Escape • Explore • Enjoy • Exist

While the bodies still can and we still have our marbles!

Tag: Minimalism (page 2 of 14)

19/1/17 Levin to Paraparaumu: 400 Mind, Body & Soul Reasons

There is only one commuter train that rattles the tracks towards Wellington in the morning.  We didn’t look the part in our attire as the numbers grew waiting for the single head-light to appear from the north.  When it did, the hordes of commuters scrambled on board as did we to take a seat.  By 7am, we were clickity clicking south.  We could get used to this type of travel!

It was yet another farewell to Mike as he was continuing on south as Jonielle, Claire and I disembarked at Waikanae.  We had planned to walk the 8ish odd kilometres to where Nick was staying (at a cousins) and too was offered a night’s accommodation for which we gratefully accepted.

Walking shorter distances is better for the mind, body and soul.

However, it was too early to call Nick to advise our arrival; Jonielle needed a re-supply so we headed to a supermarket that just so happened to have a café attached and only just opened.  Between a bite of a scone, the skies opened up and by some coincidence, Nick called in-between another bite.  We just waited for our pick up!

Not walking at all is even better for the mind, body and soul, ahem.

Meeting Braden, Vicki his wife and sons Jack and Logan was just the start of what turned out to be 24 hours of a connection as if we had known this lot before; and were just catching up.  The salutary introductions and rapport building quickly evolved into great conversations about likeminded travel and the strive for life simplicities.  Jonielle was invited to stay and so too added an international flavour to perspectives.  Not once did we mention anything to do with Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration.  Only a dozen times.

With still a day ahead of us, we visited Southward Car Museum that houses a collection of over 400 vehicles (and some aircraft).  It’s a Kapiti Coast gem worth a stop to visit. The collection includes Marlen Dietrich’s Cadillac cabriolet, a 1915 Stutz Indianapolis race car, a 1950 Cadillac “gangster special” that belonged to gangster Mickey Cohen, and an 1895 Benz Velo, imported to New Zealand in 1900.

When we got to the cars in the collection we grew up with, back seat experiences became a theme of conversation.  Those leather experiences should best too to lie in some mental archival memory museum as well, moving right along.

We did fit in a small beach walk at the mouth of the Waikanae River.  The tide was pushing in so there was some wetness to feet as white caps paved a view out to Kapiti Island.  It’s one of New Zealand’s oldest and most important nature reserves situated 5 km off the coast.  Humans can visit but not reside.

On a day like today, it was best to be off the water.

Although Jess the family pouch found enjoyment wading into its surf chasing a stick thrown.

Wonder if we chucked a walking pole, the enthusiasm would be the same.  Another mind, body and soul moment when the hospitality was such that we could easily be adopted to stay and live if the offer was extended.

It wasn’t.  Bugger.

What time is the train due in the morning?

18/1/17 Levin Kiwi Holiday Park: 2 + 2 = Double the Smell

A text from Mike who we canoed with down the Wanganui River advised that due to the pending weather bomb, he was not going to attempt the Tararua Ranges but instead, make his way to Wellington.  We offered a night in our six-berth bunk room to share a comfy mattress bed as a transit stopover and that just down the road, there was a fish and chip shop.

Mid-afternoon, there was a knock at the door.  Mike arrived and he had brought a fellow walker guest, Jonielle from the US.  There were enough single beds for everyone.

Jonielle was a seasoned walker having completed parts of the Pacific Crest Trail in the US.  It’s fun to watch facial expressions when you ask how our trail compares.  Nearly everyone admits that ours is by far harder terrain wise.

With the inclement weather to continue into the tomorrow, the plan was for us to hitch a train just up the line to Waikanae.  Nick who we thought would take another day to descend out of the Tararua Ranges had humped it out in totality and was now waiting for us to catch him up.

As the heavens opened up, we brought in four pairs of boots and placed them in the toilet off the bunkroom.

Can you imagine the stench when boot odour meets fish and chip odour?

Nothing compares!

17/1/16 Matawai Hut Back to Levin: An Amazing Coincidence

There was already some trepidation when we shut the eyelids two evenings before about continuing forward under injury.  What should have been an easy decision-making process still played out the pro’s and con’s analysis.  We had come so far to be so close to the summit of Mt Crawford.

