Tramping with Rosie.

There are pros and cons to being a casual employee…

A con is that there are less dollaz.

A pro is that I can take mid-week hiking excursions to little huts in the back arse of nowhere!

Mother, cousin and I took a wee jaunt to Fenella Hut in the Kahurangi National Park this week.

Besides the mass onslaught of blood sucking sand flies who love my juicy ankles, it was quite lovely. It was like a Boy Scouts adventure trail, with little cabins and campfires dotted along the valley floor, close enough to the river for a good dip after a long day.

Our first night we just drove into the first hut and slept fitfully, fearful of exposing our toes to the savage insects who roamed the cabin, waiting to pounce.

The days walk was meant to take almost five hours, but because we are youthful and spritely, we trotted along the track and jogged up the hill, doing a few squats while we were at it.

When we arrived at Fenella Hut, it was like a shimmering mirage of glory in the midday heat. A relatively new hut, Fenella Hut was built as a memorial to Fenella Druce, who was killed in 1977 when the Three Johns Hut was blown over a bluff in Aoraki National Park.

We hoped the same would not happen to us.

A high point was the toilet, which may have been the most magnificient Department of Conservation hut toilet I have ever graced with my bottom. And I have graced MANY.

Stained glass windows, a delightful bush view (ha!) and even a pipe of running water conveniently placed for washing ones hands post wee-wee. It’s the little things that count.

Usually you have to dash in, hold your breath, close your eyes and pretend that the flies buzzing out of the dark depths of the long drop are just there for moral support.

An equally high point (some may say higher) was the magical tarn (lake) that rested just over the hillock, beckoning us with it’s un-tarn-ished beauty. I hope you see what I did there.

If trees had eyes, (and fingers and mouths), they would have been laughing and pointing at our naked, awkwardly tanned bodies plunging ungraciously into the waters. I do not like to touch the bottom with my feet, because I fear the creatures of the depths, but I enjoyed doggy paddling about, watching the dragonflies have sex with their faces (at least that’s what it looked like. Isn’t nature wonderful??).

Then came the time to get out. Naked. Using only a slimy rock, fatigued legs and stylishness, I slid on my front up the rock, realised my companions were taking x-rated photographs of my exit technique, slid back a bit in shock horror, then launched myself upward like a nifty seal. It was that rock’s lucky day… Just sayin’.

My evening meal consisted of mothers homemade dehydrated lentil curry, which sounds quite hideous but actually was top notch, and a snack on Rachel’s ‘fun mix’. Open to interpretation.

We had the hut to ourselves, so we played card games loudly and used two mattresses instead of one. Crazy cats.

Today we retraced our steps in a gazelle-like fashion, stopping for water, an occasional nibble and a cheeky skinny dip in the river, much to the astonishment of the German tourists walking by. (Just kidding, no one saw us… We think).

Now I am home, sprawled on my bed with a glass of wine positioned very nearby for ease of access to my mouth.

I DESERVE IT. It’s been a hard week at work..

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Shits and Giggles

It may be the worst thing in the world, getting sick when you are far far away from mummy and home comforts. Where is mumsie to make you hot water bottles and cold flannels for your brow?

It is, at least, a lesson in harden the f**k up. But it isn’t fun. Especially when you share a bathroom with 10 other travellers, many of whom also have the illness, and when said bathroom is a solid 30 metres away.

You know it’s bad when you wake up curled around the base of the dubiously cleaned toilet, and you don’t even have the strength to be scared of the spiders minxing about in the corners.

I was lucky enough to have my darling Irish friend take me into her home and feed me soup and electrolytes, and let me use her bathroom and sleep in her bed. You know they’re a good friend when they give up their bed for you, whilst they sleep in the tent in the backyard.

If I’m looking on the bright side (which I usually am), I suppose it was my body’s way of telling me it needed 5 days of sleeping, free of alcohol, coffee and pretty much all food. I shall view it as a detox, and promptly get back on the wine wagon.

