Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Snorkelling at Princess Bay

Yesterday was quite warm and so we decided it was time to brave the water on Wellington's south coast. The water is still quite cold and despite the number of kids splashing around in just swimmers we donned full wet suits. It was quite cold.... I was wishing I had a fancy hood like Dave and Kareen. Princess Bay is within the Wellington south coast marine reserve so has some pretty good wildlife. We saw lots and lots of seaweed and kelp. Quite a few fish and a couple of Paua (abalone) which locals often dive for their dinner - but not in the reserve.

Kareen and Dave ready to get in.

Helen's silouhette.


Paua Shell (abalone) on the pink coralline algae and surrounded by seaweed.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boxing day paddle

Woke up on Boxing Day and the water in Evans Bay was glassy - perfect day for a paddle. Unfortunately Aaron is not able to kayak at the moment - so I rang a friend who came over. We loaded up "Betty" on to the car and drove over the hill to Worser Bay. We then paddled along the coast in and out of the rocks and amongst the seaweed and kelp forests to Scorching Bay. We had a quick stop to admire Jo's daughter Neve's sand castle (she went to the beach with dad while we were enjoying the paddle). We then carried on around the Miramar Peninsular to Evans Bay.

Scorching Bay, looking out towards the Wellington Harbour entrance

Jo in the front of "Betty" paddling the glassy calm Evans Bay, Wellington Harbour

On the way back the wind picked up a little - a light southerly - so we had to put a little bit of effort in to paddling. We timed it perfectly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas orphans

We had a very relaxing Christmas with some friends. The pouring rain finally stopped early in the morning and the sun came out around 11am. Various other Christmas orphans turned up at different times of the day and we spent the day sitting on our deck eating lots of yummy food and playing games!

This is our attempt to burn off some of the calories - playing an energetic game of twister. Aaron unfortunately was not able to join in due to his painful back, but he helped out eating the goodies!

Playing twister on the deck - Kareen, Helen, Dave and Steve.

Gardening success!

So my potatoes started to die back - which according to mum meant that they are finally ready to dig up. This is two potato plants worth of pink potatoes - and I found a few more in the soil later as well. They were very tasty just boiled with some butter and salt.

Pink potatoes

My carrots on the other hand were a little less impressive - some would even say alien like - supposedly the result of too many stones in the soil...

Freshly pulled out carrots

Alien carrots!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Biking with Sarah and Dan

Sarah and Dan flew over to Christchurch for the holidays. I decided that I would fly down for the weekend before Christmas and join them for a few days of mountain biking. I arrived in Christchurch Friday evening. Early Saturday morning it began raining. And it rained and rained and rained all day Saturday. After a chat with some folks at the B.A.S.I.C. bike shop they recommended giving the Port Hills a day or so to dry out.

Sunday morning the rain finally stopped and things started to dry out. We decided to head out to Bottle Lake an area near the coast that was meant to hold up to wet weather pretty well. The trails were fast and pretty flat, but also quite fun to ride if you could keep the pace up. After we did one loop of the tracks that took about an hour, Dan headed back in for some more while Sarah and I had a bit of a break. There were some cool looking skinnies and a dirt jump park at the parking lot. I was playing on the beginner skinny for quite a while trying to get all the way around. it was probably 100 metres long with a see saw in the middle. After many attempts I did finally manage to ride it all in one go.

Before we left I had one more go. Got past the see saw and was going around the corner and started to come off. I pulled up on the bars as I came off so that I would not "nose-dive" off. Unfortunately, I pulled up a little to hard. I landed on the back wheel and proceeded to tip over backward and land on my back. I was able to get up and ride back to the house.

The next morning my back was pretty stiff and sore. I got up slowly and went to get some milk out of the fridge. I had pain shoot through my back and nearly passed out. It was then I decided a trip to A&E might not be such a bad idea.

Getting checked out in the Emergency Department.

We were in and out in under two hours and I was fine. Just soft tissue injury and I was going to be stiff and sore for the few weeks. After the hospital I stayed at home while Dan and Sarah went off to explore the Port Hills. Poor Sarah was attacked by a sheep and came off her bike, suffering some nasty gravel rash on her elbows.

Today, battered and bruised we might have a bit of break and do something different.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekend with Sam

The advantage of having an international conference in Wellington means that you get friends come to visit. Sam Burgess, a friend from Australia, came over for the Deep Sea Corals Conference that I had been persuaded to attend, not that I work on deep sea corals! So after a week of sitting around listening to lots of fascinating talks, talking to lots of people and drinking a little too much alcohol we finally got a chance to catch up and go play. The weekend weather even cooperated and we had two fine sunny, and not too windy, days.