Common sense won out and we chose to stay a further day/night at the Matawai Hut to rest everything and re-trace our steps down and out.

For moments of the day, we did have the hut to ourselves and so made good use of the time by strategic planning the future beyond the North Island.  Do we continue with the trail and do the South Island?  Or postpone it till next summer and return home for a rest?  Both options were in tune with our 3-3-5-3 blue print to make this our best year ever.

We have a speaking opportunity in February to speak as a couple on the topic of “Simplifying Your Life – Dream, Design, Do.”  That is exciting to be able to share what we know with others to hopefully inspire them into downsizing their footprint, possessions and consumerism.  Perhaps be doing the stuff we are passion about … like stuck in a hut injured at altitude with pending inclement weather and no blazing log burner, sheepskin rug or glass of plonk!  We did have energy chocolate I suppose!

Where was I?

Bidding farewell to the forward walkers was bridged by welcoming the backward walkers arriving.  And the company of Fraser (17) and younger brother Sam (15); Dan, John and Marcus; and Ben from the Yukon Canada lifted the spirits.  The second night at Matawai Hut was fun.  Fun can be the best medicinal drug for any ache and pain.

It took us 8.5 hours to descend to the track car park we had originally been dropped off at.  The weather was kinder as was the track having dried up some.  The mud bogs however had caked up and to step on them thinking hard terra-firma and you still sunk ankle deep in the sludge black stuff.  The person following was certainly the clever one; and the cleanest!

The camera kept us company and allowed for us to stop and start to melt the enchanted forest of the Tararua’s.  Even the creeks forded with adrenalin had subdued to ankle deep clear water.  The toughness was still evident however, it was the right choice and just beautiful.

Making the tar seal with seven kilometres of road walking to go, we be-friended a fella mowing his lawn who gave us a lift into Levin.   Hobbling brings out the best in people and we were so grateful.

In summing up the past three days, we came to a part of the ranges nearing the descent end that opened up the view to the river below.  Turquoise water surrounded by naïve bush with mountain back drop.  When I was growing up, I remember seeing this exact same picture (or one similar) in a National Geographic Magazine.  That was in the early 1970’s.  It was a photo taken of a river in Canada, the land of the Maple Leaf.

Having started our travel by cycling across Canada last year to see the exact same scene, to now be seeing the same scene here in our homeland as we concluded the Tararua Range attempt was just an amazing coincidence.

At the hut, we had decided to only do the North Island of the Te Ararao Trail this summer; return home and postpone the South Island till the next summer.  It means we have 100 odd (or even) kilometres to go till we end at the bottom of the North Island.  Perhaps it was a sign.

Perhaps we are reading too much into it.

Either way, the photo taken captured it to summarize the past three days.  There is still unfinished business with the Tararua’s even if the trepidation was left at the Matawai Hut.  But for now, a new plan.

With it, a new kind of excitement.

15/1/16 Makahika Outdoow Pursuits Centre to Matawai Hut: Hut Log Burner With Sheepskin Rug, Wine and Chocolates

At 9am, the torrential rain was still dropping to earth!

At 10am, the torrential rain was still dropping to earth!

At 10.30am, the torrential rain was still dropping to earth.  And on us too!

We made the decision to go for it in the hope the rain would eventually abate.  John gave us a lift 4km up the road to the start of the farmland track where we set off from.  Trickle of water flows were everywhere making it wet underfoot.  We had only gone no more than 100m when I nearly face planted into cow shit.  That would have added it to being a stink day had the shit stuck!

Once onto the track proper, there was some shelter.  It didn’t matter by now though as we were soaked with heads down hop skip and jumping mud bogs, streams of water and track obstacles like rocks, tree roots and debris.  Reflections of the Pirongia’s also flooded back and it was a challenge to keep a mindset of “E” for enjoyment.

The first swollen creek was just gushing with brown tinged liquid.  Nick had already crossed and his voice came from somewhere up stream.  That was a good sign.  If he had of gone down stream, he would have gone over the waterfall into the raging river and a far cry from the rapids of the Wanganui. With the low cloud, it made the visibility dark and he was like a shadow in the undergrowth giving us instructions of which arm of the stream to walk up.

Walking sticks prodding the creek bed, over hanging vines hung onto, careful placement of the feet so as not to lose balance and then a hand reaching out to grab ours had us cross it okay.  Dry socks were now also soaked and the thought of comparing old wrinkly feet by the end of this day gave us inspiration.

