January Update: Staying put

I’m abandoning my normal format this month’s update… because we spent 29 out of 31 days in the same place. Mad.

It’s been about 18 months since that happened, what with 15 months of travel, and various work and social trips in the run up to our leaving the UK.  It feels pretty weird to be honest.  But I’m confident it’s the right thing for us to be doing at the moment.  We’ve got some things planned that we weren’t able to do on the road, which I’m really looking forward to. More below on this!

I’m pretty sure this extreme of immobility is an anomaly for us though — we’ve been reluctant to stray too far while we were waiting on responses to job applications and interviews.  Looks like things are (finally!) falling into place on that front now, so hopefully February will be a little more adventurous.  It has been very restorative getting some down time, but those twinges of travel enthusiasm I mentioned last month are turning into full blown pangs. (Cough. Last week. I may have got hideously behind schedule on these monthly updates. Oops. But, last week was also last month. Technically.)

I’ll get onto our future trip scheming below as well, but first off here’s what we got up to in January. This is a bit of a taster of what life in Christchurch is going to be about for us. We’ll see if we make enough trips in February to keep these monthly updates interesting, otherwise this might be the last one for the time being.

Here was our month (mostly) in Christchurch…

Enjoying the Port Hills

The port hills are on the southern edge of Christchurch, dividing the city from the port of Lyttleton. We managed a few afternoons of rock climbing up here, which have been so much fun, though I seem to be turning into a scaredy pants as I get older. Plus I can’t get enough of the views over Christchurch and Lyttleton from pretty much every bit of the hills.

We also did a couple of hikes in the port hills last month.  The first was over the bridleway that early European settlers had to use to reach the city from the port. I find the thought of this so compelling and vivid… Lines of people trudging over the hills with what belongings they could carry, arriving at their new home after months at sea.  I’m going to write about this in more detail another time, it’s fascinating to me.

The second walk I did by myself, while Arthur and the rest of our housemates went mountain biking (an adventure park with a lift has just opened in Christchurch).  Most of my hike was along the crater rim walkway, which is a 30km long trail around Lyttleton harbour.  It follows the ridge of the hills, which are part of an extinct volcano.  The views down to Lyttleton from here are great, as are the views across the city on the other side.

Volunteering at a Community Garden

We’ve come across a local enterprise who are using sites levelled in Christchurch’s earthquakes to grow organic veg that they sell to restaurants, and in a veg box scheme.  They also work with youth to help them develop work skills, and with people with mental health issues, bringing them to get involved at the garden as a kind practical therapy, and to be in a relaxed space for talking.

Once a week they have an open afternoon where anyone can come in to share lunch and help out with the garden.  I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks, and Arthur’s come a couple of times too. I’ve really been enjoying getting involved in something so positive and practical, especially given the nightmarish developments on the world stage of late. Apart from anything else it’s a pleasure to watch things grow and thrive, and to have played a small part in that.

We often come away with some produce for our trouble too, like interesting salad leaves. Sadly we didn’t get to take any of these tomatoes home, I guess heritage tomatoes are expensive, they’re hip. But I did get one to nibble.

Sea swims

I have a top secret project that means I’ve been swimming a lot at the pool and in the sea, and trying to get used to being in the sea for extended periods of time.  It’s been… chilly.

I’m keeping shtum on this for now.  I’ll let you in on the secret next month!

Getting some Culture

We’ve been to a recording of a radio discussion program, a couple of free live music events in the park, a show at the World Buskers Festival, and a temporary exhibition about Air New Zealand (the kiwi national carrier) in the Christchurch museum .

The exhibition had loads of interesting memorabilia from the early days of passenger flights.  Menus, real china, and complementary fans for when the cabin got too hot.

A whole different world. The unpleasantness of modern flying definitely made it easier for us to quit — if at all possible, I’d much rather be on a train. But flying in the early days (the 1930s) between New Zealand and Australia seems to have been both an adventure, and a very luxurious experience.  The planes flew low over the sea because the cabin wasn’t pressurised, so there was more turbulence, but also more of a view.  And more gin, it seems.

What’s next?

The next few months will be about settling down to work and some kind of routine, and having plenty of small adventures in our free time.  It’s really nice to be able to plan things in advance for a change, and have specific things to look forward too next week or next month.

We’re going to an outdoor film screening next week for example, and this morning I signed up for ukelele classes!  Kind of embarrassing, but I’m actually really excited about this.  I want to learn something new and fun that doesn’t involve making objects that I have nowhere to put, so this seemed ideal. I start Monday week!

And Arthur has finally been able to join a floorball team, after not having been able to for about five years.  This is partly from spending all this time on the road, but also because we spent several years before we left living too far away from the nearest team.

In terms of trips, I’ve just picked up this book about backcountry huts from the library, and reading it is getting me itching to get into the hills to do some hiking, and spend some peaceful time in natural surroundings. New Zealand has so many spectacular places to explore, and nearly a thousand backcountry huts you can stay in while you do so. You can get annual pass for about £70, which covers staying in almost any hut.  They’re pretty comfortable, often with a log burner for warmth, and with wooden bunks which almost always have mattresses. One hut even has an outdoor bathtub you can heat up with a wood fire underneath.

Swoon.

I’m still not sure of the particulars, but we’ll definitely be trying to do plenty of hut trips in the next few months. I have so many ideas. Huts are one of the things that made me fall in love with New Zealand in the first place, when I was here a few years back. They just make hiking much more convivial and relaxed. I ♥ huts! In fact the only trip we did manage in January was an overnight hike to one of these huts with some friends (you may remember from last month’s update).

And a hike and a stay in one of these huts is what we’re up to this weekend! We’re headed to spend three days (Monday is Waitangi day) in Kahurangi national park, in the North West of the South Island. Specifically, the Mount Arthur tablelands await.  I promise this trip was not chosen to allow Arthur to mount Mount Arthur.

Not solely, anyway…

What are your plans for February?  We love to hear from you!

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