Mt Kilimanjaro Day 6

January 26th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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It’s the final day and in around seven hours we rediscover the joys of showers. Despite being at 3,700 metres it is sunny and warm, so we’re in shorts and just one or two layers.

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Saying farewell to Horombo.

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And also goodbye to my favourite trees.

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It is a relatively easy day, going downhill. However we still will be hiking almost 20 kms, which will take a bit over six hours.

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Nice to be back under bush for the final three hours.

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And near the end some monkeys again.

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Finally we’re back to where we started. Over six days we have climbed around 4,600 metres and descended the same.

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We get back to the Marangu Hotel around 3 pm.

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And have drinks and photos with our team – the four of us, three guides, a chef and assistant, and seven porters.

Overall the toughest physical challenge I’ve done to date, but hugely satisfying. If you’re fit and slightly masochistic, I can recommend giving it a go. But not something to do casually!

This was the end of the African trip – gorillas in Rwanda, safari in Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. All very different experiences. I’m already missing the place, and looking forward to my next trip to the continent – sadly at least a couple of years away.

 

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Antisemitism should be repugnant but not illegal

January 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

European Jewish leaders, backed by a host of former EU heads of state and government, are to call for pan-European legislation outlawing antisemitism amid a sense of siege and emergency feeding talk of a mass exodus of Europe’s oldest ethnic minority.

A panel of four prestigious international experts on constitutional law backed by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR) have spent three years consulting widely and drafting a 12-page document on “tolerance”. They are lobbying to have it converted into law in the 28 countries of the EU.

The proposal would outlaw antisemitism as well as criminalising a host of other activities deemed to be violating fundamental rights on specious religious, cultural, ethnic and gender grounds.

These would include banning the burqa, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, polygamy, denial of the Holocaust and genocide generally, criminalising xenophobia, and creating a new crime of “group libel” – public defamation of ethnic, cultural or religious groups.

I’m against this. Unless speech against a group is of a nature that it is advocating violence or similar, then it should not be illegal.

The answer to bad speech is good speech, not banning bad speech.

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Hickey on RMA

January 26th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey writes:

I recently had the joy of watchingMonty Python and the Holy Grailfor the umpteenth time.

Among the many hilarious moments are the “knights who say Ni!”. They are a tribe who stop travellers in their tracks.

They demand sacrifices to allow people to pass. They are exceptionally good at chanting Ni! and the mere sound of the word strikes fear into all who hear it.

I laughed because I have known many knights who say Ni!

They are the people who always say no.

They know how to make submissions under the Resource Management Act to stop something happening.

They are the council officials who stop you building a deck or demand an outrageous fee to build a basement.

The modern day knights who say Ni! are the Nimbys (Not In My Back Yard) and Bananas (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) who have used the RMA and innumerable plan changes to stop things happening anywhere near them, or to force any development into such a box that it benefits the neighbours more than the occupants.

The RMA knights who say no have been a shadowy tribe until now and it’s been hard to pin much damage to the economy on them.

A great analogy.

Housing and Environment Minister Nick Smith has the Nimbys and Bananas squarely in his sights and has ammunition to argue that 25 years of knights saying no in the forest of the RMA have been damaging.

This week, he cited a study of Auckland developments to show RMA rules, delays and uncertainties added $30 billion to the cost of building and reduced new housing stock by 40,000 in the past decade.

His speech proposing a 10-point rewrite of the RMA cited numerous examples where RMA madness had stopped owners developing their properties, such as:

A medical centre had to spend $57,000 on fees and consultants to get approval for seven new bike stands costing $35 each.

Insane.

Property developer Sir Bob Jones had to consult 13 iwi and pay $4500 for a resource consent to replace a ground floor window.

A primary school had to spend $100,000 to be redesignated a secondary school, even though the buildings and grounds were not changing.

The study estimated the cost of regulations in a subdivision at up to $60,000 a house and up to $110,000 an apartment.

Smith’s plans for RMA reforms are rightly focused on improving housing supply and affordability. They are also rightly focused on stripping away the magical powers and mystique of the Nimby knights who say No! and who damage the economy and a younger generation locked out of the housing market.

We know the Greens will oppose the RMA changes. But will Labour? This could be a big test for them.

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US politics cartoon of the week: 26.1.15

January 26th, 2015 at 1:15 pm by Lindsay Addie

Most of the cartoons from the US have been about the  New England Patriots and the “deflate-gate scandal” or Obama’s state of the union (SOTU) speech. This weeks cartoon is about the latter.

The illusion to the President as Robin Hood refers to his idea of taxing the rich to give to the middle class. It was amusing to observe John Boehner sitting through most of the speech with look of a man who thought he was being fed rotten fish and was trying to hide the fact.

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© Gary Varvel: Found at Real Clear Politics

Sadly the SOTU has become a spectacle that is nothing more than a campaign stop for the White House incumbent. It has been like this for a number of years. The Economist has an op-ed on the SOTU and reminds readers that in an earlier time for example under Nixon the speech was an effective way for the President to attempt to advance policy goals and start an intelligent policy debate on issues of the day.

