Friday, February 1, 2013

From Lake Tekapo to "Home"

After traipsing around the South Island, I've been back in Auckland for a couple days and I think now is as good a time as any to do a little update on what's a'happenin'.

I left the idyllic town of Wanaka on Monday afternoon after my little "swim with (or at least, in the same pool as) New Zealand Olympians".  But before hitting the road, I had to be that girl.  You know, the one who does something that looks so bizarre that passersby do a little double-take.  I see a lot of weird behaviors when I'm traveling, and especially in New Zealand, where there are tons of people living out of campervans.  I stayed in motels and hostels, but this time, I was that weirdo when I sat in a public park in Wanaka with a bag of frozen peas (mixed with mint!) on my leg.

Kind of hard to find ice packs or even ice when traveling, and sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

From there I moved on to Lake Tekapo, a small town overlooking Mt. Cook that is highlighted, shockingly, by a big lake.  Lake Tekapo is glacier-fed (read: great temperature for another little ice bath) and so blindingly turquoise that it's almost radioactive-looking.

The motel I stayed in at Lake Tekapo....pretty typical for NZ
I tend to get a little hung up on big existential questions ("why is all the water in this country so blue?") (is that even an existential question?  Or just a question?) and I remained stumped for several days on that one.   I got my answer in Lake Tekapo:  the lakes in this area were formed by glaciers, which crushed mountain rocks as they progressed, with the crushing process creating a fine, flour-like powder that remains suspended in the lakes, reflecting light and producing a blue-like color.   So, there's that.
From the Mt. John Observatory

From Lake Tekapo, I headed on up to Christchurch.

By all accounts, Christchurch was once a great little city.  I know it used to have a very strong triathlon community, and I believe, to some extent, it still does.  But Christchurch has had a really tragic last few years.  In September of 2010, the city was hit with a 7.1 earthquake that caused widespread damage but no fatalities.  Nearly six months later, there was another earthquake, magnitude 6.3, that hit in the middle of the afternoon, causing more damage and almost 200 fatalities.   Christchurch has been rocked by several aftershocks, even as recently as this month.

So, needless to say, the city has changed.  Large parts (the "red zone") are still completely cordoned off.  There is construction everywhere.  The roads that are open are packed with traffic, largely construction trucks (which made the one ride I did in Christchurch a little dicey).  It's sad.
Looking in on the Red Zone
I don't want to say anything bad about Christchurch because it's clearly really trying to rebuild itself from incredible tragedy, and that resilience is admirable, but let's just say,  it wasn't my favorite part of my trip.  Maybe it's the earthquake history, but I just kept feeling like something bad was going to happen while I was there.  I actually went to the airport to head home several hours early.  And for someone who always cuts it close when it comes to flights (can't count the number of times my name has been called over the Midway overhead announcement system), that says a lot.
They have a cool "pop-up" shopping center that uses colorful shipping containers

Since returning back to Auckland, I've been a little lazy.  9 days of driving and moving from city to city almost every day wore me out a little.  But I did do one very cool open water swim race.

Have I mentioned how much Kiwis love sporty endeavors?  It's remarkable and I love it.   Every week throughout the summer, there are (I believe) two stroke-and-stride (swim + run) races and an ocean swim race, all in the same area.  And every single week, hundreds of people show up for those races.
Getting ready for the race
I signed up to do the Summer Swim Series at Kohi Beach to get a little more open water swimming experience.  There were four distances offered, and I chose the longest (2000 meters).

When I got out of my car and felt the wind whipping around, I realized that my fun little ocean swim race might not be quite as much fun as I hoped.  And when the race director said, "it's going to be a little rough out there," I almost turned around and went back home.  What's a rough ocean swim for Kiwis is, well, ridiculously rough for a Chicago-lake-swimming-girl.

Debating whether to just go home instead of racing.  Photo by Kimerly Adamson
The course was essentially out-and-back, which meant we swam into the waves and current for 1000 meters on the way out, and then surfed/swam back in.  Going out....oh. my. God.   Washing machine.  I swallowed about a gallon of salt water.  I got a little seasick from all the ups and downs.  I contemplated quitting the race, the sport, triathlon.  I said to myself, countless times, "I am never, ever doing this again."  There were a couple hundred competitors but the waves broke us up quickly, and at times I looked around and wondered if I was beating anyone.  

I don't know why my pictures never make rough conditions look as rough as I swear they were!
Then we turned around and swam back in, with the waves picking us up and carrying us.  That was fun (although weird).  I was three minutes faster coming back in than I was going out.  And when we crossed the finish line, I got out of that wetsuit as quickly as possible and vowed that from here on out, it's pool swimming.  (That vow, of course, won't last long). 

And a little takeaway message--- consuming copious amounts of salt water does not do a good thing for one's digestive system.  That was a fun post-swim run. 

No comments:

Post a Comment