The Rurus

Adventure Before Dementia

10/2/18 Never Before Have We Experienced Such: Lake Daniells Tramp

As soon as we opened the car door at Marble Hill, the bastards started nipping to suck blood! Sandflies. The race to smoother 80% deet insect repellent over exposed skin was on. Mandy lost in receiving the greater number of welts amongst the four of us. Swore the most too, ahem!

We were 5kms east of Springs Junction toward the Lewis Pass, at the start of an 8.4 km tramp into Lake Daniell for the night.

For BClaire & I, it is one of our favourites to take novice trampers on so they can be introduced to the world of getting lost on the landscape by foot. Carrying your life. We laugh with the newbies, not at them. We do that when they are out of sight and the beauty about this track is that it it nigh impossible to get lost on.

Except for the young fella who did back in 2002 and they found his body near the Alfred River. He was 14.

This was a practice tramp as well because in a couple of weeks, Mandy and Andy with Tin and Lisa are off on another little ‘Ruru’ adventure together. Tin and Lisa weren’t able to participate in this one as they are on a beach somewhere in the Pacific!

Anyway, off we stepped and the Sluice Box where you cross a cravass looked invitingly stunning. It was only five minutes into the walk and too early to get naked. The lake at the end is okay to skinny dip in after dropping the packs so onward the team progressed.

The 50 shades of green beech forest was alive with bird song – whether the Fantail, the Robin, the Bell bird and the like. So too was there the hum of wasps. We tend to respect each others personal space so as not to encounter confrontation.

The fauna was just beautiful as sunlight beamed down through the canopy. Old man’s beard translucent and the ground covered moss spongy like the softest mattress you could imagine. Stop starting is common to new comers to rest body parts newly discovered or rusty from lack of use. Whatever the reason, it’s about taking the time to take in the surrounds.

We arrived at the Manson Nicholls Memorial Hut to day walkers eating lunch or drying off from a swim. Once they departed, apparel was shed and into the lake we plunged to cool off and wash the sweat grime off. Heads kept above water as the lake sadly was slimey underfoot. It didn’t deter us from immersing the rest of the body.

No other trampers arrived, never before have we experienced such ever, to have a hut (sleeps 24) to ourselves. Andy lit the fire (even though it is was still hot and humid outside) … it was like a kid having a new toy for the very first time. As the light faded over a game of cards, the discussion turned to spooky stories cunjuring up Jason from Friday the 13th type fears that had us huddle. The snap of the branch and a gun shot echo didn’t help neither. Those of us who were awake most of the night – Mandy, BClaire and me had Andy’s snoring to contend with. It would’ve scared any monster who lurked beyond the hut walls away!

Rain arrived during the night and it was a lazy start tracing our footsteps from the day before. Poncho’s snailed in unison; the Alfred River and Sluice Box also up above the day before’s water mark. A stop in at Hanmer to soak the bones at the hot pools, well deserved.

There is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this and, to experience it with a couple of novices made the adventure magical.

And the next ‘Ruru’ adventure before dementia with Mandy, Andy, Tin and Lisa … google Mueller Hut!

A mare 2,200 steps give or take a couple. Up.

20/1/18 – Purau Bay, Lyttelton Harbour

Instead of tandem biking around the water, why not end up in it?

And so we did.

Was much cooler, that’s for sure!  Especially as the mercury crept up to the 30 degrees celcius.

With our mates Randall and Maree, we wound up at Purau for an impromptu picnic, sunning, swim and paddle.

Found a boat named ‘Ruru’. Could do with a little tender loving care.

More significantly, moored in the bay was the yacht ‘Chieftain’ that I helped sail around the South Island with a couple of old fella’s Wayne and Max.  I wonder if my message in the bottle has washed up somewhere yet?!

A day where best intentions got reversed and then revised that was certainly more refreshing.

Ya gotta love this country.

5/1/18 Alps to Ocean – Kurow to Oamaru 78 kms

We often go off the beaten track during adventures.

