Year of 30: There will be a day I can no longer do this – today is not that day.

I am not a natural runner. I don’t long to hit the pavement and get some miles under my feet. So adding a half marathon to my #Year of 30 list seems like a good idea right?

Today is not that day

I’ve read this quote a number of times and I really try to use it as inspiration. My body is an amazing thing that can do so much that others only dream of. One day I will be an old fart and won’t be able to walk far, let alone run….but today is not that day.

Initially I’d planned to enter the 2016 Round the Bays half marathon and I even entered myself into a 10km race in September to prepare for it, however getting bitten in the leg by NZ’s only slightly venomous spider took me out of action for a while, then work got it a bit crazy, then it was summer holidays, then work just stepped it up a whole other level! So I managed the 10km race at Round the Bays with no training and resolved that entering myself into the Wellington Marathon (which is after my Year of 30 is over) would have to do. That was until I had dinner with a friend who was entering the Hawkes Bay Half Marathon on 14 May. After watching this promo video below, I was sold!

Over the Easter sales I stocked up on some extra pairs of Nike running pants,  scored a hydration pack with a brand new bladder for cheap off TradeMe, officially entered myself in the race and booked ourselves an AirBnB room 5mins walk from the house our friends had booked.

I only had 8 weeks to train, which isn’t ideal but I figured running through vineyards in the Hawkes Bay would be much more preferable than running running into a Wellington Gale in the middle of winter. Besides, it finished at a vineyard and as a friend pointed out, anyone can run that far for wine right?! Luckily I found this half marathon plan that didn’t seem too ridiculous and aimed to stick with it – which I managed to do for the most part as you can see below.

image

Some cool videos from the major sponsor Air New Zealand helped to keep the motivation and excitement for the race high.

 

We took our sweet time getting up to the Hawkes Bay on the Friday before the race, stopped at my parents place for lunch but managed to make it to the registration in the Napier Soundshell by 6pm. The queue was long enough but moving efficiently so I had my race pack in no time (must have got some tips from Air NZ check-in crew!). We decided to have a low key night so picked up some fresh pasta for some last minute extra carb loading (I’d been carb loading all week) and I made sure I had all my gear laid out and ready for the morning.

Race Pack

I slept terribly the night before – a combination of nerves, being petrified I was going to sleep through my alarm and dreams/nightmares of race day. I was up before the alarm and attempting to eat my porridge and banana for breakfast. I say attempting to because I had the worst case of nerves I’ve ever had in my entire life. I felt like I was going to throw up eating breakfast but somehow managed to force it down as I knew I needed it for fuel.

With Paul as my #1 support crew for the day (on photography and discarded clothing duty), we got to the start line easily enough and found our friends Phil and Aaron who were also running the half marathon. Before long it was 8am and we were in the starting pens with the starting gun going off. I knew I wasn’t going to run a particularly fast race as I’d been managing about 7mins/km to keep myself at a steady pace and not puff myself out too early, so I put myself in the 2:30-3:00 time slot. Once we finally crossed the start line I found the majority of people around me were all walking and found it frustrating trying to get around them and into a decent run. I knew I was probably going to be walking at some stage towards the end of the race but I didn’t want to START OUT walking!

1. Startting Crowd

Finally I managed to get into a steady pace and could take in the scenery as we ran through the bush, along the river and past apple orchards. At 7kms I passed another lady from work and managed to keep a fairly steady pace with little walking (apart from to take a drink) until about the 11km mark. From then on it was a bit of a struggle. My lungs were struggling (and I’m pretty sure it was lack of fitness rather than asthma) and my legs were starting to feel the burn. The terrain underfoot was a real struggle as it went from road to uneven soil with big rocks through the vineyards, followed by very sandy conditions, then loose gravel.  By the time I got to about 15/16km mark, the wind had started to pick up and was blowing the sand from the vineyards into my face. To top this all off it was a gloriously hot 25 degrees. I’d obviously not fueled properly (despite having an energy gel pre-race) as it felt as if my stomach was eating itself – so I was regularly snacking on the skittles in my pocket and grabbing the energy drinks as I passed the drink stands.

