The Hennessy Hammock is the most innovative solution to lightweight, comfortable camping on the planet.
PUBLISHER + EDITOR + CREATIVE Hollie Woodhouse COPY EDITOR Boo Woodhouse CONTACT email@example.com
FRONT COVER Excerpts from the Bolivian Diary Page 56 Image: Mickey Ross
BACK COVER Seagate takes on GODZone Page 116 Image: Alexandre Socci / Green Pixel
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Published by The Adventurous Kiwi Printed by Spectrum Print, Christchurch, New Zealand ISSN: 2422 8850 ÂŠ Say Yes to Adventure. June 2016. All rights reserved. Nothing in whole or in part in the magazine may be reproduced 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. It is available for purchase at selected newsagents, bookstores and airport stores or you can purchase it online at www.sytamagazine.com. 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 youâ€™d like to share, simply send us an email; we would love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sytamagazine.com/contributors for more information.
THE PIONEER Glen Currie
TREKKING WITH LLAMAS Thomas Parker
REAL LIFE CAN WAIT Amelia Caddy
I AM HER Pia Bacino
SEARCHING FOR THE HUMPBACK WHALE Matthew Testoni
FROM ICELAND TO GREENLAND ON HUMMINGBIRD Sulaiman Al Beayeyz
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOLIVIAN DIARY Sam Smoothy
IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED Emma Rogers
Image: Hollie Woodhouse
DHAKA 66 Tasha Black 72
PADDLING THE RIO GRANDE Judson Vail
THE MOST PERFECT CARROT CAKE Ashleigh McMillan
KEA CONSERVATION WITH COREY MOSEN Annabelle Latz
MAGIC MOROCCO Bill Irwin
HUNT FOR THE HARVARD MK II Hollie Woodhouse
HIKING TO THE BREWSTER HUT Tamsin Gorman
ADVENTURES WITH ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS Marty Jones
SEAGATE TAKES ON GODZONE Hollie Woodhouse
INSPIRING EXPLORERS Tom MacTavish
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ADVENTURES ARE FOREVER
thank you On June 5th this year, 15 of us will be running the Beyond the Ultimate six-day ultra marathon under the Running for Rangers umbrella, while we continue to raise money and awareness for rangers’ welfare across the private wildlife conservancies in Kenya. We've managed to find ten more crazy humans to join us, along with the five who ran the Marathon des Sables last year, so if nothing else, it's going to be an adventure. All support is hugely appreciated, and if you would like to donate then please visit our website www.runningforrangers.com.
Image: Bill Irwin
IS THERE SUCH a thing as a failed adventure? Sure, you might not end up with the outcome you planned, but isn't that what drives us to go on one in the first place? The unknown and unexpected experiences that turn a mission into one you won't forget, that's what it all about! This happened to me recently as I searched for a Harvard MK II aircraft on Bluff Station, and while we didn't manage to find it, it had me pondering this very question. Head to page 90 for more on this story. To be honest, it's not often I don’t accomplish what I initially set out to do. I've completed enough events and races to know that my competitive side and stubborn attitude will almost guarantee I'll get to the end; I'll admit sometimes it's not the prettiest, nor the most enjoyable, but I'll get there. Previous experience and a good level of fitness ensure I’m in a pretty good place when I take on a new challenge, which is a good thing, because when I'm 200-odd kilometres deep somewhere in Peru's Amazon Jungle, I'm going to need all the mental toughness I can get!
The adventures that appear in my inbox continually amaze me, and I have no doubt you will agree with me too. In this volume Sam Smoothy shares his incredible story of retracing his father's footsteps as he hits the mountains and experiences the culture of Bolivia, while Tommy Parker heads off the beaten track, up and over the Southern Alps of New Zealand, accompanied by llamas to help share the load. These are just two of the epic contributions that fill these pages. Enjoy the inspiration. I love hearing your thoughts, ideas and general comments about Say Yes to Adventure. Please keep them coming! Happy adventuring,
Hollie Woodhouse Founder + Editor + Creative
For Running for Rangers This magazine could not have been possible without the amazing generosity of so many people. Special mention 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, Daniel Fridd, Jacqueline Manson and Scott Waterman.
THE PIONEER WORDS: Glen Currie IMAGES: Sportograf and Duncan Philpott LOCATION: New Zealand
Q: What do you get when you take an Irishman, his sister, his Canadian girlfriend, a token Kiwi, a campervan, 350 small orange tents, seven days of mountain biking (569 kilometres and 15,235 metres of climbing) and the hottest week of the 2016 New Zealand summer? A: A mountain bike race called ‘The Pioneer’, which rolled with the slogan ‘Ride Beyond, Find Stunning, Find Character and Find Welcome.’ To be fair, all of the above were most definitely ‘found’ as well as a whole lot more. WITH A LARGE budget and some mega marketing, it would have been difficult for any New Zealand endurance athlete to be oblivious to the concept that was The Pioneer. The brain child of Dave Beeche and his Lagardere Unlimited crew, who also run the likes of the Motatapu and the Queenstown Marathon, it was evident that The Pioneer was going to be a professionally run event from the first confirmation of entry email. Having returned from adventure racing in China in October last year, following a bitter winter of training, I was excited at the thought of a summer involving fishing and ‘social’ mountain biking. As always, however, when the phone rang
a few weeks after I returned and I was offered the opportunity to race under the flag of Leigh’s Construction for the seven days of The Pioneer, thoughts of investing in a fishing licence and wearing baggy mountain bike shorts for summer soon dissolved. I teamed up with Canterbury mountain biker Shane Kennedy. A native of Ireland, Shane had been based in Canterbury for over five years working as a Project Engineer for the local firm Leigh’s Construction. Post-earthquake Leigh’s has played a significant role in getting the infrastructure of Christchurch back up and running resulting in Shane having a secure job and an opportunity to develop further
his passion for mountain biking. Shane and I barely knew each other pre the start of the 15/16 summer, although a few big days training and exploring some Canterbury singletrack goodness soon sorted that out. The idea for the Pioneer is to showcase many of the natural drawcards that the South Island is known for while at the same time taking in some of the recently developed government-funded cycle trails and finally, to provide a challenging stage race which would test even the most well-conditioned legs. The concept of riding as a pair was not a new one and mirrored other such events such as the Cape Epic in South Africa and the Trans Alps in
Europe. Riders were given a set course each day mostly starting and finishing at that evening’s accommodation site. Each stage was to be ridden as a pair with the rules stating you must never be more than two minutes apart. The daily time was recorded when the second team member crossed the finish line. This concept of racing isn’t new to New Zealand, however the marketing machine of Lagardere Unlimited was definitely on a mission to solidify this event in the packed New Zealand endurance race wall planner.
STAGE 1: Christchurch Prologue 37 Kilometres, 870 metres of elevation Christchurch’s Port Hills are probably one of the more underrated ‘go to’s’ regarding New Zealand singletrack riding. However, those in the know and who have experienced the ‘Flying Nun’ are aware that this section is to mountain bikers what Wimbledon is to tennis players. It is a track that just ‘works’ with each cobbled berm
complementing the one before. The stage began with an early mass rollout from Hagley Park, with everybody looking fresh. However, anticipation and excitement for what lay ahead could be felt within the peloton. Stage one was a prologue with teams sent off twenty seconds apart. With the top twenty times creating the starting line-up for the following day we were quite keen to knock this stage out as fast as possible so we could get a tow in the leading bunch in the days to come. Being Shane’s backyard and well known riding loop I knew for me that I was merely going to be a carriage fiercely holding onto the pain train. Shane didn’t disappoint and knocked out the Kennedy’s Bush climb without a second thought. Meanwhile, I was sitting in behind contemplating how I was best going to use the coming evening to excrete the substantial amounts of lactate that I would accumulate in my legs. ‘The Flying Nun' is fun when socially riding
and training but even more so when in race mode, and with Christchurch’s faithful out in force with cowbells and words of encouragement, it was next level. We knocked out the whole stage in just over an hour, a taste for what was to come. When the results came out and we were listed as fourth overall behind the three professional outfits, my thoughts of what was to be a social ride throughout the South Island were quickly dissolved. Things just got real all of a sudden.
STAGE 2: Geraldine to Fairlie 106 Kilometres, 2,480 metres of elevation The real race began today. Rolling out of Geraldine in a front bunch that was declaring ignorance to the fact that we still had 500-plus kilometres of racing to go, we were soon all immersed in the Orari Gorge. I am quite passionate about the uniqueness of the Canterbury Foothills and the Orari Gorge is quintessential foothill material; clear rocky rivers, golden
was quickly becoming apparent that to survive ‘It the heat that we were experiencing, a couple of minutes at each station was going to be vital.’ tussocks surrounded by dense green pastures and pockets of black beech, all quite distinctive. We were riding well, justifying our prologue ranking of fourth place. Two of the top teams suffered early mechanicals and I am sure Shane and I were mentally high-fiving ourselves as we discussed that we were sitting in second with no other chasing teams in sight at the 40-kilometre mark. We were not too disappointed when eventual winners Dan McConnell and Anton Cooper rode us down early on in the first major climb as we still couldn’t see any other teams in the valley below. We continued to ride strongly and were happy to finally earn some reward for the climbing but our elation was short lived when Shane’s tyre started spewing sealant and it was evident that this was a new tube job. Having raced a number of multi-day races previously, I should have known that an extra minute doing a job properly the first time will save you 20 minutes down the track. However, I rushed the process of changing the tyre and convinced Shane he would be sweet to complete the stage on a half inflated tube. We had only been passed by one team and had taken less than five minutes sorting the tyre. No more than three kilometres on and I paid the price for my haste – the same tyre now had a pinch flat. Things were a little more serious now, the CO2 had been completely used up and we had to replace another tube. We took ten minutes to do it properly, cursing at my earlier rush job as I watched what seemed like half the field ride past us. With the tyre fixed it was now time to play catch up, but we had lost our momentum and found it difficult to
get back into a rhythm. Trying to regain a few positions probably forced both of us to lift our heart rates ten beats higher than we would have liked. Fairlie couldn’t come soon enough, and with our trusty support crew having the now famous Pork Belly Pies from the local bakery ready on the finish line, the hardships of Stage Two were soon forgotten.
Stage 3: Fairlie to Lake Tekapo 74 Kilometres, 2,486 metres of elevation Burkes Pass often resembles ‘The Wall’ out of a Game of Thrones scene, separating the lush green easterly-affected east coast from the stunningly barren and dry landscapes for which Central Otago and the Mackenzie District are well known. This contrast in landscape was clearly evident as riders powered themselves from Geraldine to Tekapo, with the day starting off with a serious climb. Any riders who have ridden in the spine of the Southern Alps are aware that when the tectonic plates pushed together to create these majestic mountains they did not take into consideration mountain bikers. Generally, you are either going up on the rivet, or descending on the brakes; ‘mellow, peddley climbing conditions’ is not often a description heard when discussing epic South Island mountain bike trails. Shane and I were again riding well, sitting in fourth overall and working efficiently with the lead mixed team Kate Fluker and Mark Williams, as well as Great Britain riders Matthew Page and Sam Gardner. However, it was now my turn to get a flat tyre and we were soon off our bikes, questioning
why we both had decided to invest in new tyres prior to the race. After a quick repair, we were again back into chase mode. All sections had at least two aid stations. On Day One we had ignored the first station but had gorged ourselves at the second one. It was quickly became apparent that to survive the heat that we were experiencing, a couple of minutes at each station was going to be vital. Riding over Burkes Pass and glimpsing the final aid station was like the last supper before entering the furnace. Race organisers had warned us that today was to be hot, with the Aussie riders scoffing at the forecast of 33 °C, yet many had not experienced the heat sink-like conditions of the Mackenzie Country. The heat was relentless and with not the slightest breath of wind in the bottom of the valleys it created an atmosphere where one couldn’t help but feel as if they were being smothered by a heat blanket. Shane was quick to point out that it would be illegal to run such an event in conditions like that in Ireland, (later admitting to the fact that Ireland had probably never experienced such conditions). The heat messed with the mind and when Shane started to tell me that “he was dirty” I thought he had lost it. I explained to him as calmly as I could that I was also dirty and we would wash in the lake when we completed the stage, only to be told louder and a little clearer, that he was in fact "dirsty!" “Oh you’re thirsty”, I said. The first of many conversations that were lost in translation. Tekapo was a welcome sight and never have I sat in that lake for such an extended period of time. There were some scarred faces that crossed the line
that day, and I believe the conditions of Stage Three probably impacted upon some teams later in the race, including us.
STAGE 4: Lake Tekapo to Lake Ohau 111 kilometres, 1,863 metres of elevation John Mackenzie had seen the potential in the large fruit bowl that is the Mackenzie Basin in the 1800s, and a cycle stage across this terrain should have seemed a mere dawdle in comparison to the Highlander, who managed to steal 1,000 sheep and drive them across this landscape with just the help of his dog. However, the organisers had decided to give racers the opportunity to experience a 360-degree view that no sardine bus tour setup could ever offer. The only problem with this is that to get such views we needed to climb over 1,000 metres in under five kilometres. Our day started well immersing ourselves into the cycle stampede that followed the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail.
Developed to take in many of wellknown South Island land features, it did not disappoint. Mt Cook stood proudly on display almost mocking the small mountains that we were to ride up and created some perspective for the athletes. The trail allowed for fast riding and looking down at the bike computer I wasn’t surprised to see an early average speed of 45 kilometres per hour. The sun was out, the lakes and sky were blue, the trails were dry, it was a great day to be a mountain bike enthusiast. This stage involved 60 kilometres of semi-flat riding before the main climb and descent of the day. Shane and I were keen to immerse ourselves in the front group and arrive to the climb as fresh as possible. The plan was generally working quite well for the first 40 kilometres. However, having the luck of the Irish our third tyre was to go. It was me again with a torn side wall. How this occurred on a groomed trail is anyone’s guess but I swear the peloton let out a sigh of disbelief as most knew that the bright yellow team had already had their
fair share of flats. A jammed tubeless valve and dispirited fingers slowed the tube replacement down, but we were lucky enough to borrow some pliers to remove the tubeless valve. Most of the field had passed us by the time we remounted and began a 20-kilometre two-man time trial. The rest of the ride went relatively smoothly and climbing up the Ben Ohau Range was testing yet unbelievably rewarding – a view usually only reserved from above. This was followed by descending an old 4WD track, which was steep and technical enough to be asking yourself why someone would bother putting a track there in the first place other than with the future vision of The Pioneer. Back to the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail and it was more fast riding around the shores of Lake Ohau, which translates to ‘Windy Place’. Today, however, the only evidence of wind was my accelerated breath from another big day on the bike. Lake Ohau was nature’s version of an ice bath today and a welcome release for legs now four days deep.
STAGE 5: Lake Ohau to Hawea 112 kilometres, 3,578 metres of elevation Four days of consistently-depleting glycogen stores and suffering in the unrelenting heat, combined with the thought that the ‘hardest’ day was yet to come meant most athletes focused on merely packing in more calories. The body is a crazy beast. Standing on the start line at Lake Ohau, merely riding a bike seemed a ridiculous ask with every muscle of the quadriceps pleading ‘no more’, let alone putting it through 107 kilometres of further punishment. At this stage of the race the brain takes over, sending subtle messages to the legs such as ‘Shut up and get on with it’. I’m still unsure if they managed to hear this message each morning over the morning music ritual of Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Right Here, Right Now’, however when the hooter went each morning, they seemed to join the party, so something must have got through. For me, this was the most enjoyable
stage of the entire event. I do enjoy to suffer, and it doesn’t get much better than suffering in the mountains of Central Otago. The stage began on the Alps 2 Ocean Trail before veering off into the Ahuriri Valley and it was during this section that it occurred to me that this was the first time we had encountered a head wind. New Zealand cyclists are well aware that one will have to face the inevitable head wind grind that living on an island in the Pacific Ocean presents, so not to experience this for four and a half days was unbelievable. From the Ahuriri Valley, we climbed in and out of lost valleys to eventually hit the Lindis Highway, a welcome sight and a good way to clock up some kilometres. Leaving the highway it was then onto the final climb to the top of Grand View. Grand View was just that: Mount Aspiring, Lake Wanaka and Hawea providing hashtag-worthy views. The descent was epic and riding into camp that afternoon knowing that we had ‘broken the back’ of the race was a great
feeling. Shane and I had an enjoyable day’s riding and we were both happy with how we had approached the stage, and not a puncture in sight!
STAGE 6: Hawea to Snow Farm 67 Kilometres, 2,022 metres of elevation With the largest day of the event now behind us, it would have been nice to think that this stage would roll out at a gentlemanly pace, but no such luck. With most riders acknowledging the early section of singletrack may have a large influence on the day’s placing, it was all on from the start. Wanaka’s much-loved Dean’s Bank was included in this stage and after five days of severe riding-induced chafe, a few well linked fast berms was just what I needed to remind me how much I love the simple concept of mountain biking. Grins were plenty as 400-odd battleweary mountain bikers found that flow state around the track. The Pisa mountains soon returned us to the reality of being in a multi-day stage race and the grind was back on.
Again we were presented with views, hills and heat. This stage was one of survival for us and five days of racing were most definitely taking their toll. Dehydration hit Shane quite hard and he found himself in a dark space for most of this stage, eventually crossing the line happy in the knowledge there was only one day left to go. Snow Farm was the base for night six, the first evening that we were not eating under canvas. The panoramic sunset again created promotional material organisers could only dream of. There was a sense of ‘one more to go’ amongst participants, and maybe some let their guard down with a supposedly final day of downhill. Those who did opened themselves up for a bit of a sucker punch!
