A (real) walk in the woods

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Last night, after watching the final episode in the world's worst TV series (see also The Kettering Incident blog post), Cathy reluctantly agreed to revisit the movie 'A Walk In The Woods', which is based on a Bill Bryson book of the same name. We'd both read and enjoyed AWITW a few years ago, so when the movie came out on DVD, Cathy rushed out to rent it (I know that makes it sound like ages ago, when DVD stores still existed, but this is Tasmania and it was only a year or so ago). 

Sadly, Cathy wasn't able to make it past halfway, mostly because she wasn't watching it with anyone and therefore couldn't share her outrage about the many shitful aspects of the movie, primarily:

1. Robert Redford, who plays Bill Bryson, is about 90 years old (actually he was probably only 79 then...I just looked it up). And looks it. Despite the aspirational casting of Emma Thompson (58) as his wife.

2. Bob's pack looks as though it is filled with newspaper. As does the pack belonging to Nick Nolte (76), who plays his gruff, eccentric, down-at-heel friend.

3. At the end of the two month journey, Bob's gear is completely pristine. As is Nick's. And neither of them have taken out their stupid trekking poles, which they obviously both need, being so old (unlike the many youthful 'hiking extras', who are all double poling).

4. They never buy food. Or cook food. Or fill up their water containers. Or do anything remotely related to hiking other than walk. In fact the only time we ever see them eat is when they're chowing down on steak and gravy in a hotel restaurant.

5. In the scene where they fall down a 'cliff' (actually just a small dirt embankment), they opine that they will probably die out there, despite the fact that 1) they are about two metres from a heavily trafficked trail, and 2) it would take about two minutes to climb up said 'cliff', even if you were 80.

6. The script was just terrible. 

Anyway, on this particular viewing Cathy lasted until about 4/5 of the way through, at which point she took her lemon delicious pudding and went home, while I soldiered on for the last 17 minutes. Lucky for me, I was treated to a scene which perfectly encapsulated points 2 & 3 above:

After the boys quit the trail, they call a taxi to come and get them. The cab driver picks up Nick's pack with one finger, tosses it into the boot (or 'trunk' if you prefer) and says 'Boy, this is heavy. You been out here a while?' Conveniently ignoring the gravity-defying backpack and their pristine REI gear.

All this is really just a long introduction to my next topic, which is OUR hike into Pelion Hut over the Australia Day long weekend. Our packs were heavy. It was hot. And my stupid f***ing toenails are going to fall off again.

That said, the walk was fantastic. It hovered around 30 degrees every day, which made for some great swimming (and sweating). If I believed in the bullshit that is 'sweating out toxins', I'd be squeaky clean. As it is, I'm just slightly dehydrated. 

When I was contemplating the walk (Pelion Hut via the Arm River Road) I had it in my head that we'd be following some crappy old logging track. But the Arm River Track (not road...that stops at the car park) is in fact one of the nicest tracks I've ever been on. After the initial hard slog onto the plateau, it meanders through gorgeous myrtle forest and across pretty wetlands...which the PWS have conveniently duck boarded for our pleasure.


Speaking of roads, on the way in along the Mersey Forest Road, we passed the new bridge over a section that was washed away in the June 2016. As I wrote the business case that secured $18 million of government funding for flood recovery* (including about $4.5 for the road repair), that section will henceforth be known as 'Clare's culvert'.

After the four hour walk in we put up our tents and wandered down to Old Pelion Hut for a swim at the popular swimming hole. Sadly, we'd left our frisbee there two years ago when we were hiking the overland track. Unsurprisingly, it wasn't still there. 

The water was quite a bit warmer this time around, which made it possible to swim around a bit without mentally challenging yourself to stay in for more than 5 minutes. Here are Cathy and I enjoying the waterfall:

For old time's sake, here are Bjørn and Cathy two years ago:

Interestingly, in both photos Cathy is wearing her 'float feet' (aka Crocs slides). But she certainly wasn't floating in 2016. Here she is enjoying the comparatively balmy springs this year:

After our lovely swim, we ate our delicious dinner of Marakesh curry, Dad enjoyed relaxing in Cathy's super comfy Thermarest setup:

...while Cathy and I took selfies on the helipad. That's Mt Oakleigh in the background, which we'd be walking up the next day (as part of our 'two-mountains-in-a-day-in-30-degree-heat' itinerary):

The next morning, only half an hour behind schedule, we headed up to Pelion Gap, which took about an hour (and a litre of coconut water Staminade). There were dozens of overland trekkers milling around the Gap, most preparing for an ascent of Ossa. As the three of us had already climbed Ossa, we decided to tackle Mt Pelion East, which is a shorter climb (but much more of a scramble/rock climb at the top).

