Sunday, 22 January 2017

A visitor

My friend Ben (he’s been featured previously here, when he met me for a quick South roadtrip) lives in Sydney and we have been trying to arrange a Sydney meet up for a while now.  Each date we’ve suggested hasn’t worked out, to the point that it’s become predictable! So imagine my surprise when last week he says ‘sorry, my parents are out then so I have to entertain them. But how about I come to Auckland this weekend?’.  This weekend being 4 days away!

I had no other plans so said yes and started planning what we could do for 3 days.

Ben’s the kind of person who’s really good to have as a friend – not only is he very easy going and hilarious, he is up for anything!  So I texted him a variety of activities we could do on the weekend, and he said yes to them all – woohoo!

So first off, we got up and headed to Tawharanui to hire some surfboards and shred some waves. That makes me sound so cool – if only you could see me try and surf and you’d realise very soon I’m not very cool at all.  Unfortunately the waves were mostly non existent, so my attempt at practicing what I’d learnt in my lesson a few weeks previously wasn’t great.  However, we had just as much fun by trying to do yoga positions on the boards!!! This was very fun and very hard and we spent more time in the water than on the board, but we both managed to do a high plank to low plank to cobra to downward facing dog before falling in.  Proud!

We spent the afternoon faffing on the beach, bumped into Amy and Colin who were christening their brand new kayak (ewww not that sort of christening) before heading home for dinner and predrinking - readying ourselves for the thing I was most excited about ever – Fat Freddy’s Drop!!!! They are one of my favourite bands and it had been my intention to see them whilst I am in New Zealand (they’re a kiwi band so fitting to see them here).  Tickets had been on sale for ages but I wasn’t sure if I was going to go because a) they were expensive and b) no one would come with me because they were expensive.  So remember when I said Ben was up for anything….he agreed to come see Fat Freddy’s with me even though he hadn’t really heard of them. What a LEGEND.

Anyway so we predrunk some wine which got me pretty tipsy, and jumped into an Uber to take us to Villa Maria winery where the gig was held.  This is such a random spot – it’s a winery right next to the airport and surrounded by industrial estates.  But you walk through the gates and are surrounded by vineyards and lush green grass and bushes and you totally forget you’re next to an airport in a rubbish part of Auckland.

We arrived just before they got on stage and I was so ridiculously excited.  Ben was such a great person to go to the gig with – you know when you go to gigs with people and they’re not really sure or keen on the music and so are a bit self conscious so you feel like you can’t really enjoy it either – well Ben was the total opposite of that and we were bopping away all night.  I even got to sit on his shoulders which was sooooo good because you can see so much from up there!  

It was such an awesome gig - the vibe, the venue, the people, the band - I was on cloud 9 for the entire thing.  We both needed a wee but didn't want to stop dancing it was that good. 

I would have loved for the night to go on forever but sadly all good things have to come to an end, and we bumped into my friend from work at a very well timed place on our way out of the gates - he offered us a lift home and we all squeezed into his car.  They dropped us off at a chinese restaurant on Dominion road so we walked the rest of the way back, stopping in at the Scientology place on the way as it was still open at 1am and we were drunk and curious.  Apparently too drunk for the free personality test they advertise, but the bloke in there was good natured and told us that the body is a vessel for your spirit and we're all capable of unlocking our super powers. I can see why people get sucked in.

The next day we had a cruisy tourist day.  Ben (other Ben, now called Benji for the sake of this blog post, the one who lives here) was doing a bungee jump off the Auckland harbour bridge and wanted some moral support, so we went and watched him.  We got hooked up on a harness and wore helmets for health and safety, and walked along underneath the bridge to a little pod where everyone jumps from.  It took ages as there was about 15 people jumping but we didn't mind as it's really interesting watching the emotions everyone goes through - some people just jump and don't hesitate and others freak out and need a lot of coaxing (I expect I would be the latter).  Benji was the former and was pretty hyped before and after and said it was the most fun thing he'd ever done! 

