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.

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

Day 8 – 15 of #WalkNZ part 2 – The Richmond Ranges

20200116_105034I can confirm that:

Deep Heat does not deter sandflies; mice seem to have the magic skills of getting into a closed backpack to eat my peanuts; I have a selective memory of how hard the uphills are in the Richmond Ranges; five days warm up walking the Queen Charlotte Track is not sufficient for taking on “proper” mountains; a trail outlined on a topo map does not mean it is a trail that has been used recently; I love ridgeline tracks.

I know I already walked the Richmond Ranges last season – the most demanding section of the Te Araroa trail in New Zealand due to its 8-10 days between civilisation points and ridiculously high mountains and exceptionally steep and exposed descents – so technically I didn’t really need to walk it again.

But the first four days from Pelorus Bridge were so lovely last year that I really wanted to experience it all over again. Continue reading

Day 126 of #WalkNZ: Injury in the Nelson Lakes

20190307_080159It’s funny how long-distance walking undulates mentally as much as the mountains and hills that I hike along the Te Araroa trail.

Last week, I was ecstatic that I’d completed eight days in New Zealand wilderness in the demanding Richmond Ranges in the South Island.

This week, I have a dark cloud hanging over me after having to turn back and bail from the Nelson Lakes after poor weather and injury struck. Continue reading

Days 90-92 of #WalkNZ: The Tararua mountain range

20190203_085651I stood and stared at the squelchy pool of brown mud in front of me, a mixed look of disbelief and annoyance probably etched across my face.

“Really! I mean really,” I said out loud, to no one in particular. “Not more mud,” I moaned. #WalkNZ was quickly becoming #WalkMuddyNZ.

Here I was on the Tararua mountain range section of the 3,000km Te Araroa hiking trail down the length of New Zealand and yet again I was looking at a vast heap of wet, boot and soul-destroying mud.

“I’m in the fricken mountains,” I thought. “There’s not supposed to be any mud.”

I guessed this was another memo about the trail I had missed. Continue reading

Volcano number 12: The last-minute volcano

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After a wet day with thoroughly uninviting views, we awoke in the little French town of Mandailles to what promised to be better weather. There were pockets of blue in the sky (hurrah!) and while the tops of the higher mountains were still shrouded in cloud it looked like it was only lingering like a bad smell.

Today was to be our last day of our three-day hike along a section of the GR400 route in France’s Auvergne region. So far, we had been buffeted by gale force winds in an almighty thunderstorm, my hiking companion’s tent had nearly blown off the side of the mountain, and we had climbed two volcanoes as part of my #40by40 quest to climb 40 volcanos by the age of 40.

Today’s aim was to take on two more volcanoes – including the immediate region’s highest peak Plomb du Cantal. Continue reading

4 reasons I love Snowdonia

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Photo credit: Matt Cripsey

There is nothing like getting out of the big city and into the countryside – goodbye car exhausts and concrete jungle, hello fresh air, mountains and adventure.

Getting away from the noise and bright lights and reconnecting with nature is one of my favourite ways to de-stress and reboot.

And what better place to do that than Snowdonia National Park in Wales.   Continue reading

Volcano number 9: The boggy volcano (part 2)

[Read part one of boggy volcano here]

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Day two of my ninth volcano, walking across the Cheviot Hills in England’s Northumberland National Park, and we were off. The rain of yesterday was gone, replaced by a gentle frost and lashings of lush sunshine. Now this was more like it.

My walking boots were still sodden from yesterday’s dismal weather and bog-hopping. Pulling on my cold, stinky, sopping socks that morning had given me shivers. I’d held the offending items at arm’s length, nose wrinkled, viewing them with contempt, before plunging my feet into their soggy centres. I admit, a whimper had escaped my lips.

But now, as we tramped uphill, my feet felt toasty – or as toasty as wet feet can feel. The second day of our adventure across the volcanically formed Cheviot Hills was to take us from Barrowburn back to Wooler via some summits. The original plan had been to include a few more summits but going on the day before’s poor time-keeping (and my poor fitness), I decided to scrap some that were more out of the way. Thus, our route was more direct.

Of course, that wasn’t taking into account the possibility of getting lost – and get lost we did. Continue reading

An adventure into the New Zealand wilderness

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We arrived in St Arnaud, in New Zealand’s Nelson Lakes, to persistent drizzle and a grey cloud that hung in the air and made driving difficult. It wasn’t a great start to a three-day walk into New Zealand’s wilderness, and a real mood-dampener considering the bad luck we had already had with the inclement Kiwi weather.

The blood-sucking sandflies – infamous in the South Island’s Nelson Lakes region – were also out in force, driving my friend Julia into her tent in the wake of their bloodlust. The shower of insect repellent she sprayed in the cramped confines of her tent resulted in a dramatic coughing fit and the near expulsion of a lung.

The adventure was going swimmingly!  Continue reading