Moods of Scotland

Scotland has some of the most photogenic landscapes I have ever seen. With a constant change of weather conditions, the lights changes constantly making it quite a photographer’s paradise.

Here is a selection of my favourite photos and moments from last June. Most of those shots were taken in the gorgeous atmospheric Highlands.

 

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How I made it to Edinburgh

It’s 11pm and the sun is still setting in the Highlands of Scotland.

A few days ago I made it to Edinburgh after 3 days on my bike, for the first time ever. I’m stoked about my trip even though I have to confess, I cheated. After 80km on the second day through the Scottish hills, I was quite worn out. It was a real ‘learning by doing’ kind of feeling as I probably should have taken it easy the first days as the most challenging bit was waiting for me between Hawick and Edinburgh.

I woke up early and felt I was more keen for a hot chocolate in bed and a sleep in rather than a full English Scottish breakfast. My body ached from biking but mostly from a cold I caught and I already knew it would be a tough day.

I head off in the morning, again on a hot sunny day. I was pretty much ready for anything to happen/go wrong except for one: sunny hot weather. It’s Scotland we’re talking about it. Thermals and goretex jacket remained nicely packed in their panniers though as it was sunny and 25+ degrees…  I even got sunburn!

As expected, the first hill felt like a high altitude summit attempt. The first hour always is the toughest whether I hike, climb or bike, so I ignored the pain and convinced myself it would get better (at least tried). The ride in the countryside was so lovely that it made up for how exhausted I felt anyway.

But at some point I had to face reality, I didn’t have the energy for another 80km day. After 30km, I ended up jumping into  a train to Edinburgh. That way, I’d be on time for l’apero as my friends that I hadn’t seen in 2+ years were waiting for me at the pub.

Some things just come first in life 🙂

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How lovely is the Scottish countryside?

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And finally…downhill!

I am very happy about my first cycling trip and feel I’ve learnt a lot from it. I know a little more what to expect for the upcoming one.

Thoughts:

1 – Plan at least a little bit (routes and where to sleep). I am ridiculously adventurous unprepared, a bit more planning ahead would allow me to enjoy more the non riding time.

2 – Do not underestimate the saddle (new one on the way, hope the Brooks one will break in quickly!)

3 – Less weight, less weight, less weight…hard when you want to combine city visits, cycling, hiking, climbing, photographing, camping…haven’t found the solution yet, open for tips and ideas!

Edinburgh is a pleasant city though pretty touristy, interesting (free) museums and really nice to wander around. I haven’t any rainy day so far, how bizarre!

Coming up next: the Highlands and how good it feels to be in the North of the north again…

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The Meadows in Edinburgh

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Random street, Edinburgh

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Street art, Edinburgh

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Up Arthur’s Seat, old volcano overlooking Edinburgh

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Would be cool to go climbing there next time!

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Cowgate, Edinburgh

Just keep going!

I left the lovely Sandysike house this morning after a huge English breakfast which was greatly needed.

After a few miles I stopped for coffee (yes already!) as I wasn’t too sure which road to choose. It’s amazing the effect you have when you get to a village with a fully loaded bike. People are already super friendly in the UK but when you’re a woman travelling alone and on a bike it get to another level! Kids ask me questions and people are curious about why and where. I had forgotten how social solo travelling actually is. Anyway I talked to a rather old men on his way to Glasgow by foot and two other cyclists who had come up from Cornwall.

Not long after was the border to Scotland.

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The first miles were rather flat and the road not too busy. I put some music on and felt great. It quickly became steadily uphill but not as bad as yesterday. I didn’t push my bike once today!

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There wasn’t much around apart from green hills, sheep, horses and beautiful stone houses.

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Crossing the river near Langholm

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Slow travel is the best

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And after 50 miles (80km), I reached Hawick where I’m staying  tonight before reaching Edinburgh tomorrow (hopefully). I feel great even though my butt hurts, I should maybe get another saddle at some point…

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Hawick

I’ve learnt 2 things again today:

1/ that it’s good to start early so I take more time to have breaks and take photos

2/ that it’s wise to close my mouth while cycling so no insect get it (I wonder where the one getting in my nose end up?)

