New Zealand trip Day Four

(Sunday 30th October, 2016)

Well I’m trying to catch up on this blog bit by bit, sorry for the delays. I’m sitting in Wellington airport with brilliant wifi on Tuesday 1st November so let’s go! Okay well it’s 3rd November, but let’s get this done.

We had a really nice room at the Colonial Lodge Motel for last (Saturday 29th October) night. A lovely place with well kept gardens of roses and friendly staff. Breakfast was room service continental but if you wanted a hot breakfast you just paid the difference. It’s quite nice really, having breakfast brought to you! So eggs in bed 🙂 We planned to get going at 9.30am and today we were ready in time, not 10 minutes late like yesterday! Getting packed up everyday isn’t the most fun but its all to a good purpose. After riding for 10 minutes yesterday with rain falling on and running off my bare arms, the lovely tour guide Jenny brought me paniers for my bike so I could stow my vest and jacket for possible future use; just as well, cos we got caught in rain again! My jacket isn’t waterproof but at least it takes the worst of the rain so it isn’t landing directly on you. And I can tuck my camera into it. Theoretically. I ended up tucking it back in every few seconds! Turns out my comfort level for exposure of my camera to drizzle is a lot higher than to rain; when it’s “tipping down” as Jenny says, having it half covered isn’t really good enough so I was fidgeting with it for the last couple of kilometres! Should have stowed it in the paniers like hubby said as soon as it started spitting but spitting doesn’t always turn into raining and I’m loving taking pictures of our trip. In another life I think I’ll be a photojournalist. If anyone would actually pay me for it! The other thing Jenny brought me this morning was gloves. I never wear gloves. I dunno why, just never started. Nearly everyone else at Wheel Women wear gloves, but I’ve just got the one pair of fleece gloves in case of freezing weather, and I forget to wear them half the time! On a multi day tour the heels of your hands can get a bit sore from vibrating on the handle grips but I’ve never been bothered enough by it to do anything about it. However yesterday was different. The rain was tipping down, my arms were soaked and water was running off my arms and hands, and I lost my grip on the handle bars! They were proper rubber handles and super grippy to start with, but the water made them as slippery as anything and I was battling to hold on! So lucky that Jenny had some in lost property! And that she’s such a generous soul. So I was better prepared today, and off we go. It’s nice to just ride out from where we’re staying, and not need to be bused about.

Today was only 4km longer than yesterday, we ended up doing 41km compared to 37km but it felt longer and more difficult! For starters I was a bit stiff and sore today from yesterday. I’m wishing I stuck to that training plan now, and that riding 40kms was a bit more of a routine thing. Anyway, let bygones etc. Most of the difficulty was due to the windy conditions that we were battling through but also to the fact that we rode almost the whole distance before stopping for anything. Yesterday we had several stops: the old bridge, the estuary, Mission estate, Church Road winery etc, every few kilometres. Today we stopped for coffee after 17km, and that was only at a coffee cart, then we rode through to lunch, the full distance done. It was a bit tough ploughing through the wind but still lovely and sunny in the morning. Up on that elevated bank, originally a flood levee, and you’re just so exposed. So we were glad to get off it onto flat roads through the orchards and vineyards and heritage listed avenue of trees around Havelock North. Except that no sooner had we gotten into that bumpy patchy path than the it started spitting! But spitting doesn’t always turn to raining right? Wrong. Argh. The last couple of kilometres were going to be tough anyway for me especially with a cross wind but now rain is pelting down and unlike yesterday, it isn’t warm! It snowed overnight!! Within sight of where we stayed! You could definitely feel the chill so I’d been wearing my jacket all day, me, and now cold rain and wind to make it colder! Not a lot of fun. We’d had a shower earlier too, apparently there was hail in it but I didn’t notice. That was kind of fascinating because it was clearly a front. It came from behind, gave us a short sharp blast then with a swirl of wind it had passed through, over and done with in seconds. Not this rain, it was settling in to go all day! Thankfully we got to the winery for lunch and didn’t have to contemplate getting back on our bikes again that day! I don’t think we could have!

