Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Days Off

As I made my coffee this morning I was just thinking how delicious it is to have a random day off work slap bang in the middle of the week! During the course of the year I always make sure to keep enough days to give me a decent week or two off out of the office over Christmas. This year we have to take 5 days unpaid leave instead and all holidays need to be used up. Had it not been for little Matthew's Christening in August I'd have easily used them up before leaving NZ but as it is I couldn't. Since getting back I've been taking random days here and there (I arrived back in Ireland in August with 9 days still to use!). At the start of this week I still had 2.5 days to use between then and Dec 22nd (when office closes). So I left at midday yesterday and am taking today off too. It's great :)

After leaving the office yesterday I did a little more Christmas shopping before heading in to Steps of Rome for a slice of pizza for lunch. It was good but the base was a bit weird... not quite up to standards of Mediterranean Warehouse pizza but pretty tasty nonetheless! After that I was on a roll spending the next couple of hours buying presents for everybody remaining on my list bar one. It's such a relief to have the bulk of the shopping done especially when I know, or at least have a good idea of what I'm getting for that remaining one. Not only that but I picked out some ideas for stuff that I would like for others too. A very satisfying afternoon.

While browsing Waterstones for book ideas that I'd like, I finally gave in and bought Ian Rankin's The Complaints. Is it just me or does anybody else hate the stupid large size paperback that the publishers introduced a few years back? You know, that size between hardback and normal sized paperback. Effectively the same size as the hardback just in paperback and of course, more expensive than the smaller paperback size. Presumably this was just done as a way of making more money? Anyway it was marked down (small paperback must be out soon :) ) so I bought it as I've finally got through my TBR pile so I felt it was allowed! Just taking a break from sitting in bed reading it in fact to write this.

Budget Day today... probably best not to think about it.

So, for those of you in the Southern hemisphere I guess I should say that I'm thoroughly enjoying the lead up to Christmas here in Ireland. Okay so I could do without the rain (there's alot of it but... it's not raining today... yes!) but the Christmas lights are just great when it's dark outside (which is pretty much anytime after 4:30pm).

One last thing... I got a photo published on Rooms with Great Views yesterday. I submitted it at the end of Nov and published yesterday :)

Anyway I've totally moved in to waffle mode so will stop now. Back to The Complaints...
Happy Christmas :)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Good Things and Bad Things

I don't even know where to start. The last thing anybody really wants is a minute by minute update of the last 2 months so I'll try to avoid that.

I'm sort of readjusting to life back here. In one way it feels like I was never away and in the other my life in Wellington is still very much part of me. Firstly, the former point is so so wrong! I lived in Wellington for 2 years so it should not feel like an age ago since I was there. It's sort of a pity. However, I think it would be horrible if life here didn't start to just feel normal. Work is still somewhat different to what so that's not a case of feeling like I was never away.

Some of the things that I'm not too keen on about being back are:

*) It rains. A lot. I'm getting tired of it. And the grey.

*) I live a long way from work. My 5 min walk to work has become a 70 min walk/train journey :(

*) Good Coffee... or the lack thereof

*) Not being able to justify buy good Kiwi Pinots... they're just too pricey here.

*) Kitchen tiles falling off wall (?!)

Some of the things I really like about being back are:

*) Family (obviously!) and finally meeting my nephew
Hmm....


*) Catching up with friends again :)

*) Being so close to Europe - had a 3 day weekend in Budapest at the start of this month. Beautiful city!
From Buda to Pest


*) Christmas lights... in the dark! I'm sorry guys, but I just never could get my head around Christmas lights, in the evening, when it was still bright outside!

*) A repainted apartment


Thursday, 5 November 2009

Back at last!

Back on line. At last. Can not believe it's taken the red company (wouldn't do to be naming names would it?!) so long to get me a modem and set up. 3 weeks!! Promise to try and write some form of update soon :)

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Adjusting...

I'm back a little under 5 weeks and my life in New Zealand feels like another lifetime. I know we all get that feeling a few days after we get back from hols.. you have a great holiday and then suddenly, one day, it's as if you were never away. That's what has happened in relation to my life in NZ. I wasn't expecting it though. I think 2 years deserves more than that but there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it.

I wouldn't go as far as saying that I'm settled back here yet. That will take a while. I'm still not back in my apartment. I'm in a new job (same employer but different department and totally different job). Still trying to catch up with friends who I haven't seen in a long time. Desperately (but failing) to adjust to the cost of life in Ireland. Buying a car (Yaris for those who are interested). Missing my nephew Matthew about the house. On the plus side I'm in Europe so city weekend breaks are at least an option if inexpensive options can be found. I'm seeing friends who I haven't seen for 9 months, or in some cases 2 years. Autumn colours. Family. Unfortunately decent coffee isn't in the plus list.

But luckily, and this I don't expect to last, the rain has not been that bad the last few weeks. This time of year is often one of the nicer times of year here so that at least is something positive :)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A Fun Day

I had quite a fun day yesterday. Lots of silly little things that probably don't sound like fun to others but which I enjoyed :) I was meeting Dave in town at 12:30 so I headed in earlier to spend some time in Hodges Figgis and Waterstones (big bookstores). I'm still thoroughly enjoying the fact that books cost so much less here. Unfortunately not much in the way of good 3 for 2s in HF so I poppe across the road to Waterstones. I knew that I definitely wanted When Will There Be Good News (Kate Atkinson) so was hoping it would be in a 3 for 2. Not only that but instead of finding 2 I wanted and then struggling for a 3rd (which happens so often in those selections) I picked at least 4 I wanted so had to narrow it down to 3. In the end it was the Kate Atkinson, The Girl Who Played with Fire (2nd in trilogy) and The Reluctant Fundamentalist which I've heard alot of good things about. Another close runner was Howards End but I'll get that another time.