For a bit of context, it is useful to revisit the reception of old state of the union addresses. I’ve been watching and reading a few by Richard Nixon who, as a Republican president from 1969 to 1974, faced some similar hurdles: an endless and dispiriting war; a mysterious and haunting foreign foe; a sluggish economy; a Congress dominated by the opposing party. Interestingly, Nixon’s speeches promoted some similar priorities.

The result was progress.

But in fact many of his ideas became policy, even with Democrats controlling the House and Senate. The new Congress that had just been sworn in that January 1971 could have found it useful to make Nixon look like a failure, with a presidential election ostensibly lurking around the corner (though two years back then were far longer in politics than they are now). But in fact they passed a lot of landmark legislation that continues to benefit Americans today.

The article ends with these words.

One can’t help but feel wistful for an era when a president’s ideas might’ve been debated on their merits, and when lawmakers took their job of making law seriously. It has become hard to remember a time when truculence wasn’t the surest route to political power, and when policies weren’t simply dismissed as “partisan” before being thrown away.

I don’t expect the current divisive mind-set in Washington DC to change anytime soon.

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Call for Australia to change flag also

January 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Australian broadcaster Ray Martin writes:

I recently snapped a shot of Sydney’s iconic Anzac Bridge, with its supersized Aussie and Kiwi statues posted like armed sentinels at the western end, in the dawn’s ethereal light.

It was part of a photo essay I’m cobbling together for April 25 this special year.

The commemoration of Gallipoli — and those first, wide-eyed Anzacs who jumped ashore — is about to wash over our collective emotions, on both sides of the ditch. In 1915 our brothers died on that godforsaken Turkish peninsula at the appalling rate of 45 Anzacs a day.

But. When I focused on the high Anzac Bridge flagpole all I could see was a fluttering Union Jack. The Southern Cross — with it’s familiar Federation Star — was somehow lost in the flag’s folds.

I smiled to myself, thinking how appropriate it was — given that most of the 10,920 Anzac boys who died at Gallipoli had fought under the Union Jack.

Or, occasionally the red Australian ensign.

The mythology — and rampant misinformation — about Australians “dying under the flag” boggles the mind. It’s just not true.

For neither of the two World Wars.

And it is the silver fern which is on most of the graves at Gallipol – our effective national symbol.

In fact the silver fern was used by our soldiers in the Boer War, and was also on the medals presented to soldiers who served in that campaign.

A commenter, Greenjacket, notes:

Are you aware that the symbol of the famous NZ Division in WW1 and WW2 was a white fern on a black background? The symbol on every NZ army vehicle and on every sign to indicate the location of a NZ unit was black square with a white silver ferm emblem. In at least two operations, NZ troops were ordered to conceal their identities by concealing their white fern on a black background symbol, and NZ troops were loathe to do so as they were so proud of it, so the Germans were able to quickly identify where the crack NZ Division was moving. When NZ soldiers identified themselves, they did so with the silver fern on a black background. The NZ Army of today proudly carries on this tradition.

History Geek also has details about the long use of the Silver Fern by the military.

Meanwhile, New Zealand (whom we condescendingly pat on the head as a bit rustic and slow in all but rugby) has decided to seize ‘the one hundred year anniversary’ of Gallipoli to launch a fair-dinkum flag debate.

Unlike us, our Anzac mates have decided it’s time to grow up and become truly independent.

“We want a new flag design”, conservative Prime Minister John Key declared, “a flag that says ‘New Zealand’, in the same way that the maple leaf says ‘Canada’ or the Union Jack says ‘Britain’. Without a word being spoken.”

(Incidentally, the Canadians ditched the Union Jack in 1965.)

Quite frankly, the Kiwis are tired of being mistaken for Australia in the sporting world, with a flag “dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom”.

How refreshingly laudable is that?

It would be great indeed to have a flag that is universally recognised as representing NZ.

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Uber editorials

January 26th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Some of the complaining is down to professional jealousy and turf-guarding. But it has also posed important questions around passenger safety. So it is welcome that the Government will review the regulations around “small passenger services” – the umbrella term covering taxi companies and private hire outfits. Uber is classed among the latter group, which exempts it from certain lengthy rules around fares, meters, back offices, taxi licences and signage. That’s for the good – these rules simply don’t apply to Uber – and it helps the company offer lower prices than taxis.

But the classification also allows Uber more dubious advantages: no need for security cameras mandatory in most taxis; no need for “area knowledge” and language standards that many taxi drivers must meet; less onerous rules around reporting complaints.

It’s not clear why Uber should enjoy such perks. Its model is fundamentally an advance in ease-of-payment and passenger-driver matchmaking – not an advance in safety. And that is the main reason for having rules: to do what is reasonable to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers.

 

The security cameras were not put in to protect passengers, but taxi drivers. And they shouldn’t be mandatory anyway.

