Heading north…

Im heading up to Auckland today for a couple of weeks…some work related things are afoot…more on that soon hopefully!

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Friday music choice 23.10.09

In 2005, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Grenpeace ship The Rainbow Warrior in Auckland, a remarkable recording of The Muttonbirds’ classic song ‘Anchor Me’ was released, with proceeds donated to Greenpeace.

The unprecedented recording features vocals from Goldenhorse’s Kirsten Morelle, Che Fu, Anika Moa, Pluto’s Milan Borich, Adeaze, Hinewehi Mohi and Nesian Mystik’s David Atai & Donald McNulty.

The road to who knows where?

The road to who knows where?Having done some running on the trails in and around Wrights Hill, Karori and Makara, I had been thinking about doing a trek into the wilderness that is South Karori. 

Just off of my usual running route I had spotted vast proliferation of trails and using the wonder of Google Maps, I had deduced that a lot of them went to the coast south of Wellington and some went east to Makara Beach. It’s an area with very few people, vast amounts of rugged country and ample space to explore…and get lost.

So I packed my outdoor bag with food, my 2lt camelback, my leatherman multi tool, first aid kit, survival bag, spare windproof and waterproof layers and off I went.

After the 30 minute walk up to Wrights Hill, over the spine and into the valley by the back of Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, I turned off past the private road and headed down towards Long Gully which is a beautiful valley filled with lush green vegetation; perfect spot then for the 25 wind turbines which are due to be situated there in the future…

Not long after crossing into Long Gully, I came across a large wide stretch of dirt that has (apparently) been used as an airstrip in the past; quite why anyone would feel the need to land a plane in such a random place is beyond me. Currently the area is being used as a go-kart/motocross track with large amounts of tyres making a course. It wouldn’t be the last random thing I would stumble across during my trek…

As I wandered down the track that runs the length of Long Gully, and as it stretched out before me, I began to wonder how long it would go on for.

 As I walked long in the middle of nowhere, I thought it would be nice to have some sort of rugged staff to walk along with, Moses style. No sooner had that thought entered my mind when just around the next bend of the track I saw a long piece of wood lying directly in the middle of the track –a perfect staff to walk with. I laughed at how cool God is when it comes to things like that and it was the first of my 3 God moments during the walk.

Krazy Karori trackAs I continued on the 4×4 track with the sun belting down on me, I began to see a whole myriad of trails diverting off it; walking trails, motorbike trails and mountain bike trails. It was very exciting to think about the fun that could be had in such an area.

As I looked into one gully I saw the most amazing motocross trail (it was handily signposted with “DANGER! Motorbikes travelling FAST on this trail” with a quite spectacular jump as you can see in the picture.

The jump ramp was taller than me (prob close to 8ft I would say) and the gap to the landing spot was easily 20ft+. Suffice to say you would need cojones of quite a size to attempt such a jump.

I know some mountain bikers who would have a go at it, but I am not definitely not one of them. I tried a jump off a 4ft ramp in Canada and after that little experience, I know my limits.

Further down the track were even more trails with loads of jumps and ramps and clearly South Karori is motocross bike heaven. Maybe one weekend I will venture there with my camera and record the tomfoolery that occurs.

GoatsAs I carried on walking I began to see some geese, some rabbits, a few sheep and goats…lots of goats. I stopped counting after I got to 50 as there were so many of them all over the area. They were very cute and you could almost get within touching distance before they legged it.

They were nimble little beggars too with the ability to shoot up a near vertical incline in record speed. Apparently they are being culled at the moment but I reckon the hunters will have a hard job getting them because they are like ninjas with hooves.

You can hear their bleating all over the hills and the patter of small rocks being dislodged above you as they navigate across the hills. I made sure that I was in the middle of the track if I heard them above me. I don’t think I would live it down if I got knocked out by stone dislodged by a mountain goat.

South Island viewAfter 2 and half hours of trekking in hot sunshine, the track split by a farm and began to venture downwards. As I rounded a corner I came across a solitary house with this amazing view across the Cook Strait to the Kaikoura Ranges on the South Island.

On one level I can’t understand why anyone would choose to live a 30 minute drive away from civilization down a dirt track only accessible by 4×4 but when you wake up to view like this every morning and with nothing but the sound of nature, you can see why people would choose to live there.