However, as we started the ascent a thick fog began rolling up the valley, so that by the time we reached the scree slopes, we could barely see anything. That's Cathy in the distance, heading towards the final ascent:

I was getting a little nervous by this stage, and felt a little shaky as we rock-climbed our way to the top. But once on top the fog rolled away and we had spectacular view. We also had the summit to ourselves...apart from two blokes who arrived shortly after us and about a million flying ants.

Then it was back down the hill:


...and back to Pelion for lunch. My toes were pretty sore by this stage so I was looking forward to soaking them in a waterfall, about 20 minutes from the hut. So much so that I was looking ahead at the turn off to the waterfall and not at the track in front of me...which meant I almost stepped on a tiger snake. This was snake number 1 (or two, if you believe Cathy's 'mini snake' sighting on the way up Pelion East).

After lunch and a rest on the deck of the hut and some Nurofen for my toes, we headed off on leg two of our 'two-mountain' day. Discouragingly, we'd befriended an older couple who still hadn't returned from the top of Mt Oakleigh, despite having left at about 9am. As we began walking across the button grass plain (thanks again duckboarders), we ran into them on their return journey. It was now after 3pm and at their rate of five hours up and back, we were going to be pretty hungry by the time we had finished. Luckily we are young(ish) [or in Dad's case - younger than Robert Redford] and fit(ish) so it actually only took us just over an hour to reach the saddle and another 20 minutes or so to reach the highest point.

If it wasn't the steepest climb I have ever done, it was definitely the hottest; however it was as if someone had turned on the air conditioning as soon as the track hit the ridge line. At this point there was an option to keep going another km or so, but Cathy, Dad and I breathed a collective 'bugger that' as we sat down on the summit for snacks and photos.

Here are dad and Cathy relaxing on the rocks:

On the way back down we saw 1) another snake and 2) a party of about half a dozen guys and girls who still had most of the climb to go. As it was getting on for 5.30pm, we did wonder what time they expected to get back down...perhaps they were hoping for a helicopter ride to a three course meal, Sundance-style.

The next day we headed off about 9am with a view to swimming in a pretty lake we'd seen on the way in. The lake turned out to be both warm and a bit slimy, so wearing our frog feet (me) and float feet (Cathy), we swam out to the middle for some photo opportunities.

Overall it was one of the nicest hikes I've ever done - a beautiful scenic track, gorgeous weather and great company. On our two mountain day, we hiked over 18km and climbed almost 1000m (according to my Garmin...I am sure Strava would have tipped us over the 1K!) The only downer was my very sore toes, which for some reason keep getting painful blisters under them, despite my boots giving me no trouble on either the overland track or Frenchman's Cap. I was doubly devastated because they had just grow back after I destroyed them in NZ in April. And I was just about to get a pedicure. Boo hoo.

*humble brag

Christmas orienteering

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Last Sunday I organised an (early) Christmas orienteering event at Woodbridge School on behalf of my orienteering club. 

Christmas orienteering events are traditionally 'fun' events (as opposed to normal orienteering events, which are dire...) Just kidding...regular orienteering events are fun too, especially when you can laugh at your competitors' (and your own) mistakes on Livelox.  But Christmas orienteering events present an opportunity to have different types of courses with unique and unusual challenges. In this case, the event was a 'mass start', with everyone on a given course starting together.

Here's the blurb for the event that appeared in the weekly newsletter:

About This Event:

Dust of your favourite piece of string and warm up your opposable thumbs, it’s time to ditch the dibber and get back to basics. At the 2017 Christmas Event we’ll be harking back to the days of sweaty, dirty and blood-stained punch cards*, many of which were discovered recently under a pile of Tin Pot Creek maps in the mapping officer’s shed.

The location: A brand new map at Woodbridge School. Parking at the school with toilets available at nearby Silverwater Park.

The format: ‘Street-O’ format. In this format, controls may be visited in any order and the number of controls that must be visited varies by course. You will be given a map with ALL controls and must choose your own route. This is a mass start event with four courses:

Course 1: 27 controls. All must be visited.

Coures 2: 24 controls must be visited (3 can be missed)

Coures 3: 20 controls must be visited (7 can be missed)

Coures 4: 17 controls must be visited (10 can be missed)

On each course there will be four (4) compulsory controls. These will be clearly marked.

There will also be compulsory activities at certain controls and you will not be able to continue on to your next control until you have satisfactorily completed the activity. Enforcers will be there to ensure you do so!

There will be prizes galore** so come along and join the fun. Woodbridge school is just down the road from Peppermint Bay café and restaurant—a perfect place for an après-O coffee.

