Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The New Zealand Christmas Tree - Pohutakawa in bloom in our front yard
It never really feels like Christmas in the southern hemisphere.As a result we never really do very much in the way of celebration. This year was no exception to this rule. We were invited over for a bbq with some friends on Christmas Day, and the one traditional thing we did was eat too much of the yummy food.
The rest of the Christmas week we have been trying to catch up on lots of chores and finish projects at home. We have made some progress in the garden by pulling out the weeds that were taking over one side of our house. We also finished off several wood working projects with the final sanding, staining and waxing of the wood.
Helen's cook book stand (pictures to follow)
It wasn't all work - we did get out mountain biking and we did a lot of relaxing around the house - recovering from our exertions.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
On Sunday we headed up to Rotorua. The weather was warm and it threatened to rain, but we only got a few spots. We did a big loop around the forest, riding all of Aaron's favourite tracks. This took about 4 and a half hours! After which Helen was stuffed. However, Dan was keen to get some photos in the forest, so Aaron, Dan and Bec headed back in for a couple of photo shoots with Dan's new SLR camera. There are no decent photos of Dan as he rode to fast and was the only one who could really work the camera correctly!
Drop in on Rollercoaster
Playing on a jump on the Challenge Track
On Monday we did a short loop around the Wairakei bike park at Taupo and then headed back to Wellington, through some rather fierce rain storms. The weather had been very kind to us while we were riding, we had timed it all perfectly!
Helen in Wairakei Forest Park
Sunday, November 29, 2009
We bought a small turkey (7lbs), then we invited a few people over to help Aaron eat it. I was a little worried that it wasn't going to be defrosted in time and then it wasn't going to be cooked. I did some research on the web before hand and had about 5 different sets of instructions and then modified them to suit. It turned out just fine and fortunately we invited our friend Carolyn who wasn't scared to carve/attack it! I even made stuffing and gravy to go with it. We then finished the meal off with pumpkin pie and brownies. An almost perfect thanksgiving feast - apart from the fact that it was on Saturday.
However, our friends didn't do a very good job of eating the turkey - so Aaron will have a lot of turkey sandwiches to eat in the next week!
Monday, November 16, 2009
Kate Hendry (Laura's postdoc), Laura and Gill
The workshop was great. Two weeks of lectures, lab-work and computer stuff about Ocean Acidification. It was rather intense - but we learnt a lot and I met lots of people. We were very lucky with the weather during the two weeks and we regularly went for walks around the village and up to the Woods Hole campus on the bike path. Laura also kindly lent me a bike - so I could ride back and forth to Falmouth and her house. It was really nice to catch up with her several times during the weeks and have a home away from home!
Unfortunately my visits to Cape Cod/New England missed the best of the autumn/fall colours. There were a few leaves still left on the trees and they ranged in colour from yellow, orange to bright red. There were plenty of leaves on the ground that made a great satisfying crunching noise as you walked through them.
The beautiful autumn/fall leaves
Most of the leaves on the ground
Woods Hole village was quiet when we were there. I am told it is very busy in summer. It is a very pretty place with lots of boats in the harbour. Although I think I left at the right time - the weather turned just on the last day with a cold wintery storm.... It was good to get back to summer in New Zealand.
Boats on the Eel Pond
Sunset over the harbour
Friday, November 6, 2009
Details of the plot were leaked due to concerns over the safety off others who would be present at the opening of parliament. Fawkes and several other conspirators were captured before they were able to detonate the gunpowder they had stockpiled in a ground-floor flat beneath the House of Lords.
Each year the people of England celebrate the foiling of the plot by lighting bonfires or setting off fireworks. In Wellington, last night, we had a 20 minute fireworks display set off from three boats in the harbour. I find it pretty odd that the Australians don't celebrate Guy Fawkes really at all, but the Kiwis really seem to get into it. I guess any excuse to light fireworks...
Fireworks in Wellington Harbour
I think this a fascinating bit of history. A really good movie to rent if you haven't seen it is V for Vendetta. It borrows many ideas from Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot.
- Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
- The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
- I know of no reason
- Why the Gunpowder Treason
- Should ever be forgot.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I have been harvesting the cabbages, silver beet, broad beans, rocket and lettuce. The cabbages and rocket had bolted, so they were pulled out to make some more room for the new seedlings. I will have to pull out some of the broad beans as well as they have grown out of control. My 3 compost bins have also finally composted down and have some nice looking compost which I have been dumping on the garden, ready for the rest of the seedlings.
Aaron has become very good at destructive gardening! He has been pulling out some of the lavender that was taking over the front garden.
On top of gardening I also enjoyed doing some cooking for the first time in several weeks. I made some sour dough bread and some mascapone cheese. I then used the cheese to make canneloni, and tiramisu - yum!
I think the cats are also happy we are home. They have been very cuddly and attention seeking for the last couple of weeks.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
It was a very fun day and Gill and Laura both looked great in their dresses.
Laura, Gill and Helen
Aaron and Helen
Gill and Mike had thought of everything - including providing toys for the kids to play with. This was a great giant Jenga game!
Playing Jenga in the garden
Friday, October 9, 2009
Then we headed up to Grandma and Grandads for a few days. Mum and Dad and Andy, Clare and Andrea had come down from Aberdeen to see us as well. We had a couple of days being entertained by little Andrea and with a day trip to Stratford upon Avon, the home of Shakespeare. We also dropped in to see my great aunt and uncle, Irene and Jim.
Andrea playing in the fountain
Four generations - Grandad, Mum, Dad, Grandma, Aaron, Helen, Clare, Andy, Andrea
Then we headed over to Wales to catch up with my Uncle Andy, Sarah, Holly and Fiona. Fortunately the weather cleared up and we got to go out riding with Sarah along the coast looking out over the Bristol Channel.
Aaron and I riding along the coast in Wales
Final family stop was Paul, Thalia, Christopher and Hattie in High Wycombe. I think Aaron deserves a medal for surviving a week of Bostocks!
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Laura's very cute house
Cape Cod has some beautiful beaches and we went for several walks on the beaches near Falmouth and Woods Hole. This time of year you can often find the horse-shoe crab carapaces on the beaches. Some of them were enormous. To me they look like trilobites!
Horse-shoe crab carapace on the beach
Helen and Laura
Monday, September 28, 2009
So we loaded up their car with several boats and drove up the Columbia River valley to the Salmon River. This is a fairly easy river with grade 1/2 rapids - perfect for Aaron who had never been white water kayaking before.
The car loaded up with boats!
The first few rapids were more of a grade 2 than a grade 1 - so it was a little terrifying to begin with - especially for Aaron, but I had not been on white water for quite a few years! Julia had persuaded me that I would have much more fun in a play boat than in a white water boat and despite my objections she had loaded up the play boat. The increased maneouvarability and the "tippyness" of the play boat led to a bit of a swim after the first rapid! We were wearing dry cags and pants - but it was cold!
Aaron coming down a rapid with Julia shouting instructions from the eddy
Julia and Chris coached us down the river - Julia shouting instructions and Chris demonstrating the instructions. Aaron eventually got the hang of breaking in and breaking out of the main flow into the eddies. I think he even started to enjoy himself! I also got the hang of the play boat and didn't swim any more of the rapids!
Julia and Chris (our instructors)
Helen and Aaron
We drove up to the Dee Wright Observatory at the McKenzie Pass. We had lunch and went for a walk through the lava fields on to the levees.
Emma Lee and Kortney with Mt Washington (left) and Mt Jefferson (right) in the background
We had a fun day and Kortney and Emma Lee certainly enjoyed interogating Helen and tickling her in the back seat.
Kortney, Helen and Emma Lee in the back seat of the van
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Half Dome taken from Glacier Point
We then set off slowly up the hill to Sentinel Dome and on to Taft Point where we could see El Capitan. It wasn't very warm when we left New Zealand and the heat and altitude in Yosemite were a bit of a shock to the system. So we spent the first couple of days in Yosemite acclimatising and getting over jet lag with the aim of eventually walking up Half Dome.
