Mt Twynam Micro-adventure

Over the Easter weekend Rose and I went on a few little micro-adventures. The biggest micro-adventure was from Charlottes Pass up to Mt Twynam and back, while we also ducked out to my favourite rock in the Brindabellas.

Google made a movie of it for me. Thanks Google!

 

Mt Aspiring Hut Walk

After my walk along the Greenstone-Caples Track I met up with my friend Tol from SmilingLeaf for some more adventures. We headed up to Wanaka and then after some messing around for food (again) set out towards Mt Aspiring Hut. Now this was only a short walk of a few hours each way, with huts and such so we took it easy, carried some wine and dips and crackers etc. Really it was quite splendid and absolutely spectacular!

After the walk we headed back to Queenstown and hung out a bit more, with some ducks fo company.

Greenstone-Caples Track

The Greenstone-Caples was pretty much a last minute decision, and boy was it brilliant.

Prelude

I’d just arrived back in Queenstown after the Mt Alfred day walk which had left me with a taste for NZ hills and adventures. I had initially been considering spending a few days around Queenstown visiting wineries and such with my friends, but at around 5pm I got a message from my friend Tol saying she’d just down this walk and it was brilliant. I just had to do it. So actions stations it was. Somehow in 3hrs I managed to book a bus from Queenstown to Glenorchy,  another out to the trial head, shop for a four day walk and shower and wash all my clothes. To make everything easier I had the luxury of packing my bag and loading all my gear and then crashing in my friends tent for the night which was very convenient.

Day 1 – Greenstone Rd to Mid-Caples

By 7am I was up and at the bus pickup point in Queenstown ready for the ride out to Glenorchy. 8am-ish I was in Glenorchy sitting in the cafe ordering bacon and eggs and coffees while reading the guidebook entries for the hike I was about to head out on. Luckily the Greenstone-Caples doesn’t require booking and the huts are big enough that I had no issues getting a bed, although talking to the guides it can be an issue sometimes. Anyway at 10am the bus picked me up and dropped me at the trail head at noon.

The first days walk is splendidly cruisy, 4 hrs of gentle incline up through a wide river valley gives you a good taste of what is install, without giving away any of the spectacular scenery. I chose to start from Greenstone Rd because it was a lot easier to get to from Queenstown, and then all the advice I got was to go to Mid-Caples hut first as it meant you could enjoy the saddle on the second day.

Mid Caples Hut is pretty spectacular with great views up the valley but watch out for the sandflies – they are bigger and faster than anywhere else in NZ and give you no chance to put your shoes even before they start eating you.

Day 2 – Mid Caples Hut to McKellar Hut

This is the main day of walking, and the only one that provides any real challenge on the trip. It starts by walking up the valley before climbing up a spectacularly well made track of gentle gradient to McKellar Saddle (945m) before an incredibly steep decent down to Lake McKellar. The track passes through beech forest and open grazing land meaning you get a really nice mix of views and closed forest so there is always something interesting, while the gradient up to the saddle from this size means that you can just wind slowly up the hill.

Up on the saddle the weather closed in a little (only a tiny bit actually) and went from shorts and shirt through the low lands to full rain gear conditions up the top – mostly it was to stay warm, but also because there was mist blowing in somewhat horizontally. I imagine it wouldn’t be that fun in actual bad weather. I’d also strongly recommend considering lunch before you leave the tree line because there were a lot of people who walked to the top without taking many breaks only to be surprised by how little they wanted to stop for lunch up in the rain and wind. I have to give a lot of credit though to the pair who were huddled behind a tiny bush with their tent fly over their legs to eat lunch – that showed some determination to eat! I made it over the saddle and part way down the track before finding a nice rock to eat lunch on which seems like a bit of a luxury.

After you descent rapidly to the valley floor again you’re into the Greenstone Valley and the rest of the days walk is a deceptively long but rather flat stroll down to the hut.

That night at the hut I met a group of awesome people from England and the Netherlands. They had all come from different locations around the world to hike in NZ and as with all good hikers they were happy to make new friends. We spent the evening hanging out and teaching each other card games. I by some fluke new the best game (Diabolical) so we played a few rounds while chatting and getting to know each other. Have I mentioned ever that NZ huts are awesome?

Day 3: McKellar Hut to Greenstone Hut

Day 3 was described a relatively flat day but the undulations as the track passed around rockfalls and over the ends of ridges that pushed into the Greenstone Valley. It generally just passed along the river flats in between and made for a simply spectacular day. As an additional advantage there were far fewer sandflies.

An hour or two into the day I joined a couple from the group I’d been playing cards with the night before. As we walked along we talked and walked and I heard all about their previous adventures mapping rivers in the Amazon and camping on ice sheets in Norway.