And last but not least, today’s soundtrack: “A moon shaped pool” by Radiohead, The National, Calexico, Nicolas Just and various Nova Tunes compilation.

May tomorrow be as awesome as today 🙂

From hiking to cycling

I know nothing about bikes. Well, I know how to ride one of course. Although to be completely honest I’m not sure I’m very good at using all those gears properly yet. So when I left Penrith station today with my new old bike fully loaded, I felt a mix of excitement and “what on earth are you doing now” kind of feeling.

I’m use to riding a bike around or to work. But one day, while I was at work day dreaming about the coming 4 months trip to Europe, it came as a evidence. I needed more and I would ride a bike around bits and pieces of Europe while visiting my friends and family.

So I started reading about bikes. A lot. And I talked to my friends who’d done touring before (thank you so much for your  patience and tips). And I read books and blogs. A lot.

I won’t bore you with more details about which bike to choose and why but I ended up going for a second hand Long haul trucker Surly bike that I pimped a bit.

So there I am at Penrith station this afternoon, heading towards the hills. It is nice and hot in northern England at the moment which makes the English countryside even more gorgeous.

25 miles later I made it to my first destination, Brampton (Cumbria). I have no idea where I’ll end up tomorrow but today I’ve learned 2 things:

1/ Do not underestimate British hills

2/ Do not underestimate yourself

Edinburgh here I come!

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Waiting for the train at Manchester station

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Trying not to rely on GPS and phone too much

 

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Freedom!!

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Lovely Sandysike farm

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Riding through Cumbria

 

Stories from New Zealand #6 Hiking the Copland track

“At 11.30am we reached the Copland Hot springs, which are hidden away in the bush, and only to be traced by the continuous cloud of stream that hovers round the tree-tops. To our disgust the water was too hot to bathe in, as we had been looking forward to doing the whole morning. This was my very first experience of a hot spring, and I examined it with great interest. (…) The ground between the pools was hot to the feet and crusty, forming into terraces which shaded from yellow to chocolate brown. The air was pervaded with a saline sulphury smell, that requires a week’s residence before it can be assimilated with tolerance”

Freda Du Faur, The conquest of Mount Cook, 1915

Have you heard of Freda Du Faur before? She was a keen mountaineer from Australia who spent a few seasons in New Zealand climbing peaks that had never been climbed before around Mount Cook. She was also the very first woman to summit Mount Cook (3754masl, slightly less today) in 1910 together with her two guides, Peter and Alec Graham. She then wrote that delightful book that I’m reading at the moment which is incredibly well written and very informative about what mountaineering was like back in the days. For instance, what does a lady wear to go climbing? Forget about goretex and crampons…

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Freda Du Faur in her self-designed climbing outfit (Photo of a photo at the DOC office Aoraki/Mt Cook)

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Freda Du Faur with her climbing partners (photo of a photo from her book)

Obviously times have changed since Freda du Faur’s visit of the Copland track at the beginning of the 20th century. After years and years of struggle the track was to become one of the most popular traverse from Aoraki/Mount Cook to the West coast.

From Arthur’s pass  where we stopped in the last post, follow the road to the west. The landscape quickly changes to a flatter sea side road. Drive a couple of hours south on the SH6 and you will get to the extremely popular (also extremely overrated in my opinion) townships of Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers. There was a time when you could hike to the lowest part of the glaciers, which probably was much nicer than the boring hikes that lead to a distant viewpoint over a worn out glacier. But glaciers are melting and accident happened so it has become too dangerous to do so. Instead, it’s a constant buzz of helicopters flying people up for a quick glacier stroll in exchange for a few hundred dollars. Unless you don’t mind spending that kind of money, what I’m trying to say is don’t waste your time when a myriad of other wonderful glaciers can be admired further along. But we’ll talk about that later.

Drive 26km south of Fox Glacier to the Karangarua bridge and you will find yourself at the beginning of one very fine tramp (in New Zealand people don’t hike, they tramp!); the Copland track. Looking at a map of the southern Alps, I always find it incredible that this mountain range creates such a barrier from one side of the country to the other. There is indeed no road crossing over the mountains for more than 200km! This is a major information to understand the importance of the Copland track despite difficult beginnings.