STAGE 7: Snow Farm to Queenstown 62 Kilometres, 1,974 metres of elevation Even those without an appreciation of geography would have formulated
that considering we were staying ‘way up here’ and finishing ‘way down there’ that the final day should be a brakeburning last full stop to seven incredible days in the saddle. It was a warm down that allowed competitors to take in the sights that make Queenstown one of the most ‘must-visit’ locations in the world; a chance to enjoy riding your bicycle with a mate and reflect on the previous seven days of hard labour, or at least an opportunity to not redline for one day in the entire race. How wrong they were! The final day was a tease of exhilarating descents and threshold climbs, one after another that seemed relentless. In saying that, it was once again a spectacular day and personally, I found the terrain in the Pisa’s technical yet fun! It was a mentally testing day for team Leigh’s with Shane being in ride-to-enjoy-the-moment mode and me being in a the-quicker-we-get-thisdone-the-better process. Hence, when I was to turn around at one stage and see my Irish teammate casually drinking out of a stock trough I was quick to point out one of the many reasons
why the Irish would never beat the All Blacks! All part of racing in a multi-day race in a team situation. Crossing the finish line was the usual mixture of relief and satisfaction. We had both considered top ten as a realistic goal with little experience in stage racing, so considering our mixed bag of luck, we were content with seventh overall and fifth in our category. Lagardere Unlimited couldn’t be faulted for their organisation of an event of this enormity; it was incredible. For me, it created a new bug of multi-stage mountain bike racing and has had me hammering the web in search of more events just like this. Glen Currie is a Physical Education and Outdoor Education Teacher based in Methven, New Zealand with his wife and three boys. He loves adventure and racing, particularly when the two are combined, successfully competing in events both nationally and overseas. www.enduranzevents.co.nz www.instagram.com/gc_glencurrie
REAL LIFE CAN WAIT WORDS: Amelia Caddy IMAGES: Kern Ducote LOCATION: Unites States of America
Sitting in the dirt on the outskirts of Idyllwild, California, I eye the widening gash in the top of my trail runners. What started as a few broken purple fibres has slowly spread, and now I have a problem â€“ so much dirt is getting into my shoe that blisters are forming where the dirt has rubbed my foot raw. I could buy new shoes, but being only 290 kilometres into my hike, Iâ€™m stubbornly determined to make this pair last longer.
MY HIKING PARTNER Steely – his trail name, not his real name – gets the duct tape out, and together we fashion a patch for my shoe, which I hope will hold until we reach Ziggy and the Bear’s house in another 50 kilometres – again, not their real names. The blisters, I figure, are inevitable now they’ve started to form. They always come, no matter how much moleskin I use. But I can cope with blisters – after all, I didn’t decide to hike from Mexico to Canada thinking I’d get off blister-free. It’s 6am in early May and the dawn light has not yet permeated this cedar-filled valley in the San Jacinto mountains, where Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers stop every year to resupply on their 4,250-kilometre journey through the western-most states. Technically, the trail skirts around the upper rim of the valley, avoiding town altogether. But Idyllwild’s cafés and restaurants are too much for the average calorie-depleted thru-hiker to resist.
I’m lifting my pack back on when a tall man wearing a fluoro yellow running shirt walks around the corner. He’s holding a takeaway pizza box out in front of him and he grins when he catches sight of my incredulous expression. “Breakfast?” Shorty asks, opening the box to reveal the remains of a salamistrewn pizza. I can’t resist. For all my careful kilojoule targets (12,550 per day, mostly in the form of Snickers bars), I’m constantly ravenous. ‘Hiker hunger’, as my condition is known among the thru-hiking community, is the empty feeling that comes from being physically unable to carry as many kilojoules as you’re burning. Today, we’re climbing Mt San Jacinto, our first major peak on what will ultimately be a four-and-a-half-month hike through some of America’s highest mountain ranges. At 3,302 metres, San Jacinto is a baby compared to the giants to come, but with 1,340 metres of vertical gain over 11 kilometres from Idyllwild, the climb is
comparable to the snowy passes of the Sierra Nevada. Only Shorty, a German mountaineer with the toned physique of an endurance athlete, would carry a pizza box on such a climb. I met Shorty less than three weeks ago, the night before I started the PCT. We were at Scout and Frodo’s house, a residential home where hikers are given meals, showers, soft beds, a mail service and lifts to the trail head an hour and a half away – all for free. This is typical of the PCT community, where kind strangers called ‘trail angels’ go out of their way to help thru-hikers. Sometimes their help comes in the form of a bed, at times in the form of a lift into town, and sometimes in the form of ‘trail magic’, such as an esky full of cold soft drinks on a hot day. Shorty and I didn’t talk much that first meeting, but in the time since then, he and numerous others have become close friends. So, when Shorty’s arms begin to ache under the weight of the pizza box, I offer to take it from him,
because that’s what friends are for. We are coming at San Jacinto from the south, up the aptly named Devil’s Slide Trail and then the summit trail. As we get higher, the cedars give way to tall pine trees, alpine shrubbery and boulder fields. Fallen trees from an old storm have been carefully sawn and dragged off the path – undoubtedly the work of volunteer PCT trail maintenance crews. This trail is the result of almost 100 years of hard work. What started as the brainchild of a passionate few eventually blossomed into a movement, which culminated in the PCT being designated as a National Scenic Trail in 1968, along with the east coast’s Appalachian Trail. Today, it is maintained and protected by a dedicated community of volunteers. The final summit push is a steep scramble over slippery boulders, marked only by wisps of pink fabric that the seasons have worn thin. At the peak, a lone boulder jolts up above the rest and from there we have a view
that John Muir, the famed American naturalist, once called “The most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.” The northern side of San Jacinto rises over 3,000 metres from the desert floor, making it one of the most prominent peaks in the United States. From the summit, you can see the shores of the Sultan Sea, Coachella Valley, and – almost directly beneath us – a vast expanse of arid brown earth. It’s easy to forget that California is in the midst of its fourth year of drought when green pine forest surrounds you, but standing on San Jacinto’s summit makes it painfully obvious. Poorly planned waterways, dams, and the nonsensical farming of high wateruse plants such as lucerne have drained the naturally arid landscape of the little water that flows into it. Here, in the American West, 75 per cent of that water comes from spring snow-melt – predominantly from the mountain ranges that the PCT traces – but very
little snow has fallen in recent years. “How much water do we need to carry again?” I ask no one in particular. I’m squinting at the glary screen of my phone, on which I’ve stored an up-todate water report for this section of trail. With almost no snow on the mountain, all of the regular water sources along the descent trail are dry. According to the water report there’s a stream just ahead, and then nothing for 22 kilometres until the base of the mountain. Factoring in dinner and breakfast, I decide five litres should be enough. The descent is brutal – as steep as it is exposed. With my pack now five kilograms heavier from the water, my knees begin to protest and the hotspots on my feet become full-blown blisters. For the first time on this hike, I wish I had invested in hiking poles. Our saving grace is the view, which now extends to the west, an area that was hidden by ridgelines from the summit. Thousands of wind turbines fill the valley below us, looking like the
miniature whirligigs that you played with as a child. When the sun starts to set behind the mountain, we stop at the first flattish spot we see. Even if we had the energy to up set a tent, the ground is too sandy to hold pegs. Instead, we spread our sleeping bags out on our groundsheets and fill our stomachs with cold-soaked instant noodles. Hot food is just one of the many luxuries we go without to save a little extra weight. Sleep, when it comes, has never felt better. When I first told my friends and family that I was going to hike the PCT, they asked me the inevitable question, “Why would you do that?” I told them I thought it would be fun. Perhaps not ‘fun’ as most people would define it, but rather the other kind – the one in which you overcome suffering to (hopefully) accomplish something, and (usually) have great adventures; type II fun. Descending San Jacinto is the epitome of type II fun. By 7:30am the thermometer hanging off Shorty’s pack reads 32 °C, there’s no shade in sight, the sandy trail is eroding beneath our feet, I’m running out of water, and we’re still hours from reaching the base of the mountain. I’d like to claim I get something meaningful out of this, as in an epiphany about the meaning of life, but I’d be lying. Five hours later we’re standing on the valley floor, a mere 300 metres above sea level, with San Jacinto towering above us. Shorty’s thermometer reads 40 °C now, but while Steely and I have crammed ourselves into a sliver of shade beneath a nearby boulder like a comic circus act, Shorty is sprawled out in the sun like a lizard.
“Um, what are you doing?” I ask as I refill my drink bottle for the umpteenth time.
during the thru-hiking season. We’ve arrived on a quiet day – there are only about 20 other hikers here.
“Sunbaking, we don’t have heat like this in Germany, it’s great!” Shorty replies.
As we walk through the back gate, a short woman with greying hair and a business-like manner greets us. “You guys just get here?” Ziggy asks. Cold Gatorades and watermelon are thrust into our hands and Ziggy instructs us to wait while she gets the guest book.
“Germans,” I reply, rolling my eyes. I would be happy if I never had to get up again. But our sliver of shade is disappearing and we still have eight kilometres to walk across the valley before we reach Ziggy and the Bear’s house. The valley itself called San Gorgonio Pass, separates San Jacinto from the San Gorgonio mountain range to the north where the trail is headed. At the narrowest point of the pass – about three kilometres wide – a bottleneck of sorts forces the natural and man-made worlds together. Roads, train tracks, power lines, gas lines, rivers and ripping winds all vie for space here, in what is easily the most accessible path through the mountains. By the time we get to the freeway underpass, my hair is plastered to my sweaty face and I’m starting to feel woozy from the heat. Then Steely gives a shout from up ahead – “Trail magic!” and starts running like a madman toward two eskies that have been pushed up against the wall. A small sign reads Trail Magic: Sodas and Fruit – help yourself, and we do so with gusto. This unexpected act of kindness gets us the two kilometres further to Ziggy and The Bear’s house. Conveniently located about 200 metres from the trail, it looks like your standard red brick house from afar, but as we get closer we can see a line of portaloos out the front and the tops of plastic gazebos out the back. Like Scout and Frodo in San Diego, Ziggy and The Bear turn their home into a temporary hiker haven
As we sit, the other hikers filter over to say hi. They knew we were coming – the trail grapevine can be a wonderful thing – and they’ve saved us some leftover pizza. Food, drink and the company of friends quickly erase the memory of our recent suffering. And, as the stories begin to flow, I can feel myself itching to get back on the trail. It’s a long way to Canada, and there are plenty more adventures to be had before we get there. Amelia ‘Possum’ Caddy is a Hobart-based freelance writer with a passion for the outdoors. She completed her 4,250 kilometre thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in August 2015. www.instagram.com/ameliacaddy t www.twitter.com/AmeliaCaddy
FOLLOWING PAGE: I am HER – Pia Bacino is a creative entrepreneur passionate about using her love for adventure, personal development and the creative arts to make a significant difference in people's lives. Follow the journey! www.youtube.com/channel/ UCGD0lHKM3lxgwp4iDv6Bn4w/featured www.instagram.com/piabacino t www.twitter.com/PiaBacino
FROM ICELAND TO GREENLAND ON HUMMINGBIRD WORDS: Sulaiman Al Beayeyz IMAGES: Cody Duncan LOCATION: Iceland and Greenland
After finally resting in my bunk from my early morning shift, I hear one of the crew members yell “Iceberg, right ahead, turn starboard!” That’s when I knew we were in Greenland. The idea of taking a trip to a place so remote was something I couldn’t get out of my head. I thought about where to go and how could I get there. I recently took up sailing and had already acquired several certificates. Now I was ready to test my seafaring boundaries. I’d already considered amateur racing, and while I don’t deny the thrill I’d get from an ocean race, discovering strange seas and faraway places was my ultimate dream. GROWING UP, I have been inspired greatly by explorers. It’s the unknown and ambiguity that makes explorations fascinating. So I set my mind on going somewhere distant and thrilling. I couldn’t think of anything farther away on this earth and more exciting than the Arctic Circle. I began to make preparations. I started by seeking out the right trip and crew. After months of looking, I came across Hummingbird: a 60-foot ocean racing clipper that once belonged to an amateur ‘round-the-world sailing race’ fleet and is currently used for expeditions and training trips. I reached out to Rachel, the boat’s co-owner and skipper, to inquire about her itinerary for 2015. Hummingbird was sailing around the North Sea to Holland,
Germany, Sweden, and the beautiful Lofoten Islands of Norway. But the highlight of Hummingbird’s voyage was an attempt to reach Greenland from Iceland. The vision of sailing through heavy seas to Greenland and trying to navigate through icebergs to reach our destination was undoubtedly exhilarating. It was just too tempting to pass up. Mentally and physically prepared for the endeavour, with my luggage weighed down by an extra 30 kilogrammes of sailing gear and books, I boarded a flight to Reykjavik. I spent two days in the capital to acclimatise and enjoy the sights of the capital region. Then I headed to Ísafjörður in the Westfjords region, in the north-west of Iceland. There I boarded Hummingbird.
The crew was as exciting as the voyage was. We had a broad range of backgrounds, careers, and sailing expertise. There was a book publisher, a fashion marketing executive, a water researcher, a professional outdoor photographer – the list goes on. I was the youngest of the crew of 11. For the first couple of days, we sailed through the fjords of northwestern Iceland, which offered us endless views of waterfalls, flocks of puffins, and sometimes a spouting whale. We spent our mornings plotting our route in the navigation room and the rest of the day honing our seamanship skills. We shifted roles from helmsman to dishwasher, from navigator to cook. And since we seldom had the internet or even a phone connection, we got
our entertainment the old-fashioned way, by holding live conversations at the dinner table, or enjoying a coffee on the deck.
we got there using the small inflatable power boat we had on board. After spending a couple of days on the ship, the hot spring was truly refreshing.
Throughout our first sailing days, Rachel kept tracking the ice movements in Greenland through reports issued by the Greenland Coast Guard. We had to make sure that Tasiilaq harbour, our first point of entry to Greenland, had less than 30 percent ice cover. Given the fact the Hummingbird is a fibreglass boat, we had to be extra cautious about ice. While waiting for the ice in Tasiilaq to clear, we embarked on a sailing tour of the Westfjords region, an area rich in natural landmarks. As I was plotting our route from the fishing town and we docked in for the night to anchor near a hot spring, I realised much of the waters inside the fjords are uncharted. We resorted to the basic way of navigation in uncharted waters; the crew hoisted me up the mast to look for rocks and shallow water to notify the helmsman. We were unable to reach the hot spring as the water was too shallow for Hummingbird, so
Five days passed, and still we received no ice reports. The crew started to feel anxious. We had several discussions with Rachel and weighed up our alternatives. We had no choice; it had to be Tasiilaq or nothing. It’s one of a few well-inhabited harbours on the entire east coast of Greenland, and it is prohibited to land on any uninhabited area without a gun. We didn’t have any weapons, and none of us were anxious to go head-to-head with a polar bear. A week passed and we were still sailing up and down the Westfjords. When we came back to a harbour, Rachel checked the ice reports again. This time, she said we had a chance. We discussed it and agreed there was a risk of sailing all the way to the Coast of Greenland and being unable to land due to ice. We also agreed the trip would be worth it just to see the icebergs. We headed back to Ísafjörður for the night, to begin a long day of preparation.
The following day, we all went into town, with each of us given a particular assignment, from refuelling with diesel to stocking up on chocolate cake. Other crew members plotted the route to Tasiilaq and prepared Hummingbird for the voyage. At 9am on a cloudy day, we departed Ísafjörður for Tasiilaq, leaving the majestic Icelandic fjords behind us. The journey across the 400-mile Denmark Strait was expected to take 70 hours. With the wind in our faces, it wasn’t an ideal start. Several hours into the trip we initiated the shift system. We divided into three groups, with each group taking over the deck for three hours, followed by a six-hour rest. Halfway through the first day the weather was still unkind to us. We were still heading into the wind, crashing into the waves, unable to sail and having to use the motor. Sea sickness began to spread through the crew. It was evident at mealtimes that most of us had little appetite. Even though we’d been sailing the week before, seasickness hadn’t affected us as much. But now we were pitching in the
open sea and getting slammed by the waves. Some of the experienced crew on board who have crossed oceans were feeling quite sick. I started to worry given my relatively new experience in sailing, let alone crossing a strait in the Arctic Circle. Motion sickness usually happens when the body feels movement, but the eyes can’t see it. To make yourself feel better, it’s best to stay on the deck and observe the horizon or the water. The conditions on deck may not have been terribly inviting, but at least they didn’t make one sick. But avoiding seasickness this way meant doing without the other entertainments of shipboard life. Reading, playing games or even sitting inside were problematic. Obviously, we couldn’t shower during the crossing; I probably changed my outfit only once. Cooking and washing were a challenge when the boat was heeling at 30 degrees. I spent the entire crossing either on deck, trying to get as much fresh air as possible, or huddled in my sleeping bag. At first, the crossing seemed challenging and miserable. However, with time, it began to grow on me. I saw beauty in the vast emptiness that surrounded us. It was a great opportunity just to lie back and meditate on the shifting waves and sky. On our second day of the crossing, we were able to put the sails out. Rachel got an updated report giving an ice density of over 30 per cent near Tasiilaq. She gave us two options: either keep going and risk being unable to reach port, which would put us in a storm on our way back to Iceland; or head back to Iceland right away and avoid the storm that was approaching the Strait. As a sailor, making quick calls with limited information is something you have to do every day of the week. For us, there was no choice. We came here to see icebergs, and icebergs we were going to see – one way or another.