Saturday we paddled out to Mana Island with a couple of friends, Gavin and Andrew. It took over an hour to get out to the island as the swell was quite rough. Fortunately the beach on the island is quite sheltered so it was relatively easy to land. After all that exercise we sat down in the sun and had a very civilised lunch of red wine, bread, cheese and crackers, with coffee and cake to finish off!

Sam and Helen in "Betty", our double kayak

Very civilised picnic on Mana Island
We then gently strolled to the top of the island, with great views back across to the coast and north to a rather hazy Kapiti Island. Just as we were getting back down to the beach we finally spotted one of the rare Takahe in the bushes (very large Pukeko or Swamp Hens). Unfortunately it was too shy for a photo.

Andrew, Sam, Gavin and Helen at the top of Mana Island - where the old lighthouse used to be.

The sea state had completely changed by the time we paddled back at 4pm. It was very calm and much easier to paddle, although we did have to deal with a small surf getting back into the beach at Titahi Bay. Gavin, Sam and I all managed, but Andrew took a bit of a swim - fortunately the water was pretty warm. Sam and I even went for a dip after paddling to cool off.

On Sunday we took the opportunity to go for a days tramp in the Tararua's north of Wellington. We picked up Sam's friend Dan and drove over to the Wairarapa. We headed up the Kiriwhakapapa road and walked up to Blue Range Hut. This a short, but steep walk ~650 m of ascent over 3 km.
The steep walk up through the forest.
We made it to the top of the ridge in about 1 and a half hours and found a nice flattish rock to have lunch on with views across to Mitre Peak.

Sam, Aaron and Dan having lunch

Sam looking across to Mitre Peak
The descent down was almost as slow as the climb up... but we made it down by 3pm, with enough time to visit a couple of wineries on the way home.
A great weekend in the outdoors enjoying the wonderful summer weather - but now my shoulders are sore from kayaking and my legs are sore from walking. I need a couple of days to recover!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Helen's vegetable garden

This year I decided to give growing my own vegetables a go. Supposedly Wellington is a very good climate for growing plants - so hopefully that would cancel out my lack of green fingers. After a pretty rocky start where my seedlings all fell over, then they froze and then they overheated - it wasn't looking too good. The lemon tree that I planted in the corner also got hammered by the Wellington spring winds and all the leaves got blown off. Anyway I perservered and put some garlic, potatoes, carrots and snow peas in the ground and a little while later a few green shoots appeared. I have also planted four raspberry bushes and a couple of peppers/capsicum and now I have a zucchini/courgette and a few tomato and rocket plants. These all seem to be doing okay - touch wood. I also have a few strawberry plants, blueberries, a fig tree and bay leaf tree and a couple of feijoa plants elsewhere in the garden and these seem to be doing okay so far. I had my first strawberry on the weekend - which I gave to my friend Kareen to taste test!

Helen's veggie patch

The first strawberry

Hopefully summer will bring lots more goodies from the garden.

New sea kayak

This weekend we went up to the factory in Palmerston North and picked up our new double sea kayak - Betty. The frustrating thing was that on Friday night the weather in Wellington was idyllic, warm, sunny, and flat as a mill pond - would have been the perfect evening for a paddle around the harbour - indeed a few people were out in their kayaks and the sailing boats were struggling to finish their races. Needless to say the weather on Saturday was far from ideal to take our kayak on her maiden voyage - but we still made it out for a quick spin in one of the local bays trying to hide from the gusty northerlies. Sunday's weather was even worse....

Setting up before hitting the water

Actually out on the ocean

Looking forward to a few more sunny calm days in Wellington over the summer to get Betty out on the water again!

Monday, November 10, 2008

24 hour Adventure Race Taupo

4 weeks ago an e-mail went around work asking for a female mountain biker to join a corporate team entered in to a 24 hour adventure race. The team had to made up of two men and two women. They didn't get many responses and so were happy to hear from me.

The race started at 12 pm on Friday and it was raining all morning. Fortunately by midday the rain cleared and we had a beautiful sunny afternoon. There were 6 stages to the race - rogaines/orienteering alternating between mountain biking and on foot. The race started with an "on foot" rogaine around Spa Park in Taupo. Some teams started off rather keen and ran the whole way around - we decided to take the tortoise approach and strolled around the first stage.
The second stage was a mountain bike rogaine along the Waikato River and Craters of the Moon mountain bike park. We were pretty fortunate in our team to have a Taupo local, Todd, and I have also ridden there a bit - so this helped. During most of the stages there were also special challenges at some of the check points which involved some kind of activity. The first challenge was a kayak/raft challenge at the Aratiatia dam and although we had been told to bring wet suits it was so warm that I don't think it was really necessary.

Special challenge - kayak/raft race on Aratiatia dam.

I felt like we didn't really do ourselves justice on the first mountain bike stage as we spent quite a bit of time back tracking and a lot of time discussing the various route options... As you only needed 3 people on the course at any one time, I decided to sit out of the 2nd "on foot" rogaine as I knew that the next stage was from midnight to 4am, and that if no one had had any sleep then things would start to go "pear shaped". So the others set off on an urban rogaine around Taupo. The team did really well at this stage, probably helped by a lot of local knowledge.

