April 25, 2011

Easter Weekend

We're in Canadia!!!

Top of the first summit of the Chief, Squamish

Easter weekend was spent hiking up the Chief, snowboarding in Whistler .....

and climbing in Squamish!!

Climbing Startrek with Kev Cooper, just outside Squamish

April 24, 2011

Akaroa, Christchurch, Auckland!!

So our final few days on the South Island were spent between Akaroa and Christchurch. We headed up to Akaroa for a chilled out weekend, to not spend another day in the car driving, to park for two days, well needed!! Not a huge amount to report other as did pretty much nothing and what a great little place to do it.  We spent the drinking coffee and went for a pleasent stroll up a the looming hill above the village.  Great little 3 hour walk straight up and across the ridge and wound our way back down.  We caught up with Patrick and Maaike - thank you so much for letting us crash with you for those couple of nights - it was great to see you both!

On the skyline summit circuit in Akaroa
We flew to Auckland for a quick stop to see Ele, Jigga, Coco and Shay. Had a lovely relaxing day in the park and on the beach with them before getting on the plane to Fiji for a week in the sun. It was a nice chilled out place, we read lots n lots of books and swam.  Not much else to report really.

Hanging with Ele, Jigga, Coco and Shay in Auckland

April 9, 2011

On the road, again!!

This time it has taken us through the Haast Pass, up the West Coast, past Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers through Hokitika and Greymouth, through the Buller Pass and upwards to the Abel Tasman, where we did a lovely walk out from Sandy Bay to Anchorage Lookout and back.

Along the Hasst Pass
Coffee in Greymounth

I was so excited driving up the West Coast to see the oneway road and rail bridges, wonderfully kiwi - these are bridges that are one way but used in boat directions by road and rail traffic, complete without barriers and with 100's of signs to warn you of the existence of something.  But it looks like they are replacing these with new bridges, a separate one for the trains.  I'm so dissappointed, but I suppose safety is paramount.

the dying breed of wonderful kiwi oneway road rail bridges

And what is the fasinication of stinging Carole I wonder!! First it was a jelly fish, now a wasp, grrr.  Go after Andrew for once.


After our big trek in a short time on Stewart Island, we slowly made our way back to Wanaka via Dunedin to spend the weekend with Orla and Ed and what a great weekend it was.  But before that, I need to say one thing:  "I saw penguins, I saw penguins, oh how cute they were, loved them, wanted to bring them home with me!" We saw blue penguins off the wharf in Oban on Stewart Island, but really that was not enough for me so we headed out the Otago peninsula by Dunedin to Sandfly bay in search of yellow eyed penguins and to my joy we saw 3, one of them was been chased (in slow motion) by a sea lion, so he dived back into the sea to save his skin.  Not quite sure who would win that battle. 

So onwards to Wanaka, we met up in Kai for a yummy coffee followed by a couple or was that three glasses of wine and a curry.  Not a bad way to spend Friday night.  Saturday was awesome and chilled out, we all had the best of intentions to get out on the lovely autumn - but the four of us were in the mood for chilling and spend the day in the house doing house stuff, it was a thrill for myself and Andrew - followed this by a leisurely walk into Wanaka and a trip to the cinema, a must do in Wanaka, the paradiso is a real treat in itself the movie is an added extra.  Its an old-skool set up with comfy armchairs, the odd cinema seat, bus seats and VW beetle, complete with intermission, homemade cookies and ice-cream.  What more could you want?

Sunday came and we decided two house days would be too much.  So it was off to one of Wanaka's little crag, Roadside, and ticked a bunch of easy routes.  As the clocks had changed, the evening was closing in, there was a chill in the air, we lit a fire and had a sunday roast, YOM. 

April 1, 2011

if lonely planet say 3 we say 1 ...

... or maybe I should rephrase that to Andrew says 1.  After reading Lonely Planet's South Island guide to Stewart Island, Andrew decided that we would do the Rakiura Walk in a day.  32 km forest / coastal walk through some gorgeous remote NZ landscape.  The only catch was we had to be back before the last ferry left at 6pm and in time to get tickets - hmmm - the challenge had been set!!! So at 6am we got home stuffed ourselves full of breakfast and were walking by 7am... 9 and a half hours later we trudge our way back into Oban with aching feet and tired legs, but pretty proud of ourselves, considering we not really hikers and have only done a handful of 10-15 km hikes over the last few weeks... happy tired campers!!!

before the sun was fully up!!
Beautiful Stewart Island Views

48 hours in NZ

Our NZ transport - complete with dvd player!!

48 hours in New Zealand after picking up our little spaceship and I'd done my very first tandem para-glide and my very first ever Canyon.  What a great way to start our few weeks in NZ and better still neither were comerical, it was just hanging out with some great friends.  Thank you guys... you are making New Zealand memorable.

and take off - me on my tandem

Thanks to Ed, who brought is non-water proof camera in a dry bag :)


Its been so busy these last few weeks - I haven't had time to set aside an hour or so to write anything. Not a bad excuse, must be having too much fun!!

We spent our first three weeks in Australia in Perth and Fremantle, hanging out with Zoe, Alma and Ali (some more of the Speer clan). It was a great to stop and have a base for the few weeks as we were tired and weary from the previous months of traveling and climbing. But not only that, it was great to be spending time with people that we knew. Its absolutely amazing being on the road meeting new and wonderful people but after a while it is hard work and sometimes you need a little recharging.

