Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Races and Photos

The only thing that beats sitting in the sun during afternoon smoko is sitting on the couch with a beer looking out at the harbour. These two times are in a category of their own, when you just sit and let life drift by, like you need to sometimes to keep perspective.

My office looks north out onto the ground level of a 3 storey giant white wall. I have had brief Banksy moments where I contemplate creating a metaphorical hole for myself to escape through, with only myself to benefit though, and the presence of several giant sized metaphorical holes in my head, the investment seems unneccesary.

Banksy shows the sea to the West Bank

We have been escaping recently by indulging in races. First up was the Winter Classic the iconic hard man orienteering event this year run in the wilds of Karori.

We rough and tumbled through the scrub and possum trails of Wrights Hill reserve, popping out occasionally onto the well loved mtb trails of Salvation and Deliverance, appropriate lines of weakness for our jungle adventure. The old guy with the trophy is Penny's Dad Neil. Winner of the prestigious Wayne Cretney Memorial Cup for the M40 grade...Neil can now run M65!

Last Saturday our adventure fix was the Mukamuka munter. 3 hours worth of Orongoronga grunt and suffering. The first two hours were fantastic, running the wild south coast past Tutaekirae head and through into the land of quad bikes, fishing shacks and craypots, turning up the eroded Mukamuka valley and cranking up the gravel that evolved into boulders, into scrambling, into relief as South saddle was reached on the side of Mt Matthews. But was it worth the grief at limping down a beautiful single track just right for powerful strides with crippling cramp in both hamstrings?

Bryn looks good as he starts to drop me

Other recent highlights have been a descent with Brent of the Karapoti gorge on our new inflatable canoe (many of missions to come)....grade 3 in flood still a little bit bony and a few log jams but great times!! ....And the recent publication of Jonathon Kennets new Tararua Adventure Guide, with the most bad taste cover photo ever chosen...;-)

Penny continues to work and study hard with exams now confirmed for February/March and bus drivers provide me endless entertainment and challenge. I am now in a small team managing 500 of them. What else to say? Maybe I have to start getting political again!

Oops one last photo for the records: Aaron, Jamie and Brent, Arrow adventure race 2004, how come it looks like the 1980's?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Three Passes

I'm not sure why, but the Three Passes has never held much allure to me. Maybe it was the plod up the Waimak, or the awkwardness of transport at the other end. Maybe it was the valley travel, when around Arthurs Pass I always yearn to be on the tops. But regardless, a few days ago it happened anyway, sort of without thinking, a semi-drunken proposition at a party to run the Three Passes in a day in winter, which Greig Hamilton cruelly held me to...

5:30am: The river bed is crunchy. The stars are so bright and so uniform that it is like the deity has put a colander upside down on our horizon. Though with torch on and head down the fog of our breath leaves us stumbling on the slippery stones. We expect to get wet early, but the frozen mountains are bonding firmly with the water this morning. The braid of the Waimakariri that normally crashes into the bluff just upriver from Klondyke Corner has vanished leaving only a worn channel.

We stick on the true left, navigating by the vague silhouette of Mt Stewart and the patterns of alluvial gravel. The comfort of our lives becomes dependant for an hour on the whimsical gradation and deposition of rocks. When we hit a line of beech, we know we have crossed the Crow and we move on upriver, finally crossing just before the rough fan of Greenlaw Creek, which I remember from daylight sometime, and popping out at Carrington close to dawn.

7:40am: We leave the Waimak and head up the White river, underneath the Clough Cableway, where Greg slips, sucker punching his kidney on the only rock in the vicinity. I pause for a quick photo of Mt Murchison, the highest point of Arthurs Pass National Park.

The Taipoiti is good going, a lack of water, and good footing. Frozen waterfalls pause breathless and the canyon closes in, but ascends only steadily. Rock Wren live here, but this time of year, they will be deep in their bouldery tunnels wrapped in a lifetime of collected fluff from dead chamois. I look back to Mt Harper with interest in the long ridge.

Onwards and upwards. The Ariel Tarns are snowed over, hidden for the winter, but the Whitehorn snowfield is in good condition and the sun is rising behind us, tickling the backs of our ears with a hint of warmth.

