How NOT to do the Tongariro Crossing

1. Have your husband pull his hamstring at rugby the week before. Nothing but pain can come from that.

2. Get lost driving to the shuttle pick up point and just about miss our ride. Bloody Aucklanders.

3. Fail to plan out a good lunch stop beforehand. Result: a teeth-chattering summit stop in freezing temperatures.

4. Forget that you have a terrible head for heights and that the ‘alpine’ part of the crossing does actually involve a mountain ascent. (Seriously, I always do this!)

Despite the mishaps, this was an epic experience from start to finish.

Hiking the Tongariro Crossing, April 2015

Tongariro Alpine crossing - NZ Muse

It all starts with a few kilometres of easy jaunts through fairly flat terrain in the Mangatepopo Valley. The sun is a scorcher, although as we wander in and out of sheltered valleys, the wind amps up to a pretty ferocious bite at times.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Mt Ngauruhoe

 

Why hello there, Mt Doom! (Mt Ngauruhoe, actually.) Those colours are REAL.

 

Tongariro Crossing - flat valley looks like Mars

 

Only a panorama could do this part justice. It was like an alien moonscape, down in a wide, barren flat.

 

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Mt Ngauruhoe

Clouds rolling in past the mountain peak. (No, we didn’t climb this one. It adds 3 hours to the trek and most definitely was beyond the ability of at least some of our group.)

Scrambling up the slippery earth and scoria slope toward the Red Crater summit did get slightly hairy; this is about the point when I remembered HEY I get dizzy at heights, and wind + fog only exacerbate that by infinity! It’s safe to say I didn’t really enjoy myself along this stretch.

This is also when it started to get seriously, seriously cold. We spotted a few slivers of ice along the ground up here.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Red Crater at summit

The Red Crater reveals itself at the summit. The colours, again, are out of this world.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Red Crater at summit

The sheer scale of it blew my mind. The enormity is humbling.

Then it was time to descend. Surprise #1: the big volcanic rock ridges were warm to the touch! Surprise #2: there was a whiff of that (un)lovely geothermal smell in the air. Surprise #3: those lakes!

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

The three Emerald Lakes are all slightly different colours, as you can see here: a deeper green, light green and a blue.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

 

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

Tongariro Alpine crossing - Emerald Lakes

You can see the wind rippling across the surface of the lakes.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock

Fog was a near constant companion through the second half of the hike.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock

 

T found it boring, but I was in my happy place. I love these muted reds, yellows, purples – volcanic, desert type landscapes are my absolute favourite in the world.

Tongariro Alpine crossing - last stretches, volcanic landscapes and tussock

The very last stretch (not pictured) turns into what looks exactly like West Auckland bush.  Every single one of us felt this part was neverending – it just seemed to go on and on forever! It felt like someone should be at the end to greet us with medals once we emerged into the carpark (or at least hand out Milo and cookies).

We lucked out with great visibility and no rain. I can absolutely see why this hike gained its reputation as the best one-day hike in NZ.

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Currently on my mind:

Why is dental care not subsidised (beyond age 18 that is) while pregnancy costs are? Dental care is something everyone needs. Having children is not. (No, I don’t have kids, and yes, I would like to one day.)

The internet can be a pretty damn ugly place sometimes. More than one person I follow has quit Twitter in recent times. Another made the mistake of hashtagging a tweet with GamerGate, and you can imagine what followed (I made the exact same mistake a few weeks earlier). I’m always aware when I publish something painfully honest that there’s likely going to be the odd thoughtless comment, but it still hurts when they come.

Nothing is permanent, really, is it? From cookware to clothing, everything wears out eventually.

This week’s links

That deep, deep craving for certainty

On not raising bilingual kids (I wasn’t and mine won’t be either)

Everyone needs hacks to keep their marriage sane

Doing money as a compulsive worrier

How our childhood perspectives on money continue to shape us

Getting the inside scoop on a new company

For those of us not in favour of mailing lists

You don’t have to be excited to stay committed

Achievement unlocked: Surviving a year of unemployment, setbacks and an unplanned move

Achievement unlocked: Surviving a year of unemployment, financial setbacks and an unplanned move

At the end of 2015 we’ll celebrate 10 years. But today it’s two years of being married. Year 2 has been fucking hard, thanks to all the curveballs life bowled at us. (If I hadn’t made those vows, I’m really not sure I could have stuck it out.)

