Escape • Explore • Enjoy

While the bodies still can and we still have our marbles!

Category: Micro-adventure (page 1 of 3)

8/1/19 Millers Flat to Beaumont & Return – 49.4 kms

It was a shorter drive from Lawrence to Millers Flat where we parked up the car to ride the longer distance backwards to return riding forwards!

By the end of this adventure and how we are doing it, we will have ridden both the Clutha Gold Trail and Roxburgh Gorge Trail twice!

The mighty Clutha River … you could be in Canada.
The bridge across the Clutha to Millers Flat

Out came the tent for a night under canvas.

Unfortunately, one of us slept deflated and it wasn’t Claire. One of the self-inflated mattresses hissed air after a huff and a puff to blow it up. Pin pricks of holes can do that. Notwithstanding, the thing’s we do for lov e!

I had the better hair do in the morning though!

Already hard to get shut eye from being deflated, I think I did an all nighter because of the snoring that came from the fella in the next door tent. Jeez Wayne!

Except his name wasn’t Wayne (and we know a Wayne from next door who could snore).

His name was also Brent.

At least on of us was inflated!!!!!!!

7/1/19 Lawrence to Beaumont

Thinking I was transferring water from a plastic water bottle into my bike drinking bottle, it had a weird smell.

I thought Claire had taken a swig from the plastic water bottle and that her lip balm had tainted the stuff.

Apparently not.

I had tipped her vodka into my drink bottle by mistake.

Diluting her vodka in the process.

Ops!

Lawrence to Beaumont was a lovely meander for 19 odd kms and return. Thousands of sheep dot the landscape, the the trail is easy and the smell of poisonous hemlock abundunt. Meeting a couple of fellow cyclists on our return was very inspiring – the Canadian was cycling on a three speed Raleigh Sports built in 1960 (and she was 57 yrs old); the second couple were a father and son. They were so loaded, we couldn’t lift the dad’s bike off the ground – creature comforts not to be forsaken!

Remember to take a torch though. The Big Hill Tunnel is just under 500 metres in length and, really really dark in the middle. Meaning if you scrap the walls, you have veered off centre.

Just stay focused on the light at the end of the tunnel and try not to get too freaked out at what might be growing or living on the walls.

A sip of vodka wouldn’t have gone astray neither.

The Big Hill Tunnel

6/1/19 Our Way Of Defragging After The Loss Of A Loved One

Back over the Rakaia River brigde we went today, once again heading south since we returned back to Chch 9 days ago!

Our step-Mum Marlene passed away after a long health battle. To be with family so as to comfort, support, grieve and celebrate her life was paramount. Our original intention to circumnavigate the guts of the South Island by tandem, postponed indefinitely. We simply didn’t have the time to complete the bums on seat distance after the memorial service in the time we had remaining, before we had to return to work.

So, we drove with mountain bikes on the racks back over the Rakaia River Bridge. Destination, Central Otago and a shortened micro-adventure to cycle the Clutha Gold Trail.

It straddles the mighty Clutha Mata-au River. It’s history is steeped with remnants of a ‘ureka’ gold rush bygone era that once blazened the river banks. And hopefully no Chinese ghosts who once panned for the glistening stuff too.

Our way of defragging after the loss of a loved one.

Best intentions were to tent however, we drove into inclement weather going in the opposite direction so have upgraded to more permanent walls.

We wouldn’t have done this if we were on the tandem. Just hardened up and canvassed it.

Yeah, nup.

RIP Marlene, loved and will be fondly remembered in our hearts.

17/11/18 Happy Birthday Sonny, From Reefton

Today would have been my Dad’s birthday.

Sonny Ruru

He would have turned 89 years of age except, he passed away during 2017.

I come from a large whanau (family) having four sisters, a brother and a half-brother. A functioning dysfunctional family whereby we have split to take sides with siblings whom are in tune with the values and characteristics we choose to live by.

It is what it is and no amount of time will bridge the water that has gone beneath it.

Sonny sadly, fueled the sparring and separation during his time above the ground. Which was a shame. And a pity. A pity that he didn’t rise up to the brainwashing he received from a sibling who wedged the gap between the clan.

With that, I was grateful to have shared some moments with him that have risen above the angst, hurt and pain we endured in the days, months and year after he closed his eyes for the last time.

Taking him on the back of a tandem to cycle from the east coast of the South Island (Sumner) to the west coast (Kumara) during his seventies, and just hear his positive reflection and see his ear to ear grin – that’s what I carry with me.

