Archive for November, 2009


She’s like the wind

Monday, November 30th, 2009

This little poem is close to what I think and say to myself when cycling in the wind, as a way of coping. Not just coping but trying to work with the wind and keep going, rather than going into battle each time.

ODE TO WIND

I love the wind
and the wind loves me
Do not fight the wind
Be at one with the wind
You are the wind

The wind is mighty
harness its potent power
embrace the energy it gives
and feel alive

The wind is not against you
but it is you, you are the wind
Be strong and feel the wind
without pushing too hard

The wind loves me
and I love the wind

I am the wind

I wrote this 6 days before encountering the strongest wind so far on our trip, en route to Wanaka.

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Hello Mum

Friday, November 27th, 2009

New photos added to the gallery page and flickr!

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Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

hello, just a quick post for all of you following us to say that we will be posting to the blog again soon – we know that you’ve been wondering why we haven’t been updating it lately! We’ve been on the road, in the wilderness, camping in forests and not really had access to the tinterweb much, plus internet cafes costs lots. However we now have a shiny notebook and will be able to write a blog more reguarly and keep you all up to date.

We fly to Australia on sunday 29th Nov, but will try and fill in the gaps between now and then, including our adventure throught the Rainbow Valley, going to the races in Christchurch and cycling down to Wanaka via the southerns alps and lakes. The romantics out there will be pleased to know that we made it to Wanaka.

More soon, Liz & Chris x

ps thanks for the birthday messages for last sunday everyone, much appreciated! (Liz)

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Rainbow Valley (28th Oct – 1st Nov)

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

liz-034

Not sure I need to write anything really, this picture says it all….

Ok so here’s the full account for those of you with a bit of time on your hands…

Our friend Dean, who runs the climbing wall in Nelson suggested that we cycle through the Rainbow Valley rather than taking the main road. So we had a look and decided to do it. We left Nelson and cycled for 2 days to get to Tophouse, to the start of the Rainbow Ski Area road. Arriving late, after a long day, we were now surrounded by snow-capped mountains, trees and rivers. We spent our first night in the woods ready to set off in earnest the next morning.

Having already encountered a mouse in the tent 2 nights before, we were now greeted by big honey bees. I think they must be attracted to the bright colours of our clothes and bikes as there were 5 or 6 or them flying round us at all times. Chris is pretty chilled and unfazed by just about everything, except bees – he really doesn’t do bees! We set off in the hope that they would stay behind. However 2 mins down the road, through an icy cold ford, I got my first puncture and had to pull over. Whilst I’m getting the wheel off and trying to find the hole, all i can see out the corner of my eye is Chris running up and down the road trying to get away from all the bees (cue Benny Hill music). It was also a pretty windy spot so whilst being blown around I’m still trying to fix the puncture, but couldn’t see or find any hole, hmmn. Chris came over to help, during a bee-free moment, and luckily found that a thorn had gone through the tyre, but the inner tube seemed ok. After a bit more faffing we got the tyre back on and off we go again…

liz-puncture

We got to the start of the gravel track and it was quite hardwork, bumpy, not surprisingly, but it took quite a lot of concentration – I was glad to be wearing padded shorts! There were some steep bits to climb and come down and I was still getting to grips with the gravel. You can’t brake as easily, on a  bend you’ll skid if you brake etc. I was sat there thinking that i really should have done some mountain biking before we came away! Chris gave me a few tips though about keeping feet level, keep the weight back and lifting up over the bumps, which made a big difference once i got the hang of it. But I still struggled with the hills, you have less traction and the loose gravel makes you feel unbalanced and as if you will slip off the bike. So I was pushing the bike up the hills which is quite exhausting after a while. We had lots of water to cross, streams coming down off the mountains cross the track and it’s really cold water, but beautifully clean and clear. Towards the end of the day, I got quite tired and frustrated at how difficult i was finding it – why does everything we do have to be so hard? Why can’t we do something easy and fun rather than hard and fun? Why can’t I be stronger? After a few tears and me taking out my frustration on Chris, we headed towards the Hut where we would stay the night. I saw the sign CONNORS CREEK HUT and was relieved to be stopping for the day.

