NEW DISCOVERY SPORT
FOR THE ADVENTURE OBSESSED The Discovery Sport is the first in a new generation of Land Rover SUV Design. Beautifully complemented by clean surfaces and a spacious interior with optional 5+2 seats, youâ€™ll be off exploring new terrain in comfort and luxury. Starting from just $78,500, hurry in to your nearest Land Rover dealer to arrange a test drive today. Land Rover New Zealand
I capture amazing people doing amazing things in amazing places.
PUBLISHER + EDITOR + CREATIVE Hollie Woodhouse COPY EDITOR Boo Woodhouse CONTACT firstname.lastname@example.org
BACK COVER Mountain Biking the Heaphy Track Page 108 Image: Stephen Roberts
FRONT COVER Broad Horizons Page 30 Image: Mark Bridgwater
www.sytamagazine.com Fwww.facebook.com/SayYestoAdventureMag :
Published by The Adventurous Kiwi Printed by Spectrum Print, Christchurch, New Zealand ISSN: 2422 8850 © Say Yes to Adventure. December 2015. All rights reserved. Nothing in whole or in part in the magazine may be produced without written permission from the publisher and contributor. Say Yes to Adventure is a compilation of stories based around the epic experiences that come from the great outdoors. Therefore the views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the publisher. Although information presented in Say Yes to Adventure is, to the best of our knowledge, accurate and credible, authors may not be experts in the respective subject matter. DISTRIBUTION / SUBSCRIPTION Say Yes to Adventure is an independently published magazine. Purchase a copy or subscription via our website www.sytamagazine.com. It can purchase at selected stockists. Visit www.sytamagazine.com/stockists to find one near you. CONTRIBUTION We collaborate with creative individuals from all over the globe. If you love adventure and have a story you’d like to share simply send us an email; we would love to hear from you. Email email@example.com or visit www.sytamagazine.com/contributors for more information.
OPPOSITE PAGE: Joanna Szmerdt is a graphic, web and interior designer by profession, but her life’s passion is experimenting with watercolour paints. She prefers to use natural and organic materials including wood, cotton stone and water in her artwork. www.watercolor-paintings-gallery.com t www.twitter.com/JoannaSzmerdt
G IS FOR GIRAFFE Joanna Szmerdt
THE OUTER EDGE OF SPACE Christopher Michel
NEXT STOP: PARIS Eleah Ramos
THE JOYS OF GETTING LOST Erwin Zantinga
THE WILD IS CALLING Geri Beri
BACK TO THE SIERRA MADRES Jacob Maentz
TALES FROM THE TE ARAROA Anna McNuff
MOLLYâ€™S MUESLI Unna Burch
THE MONGOL DERBY Ben Wilks
10 ISLAND RACE Sam Clarke
AIM HIGH, DREAM BIG Hollie Woodhouse
ILLUSTRATIONS Hollie Woodhouse
STORM CHASER Camille Seaman
FINDING SHELTER Nancy Farese
BROAD HORIZONS Mark Bridgwater
ON TOP OF THE WORLD Struan Purdie
RAYS OVER GRASMERE Andy Holt
THE VILLAGE IDIOT Bruce Kirkby
CHIA ABEL TASMAN COASTAL CLASSIC Hollie Woodhouse
PERCY PASS THE HARD WAY Andrew Magness
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE Abbas Nazari
LION AND ZEBRA Eric Sweet
MOUNTAIN BIKING THE HEAPHY TRACK Jan Roberts
FROM SOUTH TO NORTH Kirsten Sheppard
TUIS ON TOUR Cindy Bolderston
OPPOSITE PAGE: Eleah Ramos is a self-taught graphic designer and illustrator based in Auckland, New Zealand. A bookworm and a painter by nature, immersing herself in brush-lettering and handmade typography seemed like the natural thing to do. t www.twitter.com/eleahramos
thank you I LOVE NOTHING more than pulling on my sports gear and heading outdoors, and now with daylight hours well and truly in my favour it seems like such an easier thing to do. I’m fortunate to live in a very special place on this earth, with the mountains, ocean, rivers and lakes literally on my doorstep, something I have only truly come to appreciate since traveling overseas. But as I come across more and more people wanting to fill their own adventures within these pages, my list of places to explore outside of New Zealand is only getting longer. I’ve always said the best part of creating this magazine is the people I meet and the new places I discover. There are so many people out there on their own adventures, both big and small and I feel so humbled that they want to share it among the pages of this magazine. Keep them coming! Many exciting things have been happening in the Say Yes to Adventure HQ, the main one being the opportunity to now buy a subscription. Many of you were asking, I listened, so here you go. It’s a great way to make sure an endless supply of inspiration is sent straight to your door at the beginning of each new season. Head to our website www.sytamagazine.com and sign up now. It’s the most cost-effective way of purchasing this great magazine. As I write this we have just rolled into November, with Christmas knocking on the door. Looking back on the year that’s been I can only pinch myself; Morocco and the Marathon des Sables, setting up
Image: Bill Irwin
life once again in Christchurch and everything that has come with starting a new business, both good and bad! I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to everyone single one of you who has supported me over the past year, I couldn’t have done it without your amazing support. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store. Happy adventuring,
For Helen Winifride Woodhouse xo This magazine could not have been possible without the amazing generosity of so many people. Special mention to Rich Brewer and Bevan James Eyles and a huge thanks to everyone who has contributed their inspiring stories, images and illustrations. Also to those who always support me no matter what crazy idea I come up with next: Boo and Hamish Woodhouse (Mum and Dad), Flick and Sam Taylor, Ben Woodhouse and Gina Taylor, Sonia Dench, Daniel Fridd and Jacqueline Manson.
OPPOSITE PAGE: Geri Beri wants to live in a world with more nature and less technology. When she’s not designing prints for her shop Butterfly Whisper, you can find her reading a book under the nearest tree. www.etsy.com/shop/ButterflyWhisper t www.twitter.com/missgeriberi
Image: Peter Race
TALES FROM THE TE ARAROA WORDS: Anna McNuff IMAGES: Anna McNuff and Peter Race LOCATION: New Zealand
The Department of Conservation does a pretty good job of maintaining backcountry huts. Alas, there are a few that get neglected and Caroline Bivvy was one. CAROLINE’S REPUTATION HAD preceded her. ‘Cesspit’, ‘hellhole’ and ‘mouse factory’ – these were the words used to describe the shelter by trampers I’d met over the past week. “That thing needs burning down” one had gone so far as to say. Another had reported that it was “an actual sh*t hole” and that someone (a human) had taken a dump right outside it. Suffice to say I wasn’t expecting a Hilton, but that was okay, because it just so happened that I carried around my very own pop-up palace for these kinds of occasions.
I came upon Caroline at the end of a long day. Nestled just inside the tree line, clad in a grey outer shell with a red corrugated roof, she looked kind of… cute; rather like the Wendy house I used to play in as a kid. Sliding back the rusty bolt on the crumbling wooden door, I peered inside. There were two canvas slung bunks, which looked like they’d been well used (and possibly urinated on), but all things considered it wasn’t too bad. Still, Caroline’s crumbling innards were just the wrong side of derelict and so after signing my name in the
tattered logbook, I opted to pitch up in the trees nearby. In my haste and in laziness, I camped a little closer than I should have done. And so, as night fell, the full in-tent performance of Cirque de Rodent began. Miniature Mickey mice suspended themselves from the ceiling, twirling from scarlet ribbons, as others flew between trapezes. One tamed a sandfly in the corner and another shot itself from a cannon. I shined my torch at the ceiling and inspected two moving black
mouse had just crawled across my face. ‘A Across my actual face. Dear goodness.’ objects on the lining of the tent. Caterpillars? I wondered. No, no – mouse shit. It was moving because the sandflies were having a field day with it. One was doing its very best to drag a turd four times its size homeward bound. I admired the flies tenacity. I’m not sure I’d have the balls to take on a shit four times my size. I thought about the glory that awaited him back at sandfly HQ, as he arrived victorious, dragging a gigantic fibrous faeces through the door, enough to nourish his entire starving family. Oh Mrs sandfly would be pleased. A rustle at my feet drew my attention from the poop-haul mission. A mouse. In the tent. “How did you get in you little bugger?” I asked, shining the torch at its beady little eyes. No answer (rude if you ask me). I chased it round the floor a few times before opening the zipper and watching it kamikaze leap outwards into the unknown. I checked the perimeter for holes. I’d heard mice would eat clean through tents, but I couldn’t see anything. Assuming it had got in when I’d gone for a wee, I bedded down and put my head back on the pillow. “What the…?!” Thirty minutes later I woke to the distinct feeling of something crossing my face. I grabbed it, flung it, and it squeaked. A mouse had just crawled across my face. Across my actual face. Dear goodness. Round two of a tent chase ensued, before a repeat kamikaze exit. And then I found it – hidden in the sag of the lining near the zipper was a hole big enough for a little mouse to get through. I now knew how the prison
guards in the Shawshank Redemption film must have felt upon discovering Tim Robbins’ escape tunnel. My Mother’s voice came into my mind: “You do know that mice pee as they run along, don’t you, Anna?” And so ensued a sleepless night, wondering if that taste on my lips was the Supernoodle spice sachet, or something a little more sinister. Sleep deprived, but in good spirits I left camp in the morning for Waiau Pass – nervous, but excited. “Waiau Pass is a route for experienced trail users and mountain leaders only”. Oh dear. I didn’t consider myself experienced in the slightest. Following the trail up the Waiau riverbed, I scrambled over boulders and onto verdurous slopes, past tumbling waterfalls cascading into azure pools. The valley was filled with a low hanging cloud and as I climbed the first hundred metres, I entered into a band of fine mist. Not an ideal day to be going up to a ridgeline at 1,700 metres, but I employed my favourite fear tactic (pretending it wasn’t happening) and ploughed on. The track steepened as it wound upward like a spiral staircase until I found myself scrambling up fissures like spider (wo)man. For 30 minutes the route continued up a near vertical and exposed face. I tried my best not to be freaked out by the sight of old poles destroyed by avalanches, and how they clung limply to the rock face, stripped of their orange hats, now nothing but bare metal.
Sometimes the poles disappeared entirely and all that remained to mark the way was a small rock pile. I was growing increasingly tired and it had now started to snow. Numb hands clung to rock after rock as I forged onward and upward – until finally the vertical direction gave way to something a little more horizontal. Once up on the ridgeline two snow poles appeared, instead of the usual one. ‘This is it!’ I thought. ‘This is the top!’ Alas, the snow poles giveth, and they taketh away – it was a false top. The real top was five minutes further on, marked by a suitably sized, icicleencrusted cairn. Was it me, or did it just start snowing harder? And has that wind picked up? I was half expecting Storm from the X-Men to appear, levitating in front of me, her eyes an opaque white as she concentrated her efforts on encasing me in an evergrowing blizzard… Taken from an extract from Anna’s book – due out some time, some day in 2016, when she manages to sit still long enough to complete it. Anna McNuff is a London-based endurance athlete and adventurer, who uses human powered journeys as a platform to inspire kids to get outside and get exploring. In 2015 she ran New Zealand’s Te Araroa trail, solo and unsupported – covering 3,075 kilometres on back country trails. www.annamcnuff.com F www.facebook.com/AMcNuff www.instagram.com/annamcnuff t www.twitter.com/AnnaMcNuff
THE MONGOL DERBY WORDS: Ben Wilks IMAGES: Saskia Marloh and Ben Wilks LOCATION: Mongolia
The Mongol Derby is the longest and toughest horse race in the world. The 1,000 kilometre course recreates Chinggis Khaan’s legendary empire-busting postal system, with riders changing horse every 40 kilometres and staying each night with local herders, or camping under the stars. Each year around 40 professional, semi-professional and enthusiastic amateur riders compete against each other for the derby crown. To stand a chance of finishing, riders must balance survival skills and horsemanship, and to stand a chance of winning, an extra level of determination. Kiwi Ben Wilks proved he has exactly that, crossing the finish line in an extremely credible third-equal. He shares Day Two of his experience with Say Yes to Adventure. MY ALARM WENT off at 5:30am. I rolled over and tried to ignore the other people moving because my body hurt too much and I didn’t want to get up. Eventually I dragged my aching bones out of my sleeping bag and hobbled around, while trying to stretch out my sore muscles and get my feet to start working again. The day began with me packing my bag; all the bulky stuff went straight into the saddlebags, being careful to arrange it so nothing sharp or hard dug into the horses back. I arranged the sleeping bag to go in the middle, with my spare clothes on one side and hat and socks on the other. Duct tape, gifts for the kids, spare electrolyte containers and anything else with sharp edges went in last on the top. In my backpack I had my raincoat, hydration pack, first aid kit, water purifying tablets and a few muesli bars for extra energy. With my bags all packed I headed off in search of some food for breakfast. I will always remember this breakfast because it was when I first discovered my obsession for milky rice. I think it’s basically rice boiled in milk, but it tastes amazing. I ended up eating far too much, but what a great way to start the day. After breakfast it was time for the most important part of the day – horse selection. I quickly looked around at the horses standing in line. At first I would take a walk around them,
checking their legs, body size, muscle tone and look for any bit sores or girth rubs. I soon came to the realisation that I really had no idea what I was supposed to be looking for, so I ended up grabbing a cigarette out of my bag, walking over to a herder and blatantly bribing him, while trying to communicate that I was looking for a fast horse with good feet. Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t. Today I was given Freddy, a neat little chestnut. If he were a racehorse he would be a stayer, not a sprinter – a stayer that ran out of steam halfway into the race. We started off in a pretty big group as there were about ten to 15 of us who made it to Urtuu Three (the horse relay station) last night, but before long we had split into three or four smaller groups. This first leg took us over a big hill that opened out into large grassland, with many little streams winding their way through. We even managed to catch up with two Aussies, Cassie and Louise who were ahead of us and had camped out last night. The end of this leg was a real trick. As we were riding into a long valley, there was a smaller one branching off to our right. From a long way back I thought it was the valley we were meant to go up, but as we got closer I realised we still had another two hills to go before we turned; a true indication of how huge Mongolia is and just how tricky it was to judge distance.
