Friday, October 26, 2012

Comings and Goings

We had a daughter yesterday, Mae Elsie. One name just because we liked it; the other after Penny's grandmother who is an amazing lady. She was born just before lunch time after a long night of labour. Penny was incredible: focused, stoic and calm. What a woman I have somehow ended up with.

Mae is a delight, she has startling eyes, that pop open suddenly, and long delicate fingers that get lost in the long sleeves of her ill-fitting one pieces.

I lay down tonight with my daughter on my chest, a beer in my right hand and phone in my left and felt the closest I ever have to contented. Time slipped away.

For the last 10 months since we returned from Nepal time has been predominant; 60 hour working weeks for Penny; myself trying to keep buses and drivers on schedule. Weekends have been spent trying to catch up (rather than do stuff) with friends or keeping on top of the garden.

Yesterday with about an hour to go in labour. The reality of our situation overcame me and I cried. Not the burping and the feeding and the changing nappies. The reality that when a child comes into the world a little bit of us is passed on, and soon that will be all that is left. When Mae Elsie entered the world a little bit of my grandads that have both passed on were reborn. I look forward to searching for their quirks as time goes by.

In the meantime though I am enjoying my wife and daughters needs being my only timetable.

Kia kaha.                                                                                                                                                 

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Last Throes - Gokyo to Lukla

I recently got my hands on the final photos of our last Nepal trek - the "Three Passes" of the Everest region. I have blogged earlier about the Kongma La and Cho La, but finally a few words and photos on the final pass the Renjo La.

Our tight-fistedness had finally worn us down. Reaching Gokyo I would have been down under 80kg for the first time since my mid-teens and I was wondering why I wasn't so keen to go exploring in the beautiful mountains. Even the wander up the valley from Gokyo to "scoundrels view", the easiest view of Everest had seemed a challenge. In this context lugging our bags over the 5400 Renjo La seemed a bit of a challenge. In the end we suffered away and it wasn't that hard. The eastern side has a well marked track through the choss while the steeper western side has had steps cut in recent years lowering the difficulty several notches on any scale. The weather also held for the crossing of the pass, and the views were simply stunning.

The snippets of view on the way up though, were nothing compared to the vast expanse of mountains which greeted us on the Renjo La itself. Wild, strange forms of ice, rock and snow...

Looking back east to Everst, Lhotse, Makalu and company

Looking west to nowhere in particular.

We were had it, well Sam was actually cranking it through alright - it must have been those extra fat stores he started with paying their due.
Photography, discussion and even contemplation were at a minimum, it was down into the valley towards the village of Thame, where in the mist we found a guesthouse, then onwards down again to Namche Bazaar, then Lukla and out. The most dangerous airport in the world one last psychological hurdle to overcome before we were suddenly plonked into the middle of Kathmnadu. Crazy days that like them all eventually come to an end. What have we gained from our travel in Nepal...I'm unsure...we didn't push our boundaries as such, or gain a new perspective on life we hadn't had before, we were certainly reminded of our fortune in being kiwis, with coin, but what does this really do for you? We certainly got to spend some awesome time with my side of the family, which was amazing, we were reminded that simple lives can be happy (although hard) and we saw once again that humans will occupy every single niche in nature given half a chance.

The team with Everest on the Renjo La

Down into the valley with prayers...

Into the seasonal yak herding grounds in a high basin

Yaks, mountains and huts

The village of Thame below the Tashi Labsta

A place to call home

Namche Bazaar

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Red Rocks

I think I'm still overexcited about our new camera. I can't run right now, so last night at Red Rocks I had to sift around taking photos while Penny and Elo went running. It was cool just sifting around appreciating things and looking for points of interest and beauty in terrain I normally run through appreciating the more raw sensations of flexing muscles, rain in my face, throbbing wind in my ears, etc.

Well, its always easy to find beauty hanging around with Penny and Elo.

There I was thinking about how a type of seaweed looked like Rimu...and the interpretation centre confirmed it.

Trying to explore the  natural, and not so, lines

Stewart Family Holiday - Annapurna Basecamp

Getting these Nepal blogs done is like pulling teeth - except that I have a few less teeth than Nepal blogs to pull.

The ever so slightly intrepid Stewart family followed on their exploration of the Kali Gandakai with a ten day trek from Tatopani in the west to Dhampus in the east with an excursion to Annapurna basecamp thrown in. Slightly more ambitious than we had planned, but once you're committed there is no going back.

We came from the left - up and down the valley - then down to the right

The lower parts of this trek were through much more heavily agricultural country. The homeland of the Gurung people. This is part of the original "Annapurna Circuit" but in the most part its popularity is waning due to the development of the Kali Gandaki road. This meant there were copious and competitively priced guesthouses for us to stay in at most places. The scenic shit hole of Tadapani being a notable exception. During the trip we lost Gemma, I dropped her off one day down at the nearest road end (bottom middle of above picture). Mainly my memories are of relaxing times with some stunning views and some lovely forests, a beautiful little part of the world.

