Monday, November 11, 2013

Try this one - it's delicious!

One positive aspect of having some time out for work has been the opportunity to try out a few new recipes. It seems a little odd to me to use a recipe to make salad but I came across this one recently, made it, ate it and decided I should share it.

It looks great and tastes even better! The quantity of ingredients isn't critical, of course.


1/4 red cabbage
2 grated carrots
1 large or 2 medium grated beetroots
1/2 cup sprouts - I used a mix of different bean and pea sprouts then also threw in mung beans because they needed to be used up
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup chopped mint
1/2 cup chopped raw almonds

The method is easy - put all ingredients into a bowl and mix.

The recipe had the following dressing :
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp manuka honey

Personally I found this dressing to be too oily so when I made the salad for the second time I reduced the oil to 1 tablespoon, added some lemon juice and swapped the honey for maple syrup. I think you should just use whatever your dressing of choice is.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ernest Shackleton helped me change my attitude

I've struggled a bit with my attitude recently - that's been an outcome of being at home for six weeks and not being able to be physically active - no cycling, no walking up or down hills, no tramping - pretty much no anything. This has been a struggle for me and consequently I've been pretty grumpy. Quite sick of being told to rest up, enjoy my time off work, don't do too much, etc etc as well as being asked "How are you?" - I've found it almost impossible to answer that question with anything positive.

While a few have pointed out things could be worse, my brain wouldn't accept that comment as being helpful. That was until I was given a specific example of what could be worse. Imagine this : being in an open boat in the rough seas of the south Atlantic Ocean, the only food available is dog food, the temperature is freezing and you have a bout of diarrhea. In addition, after each bout of diarrhea, you get to wipe your bum with a piece of ice. That's what faced the men travelling with Ernest Shackleton. In a nutshell the story goes like this : Shackleton and his men on the ship Endurance were trapped in pack ice on 14 February 1915. Their ship was then crushed by the ice and sank on 21 November 1915. They camped out on the ice until 8 April 1916 when they took to their three lifeboats which they rowed to Elephant Island arriving there on 15 April 1916. It was during this time rowing to Elephant Island when the above scenario happened. The journey didn't end there. If you're interested, the book, Shackleton, by Roland Huntford is a great read about Shackleton's polar expeditions.

The whole experience they went through sounds dreadful but that one description about the diarrhea sunk into my grumpy brain and made me think that my situation is certainly not so bad. So I am on the up mentally but, please, resist the urge to ask how I am or tell me that the time will pass quickly - words like those could see me sink back into my grumpy quagmire.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

News flash - I won a scholarship

My big news is that I have been successful in attaining a part scholarship to attend a High Alpine Skills Course in the Mt Cook area in January. The scholarship was offered by the NZ Alpine Club and sponsored by the Wellington and Auckland Women Climbing groups. The course is a fantastic opportunity to learn some new skills (of specific interest to me, they cover off glacier travel and crevasse rescue as part of the course) that will be of tremendous benefit to my own personal climbing as well as adding to my skillset for teaching other people. I'm particularly interested in encouraging other women to either take up climbing or take the next step in their climbing. With my memberships to Mountain Safety Council and the Wellington section of the NZ Alpine Club I'm in a great position to enable this.

I've been catching up on some reading recently (prior to knowing about the scholarship) and have just finished reading a book about Bill Denz and also one written by Karen Gazley - both climbers. Both books were a great read. I found both books, to some extent, inspiring but not to the point where I would want to emulate Bill Denz. I think my personal approach to risk is somewhat different to what Bill's was.

With the course lined up for mid-January, my summer is shaping up to be a great one. Hopefully I'll get some climbing in before the course at the Alpine Club annual climbing camp which is taking place in the Hopkins Valley. Prior to Christmas some forays up into the hills for some tramping will be the plan - time to get lean and mean, ready for climbing.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Four in a row - tramping fun!

Recently I learned I would be physically out of action for a period of time - this was a blow as I had plans to be climbing Mt Aspiring in November and this plan would now need to be shelved. As might be expected of me, my reaction to an enforced period of inactivity was to ramp up my weekends for the remaining period with some tramping trips.

