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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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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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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Tongariro Northern Circuit Day 4

February 13th, 2014 at 5:02 pm by David Farrar

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Sunday was the final day. The day started off cloudy with a few showers but the jackets didn’t stay on for long.

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A lot of walking through scrub for the first few kms. As my leg was somewhat grazed, this resulted in a small amount of pain as you get through the scrub.

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The path varies from a well formed track to open plains.

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Then the sun came out and we got a rainbow which followed us along for a couple of hours.

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With the sun out, lots of nice walking over the plains.

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Ruapehu looming in the background.

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Then a quick detour to the lower Tama lake. A lot of people do a day walk in, just to see the lake.

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Slightly more hilly towards the end, but nothing difficult.

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Another quick detour to see the Taranaki Falls. At this stage less than an hour to go.

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A view from the top of the falls.

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A rabbit that was crossed our path.

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The final km or so was a nice bush walk.

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And around 15 kms later, we’re out. We had quite a good pace for the final day, and took only around three and a half hours. Lunch at the Chateau Tongariro Cafe followed, and then a long drive home. As we got stuck in traffic for around 90 minutes at Otaki and Waikanae, I cursed all those opposing the Northern Corridor expansion.

A very enjoyable four day tramp. Very different to the Heaphy. Only around half as long, but much more rugged and hilly. The volcanic plateaus are quite spectacular, and it is was a great way to spend the long Waitangi weekend.

The plan is to pop back next summer and try to do some or all of the other peaks.

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Blog Break

February 6th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Around now I should be starting the four day, three night, Tongariro Northern Circuit. If things go well, will get out on Sunday afternoon.

I’ve pre-set a couple of posts per day. But generally expect blogging to be be light until Monday. Jadis is at the Sevens, so probably no guest posts from her either sorry!

Enjoy the long weekend – I will be!

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Some 2013 posts

January 14th, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

As I did for 2012, I thought it would be useful to highlight some of the posts in the last year where I have disagreed with the Government, or said things unhelpful to it. While I obviously support and want National’s re-election, I have and will continue to say what I think on issues on their merits.

I recall the quote of Keith Holoyoake who said he only agreed with around 80% of what National did, even when he was Prime Minister! I suspect with Muldoon, he agreed with 100% of what his Government did!

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Glad I’m in Hamilton

January 3rd, 2014 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

Have been up in Hamilton since the 31st. As Wellington is battered with storms, fairly good timing.

Has been great weather up here.

Becoming quite a fan of Hamilton. The trails by the Waikato River are great for cycling, running and walking (have done all three). Also the Hamilton Gardens are exceptional, and much better than others in NZ. Plus did a cycle trail along the Karapiro River which was great scenery.

Sadly back to Wellington tomorrow (if airport is open).

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Waikato River Trail

January 1st, 2014 at 7:14 pm by David Farrar

Waikato River Trail


EveryTrail – Find hiking trails in California and beyond

Had a lovely day doing around 26 kms of Waikato River Trails. My longest distance on a bike since school. Lots of fun. Want to work myself up to be able to do 75 kms or so in a go.

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The New York Marathon experience

December 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Now that I can walk normally again, I figured it would be worthwhile blogging in more detail about the experience of the New York Marathon.

I only decided to enter it in June, and it is fair to say that even a year ago the thought of running a marathon was ridiculous. I could run for a few hundred metres, maybe a km or two but not much more.

My goal last year was to be able to run the 7 km Wellington Round the Bays in February 2013. I used a running app to do treadmill runs to extend my capacity to run from two minutes to three minutes, to five minutes to 10 minutes and so on.

Over summer I was in Lake Brunner for a while, and managed to get some running in there. But was still sporadic – run for a bit, walk for a bit etc.

Come February was my first run since secondary school, and to my surprise I not only managed the 7 kms, but did it in under 40 minutes. I then set a goal of 10 kms and entered a race in June for that distance.

I then set a goal of doing a half-marathon in February 2014 – at the Round the Bays again. I got the 10 km to 21 km running app and started following that.

After I entered the Armstrong 10 km race for June, I got on their newsletter list and there was a mention of the New York marathon in 2014. At the back of my mind I had thought it would be incredible to be able to run a marathon one day (considering for 20 years I couldn’t run a few hundred metres) and New York was meant to be an incredible experience. The major problem was the date – November 2014. It is highly likely that is when the election will be, and my work responsibilities would make it near impossible to do. So the backup was to maybe look at doing it in November 2015, but I doubted one could keep up the motivation for almost three years.