We have also carried a game of cards called ‘Five-Crowns’ (that both he and step-Mum Margaret introduced us to during that bike trip), with us, as we have ventured out onto the planet. Many a card game has been enjoyed with strangers to forge bonds of friendship that have been ever lasting. Our new tribe or, whanau (family).

And another dealing of the cards in Reefton too, where we have escaped to explore a location Sonny once resided in when he was younger, working in the coal mines. Before he met my Mum.

A peaceful meander on a couple of trails to reflect and remember Sonny on what would have been his birthday.

And old coal mine shaft entrance.
Energetic Mine Shaft – 1871 to 1927
Energetic Mine Shaft has laid dormant after it’s collapse in 1927

Still a candle burns for my old man.

You have made me a better father for you having been mine.

16/11/18 Waiuta Untouched

Up the back drops of Reefton, exists the history of an old gold mining town called Waiuta.

On the way to Waiuta …
The Old Blackwater School House
Class is in …
The dot marks the spot.

1,578,755 tonnes of quarz containing 732,907 ounces of gold was mined from beneath the surface, where the Prohibition Shaft at 879 metres, was worked to 300 metres below sea level.

The population reached up to 600 citizens during the 1930’s however, a mine collapse during 1951 meant the demise of the extraction and consequently, the end of Waiuta.

Now, remains of what was once a hustle and bustle place, rests at peace.

Remnants of yesteryear also RIP where they have fallen from the weathers of age.

It made for an amazing mountain bike ride up to and around it’s surrounds.

Where the colour of rust thrives.

Untouched.

22/10/18 Top of the South Island – Picton, Pt 2

The Snout’ can either be walked or mountain biked; we choose the latter.

It’s the direct jutty out piece of land to the right of downtown Picton.

There are parts of the track you need to navigate with caution. The drop offs to the water below are picturesque. Enough water craft traffic to rescue anyone doing a down hill jaunt in error!

And if you suffer from vertigo, best you take the high road and walk it.

But, certainly a must if visiting Picton.

The mixed berry frozen ice cream a just reward after you have viewed up the Sound from it’s ‘Snout.’

21/10/18 Top of the South Island – Picton

A, B or C?

At the Picton foreshore, we hung a right to head eastwards and rode beyond Waikawa, Karaka Point and Whatamango Bay, until we reached the summit that over looked Port Underwood.

The blue dot on Google Maps marks the spot of our furtherest point pedaled.  Unfortunately, doesn’t show the altitude.

The views were naturally spectacular when you looked up from the tar seal.

Not so much though when I looked up and saw Claire out front, smoking it.  On her new 29-inch mountain bike that has a handle bar push button seat post that automatically raises the height of her butt.  Pfft!

If one was to relocate to Picton to reside, one would need a water craft of some type here.  And then it happened, into the picture frame at Karaka Point, three types appeared.

A – sea kayaks, B – a yacht or C, a motor boat?

Which one would you choose to get out on the Queen Charlotte Sound, and adventure on?

Nina Hut: Bookings Not Required – First Come, First Served

Follow the arrow this way.

Nina Hut sits on an open knoll surrounded by beech forest and mountains.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) information reads that it is an easy 1-3 hour walk to the 10-bunk bed hut; is a good overnight option for families with children who have some tramping experience or new trampers and, bookings not required – first come, first served.

An ideal start to getting out onto the back-yard landscape.  We had even convinced a friend (Maree) whom surprisingly accepted our invite to join us even though the toilet was going to be a long drop and sleeping conditions possibly squashed up alongside a total stranger.

It had a log fire and so purchasing a bag of kindling and wooden logs bridged the thought of a snuggly night up in the bush, away from suburbia.  All we had to do was carry them in and walk the distance for it to become a reality.

Kindling and logs for the hut log fire.

We forgot that Maree doesn’t do crossing swing bridges without hyperventilating nigh on having a heart attack.  So, when we parked up the car, lifted the back packs onto our backs and walked a couple of hundred metres up the road to the start of the track, we arrived at our first of two swing bridges to cross.  The maximum one-person load per crossing didn’t help the situation however, we managed to coach Maree across giving high fives when we too swayed unevenly to reach the bank beyond.

The first swing bridge to cross.

The Lewis River.

