KAYAKING THE WAIMAKARIRI

“Paddle, paddle, paddle!!!” comes the cry from Hollie in front of me as our yellow tandem kayak enters into what looks like the inside of a washing machine. Moments later, we’re engulfed by swirling glacial, water – water I could have sworn was blue just a moment ago… but now all I see is foaming white.

THE ‘BOULDER BEACHING’

Five minutes before entering this mid-river washing machine, we had managed to get ourselves wedged on what are are dubbing a ‘surprise’ boulder, which ambushed our boat somewhere upstream (we swear it came out of nowhere). Naturally it took us some time to get ourselves free as we shifted micro-millimetres backwards and forwards, awkwardly wedged, with our rudder on the boulder and the front of our boat on the bank.

IMG_7407

At one point, I gave in to the idea that we were going to head backwards down the rapids, such was the struggle to free ourselves from the boulder beaching, but lo! There we were, facing forwards, hurtling downstream, trying desperately to catch up the main group who were… oh look… over there… to our left… why were they to our left? If they were over there, and we were over here then… oh no! My head snapped forwards and I tried desperately not to focus on the fact that we appeared to be headlong into a steep, rocky bluff. Continue reading

Behind the scenes at Women’s Health

I emerged from the myriad of tunnels that form Old Street underground station and picked up a message from my good chum Laura K. She was in the coffee shop next door to the location for today’s shoot. I still had plenty of time to spare, so I tracked her down and we got to natterin’. We gassed, chitty-chatted, chinwagged, talked the hind legs of many donkeys, before suddenly realising that the 30 minutes to spare had now reduced to just 2 minutes before we were due in the studio. Panic. We dashed outside, desperate to find the venue, which was apparently ‘just next door’.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FIND THE STUDIO

Alas, it seemed that finding the entrance to the studio was like finding the Ministry of Magic. Somewhere, in the gaps between these tall, ancient buildings and old industrial works was an entrance. But where, oh where in the world, was anyone’s guess. Just as I was beginning to wonder if perhaps we should retreat to the phone box across the street and go in underground Harry-Potter style, I spotted a glimmer of hope. Two ‘model’ types were hanging out on the steps of what we thought could potentially, possibly, definitely-maybe be the entrance. Continue reading

North of the strait: Wellington to Whanganui

I’m in big trouble. I mean, like serious, knee-deep doggy doo doo. My problem? People.

I arrived in Wellington 10 days behind original schedule. No biggy, I thought, and reasoned that I’d make up time in the North Island. The terrain here is more suited to a runner after all. There are large sections along roads, and more frequent places to resupply, meaning a lighter pack and bigger daily mileage.

But all too often, Mr Reason and Mrs Reality decide to go their separate ways. Two
weeks in and it’s blindingly obvious that I was a fool was to think progress here would be faster. Continue reading

Loose on the lakes: Hawea to Tekapo

I was sat in the cafe/general store/local gathering place in lake Hawea village, watching it rain. It’d been raining for hours. ‘One more coffee, then I’ll go.’ Well, I was 4 coffees deep now, and getting a little wired. Then it occurred to me – this rain was pretty much a metaphor for life. What if it never stopped? What if there was bright sunshine and rainbows (and unicorns) on the other side of the hill? I was never going to find that out by sitting inside now, was I? So I quickly purchased a can of man-up, downed the lot and headed off in a general vertical direction up Breast Hill track.

Above the clouds on Breast Hill track

Above the clouds on Breast Hill track

10km later, the rain relented and I heard voices at the crest. “Annaaaaaaa, hey Annaaaaaaa….” I stopped and looked around, I couldn’t see anyone. A few steps further on, and I heard it again. “It’s the runner, it’s the runner...” Was this it? Had I finally gone loopy? Had I slipped off the ridgeline and these were in fact spirits from the beyond? Then, in a Stars In Your Eyes style smokey reveal the clouds parted and two figures appeared from the mist. Tonight Matthew, I’d be sharing a hut with Whio Warriors Finny and Fi. And boy was I pleased to see them. Although I’d only spent one night in their company in the Motatapu’s, somehow on the Te Araroa, friendships are magnified. Once inside Pakatuki hut I found American boys Andrew and Peter (also of Motatapu fame) there too. Little did I know that these four would form the basis of tight-knit ‘trail gang’ for the next 10 days.

The sunshine after the rain, above lake Hawea

The sunshine after the rain, above lake Hawea

The following morning was like an episode of Top Gear. The sure but steady Team Hammond (Fiona and Finny) left at 8am. The slightly reckless high-octane seeking Team Clarkson (Peter and Andrew) departed at 9am, taking a higher route along a ridgeline. And myself, the sensible but always a little late James May, left at 10am to chase down the pack. I caught thrill-seekers Peter and Andrew at lunchtime, with the added bonus of running into Coach Ron again (who was busy writing signs to direct trail users to the nearest water source, naturally).

