Listful thinking


Happy 2013

I’m sitting in our little hut out at Cape Bird seeing in the new year, watching minke and orca swim out the window and a leopard seal drifting past on the ice.  It’s a pretty good way to end what has been a spectacular year.  All the best for 2013 from the penguins and their wranglers at Cape Bird!

Happy 2013 big

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Road trip: Western Australia (bonus)

An unexpected windfall of days off for the lad meant a bonus road trip was hastily planned and we once again loaded the car and set off. 
This time we headed north towards Perenjori and a farm on the edge of the wheat belt where Hamish used to work. We oohed and arghed at the big tractors and harvesters and marveled at the small (36,000 acre) farm. The boys were busy waiting for the first rain of the season so that they could start planting. 

Leaving them to it, we set off to set up camp at Camel Soak, a watering spot for camels, livestock and people as they headed east towards the goldfields. This was another hole cut out of a granite dome that collected rainwater runoff, although it was pretty much empty and populated by frogs which wouldn’t be that helpful if you were a thirsty camel.

The dawning morning revealed that we were camped next to the Rabbit Proof Fence No. 2, which was the second fence built to try and prevent the westward movement of rabbits after the first fence failed. The second fence failed too but is apparently quite useful for keeping emu out of the wheat fields. 

The scenery was the archetypal Australian countryside; red soil, gum trees and long road disappearing into the distance.  It was pretty nice.

Driving off into the distance, we came across a huge salt lake – 182 km long and up to 7 km wide.  The edge of the wheat belt is characterised by natural salt lakes and this one was a monster. 

Being the end of the dry summer season, the lake was completely solid salt and perfect for a jaunt out into the saltiness.  It was quite surreal, walking out across the solid surface of a lake.  Anything on the surface was covered in salt crystals and we even found some perfect salt cubes. 


From the salt lake, we headed west towards to the coast to check out the surf and test the water temperature.  Once again the surfboard accompanied us on our roadtrip,  unused and taking up unnecessary space in the back of the car.  And once again, it remained unused as the surf was rubbish.  But the water temperature was perfect for a spot of swimming.  And the warm evening perfect for a picnic on the beach, watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

Heading south the next day, we did a driving tour through Lesueur National Park.  This was country we had seen on our 2011 Aussie road trip but it was totally worth doing again. 
The highlight of this tour was a flock(?) of wedgetail eagles that were feeding on a dead kangaroo on the side of the road.
These guys are big!  And pretty impressive birds.  I wouldn’t want to be a small child out there in the desert all by myself.  
My slight fear of wedgetails was forgotten after another swim and a pleasant night camping at the beach. 

And then we headed off to the Pinnacles at Nambung National Park to once again enjoy the geological marvels.  
And then it was homeward bound to Perth for a few days before I had to head back home to do some real work.
But not before a quick 70km jaunt out to Fremantle on the bikes to stretch out the legs after all the driving!
But don’t fret, we’re already planning the next roadtrip and I get the feeling it’s going to be a doozy!  Will keep you posted…..

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Road trip: Western Australia (Part 3)

Lamenting the fact that we couldn’t find a campsite on the coast in Esperance, we turned inland  and headed north to try and find somewhere to stay the night.  Unlike NZ where we have recently made freedom camping difficult at best, the Aussies have a huge camping culture and have embraced the ideals of freedom camping.  So we consulted the freedom camping book and headed up the road to see what we could find.  And found what was probably the nicest camping spot of the whole trip tucked in a little secluded grove of gum trees just off the main road.  There were numerous campsites among the trees and, despite the fact that there were no facilities, it was super tidy.  It was a beautiful spot for camping, and with no one else around, the perfect spot to test out the newly constructed solar shower made from an old dry bag.

After a lovely night under the stars, we continued north towards Kalgoorlie.  Western Australia’s economy is driven by mining and Kalgoorlie falls on the Golden Mile, a geological goldmine of, well, gold.  While Kalgoorlie maybe be famous in NZ for the bad reality tv show, Kalgoorlie Cops, it is the Super Pit that draws most of the visitors.

This monstrous hole in the ground is over 500m deep (with below-ground mining going on below that) and the tiny little specks you can see at the bottom are really…. 

MONSTER trucks (shown next to a hilux for scale!).

