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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

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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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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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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30 2014 Nov

Standup Paddleboarding – Matakana River – Nov 2014

Kneeling upright on the board I gingerly and slowly bring one foot out from under me and place it on the board.  Hmmm….so far so good…….I then ever so gently bring my other foot out and holding onto the paddle in front of me I slowly rise up from crouching to fully standing, leaning forward, soft knees, my legs shaking slightly, my bare feet gripping the board.  A gust of wind blows and I brace myself, totally focused on my balance, phewww, I slowly let out my breath and relax a bit.  Now for the paddling part!

Paddling down the river.

Paddling down the river.

We're getting the hang of this now!

We’re getting the hang of this now!

Trying to line ourselves up for a photo....

Trying to line ourselves up for a photo….

 

Gradually it all starts to come together as little by little I grow more confident and manage to stop myself from getting caught in the mangroves, from falling off when a gust of wind blasts me as I round a bend in the river and when my board starts going backwards.  It’s an exhilarating feeling to be in control of this big board, to feel the board surging forwards when I thrust the paddle in.  It’s also an incredibly peaceful and almost meditative feeling to be quietly gliding along the river as it meanders through the farmland , herons stalking through the shallows, ducks paddling past…..

Standup Paddleboading was the perfect end to our full day adventure outing.  We started the day at the Matakana Market, browsing through the many stalls, sampling their wares, rushing for cover under awnings when the squally showers came down and sipping our coffee listening to the lively jazz band playing.

At the start of the Ecology Trail.

At the start of the Ecology Trail.

 

Next stop was the beautiful Tawharenui for lunch and a lovely walk on the Ecology Trail that took us along the beach, up over the headland and down through the bush back to the start.

 

 

 

 

Walking up over the headland with the wind blowing.

Walking up over the headland with the wind blowing.

 

From there we drove in the van back to Matakana and down to the river for our Standup Paddleboarding lesson and guided paddle.

 

 

 

 

Enjoying tea, coffee and muffins at the end of our adventure.

Enjoying tea, coffee and muffins at the end of our adventure.

 

 

The river was the perfect solution for where to paddle on this unpredictable day.  I can highly recommend Matakana Beach Outfitters and our friendly and enthusiastic guide, Ashley.

 

http://www.matakanasup.co.nz.

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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!

13 2013 May

Yes You May – Day 9 – Kayak Into The Sunrise

Arkles Sunrise 2Day 9 and what a stunning way to start the day today!  I was Arkles Sunrise 1up early loading my kayak into my van and driving down to a different bay than my usual one. I was so excited and really looking forward to this early morning kayak.  I just LOVE being on the water at this  time of the day, it is simply magical and I have so many “heart singing” moments where my heart is filled with such contentment and sheer pleasure that it brings tears to my eyes.

I paddled off from Arkles Bay in the early morning pre- dawn light.

For me this is such a ‘spiritual’ time.  I pray, I sing, I contemplate, meditate, just sit quietly out in the water and be Arkles Sunrise 3still.  It nourishes my soul and always fills me with calm.

There was a time in my life when being able to do something like this was so far away from reality it wasn’t funny.  I think that’s one of the reasons I appreciate it so much now.  I also know that for a lot of you there is just no way you’d be able to do this either.

Arkles Sunrise 4

My sunrise kayak this morning has set me up for the day and has enriched my life.  And it honestly didn’t take too much time at all.  By 8.30am I was showered, breakfasted, the gear was all cleaned up and stored away and I was ready to start my day.

 

13 2013 May

Yes You May – Day 8 – Learn a New Skill.

Day 8 happened to be Mother’s Day and even though my son has grown up and left the nest and I now have grandkids, I’m still a Mum so I made sure I treated myself (plus receiving cards and calls and a lovely gift.)  I also gave myself permission to NOT do any work.  I like to have at least one day in the weekend where I keep out of my office but when the spare bedroom is your office that can be difficult at times!

So the big thing I did yesterday that made me feel so chuffed with myself was……I learnt a new skill.  I learnt how to produce my own little video.  The day before my 11 year old grandson had shown me what to do and together we created yesterday’s little video clip.  So yesterday I decided to do it all by myself and I DID IT!  Now for those of you who are not technologically challenged at all, this may not seem like such a big deal, but to me (and a lot of my “baby boomer” generation) it’s pretty out there!   I got such a kick out of doing it and felt so proud of myself that I can’t wait to do another one……..so watch this space! 🙂  (I didn’t put it on You Tube though as it’s virtually identical to yesterday’s one.)

5 2013 May

Yes, you May!

Debbie blogOK, so here we have my first ever blog!  How exciting, a new learning curve to climb and get over to the other side of ……what an adventure!  And that is what my daily blogs (hopefully I’ll get one done every day) are going to be about.  Adventures.  Daily adventures.

Probably to a lot of you these may seem like seemingly small, insignificant and even meaningless adventures but what I propose to do for the month of May is to add a little bit of adventure into my every day life.

Now because I run a Women’s Adventure group where I  organise exciting adventures every fortnight or so, I thought yes, that’s great but how can I encourage women to add just a bit of daily adventure into their lives?   And the way to do it is to GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION to do things a bit differently, to do things you wouldn’t normally do, to “push the boat out a bit” to try new things, to try living life on the edge of your comfy zone just a bit…… That’s why I’ve called this blog that I am doing just for the month of May, “Yes, you May!

I want YOU to think of things that YOU can do that will make you feel chuffed with yourself, proud of yourself, boost your confidence a bit more, make you feel special, alive, positive, empowered etc and tell me (and others) what you’ve done. BTW, I don’t want you doing anything illegal, dangerous, stupid, rude and offensive etc.  Let’s keep it clean and positive. 🙂

Now I know it’s already May the 5th but I only just thought of doing this daily blog this morning after I had had a little adventure.  What did I do that made me feel alive this morning?  I went for a swim in the sea……… see I told you it might seem like “so what?”  But gosh I felt good!

I went for a lovely run along the beach early this morning.  The sun was shining and it was warm, especially considering we are now in May! I thought to myself that a swim would be really nice. Straight away though I started making excuses, “you haven’t got any togs on, “you’ve got no towel”, “it’s probably too cold”……….And then I just thought, “Go on, just do it!” So I did.  Off came the t’shirt and in my running bra and shorts I ran into the sea and had a lovely swim and felt so pleased with myself after.

Now I reckon, doing something every day that makes you feel great, has gotta be good for you on so many levels.  So why not join me for the month of May, give yourself permission, “yes, you May,” and let’s see what happens!