Television, Walks and Favourite Podcasts

I’ve decided to stop watching the daily updates and news for a few days as it just creates anxiety. Unfortunately, it is all bad news so I will be reading my news on the BBC page which is comprehensive and useful.


Television (Netflix)
We’ve been watching Jack Whitehall Travels with my Father, whilst drinking beer in the evening and this has been a roaring success. Nothing like having comedy on to cheer you up. Also, it is about the countries they visit, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and fascinating as a travel vlog. Father and son go off together for a ‘gap year’ which Jack didn’t finish in 2009. His father, Michael Whitehall, is an unadventurous well dress gentleman whose obvious distaste of most things Jack related, is hilarious. They journey across South East Asia to partake in some rather curious explorations, mishaps and escapades, and comically demonstrates two diverse perspectives. However, ultimately they find it is a good way to strengthen their father and son bond and proves a successful adventure.



Walks Tuesday
We’ve continued with our country walks. The first one with David (husband), included a trip to the other end of the village where there is a private school and The Old Church. This is set in copious amounts of farmland, orchards and woodland. The sun was shining and we really appreciated being outside. Whenn we arrived at The Old Church we met and chatted with another couple (4 metres plus away) who was discovering all the local walks during this (lockdown) time, having moved to the area of Kent 11 years ago! They are certainly making up for it now. Their walks were derived from some printed maps given to them when they moved in.

Yesterday – Wednesday
I decided to go for a solitary stroll across the local recreation ground and into the woods. I really enjoyed walking for about 50 minutes which got me out of the house. Don’t get me wrong, I have been decluttering, organising and cleaning my home but I’m afraid I will always find ways to escape the four walls into the outside world.
Whilst walking I listened to the Minimalists podcast which is one of those easy to listen to chatty podcasts which is often thought-provoking. To be honest, these days I listen to BBC podcasts but forgot to download for my walk, so I just tried this one which had been downloaded but not listened to…

The Minimalists 197 Successful People

A listener asks ‘How do I find what I’m passionate about and when should I give the passion up?
The basic premise is not what are you are passionate about but what you are enthusiastic about? Everyone knows what they are enthusiastic about. Which friend am I passionate about or which friend am I enthusiastic about? This stops the excitement perspective which doesn’t necessarily translate into a long-term interest. You just seem to know what you are enthusiastic about.

30 Day Challenge
Answer 3 questions for 30 days.
What made me feel enthusiastic today?
What drained me of energy today?
What did I learn about myself today?

Don’t give up until 30 days. You will feel like you’ve got all the juice out of the lemon before 30 days and will see a pattern after the 28th day. Not before.

Favourite Podcasts

5 Live Science Podcast (like the Aussie Dr Karl)

Feel Better, Live More with Dr Rangan Chatterjee

Fortunately… with Fi and Jane

The Infinite Monkey Cage

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

The Minimalists


When I got home, I set about making a huge bolognaise sauce full of beef, tomatoes, stock, herbs and masses of vegetables. I plan to make it last several days, so I even added grated carrots. Probably on the second day, I will add chili and beans to turn it into a chili con carnie.

Thursday
I just listened to music and did a home workout. All good fun. I’m enjoying the soulful tunes of Lianne La Havas and Marc O’ Reilly on Spotify, at the moment. During the afternoon we popped to a nearby brewery and bought lots, and I mean lots, of ale for both of us. After that excitement, I read my book (a review will be forthcoming) The Year of Living Danishly and then cooked the dinner (Chili Con Carni).

During the evening we had a lively chat with family which is always fun. I’m glad to know they are well and busy working from home. I’ve recently heard of someone with the virus and am very concerned for her. Hopefully, she will make a quick recovery.

Anyway, I will sign off here. Let me know how you are passing the time?

 

Walking Ideas (whilst we can)

I thought I’d better start with this topic because it is important. Especially at the moment. Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified health professional, so these are my ideas.

I’m focusing on coping mechanisms over the next few weeks which I hope will be helpful. Rather than wallowing in thoughts, as prone to do, it is better to be proactive.

A family member suggested I write again, so here goes. The best way to prepare is a plan so I’ve made a list of stuff (see yesterday’s list) but may also be inspired by some online education, virtual tours with an imposed virtual social life. This is going to be a tough period but we have to make the best of it.

