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.