Freddy flew into the Urtuu Four vet check and before I knew it I was off again, now on another chestnut that I aptly named ‘Red Fox’. He went like a rocket and felt like he would be able to just go for it the whole way. He climbed hills with ease and on the flats he was more than happy to tick along at a steady canter. About two-thirds through this leg Maxim, Kat (who I was riding with) and I decided to take a short cut through some flowering fields. It was like riding through a carpet of knee-high yellow petals. By the time we got to the other side our boots, stirrups and horse’s legs were completely covered in yellow pollen from the flowers. When we got to the next checkpoint I had finally worked up an appetite after my huge breakfast. I stopped long enough to have a good rest, eat some dry fried noodles (delicious!) and fill up my pockets with some very tasty donuts. My next horse for the day was a pale grey. He was awesome and I knew from the start that I had managed to get a good one. We had a steady climb to start with, but once we got to the top we decided to let our horses go for a hoon. Maxim had a bit of a firecracker on this leg too so we just let them gallop. It was such an exhilarating feeling with them going as fast as they wanted, with no limitations like fences or roads to stop us. It was like nothing I had ever experienced on a horse before. I could feel that this
Image: Ben Wilks
particular pony was used to having his own way and felt very comfortable at this speed. I checked the GPS once we had finished and our top speed was 45 kilometres per hour – racy little ponies! By the end of this leg I was feeling exhausted. It was a very hot day and my body was telling me to chill out a bit and stop jumping on these horses, which unfortunately wasn’t an option at this stage of the race. We arrived at the third vet check of the day, which was typically the longest because of the heat and it often took the horses a bit longer for their heart rates to come down. While we were waiting I refilled my two-litre hydration pack for the fourth time, ate some fried rice for a snack and after trading a few more cigarettes, I had chosen my next horse, Dumpling. Unfortunately he looked and moved like a dumpling too. “Slow and steady wins the race”, I kept telling myself. This was the first time we had done four legs in one day, making it both physically and mentally
hard to keep pushing my horse to move forward. In the back of my mind I knew that if I didn’t make it to the next checkpoint in time, I would have to camp out or find a local family to stay with. Luckily the final leg of the day was a steady one, involving a lot of rolling country to ride over with plenty of long flat steppes to chew up the miles. Michelle and I ended up riding on our own and for some reason I decided it would be a good idea to go over the hill, instead of around it. Michelle’s GPS was flat so she had no choice but to follow me. Once we reached the top we were able to see the other riders in the distance, cruising along like a trail of ants. Before long we had joined up with them and Urtuu Seven was in our sights. Luckily for us there was a nice big pond about one kilometre before camp, which meant we could stop and give the horses a decent break before taking them to their vet check. Urtuu Seven
was positioned half-way up a steady hill, with beautiful sweeping views of the valley and hills in the distance. There were only two competitors, Devin and Will ahead of the group I was currently in, providing a great incentive to get a good nights rest so I would be fresh and ready for tomorrow. Before heading to bed I took a quick stroll to the loo (hole in the ground with two planks of wood to stand on) and looked out over the valley, watching herds of cattle and horses roam as free as they pleased. Memories like these I will never forget. Ben Wilks is from a small town in New Zealand called Katikati. He quit his job, packed his bags and is now half way around the world. His first adventure was competing in the world’s longest and toughest horse race – The Mongol Derby. F www.facebook.com/Adventures-of-BenWilks-344284589092051 www.instagram.com/adventuresofbenwilks t www.twitter.com/BenAdventuring
STORM CHASER WORDS AND IMAGES: Camille Seaman LOCATION: United States of America
As I stand under them, I see not just a cloud, but understand that what I have the privilege to witness is the same forces, the same process on a smaller scale that helped to create our galaxy, our solar system, our sun and even this very planet. EVERYTHING IS INTERCONNECTED. As a Shinnecock Indian, I was raised to know this. We are a small fishing tribe situated on the south-eastern tip of Long Island near the town of Southampton in New York. When I was a little girl, my grandfather took me to sit outside in the sun on a hot summer day. There were no clouds in the sky. After a while I began to perspire and he pointed up to the sky and said, “Look, do you see that? That’s part of you up there. That’s your water that helps to make the cloud that becomes the rain that feeds the plants that feeds the animals.” In my continued exploration of subjects in nature that have the ability to illustrate the interconnection of all life,
I started storm chasing in 2008 after my then eight-year-old daughter said “Mum, you should do that.” So three days later, driving very fast, I found myself stalking a single type of giant cloud called the super cell, capable of producing grapefruitsize hail and spectacular tornadoes, although only about two per cent of clouds actually do. These clouds are enormous, up to 50 miles wide and reach up to 65,000 feet into the atmosphere. They can grow so big, blocking all daylight, making it very dark and ominous standing under them. When I get up on a storm-chasing day, anything could happen. We’re usually somewhere deep in Middle America, in a motel like something out of a movie
with the cars parked out front. We pile into the meteorologist’s room and sit on the bed as he projects the day’s weather from his computer onto the wall. We analyse the data and decide where we’re headed for. Then we’ll go to some greasy-spoon diner, again like something out of a movie, where it’s all, “How y’all doing today, what can I get ya?” After that, it’s usually many, many hours in the car. The thing with these storms is that they take all day to form. All that warm, moist air has to hit a certain temperature in order for it to start up. A super-cell isn’t part of a storm front; it’s an individual cloud up to 50 miles wide. It needs the perfect conditions to attract all that moisture and blow up like a beautiful cotton ball in the
middle of the plains. Only two per cent of super-cells create tornadoes, but when one starts to happen, we get into ‘chase mode’. There are no bathroom breaks, no pulling over to get a drink, no chance to check the map. These storms are moving, some of them at 20 miles an hour, some at 60. It’s like the whole car is taken over by this euphoric silence. You see people on the television yelling, “Drive faster! Drive faster!” but our cars are never like that. For a photographer, it’s not ideal because it’s dark under there, the wind is blowing, and there is no time to set up a tripod. If you’re too close, it’s so huge you can’t fit it in your frame, so we look for the sweet spot; just far enough away to get the perfect image. Storm chasing is a very tactile experience. There’s a warm, moist wind blowing at your back and the smell of the earth, the wheat, the grass and the charged particles. And then there are
the colours in the clouds of hail forming, the greens and the turquoise blues. I’ve learned to respect the lightning. I wouldn’t say that storm chasing makes me happy; ‘happy’ just can’t illustrate the level of ecstatic joy and deep fulfilment it gives me. I feel a sense of why I exist. I feel a sense of belonging. Not because I’m photographing, but because I am present and I realise how limitless our experience as humans on this planet is. There is so much to see, feel, taste, touch and do. You have to get out there and expose yourself to the passion and the suffering of it, then come to a centre and say, “Who am I?” I’ve realised I’m dreaming this beautiful thing. I want to show people not only what I see, but what I feel. If my images don’t evoke something emotional, then I have failed. It’s my job to bring people to places they might not get to on their own.
When I’m photographing these clouds, I cannot help but remember my grandfather’s lesson. As I stand under them, I see not just a cloud, but understand that what I have the privilege to witness are the same forces, the same process on a smaller-scale version that helped to create our galaxy, our solar system, our sun and even this very planet. Camille Seaman lives in Emeryville, California and takes photographs all over the world using digital and film cameras in multiple formats. She works in a documentary/fine art tradition and since 2003 has concentrated on the fragile environment of the Polar Regions. www.camilleseaman.com F www.facebook.com/camille.seaman.5 www.instagram.com/camilleseaman t www.twitter.com/CamilleSeaman
BROAD HORIZONS WORDS AND IMAGES: Mark Bridgwater LOCATION: New Zealand
Every so often you find yourself on a trip that will unexpectedly change your outlook on a sport you have spent your whole life pursuing. Mark Bridgwater’s first taste of ski mountaineering was one of those occasions. I DON’T OFTEN enjoy flirting with type two fun, preferring adrenaline to endorphins nearly every time – but on this occasion, I revelled in the achievement of a 1,800 metre vertical day in the mountains. As with most adventures, it all began with an offthe-cuff comment, “Hey, you want to come climb Mount Sibbald with me?” There was only a short pause before I replied “Why not!” I didn’t even know where Mount Sibbald was or what would be involved, but I was keen! In a little more than two days, I would be standing, sandwich in hand, at 2,800 metres with one of the most breath-taking views the Southern Alps has to offer – a far cry from the busy schedules of Christchurch. My goal for spring was to upskill in the mountains beyond lift accessed skiing and its surrounding side-country. Dr.
Daniel Price, the man with the question, gave me the opportunity to do so. A keen mountaineer and in the final stages of his PHD at the time, he had often spoken to me about combining his mountaineering experience with my strength in skiing, into a trip that would push both of us. We soon had a third member to our party in Jared Åkerström, a friend of a friend travelling from Cleveland, Ohio to be shown around our magnificent mountains. While our mutual friend was busy at work, Jared jumped at the chance to get in a mid-week mountain mission. The next morning we met at Dan’s flat and piled into ‘Terry the Tuff *$&# Terrano’ at the leisurely time of nine and rumbled down the road. With a brief stop at the supermarket and to fill up with some diesel, we were Tekapobound. Another (somewhat anxious)
fuel stop once arriving was necessary just to be sure we didn’t get stranded three hours from civilisation. My ulterior motive for the extra stop was to check what the river levels were doing and to find out if the locals thought a Terrano could get through the plethora of river crossings without a snorkel. I’d read some reports the night before and really wasn’t keen on drowning Terry, who I was rather fond of. With a good ol’ Kiwi ‘she’ll be right’ report, off we sped once again, down the dusty road towards and past the Round Hill access road turn off. In roughly 45 minutes we reached the end of the road as it abruptly stopped at the shores of the Macaulay River. The vistas up the Macaulay and Godley rivers were stunning, but we were all focused on the depth of the river. Dan proceeded to wade through
the first significant looking braid that barely got above his knees. We crawled forward with caution, gaining more and more confidence with each section and before we knew it we’d reached the safety of the opposite bank and a rough but dry farm track. The reports had stated this is where the river will likely to be at its deepest so spirits were high and Terry lapped up the pats on his dashboard as we navigated the rutted track. Two hours of four-wheel-driving later we arrived at Macaulay Hut and with the bumpy riverbed route-finding behind us we were left with the rest of the beautiful day to enjoy in a magical spot. Exploring, firewood chopping and relaxing was now the order of the afternoon. Two mountain guides and a young boy, Sefton arrived later in the afternoon with the same intent of climbing Mount Sibbald the following day as training for an upcoming guiding exam. As the sun dipped behind the surrounding mountains, we
escaped the sandflies in easily the best hut I’ve ever stayed in. Pasta and yarns were shared around the huge log table before packing and then hitting the sleeping bags nice and early. The alarm woke us from a deep sleep at the ripe hour of 4am… alpine starts! Breakfast was eaten and heavy packs were mounted to our backs as we headed out the door and up the valley. Aside from the odd backtrack, we navigated under the stars in sleepy silence. It seemed like barely a warm-up before we finished the three kilometre section from the hut to Upper Tindill Stream – the start of the ascent at 1,100 metres! The track disappeared as we made our way up scree slopes, through streams, alpine bush and boulder fields. The first signs of snow started appearing at around 1,400 metres, roughly half-way up to the frozen tarn that feeds the Upper Tindill Stream. As the snow turned from infrequent patches to the majority of our walking surface,
we decided to swap tramping boots for ski boots. The sky was lightening into a beautiful morning glow. As we climbed not far from the tarn, the peaks of the surrounding basin caught on fire with the vibrant orange light from the first rays of the day. After a quick refuel once at the tarn, route choices were decided and tramping boots buried before we donned crampons to tackle the next portion of our climb – a 600 metre vertical push up the main bowl to the saddle. This face reminded me a lot of the beep test; it started off fine, a steady gradient with good snow to walk in, but it gradually got softer and steeper the higher we got. After an uneventful ridge crossing, the snow started to firm up… enter our first poor decision! Dan had earlier expressed interest in upskilling in the touring department and trying out his new touring setup. The slope ahead of us was wide and open and looked like we’d be able to tour to the saddle and
possibly even catch Jared who was far ahead of us at this stage. Perched on a steep gradient, we started the saga of taking skis off packs, putting skins on and taking crampons off… baptism by fire you might say for poor Dan! The saga didn’t end here though, not by any means. I set the track for Dan in good consolidated snow, showed him the basics of a kick turn and we continued into increasingly poor snow conditions the closer we got to the saddle. Without ski crampons I was struggling to hold a skin track, so Dan wasn’t exactly loving life! I searched for patches of better snow but to no avail, ultimately deciding that we’d just have to swap back to crampons in an even more precarious position. Time and energy were wasted in spades, but we eventually made it to the saddle. Somewhat exhausted from our ordeal, we were greeted by a panoramic view of huge jagged peaks. I couldn’t have cared less at this stage though… my blood sugar had hit rock bottom and I was only interested in the food in our packs. With some more fuel now in our stomachs I pulled out my camera to capture the fine scenery we’d earned.
Clouds were lapping at the main divide from the West and the Godley River carved its way between the massive peaks like a scar in the earth. Time was ticking away and the sun really was beating down on us now – time to make a move on the final 500 metre vertical to the top. The first 200 metres across the next one kilometre was a small respite from the steep climbing, but we were then immediately faced with a steep face in direct sunlight. Sweat wasn’t in short supply as we slogged up the pitch and leg cramps weren’t far off for me either; few and far between quickly turned into every step by the time we reached the top. Dazed, sweaty and relatively hangry (hungry angry), I was handed our gourmet sandwiches which I devoured as I stared into the mesmerising Southern Alps. As normality returned to my body, the endorphins people speak so highly of began to hit me. There was nowhere else I’d rather be and nothing I’d rather be looking at… the complete opposite to how I’d felt just minutes earlier!
The ski down was a far less involved ordeal, re-affirming why I love gravity so much. After some deliberation as to whether Jared and I leave Dan to ski down with the mountain guides so we could ski the likely unskied West South West face from the summit, we decided we’d all finish this thing together and skied down as a group in sections. We encountered every manner of snow conditions possible, apart from knee-deep powder unfortunately. The undulating three kilometre section from the Upper Tindill Stream back to the hut seemed a LOT longer with a weary body and sore feet, but that just made the moonlit fire bath and cold beers that much better at the end. The perfect way to broaden my skiing horizons. Mark Bridgwater is a commercial and adventure sports photographer from New Zealand. He has a passion for nature and the great outdoors and uses his creativity to capture this in every image. He has one simple goal – to capture amazing people doing amazing things in amazing places. www.markbridgwater.co.nz F www.facebook.com/ MarkBridgwaterPhotography www.instagram.com/mark_bridgwater
Andy Holt is an Englishman based in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was the stunning scenery of his adopted country and a passion to explore that persuaded him to pursue his interest in landscape photography. www.photomonkey.co.nz F www.facebook.com/PhotoMonkeyPhotography www.instagram.com/andythephotomonkey t www.twitter.com/thephotomonkey
THE VILLAGE IDIOT WORDS AND IMAGES: Bruce Kirkby LOCATION: Canada
To SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) from Port Hardy to Tofino, Canada – a journey of some 500 kilometres along the exposed outer coast of Northern Vancouver Island – requires three weeks or more depending on the wind and weather. To attempt the journey solo demands a full palate of skills and experience. And arguably, some cojones.1 I CLEARLY LACKED all three when I set out five years ago, aboard a sit-on-top, with the theory that I could drag myself back aboard and continue in the case of a capsize. A deep fear overtook me even before I’d launched, not a fear of drowning or being blown offshore, but the terrifying prospect of simply being alone. Then my boat sank. Within the first hour. It didn’t take long to figure out the hatches leaked too. Port Hardy wasn’t even out of sight. Knee deep in the ocean, I was dragging my swamped boat ashore in fading twilight – trying to salvage what I could of food and gear – when my hand bumped into something below the surface. It was black, with a touch of red and white writing. “One of my fresh water bags?” I asked myself. No. A baseball cap! Covered in barnacles and seaweed, it had washed in from the open Pacific on a flooding tide. A few seconds earlier or later and I would have missed it. Pulling it from the water, I read the words emblazoned across the brim: Your Village Called. Their Idiot is Missing. Clearly, the universe was trying to send me a message.
