Monday, March 31, 2014

Flashback Video Special! - Stewart Islands Kakas

Got some video of the wild Kaka's of Stewart Island uploaded!  If you don't remember those adventures, check out those posts first:

They are very curious creatures, but they don't share well!  These were wild parrots, they fly up 2-3 at a time.  They have been known to arrive in groups as big as 9!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kaikorai Estuary, Dunedin

As everyone knows the moms are here!  They are planning on spending 3-4 weeks.  It is hard to post the excitement while it is actually happening so there will be a little delay.  We will try to keep putting up posts about their trip while I catch up on some of our old adventures.  Cole's friends have also arrived and they will be around for a couple of weeks...

In the meantime check out this awesome estuary trip we took while in Dunedin:

This was on the same trip we took to tunnel beach and visited our friends the Howells.  We had a little free time one night before meeting them for a late snack.  We didn't stay with them that weekend, but found a nice little rental we could all share.  This was the view out of the back of the house. Things we very green, and it was a little higher in the hills, so we were tucked in with the clouds...

We went for a walk down to the beach.  We followed the Kaikorai stream which emptied into the sea at the Kaikorai Estuary.  It had carved a perfect channel down the beach to the ocean.  It was shallow and you could see down to the bottom easily.  Off in the distance you can see Green Island off the coast.

Seagulls were really enjoying the estuary as the water entered the sea.  There were LOTS of them that day and they were big ones.  The ocean was pretty powerful that morning, you can see the big waves coming in.

Down the beach you could see blackhead cliff.  Apparently this used to be a nice cliff, but it is now an active quarry, you can see how much of it they have harvested so far.  Won't be long and there won't be much left.  I suppose there are worse hills to take... at least it wasn't tunnel beach!

Beautiful blue skies in the other direction... doesn't seem like we get enough of those.  The sun was beginning to set, but still very comfortable...

The beach was covered in these little guys being washed up from the sea.  Any guesses anyone?  Maybe a baby jellyfish?  We have no idea....  If you know, comment below....

The steady winds carved up the sand.  The beach sand up close almost looked like a desert's.  

On the way back to the car we saw this funny bird wandering in the stream.  I think it was a royal spoonbill.  Compare to some more images from google:  Google images of Royal Spoonbills

Goodbye for now from the three amigos!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stump the Hump!

As I alluded to in my Humpridge Track post, Dan and I worked an event called Stump the Hump where participants run the entire 60km track in one swoop as opposed to the typical three days. In exchange for our medical expertise, the good people of the Humpridge Track put us up on the trail earlier in the week. 24 hours after we got off the trail, we caught our HELICOPTER to be flown back up to the top of the ridge. Little did we know, we were in for a pretty miserable magical experience...

It started fine. this was the chopper we took up, and our belongings are in the big white bag that gets towed up there in this video:

The Ride up. It's surprisingly peaceful up there.

However, the peace ended shortly after landing. The lady that was the primary coordinator of our station at the lodge was a total tyrant. I've never seen anyone alienate her crew faster than anyone I've ever seen.  No kidding. I was one reprimand from her away from breaking her down in front of everyone.  We were officially there as the medical crew, but right when we got there, she goes "so are you going to help us our just do your DOCTOR thing?" and not in a nice way.  So we help get everything set up, which was total chaos because everyone was trying to politely follow her orders, but she got power crazy and just kept changing her mind about what she wanted so people had to just repeat tasks at her whim.

One of the ladies above was a total B!tch. I'll let you guess which one it was.

So fast forward a few hours, and it's bed time. After 4 quick hours of sleep, we have to get up at 2AM to start the porridge as the earliest runners were anticipated to arrive at our station by 3:30AM (3 hours faster than Dan and I made it to that spot on our hike). As I was scrubbing dishes that morning, that 'lady' came up and hollered at me for not stirring a giant pot of porridge next to me... I just held my hands covered in suds up in front of her face and didn't say a word.

As the runners came rolling in, Dan and I became the official WaterBoys of Stump the Hump 2014, Okaka Hut Station.  This included both boiling water for hot drinks and cold water for their packs as the refilled on their way out. I really don't mind helping out, but at one point, I was doing one of maybe 8 actual medical consultations in the middle of the kitchen, and that crazy lady actually yelled at me across the kitchen and said "Cole! Your kettle is boiling" I tried to ignore her, but she persisted, so I had to try to politely put my patient on hold so I could wheel around to confront this she-beast and inform her that boiling is, in fact, the goal when you are trying to boil water for hot drinks.

