A new format for the update post this month. Since we’ve settled in Christchurch for the foreseeable, I figured listing how many days we’ve spent in each place would become horribly dull. Also the Christchurch section would begin to read went to work. Did a bit of climbing, some hiking, and lots of swimming. Cooked, practiced ukelele and French, ordered takeaway once or twice. Went to the pub. Every. Single. Month.
Did I mention we’re gainfully employed?? Woohoo! It’s very nice to have our bank balance in recovery from the beating that fourteen months of travel administered to it. And it’s also nice to have some bona-fide work time in my life, thus making leisure time feel earned again. Man am I tired though. I can’t believe I thought travel was tiring. Try an average working week. Plus exercise. Plus feeding yourself. Plus socialising. Plus…
In short, life is busy again. Which is wonderful, but also a bit much right now. Ahh, elusive balance.
Anyway, without further ado, that new format.
Apart from the aforementioned return to work, the big thing in February for me was ramping up for a big ocean swim on the 4th of March. Here’s the full story, from my Just Giving page for the event.
On Saturday March the 4th I’ll be trying to complete a 3.3km ocean swim. It’s the furthest I’ve ever swum in open water, 132 lengths of a 25 metre pool!
And I won’t be wearing a wetsuit…
This is something I chose to do just for the challenge, but I’ve been spending three to six hours a week swimming for the last few months, so I’ve had lots of quiet time to think.
One person I’ve been thinking about is my grandpa Ron, who died last year after very many years of living with Parkinson’s.
Grandpa was always making something or doing something, which I’m sure made the reality of living with Parkinson’s all the more difficult for him. But he still kept smiling, and finding joy in life, long past the point I might have given up.
On the days when I was hating every minute of training for this swim, when I had to lie to myself that I only had ten more lengths to swim, thinking of grandpa spurred me on.
If you’d like to give some money to Parkinson’s UK in recognition of grandpa’s massive effort to persevere, and my tiny one, I’d be very grateful.
And I actually completed it! I was up bright and early on Saturday, feeling pretty terrible from lack of sleep, and really quite nervous. But once I was in the water all the nerves faded away and I really enjoyed the swim. Nobody kicked me in the head, which was my main concern, as I’ve never swum with 500 other people before. I was peanut-butter-sick in my mouth at buoy six, and accidentally swum really wide between five and four, but the sun came out at buoy two, and I finished in 1 hour 5 minutes, which is way faster than I expected. So on balance, it went really well!
And as a bonus my lovely friends and family have already donated a couple of hundred pounds to Parkinson’s UK, which I’m really grateful for. If you’d like to make a small donation towards Parkinson’s disease care and research, I’d truly appreciate it. Here’s the link to my Just Giving page again.
The only trip we did in February was a long weekend in the North West corner of South Island, over Waitangi weekend. Waitangi day marks the anniversary of the signing of the treaty of Waitangi, which made New Zealand a British Sovereign Territory. It’s a controversial document still, so a slightly controversial holiday.
We spent a couple of days hiking in Kahurangi national park, then threw in a bit of climbing and coffee drinking at the end for good measure.
I’d never been to Kahurangi before, which was definitely an error. It’s seriously beautiful walking country — lush forests full of birdlife, dramatic peaks, and some great huts and shelters to stay in.
We’ll definitely be back in this corner of the country soon.
Favourite book this month:
I was planning to include the best book I read this month here, but I’m shocked to realise that I didn’t finish a single book in February. Terrible. I need to stop picking up new books. My Goodreads page informs me I’m currently reading 12. Which is technically true, in that they’re all books I haven’t finished but haven’t given up on yet. Ridiculous.
So I’ll direct you to my favourite book from October instead, because it’s still cropping up in my thoughts now.
this month last October: The Good Life
This is a kind of treatise by Australian sociologist/psychologist Hugh Mackay, expounding the somewhat obvious but often overlooked (by me) idea that what really matters in life is what you bring to others. And not big things, necessarily.
The idea that’s still rattling around my head is that not everybody can make their living doing big, dramatic, people helping work, but the small things you add to your community and your relationships can be just as important in living a meaningful, useful life. If you’re reading this thinking, well duh, then maybe this book isn’t for you. But I think I tend to get too caught up in whether I’m doing the right thing with my life, whatever than means, and in trying to achieve big goals, and I tend to forget just how important the small things can be. So I found this book extremely readable, and something of a game changer personally.
Favourite blog I found this month: James is trying
James is a medical student, but his blog isn’t really about medicine or students. It’s about something else… trying I guess? Trying to keep going even when that’s hard? I found it last week and went on a bit of an archive reading binge. My favourite post so far is entitled I ran until I cried. I love his writing style, very absorbing.
Favourite thing I read on the internet: this video
I know, I didn’t read it. Well I sort of did, I watched it with the subtitles on.
Maybe I need to rename this section.
Anyway. Nastasya and Dima, who we met through couchsurfing when they had us to stay in Petergof, St Petersburg, made this film on their travels in Europe. It’s about a couple who run a restaurant on a small island in Sweden, balancing family life with trying to create a sustainable business for their community and the planet. It’s a beautiful little story, and watching it left me feeling cheerful and very serene.
Only two posts this month. In my defence they add up to 5000 words. Which sounds arduous, doesn’t it? I tried to make them interesting…
This month’s posts formed part one and part two of our adventures on the Great Wall of China. This was a highlight of our travels, and fun to write about too. Also, the experience was so absurdly photogenic that I decided to put up an album of Great Wall photos on our facebook page. Check it out if you like!
Ooh. Also, you may have noticed I’ve switched up the design of the blog a bit. I’d love to hear how you feel about the new look, chuck me a comment at the bottom if you’ve got any thoughts.
I’ve got slightly into Instagram since I got a new (second hand) phone that actually has an acceptable camera. By slightly into I mean I post like, at least once every week. Sometimes. It’s kind of fun seeing all these beautiful places people are going. Who knew?
Instagram’s favourite photo this month was a tie between a shot from our Waitangi weekend Kahurangi national park trip, and me waxing lyrical about the new thermos Arthur got me for Christmas. I think most of the likes on the second one were people trying to sell me more thermoses (thermi?) though, so let’s ignore that.
The winner is…
Sunday morning view from the comfort of our hut for the night last weekend – Salisbury Lodge on the Mount Arthur tablelands, Kahurangi national park. The peak on the left is Gordon’s pyramid, our first objective for the day. Next up was Mount Arthur, sitting between the windows in the photo. It got pretty hot doing all this elevation in the glorious sunshine, but definitely worth it. From the Mt. Arthur summit we could see Mt. Taranaki, 200km away on the North Island! #backcountry #hut #newzealand #southisland #kahuranginationalpark #backpacking #hiking #tramping
Coming up in March
Broadly speaking I’m very unsure. Things are a bit up in the air here for various reasons. But Arthur and I have given ourselves this weekend off, so a trip is going to happen. The weather is looking a bit naff, so we’re thinking something that doesn’t involve being outdoors all the time. Maybe Dunedin?
Dunedin is South Island’s second city, and somehow I’ve never been there despite having lived in South Island for a year before, and already nearly three months this time. Among other things Dunedin has what sounds like an awesome Settlers Museum, with a recreated cabin from an early European settlers ship.
Also, Dunedin has penguins?! And the world’s steepest residential street.
So, that’s this weekend (maybe). After that, who knows!
Any tips for Dunedin? Suggestions for other weekend trips from Christchurch? Redesign feedback? Chuck us a comment!