*clean punch cards also available

**definition of ‘galore’ subject to change without notice

We actually ended up having three compulsory controls:

1) A skipping control:

2) A soccer control:

3) A 'Maze' control, where people had to do a short grid course set up on witches hats (which is harder than it looks!)

One of the features of the compulsory controls was that there were a limited number of Maze-O maps/soccer balls/skipping ropes that could be used, meaning that competitors had to time these controls to avoid a long wait. Mostly, this worked out well!

There were also a number of controls on play equipment which involved climbing up high or into confined spaces:

I was happy to see Cathy's hubby Jonno finish first on Course 1 in around 15 minutes. Due to the small size of the area, I was worried that the course would be completed in 10 minutes, hence the need for the compulsory controls! Most people took between 20 and 30 minutes, which was perfect. The forecast for the day was 100% chance of rain, but we were very lucky that it held off and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.


The prizes were a mix of novelty Christmas gifts and chocolates that I purchased (after long deliberation) at Shiploads. Jonno was very happy with his Christmas porkpie hat - and even managed to score an 'ugly sweater' t-shirt from a fellow prizewinner. Popular veteran competitor Tony Mount loved his Christmas braces and Jett scored a giant chup-a-chup full of chup-a-chups. Unfortunately Zali didn't fare too well, getting one too few controls on Course 2 which meant she was disqualified. But she did display superior skipping technique - unlike some people!

The number of skips a competitor had to do was based on the following formula:

100 minus your age if you were 30 or older;

50 plus your age if you were under 30.

By an amazing coincidence, this meant that Jonno, Zali and Cathy had to do 53 skips, while Jett had to do 52...proving that my formula was right on the money!

It's amazing how much orienteering has changed over the years. For some time now we've had electronic punching, meaning you can automatically download your time and control 'splits' immediately after the event. But when I started orienteering, (mumble mumble mumble) years ago, we used punch cards with a unique pattern at each control. This meant that the pattern of control punches had to be checked at the end of every event to ensure that they were correct. It was a shit job but someone had to do it...

These days the kids are so used to electronic punching that we actually had to demonstrate how manual punching was done. 'So THAT'S why you call in punching,' said one. So I punched him in the head for being a million years younger and fitter than me.

Renovation hijack

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Regular reader(s) may recall that my dad is a master of the unfinished project. Case in point: the Georgian Bay kayak he has been building me (or rather failing to finish) for the past three years. So when he and my mum were away in Queensland for a couple of weeks, I decided it would be nice idea to finish off a room that has been semi-renovated ever since my brother Luke moved out nearly two years ago. In fact, all that had happened to the room in the first year was that Dad had pulled the carpet up. Inspired by Cathy's renovation of the Oslo Room at her house, I talked dad into buying some floorboards from Bunnings. Which promptly sat on the floor of the adjacent room for over six months. 

That was partially my fault for insisting we paint the room before laying the floorboards. Which led to us dismantling the wardrobe. Which led to the project stalling again.

Here's dad silently cursing the shoddy job done by the previous owner:


Conveniently, Cathy and I are unemployed at the moment (or as we like to call it, meaningfully engaged in other fun stuff). So Cathy was available with her staple gun and her many carpentry skills, both of which I am lacking.

Our first step was to plane back the uneven particle board on the floor of the room (thanks to Cathy's brother-in-law Rob for this tip!) Here's Cathy hard at work:

Next step was to lay the insulating underlay (the gold roll in the photo above). Unfortunately we soon realised that we didn't quite have enough. And so off we headed on the first of our many supplementary trips to Bunnings. 

Once we'd correctly laid the underlay, it was time to lay the floorboards. Ha! Just kidding. It was actually time to watch a lot of YouTube videos on how to lay floorboards. And then it was time to lay them...oh wait, first we had to ring the customer help line to ask what the little bits of plastic between the boards were for (instrumental to the 'click in' mechanism apparently, although you could have fooled us). THEN it was time to lay the floorboards. 

The first half of the room was relatively straightforward, although it did mean venturing out to the Big Shed (many, many times) to use dad's drop saw. Cathy was envious, claiming that it was much better than hers and that she'd be an awesome carpenter if she had access to such good equipment. This many have seemed like a perfect opportunity to point out that a good workwoman never blames her tools, but since Cathy completed the Oslo room with only a jigsaw and a teeny-tiny tape measure*, dad's alternative saying came to mind: 'A superior workman knows when his tools are truly at fault'.

With the first half in the bag, it was time to contemplate the slightly trickier proposition of cutting boards to go around obstacles. Fortunately dad had the perfect tool for this too - a fancy bandsaw that I had seen him use (complete with OHS approved 'poking device'), but never actually used myself. How hard could it be?

