jobs that needed attention at work, always with the worst possible timing. Luckily (or rather unluckily depending how you look at it) I was still in the area and able to deal with lots of the customer issues that happened. Craig had to work all the way up to Christmas Eve so even if I had wanted to run away sooner I would have just had to come back for him anyway so there wasn’t much point. Another friend, Merle, who I met in Thailand back in April has also come to New Zealand and didn’t have any plans so was joining us on our Christmas adventure, just for a little while but at least for a few days. She came and stayed with me the weekend before Christmas but then left to have a mini adventure in Queenstown and Milford Sound before we picked her up to get to Wanaka for Christmas.

DSC_2100 (1280x720)As soon as I got the message that Craig had finished work I hopped in the car, picked him up and day one of our Christmas adventure began. For once in our life we were actually prepared and Craig had all his stuff ready to throw in the car and start our long drive to Wanaka via Queenstown. To be perfectly honest the first part of the drive was a little underwhelming. We had finally broken free from work and were on our road trip… but it just didn’t feel like anything special yet. This was the same road we had driven down multiple times before and scenery we had already seen. Added to that was the fact that the radio stopped working and we didn’t have any CD’s. I probably should have mentioned before now that we were not actually in my usual car. My boss had let us take one of the other vehicles, a 4WD Mitsubishi Outlander, to go on our road trip. This made it much easier to fit everything into the back and proved later to be really useful when on the gravel tracks that New Zealand often calls “roads” so thanks for that Kevin if you’re reading this!

Anyway, back to the adventure… About 2 hours into the drive we did start getting excited as it was at that point that we knew we were actually on our mission and not going home any time soon. To detour to Queenstown on our trip instead of going straight to Wanaka added about an hour to journey and Merle had said she was happy to get their herself but it was also kind of an excuse for us to go there and take in the view for a moment. An added bonus to this little impromptu trip was seeing another old friend from Thailand, the infamous Red.

I met Red in Pai, the same place I met Merle, yet somehow they had

The one and only Red.

never met each other. Normally that wouldn’t seem like a big thing but anyone that has been to Pai knows that it is a pretty small place. I still cant get my head around them not knowing each other even though it seems like most of my time there I saw them all constantly. It was really good to see Red anyway even if we only had enough time to take a photo for posterity before continuing our mission for Christmas in Wanaka. Knowing Red like I do I expect that will have been one of his last memories before the rest of his Christmas turned into a blur of drinking and partying. The phrase “party like a rock star” was coined after this man.

Wanaka was just how I remembered it except a hell of a lot warmer. Having spent 2 months there on and off over the last year it is a town I have a special place in my heart for as I know many other travellers do. Getting back there didn’t feel new or daunting, it just felt right which is all I could ever ask for, especially at Christmas.

Step one after checking into our hostel was to go and find CB. He knew that I would be coming but I was pretty sure he would be at work so what better way to say hi than to go and get dinner and grab a beer, all while he worked. As predicted he was there propping up the bar when I arrived and his face lit up as only a happy CB can. It was awesome to see him after so long, even if we could only chat briefly while IMG-20151225-WA0001 (1280x960)he served other customers around him. Craig and I grabbed food alone as Merle was still back at the hostel getting ready, which seemed to take an age. After a while we eventually got a message from her that her and another girl had set off to us but found a band playing at another bar and so wanted us all to go there.

After a little persuasion we all headed to the local Irish bar to watch a cover band play and see many people get increasingly drunk as the night went on. In New Zealand all pubs have to close at midnight on Christmas Eve so there was a strict cut-off time as to when everyone had to go home. We all played it right down to the wire, drinking and enjoying the merriment before wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and heading back to our hostel to sleep, the start of my first every Christmas away from home.

 

More adventures and lots of posts!

The thing that I keep promising and never quite delivering is to post more articles. It never seems to happen since as soon as I finish an amazing adventure I am suddenly busy with every day life and never get around to getting it done.

The thing is thought that I have loads of amazing stories to tell and things that (some) people might actually want to read so I guess I need to book my ideas up and get writing some more.

That being said, I write this while I have found myself on another adventure, this time in Mauritius for a few weeks, so anything I write is going to be a bit out of sync time wise by hopefully we start to catch up along the way.