connors-creek-hut-rainbow-valley-4

It was a lovely little hut, well stocked with wood, a fireplace, 6 bunks and a loo. It was set in a small clearing with the hills and snowy mountains all around. With the late afternoon sun, it seemed more like a scene in Austria than NZ. The hut was warm inside as the sun had been on it all day, and we had the place to ourselves. We lit a fire and used it to cook on and boil water. Over tea and chocolate we chatted and I cheered up a bit, once i had talked about how i was feeling and got over my frustration. I felt a bit more positive about the next day as at least i knew now what to expect and could prepare myself mentally for a tough day. I really wanted to enjoy this experience as it is a magical, beautiful place and such an opportunity.

CREATURES IN THE NIGHT
After fixing tyres and cleaning kit we went to bed quite late. I was almost asleep when i heard Chris get up from his bunk, with his head torch on, moving around the hut. I couldn’t fathom why he was making so much noise just to go to the loo. Then he said ‘there’s an animal outside’ ‘It’s trying to get into the dry bag outside’. We had left the big dry bag with the tent in, outside by the bikes. I couldn’t hear anything… but then i heard a rustle. Fearing the destruction of our precious tent, Chris decided to go and investigate. He opened the hut door a bit and i just heard him make a really funny low noise, almost like a tune but more animalistic. I knew he had got a fright! He closed the door quickly. There was a possum hanging at eye level right in front of him! The Hut has a small porch and we had hung up a water bladder and the rubbish bag so that they were out of reach. The possum had climbed up and was hanging on the water bladder with one claw and the rubbish bag with the other, attacking the rubbish bag. So it was right by the door staring at Chris with it’s beady little eyes. Not quite what we had expected to see in the middle of the night. What to do, we were trapped by a cheeky bloody possum! We could try and get rid of it, but didn’t really want to get bitten, so we decided to leave it and go back to bed and sort it out in the morning.

We both lay there, pretending to go back to sleep, but in reality we were both laying there listening to every single sound, our senses heightened now by the possum outside. I needed the loo too, but had no intention of going outside. In the end we decided to get rid of the possum. We looked around the hut for a weapon, Chris picked up a metal toasting device, but I said ‘you can’t use that you’ll get blood on it, how about the broom?’ it was quickly turning into a scene from Shaun of the dead  (the bit where they are deciding what to chuck at the zombie in the garden). We decided on the broom and slowly opened the door. The possum had gone, phew! Considering the noise it was making we’d expected to see our rubbish scattered all over the place, but it had only managed a tiny hole in the bag so quite a pathetic effort really. Chris checked outside the hut and there was no sign of it, so we were able to go to the loo (still armed with the broom – ‘don’t attempt anything without the broom’). Once back in the hut, now about 12.30am, we both found the whole thing very funny and surreal at the same. Whatever next, mice, bees, possums?! We managed to get some sleep after that.

Next morning we got up a a little late due to our midnight adventures. It was a beautiful sunny day, not a single cloud in the sky. We cycled away from the hut and re-joined the track. Everything looked spectacular, so beautiful… how lucky we are to be here. Reflecting on the day before Chris said poignantly ‘Beautiful places can be hard to get to’ and I guess that’s right,not everyone gets to see this. I imagine that many kiwis haven’t seen this place… with that in my mind, I felt ready for the day ahead, I was ready for anything.

wainu-gorgeThe first few miles were flat and I just kept taking in the mountains and colours, wondering if this was also how Mongolia might look. Chris filmed us cycling on his camera, our first attempt at filming ourselves, which was fun. We reached the Wainu Gorge and the water was so blue, opaque in places and gushing through the rocks. We followed the river for quite a while, up and down, before meeting two guys on motorbikes. Apart from one 4×4 van, we hadn’t see anyone else on the track, so it took us by surprise a little. One of them had spent 5 months in Mongolia which was interesting.

