Archive for the ‘DPF’ Category

Everest Base Camp Day 8

April 15th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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The view from just above Gokyo this morning.

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Today starts with a wee climb up this snow covered hill.

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The third Gyoko lake from above, as we leave.

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Gyoko covered with snow. Yes again it snowed yesterday afternoon and evening.

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Once we get over the hill we are into quite different landscape. A valley of rocky piles.

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I joked to my companions that this is Gerry Brownlee’s plans for our national parks :-)

More seriously it is like one huge quarry. Totally natural, but mounds of rocks everywhere. Hard to walk over, but quite special.

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The odd rock with a different colour. The rocks piled up on top are placed there by people wanting good luck. You see such rock towers literally everywhere.

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Then we head to the far side where we have a 40 minute trek through what they call the rockslide danger area. Obviously made it through okay!

Sadly around this stage, my headaches returned. I though two days in Gyoko had got rid of them. Slightly disturbingly we actually end up 100 metres lower tonight, so not a great sign for tomorrow when we have to climb 650 metres over the Chola Pass. That could be rather painful. All I’ll say is praise be to the drug company that invented Ibuprofen. It doesn’t eliminate the headaches, but does make them more manageable.

The worry is it could develop into the more serious forms of altitude sickness such as HACE but I think the risk is minimal. I don’t have any other symptoms such as nausea, fatigue or loss of appetite (far from it!). Also while by blood oxygen level had dropped to 81% the first night in Gyoko, it was back up to 86% the second night.

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A view of where we had passed through once we cleared the top.

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Then it is far more standard ground and the yaks are a good sign of civilisation ahead.

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And we get to Tangnag, at the start of the Chola Pass. Altitude is 4,700 metres. Tomorrow will be a very early start as we’ll have eight hours or so of trekking.

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Everest Base Camp Day 7

April 14th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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It’s freezing cold and 4.45 am in the morning. The water in fact has frozen inside your water bottle (which is in your room). So what do we do? Set off at 5.00 am to hike up Gokyo-Ri to get a good view of the sunrise!

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A view from around 100 metres up.

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And then at around 150 metres the sun started to show itself behind the mountains.

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A close up of the first rays hitting the peaks.

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We stopped at around 250 metres which took us to 5,050 metres above sea level. Amazing feeling to be more than 5 kms high and not in a plane! The pressure is below 50% here and breathing is quite hard as we ascended.

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Just to prove I was there.

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A couple of hardy ducks down below.

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A man made bridge/dam to cross the lake. You really really do not want to get your boots wet as even dry the toes were freezing.

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A new lodge is being built. There is no machinery. Three Nepalese chisel the stones by hand. They work in sun and snow. A very tough job.

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And this is where one of them sleeps at night. Again, very tough. Assuming they are part of the family that will own the lodge, it will eventually massively boost their income. A lodge can generate more income in a week than the average Nepali earns in a year.

Today is the last day in Gokyo. Tomorrow we have to decide whether to take the Chola Pass for three days over to Lobouche. It’s been snowing again today so it may be a marginal call.

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Everest Base Camp Day 6

April 13th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Oh yes, it also snowed overnight which made it really cold. You see below some of the left over snow.

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The trek ahead is to follow the path until we end up next to the river and then climb over the pass.

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A memorial at the site where over 20 Sherpas and trekkers died in an avalanche.

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A snowcock.

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Around halfway through the first part of the trek.

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We’re definitely at the snow level as you’ll soon see.

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These steps up were very cool – nothing holding them together – just rocks placed on top of each other. Quite a climb.

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The top of the river as we cross it.

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Looks pretty cold eh!

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The first of the Gokyo lakes.

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A male and female duck – the only inhabitants of the lake.

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The second Gokyo lake – frozen over.

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And the large third Gokyo lake.

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And finally Gokyo itself. Yay. Again I had headaches and altitude sickness and found it tough going. It was pretty cold the final stretch also – had on three layers of merino up top and a jacket as well. The wind bites into your face and reminds you how high up you are – 4,800 metres which is twice the height of many NZ mountains.

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It started snowing soon after we got here, as you can see on the poor yaks.

Thankfully tomorrow is an acclimatisation day so my headaches should reduce or go away, and the day after tomorrow we actually end up 100 metres or so lower.

However the snow means that the pass over to Everest Base Camp may become too dangerous. One day is an eight hour trek between lodges with no shelters inbetween. The height gets up to 5,300 metres but the real danger is the snow means you don’t know if you are on the trail or not, as there are no markers or signs.

We’ll decide tomorrow night probably whether to try going over the pass, or to head back down and try going up the main route to Everest Base Camp.

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Everest Base Camp Day 5

April 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Today was around a 350 metre descent day, climbing to Machhermo at 4,400 metres. My head ache from yesterday returned which pretty much confirmed I have acute altitude sickness.

It’s not a pleasant thing to have. If it gets worse I will either stop ascending or descend. To try and mitigate or treat it I have doubled the Diamox dose from 125 mgs twice daily to 250 mgs twice daily. Also having garlic soup for lunch and dinner, and drinking at least four litres of water a day.

The Diamox makes you go to the toilet more often anyway, and add to that four litres of water, two bowls of soup, and lots of lemon tea – well when at the lodge I’m going to the bathroom around every hour, and usually twice at least during the night. Luckily I’ve not yet needed to go while between lodges – as that would be very cold!

But the discomfort doesn’t take away from the amazing experience and views.

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Some amazing birds you see high up in the mountains here.

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The view from outside the lodge at Dole. Not a bad sight to wake up to.

