Six Weeks in New Zealand

It is Saturday night at Gatwick airport and I am still working on an edit of the wonderful Julia Bradbury planting trees with Premier Paper Group and the Woodland Trust in Surrey. Finally finishing the video, laptop shut, I boarded the plane, the adventures begin.. (video can be seen here) For this trip myself and partner Mike are heading out to New Zealand for a six week ‘vanlife’ trip exploring both the north and south island.

I have been to NZ before, but it was about 10 years ago, and so I was very excited to head back for a second time to see what I missed, which turned out to be a lot as 18 year old Holly was very different.. and no, I did not bungy jump again… nor will I ever!

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Our first stop was Auckland where we met up with some friends then took our little van up to the Bay of Islands. We had the best kumara chips in the whole of NZ here in Russell and it is also where we booked an eco boat ride. We were hoping to swim with dolphins, but once we found a pod they had juveniles so we couldn’t. I am glad they stick to protocol and don’t take advantage just for the money. But luckily, as I was testing out the new mirrorless Canon EOS R from Park Cameras  I happened to get some lovely shots from the boat! I found the camera much lighter than my 70D and the fact I could use my lenses with the adapter really helped. There are a few settings which are in different places which takes time to get used to, but once you have, it is a wonderful alternative to an SLR camera.

Our journey then continued through the north island gradually heading towards Wellington. During our walks we found some lovely hidden beaches, some gigantic Kauri trees over two thousand years old and of course some wonderful waterfalls. The best thing of all was the lack of plastic pollution, probably in the whole six weeks I saw about five pieces.

You can’t take a trip to the north without recognising some of the most stunning volcanoes (whether you’ve watched Lord of the Rings or not!) Maori legend says that the beautiful Pihanga has to choose a husband and all seven males had to battle for her. The last battle of the mountains was between Taranaki and Tongariro – which was a burning battle of rage, where, in the end Taranaki was defeated and he retreated to the west coast carving out the Wanganui River on his way. There are a lot of Maori legends but I think this is my favourite.

Once in Wellington, our ferry crossing was delayed by a few hours because of the weather, but once we were onboard it couldn’t have been nicer, even if it was a bit windy! Once on the south island we took to the water once again, and the perfect bag for this was our 20l Overboard rucksack. We brought it with us as it was lightweight, also it’s so easy to roll up in our luggage and pull out for snorkelling, kayaking and other water adventures..

On the south island, thanks to Viewranger we managed to plan and map out a decent day walk pretty much every other day.

Some of our favourite walking locations were along the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which was mainly flat but you had contact with the sea throughout. Inland we headed to Arthur’s Pass, where were trotted up Avalanche Peak. We woke up at 3am to start walking up to Roy’s Peak for the sunrise. They are all so different but all were truly spectacular!

Then there’s the wildlife…

I am so glad I had my camera and brought a variety of lenses with me. The kea were very inquisitive and at the top of Avalanche Peak they joined us near the top as if to say ‘come on slow coach, nearly there!’ Then you have the seals. One of the best places we went was Surrat Beach and Shag Point. We went to the latter on Christmas Day and saw hundreds of seals just resting on the rock. We stayed for hours just watching their behaviour and how they interact with each other. It is fascinating. Then of course you have the whales. Kaikoura, whale watching capital… the good thing here is that there is only one company who have boats that go out, and they do not get too close and give the whales space. I have to say that I did get a bit queasy (twice actually) but that didn’t seem to matter when there were whales to watch.

This was our first van trip and the great thing about doing it in a campervan was the flexibility. Tired, no problem just pull up. Fancy a cuppa, no problem just pull up. Everywhere we stopped was beautiful, I can’t think of one place we went and thought we best be moving on. But if you do fancy something a bit more structured I found out that the Camping and Caravanning Club run escorted tours where they have packaged together some highlights on both the south and north island. It’s worth checking out. On our trip we were freedom camping, I could write a whole other blog about that! But I have to say, we found some spectacular spots.

I have been thinking about what was the most useful piece of kit that I brought with me.. and I have to say that my Water-to-Go bottle was probably up there in the top 5 pieces. Along with my mini photo printer and watercolours! Whilst the bottle can’t make salt water drinkable, it can be filled up from any water source. Now I know that there are more polluted countries than NZ but for the type of trip that we had it really was very useful! My TOG Buff is of course on my list too.. Also I am so glad I packed our waterproofs, so even if the weather was pants we still managed to get up the mountains. No excuses! I think that Cotswold Outdoor have the best selection of waterproofs and their staff are knowledgeable so can help you out.

Overall, I would most definitely go back to NZ. The scenery is just stunning, the people are lovely and the weather is pretty much perfect (who minds a bit of drizzle!) I would highly recommend spending no less than 6 weeks there though as it is a long way and even 6 weeks really isn’t long enough!

Happy travels,

Holly

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Testing Base layers from Zerofit

Testing out base layers for Zerofit.