When I told my friends I was going to try the mission again on a SUP, the term ‘Village Idiot’ was uttered more than once. Launching from Port Hardy proved a fiasco. I’d flown in earlier in the day, inflating my SUP on a busy fishing wharf and lashed 20 days of food and gear to the deck. Before putting my wallet, phone and city clothes on a bus to Tofino, I’d called home. My voice cracked as I talked to my wife. The distant sound of my cheery young boys brought sobs. It wasn’t until 6pm that I finally paddled away, my SUP heaving and feeling unstable in the late afternoon chop. I’d been bucking a brisk wind for 20 minutes when I realised I’d forgotten to buy apples, bagels and cheese. Turning back, I peeled off my sweaty wetsuit and trudged into town. An hour later, with Port Hardy once again fading behind me, I realised I didn’t have a lighter or matches either. Seriously? I’d be planning this trip for months, but now scared and emotional, I was forgetting the most basic things. I needed to get a grip. Two hours after beginning my journey,
I’d clawed my way ten kilometres along the coast. As a red sun dropped over the ocean I dragged my board up a pebble beach and set camp in a hobbit-like enclave of dark Salal plants and Fir trees. An alarm on my wristwatch woke me at 4am the next morning. It was still pitch black and the tent was sodden with dew. Thirty minutes later I set off in the fog, feeling my way along the shore. The ocean was like glass. Seals followed curiously in my wake and the cries of oystercatchers and gulls echoed off the rocky headlands. By mid afternoon I’d covered 60 kilometres, leaving civilisation far behind. That night I camped among grass-tufted dunes littered with the fresh prints of a wolf pack. Finally, I had some traction. There was no template to follow or instruction manual to read. I wasn’t aware of anyone attempting the same trip on a SUP, which meant plenty of unknowns swirled through my mind. How would wind and swell affect the board? Would the D-rings I glued to the deck (used to attach gear) survive being thrashed around by a wave? How
www.wikipedia.org: Cojón (plural cojones) is slang for ‘testicle’ and may be used as a synonym for ‘guts’ or ‘[having] what it takes,’ hence making it equivalent to English balls or bollocks.
trio of seals spent an entire afternoon swimming in ‘A circles beneath me, their bodies flashing and spinning through a bloom of jellyfish.’ would I land and launch in the surf with a long fin, which meant I couldn’t drag my board up on to the beach? With surf breaking over reefs, rocky shores to my left and the immensity of the Pacific to my right, I developed a simple routine; wake early, be on the water by sunrise and perpetually watch the sky, winds, currents and tides. Drink water, a lot. Eat, a lot. And paddle; hour by hour, day by day. If I could scratch out even a few more kilometres before nightfall, I’d do it. The crux of any trip from Hardy to Tofino is rounding the Brooks, an immense point jutting 20 kilometres into the Pacific, the so-called ‘Everest of the Pacific Northwest’. For years I’d imagined the move in my mind and played through every variable. But as I approached a low-pressure system descended, forcing me to take shelter in a cove. Hours later a lobster boat putted in to join me. Two grizzled and sunbleached men invited me aboard and kindly offered me an omelet. They suggested if the winds didn’t break they could carry me around the Brooks the following morning. The forecast was for five days of gales. At home, my wife and boys were waiting. Would I be cheating myself to accept help? Or would I be cheating my family if I waited a week in this cove, just to say I’d paddled every inch of the shoreline? Eventually I looked at the Village Idiot baseball cap I wore and suddenly the answer became clear.
Aboard the boat I enjoyed clams, wine and fine company. Two days later with the Brooks behind me, I set off again. It felt wonderful to be back on my board, sliding silently over the dark water below. I once heard someone refer to SUP’ing as ‘snowshoeing of the ocean’. Translation: slow, plodding and without justification when compared to a seaworthy kayak. Admittedly, the inability of a SUP to fight a contrary wind leaves one feeling constantly exposed. The slightest stirring of the air brings a shadow of doubt, “Should I get off the water?” More than once I fought for all I was worth, down on my knees, to reach the safety of land. But before we dismiss paddleboards completely, what did I learn along the way? 1. Attach your D-rings with the best glue money can buy; you’ll be happy you did. 2. Carve every ounce possible from your gear, because you’ll be running up and down the beach with it every time you land. 3. It feels good to be alone in the wilderness, but I still prefer being out there with friends. On a deeper level, the journey reminded me that if you haven’t well and truly ‘shat your pants’ for a while, you could be overdue, for nothing cleanses the mind and sorts priorities like fear. Most of the fear, it should be noted, took place before I’d even set off. The journey reminded me that time is
the only luxury we have in life and once we realise that, everything else – apart from family – falls away. Fundamentally, it reminded me of how good it feels to stand up. You see a lot more when you are standing, both in the water below and on the ocean ahead. A trio of seals spent an entire afternoon swimming in circles beneath me, their bodies flashing and spinning through a bloom of jellyfish. That’s the first SUP metaphor for life: stand up whenever you can. And the second: stop worrying about falling. As every SUP’er knows, it is easy to put a fantastic amount of mental and physical energy into staying upright. Yet, have you noticed when we do fall, it’s often bloody good fun. In my whole journey down the coast, the silliest thing I did was not let myself fall more often. So my final advice from the Village Idiot: stand often, fall often, but take it for what it’s worth. Bruce Kirkby is a best-selling Canadian author and photographer, known for connecting wild places and contemporary issues. His journeys have taken him to over 100 countries and his work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Outside Magazine and Canadian Geographic. www.brucekirkby.com www.instagram.com/brucekirkby t www.twitter.com/bruce_kirkby
PERCY PASS THE HARD WAY WORDS: Andrew Magness IMAGES: Martin Sliva LOCATION: New Zealand
I shouldn’t have listened to Rob. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but even at the time I knew better. We’d arrived at the top of Percy Pass a few minutes earlier. We’d had some food, put on warmer clothes to prevent the cold from seeping in through the sweat-soaked layers we’d created on the ascent, but still couldn’t spy anyone on the winding roads we’d just come up. WE WERE PART of a group of ten from the Te Anau Cycling Club that had been brought across Lake Manapouri early in the morning to complete the 80 or so kilometre journey from the West Arm to Borland Lodge. The weather was crisp but clear and Rob and I were pretty far out in front of the rest of the club by the time we’d finished the nearly 1,000 metre climb to the pass. The Percy Pass mission is quite a journey; essentially following the route of two transmission lines as they transfer massive amounts of electricity from the underground power station buried deep in remote Fiordland to more civilised and accessible regions of Southland. It climbs from the lake
level of 180 metres up rough gravel roads to the pass before plunging down the other side for a difficult one kilometre bike-carry to join another rough gravel road that continues down all the way to the Grebe River near the South Arm of Lake Manapouri. From here it follows good gravel as it undulates up the Grebe Valley and then switchbacks its way another 800 metres up to Borland Pass, before offering up the sweet reward of a final ripping descent to the lodge. The views throughout are breathtaking and the riding is non-technical but plenty challenging on the uphills. What defines the trip for most people, however, is the short roadless section in the middle which Rob and I were now contemplating.
The two guys from the club who had organised everything had both completed the journey many times before and they’d laid out a loose plan, which involved the faster folk pushing through to the bottom of the bike-carry portion and then returning to the pass to help assist others. Unfortunately, these two guys were nowhere to be seen and Rob was anxious to keep going, despite the fact that we simply weren’t quite sure where we should be going to. The only ‘obvious’ way was straight down the other side of the lowest point of the saddle, a steep, narrow, loose and horrible looking gully, even without cleated shoes and a ten-plus kilogram bike on your shoulder. But Rob was keen and told me that one of
at the precipitous slope below us I ‘Looking couldn’t help but agree that this direct fall-line approach certainly fitted that bill. ’ the organisers had mentioned that he should ‘expect the worst’ during this section. Looking at the precipitous slope below us I couldn’t help but agree that this direct fall-line approach certainly fitted the bill. I shouldn’t have listened though – I knew better. Instead, I foolishly shut out the rational argument being formulated in my brain that went something like this: 1. This trip was promoted on DOC (Department of Conservation) and other government and tourism websites; places that didn’t generally promote trips that were exceptionally crazy. 2. Although Kiwis are in general much ‘tougher’ than people of other nationalities (especially Americans like myself ), they generally weren’t crazy. 3. Rob’s way was crazy.
Generalities didn’t win on the day though and down we went. Eventually even Rob admitted we’d gone the wrong way. It took us approximately two and a half hours to cover about one kilometre, all of it downhill. I won’t go into the details of what we encountered other than to say that somewhere during the ordeal – as I fell through the false ground and into yet another hole, or lifted my bike over the umpteenth giant fallen tree – I swear I heard the faintest traces of maniacal laughter from somewhere deep within the forest. Two and a half hours later we rejoined the group. It had taken them only 45 minutes to cover the same distance along the proper route. Two more hours gone and I was out in front again but starting to fade as the road climbed steadily towards Borland Pass. The toils of the day had finally
caught up with me. Rob had caught up with me too and, riding alongside, mentioned something about our next descent before he pulled away. I don’t remember a word he said though… this time I wasn’t listening. Andrew Magness is a jack-of-all-trades adventurer. His latest mission has seen him make an impromptu move half way around the world, from North Dakota, USA to Te Anau, New Zealand with his wife and two boys. www.ultramentalbook.com F www.facebook.com/ultramentalbook
FOLLOWING PAGE: Eric Sweet is an artist known internationally for his impressionistic watercolour animal paintings. His relationship to the animal spirit is the driving force behind his work and is his sole motivation. www.signedsweet.com F www.facebook.com/artistericsweet www.instagram.com/artistericsweet
FROM SOUTH TO NORTH WORDS: Kirsten Sheppard IMAGES: Nick Middleton and Kirsten Sheppard LOCATION: Vietnam
Nick and Kirsten spent 30 days traveling the length of Vietnam. Their adventure started down south in Ho Chi Minh City before heading north, ending in the capital city of Hanoi. They had many stops along the way, eventually exploring ten different places in total. From the mountain town of Da Lat to cruising on a boat around Halong Bay, from the Old Town of Hoi An to the Citadel of Hue, they discovered the rich culture and history of this incredible country. They share their story with Say Yes to Adventure. LOOKING OUT THE window as we flew in to Ho Chi Minh City, a wave of panic washed over me as I wished I had spent more time researching this city that now spread for miles below. There were buildings for as far as the eye could see with no end in sight, easily making it the biggest city we had ever experienced. The scale of how big the city is was evident when we got into the taxi and merged into the traffic. We found ourselves thinking, “What are the traffic rules?” We couldn’t figure them out, discovering later that there are rules, but no one follows them. It was a wall of scooters, dotted with the odd car and a constant noise made up of nothing but horns.
We were led across the road, which was a feat in itself and walked at a steady pace – trying not to look, because then we’d panic – down a small alleyway to where we were staying. Thankfully we were only here for one full day and before we knew it we were booked on a bus and heading to Da Lat, the first stop on our trip. The journey was something that we’d never really thought about. The bus drove on both sides of the road, forcing the scooters to drive on the dirt track alongside the road and passing other buses on blind corners, but when we did manage to peek out the window we discovered the most beautiful green countryside.
Da Lat itself was so much smaller than Ho Chi Minh. A beautiful mountain town with a huge lake in the centre, it was the place many Vietnamese went for their holidays. We spent a few days visiting a Zen Buddhist Monastery, which we got to by a cable car over pine forest and provided a panoramic view of the whole city. We saw the most beautiful waterfalls in a rainforest and wandered through the local markets, watching people sell flowers and fruits throughout the day. The evening before we left Da Lat we walked around in the perfect light of the golden hour, watching the city shut down as it prepared for night time, taking in all the sights and saying goodbye to a town we may never see again.
We left by bus to the seaside resort town of Nha Trang so we could catch a flight the day after. This ride was the scariest of the entire trip and caused a family of three daughters to get extremely carsick. We got to Nha Trang an hour early; the result of going down a mountain pass far too fast. It should never be allowed! It was a different pace from Ho Chi Minh and Da Lat; palm trees, thatched umbrellas and many Russian tourists. We soaked up the sun before getting on a plane to Da Nang and Hoi An, the next stops on our itinerary. Upon arriving to Hoi An we walked through the Old Town in the afternoon and evening, where wall-to-wall people proved to be challenging, discovering the best time to explore would be in the morning. Vendors believe that it’s bad luck to sell things that early though, which meant there were no other tourists trying to buy things. We were in our element. We wandered aimlessly, photographing locals as they
went about their morning routine and enjoying the relative calm of a town waking up. From Hoi An we headed to My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO Heritage Site, to see the damage from the war on an old Hindu meditation site. We heard about stories of war crimes and saw craters where bombs had been dropped. It was both eye-opening and devastating to experience. We then took a boat back to Hoi An and watched people fishing, sometimes up to their necks in water. On twilight we returned to Old Town, which had since been transformed over the day. There were lanterns everywhere and you could buy lit candles to let go in the river. All the shops had altars to the spirits outside their doors, which were meant to bring good luck to their families. Next on the list was Hue, where we experienced temperatures of up to 38 degrees, the hottest during our entire trip. We discovered the Imperial
Citadel, which was something else all together. It’s a beautiful Chinese inspired fortress with bullet holes decorating the outer walls and the interior being repaired from destruction. It was a major point of conflict during the war. We visited tombs of old emperors and a Buddhist Monastery that was once the home of Thich Quang Duc, who had self immolated during the Vietnam War. We hadn’t taken a train anywhere yet, so we agreed to take a 12 hour trip from Hue to our next stop at Ninh Binh. Looking back, this probably wasn’t the best move, with the novelty wearing off very quickly. We were sharing a cabin with a Vietnamese lady and her granddaughter, who spoke to us in their native language. We loved listening to them and it had us wishing we could understand even a little bit of what they were saying! Upon arriving we discovered our mode of transport was aboard two scooters;
luckily for us it was a small town with hardly any traffic. The locals waved as we cruised by and the light breeze was just what we needed after the long trip on the train. Ninh Binh was amazing. We climbed over 500 uneven stairs to look out over rows and rows of limestone outcrops, rice fields and rivers. We wandered through a rainforest to the sound of monkeys, took a boat ride through the stone pillars and then watched the sun disappear behind them. We saw a temple built into a cave and were chased by a dog. We were sad at the thought of leaving this place for the capital of Hanoi. When we arrived in Hanoi we immediately noticed it was very different to the first big city of Ho Chi Minh. Hanoi was thriving and people were following the road rules! We enjoyed walking the streets while watching people go about their lives, kids playing and people laughing. We weren’t there for long though before we were on the road again heading to Sapa.
