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NZ Outdoor Adventures


fun fun under the sun...

It would be an injustice not to feature these activities in one blog entry.  So here it goes…

  1. The Rimutaka Railroad Trail Walk & Fun Run.  My one and only official fun run (more of walk) with my brother Eric & friend Andrew.  For 3 hours or so, we trekked, walked and ran through pine forests, preserved mountains with old growth native trees, 4 old railroad tunnels, valleys, bridges and meadows.  It was supposed to be just 17.5 km while my Garmin registered 25.8 km but how did those runners who ran 2 hours later than us caught up with us in the finish line after barely an hour?

    the long descent...

    with Andrew among yellows and greens

     

    somewhere over the...

    with Eric at the starting line…
  2. Crabbing/Clamming at Kapiti Coast.  For an hour or so, we traveled North along a highway outlined by the endless green mountains on the right and the rugged sea coast on the left.  We land on a clean gray beach that stretches for miles.  The water was freezing cold but soon enough, my brother and nephew Pat were setting up the improvised nets while my niece Ayesha was gently swimming in the shallows.  Trembling, I reluctantly joined in and soon enough, I was gathering clams (which can move fast underwater) using feet/toes power.  Later on, we bring up the nets to gather the day’s crab catch into our waiting container.  It was not the most pleasant experience I’ve had (I really have a hard time adjusting to the cold) but most rewarding especially after we munched on those meaty clawdaddies for dinner – yum, yum!

    the road to Kapiti: one breathtaking view after another

    gotcha!

    smile though your body's freezing...brrr

    unspoilt beauty...

  3. Mt. Victoria outlook area and the Botanical gardens.  Great views of the city from many angles.  Blooms, native plants, ferns and trees everywhere.  It was like being in the heavens.

    with fave niece Yesha...

    mr. bee, mister, mister bee...

    native landscape at the Botanical Gardens

    one of the many ponds...

    another view from the top...

    funnel art on top of the hill...

  4. The Wellington Skyline walk.  For more than 3 hours, Eric, Pat & I climbed and descended through kilometers of trails and walkways under the mid-afternoon sun.  Along the way, we encountered giant windmills, age old trees, rare plants and nervous flocks of sheep while being afforded breathless views of Wellington and Oriental bay.  Most of the time, we traversed through trails outlining the peaks of mountains and hills.

    at the starting point...

    black angus cows...

    the windmills of my mind...

    up, up & away...

    whew...we made it!!!

  5. Miramar coastline.  It’s the other end of Wellington where weta studios are located but the surrounding coast is something else.  Whether it’s rugged rock formations, quaint lagoons or spotless sandy beaches, the place never fails to elicit awe.

    Wellington from the other side...

    shellfishes by the beach...

    beaching around with Ayesha...

    rugged beauty...

  6. Castle Point.  I saved the best for last, but opkors!  We traveled for 3 hours to one of the best beaches in the world (still, from my point of view).  A lagoon ringed by hills and mountains which one can trek and photograph from many picturesque angles.  While the water was a tad cold, the infinite gray plain of sands, the landmark lighthouse and the jagged beauty of the gigantic boulders (facing the untamed Pacific Ocean) made this a fitting climax of a vacation that never failed to impress and surprise.  A long gash on my legs was one souvenir I brought with me when we tried to face the strong currents while ‘securely’ positioned on the craggy coast.  Ouch!

    our expedition team

    the boys of (windy) summer

    the trail to the lighthouse...

    one interesting angle...

    fishing by the rough Pacifics (the guys caught an eel)

    postcard perfect

    champagne by the beach!

    Joshua auditioning for "The Lion King"

    wish you were here...

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NZ on my mind…


near the Te Papa museum...

eric, josh, yesh, pat before the fireworks (still waiting for Pangs)

It’s taking me forever to write my final entry on New Zealand.  I had to flush it out of my system so I could write in a better light sans emotional bawling (I still miss my niece and nephews) or drunken patronage.  Now that I’ve overcome my kiwi hangover, I can look at it more objectively – why I’ll forever be drawn and connected in a city of less than a million.

fireworks upon the week of my arrival...now who wouldn't be enamored?

  1. Family – Eric, Marican with their children Pat, Josh & Ayesha started and grew into a family just a few meters from us, later a few streets away.  We’ve only been separated for only 2.5 years so the reconnection was instant and deep.  All the walks, runs, tours, drives I had with my brother or with the whole family leave a gash of longing whenever I look back.  All the food they’ve lovingly prepared for me, the house cleaning, painting and gardening we did for a month only strengthened the bonds that’s already been there.  I’d like to think that I will forever have a second home in New Zealand at Newlands whenever I visit the Minas.

    the christmas project...just in time

    the Minas

    the living room makeover with the new carpeting (being tried out by Ayesha)...

