Monday, 16 January 2017

Summer Camping at Martinborough

27 December 2015 - 02 January 2016
Team: Mark, Spike, Me

Martinborough Top 10 and greater Wairarapa area

We ummed and ahhed for a really long time about this camping trip last year. Did we go? Where should we go? We originally planned Rotorua, but the campground we wanted was booked out by the time we made a decision. So we thought more laterally, and wound up at Martinborough Top 10 – nice and close to home, but still far enough away to make it an adventure.

We chose the Top 10 because we wanted facilities – hot showers, cookers provided, powered sites, playground equipment – rather than seeing about joining other friends at their annual site up the road which was a farmers back paddock. And the Martinborough one didn’t disappoint (we had been there as a couple for a wedding, so we knew what we were looking at).

The weather was stunning when we arrived, and tent pitching didn’t take too long at all. Our site had morning sun and afternoon shade. While we wished we had bought the blackout blinds to darken things a bit more for better sleep, it was nice that the tent stopped heating up not long after lunchtime, so was a comfortable temperature for sleeping in at night. Tenting with a toddler, we anticipated later nights and early mornings, but they largely weren’t too bad, and we even managed a couple of nights to get some time to ourselves to enjoy wine and cheese at the picnic table adjacent to our site.

We spent a lot of time just chilling out at the campground as a family and with Rebekah (a friend from playgroup) and her family. It was bliss. Between the campground, the nearby school playground, bike rides around town and the pool next door, our days were reasonably full.

We only had two outing days while we were there. The first was to Mt Bruce, inspired by our quest to capture all the “Wild Things” that were around the region. It was a lovely, quiet spot. Not as good as Zealandia, although its biggest advantage was how friendly the kaka were – you had to actively stop them from stealing your food if sitting outside at the cafĂ©, which was a very neat experience.

Our other outing was New Years Day, when we took the car out to Cape Palliser and the Putangirua Pinnacles. It was HOT and both walks were challenging in our slightly-tired state. I wound up with Spike on my back climbing the 200-something stairs up to the lighthouse at Cape Palliser, which was a workout and a half. We stopped for ice-creams on the way back at Ngawi and they were MASSIVE and awesome.

Late evening on New Years Day it started drizzling. Our first rain of the trip. And it just got heavier overnight. New Years Day Holiday dawned overcast and wet, and we somewhat regretted the fact we hadn’t opted to head home the evening before while our tent was still dry. Several more wet weather days followed while we tried to get the tent dry and laundry sorted, which was probably the biggest challenge of the entire experience!

All told, we learnt some good lessons about camping as a family, and will take those in to this summers camping trip. Here’s hoping we can make it a regular experience for most summer holidays!

Thursday, 15 December 2016

12 go for a long walk

Turere Lodge, Orongorongo Valley, Rimutaka Forest Park
Me, Mark, Spike, Emily, Ivan, T, M, Amelia S, A, C, Marion, E.
3-4 December 2016

Go that way!

Planning for this started months ago. Not long after the really challenging overnighter we took Spike on to Waihohonu Hut in February. Because you have to book a stupid amount of time in advance if you want to reserve the entirety of Turere Lodge for a weekend night! Originally we had thought about doing this around my birthday, but by the time we booked in about late April, the first weekend of December was the first weekend exclusive occupancy was available.

We sent out the invite to about 8 friends who had kids (and a couple who didn’t), hoping to get 4-6 families total into the 32-bed, 4-room lodge. Eventually, after a couple of late pull-outs, and the addition of a family grabbed from the Tramping Club Families group, we had 4 families – 6 adults, 3 3-year-olds and 3 5-year-olds. What a group. What an appetite for chaos we all had!

And we're off

Turns out, this was a fantastic sized group. We could all amble along at different paces, taking turns to keep an eye on each others kids. The kids kept each other motivated and moving, and even though it turns out there is a LOT of up hill going in to Turere Lodge, the kids all walked most, if not all, the way in.

Afternoon tea

After a late start at the carpark of nearly 2pm, it was after 5:30 by the time we got to the hut and got the rooms unlocked. Dinner was started immediately, to the sound of kids running around screaming. They all ate something at least, although some were too tired to eat much. After a shared pudding of chocolate cake, strawberries and custard, we started working on persuading them all to go to bed. Unsurprisingly, Spike was last to go to sleep, finally drifting off not long before we all headed to bed.