With 3km to go I messaged Paul so he knew to keep a look out for me and I struggled on trying to balance my energy exertion so I at least had enough in my to run across the finish line! The last km seemed to be the longest and part of it ran along the road edge before turning into Selini Vineyard for the final few meters. Lots of the 10km and half marathon runners had already finished and were walking back along the same track as us, as well as spectators who were dawdling along which was a little frustrating as I wanted to yell out “MOVE – some of us are still running here!!” but I restrained myself.

As I turned into the final stretch I kept my eyes peeled for any friendly faces and I finally spotted Paul 200m from the start line. Thankfully he saw me in time to get some snap of me coming in. As I got closer to the finish I saw our friends Leah and Jase cheering me on and got an extra boost of energy as I high-fived them on the way to the end. My official time was 2hr 41mins 43sec.

I managed to find Leah, Jase and then eventually Paul and after a quick catch up and race debrief we decided to head back to the car as it was pretty crowded and we were keen to check out more of the Hawkes Bay. It was a long painful walk back to the car as Paul had to park a fair bit away but we headed to Abbey Cellars to have a celebration drink and some food.

Medal

After freshening up at our accommodation, we caught up with Jo, Phil, Aaron and Renee for a drink in the sun before meeting our old London flatmates Leah and Jase for dinner at the local favourite pub, The Duke of Glouster. It was a great night catching up on what they’d been up to and plans for the future.

In the morning we brunched at Cappadonna Cafe, before heading to The Crab Farm vineyard for one last wine tasting. We stopped at my cousin’s place for a quick catch up on the way out of town as I haven’t seen him and his family for quite a few years so it was nice to be able to do that too.

My thighs were in a world of pain on Sunday and Monday but by the time I managed to cash in a massage voucher for East Day Spa on the Wednesday after the race they weren’t too bad.

It was a great weekend all around and it felt good to tick the half marathon off the Year of 30 list. Thanks to Phil for encouraging me to enter the Hawkes Bay half marathon and to Leah (from Naturally Leah fame) for getting me into running way back in London and continuing to encourage me along the way. Of course lots of thanks to my support crew Paul for encouraging me in my training and being there as race day support.

I think I want to get a lot more confident with just casually running 10km before I enter another half marathon but it’s not completely off the cards.

Have you completed a half marathon or started training for one? What’s the best half marathon you’ve competed in?

Year of 30: Matiu/Somes Island

Matiu/Somes Island sits in the middle of Wellington harbour and is a sight I’ve driven passed or looked at most my life. I’ve always wondered what was on the island but never thought to actually go out there. Well, the Year of 30 challenge was as good a time as any to add it to the list and head out there.

I grabbed a return ticket out and jumped on the East by West ferry to see what it was all about. It was nice to get a different perspective of the city as we sailed out towards the middle of the harbour.

The island has had an interesting history, serving as both a human and animal isolation unit, a prison during World War II and finally now as a wildlife sanctuary. In order to try and maintain the pest free environment, all visitor are ushered into a closed room while bags and clothes checked for any signs of flora and fauna that could hurt the native environment. Those camping overnight (yes, you can do that apparently) stayed longer to have their tents checked over while the rest of us were free to roam.

It takes 45mins to walk about the whole island and there are many vantage points along the way. Not long after I started out on the track, I came across vibrant green parrots feasting in the natural berries, though this turned out to be the only wildlife I really saw during my trip.

Lunch stop

I took my time wandering around, setting up my tripod to try my hand at some different camera shots. There are various different signposts around explaining what your surroundings including the gun placements at the top of the island. Being such a beautiful day there were various boats sailing around the island which made the view back towards the city even more picturesque.

Camera

Before long it was time to head back to the wharf to collect the ferry home. If you haven’t been out to Matiu/Somes Island, then it’s worth the visit – even if it’s just for a stroll in the sun.

