Escape • Explore • Enjoy • Exist

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

Category: Purpose

16/3/19 We are family …

A message came through that our nephew had been out on his mountain bike for a blat – from his home, around Bottle Lake Plantation and return, a good 30 odd kms ridden.

We had never shared the landscape from a bike seat together so, it was an easy text inviting him to come join us on a little mountain bike ride we were planning on escaping to do.

Called ‘The Big River Hut’ trail, it’s hidden up the back drops of Reefton. We had partly explored it when we visited Reefton last November. Up as far as the accessible road went by car. Beyond that, it was 4 wheel drive terrain. Or mountain bike.

The events that unfolded on the day before with the loss of 50 innocent fellow beings was a numbing emotion. We had to ride out the lock down environment and, certainly contemplated not going.

But we did, driving out of a city hurting to arrive in Reefton after everyone had gone to bed. The first place to have electricity was ablaze with light. But eeriely slient.

Starting out, the cloud’s above wept.

Let’s just see how far we can get today. Out of Reefton, left onto Soldier Road, tar seal became gravel road, gradual incline, moisture under the rain jackets, passed the car park we had once before visited to explore another walking track, to then navigate and negotiate our rubber tyres on the lumpy and bumpy trail.

3 and a 1/2 hours later, we stopped to rest and feed proper, still having pushed the bodies … certainly the bikes, inland more. The weather was kind, then not, then kind again, then not. We had no idea how far off the Big River Hut was, and a wandering Weka came so close the see the hazel of it’s eyes, to inquire as to how we were doing to then wish us a ‘good day’ as we made the decision to back track out, the same way we had came.

Deagan down hills so to watch him jump and skid and echo the odd word of I think nearly crashing off, added the coolness of him being out in our environment on a non-powered machine. We had escaped, explored, enjoyed to escape the unfolding life we had left the night before.

Times like these are important to remember loved ones near and afar. Regardless the ethnicity, colour, religion, culture, values or beliefs … we can be just one happy family.

More significantly, spend some ‘presence’ time with them. Like we had, with our nephew.

Love to you all, where ever you are on the one planet we share.

xx

10/1/2019 Roxburgh Gorge Trail – 42 kms

Rabbits breed like rabbits on the landscape ridden today.

The number of white arses that were spooked to scatter in all directions as we disturbed their morning ritual, possibly more breeding, was infinite!

However, one had to keep a sharp eye on the dirt infront as the bike chain was manuvered up and down the back wheel cogs – the Gorge Trail had the worst ascents and decents giving us the best view at altitude, and at the waters edge. Don’t be put off by the switch backs (zig zags) because they made the distance covered enjoyable and certainly a worthy and stunning micro-adventure to add to your ‘before I die’ list of things to tick off.

The Roxburgh dam was the first major dam and power station project in the South Island after the Second World War and started it’s generation of electricity to the grid during 1956.

There is a middle section part of the trail where you need to be transported by a jet boat due to a land owner refusing access. Once we reached the jetty from the dam end, we rode back to the car to drive to Alexandra, get back on the bikes to cycle in from the other end.

Alexandra

It was an easier 20 kms return to Doctors Point jetty. Hot, sweat and grime added feeling, smell and taste to the experience.

Riding the trail from the Alexandra end …
Doctors Point Jetty

Bikes back on the car and an ice cream reward before we headed towards the Alps to spend another night sleeping on the ground in the green Kermit, at Lake Hawea Holiday Park.

Towards Lake Hawea we drove.

A huge camping community where we witnessed kids riding without helmets, in bare feet, throwing out smiles of salutations to two total strangers … huh, something we used to see more of back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and late 90’s.

Different breed of rabbits nowadays!

9/1/2019 Millers Flat to Roxburgh Dam & Return – 58 kms

It was 19.4 kms to the township of Roxburgh. Deserved of a pie from Jimmy’s Pie Shop that is reknown for making pretty good pies. Weren’t bad neither – Claire consuming a lambshank one, me a mutton one.