There was still the challenge of managing the boat and getting across the strait. A watch crew had to be constantly on deck. Several times I had to be on watch during the early dawn or late at night. It’s quite a switch to go from a warm bunk to changing and winching the sails on a frozen deck in the cold morning light. Not only was the weather hindering us, it dramatically affected the boat’s heel and movements over the swells. Having experienced all roles of a crew member on board; the cooking for 11 people, navigating through fjords, changing the sailing in rough conditions, and being on the helmsman post, I have realised the true challenge of a sailor is psychological. Ocean crossing takes days if not weeks making you bear the misery with patience. Also, it teaches you on how solidarity among crew members is vital for the basic functionality of a sailing boat. These issues are magnified during rough conditions or long crossings and I could tell that we had done it right. Halfway across the strait on our second day we spotted our first large iceberg. It was more than ten miles away and looked like a snowcapped mountain rising out of the ocean. After a day and a half of grey skies and difficult winds, the sight of the iceberg was a positive joy to the exhausted crew. Mesmerised as we were by the distant iceberg, we still had to maintain a constant watch for growlers. Growlers are small pieces of ice that have broken off the larger bergs, and which barely show above the water. They are hard to see from a distance and especially from the cockpit in the back of the boat. Watching for growlers meant being at the bow, right at the forefront of the waves, and bombarded with the freezing waves' splash. My two pairs of woollen socks and waterproof boots were completely inadequate
for the situation. After 30 minutes of watching for growlers, I had lost all sensation in my feet. But I could not abandon my post. One cubic metre of ice weighs about a tonne, and even small bits of ice can cause tremendous damage to a fibreglass boat. We had to keep a watch on the bow until we reached port, almost a day and a half away. With everything going on, it got harder by the minute to spot for the growlers. Looking at the water in the cloudy day we had, a growler or simply a current can be hard to tell apart. With the weather getting colder, we decided to reduce the growler watch to 30 minutes. On our third day, I got up at 3:45am to get ready for the 4am shift on deck. It was a pleasant time to be up because the coast of Greenland was becoming visible as a series of high pointed mountains. The closer we got to Greenland, the calmer the waters became. Now the icebergs were becoming plentiful, and it was a truly gorgeous day. Time passed more quickly, and soon other crew members were coming up on watch. I went back below to rest, with no idea that I would wake up in a different world. I woke to the sound of the engine getting louder and louder, and realised that the crew had shifted to reverse to avoid colliding with something. I needed to see where we were. After hurrying through the annoying part of sailing, which is getting one’s gear on, I clambered up the stairs and onto the deck. I looked around and thought I had entered a new world. The rough grey seas had transformed into sparkling calm waters adorned with glistening mountains of crystal blue ice. The scene was like a play set, with everything positioned in its right place. And yet it was all made by nature. We were going parallel to the coast and heading to Tasiilaq. We were still some
distance from the coast, but the size of the dark, barren mountains and cliffs made the land appear much closer. Even though the scenery entranced us, we still had to navigate through the ice. The coastline was wreathed with much smaller chunks of ice that never made it out to sea. The crew around the deck had to keep a sharp watch for these smaller pieces and shout out their direction to the helmsman. Getting closer to Tasiilaq, we could, at last, see the sheer amount of ice scattered around us. We realised how difficult the situation was when the skipper asked a crew member to be pulled up the mast to get a better look and find a path into the bay. No clear path was visible and our skipper was worried about getting trapped in the ice. It was around 7pm, with the sunset in three hours. Since we did not want to be stuck in the dark amid the moving icebergs, the skipper called for postponing our arrival until tomorrow when we would have a full day to navigate into Tasiilaq. The reflection of orange sunset sky
on the bergs and still waters made the entire place shine in a vibrant play of orange and red. But we couldn’t spend all our time enjoying the view. The sea was too deep for us to anchor, so we had to hover around and dodge ice while waiting for the sun to return. Again, we split into shifts to watch for icebergs. I had the first watch. Lying back in the cockpit, with no sound but the squeaks of the boat rocking over the swell, I suddenly heard a heavy wet breathing from close by. I looked around and saw a humpback whale surfacing ten metres away from us. Another whale joined, and soon we saw one of the whales jumping out of the water. I kept asking myself how such an enchanted place could exist in our world. And if watching the icy sunset and whales was not enough for the day, we were then treated to the Northern Lights. It was the first time I ever saw this amazing phenomenon, and the sheer dazzling beauty of it took my breath away. It was surreal. When I see the Northern Lights in pictures,
I simply see green skies. But their true magnificence comes from the way they change colours from purple to green, how rapidly they shimmer across the sky, and how close they feel. In the space of a single day and night, the sky changed from blue to orange, to purple, and to green. A truly magical experience.That night I went to my bunk excited about tomorrow. The next morning, we tried to negotiate our way through a bay crowded with ice. Everyone was on the frozen deck and helping to direct the helmsman. Up until then we hadn’t been able to glimpse Tasiilaq, as it sat inside the bay. After five hours of manoeuvring around the multitude of ice boulders, we finally reached our safe harbour. By then I was beginning to think I had seen what Greenland was all about, through its beautiful waterways and light-filled nights, but I was in for a surprise. I like to consider myself culturally aware. And yet, before this trip, my focus was simply on sailing, rather than Greenland’s history and culture.
Knowing that Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, I had expected that the Inuit, the people native to the Arctic Circle, would be influenced by European culture and have ties to Denmark. I was simply, wrong. Tasiilaq, with a population of 2,000, is the largest town on the east coast of Greenland. I wanted to discover what it was all about. I met several of the locals and embarked on the typical conversation you have when you meet people from a different culture. We talked politics, the economy, and jobs in Greenland. It was interesting to learn first-hand about their lifestyle, their hunting stories, and how they survive their winters. The presence of the environmental group Greenpeace sparked many conversations with the locals, with some for and others against the activists. I met several of the Greenpeace activists, who certainly had their perspective on the mining and oil explorations around the region. We spent our last couple of nights
in other places around the bay. One memorable event was when we got into a kayak and paddled up to and inside some of the icebergs. The echoes of water dripping and ice breaking an arm’s length away was fascinating. Some of the icebergs were as shiny as crystal, indicating they had been formed many years ago. We couldn’t resist the urge to carve out a small sample and taste this ancient ice. Amazingly, water from old ice tastes just as fresh as water can get. On our last night in Greenland, we headed back to Tasiilaq. The locals had caught a whale and were cutting up the meat to split among the locals. I had my last meal with the crew, and it was only fitting to have the local dish, grilled whale. The pleasure of that night wasn’t just the dinner or the company, but something greater, a shared memory to last a lifetime. As I boarded the small fishing boat that would take me to the airport an hour away in another settlement, I couldn’t
help but think of the whole experience. It wasn’t the sailing or the fjords of Iceland, nor was it the beautiful crystallike icebergs. It was more than that. It was the journey from Saudi Arabia to Greenland. It was not the place as much as the encounters and obstacles throughout the journey; the late night stories with the crew in the small cabin, the 1am shifts during the crossing, the political discussions with the Inuit, and navigating through uncharted waters all added up to a chronicle of human endeavour. It was the simple desire to discover new things that are the very essence of our humanity. Sulaiman Al Beayeyz is an avid traveller who has only recently taken up sailing. Originally from the hot sands of Arabia, he was determined to see the world; from the rainforests of Ecuador to the bustling markets of China. Every experience has added a life-long memory, adventure, or more simply, a lesson.
IF AT FIRST YOU DONâ€™T SUCCEED WORDS AND IMAGES: Emma Rogers LOCATION: Guatemala
Shivering, huddling in the tent as the nylon fabric buffets aggressively in the wind, nibbling on a slice of cold, plastic-tasting faux cheese, we waited for the icy rain to subside. Not exactly how I envisaged spending my birthday. At an elevation just shy of 4,000 metres, Acatenago is not the tallest volcano in Guatemala. Nor is it the most photogenic.
TOURS LEAVE THE bright colonial streets of Antigua daily to climb the volcano. It isn’t an easy feat. People speak of the climb as if it were at once the best and worst thing they have ever done. Usually, they describe it as something they would never do again. The selling point? Acatenango’s highly active immediate neighbour – Fuego; a volcano belching steam, fire and ash, framed in the doorway of a tent. That definitive photo every backpacker wants on their Instagram feed. At least, that is how the story should go. After several cloudy weeks, the weather reports were improving. We didn’t do anything sensible like booking a tour. Our complete lack of planning found us parked at the foot of the volcano late one chilly evening. Luckily Juan, a friendly local, waved us over and invited us to camp outside his family home. He also arranged for a guide to see us on our way the next day. The morning dawned, bleak and grey. The only ray of sunlight was our cheerful guide Sixto, and his energetic dog Nico. Sixto was positive the skies would clear for a view of Fuego. It was a cold,
miserable trudge up the steep, muddy paths of Acatenango. At the campground, we waved goodbye to Sixto and Nico and began a hopeless vigil. We sat with our eyes glued to the white abyss that stretched in front of us. We peered, full of hope, in the direction that Sixto had pointed. He had said, “Fuego is that way. When the cloud clears, you will see it from your tent.” The clouds didn’t clear. “Happy Birthday,” Ben joked as we celebrated with cold ham and cheese sandwiches. The quiet patter of rain on the tent was now drowned out by the howling of the wind and the cracking of branches. As the storm raged outside, we lamented our choice to forgo packing a thermos of hot soup. Instead, our tent was full of heavy camera gear that we weren’t going to need. We awoke early, to the sound of tour groups descending hastily. The weather had become dangerous. Instead of summiting Acatenango, we made our way back down, filled with bitter disappointment. Half a world away from home, we had waited weeks
and… nothing. We picked our way through fallen branches, swirling mist and sleety rain. Defeated. Many would declare this a terrible experience. They would head for the Coast to find a bar that serves ice-cold beers, put their feet up in a hammock and… oh… wait, that’s exactly what we did. However, a little over a week later we came back and climbed Acatenango… again. Outside Juan’s home, we filled our daypacks with our warmest gear and snacks – a day trip only. No camping in the cold. The dry ground made the going quick and it wasn’t long before we were in the upper reaches of the decaying pine forest. The cloud crept in… again. Enveloped in mist, we didn’t expect to see much. At least we had enjoyed the climb this time if nothing else. Leaving the tree line, we made for the saddle between Acatenango’s two peaks. Our goal was Pico Mayor – the taller of the two, with an unobstructed view of Fuego. As we ascended through the layer of mist, far below amidst an ocean
of cloud ‘volcanic islands’ began to appear. Towards Lago Atitlán we could see the summits of Volcanes San Pedro, Tolimán and Atitlán. The last stretch to the top was brutally steep. Just out of sight, Fuego was grumbling. What better motivation to do the climb in record time! Not helped by our break at sea level, we were gasping for air. We took determined strides towards the top. The end was in sight. My legs shook like jelly. Was it with the effort, or the anticipation? Probably both. The last hundred metres were painfully slow. Every step forward triggered a violent slide back. Cursing my choice of footwear, I took the final wobbly strides towards the summit. Volcán de Agua, which towers above Antigua, was now visible far below, poking out from the swirling sea of cloud. An earth-shaking boom, then a plume of smoke appeared from behind the summit of Acatenango. A few more steps and the peak of Fuego was visible, belching steam and smoke into the atmosphere. Success!
Finding a sheltered nook with a view of the eruptions, we settled in for the afternoon. We imagined the tour groups below, pitching their tents in the cloud, hopeful for a glimpse of Fuego. We wondered if the view would clear for them. The afternoon wore on, the cloud ebbed and flowed. It cleared enough that the groups below would have a perfect view from their tents. We preferred our vantage point. Just the two of us. On the summit of a towering volcano amid a swirling ocean of cloud, watching an impressive display of the raw power of Mother Nature unfold right in front of us. “Happy un-birthday”. It felt like this show was just for us. Every few minutes Fuego would belch more steam, sometimes ash. Enormous rocks were visible, bouncing down the slopes of the neighbouring volcano. We could feel, as much as hear the thunderous, echoing booms that accompanied each display. As evening arrived, the moving carpet of cloud began to glow all the colours of a majestic sunset. Stars twinkled
behind the erupting Fuego. Against the night sky, the glowing fires bursting from deep within the earth became visible. Streaks of fire filled the air. The volcano launched rocks and plumes of hot gas skyward. Fuego outshone the fading remnants of sunset. As the last light faded from the sky, shivering in the chill night air, we abandoned our lonely perch on top of the world. Heading back beneath the thick banks of cloud, we soon lost sight of Fuego’s bursts of fury. But our short time on an island on top of the world will be etched in our memory forever. Would we do it again? Without a doubt. Emma Rogers makes up one-half of the Flightless Kiwis, a couple of pointy-beaked chickens who flew the coop and now live a life of adventure. They are currently driving the Pan American Highway (more or less – mostly less) from Deadhorse, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. www.flightlesskiwis.com F www.facebook.com/FlightlessKiwis www.instagram.com/flightlesskiwis t www.twitter.com/flightlesskiwis
TREKKING WITH LLAMAS WORDS AND IMAGES: Thomas Parker LOCATION: New Zealand
If I had a list of emails I never expected to get, this would be up there. “I have a mission for you. Walking over the Southern Alps of New Zealand from Hanmer to Westport… with llamas”. AT THIS POINT I should probably add a little context to this story. I was living in Wanaka at the time and working as a bartender and photographer. This particular morning, I was sitting on my porch and enjoying a cup of coffee when my phone chimed up from inside the kitchen with a simple and tothe-point email. It was all I needed. After reading it several times to make sure I grasped what I was being asked to do – accompany and document a llama trekking outfit on an eight-day pilot trip over the Hope Saddle – I did what any selfrespecting adventurer would do. I walked straight to work and told my boss I needed two weeks off to go llama trekking. He understood.
I arrived in Hanmer Springs just after dark the night before our trek was set to begin. As I pulled into the driveway of the home address I was given, an older man in shorts and a polo shirt met me, wearing a smile that looked as if it could split a stump. He introduced himself as Tony Pearce, the owner of Hanmer Llamas. After packing the llama bags, Tony and I had tea, reviewed maps of the trip, and went to bed early, knowing we had to rise at 5am to start the journey. I would learn over the next ten days that Tony Pearce was much more than the owner of a small llama trekking company; he was also one of those few people you meet who smile and laugh as easily as they breathe,
and one who approaches every new challenge with a contagious air of excitement and curiosity that a 10-year-old in a candy shop would have a tough time matching. All in all, he was a man worth following. It seemed like I’d only been asleep for minutes when a crisp knock on the door brought me to alertness immediately. “Time to get up, police are here to evacuate us because of a forest fire the next ridge over,” said Tony’s calm voice outside my room. You would have thought he was discussing our choice of breakfast. All five of us were up and out the door in minutes, quickly driving down the long farm road to the safety of the main road below. That’s when I found out Tony had
a plan. He turned to his friend Stuart and me, “Alright guys, we’ve got to go back and get the llamas.” Seemed simple enough until we discovered that getting the llamas also entailed corralling them, leashing them, making tea, and sleeping in a cow pasture by the river with our new friends while the rest of the road’s residents were evacuated seven kilometres away to the town centre. I won’t tell you exactly when we went back to the house the next morning, but it’s safe to say it was before everyone else was allowed to. That served as my introduction to both my fearless leader Tony and my stoic trekking mates, the llamas, who were completely unfazed by the whole fiasco. With an adventure already under our belts, we set out on our real trip early the next morning. There were six of us, each one of us as different as the many terrains we were about to navigate. Our team included Myles, a 35-year-old hunter and friend of Tony’s; Bregje, a Dutch ex-pat and a veteran of Tony’s shorter llama treks;
14-year-old Amber and her grandfather Stuart, whom we affectionately nicknamed “Possum and Badger”, me, and Tony, a man who’s hunted and fished almost anything you can imagine and has probably spent more time in the bush then I’ve spent alive. It wasn’t until we had unloaded all the llamas, saddles, and packs that we found out which llama we’d each be spending so much time with over the next eight days. I’ll admit that I laughed when Tony explained that partnering each of us with our llama was a serious process that involved matching the llamas’ personalities with our own. It didn’t take long for me to realise how right he was. My llama was named Joey, and he was a worker. While other llamas may have wanted a cuddle now and then, or needed a bit of guiding down rougher sections, Joey just did his job. When he had his harness off, he was in llama land and wanted nothing to do with me. When he was saddled and packed up, though, he was the best. Over the next
three days, we were surrounded by the sounds of babbling brooks, chirping birds, and clucking llamas as we hiked over gorgeous meadows, along beautiful riverbeds, and through enchanting beech forest and our own misted valley. We spent our first night camped in a field under the stars with the valley forming up around us on both sides. It was a clear night and we sat around in the grass, eating and drinking the cake and wine that our llamas had packed in for us while we gazed up at the Milky Way and the many different constellations, planets, and satellites we could see from our little camp. The second night we slept in one of New Zealand’s tiny and wonderful backcountry huts, Top Hope Hut. The murmur of raindrops on the tin roof serenaded us through the evening as we indulged in a nice glass of scotch and some spicy salami. These first three days felt like a dream, walking in the sunshine with the llamas carrying all our things. The hiking was easy, the scenery was stunning, and the weather
was at least manageable, if not perfect every day. Then the real fun began. The third night was cold; two pairs of wools socks in a 0 °C down bag with no feeling in your toes cold. When I broke the ice off my tent zipper in the morning and crawled out onto the frozen grass, shimmering frost surrounded me on all sides. The early morning light shone through the valley, highlighting the layer of frozen crystals covering the grass, ferns, tents, and llamas. Sitting in the middle of this frozen sanctuary, leaning against a mossy rock was Tony, wearing only his customary smile, a pair of shorts, and a plaid ‘woolly’. Many people, like me before, have probably never heard of a woolly. It is a long, thick, itchy, and simple wool shirt with a hood and leather ties around the neck. It is also the warmest piece of clothing I’ve ever worn and a Kiwi bushman like Tony only needed this as protection from the cold, rain, wind, or snow. It was a lesson I won’t forget anytime soon.
This was a rest day for the llamas so Myles and I decided to climb up an adjacent valley to do some hunting. We hacked through thick bush and crawled on all fours to reach the spot Tony had pointed out to us from the valley far below. I’d never hunted before and I’ve since been told that this was an unusually brutal introduction. With our llamas waiting below and our rifles in hand, I felt more like a Bolivian Guerilla hacking through the bush of South America than an American tourist writing a story in New Zealand. After several hours of scrapes, bruises, and more than one curse from both of us, we reached the top of our little hill and Myles signalled me to get down and crawl to the peak. Low and behold, there the deer were, grazing across the valley. I’ll skip the details of the ensuing kill and collection; the whole thing felt sacred to me, shrouded in the mist that blanketed the peaks where we packed up the meat we would carry down and share with our small party. The hike down was certainly
not any easier than the slog up, but we had succeeded in finding food and the thought of the coming feast made it almost a cathartic experience. That night a warm campfire and some of Tony’s best stories about his brother and their hilarious adventures accompanied our venison stew. It was a night to remember. The next several days were tough. We reached the Hope Saddle mid-morning the next day and crossed into the rugged West Coast. The heavy rain, steep hills, and unmaintained trails slowed our progress through thick bush and the rocky gorge through which we hiked. If it was hard for us, it was twice as difficult for the llamas carrying our things. The rocks were brutal on the pads of their feet and the steep muddy terrain through the bush made every step treacherous. At one point we briefly lost two llamas down a mudslide, one of which was pinned upside down against a fallen tree, but through it all, there was Tony. In his mid-60s with a replacement knee, he worked
twice as hard as any of us; lifting bags, people, and llamas out of trouble. Every challenge was met with the same calm composure he exhibited the night of the fire. I was in awe of the energy he put forth at all times and the obvious compassion he displayed towards his llamas and his customers. After a night camping along the riverbed and another tough day out of the gorge, we finally made it to St Jacob’s hut, a beautiful refuge along the river with plenty of grass for the llamas and a fireplace for us. It felt like heaven! Another rest day followed. This time, we fished, hiked, and learned from Tony about the many different plants and animals that can be useful in the bush; pepper plants for seasoning, black beech as a source for honeydew, and huhu grubs for a quick snack on the road. We made dinner that night and huddled around the radio we’d put up that afternoon to listen to the weather forecast for our trip out the next day. It wasn’t good. Rain along the saddle meant the rivers would be high
Tony told us. Next morning’s rushing rivers showed me just how serious this could be. We were stuck for another day. Relegated to our little cabin along the river, I read my book and flicked through my seven days of notes; they were coated in smashed sand flies and sand. I couldn’t believe the trip was almost over already. Reflecting on the trip and how much I had learned, I’d digested information about llamas, hiking, the bush, and life. I’d learned how to trap, kill, cook, and use a possum; how much you can ascertain from the way a llama holds its ears, and of course the differences between llamas and their 'fluffy brainless' relatives, the alpaca. More than anything else I’d been taught a new way to approach life and adventure, and that the two are one and the same. Our hike out was the most beautiful day of the trip. It felt fitting. The sun was shining, illuminating the beech forest's bright green vegetation, and
neon-orange lichen that coated the rocks around us. For once everyone smiled and laughed as much as Tony did, and our llamas stopped and feasted on the endless greenery around us. Our support team met us at the end; wives, friends and dogs greeting us with cookies, tea, and hugs. It was a trip I’ll never forget and although I’ll probably never be half the outdoorsman Tony is, I’ll do my best to try… all I need is a woolly, a couple of llamas, and a smile to split a stump. For more information about Hanmer Llamas check out their website www.hanmerllamas.nz Thomas Parker (aka Ginger Built Design) strives to use a candid and natural approach as much as possible in order to capture organic moments and genuine emotion. His projects include action sports, engagement shoots, product features and fashion collections. www.gingerbuiltdesign.com www.instagram.com/gingerbuiltstories
SEARCHING FOR THE HUMPBACK WHALE WORDS AND IMAGES: Matthew Testoni LOCATION: Tonga
The Kingdom of Tonga rarely pops up on the ocean lovers' bucket list. You would be forgiven for thinking that it is just another Pacific island without the reputation of Fiji or Vanuatu. Tonga, however, for a few months a year plays home to one of the most majestic animals of the ocean, the Humpback Whale. If this wasnâ€™t enough, a large proportion of them are mothers guiding young calves on their first migratory journey.