We explored north and south of Perth. First stop was south to Margaret River for a weekend with Zoe, quickly learning that you should always book ahead your accommodation in WA, particularly on a music festival weekend. None-the-less, after a night in the car, we found a campsite and it was a great weekend. A slightly failed attempt to bring Zoe climbing (damn aussie carot bolts on routes) and some great swims in the sea.

Next up was north to the Pinnacles. A very unusual landscape of limestone pinnacles, best I let the photos describe. It has to be said that the trip north epitomizes the vastness of Australia. We drove for three and a half hours to visit these rock formations, stay the night and slowly drive back the next day visiting whatever else there was to see on the way back. The nearest town Cervantes - well..., it had nothing. The next town on the way back had a hostel which we managed to camp at - but there was basically nothing there. However, if you were a kite surfer it was a good windy beach. The coast road back... well it was about a kilometer inland and was a desert drive. It wasn't until we got close to Perth again that we could see the coast. We did, however, make it to the Wildlife Sanctuary to see some koalas and kangaroos of all shapes and sizes and the AQWA aquarium - to learn how much of Australia sea-life can kill you!! The next day I got stung by a jelly fish - you can imagine the panic I was in. Luckily, no fatally dangerous jellies reside in Perth. Jelly fact: Box Jelly can kill you in under a minute, but there is an antidote (not quite sure how useful it would be)!!

The wonderful unsual landscape of the Pinnacles

Finally we headed west to Rottnest Island, the home of the quoaka (a little rat like marsupial) where we rented bikes and cycled 20 odd km around the island in blistering sunshine... stopping off at this beach and that cove for swims and lunch etc.

We had of course lots of great nights in and out with Ali and Alma, thank you both for everything!! We even managed a night out with a couple friends of mine, Matt and Gill, whom I'd met on my last world trip and live in Perth. It was great to see them both. And another night out in the brewery "Little Creatures" with some of Andrew's family friends Ray and Phil.

Next stop was Tasmania for Domhnall and Gill's wedding. We collected our little camper-van and Eoin from the airport (after a little confusion with the time of the flight) and we set off. A quick dip in the Tasmanian chilly waters to wash away the cobwebs and it was off to Domhnall and Gill's for a yummy coffee and a good catchup. From there we drove to Mt Field National Park and hiked one of the 6 hour Mt Field walks, a little taster of what Tassie has to offer.

In the mountains for Domhnall's Stag

It was then back for Domhnall's for his stag party. Me and 9 guys!! A climb in the "Waterworks" and then a night on Mt. Wellington. The main event took place that weekend. With a van full of kids toys and a giant sound system, we headed to the Tasman peninsula for the Cascade's Colonial accommodation (aka the penal center from way back when) - it was the perfect setting for a wedding. The wedding was every bit "Domhnall & Gill", a chilled out affair set in one of Tasmanias idyllic settings, with an international mix of outdoor loving friends and family. Perfect. And the weather lived up to its expectations too. It was a hot, cloudless, Tassie summer day. It was small bit of ex-trinners climbing club reunion too – we got to catch up with Patrick and Maaike, Glynn and Jayne, Nick and Carol, Neil and Mick. Great to see you all! With little persuasion from Eoin, I did my first run in more than five months and managed to keep going for 45 mins and repeated it again the next morning. I was pretty impressed with myself. My mountain-biking experience was not so impressive, confidence a little shattered and Gill's beautiful bike too big for me. However, the trails were great... We managed to squeeze in a couple of days in Freycinnet for a climb (first trad second in about 2 years - scary - I decided not to lead) and a walk in the hills.
And then it was goodbyes again and off to Brisbane for a week. We, again, hired a campervan, but this time one of the small cheap wicked campers and to be honest we're not so impressed. Its old and held together with blue tack. But I suppose that is why they are cheap. We headed down the coast road in the pouring rain through Surfers Paradise and the Gold Coast high rise beach resort and certainly in the rain we were not impressed. Onto Byron Bay, much more our style more chilled out but it was still raining. So after a very wet walk around the headland - we headed inland to another very wet hippie village of Nimbin. Not much to say about Nimbin really other than it resembles an old hippie commune, pretty cool, but unless your gonna get wasted - not much else there... so bright and early the next morning we headed north and followed what looked like potential sunshine ( a tiny stripe of blue) through the rainforests to Noosa and Noosa National Park. We spent the day, walked through the national park, swimming in the sea and to end the day, I decided to run the walk we did in the morning. Wow, running in humidity is hard work! - it was probably too long for a first humidity run, but sure there was no telling me that. 

Our penultimate stop in Queensland was the Glass House Mountains. Three prominent volcanic plugs that you can hike around. We did a 3 km walk around Tibrogardarn and proceeded to do the "challenging" scramble for those "experienced climbers" up to the summit some 364m high. The scramble was actually great, we really didn't know what to expect from the description. A lot of the time when something in lonely planet is described as challenging or for experienced, they really mean you should be relatively fit and have your wits about you but in this instance it was probably justified, it was some 200m of scrambling with some areas of D and some short sections of VD (non climbers - its a grading system used in Ireland and UK) which made for an interesting descent, how I love to down-climb - hmmm. However, the time given for this round trip was 3 hours, we managed to do it in 1 hour 15 - so I turned around and ran the lap of the mountain (initial 3km hike) again while Andrew did some chin-ups. Then it was off to the coast for a quick dip. And so it is off to NZ - roll on some fun times catching up with folks there!!