That’s after we each ate a Mince and Cheese pastry one each beforehand!

The trail is very doable for novice and children. We met a family from Auckland who were chaperoning their two young boys and they were loving it. We left them at the pie shop where they had two bags full of pies! Fatties!

And if you think you are aged and worn out, the e-bike is the way to go. The number of elderly (or younger) who over took us or we neared having a head on was just inspiring to see.

We are still of the mindset that our bodies are capable of still doing the hard yards. And just love the feeling at the end of a ride that we know we have pushed the body under our own steam.

The remains of an old river dredge from last century.
History still hangs onto dear life on the Clutha.
The Clutha Dam

It makes for a weary body better nights sleep.

Except if you are on the ground!

Bumping into a 2nd cousin who was staying at the campground was a genuine way to catch up on life in general. Her donating us some apricots was humbling.

Three each on top of the two pies earlier, hmmmmmmm!

26/11/17 Haere Mai Lorraine

It was a trip across the ditch to Brisbane, Australia to enact a mammoth paradigm shift both mentally, and physically.

Relocating Claire’s mum Lorraine back to New Zealand after residing 28 years on that side of the ditch.

It kind of explained the ‘needing rest’ pics having been snapped by our host and not knowingly, posted on social media.

Mother-in-laws can do that, just saying!

Notwithstanding, it was a phenomenal task, and we got there.

In-between catching up with mates from Kiwiland who still permanently reside there.

“Hinga atu he tētē kura, ara mai he tētē kura“

Translated, it means “One fern frond falls as another unfurls”.

“Haere mai ki Aotearoa a Lorraine, Haere mai”.

Translated, “Welcome Home Lorraine, welcome home”.

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.

It’s Better To See Something Once Than To Hear About It A Thousand Times

On our fridge back in New Zealand, we usually have a picture of our next adventure affixed to the door.

Like a visualization thingy.

It inspires our dream it – design it – do it, philosophy of life.  And motivates us to ensure we focus on magnetizing towards making the picture of the adventure, a reality.

An image of Machu Picchu is currently affixed to the fridge door.

Another philosophy of ours is to always have the next adventure on the radar before we step off the plane and therefore, Machu Picchu will come off and another image will go up, when we arrive back home in the next few days.

We also have another image that has graced our fridge for a number of years with the quote: “It’s better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.”  The quote just resonates.

More so today when we saw it came out on the plate like butterfly chicken – a term used when you cut the chicken in half and split it open to resemble a butterfly.

Except, it wasn’t chicken but a local delicacy Cuy.  We knew it as Guinea Pig and you knew it was, the head and feet were still attached!

It was a crispy brown colour from having been deep fried.  A tomato and red onion salad with a hint of dressing and, two deep fried potatoes accompanied the menu meal.  Not sure about the teeth showing and thank goodness that you couldn’t see any eyes, they were battered over.
But once you got over the paws and head, it was quite delicious.  A bit like chicken, perhaps.

The traditional Peruvian dish Cuy … or Guinea Pig

It was our last full day in Arequipa and we knew we had to try the traditional Peruvian dish that we had heard about, a thousand times.

It was something different to end this adventure on.

We have taken heaps of photos as a return ticket to the moments experienced, that will otherwise be gone.  The blog scripted adds value to remind us of the emotional feelings we sensed.  To propel us to keep going … to escape, explore and, enjoy.

This is the last blog post from Peru.

A special thanks to all those who have followed, liked or made comments. It’s been a blast.

Until the next adventure … keep well and live purposefully.

The Rurus

 

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”.

Find A Purpose To Get Out There

Find a purpose to get out there on a micro-adventure and then give it meaning by doing.

The reward might be a sausage roll which adds substance to what you end up doing.

Once swallowed of course.  After chewing.  Which is before purchasing.  Because you ventured.

I’ll stop now.