Following the Karangarua river for a while, the track swings around to carry on along the Copland river in the Tai Poutini national park.

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The gorgeous glacier waters of the Copland river

After a couple of hours of walking through the  forest, I hear something foraging around in the bush. Wondering what it could possibly be, I freeze to lure it out of the bush. A few seconds later, that big bird jumps on to the middle of the path. It has a longer than usual beak and wide spread claws. My lack of knowledge of New Zealand bird never fails me and I immediately recognize a kiwi, the (legendary I suppose) native bird that very few people have actually ever seen.  No need to extend on how disappointed I got when admitting my mistake, looking at a bird encyclopedia at the hut. Ah well, wekas may not be that rare but pretty funny inquisitive bird nonetheless. They are endemic and flightless, like all birds used to be in New Zealand as they had no predators.

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A Weka, native New Zealand bird

Walk about 3 hours and here comes the first hut on the track called Architect Creek hut, a very cute one with just a bed bunk, a table and a fire stove.

It’s a rather long (18km) but also rather flat hike to Welcome Flat hut and a lot of fun with a bunch of high and long swing bridges suspended over powerful creeks.

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One of the many swing bridges along the path

Due to the weather and a certain lack of labor, it took about 10 years for the track to officially open in 1913. It was a big deal though as it quickly became the busiest route to link the West coast to the Mount Cook area through the Copland pass.

Nowadays it has become much trickier. Several reasons for that, the area is geologically dynamic, which make the southern alps some of the fastest growing mountains in the world (although erosion makes up for it). Weather conditions in the glacial valley and alpine environment can also be quite extreme and severe. But the Copland valley has always been of interest for the tourist industry. A road up the valley or even a tunnel straight to the Hermitage in Mt Cook village were suggested but thankfully never happened. The realization that even huge amounts of money would not help much to fix the damages that the dynamic nature of the geology would cause. Nature 1, people 0.

As much as I would have loved to spend several days on the track to go all the way further along the valley, I only spent one night in busy Welcome Flat hut. I did take my time to enjoy the wonderful natural thermal springs, which contrary to Freda’s experience didn’t smell bad at all and were definitely not too hot when I was there at the end of summer!

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I found this quite welcoming after a 18km hike!

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All in all a very easy tramp through a gorgeous valley filled with history. A few people around but absolutely worth it. I already look forward to going back!

A few years later, Freda Du Faur is back on the Copland track and beautifully describes the beauty of the area:

“On the right hand bank the ribbon woods overhung the water and showered their sweet-scented white blossoms into the swift current. On the left they were interspaced with the dark green rata-trees, whose glossy foliage was crowned with a wealth of crimson blossom. Soft puffs of white cloud hung half-way up the mountains sides, and the distant hills in the west were deeply blue. Such a soul-satisfying colour I have seldom seen, and tired though we were with our long tramp, we all appreciated its restful beauty, so different from the ice-world from which we had just come, or the yellows and blues which make the dominant note of colour on the east of the mountains.”

It seems that Freda was thinking a fair bit about the future as in her book she often speculates about possible scenarios concerning the touristic development of the areas she loves so much. Her concerns are usually expressed towards the development of mass tourism making of the mountains more accessible to novices. She was somewhat right to worry as on one side mountain climbing has definitely been made more accessible since her time, involving some (often silly) rescue missions that would not have happened back then (wrong gear, too late a start, lack of knowledge and so on) but also as the big hotel in Mount Cook village actually exists and paradoxically is a bigger and fancier version of the hotel mountaineers used to stay at, The Hermitage. Today it has nothing left from the original one though, mostly because the old one was destroyed after a big flood.

“The hut is only a few yards away from the Copland Hot Springs, so we were all able to enjoy the luxury of a hot bath; if a kindly Government some day provides a cold pool next door, into which one may take a refreshing plunge after being par-boiled, and endeavours to remove the sandflies which are all too active for comfort, these springs should prove a most popular resort. The view from them is superb, and the forest by which they are surrounded a veritable fairyland, in which one may wander for hours. I have no doubt that some day a large hotel will occupy the site of the present hut, and prove a very popular tourist resort, for many charming excursions can be made from this spot. For those on mountaineering it will also be a good base, as there are many fine peaks in the vicinity and much unexplored country.”