Sapa quickly became our favourite place of the whole trip. When the bus arrived, the doors opened and there were about 30 H’mong tribe’s people waiting around the doors, trying to sell us goods and ‘trekking’. They were cheeky with their comebacks when you said “no” and followed you until you caved, or made it very clear that you weren’t buying. It was nice being in the mountains and the climate was perfect! On the day we explored the villages the monsoon rain started. Instead of lasting the usual 20 minutes, it went on for hours. After it cleared we donned our jackets and ventured out hoping the rain would hold off until we had finished. It didn’t and we were soaked. We got out of the town and the first view we got of the rice fields and mountains was breathtaking. The mountains went on forever, dotted with bright green fields, with low cloud swirling around and the peaks poking out between them. We couldn’t believe that after all we had seen there was still something that would blow our minds.
Halong Bay was the last stop on our epic month-long journey in this beautiful country. It was similar to the limestones of Ninh Binh, but this time located in the sea instead of on the land. We explored giant caves, were woken by the loudest thunderstorms and were lucky enough to see jellyfish as we kayaked around. Before we could blink the trip was over and we were left with only memories and images of the heat, food and people. Now to start planning for the next adventure! Kirsten Sheppard and Nick Middleton are two professional photographers from Endeavour Media & Photographics. Based in Christchurch, New Zealand, they specialise in photographing action sports, portraits, food and landscapes. They love traveling and exploring new places while capturing their adventures from behind a lens. www.endeavourmp.com F www.facebook.com/endeavourmp www.instagram.com/endeavourphoto t www.twitter.com/endeavourmp
THE OUTER EDGE OF SPACE WORDS: Christopher Michel IMAGES: Christopher Michel and United States Air Force LOCATION: United States of America
As I slipped open the sunshade of my spacesuit, I could see that the sky above was black. The curved white and blue Earth fell away below the horizon. Sailing like Icarus past 70,000 feet, I was now the 11th highest human on Earth – astronauts on the International Space Station and the Soyuz spacecraft would solidly hold the top ten that afternoon. NOTICEABLY ABSENT WAS any trace of sound or fury. We were flying silently through the upper atmosphere in what amounted to a large black wing, aptly named the U-2 Dragon Lady. Just below and in front of me, the master of this craft, Lt. Colonel Joe ‘Tucc’ Santucci, coaxed our dragon higher and higher, trying to get every last foot of altitude. “She’s given us all she can today,” said Tucc, my pilot and the Commander of the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, as we levelled off past 70,000 feet. The glass around my canopy was beginning to freeze over from the combination of extreme cold (70 degrees below zero) and the vapour from my (likely rapid) breath. It was an ethereal feeling to be floating among ice crystals reflecting the bright sunlight on the edge of space. A wave of melancholy washed over me as I realised that this moment would be one of the highlights of my life; unlikely to ever be repeated. Not so for Tucc and the 56 U-2 pilots actively flying today. Although a oncein-a-lifetime experience for me, this was their job, regularly flying ten to 12
hour missions all over the world. Walking the halls of the 99th, one can’t help but feel transported back to the early 1960s. They are lined with faded, iconic photographs of U-2 and SR-71 pilots standing in pressure suits in front of their aircraft. I was there to go on a ‘High Flight’ with Colonel Tucc. At 38, Tucc doesn’t look his age. Always with a smile on his face, he isn’t typical in any way. He’s brilliant, holding two master’s degrees and is about to complete his Ph.D. He was just awarded the Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy for outstanding achievement in airmanship and flying proficiency by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. He can seamlessly transition in conversation from economics to engine performance. I was lucky to be flying with him. When I was first offered the opportunity to fly in the U-2, I must admit that I was surprised that they were still flying, but this once ‘Top Secret’ aircraft has outlasted even its replacement, the SR-71. First flown in 1955, the U-2 was designed to perform high-altitude
surveillance over unfriendly nations, primarily the former Soviet Union. Operating under the cover story of conducting ‘weather research,’ everything about this black CIA program was Top Secret. The mission characteristics were clear; to be successful, the plane would have to fly high enough to be safe from surfaceto-air missiles and enemy aircraft. Not much could yet reach 70,000 feet and those missiles that could, would always fall far short of the mark. Over the years the Soviets lost countless pilots (and rockets) as they tried desperately to destroy these aircrafts. The Soviets would eventually succeed. On May 1 1960, Francis Gary Powers took off from Peshawar, Pakistan, on a mission to photograph ICBM sites near Sverdlovsk. More than halfway through the mission, the first of three SA-2 Guideline missiles impacted Powers’ U-2, codenamed Article 360. Fortunately, Powers survived but failed to activate the aircraft’s self-destruct mechanism. Article 360 is still on display at the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow. Today, more than 50 years later, the
U-2 remains the world’s highest-flying conventional airplane. U-2 pilots are often talking directly to the troops on the ground, allowing missions to be adapted to real-time war fighter needs. According to the UK Times Online, ‘The U-2 has acquired a reputation in Afghanistan for spotting bombs that the ground patrols might miss.’ Gone are the days of isolated pilots operating secretly in the stratosphere. The two primary U-2 squadrons are located at Beale Air Force Base near Sacramento, California. The 99th Reconnaissance Squadron is the nation’s operational squadron, providing pilots for other U-2 squadrons located in Asia and the Middle East. Sharing the same building with the 99th is the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, where new and returning pilots train. I had the opportunity to meet many of these high-fliers and they weren’t what I expected.
First, there is a quiet confidence to these pilots. Most are not ‘jet jockeys’ and instead hail from longer-hull, fixed-wing aircraft like C-130s. Second, no one gets assigned to be a U-2 pilot; they all apply and come for a two-week interview. Most don’t make it. The pilots are also unusual in that many have been here for a long, long time. Unlike more traditional aviators who rotate around the Air Force, the U-2 community seems more like an order of flying monks, dedicated to the perfection of high-altitude flight. And I was going to get the opportunity to spend a week with these warrior-monks. Before getting the chance to fly, I had to undergo physical checks and training, mainly run by the extremely professional 9th Physiological Support Squadron (PSPTS). During an intense couple of days, we discussed mundane topics like how to eject at 70,000 feet, eat tube-food at altitude, survive
explosive decompression and evade enemy patrols. I’ll spare you the details on bathroom use in a pressure suit – suffice to say that it is a major topic of conversation among high-fliers. The day of my flight I was to meet Colonel Tucc and Major Chris ‘Ralphie’ Hanshaw at 8am for a ‘low residue’ breakfast of steak and eggs. Ralphie was a former F-14 Navy pilot, who switched services when the venerable Tomcat was retired. He’s the head of operations for the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron and would be assisting Tucc and me in our high flight today. Ralphie was both the backup pilot and ‘mobile’ for our flight. Unique to the U-2 community is the concept of a pilot in a supped-up Pontiac GTO with cop lights chasing behind U-2s on all take-offs and landings. Akin to the Navy’s landing signal officers, mobiles provide pilots with critical landing instructions. As a Navy guy myself,
I was delighted to have a shipmate helping out. After a detailed flight brief, we headed off to PSPTS to suit up. After changing into long underwear, I met with a flight medic for a brief exam that included detailed questions on my sleep history and diet over the past 24 hours. On the floor were two spacesuits, especially prepared for donning. It looked exactly like my recollection of the NASA prep rooms from TV. One of the technicians asked if I was ready and led me over to the treadmill. For the next ten minutes I worked out on 100 per cent oxygen in a time-honoured pre-breathing exercise to outgas nitrogen. Decompression sickness is a very real threat for U-2 pilots, requiring them to prebreathe for one-hour prior to flight. Tucc and I were running alongside each other and would not be able to communicate again until we were strapped into the plane.
Following my brief workout, two technicians began the 30 minute process of getting me into the pressure suit. The La-Z-Boys weren’t there for fun – they were there to allow PSPTS techs to be able to correctly fit and test the pressure suit. They also helped keep the pilot’s core temperature from rising too quickly. It was then that I began to realise how helpless I was in the suit. The technicians did everything for us, including walking with us and carrying our portable oxygen systems. As a rule, I’m not claustrophobic, but as they attached my space helmet, I felt the first twitches of anxiety. Tucc looked over at me from his spacesuit and gave me the thumbs up. We were then led into a van, two of the same brown lounges in the back for the short ride to the aircraft. All was silent except for the Darth Vader–like sound of my breathing. I’d been briefed on the pre-flight
traditions of the U-2. After we arrived, I was led out of the van and saw our U-2 for the first time; 63 feet long and matte black with an enormous 103foot wingspan. In front of this elegant lady stood three of the ground crew at attention. I followed Tucc up to the nose of the aircraft, which we touched for good luck. We then saluted and shook hands with each of the ground crew. Ralphie was also there and in keeping with tradition, he received a fist-bump. I was then led to the rear cockpit of the aircraft. As I was strapped in, I thought about how many professionals it took to get this aircraft in the air. This wasn’t about one pilot or one plane – it was a team effort. The salutes were warranted; in every respect, it was their flight as much as it was ours. “ICS check”, came over the intercom. They were the first words I’d heard in over an hour. “Loud and clear, Tucc”, I said in the most professional aviator voice I could muster while my spacesuit
was being rapidly inflated and deflated by the technicians who were testing the pressurisation system. I checked that I could reach the ejection handle and ‘green apple’ control for the emergency oxygen system. Normally these would be straightforward, but in a pressure suit, everything is difficult. After receiving taxi clearance, we rolled out to the runway. My primary task at this point was to reach down and remove the two pins to my ejection seat and the one pin to arm the explosive canopy-removal system. After some strained reaches, I was able to remove the pins. Off to my right, I could see Ralphie in the GTO saluting Tucc. “Ready to go?” said Tucc as he slowly advanced the throttle of the U-2’s General Electric F118-GE-10 engine. About two seconds later, I could see
one of the two ‘pogos’ (wing gear) fall away from the aircraft, leaving us with just fore-and-aft bicycle gear along the fuselage. On the U-2, every pound saved means more altitude. In a gutsy move, Kelly Johnson designed the aircraft to leave half the landing gear on the runway at take off – and this would certainly make for an exciting landing. We were airborne in no time and before long Tucc said, “Prepare for the pull” as the nose of the aircraft lifted nearly straight up. We were in a 15,000-feet-per-minute climb. Despite the high angle of attack, it was an extremely smooth ride. For the first time since I donned the spacesuit, I felt at home and, surprisingly, comfortable. We began a slow left turn that would take us on our route around Northern California. At 25,000 feet, the rate of ascent slowed as we began our gradual climb to 70,000 feet.
Tucc and I were talking quite fluidly at this point; we had left the topic of flight characteristics of a large winged aircraft to discuss Greek philosophy. He was both an intellectual and a war fighter and I was thinking how lucky we are as a nation to have such remarkable people serving today. I looked down at the altimeter and saw that we were passing 65,000 feet. The cockpit was silent for a few seconds allowing me time to reflect on the moment. I could see the blackness of the sky enveloping us. The curvature of the earth was clearly pronounced as we levelled off just above 70,000 feet. “Look out to your left,” said Tucc. Treasure Island and Oakland were clearly visible beyond the high clouds. I smiled as I thought about a Cold War era U-2 spy-plane flying over the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.
Two hours had passed in the blink of an eye. We started our turn to the north to begin the long descent back to Beale. Slowly the altimeter clicked down as we initiated the landing checklist. “Mobile, Pinion 07”, said Tucc, trying to reach Ralphie on the squadron frequency using our flight call sign. Ralphie answered immediately saying he was ready to go. He would be standing by in the GTO just off the runway to give Tucc landing instructions. I knew U-2 landings were notoriously difficult. Many consider them to be the most difficult aircraft to land in the world. We passed the landing threshold at ten feet and at 80 knots. The cockpit was absolutely quiet and the yoke moved dramatically as Tucc worked the landing. He would have to actually stall the aircraft over the runway to land the airplane.
