Giving Thanks

Earlier today it was hot, really hot. The wind barely moved on the plot of earth where I worked. I rhythmically drove a spade, pitch fork and pick axe into the ground in the scorching heat, salty water seeping over my brow into my eyes. I wrestled with the ground, a mix of topsoil and clay, asking it to open its bounty and food-giving potential to me, stopping to save the lives of the worms as I went, tossing them into the compost bin we had constructed earlier out of scraps of sheet iron, recently felled gum trees and hand-dug holes. Near to me was a strong-jawed man in chaps and wet t-shirt, hacking the sharpened blade of a worn machete at the base of the head-high Wild Ginger. He cleared the tropical nuisance to extend the flat piece of land we were working on. Blisters formed and muscles burned as much from the work as from the heat in the sun. I dug. He swung. We tamed the land; readying it for its first garden. I have pioneer blood – I love this shit!

Now, I rest on a lumpy torn couch situated on a balcony 50 metres directly above the Thames harbour. The house to which the balcony belongs has the ethereal smell of Cyprus, is without power or kitchen, the water runs cold, the carpet is torn, wrinkled and loose. Animal traps, boots and stained clothes accompany me on the balcony to air in the evening breeze. The sun is setting, burning the sky orange and ocean a brilliantly speckled royal blue. The ocean sings its sloshy rhythm on the rocks below, the cicadas scream, and a warm summer wind is in my hair, up my skirt and in my breath, salty and clean. This is just another perfect moment among a billion similar perfect moments. I love New Zealand.  I love my heritage. I love being here.

I am a 5th generation kiwi born New Zealander. I want to give a resounding thanks to my ancestors who brought me here, whose blood I share.

The final resting place of my GGGrandmother Ellen Jane Dillen, and my GGGrandfather William Spearink in Featherstone Cemetery.  I leave them a note of thanks and some OSMs to get them through the next 100 years. Sad to see the tombstone broken.

Leaving a letter andOSMs to Ellen myGGGrandmother and William myGGGrandfather at their final resting place in Featherstone Cemetery.Sad to see the tombstone broken.

Dear Ellen Jane Dillen

You were brought to Nelson in 1840 as a founding settler as a one year old. You and your younger brothers grew up as the very first European kiwi kids, where having mud on your shoes, sand in your belly button, healthy lungs and strong bones was ‘normal’, unlike your poor cousins back in England where childhood death from disease remained their ‘normal’.

In Picton you helped your mum run a male boarding house for early settlers, and later travelled the country in what I can only imagine as trying conditions as a lone woman. You even worked for George Grey’s, the Governor General’s, wife as her hand maiden in Auckland. You would have gained insights into the world of what it was to be an early European New Zealander, from the optimistic young men come to mine gold, to the railway gangers, to the policy makers and their political concerns of the time.

Surviving as an attractive lone woman in a world both beautiful and harsh, and male dominated you had to be independent, strong and resilient. Thus, with woman like you in our genetic heritage it is no wonder that New Zealand woman were the first woman in the world to gain a political vote.

You died 91 years before my birth but I know your stories, passed on down to me from the independent woman before me. I have always felt a deep connection to you, and want to thank you in particular, as my life came at your cost. My life brought you death, along with the birth of your only child, my great grandmother.

Thank you for your legacy. Thank you for my life. Thank you for my heritage. Thank you.

Juliet Jones
Your great-great-granddaughter.

My Great-great-grandmother Jane Dillen arrived in NZ in 1840.  Died in 1881 giving birth to her only child aged 41.

My Great-great-grandmother Ellen Jane Dillen arrived in NZ in 1840. Died in 1881 giving birth to her only child.

Ellen's daughter and granddaughters. My GGrandmother Wilhelmina and Grandmother Nellie on her knee.

Ellen’s daughter and granddaughters. My Great Grandmother Wilhelmina and Grandmother Nellie on her knee.

