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23 2017 Mar

Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail – Mar 2017

The Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail has got to be one of THE most stunning cycle trails around. Superlatives abound when describing the trail and they are well justified.  With its snowy mountain ranges, wide open grassy plains, shady tree lined streams, intensely blue canals and lakes……its beauty is all around everywhere, every day you cycle.  Needless to say, we all LOVED it.

The Wall of Remembrance in Christchurch.

Our adventure started in Christchurch.  We all arrived at our YHA accommodation at different times of the day depending on flights.  Some of us went off for a bus tour and then a walk around the CBD to see the effect of the earthquakes.  I was actually really shocked.  I hadn’t been to Christchurch since before the earthquakes and I didn’t expect it to still look so bad.  There seems to be endless road cones everywhere, crushed buildings with sheets of plastic and “keep out” tape flapping in the breeze.  Yes, there has been some building going on and there are some lovely little areas and lots of beautiful artistic ‘graffiti’ and the Botanic Gardens are looking great….but…..I really thought there would have been a lot more done in the CBD area.

Our arrival day ended with dinner out where we all officially met each other.  We were all feeling excited and really looking forward to the next 6 days together on the A2O.

Day One – Tekapo to Twizel – 54km (5.5 hrs)

We were all up and organised early for breakfast at the YHA then a short walk down the road to catch the 8am bus to Tekapo where our bikes were being delivered.  It was a lovely bus ride, the beautiful scenery all around us was certainly an indicator of what was to come.

Our bus dropped us off at the busy car parking space on the shores of the lake.  Camper vans and tourists were everywhere.  We had time to head to the local pub for some lunch before our bikes arrived.

And we’re off!

It takes a wee while to get 12 women all fitted out properly on their bikes, little adjustments here and there but soon enough after the obligatory “at the start” photos were taken we headed off…..only to find that it was a bit confusing actually getting out of Tekapo.  Finally we were on the right path and we just breezed along beside the incredible turquoise blue canal waters of the Tekapo Canal.

However, our ‘breezing’ along soon changed to ‘battling’ along against a vicious side wind that threatened to topple us off our bikes, some even had to get off and walk. It didn’t last too long though but it certainly tired us out.

Me, in my happy place.

Whizzing along the Pukaki Flats into Twizel was one of the main highlights of this whole adventure for me. I loved the huge wide open space, the purple shadows on the rolling hills, the vast blue sky with surreal cloud formations.  My soul soared, my heart sang, I was in heaven!

After a quick supermarket visit we biked around to our accommodation in 2 separate houses and settled in for the night, feeling like we’d biked 80 odd k’s instead of 54!

Day Two – Twizel to Lake Ohau – 38km (4 hrs)

This morning a few of our bikes needing “tweaking” so we stopped off at the bike depot and had adjustments made before heading off following the river trail out of Twizel.  There were a few big gusts as we cycled along the Ohau Canal but nothing like we had had the day before.  Lunch was at the Ohau Dam and then we were off again cycling a lovely trail around the edges of Lake Ohau.  Lots of twisting, turning, little ups and downs, through scrubby growth full of bright red rose-hip bushes and surrounded by massive hills and mountains, most of them with pockets of snow at the top.

Lake Ohau Lodge.

As beautiful as it was, by the time we reached the road into the little settlement of Lake Ohau we were ready to stop, though we had another 5km to go to go our accommodation at Lake Ohau Lodge.  And what a relief it was to get to such a stunning place.  We had very nice twin share rooms and soon we were showered, rested and enjoying our pre dinner drinks in the lounge overlooking the lake.  After an absolutely sumptuous dinner and lots of laughter and stories we each retired for a well earned sleep.  We were definitely going to need it for the day ahead!

Day Three – Lake Ohau to Omarama – 45km (6hrs)

Climbing up to the pass.

Today we were in for a long steady climb up to the pass and then pretty much downhill all the way to Omarama.  Sounds relatively easy…….  On our way up to the pass it started spitting with rain and getting bitterly cold.  At times the path was steep and rocky and right on the edge of a long drop down to the hills below.  Some of the group needed to get off and walk and we ended up in two separate groups.  There was no time to stop and regroup at the top of the pass as it was just too cold.  Despite the cold we all marvelled at the beauty that surrounded us and there were still lots of quick photo stops!

No, it’s not a mirage, it really is a coffee van!

It was a fast and furious ride down from the top on a stoney trail that wound its way down to the plains below.  We had heard that there was a coffee van at the old historic wool-shed but didn’t want to get our hopes up just in case it wasn’t there…..We still could hardly believe our eyes when there in the absolute middle of no-where, like a surreal mirage,  was the coffee van with lattes, flat whites, hot chocolates, the works!  We practically swooned with delight.

Enjoying our hot chocolates!

Sitting in a sheltered spot in the sun with our hot chocolate, eating our lunch was just heavenly.

And on we went….. Unfortunately there was no time for the side trip up to the Clay Cliffs but we managed to meet up with some of the first group who had made the one and a half hour detour to view this amazing sight.

Heavenly hot tub spa!

Our motel accommodation in Omarama was a very welcome sight and the long soak in hot tub spa over the road was absolutely divine!   Dinner was at the local pub just down the road and then it was off to bed for an early night.

 

Day Four – Omarama to Kurow – 80km (8hrs)

Today was an incredibly beautiful ride but just a bit too long as we had extra mileage added on to get to our farm stay accommodation out of Kurow.  It was a very chilly start to the day with frost on our bike seats and we were all bundled up in our thermals and gloves as we headed off on what was to be one of the most beautiful days on the cycle trail.

We sped along beside Lake Benmore, it’s deep blue waters sparkling in the sun, then up onto State Highway 83 where we carefully rode in single file as we climbed up to the Otematata saddle with big trucks roaring past.

Cafe stop at Otematata.

Our morning tea stop was at the Otematata café.  We stocked up on food for our lunch at the local Four Square before heading off on the next section.  It was a short but pretty steep climb up to the top of the Benmore Dam and what a stunning view from the top.

Our blissful lunch stop on the shores of Lake Aviemore.

We couldn’t have asked for better conditions as we cycled around Lake Aviemore, it was so sunny, still and calm that you could clearly see the reflection of the surrounding hills in the lake.  Golden leaves on the trees that fringed the lake, a flock of sheep being herded ahead of us, crab apples ripe (but still sour) for the picking, the warm sun on our back, our lunch stop sitting gazing at the lake, were just some of the delights.

A lovely flat riverside ride took us into the small town of Kurow where Richie McCaw stands proudly in his All Black splendour.  We rode on through and stopped at the Kurow Winery for much needed refreshments as we were all starting to feel the effects of our long day.    In hindsight, we should have all been picked up from the Kurow Winery and taken to our farm-stay accommodation as the extra k’s were just a bit too far for most.

After showers and a rest we gathered together for pre dinner drinks and then a wonderful huge home cooked meal before retiring.  All up, it had been a beautiful but huge day’s ride!

Day Five –  Kurow to Burnside Road – 55km (6hrs)

After a lovely big breakfast we were all packed and ready to go.  4 of us were taken to where we had stashed our bikes under some trees beside the road when we got a lift up to the farm the day before.  The rest (who had bravely rode their bikes) all the way, headed off from the farm to meet us at the crossroads…..except it didn’t quite happen that way.  Due to a misunderstanding we all missed each other but we eventually all met up together when a local stopped was able to courier the message to those of us who were waiting, (phone coverage wasn’t that good there.)

It was a lovely easy start to what was to be quite a hilly day.  We sped along the highway before getting back onto the trail, wending and weaving our way through pockets of shady trees, through paddocks and alongside the river and eventually into Duntroon.  We were looking forward to a coffee stop but there was no café.  However we found out there was a coffee machine at the Vanished World Museum so we a happy bunch of women sitting in the sun outside the museum sipping our coffees and eating our huge morning tea that was part of our farm stay packed lunch.

Elephant rocks.

There were a couple of historic sights for us to visit on our way.  We stopped at the Takiroa Maori rock art drawings and then started on one of the many climbs we were to do that day.  We stopped and admired the Elephant Rocks, and then it was another long and winding climb up to Island View, with fast and fun down-hills!  An abrupt turn took us off the road and onto the trail that goes through Rakis Tunnel.  Out came the torches as we walked our bikes through and out the other side where we cycled through lovely little pine forest glades carpeted with pine needles and then another long hot hill, cycling in the sun to the top of Peaks Rd.  Most of us found our way up to Burnside Rd but unfortunately a couple of the front riders continued on the cycle trail and ended up cycling into Enfield before being redirected back to our accommodation at Burnside Historic Homestead.

Burnside Homestead.

Our last night on the A2O was spent in THE most beautiful accommodation.  Practically all the women had their own rooms, all decorated in the old period style.  There were 4 poster beds, free standing claw foot baths; it was like we had stepped back in time. Even the couple that run the place are dressed in period costume.  We wined, dined and slept in absolute luxury and loved every minute of it.