There, there was the hut book where you sign in to advise your intention as a mountain safety practice.  Oh f..k!  Ahead of us was a group of 11 Venturer Scouts going to stay the night at the hut and, already a family of five who were going to stay a second night.  It meant the hut was full and squashing our best laid plans to escape into the wilderness for the night.

The conversation that followed resulted us in going back to the car, dumping all the overnight stuff to still head into the hut for a day trek, only carrying a day pack.  But before we did any of that, we had to get Maree back across the river and then, back across the river for a third time!  With incremental confidence each time, she did it.  The firewood purchased too sat in the car as we traipsed off towards Nina.

The lushness of fauna and flora rising from the forest floor to stretch up towards the light was staggeringly stunning.  All shades of greens complemented the earthly smelling browns (rot and decay) and care had to be taken navigating tree roots.  Sometimes we had to negotiate sections of track that were mud baths – it was easy to follow someone’s tracks who had gone before, sniggering at a wrong step where the imprint would eventually crust up from the sun’s rays or fill up from a down pour.

Creek crossings were part and parcel of the track, keeping balance critical so as not to end up on your arse saturated.  Walking poles helped.  There was undulation.  The track cut towards flowing river water and then inland to total silence where only our conversation broke the tranquillity.  We had to go further into the valley before bird song was heard.  It’s slowly rebounding after pests have decimated the native feathered friends to close to extinction.  Traplines to snare stouts or weasels play their part – two vermin had taken the bait to lay lifeless from the snapped shut trap.

We were encapsulated by the dark green water depths from a gorge.  Water must rise and fall considerably as two tree trunks laid horizontal up the cliff faces.  A joke was made that we would have to cross it using the logs for Maree’s sake.  Hahahahahaha as we all laughed.

Green meets brown.

Undulation.

The path for when it bogs.

Life on the forest floor.

Emerald Green of Nina River.

That didn’t last long.  We climbed a small rise to a second swing bridge that we couldn’t see because of the tree canopy.  Below were the logs we joked about.  Getting Maree across was another team effort and again, she got there.   We didn’t joke about stuff like that again!

The next two hours was more track, tree roots, mud negotiation, creek crossings and green and browns.  Arriving at the hut was welcomed and yep, chock full of other beings staying the night.  We sat down outside with views of snow-capped mountain tops to eat lunch.

And then they came, by the hundreds.  The Sandfly.  Or, Sandflies to be more accurate.  They are vicious little bastards that sink their mouth parts into unprotected skin to draw blood; leaving a welt that can be itchy from the excretion they inject before the sucking.  We may not have poisonous snakes or spiders or wild beasts – but we do have the sandfly that is the scourge of the bush to ruin all types of forest paradise.  Even though Bushmans 80% Deet insect repellent was lathered on, the little bastards will still kamikaze in to locate the parts missed to take the bite.  In-between bites, hands were working overtime to slap as many as we could dead.

Crossing the higher swing bridge.

Not far now.

The blood sucking Sand Fly.

Nina Hut.

Snare-traps doing their job to eradicate pest vermin who have decimated our native birds.

The Gorge.

Chatting with the Fan Tail.

Carrying fly spray is a must if staying the night so as you can fumigate the hut before climbing into your sleeping bag for the night.  That too was back down at the car.

Some photo’s taken and then we retraced our steps back down the mountainside; Maree crossing the swing bridges with better ease.  Back at the car, we made the decision to head back towards home, stopping in at Hanmer Springs for a hot pool soak.  Well deserved, given the six or so hours on the feet.

Arrr, what the heck, we found a lovely backpacker’s to crash the night, picked up some Scrumpy Cider for Maree as we consumed the wine disguised in our water bottle and enjoyed a chat with a fellow backpacker who was sharing the joint.

Made special because, the fella was in his early nineties.

Sometimes the best laid plans when disrupted can end up resulting in a better time had.

It’s just how the world turns, sometimes.

Scrumpy Cider – thirst quenching 8% Alcohol to sooth aching body parts.

Seek the treasure you value most dearly.

Onuku, Banks Peninsula, Aotearoa (New Zealand)

It’s been a just over a week since the transition back into our New Zealand life.

Spring is at full speed; New Zealand wine is the best; daylight saving has arrived and, there is something too be said about sleeping in your own bed.

But one shouldn’t get too comfortable.

We have a back yard to escape onto, explore more of, so as we too get to enjoy our own slice of paradise.

Just like all those who cross our borders to visit or come to live.

“Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei.”

Translated, “Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.”