As with all our trips we had several backup plans in place in case the weather didn't play ball. Plan A for the first trip was to head up to Mitre Peak in the Tararua range for a spot of snowshoeing to take advantage of a recent southerly blast. This would have been a strenuous but fun trip. Sadly the weather gods threw a curve ball with rain and gales on the tops so the trip ended up being an easy wander in to Mitre Flats hut for the night and back out the next day. The positive for the trip was having the hut to ourselves - the previous two occasions I've been in that hut have seen an overflow situation with people sleeping on the deck and camping outside.

Waitewaewae slip
Trip 2 went according to plan with a pretty average weather forecast being wrong and being delivered two lovely sunny days. The plan was a walk in from Otaki Forks to Waitewaewae Hut (also known as YTYY or Y2YY) on the banks of the Otaki River. There had been recent activity on the long standing slip which made for an interesting few moments of near-terror as we scrambled across that. The decision was made towards the end of the tramp in to take the dry weather (wet feet) track to the hut. With scant information we headed off for that and took a bit of time to figure out that meant a walk across then up then across the river. The final river crossing was chest height in frigid water - luckily the hut is right by the bank of the river so dry clothes were soon available and the fire was kicked into action to warm us up. Again we had the hut to ourselves for the night. The walk out the next day was uneventful although the decision was made to take the wet weather (dry feet) track back out to avoid a morning dip.
Otaki River - looking benign.... and cold

Trip 3 was a less than perfect weekend with low cloud and rain. Nevertheless we headed off for a short walk up to Kapakapanui Hut at the back of the Reikorangi Valley behind Waikanae. For the third week in a row we had a hut to ourselves so settled in for a quiet afternoon of reading before dinner and bed. Listening to the rain through the night we wondered how the river crossings would be on our way back out to the cat the next morning. After breakfast and packing up we headed off to walk up over the summit before dropping steeply down to the carpark. The river was a little higher than the day before but still crossable. Lucky. Would have meant a long walk otherwise.
Kapakapanui Hut

Wangapeka slip

Finally we were down to my last weekend and we were lucky enough to be in the South Island. Yet another soggy forecast meant a change of plans and then a road closed due to a slip caused another change of plans. Off we headed, on the Wangapeka Track to Kings Creek Hut for a couple of nights. As with the Waitewaewae track, there was an active slip on this track. And, wow, what a slip!

There are warning signs at the beginning of the track and on both sides of the slip advising that the slip should be crossed quickly, that spotters should be used for falling rocks etc. The slip happened in October 2012 and has partially blocked the river resulting in quite a lake behind it complete with trees that are dying (slowly drowning I guess).

We got through to the hut ok and then it started raining and didn't stop. When we first arrived there we had a dip in the river. By the next morning the river was heavily flooded.

Kings Creek Hut
Five minutes further along the track is Cecil King's old hut. Cecil was a miner who spent a lot of time in the area and his old hut has been restored and has 4 bunks available for people to stay there. It's a cool little hut with an open fire and easy access down to the river.

Cecil King Hut
After a couple of nights at Kings Creek hut it was time to head for home. Despite the continual rain the slip was passable. The next hurdle was a ford we'd driven through on our way to the track - it was dry when we'd driven through it on the way in. After all that rain it was flowing pretty high - lucky we had a rental car. The rain had eased off and you could see that the river level had dropped significantly. Lucky - we would have been pretty stuck otherwise. It's one of the few fords I've seen that has a footbridge alongside to allow people to exit (without their vehicle of course) when the river is high.

So, four tramping trips over four weekends. In all cases we had the huts to ourselves and only saw other people on the Waitewaewae trip. Luxury!

Now it's time to rest up and recuperate in time for some summer trips.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Autumn weekend in Wellington

With the forecast looking grim and a birthday to celebrate we had a think about a place to eat out on a miserable Wellington Friday night. After pondering for a while we decided our money would be better spent buying some seafood, grabbing a bottle of wine and heading to the Rimutaka Forest Park to camp for the night. With the wind blowing a gale and showers passing through we cooked our feast of scallops, blue cod, prawns and squid and supped on red wine and a wee whiskey before slipping into our sleeping bags.

The following day we were off to do some tramping and then to camp for a second night. After managing to pack up without getting wet we headed off for a day of tramping. The weather wasn't great - pretty wet but not too cold. The foliage looked much greener with a bit of rain on it.

