Day #61 01.03.16

I love walking. I try to avoid driving unless I have to because a) it’s better for the environment and b) it’s better for me. I love to daydream and really miss walking to work as I used to love all the ideas and daydreams I had. It’s not the same in a car, I have to concentrate and although I do drift off a bit and do a lot of thinking, I never really remember it or can’t just stop and make a note of things. I don’t feel connected to anything when I’m driving either. When I walk around, I see people, I interact with them. I’m aware of smells and sounds;  I’m interacting with the environment. Not so when in a car, it’s like being in a little bubble. I’m not too keen on bubbles.

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New Zealand road trip: part two.

Queenstown and Wanaka. Two similar but wildly different places. Like they’d say in SE Asia, same same but different.

Legendary Queenstown. Home of everything adrenaline. Home to everything big. Big burgers, big mountains, big shots and big hangovers. In your face, busy and bustling.

Wanaka. Laid back, chilled and understated. A place to relax and enjoy and eat fresh cookies at the cinema.

In Queenstown I met up with Marsha again, who I’d first met in Christchurch through a mutual friend. What followed was a fuzzy week of friendship forming, non-stop alcohol, shots, hangovers, lots of laughter, hill climbing, grass sitting, food eating, film watching, sandwich cooking, men watching, life-sorting-out stuff. We met the delightful V from California too, who made us crack up laughing almost every minute with her crazy stories and theories.

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We made the rather fantastic bar Cowboys our local. It’s like the Wild West. The bar stools are saddles, there’s other table stools that have sides (perfect for me), the pumps are guns, there’s a good supply of cowboy hats to wear, a full size grizzly bear to meet you at the door and even a mechanical bull. Yep, a mechanical bull. I didn’t ride it because of my rib, but I spent many a time watching all the other drunkards have a go (when I say have a go, I mean spend ages trying to get ON the thing, only to be promptly bucked off in half a second. Especially if the guys controlling it were feeling mischievous – that happened a lot to cocky blokes who thought they’d be the one to give a good show. Fail.). It also played the same music all the time, although I only clocked onto this after a good few visits, when I realised there was only so many times I could watch Jessica Simpson strut around singing about boots made for walking and wondering what the relevance of her washing a car in a bikini was to the song.

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We drank a lot of shots and met a lot of people. Nearly every night in our hostel someone was drinking, pre-drinking or going out. Most of the nights just started innocently with a drink or two. None of our nights out were planned. The best way. An average bedtime was around 3am, after a legendary Fergburger, which, after a night out, is the BEST THING EVER. I’m sure it’s good sober too, but I never really experienced that. My hangover food of choice was Noodle Canteen.  They did wicked chicken fried rice in a little cardboard noodle takeaway box, great when eaten in the sun on the grass near the lake, chatting about life, the world and the size of men’s appendages.

I rediscovered jager bombs and tequila slammers, mainly thanks to Damien who would always buy a round of shots quite early on. And well, from then on, you’re committed.*

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It was in Queenstown (well firstly in Wanaka but again in QT) where I also met Johnny, an Irish guy I went on to travel with for a week. We all went out for a ‘few drinks’. Ended in a Big Night Out, lots of shots and not a lot of sleep. We all slept in hammocks in the garden in the sun the next day. He did the Nevis bungy jump. Poor bloke.

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But Queenstown wasn’t all about the drinking or nightlife (although, that’s a huge part of it for all travellers, and it sucks you in). I couldn’t do any of the adrenaline stuff (and you can do pretty much anything here. Bungy jumping, jet boats, paragliding, skydives, etc, etc) but I could appreciate the natural beauty of the place. It’s often described as one of the prettiest places to visit, and they’d be right. It’s in a great setting, on the edge of Lake Wakatipu with The Remarkables and other mountain ranges surrounding it and the Queenstown Gardens jut out in the middle, full of trees. In autumn, they are all a glorious mix of red, yellows and greens and well, my eyes had a treat every day I was here. As anywhere in New Zealand, there’s a few walks dotted about, and the views from the top of Queenstown Hill and Bob’s Peak are pretty special, and worth the walk/climb (also helps sweat out the alcohol and burger from the previous night).

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Queenstown was also the place where I used a hairdryer for the first time in months. This might not sound a lot but, oh my, this was a Big Deal. Such a treat! Smooth straight hair for once. It’s the little things in life you know.

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Marsha and I also hopped across to Wanaka for a few days (pretty nice drive in/over the Crown Ranges) to have a bit of a chill out from the madness. Wanaka is like Queenstown’s more laid back cousin (and apparently is what QT was like 20 or so years ago). Just as pretty, just as many hills and mountains to climb but much less busy, less frenetic and much less drinking.

