Queenstown, New Zealand
21st January 2021

Happy Christmas and merry new year. Even though it's almost February!

I don't know anyone who had an ordinary Christmas. Those in New Zealand all enjoyed a weird summer Christmas away from home and family and those in the UK (or elsewhere) likely endured a quieter, more simple Christmas than usual. I hope that no matter your situation you made the most of it. My Christmas involved many friends and much fun, but I don't really see it as a real Christmas. We did a secret santa (I gave a plant and I received a journal). We all cooked some food and enjoyed a potluck style feast.

For months I have been thinking about my new year plans. New year was bound to be a little tricky for me since it marks a year since breaking up with my ex. I didn't want to spend new year drinking and partying like last year - instead I really wanted a Matt-style new year. So, since November I have planned that I would climb a big mountain and watch the new year roll in from up high. The weather was touch and go but with a little bit of luck the clouds stayed high and at 10pm I started my climb up to the mountain summit at 1748 metres. I met two other midnight mountain climbers (Zoe and Alejandro) and we saw the new year in together. They were kind people - I'm glad to have met them and chatted with them for a good hour. I watched the fireworks from the summit and was disappointed to find that fireworks didn't fly as high as I had hoped and thought. Fireworks really don't go very high... Now I know.

I have been thinking more and more about my next big adventure. It has been almost five months since I ran 100 miles and I have a real itch to do something big again. My initial plan was to run a local 100 mile route with an insane 8500 metres of vertical ascent, a run only completed by two people so far. It would have taken me 30+ hours and involved climbing seven mountain summits. I am still very interested in this run but I am not going to do it yet. Perhaps late 2021?

Instead, we are going bigger. Way further distance, way more mountains. But, for a change, I'm not going to push myself very hard. I'm seeing this more like a gentle hike than a rough backcountry ultra marathon. I will hike* 1000 kilometres from the top of the South Island all the way back to my home in Queenstown (*I will run sometimes - technically I am fastpacking, but mostly I will be hiking). I will follow the Te Araroa, New Zealand’s longest trail. Te Araroa translates to The Long Pathway and it covers 3000 kilometres in full. It is a backcountry trail which regularly sees hikers away from towns, roads or people for hundreds of kilometres. This is a opportunity for me to leave Queenstown for a while, something I have felt I need to do more and more. I love Queenstown as a place more than anywhere, but getting away from here for a while will do me good. This adventure is my most expensive adventure yet, but it is so worth it to me. I haven't done the maths, but I'd guess that per hour it might be my cheapest adventure yet. My 100 miler lasted 26 hours, this hopefully lasts over 600 hours.

I have been in contact with the race director of the Shotover Moonlight Marathon, a local trail race, and I have been asked to be a forerunner for the ultra marathon. This is a volunteer role in which I run ahead of the race making sure the course and markers are all correct. When I contacted them offering my help I expected, and was happy with, a simple role in an aid station or handing out medals at the finish line. I was very excited when they asked me to be a forerunner, not least because of the opportunities it offers me. I have been invited out to mark a section of the course with the director and I have been offered helicopter transport for the race. I hope to make the most of this.

Running over Queenstown
Fireworks from up high
Moonlight track running in the wet
Sam Summers hut
The sun rising over the Remarkables
Early morning sun over the lake
The view from the Big Hill saddle near Arrowtown
About to descend the marshland creek
The stars from Bob's Cove