By mid-afternoon I’d caught early risers Finny & Fi just as they’d stopped to have a chat with southbounder Jory, who was walking the trail barefoot. Jory had made his own packs from leaves and vine, and foraged or hunted for as much food as he could along the way. As someone who gets flummoxed hunting for supernoodles in their backpack, I found it all rather impressive. He’d even accessorised with a vine headband, which performed the dual task of keeping his Beckham esc locks from his face, and filling me with style envy.  

Midway through the 'great race' to Top Timaru hut

Midway through the ‘great race’ to Top Timaru hut

WAITING OUT THE STORM

It was 6pm when I arrived at Top Timaru hut to find Kirsteen Collins nestled quietly in 6 person

Kirsteen - a woman on a mission (photo courtesy of Finny)

Kirsteen – a woman on a mission (photo courtesy of Finny)

bunk. Kirsteen, also a southbounder, or a ‘SOBO’, is somewhat of a trail celebrity. She’s renowned for keeping an incredibly detailed blog, militant in her preparation, and approaches each day with admirable gusto. She’s the kind of lady who’d sawn the handle off of her toothbrush and then drilled holes in what remained of the stub, just to shave off a few extra grams. Kirsteen seemed to be enjoying the peace and quiet, and I hated to burst her bubble of serenity: “There’s a mobile hut party heading this way.” I warned her. “Prepare yourself!”.

A few hours later Finny and Fi arrived, followed by the San Fran lads, and finally Coach Ron, who concluded his hike by doing a victory lap of the rock out the front. That night Ron picked up the guitar again for a round of country tunes and poetry. We sang along in our bunks, chatting, eating, laughing and discussing tomorrow’s impending weather warning. Rain they said, snow they said, gusts of up to 120mph they said. And they weren’t wrong – the next day was a write off.

A younger me would have been frustrated with such a hold up. This is a run, after all, and that was not a day I’d be doing any running. But older me has grown accustomed to enjoying however the adventure unfolds, and so I embraced a day of enforced rest. If I’m honest my legs were just about the wrong side of screwed anyway, the left calf especially, and so I drifted in and out of sleep all day. Come the evening, the only pain I was pushing through was in my left arm – I’d been holding my Kindle up for too long and it had gone numb.

Coach Ron after the hut party

Coach Ron after the hut party

LAKE OHAU LODGE

Following a days battle through tussock and pokey-plants (gawd knows I hate pokies – see the video), it was a relief to make the shore of Lake Ohau, and Lake Ohau Lodge. Owners Mike and Louise were Friends of friends,  and they treated me like a princess.

I woke on the first morning of my stay, enveloped in crisp linen and marshmallowy soft pillows, looking out through floor-to-ceiling sliding doors at Mount Cook in the distance.

The lodge has a rich and turbulent history. In the years preceding Mike and Louise’s ownership, it, along with the attached ski field, had been to the brink of closure and back again. Now it was booming. A hive of activity as mountain bikers, hikers and passing tourists stopped in. Lunch, a beer, an overnight rest – the story was always the same: “Oh we love it here, we’ve been coming for years.”

With lodge owners, Mike and Louise

With lodge owners, Mike and Louise

There’s a real charm about the place, which is just beautiful. Dinner time is an old-school affair, where the general format is to sit at tables with people you’ve never met before and to… talk. Imagine that. In my nights there I had the pleasure of meeting a British couple with a holiday home in Martinborough – he was a retired ear, nose and throat surgeon, she was a mother who’d set up a business selling wood burners in later life and rediscovered her joy de vivre. Then there was the Australian lady who was writing a book about the 10 years she’d spent as an aerobics instructor in Hong Kong (judging by her stories of the city fitness class scene, I’ll be buying the book). Then there was Karl and his young son, Kyan – who’d come to the lodge for a spot of business and to go fishing together – isn’t that lovely? And everyone else, well everyone else seemed to be from the East coast town of Timaru, although I’m yet to work out why.

TO TWIZEL

After a day of rest my legs and feet had swollen to walrus size, something that I’ve learnt is the norm on days when I don’t run. Setting off for the 35km to Twizel was like trying to make headway with sausages for limbs – possibly Cumberland, but I can’t be sure. Whatever the variety, my pegs were in revolt. Especially the left calf which I’d been pushing through a decent amount of pain for the past week. The going was slow, and the infamous Central Otago heat started to become unbearble.