Keep your eyes open are some more stories will be coming your way shortly starting with the adventure road trip that I went on over Christmas.

New haircut, New life.

It has been a few weeks since I took the plunge and finally cut all my hair off and I’m feeling great. If I am honest it doesn’t look perfect but it does look a whole lot better than I expected it could. I guess the reason for this is that it turns out my head is a nice shape and the colour difference isn’t really noticeable so its all going pretty well.

What I have noticed is that more than how it actually looks, good or bad, the thing that I’m probably happiest about is that I have finally told people and gone ahead and done it which means it is out in the open and there is no going back. It wasn’t the event that has been upsetting me it is more the worrying about the event. Anxiety and anxiousness is something that effects all of us from time to time to a point where it can feel crippling and effect our daily decision. I know myself I have avoided things that would put me in a scenario where someone might see what was going on and point it out. I’ve made sure to try and never be lower than other people and pointing my head down or do something like swimming where it would be obvious how bad it was instantly. All these things have stopped me in my tracks and made me edit my life for a fear which in hindsight is trivial, but at the time was all absorbing.

Guess I just wanted to say that to put a little more context on things.

Thank you to everyone for all the amazing things you have all said. It has put my mind at ease and helped me to feel loved which is amazing considering how far away I am from everyone. I actually have some video’s from the barbers so I will put this all together and get it online soon for anyone who wants to see those fateful last moments!

Thanks again everyone. You are all true friends 🙂

P.S. For anyone wondering, my Christmas adventure was awesome and I will be writing it all up shortly… there is just so much to write!

End of an era! Chapter 2 begins

When you start with a title like that you really do have to go big or go home. If not then it would just seem that I turned into the type of writer to put big headlines just to pull in the readers (Buzzfeed anyone?).

This is actually one of the harder posts that I have ever written, not because I have somehow lost the use of my fingers or am trying to type it on a phone, but because of the thinking and decisions that have lead me to this point.

OK so I will stop being over dramatic now and get to the point (although I do reserve the right to be dramatic later). I am not going to stop writing or disappear off the face of the earth… but I am going to cut my hair. We are not talking about a trim or a casual shorten. We are talking completely shaved off. Like shaved shaved. Like “with a razor”, super smooth, gone forever type of shaved.

It is a decision that I have not taken lightly and has actually been a few years in the making but I have now gotten to a point where it is annoying me so much that I just cant deal with it anymore.

“Thought you were leaving out the drama” is what I am sure most of you are thinking right about now as you read this, however that isn’t me being dramatic for a change. It is something that has been upsetting me and getting me down and something I need to take action on. With a little bit of back story I am sure it will all makes a bit more sense so please bare with me as I am sure this is all coming out in the wrong order but I just need to get it all down.

The Back Story

So about 2 years ago some of my hair started falling out. This was not a bit of middle aged thinning on my crown or something, it was waking up one morning to notice a coin sized piece of hair just missing overnight. That was a bit of a shock and at the time I put it down to stress at work and various other factors in my life that could be causing it and just tried to ignore it. By tying my hair back in a certain way it wasn’t noticable and so I just got on with things and tried not to think about it. Over time, rather than getting better things got worse. More hair started to fall out in the same area and eventually I dragged myself in to see the doctor to see if they could do anything about it. A few blood tests later and I got my fun diagnosis that didn’t exactly make things better but at least let me know why things were going a bit pear shaped.

The blood tests showed that I have something called Hypothyroidism, also known as an under-active thyroid gland, which was causing me the problems with my hair and also explained some other little things that I didnt associate at the time as issues. Now is time to break it down to the technical talk:

What is Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland isn’t producing enough of the hormones needed to run the body correctly. The main purpose of the Thyroid gland is to control the bodies metabolism so with this screwed a whole lot of things tend to go out of whack!

What are the Symptoms

Some of the symptoms are noticeable whereas other only come into light when you are aware of them. For example my hair falling out was caused by my bodies autoimmune response to not knowing what to do about the broken thyroid. Essentially my body decided to kill off the hair as an alien invader rather than just be chill about it.

Other things include tiredness (which I always was but just thought this was life) and weight gain caused by the fact that my body doesn’t burn off as much as it should. In the olden days this would maybe have been a good thing as I could have survived for ages with low food supplies, but in todays day and age this just means that I ended up putting on loads of weight that was really hard to shift.

