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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Christmas Holidays, New Zealand Style

Its all been a bit quiet here for a while… Yours truly has been busy flying home from Europe, catching up with friends, and adjusting back into having a normal job in peaceful, sunny Nelson.

Having been away for 18 months, coming back to Nelson was a bit of a shock to the system initially – everything seemed to be in high definition, without the grey skies and smog of a lot of European cities. Even when the sun shines in Ireland, it never seems to be quite as bright as here. I spent my first couple of weeks soaking up the long daylight hours, doing quite a lot of sleeping and working most days to boost the ol’ bank account. My mum, my brother and I also did a hike in the Nelson Lakes which was a nice wee family bonding time.

Christmas was at home in Nelson, where we all wore matching elephant pants and santa hats (christmas present from my brother, recently returned from work in South-East Asia), and I was lucky enough to receive a camera from him aswell, obviously to document the spectacle. We ate outside in the sun and went for a swim in the river to work off the excess consumption.

There’s been a healthy dose of holiday time over Christmas and New Years, which we spent in Wanaka at a lovely bach, with adventure on our door step. (I did quite a lot of time lolling about in the pool, trying to SUP on a boogie board and playing amateur water volleyball with the others.. there were a few bikini malfunctions).

On the drive down we stopped overnight at Birdsong Backpackers in Hokitika, on the wild West Coast. I can definitely recommend it if you’re passing through, and its quite different to some of the hostels I stayed at in Europe – probably because it’s family run and a bit more personal. We had a little unit to ourselves with a kitchen, bathroom and outdoor area, and upstairs in the communal area there is another big kitchen and dining room, overlooking the sea. Jeananne and I felt we should maintain some attempt at health and wellbeing on our holiday, so we went for an evening jog into the town and down to the beach, with a detour to the Glow Worm Dell (sadly it was too light to see any wormies).

The next day we continued on to Wanaka to our delightful house in town, with a pool, spa, big front lawn and spacious living area. I slept on the floor in a swag, (we ended up having more people than beds), which I was a bit apprehensive about but actually I think it was the best deal. I could sleep with the door open on hot nights, and I basically had a double bed to sprawl about in. I just feel sorry for the early risers in the house who had to wake me from my slumber.

We went cycling, walking, hiking, swimming, yoga-ing, drinking, eating, luging (on our day trip to Wanaka and Arrowtown) and wine and cheese tasting, so I feel it was a healthy balance of indulgence and exertion. Very different from the holidays in the UK, where the weather is usually too cold and miserable to leave the house for very long.

On the way home we stopped in Kumara, a tiny gold mining town, and spent the night at The Theatre Royal Hotel which was furnished with antiques (and very comfy beds). We had a delightful meal of locally sourced goods and consumed several beverages, before retiring to our grand rooms, just like the good old days…

On our last day we stopped in Punakaiki to check out the pancake rocks and the blowholes (teehee).

It’s nice to be a tourist in my own country – I’m sure a lot of tourists have seen more of New Zealand than I have!

Happy New Year! I hope your 2015 is filled with adventure.

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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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Best. Day. Ever.

Wednesday was an action packed day. These Dutch people, they don’t mess around, they get things done. It’s invigorating and inspiring, and you are so ready for bed when the time comes.

The day began with some yoga and a meditation with Izzy outside our little chalet, which we have been doing every day. They say it takes 30 days to develop a habit, and I think I just hit that. Right now I’m loving the Sivananda sun salutations, probably because that was the style we were doing in Spain every morning. The meditation is the 108 breath meditation, which involves alot of heavy breathing which is kind of awkward…. But it sets you up for a very peaceful morning meditation.

 

Bums
Bums
Saluting the Sun
Saluting the Sun

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After that, we had our green smoothies and did some weeding and gardening. I am learning all about which ones are weeds and which ones are plants, which is quite useful to know. I needed to be taught, otherwise I would just go around pulling everything out because it “‘looks messy”… We went foraging for greens to have in our lunchtime salad, now I know that things growing all around our feet are totally edible and actually taste kind of good. Apart from some things which will make you ill, don’t eat those ones…

Then we ate lunch, then we made a raw apple pie for our dinner party that evening! Oh boy, it was good. Its free of.. gluten, dairy, processed sugar, and… meat. You would hope so.

Here’s the recipe, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or maybe you do not know how to work the oven, in which case this is perfect for you.
Raw Apple Pie
Base
200g ground almonds
150g dates, soaked, or a date paste
pinch salt
Filling
3 apples
1 cup dates, soaked
raisins
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
half a tsp ginger
pinch nutmeg

Blend together the base mixture in a food processor, press into the bottom of a shallow dish lined with baking paper. The mixture doesnt need to be around the sides. Blend the filling ingredients, press on top of the crust and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Put it in your mouth.