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This is the sink. The water was frozen this morning.

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Believe it or not this is one of the better toilets!

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The rooms are basic and very very cold during the night. Am now sleeping with clothes on in the sleeping bag. Also the walls are paper thin so you don’t get a lot of uninterrupted sleep.

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A nice section through some trees.

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Dole from above as we leave it. Stunning views.

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The view ahead.

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A typical local house.

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Two of our guides with a great view behind them. The guides are fantastic. Great senses of humour and lots of experience.

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A long trail along the hills.

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Finally Machhermo at 4,400 metres.

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Some local crows to welcome us.

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To help acclimatise we climbed 200 metres up the hill, which gave us a good view of the next day’s trek.

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One of the guides showing his climbing skills.

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A cute baby yak.

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We attended a free seminar by a (New Zealand) doctor at the International Porter Protection Shelter. The charities involved do amazing stuff. This is the chart that stuck with me – that we were already at only 57% atmospheric pressure.

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A tenting site for the really hardy ones.

Will decide in the morning whether or not to go up to Gyoko. If I can make it to there then we have two days there which should help me with the altitude sickness.

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Everest Base Camp Day 4

April 12th, 2014 at 3:34 pm by David Farrar

 

 

Today was a long and hard day. We spent around seven hours trekking and did a fairly big four hour climb up to Mongla at 3975 metres where we had lunch. Then we did a quick 35 descent to Phortse Tenga where we dropped back to around 3600 and then had to climb it all back up again to arrive at Dole at 4020 metres.

I had a slight headache at lunchtime which may be due to the altitude. We also all have started to notice the reduced oxygen a bit – the first half hour of the day had us having to breathe deeply – but then you acclimatise.

Today was also the first day that I tramped with a jacket on. Only for the last half hour, but despite being sunny, it is getting colder during the day, as well as the night.

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You can again see Everest in the background and our path towards it.

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See most of those people taking the lower path. Well we took the higher path. The lower path is the more direct route to Everest Base Camp, while the higher one takes you up to Gyoko, and then you cross a pass over to Everest. It’s an extra five days the way we’re doing it.

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After lunch was at first a lot of climbing.

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Looking back, one can see the path we’ve followed.

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We’ve reached snow level.

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This village here we didn’t go to. It is mainly for sherpas but a few tourists go there. Very cool nestled away against the mountain.

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All those tents are for a large party of Germans.

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Quite a few waterfall crossings today.

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Very pretty scenery, and just around here we sighted a very rare red deer. No photos of it sadly, but was great to see one.

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Underneath the snow is a running stream.

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More steps up. I quite like the semi-natural rock steps compared to wooden ones.

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You can see the waterfall underneath the ice and snow.

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This part almost looked like New Zealand.

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And finally we arrived at Dole.  Very dusty and dirty so had a wonderful hot shower. Not quite a normal shower though – more a bucket of hot water poured through a pipe – but It did the job.

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Everest Base Camp Day 3

April 9th, 2014 at 3:07 am by David Farrar

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Water in Nepal is not generally safe to drink, so normally you boil it first and then also add a water purifier such as Aquamira. Seven drops from each bottle per litre. You’re meant to drink four litres a day to stop dehydration.

On the health front our guide also has a little gadget that you stick on your finger and it measures your oxygen level in your blood and your pulse. On the first night my blood oxygen level was around 95% and resting pulse 56 beats per minute. That was at around 2400 metres. On the second night the blood oxygen was 91% and pulse 67 so it will be interesting to see how much more it changes as we go up.

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Today was a rest day, or more accurately an acclimatisation day. We did a three hour walk in the morning, so it wasn’t that restful. Here we go through some woods up to the local museum.

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You can see the museum at the far left, and the army barracks in the centre. Quite funny to see armed soldiers putting out laundry!

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Outside the museum you get your first view of Mt Everest. It’s the peak on the left in the background.

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This exhibit has some rocks from the dead sea, so stuff from the lowest point on Earth is at the view of the highest point on Earth,

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Me with Everest in the background.

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After the museum we then did a 300 metre climb up the hill over Namche. And I mean a climb. Almost straight up – it was a zig-zag but each zig and zag was only four metres or so. A view of some crop and farm land below.

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A helicopter flying overhead.

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And it landed at a small airport around two thirds of the way up. Only choppers land here now. Once they had six seater planes landing here, but the runway is far too rough for that anymore.

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We finally made it up to 3,770 metres and there was a tea house up there.

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We had morning tea up here and the photos can’t capture how amazing it was. On all four sides we’ve got views of snow covered peaks – yet it was a warm day.

So far during the trek it has been warm during the day – I’ve had on just shorts and a merino top. But in the evenings it is already getting bitterly cold – wearing two layers of merino, a puffer jacket, gloves and a beanie – and am still cold.

 

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I love how they define what a long toilet use is!

Extra is how the lodges make most of their money. The actual room costs around 300 rupees which is around $3.50 NZ only! But wireless is 500 rupees, electricity 200 rupees, a shower 150 rupees etc so that is where they get more of their income from. Still incredibly cheap though.

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This is how I am managing to blog. The local telecommunications tower.

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Quite different terrain up here – bush and open plains to a degree.

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This is by the airport and is the local cremation site. I pity the locals who have to carry a body all the way up here.

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A great view of Namche Bazaar from above.

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One of the things I love about being here is that yaks and mules are constantly making their way along the streets along with all the humans.

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Today is the last day it is safe to eat meat. The hygiene standards (and accommodation standards) drop significantly from tomorrow, and it is not safe to eat meat. So I had a steak as my final meat for the next 12 days.

