Monday, March 1, 2010

Refuse to Lose...

That is the motto of our University of  New Mexico Lobo basketball team. Now me and the Lobos go way back..I arrived in ABQ when I was 19 years old, that is 1973 if I have my math correct. I was a Lobo fan back then..It just seemed second nature to get behind the local basketball team. I had done that all my life in little Findlay, Ohio where I grew up, where the whole town backed the high school basketball team, the Trojans. I use to listen to a portable radio to Lobo games and once in awhile, if I was lucky, I got tickets to the Pit, where seriously if you have never been, you must go. It is kind of a fish bowl, with the basketball court at the bottom and Lobo fans are SERIOUS about their Lobos. The sound of the crowd on a good night is deafening! It is known to be one of the LOUDEST basketball venues in the country..

Anyway, back in the day when I was a mere child (19), I use to ride my bike down Central Ave. in ABQ at 8:00 PM, to get to my shift called the Bar Run at Village Inn Pancake House. The bar run is where all the folks who have shut down the bar come in and have their "breakfast" of pancakes in order to sober up. This meant I rode my bike, back down Central, at 4:00 AM home to what is now pretty much the hell hole of ABQ..Back then it was safe.I never worried about getting hurt. This was 1973 mind you! Sometimes I would just hitchhike to work..Seriously! I use to regularly wait on a man named Norm Ellenburger, who was one of the greatest Lobo coaches ever. He coached the Lobos from 1972-1979 until there was Lobo-gate, a recruiting scandal that left the program in tatters...His team was ranked in the top ten..

Fast forward a few years or decades and we have Season Tickets to the Lobo games from 1987 to probably around 3 years ago..We saw some good games and a good coach for a few years. Then we saw a few really, really bad coaches come through. We went to the NCAA tournament a few times...never really got to far..I think the best was 2nd round back in the 90s..We were die hard Lobo fans..Then as life went on, and the team got worse, we finally gave up our tickets. Oh the few games we went to here and there since then were OK,  but never did we have a good team. I can count on one hand how many road games we won in 5 years previous to this year's team.

Enter Steve Alford three years ago to the NM basketball program..Who the heck was he? Oh just another "bad coach" recruited to "better the program", or so I thought. I do not think we were the only fans that gave up our season tickets. There were many "fair weather" fans out there. I do not think I even followed the Lobos that closely the last two years..I admit..I am a fair weather fan. We had gone through so many bad years, bad, REALLY bad coaches..I just could not bare to watch anymore..

This year: OK, so we were gone the first half of the basketball season..we hear word from home that the Lobos were doing well this year. Say what? They were picked to finish somewhere in the middle of our Mountain West League. When we got home, we started paying a little closer attention. We went to a game. The Lobos had only lost three games all year! Suddenly we came from virtual obscurity to ranked in the top 25 teams in the nation. I started listening to the post game shows again..I am not believing we gave up our season tickets. All the games are sold out by this time..We have watched on TV as the Lobo kids have been behind at the end and pulled off a victory at least four times in the last month..Holy crap!

Here is the deal: this team cannot lose on the road..They cannot lose period. We just pulled off the biggest upset of the year, winning against BYU, at BYU in front of 22,000 people...I was SCREAMING at my radio once again. We were behind and just pulled it off one more time! I am in shock..At the airport yesterday, 1500 people greeted the team coming home from Utah. It was mayhem!  The Lobos are serious contenders in the NCAA tournament. They are now ranked 8th in the nation!! They could actually be seeded 3rd in the post season tournament!

This takes me back to my Norm Ellenberger days, the bar run days in which we had a REALLY REALLY good basketball team...I am sad we cannot get tickets to the last home game this Wednesday. The team is 23 and 3. That is only three losses all year!! I am stunned and happy for those kids and Albuquerque and all the die hard Lobo fans. It is front page of the paper almost everyday here in ABQ.

I watched a video today of the players after the BYU game. Here is the deal. Their motto is We refuse to lose! And that is how every game I have seen looks..I am thinking what if I incorporated this into my life-I refuse to lose!  It just proves that no matter what anyone says, a team with the same mentality and winning spirit can make anything happen..Even if we suck the rest of the year, I have learned from this team of young Lobos (most of them will be back next year).

I refuse to lose!

Oh and we got tickets to the Mountain West tournament in two weeks in Las Vegas so we can see first hand our team do their refuse to lose thing!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday fourteen (I think I made this up)..

1. I have crawled out of my post-race, post "fabulous trip" depression..time to get on with life!
This is directly proportional to the amount of training I have been doing...It works! For 2 weeks I have been running, biking and weights..

2. I am now accepting my new weight. I weigh the same right now that I did the day before IMWA so this must be my new weight-it is 8 lbs heavier than 2 years ago, 10 lbs heavier than I was in high school. I am over worrying about it, stressing about it. I eat healthy, do not overeat, train daily and nothing has really changed in the  past 2 years except I am older....When I die, no one is going to say Wow did you see those extra lbs she gained over the years? Well, no one I care about will anyway! I sucked it up and bought a size bigger jeans which H says are laughable, they look so baggy. But they are not tight in the waist, which makes me feel better..
(I love a husband who will tell you you need smaller jeans...he has learned!)

