Mum and Dad visiting.

New Zealand is a very long way from where I’m from back in Ireland. It’s about as far as you can get. It’s a long way to travel, and it’s hard work (30 odd hours on a plane). So, it was very nice that my parents made the effort to come out and visit. Their second time out here in the 13 years I’ve been here. Last time they were here, we did quite a tiki-tour around the South Island, but, this time we decided to just take it a bit easier and relax around Christchurch and the surrounds, with a quick trip up to Castle Hill so they could see where we got married a couple of years ago.

It was really nice to be able to show them our life here, show them the places we go to hang out, the friends we have. A simple, but a special time. We did a lot of eating, we visited the earthquake exhibition. I must say, I thought it was quite good. I really liked – well, liked is the wrong word, but, I thought the first-person interviews they had with just a selection of folk was very well done. It did bring it back for me a bit. Earthquakes are rubbish.

We also went along to Ernst Rutherfords Den museum. Ernst was a New Zealander, and he went to the Canterbury University (before going on overseas). It was fun to see where he did some of his earlier experiments, such a mind! I also really liked their family motto We’re poor, so, we’ve got to think.

Christchurch does put on quite a lot of little (free) productions during the summer months. This year they did “The little prince”, one of my favourite books. I really really enjoyed the adaption. It was extremely well done. The volcanoes, the birds, the little prince himself of course. There may have been a tear.

We visited the Ohinetahi gardens. They are a house and formal gardens, vaguely started back in 1865 (old for NZ!). The site has now been gifted to a trust and for the enjoyment of the people of New Zealand. Anyway, a nice place to walk about for a few hours.

Our “trip” for the trip was up to Castle Hill and Arthurs Pass. We spent a few days up there, wandering about the rocks of Castle Hill, and doing some walks around Arthurs Pass. The rata was showing off its red colour beautifully up by the waterfall.

It was super special to have mum and dad out here, and to be able to show them about. Thanks for coming!!

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The Dusky Track.

Disclaimer: Maaike and I are utterly spoiled and so the bar for what constitutes an “excellent hike” is really quite high at this stage. Is the dusky the “hardest/best” hike I’ve ever done, “no”, but it’s a decent walk to put on your list. For me personally, it didn’t have quite a high enough ratio of effort:reward.

The Dusky is an 8 ish day hike (usually 10 days with rest days) down in Fiordland, the SW corner of NZ.

There are a few ways to do the walk, some people fly in, but, the way most people do it is to catch the boat across Lake Hauroko. It only goes on Mondays and Thursdays (normally), so, you have to work around that. Our plan was to go in just before Christmas and hike over Christmas, hoping that things would be quiet. We almost got away with it too, (unfortunately for us) there was a group of 8 keen American students who’d also chosen the same time period. They were actually really good, really well behaved but, a big group is still a big group. There were also another couple from ChCh and a nice young quiet German (Johannes) and a Polish-Italian experimental physicist couple!

Anyway, we got the boat in. My plan originally had been to simply stay at the first hut and let everyone else go on. Unfortunately, weather is a thing in Fiordland and we knew there was some wet weather coming in, so, we made tracks up to Halfway hut. It’s a bit of a slog up the valley and of course, your packs are as heavy as they’re going to be. The other couple from Christchurch actually decided to stop and head back at this point. Honestly, must have been a hard decision for them, but, I think a good one. You want to have been doing a reasonable amount of hiking/training before the Dusky, or at least be tramping fit. Also, I highly recommend walking poles, they’ll make your life a lot easier.



After Halfway Hut, the next day it was on to the highlight (for me) of Lake Roe hut. It’s a really nice little hut up above the bush line. We opted to take one of our rest days and explore the area. Totally worth doing, it’s lovely up there, it also meant we lost the Americans for a couple of days, which was an added bonus. There’s a walk up from the hut to Tamatea Peak which we attempted on our “rest” day. We didn’t quite make it to Tamatea itself, but, we did make it to the peak below, and we were rewarded with probably the best views of the whole trip, out over the Pleasant Range. I strongly recommend taking a rest day there. We did see rock wren (no pics) too, which was a bonus.

Next it’s on over the Pleasant Range and then a steep descent down to Loch Maree. The knees were definitely glad of the walking poles. You can see Maaike crossing the river in one of these pictures. The day before, some of the others had waded through water up to their chests to get onto the bridge. The levels really rise quickly around here.

In Loch Maree hut we stayed the night (nice and quiet) then headed down on the side trip to Supper Cove (the only place you actually touch Dusky Sound). As you return the same way from Supper Cove, you can dump a lot of gear in the hut to lighten your pack. Very handy. Unfortunately for us, the tides were wrong so we couldn’t take the short-cut across the flats (would save you an uncomfortable hour or so). The Supper Cove hut is lovely, and there we joined up with the Americans again. They’d unfortunately had to call a helicopter as one of their number had pinged off one of the three-wire bridges (it twisted weirdly). I dread to think how much that would have cost if it had happened to an uninsured person in the US. Here in good old NZ, ACC will fix you for free (including the helicopter).

