Australia – 1/27/15-2/17/15

Australia was so much more than we imagined. We knew our time with our friends would be amazing, but were dreading the heat and the desert. But Jesse and I were pleasantly surprised at how green and lush the Sunshine Coast is.

We stayed with our friends Nic and Jen (and their daughter, Maddi) for 3 weeks. I want to talk about everything, but I also don’t know how to fit it all in! I made a little gallery below with the highlights (you can click on the photo to see them as a bigger slideshow)!

It was common for us to be up at 4 AM to get in activities before the heat of the day. This included climbing mountains and running, of course!

We got in a few sessions of good rock climbing, the waterpark on the Gold Coast, cute shopping in Montville and Mt. Tamborine, and lots of time at the beach. We went to the Long Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane to see koalas and kangaroos (contrary to popular opinion, it is not common to see these guys just roaming around wildly), and stopped for great coffee at so many cute places. I took in some boxing classes with Jen (of course this happened right near the beach) and Jesse and Nic had some epic runs.

It was an amazing time, and apparently, a very mild summer – I think we had a low of 27 C and a high of 30 C =]

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Birthday Weekend – 1/24/15

To know me is to know I love birthdays. I love knowing that there is one day each year that is super special for one person. I love that, however many years ago, that person entered the world and didn’t even know it and now they’ve made it all those years, through happiness and sadness, hard times and easy ones, meeting goals and facing disappointments, and for all that, once a year, they should get a cake with their name on it. And balloons. And special breakfast. Or whatever else they want to do to celebrate all that stuff.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been at “home” for my birthday and I’m enjoying finding out where I’ll spend each one now. This year, it was in Christchurch, NZ. Alone.

Now before you all start pointing fingers at Jesse for my solo birthday, you should know that it was my choice to spend it that way – I certainly didn’t have to. We had an ambitious weekend all lined up in Hanmer Springs, complete with running, kayaking, mountain biking, hot pools, BBQs, and good friends, but I passed it all up for two days and two nights by myself. Many months ago I wanted to sign up for my first ultra for and on my birthday; the St. James. Then, early in our NZ trip, I munted my knee and couldn’t run for more than about 2 minutes without pain. So I saw a physiotherapist and made some slow healing progress and signed up for the 20 km instead. Then as that approached, I still wasn’t feeling confident that I could finish and be happy so I decided to skip the weekend all together, but urged Jesse to still compete in his SUPER CRAZY PSYCHO event with his buddies (7 km kayak, 100km mtb, then a 50 km run. In one day. OMG.)

The morning of my actual birthday, I made myself some Milo (one of my favorite NZ hot beverages – it’s basically hot chocolate, but for some reason it has novelty value), opened my sweet present from Laura, and had a nice chat with my mom (since it’s technically her day, too!)

IMG_6251I also watched TV in bed. I read books and rode my bike around town. I took myself out for breakfast. I had a lovely dinner date with my sister-in-law. I drove around in Dan’s car (which was enough adventure in itself!), and I did other genuinely fabulous birthday things. Have I mentioned how I love birthdays? But the best part was my birthday morning run around Hagley Park, just to see. Ten miles later, I was grinning ear to ear – it was my furthest distance without pain since we were in Hamilton!

IMG_6253Jesse came back from the weekend early to hang out and it was great to see him and hear all about his weekend. His kayak leg was beautiful and the mountain bike was all the challenge he hoped it would be. Due to the heat, the run was shortened for everyone and Jesse decided to skip it. It was a tough event, to be sure, but the heat can make it pretty dangerous to push it. I think he made the right call. And it was well over 12 hours of adventuring regardless so it was still an epic day!

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And speaking of heat, we spent two more days in Christchurch and then hopped on a plane for the true summer weather in Australia.