Getting lost can be both entertaining and entralling. As long as you don’t have to back pedal a heap of kilometres to regain the true compass direction!

Giant oak trees shouldered the road to escort us for most of today’s ride, the distance between varying. At their base, a white Oamaru stone cross. Inscribed on the cross, the names of soldiers who lost their lives during WWI and the year/place they fell. There were so many. The ones that pulled at the heart strings were the crosses with double names of two family members who perished.

Thinking we were lost having gone off the beaten track, we happened upon a monument. It read: ‘The Gallipoli Pine – Planted after WWI from seeds brought back from Gallipoli by Tpr: J.J. Mansfield 57526. (Joe) O.M.R.’ An arrow on the monument pointed in the direction and when we about faced, there on a hill top in the distance was ‘The Gallipoli Pine.’

Back in 2011, we walked from Istanbul to Galipolli to give homage at the Anzac Day celebrations in Turkey. My Maori Poau (Grandfather) had fought and survived the campaign. As Cesare Pavese once quoted, “we do not remember days … we remember moments” giving that exact moment some beauty, significance and feeling humbled.

Carrying on, we regained the A2O route markers. The blustery head wind didn’t deter, nor the threat of a downpour.

There is always extra in the tank when you know the end is nigh. That and us carrying rain gear should we have needed it. Oh, and the great nights sleep in a bed after the light was switched off!

What we thought was a welcoming sign ‘Kia Ora’ was in fact a road sign pointing to a settlement called Kia Ora. Who would have known?!

The Oamaru Public Gardens were in full bloom as we rode from one end to the other. By now, rain was falling. The ride through Oamaru’s new and old township to arrive at the beach was without fanfare.

Except for the hugging of each other to acknowledge our Alps to Ocean adventure before dementia had ended.

301 kms ridden.

A fantastic ride that has us repeat again, “Ya gotta love this country”

And ‘Lest we forget’ to those who fought for such.

4/1/18 Alps to Ocean – Omarama to Kurow 67 kms

There are eight power stations in the Waitaki Power Scheme however, the largest of them all is at the Benmore Dam. It’s the largest earth-filled water-retaining structure in New Zealand to hold Lake Benmore’s 1.25 billion cubic metres of the liquid stuff – water. To compare, it’s about 1.5 times as much water as Wellington harbour.

The last 800 metres riding up onto the dam itself was a slog. Sweat glistened the forehead and dribbled down skin. Moments of clenched teeth was share guts and determination to conquer Ben without stopping or walking. The reward breathtaking. Lots of breath taking actually, sucking in the oxygen to recover.

To the right and at the bottom, Lake Avimore where hordes of water craft of all sorts were making the most of summer; to the left and at the top, Lake Benmore where you could have easily been somewhere in Canada with the trees sewn onto the landscape right down to the waters edge. The water, tranquil and inviting. And deep. Very very deep.

Ominus clouds above the mountain skyline signaled a possible change in weather. We skirted Lake Avimore into a head wind that kept the temperature decent, with the sun still casting shadows where we rode.

You could smell them before you saw them. This part of the country is the habitat for introduced wild wallabies. And some took their last bounce off a vehicle to die where they landed. They reaked of road kill stench and it was frequent. Body odour had a more pleasantness about it, that’s for sure!

The Waitaki Dam was crossed and then it was head down pedaling into the head wind that had picked riding State Highway 83 on into Kurow. There was little distance between us and traffic passing so this is where you have to trust your wits about you and just go for it. And bugger me, just 500 metres to reach the Kurow township welcoming sign, another puncture.

The smell of rain was eminent. So too the remembering our night at Aoraki/Mount Cook with the lite sleeping bags, all apparel worn and fetal position. We took a motel room and had no sooner unloaded and the heavens opened up.

Turning a light switch on and off knowing no battery was needed was bliss being in hydro country.

Sleeping stretched out semi-attired was also good y’know.

The arguement started with who was going to turn off the friggin light!