Afterwards we had some lunch at a random Thai place in town, then climbed some trees in Albert Park.  We walked up Queen Street to show Ben Auckland's version of Oxford St (it's not really any comparison) then popped into the Civic Theatre at Benji's suggestion as neither of us had been in - we were a bit naughty and kept walking as no one stopped us and ended up on stage as there was a sort of tour on that we snuck on the end of.  It was cool! 

Benji left to go home and me and Ben drove to Amy and Colin's place to play board games and dinner, before driving back home and collasping into bed as we were pretty tired from all of our shenanigans.

On Ben's last day we drove out to the Waitakeres and did a walk around Bethell's Lake - silly me forgot my shoes (who does that!) and had to do the walk barefoot which was mostly fine but some of the path was gravel which was a bit sore.  It's a cool walk to show people as the first 25 mins is walking through a stream to the lake, then you walk round the lake which is pretty then you can go either back over black sand dunes or through the lake again - we chose the lake as the sand dunes were boiling hot.

We stopped for a late lunch at an awesome cafe called Elevation - so called as it has a wicked view across the Waitaks across to Auckland CBD, then we drove to the airport where I promised to come to Sydney (assuming we can find working dates!)

It was a very last minute spontaneous trip and made for an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Forget blood brothers, I got sweat sisters! Cape Brett Track, Jan 2016

I was at a bit of a loss as to what to fill my 3 weeks off with.  I was looking for overnight tramps and had found one that looked really interesting up in Russell, but having spoken to a few friends who'd done it, it sounded pretty hard and I wasn't sure I wanted to do it alone.  Never fear though, there's always someone in New Zealand who wants to join for adventure times!

I'd made friends with 2 girls at the Waywiser meet up I had gone on a few weeks back and they both wanted to come.  Even better, Nairi invited her sister along for the ride too so we ended up being a cool foursome.

My new gear....I didn't mean for the colours to match, it just happened that way!

Nairi, Nathalie and I drove up to Rawhiti, making a pitstop in Whangarei for frozen yoghurt and fuel, before setting up camp in a gorgeous camp site right on the water.

In the morning we woke early to pack down the tents, have breakfast and do last minute packing.  Our packs were super heavy - there was a warning that the hut we were staying at may not have any water, so I decided to play it safe and packed 5 litres - 5 litres! I think I went a bit overboard, but I would rather be safe than sorry. However it did make my pack ridiculously heavy.

Lana joined us and we set off for our little adventure!  As we ascended the steps that mark the start of the track, we spotted dolphins playing in Oke Bay below, which I took as a good omen for the trip. We watched them for 10 minutes then started the long 16.2kms of continuous hills ahead of us.  (Speaking to people since, apparently the track is measured as the crow flies and is more like 25k walking! This makes me feel better)

Fresh faced at the beginning

The walk was beautiful but really hard going - the up and down was relentless and really exhausting.  It became a mental as well as a physical challenge for me, especially the last 2km which were exceptionally steep - you crest over a hill and you can see the hut, but you have to go down the hill on the other side to reach the hut - you almost want to just roll down!

Inspirational messages along the route

This is 2/3rd of the way in - the hut is at the very end of the peninsular

The way we'd come

dramatic cliff faces

Lana admiring the big blue

"are we there yet?!"

loo with a view

Some people get a boat in to Deep Water Cove, and walk the remaining 2.5kms to the hut, and walk back the next day.  I can see why they do it - the walk from Deep Water Cove is probably the most stunning part of the walk (and also the hardest).  We were feeling pretty hot and sweaty by the time we got to the turn off for the Cove, so we dropped our packs at the start of the track and headed down for a sea swim.

Deep Water Cove

Taking a refreshing dip

Group selfie
So nearly there

Feeling refreshed, we eventually made it to the hut, collapsing on the grass just outside and taking in the view.  It was stunning.  A couple of boys came over and introduced themselves so we had a wee chat with them before making our dinner and having a little yoga stretch session.  A little while later one of the guys asked if he could join in the yoga and before long I was leading a session for 11 randomers in the dark on the side of a cliff, it was a bit surreal!  We all sat around chatting after - I've never been at such a friendly hut before, everyone was mid 20s-30s and friendly.

