Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Away From Home

    It has now been almost 10 days since I have had to depart my home for the past 9 months.  It was a very bitter-sweet departure and I still don't really know what to think about it.  My visa in New Zealand came to an end on the 24th of February, but in the interest of saving money, I departed on the 18th.  I have found myself in Sydney, Australia.
    Sydney was chosen for several reasons.  Lizzy and I have friends here, it was the least expensive to fly to, I can get back to NZ at a moments' notice, and we are still trying hard to get work visas in this part of the world.  Easier to do when you are actually there.
    When I say departure was bitter-sweet, I sincerely mean it.  Firstly, I have had to leave Lizzy back on Uma Rapiti.  Who knows what kind of trouble she's going to get into without me!  I kid!  I kid!  I have left a beautiful place I have called home for nine months, my favorite fishing spots, a great social circle with very supportive individuals, and the volunteer coastguard.  Other than certain isolated times in life, this one of the most "complete" times I have had.  Food  available any time, an amazing orchard...  This is going to be hard to top.
    The sweet portion comes into play when I have had an opportunity to set foot in a country I have wanted to visit my whole life.  Not only that, my introduction was Sydney.  Sydney harbor, Bondi Beach, Coogee Beach, snorkeling....  And now, I'm heading north to Queensland to go work on another little island working on a sail boat.  Magnetic Island to be exact, and a tall ship by the name of S.V. Providence V.  providencesailing <----  here's a link to where I am.  I just received a call from the owner of the boat and found out that I will be the only one living aboard.  And I guess the only mate.  I wonder if I know what I'm doing?

    Over the past few days I feel like I have been completely inundated in surreal setting.  As I stated above, I am visiting/staying with some friends here.  I managed to land a spare room in our friend Patrick's parents' house.  They live about a 5 minute walk from the beach.  I was amazed at the size of the swells and the amount of sandy beaches after being on Waiheke.  Our little island is surrounded by shallow water, so we do not get big waves.

On day 3 of enjoying sun and sand, a massive storm  rolled in out of the north.  I could hear the waves pounding on the rocks all night long it was seriously intense.  Still, the temprature never dropped below about 80 degrees, even at night.  Terry, Patrick's dad and I even took the family dog for a walk in shorts, sandals, and rain jackets during this storm.

People here are totally unfazed by this weather.  There are these incredible swimming pools made right on the edge of the beach or on the rock walls.  During 8 ft. waves crashing right over the edge, people just kept on swimming laps.  Thought for sure someone was going to get washed out.

This is a typical spot along the coast of Sydney where people go snorkeling.  I ended up getting a chance to go myself.  There are all kinds of amazing fish cruising around down there.  From little multi-colored angelfish to 2 ft. long grouper with beautifully colored eyes.  Even after the storm, visibility was still 10-15 ft.

In the middle of this whirlwind trip, Patrick managed to drag me away for a quick climbing trip.  Lizzy and I have only had an opportunity to go bouldering on Waiheke.  Our plans to go climbing on the South Island of New Zealand were thwarted by a terrible mountain biking incident.  We were both reminded on that trip why we hate mountain bikes so much.  Here are a few shots of the climb.

We park the car and I follow Pat into the bush...
After a 10 min. hike we break through an all I see is bush for MILES!
Our other 2 climbing partners.  Chris is experienced, his friend is on her first climb.
   So now here I am facing another plane flight to another strange place and I'm excited to see what the next stop brings...  But, I feel like this all a bit hollow without my traveling partner here to see what I'm seeing.

More to come at the next stop.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


You knit me a sweater in my dream last night.

First it was blue.

Then it was white.

It was a pretty scalloped pattern.

It was actually crochet.

A t-shirt sweater.

And unfinished.

But you were so proud.

And I was so happy.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Journal Excerpts from the Rees Dart Track

Day 1: Bus from Queenstown to Glenorchy, bus from Glenorchy to trail head.  Dropped off with 5 other trampers.  Two Canadians, one solo Calafornian, and a father/son duo from Australia.  First half of the day was sunny.  Walked through private pasture land.  Mostly flat but parts of the trail have been washed away by the recent flooding.  Some creativity required.  Some dry trail but most of the first 4 hours were boggy.  Multiple river crossings.  Afternoon, rain.  Left flats and began ascending as we entered Mount Aspiring National Park.  9 hours to hut. 

Day 2: Cloudy, turning to snow around lunch time.  Passed over Rees Saddle.  Snow, rain, sleet, then sunshine.  Slippery decent to hut.  Arrived at Dart hut before 4pm.