Posted in New Zealand Scene | Tagged | 3 Comments

Alpine Club Snow Craft Course

A draught was pushing its way north from the southern end of the lake, infused with invisible white teeth of ice, a cold that bites into your skin and makes your shoulders turn inwards on themselves. Blind to the eye but perfectly visible to smell and touch, it was snowing in the south, and the grey, cold drizzle falling in Taupo felt only a degree or two off the same.

I shot out of work and into the cold. It was quarter to five as I ran into Hunting and Fishing; I needed a polar fleece and I left with two. I had signed up for a beginners Alpine Course with the New Zealand Alpine Club’s Central Plateau section, and was not sure I had enough warm clothing. I quickly did my last minute shopping, and visualised myself a few hours ahead, trudging through knee deep snow above The Bruce to our lodgings. I was amped and excited.

That was the plan, but at that stage I didn’t know the first rule of mountaineering. “You make a plan, then you see what the weather is doing, then you make a new plan”.

Driving up the snowy Bruce Road in the warmth of my car, I arrived at Whakapapa Village at 8pm. Once parked up I wrestled for space with my steering wheel as I negotiated six layers of clothing onto my body which including two pairs of thermal undies, my new polar fleece, a down jacket, and overall hard gortex shell. Soon emerging like an overfeed caterpillar, I waddled my way down to the Tussock Tavern. And there I stayed, we stayed, myself and the rest of the alpine wannabes, stripping layer upon layer off, getting drunker and drunker. No one was going to get up the Bruce Road that night.

snowcraft (6)As it turned out we didn’t arrive at our lodgings at the luxurious Waikato Ski Lodge until almost noon the next day as we had to wait until the Bruce Road was sufficiently safe to negotiate.  Meanwhile the sun shone bright and there was no need for my new polar fleece!

 snowcraft (5)snowcraft (4)Our first day of activities consisted of ice axe handling skills, including self-arresting from all manner of positions, so we enjoyed throwing ourselves down snowy embankments like WWF wresters; backward, head first and upside down. We practiced walking efficiently in the foot holes of others and walked in crampons (you have no idea how excited I was to use my crampons for the first time!) We also learnt to climb icy embankments using the German Technique, the American Technique, not to mention movie favourite, the French ‘Piolet Traction’.

snowcraft (3)snowcraft (8)Our first day ended with a leisurely hike in the hills as the sun dipped in the distance behind Mt Taranaki, a magnificent sunset and a hearty meal of spaghetti bolognaise, red wine and cheese cake followed by a movie on avalanche assessment and rescue.

snowcraft (2) snowcraft (1) snowcraft (18) snowcraft (17) snowcraft (15) snowcraft (11)Pschyed for a full day hiking, we hit the slopes again at dawn while the snow was still nice and hard for walking on. At a steady pace, and practicing many of our newly learnt techniques we made the Crater Lake and summit plateau in time for lunch. 

With the only casualty being the sunburnt insides of my nostrils it was all too soon time to go home.

Overall a magnificent trip with some incredible people.  With special thanks going out to Marcus B, Marcus D, Mike, Scott and Elliot for the fantastic weekend – you were awesome!snowcraft (19)

Links:

https://alpineclub.org.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/alpinecentral

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Posted in Central Plateau, Tramping | Leave a comment

Damn the Weather Report

New Zealand Herald January 3rd: “The blustery conditions disrupted flights, toppled power poles, damaged scaffolding, and left trees and debris scattered across roads north of Wellington, delaying traffic between Otaki and Levin. Firefighters said one downed pole crashed through the conservatory of a Lower Hutt home”

New Zealand Herald January 4th: “the MetService issued a severe weather warning for this morning. The lower North Island and Marlborough Sounds were expected to get heavy rain and gale-force winds … including gusts of up to 140km/h in the capital”

THE JONESES January 5th – 6th: The entire genetic lineage of the Jones Family, aged from 8 years to 43, go for a two-day kayaking trip on Lake Taupo, despite the congregating isobars and their collective kayaking inexperience”

