Tag Archive: life

Afghans are tasty

One more sleep and then it's Christmas! Exciting! And then on Boxing Day we're off on the train to Greymouth then setting off on a bit of a cycling adventure down the West Coast and (hopefully) eventually back to Christchurch. Even more exciting! Although I probably should pack...

Ever since our tandem arrived we've been doing a lot of riding. At the end of October we did our first randonneuring event with the Kiwi Randonneurs, a 400km loop from Greymouth to Greymouth in a day (via Reefton > Springs Junction > Murchison > Westport). Quite possibly also the last time I ever ride that far in one day! I mean, all the beautiful scenery down the West Coast from Westport and it was in the dark! It would make a beautiful two-day ride though. Anyway, we survived and it got me pretty keen for some cycle touring.

About half an hour into the 400km Greymouth ride. Photo by Shane Davidson.

Tuesday evenings are normally time trials along Old Tai Tapu Rd with the Canterbury Time Trial Association. It's pretty cool 'cause I definitely wouldn't normally want to ride for 16km along a flat course as fast as I can. That just sounds like torture! We are the only tandem there but there is a trike and it's always fun to see the pro riders with their skin suits, aero helmets and swanky time trial bikes. Some even bring some pretty fancy wind trainers to warm up on first. At the start of December each year there is also the hill climb time trial from the Blue Duck by Motukarara to just past the top of Kennedy's. Perfect conditions this year saw us with a new PB which will be ridiculously difficult to beat!

Along with the usual rides we also had a fun day out riding on the Peninsula down to Little Akaloa and round the bays to Okains Bay with the Emilys. EW and I then dragged ourselves round a 6-hour rogaine the following day...you've got to make the most of summery weather when it's here!

Clockwise from top left: the big green monster chilling at Okains Bay, Little Akaloa - many steep climbs ahead, EW shows us just how steep Okains Bay Road can be, top of Okains Bay Road - yay!

There's been various orienteering events, the Mountain Bike Orienteering Nationals, the Wedding of the Year (!), the Vegetarian Expo (so much delicious food! I love it!), book groups (so many awesome books, so little time) and so much more.

Early December was the National Rogaine Champs which was held in the Nevis Valley. I was racing with EW and it went pretty well apart from a few terrible controls!! I could write more here but I've already written enough and it's on my AP log so if you're interested you can read that here.

National Rogaine Champs map - you can almost make out our route if you squint hard enough!

And of course it wouldn't be Christmas without the annual Christmas Rogaine!! 3 hours of good times blundering around in the bush in the mist!

Christmas Rogaine madness.

Yesterday I was intending to head back out that way on my run but I wasn't feeling all that great so instead I ended up looping back from the Kiwi and having a bit of an explore. It was supposed to be sunny but as you can see below, ummm, the sun hadn't quite managed to get itself together so instead it was misty and drizzly.

The Port Hills are awesome.

And now back to Christmas. The tofukey just recently came out of the oven all ready for tomorrow and last night I found myself cooking yet another batch of cookies. I don't think I've ever cooked so many batches of cookies in such a short space of time!

The tofukey in various states of preparation.

Last night's cookies: a couple of New Zealand classics with afghans on the left and peanut brownies on the right (both adapted from the Edmonds Cookbook).

Merry Christmas! Here's hoping the typical Kiwi summer storm doesn't hit whilst we're riding (or is that just too optimistic?! It is the West Coast after all) and the little earthquake we just had is just a lone ranger.

The Doctor, Lake Silenceo and "Spoilers!"

For those of you who watch Doctor Who, you probably know that the start of Season 6 is set in America. There was one Skype conversation with my brother, R about where it was filmed and he just casually mentioned that at least some of it was definitely in Utah, like the state he is living in. Then began a bit of fun looking up where each of the locations actually were (if you're interested, this site is very useful). I had a crazy fantasy that perhaps, when we came over, we might actually get to see them but I didn't actually imagine it was going to happen.

So, on the evening of our second night in Yellowstone, when R suggested a 4 day trip to Southern Utah (and Arizona) to check out each of the 4 filming locations, I was so ridiculously excited I went a little bit hyperactive! Before you get the impression that it's only me who's the Whovian in this group though, let me assure you that R and A are also big fans.

