Saturday, 1 October 2016

Exploring the areas just outside of Auckland

It's been hard getting people to commit to weekend breaks away, so I have had to settle for convincing people to spend the day with me instead.

Last weekend a bunch of us drove out to the Hunua Ranges, an hours drive south east of Auckland, and tackled a 3 hour hike starting from the Hunua Falls.  As it's been raining lots recently they were pretty torrential and muddy, but they look like they'd be fun to swim in when summer comes by (though apparently lots of people die there, so maybe not actually).

Amy showcased her wonderful sense of direction by trying to lead us round in a circle but luckily there were other people in the team who did have navigational skills :-P.  We stopped to have lunch at a picnic bench overlooking a reservoir - me and Amin had clingwrapped bakery sandwiches, and Amy and Colin pull out delicacies such as pumpkin and feta quiche and salted caramel doughnuts and fudge!  They sure know how to picnic.

It was a pretty walk and finished following a little stream which we had to rock hop over at the end.

On the Sunday it was pissing it down all day, so I read the last of the Harry Potter books in my pyjamas all day!  Oh my gosh - HARRY POTTER.  What an amazing series.  It was funny! I didn't expect it to be funny.  And it made me cry.  What a silly billy I was for not reading it when I was a kid.  My only complaint was JK Rowling didn't put enough emphasis on PE in the Hogwarts curriculum.  I dunno, maybe wizards and witches don't get fat.

We've moved to a different floor at work so the last week has been troubleshooting people's stupid questions and trying to remain calm because they didn't read instructions properly, and shifting things about on trolleys.  I managed to smash an entire bottle of wine in the lift, then the lift broke because some of the glass made the doors stuck.  Whoops.

On Friday we had an impromptu games night which was so much fun.  Adam's friend Darcy brought along a game called Resistance, which is really similar to Werewolf/Mafia if you know it.  You get given a card that tells you if you're a spy or a rebel.  The spies get to know who eachother are, but no one else knows who they are. Then basically everyone has to work out who the spies are and it's really good - it causes a bit of friction and doubt amongst you, it's great fun.  Then we played the most amazing game ever.  I am already a huge fan of Cards Against Humanity, and didn't think it could get better....but - we pimped our game to make it the most fun game ever.  We chose a bunch of the more normal white cards, then split into 2 teams.  We then had 4 rounds where each team had to guess the word on the card in 1 minute, by the other person describing the word on the card, using just one word to describe the word, acting out the word, and then using noises to describe the word.  I highly recommend this at your next games night - having to come up with a noise to get people to guess 'stray pube' is amusing!  We played till 1am it was that fun.

This weekend I wanted to go to Raglan, but the weather is pretty poop (we're getting the rest of the storm that knocked out all the power in Oz this week) so today I rounded up a bunch of people and we headed to the Waitakeres again.  It's such a pretty area - heaps of nice bush and coastal walks.  We did a nice quick 1.5 hour walk to Fairy Falls - it's a gorgeous little bush walk then you end up following a gorgeous waterfall down to its base.

We then headed to Piha and climbed Lion Rock, then walked down the beach for a bit, discovering caves and starfish along the way.  I LOVE having all this to explore only an hour away, it makes not being able to get away for an entire weekend that much sweeter :)

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Breaking my Skiing virginity

Many Kiwis are keen skii-ers, it's in their blood, what with having mountains covered in snow on both islands within easy reach.  Camilla had organised a ski trip which I had ummed and ahhed about going on - I've never done it before (apart from dry slope once when I was at school and I was pretty terrible) and it was looking pretty expensive and I feel like if I am going to give skiing a go, it needs to be a good go - like a week of lessons or something.  However as luck would have it, a groupon for SUPER cheap skiing came up - $50 for a day pass including ski hire, which was bloody awesome, so some of us less experienced skiiers jumped on it.  I managed to borrow ski clothes from a colleague's wife so I was all set for a cheap introduction to skiing.