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Everest Base Camp Day 2

April 7th, 2014 at 10:26 pm by David Farrar

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We have been drinking lemon tea by the litre. Around three times a day we get a giant thermos of lemon tea to share between the five of us. I haven’t drunk tea for around 30 years but am becoming quite a fan of lemon tea.

Was up at 6.30 am for a 7.30 am breakfast and 8.00 am departure. Today is around a seven hour day trekking to Namche Bazaar. There’s 1,000 metres of vertical ascent and a net altitude gain of 900 metres or so.

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The view ahead.

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Some locals making their own quarry.

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Snow covered peaks in the distance.

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The first four hours or so follow the river with a mixture of uphill and downhill.

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Some superb scenery on the way.

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You really don’t want to be crossing a bridge at the same time as yaks or mules.

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I suspect the river is rather cold.

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You can see two bridges ahead. We cross over the upper bridge. A fall would be unpleasant.

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The start of the big climb up. From here on in it is just 600 metres of climbing and zigzags.

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Crossing the high bridge.

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Towards the end of the climb the path widens up and is much easier.

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Goats will go anywhere!

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Namche Bazaar. We will be staying here for two nights, as this helps mitigate the risk of altitude sickness.

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That’s the view from our accommodation. The height we are at here is pretty close to the summit of Aoraki Mt Cook.

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Everest Base Camp Day 1

April 6th, 2014 at 10:00 pm by David Farrar

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I’d read in Lonely Planet that Kathmandu Airport can be chaotic for domestic flights where yiu may queue there for hours and then suddenly have five minutes to check in, and board etc. It seems they don’t really schedule flights, just queue them up.

However we struck luck. Left Kathmandu Guest House (which was great) at 5.30 am and sailed through the airport in under five minutes to be on board our plane by 6 am. However just as we were about to take off, fog closed Lukla Airport. While disappointed that we had to head back into the terminal, I was glad they were not going to try and land in fog as Lukla Airport is known as the most dangerous airport in the world. There have been seven crashes in just the last ten years with 36 fatalities.

Anyway the dog lasted only an hour and we were boarding again by 7 am and away.

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Some great views of the mountains from above the clouds.

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And after all my worry, a fairly smooth landing and we’re at Tenzing Hilary Airport. The elevation is 2,840 metres.

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You can see here a plane taking off. The runway is only 460 meters long and it is a sheer drop at the end. I think taking off will be more terrifying than landing!

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At the start of the path is this gate to Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, who was the first Nepalese woman to make the summit of Mt Everest in 1993. Sadly she died on the descent when the weather turned bad.

Incidentally the first woman of any nationality to make the summit also had it hard. Junko Tabei climbed it in 1975. On her way up she got buried by an avalanche and was under snow for six minutes until she was dug out.

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This is the start of the track. Later on it is much much rougher as you climb over rocks everywhere.

The first day is a net drop of 300 metres or so. However there is still lots of uphill also.

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Some nice colour.

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There is a golden rule. Never ever get between a yak or any beast and the edge. This part is very busy and we had to give way dozens of times to different beasts.

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A memorial cairn carved on the rock.

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A troop of mules.

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Quite a few settlements along the way.

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One of three bridges we crossed. Quite stable actually.

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You always pass to the left of the many religious monuments.

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Then we got to Phakding. I wasn’t walking in this gear as it was quite a warm day earlier on and you get hot walking. But once you stop walking it starts to get really cold.

Around 12 kms, so only a half day to get here. The elevation here is 2,610 metres.

Also love the quility voice on the billboard!

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The room we’re in. Pretty basic but comfortable. It even has its own toilet which is luxury for out here. The quality of the accommodation declines significantly as we ascend, I’m told. So this is the five star version! No heating so will get very cold at night.

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I liked this lone tree at the edge.

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The view from the end of the town. We cross down into there tomorrow and at the far left you can see the path ascending up. Tomorrow will have around 1,000 metres of vertical ascent.

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Kathmandu

April 6th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I’m in Nepal. Currently in Kathmandu, but about to fly to Lukla to start a 17 day trek to the Mt Everest Base Camp and back, along with four other Wellingtonians.

There will be no Internet (or electricity!) in some of the areas we pass through, so very little blogging for the next two to three weeks. There should be the occasional guest post, but not much from me. I won’t be clearing e-mails during this period either, and will be deleting all e-mails unread when I get back as there will be so many of them. So if you want me to read something, send it to me after 29 April.

Anyway have had a day and a half in Kathmandu, and a few photos starting with the most important one.

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This photo is a huge relief as Malaysia Airlines lost my bag (yeah, I know at least they didn’t lose the plane !) and for around 20 hours I was in a state of minor panic. On most trips losing your gear is a hassle, but not a disaster. Just go out and buy some clothes for two days. But if my bag didn’t turn up within 36 hours I would not have been able to do the trek – or would have had to try and buy a huge amount of gear and clothing and (legal) drugs. So was very very relieved when the bag turned up the next morning.

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Like many Asian cities, the electrical wiring is chaotic. By coincidence there are several power cuts a day. In fact as I type this there has been no power for 90 minutes. As it is 4 am, I guess not many have noticed!

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They have some great bookstores here. Will buy a few books after the trek, but no not this one – it isn’t autographed!

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One of the many temples at Basantapur Durbar Square. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Over two dozen temples, many hundreds of years old.