TONGA IS MADE up of over 40 islands. The whales are found in great abundance around the small island of Vavau. From the moment we landed in Tonga at 1am on one of the airline's standard bi-weekly routes, we knew we had come to a relaxed island removed from the beaten track and well-worn path of holidaymakers seeking a getaway. The domestic lounge was open but no one was around, so the 12 of us curled up on old plastic chairs for what sleep we could get, as a 10am whale swim had been scheduled for the following day. Check-in for the small local flight was a unique experience. As the first of us stepped forward and weighed our luggage, we were met with a surprise request – we were to weigh ourselves along with our bags. Given that the scale weight was highly visible it made for an amusing start to our Tongan experience. Whale swims and Scuba diving are the two main attractions and they do not disappoint. Tonga may be the
only location where it feels like diving is what you do to chill out between snorkelling sessions, instead of the other way around. From the instant you spot the mist from a whale’s spout, the sense of excitement is overpowering. We started first with the snorkelling session, filled with anticipation as we waited at the local dock. The boat we all clambered onto was anything but slow and as we sped between the islands the guide explained that some whales are more friendly than others. Cruising past picturesque bays was a fantastic feeling; the isolation makes Tonga feel like an adventure rather than a popular tourist destination. As our boat pulled up to the first pair of Humpback whales – a mother and calf – we watched with eager anticipation as our guide gently slipped into the ocean. We then scrambled to don our fins, mask and snorkel. He raised his hand above his head giving us the signal that it was time. Instead of jumping or rolling into the water, we
followed the guides example and tried to enter as calmly as possible. Sideways kicking is the best way to avoid making surface splashes as I cruised through the water, staring into the dark sea below, searching for a glimpse of these amazing mammals. Slowly but surely the mother came into view, the sheer size of her blowing our minds, bigger than a bus and simply relaxing about 20 metres down. It was a beautiful sight. The best part was yet to come, though. Appearing from beneath the mother, her young calf swam regally to the surface to take a gulp of air. After a quick breath, the calf turned and glided over until our eyes met only metres apart. A maximum of four people plus a guide are allowed in the water at any one time and the young whale swam from person to person, inquisitively checking us all out with a friendly demeanour. A sense of peace washed over us as the calf descended back down to its mum. I could have sworn I glimpsed a smile on the calf ’s face too.
After we had thoroughly enjoyed our mother and calf experience, the boat headed out past the inner islands to some deeper water. This time, however, we didnâ€™t wait for our guide to locate one of these enormous mammals underwater, instead launching straight off the back of the boat ourselves. We had been dropped upwards from three whales, two males and a female. Unlike the last encounter, these Humpbacks were unperturbed by our presence in the water. After a brief wait, we witnessed the males chasing the female with huge sweeping movements and splashes through the ocean. Within a few minutes, they had circled us multiple times, unfazed by our presence, instead completely wrapped up in their mating chase. Then with a flick of the tail, they all disappeared into the deep blue. Throughout the next few days, experiences like these became frequent, each one just as unique and magnificent as the other. The weather of Tonga strikes you immediately as
different from a usual Pacific island get away. Preparing for a hot tropical island it is a pleasant surprise to find the climate cool with low humidity. The island of Vavauâ€™s capital Neiafu has the relaxed island vibe, coupled with respectful and proud people, with enough bars and restaurants to enjoy your evening but not enough to detract from the culture. We settled into one bar in particular for most of the trip, enjoying the combination of pizza, beer and fantastic island and ocean views. The hospitality of the locals was great wherever we went, with a mix of grizzled old seafarers and friendly Tongans giving the island an out-ofthe-way tropical feel. The one day we had off was spent cruising the island in the back of an old pickup truck, driven by some local Tongans we had earlier befriended. It ended with an incredible swim inside a hidden cave our new friends had been kind enough to reveal. Taking a break from the whales to
check out some of the great diving is worth it. Schools of pelagic fish swim past as you see the soft and hard corals, explore the many swim-throughs and overhangs and attempt to get that perfect Emperor Angelfish photo. The islands plummet mostly straight down making for that perfect coral reef dive, with scores of species from humphead wrasse to tiny whip coral shrimp. It is an incredible place to dive. The deep blue of the island reefs often grabs your attention along with whale songs and perhaps another chance to see the epic Humpback cruise on past. Matthew Testoni is a scuba diving addict who loves all the adventures that come with the ocean. Taking photos of any and all sea life is his main passion, with even the most common of marine life getting his attention. www.matty751.wordpress.com
EXCERPTS FROM THE BOLIVIAN DIARY WORDS: Sam Smoothy IMAGES: Mickey Ross LOCATION: Bolivia
Following in his fatherâ€™s footsteps, Sam Smoothy and his assemblage managed to climb and ski Pequeno Alpamayo, Huayna Potosi and made potential first-ski descents on the west face of Aguja Negra and the southeast face of Ala D. Sur in the Condoriri area of the Cordillera Real mountains. You will not find a complete recounting of deeds here that may have taken place in Bolivia, but fragments of shining moments experienced by someone who spent many hours thinking in his tent.
GENEVA. MILAN. MADRID. Miami. La Paz. How long it took is a mystery, but whatever it was – it seemed longer. We are carting 65.8 kilograms of different devices for ascending, descending, cooking, sleeping and all the other various activities we’ve come to find in the Bolivian Andes. I am cosily sandwiched between two big Taco Bell-loving Yankees en route to their unnamed daughter who apparently prefers the Missionary vocation she now so devoutly fills. It is strangely gratifying to witness people still so committed to converting the natives to God, Capitalism and all things West, regardless of how ancient the culture may be. Though it is very possible I dreamt all of this; that potent mix of tiny bottles of red chased with the Johnny that Walks guarantees the most vivid dreams. I bid the Yanks farewell with an earnest promise to find Jesus – and in a way I do, promptly stumbling into a pile of The North Face duffel bags
that have managed to chase Johnny Collinson south of the border. A hazy cab ride through the dead streets of a sleeping La Paz dumps us into hostel bunk beds. It is 6am, May the 13th in the age of over-saturation that is 2015 and my eyes have ceased to function. I have come to Bolivia to retrace the climbing steps of my father, Ronald M. Smoothy, and hopefully, lay fresh ski tracks on the descents. Armed with his notes, vague stories retold deep into the night, I endeavour to discover how my father's previous life of travel and mountains has influenced my own. And perhaps come to understand him – a man of few words but many stories – a little better. I have assembled a crack team; enlisting the prodigal talents of Johnny Collinson as Head Altitude Gnar Expert. My hometown adventure buddy and full-time mountain strong-man, Senior Aeronautical Advisor Fraser McDougall also joins the adventure team. Capturing our
escapades are Will Lascelles and Jason Hancox, the former newly and the latter long-time brother of mine, who turned my blurry Bolivian visions into an actual expedition. They, of CoLab Creative production fame, have the risky task of creating a moving picture film of our ensuing adventures. The final member of our motley unit is an ex-Olympian and beloved man of international disrepute Mickey Ross, in charge of herding us into crisp still images amongst the general disarray. We spend the first few days shuffling around the city, getting used to the altitude of around 4,000 metres, and picking up such necessities as fuel and food. Will hands out ritualistic cigarettes and we challenge our lungs even further, trying to comprehend the whirling mayhem that is City in a Ravine, La Paz. We six staring out over this suitably chaotic city, are reassuringly joined by a family sedan, carefully wedged deep in a cliff face crevice, a hundred metres below the road. A perfect holeshot, its shattered
headlights are relit by the fading sun as the red brick shanties flame up before shadows engulf us. “That kid sure can take a good kick in the face.” Strange words brought on by stranger scenes. Woman on woman. Man on woman on woman. We somehow find ourselves witnesses to Cholita wrestling in El Alto, where locals in swirling traditional garb take part in faked poor-man's wrestling in a rusted ring – the referees may count you out or just kick your ribs. I am well short of the cerveza needed for such a spectacle, but it rages on into the night regardless. A five-year-old clutches on to the ring, ready to jump into the centre to aid and abet his fierce mother, with little kicks to the torso of some allegedly entrapped opponent. A mistimed kick lands square on his bewildered face but while his lip quivers, the tears stay inside. What a way to make a buck. I can’t imagine my father, sitting popcorn in fist, watching two cholitas
theatrically beat each other. Would these fights even exist without the alltravelling Lonely Planet sect to fund this crazy circus? Is it all shiny-signtourist-agency-couch-adventures now? Or are the adventures my father came looking for still out there in the hills? Back on the bus, few words pierce the dusty air as we drive downhill, the road plunging us deeper into the city as I sink into a moral hangover. “This is a burning neighbourhood” explains Greg, our Kiwi contact in La Paz. Any crime against the community is often met with an angry lynch mob, who restrain the perpetrator with a few old car tyres stuffed over the head, pinning arms to sides. After a short gasoline-marinating period, in which said crimes are read, all it takes is a little spark. Bolivian a la Flambé. Cocaine production has moved into Greg’s neighbourhood but is managed in a uniquely Bolivian manner. The cocaine production line is careful not to anger the local community, which is wise, considering the locals’
penchant for human BBQ. In return, the Bolivian Cocaine Barons are mostly left alone – free to do business as they see fit – as long as any violence stays in-house; an arrangement that isolates the uniformly-hated police, drying up opportunities for those ‘protectors of the people’ to extort and blackmail. We leave for the Condoriri base camp, and my heart is glad to get out of the city. I have loved our wanders through La Paz but for the constant shrieks of car horns and the claustrophobic overcrowding all wreathed in clawing smog; these are not for me and I long for fresh air, though it may be thinner still. A lack of oxygen in conjunction with over-stimulation of the optical nerve sends the mind wandering in unexpected directions. Dust timidly billows from the irregularly spinning back tyre of Ernesto’s drunkenly hand-welded bicycle. Clanks evaporate in the eerie still of The Lonesome Alto Plano gravel road, winding its way across the
barren, golden tussock badlands. A quiet family man, Señor Ernesto has ridden day and night to plead Coke Baron Jefe for the lives of his family. Not, as the villagers suspect, with his old guitar and quavering smokecracked voice but with long forgotten but punctual friends Smith and Wesson. I can almost see the awkward overacting of Tarantino’s pained cameo in the broken words of a down-andout roadside fruit vendor as we motor through this celluloid fantasyland. Dramatic vistas unfurl as the majestic peaks in the background lord over the brittle mud huts strewn throughout the plains. The media honchos among us are so excited I fear we may never reach base camp, often stopping to unleash our arsenal of cameras. The approach, over the barren and up to the glorious, is so much like the mountain plains I abandoned in New Zealand seven months ago that homesickness briefly tugs at my shirtsleeves. The comforting quiet, velvet drapes of tussock hillocks smoothly slide off the base of the great Andean Peaks behind. But this notion is tossed into the dust by the large horde of llama, who nonchalantly remind me just how physically far from home we are. First objective: Pequeno Alpamayo. A miserable slog on skis. Father was on foot. Why? Can’t breathe. Anger at my weakness. John drags us higher. Gain 5,000 metres. Cloud comes in. Summit vanishes. Abort. Home. Eat. Sleep. Far away girlfriend waves. Jack Nicholson steals Sharon Stone off some suit. Confusion. Awake. Frozen beard. Hate altitude. Pequeno Alpamayo, take two. A brisk morning stroll places us on the tongue of the glacier with our gear cache from the previous day’s attempt. My father Ron was once robbed here, so we had tempted fate in bold style and stashed roughly 35 grand in gear. But Bolivian thieves sift at low-altitude nowadays it seems. I smile at the echo of Ron’s notorious curses ringing
around these crumbled giants, and we skin up in silence, finally feeling secure. Celebratory ice axes clink on top of a stunning peak with friends I have sweated, swore and slogged uphill with, together staring out across a landscape that is simultaneously foreign and home. Hours later we are back at camp, stretched out in the sun staring at our peak in the distance. Eyes aglow having lain turns down this aesthetic pyramid my father wandered up so long ago. The success all the sweeter for the struggle, it is the first peak climbed and skied over 4,000 metres for Fraser and me, with Pequeno Alpamayo a not-so pequeno (small) 5,370 metres. Much has changed in the years since my father’s ascent; the gear, the style, but the core – the root of it all – is still the same. Quiet contentment resonates around a burning stove, chomping away on something hot, a feeling not for sale in a department store, one that sits fierce in your soul. In these moments, he is here, those quiet times during the inbetweens. Ron was never an aggressive mountaineer, more interested in camp-fire camaraderie than dangerous summits, in creating stories for future campsites. He opened the tent fly to this environment for me, and I made a competition of it, seeking to outstrip him and take victories, a trait common to young sons. But now I realise there is so much more to this, that this could be a place where even defeat feels sweet. On Piramide Blanca, I begin to think the rope may have been a wise choice. We didn’t forget it but had deemed it excessive. Standing tall on three-anda-half toenails with my nose scraping ice, formed with all the strength and consistency of pork crackling, is making me revise this decision. Rope retrieved from our sunbathing photographer, we push through the nastiest and steepest ice-bulge of my infantile ice climbing ‘career’ and despairingly find decaying ice. Perfect for sliding head first off
the behemoth cliff that cuts across the route midway and impossible to place protection. “Home time Johnny and don’t spare the buried anchors, ‘tis time for a cuppa at camp me thinks!” Turning around halfway is always hard, those hours spent can feel like hours wasted, but John and I agree that to push higher in these conditions is far beyond our acceptable level of risk. As a reward, the sheltered snow we get to ski after the rappel is the closest thing we have found to dry white powder in these mountains. Another day, the radio crackles and Fraser shakily reaches out to us across the valley, “That was the most exposed skiing I have ever done. Johnny and I would be OK with going home now.” The Lads have just climbed and skied a slanting ramp above terminal exposure, slicing through a rock pyramid called Aguja Negra situated right above our camp; a bold line finishing in a close out cliff requiring a gutsy down climb, all in the fading light. His comment resonates within. It is almost June, and we have been gladly putting ourselves in the firing line for six months straight, a strain that’s starting to show. My thoughts have been turning – wheeling in the dark hours huddled in the tent – over the usual riskversus-reward clause, ever present in mountains like these. We’re a long way from help; a feeling similarly expressed in my father’s notes. Out here, as close as we are to La Paz, we are still very isolated. We have no guides, no helicopters, no stern medics astride donkeys who will come charging to our rescue; out here the hard decisions rest solely on our heads. Maybe I should have just gone surfing. But there is that other side, that half of me that hesitates to leave. I turn back and stare even longer at the line un-skied on Piramide Blanca, all the more glorious to behold knowing its virgin status. A line that asks you “What if you had just climbed 50 more metres? What if that hollow ice curved toward the sun and became skiable snow.” What if ?
Maybe another year, maybe another crew, maybe not in this lifetime. Whoâ€™s that stumbling around in the dark? A sleepy SeĂąor Smoothy Junior lurching around somewhere on the border between night and morning, trying to find the gear stashed the day just gone. I rendezvous with Johnny and Fraser, and we push onto a new glacier, west of the prior one and pick two lines, both snaking through a hanging bowl above sobering exposure. As the sun rises the pitch jacks into crampon territory, but on we rise, up through the looking glass that is the dog-leg onto the upper Hanging Bowl of Death. Staring between my heels, I can see there lurks a beast snapping for my soul. The abyss, a personal apocalypse of a cliff resides at the end of the slip and slides beneath my boots. I have skied above such terrors before, but this is a different beast, drawn out as my pace slows. For reasons unknown I have parted ways with the boys,
striding out on my own, a decision I now regret as I see them happily chatting their way up the guts of the bowl. Meanwhile, I solo up the steepening face, which in the calm and distance of base camp had been a barely clear second-fiddle to the dogleg. But upon arriving, it is markedly different, as the sewing machine-shake in my knees loudly testifies. My axes are my world; my rock of Gibraltar, my anchor to the centre of the Earth and my grip tightens around them as the rhythm solemnly grinds me on up. That mountaineer readily suffers this drawn out terror on the way up, as well as the way down, currently seems excessively masochistic. I love the fact that in freeride I can ski lines faster than my brain can process the fear impulse, which, in hindsight, may not be a positive reflection of my skiing or a negative one on my neglected head. A head that is running rampant, galloping through all possible and improbable ways this little jaunt could end awfully. Maybe this is not the place for me,
these giddy heights, these crucial grey decisions, these little doubts creeping in. I am no Mallory, no Messner, I am a mortal man. Solo, metres from the top standing on what seems a hollow slab, I turn and click in. These long hours of extreme exposure shine so brightly and are all the more vivid in memory for the ski descent that follows. A gripped, ice-skidding affair where omnipotent gravity slowly overcomes pride, the sole food my engine is left to run on. Slippery speed floods my dome and I barely hold it under the line of control before finally I allow myself to collapse in a soggy heap of exultant exhaustion at the bottom. Six hours up, two minutes down. Never has a feeling so ill felt so good. The sky pulses at its edges, flat out on my back I stare up into everything in that big blue nothing, as one of the gnarliest lines of my life sits, unmoved by my actions, in quiet contemplation. What a way to get your kicks. But it is not over, oh no buddy boy.
