Friday, May 22, 2009

Hey there girlfriend (wife)

I logged into Facebook, intending to steal some photos of Pennys Mukamuka Munter/Mt Matthews mission which she did with a group of friends while I was enduring the Safari, but decided this photo was more amusing...thanks Cathy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A gap in the weather

There was a little gap in the weather yesterday. The southerly was still howling but it had run out of squalls to throw down upon us. The sun even came out for a bit. I was going for a run with Caspar, who lives just behind Massey University out the back of downtown Wellington. From the end of his street, like amny streets in Wellington, you can run up a zig zag path into the bush. Central Park near there is a derelict jungle ofhomeless people, weeds and tracks in disrepair.

We headed south along the Southern walkway. Through this wilderness studded with playing fields. I had my map from the recent City Safari, and was enjoying checking out the hidden trails. The Scottish Harrier clubrooms lie at the centre of it all, in a dark gloomy valley. Although not quite looking as disused as the Wellington Harrier Club in the macrocarpas of Mt Vic its not much better than the local tracks, which head up and down facetiously, thwarting all but the most intrepid.

Caspar and partner Nadine are looking at buying a house, so we stopped past there in a hidden valley of Berhampore. If its hard for a Doctor and a Computer programmer paid in US Dollars whats it like for the average wage? Down through some more parks and up a ridiculously steep hill and then the interesting stuff begins. We are at the highest point of Manawa Karioi Maunga Kawakawa and there is a Pouwhenua (sculpture) here overlooking Happy Valley/Island Bay and much more of the Wellington isthmus.

We descend down a rough ridge on the Happy Valley side to a bedraggled looking valley. But what we find is quite uplifting. Community work in action. The valley is an old landfill that is being revegetated. Prestons Gully or Tawatawa Reserve is a long term project developed by the Wellington City Council, the Southern Environmental Association and local residents. It looks great, an informal recreation area surrounded by regenerating wetland and forest. Of course at the moment it is just gorse but the dream is there!

Running back over the hill towards Island Bay we ran smack into another ecological restoration project. The first signs were nice mowed tracks through native bush just starting to deplete its gorse nanny. Then there were some interpretation signs. A story about goats brought in to control banana passionfruit and other weeds in an organic mater, and another about a valley developed as as a seed source for future reforestation. Then when we popped out at the bottom of the hill we found the entrance to Manawa Karioi and the incredible building of Tapu Te Ranga Marae. The worlds largest recycled wooden building, it is a home for many, spawned of the Maori reniassance and anger of the 1970's. It is fascinating stuff. The kaumatua is Bruce Stewart, known for his angry prose and verse as part of the disconnected urban Maori. I have a cherished copy of his book "Tama" that I have had for many years....


It is possible to quieten me
for a while by blocking your ears
At times I've been buried - hidden
for centuries
but I will always surface
...sometimes with a scream
for there are those
who have nothing left but
their bodies - voices
Take your hands from your ears
hear their screams

I think it is fair to say that the house has many stories to tell. I would like to investigate further in the future...and there are working bees every couple of weeks on the restoration. It had been an interesting run, and we continued it running over Mt Albert and down past the baboons and kangaroos of the zoo and down through the hubbub of Newtown to finish the exploration first time through of another part of Wellington.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Adventures without Images

I have become so used to taking pictures that I now seldom blog, or generally write, about anything I don't have good images for. Good digital images that is. It is harder writing without the images to speak for you. So I thought I would have a quick whirl at it. Two recent adventures I have shared are a training run over the "Mukamuka munter" course and competing in the "City Safari".

Mukamuka Munter (training)

The Munter is such a great name for a run. It reminds me a little of 3rd form, "you munter", but more of jokey understatement shared between outdoors people, "yeah it was a bit of a munter". The course traverses the wild south Wellington coast from the Orongorongo river past Tutaekirai head and onwards for 12 kilometres only hanging a left just before you get to the Wairarapa up the Mukamuka stream. The Mukamuka stream is choked with gravel and you plough up this under the shadow of Mt Matthews, the Rimutakas highest point, before entering a small bushy gut and climbing steeply to the south saddle. A dangerously fast descent gets you down into the headwaters of the Orongoronga, and its speed demon terrain down the open river, then single track down to Catchpool.

Mick, Casper and I had arranged a Thursday afternoon trip. Its great to have friends to share Thursday afternoons with. But it wasn't until 2.30ish that we were heading around the coast. The light was fantastic. I hadn't been through here before and it was awesome checking out the boulders and regenerating coastal scrub from the cruiseness of the flat farm track. Apparently Tutaekirae Head is a hot bed of Lizards, skinks and geckos - herpetofauna that is - and you can sort of see why. There are plenty of different environments from the coastal zone to the steep terraces with all sorts of niches for things reptillian.