We plunge down into the dark Cronin. Blue glacial ice hangs high on the true right. A sturdy remnant. The sepia 1970's shots in the Arthurs Pass Visitor Centre show this glacier plunging boldly down the face. THe going becomes hard, soft snow over hard rocks. We stumble our way down the valley until we reach a point where the reflected heat of the river has been enough to melt a narrow path of snow along its length. We boulder hop quickly towards Park Morpeth Hut at the junction of the Wilberforce.

12pm:Browning Pass was originally proposed as a road link. What were they thinking? With crampons on running shoes I was only too aware of my limitations. The slope is like that of a volcano, you ease up it until it steepens and you are committed and have no choice but to continue.Greig has much more experience on steep ice than me and following his crampon steps was very excavating exercise. I needed to make sure!!

The crater rim reached I collapsed with the view of the frozen Lake Browning, a vista seen many times before in tramping magazines. While back down the precipice (ok the exaggerations are growing) the Wilberforce stretched away down to the plains of the Rakaia.

We stopped here also for our team photo, squinty and rattled...

From here it was all down hill first into the headwaters of the Arahura, blocked occasionally by frozen gullies of snow. Then onto the well kept old packed tracks around Harman hut, where dracophyllums and mountain cedars give the bush character. The track to the tussockly Styx saddle can be run with ease, and then all of a sudden you can see the sea. Well down valley over Lake Kaniere towards the Hokitika coast.

4.40pm We leave the Oasis of Grassy Flat hut bathed in light. This is the best hut of the lot situated in a large basin with shear but well spaced ridges rising all around. I promise myself to come back one day, to explore the side track that heads up to Browning Biv and the tops beyond.

6.30pm We arrive finally at the road end, having succumbed again to our torch light on the short winter days. Penny is there instead of Dad, and it is great to see her. Nothing left to do, except fish and chips in Hokitika and the long drive back to Arthurs Pass. A great day out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Things Ain't too Bad

We have been stuck somewhat in the throes of work, play and exhaustion. Parenting is hard, even if it is only of a feline variety. Sherpa Tenzing came into this world four months or so ago, he has been with us for a month. He's a cutie...

Today for the first time in a while I saw all the beauty in the world. The tooth I got pulled out yesterday must have done the trick. Sunrise from the deck probably helped as well...

At lunchtime Penny rescued me from work and we went running around the Ataturk memorial at the head of the Wellington harbour. It was such a still, mild day, that it felt great just to be alive , to be running. No pictures today from there, but the words from Ataturk on the memorial inspired me. A perceptive recognition (if unwitting) on the foolishness and universality of the human condition.

"Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives;
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehemets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries,
wipe away your tears;
your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are at peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well."

Our sport has been a highlight recently. Grit occasionaly triumphing over fitness. Greig Hamilton and I won the New Zealand 24hr rogaine champs in the Akatarawa forest in April. The highlight being rough and tough bush navigation in this terrific little chunk o country.

While earlier in April we journeyed down to Central Otago: Alexandra, Cromwell sort of way for a long awaited National Orienteering Champs. We ran on the old sluicings of the old timers in Roxburgh, Bannockburn, Earnscleugh and Naseby. A terrific weekend of competition and camaraderie. Here's a couple of maps...

And theres been the odd other trip as well. Chamberlain Creek in the Tararuas was a bit of a blast. Abseils and deep pools discouraged the camera. Its a shame as we would have been a site walking into the Roaring Stag Lodge in our wetsuits. A hut fairly full (30 people in a ten bunk hut) of VUWTC punters.

And before that Caspar and I took on the Carkeek picnic (courtesy of Greg Thurlow hospitality) and were whipped. The Carkeek picnic is is a highly regarded traverse of the Northern Tararuas in a day, via the parks spiritual heart Carkeek Hut, ridge and Park Forks, high up the pristine Waiohine. Caspar took some photos of this trip. He was looking a bit nervous for a start...

But as we got the South Ohau and then Arete under our belts he started to pull through, it was a bit foggy and I got us briefly lost coming off the summit of Lancaster, but by Carkeek ridge the fog began to clear...

And Carkeek hut showed up.

After this it was a wonder down to the lovely Waiohine and a long trudge up thickening regeneration to McGregor and Jumbo. The others met us there and the mission was over bar the pain of the final little walk out!