3/1/18 Alps to Ocean – Twizel to Omarama 79 kms

Imagine life where you are confined to the one spot from birth to death, never ever experiencing what the world has to offer beyond such confinement.

Only to be snuffed out by the hand of a human or even worse, from a sea gull beak being consumed!

The Ohau Canal houses a salmon farm. We watched workers toss pellets into the large confinements and the top of the water splash feverishly as the salmon ate with passion. Further along the farm, a large hose ran from a confinement up onto shore and to a make shift shed. The intermittent ‘thwat’ sound was from individual salmon finally escaping except it was it’s final ‘dead fish swimming’ suck. The fish in this confinement were also swimming feverishly as well – we wondered if they knew?

Perched on the farm structure in-between were a number of seagulls. Waiting. Patiently.

It only took one smart salmon to realise what choice lay in-front and take the leap of faith jump to hopefully risk beating the odds and land in the canal before the hordes of beaks squawking “mine, mine, mine” (like they did on ‘Finding Nemo’) swoop to capture an easy meal mid-jump.

Freedom can again be short lived if the salmon make the choice to chomp onto a hook lure, cast from the anglers positioned on either sides of the canal who fish to try and capture the one that did get away.

Life as a salmon eh!

We like eating it and seeing the farm in action made the mouth moist! Especially when one is carrying de-hydrated ‘just add water’ meals and umpteen muselie bars.

We just about snuffed out a trekker on the off-road track of the Lake Ohau foreshore, walking towards us. Apologising, we learnt the young lass was stepping out the South Island part of the Te Araroa Trail, doing it north bound. We exchanged tales from the trail experiences to push on to a section of today’s ride that had us climb up to 900 metres at it’s highest point on the Tambrae Track.

When the track narrowed, so too did the under bike tyre conditions change and there was quite a bit of walking pushing the bikes and gear steadily up. It was about preserving the need to have to change a flatty as much as preserve the body fatigue that comes quicker on any given second day of distance riding. Mountain bikes without sundry would have been a breeze.

Stretching the legs allowed for safer glances backwards and take in the views across the basin to the Benmore Range. The back bone of the South Island looked just as stunning as it did yesterday.

When there is up, you are pretty much gauranteed down and it was easier riding once we summitted the height; it was also again hot, dry and dusty. There was the need to take a pit stop when a puncture did eventuate however, we were within 20kms of the Omarama township limits.

It’s a small township at the junction of State Highway 8 and 83. It’s population is boosted from anglers, astronomers, pilots who fly glider and during winter, snow sporters.  The hot tubs are wood fire heated if wanting a relaxing time to have a soak and, the Top 10 Camp Ground was certainly welcoming to a couple wanting a piece of dirt under some shade to pitch the tent.

Catching up with family friends who reside in Omarama was an additional bonus. They served us up some fresh salmon fillets caught earlier in the day and smoked with a brown sugar and sweet chilli sauce/apricot sauce glaze.

An unexpected different type of mouth moist from earlier this morning. It was devine.

With one eye on the sky keeping check on no sea gull overhead.

2/1/2018- Alps to Ocean – Aoraki to Twizel 77 kms

The four larger ones sat seated beside each other in the back row; the two smaller frames sat beside the helicopter pilot. I was in the back. Claire was in the front.

The motor was gunned and the rotors grunted into spin; we lifted off the tarmac to be carried across the glacially-fed braided Tasman River to Tasman Point. The view was to die for. And when the pilot announced that we would be doing a quick sharp bank due to getting out of the way of an aircraft flight path, the steepness flung us all forward to test the buckle restraints and there were a couple who thought they were … going to be departing this earth.

I think it’s all part and parcel of the flight so as to get more bang for your buck. That, or the pilot has watched ‘Apolocolypse Now’ repeatedly! We disembarked to our awaiting chariots that were transported before us. We had already pedaled seven odd kms from the camp ground to the airport so the altitude topped off what was in store.

Especially when you could see the distance to be ridden, way off in the distance!