So there we were, on the road in search of sunshine and Doctor Who. Unfortunately the weather didn't start off so great and we had a rather wet and cold explore of Canyonlands before retreating to Moab for the night.

Next morning and the real adventure begins. You don't have to drive far out of Moab before you encounter the Hole In The Rock which was a creative and pretty cool detour before onwards to our first site (and possibly the hardest because we forgot to bring any decent pictues with us to check we were in the right place), the Valley of the Gods.

The Valley of the Gods is an isolated area with huge buttes, towering pinnacles and the classic red rock desert barrenness that feels like it stretches on forever. We drove through the windy dirt road in search of site #1, pretending we were chasing down Amy with our SUV. To say it was hot would be an understatement!

Next site, the classic Western shot of Monument Valley. Easy 'cause it's right on the main road.

Then onwards into Monument Valley itself for our first desert campground. As a side note, it's quite hard to get your pegs to stay in properly in a desert. Got car sick on the drive round the buttes so M and I got out and ran instead. We met the others for a desert picnic as the sun went down.

Nice morning for a run round a mitten right?

Site #3, Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona, is not something you could miss. It's really quite huge. R even organised us all a tour of the dam. It's super high security so we had to go through metal detectors and empty our pockets and all that to be let through but you do get to stand on the dam itself (and check out some of the inner workings lower down - very worth it).

Quick trip to the Horseshoe Bend...

...then it was on to the 4th and final site, Lone Rock Beach, Lake Powell - or, as we knew it, Lake Silenceo. This place is amazing. It's hard to get your head around the fact you are camping on a beach, in the sand, but you are actually at the edge of a large canyon in the desert that's been turned into a lake by the dam. It's beautiful.

Our drive back to Salt Lake City was along the beautiful Cottonwood Canyon Road before the storm rolled back in. I think on this trip I fell in love with the red deserts. We have nothing even close to this kind of thing at home and to me it looks and feels like another world. I still can't believe it's real. America is amazing!

Desert heat and freezing rain

Jeepers, it's October already and I haven't posted any more of our USA adventures. Too busy with adventures back home (and getting sick...sigh).

Right, well let's get going shall we?

After the rogaine, my brother (R) and his wife (A) took us on a pretty awesome road trip. Firstly we headed over to the Badlands 'cause who doesn't want to see an alien landscape and bask in the intense heat of the desert right?

As an added bonus we got to test out our new tent for the first time (the Big Angus Fly Creek UL2 - nice and lightweight for upcoming cycling adventures but, umm, pretty thin!).

Oh, and see some pretty cool animals. Big horn sheep are definitely more exciting and scary looking than the sheep we have at home!

We also got some brilliant views of the night sky. I was amused during the astromoner talk that night when they were asking us what the most well known constallation in the night sky was. Ummm, the Southern Cross right? Oops, wrong hemisphere!

How about a trip to the Devil's Tower next? You can laze in a hammock too (until you get told to take it down). First time in a hammock too. Awesome. We've been missing out for so long!

Then it's onto more driving, and into the rain too just to make it a little bit more exciting (and a lot colder...to make sure that I get to use all of the far too many clothes that I brought on this trip). A nice wet, dark arrival in Yellowstone is the perfect time to practice putting up your tent with the fly first. Thankfully there are no photos of me crawling around underneath setting it up!

Morning dawns a mixture of rain and delicious icy coldness (possibly sarcasm but one can never be sure) which means it is the perfect day to go animal spotting, geyser wandering, exploring and picnic just as darkness and the storm approached.

Oh yeah, and go run up a little hill to get a better view of the Grand Prismatic Spring (then bush bash down the other side of course).

The weather showed no real signs of abating (despite small patches of sunshine) so after another night in Yellowstone we drove through The Grand Tetons...

...and onwards towards the Doctor.

Mountain lions and fallen logs

In which L and I see a mountain lion and stumble over far too many fallen trees.

So the "main" purpose of our trip to the States was for me to compete in the World Rogaine Champs in the Black Hills of South Dakota (in other words, a good excuse to visit my eldest brother and his wife who live in Salt Lake City!). Plus the furthest afield I'd ever been up until this point had been bashing around in the bush somewhere in Australia so it was probably about time I headed off overseas somewhere like everyone else seems to do.

