Sunday, 22 March 2015

Salve for the Soul and Walking in New Zealand

The author at the end of the Greenstone Valley. 
It may have come to the attention of some (although most probably don't care!) that I have not been posting regularly this year. I have been wrapped in a strange torpor when it comes to blogging, not being able to put words on the screen and generally being ill at ease when I try. I certainly have no intention of retiring my blog and will persevere in the hope that my previous enthusiasm will return.

 I'm not sure what the cause of this sudden lethargy towards creativity is but I figure if I sit down and write the words may flow. So, bare with me as I try to craft something of note and fill you in on a few points of interest on which my life has hung over the last little bit.

I find writing is quite therapeutic, easing my mind and giving me an outlet to use a voice which only I usually hear. So, as I retreat from the comfort of my annual leave and prepare to return to work in just over a week, I once more am opening the door and inviting you all in to share a little piece of this ordinary life every now and again.

  It's hard to believe that we are almost at the end of March and the year is certainly flying by without fear or favour. Work has been a whirlpool of rumour and change and we all hang off the edge of the cliff of uncertainty with regards to the future of the company and where our place in it will be. To tell the truth, working there is soul destroying and it is all I can do to keep my head above water and stay sane at times.  But, my annual leave arrived just in time.

 Five weeks on holiday is surely enough to soothe any open wound of frustration and as I enter the final week of being a man of leisure the idea of returning to work becomes more distasteful with every minute which passes.

 The major part of my holiday was spent in New Zealand where I hiked a famous passage called "The Grand Traverse". The walk is actually the Greenstone and Routeburn Tracks done concurrently and takes six days altogether. The Greenstone is real back-country and although the odd "free-walker" takes the plunge and walks the track it was generally quiet with only the odd interloper becoming mixed up with our tour group.

 If I was twenty years younger I would probably have a crack at doing some of these walks myself, carrying all that I would need to survive and using the government huts which are provided. Alas, I do want to make it out in one piece and Ultimate Hikes, the leading walking company in New Zealand give you an armchair ride providing guides who lead, cook and pop blisters.

The end of the Greenstone Valley.
The Routeburn Track by contrast is a much more traveled route with Ultimate Hikes doing regular guided tours every week and several free-walkers and day-hikers sharing the way with us.

 The first day on the Routeburn was a lot harder than I suspected it to be but I was happy to find the training I have been doing over the last few months stood me in good stead and I completed the hardest day of the trek without any pressure except for worrying about the sole of a shoe which was threatening to come off. Always buy a pair of good hiking shoes people!

  My shoes held up in the end which made me a much more fortunate hiker than a New Zealand fellow who walked with us who's shoes actually fell apart. He was forced to finish the hike with cable ties holding his boots together!

 The second last day saw us climbing into the Ailsa Mountains in pouring rain and crossing the Holyford Face which threatened arctic conditions. Mercifully those sorts of problems never arose although it was very cool indeed crossing the Harris Saddle, the highest point of the walk but it soon warmed a little as we descended toward our lodge at Routeburn Falls.

 The last day was a gentle trundle through the beech trees to the road-head where the track finishes and a rather frightful bus-ride, courtesy of Ultimate Hikes own Grand Prix bus driver who obviously knew the road very well.

 It was an enjoyable trip with a good group of people although I'm sure at times my introverted attitude causes the odd travelling companion to think I am a little strange! So be it. I am who I am.
Looking rugged in the Ailsa Mountains.

I walked the track with my sister Susan and we returned to Queenstown smelly and eaten alive by sand-flies, the bites of which are only just beginning to fade!

Linda, my partner who had retired from hiking after we walked the Milford Track six years ago, had been touring the North Island with friends and flew into Queenstown on the day we finished the hike. We spent the last four days of our trip flying up the west coast visiting glaciers, rock formations and enjoying the relaxed way of life in which the Kiwis in this part of the island indulge with relish. They don't believe in building straight roads either!
The landscape looking towards Routeburn Falls.

So it is fair to say I enjoyed what was my fourth trip to the old Shaky Isles and look forward to going back again in the near future.

 Now I prepare for my last week on holidays and I really have to get myself motivated to do a few chores around the house. It seems when we have to complete tasks before we go to work we have no problems but when we have all the time in the world these things get put on the backburner and are eventually ignored and never completed.

 Linda and I are now deciding where we may go next time. Some travel in our own great land is probable but the lure of an overseas sojourn will eventually see us flying across the oceans yet again in a short time I'm sure.
Routeburn Flats.

I will be doing my best in the week to come to squeeze the last bit of enjoyment I can out of my leave and not worry about that which lies ahead the week after.

 I hope you have all enjoyed this little taste of New Zealand and who knows, some of you may get the urge to hike "The Grand Traverse" yourselves. I hope so.

 I will sign off for now with a promise to try an be more prolific with my blog as the year rolls on. I hope you all come along for the ride with me.

 Have a great night.

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