Me, Ben, Amy and Colin took the Friday off work and headed down to Whakapapa via the Bombay services - fast becoming our regular service stop for breakfast and coffee.  A leisurely journey, we arrived in Whakapapa at lunchtime, stopped at The Chalet for a quick bite to eat, then hired sledges on the ski field.  They had made 2 little race tracks which we went on, but soon got bored of as they were only 300m or so long and weren't too exciting, so we decided to go off piste a bit and found a very fast slope which we made the boys try out first before we had a go.  I accidentally went over a ramp which gave me a shock but it was fun nonetheless!  We abandoned the sledges and climbed a bit further off the track - Ben had an ice axe and was teaching me how to use it, and found another slope which we slid down on our fronts and backs for a while.  We started to get a bit cold and wet so headed to check into our respective accommodation for the night.


Shiny goggles

Ice axe selfie


The next day we woke bright and early for a day of skiing, but the ski field was closed until 10am due to weather conditions, so we had to hang around for a bit.  They were pretty slack with any communication so we decided to drive that way anyway, and hope that they'd update their pre-recorded voicemail message saying if it was open or not.  After a lot of driving back and forth, and Colin's first attempt at driving to the ski field car park a failure (the 2WD road wasn't in the best of conditions) we eventually made it!

We crammed into the 4x4 ski shuttle to get the rest of the way up to the ski field - it was a 7km long windy road filled with huge pot holes and sheer drops either side at times, hopped out and got fitted for skiis and boots.

The boots felt like my feet had been encased in metal - they were so tight and stiff and heavy! We chucked our skiis on our shoulder and with poles in both hands did a weird walk to the beginners ski section.

I was really scared about falling over - but I needn't have been.  I fell over almost immediately and it didn't hurt, and proceeded to fall over a million more times after that.  My wrist started to hurt from having to push myself up all the time!

Mt Doom is at the back, covered in clouds

Certainly didn't feel like 2 degrees

As this was a volunteer run club field, it didn't have any ski lifts, instead it had a rope tow - this is essentially an automated pulley system and you wear a pair of 'nutcrackers' round your waist, and hook onto the line that's moving up the mountain.  Amy and I were both too scared to attempt this, and were resorting to trekking up the hill in our ski boots, putting on the skiis at the top (or however far we reached before getting too tired to continue) and then skiing down (or, if you were me, skiing a little bit then falling over, getting up and repeat).

After about 5 goes of this we were both pretty tired and were having a rest - and couldn't face trekking back up the hill, so we got brave and attempted the rope tow.

On my first go I couldn't hook the nutcracker on properly so I was just holding onto the rope which is pretty dangerous as your hand can get trapped in the pulley, so I eventually admitted defeat and let go, promptly falling over in the process - but having to throw myself out of the way of the people coming up behind me on the tow.  I skiid down and decided to have another go - luckily I managed to hook onto it properly this time, so I had a cuople more goes.  I couldn't get the hang of disembarking though and each time I would pull myself off the rope, ski a little bit, feel myself sliding back into the rope and then chuck myself onto the ground so that I didn't knock anyone over.  It was amusing to watch, especially for the woman who kept ending up behind me in the queue!

Sam came and joined us and gave me a few tips - my snow plough wasn't up to scratch as I kept putting my knees in too much, and I started to slowly get the hang of it (though I was still falling over every 5 seconds).

After a few hours we decided to call it a day - hunger was getting the better of us, so we headed back down the mountain and back to our hostel for warm showers, beer and a huge meal cooked up by Sam.  We also celebrated Ben's birthday (23, so young!) and I crept off to bed at 10pm pretty exhausted.

In the morning I took myself for a little walk round Turangi.  We had planned on doing a hike but the weather was pretty miserable so we headed back home, via Hamilton Gardens which were a nice surprise - loads of different themed gardens.  i think my favourite was the Indian garden, it had tons of different coloured poppies - I do love poppies.

