Archives for category: New Zealand

This blog post has been neglected somewhat of late. Mainly due to Mrs. E and I being incredibly busy setting up our company,  Bellbird Medical Communications.  We have also had a trip to the UK. I will blog about both of these at a later date. In the meantime, let’s get on with some random, daily blogging…!

I am in training for The Great Naseby Water Race. I am doing the 50K option, and we are going down to Naseby with some friends to chill out and enjoy the atmosphere of the race, as well as to check out Naseby which is supposed to be lovely in winter.  As part of my training I am trying to finish work a few hours earlier on a Friday afternoon to clock up some miles on my weekly long runs. Last Friday was one of those long runs in which I covered 30K. The run itself was hard work in parts, but the blue skies kept me chipper. It was a lovely cold otago day with snow on the tops (not shown), and there was no-one around other than another runner wearing a santa hat???

That is all.



A couple of weeks ago, the weather totally changed from being wintery and wet (October is always wet apparently), to hot hot hot and dry (27 degrees centigrade). Over the past two weeks, we have had one brief rain shower, and that is it! Fortunately the wetness from October has made everything green and pretty, but as we move into Summer that will change and the green colours will be replaced with coppers and browns.  But for now, we are enjoying the greenery…

Oh, and the lake has warmed up! I have had two swims so far Mrs. E has not been in yet, and well – The Spaniel is ALWAYS in the water. The lake (Lake Hawea), is lovely and clear although it geta deep very quickly (it’s OK mum, I don’t go out of my depth).

And as a teaser, there is a photo from Mrs. E’s new hammock (one of her birthday presents). A blog post about her birthday will follow (it was fun).

Thank you and goodnight.

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On my birthday weekend (September 20th for future reference folks…) I headed up into Mount Aspring National Park for what felt like the trip of a lifetime. My pal Ed (a very experienced climber mum…) took me out for my first real alpine mountaineering trip NZ style. A month later I am still buzzing from the trip…!

I am a mountain man, I was very fortunate to be brought up in the English Lake DIstrict and have spent a LOT of time in the fells so I’m pretty mountain savvy. However, Mt. Aspiring National Park offers extreme mountaineering like nothing I have experienced before. The slopes are severe, steep bluffs drop off into deep valleys, there is slippy snow grass to contend with, and then of course you have the avalanche risk! Yup, you need to know what you are doing, where you are going, and caution is required at all times.

Our route started down the Matukituki Valley not far from Mt. Aspiring hut.  We walked along the valley floor past Mt. Aspiring Hut and into the bush, which after a kilometre or two emerges to open up into a terrace leading to Shovel Flat. From there, we travelled through some more bush to reach Pearl Flat. From Pearl Flat, we walked along the river to near where we would start our ascent up French Ridge. OK, so this is where it got more interesting for me. We did a proper river crossing. I was a little apprehensive given I nearly drowned in a flash flood in the lake district, but Ed reassured me that if we used this technique from NZ Mountain Safety Council we would be fine… and we were. The water was glacial, bitterly bitterly cold but we soon warmed up was we got to the other side just by carrying on at a brisk pace to the start of  the ascent up French Ridge. From there, we started a steep ascent through beech forest and the sub-alpine zone. This was a good climb in itself, with creek beds, bush, knarly rocks, and short scrambling routes to negotiate, requiring quite a bit of gymnastics in parts to negotiate. Eventually, we reached the snow line at about 1200 metres. The snow was soft, so we used our poles and ice axes, Ed cut steps (thanks Ed) and I followed. At this point I was a little overwhelmed by my surroundings. About 30 minutes before getting to the snow line I clocked a step bluff ahead of us, which had a very steep drop off to the left of 50 metres or so. The minute I saw this, it made me nervous. When the route we were taking hit the patch of ground with the bluff to our left, the incline had a feeling of slightly throwing you off, and of course it was covered in snow. Here, I took it steady, making sure I had three points of contact in the snow ALL the time. Ed saw me hesitating and told me just to take one step at a time and I would be fine. We joked about it later, and quite rightly Ed said “Yup you would have been a goner-burger if you slipped there”. Yup, it felt a little exposed, but hey – a bit of firm footing, sensible mountaineering and I was fine. We carried up through the snow and reached our hut, French Ridge Hut, and I was pretty pleased to be there. We had started out at about 11am and reached the hut about 5pm, and we were ready for food!  The hut was fantastic, cold – thank goodness for down jackets – but it certainly kept us away from the elements.

