Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In The Footsteps of Hillary

Friday Morning, we woke at 5:20 am to head out on a new adventure. I drove to Rich's, where he threw his perfectly organized backpack in the boot before heading to Cully's flat, where we planned to cook eggs and protein-load before leaving. We arrived to a lit living room, and assumed that Cavness was up and about. Instead, we dragged him out of a deep unconsciousness to come down to breakfast, where the bleary-eyed boy recounted tales of his extended evening.

On the road by 6:30, we headed north on SH1, the road that we have so often taken to head north out of Dunedin. After reaching Oumaru, we turned west on the road to Mt. Cook / Aoraki, the National Park that encompasses New Zealand's highest peak. The drive took three and a half hours in the drizzle and oppressive low clouds, but finally we reached the small hamlet known as Mt. Cook Village.

The Village hides itself well, blending into the lower slopes of the mountain ranges that surround it. Cloud cover stood at perhaps a hundred meters above ground level, so the entire drive had seemed somewhat like driving through an inexact part of America, with cows pastured all around and a succession of aging hydroelectric dams accompanied by their all-too-perfect engineered lakes. We had forgotten the iPod adapter, so the trip enjoyed a simple soundtrack of Billy Joel and the worst urban hits of 2001, the only two tapes we possessed.

We checked in at the visitor center, where the young woman gave us a skeptical look as we walked in in jeans and sandals.

"We'd like to hike up and stay at Mueller Hut tonight," We asked.

She made sure that we had the correct gear, as we seemed to be simple tourists, then warned us that visibility was terrible and fresh snow was likely on the ground. Rich grinned wolfishly at the prospect of snowy tramping, and we assured her that this was the reason we had come.

The three of us drove to the parking lot at the base, then changed into our synthetic outfits and packed up one last time. We locked the doors of the Marrakech Magic, our faithful steed, and headed off into the cloud bank, smiling in excitement. A three hour battle up steep, slippery slopes awaited us, but the Department of Conservation had been so kind to provide us with erratic, protruding wooden stairs for the first half of the hike, so we began to clamber up the neverending Stairmaster ahead of us.

It was wet. We walked through a cloud of spitting raindrops and ice particles and our well-worn rain gear quickly lost its usefulness as a combination of moisture and sweat conspired to keep us from ever feeling dry again. Soaked and smiling (well, kind of), we carried on.

As we go to the Sealy Tarns, a pair of alpine lakes, it started to get cold, and felt even colder because we were wearing t-shirts under soaking rain jackets. Richard was in shorts, even. We reached the snow line fifteen minutes later, where we lost all agility and balance to the slippery rocks and scree slopes.

We battled out way through the fog, following orange-topped snow stakes that marked the trail. As the snow grew deeper, we turned south along the ridge at an orange triangle and started to follow pole to pole towards what we hoped was Mueller Hut. It was a surreal experience, knowing that we were surrounded by high peaks yet only being able to see distinct shades of grey to forty feet in front of us. Disconcerting to say the least.

At last the hut appeared in our peripheral vision and we entered to find a dry, snug shelter that was designed to sleep 40 persons. Tonight it would be just us. We changed quickly out of our wet clothes into dry polypropylene, and began to whittle away the hours until our desired bed time: 7:30. We prepared a hot meal of pasta, cheese sauce, and sweet corn (delicious, thank you Ben Kunofsky), and sat down to enjoy and fill our bellies.

After eating, the cards flew fast and furious during an extended game of Rummy. I won handily, after resisting a 125 point hand from Señor Cavness which threatened to change the whole game.

We fell asleep piled under woolen blankets in our sleeping bags, and the sky began to clear as the stars appeared from the deep blue nothingness that surrounded the little hut.

I woke up around 5:30, and as I saw the beginnings of dawn from the east, decided to stay up for the sunrise. as it grew brighter, I was able to see that we were surrounded by a bevy of two-thousand-meter peaksm with Mt. Cook directly in front of us to the north. I nudged Rich to ask if he wanted to see the sunrise, and he simply grunted as he fell back into the deep sleep that you only find when camping away from "civilization."

We skipped breakfast and hiked up Mt. Ollivier, which stood behind the hut. This mountain was the first ever climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary, and started off his long career as a mountaineer and explorer. We could only hope that as we sat on the cairn which marked the top we would have similar success.

After trotting back to the hut, we walked quickly down the steps we had carved the night before. It was like walking a different trail, the changing weather had revealed a landscape covered in shimmering snow, and as we listened to avalanches echo through the valleys around us, we reveled in the active geology of these glaciated peaks. The tramp down was quick, helped along by the speedy snow under our feet, that threatened to trip us up at every step. We arrived back at the car happy and a little store, and sped back to Dunedin, where cold brews and warm beds awaited us once more.

