Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Glen's back in the blog drivers seat!

Thing is it was always Sherren's blog. Her idea, she set it up but when I came to the writing bit, not a lot was happening, so I jumped in. Now I stand accused of a blog mutiny, well sometimes. And it's therapeutic. Some say the devil makes work for idle hands but for me it's an idle mind. So best keep that devil at bay.

We bid farewell to Stewart Island with Vlad in the pilot seat again. It was a pretty calm flight over the Foveaux Strait. Unfortunately the only thing we could see were fishing vessels dragging nets as far as the eye could see.

We Took Stewart Islands Jumbo Back to The Mainland

I Took The Supervisors Seat Next to Vlad The Pilot Again

Did all our chores (shopping, washing, petrol, stock up on cash, bought Sherren a hot water bottle) then made half a plan to head for the Fiords.

Observations - Invercargill has the worlds largest liquor stores. Riverton had a granny rolling down the footpath on a scooter (not the motorised kind).

Iphone is brown bread. Takes about 6 hours to charge and lasts anywhere from 10 minutes to half a day (in flight mode). Won't go into it as I could rant all day but am seriously put off by Apple's failings. Hardware, software and incompatibilities with just about everything. Not to mention the fact that when I transfer my iTunes account to another country (required to make a purchase here) they delete everything I've purchased in the UK. Didn't realise you had to purchase a licence to listen to your music etc in another country.

Camped beside Lake Monowai now. We've not done any yoga for a while as it's just too cold. Just a few passive stretches in the car. Top temp today was about 11° with an overnight of 3°. Bonus is the fire ban seems to have been lifted so we had a camp fire tonight. I'm The Twisted Firestarter and Sherren is Smokey Sherrenson.

Our Resident Pyromaniac

2° today. Is it even autumn yet? Just passed Lake Manapouri. Couldn't see it, white out. 2 red deer hinds ran in front of of the car earlier. They're like cats at night and go for the far side. No emergency action needed though.
(Sherren - it was so cold this morning we just shuffled from the back of the car to the front, no coffee or breakfast, with the promise of stopping when it warmed up.)

We headed up the Kepler Track and instantly saw where all the money goes. The track is superbly maintained. So much so you could get a wheelchair up further than we walked (24km return). And the hut we passed, well I've never seen anything like it ever. Multi-storey, flushing toilets, generators, showers and a team of 4 rat/pest catchers on daily return shifts (5 caught on the first shift). More like a chalet in the Alps than a hut. Such a contrast from the other great walks we've completed. Some beautiful views too but that comes with most the mountainous  
terrain around.
Passed through Te Anau to get info, gas and groceries and wow this place is posh. Millionaires paradise. Nicer hotels than you get in Auckland and super wide roads like they're planning for something big.
Tonight we camp beside Lake Te Anau with a sunset view over the lake. Sherren just spotted a cute little kitten. Unfortunately it's a ferrel one and probably ate a Kiwi for dinner.

Most the forest around here is beech with fern undergrowth. It looks a lot like The Moon of Endor and I'm half expecting a bunch of Ewoks to jump me.

Lake Something (So Many We Lost Count) By The Kepler Track
Both of us have lost the urge for hiking as much. It's a bit like getting castle/art gallery/church fatigue in Europe. And especially since it undoes so much of the hard work in yoga. I'd just got my knees down in baddha konasana (for non yogis, that's several months of physical discomfort and mental hurdles overcome) and Sherren's supta konasana was looking fantastic. Now those hips are tight as anything. Guruji said "practice and all is coming", well don't practice and it starts going.
We're still thinking about doing one more great walk and will decide as we head north again.

Now there's no way I'm complaining but being on holiday for several years is almost like having a job (the unpaid kind). You have to be motivated, use time (fairly) wisely, work to a budget and take breaks (from perpetual travelling) to avoid burnout. But most importantly you have to enjoy it.

Heard a great quote from Jim Carey of all people recently. Most people experience failure in careers they don't enjoy so why not take the chance and do something you do enjoy. Just something to ponder till we eventually do go back to work. 

Rainy day today which set a fitting mood for the Milford Sounds. Stunning views of glacial carved mountains and valleys with cascading waterfalls. The rivers and sea here are crystal clear and pollution free. With the clouds, mountains and mist, the multiple shades of grey make these look like shadow mountains.

Tunnel To The Sounds

A Bit Like Coming Out The Tunnel in Monaco - Drive Like You Stoled It!