Luckily, it turned out to be pretty straightforward, but I was glad to have Cathy there for moral support (in fact, she has now become such an expert that she has been using it to cut boards for her new kitchen).

Much like my bike maintenance skills, it turns out I had subconsciously absorbed a lot of dad's carpentry tips without actually doing any carpentry. Including the most important rule:

Measure twice:

Cut once:

After a long day - or possibly two - we had the floorboards in place. Next task - another trip to Bunnings to buy skirting boards and admire the mini-circular saws. Then more YouTube. 

I have to admit that we weren't the most efficient skirting board layers in the history of the world. The first problem was that YouTube recommended using something called a coping saw for the (possibly) uneven corners. This allows you do a flat cut on one end of the skirting, with a second beautifully cut piece slotting neatly into place. 

The first step was to call dad and ask if he had a coping saw (I told him Cathy needed to borrow one). Yes, he did have one - and it was even where he said it was. Yet another trip to Bunnings for Cathy for a new set of blades (Zali's tip from highschool woodwork was that the blades break easily...a prescient piece of advice) and we were in business. For some reason we'd decided on an evening skirting board session, so I was soon out in the Small Shed trying to use a coping saw on one of our skirting board ends.

Much like straddle press handstands, it looked so easy on YouTube, but was fucking difficult to replicated in real life, in poor light. Strangely, the first one I did was my best. Perhaps it was just that I got a little impatient after that, but the next few were consistently crappy.

The next issue that we encountered was that we had either failed to measure efficiently, or just fucked up so many ends trying to 'cope' that, although we technically had enough skirting boards, one wall was now made of little itty bits. Not the desired effect!

Fortunately, they were only $5.39 each at Bunnings, so off I went the next day to buy another.

In the meantime - while lying in bed at night thinking about skirting boards - I realised that we should have painted the boards AFTER we cut them, as cutting/handling them fucks up the paint (thanks for nothing, YouTube). And that I could probably cope better if I a) coped in the daytime when I could see what I was doing, and b) left a bit of an edge which I could carefully file back.

And voila - the perfect coped edge:


We ran into few more dramas while attaching the boards to the walls - basically we should have used screws the whole way around, rather than a combination of nail gun (which didn't always work well) and screws (which always did).

Here's Cathy with the industry-mandated three drills, counter-sinking like a pro:

Despite a few 'learning experiences', we were extremely happy with the result:


And if I fail as a writer, I can always get a job as a tool catalogue model.


*she now has a much better tape measure, after dad po-poohed her little one!

Secret steps

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The secret renovation also gave birth to a side project - a set of steps up a slippery slope* next to the Small Shed.

During one of our many trips to the Big Shed - during which Cathy was, admittedly, wearing Crocs - we struggled to climb this slope and I mentioned that I had suggested to dad that some steps there might be handy. 'Let's build some,' said Cathy. Her brazen plan wasn't without precedent - my landlord (and Cathy's brother) Paul has been busily building steps all over the property, as part of a walking train linking our house to another road at the bottom of the valley. I'd been checking out these steps admiringly for a few weeks, while also noting that there were a bunch of small star pickets in the back of his car.

Here I am struggling up the slope, pre steps:



And here we are walking easily up and down the new ones!


We completed the project in a couple of hours (not counting the compulsory trip to Bunnings) between room renovation tasks. It made all subsequent treks out to the Big Shed that much more enjoyable!

*literally, not metaphorically.

That New Zealand is better than Australia

Friday, 12 May 2017

During my recent trip to New Zealand, at a barbeque on the shores of Blue Lake, Rotorua, Cathy put it to us that New Zealand was actually better than Australia. Purely on the basis of fun activities, it’s pretty hard to argue with that proposition. But our friend Alexa, a geologist who travelled to New Zealand as an undergraduate to study stuff like volcanos and pillow lava, quickly dashed Cathy’s statement to the ground (or rather, blew it out the top of an active volcano). ‘Australia is much more geologically stable,’ she said. ‘My vulcanology professor was convinced that half of the north island of New Zealand was going to be wiped out in a volcanic eruption.’ Aside from making me want to become a vulcanologist (‘I answer to no one but Vulcan, god of fire and really destructive stuff!’), it did make me a little less enthusiastic about moving to Auckland. Well that, and the crazy house prices.

Instability aside, New Zealand is a pretty great place. But then again, so is Australia. So we decided that we should have a debate on the topic: That New Zealand is better than Australia. Cathy would be first speaker affirmative, Alexa would be first speaker negative, and I would be third speaker negative (my old debating position in high school. I was the master of having the last word on a topic – something that my friends and family probably won’t find surprising). Cathy’s brother Paul was more in the ‘New Zealand is better’ camp, while Alexa’s husband Andy was in favour of Australia. And our friend Tracy cited NZ’s poor environmental legislation.