January 5th
My two brothers, the four nieces and nephews, a Japanese friend of the family, and myself stand on the shores of Kinloch. It’s cold, threatening to rain, and gusts circle and play within the sheltered harbour occasionally dipping to pick up and ruffle the surface of the water, not sure which direction offered the least pressure. Before us lie a line of yellow and green kayaks. They are the product of much negotiation around town. I bantered my way into the acquisition of enough vessels and equipment for eight, and with the surprise generosity of a helpful staff member from Hunting and Fishing, I also managed to borrow enough sleeping bags and tents to see us through this two day adventure. I had sold this idea to my brothers well in advance of the family descending the globe for Christmas, and after all the effort in getting it together, there was no way we were backing out now. My eyes strained to see beyond the headlands. How big as the swell? Why, oh why couldn’t the weather have just stuck to the plan?

Leaving Kinloch

Leaving Kinloch

In a circle I brief my family. “Everyone pick up your paddles and hold them like this, with your right hand on the protruding lump, the flat of the paddle face perpendicular to the ground. Dig down with your right, push out with your left, lift your right hand up, twist your wrist and swivel the pole through left hand until this paddle face is perpendicular to the ground. Left hand down, push out with your right …” Those of us that have been paddling for years have forgotten just how confusing this can be when it’s your first time. I looked at my fellow kayakers. I looked beyond the headlands. “Oh my God” I say to myself. I continue my safety brief, mentally crossed myself in Roman Catholic tradition, despite my atheist soul, check everyone’s life jacket, and push them out onto the lake. Once on the water I taught everyone how to ‘raft up’, appointed lead and tail kayakers, and then headed out to see what fate delivered.

Oliver sinking?

Oliver sinking?

My younger brother, a self proclaimed “inside cat”, and somewhat bullied into this caper, wasn’t looking amused. His boat was filling with water, and rocking ominously from side to side with the slush, the altitude of his gunnel sinking closer and closer the lake’s surface. The difficulty in controlling his plastic-moulded beast was starting to piss him off, his face a furrowed mask of frustration as his lips muttering f – sounding adjectives. Over my other shoulder, and off in the distance, was my older brother and his daughter. Totally ignoring my safety instructions of sticking together, they’d gone off on their own agenda to troll for trout! And behind me, his head nodding like a wobble doll with continued assurances in broken English that all is “A Okay” is our Japanese friend. My eyes tell me otherwise, as he lags in the rear struggling with his boat and paddle.

Happy Harry Kayaking for the first time

Happy Harry Kayaking for the first time

Luckily I can count on at least one family members to keep me sane, as my diligent son playing ‘tail end Charlie’ accompanied and supported our friend. My daughter, capable and peaceful within her dreamy nature was picture perfect, but my youngest (who was in a double kayak with me) was refusing to paddle and getting soaked at the front. Therefore it wasn’t long before his feet turn opaic white and his skinny frame started shivering with the cold. With hypothermia at risk, I usher those near by to ’emergency raft up’ so I could clamber over the hull of my boat and pull extra thermals out from our kit and roughly cover him, life-jacket and all, in adult size clothes, all the while being wildly pitch around and blown alarmingly close to the cliffs. Fun! All this and we hadn’t even made it out of the bay yet!

Damien and Monica cruising

Damien and Monica cruising

Okay, so it wasn't quite as choppy as I make out :)

Okay, so it wasn’t quite as choppy as I make out 🙂

Getting choppy as we approach open water

Getting choppy as we approach open water

The closer we got to open water the bigger the waves and the harder we had to push into the wind. It was bloody hard work! Once around the point, we finally got some respite with the wind at our backs. We rode the waves, some more confident than others. My neice squealed in glee as her father surfed down the swells, as others concentrated hard on keeping a straight line and staying upright. The Japanese lad continued to refuse help and got slower and slower, and somewhere along the line, my younger brother realised that the water would drain from his boat if he removed the drainage bungs. As soon as I saw a small sheltered bay I headed straight for it. Most of us were glad for the rest after almost two hours in battle, and a chance to have a snack to eat. All expect my older brother who wanted to know what the hold up was – “jeez sorry but we can’t all smash through the surf like a freight tanker like you!”