This is not the first time I've competed in the World Rogaine Champs. My first time was in Cheviot in 2010 a few years back. But this time was a rather more serious approach as L is amazing and we had the potential, if we had a good race, to make it onto the podium. Yeah, just a little bit of pressure. Mostly though we just wanted to do the best that we could (and not get eaten by a mountain lion or bitten by a rattlesnake). I hadn't had the best build up to this race either with a foot injury earlier in the year meaning I had to do a lot of cycle training instead.

The day before the race was supposed to be relaxing but ended up being stressful with M having to take the place of one of the other guys in the Open Men's team at the last minute. We'd both not had the best sleep that week either which was starting to worry me. In the afternoon my brother and his wife arrived which helped keep my mind off the following day a bit though.

Race morning and I'm not sure if many of us managed to stomach breakfast all too well. I was so nervous (and worried about M...silly me!). We arrived at the event with lots of time and managed to find a space at a table in the big tent next to some Aussie teams (3 of the 4 were actually ex Kiwis!) and nervously awaited map handout. Once we got our maps though it was all go. It didn't take us too long to plan our route as there seemed to us to be a clear part of the map that we wanted to be once it got dark (the north east corner) so we planned our (highly optimistic) route around this.

L and I pre race. Yep, the map is huge but bear in mind we'd already cut it down a bit too. Good for hiding under in case of rain right?

About 11:45am we were all ushered into the start area for an anxious 15 minute wait until the gun went off. It looked like there were a large amount of teams heading to the same first control as us (#25) so we set off fairly fast in order to not get held up in a queue. Seemed pretty successful. What always amazes me is how quickly teams spread out and how, despite there being something like 500 other people out there, we were mostly by ourselves by the 3rd control.

And we're off...the line of runners heading off to control #25. It's somewhere up in the bush there.

It all started out so well for the first hour but then the heat started to get to me and I found I couldn't seem to keep down any food other than chomps. Fortunately I was still able to drink so I wasn't getting dehydrated but I was losing energy fast. We tried sitting down for a couple of minutes at a time in order to help get food down but it wasn't working. Heat and incredibly rough terrain was not helping but I'm pretty stubborn when I want to be so there was no way I was giving up. We made it to the first water stop around 6:30pm, later than we'd wanted (although the terrain was turning out to be even rougher than the model map had been which seemed almost impossible!). There were people there to greet us and a note pasted on to the water barrel from L's partner and I think you could have actually seen our spirits lift at the sight of a friendly face. I managed to get down a gel and a few of L's corn chips and then we were off.

Darkness hit around 8:30pm (we had just made it to #74, determined to get there before requiring headlights) and we were faced with our first night control (#64), an incredibly vague spur in the middle of thick bush. Nailing that was an incredible boost for the spirits. We were heading back out through the bush after that control when L suddenly stopped and bent down to pick up a stick, telling me that I ought to do the same. It was then that I saw the eyes watching us from under a fallen tree. Not too far from where we were standing I could make out the shape of what could only be a mountain lion, pretty much my biggest fear for this whole trip. We started making as much noise as we could and had our whistles at the ready whilst slowly trying to make our way back out to the track. The eyes kept watching us the whole way. It was only once we'd gotten back out onto the track that, after checking we could no longer see it, we started running, turning round every now and then just to double check. We nearly scared ourselves to death at the sight of a deer and the way our headlights lit up the reflectors on the track posts.

After a rather long stretch of not getting any controls (not that I suspect we could have navigated all that successfully to them anyway as it took a long time for the panic to die down!) we were back into the bush for some more vague controls to test our night navigation! Finally, around midnight, we made it to #41 and the easier navigation. Oh, and our friends G&T who were also not having the best of races. We headed round the next few controls together which boosted everyone's moral before leaving them to go our own way. By this stage I could stomach a little bit more food (mostly just tofu and a few crackers so not ideal but better than nothing) so I was feeling a bit more on the planet.