I have never stayed the night on a mountain, and certainly not that high up (1465 metres), but the quietness – apart from the crack of an avalanche or the squeal of a kea – is overwhelming (I will edit this post later as I come it with better descriptors…). We slept fairly well that night apart from the keas waking us by dancing on the roof at about 3 o’clock in the morning.

The next day we ventured up towards the Outer Deck (2280metres), we didn’t go all the way as we didn’t have loads of time, but I got a real sense of what it is like to be in serious alpine country. The snow was really firm after a cold night, which made  for firm footing in our crampons, and gave good placement with the ice axe and pole. The ascent was steep and there were serious drop offs, but we were fine, the snow was good, it really was just a head game. If you wanted to, you could carry on from the Outer Deck for several hours and end up doing Mt. Aspiring (I wonder…).

We then reversed our route and headed home. Ed is super fit, so our descent was rapid and I got total jelly legs about half way down, but we eventually made it to the car feeling very pleased with ourselves. Ed and I shook hands, this was a rite of passage for me…

Take a look at the photos below, or alternatively have a look at my photostream on Fickr

The whole trip was amazing, it took me well out of my comfort zone, and for those who know me well, I am a fairly risk-averse person! But it was well and truly thrilling one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

French Ridge, and Mt. Aspiring National Park is truly inspiring. As Arnie once said, “I’ll be back…”

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Since moving to Wanaka, my running has got back on track with the help of my pal Ed, who has a running group once a week, which I go to. Ed also runs Highland Events with his friend Terry, and both are passionate about getting folk out on adventures, whatever their ability.

Ed had a place going for The Heights of Winter Rogaine at the Woodbury Domain near Geraldine. <——Ah, I think I need to backtrack slightly. For those not in the know, a Rogaine is a long distance, cross-country navigation event (according to Wikipedia), involving route planning and navigation between various checkpoints. The word rogaining is derived from the names of three of the founders, Rod Phillips, Gail Davis (née Phillips) and Neil Phillips (RoGaiNe, hence ‘rogaining’, ‘rogainer’ etc.). Terry (of Highland Events fame), likes to think of rogaining as “strategic mountain running in a team”.

Ed had a spare place on the Heights of Winter Rogaine at Woodbury near Geraldine together with another friend, Jonanthan. I was a bit nervous about going as the thought of running around for 10 hours was a bit daunting, but I need not have been concerned. Ed gave us lots of advice beforehand and made sure we had all the compulsory gear we needed (whistle, base layers, waterproof and windproof running top and trousers, head torch etc.), and gave us lots of tips for the day.

The day wasn’t really about winning (there were professional adventure racers out there for a start), but more about having fun and enjoying the experience. You don’t have to be amazingly fit to do fairly well – there was a group of pensioners on one team who did a lot better than us – ahem. But boy, what fun it was — it was exhilarating and I loved it. I would highly recommend rogaining to anyone who even vaguely fancies giving it a go. Don’t feel like you need to be a hardened adventurer to compete. Rogaines seem to be for competitors of all levels, and all are welcome! Oh, and did I mention there is usually a meal at the end of the day?

For anyone who can be in the Wanaka/Cromwell area for the weekend of the 14th of September, Ed and Terry are organising a Rogaine.  The event seems very reasonably-priced, and knowing Ed and Terry the route and the whole event will be amazeballs. So, why don’t cha give it a go? Go on…

p.s. If I’m not in the event, I will be helping out, so see you there!

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Life has been very busy recently (more of that later), hence, our blog has been a little neglected recently! But, we’re back and I’m on a mission to get all of our photos uploaded over the next week or so, so apologies in advance if you subscribe to this blog. Your inbox will be INUNDATED!
One of the things I love about New Zealand, is that Mrs. E and I are able to do lots of things together. This is probably a combination of several different factors, better weather, more energy, more time, but it is great spending quality time together.

A month (or so… I won’t disclose the date as it will show how lax I have been), we had a fabulous day when we fitted in 3 activities in one day; yup, three!