What is the cure

The “cure” is to take a little tablet each day that contains the relevant hormones that is supposed to do its job and level things out. The fact of the matter is though that this doesn’t really sort everything out and most of the symptoms have stayed the same. Who knows, maybe without the meds things would have gotten worse but for now they don’t seem to be giving me any improvements.

What has this got to do with you shaving your head?!

Over the last few months things with my hair has got worse again with some growing back but other parts going and to be honest it is just pissing me off now. I want to get back into Juijitsu over here but I havnt yet gotten around to it. Part of the reason has been time but another factor is that I dont want to roll about on the floor with my hair tied back when it will just come out of the hair bobble and then be obvious that it looks stupid and there is hair missing. That thinking has lead me to wear hats all the time (which I dont mine) however it has now gotten to a point where I am very consious that I always NEED a hat rather than just wanting to wear one which is a state I dont like being in.

I think the worry about the hair added to the stress  which may have been also making it fall out so all in all what a great  cycle to be in!

It is with all that in mind that I decided that I need to just bite the bullet and cut it all off. It has taken a lot of thinking and made me quite nervous as I have had long hair for a long time and due to the way it is currently growing, once I do cut it there is not really any going back so its taken a while to psyche myself up to it. It is also annoying as once my head is shaved for the first few weeks my head is going to be a different colour to my face before it gets any sun on it. Yet another reason I have put it off until a time I can be away for work for a while and just let it sort its self out and come to terms with it myself without added work pressure.

I have been known by friends and family as Afrodan, Afro or Fro for the majority of my life now. My hair has, in one sense, been something that defined me which then also made it really hard for me to make such a drastic change. After I cut it all off I will literally have the opposite to an Afro so how can I continue to go by that name? This is the dilemma that I have had because the change is a permenant one and kind of changes who the person is that I define myself as. I know it can seem stupid to most but when you are known as the guy with the afro and you rock up with a skinhead it kind of seems a bit weird!

I talked to Padd a few days ago about my dilemma and the internal struggle and this is what he had to say:

This reminds me of the Ironman 3 subtext. How can he be Ironman without the suit?
How can Afrodan be Afrodan without the hairdo?

The thing is, the suit wasn’t Ironman, Tony Stark was. Just like the hair isn’t Afrodan, Daniel Rollins is.
So long as there is a Daniel Rollins, there will be an Afrodan.

I guess that sums it up really. I am still me and always will be no matter what happens. So with that I have now booked in to get my hair cut off on Monday morning at 10.30am.

When I started writing this post it was titled “Afrodan is no more”. I know that seems a little over the top but it was how I was feeling. After the chat with Padd though it changed to “End of an era. Chapter 2 begins.” as it is now.

Everything will work out ok in the end. If its not ok its not the end!

Giant Demo Day

As I am sure I have mentioned a few times already here before now, I love biking. I have not been able to ever get out on bikes for many reason over the last year, first travel then a bit of a knee injury, however a couple of weeks ago I managed and had an awesome time.

One of my bosses has been kind enough to lend me a bike so I didn’t have to buy one which has been great but the bike is starting to show its age. When pushed it doesnt want to play all that well and a couple of times I have ended up injuring myself because of the bike rather than my ability. So a couple of weekends ago (yes I am late with all these posts!) I grabbed the bike and headed down to the trails. On the way there alone the chain slipped gears a few times and my feet slid off the peddles which was annoying to say the least. I continued to battle through knowing that once I got to the woods I wouldn’t think about the issues as much and would just think about the riding. It is never possible to 100% turn off the worry in the back of your mind that at any second the bike is going to have it in for you and in a way that can cause problems in its self through last minute hesitations.

Anyway, this was must have been meant to be. As I arrived at the trails I noticed that there were loads of people already there with big marqueesDSC_1970 and loads of bikes lined up. It was at this point that my mind peaked back to something I had seen somewhere about a Giant Bikes Demo day in the woods. I rolled up on my borrowed, battered, old Giant and asked the guy really nicely if it was possible to borrow a bike without booking. To me delight it was and a few short minutes later I was handed a $6000 Giant Trance 27.5 full suspension bike and told to go and have some fun!

