Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Pinnacles

On Monday YIC ran up The Pinnacles on the Coromandel Peninsula. It is a scenic route close to Thames where he was staying. The initial climb was on the marvellously named Billy Goat Track and was through bush. But the final climb topped out into open countryside with excellent views over the whole peninsula. YIC has now arrived in Auckland where he is spending a few days before flying out to Boston, USA for the next leg of his journey.
views from the top of The Pinnacles

Sunday, 29 March 2009

St Luke's Rotorua

YIC attended the morning communion service at St Luke's, Rotorua today. The service started with "Lift high the cross" which YIC hasn't sung in a long time. His abiding memory of this hymn is singing it at an open-air service years ago at Gosforth Racecourse when the entry procession was so long that the hymn was sung twice - all 12 verses. Fortunately there were just 4 verses this morning, so it wasn't too taxing on the voice. John Keeble's anniversary falls today in the Anglican calendar, and the priest gave some interesting thoughts on the Oxford Movement, including how it had influenced Anglo-Cathlolic traditions in New Zealand.

YIC is now in Thames in the north-east of the North Island. It is considerably warmer than the NE of England. The skies are blue and it's 24 degrees C. Tomorrow he hopes to walk to the Pinnacles lookout on the Coromandel Peninusula.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The Uncommon Reader

YIC met a couple on his last tramp (Simon & Suzy from Auckland) who both confessed to having brought their "engrossing books" on the tramp. YIC hadn't, mainly because he had just finished Tess of the D'Urbervilles which he found less than engrossing (and definitely with no happy ending). However he has rectified the lack of a book by reading in one sitting Alan Bennett's excellent and brief book "The Uncommon Reader". It's about the Queen who takes to reading late in life and all that this entails for her household and subjects. She is inspired by Norman who works in the Palace kitchens and turns out to be a bit of a wag:
Her Majesty: "We're going to Wales in a few weeks' time."
Norman: "Bad luck, ma'am."

YIC is now re-reading it at a more leisured pace, and encourages BN's vast readership to do the same.

Friday, 27 March 2009


YIC has now arrived in Rotorua where he has visited the Waiotapu ("sacred water") geothermal area. The Lady Knox Geyser is one of the highlights - erupting on demand once a day at 1015. The lady is encouraged on her way with some special soap powder that guarantees the daily eruption. There is also the chance to walk around the geothermals, viewing bubbling mud and lakes of amazing hues - red, green, and yellow - while taking in the all-pervading smell of hydrogen sulphur (rotten eggs).
Lady Knox Geyser before the eruption
there she blows
bubbling mud

"The Devil's Bath" - he's welcome to it

Tongariro tramping

YIC completed an excellent 6 day tramp in Tongariro National Park. On the first day he walked the extremely popular Tongariro Crossing and climbed the active volcanoes Ngaurohoe and Tongariro. He then tramped the Round the Mountain Circuit (Ruapehu being the mountain in question) which by contrast was extremely quiet. On 3 out of the 4 nights on the RTM circuit, YIC was the only one in the hut. On the last day, YIC was blessed with fantastic weather and made it to the dome shelter overlooking Ruapehu's crater. This was his high point in NZ at 2,672 metres. The climb was not marked and, apart from a DOC team doing an annual survey of the top (they had been helicoptered in), YIC was the only tramper there. YIC has now climbed all the active volcanoes on the NZ mainland.

On the Tongariro Crossing with Ngaurohoe in the background - Lord of the Rings fans might recognise this as Mount Doom.

Emerald Lake on the Tongariro Crossing with sulphur steam rising in the background

stones in the desert on the east of Ruapehu

at the Dome Shelter overlooking Ruapehu crater lake

trampers at Oturere Hut play monopoly to pass the evening away

Thursday, 19 March 2009

the other side of the mountain

Those who are still young at heart (and aren't we all?) might remember the song "The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see". But all that the bear could see was: the other side of the mountain. YIC had a similar experience when he walked the Pouakai Circuit from New Plymouth. It was a 2 day tramp to the scenically located Pouakai Hut where the sunset over the Tasman Sea was fantastic. Mt Taranaki looked much the same from the other side. After the tramp, he slaked the raging tramper's thirst with a delayed St Patrick's Day pint of Guinness in Peggy Gordon's celtic bar in New Plymouth.

