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

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mokihinui Weekend

 We had a fantastic weekend down south recently courtesy of the imagination of Jonathan Kennett. Jonathan is working part time at the moment for the Ministry of Economic Development on the New Zealand Cycle Trails project. This must be a big push for a self made man who has hardly ever worked for anyone, but he can see the opportunity for big gains for cycling in NZ. One of the approved projects Jonathan is keeping an eye on is the Old Ghost Road. An attempt to recreate and re-envisage the historic pack route route from Lyell on the Buller to Seddonville on the West Coast.

Jonathan's concept was to get mtbers from around the country to converge on the Mokihinui gorge, the northern part of the Old Ghost Road, for a weekend, to open up as much of the old pack track to mountain bike (grade 3) standard as we could. We would then have a few adventures as well. In the event there were over 40 of us that made the trip, with sizable contingents from Christchurch, Nelson and Wellington. With a few chainsaw gangs and the rest of us on loppers, grubbers and the like progress was fast...the 5km to Rough and Tumble creek knocked out in a solid day...and some real mint riding track exposed.

Well known MTBer Dave Mitchell and the lady that is always in his photos
Chainsaw getting stuck into some logfall

Emily "power cookie" Miazga watching people work

Paul Kennet riding a mint bit of track

A track sized whole in the vegetation
The evening was about getting together over a beer or two, enjoying the BBQ put on by the Old Ghost Road trust and trialling the yike bike, which was brought along by one of the Chch guys who is part of the development team. I had a good chat to Joe Arts, who with his caving mates is quietly going about some seriously hardcore exploration deep inside Mt Owen. Hard bastards. The next day we skivved off and went for an inflatable mission, via the track cleared the day before. The lower gorge of the Mokihinui is rather pleasant grade 2+. The 3 boat inflatable regatta went smoothly, although the Penny/Jamie combination did get pulverised at one stage, and Murray/Dougal took a rather lame swim the beginning of which is illustrated in the photos below.

Off down the river

I told Penny it was a good line.
 The Sunday was capped off by a nice run/bike over the Charming Creek walkway to Granity and dinner at the Drifters cafe.We hadn't visited Charming Creek before and were impressed by the history, but a little shocked by the water quality of the cascading Ngakawau. This is a seriously cool river that has suffered from the mining on the Stockton plateau.  There is also a hydro scheme planned here, which perhaps (there are concerns about the ocean discharge) has better environmental outcomes than the Mokihinui proposal.

Thanks to Jonathan for the photos. We have a new DSLR camera the products of which will be revealed soon. I am currently in Christchurch spending some time with family, in lieu of moving into our own house on the 15th of February. Exciting times!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Everest - Checking out the Big guy

So we were up at Lobuche, in the Dudh Kosi valley, killing some time while waiting for the New Zealand summer to begin. It was cold, especially at night, and the yak dung smoke itched at the back of your throat like a furry carpet. The air itself, cold and stripped of moisture, tears at the furry carpet like a vacumn cleaner. The western food, carried in for days and prohibitively expensive, stares at us, daring us to splurge. The Nepalese food comes to us in ever decreasing volumes, just as we need the energy we are gradually bled dry. Bottled water is too expensive and the batteries for our UV filter don't work when it is this cold. Giant yaks shit in the streams constantly. Purged we dragged our butts up to Everest base camp, or at least the moraine wall above it, where there is some pretty mountain scenery.

Pumo-Ri with the viewpoint of Kala Pattar below

Looking up valley to some mountains

First glimpse of Everest for the day

One person forgot the camoflague tent rules for base camp.

This is Lhotse in the centre - Everest is obscured by the peak on left - Khumbu icefall!

The scenery really got cranking though when we headed up Kala Pattar like everyone does now. Many go up for sun-rise, but we had heard this was cold and over-rated. We were pleased to be there in the middle of the afternoon. Sam was like a model, posing with any mountain (read celebrity) he could wrap his arm around. Penny wasn't much better. The whole thing really was a big relaxed mountain love-fest.

