Monday 11th December 2017
Today we are journeying South via the Interislander Ferry for what is described as one of the most beautiful ferry cruises in the world. Got to be accurate! Taking in the beautiful sights of Cook Strait as we made our way from Wellington to Picton, I thoroughly enjoyed the 3 hour sailing to travel the 92km to reach the South Island.
The time on the ferry passed very quickly, so much in the way of amazing scenery to enjoy from the windows, and before I knew it, we had arrived.
Straight from the ferry on to a shiny new Kiwi bus awaiting our arrival, we drove from Picton to Nelson with a stop off on route for the supermarket and lunch.
Our destination for today was Kaiteriteri right by Abel Tasman National Park. Stunning beaches and sunshine galore, everything was right on our doorstep and the agenda for tonight was to enjoy the beach for a few hours before dinner. My plan, as soon as we got off the bus, get the runners on, go train, then join the others to chill on the beach…perfect post-run recovery dip in the ocean and chillax reward motivation all rolled in to one. An easy 30 minutes @ 9.20 pace around the streets and bike trails of Little Kitereriteri and although a hilly route, my legs were feeling great.
Tuesday 12th December 2017
Early alarm set for a pre-breakfast fasted progression session along the same route as the day before…all of the hills! And rather toasty, but I’m certainly not complaining. Warm weather training is the way forward! I genuinely feel lucky every single day to put on my running shoes on. And happy. To run and explore all of these beautiful new places, I’ll NEVER take it for granted.
Shower and breakfast back at the lodge before heading back to the beach to enjoy some more of the sunshine seeing as we weren’t leaving until mid morning to head for Westport.
Lunch stop at the gorgeous Nelson Lakes and a dip in the lake for some to enjoy a swim with the eels!
We reached Westport at around 4.00pm, arriving at our stop for the night, Bazil’s hostel. The usual daily trip to the supermarket followed by a bus strong game of rounders across in the local park. Brilliant fun.
Tea tonight was a bit of a nightmare…everyone and their granny trying to make dinner at the same time in the tiniest of spaces and really how long does it take to boil a pot of water? All night apparently! After an hour I lost patience and ended up with my ‘go to stand by’; toast, peanut butter and banana.
Westport is the tiniest of villages with very little to do. What it does have though, is a strong nightlife scene; the grand total of two old men’s pubs, complete with sticky floors and local ales, where word has it, the locals are involved in some of the fiercest fought, never-ending pool tournaments you’ll ever see. I’m sure they must have been delighted to have a cheerleading committee in the form of the Kiwi bus rock up to offer our support. Friendly banter at its finest and all of the giggles.
Wednesday 13th December 2017
This mornings walking route took in the beautiful Cape Foulwind with another stop at Pancakes Rocks walkway for a coffee and lunch stop, where we learned from Tim about the perfect tuna to salad ratio for the ultimate in satisfactory wrap etiquette…had to be there moment.
Tonight we were staying at the Kiwi-renowned Lake Mahinapua Hotel, a family run county pub famous for its legendary (and daily) fancy dress parties. A theme is usually agreed by the passengers and for our stay, birthday girls, Nicole and Kim made the suggestions of ‘Christmas’ and ‘Anything but Clothes’, the final decision being made by the driver to combine the two. We had a lightbulb moment of the perfect group entry, recreating the Nativity scene. Being the birthday girl, Nicole was to be the baby Jesus and I was rather excited not to be missing out on the annual production at school!
Naturally (jokes), I had been chosen to take on the role of the Angel Gabriel. Now just the small matter of organising ones costume…Where are Mrs Steele and Mrs Stokes when I need them? A planned stop off in Greymouth with charity shops galore and a $2 shop would see us right. Nicole and I headed straight for the Salvation Army Shop where I managed to get 2 white sheets for 50c… bargain! And then a moment of pure genius… and sheer hilarity. A little second hand baskinette (on wheels!) was on sale by the counter… what else could baby Jesus possibly make his/ her grand entrance in? The lady sold it for a steal of a price, complete with blankets thrown in…no manger, no problem!