 

As we left the gorge the terrain changed becoming browner, dustier and more rocky, we struggled to cycle up some of it as the gravel was so loose. But I was much more confident on the downhills and was starting to allow some speed and enjoy it. After a nice lunch break we continued on knowing that we had the Island Saddle to contend with at some point. We climbed two big hills each time wondering if they might bew the start of the saddle, onlyt to reach to top and come down the otherside. At the Molesworth station boundary we saw a map and realised that it was still a way off. At 4pm we reached a small hut – Sedgemere Chalet and were both a bit tempted to stop. However I had spent some time wishing that we had got further yesterday so i knew we needed to carry on or else i’d be saying the same thing tomorrow. Plus we had a tail wind for the first time.

bikes-and-liz-pushing

We scoffed a couple of mini mars bars and continued along the road, now feeling like we really were in the middle of nowhere. It was really hot and I was beginning to feel tired in the heat. As if by magic a steam appeared and i walked through it to cool my feet and ankles, then a cloud emerged out of nowhere and covered the sun for a while. I had some water, removed my helmet to let out some steam and started to cool down. Considering how high up we were, it was surprsingly warm. Along the track we were now alongside some of the mountain ridges that we had seen covered in snow earlier that day in the distance. There was some snow on the ground and I couldn’t resist throwing a snowball at Chris. A 4×4 appeared with an English couple, they said that the saddle was only 3-4km away and that’we’d know it when we see it’, which always bodes well. We reached it and they weren’t wrong. It looked a bit like Wrynose Pass (for those Lake District dwellers) but with gravel rather than tarmac.

With lots of pushing, pedalling, stopping, resting, singing and generally plodding we managed to get up it. Even Chris found it hard! In the background the landscape looked like a scene out of Lord of the Rings (Helms Deep perhaps) and i half expect an ork or two to appear at any moment. Chris filmed us reaching the top together, hurray we made it!

liz-chris-island-saddle-6

It was cold at the top, so after a few photos of the majestic view behind us and now in front of us, we set off on the downhill. I find the huge downhills like this almost as hard as going up ( i know it sounds ridiculous), but I have my brakes on nearly the whole way, you don’t have lots of grip on the gravel and it’s fairly terrifying. But I made it down and enjoyed the last bit whizzing down onto the straight, eyes steaming as I clocked 46km p/h. I stopped and quickly put on some more clothes, it was freezing. I looked back up the hill to watch Chris coming down and get a few photos. Where was he? He ususally flies down the hills. What if he has come off, what will I do, how long will it take me to run back up that hill to reach him? My mind was racing. Then I see him, a tiny dot coming down the hill. He keeps stopping but i don’t know why? I take some photos as he finally comes into view, the light is perfect. It turns out that he had attached his boots to the front panniers, but they kept falling off and so he had to stop to collect them!

liz-034

We were nearly there now, just a few more k to Lake Tennyson where we could stop and camp. It was getting late and it had been a long day! On and on we go our eyes peeled, looking for the lake in the distance. Then we saw a sign LAKE TENNYSON 1.5KM yay! We cycled down to the lake and saw two cars parked and 2 tents. More human beings! We were both looking forward to some hot food and sleep. It was well earnt and I was pleased that I coped so well with everything that day and more importantly enjoyed it. It was exhiliarating and I still had some energy left. Such a contrast to the day before, I love surprising myself!

lake-tennyson

The next day was an easy day by comparison, we had 40km of downhill ahead of us, all the way to Hanmer Springs. Right at the end of the track is Jacks pass, a short climb and then a long downhill into Hanmer. Back on the tarmac, ah bliss. As we left the last few miles of the track I almost wanted to stay on it, but at the same time it was lovely to have made it to Hamner, 110km later. Hanmer was warm and sunny, with lots of people and families enjoying their sunday afternoon. We pulled up, still covered in dust, sweat and dirt and treated ourselves to a cold can of coke each. We sorted out a camp site for the night and then headed to the hot pools for a lovely 2 hour soak to soothe the aching muscles, followed by a nice dinner and a glass of cider. It was a fitting end to an amazing few days.