3. Speaking of husbands, mine does all the shopping and cooking. I can't remember the last time I set foot in a grocery store at home. The deal is; he cooks..I clean and do laundry (which is no small task I must say). The problem is I am use to hiring people to do the real dirty work house cleaning. I am having a harder time justifying this these days.I am perfectly capable of cleaning my own house. Actually I do a BETTER job than the folks I hire. So why do I detest it so?? This is one area of my life that I procrastinate (like I am doing right now) until I know people are coming over or company coming..

4. I have been running into a lot of stories of children dying lately. This makes me really, really sad...and grateful that we have 4 beautiful daughters and 3 granddaughters that are relatively healthy. I have had my share of deaths, but never a child. For that I am so thankful!

5. I have about 5 running socks that have no match. I keep waiting for mate of the socks to magically show up. These socks have been in my drawer about a year. I do not know why I can't just throw them away! I keep thinking But what if the other sock turns up next week? Ahhh..the trials of the retired person!

6. As athletic as I am, I really, really suck at golf. I tried to golf a few years ago, even went to "Golf Camp" but to no avail. My kids can attest to my horrible hand-eye coordination as they witnessed me trying to "play" volleyball at the last family reunion..Maybe when I am old(er), I will try golf again. I would like to be good..I just think I do not have the "golf gene"..I like the vision of hanging out with other little old ladies at the "club" someday, sipping tea after a round of nine..We'll see.

7. An old high school friend found a picture of me in our HS musical, singing. I had a lead role and I keep thinking Who was that person? I actually SANG in front of an AUDIENCE? I wanted to be an actress ever since I remember but have long given up that dream..I look in the newspaper and see auditions for local theater but just can't seem to imagine myself acting again..Hmm..maybe someday?

8. I signed up for 2 races this week. One is a half marathon on April 17th. The other is a local Sprint triathlon in May. The triathlon is a relay with H and my daughter..I am doing the swim-the easy part! The half marathon I am running with another daughter-well we will start together anyway. I think she got the "running gene" but not from me!

9. I tried Hot Yoga yesterday. I became very ill at the end of the class, which was only an hour and should have been "easy". I almost passed out after the class and was mega nauseated. I remember trying this kind of yoga a few years ago and had the same reaction..I had vertigo at the time so thought it was that but no..I pretty much have concluded that I found something I need to accept I can't do..It also brought back memories of IMWA, which was pretty much like racing in a sauna..didn't do so well with that either..I really LIKE the idea of being able to "detox" while twisting around into unnatural poses (which by the way are ridiculously hard for me anyway because I am as flexible as a statue)..Well, now I just need to find a good regular yoga class that I commit to doing at least for the next couple of months..

10. The Olympics have been great. I am, however getting a little bored with them after three weeks. I do not remember ever getting tired of the Olympics before. I loved the figure skating and those amazing aerial tricks off the ski jump. That looks like the hardest thing in the whole Olympics to me!

11. When I am trying to be patient, I count..Like at the airport, or in the middle of a ride or race..I just start counting. It is probably some form of O.C.D.  Don't figure it really impacts my quality of life enough to do anything about it..

12. I realized on our trip how very little I need to live. A suitcase full of clothes, some toiletries, a purse and a credit card is about all need to be happy..A nice 5 star hotel thrown in there once in awhile and I am good!

13. I am really, really slow right now running and biking. Kind of like when I first started doing these things...I am trying to convince myself that yes indeed, my RBC's have not come back yet to give me that extra oxygen we living at altitude get to enjoy. Sure hope that is it otherwise...I just suck...

14. The scab on my infamous leg wound is almost off. After almost 5 weeks, I am almost able to swim, take a bath, stop looking at my leg so much. It is now the size of a pea..They were not kidding when they said shin wounds take forever to heal..I am sooooo lucky the infection cleared! I could probably take a bath by now but am too scared to get infected again. My friend told me about tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic that I used once the scab formed. I do believe it has helped the healing process. Probably not what the doctor would have ordered but it sure did not hurt anything..

OK, now I really do have to get back to cleaning the house!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What now??

If you want to know the truth about yourself just ask your kids. Mine told me recently I was this (Debbie Downer-wah, wah, wah). Thanks Bec!

Truth is...I have had shall we say mild depression since my re-entry into the real say the least. First of all post IM depression is real..I have had it before. After the race, the let down can be intense. All that training, all that anticipation, all those endorphins, then land on the ground again...hard..Couple that with a predisposition to depression anyway and you have Debbie Downer for sure!

Well, I have a cure for least temporarily. Travel for 2 months!! It certainly kept the blues away for awhile, that is for sure. Being in a new place every couple of days certainly keeps the excitement level going. Guessing what you will be eating the next day, trying new restaurants, flying in scary planes, fighting flies, ants in the all works! We spent a glorious 2 month vacation in which things went pretty smoothly and it was WAY better than I thought it would be. So then we landed home..

THEN..the STOOPID leg infection which, if you ask me was completely unnecessary to get me back to earth. I got the being home thing as soon as I put my first load of laundry into the machine at home..really I did. But the universe had other ideas...After 3 trips to the doctor, 2 antibiotic shots, 10 days of antibiotic pills I think the damn thing is finally healing. It is now the size of a penny and scabbed over (nice, huh?). So I can stop my cyber chondria now...I went from- probable gangrene sure amputation and MRSA (this is bad-you do not want to know how bad this can be)-never ending infection in leg to- damn I may live to see another day and even swim sometime this year!

