Archive for the ‘DPF’ Category

Comedy Festival: Spyfinger!

May 6th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Went to Spyfinger! at Bats last night. Was my first time there since their massive renovations (thanks Sir Peter Jackson) and it looks great. A larger and better located bar and multiple venues.

Spyfinger! is a parody of spy films, and they carried off their show with charm and a near zero budget. They are to theatre, what Southpark is to animation – done on the cheap, but very funny.

Instead of using actual special effects, they just verbalise them. So when in Iceland, and playing an Icelander they just say “Icelandic, Incelandic, Icelandic”. It actually works and is very funny.


It’s a cast of three – Hannah Banks, Alex Greig and Paul Waggott, directed by Uther Dean.

In a sixty minute performance they entertain through a series of puns and scenes. Some highlights:

  • The villain showing the various torture methods, including torture by revealing Games of Thrones spoilers. The look of anguish on the hero’s face is priceless.
  • Managing to work into the script a reference to the title of every James Bond movie ever made
  • The skydiving scene – played out on the floor
  • The final line of the show
  • The references to ponytails
  • The slow motion fight scenes

It’s a fun wee show that doesn’t take itself seriously. If you’re a James Bond fan, you’ll enjoy this. It’s on Saturday 9 May, every evening at 7 pm.

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A Servant to Two Masters

May 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Circa’s production of A Servant to Two Masters has been my favourite show to date of 2015.

The play was written in 1743, and was adapted by award winning playwright Lee Hall in 1999. It may be 275 years old, but it is still hilarious.

The play has nine characters. They are:

  • Beatrice, whose brother was killed by her lover Florindo – played by Kathleen Burns
  • Pantaloon, who is searching for Beatrice – played by Richard Dey
  • Clarice, who was engaged to Beatrice’s brother – played by Acushla-Tara Sutton
  • Silvio, now engaged to Clarice, played by Jack Buchanan
  • Dr Lombardi, father of Silvio, played by Stephen Gledhill
  • Pantaloon, father of Clarice, played by Patrick Davies
  • Brigjella, an innkeeper, played by Gavin Rutherford
  • Smeraldina, Clarice’s maid, played by Keagan Carr-Fransch
  • Truffaldino, the servant to both Beatrice and Pantaloon


Photo from Circa

The star of the show is of course Truffaldino who desperately tries to earn money and feed himself, while serving both masters. He acts, sings, juggles and performs superbly. A very physical performance.

But the show is not just about Truffaldino. You have no less than three love stories in play, plus some grasping parents. Also of course is whether Beatrice’s disguise as her dead brother will be discovered.

The play runs for 140 minutes (with an interval) but not once did it seem slowly paced. In between the comedic elements, the plot advances at an intriguing pace.

Simon Leary as Truffaldino is the star of the show, but the whole cast performed really well, and Ross Jolly’s direction had the play flow very smoothly. Special mention must also be made of Kathleen Burns who excelled in playing Beatrice pretending to be her brother.

As I said my favourite show to date of 2015, and one I can recommend to anyone who enjoys a great comedy. It may be 275 years old, but good comedy is timeless.


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Don Juan

April 29th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Don Juan in on at Circa until 23 May.

It’s a cabaret style show mixing atmosphere, singing and acting like a good cocktail. Talking of which, they actually serve you cocktails in the theatre during the brief interval, as part of the show (if you pay for one in advance).

Five actors perform the life of the legendary womanising Don Juan.

It’s a high energy performance with a huge amount of audience interaction. Some of the audience actually sit on chairs on the stage, and get pulled into the show.

The cast play a troupe of Lily, Julie, Maurice, Philippe and Ginger. They each have their own story, and again some interact with the audience. Philippe has a crush on a university lecturer and Ginger’s ex is in the audience, and both add comic to the production.

I found the show a wee bit slow to get into, but after around the first 15 minutes I really enjoyed it. The five actors all have really really good singing voices, and they way they interact with each other to tell the story of Don Juan is a credit to the show’s direction.

