A couple of weeks ago we really slowed down from our already pretty slow lifestyle. We went to visit our good friends Anna and Lukas in their family holiday home in Alsace – a green and hilly French region close to the German border.
This house is a real hidden gem. Nestled in the midst of a thick forest, it is only accessible via a narrow and bumpy dirt track, on which our Ford Transit nearly bottomed out. The building is off the grid. It is powered by batteries and a generator, with a boiler heating up the water, but has no central heating or electricity. Which meant fires every night for warmth and small battery powered lights to get around at night.
New Zealand is not one of those destinations you usually go
to solely for the rock climbing, not unless you’re Chris Sharma. That’s partly
because it’s so damn far away and expensive to get to from most parts of the
world. There are many far cheaper and closer climbing destinations for most of
us, and climbers are a famously dirtbag bunch.
But more importantly, New Zealand is far too breath-taking and
offers so much for the outdoorsy adventure lover, that to come here for the
climbing alone would be worse than sacrilege. So of course, in the four months
that my partner and I spent in NZ, climbing was not at the top of our agenda.
Rather, it was dominated by catching up with his family and
friends, all of whom hadn’t seen him in years; eating and drinking a lot at
these gatherings; and trying to fit in all the sights and do all the activities
we could afford (which was sadly a small minority of what’s out there).
Nevertheless, no self-respecting climber would go to a new
destination and…not climb at all! Plus, NZ was the old stomping ground of my
partner and I was eager to see where he cut his teeth on the rock.
It’s been a month now since I celebrated being in my thirties for a whole year, but I’ve only just recently had the chance to sit down with my laptop and reflect on the year that has gone by. Which is testament to the year that has passed, really – full of activity, living off the grid and spending as much time as possible outdoors. But the most amazing thing about my birthday was that for the first time I got to celebrate it in a different hemisphere – in New Zealand – where autumn is well and truly setting in.
A year ago, the idea of not eating any meat would have filled me with dread. I used to love having a nice medium rare steak from time to time, didn’t consider my meal complete without some chicken or fish, and assumed that as soon as I eliminated this from my diet I would lose all my muscle and get really ill.
But as Clay and I embarked on our big trip, a few things happened that slowly changed my mind.
The last couple of weeks since we moved to Chulilla have been as full of sunshine as the two weeks prior to it were soaked with rain, and once again I feel like I’m on holiday, even while working. My mood has been lifted to such an extent that I deleted the very gloomy post I started writing in Siurana, which now sounded far too depressive.