The other photos can be found in the most recent album on my Picasa webpage. The link is HERE, or can be found in the top right section of the blog.

Until next time.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Catching up

I'll have two full posts to type up this week, but I also have loads of homework and a test to accomplish, so we'll see how that goes. 

Photos from the Waimakariri River Valley / Harman Pass Hike are up, as well as those from Milford Track and Wellington over Spring Break, which I got back from yesterday.

I'll try to find time to write in some narration.

Photo Link to the right.... ----->

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Easter Weekend Preview

Hello all,

I returned Tuesday afternoon from my Easter Break, and though I don't have time now, I want to let you know that a full post is forthcoming. I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a weekend trip to Canterbury, for some rock climbing and a two day music festival in Whitecliffs.

Last Friday the nine members of our group drove to Te Anau and hiked in about two hours on the Kepler Track. We camped at Brod Bay, and though it rained all night, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise.

After this, Carolyn, my dear Midd friend who is in the middle of her Watson Fellowship, and I left to head to Milford Sound. We camped there for the night, before setting out for a kayaking adventure for the remainder of the day.

Here's a quick shot of how it looked through my sunglasses:

We headed quickly back to Te Anau to meet the rest of our group and head to Queenstown. In Q'town, half the crew bungy jumped and we all went on a jetboat excursion on the Shotover River. That afternoon Rich, Cully, Carolyn and I relaxed in the Queenstown City Gardens, and enjoyed the sun and sweet smell of roses and freshly cut grass.

We headed back to Dunedin after that and I've had a short but busy week.

Back Monday with more photos and stories.


Sunday, March 9, 2008

Wildfoods Weekend


Returned early yesterday morning from the 2008 Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika. Thus follows an account of the trip:

After gathering our expedition party of Messrs. Cavness, Saunders, Kunofsky, Wasserman, and myself, we left Dunedin at around 6:30 on Thursday night. Our intention was to drive as long as sanity and consciousness allowed and camp on the West Coast that night. We drove through the now-familiar route to Wanaka, and turned north to head over Haast Pass, a breathtaking river valley that separates Central Otago from the West Coast. Unfortunately, as it was now after 10 pm, it was pitch black and the sights were lost on us as we warbled along to our three cassette tapes: Billy Joel's Greatest Hits: Volume 2, Absolute Disco: Volume 1, and Mai Music Five : Summer Jams 2001. Despicable singing and rapping was practiced by all.

I drove through that night and we arrived at Lake Paringa around 1:00 AM. We set up tents by the light of our car's headlights. An aside, the car's name was recently changed from Petunia, an ill-chosen first name, to "Marrakech Magic, Car." The Magic served us beautifully this weekend with its added load of almost a thousand pounds of man, gear and whiskey. After setting up the camp, we had a celebratory Speights (Pride of the South), and went to our happy little sleeping bags.

In the morning we woke up to an infestation of little sandflies, and I walked to the edge of the now-visible lake to admire the rolling hills along the far shore as well as the quietly fishing motorboats out to the South. I roused the troops around 9:45, and we ambled around packing up our gear and stuffing it once again into the car. After leaving the campsite around 10:30 we split in the direction of Fox Glacier, 200km to the north. Charles Lee drove for the remainder of this day after my lengthy sojourn the previous night. A strange type of pride or honor is involved in late-night driving. Perhaps a silly hyper-masculinity complex, but it's very hard to hand off the wheel to someone else, I continually find myself wanting to finish my leg all alone, whether for pride, respect or simple sadism, I don't know.

Fox Glacier lies to the South of Franz Josef Glacier, which I saw years ago the first time I was in New Zealand. At the end of a short approach road, speckled with small signs announcing the glacier's previous advances, we reached a parking lot full of campervans and tour buses. The glaciers are popular stopping sites for these tours as they offer short walks with big payoffs.

Here are the boys in the lot, garfing our first PB&J sandwiches of the day.

We walked up the twenty-minute trek to the glacier, where yellow ropes and suggestive stick figures implored us to stay behind the boundary. Our group, resembling a handful of Skittles with our multicolored raingear, decided that "suggested distances" were for locals, and as residents of the world's only superpower, we deserved a closer look at the glacier. We ducked under the rope and walked across the "end moraine" of the glacial till area, up to the crackling face of dirty, sky-blue ice. The boys had a chance to test out the meltwater, and all agreed that it was "cold as!"

After, we walked up to the safest-looking area where we all kissed the glacier, and Ben and Cully acted out their reaction to a potential calving (when old ice falls away from the face).