Now I have the equally nerve-jangling experience of witnessing Fraser and Johnny descend their lines. Similarly exposed but more technical, they lace graceful turns through the serac section and down to the crux, a small rappel but more exposed than Tommy Lee’s piece. Why, oh why did I want to lead an expedition. I have no desires ever to call anyone’s parents and be the bearer of bad news. The lads reign in my fear stallion as they studiously tag-team the line – piece by hanging puzzle piece – before airing out the final cliff without the planned rope, riding away hooting in fine style. Though there are no judges, no finish line, the borderline manic look in their eyes reflect our shared inner victories. Out in the wild, in the here and now experiencing this together, this is winning. Our stoke carries us all the way back to camp, smiles content on our face though we accidentally take the longest way home. But in the end, isn’t that the point? Sweet cerveza lifts our voices louder, bouncing off the stained walls of some
back-street bar as the stories turn south quicker than the cans are emptied. We terrible six are cruising the Gran Poder festival mayhem, devouring everything in our path, a last, twisted supper as we cram in every piece of Bolivia we can before those steel birds in the sky scatter us across the globe. A learning curve steep as the faces we climbed, this expedition has moved me, pushed me a little way away from the bright lights of competition and a little closer to the campfire, toward my brothers around the flame, eyes wild with the retelling of the day’s adventures. It is June, and the winter in the north has finally broken for the year. The great mountains and faces of the world have been conquered, blank spots on the map charted and claimed, but exploration is not dead. Whether finding a new line in a distant corner of the globe or understanding a little more of those who pushed you out the door of adventure in the first place, the mountains have many more secrets to be sniffed out. As much as I love the
mountains, it is the people you are with, those who share the beautiful adventure found there, that matter most. Just don’t tell my father he was right, I would never hear the end of it. To understand what went on during this expedition outside of Sam’s head, check out the CoLab Creative video by The North Face. www.thenorthfacejournal.com/lostgringos Sam Smoothy offers a fragmented glimpse into the adventures of a rambling skier, writer, surfer and seeker of good times. He loves chasing adventures around the globe with all seriousness seriously in check. www.samsmoothyskier.com F www.facebook.com/sam.smoothy1 www.instagram.com/samsmoothy t www.twitter.com/samsmoothy www.micimage.com www.instagram.com/micimage
DHAKA WORDS AND IMAGES: Tasha Black LOCATION: Bangladesh
I was perched on the edge of a ripped leather chair, stacks of folders balanced precariously on wooden shelves, a creaky fan whirring. The day had started out fine, but now here I was, sitting in a police station in South Asia, doing my very best not to cry. Earlier that day I’d been swept up in a mass crowd, my mobile phone pinched from my bag. I needed to file a report so I could make an insurance claim. The kind policeman sitting in front of me was apologetic. As he hand wrote his notes, he looked up and gently asked, “What do you think of Dhaka?” Good question. And one that I was still trying to answer.
did one thing for me, ‘ Ifit Bangladesh made me feel alive; wretchedly, fantastically, frighteningly alive.’ A MEGA-CITY of 15 million, Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh, a young nation lodged between India and Myanmar, known for cyclones and the 'Made in Bangladesh' tag on the back of your clothes. Dhaka slaps humanity in your face. The city spills over with people, rickshaws, food stands, malls, motorways, beggars, and bicycles. It has repeatedly been labelled the world’s second least livable city – after Damascus, Syria. Creaking infrastructure means the streets flood frequently in the rainy season, rubbish piles high, and traffic draws to a standstill for hours. And yet there is an electrical current of progress running through the city, construction sites pop up overnight and new cafés open every week. I am based in the capital working for an international charity. What did I think of Dhaka? I looked at the policeman and then at two men who had walked in from the street, shouting and gesticulating at each other, hyperactive and wild-eyed. The first, dressed in blue overalls, was so thin his bones looked ready to snap. Blood was splattered over his wiry body. The second man, dressed in a canary yellow jacket, was bigger and taller. He clasped at his face, his cheek bashed in and his eye gouged and bloody. Nothing is easy in Dhaka. I thought back to earlier that week when I found myself bumping along the streets in a rickshaw, pale and weak, travelling to the doctor’s clinic. I’d been ill for days, reduced to a hallucinating bag of bones. I knew I had to get to the doctor, but taxis are uncommon and
unreliable in Dhaka, so I clambered onto a rickshaw and was swirled into a heady mix of traffic jams and lengthy arguments over the fare. It was 40 °C, I was carrying a poo sample in a brown paper bag, and I was on the edge of fainting. I couldn’t help but think, 'There must be an easier way'. But that’s Dhaka. It’s complicated and hectic, but always interesting. By evening, my flatmates and I would be exhausted and would lie on the sofa, under fans, eating chunks of precious, overpriced cheese and start sentences with 'So, this weird thing happened to me today…' We tried to make sense of our unfamiliar world. We spoke of our cultural faux-pas. Of riding on a rickshaw and getting stuck between two elephants in an elephantrickshaw jam (elephant trumps rickshaw), of getting lost in alleyways, catching rides on precarious boats through waterways, and of accidentally dropping our scarves – which we had to wear across our chest for modesty – into the toilet bowl (which is kind of where you wanted to throw them on a 40 °C day). We laughed about the time the landlord (who barely spoke English) turned up at the door with two plucked chickens, a bag bursting with bloody beef, some grapes and a packet of almonds. He wandered his way into our kitchen, blood dripping as he went, and plonked the meat in our freezer without explanation. There are moments of unexpected beauty and enchantment within
the urban jungle; a fiery red sunset from the rooftop as the call to prayer choruses across the city, the colours of the saris and shalwar kameez clothing, the children playing in old ruins on the edge of the city. I am forever mesmerised, captivated, and astonished by the smallest details – the number of chillies chopped into one omelette, the amount of sugar scooped into one cup of tea, puddles that turned into rivers, footpaths that turned into obstacle courses and young men who nipped between cars at hectic intersections charming customers into buying bouquets of white flowers and knock-off books. I was five years old again. And the magic was in the detail, every time. Senses were heightened, exhausted and assaulted. If Bangladesh did one thing for me, it made me feel alive; wretchedly, fantastically, frighteningly alive. Back at the police station, the officer looked at me, patiently waiting for my answer about Dhaka. I thought back to ‘Slaughter Day’ during the Islamic Festival ‘Eid-ul-Adha’ when cows and goats were brought into the city in preparation for the sacrifice. Tied to fences and gates, some were adorned with tinsel and crowns. On the day of the sacrifice, blood ran through the streets, dribbling down drains and pooling in pot holes. The slaughter took place on footpaths. In the afternoon I went out on my bike, the stench of bleach – used to help wash the blood away – still strong. Remnants from the day’s killing remained; hooves and tails, tufts of
fur, and the odd ear lying on the dusty footpath. Dogs waited patiently, growling and licking their lips. I watched as neighbours gave away stacks of beef to those less fortunate, with plastic bags of bloodied meat balanced on their heads and gripped in their hands. I had blood on my bicycle tyres and bleach up my nose. I thought back to another day when on my way home from work I stopped at the local tea stall run by a husband and wife team. Sweet tea (cha) is a Bangladesh staple, sold on nearly every corner. As they mixed my tea with a spoonful of condensed milk, they enquired about my personal life. “Husband?” “Umm… oh… well… you know… naaaa.” “No husband?” “Um, not really? Yeah… nah.” Their faces dropped. I’d killed the
conversation. The family is paramount in Bangladesh, and as an unmarried, childfree woman I was frequently looked upon with pity. The woman stepped out from behind the stand and embraced me in a long, tight hug as if to say everything would be okay. She gave me a cup of tea and refused my money. And so began a tradition whenever I walked past. The tea stand owners would look at me with sad eyes and make my sweet tea, always refusing my money. It was rude to turn down their offer of tea, but I walked past their stand sometimes half a dozen times a day, and there’s only so much condensed milk I can stomach. Some days I had to walk a different route home or slink past hoping they wouldn’t spot me. Sitting in the police station, with the creaky, whirring fan, I thought about how living in Dhaka was an adventure I never was going to be ready for. I was
warned of the heat and the traffic, but no one tells you how to recover your scarf when it has fallen into the toilet, or how to shake the sight of animals being butchered on the footpath from your mind. Despite the moments of frustration, confusion and worry, Bangladesh has a way of charming you right when it counts. The policeman looked at me earnestly – no corruption, no bribes, just kind words. I smiled at him. “I like it here. It’s hard, but I like it.” Tasha Black has since swapped the wonderful chaos of Dhaka for the wonderful quiet of Oxford, New Zealand, where she is temporarily babysitting eleven alpaca, a flock of ducks, and three temperamental cats. In the weekends she can be tempted into the great outdoors, especially by the promise of tasty snacks, and can usually be relied upon to bring a roll of salami, a wee flask of whisky, and Scrabble.
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PADDLING THE RIO GRANDE BOQUILLAS CANYON WORDS: Judson Vail IMAGES: Jonathan Vail LOCATION: United States of America
Out in the Chihuahuan Desert of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico, the Rio Grande River has cut a canyon through the stone. The gorge in some places is more than 1,000-feet deep and the formations that stand are an ancient testament to the power of water. We are here on the river for five days and 33 miles, among the rusty limestone walls called Boquillas, and all that they contain. PADDLING THE FIRST five miles of flat water from Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park to the mouth of the canyon, the four of us pass the tiny Mexican town of Boquillas del Carmen. The day is bright and the air is hot and dry. Dave and Tim know some of the villagers from previous visits and along the way we pull over to offer what extras we have in our loaded canoes; batteries and propane, Colas and sweets for the smiling children who call Dave â€˜abueloâ€™, meaning grandfather. Men lounging on the banks accept cold beer and in return offer us the bright little wire trinkets they sell as souvenirs. These are all but the last people we see for the next five days and the final reminder
that man has made a strict distinction between the north and south banks of this river. We paddle on into the canyon and the chance circumstances of being born on one side of the water or another seem precarious and strange. The Grande Canyon walls rise around us in the late afternoon. We paddle along, small among the oxidised rock weathered to a tawny red over the aeons and on past little caves of leucite crystals where lava once flowed over potassium-rich rock. Soon we pull over to the shore and haul our things up a sandy rise to make camp. In the cooling evening, I sit out on the dunes watching the river that gives life to so many things in this vast desert. The big
waxing moon appears in the soft line of sky beyond the rim rock. Canyon wrens make their final calls as night arrives to the borderlands. The coming days are spent immersed in the wilderness of the canyon where men do not live but only pass through. We have come from upstate New York, Northern Colorado, Central Texas to meet in this faraway place. We are paddlers ranging in experience, Dave and Tim having run this river many times before, but the enchantment of this desert land is commonly shared among us all. Everything that we need to survive and a good bit more is stored in our boats; food in dry boxes and ice chests, water in six-gallon containers
and clothes and bedding in dry bags. Beer and whisky are placed wherever there is room. We enjoy the slow opaque flow of the river, Dave often paddling ahead to scout camps, Jonathan taking photographs and Tim providing facts and lore he has gathered during his time in this part of the world. We drift downstream in a great peacefulness, swimming alongside our boats in the warmest hours, scanning the crags for aoudad or some other wild ungulate. Little brown and white cliff swallows dart across the water and shining black ravens croak among the high walls. Big Bend sliders, a red-eared turtle, sun themselves on rocks, which are unique to these waterways. Tim shows us a candelilla camp on the south bank. Villagers from Boquillas come here to melt down the thin stalks of the succulent for its wax, which they then sell to people who use it to
make cosmetics and other products. There is a large stove made of stones with a steel cauldron set inside. Next to it a pile of the harvested plant lies with crude shovels and scoops resting across the top. Up among the canyon walls is a shelter with a thatched roof of rivercane. Trash is strewn about; signs of human life and hard work. Tim explains how the men cook the candelilla stalks in a solution of boiling water and sulphuric acid, melting away everything but the waxy residue. “Next time I ought to bring them some masks to wear,” he says, looking over the primitive job site. “And some better shovels too.” We continue down the river. There are places where the canyon widens and we are afforded views of distant mountains, peaks of the Sierra del Carmen range. Desert rain falls on the parched land as we paddle, and the air is filled with sweet smells of creosote
and petrichor after the first moisture in months. We take side hikes, switchbacking up crumbling slopes of limestone towards towering mesas. Tim leads us along the vague trails lined with prickly pear and cholla, lechuguilla and stool – spiny, thorny things. And still somehow a phainopepla, a dark and crested bird of this desert country, perches carefully among the cactus prickles. Five hundred feet above the river we gaze out across the extensive rolling land. We see where significant chunks of limestone have crumbled from the rusty canyon walls and fallen into the river, exposing virgin white rock millions of years old. Ravens croak in the updrafts high above the water, their calls spanning the abyss. The vastness of the land is only matched by that of the sky and as I look out to the south, it feels as if I am witnessing the edge of the world.
the glowing fire in the night, ‘Around we dine heartily while our shadows loom among the rock walls.’ In the evenings after we unload the boats and make camp, we drink beer and sit by the river. Jonathan catches a catfish in an eddy near a boulder and returns it to the stream. Little bats fly overhead in the grainy dusk and we watch the clouds become awash in fading sunlight, fiery and pink against the receding blue sky. Each night with a mesquite fire burning and the kitchen set, Dave prepares the dinners. He carefully works the coals around the Dutch oven lid, slow-cooking pork chops or spare ribs. “No one’s losing any weight on this journey,” he reminds us as he loads our plates. Around the glowing fire in the night, we dine heartily while our shadows loom among the rock walls. After dinner, we drink whisky and with full bellies stare into the flickering flames and smile across the darkness at one another and reflect on our great fortune for being here. Dave tells us stories of paddling a canoe down the Grand Canyon, and trips he has taken alone in some of the most remote places in this country. “Abuelo,” we say, “have a drink of whisky.” But he declines, explaining with a wide grin how worried he would be if we three younger men happened to run out of liquor. “Dave is razzin’ us again,” Tim calls out into the night. “Hey, Tim,” Dave says, “why do the locals put those sticks in the sand along the banks?”
“To keep an eye on the water level,” Tim says. “I know. But why do they need to keep an eye on the water level?” “Oh,” Tim says, “general curiosity.” Dave finds the answer greatly amusing and howls from his camp chair. “General curiosity,” he considers the answer. “I’ll have to remember that.” Before sleep comes, I lie in my bag and stare up at the night skies. The glaucous moon is obscured by the dark white clouds; clouds that the desert zephyrs are herding gently across the firmament. Beyond the relief of the battered shapes, the black heavens lie silent over all the land. Wingbeats of ravens or the calls of canyon wrens in the early morning find their way into my dreams and soon we are stirring. Another day waking up along the river, where you cannot hear a car or see a building. This is a place that no number of men or civilisations could ever create or lay claim to. I smile and yawn and pour a little bourbon into a cup of hot black coffee. Tim fries eggs and bacon and mashes avocado into potatoes or whatever else he can find. We sit hunched around a small spire of smoke and eat our breakfast before we begin to break down camp. Each item must be packed away again in its place, all this stuff somehow consolidated into the boats, and the boats, in turn, must float down the river.
Our final day is marked by the violent headwinds known to this place. The next fifteen miles we smile and paddle into the gusts, out of the wondrous canyons and onto the open flats of the desert again. And save the big sky overhead nothing much is visible beyond the banks of wild and rampant rivercane swaying fifteen feet above. I see a small prairie falcon fly from one side of the river to the other, and then back again, darting in and out of the thick carrizo. She lives on either side of this river, freely and with a simplicity of her own, and it seems strange that for many people, this cannot be so. The wind rages on and the sun shines and I know that we are in a land that is greater than the names man has given to it. Heavy waves slap against our bows as if to send us back into the Arcadia from which we have come, as if telling us to turn around, and remember all that was missed. And maybe someday we will. But for now, we paddle on, on down the river. Judson Vail is a traveller and writer of the West and his brother Jonathan Vail, is the photographer for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, taking pictures of the wild things and places of Texas. www.jvailphotography.org F www.facebook.com/JonathanVailPhotography www.instagram.com/jvailphotography
THE MOST PERFECT CARROT CAKE RECIPE: Ashleigh McMillan IMAGE: Hollie Woodhouse
The cake can be left as is, or topped with nuts, seeds or coconut. I have used a caramel drizzle all over the frosting and then topped with french vanilla sugared almonds, chopped toasted walnuts, sesame seeds, and toasted shredded coconut. Yum! 2 cups brown sugar 4 eggs 1 cup wholemeal flour 1 cup plain / all-purpose flour 1 cup canola oil ½ tsp salt 2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp mixed spice 1 tsp ground ginger 3 cups grated carrot (about 3 medium carrots) 2 tsp baking soda 1 tbsp orange juice
Cream Cheese Frosting 250g room temperature butter 250g cream cheese (I find Philadelphia works the best) 2 cups icing / confectioner’s sugar
1. Preheat oven to 150 ºC on fan bake. Line the base of two 23-centimetre loose bottom springform cake pans with baking paper. I actually don’t grease the sides as I find it helps the cakes rise evenly (run a butter knife around the edge before turning the cakes out of the pans to loosen). 2. Place eggs and sugar in the bowl of a cake mixer and beat until light, fluffy and slightly pale in colour. While on a low speed, add the oil until combined. Add both flours, salt, cinnamon, mixed spice, ginger and mix slowly until mostly combined (don’t worry about some specks of flour etc., you’ll get that soon). 3. Take the bowl off the mixer and grab a rubber scraper. Add the grated carrot and give it a couple of stirs in the bowl. Dissolve baking soda in the orange juice and add to the mixture. Now use your scraper to combine it all mixing only until it is combined. Scrape around the sides of the bowl and through the middle of the mix to make sure there aren’t any pockets of flour. 4. Divide evenly into prepared tins and bake until the top bounces back when pressed and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (40-50 minutes). Pull the cakes out as soon as the centre is set to avoid a dry cake. This should stay moist and delicious for days! Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes before taking out of the tins. Let them cool completely before lathering them with the cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting 1. In a mixer, add the softened butter and cream cheese and beat for three-tofive minutes until light and fluffy. Carefully add the icing sugar on a low speed until combined. Then turn the mixer up to high and let it whip for a good five minutes. You will occasionally need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. I often add vanilla bean paste, extract or powder as well, however this is optional. 2. Using a rubber scraper or offset spatula, take half of the frosting and spread evenly over the first cake, then place the second cake on top and use the rest of the frosting to repeat. You can use the frosting to completely cover the cake if you would like a more polished finish. 3. This cake is best kept in the fridge if it’s being eaten over a couple of days. Enjoy!