It was a pretty impressive sight and got the geologist amongst us pretty excited.  Although we did concede that it seems kinda silly to dig such a giant hole in the ground to extract gold for it to gather dust in a bank vault somewhere.  But that’s another story. 
After cruising the main street of Kalgoorlie and fighting off the urge to check out the skimpies in the bars, we set off west on the homeward journey back towards Perth.  The trusty freedom camping book came in handy again as we set up camp for the night at Boondi Rock in the Goldfields Woodlands National Park.

The campsite was at the site of a steam train watering stop that was set up when the railway was built from the west coast to Kalgoorlie in the early 1900s.  

The set up is pretty cunning with a big stone fence built around a granite outcrop to channel rainwater runoff into a series of rock-lined channels and on into a reservoir. 

 A huge amount of work but a lifesaving source of water for the men and their families walking east towards the goldfields.  

After watching the sunset over the reservoir and the full moon rise over the woodlands, we settled in for the last night of our 2012 Western Australia road trip.

The last day of road tripping saw us heading west back towards Perth, through the woodlands, into the wheatbelt and finally through the lifestyle blocks and outer suburbs before reaching suburban Perth and home to unpacking and washing the layers of red dust off the car and ourselves.  Yay for road trips and a fantastic holiday in amazing country with some pretty awesome company!

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Road trip: Western Australia (Part 2)

After spending an afternoon avoiding the rain at the whaling station museum in Albany (last used in 1978!), we headed north towards Stirling Range National Park.  I should point out at this point that national parks in Australia are not what we consider to be national parks in kiwiland.  I think by this stage in the trip we had already been through about 7.  There was Leeuwin-Naturaliste with the climbing and the jarrah and tuart forest; Beedelup where we walked through a tree and harassed a kookaburra; D’Entrecasteaux along the southern coast; Shannon where we camped by the river; Torndirrup with the natural bridge; plus a whole bunch of others that we drove passed.  They are all really pretty but basically tiny remnants that have escaped being cleared.
The Stirling Ranges were one of the most scenic parks we got to, which was a shame because it was also one of the wettest spots we got to.  

The plan was to walk to the top of one of the many hills but we had to content ourselves with a scenic drive through the park, broken up by quick dashes out to lookouts in between the showers. (You should totally click on the picture to fully appreciate the 270 degree vista)
It was a little bit cold and damp.  And somebody wasn’t that keen on having their photo taken!

But it was really pretty and looked like somewhere you could spend a bit of time, preferably in the dry. 

So we struck south for the coast again in an attempt to find some sunshine.  And we found it at Stokes National Park.  Although the walking tracks weren’t that suitable for walking here either.

But there were rocks to be contemplated, so it was all okay.

With the showers finally disappearing off into the east, we headed on our way to Esperance and Cape Le Grande National Park.  
Blue skies, white sandy beaches, surf, amazing granite domes:  this is a pretty awesome place.  We scaled Frenchmans Peak, walked the beaches, soaked in the sunshine, contemplated the water temperature (and wimped out of swimming), and lamented the fact that it was Easter and every man and his dog had come to Esperance, overflowing the camping grounds and cluttering up the scenary.

If you go to Western Australia, go to Esperance.  And don’t go on a public holiday (or at least book a camping spot well in advance).  It’s definitely scored a place on my list of things that need to be done again (and properly).
In the next installment, we wave sadly goodbye to the coast and head north towards Kalgoorlie and the super pit.

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Road trip: Western Australia (Part 1)

As I sit next to the pool in Perth, I think it’s probably time to update you all on my adventures in Western Australia.

Having not seen the lad since July 2011, it seemed like it was time to take a holiday and explore more of Western Australia.  So what better way to do that than a 2500km road trip down the south coast and home via Kalgoorlie.

From Perth, we headed south down the coast and caught up with the boys for a spot of climbing at Prevelly.

It was the perfect spot for non-climbers like myself to laze around in the sunshine and enjoy the view.

We checked out a couple of other climbing crags along the way but the sea conditions weren’t really ideal for climbing that day.

It’s a pretty wild piece of coast,

which means that lighthouses are a pretty good idea.

This one used to have a waterwheel to pump water to the lighthouse keeper,

but the high calcite concentration in the water means that it doesn’t work that well anymore.

We found some pretty big trees

including one you could climb 75m up to the top.  
I wimpeded out and only made it to the 25m platform but apparently the view from the top was pretty spectacular,
as was the view looking down (even the photograph gives me vertigo!)

We also found some wildlife, including pelicans,


and the odd stray geologist.