And yeah aside from those ugly mugs there was actually a nice view. To go with my collage fetish, here is the beginning of my panorama obsession. Not sure what it looks like full size as it has been heavily reduced for the web....but what a massif!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wandering Towards Everest

It wasn't really our intention when going to Nepal to join the multitudes on the path to Everest Base Camp. It just sort of worked out that way; GB's village was close by and you know it was just there. It was an awesome surprise to find that there are so many options in this area to get off the beaten track and knock around a bit on easy terrain well above 5000metres. We chose the well-known "Three Passes" route, which swerves around amongst the hills and valleys below Everest. The aerial representation below shows our route as far as the Gokyo valley.

Namche Bazar must be one of the most famous villages in the world. There is something about its setting , sheltered in a snug ampitheatre from the mighty mountains around it, that sticks in the memory. It helps of course that Mt Everest is just up the valley and that Namche is the capital of the famous Sherpa people. Tourism has brought plenty of wealth to many Sherpas, the richest control trekking or guesthouse empires and live in grand houses in Kathmandu. Everyone is in on the act, guesthouses litter the track like discarded snickers bar wrappers, and Namche has grown to accomodate our western consumer needs. A lovely spot, but we passed through quickly heading for a guesthouse on the track near Khumjung.

Sam and Penny getting out of Namche in a hurry

And contemplating the massiveness of Thamserku

First sighting of Ama Dablam (right) and Everst (pyramid just left of centre)
The majesty of Ama Dablam - from our guesthouse in Khumjung

If Namche is the hub and commercial centre of the Sherpa people, the hidden valley of Khunde and Khumjung is their heart and soul. These were the villages that Sir Edmund Hillary fell in love with and centred his lifes work around. We went for a morning stroll around the villages, feeling uplifted without our packs on a beautiful morning with amazing views all around.

 That day we headed on up the valley as far as Pheriche taking the track up the western side of the Dudh Koshi, through the awesome little village of Phortse which we really loved. We only saw a handful of tourists the entire day including a couple of English (I think) Doctors who had been manning (womanning?) the clinic at Pheriche for the last few months. They were wearing MACPAC's and it turns out they are based during the winters at Whakapapa skifield. Walking past Phortse we got a great view across the valley to Tengboche and the vast face of Thamserku behind. At one point we spotted a little herd of Himalayan Thar happily feeding on a small spur...not quite as persecuted as those that roam the Southern Alps.

Harvesting time in Phortse

Prayer stone amidst the potato fields

Phortse with Pharilapche behind

Himalayan Thar browse on spur - Tengboche in background
We arrived in Pheriche just after dusk, coughing our way into the yak dung powered settlement which sits in the valley floor and suffers an unfortunate inversion layer given the circumstances. We stayed in a lovely guesthouse which had an improvised wood-burner in the middle of the common room, this was to become standard and necessary over the next week or so. We were now at 3810metres altitude and it was getting pretty damn cold at night. From Pheriche we branched off from the main track and headed right up the Imja Khola in the direction of the well known "trekking peak" Island Peak and the high passes that lead to the Makalu area. We only went up valley as far as the guesthouses of Chukkung before hanging a left and crossing Kongma La back to the Dudh Koshi. This is a terrifically scenic area with views of Ama Dablam and surrounding mountains, Makalu, Lhotse and from the Kongma La itself, endless mountains to the west. Quite possibly the scenic highlight of our entire five month holiday!

A white wall above Chukkung

Ama Dablam towers above Chukkung
Sam begins the long climb to Kongma La
The Nuptse to Lhotse ridge blocks out a view of Everest

Penny has her day of suffering - this was steeper than it looks

What can you say about that mountain!

Nearing the top - Makalu appears in the centre background. Makalu is the 5th highest mountain in the world. On our trip we saw 8 of the ten highest mountains.

Penny with a few steps to go, pass at 5535metres

At the top looking west, Arakam Tse on left, Rolwaling dead centre in the distance, Lobuche glacier coming down to join the Khumbu

The crew, looking back the way we had come, Penny and her ginger beard men
The descent back the Khumbu was relatively quick, tho we couldn't say the same for the dubious scramble across the groaning glacier, where loose rock and yawning ice ponds gave us something different to think about. But what a day, next: on to Everest.