Señor Cavness, a devout Geology Major, was ecstatic as the rest of us danced around the glacier in a pagan snow-dance, perhaps with the direct result of freezing rain, sleet and snow back home in Vermont. Sorry all.

After Fox Glacier, we skipped up north to Hokitika, where the food festival was destined to take place. We set up camp about 10km south of town at Lake Mahinapua, at a large DOC site that quickly filled with many campers. After the tents were ready, we left to go check out the town for the rest of the Afternoon. Hokitika is small, about 4,000 people, but definitely a tourist spot and a local economic center, as it has many more services than a comparable suburban town of 4,000 (Such as Richmond). It was also quite evident that the whole town was gearing up for the Wildfoods Festival, clearly the most prominent event on Hokitika's cultural calendar. We wandered to the beach, checked out the market along the main street, and bought some food for our dinner before returning to the campsite. After some noodles and curry soup, we retired to our main evening activity: frisbee and cocktails. I won't go into details, but we heartily enjoyed ourselves and settled down for a well-deserved rest around 11 PM.

In the morning we woke to find threatening skies fulfilling the Meteorological Service's predictions of mixed showers for the day. Another quick packing of the car and we were headed off to Hoki, where we parked near the festival and hastened to enter and start our "Wild" experience.

The smell of charcoal barbeque permeated the air while we watched thousands of costumed people mill around in apparent chaos. Our stomachs grumbling, we headed in a generally Northern direction and began snacking. Batting leadoff came a wild venison sandwich followed by a wild pork sandwich on ciabatta with garlic aioli. The ciabatta was wonderful, but the venison gave me pause to reflect on one of my biggest quibbles with Kiwi cuisine: the lack of buns.

There is a serious tendency to simply use the cheapest bread possible when creating sandwiches, which cuts out, in my opinion, the finest base of a good panino or sandwich, the bread. Though the meat was wonderful and quite gamey, my enjoyment was mitigated by the incursion of Wonderbread into my palate. Pity.

From these tamer varieties we moved on to Crocodile and Kangaroo meat, both of which were similar to chicken and beef, respectively, but simultaneously had their own taste to share. We headed to the 18+ tent to get our wristbands that would allow the purchase of alcohol. Here is a photo of the boys waiting in line.

We continued to the first "big tent," a rental tent that held fifteen separate stalls as well as a dancefloor. Here we encountered my favorite item from the day, Langos (Lan-gohsh), Hungarian fried bread, basically a tart, salty, garlicky flatbread about an inch thick that was spread with either Walnut and Watercress Pesto or a Jalapeño and Herb Harissa. Danny and I invested in one each and traded luxurious bites, as I discovered my new favorite serving receptacle for pesto. This tent also housed an herbal wine stand (rosehip wine - terrible), and two bug stands, which our group took advantage of.

First, there was fried cricket served on peanut satay-spread pieces of baguette. Joe and Evan, two other American compadres, display their wares below. Look closely to see the brownish topping on their bruschetti.

Then we moved to the "worm stand," where Ben, Cully and Rich decided to try "Worms With Wings," an allusion to the famous Red Bull marketing campaign. As they each took their Red Bull shot with worm floater, we decided the classiest way would be to try a complicated triple-twist-entanglement maneuver, which worked beautifully.

After the worm shot, we went into town to re-examine the market and buy some beers from the supermarket for an early-afternoon-beach-chill-session. On returning to the festival, fortified with courage, the boys split away and went on a binge, eating Huhu grubs, goat testicles, and searching in futility for the mythical "Viagra Slushie" so advertised by the Wildfoods website. We continued on to eat a stag heart sandwich, wild boar steaks, a slice of horseflesh, an ostrich meat pie, many fruit and honey-filled pancakes and crepes, barbequed ribs, natural sorbet, local escargot, "firewater shots" (cayenne, chilli powder and vinegar), as well as numerous other treasures that my brain has no doubt blocked from memory to prevent later regret.

As the festival closed, we drank a copious amount of Kava, a Fijian drink made of the crushings of a plant similar to marijuana (legal!), which has a mildly sedative effect somewhere between marijuana and alcohol, and retired to the beach to investigate burgeoning bonfire opportunities.

Then it began to rain. Hard. For about an hour we huddled in our rain jackets, wandering aimlessly down the beach searching for some other Middlebury kids, and contemplating an early departure to return to Dunedin. Luckily, the skies began to clear, cans of beer appeared, and we settled down to an extended beach session, with plenty of friends from Dunedin around and many local pyromaniacs to meet as well. As the bonfires burned, we swapped stories about everyone's favorite (or most disgusting) part of the day, and griped about weather, the quality of Tasman Bitter beer, and the lack of dry firewood.