The 2nd mountain bike stage was in Turangi - the other end of Lake Taupo, so we had an hours drive to get there, which allowed us to consume lots of food and drink some much needed caffeine. This stage was my least favourite stage of the race. It didn't help that within the first 100 m I had got a flat tyre from riding through the underpass, which was covered in lots of broken glass. It was also dark and freezing cold. I was wearing 3 or 4 layers of clothing and was still cold riding my bike around the rather dodgy industrial estates of Turangi. Because it was so unpleasant and the boys were struggling to think straight - we finished this stage slightly earlier than the cut off time.

About to set off on the night riding rogaine around Turangi.

We had another short drive to the 3rd "on foot" rogaine. This was in the forest between Turangi and National Park. The 5th stage started in the dark at 4am, but the sun was soon up at around 5:30am and we got a lovely sunrise with spectacular views over the snowy volcanoes. It was much nicer to be walking on firetrails and walking tracks through alternating native forest and pine plantations. This was much more what I expected of the race. We did very well on this stage and spirits definitely improved as the sun came up. Unfortunately as I was attempting to map read while walking along I twisted my ankle pretty bad. I continued - but my ankle later swelled to about twice its normal size.

The last stage of the race was on mountain bike and was in a similar area to the 5th stage. There were quite a few special challenges on this stage. We did two of the 3 that were possible. These involved ice climbing up a slightly rotten wooden wall. I would have loved to have had a go - but my ankle was too sore and starting to swell.

Special challenge - ice/wood climbing challenge with ice axes and crampons.

The second special challenge was a high ropes course and there were a few different options. I did the climbing wall which was swinging around 10 m up in the air - so although the holds were pretty easy it was a little weird having the whole thing swinging around.

Special challenge - high ropes course, Todd balancing on a beam 10 m in the air.

We finished this challenge with about 20 minutes to spare before the end of the race. Just enough time to get one last check point at the bottom of the hill to climb all the way back up the finish. We made the finish line with 3 minutes to spare!

Having a beer at the finish...... all feeling very tired.

After a few hours to shower and have a short sleep we all reconvened at the Tongariro Chateau for the dinner and prize giving. It was a weird race because you have no idea how well you are doing along the way. We were regularly the last team in to the transition between stages - but that could have meant we just were maximising our time and getting lots of checkpoints. After a couple of disappointing mountain bike stages I thought we would probably come somewhere in the middle of the pack, so I was very surprised when we ended up coming 4th out of the 13 teams. Not a bad effort for a first try at adventure races.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Long-weekend at Taupo with the Bostocks

For the long weekend we headed up to Lake Taupo with Andy, Clare and Andrea. The weather wasn't looking very promising and poured with rain for the first half of the drive up north. The clouds were also pretty low so no view of the volcanoes on the way up.

Saturday we went for a walk around the Craters of the Moon and visited Huka Falls in the morning and did a bit of shopping in Taupo before heading to the thermal mineral pools in the afternoon for a relaxing soak.

Craters of the Moon

Andrea and Clare enjoying the thermal mineral baths.

On Sunday we went to the geothermal area of Orakei Korakei which had some impressive mud pools and a few geysers. We had a rather smelly lunch by the lake in Rotorua.

Bubbling mud pools

Rainbow colours at Orakei Korakei

On Monday the weather finally cleared up - so we got some spectacular views of the volcanoes in Tongariro National Park. We walked to Taranaki Falls and had lunch. Then a quick look around the visitor centre before a long drive home..... made slightly less pleasant by the long weekend traffic queues to get back into Wellington. Andrea was not impressed!

Front to back - Aaron, Andrea, Andrew, Clare - Ngaruhoe volcano on the left.

Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park

Monday, October 20, 2008

Andy, Clare and Andrea's visit

Andy, Clare and Andrea are visiting us at the moment. Andrea is 7 months old - so it was a good time for them to travel and see us and a little bit of New Zealand. We have spent the first few days around Wellington visiting the botanic gardens, the wildlife sanctuary and Te Papa. Then on Sunday we went over to the Wairarapa and went for a walk up to "Rocky Lookout" and then over to Martinborough for a couple of wine tastings.

Andrea, Clare and Andy at Rocky Lookout

Andrea, nice and warm inside Daddy's jacket.

They are off to New Plymouth to visit some friends for the next few days.

Monday, September 29, 2008

TV Stand

A while ago I bought a solid rimu dressing table off Trade Me for $30. It was pretty hideous - but I thought it might have some potential. More to come...