4kms from town I had a wee bit of a meltdown. I’d run clean out of gas. Every step felt like lead and my mouth tasted as if someone had placed a block of Brie on my tongue and left it there to ferment. My gums stuck to my teeth and my throat rasped. I decided that pushing on in the heat was getting me nowhere fast, and so found a small tree at the side of the road. I curled up in a ball and lay in its shade for 40 minutes. Just until I felt human enough to move, and to make the final few kilometres into town.

THE DARK SKY RESERVE

After a bound from Twizel and along the shores of Lake Pukaki, I decided I’d go all out for a marathon day to get me to Lake Tekapo. I’ll agree it’s a strange life when you get into your tent after running all day, and think – “Yes, yes, let’s go for a marathon tomorrow.” I was only carrying one day’s worth of food so the pack was relatively light at 10kgs. I say relatively. It’s all relative of course when everything is graded from “Mother Hubbard that’s heavy.” to “Mary and Joseph, that’s a bit lighter. ”

Everything went according to plan and after 44km I stumbled out of some woods and onto the edge of the campground. And who is the first person I see? Finny. Trail-gang Magic truly is everywhere.

Lake Pukaki - not a bad place to run a marathon

Lake Pukaki – not a bad place to run a marathon

The following morning I was downing my coffee, when I got a call from Graeme Murray. Graeme was a friend of Mike and Lousie from the lodge, and as well as being the owner and founder of the Mount John Observatory, pretty much runs the town of Tekapo.

Staring at the sun through a solar telescope on Mt John

Staring at the sun through a solar telescope on Mt John

Say Anna, why don’t you come over for tea? It’s Chinese New Year and so the observatory tours are pretty booked up with tourists, but we’ll work something out.”

And work something out we did. The next 24 hours were a whirlwind. I ended up de-camping to stay with Graeme, who took me on a tour of the mountain, for lunch then for pizza and beer, before chasing down a tour bus at midnight to squeeze me on a stargazing tour.

 

A NATIONAL PARK IN THE SKY

Over the course of my time with Graeme I got to understand the monumental amount of work that had gone into making the observatory the world class site it is today. I learned that Lake Tekapo is the second best place in the world (behind Chile) to observe the night sky. Thanks to the strict light pollution laws within and around the town, the Milky Way is just about visible all year round. The Mackenzie area is already officially a dark sky reserve, and there’s now a campaign under way to make it the worlds first UNESCO heritage site. I’d never really thought about having a heritage site in the sky before, but of course the skies are as important as the ground. They contain even more of our history, after all.

Mt John and the mega telescopes

Mt John and the mega telescopes

For the star tour itself, I was expecting a Disneyland kind of experience. To be greeted by cheery attendants, music (perhaps a dash of David Bowie) and to be bundled from place to place in militant fashion. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The guides are in fact accomplished astronomers. Individuals who are in the process of studying nighttime wonders and simply want to share their knowledge with a wider audience. They come armed with (super awesome) green lasers, which they point up at the sky as if it were a giant projector screen, to show you where the constellations are. And, because they are bona fide research students – you can ask them pretty much anything and they’ll know the answer. Wonderful.

Between midnight and 2am I looked at Jupiter up close. I watched a moon-rise, learnt how to navigate using the southern cross, stared down a telescope at a globular cluster of 2 million stars, was shown not one, but two distant galaxies and learnt about good old Orion and his hunting belt. By far my favourite constellation was the ‘jewel box’ cluster. A group of stars which were visibly Green, Blue or Red, according to the different levels of heat they generated. Who knew that stars were more than one colour? A-mezzin.

Well. That’s me for now. I’ll leave you all you starlets where you belong, hanging out up there, and come back to collect you for story time next week.

Enjoy the weekend, maybe go for a little run, or something…?

Big high five,

McNuff out xxx

The pictures are up on Flickr here.

Help me use this run to send some youngsters on adventures of their very own here

Camped on the shores of Lake Tekapo

Camped on the shores of Lake Tekapo

From bush to bustle, and back again

I’ll confess, by the time I made Queenstown I was a bit of a state. I hit the first section hard and, in a bid to catch a friend before she left town, I went without a break for 11 days. My legs were cut and bruised, I had an aggressive rash covering both cheeks of my toosh (don’t dunk in a sheep sh*te infested stagnet pool to get under a fence), my right knee was complaining more than usual and I had a funny muscle bobbly bulge thing protruding from my left hip.