The Shadow Mountains

 [Sherren - it was warm enough this morning for breakfast and a slow start to Milford Sounds, it was a slog of a drive (for the car), with one massive tunnel which looked hand carved, it is single carriageway and if you are at a stop light you are given a countdown down from 5 minutes!  The mountains are amazing, they are so shear and dark, truly looks untouched.  I was disappointed with the visitor centre hoping to be given lots of info on the geology only to find a posh building full of tour operators trying to get you on a ferry.  The area seams to have its own weather pattern with an annual rainfall of 6.7 meters (only bit of useful info I found), and true to form it was raining and cloudy.  Rather than drive straight on to Queenstown we are taking another night at a doc camp near Te Anau.]

Camping beside the Eglington River tonight. Some Chinese just pulled in, got out and proceeded to photograph the grass and inspect the stones on the gravel road before using the loo. Then they posed for photos beside the loo. Pure fascination. This made me think of Canary Wharf as they come there and take photos of bare concrete walls and steps instead of looking up at the more impressive skyline. Must be a cultural thing I don't understand.

Looky Looky

Conspiracy theory: DOC place signs up that say 'Kiwi Spotting Area' then you meet trappers that are catching 5 rats a day or you see rats, cats and stoats with your own eyes. Point is, you see these, you ain't gonna see those! Good luck looking.

My turn in the drivers seat again today. Sherren doesn't like me driving cause I crank the tunes, play drum solos on the staring wheel, shout along with riffs and scream along to guitar solos. All with the stance of a one handed rally driver. My behaviour is pretty much the same in the passenger seat only with a lower risk to life or injury.

Today's plan was Queenstown and surrounds but after an hour in town realised this town is full of nothing but adrenaline junkies and perpetual partiers who drink petrol for a laugh. Not really my scene anymore. Like a cross between Magaloof and an all you can drink Andorra.
Pulled into the Camping ground and it was literally a gravel car park. We both looked at each other and said eff that we're not paying to stay here and drove on to Wanaka.

Hello Wanaka. Not been to town yet but we're camped beside the lake with more fantastic views. Drove past some pretty impressive real estate on the way to the camp too. Ranch style multi acre blocks you might expect to find in the Hamptons.

Land Corp. not sure who or what this company is but they seem at a guess to own at least 50% of South Island farms (the big industrialised ones) and proudly display their company logo as far as our eyes can see. The people have been removed from the farming equation along with ethics and replaced by multi national conglomerates, owned by hedge funds and managed by investment banks whose funds come from so many sources you'd have to say we all have a piece of this pie. Even farmers are becoming redundant on these estates with stock being monitored by software driven drones to increase profits for their unknowing stockholders. Even dead cattle have been left to decompose as they lay. Removal is just an added expense.

If you want to throw a conspiracy theory out there. Check out some Arnold Swarzenegger films like The Terminator and Total Recall. For those of you who don't have a huge Arnold man crush and have not seen the films (shame on you). In The Terminator, software driven machines become self aware and take over the world and in Total Recall the world and planets are owned and run by multi national corporations that control all commodities including air. Now let's take a jump back to reality. Recently even Bill Gates has warned us about A.I becoming self aware as evolution in this field moves at an alarming rate. And when it comes to commodities, corporations control land, forests and oil where previously only our own governments had power (at least we know who's ceding control of our commodities even if there's nothing we can do about it). And now that dick who runs Nestle come out and publicly states water is a commodity to which we should have no right (lest we pay) and it won't take long until air is next.  Then there's Monsanto genetically modifying the food chain so no one but they can grow crops but I'll save that rant for another day.
Art imitating life or life imitating art? You choose. Just remember without Star Trek, we may not even have cell phones or automatic doors at the supermarket yet.

(Sherren - Land Corp could also be a ethical business helping small farmers to stay on their farms and work the land .... Hmmmm... Well maybe.... Albeit I don't think Animal farming is either ethical or necessary. Somehow to see herds of dear caged in a paddock either waiting to have their antlers removed for velvet or to be slaughtered to tickle our tastebuds really brings it home for me, if seeing the hopeless cows, sheep and alpaca wasn't enough. The scenery today has been fab, huge lakes carved by glacier ice. And the road to Wanaka was paved with orchards and extremely cheap fruit, tummy ache here we come with a ton of apricots and nectarines, hopefully we will find a cherry stall on the way out)

Wanaka part 2. Bring your platinum card.