Possibly now a show for older audiences, but a very enjoyable production for the young and young at heart.

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Submission on NZ Flag Referendums Bill

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


About the Submitter

  1. This submission is made by David Farrar in a personal capacity. I would like to appear before the Committee to speak to my submission.

    The overall Bill

  2. I support the bill, without amendment.

    Order of Referendums

  3. Some groups and people have advocated that the first referendum should include a question on whether voters wish to change the flag, and if there is not a majority, there is no second referendum.
  4. I oppose such a move. It could result in no vote occurring on an alternative design, even though a majority would vote for the alternative design.
  5. Such a change could deny a design supported by a majority of voters, being voted on.
  6. It is quite possible a large number of voters could vote at the first referendum that they do not want change, yet could be persuaded that the alternate design is preferable to the current design and vote for it, even though they did not have a problem with the current design. There is a difference between finding the current design acceptable, and saying that no other design could be better.
  7. A flag is not an electoral system. A flag is simply a design, and the most informed way to vote is choosing between the current design and an alternative design.
  8. An electoral system can produce outcomes such as a disproportional Parliament, a lack of women, a majority Government which allows voters to decide they want change, regardless of the alternative. But a vote on a flag makes no sense without knowing the alternative.

    Method of Voting

  9. I am disappointed that only overseas based voters will be allowed to return their votes via the Internet. There is no sound public policy reasons that voters in NZ should not be able to do so also.
  10. Postal voting is a dying method of voting. Restricting the referendum for those in NZ to postal voting is likely to lead to a low turnout, which could undermine the moral legitimacy of any vote.
  11. The turnout for postal referendums in recent times has been declining from 80% in 1997 to 56% in 2009 to 45% in 2013.
  12. While it is probably too late to make the necessary arrangements for this referendum, planning should commence for future referendums as postal referendums will not be viable in the not too distant future. Younger New Zealanders simply have no relationship with a post office.

Thank you for considering this submission.

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April 16th, 2015 at 4:19 pm by David Farrar



This is one of the views from the top of The Nut in Stanley. We only popped in there to grab a bite on the way to Smithton, but were very glad we did. They have a chairlift up to the top of The Nut, which is basically a flat mountain. You can then do a two km loop around the top, getting great views in every direction.


A very tranquil area.


Can just see some of Stanley below. It is a small 500 population tourist town – a few souvenir shops and cafes.


The lobster at the Stanley Hotel attracted us in. Very reasonably priced, and very nice for lunch.


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Cataract Gorge

April 15th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar


A must visit if if the north of Tasmania is Cataract Gorge at Launceston.

It was created around 1899 as a Victorian garden. There are two cafes, a like, outdoor swimming pool, large grass area, and lots of trails and lookouts.

Also a chairlift to take you from one side to the other.


A view from the far side at the top of the Inclinator.


There’s around 20 peacocks all around the main cafe. They literally walk around the tables, hoping for food.


And in one of the playgrounds, you can see wallabies.

They have walks ranging from 5 minutes to 90 minutes to various dams and bridges. Liked it so much, we went there twice.


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Mole Creek Caves

April 14th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

If you’re in Tasmania, the Mole Creek Caves are worth checking out. There are three different caves you can tour – we did two of them.

The Underground Rivers cave has a huge amount of stalagmites (might reach the roof) and stalactites (hangs tight off the roof).  Some narrow passages as you head in and down.

The Great Cathedral cave has you climb over 60 metres to a huge cavern known as the Great Cathedral.  More colours in this one.

They both have the same entrance, with a large amount of glow worms.








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Trowunna Wildlife Park

April 13th, 2015 at 4:05 pm by David Farrar


Popped into Trowunna Wildlife Park last week. It’s near Mole Creek, up in the North Western area of Tasmania, where we were mainly staying.

A cute Tasmanian Devil having a laze.


Not so cute when they are feeding!


A quoll, sort of a cousin of the devil.


