Thursday, 28 March 2013

He spoke too soon!!

We both woken in the night (0315 he tells me) to the noise of timber breaking, there was a bit of a dodgy dead looking tree over the track, so I think we both assumed a branch had fallen off. Went back to sleep. He then woke me at 0530 looking out all of the windows as he’s heard a car, and didn’t know what was going on (nice to know he’s more aware of these things when we are isolated and remote). No sign, so we went back to sleep. 0815 we awake to the noise of a chainsaw, so I pack him off to find out what is going on. 
The fallen tree blocking our exit (08:15am)
He’s quickly back, for me I thought, but no, for the camera. The tree we heard in the night was actually a whole tree, that had fallen across our exit drive and across the road,  the car was a workman on his way to work where he arrived and told the boss they had a job to do, he stopped to put cones round the tree. The chainsaw was them doing the job! Just as well we weren’t in a rush, though to be fair they were done in an hour!

The guy in the grey top owns the campsite we were on. For some reason he found it quite amusing and hoped we were not in a rush!
Other uses for a 'stop-go' board
The little van was scared because when we’d stopped to look at the site, we’d just walked up the drive, leaving the van parked by a tree, not that we paid it much attention! We then went through various stages of nervous hysteria – there was no wind last night, why did it fall down, we could have been driving by it, it could have fallen on the van. It might NOT have fallen across the road, in which case no one would have worried about it till we came to leave, to find we couldn’t!

A few more cuts....

Just drop this over here and the jobs done (09:10am). Pity we're not staying another night, there's plenty of firewood now!
It’s just not what you expect to wake up to! Still we finished breakfast and went back to the crag, as B said, the first time he’s ever driven to a crag and the engine not even got warm!

The crag. The face actually goes right down to the bottom of the trees
We had a stunning morning, five climbs in total, finishing with two three star 17’s which we both thought were amongst the best climbs we’ve ever done! Time for lunch, the sun was coming out, it was getting warm, so we decanted back to the nearest town to shop in preparation for Easter, not that we are planning anything special, but just that the shops shut Friday and Sunday. Odd campsite tonight, but I can forgive it anything – there is a small black kitten running about…..!

This is looking straight up the crag. Fantastic layers with great pockets on a vertical face with overhangs. Brilliant!
One more picture: this is the toilet and outside sink at the campsite. Not exactly luxury but enough for us (good job no-one else was there)!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Otorohanga and more activity

We stayed an extra night at the Kiwi camping park so we could catch up with internet housekeeping and accounts, so we took ourselves off into town to the library, where they have free wi-fi, picked a table in the corner and spent a good three hours downloading, uploading and checking things (including a speeding fine I’d got – 61kph in a 50kph limit near Dunedin $80 fine! I have been so careful as well, must have just missed the 50 limit sign! Ah well, at least there’s no points on my license!).

'Stuffed' Kiwi I'm afraid
P.M. we went to the Bird sanctuary park right next door to our campsite and saw the Kiwi’s, weka, bellbird, Tui, Morepork (owl), Kakariki, quails, Campbell Island Teal (very endangered – it’s a duck that can’t fly), Tuatara (lizard), gekkos and more. It was great, we saw the Kiwi feeding time and the most active was a very rare female Great Spotted Kiwi (also the largest), she was strutting around, poking her beak deep into the soil looking for grubs and, at feeding time, 
Morepork owl (More pork is the sound it makes!)
attacked the girl who took in the food, jumping up sinking her beak into her trousers, running between her legs and really being aggressive. She poked her beak into the bowl, splashed the food around and then ran at top speed round her enclosure, looking very odd. It was highly amusing. No photos I’m afraid, they are forbidden (although I noticed one old chap sneak a couple of pictures in, but I was being good!).

The rest of the sanctuary was equally as good and we spent a good 3 hours in there, all for $16 (we got 20% off for staying 2 nights in the campground - and she only charged us for one person – but don’t tell anyone!).

A Tuatara trying to hide in the undergrowth
Look at this cutie Kakariki about to step on Jackies hand (then it bit her, she jumped and the bird flew away!)