In shelter having a 'breather' from paddling

In shelter having a ‘breather’ from paddling

Three or four hours later we safely make Whakaipo Bay. The bay sheltered by its headland from the westerly was a relief. And once we’d made landfall, you’d have thought it the most glorious of summers days. And that my friends is how the day ended … it was time for the grandparents to join the fun, for the sausages to be BBQed, the frisbee to be thrown, tents to be pitched. There was a bonfire to be lit, one Japanese language student to be taught how to roast marshmallows, and of course, later on there were sandflies to be swatted. Perfect!

Roast Marshmellows

Roast Marshmellows

Getting the fire ready

Getting the fire ready

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

Playing Frisbee

Playing Frisbee

Whakaipo

January 6th
After yesterday’s escapades, there was no way we were going to risk taking the family around Rangatira Point. Thus, feeling somewhat let down and dispirited by Mother Nature, the kayaks and kayakers were portaged back to Taupo, where the Jones family enjoyed the remainder of their Kayak adventure throwing themselves around in the rain in the safe, wind protected, confines of Acacia Bay.

In calmer waters

In calmer waters

In the calm of Acacia Bay, Dad gets a free ride

In the calm of Acacia Bay, Dad gets a free ride

I hate not being able to complete adventures as I plan them, but my families wisdom in this matter was confirmed when we read the following in the paper the next day …

Waikato Times January 8th – “Two teenage boys were rescued [by Greenlea Rescue Helicopter] from Lake Taupo … after the dinghy they were in began sinking.

“As they rounded Rangatira Point, they met a 20 knot westerly wind and large waves, which threw water into their boat and they began to sink”

Posted in Central Plateau, Kayaking | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Scars Heal – Pureora’s Timber Trail

Unrequited love. What is it? I’ll tell you what it’s not, it’s not the state of mind one should be in when embarking on an outing into the wet, damp confines of the New Zealand bush. The quiet absence of life, and the eeriness of the New Zealand bush is sad, introspective, and lonely enough, without bringing to it a human emptiness as well.

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But it was quite apt, that I found myself traversing the 84km of the Timber Trail in this frame of mind. I found a kindred spirit in the forest as there is a sadness that follows this trail. It cuts through a landscape that was raped of its trees not so long ago. It’s hilly defence held out only until all the other trees were gone, then it had no choice but to finally give itself up to mans insatiable greed and his noisy machines. As I cycled through, I could see its wounds are healing, but the relics of its loss are still clearly visible, steel reminders tossed aside to rust, just like the landscape was tossed aside, left to fend for itself once it’s pillagers had taken what they wanted and left for their next free meal.

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The forest is now reclaiming its past glory, and slowly learning to stand again. It will one day, perhaps 100 years from now, again stand at its true height with its hands held high in the air. However, for the birds lost, their day of resurrection may never arrive.

PiropiroThe Pureora bush is beautiful, and during my ride I was so blessed to have heard two kaka screeching their hearts out, and this gave me hope. Hope for the best. Unrequited love after all, is loving and hoping for the best, regardless of the outcome. It is a beautiful thing.

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Napier is the Cats Pyjamas

I love Napier.

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It’s not just a great place to gad about, there really is something quite special about Napier.  Nature not only gifted Napier with never-ending blue skies and warm weather, it also shook it so violently, that from the rubble could sprout a city that is now a permanent reminder of the heady and happy golden years of the 1920s. The youth of those years snubbed their noses at both authority and traditional Victorian tedium.  They held boozy, cocktail swilling parties, reveling in the economic opulence and crazy materialism of the time.  Men in flashy suits drove fast cars with faster girls.  Raucous, smoke-belching clubs, belted out jazz and ragtime to shimmying, knee-flapping charleston dancing flappers.  The tassels of their short-skirts flew and their ridiculously long cigarette holders dropped ash.  They necked, laughed loudly and suggestively.  Blacks, whites and homosexuals danced together. Woman could vote.  Men couldn’t drink, but did.  Gangsters ran cities.  Movie stars were born.