The decision to skip the first hut and take an alternative track that was supposedly easier was supposed to have us out in the conditions for approximately 7 hours.  The hut had a fireplace and that image conjured up mental pictures of wool skin rug, candle lit table and glasses of wine with chocolates.

Remember, we started at 10.30 amish.  We eventually dropped the packs at 7.45pm that evening. Nick had already been at the hut for an hour and he had found it tough going.  There were another eleven hikers already there, three of those were already in the bunk room in bed!  The wet wood was barely making a glow in the fire place and the smell of un-laundered manky apparel hanging from makeshift clotheslines evaporated the sheepskin rug, wine and chocolate dream in the first second – poof!

It was a tough slog up.  The weather did break somewhat when we hit the alpine patch closer to Richards Knob for views of more ridgelines over yonder and the first hut.  The bogs were awful and to add colour to the adventure today, I stood on a part of the track following boot prints that wasn’t the track and not enough boot print under the sole to take a plunge forward down a bank.  Once I regained composure to get back onto the pathway, it wasn’t till an hour further on when the shock of me plunging with the PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) on board, that my right knee started to ache and give grief.  F..k!

But, we didn’t let it detract from us having arrived to shelter and once cleaned up and cooking an evening meal in the dark with conversations shared around the hut table with fellow humans, we became ourselves again and laughed about the day that was.

There were no photos taken today due to the camera being stored deep within the back pack because of the elements. Hopefully readers can use their imagination to paint the journey from these words typed.

By 10.15pm, we too were horizontal in our sleeping bags.  The knee throbbed so a decision as to where to from here procrastinated till the morning.  Suggesting at dinner that I set the PLB off in the morning for a medical evacuation airlift out was tempting!

“You Are Here to Matawai Hut” … need we write more!

14/1/17 Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre

The noise coming from the cabin a joining our one at the Kiwi Holiday Park had us mention it to the Park Operators.  We don’t mind noise till late on the left side of the midnight hour; but when it reaches the 4am on the right side, enough was enough.  We could have taken matters into our own hands however choose to avoid confrontation.  Would you interrupt a species in the animal kingdom having sexual intercourse?  Viagara must surely have been in the concoction somewhere as they were under the influence somewhat too!

We knew they would address the behaviour and offered us a lift to the starting point of where we were going to meet up the walking trail again – the Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre.

Situated approx. 1.7 km from the farm exit of the Mangahao-Makahika Section of the Te Araroa Trail it’s a residential leadership camp.  All ‘trailer-walkers’ are welcome – anytime.  They will readily find a bed for you, and worst case scenario have acres of beautiful grasslands for a tent to be pitched.

John and Sally Duxfield are the Owner/Operators.  John came to meet us as we entered onto the facility.  Sally was absent on overseas travel visiting her daughter in Canada who met a fellow trail walker (from Canada) who had also walked in off the road.  They have become a couple, a cool story shared by John later after the greetings and salutations.

The place was just awesome and set up for teenagers and adults alike to gain some life skills using outdoor pursuits as the education vehicle.  We reflected with the teenage holiday programme we conducted some years back having taken them to Spencer Holiday Park in the middle of winter and having similar skills imparted by residing on-site.  The conversation with John clicked.

John was also informative about the Tararua Range part of the trail.  The Ranges are right on his doorstep and form part of the leadership training they conduct.  The weather at higher altitude is notorious for deteriorating rapidly (gale force winds and heavy rain) so being prepared for its extremities was paramount.  John shared the upcoming five-day weather forecast and suggested alternative routes to huts to consider.

Nick arrived whom we had canoed the Wanganui River with and after re-assessing all the information we had, the decision to head off in the morning under the cloud of rain to reach the second hut doing and alternative route was agreed too.  There was a window of better weather opportunity to get over the exposed ridge we were needing to traverse.

The met office warning of 100 mm of rain between 5am and 2pm as we would be waking up was factored in.  We depart at 10am and should be taking the boots off at the hut by 6pm.

Worst case scenario, we back track back to John where we knew we would be welcomed again.

A plan with a back up plan.  Now let’s hope all goes according to plan!

12/1-13/1/17 Wanganui Layover and Wanganui to Levin: Synergy

After bidding farewell to Nick, Mike and Amy who went their separate ways, we explored Wanganui.