Now what?!? I ask myself. It is cold outside, I have no desire to run, bike, swim even leave the house. Sounds a little like Debbie Downer doesn't it?  So I do what I do best..I PUSH MY ASS out the door!! That is what Ironman racing does for you. It teaches you that you can feel like shit one minute, SO SOMETHING TO FIX IT, and feel great the next. So that is how I am treating this little post IM, post fantastic vacation depression. Shoving myself out the door to run, to the gym, to shop..anything to break this nasty little blues feeling..

I am still lamenting over the damn IMWA race. I made a slide show of our adventures down under and I still cringe when I see myself on the bike, at the is hard not to still think I suck! Power walking a marathon is not was the major suck fest that I never want to experience again. To work that hard last year and to have the result I had (I know I should be happy I finished at all..blah, blah, blah)-really really sucks! So why is this still bothering me??? I cannot put my finger on it really..I have this expectation that if you want something bad enough and work hard enough, it should be yours! Is this realistic? Maybe not at my age...

Swimming is out for awhile with the whole leg thing (again MRSA-bad idea to have open wound at gym)..Which also is tough because it appears that is my strongest event..Maybe I should take up competitive swimming..I am sure there are faster women my age in that sport too (wah, wah wah..)

I am gonna figure this thing out the meantime I am training for something, what I do not know yet. Probably some sprint tris, and maybe a half IM next year, because this is what I do! I also need to fix my expectations...this is probably some damn life stage I am passing through where I have to accept my limitations or something stupid like that (wah, wah, wah...)..

Friday, February 5, 2010

Rough re-entry!

Warning: this blog includes descriptions of yucky wounds, kind of depressing if you are having a great not read:

Wow have I only been home 6 days?? That seems crazy to much has happened. The trip home was uneventful although I noticed an increase of pain in my leg where I had fallen on the Milford Track. You know the one caused by neglect by a NZ company I cannot sue? The wound is on my right shin, only about 2 inches long but had been deep, near the bone. I had not really had any pain on the rest of the hike. After arriving home, Ibuprofen was not really helping the pain all that much anymore. Being an ex-nurse who saw ALOT of open chest wounds after heart surgery I was not particularly alarmed..This is just healing..I thought..I was pretty jet general feeling yucky anyway..

Then on Tuesday, my leg REALLY started to sting..and I began to in general feel worse. No fever, just yucky. I hate going to the doctor these days. I actually have an aversion I think after all those years as a nurse..I am cynical about medical care in general and scared of hospitals. This is not particularly rational..Hospitals and doctors saved my mother in law 4 years ago. Medicine and a tough will to live has kept her generally healthy and alive. Then again, my sister died at the age of 52 in a hospital in 2001 of an infection that went into spinal meningitis. So I suppose my fear of hospitals, infections in general is warranted. H & I decided to call one of his friends, a GP who happens to practice up here in our hood. He said to come on down and he would take a look. I was pretty sure he would say It is fine-you are over-reacting. I know you are worried but it is just part of the healing process. He actually took one look at me and my leg and said, wow you are infected! You see I have this fear that I am either: a) going to die and b) over-reacting and a hypochondriac. Totally rational, huh? Holy crap! I thought..this is real!

There was some relief that I was not imagining my plight and felt fear as well. So he wrote me an antibiotic prescription and sent me on my way. OK, I think, this is this thing will heal! I had trouble sleeping Tuesday night; the pain was keeping me up, now it was the whole bottom of my leg as well as the wound. Damn! I thought-this sucks. Wed afternoon I started throwing up. Convinced I had eaten something bad, I just stuck to liquids the rest of the day and hoped the damn Cipro would kick in soon. Then our friend, the angel doctor actually called me to see if I was OK. That was so sweet! I told him what was up; he gave me his private office number to call if I was not better soon. So yesterday, I felt like dog doo-doo. No fever, just general malaise as they say in the nursing business. I had no appetite and the pain was worse in leg and now there was nasty drainage involved. Oh shit! I thought as I went over to his office for the 2nd time in a week. The office staff freaked out that I was there since this doc is not taking new patients. Amazing how quickly things happened once I insisted they go back and talk to Dr. Friend himself. I was in a patient room in no time. This time, he looked at me and my leg and said Now I am worried..But said it in a way that was not too alarming..I shared with him my history with infection and sister gone and he validated my fears. OK, so maybe this is overkill, he said but we are going to take half your blood in little tubes and culture the wound. AND you get a fat ass shot of antibiotics in your butt. I spent the next hour in his office getting all of this done. Today I go back to get the results of the tests and probably another SHOT in my butt..There was some talk of possible complications, infection in blood, bone, etc. Not good info for a hypochondriac such as myself but I listened,trying not to freak out.

I must admit yesterday I felt pretty crappy. Still no fever but generally blah..Stayed on my couch and watched TV and tried not to worry. H started looking up blood infections on the Internet. NOT A GOOD IDEA! We laughed when he said I had a 60% chance of making it if the infection went into my blood. We retired folks have WAY too much time on our hands!