So I inquired of the travel company about the 2014 marathon, and they said that actually they are not processing applications for that yet – but they did have a spot available for the 2013 marathon. That would solve the timing issues of 2014 and 2015, but could I go from 7 kms to 42 kms in five months?

I delayed the decision until after the 10 km race, but having managed it in around 52 minutes, I decided to give it a go and enrolled. In theory four and a bit months should be enough time. I was incredibly nervous about whether I could manage it. It didn’t help that I had previously planned a four week road trip through the US, which meant I didn’t get to run as much as I should.

Over the next four months I managed two half marathons but with a week to go had never run more than a half. And the two halfs I had done, had left me exhausted at the finish. The thought of doing effectively two half marathons in a row was daunting.

Headed to Wairarapa seven days before, and managed to do a 30 km run from Martinborough to Lake Ferry. That gave me a bit of a mental boost, that I managed three quarters. However again I was exhausted at the end of it. Also you’re meant to taper off the week before a marathon, not do your first greater than half marathon distance. So I was semi-confident I could complete 42 kms, but far from sure I could do it without walking some of it -which was my goal. Didn’t care about the time, just that I could actually run the whole thing.

On Wed 30th flew out to New York, via San Francisco. Landed around 11 pm and we got to our Times Square hotel just after midnight, where the good folk from Travel Managers met us. I checked into my room and then headed out around 1 am wanting to get some food. The only thing open was McDonalds so I had my fist quarter pounder in over a year, figuring I’d burn the calories off in a few days :-)

The next morning around 100 of us Kiwis gathered and marched down to the registration hall. A huge almost military like operation as you register and get your marathon bag. We heard stories of how people had registered last year and then had the marathon cancelled at the last moment due to Hurricane Sandy.

After registration is the expo, where you can buy every sort of running gear possible. I got a hat, top, jacket etc with the official race logos on them. However didn’t wear any of them on the day, as best to run with gear you are used to. Also got the all important anti-chafe gel!

Spent the rest of Thursday just hanging around Times Square, and visiting the huge Midtown Comics store in Times Square.

As I had little sleep the night before, I crashed early and woke up around midday Friday. Friday was my sort of freak out day as I started to panic that I didn’t have some old warm clothes to throw away at the start line. I also read every website there was on tips for the marathon, and drew up a checklist of what I needed to do before the race, and when I should take water and energy gels at which mile stops.  I got a great massage at a fairly cheap Chinese place near Times Square and just tried not to keep focusing on the fact I had no idea if I could actually manage 26 miles or not.

That night I didn’t sleep one second. A mixture of jet lag and anxiety meant I spent the night staring at the bedroom ceiling trying to will myself to sleep. I finally gave up at around 6 am. Not ideal preparation.

Saturday I headed uptown to meet an old university friend, Kirsty, and her family. Just what I needed to relax and unwind. Kirsty was one of less than five people who knew I was planning to do the marathon. I didn’t want any pressure of expectations, so had told almost no one in NZ I was planning to do it. My family didn’t even know I was overseas, nor did most of my friends. The few people who I had to tell I was in the US were given a cover story of visiting some political contacts in DC.

The only person who did find out in advance was, by pure coincidence, the Prime Minister. I ran into him at the Koru Club and he asked me where I was heading to. I considered telling my normal cover story, but figured it was a bad idea to lie to the Prime Minister (plus he could check with the GCSB!) to his face so confessed to him that I was hoping to run the NYC Marathon that weekend. I swore him to secrecy, but did get some nice encouraging texts from him. Part of me was regretting not having told anyone, as it was a bit lonely in NYC, but the last thing I wanted was more pressure.

Kirsty solved my last problem for me, of getting some cheap warm clothes I could throw away at the race start and gave me direction to Uniqlo. That was perfect and I got a cheap hat, gloves, top and track pants. After that headed to Central Park for the pre-race dinner where I loaded up with carbs and then back to the hotel for an early sleep.

Oh should also mention that I had got fanatical about not being dehydrated or too hydrated so I was going to the toilet every few hours to check the colour of mu urine and then drinking water until it was just the right shade between apple juice (dehydrated) and clear (too hydrated).