Day Six – Burnside Rd to Oamaru – 20km (2hrs)

We all slept so well and woke feeling refreshed, most of us wanting to stay an extra day and just enjoy the place a bit more.  We had a beautiful big breakfast before we cycled off to Oamaru, literally just down the road, and the end of the trail.  Once again the sun was shining and the conditions were perfect as we sped along what used to be an old railway line.  I cycled along thinking of all the beautiful places we had seen on the last 6 days, it was almost overwhelming and I felt quite emotional as I cycled into Oamaru.  What a lovely way to end the trail, riding through the Oamaru Botanical Gardens and on through the Victorian Historic Precinct with its alleyway type streets leading to the Oamaru Harbour.

We made it!

We gathered together for the obligatory “end of the trail” photos, all feeling immensely happy and proud of what we’d achieved.

 

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7 2017 Feb

Sunset Kayaking Adventure – Feb 2017

One definition of the word “adventure” is not ‘knowing what the outcome is going to be.’  That was certainly the case in this kayaking adventure!

Getting to know each other at the start of our adventure.

A group of 7 of us met up with our guides from Auckland Sea Kayaks at St Heliers beach .  It was a bright, sunshiney day.  The beach and the sea were full of people enjoying the summer afternoon.  We spent a good half an hour getting ourselves ready, spray skirts, life jackets, boat shoes, a thorough briefing on the how to’s of kayaking and sharing what experience (if any) that we all had of kayaking.

Gliding effortlessly along.

We buddied up in our double kayaks and carefully paddled off from the beach heading towards the big marker out in the channel.  There was a pretty strong south westerly blowing which made for a lot of sideways, slapping waves against our kayaks.  This was OK for going over to Rangitoto but as our guide pointed out, it would be very difficult for us to kayak into that strong wind on the way back.  So he made the call for us to paddle over to Browns Island, (Motukorea) instead.

It was so much calmer and easier.

It was quite a choppy paddle over and we were all relieved to get around to the back of the island, out of the wind, where it was much calmer.  But not for long!  As we headed around the front of the island to where we were going to beach our kayaks, the strong wind hit us full in the face. At times if felt as if you were just sitting still and paddling no-where!

Pulling our kayaks up onto the beach at Browns Island.

We made it in to shore and pulled our kayaks up high on the beach.  The wind was still gustily blowing and we were cooling down quickly so we added thermal layers and wind jackets.  Our guides soon had teas, coffees and  muffins set out for us which we consumed with much enjoyment and relief.

Our BBQ dinner, steak and salads.

While we sat and rested and chatted, our guides very efficiently cooked and served up our BBQ steaks and yummy salads.  The sun was by now slowly slipping towards the horizon so we set off for the highest point, a bare grassy hill with a stunning 360 degrees view, to watch the sunset.

Huddled together in the strong wind at the top of Browns Island waiting for the sunset.

We huddled together as the wind blasted us and Ian, our guide, gave us a very good history of the surrounding area and islands.  For an Irish guy, he certainly knew a lot more than us!

 

What a pretty sunset.

Although there was a bit too much cloud cover, it was still a very pretty sunset and I loved sitting there on top of an island in the middle of the Hauraki Gulf, with a bunch of great people, watching this beautiful sight.

Enjoying the sunset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armed and ready for our beautiful kayak back.

It slowly became darker as we walked back down, past the massive crater in the middle of the island, and to the beach.  Luckily, the wind had died down.  We loaded up the kayaks, turned on their little lights, buddied up again and silently paddled off through the dark waters, back to St Heliers, watching the lights of the city get closer and closer.

It is such a magical feeling, gliding along with just the sound of your paddle slicing through the water, darkness all around, just a little golden glow from the light at the end of the kayak and the moonlight shining on the water.

There really is no place I would rather have been at that moment.  Yes, it had been a bit of an adventure, we didn’t end up where we thought we were going, but once again, it was such a good adventure!

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7 2017 Feb

Nikau Cave Adventure – Jan 2017

Did you know we have our own spectacular cave pretty much right on our doorstep, (if you’re from Auckland or the Waikato)?  That’s right.  On the back road to Port Waikato is a wonderful hidden gem, called Nikau Cave.

A group of 10 of us travelled out west of Mercer, through beautiful rolling countryside and pretty little settlements and met up at the Nikau Cave Cafe, (worth a visit in itself.)

The intrepid explorers!

 

After meeting with our guide and getting ready with our helmets and torches, we set off through the paddocks and trees to the opening of this massive cave system hidden in the rolling hills.

A shallow stream runs through the cave so there was no option but to get our feet wet and even our knees when we crawled through a 12 metre very low part of the cave.

 

Although we were all feeling slightly nervous about this part of the adventure, it wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated and we were through it very quickly.

There were heaps of stalactites like these.

 

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos so I’ve had to copy some photos off the website to try and show just how amazing this cave is.   There was just so much to see and ooh and ahh over.  Huge stalagmites and stalactites  were everywhere, massive limestone formations that would have taken thousands of years to grow.  We walked through great caverns where glowworms glittered all around us.

 

 

 

It was just stunningly beautiful!

 

The walk through the cave takes and hour and a half and we were fascinated all the way through.  It really is well worth a visit.

 

 

Our delicious lunch stop at Sylvia’s Cafe at Port Waikato.

From here, we continued on along the road and into Port Waikato with it’s relaxed, laid back vibe.  We stopped at the very popular Sylvia’s Cafe for a delicious lunch before heading down to explore the seriously eroded beach.

 

Getting caught by a rogue wave.

This wild, windy west coast beach certainly lived up to expectations.  The waves crashed and surged aggressively up onto the beach as the wind blew the froth back out to sea.

 

 

Racing down the sand dunes!

We climbed the massive sand dunes and raced down their steep slopes to the bottom.  Strolling back along the beach, we hopped in our cars and headed back to Auckland.

And all of this is, as I said, right on our doorstep!

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7 2017 Feb

Tongariro Crossing – Jan 2017

What a perfect day we had for this adventure!  We certainly appreciated that fact when we found out that the day before had been unfavourable conditions and as it turned out, the day after was thick with fog!

We headed off from Auckland on a very hot, sunny afternoon and drove via Tirau to pick up the 4th member of our group.  Just a small group but the van was full of our chatter!

Walking in to the local pub with Mt Ruapehu to our left.

We arrived at our very comfortable, self-contained, holiday house and settled in before heading off to the local pub for dinner.  It was pretty much full of other trampers with very few kiwi accents that we could hear.  This was to be our experience on the crossing too, loads of other trampers and all seeming to be from different countries (and all much younger!) We all had an early night so that we could be up early and ready for our 6.45am shuttle van.

7.40am at the start of what turned out to be an almost 8 hr trek. (Lots of photo stops…)

We awoke to a lovely fine, clear day and joined the masses being transported to the start of the crossing.  Bus loads were being dropped off and we wondered what it was going to be like, all jostling for space on the track.  Luckily we did all span out and it was only at the toilets or the “slowly and carefully” parts of the track that we all ended up in queues.

 

On the boardwalk at the start.

 

The first part of the track is easy, boardwalks and pretty flat terrain.  From Soda Springs the track starts to climb up the long ascent known as the Devil’s Staircase, (I think there are a few walks in NZ with a Devil’s Staircase!)

 

 

On the climb up the Devil’s Staircase.

 

 

We were all very pleased to get to the top, have a rest, find somewhere out of the wind to have some food and then head up to the Red Crater. It was during this part that we all noticed a young man on a BMX bike trying to cycle the track!  Mind you, when we saw him he was carrying his bike and I’m sure he would have had to do that for a fair bit.

 

 

The awesome Red Crater! Photos just do not do it justice…

The red crater was absolutely stunning!  So dramatic, almost like something from another planet!  Deep, rich, dark blood red, rusty browns and ominous black walls steeply disappearing into this huge crater.  The fierce cold wind only added to it’s stark beauty.

The magnificent Emerald Pools.

Once again, we sheltered out of the wind whilst admiring the panoramic view.  From here it was a bit more of a climb and then below us was one of the most magical scenes of the whole trip,  the Emerald Lakes.  These honestly have to be seen to be believed.  All around us was this rocky, sparse terrain and in front of us was a huge scree slope heading down to where these 3 magical lakes sparkled and shone in turquoise splendour.  All around us people were taking advantage of the perfect conditions and taking photos and videos.

Slowly and carefully making our way down the scree slope.

We joined the long, slow procession carefully snaking down the crumbly, scree slope.  Many a slip was had but luckily no-one was seriously injured.

 

 

On our way down to Ketetahi car park with the Blue Lake ahead of us.

We walked across the vast Central Crater, the sun shining down, enjoying the ease of the track.  From here it was an easy walk to the Ketetahi Hut and it was about here that we realised that we didn’t have quite as much time left as we thought we did.  Despite starting to feel a little bit weary and foot sore, we needed to up the ante to make sure we were back by our pick up time of 3.30pm.

The track down through the alpine scrub and down into the forest is actually really lovely, especially with the pretty little river rushing alongside.  However, we didn’t get to really appreciate it due to the rush to get back in time! Needless to say, we made it back and thankfully settled in to the air-conditioned shuttle bus and drowsily nodded off on the ride back to National Park.