Unemployment is the root of all evil. Financial stress is the worst. Everything builds on from there.

Is it sad that money (or lack of) could take such a toll on our relationship? Sure, but it’s not love that makes the world go round – it’s money.

Our opposite personalities normally complement each other, but during this time they put us at odds.

Emma Lincoln has it right. Fear is the problem. I was constantly stressed, and my body started coming to pieces in response. I was afraid, on a daily basis, for so long.

I’m still scared. Terrified that the curveballs are only going to come harder and faster in the future.

It would be cruel to have to endure another year like it. But anything can happen. More than one person has reminded me recently that ultimately much of your life is beyond your control, and grand plans are often going to be derailed. The rug could be pulled out from under us at any time, and I’m trying to be okay with that. (It so nearly was just the other week. The joys of temp life.)

I want to say that I feel hopeful about the future, but I’m reluctant to tempt fate (that is just asking for trouble) and thus, even though I’m feeling pretty happy on a day to day basis, that’s probably not going to be reflected in my writing. For now at least, as long as money’s coming in and I have a somewhat dry and warm house to live in, that can be enough.

On the plus side, I’ve finally got around to getting our wedding photos printed. Waiting on them to arrive. Hurrah!

Friday rant: Polyester, telcos and the world at large

Friday rant

Because we all need to let off some steam every once in a while.

How the hell is polyester so damn pervasive?

I’ve gotten a tad obsessed with fabrics lately (trying to send my eczema back to where it came from) and I’m so freaked out by how even expensive garments are made of this crap. I bought my first silk item recently, and also stumbled across a random  silk clothing shop downtown. Alas, it mainly sells weird, hippy, old lady type clothes – but it’s still fascinating to see and feel all the different manifestations of silk.

Vodafone NZ, seriously?

T has been on a Vodafone plan for years that no longer exists and was really good value (60 minutes, tons of texts, 3GB for about $40 a month). But now 2degrees has come out with some really competitive mobile plans (unlimited calls/texts and 2.5GB of data for $49 a month) and so we switched him over. The last Vodafone bill came through last week – $359. I wish I was kidding. Trying to get to the bottom of that.

Will we ever stop blaming the victim?

I already know the answer to that. I’m so disgusted. And embarrassed by my country.

Anything you want to get off your chest?

Feelings, why you be so confusing?

i've been losing sleep dreaming about the things that we could be

Have you ever had to rethink something quite fundamental in your relationship? Had emotions/opinions you didn’t know you had start to reveal themselves?

Let me try and put some of these thoughts into a vaguely coherent order.

We’ve had joint finances to one degree or another for years. I’m not gonna lie; when I was benefiting from that arrangement – me studying and T working full time – it was great. He clocked a lot of hours and earned a good wage. I didn’t give it a second thought, though I was aware in the back of my mind that I’d be in a slightly tight spot if we broke up.

NOT that I would want to return to that state of affairs by any means, but right now the situation is reversed and it has been for a long time. While I’ve progressed steadily, he’s basically been treading water – particularly accounting for inflation. Highlights: A job that was meant to lead to apprenticeship and qualification, and even better money, evaporated in the GFC. Another job promised advancement and promotion but failed to deliver, so he quit outright when we went travelling. Upon our return, two jobs turned toxic and fizzed out suddenly. (The first of those could have seen him pulling in six figures…)

For the first time in awhile, there is no longer the shimmer of a high(er) income around the corner. The current state of affairs is not totally settled, so I won’t go into any detail, but it is not lucrative, nor is it likely to be. I’m cool with that – right now I just want consistency over everything else.

While I do consider all money ‘ours’, that hasn’t sat all that well with me lately, as I’ve had to support us both through months and months of unemployment – for the better part of a year, in fact. Over time I became quietly, seethingly resentful, and that’s an uncomfortable feeling to have.

