Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Caution! These pictures could cause you to drop everything and come to New Zealand

Awake yet? There's a lot more where that came from-

Last Thursday I bumped into Meghan on the way to lab (like we never see each other or something) and she told me she'd rented a car and planned to get out of town. Game on the idea, Narv jumped aboard as well and the smell of a weekend road trip filled the air. Wanaka was the destination, the plans-a little less clear- but the matukituki valley leading into Mt Aspiring National Park looked promising.

We picked up the "white ninja" from EZY rentals and headed of Friday afternoon for the 6 hour drive
It's not a road trip unless you crank out the Journey

Of course, the 6 hour estimate assumes you actually drive, but really, there was no way we could avoid numerous photo op stops

Lake Tekapo

Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook (NZ highest peak)

New Zealand sunsets; like none other in the world

We made it into into the bustling "city" of Wanaka around 9. The little town (pop 4000) sits right on the edge, and apparently sometimes under, Lake Wanaka. Swelling during the winter , it was a great shock to trade the noise and confusion of chch for the wide open spaces of a dormant ski town, (not to mention the convenience of being within walking distance of the bars)

The purple cow, hostel we crashed at

Treble Cone Ski area, waiting for the snow to fall again

Up with the sun the next morning, we enjoyed a kiwi breakfast at one of the cafes and headed for the hills. Narv and I, after looking at some maps, decided we'd push up the valley from the car park and veer up the ridge after several miles to an exposed ridge, elevation was the name of the game, and man were we about to get it.

Here's a shocker, right? Livestock graze one the valley floor up to the park boundary. If you enlarge this pic you can see the massive waterfall spouting out from the bottom of the glacier.

Bride's veil falls.

Not sure about the name of this odd rock peak, but pretty cool looking

After a quick 4 mile hike up the relatively flat valley floor, we reached the park boundary and the Aspiring hut. From here we veered upward through a dense beech forest

Just before crossing this little stream we ran into one of the only two other trampers we saw on the ridge ascent. Believe it or not he was actually from Ballston Spa (right out side Saratoga), its a small world.

Man, looks are deceiving. If this doesn't look that bad to you fine, the camera doesn't so it justice, but you're looking at the wall we saw as we broke out of the treeline.

Made it! Ok, we didn't jump up and down when we crested the ridge, actually we ridge walked for a while, found a nice knoll to crash on, and destroyed a stick of salami and a couple hapless energy bars.

Mt Avalanche and Rob Roy Peak (l-r)

Mt Edward, Dart glacier, Plunkett Dome (l-r)

Mt Tyndall and the Isobel Glacier (so close but still so far)

Dart glacier

Narv had the great idea of bringing a small pair of binocs, genius. I was almost blown off the ridge looking into the distant crevasses and towering head walls, I'd never been that close to such impressive mountains (lift serve ski areas seem to reduce the mountains to mole hills for me)

More waterfalls. I could probably have spent a month camped out in the ravine below the ridge just exploring all the snow fields, cascades, outcrops and tarns

Hike in a nutshell. If you look down the valley you can see two thin lines of trees cutting across the floor, the car park where we started is just past the the most distant. We probably did 12-14 miles and climbed 5,000 feet, that's like running up and down a few hundred feet less than Mt Marcy from sea level, but most that elevation was made and lost in 3-4 miles. The mountains here are much younger than our old tired Appalachians, and thus a lot steeper and burlier.

Little steep ehh?

The drive in and out was pretty rough, requiring a couple stream fords and holding up for plenty of sheep to get out of the way.

Hence the term a rented mule

In other news, we had some pretty crazy weather two weekends ago, while the east was getting a spring snow storm, we got hail and thunder

Ilam gardens disappearing under water

Two Wednesdays ago we went to the Willow Bank center to watch a Maori performance, gorge on the all you can eat buffet, and view some of NZ's rarer native species. Above is a Kea, the only alpine parrot in the world. They're notorious for causing all sorts of trouble for alpinists. They're one of the smartest birds on the planet, and believed to be one of the few animals known to partake in activities solely for entertainment. This guy wasn't exactly having a ball. We also saw kiwis, but were asked not to use flashes, so no pics came out. They're also a pretty cool animal in a lot of trouble. Our guide said NZ is in serious danger of loosing their national icon and name sake within 5-10 years if protection doesn't improve vastly. He may have a bias, working for a conservation park, but I doubt he was making it up.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

For Sale: One-way ticket, New Zealand-U.S CHEAPPPP!!