"Morning Coffee-Dart Hut"
Day 3: Despite some soreness, I feel better than I have for a long time.  An hour of stretching and then a pack free day hike to the Dart Glacier and then Cascade Saddle.  A rather technical track.  Lots of water crossings, steep, and many areas have no trail.  Glad I didn't have a pack on today.  To the top and back, 10 hours (for me), shorter for Chad because he ran back to poop.  (There are no broad leafed plants on the trail.  And no one likes to wipe with scree.)

Day 4: Downpours.  Rest day at Dart hut.  Turned sunny in the afternoon.  On a recommendation from the warden, I went on a hike, off the trail through the bush, along a ridge line.  Made several mistakes here: One, I wore sandals in order to keep my boots dry for tomorrow.  Sandflies were ruthless to my ankles. Two, my thin pants do nothing to ward off attacks from the speargrass which can puncture skin with the slightest contact.  Three, should've found myself a walking stick.  Once in the low bush, the ground is irregularly covered with dense mosses, shrubs, and grasses, and it's difficult to see where solid ground is.  So with my sore legs and inadequate clothing I made my way through a foreign landscape and found myself a cozy moss cover rock to sit on and overlook the river.  Not long before the sandflies were making a feast of my feat and I resigned myself to the fact that today was not a day for adventures.  Quick dip in the river.  Breath takingly cold.

Day 5:  Fast pace.  Our companions left yesterday so just Chad and I on the trail. Chad coming down with a cold.  My mouth is breaking out in coldsores.  Getting low on fuel.

Day 6:  Final day.  I want to be done walking but I'm not ready to be out of the woods.  Save for a trail detour at a major river washout area, trail is not very technical.  Plenty of time to dwell on our imminent return to Queenstown and civilization.  Feeling like a child as I drag my feet.  In my best whine, I want to shout, "but I don't wanna go!"

Favorite part on the trip: the challenge of organizing and cooking good, nourishing (and light) food.  As we've done in the past, Chad organized the route while I planned the food.  That way are never short of an adventure and our bellies are always full.  Lessons learned regarding meal planning and cooking:
1. You only have so much fuel.  (The coal fired stoves in the huts were an added-and necessary-bonus on this trip.)
2. It's impossible to make biscuits over a stove that only has a setting for high heat.  Next time, I'm making soup and dropping in the biscuits like dumplings.  On the third night, I got so frustrated making biscuits that i went to bed hungry and let Chad eat the whole backpacker meal.
3. A two serving backpacker meal feeds one Chad
4. Chad's aluminum camp pots that he's had since he was 8 are not indestructible.  Nor are the sporks

Bragging point: Besides the 1 dehydrated backpacker meal we bought, I made all the meals from scratch, dehydrating veggies from the garden in the earth oven before we left.  I think the other folks in the huts were a little jealous!  After watching all of them choke down meals from a bag night after night, I new the extra weight was worth it. 

Pleasant surprise upon leaving the trail: Hans, the driver that picked us up at the end of the trail, was a great storyteller and full of fun facts on life and the trials of living in rural New Zealand.  Plus, he was the animal trainer for the Lord of the Rings movies.  Seems like everyone here has a connection to the films.  His other accounts were of packing coal in on horseback up to the backcountry huts with his daughters when they were little, working as a chef in Queenstown when money was tight, and most recently, how he lost his garden and his pigs in the recent flood of the Rees river.  He and "The Cook" had to climb a tree to escape the rising waters and after living on their farmlet for 30 years, for the first time are thinking about selling and moving on to a new adventure.

Why We Tramp:  Before leaving for our trip, a friend of mine (who would never dream of spending a night in the woods) asked me just why one would want to "do this."  I gave her a few reasons why I like to hike, camp, carry a 45lb. pack up mountains and across rivers, etc. but I also asked people we encountered along the way to see what they had to say.  Here are some responses I got.
"To be in nature." -Pat
"I'm inspired by the pioneersmen.  I want to be like Lewis and Clark, or Jeremiah Johnson.  To feel the high of being on a dirt path." -Andrew
"Punishment and reward." -Chad
"To get away from the office and test myself, to see beautiful scenery, and to do it while I still can." -Terry
"The scenery, the quiet, and the amazing country. (Not for the self torture.)" -Ben
"It has something to do with my relationship to the plant.  Freedom."
"For the sense of achievement and the views."
"To get away from the madness of the modern world."
"It's the closest I can get to another universe."
"To get out of cell phone range."