It was actually rather sunny and toasty here yesterday so to pass the rest of the time I sat in the Green enjoying the sun. It was quite toasty :) Hiking gear in New Zealand is actually relatively expensive and no one shop has a very good selection of hiking boots so it was with quite a bit of excitement (on my part at least!) that we headed in to The Great Outdoors. I didn't try on any boots yesterday but there was quite a bit to choose from so maybe I'll pay a visit tomorrow. While Dave was trying some boots I just browsed and observed (as you do in these situations) another shop assistant with what I can only call a fairly demanding customer. She wanted this and not that (definitely minimal stitching!) and he (assistant) should remember this... quite amusing really :)

Now... Ikea! The republic's first Ikea opened at the end of July so we headed out there. It was great! We were like two little kids both wishing for an empty space to furnish. We weren't buying (sure I don't get to move back in to my place until October so no point) but it was fun to wander around. No idea how we did it but downstairs we ended up going in via the checkouts and at one point we were very much walking against the crowd (and it was busy!). I was wondering how many people get lost in Ikea ('cos that is exactly what we were at one point... okay only for a couple of mins :) ) Amazingly we did walk out without buying anything but I definitely want to visit again!

Rest of the day was just chilling out in Marino. A walk down the Bull Wall and the beach. Some food (Bombay Pantry... good but disappointing Nan break!) and then home :)

And last but not least... for those of you asking for another photo of Matthew...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Time for a Name Change?

Well I no longer live in New Zealand, I live in Ireland again. So, as somebody pointed out to me a while back the name of this blog is no longer apt. I'm open to suggestions 'cos I certainly can't think of anything to call it.

I've been back since Tues afternoon. The weather has been relatively warm actually but not quite as bright or sunny as I would hope for for August. Actually even though I knew, while in New Zealand, that it's much brighter here than here (even in winter), it was still a shock to be faced with it. But all in all at least I've been able to go around in t-shirts, if not shorts :)

So on Tuesday afternoon I met my godson and nephew and Matthew. I'm not a baby person. Never have been and doubt I ever will be. But he's a cutie! What I've found fascinating is that watching him I realise that babies are born with literally no motor skills and have to learn everything. He's only 6 months old so he's a bit to go yet but he can still move around a carpet by rolling himself about. It's great. So as part of my godmother duties my sister asked me to give him his dinner last night while she ran out to the Chinese. His main was some sort of chicken and spring vegetable stuff which looked pretty unappetising (actually most baby food looks unappetising but this particularly). Ciara warned me that he was only getting to used to the taste of the chicken so I didn't expect him to eat too much of it. I got him to eat a bit of it but after the grimace on the swallow which had been preceded by him spitting it out at me twice (oh yes and the timely sneezes as I put food in his mouth) we switched to his Autumn Vegetable stuff which he likes much better. 45 minutes later (I kid you not!) I was gagging for a glass of wine and he'd eaten his main plus some mushed pear stuff and some milk. Brownie points for me from the parents. He proceeded to spend the rest of the evening busy razzing (first I'd heard of that word) at a rate of knots combined with chatting to himself. Result? Four adults trying to watch TV with baby making bizarre noises and adults breaking up with laughter at regular intervals.

Today was the big day. The Christening. The parents were well behaved. Matthew was extremely well behaved. There was a bit of chatting to himself in the church but that just resulted in me laughing to myself. He looked very angelic in his white gown and robe...



There was some food and friends in a pub across the road afterwards. A little later more friends arrived and before long I was scared. I felt like I was in a creche with no way out. Luckily all the young people were in one half of the room so I made sure I was in the other half. For the record I was not the only person afraid. Hearing that there'll be 30 children there is not the same as the actual reality of being in a room with that many babies and children. Trust me. I know I made the right decision in not ever even considering being a teacher :)

Hmm... what else? Oh I excitedly visited a bookshop the other day. One of the things I have been looking forward to about moving back here is the fact that books do not cost $30 each! Unfortunately it was a slightly disappointing experience. My fault. I should have gone in to the city centre to one of the bigger stores but I just headed down to Dun Laoghaire. Decent stores but I was picturing a Unity Books but with Irish prices (books, cheese and hiking boots are probably the only things where I'll want Irish over NZ prices!). Wasn't like that. I did buy a couple of books but I intend some more purchases later in the week :)

p.s Yes I miss Wellington.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A bookcrosser in the making

Meet Matthew my godson and nephew... I think we might have a future bookcrosser in our midsts here :)

Busy reading


However as he loves the camera (seriously this kid poses for photographs) he did act nice and take a break from his reading to pose for the camera. But I do like that "What, I'm busy here" look on his face.

Don't interrupt I'm reading!


Saturday, 1 August 2009

Making Someone's Day

Yesterday morning I met some friends for brunch at Midnight Espresso in Wellington. I'd only been in there once before to have a coffee so it was my first eating venture there. There were four of us (the usual international crew of a German, a Canadian, an American and an Irish person) and we all ended up ordering variations on the same thing - pancakes with banana and fruit, pancakes with banana and fruit without the maple syrup and pancakes with bacon and banana. As we didn't know how long the food would be Megan appeared at our table with a muffin to help us get through to breakfast.

I hadn't seen these guys in a few weeks so there was alot of catching up (Kate's in the process of moving, Megan will be moving at the end of August, Kat going to Australia for Christmas etc) and as usual with these girls, alot of laughter! Later as were eating our breakfast one of the girls working there was clearing some stuff off the table to give us some space and went for the last quarter of the muffin. My comment of "oh you should leave that... it's food!" produce a "you guys make my day" comment. I'm guessing it wasn't that particular comment so much but rather the fact that we had been laughing rather, well, not demurely for the previous 30 minutes! About an hour after that the same girl appeared at our table with a glass of freshly squeezed OJ (and maybe grapefruit or grape juice?) for each of us. We looked at her in surprise and got told that we had the staff's day with all our laughter and chatter that morning and they'd enjoyed having us there hence the juice! There was quiet for about 10 seconds... and well, after that it was back to our chat and laughter and yummy juice.

It's hard to believe that in a few weeks I'll be gone from Wellington and there won't be that sort of international brunch with the ability to laugh at anything in such a great little cafe for some time to come.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Will I Blog when in Ireland?

I met an English but living in Kiwiland friend for lunch today. We were discussing my return back to Ireland in August and she asked if I would keep up my blog once home. It made me think... when I started this it was purely my trip to New Zealand. And I've certainly posted less and less as time goes on so I reckoned I wouldn't. But she'd like me to so I will... and it's so I can give Dani and idea of what it's like settling back in to life in Ireland after being away for two years. I can't promise that I'll be any more regular than I am now... in fact I suspect I'll be worse but I'll certainly try. For a few months at least :)

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Harder than I thought...