Some time not long after 6am though we both had managed to develop incredibly sore feet. I've had sore feet in these events before but nothing like this. A change of socks, more vaseline and some pain killers brought about a small amount of relief but still, at times we were reduced to a hobble! I think in the last couple of hours we could have been a lot more aggressive but we just couldn't handle the foot pain and had decided that as long as we finished after 11:30am then that would just have to be enough.

L and I at the finish.

I can't tell you how relieved I was to finish, take my shoes off and sit down...24 hour rogaines are such painful things. Why do we do them?! But even better was seeing my brother and M at the finish line cheering us on.

This event was by far the toughest terrain I've ever been in (just the continuous battle through endless fallen trees for hours on end) but despite the pain and exhaustion it was actually really fun. We both agreed it was an excellent course (if not the greatest of maps) and we can now add mountain lion to the list of animals seen (although I think I would have preferred not to have seen one!). I definitely learnt some lessons and I have a long way to go in terms of figuring out a fail-safe food plan...sigh.

Yep, I sure was happy to be finished. I almost look fresh in this photo but I sure didn't feel that way!

There should have been a prize giving within an hour of everyone finishing but somehow there was a rather large technical disaster with the results and so we had to wait about 2 weeks for the results to be announced. So much anticipation! Somehow, despite having a pretty rough race, L and I managed to take second place in the Women's Open grade. My medal arrived in the post a few days ago but it all feels rather surreal without having a prize giving.

Thanks to my awesome brother R for the photos!

Vegan cheese with too many shoes

Yep, we're finally back in the land of the long white cloud. Well, actually we've been back for just over a week now but my head is still all over the place.

I have returned with more vegan cheese than I can possibly cope with (well, only 3 packets but to be honest I'm over it all ready...I definitely prefer the european vegan cheese sorry!) and chocolate-covered pretzels! The guys in bio-security at Christchurch Airport weren't too worried about that but they did have a laugh at just how many pairs of sports shoes I kept pulling out of my bag. I feel like we bought the entirety of REI and Backcountry home with us!

Anyway, I have much excitement to tell - from encountering a mountain lion in the dark to exploring Southern Utah in search of Doctor Who - but right now I need to go to bed so you'll have to wait to hear those stories.

There's no such thing as too much cake

It's that time of year, the time when I get to eat lots of cake and feel a little bit more wise (you know, every birthday you're another year older so surely also wiser as a result!).

Thursday we had a farewell (for me even though I'll only be gone a month!) and a birthday celebration (also for me but for the 2 other workmates with early August birthdays too) which meant I had to make a cake! It was pretty late on Wednesday night when I started making the cake so went for something simple, the East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch, except I made a lemon cornmeal version which I've done before. It went down well.

Work got me the usual delicious vegan sandwich they get me (made specially by the bakery for me) while the others had the usual savouries and club sandwiches. A salad sandwich might sound a bit boring but actually these guys (whoever they are) make a pretty good one.

I may have eaten a little bit more cake (with delicious coconut yogurt) for dessert that night...!

Friday, after work and a nice little walk with M, we headed out to the Beat Street Cafe on Barbados Street for more delicious food. I ordered their Big Warm Salad with tofu (so so good) for my dinner.

They don't have a vegan dessert on the menu but they do make a damn fine beetroot chocolate cake which they served with berries and chocolate sauce. I gather this is not normal but I'm sure they'd do this for anyone who asked. They also had a delicious looking vegan brownie but I can never turn down cake!

Then Saturday dawned ridiculously summery hot (despite still being definitely winter here so it was awesome!) so we went biking along the tops and round the bays and eventually ended up in Lyttelton to check out the new vegetarian cafe there, The Shroom Room.

I had a delicious lunch of toast and hash browns with lots of delicious fried veges and salady stuff (yep, I'm good with descriptions).

And of course more cake was consumed...their vegan chocolate raspberry cake was amazing and quite possibly wins the mini cake competition of the last few days of eating!

All that food did make the final relentless climb up to the Kiwi pretty difficult though! But worth it.

It seems vegan cake is doing quite well in Christchurch at the moment. The Lotus Heart makes a pretty fine cake. Then there's the Beat Street Cafe and The Shroom Room and I also heard from the waitress at Beat Street that there is a lady who makes several kinds of vegan cakes to sell at the Riccarton Bush Market which we haven't ever been to...but you can bet we'll be going once we get back!