The editorial misses the key difference between Uber and taxis. With a taxi you get basically no choice as to who your driver is. With Uber you can choose your driver, and you get to see what other passengers have said about them. It is potentially a far more powerful model for safety and quality.

It is like Trade Me – your reputation is vital. Get some bad reviews, and people won’t trade with you.

So the Dom Post misses the point when it says Uber has perks because it does not need to meet taxi standards. Taxis gets regulated by their companies and the state. Uber drivers effectively get regulated by passengers – if your driver gets you lost, you’ll give them a bad review.

The Press takes a more enlightened approach:

It is, however, one of the most disruptive businesses of all those businesses whose disruption is based on technology and it has aroused fierce resentment, among taxi companies in particular. In some countries it has been banned.

Taxi companies say Uber has an unfair advantage because although it operates as a taxi service it is not subject to the multiplicity of regulations that taxi companies must obey. Uber insists, and the Transport Agency at this point agrees, that it is a hire-car service and it fits within all the applicable regulations.

The differences between taxi and hire-car services are that taxis may be hailed in the street and charge by the metered distance they travel, plus extras like credit-card and eftpos fees.

Hire-car services must be booked in advance for a fee agreed in advance. Uber’s drivers are private operators with their own cars. Customers engage them via a smartphone application. The differences between the services can become blurred, however, and taxi companies say that some Uber operators are stepping over the line.

Some of the taxi companies’ fears, such as those about safety, can probably be discounted. Uber drivers, for instance, are vetted and must have a public passenger licence.

Passengers and drivers rate each other and Uber dismisses those drivers with consistently poor ratings. Because of the way they are hired, any misbehaving driver (or passenger) could also usually be traced.

There is, however, a strong argument for saying that taxis are over-regulated. Foss says that the Government wants to allow innovation to flourish. The review he has proposed must allow that and should not be used as a device to shut innovation down.

I’d be impressed with a taxi firm that tried to emulate Uber rather than close it down. Why not allow us to easily rate our taxi drivers and have that info available to passengers? Why can’t a taxi company inform a passenger which cabs are nearby, and allow the passenger to choose the one they want?

 

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How old is Waikanae?

January 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Waikane may have one of the largest populations of over-65-year-olds in the country and a mobility scooter seemingly on every street, but the town’s promoters say they are sick to death of the town being tagged “God’s waiting room.”

Former Kapiti mayor Brett Ambler coined the phrase more than 10 years ago and it stuck – perhaps a sign of its accuracy.

But Keep Waikanae Beautiful and Destination Waikanae are fed up with the phrase and the description “pensioner paradise.”

Norma McCallum, 79, has run Keep Waikanae Beautiful for 20 years and says the term ‘God’s waiting room’ should be dropped. …

Destination Waikanae member Sue Lusk, 61, said not just elderly people lived in the town.

“About 25 per cent of the population is over 65 but 75 per cent of everybody else includes a lot of young families and a terrific number of very well people. It is a bit heart-breaking when the myth is constantly reinforced.

That stats is not right. The four Waikanae area units have 37% of residents at the census aged over 65. This compares to 14% nationally.

The median age in Waikanae West and Waikanae Park is 64 and 61. This compares to 38 nationally.

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Will Greece leave the Euro?

January 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The anti-bailout Syriza party has won a decisive victory in Greece’s national elections, according to projections by state-run TV’s exit poll, in a historic first for a radical left-wing party in Greece.

But it was unclear whether the communist-rooted party, led by Alexis Tsipras, had won by a big enough margin over Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ incumbent conservatives to govern alone. For that, they need a minimum 151 of parliament’s 300 seats.

“What’s clear is we have a historic victory that sends a message that does not only concern the Greek people, but all European peoples,” Syriza party spokesman Panos Skourletis said on Mega television.

“There is great relief among all Europeans. The only question is how big a victory it is.”

Skourletis said the election results heralded “a return of social dignity and social justice. A return to democracy. Because, beyond the wild austerity, democracy has suffered.”

Tsipras, 40, has promised to renegotiate the country’s 240 billion-euro (NZ$360 billion) international bailout deal. He has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that creditors demanded — including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatizations and public sector firings — in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.

Greece has every right to elect a Government opposed to living within its means.

And the EU and IMF have every right to stop bailing Greece out, and funding them.

The likely outcome is Greece either goes bankrupt, or it leaves the Euro so that it gains a currency that reflects its actual worth.

The centrist Potami (River) party was battling for third place with the Nazi-inspired, extreme right-wing Golden Dawn, whose leadership is in prison pending trial for running a criminal organisation. Both were projected as being between 6.4 and 8 per cent.

When a country is in trouble, the extremist parties often do well – sadly.

It will be interesting to see if the new Government compromises on its rhetoric, or if it holds fast – in which case the bailouts should cease.

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Is Key on drugs ask du Fresne?

January 26th, 2015 at 8:21 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

I have never met John Key, but like anyone who follows politics I’ve been able to observe him via the media. And after studying him carefully, I think I now realise the explanation for much of his behaviour. He’s on drugs.