It had taken us almost 8hrs with lots of stops for rests and photos and we were all feeling very satisfied with ourselves.

Once we were showered and rested, we sat back with wine and nibbles and celebrated the day.  We ended up celebrating a bit too much, or maybe we were just too knackered, and decided to stay home instead of going down the road for dinner.  Yes, it was an early night that night too!

We woke the next morning to this!

And as I said at the start, look what we woke up to the next morning!  Thick fog that lasted all day, in fact, they closed down the track.  Were we feeling a little bit smug and pleased with ourselves that we had done the track YESTERDAY……..damn right we were!

 

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11 2016 Dec

Kayaking at Mahurangi – Dec 2016

Gliding through the grey still water, gentle misty rain caressing my face, a sense of calm and being at one with nature, I smiled as I thought, ‘there’s nowhere I’d rather be right now.’

Yes, the forecast wasn’t good at all.  Yes, we all were having second thoughts before we got there.  Yes, it rained off and on while we were out there.  No, we didn’t get to kayak over to Motuora Island…….but did we have a wonderful days kayak anyway…..? Damn right we did!

We met Logan, our guide, at 9am at the beautiful secluded little Sullivan’s Bay at Mahurangi West, which on a sunny summer’s day is the place to be,  and agreed with him that due to the forecast, we’d stick close to the shoreline and just explore the immediate area.

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Briefing on the beach.

By the time we got the kayaks unloaded, set them up on the beach and had been through our briefing it was almost 10am.  The water was calm, there was no breeze at all just a few spots of rain here and there as we set off, paddles silently slicing through the rain pocked water.

Morning tea on Te Haupa island.

Morning tea on Te Haupa island.

We soon kayaked round to Wenderholm and then over to Te Haupa island for tea, coffee and muffins.

From there we made our way over to Mahurangi East along the coastline and into the tranquil Dairy Bay where we stopped for lunch, sheltering under a huge pohutakawa tree.

The lovely Dairy Bay - lunch stop.

The lovely Dairy Bay – lunch stop.

Seeing these magnificent trees, clothed in their scarlet crimson brush-like blooms against the grey misty water was breath taking.

Feeling nicely well rested and well fed we pushed back out into the water and paddled round to Scott’s Landing before crossing back over with the intention of exploring more of the coastline.  However, the rain had started to get a bit heavier and black clouds were closing in so we headed back to Sullivan’s Bay  instead.

We hauled our kayaks up onto the beach and though we were feeling wet and weary we were also immensely pleased with ourselves and our day out.

Driving back I had this happy little chorus playing in my head, “da da de dah, da da de dee, there ain’t no place I’d rather be…”

 

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30 2016 Aug

Bay of Islands – August 2016

Well, what a weekend that was!  We had perfect weather, a great group of women, a lovely place to stay, an absolutely beautiful walk on both days…..the Bay of Islands really turned it on for us and definitely lived up to its reputation as the “winter-less north.”

Poor Helen with her broken ankle being ferried across the little bay.

Poor Helen with her broken ankle being ferried across the little bay.

What we hadn’t expected to happen was a broken ankle!!

A slight hollow in the track, a misplaced foot, the ankle turned and down Helen went, painfully landing on her bent leg with the ankle underneath her and, to make matters worse, it was her previously broken ankle!!

There were lots of “luckily’s” that then followed.  Luckily, we were very near a road end so we could get transport, luckily she could be piggy backed out, luckily there was a guy in a little dinghy who could take her the short distance from the track across the water to the little bay with the road end, luckily our taxi driver who I rang, was an ex ambulance driver and chairman of the St John’s, (it was quicker to get him than to send for an ambulance), luckily she could be easily lifted into the back of the taxi van and taken to nearby Kawakawa for x rays etc.

Needless to say, despite all the “luckily’s” she was gutted to have had the accident and missed out on the rest of the day’s hike from Paihia around to Russell.  We were very near Opua when it happened so a good 2 hrs into the hike. One of the other women, her cousin, went with her to Kawakawa and the rest of us continued on, catching the 5 min ferry from Opua over to Okiato and from there we walked to Russell.

At the start of our walk in Paihia, pre the accident.

At the start of our walk in Paihia, pre the accident.

 

As I said earlier, we had perfect weather.  The sun was shining and one by one the thermal layers starting coming off.  We climbed up the bushy hillside, up and down along a ridge and back down lots of steps to the water’s edge.  We stopped for lunch at the end of a little jetty.  It was such a quiet and tranquil spot with a lovely little breeze that refreshed our sweaty brows.

Up and down the bushy path on our way to Russell.

Up and down the bushy path on our way to Russell.

 

 

We continued on, along the boardwalks, beside the road and finally into the streets of Russell.  We were a pretty tired out bunch of women but also very pleased with ourselves and what we had done.

 

 

 

 

A happy but tired bunch of women.

A happy but tired bunch of women.

We caught the next ferry, met up with the 3 other women, (one of whom had just done a shortened version of our walk), commiserated with Helen who was now hobbling around on crutches and hopped into our vehicles and headed back to Auckland.  what an adventuresome weekend it had been!!

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31 2016 Jul

Tiritiri Matangi – July 2016

Well, who would have thought it…….?  The weather forecast wasn’t looking too good and it was touch and go whether the trip to Tiritiri Matangi Bird Sanctuary was going to be called off or not, but it turned out pretty much to be a perfect winter’s day!

Arriving at Tiritiri Matangi.

Arriving at Tiritiri Matangi.

If you’ve never been to this island bird sanctuary, if you’ve never heard the sound of what the New Zealand bush must have sounded like way – way back, then I definitely recommend a trip to Tiritiri!

Listening to the birds.

Listening to the birds.

We were all overwhelmed at times by the beautiful and very loud song and calls of all the different native birds. At times it was so noisy you had to raise your voice to be heard by the person next to you!

Listening to our very informative guide, Kathy.

Listening to our very informative guide, Kathy.

Once we arrived, we were given a 2hr very informative guided walk about the history of the island, the birds and the native plants and trees.  Although we didn’t actually go very far on the walk, we saw so much and were constantly stopping to see the many tui, bell birds, saddlebacks, robins, kereru ……

On the ferry, a lovely quick trip.

On the ferry, a lovely quick trip.

After our lunch there was only time to go for a bit of an explore before we caught the ferry back to Gulf Harbour, (it only takes half an hour) and Auckland, (another 50 min away from Gulf Harbour.) The weather was starting to change, it was getting cold and windy, but it was a pretty calm trip back.   We were all feeling like we’d like to go back again for another visit and more of a look around.

I’m definitely thinking about taking a group over for an overnight trip.  There’s a lodge you can stay in there. Staying overnight means you can do a night walk to see the kiwi (hopefully) and the tuatara. The night sky apparently is incredible so there’d be some star gazing and then in the morning we’d be up early to hear the dawn chorus.  Sounds like a great weekend trip doesn’t it?!  Keep an eye out for it coming up in the summer months.

 

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29 2015 Oct

Hawkes Bay Cycling Weekend – Oct 2015

Take 8 lively women, add in a huge dose of laughter, fun and humour, some fine wining and dining, a bit of sausage making and a bonfire on the beach and of course, some cycling through the sunny Hawkes Bay and you have the recipe for a deliciously wonderful weekend!

Enjoying tapas at Deliciousa.

Enjoying tapas at Deliciousa.

We drove down from Auckland on the Friday picking up women along the way and soon the van was full of excited and animated chatter as the women got to know each other. On arrival in Napier we got fitted out for our bikes, sorted ourselves out in the motel and then went off into Havelock North to Deliciousa Tapas. We can highly recommend their gorgeous tasting tapas.

Bleak but beautiful!

Bleak but beautiful!

The next morning we woke up to a rather gray and dismal looking day with light rain spitting down. We had some time before going on our guided Art Deco walk so we hopped in the van and drove up to the top of Te Mata peak which still had an absolutely beautiful view despite the weather. Then it was back into Napier to find out more about the Napier earthquake and how they rebuilt the Napier CBD in the art deco style.

Biking along the coastal cycle-path to Bay View.

Biking along the coastal cycle-path to Bay View.

By the end of the tour the rain had eased off a bit and we headed off along the coastal cycle track right out to Bay View and to the Snapper café for lunch.

This all used to be under water!

This all used to be under water!

The rest of the day’s cycling was through the wetlands area around the Napier airport and back to our motel.

Loving the hot pool soak!

Loving the hot pool soak!

A lovely long soak in the Ocean Spa pools nicely relaxed all those cycling muscles before we headed out to dinner at Milk and Honey, a very nice top quality restaurant.

 

Going through one of the many gates on the cycle-path.

Going through one of the many gates on the cycle-path.

Cycling day two dawned bright and sunny as we cycled off for our pub lunch at Puketapu Pub, exploring and enjoying all the different areas along the way. There were wide smooth paths through suburb back streets, crushed limestone paths through fields, under pine trees, beside rivers and little lakes with so much to see and enjoy.