Stories from New Zealand #4 – Arthur’s Pass via Lake Pearson

What comes into your mind when you think about New Zealand?

Lord of the Rings? Yes ok fair enough.

Sheep? Yep, that too, they are absolutely everywhere.

Funny ‘acceent’? Yes, that’s pretty cute.

Mountains? Yes! Nature which as you already know is pretty unbelievable here.

I spent a lot of time day dreaming about New Zealand mountains before coming down here. It is when I first drive from Christchurch towards the West coast on my way to Arthur’s Pass that I really experience those jaw dropping kind of landscape.

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Railway linking the west to the east coast

Arthur’s Pass became the first national park of the south island in 1929 but has been a key route a long time before Europeans got there. Maori used to travel west that way in search of the valued pounamu (green stone used for many things such as weapons or jewellery).  In 1864, Europeans discovered gold hidden around there so it suddenly became an emergency to build a road for coaches to cross over (one of those old coach can be seen at the DOC office there). the First European to go through the pass with his brother was called Arthur, thus the name of the village.

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Arthur’s Pass from above

Camping around or just stopping for coffee, you will eventually meet an inquisitive visitor.

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kea, a native parrot

Keas are one the ten endemic parrot species in the south island and are not to be found anywhere else in the world. They are considered very smart and their curiosity will encourage them to approach people which ironically represent a threat. What do people do when an animal comes to them? They look for things to feed then, which is pretty much the worst you could do. As a matter of fact, baby keas are taught to look for food by older experienced keas. Obviously that is very important for them to know where and how to find food in their rough alpine home otherwise they will die.

Their sometimes intrusive behaviors have led to a certain unpopularity as people happened to get their keys stolen, unattended backpack or tent inspected or even their car a tiny bit  damaged. Nothing ever happened to me except for a tent lightly shaken one morning. I like knowing they are around and listening to their peculiar sound while hiking.

There are numerous day trips directly from the village and even more in the area. There are also a few really nice DOC campsites (standard and basic). My favorite was about half an hour from Arthur’s pass, a free campsite on lake Pearson, gorgeous little spot.

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Admiring the scenery and enjoying the hot weather

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Lake Pearson on a fine day

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A rather fine campsite!

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Reflection on lake Pearson

Here are a few photos of my favorite day hikes before a longer story about the one that should not be missed.

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Hut at the end of the Temple Basin track

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Amazing views over Mount Rolleston (2275m) from the hut

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Beautiful Devils punchbowl 131m high waterfall

Stories from New Zealand #2

Today is my birthday and I’m sitting in the ferry that is bringing us to the south island, yay!

This is where we’ve been the last 3 weeks:

NZ2So it ended up taking a couple of weeks to do things properly but there we are, ready to head off, with our brand-new old car. It’s red and (so far) reliable.

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Meet Corolla (Neh pour les intimes)

Our next stop was Waihi beach in the Bay of Plenty, named back in 1769 when Captain Cook arrived there and was given supplies from the abundant resources of the Maori. Today a lot of fruits and vegetables are cultivated there and you cannot ignore the giant hedges surrounding kiwi orchards to protect them from the wind. Oh and the gold mines too: these are presently devastating the nearby town as the tunnels dug underneath are sinking the houses.

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Gold mines in Waihi, with the remnant of an old pumphouse on the side.

In Waihi beach we were warmly welcomed by Matthew’s sister’s boyfriend’s family. If you travel yourself you know how amazing it feels to be offered a home base for a few days. From there we explored the Coromandel Peninsula.

The hike we chose leads to a place called the Pinnacles. While not a mind blowing hike, this track has a very interesting history.

After driving 20km up a gravel road in the Kauaeranga valley, we reached the beginning of the trail. This area is home to native Kauri trees that are dying from a fungus-like disease called kauri dieback, spread on the roots by hikers. That is why we are asked to rinse our shoes and hiking poles at the start of the trail and not wander off the path.

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Coromandel Peninsula

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Small birdies jumping around at the campsite

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in order to disinfect our equipment so as not to spread the disease

A long time ago, kauri trees were covering these hills and were important in the Maori culture, in the mythology, rituals, wars, art and every day life. Some trees were so massive that they were given names and declared chief of the forest. Occasionally their massive trunks were used to build boats and their resin was collected for various purposes like insecticide or tattoos.