Heaphy Track – 1/22/15

As I mentioned before, Jesse and I camped by The Old Ghost Road, so before setting off to find the Heaphy Track, we did a short walk on the trail (realizing we should have devoted some serious time to it because it was really quite cool). It’s an old gold miner’s road and at 80 km long, it is New Zealand’s longest single track trail…and you can mountain bike on it! Mountain bikes are also allowed on the Heaphy Track and we were kicking ourselves a little for sending our bikes back to Christchurch with our friends. Oh well.

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In true New Zealand fashion, our car became filled with sand flies as we packed up and in an attempt to get them out, we drove with the windows down. We then realized it was only pushing them to the back of the car so we stopped and were able to wipe a book along the back window to kill literally dozens at a time! Those things are vicious and are excellent at hiding.

Continuing on, feeling safe from the sand flies, we drove as far as the road goes up the west coast; past Karamea, winding our way through the beautifully lush hills, catching glimpses of the ocean. It was truly remote up there, the campground littered sparsely with tents and the trail was quiet. We were only doing a day hike because we had weekend plans, and so we began. I love the variety of surface types this trail featured. Let’s retrace my steps, shall we?

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And here are photos from the rest of our expedition!

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The prominent rock in the center is featured in the photos below!

We trekked up to the Katipo Shelter and it took us exactly 2.5 hours to get there as the DOC sign promised. But that includes some play time on the deserted beach!

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We didn’t see much wildlife, save for a weka making a mess (I have a video of him, but have yet to figure out how to imbed them on my blog. Sorry!). But we saw a caution sign for snails – and one was featured on the post for us!

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Some stats from our grand day:

Time & distance on foot: 5 hours; 15 miles / 24 kilometers.

Time & distance in the car: 8.5 hours; 385 miles / 620 kilometers

Abel Tasman – 1/21/15

Of the 9 Great Walks in New Zealand, I wanted to do Abel Tasman the most. A fabulous trail, the sea, lush forests, golden beaches…it seemed like paradise. And so we made it happen after our West Coast “vacation”.

We booked a cruise boat to take us up to Tonga Quarry for a few hours of sea kayaking, then we’d run 10 km to Anchorage where the boat would pick us up at the end of the day and take us back to Kaiteriteri. The perfect plan. And if we ran fast enough, we would be able to cut across the beach before the tide came in. Challenge accepted.

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I’m still very much working on my kayaking skills, but we were still the fastest boat in the group. Besides Tim, our guide of course. So we had lots of relaxing time in the boat to just enjoyed the waves, the views, and the wildlife. We saw seals, little blue penguins (including the cutest baby one), diving birds, and this guy:

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We also saw a dead seal pup being eaten by a seagull, but that wasn’t really photo-worthy. So we took a selfie instead!

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At one point, Tim remembered a lagoon we could access at high tide…if we hurried. So we paddled like mad to catch it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t leave anyone behind and well, not everyone made it. So we missed our lagoon adventure. So it goes.

We finished our 4+ mile kayak, downed a sandwich, and set off on our run.

                                  Does everyone love GPS data like we do?

Although the goal was to get across the beach during low tide to save time, we ended up staying on the trail anyways. It was so pretty in the trees, we couldn’t be bothered traipsing across the sand and mud.

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As you can tell, it was a gorgeous day. But with the New Zealand sun overhead, it was a warm one and a brief detour to cool off at Cleopatra’s Pool was necessary.IMG_6207

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We finished the run at Anchorage and caught our cruise ship back to Kaiteriteri. I *accidentally* fell asleep on the boat. Whoops!

After our day’s adventure we drove a few hours west and camped by the Old Ghost Road for the night. (Note: it’s not as scary as it sounds!)

#westcoastbestcoast

West Coast, best coast. In my honest opinion, this is true in the States and true in New Zealand as well.

We made our way slowly down the stunning coastline to Greymouth for a weekend of birthdays and of course, running.

