Australian Financial Review Op Ed

September 18th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

After new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that he hoped to emulate the political style of John Key, the Australian Financial review asked me to do an opinion piece on how Key has been successful, in contrast to Abbott and others. It was published yesterday. You can read it here or it is embedded below.

DPF Oped

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August 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I did an DNA test through and the findings are that my DNA is:

European Jewish 48%
British 32%
Italian/Greek 8%
West European 8%
Irish 2%
Scandinavian 2%

That fits pretty well with what I know of my family tree. Through the DNA test they have identified a couple of dozen other people who have done the test and are related to me (third to fifth cousins).

A mate asked on Facebook that as I am 32% British, am I happy to retain the union jack on the NZ flag. My response was only if it has the Star of David on it also :-)


My future obituary

August 10th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Metro Magazine reports:

David Farrier, broadcaster, and David Farrar, pollster, died April 1, 2077.

This article was featured in the July/August 2015 issue of Metro. Illustration by Daron Parton.

David Farrier and David Farrar had almost nothing in common and yet they would eventually become as entangled as an earphone cable. They died together, violently, savaged by a deranged parakeet, in a flat they shared with Samantha Hayes. An attractive TV presenter, Hayes is 94.

The two men’s beginnings were profoundly different. Farrier was tall, ruggedly good looking, a popular head boy at his Christian college in Tauranga. Farrar was more the Wellington chess club type.

Farrier liked babes and dudes, Farrar liked babes and debating. They both knew what they wanted and before long they had it: Farrier, a quirky late-night TV news show; Farrar, a blog.

They came to prominence during the long administration of Prime Minister John Key, a man who believed in doing as little as possible.  In this he was assisted by Farrar, whose polling company prepared a variety of excuses for doing nothing and tested them by phoning families at dinner time. How little did people care about boat people? How untroubled were they by waitress harassment? The PM had him on speed dial.

Farrier travelled a gentler road, toting a video camera and an abundant curiosity. He sat in a sauna to better understand Colin Craig; he travelled to the Gobi Desert to better understand the Mongolian Death Worm.

The similarity of their names endlessly confused people. Farrier would feel a stab of unhappiness when someone called him a contemptible stain on politics. Farrar would be sad to find he wasn’t the dude Lorde was trying to phone.

But the confusion invited comedy. Together they interviewed singing twin sisters the Veronicas. They prank-called the Prime Minister. As TV current affairs rubbed itself down to a nub, their quirkiness grew ever bolder.

When Farrier’s Newsworthy show began, head transplants were only being spoken of as far-off medical fantasy, but the science developed swiftly, and so did the clamour from the viewers to see the two Davids switch heads. The result was “mad”, wrote TV reviewer Diana Wichtel, “but strangely compelling”.

And yet behind all the laughter lay deep trauma.

In his early thirties, Farrier had acquired Keith, a handsome orange parakeet, but discovered within a short time that he detested the bird, so hateful and incessant was its scream.

He expected it would live another 20 years, an impossibly long time to wait for some peace and quiet. He was quite sure no one would take it, not with all that ghastly racket. He couldn’t contemplate wringing its neck.

He turned to Farrar, a master of dark arts, for suggestions. Farrar had plenty. They put Keith in a courier parcel to the Green Party. They left him on the seat at a Peter Jackson movie. They did things with superglue they weren’t proud of. And yet no matter what they did, he found his way back, each time more shrill, each time more enraged. Worst of all, he lived many, many more years than 20.

“I told David it was going to end badly, but now I just wonder if I even told the right one,” lamented Hayes. “They used to say only their mothers could tell them apart. And look, I was just their flatmate,” said the attractive redhead, whose new show starts this Sunday.

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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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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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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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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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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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DPF at Act Conference

February 25th, 2015 at 11:00 am by Kokila Patel

David presented to the Act Conference over the weekend.  It was an overview of where the party had come from, the last election, and the possible policy stances Act can advance.    

So let’s take a look at where your support currently is.   ACT got 0.7% nationwide but this was actually 1.4% in Auckland and 0.4% in most other places. And in Auckland you had 2.4% in the Eastern suburbs. So the challenge is to expand from being an Auckland party to a party that can get at least 2.4% everywhere. That would get you almost four MPs.

