Friday, July 18, 2014

Dragonflies and TedX

What do these two have in common? Not a whole lot really but Dragonfly Peak can be found in the Mt Aspiring National Park (close to Wanaka) and Wanaka also just hosted their very first TedX event. As a fan of Ted talks ( I had a look around at Ted events that I might be able to attend. First up for consideration was the Ted Global conference to be held in Brazil next year. Sadly the conference ticket price was USD$6,000 – with flights, accommodation and meals to add to the cost that was definitely out of reach. A colleague happened to mention a TedX event coming up in Wanaka and the ideas started to grow. Wanaka? Hmmmm, close to loads of climbing opportunities.

Before long a plan was hatched, a couple of days annual leave booked, climbing gear packed and we were off to Wanaka via Dunedin. We arrived late at night in Wanaka for a sleep and repack before heading off to the East Matukituki valley on the Thursday morning. Lugging our 20kg packs (ugh) we crossed the (cold) river and set off up the valley with the intention of climbing to below the Albert Burn saddle before setting up camp for the night. That day saw us crossing farmland, wandering through bush and over streams then climbing up through bush and tussock for around 1000m before finding a relatively flat spot by a partially frozen tarn to set up camp for the night as the sun went down. I can safely say it was freezing that night. The ground was quite frozen and there were a few patches of snow around. Luckily we had our alpine sleeping bags and slept in most of our clothes so had a snug night before an early start the next morning. While getting our gear sorted I realised how cold it had been – water stored inside the tent had frozen as had my sunscreen.

Campsite on the first night

A cup of tea and bowl of porridge was appreciated before climbing up to the saddle and the Whare Kea chalet. We positioned ourselves in front of the chalet’s webcam while getting geared up for the climb up to Dragonfly Peak.

When we got back to civilisation we found there were two images of us online from the chalet’s webcam – mission accomplished!

 Whare Kea webcam photo – Mt Aspiring in the background

View of Mt Aspiring from Dragonfly Peak

The climb to the peak was relatively straight forward. We had a couple of stops along the way to take photos including some pictures of a couple of chamois who casually wandered past us. At one stage my climbing partner headed off to clamber over some rocky bits while I found a different route up a snow slope. I thought I had found the easier route until halfway up when I realised the snow quality wasn’t the best and it was a lot steeper than I had first thought. At that stage it seemed a good idea to carry on instead of retreating which I did. We regrouped on the summit and had a break there, taking photos and enjoying the view.

Heading towards the summit of Dragonfly Peak
On the way back down we made the decision to descend down the route that I had climbed. Interestingly it was decreed that the route was much harder and riskier than the rock route. Oops. Anyway, no falls occurred and we continued back down to the chalet for a leisurely lunch on the deck. After an enjoyable lunch in the sun it was time to descend back down to the valley floor to find a campsite for the night.

Descent down the tricky bit

After starting our climbing at 9am we found somewhere to camp at about 6:30pm in amongst the trees. That night there was a rather exciting electrical storm somewhere straight over the top of us – lightning flashes and thunder were happening almost instantaneously. Early the next morning it was time for a quick packup (no time for breakfast) before heading off to get back across the river to the car and back into Wanaka. With no place to shower we got to a cafĂ© in Wanaka for a late breakfast and changed into more acceptable attire before heading out to Rippon Hall for the start of the TedX event.


TEDx was created in the spirit of TED's mission, "ideas worth spreading." It supports independent organizers who want to create a TED-like event in their own community.

 The Wanaka event was the 7th TedX held in New Zealand and possibly the smallest with a limit of 100 tickets. Participants were encouraged to meet up with others so we were asked to add something about our interests onto our nametags. That provided a good conversation starter and people mingled well.
The day was split into three sessions with breaks in between for conversation and snacks / drinks. The seven speakers were all NZ based and were a diverse bunch – author Derek Grzelewski, retired psychiatrist Ken Bragan, nanotechnologist Michelle Dickinson, blogger Liz Carlson, leadership expert Andrea Thompson, fridge hitchhiker and author Rob Cope and ecologist Steve Sawyer.

After watching a lot of Ted talks online over the past few years I wondered how a NZ event would compare. Certainly the speakers were not as polished but their talks were all compelling to listen to and the audience were certainly engaged, amused and interested through all of the presentations. In addition there were a couple of other Ted videos played – one of which I’d seen before but the other one was of particular interest to me. I’ve been working on a bit of a proposal around a Wellness programme for Redvespa and the content of the talk ( has led me to pause and think about the content of my proposal. The talks from the Wanaka event will be available in the near future on Youtube.

The only downside to the event was the constant thanks to sponsors that was required between every talk / video / performance. That was pretty tiresome as the day wore on. Apart from that, the entire day – the venue, the talks, the entertainment, the food and the people – gave me a real buzz.

Overall I’d recommend attendance at these types of events as well as watching Ted talks online – they certainly provide a wealth of information and a hefty measure of inspiration. There are TedX events scheduled in Auckland (16 August), Tauranga (14 July) and Christchurch (1 November) and I’ve also heard that there will be an event in Wellington too although this has not yet been scheduled. If you’re able to get a ticket, get along to one of these events for an inspirational time. Tickets for Wanaka were just over $100. Totally worth it for the talks as well as the food and drinks provided.