It was a mixture of biking terrain – rough shingle to gravel road to smooth shingle to dirt and not in any particular order. However, when you lifted your head and take in the surrounding, it was astonishing to write the least. We are at peace when out doing this sort of stuff. How can you not be when unplugged and in the same sentence, connected.

We followed the eastern shore of Lake Pukaki playing cat and mouse with the other party of cyclists sharing the chopper. Sometimes it was the hare and the tortoise as we were carrying all our worldly possessions. They weren’t, having theirs transported ahead by arrangement. We were tougher!

The colour of grey water evaporated into a deep blue mediterranean colour, it was beautiful. The valley opened up and the legs did their job. We rounded the top end and parked up outside the tourist salmon shop to purchase a re-hydration drink, a packet of sea-salt chips and a rasberry lemonade ice block to quench the hot dusted saddle sore bodies.

We knew we stunk from grime, sun block, insect repellent and sweat however, we believe the sense of smell helps one to remember the experience when reflecting back on what was.

So too does the smell of lavender soap after you have peeled off the apparel to stand butt naked under a shower washing.

Minding with care the bits that weren’t happy sitting all day!

Ya gotta love this country.

1/1/18 – Alps to Ocean – Tent Peg Hitting Rock Was the Common Language Spoken

The Alps to Ocean (A2O) is a route from Aoraki/Mt Cook (the Southern Alps) to Oamaru (the Pacific Ocean) and at just 301kms, is suitable for all ages.

Aoraki represents the most sacred of ancestors, from whom Ngai Tahu descend and who provides identity, solidarity and purpose. However, spending the night at the National Park camp site amongst the tent city … we were the only native Maori or NZ Pakeha to be found. The truest sense of identity and solidarity you could ever get. The sound of hammering in tent pegs frequently finding rock just beneath the turf was the common language.

The 70,111 hectare park houses the longest glacier in NZ as well as our tallest peak at 3,754 metres and it was first summited in 1882. The mountain peak that is. The first women climbed it in 1910 wearing a skirt, leggings underneath and hob-nailed boots … they built them strong in them days!

Alpine scree weta are found living at altitudes of more than 3,100 metres in the park and they have an anti-freeze chemical in their bodies, which allows them to survive over the winter when everything around them is frozen solid.

We wish we did too, Taking our lite-sleeping bags was a great idea sitting in the comforts of ones home at the time. When the mercury fell below zero and even though the moon was at it’s fullest, we both woke up during darkness to put on just about all our clothes we were going to be carrying to help us with warmth as crunched up in the phetal position only gave partial hot spots.

Peter Dickson became the first person to mountain bike off Aoraki/Mt Cook in 1986. He carried his bike to the summit in pieces, assembled it, and rode it off. Wasn’t long before he got a puncture from a crampon and realised he had left behind a spare tube and repair kit. Yup!

Before we laid our bodies down onto the bedrolls once more – the last time was on the North Island Te Araroa; we had time to stretch the legs and wander the pathway to the first lake. As sun set, the sound of water flow below and the odd crack of ice from above had us excited that we were about to tick off another adventure opportunity to explore this place we call home.

A2O – here the Rurus go!

29/12/17 – Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park: Robert

The bunk room rustle is the trekkers rooster ‘cockadoodledoo’ squawk. After the first one starts, it isn’t long before another, then another.

Except a couple of us had already snuck out under the cover of darkness to experience sunrise.

It’s always been a thing to get up to watch the yellow ball appear beyond an horizon as a habit. It means you have survived to live another day and therefore, you had better make the most of it if it was to be your last! And by crickey, you had better be doing something you love doing if it is.

There were some moments following the Robert Ridge Route rocky sections whereby one quarter of an inch step to the left or right and over you would have gone! The same for not placing your footing on permanent terrafirma!

The flip side when the head looked up, the panoramic three sixty degree view. It allowed for the heart rate to settle before navigating a next part of Robert.  Most importantly, if this was to be our last moments on the planet, then we had already arrived at heaven. It was just spectacular.

