Day #16 16.01.16

My last day in Cape Town and South Africa. My flight wasn’t until 6pm so I had most of the day before I had to be at the airport dropping Figaro off at about 3. I had two choices; a) either sit around and count the hours of waiting to go home (and also have to check out of my apartment at 11) or, b) go and do something with the day and make it count. So I chose b). Of course.

I decided to go tag along to a Saturday session with BMF South Africa (you’ll probably know I do BMF – British Military Fitness – in Cheltenham so I decided to see how they did it in CT) so I checked out at 7.15am, chucked my bag in the boot and trundled off in Figaro to Kirstenbosch botanical gardens to find the meeting point. 4 conversations with different people at two different locations later, I just about managed to find where I needed to be (apparently there are two ‘Top gates’ at Kirstenbosch depending on who you speak to) and bounded up to the only group of people gathered round who looked like they might be about to hike up a mountain. Because their Saturday session wasn’t a round of burpees, press ups and the like. No, their session today was a hike up Table Mountain. Which was fine by me. Although I was secretly fearing they might make us do killer burpees at the top or something. I didn’t know – they could have been massive hardcore athletes for all I knew. Luckily for me this was more of a sociable Saturday jaunt so although it was a tough hike (pretty much straight up to the top of the mountain scrambling and climbing up rocks, ladders and waterfalls in 30+ heat) we were rewarded with a swim in a lake at the top (yep, who knew there was a lake at the top of Table Mountain? Not me.) rather than burpees.

So I got to hike a mountain, go for a swim in a lake, catch some rays and meet a new bunch of people. Now that’s what I call making the most of my last day.

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New Zealand road trip: part three.

Queenstown to Milford Sound (and back again). Via Glenorchy.

After another night in Queenstown, recovering from the night before after a couple of beers turned into a Big Night Out, I finally headed out towards Glenorchy for the next bit of my roadtrip, this time with a bit of company with Johnny, the Irish guy I’d met in Wanaka and then again in Queenstown. Him in his campervan, me in the ute.

Driving to Glenorchy is pretty special. A road that hugs the side of the mountains along Lake Wakatipu, snaking in and out and round and round. You can’t go particularly fast, but you wouldn’t want to, because you’d miss it all. There was a bit of low cloud when we were driving up so we didn’t get the full in-your-face-blue of the lake, but I quite like it when the cloud hangs around the top of the mountains. It’s pretty and reminds me of my Dad telling me to make sure I take lots of pictures of the land of the long white cloud for him.

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Glenorchy itself is a tiny little village with not a lot there. People go there for all the walks around and nearby (it’s the start of the Routeburn track). We did the Glenorchy walkway to see the black swans (they seem so much more exotic than white swans), then spent a few hours just sat on a jetty in the sunshine staring out at the lake and the mountains. Just doing nothing but talking about everything and anything; like you do when you are getting to know someone. It was a most wonderful few hours and one of those moments where there was nowhere else I would have rather been.

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We headed up to a DOC campsite at Lake Sylvan. I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned the DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites before. If I have, then sorry. Great little places, cheap as chips (About $6 a night) and always in some of the most beautiful scenery going. Not a lot of facilities, but that kind of enhances the experience. Makes it more authentic. And really makes you appreciate the small things.

Like a shower.

This campsite was pretty cute, some great walks on the doorstep and of course, this being New Zealand, mountains in the background (forget land of the long white cloud, it should be called land of the many mountains).

After a little walk to the lake (renamed Dead Dog Lake due to a piece of wood that looked spookily like a, erm, dead dog) and making friends with a bird called Ray, we had the first night of cooking on the little stove that Johnny got in his campervan. Well, when I say cooking, I mean Johnny heating up a tin of beans and making a cup of tea for us. But, as it was more than either of us had done so far when on the road, I’d say it counts as cooking (pretty much like the time Marsha ‘cooked’ tea for me in Queenstown – definitely counts).

This was probably my favourite night of camping. I’m not sure why, but as I sat there eating my bowl of beans and drinking tea with no milk, it just felt like a pretty perfect evening.

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A lot of the area around Glenorchy was filmed for Lord of the Rings, and the area on the right as you drive up to Lake Sylvan is actually Isengard, not that I’d be able to recognise it mind you. But still, nice to know I’ve actually been there. After a sunset over the mountains, it was back for a night and a beer or two in Glenorchy then onwards to Te Anau to start the drive to Milford Sound.

It takes a couple of hours to drive along Milford Road from Te Anau to Milford Sound but it’s recommended to take your time as there’s loads of places to stop, and DOC campsites galore. We had another perfect night at Henry’s Creek campsite where we played our made up game (sticks and stones) on the edge of the lake until the sun went down then laid and star gazed at the amazing New Zealand night sky for hours. Anyone that’s been to NZ will know about the stars. You can stare at them forever yes? One of life’s simple pleasures. This whole week was about enjoying the moment and the simple things in life. No wifi, no TV, not many other people. Wonderful.

Mirror Lakes, Mistletoe Lake, Lake Gunn nature walk, the three-tiered Humbolt Falls, the Homer Tunnel and The Chasm were all stop offs on Milford Road. Marvels of nature; more massive mountains, waterfalls, forests, weird rocks, and wildlife. The drive was just incredible, my favourite driving day for sure. It was just spectacular.

