Smudges of khaki rainforest clot the swirling mist as we surge upwards and circle to the north. I’m without headphones so the burly medic sitting beside me shouts over the chopper noise asking whether we prefer Murchison or Nelson. The closest hospital is at Westport but there is no way the pilot can fly through the thick wall of cloud. I exchange a raised eyebrow with Sarah seated opposite. “Nelson is fine” I respond and settle back for my longest chopper ride ever. Continue reading “Switchbacks”
The star-spangled curtain of black has a circular window glowing cold white. Dew is busy condensing to frost. We’re so busy talking we fail to take the Taihape turn off and realise only when the sign for Wanganui is silhouetted by our headlights. With renewed focus we feel our way north spurning the main road to Waioru in favour of darkness. My soda water bottle lying on the floor of the car acts as a spirit level rolling left and right as we wind our way between hills. Detaching from the hill cover where the Pukeokahu and Mangahoata roads meet Grethe steers us left towards the Pukeokahu school and our campsite. A home-made sign directs us to a paddock where a cluster of shadowy tents stand to attention flanked neatly by cars. Viktor, our welcoming party of one, indicates the precise location of our respective tents. With the car engine extinguished the only sounds are Moreporks and the occasional bark of a dog.
Camp light. Photo by Jan Ducnuigeen
It was love at first light. The trail weaves a connecting path through many toanga – the Waitakeres, home to our fast disappearing coastal rainforest including beautiful groves of kauri, rata and pohutakawa. Wild, isolated, rugged coastlines with dramatic cliff faces and the towering walls of sand dunes (black) of Bethells that contrast with the wild surf pasted sand beaches (white) and dangerous rips of Piha. The primordial, green, scrawny spine of a peninsula that marks the way to Whatipu. My childhood hero and adult inspiration, the guy on our five dollar note, Ed. Continue reading “Melting Moments”
As child I looked forward to birthdays. What’s not to like? Lots of food of the type normally forbidden, lots of people not normally seen. If the birthday was mine, lots of new books to read. Lots of attention, and lots of mess. I didn’t have to clean up the mess. Somewhere along the way the appeal of celebrations of this nature started to fade. As an adult you get to eat whatever you like whenever you like, you see friends and family when it suits and you discover libraries. You get to clean up your own mess and realise it can be a difficult, stressful, protracted business. While I’d participate in other people’s milestone marking, marking my own milestones just didn’t seem important. Yeah I’m a year older, no big upside, no big deal.
The setting sun washes the Forbes Range in a pink rinse. From my vantage point just outside the red corrugated iron walls of Esquliant Bivvy the twin peaks of Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi and O’Leary have also acquired a rosy tinge. My eyes are drawn to the dark colossus known as Pluto Peak which dominates the foreground. On a mild, still summer evening it’s easy to forget how inhospitable mountains can be.
The hardest thing about the Kepler is getting in.
Race entries open at 6.30am NZT on the first Saturday in July. The event takes place the first Saturday in December. You need to be an early riser, have access to a good browser and be in possession of superior typing skills. Even then, you stand a good chance of receiving a cheerful email from the Kepler Team informing you that you are on the waitlist. The event sells out in a few minutes. Continue reading “The Kepler – the gift that keeps on giving”
Back in November 2014 I ran the Aorangi Undulator, a choice local event in the Aorangi Forest Park on the outskirts of Wellington.
I enjoyed it so much I resolved to return in 2015 for the three-day version. The A100 is run by the same group of trail running enthusiasts who organise the Undulator. The 2014 attrition rate seemed high and the survivors appeared to pick up more than their fair share of injuries. The uncertain nature of the challenge appealed to my sense of adventure. I thought it would be a good test of my endurance and organisational skills and a great way to support an innovative local event while contributing to conservation in the Aorangi Forest Park. The fact that many of my fellow entrants were mates helped. I wouldn’t be doing a strange thing surrounded by strangers.