It’s not all unicorns and rainbows

Oh my, was my last post really on the 25th March??  How time flies.  

I’d like to add ‘when you’re having fun’ to the end of that sentence but that wouldn’t be the whole story.  It’s oh so easy to write breezy updates on social media, and to post endless smiling photos.  I’m certainly guilty of that, but the truth of the matter is that I have been a little down in the dumps down under.  Unfortunately for you, dear reader, I am one of those who really feel better after getting things off their chest.  Consider yourself my agony aunts for the next few paragraphs (and then I will get on to what we have been doing, I promise!)

If I were to explain this to poor old New Zealand, I’d certainly be rolling out that old classic ‘it’s not you, it’s me’.  We have both had a hard time adjusting after 5 wonderful months in Asia, so that is a factor.  But, for me, this runs deeper.  I’ve mentioned feeling homesick before…well let’s add a few more bits to that. Communal living arrangements and fairly tight budget aren’t helping, but can’t really be blamed. I miss my life! Friends, family and cats go without saying. But I now realise I miss my routine and my goals.  I’m feeling without purpose, and a year long holiday adventure doesn’t actually help that one bit (although obvs I’m well aware of how bloody fortunate we are to be doing this!). So there you go.  I have been a reet ol’ misery guts – not all of the time, it comes and goes, real peaks and troughs.  I’d prefer a bit more balance!   But how on earth do I drag myself out of this, given that I’m a) on holiday, b) in one of the most desirable destinations in the world and c) utterly carefree???

Given how prone I am to tying myself in knots about these things, I am attempting to quit the over-analysis and to take some positive action.  And for this, I am turning to one of the many versions of the ‘5 steps to well-being’ – I remember looking at this type of thing when feeling absolutely fine, and thinking that it all sounded very sensible.  The scientist in me is keen to see if it works in practice (although obviously I am a very unscientific sample of one!) 

I’m going with the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand’s version, as that comes up first when I google at the moment!

  • Be active.  You’d think this was a done deal, but now that we’re not cycling, our activity is pretty sporadic.  For me, with a long history of sport and training for events, I interpret this as ‘needing to do more running’.  I’m totally out of running shape.  So, I pledge to get back into the running part, and also to do some strength work on the side so I build a really good base for getting back into competitive running when we’re back in Devon (and hopefully will prevent me from getting injured)
A woman running and waving
Wanaka parkrun! Surely a contender for the most ridiculously scenic course? Also nice and flat, so I even managed to run a tiny bit faster (26:49 for the nosey runners reading!)
  • Keep learning.  Well, I went paddleboarding the other day, and it was BRILLIANT!  I felt a ton better afterwards.  I might find a couple more opportunities to have a go, but really I need something a bit more regular, so I’ve decided to learn Spanish.  I’ve been saying I’m going to do it for forever, so why not now.  I’ve downloaded 6 podcast episodes so just need to start listening to them!  Ed (who is fine) is learning about knots.  
Two people kneeling on paddle boards on Lake Wanaka
I did stand up. And only fell in once! Fun times. Ed was invited, honest!
  • Connect.  While we were in Asia, I really missed having people to talk to (other than Ed).  Now we’re back in the English speaking world, and largely staying in hostels, this should be easy.  But actually, it’s also quite easy to hide in your cosy couple, and not chat with anyone.  However, at our lovely hostel in Wanaka, people just kept talking to me!  It was great. So now I am going to make an effort to chat with people, even if briefly.  This paid off last night when I discovered that one of our room mates was from Taiwan!  I love Taiwan, and she was very lovely too.

 

Four people at a dinner table
Putting the world to rights with our Warmshowers hosts near Blenheim, Rene and Leonie. Thanks for looking after our bikes / junk!
  • Take notice.  I remember chatting with someone a while ago about the concept of getting ‘sceneried out’ when you’ve been to a string of amazing places. I am sorry to say that I am kind of at this point.  I can still SEE that the surroundings are beautiful, but I feel slightly numb to it.  It’s very strange!  More effort needed to properly take notice and appreciate where we are – Wanaka was just SO beautiful that it almost shook me out of this apathy.  Being there for a good few days also gave plenty of time to absorb and take in – a good lesson, I think.
Lake Wanaka
Lake Wanaka looking pretty good in the autumn sunshine
  • Give.  Haven’t figure this out yet – I’d like to volunteer at a parkrun, but we haven’t really been around anywhere long enough for me to organise this.  I might manage when we’re in Blenheim.  Other ideas welcome.  Do I have any skills that lend themselves to remote volunteering!?
In addition (yes there’s more!!) my incredibly lovely (and exceptionally generous) parents have boosted our coffers, so that we have a few more options around accommodation and transport.  This means that I am now hugely looking forward to the next phase of our NZ adventure, because we will be HIRING A CAR!  While we’ve actually quite enjoyed travelling on the buses, it will be great to have our flexibility and freedom back for a few weeks, and to escape the more touristy areas. We’re still hoping it will be warm enough to camp when we get up to the Nelson region (the high today in Fox Glacier is 8 degrees!!) as the best spots are the out of the way campsites (with pit toilets and no showers, ha ha!). BUT we will be able to afford a cozy room if my optimism does not pay off.
 
