the long way home

another in our series of long city walks, today we did the “go the distance” walk along the wellington harbour, and then extended it by walking the rest of the way home via the southern coast. 16.93 km (10.52 miles) from start to finish.

there is common phrase said throughout nz that “you can’t beat wellington on a fine day” (partly a dig by the aucklanders given we are prone to frequent southerlies) and today was definitely one of those fine days.

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the tramp started at queens wharf where one of the local hardware stores was sponsoring a fishing-off-the-pier day for kids. a common fixture at events like this is the sausage sizzle where you’ll get a sausage from the grilled wrapped in piece of white bread. usually free or $1 – today was free courtesy of carters. you can see the jboss standing at the zero marker with her pre-tramp sausage

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the city council and several organizations have rescued the hikitia – the world’s oldest working crane ship from the scrap yard. built in scotland in 1924 it has been in near continuous use since and is currently going through a detailed restoration. the air new zealand employees volunteers are striping an old window using dental tools…

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we had to make a quick stop at the “santa line” so jackie could add a few things to her list. telecom sets up a giant tree in one of the parks along the harbour and has 3 santa line phone boxes for the youngsters (and the jboss) to pass along their wish lists.

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row of boat houses along oriental bay. all along the oriental parade is a string of tiny parks. just one of the little things that makes a great livable city.

the panorama is from the bench in the shade under the overhang.

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oriental bay

view of wellington harbour from balaena bay. the council has recently rehabs the park at evans bay adding these wooden loungers. the jboss stops for a snooze.
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great old build at the bus terminal. surfers, swimmers and walkers along lyall bay.

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lyall bay is one of the all times dog friendly beaches. during summer gromit is not allowed on our island bay beach between 9am and 7pm. dad and a wee one scrambling on the rocks with the rimutakas in the background.
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wedding ceremony out on rocks near waitaha cove. the surfers waiting for a wave at houghton bay. i’m always amazed at how close to the rocks they are.
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city to sea – aea ot ytic

today we completed the longest and most challenging of the wellington city walks – the city to sea.

19.8km (12.3 miles) along the western ridge line from parliament to the southern coast.

except we did in reverse starting at our house, heading down to the island bay coast and then heading into the city.

5 1/2 hours after we started we arrived at parliament and caught a bus back to island bay – quite exhausted.

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from the elevation map you can see that there was quite a climb.

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starting our climb to the hills overlooking island bay. looking out at cook straight with taputeranga island in the foreground.

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wildflowers lining the track. the jboss at the top of the ridge. many miles to go…

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the jboss takes in the view of the island bay and the southern coast. in the unexpected category, a buddhist monastery in the hills overlooking island bay.

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cricket and a kite

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looking back to the southern coast – and then north towards the city and inner harbour.

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the ultimate volvo with it’s own garden.

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her majesty’s park

today we went for a tramp at queen elizabeth park along the western shore about a hour north of wellington.

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we didn’t see the queen – but i’m guessing that she’s a bit harder to spot in her tramping gear.

we started in the middle of the park, walking north along the beach, then heading south on the inland path, before finishing with a walk north along the shore back to our starting point.

in the early days the shore was the primary highway for north-south travel in the region.


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recently i’ve been using a gps receiver to tag the location of my photos. you can also get a great map of your tramp.
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southern walkway

today was the first of our big city tramps – the southern walkway. 12km (75 miles) from island bay to oriental bay along the eastern ridge.


out starting point is shortland park, in island bay next to the coast. the old public toilets have been taken over by the dunes.

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looking back on island bay and the cook straight from mount albert.

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one of the many “workingmen’s bowling clubs.” this one quite secluded in the town belt.

the council has just complete a mountain bike skills area. i’ll say that we’ll be back to give it a try, but i should know better.

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milford sound to invercargill

day 9 and i went for a milford sound cruise before i meet the jboss and her brother as they come off the milford track.

only two places to stay in milford sound – a small motel and a backpacker. I opted for the backpacker with a spacious double twin private room. and that completely describes what was in the room – 2 small twin beds. shared kitchen and large dorm style bathroom where in the common building. the fire safety card advised me my primary and alternative exits were the door and the window – not very comforting with them less than 1/2 meter (1.5 feet) apart…

nice view out of my room window.

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this is view from the pier before getting on the boat for my cruise in the sound. the sound is actually a fiord (u shaped with steep walls formed by a glacier), but the first explorers incorrectly labeled it a sound (v shaped formed by a river) and the name stuck

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since the walls both above and below the water line are so steep the boat can cruise right up to the water’s edge. the captain was able to brush the vegetation with the bow of the boat.

check out the lens on that guy’s camera. overcompensating perhaps?
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did they all really have to go – or where they just so used to following the tour that they dutifully stepped up when they saw the queue?

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here come jackie and john back from their tramp.