The following morning dawned calm and sunny - just in time for Mother's Day. No breakfast in bed for me! After packing up our campsite it was a short walk back to the carpark. After a bit of discussion about what I'd like to do for Mother's Day we ended up at Petone Beach with some lovely grilled fish and chips in the sun for lunch. 

A perfect weekend!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Time out in Bali

I've just returned from a week in Bali - a trip that was my celebration for turning 50 in March. I had always planned that my 50th would be celebrated by climbing a mountain. Unfortunately a tramping accident resulting in a broken sacrum put paid to that idea happening any time soon. So, instead, a week in Bali. I'd never been to Bali before. In fact, the only place in Asia I had visited previously was Japan. When planning this trip to Asia I'd considered Malaysia, Thailand and Bali - obviously Bali won!

I flew into Denpasar on Sunday afternoon after transiting through Brisbane (about 9 hours flying time all up). My initial impressions were of warmth (yay!), crowds and chaos. Luckily I was met at the airport and whisked away to a friend's place near Canggu. After winding down a little we headed off to Canggu Plaza for dinner at Trattoria Canggu for a meal of pasta accompanied by a couple of delicious mojitos. The place we were staying is a large compound which houses the main family house, a training centre and several wooden villas.
Pool at Canggu house
Our room was in a delightfully rustic villa which had two other vacant bedrooms. After an early night we were up at around 7 and headed down to the beach (5-10 minutes walk away) for some body-surfing before breakfast.

Our morning beach
With some help we organised a rental scooter for the week and then headed off on a bit of a tiki tour to see what we could see. After the first few minutes of feeling terrified on the back of the scooter I managed to relax and go with the flow. The traffic was super-busy and there is an apparent lack of any road rules. If the traffic slows down the scooters weave through the cars and trucks utilising whatever flat surface there is - often on footpaths. Intersections proved interesting - loads of horn tooting but all amazingly friendly. We never saw anyone get angry or aggressive over the week we rode around Bali. Our first afternoon ended at a cafe on a beach in the Seminyak area. Relaxing in bean bags on the beach was a nice way to end the day.
Beach at Seminyak
That night we headed off to a nearby surf beach to Dian cafe for barbequed snapper and salad for dinner.

The following morning (Tuesday) we packed a few things up and headed off on an adventure. We borrowed a compass from our friend and headed north. After sticking to back streets / roads we made our way to Ubud. This area is known for its crafts and also has a monkey temple and elephant riding etc close by. Of course the area is teeming with tourists so we ate lunch at a small warung and then jumped back on the bike to continue our journey north.
Our lunch spot in Ubud
The road we took to leave Ubud was lined on both sides by numerous craft shops as well as terraced ride paddies. It was crazy busy! We didn't stop along here as the craft shops seemed to be full off quite junky looking touristy stuff rather than anything particularly authentic e.g. mirror-mosaic dolphins etc.

From Ubud we started to climb and climb towards Penelokan, a small town with a great view of Mt Batur and Danau Batur (Bali's largest lake). On the way we called in to a fruit stall on the side of the road where we bought some bananas, passionfruit and mangosteen. I'd never heard of or tasted mangosteen before but it's now my favourite fruit. Such a shame we can't buy them in New Zealand! The fruit has a dark purple skin and white segments of fruit inside. I can't think of any other fruit I can compare the taste to but, they're delicious.
We stopped at Penelokan for a cup of tea and enjoyed the view of the volcano and lake. The volcano erupted in 1994 and you could still clearly see the lava flow.