As the autumnal nights draw in and the winter days get closer I have been trying out my new tops from Zerofit. The two tops I have are the Heat Rub Ultimate and the Heat Rub Move, which both focus on making the most of your body heat.

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I get cold quite easily so I have worn these tops when both walking and running. I found the Ultimate works best for walking as the more I walked the more I kept warm, the friction on this top seemed to keep the air close to my body and it didn’t make my hair stand on end when taking it off, (a bonus!) As soon as I put this on I didn’t want to take it off anyway! I also think that these tops would be great for horse riding.

I love to walk and share my images on Instagram (@walkingholly) but I also like to run! Fell running is my passion, but their are not many fells in East Anglia!  I personally found the Move base layer was best for running, as it wicks the sweat away from my body. I am not a bit ‘sweater’ – my partner on the other hand would sweat just writing this, however during and after my run I didn’t get that cold damp feeling that I have done with other tops.

So overall, I am a size 8 and a small fits me perfectly and both tops are very effective. My only thought to improve the product is the packaging. I know the tops themselves are technically plastic (the Move is 45% Polypropylene) but at least it is reusable. The plastic sleeve packaging on the other hand is not and single use plastic is one of my bug bears. I hope that moving forward the plastic sleeve could be changed for a sustainable paper one. If one is even needed at all.

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Let’s Explore … Nepal

Let’s Explore … Nepal

Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha. A country I have wanted to visit for a while now and in 2017 we flew into Kathmandu and drove up to Pokhara, where we were met by our guide Dawa. Dawa, nicknamed ‘D’, has been up Everest a mere 3 times so this trip for him would be a walk in the park, quite literally. D and his team, who consisted of ‘Nemo’, JB and B, all legit names of course, walked ahead of us the whole way, each carrying about 20kgs… After a brief break Nemo would often skip past us up the path in his flip-flops whilst we all watch in awe togged up in walking boots, poles and buffs galore.

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The highlight of our walk was an early morning stint up to Poon Hill to watch the sun rise over the Fishtail mountain.

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The Fishtail, properly known as Machapuchare, not unfamiliar in sound to Machu Picchu in Peru, has a fascinating story behind it.  I am sure the story varies depending on the teller but our version is that adventurers tried to climb it and it was far too dangerous so the mountain was then declared a sacred holy mountain never to be climbed again.

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One thing I loved about Nepal was the wildlife, and the abundance of it. I saw an array of beautiful butterflies to bees, a praying mantis, song birds, birds of prey, grasshoppers, monkeys and the spiders were huge! One thing I did spot when out camping on a 4 day rafting trip were these large cat footprints. Out of the 208 mammal species that it could have been I somehow don’t think it was a snow leopard! I thought it might be a fox, D didn’t know but after doing a bit of research it would make sense if it was a Fishing Cat..

Kathmandu is an interesting place, and I think you can get to know it very well if you were there for a long amount of time. We however were not there long but in that time we explored Monkey Temple, Swayambhunath and also explored the hindu crematorium Pashupatinath Temple which felt very surreal. Once a family member dies in Kathmandu the body is purified and prepared at the Pashupatinath Temple, then lit on fire beside the Holy Ganges River.

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video coming soon.holly.

Gear Review for Overboard

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Overboard Bags are a British company who’s products I never go travelling without. Starting off small, Overboard have become a leading brand in waterproof bags. Whether I am going for a stroll in the Suffolk countryside or a mountain hike in the Lake District, my rucksack will always be packed with colourful Overboard dry bags.

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I prefer using dry bags than just relying on the waterproof backpack cover because the rain will always find a way to get in, especially in the Lakes, and also it is a more organised way of packing. I know that my phone and purse are in the yellow one, that my spare clothes are in the blue one and my lunch is in the red one. So no matter what the weather is doing I can get into the right one quick and easily.

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So after using the dry bags for a few years I thought I’d try out their 90 litre Adventure Duffel bag for my upcoming trip to Nepal.

I was going on a multi day hike through the Annapurna Mountain range near Pokhara. This would really put the bag to the test. When on the multi-day hike I had my day bag, with all relevant dry bags full of sweeties and such, then a wonderful, stealthy porter will carry your overnight bag, so ideally this needs to be as light and squidgy as possible. He will then tie said bag to another bag, of equal weight, put a rope around his head and off he goes, bouncing up the path in flip flops. The same path you are about to take, but in your expensive walking boots and poles. I don’t think a Nepali has ever used walking poles!

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The duffel bag faired very well, it was picked up and put down on rough stone surfaces, also known as chautaras (resting spots) for 5 days straight, it was brand new before the trip and by the end it looked used (which in all honesty is how we like our outdoor gear to look isn’t it!) After walking we went on a 4 day rafting trip where the bags proved themselves yet again!

I would recommend Overboard gear for all sorts of adventures no matter what country!