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This is the courtyard where the Royal Kumari, or living goddess, makes an occasional appearance. A young girl (the current one is aged four) is selected to be a living goddess for four years, and is worshipped at various festivals. seeing her is meant to bring good fortune. After she retires as a living goddess, she returns to her family. Few of them ever go onto marry. I guess being married to a former living goddess would be challenging! Especially as their every wish must be granted when they are a goddess!

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A statue of the monkey god.

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There is a purpose to this photo! Look at the size of the heels on her. Massive.

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Nothing stops a determined tree.

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Shiva the Destroyer.

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I love this portrayal.

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Hundreds of wild dogs run and lay around the place. Some, like this one, look very cute. But you never ever pat them as the chance of getting rabies from a dog bite is far too high.

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Yes he is heading straight for me. He seemed to take an interest in me and walked directly over to me, and then stopped next to me. Was a bit wary of patting him with those horns.

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Then we went to see Boudhanath which is one of the holiest Buddhist sites. I love the eyes, that make it so friendly.

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Inside one of the temples.

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One of the three million gods they have.

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This is the wheel of life. I like the depictions of the different heavens and hells. Lots of people being boiled in a pot down below.

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Then we went to Swayambhunath, also known as the monkey temple for obvious reasons. I liked this cute scene. However again no matter how cute, stay away as many have rabies.

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A big array of monkeys making their way over a roof.

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This was somewhat unusual. We saw a public cremation. Many families cremate their deceased here at the temple. This is meant to happen within three hours of death. You can see the body wrapped up being transported.

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Then it is set alight, starting at the mouth!

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And a cremation in full flight. Rather unsettling watching it. At the end, the ashes are swept into the river below. That’s one river you definitely do not want to fall into!

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Curia’s 10th birthday

March 31st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

10 years ago today was the day I left a fulltime job at Parliament to become self-employed and set up Curia Market Research.

While I was fortunate to have one significant initial client, it was still a leap into the dark to go from a fixed income to a variable income. And like many self-employed people my earnings in the first couple of years was significantly less than what I was earning as an employee.

Curia has been very fortunate to have some incredibly talented staff who have actually run much of the business for me, allowing me to focus on the stuff I enjoy – the polling. From the early days of Ross, Anna, Yvette and Katrina to my current managers and supervisors of Basma and Rebecca – and many in-between. One of the nice things about being a business owner is you are forced to get good at delegating, as there is too much to do, to do it all yourself.

During the last decade, Curia has (approximately):

  • Worked for 92 clients
  • Conducted around 1,100 polls
  • Employed over 500 staff
  • Paid several million dollars of tax

It’s enjoyable running a business where clients choose you entirely on your reputation, quality and price. We’ve never done advertising or soliciting of business. It’s all pretty much been word of mouth. Market research is a competitive industry and there are many other very good firms out there. I’m just pleased we’ve managed to grow the market, and find a useful niche for ourselves.

I enjoy the fact that as a business owner I’m playing a small contribution to economic growth and providing employment to a lot of students (and a few others), to help finance their studies.

The decade has gone by quickly. I became a business owner at age 36 and am now 46. I guess the good thing is I hopefully have two or three more decades of self-employment to go – if things continue to go well. There’s no guarantee of that, but I’m optimistic.

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What is best for e-book reading?

March 29th, 2014 at 1:03 pm by David Farrar

If you’re away tramping for say a week or more, and want to read Amazon e-books you own, what do people recommend is best – a Kindle or an iPad (which has Kindle on it)?

The three factors for me are:

  1. Battery life (very impt as no or little power)
  2. Weight
  3. Ease of reading

I have an Ipad 1 (I know, very old but does the job) so it is either take that or buy a Kindle. Would be a fairly basic one as only need it for book reading. Welcome feedback as to whether to buy a Kindle to take tramping, and if so which one.

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Otago Rail Trail Day 3

March 27th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Yes that is frost on the ground. We left at 8.30 am and it was freezing – almost literally. Around 1 degree and it was nasty. My fingers were frozen and the wind bites through the jacket. The first 4 kms or so was very unenjoyable. But fortunately both the air warmed up, as did we. Next time I’m wearing full polar gloves, not fingerless gloves!

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Well above the river.

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And then closer to the river.

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Then we hit some nice open country. We had 42 kms to cover in the final day but had to do it in three hours to make the shuttle so had one brief stop in Hyde only.

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Once the day warmed up, it became easily the best of the days. Lovely sunshine, mainly downhill or flat and stunning scenic views.

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We stopped to celebrate having done 150 kms. Yay.

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I just love Central Otago views and you soak them up so much more when cycling through them than driving through them. Superb.

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Just to prove I was on the trip also!

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The memorial for the train disaster in 1943 near Hyde.

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This was rather cool. At first I thought they might be statues as they looked so still and just standing guard. But eventually they flew off.

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The last few kms are very straight, and fast.

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More great scenery.

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These km markers from the original rail line were very useful as you got to know where each town is in relation to them. The end at Middlemarch is at 64.

Often when cycling along, I reflected how amazing a train journey along here would have been.

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Middlemarch has a few remains from the train line.

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Yay, at the end. We ended up cycling 172 kms in 48 hours! As one of our party only started taking up cycling six weeks ago (and me only three months ago) this was a very good effort.

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Then we had a shuttle bus take us back to Queenstown where we once again enjoyed great views, and excellent wind and tapas at Eichhardts.

Despite some challenging conditions, absolutely loved doing the Rail Trail, and already planning the next trail. For those thinking of doing it also, here’s some advice.