Haast Pass is pretty vast with more of those views I'm starting to take for granted. A view of some London brick work would do right about now. 

A Haast Local

West Coast. Finally the wild. If not for the odd road you may be forgiven for thinking people never made it here. Shame we're in a car. I'd like to be lost in the middle of this with nothin but my thoughts.

Grumpy Glen is out today. We're camped at Gillespie's Beach near the base of Fox Glacier and even stayed up for the sunset on the beach. It's an 8 site camp and about 24 have popped up (not surprising as it's one of the few free ones). Scene on the beach is constant movement and encroachment on each other's space. Seems being 3 foot closer to the sun when it's 20 million kilometres away makes a world of difference with a 20mm lens. Like fuck you dickheads! Sit down and enjoy it in 3D (with your eyes) and if you turn 180° every now and then you just may see Aoraki pop it's head out the clouds to bid the sun good night.

(Sherren - today's drive was pretty nice, there were a couple of wow moments, when following the lake and realising how vast it is, to a tree lined road opening up to views of the ocean with crashing waves and the smell of sea spray. The forecast was promising and it got warm about 3pm, so I had a go at yoga, getting through opening sun salutations, wearing long trousers, long sleeved jumper, and still getting bitten by the West Coast sand flies. Their stories hold up, the are tenacious, trying to get up my nose and in my ears! I had to run away, after applause from a bunch of fishermen who were making the most of the end of the fishing season. Just wish I could have entertained them for longer.
We watched the sun go down on the beach, well I mostly watched the clouds of 'photographers' trying to get perfectly lined up with the sun, tricky business.
We camp tonight in the busiest little car park I have seen, it's a doc camp with water and loos, and about 30 cars squished in, I hope no one snores!)

Left Gillespie's bright and early at 09:00. Sun isn't really rising till 08:00 now so it's as early as we manage. On the bridge out we ran into Peter again. We'd first met Peter and Rose on the TA trail near Ruapehu, then again on Stewart Island. They've been the only people we met doing the TA that have not only not missed any sections out but also walked every single kilometre. Hats off to them and good luck in reintegrating back to a normal working life. After a wee chat and scaring off the Kea Peter was photographing, we set off to see the Glaciers. 

Now they are what they are. Big lumps of rapidly shrinking ice. Half a meter a day in fact. And that's about all you can really say about them. They're worth a look and the tourist traffic on the walks was remarkably light.

Fox From Gillespies

A Shrinking Lump of Ice

Another Shrinking Lump of Ice

Budget Cuts See Staff Replaced with Cardboard Cutouts

I usually check the price of real estate every town we pass. Just out of morbid curiosity if anything.
Now I've had some conversations about how over inflated NZ real estate is of late. 
(average house price in NZ in more than the UK now at $500k yet average salaries are nearly half at $50k. That's a 10 to 1 ratio which is ridiculous given the 1 to 14 population difference competing for roughly the same amount of land). 
And I have been challenged in my view, with suggestions it's Auckland pushing up the price. Well The going rate in Wanaka is 1.25 million, Queenstown 500k to 1 million, Franz Josef 750k, Murchison 500k. Even in Haast, which has nothing and is in the middle of nowhere is selling empty sections for 200k. Think I've been priced out of this country.

(Sherren - we did both Fox Glacier and Frans Joseph today, hurrying from one to the next in fear of the impending cloud and rain (which never arrived). FJ is definitely bigger, that said the view from the otherside near Mount Cook of a small one is equally impressive. I wish that someone would brush all the dirt/slag off them as they would be even better.  I heard Glen do a little 'wow' today and demand "pull over", I waited whilst he rushed to explore a beautiful blue glacial stream. We are now at a campsite at Lake Mahinapua, and there aren't any Sandflies..... The cheeky Weka bird tried to leg it with our washing up bowl, but alas it was just a bit too big for it, maybe Weka eat Sandflies)

The loss of interest in hiking has pushed us north quicker than we had planned. Hokatika was a nice town, Greymouth not so and on to Westport. Some nice old buildings in town with a population that seems to be stuck in an 80's time warp, with the high street shops to suit. From what I recall this was a mining town, only now there can't be too much work on as there's a fair few down and outers sitting around the streets with their boxes of beers.

Stopped at Punakaiki (The Pancake Rocks) on the way and was pleasantly surprised how cool they look. DOC has made a great little walk among Flax and Nikau palms from the highway.