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we’ve got a long drive to invercargill and soon hit the roard. the grassy plains of the eglington valley is my favourite stop on the milford track road.


i blame george

less than 24 hours until george w is on his way back to a retirement filled with brush clearing, so i’m taking this last chance to blame him for an troubling miscarriage of justice.

in our previous visits to new zealand we had spent almost all of our time on the south island – the greener, wilder and more action packed half of nz – and when we were planning to move here we always assumed we would live on the south island.

then we ended up in wellington and have been keeping ourselves busy on the north island for the last 18 months. but our first trip to the south island was on the books for march. and it was a big one – the milford track.

the milford track is viewed by many as the finest walk in the world. the track is limited to 90 walkers a day and reservations open up each july 1st for the following year. last july i jumped on the booking system the minute it opened to secure our reservation for this march. even better jackie’s brother from chicago was able to join us for the tramp.

but unfortunately it is no longer in the cards for me – and i’m confident that somehow this is w’s fault.

my recovery from my fracture is progressing along – but not fast enough to allow me to go on the tramp.


adding a super sized dose of salt to the wound – the NY Times featured the Milford Track in this weekend’s Sunday edition.

A Walk Through New Zealand’s Watery Wild

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let’s have teriyaki taranaki for lunch

today we went on a tramp on mt taranaki.


the day started out cold and drizzling, but we decided to head to trailhead and see if the weather cleared. when we arrived things were better, but knowing how extreme conditions could be on the mountain we checked with the doc ranger before starting our tramp. after getting the go ahead from the ranger as we were heading off to the trail we passed a group of 10 or so indian lads in their twenties – in short sleeves and sneakers for the most part. i give them credit for getting out and doing something, but we’re at the base of a alpine zone with severe and rapidly changing conditions. not surprisingly the rescue service here does a brisk business coming to the aid of tourists. they are currently looking for a polish tourist who went off on a tramp alone without filing a route plan – total needle in a haystack.

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we turned around at the alpine tree line. wild winds and bitter cold as you left the protection of the forest.

you can see the dramatic change in the photo on the left above.

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in the photo and map above you can see the clear boundary between the native forest in the national park and the surrounding farm land.

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up and over

[ed. i’ll be adding more commentary, but for now i’ll let the photos do the talking]


today we did the tongariro alpine crossing.

the crossing is a 18.5km (11.5 mile) tramp through the tongariro national park that travels up and over the tongariro range. the park has dual world heritage for its natural features and cultural importance to the maori. the land for the park was donated to the nation in 1887 by Te Heuheu, paramount chief of the Ngati Tuiwharetoa people.

“Behold, beyond are the fires of these mountains and the lands we have held in trust for you. Take them in your care and cherish them, they are your heritage and the heritage of your children.”

the summits were all formed by volcanic eruptions. at several points along the trek you pass through areas where the mountains are still venting.

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after the alarm went off at 0530 we scrambled to get ready and met the 0630 shuttle bus to take us to trailhead.

what happened next is now referred to as the “key incident” and after today will never be spoken of again. at 0630 it is still pitch black out as we walk from our cabin to the main lodge to met the bus. we’re the last to arrive and the driver goes through the checklist: food? check, water? check, jackets? check, sunscreen? doh!. i say i will run back to the room and get ours. he says we’re out of time so jackie needs to hop on the the bus and then he will drive the bus down to our cabin to pick us up. i get back to the room, get the sunscreen out of the car and as i’m putting the car key back in my pocket notice that i can’t find the key to the cabin. i’m looking everywhere, on my hands and knees outside the door. after a few minutes the driver shouts out that we have to go. so i run back to the bus and ask jackie to get off since we can’t leave for the day without knowing where our cabin key is. we grab out stuff on the bus and step outside just as one of us finds the key. so back on the bus and off we go. we’re not out of the parking lot when i realize in the panic i have not re-locked the car. our car with my laptop in the hatch. 0638 and i’ve already had a full day. nothing to do about it now so off we head to the trailhead.

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it was still dark when we arrived at the start of the trail.

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this was the view looking back from our first summit at soda springs

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the second climb up to the south crater is ahead of us. hey – how did they know about jackie’s gas problem? mt ngauruhoe is on the right. for lord of the rings fans this is mount doom in the peter jackson movies.

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the walk across the south crater was a bit surreal.

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we stopped at the red crater for lunch even though it was only 1030. after getting this far we definitely needed some fuel.


the photo that just shouldn’t be.

we out on a perfect day on one of the most spectacular walks in the world and i’m on my mobile.

so in my defense i’m not talking work. or to my broker. i’m asking the folks at the lodge to get my laptop out of the unlocked car for safe keeping. hopefully that’s not as bad.

in the we-live-in-amazing-times category, pretty wild that you can make a phone call on top of a volcano, no?

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after we crossed the summit at red crater we began the descent down to emerald lake. this was the most treacherous part of the tramp with a steep decent down the scree. a bit of challenge for those not equipped properly. not too hard with hiking boots and tramping poles – a different story if you’re in jeans and sneakers.

along this part of your trail if your hat blows off you buy a new hat.


here we are at the central crater looking back at red crater and mt ngauruhoe.