The common themes seem to be to either get away from something-work, society, technology, or to go to something-wildlife, stunning landscapes, nature.  Besides Chad, however, who called the labor aspect of tramping "punishment" no one seems to do it for the work and struggle required.  I find that modern technology and most areas of work, do not require much physical exertion.  It's why we need sports and gyms, and weight loss programs.  But there was a time in our collective evolution when walking with your home on your back over a mountain, across a plain, and through deserts was a part of existence.  Physical discomfort was apart of everyday life.  Bumps, bruises, a growling tummy, insect bites, and cold bath water were not out of the ordinary.   Silly as it may seem, I think I crave these things just as much as I crave that view from the top. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Exhibit A:  Chicken on the counter pigging out.
Lizzy has been after me for a while now to sit down and take a turn back at the ol' Blog.  Well, here I am and here it is.  Life has been an absolute whirlwind for the past few months.  I have just realized it has been over two months since I have posted....

    That being said , I do believe I shall start off with where I left off last time:  With the chickens.  These ladies have become a sore spot between my lovely Lizzy and I.  And understandably so.  They have to ability to reduce Elizabeth to near tears of both anger and frustration in mere moments.  They get into everything and are garden enemy number one.  Even more so than any cold-blooded, flying, squirming, slimy, hoppy or ravenous pest.  They are indiscriminate destroyers of plants trying to get at said bugs.  They have an overwhelming urge to scratch at any, I repeat, ANY pile of mulch in search of a tasty treat.  Mind you, these piles of mulch are usually surrounding freshly planted young veggies.  While I applaud their efforts to rid the farm of all the creepy, crawly pests, their wanton destruction of plants is going to end them up in a stock pot at Lizzy's hands.
    My frustration at the issue is that they are supposed to be free-ranging poultry.  I have finally overcome my dislike of the feathered beasts and love having them around.  I just can't watch them the whole time they are out of the coop.  This is very reminiscent of our problems with Betty Blue from earlier of this year.  Take your eyes off them for a second and they are exactly where they are NOT supposed to be.  Grrr.....  Steps are being taken and plans of action are being hatched.  Pun definitely intended!  Good news is that they are all laying eggs now!



    This post was started quite a while ago, and Lizzy has officially shamed me into getting back on the blogger horse.

    We have been back from our trip to the South Island for 7 days now and I still don't know if I'm happy to be back, or anxious for the next step.  We have worked so hard at making Uma Rapiti our home over the past 8 months that is almost seems surreal that I have to leave in less than 20 days.  There have been comedies, tragedies, breathtaking experiences, and serious doldrums.  I keep trying to focus on all the amazing things I have seen and had a chance to participate in, but I can not help but to feel sad at the potential of losing an avenue of new and incredible adventures.  As some of you are aware, Lizzy and I have been very undecided about what comes next.  We have explored the possibilities of school, employment, more farming, traveling, and pure bohemian lifestyle.  Still no answer.  We'll  keep you posted on what happens!  So, without further ado.......   on to other things!

    New years!  Holy cow New Years!  Tana and Charles decided to have a bit of a shin-dig here at the farm and invited about 15-20 of their friends to come celebrate.  And they invited their son Zev to come play music with his band.  And 30 of his friends followed.  Hilarity and good times ensued!
    New Years' day people started showing up about noon and setting up tents in our orchard.  2 at a time, 3 at a time, 5 at a time.....  Then came the slip n' slide.  100 ft. of blue tarp doused in dish soap, then liberally sprayed with the garden hose.  Dozens of drinking 20-30 somethings charging the hill provided entertainment for us all.  Followed by more drinking till the BBQ and potluck kicke  d off at about 7pm, then on with the music.  Someone forgot to tell me they were a David Bowie cover band!!!  3 hours of kick-ass music and several beers later, life was peachy!
    At midnight a ridiculous amount of high-end champagne was consumed with hugs and congratulations going around.  Followed by even more amazing music till the wee hours.  At that point, we invited what was left of the merry makers down to our side of the property for fire and wind down.  Sometime around 4am everyone meandered to there sleeping quarters.
    The next morning Lizzy and I took what was left of the rabble-rousers down to the beach for a morning sobering/hang-over cure swim.  Followed by us cooking a large buffet-style breakfast and more lounging through the early afternoon hours.  What a way to spend New Years!

    After New Years we pretty much kept ourselves busy awaiting our next big adventure:  Vacation to the South Island!  Lizzy has already made a brief post including some pictures, but I will be adding to it as soon as I get my photos in order.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

South Island Trip

I've got all of my photos uploaded from our trip to the South Island!  We're back at the farm, now and getting back into our groove.  The trip was amazing and I'll write more about it, but the trip was only two weeks and I feel like I've spent just as long up loading photos, so for now the captions will have to suffice.  The link to view them is to the right.  Enjoy!