As I’m trying not to struggle mentally, I feel it is vital to plan, in some gentle way, what you can do in the coming weeks. Even if you aren’t into the natural environment, now is the time to make changes to your routine and try ways of getting some fresh air and find your ideal space and interests. It’s easy to sit around and become bored so google some local green spaces or just check out some old maps you’ve probably got lying around. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been struggling too!!

As we can still go out, in some capacity, we should. Obviously, avoid busy places. Although, they don’t exist anymore. I’ve been going to the local park, woodland walks and wandering around the village.

The local park has a beautiful tranquil lake with plenty of space, away from others. It’s a few minutes’ drive so I usually take Oscar, a friend’s dog, as it has elegant wild grassy slopes, flowers, trees, fields, streams and is not too muddy. A great place to be mindful with magnificent views across the lake.

However, yesterday, I just went for a solitary walk through my local woods. This is great because it is a 5-minute walk from my home. Nothing like a woodland walk to calm your worries. I didn’t go with my friend’s dog so just walked along the top path near housing. It was quite special hearing the birds, seeing the blossom, walking through copious amounts of mud, taking photographs and not seeing anyone. It felt good for the soul and safe. I was going to go back along the road but realised the school would be finishing so turned around and ventured back the  way I had come. I tend to walk for about an hour, quite briskly to get the old heartbeat up. I take my phone, but only because I nearly got lost in our local woods a few years ago. Apart from emergencies, I tend to ignore it and I’d rather not have it on me.

Of course, not everyone has a park or woods near them. I would suggest a speedy walk along the pavements. Try to go when it is quiet (early morning/evening). I’ve had people walk round me into the road so as not to walk past me!

Walking can help mental health and overcome feelings of anxiety and creates a feeling of being with nature in a natural environment. It is useful to see what is around you and listen more and notice more than you normally do.

Most people have parks, woodland or green spaces near them which will have a positive effect. Go on, give it a go.

Tips:
Look on local maps and explore local green spaces
Walk for at least half an hour
Don’t look at your phone
Enjoy the peace and quiet
Submerge yourself in your surroundings – Be mindful, visually and be aware of the audible range

Wellington and South Island Highlights… New Zealand

Wellington

We spent the period on and around 25th December in Wellington. The time was taken up exploring the city, going around galleries, museums (Te Papa) and larking about on the beach. Yes, Wellington has a splendid beach.

It also has lots of craft beer pubs with quirky decorations. We endeavoured to check these out of course. The city is lively, although became rather quiet on Christmas Day because nothing opens which is understandable.

I did succumb to booking a Christmas dinner but apart from that did very little to celebrate it this year. Usually, I entertain the family and this year was certainly a change from that. Probably back to normal next year because I did miss the (grown up) children.

It is good to have a change from the usual routine though and I did enjoy the day but it was a little surreal. I might add that it has been quite easy to forget about Christmas because they just don’t seem to make such a fuss about it here in NZ.

We stayed in Cuba St which is near the main centre of Welly. It is also near the cool bars, cafes and indy shops. We passed many happy hours wandering around Wellington taking in the views, ornamental arty displays, local architecture and beaches. There is a bucket fountain in Cuba Street which, in my humble opinion, is too stupid and splashed water everywhere.

We had a look around the old St Paul’s Cathedral which was resplendent with Christmas decorations and wooden interiors. Afterwards we went up on the cable car and appreciated the fabulous views of the city. Loved looking at all the weather board cliff side properties and some have their own cable cars!

It turned out to be a successful holiday break and a useful stop for the ferry.

South Island

So we caught a ferry to the South Island to explore the quieter part of New Zealand. Because we’ve been having a road trip, I decided to have a break from blogging during the Christmas period. Also, I’ve had some troubling family news from home so wasn’t really in the mood for writing. However, things have improved, January beckons and I need to write so here are some very basic highlights..

The Ferry Crossing

Before we started exploring we caught the ferry across which goes along the Cook Strait, through the Marlborough Sounds and is so spectacular, many journalists have said it is one of the best scenic ferry rides in the world and I concur.

It takes three and half hours and is enjoyable. Also, when you arrive at Picton, the beautiful natural landscape continues.

Kahurangi National Park

Firstly, we explored the top of the South Island by driving to the Kahurangi National Park. This is the area for holiday makers and there are plenty of those in December/January onwards. The beaches are sublime, particularly the Kaiteriteri beach. Some are quite difficult to reach and some are just wild and unspoilt. Something you don’t really see much elsewhere and impressive.

Onwards down the west coast towards Nelson and the Ruby Coast. This takes in a landscape which is diverse. Large wild wind swept beaches, geological sea cliffs, earthquake shattered slopes, serene lakes and the occasional falls.

I drove through a tiny place called Charleston and hubby shouted out that we need to stop there. It is easy to drive, mindlessly because it is so rugged and quiet. Hardly any traffic in New Zealand and you can blink and miss places that are relevant to your journey.

Hokitika

We stopped at Hokitika and enjoyed an elevated walk, 20 metres above the forest floor. This area is fascinating because it contains plants related to some of the earliest species to colonise the Earth. The temperate lowland forest is dominiated by Podocarp trees, ferns, mosses, liverworts and hornworts. All have ancient origin.

During the walk we climbed a tower and had an even higher view. This included the mountains to the east, the Southern Alps, formed from the collision of the pacific Plate and a number of glaciations, which have helped form the landscape including lakes, valleys and hills.

Ross

During part of this road trip we often stopped the car for short walks towards falls and it is exciting to see the flora of the NZ forest on the way. We stopped at Ross and decided to do the Water Race Walkway. This walk takes you past Ross’ newest lake which was formally a gold mine and along the gold mining area to include the A & T Burt Sluice Nozzle which was used up to the 1900s, Jones Creek (the public paning area), and through regenerating native forest, passing numerous old gold workings, tunnels and dam sites. We also passed a miner’s hut before entering a historic cemetery with views of the Ross area. A great walk and very interesting too. Also, I might mention we passed a family panning for gold during the walk!

Pancake Rocks

The above area lies on the edge of Paparoa National Park and is a significant feature due to the indented coves, rock pillars and pancake rocks at Dolomite Point, near Punakaiki. Evenly layered stacks of limestone have been eroded to form surge pools and blowholes. They do look like pancakes and apparently have taken thirty million years to form! They are formed from fragments of dead marine creatures and plants. Water pressure caused them to solidify into layers of limestone. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed where water, wind and salt spray eroded the softer layers leaving a ‘pancake’ stack of harder limestone.

New Year’s Eve – Haast

We stopped at a place called Haast. A one horse town if ever there was one. After locating a hotel we were advised the local pub had a band on and the hotel were able to take us there and back.

Off we went to the pub. It was packed with locals and we got chatting to them. Apparently, they love our TV particularly the comedy. One lady told us how she had moved from Taunton (Somerset), nine years ago and how she loves New Zealand. I admitted it was a good job I didn’t come to NZ when I was young, because I’d have wanted to move to NZ. (No litter, traffic, tedious politics and shock horror, you can flipping park your car when visiting the local town.) It was a good evening with lots of reminiscing about England and the wonders of NZ. To be honest, I do prefer home and I actually love where I live with the fruit orchards, beautiful countryside, historical architecture, family and friends. Miss the dog walking and even the gym too.

Unfortunately, we made the mistake of leaving before midnight and the hotel bar closed at 11.30!!! Can you imagine our shock? Anyway, onwards and upwards. It is noticeable people in this part of the world don’t celebrate this time of year as in England haha. Little bit of a culture shock which doesn’t do me any harm.

Queenstown

I’ve not mentioned that during our time in the above area of Haast and surroundings the weather was pretty awful. We weren’t able to fly above the Westland National Park and famous glaciers (Franz Joseph/Fox), due to the inclement weather. We may try again later.

When we drove toward Queenstown we finally saw the clouds part and sun shine. The area is lovely and we’ve been to Wanaka and Arrowtown and on a magnificent steam boat ride along the Wakatipu lake. The lake is pretty and we’ve stayed in an apartment overlooking Lake Wakatipu which is quite a breath taking distraction as I’m typing this, I can tell you.

The water looks very blue and clean and that is because it is. Scientists have rated it 99.9% pure. You are better off dipping in your glass in the lake than buying bottled water. Can’t think why you’d want to buy bottled water anyway, especially if you live in the UK.

Queenstown is clearly the hipster place because it is full of them. Queenstown is as much a verb as a nown because it is the adventure capital and where bungy jumping was invented. No, I’m not going to attempt a jump, in case you are wondering. I’m happy wandering around the lake, town and surrounding area. It is a beautiful place.

Thanks for reading. The news from home is encouraging too.