We are a team. We’re married. I am well aware of this. As a work buddy wisely pointed out, the pendulum swings back and forwards at different times. Her relationship balance is about to swing as she stares down the barrel of maternity leave, and leaning on her fiance for financial support.

I’d always expected T to eventually return to outearning me, but the way things have panned out, it looks like I’m going to continue to be the main earner forever. Which is fine, since I’m also the more career-driven one. But I can’t honestly say this sits completely well with me either, and that’s a feeling I’m struggling to come to grips with.

One astute commenter on this fantastic post at A Practical Wedding, On Marrying Down, really nails this dilemma. I can’t put it any more succinctly than this:

I’m also the more career-oriented partner and I’ve struggled with the idea of “marrying down” in some ways. It’s hard for me not to judge my husband according to those social standards of how men are “supposed” to think about work. But the truth is that if he was as ambitious as I am it would probably produce a lot of strain navigating it. I just don’t know how to let go of my preconceptions about what I should want as a woman and make space for both of us to just be who we are.

It’s not like I grew up in a household that fell strictly along gender lines; as far as I know,  my mum has been the main earner for years, at least recently. Also, while I (consciously and unconsciously) chose a partner who is the opposite of my dad in every way, another weird way I’ve wound up emulating my parents is that our financial roles seem to be the same – the wife being the go-to money person. (The one difference is my dad spends nothing while T definitely like stuff.)

On the other hand, out in the working world I seem to be surrounded by women with higher earning partners – and in the spirit of full disclosure, the bitter half of me silently snarks ‘that must be nice’.

I guess I have a strongly ingrained sense of fairness geared towards total equality that runs deeper than I thought.

Here’s a silly yet telling anecdote. Our house always had a well stocked biscuit tin. When I was about 9 years old, it came to my attention that my little brother had been eating more biscuits than me. I started keeping count, my eagle eye trained on him and that cupboard. Let me tell you, he absolutely ripped through them. He got up into the  double digits within a few days. At that point, I complained to my mother, who told me to drop it and get over it. Sulkily, I complied – but that always stuck in my craw.

Well, in the words of Coldplay… Nobody said it was easy. Heck, even Farnoosh Torabi (author of When She Makes More) has said she’d love for her husband to be the breadwinner. It’s something I’ll have to work through and process this year, as the trauma of the past year hopefully fades.

More reading on this topic:

I make six figures, my boyfriend is a poet (Reddit)

How income disparity affects our relationship  (LearnVest)

The weaker sex (The Atlantic)

When love crosses class lines (The Billfold)

Will our class differences tear us apart? (The Awl)

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nzmuse link love roundupI deemed April the month of self care. Sometimes you gotta be selfish.

I feel like I’ve emerged from a dark cave. Like I’ve been sleepwalking through life (which in a way I have) and I’m finally truly present again. It’s a grand feeling.

I’ve been really touched by how willing you guys have been to share your own troubles, stories, struggles, experiences with me. I feel like the world would be a better place if everyone was more open with each other. Some days I hate the internet – a consequence of spending every working hour on it – but every so often, I’m reminded of its awesome power for good.

Who gets to be an artist, really?

Why Aucklanders won’t leave Auckland

The diminishing economics of blogging

Reflecting on season 1 of Fresh Off The Boat 

Resolving to find contentment and happiness right now 

Tune into the universe and listen to life’s whispers 

There’s been quite a few posts debunking the glamorous myth of travel writing/blogging; here’s a carefully considered one I totally recommend 

And finally, my bud Sarah has put out an awesome e-book, Five Figure Writer, for freelancers. Not exaggerating. If I was in the biz, this is definitely a resource I’d pay for.

 

April eats: Sautee, Sento, Ima

In which I quickly review the various places I’ve dined at this month.

Sautee – Newmarket, Auckland

All round awesome mains (I had the gozleme – soft flatbreads with a filling of haloumi and greens) and helpful beer recommendations from the waiter. Alas, dessert was a letdown. The baklava was heated to bland mushiness – the worst I’ve ever had – thankfully it came with Kapiti ice cream.