One thing that did cause my a slight bit of concern though was an incident that happened as I was signing my liability waiver. Just as I was signing my life away to say it was my own fault if I killed myself, a guy rode up, fully out of breath rambling that someone had come off their bike on the Downhill only section and was quite seriously hurt. The guy had come off and landed hard and couldn’t feel his legs so they had called an ambulance but needed some help until it arrived. Luckily one of the people there to ride for the day was a GP and in a few minutes the guys from Giant had gathered some supplies and were heading back up there to stabilize the poor guy.

I am sure my mum is cringing reading this and hoping that I then thought better of ever doing anything scary and went home for a nice hot drink and to read a book, but that isn’t how this story goes. I signed my name, claimed my prize and went out to blast through trees at excessive speeds! Everything about riding that bike was amazing and firmed up the realization that I need to get a new bike. It is great having something you have not had to pay for that is getting you places when you want, but getting hurt all the time because of it just doesn’t seem as fun and has kept me away from the trails more than I would have liked. This new bike though just flew!

I dont know if it was a combination of excitement about the bike, Adrenalin from the accident information or the new bike its self, but I had the best ride ever and seemed to master the trails like a pro. Going into it I knew the bike would handle the downhill sections better than the cheap on, but it was my real surprise when it was the uphill that I seemed to have amazing improvements on. Before I would get stuck in sections and end up huffing and puffing, but on this it just climbed and climbed away, shaving 2 mins off on one of the climbs. That is already an impressive number until you understand that the total time for the section wasn’t hours it was minutes and that section dropped from 7 mins to 5! This bike was just so much faster and I felt more in control all the time. Not a single time did I feel like I was getting myself into trouble as I knew the machine had me and with my new found confidence I got around the trails with ease.

Many of the things on the bike I am sure I didn’t need and wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference with a bike half its price but I did know there were some things that I loved. The first was the gearing system. On a traditional mountain bike there are multiple gears on the back (often 7 or 9) and then a couple of gears on the front (2 or 3). This lets you effectively have maybe 27 gears to choose from when riding about and in my opinion it is just too much. Because the gearing isn’t linear you have to change one cog down and another up to try and get to something different and to me it just seems like a mess. On this bike they have done away with the multiple on the front, instead having a single, smaller cog and then put 11 on the back, spaced wider apart to still give a similar total range but with a little more of a jump between the gears. This didn’t bother me at all as I nearly always skip gears anyway so it was actually an amazing bonus. Taking the thought process and choice of getting the right gear out of the equation made it so much easier to just enjoy the ride.

The other thing I really love was the dropped seat post. When I first heard of an automatic dropping seat post I just thought it was a massive gimmick and a bit of an expensive gadget with no real purpose but boy, was I wrong. When you ride on the trails you want to remain seated in a high seating position when climbing up the hills to get the most traction and power. When descending though this elevated position causes instability and it is better to have the seat dropped low and to be able to get off the saddle and absorb the impacts of the terrain on your legs. This makes you more agile and able to make it down the course quicker. Traditionally the way to do this would be to have a quick release seat post and to stop and the top of a downhill section, get off, adjust your seat, get on, ride down, then do the opposite for your climb back up. It doesn’t take long but it is annoying and can lead to you not changing it in some sections and spoiling the ride a little. The dropper post gets rid of all of that. By pressing a button on the handlebars and sitting your weight on the seat the seat drops down and suddenly you find yourself ready to smash down the trails. Once at the bottom, press it again and it pops back up. Simple! Its great for adjusting the height on the go and getting just the right height you want for a section. It helped me massively on the ride as I was just able to keep going without having to stop and start which saved me time and kept my motivation up. Before it seemed like an expensive toy, but after riding a bike with it I don’t think I want a bike without!

CaptureSo today I was faced with a dilemma that lead me into a bike shop looking for someone to talk to to get some answers. I obviously now know I want a bike with these amazing (but not cheap) features and I also know I cant afford it just yet. What I do need right now though is something newer and stable to ride that isn’t going to try and kill me. With that in mind I went into the Specialized shop (across the road from the place that sells Giants) to see what they thought about a bit of a cheaper “filler” bike. Something much cheaper that I could just use for a few months while I save. While chatting to the guy I explained to him everything that I have said here and that I don’t know enough about bikes to know what I want but I know a few features I really have to have moving forwards. He took it all in and then asked me to take a look at a completely different type of bike that had all the features I wanted but was apparently “massively fun!”

