The Rurus

Adventure Before Dementia

Page 2 of 33

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!


3/12/17 What’s Another Two Football Fields?

Taking the #4 route, the plan had been to trek up to Purple Peak Saddle, one of the many walks above Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula.

It was a scorcher and we had gone no more than 100 metres before the beads of sweat started to trickle. The bush was alive with the hum of flies, bees and bumbles in unison; and the song of the bell bird echoed.

The elevation was steep. This trail is not for your novice, nor un-fit. Emotions of different places we have trodden on the planet flooded back. It helped taking the mind off the ball of yellow pushing up the internal mercury.

The colour of purple veronica flowers were stunning; the yellow of gorse pin pricky; the green of broom similar to peas growing. When they seed, the hillside will be popping as they disperse their children!

A little hut to shelter from the sun was cute. It was welcoming. Reaching the saddle, we had reached our destination however, it was only another couple of hundred metres to the Stony Bay Peak / Taraterehu. We imagined what the view would be like from there.

What’s another two football fields? Certainly steeper and goat trail like … and standing at 806m in altitude … the view was just spectacular.

Taking the Tara Track, then Te Paripai shortcut to get back on the Purple Peak track down to sea level, made the ice block certainly worth it.

Ya gotta love this country.

17/11/17 West Coast Wilderness Trail – Impromptu Encounters … Priceless

To Greymouth we drove to participate in the West Coast Wilderness Trail mountain biking event.

Whether in a one day or over three or four days … take the journey.

You will be not be disatisfied with the road ridden … Ross to Hokitika to Cowboy Paradise to Kumara to Greymouth.

Or just the bits in-between.

The impromptu encounters – priceless.

And, certainly memorable …


… “Are you there?” was the question asked as we sat in the room of our B&B.

“Yes, come in”

It was the B&B operator’s daughter.

“Just wanted to know if you are any relation of a Sonny Ruru?”

“He was my Dad” the reply given.

“What a small world.  My Mum went out with him when Sonny used to live in Reefton.  Her name is Gladys and she would love to meet you”

And so we did.

Meet and greet and then had the most awesome conversation about my Dad when he lived in Reefton.  He worked in the mines and both him and Gladys were an item for the time he lived there.  The year, 1948 or there abouts.  Gladys was a Nurse Aid and she confirmed Dad’s story about the mining accident where Dad and one other made it out alive – Morris Skilton.  Another was unfortunate and was killed. Dad lived with a family by the name of the Lawrences during his time there; and when Dad returned to Christchurch, their relationship ended.

Shortly after our face to face, Gladys had found a black and white photo of her and Dad.

This was an impromptu encounter of the most amazing type. And ironically, it happened on the 17/11/17 (Friday) … which was Sonny’s birthday.

Leaving Greymouth, we back tracked to Ross (the start of my ride) to do touristy thing as the township had pioneer history worthy of a re-visit.  Calling into friends Tane, Rachel, Ruby, Ava and Tilly in-between for a nose rub and bounce on the tramp was fun.

Just as priceless as the impromptu encounter.

‘It’s your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you’ – Rumi

11/11/17 Where Pakeha Met the Maori

-34.662334 latitude and 178.017654 longitude is re-known for it being the first place in New Zealand to see the dawn of the new sunrise – Gisborne.

It’s significance is for it being the place where Captain James Cook first stepped onto the New Zealand landscape and encounter the natives – where Pakeha met the Maori.

We were there for the weekend to attend a conference with Toastmasters New Zealand. The first time for BClaire.  A return for me as I once lived here for a year after a work promotion in my earlier career days.

It was great to reminisce as a guide for the other half; as much as rub shoulders with fellow speakers.

A number of iconic Kiwi’s originate from Gisborne also, from both sides of the first encounter.

Certainly a part of our cultural heritage to check out.

4/11/17 Ya Gotta Love Our Country – New Zealand

It was a repeat ride from Diamond Harbour to Lyttelton and return … this time on solo bikes.

Ya just gotta love our country …

28/10/17 Now, Where the Fbeepk Did We Put the Butt Butter?

It was back through the tunnel to Lyttelton where chocolate bacon resides, with the Fatty 29 – our tandem.  And our cycling buddies, Randall and Maree Grenfell.

We had been for a couple of smallish togetherness rides on the flatlands of the city … it was time to return to some undulation to increase the training to get thigh burn.  Preparation for the much longer upcoming mountainbike ride adventure next month.  Where most sane folk ride the distance over four days … we are going to be doing it in one!

From one side of the harbour Lyttelton to the other, Diamond Harbour we rode.

It took us back to Canada and stirred reflective memories that we still hold dear … stay upright; try not to get collected by metal vehicles sharing the narrow bits; communicate the call when changing gears to be easier or slower; watch for shit on the road; don’t run over dead things R.I.P. on the road; and when you see an upcoming squashed remains – take a breath before you get to it versus when upon it; take the piss out of each other; remember the host and friendship connections made and wonder what they would be doing; return a smile and salutation when passers by look at you like you are two idiots doing what we were on our Fatty; eat a scone and have a cuppa at the destination Diamond Harbour.

It was a great feeling to be on and out doing it.  One way, only twenty something kilometres.  The legs had worked fine.

Return back to Lyttelton was the same … 58kms around our own terra firma right on our back door step was just magic.

No chocolate bacon today.   By the time we arrived back to our car, we had missed the bulk of the Saturday market.

This is our new training ride … everyone welcome for a repeat blat next weekend :0)

Now, where the f..k did we put the butt butter cream?!!!!!!

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