At some point after lunch I strolled off ahead and ended up a fair way ahead, but as luck would have it I spent a little while exploring and detouring and found a lovely spot for an afternoon cuppa just as they were arriving. So, with a stash off coffee and stove in hand we  found a great spot, stripped off and swam out to an island in the stream were we splashed around in the rather fresh water, and then stood in the sun enjoying the amazingly sandfly free location.

The afternoon continued relatively uneventfully with a small interlude of watching horses cross a river.

Eventually I arrived at Greenstone Hut to enjoy the company of my new friends again.

Day 4: McKellar Hut to Greenstone Road End

I had a really early start to head out to the road end as I had arranged for a shuttle bus back to Queenstown at 12pm. I was also really keen to do the detour out to Lake Rere. The day was a fairly solid walk with no breaks which was a shame. Next time I will make sure I have more time!

 

 

Mt Alfred – An Awesome Day Walk

Disclaimer: I probably shouldn’t have done this walk – it is closed above the tree line but in a moment of weakness I followed the crowds (which were significant) and finished the walk. Check with the landowners before completing this walk!

The walk up to the summit of Mt Alfred is somewhat arduous but well and truly worth it. The walk begins with a long and steep climb up from a very small car park up through beech forest. For several kilometres you walk upwards on a slightly eroded and warn track that when I was there a lot of fallen trees. It takes a fair chunk of time to get up there because it is a continuous incline without any level ground.

Anyway, you eventually break through to the tree line and after a slightly scrambly section you are up on the ridge and the views are simply stunning. I had a perfectly clear skies with views in all directions – basically it was amazing.

201701091524082017010915234820170109152342201701091523352017010915224320170109152213

2015 – variable with a hint of nuts

What a year… I mean really… What a year!

There hasn’t been anything that has happened this year that I really expected, or planned to happen when I was thinking about what 2015 was going to hold in store. It has been a year of epic changes in life and circumstances. They’ve been almost entirely self instigated, and generally speaking I didn’t really consider the consequences of the decisions and actions I have made in advance which may in hindsight have been a mistake but that is what happens sometimes I guess.

Looking briefly ahead it seems as though 2016 may have to be a more responsible and considered year, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be lots of adventures and good times so I think I will be able to manage this. I certainly hope I will be able to.

So onto the potted summary of 2015…

To make it easier I have added a favourite photo (not the best but my favourite) from each month, and have linked each photo to a blog post I didn’t dislike.

January to March

I pretended to have a normal life, with a job, a house, a girlfriend and very occasionally a social life.

I went for some rides, a few short walks, snorkeled and did quite a few canyons. Oh and I went to Fiji!

wpid-20150111_101722.jpg

January – a very wet walk on Middle Head

Canyoning can be so much hard work, especially waiting around while people try to repair their lilos.

wpid-20150307_102339.jpg

March – Fiji and cyclones

 April to May

I stopped pretending to have a normal life, planned to go on an adventure and spent a fair bit of time in Western Australia. Continue reading

Wales

image

Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons, everything in between – it is all hills! Big hills, long hills, steep hills, country hill, urban hills and then you get to the mountains.
For the past week I’ve been riding with Will and Ollie from Gloucester in England, down to the bridge over the Severn and up through every single hill to Bangor (next to Menai) (but not in the shire). To say it has been hilly would be an understatement, to say it has been amazing would be a downright crime against how beautiful this place is. Wales has been the first place in the UK where it has felt remote or like you aren’t just riding between villages. The mountain passes have been high and covered with flowering heather while in the cold valleys on the northern sides of the mountains the trees are showing their autumn leaves.

It has been such a great week I can only relate a few highlights and challenges, so here is an attempt at daily highlights.

Friday – riding along a rough canal path, getting my second puncture of the trip while with two mechanics and then discovering the puncture occured 500m from a pub with a beer deck where there was sunshine!

Saturday – getting to the top of a very large hill and finding ourselves dragged into a local’s birthday party, being fed and watered. Oh and my only 100km day of the trip.

Sunday – group photos in an abandoned priory and cresting our first major pass

image

Monday – dropping in on a local agricultural show to see golden sheep, eat local beef and lamb burgers, watch a demonstration of wood chopping and then watch dogs herd ducks.

image

Tuesday – finding a spare £4 pedal in a junk shop after mine seized, climbing the steepest pass I’ve seen and then riding at sunset down the rail trail beside the tidal estuary to Aberdovey Bar (location not venue)

image

image

Wednesday – another long day topped off with 20 odd kilometers of rail trail after some massive and brutal climbs that had me wondering if we could make it.

image

image

Iceland (pre-riding)

Well well well. I find myself in Iceland. Not find myself in the usual figurative sense of the word but in a somewhat literal sense. I arrived in Iceland on Sunday with no plan, no map, no idea how to get around or even the faintest clue of what I should see think or expect. Luckily two friends from Sydney, Will and Venetia, were in Reykjavik and instead of just offering advice have extended their stay here by two weeks and I now have some riding buddies with bikes even bigger and awesomer than mine.