The trail snail tracked down and dishing out a ‘Kia Ora’ salutation allowed those making their way up to make eye contact. The eyes told a story and you knew even though they were hurting, the reward at the end would worth the effort and energy expended. Persons older then us gave us peace of mind that perhaps there mayby a second time to watch sunrise from the Angelus Hut again. Perhaps.

Diverting right at a junction to take in the view of Lake Rotoiti was a bonus; the descent grade burned the thighs but by now, the taste of a melting paddle pop ice block at the end kept the legs on auto-pilot.

The Department of Conservation brochure reads: You must be fit enough to walk for 2-3 days, up to 12.2 kms for 6 hours per day and climb to1,800 m. You must be comfortable on rough terrain and without a fear of heights.’

Our summation is whether an overnight hump into where giant monster eels reside; or ascending four or so football fields to watch another day arrive; or catching up with Robert – it’s up there as being an adventure before dementia one should attempt to tick off.

And certainly before your last day.

28/12/17 – Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park: Peaceful Absorbtion

Angelus Hut is sited adjacent to Rotomaninitua/Lake Angelus. At 1,650 m altitude, snow, frost and freezing winds can occur even in midsummer. The alpine pond or tarns in winter are as hard as the surrounding rock topography frozen solid.

Avalanche signs in red didn’t deter us reaching the Cascade Track junction. We bid farewell to Julia and Ryan as they were heading deeper on the flatlands as our noses pointed toward the up.

The steady climb beside the Hukere Stream was beautiful. As we emerged from forest to alpine grasses, flowers welcomed us with the buzz of life from bumble bees tendering their crop. Do bumble bees hibernate during winter?

Then the only path to go was straight up. Literally. About four football fields, give or take!

We could have been ascending Mount Kilimanjaru in East Africa or Gokyo Ri in Nepal except we weren’t. We were in our Aotearoa and the slow pace to absorb what is ours shifted mindset over matter to keep going and not give up.

The final brow to reveal Lake Angelus Hut and it’s adjacent reflection, stunning.

It took about 4.5 hours; the hut that accommodates 28 was full this night with fellow humans from all parts of the planet. You have to book in advance and there were some who braved the minus 6 degree celcius overnight temperature under canvas. Young ones today, pfft!

The arrival of the hut wardens was a pleasant surprise. We had met Prue and Malcolm at a hut that they were hut wardens at on Stewart Island a couple of Christmas’s ago so the chit chat catch up was like picking up the conversation as if it were only yesterday. Roughing it like we were does that.

Watching the shadows colour the opposite crater rim can be described best as how the lake was previously known as – Rangimarie.

Translated, it means ‘peaceful’.

Ya gotta love this country.

27/12/17 – Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park: Covering Up

St Arnaud village is the gateway to the Nelson Lakes National Park.

It’s easily accessible from Christchurch (via the Lewis Pass), Blenheim or Nelson; and offers a variety of outdoor adventure for the novice and experienced. Furthermore, sandflies don’t distinguish between wealth, age or nationality!

It’d been ten months since our feet had worn trekking boots and the compass direction we embarked on had been on the radar since forever. Cripes, we knew it had been a while also since shouldering a back pack too. Sometimes we take aging gracefully for granted, strewth!

However, while the body still can, we will.

Straddling Lake Rotoiti on the western side, the canopy forest of manuka and beech sheltered us from sun’s heat. Insect repellent, sun screen and human combustion moisture blurred. The water looked inviting but was certainly frigid and the odd care at foot placement from landslipped mountainside had us steadily pace the 12 odd kilometres to Coldwater Hut.

It sleeps twelve; there was already a party of six settled having cheated with taking a boat the length of the lake. Another two arrived after us to share the view; the swallows dancing; the giant monster eels at the end of the jetty; and the hordes of bite sucking natives.

Dipping your feet into the water is optional with what lurks below. Covering up with 80% deet above it wasn’t.

Both balanced out the pleasant emotion that it felt fantastic to be back on the landscape, exploring.

Before we can’t!

 
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