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So we’re at the winery. 1.30pm on a Sunday and we come in like drenched rats! Everyone else is dressed up and out for lunch and we’re in wet runners and sports clothes! Well I’m in my cleats actually cos I’m so used to them now, even if I’m not used to the pedals on my hire bike; so far no mishaps! Even those with waterproof coats had wet hair from the helmet vents, and some had wet necks and backs, and all had wet pants. Not really fun. My hair was satched so I thought I’d use my neck scarf to cover it, but it was wet. Sitting down was kind of cold. I did change out of my wet jacket and scarf and into my dry vest but it wasn’t really cutting it so we asked the maitre d to turn on the heaters. Apparently my lips were purple! Those who know me or read this blog will know that I’m almost never cold, and certainly not this cold! But wet cold is very different to dry cold. We had an AMAZING lunch! THE best lamb I’ve ever had, just ahead of my grandma’s. 12 hour slow cooked lamb shoulder with a subtle glaze that just fell off the bone it was served on! We all absolutely LOVED the lamb and I think most of us are going home to try to replicate it. We also had a lovely antipasto platter of prosciutto, mustard, pickled veg, terrine, a couple of salami types and a gorgeous fresh salad which gave new meaning to green salad by being literally all green! Uber finely sliced cabbage, fennel, mint with barely any dressing if any and such a fresh taste. A yummy fish dish with calamari, tasty dressing, so kinds of tasty its and bits and some kind of black pappadum.

Not so many photos today, I was too busy turning one leg over the other and battling with myself, the wind and then the rain! It was beautiful scenery again, and lots to remember, just not so much recorded. Is that okay? Probably its all I could physically manage at the time, but I do love having my photos to remind me as my memories rapidly fade!! “Home” to Havelock North to crank up the heater and warm up and dry out our clothes for packing. It’s free night tonight, no group activity, so we head to the recommended Mamasita Mexican and love it! Delicious tacos and Mexican drinks, ahh ready for bed!

Canberra Day Thirty Four

[Friday 14th October 2016]

Today was a great day! Not every moment, but wouldn’t that be asking a bit much in ordinary situations? But the not-so-great moments got turned around to become something good so all in all I’m stoked. I really enjoyed myself today! It started with a plan of what to do for the day. The last couple of days have been less than productive, which I don’t enjoy, and after all its day 34; time is cracking along! More than a month already, can you believe it? On days where I wake up and don’t have a plan for the day, they tend to be the days that I roll over and go back to sleep, because why not, and drift aimlessly through to early afternoon before making up my mind about what to do then having to rush about to do it, or missing the chance. So I decided Thursday night that before I went to bed I was making a plan, and when morning came I was sticking to it. The plan that Chester and I came up with was to wake up, get dressed in my cycling gear and ride my bike down to one of the streets in our new suburb that has a lot of eateries. I would go to Eighty Twenty café that hubby recommended and have breakfast, then check out the bike path that runs along Sullivan’s Creek, somewhere that I’d seen and wanted to check out, and that hubby has ridden part of, I think. And I did! Add in the bonus of remembering to call at the bike shop and get a bracket so I can attach my mobile phone to my handlebars for GPS on the go. Minus not actually navigating my way successfully to Sullivan’s Creek after my phone went flat and rendered my new bracket moot!! I haven’t really got my directions at this new place, and all the through roads around here have bends in them! What a crazy situation! So you just think you’ve gotten your bearings and the road take a 45 degree bend! Now where are you? But in the process I was in sensory heaven soaking up the lush green budding and leafy trees forming avenues over the roads, and the beautiful flowering gardens in all colours with some trees still blossoming, and well-kept front areas of houses in our neighbourhood, and probably the bordering suburbs as well; not really sure where I went! Eventually I hit Anzac Avenue which was somewhere well in the wrong direction from where I was meant to be, then my phone died, so I had a lovely meandering time trying to figure out how to get home! It was actually just so nice to dawdle around checking out the gardens and lawns, and taking detours wherever I wanted. Luckily I’d picked up some names of street nearby to ours already…remembering this is day 3 living in this new place!

I got home and felt like I could go for more so I did another street and luckily came around the block back again. All up about 9km but just a good amount to get going again. I haven’t ridden for a couple of weeks with rain, then wind, then pervasive disinterest! So it was good to feel like I can still do it, and still get that nice little spike of feel good from rolling around the suburbs on my bike. Plus the weather just turned any outdoor activity into sheer bliss! 20 degrees, chill breeze, blue skies making for great biking. That ride set me up for the rest of the day. Everything else good that happened after felt like it happened because of the ride.