El Capitan in the shade in the morning
We drove up to Tuolomne Meadows several times. Although there are less iconic views up here compared to Yosemite Valley, in many ways we preferred it and it was just as spectacular.
Tenaya Lake from the Tuolomne Road
We did a couple of short walks to get in some altitude training up in the Tuolomne Meadows area. The first one we did was walking to Dog Lake and Lembert Dome looking down on the meadow. Then later in the week we walked out to Cathedral Lake with views of Cathedral Peak and Echo Peak. The latter walk we did with Steve Woodhull, a friend of Aaron's who came to meet us and hang out for a few days as he had been working a couple of hours away and had never been to Yosemite either.
Tuolumne Meadows looking towards Lembert Dome
Cathedral Lake with Cathedral Peak behind
Although it was hot in the valley (~30C) it was much more pleasant up higher and we were very lucky with the weather all week as it was clear blue skies and not even the slightest threat of thunderstorms which are quite common in summer and often prevent you from walking up on to the granite domes as they become slippy, not to mention getting hit by lightning.
Yosemite also has several big stands of the very large sequoia trees (related to the redwood). These are the largest trees in the world by volume. These trees were in fact one of the reasons that Yosemite was first made in to a National Park. The early tourists cut tunnels in to several different trees to create a tourist attraction.
A very large sequoia - supposedly the wood in one tree is equivalent to one acre of pine!! But it takes several hundred/thousand years to grow.
Steve and Aaron in the sequoia tunnel tree.
Despite the hundreds of signs to make sure you used bear lockers for your food and "speeding kills bears" along the roads, we never saw a single one. Supposedly we just missed one on a walk to the bottom of Bridalveil falls. We did see lots of squirrels, chipmunks and quite a few birds and dear. Sometimes you looked around the forest and the whole ground seemed to be alive with squirrels and chipmunks.
One of the many grey squirrels
On the last day we were finally feeling good about walking in the heat and altitude, so we figured we were as ready as we would ever be to attempt walking up Half Dome. The walk is 26 km and 1480 m climb and takes around 10-12 hours. We set off at 7 am in the cool morning and headed up the Mist Track past Vernal and Nevada Falls. This is a steady climb up many steps. Then the walk levels off for a good distance before steadily climbing again, with a final very steep climb right at the top as you climb up the granite domes. The last 100 m is up a series of cables with the odd wooden step across. The problem is that they put the cables in the same place every year and the rock has become rather smooth and slippy.
The cables up the last part of Half Dome
Helen climbing the cables on Half Dome
There were quite a few people and there were a few traffic hold ups on the way up and down the cables as there isn't a huge amount of room to pass, especially when everyone is wearing backpacks. We were climbing it in the low season, so I can't imagine the queues in the middle of summer.
We all made it to the top and had some amazing views back down the Yosemite Valley and up towards the Sierra's to the east. We were all starting to suffer a little on the walk back down as we got tired and our feet got sore. We had taken 3 litres of water and several sports drinks, but Aaron and Steve ran out as it was pretty hot and dry. Luckily a guy offered to filter us some water from the Merced River, so we topped up half way down.
Aaron and Helen on top of Half Dome
It was a very enjoyable week in Yosemite. We managed to see many of the sights and do many of the one day/short walks. It was also great to catch up with Steve.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
I decided to try something a little different and headed across to Salvation. This is a nice track that meanders up Wright's Hill. From there I followed the fence line around the Sanctuary to the start of Car Parts Extension. the light was fading but the track was open enough that I was still okay without the light on.
Once I reached the start of Car Parts, though, it was dark and overgrown enough that it was time to switch the light on. I really like Car Parts. It is a fast and flowing track with just enough tricky bits to keep your heart pumping. The light wasn't totally necessary but it definitely helped out in a few places.