I can’t get into cyberchondria on this one. Too scary..So am taking one day at a time. This AM I feel a little better, leg still hurts like a SOB (drugs are helping), still not much appetite. Can’t I at least lose the 5lbs I gained on vacation from this? Isn’t that only fair?

So for a neurotic like me, this is not a good situation. Not terrible, just not good. I am trying to distract myself with TV, Facebook, magazines, and my new Motorola Q phone (really nice-I love it)..Feel like I am somewhat losing my sense of humor on this already. This is NOT how I saw my re-entry into real life at home going after such a fantastic, beautiful fantasy 9 week vacation but hey, shit happens! You take what life dishes out and go on to the next thing. 
I feel much support from friends and family…
In the end, that is all that matters really. I am looking forward to the future in which I can organize my house, start training again..

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Milford Track..

How can I possibly describe the most beautiful hike in the world? I do not even know where to start.
Day 1: We met up at the "Ultimate Hikes" shop and boarded a bus with 33 of our new best friends along with 4 guides and drove a few hours to a boat, where we were picked up and got our first taste of the "Fiordlands." The immense mountains were a bit overwhelming even from the start. We landed 1.5 k from our first "lodge" so day one's hike was simply a 15 minute walk to my way of camping-indoor plumbing, shelter, spotless rooms and clean beds. That was easy! H and I had our own room at each lodge. We ate all meals with our new friends, who came from all over the world! England, Japan, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Israel, Canada and even a couple from the US. We had a meet and greet kind of meeting on the first evening. You know how there is always one or two folks in a group that are a pain in the ass? Well, I have to say that in this group there was not ONE PIA! It was an amazing group of people who seemed to gel from the beginning. We had to stand up and say who we would like to "have lunch with." I said Obama, H said his grand-daughters (isn't that sweet?).

Day 2: We woke up at a decent hour, made our own lunches with all the others, then enjoyed a fantastic breakfast of oatmeal!! My first oatmeal in is those little things in life that I miss! Day one we started out walking a fairly easy flat track. The beauty of the river, the green, green plants and trees were amazing. Even more amazing was the fact that the sun was shining! More about that later..We walked an "easy" 9 miles to our next "lodge" where we were escorted to our rooms. There was a "laundry" facility which consisted of several wash tubs, soap and two of those old fashioned "ringers" to ring out our clothes and a drying room in which to dry said clothes. Of course I had brought WAY too much clothing but wanted to wash some stuff. I headed over to wash our clothes. On the stairs that led to the "ringers" was chicken wire that was all along the stairs. It was explained to me later that this was to prevent "slipping while wet." Well, come to find out some of this wire was sticking up, which I promptly tripped on and BOOM I went down. When I looked down it wasn't good. There was a chunk of flesh missing along my shinbone and my toe looked like hamburger meat. To make a long gory story short, the guides responded by:

a) Getting the only doctor on the trip to look at it, who put steri strips to hold my skin together-kind of like fake stitches and deemed me healthy enough to keep hiking. H was totally freakout and thought I was a goner for sure. Also the day before I had told this particular MD not to tell anyone he was a doctor for heaven's sake-everyone will want free advice! But then there I was lying in my bed with this Dr. looking at my leg...Can anyone say EMBARRASSED??
b) The guide made it PERFECTLY clear that there is not suing in New Zealand! No liability cases-not ever! I think this was to make us feel better?!? There was a report made to the powers that be about the incident...
c) There was alot of worry and fuss over me the rest of the hike. All of the guides constantly asking me if I was OK. Hey I did IMWA-this is a walk in the park!! I must say although the wound did look kind of nasty, it never hurt. My toe hurt worse than the flesh off my shin wound. I ended up covered in all kinds of bandages..

Day 3: We hiked over a pass! It was the most beautiful of mountains..Again the weather was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky...I was a bit tired but it was nothing harder than hiking up the Sandias except with a pack. We had to carry our own packs-imagine that! I was not expecting this for sure. So all the extra clothes kicked my ass in the end. This day was 10.5 miles up and down the mountain and it was hard and easy at the same time..Afterwards, we hiked another 1.5 hours to a spectacular water falls. I did not want to go but H convinced me you will never be here again-you HAVE to go! So I did and was glad...these water falls are the 3rd largest in the world and did not disappoint! Dinner was in the mess hall and the food was just OK, the people were again delightful.
Day 4: The longest hiking day-13 miles. Nothing like a good old half marathon to end our hike. It started with all three guides flittering around me and my wounds. One was massaging my legs while the other re-dressed my leg. The other one just gave me words of encouragement. It was kind of embarrasing really..
The day was easier than it sounds. Despite being somewhat tired of walking, H and I finished at the front of the pack this day and got to "Sandfly Point" a mere 33.5 miles to the end of the Milford Track. Now a bit about these "sandflies" They are the DEVIL!! I got so many bites on my feet that I really thought I would itch to death that night. Even with DEET, those little buggers got me! And good..I was never so glad to get to a "hotel room" in my life that night. We all arrived at a little more upscaled place at the end of our hike and to our delight more spectacular views of Milford Sound, a beautiful place in the world really..We all got certificates for "completing the trek" along with pictures..The guides were amazing..and made the end so fun!