For some bizarre reason I thought to myself last Wednesday (1st July) that it would be interesting if I could take a photo a day for the rest of the year. Then I thought a little longer and decided that I'd start with trying it for a month and carry on if I managed that. It started with this

July 1 - One A Day


Last Saturday we had finished breakfast out at Maranui Surf Life club cafe when I thought "oh... I have to get my photo for today, this could be a good spot". So, it was a case of, not we can't leave yet I have to go get my camera. And this was the output (which I quite like!)

July 4 - One A Day Cafe Window


Friday afternoon I ran upstairs (ok so I got the lift!) to the 8th floor at work to the one meeting room with a good view out of hte harbour to get this (through a window)

July 3 - One A Day


Anyway, it's day 8. I would just like to say that this is not as easy as it sounds. Well I guess it would be easy if I just stuck any old photo up on flickr for this (actually that's sort of what my July 2nd one is) but I am trying to get something vaguely interesting/different. That's how I ended up with the office reflected in the window for July 6th!

For anybody curious to know how I'm going to manage for the remaining 24 days of the month, I'm putting my One a Day snaps (started hearing that word again recently... reminds me of my Grans :) ) up on flickr here.

p.s. If you live in Wellington I highly recommend breakfast/brunch/lunch out at Lyall Bay at the Maranui Surf club cafe. Seriously yummy and lovely views if you get a window seat :)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Staying Warm



I really must write up a proper blog entry on my Lake Waikaremoana tramp. I was so looking forward to it and to be honest I absalutely loved it! No I didn't always find it a doddle, and yes it was cold but it never rained on us (amazing considering we were walking for 4 days in the depths of winter!) and we didn't meet anybody on the track or in the huts until the last day. How cool was that?

Anyway, to give little indication of the coldness I thought I'd blog a photo where I'm wearing 3 layers while tramping! ANd that's a bit of snow on the ground but actually that was early on the first day so not too much at that point. More to come later when we hit Panekiri Hut with the frozen water :)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Night Lights

We may have had some grotty weather this winter in Wellington (and it's only June) but we then also get some beautifully calm evenings. And walking down by the waterfront on those evenings, in the dark, is such a pleasure with the lovely lighting that has been set up under bridges to provide lovely colours reflecting on the water.


I'll miss this.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Queen's Birthday Long Weekend

So the weekend just past was the last long weekend here in New Zealand until, eh, October I think it is! Unlike the Northern Hemisphere we have Christmas to look forward to in the middle of winter. Here in New Zealand... zilch!

Anyway, I got the ferry over to Picton on Fri evening with a couple of friends I met on my Easter tramp. After the horrible storms that we'd been having recently the ferry crossing was surprisingly calm. I was much impressed :) On Sat morning, after brief visit to the great Picton Bakery to pick up some lunch we got the water taxi out to Punga Cove which is some way along on the Queen Charlotte Track. Our destination for that day was Portage, 23.5km somewhere in the distance. It wasn't the clearest brightest day but it didn't rain and considering the forecasts earlier in the week we were happy for that.
A quick break


The DOC time for that walk was 9 hrs which I was not prepared to accept. Kate and Megan spent the first part of the walk trying to persuade me that it would be better for myself if I accepted that it was going to take us that long to do the walk. I couldn't do that... no matter how hard I tried! And we didn't need to. Enough time for photo stops and breaks and we got to Portage in about 6.5 hrs.

After "The Kavanaghs" checked in to the wonderfully friendly Portage resort hotel there was time for some hot chocolate and Baileys and a photo or two before a visit to the hot pool to relax!
Hot Chocolate Time


This was the view from outside my room...
Blue Evening


The next morning we were not looking forward to the steep walk uphill on the road to get back on the track. As we were paying for breakfast a lift was offered to us to drive us up the road to the start of the track. Before the offer had even been completed Megan jumped in with "Yes Please!" We gave her lots of slagging for that... but she informed us that that was what we both really wanted so we should be grateful to her :)

Sunday was much much colder than Saturday but on the plus side it was beautifully clear and sunny so there's always a plus side :) I don't really know why but there was lots of laughter... and talk of food. The bit of hail that we did experience didn't last long and it wasn't long before we were in clear weather again.

My glowing jacket


The Blue Sounds


On reaching Anakiwa we waited for our taxi pickup (extra clothing layers were required for this as it was cold!). It was still lovely and sunny but weirdly once we turned in to Picton harbour I could see that the weather was not so nice... it was snowing! Back to the B&B, time for a shower and some sit down and then out for a bite to eat. We were all knackered though and I was asleep by 9pm... I tried but failed miserably (unlike the others) to keep reading past 9 but it just didn't work!

Monday was a lovely sunny day in Picton so we passed some time eating muffins and drinking coffee in Le Cafe before heading off to get the ferry. Apologies to Kate on the rhs of this photo... appears to be have been chopped but is showing nicely on flickr anyway!
Post Breakfast Snack


We were all smiles at the start of the sailing.. it was beautiful out there...
The End


About an hour in to the sailing though we hit the Straits. It wasn't nice. Time for the iPod to block out the sound of people barfing in to sick bags all around. But we were lucky and hey we got back to Wellington in one piece :)

All in all a very fun weekend with lots of laughter, discussion of food, photography, amazement over the fact that it hadn't rained on us and admiring of views.
Group Shot

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Plans and stuff

The last couple of weeks the weather has been fairly icky to say the least. I understand that it's sort of winter now but it's only May and we've had some fairly horrendous storms with lots of rain and wind. Last weekend isn't even worth talking about other than to say that for most people it literally was a DVD weekend. I on the other hand managed to be out for a bit of it. Saturday I was looking for a rain jacket suitable for my upcoming 4 day tramp in June but also something that will be suitable back in Ireland. Not sure such a thing exists but anyway... After that I nipped home, got some and headed all the back down to the end of Courteney Place to see Star Trek (again!). Muchos fun :)