One benefit of no sleep the night before is I slept easily on the Saturday night and woke up just before my multiple alarms of iphone, alarm clock and hotel phone call at 4.45 am. Changed into my gear I’d laid out and we left the lobby at 5.30 am to catch the 6 am bus to Staten Island. The driver somehow managed to get lost driving there and circuled one block three times but eventually managed to get into the right lane for the tunnel. And around 6.45 am we made Staten Island.

Fort Wadsworth is divided up into three colour camps which match the route you take for the first few miles. I was orange, which was nice as we got to run on the top part of the bridge. Around 17,000 people in each camp mull about eating breakfast, queuing for portaloos and trying to stay warm. It was around six degrees so you needed those old clothes to stay warm. I had a book to read as I was in the final band to leave (based on my estimated time of 4 hours 45 mins) so had a wait of several hours there.

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Me before the race. It was cold! You can get your gear delivered to the finish line, but you have to give it to UPS at least an hour before the start, and you need to stay warm the last hour so what everyone does is dump their warm clothes a few minutes before the start. The result is it looks like a refugee camp with 40,000 hats, tops, pants etc scattered everywhere. It all goes to charity though which is good.

Finally time to go to your corral and then the start line. This is the first time I have run without headphones and am nervous about both having no music but also not having the running app tell me every half km my distance, time and pace. But headphones are discouraged in the longer races and people had said you want to soak up the atmosphere. But it’s like being without your normal security blanket.

Also slightly freaking out that I miscalculated how many energy chomps I would need (I prefer them to the gels) and had to make a last minute decision to take one every three miles only. Was hoping it would be enough.

Anyway finally the gun goes, and we’re off.

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You start with a two mile run over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The view to the left of Manhattan is spectacular. You are at maximum energy which is quite good as the bridge is the steepest vertical climb of the marathon. But all the training guides warn you not to run it too fast as you’ll tire yourself out. I do the first two miles in around 18 minutes and hit Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn crowd is great. They cheer and yell. They shout out support and your name or number. Hundreds of placards urging you on, and bands every quarter mile or so belting out songs. Best of all are the five year old kids holding out their hands for you to high five them as you go past. The energy you get from the crowd is contagious and you end up actually running too fast.

Brooklyn is pretty flat and straight for six miles or so, and then carries on near the East River until you hit the half way point just as you come to the Pulaksi Bridge that takes you into Queens. You run for two miles through Queens, and I adored the Queen sense of humour where they had signs such as “If a marathon was easy, it would be your mother”. Again the crowds are great.

The Queensboro Bridge from Queens into Manhattan is over a km long, and is a long gradual climb. I’m at my most tired at this point and a lot of people walk the bridge. But the thought of making Manhattan keeps me going and finally come off the bridge and turn the corner onto 1st Avenue. The crowds are massive here and several people deep. Again you get a boost from them, plus from the bands. However 1st avenue is arguably the hardest part of the race. Partly because it actually is a gradual uphill run (you would never realise this when cars are on the road, but do when you can see miles up the road) but the hardest part is you can’t see the end. It is dead straight from around 49th Street to 130th Street and seems never ending.

It is going up 1st Avenue that for the first time running my body really starts to ache. In the half marathons I had done, I was exhausted at the finish line, but my body was not too bad (probably because had not been running for long). But at around the 17 mile mark my knees, hips, ankles are all starting to really ache. However as my pace had slowed down, I wasn’t feeling exhausted. What this meant is that I didn’t really feel like stopping or walking. If you are exhausted and your heart rate is too high, then your body wants you to stop or walk. But if your legs are in pain, then the worst thing you can do is stop as that will just cause them to stiffen up and be worse.

So my pace was pretty slow by this point (my pace was around 28 minutes per 5 kms at first but at this stage was around 34 minutes per 5 kms. Then finally you hit bridge no 4, the Willis Avenue Bridge and go through the Bronx for around a mile and a half before crossing the final Madison Avenue Bridge back into Harlem and down 5th Avenue.

At this stage you’re at 21 miles and sort of think almost there, but then you realise five miles to go is still a long way and again it is the crowds and bands that keep you going. Hard to undersell what a difference the crowds make. Also have started to form some bonds with a few other runners who seem to be much the same pace as me and we chat a bit.