Lighthouse - Ferry

*Tickets at $23 return, though extra if you’re wanting to head on to Days Bay and can be bought in a little ticket office between Portofino and Wagamama on the Wellington waterfront.

Year of 30: The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

So begins the tale of the Night Circus – the mysterious circus that arrives unannounced, moving from place to place without much warning and, as it’s name so aptly describes, is only open at night. Whether you know it as The Night Circus or as Le Cirque des RĂȘves, either way it is bound to capture your heart.

I really enjoyed reading this book – I’ve always been one for enchantment, fairy tales and a bit of magic to escape the everyday drudgery (cue my addiction to Once Upon a Time). The Night Circus is a very descriptive book that takes the reader on a challenge between two young magicians, pitted against each other since they were kids and trained for a duel with rules they don’t understand (including how exactly one of them will eventually become victorious) all within the venue of the wonderful Night Circus.

Unenlightened

The popularity of the Night Circus is such that it creates it’s own cult following in the form of RĂȘvers. Things start to go astray as time passes and more people become involved in the Night Circus (and therefore unwittingly in the venue of the challenge) and the two magicians finally learn each other’s identify.

Love and Loss

While there are probably other books out there with far superior plot lines, the imagery and escapism of The Night Circus can’t be ignored. Having read the reviews online, lots of people can’t really decide if they love it or hate it. For me it was an enjoyable read but nothing I would rave on and on about.

Storyteller

 

Have you read The Night Circus? What did you think?

 

And with that – I’ve completed me 12 books in 12 months! One more thing ticked off the #Yearof30 list!

 

Year of 30: Floridita’s Cheese and Rocket Scones

Floriditas is one of the many fantastic cafes in Cuba Street, Wellington where you can’t go wrong dropping in for a perfectly made coffee, an eggs benedict for breakie or fish pie for lunch. For me, Floriditas is conveniently on my morning walk to work (or it least I can alter my route ever so slightly so it is!) and their cheddar and rocket scones have become my go-to breakfast on the run if I’m running late for work (this is why my goal of losing weight isn’t going so well!). They’ll even heat it up for you in the oven (so it doesn’t go all soggy and gross) and will butter it for you so it’s ready to chow down on the way to work.

Floriditas

So with success of my Pravada scones, I thought it was about time to finish off the task once and for all by making the Floriditas cheddar and rocket scones. Conveniently, the recipe can be found on their website and with the parentals coming to our place for lunch – I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to actually make them!

I like to layout all my ingredients before I start as far too many times I've got halfway through something before realising that I don't have enough of a certain ingredient!

I like to layout all my ingredients before I start as far too many times I’ve got halfway through something before realising that I don’t have enough of a certain ingredient!

I found the recipe to be quite different from the Pravda recipe, where the key is to keep the scones at light and airy as possible. With the Floriditas recipe, you need to dump it out on the bench and roll it a bit to shape it and cut it into rectangles. I found the recipe to still be quite dry when it was on the flour covered bench so perhaps some more milk or butter or something was needed.

Taking them out of the oven, they were still quite flat and didn’t appear to have risen at all. I’m not sure if this is a result of having some of the air squished out of them or the flour/baking powder ratio. Fearing that I was about to serve my parents solid bricks with lunch, I quickly whipped up a batch of Pravda scones as well.

I needn’t have worried as my husband claimed they were pretty close to the real deal (his office is very close Floriditas they’re regulars there) and that they were meant to be pretty dense. Once everyone tucked into them, the result was pretty positive all round! The pinch of cayenne pepper added a nice little extra without being too over powering and a large portion of them were demolished thorough lunch and into the afternoon as a friend came over as well (the take away one for the other half even got a positive review too!).

I think I definitely need to work on this recipe a few more times to really get it right, though I also thought about just adding rocket and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the Pravda recipe and getting a perfect mix of the two without the mess!

Are you a Floriditas regular? Have you tried their cheddar and rocket scones, and more importantly, have you tried making them yourself? What’s your verdict?

Year of 30: The home run recap

So I’ve only got 8 weeks until I turn 31 and my #Yearof30 is officially over, so I thought it was a good time to recap what I’ve achieved so far and what I still need to do:

1.Move into our own place with Paul – Done!