ENOUGH OF ALL THAT!  (I feel better, thanks for listening)
 
Where do I even start with updating you??  Let’s go with a more pictorial update, given how many of my words you’ve already had to read!  We crossed the Cook Strait (surprisingly smooth on a VERY windy day), cycled 18km to Tuamarina where we left our bikes, and caught the Intercity bus to Christchurch.  Interesting to experience New Zealand driving from a new perspective 😉 Christchurch was lovely – still in pieces, but wonderfully upbeat.
Memorial wall in Christchurch, next to the river
Christchurch memorial wall, with all the names of the earthquake victims engraved. This would make me cry anyway, but the fact that they were nearly all Asian students learning English…wwwaahhhhh! 
Tiles in a maori pattern
All sorts of cool stuff is popping up in the ‘gaps’ where there were previously buildings. I loved these tiles, in the pattern from a maori weaving.

We then hopped back on a bus for another very scenic (read windy!) journey to the adventure capital of Queenstown.  We liked Queenstown for its spectacular setting, but wouldn’t rush back.  It’s a bit like a cross between Bowness on Windermere and a ski resort, with an awful lot of bungy jumping, jet boating, and _insert_adrenalin_fuelled_activity_here.  
A couple at the top of a hill
We resisted the temptation to throw ourselves off stuff, and hiked to the top of Queenstown hill instead.

Then it was time to cram our tiny rucksacks full of dehydrated food and waterproof clothing, and to head into the hills.  The Greenstone-Caples loop gave us 61km / 4 days of splendid views, some sun, some rain, a lot of mud, and a really wonderful time.
 
The Caples Valley
Caples valley on day 1 (my birthday!). Note raindrops.
 
 
 

Mountain views
McKellar saddle on day 2

A man in a valley
Ed with a wet foot on day 3, Greenstone valley

 

Waterfall
One of many waterfalls on day 4. Love that I can change all the settings on my camera to get this (cheesy) effect with the water!

We then made good use of YHA Queenstown’s facilities for an evening, including stuffing our faces with all the items we could take tramping (chips and dip, wine and chocolate!)

A woman and a lot of stuff in a hostel room
The perks of paying for a private room! What a mess. And wine too, tut tut.

I’d like to say we awoke well rested, but actually we felt pretty dreaful the next day!  Not the wine of course….  Fortunately, we had just a short bus journey to whisk us to wonderful Wanaka, where we stayed for 5 nights.  Lovely hostel with huge picture windows for ample lake-gazing.  Our room was right under the creaky stairs which nearly drove me to actual madness, but fortunately the other benefits just about prevented my demise!

Vines and a beautiful lake scen
The incredible view from Rippon vineyard. The wine wasn’t bad either!  Yep, that is snow on the mountains!

A plate of roast veggies
I always find cooking therapeutic so it was great to have such a good kitchen! That pumpkin cost £1 and fed us for 4 meals….food IS expensive here but you do find surprising bargains.

Snowy mountain
Even more snow yesterday!

It was hard to leave Wanaka, but with no real improvement in the weather forecast, there seemed little chance of us tramping on any reasonable timeframe.  

We are now in Fox Glacier, and it is raining.  Fortunately we nipped up to see the (slightly sad) glacier last night, so don’t need to go anywhere today unless we really want to.  Tomorrow, we hop back on the awesome ‘Great Sights’ bus (think cafe stops and photo opportunities – well I am 41 now!) to Punakaiki for a couple of days, then we’re full steam ahead 

Aside:  Reading this post back, you may be forgiven for wondering what on earth is wrong with me.  I totally agree. 
 
So there you go, you are finally up to date!  I’m sorry to say that I have given up with Flickr – I can’t get it to work on hostel wifi.  Not sure many people had the appetite for any more anyway 😉 As ever, you can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram, @unprofessionaladventurers.
 
Until next time, thanks for listening 🙂
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