Not the illegal kind, I should stress, but the mood-calming type that doctors prescribe. This may sound flippant, but consider the following.

In the 2014 election campaign, Key was subjected to possibly the most sustained media offensive faced by any prime minister in New Zealand history. Day after day he was tackled by an aggressive media pack trying to trap him on dirty politics, illicit surveillance and other touchy issues.

His answers were often unsatisfactory, which served only to ramp up the media frenzy. But through it all, he appeared supernaturally imperturbable. He patiently batted away reporters’ questions and accusations with his familiar bland inscrutability. There were no meltdowns, no hissy fits, no petulant walkouts.

This was downright unnatural. No politician should be that unflappable. He can have achieved it only by the ingestion of large amounts – indeed, industrial quantities – of tranquillisers.

Alternatively he may have voodoo dolls of key members of the press gallery :-)

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General Debate 26 January 2015

January 26th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Ryder vs Slater

January 25th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Cameron Slater says he knows he sells newspapers, so now he’s ready to sell pay-per-view television – even if he knows the viewers might be switching on to watch him get knocked out.

The controversial Whale Oil blogger and the subject of the Dirty Politics scandal will make his ring debut in Christchurch on March 28, against former New Zealand test cricketer Jesse Ryder.

Good to see Cameron following his political hero, Bill English, into the celebrity boxing arena!

Slater said he had limited boxing experience, but “it’s a good way to lose weight, a good way to get fitness up and these days with the death threats and people wanting to hate on you online, it might be useful to know how to use your fists”.

Slater admitted he would be the underdog against Ryder, who knocked out radio presenter Mark Watson three years ago in his only bout.

Ryder will be the clear favourite, but good on Cameron for giving it a go.

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Fairfax’s 2015 predictions

January 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The predictions of the Fairfax press gallery team for 2015 were published on 1 January, but they don’t seem to be on the Stuff website. They were kind enough to send me a copy to blog, as I always appreciate their willingness to go out on a limb and make some predictions. Their 20 predictions were:

  1. Jacinda Ardern will win Labour’s “deputy idol” and be installed as Annette King’s replacement.
  2. Trade Negotiations and Climate Change Minister Tim Groser will retire to concentrate on a musical venture.
  3. The Government will bow to pressure and introduce a register of foreign buyers of houses – though it will tweak its role and name to hide its embarrassing climb-down.
  4. The Reserve Bank’s official cash rate will still be less than 4 per cent by Christmas.
  5. A NZ First MP will fall foul of the past.
  6. New Zealand troops will (still) be in Iraq by the end of 2015.
  7. Tension in the Green Party will spill into the open over whether it should kill or cuddle Labour.
  8. At least one senior MP will signal plans for a tilt at the mayoralty of a major city. (Yes, Phil Goff and Annette King are our top, but not only, suspects.)
  9. ACT leader David Seymour will graduate from under-secretary to ministerial rank.
  10. After February, National will not score more than 50 per cent in any mainstream New Zealand-based polls.
  11. A National minister will be forced to fall on his or her sword over a question of judgment.
  12. The Budget will focus on poverty, including incentives for those moving from benefits into training or work, but will not lift base benefits beyond indexation.
  13. James Shaw, Peeni Henare and Chris Bishop will be the stand-out MPs for their respective political parties among the 2014 year intake.
  14. Labour will be scoring at least 35 per cent in polls by the end of the year.
  15. Corrections Minister Sam Lotu- Iiga’s sentence in the portfolio will be shortened.
  16. Ron Mark will take our gallery bureau’s inaugural Mallard Shield for most ejections from the House.
  17. Marama Fox will make a bigger impact – but a lot more mistakes – than her co-leader of the Maori Party.
  18. Former justice minister Judith Collins will be back in the Cabinet, but not on the front bench.
  19. A former Labour front-bencher will quit politics for private enterprise.
  20. Winston Peters will celebrate his 70th birthday in April by announcing he is standing down as leader. (Worth it to be wrong, just to see his reaction.)
  21. New Zealand will win one sporting World Cup.

I agree with No 1. No 5 is interesting – do they know something, or is it a statistical probability?

For 8 I think Goff is far more likely than King.

No 10 is luckily excluding January.

No 14 is a big call, and a big reach for Labour.

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 5

January 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

We set off around midnight and the weather seemed perfect – no wind, and a clear night. The Southern Cross and Milky Way Galaxy were prominent in the sky.

It was however very cold. Going uphill with so many layers of gear on is exhausting work, especially when you have much less oxygen to breathe compared to normal.

The main challenge is to climb around 950 metres to Gilmans Point. Then after that it is a further 60 metres or so to Stella Point at 5,739 and finally Uhuru Peak at 5,895 metres – around 1,200 metres up from Kibo Hut.