Ashleigh McMillan is a Kiwi based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her love for wholesome ingredients and edible delights, amost always made from scratch, has earned her the title of 'The Cupcake Lady'. And just like this cake, they are beyond delicious. www.instagram.com/thecakestandnz
KEA CONSERVATION WITH COREY MOSEN WORDS: Annabelle Latz IMAGES: Corey Mosen LOCATION: New Zealand
If you met Corey Mosen on a building site in Whanganui back in the day, you’d probably think he was joking if he told you at weekends he often slept in his car or crashed on his mate’s couch, spending his two days away from the tools, working at the Brooklyn Zoo. SINCE 2010 HE has dedicated his career to working with the endangered kea. The bird many people find merely a pest is a far cry from his initial plan to work with monkeys. But for the 32-year-old conservation enthusiast, it has all fallen into place, and makes perfect sense, intertwining perfectly with the passion for photography he has had since his teenage years. And to prove it, he has published a book to tell the tale of what he loves to do most. It was his mother who encouraged him to put his photos and words into book form for a Christmas gift, then convinced him to publish it. “It’s to show people the incredible places I work, and the creatures I see that New Zealand has to offer.” As a wee tacker, he remembers visiting wildlife havens like Willowbank in Christchurch and spending half a day feeding the animals. “I had always wanted to work with monkeys when I was at school. I thought that would be cool.” He pursued the natural path of studying Zoology at Massey University
after school, spending the following years working domestically and abroad, on both building sites and within the wildlife, zoo and conservation areas. With a smile, he shared his fond memory of being given the task at Brooklyn Zoo of taking the donkey and miniature horse for walks in the park next door, which was often a slightly chaotic event. “The donkey didn’t like going across the bridge,” said Corey, "which always provided a sure piece of entertainment for park goers." He ticked the box of working with monkeys in Costa Rica, describing them as almost pets as they liked jumping on his head. Corey’s career with keas started in 2007, when he did some volunteering for the Kea Conservation Trust, following which he worked with kiwis and kōkako. “New Zealand’s equivalent to a monkey would be a kea, personality-wise, I suppose.” Now, as a wildlife researcher/biologist for the Department of Conservation, Corey has landed his dream job, dedicating numerous hours each week to the cheeky birds he adores, which
are in fact so endangered that without the help from people like Corey, they may cease to exist. Corey can often be found out bush, in his home away from home; the Kahurangi National Park, north-west South Island. With his collie-cross Ajax, a trained conservation dog who has been through rigorous training to be allowed into national parks, and his camera never far from his side, Corey covers every nook and cranny of this park, tracking keas. “What we are up to is trying to find a way that we can keep them in the wild.” Introduced pests such as stoats, rats and possums have been an important factor behind the demise of the kea population in New Zealand, as they target both chicks and eggs. Corey’s days involve partly catching birds to band, tag and attach transmitters then releasing them again, and putting trail cameras which are motion sensitive on the nests. A perfect day for Corey is up before sunrise and sharing the area with kea he will catch that day, he will take a walk along the ridge tops for a swim
love being somewhere where birds, insects, ‘I and animals are different; it’s all about the sounds, smells and sights.’ in a tarn. He loves the sound of the native birds, preparing a campsite, and watching the sunset followed by the starry sky. “We want to see how successful keas are at nesting when there is no interest from predators.” But of course, his days do not always carry this romantic notion. “Like walking in the snow with frozen pants and boots, the icy wind, then packing up the tent and walking through a blizzard.” Population and DNA studies are a part of Corey’s job, with the overall goal to make an information model, which others can learn from. He admits it’s hard to estimate kea populations, but his educated guess is that less than 5,000 are alive today. It seems hard to believe that ‘back in the day’ pre-1970s, there was a bounty on keas, especially in the high country where they were considered a pest and those successful in capturing them received 10 shillings per beak, equivalent to $65 today. “It was pretty profitable to be a kea shooter.” During the bounty days, 150,000 keas were killed. Pest problems are rife around New Zealand now, with increasing populations of stoats and rats in the ‘predator plague cycle,’ or in layman’s terms; rats eat tree seeds which keeps them healthy, the stoats eat the rats, therefore breed more because they’re also healthy. Corey’s role with DOC working in the bush to monitor the kea, with the overall goal to increase its population, is an occupation that will keep him busy for some time, and it's just as well. “I
just love it,” said Corey, when asked if he enjoys it out bush, regardless of the conditions, although he does admit he hates the cold. “Sometimes I go out thinking I should be done today, and end up staying out there a few days.” A master of packing the essentials to keep him alive and well, Corey is also very aware of what Mother Nature has on her menu for him too and enjoys snacking on forest food like snowberries and supplejack chutes. Food supplies like rice, sauce and lollies are kept in buckets in the bush at the huts no one goes to. “And there is always a bag of skittles stashed in the bottom of my pack.” Diving and hunting are favourite hobbies away from his job, but Corey can say with honesty that he loves his job, and it often does not even feel like a day at work.“Life is so short; you spend most of your life working, and then you die. Whatever I do in the future, I have got to make sure it’s enjoyable.” His passion for conservation has taken Corey to some amazing parts of the globe working with different wildlife; Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, Bonaire, Central America, Australia, and Greece. “I love being somewhere where birds, insects, and animals are different; it’s all about the sounds, smells and sights.” Corey wants to spread the word to young people that conservation is a great career path. “If you want a job you are passionate about, that you enjoy and where you want to make a difference in the world, then conservation is great.
Corey is well aware of the typical attitude towards the cheeky green bird, shared amongst skiiers and trampers especially. His message is clear and simple, as he has been a victim too, having had tents, clothing, and parts of a work truck all fall victim to the kea beak.“If you know you are in kea habitat, prepare for it.” Technology surrounds Corey in his bush-based life, and he can often be found listening to audio books and lectures on his iPod, skyping from his laptop, and spending a significant amount of time behind the lens filming and photographing. He even has a keyboard that hooks into bluetooth, so he can use his phone as a screen and writes short stories about those of significance who have crossed his bushladen path. Taking friends along for his muchloved caving expeditions in his favourite spots like Mount Owen on the West Coast is always an enjoyable adventure for Corey, who never gets sick of seeing the delight on their faces, as they experience something brand new. The best part about being in the bush? Just walking along a ridgeline in the sunshine. Annabelle Latz is a writer and communications specialist who gets a buzz from putting pen to paper and scribing about all things outdoors; from farming and grapes to sport and adventure, and the entire tapestry of people and landscapes in between. t www.twitter.com/AnnabelleLatz
MAGIC MOROCCO WORDS AND IMAGES: Bill Irwin LOCATION: Morocco
Three weeks and 2,000 kilometres is barely enough for an insight to Morocco, but more than enough to confirm all preconceptions I had around the heat, sand, camels and spices. While we did see plenty of those, we also saw snow, a ski resort, Roman ruins, intricate architecture, simple architecture, honey money, lots of teapots, a vast movie studio (â€˜Mollywoodâ€™), and a complex fusion of cultures.
AFTER A MONTH enduring London’s winter our plan was to soak up ‘a bit of warmth’ before heading back to New Zealand’s autumn. We certainly got that, but also a complete sensory overload. We joined a small group and travelled by minivan, with a local guide Mustapha. Talking to Mustapha each day added so much to our brief trip. He was full of stories and open to all our questions. In return, he was genuinely interested in trying to understand our lives and how we felt about his country. It’s wonderful how travel helps demystify different cultures. Arriving in Casablanca, the sensory assault began. I never really enjoy cities, with the dust, heat, noise, rubbish and aggressive street vendors who see any ‘tourist’ as an ATM, proving a challenge. Heading to the countryside and rural towns couldn’t happen soon enough. As an ex-farmer, I was intrigued by all the small flocks of sheep and goats grazing along the roadsides, supervised by a shepherd or two. The
nomadic lifestyle still exists. Many buildings or fences in these rural areas appeared partly built or abandoned, but we were told that rights to land are more determined by historic occupation rather than any formal title. Having some semblance of settlement strengthens an occupier’s claim. If you are off on a nomadic grazing tour with your livestock, you don’t want squatters moving in while you are gone.
– a tiny but very neat patch where the mule poo was destined. After he had spread the load, we were given the tour of his other crops, mostly barley. Our tour took us to some ladies who were doing the laundry down at the river. This, of course, necessitated a tea break.
Agriculture is still mostly hard manual work. In one small town, the local engineer was making wooden onefurrow horse-drawn ploughs, still very much in use. We saw glimpses of more mechanised agriculture, but mostly mule power.
On meeting anyone new the first step seemed to be having a cup of tea – or, as Mustapha called it, ‘Berber whiskey’. It was always very sweet; sugar and honey are essential condiments in any Berber house. Honey is also valued as a cure for many ailments. At seemingly random spots beside the road in the middle of nowhere someone would be sitting beside a table full of bottles of honey for sale; looking for the honey money.
We were wandering the streets in one small village when a farmer came up behind us with his mule, which was carrying a large load of mule poo. With no common language apart from smiles and the telepathy that exists between farmers, we had a good chat. He invited us to follow him to his paddock
Buildings varied. The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is such a hugely intricate construction, the largest mosque in Morocco, capable of holding 25,000 people inside and 80,000 outside. But in smaller villages the norm was rammed earth adobe buildings; houses appear to rise out
of the surrounding landscape. I don’t think these houses are ever finished; heavy rains hasten the demise of older structures while new parts are added on as needed. It always seems odd to me that the most intricate buildings in many cultures revolve around the predominant religious faith while the average person makes do with something much more basic. The indigenous Berber nomads work hard to maintain their identity but much of their culture has been absorbed by Arabic people who arrived around 700 AD. Mix in a period of French occupation during the early 1900s and things get interesting. With Arabic and French as official languages, a young Berber child from the countryside, growing up speaking his native language, faces an uphill battle starting school and having to quickly learn French or Arabic to cope. Although I’m happiest avoiding cities, I could return to Fes and explore more. The old town, with its maze of narrow streets (narrow meaning less than a metre wide in places), was an experience in itself. There was a
surprise around each corner, from fresh camel meat hanging at the butcher’s shop, to the overpowering smells and sights of the tanneries and the endless craftsmen practising skills learnt by previous generations. A short drive from Fes was Sefrou and partly excavated Roman ruins at Volubilis. The ruins cover over 40 ha; the intricate tiled floors and elaborate city structures from over 2,000 years ago jar with the quiet surrounds today. It will be fascinating to follow as more of the city is uncovered. Heading east we came to Merzouga, on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Camels and sand dunes were still a fresh memory a couple of days later as we headed south, crossing the High Atlas Mountains at 2,260 metres, still with wisps of snow around. Contrasts, indeed. We spent our last few days staying with a young French couple in a guesthouse they were managing in Taroudant, having met them a few years earlier when they were managing a backpackers in Arrowtown. The small town had a weekly market where pretty much any fruit, spice, grain or
animal you needed could be found. We learnt that with many not having refrigeration, fresh is best. If you want chicken for dinner, go and buy a chicken. A live chicken. The route from ‘producer to plate’ is very direct. With the same logic in mind, we were advised only to eat fish when near the coast, as it quickly passess its use by date the further inland you go. Nearly a year after this trip a week doesn’t go by when thoughts about it don’t pop up. Travelling outside my culture is an excellent way to challenge my personal values. As a photographer, being in a vibrant, different dimension with only a pocket camera is hugely stimulating. Bill Irwin is a full time photographer based in Methven, New Zealand. He mainly photographs rural and commercial projects and landscapes, but also enjoys collaborative creative projects. Together with his wife Cheryl, they are slowly working their way through a long list of travel destinations. www.billirwinarts.com F www.facebook.com/newzealandphotography www.instagram.com/billirwinnz t www.twitter.com/billirwinarts willynz
HUNT FOR THE HARVARD MK II WORDS AND IMAGES: Hollie Woodhouse LOCATION: New Zealand
What makes an adventure a success? Balancing on the edge of a rock in the middle of no man's land, surrounded by breathtaking 360-degree views made up of the Tasman Sea, rugged farmland and the Kaikoura Ranges? It was a question we were now pondering. Our mission had been to find a North American Harvard Mk II aircraft that crashed in the 1940s and was last spotted in the '80s, but so far it had remained elusive. Did this make our mission a failure? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that that's the beauty of an adventure; it's the unknown, the challenges and experiences you hope to discover, but until you're in the situation, you have no idea what they're going to be. WHEN SCOTT MENTIONED a few weeks earlier while standing on the top of Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku, that somewhere way down to our left was an aircraft that had crashed some 75 years earlier, I was more than a little intrigued. After doing some research, I discovered that during WWII Bluff Station, located inland from Kekerengu on the Kaikoura Coast, had been used as a training ground for pilots before they headed off to war. On March 22 1942, two aircrafts took off from the Blenheim Airport and headed south to Bluff Station. NZ989 was tail chasing NZ977 when they entered the Dee valley where they were unable
to out-climb the rising terrain that quickly surrounded them. NZ989 stalled and crash-landed on an open slope while attempting a steep turn to exit the valley, with LAC (Leading Aircraftman) J. Voss managing to walk out and be rescued three days later. The leading aircraft wasn’t so lucky however, crashing into a group of trees and killing its pilot LAC Brian Heaps in the process. NZ989 was located in April 1983 by E. Billman and returned to Aerotech in Auckland, and along with components from NZ977 and NZ1038, was restored in 1988. So that left the first
aircraft for us to find and to say I was excited was a huge understatement. Scott had spoken to a guy who is currently working at Bluff Station as a contractor, one of the few to have ever spotted the aircraft, to get an idea of where we needed to go. He even has images of him sitting in the cockpit. But ‘somewhere around here’ can be hard to pinpoint from so long ago, especially when topo lines are extremely close together and thick scrub now covers much of the area. The ANZAC long weekend was chosen to attempt the mission and after telling Hamish Murray, who owns and farms
Bluff Station (and who also happens to be my cousin) of our plans, he decided that there was no way we were going on this adventure without him. He only had one day to spare, though, so he would walk in and out on the same day while Scott and I were taking a tent and setting up camp overnight. The weather forecast wasn’t the best, with a southerly predicted to arrive late on Saturday afternoon. An extra layer of merino was stuffed into my already bulging pack, as well as an additional pair of warm woolly socks, and with enough food to keep us going for a week, we set off in the 4WD for the hour-and-a-half trip out the back of the property to the start of the Dee. I was confident. I had no reason not to be. Hamish is the closest anyone can get to a mountain goat while still only having two legs. His speed over rocks and up cliff faces left me wondering how we were even related. He would reach a spot and by the time I arrived, would already have looked at the map
and be scouting the best route to take going forward. Scott and I were stoked that he was joining us, even if only for the day. We wound our way up the riverbed for an hour or so, coming across goats that would stop and stare at us, some only ten metres away, most likely not having ever seen a human before. The rocks turned into boulders and the boulders turned into small cliffs and waterfalls. Luckily Scott’s giraffe-like limbs could boost us, and we were able to scramble and climb the rock faces and carry on up the river. We arrived at the shingle scree, the main landmark we had been directed to find, then headed up and over to reach the other arm of the Dee. We’d been told if we carried on we would come across a waterfall that was 27 metres high, and on the other side, which was where we were headed, supposedly there was a 30-metre one. Scrambling up the scree behind the boys I was glad for my manuka
walking stick, ensuring it wasn’t one step forward, three steps backward. Reaching the ridgeline was enough to make the heart skip a few beats – it was steep! Looking at the map again we knew we were in roughly the right place, but how we got from where we were currently standing to down over the cliff face was a problem we were now facing. Sending Hamish off to have a look, he couldn’t see an obvious route down so it was time for a new plan. It was back down the scree we had just climbed, before carrying up and around to try and get at it from behind. It sounded so simple. Arriving at the head of the creek, the only option left was up. While watching two billy goats have it out to claim supremacy on the cliff above me (just for the record, the old boy stood his ground), Hamish headed off once again to scout out the best route for us to attempt. Short limbs definitely lucked here out as the boys pushed and pulled me up through the bush until
we popped out above the waterfall. Cruising along the ridge, we came across an opening from which we could look around while still heading up. Standing there and taking in the views, it was no surprise that these aircrafts must have come to grief very quickly. The rugged cliffs and scrub created a stunning backdrop as I looked back down the valley, with the moody nor’west skies above ensuring the landscape took on every shade of blue. Hindsight is a great thing, but we must have been so close to finding it. We knew it was yellow and in an open area, but unable to spot anything, we carried on our way. Lunch was spent perched amongst the tussocks and spaniards, careful not to get one confused with the other, before heading up and over the another ridge and down into the next basin. Hamish had a cut-off of 2.30pm, which allowed him enough time to retrace his steps back down the riverbed to his vehicle before dark. Not that this mountain goat needed that much time without
me holding him back! When we finally made our way up to the ridge he had already climbed up, along, down and around before we spotted him (well, he spotted us!) in the next valley over. We had a final look at the map, to check, check and triple check our location again before Hamish took Scott’s PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) and made his way back down to the truck. Scott and I headed down towards the river in search of flatter ground to pitch our tent for the night, just as the skies were turning grey with the predicted southerly rolling in. I stopped and looked around; we were well and truly in the middle of nowhere. And it was incredible! Finding a spot on the edge of the manuka, Scott’s boy scout skills were almost second to none. Almost. That was until we discovered he had forgotten the matches! Surely not, but yes, after emptying both our packs there were no matches or lighter to be found. I thought it was quite amusing. Scott, however, didn’t find it the least bit funny. How was this Pom going to
survive without his evening brew? With daylight hours still up our sleeve (and no hot water to boil) we headed off again for another search, enjoying not having the weight of our packs on our backs. We knew the aircraft had taken out the tops of two trees, which were apparently quite obvious, so we stumbled around trying to find them. But with 75 years now passed, we had trouble figuring out if the branches had just rotted, or in fact, had their tops swiped off. It was now starting to get late, and if we were out for too much longer we would be cutting into some very precious evening hunting time. Scott hadn’t carried his gun all this way to not at least have a look. So while Scott spotted chamois on the hill far away, I too spotted them, the only difference being mine never moved (yes, they were rocks), but I did see the stag! No shots were fired, and as the heavy drizzle turned to rain, we decided to call it a day and head for the tent to eat our delicious, cold, dehydrated meals. I drew the line at
cold coffee though! With the gentle pattering of rain on the tent, I nestled into my sleeping bag and had one of the best night’s sleep in a long time. We woke to the sunlight peeking through the trees, and quickly ate our cold porridge before packing up the tent and getting on our way. We had decided not to retrace our steps and keep searching for the aircraft, instead opting to mix it up a little and head a different way out. It wasn’t long before we were down to one layer, with a bead of sweat forming nicely on our foreheads from the morning sun. The views were breathtaking; more than once we took the opportunity to stop and soak up the scenery. Spotting a falcon perched on a rock about 30 metres above us, we stopped to watch it. But it had no interest in us, and after a few minutes it took off, wings tight by its side as it dive-bombed a charm of finches hidden in the grass not even ten feet from us. Missing them on the ground, it then proceeded to put on a
spectacular display as it chased them high in the sky. The finches managed to live another day, but for us to witness something like that in such a remote and incredible landscape was something I won’t forget in a hurry. We stayed high and sidled our way around the edge of the grass line, just below the rocky face of Mt Tapuae-oUenuku, crossing crystal-clear streams and coming across plenty of animal sign. How anything survives up this high is beyond me. We were in the middle of autumn; the sun was shining but still I kept my merino layer on the whole time, with just enough of a cool breeze to make us aware we were in god’s own country. We had planned on heading along a ridge, which had created our horizon for the most of the day, however with time against us, we decided to walk down a route we knew would get us safely out on dusk. But not before I made Scott take a picture of me with nothing but mountains as a backdrop. We were so high, in fact, that I could
get reception on my iPhone, so we checked in with the homestead and informed them that we would be back in time for dinner, and a hot cuppa! The final couple of hours were spent trading stories as we snaked our way down the valley, occasionally stopping for Scott to spot the elusive chamois, but today was not his day. We covered almost 20 kilometres over the two days, including 2,000 metres of elevation, and while some would argue that our mission was unsuccessful due to not locating the aircraft, it was up there with one of my best adventures to date. But don't worry, this mission is definitely ‘to be continued…!’ Hollie Woodhouse is the publisher of this magazine. She loves dreaming up new adventures, with most of her weekends spent experiencing somewhere new around the hills and mountains of the Canterbury region. www.holliewoodhouse.com F www.facebook.com/theadventurouskiwi www.instagram.com/holliewoodhouse
HIKING TO THE BREWSTER HUT WORDS AND IMAGE: Tamsin Gorman LOCATION: New Zealand
I was in search of an overnight, but not too technical, hike into the mountains when a friend recommended the Brewster Hut walk, located near Wanaka in Mount Aspiring National Park. I hadn’t heard of it before and a quick google search brought up the Department of Conservation (DOC) info page. The hut looked accessible and nestled amongst the mountains. It was just what I was looking for. AFTER GETTING ALL the information on the track location and hut’s facilities and fees from DOC, I wanted to double check just how far and steep this hike would be. On the topo map I worked out it was approximately two-and-ahalf kilometres to the hut from the start of the track and it would be an incline of 1,000 metres – this was going to be a sweaty hike!