You can read about our cute little place in Mount Cook here. 

2. Finish my travel blog – Dubious

I’ve still got a fair bit of work to be done on the blog as it is currently stuck at September 2013! At lot has happened since then and blogging (esp with photos) takes me quite a while (as I still need to learn to write more succinctly!) so I’m not 100% sure if I’m going to get this one done in time.

3. Run a half marathon – Planned

I’m all booked in to run in the Hawkes Bay half marathon on 14 May. I was initially planning on doing the half marathon on during the Wellington Round the Bays, however a really crazy period of work meant that I didn’t get any training done so it didn’t happen. I then thought I’d do the Wellington half marathon in June, however talking with a friend over dinner, I heard about the Hawkes Bay half marathon that makes it’s way through private property and vineyards and is flat. A quick look at their promo video was all it took to convince me. I was soon signed up, had googled an 8 week training plan and found some Air BnB accommodation 5 mins walk from the friends that were also racing. I know this isn’t going to be the world’s best time, and I know my run will be a combination of walking and running but as long as I cross the finish line in one piece I’ll be happy. The race finishes at Sileni Vineyard and as another friend said “Anyone can run 21kms for wine!” 

Wish me luck!

4. Go on honeymoon – Done!

You can read all about our trip to Fiji here and here. 

5. Go on a wine tasting weekend – Done!

We headed to Martinborough to experience Toast Martinborough and but apparently I forgot to write a post about it. The weather wasn’t amazing and I got a white tail spider bite as a memento for the next 8 weeks.  

6. Start learning a language – Planned

My small step to starting this was to download the Duuolingo app which I’ve done and used a couple of times. I’ve researched language places and know that I want to head to Viva Spanish on Willis Street as they run their courses after work (and I work in Willis Street!) however at $200 it’s a matter of factoring it in with everything else in the budget.

7. Make a pavlova – Done!

I tried this one out on some mates for a pre-Christmas get together and though it wasn’t perfect, it was delicious! Read all about it here. 

8. Read a book a month – On track

I’m currently reading my 12th book for the year so I’m on track to finish this one in time. I didn’t end up reading all the books I’d initially put on my list but I’m still ticking off 12 books in 12 months so I think you’ll forgive me for a bit of poetic licence there. You can read my reviews for the books I’ve already completed in the links below

    1. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    2. I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban
    3. I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou
    4. Jobs by Walter Isaacson 
    5. The Little Prince by by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    6. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 
    7. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
    8. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
    9. Bossypants – Tina Frey
    10. Shantaram by Gregory David Robert
    11. Stuffication – James Wallman
    12. The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (Currently Reading)

9. Drink a whole bottle of red wine – On track

Why I put down a whole bottle of red wine, I’m not entirely sure. I’m not much of a red wine person but I think I should try and develop my pallet. There are still a few bottles of red wine sitting in the cupboard leftover from our wedding just over a year ago, so I’m confident I can tick this one off in the next 8 weeks.

10. Attempt paddle boarding – Done!

You can read all about how I gave SUPing a go here

11. Spend one day/weekend being technology free – Probably achievable

So despite spending 5 whole days on a tropical island in Fiji, I still somehow did not manage to stay away from my phone or some piece of technology for a whole day (sad but true). So now I’m going to have to make it harder for myself by doing that in NZ. Clearly I can’t do it during the week so some weekend between now and June will see me off my computer, phone, camera and kobo for the whole day.

12. Watch a movie and its sequel back-to-back – Done!

I spent a rainy husband-free weekend indulging in the Harry Potter movies back to back for a whole weekend. You can read about it here.

13. Make a friend outside of my normal friend circles – Debatable

Making random friends when you’re an adult is harder than it sounds (well it is for me anyway), so I’ve not had much luck with this one (though I’ve not actively tried many things either to be honest). I joined a bunch of Meet Up groups that looked interesting but that’s about as far as it went to be honest. We’ll see what I can do in the next 8 weeks!