Making sausages.....

Making sausages…..

Once back from our cycling, we then went on to our sausage making course which was a lot of fun. We made two different types of gourmet sausages and they were sooo nice!

Cooking our sausages on the beach.

Cooking our sausages on the beach.

That evening we had a fire on the beach with bubbly, wine, nibbles and hot chips and cooked some of the sausages over the fire. We finished off with roasting marshmallows over the fire….divine!

 

Cycling along Oak Avenue.

Cycling along Oak Avenue.

Our last day’s cycling was out to Te Awa winery where we once again enjoyed amazing food in a beautiful setting before cycling back to Clive to drop off our bikes, hop into the van and head off back to Auckland. It had all been a simply perfect long weekend. I’ll definitely use that ‘recipe’ again!

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22 2015 Sep

Bay of Islands Tramping Weekend – Sept 2015

The forecast wasn’t looking that great for the weekend but we headed off anyway, feeling positive and optimistic that we’d cope anyway (and think of a Plan B just in case!)

We did a bit of a “tiki tour” on the way stopping at Kaiwaka to check out the huge kauri carvings at The Art Factory (well worth a look.)

From there we travelled up to Whangarei stopping for a delicious coffee break at the i site. They do these wonderful coffees with coconut milk and oil added to them….The tourist shop right next door proved to be a great little shopping spot and we all got some excellent bargains.

Whangarei Falls.

Whangarei Falls.

The next stop was the Whangarei falls just out of Whangarei and a very easy 10 min loop to check them out, (worth a look.)

 

 

BOI 2

The Hundertwasser toilet block in Kawakawa.

Our last stop was at Kawakawa to have a look at the famous Hundertwasser toilet block (again, well worth a look.)

 

 

From there it was just a short distance to Paihia.

Haruru Falls.

Haruru Falls.

Lunch, (according to my itinerary), was to have been on the beach but with the rain spitting down we decided maybe not, and went to a cafe instead.  From there we caught a taxi up to Te Haruru Falls and followed the track out to Waitangi and back into Paihia, walking in the pouring rain!

Dinner out in Paihia.

Dinner out in Paihia.

Showered and warm and dry, we headed out for dinner in Paihia and then back to our motel for a good night’s sleep before our big walk the next day.

 

We walked on coastal pathways….

The morning dawned bright and blue skyed but with big black clouds on the horizon. By 9am we were breakfasted and on the coastal track from Paihia to Opua.

The full circle day walk is a delightful mixture of coastal pathways, beach walking across little bays, bush tracks, boardwalks and through the streets of Russell.

                                             across pretty little bays…..

through beautiful bush.....

through beautiful bush…..

 

 

 

 

 

From Opua we caught the 5 min ferry over to Okiato and on to Russell.

BOI 9

along boardwalks in the rain……

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were on again, off again with our rain gear as rain clouds came and quickly went.

Happy little trampers!

Happy little trampers!

In Russell we only had 2 minutes to spare to catch the ferry (or wait for another 40 min).  Big ice-creams finished the day off nicely and we clambered back into the van for the trip back to Auckland (no tiki touring this time.) It had been an excellent weekend, spitty, showery rain and all!

 

 

 

 

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3 2015 Mar

Great Barrier Island Adventure – Feb 2015

There I was sitting up the front of the little 6 seater plane, (we’re talking ‘front’ as in right next to the pilot with my own little steering wheel and foot pedals wiggling away in front of me) zooming down the runway and lifting off into the bright blue sunshiney sky! I couldn’t wipe the big grin off my face but managed to stop myself whooping out loud! What a thrill – I can see why people get into learning to fly!

Climbing into our little plane.

Climbing into our little plane.

Due to some unfortunate last minute cancellations there was just the 3 of us heading over to Great Barrier Island for 4 days tramping. And what glorious 4 days they were! Perfect weather conditions, absolutely stunning scenery, awesome tracks, lovely friendly locals, quirky accommodation, beautiful swimming, kayaking, wining, dining……we had it all!

 

Coming in to land at Claris

Coming in to land at Claris

 

Flying out over the Hauraki Gulf was amazing…seeing and identifying all the different islands below us then watching as Great Barrier Island came closer and closer. Before we knew it we were bumping over the grassy runway at Claris. It seems the tar sealed runway is for take-offs and the grass is for the landings….

 

The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.

The cute little art gallery with the honesty box.

 

We were picked up by the very friendly and informative Lianne from Go Great Barrier Island shuttle service and taken over to Medlands Beach where we started our first track, the Kowhai Valley Track, over to Tryphena where we were to stay the night. We had a steep climb up and then over the ridge and down the gravelly road into Tryphena. At the top of the climb there was this cute little art gallery “Top of the Rock” with some lovely art pieces and photography and an honesty box for you to pay for what you bought. Not often you see that these days….especially in an art gallery!

 

Our accommodation at The Irish Pub

Our accommodation at The Irish Pub

We stayed at one of the oldest establishments on the island, The Innkeepers Lodge at the Irish Pub which as far as accommodation goes, has seen better days, though the pub was great and had a few locals sitting there strumming and singing with their guitars.

 

 

Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.

Watching the surfers at Whangapoua.

The next morning we were picked up and taken up near the top of the island to do the Harataonga Coastal Track and it was absolutely stunning! Beautiful bay after beautiful bay…..it was almost a case of, what, another stunning bay! The track was easy and meandered gently up and down overlooking the bright turquoise sparkling blue ocean.

 

Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.

Wiltshire Manor with the memorable museum at the front.

Lianne was waiting for us at Harataonga bay, (another gorgeous bay) and took us to Claris and our accommodation at Wiltshire Manor (a rather pretentious name) but still very comfortable and cosy accommodation. We can highly recommend the museum there that the owner, David, has built and put together. You could easily spend a couple of hours just reading and looking at all the stuff he has there.

 

That evening as we strolled along the road to ‘The Club’ for dinner, a local woman picked us up and gave us a lift and then on the way home we got another ride in the back of a ute (and we weren’t even hitching. :))

We climbed up and over this - Te Ahumata.

We climbed up and over this – Te Ahumata.

We were up bright and early the next morning for the Te Ahumata Track which would take us over to Whangaparapara. We ended up getting a lift to the start of the track with Lianne and a van load of other trampers. Apart from this group, we saw no-one on the tracks the whole time we were over there. This track took us right up to the top of a flat topped rocky precipice which looked way harder than what it actually was, and the views……..INCREDIBLE!

 

The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge - so tranquil...

The view out the front of Great Barrier Lodge – so tranquil…

We sauntered down the road into Whangaparapara; tui’s whistling, cicada’s singing, sun sparkling on the water, the gentle lapping of the sea….paradise…. We sat on the rolling green lawn in front of the Gulf Harbour Lodge and basked in the beauty, letting the calm tranquility soak into our souls. After a leisurely picnic lunch and a good rest under the big pine tree, we took the kayaks out for an exploratory paddle around the bay and into the inlet. A lovely refreshing swim later, a shower and a fresh change of clothes and a cold, crisp bottle of Sauvignon Blanc while sitting on our deck in the late afternoon sun, completed a beautiful day.

 

Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs - bliss!

Soaking in the Kaitoke Hot Springs – bliss!

Our last track, before we flew out at lunchtime the next day, was along the Tramline Track to the Kaitoke Hot Springs. We set off just before 8am in the soft early morning light along the wide easy old tramline track, up some steeper hills and across some trickling streams. The hot springs were just heavenly and we were so glad that it was a cloudy day as it would have been too hot if the sun had been shining! We wallowed and totally relaxed in the hot mineral water, no-one else there, just us. A very easy, almost wheel chair friendly track, took us out to the road where Steve, Lianne’s other half, met us and dropped us off at the Claris airport.

Great Barrier Island had worked its magic on us and we were three very chilled out, happy and relaxed women as we boarded the plane back to Auckland. Don’t worry if you missed out on this trip, I’ll definitely be doing it again!  Check out the photo gallery for more photos.

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18 2015 Jan

Tongariro Crossing – Jan 2015

Heading off in the shuttle van to the start of the Tongariro crossing on a mild, sunny, blue sky morning, we were quite sure the met service had got the weather report wrong. It wasn’t going to rain, even our driver said we had more chance of getting sunburnt than wet…….. how wrong we all were!

Heading towards Soda Springs.

Heading towards Soda Springs.

 

We strolled along the easy pathway and board walks, enjoying the tussocky landscape, stopping to peel of layers as the day heated up and being overtaken by literally hoards of other trampers.  Luckily the track is long enough to sort of disperse them, until you get to the toilet sheds and the steep rocky bits! People were dressed in all manner of clothing….some wearing and carrying very little which was quite worrying to see especially later on when the weather turned.

 

The cloud closed in and down came the rain.

The cloud closed in and down came the rain.

We took it slowly up the steep, many staired Devil’s Staircase, pausing to admire the views, have something to eat and marvel at all the people dotted here and there…..  We stopped long enough at the top at Red Crater to oooh and ahhh at the crater, take photos and then get a move on as it was pretty darn cold and windy.  The layers were back on and we were all very pleased to have all the thermals and rain gear ready in our packs.  The cloud closed in and a persistent  drizzle started up that kept going pretty much all the way to the end. Eating sandwiches in the rain isn’t much fun and can make for a soggy lunch!

Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.

Enjoying the Ketetahi Track through the forest.

We stopped at the Ketetahi Hut, as did scores of others, and quickly backed out of the warm, damp smelling fug of wet bodies huddled in there out of the rain.  We continued on down the never ending zig zag track through the tussock dotted with alpine daisies, through the stunted ti trees and down into the leafy green forest.  We were hurrying now, on a mission to get to the car park before our shuttle left at 3.30pm.  We got there just in time….well 5 min late and it was a relief to finally sit down and rest our sore feet.

 

All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.

All showered, relaxing before going out to dinner.

 

 

 

Back at our ‘Book a Batch’ accommodation we got showered and cleaned up and enjoying a wine or two before we headed out to dinner.  It had been a thoroughly enjoyable day despite the weather.  In fact, I think the weather kind of added to the enjoyment of the day.

7am, Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them.

Ngauruhoe on the right, Tongariro on the left. We walked through the dip between them. Looks quite easy from here!

 

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7 2014 Dec

Sunset Kayak to Rangitoto Island – Dec 2014

10pm on a Saturday night…..I could be out at a noisy, lively bar celebrating with Christmas cheer.  I could be snuggled up on the couch watching a DVD with my hubby.  I could be early to bed reading a good book…….but here I am, smoothly, silently, slicing through the black waters with my paddle, full moon at my back, city lights sparkling way ahead, all around me quiet, peaceful darkness with just the “tail lights” of the other kayaks gliding through the darkness with me.

We are on our back to St Heliers having kayaked over in the late afternoon to walk to the top of Rangitoto Island and watch the sunset.

It was pretty choppy out there...

It was pretty choppy out there…

 

Setting off in choppy seas, (no white caps though) our kayaks felt very stable as we rocked and rolled our way over to the island.

 

 

 

 

Tea, coffee and muffins before we head up to the top of Rangitoto.

Tea, coffee and muffins before we head up to the top of Rangitoto.

 

 

Once we got there we pulled our kayaks right up out of the water and had a very welcome hot drink with muffins, muesli bars and apples.

 

 

 

On the trail to the top.

On the trail to the top.

 

 

Then it was off for a very nice chatty walk up to the top of the island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silvery light over Auckland.

Silvery light over Auckland.

The view from the top of Rangitoto island never fails to disappoint, it is always spectacular.  This time there was a lovely silvery light as the sun shone through the heavy clouds.  There was no real fiery sunset but that didn’t matter at all.

 

And the moon comes up....

And the moon comes up….

 

We walked back down, enjoying the evening light and as we arrived back to the wharf, the moon slowly rose up in front of us.  She was beautiful!  With our backs to the setting sun, we all excitedly took photos and marveled at the beauty of the moon!

 

 

Enjoying our BBQ dinner before we headed back.

Enjoying our BBQ dinner before we headed back.

We sat, eating out BBQ steak with couscous and pasta salads, watching the moon and feeling very happy and satisfied.

 

By now it was 9pm, time to pack up the kayaks, turn on our little tail lights and paddle back.

The first time I kayaked in the dark I remember feeling rather nervous, this time though, I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of being cocooned in the near darkness, the friendly full moon at my back giving just enough light.  The peaceful feeling of gliding through the dark water was euphoric.  10pm on a Saturday night……I know exactly where I’d rather be!

So pretty.  This kayak adventure was more about the moonrise than the sunset!

So pretty. This kayak adventure was more about the moonrise than the sunset!

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1 2014 Nov

Timber Trail – Pureora Forest – Oct 2014

Speeding flat tack down the bumpy forest trail, cold wind whipping past, eyes watering, intensely focused on the rutted, pot-holed, muddy, branch strewn track. Standing, crouched low on my pedals, body leaning forwards over the handlebars, fingers splayed lightly over the brakes, alert to all the possible dangers…..this was totally exciting, exhilarating and scary!

This was The Timber Trail.

Four of us were in the heart of the Pureora Forest to do the 85km mountain bike trail with little idea of what to really expect. We knew it would be a challenge, but just how challenging, how tough, how physically and mentally demanding it would turn out to be, we didn’t yet know. By the end of Day One we knew and our numbers reduced to half.

Our two injured and very knackered women get a lift back on the quad bike.

Our two injured and very knackered women get a lift back on the quad bike.

 

Two of the group ended up having to be picked up by quad bike near the halfway mark as both were exhausted. One had a nasty deep gash in her leg where the pedal had gouged her when she came off, the other had come off over the front of her handle bars and was pretty sore as well. Both decided to flag Day Two and rest, re-coop and explore the many different walks around our accommodation art Blackfern Lodge.

 

Sandy and I soldiered on. And we were glad we did, though it took everything we had and we’re both pretty fit women! We cycled over huge suspension bridges that swayed in the strong breeze, we cycled through dark, natural tunnels made of over arching trees and ferns and through a ‘real tunnel’, through regenerating forest, through old mossy lined forest and up steep forest tracks. It was beautiful with stunning views across the valleys. Best of all was the 30km fast ride down hill pretty much all the way to Ongarue.

It gets pretty windy being up so high!

It gets pretty windy being up so high!

Riding through the forest tunnels.

Riding through the forest tunnels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, it was challenging, demanding, tough but if you’re fit and into mountain biking, you’ll love it!

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14 2014 Sep

Cycling – Waiheke Island – Sept 2014

The forecast didn’t look that great as 9 of us headed over to Waiheke Island for a day of cycling, visiting wineries and exploring. Thank goodness we went anyway as the day turned out perfectly!

The sun was shining as we set off on the ferry.

The sun was shining as we set off on the ferry.

Ready to hit the road!

Ready to hit the road!

 

We arrived and met up with 2 of the women who were already over there, got our hire bikes all organised and off we cycled, straight up the first of many hills into Oneroa township.  A cafe was our first stop!

 

Some walked, some cycled, either way, some of those hills were pretty steep!

Some walked, some cycled, either way, some of those hills were pretty steep!

 

Then it was off and up a few more hills as we cycled along the top of the island heading for Onetangi Beach.  After a bit of a “de-brief” at the top of one of the hills we decided to take the easier, quicker route down towards Ostend and round to our destination – Stonyridge Vineyard – where we stopped for our well deserved wine tasting and lunch.  What a gorgeous place it was too!

Well deserved wining and dining!

Well deserved wining and dining!

 

We sat dry and snug, enjoying our delicious food and wines while outside the one and only rainstorm poured down!  Then, “out came the sun and dried up all the rain so off we went a cycling, yet again.”

 

 

 

Over looking Onetangi Beach.

Over looking Onetangi Beach.

 

We ended up splitting into 3 groups, some took the hilly long way back, some took what they thought was the flatter short road back, but ended up the hilly, shorter road and some caught a bus!

 

 

Cycling along The Esplanade at Blackpool Beach.

Cycling along The Esplanade at Blackpool Beach.

What a perfect day!

 

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6 2014 Aug

Cycling the Hawkes Bay – Aug 2014

Six of us headed off down to the “sunny” Hawkes Bay for 3 days exploring the cycle trails that run in, around and through the beautiful Hawkes Bay.

Our chalet accommodation at Clive Motor camp and Chalets.

Our chalet accommodation at Clive Motor camp and Chalets.

Our accommodation were these warm, cosy cabins in Clive.  Once we got settled in and got our bikes organised we then set off for a sunset bike ride along the beach front heading towards Haumoana.

 

 

 

 

The eclectic "Tsunami Bar" on the beach at Clive.

The eclectic “Tsunami Bar” on the beach at Clive.

On the way we stopped off to admire this incredible, eclectic mix of flotsam and jetsam that has been used to build a very creative “Tsunami Beach Bar.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ready to hit the trails on our first morning.

Ready to hit the trails on our first morning.

 

Day One dawned warm and sunny but incredibly windy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We battled the wind along the waterfront into Napier where we stopped off to learn more about the history of Napier with it’s unique art deco architecture.

Art Deco Tour in Napier.

Art Deco Tour in Napier.

Then it was off again, out to Ahuriri, West Shore and Bay View.  At times we were almost blown off our bikes! After stopping off at the Snapper Cafe at Bay View for lunch, (very nice) we sped back along the cycle path with the wind at our backs.  It felt sooo good!!  Dinner at Mister D’s in Napier that night was absolutely divine!

Looking towards Cape Kidnappers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Two we awoke to spitting rain but no wind so off we headed out west to the Puketapu Pub for lunch.

Cycling beneath the trees on our way to Puketapu.

Cycling beneath the trees on our way to Puketapu.

 

This was a beautiful ride with the trail winding it’s way through fields of cattle, pine trees and alongside the river before coming in to the pretty and picturesque little village of Puketapu.  We sat back in the warmth and cosiness of the pub with it’s roaring fire,  chatted and laughed together and enjoyed our yummy pub lunches.