 

Cat and Pie
Cat and Pie

After making our pie, Mariken took Izzy and I on a trip to a nearby town called Chantelle, where there is a monastery with REAL NUNS, a forest and a river. Dreamy. We had a look in the nun shop where they sell all their homemade goodies, then hiked into the forest to forage some wild garlic for our pesto. I was expecting bulbs of garlic to be popping out of the hillside, but no, they are leaves that taste like garlic! Magnificient leaves! And pretty flowers that you can also eat. Oh nature, you never fail to amaze.

Then we found a swimming hole and decided to go swimming. Naked. Because there was no one around, and because we could. Initially I was like oh my word, I barely know these people! I cannot bare my flesh to them! Then I thought, meh. They can just deal with my awkward tan lines.

It was the shortest swim of my life because it was so GOSH DARN FREEZING. It literally took my breath away.

We drove home singing along to Bob Marley. Bobby never fails to capture the mood.

Mariken showed me how she works with her ponies without using a halter. They have seven ponies, all of them a little bit mischievious. They try to eat my gumboot on regular occasions.

Ponies
Ponies

That night we had a 3 course raw vegan meal with some of the guests – Auke, Saskia and their wee tot Shuart. I have no idea how to spell his name, but its pronounced as a combination of Stuart and Short. We had wild garlic pesto, raw lasagne and, of course, our apple pie. And wine, because whats a dinner party without wine? Then we had a soul shakedown party, which is essentially all of us dancing around and Auke the giant swinging around the pole in the middle of the room like a giant pole dancer. He is genuinely the tallest person I ever met. He has to duck to get in everywhere.

Shuart on his machine
Shuart on his machine
The Brenazet Family
The Brenazet Family

We made a bonfire outside and sat around making up stories. A pretty awesome day. Izzy and I are looking after the farm for the next 3 days while Mariken, Ron, Igor and Nikola go back to Holland for Opa’s birthday party. We are excited to have some quality farm time, make some exciting meals and walk Elsa the dog. This place is beautiful! Who knows why some of the photos are black and white and some are in colour…. I am too tired to figure it out.

Ron
Ron
Little guy
Little guy

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Brenazet

I am all settled into my home for the next 3 weeks; Brenazet, a camping and gités site run by a delightful, energetic Dutch family. It always takes me a few days to adjust into anywhere- figuring out what goes where, who does what, what is expected of you and how to make the horses go into their stables at night…. But I think I’m going to fit in just fine here.

I am sleeping in a little wooden cabin with another helper, Izzy, who has been here before and returned for a little while after a slightly disastrous helpx in the south of Spain. She calls this her home away from home, and i can see what she means, it’s so cosy and homey! Ron, Mariken, and their two sons Igor and Nikola have brought a touch of Dutch into the French countryside.

Our cabin has a log fire, a terrace with little chairs to sit in and read our books, comfy wooden bunk bed type sleeping quarters and a little kitchen to make tea and things….

It is a lot colder here than it was in Spain, I had to borrow a jumper from Ron to keep me warm. My first afternoon we took a trip to La Bosse, an amazing lake somewhere near here (so disoriented, who knows) and did some al fresco yoga. The last two days have been filled with gardening, tea, amazing organic food (including chocolate avocado mousse which is so good) , cleaning the gités, walking the dog, doing yoga in a paddock amongst the bugs and the animals, and reading my book. The yoga class was taught by Mariken, all in French, but I feel like I understood most of it- I knew ‘left, right, inhale and exhale’, and that’s pretty much all you need. I did find myself bending into awkward shapes to be able to see what she was doing on occasion. But yoga is a pretty universal language, and it’s always nice to see how different people teach. Outside yoga is the best, even if we did get a bit of hay fever.

Happy to be here, grateful for the peace and quiet of farm life, it reminds me of my childhood! And I have realised my fear of chickens pecking me to death has not lessened…..Mariken is the best cook, everything is so healthy but hearty and satisfying! Today for lunch we had vegetarian burgers, fennel salad, greens and herbs from the garden, and a curried cauliflower dish. We just had supper and she made a sugar free almond and rhubarb cake, so good!

Today we went foraging for flowers and for the lunchtime salad, I learnt all about the edible plants and flowers that grow amongst the grass. So if i am ever lost, I know I can just pick some plantain and I won’t go hungry! My mum would be so proud – yesterday I weeded a flower bed and a vegetable garden, wore gardening gloves, got stung by nettles, ate nettle soup, wore her giant purple jumper and then picked some mint from the garden to make tea. Mother, I am becoming you!

In the morning I’m doing my own yoga on our terrace, with Izzy for company. I missed it for a day and I could feel it in my bones!

Anyway, it’s probably about time I showered.

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Gités
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The stables
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Yoga with child
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Vege Garden
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My cabin
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Cosy (Hyggelig?)
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Bunk beds!