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Lifeventure Thermal Mug Review

One thing I love almost more than walking, and exploring, and that is tea. A strong ‘builders tea’ to start my day, and finish it.. And of course a few in between.. But when out filming walks you can’t just put the kettle on. Of course that isn’t a complaint but there is one thing I always carry with me when out walking and that is my trusty green Flask. The proper name being a Lifeventure Thermal Mug.

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It’s the equivalent of about 2 cups of tea and fits in the side of your rucksack perfectly. It’s lightweight and keeps your drink hot for hours on end, so even if you forget, which is the depressing reality all tea drinkers experience now and again, it should still be warm by the time you really need it.

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It is often odd weather when filming in somewhere like the Peak District, one moment it is warm, the next it is hailing, and that is just what happened during this trip, but no matter what the weather I will always have tea!

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If it’s not builders tea I often go for a Clipper Organic Peppermint Teabag too. This isn’t only a refreshing drink but they have a great ethos. They are, I believe the first tea company in the UK to go Fairtrade, they also use unbleached teabags, it’s a win win!

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So whether you’re taking a walk in the woods, up a mountain, or exploring some fab National Trust locations, a thermal mug is the perfect companion! And yes, Mike you are too!

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.holly.

Let’s Explore … The Blog

My ‘Let’s Explore…’ videos are snapshot POV edits that I put together to give a taster of what I get up to when I’m not working! Below you will find edits from a few of my adventures from the last few years from exploring the Chilterns on our doorstep to venturing in the Swiss Alps. There will be more to come so watch this space, and if you have any ideas on where to go next leave me a comment!

Nepal was the big trip in 2017. We walked the Annapurna Region which is just spectacular. I am looking forward to going back and walking some more, harder routes!

Gryon is a beautiful little village in the Swiss Alps. I have been going now for about 5 years. I always stay with Merlin and Gemma in Chalet Martin, you can check out their website here: www.gryon.com

This is a little video from a road trip around Dorset. It isn’t just a walking edit, we get some cycling in there too.

‘Let’s Explore… Sardinia’ is another adventure using the Sony action cam. The underwater case makes it perfect to use on a holiday by the sea.

Croatia is a beautiful country. We have a lot more exploring to do so need to go back, but here is a taster of the scenic national parks and surrounding islands.

The Ridgeway is something a bit more unusual for myself, this was solely biking. This is a route that travels through ancient woodlands, valleys and has beautiful views pretty much throughout.

Ireland, mainly Northern Ireland in this edit, again we will have to go back and explore further West, it is on the cards!

Our first edit, strolling through the countryside that is on our doorstep, a beautiful Chiltern walk. Many more have been had an will create a new edit once I have collected more footage.

Duke of Edinburgh Awards

2016 was the Diamond Anniversary for the DofE Awards and through The Outdoor Guide I have been commissioned to create an end of year edit that collates all their events from their 60th Anniversary year.

Throughout the year ambassadors and celebrities had taken on challenges to raise money and awareness of the work the DofE does with young people. On top of creating their end of year celebratory video, I filmed the Countess of Wessex cycling 450 miles from Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace, London. I also edited together a film of Julia Bradbury sleeping on top of the O2.

All below, please watch in HD.

Duke of Edinburgh Diamond Anniversary Film

Countess of Wessex’s Diamond Challenge

Julia Bradbury’s Diamond Challenge

 

Let’s Explore… Croatia

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Travelling has always been important, not just going to the places and the food, but meeting new people too. Croatia has been on my bucket list for a while now and finally I managed to bag a trip, albeit a short one.  Watch the video of the trip here.

14681915_10154622681794158_8725972837615300256_oMy partner and I hired a car and explored the Krka National Park, the waterfalls and surrounding canyons were beautiful. We could have stayed for much longer, however we had a ferry to catch to Hvar.

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Hvar was spectacular. It was a short drive to our Airbnb cottage, the heavens opened as we turned up but that didn’t matter as the view from our room made up for that. We spent the rest of our time exploring the islands around Hvar, and all I can say is that it was tranquil, I can imagine in the height of summer it is a different story…

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Watch the video of the trip here

Mammut Insulated Jacket Review

 

I thought my life was complete… I have a great job, amazing boyfriend, motivating family, I was happy. Then this bright florescent green Mammut jacket came into my life. I have to say I have never been warmer!

Even though it is an insulated jacket, it still can pack down pretty small and is really light weight. I wear it as an every day jacket too, and it has lasted years. It doesn’t bead how it used to but it also doesn’t leak.  I have to say, the pockets are great with cold fingers because the zips close downwards, so once your hands are full with sweets, in one quick swipe the pocket is closed, instead of faffing with two hands and dropping all those bombs of energy.

This synthetic jacket has explored Wales, been to the Alps in Switzerland, and on adventures in the Lakes. I don’t go anywhere without it. I am not a warm person, so being able to throw this on, and with it’s waterproofness, it hits all the right spots. Then if I do get too warm I can open my pit vents! So would buy this jacket again? Yes I would, and in green? Well that is my colour!