Having recovered from a sprained ankle, a damaged wrist, a vommy bug and some nasty hangovers, I have a new found appreciation for my health. And my appetite. Food tastes so good.

So what have I even been doing this past month? Not writing blog posts, that’s for sure. I’m sliding off the face of the earth on this island. My day goes roughly like this:

Wake up at 10am. Perhaps do some yoga, perhaps go back to sleep for an hour.

Eat a strange assortment of breakfast foods from the Helpers kitchen. We’re a healthy bunch this year, so the foods in demand seem to be flaxseeds, oats, soy milk and honey. Get em while you can!

Make a variety of glutenous pastries that I cannot eat due to intolerance but I would like to smush my face into, such as lemon meringue pies and buttermilk scones.

Get flour all over my clothing, get flustered if I receive more than one order at a time in the cafe, basically make it up as I go.

Squeal with glee over tip money that equates to one drinkie.

Finish work at 6pm. Occasionally go for a walk, a run, or most likely a nap.

Shower myself, or at least dry shampoo my head.

Sit in pub talking shit with various people. Increase my bar tab. Stay up too late. Go to bed at 3am. Tell myself I will get up early tomorrow and do activities. Secretly know that I will sleep for as long as possible.

It’s a whirlwind of activity, and the days slide by far too quickly.

A couple of weeks ago my homegirl Jeananne and I took a trip to Clare Island, moseyed around, drank a lot of tea, did some naps in the ditch and got rained on far too many times.

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This weekend I’m running away for a few days to do a cycle trip, which will include party time in Galway and then cycling through Connemara, wild camping and cooking food on a tiny camper stove. I’m very excited, and hoping that the heavens will not unleash their rainy fury on me too regularly. I don’t think my Primark raincoat would be able to handle it.

We have sporks, so I think we are pretty prepared.

When I return I promise to write a marvellous post of all our adventures. There will probably be a lot of pictures of me, sodden and downtrodden, regretting the decision to go camping and cycling in Ireland.

I shall leave you with these images of me and my compadres, drinking to excess and having a tremendous time.

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Achill Love

Two months, one sprained ankle, half a munted wrist, 237 midgie bites and 6 unidentifiable bruises later….

I’m still alive. Just. Achill is doing it’s best to break me, or maybe I’m just a bit stupid.

Things I’ve learnt over the past two months, or rather, things I should have learnt but continue to ignore in the spirit of good craic.

1. Don’t wear flip flops to Achill Head, seediest and slipperiest nightclub I’ve visited in Ireland (that’s saying something). You will fall over. At least thrice.

2. A beverage titled ‘Green Poison’ is not for the consumption of little girls. The name fits.

3. Bicycling at 2am is not a good idea, even when sober.

4. It’s especially not good when there are as many potholes as there are on Achill.

5. You also should not choose a bike with no brakes. This is just a general life rule that we should all abide by.

6. Swimming on an Irish beach in the middle of the night is going to be cold. Fripply, even.

7. It’s going to be colder if you don’t wear any clothes.

8. When you live in a hostel, it’s impossible to escape people. They will be there when you try to dash from the shower to your room in only a towel. They will laugh and point. You will probably drop your knickers.

9. Showers are either very cold or they are satan water. It’s like roulette. There is no such thing as warm. Or maybe that’s just the Valley House..

10. Bedtime is 2am, no earlier. If you go to bed earlier, it will be an amazing night and you will have missed out.

11. Beach parties make your hair and clothes smell like fire for days. Baking soda does not remove this smell.

12. Holey clothes are okay so long as the holes are not in naughty places.

13. Yoga with a sprained ankle and bung wrist is a challenge, and one that I am willing to accept.

14. Old men like to watch young women do yoga.

14. French people don’t lock the toilet door when they are doing number twos. Even when in a hostel.

15. Kids smell and leave a lot of crumbs.

16. Midgies will follow you to bed and try to get in there with you. You do not want to sleep with midgies.

17. It’s perfectly acceptable to order vegetable soup everywhere you go, because it is always the cheapest thing on the menu.

