That Sunday Hike to Mount Kaukau

Sunday 17 April 2016

I never thought that one day our typical weekend would be like driving on hills and climbing mountains. As someone who has massive fear of heights, I was always reluctant to do any activities that involved heights. But now that I live in New Zealand, I am not going to let my acrophobia get in the way of enjoying this beautiful country. And for this reason, I decided to desensitize myself from my fear and become more adventurous. So last Sunday, we finally went up to Mount Kaukau- the highest point in Wellington City at 445 metres above sea level.

It's autumn here and so the weather is more unpredictable than ever. When we left our flat, it was sunny. Less than 20 minutes later, it suddenly became cloudy. Luckily, it was not that cold and windy so I was okay in my shorts and my jumper.

We met J's colleagues at Carmichael Street in Johnsonville. From there, we took the Skyline Walkway to Mount Kaukau. There are other routes you can take from Ngaio and Khandallah then through either Northern Walkway or Skyline Walkway. Few minutes into our climb, I saw this stunning view behind us.

The trail from this entry point is not too bad. I can't even say it is steep but in some parts it is slightly rocky, so I would recommend wearing proper walking boots or comfortable trainers. I am not sure how long it took us to get to top because we were walking slowly and we also stopped a few times to take photos and to wait for our little trooper. But on average I guess you can climb up in less than an hour. In saying that, you have to be reasonably fit. Generally though, I can say that people in New Zealand are fit. We met a few people from all ages along the way. Most people were walking like us, but some others took their fitness to another level by running or cycling up the hills, which I thought was kind of crazy but I guess that's a norm for the fit Kiwis.

Further up we were greeted by some cows which was exciting for me as it brought back some childhood memories of when my father had cows and carabao. He used to take them up the mountains everyday. Ah, those were the days.

Anyway, if you notice the tower in the photo below, that's how far we had to walk to get to the top of Mount Kaukau.

The views were consistently amazing throughout the walk and they only got better the higher we climbed. We saw wind turbines, beautiful hills and valleys, the harbour and the incredible view of Wellington city and we were not even on the top yet.

Now, here is something interesting. When I was going through the photos that J took, I noticed an image of a man with a hat in the photo below. I'm not sure how quickly you can spot it, but it's just amazing how trees and bushes can create such images.

The tower on top of Mount Kaukau is the main television transmitter tower in Wellington.

When we finally reached the summit, we were rewarded with not just the most magnificent views of Wellington (and a bit of the South island), but also with a beautiful rainbow- a double rainbow in fact. The weather was definitely in our favour that day as the sun came out for a bit when we were on top and it was not windy at all. We were lucky to be able to take good quality photos of the stupendous views.

This whole hiking experience was more fun and memorable because of the youngest person in our group. At just 3 1/2 years old, she managed to climb up to the top on foot. Yes, she honestly didn't get any help at all. She is such an inspiring little person. She is even more adventurous than I am as she preferred to walk on the "unbeaten path" and on higher trails. I have so much respect for her and her father. The hills were definitely much more alive because of her. 

On our way back down, there was this man who was playing some instrument at the bottom of the hill and his music was so beautiful. There was this tinge of hope in his music, almost telling me that every climb is worthwhile no matter how hard or high it has been.

Ah, I now have lived in two capital cities. In London, you have to go up a high rise building to see the beautiful view of the city while in Wellington, you have to climb up a mountain. This is why I love change because for me, change forces you to see things in a different perspective and gives you the opportunity to experience the best things and learn the best lessons in life.

On that note, let me tell you that the hike to Mount Kaukau is definitely worth it. So if you're visiting Wellington or if New Zealand is on your bucket list, find time visit the capital and climb this mountain. You won't regret it. There is no better place to enjoy the 365- degree view of the capital than here. Well, for me anyway.

tintin x

On Why I Enjoy Being A "Stay-At-Home-Girlfriend"

Friday 8 April 2016

Almost three months ago, I officially became a "Stay-at-home-Girlfriend" (SAHG). While at some point in my life I dreamt of becoming a full time wife, in reality this is not what I really want. I left home to work abroad when I was 24 and I have been supporting myself (and my family) since. I am proud to say that even when I was married, I paid the bills, paid my share on the rent and bought food and stuff for the house. So when the reality of potentially not finding a job in New Zealand finally sank in, I panicked silently. I hate the thought of being completely financially dependent on anyone. Besides, I know that I am a very capable person and therefore I should be doing something out there in the world and not in the house. At the moment though, I am struggling to find a job in Wellington. Honestly, I am getting really frustrated but on the other hand, the opportunity of being alone for 10 hours a day is only temporary and it may never come again, so I might as well enjoy this job-free life while I can.

Now you may ask, "how do you survive 10 hours on your own without going crazy and feeling lonely?". I don't survive, I live. And being alone doesn't mean I am lonely. And yes I've gone crazy, crazy over the fact that I have plenty of time in my hands to do whatever I want. But seriously speaking, this experience of being a SAHG has given me more opportunity to reflect on my life, focus on what's really important, reconnect with myself and enjoy the things I couldn't enjoy thoroughly when I was working such as:

1. More "me time" than I ever needed
Self help books and articles online can't emphasize enough how important it is to have time for yourself. I sort of have neglected this all these years because I am a needy person and I've always felt the need to be surrounded by people to the point that my own happiness depended on making these people happy. And then one day, I found myself immersed in my thoughts and became oblivious to what was going on around me. Even just for a short period of time, I didn't have a care in the world. All I could think of was me, myself and I. It felt so good and since then I knew I found a new bestfriend in me and ... in solitude.

