Saturday, March 20, 2010

Getting to Stewart Island (via Invercargill)

This post is dedicated to John Bain. Through a series of serendipitous events, I found something in Invercargill, NZ that he introduced me too.

New Zealand's McCullum brothers celebrate their win over Australia.

On Sunday, Hannan and I drove down from Arthur's Pass to play ultimate. After the game, we rushed out the door to the Twenty20 cricket match between New Zealand's Black Caps and Australia. Australia had a player with Tait (same as my brother) on his jersey. Other than that, I had not heard of a single player. New Zealand was up first. Their one batter scored 100 (a century is a big deal in cricket) of NZ's 214 runs. After Australia bowled (pitched) their twenty overs (120 bowls total), it was their turn to bat. They didn't look like they would make catch up, but they rallied in the last couple overs to tie the game. The NZ outfielders had to do some fancy fielding to keep them from winning. In the super over (overtime), each team had one over or six bowls to score as many runs as they could. Australia scored seven. NZ scored more. New Zealand handed Australia, their biggest rival, their first loss of the year. Pandemonium! It was cricket and it was exciting. I've been told I should probably make that my only cricket game to keep it a very fond and exciting memory of what the game is like.

Sunrise at my house in Christchurch.

Unfortunately, the cricket match ran late which meant we got home late. We were up even later packing and then waking up early to finish packing. Fortunately, getting up early meant that I got to see my best sunrise since leaving the Ice. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Sunrise at my house in Christchurch.

Our plan was to leave at 8am and get to Invercargill around 4pm to buy our hut passes and then catch the 5pm ferry a half hour away in Bluff. We got out the door at 8:15am. The night before Hannan didn't want to fill the gas tank because he needed to do some more food shopping. We filled it in the morning. On the way down, we hit some bad weather, construction, and slow cars. The highways in New Zealand are almost all two lane roads with lots of passing sections that go directly through every town. This isn't like the USA where will be major four lane highways and bypasses between and around the cities. It makes you move slower and I'm a fan of that.

White smoke under black clouds.

We rolled into Dunedin, our half way point, a bit after noon. We dropped Celeen off to meet up with other Ice folks and then we dilly dallied a little too long. I had to use the Internet because the Antarctic Program wants you to request your flights home no more than thirty days after leaving the Ice. My day would be while we were camping and I didn't realize that until the drive down. Then, I got some really good veggie lasagna. We left at ten of one, but it was too late. The hut pass office closed at 4:30pm. We got there at 4:35pm. We were able to get someone to let us in who informed us we could get the passes on Stewart Island instead the next morning. We tried to boogie to the ferry, but missed it because we took too much time at the DOC office. We were stuck in Invercargill for the night and that bit of serendipity led me to a hardware store.

This has to be an early model of the moped. That red engine looking thing is connected to the black bicycle..

A Triumph motorcycle.

When we went looking for a place to stay, we came across a hardware store to buy Hannan a bandanna. In that hardware store, we found a couple odd things. They had possum fur insoles and a number of old motorcycles. They also claimed to have the 'World's Fastest Indian' which was a bike owned and raced by Invercargill native Burt Munro and made famous by a movie John Bain introduced me to called . . . . wait for it . . . The World's Fastest Indian. Before we watched it, I thought it was about a Native American Indian (maybe Jim Thorpe), not a motorcycle built by the Indian company. As it turns out, they have the actual bike that broke the records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. They also have the 'twin' bike that he kept in New Zealand to try ideas out on and then would make those same modifications on the USA bike. He had two bikes because it was too expensive to haul it back and forth. They also had a replica of the bike's racing shell that was made for the movie.

Burt Munro's speed records.

The NZ test model of the World's Fastest Indian that was used in Invercargill.

The actual bike that broke the records.