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as we started our descent we could see lake taupo in the distance. ketetahi hut is in the distance in the photo on the right. the tramp that we did was just a small piece of a larger walk that takes several days. there are doc staffed huts with bunks and cooking facilities every 1/2 days journey along the trek. for us it was just a brief stop to use the loo and we’re off.

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the trail is so remote that all the trail maintenance supplies have to be brought in my helicopter. you can see a drop zone in the first photo.

we reached the trail end at a bit after 2 pm and we were back at the lodge with beers in hand by 3.

we were quite proud of ourselves for the completing the crossing and through we kept up a fine pace. that said all day we were frequently passed by kiwis that seemed to be just casually strolling along. it is becoming clear that the average level of fitness in nz is a bit above that in the states and that we need to take the estimated travel times quite seriously. we’ve yet to finish a walk in under the time estimated.

forging north

in new zealand good friday and easter monday are state holidays so that means a 4 day weekend for everyone. trying to learn from our christmas mistake of not booking early the jboss had planned and booked a trip for us to the tongariro region and a relaxing spa visit for gromit.

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on our trip up we went the western route through wanganui. since it was good friday the town was locked up tight, but looked like a great place to visit and we’ll put it on the list to return to soon. we did find one cafe that was open and given the holiday we set our expectations low. i was expecting mediocre fish & chips. turns out it was very good. great english beer selection and i had a venison burger with mango chutney. hard to beat.

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another great tree lined main street with cafes, shops and a majestic old theatre. almost all of the banks in new zealand are australian owned (like the one above) including unbelievably the bank of new new zealand and new zealand bank.

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right past the cbd was a huge park along the river. the children’s area was themed around nursery rhymes with the 3 bears, humptey dumptey, etc. inside the big pumpkin was a prep area, huge grill and picnic tables. most of the public parks here have public grills that gas fueled and free to use. they have a flat metal cooking surface like at mcdonalds and are started just by pushing a button. a lot easier (and safer) than everyone bringing charcoal and dousing it with lighter fluid. at one end of the park was the ultimate tree house.

after we passed through wanganui we decided to take the scenic backroads up to our destination. the guidebook described it as a can’t miss vistas – so how could we pass?

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i’m not keen on living out of the city, but if i were the homestead in first photo would be ideal.

two stories behind the second picture. firstly the sign on the cliff. you are entering a single crewed ambulance zone. that means when the ambulance arrives the paramedic can either treat you – or drive – but not both at the same time, so try not to be an idiot and need any urgent medical care. keep that in mind for the photos below. and why is jackie laughing? she is wearing sandals and has just stepped in a pile of poo. guess who’s riding on the roof rack for a while?

the last photo could easily be from vermont, and was a brief glimpse of fall. we had great tall, slender birches lining the road for the early part of the drive.

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the drive started out on a nice winding paved road, but the pace quickly slowed as the road turned to gravel and was frequently shared with local livestock.

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the first shot is great on several levels. firstly the bulls lining the road. “sure – come on down. we’re nice and friendly. ignore the horns. and forget about the sign reminding you that this is a single crewed ambulance zone. what are you waiting for?” nextly is the 100 kph speed limit sign. 100 kph is about 60 mph and is very fast for a paved country road. much less a gravel road with a steep drop off on one side. or more so for a single lane, gravel road with a steep drop off lined by bulls.

at one point we let a local farmer pass and the visibility dropped to zero. we assumed we’d know when we hit the livestock.

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as we emerged from the country road our final destination – mt tongariro – came into view.

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the last town before we arrived at tonariro was raetihi. more than a bit depressing since it was clearly struggling and a shadow of its former prime.
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yet another former bank of new zealand building shamefully degraded to office for a local radio station.

so when the town elders were sitting around the table in the late 1930’s trying to decide how to celebrate the town’s upcoming centennial, how did the conversation turn to a rest room?


mt ngauruhoe at sunset in another this-is-why-we-moved-here images.

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our home for the holidays is the wilderness lodge in national park. yes – the name of the town is “national park”. the first several conversations about where we were staying had a who’s on first quality.

a: “so, where are we going to be staying on our holiday?”
j: “we’re booked at the wilderness lodge in national park”
a: “great – what town is that in?”
j: “national park”
a: “right – but what town are we nearest to?”
j: “the lodge is in in national park”

at this point i give up and don’t see the light until we pass the state highway sign that welcomes us to national park.

after we unpack the car we head up to the lodge for dinner only to find out that they are booked up for the night. this was a bit surprising since the small dining room never seemed more than half full. feeling bad they offered us a bowl of fries. so our good friday dinner was fries & beers on the couch watching willy wonka on the telly.

we were off to bed early after setting the alarm for 0530 so we could catch the 0630 shuttle bus for our big tramp tomorrow.