Tramping essentials

Dinner with a view

Another bunch of trampers just admiring the view

Sun sets from the hut

Each hut usually has a ranger and we were sitting outside when a guy walks over and asks us to come inside for the ranger chat - they usually do a quick 5 min introduction and safety talk and check your hut passes before letting you get on with your evening.  We were a bit confused as the guy who was the ranger had been hanging out with one of the groups of people all evening, but maybe he was just a super friendly ranger.  Anyway he starts giving this talk to everyone and making funny comments like 'there are lots of fish in the area, specifically the Blue Warehou, which when they swim out to depths of 90 metres they become sharks' and other such gems.  After a bit of banter between him and our respective groups it turns out he'd been dared to pretend to be the ranger by his friends which made everyone laugh and is a good prank to play - I want to to it on my next hike!

Later that evening one of the girls in the prank group told a bed time story, billed as 'erotic horror fiction'.  It was the weirdest and funniest story I ever heard and I won't repeat bits of it here as it's not family friendly but it had all of us in stitches and she managed to weave storylines for some of the people listening.

The following morning they all got up early as they had a boat booked, so that meant we all woke up too as the huts aren't particularly conducive to a morning lie in.  We made our porridge, packed up and headed on out back the way we came.  Going back was a bit easier as we had less weight but it was still a good old slog.

What a gorgeous place for a hut

Cape Brett lighthouse

And we did it!

We got back to the track head and bumped into a couple who we had met on the first night camping, and they were really impressed we'd done the walk.  They took a group photo of us and offered to take us back to the campsite which was very kind but we refused as we smelt really bad - the weather was a beautifully toasty 24 degrees so we were very sweaty and gross!!

We ummed and ahhed about staying another night at the campsite as it was so pretty, but decided that the comfort of our own beds was too appealing, so headed back down to Auckland.

It's a beautiful walk but I wouldn't do it again - unless I developed super hiking powers and the ability to walk up and down hills without my knees giving up.  I couldn't walk down stairs for 2 days after doing this hike!  However I would definitely return to the hut - the location is beautiful and there's lots of swimming to be done!  One of the groups had boated in with lots of supplies and stayed 2 nights before boating out again - that's definitely the way to do it!!!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

2016. The year I finally got to sing No Diggity at Karaoke

2016.  Never have I had a year where I've been so exquisitely happy most of the time.  

This year has been the year of mostly yes's.  Experiencing new things. Throwing myself into the deep end.  Paragliding. Body boarding. Temping. Outdoor antics. Indoor netball.  Rock climbing.  Scaring myself.  Hiking.  Stand up paddle boarding.  Hitchhiking.  Stream walking.  Cave exploring.  Skiing. Surfing.  Pushing myself to limits.  And realising my limits can go further.  Sledging.  Cleaning toilets.  Getting covered in cow shit.  Being covered in sandfly bites.  Wrangling calves.  Being independent.  And not so independent.   Getting worked up over boys.  Then the next one comes along and I forget about the previous one.  Fitness.  Liking dogs.  Realising I actually quite like people too. Picking my battles.  Being a mediator for other people's.  Experiencing ridiculous hospitality and kindness.  Being speechless at the surrounding beauty.  Seeing incredible shooting stars. Photographing the galaxy.  Connecting with people.  Driving for hours on end.  Camping.  Not showering for 3 days. Building fires.  Improvising with matchsticks.  Learning to ride a quad bike. And then crashing it into an electric fence.  Maintaining long distance friendships and cultivating new ones.  Buying 3 cars in 1 year.  Learning some lessons, and not others.  And of course, finally getting to sing No Diggity at karaoke.  

So what's next?

I don't know.  This year I have to make some big decisions - do I stay here, try and apply for a work visa, commit myself to a company and job for 2 years in the hope I get residency after it? Or do I stop working at the end of May, and travel around NZ again, woofing as I go, until my visa runs out in November? Or do I stop working at the end of May, and leave NZ entirely, either travelling or a working holiday visa in another country?

Who knows.  So play on player, come at me 2017.