When I rounded the bend at Walter Peak station, I’d run out of food and been camping in bushes for the past few days. Having not seen anyone bar a few passing cycle tourists, my thoughts mostly consisted of “Oh my gosh, I’m, like, soooooooo out in the wilderness” and “I’m frickin Bear Grylls“. The bubble of hardcore-ness was swiftly burst by a sea of tourists who greeted me just a few minutes down the road. Backpacks on fronts, sunhats and oversized Nikon cameras snap snap snapping away – it was like wandering out of Adventureland at DisneyWorld and straight onto Main Street. There was a gift shop, a restaurant, heck I could even go on a farm tour if I wanted. Back in your box Bear Grylls, back in your box.

Anna McNuff

THE EARNSLAW

As I padded the last few steps towards the waters edge, the Earnslaw loomed into view: A 102 year old steam boat which ferries tourists across Lake Wakatipu. The only remaining one of its kind the Southern Hemisphere, it’s somewhat a point of pride for Queenstown. And quite rightly so. In fact, I’m hereby renaming it a ‘steam beaut.’

I hurried into the shop and threw a magnum in the general direction of

Disembarking The Earnslaw: spot the runner

Disembarking The Earnslaw: spot the runner

my mouth whilst simultaneously requesting a boat ticket from the baffled girl behind the counter. She looked me up and down, at my grubby legs and sun sprinkled face, then past me to the outside: “Where’s your bicycle?” She asked. “No, no, no bike.” I said, mint and chocolate spilling from my chops and just missing the counter. “I ran here.”

At last aboard, I sat grubby and stinking on a wooden pew and joined tourists who were belting out a rendition of Auld Lang Syne around a piano at the bow of the boat. Somewhere between ‘When will I see you again’ and ‘Tie a Yellow ribbon’, I inhaled an assortment of foodstuffs from the on-board cafe. To the point where I felt a little sick and couldn’t actually eat anything else. Most impressive.

QUEENSTOWN

For someone who gets as high as a kite while keeping two feet firmly on the ground, I wasn’t entirely convinced that Queenstown was going to be my ‘thang’. How would I cope with such an explosion of activity? In my mind, I’d be dodging adrenaline junkies falling from the sky, ducking those swinging between bridges and side-stepping the ones at the bottom of their bungy, before they returned skyward from the ledge whence they came. In reality, I found it to be quieter than expected. I quickly adjusted to the backdrop of parasailors and shark-shaped jet boats in the harbour, and enjoyed the European style waterfront – most agreeable for the lady with legs in need of a little down time.

I spent a couple of days hanging out in cafes, eating ice cream (important for protein intake) and drinking coffee before retreating to stay at Kelvin heights, just across the lake. And man can that lake sparkle. If diamonds are a girls best friend then lake Wakatipu is my new BFF. Set against the backdrop of the Remarkable Mountains (which I kept calling the ‘The Incredibles’, whatevs) there’s something about Queenstown and its surround that just beggars belief. People shouldn’t get to live somewhere so wildly dramatic, but they do. And I’m just a wee bit jealous.

 

Queenstown - just redunkulous

Queenstown – just redunkulous

At Kelvin heights I hung out with Barbara, Anne and Joe. Barbara an ex-helicopter control operator (including for Lord Of The Rings filming) now assistant to the local MP taught me about politics, adventure racing and how Queenstown had grown from a population of 3,000 when she first moved there to the bustling 20,000 of today. Retired couple Anne and Joe, who split their time between a home in Idaho, fed me up on French toast, chatted about golf, and taught me how to play a badass game of Rummikub. I never won, but apparently I’ve got ‘potential’.

THERE’S GOLD IN THEM HILLS

Leaving Queenstown, it was a short jog down the road to historic Arrowtown. In May of 1861 Jack Tewa, aka Hatini Whini, aka Anthony Whiti, aka Maori Jack (seriously, how many names does one guy need?) found gold on the banks of the Arrow river. Word spread fast and by 1863 more than 600,000 ounces of gold had been mined in the area. Thousands made the arduous journey from China and came to the river to seek their fortune. The hours were long and workers often went weeks without pay, but they toiled on, with a dream to make between $100 and $200 NZ dollars – enough to buy a small farm back home in China and live a prosperous life. Sadly many never made the return journey, and when the gold ‘ran out’ those who remained ended up isolated, poor and lonely. Visiting what’s left of the small village where they lived, I couldn’t help but admire their boldness – to leave everything they knew and go in search of a better life.

My Arrowtown crew - Toby 'the cheetah' with the wicked blond hair.

My Arrowtown crew – Toby ‘the cheetah’ with the wicked blond hair.