  1. Do it in at least three nights, not two. It is hard going, unless you are an experienced cyclist. Almost everyone we met on the trail was surprised at the distances we were trying to do each day, and it left less time for entertainment
  2. Make sure you have really really warm gear, no matter how sunny the day looks, but also ability to strip off if you get too hot.
  3. Consider getting plastic bags to wear over your sock or shoes, in case it rains. Cycling in wet shoes and sock for five hours is not so much fun.
  4. Stay in Clyde the night before if possible so you have an early start on Day 1
  5. Have your valuables such as cameras and phones in a plastic bag in case it rains as panniers get soaked.
  6. While only a 2% slope, be prepared for it to be a long slog up.
  7. Don’t believe people who say it is all downhill after the highest point. It is mainly flat and downhill, but still has a few sections with an uphill gradient
  8. Try and stay at Muddy River Creek in Lauder and Kokonga Lodge if you can, with perhaps a night in Wedderburn between.
  9. Definitely do the alternate route of the river trail to Alexandra in the morning, even though it is longer.
  10. Trail Journeys were very good on customer service and helpfulness, but their administration was a bit loose as the booking for a shuttle back to Clyde was wrong. So double check all the bookings, but the staff were good sorting the problems out.
  11. Definitely go do it – the scenery is amazing, and far better than photos can portray.
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Otago Rail Trail Day 2

March 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Started off around 9 am and popped into the cafe at Lauder to get some food to eat while cycling as 21 kms to the next cafe.

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A rare bridge that is curved!

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The view from the bridge.

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At times the scenery looks like you are in the US West. On the first day we saw an actual cowboy – well a guy on a horse with cowboy hat and neckerchief. I observed this section would be ideal for an ambush by Indians!

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This is the former campsite of the tunnel makers.

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And the first of two tunnels. You are advised to use a torch and to walk through. I did neither :-)

It is a bit scary in the middle, as you really can’t see anything but a distant light and if one did ride into the wall it would be very painful!

After this it started to rain and rain heavily. We got soaked. Even worse it was raining from above and below. In the stretch before Oturehua it was basically a five km long puddle, which with no mudguards just sprayed water upwards non stop. My feet got drenched.

We had an early lunch at Oturehua. The plan was to lunch at Wedderburn but we needed hot soup and pasta now. Dried off slightly, and then headed back onto the trail with it raining even harder. Fair to say we’re all wet, cold and a bit miserable.

But then after half an hour or so, the rain (mainly) stopped. This was very welcome!

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Those old bridges are like human vibrators. Very jarring as you go over them, but fun.

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A cute tint cottage in the trees.

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And finally after a long slog up the hill, we’re at the highest point. There’s snow on the hills in the distance and it is damn cold.

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Downhills are fun! Less so on gravel. When doing 30 km/hr you really don’t want to fall onto gravel. Luckily I didn’t, but one close skid.

We stopped in Wedderburn for a drink at the pub and warmed up some more. We’re all still pretty cold so we decided that would be our last stop and just do the final 31 kms to Kokonga in one go.

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Don’t think I’ll swim in that one.

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Finally got to the very welcoming Kokonga Lodge.Peter Jackson stayed here when filming, and you can see why. Superb food and hospitality and a great fireplace.

In the shower my ankles were itching madly. Finally worked out it wasn’t craft insect bites, but the legs thawing out!

Had a very nice dinner, but was so exhausted I fell asleep at 9 pm. It was a hard 64 kms of riding with the weather, and we had a head on wind for the last 5 kms.

The final day is just 42 kms, but we have to be at Middlemarch by midday so an early start.

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Otago Rail Trail Day 1

March 25th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Had a great night in Queenstown staying at the superb Villa del Lago (stunning views) and a few wines (okay five bottles!) along with superb rotisserie chicken at the Searle Lane Bar & Rotisserie.

Despite that we were up fairly early and Trail Journeys picked us up at around 9 am. A fairly quick drive to Clyde, and we grabbed the bikes and we were off. We decided to do the Clyde River Trail for the section to Alexandra, even though it is 7 kms or so longer. Figured the views would be worth it, and it was.

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Starting off by the bridge in Clyde.

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The river trail part was very beautiful in parts, but also a bit challenging where there was gravel, slopes and bends.

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A lovely part with the trees leaning over.

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This was very cool – a seat in a bath.

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These old rail bridges are bloody bumpy.

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A falcon keeping watch.

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One of the many old buildings on the trail.

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The view from another bridge.

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The stretch up to the Chatto Creek Tavern was pretty tough as was uphill and a head wind. The gradient is only 2 degrees but when it goes on for some kms you really feel it. Speed drops from say 23 km/hr to 12 km/hr. We were very ready for lunch as it was 2 pm. Very friendly service.

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I loved this, the cat sitting under the table waiting for food scraps.

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Some great views as we keep heading up.

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Then we got to the Muddy Creek Cutting B&B. They have geese, roosters, turkeys and a peacock – plus a very friendly dog.

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This is the place we stayed in. It is first class. Can not recommend it highly enough. You should stay here even if just driving through the area. It’s a mud house and the inside is beautiful,and great fireplaces.

Even better is the food – we had very very slowly roasted lamb. Also some more wine, but not as much as in Queenstown luckily.

Overall a great day but harder than I expected. We cycled 56 kms, and I’d never done more than 25 kms before. And it was all off road, and quite loose shingle at times. My legs were remarkably painful and burning at the end.

Tomorrow we have 64 kms to cycle. Heading from Lauder to Kokonga. Quite a bit of uphill but yay also some downhill.