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It was during this madness, that the cheerfully colourful Art Deco style was born, and it touched the world all over, outlasting the golden era and the parties, surviving long after the ‘bob-cuts’ grew out.

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The stock-market crash of 1929 put paid the smiles and the all-night parties, and along with the rest of the world Napier suffered through the economic upheaval.  Then suddenly and literally, Napier heaved up out of the ocean, in what is now known as the 1931 catastrophic Hawkes Bay earthquake.  The city was crushed and blackened.

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As the tears dried and the dust settled, the rebuild began, and out of the rubble grew the artfully angular, geometric style of Art Deco, sprouting out of the ground like colourful, broken shards, and onto the facades of all the new buildings.  So despite the fact that Napier was re-built well after the opulent years of the 1920’s, the prevalence of Art Deco in the city makes it now a living and breathing celebration to the fast-moving, brazen and carefree times that was the roaring 20s.

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AND … THAT is exactly the happy-buzz I feel when I go there.  Even if, like last week, I go there to do nothing much but gad about.  I have never not enjoyed a day in Napier.

To me, Napier is the “cat’s pyjamas!”

Photo sourced from: http://hemingwaysparis.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/flappers-and-fitzgerald.html

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A Free Ticket to Ironman

Today I got my life back.  I’m lying in bed with both my feet swollen and in agony. I briefly ventured to the kitchen to forage for cereal, only to return to my duck-down haven for the pain of standing up.

The front tendon of my left foot is swollen, the arch (or at least the knobbly part above the arch) is swollen on my left foot, and two nails on both feet are bruised and slowly turning purple, of which the pressure from my socks causes a wince in the slightest movement.

And what caused this? A free ticket to Ironman.  If the pre-race hype was anything to go by, it was supposed to be the best moment in my life. I’m sorry guys, I just don’t get it.  Any event that causes your body to breakdown under the physical pressure (unless it is for survival) just isn’t worth doing! It was too long to be fun, it hurt too much to be fun, and the point of it was lost on me.

All it is, is a really long triathlon. Those people who do it, who probably shouldn’t be doing it, who make it just before the cut off, are incredible.  It may well be the most physically demanding and challenging thing they ever do. The mental fortitude to get them over the line is amazing, and quite rightly, they should be damn proud of themselves, after all, they are the people who inspire others to take up the challenge, not the middle-of-the-packers like me. I never once thought I couldn’t do it.  I’m just apologetic to my body who I willing, for no good purpose, risked its health and mobility for a gold medal, a towel, and bragging rights.

I was embarrassed to rack my $800 bike with the dent in the top-tube among the row upon row of bicycles that cost more than my families car. But more embarrassing is the amount of money these ironmen have poured into the bikes, gear, coaches, physio-appointments, massages, nutrition programs, specialised food, bike fits and bike maintenance.  And what about the abandoned and neglected families (the ‘ironman widow’ is becoming a popular vernacular) whilst these Ironmen pursue their individualist agendas of glory.  That is a the true abomination of this event.

However the Ironman brand glorifies this exorbitance, and the public sanctify it by spending the day cheering them on.  Ironman puts on a dinner to ‘welcome you to the ironman family’, there are 80,000 of us around the globe, to tell us how amazing we all are, to affirm the scarifices we have made, and quite frankly is only one ‘hallalujah’ away from religion.

Ironman over, and with the pain in my feet only a temporary inconvenience.  I now look forward to my future, and making up for all the lost weekends with my children.  I look forward to pushing my limits again, but perhaps to climb a mountain, to see the world from above, with no cheering crowd but for that one in my head, that says, ‘job well done’.