This whakatauki is about aiming high for what is truly valuable, but it’s real message is to be persistent and don’t let obstacles stop you from reaching your goal.

Just include some escaping to explore to enjoy people.

No matter where on the planet.

The Kiwi Backpackers Whose Travels Have Inspired Them To Downsize Their Lives

The below editorial featured in The Press ‘Escape’ section on the 12 July 2018, written by Lorna Thornber.

Cantabrian couple Brent and Claire Ruru had been living in Dubai for two years when they decided they had too little time left on the planet to waste it wearing themselves out in the corporate rat race.

They had moved to the United Arab Emirate after raising their children and building a successful childcare business in Christchurch, but their new lives amid the shiny new skyscrapers of the desert city felt about as authentic as the snow on the ski slopes in Dubai Mall.

Brent, 52, says of his senior management role developing policies and procedures for a global logistics company: “I was driving to work in a square box, looking at a square box to generate square boxes for a bunch of squares.”

A year in, Brent was sure this wasn’t the way he wanted the rest of his life to unfold. Claire, 48, who had initially struggled to find work and had finally secured a role with the New Zealand Consulate, felt they should stick it out a bit longer.

Brent and Claire enjoy multi-day tramps in New Zealand in between overseas trips.

A year later, in 2011, they’d sold the furniture in their apartment to their landlord, shipped their sentimental possessions back to New Zealand and left for Turkey with just a couple of backpacks.

The plan was to hike from Istanbul to Gallipoli (their travel style is probably best described as free-spirited, shoestring-budgeted and slow-paced), walk famous Spanish pilgrimage trail the Camino de Santiago and trek to see critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda before returning to New Zealand. When a friend joked that they may as well climb Mt Kilimanjaro as well, they decided to take him up on it.

The couple hope to walk the Camino de Santiago trail again in their eighties after being inspired by a couple of Australian “grey nomads”.

“It was very impromptu and before we had researched any facts about it being at altitude. All we could imagine was standing on the rooftop of Africa,” Brent says.

Friends told them they were mad for choosing to walk from Istanbul to Gallipoli, where Brent’s poua (grandfather) may have fought in 1915, when it was just a five-hour bus ride. But the couple saw it as a good way to transition from life in the fast lane to a more comfortable, contemplative plod.

The intention was to walk up the motorway toward Gallipoli and hang a left when they could to follow the Marama Sea coastline the rest of the way. They’d only taken about a dozen steps when Brent says they began cursing, “asking each other who’s bleeping idea it was and saying “jeez our packs are heavy”. I was carrying 19 kilograms on my back and six on the front; Claire had 17kg on her back”.

Arriving in Silivri – a city on the Marmara just outside metropolitan Istanbul – three days later, the pain in their upper thighs was so acute they believed it was no longer purely muscular, but skeletal.

At the end of the cycle portion of their journey along the Camino de Santiago.

“I couldn’t walk for the next two days and honestly believed our trip was over before we had barely started,” Brent says.

They laid out all their worldly possessions on the bed at the hotel that had fortunately found room for them and threw out everything but the barest essentials. It was, Brent says, the beginning of an ongoing mission to live simpler, less materialistic lives.

They walked through raw countryside dotted with villages where men sat outside drinking coffee and smoking while the women worked the fields, staying in cheap digs they came across along the way.

“Every now and then wild dogs would approach. The walking stick became our only defence, wobbling it around like a taiaha. And screaming loudly to scare them off. It did.”

In Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls.

There were a couple of incidents that riled them (they discovered they were staying in a brothel one night and Claire narrowly avoided a snake bite on her nether regions after venturing into the bush to pee) but they arrived in Gallipoli certain they had made the right life choice.

They did as all Kiwis do in Gallipoli, sleeping at Anzac Cove and attending the dawn service.

Brent’s journal entry that day was a poetic tribute to his poua:

“Although we never met, I know who you are,

My grandfather who went to Gallipoli, a land of distance far.

We came to see for ourselves, where you spent some fighting time,

To expose ourselves to history, and imagined how you shined.

The walk was hard and challenging but we made it all the same,

It was the least one could do, to honour the family name.

Anzacs are spoke of highly, so we commemorate and remember you.

From all the Ruru whānau, as they stand proud too.”

At the end of their reverse journey along the Camino de Santiago.

They had expected the Camino to be more of a physical adventure than a sentimental or spiritual one but Brent says the centuries-old trail seems to exude a “spiritual ambience”.