Polls have shown that you get twice as much support from men as women. One fifth of your support comes from the self-employed and business owners which is significant, and one quarter from the under 30s – well done ACT on Campus. 

In the last three years 25% of ACT supporters cited the economy as the most important issue, followed by taxes on 10% and jobs on 9%. These are of course all linked so almost a half say the most important issues are economic.”

So how can Act gain more voters to increase their representation in parliament and decrease their reliance on the Epsom electorate?

However I think a clear message of opposition to most forms of corporate welfare has potential appeal to not just economic liberals on the right, but also to many on the left. It would make it hard for the left to paint ACT as the party of big business, if they are signing up to your campaigns against corporate welfare. 

Turing to social liberalism, the issue I would suggest ACT focuses on is euthanasia. Is anything a more fundamental human right than being able to choose between quantity of life and quality of life?

This is not some abstract issue. Sadly for many families, they have been through the horrors of a loved one who was unable to make an informed choice to reduce their suffering.  I actually used to be against euthanasia until I listened to the speech Rodney Hide made in 2003 about the death of Martin Hames. It reduced me to tears and made me realise how harmful the current law can be, and converted me to favouring a law change.

It is an issue that is both very real to many, but also very popular. The last public poll on this issue saw 61% in favour of terminally ill people being able to choose when to end their lives and only 18% opposed. A 3:1 ratio in favour is about as good as it gets.

Labour has banned their MPs from advancing this issue, because it may distract them from their core mission of getting more people to join a union. National MPs are discouraged from doing bills on conscience issues. In fact I think National discourages their MPs from doing any bills that haven’t been written by Chris Finlayson for them. The highlight was the West Coast MP’s bill on reforming the law of habeas corpus.

NZ First are generally against euthanasia, except for immigrants. The Greens are admirably supportive, but the suspicion is they see it as a way to reduce carbon emissions. 

More seriously there is an opportunity for ACT here to lead on this issue, and connect to New Zealanders on an issue that resonates, as well as clearly position themselves as the only party not wanting the state to interfere in decisions that belong to individuals.

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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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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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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 2

January 23rd, 2015 at 5:30 pm by David Farrar


We got up on Day 2 at 6.30 am for breakfast. This crow was keen to join us inside.


Once again the weather was looking good.


So off we set. In the background you can see Kibo on the left (our target) and Mawenzi.


Today we rise 990 metres, but are still low enough down to have some great greenery.


Day 2 is around an 11 km trek, which isn’t huge, but the vertical gain of a km means it takes a good six and a half hours going slow.


At the lunch stop, there are always hungry grows.


An example of the plant life.


And another. Quite beautiful.


A zoom shot of Kibo as we get close to it.


These trees were very common from 3000 to 4000 metres are are quite spectacular.


Approaching Horombo Hut around 3 pm.


And we’re there. We’re now at 3,720 metres above sea level. For comparison the top of Mt Cook is 3,724 metres. During the day it is warm here, but once the sun goes down, gets pretty cold and you need a couple of layers to keep warm.


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Mt Kilimanjaro Day 1

January 23rd, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar



A short while after I got back from the Himalayas, a mate (Chris) told me he wanted to summit Mt Kilimanjaro for his 40th birthday and asked if I wanted to give it a go also. After a few minutes thought (longer than usual for me) I said yes, and the planning started. We were joined by Bruce and Basma, colleagues and friends of Chris and I.

We decided to do the Marangu route and here we are looking cheerful at the Marangu gate which is 1,860 metres above sea level. In four days (plus an acclimatization day) we needed to ascend over 4,000 metres until we hopefully make the summit at almost 6 kms (5,895 metres) above sea level.

The summit is the highest point in four continents – there is no piece of land higher in Africa, Europe, Oceania or Antarctica. And while it is not a technical climb, but a trek, it is difficult.  The success rate is estimated to be between 30% and 75% depending on days taken. The combination of the steep rate of ascent and the height make it something you don’t attempt lightly, even though the first couple of days are relatively easy. The death rate is estimated to be 3 to 7 people a year.


Almost all of the first day is in the bush, which looks quite similar at times to NZ bush.


However they had monkeys!


We had been advised to take it slowly the first two days, as that helps with acclimatization. So we did the 8 kms and 850 metre ascent in around five easy hours. It was warm and sunny.