Pouakai Hills

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Fisherman's Blues

I wish I was a fisherman
Tumbling on the seas,
Far away from dry land
And it's bitter memories.
(Fisherman's Blues - The Waterboys)

Just for a morning, YIC was a fisherman courtesy of skipper Craig. Onboard were also Brian and Georgia & Olivia. The sun shone, the Tasman swell rolled in, and the fish bit. The Patea fishermen brought back "a feed" - about 20 cod and snappers. YIC landed several fish including a kingfish which had to be put back as it was just under the 75cm legal length. He doesn't have a photo of the actual fishing due to the boat tossing about and an ongoing battle with the Fisherman's Blues (being sick). So readers will have to make do with a photo of the boat Justus and Craig demonstrating the art of fish gutting. YIC tried his hand at the latter and is relieved to report that he still possesses all his fingers.

Justus being washed down on the Patea boat ramp

Craig fillets the day's catch

climbing the mountain

Mt Taranaki is an extinct volcano. At 2,518 metre (about 8,500 feet) it dominates the skyline in the Patea area. When YIC announced that he was off to climb "the hill", he was told in no uncertain terms that it was "the mountain". And given the amount of permanent snow in the summit crater, YIC has to concede that Taranaki thoroughly deserves its mountain status.

YIC climbed the mountain from Dawson Falls. This is longer than the usual approach and also quieter - something YIC appreciated when he met the travelling hordes on the summit approach. The views were superb and the snow encrusted crater quite beautiful.
crater rocks with Mt Ruapehu in the distance

on the summit

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

morning milking

When holidaying in New Zealand, do you:
1 climb a mountain,
2 jet boat down a river, or
3 milk cows?
Answer - all three of course.

YIC rose with the lark (indeed he beat the lark to it at 5 am today) to go milking on Craig & Lisa's farm (they are Maddie and Brian's son-in-law and daughter). The 270 strong dairy herd were lined up on either side of the cow shed with their udders facing inwards. With deft skill Craig and Lisa would attach the milking machines to the udders, and then whisk them off and on to the cows on the other side of the row. YIC turned his hand to this as well. He can't claim to be quite as nimble, but he managed a few milkings without getting kicked by the cow or a face full of dung: which in the circumstances he considered to be a bit of a result.

Craig monitors the milking

YIC tries his hand while Lisa looks on

up close to the cow - no dung please!

Patea arrival

YIC has arrived in Patea to visit Maddie Jones, his former secretary from storeys:ssp. Maddie and her husband Brian emigrated to New Zealand a couple of years ago. Patea is on the south west coast of the North Island and is exposed to the full force of the westerly wind: and at the moment there is plenty of it. It is also firmly off the tourist track. YIC took a wander along the beach (which is black due to all the volcanic rock) and was the only one there.

Maddie serving the apple pie, washed down with sparkling wine.

on the beach with only footsteps for company

the cliffs on the south side of the harbour

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Green Wyverns in London

The Green Wyvern Refugees convened in London this weekend. YIC was sorry to miss the occasion. He thought they might enjoy a glass of wine to cheer them on their way (as they are known to sample the odd glass when the occasion demands). He commissioned his wine merchant (Emma) to do the necessary. Here they are enjoying the wine at a "leisurely lunch" - apparently the cheese course was served at 7 15 pm. Julian was the chef de jour and by all accounts served up a splendid repast. From the left - James, Andy, Alex, Eifion, and Tom. Photo courtesy of Lois. If readers are wondering why Julian and Emma are not in the photo, then YIC can advise that the head chef (Julian) was dispensing orders to his sous chef (Emma) as the pair dutifully slaved in the kitchens.
There are smiles all round in the photo. No doubt they were grinning at the latest joke from James Wilson:
Q: How do you kill a circus?
A: Go for the juggler.

Avalanche Peak (again)

Due to the race being altered, YIC didn't make it to the top of Avalanche Peak. So he decided to scale it again the next day. He climbed it with Joe whom he met in the youth hostel. The weather was initially a bit inclement, but there was a lucky break on the top when the clouds cleared. There was no-one else at the summit, apart from 6 keas who made their presence known by pinching Joe's biscuits from his pack when his back was turned.

YIC travelled to Arthur's Pass on the Tranz Alpine railway, a scenic route over the Canterbury Plains and through the foothills of the Southern Alps by numerous viaducts and tunnels.