We set down quite smoothly and, in a first for me, the wing touched the ground as we slowed. The wingtips have titanium skids for this very reason. As we slowed to a stop, the ground crew reattached the pogos and we resumed our taxi to base operations. “Nice landing, Tucc”, I said. In his typical self-deprecating manner, he calmly replied, “I wish I could communicate how hard that was.” In the U-2, every landing is hard. As we taxied in, I removed my gloves, popped the airlock on my helmet, re-pinned the ejection seat and looked around. I could see that a small crowd was gathered at base operations to greet us. As we pulled up and stopped, the ground crew attached the ladder, opened the canopy, unstrapped us and unhooked our umbilicals. I slowly climbed out of the aircraft – and was promptly handed a bottle of
champagne by the Wing Commander, Colonel ‘Pickle’ McGillicuddy. Tucc and I stood at the bottom of the ladder as I popped the cork and we both took turns drinking. For me, flying in the Dragon Lady was the highlight of my life. For Tucc and his fellow pilots, it was just another Thursday. Christopher Michel tells stories of extreme places and people through his photography, taking him on incredible adventures all over the world. His work appears broadly and can be seen in books, magazines, newspapers and online. www.christophermichel.com www.instagram.com/chris_michel t www.twitter.com/chrismichel
THE JOYS OF GETTING LOST WORDS AND IMAGES: Erwin Zantinga LOCATION: Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany and Belgium
What makes a cycling adventure a real adventure? Is it sleeping under a tarp somewhere next to a river? Is it eating watery instant noodles in the bushes? Or is the essence of adventure finding your way in a place not previously explored before? I chose the last and decided to travel without a paper map, GPS or any other electronic navigation, from Maastricht in the Netherlands to Mont Blanc in the French Alps and back. BY DECIDING TO travel this way I got into a lot of frustrating situations, including detours, missing turns and the feeling of being lost and completely wrong. When confronted with these kinds of situations I learned to chill out and accept the fact that things sometimes don’t always go the way you want them to. With every detour I took, the first thing that came to mind was, “Ahhh, Erwin… just listen to the signs for once and don’t be so freaking stubborn!” But soon this changed. I ended up seeing places I otherwise wouldn’t have seen and turned my negative thoughts into positive. This is the way I had to think, otherwise I would go crazy. Every day I was making detours, getting lost on my own drawn maps and cycling more kilometres than necessary. The maps I drew got better over time. They were still really crap, because I can’t even draw a proper stick figure, but they always got me to my destination. It made me extra proud finding the right road and ending up in the village I was supposed to. Once arriving to these villages, I would search for maps for the next destination, until I finally stumbled upon the Mont Blanc map. Most of the maps I came across were local, so they just helped for a couple of kilometres. By traveling without a map, I didn’t
only leave frustration behind me, I also cared less where I would end up at the end of the day. Normally I would search for a green spot on the map, now I just looked around and stopped at the places that looked suitable as I came across them. After arriving at Mont Blanc – with an extra 300+ kilometres on my speedometer – it was time to turn around and find a new way home. I took the Grand Saint Bernard Pass, which travels first through Italy and then Switzerland, hitchhiking with my bike through the Mont Blanc tunnel and conquering the downhill with a steady speed of 50 kilometres per hour. After trying to find my way for three weeks using tiny roadmaps, drawings from locals and following the sun, I decided it was time to follow the signs. Switzerland has a very good road network with many cycling routes, so I took route number three and followed it for three days. But it was boring. I felt captured with all the signs telling me where to go, with no sign meaning I was going the wrong way. I never went the wrong way before! If you don’t have a proper destination, you can’t go wrong. But in Switzerland I did. I mean, there were some beautiful routes, but that feeling of adventure had faded away. After deciding to leave the signs and just
follow my compass, adventure hit me once again. And sadly, I didn’t make any maps of Switzerland because of the signs! I missed the feeling of not knowing where I was going, finding my own way and making my own route. I soon found my way out of Switzerland and stumbled upon the Rhine River, my ticket home. At times it was frustrating, stressful and I scolded myself for my stupidity and stubbornness. There were moments I was screaming with joy and moments I wanted to break something. These are the moments that occur in every long distance cycling trip, but the constant search for maps, destinations or landmarks makes everything more intense. Everything goes a little slower when traveling without a map. In this day and age people are stressed, constantly rushing and move at an overall faster pace. So it’s not so bad to leave your map, GPS or other navigation at home and take on a journey led by locals and homemade maps. Erwin Zantinga is a filmmaker living an adventurous life, making long-distance and self-supported trips on rollerblades, by bike or just walking. He uses these journeys to create films, write articles and gives talks throughout the Netherlands. www.rawsleepout.wordpress.com F www.facebook.com/rawsleepout
BACK TO THE SIERRA MADRES WORDS AND IMAGES: Jacob Maentz LOCATION: Philippines
Things often do not turn out the way you might expect them to. Such was the case during my recent trip back to the Sierra Madres Mountains in the Philippines. I returned to a part of the Isabela and Cagayan provinces to visit some old Agta friends who Iâ€™d met the previous year. Upon returning this time I had a plan to go on a hunt with some of the men; a hunt for wild pig, deer or monkey. These are game items that the Agta people still hunt for occasionally in the forest to eat or sell to locals. I was excited about this trip and thought with the contacts I had made everything would fall into place fairly easily. However, I couldnâ€™t have been more wrong.
UNCONTROLLABLE CIRCUMSTANCES SUCH as bad weather, broken transportation and previous obligations of my contacts led to a serious amount of time-wasting. We watched the rain pour down while sitting on the side of a once-dusty road in the middle of nowhere, waiting for conditions to become just right for a hunt. Conditions that never quite eventuated during my two-week visit. Despite the many hours of waiting, we were able to make the most of the circumstances. I’m referring to ‘we’ because I was with a friend, Norman Mabborang, who without his help with the four local dialects he speaks, would have made for a much more difficult trip. I am very thankful for Norman’s help and for being so patient with all the down time we had. A lot of our time was spent visiting families in the different villages and getting a better sense of community life. Being back at the Blos River was also a nice treat as we were able to print pictures from our visit a year ago and share them with
our friends. Seeing the excitement on the people’s faces after viewing their photos was priceless and worth the trip in itself just for those short moments. Our journey back to Blos began from the small town of Maconacon on the east coast of Isabela. The 17-passenger Sky Pasada plane that we flew in to Maconacon was full and brought us over the beautiful and lush mountains of the Sierra Madres. It took a day to reconnect with familiar faces and soon we were off on a kuliglig (image above) heading for the Blos River. To set the tone of our adventure, our kuliglig got a flat tyre about 30 minutes into our trip. We ended up waiting for a few hours on the side of the road while it was fixed back in town. Eventually, our transportation returned and we made it to Blos before dark. It was great being back and visiting with friends we hadn’t seen in almost a year. We immediately began talking with the men about arranging a hunt of some sort. It sounded like something might be possible, but then the rain
came and we ended up waiting for a couple of days for the low pressure to clear. Generally I try not to let weather stop me from photographing, but under these circumstances the men would not go hunting in the rain because the animals get scared off. While waiting for the weather to clear, daily life continued and I tried to document what I could. Eventually the rain did clear and right away we were told that two men were going to look for octopus. I quickly grabbed my gear and headed out with them. After an hour walk to the reef the men immediately found an octopus hiding in the rocky shoreline, a pleasant surprise. When I was last here there was talk about a proposed road connecting Illagan to Divilacan. Essentially the government wants to build an 82 kilometre road that connects the isolated towns of Maconacon and Divilican to the mainland ‘Luzon’. It’s only a matter of time and during this trip I make it a point to ask the locals
about their thoughts on the issue. I wanted to hear from those who would be most affected by the plan and what their thoughts were. I talked with school teachers, pastors, Agta men and local people while riding the kuliglig. To no surprise, I found people stating both good and bad aspects about the road. It seems everyone is aware about the harm it will have on the environment. Everyone I spoke to mentioned this. However, a few people mentioned that it would be easier to sell their goods and have access to better medical care if a road is built. Although, with that being said, it was always made clear to me at the end of our conversation that the road would do more harm in the long run. As one person told me, “The government never did a survey of all the citizens who will be directly affected by this road.” This seems to be a plan of certain politicians who will benefit from the project. Why would the government want to build a 1.9 billion-peso road to only connect two small towns? Maconacon only has a
population of 5,000 people, for which there could be better alternatives such as a subsidised ferry boat for residents. It saddens me that in five years time this area will be connected to the rest of Luzon and slowly people’s lives will start to change. An influx of people will certainly put more pressure on the area’s natural resources and life in the Agta communities we have come to know will change also. We ended up spending most of our time socialising with the different Agta communities and drinking a lot of coffee. There isn’t much else to do when it’s pouring down with rain and everyone else is waiting for the weather to clear too. This time was nice though and provided some intimate moments among family members that we were able to be apart of. After talking with some of the men in Blos they recommended we get in touch with their cousins on the other side of the Sierra Madres. They said that the hunting grounds there were much better and it was very likely we
would catch something within a couple of days. After all of the waiting in Blos we decided that the best option would be to at least visit their cousins and see what was possible. We still had a few more days in and around Blos before catching our flight back to Tuguegarao. But now we had a plan. With some down time in Maconacon before heading back to Tuguegarao, we decided to go out one morning to two different Agta communities living nearby on the beach. These two communities primarily catch lobster as a source of livelihood to sell to the locals, who then pack the lobster and fly them out to be sold either in Tuguegarao or Manila where the prices are much higher. We were able to go out one morning with some of the men to see how they catch lobster, using a single rod spear. Usually, the men will fish all night long looking for lobster because the conditions are much better at night. During our short time in the water the only thing the young Agta men caught were a couple of fish.
Once back in Tuguegarao, I spent the next few days trying to arrange a guide to get up to this new community. I was optimistic after seeing two deer skulls and was told just a few days before that an Agta man had delivered a deer for the barangay captain’s birthday party. The barangay captain’s house is a two-hour hike from the Agta community. Despite three flat tyres on our motorcycle and multiple blisters, we eventually arranged for a guide and reached the community where I needed to be. It was a beautiful place and I was pleasantly surprised to find it fairly accessible from Tuguegarao City. It’s a rugged road to the start point of the rough two-hour hike, but nonetheless it is still accessible by a vehicle. I spent three days in the community, but again with no luck finding any animals to hunt. I spent almost three days waiting for the men to find the location of the wild pigs and deer but our time wasn’t long enough and again nothing could be found. I ended up photographing more everyday life images from around the village.
A common sight I saw along the river to the second Agta community I visited was hard wood from the forest being floated down river. This is clearly an illegal activity as the wood is coming from a natural park and harvesting any type of old growth hard wood in the country is now banned. However, I was told that the police don’t mind because they know it is a source of livelihood for the community down river. When I asked about the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) I was told that the workers have to be careful when DENR officials visit the area. It amazes me, however, that the regional headquarters for DENR (a large threestory building) is only two hours away and accessible by road. This activity is clearly happening and you can see large piles of wood being stacked along the side of the river. Every morning I saw about 20 men heading up river to start their daily cutting. The Agta are also engaging in this activity, as it is a relatively easy source of income for them. Once the logs are cut they are
floated down river using old tyres or rice bags filled with plastic bottles. With the initial plan for this trip to be based around some type of hunt, we actually only went out hunting for a few hours one afternoon. We went looking for monkeys, but due to the strong rain they were nowhere to be found and we returned empty handed. My initial vision of an Agta man carrying a large wild pig or deer on his shoulders through the forest did not happen. I guess this will have to wait for another visit when my energy levels have returned and I will try to arrange another hunt. Jacob Maentz is a freelance travel, documentary and humanitarian photographer based in the Philippines. His passion lies in creating images that communicate a strong sense of place and cultural awareness in unique and challenging situations. www.jacobimages.com F www.facebook.com/jacobimages www.instagram.com/jacob.maentz t www.twitter.com/jmaentz
MOLLY’S MUESLI RECIPE AND IMAGE: Unna Burch
MOLLY WAS MY Grandmother’s first cousin and they were also neighbours. Because we spent a lot of time with my Grandparents growing up, my brother and I would often visit Aunt Molly. This is seriously the best muesli I have ever made and had! Surprisingly one of my favourite
things in there is the All-Bran. When toasted it has such a good texture! I have made a few slight adjustments to the original recipe – we like quite sweet muesli; if you don’t, leave the sugar out and just use honey. Also, we use unrefined sugar which isn’t as sweet as white sugar, so use less than suggested
1 cup wheatgerm 1 cup All-Bran 1 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans and walnuts) 1 cup sunflower seeds 4 cups rolled oats
FOR THE SYRUP ½ cup honey ½ cup coconut oil ½ cup FairTrade unrefined sugar
TO ADD AT THE END 1 cup dried fruit (I use chopped apricots, dried blueberries and cranberries) 1 cup coconut (I use organic coconut chips) ½ cup goji berries (optional)
TO SERVE Vanilla bean yoghurt Bee pollen Blueberries
in the recipe if you use white sugar. If you can’t find wheatgerm or All-Bran – use the same amount of something different – such as rolled oats, seeds or nuts so the quantity stays the same. I always double this recipe and make a huge batch so that it lasts longer; it also makes a wonderful homemade gift.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Line two trays with baking paper and set aside. 2. Mix the wheatgerm, All-Bran, nuts, seeds and oats and bake for 30-35 minutes. With two wooden spoons, toss twice during cooking so that it doesn’t over cook on the top and in the corners especially. Remove from oven when all ingredients are golden and have a nutty, toasted smell. 3. In a medium sized pot, melt the honey, sugar and oil. Pour in the dry ingredients. Stir through. Add the fruit and goji berries and toss. Place the trays back into the oven but turn the oven off. I leave mine in the oven until the oven goes cold and then pull it out and break apart the muesli with my fingers. Store in an airtight container.
