5. Oban – North Arm – Freshwater River

Wednesday, February 15: Sunny with variable cloud, light rain showers towards evening

Tramping: 22.9 km

Freshwater Hut (Doc)

Rippled clouds at dawn, Oban
Rippled clouds at dawn, Oban

Today was the day to try to redeem the tramp on Stewart Island. I had slept four hours in one go for the first time on this trip, and was up soon after 7:00. With the first of the hiking breakfasts out of the way – the egg was well cooked, yolk was not dried out, but one or two pieces of shell were a bit tenacious – I pushed what I could into the pack, and everything else went into the small sports bag. Unfortunately my key didn’t open the room labelled “Storage” so I put a note on the bag and left it on the bed. Then it was off to the track. Read more…

4. Invercargill – Oban

Tuesday, February 14: Heavy rain overnight, heavy showers, lightning on Stewart Island

Walking: 3.2 km

Bunkers Backpackers, 13 Argyle St., Halfmoon Bay, double room upstairs, all amenities downstairs ($74)

Sleep was still fairly fragmented but I let everyone else get up and underway before I went down at 8:15. All were almost ready to go when I started on breakfast. Pretty soon the house was quiet. Had a quick look on the internet, could see that the rain was going to clear over the next couple of days.

Had my remaining two peaches & started to organise the stuff for today. Found five eggs that could be boiled, although they were very different sizes. Tried to avoid eggs that were already cracked, brought some water to boil and plonked them in, waited 30 seconds after the water had returned to boil, threw about half of the ice cubes in and took the heat off for the remaining 10 minutes as the water appeared to be at the right temperature. One of the larger eggs had lost a bit of white (but not too much), removed the water, added the remaining ice cubes to cool the eggs, and when the ice had melted I dried the eggs and packed them away in a plastic container (no egg cartons to be found). Read more…

3. Invercargill – Final Preparations

Monday, February 13: Heavy rain overnight, clearing by morning, with rain again in the afternoon

Walking: 6.0 km


Sleep resembled the real McCoy more closely last night, including a dream or two, and by the time I was up (8:30) nearly everyone else was ready to go. The breakfast toast was improved on no end by the vegemite. I emptied the dishwasher before settling down to work: There was an expression of interest from Bunkers Backpackers about more detail for the kayak trip and an email from JR Duty Free about the missing Bundy. I eventually abandoned the enterprise of getting my duty free delivered as there was no promise of anything arriving anywhere, and even their refunds policy seemed a little iffy. Either I sent the credit card details by unsecured email; or I called them with them, which I decided to do in the course of the afternoon. Read more…

2. Invercargill

Sunday, February 12: Some rain in the early morning, windy & overcast

Swimming: 1600 m
Walking: 13.8 km


Sleep was more like napping for 2 hours a go, until about 5:00 when the mode changed to dozing. In any case I was up just after 7:00 when Randa & Gonsalo were finishing breakfast. I was introduced to the kitchen and got hold of some cornflakes, coffee & toast. Gonsalo was on his way to Queenstown for a couple of days and left soon after. Randa started on her story – at least in the brief version – and I was able to start walking on the way to the swimming pool for what I hoped was pool practice with the local kayak club. Was greeted every now & then by joggers, and just before reaching the pool asked a passerby where exactly it was, and was directed to it, not far away, but not where I thought it was. Paid about $4.5 (which would have been for a senior!), went into the building, waited around for the kayak people to turn up, asked around every once in a while, admired the boats, went back to the reception & asked to call them to see what they were up to as it was passed the time they had told me they were starting at. The session had been cancelled, pity they hadn’t told me anything about it. Read more…

1. Auckland – Christchurch – Invercargill

Saturday, February 11: Sunny in Auckland & Christchurch, variable cloud around and fairly warm, high clouds in Invercargill

Randa’s ($50, airbnb)

For the final couple of hours I managed three episodes of Attenborough’s Planet Earth II. Nice pictures, but apart from the repetitious test to the point of being cliched, there was something worrying about Attenborough’s treatment of competition, which didn’t appear to be conceptually uniform. Nor was his use of contact clauses, by the way, with one or two being quite pithy and the remainder fell into the category of up with which I will not put.

Only really missed out on Mars, but not sure whether that would have been missing out on much. But it did occur to me that the Gemini story had led indirectly to massive improvements in civil aviation, if not civilian space travel or even space tourism. Read more…

0. Hannover – Frankfurt – Doha

Thursday, February 9: Hannover – cold & cloudy
Frankfurt – a bit sunnier

I was up at 7:00 just before the alarm & had everything that was left in the fridge. The vegemite seemed to have lasted the whole distance and there was a bit of orange juice & milk to be finished off. Washed the dishes and eventually dried them, but first the final list had to be worked through.

Managed to get one or two more items into the case, although closing it was becoming more & more difficult. The backpack will weigh almost exactly 7.0 kg if I hide the camera & hard disk in my jacket pockets. Checked the net briefly and confirmed that I had not been dreaming about an email from Claudia last night. In the end I had forgotten the plastic bags, but that is no great loss.

Had scratched my right ring finger & decided it needed a band aid; and they were in demand later at the airport when the bleeding started again. Read more…

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 wanderpaddeln.de, 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…