I love parties, but these days it is impossible to have everyone you like come to one. Unless you get married and I'm not doing THAT any time soon (boyf breathes sigh of relief).
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I don't remember much about my 10th birthday, only that I was really excited to get into double figures (the novelty has worn off). I don't remember much about my 20th either, though I remember turning 21 at midnight in a bar in New York City and having my first legal drink in a couple of months (you can drink at 18 in the UK and I had to give that up when I arrived in New Jersey in September 1990).
I was relieved to hit 30 (see a previous epistle) and had a big party in our tiny flat in Eastbourne, UK. On my 40th, I swam in the open air pool by the Sydney Harbour Bridge before the boyf and I got on a train that took four fantastic days to get to Perth to meet up with a schoolfriend who was turning 40 too. As my 50th approached, I knew I didn't want a party (too many of my friends and family are too far away) and I didn't want to go too far from home. I love being in nature and near the beach, so the boyf treated the two of us to the Banks Peninsula Track: a great three day walk, with someone else carrying our bags for a change.
The track is almost on our doorstep, starting in Onuku, not far from Akaroa. I had expected the walk to be like those around the Port Hills – mostly grazing land, with tiny pockets of remnant bush. But it was a lot more varied. I lost count of the plants I didn't recognise (and will need to look them up in my new book, thanks Mum!).
And there were so many birds in the valleys of dense native bush – kereru, bellbirds, grey warblers and wax eyes. We walked past (and through) numerous waterfalls in the valley leading to Flea Bay.
Thanks to my sister's voice in my head, I had to swim in the one signposted
It was bloody freezing.

The sea in Flea Bay was nearly as cold, but at least the southerly held off on the morning of my birthday as we made our way to Stony Bay. Ten minutes away from our accommodation, the threatening storm crashed in with rain and hail. We were sheltered by the kanuka woods and made it to the huts without getting too wet (or worse). The Germans behind us were not so fortunate.
They hid in that loo until the storm passed. Luckily it wasn't struck by lightning, as I'm not sure a tin toilet is the best place to be in that situation.
The accommodation on this private walk was a level above what we are used to on normal tramps. Not only were there gas cookers, fridges and electric lights, but there were hot showers! And Stony Bay also had baths of a very Kiwi kind.
It was an amazing way to wind down after the walk. We then had a curry and some wine and sat around the campfire to talk to our fellow walkers.

The last day of the track goes through the Hinewai reserve (managed by the legendary Hugh Wilson, who is featured in the little documentary Fools and Dreamers, which you can watch on YouTube). We walked up through native bush, peppered with tree ferns. This gives way to beech forest, before opening out onto gorse on the tops of the hills. There you have fantastic views of the final destination of Akaroa Harbour.

I loved it so much, I'd do it again tomorrow, but I have lots more work to do finishing the last FAB book and preparing my studio shed site.
Ta ta for now

PS. If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it on.
PPS. You can see photos of the walk on my blog.

Copyright © 2019 Alex Hallatt's Cartoons and Writing, All rights reserved.

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