After Car Parts I crossed the road and jumped onto he Rollercoaster. This is just fire trail with a few jumps built on it. I took the nana lines around all but the easiest jumps as I don't really like to leave the ground that much. At the bottom of the Rollercoaster I jumped onto Choppers from some rutted switchback fun.
From Aro Valley I went through town and up Marjoriebanks Street to Mount Vic. I scared some poor woman with the brightness of my light on the main fire trail. I scooted down the other side and home without any more hassles.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The ride started out with a really fun cruisy climb up the Korokoro Stream valley. We then took the track up to Oakleigh Street. From there we rode along the road to the start of the Old Coach Road.
From there we made our way to Belmont Trig (457m). The track down was pretty interesting: steep and loose, but not as bad as yesterday. We descended to the Horokiwi Valley. The track follows another stream down the valley for a few kilometres. By follow I mean beside, through and in the stream. We ended up with very soaked feet.
The track eventually hooked back up with the one we rode in on. This was again a gentle stroll back to the car. We made in back in almost exactly three hours.
The road climbs a fair bit from the intersection by the windmill up to the turn off to the Tip Track and Red Rocks. I was getting pretty tired by this point and the “final” hill to the start of Red Rocks took me a while to complete.
But then the downhill began. At the start it was fast fire-trail that quickly deteriorated into fist sizes boulders and steep grades. There were a few pinch climbs to negotiate that drove home the fact that I had been riding for nearly four hours all ready. One was so bad I had to walk it.
The final descent is ridiculously steep with and covered with large jagged rocks. Even if I wasn’t exhausted I doubt I could have ridden it. I struggled just to walk down the last bit. But it was over quickly and soon we were smashing it back to civilization. Josh was getting picked up and I need to get home before it got dark.
I reached home about 6:15PM as it was just getting pretty dark. All up it was about 5.25 hours and maybe 60km. I laid on the couch the rest of the evening and was in bed around 9:00PM.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Last night I finally had a chance to give it a try. Bec and I headed up to
We climbed up Salley Alley to a point where we could bail out and head over to Ridgeline Extension. I switched over to the high beam for the descent. It was okay but with all the twists and turns I really missed having a light on my head. Most of the time the light was not pointed where I wanted it to be.
We continued down SWIGG and Starfish to the bottom. Then we rode back up Koru to the Start of Lazy Fern. Going down Lazy Fern I had the same problem as before. Because the light was mounted on the bar it was not lighting the right part of the trail. I will have to suss out a helmet mount before trying it out again.
The light seemed to work really well and it will be interesting to see how it holds up over time.
Monday, August 31, 2009
The course was pretty long compared to what I was used too from Canberra with significantly more climbing involved.
The race started up a steep tarseal road (grades of 10-11% for the first km). We then headed into the first bit of singletrack. My grade started with some of the younger guys (under 15s maybe) who sprinted up the hill only to slow down heaps in the singletrack. There was a short bit of uphill fire trail after the first singletrack which I used to pass quite a few of the youngsters and a few of the guys in my category (including a guy on a full rigid singlespeed).
After that we were back into the singletrack and heading down. I was held up by other couple riders before hitting the bottom. We had sharp right hand corner to negotiate where I managed to cut inside the guy in front of me which left me with a pretty clear go for the next few kilometres.
We climbed most of the way to the top of Makara Peak before turning left and heading down a ridge. One the faster female riders had passed me on the last bit of uphill so I made it my task to try and catch her up on the down. She was riding really well and took me quite a while to catch her up. She went into Nikau just ahead of me and set a really good pace down it. I find if I try to go fast downhill I usually just end up doing stupid things and going slower in the end. The pace was just right and we flew down Nikau. The climb out of Nikau is pretty much all uphill, rocky and bit damp making it pretty difficult ride cleanly. There was a fair amount of traffic in this section with people coming off their bikes and not much room to pass. The fast girl left me behind as I was really starting to feel tired now.
It was probably four kilometres and 100 metres of climbing to the top of the last hill. I had to use the granny gear a few times to keep moving and give my sore back a bit of a break. It was slow going for a while and I probably lost a fair bit of time here.