We both loved Wanaka. It was really nice and chilled and we spent a great few days walking, trundling around, eating, drinking $12 cider (Marsha), shopping (Marsha), being propositioned in the supermarket (Marsha) watching very random open mic/karaoke nights (Swedish/english rap anyone?) and visiting what is possibly the best cinema in the world (but possibly not the best film in the world – Pompeii). Cinema Paradiso is a small independent cinema, that has all kinds of seats. Couches, cinema seats, cars (yes, you can sit in a car), bus seats etc. They also sell homemade ice cream and bake cookies in the first half of the film, so at the intermission you can buy warm cookies (whose smell wafts into the cinema near to half time. Mmm freshly baked cookie smell.) for that cookie-induced sugar coma for the second half of the film. Oh, and they’re also licensed so you can buy wine and beer to take in with you, although at nearly $10 a glass it;s not cheap. Lincolnshire people, it’s like the Kinema in the Woods on steroids.

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If you’re visiting Wanaka and only do one walk, do Roy’s Peak. It’s 1578m, so just over 200m higher than Ben Nevis (1344m), the highest mountain in the British Isles. It’s a hard climb, very steep and tough, but, well, well worth it for the view. It’s just incredible. I did gasp when I saw THIS in front of me:

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Definitely a “f**k me” moment. It didn’t look real. The colours, the texture, the view. It was like a painting, stretched out in a technicolour 360 degree view. It’s the middle peak in this picture, by the way:

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We also walked to the Rob Roy Glacier (after a near miss with a cow on the way) and Mount Iron, as well as around the lake. Pretty active yet chilled out few days.

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Then of course we went back to Queenstown and hit it hard that night.

 

 

 

*Disclaimer/note to the parents, I was quite sensible and never got completely rip roaring drunk or put myself in dodgy situations. My rib is still intact and I didn’t fall over once. I think.

 

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Nope, I’m not watching When Harry met Sally.

It’s how I feel right now at getting to Australia and being able to get back into doing more exercise. YES. More exercise. No doubt a lot of people might think I’m crazy but you have NO idea how much I’ve missed it. Yes I know I’m travelling and seeing all these wonderful things but I also love all the fitness shizzle, so it’s been hard to see that slide over the last few months. I’ve felt lazy and unfit, wobbly and just generally quite bleuuuuurgh. Too much beer and rubbish food, and not enough running and stuff.

But now I’m in Oz, I’m back on it with a vengeance. The weather helps. It’s much cooler here, and not humid, so it’s oh-so-pleasant to run in. There are lots of other runners here; it’s nice to run somewhere where it’s a popular pastime. I don’t feel like an oddity. I’m staying in the same place for a bit, so I’ve got time to run, to join running groups, to see what stuff is on at the local leisure centre. I’m lucky enough to be able to borrow a bike here so I can get out for bike rides. All that normal exercise stuff that can be fitted around a bit of sightseeing and mooching about.

You see, I enjoy it. Exercise that is. I don’t do it because I should, or because I have to. I don’t do it to lose weight. I do it because I enjoy it. It makes me happy. It makes me feel good. It’s a huge part of my life. It’s not something that has to get squeezed in; rather it’s something that time is made for, in place of other things. I like to feel fit. I like that post-exercise high (especially after running). I like to be pushed to go that little bit further, or faster. It’s how I spend my spare time. It’s my hobby, my passion. Especially if it’s outside. That’s my favourite.

So I am LOVING Australia for how easy it makes it for me to crack on with my hobby. I’ve been for a few runs, a bike ride and done plenty of walking already. There’s a leisure centre just round the corner from where I’m staying which I’m going to check out soon. There’s a real outdoors vibe here in Melbourne. Bike trails are everywhere. There are loads of parks and leisure centres. Lots of people always out and about. I feel like I belong here. It’s my kind of place.

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I’m mixing what I love doing with my travel experience. I’m getting to experience Melbourne as someone living here, not just someone visiting the city for a few days. And I like it. This is travelling for me.

And it’s not just Melbourne. I’ve decided I’m going to cycle round Tasmania soon. Yes, that’s right. Just me, a bike, a tent and some stuff. I don’t know how long for, or my exact route but I’m just going to hit the road and see where it takes me. A proper adventure, and one where I can mix exercise and travel even more. GET IN. You probably have no idea how happy this makes me. I have a huge silly grin on my face just typing this.

If you’d known me 10 odd years ago and told me I’d [slightly] addicted to running, and would be cycling around Tasmania on my own with a tent, I’d have laughed in your face. Hell, even 3 or 4 years ago I probably would have done that. Now? It feels perfectly normal – no laughing here, just excited anticipation. I got the bitten by the bug and now there’s no stopping. This is a lifestyle. My lifestyle.

In fact, I’ve got new fitness goals, inspired by the travelling I’ve done so far and some of the people I have met along the way. Stuff I want to start when I finish my travels. Stuff I can really commit to and throw myself into when I am in the same place for a while. New things I want to try. Being away from that routine and not always being able to do the exercise I love has really made me appreciate it. Given me new ideas and focus for the future. I don’t just want to do a few runs every week. Nope.