While we haven’t really done much riding yet, and I have spent a lot of time chilling in the city checking things out it has been pretty spectacular all the same.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Thoughts on fatigue and days off

What a bloody week. Not literally, but after consistent rain, fog, strong winds amd temperatures brushing up towards the Sydney winter temps I am tired and exhausted.

As such I have holed up in a bunk room in Raasay House, one of the great british mansions now converted to a hotel, bunkhouse, cafe, pub and activities centre. Yesterday was so wet and miserable, think pedaling hard to get DOWN an 8% gradient with cold rain biting into your face and find the gaps between the waterproofs. Weather like this has not been uncommon over the past week, though the weather gods had been kind with tail winds.

So while I sit in a wind of the cafe drinking a soy latte and eating a bacon and egg roll I have put together some thoughts on rest days and fatigue.

I have now been riding for about 5 weeks, in that time I have had about 5 days of not riding and perhaps 4 short days less than 25km. I am certainly finding it hard on the body sometimes, particularly managing to stretch enough when it is miserable and cold and doing so means lying your bike in the swamp on the side of the road. This seems to necessitate a day off from riding once a week or such just for the chance to sleep in, let muscles rest and such. Equally this is matched with eating the right foods at the right times that I will admit I still struggle with, especially when so many cafes sell extremely bad coffee with bacon and egg rolls in a warm place.

Harder though is the not riding. To paraphrase Bill Bryson ‘riding is what we do’ except there is no we. There have been a few days when I have really not wanted to ride but once on the bike have enjoyed the day immensely, equally there have been days when I have been super keen to ride and pedalled 10km and wanted to set up my tent. Cycling by yourself really is a lesson self motivation, sheer bloody determination and maybe a little stupidity.

I have read a lot of other blogs on this subject but never really understood what it meant until now. The Wandering Nomads for example have written well about the need for a holiday from cycling every 2 months and I think that might be in order soon.

Anyway enough self indulgent rambling from me, look at the nice pictures from when i could get my camera out.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Shetland so far – pretty awesome

So I arrived in Shetland last Friday morning with the aim of being as far north as possible for the summer solstice, and I can pretty well say that I have achieved that goal.
Shetland is basically an archipelago of long skinny islands stretching about 100 miles north to south. Arriving in Lerwick I made a beeline north following bits of cycle route 1 and the lesser A roads to get to the northern Island of Unst in a reasonable amount if time.
As it happens there are a lot of hills in the Shetland group as the twisted and convoluted geology is the result of oceanic continental collision. While nothing is particularly tall there have certainly been a few hills that made me question whether hills and headwinds are a bad combination (they are) and whether perhaps luggage and light weight touring has merits (untried but unlikely). As such I rode about 80km north from Lerwick to camp in a lovely valley not far short of Mid Yell on the island of Yell and managed to find the one flatish piece of not soggy ground I had seen all afternoon. Anyone free camping here. Bring a ground sheet!

Anyway from there it was up to Unst where I found a campsite at the lovely hostel right at the bottom of the island and set about having some “rest days”. As usual rest days just mean you aren’t carry all your panniers so I rode the 20 odd kilometres up to Hermaness Nature Reserve on the day of the solstice which officially gave me my “as far north as possible” claim, although pesky skuas stopped me heading any further north. Check out the “Where am I” tab at the top of the page to see exactly how far north I got.

I am now headed back southwards towards Mousa Broch in the south of the Shetland Mainland. For anyone visiting the islands be prepared to find amazing history everywhere you go. In one day I came across three viking long houses, a bronze age broch, a norse farmstead, innumerable old bods. On top of that I have seen seals, puffins, skuas, shetland ponies en masse and I am pretty certain I saw an otter from a great distance. It is a pretty awesome place to visit!

image

The sign associated with this water course was "protecting Shetland's trees". I couldn't work out why.

image

image

Ferries are cool, and convenient

image

Not a bsd campsite after a long day on the bike.

image

image

I can see why the vikings put their long houses here

image

Dramatic cliffs, sheep and puffins.

image

So many sea birds!

image

The sail loft bod. A great piece of history where I am sleeping for a few days until I feel like riding. Edmund Hillaries jumper was made here.

image

Free mussels from an great bloke in Voe with whom I chatted for a few hours. I did eat some of most of them

image

Not sure I'll ever look as surly as a viking!