Our final run-in was at the end of the event when I was mopping the lodge floor (once again, not in my job description) with another volunteer. She had just been in and told us to mop the floor, so we started it, and - not making this up - she comes immediately back in as says "I think it's really rude you are mopping the floor in front of our last few hikers." We were stunned. If the other volunteers hadn't been as chill as they were, I think there would have been mutiny. I couldn't take it.

So as the excitement wound down, we started to look forward to our helicopter ride down the mountain and getting out of that crazy place with a couple of injured hikers I detained along the way.  Unfortunately, this set in over the course of the morning: 

Coupled with some major lack of organization on the part of the event organizers (I'm pretty sure they forgot us for the first several hours of waiting and only started making plans of getting us out after I called and 'reminded them'), this cloud bank became the thorn in our sides for the entire day. We honestly sat and waited for about 7 hours. We could hear them zipping around down there all over, picking up other  hikers that got held up on the trail, but the 'just couldn't make it through the cloud bank'.... I'll never believe them.  So at about 5PM, we were told that the helicopter pilot had gone home for the night. We were stranded at the lodge... So since we had to pick up some people at the airport the next day, we decided it was time to start running down the mountain - it should only take about 6 hours to get back to the car.....

We start running down the trail - actually running - and after 30 minute of solid downhill, what do we see, but the helicopter zooming over us to go pick up the hikers at the lodge we just left....... imagine my excitement... OUTRAGE!!!!!!

Dan and I were over trying to make sense of anything, but this random French girl that was walking out with us felt the need to spend 30 minutes with poor phone reception to see if we are supposed to go back up in case the chopper was going to make a second trip (they would have had to make two for all the people at the lodge initially, but not since we left!).  The answer is, shockingly, a 'NO', so we keep heading down. Their consolation was that when we got all the way down to the coast, plus an hour, there were some people staying in a  hut along the trail that could feed us and maybe give us a ride along the coast for a portion of the way back.

So we get to this Promised Land, where the people are settled in to party for the night, and they end up being pretty awesome for us. They cooked us steaks, served us drinks, fried up some wild boar bacon, then we hop on the 4-wheeler for the wildest beach ATV ride you've ever witnessed. I was thrown off twice, and I liked it.

You can't tell, but we are all on the 4-wheeler, flying down the beach at high speed during this picture.

Sandy was our chauffeur, and he was amazing.

We will never know how he got a busted lip or the black eye...

And all is well that ends well. This is our final approach back to the parking lot after our fateful run-in with Stump the Hump 2014.  The Magic. The Misery. The Memories.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Nuggets - Moms Arrive!

Our Moms are finally here!  They flew into Dunedin last Friday, and on our way back to Otautau we stopped at Nugget point to take in some beautiful, welcome to New Zealand, scenery.

On our drive, we saw a tractor on the beach.  This one's for you Dad!

 The slightly precarious path leads to an amazing lookout by the lighthouse.

 Moms are still awake after 30 hours of travel!  

 Aaron and Monica taking in the view on a beautiful day.

It's a long way down.

A rocky coastline.

 Our first glimpse of the nuggets.

Orange kelp (seaweed) lines the beach.

 I was proud of my mama for walking the path without panicking.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Humpridge Track!

Dan the Man and I hiked the Humpridge Track over 3 days. One of the great things about a lot of the big trails in NZ is that there are some awesome huts along the way that are stocked with cooking supplies and facilities, some private rooms with nice beds to rent if you want, or at least a bed in a bunkroom with a sleeping bag. You can book these in advance and even have your things helicoptered in if you want. Lucky for us, we got our accommodation for free as we had agreed to be the medical staff for an upcoming event on the trail. So we had some 'light' traveling to do as they had sleeping bags for us at the first hut. So we got started early on Day 1, and set off from sea level, to climb all the way up the Humpridge after a quick 20 kilometers of hiking.

There were a lot of suspension bridges along the way.