While Turere is a wonderful hut, and its awesome to not have to bring cooking or eating gear, the mattresses are in desperate need of replacement. I wound up getting up at about 2am and pulling down a second mattress. Mine was more air than filler inside its cover! But honestly, that’s my only complaint – the hut was warm without heating, there was loo roll in the toilets and hand sanitiser at the basin. It was clean and tidy.

Sunday morning rolled around FAR too early for anyones liking.  We stumbled through breakfast on the deck (having forgotten the brown sugar for our porridge), threw our gear in our packs, grabbed a team photo on the deck and headed off about 8:30am. Despite the bulk of the walk being downhill on the way home, it still took as long to get back – poor tired legs and all.

The kids all excitedly climbed up Jacobs Ladder instead of the newer benched track until the two crossed again, so that we could promise them a break at the seat 7/8ths of the way up the hill. From there, we stopped again at Macs Hut briefly, then continued on. Around Midway Bridge, the younger kids started to significantly flag, so elephant rides became a routine sight and bribery became an essential component in keeping moving.

Jacobs Ladder (up)

We also regularly leap frogged a family group who had stayed on a hut across the river, including a mum wearing an old Mountain Mule that looked painful, even with a jersey wrapped over her shoulders as extra padding under the straps.

Elephant Bumps

Arriving at the road end with very tired kids just as it started drizzling at about 12:15 was a relief. A quick toilet break, change of clothes / shoes and we were all off. McDonalds for lunch was a failure as Spike was so tired we should have let him sleep instead, as he didn’t eat.

A great time was had, and the parents are all discussing doing it again to somewhere else (maybe Atiwhakatu) when the kids are another year or so older. Spike loved carrying his little bag (this one was better sized for him than the one we tried in February), and we are looking forward to him using it again, perhaps with more than a bottle of sunscreen and a whistle next time!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Blue Range Hut

Cute as a button

4-5 August 2012
Party: Myself, David, Sandra, Kath, Michael
Kiriwhakapapa Road, Tararua Forest Park

An early start at the railway station as we were sharing a van with others was mitigated by a lot of fun on the drive over the hill. And as an added bonus for a winter weekend, we didn’t camp out Friday night. Amanda and her group missioned off up the track ahead of us while we finished getting sorted and locked up.

This tramp was a little different for me. I was six weeks pregnant and completely unsure how my body was going to cope. While classed as an easy tramp, and only involving one nights worth of gear and food, I was still nervous and had considered pulling out, if not for the fact I had had a full trip list my first Wednesday back at club after our trip to Europe and my week at Photography Camp.

I probably should have listened to my gut. The climb to Blue Range hut is neither long nor steep, but it took forever. Thankfully we had good weather, because the walk I was expecting to take about 2 hours instead took 4 – although I wasn’t the only person taking it slow, thankfully. I was super puffed and simply not really up for the strain.

Arriving at the hut it was cold. This place gets no sunshine in winter. There was basically no dry wood and it had rained recently, so it took a very long time to get the fire going and heating the hut with any impact. David had bought along a travel coffee grinder and percolator and spent hours and hours in the afternoon making coffee. Most of us chilled out on the bunks in every warm item we had (thankfully we arrived dry, so didn’t have to also dry clothes), hoping no-one else turned up, as we were already 5 people in a 4 bunk hut – thankfully, we remained the only people for the night.

Blue Range Hut (217:366)  Tow Away  Exciting Fire

I spent my afternoon lying on the bunk, worrying, as I had started bleeding. Thankfully this turned out to be nothing once we got back to town, but the guys both took some of the weight out of my pack for the trip home and one of the girls gave me her walking poles to reduce my impact on the way down the hill. We started late in the morning and were caught not long before the carpark by members of Amanda’s party, and after changing into non-sweaty clothes, headed home.

Moss (218:366)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Climbing a Stairway to Heaven

Having a great time

Mark, Myself
Paekakariki Escarpment Track, Te Araroa Trail, Paekakariki Train Station to Pukerua Bay Train Station
9.74km, 3hr08min, 364m elevation gain

A fair while ago, I noticed a couple of swing bridges well above State Highway 1 along the coast, and wondered how to get to them. Mike made an attempt back in 2013, before the track was completed and opened, and ever since I have been waiting to try the track for myself. (Mike also did it more recently – in fact, the day after it opened)

Once the word was out that the final stages of track building were underway and the track would have a grand opening, it moved well up my to-do list for local daywalks. Trying to find a time when we have been around with no other plans, good weather, no injuries and no pre-schooler to hand has been a challenge, although things finally happened on the weekend.

The forecast was for fine, warm-but-not-hot weather with northerly breezes. With what I knew of the narrowness and exposure of the track, the fact moderate breezes were forecast did make me a little nervous, but I figured at least a northerly would blow UP the hill, not down, given the alignment of the hills.