A determined bird.


These are Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles. They’re huge. They can kill prey several times their own weight.


Sorry, we had no food for him!


Or for him!


The kangaroos and wallabies are in the main park area, and you can pat them.



An Echidna. A type of an eater.


Quite a few birds there.


A wombat.

It’s a fairly small compact park, but as you can see a reasonable variety of species native to Tasmania. Well worth a visit.


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Common not to agree

April 11th, 2015 at 12:55 pm by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford writes in Stuff:

Taxpayers’ Union executive director Jordan Williams said the downgrading of flights by MPs may have inadvertently undermined the reason they claimed to need to fly business class.

“MPs travel business class so they can arrive refreshed and get straight into work,” he said.

“The fact that they are trading that for an economy-class seat so they can take their wife suggests that they’re not in Europe purely for work and even makes the argument for business-class tickets questionable.”

Meanwhile, a split may be forming in that organisation on the issue.

On Thursday David Farrar, a Taxpayers’ Union co-founder and board member, wrote on Kiwiblog that it was “pretty standard practice that if someone is entitled to travel business class, to allow them to choose two lower cost airfares instead”.

This was “often cheaper” than a single business class fare, he said.

Sir Keith Holyoake once said he only agreed with 80% of what his own Government did. Likewise I don’t agree with everything National does, and I don’t personally agree with every single media release put out by the Taxpayers Union. This is no surprise – I will always blog my personal views here.

I helped set up the Taxpayers Union because there was basically 2,000 or so lobby groups calling for more spending, and almost none calling for lower taxes and a restraint on spending. I’ve been delighted with how successful the Taxpayers Union has been in its first 18 months.

But that doesn’t mean I personally agree with every media release, and never will. The Board set priorities, and gets involved in determining policy on major issues. We don’t vet every press release, and even among the Board we sometimes have a diversity of views on what is “justified” spending and what is waste.

The Taxpayers Union is not a Cabinet or Caucus where you have to publicly agree on every issue. It is an organisation that exists to fight against wasteful spending, and support lower taxes.


Port Arthur and Tasman

April 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar


Spending a few days in Tasmania visiting some of my GF’s family, who have moved here. We had a couple of days in Hobart so decided to drive south to the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur.

This beach is where the dogline was at Eaglehawk Neck – the only connection to the mainland and 30 metres wide. They had 13 vicious dogs here who would catch escaped prisoners.


A blowhole at the Tasman Peninsula.


Some great formations made over the centuries by the elements.


And great views of the peninsula.


Then we got to Port Arthur, where you go out by boat, giving you this view of the old prison.


Many will remember the mass shooting by Martin Bryant in 1996. He killed 35 and wounded 25 more. He may be insane but he picked his area well, in that there would be very few places in Australia with so many people in one place, yet scores of miles from the Police.


It is a beautiful and now tranquil area, despite its history.

Thousands of prisoners were kept here, ranging from actual criminals, to political prisoners to paupers to the insane.


Today there are no prisoners, but lots of birds.


A lovely view from up at the Commandant’s House.


It takes around three to four hours to get around all the buildings, grounds and houses.


The prison areas are just part of what is there. They have many old houses from the convict and post-convict eras where the doctor or priest etc would live.


Remains of an old church.


The Gardens.


And the fountain at the centre of the gardens.


Tryout out the shackles for size.


And driving home, I loved these road signs of the Tasmanian Devils. And you do actually see a few at night.


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The mystery of Edwin Drood

March 31st, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is one of the largest productions I have seen at Circa, with 34 members of the cast (and one dog!).

It is a globally successful musical that has won five Tony Awards, and had long runs at West End and Broadway.

The name of the play, and its basis, come from Charles Dickens. It was his final novel, and he died before he finished it. Playwright Rupert Holmes turned it into a musical with a twist – the audience decided how it ends.

It is what you could call a meta-show – a show within a show. The New Zealand cast play a music hall cast performing the Dickens play.