At mile 24 you have just crossed into Central Park. This is familiar territory for me and I start to speed up a bit. At mile 25 I can see the office towers at the end of Central Park not too far away. You exit onto 50th Street and head towards Columbus Circle where you enter Central Park again. Finally you see Mile 26 but still not quite there. The signs now count down every 100 metres and that helps as you then see the finish line in sight. Far too sore to speed up at this stage, but manage to keep running and with a satisfied smile on my face I cross the finish line, having managed to run the entire thing.

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I get a fellow competitor to grab a photo of me (to avoid the outrageous charges for the official photos) and then limp off to get my bag. I estimate I made it in just under four and a half hours and sure enough got four hours 29 minutes and 54 seconds.  The average time was four hours 29 minutes so I’m pretty thrilled to have done that for my first ever marathon – especially as a year ago I couldn’t even run a km.

Unlike some races where you can collapse onto the grass afterwards and recover, here you have to keep walking. It is agony. You walk around a mile to pick up your bag and another mile out of Central Park and to the subway. Everyone is shuffling along slowly.  Probably took 45 minutes to cover two miles! On the subway scores of people are chatting to you about the race, and congratulating you. After a few minutes I get off at Times Square and slowly make the three blocks to the hotel. Then my God does that shower feel good, as does just lying on the bed.

Then it’s time to let the secret out, and I text and phone a few loved ones, before sharing on social media.  As almost no one even knew I wasn’t in New Zealand, quite a few surprised people.

I then hook up with a few other kiwis including David and Heather Carter and have a great night out celebrating. David was running to raise money for the Catwalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust. I still can hardly walk, and going up or down stairs is incredibly painful.

Around midnight I crash and the next day its the first of three fights back to Wellington.

Had a month off running after the race and I needed it. God knows how some people run a marathon every week. Not sure if I’ll ever do one again, but have enrolled for a couple of half marathons in February (Wellington) and March (Southern Lakes in Wanaka). I like the half marathon distance – you can do one without really damaging your body. But it was nice to be able to say I got to run the New York Marathon. If you ever want to run a marathon just once, it is definitely the one to do. The crowds are fantastic, the organisation is first class, and the route has some stunning views. Definitely some memories I’ll carry with me forever.

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Why blogging has been light today and will remain light

December 18th, 2013 at 4:46 pm by David Farrar

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Heaphy Track Day 4

December 5th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The final day saw us up before 6 am, as we wanted an early start so we could get out in time to go to Kamarea ad have some whitebait fritters before our flight at 2 pm.

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It’s a 16.5 km trek out to Kohaihai. Not quite as much variety as the other days, but still some great sights.

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You cross over many streams heading down into the sea.

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Luckily most of them have bridges.

 

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At times the track lifts up from the sea level a fair bit.

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But at others you are right next to the mighty ocean.

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It’s a damn powerful sea and people have drowned there. During high tide the track can be impassable for a couple of hours. You can see from the power that a single wave could easily knock you down.

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Towards the end, is this lovely beach.

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Scotts Beach is around 50 minutes from the end, and fairly popular place to come into just for a day.

 

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A drinking supply from the rock!

 

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One of several waterfalls during the final portion when you climb up after Scotts Beach.

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The view back to Scotts Beach.

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Getting close to the end.

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Back in the bush.

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The final bridge.

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And we’re out. The final party members literally walked out within 15 seconds of the shuttle turning up, so that was great timing.

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We headed into Karamea for Whitebait Fritters (they were great) and then out to the airport to fly back. Putting on the life jackets in case we crash land on water!

 

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We had joked to the pilot, who had also driven us in on Thursday in the shuttle, that a dozen beer in the plane for the trip home would be great. We were amused and pleased that he actually went out and did that. How is that for great service from Golden Bay Air. So got to fly home and enjoy drinks on the way.

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Fortunately Tracey was just sitting there, but not actually the co-pilot. Even more fortunately the pilot turned down her requests to try flying the plane for a bit.

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That cave on the right is huge. The pilot pretty much turned the plane on its side so we could see down it.

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The end of the Heaphy Track, from the air.

 

We got back to Nelson around 3 pm and after much needed showers, headed to the Honest Lawyer for drinks and dinner.

Hugely enjoyed the tramp, and can’t wait for the next one. You can see why people travel from all over the world to come here and see our amazing sights.

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Heaphy Track Day 3

December 4th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The weather for the first two days had been great. Overcast, but only scattered showers. Meant you didn’t get too hot. But day 3 on Saturday was a different matter. How best to describe Saturday morning weather’s?