Mt Batur
From here we climbed a bit higher before turning off the main road and heading to the coast. It had been quite cold up in the hills so it was a relief to descend down into warmer air. The side road we took wound its way down the hills, through tiny villages until we reached the coast once more. By now it was dark so we started to keep an eye out for some accommodation. We called into one place where we shown a villa we could stay in for the night for a cost of about $100 - way more than we were willing to pay. We carried on for a while before we spotted Marputu Restaurant (in the Bukti district), a cafe along the beachfront that had a banner proclaiming that accommodation was coming soon. On a hunch we called in there to find that their accommodation was open and available (they were waiting for delivery of a new banner!). We were the second group of people to use their guestrooms. The price for the night here was around $40 a night. This was still pricier than what we were looking for but we decided to stay there as it was getting late.
Our home for the night in Bukti
The following morning we swam in the sea, had breakfast at the restaurant and then headed off along the coast towards Singaraja and Lovina. The road along the coastline was a bit rougher than those we had ridden on previously so we needed to keep an eye out for the best path through the numerous potholes. As we entered Singaraja we rode past a large supermarket so decided to "go round the block" to get back to it. Sadly this was more difficult than we expected and, at one stage, we ended up riding along a little track through rice paddies - awesome fun. Eventually we got back to the supermarket and called in to pick up a few supplies. We drove through Singaraja and Lovina before stopping at the beach for a drink (papaya juice - delish!). Today we had the best meal of the entire holiday. We stumbled across a small warung where you could choose your own whole fish from a big bin which they then barbequed and served with rice and vegetables. This place was real back to basics with the meal eaten with no cutlery and you sat cross-legged at little raised tables. The fish was perfectly spiced and cooked.
Fresh fish for lunch
We then headed off to look for a place to stay. We called in to a few places before finding a room at Bagus homestay for about $30. Bagus is right on the beach so we were pretty happy about that - until we went to go for a swim before dinner and found that the sea was so full of rubbish we couldn't stomach swimming in it. Luckily there was a swimming pool at Bagus which provided us a clean place to splosh around and cool down.
Rice paddies across the road from Bagus homestay
We saw a sign up the road to a Buddhist temple so zipped up the hill to have a look around.
Buddhist temple
Lotus flowers in a pond at the Buddhist temple
Sunset at Bagus homestay
We headed out on foot to find somewhere for dinner. Sadly the local warungs were closed for the night so we ended up at a restaurant at another accommodation place owned by some Germans. The food and service were both average - the most disappointing meal of the holiday. The following morning we went and had another look at the beach which was surprisingly rubbish-free so had a dip as the sun came up. After breakfast we were back on the road, headed back to the south coast through the mountains. As we climbed into the mountains we took the time to stop for a few photos along the way.
Terraced rice paddies up in the mountains
Lake Tamblingan on the right and Lake Buyan on the left
As we drove from Lake Tamblingan to Lake Buyan we descended down quite a steep hill where we spotted several monkeys on the side of the road. Sadly I missed getting photos of them. As we continued to descend we decided to take a side road to avoid the traffic. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake as there had been some sort of a celebration at a nearby temple so the roads were full of trucks and motorbikes as the event had just finished. We called into a small warung for some lunch before carrying on our way back to Canggu.

Friday was to be our last full day in Bali so we spent a bit of time shopping after the usual swim in the morning. We had a massage at a place close to where we were staying. It cost about $6 for an hour - I wish it was that cheap at home. The massage was fantastic - just deep enough to work out some knotty bits but relaxing enough too. That night we ate out at a restaurant built around it's own lake. Most of the tables were set into individual pavilions where you sit cross-legged on the floor.
Fish restaurant on the lake
There was also a little landing where you could sit with your feet in the water and feed the numerous fish in the lake. We ate a variety of different fish dishes here accompanied with rice and vegetables. Dessert of durian icecream followed - that's an acquired taste which I have not yet acquired. Blergh!

Saturday dawned bright and sunny (as it did every day!) so we headed off for our last morning body surf at the local beach before having breakfast and getting ourselves packed up ready for departure. I wasn't flying out until later that night so headed off to Seminyak for a bit of shopping and wandering around by myself. After finishing off my packing I hopped into the taxi to the airport. Here is a little trap for visitors to Bali. The driver asked me "Price or meter?". I asked him what his price was and he told me it would cost 150,000 rupiahs. Knowing that the price should be more like 80,000 rupiah I went with "meter". We were stuck in heavy traffic for a lot of the way to the airport and I wondered if my choice had been the wrong one. Eventually we got to the airport and the meter showed....... 81,000 rupiah! So glad I went with the choice I did. 80,000 rupiah is about $10 (NZD). Not bad for an hour taxi ride. When I went to pay the driver with a 100,000 rupiah note he declared he had no change. I dug around in my bag and managed to come up with exactly 81,000 rupiah - he looked rather annoyed at that so I reckon his "no change" was an attempt at getting me to pay more. Anyway, I'm glad I didn't get totally ripped off by him.

I was at the airport in plenty of time to check in. Lucky I was, as it took over an hour to get to the check in counter with a very long queue.