A replica for the movie of the casing of the World's Fastest Indian

At first, I was disappointed about not getting to Stewart Island and getting started on our tramp. However, finding that motorcycle that John Bain had shared with me made the serendipitous detour worth it. I was focused on doing the one big hike that BNelson and I missed out on my last visit to New Zealand. I had forgotten that the racer was from New Zealand and the bike was in Invercargill.


This wasn't in Invercargill, but it should be!

While walking around, we saw the sign saying no dogs on main street. I've seen signs like that before, but never embedded in the sidewalk and never in such a small town. It is the biggest town in the area at 50,000, but I didn't think it was big enough to not to want dogs there. I guess there is enough space everywhere else to take your dog. I'm just a dog lover and prefer the second picture.

The other sign that left a lasting impression from Invercargill was posted outside the elevator in our hotel. We took the stairs.

The sign for the elevator at our hostel.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Arthur's Pass

Sunset at Castle Hill (photo by Suz).

The brilliant organizers of Credo, my NZ ultimate team, decided we needed a team bonding weekend. Most of the team has played together for years, but there are a few of us that don't know everyone else. The organizers booked a private school's 'cabin' near Castle Hill in Arthur's Pass. This would allow us to do presentations, cook a potluck dinner, and use the outdoors as bonding time.

My nemesis. I came back the next day and got farther, but just couldn't solve the puzzle.

I was going to head up later on Friday, but found out that Suz and Arnoud were heading up earlier to go bouldering at Castle Hill. I had only driven by Castle Hill before and was amazed by it. I was also fresh off my great climbing experience at Castle Rock so I wanted to get in on the action. Arnoud found some beginner climbs for me to work on and I got a few. However, the climb in the photo above, rated V2 I think, got me. I kept us there past sunset trying to get it because I was so close. I came away with the start of a number of blisters on my fingers and a lot of achy muscles.

The team, just before we started the cave stream hike (photo by Suz).

The team slowly trickled in through out the night. Some got stuck on the gravel drive way in and needed a little help. Some didn't make it until morning because their flights were delayed. Once we gathered, we talked about the direction and desires of the team. Afterward, we got to head outside for outdoor adventures. Our first activity was to hike through a cave stream. Mike added a great twist by having us find a hidden object in the cave with our name on it. Just before we started, he ran around and tossed ping pong balls into the stream that we found as we came through. It was a great twist on a simple hike.

Inside the cave (photo by Suz).

As soon as we entered the cave, most of us got wet. A few people dodged it for a few steps but sooner or later we were all walking in the stream. It was just easier, if not a little colder. However, the cold was a welcome relief on a hot day. Once we were in the cave, about half of us had head lamps so we could see where we were going. I think they were best used to make sure you didn't hit your head. It was still hard to see your feet through the water. We slowly picked our way upstream entertaining ourselves as we went. I think my favorite part was when we turned off the head lamps and walked via glow stick. You also got to enjoy the cave as it is naturally. I think you could probably get through the cave in the dark, you would just bump your head a few more times and possibly miss the ladder to get out at the end. The biggest amazement of all is that when I looked it up later, I found out the cave is only 600m long!! It took 60-90 minutes to get through so I thought it was much longer. Instead, we were just slow or maybe taking our time and enjoying ourselves.

Castle Hill in Arthur's Pass.

From on top of one of the boulders at Castle Hill.

After caving, some people went back to the cabin to nap and sun bathe. Some of us went to Castle Hill to try bouldering. I went back for more bouldering. I didn't do nearly as well as the night before. I think it was my muscles were still tired, but it was still a treat.

Castle Hill.

Arnie shows how easy it is to run up impossible climbs.

One of the weirdest things about bouldering is that you can watch someone else get up right up a rock with minimal effort and try the same thing, but fail. Unless you trust your body or the required move, it can be really hard. Sometimes you just don't have the strength or flexibility to make it happen, but a lot of times it is mental. There were so many puzzles that I saw Arnoud do easily, that I just couldn't solve. I'd try the same basic actions, but didn't trust myself to put it all together. I think my favorite one was when Arnoud did a rock I'd never even try because he had to be leaning backwards to climb up and over the lip (pictured below).

