Monday, 19 December 2016

An early white Christmas!

A snowy peak
Maurice the firemaker
Katie w water-repelling skirt
Our pilgrimage up into the high country of New Zealand with friends Maurice and Katie was the best 10-year Reunion – ten years ago we spent a week walking together on the Heaphy Track west of Nelson. The great walks of New Zealand were set up to promote this beautiful country – mostly to develop pride in the inhabitants themselves. They’ve done that but they’ve also been a boon for the tourist industry – such a success that now (without ‘booking’ weeks or even months in advance) it’s not easy to get hut space in the most popular ‘tracks’ – like the Heaphy, Milford and Routeburn walks here on the South Island or the Tongariro (scenery which provided much of the setting for ‘Lord of the Rings’) on the North Island.

Tramping through the tussocks
Not having to bring bear spray is among the manifold advantages to hiking in New Zealand. We enjoyed the similar walks in British Columbia (Garibaldi Lake) and Washington (Olympic Peninsula) but here there are no dangerous animals, snakes or spiders and we also didn’t have to bring our own tent, mattresses or cooking gear.

When one looked at Larry’s oversize backpack, however, it seemed we had brought excessive gear. Much of this excess was due to our lofted sleeping bags. These were developed to keep folks warm in -10 N American climes and although they’re very light, they do take up space.
As it actually SNOWED on our first night up high in the mountains the sleeping bags turned out to have been a great idea. We shared the snow with a few Wekas of New Zealand’s threatened bird species. These large and clumsy-looking birds are sometimes confused with the mostly-nocturnal Kiwi. In contrast, Kiwis are smaller and shy. In fact, apart from a similar colour and a sharper and longer bill for its size, the Kiwi is not at all like a Weka. Like its fellow New Zealand species the scavenging Kea - a type of parrot, Wekas hang around campers looking for treats. In New Zealand - as everywhere else -the message from naturalists is: Please don’t feed the animals!

Balloon Hut
The four of us enjoyed the company of a veritable League of Nations on our trip with young fellow pilgrims also staying in our huts along the way. Salisbury Lodge was shared with a Japanese and an Israeli couple on night 1 and with some Dutch sisters on night 3. On night 2 we were alone at Balloon Hut except for a short visit by an athletic French couple. Balloon Hut was a beautiful little warm home-away-from-home. Maurice kept the fire going on the snowy night.
I had failed to bring mitts - Larry handed over his to warm my freezing hands. A bigger mistake was to wear my running shoes for tramping through freezing mud. I did learn that  with completely wet cold feet you neither GET blisters, nor would you feel them (due to having frozen feet) if you DID get them. I brought my hiking poles and these (mostly) kept me from sliding off muddy slopes.
Dutch sisters - 'puzzling' and tending the fire

Weka in the snow
We are so grateful to Mo and Katie for having organized and ‘booked us in’ to the huts and reminding us of the many items we would need to bring. Without their impetus we might never have been able to organize ourselves for the adventure. We much admired the gear they have collected and the wonderful schedule of breaks, hot drinks and treats with which they make their tramping holiday such an eventful and warmly enjoyable time. Thanks for the time of sharing.

Now we look forward to a relaxed Christmas amongst old and new friends at Maurice and Katie’s home – ‘Winter Quarters’.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Nelson New Zealand

Nelson Marina offices - old and new
We arrived here nearly a week ago - we have had beautiful weather ... sunny with a little rain - cool at night and perfect for walking. Nelson is a beautiful little city - perfect for liveaboard sailors. In fact, Nelson is just PERFECT - not too big and not too small.

Walkway into town centre
Everything you need or desire is nearby and the people are friendly. They are tolerant of our manner of speaking English and willing to repeat themselves when we don't understand them. No one is in a great rush and we have had a nice relaxed time visiting here. We're heading off tomorrow to walk the Mt. Arthur Tablelands with Maurice and Katie Cloughley. We have walked with them (Heaphy Track) ten years ago and they have been friends of Larry's since 1979 when he met them on their boat in the Canaries (he was on Traversay - the first). The weather forecast looks terrific for this outing - no rain is forecast until our last day out (Wednesday).

Saturday Market
Today was a bit rainy but I headed off to the Saturday Market anyway. There are lovely lavender products, cheeses, breads, all sorts of handicrafts and farm-fresh vegetables. It was great fun just looking at all the people and the stalls - next week will be a better time to buy any perishables as we'll be around long enough to eat them.

When we got here and by the time Customs had finished with us a heavy wind was blowing. We decided just to 'park' at the end of our assigned dock temporarily. It seems nearly every place we go there's a new (to us) technology for tying up our boat. Nelson NZ - 1 ring on each end of the dock (so you'd better not have a loop on the end of your lines); Germany - bollards (so you'd better have a loop on the end of your lines); British Columbia - 2 parallel wooden 2x4s; Australia - every cleat already has someone's lines permanently braided into it.
Mooring rings

Coathanger for mooring lines
At Nelson Marina, some people install a coat-rack type of metal pole at the end of the dock and they leave their permanent lines there to simplify tying up. We decided to tie up after dark - I grabbed the forward ring with the boathook and Larry waited for the wind to push us in to the dock.

Aussie docking