In summary, Bali as a holiday destination is great. You can dine and stay there cheaply. Meals at local warungs usually cost around $3 - $4. A lot of places make fresh juice - my favourite is papaya juice. I don't think I missed a day of having papaya juice at least once. The easiest way of getting around is on a scooter - you don't get held up in traffic, they're cheap to hire and cheap to run. Fuel is readily available and is cheap - around 50cents a litre. If the heat on the coast is too much for you, head inland into the hills - much cooler there. Most days the temperature on the coast was in the low thirties - up in the hills it's more like the low twenties.

And now? I'm back in wintry Wellington. A difference of about 20 degrees in temperature, loads of rain and cold wind. Ugh! I need to find a good recipe for nasi goreng - I ate this almost every day, either for breakfast or for lunch.

The trip makes me wonder if I can find a business analyst role where I can work remotely. I can just see myself in a little villa by the sea in Bali getting my work done after my morning swim. I can dream, right?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Back on the saddle again

After a frustrating 8 weeks of no activity I've been given the all clear to "resume normal activity" by my specialist. He has advised me that, while I may experience ongoing pain (for up to 6 months) healing will continue and I can't do any further damage to my sacrum (unless I fall on it again I guess). I was thrilled with that and checked with him that I could get back on my bike. There was a little intake of breath at that question so I was told to go for a short ride and see how it felt.

A few days later I hopped on my bike, rode round the block and then rode to Upper Hutt and back - a distance of about 40-odd kms round trip. While I certainly experienced some tenderness and stabs of pain it was bearable. I took that as being successful and have gone back to commuting to work and back each day. The worst pain is when I get out of the saddle for steep hill climbs so that's a little limiting. The vast reduction in my fitness level (and the subsequent increase in weight) has been extremely frustrating and every day has been hard work - especially with the fresh / gusty northerlies we've been getting here in Wellington.

Over Easter was the next test - a shortish tramping trip with a pack on my back. My son's girlfriend and I headed for the hills for a 4 hour tramp to a hut for an overnight stay then return. Again, the pain was certainly there but bearable. A few pretty awful twinges but nothing long lasting.

This weekend coming is the Oxfam Trailwalker event (a walk of 100kms). I withdrew from this event and the weekend of tramping has confirmed that this was the right decision. While I can handle the pain for short periods of time, a 24-hour+ walk is out of the question for me. I will be there as support crew but that is as far as my contribution goes unfortunately. I'll be there to cook, massage and encourage as needed. Maybe next year I can be in the team.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WOMAD New Plymouth 2013

We've just returned from our third WOMAD weekend. New Zealand's WOMAD event is held in New Plymouth each March and provides a eclectic mix of music and dance events. The festival runs from for three days - Friday afternoon till midnight, Saturday midday to midnight and Sunday midday to 11pm.

Crowd at the main stage
Along with thousands of others we camp at the racecourse which is next door to the Brooklands Park where WOMAD is held. After setting up our campsite we picked up our wristbands and programmes and spent some time planning which acts we would go to see. There are five stages running with performances generally running for an hour. It's not possible to see all acts so it takes a bit of planning to try and catch the ones you're most interested in. The first year we went we played it by ear and missed out on some great acts. We've got better at it!

This year the standout acts on Friday night were Hugh Masekala followed by Shunsuke Kimura and Etsuro Ono. After an enjoyable first evening we headed off to the campsite while Fly My Pretties were playing on the main stage. Saturday dawned bright and sunny and we had a lazy morning including a swim down at the beach before packing up some supplies and getting back to music listening / watching at midday.

We started the day with a fun performance from Newtown Rocksteady - great to see a Wellington bank performing and they got the crowd rocking. The next great act for the afternoon was The Correspondents from the UK. Their live act is great to see with Mr Bruce (the lead) dancing like a crazy man. The other act that we really enjoyed was Lau. These guys were billed as Scottish folk artists which didn't particularly appeal. In reality they were great - amusing, good music and fun.

Sunday dawned.... wet. Ugh! The weather forecasters were right for once. With jackets on and spare clothes we followed the crowd to get the final day of WOMAD started. For us the day started on the main stage with the Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Considering the weather was fairly rubbish these guys got the crowd jumping (watch the beginning of the video at the link I've provided and it was pretty similar to that).