The track to Gilmans is incredibly tough. First of all you can’t see it. You just follow the person in front of you. You can vaguely see some ridgelines but don’t know how far away they are. After a couple of hours of trekking, we had no idea how much more we had to go. We had been told six hours is normal, but our guide had said it may take seven and a half hours to Gilmans.

The path is steep. It is a 4 km track which rises 1 km vertically. So for every four metres of track, you go up one metre approx. There are basically no flat sections, or even gentle zig zag slopes. It is just relentlessly upwards.

To make it harder, some parts of the route go over scree. That nasty stuff where you slide back 80% of the step you take.

We take a 10 to 20 second breather around every eight minutes or so (Basma is counting to 300 slowly in Arabic between pauses) and every 45 minutes or so we do a proper stop where we sit down and have some food.

After three hours or so we seem to still be leagues away from the top. We need to not only get to Gilmans, but then to the peak, and then descend 2,000 metres or so to Horombo Hut – all of which is a good eight to nine hours on top of the time it takes to get to Gilmans.

I’m on the verge of quitting half a dozen times. The reduced oxygen and five lawyers of clothes is exhausting. And even with so many layers, you’re still cold. But so long as the others keep going, I’m determined to. I do make a mental note though to learn to say no, the next time someone asks me to do anything which involves going over 4,000 metres above sea level – unless a plane is involved.

The mountain side looks like a series of fireflies with torch lights both above and below us.

I’m most fearing three things which would force me down. Around 3 am the sky clouded over and the rain may be a matter of when, not if. Trudging up in the rain for hours on end would be too much. Likewise if the wind picked up, it would get too cold. Luckily neither were eventuating yet.

My other fear was when the altitude sickness I had in the Himalayas would strike. I had headaches for around seven days, and that was ascending just 500 metres a day, while this was double that. It previously struck around 3,800 metres and we were now over 5,000 metres.  The altitude training I did with Altitude Inc paid off. I mumble thanks in my head to Hayden Wilson for recommending them, and to their director Bronwyn for arranging a portable unit I could use in my apartment right up until I left Wellington.

The pauses are becoming far more common now. For a while we were doing 10 seconds trekking, 10 seconds pause as we started to fade. It was still pitch dark, and we had no idea what the time was, and how much further to go. A guide said he thought we had around an hour to go to Gilmans.

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Suddenly ten minutes later we come across a sign. We think it must be a sign to tell us how far to get to Gilmans, but we are at Gilmans. It’s around 5,30 am – we even got there before the sunset.

Much hugging and high fiving follows. The biggest emotion is relief. All four of us have made it to the top ridge of Kibo. We’re not at the summit, but we are at the point where the National Park will recognise you as having climbed/trekked Kilimanjaro.

It is still dark, so we decide to go to Stella to see the sunrise. Basma has had problems with her jacket and gloves and is freezing, so she decides (wisely) to start going down a bit before we make Stella.

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The path to Stella is not too bad, after the huge climb. It is mainly through snow and takes around half an hour to get there. There is no sunrise to be seen though as it is totally clouded in. It’s cold and miserable.

We decide to head onto the summit. In theory it is a 200 metre ascent (from Gillmans to Uhuru) over a 2 km track so only a 1 in 10 rise. However this is arguably the most exhausting part. We’ve been ascending for over seven hours and our pace is slow. Even the smallest rise exhausts us. Hell, even getting your water bottle from your pack is exhausting. And the water is mainly frozen solid.

There is a great companionship though. Those on their way down from Uhuru give you support and say not far to go, They high fist bump you and say you can do it – even though many are strangers. But the time stretches on and on, and we can’t see more than a score of metres ahead, so can’t tell how far to go.

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Finally around 7.15 am we make the summit. Trekkers and guides hug. It is freezing so we do a few quick photos. There are no beautiful sights to see, but nothing can detract from having made it. It hasn’t snowed (yet) but my scarf has frosted over, and I’m told there is ice on my eye lashes. So yes the smiles are rather forced!

Bruce and Chris have both tramped and a lot, and are very fit. They agree that the section from Stella to Uhuru was a b**ch. We have no energy left, but staying put is not an option, so we start the trek back down.

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We get back to Gilman’s and it is now light enough for a photo.

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Then something cool happens. The cloud lifts for around 60 seconds and we get a view of Mawenzi.

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We also can see some glaciers a short way from where we are.

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Now it’s time to head back down. The clouds below look like crashing waves.

The trek down to Kibo Hut is faster than the trek up, but still painful and exhausting. With three pairs of socks on, my toes are pushed up against my boot tips as we descend. I routinely let out yells of pain as my big toes get mashed. When I finally get to a hut, I discover that the blood and bruising on the toe is so much, that I may need to get the nail removed.

A fair potion of the way down is scree, and you can almost ski on this for a rapid descent. But doing so is incredibly exhausting and the descent takes around three and a half hours from Uhuru.

As we descend, and can now see, we’re amazed at how much territory we covered coming up. We decide that the reasons they send us up at night, is because if you could see the full distance you had to climb, you’d give up early on. The path down keeps stretching further and further.