Once we got there we did an extra quick side walk, where we were lucky to see some white backed monkeys. The photo quality is poor as my normal 24x zoom camera had died on the trip, and I had a cheap 5x zoom replacement only.


Mt Kilimanjaro has craters all over the place, and this one was 15 minutes walk from the Mandara Hut.


Mandara Hut is actually a collection of A frames. They are not large as each A frame is split into two halves, each sleeping four. They do the job.

Had dinner around 6.30 pm and we crashed around 9.30 pm after a few rounds of cards. A good start to the trek. We’re all happy.

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Kenya Day 4 morning

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


The final drive started with more lions – or a lioness in this case. Look at the power in that body.


She has a good lookout there.


While this lion surveys his domain.


And then has a sleep.


A few of the cubs.


And a couple more enjoying the shade.


A passing elephant.


And then the rest of the family turns up.


I adore the small baby elephants. So cute.


This Topi standing guard.


A panoramic shot in the area they shot Out of Africa.


Me enjoying the tree shade.


Some startled antelopes.


On the way home we see some new lions – three youngish brothers. They will have to leave the area soon as they grow up.


And hard to see any detail, but a multicoloured lizard on the rock. Sadly my camera died during the trip, so photos have been from the iPhone only which has limited zoom.

That was the last safari drive, and am now back in Nairobi.


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Kenya Day 3 afternoon

January 14th, 2015 at 12:03 am by David Farrar


Some baboons nearby as we set off.


Antelopes running away.


Then we saw our friend the cheetah again. Looking hungry after being robbed in the morning.


This is a view of our campsite, from the plains. Such a great location and views.


A lion sleeping on its back.


An Eland, which is the largest type of antelope.


A few Zebras.


A giraffe walking in front of us.


One of the things I love here is how most of the different animals just mingle together and are often in the same area.


Nice of them to look at the camera.

Didn’t see too much this afternoon, but you can’t always get drives chock full of action like the morning one was.


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Kenya Day 3 morning

January 13th, 2015 at 12:49 am by David Farrar


This morning’s ride was possibly the best yet in terms of variety. We saw cheetahs, hyenas and lions all battling over a kill bye cheetahs.

First though we saw some zebras.


Then a group of hyenas.


The buffaloes are too big to be worried by the hyenas.


And these two buffaloes were too busy PDAing to notice the hyenas. Incidentally they’re both boys!


The hyenas found some hippo skin, left over from a hippo killed by a lion.


A group of banded mongooses.


This was an amazing sight. An elephant standing on hand legs only, reaching into a tree. It looks like he is trying to climb the tree!


A couple of young bucks fighting.


A zebra crossing.


The normal pride of lions.


We saw the pair of cheetahs again.


And standing up.


A wandering giraffe.


A couple of crocodiles down at the river.


The river, which is full of hippos and crocodiles.


Having a morning coffee with the crocodiles behind me.


A hyena lying in a pool. The mud suffocates the ticks.


Then we saw the cheetahs hunting prey.


And they caught a warthog.


But then the hyenas turned up wanting to have it, even though the cheetahs caught it.


Sadly the socialist hyenas won, and took it off the productive cheetahs


But then a lion turned up and decided it was his, and charged the hyenas – which barely escaped.


The lion then came towards the cheetahs and charged them. He was hungry and would have happily eaten cheetah instead. Luckily for them, they managed to just out-run the lion, who then sat down  and glared at them.


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Kenya Day 2 afternoon

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


After lunch we discovered a congress of baboons just outside our tent.


Then out on safari drive again and saw lost of antelopes.


Buffaloes with some Great White Egrits on them.


And Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on them also.


A buffalo enjoying his mud pool.


Antelopes also with birds around them to clean them.


Two Southern Ground Hornbills


We were fortunate enough to see a lion kill two afternoons in a row. The same pride caught another warthog. Here is a lioness just afterwards joining the others.


Two Waterbucks having a public display of affection.


An elephant just next to a bridge we passed over.


Another great African sunset.


Got back to the tent to see two giraffes just a couple of score metres away, just by the boundary fence,


And then for good measure a hippo walked past also. Amazing to not just go out looking for animals, but to have them wander past your tent.


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