Walking from the village of Roncesvalles to Pamplona, of Running of the Bulls fame, they were surprised by how little their fellow “pilgrims” knew of New Zealand – and how quick they were to claim their countries did things better.

“Territorial banter is quick to assert world dominance status,” Brent says. “People from above the equator think we live upside down below and a number think we are a state of Australia and have no cars and ride horses. But it became more bull… banter after a day or two, taking the p… out of each other with smiles and laughter..”

In this way, he says, they became firm friends.

Off to see the critically endangered mountain gorillas of Rwanda.

In Pamplona, the couple switched their hiking boots for bikes, arriving in Santiago de Compostela, where biblical apostle St James is said to be buried, after 16 days. Still having “ages” before they needed to be in East Africa, they decided to head back the way they had come on foot so they could run with the famous bulls.

By this stage, their backpacks weighed 7kg each (although Brent carried an extra 3kg on his front) and they were feeling lighter in more ways than one.

“This became foundational to us embracing the minimalism culture and led us to mapping out living in a tent on our eventual return home,” he says.

One day, they came across a young American woman who was dreading returning to her routine existence as a hairdresser. As they walked, Brent inspired and persuaded her to quit her job and start up her own business in Spain.

Seeing how humans had encroached on the gorillas’ habitat in Rwanda inspired the Rurus to volunteer at an orangutan sanctuary in Borneo.

“She went to the nearest town, purchased some scissors and for five months walked up and down the Camino trimming pilgrims’ hair. All because we had that one conversation… We just never know how [a conversation while travelling] might turn out.”

It is conversations with strangers that give Brent the greatest pleasure while travelling.

Chatting to the porters, clad in jeans and business shoes, while climbing Kilimanjaro, the couple discovered they were fascinated by the All Blacks and held ex-player Jonah Lomu in particularly high regard.

“When they found out I could do the haka, I was asked to perform it every day after dinner,” Brent says.

Brent was asked to perform a haka on Africa’s highest peak.

His final performance took place at the summit and, once they were back down, he says the porters, whom he’d been teaching the moves, “performed a native song and haka in response.

“Those are the experiences that bring a tear to the eye when you reflect on them, long after the goodbyes are said.”

Their eventual return to New Zealand brought mixed emotions, including renewed gratitude for their homeland.

“We have a paradise in the left-hand corner of the Pacific”, he says, which allows you to lose yourself in its “playground topography”.

Brent and Claire prefer to live cheaply so they can spend longer on the road.

However, he says they experienced a kind of “reverse culture shock”, feeling that they had changed fundamentally on their travels whereas some they knew had simply aged. Things they had once deemed important, and others still did, no longer seemed to matter.

Determined to continue living more simply, they secured a permanent site at Christchurch’s Spencer Beach Holiday Park, pitched a family-sized tent and furnished it with a leather couch and TV set. Worried the water that pooled inside the tent during heavy rain would wreak havoc with the electrics, they soon upgraded to campervan, which became their home for the next four years.

“Our backyard had a beach, our lawns got mown for us; it felt like we were on holiday and we made friends with other permanents and outsiders who camped at the park,” Brent says.

An illustration by Brent of the couple’s caravan setup at Spencer Beach.

While some told them they were crazy for giving up their life in Dubai to live in a caravan, Brent says “the number of people who have communicated that we have got life sorted has grown markedly. Crazily in fact.”

These days, the couple live in an 80-square-metre “over 60’s unit” that’s so cost effective they’re able travel overseas regularly. Brent has retrained as a celebrant and does freelance illustration work, while Claire has become a contract bookkeeper – jobs that enable them to pack up and leave whenever they like.

Since moving back to New Zealand in 2012, they have volunteered in an orangutan sanctuary in Borneo, trekked up to Mt Everest Base Camp, ridden cross Canada on a tandem bicycle, staged a mutiny on a Cambodian cycle tour when the organisers asked the “impossible”, watched the sunset over the Temples of Bagan in Myanmar, released baby turtles into the surf in Sri Lanka and followed the Te Araroa Trail around the North Island.

Wearing New Zealand-branded tops while cycling through Canada scored them multiple impromptu homestays, Brent says.

“We are just a couple of baby boomers who have worked out what matters most and are chasing it,” Brent says. “While the bodies still can and we still have our marbles.”

His advice to others considering a similar lifestyle: “Commit to going for it, cost it out travelling budget style, save hard, go do it and repeat. The rest will fall into place.” That and “bugger the Joneses”.

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