Sunday, it was less cold that Saturday but not less wet. In fact it was wetter. Did I stay at home and watch a DVD? No, after brunch we set out from the Aro Cafe to start on the Southern Walkway. By the time we got to the end of Oriental Parade I was really doubting that I'd do the whole walk. It was wet. But crossed the road and up the steps and then on up to Mount Vic (at which point I was thinking how in trouble I'm going to be in June doing Lake Waikaremoana... I am so not fit right now). Anyway walked a bit and then I voted to walk down in to Newtown from where we walked back. Pretty much everything I had on was wet bar my top which was under a fleece. Even the fleece got wet... bad reflection on my North Face jacket! The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting on my bum reading :)

Today it seems to be picking up a bit though it's not forecast to last. Pity. I'm spending this coming Sat and Sun walking on the Queen Charlotte Track with a couple of friends. We're really looking forward to it as we're being complete lazy arses about it in that we're not carrying our gear with us and we're staying in the Portage Resort hotel on Sat night. Not the walkers lodge but proper bedrooms! The rain radar is not exactly making me smile but at least after 6 or 7 hours of walking (this day is actually the most strenuous of that whole track) I can have a shower, put on dry clothes (already delivered to resort by water taxi for me) and have a nice (hopefully) dinner!

Off to Christchurch in another few weekends where I'm going to bore poor Karen silly with photos and videos of my nephew Matthew. My sister put up two videos on flickr today and one of them is just priceless... lots of mad little giggling from him as she bounces him up and down on her knee. I can't wait to meet the little guy :) {though knowing my luck he'll probably cry as soon as he sees me!}

Then on the 18th I'm heading up North to Te Urewera National Park with Amanda and starting on the 19th we're going to spend 4 days doing this great walk. This is not the cushy deal that next weekend is going to be! Carrying my own gear. Staying huts. And much harder walking! I can't wait :)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Icebreaker junkie

Over the 20 or so months that I've lived in Wellington I've made a number of Icebreaker purchases. Warm tops, t-shirts, cami-tops, socks etc. Today we visited the Icebreaker outlet store in Otaki where I made a few purchases. On the way home I was asked how many Icebreaker items of clothing I now own. Not that many I thought, just like, 2 warm zip tops, 3 t-shirts, oh and the green sleeveless one, and the other green sleevless one. Oh and the t-shirt for tramping only and the long sleeved top for tramping. Oh and my zip up hoodie in the wardrobe. Oh and a cami-top. Oh forgot my pink top and then the wine one too. And sure if I include in todays purchases the answer is "Alot more than I realised!" It does make me wonder how I'll manage back in Ireland!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

And in Other News

I'm to be Matthew's Godmother (yippee!!!)
I'm moving back to Dublin in August (not so yippee)
I have a load of ironing to do...
but nice cake to follow it up with :)

Sunny Sundays

The winter temperatures are definitely starting to do their best to let us know that before long they'll be here in full force. Last week was cold as was yesterday. But in wonderful New Zealand style, when the sun is out it feels about 5 degrees warmer than it actually is. This is one of the weirdest things about New Zealand weather; the air temperature is cold and you have 3 layers on. You move two feet to the left and end up in the sun, air temp still cold but the warmth of the sun is that one, if not two of your three layers get removed while you're in the sun.

Anyway it was a beatufiully sunny weekend here and I'm at the early evening stage of a very pleasant Sunday (it feels about 2 hrs later than it actually is mind you!) I met up with the four other girls who had been on the Easter tramp for brunch in Fidels. It was chilly out but the sun was beaming down and I sat for 2.5 hrs with just one top on... it was lovely! Considering that we met at 10:30 and didn't leave until 1 you may have gathered that it was a very enjoyable (and funny) brunch. We all ordered at different times and yet I ended up being the only person who didn't order pancakes?! I'm sure they it was a sympathy "your eggs look nice Aoife" that I was getting :) Much talk about living in NZ (not one of us was Kiwi), fainting (I had no idea there could be such funny fainting stories!), tramping and what Nicky had to drink the night before. It ended up at 1 with us planning to meet next Thurs evening for dinner and we all bring whatever tramping/day walks books that we have so we can organise an outing.

After that I strolled home in the glorious sun, did some housework, got changed and headed back to the Ilot Theatre for a wonderful 2 hrs of Baroque music performed by Latitude 37. A wonderful combination of Buxtehude, Marais, Telleman, Ramaeau, Leclair, Becker, Corelli and Couperin. On the program was the wonderful Le Badinage by Marin Marais for the Viola de Gamba; this to me has got to be one of the most beautiful/melancholic pieces of music written. If you've watched Tous Les Matins Du Monde then you'll have heard this music.

A bite to eat at The Lido after that and now I'm back home for the evening feeling like it's about 8:30 out there. It isn't. It's 6:40! Well guess I better get on with that ironing that I've successfully avoided for the last week. After that I can eat my tasty looking of carrot cake :)

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Muffin Top is the Best Bit

Okay so I know that I just don't have the will power required to blog, in detail, the second, third and fourth days of the Abel Tasman trip last weekend so thought I'd try and provide some sort of abridged version... so here goes.

Day 2 (Saturday) was the longest day and involved walking from Torrent Bay to Waiharakeke Bay. There are two tidal crossings on this route and it's the latter one at Awaroa what was the reason for the longish day... if didn't make that crossing then we'd have to get up pretty damn early the next morning (in the dark) to do it at the next low tide. There was much relief (on my part at least!) when we reached our camp site that evening. There was a pretty successful dinner of cous cous with dried fruits, a serious amount of vegetables and feta. In fact we couldn't fit all the vegetables in to the billy so we ended up eating them raw (well it was that or someone had to keep carrying them). The original recipe called for 100g of cous cous per person so that resulted in 1kg of cous cous. After we'd all taken some food there was a scary amount of cous cous left... I was worried (the billy carriers get to carry out the communal rubbish). So, while not being particularly hungry I basically took a second dinner. At this point I was very scared as the cous cous still looked as if a dent hadn't been made in it! Then someone else took some and then someone else so gradually with much encouraging, coercing and general hilarity the group actually succeeded in finishing all the food. Without a photo to illustrate it's quite difficult to get across how much food there was. But let's just say that there was so much that my stomach was so full I needed to lie down :)

