a lethargic 5

I’m happy to report that full connectivity was restored to the house a day or two before we were due to fly to NZ. Returning home on Sunday, I was happy to discover that we still had net :) I’ll talk more about the NZ trip and tramping the Kepler Track once I’ve sorted out the photos and loaded them to flickr. I have about 130 photos that I need to weed though that should be relatively quick compared to weeding my photos from the European holiday over Dec/Jan. For the Europe set, I’ve managed to get it down to under 300 from around 700 but it still needs a couple more goes. I should have the Kepler set up this week at least.

While I’m in post NZ recovery, here’s 5 random things I’ve tweeted in recent months:

more tramping

Alrighty…first we booked the huts, then we booked the flights. I am finally getting to tramp the Kepler Track this year. Flights were a wee bit ecky as we’re travelling in the school holidays. On the other hand, we’re doing the Kepler!

I was just re-reading my account of the Routeburn and realised that was 2010 and despite my best intentions, it’s taken 7 years to get round to tramping another of NZ’s Great Walks. Admittedly, I’ve had some pretty good times inbetween, not to mention 6 weeks in Europe over Christmas. This trip is actually for Mr21 who turned 21 last year and we offered him a hike as he loves the bush too. Turns out he’d rather hike with us so the three of us are doing the Kepler together.

I tramped the Routeburn using my ageing Kathmandu travel pack and while it held up ok, I decided that next time I tramped I would get a dedicated pack. For the Europe trip, I bought a new travel pack that had a backpacking harness and wheels. I’ve read a few “best of” lists online and pretty much decided that the Osprey Atmos fits the bill. It’s a good size with a decent harness. I’ve had an Osprey day pack with 3 litre aqualung for several years and that’s been really nice. Getting the Atmos means I can use the aqualung on it too. Just need to go into a store and try one on.

I bought a new pair of Scarpa walking boots a couple of years ago and retired my previous Scarpa so that part is sorted. I remain undecided on walking poles – the germans love them and I have a few friends who are keen. I sort of wonder if my general clumsiness might mean that they’d work well for me too…or at least stop me reaching out for trees that may or may not hold my weight :-)

shelf by shelf 6 – travel

The travel shelf: places I’ve been, places I almost visited and places I’d like to go.

My very first trip out of the country was in 1999 and I spent 4 months backpacking, starting with a christian music festival in the US, and continuing to the UK and Europe. On that first trip, I met many people I’d previously only known online via usenet, through groups such as rec.music.christian, alt.fan.pratchett and alt.fan.wednesday – including Wednesday herself. I remember my Lonely Planet for “Western Europe” had a misprint on the spine and was spelt “Westen Europe”. I regret not keeping it. To reduce weight, I ripped out the sections I wasn’t using and ultimately tossed the whole, broken mass before heading home. Anything to reduce weight. Ultimately I returned from that trip having bought too many books, too many clothes and over 50 CDs.

Northern Greece

A year later I returned to Europe for a 5 week trip with friends. I’ve made it to Greece 3 times, Italy a few times, a wonderful trip to China. With a mix of earlier jobs and regular travel, I think I managed to make it to London 5 years in a row, with good memories of Scotland and Ireland; Central Europe and particularly Prague, and of course France.

Nor can I forget travelling with dad and my sister around France and Belgium. I recall in Bordeaux, we bought a very nice red on a winery tour and decided to picnic in a park back in town. We went to the supermarket to buy some cheeses and glasses and dad wanted to buy plastic glasses, however I insisted on glass glasses. A good wine tastes much better out of glass I reckon.

To my shame, I didn’t make it to New Zealand until my job at the time required me to do so. Consequently, mostly for work, I went back a couple of times a year over several years and attached holidays here and there. I fell in love with the place and was in the midst of planning a move to Wellington when the job at the State Library of NSW popped up.

Routeburn Track, NZ

Iceland: I still haven’t made it. I had plans to go several years ago, on two separate occasions. No luck so far. I’ve been to all States and Territories of Australia but still haven’t made it to Tasmania. I’ve been to Canada and had good times in Toronto. Two of my trips to Greece were to attend international rendezvous for canyoning, both times were amazing, once to Crete and once near Lamia in Northern Greece. My last trip to New Zealand was mix of work (attending LIANZA) and a 3 day hike on the Routeburn track. My last big trip was two years ago, when I spent a month travelling through Borneo with a mate. Antarctica remains a desire, as does a return to Scotland. One day, I would love to hike The Pennine Way in the UK..all 18 days or so of it.

I’d better stop there, I could ramble forever about travel :-)

a is for active

Following on from flexnib’s example, I’m going to attempt doing an A to Z of topics ie each post will be based on a word based on the current letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z. Con is doing it in 26 days as it seems to be an April challenge. I’ll give that a go, but mostly I’m just aiming for 26 posts.

I last blogged nearly 4 months ago, and I have not been active in the blogosphere in the time since. My online activities have waned. To some extent, I suspect that’s a side effect of the death of my mother at the end of December…no sympathy required and I’m doing ok; her passing was not unanticipated. I’ll cover another side effect when I hit “B”.