The use of gum and timber obviously appealed to Europeans too and soon they started chopping kauri trees and transporting them down the mountain, either using the water force created by the dams or via railways. Unfortunately they take many many many years to grow but it was too late.

All this happened between between 1850 and 1930 and pieces of railways can still be spotted from the Billygoat track that we chose. The sun is hiding behind the clouds that day which made the hike a lot easier as it is pretty (actually vey) steep all the way and it gets really (really really) hot in New Zealand when the sun shines. It takes about 4,5 hours to reach the beautiful campsite, some 45 minutes away from the Pinnacles, but close to the beautiful Pinnacles hut.

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Dam near the Pinnacles hut. The idea is to stop the water and release it to bring logs down using the power of the water. It worked, even though some logs got broken on the way.

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Remnant of a railway used to slide the logs down the mountain

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Pinnacles campsite, so nice to camp in the forest

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Even nicer with coffee of course!

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Dead kauri tree near the Pinnacles

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suspended bridges

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The Pinnacles (759m)

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View from the Pinnacles right before sunset

We had big plans for side trips back but the forecast turned pretty wet so we decided to go back to Waihi beach and head south. There are hips of exciting things to do on the north island but the temperatures still being way above comfortable hiking ones, we decided to head south to spend a few days in Wellington before crossing over to the south Island.

We drove through the vineyards of Gisborne to spend a couple of nights by Lake Waikaremoana and crossed the lamb country further south.

I requested a sightseeing stop at a place called Norsewood where Scandinavians settled down during the New Zealand wars in the 1860s, when Brits didn’t want to come downunder anymore. It really looks and feels like a little Norway, I felt homesick! Close to Norsewood is the Danish settlement Dannevirke, bigger but not as charming.

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Driving past volcanos near Rotorua in the background

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matching colours

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Bridge

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Lake Waikaremoana

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Swans at the lake

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Norsewood and its Stavkirke

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Scandinavians were there

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Troll were there

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Gift from Norway in 1992

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Landscape approaching Wellington

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Sheep in vineyard

Stories from New Zealand #1

I know you’re all dying to hear about our trip so here are some updates of what we’ve been up to since getting to New Zealand! Actually, not that much. We landed in Auckland and decided to look for a campsite as we didn’t feel like going to the city. Ambury regional park was the perfect spot to spend our first night in NZ. It’s just 6km away from the airport (people are so sweet here we didn’t even have to raise our thumbs to get a ride all the way there) and is also a sort of educative farm with lots of sheep (well, obviously), goats, chickens, horses and so on. Super quiet, hilly and green, everything you expect really. We then headed south towards Raglan to meet up with my dear friend Jonathan. He’s a great surfer and wasn’t scared to take us for a ride on the beautiful Raglan waves. We also did some kayaking, cycling and hiking, great little spot.

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Raglan and mount Karioi in the background

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Kayaking aound Raglan

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Meet Jonathan!

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Matt and me

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Post surf discussions

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Mountain biking around Mount Karioi

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Hiking up Mount Karioi

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A field with a view

We decided to travel with the bare minimum but figured out pretty quickly it would be quite challenging to get off the beaten track without any car here. We started to look for one in Raglan, then Hamilton, but there weren’t much to chose from so we decided to look in Auckland so we can get to know the city while checking out cars. If you ever look for a car in NZ, make sure you take it to a pre-purchase inspection so you know what is right and wrong with it. Basically everybody here had a tragic story about buying a car and they all warmly recommended it. We took one car which happened to be in “poor conditions for its age” which saved us spending money on a piece of s***. After hours of reading about cars (well, mostly Matt I admit) we found The One and bought it. It’s even red, can you believe that? There we are, about to leave Auckland with our brand new old car!

I had very often been told Auckland wasn’t that exciting but it was actually much nicer than I thought! Very green and hilly, we quite enjoyed walking around, interesting museums and city stuff, the Art Gallery is awesome (and free!).