18. Avocados and hummus are the holy grail of helpx. They will only last one day. Feast.

19. Despite best intentions, you will probably not get up at 7.30am to do yoga and drink green smoothies when you’re living on Achill.

20. It’s very alarming when you leave Achill and re enter normal society. People are loud and look at you like you’re homeless, especially when you pay for everything with tip money.

21. You probably DO need to shower. A sea swim probably doesn’t count.

22. Sun is rare. When it comes, take off most of your clothes and bask.

23. The island wakes at 11am.

24. Time really flies when you don’t wake until 11am.

25. Even really ugly Irish people are babes. I LOVE THEM ALL.

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Craic.

I always feel like a bit of a knob saying the word “craic”, because I feel like it’s sort of reserved for actual Irish people. But I like to say it anyway, because there is no English equivalent.

Basically, there is some tremendous craic here at the Valley House. One night, I decided to be a good girl and go to bed prior to 12am, at which point I was pronounced ‘shit craic’, which is just the worst thing someone could call you. I went to bed and lay there, thinking about how shit my craic is, listening to everyone being fun in the pub. That may well be the hardest thing about being here – you cannot go to bed early without experiencing extreme FOMO, only exacerbated by the fact you live next to the pub, therefore you can hear everything from your bedroom. Saxophones, guitars and all.

There are many different different words for different levels of craic. You might say:

Savage craic!
Mighty craic!
Having the craic!
What’s the craic?
Where’s the craic?
That’s no craic…
Negative craic!
Minus craic!

My personal fave is savage. Savage craic. Apparently they also say ‘savage cabbage’, which I shall attempt to integrate into daily conversation.

I went a bit AWOL these past few weeks. This is the effect that Achill Island has on you.. You forget to communicate with people, you spend all of your time wandering around aimlessly, talking to people, eating strange combinations of food from the HelpXers fridge, taking photos of scenery, being spontaneous and ripping your clothing. (Not in a sexy way, really).

In my past couple of weeks we have had a wedding (still recovering), I’ve been snorkelling, kayaking, hiking, camping with strangers, sunbathing (believe it or not), sleeping, driving around….. We have taken a few trips to the nearby town of Westport, once with the innocent intention of getting groceries…. We never returned. The craic overpowered us.

All I seem to take photos of is the beautiful scenery, yet it somehow never quite captures the magnificence. (Is that a word?)

In terms of seeking balance, I am doing okay. The first week or so was a write-off. Too much party time, not enough nap. But in my mind, celebration is good for the soul. Now I’m trying to do some yoga everyday (even if it’s only for 15 minutes), going for plenty of beach walks, eating all the fruits and vegetables that no one else eats, drinking apple cider vinegar every morning….. And trying to catch up on sleep when I can. Also, I am managing to maintain the no shampooing situation. Occasionally people look at me like I am homeless, but that’s sort of acceptable on Achill. I wash with baking soda, rinse with ACV, and occasionally treat myself to some essential oils!

I think it’s best to enjoy the situation I’m in right now, not stress about the change in my routine (we can’t all live on yoga retreats 24/7), and just have as much fun as possible. Fun is very important for one’s wellbeing. A different kind of wellbeing. Stress is counterproductive. It’s impossible to be stressed in such a beautiful place.

Here are some photos… Feast your eyes.

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Bueno.

Thursday was Zoe and Megan’s last day at Casa de Carrasco, so we tagged along on a trip to the Cardo Monastery, way up in the hills behind Rasquera, the nearest village. It’s on the opposite side of the mountain to us, and you feel like you are in a completely different country – our side of the mountain was ravaged by fire two years ago, so is a lot dryer, whereas the monastery side is lush and green.

The monastery was built by monks in the early 1600s, and has been used for various purposes over the last few centuries, most recently as a hospital for injured soldiers during the War. It has been abandoned ever since and now it’s crumbling into ruins – there is talk of it being turned into a luxury 5 star hotel and spa, which is sort of a shame but I guess it gives it another life…

The monastery itself is closed off to visitors, because it’s a bit of a danger zone….. But we climbed a fence and snuck in. Zoe camped there once overnight – I can’t imagine anything spookier.