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We have a couple of breaks on the way down and then around 11 am get back to Kibo Hut – 11 hours after we left. The cloud got so thick we could only see the hut once we were 20 metres from it. In some ways the descent was more unpleasant than the ascent.

I’m freezing and jump into my sleeping bag. I appear to have some mild hypothermia as I’m shivering even in several layers of clothes, a thermal liner and a sleeping bag. Even with my Down Jacket on, I’m shivering. The problem is you lose the heat from moving, once you stop.

We learnt the rangers decided to take Basma down by gurney as she was so exhausted. She’s not alone. A total of five trekkers out of around 30 in total were evacuated by staff due to exhaustion, sickness or hypothermia.

I seriously can’t face around three hours of trekking down to Horombo Hut and consider spending the night at Kibo. But I drag myself out of my sleeping bag, grab a quick lunch (beef stew, yum) and around 1 pm we start off on another 1,000 metre descent.

The flat saddle area is pretty manageable, but the final hour is spent going down the lower track to Horombo, and it is a steep track, full of boulders and rocks like on a rover bed. It makes the decent more exhausting, and damages my toes a bit more. We get a mixture of snow, hail and rain on the way down.

With relief we hit Horombo Hut around 4 pm. We’ve been trekking for around 20 of the last 32 hours. An early dinner and we hit the hut to crash.

We’re all coughing quite a bit – presumably from the cold. Hopefully not something worse. I feel a bit feverish and take my temperature and find it elevated.  And of course our muscles are aching. My last thought as we go to sleep is that I’ll be detained at the NZ border for sure as an Ebola suspect – coming back from Africa with a fever, a cough and barely able to stand up.

My other thought is that no matter how much pain was involved, a huge sense of satisfaction to have made it. I do tell Chris B though that he shouldn’t invite me to whatever stupid idea he has for his 50th birthday :-)

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General Debate 25 January 2015

January 25th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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No rates for Sky City

January 25th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Auckland mayor Len Brown says the council will not put any ratepayer cash into building or running an international convention centre.

He told the Weekend Herald yesterday that there would be no money for the SkyCity convention centre in a new 10-year budget.

On this issue I am with the Mayor. Sky City has got their regulatory concessions in return for building a convention centre for $405 million. If they say they now can’t do it for that, then it is better to not have it happen, than have ratepayers or taxpayers subsidise it.

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50th Anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill

January 24th, 2015 at 6:34 pm by kiwi in america

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill.

Recently on a trip to the UK, a friend and I visited Blenheim Palace, seat of the Duke of Marlborough and the place where Winston Churchill was actually born (although the then Duke of Marlborough was his uncle). There is a remarkable museum honouring the various military successes of Churchill’s great (five times) grandfather and 1st Duke of Marlborough John Churchill. Indeed John Churchill’s success at defeating the French at the Battle of Walcourt and various successful campaigns in the War of Spanish Succession led to King William persuading Parliament to appropriate funds to build the splendid Blenheim Palace just north of Oxford.

A separate but more modest museum on the site contained a variety of fascinating memorabilia from the life of Winston Churchill – items that are unique to this museum. To me the standout was a rather obscure item and yet one that went to the heart of why Churchill was later to prevail in the Battle of Britain. It was a school exercise book that was confiscated from Churchill by a teacher at Harrow when he was only 13. The reason for the confiscation was because Churchill spent time in the classroom recreating (by way of military style sketch diagrams) many of the famous battles his illustrious ancestor had won. Churchill had memorized the details of all these battles and recreated them for his class mates!

Like many sons of aristocrats, Churchill lived and breathed all aspects of war from celebrating the various famous British military victories to his arduous training at Sandhurst, his participation in the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan in 1898 (the last horse mounted charge undertaken by a British Calvary regiment in battle), his capture and escape as a war correspondent in the Boer War and of course his ignominious role in the fateful Gallipoli campaign as First Lord of the Admiralty in Lloyd George’s Cabinet. All of these experiences prepared Churchill for his most revered role – that as the victorious wartime Prime Minister of Britain.

There is one remarkable and little know incident in this much studied role that to me illustrates the essence of Churchill. He assumed the Prime Ministership from the hapless Chamberlain at possibly one of the lowest points of the war for Britain. Just days before, almost 400,000 soldiers of the British Army had been hurriedly and desperately evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk by the Royal Navy and a flotilla of almost 800 private vessels which plied the English Channel over 4 days rescuing the core of the army (that had previously failed to prevent the fall of France) from certain capture or annihilation.

As Hitler amassed an invasion force of over 500,000 troops and the necessary invasion barges, a few in the British government thought that a German invasion and victory was imminent and began secret backchannel negotiations with the Germans. This effort was led by high profile Cabinet member Viscount Halifax the then Foreign Secretary. Churchill, upon discovering these efforts, engaged in a war of memos with those favourable to negotiation as well as other members of the inner War Cabinet. After three days of heated debate in the War Cabinet, Churchill vowed to head off and terminate these efforts without delay and decided to confront Halifax at the first meeting of the full Cabinet he held as PM on the evening of the 28th of May 1940.