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The end of a days driving was Milford Sound, and the heart of Fiordland. The best way to see it is from the water, cruising through in between all the amazing mountains and sheer cliff faces, waterfalls metres high tumbling out of the rock to get out into the Tasman Sea and back again. We saw seal colonies sunning themselves on the rocks, and dolphins gave us a show a few times, even swimming along with us in front of the boat for a while, just 10 feet below us. A rare treat and it felt really special to have experienced it. Beautiful, beautiful creatures, I was close enough to be able to see all the different markings and how they glided along in the water, jumping out every now and then. Mum, you would have absolutely loved this.

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Another stop at the Totara DOC campsite on Milford Road (purely because it had my name in it) where we saw the most amazing sunset over the river that ran through it.

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A fitting end for the last night of our roadtrip together before Johnny went onto Wanaka and I went back to Queenstown for a few days before the last part of my roadtrip.

A bit of a ‘this is what we did, where we went and what we saw’ blog post but, well, this week has a lot of personal memories that I guess I don’t really want to write down and share. It was one of the best weeks on my road trip with a fab person to spend it with and I have a whole host of wonderful memories that I’ll cherish forever.

 

I’m still here.

Just in case you were wondering. Yep, still here, just not had much internet. I’ve been in New Zealand about 5 and a half weeks now, and most of that has been on a road trip around the South Island. I’ve been spending a few weeks camping in remote spots, climbing mountains, getting drunk, eating Ferburgers, walking in the rainforest, being hungover, watching stars, driving a ute with my favourite tunes blasting out, making friends, making jewellery, enjoying a cuddle or two, playing sticks and stones, getting sprayed by waterfalls, cruising with dolphins, watching seal pups play in the river, sitting on the beach, seeing a glacier up close and getting soaked in the rain.

It’s been a blast, but there’s still a few days left of my road trip. I’ll blog in more detail when I get a bit of downtime, but in the meantime, here’s a few photos. I have many, many more where they come from. Seriously. I have about 3 million photos of mountains, lakes and streams.

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Runs around the world #16

parkrun, Melbourne, Australia

I wouldn’t normally post about two runs around the world in the same city but this one deserves a post of it’s own. This is a special post. My very first parkrun. Ever heard of parkrun? It’s a free, weekly, 5km timed run that are held around the world and are open to everyone.

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They take place in parkland surroundings and people of every ability are encouraged to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; everyone is welcome. I’d been waiting for one in Lincoln for ages (it had been in the pipeline for a while) as they are such a good idea, but by the time I left the UK in May there still wasn’t one in Lincoln (there is now though, whoop!), and I’d not been anywhere on a Saturday where one was held to try somewhere else. So, I made a promise to myself that I would do the Albert Park parkrun in Melbourne when I got here. And so I did!

So, the second Saturday after I arrived (I was busy cherry-picking the first Saturday) I set my alarm stupidly early (although Albert Park is not that far away from where I’m staying it’s a bit of a trek to get to – walk, train then tram) and headed for Albert Park, a big lake near the CBD in Melbourne, surrounded by lot of lovely green stuff. I’d already been tweeting with one of the race directors so was great to put a face to a name and have a chat before the race.

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The actual run was bloody hard work. A fast 5km after months of slow short runs was bound to be hard. And also add in the fact I’d done a 45km bike ride the day before. The lake seemed to go on forever and when I thought we were at about 3/4 of the way round I realised it was still less than half. Gah! But, I soldiered on, despite my legs pretty much screaming at me, and ran all the way round for a time of around 26 minutes. I would have been happy just to get round in under 30 mins so I was pretty chuffed with that. It’s only about 3 minutes off my 5K PB so with a little bit of work I could be back up there, although, I’m not that bothered about PB’s and times these days. I’m all about the distance.

It’s a beautiful setting for a run. All the way around the edge of Albert Park lake, passing swans, palm trees and rowing clubs, with the skyscrapers of the city in the background.

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There’s a great atmosphere; as with any running community, everyone is so very friendly and happy. On that first run there was a couple who regularly go who were getting married that day. So them, and their whole wedding party turned up to do parkrun. On their wedding day. Commitment or what. The organisers had arranged a veil, tutu, flowers and bubbles to celebrate. See? Running community = awesome.

I managed to chat to a few people, although they were mainly English – there’s a lot of us out here! It was either people just on holiday like me, or people who had emigrated. But, great to meet loads of different, interesting people. I love how running is so inclusive for everyone, and especially parkrun where you see athletes running alongside kids, running clubs alongside pushchairs and everyone in between. You’ve immediately got something in common with all those people there. It was a great experience for me to join in with something I love on the other side of the world. It really is universal.

Love it.

On the shore.

Yep, that’s a new header picture. The last one was a stock one from WordPress, although I recognised it as a tram in Lisbon (from books, I’ve not actually been to Lisbon).

I’ve wanted to change it for a while but hadn’t decided what to change it to. I have lots of pictures that could go there. And will go there. No doubt I’ll keep changing it every now and then (change is as good as a rest as they say).

For now, I chose a picture that I took of some boats on the shore of Lake Titcaca on my trip to Peru last year. It was so peaceful there, and the views from the islands were just stunning. T’was just lovely. And the sun was shining. Sigh.