We were about Christchurch this weekend, partly for the Dr. Who 50th Anniversary Episode which was aired in cinemas over here. It was hilarious actually as there were all sorts of people dressed up – some in costumes of the weeping angels (my favourite episode by far)
Anyway.. took in a quick stroll around Mona Vale, our old house still standing (just)
There were some Paradise ducks there too. They’re terribly cute.
So yes, lovely to be there. I was… extremely touched when I saw this bench in Mona Vale..
The bench was put there by the Bennett family (I assume) in memory of their parents (my former landlords). What a lovely way to remember them by – perfect. I do miss them and the house / community sometimes. Silly earthquakes.
10 years ago I arrived in New Zealand with my friend Maeve. It seems like an age ago now, and I suppose it is, but in some ways the time has completely flown by. I’ve climbed, biked, caved, rafted, boarded, skied, paraglided, skydived, kayaked, ice climbing, mountaineering bouldering and even been canyoning. I’ve made lots of friends who have helped me through some ‘interesting’ times, not least of which were some very nasty earthquakes. I’ve created and built up (with lots of help from friends) a carpooling to ski fields website which I’m quite proud of. I have a lovely partner who helps me to get to the tops of very high windy mountains and is generally wonderful.
So yes, it has been a brilliant ten years really. Thank you to one and all who have made NZ such a wonderful place to be, and thanks to Glynn for getting everything setup, and for coming down to Christchurch with the lovely Jayne to celebrate it!
This is beyond ridiculous. One Post for all of October. Sigh, it’s been a busy month actually, with a rogaine (it was how Maaike wanted to spend her Birthday – she even got cake!)
It was an excellent event, at Castle Hill (well, in and around). Great to be back out on the hills – and our navigation wasn’t too shabby either :)
Next up, it was up to Wellington to celebrate Glynn being in New Zealand for 10 years. He arrived one month before my friend Maeve and I arrived and he had everything sorted for us (a house, internet, what more do you need?) Maeve has left back to Ireland so it’s great to still have Glynn in the country. Now that he’s married to the lovely Jayne and has two children, I don’t think he’ll be leaving NZ any time soon (woohoo!).
Hmmm, I seem to have ‘filled out’ in the last ten years – definitely need to do something about that!
Next, it was up to Arthurs Pass to hang out with Nick and Cecile. It was an extremely wet weekend (as expected) … even the Kea were sheltering from the rain..
We had a weekend of games (settlers of catan and Ticket to Ride) and a very welcome fire to curl up next to and read a book by. It was a lovely weekend.
Finally, I went to Tekapo for the ‘Starlight Festival’. Tekapo is home to the biggest dark sky reserve on the planet, apparently. Basically you’ve got awesome horizons and not too much light pollution. Anyway, off down there with Steve and Michelle. We even got to make (and keep) a Galileoscope which was pretty cool.
Other than that, not too much. I must try to be slightly better about keeping this blog more up to date!
Doesn’t look like very much does it? Well, on the way back from Golden Bay we were going to do a 3 day tramp to the Thousand Acre Plateau. Unfortunately it had been raining for the previous days and we decided, for the first time, not to cross a stream. The water looked fast, the crossing looked nasty, and the consequences… while not fatal, certainly wouldn’t have been nice. That, and more rain was forecast.
So home, via a night at maruia springs to polish off an excellent holiday.
So, I’ve been up as far as Collingwood and the oh-so-wonderful Mussel Inn, (awful website, great pub!)… but I’d never been up to the very top of the South Island – to Fairwell spit.
First thing we did was to go to Wharariki Beach and have a potter about. We saw seals playing in the river which was a bonus. We didn’t *quite* get there at low tide, which prevented us from being able get right the way around – but still, good times.
Stunning spot. Also, on my friend Neil Charters’ advice, we did the “Cliff Top Walk”, which starts on the Eastern end of Wharariki beach. It was absolutely stunning. The *scariest* part, by far, was the lovely Japanese? tourists who followed Maaike and I up. There was one part where we were on two sides of one of these massive cliffs and they’d either ignored? or not understood (just as likely) the sign that said “Cliffs!”… . Maaike and I started waving to “get the hell away from there”, but our hero took that as a friendly hello and waved back, taking pictures with his SLR. I’m sure it would have all been find, and it was, but yeah, I was really quite scared that there was bugger all I could do to stop this guy getting a better shot and walking straight off the cliff. You’re in New Zealand now buddy, no barriers here!
That archway in the picture above is the most Northerly point on the South Island..
Anyway, then it was back to the carpark for sambos (where we were rudely interrupted by this peacock who was definitely not afraid of humans!)
Next it was on to Fairwell Spit. This place is awesome.. it’s a 30km? ish long sand bar. Now fully protected for birdlife (migratory mainly), you can walk on part of it
To get out further on it, you have to go on a tour. This is partly presumably revenue generating, but mostly to keep the numbers down and protect the wildlife.
We saw lots of these guys – there was a pair spaced pretty much every 2km up the beach. They’re called variable oystercatchers.
The variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor, torea or toreapango) is found on rocky and sandy beaches. It is rare – there were around 3,500 birds in 1994, and they are found only in New Zealand.
Rare maybe, but definitely hilarious. This guy here standing on one leg:
It’s not actually that he’s an amputee, no, he’s just sleeping and resting one leg. His body acts as a wind vein and we actually drove the van around him (blocking the wind) and he turned with us, hilarious to watch.
The other classic thing was when two “families” came in contact. They’re all extremely protective of their patch of beach (all 2km of it) as there’s only so much food to go around. Unfortunately I ran out of memory card, but basically, they walk up to eachother and bob up and down… until they work it all out.