Apart from that I don't know what is there to blog? Bus and babies? I guess theres the failed trip to the Gardens in February still hovering around. I will have to dig up some good photos of southern rata flowering...,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reading Out Loud

One of my strongest memories from this past summer is reading a Hone Tuwahre poem at Zoe and Nick's wedding. I suspect I had the honour as I was their oldest looking Maori friend. I enjoy reading out loud, it is a chance to unlease those creative juices somewhat and throw off some of the cloaks we are shrouded with...

The poem is called "Hmmmm" it is a love poem, with a strange mix of homely nostalgia and thirst for life. As I read it I was moving through a wrecked old farmhouse beside a river in South Otago, a landscape that Tuwhare called home.

Hmmmm ...

It is a house which requires
care in construction.

It has no walls thus permitting
expansion. The ceiling
is unlimited stretching to heaven.

It may endure given a chance
thats for sure: hmmmm ...

Because it is of earth, smelling
of earth, its foundation
may be built on sand.

It may be a house built on thin
wooden legs, steadfast, and
walking into a river swollen
suddenly by a cloud-burst:
or a house-boat chundered-out
and abandoned on a reef of mud.

But since there are no walls --or roof
to it, love may be seen as bars
of feeling - tones and colour, warm
cold, hot, grey and with lots
of blue, or just plain
shitty coloured!

Fleshed out though, the house of love
isn't shapeless. It has presence.
It has form - a brilliant arc
uniting heaven and earth: actually
love-thoughts seeking a new way
of expression: aha, aha aha
as horses pounding into the straight
riders snarling -- the anguish
of stretched leather smelling of sweat.

Late Summer in Wellington

The weather has been special this week, and there is nowhere on earth better than Wellington on a good day. Apart from 50 odd hours of work what have we managed to squeeze in...

Well first it was Karapoti, New Zealand's most famous bike race. 1000 people traversing the Akatarawa wilderness north of Wellington and then coming back again. Penny did great and had a big smile on her face at the end despite her dire predictions (I knew she was well and truly tough enough to enjoy it). My effort was not quite so good, breaking a chain after 5km, and completing the remaining 45km by scootering, free wheelin and pushing. I got to yarn to lots of people though, going past me.

That evening we camped with some friends at Kaitoke Regional Park, the home of Rivendell, lovely forests and copious camp spots. Its location so close to the suburbia of the Hutt is unusual, but it is a well managed and beautiful spot. And its close to the blueberry cafes of the Akatawawa valley where we brunched. They couldn't get eftpos so they gave us an iou, hears to that and pancakes.

Back into town and it was a couple of hot hours at the Newtown festivals with myriads of stalls and buskers. There is always something interesting to see in Newtown, but this was something else as were the samosas.

Then finally for the weekend a bit of opera. Clementine Lovell, a friend of a friend, we had heard her sing at their wedding, so were up for a trip over to historic Thorndon and the interesting venue of the "Moorings", which is an old ballroom/den/secret society ritual room, located at the back of an old villa, the bottom right bit of the following photo...

I have never really "got" Opera, but hearing it in the flesh is great, the distillation and magnification of emotion is intense, at times I felt the hairs standing up on the back of neck. And watch for Clementine Lovell, New Zealand's next international opera star?...

The working week started well, with Swing dancing to look forward to. We are following in the footsteps of our friends Penny and Nick. Check out this outrageous first dance from their wedding over summer, which we were honoured to attend on Waiheke Island.

It might take a while to reach quite that level...

Ah and then what else has happened, a 5km race and meetings on Tuesday, then an evening hanging around with an old friend Tom on Wednesday, checking out the local Tibetan solidarity movement and watching a film on the latest environment issues in Tibet, then an amusing time heckling at the Backbenchers political debate....its easy to keep busy!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


My Grandad passed away a couple of weeks ago. He's the one on the left below (I'm still lucky enough to have the old looking guy on the right ;-)).

He was an amazing man who rose from humble origins, growing up through the Depression to become a PHD, Professor and Knight, Principal of Lincoln College, a fine rugby player and most importantly a fantastic husband, father and grandparent. He achieved his goals with dignity, determination and a minimum of fuss. He leaves a big gap in our lives. A gap to hopefully be filled by memories, dreams and closer relationships within our remaining family.