Arnie goes up and over the lip from the previous picture.

Team dinner (photo by Davon).

After everyone's afternoon shenanigans, we settled in to make a team dinner which was delicious. Then, we moved on to the team Oscars. Everyone ended up with an award of some sort. I won most likely to destroy cleats, but was also nominated for looking like a hobo with my unruly beard. The beard is now gone. I'll have to stick to blowing out cleats.

Not traversing a mop handle.

Sunset from our 'cabin'.

When the awards were done, every one did whatever they wanted. Penny came up with a bunch of party tricks to make our lives difficult. It all started when Arnoud tried to traverse a table with out touching the floor. We tried to traverse a mop, which my inflexible wrists would not let me do. We rested coins on the lip of a glass and tried to blow them over the entire glass. We also tried Eskimo jumping (keeping your fingers wrapped around your big toes the whole time) over a piece of paper. That was a failure for everyone. There were a few others, but I can't remember them. Finally, we went out to see the stars. I saw one of the longest shooting stars in my life.

One of our captains, Mike, layouts for the catch.

In the morning, we woke up, cleaned up, and darted back to Christchurch for our biweekly game to get ready for Worlds. I played much better than the week before. Two major errors, one mental on the choice of a throw and one execution on a dump throw, instead of the four or five from the last game. I'm glad to finally be getting chemistry with the team again. As a team, we are starting to clean things up as well, especially with the handlers.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Castle Rock, NZ

Tricky photography makes it look like I'm way up in the air when I'm not.

Brian took us to the Port Hills to climb at a spot called Castle Rock.

As my two weeks of nothing came to a close, I finally started doing instead of not doing. I'm not sure I could have held out much longer. I had just about as much nothing as I could handle. On of my first great trips was up to the Port Hills very own Castle Rock. Who knew that I'd take a five hour plane ride and be visiting a land mark with the same name as one we had just five miles away from where we lived in Antarctica.

Sparky climbs with the beach in the background.

I'm always happy to go climbing with friends, but I never initiate it. Every time that I go, I have to relearn all the harness checks and knots. Luckily, Brian and Sparky are climbers. Brian is a ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park and Sparky used to teach. They are both brilliant and super patient. They had all the gear and the hunger to go. Annie and I were both just along for the ride, but we both went climbed. It was a brilliant day. Maybe 70F and sunny with a gentle breeze and amazing view of the beaches and city center below. We even had a cave to hide in when the sun got to be too much. Brian did the lead climb and they we each took turns roping up on his route. I think I went up two, maybe three times, and I was beat. I am always amazed how many muscles that climbing uses that I just never use. I know they say the best climbing is about core strength and using your feet, but my arms come away aching no matter how much I use my feet.

Brian took us to the Port Hills to climb at a spot called Castle Rock.

Brian's last climb of the day was brilliant. It was straight out of a climbing video! Sparky was on belay and I was spotting him because he was almost upside down climbing up and over the roof and lip of a cave. I don't have any pictures because I was spotting him and then just dumb struck as he grunted and crawled right up and over the lip. Simply amazing.

Brian gets ready for his final unbelievable climb that I was apparently too awed at to take any pictures of.

One of the most memorable parts of the day, other than Brian's ridiculous climb, was getting back down to the beach. We had borrowed Galit's sick car and it was having a flare up on the way down. Whenever it would idle too low, it would stall. It was an automatic and we were going down steep hills and curves, so I wasn't hitting the gas at all. After two or three stall outs on the way down, I was driving with two feet. One was on the break to slow us down. The other one was on the gas to make sure we didn't idle too low. It was definitely a challenge. After dropping them off in Sumner, I got to play that game all the way back to city center in rush hour traffic. Wheee!!