There were also dragons,

tiger snakes,


the obligatory kangaroos,



more parrots,

some terns,
a pademelon,

and some creepy birds that were so scary they scared their name right out of my brain!

Next stop on the great western Australia road trip is the Stirling Range National Park.  Til then, think of me sitting by the pool.

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Cross-country skiing

A few months ago one of our friends moved down to Cromwell, and it was decided before she left that we would have to have a girl’s weekend down there at some point in the future.  Now it should be noted, before you start conjuring up visions of us sitting round getting manicures and having pillowfights in our pyjamas, that we aren’t particularly girly girls.  No indeedy.  In fact, it was decreed that our girl’s weekend should consist of something adventurous, and so we set off on a cross-country skiing expedition.

After a pleasant Friday exploring the sights of Arrowtown and Cromwell and celebrating Clare’s birthday, we set off up the mountain to the Snow Farm.  After getting fitted out with skis and leaving our overnight gear in a pile for the skidoo, we ventured outside for a few pre-skiing photographs and a lesson.

Now cross-country skis aren’t anything like downhill skis.  For starters, your heel isn’t attached to the back of the ski.  And then, more scarily, you don’t have any edges on your skis.  Which means that everything you have ever learnt about stopping and turning instantly goes out the window.  When asked about how to stop, our helpful instructor offered the following wisdom: “Just keep going until you run out of hill.  Or failing that, fall over” Helpful!  Thankfully there are grooves along the tracks that your skis fit into which mostly takes care of the turning bit.  Except when the grooves randomly stop and your legs do their own thing, usually in different directions!

Here Rachel demonstrates a perfect racer’s tuck, and then the grooves run out… watched with the sound on for the full “chicken” effect.
After our lesson, we were let loose and it was on to the Bob Lee Hut – our overnight destination.  It was an absolutely amazing day.  Perfect weather and great company, interspersed with hilarious skiing moments.
Happily skiing along the trail in the glorious sunshine
Lunch stop at the Meadow Hut
Maaike demonstrating her seated stopping technique.
It might look like I’m in control
 but all goes wrong very shortly after this photograph!

The Bob Lee Hut was reached without too much drama and proved to be a cosy place to stay the night. Our gear had kindly been delivered by skidoo, so we had been able to pack some tasty treats.  We cooked up a storm (it turned out, quite literally) and were treated to a stunning sunset before retiring to bed to rest some weary (and newly-discovered) muscles.

Preparing a stunning dinner of green curry and mulled wine

Maaike proudly showing off her multitude of stripes (and sexy pink slippers)

The next day we woke to snow.  Of the falling variety.  In fact, of the blizzard variety.  We hastily packed our gear and set off into the gloom, trying to get out to the carpark before the storm really set in.  There was quite a bit of fresh snow on the tracks, making it difficult to find the grooves for your skis, let alone stay in them!  It was cold and windy and we were rugged up in all of the clothing we had with us.  I was even wearing my Antarctica balaclava that I never wore on the ice.  It was cold. But it was still great skiing and a lot of fun.  In fact, I think the contrast in the weather added a lot to the trip and gave us some stories of epic skiing missions to tell for years to come.

Check out these happy ladies (at least I think Michelle & I are happy – it’s a bit hard to tell!)
Now it turned out that this was not the end of our adventure.  The heavy snow meant that the roads were somewhat treachorous and we had an interesting drive down the mountain, followed by a mad dash to get to Queenstown before the road closed.  Even in a 4WD, the roads were nasty with almost 10cm on the ground and more falling rapidly.  Dave managed to get us to Queenstown, just.   And then get himself back home again.  Checked in to our accommodation to find that Rachel’s flight had been cancelled, so four hungry skiers headed into town for dinner.  The next morning woke to more snow and more cancelled flights, so it was off to book a bus and then explore the sights (or at least the open ones) of a very snowy Queenstown.  Having not seen any men for a few days, we built one of our own.

Tuesday bought us more snow, a cancelled bus, two trips to the wool shop, another cancelled bus and then, finally, a bus home to Christchurch.  Via Dunedin!  Let’s just say that this is not a very direct route and not one I would recommend (unless desperate).

So another epic adventure and one that I would totally recommend (maybe without the snow storm and getting stranded bits).  Cross-country skiing is definitely something i enjoyed crossing off my list and I’m keen to add it to another list sometime soon.

Speaking of lists, it’s time for new list of 32 things.  Check back soon!

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#13. My unintended stay in Melbourne

My trip to Australia was not without its travel-related dramas, proving once again the benefits of having travel insurance.