14. Complete a Whole30 – Done!

You can read my review of eating real whole food for 30 days here.

15. Buy an DSLR camera – Done!

I managed to get a 1000D Canon for a really good price and might be able to upgrade to a 600D Canon off another friend soon. You can read my initial post about it here.

16. Complete a DSLR course to learn how to use the camera properly – I’ve made a start

I’ve not really blogged about this one yet, but I managed to get a e-book about the basics of using an SLR camera off a friend and I’ve been looking into what options there are out there in terms of courses. I had hoped to go to a night photography course that was on here in Wellington but sadly bad weather meant that it got postponed to a weekend I was out of town.

I’ve found a place called Three Little Wishes that do a full day Saturday course in Wellington for $185. I need to do a bit more research to see what else is out there but I think I’d prefer a one day crash course rather than an 8 week one by the Community Colleges in town.

Does anyone have any other suggestions on beginners photography courses?

17. Master making a cheesecake – Done!

I feed this to some unsuspecting friends at a Christmas dinner party and they approved so it can’t have been all bad! Read about it here.

18. Set out professional goals and make steps to reach them – Done!

So I’m going to be sly and call this one completed. I’ve been helping to implement a new HR information system for the past year and I recently signed on as a permanent member on the team (I had been on secondment for the past year). It wasn’t a decision I made lightly, however I’ve learnt so much over the past year and I think this will be a good direction to head in for the future. So I’m officially a People Systems Analyst! This basically means that (as part of a team) I help to look after and support any systems impacting on our people such as the recruiting system and this new HR information system. There is still so much to do and so much to learn that I know I won’t be twiddling my thumbs at all!

19. Donate blood – Done!

This was one of the first things I completed as part of my #Yearof30 and you can read all about it here.

20. Go to Bay of Islands – (Almost) Done!

We had an amazing adventure being tourists in our own country over summer and I just need to add some photos to the blog, then it will be ready for your reading pleasure!

21. Make Floriditas cheese scones – Partially Completed

So I went to a Pravda cheese scone making course as part of the Wellington on a Plate food festival last year. I still need to actually attempt the Floriditas cheese scone recipe so I’ll have to get baking in the kitchen soon!

22. Complete the Tongariro Crossing – Done!

Yesterday I walked 20km and completed the Tongariro Crossing with some friends. I am certainly sore today but I’ve managed to write up the blog post while it’s fresh in my mind. Once I’ve had the chance to go through my photos and add them to the blog, you’ll be able to read all about how we found one of New Zealand favourite one day treks.

23. Keep a gratitude journal for one year – Slightly dismal attempt

So I started off the year with a hiss and a roar and diligently kept note each night of 3 things that I was grateful for that day in the hopes of being a nicer human being. I was doing really well up until about November, then work go busy and by the end of some very long days, I was grateful just to be going to bed, let alone had the energy to sit and think about what I was grateful for. One week of not writing turned into two, which turned into three and so on. At Christmas my sister gave my husband and myself a gratitude book from Me Inc, and all throughout our amazing summer adventure we wrote down the things we were grateful for (with a lot of my husbands suggestions being “I’m not damp” after days on end of rain!). Back to reality and my long days of work pre-Christmas were nothing like the marathons we put in as we were about to launch our project. When you’re super busy and stressed, it’s hard to think of 3 things that you’re grateful for, when in reality that’s probably when you need to take stock the most!

I’m going to make a real effort to start this back up again from now on.

24. Actually work out 3 times a week – Peaks and troughs of success

This goal was affected by a few different things. I did really well for a while there as training for a 10km race and had a training plan I had to stick to. After giving myself a week off post race, that turned into another because it was really wet. I went through some really intense days at work through various times in the last year when all I could manage was to come home, eat dinner and go to bed to repeat it all over. Then there was the fact that I got bitten by a white tail spider in November and developed a reaction that covered the most part of my thigh and left me on antibiotics for 8 weeks. Over the Christmas break, a friend and I decided we’d jump on the “Kayla Movement” and try to follow her Bikini Body Guide workouts. That lasted all of about 3 weeks because then I was back to crazy working hours for the most part of January and into February. Now that I’ve locked myself in for this half marathon on 14th May, I’m sticking to a training plan that involved working out 5 days a week. So wins and losses with this one.