On the other hand, I have picked up on physical things. I am walking more. I even did a 3 hour walk around Northbridge on the weekend. That’s not a particularly big deal, however I’m aware that my fitness has lagged and I’ve not really been up for the sort of tramping I did for Routeburn in December 2010. I’d like to get back to that level of fitness so I can return to New Zealand and explore more of their Great Trails.

bucketing

I’ve never been much good at creating lists of things I want to do, or places I want to go; though there has always been a few things at the back of my mind. The last few years, the phrase “bucket list” has been popping up quite a bit, and indeed, a couple of folk have talked about posting their bucket lists for #blogjune. As near as I can tell, a bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die or kick the bucket. With travel I s’pose there’s long been a tradition of items to tick off and places to go, whether it be cruising through The Three Gorges in China, visiting Big Ben in London or clmbing Ayers Rock – the last is a childhood memory and I eventually learnt that its native name is Uluru and climbing is discouraged out of respect.

I love travelling and getting out and away from the day-to-day; I like the bubble of travel – whereby for a period of time, the trip is all, a bubble of escape. Bushwalking captures a bit of that sense, the focus is on the walk and the next meal..not to mention the landscape. A reduction of sorts to the basic stuff. In putting together my own bucket list, or at least the beginnings of one, I notice that several of the entries involve long walks and time in the bubble.

  • South America – the general idea is to spend 6 months backpacking south including Peru (want to try eating guinea pigs) and Patagonia. Along the way: visiting Machu Picchu, Inca Trail, glaciers, The Galapagos Islands and so forth, eventually ending up in Ushuaia in time to get a boat to Antarctica.
  • Annapurna Circuit (Nepal) – the trek takes about 3 weeks and takes in some magnificent country and passes through Buddhist villages and Hindu holy sites. Even better, you don’t need a tent, being able to stay in teahouses every night.
  • Probably as part of the above trip, I would love to hike to Everest Base Camp.
  • Cambodia – Angkor Wat is often featured in movies and TV and computer games and it looks amazing. I would love to visit and explore and spend a bit of time there.
  • New Zealand’s Great Walks – I completed the Routeburn Track last year and hope to tramp the Kepler Track later this year. Eventually I’d like to complete all the Great Walks in NZ.
  • The Pennine Way – I think this is the first big walk I came across and it takes about 18 days to complete, strolling through the north of England and finishing just inside the Scottish border. You’re basically hiking from town to town and staying in a pub each night.
  • Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James) – this one is in Spain and takes about 2.5 months of walking to complete. I’ve read a book or two on it and it sounds fascinating, though the feet take a beating.
  • The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) – I’ve wanted to see these since I was little. From what I recall, their prominence goes through an 11 year cycle which peaks this year I think. The coming European winter at the end of the year would be viewing season. Of course, being there at the right time is no guarantee that you will actually see them.
  • Canoe/kayak down the Franklin River – early in my teens, there was a huge nationwide controversy with regard to building a dam on the Franklin River. As a keen bushwalker, I signed petitions and went on protest marches. It’s been my dream ever since to visit this world heritage area and canoe down the river. I did get into canoeing and kayaking a few years later but never made it then.
  • Shipping graveyard – I don’t recall where I read of this one but supposedly there’s a great shipping graveyard on the north coast of Russia.

It goes without saying that this list needs additions, no doubt of a few things that I’ve forgotten and things I haven’t heard of yet. It’s a start at least.

there and back again

Home now.

Oddly, having spent most of December away on holidays, it hasn’t quite sunk in that Christmas is a couple of days away; I keep thinking it’s early December. I suspect this means that the next week is going to hurt lots. Then again, this is a bad time of year for me anyway and christmas seems to lack joy these days. Only to be followed by NYE and the memory of a lost mate. Nearly a year after that fateful day, another friend was lost and I gave up canyoning altogether. Actually the reality was that I stopped everything outdoorsy and I’ve missed the bush a great deal.

It is with that in mind that I approached the Routeburn in NZ recently. In some respects, I was overprepared to buggery; though it didn’t matter this time, a better first aid kit than the basic one I had would be a good idea. I used my travel pack, rather than a bushwalking specific pack: this meant that the load rested below my hips rather than above. Whereas the hips are supposed to support the bulk of the weight. The pack itself was mostly fine for a short trip, Routeburn was 3 days over 32km, but I would need something better designed for future tramps.

Routeburn Track
Routeburn Track

As for the Routeburn itself, oh my. It was like I was being welcomed home. The bush embraced me and encouraged me to feel at peace. The bush in the Blue Mountains is a homely place too, and I’ve always felt at ease there. Whereas I found the Kanangra-Boyd National Park inhospitable, a place that seemed out to get you and indeed it got a good friend. Of course, no wilderness should ever be taken for granted; people can die anywhere.

Near the end of the tramp, I gave thanks to the trees and the land for welcoming me, and allowing me to feel at home. The tramp itself was not too hard, though it did push a little. I had two maps, compass and a whistle. Not needed really but good to have regardless. As someone commented, the track is like the 4 lane highway of bushwalking, and indeed it was. Packed with walkers and impossible to lose your way. The kiwis know how to construct a good track. Best bunkhouses I’ve ever encountered.

Routeburn Track
Routeburn Track

It rained on the middle day, but I had wet weather gear and 2 sets of thermals (always a backup, just in case) so I was toasty. Still I powered through the exposed, alpine sections, as the forecast was for heavy rain and strong winds. The main section is supposed to take 4 hours and I did it in 2.5. Oops. The forecast never eventuated and there was a misty drizzle all day so the views were often not as spectacular as they might have been. Yet that did not detract from the beauty of the walk; even in mist it was a magical place.

It was so good to be in the bush again. That was my first trip outdoors in 3 years and I have missed it much. I like the NZ approach to their trails and plan to do many more of them. I feel at home there. I’m now hoping to tramp the Kepler Track at the end of summer before it gets too cold.