 

 

 

 

 

Stopping to put our coats on as the rain came down.

Stopping to put our coats on as the rain came down.

On the way back it really started raining and we all looked a mess when we got back….. the wet fine limestone gravel was splattered all up our backs, legs and all over our bikes!  After literally quick 2 min speed showers we all piled in to my van and drove down the road to our sausage making session at John’s house.

 

 

 

Cutting up the meat and mixing the herbs and spices.

Cutting up the meat and mixing the herbs and spices.

John and his mate Dan gave us a very informative presentation on sausage making and we asked lots of questions before we launched into chopping the meat, weighing and measuring the herbs and spices, mincing it all and making the sausages.

Look what I made!

Look what I made!

 

 

 

We were all feeling very proud of ourselves especially making the real butcher looking loops of sausages!

 

 

Day Three was meant to be our ride out to the wineries with lunch at Ash Ridge Winery.  However, the rain had set in and it was much colder so we opted for Plan B….. we hopped in the van and went exploring and then wine tasting at Clearview before our lunch at Ash Ridge.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take some photos though!  It was a lovely way to spend our last day and we all agreed, it had been an excellent time that we’d had in the lovely “sunny” Hawkes Bay! 🙂

 

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5 2014 Apr

The Otago Rail Trail – in Autumn 2014

We didn’t quite get to see the central Otago area in all it’s Autumnal glory but it was such a lovely adventure anyway!

ORT 2014 003

All geared up and ready to go!

A warm, sunny, blue sky day , the bikes were sorted and we were on our way!

Nine of us headed off in perfect conditions, just cruising along, chatting together, getting used to our bikes and to each other.

ORT 2014 005

Just cruising along amid the Autumn leaves….

 

 

We were heading for Omakau, 37km away, where we were to spend our first night at the Omakau Bedpost, the converted Post Office building and Postmasters house.  But first we had a stop at the iconic Chatto Creek Tavern, 25km along the trail.

By the time we got to Omakau it was 5.30pm and after quick showers we were into our “going out” clothes,  picked up by shuttle van and taken to the beautiful Pitches Store in Ophir.  Our meals and the wines were absolutely gorgeous and we tucked in with gusto!

 

Our slightly wet, but still warm , start to Day 2.

Our slightly wet, but still warm , start to Day 2.

Day 2: Omakau to Wedderburn

A leisurely start to our morning saw us off at 9am with our rain jackets on as it was just spitting lightly.  Only 7km down the trail and we stopped for  coffee’s at Lauder, hey… we were in no rush!

 

Atop the Poolburn Viaduct.

Atop the Poolburn Viaduct.

Off again through one of the most spectacular parts of the trail, the Poolburn Gorge, where we crossed the 37m high viaduct and went through 2 long and very dark tunnels.  Good job we had headlights on our bikes!

The next part of the trail was actually quite long and straight and unless you were having a really good conversation with someone then it was quite taxing.  We were all definitely ready for our packed lunches by the time we got to Oturehua!

From there it was just another 8km of gently climbing trail to our accommodation for the next 2 nights at Mt Ida Farmstay.

A lovely hot spa awaited us there and after relaxing and “refreshments” we were ready to go out for dinner just down the road at the famous Wedderburn Tavern.

Frantically sweeping the ice to make the curling iron go faster!

Frantically sweeping the ice to make the curling iron go faster!

Day 3: Exploring Day

I hired a 12 seater van for the day and off we set for a day out exploring the nearby district.  First up it was Curling at Naseby, which was a lot of fun.  Our 2 teams  competed fiercely against each other!

After a warm up coffee, (it was really cold in there) we headed off to Dansey’s Pass Coach Inn for lunch.  This is such a lovely old Inn and certainly well worth the 45 min drive.

The stunning lake at St Bathans.

The stunning lake at St Bathans.

Then it was off to St Bathans for a lazy Sunday afternoon of strolling around the little township with its old stone houses, walking around the lake that was the 168m deep mining pit and of course enjoying the well known Vulcan Hotel.

After stopping off in Ranfurly for supplies it was back to our cosy accommodation where the fire was glowing and the wine was flowing and there was lots of talking and laughing together.  It was a lovely way to finish such a great day out together.

Such a pretty little spot.

Such a pretty little spot.

Day 4: Wedderburn to Hyde

Up and on the trail by 9am on this rather cool morning.  We sped along on the downhill trail to Wedderburn in no time at all.  After the obligatory photo stop by the Green Shed, made famous by the local painter Graham Sydney, we were off and speeding along to Ranfurly.  We were all feeling refreshed and keen after our day off and our backsides were definitely feeling better for having had the rest!  This for me is one of the prettiest parts of the trail as you bike along beside the Taieri River and the trees were just starting to “turn”.  In a few more weeks time it would be simply glorious……ahh well, never mind……

Our very nice accommodation at Tussock Lodge in Waipiata.

Our very nice accommodation at Tussock Lodge in Waipiata.

We sped along the trail once more, our motivation was to get to the Hyde Hotel before it closed at 3pm!  We zoomed in there bang on 3pm only to find it closed at 3.30pm.  YES!  Sitting outside in the afternoon sun enjoying our drinks was just lovely.

We were picked up at and taken back to our accommodation at Tussock Lodge which was a very nice place to stay for our last night on the trail.

 

Gorgeous!!

Gorgeous!!

Day 5: Hyde to Middlemarch

A beautiful red sky morning greeted us when Mark, the owner, picked us up at 7.30am the next morning and dropped us off back at Hyde where our bikes were waiting for us.  From there it was a very easy 27km ride into Middlemarch and the end of the trail.

We had had a fantastic 5 days together.  Friendships were made, stories and laughter were shared along with fine wining and dining and we had all been wowed, impressed and quietly moved by the wide open skies, the golden rolling hills and the rail trail that had been laboriously built so many years ago.  To see more photos,  check out the photo album.

Yaay! We did it!

Yaay! We did it!

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19 2013 Jun

Samoan Cycling Adventure – 2013

Day One –Thu May 30th 2013 – Auckland to Samoa

We were an excited bunch of 11 women arriving at Auckland airport in 2’s and 3’s for our early morning flight, sitting together in a departure café, tentatively getting to know each other. (Tentativeness was well out the door by the end of Day 2!  )

Ahhh, the sheer bliss of stepping out of the plane into hot sunshine and warm tropical breezes (and leaving foggy Auckland way behind!)   We were met by a van and taken to Airport Lodge just a few k’s away.  Once there we sorted ourselves into pairs for our fales, the same pairs would end up sharing fales for the rest of the trip, then we got fitted out onto our bikes…….this tCocktails at AG'sakes longer than you would think!

A quick van trip down the road to Aggie Grey’s airport lodge where we luxuriated in their gorgeous swimming pool, sipped “happy hour” cocktails, did a proper “meet and greet” and had a lovely meal, was a wonderful way to start our adventure.  Probably just as well that we didn’t know then what the next day was going to bring……….

Highlight of the day: There were many, but for me, arriving into hot sunshine was just awesome!

Day Two – Fri May 31st 2013 – Salelologa to Lano – 19km

Woken to the sound of roosters crowing – at 3am!!  Lots of rain fell in the night but it “seemed” to be clearing ….little did we know….  After a magnificent breakfast, we set off on our bikes for the 3km bike ride to the ferry.  Our bags had all been loaded into the van and we just had a little handle bar pannier with our necessities in, (camera, phone, sunscreen, muesli bars etc.)

ferry to savaiiIt was a pretty rough ferry crossing to the island of Savaii and a couple of the women were a bit green around the Ferry crossinggills.  The closer we got to Savaii the more the weather changed and as we rode off the ferry the rain started.

Our first stop was the huge covered market to get some supplies for the trip.  We had a couple of picnic lunches to buy for.  The idea was to get the food, load it into the van, cycle off to a nearby swimming hole and have a lovely picnic in the sunshine……Yeah right.  We ended up having our lunch inside the market place as the rain pelted down outside.  No guttering on the roof meant it was like walking through a waterfall to get onto our bikes.  But, hey, we all reasoned, once you’re wet, you’re wet.  So off we set in our shorts and singlets (no need for raincoats as it’s so warm and you dry out so quickly once the rain stops.)

By the time we were riding along the coast ride the weather had become like a mini cyclone!  Palm trees lashed and thrashed, bending over in the force of the wind that threatened to blow us off the road, salt spray and rain stung the right side of our faces, palm fronds hurled across the road!  Riding at the back I could barely see the front rider as heads down, shoulders hunched we battled along.  It was so exhilarating, so exciting, so energising …..and also a wee bit scary too!!

getting ready to cross the ford Finally the storm abated, the winds dropped away, the rain stopped and we breezed merrily along….until we came to a long line of vehicles, all stopped by the side of the road.  Hmmmm…..what’s going on here…?  A raging torrent of water across the road was what was going on!  Thigh high, muddy brown water surging across the road, down a little weir and out to sea and our accommodation for the night was just over the other side of it.

