Up Up & Away

I swear that Christmas feels like it was a couple of weeks ago. Blink a couple of times and Easter is upon us already.
While most people look forward to the leisurely days of this Autumn vacation, for the past 7 years it has always signalled the change of the seasons, that my time at home is coming to an end and the climax of my annual pack down.
Garage floors become littered with a paraphernalia of sporting equipment and piles of kit forms in like for like piles. One day I’ll learn to stick to singular activities which don’t involve copious amounts of gear. But that would be like asking the Pope if he is Catholic (it’s Easter after all).
Less is more and while I advocate a such an approach when it comes to possessions and consumerism, it still takes time to go through all your worldly possessions and evaluate if they stay or if they go.
So every Easter instead of battling the holiday motorway gridlock, I stay local and organise…then re-organise my life over and over again until I have it down to the final edit. Once the final edit is festooned into packing cells, it makes it to the bags and boxes ready for takeoff.
Given a 23kg weight limit per bag, packing for multiple pursuits and multiple locations and attempting to avoid all unnecessary baggage fees this is a cryptic jigsaw in itself.
I refer to it as therapy, and there’s some weird kind of satisfaction that comes with the art of ‘precision packing’ as I #kondo the crap out of anything and everything that has made the final piles.
It’s the same kind of satisfaction you get from closing in on the final few pieces of a 1000 piece jigsaw while the mind wanders on the happenings of another summer; the highs, the lows and the challenges.
And trust me, this past summer had plenty of all of them.
Red Bull Defiance in the Wanaka, NZ on January 22, 2017
Red Bull Defiance in the Wanaka, NZ on January 22, 2017
If you’re from New Zealand – especially the South Island, you’ll be well aware that summer forgot to turn up. Instead of baking in searing dry heat in the Southern Lakes District, December and January will be remembered for their precipitation, snow and unseasonal wearing of down. If you bought bikinis in the hope of a tan, you won’t need to buy any next summer as these ones are yet to see the light of day.
In search of summer, I jettisoned north to the warmer isle in search of sun, surf, sand and warmth. Instead I arrived to relentless torrential rain and a forecast that bore the rain symbol for the next ten days straight.
I got wet, and have pretty much stayed wet or somewhat damp for the past two months.
Many a training session turned into ‘victory-at-sea’.
Countless rides got rain checked and a couple of stacks off my bike plus a miss-timed ejection from a wave meant a painful couple of months nursing a semi-destroyed shoulder and banged up ribs. Oh the fun of it all.
Like every year, you’ll always be challenged by something and this year is was definitely the weather and having to eat concrete for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
As each storm has torn it’s path, it would be easy to forget that there were some moments that fell into the monumental category and worthy of a mention.
Arriving home at the end of October, I went into lock down in an attempt to get my house build finally underway. After the months delays of courtesy of the Queenstown Lakes District Council Easier this was easier said than done. But come late November contracts were signed and the heavy machinery ensure that it was acton stations and all systems go pre-Christmas.
I’m not going to lie, I had a vision….and I had a budget, both of which don’t easily match in the same sentence. Project House was mildly all consuming but like anything, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do the best job of it.
Now that is two thirds completed, I’ve being rewarded with seeing the fruits of that effort as the structure takes shape and my vision comes to life (courtesy of pics from Mum and Dad). It’s not trying to be anything fancy, but as anyone in the land of milk and honey knows, this kind of project is now nigh on impossible with the influx of people also wanting to move and live in paradise inflating owning a house to official Paradise Tax status.
On the physical side, nothing really resembled ‘training’ per se and followed a protocol of ‘dates with mates’ on bikes, boards, up hills, down dales, through snow storms, across lakes, staying in back country huts, camping atop mountains, paragliding and putting my hand in the ring to tackle masochistic sporting events with little idea of what I was getting myself into. Anyone up for 2 days of running around the hills for 14hrs in the biggest summer snow storm anyone can remember? You get the picture of how the dates-with-mates programme rolls.
You can train the body or you can train the mind. It’s my time in the deep south that has a habit of doing both by default. In fact you’ll be hard pressed to find me even mentioning the word training. It’s about getting out amongst the landscape and disappearing for hours at a time in search of mind blowing vistas and the thrill of feeling like you’re standing on top of the world or shrouded by towering mountain ranges. Often times it was also a case of hanging on for dear life to avoid being blown off ridges, remaining upright and making it home in one piece.
Missions are the things I live for and if the phone goes at a moments notice, there’s only ever one answer…yes and it’s all systems go.
Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, NZ on January 21st, 2017
Red Bull Defiance in Wanaka, NZ on January 21st, 2017
Wanaka is the kind of place where close to everything you do is dictated by the weather and you need an arsenal of toys and ways to play to ensure the extra long days of summer can be enjoyed to their maximum. The byproduct of this environment is that it tends to attract a lot of people who value and live for the same highs and regardless of summer’s dismal behaviour, the memories forged from many a mission are what remains indented in your memory.
It’s this love of doing that will always keep drawing me back and seeking out new places to explore and new ways to interact with the environment. To run, to ride, to paddle, to surf, to coach and to compete.
As I took a break from the final stretch of packing last night to escape for a couple of hours paddling into the sunset of Auckland’s upper harbour, the sun’s rays cast rays shooting in a perfect circle against the harbour bridge.
As I passed Watchman’s Island I turned downwind with the last of the setting sun at my back to be greeted with the lights of the city scape glistening against the night sky. It was  pitch black by the time I made it back to where I’d started, guided by the ambient light twinkling on the water.
It was the calm after the fury of Cyclone Cook and the calm before the next metaphorical turbulence that is the hurricane of six months living out of bags in search of adventure.
One thing is for sure, chapters come and go, the seasons may chance, but the hunger to experience, to adventure and to challenge the status quo is stronger than ever.
Happy Easter & I’ll see you on the flip side.

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