Heading towards Shikha

Gurung Villagee

Mum and drying corn

We did the whole "Poon hill" thing, getting up early with the crowds of people, and enduring the early morning chill as the sun rose over the Annapurnas and Dhaulagiri. Not too shabby a view, with some interesting clouds.

Annapurnas on left - Macchapuchare on right

The sunrises over wooded ridges

Rhododendrons, Annapurnas and Clouds
From Poon Hill the walk really was mostly downhill. With just a few little ups. We certainly saw some extreme suffering of people heading the other (wrong) way. We cruised through the rhododendron forests, the millet fields and the terraced valleys and on up the Modi Khola towards Annapurna basecamp.

The last good team photo before Gem left us

Dad and Dhaulagiri

Mum giving instructions

Mum in the Rhododendron forest

Looking up the Modi Khola

A reminder of conflicts (hopefully) past.

Trailing porters to Annapurna Basecamp.

Our eventual arrival at Annapurna Basecamp was quite a momentous occasion for the family. we have always had a copy of Herzog's "Annapurna" in the bookshelf but despite this it almost seemed a mythical place, far far away. There was a huge sense of satisfaction at having made it, which was awesome. As Mum pointed out this was sort of like the climax of our trip, it was all (literally) down from here, and it certainly felt like that as we turned our backs on the mountains and headed down. You can almost see it in our faces I think.

Annapurna Basecamp 4130metres

Annapurna Basin posefest.
Turning our back on a mighty mountain

The walk out was peaceful. It actually only took three days, we must have been getting fit. I can't remember much about it, and we don't have many photos. Quite a bit of wandering along, not saying much, looking forward to getting a massive cheap feed in Pokhara. Kids on the track singing for money. Sun and butterflies.

And lots of marigolds everywhere

And a fair bit of rice ready to harvest.
A very memorable and fulfilling piece of travel indeed. A few weeks that I am sure we will be remembering in our family for a long long time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Kangchenjunga School Project: Wellington Talk

 What: Kangchenjunga School Project talk
Where: Tararua Hall, 4 Moncrieff St, Mt Victoria, Wellington
When: 8th February -Doors Open 7.30pm

We invite you and your friends to attend a talk on a humanitarian project in remote Nepal

Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain, rests in the remote nort-eastern corner of Nepal on the border of Tibet and India's Sikkim province. Kiwi Norman Hardie was part of the first ascent in 1954, while in the 1970's the New Zealand Alpine Club staged an expedition to the nearby north face of Jannu, now recognised as one of the toughest challenges in world alpinism. This expedition was famously recorded in Graeme Dingle's book "Wall of Shadows". Less well known though, is that for over 20 years, a small group of ANZAC's have been quietly assisting in the healthcare and education of the local Sherpa people...this talk will tell the story of this project and the effect of the 6.9 magnitude earthquake centred on the area in September last year.

 Australian Cherie Bremer-Kemp made two attempts on the peaks of Kangchenjunga in the 1980's, one of which resulted in the tragic loss of her husband and nearly her own life. She was rescued and cared for by the local Sherpa people, who she pledged to return and assist. She has honoured this pledge, and with the help of her new husband, kiwi Rob Rowlands, has spent the last twenty years building, maintaining and staffing schools and medical clinics in the area. On the projects most recent expedition, Dr Penny Kane, who was asked by Rob and Cherie to provide medical training on womens and childrens health to the local healthcare workers, and her husband Jamie Stewart, were caught up in a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that destroyed one of the schools.

 Cherie, Rob, Penny, and Jamie will all be in Weliington on Wednesday, 8 February, to tell their Kangchenjunga stories and raise money for the rebuild of Folay school. Raffles will be held for valuable autographed books on the area and donations will be accepted. The evening is kindly hosted by the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club.

Some currently school-less children of Folay

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Charming Creek

As mentioned previously the finale of our Mokihinui weekend was a bike/run over the Charming Creek walkway. For me this was a long run: Seddonville - Granity, but there was plenty of interest to keep the mind off the pain. The track follows a crazy bush railway built to allow the extraction of coal deposits. The history behind this venture is here.

Unlike the Central Otago Railtrail the track has not been cleared of sleepers, so is rather a bumpy ride. Running seemed comparatively pleasurable. The Ngakawau gorge pops out of the track about halfway along and just reeks of "mission". Unfortunately it is also a victim of acid mine drainage,about which there is a good intro here. I will save this mission for a few years...when fish feel fit to live in the river I will be keen to tube it.

We had a great time though...its wierd how lots of the most environmentally abused places in NZ; Naseby, Karangahape Gorge, McKenzie Basin, are also oddly beautiful. And Dinner with good beer was found in the Drifters cafe in Granity. Photos courtesy of Jonathan Kennett.

Mark in the boiler

Penny emerging from a tunnel

Another Jonathon and Penny on swingbiking

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mokihinui & New Camera

I thought I would expose my attempts to get our new camera working, mainly from the Mokihinui weekend....good honest fun....

Mr Mark Hooker

Murray and Dougal - flying


Lyell - Bridge

Lyell - Graveyard

Hairy face


Not Levi Hawken


Mokihinui - Damn the dam!

Getting bikes ready

Lake Janet

Lyell Track work

Lyell - Modern Prospectors