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One of the girls asked the DOC ranger what it would cost to get a helicopter out, and the DOC ranger said there was no way a helicopter could land in this weather. It was raining hard, and low visibility. That made us wonder why we were going out in weather that was unsafe for helicopters.

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We had 12.5 kms to travel to get down to Lewis Hut, which they estimate normally takes three and a half hours. The weather was so miserable that I decided to try and shorten the time and see if I could jog it. I managed to do the 12.5 kms in one hour 40 minutes, which was pretty good going considering I had a full pack on my back, I was in tramping boots and it was pissing down with rain. A group of Aussies I passed said they had never seen someone running along with pack bouncing, and poles flying.

Once I got to Lewis Hut, I left my pack there and went back to let the rest of our party know how far away they were and give those with blisters a help with their packs. So I ended up doing an extra 7 kms or so.

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This is the last photo I took on my camera. It died after this from water getting into it. I only took three quick photos in the rain with it, but that was enough for it to get soaked. All photos after this are from my iPhone or Tracey’s camera.

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After we dried out in Lewis Hut and had lunch, the weather cleared and we started the afternoon trek of 8 kms to Heaphy Hut. Very flat and nice.  A large bridge across the river,

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A photo from the morning of the Heaphy River from above.

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There were some huge trees in the bush.

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Again I loved the variety of bush and colour.

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One nice thing about the rain, is everything looks greener when wet!

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One of the darker areas.

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Scott taking a break with the Heaphy River behind him.

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The bush opens up towards the end.

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Those 1 km to go markers are so welcome you want to hug them. It can be really hard judging how much further you have to go. I would wan’t distance markers every km or so, but a halfway marker between huts would be a great idea as that would allow you to orientate yourself better.

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A West Coast snail!

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A great view to emerge to, of the Heaphy River joining the Tasman Sea.

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The view from the Heaphy Hut.

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I loved the Heaphy Hut. Built just this year and the location is superb, as is the hut. would be very keen to go back in at some stage just to spend a couple of nights in the Heaphy Hut and do some day walks.

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Scott and I thanking Nick Smith for the nice hut :-)

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Again, this is so lovely for a back country hut.

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Went down to the beach as it had mobile coverage, so I could rearrange the pick up for tomorrow. These birds are very territorial and fly directly at you swooping around your head.

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The beach with the hut in the background.

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Preparing dinner for day 3.

Despite getting drowned in the morning, was an excellent day. We had no whiskey left by now, so played 500 instead. By this stage we had tramped over 60 kms.

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Heaphy Day 2

December 3rd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

We stayed overnight in Perry Saddle Hut with another group of five trampers. Four Germans were booked into the camping site, but tried to be a bit sneaky and stay in the hut. One of the girls in the other group firmly but politely told them that it wasn’t on, and that the higher hut fees cover stuff such as flying in the gas by helicopter. They eventually conceded and had to set their tents up in the dark.

I did my part for cultural relations, as when I was trying my head torch out it shone in one of the girl’s eyes who complained it was very bright. I exclaimed “Ve we vays of making you talk” having forgotten about the four Germans in the hut. Whoops.

Breakfast was porridge, which we had every morning. Been years since I had porridge and had forgotten how good it was!

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We headed off around 8.30 am with 7 kms to cover to Gouland Downs Hut, and 24.2 kms for the entire day.

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I’ve never used walking poles before, but have become a total convert. They really make a huge difference. I was only going to get one but was advised that two is better.  I didn’t like the idea of no spare hands, but with two poles you really do get into a good routine and pace.

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The first couple of kms were through forest.

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Scott fording the stream.

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Flowers up at 800 metres.

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I was expected the environment to change every day or so, but on this tramp it sometimes change every few kms.

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Crossing Quintinia Creek. I declared to the amusement of my group that if I ever have daughters I will call one of them Quintinia as it is a very nice name. You can call her Quinn most of the time and Quintinia when she misbehaves!

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Out of the bush and the landscape opens up.

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Great views of the plains. Sometimes you forget you are 800 metres up.

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Again great variety in scenery.

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I didn’t know about the shoe or boot pole, but it is quite famous it seems. There is even a high heel shoe and a roller blade on it!

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Just beautiful.

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Jane by the 1 km marker. Some walks have regular distance guides, but on the Heaphy you have no idea how far off you are until you get to the 1 km signs either side of a hut. They are a huge relief when you sight them.