Jackie getting ready to climb. This was a 25m high crag
Today we set off towards Waitomo, not to see the world famous glow worm caves, but to climb on the privately owned crag that Bryce Martin told us about. We had emailed the owner, Paul Hunt to ask his permission and received his confirmation back. It’s free, but he likes to know as he takes groups there. We arrived around 10:30 this morning and the rock is layered limestone, giving excellent holds and climbing. It’s all mid-grade stuff (grade 14 to 18) with some easier (down to 9!) up to about 23. 14 to 18 is just us and we did some great grade 16’s that were absolutely magnificent, quite vertical, with small overhangs, but with fantastic holds and all fully bolted, 
This was an easier, not so high (9m) crag, all around grade 15
giving a great exposed feeling, but with positive holds (did wonder just how attached some of it was, but nothing moved, so we just pulled on those blocks with great holds and hoped they stayed put!). We did 8 routes and there are a huge number more that look equally as fabulous, so we’re going back tomorrow!

Tonight we’ve stayed in a free campsite (the first genuinely free site we’ve stayed at), a minutes walk from the crag. There’s no-one else here (so far), with just a toilet (a bit grubby) – that B had to mend so it flushed, it obviously hasn’t for a while! and a sink to wash up in, but it’s so isolated it’s great. 
Tonights campsite (note the tea and cakes!)
No traffic noise (save for the occasional car that goes past), just the sounds of the birds (who seem to have gone to sleep now, as its getting dark). Still sitting outside typing as its quite warm, but now struggling to see, so might have to go in! Wait a minute, haven’t finished the wine yet! Life is so hard!

Monday, 25 March 2013

Back to the activity

Bryce and Wendy Martin in their cafe/gear shop/bunkhouse

We set off to find Bryces, we’d heard a lot about him, and for those of you who know Eric Jones in Tremadoc he’s the NZ equivalent! He owns a café come climbing gear shop, and we heard can be really gruff, now I don’t think that’s strictly true, but when I compared him to Eric and said “he doesn’t suffer fools gladly” he smiled and seemed really pleased with that description! He and Wendy, his wife are wonderful, we picked their brains, and off we went (after an iced coffee) to Froggat Edge, no, we didn’t believe it either, but apparently it really is the name of the guy who owns the land! (for non-climbers, Froggat Edge is a very popular crag in the Peak District, UK) He’d described it as an outdoor climbing wall, and it was, good for those who like the plastic and like it steep. It was all little pockets, some more positive than others, but all jolly painful on the toes that had forgotten how uncomfortable rock boots are anyway! 
The van parked at the foot of main wall. Note the crowds (not)!
The setting was fab, the walk-in was hell – a minute? And the climbing I really enjoyed, it did feel hard, but we haven’t touched rock (or plastic) for a couple of months, a long time when we used to climb twice a week! We did 3 routes yesterday, a 15, 16 and 17 and went back today and did a 14 and two 16’s top roping an 18 and a 19 in-between, nothing really hard, not really, but they felt hard enough! I really enjoyed it, though I’m not sure the same can be said for B whose head wasn’t quite there, he didn’t lead all that I did, but made me feel very good about myself!

Jackie abseiling off 'Bonne Anne' a very bold grade 16. Brian went up on the 'top rope!'
We spent the night at the school, well Bryces only has cabins, but right next door is the school and for $4 each payable at the café you can stay, no power for the van, but a toilet, a cooking shelter and in theory a washing up sink, but I think the ‘youth’ from Auckland Uni had bunged it up with hot fat! Oh yes, and the school swimming pool, with instructions how to take the cover off and everything! (you just wouldn’t get that at home!) It was lovely, and a 5 min drive from the crag! We were joined at 2130 by another couple who we later met at the crag, but up until then we’d had it to ourselves.

We are back in slightly more civilisation tonight – well we both needed a shower! Not that it sounds like it, we are camped next to a kiwi and native bird park, and the strange noises that are coming through the fence are amazing! I thought we were going to go to an area Bryce recommended  (assuming we get an email back with the owners permission) tomorrow, but apparently we may have to go and look at the birds first, which along with the internet housekeeping and shopping could take a while.