You can see the mouth of the Mukamuka, framed on this day by sunlit farmland slopes, from about 10km's away, and you are just starting to get tired of the view when you get there. There is no relief though because you turn the corner and plough straight into Wellingtons notorious northerly. It channels down a wide flat bottomed gravelly valley. There is nowhere to hide.

As efficently as possible I ran up the valley, waiting from time to time for Mick and Caspar to catch up. Every now and again there was a river to jump, or a fallen tree. As the valley narrowed we had to look for the best lines to run on the gravel terraces away from the jumbled rocks of the active creek bed. Finally the track entered the bush through the narrow gut and twisted its way up a little creek bed. Despite appearances it is quite fast going as long as you stay on track and will provide little rest from running during the race. Only the last ascent is really steep and you pop out on the saddle with little warning to to the full blast of the wind. It is awesome though looking down on the heavily forested headwaters of the Orongorongas and back down the valley to the ocean with the bushy arete of Mt Matthews arcing up to one side.

We had intended to climb Mt Matthews (since you don't in the race) but were running flat out of light. Its just a contour to climb towards the summit then you hook onto a sidling track that heads to the main downhill. Caspar is a good downhiller and was up for some excitement, so we terrorised it and ourselves. Theres nothing like the feeling of having to commit yourself to the air in lieu of identifying, or even being able to see a landing zone. There are nasty drop offs from time to time and once the track got so steep that we had to back off a bit, but it wasn't long before we were waiting for Mick in a grove of gravel killed trees at river level.

It was torches on here too, and with Mick feeling the squeeze I ran ahead to jump on my bike and pick the car up. The silty Orongoronga felt like a much bigger river than it is crossing it at night and I started feeling it a little running down the sweet single track into Catchpool. In comparison the 20 minute bike ride with the northerly at my back was a joy, spinning into the feeble light of my L1 and relying on the reflective powers of my new super orange fleece in lieu of a back light.

The boys weren't too far off when I got back and it was fish n chips in Petone to finish off a good mission. It doesn't matter what garbage you eat when you stress your system like that...

City Safari

I had been trying to convince Penny to do the City Safari for months, but she wasn't keen. So a week out I emaiiled the organiser who is a friend and told him I wasn't up for it. His response was for me to race with a special guest, three times World 24hr rogaine champion David Rowlands of Australia. David was great, an irredeemable rogaining/orienteering geek that you would spot in a crowded supermarket, but as tough as rusty old nails in a four by two.

The City Safari is an urban rogaine around Wellington Central and extending as far as Johnsonville, Karori and Miramar with the hills around. Its point of difference is that you can use public transport; trains, buses and (if running) the harbour ferry to Seatoun. This year it became New Zealands biggest ever rogaine with over 500 particpants. We started off with a prologue, 10 minutes sprint orienteering on the Wellington waterfront. I just picked up the map and ran with David following. Probably in retrospect not the wisest move. We went relatively smoothly through the checkpoints but got stuck on a relatively low scoring loop and then were back a minute late. We ended up ceding 30 points to our closest rivals which over the next 6 hours we were only to pull back 10.

We headed off on the train to Khandallah first up, and kept to the streets, running round the flattish plateau up there and looping back to the train track, for a one-stop ride down to Crofton Downs. From here it was a foot rogaine, through Wilton Bush, Tinakori Hill then up onto the Skyline trck, Karori, Wrights Hill and around the Sanctuary Fence and down through Brooklyn to the finish. My highlight of the day was a succesfull adoption of the lightweight approach, relying on scavenging water, which I did with a Mizone froma s hop in Khandallah, a drink from a stream in Otari and someones hose in Karori! Yeah go lightweight!

It was a great day out, enjoyed with all the others who we crossed paths with out there, with a friendly wave...and lots of new tracks explored too!!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Heres my sort of Artist!

Richard Long has spent 40years making his art by walking. Taking his opportunities in wild landscapes to challenge the location of Art in our lives. As he expresses in this great interview in the Independent

"MCM: I always think of your art as one of understatement.

RL: Doing almost nothing. Also there was that moment in the 1960s when the idea of filling the world with more and more objects became questionable. And, perhaps more in hindsight, there are connections with Arte Povera. You could argue that A Line Made by Walking [1967] is the ultimate Arte Povera work, it's made of nothing and disappears to nothing. It has no substance, and yet it's a real artwork."

