Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mountain bike race around Lake Hawea and personal responsibility

Over the last few months I've quietly been working on a timing database for a relatively new annual mountain bike race which was held yesterday, The Contact Epic.

The thing I love about this race is the way my friends Dani and Aaron, the race organisers, have put the issue of personal safety and responsibility squarely, where it belongs, in the hands of those competing: There are no pre race bike checks for the course which is between 90-125 Km around Lake Hawea and a long way up the Hunter Valley, and no check on clothing and food - just recommendations. The course is very rugged and with lots of ups and downs with a serious river crossing and nearly all is very exposed to the weather. My friends in Wanaka Search and Rescue do monitor the remote sections and it's an invaluable exercise on checking our communication systems.

The start was at dawn and incorporated with an ANZAC Day Dawn Service on the Hawea Dam. It was very moving as light fell on the mist on the lake, with a prelude of classical opera singing [which seemed to de-amp many of the athletes]. I stood there before taking this shot with my iPhone, contemplating how my grand-father and father who served in the Boer War and WW2 respectively, survived the horrors and how they maybe would feel now, on moments like these, when we increasingly honour their fallen mates to the tune of a sombre bugle call...

My timing crew...

One of the first athletes home negotiating the height difference transtition into the Hawea Hotel's lovely back garden...

And the weather was great! 577 folk finished. There were some nasty falls this year which seemed due to drafting - where the person behind fails to anticipate the changing nuances of the track.

So after what was a 14+ hr. day for me, this morning I'm enjoying the rest and the warm weather preceding a few days of forecast rain.

There was a bellbird in these trees in my backyard just before...


And while a bellbird's chorus comes from heaven, you should check out the surprise singing of an angel here: Susan Boyle

... if you'd like insights into why this angel has rocked the Internet: Bob Cringely explains

Gregor, thanks for the "heads up" on Susan.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Autumn travels: trip to Dunedin, fishing in the Waitaki and a farewell at Awakino Ski Field in North Otago

In Central Otago I always maintain autumn is the best of the seasons with it's settled weather, fewer people and stunning landscapes - in other words a nice time to travel about.

Diamond Lake...

It's about 2 hours drive from home over the Lindis Pass to The Waitaki Ski Club's Awakino Ski Field. This is where I spent my formative mountain years learning not so much to ski, but how to look after myself in mountains in winter.

However these days I don't go back there much, but old friends invited me along this weekend to celebrate the life of my ex sister-in-law Belinda who passed away about 2 years ago up in Nelson. For various reasons many of us never got closure - hence this weekend's get-together.

But I took the long way to get there, via Dunedin. It'll be a year and half away, but it looks like my son may choose the University of Otago to further his studies in science, so I thought it a good idea to spend a day there showing him the campus.

The iconic original building...

I was amazed at the stone work - no straight lines, which must meant the blocks have been hand shaped from what looks like very hard rock...

Presumably a grand-dad keeping an eye on his grand-daughter...

We found it funny and almost Harry Potter'ish how the buildings seem to reflect their purpose when we saw this one - the Center for Innovation...


And a sight I've seen before - thankfully not often. I'm surprised given the odd unsavory Orientation Week that there are still sofas outside student flats that have not been made the subject of bonfires...

After some shopping we then headed up the coast and inland to camp for the night by the Waitaki River for some fishing, but I had more success making this photograph...

On Sat. afternoon we headed up into the St Marys Range and Awakino Ski Field to the lower accommodation hut to have a meal and stay the night in honour of Belinda...

It's a 35 min. walk up a road [snowed over in winter] to the lower rope tow [top left] and day huts...

As the evening was settled my old friend Julie joined Dougal and myself for a climb to an exposed saddle at nearly 6000ft...



The view to the south-east into some of the most remote country in North Otago: The Buster gold diggings on the left, the Kakanui Mountains center and some of the headwaters of the Otematata river on the right...

And to the north from lower down [taken this morning]: looking across the Waitaki river and into the Hakataramea Valley with the Kirkliston Mountains on the left...

I'll cover the farewell to Belinda in a separate post. Meanwhile have a good week dear readers.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter dear readers!

Last weekend I posted about my son's first formal. I suspect since then Wanaka users of FaceBook have kept the servers busy.

However this little set of photos was on the front of the school's newsletter for the week. That's Dougal in the centre of the group on the left...

My week has been quite eventful: 3 significant yoga practice evenings and I enjoyed the luxury of another reflexology session on Wed. evening. Thurs. evening saw me at the opening of the Wanaka Art Society Easter Exhibition.

I entered a print on canvas that I made in 2007 of a hoar frost in the Cardrona valley. The judge told me I came close to the honours or whatever [that gets you up on the stage for $50 prize], but as I expected my mounting of the image let it down - I should have framed it instead of putting it on a board, as the wrap around edges effectively cropped it too severely. However if it sells in the next few days I'll be delighted...