As we all stood there contemplating what to do a group of young boys, we’re talking 11 to maybe 14 years old,  rushed across through the raging torrent and starting picking up our bikes and slinging them over their shoulders and wading across, just like that!  None of us were brave enough to go over by ourselves, a couple tried but the force of the water was too strong, so back the boys came to hold our hands and lead us bunch of nana’s safelDebbie crossing ford 2y through to the other side.

Half an hour or so later our support van made it through and warm and mostly dry we settled into our first fale accommodation on Savaii.

Marae style faleMarae style, we slept on foam mattresses on the woven matting floor – 6 of us in one fale, 5 in the other while the storm raged through the night.  Long flashes of lightning lit up the inside of our fale accompanied by long rolling thunder that shook the floorboards…..needless to say we were all were a bit bleary eyed the next morning…and it had nothing to do celebratory drinking session we had when we got through the raging river…..honest!

Highlight of the day:  “Cyclone cycling” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that ride!

Day Three – Sat June 1st 2013 – Lano to Manase – 33km

Took a wee while to get ourselves organised this morning, (or was it just me.)  Having a “system” I find, works really well.  Little things, like laying out your clothes, toiletries etc the night before, having your pannier bag packed with your essentials, having a designated place for your bike lock keys, your luggage keys etc

So off we cycled at 9am, what was to be our latest start time as from then on we were on the road between 7am aLava churchnd 7.30am.  Already it was hot and sticky.  After all that rain last night everything was clean and sparkly but it was like riding in a sauna!

We stopped and visited a couple of tourist spots along the way; the Mauga Crater and the Lava field church where you can see the lava as it flowed through the church and the gravesite – which was fascinating to see.  A few of us stopped off and went out for the afternoon on the Dive Savaii boat – snorkelling and scuba diving out near the reef, while the others biked on to our accommodation at Manase.

Sunset manaseFor me staying at Manase was quite emotional as it was almost exactly a year before that I had been there with my husband and 2 of our grandkids and I’d come up with the plan to cycle around Samoa as an adventure for my Women’s Adventures NZ.  And here I was, 1 year later with a group of 10 women doing exactly that!  (I gave myself a little congratulatory “pat on the back”.)

Highlight of the day:  Sitting at the beach bar, with everyone, watching this amazing sunset, feeling very happy and satisfied with life!

 

Day Four – Sun June 2nd 2013 – Manase to Vaisala – 40km

Up early and breakfasted and on the road by 7:15am!  This was meant to be our hardest day of riding with lots of hills and some bit bits of rough road (though I think a few of the group found other days a bit harder.)

As “tail end Charlie’ I cruised along at the back, blissing out in moments of quiet solitude, smokey morning breakfast fires, roosters crowing in the soft warm morning air….

drink stop long hill climbs After seemingly lots of hills later ranging from undulating to “get off your bike and walk”, after lots of photo stops, rest stops complete with fresh coconut milk, pawpaws, bananas and oranges (carried by our support van) we arrived at our most refreshing stop of all.  A beautiful big cool fresh water pool – Agua Pool – complete with stone wall and steps leading into it.

It was sheer bliss to slide into the water and instantly feel refreshed and energised for our last climb of the day up to our accommodation at Vaisala.  (Unfortunately it was at this pool that we had our first and only accident when one of tagua poolhe group slipped on the step and went down, banging her head as she fell.  Luckily another one of the group sitting there broke her fall a bit so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been…)

Vaisala was our accommodation for 2 nights and what a perfect place it was.  A big old style rambling hotel complete with wide verandahs, large comfy rooms, wonderful meals, perfect snorkelling both along the beach and in a special coral garden pool that was just teeming with fish and interesting coral.

Highlight of the day:  Our refreshing swim in the Agua Pool and being welcomed at Vaisala with fresh cold sweet lemon juice.kayaking

 

Day Five – Mon June 3rd 2013 – Rest Day at Vaisala

We swam, we snorkeled, we kayaked, we rested, we wrote in our journals…..  I did a stretch/yoga class fPre Dinner Drinksor some of the group.  Some of us walked, cycled or taxied down the road to Vaimoana for lunch.

It was wonderful to have this extra day of rest.

 

 

Highlight of the day:  Snorkeling in the rock pool coral garden, honestly it was like snorkeling in a huge aquarium.

Day Six – Tue June 4th 2013 – Vaisala to Falealupo – 19km

Just a short ride today.  We started with quite a big hill climb that we weren’t expecting, but once we turned off the main road and onto the side road that took us around the north western most tip of the island we noticed the changes.  The road, fringed with high sugar cane type grass, was rougher with lots of little pot holes and big sandy patches.  There was no one around.  It was very hot but very calm and peaceful.

cyclone churchWe stopped at a beautiful church that had been ruined by the 1990 cyclone.  On this sunny, calm and peaceful day it was hard to imagine the force of the sea, the wind and the rain that had destroyed this seemingly strong and sturdy building.

Within no time at all wefavourite fales had made it to our most basic, but my most favourite, accommodation.  Our fales were literally metres from the water’s edge and had just a mattress on a woven mat with a mosquito net over it.  We could pull down the coconut palm blinds when and if we wanted to but otherwise our fales were totally open.  So basic, so simple and so pretty.

 

As we had arrived relatively early we had heaps of time to swim, snorkel, just sit together in the water and chat, read, rest and enjoy!  Some of the group went off exploring and met a local guy who showed them how to weave a basket.

After a lovely meal in the open sided dining fale we all sat around and played charades accompanied by lots of fun and laughter!

Highlight of the day:  Lying in my fale at night watching the amazing lightning display over the sea…….

road at the topDay Seven – Wed June 5th 2013 –Falealupo to Satuiatua  – 38km

The cycle today was I think one of my favourites.  The top of the island has a lovely remote, off the beaten track feel to it.  We cycled along the sandy pot holed roads, heaps of palm trees lined up along beautiful white sandy bays…..

As we rode back out onto the main road it started gently raining and continued for a lot of the 38km which Tired cyclistswas actually really nice.  There were quite a few hills and we had lots of rest stops with everyone in the group doing really well and all being so supportive of each other.

We arrived at Satuiatua at about 12 and we all just loved our pretty “Princess Barbie” fales, with their pink and orange curtains fluttering in the satuiatua falessea breeze, nestled under the canopy of a HUGE big tree and right on the beach.

 

After a wonderful restaurant lunch, we spent the afternoon as we spend most afternoons, swimming, snorkeling, relaxing………etc etc!!   The snorkeling there was AMAZING!  There was a current that went along the beach so we’d walk up to the far end of the beach, wade out with our snorkeling gear on and just drift back along with the current.  Not far below the surface was an abundance of marine life!  Lots of these little “bolshie” black fish that would angrily pop up out of the coral and eyeball you as you snorkeled over them.  There were schools and schools of amazing tropical fish….it really was spectacular!

Highlight of the day:  It has to be the big plate of scones that were kindly made for us after we admitted to our hostess that we’d been fantasising about scones and jam for the last few days.  Luckily, she’d spent years in NZ as a primary school teacher and knew how to make a good scone!  This highlight is closely followed by the PD’s (pre dinner drinks) on the beach and another hilarious game of charades.

Day Eight – Thu June 6th 2013 – Satuiatua to Sili – 51km

Early morning start after our yummy “kiwi” breakfast with real “perked” coffee.  It was to be a big day today, though we didn’t know it then.  Off we cycled through beautifully manicured villages with luxurious green lawns, colourful border hedges and cottage garden mix flowering abundantly in their well tended gardens.

kidsIn every village there are always groups of children enthusiastically calling and waving and even running along side us as we biked.  If we stop in a village then you can guarantee we will surrounded by friendly but sometimes shy children (who love having their photo taken, especially when they can see it after.)

P1000509There was lots of rain today from lightly drizzling rain to pouring rain and for the first time I actually got a bit cold….no one else seemed to though.  We stopped at 3 different tourist spots.  Lovers Leap, where we were told the local story of this spot, Alofaaga Blowholes where we ooohed and aaaahed as coconuts were blown sky high by the force of the water shooting up through the blowholes (if you look closely at the photo you can see the coconut at the top of the spray) and lastly at Mu Pogoa waterfall, one of the 8 waterfalls in the world that tumbles onto the beach and into the sea.  A group of us climbed down the rocks and onto the beach where we ducked under the waterfall and stood behind the curtain of water it as it hurtled off the edge and thundered onto the beach.  Such a weird phenomena!

By the time we got to our homestay accommodation at Sili we were all fales at silipretty saturated.  A beautiful hot Samoan lunch was ready waiting for us.  Large bowls and plates of grilled fish, rice, noodles with corned beef, bananas in coconut cream and taro were lined up along the table and we tucked in with enthusiasm while our hosts and their family stood around the edges and watched ….which felt pretty weird I must say.  They then had their meal after us.

After lunch we clambered into the backs of a truck and a ute and set off on a tour of their plantation which was as unlike a plantation as I could imagine.  Taro, banana and other plants were planted seemingly in haphazardly fashion in cleared off bits of jungle with long grassed overgrown tracks to get to them….