25. Lose between 5kg – 10kg by my 31st birthday – Yeah nahhhhh

So unless something miraculous happens in the next 8 weeks, I don’t think this is going to happen in a sustainable way. I mean, I could just eat barely anything for a few weeks and I’m sure I could drop about 5kgs but I’d no doubt pile it all back on again in no time. I want to try and make some sustainable changes that will be lifestyle changes rather than a crash diet. I’d hoped that working out 3 times a week would help with this goal but it hasn’t really happened, and the fact that I eat a lot of chocolate and drink V when I’m stressed and busy did NOT help the situation. So while I’m not going to discount this happening in the next 8 weeks, I think realistically the chance of this happening is not in my favour at the moment.

26. Volunteer for a charity – Done!

I helped out with the Breast Cancer Street Appeal and you can read all about it here.

27. Go on a first aid course – Debatable

This is another money factor one. I had looked at doing the first aid course run by the Red Cross but it’s $150…which I know in the scheme of saving a life is nothing….but I have to factor it in with the other bits and pieces that I’ve got on this list as well as general life bills etc (like finding out I had to get glasses). If anyone knows of a cheaper one in Wellington – feel free to let me know!

28. Dine at Charley Nobles – Done!

We managed to tick this one off during Wellington on a Plate – read all about it here.

29. Go to Somes Island – Planned

I need to just get this one done. I was waiting for Paul to finish cricket as he’s keen to go check it out as well so I’m hoping to get visit on Saturday morning this weekend as the weather is meant to be quite good. So I’ll update you all once I’ve checked it out

30. Compete the Skyline walk – Planned

The same friends we did the Tongariro Crossing with had also been planning to do the Skyline walk so I’ve jumped on their plans and we’ll hopefully be walking it over the Easter weekend. 

 

So to recap that all, my tally is at:

Completed – 15

Planned/Likely to complete – 8

Attempted with variable success – 3

Unlikely to complete at this stage – 4

 

So not great but it could be worse right? Do you have any suggestions on how I can achieve the things that are on my dubious/unlikely to complete list? I’m open to suggestions!

Year of 30: In the land of Mordor

The Tongariro National Park is not only New Zealand’s oldest national park but is also a World Heritage Site, including the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Ruapehu. This all helps to make the Tongariro Alpine Crossing a world-renowned trek and New Zealand’s most popular one day trek.

The fact that it was used in the Lord of the Rings movies has no doubt only added to it’s popularity with both locals and tourists alike. To give you an example, the following were in some of the scenes that were captured for the Lord of the Rings trilogy:

Mt Ngauruhoe
Mt Ngauruhoe was digitally altered to appear as Mt Doom.  Mt Ngauruhoe is a featur of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Climbers with suitable mountaineering gear and experience can trek to the summit.

Iwikau Village, Whakapapa Ski Area
The maze of razor-sharp rocks, cliffs and ravines of Emyn Muil is located behind Aorangi Lodge.

Mangawhero Falls
Ithilien Camp was filmed near Mangawhero Falls.

Tukino Ski Area
Mordor/Door of Sammath Naur slopes of Mt Doom Barren Waste Lands Sea of Boulders.

Rangipo Desert
Mordor/Blackgate, the orc army scenes.

It’s an iconic New Zealand walk but one that I’d never done before, so I thought that made it worthy of the #Yearof30 list. Many people have done this either because they go tramping with friends or family, or they’ve done it through school. I’d never been that keen on geography and though our family did the odd tramp here and there, we were never really true trampers.

When I was talking with some friends, Kylie and Justin, they mentioned they were keen to do the crossing as well so we vowed to do it together. The only catch was that they were getting married in March 2016 and we didn’t want anyone rolling an ankle and not being able to walk down the aisle. So with their wedding and honeymoon over, we decided to just book it as we didn’t want to leave it too long as crampons are required if you’re going to go in winter (not to mention it gets a lot colder up the top!).