We headed out the door at just after 9am, having decided to park our car at Pukerua Bay station and catch the train north to Paekakariki and then walk south (which was the recommendation on the opening day, and seems to be the recommendation in general, we definitely understood why later). For reference, the trains come through Pukerua Bay every half hour at 10past and 20to the hour north AND south bound, and its about 10 minutes to Paekakariki ($3.50 cash fare).

The track starts at the train station, heading up Beach Road towards the beach, then turning at the church (take advantage of the toilets, you wont see more until you get to the main road at Pukerua Bay), and wandering down the footpath along Ames Street for about 1km till you turn back NORTH up the highway, across the narrow bridge (be aware of trucks, that bridge is narrow and they are RIGHT THERE when they surprise you), and down the stairs at the north end, under the bridge to the 1km marker.

Clinging to the edge

The walk down Ames Street is probably recommended by the planners as it is more comfortable than the walk down the highway. So quiet you’d never know the highway and Main Trunk railway were right there – you hear the sea more! That said, the fact the traffic comes up quite fast behind you on the bridge is no fun.

Dont look down

We enjoyed our walk heading south, and could see several advantages to tackling this section in a north-south direction. For starters, the sun was always behind us, or slightly to the side. Given that the ground was radiating warmth back at us in August, this track would get HOT in the summer. The wind (being northerly) was also slightly behind us for the most part, and we found that in large parts of the track it was actually fairly sheltered.


Additionally, the stairs at the north end, while steep with narrow tread depth, have sections of benched track between them. The steepest climb from the south is incessant, with only landings between flights of stairs – although the treads seemed deeper on those as well. Getting the big climb out of the way earlier in the walk was also good, as we hit a bit tired on some of the later ones – and every climb had a matching descent, so hitting a long, steady stair climb late in the walk would have been really hard work.

Keep on climbing

We met a really lovely large family group when we stopped at the lone, sheltered picnic table on the track, which was about 10 minutes shy of the first swing bridge. The picnic table was a great spot to stop, and easily sat 8 of us around it (with space to spare). It was entertaining watching them enjoy the swing bridge together.

By the time we got to the track-side track on the way to Muri Station, my feet were getting sore. While the ankle support offered by my boots was great for the stairs, the solid sole of my boots was too much for the kind of track it was. Doing it again I would probably throw a really light pair of running shoes in my bag for the pavement sections (about 1km at the start and end of the track), and still don boots for the track proper.

I was hoping for Muri station to be ominous and depressing in its closed / abandoned state, but perhaps its too soon, or the daylight was too strong.

There were a LOT of people out on the track with us. A couple of groups we leap-frogged as each took turns to stop, but most parties we saw ahead or behind us stayed ahead or behind us by about the same distance the whole track. A good number of runners were out. Probably 75% of the people we saw walking were going north to south, and passing was tight in a lot of places, with very little margin for error. I can imagine in high summer this track will be insanely popular, and I dread the idea of it turning in to a local variation on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The weather up there could change very rapidly (and it looked like it was threatening to, at least a couple of times while we were up there). There are no alternative exits – once you are on the track, it’s a through track or a back track for at least 8km. In summer heat it is VERY exposed and there are only small patches of shade and no water. People WILL turn up underprepared for the conditions, lulled into a false sense of security by how accessible it is.

Stunning track, will probably do it again at some point, and about this time of year – nice weather but not too hot!

Meeting Sirocco

30 August 2013
Mark, Myself, about a dozen others
Zealandia Sanctuary

Marks parents were very excited – a double reason to travel to Wellington. A new grandchild and a chance to see Sirocco, a rare Kakapo (giant parrot). Sirocco, in particular, is quite famous after he attempted to mate with a human head during filming for a documentary. Sadly, he’s not considered breeding stock, so instead has become a species ambassador, travelling around the country to visit different sanctuaries.

Mark and I spent a bit of time debating whether we would go. There was always a chance that his visit to Wellington would be a once-off and we might never get another opportunity. When Marks parents volunteered to babysit so we could go different nights, we figured why not. And I’m glad we did. Even though Sirocco has been back to visit in the time since we went, that evening off was lovely.

A talk in the visitor centre, then a guided walk through the valley to the specially constructed habitat, hearing the birds that live at the sanctuary settling in for the night and then getting a chance to spend half an hour or more watching how Sirocco moved and learning more about his life, before walking back to the sound of kiwi calling across the valley. Worth whatever we spent on it, as most of the ticket price went to Kakapo Recovery.