Ok, I don't know about that, talk to me during finals week I suppose, but for now, you couldn't pay me to leave.

Here are two reasons why-


I can't even begin to tell you how complete my life feels now. Everything seems to be "snapping together" for lack of a better term. I can cruise around the city and well beyond as I please. On Friday I made my debut on the New Zealand single track, catching a ride with the bike club to one of the trail heads. They were all doing shuttle runs, so, though they were a pretty cool group of dude, I high tailed it to earn the rest of my turns. The riding is just wide open on the ridges of the porthills overlooking the city and sea. I hammered for three hours, or until dark, dropping down to the turquoise shores of Governors bay in Lyttelton for a bite to eat at Coffee Culture. My ride back lead me right through downtown, though I'd already cruised through earlier to get some essential bike parts, (locks and lights are a must in this city) what a contrast coming from the windy ridges where I saw only a few other riders and, ya imagine, a bunch of sheep, to the hustle and bustle of chch on a Friday night. That's something I just can't get in good ole Middlebury or Saratoga.

So today I took the road hound out for a 5 1/2 hour, 60-70 mile (or should I say 120-140k, that sounds a little more badass ehh?) hammer fest over three gaps, cruising to the end of the road beach town of Purau (poo-row-ah) before doubling back and coming around the length of governor's bay to Lyttelton, stopping back in at Coffee Culture for another awesome berry Friand, which I definitely needed to make the 30 minute climb, I'm serious, all climbing, maybe one or two 10-20 meter tops, flat's, no dips though, before finally beginning my decent back down into the city. It was a beautiful, but pretty grueling ride, being my first in three weeks now! The asphalt is a good deal tougher here as well. They call paved roads sealed, and I'll tell you why. In America, our roads are nice and smooth (this does not include the states of Vermont, Maine, Alaska, or Idaho), kind of like say, like a butter cookie. Here the texture is more similar to a rice crispies treat, like someone just poured a layer of transparent coating on top and made the gravel stick together. It would probably be a lot better if they just started doing that however, since falling on gravel tends to facilitate trips to the ER and pulling your pants down for the nice folks at the school's health services office just to get some gauze, ahem, and rice crispie treat roads would make life a lot easier when bikers get so excited for a ride they leave without any food, hahah, lot of space to fill when you ride all day.

Sorry, no photos from either ride, though I've adapted to the different riding patterns almost instantly, (I did whip out into an oncoming lane when I took the mtb for its first roll Thursday night, no cars though or I wouldn't be telling you this) I haven't felt like taking anything more than I need to risk; pics in the future I promise. You can try and see my route from today, though doubt this link will work, http://www.routeslip.com/routes/24476-

umm, did I say the riding is fantastic here? These guys know it-

Summit road

Just above the Rapaki track

Still waiting for my bikes, I went for a hike Tuesday. I saw a ton of riders, both road and mountain, each one was puuuuuure torture

It's hard not get into the outdoor lifestyle in a place like this

Can you see the climber?

How about now? (click to enlarge and look in the top right) itsabigrock, Castle Rock (not Castle Hill in Arthurs Pass) is a local hotspot

Cheaters, the easy way up Mt Cavendish on the Gondola, so wierd to see one of these again with no snow under it-

The Tors

How about that plane ticket ehh? What an awesome place to have a little trail dinner. Below is Cass Bay, see the boats moored in it, one day, I'll haveone there.

Maybe one day I’ll live on a boat
Moored in the turquoise blue below

And come to this spot-
And write in this book-
On this rock-

The Chch end of the Lyttelton Tunnel, a mile long link to the major port where I watched, and then funnily enough paced with, a giant British cruise boat deporting on Friday. I had to stop and laugh with a local, gathered with hundreds of others along the road to Evans Pass watching the thing go. At first it hardly moved, but once it cleared the pier it really began to move and stayed just over my shoulder no matter how hard I tried to drop it, damn paceline moochers-

How's this for perspective?

Castle Rock from behind

I think this is one of the best shots I've managed to get of Chch so far. From afar my camera does a pretty lousy job and always seems to add a white haze to the image, but not so much here. The Southern Alps in the distance seem a lot close, but in reality, they're just big mountans really pretty far away.

Do I need a title? I like these rocks

Beefy, New Zealand steak just isn't quite as nice as our fat flat midwestern bovine, the lamb however, is another story-

P.S. if you're having trouble seeing a photo click it to enlarge