Activity 1 – we headed out to the Luggate Creek Track a few kilometres from our house, which is part of a whole network of river walks in our area set up by the Upper Clutha Track Trust. We walked a few kilometres taking in the views towards Cromwell, the Pisa mountain range, and the turquoise clear water, while The Spaniel enjoyed chasing wabbits. And then we were ready for brunch…

Activity 2 – we head out to the Tarras Country Café for a slap up fried breakfast with homemade bread, sausages, free range eggs and crispy bacon, topped off with a cappuccino each. We needed to roll out of the café before we ate anything else, so we tipped ourselves out of our chairs and rolled into The Shrek museum. Shrek was a merino sheep belonging to Bendigo station (a farm near Tarras), who shot to fame after not being caught and shorn for 6 years! Apparently he hid in caves to avoid being captured. Apparently he became a national icon and even met Helen Clark, the prime minister at the time, in Wellington. This was great, but boy we had to burn off some calories, hence, our next activity…

Activity 3 – walk around Bendigo Historic Reserve which, contains Welshtown an old gold-and quartz-mining village, now a ghost town. It was fascinating to walk around the ruins and think about how things were back then.
By this point we were well and truly pooped, so we headed back to the ranch for a rest, and then off to a Bed-we-go… (<—– do you see what I did there?)
What an awesome day.

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Today is the Queen’s Birthday in New Zealand, a public holiday given by the Queen for kiwis to celebrate her birthday.

We had a quiet morning, and then headed out to Diamond Lake on the west bank of Lake Wanaka. I have been enjoying getting into my running again after joining a running group, so I decided to run the route from the car park to Diamond Lake, and then up to Lake Wanaka viewpoint. Mrs. E followed and walked the route. The Spaniel had to stay in the car as dogs were not allowed (she was NOT HAPPY about this).

The track starts from the carpark and follows an old road to Diamond Lake. It then skirts around the lake up a steep incline to the first viewing platform over Diamond Lake. From there, the track climbs to Lake Wanaka Viewpoint which has panoramic views across Lake Wanaka and beyond.

The run took me about 50 minutes at about 5K with 774 metres of ascent, it was a corker. I managed to pace myself pretty well, taking it nice and easy on the ascents. Mrs. E loved her walk too. The Spaniel on the other hand was not happy about being left behind, but I took her for a good spin by the river to compensate as Mrs. E descended down the track.

What a fabulous place we live in. When are you coming to visit?

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When we arrived in Hawea at the end of February, it was blazing hot. The New Zealand sun is pretty hardcore with very high UV rates. It can be energy zapping and you can burn in minutes if you don’t put sun block on, even on a cloudy day. So, that was high summer…

A few weeks ago, we turned into Autumn, and we started to get some cold air at night, which was a refreshing change. And then, as if God just flicked a switch, we got snow! It started off with snow at 1200 metres, then 1000 metres, and then on Thursday morning it dropped all the way down to 400 metres! I was sat at my desk working early (6 am – I know…), and when the sun started to rise I opened the curtains to my office window and saw the snow covering Mt. Maude. When I saw this, I ran excitedly like a little kid through to Mrs. E, dragged her out of bed and we saw the snow, like a thick layer of white icing dripping off a Christmas pudding, on all the mountain ranges. It felt like Christmas!

So, erm, yes, we are VERY excited about the snow – y’know that butterlies-in-your-stomach feeling? We’re getting that when we look out at the completely transformed vistas, wherever we go. The arrival of snow also means it is not long until ski season. Mrs. E and I (no Spaniel) have got local ski passes for Cardrona ski field , which is just down the road. We haven’t skied before (unless you count the time I went skiing in Scotland and my “mates” put me on a Black run (hardcore, only for CRAZY people ski run), for a laugh…). Suffice to say, the prospect of going skiing at the weekend and having lessons is very exciting.

I have been a little enthusiastic in taking snow shots with my camera. Enjoy….

p.s. Mrs. E, myself and The Spaniel are heading out shortly for our weekly walk up Mt. Iron. Just to warn you.. the camera is charged, I may get trigger happy.

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For another day trip on my week off, we headed up the North West shores of Lake Hawea to Makokora and The Haast pass, which ultimately leads to the West Coast. I imagine the Haast Pass is a wonderfully scenic drive (have you done it?) – we will do it at some point soon.

There are lots of short walks off the main route of the Haast Pass and one of them is The Blue Pools Track, which is a few miles north of Makakora and about an hour’s drive from our house. I would class this as a kiwi Must Do. The path from the road meanders through a silver beech forest, takes you over a swing bridge to the blue pools, which are glacier fed, and are a deep azure blue. You can see to the bottom easily – it’s SO blue. I wanted to go for a swim, but I suspect the water would have been nippy, oh, and I didn’t have any swimming trunks with me… So, that’s for the next time.
Visitors –we will definitely take you here when you visit, it’s a lovely little walk.