Back from Supper Cove to Loch Maree for the night, then onto Kintail hut. A pretty pleasant day all round, but again, this area is totally prone to flooding and we had perfectly dry conditions. This day could have been an utter nightmare in different circumstances. Just shy of kintail we had to negotiate some treefall which had taken out part of the track. Then, at the hut, we saw that the three-wire bridge itself had been destroyed. We had originally planned to have a rest day here (partly as our legs were tired, and mostly to get some peace and quiet again ;) damn, I sound like an old person ;). Anyway, as it was a wet day expected the next day from the afternoon, we opted to head on up over Centre Pass rather than have our rest day.

Centre Pass would have been lovely, except that it rained all day so we had no views. Total shame as that was supposed to be one of the more view-tastic parts of the trip. Hey ho.

In Upper Spey hut we decided to take our second rest day and sit out New Years Eve safe from the ravening hordes. It was such a perfect quiet day, just Maaike and I and Johannes. Just read our books (I was reading Neverwhere, loving it). Then the next day, a “short” 6 hours out to the boat at West Arm. Oh, speaking of 6 hours, most of the DOC times are 6-8 hours. I don’t think we ever managed to do it in the short time, and on a number of days we were probably over the 8 hours too. Budget on taking 9 hours a day of walking and you won’t be too far wrong.

All in all, it is a good walk and a hard walk and I am glad I’ve done it, I just won’t be rushing back to do it again. I’d personally recommend the NW Circuit of Stewart Island over it for an NZ 10 day hike (in huts) and I still reckon my favourite hike of all time is the Huemul circuit in El Chalten. If you know of a better hike please leave a comment!

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Advent of Code 2017

I love adventofcode. It’s definitely something I look forward to (with some apprehension!) each December. Last year I was playing around with Elixir and did the solutions in that. This year I was (am) trying to get a little bit better at JavaScript, so, that was the language I chose.

What is Advent of code? Well, it’s a series of smallish programming puzzles. There are 25 released during advent (one each day). Each day has 2 parts, an easier and then harder. The second part is always related to the first, but, just with a twist: you might have to scale it up, rework it etc. Also, they have fun little stories around them. This year Santa’s microprocessor had stalled trying to create the huge naughty & nice list.. so, we were beamed into the computer and had to try fix it. Fun times.

I’m not sure my JavaScript actaully improved all that much, a bit I’m sure. I did get somewhat lazy towards the end and was just trying to get the (damn things!) completed rather than do them properly. Still, I got there in the end. I did look for hints on, I think, 2 occasions. I probably would have got there in the end, but, some of these problems are way outside any kind of “normal” programming I do.

I will go back and look at other peoples’ nicer solutions and learn a bit there. If you’re interested, my solutions are on GitHub.

Anyway, thanks heaps to Eric Wastl for running it again this year, it was lots of fun.


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NZ Secret Santa

A few years ago, a creative kiwi – @websam came up with the idea of running a secret-santa (kriskindl) on a country-wide scale. Basically you sign up on Twitter and you are allocated a random person to send a gift too (it’s all quite anonymous). It has now been taken over and run by the new zealand post secretsanta elves. My friend @alison encouraged me to do it, and I’m super glad I did – it was great fun. There’s a TedX talk of him explaining about it too.

It is random who you get, I was allocated a young lady from Auckland. I was completely terrified. I had nothing in common really. Still, I could see she was into dance & theatre and colour and unicorns & the TV show stranger things. So, I got her some awesome socks and a stranger things figurine. It seemed to go down well enough :)

My own secretsanta was….. ridiculously generous. I think the budget was supposed to be about $30-40 or something, and mine went way over the top! Super generous, very kind, I was really very touched by the lovely letter too. I really need to up my game for next year – that’s for sure! Awesome to finally have a whiskey flask!

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Croesus & Moonlight Valley

Croesus-Moonlight Valley

We headed away to walk the Croesus track. I’ve never done it before, though I’d certainly heard of it. You can also bike it (if you’re a decent biker). One of the problems with the walk is that it’s _not_ a loop track, so, you end up with having to hitch / organise someone to drop you back to where you started. Fortunately, we have a friend Ivor, and Ivor knows things about stuff! Ivor’s suggestion was to dump a bicycle at the Moonlight Valley end, and then do a _sort of_ loop and simply bike the 15/20km back to Blackball at the end. So, that’s what we did.

Ces Clark hutView from Ces Clark

Maaike had lots of days up her sleeve, and I have the luxury of being able, to some extent, make my own hours.. so, we headed off midweek (nice and quiet). It was quite a few hours up to the beautifully situated Ces Clark hut. Really lovely views, a nice pot-belly stove, and we had the entire place to ourselves.

The next day we were hoping that the weather would cheer up (it didn’t) so, we ended up starting walking at about 3pm or so. A little late. Our tramping book had suggested that there was a decentish camp spot “close to spot height 1147. I think our ideas of what constitutes a decent campspot are different. That said, we had quite bad visibility, so, it’s possible that there _were_ nice places and we just didn’t see it. So, it was a pretty uncomfortable night, though it definitely could have been worse.

thick mossKorumore mossTramping

Lovely walk out the next day down Moonlight Valley, can definitely recommend that. We did see quite a few people fossicking for gold at the end. Maaike had a nice chat with one of them while I went off to get the bike. I’d _thought_ there was an agreement that she’d start walking… but… I guess the lure of the gold was just too strong ;)


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