Sento – Blockhouse Bay, Auckland

I swear we saw a brand new Japanese place pop up at the shops on the corner of Boundary Rd and Donovan St. What a random spot for such a joint, we mused – let’s give it a go sometime. And yet when we stopped for dinner one night, it had transformed into a Malaysian/Thai takeaway. (Either that or we both shared a strange but delightful hallucination.) Anyway, Sento seems to do both pretty well. The downside: we found a stray hair in one of our dishes.

Ima – Central city, Auckland

This is the second time I’ve eaten at Ima and I’ve yet to be blown away. We got both meat and veggie platters to share among a group. I loved the the falafel, the roasted cauliflower and the various dips, but was underwhelmed by the  tomato/cucumber salad and the meats, not to mention the portion sizes. And we were all unpleasantly surprised by the overbearing service.

Financial stocktake: Assessing the damage

Financially derailing fun:

  • Going down to one income
  • Traffic tickets
  • Illnesses (all bets are off when I’m sick, I will drop money on comfort foods like nobody’s business)
  • Actual health/medical expenses
  • All our annual insurance bills
  • Moving house
  • Depression/head burying/general laxness

Looking back, we just never really had a chance to get set up properly after coming back to New Zealand and have been on the back foot ever since.

T’s bringing in money again but technically it could stop at any time. (Also been having unpleasant dreams about being forced to move out of this house, sigh. This underlying feeling of insecurity is no fun.)

We’re still bleeding money post-move, what with work tools, long overdue dentist visits and a new line category: sports. (Coming off the year we’ve had, the physical and mental health benefits of the latter were WAY more important than waiting a full year for the next season to come around just for financial reasons.)

And now, to tackle the credit card balance that’s been accumulating. It’s a weird feeling, this. (Yes, we could take from savings to pay it off, but I am not giving up a cash buffer. Not without a second reliable income, no way Jose.)

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  • Sooo … Interstellar, eh? What a mindf***.

 

  • The ‘auto’ setting on our new washing machine (where it senses the amount and type of clothing and selects water level/wash function to match) is called ‘Fuzzy’. This amuses me to no end.

 

  • I was entertained all the way to work the other day listening to two ladies converse behind me on the bus. One was quite shocked when the other did not leap to reassure her that of course she would be a bridesmaid!

What’s new with you?

This week’s links

Making more money IS everything it’s cracked up to be

Dealing with the downsides of open offices

You only see on Facebook what I choose to show you

Your internet habits create your reality

What to do when life sends you back to the drawing board

Passing time while you wait to ‘make it’

How to rock working remotely

The things we DON’T want in a house

Women shouldn’t have to be afraid to walk alone

How do YOU do food?

By: Steven Depolo

Change has been all for the BETTER lately, as has the four-day weekend. But! One thing they have not been good for is creating new routines.

We’re now a bit further away from butcher/grocer (though we’re still super close to a supermarket) and T has started playing sports again, with training twice a week. Add to that the fact he’s knocking back protein shakes all the time and you can see why we haven’t found our food groove yet. Plus, we tend to do one shared dinner a week on Sunday or Monday with the flatties.

A lot of people seem to swear by intense organisation – but that’s definitely not our style.

For one, we tend to go by what’s fresh and on special. (Supermarkets do mailers detailing weekly sales but butchers and grocers do not.)

For another, T does most of our dinner cooking, and he’s definitely not a recipe kinda guy. That said, we both get into pretty serious food ruts that can be quite paralysing.

Neither of us are into prepping stuff ahead of time, either. (Sometimes I’ll make a few days of lunches on Sunday and that’s about it. Lunchwise he has an awesome inhouse cafeteria where he’s working so that’s him sorted.) But maybe it’s worth a go, at least with certain kinds of veggies.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out the best way to integrate a bit of planning and getting meal inspiration (which for me comes from recipes online and for him probably more like food shows).

Tell me:

Where do you do your grocery shopping?

Do you actively meal plan?

Do you prep ingredients ahead of time?