I laughed so, so much at the sight of us pushing this basket first around the streets, and then around the supermarket. The look on the bus drivers face when we arrived back was a cross between great amusement and where on earth do you think I’m going to put this? Still no point on half an effort, right? I think my CJPS buddies would have been proud!
All checked in, dinner in the form of the most delicious roast pork complete with all the trimmings and then it was time to get ready. Although fancy dress isn’t always my favourite, really just because I’m not very creative at coming up with ideas, the party was so much fun…a really carry on from beginning to end and everyone fully embraced the theme, getting right in to the Christmas spirit, in more ways than one!
And what do you know?…The Nativity only went and won one of the prizes for best costume!
The Virgin Mary ready for her make over...
Thursday 14th December 2017
First stop of the day at Lake Mapourika, beautiful views, skimming stones and much needed coffee and second breakfast stop for most!
Today we were bound for Franz Joseph, trying to keep everything crossed for clear weather for tomorrow’s adventures. A short day of driving, we arrived just after lunch time and decided a walk in the Franz Joseph Valley would be good fun. That way if the hike didn’t go ahead, we will at least have made it to see the glacier. A lovely and fairly easy trek to the base of the glacier along the Waiho River where the views were just incredible.
Afterwards I had to make up some training time and pretty much ran back the route we had walked to make up an easy 70 minutes as part of a longer run.
One thing combining travelling and training has forced me to do, should I say learn, is to be more flexible and maybe a little kinder to myself. Sometimes as runners, we are so focussed on ‘the plan’ and what we ‘should’ be doing because that’s what the plan says, ultimately becoming a slave to it. In the early days of working with Tom, I would get really annoyed or angry at myself if I had to miss a session for whatever reason, thinking any kind goals and targets are immediately out of reach and it’s all because of that easy 10km I missed on the 12th of never, 451 weeks before the race and I’d feel ridiculously guilty about it.
Now I realise, and maybe part of this is down to becoming just a little bit more experienced and having better understanding of my training, that missing the odd session because of taking part in an exciting activity or because I’m spending the whole day on a bus to journey to a new place is not going to jeopardise the overall progress of my training. Yes, of course it will if I’m doing it day after day after day but I’ve made a little peace with the fact that it’s not going to make me lose any overall fitness if my plans have to be tweaked to accommodate these adventures. And that said, other than travel days, nine times out of ten, these adventures usually involve some kind of physical activity anyway. Ironically, I think flexibility is going to be the key to consistency.
This evening, family tea and tele time with some very yummy chocolate cake courtesy of the birthday girl!
Friday 15th December 2017
What a day!…The ultimate ‘Once in a lifetime’ adventure.
An early check in with Franz Joseph Glacier Guides, praying the weather would hold out for us to be given the green light for take off. Medical checklists, safety briefings, the usual compulsory health and safety mumbo jumbo and still, at any moment our trip could be a no-go if the weather changed.
Kitted out in the finest of gear; waterproofs, hiking boots, walking poles, not forgetting the crampons! Due to weight restrictions in the chopper, we were not allowed to carry our own backpacks but had to use the trendy bum bags given by our guide, Ellie.
A short walk to the helipad to board the helicopter waiting to take us on the most amazing flight over the jaw-dropping landscape of the glacier below. I did manage to get some pretty incredible pictures but they still just don’t do it justice.
Stepping on to the glacier, slightly slippy until we got the crampons on (easier said than done…quite a technique to them) before Ellie took us on the most amazing three hour hike, teaching us lots about the glacier and it’s formation along the way. We had been told back at the offices that if the weather changed at any time, we may have to leave the glacier early but we were hoping that really wouldn’t happen.
Ellie was always at the front, choosing the best of routes and chipping away at the ice with her axe on the little ice staircases to make it easier (and safer) for us amateurs.
Not to be stating the obvious, but the views were absolutely breath-taking. Like something right out of Frozen! (Predictable…but hard to resist). Just your average Friday, standing on a glacier with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and stunning, pristine blue ice. Im not sure how many times we said, “how lucky are we?” and it was important just to stop for a minute, catch your breath and take it all in. Views I’ll never ever forget.