TO SERVE I love serving muesli with bee pollen from our bee hives. Bee pollen is the most amazing super food and has so many health benefits; a wonderful addition to kick start the day. I also like serving the muesli with milk, yoghurt and fruit. In winter time stewed rhubarb is a nice alternative instead of berries. MAKES: 10 ½ cups TIME: A little bit of effort
Recipe and image reproduced with permission from My Garden Kitchen: Easy weekdays and slow food weekends by Unna Burch, published by New Holland, NZ$45.00. Unna Burch lives with her husband and two young sons on the edge of an urban forest in Wellington, New Zealand. She writes a regular column for a city magazine and pursues her creative passion for cooking, styling and photographing food through her website and social media platforms. www.theforestcantina.com F www.facebook.com/theforestcantina www.instagram.com/the_forest_cantina
TEN ISLAND RACE WORDS: Sam Clarke IMAGES: Daniel Breece LOCATION: Sweden
Kiwi multisporter Sam Clark, who paired with Swedish adventure racing legend Martin Flinta, gives an insight into what it was like to compete in this year’s Ten Island Race in Sweden. SWEDEN’S WEST COAST is a place of raw beauty. The wind and waves pound relentlessly against the primeval granite slabs which form the islands in the Gothenburg Archipelago. The landscape has changed little since Viking times and although the longboats have long since given way to ferries and cargo ships the people who live here are no less hardy than their forebears and have a reputation for being tough resourceful folk. The Gothenburg Archipelago is home to the Ten Island Race. Teams of two navigate the archipelago by kayak, foot and swimming, which includes passing over the highest point on the Archipelago’s ten largest islands. Now in its third year, the Ten Island Race has built a reputation as ‘one of the toughest multisport races anywhere in the world.’ After competing in Ironman UK and all the triathlon training that went with it, I got a real hankering to get stuck into a bit of multisport racing. Fortunately for me I was based in Sweden, which is considered by many to be the Northern Hemisphere’s multisport mecca. The Swedes share the same love as Kiwis do when it comes to the outdoors and this is reflected in their races, which are very tough and also very well attended too. The Ten Island Race course includes five kilometres of road running, 25 kilometres of kayaking-orienteering and finishes with a 22 kilometre swimrun. My Thule Adventure Team Captain,
Martin is a two-time winner of Otillo – the world swimrun championship – and has competed in the sport since it began in the early 2000s. We were picked as race favourites ahead of rivals Peak Performance. We trailed Peak Performance after the first run at the kayak transition. They mounted their surf skis and Martin and I hopped into multisport boats, which was a little unnerving in the choppy conditions. Both teams wobbled nervously between islands and we exchanged the lead several times. The surf skis allowed faster transitions but our multisport boats meant we could go for more aggressive lines through the shallow water and a couple of low sections helped us into a more than two-minute lead by the end of the kayaking stage. We donned our cut-off wetsuits, pull buoys and paddles and set out running and were soon sweating heavily. The midday sun was hot; dehydration and overheating are inherent risks from running in rubber suits, so we relished each swim and drank plenty at the aid stations. By the halfway point we had opened up a margin of over ten minutes. The practice Martin and I had put into our transitions was paying off and we moved from land to water without breaking stride. The terrain was highly technical and besides the risk of trips and falls, we braved barnacle cuts and stings from large jellyfish on our journey across the Archipelago. When we reached the
final island a support biker guided us to the finishing area and after one last short swim we clambered onto the pier and crossed the finish line in a new race record of five hours, one minute and 13 seconds, just over 21 minutes ahead of Peak Performance. The Ten Island Race is one of the best courses I have raced on; pairs racing is a lot of fun because you share the experience with your teammate. Kayak navigation and swimrun are great race ideas, which hopefully will appear in races in New Zealand. If you find yourself in Sweden during the month of August, make sure the Ten Island Race is part of your adventure. For more information on the Ten Islands Race visit www.10islandrace.com. Sam Clark is a well-known New Zealand multisport athlete. He has a wealth of experience from competing in a wide range of endurance sports, including multiple expedition length adventure races, ultramarathons, long distance triathlons, kayaking and road and mountain bike races. F Sam Clark Multisport
FOLLOWING PAGE: Hollie Woodhouse is a lover of all things adventure and design (and produces this very magazine). She loves to push the boundaries and challenge herself, with a Jungle Ultra in Peru next on her list. www.holliewoodhouse.com F www.facebook.com/theadventurouskiwi www.instagram.com/holliewoodhouse
FINDING SHELTER WORDS AND IMAGES: Nancy Farese LOCATION: Ethiopia
Nancy Richards Farese is a social documentary photographer who visited the Aysaita Refugee Camp in Ethiopia to photograph the work of RefugePoint, a USA-based NGO which partners with the United Nations’ systems to protect the children and find solutions for displaced people; this often translates into resettlement to another country. She discovered it was both a privilege and challenge to listen to and see these powerful stories, then relate them back to her international audiences. She shares her story with Say Yes to Adventure. I HAD TO duck low to get through the curtained door of the house and felt immediately as if I’d dropped into a protected cave with a pool of cool water, a rock lip separating me from an unbearable sheet of hot desert sun outside. A steady breeze lapped like small waves under the raised wall flaps near the ground and I sat on the floor and closed my eyes to isolate the sensory relief. I heard a splash of Afari chatter and giggles outside, like a bucket of water thrown on the baking ground, evaporating immediately into the silence of retreat; we were all waiting for the heat of the day to pass. It is 110 degrees and I am a soft-bellied western photographer in
an Ethiopian refugee camp, finding that the inviting haven of this United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) tent/house is as welcoming a sanctuary for me as it is for the refugees fleeing violence and persecution in their homeland. Aysaita Refugee Camp is in the Danakil Desert, one of the hottest places on earth with an average daily temperature of 94 degrees. Though I had the good fortune of having an airconditioned room, the heat is dominant from the moment you walk out into the arid early morning. This region is called ‘Cradle of Mankind’, home of the Australopithecus skeleton ‘Lucy’ and other ancient bipedal relatives
of ours. The land is monochromatic, sliced through by the modern highway connecting Djibouti and Addis Ababa, on which huge cargo trucks thunder past with the blurred suggestion of commercialism and the outside world. The horizon offers a watery mirage of heat, confusing until the sharp relief of stick huts and camels comes into focus with shepherds holding guard with AK-47s casually draped over their shoulders. This land feels extreme, ancient and essential. And yet, this harsh land is a safe haven of pure hope to the Afari refugees who have fled the horrors of Eritrean repression and ethnically targeted violence, desperate for safety among
intention was to photograph these refugees ‘My with the things they carry from the past forward, to create a new home. I was completely off base.’ their fellow Afaris of Ethiopia. So here it is that we meet, among these fragile homes of plastic, sticks and blankets in the desert. The refugee story is both as big as the world, with nation-state boundaries being drawn by international powers dividing families, and as small as the individual child, orphaned by violence and brought to safety by another child or relative. Their welcome is temporary. Human migration from violence is ancient, constant and very current with today’s stories being about refugee flight from Northern Africa, Syria and Burma. The Ethiopian government now hosts the largest refugee population in Africa – 800,000 Somalis, Sudanese, Eritreans; 9,000 of those are Afaris in this desert camp and 54 per cent are children, mostly unaccompanied or orphaned.
making certain assumptions about storylines and shot lists formed by research and imagination. My concept was to explore how we create ‘home’, both from the universal human perspective of shelter, safety and community and from the individual perspective of culture and self, which might mean a picture, a family bible, or a grandmother’s table. My intention was to photograph these refugees with the things they carry from the past forward to create a new home. I was completely off base.
This year, the US has agreed to take 1,000 Afaris and so we meet Tani, a 15-year-old orphan on the eve of his departure for Galveston, Texas. Though he speaks no English, knows nothing of computers and email and understands only that Texas will be colder than anything he has known, he will enter a US high school system with one picture of his family and a depth of survival experience that has made him strong, resourceful and grateful for life. I am awed by his bravery and certain that he will need each of those skills to navigate the alien world of the US teenager.
I learned that most people had nothing. One person described having his fingers systematically cut off in jail, leading to hospitalisation, then a desperate flight for the border with nothing but the clothes on his back and silence for his family to protect them from harm; he still wonders how they are. Another Eritrean family of five fled frightfully at night. When I ask for stories about the children’s fear, a favourite possession, or a song that would bring comfort and a sense of home, the mother pulled out a camel’s blanket, though making clear that they would not be taking it in their one allowed suitcase to their new home. Dominating all sentimentality is the fear for survival that drives refugees from their home and into a vast horizon that guarantees absolutely nothing. What Aysaita Camp offers them is a place to pause in flight and feel safe; ‘home’ becomes a place of security with family, nothing more.
As a photographer for RefugePoint, I had carefully planned for this trip,
Our assumptions and values tend to lie easily on our skin, until they get
scratched and fester with the thorny exposure to a new perspective and so I find it jarring how fundamental my misconceptions are. What is home? How do we value ‘things’? How do I decide which lives to bring into focus and whose stories to honour? RefugePoint and the UNHCR are unequivocal in their responsibility – to protect the basic human rights of the most vulnerable in our world to food, to water, and to shelter; to a ‘home’, however we care to define it. What is our responsibility for these desperate people? My camera is cradled in my lap and I’m looking, listening for these answers sitting on the floor of this house, in a world where I otherwise don’t belong. A baby rocks in a hammock inches off the ground and a goat pokes his head under an open flap into the cool peace, until a four year old kid bats him on the nose, clearly aware of her responsibilities. It seems so obvious in this community, in the shelter of this home, that we are all put on this earth to take care of each other. To find out more information on RefugePoint visit www.refugepoint.org. Nancy Farese is a social documentary photographer and Founder of CatchLight.io, based in Boston, Massachusetts. She is currently a student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. www.nancyfarese.com F www.facebook.com/NancyFaresePhotography www.instagram.com/nancyfarese t www.twitter.com/NFaresePhoto
ON TOP OF THE WORLD WORDS AND IMAGES: Struan Purdie LOCATION: Greenland
My frozen hands grappled with the camera, struggling to find the zoom controls. The boat was bouncing hard as we raced past mini icebergs toward the tiny shape 200 metres off our bow. Seventy metres out, our driver cut the engine. The seal’s spotted black head quickly filled my viewfinder, coming into focus as the boat’s rocking slowly subsided. With one hand on the camera and the other over my ear, I waited for the inevitable boom of the rifle as Akkui steadied himself over my shoulder. I was certainly a long way from home. WE HAD TRAVELLED to Sisimiut, a small town in central Greenland, to film a documentary on the Inuit seal hunters. It was the middle of May, which meant the winter sea ice had finally melted and the locals were anxious to get their hands on some seal meat. Our team was a motley crew made up of a Dutchman, a girl from France and me, a Kiwi. We’d met four months earlier while on an exchange program at a Danish journalism school. During our studies, we’d heard rumours of a collapse in Greenland’s sealskin trade, which was threatening the livelihood of thousands of Inuit hunters. After some research we discovered it was worse than first thought with exports of seal pelts plummeting 90
per cent since the introduction of the European ban in 2009. The world had labelled the practice ‘cruel and barbaric’. Yet for the Inuits, hunting seals was purely a matter of survival. And despite both World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace coming out in support of seal hunting in Greenland, it seemed those in Europe had already made their minds up. All of this inspired the journalist in me to tell the hunter’s side of the story. However, if I’m honest, what really drew me to Greenland was a sense of adventure. I mean, how often does a Kiwi lad from down under get the chance to visit an ice cap on top of the world! On our first day in Sisimiut we headed
down to the port to see if we could find a hunter to talk to. Although our search initially proved fruitless, word of our arrival spread quickly and before we knew it we were greeted by a shy young character named Akkui. The softly-spoken 22 year old was the town’s youngest seal hunter and would end up being the main character in our documentary. Despite speaking no English, it was clear he was about to head out hunting and if we were to join him we’d better be quick. We dashed back to our accommodation and gathered up our camera gear, along with every piece of warm clothing we’d brought. When we arrived back at the port, Akkui took one look at our jerseys and snowboard jackets and shook his head. After a couple of words muttered
in Greenlandic, three full-body thermal jumpsuits were produced and we were ordered into them. Obviously our new friend had his doubts as to whether we could hack it out amongst the icebergs. We soon found out why. As we left the small harbour, Akkui hit the throttle sending us hurtling through the frozen air. It felt like someone had opened the window of a jumbo jet at cruising altitude. Cold stung our faces but soon enough numbness prevailed. The plan was simple. Head out for a couple of kilometres then try to spot a seal as it popped its head up to breathe. We cruised past several house-sized icebergs and soon hit the open ocean. Akkui scanned the horizon; eyes squinted against the bright Arctic sun. The water was flat and the sky a hazy grey. It was almost impossible to tell where one finished and the other began. All of a sudden Akkui gunned the engine, sending us all cartwheeling to the boat’s stern. I could just make out the small dark object bobbing several hundred metres in front of us like a
mooring buoy. I grabbed the camera at the same time as our driver fetched a rusty .22 magnum from the boat’s cockpit. BOOM! The bullet sent a geyser of spray into the air where the seal had been. Akkui looked confident as he accelerated the boat forward. A cloud of dark red hung in the water as we approached. Akkui swapped the rifle for a large gaff, which he swung desperately overboard. A groan, then a look of disappointment. We were stumped. Surely a headshot would have done the trick? It was only later we were told that early May was one of the hardest times to hunt seals in Greenland. As the ice begins to melt, the salinity of the sea water drops. This means seals often sink when they’re shot as they’re still weighed down by their thick winter coats. Akkui was clearly gutted. Not only had he missed out on meat for his family, it was clear the wasted kill bothered him greatly. We rode the rolling swells back to the harbour in silence where we were
met by a small crowd keen to inspect our day’s catch. I noticed Akkui was notably quiet as he slipped through the group of onlookers, with his head held low. It occurred to me how tough these guys had it – the pressure to provide was immense. Yet at the same time, it seemed everyone recognised the challenges facing hunters. There was a certain understanding as backs were patted and looks exchanged. As we headed back to our base to log the morning’s footage, we somehow managed to get ourselves a dinner invite. It seemed Akkui’s family had heard we were in town and was keen to show us a traditional Inuit spread. Seven o’clock came around soon enough and we set off for the address we’d been given. As we trudged through the slushy snow the Arctic sun remained blindingly high, refusing to retreat toward the horizon despite the day growing long. A knock on the door revealed a cosy home with photographs and animal skins lining the walls. We were led
through a narrow hallway to the dining room where we were confronted by a somewhat daunting sight. Stretched before us was a table fully laden with every variety of Greenlandic seafood imaginable. There was raw fish, dried whale meat and fresh whale skin. There was also a small bowl of translucent jelly. I leaned closer. “Seal fat!” one of the women proclaimed, a look of glee crossing her face. It was then I realised my own face was screwed up tight. I wasn’t big on seafood at the best of times but it occurred to me I wasn’t making any secret of it. I quickly smiled and took my seat. During the meal we talked about New Zealand and traded hunting stories with a little translation from Akkui’s sister. Akkui was shocked when I told him we hunted wallabies as a pest back home. He said he thought they were cute and questioned why anyone would want to harm them. I then pointed out New Zealand’s strong stance on whaling and my shock that I was attempting to devour something
so strongly protected in the Southern Hemisphere. There was laughter as we marvelled at our different perceptions of the world around us. Despite repeated condemnation from the international community, we learnt Greenland’s whale hunt has actually been given the OK from the International Whaling Commission. It seemed the IWC was willing to recognise the important role subsistence hunting plays in daily Inuit life. For me, being open-minded is crucial when it comes to adventure. Unfamiliarity is a certainty but that’s what makes it so special. During my time in Greenland I met the most amazing people and shared experiences completely foreign to my life in New Zealand. I learnt that one size doesn’t fit all and there is incredible richness to be gained from stepping into someone else’s shoes for a change. The next six days were spent gathering interviews from various hunters and
local council people, along with plenty of games of soccer and a few more boat trips. It’s amazing how much you can achieve in a place where the sun never sets. However, it also wears thin on one’s energy levels! After a week in Sisimiut our time was up. We hitched a ride to the airport and piled into the tiny plane that would fly us to Greenland’s only international airport an hour away. Before that week I had struggled to see how anyone could call this place home, but now I was sold. Life on the world’s largest island was definitely a challenge, but one that is also full of adventure. Struan Purdie is a visual journalist from New Zealand, with a passion for people and an inability to sit still. Check out the full documentary from his Greenland trip on his website.
Image: Shuttersport Nelson
CHIA ABEL TASMAN COASTAL CLASSIC WORDS: Hollie Woodhouse IMAGES: Hollie Woodhouse and supplied LOCATION: New Zealand
I promised myself I would never do the CHIA Abel Tasman Coastal Classic race again with no training. I learnt the hard way in 2012 and still wince now as I recall the pain. It’s funny what the mind blocks out but also very vividly will never forget. I DON’T REMEMBER the neverending gradual hill at the start, I don’t remember how long the stretch of sand along the beach was (although let’s be honest, sand ignites a whole new emotion for me now after six days in the Sahara!) And I don’t remember how amazingly beautiful the Abel Tasman is. But what I do very clearly remember is stopping with only three kilometres until the finish line, thinking, ‘I just can’t do this.’ I did do it, of course I did. But only five minutes after I finished, I swear the only way I could make my cramping limbs move was to walk backwards. And when I finally made it back to the car I lay horizontal and continually moaned for the following three days. So as I ran past that same spot three years on, with only a few kilometres left on my watch, I may have done a wee skip. And even a fist pump (don’t worry, I looked around first to make sure noone was watching.) Yes, my legs weren’t as fresh as they were at the start – I most likely wasn’t cracking negative splits like the text books tell us to – but I was still running along and feeling good. I even had gas left in the tank. And, gasp… as I crossed the finish line I could have kept running!!