Thank you to those that cheered me on.  You kept my spirits up when the smile had faded. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and well wishes.  Thank you for saying I’m amazing, though I’m not sure I’m worthy.  Thank you children for letting me selfishly abandon you for so long, I promise to start cooking proper meals again 🙂

Training: 293hours 20mins – Swimming 128.3km – Cycling 3292.9km – Running 873.3km

Event: 12hours 45mins – Swimming 3.8km – Cycling 180km – Running: 42.2km

Posted in Bay of Plenty, Central Plateau, Cycling, Half Ironman, Ironman, Racing, Running, Triathlons | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Mahi Aroha

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Adrift in Taupo for the summer, I was wondering what adventures I could take my kids on, when I read in the Taupo Times about the Department of Conservation’s Mahi Aroha summer programme. Jackpot! The only problem now was to whittle the awesome activities down to just a select few. I choose six varied trips that met my families holiday needs, as well as kept my budget intact.

Waimarino Wetlands
As a native of Taupo, I was surprised I did not know of this hidden treasure at the southern end of the lake. A short paddle from Motuopa wharf, you squeeze through a leafy overhang to find yourself in the sheltered and picturesque Waimarino Wetlands. My oldest son Damien and I quickly came to grips with the flat bottomed kayaks that had a penchant for 360 spins, to enjoy the solace of the reedy wet haven. It was fantastic to learn about the area’s historical importance to local iwi, and to witness the wonderful work DOC and Project Tongariro have begun to remove the grey willow, which threatens to choke the wetlands and spread it’s exotic impact into nearby Kaimanawa and Tongariro National Park. A couple of the rarer birds were pointed out to us by our guide as we paddled our way through the wetlands narrow channels, but otherwise the feathery locals kept a healthy distance from the kayaking intruders.

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Pukeonaki Sunset Tramp

What better way to finish a day than by taking a beautiful sunset tramp at Tongariro National Park. Marco, my 10 year old, was eager to show off the sprightliness of his young legs as he tore ahead through the narrow track sandwiched between shoulder high manuka, bounding from bank to bank in order to avoid collecting mud on his shoes, then showed us all up as he nimbly ascended the final scoria slope to the summit, and first to spot the native falcon, Karearea, circled overhead with his keen eyes. In what seemed like no time at all we arrived at the top of Tongariro’s lowest crater dome, Pukeonaki, if only a little behind the young fellow.

We ate our supper on the high point, overlooking the mangatapopo valley basin and the wiggle of silver that indicated the Tongariro Crossing trail, and waited for the orange orb in the west to set. Stunning.

However the adventure had only just begun. As darkness descended, the loop return trail proved hard to find. Luckily Marco, named after the famous explorer, went straight to work, bashing through the scratchy bush to find the track and lead us all back to the correct trail. With head torches strapped to our heads, and with Marco leading the way, shouting out warning of holes, slips and dips, we safely were back at our cars.
Bridge to Nowhere, Whanganui National Park

Over the years I heard the story many times of how my father almost died on the Bridge to Nowhere mountain bike trail. My father fell off the edge of one of the many cliff faces along the Whanganui, grabbing wildly at the foliage as he fell, and luckily, one little shrub held his life as his legs dangled above nothing but air. I was told how, as the last mountain biker in his party, he was lucky the rider ahead of him stopped and heard his cries of help. But the adventure continued as the weather was bad, his nerve was shot and the sun was dipping. Tied from riding all day from Tongariro, they rode on as fast as they dared, knowing that if they missed the last water taxi off the river, they would surely succumb to exposure.

image imageAs a child, this story ignited my thirst for adventure, and the Bridge to Nowhere has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. So when I saw it on the Mahi Aroha programme I jumped at the opportunity. My adventure wasn’t nearly as dramatic as my fathers, but I was not disappointed. Dramatic scenery, wire bridge crossings, stunning bush, bluffs and drop offs, good company, interesting history, and a well informed guide.