At the funeral held in a packed Knox Church the family pulled through well with great speeches, poems and even Karanga (little sis) from the following generations. Nana asked me to read Psalm 121. This is a verse which I had never connected with previously but is now so special to me. The image I conjured in reading it was my Grandad as a young man, working the hill country of Putere behind Wairoa. A land burned and probably still metaphorically smouldering. A harsh land with little shade recently exposed to the sun. What shaped the young man during this time, what were his challenges and his hopes for the future?

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

The best online obituary I have found is here. An obituary written by Mike Crean was also published in the Press and Dominion Post on the weekend.

Rest peacefully Grandad, your journey was a marvellous one and we will look after Nana (when she is not looking after us).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Snippets of Summer

Four in the morning on the 28th of January and summer is slipping away. We are both back at work, Penny in the neo-natal unit (the baby factory) and me now fulltime at the bus company counting beans. Writing has taken a backward step to living on the move and I wonder if thinking has as well. I don't feel in the right space to savour every moment, to remember vividly, I'm left with fleeting moments of the last few months and I don't even think of them much.

Sprint the Bays

Most recently I headed to the Hawkes Bay for an orienteering competition "Sprint the Bays", six sprint events on detailed campus and park maps over a weekend. Six times fifteen minutes flat stick, hard on these untrained legs. I did well but the moments I remember are the negative ones, a mis-punch (clipping the wrong checkpoint) when the yellow jersey would have been mine and the frustration of seeing another competitor cross an out of bounds area when I had been struggling to run him down. The bad moments seem to stick sometimes.

Calamity in Cambridge

A couple of weeks back, Penny and I undertook this little Adventure Race with good friends Brent and Ramash. We kayaked on Lake Karapiro and most memorably down the worn gorge from the dam to Cambridge. The river still flows like a river should for a while there. We biked and trekked around the low hills south of town and towards Wharepapa our navigation skills and Brents tow rope securing a win.

A Tararua Tramp

We finally explored the Poads Road entrance to the Tararuas, heading up the Ohau one fine day and returning down Gable End ridge one wet day after. The South Ohau river is pleasant and fast travel with low and warm water, I could imagine it is otherwise from time to time, and the South Ohau Hut looks a great spot. We headed up over Girdlestone Saddle and Pukematawai to find Arete Biv as darkness and the front caught up on us. There were nervous moments as my navigation wasn't good in the clag and the hut proved to have been moved. But once inside we had shelter from the storm.

Back in Arthurs Pass

Working back in time and imagining Brent and I reversing the top half of the South Island, stopping only briefly at Okiwi Bay on the Kaikoura Post and at the Anglers Arms in North Canterbury when the norwester threatened to blow the kayak of the roof, and we get to Arthurs Pass where Mum and Dad live amongst the beech, keas and tourists. We stalled for a time here this summer, playing board games with the extended Prince clan and watching the rain drum against the windows.

The best day was when I grabbed Sara away from the family one morning and went up one side of the valley - Mt Phipps, and then with Aaron and Brent popped up for a rumble down the Bealey Scree that afternoon. Thats living in the mountains! High up on the summit ridge of Phipps I startled a rock wren in a pile of choss, it stared at me for a second then vanished into its tunnels.

Phipps from Temple Basin, the cloud had returned by the time we reached the top

Brent on the Bealey scree

Hanging around on Mt Bealey

Aaron in Rough Creek

Aside from the action we spent some peaceful time just hanging around with Aaron and Sara's kids, Karin and Greta, perhaps relearning with them the sights and smells of old bachs and the Arthus Pass environment.

And then heading back into the mists of time and we spent several days in the paradise of Totaranui. For some reason I remember the first run, up over Gibbs Hill and down past the old farmhouse turned hut to the headlands and beaches of the quiet side of the Abel Tasman. The last couple of headlands we skirted, clambering the granity coast.

There were other missions too, a descent of one of the creeks that drains from the inland track, avoiding waterfalls by reading the lie of the land and undertaking feats of great agility on the great old trunks wedged in the river. I remember Lara doing a high jump into a pool out over a ledge when there was no other option, and Penny and Brent emerging from a bend in the gorge like tightrope walkers on an old rimu.

And now I am really out of time and I haven't ventured onto Caspar and Nadines wedding, or visiting Julie at Outward Bound or Mt Philistine or the gorgeous ratas and pohutukawas or summer concerts in the park that have been filling our evenings lately. More to talk about next time I guess as well as upcoming weddings and fingers crossed a big trip into the West Coast hinterland....take care out there.