Photos galore and the time just seemed to fly by. It was time to come down from the glacier all too soon. The short flight back to the town of Franz Joseph. The early start meant it was still reasonably early, so still being on a high, we decided we would go out for breakfast to round off what was the most amazing way to spend a morning.
As part of the Heli Hike, we received entry to the pools at the glacier hot springs. A lovey way to relax in the afternoon post-hike, still feeling a little surreal as to what we just did this morning.
And just to round off what has been one of the best days ever, family BBQ for tea back at the hostel; the most delicious of steaks with blue cheese and salad courtesy of chef Rob. Yum Yum! Travel tip, chip in on group meals. It means you can all share the cooking and costs for what usually works out to be a super tasty and cheap way of eating a ‘proper meal’ for dinner. Then tea time took a festive turn tonight with mince pies on the menu! Our wee rota is working a treat!
Friday 15th December…the day we took a helicopter to hike the magnificent Franz Joseph Glacier…and a day I’ll never forget.
Saturday 16th December 2017
Wawh, I think we still need a little time to take in the adventures from yesterday, but nope, on the road again and on to the next adventure. Next stop, Wanaka.
Time for a little reflection…We stopped at the beautiful Lake Matheson for our morning walk, taking in the refections of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the water before another stop after lunch at Thunder Creek Waterfall…quite amazing. This country (and nature itself) really does blow you away sometimes.
As we neared Wanaka, we made a quick photo stop at Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. I swear, every time you think you have seen the best view, you stop somewhere else. It just gets better and better.
Wanaka is the most peaceful of towns. Some lovely local shops and a beaut of an ice cream shop we just happened to stumble across when we went for a walk in the evening to take in the views of the lake during sunset.
Sunday 17th December 2017
The most glorious start to the day. Super early alarm to fit in long run part one in Wanaka this morning before we set off at 9am. 45 minutes along the most beautiful roads, just me and the sunrise. Afterwards I stopped of at the New Zealand version of Greggs to buy a coffee and took it to the lake. Stretch and enjoy the view. What a start to the day. Part two to be completed later.
Today our destination was Queenstown, international reputation as the adventure capital of the world and I was excited!
It wasn’t too long of a driving day so we had a quite a long stop this morning, where the options were to visit Puzzling World or take a hike up Mt Iron. Nicole, Tim and I opted for the latter and I’m glad we did. 360 degree views of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps, glorious followed by all of the healthy snacks when we stopped at Mrs Jones’s Fruit Store. Local grown fruit and veggies to load up the bodies with goodness ahead of the possible havoc that might commence in Queenstown.
We stopped for lunch today at Kawarau Bridge, an A.J Hackett bungy Centre, the worlds first commercial bungy and our first introduction to some of the extreme sports and adrenaline rushes on offer in this part of the country.
Long run part two in the form of 60 minutes including 4 x 10 minutes @ NYC Marathon pace with two minutes recovery in between before the infamous kiwi-crawl in the evening.
Monday 18th December 2017
Rest day vibes spent coffeeing, refuelling at Balls and Bangles, an amazing shop all about crazy donuts and the most delicious sweet and savoury bagels (that just so happened to be perfectly located on our doorstep), souvenir shopping and beaching.
A grand way to spend a Monday!
Tuesday 19th December 2017
60 minutes steady run today, target pace 9:15 and the most beautiful trail loop firstly taking in Sunshine Bay and then along the lakeside and through Queenstown Garden. Unfortunately no photographs but trust me when I say it was another beaut spot to stretch the legs.
Today was the last day that the ‘family’ would all be together. So making the most of the time, this afternoons activities included Frisbee Golf. Of course we had picked the windiest of days to play this game. It is played much the same as golf, with similar rules (if you’re taking it really seriously) tees and targets. There were 18 holes and frisbees are throw at the target chain baskets with much care being taken with each throw that there are no high-risk moving targets in the form of pedestrians or woofers to get in the way. Lots of fun, although Nicole and I decided after 9 holes we’d leave the boys to thrash out the title of champion as donuts from the bagel shop were calling. We were very good though and split one between us, even although we probably picked the most rich and indulgent one on the menu….Ferraro Rocher…mmm mmm mmm!