There are 11 principal parts, being:

  • Chairman of the Music Hall Royale – Gavin Rutherford
  • Edwin Drood, murder victim – Awhimai Fraser
  • Rosa Bud, betrothed of Drood – Barbara Graham
  • John Jasper, uncle of Drood with a crush on Bud – Jack Buchanan
  • The Princess Puffer, opium den matron – Jude Gibson
  • Rev Septimus Crisparkle – Lloyd Scott
  • Neville Landless, a suitor for Bud – Ben Paterson
  • Helena Landless, sister of Neville – Flora Lloyd
  • Bazzard – Alan Palmer
  • Durdles – Andy Gartrell
  • The Deputy – Frankie Cur

I thought the entire cast performed very well. Barbara Graham has an exceptional singing voice and excelled. Awhimai Fraser also stood out with her performance as Edwin Drood. But all the principals performed both acting and singing well.

Also worth a mention was the 20 strong ensemble. They gave the performance a real cabaret feel, and many of them spent almost the whole performance on stage, responding to the events of the play.

The directing, music, set and lighting were all done very well, combining to create a very captivating production.

The audience participation is a highlight – ranging from the characters introducing themselves before the play starts, to voting on how the play ends, with members of the ensemble tallying up the votes from different parts of the audience.

You get to vote on how the mystery detective is, who the killer is, and which two characters should have a romantic ending. I won’t reveal who our audience voted but I will will reveal who I voted for – which was Helena to be the detective, Rosa to be the killer and the romantic couple to be Neville and Helena (heh).

I often get restless if a play goes on for more than 90 minutes or so. This production is 140 minutes long (with an interval), but not once did I feel it was dragging on. The plot advances at a brisk rate, and the songs are so enjoyable, time flies. You could tell the entire audience was loving the performance, and there was a huge ovation at the end.

Highly recommended for an entertaining evening out.

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Rakiura Track Day 3

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


Off just after 8 am for an 11 km hike out to the end of the track. We started with a bit of a climb.


Lovely views of the ocean and hills in the mist.


Another stream to cross.


And just great views down by the water.


We were so lucky with the weather. Was around 17 degrees and sunny.


You stay close to the water for around two thirds of the final day.


Good old NZ native bush.


The final section of the track.


And we’re out. It’s then a 2 km walk to Oban, but we were lucky that we got picked up on the way.


hanging up in the property next to the end of the track.


We had around three hours to spare Sunday afternoon so went to the South Sea Hotel for oysters, drinks and lunch. Then we flew out, and you can see Oban below us.

A really enjoyable three day hike. The easiest of the great walks to date. Was genuinely surprised by the beaches and beautiful bays. Definitely worth doing.


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Rakiura Track Day 2

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


Saturday is a 13 km inland walk from Port William to North Arm.


Around an hour into it, there is a site which has two old log hauling machines at it. They were abandoned around 100 years ago.


One of the downwards sections on the track. Not much walking on the flat, but nothing too steep. Maximum climb in any one section is 200 metres.


Crossing a stream.


The halfway tree is where we stopped for lunch.


The woods reminded me of the movie “Into the Woods” I saw in January.


The back balcony for North Arm Hut.


The main entrance. Two bunkrooms and a dining area.


And once again a spectacular view from outside the hut. We got there around 2 pm (five and a half hours) so enjoyed several hours in the sun. The only hassle was the bumble bees!


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Rakiura Track Day 1

March 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar


Flew over to Stewart Island the Friday before last to do my 4th of nine Great Walk – the Rakiura Track. A very bumpy flight at times, but we made it there safely despite Auckland Girl being in the co-pilot seat.


Three of the four of us at the start of the Track at Lee Bay. This is five kms from Oban. As we only landed at 2.30 pm, we grabbed a shuttle over there, but you can walk to it.


There was a bit of rain for the first half hour hence the jackets and pack covers, but after that only sunshine.



Lovely track.


Quite diverse tracks on Day 1. It’s an 8 km hike to Port William.


I didn’t realise how beautiful Stewart Island is. You tend to associate it with the rough Foveaux Strait, not sandy beaches and calm blue waters.


After a while the canopy opens up.


There are two sections that go along the beach. This is Maori Beach, which is also a campsite. I like being in huts, not tents, but was almost jealous of the campers for their location.


As you can see it looks like it could be in the Coromandel.


A bridge at the end of the beach.


Me heading across.


A good shot of the water.


And a happy duck.


The final beach at Port William.


Port William Hut. Sleeps 24.


And the view from outside the hut. Again quite stunning and not what I was expecting.

A fairly easy day. We made the hut in three hours, arriving around 6 pm.


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March 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Over the weekend Five Thirty Eight reported:

Today is Pi Day — the day each year, March 14, that follows the first three digits of pi (3.14). And this year’s Pi Day is a special one: Since — in the U.S. — the date is represented as 3/14/15, we have the first five digits of pi on the calendar.

And at 9:26:53 am it is 3/14/15 9:26:53 which covers the first 10 digits.

That’s news for some people. When it comes to how many digits of pi people know by heart, the majority only know 3.14. Which is fine! Unless you’re building a bridge, that’s the most you will really need to know.

I asked SurveyMonkey Audience to put out a poll to see how far people could get reciting the infinite digits of pi. Of 941 respondents, 836 attempted to name the digits after the decimal point. This is how far they got:

10% could cite 3.1415926 and 5% 3.141592653

NASA employees can probably get away with knowing only the first six digits after the decimal point. Also, we have calculators for when we need a few more digits, TI-89s for when those calculators are insufficient and Wolfram Alpha for when we reduce those calculators to a smoking, melted mess.

My party trick at school and university was being able to recite pi to 15 decimal places. I thought this would impress the girls. I was wrong :-)



DPF away

March 13th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m on Stewart Island until late Sunday, tramping the Rakiura Track. There will be some pre-timed blog posts, but won’t be online to catch breaking news. See you all Monday.


The Pianist

March 12th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

I loved this show.

Thomas Monckton was like a combination of Mr Bean and Jim Carrey. it was great, and he was hilarious.

Mockton plays a pianist who wants to make a triumphant appearance and then perform on the piano. But over the next hour everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

You don’t even see him for the first few minutes as you just see the figure trying to break through the curtain. You’re laughing out loud at the clawing motions you can see.

Then when he finally gets out, watch out for the chandelier, the piano legs, the cover, the lighting – well just about everything.

Monckton doesn’t speak the entire play. His antics and facial expressions are more than enough to keep you amused – along with his somewhat spiky hair.

The sound and lighting combine with great timing to make the show spectacular. And the lighting operator even plays a part more directly in the show – which was one of my favourite parts.

The audience also get involved at various stages.

It is the funniest show I have seen for years. You really don’t stop laughing. It was nice to have such simple uncomplicated physical humour. A great way to unwind after work or at the weekend.

I really can’t imagine anyone, whether aged 10 or 80, not enjoying this show.  It’s been performed in Edinburgh and London and is now back in NZ.

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Yep, Still Got It

March 2nd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Yep, Still Got It is on at Circa Two until Saturday 21 March.

It’s a one person show by Jane Keller, who delights and excites the audience for 75 minutes.

Keller is facing retirement and unsure what to do, so she decides to hire a life coach. After her life coach recommends various unsatisfactory options such as being a phone sex operator, Keller decides to become a life coach herself – a job anyone can do with no training!

The rest of the show is spent with Keller playing herself as life coach and her various clients. It is a great mixture of dialogue and singing. Keller is fantastically talented as she sings risque lyrics, combined with facial expressions that have you laughing almost non stop.

Michael Nicholas Williams accompanies Keller on the piano, to his normal excellent standard.

Keller is a master of comical delivery. Not only does she deliver 75 minutes of laughs,but she has to memorise a huge number of songs and verses. Only once during a very long song did she falter, but her grace in asking Williams for a reminder was so smooth, it detracted nothing from the show.