At the Information Centre, a model of the landscape tackled gave perspective to the past seven days blogging and storytelling.  The friendships made and conversations had, have been enriching.  The bodies weary yet ready to attack the next bit so as to end the North Island part of the Te Araroa Walk at Wellington, only a three-hour drive away.

There was a large road walking section of the TA to Palmerston North, however, for us we had made the decision to hitch to Levin and enter the Tararua from there.  It wasn’t long after Ben the owner of the Wanganui Top 10 got us out onto the main highway, we were soon picked up by Malcolm who drove us all the way.

A stop off first to meet his parent-in-laws whereby we also met his wife and daughter, and were offered lunch.  Malcolm used to reside in Wanganui as a builder before moving to Tauranga to start over, re-invent themselves.  With his wife, they now own a ‘Gap Year’ programme offering students life skills so as to prepare them for the wider world.  There was synergy in the conversation as it was in tune with our Outaskool Teenage School Holiday programmes that we used to own and operate.  Except there’s was on a larger annual global scale.

Even more exciting was the fact that Malcolm used to contract to the Department of Conservation during his time living in Wanganui.  He was responsible for the construction and maintenance of all the DOC huts and facilities along the Wanganui River we had just paddled and used.  Our chatting time finished prematurely when we arrived into Levin.

The hitch hiking rides have been just as enriching us making our way down the island under our own steam.

Meeting his in-laws, just as heartening.

11/1/17 Rivertime Lodge to Wanganui: Done and Dusted

The flat waters had to be paddled.  So too did the last 2 kms on the outgoing tide into a tough head wind.  White cap waves sometimes bigger than some rapids themselves were conquered.  No capsize though.  Barrels balanced right in the canoe at the start of the last day.  Only BClaire got the brunt of the moisture.  No one was laughing.

This soon changed as we beached the canoe from the very final stroke onto the shore.

Hugs of euphoria all round.

It was over.

The goal to canoe the Wanganui River was now done and dusted.

However, the real value in setting goals is not in their achievement.  The major reason for setting goals is to compel you to become the person it takes to achieve them.

Like many others, this experience certainly did that.

Anyone keen to canoe the Amazon?

But first, we have a goal to traverse the Tararua Ranges.

Other than Mt Aoraki/Mt Cook, they are the re-known ranges for the second highest tramping fatalities.  Now if that doesn’t motivate anyone to ensure they are well prepared, what will?

Best we take a rest day tomorrow to prepare!

10/1/17 Jerusalem to Rivertime Lodge: Do You Believe In Ghosts?

The sound of chains rattling across the roof after mid-night startled us awake.

“What the hell was that?”

“You go investigate?”

“No, you go do it.”

No one moved from beneath the covers.

The only sound that could be heard was Nick in the corner.  Snoring.  He hadn’t budged at all.  Wears ear plugs too which is ironic for a snorer.

Even the thought of topping and tailing on the beds to comfort nerves didn’t happen.  No one was keen to get out of bed feeling safe in the thing should an apparition appear!

As heads sunk back onto pillows one by one to drift back off to sleep, repenting sins must have spun around people’s heads asking for forgiveness without muttering the words.

The sun rose and as we sat eating breakfast, we brainstormed what the noise could have been.  Then it happened again.  A truck towing a trailer and not slowing down went over some road construction beyond the gate.

What idiot driver speeds like a maniac to scare five; no four, TA walkers staying at a disused Convent in the middle of the night?

As the march to credit Mother Mary Aubert with Sainthood progresses to fruition, its attracting more visitor numbers.  We recommend the experience.  Overnighting too.


Seeing a sign for a coffee nailed to a tree had us beach, disembark and then walk up a road at Matahiwi.  The café was closed however, there under cover was a river boat called the ‘River Queen.’  There was a New Zealand movie called “River Queen” filmed on the waters of the Wanganui River.  We haven’t seen it but have the display posters.  On them were pictures of the same boat.  Well, it looked the same having the same name.

Wild goat shouldering the riverbanks had increased in numbers.  So too had wild peacocks.  Come to think of it, so too had sheep and cattle.  The flipside was that the number of rapids had dramatically reduced meaning less current.  Floating was nearly at a standstill resulting in more physical paddling to keep momentum.