We left the west coast through the Buller Gorge, emerging near Murchison to what looked like the British Empire's scorched earth campaign. Anyone that's read up on the Boer wars in South Africa will know that the British Empire laid waste to everything including farmhouses and crops, whilst detaining all civilians in concentration camps so as to prevent Boer South African civilians from aiding their soldiers. Only here it's the farming and logging industries that have laid waste to the land. A real shame that is what eventually becomes of these ancient forests. 

The Interesting Roads Before Scorched Earth

Heading to Motueka thinking it would be a nice place to stay as it's the gateway to the Abel Tasman national park. We were wrong on that one. Checked a couple of camping grounds out only to drive straight out in disappointment. Then while in town figuring out what to do an opportunistic thief with his 5 mates thought he'd check the contents of our car out while Sherren was in the back (glovebox was open with camera and iPad on display), only to look through the passenger window to see me sitting in the drivers seat looking at him. He was pretty cool about it too, strolling off without so much as flinching. 

Moving on again, we're now camped at Totaranui Campsite on the Abel Tasman great walk. Got more cheeky Weka here who seem to get a rough time from the Pukeko. We actually decided not to do this 5 day walk but will stroll up the tracks for a day just to give it a glance.

Flexing My Mussels
Looky Looky

Drivers: foreign drivers have a bad rep in the NZ press at the moment. Apparently 1 in 12 road fatalities is caused by a foreigner. Thing is, in the South Island foreign drivers outnumber local drivers. So statistically they are safer drivers. IMO. 
Here's our experience. On the Otago Peninsula we came round a blind corner to a Chinese man doing a 3 point turn. Off all places. He waved at us "so solly". But on the west coast 2 days ago a local farmer in his ute crossed the centre line coming directly at us. In the same breath he swerved back but had he not, there was nowhere to go in the 1 second of reaction time available. Just hope like hell the airbags deploy on impact.

Definition - Natural: I have b grade movie plot running through my head. Global marketing executives converge on Las Vegas to bang heads ( Las Vegas cheese of course). It's not who you sell to or what you sell to them. That's irrelevant as they'd sell your own turds back to you at a premium if they could and believe me they sometimes do. It's the terms by which they sell. And by that I mean the language.
The point of this conference is to agree which term or terms they can bastardise on their euphemistic treadmill to achieve maximum efficacy. And boom! 'Natural' rolls right off the shelf and fills their bottomless coffers.
Feel free to check the definition of 'Natural' in the dictionary. I haven't but reckon it may go something like this. 'Occurring in nature' or 'unprocessed state'. Now as soon as you squeeze the juice from an orange, remove its fibre, pasteurise it and serve it in it's new high fructose concentrated form it's no longer natural. And that's just orange juice FFS.
Point? Everything on earth was once in a natural state as nature intended but is not as harmless as orange juice. Would you wash with enriched uranium? You might if marketing execs could sell it to you. Natural Irradiation to stem the ageing process. Sounds like a dream come true. And now the marketing folks have applied their neuro linguistic programming and hypnotic affirmation to this term, every time we hear it, we instantly assume it's not only as nature intended but that it is actually healthy and will do us a world of good. Another example of this would be Omega Fish Oil. Whereby you get all the off cuts of fish the supermarkets and stock makers don't want, put it in a huge vat with industrial solvents, heat well beyond 200°c to extract the oil, then reduce down and encapsulate in a pig skin wrapper (gelatine). Package and market as naturalhealthy and even essential and wallah another marketing triumph. If you do feel you need more omega in your life, why not just eat some fish or sprinkle some flax seed on your cereal?
Not sure how to end this film yet but that's the whole point of a b grade movie, you don't have to. But maybe the point would be to define human civilisation as the need to turn profit without ethics or moral. Rambling rant over for now. 

Just read in the DOC centre, Weka were declared extinct from this area in 2001 and are only here due to ongoing human intervention.

Abel Tasman track is another extremely well maintained track suitable for wheelchairs. Even saw a few folk who were just about ready for them or their deathbed. They have a defibrillator at the camp office too! To help keeps death at bay for the bucket listers on trail.

This is How Posh Folk Do A Great Walk - WTF

The Pukeko at this camp act up just like the Weka (stealing things and running off with them). I've not seen them interact so closely with humans before. Weka must be giving them lessons.
They have a rep in NZ as being common, stupid swamp dwelling birds but they're actually remarkably coordinated. Selecting and pulling up grass root with their beaks, clasping the stem with their claw and peeling back the layers of grass to get to the soft stem. Yummy!