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Milford Track Day 4

March 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The final day is a fairly big one. It’s 21 kms from Quintin Lodge to Sandfly Point. So another 6.15 am wake up for a 7.30 am start. Have a slight hangover from the mixture of whiskey and wine from the night before!

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Just as the sun was starting to come up, you get a view of Sutherland Falls from the track. They really are quite massive.

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Some very welcome sunlight lighting up the snow covered peak in the distance.

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The nice thing about the rain the night before is the bush is more green.

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Most of the track on Day 4 is well maintained and easy to walk on. You learn tramping that the surface makes a huge difference to your speed.

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This is the boatshed, where we had morning tea. Before a bridge was built they used to use boats to cross the Arthur River.

Ultimate Hikes keep supplies in all the huts and shelters which means you get hot coffee, tea, milo and/or soup. I became quite an addict of Chicken Noodle Soup for morning tea and miso soup for afternoon tea!

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Most of the 4th day is next to the river. This photo gives some idea of how beautiful it is. But imagine 21 kms of such views. Wonderful. It’s like being in another world.

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Another bridge!

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You can drink the water, and the taste can’t be beaten.

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Around the halfway stage, the trail gets more rocky which slows you down.

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Smeagol looking for the ring.

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I never get sick of the river shots.

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This is the Giant’s Gate waterfall, where we stopped for lunch. After a dare from Nisa, I dove in for a swim. It was the most painfully cold water I have ever gone into, and that includes polar plunges. I lasted around 12 seconds. Nisa then went in also, followed by the Japanese boys and a couple of the Aussies. The nice thing is that even without towels you dry off within five minutes as it was so sunny.

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Guides Adie and Mel enjoying lunch. I’m sure all the guides are good, but we certainly struck gold with out three. They were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. I have a reasonably fast walking pace so tended to spend quite a bit of time with the guide who was up the front (one would be at front, one at back and one goes between) and enjoyed the chats with them. I was quite proud I was keeping up with them, which got smashed when they then hit high gear to get to the hut in advance to open up – and suddenly they’d be going around 50% faster than me!

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Snow , mountains and water are a great combination.

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The Milford Track had markers every mile. This was the final mile marker before the end.

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The final part of the track. This was originally laid by prisoners. The intent was to have them lay the entire track but one of them died so they had to stop :-)

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The view at Sandfly Point.

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Another view from Sandfly Point. And yes the  sandflies are large and numerous. One poor Japanese girl was surrounded by at least 100 of them.

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The official track end.

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Then it’s on the boat to Milford Sound.

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It’s around a 20 minute boat trip. Most of us sat on the front of the boat.

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The Bowen Falls.

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And finally the view from my room (forgive the reflection) of Mitre Peak, from Mitre Peak lodge. A great view to end the trek on.

That night we had the final dinner, swapping of e-mail addresses and general socialising.

The next day we had a cruise around Milford Sound, and then the bus back to Queenstown.

I was skeptical before the tramp about whether it was worth doing the guided option, as we did Heaphy and Tongariro unguided.  I basically went with the majority who were more keen to the “glamping” option. I have to say I have become a total convert and will definitely use Ultimate Hikes again when I do the Routeburn in two years time.

I wouldn’t do the guided option on tramps where you still stay at the DOC huts. Just having someone cook the meals for you and carry the food isn’t a big deal for me. I actually quite enjoy the feeling of self sufficiency.

But where they provide separate accommodation where you get hot showers, heated rooms, drying areas, a bar, flush toilets etc – well it makes a huge difference. You’re still tramping just as long a distance, but not having to spend hours crushed into a small hut with 30 other people and only a couple of tables.  The other nice thing with the guided is you do socialise much more with the  other trampers and get to form some good friendships with both trampers and guides.

Anyway that’s all three Great Walks done for this summer. Next summer I plan to knock another three off – probably Rakiura, Whanganui and Kepler. Then the summer after that will be Abel Tasman, Lake Waikaremoana and Kepler. I plan to do a few local tramps during the year also. The New Zealand outdoors is too great not to enjoy.

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Milford Track Day 3

March 22nd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

 

 

Day 3 was a much earlier start. The generator came on at 6.15 am and one had to be on the track by 7.30 am. So a quick shower, pack, making of  lunch and breakfast. I must again mention how great it is able to shower on a tramp – for the benefits of others, even if not  yourself :-)

Today was only 15 kms from Pompolona Lodge to Quintin Lodge, but it is over Mackinnon Pass which is a 700 metre climb with 17 zigzags,

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The day started overcast but fine.

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However it soon turned to rain. The good part was we got many more waterfalls. The downside is almost no view from the top.  Even this photo was only possible for a couple of minutes as it cleared.

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The memorial to Quintin Mackinnon near the top. You get some idea of what the weather was like. It wasn’t just wet, but also damn cold when exposed on the ridge.

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One of the lakes at the top.

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Then on the way down a few crossings.

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Some keas who colonised this rock for themselves.

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There’s a series of waterfalls you trek down beside which are quite beautiful.

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It started to rain more heavily in the afternoon. I managed the main trek in five and a half hours and got to Pompolona Lodge at 1.30 pm. The side trek to Sutherland Falls was meant to be at 4.00 pm but I knew there was no way I’d go back outside again if I dried off. So I dumped my pack and headed straight up to Sutherland Falls. It’s the tallest waterfall in New Zealand at 580 metres.  I think also fifth longest in the world.

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I was thinking of going under the falls for a back massage but the rain had made the falls rather powerful so I astutely decided not to go in!

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Then it was bar and relax time back at Pompolona Lodge. It was also St Patrick’s Day so Adie (one  of the guides) dressed up.