Still, i think you really need to love your own compnay if you are going to live so far from the madding crowd.

The track meandered downwards towards the coast and as I rounded a bend, I came across this second God moment; a seaman’s altar high up on the cliff with this writing on it:

Altar “Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the waves of the sea – the LORD on high is mighty.” Psalm 93:4 God is always greater than all our troubles.

I say it was second God moment because as I was walking down that part of the track, I was praying about my current situation which has been giving me concern of late (no job so far and little money left).

Seeing this sacred place out of the way where so few people would see it, together with the verse was a huge encouragement to me and a reminder that God is indeed greater.

BayEventually the track reached the bottom of the coast just round from Sinclair Head and the little bay I found myself in was amazing. Turquoise blue waters, with soft grey sand, huge rocks and lots of kelp, all surrounded by towering cliffs. There were a few houses on the beach and the only access was to drive all the way in from Karori along the track I just walked or to drive round on the beach from Owhiro Bay. It was even more remote then the house on top of the ridge. People clearly love their isolated spots!

After navigating my way round the headland, I realised that the sand was getting very soft –very tricky for anyone driving a 4X4. Just as I thought that, two Toyota Landcruisers went past me on the beach…

…and just round the next corner, one of them came to grief. Up to his axles in sand and trying to get out. With some mighty heaving and shoving and with all 6 people from the cars on the running boards to add pressure, we managed to get it out which was lucky, as the tide was coming in fast and he had only been a few feet from the water. It wouldn’t have been nice for the driver to give the sea his car as a present!

As i continued down the beach, I saw that I couldn’t go any further due to fenced off farmers land, so I had two options; one, find a way out over the ridge or go back the way I came. I opted for the former and after climbing the very steep sand dune of approximately 100ft tall, I was shattered. I climbed over the ridge to be met by more fenced in farmer’s land. Grrrr. I bucked authority and climbed over the fence and tried to make for the nearest track.

However on the way across the ridge, I encountered gorse. I say encountered, but what I mean to say is fell in…and I was wearing shorts. My legs took a savaging and this only added to my weary limbs as I made it onto another dirt track which looked the likely way back to Karori.

It was a way of getting back…or so I thought, but in reality it was a path that seemed to go nowhere and I had no idea where it was leading me. Still it was preferable to going cross country across difficult terrain (ie gorse).   As I felt tired and a wee bit concerned that I had taken on too much of  trek, I came round a bend in the track, and there was what I thought was an eagle; In fact it was a kuru or New Zealand hawk,  sitting on the edge of the track. It looked at me, slowly unfurled its wings and flew away, soaring on the updrafts from the valley floor. I saw that there was a pair and I spent a few minutes just marvelling at the sight of them just wheeling away over the hills. Such an amazing sight and an example of God’s amazing creation. At that point, i was reminded of the verse in Isaiah 40: 30-31 

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.   They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Considering how tired i was feeling at that point and had no idea how long it would take me to get home, i felt a surge of energy and joy and i really belive it was the Lord strengthening me to carry on.

Makara streamAfter another hour’s walking I came onto a logging road and followed that down into the valley where the Makara Stream was. This was at the end of South Makara Road which is quite long. About an hour into walking down that, I had a) run out of water and b) realised I was still about an hour from home.

Eventually the road joined onto Makara PeakRoad which wasn’t long; just very steep and with lots of hairpin bends. It was like climbing the Alps and by the time I got to the top by Makara Peak (yes I had to climb down and then climb out to get home) I felt like I had had fallen out of the tired tree and snapped every branch on the way down. I was also sweating like a racehorse and panting like an over excited Alsatian.

Fortunately there was an oasis at the end of the road as I came down off Makara Peak and I came back into civilization: the Karori Park Dairy. Ahh sweet nectar in the form of PowerAde energy drinks and chocolate bars!!!

So, with weary and gorse scarred legs I made my way back home after 7 hours and 20+ miles of tackling the road to who knows where.

Actually I do know where it goes; it just takes a very long time to get there…

Chillaxing in C-sector

On Friday Ingrid and I took the long drive up SH1 to the Waikato to visit her brothers in Cambridge –AKA Town of Trees but known by the cool kids as “C-sector”.

Desert RoadThe journey up was fairly uneventful apart from some heavy bouts of rain and cloud and this made for interesting trip as we drove across the Desert Road past the mountains.