On the way there, my flight was delayed because the plane was broken.  Meaning I missed my flight from Melbourne to Perth and ended up spending a night in a hotel.  On the way home, my flight from Melbourne to Christchurch was cancelled because the Christchurch airport was closed due to snow.  “Oh dear” said the grumpy lady at the checkin counter, “the next available flight is not until Wednesday evening”.  Given that it was 5:30am on Monday and I had just flown 4 hours from Perth after leaving my better half behind, I wasn’t all too happy.

I must have looked a little forlorn because I was promptly adopted by a lovely family from Bahrain, currently living in Rolleston.  They dragged me along to get some breakfast,  sorted out my flights, booked me into a swanky hotel with them (an indoor pool was on their “must-have” list) and rented a car to drive us all into town.

I hadn’t been to Melbourne before (one night in the airport hotel on the way over doesn’t count!), so I spent Monday wandering the streets and marvelling at the quirkiness of the city.  A pleasant change from the almost industrial feel of Perth.  Then it was down to the information centre to figure out how to spend the rest of my bonus holiday.

I’d heard a bit about the Great Ocean road and found a small company that did tours.  So we set off on Tuesday morning to see the sights of the Great Ocean Road.

The first stop was Bell’s Beach, one of the world’s best surf beaches.  There wasn’t a whole lot happening with the surf that day but I can just imagine those big ocean swells rolling in all the way from Antarctica.  Certainly put the piddly surf we’d been seeing in Western Australia into perspective.

This tour provided a few new species to tick off my list of Australian things.  Including crimson rosellas, king parrots and kookaburras.

After winding our way around some stunning coastline, we stopped for lunch at the Ottway lighthouse.

where they were a little concerned about the one’s proximity to the cliff edge
and had a few problems with the bicycles.
While in Perth, Hamish and I had dutifully stopped and taken pictures of koala in an inclosure, so that I could say that I had seen some.  Well, it turned out that we shouldn’t have bothered.  The trees around the Ottway lighthouse were full of koala.  All looking quite sleepy and a bit stoned on gum leaves.  They didn’t really do anything but they were quite cute.  Koalas – check.
The penultimate stop of the trip was the twelve apostles. These are giant limestone stacks that have been eroded out of the nearby cliffs by the action of the waves.  I’m not really sure why they are the twelve apostles, there are currently only eight (they periodically collapse) and apparently there have never been twelve, but they were pretty spectacular.  

And so ended my unintended trip to Melbourne.  Not somewhere I had planned to go but definitely a place I’d like to visit again.  Thanks travel insurance for a great extension to my holiday!

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#13. Aussie Road Trip

It’s always time for a road trip. And this year, it was time for a road trip, Western Australia style. Hamish moved to Perth for work earlier this year, so it seemed like a good opportunity to check out some new places across the ditch and catch up with the boy at the same time. We didn’t have a plan, other than drive north and see what could be found along the way. (Warning: This post has a *high geological content*).

View Australia in a larger map

The first stop was The Pinnacles at Nambung National Park – weird and somewhat phallic-looking limestone formations.

And some big and impressive limestone cliffs.

And some weird fossilised corals.

And some more impressive cliffs along the edge of the river through Kalbarri National Park.

Fossilised ripples were common, as was this fossilised brain(-like) thing. We also saw some fossilised arthropod footprints which I neglected to photograph.

But I did snap this wedge-tailed eagle munching on some kangaroo roadkill while driving up to Shark Bay

where we set up camp in this amazing spot with stunning views.

No geological trip to Western Australia would be complete with a visit to the stromatolites at Shark Bay. These are basically living rocks and, to most people, are probably about exciting to look at as dead rocks. But to two geeks, this was pretty cool. In fact, it was the main reason we drove all that way to Shark Bay and was totally worth it!

We found more stromatolites and their thrombolite cousins at Lake Thetis.
No trip to Australia would be complete without seeing lots of weird wildlife. We definitely found our share (but thankfully no snakes – the benefit of going in the winter).
There was a sleepy lizard, complete with ticks in the corner of its mouth,
a very fuzzy emu running away at great speed,

a hawk on a grass tree,
a fuzzy kangaroo running away,
a yellow spoonbill,
and the elusive echidna that insisted on digging holes around our tent but not coming out to play in the daylight!
And of course, the resident geologist!
A fantastic holiday! Definitely a part of the world I’d like to visit again and a lad I’d like to see more of!