While we never organised a formal debate (much to my disappointment), the subject had a lot of discussion over the next few weeks. Here are some of the pros and cons:

New Zealand

Pros: Cheap beer, no snakes, better hiking*, impossible to get sunburned (at least in April), smaller and therefore easier to get around, better skiing, better adventure activities, better camping/camper van facilities, better orienteering terrain, better ice cream, better apples, better film industry, hot springs, generally prettier, lovely birdlife, single centralised government, more critical of USA, less crowded, more independent, friendlier.  

Cons: Obsession with rugby, obsession with beating Australia at sport, obsession with feijoas, shit TV and radio, generally expensive, sand flies, 90c premium on decaf, incredibly over-priced honey, unaffordable real estate in Auckland, active volcanoes, earthquakes, tidal waves, no native mammals, poor environmental record.


Pros: Generally cheaper, more varied terrain, better beaches and islands, better football code, better environmental policies, closer to Europe, better native animals (except for snakes and sharks), geologically stable.

Cons: Snakes, sharks, hole in ozone layer, shit skiing, federal system of government, unaffordable real estate in Melbourne and Sydney (and probably Brisbane and Perth), expensive beer (compared to NZ but admittedly not compared to Norway).

*There was much debate over this factor. Personally I think the hiking is better in Australia – at least in Tasmania, although we did have to remind ourselves that we were comparing NZ to the whole of Australia, not just Tasmania. The two hikes that I did in NZ – the Queen Charlotte Track and the Milford Track – are both very famous hikes. And they were pretty nice. But a lot of the hiking was quite boring and flat, with average views. I guess it didn’t help that we missed out on THE view on the Milford track…but that’s kind of my point. If there’s only one spectacular view, then it’s not really such a great hike. I mean, it was still pretty good, and there were lots of things I really loved about it, but compared to, say, the Overland Track, it was a poor cousin, and I’d only give it three and a half stars. Still, I’ve only done a couple of hikes in NZ and I guess I need to do all nine of the ‘great walks’ to make a comparison. I’d still put money on the fact that there’s nothing as pretty as the Walls of Jerusalem though.

What IS a lot better in NZ is the track maintenance and planning. There was a section of the Milford Track, coming down from the non-existent view at McKinnon Pass, where the track descended through some pretty inhospitable terrain. In Australian (or at least Tasmanian) hands, it would have been a nightmare. It was still pretty tough with my terrible toes, but the number of bridges, steps and even concrete-reinforced sections meant that instead of scrambling, pack-hauling and fearing for your life, you could walk down in relative safety and comfort. If only the Frenchman’s Cap track has that kind of thought and effort invested in it (at least on the steep sections – I’ll admit that Dick’s Highway is pretty good!)

So, as you can see, New Zealand pretty much craps all over Australia in most categories. And if the whole country wasn’t about to be covered in volcanic ash and/or slide into the sea, I’d probably move there.

Thank you, New Zealand

Monday, 1 May 2017

I've just returned from my three-and-a-half week NZ adventure and am now (sigh) back at work.

Due to logistical reasons I couldn't take my laptop and my plan to blog on my tablet didn’t really work out. So, as usual, for better photos and stories refer to Cathy’s blog.

Speaking of Cathy’s, one of the highlights of my trip was Cathy’s second place in the World Masters Orienteering sprint distance final. After qualifying in fifth place, Cathy had a fast and smooth run, with the exception of a small mistake after what became known as the ‘tunnel of disappointment’. My friend and arch rival (actually she’s not really my arch rival because she’s so much better than me – she just happens to be my virtual twin, age-wise!) Tash won by a wide margin, as expected, but Cathy’s unexpected second place cheered me up considerably after my three minute mistake on the T.O.D.

In the long distance, I again ran a lot better in the first qualifying race, finishing second (I’d also qualified third in the sprint) but was a little disappointed in my race in the final. Winsplits (a website that lists individual control split times and highlights in pink where you’ve fucked up) had me in second place after control 7, only a minute behind (in the forest) the Finnish girl who started two minuted ahead of me and who would eventually catch the third, fourth and fifth place getters, forming a mega-train through the forest, with all of them finishing at the same time! Oh well. After rushing out of control 7 in the wrong direction, I proceeded to make a three minute mistake on number 8, and again on number 10, and again on number 14! Whoops. I was definitely running faster than the speed at which I could navigate, which wasn’t actually that fast, but was faster than my fitness would allow. At any rate I really enjoyed the race, despite mistakes, the forest was beautiful and it has inspired me to train harder and build on my NZ-acquired fitness.

Here are some more of my highlights:

Hanging out with my niece and nephew...sometimes literally!