We did a walking meditation up to the hermitage (where they rang the bell), and sat to look at the view and do a seated meditation. We got the feeling we were the only ones there, and we may well have been!

And today I left the lovely Carrasco, after three weeks of yoga, sunshine, good food and quite a lot of wind (both kinds, we blame the chickpeas)… Last night the wind was insane and I was all alone in a big safari tent, with the A-Frame threatening to collapse on top of me at any moment, but one of the other guests came to find me and invited me to sleep in her lovely little cabin with her, so I got an awesome much needed sleep. Stella the dog came to keep me company too, I think she sensed that I was leaving and wanted to get in one more night of warmth in my bed. Softest dog you ever patted.

I will sure miss the yoga and and the Spanish sunshine, and all the lovely people…. But it’s time to move on to France! I’m lurking around in Barcelona for a few hours, waiting for my night bus which will take me to Lyon, arriving there at 5.30am, which will be super fun. I hope it’s not one of those buses with broken air conditioning and smelly people. But I sense that may just be a given on all public transport…

Wish me luck! I have earplugs, an eyemask, a chunky book and a bag of almonds to get me through.

Here are some pictures from my last few days in sunny Spain!

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Megan and I, mastering boat pose
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The lovely Sarah, owner, host and amazing teacher
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Cardo Monastery Hermitage
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Zoe, inside the monastery
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Stella, my doggy friend
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View from the hermitage
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Dancers pose, inside the monastery

How did I get here??

I wrote this blog post the day after I arrived, but didn’t have enough internet to post it. I can’t be bothered changing it so am going to post it anyway…

By Jove! I may have found myself in a little piece of paradise!

Saturday evening I arrived in L’Ampolla, a town about 2 hours south of Barcelona along the coast. My host, Sarah, picked me up from the station and we drove out of town, up a winding dirt road into the mountains, until we reached Casa de Carrasco, home for the next 3 weeks. The retreat is set amongst olive, almond and carob trees, and they make their own olive oil.

Sarah and her partner Martin run this place as an affordable yoga retreat, where people can come and camp, or stay in the ‘stables’ accommodation. They’re in the middle of a big renovation of the house, which is over 200 years old, so this next week is going to be a lot of cleaning, finishing off renovations and getting the retreat ready for an influx of new and repeat guests over Easter weekend.

I’m staying in a safari tent, and I’m like, so excited. It’s massive and you can actually stand up in it. It gets cool at nights but really warm during the day, today it’s 24 degrees with a light breeze, and I am cleaning fridges.

They have a very deep, square swimming pool, where you just kind of plop into it, straight up and down, no gradient. To clean the pool I get to get in it and suck along the bottom with some kind of magical water vacuum.

They also have mountain bikes, a bounty of hiking trails, two dogs and three cats. Daisy is a big black Labrador, and Stella is some kind of yellow dog…. She took me for a walk last night. Daisy just lies in wait around every corner, then quickly rolls onto her back and waits for a belly rub – when you go to tickle her she grabs your hand with her paw and won’t let go.

It’s so alarmingly quiet here, after being in towns and cities for quite a while. Last night I went to bed and lay there listening to all the weird, non-car noises. Apparently there are all kinds of creatures out in the hills, I hope they don’t come knocking on my tent door in the night…..

Sarah welcomed me last night with some local red wine, a home-cooked meal and a chat about all sorts of things. We start yoga classes when the guests arrive, but in the meantime I can do my own practice on the outdoor yoga platform.

This week the pool is getting refilled, the washing machines are getting hooked up and the internet is getting turned back on, but in the meantime I have to hand wash my knickers in a bucket and climb a hill to get reception. I kind of like it that way though. Sorry in advance if I take a while to reply to messages.