Lately for bedtime reading I've been becoming inspired yet again by Tom Longstaff's classic [This My Voyage] on mountain exploration in the period late 1800s through to the mid 1900s. I note he was invited to go south by Scott, and I've been pondering how, if he had accepted rather than doing yet another epic exploration in the big big mountains of Asia, how the outcome for Robert Falcon would have probably been quite different, for Tom it seems was the consummate explorer and full of insightful wisdom.

Speaking of wisdom fellow blogging friend Robb is just back from a solo trip, and has posted some great photos and writing yet again. I'm amazed at the number and quality of comments he gets, and this is testament to his skills.

I was meant to be tramping for the Easter break, but sickness in the party precluded this. However as my cousin Michael is camping at Kidds Bush up near the head of nearby Lake Hawea, after a big pre winter spring clean of the house [that neat cloth on my office/lounge ceiling gather's dust something wicked], yesterday I went visiting. This saw me doing yet another ascent of the Sawyer Burn hut track. Solo this time [Michael was away up the Hunter valley that feeds the lake].

I can never resist making an image of this view of Lake Hawea upon breaking clear of the bush...

OK, so I've photographed that scene to death almost, but this time the bush held many surprises - it seems to be a ripper season on the bush edge...



This lovely little fluffy alpine took my eye at my turn around point...

It was sharing it's neighborhood with this colourful little plant. Can you see a calf's face in the white background?...

I've always found this section of high alpine bush quite magical, the way the light filters through...

And lower down I decided to do something I've never done before: really look at that icon of our country, the humble fern, and decide to make a photograph of same, a bit differently to what my preconceived notions have dictated in the past. The fact that every frond in this shot belongs to the same plant may have helped...

Blog of the week, on aid work in Africa, is by my old friend Amy. We used to work together and did some tramping too. It's new and a very thought provoking read! Amy's Adventures in Africa

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rites of passage and learning to let go

According to Wikipedia a rite of passage is a ritual that marks a change in a person's social status, which was exactly what I was realising last night as I attended my son's first formal as a gentle bouncer stationed on the edge of the light, to keep wayward souls in, while another layer of professional security behind me in the darkness seemed to not only do this, but keep wayward strangers out!

The concept of learning to let go, as a parent, first came to me from another parent of older children about 18 months ago. Since then I've been sort of waiting, hopefully prepared to handle myself well, while reviewing my strategies in life and in the outdoors - my hope being that in the outdoors' environment with it's lessons [so far consistently non dramatic] we'd be paid back for the investment.

The process is speeding up now though, and two weekends ago I was jolted out of my comfort zone when Dougal asked if he could float down the Clutha with friends from the outlet of Lake Wanaka. The trip is gorgeous and so was the early evening, and as the trip is basically obstacle free, I went into check list mode to help him prepare well - the ritual gave me some comfort!

Looking upstream up the mighty Clutha...

After I'd dropped him off and they'd launched their array of rafts and lilos I came home for a cuppa then drove down to the pull-out spot at Albert Town and waited and waited.

Did I mention how I waited!?? I had to learn the lesson of patience and tried some landscape photography, but the camera only really got used in earnest for this shot of them coming into view with the lower Dean's Bank in the background...

Contemplating the past I've realised the whole game now is more subtle, but that the rules are just same.

It was easy a few years back - just state the activity, ask if it was OK and then lead, letting them think they're leading, while we hover nearby...

Preparing for a short 100m trip along an historic mine shaft in the Dunstan Mountains, in Central Otago, but near home...

We're parked up waiting for cousin Michael while near Moonlight, on our way out from Ben Lomond Station behind Queenstown...

And all of a sudden last night I wished him well - now a young man embarking on "a rite of passage"

By 3 am I was throughly confused as we never agreed on what time, in regards to daylight saving changes, he'd be back from the after-party [held at a secret location], and he'd not shown up. The plan was hourly buses would drop them back at Mt Aspiring College - thankfully only 10 mins. walk from home. So I drove around the block a couple of times and never saw a soul except one parked/hovering police car in my street. So realising the futility of it all I turned in thankful for all the time we've spent together in the hills and otherwise - the mileage gave me trust.

The trust was not misplaced - minutes later he turned up, and said he'd missed the first bus, and that he enjoyed the "formal" formal, but found the after-party "interesting". Elaborating this morning he said it was his first time observing the affects of alcohol, and how it changed the behaviour of many people he knows quite well.

I guess wilderness values and concepts have taught us both to trust, detach and observe!

We're off on a Rees/Dart 4 day tramp next weekend. With any luck we'll do a side trip up, past the Dart Glacier, to Cascade Saddle.

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