The light was amazing and it made us feel like we were driving across the surface of the moon. It was definitely a day for black and white pictures to capture the brooding mood.

After a stop at Rangitikei Gorge for a picnic lunch and a tea and cake stop in Taupo, we eventually made it to Cambridge in late evening we arrived at Rich and Hilly’s and after some great fish and chips, we retired to bed.

The sun was shining brightly on Saturday morning and after a cafe stop and a lengthy tour of Cambridge, we made it back to the house and let Rich walk in first as it was his birthday…

..and he didn’t know about the surprise party waiting for him!

Suffice to say he was shocked but happy as about 30 people were present. The bbq was well under way and with the sunny weather it made for a good day as we played backyard cricket (at which I suck quite badly) until the thunderstorm rolled in and rain stopped play. Still it was good fun to get to know some of the C-sector crowd and eat fine cake!

Later in the evening, Ingrid’s other brother Luke and his wife Kristen joined us and the 6 of us went down to the local sports bar to watch Waikato thump Northland in the rugby. We had all thought about going to the stadium in Hamilton (aka the mighty Tron) but the forecast persuaded us otherwise…which was just as well as it tunred into an almighty storm and it would have meant us all cowering for cover at the match.

So much better to watch the game from the comfort of a warm bar where you only have to walk 3 steps to get a beer…

Towards the end of the game the bar’s musical act for the night turned up. When the band turned up resplendent in bandannas, heavy metal t-shirts and heavily tattooed, we were slightly concerned. Our concern grew when they unfurled their band name”Meat-hed”. Fortunately the game ended just before they started their act, but if their warm up is anything to go by, I’m glad that we left when we did.

On Sunday, following a lengthy lie in, the 6 of us together with Ingrid’s Aunt Judi enjoyed a fine lunch made up of the vast array of left over from the party the day before. This gave us more than enough energy for the long journey back to Wellington.

AlpacasAs we departed C-sector we headed out to Luke and Kristen’s house in the beautiful area near Matamata. 

They have an amazing view across the valley and they share with a variety of  dogs, cats, chickens, sheep, 3 tame lambs who followed us everywhere and their 3 alpacas!

It was great fun to try and round up chickens, and alpacas are hilarious animals. So cute and yet so shy and they always seem to have such a daft expression on their faces!

It would have been fun to stay longer but sadly we had to bid goodbye to the Waikato lands and armed with freshly laid eggs, we headed south.

Desert Road rainbow

In going back through National Park we encountered another epic rainstorm but with low lying sun and cloud, it made Mt Ngarahuoe appear stunning. The rainbows that we saw as we crossed the Desert Road were just wonderful and it was a sight to behold.

After a brief stop at Huka Falls (which was more impressive than the last time I was there), we progressed further south and the hunt for food for dinner became more important.

However, trying to find somewhere open for dinner in small town New Zealand after 8pm is quite a task I can tell you. Eventually after unsuccessful forays in Tirau and Levin we had to bite the bullet and have subway in Bulls; yeah i know….unbelive-a-bull!

We made it back to Welly at midnight after a great weekend and to anyone who says Waikato is dull; I say you should go chillax in C-sector!

The old and the new

Old and new

Wellington has a wide and varied mix of old and new buildings.

In the foreground is the Government Buildings Historic Reserve, (more commonly referred to as the Old Government Buildings), situated on Lambton Quay.

It was completed in 1876, is the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere, and the second-largest wooden building in the world (after Tōdai-ji in Nara, Japan).

It was built to house New Zealand’s civil service, and now houses the Victoria University of Wellington’s Law School and the justices of the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

The building, is classified as a “Category I” (“places of ‘special or outstanding historical or cultural heritage significance or value”) historic place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The piles, originally totara, are now concrete. All structural framing is Tasmanian hardwood (now augmented with pinus radiata), while weatherboards, flooring and finishing timbers are kauri.

In the background is another high rise office development; just one of many going up all over the Wellington city centre.

500 days of summer

“This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met the one. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie ‘The Graduate’. The girl, Summer Finn of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parent’s marriage she’d only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know upfront, this is not a love story.”

Saw this on Saturday night and enjoyed it greatly. Quirky, funny, moving and clever and with two of the finest young actors around. Could be one of the films of the year.