Day 5: A trip around the sound (lake leading into the Tasman Sea) for a couple of hours then on a bus back to Queenstown. This got a bit long and I was tired of traveling, sore..Ready to get back to our current location..HOTEL WONDERFUL in Queenstown. I immediately went out and found cortisone cream for my 50 bug bites, dressings and bandages for my wounds and I was good to go. We strolled around Queenstown last night and it was so magical. This town is a quiant little tourist place on a huge lake with mountains surrounding-a bit of paradise really!

I can only say that this area gets the most rain in the world! January has the most rain in the summer. We were EXTREMELY lucky to have 5 days of no rain, no clouds, warm weather! The guides say this hardly ever happens, often they have to helicoptor folks out because of flooding. In some ways it is nice when it rains I guess because the waterfalls are more plentiful but I will take the sunshine anyday!! The sun is STILL shining-we went up to the top of a gondola today and enjoyed even MORE paradise views..

Hard to believe but we are off to home tomorrow! I am in shock about this..I am very use to living out of my little suitcase and having my meals served to me each night. Oh wait! H does that at home!!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Almost time to come home..

Wow the last few days have been a total blur! We did manage to get a hike in up north of the South Island. We tried to summit a mountain but when we saw the ridge we had to walk over to get there and the clouds rolling in, better judgement ruled out and we headed down. The car ride just to get to the car parking area was an experience in itself. It was like 4 wheel driving without the 4 wheel part. Straight up a gravel road is not my idea of fun. I closed my eyes while H drove and insisted on doing the driving down or else I would have had a heart attack!

The next 3 days we were either on the road or in a bed. The views of the ocean were spectacular, "Panacake Rocks" were a sight to see. We only had one night stays along the western coast of SI, too much driving and not enough rest. The glacier hike on Franz Josef Glacier was a half day of wonderment and excitement as we scaled the temperate ice in the rain with about 50 other folks, with guides (pics on FB-it was so fun!). Quick night's sleep then off to our current location, Wanaka, which is near two BEAUTIFUL lakes that are surrounded by mountains. We have yet to see the tops of these mountains because it has been cloudy/raining the last few days here. It is still stunning scenery. We are at a cute little B&B with really nice rooms overlooking the garden. The main living area is for all guests and we even saw our first taste of CNN in about 8 weeks last night! TV in New Zealand is even worse than Australia. Which is fine..I am out of my TV withdrawal for now.

Today is H's birthday. I surprised him with flowers and "Tim-Tams" this AM. Tim-Tams are New Zealan's version of devil food. Little chocolate cookies (they call them biscuits) that are to die for. I HOPE we cannot find them in the states! We will go out for dinner tonite for his BD, in one of the thousands of fabulous seafood restaurants we have seen/eaten at on our travels.

Tomorrow we head over to Queenstown for the last hour and a half of driving. I will be SO GLAD to get out of the car! The drive stress for 2400 miles on 2 lane highways has been a bit much although it is really the only way you can see this beautiful country...Sunday we start our trek on the Milford Track, a 4 night 5 day catered hiking experience where we will truly be remote for awhile. The hike is suppose to be overwhelmingly beautiful and hopefully the weather will clear for at least part of the walk. There will be 7, 8 and 13 mile walks in the daytime, lodges at night (thank goodness)..

A week from tomorrow we are heading home. Today we have been gone 8 weeks. It seems like in some ways the time has flown by and we are getting a bit homesick. The vacation has been outstanding, more than what we ever thought it would be but I think in a week it will be time to get back to real life, which may take awhile to adjust to again! I miss my people!!

I hope to blog one more time before we leave next week. This is the only way I remember what the heck we have been doing here!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Laundromats are funny..

We managed to get our car turned in and took the 3 hour journey from the North Island to the South Island in NZ, where we picked up our new car. The terrain already looks very different than the NI. Lots of very large mountains and deep valleys. The roads are still very windy but seem to be wider and less drivers out there. We drove from the ferry station to our first stop in the SI, Kaikoura. H wanted to go there especially for the whale watching. When we arrived at this B&B it was much cooler and raining. Not what we have been use to the last 7 weeks! Our host greeted us, I guess in a manner of speaking. These hosts did not seem as friendly and “hands on” as we were use to but the room was another wonderful view so not much to complain about. The breakfasts were the best food we have experienced so it was all a trade-off I suppose. We were more “on our own” in this little town to figure things out. First order of business was to drive to the Whale Watching place and try and book a tour to see the whales. No boats had gone out that day because of the rough seas and stormy weather. We were booked on “standby” for the following days on several of the times although the weather outlook didn’t look much better then either. That evening we enjoyed yet another great seafood dinner (I am, to my astonishment, starting to actually LIKE fish-new for me). We awoke the next morning to more cold and wind. We called the tour operation and the first boat tour was already cancelled. It was beginning to look like we had driven to Kaikoura for nothing because other than whale watching and some hiking, there was not much to do there. Around 9:00 A.M. we were about to go hiking and I suggested we try the waiting list for the Whale boat. We got to the place and there were big signs about strong seasick potential but that a boat was going out. No problem for us! I had some Australian seasick pills so we took our dose and when our names were called, we felt like we had won the lottery! Which we did because sometimes they do not see ANY whales, in which case they refund your money but alas we managed to see not one, but FOUR Sperm Whales. It was amazing really. These very large creatures only stay on the surface about 15 minutes before they dive down and feed for about 45 minutes. You can really only see about 25% of their size (they were as long as our boat). Spectacular sight!! Even with the very rocky boat ride, it was a highlight of our trip! On the way back we were treated with a pod of about 150 dolphins, who did acrobatics for us as we circled them in the boat. How lucky we were getting to do this tour in that little window. I think they cancelled more boats that day and the following day when we left, there was even more wind!