Today I had a lunch of lentils with broad beans, radishes and spinach picked from the organic garden, then I continued to scrub the fridges for 2 hours. Now I think it may be hammock siesta time. Oh did I forget to mention? There are hammocks in the trees. Yep.

Maybe this all seems so much better because of my last HelpX experience. Having been through the weirdest month of my life, this is pretty much paradise in comparison! I am rather dusty and I probably smell weird but at least I’m not surrounded by people who believe in aliens and the such. It’s always a bit strange coming into someone else’s life and fitting into their routine, but it’s so much easier when they are nice people!

I did see a really large beetle thing humping another really large beetle thing. I felt like I was intruding so I just slowly closed the door again and left them to it. Who am I to come to their house and intrude on their sexy siesta?

That’s all for now, limited interwebs. Here are some pictures….

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Rehab.

Whoooeeeeeee.

I didn’t do an update yesterday on my progress because I couldn’t really move my body, let alone my brain. Life was hard yesterday.

Day Two was definitely the hardest day, I was feeling completely exhausted, shakey and nauseous. All of the toxins from 6 months of partying around Europe and Christmas shandies seemed to be coming out in my lovely face, which is not sexy. I had a good sleep for about two hours after the morning Sadhana, and missed the disgusting clay drink (thank the Lordy).

Probably the high point of my day was experiencing my first coffee enema. I say this sarcastically. I told my mother I was going to bite the bullet and do one, because it is apparently an important part of the detox program. She said; “OK, so long as you don’t talk about it on your blog..”

Sorry mum, just briefly, ITS VERY ODD. Mostly because as I was trying to relax and stare nowhere but the ceiling, a certain someone came into the room next to me and began loudly feeding the cat; “Here, puss puss puss! Come and get it!”.

There are no words.

Moving on from that enriching experience…. I have been consuming Liver Flush, Clay Milkshake, Green Shit (my name for wheatgrass, ginger, courgette, cucumber, and POTENT celery) with some minerals every morning. Then a large amount of salad for luncheon, perhaps with some sprouted nuts and home made hummus as a companion. Then in the afternoon another Clay Milkshake, more yoga and then a light dinner of soup and salad. So exciting.

Today’s dawn rising was not so bad, probably because I knew I would never have to do it again, ever. I even began to know some of the chanty words and belted out the tunes with the best of them. I think they were all slightly stunned that I was actually sitting upright, let alone participating in the chants. I quite enjoyed the yoga itself. The hardest Kriya was on Day Two, because between every exercise we had to lie down and do a short relaxation, then get up again and get physical. Apparently it was a Kriya for bowel health, as if we needed any more impacting on that area. Every time I began to relax and slide into happy sleepy sheepskin land, we were told to stand up again. It was essentially sleep torture.

So now it is Sunday night, Kayla and I did a yoga class this evening and then a laughter meditation. If you haven’t ever done this and feel like you need to release some tension… It’s the best thing. The Chopra Center does an online meditation course called 8 Weeks to Happiness, and on the last week they do a laughter meditation. For the first 5 minutes you listen to a group of people laughing manically, which made me laugh because it was so weird, so then Kayla started laughing at me laughing, then I started laughing at her weeping, then we both just lost it thinking about all the weird shit we’ve dealt with in the last three days. This place…. Sheesh.

I also am getting much better at my headstands! Today I managed to lift my legs slowly up without having to throw them at the wall to get them up. Then I balanced there for a while with no support. Must be all the weird sucky sucky abdominal exercises we’ve been doing in Kundalini.

Tomorrow I have a day off and am hopefully going hiking somewhere, weather dependent. To be honest I will probably just go regardless, gotta get out of the crazy house. I don’t think I’ve left the building for about 4 days, I am so pale I could be an axolotl. So cute.

I’m off to bed to sleep this weekend off, like a bad bad dream.

P.s. Today Katherine wore floral jeans, a Golden Fleece, a pink scarf wrapped around her midriff, and a white hat with two pom poms that make her shadow look like a baby teddy bear. She crazy, but she got style….

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