Melbourne Ska Orchestra on the main stage (in the rain)
The other act that we particularly enjoyed was Abigail Washburn and Kai Welch. They were joined near the end of their act by the guys from Lau.

Abigail Washburn and Kai Welch with Lau on the Chimney stage

Our evening ended with a repeat performance from the Correspondents.

Of course there plenty of other performers who were very good. I've just mentioned the ones that were the highlights for us. After a great weekend of music / performance and a few drinks and yummy food we packed up camp on Monday and headed for home - in the rain.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Masala dosa

It's been a while since I've posted a food entry on my blog so here's one. I've had masala dosa a couple of times at markets / fairs and decided I'd try making them at home. Dosa is a fermented, gluten-free pancake that is a common breakfast food in Southern India. The masala bit is the filling. I scouted around on the internet as well as asked a guy who was making them at the market for his advice before heading off to an Indian supermarket (in Nelson St, Petone) to pick up some ingredients. You do need to plan ahead as the process involves both soaking time and fermenting time before you get to the cooking part. Here's the recipe and method I used for the dosa.

2 cups white rice
1 cup urad dal
1 tblsp chana dal
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

Soak all ingredients in water for 4-5 hours. I used my food processor to grind into a runny batter. The batter feels a little gritty but that's fine. Now comes the fermenting part. I left the batter to ferment for about 20 hours (in the sun room where it's nice and warm) but according to the recipe I used around 12 hours is ok.

With the dosa batter made I then prepared the following filling.

1/2 tsp urad dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 onion
4 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 green chillis
2 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

Boil potatoes until tender. Crush lightly with a fork. In a pan, heat oil and add urad dal. Stir for a few seconds then add mustard seeds. Allow them to pop and then add curry leaves. Fry for 30 seconds. Add onion and cook for five minutes until the onion is translucent. Add turmeric, ginger and chillis. Mix well for 2 minutes. Make sure the liquid has evaporated and add the potatoes. Fold them in.

The usual way to cook the dosa is on a big, flat hotplate which I don't have. So I used our large cast iron frypan with some trepidation. I oiled the pan, got it nice and hot and poured the first measure of batter into the pan. Using the back of the soup ladle I spread the batter out and cooked it until brown and crispy (on one side). Normally at this stage you would add the filling, fold or roll the dosa and serve it to eat. I decided to cook all the dosa and let people fill their own at the table so I flipped each dosa and then piled them up in the oven to keep warm. Between each dosa I re-oiled the pan. While it was a little scary cooking the first couple they worked out really well, didn't stick to the pan and didn't fall apart.

While this meal took a long lead time to prepare it wasn't difficult and the dosa were easier to cook than I thought they would be. You could fill the dosa with all sorts of different curries. Try it sometime. It's delicious.

Monday, March 11, 2013

A trip to Arete and back

A great weather forecast at the beginning of February led to an overnight trip into the Tararua range with the goal to walk in to Arete Bivvy. The track starts out the back of Levin and we headed off up the Gable End track towards the tops. After walking for an hour or so I was feeling unwell and lacking in energy so we decided to carry on to Te Matawai hut and figure out what to do from there.

Gorgeous day for a walk

On the way to Te Matawai Hut

Te Matawai Hut
After a less than enjoyable trudge up to the hut the decision was made to have dinner and stay at the hut for the night. In the morning we would leave our packs at the hut, head up and over to Arete Bivvy before walking back out to the car via the South Ohau Stream. There were a few other people in the hut but after dinner it was time for an early night and a good sleep. The morning dawned fine with a little bit of cloud on the tops. While getting pack up ready to go I somehow managed to fall from the bunk steps onto the wooden floor. Luckily I have enough padding on my butt so the fall didn't cause any damage. We got ourselves packed up, sorted out gear and food for the walk up to Arete and headed off. While I felt a little better than the day before I was still not 100% so was walking slower than my normal pace. It was great to get up onto the tops and it didn't take us long to get to the high point of Arete and then descend down the other side to the bivvy.
On the way to Arete Bivvy

View along the tops

Arete Bivvy - cute little hut

Looking back down to Arete Bivvy - Wairarapa in the distance
The bivvy itself is a cute 2 person hut nestled in grass and tussock with one of those amazing loos with a view. After a rest break and a water topup it was time to get ourselves back to the hut to pick up our packs and start the descent down to the South Ohau Hut then down the stream to the car. I enjoyed the descent a lot more than I had enjoyed the climb so we made pretty good time going down. The descent down to South Ohau Hut is pretty steep and rugged. The hut itself is beside the stream and looks like a great place to stay. We decided we'd have to come back another time and spend a night there.