Some Milford Track photos

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Thanks to Dad's laptop and a WiFi connection, I can finally add some photos of our Milford Track hike.

In approximate order:


Dani and Paul (with his kiddie pack)


Andy and Jono


Cathy and Zali (spot the taller of the two)


Dani at the start of the climb...it was still dark!


McKinnon pass...a 'spectacular viewing highlight' of the trip (so we hear)


Rainbow on the descent.


The mountains emerge.


Sutherland falls from a distance.


Jett and Cathy in the typically verdant* forest.


Me looking at my favourite falls.


Jono goes in for the smooch.


The cutaway...which took five years, a lot of dynamite and a lot of blokes with pick-axes.


Our pretty lunch spot by the river on the last day.


One last waterfall for luck.


...and finally, some mud, just in case we were disappointed by the lack of it.

*Dani told me she wouldn't know how to describe just how green the forest was to someone who had never seen it. I advised her to use the word 'verdant' a lot.  

Milford Sound

Saturday, 15 April 2017

I am just back in civilization after a four day hike along the Milford Track in the Fiordland National Park. It was great - not even especially wet despite the forecast. The one disappointment was the complete whiteout at McKinnon Pass, which is the highest point on the track. "The views are well worth the effort of the climb" said every article, guidebook and brochure. Ah, not so much. But after the steep descent from the pass, we walked into sunshine and rainbows. A fantastic side trip to McKinnon Falls (it was all about McKinnon in those parts) topped off a long but rewarding day.

In fact the only real lowlight of the trip was my big toes, which got a little trashed on the Queen Charlotte, and became progressively worse every day. Even DIY surgery to reduce the giant blood blisters didn't really help. When I dropped a 10c coin on one toe at Milford Lodge this morning, and yelled out in agony, I knew I was in trouble. Let's hope they improve before next week.

As always, for decent photos see Cathy's blog.

Portage to Anakiwa - 24km

Monday, 10 April 2017

It was a fairly steep walk back up the road from my accommodation to the start of the track, which set the tone for the next hour and a half. At the track and road junction, I met a cyclist who had just ridden from Punga Cove - amazingly good going considering that it was about 9.30am (I deliberately started late, knowing I'd have a long wait for the 4pm boat). We both looked at the sign on the track indicating there were 24km to go. 'That's a bit disappointing,' said MTB girl, 'I'm sure the sign 5 minutes back said 21km.' Indeed it did - I remembered it from the day before, when my toes were aching and I was nearing the 5 hour mark.

Oh well. However far we had to go, there was only one direction - UP.

Pretty soon I realized that I'd overdressed. For some reason I had decided to wear a thermal top; my only spare clothing was another long sleeve top and my puffy. Not that it was particularly hot, it was just sunny - and sun + hills + me = sweat.

So I sweated buckets after I passed false summit after false summit, hikers and bikers. Finally I reached the tete de la cours. Needless to say, the views were spectacular.  

From there it was gently undulating to the next camping and accommodation spot, where I stopped for a drink and a snack. It was (allegedly) 12.5 km from there to the finish, so I set myself the goal of running the whole way, even through there was a long gradual uphill ahead of me before the lovely downhill home (the rules of jog-hikes are that you don't have to run uphill if you don't want to).

Anyway, I made it - with a short loo stop at a pretty beach camp ground with 3km to go. My legs really didn't want to start running again, but I made them, and we finished the day's jog-hike in just under 3 hours.

I was pretty tired and my big toes were sore (uh oh) but the long wait for the boat went really quickly as I sat around in the sun, drank chain and pear & feijoa juice and more and more hikers and bikers finished their journeys.

All in all, a lovely hike but I think next time I will throw some MTB riding and kayaking in the mix - and bring some friends with me!  

Punga Cove to Portage Bay

Sunday, 9 April 2017

After a relaxing night at Punga Cove resort (which has a range of accommodation, including the 'el cheapo' variety within my budget), I woke up feeling slightly less stiff and sore than I'd felt immediately after my jog-a-hike (thanks, in part, to the penthouse hot tub, that anyone can use). However I was still a bit apprehensive about the amount of climb that my elevation guide predicted for the next day. Factoring in my general overall fatigue levels, and the amount I had slipped a slid on the slopes in my sneakers, I decided to wear my hiking boots and walk briskly instead of jog-hike.

I needn't have worried - the track was generally a lot better than Day 1 (at least on the steeper sections) and there was plenty I could have run. However I think my legs needed the break and I managed the fairly steep 25km in around 5 hours.

Views weren't quite as good as the first day - a lot of sections were densely wooded, even when traversing ridge lines. It was less sunny today too, which generally meant less sweatiness, particularly with the more relaxed pace. 

