Volcano number 23: The private volcano

April 2020 was spent in a yellow motel room in the small tourist town Te Anau in New Zealand. That first Covid lockdown put paid to my #WalkNZ adventure – just seven days from the finish line in Bluff.

Once things opened up in New Zealand, and the rest of the world was still on pause, my partner Mark and I did a tiki tour of the North Island.

And I climbed volcano number 23 in my #40by40 challenge.

Mt Tarawera.   

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Learning to sail – the baptism-by-fire way

I can count on one hand the number of times I have been on a sailboat – and that’s with chopping two of my fingers off.

I know nothing about boats. I can’t remember port from starboard, stern from bow, gybe from tact (opps I mean tack).

I have no idea if I get seasick.

The toilet is a bucket with a toilet seat, the contents of which I have to chuck over the side of the boat.

There is currently nowhere to decently wash my hands and I don’t do dirty hands.

And dirty hands are part and parcel of sailing – disgusting, wet, dirty, muddy, mouldy ropes wherever you look. As well as large, copious amounts of gluggy bird poo. Yuck!

So, when my partner Mark, who has been sailing for 20 years, bought a new boat recently, I was suddenly introduced to a whole new and scary world.

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Ten things I learnt walking Hadrian’s Wall Path

A couple of weeks ago, I trod the Hadrian’s Wall Path in northern England from the east coast to the west coast. All 135km (84 miles) of it, walked in six days, passing through two cities, Newcastle and Carlisle, and following sections of ancient wall that had been built some 2,000 years ago to keep the marauding northerners out. It’s a walk I’ve wanted to do since I first arrived in the UK 15 years ago so to finally get round to doing it was pretty incredible.

Here are 10 things I learnt:

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Days 72-80 of #WalkNZ Part 2 – The arrival of winter, the Takitimu mountains and coronavirus

20200317_162611We left Queenstown early but not early enough to miss hearing that the tourist city had its first coronavirus case. 

I couldn’t get into the mountains and away from people fast enough.

And so my boyfriend and I headed for the New Zealand wilderness, moving further south, getting closer to the finish line.

But there was a chill in the air. (No, I don’t mean coronavirus). Continue reading

Days 66-70 of #WalkNZ part 2 – The Motatapu Track

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Calves screamed.

Lightening strips of pain burned up the back of my legs.

My lungs were in meltdown trying to support my muscles that sucked up the scant oxygen in my blood, while my heart seemed to be in its death throes as it attempted to keep up with the relentless uphill movement of my legs as I inched slowly closer to yet another mountain saddle.

Five mountains over 1000m high in three days. Classic Te Araroa.

And oh man, it hurt.

To say I underestimated the Motatapu Track is an understatement. Continue reading

Days 57-63 of #WalkNZ part 2 – Ahuriri River and the Breast Hill Track

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Sometimes the Te Araroa throws everything at you. 

Hot, cold, sun, rain, uphill, downhill, stunning views, monotonous boredom, walking like a machine, hobbling and in pain. Wet underpants.

That was this section.

Seven days. Demanding. Challenging.

Totally worth it.

But it didn’t start well.

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Days 45-55 of #WalkNZ part 2 – The Clent Hills, Two Thumbs Range & Te Araroa’s highest point

20200219_140531I have now walked just more than half of the South Island of New Zealand on part 2 of #WalkNZ. 

More than 650km.

Woozers!

That explains why the tread on my shoes is looking a little bald and why I’m now slightly obsessed with food.

The past 10 days have provided some of the best highlights of the trail – wild West country and the greatest sense of remoteness so far, super wild camping spots, the highest point on the Te Araroa trail, a stunning ridgeline walk with views to New Zealand’s tallest mountain Mt Cook, and a 55km bike ride. Continue reading

Days 38-43 of #WalkNZ part 2 – The Deception Track and the boyfriend’s rude introduction to Te Araroa

“So, what did you make of your first six days on the Te Araroa Trail?” I asked my boyfriend, who had newly flown in from the UK and was still suffering the after effects of jetlag. 

“Well, it’s not so much a trail, rather a route,” he mused.

“The terrain is much wilder than I anticipated and the landscapes are vast. It feels like there’s a sense of being the first people to walk here because the path is non-existent, the route marking is quite frankly at times invisible. It doesn’t feel like you’re on a well-defined trail that thousands of people have walked. This feels more remote. There is an enormous sense of space.”

He added: “Walking uphill and down hill isn’t the most demanding bit. It’s the bit where you have to plan ahead for the river crossings because of the weather, and even some of the shallower river crossings can still be dangerous. The road walking, with its hard surface, is draining and monotonous – it’s more a mental challenge than a physical challenge. On occasion you have to do a long day to move ahead of a weather system or to find water. Progress can be slow like when you’re boulder hopping, it requires a lot of balance, concentration and endurance. But I’m loving it. Except for those flippin sandflies.”

He scratched the hundreds of red spots dotting his calves where the blood-thirsty critters had taken a liking to him.

Yes it had been something of a rude introduction to the Te Araroa Trail.

Within a six-day time frame we’d condensed the main aspects of what the trail was all about – uphill, down hill, mountains, forests, the good, the bad and the ugly. Continue reading

Days 26-29 of #WalkNZ part 2 – River Crossings

20200201_105412I’m currently sitting in a warm and cosy backpackers in the tiny alpine village of Arthur’s Pass. 

Outside the wind is howling, angrily shaking trees and threatening to tear the roof off the backpackers while thick sheets of rain move down the road in waves.

Some 75mm of rain is forecast here today with wind gusts up to 100km per hour.

Further south and to the west, almost 500mm of rain has fallen, there are landslips, roads have been closed, rivers totally flooded, walkers evacuated from other trails. Continue reading

Day 17-23 of #WalkNZ part 2 – Nelson Lakes and Waiau Pass

20200122_130127I did it.

I finally reached the official 2,000km mark on the Te Araroa trail down the length of New Zealand. 

Woo-fricken-hoo!

Yeah, it’s only six months later than anticipated after injuring my knee last season and having to pull out of my #WalkNZ adventure a mere 20km shy of the 2,000km mark.

But to finally get there after all the strife and mental and physical battles of the last six months is simply epic.

I’ve now walked into unknown territory. Continue reading