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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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23 2017 Mar

Art Deco Festival – Feb 2017

If you love dressing up, dancing, music, parades and all the style and fun of the 1930’s/40’s then you would love the Napier Art Deco festival.  Held over 4 days, this festival is absolutely jam packed full of fun things to do and see.  It was very hard to choose the ticketed events for our group to do!

Guided tour in Napier.

After arriving from our drive down from Auckland and meeting up the other two women of our group, we headed off for our Guided Tour of the Art Deco streets and buildings of central Napier.  This was a great introduction to our weekend as we learnt about the earthquake that pretty much destroyed Napier but at the same time reclaimed it so that what was under water rose up to became land, (which is now the airport area.)  Napier may have been destroyed but what was created to take its place was guided by the fashion, the era, the post war feeling of the time. It was one of hope, splendour, boldness, glamour and the positivity of what was ahead.  And it only took 2 years to completely rebuild!!

Enjoying our wine tasting at Clearview.

The itinerary I had planned went by the wayside a bit due to the very wet and rainy weather.  We couldn’t complain though as Napier had been in the clutches of a drought and desperately needed this rain.  So on Day 2 instead of cycling out to visit wineries we all hopped in my van and headed out on a “Tasting Trip.”  First stop was Clearview Winery, where we had a lovely wine tasting session (at 10 in the morning!)  Then it was off to Origin Earth, the home of Te Mata cheese for a very informative cheese tasting and delicious lunch at their café.  From here it was a short drive to Black Barn for yet another wine tasting at this beautiful winery.  As we drove through Havelock North on our way to the Silky Oaks chocolate factory, the women couldn’t resist stopping for a bit of shopping and a look around.  We finished our “Tasting Trip” trying out the different fudge flavours at Silky Oaks.

Dressed up and ready to party!

Back at our accommodation in Clive, we had a short rest, before dressing up in all our splendour and heading into Napier for dinner and then the Prohibition Party.  Practically everyone we saw was dressed up in the art deco era and we were constantly oohing and ahhing over the absolutely beautiful costumes we saw.  There was such an air of festivity everywhere, dancing exhibitions, jazz music, pipe bands, busking, spontaneous dancing and singing, people everywhere, like us, strutting their stuff and looking so cool! We all loved the Prohibition Party, a fun evening full of dancing, entertainment, gambling….and yes, we did get “raided by the cops!”

Our decadent breakfast at the County Hotel.

The next morning we were up relatively early for our seating for the champagne breakfast at the County Hotel.  There was such a feeling of decadence as we sipped at our champagne flutes, dressed in our finery, and were waited on for our gourmet breakfast, (and it wasn’t even 9am yet!)

 

Later that day we stood with many others in the rain, under our umbrellas, and watched the vintage car parade, which was actually more entertaining than I thought it would be.  From there we did some sightseeing and ended up in Ahururi for a late lunch before heading back to Clive for a bit of a rest before another night out.

That night was the Ukelele Beach Party except it wasn’t at the beach as their location got flooded out so we were at the Rugby Club.  This was a fun sing-along evening which would have been even better had we known how to play the ukulele and brought our own.  We managed pretty well with our percussion spoons though!

Enjoying the Great Gatsby picnic.

Finally, the next morning, the sun shone and boy, did it get hot!  We drove into Hastings to the Farmers Market and had a delightful time perusing and tasting at all the various stalls, choosing delicious foods for our Great Gatsby picnic.  And what a picnic it was.  We couldn’t believe all the amazing picnic settings that people had set up as part of the picnic competition; everything from the historic teddy bears picnic to the East India colonialism era.

Bubbly was sipped, delicacies were devoured as we again watched the festivity all around us, the dancers, the strollers, the musicians, and all the old cars…..it was like stepping backwards in time.  All too soon though we had to gather up our picnic things and head back to normality and the long drive back to Auckland.  It had been such an amazing weekend, despite the weather, and one that I’ll definitely being doing again (and again!)

 

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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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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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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!

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!!