We went as far as the lighthouse There were some great stories about the lives of the people who ran the place back-in-the-day. Hardy folk. Sad in a way that it’s all remotely managed from Wellington now. But probably good from a cost, safety and reliability perspective ;)
Finally it was time to go back to the van and start the drive to our next adventure. Beautiful sunset – long long sandy beach! Happy days.
On our way through Takaka we also visited the Pupu Hydro Society.
It was a nice enough (if drizzely) hours walk up to the water race & penstock and around and back down to the hydro plant. Long story short, the water way way built for gold miners as a sluice for working the area for gold. They built a hydro plant using the water race from the gold miners time to bring the water across to the point where they dropped it into the generators. It ran from 1929 to 1981… but was then damaged.
In 1981 (when it has stopped operating) it was put up for tender and a bunch of keen locals put in a tender to restore it and turn it into a museum, at some personal risk! They took out loans for $140,000 and had to remortgage to guarantee the loans. It all went well and within 7 years they’d paid everything off.
On average the society earns $80 000 a year all of which is ploughed back into further restorations and road building.
Pretty impressive stuff really :) Well done to those locals getting involved & making it all work.
Next it was on to Mairehau where we walked (and 1/2 jogged) part of the Able Tasman Walk (a Dutchman)
That map is taken from linz.govt.nz. You can download all of the 1:50000 Topomaps .. it’s great! Anyway, had a nice couple of days hanging out there. Next it was on to Paynes ford over at Takaka for some climbing. Unfortunately, as expected, the rock was completely soaked so there was no climbing to be had. Coupled to that, the forecast was for storms for the following two days. We opted for the ‘lazy’ part of the holiday and holed up in a house truck.
It was a gorgeous little place to stay. The fittings inside were beautifully done. The evening we got there there was no power (lightning strikes or something) and we just had the gas stove to light the place (well, that and head torches!). The water for the outside bath was heated by gas, so no tricky lighting a fire underneath and needing to stay on a plank of wood to avoid burning your bottom (though that would have been fine too).
We did sneak one walk in to Taupo Point between the showers.
Wild and beautiful coastline. I’ve not tried, but have been reliably informed that you can literally walk across the tops of these trees they’re so tightly matted together.
So yes, I’d definitely recommend it as a place to hang out in stormy weather :)
So – for the first part of Maaike and my two week holiday we headed North do do the Queen Charlotte. Why? you may reasonably ask, seeing as I’ve done it about 3 times already. Well, it’s still an absolutely great route to bike, and also, the support (in terms of boats ferrying your gear, places to stay etc.) is simply superb. The entire three days of biking (two night accommodation, boat out to the end of the track, gear ferried between stops) took about, oh, 15 minutes of organisation. It’s really great.
One advantage of travel in September is that there’s relatively few other tourists about. The negative (as shall be dived into later) is that the weather is quite fickle. Still, for the QC the weather was broadly excellent.
There are some stunning views..
Here’s a link to the same video in HD fullscreen
Also – a video of some actual biking.. it’s slightly long (12 mins) and quite badly edited… basically… video editing takes ages and I’d rather get something up and have something to blog about – than have the perfect production. :)
So yes, an excellent few days of biking was had. At the end of the QC track is where the Outward Bound school ‘campus’ is. I checked back in to see how the tree we planted was doing..
It was doing extremely well – someone (or someones) have been looking after it… the were pretty much no weeds to speak of and it seemed to be fairing well, despite the relatively foul weather we’ve been having. I do wonder how much thought they’ve given to over-crowding in the various pieces of land they’ve set aside for the various watches to plant – but hey ho, maybe there’ll be a massive transplanting operation.
If there’s one thing I struggle with it’s this concept of 20 days holiday a year… especially if you can’t get unpaid leave. In one tiny respect it makes the time you do spend on holiday that much more ‘precious’ as you have had to wait so long to accumulate it, but generally I’d far rather less cash and more time off. My current employer is excellent, but as we’re basically busy all the time (a good thing) getting unpaid leave is a relatively expensive thing for the company to give out. I’m not sure how this can be solved, but certainly next year for a family gathering in August I’ll be looking for at least a month off. I’ve yet to have that conversation, but I’m hopeful it will go smoothly enough.
It was a slightly scratchy day at Broken River – but great to be out in the Sun. Thanks to Chloe for taking the video below. Looking at it, I can see that I’ve so so so SO much more to go to get anyway decent at this skiing lark. If you contrast how _non_ shaky her video is, compared to the ones I take… I’m definitely not just pointing my body downhill and pivoting properly. Still.. it’s good to have room for improvement. After all, it’s pretty much impossible to be perfect at everything all the time ;)
It’s also is probably the last day of the season for me. It certainly has been a mixed one. We had such a great dump of snow at the start of the season, but then it really did tail off, and then a bang again in late August.
You can sort of see it reflected in the Snowpool statistics..
Still, lovely to be out and about. Still, it’s not the end of the world.. after all.. now it’s into the hiking biking & climbing season. Terrible country this ;)
Finally I feel like I’ve done Matt’s overly generous GoPro justice. Damn it was fun fun and more fun.
Maaike did very well for her first time on powder… and last weekend at Olympus managed to get up on the nutcrackers – some excellent progress there!
Other than that, quite busy at work and looking forward to a proper holiday in a couple of weeks time! Need to get more exciting things happening on a blog. Oh, and Maaike and I bought a car from her boss who left the country – more to come on that later..