Once at the top it was pretty much all downhill. I could see a couple guys just ahead of me on the last few switchbacks so I tried to catch them up down the fire trail. I didn’t manage, maybe if I had Dave Osmond’s fire trail descending skills I might have. There was a short bit of uphill before turning into the last bit of singletrack. I put all I had left into trying to close the gap on that hill and came close, but they both got in before me.
I had shortened the gap considerably on the hill though and set about chasing them down. Ridgeline Extension is one of my favourite tracks and I knew it well. By about halfway down I had managed to close the gap and sat in behind the guy ahead of me. The track ends at a fire trail and a new track picks up on the other side. A bit of passing confusing meant that the lead guy went in first followed be me and the guy that was ahead of me just behind.
The last two tracks SWIGG and Starfish are fast downhill tracks. The guy in front of took off and I hammered after him. He was flying through the corners and riding really smoothly through them. I barely managed to stay with him. At the bottom of the hill this time we turned left out onto the tarseal to the finish. I pulled up next to this guy and he said that was probably his best run down those last two tracks ever. I had to agree.
It was about half a kilometre on the tarseal to the finish. I rolled across in 1:35:54 tenth in my class out of 36. I was pretty happy with that given most of the guys ahead of me were way ahead of me (5 and 10 minutes except the guy who finished ninth).
Friday, August 28, 2009
While Helen was out tramping I was riding my mountain bike. On their way out of town Helen and Anne-Laure dropped me off in Johnsonville at the northern end of the Skyline Track. My plan was to follow it all the way to south coast.
The proposed route
The track started out friendly enough, but quickly turned a corner and went up a steep grassy slope. I was off the bike and walking. Shortly, the slope started to mellow out and I was back riding again. The track wound its way up and over a ridge giving me my first glimpse of Mt Kau Kau. The Kennett Brothers have built a bunch of new singletrack along the track to make some of the climbs easier for cyclists as well as adding cattle stops to bypass most of the gates.
The track continued to climb up towards Mt Kau Kau getting quite steep near the top. From the top of Mt Kau Kau I had 360 degree views: down to city and up to Porirua and Pahatinui Inlet. Now, finally some downhill! The track down from Mt Kau Kau was a bit bumpy and I managed to catch some air a few times. This was bit scary as it was fairly windy at this stage and if I left the ground I got pushed sideways a fair bit as well.
City view from Mt Kau Kau
At the car park I stopped for a bit of rest and muesli bar. After a wee rest I was back on the bike and heading up Salvation to the top of Wrights Hill. From there it was along the Sanctuary Fenceline towards the windmill. When I finally reached the tarseal near the windmill I was faced with a decision: carry on down to the coast as planned or go straight across the road into Car parts Extension? It was still pretty windy and quite cold when hit by it full force. I decided to keep to the sheltered singletrack and went straight.
Car Parts Extension and Car Parts are some of my favourite tracks in
All up, the ride was about four hours and maybe 40-45km. A big morning out and I spent most of the afternoon on the couch recovering.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
I went with Anne-Laure and for this short, but typical Tararua style walk, with very steep ups and downs and a rather twisty, rooty path. It was, however, nice to use the walking muscles again. I have to say I was a bit sore on Monday.
Lots of lovely ferns in the Tararua forests
View from Kapakapanui Trig onto the Kapiti coast and island
It was an almost perfect day - except it was a little hazy and I forgot my lunch! Fortunately Anne-Laure took pity on me and shared hers!
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I also got my first bunch of flowers from my husband - so I thought I better write about it on the blog for a record. Then I can never complain that he has never bought me flowers as you all know now. He even picked some of my favourite flowers, daffodils and irises, which suggests he knows something about me after 6 years of living together. (Or it was a lucky guess!)
Birthday flowers - delivered to work!
I also got breakfast made for me by Aaron and an amazing raspberry cheesecake as a birthday cake (payment for tearing down walls). So it was a pretty good birthday considering earlier in the week I had been rather down about being another year older!
Monday, July 27, 2009
Helen skiing in the fresh powder