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Our Abel Tasman Adventure (Part 2)

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

So part 2 of the trip was on foot and we set off from Onetahuti beach and headed to Awaroa, where we would stay the night at Awaroa Hut. With waterproofs on and bags laden with food and clothes started walking in the rain, 10 mins in we manage to fit in a  quick game of cricket – bat washed up on the shore with a pine cone as a ball – before crossing  the stream ( stretch of about 3m of water). We walked for an hour or 2 before arriving at Awaroa Lodge, where we treated ourselves to hot chocolate ad cookies. From there it was a half hour walk to the hut.

awa

My waterproof trousers turned out not to be very waterproof, so i was glad to arrive and change into warmer clothes. The hut was lovely and warm and quite busy with american girls, a french and german pair of girls, followed by us and then a canandian couple joined us later on. It was a nice evening and we had a good dinner of pasta with cheese, leeks and salami. We played cards til about 9pm nd them headed to the bunks. It was really hot in the hut overnight and our -10 sleeping bags were a bit too warm!

waterDay 4- Sunday: To continue our walk we have to cross the bay at Awaroa and this means waiting for the tide to go out, so that we cross at low tide. Low tide is at 4.07pm, but you can cross it up to 3hrs before or after, so we had hoped to cross it around 1pm. But on the day it took ages to go out and even the DOC warden said it would be about 3pm before we could cross. So there we all are, hanging around the hut waiting to go. I found it quite funny, people can’t relax when they are waiting for something, even if it’s not for a few hours… I read my book and Chris and sarah played cards, Rich took still frame shots, on 2 cameras of the tide going out, so we managed to amuse ourselves. Around 3pm we all set off, barefoot with boots tied onto rucksacks, the beach floor was painfully sharp as it was covered with broken shells.  It took about 25mins to cross and the water came up to our thighs in certain places, although it wasn’t too cold. From there it was a 4-5hr walk to Whariwharangi ( pronounced ‘fari farangee’).

As we walked it rained and rained to Totaranui, so we didn’t see as much as we had hoped. We caught up with the Canadian couple who were heading the same way as us. We still had 3 hours to go and it was nearly 6pm, I knew it was going mean a late arrival at the hut tonight. To be honest I didn’t really enjoy the walk to Whariwharangi as it was rainy and dark and I just wanted to reach the hut. My left leg ached, I had blisters and my rucksack was so uncomfortable, somehow I just couldn’t pull myself together enough to enjoy any of it. We arrived at the hut in the dark, passing blue glow worms on the way! Sarah and Rich greeted us and we cooked up corn beef hash and baked beans for dinner, which was just what we all needed. I was so tired that I was ready for sleep as soon as I finished eating, so I went to bed whilst the others cooked up some mussels that they had collected that day. I slept very well and was relieved to have made it. I knew that tomorrow we would start on the inland track and that it was steeper, but I didn’t know that the hardest bit was yet to come…

two

Day 5 -  I woke up, my left leg aching – i think i pulled a muscle at the top of my leg, so that it hurt to lift my leg up. I stuck some compede on the blisters and pulled on my waterproofs. The first half of the morning was up to Gibbs Hill and we climbed and climbed. Chris and I walked together and chatted so the time passed quite quickly, but it was hard walking and i was wishing it would all be over soon.  I think Chris was disappointed that i wasn’t enjoying it more. We caught up with Sarah and Rich for lunch at Pigeon saddle. Then we entered the forest, up and up it went. I knew that we passed through the forest for some of the walk, but what i didn’t know was that this was the start and that we would spend the next two days surrounded by thick forest.

It was 3hrs to Awapoto Hut and we climbed up higher and higher, deeper and deeper into the forest. It was very steep in places and muddy, with tree roots to climb over and no obvious path. It was exhausting. We were going so slowly and eventually Chris took my pack for me. This evened us up a bit and we were able to go a bit quicker. We carried on and it seemed so unlikely that there was a hut all the way up here, but then suddenly we saw a sign post and it appeared. Thank goodness! It was the steepest, hardest climb i have ever done and way harder than i anticipated.

The hut however was fantastic (as ever) and once the wood burner got going it was toasty inside (chilly outside). As well as us four, 2 Australians, Tracy & Neil,  that we met back at Onetahuti were at the hut too, plus a girl called Wiebke. We had a fantastic meal that night. Having run out of sugar we decided that tomato cup-a-soup would be better than tea without sugar. This was followed by pasta with onion, leek, tomato sauce, carrot and tuna. The canadian couple we met had kindly given us a pudding and chris cooked up some popcorn for all of us.  Finally we had tea, so a feast for all by any stretch of the imagination!

