Magdalen Hut

We headed in to Magdalen hut on the St. James Walkway (well, just off it). It was a super little walk actually. I’ve become terribly lazy of late, and, the thought of actually getting away takes quite a bit of effort, once we’re actually away then it’s easy :)

Anyway, had a brilliant little walk to the hut. We have been having some very grey days in Christchurch (unusual for here) so it was just lovely to get out and see the sun! It had been quite snowy up there, so, there was plenty of ice around (somewhat slippy on the track at places)

The hut itself was great. Whoever had been there last had left it immaculate. Nice 6 bunk hut, heaps of wood. We arrived about 4:30 and had the place to ourselves.. up until 7pm when a group of high school students arrived. They were made to sleep outside by their instructor though ;) heh.

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Lord Howe Island

I’d never heard of Lord Howe Island before. It’s a tiny little island about 10km long and about 600km from anything else, stuck in the middle of the Tasman Sea. You can see a google map here.

Anyway, some friends of ours had visited, and said what a lovely time they’d had, so, off we went. There are no direct flights from New Zealand, and, the numbers of visitors allowed is regulated (450 I think it is). So, we had to book through an agency, and, we had to fly through Sydney / Melbourne. We opted for Sydney as I have a cousin there so it was a great excuse to catch up. Aidan took us for a day trip to the blue mountains, and, generally looked after us very well! A coffee ready on arrival at the airport, I may have to take a leaf out of his book!

Then it was time to fly to Lord Howe for a week. We just had a fantastic time really. It was somewhat low season, but, we had pretty decent weather, and, made the most of it when it was fine. It did rain in some of the afternoons, but, we had some lazy days too. The OpenStreetMap Android app (OSMAND+) came in super useful again. It was just ridiculously well annotated. Even pointing out where the snorkelling holes are, where the turtles are. Beats the absolute pants off Google Maps!

We did do one boat-trip to do snorkelling further out on the reef. We were out for a couple of hours total, in the water for a bit over an hour maybe? I’m really not the best swimmer / that happy in the water, but, if you’re also like this, just know that with a wetsuit in the sea you’re really very buoyant. You hardly need to expend much energy to float around. It’s good ;). We had to take a couple of trips to where the turtles were supposed to be before we saw one, but then we did, and had a lovely 10 minutes or so just swimming along with it. Lovely.

Lord Howe is also a sad tale, much like NZ really. A pretty unique ecological climate has given rise to a whole heap of endemic species, which are getting slowly (or not so slowly) wiped out by invasive / introduced species. One particularly nasty critter is the Crown of Thorns Starfish pictured below.

Photo credit: CoralCoE on / CC BY-ND

They still don’t actually know how it got to Lord Howe, but, its here, and it’s slowly eating the coral. I have no idea what you’re supposed to do with a pest like that. Very sad :(

We also headed out to see the petrels which nest in their bajillions here. They’re very inquisitive, and, much like in the Attenborough clip here, they came to our calls (almost came a little too close for comfort. They really liked Maaike’s shoes..)

All too soon it was time to leave. We might go back, it was a lovely spot. If we do, scuba diving will definitely be on the cards.

Finally, if you’re wondering how we took the photos – it’s an olympus tough. They’re fantastic cameras, fantastic macro and obviously waterproof too.

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Planting Trees

Well, we had a wonderful trip around the world in 2016, and, while I’m sure it’s not perfectly accurate, we did contact Ekos who are a local organisation that basically plant tress to offset your carbon. Yes, it’s basically a big cheat and the planet would be far happier if we didn’t fly around the place, but, anyway here we are.

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Lots of lovely visitors

Next up we had Eefje and Geert staying, last time we saw them was back in Belgium 2 years ago. They were travelling through NZ for 3 months. Interesting way to do it, they bought a car on the North Island, and then, assuming they don’t crash it, the guy buys it back off them at the end. Seemed to work out well actually.

My old friend Dave Aubrey was in town. He is such a complete legend. An incredibly lovely energetic person to be around. Here’s a picture of Dave in a dingy being towed across the foveaux straight. Mental

Anyway, he was back in town touring about with his partner Jess. They squeezed more into their three weeks than most people do in a year! It’s a shame he got lured to Canada… hey ho.

We have had a pretty stellar summer and now into Autumn. The weather has been excellent. Gabby (outward bound watch mate, now just mate and wonderful friend & climbing partner) did the Coast to Coast with her sister. Over the course of two days they bike & run & kayak from the West to the East coast. She was somehow still smiling when she arrived into Christchurch!

Maaike and I also got to Shakespeare in the park. This time it was The Winters Tale. Honestly, I think I prefer it when they’ve been modernised ;) I know, I’m so uncultured. Hey ho. The moral of the story is: If you’re a pickpocket you can get away with it and end up super well off. At least, I think that was the message.

Finally, enjoyed this years Wicked Rogaine series. Basically a series of three 2 hour orienteering events in the evenings. They have really built it up from nothing. There were about 300 competitors this time (each night!). It’s almost getting to the point where there are too many. That said, fantastic to see so many people out there enjoying the hills. Very good.

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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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