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We live at the bottom end of Lake Hawea, which is incredibly long – 35 km to be exact.

The views down the east side of the lake are fantastic, so we decided to run along the track along the east side from Hawea (St John’s Creek to be exact) to the start of Dingle Burn Station further down the lake. Mrs. E was my coach for the day and rode ahead on her bike, whilst keeping me motivated through the 16-kilometre run and shouting out each kilometre. The Spaniel also kept me motivated, and given she was attached to me via the lead, she kindly led me up some pretty steep hills round Timaru Creek.

Sixteen kilometres flew by against the dramatic scenery, with snow-capped mountains dominating the skyline against the clear blue skies. We even had a few spectators along the way (sheep, lambs, cows and calves).

As I am aiming to do a marathon in February (if I don’t injure myself along the way), this route seems a good way of covering the distance, gradually adding on the mileage and slowly nudging further and further down the lake.

Today I am grateful for where we live, and super-fit spaniels…

As ever, enjoy the photos.

Map of Hawea

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A few months back I enrolled on a distance learning horticultural course with the Southern Institute of Technology as I am VERY keen horticulturalist and wanted to back up my gardening experience with some theory.  The course is brilliant, I have learned a lot and am over half way through. My current module is on weeds, so I have to take photos of weeds and identify them. To make sure I don’t cheat I have to give an identifier of something that  links the photo with me. I chose The Spaniel as I thought she would be a unique identifier!

I took these photos on a 14 K trail run alongside Lake Hawea on Sunday morning and posted them on Facebook for friends to identify. They didn’t do very well), Can you do any better?

Weed or Spaniel? Sorry, I mean Weed or native plant? You decide..

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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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We are now well and truly into Spring in Central Otago, the snow is melting on the tops and the weather has become a little more unsettled as Winter and Summer battle it out between themselves. Fortunately we know Summer will be the victor. But credit due to Winter as it blessed us with huge dumpings of snow on the mountains, which gave us the opportunity to learn how to ski.

So, at the beginning of July with ski passes in hand for Cardrona ski field, and a little bit of gusto we started weekly treks up “The Mountain” as the locals call it. Mrs. E has never skied before and I have only done it a few times, so we were effectively learning from scratch. At first, it was really tough. There was tiredness and bruises, together with belly laughs and moments of thrill when we managed to stay up on our feet. It was a delight watching Mrs. E progress from a petrified jelly-legged beginner to a very competent skier. I never forget the day when she just “got it” and was going up and doing the slope like a yo yo – I just couldn’t keep up. It was lovely to see her having the time of her life.

We got to become good beginner skiers, skiing well on green runs and being a little bit scared of the blue runs. But, by jove we did it – we can now ski!

We are looking forward to Summer, but Winter has become our new best friend.

See you on the slopes again soon!

p.s. I love this photo of Mrs. E with friends Pri and Jo – happy times !

Liz and Priya and co

More pics below:

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The other week a group of us from our running group heading out for a 12K run along the Rob Roy Glacier track.

We drove down the Matukituki Valley, which is an adventure in itself with its fjords, creeks, and windy and rubbly roads, and finally an hour later, parked up at Raspberry Creek car park.

From the car park, we ran alongside the Matukituki river, and then across a swing bridge onto the main track, which passes through a small gorge and then winds up through  a beech forest, which transitions into more alpine vegetation. At the top of the valley, the glacier can be seen in all its glory. In fact it is SO big it casts a dark shadow across the valley floor. The sounds of the furious river, the bellbirds singing, the smell of rain on damp moss, and so much more stopped us from feeling the pain of what was essentially a 6K run up a hill!

One of the most beautiful runs I have ever been on. I shall be heading back with Mrs. E  – I know she will love it.


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The start of winter here was heralded by one almighty snow storm, which resulted in us being snowed in! Hawea came into its own as the mountains received a thick coating of snow, which was a truly magnificent sight. Our friends Ed, Carol, on Douglas the border terrier came our for lunch one day to see what all the fuss was about, as they hasn’t had any snow in Wanaka where they live. We walked alongside the lake, had a natter – Mrs. E made a snow angel and we then tootled back home for a warming soup. I then made a snowman… (I called him Simon…)

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Wanaka is a fabulous place at the best of times, but when winter comes and the fluffy stuff falls from the sky, the mountains are transformed into a Winter Wonderland. Of the many snow-based activities available, there is cross-country skiing at the Snow Farm just down the road (and up the hill) from where we live!

At the start of the season, we gave it a bash with our friends Katie and Paul and had a whale of a time. We went during locals day, which offered a very cheap package of ski equipment rental and a lesson. We took to it pretty easily, technically it isn’t difficult at all but physically it can be hard work. The other great thing about cross-country skiing is that you can have a good old natter friends as you amble along the many trails on the farm. We loved it. There are lots of other snow-based activities at the farm, which we want to try, as well as trails that go off piste to huts where you can stay overnight. It seems that there are lots of adventures to be had…

Great fun – we recommend!

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The other week we drove up to Christchurch to meet up with our friends The Sutton family from our church in the UK.

We spent the Sunday with them and went to church, and then had a walk around the city – visiting some of their old haunts, as they lived in Christchurch about 8 years ago. The centre of Christchurch is a bit of a sad place post-earthquakes, but you can see the resilience of the city with the container city – shops and cafes made out of shipping containers, and the rebuild going ahead where it can where insurance claims allow. For example, a cardboard cathedral has been built, which is exactly as it says on the tin – a cardboard cathedral! We had a lovely day with the Suttons, and it was sad to leave them, but we were very grateful for the time we spent together. Thank you The Suttons! 🙂

The next day, Mrs. E, myself and The Spaniel went to Sumner beach, followed by Christchurch  Gondola in the Port Hills. Fortunately, the cloudy skies cleared up as we went up the gondola and the views were amazing. We could see from Lyttleton Harbour through to the Cantebury Plains and the Southern Alps.

Christchurch was good to us that weekend, thank  you

I think the pictures speak for themselves…

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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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