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Tararua Snow

03 – 05 July 2009
Mark, Me, Barbara + 7 others
Holdsworth Road End, Tararua Forest Park

Mid-Winter, and I was scheduled to lead an Easy-Medium trip to Sunrise Hut to play in some snow. We were hoping for maybe half a meter, enough to make it a tramp IN snow, but not ploughing through tons of the stuff being miserable.

Staying in the 

The weather snowed nicely for us the week before, so I contacted a campground in Dannevirke so we didn’t have to try and make it to the road end in snow in the dark before making our way to Triplex Hut in the snow and dark at midnight or later. They were happy to have us, and offered us a massive discount to boot.

Friday morning I arrived at work to a massive flurry of emails. The not-great weather I had been watching all week had hit the Ruahine’s hard. The leaders of the other trips were not thrilled with the idea of going in, with one having called the local DoC visitor centre that morning and receiving the advice that the CARPARK was under 1m of snow, with more expected over the weekend.

I cancelled our booking at the campground at Dannevirke. They were pleased to hear that news as they had been worried about our plans given the weather they were experiencing. I still met my punters at the railway station on Friday night at the standard time and we made plans to go a bit closer to home – so Powell Hut it was. Sad, as I had been there so.many.times before.

For some reason, we still decided to head over the hill that night rather than heading home and then regrouping early Saturday morning. This meant we had a cold night ahead of us, sleeping in the shelter at the Holdsworth Carpark, as the lodge was booked.

Thankfully the wind was in a good quarter, and we were joined in the shelter by a whole pack of scouts also off on a tramp, so the number of bodies squeezed in to the area with a roof kept us all a little warmer than we would otherwise have been.

Saturday morning dawned slightly overcast but dry, and so we headed off up the slightly muddy track. We came across our first snow patches somewhere above Mountain House. When we got to the last flat section just below the bushline, the snow was blanketing the ground entirely. Looking up the first steep scramble to the lowest point of the ridge, there was a LOT of snow ahead of us, but a good ground trail to follow our way up.

We all stopped to celebrate making it to the snow (and to don extra layers and sunglasses), as the weather started packing in a little. The snow was deep enough in places that our trail in the snow was walking on top of the stunted trees that grow on the ridge.

We made it to the hut with no drama, shook the snow off our boots and settled in to get warm. A scrummy dinner and dessert were had, books were read by candle light and we all settled in for one of the best nights sleep I’ve had at Powell as we had very little wind.

Sunday morning dawned overcast. No pretty sunrise for us. On went frozen boots and damp packs, and we inched our way back down the hill, out of the snow and back to town. We got to tramp to and in the snow, even if it wasn’t to our original destination, and we had a good time while we were at it.

Winning all around!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Zealandia Pylon and Turbine Tracks

20 October 2015
Just me
6.9km, 1hr44min, total gain 208m, Visitor Centre to Visitor Centre

For some reason I cant recall, in the morning I had parked on Thorndon Quay and walked up to Manners Street and back (4.1km!), so I am really surprised, looking back, that I even considered attempting such a loop.

Writing this well after the fact a handful of moments stick in my mind. It was hot. The whole walk. I was incredibly surprised at my capacity to just keep going – I remember remarking to myself that the me of 12-18 months previously would have got halfway up the hill to the pylon, decided it was both too steep and too hard, then turned around and gone home (since I was on my own). I carried my dSLR, only to discover at about the 2km mark that it had either no battery life or no memory card loaded (I cant remember which, but I do know it was a heavy, expensive, pack weight of no use).

Sitting under the pylon that the track is named for to catch a breeze and have a snack, the turbine looked fairly close, so I figured I would continue on and get my first taste of the track that is marked on the maps as running around the inside perimeter of the fenceline.

I wish I had taken photos of the track. It was absolutely not what I had expected. Overgrown, full of holes, and in places only wide enough for my feet with steep drops. It also had very little shade to offer. Some of the climb was also much steeper than I had anticipated, and I questioned regularly whether I would be better off turning around to go back or continue on.

I was determined to continue on, and so I did. Eventually the turbine appeared immediately in front of me. It took what seemed an interminable time. After stopping in the sun to take some selfies and have another bite to eat, I plunged down the steep upper section of the track into the cool bush, stopping partway down after startling a Tuatara back into its burrow.

The walk down the Turbine Track was uneventful otherwise and apart from a brief debate of whether to take the Tui Glen track or continue down the Turbine track (the Turbine track won), I was back on the main path before I really knew it.
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