So what exactly do I do during "me time"?

Look for a job. This has to be on top of my list as it takes most of my "me time" and it's my priority at the moment. I spend at least 5 hours a day browsing job websites in Wellington, revising my CV and writing cover letters then sending them to different companies and/or recruitment agencies. I never had to do this much work in finding a job, so this experience is definitely teaching me some hard lessons.

Clean and organise our flat. I honestly don't even need to do this everyday because luckily J and I are very tidy people, but I still do because I find cleaning therapeutic and I simply love seeing our flat in an orderly manner. It makes me very happy. I guess if there is one thing that stresses me the most, it would be a messy place. And I am glad that it doesn't take that much effort to keep our flat sparkling clean. 

Besides cleaning, I also do other houselhold chores on a daily basis and run some errands on some days.

Read and write. I finally have time to sit in the house and read a book, unlike in London where I only read a book when I was traveling or killing time at a cafe. I also now have time to read news online, read articles related to my speciality (yes, because I promised myself to learn more about aortic diseases and be a "real" expert on it), and read about Sarah Geronimo (because I'm a Popster), Kris Aquino (because I like her, ha-ha-ha) and Digong Duterte (because he is fierce and he looks like a "tatay ng bayan"). I also read on some random things when lurking on Facebook. 

I am also currently writing/editing a book- sort of. It's actually from one of my blogs but I decided to make it into a book just in case God forbids something unexpected happens to that website and it shuts down. Then at least I have everything that I have written in memory of our dear Keith.

And of course, I write on this blog too.

Exercise. I don't actually need to be a stay-at-home girlfriend to stay healthy because I was doing regular exercises even when I was working. But having extra time means that I can do more than my morning crunches and my regular runs. I actually attend regular gym classes on top of our regular gym sessions.

Contemplate. While in the past I did my reflections mostly when I was running or doing some household chores, now I can actually sit quietly in our balcony with the view of the harbour and contemplate on life.

Speak to my family and friends. It's an advantage that I am at home during the day because of the time difference. I find it easier to speak to my family in the Philippines (via facebook video-calling) and to my sister from another mother in San Diego (via facetime).  While I mostly initiate the call to my family, my Ading A calls me whenever she can (at least once a week). I really appreciate her effort because although I have been doing exceptionally well without friends over here, I still needed that extra boost from my long distance friends. I'm also glad that I am in regular contact with some other friends via text messages.

Lurk on Facebook and Instagram.  To be honest, I am actually spending less and less time on social network these days. I mean I still post regularly especially on instagram but I no longer spend a lot of time going through my feed unlike before.

And that's basically more or less what I do in my alone time.

2. Early mornings with J
When I was working, I often left the house when J was still asleep so we didn't have much time for each other in the mornings. Now that I am unemployed, we actually wake up at the same time every morning unless I need to run some errands in the day then I would get up earlier than him. I love the fact that we get to talk about our dreams when we wake up, share a bit of laughter (and cuddles) and do some funny things before we get out of bed. There is nothing better than to start the day with so much love, laughter and positivity. 

3. Doing things at a slower pace
In London, I felt like I was always chasing time. I was constantly rushing and multi-tasking. There was this constant need to accomplish so many things in a very short period of time. I used to bump my knees and my elbows all the time because of stress. This is a true stress indicator for me. Once I start hurting myself and become clumsier, I know that my stress levels are high. Right now in Wellington, I am glad that I am finally able to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. 

4. Cooking
As soon as I took over our kitchen, I realised why I never enjoyed cooking in the past. It's because I was missing the most important ingredient of all - tender, loving care. I used to cook haphazardly and I always felt like I didn't have much time and energy because most of the cooking happened after work. And now that I actually have extra time, apart from being able to cook every night for the both of us, I can actually cook my favourite brunch meal for myself.

5. Dressing up effortlessly
There is no doubt that I love to dress up, but I am enjoying the fact that I do not have to worry about what to wear everyday. Nowadays I live in my gym clothes and I am loving it. Less effort, less stress. This also means that I am perfectly blended into my community.

6. Volunteering
Somehow my plan to volunteer escaped my consciousness when I received my work visa. I was suddenly preoccupied with my desire to find a paid employment. Until six weeks into my job hunting and my applications were being rejected one after the other. I got really frustrated and thought that if my knowledge, skills and experience are not good enough for these companies, I might as well use them to make a difference in some place where I know they will be greatly appreciated. And so I applied for a volunteer job and got accepted. For the meantime, I've committed two days a week but I know that this will change once I find a job.

7. The break from social life
If there is one thing that I am very generous with, it's definitely time. I love spending time with people that are important to me whether physically or virtually. That's why no matter how busy I am, I always make sure that I find time for them. Reflecting on my social life in London, I almost always had a full social calendar. This was on top of my full time job and on being a girlfriend to someone. As much I enjoyed socialising, it was physically, mentally and financially exhausting. Now that I know how it's like to be alone and actually loving it, I will be wiser when I go back to London. I plan to only spend time on those who can sustain me. 

There you go. Until I get that phone call offering me an interview and hopefully eventually a job, I will make the most out of those things that I mentioned above. 

tintin x

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