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Random Auckland #1

Random auckland #2

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Random Auckland #3

Random Auckland #3

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Random Auckland #4 Vulcan Lane – used to be a locksmiths street, now just shops and cafes

The famous skytower

The famous skytower

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Random Auckland #5

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The Wintergarden near the Auckland museum – all around is the (massive) Domain with several trails in large forest areas

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Inside the glasshouse

Water lily

Water lily

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Orchids

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More orchids

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Random Auckland #6 – Camouflage building

All cosy on Kosie!

Where do mountains get their names? You’d think from people who have been around for years and years right? Well it’s rarely the case. Pretty much half way between Sydney and Melbourne, about 3 hours away from Canberra, are the Snowy Mountains. It’s the only place in Australia where you can go skiing in winter and escape the worst of the heat in the summer. For thousands of years, the Snowy Mountains were visited by Aboriginal people. They call its highest ‘peak’ Jagungal, meaning ‘table top mountain’, which describes the area quite well. But on the 15th of February 1840, Paul Edmond Strzelecki, a Polish explorer, made it to the summit and decided to call this mountain Kosciuszko as it reminded him of a hill in Krakow where another Polish man named Kosciuszko was buried. The name got adopted and Mount Kosciuszko actually is the highest ‘peak’ of Australia, despite its modest 2228 masl. As you may know, Australians love to shorten words. You won’t hear ‘Tasmania’ but ‘Tassie’, ‘Australian’ but ‘aussie’, ‘barbecue’ but ‘barbie’, thus Kosciuszko is usually refered to as ‘Kosie’ by locals.

A few years ago, I decided to boycott new year’s eve parties as they usually suck and I rarely get to be around my loved ones anyway. I then decided to dedicate the last and first day of each year doing what I actually love doing (better late then never) and that makes me feel good about myself: climbing whatever peak is around me. After Costa Rica and France, Australia was a natural choice since I just spent 2014 in Sydney.

Being the highest summit in Australia, Kosciuszko is considered part of the 7 summits. But as it looks more like a gentle hill and is by far the easiest of the 7 summits to get to, Puncak Jaya in the Papua province of Indonesia steals its fame with its proper 4884masl.

We took a bus to Canberra (a strange deserted city at that time of the year) then hitchhiked to Charlotte’s pass where we camped the first night. I’ll be honest, we took it super easy and we did in 3 days the walk people usually do in a day so we spent more time relaxing and reading than challenging ourselves. I think that’s the good thing about the Snowy Mountains. The day after, we took our time, made coffee and walked to the Blue Lake, hiked towards Kosciuszko, slept at its foot, had wine and cheese for dinner on New year’s eve. We went to sleep way before midnight so we could get up early enough (4.30 am, you read it right) to walk up to admire the first sunrise of the year on top of Australia. It was truly magical…

Happy New Year 2015! I hope you get whatever makes you happy.

We are now about to leave for new adventures in New Zealand and I’m overexcited to visit those landscapes I’ve been dreaming of visiting as long as I can remember…

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Surrounding landscape, large valley and gentle hills

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Ages ago, those mountains were shaped by glaciers

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My favorite part of camping, waking completely alone in the middle of nowhere…

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…and have a delicious coffee!

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4.30 am, leaving the tent…

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Here comes the sun on Mount Kosciuszko

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At that precise moment I was the highest person in Australia! You can’t see but I always get very emotional…

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Matt and me in the sunrise light…It wasn’t really cold but super windy up there.

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The summit of Kosciuszko is so unimpressive you need a sign to make sure it’s the right hill…

Home and away – My best tips while in Sydney

There is no place like home. There is no place like homes, should I say. I’m always surprised by that feeling. What’s home exactly? Home is definitely the country where I grew up and still is because my family is there. But home also is wherever I feel at home, wherever I meet people that makes me feel at home, wherever I experience life-changing moments that help build myself and define what home feels like.

I had never really thought of spending time in Australia, I came here to discover my lover’s home town, Sydney, which also happens to have a pretty interesting coffee culture, conveniently enough as it is my job. We thought it would be a good place to settle for a bit. But to be honest, it failed to become home.