  2. Fresh, fresh, fresh (and clean) – why Made in New Zealand (along with the ubiquitous silver fern silhouette) are proudly emblazoned on almost all of their products is  probably because food, whether milk, meat, shellfish, etc. gets into every kiwi dining table in a day or two.  That’s fresh, clean and of the highest quality and of course, at a cheaper price.  No wonder grasses on meadows are grown and farmed before letting the sheeps and cows devour them.
  3. Kiwi fruits – freshly picked along with a kaleidoscope of berries – rasp, boysen, black, blue – dunked into fresh yoghurt.  Heavenly & healthy.   And again, cheap.
  4. Kiwi bird – along with the pokeko, and other flightless birds, rare marsupials & mammals and insects (including the now familiar weta).  They show you a country of unique wildlife and environment.  And you have a people taking pains to preserve them.

    ancient native plants at the weta cave...

  5. Kiwi people – yes, New Zealanders are called such.  And they are the most non-confrontational and happiest people I’ve ever met (though I’m not the jetsetting kind so I don’t know if this observation would even qualify).  They are also more racially tolerant, having acknowledged and given due respect to their original occupants, the Maoris.  I haven’t been most comfortable using my native tongue than in there.  None of those snooty or malicious looks.   Perhaps, it’s their relaxed lifestyle and optimism that make them a cut above other races.  Who wouldn’t be if you leave your home at 7:30 am and be back before 5:30 am?  At least, in the case of my brother.

    one happy family

    the santa parade along Lambton Quay

  6. Green, green, green.  Since Wellington is like a small community in a first world setting, it has some of the highest grade in environmental management.  Blessed with clean winds and clear bay waters, the city is bent on maintaining their environment in the crush of impending progress.  It starts in every home where rubbish management is followed and dual-flush lavatories and electric outlets with individual switches are law.
  7. Recycling.  Whether its rubbish, old appliances, art Deco buildings, vinyl records, books, this society hardly throws things that easily.  Is the predominance of 5 to 10-year old cars still plying their finely asphalted roads enough proof?

    old rail station platforms find new life as public seating areas...

    my fave running path...

  8. Walkers’ (and runners’ & bikers’) paradise.  Kiwis are some of the most sun-loving and outdoorsy people I know so they maintain their surroundings clean and green.  Trails, paths, alleyways cross and traverse mountains and hills all over the city.  They are clean, well-lit and safe.  Parks and gardens are also everywhere so one never feels far from nature.   I also noticed how kids are left to enjoy the outdoors as they would want to be – amongst the dirt, mud and sand.  Final picture:  Kiwis walking on city sidewalks barefoot (that’s how in touch they are, literally to mother earth)

    the way kids should have fun...

    Yesh & Nina getting down & dirty at Castle Point

  9. The Oriental Parade.  My favorite jogging path, outlining the edge of the city from Oriental Bay.  One runs along pine-lined docks, asphalt lanes and sandy beaches.  Along the way, you encounter rugged rock formations, giant public art monuments, art deco dock stations or if you want to rest, benches are all over to sit on and take in the breathtaking view of the bay and the mountains of Miramar across (very Tolkienish?  Well, this was where most of the production of the Lord of the Rings series took place).

    Oriental Bay: a view from the top

  10. Cuba, Lambton Bay – galleries, restaurants (from the exotic to the refined), specialty stores, quirky shops, bookstores, thrift & second hand shops – mostly located in centuries old buildings and structures.

    the old in the new

    the city from Victoria University...

  11. Art everywhere – whether is Maori or modern, it’s embedded in everyday Kiwi life.  Plus in numerous museums, public art, plazas and park.  And it’s never gaudy or extravagant, just enough to earn awe and wonderment.

    eye-popping art, literally

    restos & cafes abound...

    The Parliament house a.k.a. the beehive bldg...

    a quaint bookstore along Lambton Quay

    modern take on the classics

    maori art in every manhole cover

  12. Terrace, quay,  plaza, alley, bay and other various terms for STREET.  Very British

one reason to keep coming back...

The 27 days I’ve spent there is not enough…it would never be enough especially with a place as such….


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The QCIM Chronicles: Voyage of the Road Threader


beginnings and endings

LSD....to a speed run.

The Road from Wellington to Quezon City

The first Quezon City International Marathon in 2009 was supposed to be my baptism of fire in the world of marathon running, all 42.175 kms.  Unfortunately, typhoon Ondoy struck a month before the event so I had to forego of it.  After that, I was able to hurdle the Condura Run and the Milo Marathon in 2010.  But with all the ultramarathons we’ve done throughout this year, getting into another marathon was never on the agenda.  Besides, Dec. 5 was only a few days that I would have arrived from Wellington, New Zealand so definitely I was not in full running form and not thoroughly acclimatized to the tropical humid weather by then.

The Rimutaka Trail Walk & Fun Run: running over the rainbow

But I guess, destiny has other plans for me.  The whole of November I was in Wellington, I would drool with envy while regularly viewing the facebook pics of fellow runners in the Philippines.  While they were overcoming the rolling hills of Tagaytay in the 50km T2N, I was doing my mini-runs (a maximum of 10 kms) in Wellington and bingeing on cheeses and meats.  I knew I had to set some kind of goal to keep my running schedule in the midst of winds and cold weather.  So I ‘messaged’ the QCIM organizers that I’d like to join the 21 km run which they promptly accepted (Thanks, Mr. Rene “jazzrunner” Vallarta).  A full 42 km would be suicide I reckoned.