Churchill’s impassioned plea on this subject was recalled by Hugh Dalton, Minister of Economic Warfare: “I have thought carefully in these last days whether it was part of my duty to consider entering into negotiations with That Man. But it was idle to think that, if we tried to make peace now, we should get better terms than if we fought it out. The Germans would demand our naval bases, and much else. We should become a slave state, though a British Government which would be Hitler’s puppet would be set up…” Churchill apparently paused and looked directly at Halifax and said “If this long island story of ours is to end at last, let it end only when each one of us lies choking in his own blood upon the ground.” 

Churchill’s belligerent and defiant challenge to the waverers in his Cabinet and his fighting words had an immediate and electrifying effect. Not only was any talk of potential surrender stopped dead in its tracks but Churchill recalls in his diary: “Quite a number seemed to jump up from the table and come running to my chair, shouting and patting me on the back…It fell to me in these coming days and months to express their sentiments on suitable occasions. This I was able to do because they were mine also. There was a white glow, overpowering, sublime, which ran through our Island from end to end.”

Churchill went on soon after this fateful meeting to deliver the series of famous speeches in the House of Commons that rallied the nation behind the war effort for the crucial Battle of Britain that lay ahead:

1 – “Blood Toil Tears and Sweat”: 13th May 1940

2 – “We shall Never Surrender”:  4th June 1940

3 – “This was their finest hour”: 18th June 1940

I’ve spoken to my various English relatives (some now deceased) about how they felt about the imminent threat of German invasion at that time. All were unanimous in describing that they felt utterly reassured by the demeanor of Churchill who seemed to never countenance defeat.

Let us honour this great indomitable leader and the pivotal role he played in the defeat of Nazi Germany and may we never forget the various lessons in courage, clarity and devotion to purpose that Churchill taught us.

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 4

January 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Day 4 is when it starts to get more challenging with both the cold and the altitude. The terrains gets a bit like Tongariro.

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There is however still some brightness.

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Day 4 is a six hour hike over 10 kms, rising from 3,705 metres to 4,730 metres.  That is 2.87 kms higher than where we started.

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The saddle stretches on for ages and ages. We got both rain and hail at various intervals. Having to put on wet weather gear heats you up and slows you down, but the moment we took it off, it would start raining again!

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Bruce would feed the crows and this particular crow was not into sharing. Rather than just take a couple of pieces of bread, he went around grabbing every piece he could until he had almost 10 chunks in his beak!

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Basma trying to be a crow.

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The saddle is a gentle uphill. The final hour is a demanding steep slog. You’re really noticing the lack of oxygen on the uphill. At this height it is 11.5% oxygen compared to 21% at sea level.

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Our chief guide Simon on the right.

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Kibo Hut ahead. No A frames here. Just one big stone building with four bunk rooms sleeping around 15 each.

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Bruce at the official sign. It was near freezing here and no one went outside except to go to the toilet. As we had all been taking Diamox to help with the altitude, and drinking four litres a a day, it is fair to say we were going a lot!

Day 4 is almost a combined day with Day 5. You only sleep for around four hours from 7 pm to 11 pm before making the final ascent to the summit. From 8 am on Day 4 to 8 am on Day 5 you are on you feet for around 18 hours.

We had a huge dish of pasta to car up at 6 pm, and then crashed. Didn’t really sleep much, and around 9 pm the wind started howling. This was not a great sign. Even with perfect weather, it will be below freezing on the ascent. High winds would be a killer.

Luckily they died down around 11 pm, when we got up.

Before dinner you have a final gear check, and set it all up next to your bunk so you can quickly get into it. I was wearing 26 different items of clothing (we joked about how long it would take to play strip poker!. To make the ascent I had:

  • Boots
  • Socks (6, 3 pairs)
  • Underwear
  • Long Johns x 2
  • Ski Trousers
  • Waterproof Overtrousers
  • Merino Tops x 3
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Scarf
  • Gloves
  • Mittens
  • Balaclava

Also of course walking poles, sunglasses (for way down) and headlamp.

We stumbled outside at midnightish for Day 5 and the final ascent. Sore and tried from Day 4, but adrenaline kicking in.

 

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Montgomerie on Key

January 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Tim Montgomerie interviewed John Key for The Times.

On his own blog, He makes 10 observations about John Key:

  1. Upwardly mobile
  2. No surprises
  3. No security in standing still
  4. Controlled immigration is a good thing
  5. Patriotic
  6. A sensible green
  7. Balanced ticket
  8. Polls, not pundits
  9. Selfie conservatism
  10. Global leadership
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Middle Eastern political relationships in one easy lesson

January 24th, 2015 at 2:31 pm by Lindsay Addie

Last year Slate published this diagram using smilies to show the state of relationships in Middle Eastern politics.