Local hosts Raewyn, Toby and Jack escorted me as far as the first bridge out of Arrowtown – Toby, aged 5, doing a stellar job at highlighting my ‘steady pace’ by summoning the speed of a cheetah up the initial run. Dusty and wide enough for a horse and cart, the old road to the now deserted hamlet of Macetown rumbles on up the valley, curving and winding above the Grey gorges of the river far below. After a solid hour of listening to Guns and Roses (which I deemed an appropriate musical selection for such a dramatic backdrop) I stopped to check the next section of trail instructions. It read: “Turn left and walk up the river” – only in New Zealand.

THE MOTATAPU’S

Don’t tell the other mountains, but The Motatapu’s are my favourite so far. They sprawl across the landscape like giant sleeping tarantulas. Green bodies and hairy tussock covered legs forming sharp ridgelines and deep basins.

The giant sleeping Motatapu Tarantulas

The giant sleeping Motatapu Tarantulas

Weaving its way between the arachnids, along the valley floor, is a nice, sensible, wide trail – alas this is only opened once a year for a 4×4 race. The Te Araroa follows another, more ‘undulating’ route. A route that is a ball buster (if I had balls that is). Often no wider than a sheep track, it contours round the side of mountains at an angle which (if moving at speed) requires that you to hang to tufts long grass to prevent an ungrateful slide off the edge. Dozens of tiny streams punctuate the path, creating a miniature roller coaster effect as you dip in and out of them. I often found myself above the cloud line gasping for breath before plunging back down into a tightly packed basin. From each basin I’d look up and around and think – ‘how I’m the name of Maori Jack do I get out of here?”. The contours of the land never had an obvious answer, but I could bet my (sheep rash covered) bottom dollar that it’d be straight up that tasty steep ridgeline just in front of me .

Eating Percy Pigs up in the clouds of the Motatapu's

Eating Percy Pigs up in the clouds of the Motatapu’s

Way up there in he Motatapu’s it got hot. I mean, really hot. It wasn’t until I made Wanaka that I found out that that Mercury had hit 37 degrees. And that was in town, so goodness knows what it was in the hills. All I know is that the cheese and chocolate in my pack turned to smush. Who needs a temperature gauge when you can judge heat by smushed or not smushed? On the second night, upon making Rose Hut and meeting now long time trail friends Fiona and Finny, I gathered up my molten bars of Whitakers and headed for the steam. “I’m taking my chocolate for a bath” I announced. There’s something oddly satisfying about getting butt naked in a cold stream, your chocolate bars pinned under rocks next to you, and having a good ole scrub. Ten minutes later, I emerged with a clean body and fully formed, if slightly deformed chocolate bars. Everyone was a winner (except the stream).

WING TIME IN WANAKA

Post Motatpu coaster I rolled into Wanaka – to stay for just a day or so, or so I thought. Three days later I was still there and the town had well and truly cast its spell on me.

I’m not entirely sure what happened on the second afternoon of my visit, but one minute I was sat on the sofa eating an avocado and chicken sandwich, and an hour later I was at the airfield, preparing to go up in a 1940’s Tiger Moth with Classic Flights.

I asked the pilot Peter what the best thing about his job was, and his answer took me aback: “We all take flying for granted these days…” He started. “We get upset when our baggage is delayed, or if you end up in a middle seat… You know there was a time when flying was a real adventure. And the people who flew were pioneers. We’re just trying to show people what that felt like.” How apt for a journey like mine, I thought. One which relies so heavily on the appreciating the simple things in life. That afternoon, my effort to reinstill a sense of wonder for things that have become so familiar, collided directly with his. How ruddy marvellous. The guy was a total dude. And so I was very happy to be in his capable hands for a journey into the clouds.

Heading up in a Tiger Moth with Classic Flights

Heading up in a Tiger Moth with Classic Flights

Suited up in full 1940’s flight suit gear: goggles and a (surprisingly warm) leather jacket, we took the the skies. The first few minutes were filled with the usual thoughts of someone with an over-active imagination, but then I became too distracted by what I saw to feel anything other than sheer joy. The Wanaka landscape from the air is truly spectacular. Parcels of green and brown land, dipped neatly in and surrounded by Blue lake waters. Aqua and green rivers flowing in from the East, vineyards on the hillside, and an assortment of oddly shaped mountains and landforms, scattered out to the horizon. Peter the pilot could have left me up there for all I cared, I was transfixed.

Okay Anna, are you ready for a loop-the-loop?” Came the voice in my ears. I flicked up the

The face of  Tiger Moth Joy

The face of Tiger Moth Joy

intercom. “Yes sir!” I squealed. Thinking no sir in reality, but in for a penny… “You’ll get about 2.5gs on you, just look straight ahead and you’ll be fine.” And off we went. It was the most beautifully surreal experience. The force pinned me gently but helplessly to the seat, and there was nothing to do but to surrender to it. Looking ahead as instructed I listened to the whir of the propellers increase and felt the nose of the plane start to rise. I watched the world turn upside down, sky turned to land and back to sky once, twice – then we were level again. “You alright there Anna, how was that?” I composed myself for a second, thinking of a well constructed and dignified reply to the profound experience I’d just had. But all that left my mouth was “OH MY GAAAWWWDDD THAT WAS AMAAAAAAZING!!!”. Nailed it.