Coromandel Trip

We were supposed to go on holiday to Australia to visit friends in Canberra and go sea kayaking and snorkelling with some friends in the Whitsundays on the Great Barrier Reef. As a result of Aaron's broken wrist we had to change our plans and have postponed our trip to Australia until next year. So instead we took the opportunity to spend a week exploring an area of New Zealand that we haven't been to and we headed up to the Coromandel Peninsular, (just to the east of Auckland in the north of the North Island). The temperature was a lot warmer than Wellington and reached a balmy 21 degrees C, it wasn't windy and we had only a couple of spots of rain. Perfect weather for camping! Spring has definitely sprung in that part of New Zealand and there were lots of cherry blossom and kowhai flowers out on the trees.

Kowhai flowers

After a long drive north on the first day we spent the second day walking up to the Pinnacles just outside of Thames. This used to be a big forestry area where they logged all the really old and big Kauri trees for building houses and decimated the forest in the area. (Kauri is what Aaron's coffee table is made out of).

Helen inside a chopped down Kauri tree. Kauri trees can grow pretty big!

There are a few large old trees left standing on the Coromandel peninsular, and they are very majestic. We have not got a photo as the pictures don't do the size of the trees any justice. They have planted a lot of Kauri trees on the peninsular in the last few years to try to regenerate some of these original native forests.

A small Kauri.

The Pinnacles tramp is pretty undulating and not too strenuous, until you get to the final pinnacles where there are a series of ladders and scrambling to get to the top. Aaron had a few issues, only having one arm to hold on with - but he survived and the view from the top was quite impressive.

The Pinnacles (note ladder in background)

The next few days we spent heading up the west coast of the Coromandel to the northern tip of the peninsular. From here you can see over to Great Barrier Island and there are lots of rock stacks sticking out of the ocean. We did a nice walk along the coastal walkway from our campsite at Port Jackson.

View of the end of the peninsular with Great Barrier Island on the horizon ~20 km away.

We then worked our way back down the east side of the Coromandel. This is the more touristy side of the peninsular with lots of people visiting Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach. Unfortunately the timing of the tides meant that we didn't make it to Hot Water Beach, but we had a nice walk at dusk to Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove (Aaron for scale just under the arch).

Silhouette of us standing under the arch with one of the stacks behind.

We had a very relaxing and nice holiday, it wasn't quite sea kayaking and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, but it was a good break and it was good to get out and explore more of New Zealand.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Birthday?

Monday was my birthday, and look what I got...a purple cast for my wrist. It turns out I broke my wrist snowboarding (see previous post).

On the bright side I also finished my coffee table.

One of the long underside bits is actually the front of a drawer which sits under the table.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Skiing at Whakapapa

We finally managed to get up to the Whakapapa ski field to get some skiing and boarding. It has been a season of lots of snow (4 metres). Unfortunately there has been too much snow the last few weeks and the roads have been closed and the ski fields closed due to high avalanche risk. This weekend was the first with a great forecast and our friend Kathryn organised us accommodation in one of the mountain lodges.

The weather was spectacular and the three volcanoes looked quite different this year with so much more snow. The only problem was that everyone had looked at the forecast - so we spent a little bit of time waiting in lift queues. We usually got a few runs in between 8:30 and 10am before the crowds arrived. It wasn't too bad and sometimes it is nice to get a bit of a rest between runs!

After the first run of the weekend - Aaron pretty much picked up where he had left off last yearand definitely started to get a much better flow to his boarding. There is a movie below of him carving up the slopes!

Kathryn and Aaron

Lots of snow on Ngarahoe and Tongariro in the distance

Aaron carving up the empty slopes in the morning

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cone Hut tramp

We woke to a nice day on Saturday morning and Aaron decided he wanted to go tramping to see the snow in the Tararua's (the mountain range just to the north of Wellington). Well we didn't get up to the snow, but we had a nice walk through the temperate dense forests. It was pretty steep as we tried to avoid the flat stuff along the valley in order to avoid the boggy, muddy bits.
We headed up and over the hill to Cone Hut, unfortunately we didn't have time to go up Cone Peak. We had lunch at Cone Hut, built in 1946 and obviously each bit of wood had been shaped with axes. Then we returned back via Cone Saddle and down to and along the Waiohine Gorge to the newly built suspension bridge and the carpark. We did see some snow on the top of Mt Holdsworth in the distance.

We timed it perfectly as it was just starting to spit with rain when we got back to the car. It took us 6 hours of walking - which was bit more than we had anticipated. The tracks were pretty rough and slippy and we were pretty cautious descending some of the slippy, tree routed sections. We were walking with tramping poles - which helped a lot - especially with testing the depth of the muddy sections! Unfortunately we have spent a couple of days since in a little bit of pain as our tramping muscles are rather un-fit compared to our biking muscles. Need to get out and do some more tramping and get fit again.

The dense jungle

Cone Hut

Snow-capped Mount Holdsworth

Waiohine River