Joe at the summit

YIC there too

The Tranz Alpine arrives at Arthurs Pass.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Avalanche Peak Race

YIC has just run the Avalanche Peak Race in Arthur's Pass. Due to the inclement weather (rain and wind), the race route was altered to a subsidiary peak. But there was still a 1,000 metre climb, descent, then a 10k run to the finish along a very stony river bed. YIC finished 20th out of about 130 runners in 2 hours 42 mins. As he sat at the finish, chatting to fellow runners and sipping on a refreshing beer from the hospitable Bealey Hotel, YIC reflected that it had been a most enjoyable day. Indeed, after he ventured to have a second refresher, he started to hit top eulogise mode: how friendly everyone was, how he must come back and run the race over its true course etc etc. Now who does that remind readers of? (Hint - as before, he is a close relative of YIC.)

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

back in Christchurch

YIC flew back to Christchurch today for a couple of days en-route to a mountain race in Arthurs Pass. He left Queenstown on the 1035 flight and still made it to ChristChurch Cathedral for the 1205 communion. Their Wednesday service is in the Celtic style and included some Taize chants and a meditation from Lindisfarne. The service was taken by Linda who concluded with this blessing:
O God: bless to us the sky above us;
Bless to us the earth beneath us;
Bless to us friends around us;
and bless your image deep within us.
Thursday - Bonny Scotland seems to be following YIC around the globe. There is a highland pipes competition in Christchurch at the weekend and all the bands are tuning up in the parks around the city. YIC enjoyed a stroll around the Botanical Gardens this morning accompanied by the skirl of the pipes.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Ben Lomond

For those wishing to escape the tourist hype of Queenstown (and there's plenty of it), YIC recommends a run up Ben Lomond (1748 metres). It's a stiff 1,400 metre climb to the summit, but the views are far-reaching over the Southern Alps and Lake Wakatipu. Here's YIC on the summit and the view over the lake. There's a definite Scottish feel to the mountains around Queenstown - Ben Nevis in The Remarkables range is also nearby. And on that note, Scotland have just won a rugby game - hooray! YIC hears that they were cheered on by a Duff/Boyd following at Murrayfield.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

St Michael's and All Angels

YIC attended the morning service at the local Anglican Church in Te Anau - St Michaels and All Angels. The church doesn't have a priest celebrating every Sunday, and today was the turn of the laity to lead the service. The regular congregation was doubled in size by visitors. The organist was away, so the hymn tunes had been recorded in advance. This led to some interesting singing, as the congregation attempted to keep up with the absent organist who played the hymns at a fair old lick. Afterwards, it emerged that one of the visitors was an organist, so there was some impromptu rendition again of the hymns. The church was truly hospitable and offered great fellowship to the visitors. Here is the prayer from the service sheet which is quite appropriate for those on holiday.

Give us today the courage
To live the life that we would love
To postpone our dreams no longer
But do at last what we came here for
and to waste our hearts on fear no more.

Fiddler on the Hoof

After the Doubtful Sound trip, YIC wandered into Te Anau for a quiet drink and to watch some of the Super 14 rugby. In The Moose pub, he found that a band was playing called "Fiddler on the Hoof". They were a folk duo with a very animated fiddler - Dave Fountain - who jigged round the bar as he played the fiddle with a remote pick-up to keep him in time with Charlie on the guitar. They played numbers such as Dirty Old Town and Fairy Tale of New York. Naturally, YIC didn't enjoy this at all, and most definitely did not join in all the songs. As he left after midnight, they were still going strong and were rocking the place with The Proclaimers' 500 miles hit. During the evening, YIC also chatted to Sarah & Michael from the US - 2 fellow trampers whom he had met when they were volunteer DOC wardens at Siberia Hut. All in all, the planned quiet drink was rather overtaken by events.

Check out the band at www.myspace.com/davidfountainfiddleronthehoof . The online version of Danny Boy is pretty similar to the one they played on the night.

Doubtful Sound

YIC took a trip to Doubtful Sound - one of the fiords. From the sea, the entrance to the fiord appears very narrow. Captain Cook "doubted" the wisdom of mooring there, hence its name. The Sound is quite a trek from Te Anau. It entailed a boat ride over Lake Manapouri (the second deepest lake in NZ) to West Arm where there was a visit to the Manapouri hydro-electric power station. After a bus ride over Wilmot Pass, there was a 3 hour cruise around The Sound on a 20 seater boat. The cruise went the length of the sound (40km) with a peek at the seal colony at the sea-entrance. The views were quite stunning as these photos show.

Manapouri power station. It is 178 metres underground and feeds on water from the lake which is discharged via 2 tailraces into Doubtful Sound.