danced in the branches of the trees around us.
I managed to talk my friend Anneliese into joining me on the premise that once at the hut we would be able to take a two-hour walk to the Brewster Glacier terminal lake the following morning. She acquiesced and we set a date for the following weekend.
After three hours of hiking, we got above the bush line and reached the ridge where we would continue for nearly a kilometre. Low cloud hugged the valley below us and having climbed 800 metres at this point, the mighty Haast River was a tiny silver thread snaking its way through the forest. Looking up we were surrounded by rugged mountain peaks shrouded in misty clouds. To walk in these mountains and to look down on where we had come from was such an incredible feeling; I felt as if I was on top of the world and aside from Anneliese, the only person for miles around.
On the day of the hike we left Queenstown early and arrived at the start of the track around midmorning. A short river crossing (boots off and knee-deep icy water!) took us to the edge of the beech forest where we began the climb.
Before we saw the hut itself we caught sight of the long drop toilet; a loo with a view! It wasn’t long after that the red roof of the hut appeared in front of us. We arrived at the hut four hours after setting off and quickly got a cup of tea on the boil.
The hike wound its way up through native beech forest carpeted with fern, with tree roots acting as a natural ladder to climb. The track was clearly marked and we were often joined by curious fantails. On one occasion six of these chirped and
The hut was rebuilt in 2007 and so is one of the more modern huts around this area. It sleeps 12 and has a reasonably sized cooking and dining area. Throughout the afternoon other occupants arrived and introductions ensued. We spent
the afternoon walking around the flats surrounding the hut and taking photographs, followed by an evening playing cards. After a comfortable sleep, the following morning we set off for the Brewster Glacier terminal lake. The cloud was low but we decided to head off in case it cleared up on the way. The track wasn’t marked and we relied on cairns (rock piles) to find our way. After an hour it was evident that the cloud wasn’t going to clear and we decided to head back to the hut and then down to the start of the track. I was disappointed not to see the glacier but it just means I’ll have to do the hike again, something I plan to do very soon. This hike is a great overnight excursion and although it is pretty steep, being up in those mountains made it well worth the effort. Tamsin Gorman is a keen tramper and photographer, based in Queenstown, New Zealand. She is inspired by the outstanding beauty of the South Island and loves to explore its mountains, glaciers, forests, lakes and waterfalls, capturing her adventures along the way and, in turn, inspiring and encouraging others to have adventures of their own. www.500px.com/tamsingorman www.instagram.com/ amongmountainsandlakes/
ADVENTURES WITH ALASTAIR HUMPHREYS WORDS: Marty Jones IMAGES: Supplied LOCATION: Everywhere
So you’ve cycled around the world, competed in marathons across the Sahara Desert, rowed across the Atlantic, walked across India and Iceland, and been part of Arctic expeditions. I think that qualifies one as being a real adventurer. Alastair Humphreys has done all of these things, plus much more. He was named as one of National Geographic’s ‘Adventurers of the Year’ in 2012 and is known for his terrific idea of MicroAdventures. On a muggy summer night, Marty Jones was lucky enough to track him down for a chat about his life of adventure.
What would you say is your definition of an ‘adventure’? I think that it has changed for me quite significantly over the last few years. I would say now, that my definition of ‘adventure’ involves nothing at all to do with wilderness or any particular expedition. It’s more about trying to live adventurously, which is more of an attitude of doing stuff that is new, different and challenging for you in whatever field that excites or scares you.
Do you think that there is a connection between one’s imagination and the ability to have adventures? Yes! It’s important that you can imagine yourself doing something different to what you are doing now. I think a lot of people who are a bit bored with their lives struggle with that aspect of it. I believe that trying to come up with a good adventure idea requires imagination. It surprises me how frequently people
get in touch with me and say something like, I’ve got x thousand pounds, and I’ve got six months free, but I don’t know what to go and do; whereas I usually have the opposite problem. Imagining adventures I’d say is probably one of my favourite hobbies!
What do you suggest to people who want to break down their own boundaries and start adventuring more? I think quite a lot of people would like more adventure and wilderness in their lives. I think the thing then is for people to look at their lives and work out what is stopping them from doing that. The most likely probabilities are; lack of time, lack of money, lack of expertise, and that you live in the city. And then the other one is the mental attitude, the state of inertia that makes it difficult for us to bother, or change, or do something new. Those first few things, time and money, you can’t change, so there’s no point worrying about that. Just try to see
what adventures you can fit around the realities of your life. Start by doing something so incredibly small that the other aspects, the laziness, the excuses, the inertia, which all of us have, are easily overcome. Then there’s no reason not to get out the front door and start. Once you’ve bothered to pack a rucksack, put your coat on, and walk out the front door, I think that’s 90 per cent of the difficulty overcome. So the challenge is just to find an experience, so small, so simple, and so local, that you have no excuse not to do it. The general example that I have is the idea of going to sleep on your local hill for one night. So after work one day, pack up your bag, head out of the office, and instead of going home to watch telly you head out and sleep on a hill for the night, under the stars. Then wake up in the morning, run down the hill and back to your desk for nine o’clock the next morning. In many ways that encapsulates a vast amount of adventure but it’s something that is achievable for most people, even in our busy lives.
How important do you think nature and the outdoors are for creating the right environment for an adventure? I think it’s really important because you are so immersed in it. I don’t think it matters which wilderness you choose. Well, certainly not for me. I’d be equally excited to be dropped in a desert, jungle, mountain, ice cap, or in the middle of the ocean. I think it’s about people seeking out wilderness close to wherever they happen to live. In the same way that office workers are drawn to go and eat their sandwiches in a park at lunchtime; that’s seeking out a little bit of wilderness! I think that once you start to realise that wherever you live, even in a pretty urban place, there is wilderness closer than you think you are your potential for having adventures.
How do you go about training for bigger trips, both in a mental and physical capacity? The mental side is so massive for adventures. I’ve always hugely underestimated it, and I don’t do any training for it at all. I suppose the only training I have is the experience. The physical stuff depends on what I’m doing. So for cycling around the world when I was going to be on a bike for four years, I had plenty of time to get fit on the road, so I did no training for that. I think if you’re going to do 46,000 miles on a bike then why bother doing any more? But for something where I need to be fit and healthy from day one, I do a lot of running, cycling and strength work in the gym, deadlifts and squats, and things like that.
When you go on adventures you have to live pretty simply. Has this affected how you live at home? Certainly the bike trip was a defining
experience. Four years of living out of little bike packs meant that I didn't buy any souvenirs. I liked that I had nothing but memories from that trip. So I try to live quite simply. Also choosing to become an adventurer rather than a lawyer or a banker means I’m not rich and therefore, there are two options in life. You can earn lots of money or you can spend not much money. I’ve found that by living quite cheaply I can live pretty comfortably just being a bum adventurer. So yeah I think it’s taught me to live quite simply. Having said that, I do always want more bicycles and cameras!
You've written books, released a film and are always posting lots of content online. What would you say is your preferred option for chronicling your journeys? I guess if I could choose something that would become a world masterpiece, even though it’s unlikely, I would decide to write. I’d like to write a brilliant book more than I would like to do anything else. Having said that, photography isn’t hard to enjoy because I do a lot of speaking work, and I do a lot of blogging, and photography is nice to have for that. And then film I’ve started to love, because that’s the newest thing to me and it’s the thing that I’m the worst at. You know when you start something new, you learn so quickly, and you can see your progress galloping along. So at the moment filmmaking is what excites me the most.
Why do you think you like to challenge yourself and how do you keep finding new things to do? My life of big adventures was fuelled to a great extent by me trying to push my limits and to see what I was capable of. I think that came about because at school I was a pretty ordinary kid who never did anything too difficult,
and so I had a chip on my shoulder. I wanted to go and show the world that I could do something big, challenging and tough. When I set off, I was driven by trying to prove myself to the world. But after a few years and having got a bit older, and having made a few more trips, it was less the need to prove myself to others. But I was still very driven to prove my worth to myself. The trouble with that is that every time you achieve something, every time you finish a trip, something you doubted that you would do, you go "Wow I’ve done that, what else can I do?" It becomes a bit addictive, a bit of a Pandora’s Box! So doing more and more challenging things is in some ways quite pointless. I think in many ways a braver thing would be to go and do something entirely different with my life, try and challenge myself in new ways. It’s almost ironic that when I start doing big arduous expeditions, it in some ways becomes the easy option in life. If the aim for myself is to do stuff that is hard, stuff that frightens me and puts me out of my comfort zone, then what I should do is go and train to become a ballet teacher. That would be far harder and scarier for me than cycling to China! www.alastairhumphreys.com t www.twitter.com/Al_Humphreys
Born in the sulphorous city of Rotorua, New Zealand, Marty Jones is a music aficionado, aspiring naturalist, hiker and appreciator of well made things. www.instagram.com/marty_bones
SEAGATE TAKES ON GODZONE WORDS: Hollie Woodhouse IMAGES: Mead Norton and Supplied LOCATION: New Zealand
Image: Alexandre Socci / Green Pixel
truly rewarding to be part of such â€˜It was an awesome team of talented girls.â€™
Considered one of the toughest, both physically and mentally, adventure races on this planet, GODZone is the largest and most technically-challenging multi-day event on offer. This year’s Chapter Five was held at the top of the South Island in the Tasman District, and once again did not disappoint. Say Yes to Adventure caught up with two of Seagate’s team members Sophie and Fleur, for an insight into their adventure. GODZONE REQUIRES TEAMS to be made up of four brave, and some would argue slightly mad competitors to navigate across some of the most spectacular scenery and wilderness areas New Zealand has to offer, to find a series of checkpoints using only a map and a compass. Each team member must stay within 100 metres of each other the entire time while covering 530 kilometres attempting a number of disciplines including tramping, climbing, mountain biking, kayaking and rafting. A non-stop style of racing gives the teams up to seven days to complete the challenge, with Team Yealands Family Wines, the winning team from this year’s race, crossing the line after three days, 13 hours and 44 minutes. While teams are made up of four, rules state that each team must have one female, with most teams opting for a three-to-one scenario. But for the first time in the history of the race there were three all-female teams entered. One of these teams was Seagate, which included Sophie Hart, Fleur Pawsey, Emily Forne and Lara Prince; four of the best female adventure racers involved in this sport at present. ‘Seagate’ was and continues to be wellknown in the adventure racing scene, having been one of the most dominant teams in the world over the past few years. But after Nathan Fa’avae’s decision to retire, the original team which also included Stu Lynch, Chris
Forne and Sophie Hart, parted ways. The idea to form an all-female team under the Seagate name came about after Sophie made a ‘dumb decision’ to cross a swollen river while racing GODZone the year before. “Chris had swum over already and so I followed. I nearly didn’t make it across. Luckily, Chris reached out and grabbed me, pulling me into one of the last eddies before a nasty section of probably a class five or six rapid.” Racing in a team with people who are more experienced and stronger than herself, Sophie admits it’s easy to let the decisions fall to them. Usually, when paddling she teamed up with Nathan who is one of the best kayakers in the sport, and would follow Chris around the hill tops, who is known as one of the best navigators in the sport. And Stu is “undoubtedly one of the most skilled people I’ve been lucky enough to race alongside.” But what Sophie realised after that river crossing was that she needed to make her own decisions. “I can’t keep relying on others to lead the way for me,” she says. And so the seed was sown… When word got out that an allfemale team had entered, the support and encouragement were almost all positive. However, there were a few who were not so impressed and quick to point out that surely they were breaking the rules, suggesting that four girls couldn’t race together in one team. “Presumably, that resistance was
just a reflection of insecurity amongst a few guys who were afraid of being ‘chicked!’” says Fleur. They also heard complaints that they were ‘stealing’ all the good girls. So while they might be four of the best, “there are a damn sight many more out there, who, coincidentally, are probably much more skilled and capable than the people who were inclined to complain in the first place,” Sophie adds. They entered in a very positive frame of mind, focusing on their race with the aim to make smart decisions, be competitive and hopefully finish within the top ten. “We had nothing to prove; we had nothing to lose,” Sophie said. “We had a superb summer adventuring and up-skilling, so whatever the result, the journey to the start would have been worth it.” They knew that when they crossed the finish line, the feeling of satisfaction would be as good as any win. Stage One saw the competitors start on the beach at Kaiteriteri, immediately entering the water for a swim before getting in their kayaks. As a team, they had decided to stay within their limits and be conservative during the initial stages. “The start of these races are always a bit tiresome. So many teams punch above their weight and sprint off the start line to fight for seconds,” says Sophie. Swimming takes on a whole new meaning too, weighed down by the extra gear such as shoes, a baggy race bib, a clip card around your neck
and a GPS tracker stuffed down the back of your wetsuit. They were relieved to get in their double kayaks for the next section, a 27-kilometre ocean paddle towards Rabbit Island. A shortage of Barracuda’s (kayaks), which were a pleasure to paddle, meant that two ended up in a heavy yellow kayak, more akin to a barge. “Fleur and I drew the short straw here and ended up stuck in this ‘pig of a boat’,” Sophie said, both agreeing they had had never been passed by so many people on a kayak stage before. Coming into shore through the breakers proved a headache for many, with boats and people bobbing around all over the show. They picked their wave and just went for it. “We nailed the landing and cruised up the beach perfectly. Laura and Emily also surfed in unscathed.” To say they were happy was an understatement, and from that moment on declared that it didn’t matter what happened during the rest of the race, their job was done. “See you later swimmers.”