Day 3 (Sunday) was Waiharakeke Bay to Whariwharangi. Another beautiful day with a not too early start. I tucked in to my second breakfast of Tararua biscuits with jam quietly pleased that I had thought of bringing these along. It was at this meal that I realised that Mike had brought a 750g bag of muesli on the tramp for his breakfasts!! Don't get me wrong, I've no problem with meusli but there is no way in hell I'd carry a full bag (suspect he won't be in future either)! As myself and Kate were ready before the others we headed down to the water to wait for everybody else to join us. It was this juncture that I learned about "muffin tops". For anybody out there not happy with their muffin top, just remember that the muffin top is the best bit :)
Sunday morning waiting

There really was some lovely walking on this day... as you get further north on this track the beaches become more and more beautiful. There was a bit of walking along the beaches too which at first seemed lovely but actually I discovered that walking on a beach in boots and carrying a pack can be a little difficult and uncomfortable. But it made for some nice photographs.
Mutton Cove


Once arriving at our camp site for the evening we headed down to the beach, our beach, to just relax and wait for the sun to set before heading back to camp for dinner (minimal preparation this night as this was dehy night). This was a thoroughly relaxing way to spend what was left of the day light of Easter Sunday.
Sunday Evening Chilling


Sunset


Once back at camp the sun was obviously gone so we all put on a few extra layers of clothing. Some put on a few more layers than others. I had 3 layers on which admittedly was fewer than I'd have thought I'd need. A couple of the other girls had 4 layers on. And then there was, as she came to be known, The Seven Layered Woman. Yup, Nicky at one point, had 7 layers on (with one of those layers being a down jacket!). Trust me, it just wasn't that cold! And we were sitting in front of a fire!! Anyway, I'm glad she did as it provided us with endless amusement on the ferry sailing back the next day :)

Speaking of the next day, well it was only a 90 min walk so not too much I can say about it. We were at the road end by 11:30 with a 1pm pick up arranged. Got to Picton for the ferry sometime around 5:30 or 6 so that was alot of sitting/driving after walking for 3 days. It felt odd. The sailing was much smoother than the sailing over and Megan taught us a great game called Drawlies... in which The Seven Layered Woman played a central theme in the first round. Thanks Nicky :)

The End.
The End

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Cover Girl



Found this site (magmypic) and I couldn't resist having a bit of fun :)

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Abel Tasman Great Walk - Day 1 Marahau to Torrent Bay

For Easter I did the Abel Tasman Coastal Walk with the WTMC tramp which was basically a 4 night 3 day tramping trip (the 4th day was basically a 90 min walk out to the road end and then a 5 hr drive back to Picton.

We got the ferry across to Picton on Thurs evening after work and from there we got driven to Marahau where we were camping for the night. It was about 1am before we got to Old MacDonalds Farm where we were due to set up camp for the night. Needless to say I was feeling pretty tired by this stage and wasn't too happy when I heard, after we'd unloaded all our gear from the mini bus, that we were camping 400 metres up the road. However, we got a great stroke of luck when the owner drove by and indicated that as we'd already we'd unloaded our gear maybe we'd like to use some tents that were already set up and that had some camp beds in them. Would we what? Eh, yeah!! These tents were huge and they had duvets and pillows! Oh yeah... me in my silk liner, in my sleeping bag and with duvet over me, I was toasty warm :)

Friday morning was a glorious day with lots of sun and no wind at all when we were setting off from Marahau. There were ten of us in the group and what really surprised me is that out of that 10 only one of us was a Kiwi (Mike) even though all of us live in Wellington! There were 2 Irish (myself and Dave), 1 English (Russ), 1 Scottish (Nicki), 2 American (Barry, Megan), 1 Canadian (Kate), 1 German (Kat) and one Dutch (Mark). How's that for an international tramp??!

The Start


While my pack was lighter than that of others it was still a definite big thing sitting on my back but it didn't cause too much trouble in the morning. We stopped for lunch on a gorgeous beach (one of many) though I can't actually remember which bay it was. I'm thinking possibly it was Stilwell Bay. We had a fairly leisurely break there was we wouldn't be able to make it across to the camp site at Torrent Bay from Anchorage until low tide; well we could but we definitely wanted to avoid the high tide route which was longer.

Me by lunch time on the first day


I have to be honest and say that after my lunch my shoulders were definitely starting to feel a little on the sore side... but having said that I wasn't the only one. The walk to Anchorage Hut was beautiful; the wonderful blue the sea, the beaches, the sun! Once there we topped up on the water front, had a break and then set out across the low tide crossing to our camp...

Beach Walking


The site at Torrent Bay was wonderfully small and basic... very few others were there so it was lovely and quiet. After setting up tents and flies, a few folk went for a walk and then we started prep on dinner. Dinner itself was a rather tasty tomato sauce with a mountain of vegetables and pasta sauce. As is the norm when tramping, you have to carry your rubbish out with you and that also applies to any leftovers. Consequently there was alot of encouragement to get the pasta and the sauce finished... at this stage we realised that Megan is very useful to have around when help is required to finish up leftover food! Some other useful things that I learnt that day are:
Don't use a down jacket to lift heavy things... it will melt (learnt this from Nicki who demonstrated this fact)
Chocolate hobnobs are the best... this discussion rose as we ate our dessert of tim tams and toffee pops. Again Nicki raised this but she was backed up by Russ on this.
You can get away with a smaller backpack when your sleeping mat is thing (a ground sheet in fact) and you don't have a sleeping bag (this was from Mark... no idea how he didn't freeze!)


The really weird things about tramping and camping once the clock has changed is that it always seems much later than it is. Yes, you (well me!) feel pretty tired after being out all day but it was dark by 7pm which really threw me off! However there was a beautiful full moon (at least I think it was full) so before heading to bed at about 8:30 a few of us headed down to the beach to just listen to the small waves lapping on the shore... that was the only noise.
Moon Watching


Anyway, I'll hopefully write a little more on the following days over the next while. More photos from the first day on www.flickr.com/eefa

A Lazy Tuesday

After 3 days of tramping and then on the 4th a 90 min walk to the road end and then a 4.5 hr drive to Picton, today was wonderfully quiet. I had arranged in advance to take today off and I'm so glad that I did. It was gone 11pm before I got back last night. I didn't manage to sleep quite as late as I would have liked this morning but that didn't matter too much.

