12 Things that Happy People do More

I found this list somewhere on the internet earlier on this year. Sadly, I don’t have the link to give due credit for it, but it resonated with me and I think it’s worth sharing.

If you want to be happy…

  1. Express gratitude
  2. Cultivate optimism
  3. Avoid over-thinking and social comparison
  4. Practice acts of kindness
  5. Nurture social relationships
  6. Develop strategies for coping
  7. Learn to forgive
  8. Increase flow experiences
  9. Savour life’s joy
  10. Commit to your goals
  11. Practice spirituality
  12. Take care of your body


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Resolutions 2014

These got written down in my notebook at the beginning of the year:

  • Think positively
  • Eat enjoyably and healthily
  • Travel, walk and get outdoors
  • Make positive changes at work
  • Practice yoga and practice at home
  • Spend time with family & friends
  • Wear the clothes I have & only buy what I need

I think they give a pretty good representation of what’s important to me: being happy, healthy and trying to live in a fairly simple way. I needed to make some positive changes to my work life and the good news is I start a new job in September. I’m hoping its going to make my professional life a bit more fulfilling.

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Back again

It’s really about time that I blew the dust off my poor blog and started using it again.

Simple as that!

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Marine Mammals

My favourite fact of the trip is that NZ has no native land mammals. Think about it…there are a couple of native species of bat, but apart from that NZ is land of the birds, isn’t evolution amazing? It explains why a lot of the native bird population are flightless as there was no need to fly away from predators, and why so many of them became endangered or extinct once people began introducing mammals into the country.

Of course, one thing that NZ does have which we don’t tend to see around the UK is a amazing array of marine mammals and we have been lucky enough to encounter quite a few if them up close.

Everyone loves dolphins, they are playful, elegant and intelligent to boot. There are so many opportunities to see dolphins here that we have really been spoiled, you can do dolphin ‘safaris’, but we have actually seen dolphins on a lot of the other boat trips that we have been on from The Bay of Islands to Doubtful Sound. The dolphins love the boats and often surf along in the wake water either in front of, or behind you. So far we have seen Common, Bottle nosed, Dusky and Hector’s dolphins. My personal favourites were the Dusky dolphins in Kaikoura, who put on the most spectacular show of jumping and appeared to be by far the most playful.

The most exciting thing that we did involving dolphins was to swim with them. We did this in Akaroa where you can swim with the Hector’s dolphins, the smallest species of dolphin and one of the most endangered. It was an amazing experience to be in the water with them and to watch them as they darted past and around us in groups of two or three. I had been a little worried about the cold and about the deep water, but with an incredibly thick (and buoyant) wetsuit on it was all no problem. While swimming with the dolphins you probably don’t get as good a view of them as you do on a boat, but for the sheer thrill of being so close to them, you just can’t beat it.


The other marine mammal I was desperate to see was a whale. In Kaikoura you can take whale watching trips with a view to (hopefully) seeing sperm whales. The day before we did our trip, there had been no whales to be found, which does remind you that there are no guarantees when it come to nature. However, we were exceptionally lucky on our trip and we saw three different whales surface, breathe and dive (two up close and one much further away). The trip was well organised, informative and, although busy, didn’t feel too much like a tourist trap. Again, being right up next to these huge creatures is an incredible feeling. You see only a fraction of the whale above the surface of the water from the boat, but the way that they move and dive is just amazing.


The final mammal in the trio that we have seen are seals. In fact, it’s quite difficult not to see seals around Kaikoura, there are seal colonies right next to the roads in that area and all it takes is for you to stop off and take a look. You do need to be a little careful with them as they can be aggressive when they feel cornered, but it’s great to be able to see them both in and out of the water. They are as elegant as dolphins when they swim and we have seen them on a few of the trips that we have been on too.

All in all we have been exceptionally lucky with what we have seen so far, the only things that we haven’t encountered have been sea-lions, which apparently live around the south coast. I don’t think I can complain too much about that, though.



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I realise that NZ may not be obviously associated with penguins, but there are in fact loads of different penguin species here. Seeing penguins was really high up on my list of things to do for the trip.

One of the best known places for viewing little blue penguins is Oamaru, where you can sit in a purpose-built grandstand watching them return to their nests. The ‘penguin parade’ is all lit up and the penguins have got so used to it that they no longer display the more natural behaviour of returning to their nests under cover of darkness. Needless to say this didn’t appeal at all…we wanted natural penguins, or no penguins at all! So, we gave the Oamaru penguins a wide berth and went for some other penguin viewing experiences instead.

Pohatu, Akaroa is the largest Australasian Penguin colony on mainland New Zealand and the team not only run tours, but help to preserve the birds and their habitat. The penguins are a white-flippered variant of the little blue penguins found in Oamaru and only found on the Akaroa peninsula. We booked an evening tour and were picked up in town and taken out to the colony in a 4wd vehicle as that is the only way you can access it. When we arrived, we were joined by one other couple and issued with binoculars and camouflage tops. As it was still light, the adult birds were mostly out at sea and we would get the chance to wait in hides and watch them return to shore as it grew dark.

As part of the conservation project, the team provide the penguins with nesting boxes which some birds use instead of digging burrows and they check the boxes for chicks and monitor their progress. We hadn’t really known what to expect, but I think all four of us were really surprised when our guide told us that he would check some of the boxes while we were there. Sure enough, there were penguin chicks in the nest boxes only feet away from us! The camouflage gear is actually so that you don’t disturb them too much when the box lids are lifted, and there is strictly no flash photography allowed.