After booking ourselves a cute little A-frame house and a shuttle, and with a half day’s leave booked to head up there, we were all set!

The weather wasn’t looking too flash when we made the booking but thankfully as we got closer to the weekend the weather improved, from all day rain to just the occasional shower possible. After sufficiently loading up with snacks and supplies, we tried to get an early night as it was going to be a very early start the next day.

We were up just after 5:30am and on the road not long after 6:30am. We eventually managed to find the secure car park at the end of the crossing where we’d booked to leave the car in for the day (though the instructions didn’t really help the situation!), grabbed a map and made the Mount Shuttle that was going to take us to the starting point.

Map

We took the opportunity to have a quick pee break before starting out on the trail with a full bus load of other walkers. The first part of the trail isn’t too bad with a fairly flat section to walk, or just a slight incline. At one point we were going up quite a few sets of stairs and Kylie was wondering if this was the “Devil’s Staircase” that we’d heard about. How wrong we were…..! As we came to the second toilet stop about an hour later, we looked up and realised how wrong we were as we saw a massive trail of walkers trekking up a very steep zig-zag of stairs!

We took the opportunity to have a quick break and a snack of dark chocolate to give us a boost for the Devil’s Staircase ahead. I’ll admit that I had to take a few stops here and there as the stairs really took a toll on my lungs (the higher altitude, asthma and generally being unfit!) but at least I wasn’t as bad as a few people along the track loudly wondering why on earth they’d agreed to do the trek in the first place! We eventually made it to the top and thankfully were rewarded with a long stretch of flat which unfortunately was very very misty though it no doubt made for some cool shots for those with the skills.

After resting our legs with the flat for a while, we were back on the incline and scrambled our way up a steeper section, before seeing that it wasn’t the end as there was an even steeper section ahead. The camera went back in the bag when we heard that the section ahead was so steep that a chain was attached to the side of the rock! After making our way up the steeper section, we soon saw that it got steeper still and yes there was a chain bolted into the side of the rock to help you clamber up.

Justin - B+W

Photo Credit: Justin Marriner

The next section was bitter sweet for some, as it was downhill (yay!) but was purely shingle scree (eek!). This means that it’s basically very loose rock debris on a very steep slope. For those who were up for it, they were able to just go for it and pace down the slope siding as they went. Since I’ve torn the ligaments in both my ankles, I was a little more cautious and managed to slide my way down the slope without injuring anything which was good! At the bottom of the slope we would have been greeted with the sight of two of the crater lakes, had the mist not been so heavy and low. We used this as our lunch stop and happily tucked into the our ham and cheese buns but didn’t linger for too long as Kylie’s water bladder and leaked all over her top and we were keen to get moving to keep warm (it was about 2 degrees up that high).

From here on out it was mainly downhill with the odd rise here and there. Thankfully the downward section of the crossing is the largest section, so we were mainly heading down well formed paths which meant it was a great time to chat away as we could all actually breathe AND talk, and we didn’t have to worry quite so much about where we were walking. Unfortunately the knee injury Paul had while in Spain reared it’s head again and as the downward kms increased, so did the pain in his knee. While the paths weren’t as much of an issue, each step shot pain through his knee with some worse than others (and occasionally accompanied by a yelp of pain).

Before too long we were at the Ketetahi Hut, where we were finally below the mist and cloud and could see the stunning views of the Lake Rotoaira and across to Lake Taupo. We took the opportunity to take a few snaps and another snack before starting the last two hours down to the car park. This part of the track is well marked and fairly flat so some walkers took the opportunity to make up time and run. It made a pleasant change that the sun was on our faces and we all ended up removing a few layers as we were way too hot now that we were at a lower level. At certain points it was quite narrow and we even crossed a few rivers (both via bridge and good old rock jumping) before coming into a more bushy area that was similar to what you might see walking up Mt Kaukau.