So, what did I do on my day off? I made myself some breakfast in bed and finally got up about 10am (admittedly I already had done two laundry washes by this stage!) Did a bit of grocery shopping before getting back to get my photos off the camera. Come 1pm I headed off my massage. That massage was just wonderful. I had looked for a 90 min slot but I guess I was doing well to get 60 mins considering I only phoned them this morning! This was followed by a 90 min doze on the living room floor (yes I doze on my living room floor!). I was feeling pretty wrecked actually when I made myself start moving about pretty relaxed at the same time.

After the "success" of my Tararua biscuits for tramp breakfasts I decided to make some Apricot Slices from my Wholemeal Cafe Cookbook which I bought in Takaka last November. I tried hard (honest!) to not eat any but I was unable to resist. So I guess I'll treat it as my starter and dessert for dinner this evening :)

I did manage to get some photos up on to flickr but plenty more to go!

And the rest of the evening is fairly lazy. Watched some West Wing, eat some tasty dinner and House followed by Boston Legal later on!

So, all in all a lazy, relaxing and much needed "do nothing" day!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Mount Cook... third time lucky

As I mentioned previously I'd been to Mount Cook twice before last weekend but had not yet successfully seen Mount Cook itself as my visits always seemed to coincide with less than pleasant weather in that area. I did see the peak up close on the flight to Queenstown but I really was hoping to see it whilst in Mount Cook National Park itself. And I did!

We arrived in to the national park last Monday afternoon and there was the Aoraki/Mount Cook staring across at me. Whilst driving in to the village I suggested, well said, that I felt we should stop as I couldn't trust it to actually still be visible the following morning. So I got a couple of photos (the ideal place to photograph Mount Cook is across Lake Pukaki but we wouldn't be there until Tues).
Mount Cook


It was an amazingly clear evening so at 10pm we went along to a star gazing talk/chat/demo/I don't know what to call it! Anyway this went on for an hour and involved us standing outside The Hermitage and somebody pointing out different stars, planets and other stuff in the sky. They had a telescope that we used to look at stuff.. unfortunately we did see stuff but the telescope wasn't always behaving and sometimes wandered a little off course... as I found out the first time I looked in to and saw black! I have to admit that I was somewhat relived that it was the telescope just point at a lot of black as opposed to me just not being able to figure out to look through it properly! We could see Saturn in the sky without the telescope but when using that I could make out the rings. Admittedly my first thought was along the lines of "shouldn't it be bigger through a telescope?" followed by "star trek prop" it was pretty cool to see the rings... for me at least :)

The next morning it was dry (mostly) with lots of low cloud and no views. We still did the short walk up to Kea Point but I was glad that I took my photo of Aoraki the afternoon before :)

Mount Cook

Friday, 3 April 2009

Milford Sound

Last Sunday I flew to Queenstown to meet up with Dave, Brian and Carol who had been enjoying a trip down the Sth Island from earlier in the week. It was a great day for a flight down that way and I got to see Mount Cook up close and personal on the flight. It was fantastic to be up so close to it and looking across (rather than up) at the peak in so much detail. Beautiful.

After meeting up with the guys in the afternoon and doing some browsing we headed to Te Anau where we were to spend the next two nights. Before leaving Queenstown we spent some time in the I-Site organising our respective trips to Milford Sound the next day. The three of them were keen to get some kayaking in. I wasn't. I admit that kayaking is a wonderful to get up close and personal with the Sounds (yes I know it's a fjord!), the waterfalls, seals etc but I did the kayaking thing three years ago. I don't like being on something that seems so unstable as a kayak (i.e. something other than a real proper boat) so I was happy to have done the kayaking once and to not necessarily repeat it... and it was nothing to do with the get up that I worse the last time around... honest!
Ready For Kayaking!


It's a 2 hr drive from Te Anau to Milford Sounds so with the others leaving at 6am Sunday morning and not being expected back until 3:30pm at the earliest I decided to plan a Milford Sound excursion of my own (one that wouldn't require me getting up at 5:30am). I signed up for a "Scenic tour and intimate nature cruise" with Awesome. This involved a much more respectable pick up time of 9:30am where I would be ferried out to Milford Sound in a nice large air conditioned coach with some photo stops at places such as Eglinton Valley (visited 3 years back),
Eglinton Valley

and Mirror Lakes (large pond) to name but two.
Reflected Mountains


Once we got to Milford I reapplied my insect repellant in an effort to deter my ardent admirer, the sandfly and boarded a lovely boat for my 2.25 cruise around the Fjord. I couldn't get over the size of some of the cruise boats in the Sounds... huge with a couple of hundred people getting on. I think that there were maybe about 15 on my boat. Admittedly the boat could handle more than that and I'm sure the operators wouldn't have minded a few more but I was happy with it. It wasn't the clearest day in Milford on Sunday (i.e. it was very cloudy) but at least it wasn't raining. Milford Sound is really very beautiful...
Milford Sound

with waterfalls all over the place
Milford Sounds Waterfall


We even got to drink some of the water... and I got wet but it was all great fun. Near the end we saw some seals but even more exciting we saw a school of dolphins which we watched for about 10 minutes. I was snapping away taking photos when I realised that I wasn't just watching them and enjoying it so at that point I stopped and took it in. It was fantastic :)
Dolphin School


I could bore you with lots of details of the history of the building of the road to Milford Sounds (there is only one) and the fact that one particular mile of that road took 7 years to build.... luckily it wasn't all that slow! Oh and the Homer tunnel about 20 mins from the sounds/fjord itself which took 20 years to build. They basically just blasted through the mountain to make a tunnel. But I won't. I'll just finish with what an amazing and beautiful national park it is...

Friday, 27 March 2009

My "Most Viewed' Flickr Stats

It's getting close. For a long time Maggie and Fergus were way ahead of all my other flickr photos but the Herb Garden has been really going for it the last while. It has just got past Flinders Ranges and is now only 3 views behind the pups.

Flinders Ranges


Looking at my flickr stats it's almost always viewed as a result of a search for "herb garden" on images.yahoo.com I like watching this race :)

Herb Garden


By the way, can anybody explain how flickr order photos based on "Interestingness" 'cos I've now idea how they do it!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Happy Campers

So last month a friend suggested that a few of us go on a "cruisey" tramp in to Totara Flats, camp for the night and then tramp out the next day. The idea was that while there we could fish, take some photos, chill, read, sleep or do whatever we fancied. In the end six of us were free to go last weekend so the date was set.