And even more indulgence (I’ve had to make peace with the fact that Queenstown is going to be a few days lacking the healthy choices) in the form of dinner at the internationally renowned Fergburger. Opened 23 hours a day, where there is a queue and around an hour wait from ‘order to eat time’ regardless of the time of day but a Queenstown ‘must do’. Was it worth the wait?….Yes! Every bite!
Wednesday 20th December 2017
Milford Sound….magnificent, beautiful, breath taking, sublime (you get the idea) Milford Sound. More or less a full day of exploring this amazing place with some great stops along the way.
First up coffee stop in the little town, Te Anau. Coffee with a side of Alpachas! Very random, but very cool. More stop offs at the amazing mirror Mirror Lakes, Homer Tunnel and the Chasm.
Once we got to Milford, we got on a catamaran style boat for a 90 minute cruise that took in some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. I do realise I’ve said this more than once in NZ but it just gets better and better. Soaring peaks, waterfalls, rainbows, mountains…nature truly at its finest! And I think I might have taken one of the best photographs I’ve ever snapped with this little rainbow.
Run session: Speed work. 6 sets of 800m at 5K pace (45s rest) 300m hard (90s rest). I’m learning the only way to get faster is to run faster and although I do always have a little bit of dread ahead of these sessions, thinking can I actually do this, I always really enjoy them. I love the challenge. I love the feeling of accomplishment when you’re done, that feeling of knowing you’ve really worked hard and you’re sweaty enough to prove it. Not too mention that even when you’re fully on the pain train, these sessions seem to fly by as you’re engrossed with watching the watch to change the pace as each new block kicks in.
Thursday 21st December 2017
Today marks 8 years since we lost Mum. Eight whole years. Hard to believe. So what is the perfect way to spend the day that will always make me think just a little bit more than usual about how short life is?
The AJ Hackett Nevis Bungy!!!
New Zealand’s highest bungy, a 134m drop, 8.5 second free-fall, suspended by high wires between two canyons…yip, sign me up!
Well I mean if you’re only going to do it once… go big or go home, right? On my ticket, AJ Hackett described the Nevis a little bit like this:
“This is for those who want to take it to the next level, and then another 30 after that. This is the black run. The infamous. The ultimate. Welcome to the best thing you’ve ever done. Go full throttle. Don’t say we didn’t warn you, because this is definitely going to put the cement in your coffee!”
Good grief! Now I understand why they make you sign a waiver!
All aboard the bungy bus! Rob (who was just as daft as me to be doing it too, sorry pal!) and I had to make our way to the centre by the station for lunch time to catch the transfer out to the site. We were most amused by the ‘life or death’ theme select playlist, spirit in the sky, it’s my life and just as we pulled in to make the final turn up the hill, ‘highway to Hell’. Just what we needed to get us in the mood and settle the nerves!
At the top of the hill we can see the little shuttle that takes you back and forth to the jump zone platform. Up until now I have just been excited but the nerves are certainly kicking in now. Harnesses fitted, safety and instruction brief complete, it was now our turn to make our way out to the platform…no going back. Just as we stepped out in to the carriage, we had front row seats to watching someone else bravely make the jump! Wow! Just wow! A man swan dives out off the platform and all we can hear are screams….all the way down and all the way back up. Jeanie Mac, here we go!
Across in the platform the crew were fantastic. One by one they strapped our shoes, added new pieces to our harness and one by one we waited for our turn in the torture chair where your legs are strapped together with one big cuff to stop them flailing around during the jump, and depending how many Fergburgers you’ve worked your way through, the weights and ropes are attached accordingly.