Incidentally they are not actually 1 km from the hut. We noticed that some of the final 1 kms were a lot longer than others. A DOC ranger explained that staff were told to just walk 12 minutes from a hut and lay the marker down. So the distance depends on the walking pace of each DOC ranger!

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Gouland Downs Hut where we met Ranger Matt. He was a great ambassador for DOC – very friendly and informative. He gave us the updated weather forecast, and told us not to believe it. He was right. It forecast sun for the next three days, and we got drowned the following morning. Basically whenever rain was forecast it was a good day, and when sun was forecast it rained. Overall weather was pretty good considering we had a forecast for non stop rain when we started off.

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They call this the enchanted forestm just after the hut. It is like a movie set.

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Tracey having fun on the suspension bridge.

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Once again the environment changes.

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This is Saxon Hut which was 5.4 kms on from Perry Saddle Hut. Most trampers stay here on the second night if doing the four night tramp. We were doing the tougher three night version, so only stopped here for lunch. Lunch was large crackers with cheese and salami. Fairly Light to carry and keeps well for multiple days.

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As you can see, very different to the more modern huts. Still very cosy though.

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Someone figured adding a nose on would make this the perfect Kiwi.

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More great bush.

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Tracey had mentioned that morning that her boots were ten years old and she may need new ones soon. That afternoon the sole came off at the front, so we had to tie it back on with my compass cord, to stop it flapping!

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Is it just me, or does that look a little like Bill English?

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Not only does the bush change often, the type and colour of the path does also.

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This is us relaxing after the worst part of the track. It was several kms of basically mud. You realise how well maintained the rest of the track is, when you strike a part that isn’t.

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We were pretty pleased to see James Mackay Hut, which was 11.8 kms on from where we had lunch. Spent around seven hours tramping.

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Relaxing up in what we called our penthouse suite. The whiskey helped, except we decided that next time we need two hip flasks each – not two for the party.

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The inside of the hut. Is due to be upgraded early next year.

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Half a dozen Wekas came visiting during the evening.

Dinner was the second of our dehydrated dinners. They’re not going to win Michelin stars, but they’re not too bad.

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Heaphy Day 1

December 2nd, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Now back in Nelson having finished the Heaphy Track, and back in Wellington later today. Was an absolutely incredible tramp, and loved it – even when it rained! The first of the nine Great Walks I’m planning to do over the next three summers.

We stayed overnight on Wednesday at the Mercure Apartments in Nelson. They are brilliant Great rooms and views for reasonable prices, and a great pub (the Honest Lawyer, who is buried outside it) across the road.

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Definitely stay there again. Then on Thursday morning we had a 8 am shuttle to take us to the start of the Heaphy Track. We used Golden Bay Air for our transport to and from the the track. Our shuttle driver in, was also our scheduled pilot for picking up at the other end!  The drive is around three hours.

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The start of the track, just before Brown Hut.

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I doubt many people stay at Brown Hut as it is 500 metres from the start. Probably used if you only enter late afternoon or if you are coming the other way and finish in the evening.

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The first day is 17.5 kms and you climb around 900 metres. A nice wee challenge going up so much while you are fresh.

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One of the more solid bridges we crossed. There are a few swing and suspension bridges later on.

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It rained occasionally on the first day, but nothing heavy. Fairly overcast, which had the advantage of not getting too hot.

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The colour of the rocks/track changes quite a lot, and later on the overall scenery changes dramatically.

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Dozens of little streams you ford. With good boots you shouldn’t get wet – unless you slip in!

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Around halfway there at this stage.

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This little bird was very friendly. Spent around five minutes talking to me from barely a foot away.

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A very welcome sight was the Aorere Shelter after around 4 kms and 12.5 kms. The logical place for a late lunch.

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Tracey enjoying the view. Most of the time you are in the canopy, but every so often it breaks open. You realise how remote you are when you can see nothing but bush.

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The bush is quite different for the last few kms higher up.

 

 

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The view from Flanagans Corner, the highest point on the Heaphy Track. You’re 915 metres up at this stage.

 

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The very welcome Perry Saddle Hut.

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Perry Saddle is a  new hut opened in 2012, replacing a much smaller one. we loved it. Lots of space and great views.

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Nice also to have separate bunk beds rather than all be squashed in together like in some huts. Not the Ritz, but pretty good as huts go.

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Relaxing at the end of Day 1.

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The view from Perry Saddle Hut.

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