Don’t get me wrong, Sydney is not the worst place to live on earth, but the magic just didn’t happen. But! there are definitely a few things I’d like to share with you. If you’re into crowded beaches, gym and shopping, you won’t need me to find out what to do. If you’re more about exploring the surrounding not-that-wild-wilderness, you won’t need me either but here’s a few tips anyway.

1/ Get a bike!

Where? Check Gumtree or ebay, or just walk around Newtown near Australia Street and I’m sure you’ll find second hand bikes for a reasonable price. Don’t forget, helmets are compulsory in Australia! After a ride in Sydney you’ll get why, whether it’s pedestrian, cars or even worse public buses, Sydney is all but a bike-friendly city. That said, Both Matt and I have ridden our bikes every day of the year to go to work or anywhere and we’re okay (so far). In recent years, bike lanes have been created around the city, and getting a copy of this (free) map probably is my best advice:

Featured imageI found mine at the Glebe library but they can also be found at tourist offices or bike shops (the best ones are on Paramatta road) as well.  It’s great to avoid big busy roads and really helped me discover another side of Sydney I am glad I found out. There are different colours depending on whether the lane is completely separated from the road or not and the intensity of traffic. You get to cross parks, small back lanes with the coolest street art, check out streets with rows of gorgeous Victorian houses. Not only biking is healthier, but it’ll be much cheaper, nicer and faster than public transportation.

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2/ Go check out the crab races!

Go to pubs that organize those races like the Friends in Hand in Glebe or the Courthouse in Newtown. You can bet on any crab you want or just watch. Whether you had a few beers or not, it’s pretty entertaining and hilarious.

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Crab race at the Courthouse. Basically the first crab to reach out the circle wins!

3/ Use your Opal card on Sundays and go explore the Blue Mountains…

Opal cards are the brand new card for public transportation in Sydney. Don’t try understanding how it works, no one gets it. It depends on the distance and the frequency of use. The only thing I understand is that any trip on the Sydney public service cost $2.50 for the whole Sunday no matter the distance or the number of times you use it, meaning you can spend 2 hours going west on a train to go to the Blue Mountains for that price. (But I’d recommend you spend more than a day there, obviously)

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View from the Three Sisters, Katoomba.

4/ …Or Royal National Park!

Just about an hour south of Sydney, Royal National Park is pretty amazing. Kind of like New South West in a nutshell with large beaches, cliffs, bush walks, rivers, rainforest… We hiked the Coast Track a few weeks ago and I should really write a few words about it as it was by far my favourite hiking experience around Sydney.

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Somewhere along the Coast Track

5/ …Or walk from Manly to the Spit Bridge!

The ferry to Manly is included in the Sydney public transport so enjoy the cheap Sunday fare! Not only you start the day with a really nice ferry ride around Sydney Harbour (best views over the Opera House and the CBD skyline) but then you can walk along nice beaches and through the Sydney Harbour national park to take the bus home from the Spit Bridge a few 10km away. Don’t miss the aboriginal sites on the way with kangaroo or fish engravings carved in sandstone, dating back to prior European settlement.

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High tide

6/ Go whale spotting!

Take advantage of the cold but sunny winter months to go whale watching at Cape Solander. They are pretty far but spotting them from the shore is pretty impressive. We were lucky this year as there were loads of them going up north to warmer waters (they counted a few hundreds that day).You can also catch boats from Darling Harbour or Circular Key to check out the whales from closer.

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Cape Solander

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A couple of whales

7/ Walk from Bondi to Coogee

Just a nice walk between two of the well known massive beaches of Sydney.

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Famous Bondi beach

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A cemetery with a view

Just a 10 minutes walk from Coogee towards Bondi, there is a gorgeous little place called Gordons Bay that I highly recommend if you seek tranquillity. There is also a underwater trail for snorkellers (remember to put sunscreen on your back).

8/ Get this book

Last but not least… Buy or borrow that book, very useful with lots of different hikes idea with maps and all the info you’ll need!

_12508269/ Check out the massive bats

Massive bats indeed! Go out at dusk or night and look at the bats coming to life. It could be Camperdown park,  Jubilee park or even the backyard of your terrace house. There are so many of them that they can be a pest to the nearby environment so they are moved like it happened a few years ago in the Botanical garden.

To be continued…

Have you been to Sydney? What are your personal favourites?