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Okupata Caves

My precious and pampered niece from Sydney was visiting for the holidays. Very deviously, I carefully unwrapped my brother from her dainty little finger and whisked her away to National Park. My intention was to ‘toughen the little princess up’, and what better way than to take her into the murky depths of the Okupata Caves.

Once adequately deceived with the idea of a “pretty glow worm cave” my first challenge was to convince Lara to remove all her pink garb and into an ‘ugly blue’ polar fleece and trackies. Then my cunning plan was almost undone as Jimmy, our caving guide, briefed the intrepid cavers, boldly highlighted all the awesome stuff we’d be doing once in the cave. This included squeezing through tight holes, crawling up to our armpits in under ground rivers, clambering up water falls and finding cave weta,. Quite frankly after that announcement it’s a miracle Lara still agreed to go in.

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Afraid of heights, and gripping my hand Lara descended steeply into the cave system. Cooing and shaking like a fearful dove all the way, she ‘posted’ herself through holes, crawled through tight spaces, got wet and muddy. Lara was mighty proud of herself for being so brave, and couldn’t wait to tell her Daddy all about it when she got home. This just goes to show how tough kids can be if you just give them a little nudge towards their boundaries.

Marco on the other hand was in his element, and topped off his caving adventure by throwing himself fully dressed into the cool Okupata River. Ahhh!
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Before returning the young Australian princess home, Marco and I thought the night creatures trip looked interesting. First we got an informative talk on the habits and habitats of the night creatures local to Tongariro National Park which included the long and short tailed bats, kiwi, hundreds of types of moths, giant snails, morepork and various furry predators. Marco and Lara enjoyed getting close with the stuffed stoats and weasels, and the giant boxes of displayed moths.

All too soon it was time to head into the dark of Tongariro forest. Surprisingly Lara bowl out of the car ready for the next adventure, only to come screaming back in a pink blur to lock herself in the car. The problem, ———, the specially trained kiwi finding dog at her terrified heels. Coaxed out of the car, and reassured the child eating animal had been feed, muzzled and was harmless, Lara whimpering, tentatively patted the dogs floppy golden ear and we were finally off, head torches on.

“I don’t want to be an adventurer” stated the voice accompanying the hand clutching my own as we pushed our way though head high cutty grass down an old tram cutting. Marco on the other hand was helping lead the foray, giving the DOC Rangers a full run down on everything he knew about wild animals. Unfortunately, apart from the odd Morepork, the animals remained pretty quiet for us despite the rangers best attempt at getting return calls to their recorded kiwi calls. What we did find however was an assortment of spiders, weta and millipedes. “You call that a spider?” says an incredulous small Australian, “we had a huntsman this big in our house!” Obviously hard to please some! We turned our lamps off and continued in the dark until our night vision kicked in. By this stage the Australian had let go of my hand, the full moon dabbled the surrounding bush with light, and the girl was giggling as Toi Toi tickled her face. Stories of great bravery bubbled forth when reunited with her unbelieving father. Not too bad for a reluctant adventurer.

Heli-Hiking, Kaimanawa
Admittedly it was the lure of a helicopter ride that sold me on this trip. What a fantastic experience for Marco and he sure wasn’t disappointed if the ear to ear grin from his pole position in the helicopter was telling. The Waipakahi River valley is stunning, and pure heaven for an avid rock collector like Marco. Weighted down with an ever increasing collection of rocks, we waded through rivers and tussock down the valley, making friends with the other hikers as we went. As the day wore on the temperature heated up, and the iridescent green-blue river became ever more enticing. In the end, who could resist, as our merry band of trampers young and old, stripped to their briefs and plunged in.

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Thank you so much Department of Conservation! Our appreciation and gratitude for what you do for us that love the outdoors, and this country, can not be stated enough! Also, a special thank you to Jimmy, who lead three of our trips. For not only his expertise, but for the obvious love for his job and what he does, that was infectious and important for my son to see.

Posted in Caving, Central Plateau, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Tramping | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment