Thursday, October 26, 2017

Traipsing around Wanaka

Here's a little commentary, complete with photos, of some of the walks and cycle trips I've been doing in the last few weeks.

Mt Iron is a piece of left over glacial debris sitting at the head of Lake Wanaka. I'm pretty sure it isn't made of iron or it would have been mined into extinction by now! Well that's what we do in Australia at any rate....

Being a mere 500m above sea level, and about 240m above Lake Wanaka, it's an easy climb to capture great views right up the Lake, and also overlooks Albert Town and the Cardrona River. It forms the backdrop to my rear garden and is the only mountain my eye surgeon says I can climb at the moment. It's also a favourite for exercise training amongst the super fit Wanaka locals. The climb is short but steep in sections, and the preferred option is to run it. I'm sticking with walking myself!!

From Albert Town there are a series of tracks radiating up and down the various rivers that meet there. There's the Hawea River Track which crosses a swing bridge and then follows the Hawea River (funny that!) up to the small township by the lake's edge. I love the serenity out at Lake Hawea, though I am reliably informed it can get hellish windy and not bad for kitesurfing and windsurfing either. Brrr!!! I'll stick to my warm ocean wave riding back in West Oz thank you!

Travelling in to Wanaka from Albert Town you can either ride around the base of Mt Iron (the quick way in) or take the much more scenic Outlet Track, which is a fairly narrow track heading upstream next to the Clutha River to where it begins at Lake Wanaka. From there you ride along the lakeside with spectacular views across the water to snow capped peaks on one side, and jaw dropping mansions on the other. And most of those mansions are holiday homes of the rich lying cruelly vacant. Sigh....

A third and fourth alternative from Albert Town is to follow the Clutha River downstream. There is a choice of tracks either side of the river as it flows swiftly southward. Both tracks (Newcastle on the true left, Upper Clutha on right) finish at the Luggate Red Bridge which makes it a good 26-28km round trip. Considerably easier to do on a bicycle, but I decided to walk it! Bit of preparation for some long day and overnight walks I have planned. Aside from sore legs and a blister on one little toe, I nailed it.

Across the Albert Town bridge on the other side of the Clutha River is Deans Bank. This is a more technical mountain bike track so I've been holding off on riding it until my vision is a little better. Now that the gas bubble in my eye has mostly reabsorbed I am left with a thick cataract that limits my ability to see with clarity in that eye. But I have enough vision to have better depth perception than is possible with just the one eye, meaning I'm now overtaking and passing others with ease, and downhill riding is no longer a completely terrifying experience.

Aside from Deans Bank, there's the Dublin Bay track, a rutted and at times steep, sandy and still terrifying for me downhill run out to the tranquil waters of Dublin Bay on the eastern side of Lake Wanaka.

I'm yet to tackle the more serious mountain bike tracks in Wanaka, of which there are many that I haven't even mentioned. Tackling the tracks out to Dublin Bay via Deans Bank were a bit challenging so perhaps I shall leave the others for another year, when my eyesight is fully restored.

On that note, yet another eye review has been and gone, and I am happy to report that there is a slight possibility that my two remaining operations will be done before Christmas to restore my sight back to what it was. In fact better than it was as the plan is to correct the myopia so I won't need to wear a contact lens in that eye!

Right now I'm preparing a list of all the things I need back here for the summer and the following year in NZ, because soon I'll be jetting home for a few days of sun, sea and surf, bookclub and catchups.

Woohoo! The grounding is over!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

What to do when grounded

As anyone can tell who reads my blog, I'm a pretty active individual. I like to keep both my body and mind busy, and my recent enforced grounding due to eye surgery has stopped me in my tracks somewhat. Not only can't I drive or fly, I am limited to less strenuous physical activity until the retina looks like it is well and truly adhering well. Negotiating the world with vision in only one eye also takes a lot of getting used to!

Everything that happens in life can be viewed through many different prisms. When an obstacle occurs in my life's trajectory I've always tended to look for the opportunities it creates rather than dwell on my personal misfortune. Fact is, shit happens. And I'm pretty sure feeling sorry for myself doesn't make that shit go away.....

So, after the initial shock of having to undergo a second surgery and the prospect of an even longer recuperative period, I returned from my review appointment with some clear ideas about when and what I could and couldn't do. I could fly at the end of the 8 week period post operatively, I could walk up Mt Iron, and I could cycle as long as it wasn't too strenuous. Driving is still out of the question.

David, my landlord, has an old mountain bike in his back shed that he has let me use. It's not too shabby a bike, so after dropping the seat height I took it for a little run around the local streets to see how it felt cycling with one eye. It's a little weird, but doable. So a day later I rode into town along the Outlet Track! Now that was quite an experience: narrow track, cliff one side, river the other, am I crazy?? Overtaking people is still a problem, and going downhill is terrifying, but otherwise, I'm nailing this one eyed cycling gig. And there are so many bike tracks around here I'm spoilt for choice.

To keep my brain busy I've enrolled in an online TEFL course. I'd been thinking about the idea of teaching English in a foreign country as an option for some time, and having the down time right now to complete the course is an opportunity worth taking. It's quite interesting too, especially as I've never learnt much phonetics or grammar in the past.

Finally, the food one. I thought of this when Kathy was still here because the seed of the idea began in Sapporo City a few years ago when we decided to do a gyoza crawl. Gyoza are Japanese fried dumplings, and are particularly popular in Hokkaido. The plan was to head out from our hotel and order a plate of gyoza and a beer at the first restaurant we came to, consume, then move on to the next gyoza joint. We sampled quite a few varieties that night, and got quite drunk as well... but what's that got to do with New Zealand?

I was thinking how this idea of sampling an individual dish could be transplanted to New Zealand and I immediately thought of seafood. Being an island country it certainly has a surplus of the stuff, but what dish could be used to sample the bounty? Good old seafood chowder of course! It's a basic, home cooking type recipe, which is also quintessentially Kiwi, so the NZ Seafood Chowder Trail was born!

Go check it out! I've had friends and flatmates join me on this quest, and as I travel further in NZ there'll be a lot more entries. It's a bit of fun, and chowder is both inexpensive and not too filling, so it's an opportunity to eat out without breaking the bank.

Since I began writing this post I've had yet another trip to Dunedin for my one month post surgery review. The retina is healing well, so aside from scaling mountains (because of the altitude) I now have no exercise restrictions at all.

After 6 weeks of relative inactivity from skiing 5-6 days a week for the previous 2 months, I'm pretty keen to get my heart pumping and regain my fitness. And with awesome sunny Spring days here in Wanaka you can bet I'm going to be out getting a few hours of cycling or walking done. So you chaps can look forward to some spectacular Kiwi scenery coming soon.

That's next...