We did the hike that afternoon. The guilt of eating so much and knowing we have a pretty big hike to do in a week spurred us on in spite of the cold, windy weather. It was a nice 2 hour hike that followed the east coastline with mountains on one side and rocky beaches below. I am certainly not in Ironman shape anymore but I can still walk!

The next AM we were off to our current location, Abel Tasman National Park which is back up on the north coast of the SI. The drive here took about 5 hours with spectacular scenery of mountains and rivers. I did appreciate the beauty but I am getting pretty tired of being in the car, I must admit! Good thing we are in our current B&B for 3 nights. This place is totally different than any place we have been. It is deep in the woods next to the National Forest. We have a little “chalet” that is kind of like an apartment/cabin. It has good and bad things. Good thing-the beauty of the location is ridiculous, it is remote and the birds singing at night make it pretty magical. The not so great thing is we have to cook our own breakfast! See how spoiled I am getting! It is called “self catering” if you opt for the chalet with no lodge dining, which I guess we did via our travel agent many months ago. So rather than a B&B, this is a B&do-it-yourself Breakfast. Also no internet connection in the chalet. Oh well, I can make the 100 meter walk to the lodge to upload my pics. I have decided that B&Bs are made or broken in the first encounter you have with the hosts. If they do not seem enthusiastic and love what they do, it shows and the B&B experience for the guests suffer. Well that has been my experience anyways. I could never run a B&B so never should-it looks like really a lot of work and you have to be “on” all the time for your guests. Well these hosts (we only met the wife, the husband waved and ran away when we arrived) are less than enthusiastic. And want $20 to do a load of laundry when you are paying for 5 star service? Forget it-we will do our own. Which we did and have a VERY funny story along with it.

After we got settled in to our do it yourself B&B, we headed into town to do the laundry and shop for dinner. Mind you it has been awhile since we have used Laundromats-I think we did last summer once but anyway it has been since my late teens that this has been part of my routine. H & I went into the place and I put 2 loads in while H went to get change. After starting the wash I went to the nearest internet café to catch up on my emails, etc. After about 20 minutes, H offered to go put the clothes in the dryer. Sure I said, engrossed on Facebook, I am sure. When I got back to the Laundromat there was H and all our stuff was in one dryer. I asked H why and it was obvious the other BIG dryer was being used. A cute little couple was there watching that one with some stuff in it. I noticed one of the washers I had used was not opened. Hmm, I thought that was weird. I looked inside and there was one of our loads of laundry. I asked H didn’t you put these in? He said yes had put 2 loads in the dryer. Then I realized-he had put this couple’s laundry into the dryer with ours. This was something out of a Seinfeld episode I swear. I opened the dryer and asked the woman as I took out some thong underwear is this yours? She said why yes it was. I took each item out and as each piece of sexy underwear, hosiery and bras came out I handed them to her. It was hilarious! Then they offered to pay us for drying some of their stuff! I said no and we all laughed. H at this point had to leave the Laundromat he was so embarrassed and could not stop laughing. I, on the other hand was MORTIFIED that my husband had actually touched another woman’s underwear and put it in the dryer with our clothing. Also how strange this couple did not say anything about half their clothing missing before we discovered it! We left the Laundromat laughing so hard we could not stop. The funny thing is H kept thinking I have never seen Debi wear this as he pulled each one of those items out and still put it in with our stuff! (Note to self-men really do not pay attention to what underwear we wear after all)..
Such is a day in the life of world travelers!

OK so we are still laughing about this today! This morning we headed out to the ocean to do a Kayak Tour of the “Tasman Bay” I have never done this kind of sea kayaking-where you wear the skirt thingy that attaches to the kayak. H & I were in a double kayak. There were 3 other folks and the guide, who was wonderful. It is a beautiful sunny warm day here in northern SI New Zealand. We enjoyed the 2 hour kayaking observing golden sand beaches, seals, birds and fantastic forest and mountainous scenery. We were back in our chalet by 1:00. We feel compelled to do some hiking, this place is so beautiful and it would be a sin to NOT hike in it. But it is also nice just sitting here relaxing and enjoying the privacy and loveliness of this place in the woods…Like Chama in New Zealand!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Views, views and more views!