Well campers, I’m going to halt it there for now. My story sack is still bulging with tales (yes I have a story sack), but I’ll save those for next week.

The pictures are up on Flickr here. I warn you many are incredibly beautiful and may result in you running away from home. Approach with caution.

Big love and a high five,
Anna xx

Help me use this wee run to send disadvantaged kiddywinks on adventures. Spondoolies (big or small) gratefully received here

Trail friends and trampers at Rose Hut, Motatapu's

Trail friends and trampers at Rose Hut, Motatapu’s

 

Running New Zealand: An Update

Well stone me, it’s been a while. And seeing as I’ve spent this week piling life possessions into bags and boxes once more, I feel compelled to update you all. Here’s what’s been going down in Adventure Town lately:

The Route:

Running the Te Araroa from North to South seemed all rather logical. I’d be following the migration of birds, this is the direction that Huckleberry Finn navigated the Mississippi, and there’s a slim chance (just as when travelling from Scotland to London) that heading South means everything is downhill. Alas, I hadn’t really thought it through. Kiwi-friend after Kiwi-friend pointed out that I’d be entering the alpine climate of the South Island just as it started to get the wrong side of chilly. In the end I realised that the only reason I wasn’t running the trail in the opposite direction was that it just ‘felt’ odd. And that’s rather silly. So South to North I shall go. As our Thai friends say: Same, Same, but different.

Bluff to Cape Reigna. 2,000 miles, and a little wiggle into Christchurch.

Bluff to Cape Reigna. 2,000 miles, and a little wiggle into Christchurch.

The Plan:

Goodness knows I love a spreadsheet. There’s a dark and powerful magic that lurks between the grid lines of an Excel document, and it calms my soul. Granted, spreadies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I always like to have a plan of sorts. Even more so if I’m visiting schools. The kids in class 3A of Christchurch High, don’t care that your calf muscle gave up, that your backpack broke or a river level stayed too high to allow you to cross. All they know is that you’re not in their classroom when you said you would be. And that sucks. So body willing, I shall follow the hallowed spreadsheet, and make it to where I say I’ll be on time. If I’m honest I enjoy the pressure a schedule brings. When the days get tough and the legs say ‘no’, it’s a reason to keep on keepin’ on.

The Rivers:

I’ve been hearing rather a lot of chat about rivers on this trail. Those who have trekked the Te Araroa, or portions of it, tell me that my feet will be wet for days on end. Soggy souls themselves are not especially exciting, but the prospect of having to bundle my pack up and float it as I wade across rivers is. I’ve never done that before. It means learning new skills and developing a better understanding of how the waters behave, and that makes me reet excited.

There is then, the small matter of Christchurch, which lies approximately a 250 mile round run off of the trail. It’s packed with a load of school kiddies raring for tales of adventure, and so tales of adventure they shall have. Doing a little shimmy off route and back onto it a week later sounds rather like a mini-adventure within an adventure to me. And besides, what’s a few hundred miles between friends?

I have no idea who these people are. Or whether they will appear each time I have to cross a river. I hope so.

I have no idea who these people are. Or whether they will appear each time I have to cross a river. I hope so.

Body bits

When it came to getting ship shape for this adventure, the general plan was to lose the same amount of weight off of my body, as I intended to carry in my pack. That way I’m not really carrying anything extra, I’ve just swapped chub for kit. Or so goes the (sound) logic in my mind. I had a complicated plan:

  1. Run more
  2. Eat less
The Te Araroa Training plan. Highly professional, and ironically taped to the fridge.

The Te Araroa Training plan. Highly professional, and ironically taped to the fridge.

The good news is that I’ve just about managed both. But, let’s be honest, I’m a terrible student. I’ve never been one for diets. I’d rather eat ice cream, have a chin going spare, and be happy. I refer to my favourite poem by Nadine stair “If I had to live my life over again… I would eat more ice cream, and less beans.” Boo to beans, yes to Ben, his friend Jerry and their sidekick: Phish Food.

I’ve managed to shrug off 7kgs and I have to say that being a little lighter has made running easier. I’m more spritely with it, and (I hope) less prone to injury. Sadly in the process my breasticles have downgraded themselves (without permission) to ‘more than an handful’, to ‘more than a handful’s a waste’, and my previous Kim Kardashian sized derrière now looks more like a derry-where? But I’m OK with that. It’s nice to mix things up every now and then. Although, I have refused to invest in any new work clothing, which leaves me rocking the low crutch, baggy jeans look in the office. “Sup’ co-workers. Yeah I got ya email. I hear ya.”