I want more now.

On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at.

(Standard English: On Ilkley Moor without a hat)

Apparently, everyone knows of this popular Yorkshire folk song, because no end of people have said this to me over the last week or so when I mentioned I was off to Ilkley. I’ve never heard of it in my life, and so could only respond with a confused look on my face. I only know of Ilkley from going loads when I was younger because my brother used to play there in a tennis tournament every year. Oh, and I knew there was a place called Ilkley Moor, which had a few rocks on it.

So, I went to Ilkley this weekend for a little break away, I had some hotel vouchers to use up before I go and a willing victim playmate to come along so we headed off on Friday for a bit of fun in the countryside.

Ilkley is preeeeetty. It has blossom trees, and hills, and green stuff, and a river, and little shops, and coffee places, and bars and restaurants to stuff your face with Bloody.Good.Food. Had an awesome meal at Le Bistrot Pierre on Friday night and then another awesome meal at Vietnamese restaurant Bistro Saigon on Saturday night. Add in the hotel breakfasts, tea and cake and then a bloody good 3 course Sunday lunch back at the Tower when we got back to Lincoln and I’d say we’ve eaten pretty well this weekend.

Ilkley was fun. We did a fair amount of walking, lots of eating (see above), some relaxing and a bit of drinking. And I took a few pictures (see below). Decided to go for a walk up Ilkley Moor on Saturday and morning and got SOAKED. Yep, it rained. A Lot. I had a hood, I wasn’t too bad. The Marine didn’t. He got a bit (a lot) wet. We dried off a bit in the hotel and tried again after a while, but went down by the river this time rather than up onto the moor. The Marine skimmed stones which I was impressed to find out he was pretty good at. I took pictures. A man in a wetsuit swam in shallow water. Male ducks outnumbered females ones by a high ratio. A child threw a drinks bottle in the water and got told off. All in all an interesting walk. In the afternoon we went up on the moor again, and managed to find a little secluded spot in the sun away from the wind and had a little lay down, watching the clouds. That little section of time was just ace, like the world had stopped for a bit.

I hadn’t taken my running stuff because I was still getting over a cold and didn’t feel great. So naturally I saw lots of runners. Tormenting me. I’m sure they KNEW. But, as The Marine himself pointed out if I had have taken my stuff he would have beasted me up the hills up the moor. Sadist. So, probably for the best.

The funniest and most bemusing moment was probably when an old woman walked past us in the street and shouted “stop!”. Shortly followed by “…looking so..[pause]..intelligent. And..[pause]..fit.” Erm, right, okay. Thank you?!

Nicest moment was getting to the hotel and having a bit of post. I’ve never had post at a hotel before. I opened it and it was a card from the girl in the central reservations team who made my booking. I’d happened to just be chatting with her while sorting out the booking on the phone (as I tend to, I’m quite chatty) about the weekend, weather and my upcoming travels, and so the card wished me a lovely sunny weekend and hoping that I have an amazing trip around the world. I’m pretty sure this isn’t standard practice so it was such a nice surprise. I decided to pass the good feeling onto someone else on the way home, and so paid for the car behind at Dunham Toll Bridge. Not a lot, but a little gesture to be nice. A random act of kindness. Made me feel good. Maybe the people in the car behind passed something on too that day.

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Familiarity.

Today is my last day walking to and from work from up the hill in Lincoln. It’s just over 1.5 miles each way, and I pretty much walk the same route every day at roughly the same times (an attackers dream really, not ideal :/). So this means I can see the same things and same people most days (we’re all an attackers dream). Like the chap who walks his two dogs every morning on Yarborough Road. The school kids walking or biking up the hill – there are about 5 of them. The woman walking to work, sometimes on her own, sometimes with someone. The guy who is a friend of one of my friends who bikes up the hill in shorts, even in the winter (and who always looks surprised when I wave at him). The man with the Schnauzer in the park. The lady with the two dogs in a pushchair in the park. The two women who bike up the hill every day. The girl that I met at a party once, who I think works at the Uni, and who walks down the hill so fast I often think she might fall over.

Even though I don’t know their names or anything about them (apart from the guy on the bike, his name’s Mark and he’s a manager of a gym), they’re all familiar. Humans are creatures of habit and routine. Like when you’re on a training course and sit in the same seat each day. Or park in the same(ish) space in a car park. Or sit at the same spot at the dinner table. It’s easy to do, and natural. I do it.

So, I shall miss these familiar people that I see every day, even though I don’t know them. But, there will be new people and new sights on a new walk to work for the next few months. And then lots and lots of new people, sights and no routine. Which is good. Because, after all, familiarity breeds contempt. And who wants that?