South Ohau Hut

View from in front of South Ohau Hut
We had a snack and a brief rest stop before entering the stream for the walk back to the car. Unfortunately, we had only walked for about 10 minutes when I slipped on a rock and landed heavily on my butt. It was one of those awful moments when you realise you've done some real damage and that the rest of the day would be a little different than planned. After dumping my pack off my back and gingerly getting to my feet (I was dry I might add - somehow I landed right on the flat, dry rock that I had slipped off) I knew that I had managed to damage something pretty badly but that I could still walk. After swapping some gear out of my pack to lighten the load we set off down the river towards the car. Pretty much every step was agony with any climbing over rocks intensifying the pain. I did wonder if I had lost enamel from my teeth from all the teeth-gritting that was going on. It was definitely no fun and there was little to no conversation going on during the walk out. It took about 4 hours to walk out to the carpark where we then had the drive home to cope with.

South Ohau Stream

South Ohau Stream

South Ohau Stream
A trip to the doctor the following morning and an xray a couple of days later revealed a displaced fracture of the sacrum. On looking that up on Dr Google it looked like a scary proposition but it seems that it all depends where the break is as to how serious the fracture is. Mine is right at the bottom of the sacrum - just above the coccyx - which is, apparently, far less serious than breaks higher up. It still means a healing time of 6-12 weeks, up to 3 months off my bike and all other physical pursuits are on hold for now. This makes for a very bored Carolyn with the prospect of not being able to get out and about for a while.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hillary Trail - Wellington Anniversary Weekend

The opportunity arose to be in Auckland over Wellington Anniversary Weekend this year so I scouted around to see what we could do with that time. I stumbled across the Hillary Trail which is a 70km, 3-night walk from the Arataki Visitor Centre to Murawai.We only had three days (2 nights) available so arranged to leave the trail early at Piha Beach. Information on the trail was readily available on the internet but warned that the walk was a hard, long walk.

Day 1 - Arataki Visitor Centre to Whatipu

We fronted up to the Visitor Centre at about 11am on the Saturday morning and set off to Karamaratura (just past Huia) which was a 10km walk.

This part of the trail had warnings about the boggy nature of the track and was expected to take 4-5 hours to get to the campground. The track itself was fine. Slightly boggy in places but certainly better than some areas of the Tararuas as far as mud went. After an enjoyable walk we arrived at the campsite at 2pm - it only took us 3 hours to get there. We stopped at the campground for lunch and then figured we may as well keep walking for a few more hours (another 10kms) and head to Whatipu for our first night.

Part of the track between Karamaratura and Whatipu

Trying to get phone reception on the hill above Whatipu (a little windy up there)
Picture looking towards Whatipu and the entrance to Manukau Harbour
We arrived at Whatipu late afternoon and set up camp at Cave campsite. This was a very small camp ground that provided a small number of tentsites and a toilet. There was fresh water available about 15 minutes walk away at the main Whatipu campsite. There were a number of people already at Cave campsite when we got there so it was a little tricky finding some flat ground to set up camp for the night.

Just enough room for a small tent at Cave campsite
We got that sorted and then had dinner just before the sun went down. A very enjoyable first day on the Hillary Trail.
Sun setting at Cave campsite

Day 2 - Whatipu to Craw campground

 Day 2 dawned a little wet and miserable so we packed up our tent and headed into one of the caves nearby to have breakfast.
Breakfast spot in the cave
From here our destination was Craw campground just north of Piha, a walk of 21.5kms. Today would be a mix of walking in the bush and then on the beach to Karakare before enjoying a with a little bit of civilisation at Piha. Luckily the weather cleared up and the day turned out warm and sunny. After a little while we reached Pararaha campground which is where we had intended to camp on our second night. Clearly we were walking the trail a little quicker than the signposted times. We managed to get within cell range to change our plans of leaving the trail early and sort out a pickup from Murawai instead of Piha. Along the way we walked through the Tunnel Grove campground. This was an awesome spot and, if we'd known about it, we would have arranged our walk to stay there.
Tunnel Grove campground
The tunnel by the campsite complete with the abandoned boiler which didn't fit through the tunnel

From that campsite the walk continued along the beach all the way to Karekare. Rather hard work walking in sand with a pack on. At Karekare we climbed a small hill to where the Hillary Trail continued and sat and had lunch in the sun.