Indian garden

Italian garden

Japanese garden

When we got home, we had the lovely surprise of discovering we'd been burgled whilst we'd been away.  They had turned over our bedrooms but only escaped with 2 laptops, one of which was 8 years old - so it was barely worth their time!  It probably cost more to fix my bedroom window where they'd gained entry than what they'd get for the laptops.  The police were utterly useless, they didn't even come round, and sent the forensics round the following day, by which point we'd already tidied up as the house was a mess and we needed to sleep/live in it - unsurprisingly they didn't find any evidence.

There was a funny side to the story though - on inspecting the house to see what was taken, we found a bag of sex toys on our new housemate Tim's bed.  The burglars had evidently found his secret stash and emptied them out on the bed - which gave us a lot of amusement to imagine them thinking it was drugs or money and finding instead 3 dildos and some lube packets.  According to Tim they're a joke present from his friend...haha...

I went climbing for the first time in ages last Thursday, and when I got home and was getting undressed I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder and then couldn't move it for the next 24 hours as I was in so much pain.  I found it hilarious that it was fine whilst climbing, but when taking off my bra it couldn't cope - a bit like last month when I fell over and hurt myself running on pavement rather than hiking up a mountain.  On Friday morning I was in so much pain I decided to invest in expensive drugs and a physio appointment - oh wow, she was amazing.  She massaged my shoulder until it stopped hurting and I felt like a new woman! It was still a bit painful over the weekend but nothing like it was previously.

Last weekend the weather was stunning so on Saturday me, Camilla, Amy and Colin headed to Takapuna beach and had a chilled out afternoon.  In the evening I went to my first NZ poetry slam!!! It was really good - and quite interesting as even the really good poets were incredibly nervous and let their nerves show on stage.  The first half was quite amusing though love poems featured highly, and the second half was really intense with poems about refugees and abortions and anxiety and domestic violence - I was nearly in tears at some of them.  It made me realise I really miss poetry and need to get and find some more poetry nights in Auckland!  It's not such a big thing over here - I was really spoilt in London.

Rangitoto volcano from Takapuna beach

On Sunday I walked up Mt Eden, then drove back to Titirangi and spent the afternoon on a different beach, reading Harry Potter.  I am so annoyed with myself that I never read it when I was a kid - they're really good books and I probably would have got obsessed with them if I'd read them at the time.  I have got 2 more left then I am done!

Awww I am so far away!!!

Auckland from Mt Eden

In the evening I joined Scott (Matt's housemate) at a comedy night in Ponsonby, which was terrible and I won't go back.  The first act spent 10 minutes talking about how he was called Scott L. Wood rather than just Scott Wood and it wasn't funny.

This past week's been a fairly quiet one.  On Wednesday I played indoor netball and it was against my work team - we lost terribly (4-44!) so I got an ass wiping the next day from my colleagues.  Indoor netball is an interesting concept - it's quite different to netball as we know it.  It's 6 aside and you have to have at least 2 males in the team, and no more than 3.  There's 2 attack, 2 defence and 2 centre, and the centre are allowed to shoot.  You can also shoot from anywhere in your half, and if you score from outside the semi circle you get 2 points instead of 1.  The court only has halves not thirds and is smaller than a normal netball court.  It's really quite fun but I do get a bit intimidated when some of the teams we play take it really seriously - I am doing it for fun and fitness as are the rest of our team!

I have had a pretty lazy weekend - went to the pub with a few peeps on Friday, yesterday I stayed in my PJs reading Harry Potter till 2pm, then went to the shops and spent a load of money on expensive lingerie (no new man - no man at all really, I just realised when trying on clothes how disgusting my other bras were and fancied treating myself).

Today I spotted some Tui in the garden so tried to get some snaps of them:

And then to get myself out the house I drove out to the Duder Regional Park just outside of Auckland and did a wee 2 hour walk which was very pretty except I got attacked by overzealous magpies who, even though I was on the ground, thought I was trying to steal their chicks or something and swooped and cut my head open. Little bastards.  Pretty walk though!