 

The bike in question was a hard tail rather than full suspension, however it has something called fattie6 tires, over-sized tires that provide more grip and a bit of bounce so rear suspension isn’t quite as important. Within a minute of talking he passed me a helmet and said “go on, take it for a blast around the block” …so I did! It was a great ride and felt much more solid that I thought it would. It also ticked all my boxes having the type of brakes I wanted as well as the dropper post and the right gearing system. What he basically said was that these are cheaper than what I initially was looking at since they don’t have the rear suspension so save on parts costs. He also put his money where his mouth was giving me their demo version of the bike right there and then to take home for the weekend to try out in my own time. What started as an inquiry ended with me having a new toy to play with all weekend so I am now mega stoked as for some stupid reason I have started writing this instead of getting outside!

If all goes well then I should be able to save for a few more weeks and get myself and amazing xmas present! Christmas in the summer is starting to look like an amazing invention!

UPDATE: For anyone wondering, after a weekend of riding the bike I rolled back into Cycleworld and ordered the bike right then and there. Anyone who has spoken to me since will know that I have raved not only about the bike but also the service I got from all the guys in the store. It isn’t every day that someone gives you a bike for the weekend and says “try your best to kill it!”

…and for anyone concerned, yes they also did me a good deal on a nice helmet 🙂

 

Beach Boxing

As winter starts drawing in and the days become shorter everyone’s first thoughts are to stay home, get warm by the fire and have a nice cup of hot chocolate to take the edge off. Well, everyone in the Norther hemisphere that is. Here on the bottom of the world December is officially the first month of summer and that means sun and shorts time!

Ok, I am not going to rub it in too much (actually at the moment it is pissing it down and looks awful) but it is pretty amazing to finish work and be able to shoot to the beach.IMG_20151202_194200

On Wednesday at about 4.50pm I got a text message from Craig saying exactly what I had on my mine. A single word that said it all….

“Beach?”. My reply was swift and simple “Yes!”. After finishing work and getting we made the long 5 min journey down to the local beach to bath in the 28 degree heat for the little time that we could. Just recently I have been showing Craig how to throw a punch so it seemed like the perfect place to try out some more of out boxing skills. And so with boxing gloves and pIMG_20151202_194107ads in hand we made our way to the edge of the
ocean and proceeded to hit things like anyone thinking they were awesome would.
It is always the little things that get you in life and this was certainly something that put a smile on my face. Looking forwards to getting this summer thing into full swing!

 
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Enjoying the little things

The thing about routine is that it is difficult to build a healthy, positive one that you want to have but exceedingly easy to fall into one that you don’t want. 12111996_10153374815218445_5434535153229419933_nNot that my current routine is terrible, just lately it had managed to lean all the way towards work with the evenings
involving staying home to get out of the rain. This last week though seems to be the start of a change in the air and hopefully a sign of things to come.

After weeks of the temperature attempting to slowly creep up,
on Tuesday it somehow managed to take a hop, skip and a jump, leaping up to 28 degrees in beautiful blazing sun. This was not to be taken lightly and after a few quick phone calls a group of up grabbed our
shorts after work and headed down to the beach. It is really easy to forget how close the beach is and how beautiful it is there since12107006_10153375723103445_4212041729634917246_n it is right on your door step every day, but hopefully we will start to appreciate it more with the new weather. For about an hour we played on
the beach, throwing a ball about until eventually the sun set, the temperature
cooled and we were forced to head home. What we did manage to do though before it was quite home time was capture a few beautiful pictures which I hope you will all enjoy.

Fingers crossed that this is the shape of things to come in the next few months 🙂

 

Wakari Creek Trails

I love mountain biking and for anyone else that does, New Zealand is certainly the place to be. Today I went for my first daytime ride to the Wakari Creek Trails and loved every minute of it. I have been to the trails twice before but each time was at night so although I had an amazing ride I was never able to take in the forest in its true glory. Today on the other hand, the weather was like a perfect summers day and the best possible environment for biking. At 16 degrees with the sun on your face it felt perfect since as soon as you duck into the trees the lack of sun cools you down and stops overheating through the trails.