Sitting in 31st position (out of 58) they started Stage Two, which involved a mountain bike orienteering challenge before leaving Rabbit Island. Teams were presented with maps that covered two different parts of the island, allowing them to split up and complete it in pairs. “It was uncanny timing, and we rolled into the clip-card checking station together.” From here, they headed out on the Great Taste Trail towards Richmond and the Barnicoat Range before heading towards the Wairoa Gorge. Many of the locals were out in force, clapping and cheering the teams on as they passed. “I suspect it had a bit to do with Mr McCaw (Richie) being in town that day too, but we lapped it up,” Sophie said. Things quietened down as it started to get dark and the forestry road they were following came to an abrupt end. Trusting their instinct, they bushbashed their way through gorse and blackberry, eventually popping out onto a well-formed road. As head navigator, Laura was busy apologising for the
route choice when they turned onto the main road in front of teams who had been ahead of them at the start of the descent. Their summer of up-skilling was more than paying off. Over the following four days the girls were put through their paces as they hiked through the Red Hills, kayaked across Lake Rotoroa, rafted down the Matakitaki River, mountain biked and trekked over Mt Owen, before hopping on their bikes for Stage Eight and the second to last stage. This took them through Kahurangi National Park, across the Arthur Range and towards Abel Tasman National Park and Totaranui. Pulling into the final transition, they were sitting in an incredible 10th place. They were in good spirits, having managed a three-hour sleep at Stage Four and a solid seven hours during the ‘dark zone’ while they were on the river. Laura’s feet were giving her grief however, having acquired a nasty fungal infection making it extremely
Image: Alexandre Socci / Green Pixel
painful to walk, even with the help of two sticks she’d picked up along the way. This wasn’t helped by an hour of backtracking while on the Mt Owen trek, as once again the infuriating forestry roads sent them down a different route. While at transition and sorting themselves out for the final stage, Team Sneaky Weasels arrived 15 minutes after them. They found this quite disappointing, as they knew that it was unlikely they would be able to hold them off for the five-hour paddle to the finish line. Getting onto the water as the sun was going down, the sea was like glass and they were treated to a stunning evening with a sky full of stars. Paddling steadily with Fleur and Emily talking non-stop to keep the sleep monster away, they pulled into Mosquito Bay to clip a checkpoint too early and ended up in the wrong bay. Unfortunately, this was enough to let the Sneaky Weasels get ahead, and then they were gone. “We spent the
rest of the paddle admiring the night sky and discussing the highlights and lowlights of the previous four days,” says Sophie. Pulling up onto Kaiteriteri Beach at about 10.30pm to a small crowd of friends and family, they had completed GODZone Chapter Five in 11th position – four days, 12 hours and eight minutes later. They were all stoked with their efforts, glad to be part of such an incredible race. “It was truly rewarding to be part of such an awesome team of talented girls,” says Sophie. “It was a very different experience for me, and I loved it.” Finishing just outside the top ten leaves these girls with unfinished business. “Perhaps we started too conservatively,” Sophie says. “I certainly feel like we raced well as a team, but I know we can go better.” These four girls have more than proved that gender is no handicap when it comes to adventure racing. Sure, the power and strength of a male have
their advantages, but for those with experience in multi-stage racing know that it’s so much more than just the physical element. Events such as Spring Challenge have played a huge part in opening women’s eyes to what they can achieve in this sport. And as for the future of Seagate, I've been told to 'watch this space…' For more information and coverage from GODZOne, head to their website www.godzoneadventure.com Hollie Woodhouse is the publisher of this magazine. She loves to compete in adventure races herself, however she’s not too sure if eight hours of sleep over nearly five days is something she wants to test out! www.holliewoodhouse.com F www.facebook.com/theadventurouskiwi www.instagram.com/holliewoodhouse
43.2975° S / 171.4993° E
MARKING THE CENTENARY OF THE GREATEST SURVIVAL STORY OF ALL TIME WORDS: Tom MacTavish IMAGES: Tom MacTavish, Rob Stimpson and James Blake LOCATION: South Georgia
The wind wrenches my heavy pack sideways. With knees and toes pressed inward, so my skis form a wedge, I fight desperately to maintain balance and control. But before I fully recover, another gust strikes, whipping my skis out from under me and throwing me onto the icy surface. THE SCENE AROUND me seems apocalyptic. The pass we are trying to cross has become the tube of a giant vacuum-cleaner, and we’re stuck inside. Stinging missiles of ice and rock pepper my body and mountain guide Kevin Nicholas, thrown to the ground not five metres in front of me, is only periodically visible through wave after twisting wave of billowing snow. Perhaps it is the sound that is most frightening – it’s that giant vacuum-cleaner again, and it sounds like it’s sucking on something too big for the tube. For a moment I lie there, stunned by the force of nature. I think of all those tales of polar explorers desperately grappling with the elements, and I realise that here – now – these stories are taking on an entirely new meaning. I pick myself up, ski poles spread wide for support, and fight my way across to Nicholas and the other four members of our team. Together we’re attempting a centennial re-crossing of Sir Ernest Shackleton, Frank Worsley, and Tom Crean’s famous 55-kilometre
route across the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. It was on this same pass that the three men saw the old whaling station at Stromness far below and shook hands, knowing they would finally be safe. As I stare through ice crusted storm hoods and goggles and into the wide eyes of my companions, however, I can see that we haven’t yet reached that point of safety. Sean Brooks, the other mountain guide, starts gesturing and shouting wildly. I cannot hear a single word, but I can guess what he’s saying – we need to transition to crampons and ice axes and get off this pass fast. Clipping free of my skis and sitting on them for fear that they’ll fly off the side of the mountain, I begin fitting crampons. The six of us are virtually side by side, but the wind entombs us with our thoughts – mine are with Shackleton, Worsley and Crean. As the heat is stripped from my body at an alarming rate, I can’t help but wonder what such weather would have meant for them and the 25 others left behind on Elephant Island whose lives
depended on their success or failure. On the 20th of May 1916 – 100 years ago – Englishman Sir Ernest Shackleton, New Zealander Frank Worsley, and Irishman Tom Crean staggered into the whaling station at Stromness, South Georgia Island. In doing so, the three men simultaneously completed not only the island’s first crossing but also what Sir Edmund Hillary described as “probably the greatest survival story in recorded history". Indeed, their island crossing was but the final act in an epic journey which began when their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by pack ice some 2,000 kilometres away. It’s a story with all the ingredients of a ‘boys' own’ adventure – southern ocean sailing, undiscovered polar places, desperate circumstances, problem-solving genius and lucky escapes. Moreover, Frank Arthur Worsley was one of our own, which makes the story part of the heritage of our nation. Worsley was born in 1872 in the then sleepy coastal settlement of Akaroa. Before leaving, our team made a
pilgrimage to the old Worsley family farm. These days the land is under the stewardship of inspirational conservationist Hugh Wilson, but in Worsley’s time, it was a typical pioneering property. His was a childhood I could well imagine; a mixture of hard physical work and daring pastimes. His days on the farm were the building blocks of a remarkable life of adventure, which included his time as captain of the Endurance. Although easily overlooked, his contribution to the survival of Shackleton’s crew was pivotal. It is perhaps best encapsulated in an exchange between him and Shackleton at the beginning of their journey from Elephant Island to South Georgia. Huddled at the helm of their little lifeboat the James Caird, Shackleton said: “Do you know, I know nothing about boat sailing?” to which Worsley replied: “It’s alright Boss, I do.” In the belief that epic stories of exploration are of enduring value, the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust,
an organisation with a mission to conserve, share and encourage the spirit of exploration, has set itself the task of keeping such stories alive. With this goal in mind, the Trust chose to take three young explorers, representing the nationalities of Shackleton, Worsley and Crean on a commemorative expedition to South Georgia with the aim of sharing their experience with others. How does one reach and inspire the current generation with such tales when Facebook and Twitter increasingly overthrow traditional stories and fire-side anecdotes? Their challenge became my challenge, when, as part of my selection pitch to represent Worsley, I promised to share our South Georgia expedition with the small town South Island schools that I had attended. But as I stood, conscious of my receding hairline, in front of classes of eight-to 14-year-old Kiwi kids to introduce our South Georgia expedition, I couldn’t help but ponder what I was hoping to achieve. What
relevance do the exploits of Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean have to these young people? Would I be able to convey the inspiration I felt and would they listen? I was still contemplating these questions as I set off for South Georgia, carrying a Hampden School tea towel as a ‘surrogate’ for the kids. Thunk! I shrank as the wheelhouse door slammed shut behind me. In a room where one could hear a pin drop that must have sounded like a canon. During the previous 72-hour journey we’d been a raucous bunch, but now the ship had grown silent in anticipation. We were entering King Haakon Bay. Coughing as the dagger-cold air pricked at my lungs, I leaned on the bulwarks and gazed forward. Dulled by days in the lonely expanse of the Southern Ocean, my senses suddenly went into overload. Chinstrap penguins porpoised to port and starboard and a vanguard of South Georgian cormorants steered us toward pointed peaks and snow-plastered walls of rock
that reared out of the ocean like the turrets and ramparts of a mystical white castle. It was a place of raw beauty, and it also evoked a strong sense of the past. As our ship squeezed delicately into the bay’s upper reaches, I imagined the fast little James Caird sailing ahead. Recognising the same glaciers, islands and kelp reefs that Worsley sketched onto his map 100 years ago, I was aware that very few people since had reached its lonely shores. The elephant seals, too, are still there. Our zodiac taxi, laden with skis and climbing equipment, nosed onto a flat shingle beach littered with them. Worsley had noted their presence with enthusiasm, writing that “the hoarse, coughing, raucous roar of the bull seal elephants – pashas of the harems – told us the food would be plentiful. I confess to being somewhat alarmed by the presence of these monsters and hastened past a battle-scarred bull that had fixed me with his giant red eye. As the retreating zodiacs became
distant specks, it was a strange sensation to be left on that beach knowing that our only transport home was about to sail to our rendezvous on the other side of the island. But with whom was I to share this isolation? There was Nigel Watson, Executive Director of the Antarctic Heritage Trust and Expedition Leader and James Blake, an Anglo-Kiwi filmmaker and adventurer who had been raised by his father – the late Sir Peter Blake – on bedtime stories of Shackleton. There was Lieutenant Sinead Hunt, who, like Tom Crean before her, proudly serves in the Irish Defence Force and then there were Brooks and Nicholas, two skilful and seasoned Antarctic mountain guides with One Ocean Expeditions. The company was reassuring. Noon had come and gone when we finally got underway, and, although later than hoped, we skimmed quickly across the surface with our lightweight touring skis and synthetic climbing skins. Such equipment, complemented
with crampons, ice axe, avalanche gear, harness, and synthetic climbing rope, are the necessities of the modern ski-mountaineer. But here, on remote South Georgia, our packs were further laden with camping and survival equipment and food for four days. I wondered what Shackleton, Worsley and Crean would have made of our tough, tech-savvy approach, or, for that matter, our late start. By comparison, they set out at 3am on Friday 19th May 1916 carrying just a sawn-off carpenter’s adze, 90 feet of rope and food for three days. Although the ship’s carpenter McNeish had skilfully used screws from the James Caird to give their boots traction on ice, Worsley writes that they were very quickly sinking up to their knees in deep snow. Nonetheless, with straps starting to bite into my shoulders, I decided that while they might have been jealous of our skis, they’d have been mighty glad to have avoided our heavy packs!
Our first taste of South Georgia’s notoriously hostile weather came that same afternoon as we crossed the Murray Snowfield. There, relentless squalls drove curtains of freezing cloud and re-suspended snow that transformed my companions into ghostly silhouettes. When thick sea fog engulfed the original party in a similar location, Worsley wrote: “Never have I felt so puny, nor realised so clearly the helplessness of man against nature…” I couldn’t agree more, and we were navigating with the luxury of a GPS and map! I felt no bigger either when a momentary clearance revealed our surroundings – a vast, icy wasteland that had us lost like six commas in the middle of a blank white page. That night the wind was frightening. In anticipation we’d sought the only shelter there was – a behemoth of a mountain that stood at the south-east corner of the Murray, its gloomy black flank towering over us like the Gates
of Mordor. My camera lens cap had begun freezing shut beneath my jacket as we rushed to fortify our tents in the failing light. We buried our skirting flaps with snow, used skis rammed in vertically as tent pegs, and attached our guy-ropes to ski poles that we’d buried deep in the snow. But it was not the anchors that I worried about as the wind tore through our camp that night. Rather, it was the resilience of the poles that would bend down and slap me on the back with each gust and the strength of the tent fabric which created a noise that Blake likened to the sound of a launching space shuttle. In the morning, my first sight was Blake’s eyes streaked with rivers of red. I guess he was as pleased as me that the night was finally over. Our view that morning was one out of history – the Trident Mountains. It was this crenelated row of crags separating the Murray from the Crean Glacier that was the scene
of Shackleton, Worsley and Crean’s famous slide. In searching for a safe route to pass through, the three men had chosen the right-most notch and climbed, only to find, in Worsley’s words, “precipices and icefalls, with no possible descent.” Forced to retreat, they’d been repelled twice more before they found themselves standing at the final notch. Now it had grown late, and a combination of gathering darkness and sea fog obscured what lay below. Deciding that to stay at that altitude through the night would bring certain death, Shackleton instructed that they straddle each other “and slide in the fashion of youthful days.” Of the bum slide, Worsley wrote that “the slope was well-nigh precipitous and a rock in our path – we could never have seen it in the darkness in time to avoid it – would have meant certain disaster.” Ironically, the three men descended the steepest route down. With the benefit of modern
cartography and the experience of Nicholas’s previous crossings we headed for the right-most notch. As I looked down at convex rollovers and the foreboding blue depths of giant crevasses, I understood why one might be tempted to seek an easier way. Nonetheless, with careful route selection, we were able to ski an easy gully system down onto the giant Crean Glacier, which lay below. Two things struck me as I contemplated Shackleton, Worsley and Crean’s descent route from below. The first was that it was not as steep as I’d perhaps imagined it’d be. At about 35 degrees the slope is the equivalent of an expert ski run on a ski field. Perhaps more striking, however, are the rocks that now dot their descent route. Their emergence was linked to glacial retreat. In a recent study that analysed the advance or retreat of 103 of South Georgia’s 160 glaciers during the period 1950s to 2010, it was found
that 97 percent had declined. It was also discovered that the average rate of retreat had increased more than four-fold during that same period. It’s a sobering thing to see first-hand that even the world’s most sparsely-peopled polar places have now been re-shaped by the cold hand of humankind. Ascending the Crean Glacier was a struggle. I was reminded of New Zealand’s desolate Fox and Franz Josef Glacier névés on the West Coast of the South Island as the accumulated snows of yesteryear gave way to the ocean on our left and rugged peaks on our right. But after a couple of hours of skiing towards a nunatak that appeared to recede at the same pace, I realised that we were contending with a landscape on an entirely different scale. Shackleton, Worsley and Crean had plodded the same glacier on the evening of the 19th under the luminous glow of a full moon. By this stage they’d been on the move for upwards
of 16 hours and exhaustion was taking its toll. Every 20 minutes the three men would collapse in the snow and lie spread-eagled on their backs for two minutes. Occasionally they’d break for a little longer, and, digging a pit in the snow, set their Primus to work on a pot of hoosh – a lard-based antiscorbutic concoction that had been their primary source of sustenance since leaving Elephant Island. Without mugs, they’d lie around the cooker and dip their spoons into the pot. Worsley described it as an 'equitable arrangement,' although Shackleton accused Crean of having the biggest spoon, to which he replied, “Holy smoke, look at Worsley’s mouth.” It is the further measure of the wisdom of these men that they managed to maintain a sense of humour despite their circumstances. Late in the day, we’d removed our skins and were skiing down the gentle grade of the Fortuna Glacier. We were looking for an offshoot glacier
that’d take us to our planned campsite on the beach at Fortuna Bay, but a strange potpourri of sun and heavy snowfall was making navigation difficult. I suggested to Nicholas, rather impatiently, that I was sure our trajectory would be too far to the left. Moments later, however, he led us through a veiled gap in the crevasse field and onto a saddle directly above Fortuna Bay. Apparently I don’t quite possess the navigation skills to match the man I was there to represent. Aware of our absolute isolation, we’d skied very carefully down from the Tridents. But here, above Fortuna Bay, with a firm surface and the joy of a stirring sunset, I allowed my skis to dance a happy jig all the way to the confluence of glacier and beach. Though the downhill skiing won’t be one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of our expedition in years to come, the beach on which we dismounted from our skis most certainly will be. Never in my life have I felt more like an alien intruder than I did on the crowded beaches of South Georgia. The ocean that surrounds the island is home to the most concentrated phytoplankton bloom in the Southern Ocean, and, accordingly, the assemblies of wildlife are just staggering. That night in Fortuna Bay we ate our meal beside clusters of tuxedo-clad king penguins and then lay in our sleeping bags and listened – awe-inspired – to the nasal roar of bull elephant seals. Still somewhat wary of these slug-like monsters, I remember commenting to Blake that they sounded quite close. He replied that I wasn’t to worry because “Watson and Hunt’s tent is between those elephant seals and us.” We traversed Fortuna Bay the following morning with squalls of snow settling like icing sugar on the biscuit-brown female elephant seals that lay slumbering above the tide. At one point we paused to remove our ski boots to cross an icy cold stream, and
I watched a gang of vulture-like giant petrels squabble over the corpse of an elephant seal pup. Murderous squawks broadcast their ruthless deed, but the adult seals didn’t stir. Here, survival seems to squeeze out the sentiment. Although we’d noticed the weather begin to change, none of us had anticipated quite how strong the wind would become on that final pass into Stromness. The mood of the team was that we’d probably completed the hardest part. One senior member had even been heard to utter the famous last words “nothing can stop us now!” As it turns out, nothing did. As we descended from the pass and out of the vacuum cleaner – the ferocity of the wind tempered a little by every downward step – the relief amongst our team was palpable. Following a team embrace and a celebratory nip of ‘Shackleton’s whiskey’, I surveyed the remains of Stromness whaling station. It had a ghostly appearance that was amplified by gale force winds which carried shrouds of dirty snow and forced shrieks from the ramshackle buildings. Looking past a series of old warehouses I could see a derelict house and it was here that Shackleton, Worsley and Crean had found Thoralf Sorlle, the station manager, a man with whom they’d socialised 18 months before. It had been some distance from Stromness when Shackleton, Worsley and Crean started to believe that they might just make it, but realising that a break for sleep would probably merge into death, they’d trudged on through the night. At 7am, approaching Fortuna Bay, they heard the unmistakable sound of the whaling station’s morning wake-up whistle. It gave them a new lease of life which carried them down the slopes “so steep… that we felt an unreasonable fear, whenever we lifted our heads from the snow, that we would fall outwards and down,” across Fortuna Bay, and over the final pass to Stromness.
It was, in Worsley’s words, “a terriblelooking trio of scarecrows” that finally presented themselves to Sorelle at 3pm on 20 May. After a moment of silence Shackleton had asked “Do you know me?” to which Sorelle responded “No". When the unrecognisable men finally uttered their names one can only imagine the goosebumps that arose on the Norwegian’s skin. Here were three men that he must have long since given up for dead. Back on our ship, and tucked up in my warm bunk that night, I had time to reflect on our adventure. All six of us realised the seriousness of the weather on our final crossing into Stromness. We recognised that, in spite of specialist equipment, we would have been in survival mode had that wind struck us on the exposed and shelter-less glaciers of days one and two. As for Shackleton, Worsley, and Crean – already weakened by 16 months of desperate survival and with clothes held together by safety pins – such weather would surely have spelled disaster. It struck me then that we’d been given a first-hand glimpse of the remarkably fine line that Shackleton and his men had walked between success and failure. It was a line they walked, not just on South Georgia, but right from that unfortunate day when sea ice crushed the Endurance. Unquestionably they had incredible luck – for example, a weather window on South Georgia – but that luck would never have been realised if they hadn’t been prepared to keep pushing in the face of seemingly insuperable odds. For more information on the expedition to South Georgia, including the route map, visit www.nzaht.org. Tom MacTavish is an Akaroa-based conservation worker with a passion for adventure, history, backcountry skiing and writing.
Image: Chris Burkard
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