Adie is also a rather good skier. Look out for her at the next Olympics in 2018!

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Milford Track Day 2

March 21st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

 

 

 

Day Two is a 16 km hike from Glade House to Pompolona Lodge. Mainly flat, except for the last couple of kms, and pretty good track to walk on.

The generator came on at 6.45 am and departure was 8.30 am as Day 2 isn’t as long a day as the next two.

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You leave Glade House by crossing over the Clinton River. There’s something like 280 water crossings in total on the track!

 

 

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A view from the bridge back to Glade House.

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A small detour gets you to the tree with a hole in it!

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Another five minute side track takes you to the Wetlands.

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At the end of the Wetland board walk.

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Then back into the beech forest.

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The track is really well maintained at this stage. Later days, the surface was much tougher.

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A nice reflection at Prairie Lake.

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A trout.

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The track then breaks into the open near the end.

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And just before Pompolona Lodge you have to climb across two massive rockfalls.

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The view from my room at Pompolona Lodge. Very civilised.

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The common area where you relax, nice and warm and dry. Bar opens at 5 pm, so prior to that just quiet reading and relaxation time.

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Milford Track Day 1

March 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The bus left Queenstown at 9 am and we had an early lunch in Te Anau, before heading to Te Anau Downs where we have a boat trip for around an hour over Lake Te Anau.

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This is the site that Quintin Mackinnon‘s boat was found in 1892. Mackinnon basically founded the Milford Track, and presumably drowned on the lake. He drowned aged 41.

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Beautiful views on Lake Te Anau.

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One can see the end of the lake ahead. Takes around an hour to get there.

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The start of the track.

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It’s early afternoon by the time you get there, but the first day is just a stroll – 1 km only.

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Then we hit Glade House, which is not just a house, but a series of buildings. They have the main lodge, but separate buildings for each bedroom.  Civilisation – but in the middle of nowhere.

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The Clinton River, which Glade House is next to.

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Late afternoon the guides (Mel, Adie and Kelly) take us for a 90 minute bush walk to view local flora and fauna.

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The birds are very friendly.

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This possum was too curious for his own good!

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A nice view from the top of the bush walk.

 

 

 

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Typical terrain heading back down.

So Day 1 wasn’t really tramping at all. Even the independent trampers only do a couple of hours on the first day, as most of the time is spent getting down into Fiordland. So the real tramp starts on Day 2. Still an incredibly good feeling to be so remote. If you didn’t want to take the boat out, the nearest road would be an eight hour hike over a mountain range.

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Milford Track Day 0

March 20th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Got into Queenstown Friday afternoon for the pre-trek briefing at the Ultimate Hikes office.

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Had time for a quick drink at the waterfront before the briefing.

The last two tramps were unguided, but for this one we went for the guided option, primarily because it actually gets you into lodges with proper bedrooms rather than bunk beds. I’ll blog more on this at the end, but was an excellent decision! The hot showers alone were worth it!

The briefing took just under an hour and the main thing is making sure you turn up on time for the bus the next morning. They also have day packs available for use, for those who don’t have their own.

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After the briefing we headed up the gondola for a drink and to enjoy the view. Lots of people coming up to mountain bike. Made a mental note to make sure I do that next time I’m in Queenstown with half a day to spare. Looks lots of fun.

We then headed to dinner at Eichardt’s Bar, which had superb tapas. Highly recommended.

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They also do a nice collection of wines to accompany the food.

So a nice half day in Queenstown before the departure the next day for No 3 of the nine Great Walks.

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DPF away

March 14th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Light blogging until probably Thursday as I am on the Milford Track from Saturday to Wednesday. Never done it before so looking forward to it, despite that pesky cyclone turning up at the same time! The third of the nine great walks.

Jadis may do the odd guest post, and I may get  few posts done on Saturday before we head out – but basically offline from Sat am to Wed am.

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Barefaced stories in NZ

March 3rd, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Went to my final fringe show on Saturday night, which was Barefaced Stories in New Zealand, at Bats.

It’s a simple but effective concept. Two Perth entertainers compere a session of story telling, with five locals getting up and telling a true story.

The first story was my favourite – the girl who went to a Flavour Flav show and then got invited back stage, and then out to a drink at a bar and finally up to his hotel room.

Also amusing was the guy who was so hung up on his ex girlfriend, he was unsure whether to go back to a tent with two girls who invited him in.

Another story was more sad, about suicide.

To a degree the highlights were actually the two Perth entertainers. They read out extracts from the diaries they both wrote as 14 year old teenage girls. The passages were often hilarious.

The show lasted around 80 minutes. Was on for one night only. Would go to a similar show again.

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Power Plant

February 27th, 2014 at 10:00 pm by David Farrar

Just been on a media preview of Power Plant, which opens tomorrow at the Botanical Gardens. It’s superb, and a must see. You start at the Cable Car and follow a 50 to 60 minute loop path through the gardens. Not only is there a great array of different lighting on the plants, the sound effects merge in wonderfully also.

Below are a few photos to give you an idea of the different sights. I understand it is already fully booked up this weekend, but it carries on until the 16th of March.

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Well done to Contact Energy and the production team for a great spectacle.

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Bus Ticket

February 27th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Never thought I would have such a good time spending an hour on a bus, but I did last night during Bus Ticket, at the Fringe Festival.

The show starts at the bus stop on Cambridge Terrace where you get an amusing briefing (by coincidence by one of my former staff) and then the bus pulls up. You take you seats and wonder where things will head.