I left Christchurch mid-afternoon on Friday with George, a friend who was also competing. Dream result for me as my car doesn’t have a radio, so it would have been a very long and painful drive. Maybe not a dream result for him though as we used my iTunes mix on shuffle… it even got to the point where I’d hold my breath each time a new song would start, then I’d hear him do a wee chuckle as a song last heard on your parents LP would start-up. At least the drive north through the Lewis Pass was stunning. The three boys doing the race too – George Acland, George Sinclair and Tom Inglis – picked me up just after seven and we headed for Marahau and race registration. “Are you wearing a skirt?” “Yes” I replied. “Are you running in a skirt?” “Yes” I replied. “So you’re running in a skirt?” OK, so it was established that ‘yes’ I was wearing a skirt, and running in it too! And here’s why. After seeing pictures of myself in bike shorts during the Marathon des Sables I said I would NEVER wear bike shorts in a race again. So I am aware I may sound slightly vain here, but I love my running skirt. This was its first official outing and definitely not the last!
So back to the race! We were herded onto the boats that would take the almost 300 competitors from Marahau and the finish line, on a 40 minute boat journey to Awaroa and the start of the race. It was a beautiful day and being out on the water with the sun streaming in got me so excited about summer! As we were one of the last to actually get on the boats, we hopped on a smaller one and got dropped off at the far end of the beach. Sand, oh sand, how I haven’t missed you! Almost a kilometre walk later along the beach we caught up with the rest of the competitors, emptied the sand out of our shoes and made last-minute preparations before dropping our bags off and heading for the start line. After a bit more milling around and a team photo of the four of us, we were finally given the race briefing and we were off, with only 36 kilometres between us and the finish line. Our feet were wet less than a kilometre into the race, but as the tide was almost all the way out it wasn’t really an issue. Starting out too fast the last time I competed, I was conscious about getting caught up in the rush and doing the same again. But it’s amazing what experience teaches you. Over the last three years I have learnt a
lot, most of it being the mental game. New Zealand’s Coast to Coast, rogains and adventure races and without a doubt the Marathon des Sables have really taught me that competing in events like these is 80 per cent mental and 20 per cent heart. Pretty much, keep your mind focused and positive and you’ll get through anything. And DON’T whatever you do, get the tune ‘active wear, active wear, just sipping a cappuccino in my active wear’ in your head. Because that’s what happened to me and it almost bloody killed me! Maybe it’s actually a good theory; one way to take my mind off my legs! The Abel Tasman Track is breathtakingly beautiful. Around every corner is another epic view, neverending golden beaches, swing bridges to cross and the sweet smell of the manuka. I managed to get the camera out a few times, but more often than not by the time I unlocked the iPhone and got it on the correct setting, the view was partially blocked and just
not quite as good! I did sneak in a few stops though (which were sometimes very welcome!). The track is great to run on; wide without too many tree roots and mostly gentle ups and downs. We wound in and out of bays, popped out onto beaches and many times escaped the sun’s rays beneath the bush canopy. Four checkpoints along the way provided jet planes, bananas and water if required and as always, many friendly volunteers to cheer you on. I settled into a comfortable rhythm, playing cat and mouse with a few people along the way. Occasionally I ran with others but more often than not it was just the track, the crystal-clear ocean and me. I crossed the finish line in a time of three hours 50 minutes, surprisingly five minutes slower than my first attempt but in a far better state both physically and mentally. The boys all crossed the line not too far behind me, having developed a new-
found love affair with Vaseline (apply to the lips first boys!) and Gu Chomps. George Sinclair and Tom had just increased their longest-ever running distance by at least ten kilometres and they seemed far too fresh for my liking. A few well-deserved cold beers on a bench by the cars at the finish (thanks to the wives) ended what was another fantastic race put on by the crew from Nelson Events. Find out more at the race at www.nelsonevents.co.nz Hollie Woodhouse is a lover of all things adventure and design (and produces this very magazine). She loves to push the boundaries and challenge herself, with a Jungle Ultra in Peru next on her list. www.holliewoodhouse.com F www.facebook.com/theadventurouskiwi www.instagram.com/holliewoodhouse
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
AN ADVENTURE THROUGH, ABOVE AND BELOW BORNEO WORDS AND IMAGES: Abbas Nazari LOCATION: Borneo
We wanted our mid-semester break to be a culturally rich and local oriented week, far from the tourist traps of Southeast Asia that the majority of our peers were flying to. Our adventure began in Kuching, at the southern tip of Sarawak. We had not planned anything but had one common goal; to experience the local culture and see the world through the eyes of the people. INITIALLY, WE THOUGHT that bus rides between towns would be the best way to achieve our goal, but realising that the bus rides would miss the small villages and local spots, we decided on renting a car. With no Hertz or Avis in sight we managed to find a small dealership, which was more than happy to help. A tiny seven-seater minivan just managed to fit six of us plus our packs. We were on the road. With the initial excitement of the road trip over, we were suddenly confronted with the lack of any real plan. Lost, tired and internetless, we agreed to take the next turn off the main road just to see where it would take us. It turned out to be the best decision of the whole trip and sent us on an adventure of a lifetime. The dirt road led to a patch of jungle overlooking a placid brown river with a wire bridge straddling the banks. Intrigued, we pulled over and walked nervously across the bridge one at a time. Looking down off the bridge, we could see the remnants of a previous bridge that had clearly reached its expiry date running parallel to this one. Once on the other side, we were awestruck by the sight of a longhouse. Built on stilts and running adjacent to the trees like one giant centipede, this longhouse was over 200 metres in length. After a difficult conversation involving broken English,
we were welcomed inside for a tour. A longhouse is an extravagant structure compromising multiple homes sharing a common walkway and living area, with individual rooms and kitchens. This one had 34 homes, all housing one extended family network. We were treated to the art of tikkai (mat) making, as well as langkau (rice) and tuwa (wine). We spent the rest of the afternoon playing with the kids, sharing photos of our travels and exploring the surrounding area. The locals laughed when I asked if there was a swimming spot nearby. I found out later that the rivers are home to crocodiles and are known as the ‘king’ of this area. With evening setting in, we were left with the obstacle of finding a place to stay for the night. The locals directed us back to the highway and told us to stop at the next town, where we found an inn that charged a mere eight dollars a night. After checking in, we went downstairs to enjoy Mongolian style chicken rice and reflect on the day. We were soon joined by the locals, who were intrigued by half a dozen foreigners who had arrived for dinner, packs and all. We were clearly off the tourist track. Despite this, the same warm hospitality ensued and we found ourselves sharing an amazing meal and singing karaoke at the only pub in
town. The locals understood what we were looking for and planned our whole itinerary for the next day. It was wild! We woke up early, eager for what lay ahead. After some noodle soup to fill the belly, we were off. Part one of our locally constructed tour was to see the local chieftain who spoke fluent English, in his longhouse. He gave us a rundown of the history and society of Sarawak and its plethora of people and cultures. The chieftain, a soft-spoken man, oversees the affairs of some 6,000 locals spread across dozens of longhouses. He took us into his own home, one of several, and treated us to more langkau as well as sugar cane, coconuts and a variety of fruits we had never tasted before. After lunch, we trekked deep into the jungle to a cockfighting ring. We were told this was technically illegal, but with authority so far away from the villages, the local men found this to be the best form of entertainment. We couldn’t stomach any more fights after witnessing the savagery of the first and left to visit a honey farm. I expected to be given a beekeeper suit, but was pleasantly surprised to find there weren’t bees here, but rather a type of fruit fly. With straws, we sucked the sweet nectar from the hives. It was a fitting way to end a sweet day. Trusting us with their Hiluxes, we
diversity of wildlife was ‘The incredible as we witnessed countless insects, frogs, reptiles and birds.’ went four-wheel-driving through the jungle back to the inn to discover an amazing spread of local food prepared especially for us. Giant prawns, fish curry, shellfish, crabs, noodles, rice and a variety of vegetables filled the table. In the centre was a bowl of fried huhu grubs the size of French fries. The locals were eating them with vigour, and it inspired us to slide these down our throats as well – they were surprisingly crunchy and sweet. The girls in the group weren’t as easily convinced to try the grubs, but those buggers were a treat when mixed with the fish curry. More langkau and karaoke continued until the early hours. With the locals returning back to work the next morning, we thanked them and promised to be back one day for more grubs. We arrived in Miri mid-afternoon and found lodgings in a cabin in Lumbir Hills National Park, where we enjoyed a well-deserved swim under a waterfall hidden deep in the jungle. Keen for more exploration, a boat-owner offered to take us on an evening river cruise looking for crocodiles. We found ourselves surrounded by fireflies and flying lemurs instead and later fell asleep to the sound of cicadas and bats. Inspired by the landscapes we had
seen the previous day, we decided to explore the jungle further and woke with the sun to tackle a six hour hike. The diversity of wildlife was incredible as we witnessed countless insects, frogs, reptiles and birds. I am an avid hiker but the humidity of the rainforest coupled with slippery tracks made for an adventurous trek. We eventually made it to the top of Bukit Pintu and discovered an observation point that overlooked the canopy of the rainforest. It was an amazing panoramic view of an endless sea of green that would have been even more vivid had it not been for the haze from manmade fires in Indonesia. High above the rainforest, we listened to the symphony of the wildlife stretching below us and took solace in the synchronous harmony of the jungle. The next day was an equally early start as we set off to explore the caves of Niah National Park. Having watched BBC Earth since primary school, I remember the episode where David Attenborough marvelled at the cloud of bats that emerged out of these exact caves. After more jungle trekking, we found ourselves confronted by an enormous cavern punched into the side of a limestone hill. The stunning array of stalactites coupled with rock
formations shaped over millions of years resembled that of an ancient cathedral. The enormity of the caves and intricate network of trails leading into the belly of the mountain could not be captured on camera. With the help of a local, we learned of the ancient art of bird nest collecting. The native swallows create nests in the roof of the caves and are a delicacy in Chinese cuisine, fetching a shiny penny as only the elite can afford to eat them. The 30 metre long stilts and poles that the collectors used were hung from the roof as an exhibition of their bravery. We returned from Borneo with a sense of wanderlust and fulfilment. We are eternally grateful for the generosity and welcoming spirit of the locals, without whom we would not have been able to experience what we set out to do. This trip proved to us that adventure lies in the next turn of the road. Abbas Nazari, a student at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand is currently on exchange at the National University of Singapore and uses this opportunity to explore as much of Southeast Asia as he can. www.instagram.com/theabbasnazari t www.twitter.com/theabbasnazari
MOUNTAIN BIKING THE HEAPHY TRACK WORDS: Jan Roberts IMAGES: Stephen Roberts LOCATION: New Zealand
Thump, thump, thump. Is that the sound of my heart beat? No, that is the sound of the blades turning on our ‘bus’ – a Bell Long Ranger helicopter, as we’re being transported to the Collingwood end of the Heaphy Track, found in New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park.
TO SAY I’M excited would be an understatement, to say I’m nervous… well, there isn’t a word for that. My heart is racing. I can feel it pulsing at what feels like 150 beats per minute (I don’t know, is that a lot? You know what I’m trying to say though.) I’m excited, I’m anxious, and I’m ready to go. This is going to be such an adventure. The Heaphy Track, one of New Zealand’s ‘Great Walks’, is now open to people wanting to experience it via two wheels, with the Department of Conservation (DOC) giving permission for people to ride it between the months of May and September each year. With the season about to come to an end we were given an opportunity to bike from the Collingwood side in Golden Bay back across to the West Coast. Now you may be thinking ‘but you’re only biking one way!’ Well yes, we’re getting a helicopter to the start at the Collingwood side, I know! But what a way to begin a ride. Our morning start was picture-perfect
with hardly a cloud in sight. Making our way to the helicopter hangar we dropped off all our biking gear ready for loading into the helicopter. Wayne from Karamea Helicopter Charters has a purpose-built rack especially for the bikes. Locked and loaded we were ready for take-off.
anticipation of the ride ahead. I’d been laid down with the flu for the good part of the last three weeks so there hadn’t been any riding time of late. But I was determined not to let that stop me though when this opportunity came along. I told myself I’d just go at my own pace and see what happens.
Any nerves about the flight soon abated as the wonder of the incredible vistas took over. Flying up over the Karamea farmland with views to the Tasman Sea, we basically did the Heaphy Track by flight so we knew what we were in for… or did we?
After a very short ride along the access road our first stop was Brown’s Hut. This is basically the true start of the track. We met some people who had just finished their ride and thankfully they didn’t tell me what was still to come.
Seeing this countryside from above was breathtaking and we couldn’t believe how fortunate we were for this experience. Just this flight alone was worth it to experience such magnificent scenery. Nearing our destination our friend Richard pointed out Farewell Spit off in the distance, the northern most point of the South Island. It was just magic. Time to land and some of my nerves were starting to reappear, this time in
Our destination before the end of the day (hopefully!) was the James Mackay hut, some 41 kilometres away and starting with a 17.5 kilometre climb. What was I thinking?! The Heaphy Track is a gorgeous ride with incredibly diverse scenery. The first seven kilometres were a nice gradual incline up through the bush, quite manageable even by my standards. I had to admit I did struggle on the next three kilometres though and was very pleased to reach the Aorere Shelter. We
stopped for a short rest and fuel stop, compared riding notes – you went fast, I went slow – and of course, to take in the gorgeous views.
the little Cave Brook and passed the Gouland Downs Hut, another seven kilometres down with five more to go to get to Saxon, our next refuel stop.
We hopped back on the saddles and it was onwards and upwards to the Perry Saddle and hut, located at 880 metres above sea level. Yes, I told you we were climbing!
This section was mostly through tussock land and creek beds but there was one short section through what is known as the ‘enchanted forest’, a moss-covered beech forest amongst a limestone outcrop. It was an incredible section of the track and so weird to be amongst; it seemed like the middle of nowhere compared to the landscape we had just been through.