We made a pit-stop in Punakaiki to check out the Pancake Rocks and to walk on the beach for a while; it was blustery as! Throw in some typhoon-like rain and I’d almost believe we were back in Oregon!. Sadly the blowholes weren’t in action, but the rocks were still really neat to see and the waves crashing up on the beaches was quite mesmerizing.

On the left-hand side of this first photo you can see why they’re called ‘Pancake Rocks’!

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The event(s) in Greymouth, the Mountain Man and Goat Race, was an epic Saturday of kayaking, road cycling, mountain biking, and trail running. Jesse’s friend Nic was the only one committed to the full adventure day, but Jesse and Nic’s dad were signed up for the run (as was I, but I backed out last minute) and I hear it was a brutal event. The 25 km race climbed over the Croesus Track, which featured about 1,700 m (over 5,600 feet) of climbing.

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While the guys were all running, I did a little 10 km of my own on the Point Elizabeth Trail. Nic’s dad claimed this was the best trail in the world and I could definitely see why it’s his favorite.

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Sunday was a rest day and then Jesse and I took in the Franz Josef Glacier on Monday. The whole drive down Jesse’s sister kept me updated on my beloved Packers’ score, which was bittersweet. They lost, but at least she was joining in on my pain. Also, because I am so in love with MallowPuffs, we found a really special treat at a bakery in Greymouth for the trip!

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Again it was dark and rainy and we were [stupidly] in our jeans for the hike, braving the wind, rain, thunder, and lightning. We didn’t get to walk out onto the glacier like visitors could in years past but it was a good hike regardless.

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It was a fantastic weekend amongst great company!

And I’ll finish off the post with a quick shot of some graffiti I found after breakfast one day. I do enjoy well done street art…

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Mountain Biking | Nelson and Kaiteriteri (Jan 14-15, 2015)

I’m new to mountain biking. I know next to nothing about bikes; maintenance and care, basic mechanics, sizing, brands, etc. “Novice rider” is generous when it comes to my skill level. But I’m up for just about anything so we planned a few days of mountain biking around Nelson, which is at the very top of the South Island.

We left Christchurch late in the evening and camped about halfway up. We spent some time exploring the Nelson downtown area and then found some trails.

The thing about mountain biking is that all the fun is in the downhill, right? But to get to do that, one must first go up. And up. And UP. AND UP! And so we did. Pushing our bikes, carrying them up stairs, opening and closing gates…it was basically hiking. But then the fun began!

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It was a short ride that day with some pretty sweet views of Nelson. Lots of climbing, lots of work, and lots of fun.

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                                              Have I mentioned how I like pink?

The following day we went to check out the mountain bike park in Kaiteriteri. It was busy on the beach that day but we were pleasantly surprised that the bike trails were relatively empty.

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We spent a good amount of the time on the beginner trails and then upped the ante to some intermediate ones and I was pleased to find those fairly rideable, save for one narrow trail with a steep edge. I was feeling proud of my cycling fitness but note to self after two consecutive days of riding: buy padded shorts! These are key for any rider, I believe.

The view on some of the exposed parts…oh so beautiful.

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After a few hours of biking, it was hot enough to call it quits so we picked a nice loop to bring us back to the car. Riding along, the trail became noticeably harder with tight switchbacks, steep grade, and often some large drops. Around one particularly sharp corner I must have been braking too hard in the front because I suddenly found myself end over end, stopping with my bike on top of me. First crash was a decent one and it was fun to watch the various bruises ripen over the next few days.

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We reached the bottom and consulted our map. It seemed our trail map was out of date and we had ended up on the “under construction” trail…that was seemingly finished to be an ‘expert’ grade! Whoops! But it was good training for Jesse with his adventure race only a week away.

We spent the night somewhere between Nelson and Greymouth and all of my complaints of sand flies put together would not equal the misery I was in at this campsite. Pun intended, I was not a happy camper. Luckily it was just one night and I could look forward to a real bed, a hot shower, a washing machine, and the best company for the weekend. Stay tuned!