Doing the rounds

Kayaking into the sunset along the Lesser Circuit, August 15, 2016
Kayaking into the sunset along the Lesser Circuit, August 15, 2016

Another year, another two sports seasons. And while some things change very slowly, if not at all, in others new challenges arose that had to be met. In all 290 km were paddled, 51.7 km swum, and 2730 km walked.

The most radical changes were in paddling. As April, 2016 came around, the university sports centre’s registration page was unusually silent about the details for the summer’s flat-water paddling group I had by now spent two summer seasons paddling with. In the run-up to the season there were no tours being offered on, Zottel’s homepage, apart from skiing in the Harz Mountains and in Norway. When finally some details emerged, it had been rescheduled to Monday, and a new instructor had been named, one Philipp Cartier. Googling his name almost immediately landed a SAR operation in Pegasus Bay, just north of Christchurch a couple of years ago. Read more…

I’m flying – well, sort of

Starting at... Original flight price, Bravofly, November 13, 2016
Fig. 1. Starting at… Original flight price, Bravofly, November 13, 2016

I think I’ll start with the good news. There’s so little of it. After decades of neglect Deutsche Bahn has moved Hannover main station to within 2:30 hours of Frankfurt airport. With a little advanced booking of several train tickets, this can be achieved rather cost effectively. That cuts out the need to consider flying from the nearest airport. And meanwhile in Berlin the automatic doors at the new airport won’t open or shut, so the grand opening has been postponed yet again to next year. Sigh.

Choose your price, Bravofly
Fig. 2. Choose your price, Bravofly
I had started by looking at prices from Hannover just to see if price and duration could be kept in a meaningful relationship. Flight times of 33 hours there and 29 return were really not too bad, and the price appeared reasonable at Bravofly (€1,272, Fig. 1), that then became €1,304 if you wanted to pay by bank transfer, or €1,282 if you wanted to pay with an actually existing credit card. Including a discount of €21, which makes no sense at all (Fig. 2). Sorry, no time for such games. Read more…

Camp Kitchen

Part of studying biochemistry in Oxford was the arcane sounding lecture series, “Enzyme Kinetics” by Raymond Dwek, who claimed that his name was an acronym for “Down With Enzyme Kinetics”. In biology enzymes accelerate chemical reactions in a way that is dependent on temperature: The higher the temperature the faster the reaction goes, until the enzyme itself starts falling apart from the heat. At which point the whole exercise turned into a discussion of cooking. Previous years had had the pleasure of the company of the chef from the restaurant Elizabeth, a pleasure which we had to forgo due to Thatcherite austerity. So while we learned that the yolk of an egg (but not the white) would cook at 70°C, we never saw it in action. And, of course, this was in the days before the discovery of extremophiles, organisms that survive and thrive in environments previously thought to be so extreme as to be devoid of life. Of all these, my favourite is a prawn that can withstand 120°C at high pressures. If caught it could never be cooked, except, perhaps, with a blowtorch. So, don’t come the raw prawn with me. Read more…

News from CHDK

A great little life extender for my cameras has been the Canon Hackers’ Development Kit (CHDK). I originally wanted something to take multiple shots at different exposures (automatic bracketing) that could then be moulded together to produce High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. Well, it did that, and returned RAW shooting, a couple of grids, and the ability to program the cameras to do all sorts of things.

Including time lapse. By which I don’t mean the 50 frame sort that runs for 2 seconds in what can only be described as a frantic time lapse potpourri. I mean extended time lapse of a whole sequence of the sun setting, the moon rising (and going into eclipse), the stars revolving around the south celestial pole, kayaking down the Whanganui, clouds bubbling up Ngauruhoe, taking her over completely, and, finally giving her back again. Read more…

Travelling Around

"Backpacker" hitop van, West Taranaki, 2010
“Backpacker” hitop van, West Taranaki, 2010. You could stand up in it, and plug it in

Unabridged nature is surely one of the main reasons people come to New Zealand. Getting away from it all on one of the physically most isolated countries in the world. But there’s unfortunately more to this than meets the eye. I’ll leave aside the question for the moment whether all that you can see in New Zealand is nature and address how you might get to those places where nature still exists, and enjoy them at the same time.

In the four recent trips down under, I used a variety of vehicles, summarised in Table 1. Read more…