Inside our fale at SiliFeeling dirty and muddy from our days cycle and plantation tour, we all wandered down to the local swimming hole where we waded in with our soap, clothes and all and had a good wash.  Finally, in warm dry clothes we rested in our “marae style’ fales until dinner time.

umuRoosters crowing, dogs barking, a smokey haze drifts through the fale as the umu is prepared for our dinner.  And what a feast it was!  Once again bowls and plates lined the middle of the table filled with delicious and very rich tasting food.  There was suckling pig, fish, taro, breadfruit, oka (raw fish in coconut milk) and rice.  Once again our hosts waited for us to eat before they had theirs.

Highlight of the day:  The impromptu singing (and dancing) session after we’d all had dinner.  They’d sing a song, complete with actions, then we’d sing one.  Our grand finale was the Hokey Tokey!

Day Nine –  Fri June 7th 2013 – Sili to the ferry – 30km  and back over to Upolo.

Waterfalls near SiliUp early after a not particularly restful night of roosters crowing, dogs barking and a seemingly steady stream of us nocturnal loo goers crunching our way over the rocky gravel to the loo.  After fond farewells to our host family, we cycled off through the waking village and about 30 minutes down the road to a beautiful waterfall – Afu Aau – where a group of us stripped off and leapt in.  It was so refreshing and a lovely start to the day.

Tapa Cloth demoJust a bit further down the road we stopped off to watch a Tapa cloth making demonstration.  It was absolutely fascinating.  From the cut off bark of a skinny little tree to a fully designed and dyed piece of tapa cloth in just 1 hour…..

Back on the road and in an hour or so we were at the market place just a couple of kms from the ferry.  We’ve been so lucky with the bikes that we hired from Outdoor.Co.NZ.  No major issues at all, a few chains coming every now and then and a broken brake cable and some general tightening of handlebars and seats but nothing too serious.  We had no flat tyres and most importantly, no accidents!

icecreams at the marketAfter a good long stop at the market place where we enjoyed delicious pineapple ice-creams, we biked off to the ferry, cruising along in the sunshine.  So different from when we first started out, 7 days earlier, in all that pouring rain.  We had cycled 200km around Savaii and were all feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves.

Julie waiting at ferryA miscommunication about the exact time of the ferry meant we waited for 2hrs but we were happy enough just relaxing and watching the activity around the ferry buildings.  Once we got back over to Upolo we loaded up the van with our bags, rode back to Airport Lodge to drop off our bikes then we clambered into the van for the 40 min drive to Apia and to our hotel, Amanaki.

What bliss, what pure luxury! We showered and got all doo daahed up and had a lovely meal together (complete with celebratory cocktails!)

Highlight of the day: – has to be enjoying our luxury accommodation….need I say more!

Day Ten – Sat June 8th 2013 – market morning and full day tour

After a blissful night’s sleep had by all in our luxurious rooms, some of us crept out quietly for an early morinside RLStevenson housening swim in the hotel pool, we breakfasted and then ambled down the road to the Apia flea market for a bit of a shopping spree.

Armed with all of our lswimming caveuggage and our purchases, we set off in the van for a tour of some of the most popular tourist spots on Upolo.  Although this was a long day and there was lots of driving, we all got to see and experience so much.  I can thoroughly recommend going to the Robert Louis Stevenson home and museum, the Piula College with its underground cave pool and the To Sua Trench with its loSwimmiung at Te sua trenchooong steep ladder to climb down into the pool.  All absolutely stunning places!

Our final night’s accommodation was on the South East coast of the island and to be honest a bit disappFire dancersointing after we’d been spoilt at our luxury accommodation the night before.  However, once we were all showered and dressed up, we hot footed it over to the flash high end Coconut resort and totally lost ourselves in the high energy, mesmerising, world class fia fia performance.  We were all completely blown away!  A world class performance.Dancing fia fia

 

Highlight of the day: The Fia Fia performance at Coconuts, unforgettable!

Day Eleven Sun June 9th 2013 – Back home again.

The last morning waspawpaw juices last day. spent relaxing under the palm trees, reading, chatting and going swimming.  We had all gotten pretty close over the last 10 days and felt happy and comfortable just being in each other’s company.

It had been a wonderful adventure together with lots of different experiences.  Thank you to the 10 awesome women who shared this adventure.  You’ve set the bar for the rest!Heading off to airport

 

29 2013 May

Yes You May – Day 26 – Encourage others.

Well here it is, this is officially the last day of my month of May challenge of giving myself permission each day to do something that makes me feel great and that adds richness to my day.  Tomorrow I am up way before dawn and off to the airport to fly over to Samoa with 10 other women for 10 days, 7 of which are going to be spent cycling 200km around the island of Savaii and staying in villages on the way round.   Excited….?? You betcha!! 🙂

So today, I finished off my list of ideas that I’ve put together that might help others see ways to make your day special.  (it is by no means a complete list!)  Please feel free to add your ideas onto this blog.

I’ve really enjoyed this challenge and I’ve been amazed and the different perspective it’s given me and how enriched my life has felt this month by simply taking the time to proactively add value to my day.  I encourage you to give it go too.  It doesn’t even have to be every day but at least 3 times a week I reckon, or it probably won’t happen.

Give Yourself Permission To:

 

Get up half an hour earlier and:

Go for a walk/run/bike ride somewhere you don’t normally go

Jump in your car, (pop your bike in the back,) and go somewhere further away and explore a new area for a bike ride/walk/run

Do some yoga (get a DVD out from the library to follow)

Get a DVD out from the library and do an Aerobics type workout (Step, Kettlebell, dance etc)

Spend half an hour sitting quietly, focus on your breathing and then choose a thought to reflect/meditate on like; forgiveness, compassion, honesty, grace, loyalty, friendship……

Write a daily journal and include at least one thing that you did the day before that you are proud of and one thing you’d like to focus on for this day

Meet a friend for breakfast at a local café

Go to your local gym and do an early morning class

Join a boot camp

Go for an early morning swim

Stop at a café on the way to work and spend half an hour planning and prioritising your day

 

If you’ve got young kids or nieces, nephews, grandkids…….

Play hide and seek outside somewhere or inside….in the dark

Have a picnic tea on the living room floor (with no TV)

Pretend there’s no power and have a candlelight evening

Make a treasure hunt

Build huts (inside or outside)

Climb trees

Go exploring

There’s loads of things you could do with kids, just let your imagination run wild and BE a kid again!

 

Do something different in the evenings: (instead of watching TV)

Go for a walk around your neighbourhood

Play cards or some other game

Go skinny dipping on a moonlit night

Wade through the sea at night and watch all the phosphorescence

Play in the playground (when there’s no kids around)

Go to the movies

Join a club/group/night class and learn something new

Be creative; draw, knit, sew, sculpt, bake, write stories/poems

Talk

Visit

Read,

Phone family/friends and actually talk (not text or email)

Pamper yourself; have a facial, footbath, do your nails, your hair…

Share a massage

Sort through your photos, your files, your wardrobe, your drawers, your boxes of “stuff”

Invite friends around for a pot luck dinner

Go out somewhere cheap and cheerful for dinner (where you’ve never been before)

 

 

Make little tweaks to your day:

Drive a different way to work/school/wherever

Take some time to sit and a café and read the paper

Give yourself half an hour to check out that shop/museum/library/art gallery/café/park/garden centre/beach/reserve/walkway/show home…….

Purposely get yourself lost on a walk/run/drive and find your way out without any help

Buy yourself a little treat just because; flowers/magazine/book/nice bottle of wine/ chocolates/CD

Start using stuff you’ve been “saving”; that body lotion/soap/perfume/underwear/etc that you got for Xmas/birthday

De-clutter! (This could be a blog of its own!) De-clutter your wardrobe for a start and get rid of stuff that you no longer wear, or looks a bit shabby, is dated, the wrong colour for you …..Be ruthless!

Try a new recipe at least once a month

Change your daily routine just a bit

Get in touch with old friends

Give yourself a focus for each day eg; to smile more, to listen to others more, to appreciate the little things, to laugh, to be more gracious/patient/kind/loving etc

 

Do some big stuff! Give yourself permission to LIVE YOUR LIFE OUT LOUD!

Set yourself a “sweaty armpit” challenge that both scares and excites you, and do it!

Some examples could be:

Physical:

Do a skydive, a bungee jump, white water rafting, high ropes course, abseiling, caving, canyoning (choose from some of my adventures on this website J) or some other adrenaline pumping adventure

Relationship:

Ditch a bad relationship, if it’s not working for you and you’re not happy, get out.

If it’s worth working on then talk, get counselling do whatever it takes so you know that you’ve given it your all……

Try online dating, speed dating, join a singles club – meetups.com

 

Job/Career

If you’re not happy in your job/career then start the ball rolling now, start looking/planning when/how to change it

Do your research, get the help/advice/training/education you need

Talk to people who have the job/career you want and ask them about it

See a career consultant

Read “What Colour is Your Parachute” (an oldie but a goodie.)

 

Go on….give some of these a go or come up with your own ideas…..you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain!!