There is a nice flat stretch along the beach before the steep grunt up the ridge. Our destination for Day 1 is the little dip in the ridge in the middle of the picture above. 

Another Suspension Bridge!

Refill station along the trail. You just lower the 'billy' (NZ for bucket) into the stream and drink it... Apparently giardia doesn't exist this far South in New Zealand, so that's awesome!

After the steepest portion of the trail, we made up up to Stag Point, which is a welcome landmark because it means we're only about an hour away from the top.

Stag Point Rest Stop!

And this is at the very top of the ridge! There are some pools up there that the lodge gets its water supply from. The views up here were stunning, and they only got better as night fell.

Exploring the summit.

They should call this spot 'Selfie Point' because we both clearly felt like this was a good spot to take a picture of ourselves.
Hard to argue with that logic, huh?

So after getting settled in at the lodge, and exploring the summit, we settled in for an incredibly awkward dinner with the other hikers who were up there. No one was speaking, and it was just uncomfortably quiet. So as sunset approached, Dan and I got out of there and went back up to the summit to have a look

We were rewarded with this view.

and this one.

The same Tarn from before.

and then we decided this rock formation needed to be conquered, even though we weren't supposed to leave the trail.  Here's Dan modeling the landscape. Pretty impressive from this angle.

And even better from this angle. This was pretty awesome. 

Switch! We switched places, which was easier said than done as there wasn't an easy way to get up on that rock. as the person not climbing the rock, we each had a brief moment of panic as the other person climbed up because you disappear from sight as you climb around the back, and as you're waiting for them to pop up on top of the rock, it's a little concerning that the climber just fell off the back... But we both popped up on top before we had to send a search party. 

Day 2 started with a couple hours of rain and a steep downhill section that was killer on the knees, but it flattened out after the first 5 hours and was a straight shot to the coast. Above is the Percy Burn Viaduct, which is one of the tallest viaducts on the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately for us, it is currently closed, so you can't cross it.... So we had to walk down the gorge and back up.

The second lodge was next to the coast, another 20 kilometers from the summit. Upon our arrival, the host upgraded us to one of the sweet private rooms with nice beds and it was awesome. Also upon our arrival, we were swarmed with Sandflies, so that put a damper on our excitement over the upgrade. We went to explore the coast, and this is a site of an abandoned lumber mill town, so there was a lot of old machinery and stuff laying around. More interesting than the rusty remnants was the Hector's Dolphins that Dan swam with in the bay there.  Also exciting: the other hikers had a complete turn around and we all hung out and talked and visited all evening at the lodge and just had a great time. SUCH a difference!

Day 3 was a final 20 kilometers to close the loop around the coast and that was it for round 1 of the Humprodge track. 24 hours later, we were all set to fly back up to the top to do our part as the medical crew for a station on the Stump the Hump event where participants of the event run the entire trail (60km) in 24 hours or less. Stay tuned for how that played out.... It was an experience I won't soon forget.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Flashback Video Special! - A Hillbilly Christmas

Here it is after long last!  The infamous Twizel Hillbillie Christmas video.  I finally got it posted to YouTube so everyone can see it.

If you haven't read Cole's post about the experience, I suggest you read it before watching the video to get the whole crazy story:

So turn down the lights (it's kinda dark), turn up the volume, grab the popcorn, and enjoy the... bizarre...

(If you have good bandwidth, best viewed in HD)

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tunnel Beach Take Two

Dan and I went on a little roadtrip up to Dunedin one day to go check out Tunnel Beach. After a great visit and delicious lunch courtesy of Lynda and Rosie Howells , some of our friends from Dunedin (and being sent away with fresh tomatoes and plums! that they grew), I took Dan over to Tunnel Beach.  It was just as awesome my second time around. What's not to love:

Awesomely Tall Sea Cliffs
You have to walk down a Huge hilld, then through a long tunnel in the cliffs to get down to this part.

You can then climb back out of the tunnel and up the ridge for this view:
Amazing overlooks!
Dan Soaking up the East Coast Sunshine
Sea Birds

Brother from Another Mother (and Father)

Coastal View

This is maybe a third of the way back up to the parking area. Totally worth the hike out!

And then we headed back to Otautau in time for Squash! So that was clearly the perfect way to end another great day in NZ.