Sierra de Tramuntana, Mallorca

Arriving back in the UK after a year in New Zealand felt so natural, I guess it must have been time to move on. There are moments now where I question what the hell we are doing when all I hear is chaos on the radio and in the paper. Walking through Brighton nearly sent me into a panic as there were so many people, Ive been away from all of this for a significant time. Just to clarify – the newspapers in New Zealand never announced world news on the front page, you would need to search for the World section in your lunch break. The rest of the paper focussed on local news such as community affairs. I have to say it was very refreshing however I went along with this mentality and cut off all news of home whilst I was there. Ignorance really is bliss but I dont think that personality trait ever goes down well here. My partner, Mark, visited me and was amazed at the news on the television. If it wasnt farming news it was biscuit rating time, or 10 minutes back and forth from the studio to the reporter trying to pick a song for an elderly brass band to play (they settled on Happy Birthday after establishing that they couldnt remember the song from My Fair Lady).

Mark and I flew to Mallorca, Spain. I grew up there and seeing friends and family was long overdue. Our house is situated in the heart of the Sierra de Tramuntana which is a UNESCO world heritage site due to its culture and beauty. Our cottage lays on a hill between the mountains called Galatzo and Bauza. Like most of the island the rock is limestone which provides great thermals for birds to soar upwards on. I worked on a project to help conserve the population of vultures who lived in the area due to the lands characteristics.

We spent our days snorkelling in the beautiful Mediterranean sea, and our evening sat out in the dusty dusk light, eating olives and salads with good beer and company. The featured photo was taken along the coast from Port Adriano. We rented a two seater sea kayak and set out to explore. The coastline is very interesting, there are lots of caves and old forgotten features scattered among the limestone sea cliffs. I have no idea what the door in the photo was used for, it has steps carved out of the rock and further up there is another doorway which you can just make out.

The Mediterranean is like a nursery for the Mediterranean Great Whites (Carcharodon Carcharias), I’ve never had the mis/fortune of meeting one but it makes swimming there a lot more special, they come down to breed (it probably has something to do with the Tuna population as well). The nutrient level is relatively low, you can determine this by observing the clarity of the sea water (which attracts so many tourists every year). Fortunatley there were no Jellyfish (or Medusas as they say), which made snorkelling pain free this year, however apparently there were many blooms down in Formentera. At the end of our visit we had trained our bodies to allow us more time under the water, and the water became an accesible world to us.

For the first time in my 20 years living there I had made peace with the ocean and found a mutual ground with it.

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Wanaka

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I grabbed a job working on treble cone ski field.  Found a house in wanaka town,  and drove my cousins scrapper around.  The towns amazing and the people are so laid back its almost ridiculous.  You have to make an active effort to be unhealthy as everything is organic and well sourced.  Everyone is into yoga and sustainable living.

Working was fun,  I was part of a great team and learnt how the ski fields work.  It’s made up of very hard working and dedicated people,  snow makers worked all night and sometime their work was undone by rain at dawn.  Patrol kept the mountain safe and us in services kept the guests happy. 

The hiking was beautiful.  You had the short walks like rob Roy glacier and Mount iron,  then you had longer ones like Roy’s peak etc. I left before the real snow hit after 6 weeks of work (it was a bad start to the season as the snow never stayed), I really needed to go home to the UK!

I knew I would miss the landscapes,  the water is so pure in the south you can drink straight off the rock or icicle.  The low population meant that there was never a rush hour and wild food ‘pot luck’  dinners were a thing. The conservation status was very unique as humans actually fight nature to try and undo what the invasive species have done (the invasive species being us as we brought in ferrets, deer and rabbits etc)…When I was working with doc I’m my first job I was lucky enough to work with the bio team setting up tracking tunnels. In doing this we could get an idea of the rodent population,  with the beech mast year it was important to get it right as further action may need to be taken to help fight the battle for the birds. We were flown by helicopter into the Iris Burn Valley in Fiordland. We spent two days working, protected from the intense sun by the mountain beech. Our footsteps were cushioned by the sphagnum moss.  If you leant on a tree it usually fell as the moss had enveloped and rotted it.  Black robins and fantails would closely follow your every move to gorge on what lay under the grounds foliage.  We used a gps to keep ourselves from getting lost but the deer leads below and distinct mountain peaks above meant we would have stood a chance if technology failed. 

All in all New Zealand’s landscapes have set the bar high. 

Breathing Fiordland

I arrived in October to work for the Department of Conservation in Te Anau. It wasn’t an easy move to say the least and it didn’t get any easier, I just got used to missing the people I love. Stepping into the arrivals lounge I was tackled, hugged and kissed by my relatives who I was going to get to know throughout the coming months. After a hospitable stay with them I moved down to Te Anau to settle in to the house and job. Te Anau is literally the corner of the world and it is stunning and undisturbed. The job started off hard, it got easier and started to come naturally. I was sorting hikers onto the world famous tracks: Milford, Kepler and Routeburn.

As the months went on I got to know the area well and my fitness got good. Favourite tracks were usually long day hikes (5-12 hours) these included Gertrudes Saddle, Mt. Burns, the Routeburn, Luxmore, Lake Alabaster and many more. Its a very harsh environment, very unforgivable and unfortunately I got to know that as time went on and more tragedies happened. Your safety is your responsibility and there is no such thing as bad weather but there is bad equipment, wet feet are the norm and blisters are the least of your worries.  Don’t even try shifting the blame, do the research particularly on weather and forecasts. The impermeable granite cliffs caused river levels to rise and fall extremely fast. As the hut warden of Mintaro says “if you hear and avalanche/rock slip, dont run, you’ll only die tired!”. But the tracks are a haven for beautiful birds such as the fantail, rifleman, weka and sometimes kiwi (if you’re lucky).

8 months at DOC Te Anau – a great place to work, I had a great boss and a tight team. I bagged myself a job on Treble Cone for the winter so I said my goodbyes and moved on.