The Wakari trails might not be that big (about 20 mins to get around one of the loops) but they certainly are really fun. Back in the UK I would have had to drive about an hour to find trails anywhere near as fun as this and it would more likely be a place I would end up staying for the weekend and camping out to just keep on riding without wasting time. Here I can leave my house, ride to the woods and do 2 laps around the trails before having a casual ride home and be done in an hour and a quarter. Someone who is actually in shape could probably do it all even quicker!

One thing I also stumbled upon was that by recording the route on my Fitbit using the GPS function it also stuck my data online and dumped it into an app called Strava. Strava has an awesome function where people have marked out set segments on maps and when it detects you riding through though sections it will then give your time a ranking based on how other people have done on it as well as your own personal best. What happened to make me quite giddy today was that I happened to do the same downhill route twice on the red loop and cut my time down from 1 min to 51 seconds. That might not seem like much but it made me quite happy with myself and now I at least have another goal to attack to see how fast I can get.

I really cant wait to hit the trails again and hopefully start making this a daily thing. I just love being out on the bike and hopefully soon my fitness level will reflect that.

What a difference a day makes…

In New Zealand the weather can change drastically day to day, nowhere more so than in Dunedin. Yesterday the weather was pretty dull but I still ended up heading to some little local view points to try and get some photos. The idea was that maybe I would get some stormy sights but who knows, maybe they would look pretty cool. As it turned out that was not the case… not even close!

The when we got to the top of Signal Hill overlooking the bay visibility was down to just a few meters. There wasn’t much point taking any pictures as it was just mist and fog,
however I am glad I took some anyway to use as a comparison for today. Today has been glorious,

a perfect summers day at the very start of spring. It may have only been 16 degrees but there was only one tiny cloud in the sky (looking quite pitiful may I add!) and the sun was blazing so it was pretty perfect to be honest with you. Take a look at the pictures below to highlight just how different 24 hours in Dunedin can really be.

 

I think all those pictures just go to show how different this place can be an that even if you have a crappy day all you need to do is wait 24 hours and try again!

Bonus Pics: Here are some more pics of my little outing for anyone interested.

 

 

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Lackadaisical posting

I think I need to apologise for my resent posts, or more accurately, my lack of recent posts. It seems as if I haven’t written anything in quite a while and that is because I haven’t! The post I published last was actually written a few weeks ago and I have been so busy that I’ve not been able to publish it when I wanted to.

Busy… but busy with what? Well that is the question that I really need to start asking myself as for all the time I seem to have been busy and not had time I don’t seem to have really gotten anything else done. It isn’t even as if I have just spent my time sat watching TV or movies as I really haven’t, the time just seems to have slipped away somehow. It is as if I put it down somewhere and forgot what that somewhere was and now I sit here typing this, trying to recall what I have done over the last few weeks and the answer is “not much”.

With the new job there has been a lot for me to do at work lately and by the time that is all done on an evening and I’ve eaten dinner etc. then it seems like it is time to reset and carry on again, a cycle I very much need to break!

Over the last few weeks I have at least started to get some new things in place to start having as much fun as possible and actually plan out some of my free time. Since I get weekends off (as long as things don’t go terribly wrong!) then I need to start thinking about what I want to be doing and what I really enjoy, otherwise what is the point in my little adventure if I am not having fun!

The first thing on the agenda for the man who now has a job, house and (company) car is to get back to the gym and try and sort out my fitness. This has culminated with a membership to Les Mills and me purchasing a quite expensive sports watch in an attempt to make it force me to make use of it. To be honest I am actually happy with the watch I got (the Fitbit Surge if anyone was wondering) as it tracks things like my steps per day, calories burnt, stairs climbed and heart rate and updates it all to my app account so I can keep track of things. I know that a lot of people think that it is a load of nonsense but to me having figures I can work against and try and improve on is really important and I need it to keep me moving in the right direction. Another week of the general fitness stuff and then I am going to start looking at getting to some of the classes that they do and then also getting myself back to Jiu Jitsu as I have missed training quite a lot in the last few months.

It seems like I say this a lot but this really is the edge and I need to start making moves to either back away from it or take a leap. Either way, standing here and looking isn’t doing anyone any good!