Middle East Friends and enemies

Some of these relationships may have changed in light of more recent events but assuming for a moment that they’re reasonably accurate as shown.

  • Everyone but Iraq have more enemies than friends.
  • ISIS and Al-Quida not surprisingly don’t have any friends.
  • The Palestinian Authority seem for whatever ever reason to have a lot of complex relationships.
  • The Israel – USA relationship is probably a friendly relationship that has got a bit complicated bearing in mind the squabble about Netanyahu being invited to address a joint session of the US Congress by Boehner. The White House have accordingly got their knickers in a knot.
  • Saudia Arabia don’t have an oversupply of friends.

I must add that some countries like Yemen and Jordan haven’t been included.

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Doomsday Clock now irrelevant

January 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says Earth is now closer to human-caused doomsday than it has been in more than 30 years because of global warming and nuclear weaponry. But other experts say that’s much too gloomy.

The US advocacy group founded by the creators of the atomic bomb moved their famed “Doomsday Clock” ahead two minutes today. It said the world is now three minutes from a catastrophic midnight, instead of five minutes.

In the 1970s and the 1980s the Doomsday Clock has relevance. At times the world came close to a superpower conflict that could have destroyed the planet. When I was 15 I recall a survey that around half the people my age thought the world could end in our lifetimes. Today I doubt 1% think that.

Claiming we are at the same risk of extinction as during the cold war is nuts.

They justify this by saying they now include climate change. They are the Atomic Scientists!

“The fact that the Doomsday clock-setters changed their definition of ‘doomsday’ shows how profoundly the world has changed – they have to find a new source of doom because global thermonuclear war is now so unlikely,” Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker wrote in an email.

Exactly.

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Should we ditch Concert FM?

January 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

John Drinnan reports:

According to Howson, Nielsen statistics show Concert reaches 5 per cent of New Zealand listeners.

Concert costs about $5 million, so those listeners are in a privileged position.

Some people believe that as a public station Concert does a brilliant job on a remarkably small budget.

I don’t see in today’s age there is a need for taxpayers to fund a station such as Concert FM.

I do accept the case for National Radio, as that is about making sure we have in depth coverage of New Zealand news and current affairs.

But Concert FM plays basically German classical music. Now I happen to quite like my Mozart, but you don’t need a $5 million station for New Zealanders to be able to listen to it. Almost every piece of classical music in history is available for free and can be streamed, made into playlists and the like.

This is the playlist for Friday:

  • Wagner
  • Mozart
  • Schubert
  • Beethoven
  • Mendelssohn
  • Marais
  • Bach
  • Hayden
  • Verdi
  • Gershwin

etc etc. Why not get rid of Concert FM and put the money saved into beefing up National Radio?

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 3

January 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

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Day 3 is a rest or more correctly an acclimatization day. We still did a five hour trek today, so it wasn’t very restful! Had a late wake up of 7 am!

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Lots of those strange trees around camp.

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We hiked up what they call the Upper Route towards Mawenzi.

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These are the Zebra Rocks.

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The natural colouring of the rocks is quite fascinating.

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We decided to carry on up towards the ridgeline.

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And got up to around 4,300 metres after three and a half hours. We’d been told the whole up and down would take three hours so were slightly grumpy.

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Not as many of these here as in Nepal, but still a fair few Buddhists have been through.

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A view down from the ridgeline. It started to cloud in going down, and then it rained. Luckily you always have the wet weather gear in the day pack, so a quick change for the final part of the descent back to Horombo.

Doing an acclimatization day was a very good idea. There seemed to be a lot more altitude sickness with groups that didn’t do it.

The weather stayed overcast, rainy and cold for the rest of the day. We had an early 6 pm dinner and then went to bed around 7 pm, as the two hardest days were to follow.

 

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General Debate 24 January 2015

January 24th, 2015 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel
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Metiria says Key’s views are warped, outrageous and deeply offensive

January 24th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei launched a stinging attack on John Key in his absence at Ratana today, saying his view of New Zealand’s history was “warped, outrageous and deeply offensive”.

I remind readers of the Green Party Values:

Engage respectfully, without personal attacks

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PM vs Chief of Staff

January 23rd, 2015 at 8:50 pm by David Farrar

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TVNZ reports:

Mr Key will today have private meetings with representatives from Ireland, Sweden and Luxembourg – but even a Prime Minister needs to let off some steam.

ONE News Europe correspondent Jessica Mutch snapped the PM mid-snowfight with his chief of staff, Wayne Eagleson.

I’m sure that isn’t in the job description!

NewstalkZB reports that it is not all snowball fights:

John Key is in demand at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He’s attending the annual gathering in Switzerland for the first time.

One News reporter Jessica Mutch told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking Mr Key is a man in demand in Davos.

“He has been a target, or a little bit of a superstar at this conference, just because of how well our economy is doing at the moment. He has been asked to speak, particularly about our connection with Asia.”

I’m so pleased we didn’t throw it all away to have a Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana-Internet Government.

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