After a few minutes you notice a couple of passengers behaving strangely. You have no idea who are cast, and who are fellow passengers. The girl in front of us basically changes into her more glam clothes on the bus, does her makeup using the bus mirror and even brushes her teeth. this is because her boyfriend gets on the bus at a later stop.

Another girl is rather ADD and blurts out random facts and asks people both on the bus and outside if they will be her friend and go clubbing with her. The people outside the bus not knowing this is a production look very surprised at having someone yell out inviting them to go clubbing.

One poor guy just misses the bus and runs after it in his suit. He is really fast and a sprinter – almost catching it but not quite. He reappears to comical effect all over Wellington. The bus even breaks down for a while and you decamp into a park which sees some more drama. Some of the audience get pulled into the production – but not in a major way.

Overall the show is a pretty hilarious 60 minute voyeur session. The bus moves all around the city and suburbs and various cast get on and off and all add to the drama. If you travel on a bus, some of the scenes will be very familiar – the loud businessman on his phone. The fighting couple. The nervous traveller. The overly talkative girl.

The show was lots of fun, and a very neat concept that would have required a lot of logistical planning.  The show is sold out (no surprise) but if they ever do another one, I’d recommend going along for the most fun you’ll ever have on a Wellington City bus!

 

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2014 AMI Round the Bays

February 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

For the third year in a row, I took part in the AMI Round the Bays. It was excellent weather for it, and great to see so many people out there running or walking.

In 2012 I walked the 7 km race and in 2013 I ran the 7 km race. This year I did the half marathon. It was the first time I had done a race where I had a particular time in mind as a firm goal (up until now, it was more just surviving to the finish line). I was aiming to get under 1 hr 50 minutes and my unofficial time (from the running app) was 1 hr 49 minutes and 40 seconds so was happy with that – around seven minutes quicker than one I did towards end of last year.

The interesting thing is the GPS app said that I ran for a total of 22 kms, not 21.1 kms, at a pace of 4 minutes 58 seconds per km (just over 12 kms/hr). Now normally GPS apps are out by a bit, but not that much. And lots of other people said they got around 22 kms also. Anyway I spoke to someone who was officially involved, and he told me that there was a stuff up and the course was too long. It seems the official distance measurer travels on a cycle behind the leading runners to follow their path, and he had it 600 to 700 metres over the normal length for a half marathon. So if it was over length, then my app says I did the first 21.1 kms in 1 hour 43 minutes 31 seconds. Either way, I’m happy!

In case any of the organisers are reading this, some helpful ideas for next year, which make make a great event even better for participants.

  1. Consider having different starting times for the HM and 10 km runners. It really is congested at the beginning.
  2. Having pace setters is a great idea, but would be good to have them easier to find. I suggest you have them off to one side where they are clearly visible, and in a logical order where say the 1 hr 25 pace setter is at the front and the 2 hr 15 pace setter at the back. I didn’t find my pace setter until he over took me at around the 15 km mark!
  3. The free buses into town are excellent (as are the free entry onto any Go Wellington bus) but a few more of them would be good, as the queue did get very long,
  4. Make sure you get the distance right!

But overall such a great event. It isn’t just the run. It is the mini-town at Kilbirnie Park afterwards with so many businesses and organisations there. The free tip top ice blocks were great. A huge number of Xero staff took part – I reckon must be close to 100, which is a decent proportion of their work force.

Next race is in six weeks in Wanaka – the Southern Lakes Half. Is along the Cardrona Valley Road to Lake Wanaka, so should be a beautiful setting for it.

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Pasefika

February 22nd, 2014 at 11:14 pm by David Farrar

I wasn’t sure I would ever get to watch Pasefika tonight as there were no car parks within half a km of Circa Theatre. I finally gave up circling around and parked in the New World car park (sorry NW!). I got to the theatre with around 30 seconds to spare.

In my mind I was thinking that I could head home at half time, as I didn’t want to leave my car for two hours in a 90 minute zone and risk a ticket or being towed.

Within around quarter of an hour I was quite engrossed into the play, and any thought of not seeing the second half died a hasty death. Once we did get to the interval, I ran back to the NW car park and moved the car into a paid park by Te Papa that had come free.

The play was based in Paris in the 1860s and Akaroa in the 1840s, with the common them being the French artist Charles Méryon, who was played brilliantly by Jason Whyte. You first see Méryon in Paris as a determined and somewhat demented pursuer of Louise Niveau, a waitress in a Parisian cafe. She reminds him of someone from his past – Ruiha, the daughter of Te Rangi, the head of a hapu in Akoroa.

The play moves backwards and forwards from Paris to Akaroa, with seamless transitions. Meryon in real life did live in Akaroa for two years and this had an impact on his art.

Aroha White played standoffish Ruiha and enthusiastic Niveau very well. Simple costume changes transformed her.

Emma Kinane also had a dual role as Madame Bourgeois in Akaroa and Jeanne Dival in Paris. Madame Bourgeois was a Frenchwoman who had done the unthinkable, and married a native. Both Méryon and Ruiha were disapproving for opposite but equal reasons – the races shouldn’t mix.

Finally you had George Henare as Te Rangi and also as the poet Baudelaire. Henare managed both gravity and a genius for comical timing. The play sounds very serious and intense, but in fact there are lots of laughs, and some wonderfully direct language.

The play was effectively a play of five love stories – Te Rangi and Madame Bourgeois, Méryon ad Ruiha, Méryon and Niveau, Baudelaire and Jeanne Duval and also Baudelaire and Niveau. They are told in a way which captures both New Zealand and French culture.

It was a great show. The acting was first class and captivating.

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