From there we walked along to the hides and watched the adult birds swimming in to the shore and propelling themselves torpedo-style onto the rocks. They wait there until darkness falls and then go back to their nests. We all became pretty good at spotting the birds in the water (easier when you know what to look for) and saw loads of them swim in. It really helped that we were provided with binoculars as it is quite difficult to see once the light starts to fade. If you want an authentic-feeling penguin experience then this a great one to go for and we absolutely loved it!

The Penguin Place on the Otago peninsula also runs a penguin conservation scheme, but this one is for yellow-eyed penguins. In fact, their conservation scheme is funded entirely by tourism. One of the differences between blue penguins and yellow-eyed ones is that the yellow-eyed ones come and go from their nests at any time of day, not just evening, so you have a chance of seeing them return at any time of day. Also, there is always one adult bird with the chick in the nest so you can watch them in their burrows. The penguin place has a series of underground hides which makes it possible to view the adults and chicks up close, again you mustn’t use camera flashes or make any noise. During our visit we so one of the birds land on the beach and begin walking back to its nest and had a chance to view lots of other birds on their nests. The guide who took us around knew all about the birds and was, in a lot of cases, able to give us information about the particular birds that we saw.

Out final penguin encounter was on Doubtful sound, where we saw a couple of Fiordland crested penguins sitting on a rock we cruised by. It was great to see them sitting there and it completed a hat trick of penguin species!

I love penguins, they’re brilliant!


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New Zealand’s Great Walks

One of the things that I’ve been really impressed by during our trip has been the walking, or ‘tramping’. NZ has an huge array of amazing walking tracks, which you might expect given the scenery here. What is really impressive though, is how accessible, well maintained and well publicised these tracks are. This seems to be mostly due to the Department of Conservation (DOC). There are a series of multi-day ‘great walks‘ around NZ, many of which you can access for day walks. The DOC produce brochures for each of the routes, provide hut accommodation for walkers (sometimes staffed), maintain the tracks and signposts, and provide visitor centre information at each location. Another thing which really helps the accessibility of the walks are the companies that provide shuttle transport to the start and end points, we’ve used both bus and water taxi services so far.

Here’s a little summary of some of our great walks highlights so far:

Tongariro Crossing, 10.11.12
We were massively lucky to be able to complete the crossing back in November and it deserves a post of its own (you never know, I might just write one) but here are some photos for the time being…


Queen Charlotte Track, 20.11.12
A beautiful walk through native forest along Queen Charlotte Sound. We started at the beginning of the track, by water taxi from Picton and were picked up at Furneaux Lodge later in the day.


Kepler track, 11.12.12
A water taxi across Lake Te Anau took us to the Kepler track, and we walked to the control gates and on to Rainbow Reach car park.


Routeburn track, 12.12.12
An amazing walk from the Divide, on the Milford Road, to Key Summit. Beautiful views, amazing weather and very little time needed.

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OK, so I started my New Zealand trip with the very best of intentions: I would blog, probably not every day or about everything that I did, but I would try to post regularly. As you can see, that hasn’t really worked out recently. I could make excuses about lack of available internet, but the honest truth is that I’ve been too damned busy enjoying myself to write.

I’m currently having a bit of downtime in Queenstown, so I should really try to put things right. It doesn’t make much sense to write about things day by day now so the next few posts might just be a bit different from usual: more around general themes than a blow by blow account. Let’s see how it goes!

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Monthly reading roundup – October


So many this month because I’m travelling!

The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster – Slightly postmodern New York detective fiction, could definitely do with a re-read!

Breakfast at the Hotel Déjà vu, Paul Torday – A ‘novella’, so a short and easy read. Holiday book.

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes – Ooh, liked this one! Older gentleman looks back at his precocious youth. Lots about memory and how you edit your own story.

The Stranger’s Child, Alan Hollinghurst – Enjoyable read.

Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan – Amazing! Read it.

Less Than Zero, Brett Easton Ellis – It’s exactly what the title says it is, which I think is probably the point… Not totally sure that I enjoyed it but then I’m not totally sure that you’re supposed to.

The Waterproof Bible, Andrew Kaufman – Another holiday read, and a great one! A little bit unusual but great!

In Progress

A Man of Parts, David Lodge

Lonely Planet New Zealand Travel Guide

Downloaded and ready to go

The Siege, Ismail Kadare

A History of Modern Britain, Andrew Marr

And a whole lot more…

What are you reading now?

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The White Island

If you want to be able to tell people that you have walked on New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, and you don’t mind the smell of sulphur, then a trip to the White Island is for you.
click on the photos for a bigger view

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The Coromandel

A lady that we met in Auckland told us that she thought that the coromandel peninsula was more beautiful than the bay of islands. We were surprised, but after a day driving round the area we could see what she meant. Spectacular coastline, lush greenery and wonderful views.



The only way to reach the beach at cathedral cove is to walk to it and it’s so beautiful that it’s well worth it. There’s a natural rock archway which you need to go through to reach the second beach in the cove.





I would defy anyone not to love spending an afternoon digging a hole on hot water beach and sitting in the thermal water. Just be warned that with the water temperature being around 60 degrees centigrade, you need to add a bit of sea-water to cool it off.



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