I have to be honest and say that come Saturday morning I was not feeling enthusiastic about this. The forecast showed rain coming in in the afternoon and hanging around overnight and the next day. I wasn't quite sure how much fishing, photography and general chilling was going to take place in the rain. But we were packed (Dave v kindly carrying the 2 person tent) and ready to go so off we went. I should probably mention that I was feeling pretty tired so I had already decided that my "relaxing" and "chilling" on arrival at the Flats was going to involve me in a sleeping bag inside a tent :)

While the tramp was definitely not difficult by Kiwi standards, it wasn't quite what I had in mind when I signed up to a "cruisey" walk in. But having said that I actually rather enjoyed it. Admittedly it took me a little while to get in to it as it wasn't what I was mentally prepared for but it was a fun group and some of the bush that was walked through is lovely. We were in to our third hour and had just descended down to walk along the side of the river, when we decided to take another wee rest... always nice to get weekend packs off the back. We had been there about 10 minutes when Amanda (organizer) mentioned that actually we were camping just around the bend in the river! Lots of packs hoisted on packs pretty fast and within another 20 mins we were at lovely little camping spot! It was right by the river (but up a ledge so no fear of flooding at this time of the year) and it was sheltered from the wind on three sides by bush and tree and just to finish it off there was enough room for our 3 two person tents! Just perfect.

Up went the tents (well the rain was still forecast so obviously it makes sense to get the tents up while it's still dry) and general sorting of thermarests, sleeping bags etc.

Happy Campers


We had dinner relatively early as it was pointed out that it would make sense to cook before the rain arrived. Around 6:30 or so I'd say we started to get a few drops of rain appear and by 7 we were all in our tents. It's been a while since I've been in a tent while it's raining outside... it's wonderful just lying there, talking quietly and listening to the rain on the tent! I didn't move for the rest of the evening, nor did anybody else actually other than James and Spencer who set some eel bait and then headed down about 8:30 to see if they'd caught anything. They had. I just wasn't getting out of my warm, dry sleeping bag to look at it. However when I got up in the morning there was a 2 foot eel (dead) hanging off a tree outside one of the tents.

Even though it never really cleared up on Sunday we never really got rained too heavily on as we were so protected in the bush I guess. It was a v enjoyable walk out with more conversation than I would have thought possible about eels! And I'll finish by saying that apparently NZ eels actually spawn somewhere near Tonga and before dying (well not the poor fella on Sat night) they head back there to spawn. Pretty impressive, eh?


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Small Bit of a Catch Up

I'm getting bad at keeping this blog in any way up to date. I don't think that this will necessarily improve that but but no harm in a quick update. Our "long hot" (eh, yeah right!) summer is potentially on the way out though I'm hoping that it's actually just been in hiding for the last few weeks and is going to surprise us all by making an appearance next week and then not going anywhere for the next 2 months!

My climbing is progressing... at last! I did some good climbs last week and again this week and I've also started on a new wall... trust me when I say that I did not get very far this evening. At all. Next week maybe.

Looking busy for the next few weekends too. We've a big project going live this weekend so I'm on call which means I can't actually leave Wellington. If I am called in it won't actually be until Sunday so I'll have to see if I can do something to amuse myself on Saturday at least. Five of us are off tramping to Otaki Forks the following weekend. I've been informed that this is an easy fishing/photography weekend so hopefully even I'll manage! In the middle of the following week Dave is heading off to the Sth Island with his brother and sister and I'm flying down to Queenstown to join up with them the following Saturday and not back to Wellington until the following Wednesday night. We'll be going via Mount Cook... this will be my 3rd visit there and there'll be tears if I don't see Mt. Cook on this visit. I mean honestly, how many times does a girl have to visit a place in an effort to see the highest mountain in NZ??!!! For the Easter weekend I'm going on a 4 day tramp on Abel Tasman. The terrain is easy but I to admit that I'm a little nervous about carrying a pack for 4 days! However hopefully the weather will be nice and the sandflies on holidays... I can dream :)

The weekend just past Dave did the Karapoti Classic which is a 50km mountain bike race for people who are mad enough to enjoy cycling for 4 hrs over rough terrain and generally getting covered in mud. I was out there for a few hours before the end and the variety of mud covered people coming in was amazing. The youngest competitor was a 9 year old boy which I thought was pretty impressive! The Wellington Jazz festival was also on so on the Sat night we headed along to see the Tomasz Stanko Quartet and on the Sun evening we saw The Brad Mehldau Trio. I have to say that the latter was the one that I was really looking forward to it but was actually the former that I just loved. The musicianship of all 4 members of the group was just amazing, and the way that they interacted when performing was so subtle but so right. They whole performance had a certain quality that I haven't experienced at a concert in a long time. Highly recommended. Don't get me wrong btw, I enjoyed The Brad Mehldau Trio but, for me, it just wasn't at the same level as the Tomasz Stanko Quartet.

Book wise I'm reading Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. It took a while to get in to it but I'm really enjoying it! Mind you I still have 248 pages to go (have read 400 already)! Even with the fact that I'm slowly getting through this book and have another 7 unread books on my book shelf I still acquired a new book at the monthly Wellington bookcrossing meet up last night. Unbelievably I hadn't been since October! It literally just seemed that I had stuff on that I couldn't cancel miss on the 2nd Tues of each month from Nov to Feb inclusive. Anyway it was nice to get along last night and show my face and get some news... and an Ian Rankin book :)

Matthew (my nephew) is doing well. From what I can gather he likes his food and has a good set of lungs on him. Oh and apparently he's very difficult to wake up... a bit of my brother there I reckon!

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Real or Satire...

It's possible that myself and other women who work (I felt the phrase "working women" left me open to slagging) are responsible for the credit crunch! Not men who work, women. I'm particularly fond of this snippet "It would be ludicrous to suggest that women should be sacked purely to give men their jobs. In many cases, their jobs should be abolished as well".

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/opinion/2009/0225/1224241774267.html?via=mr

BTW, I am assuming that this is satire as opposed to serious!