I saw more cyclists today - and on reflection I think this would be the best section to ride. There were hills, sure, but the track was good and they were rideable. And there were many, many sections of lovely tramway type tracks that would have been brilliant to speed along on a mountain bike.

One of the features of the Queen Charlotte track is that you have to walk a little bit 'off piste' to get to your accommodation. This adds a few kilometres to the overall distance, which is somewhere between 70 and 75 km), depending on which map or  sign you consult.

Speaking of maps, I couldn't get a decent one. There are plenty of crappy A4 maps around, provided by various tourist establishments, but when I tried to find a proper topographical map, I failed.

It was also pretty amazing the number of people hiking without any map at all - who gratefully poured over the shit maps I offered to show them at various points along the way. Despite being generally crappy, they did at least have an elevation profile, which was useful in terms of figuring out where you where you were, and how much pain you had yet to endure.

After 5 hours I was pretty buggered, but I headed down to the Portage Resort Hotel (where I wasn't staying) while it was still light for an overpriced burger and a reasonably priced (and delicious) NZ craft beer. This seems to have been my dining pattern so far - one expensive meal per day, and various bars and fruit and nuts the rest of the time, supplemented with an evening beef. The burger was average, the beer was delicious, and after a bit if reading and a handful of fruit and nuts I went to bed and slept like a log for 9 hours.

Photos @veronica.thorne on Instagram.

Day 3 - Ship Cove to Punga Cove - 27km

Friday, 7 April 2017

After a night in a slight Fawlty Towers-esque hotel in Picton, I headed out at about 7.30 am to catch the boat to the start of the Queen Charlotte track, about an hour away through her eponymous Sound. I felt slightly apprehensive about leaving some of my stuff with the hotel owner ('It will be very safe with us') until my return in three days time. I couldn't figure out whether he was an alien or Liberace's long lost (and inexplicably married) brother. I guess it will either still be there or it won't!

The majority of my stuff however was coming with me - but not on my back. Thanks to Cougar Line (are they trying to tell me something?) it would waiting for me at Punga Cove Resort. Indeed it was - and when I picked it up after my 3.5 hour jog-hike, I reflected on just how much easier it is to walk without a pack.* 

Despite feeling very weary now, I absolutely loved the hike. So much of it was just beautifully runnable (or jog-hikeable) and the scenery was some of the prettiest coastal scenery I've ever seen (possibly too many scene/seens in that sentence). I did see a couple of European kiddies pushing their mud-caked fat tire bikes up one of the more un-runnable (and horrendously un-rideable) bits, which looked like my idea of hell. But most of the track was much nicer (and surprisingly empty).

I will write and add pictures when I have a better/faster internet connection - Sweden it ain't, despite the Scandi-like vegetation and forest smells.

*i.e fucken. 

NZ Day 1 - Wellington

Thursday, 6 April 2017

I arrived in Wellington last night and made my way to my Air B'n'B accommodation on the airport bus. Being the disorganized traveller that I am, I didn't have any cash, so the bus driver let me on for free as it was cash only, it was pissing with rain and she was about to leave. Wouldn't happen in Melbourne!

Unfortunately it has been pissing with rain ever since. I did venture out from my accommodation last night to get some food and NZD, but got soaked in the process. It's a bit disappointing as Wellington looks like a lovely city and the apartment I am staying in is right on the waterfront (highly recommended - hosted by Sebastian and Angus who were great). 

Here's a view from the window:  

I guess I should head out in search of a (decaf) coffee - which Sebastian assures me won't disappoint. I'm catching a 2pm ferry to Picton and the Weather Channel informs me that the rain is only getting heavier. Hard to imagine but I will take their word for it Luckily it looks like a fine day tomorrow when I start my long jog-hike along the Quuen Charlotte track. 


Saturday, 1 April 2017

A couple of days ago, I was thinking about my upcoming trip to New Zealand. Specifically I was thinking about uploading a photo to the World Masters Games site. The organisers asked for a passport-style photo. I didn't have a digital image like that handy, which was a shame because my actual passport photo is quite nice (I thought to myself).

And your passport is where? said a little voice in my head.

Ah yes, that would be in Hobart. While I am in Melbourne.

I really should have written a list.  

Consumer advocacy

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

I've been riding to work from Elwood via Port Melbourne lately, which is a really nice ride apart from the crazy pedestrian crap-shoot along Southbank and the ferocious sea breeze headwinds. A small detour on the way home takes me to Acland St, where there are a couple of supermarkets and a million arty types without jobs drinking beer in the sun (like me when I'm in LA).

I locked up my bike and headed to the Acland St Woolworths, where I wandered around aimlessly for a while, as is my inefficient habit when in an unfamiliar supermarket environment. Finally I settled on a few items for dinner and was heading towards the checkouts when I spotted one of the eye grabbing 'specials' which you would never buy otherwise.