(Sherren, the last couple of nights here at the Tasman have been nice, it's a huge campsite, the weather yesterday was fab, Glen even went for a dip, not a swim, just a dip, I watched, it looked cold.  The Sandflies and mossies are plaguing us a bit, during the day it's not so bad but at night you are woken by their feeding calls, then wake in the morning bumpy and itching. Last night I had to pee and heard the sound of what I think was deer roaring, a low guttural moan, quite distant, but it definitely made me get a wiggle on. Glen is not sure they roar at night, if it wasn't deer it must have been the boogie monster. Today we head off for 'Shambala' in Golden Bay where we have the luxury of staying in a double room, hot showers and a yoga studio so we can get back on track :-) it's a long windy hilly drive out of here, about an hour to drive 20km, we might stop at a gallery and coffee shop I saw on the way up, I'm getting a taste for Chai Latte, soy milk of course.)

Fricken Cold

We've slowed the pace now and have stopped moving. Staying at an Eco backpackers in golden bay. They have solar electric and all the other zipity doo dahs that go with it. They even have a yoga shala atop the hill. Had a couple morning practices and wasn't feeling too far off the money till I pinched a nerve in my thoracic during closing sequence (rolling down to matsiasana). Thought I was going to throw up from the pain and broke out in a cold shaky sweat instantly. It's officially my first real yoga injury. Was hoping to never get one as I take so much care these days but it came out of nowhere. Pretty depressed about it as last time I pinched a nerve in my cervical (4 years ago) it never healed and I've had to live with it since. MRI and the NHS said degenerative disk disorder which is a posh way to say your shit is wearing out ahead of schedule you old goat. Warren Zevon would say "ya shit's fucked up"

So skipped breakfast crawled under the car to do some reattaching of a cowling that needed some attention then we headed up to Farewell Spit. Checked out the seal pups playing in the pools at Wharariki Beach first. They're pretty cute to watch flipping over each other and racing in and out the water. Couldn't  get many decent pics with our point and shoot camera. Need one of those Canon 7Doodacky jobs set to Girls on Film mode to get that kind of action.
Wind was howling and we were getting sand blasted so made for the car then headed for the spit.
Only wondered round for a few minutes before deciding against a 12km walk in this wind. Sightseeing fatigue's still strong as ever and back to our haunts for a chill.

Saw a pitch coal black Fantail yesterday. Never seen one of those before. I'll note it in my bird watching diary. Then out of the shear mental boredom of not having a job or any real purpose other than self satisfaction, decided to weave a flax basket. Not having any know how in this area and no resources available to learn as we are even without Internet, I winged it and produced a pretty damn good little man bag. It would have been bigger but I also got bored collecting and preparing the flax.
If you're out there Kurt? I need a swift kick to the head and a cold beer to reset whatever's gone awry in my head.

7 days at Shambhala. 10 hours sleep and yoga each day. Feeling pretty good. Back is starting to come right, although taking it pretty easy.

We're in Nelson now, visiting some family. Good to see these folk again and everyone's doing well. This was always my favourite place to visit as a kid. Think we got spoilt rotten back then. And to be fair, we still get spoilt rotten. Aunt Vicky has been doing a fantastic job catering for our kooky dietary needs.
We've also been chaperoned around some of the vineyards for a bit of tasting and had a grand tour of the area complete with Uncle Murray's history (almost like a London bus tour).

Caught Sherren scoffing her peanut butter out of the jar with her fingers today (Pics peanut butter - made in Nelson). Completely lost for words. Think she may be addicted!

The weather was promising a rough ride back over the Cook Straight today with some 90kph gusts and a 2 meter swell but it's actually pretty flat. We started this adventure with a bad run of the weather but the last 3 months has been flawless.

We land back in Wellington and instantly the lay and feel of the land around is a little more processed. Maybe that's the difference between the North and South or nature and the developed world. A few more layers of change. Each has its own charm and there's no way of comparing the untouched landscapes of the west coast to the cities of Europe or the emerging cities of New Zealand but seeing the stages in between does make me feel something's being lost. And with that thought, 1500km hiked, 8000km driven, we pretty much conclude our NZ adventure and head north to sell the car and make plans for our next stage of this adventure.
We have left a few things out on this trip, as I invariably always do on most my trips. But in a way, that’s a something for next time policy. Maybe when we write a bucket list.

North Bound

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