So, What have I learnt so far?

I’ve not even left home and already the school-on-the-move has begun. I’ve learnt that:

  1. Running is a drug: And I’m now an addict. I had a brief 10 day stint where I couldn’t run. I was like an animal, an animal I tell you. Take away my trainers and you now officially take away my soul
  2. I have a pear in my ass: Well. A pear shape. Apparently there’s a muscle in your glutes that’s shaped like a pear. And mine gets angry from time to time. Hashtag: AngryPear.
  3. Injury is a good thing: Running 60 – 80 miles a week is bound to come with a few aches. With every niggle I pick up, every tight glute, strained calf, strange trapezius muscle-in-spasm, I learn. I learn what is pain, what is an injury and which bits connect to where. Mostly everything seems to be connected to the angry pear. I have concluded that this is why the pear is so angry.
  4. Feet can still ‘grow’: Six weeks into training I had to go up a half-size in trainers. It appears that my feet have ‘spread’, and I no longer fit a size 7 shoe. At first I was freaked out. Then I thought it was cool. Now I’m just thinking about how much faster I can swim with bigger flippers…
  5. The shuffle is not conducive to speed: I can bosh out 20 miles without too much thought. But throw some coals in my leg-fire and try to take things up a notch, and nothing happens. Every few weeks I do a 5km Park Run, just to try and wake the old fibres up from their deep slumber. I am still yet to complete one without being overtaken by an eight year old in cargo pants.
  6. I cannot yet speak ‘kiwi’:
    • It’s Cape Ree-ang-er, not Cape Reg-ina. Silly me.
    • Wanaka, is not pronounced ‘wank*r.’
    • You can’t just start a sentence unsure of pronunciation, mumble and expect people understanding where you’re talking about.
    • I have yet to fully grasp the meaning of ‘Churrr Bro.’ Answers on a postcard
Every Tuesday I run 15 miles to work, and Mum joins me for 90 minutes of it. Mums rock.

Every Tuesday I run 15 miles to work, and Mum joins me for 90 minutes of it. Mums rock.

So, what now?

The response to my last post was overwhelming to say the least. A massive thank you to everyone who put me in touch with their friends, and friends of friends. I think I’ve already met half the population of New Zealand via the medium of Facebook and Twitter.  And it’s true – you really do all know each other. That said, there’s always space for more, and certainly more school talks. So please get in touch if you know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows the Prime Minister. I’m kidding. Just a teacher will do. At the bottom of this post is a rough plan on when I’ll be where so that people can say hello.

Well, that’s me done for now. We’re T-Minus 25 days until trainer take-off and I’m caught half way between ‘What in the blazes am I doing?” and “Release me into the wild, I’m ready, ready I tell you!”. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My next post will likely be from NZ. Oh my days.

McNuff out xx

Rough timings from the spreadsheet of wonderment:

  • Bluff Start! 9th Jan
  • Queenstown: 22nd – 27th Jan
  • Wanaka: 29th Jan – 1st Feb
  • Christchurch: 18th – 24th Feb
  • Wellington: 24th – 27th March
  • Hamilton / Cambridge: 6th – 10th May
  • Auckland: 18th – 24th May
  • Cape Reigna Finish!: 19th June
  • Auckland (again): 20th – 26th June

Running the length of New Zealand

Deep breath, here goes…

I’m going to run the length of New Zealand.

There. I said it. On the 15th of January 2015 I’ll set out from Cape Reinga, the very northernmost tip of the North Island and make my way down to Bluff on the Southern tip of the, um, South Island. Just me, my trainers, a backpack, Tina Turner on repeat and 1,800 miles of delicious trail.

The Te Araroa

I’m heavily allergic to running on roads. There’s something about tarmac slap slap slapping away at the souls of my feet that brings me out in a rash. That, and road running seems to make my shins explode in all sorts of unwelcome directions. Trails, on the other hand, reek of adventure. They allow you to rub your gleeful little face in whatever landscape you happen to find yourself passing through. Best of all, trails have the power to transport you to the places that no motorised machine can.

The Te Araroa trail is a relative new kid on the block as far as epic pathways go. It’s not even made National Geographic’s top ten long distance hikes list yet (although I’m sure it won’t be long). Starting with a section called ’90 mile beach’, which, as advertised, is a beach, it then continues on through dense forest, across rising rivers and over mountains, before winding into the Fjords of the South.