Beach at Karekare
View from our lunch spot at Karekare
After lunch at Karekare we headed back into the hills and came across Mercer Bay. We noticed a group of guys ziplining across the top of this bay so we stopped to watch them for a while.

Mercer Bay
From Mercer Bay we carried on towards Piha where the trail winds its way past the Kitekite Falls.This was a popular spot for families swimming.
Kitekite Falls at Piha
After a brief photo stop we headed into Piha where we had a well-deserved icy cold cider before carrying on to Craw campground.
Beach at Piha - Lion Rock in the middle of the photo
Campsite at Craw campground
There were a couple of guys camped here who were also doing the Hillary Trail. They had decided to exit early though and not do the final day through to Murawai. We had a pleasant night here with an early start the next morning. The information on the trail said that the walk from Craw to Murawai would take 11-12 hours. With a 5:30pm pickup from Murawai organised we figured we should get an early start so headed off at about 7am.

Day 3 - Craw campground to Murawai

From the campground we headed over farmland for a while before the trail went back into the bush heading away from the coast for a while. After a long descent we walked alongside Lake Waimanu and then some huge sand dunes to Bethells Beach (Te Henga).

Lake Wainamu
At Bethells Beach we continued on the trail but had a great view down to the beach where some filming was taking place. Not sure what the film is but there were horses and what looked like Roman soldiers involved.

Bethells Beach - Te  Henga
After a short climb over the hill by Bethells Beach we stopped for a swim at O'Neills beach. The sea looked a little treacherous here but it was great to have a dip and wash off some of the accumulated sweat and dirt from the previous two days.
Te Henga Walkway - O'Neill Bay
After our refreshing swim we carried on. We were now on the Te Henga walkway to Murawai.
Te Henga Walkway - from Bethells Beach to Murawai
Te Henga Walkway - from Bethells Beach to Murawai
Somewhere towards the end of the walkway we stopped on the side of the track for a lunch break. We were making good time so were confident we would easily get to Murawai in time for our pickup at 5:30pm. After lunch we carried on to the end of the Te Henga trail - the last part of the trail to the road into Murawai climbs a series of wooden steps. Not the sight you want to see after having walked a decent distance already. Once we finished climbing the steps we were onto a mix of road walking (boring and hard on the legs) and trails through the bush. This took us through to the gannet colony and then onto the beach at Murawai. We celebrated our arrival with a swim in the surf there. It felt great! Once we were suitably refreshed we made our way to a cafe for a cold drink while we waited for our ride. All up the day had taken us about 9 hours - including stopping for a swim and a relaxed lunch break as well as numerous photo stops along the way.

Small part of the gannet colony at Murawai


We enjoyed our three days walking the Hillary Trail. From our perspective, the numerous warnings about how rough, tough and long it was were overstated. The track was pretty dry when we walked it so I can imagine after (or during) rain progress could be a little slower. There are certainly improvements that could be made to the trail and the literature. Signage was either over the top with Hillary Trail markers very close together to non-existent where no Hillary Trail markers could be seen and no other useful signage to indicate the start of tracks. Carrying the detailed brochure as well as a detailed map for the area assisted us in a few places where the route was unclear. The estimated times were overstated for the pace we were walking. Given that we were carrying reasonably heavy packs with camping and cooking gear, etc I don't think we were walking particularly fast.The maps for the trail show the route between Pararaha to Karekare is in the hills but the markers have that section walking along the beach. There was no information provided on that change and no mention of it at the visitor centre at the beginning of the trail. It would be good to have more information in the brochure about some of the other campsites and maybe a breakdown of the times between different sections of the walk. And my last point was to not take much notice of the profile map in brochure. The profile for the whole 70kms is printed across the page resulting in an unhelpful profile that doesn't show any details. It would be much better for the profile to be split for each section of the trail and to be printed in landscape.