With the wind in our favour, the consensus was to push forward a little further.  The last 20 kms into Wanganui is tidal with high tide at 10 am the next morning.  To get the outgoing tide became the focus.  With it, our time on the river was going to end a day earlier.

Anything to ease physical exertion whilst sitting on your bum has got to be healthy.


9/1/17 Ramanui to Jerusalem: New Zealand’s Mother Theresa

Most of life’s growth lessons are learnt when you get outside your comfort zone.  Whether by purpose or by accident.  When I (yes it was me) re-loaded and tied in the barrels this morning, I put the weight in the wrong place and unbeknown to us, unbalanced the canoe!

This was to become evident not long after.

The rapid we were approaching was gnarly and had scored two other couple capsizes.  We waited for others to rough water it to come out the other side without fuss.  When we entered, the first bump had me see the second bump directly in my line of vision. BClaire went underwater just about completely.  Words were gurgled.  When she popped back up hitting the second rapid bump, my line of site was now seeing her arse as the canoe went nearly vertical.  This was not going to end well as we waited for the oxygen masks to drop from above.

They didn’t!

And for whatever the reason, we didn’t capsize per say.   However, our canoe was submerged with water to the rim of the sides, inside the canoe.  We hula hooped the hips to maintain keeping the boat from completely going over and all hands were to the pump baling out the contents.  We passed the second couple who had capsized.  They had just made landfall.

The next lot of rapids just before Pipiriki was called the 50/50 ones.  Jesus had warned us about these at the safety briefing and I was confident we would make it through after the last episode.

We did.  And I never made the mistake again to re-load the boat in the manner I had.  Under the guise of BClaire.  Don’t know why.  Perhaps the external comfort zone growth lesson!

Pipiriki is where all the five and three dayers leave the Wanganui River.  We visited the village to dry out, eat lunch before we carried on.  Calmness had returned to the canoe as we tried to move on from the previous encounter.  From here, rapids became less frequent as did the jet boats.  More farmland fudged into the landscape features.

The steeple rising just above the treeline signalled our end destination, the Convent at Hiruharama.  When translated, Jerusalem.

It is a place that is so worth the effort to google and read about a New Zealand Pioneer – Mother Mary Aubert.  She would have to be our equivalent to “Mother Theresa” and her dedication to give her heart this part of Aotearoa.

We stayed in the Convent itself finding a dorm bed and spent the remainder of the day just reading all the history attached to the place.  Religion is a personal preference however, more lessons were taken from such a tranquil setting.

Jerusalem was one of the largest settlements on the Wanganui River.  It was known as a meeting place for kōrero (discussion).

“He pūkengawai, he nohoana tāngata, he nohoanga tāgata, he putanga kōrero.”

Translated – “Where waters gather, people settle, and where people settle, legends unfold.”

Jerusalem and its history is legendary.

8/1/17 John Coull Hut/Pukerua to Ramanui: Side Trip

We continued to follow the river as it meandered through bush-covered hills, stretching the legs at the Mangawaiiti Campsite.  DOC have done extremely well to provide areas to rest the head on the shoreline banks; this one was perched high above the river.  A shelter to cook during inclement weather; rain water is collected for patron usage; and the long drop loos with plastic toilet seat for bum comfort.  Remember to take fly spray so as to not only sweeten the smell of poos and wees; it’s also handy to knock out the beasties that are attracted to the exposed parts of skin around the lower mid-drift.

Another place we got to stretch the legs was when we arrived at the Mangapurua Landing.  This is where old riverboats used to tie up to let off passengers who lived or visited the Mangapurua Valley farm settlements.  We took a walk up to the Bridge to Nowhere – a poignant reminder of how returning World War 1 Soldiers were granted land to recognise their contribution to the cause.  They carved out farms from the harsh terrain only to have landslides break their resolve.  Many walked off the land; the remaining forced off as the riverboat frequency dried up.  The bridge was constructed during the times in preparation for a proposed road from the top end of the valley.

It never eventuated and hence today, a bridge to nowhere.

Today’s journey concluded some 29 kms further down the river at the Lodge campsite, Ramanui.  Directly across from us was Tīeke Kāinga campsite, one of the many old pā on the river and where more of the day’s paddlers ended up.  Them and us – with just a bit of water bridging us in-between.

At least everyone was somewhere they needed to be.

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