The Te Araroa: 1,800 miles from North to South

The Te Araroa: 1,800 miles from North to South

Why New Zealand?

Because they filmed Lord of the Rings there. Okay, not really (but really). I’ve just always wanted to go. And seeing as though adventures should be about exploring places that you’d like to get better acquainted with, it seemed like a good bet. New Zealand is rumoured to be extremely easy on the eye, and should I be found in need of a cultural fix, there’s a hunk of Pacific Island history to top up the well. Plus, did I mention they filmed Lord of the Rings there?

Am I breaking any records?

No siree. Although as far I can work out I’ll be the first woman to run the trail. But really that’s like saying I’m the first person with two a’s and two n’s in my name, to be born on the 18th of October 1984 in Kingston hospital (I’ll await the certificate). This trip isn’t about records or speeds, its about the people and the places. And people and places demand time. I’m doing my best to learn from last years American escapade, and have more freedom to go with the flow. This time around, if someone says to me ‘Hey, Anna (kiwi accent) – fancy spending a day longer here and climbing that mountain / speaking to a bunch of school kids / meeting my 101 year old grandma?”. I want to be able to say: “Yes. I have time. Lead on awesome kiwi person, lead on…

How far will you run in a day?

I’m training to run no more than 20 miles in a day. I know Eddie Izzard ran a marathon a day. I know ultra runners cover more. That’s nice for them. In July I trotted 60 miles in a day, just to see if I could. I can. It hurts and costs you toenails if you’re stupid enough not to cut them before race day. So I do know I could run more. Heck, I could walk more, but I’d like to allow the time to run less. I adore running, for all the simplicity and freedom it offers, and I’d like to keep it that way. I have no doubt that there’s enough Type 2 fun in running 20 miles each day to make for tales of personal discovery and keep me suitably miserable.

How will you carry your worldly possessions?

Carrying all my gear, I may look like this at the end.

Carrying all my gear on my back and shoulders, I may look like this at the end.

On my back. Like a tortoise. Or a snail. I think I prefer a tortoise, they’re a little faster than snails, yet still not as quick as the hare. You, much like my new running coach may shake your head at this. What am I going to do to my knees? My back? My poor hips? Actually I’m more concerned about my shoulders and trapezius muscles. Being an ex-rower I already have knots there so impressive that not even a pneumatic drill would release them. By the end of this I quite suspect that my neck will be as thick as my head. I look forwards to rocking that look when the time comes.

I’m aiming for the pack to weigh 6kgs. It’ll contain a small one man tent, sleeping bag, a spot tracker, a kindle, a phone, solar charger and as little clothing as I can muster. There’s something wonderfully gratifying about travelling with so few possessions and I’m looking forwards to it immensely.

Training

Wow. There’s a header here because I’m actually doing some, which makes a change. Thankfully, unlike the last adventure I’m not working seven days a week in the lead up to this one. So I have some time to prepare my body. I’m also wise enough to know that running is a serious business. Get it wrong and you’re screwed. Get it right and you’re probably still a little screwed, but able to keep going. So I’ve put my faith in a coach who’s got a truckload of experience and am making myself (as he puts it) ‘Bomb proof’ . Yikes.

The important bit

Adventures are all very well and good. They encourage people to pursue dreams, live vicariously, inspire and instill confidence where there may have been an absence of it before. But for me the true value in an adventure always comes in that little bit of summthin’ summthin’ it offers the world.

I’m always on a mission to get kids active and to embrace the outdoors, so I’ll be going into schools again throughout this trip. I want as many mini-people as possible to make the planet their playground, as opposed to just their living room. So if you know any teachers in New Zealand, get in touch and let’s get this classroom party started.

What it's all about, inspiring little minds to do big things

What it’s all about, inspiring little minds to do big things

Am I crazy?

Definitely. Life really is short to be anything but. I only hope this encourages you embrace your inner crazy too.

Why am I so gosh darn excited?

Because this, on a number of different levels, is a challenge. And with a challenge there’s always a strong chance that things can go tits up. Mentally I’m capable. Physically, I’m hoping so. All I know is that I need to start. Once I start, the four months that follow will be an adventure whatever happens. And not really knowing how it’ll unfold is by far the most exciting part.

Following along 

Journeys are always more fun with some virtual companions, so I’d like to cordially invite you all to enroll in the adventure army for this trip. My call to arms is to join me on the journey to the start line and beyond it – say hello on Twitter, or Like up the Facebook page. I can’t promise it’ll be plain sailing, in fact I can guarantee it won’t be, but dear me, either way it’ll be one heck of a ride.

Until next time, all aboard the train to Adventure Town… Woo! Woooo! Chug-a-chug…