On this occasions it was two packets of 'Nice and Natural' museli bars for $5. I'm not usually a museli bar eater but I thought I might buy some on the basis that I keep forgetting to bring anything to work for breakfast, and also I was anticipating wandering around the pine forest all day Friday and Saturday setting up for an orienteering event back in Tasmania. A handy snack, I thought to myself, would be nice.

I wasn't paying much attention as the checkout chick* (who was actually a bloke) scanned my groceries; but then again, neither was he. However, I did notice that the total seemed to be a lot for my relatively few items. So as I moved away from the checkout, I checked my receipt and sure enough I had been charged $4 each for the boxes of museli bars, rather than $5 for two.

Channeling my inner Susannah (a dietician friend who extremely vigilant when it comes to food), I walked back to the counter to point out the error.

"I'll go and check," said check-out-bloke. And off he went.

An inordinate amount of time later, he returned with two boxes of muesli bars, my receipt and the pricing sticker. He then proceeded to give me a lesson in Woolworth's dodgy pricing policies. "It says 180 - 192 grams,' he said. 'Which means that if you choose two of the 180 gram boxes, it's $5. Or it you choose two 192 boxes, it's $5. But if you mix and match, you get charged the full price.'

'What The Actual Fuck?' I said. OK, I didn't really say that. I said: 'That's totally misleading.' In fact, I was so annoyed my the dodginess that I took a photo of the price tag.


The check-out-bloke then proceeded to outline my options, which were totally incomprehensible. At first I thought he was just going to refund me the $3 - since it was obviously their fault/dodgy policy that had caused the problem. Eventually it transpired that what he wanted me to do was choose ONE of the flavours, at which point he would refund me the $3 then go and get me an identical box so that it would satisfy the 'must weigh exactly the same' criterion (evidently getting another flavour of the same weight was not an option).

'Fine,' I said, sounding like someone who writes into the newspaper and signs herself (Mrs) Clare Hawkins-Smythe. 'But you'll have to go and get me the other box because you already took my boxes from me.'

Keen to get rid of me, check-out-bloke readily agreed to this, refunding my $3 then returning soon after with another box of Nice and Natural.

'Fuck you Woolworths,' I whispered under my breath as I left their establishment.

After retrieving my bike, I rode home slowly via the canal with the groceries hanging over one handlebar. Of course, the flimsy bag broke, forcing me to practically nurse the bag as I rode one-handed the rest of the way home. Finally home, I realised I couldn't carry the groceries AND the bike up the stairs, so I left the groceries by the door, carried my bike up, walked down the two flights and then carried the groceries up. Standing in a pool of sweat, I finally had the energy to unpack the (strangely heavy) bag of groceries. Whereupon I discovered that I'd accidentally stolen the original two boxes of Nice and Natural, which had been in my bag all along. 



*neither the Coles nor the Woollies in Acland St has a self checkout, presumably (and ironically) because it makes it too for the backpackers to shoplift.

Fun holidays

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

This morning I was looking something up on World Clock and noticed a drop down menu for fun holidays. That looks interesting, I thought to myself, I need a fun holiday. Sadly, I was forgetting one of the fundamental differences between Australian and American English - 'holiday' means 'commemorative day' (like 'public holiday') in American, whereas 'vacation' means an actual holiday.

So, I was not treated to list of fun places to go on my next vacation (although I don't really need one, since my next official vacation is to NZ, land of really fun stuff). I did, however, discover that yesterday was not, in fact, Valentine's Day (OK it was bloody Valentine's Day) but Library Lovers Day. And since I love libraries, I will be celebrating retrospectively by returning my overdue library books. Tomorrow is Do a Grouch a Favor Day, while February 17 is Random Act of Kindness Day (meh). But I think my reader(s) will all agree that the one we have all been waiting for is February 18 - Battery Day. Suggested ways to celebrate Battery Day include:

- swapping out old, dead batteries from your [90s] household items [such as your Sony Walkman and your Rabbit vibrator]

- take all the old batteries to the recycling centre [assuming you have a lot of household items that haven't been working for a while]

- check your fire alarm and smoke alarm batteries and replace them if needed [and finally stop them from beeping]

- learn the history and science behind batteries.

I'm certainly looking forwarded to Googling 'batteries' and reading the Wikipedia entries. Then, when I'm done with that, I'll start preparing myself (and my tastebuds) for February 19th - Chocolate Mint Day. Except that, sadly, I have given up chocolate until Easter. So I'll just have to content myself with 'taking a day to relax my brain and stop over-analyzing problems' on February 27 - No Brainer Day.

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