Thursday, 20 January 2011
Being in Japan was like having a mini winter in the middle of our Kiwi summer. 10 days of freezing cold and one morning of heavy snow is quite long enough for me and despite loving Japan it was nice to pull the shorts and flip flops out again on the south island. We landed in Christchurch and spent a day stocking up on essentials and visiting the fantastic Ron Muek exhibition . I also experienced my first earthquake albeit a (thankfully) very minor aftershock. Loads of shops were closed in central Christchurch and evidence of the big September quake were all around. Scary stuff.
Being back in the land of the long white cloud again we had our sights firmly on one pursuit- tramping. This kiwi term for hillwalking has always tickled me. Particularly the book I once saw called "101 Great Tramps". I've often modelled my life on those "great" tramps. The heroes of the parkbench standing proud with can of Tennants Super in hand...
Anyway we were here for the walking and having pre booked ourselves into the bunkhouses for the "kepler track" a four day hike we had some serious training to do. We did a couple of training one day walks including an incredible day climbing Avalanche Peak near Arthur's Pass on a cloudless day. The views were mindblowing and the summit accompaniment of half a dozen Keas was the icing on the cake (see pic).
The Kea is a very amusing bird in a land of interesting avian life. It's a big, friendly-but-cheeky, comedy Alpine Parrot. Seen inthe urban setting it slides down the windscreen of cars on its bum and will pinch anything you leave lying around.
New Zealand is a fascinating place historically due to its extreme isolation. Humans only made it here 10,000 years ago and what they found when they arrived was a sort of massive banquet waiting for them. The only native mammal in New Zealand is a bat. No wombed critters with sharp teeth and cunning running around with which to upset birds by pinching eggs or biting wings off. So birds evolved to become very large, without fear and some forgot how to even fly! What a mistaka to maka!
The hungry Maoris found such walking feasts as the Moa which were inquisitive, without fear, were 12ft tall and weighed in at about 35 stone! Just imagine the family bucket if Colonel Saunders could have got his hands on one of those bad boys!
Sadly but perhaps unsurprisingly the Moa and some other birds were rendered extinct by their own tastiness. Then came waves of intruder animals. Rabbits arrived and their popululation exploded. So stoats were brought to eat the rabbits. The stoats also eat loads of birds too and so a further hit to populations occurred. Other introduced pests included possums, rats and mice. The department for conservation here do their best to trap and kill stoats to help protect native birds. However I think that the process of introducing other animals to hunt the ones already introduced should have been continued to its logical conclusion. Christ, with a bit of forethought and planning I could have been on a three week safari here looking at tigers, lions and elephants rather than the odd tiny bird or alpine parrot!
Training complete, we took on the Kepler track and thoroughly enjoyed it. Staying each night in bunkhouses you need to carry your own food, clothes, sleeping bag etc. We planned what we would need to eat for the four days and went shopping but on the morning of the treck found that our packs were far too heavy for what could have been a gruelling bit of walking. So we left what we could and set off. Sadly for us we left too much food and we were starving hungry for pretty much the whole thing. Don't get me wrong we had enough food for breakfast lunch and dinner but the amount of calories we were burning were not being matched by our meagre rations. We are still alive. That's about all you can say for the amount of food we had.
Thankfully three months or amazing Indian food followed by Xmas and New year excess had left me with a few pounds to shed. I even toyed with a new band name for when I get back: "Bobby Waistline and the Ample Reserves". What do you think?
Posted by Kotdb at 20:42