The Blue Pools are in Mt. Aspiring National Park, where dogs are not allowed, so The Spaniel had to stay in the DOC (Department of Conservation hut) on the edge of the park. As a result, we had a very pent up and hot Spaniel (it was a very hot day). We therefore headed on back towards Hawea, but stopped at the North end of Lake Wanaka to give The Spaniel a spin and a swim.

A beautiful place. We plan to explore Mt. Aspiring Park some more in the near future.

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During my week off work the other week, we visited Cromwell.

Cromwell, is about an hour’s drive south from where we live. NZ-wise, that is literally next door! Originally a gold town, Cromwell later became an extensive farming and stone fruit growing area, which it remains to this day.

The township is located on the shores of Lake Dunstan, which increased in size when the Clyde Dam was built. About one-third of the old town had to be rebuilt on higher ground when the lake size increased; this area is now called the historic town centre, which contains old Victorian buildings, including a bakery, avillage store etc. It was good to see a bit of history, which we hadn’t seen for a while (there are very few old buildings in Hawea and Wanaka, that I know of).

Before we left, a friend said we must take pictures of the giant fruit??? Wondering what they meant, we soon found out when we drove out of Cromwell heading home – there on the roadside are some MASSIVE fruit (not real, though aye?). I reckon some tourists come here, take a picture of themselves with the fruit and then leave – not even venturing into Cromwell. In fact, we saw some backpackers do pretty much that.

We stopped off at a fruit warehouse, which sold fruit from it’s orchards. I bought a big box of yellow plums and they were delicious.

We will definitely go back, and get some delicious fruit, oh, and there are vineyards…

Let’s play a game, spot the GIANT fruit in the pics below…

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The other day I decided to go for a “fell run” up Isthmus Peak. After all, I’ve done lots of fell running in the UK and I haven’t lost too much fitness right? Ah – WRONG.
Isthmus Peak is about 10 miles up the road from where we live, on the North West Corner of Lake Hawea. We can see it from our house and it just looked like all the other mountains. And that is the problem, all of the other mountains are BIG and I keep on forgetting that.

I set off from the lakeside and ran around Glen Dene station (a large farm), up a gentle incline to the West of the station. I was feeling in pretty top form at this point. “Easy, easy, E-A-S-Y”, I’m thinking to myself. And then, I hit the incline… running, turned to jogging, which turned to hand walking (hands on thighs, walking as fast as possible – not walking on my hands!), which quickly turned to a slow walk with an occasional run on section that had a more gentle incline. I started to give myself a bit of a hard time for being so SLOW. I wasn’t really taking in the height of the mountain and the incline. At one point I think I could have turned back, particularly as I knew I had a time limit as we had church later that day. However, something in me wanted to keep on going to check out the view from Isthmus Peak.

Once I had reached what seemed to be the first big summit, and which turned out to be the first of several blind summits, I bumped into the first hoomans of the day, who told me the summit was probably about 20 minutes run away, which it was. This spurred me on. On the way I passed the sign for the summit which indicated the height of the summit was in fact 1395 metres, bigger than Ben Nevis! This made me felt better, and together with a last minute endorphin rush and a lovely ridge run to the summit, I flew (almost literally) to the top. I took a few more cheesy photos and had my lunch at the summit, and took a picture of my Kendal mint cake (I don’t actually eat it, it is there for emergencies, besides it is too precious – thank you Julie and Hilary for your donations).
And then I ran down. The descent was hard work on the steep decline, but I got down pretty quickly.

This was great walk/run/run-walk/fell run/mountain walk – call it what you will.

On the way, I saw:
1. Cows about 2,000 feet up and higher
2. Those hard core merino sheep again
3. A stag – but I deleted the photo…
4. Cute, hardy alpine plants
5. A non-English speaking European couple who gave me puzzled looks
6. Views, views and more amazing views
7. Lake Wanaka
5. Lake Hawea
9. Hawea township
10. Tussock (lots of)

I also found some extra willpower, which I pulled out of the bag to keep me going.
“’‘Twas fun”, I thought when I was back in my bed at the end of the day…
“Never again”, I thought part way up…

Next time you’re down, let’s DO IT! (We will walk though…)

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