"RL: Or that a work could be made anywhere. On a mountain top, or it could disappear. Or, it could exist but no one else could find it. Or a local person could see it but not recognise it as art, or identify a stone I had placed on the road from another stone. I was really interested in all these different ways I could put my work in the world. And always in a simple way.

MCM: By marking your presence...

RL: ...or walking down the road. Walking across Ireland, putting a stone on the road at every mile along the way: 164 miles, 164 stones [1969]. If you put all those stones together it's a big work, but because it's spread out in space, it becomes invisible. Well, not invisible, but unnoticeable, which is different. And those stones are still out there somewhere, they haven't disappeared. So, you only know this work, which is equally a walk and a sculpture, through the information, the story, the artwork. "

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A few more TWALK photos...

Too good to keep to myself....

Give me back my gun...god damn you, you filthy ape!

Find yourself a couple of suckers

Self Portrait: The Twalker as a young ape

TWALK 2009

TWALK has become more than just an event for us, it has become the event. An absurd reunion of old friends and rivals doing battle, talking shit and laughing our way through 24 hours of suffering in the great outdoors. One of my team mates this year Joe Jagusch summed it up for me when he said "I never feel so free as when running through the high country!".

Joe and Caspar with the Arrowsmiths behind

TWALK is a 24hr Mountain Marathon held annually by the University of Canterbury Tramping Club. It has five loops of around 20km each between which you return to a woolshed which is the event centre and feast quickly on a variety of hot food, which is generally the likes of lasagne, meat stew and muffins. During the loops teams navigate cross country, up and down hills and through matagouri thickets. It is a true trampers event, roadies stay at home. Checkpoints which are located every kilometre or two are sections of ice cream container lid with a word to record. Asides from the map you also have clues to describe the checkpoint, such as "Matt and Gary ate dinner" which experienced TWALKers would know automatically to be a cabbage tree surrounded by Matagouri:-) One rather facetious clue this year was "the fun stops here jump right in", with the control centred on a vast thicket of matagouri. Despite people crawling and bashing through the shitty scrub in the middle of the night no control was ever found!

So the first thing to decide with TWALK is what costumes to wear. There are generally two costume themes, the absurd and the geeky multisporter. The latter is generally frowned upon. A clear example can be seen here...

Nameless geeky multisporters ;-)

This year I was privileged to do TWALK with Joe Jagusch, Casper Harmer, Greg Thurlow and Matt Scott as Planet of the Apes. It required quite a bit of preparation, namely dealing with drunken shop assistants at op shops and delegating Casper to hire gorilla masks. Some went to more extreme lengths...below is a photo of Matt putting the final touches on his Charlton Heston space pack and Casper getting ready to go with barrier cream, battery fiddling and empty museli bar boxes.

Every year you meet at the University of Canterbury students union, pile onto buses and start to guess at the mysterious place where this years TWALK will be. Out of the carpark we headed south. Awesome it was south of the Waimak in the foothills. Then we went past the turn off to Darfield. Awesome! It must be down south of Mt Hutt somewhere! Sure enough we passed Rakaia and headed up Thomsons Track. Mt Somers passed on our right and we pulled to a halt in paddocks where the Stour emerges from the Ashburton Lakes Basin. This was very similar country to where some friends and I organised a mountain marathon last autumn but it was definitely an area open to more exploration!

Here is our team all ready to go....

Joe Jagusch as devolved human, Matt Scott as astronaut, Casper Harmer, Greg Thurlow and Jamie Stewart as Apes

And here is most of Pennys EPO, getting ready for another Tour.

It was a great year for absurd costumes, which well and truly overshadowed the geeky multisporter efforts. Here is a couple of goodies, the dragon and the sneaky Tui kegs. The latter were trying to sneak away at the start but were having a few troubles staying unnoticed!

The first leg was a little embarassing really, we were all far too maxxed out on joy and ridiculousness to do any serious navigation and ended up wasting a whole lot of time. As a result team EPO kept passing us quietly with little smirks on their faces. At another point the whole field spent 15 minutes searching for a checkpoint in completely the wrong place which was humourous. Eventually Team Planet of the Apes, made a break, surging ahead of "Team little girls in skirts". Tim Farrant, Tom Wilson and Scott McDonald as we passed Lake Emily in the shadow of the Arrowsmiths and headed to the Woolshed at Castle Ridge station. Its accepted that winning the first leg is probably more important than winning overall and here are my magnificent four team members giving every sinew of their being to get there ahead...

I will continue with a further discussion of the rest of the even, and navigation finer points over at the O Squad blog, when I get motivated to talk about more geeky stuff!