Sources

https://www.westcoast.co.nz/plan-your-trip/punakaiki-pancake-rocks-and-blow-holes/

Lonely Planet New Zealand

Walking and meeting people we know! Taupo Lake, New Zealand

Taupo

This place is the centre of NZ’s North Island and so beautiful. People aren’t exaggerating about the stunning scenery here, it is truly incredible.

On the advice of the nice lady at the motel where we are staying, we went for a walk to see the Huka Falls. This was even more lovely than expected. Again, the main surprise is the crystal blue water. The photos on this blog post are not photoshopped. This is the colour of the water as we strolled towards the cascading falls. One of the best walks, I’ve ever done, if not the best one. Also, the colour of the foliage is incredible. The light of the sun, gleaming onto the leaves gives a magnificent, surreal glow.

The falls themselves consist of 200,000 litres of water plunging nine metres off the rock face every second! This amount of water could fill an Olympic pool every minute. It is not advised to attempt white water rafting here because the falls have claimed the craft of many river users.

The clear, reflective racing water before the falls is just as breathtaking. Although it is fun to see the tumbling bubbles, hear the noise and enjoy the natural beauty of Nature at work. Apparently the flow is so strong it prevents the migration of trout and eels which isn’t surprising.

The volcanic caldera that forms Lake Taupo drains into Huka Falls and it is quite magical to walk this trail. It is also great to see all the young people chilling out by and in the water too. Certainly more fruitful than staring at screens all day!

The next day we took a drive around the lake towards Tongariro National Park and enjoyed the close up vision of Mount Ruapehu and Mount TongarIro and surrounding area.

The landscapes are incredible. The massive waters of Lake Taupo and momentous panorama peaks of Tongariro National Park, ancient forests, rivers, falls does make this road trip memorable. Unfortunately, we were feeling a little delicate…

The evening before, we decided to explore the local restaurants and bars. After a rather strange meal of bread coated steak, vegetables and chips we admired the momentous sun sets and went in one of the lake front bars. As I was enjoying a drink, I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t gawping at the sun set over the mountains (mentioned above). Suppose if you live in NZ, you are used to the impressive sights.

Anyway, we went to another bar and I thought I recognised the chap buying a drink. Told hubby thought I’d spotted his friend’s son. My husband started randomly shouting his name and he turned around. He confirmed his identity and invited us to join them. Crikey. We had a great evening discussing NZ, etc. What are the chances of walking into a bar and recognising your friend’s son from our home town, in England? Small world or what? We couldn’t believe it! Has this ever happened to you? Another great evening.

 

Enjoy the break everyone and a Happy New Year to you all. Thanks to all those who’ve supported my blog and I look forward to writing some more posts soon. 

Cheers,

Andy 🙂

 

New Zealand, Taupo – Adventures

Yes, you’ve got to do it, haven’t you? New Zealand is the place for them after all. Adventures.

Well, hubby did the white water rafting but I draw the line at being out of control in a dinghy. However, I did enjoy the jet boating. This is enormous fun and felt safe too.

An adrenaline ride is what you endure, mean enjoy haha. Managed not to scream unlike some and it was fun and interesting. The driver took us to Makoia Island which is majestic and now a wildlife area/bird sanctuary. We enjoyed many speed bumps over waves and some really good spins. Fabulous.

Next day, we treated ourselves to a seaplane ride to the White Island. They call it a Floatplane Adventure, and it was too.

Honestly, if you like venturing up to the sky, in a 1976 Austin mini, then this is for you. Well, this is what it felt like especially at first. A tiny craft shaking about the landscape. Thankfully it did settle down and we saw some magnificent views of dolphins tumbling in the sea.

Yes, we flew over New Zealand’s permanently active volcano, White Island. Something I won’t forget in a hurry! What amazing aerial views of the island’s crater lake and ever changing activities.

As if that wasn’t enough we continued across the Pacific Ocean to Mount Tarawera. It erupted in 1886 leaving massive craters and cracks.

During the experience we enjoyed magnificent views of the coast, national parks, volcanoes and the huge Kalangaroa forest. Then a gradual descent back to Rotorua via the Walmangu Volcanic Valley and lakes. Flipping amazing.

Rotorua, New Zealand

We came to Rotorua to visit the incredible earth forces so that’s what we did.

Te Puia

The first place, above, also has exhibitions about Maori culture, kiwi habitat, architecture and Maori arts.