Random thoughts

I'm not tramping this weekend. Dave is. It's raining outside... lots. I'm glad I'm here writing this and not out in the rain, up a mountain with a pack on my back. Off for my 90 Balinese massage soon and have bought in dinner supplies for later on. I'm settled for the evening :)

Had a fairly busy/chaotic/lots on week at the office. By yesterday afternoon I was well ready for the weekend and enjoyed a few glasses of wine following a team update meeting yest evening (i normally disappear after those but nice wine and was just in the mood for bit of a chat yest). This morning I finally caught up with my sister on Skype... Matthew was sleeping but Ciara directed the web cam towards him so I could see him. From the sounds of it I should be glad he was asleep. When he's awake he either cries or is feeding. Except for when he gets his nappy changed... apparently he likes that. Anyway, here's hoping he adds the "awake, not feeling, not crying" combo to his set up soon. He's awful cute though :)



Oh and some trivia... my most viewed, though definitely not my best, photo on flickr is this.  They're cute dogs but I don't even really this photo!  Oh well...  Enjoy the weekend! 
Fergus And Maggie

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Tongariro Crossing

So, you might think that I was going to have a great weekend anyway what with Matthew finally putting in an appearance, but it was even better than that as apart from the fact that I got to constantly say "Have I mentioned that I have nephew?" or "Have I mentioned that I'm an Aunty?", we did the Tongariro Crossing this weekend.

Volcanoes


For those of you who don't know, this is an alpine walk between active volcanoes (well okay they haven't exactly been particularly active in the last while but...) and it's a walk that can be done in less than 7 hrs. It's considered by many to be one of the "must do" activities for anybody visiting NZ. Because of its popularity it's always very busy in the summer (up to 2000 people per day sometimes!) but it's also walked by people wearing clothing that I would never dream of going out for such a long walk in. And it's often obvious that these people really do not understand the way that the weather can literally go from glorious clear sun to v cold and no visibility in less than half an hour in this country. It's freaky but it does. We headed out in proper tramping gear wearing proper boots and carrying plenty of water each and with extra thermal layers in our packs and water proof gear. Amazingly we passed people with tiny little packs on their backs (though that was minority) and wearing either just trainers or sandals or thin plimsols! It's one of those things, you can do it wearing that gear if there's no sudden weather change and you don't stumble and twist your ankle but it ain't recommended. Note my sturdy boots below (don't they look huge??)

First Lake


Anyway the crossing itself was fantastic. We were so lucky to get a beautifully clear day which provided full visibility of Mt. Nguarhoe (Mt Doom in Lord of the Rings; as opposed to Mt Doom being its English name which is what I thought initially :) ) and fantastic views. We did the walk in 6.5 hrs with a number of breaks and numerous photos stops. It's a wonderfully barren landscape but quite captivating... walking across an inactive volcano crater is pretty cool :)

Mount Ngauruhoe


Oh and this is a photo of Soda Springs which is a short diversion off the main track after about an hour (?) of walking... not quite sure actually. Anyway they were quite lovely!
Soda Springs


On Sunday we visited some wonderful thermal pools and had a great walk around the area where there was some fantastic geothermal activity. We had a long drive back to Welly so about midday we set back off that way. Along the way we stopped off at the army museum in Waiouru, which I have to admit I was not that enthusiastic about initially, but which was just wonderful. Very moving and quite sad (well statistics and stuff from WWI always is I think). Well worth a visit for anybody driving along the desert road.

Got home about 6:30 on Sunday evening at which point I saw the first photos of Matthew and a wonderful movie snippet that my brother in law took of my sister holding Matthew for the first time.. at which point I burst in to tears. Ridiculous to cry at something so happy, but such is life :)

Sunday, 15 February 2009

My Nephew

My nephew Matthew Anthony Maguire was born on Thursday 12th February 2009 in Philadelphia, USA. He is my first nephew and to say my day was made when I received a text at 8:20am Fri morning at work is to put mildly. I was practically skipping about the place. I've been away all weekend so catching up on new photos now... happy days :)

Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Long Weekend

Friday was Waitangi Day here in New Zealand so we had the day off work... which was great! Myself, Dave and Amanda did a day tramp (hike to folk outside of NZ) up to Mt Kapakapanui. Apparently there are great views from the summit (1100m) so I had my camera packed up in my day pack. As we drove to the road end I got a fairly good hint that I might not be taking any photos from the summit as I saw lots of cloud cover over the mountains. Not to worry I still brought the camera... you never know :) In typical Kiwi style the track kept switching sides of the same river which required walking through it a number of times! Thanks to gaiters and luck I guess I got nothing more than damp heels to start with and actually that was due to my splashing while trying to get across relatively fast!

I admit that I found the initial steep climb relatively tough going but at least I managed to keep going... most of the time :) After lunch at Kapakapanui Hut there was one more steep portion before we reached the top... where there was a bit of a wind and lots of mist/cloud. Definitely no views! But worth the climb anyway. After all that, it was the rather steep descent (first 600m of the 900m descent is pretty steep) that has put the muscles on the front of my thighs in to a state of shock! I was fine getting down but yesterday those muscles were a little tight but today... well today I'm not sure they're working! Well, pilates tomorrow evening so they'd better fix themselves up pretty fast.



We've had a really lovely weekend weather wise. In the low to mid twenties in Wellington here today. A few friends came up from Christchurch for the Rugby Sevens so we met up this afternoon for a relaxing lunch at the Lido and then a visit to see the Colossal Squid in Te Papa. I know that one of it's eyes is missing, but the other one is meant to be there and I couldn't see it. Oh, if you're wondering, the reason I was looking for it is that it's apparently the size of a football! After the guys left for the airport I headed back to the waterfront with my book for a bit of sun and a taste boysenberry gelato (well passionfruit is my favourite but there was none left... which is not surprising considering the queues outside Kaffee Eis all day!)

Oh, and another wonderful gift I got this weekend were two sandfly bites which I can only assume I got on Friday afternoon when I was taking off gaiters, socks and boots after the tramp. Itching is driving me nuts!!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Yeah!!


It's arrived!!!
154 episodes, 112 hrs of viewing. 5 hrs of extras.
My complete The West Wing DVD box set has arrived :)
That's my TV viewing sorted for the next few months then!