19.4km later and 6 hours, 58 minutes and 27 seconds from when we started, we finally came out into the car park at the base of the crossing. We had a further 750m to walk to our secure carpark (taking our total walk to over 20kms) and managed to clock up a staggering 39,231 steps over the entire day (though there is some debate as to the accuracy of our fitbits given the large difference between Kylie’s and my own!).

It was SO good to be able to sit down and take in the amazing adventure we’d just had. We were all pretty proud of having to knocked the bastard off!

We were amazed by the sheer number of people that were completing the crossing (including at least one school group from St Bernards) and we wondered how incredibly busy it must be during the summer months. It’s great that there are so many people experiencing this spectacular scenery but I do wonder if it would be a slightly nicer experience with slightly less people around.

We headed back to Ohakune for a well earned hot shower and a drink! By now, the sore muscles were starting to well and truely kick in and Paul’s injury was getting worse (cue phone consult from my borther-in-law who just happens to be a physio – thanks Ryan!). We decided to flag going out for dinner in favour of making something quick and easy at the cabin, staying in our comfy trackies, drinking and celebrating in comfort.

It’s nice to be able to say we’ve completed this iconic New Zealand walk and we’ve resolved to try and get out and about in to nature a bit more in the future than we have been.

Have you done the Tongariro Crossing before? What was your experience like?

 

Year of 30: Shantaram

Shantaram is a book that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time but it’s size, at 936 pages long, has always put me off. That’s the thing with Kobos (or Kindles or whatever electronic reader you’re into), you just don’t realise exactly how big a book is until you’re still reading it weeks later.

Shantaram

Having finally finished Shantaram, I can safely say that all 936 are well worth it!

The book is based primarily on the author’s own life story (though there is some debate about certain facts) and as a reader you’re transported into the crazy hectic world of Bombay, as we follow his story as a fugitive on the run after escaping from an Australian jail. Bombay instantly captures his imagination (and eventually his heart) as he learns to find his way around the city thanks to his guide (and soon close friend) Prabaker who renames him Lin or Linbaba. At the beginning of the story he spends time in a local village – where he is given a Maharashtrian name Shantaram which means Man of God’s peace. A change in circumstances sees him forced to live in the slums, eventually setting up a free health clinic and his true appreciation of India and the Indian people starts. In the slums he becomes fluent in the local language Marathi, learns and comes to appreciate the customs and culture of the local people, all of which endears him to the local Maharashtrian population (and proves extremely helpful) in Bombay.

Linbaba soon becomes infamous in Bombay and the events of the story see him involved with the local Mafia and eventually ending up in Pakistan in the middle of a war.

This book had me gripped from the very beginning and I found myself taking my Kobo to work to read over my lunch breaks as I was so eager to see where Lin’s story ended up with it’s many twists and turns. There are some very interesting quotes that came out of the book and I found a few of them online:

The power to endure

This quotes can apply to multiple situations in the book – the powerlessness of the poor in the slums, who endure so many hardships such as their simple houses being routinely wiped out by authorities yet they immediately start rebuilding them with whatever they have. Or it could refer to Lin’s experiences in prisons in both Australia and Bombay where he is tortured by authorities but somehow finds the spirit to endure and continue on.

At a certain point during his torture in a notorious Bombay jail, Lin realised that he still had the power to either forgive or hate his torturers, and in choosing to forgive them, he realised it gave him a certain sense of freedom.

Freedom

During the story, Lin has many philosophical discussions with one of the Mafia bosses, which resulted in many interesting ideas. Lin also realised along his journey many different truths to life about possibility, fate, love, luck and courage.

If you have not read Shantaram yet, I implore you to do so. It gives you such a rich impression of life in Bombay with a gripping tale that will keep you captive and wanting more until the very end…

Staying up all night

If you’ve read Shantaram in the past and are keen to find out what Lin gets up to, you might be interested to know that there is now a sequel out called The Mountain Shadow – which picks up two years on from where Shantaram left off. You can find it here on Book Depository which ships worldwide for free.