Eminem was playing in the background as it was my turn to shuffle off the seat and make my way to the edge of the platform. I would say this was without a doubt the hardest part. Absolutely everything in your body is telling you to move backwards, yet still we go forward though everything in your instinct says it’s wrong. I’d definitely be lying if I said I wasn’t scared at this point but ridiculously I was somehow a little excited too. Hysteria set in and we shared a brief chat about how if I could run a marathon I could do this. I think the nerves must have been evident on my face and noticing the NY Road Runners logo on my top… distraction techniques.
As we made the last slow few steps out towards the edge of the platform, over went the ropes and my natural reaction was to try and grab the instructors hand…eejiot. No we are going off the platform, Kimberley!
And then before I knew it…3, 2, 1…BBBUUUNNNGGGGY! We had been given the tip by the lady that briefed us that going on the first count down was best…hesitation just makes it harder in the long run. So I was making sure I went on the first count…no hanging around at the top.
I cannot quite find the words to describe what the feeling was like, even the pictures and videos can’t quite do it justice. Keeping my eyes opened, all I could see was the river below coming towards me…and quickly.
First bounce and you spring back up on the rope. Second bounce and on the third bounce you are supposed to bring your legs up and release the harness around your foot by pulling it sharply to the left. This releases your legs, meaning you’re not upside down any more. I’ll be honest, I didn’t exactly feel too comfortable about pulling on any part of my harness when I was dangling on a 134m rope from my ankles. However, I did. Pull, pull and pull again yet still no release. So in the end I had to be the numpty that came back up upside down. You feel quite disorientated from all the swinging around but the adrenaline rush was unreal. Easily one of the scariest things I’ve ever done but just brilliant and if you haven’t tried it, do it!
A post-bungy ‘calm me down’ run session of 45 minutes with stride gave me 5 miles in the legs at 8:57 pace and was the perfect way to put some of my adrenaline overdose to good use.
Getting involved in the biggest adrenaline rush of my life was definitely the perfect way to spend the last day in Queenstown.
Friday 22nd December 2017
The last bagel breakfast and the last full day in New Zealand…how did that happen? I am by no means ready to leave!
Today we journey to what will be my last stop on the kiwi bus, lake Tekapo.
We stopped off in Cromwell for coffee in the morning before the most amazing lunch stop at Lake Pukaki in the afternoon. I could have sat and admired that view all day long!
It was a lovely sunny day so the afternoon was spent having some R and R on the beach and boy did we need it after Queenstown. Being our last night we decided to treat ourself some to a nice meal out…and treat ourselves we did. An amazing langoustine and mussel starter to share, followed by fillet steak and a glass of red. Not quite the backpacking meals I’ve been used to but wawh, it was delicious.
During dinner we just so happened to be chatting about biscuits and cheese, when we saw it on the menu as option for afters. However, we decided at $10 a pop, we could recreate it for a third of the price from the local super market. So that’s exactly what we did. A cheddar, a Brie and a blue, some crackers , grapes and chutney and off to the lake we went.
Lake Tekapo is right in the middle of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve which in layman’s terms basically means that it is an amazing spot for stargazing.
Cheese, biscuits and all the stars in the world in my own little patch of sky.
Saturday 23rd December 2017
Well today is both very sad and very exciting.
Sad because today I leave this amazing country, say goodbye to the most amazing people (who haven’t already left!) and leave the Kiwi bus for the last time. Ok, I know slightly dramatic!
But exciting because this evening as I take all of these happy memories and a final supply of Whitaker’s chocolate, I fly to Melbourne, Australia, a country I have always wanted to visit and where I will spend Christmas in the sunshine.
I cannot say enough times how much I have enjoyed this past month. New Zealand truly is incredible and I loved every minute of it, but what I loved most was sharing it with the most amazing bus loads of people, especially our Kiwi Family. I maybe haven’t mentioned them too much by name in this post as I would literally be here for a year if I were to share every story, laugh and adventure we had, but they truly did make my experience so special. As well as some of the most incredible memories, I have for sure gained life long friends.
To quote one of our aboriginal friends at the Māori Village;
“The most important thing in the world is people, people people.”
And he couldn’t be more right.