My only complaint is that so many of the problems we heard from clients were so funny and interesting, I would have liked to hear more about what her advice would have been. Regardless a very funny show, that appeals to young and old.

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Wake Up Tomorrow

February 23rd, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Wake Up Tomorrow is on for a week at Circa as part of the Fringe Festival. It is far removed from traditional theatre, as you might expect from the Fringe Festival.

Wake Up Tomorrow is primarily set on a plane and and a large cast entertains you with multiple scenes and plot threads. Some of them are related, and some are just there for fun.

The production is in collaboration with Active, a service for youth with an intellectual impairment. They provided the ideas for the plot, and make up the vast majority of the cast.

The 60 minute show was very heart warming, with many moments of laughter. The central plot was focused on whether Agent 009 would identify Spyfox before he could cause harm.

The show was a bit disjointed. While probably deliberate, some scenes did not seem to mesh well with others. This was probably a creative tension between letting the cast explore what they could do, but it did somewhat diminish the viewing experience. In the end it wasn’t so much a show with a plot, but rather a show about imagination. The Olympics scene at the end I found especially amusing, due to its ridiculousness.

All of the cast did well in bringing their vitality to the stage, and pulling off a show that both they and the audience enjoyed. Janiece Pollock, who played Bella and Kwame Williams-Accra as Spyfox were especially good.

The show also made good use of four dancers who performed dual roles in moving props on the stage, and helping move the show along.

Overall it was a cute and inspiring performance which I’m glad I got to see.

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Caption Contest

February 12th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar


Enter your captions below. As always, funny not nasty. Especially this time :-)


The Demolition of the Century

February 3rd, 2015 at 6:06 pm by David Farrar

The Demolition of the Century is a clever but frustrating play at Circa. It’s a cabaret style experience with a neat mixture of narration and singing.

The play is created by Duncan Sarkies who also is one of the two performers. Sarkies reads out a series of extracts or vigenettes from his novel of the same title. They are followed or sometimes blended with nine musical numbers performed with excellence by Joe Blossom (Sean O’Brien).

The novel is about Tom, who we are told is an insurance investigator who seems to have lost his job, his ex-wife, his socks and his 10 year-old son. The first extract pricks your curiosity as a dead horse becomes part of the mystery.

Blossom composed three of the nine songs he performed, and used a mixture of an electronic keyboard and various guitars. He’s a great performer and you enjoy the music, even if you struggle to relate at it times to the narration.

Just as we struggled at times with how the music fits in, it was also a challenge to work out how the different extracts all relate to each other. The final extract does help close the loop to some degree, but for much of the play I was in a state of mild confusion.

This was not accidental. Sarkies said “Yes, it’s all part of a much larger jigsaw puzzle, but I won’t be giving you enough pieces to work it out, so just relax and enjoy the mystery.”

For me though, not being able to work it out did detract from the otherwise excellent productions values, set, acting, and music. My partner commented that you want a play to be greater than the sum of its parts, and in this case it wasn’t.

The play did make me want to buy the novel (on sale for $30) as the plot sounded intriguing from the parts I worked out. As an advertisement for the novel, the play was successful. But as an evening’s entertainment, I’m afraid it was less so for me. That may be a reflection of my inability to catch onto some of the subtler aspects of the play, and certainly it got a great reception from most in the audience.

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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 6

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


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.


Saying farewell to Horombo.


And also goodbye to my favourite trees.


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.


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


And near the end some monkeys again.


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


We get back to the Marangu Hotel around 3 pm.


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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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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 4

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


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


There is however still some brightness.


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.


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!


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!


Basma trying to be a crow.


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.


Our chief guide Simon on the right.


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


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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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 3

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


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!


Lots of those strange trees around camp.


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


These are the Zebra Rocks.


The natural colouring of the rocks is quite fascinating.


We decided to carry on up towards the ridgeline.


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.


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


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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