Day 6 – the DOC warden at Awaroa had said that once you are up at Awapoto you basically follow the ridge line to Castle Rocks, so i was expecting a slightly easier day. We left around 9am and on cue, it started raining. My blisters were covered up and painkillers taken for the leg, but pretty soon i lost the pace and the first hour was quite a slog. Chris stayed with me and we sang songs, talked lots and  kept going. It was less steep, but still thick forest, muddy and wet – many of the footholes were full of water and the path was like a riverbed in places. We were aiming to reach Moa park for lunch and after 2 hrs we came to a sign post where we said we might meet Sarah and Rich, however they had left us a message made out of sticks: GONE TO MOAà It was another 2hrs to Moa and they had all the food, yikes we better speed up a bit. It got quite cold and the temperature seemed to have dropped, it started hailing and my hands were cold. Suddenly around 2.30pm sarah popped up from nowhere. She had come back to meet us with some snacks to keep us going. Sarah took my pack and we walked the half hour to Moa together. I was still really cold and stopped to put on a fleece and hat. Then  it started snowing. We were at 1000m so not surprising really, but we were caught out by it. I was glad to reach the shelter but cold and my hands were numb. Chris helped me get warm and made tea for me as well as instructing me to put on leggings, extra socks and layers, buffalo gloves and then to have lunch. 20 mins later i had warmed up a bit and felt a bit better. I had just read a leaflet about hypothermia 2 days ago, so i was fully aware of the dangers, but it’s funny when the temp drops and you almost don’t realise how cold you are, especially when walking and trying to get somewhere.

We reached Castle Rocks hut 2.5hrs later and it was great to arrive. The hut was really warm and cosy – there were 9 of us for an 8 bunk hut! And they said the inland track would be quiet, ha! Tracy and Neil were there, plus the four of us as well as a Canadian guy and a Japanese girl, plus a guy from Alaska studying for his PHD at Dunedin. It was a nice evening and we were all in bed about 9pm, all that was left was the sound of the fire crackling, drying our clothes and boots. I got up in the night to use the toilet and stepping outside the sky was full of stars. You feel like you are the only person alive at that moment, all the world is sleeping and only you are standing on top of a hill staring up at the twinkling sky.

Day 7 – we woke up to sunshine, woohoo!! It was an early start of 7am and i didn’t really want to get up. We left with pretty much all of our food eaten and just our sandwiches for the day in our bags. Chris and Rich carried 2 of my dry bags so my pack was light. We set off and although it was the last day, we still had 5hrs of walking to go and i’d kinda had enough now.  Singing is usually the best way for me to cheer up and as we were going downhill i was able to sing. Singing totally transformed my mood and i felt happy and positive. Chris joined in too and we were singing songs from cats, Joseph and buddy holly. As we were singing to Grease lightning at the top of our lungs we arrived at the holyoake shelter. Tracy and Neil were there already and invited us to join them for hot chocolate, which we did. We sat and chatted in the sunshine about possums, western Australia, building our own houses….

The track down to Marahau started to drop whilst the temp rose as we went. We stopped to change into shorts and t-shirts. It became rocky and steep, but with Marahau in view i was keen to get down. My feet and leg had other ideas and were very sore, it was hard going. We passed some lovely waterfalls on the way and eventually joined the original coastal track. Hobbling home, we reached the cafe at the end of the track where Sarah and Rich we waiting for us. Tracy and Neil were there too and we cheered each other for making it, enjoying a well-earned beer. I was exhausted but pleased to have made it through my first 7 day expedition!

To the experienced walker or adventurer i probably sound like a big drama queen, but everyone has their own personal limits and abilities. What may be easy for one person could be completely outside of another’s comfort zone, depending on your starting point. When things are hard, it is difficult to enjoy them and stay positive, but maybe the enjoyment and sense of achievement comes later once you’ve succeeded. At the end of the day it is you and the path and the elements, it really isn’t about how fast you go or what anyone else may be able to do. You do your best and that’s all you can do at that moment in time.

Now it was time to head to Takaka and celebrate Chris’s birthday!

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