“You can only come to the morning through the shadows.” gandalf

On a Dec. 5 morning, an hour before the race, we were on the starting line for the QCIM, just across Quezon Circle.  My running buddy Dave, who had been running like hell for the last many weeks, was expectedly entering the marathon.  The first person I bump into was Wap Flores Forbes, my running companion during the Pinatubo trail run.  He had left his running socks and felt unfit to run the race due to some injury he sustained after the T2N.  Oh wow.

Lightbulb (ting!).  An opportunity to run my 3rd marathon was right in front of me.  Hardly brooding over it, I grabbed the 42km number from Wap, trading my 21km and positioned myself with Dave in the Starting Line.  I hardly had any sleep after the ponderous ending of that book Ilustrado which kept me up the night before but days after I’ve arrived from NZ, I was sleeping before 9 pm and waking up at 5 am so I had enough investment on sleep and rest.  I pondered (or drilled in my mind) – I have never been ready to run a marathon than at this moment.

and off we go!!!

At 4:36 am, we disappear in the darkness of the Don Mariano Marcos highway. A short 2-km detour through UP’s oval and C.P. Garcia St. gave us a glimpse of our final 2 kilometer into the finish line.  So far, the cool weather and relatively light pace (+-6 min/km with intermittent walking) were helping my legs hold through, adjusting little by little to the coming kilometers ahead.

State U, love u...

At 10 kms., a slight sensation on the left knee was felt with the constant pounding on the concrete highway.  I kept it to myself and tried to ignore it…soon enough, it disappeared.  This would be the same scenario in every phase – impending blisters, a threatening headache, an imminent cramping.  Distractions in the form of music or conversation eventually erased it from my system.  Lessons from ultraruns, definitely.

Toto & Dave: still fresh & smiling at the start of the race...

Finally, we chanced upon our elected pacer for 5:15 (our goal) in the form of the ebullient Chinky Tan.  We joined her coterie of massive runners, whom we mistook for her bodyguards.  The weather was better than I had programmed it in my mind especially when we entered the La Mesa Dam area, circling the perimeter while the last traces of fog on the mangroves were just starting to lift away.  One couldn’t have been treated to better sight while pacing for a run.

wet, wet, wet at every stop

We make our turn-around at the start of the 21 km mark (2:32), seeing familiar faces and friends I’ve missed.  Soon enough, Chinky’s cordon sanitaire started shedding off leaving us – me & Dave – escorting our lovely pacer (6 min/km) along the 5-lane highway.  The sun started jutting out of the thinning clouds but not enough to really sap us of our remaining energy.  Just perfect.

From behind: Dave (in red), Chinky & Toto (in front)

By this time the other half of the highway was in a standstill waiting for us to cross while pedestrians were already traversing our side of the road along with some occasional buses and cars.  The once sleepy avenue was suddenly alive and everyone was in a fiesta mode (punctuated by drum & lyre bands along pitstops).

the final surge into the last few kilometers...

We still sustained our pace with phases of walking whenever Dave & I started panting.  A contrast to Chinky who could easily have been a diesel engine in her past life – going stronger as we pile in the miles.  She was a driving force and an energizer when we try to slow down or simply opt to walk, pulling us in front with her invisible lasso.  She was Wonder Woman without the invisible jet.

going the distance....

Stabs of an impending cramp on my left calf at kilometer 30 reminded me of the only gel I brought with me (remember, I was not supposed to go beyond 21).  I’m picturing myself walking the last 12 km as not to aggravate the muscular tightening.  But Dave & Chinky’s distance was already widening so I catch up and join their pacing.

he ain't heavy, he's my brother...

It’s around 4:55 when we reached km40 so I thought this would be the part where I would fly and glide into the finish line except that I felt quite wasted we were already doing intervals of run & walk.  A push from Pete Townsend, Queen and Pink Floyd would occasionally send a surge of electricity in me until it ebbed.  Chinky crosses the finish line 3 minutes ahead of us (distance wise, that’s quite far) while Dave & I are 30 secs. apart.

Team Kamote welcoming their runners into the finish line...

The clock indicated 5:12:09 while my Garmin puts it at 25 seconds later.  Either way, it’s 24 minutes faster than my best marathon time.  A personal record.  Definitely, not in the plan when I drove that morning to Quezon Memorial but when circumstances collude to your favor and you grab that opportunity, things happen unexpectedly and triumphantly.

o sweet glory!

we did it! we did it!

P.S.  As I write this entry, I’m still hungry every hour since Sunday.  I think it has to do with an increased metabolism during the race petering as one returns to a more relaxed pace and lifestyle.  I swear I ate an equivalent of 2 days of meals and snacks that fateful
Dec. 5.

one surprise token!

The awesome photos are courtesy of Carlyle Noel Balagot & Ian Francisco – my blog entry never looked this great, guys.  Salamat!