Te Puia is an area of geothermal activity with bubbling mud pools and geysers shooting 30 metres, twice an hour. Mud from heated pools was used by Maori to treat ailments such as cuts and burns. The acidic mud contains minerals which rejuvenate the skin and is considered far more beneficial than bandages as they leave a scar. This encouraged Rotorua to become a spa town from the 1880s and today the mud is sold around the world.

The geysers are amazing too. As we came towards this park by car, we saw random steam billowing out of the ground amongst the natural landscape. They function from hot water deep beneath the earth. Narrow chambers where water becomes pressurised and heated up beyond boiling point. The mix of steam and boiling water is sprayed out as a geyser.

It is extraordinary to see this natural phenomenon. I quite like spotting the tiny, natural mud pool or small hole in a stream with tiny bubbles escaping.

Also, it is fascinating to see Maori folk carving greenstone, whale bones, wood, view art and weaving. Whalebone is highly valued because of the spiritual associations with the ocean. We watched a man intricately carve a whalebone and let us touch and admire his work.

Onwards, to observe the carved ornaments and adornments which are still worn today. These are considered a life force and not just decorative. They are physical representations of spiritual connections with the environment and their culture.

Seeing the carving is interesting because it is not only clever but different from anything you may have experienced before. Raga is a wood which is tough and durable so often used for weapons and tools. The totara tree is a pink/red wood and used for canoes, buildings and carving. The tree is found throughout New Zealand and when an important chief dies, they say ‘a mighty totara has fallen’.

This area is well worth visiting because it covers so much. Te Puia spans 70 hectares within the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and contains many historical facts regarding individual geysers, mud pools, hot springs and silica formulations. Also, you may see the native Kiwi bird, wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving. The historical facts and stories are extremely interesting and we had a great day and learnt a lot of cultural and local information too.

Wai-O-Tapu

Another interesting place which consisted of three walks and a geyser demonstration.

As you explore the area you see an amazing selection of volcanic domes, craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles. You also get a bit of a workout because there  are quite a few hills and steps as well. All good fun and you won’t see such incredible sights anywhere else.

What fascinated me are the colours in the area which are natural and due to different mineral elements showing nature as a wonderful thing.

Green – Colloidal sulphur/ferrous salts

Orange – Antimony

Purple – Manganese oxide

White – Silica

Yellow-primrose – Sulphur

Red-brown – Iron oxide

Black – Sulphur and carbon

 

 

Next post is all about fun, fun and more fun…

 

 

 

 

Hamilton, New Zealand

Pubs in Australia and New Zealand

Decided to stop for a few days at Hamilton. An average size town with a couple of good pubs. The first pub called The Londoner served up a decent IPA and amazing chicken fillet filled with spinach and soft cheese, pine nuts, mash and veg. Omg it was delicious. Hubby, I might add, enjoyed a London Pride real ale.

Onwards to The Local Taphouse for a few IPAs and a look at their local CAMRA mag. Well obvs not CAMRA (thank goodness) but an organisation called soba… Society of beer advocates. Much better title, in my humble opinion. Love the irony. Somebody has a sense of humour.

We were advised that a decent pub doesn’t exist in Aus and NZ by many people. Nonsense. We’ve found some smashing pubs in both countries. Had some wonderful beers, accompanying food and friendly locals. They aren’t all boxy sterile places but great places. Funnily enough the first pub was awful. A great big soulless hall type building serving beer in stupidly small glasses. Oh dear, I thought, this is going to be a long, arduous trip. After that we found loads of decent places and it’s been a tremendous trip.

The Aussie and NZ pub is great. You heard it here first or should I say thirst?

Hamilton Gardens

This place is a lovely surprise full of beautiful flowers, trees, shrubs and ideas. Ideas? Yes, the landscaping is innovative and at the moment they are working on a Surrealist garden.

The area has a collection of gardens from all over the world including Japan, India, China, Italy and of course, the best, England. Exquisite and so well done.

Unusually, they are not known to be botanic gardens but gardens that tell a story across all cultures. This concept was started in the 1980s by Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel and the concept was enthusiastically received by the local community.

Of course, the gardens were originally a rubbish dump and the area was passed to the Hamilton City Council During the 1960s for opening as a garden for the public. The site is now a wonderful 54 hectares, free to visit and worthwhile visiting.