What a location for a hut; views in all directions and apparently on a super clear day you can even see Mt Taranaki in the North Island. We met some hardy souls on their way out, who were riding the entire trail in one day, with just the downhill section left to go. They had ridden across two days earlier – in one day! Oh to be young and fit again (they were at least 15 years older than us too I must add, something to aspire to perhaps?). Conscious we had a long day ahead of us, it was back on two wheels, passing through patches of beech trees and clearings of tussock. There were fast and flowing sections and short sections of just pedalling it out before we crossed
All too soon we were back into the open, again surrounded by the tussock. The clouds were starting to roll in over the mountains, making it even more mystical and I could imagine it would be quite oppressive through here on a misty day. No mist for us though and before long we finally reached Saxon Hut for another short stop. We had 13 kilometres to cover before we reached our ‘home’ for the night. We descended slightly, down through the grassy flats that ran alongside the
Saxon River before our last little climb for the day (I know, another climb!) to a ridgeline where the Gouland Downs meet the Mackay Downs. There is a gorgeous piece of boardwalk along here and some crazy rocks coming up out of the landscape. The trail enters back into scrub-like bush and pockets of beech trees until eventually the James Mackay Hut, our home for the night, came into view. Phil had kindly gone on ahead and whipped up a storm in the kitchen and after a quick clean up we sat down to enjoy his fine feast in the middle of the wilderness. This is what I call back country living! After some overnight rain, the new dawn greeted us with morning mist and a double rainbow before the sun filtered through the clouds. It was a magical place to wake up to and set us up for a continuation of our awesome day before. “Can it really get any better?” I asked myself. Turns out it could. I mentioned earlier the diversification in the scenery on day one; well day two was almost
unbelievable – completely different again from yesterday. We left Mackay Hut for a 13 kilometre downhill, a relief from yesterday’s uphill! Although it was downhill, which we weren’t complaining about, there was still quite a bit of pedalling and line picking for mud holes etc., but overall it was an awesome section of the trail. We wound through huge fern groves and avenues of Rimu trees and splashed our way across little creeks. At one stage we had a visitor that we just had to stop for; a little bush robin – incredibly inquisitive and very cute. Eventually we made it down to Lewis Hut at the base of the hill before a lovely eight kilometre ride that wound its way through Nikau Palms and Rata Trees running alongside the Heaphy River. Now this is where this little outing got slightly surreal. We had an 11am appointment with a lovely man called ‘Big Pete’, a good friend of Richard and Phil who had kindly offered to cook us up a fresh feed of whitebait. We had timed it perfectly with whitebait season on the West Coast and this was Big Pete’s home for the next couple of months. What a lovely character – we
could have sat there all day listening to his enthralling stories, but we still had plenty of riding ahead of us. With tummies full of fresh whitebait we were off again, with the next stop at the Heaphy Hut. Phil decided to leave us as our pace was just a little too slow and he had an appointment back in Westport, but we were getting close now with only 16 kilometres left to go until the end of the trail. This last section of the trail mostly followed the coastline, providing us with outstanding views. There were rocky and sandy shores as we passed through little bays, with the track meandering in and out of subtropical rain forest and coastal grasses, short little pinches to climb and fun little rock sections to negotiate. We crossed quite a few wooden bridges and beautiful big swing bridges too. The Department of Conservation and their hard-working team have done an awesome job with this trail. We cruised around a few more coastal sections until we spotted the final ridge that lead us into the Kohaihai Valley and the end of the trail. Being a ridge it did mean a climb though, just a little 115
tester to finish the ride with. Can’t make it too easy! After a short fun downhill we rounded the corner and couldn’t help but break into a smile as we saw the final bridge crossing the Kohaihai River – we’d made it! What a weekend, what an adventure. Big thanks to Richard and Phil, Big Pete and Wayne from Karamea Helicopter Charters for making this one of the most memorable adventures yet, and mostly to my hubby Stephen for giving me the moral support to get to the end. You can travel to all corners of the earth in search of adventure, but look around you, the best ones might be in your own backyard, just like ours. Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth, New Zealand. Stephen is an avid photographer and they are both keen mountain bikers who enjoy getting out and about exploring the many adventures available on the West Coast of the Southern Alps. www.breakers.co.nz www.coastingnz.wordpress.com F www.facebook.com/Breakers-BoutiqueAccommodation-226525640752597/ F www.facebook.com/ShakeyFinger-Photography-StephenRoberts-631783196839735/
TUIS ON TOUR WORDS: Cindy Bolderston and WakaTuis IMAGES: Lisa Rebolledo and supplied LOCATION: France
Two hundred kilometres over five days, in 35 degrees… in a rowing boat? It sounded absolutely crazy, but it was a challenge we couldn’t refuse. We had all survived years of early morning starts, the endless fundraising, the ‘tours of duty’ to Twizel and had guided our children along the ups and downs of the road to Maadi, the National Rowing competition for schools. Finally free, we found we missed it. So, a group of rowing mothers decided it was our turn to give the sport a go. We called ourselves The WakaTuis and this is our story. MOST OF US had never been in a rowing boat before, but we embarked on our own rocky road with loads of enthusiasm and team spirit. Our goal was to compete in the 2009 World Masters Games in Sydney and over 18 months we improved our technique and nursed our blistered hands. We learnt the difference between bow and stroke sides, sweeping and sculling techniques and the difference between fours and quads. The dismal weather over the week of the Masters’ Games denied us the chance to compete in many of our chosen events, but we did discover how much fun ‘girls on tour’ could have. We made a plan to compete in the next World Masters Games – Turin, Italy in 2013. The savings plan was started and we worked hard to improve our performance at both local and national levels. Regattas took us to Lake Dunstan where we rowed as it snowed, to perfect blue-sky days and the sparkling aqua-coloured waters of Lake Ruataniwha and through waves whipped up by the wind at Lake Hood. Our practice and determination paid off and we managed to bring home some medals. However, we realised that what mattered most to us as a group of women in our middle years was the support and encouragement we gave to each other; the camaraderie and fun that we had while maintaining our fitness together.
Then, in September 2010, the first of the Christchurch Earthquakes occurred, which caused massive land upheaval at Kerr’s Reach where we trained. The river was un-rowable, our boats were damaged and our rowing shed condemned. But still we rowed on, traveling 40 minutes to the nearby Selwyn River or further afield to Lake Hood in Ashburton. Despite the disruption to our training programme, the Masters Nationals held in Twizel that year was our most successful regatta yet. More earthquakes in 2011 played further havoc with our rowing, so by the end of that year we had changed our long-term goal to rowing the 300-year-old, man-made Canal du Midi; a 205 kilometre race held over five days, from the city of Toulouse to the town of Beziers, in the South of France; more ‘bang for our buck’ compared to the one kilometre races at the Masters Games. 2013 arrived and after the school rowing season finished in April our training began in earnest. Four months to get ourselves into shape, work on our fitness and endurance and remain free of injury. We rowed increasing distances twice a week through perfect winter weather conditions, survived erg sessions and joined a boot camp class to build strength and stamina. All of this was done while continuing our own exercise programmes.
We were joined by two rowing husbands, which increased our number to 12. This enabled us to split into two groups: the Black Team and the White Team. We would be rowing in quads, with team members rotating through rowing, coxing and biking. Each team also had a Team Manager, tracking us on bikes alongside the Canal, ready to assist in getting the boats in and out of the water. The importance of this role became very apparent as we encountered more than 45 locks en route. All too soon it was August and we set off for Toulouse. Some had holidayed before the rowing and others were planning to travel afterwards. Seven of us had three wonderful days in Paris; shopping, enjoying the French cuisine and sight-seeing. It was the perfect distraction for our pre-race nerves. We called it acclimatisation! We assembled in Toulouse, excited to be reunited with fellow team mates. We had trained hard and prepared ourselves as best we could, but we were all a little nervous about what was to come. What follows is our daily blog, posted to keep family and friends back home up to date with our progress.
The day before An exciting day for the WakaTui crews as we got our boats sorted, rigged and ready to go. Lots of waiting around in temperatures of more than 30 degrees in the shade was hard work, but it was the perfect time to chat with other
crews. For the first time ever there were more foreigners than locals; 18 foreign crews, including seven from the USA and ten from France. We would be rowing six to eight hours each day, but our biggest challenge would be hauling the boats up river banks onto the trolleys, manoeuvring around the locks, and re-launching the boats back into the canal with the trolley securely attached. The rowing sounded easy in comparison! We did have time for a quick look around Toulouse, finding a market and spending more Euro. We ended the day with hamburgers and chips and one or two beers!
After a while the traffic cleared and we could get into a relaxed rhythm… until we hit the first lock. To get the boat out, onto the trolley, along the walkway and back into the water was no easy task. Some of us sported war wounds from riggers, scrambling up banks and the trolleys ended up in the water a few times.
We were back on the water at about 2.30pm, after some stretching and a rest in the shade. Rowing on a full stomach, with the sun directly overhead and the temperature sitting around 32 degrees was not easy! Both crews rotated through positions more frequently than originally planned. Dehydration took its toll and exhaustion set in. We reached
The alarm went off at 5.45am and the day was underway with the first boats on the water around 9am. It was chaotic getting clear of the city with moored and moving barges and 31 rowing boats jockeying for position. The coxes had their work cut out for them!
The morning row was about 22 kilometres, with seven locks and the afternoon session something similar. We stopped around midday for lunch under the trees where we were served salad, paella and apple tart. And chilled red wine!
our end point around 5.30pm, very pleased to have ticked off Day One. Our support team met us with some very welcome kiwi beer, photographic evidence of our achievement and plenty of encouragement. We bussed to our accommodation, which was a youth hostel in Carcassonne, an amazing medieval town atop a hill. We feasted on Caesar salad, chicken and pasta casserole, cheeses and ice-cream… and more red wine!! After an exhausting day we were in bed early, knowing we had many kilometres of rowing in front of us.
Day Two We woke to a beautiful sunrise over the ancient walled city of Carcassone. We boarded the bus and headed back to the boats. It was the usual busy start on the canal, with a slight mishap with Black Boat’s launching, culminating with the crew, one pair of glasses and two cell phones ending up in the water.
All were retrieved and the crew sported several bruises and dented egos. The afternoon session was untimed due to 11 locks, so this was spent perfecting our technique. We had a delicious lunch of the local specialities, including cassoulet and confit of duck. The day was not as hot or tiring as yesterday, but there was another early start and a long day tomorrow. Bring it on.
Day Three Another gorgeous morning and another long day of rowing. There were some big stretches in the morning, interspersed with about five locks, but we could put in maximum effort and the afternoon session ahead was again untimed. Locks in the afternoon had precarious docking and launching sites, which required concentration and a lot of luck. There was more barge traffic on this section of the canal, sometimes
requiring quick evasive action on our part. We were given right of way through a bridge by a barge waiting on the other side. It was very polite of them, but it meant we had to go through at quite an angle to avoid the barge and then rapidly change direction to avoid the upcoming bank. We entered a town where the canal was lined with cafés and tables spilling out to the very edge of the canal. Lots of parked barges caused a narrow thoroughfare again, but skilful coxing got us through unscathed. Our biggest challenge of day three was at the final docking of the day. A film crew from Channel 3 of France TV on the bank had spotted our smart aqua rowing singlets on our approach. Our every move was filmed and one of the team was even interviewed. As we made our way back to the bus, through the lock came a barge bearing a New Zealand flag, appropriately named ‘Tui’, an auspicious sign for a good
day tomorrow. We briefly exchanged our stories, before heading back to Carcassone for another wonderful dinner and an exhausted sleep.
Day Four It was another blue sky day, with a promise of 35 degrees; perfect rowing conditions. After having our blistered hands dressed at the First Aid Station it was back on the water. We were launching the boats from a limited number of spaces, so there was lots of yelling in different languages and wild gesticulating as we vied for premium positions. Organised chaos! It was our last day of locks so it was the final chance to perfect the process. The Black boat managed another total body baptism in the Canal. They really had gone overboard in immersing themselves in all things French! More gastronomical delights for lunch, but the highlight of the day was a competitor having Happy Birthday
were tired and sore, with swollen and ‘We blistered hands, but thrilled to have made it to the end.’ sung to her in eight languages. The crowd demanded a performance by the Kiwis, so we sang Pokarekare Ana and performed a haka, ably supported by the crew of St Georges from Auckland. This highlighted the camaraderie of the competitors and was an icebreaker for forging friendships with other international rowers. Throughout the afternoon we heard many calls of “Go Kiwis”, or “Kiwi Power” from competitors and bystanders and even from holiday makers on barges along the canal. Our shirts with a white fern on them and our boat adorned with Kiwi flags were widely recognised New Zealand icons. We couldn’t have done this race without the wonderful support from our Team Managers who provided extra muscle power at the lock interchanges, fetched water bottles, carried our empties and scouted out landing positions. At the end of the exhausting days, family members arrived with chilled beer, which was very welcome and necessary for our rehydration!
Day Five Today was our last, and in some ways our toughest row. There were no locks and 45 kilometres of rowing ahead of us. The morning session was 27 kilometres, with some big sweeping bends and we stopped every half hour to rotate the crew to help cope with the ever increasing heat and tiredness. Lunch was the usual three course feast, with litres of water and chilled Merlot. There was a mayoral reception with more local wine and calamari. The afternoon session began at 2.30pm with little shade. We doused ourselves with cold water and set off on the final leg of our journey. This
included the famous Malpas Tunnel; a 165 metre long tunnel built in eight days way back in 1679. We had been led to believe it was much longer and difficult to navigate, but with careful rowing and the help of our extremely competent coxes, it was no sweat for the WakaTuis. From here it was the final grind to the finish. We arrived at the very impressive quadruple lock at Beziers, which was busy with barges coming and going and masses of water rushing through. We hauled our boats from the canal then walked them through the streets of Beziers to the local rowing club, holding up the impatient afternoon traffic. We were tired and sore, with swollen and blistered hands, but thrilled to have made it to the end. The moment was celebrated with a well-deserved bottle (or two) of Moët. We bussed to our accommodation for the night, a budget hotel featuring air conditioning and working showers with plenty of hot water. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven! We showered and became human again and returned to the banks of the river to a quaint open air bar, where once again our caterers had prepared a feast. The Merlot flowed, there were speeches and some singing and it was midnight before we re-boarded the bus. The preprepared ‘WakaTui Songbook’ came out and everyone sang all the way home.
Day Six We all slept like the dead and after a comparatively late breakfast at 7.30am, we were back on the bus to the boat park. Although our official Ralley du Canal du Midi was over, those who wanted more rowing could compete in sprint racing. We submitted two
crews, one from the Black Team and a multi-national team including a French rower. We had two races in quite miserable rainy conditions. It was so unusual to be cold! We then de-rigged and washed down the boats and headed off to prize-giving. Hot coffee and more red wine made the rain seem inconsequential and the fraternity of the rowers more apparent. Language barriers were broken, email addresses swapped and rowing singlets, hats, scarves and wrist bands traded for gear from clubs around the world. Every team got a prize for varying achievements, with impressive cups being presented – ours for the best dressed team. Of course! After more food, more wine and more socialising until late in the afternoon, we boarded the bus for the last time and headed off to our holiday villa for a week of rest and recovery. We enjoyed seven days in the sun, relaxing by the pool and biking through the surrounding vineyards to local villages to buy our baguettes and croissants. Some biked to the Mediterranean and swam in the sea, while others checked out the countryside. We shared amazing meals at the poolside table and drank endless bottles of chilled Rosé, reminiscing about a job well done. WakaTuis Black Boat: Tory Aebli, Sue Pierce, Jill O’Connor, Jenny Youngman, Fliss Taylor and Neville Youngman. Manager Hampi Aebli. WakaTuis White Boat: Sue Burmester, Sally Burgess, Brigid Borowczyk, Cindy Bolderston, Ruth Newsome-White and Malcolm Burgess. Manager: Di Gunn.
Laikipia, Kenya Phone: +254 20 2115453 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.borana.com
Borana Lodge | Borana Conservancy | Laragai House
‘Travel to Conserve’
NZ $20.00 / Â£10.00 www.sytamagazine.com ISSN: 2422 8850 ISSN 2422-8850
9 772422 885008