After leaving the “forest” and the big trees of the west coast, we drove back over to the east coast, a little further south through many incredibly tough, hairpin turny roads to our next destination “Hahei”. The B&B here was overlooking a beautiful beach with many little islands jutting out of the protected harbor that led out to the ocean. The nearest land to the east of this place was basically South America, so this was considered the “real east coast” of the north Island. Each of the Bed and Breakfasts has had a different flavor to them. This home was a million dollar home with amazing views. The hosts were very nice although a little more rigid than we have had in the past, breakfast times had to be arranged the night before and “happy hour” kind of an expectation. It’s all good,..We had our little glasses of juice at happy hour and enjoyed meeting another very nice German couple who we ran into again in another town the next night. Two nights here and we packed it full of boat rides around the fantastic coast, a hike up to “Cathedral Cove”- a moderately difficult hike up, along with about a thousand other tourists-not our favorite part but was good exercise and killer views at the top. I was dragging that day, had not slept well in a couple of nights and after the harrowing drive and yes I was a grump! We did have 2 VERY good dinners in this town. Lots of lamb offered and beef but I did manage to sneak in a good chicken dish here. The breakfasts in the B&Bs are pretty standard-Muesli, juice, toast, yogurt and eggs cooked in some way. Usually bacon is involved but we have managed to escape the bacon route in most places. This town “Hahei” was filled to the brim with tourists and I was a bit happy to be leaving there.

Onward to a completely different terrain and accommodations. We were near a lake in “Rototura” which again is somewhat of a tourist town and it is high season here. The draw in this place is all the geothermal lakes and sulphur springs. Our B&B here was away from the town however in a quaint Victorian home away from the hubbub, and had spectacular views of mountains in their back yard. I have pics on FB. The hosts here were delightful. They were the friendliest and nicest folks we have encountered so far. We felt sad to leave! Onward to another hike down to a lake, where on the way we encountered some amazing geothermal steam spewing from a previously erupted volcano (100 years ago). A boat ride around the lake and more fantastic natural phenomena and we were thermaled out! We also had a dinner cooked by the “Maori” people along with an authentic dance and singing-followed by a “forest walk” where we managed to finally see 2 of the endangered Kiwis we have heard so much about. It was kind of a touristy event but I enjoyed it just the same..

While there, we found a little secret restaurant overlooking Rotorua and the lake, where Reindeer were roaming in the yard and 180 degree views of the lake and mountains. Very romantic and fantastic food! OK, so now we have “run”/hiked 3 times this week. My clothes should start fitting better right? I am truly going to have sugar withdrawal when I get back home after all the chocolate desserts I have consumed in the last 6 weeks!

We passed through Lake Taupo (Taupoo they say here) for lunch the next day. It is a HUGE lake where Ironman New Zealand is held in March. The town itself is adorable and we shopped there where I bought more warm clothing in case the South Island is colder and the trek has snow or some oddity like that. We could have spent a few days in Lake Taupo-I sighed when we passed a spectacular looking HILTON there. Oh well, off we went to our next digs, which were not too shabby. Another ridiculously fantastic home, where our room is so high up, I was almost afraid of the heights looking down at the ocean. Glass windows surround our bedroom and again the views are different everywhere we have gone-here is no exception. The hosts again seemed very nice. It is customary for most of these folks to kind of give you the “low down” of the area, good places to go and eat and see. I think here we may hang out in the room a bit and rest-it is quite an experience in itself. The town “Napier” again on the eastern coast has an interesting history in that it was flattened in 1930 by an earthquake (OK this makes me a bit nervous but the host says they only get “4 or 5” small ones a year now”)..The town was rebuilt in art deco architecture so I got some good photos of the town and its unusual buildings.

Next drive was a bit less harried-I think we may be past the really tight turns and tiny lanes to drive in on the left side of the road. H & I are finally not turning on our windshield wipers every time we want to turn and so far have survived the stress of driving. I will say this part of the trip is a bit of a surprise for me (stress of driving) but other parts have been good surprises, such as the excellent food we have had most everywhere and the views-well what can I say? All that I expected and more. And we have not even gotten to the South Island yet…

We landed here in Wellington yesterday. We are in a restored 1920s style home right in the heart of the city. The host served us “tea’ when we arrived in the pouring rain yesterday afternoon. Another fantastic Kiwi, who drove us around town to give us a tour then up on “Victoria Hill” where we could see a 360 degree view of the city, the bay and straight to the South Pole almost out over the ocean. Unreal! After canapés and “drinks” served by our hosts here last night we had dinner at a buzzing restaurant in Wellington, which is about the size of ABQ. It seems folks eat pretty late here. After a really good dinner, the place was still abuzz with people as we walked back to the B&B.

I got a bit homesick the other day briefly. I miss my family-thank goodness for our new found Skype, where we can see the grandbabies! I also miss my routine mostly and having more clothing to choose from and the feeling of being “trapped” if there is not a store close by, etc..But for absolutely the most part, I am still having the time of my life on this “adventure” which seems to have gone very smoothly so far, no disappointments so far. The only bad thing is at each place there is WAY more to do than we have time for! I will be definitely giving most of the clothes away I have been wearing now for 7 weeks straight. They are getting a bit worn!

Tomorrow we turn in our present car, aboard the ferry and travel across to the South Island, about a 3 hour ride. Then we pick up a new car in Picton on the South Island and start our drive to the next B&B. The adventure continues!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beaches, big trees and I ran!

