Archives for posts with tag: New Zealand

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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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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Today, is my very own Cloud Appreciation Day. I didn’t intend to spend my day looking up at the sky. In fact, I didn’t – work got in the way of that.

However, sunrise was just beautiful – we started off with a swirly, spangled, sun rise and we ended with big cotton wool clad skies. (full of snow?).
Before I get carried away with the descriptors, I’ll sign off, but take a look…

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Today, I (no Spaniel, no Mrs. E) went along to a tussock planting day with Lindis Pass Conservation group. As most friends know, I love gardening and plants and such, and when I heard about this trip I just had to go, as I love tussocks! I’m not sure why, perhaps they remind me of my wanderings on the top of Lake District fells, or perhaps I just admire their form, or even their hardiness as they can withstand some harsh weather at high altitudes.

I met a lovely lady called Anne at The Red Bridge (literally a red bridge) about 20 minutes drive from our house, and we drove together through Tarras where we stopped for a coffee and then we carried on to the Lindis Pass. The journey with Anne was enthralling, it was as if I was sat next to a talking natural history text book. I learned a lot about how New Zealand used to be, before forests were burnt down for agriculture land, how New Zealand species in general grow slowly as they did not have any natural predators against which they had to defend themselves. It was fascinating, and gave me lots to think about.

We planted snow tussock (Chionochloa rigidas), which is a native plant which has had a bit of a hard time either when land has been burnt or sheep or hares have been chomping on them. The planting was controlled with several experimental and control plots testing different conditions. For example, with fertilizer, without fertilizer, with lime, without lime. The team will come back in a few years’ time and assess the growth of the plants and how well they have naturalized. Fascinating stuff.

I met some lovely people, Andrew, Sue, Logan, Heather (from Stockport in the UK – it was great to hear a northern accent), Anne and Ursula. Andrew entertained us on the way back talking about Austranesians (I have no idea if that is spelled correctly).

It was a great day and I can’t wait until the next trip.

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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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Today is ANZAC Day in New Zealand, a day in which the forces from New Zealand and Australia who fought and died as part of the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) in the first world war are remembered.

On this day in 1915, the ANZAC troops landed in Gallipol iin Turkey. Their objective was to capture Constantinople (Istanbul), which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April and met great resistance from the Ottoman Army. Allied casualties included 21,255 from the UK, an estimated 10,000 dead soldiers from France, 8,709 from Australia, 2,721 from New Zealand, and 1,358 from India. This is definitely a Kiwi and Australian day, a day when these nations stand together in pride and remembrance of the fallen.

We don’t have a service nearby, so instead I wrote this post and took a picture of the sunrise by means of remembrance and thank you. I also took the time to remember my grandparents who fought in the Burma campaign in World War 2.

Let’s not forget those who fell to save us in the great wars, and more recently.


Please do comment below if there is anything you wish to add, thank you.

Further information below:

p.s. – I just looked on Facebook and realised there is a service in the village, and looking at the photo a lot of people turned out to remember.


To you and yours, wishing you a Merry Christmas!

Family and friends from home: we love you, we hope you have a fabulous Christmas and look forward to FaceTiming, calling, Skyping you over the next few days. You are ALWAYS in our thoughts. Some of you have had an awful year, our thoughts prayers and hugs go out to you. Do drop us messages or try and call us, we are here until the day after Boxing Day.

Readers of this blog: hey, you’re our friends too, wishing you a fabulous Christmas for you and yours!

And now, a few rambling thoughts…

Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas until we went to church yesterday when we sang lots of carols and the Christmas message was given. It was a lovely service. There was a hilarious moment in the service when the congregation was blasting an adaption of Cappeau de Roquemaure’s O Holy Night, when Mrs. E nudged me and pointed to my left where I saw a little boy sat looking miserable
with his hands over his ears. Oh how we laughed. In my head I am very tuneful, but the reality may be somewhat different, and although I’m pretty sure the little boy was reacting to the congregation as a whole, I chose to turn my volume down a little… We also sang a beautiful Kiwi Christmas carol, called Te Harinui. The carol commemorates the first New Zealand Christmas in the Bay of Islands in 1814, and the coming together of Maori and Pakeha (Europeans) at that time, when the Revered Samuel Marsden preached from Luke Chapter 2, versus 10. “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” The congregation sang this with great emotion, you could feel their sense of pride to be kiwis. And we felt proud of our adopted nation too.

We had planned to have a quiet Christmas on the beach, and we were very happy at the thought of having a quiet day, but yesterday we received lots of kind offers to come round for Christmas Day (thank you everyone). So we are now going to friends for breakfast (thank you James and Ruth), and then we are off to the lovely Bendecke’s (thanks guys) for a South African style Christmas lunch (The Spaniel has a personal invitation too). How lovely is that? I love the openness of Kiwi homes. We will be taking a pavlova, because thats what kiwi’s eat at Christmas, right? We are probably going to be indoors, as the remnants of cyclone Evan are due to hit on Christmas Day. Fortuitously we had not psyched ourselves up for Christmas on the beach! Although I reckon if the surf is good, I may end up at the beach boogy boarding at some point! More of our surfing antics will follow in another post…

We have family coming to visit on Boxing Day, Fi and James. We can’t wait. We are off to the Coromandel and Bay of Islands for a week – whoop! Hopefully, once the storm passes we will be able to hit the beaches and relax. I will take lots of photos and blog about it in due course. So don’t feel left out! 🙂

OK, that’s it for now, and apologies as this is a bit of a rambling post. It is my last day of work today, so I need to crack on. If I don’t blog before, have a lovely Christmas one and all!

Twohoomans and The Spaniel


p.s. the lady who took our Christmas pic, was a complete stranger at the time, but we have bumped into her a few times since. In true kiwi style (I don’t know you, but…) she came round yesterday with these homemade Christmas chocs for us. We were touched. Does anyone know what they are, and more importantly, do you have a recipe? They are delicious!



Today has been a lovely sunny and hot day. Mrs. E and I have been busy working all day so we didn’t get to enjoy it until this evening.

The Spaniel and I headed down to the beach to watch the swimmers, skim boarders, kids jumping off the wharf, and to generally just sit on the sandy beach, mesmerised by the churning deep blue sea. Actually, I sat and The Spaniel dug holes…

A young chap came over to me and asked what type of dog The Spaniel was. I explained, and he replied, ‘Well, she is a very good looking dog sir!”. Between you and me (and the deep blue sea…) I think this gave The Spaniel an extra spring in her step.

Just before sunset, Mrs. E joined us for one more trip to the beach. The Spaniel had another swim, and then we all came home.

The Spaniel is well and truly pooped.

Me too…

Goodnight All