I mentioned breakfast was at Eighty Twenty in Braddon on Lonsdale Street. Quite lovely, but I found the menu a bit challenging; not your standard egg and bacon! More your quinoa, nuts, almond milk, home baked granola type place, but in the end I did have their smashed avocado on toast with 2 eggs and 3 bits of asparagus on top and peas and feta around the plate. It was delicious actually, I’d have it again for sure. Just to show you can have eat-out breakfast without bacon! Sitting in the sun with my bike next to me did fill me with some feelings of accomplishment. Here I’d planned this thing that I’d been putting off really for the last week or two, and I was doing it! I can follow through. I’m not a wash out, a failure, useless. I can do it, and the proof is that I did do it! So nothing to stop me next time, hey? Except carrying my bike down the stairs from our level one apartment; that’s not an easy feat! I guess practice makes perfect.

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SO what else to do on a sunshiny day but tackle something I’ve been wanting to do: check out the Mount Ainslie lookout. I went once before you might remember but it was in a cloud and you couldn’t see a single thing! Today you could see forever or to the beautiful blue hills that border Canberra. Blue skies, sunshine, and the view is spectacular! Always worth the short drive up. I went planning on getting view photos only, but thought I’d walk along a short track back from the lookout itself, heard a bird and it was an hour and a half later when I looked up! Only two rows of trees, one on either side of me, one tree deep, but I got some spectacular birds! Great photos and extended views of a bird I’ve only seen once and got one muffled shot of that first time, a lifer in a Little Eagle soaring above (that was exciting, never forget to look up!), and other interesting birds being very conducive to photos! And I didn’t even have to try, they were all just there, going about their business. The best way to watch birds!

Went home for a nap, but was too excited to look at the photos from the morning. That was a task well worth doing because I found there were 2 different species of bird that I’d photographed but hadn’t realized what they were! Two more for the morning’s list! I knew they were something different but they were too far away; luckily my camera brings them closer J

It was all too exciting, so after a couple of hours I headed back to find the actual trail. Not the Kokoda trail near the lookout; that’s for mountain goats! So I headed down the hill looking for a trail. Not the old tip trail, it’s too rough and large gravel and steep; I’d do an ankle! Not the next one down; its appears to go into the shooting range from the back! So it turns out that the trail I did way back last year when we were here for our hosts wedding was the best one, and the one I should be doing. They need to make a brochure like they have for Black Mountain; it would save a lot of precious birding time, wandering all around everywhere. The first half of the walk was in the wrong direction really, but because there weren’t many/any birds other than the pesky Noisy Miners (!) I kept up a bit of pace and did a pretty nice 2km walk before (re) finding the best spot. So I had my eyes open to other things: rabbits, kangaroos, a cute echidna! And everlasting daisies, tons of them! They are all just about to open the buds; I’ve made a date to go back next week and check it out.

Two successes of my later birding walk were walking alone in the bush (although I have been building a tolerance to this with lots of walks lately, this one was a bit more removed from carparks and passersby) and walking alone in the bush at dusk approaching dark. My recent anxiety flare up has brought these closer to the front of my mind again which is a pest! I’d squashed them down nicely for quite a while. I’ve always been terrified of the monsters in the dark. We had an outside toilet as kids and whatever age I was I’d still wake one of my parents to go with me. But it didn’t stop me having to bite the bullet of the adrenaline rush that was running from the back door to the toilet door in the direct and utterly exposed lie of fire of those who waited at 2am on the other side of the green mesh wall to gun me down for some unapparent reason!! I was always terrified of gun men, and kidnappers, and rapists. I still am to a degree, but I’m more rational in questioning the reason: a) why anyone would want to shoot me, b) why they would wait in the cold all night right there near the toilet in case I needed to go to the toilet, c) how they would know the layout of our house and toilet, d) why they would shoot a child with a shot gun (the only gun I knew, and so assumed they had) and so on. If you start thinking like this it does all start to crumble, but you have to make that conscious switch to think like that, which is indeed the challenge. Anyhow, you’ll be pleased to hear that no thugs or bandits were crouched behind tree stumps in an enormous area populated by a whole 2 walkers waiting to loot us and so on. I returned to my car, by this time practically in the dark, unharmed, and with only a little adrenaline coursing through my veins. And so concluded my happy day! Exercise, the beautiful outdoors, challenging myself to eat outside my comfort zone, finding my way around new suburbs unaided, beauty and birds to be photographed; how lucky am I? A low key dinner and sitting on the couch to end a wonderful day.