Auckland Hilton 5 star anniversary went by way too quickly. H & I spent New Year’s Day just hanging out in our fantastic hotel robes on the fantastic deck watching the boats come in enjoying the day. We ordered room service since we had gone out to eat the night before at a great place overlooking the harbor. We celebrated the bringing in of the New Year and our anniversary, which is always conveniently on NYE! It has been many a year since room service has been part of our vocabulary. I loved that Hilton so much H even bought me the little Hilton Teddy Bear that was on our pillow when we arrived. It was outrageously expensive but I am sure they sucker in many softies like me into buying the cute little things! One of our best anniversaries ever and it was our 18th. So after 3 nights of prompt service, electric blinds, soap that smells like a spa (including a loofah), the killer view in the anniversary suite, we hit the road.

After spending an hour in the Avis line to get the car (they were suppose to deliver it), we finally got a little Toyota. Not the Pre-Ass mind you, but close enough (Corolla). This will be our home for the next 3 weeks. We left Auckland and apparently so did everyone else there late that morning. The guy who picked us up at the airport the day before “Uncle” told us to hit the road early to avoid traffic. What did he know? A lot I guess because a 4 hour trip took about 6 hours to our next destination, Kerikeri, Northlands, New Zealand. This is on the east coast of the North Island of NZ. It is close but not next to the ocean (now the Pacific Ocean). The scenery on the drive got better and better as the greenery is stunning and mountainous views became more and more interesting. I was a bit stressed about halfway into the drive as the road became more windy and sharp turns and one way bridges abound. Riding on the left side of the road when you are the passenger is a nail biting experience. I finally took the wheel and calmed down a bit while H bit his nails for awhile.

We finally arrived at the Bed (that is “beed” in NZ) and Breakfast, the Summer House where our delightful hosts, Christine and Rod greeted us and helped us settle into our new abode, a suite with a garden view that is unbelievable right out our back door. The room was great (not the Hilton). Our hosts were the best part. Rod had many facts about the history of New Zealand which is fascinating in itself. A country not so old, again a story of the British coming and taking over the natives although this time the natives seemed to appreciate it a bit more from what I can gather. The first day in Kerikeri, we drove to the touristy section Pahaiu (sp?) which was not so impressive on the Harbor so we took off down the ocean and found our own little secluded beach to have a picnic lunch. It was so flies..OMG that is such a treat after Australia!! The Pacific Ocean is considerably colder so did not swim but lay on the beach for hours. Afterwards, we went to a fantastic place for dinner, where we met up with some of our B&B mates and had dinner with them. They were a delightful English couple, traveling like we are throughout NZ.

The following AM we thought it just may be time for us to start running again. Our gracious host Rod, is a very fit 71 year old man, who just happened to know a great place to run, probably 5-6 miles round trip up to some pretty nice Falls. We invited him to join us and he did! Although he kept saying he would “hold us back”-Ha! He is in great shape and since the last time I actually “ran" was many weeks ago (walking the marathon at IMWA does not count), I did pretty well! We made it to the top of Falls in no time and despite a bit of rain running felt great!

Afterwards, we were suppose to go out on a boat for some dolphin viewing and view of the “Bay of Islands” , the general area we were in but after a conversation with the captain and something about “gale force winds” and rain in the forecast just did not sound like fun for a 3 hour tour on the ocean to us so we skipped that. H found instead a great Museum of the heritage of the “Maori” people, indigenous to the area, where we spent a cultural afternoon learning and enjoying entertainment from the local natives. Beautiful grounds, great art in the “meeting house”. It was a place I will remember about the history of New Zealand. Again another fantastic seafood restaurant where H wolfed down giant mussels as big as your hand, another favorite of the area. Since I had run that morning, I justified a huge piece of cheesecake afterward with little guilt.

Yesterday morning we said goodbye to our amazing hosts at the "Summer House" and made our way over to the west coast of the North Island. We stopped at a cozy little café for Espresso on the River which led to the ocean. It was quaint and a great stop on our way to the big show, which was an amazing Reserve on our way to the “forest.” At the top of this Reserve was a view of the mouth of the river and then the Ocean crashing against the rocks on the other sides with sand dunes and green mountains all in a 360 degrees picture perfect-almost too much to take in-experience. It seems like every beach or ocean view we see on this trip is better than the last. I almost can’t take it all in and the pictures again do not do New Zealand justice.

We soon entered the “Waipoa Forest” which took us up and down hairpin turns (H used the word “harrowing”) for a good 45 minutes and I was a bit seasick by the time we got to our current location, The “Waipoa Lodge” at the edge of the forest. It is another write home about accommodation, complete with its own “Rain Forest” bush walk which words cannot describe..

We went for a “Night Bush Walk” last night. It was guided with a local Maori native, who explained the history and information about the “Kauri” trees, big OLD trees in this dense forest. The oldest one was 4000 years old, which was magnificent and as majestic as can be. Was spiritual in a way but I think the mosquitoes got the better of us by the end. I ended up with massive bites on my legs and by the time we got home I was itching like crazy. I hardly slept last night, it was so cold in our room. I didn’t realize it would be so much colder here near the “forest” (duh) and did not find the room heater until this AM. So a restless night to say the least. We are off back south to the east warmer side of the North Island again tonight so more fabulous beaches I would imagine…It will be more toward the southern end, where we will be for 2 nights.

More later..