Rich, Ben, Danny and I left Cully snoozing near the fire and skipped into town to inquire at an Indian restaurant we had previously sighted about the possibility of some dinner. Danny and Ben, the J-Squad, convinced the owner to let us into the restaurant to stand at a table until chairs became available, instead of waiting outside watching the empty, seat-less table inside. After some delicious curries, copious naan, and some somosas for good luck, we paid the bill and headed back the 500 yards to the beach to reconnoiter the status of our fifth compatriot. We hung by the fire for a while longer as various members of our group contemplated romantic options, before deciding that midnight was an excellent hour for leavetaking, and retreating to our vehicle to consider our options.

For days, we had been planning on leaving the festival that night, regardless of events, as Rich and Danny had a mandatory soccer practice on Sunday at 2 pm. That morning, I had won the ro-sham-beau to decide who stayed sober enough to drive, and my last drink having been some despicable beer at the festival eight hours earlier, I threw my support beside an early departure and was quickly joined by my other teammates. We packed into the car to find that we had lost our recently-purchased iPod adapter, and as sadness threatened to crush the group, I hastily pulled out Absolute Disco for a hearty singalong of "Disco Inferno," which never fails to lift group morale. We drove north and then east, heading back a different, faster way over Arthur's Pass. Once again, we had made the choice to drive this beautiful pass in pitch blackness, which I will regret until we likely head back there in a few weeks to do some tramping.

The drive was physically and mentally taxing. I felt a strange compulsion to see it out to its end, so with a full tank of gas, a Red Bull and some BBQ potato chips as fuel, I set in for the long run. Danny, Rich and I stayed away for awhile after Ben and Cully passed out before we even reached the DUI checkpoint outside of town. We discussed what seems to be on every university junior's mind, what our plans were post-college. It seems everyone I know is worried about job hunting or internship scavenging, and the three of us discussed plans, hopes, dreams, and fears on the long ride up the pass.

After a stirring rendition of "Piano Man" (for the record, Danny's favorite lyric: Yes, theyre sharing a drink they call loneliness/But its better than drinkin alone)as we crested the saddle, we drove off into Canterbury, with nothing in front of us except reflective patches on the road and the promise of a soft bed upon our return to Dunedin. I began to tire, but was able to scavenge some caffeine from a lonely gas station before we hit Timaru, and Dunedin seemed closer than ever. The last hour, as Danny succumbed to sleep and Rich struggled to keep awake as my passenger-side partner, conversation devolved into the name game, discussion of the trip so far, and at its lowest point, a question from Rich of "Sam, what is your greatest fear?" I struggled to stay sane, let alone conscious.

As hour seven dawned with the sun I alternated between putting my head out the window, pinching myself, or simply driving faster and faster as I tried to stay awake. Whenever I felt a true burst of tiredness, I would pull off to the side and stare into space for a while while I gathered my sparse thoughts. Finally, as we rounded Mt. Cargill, I rejoiced in jubilant victory as we entered the city proper. I dropped of the boys at their respective flats in a slap-happy air of hilarity, and retured to my bed for an incredible sleep until 2:30 PM. We played some tennis before dinner and had a large team dinner with all the crewmembers and Ben's Kiwi host, Brad. Last night I slept beautifully, as I will likely again tonight.

So, in reflection on this weekend of gastrointestinal gymnastics, we all returned psyched on the trip, intrigued by foods we had never seen or imagined, and amazed by the considerable ability of teenage and twenty-something Kiwis to be stumbling drunk at very early hours of the day.

New Zealand, cheers to you!


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Weekend Plans

It's Thursday afternoon, and I'm leaving Dunedin in a few hours, to return on Sunday. Rich, Cully, Danny, Ben and I are headed to Hokitika, with about 50% of the people we know here, for the 2008 Wild Foods Festival. It's about an eight hour drive, and we'll see how far we make it tonight before camping at a site along the road. The Festival is Saturday, and we'll be there a day early, so there should be plenty of time to explore the little city as well as hopefully check out the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers along the way up the West Coast.

The festival is based around Wild and Exotic foods. Some of the things we're hoping to sample include: huhu grubs, fried cicadas, shark fin, many varieties of venison, whitebait, fish eyes, moonshine, seaweed smoothies, lambs' tails, Viagra slushies (!!), elderflower champagne, and other such atrocities and delicacies. Obviously very excited.

We should be back on Sunday, and I'll make sure to take lots of photos and update the blog following my return.

Au revoir, Sam

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Little About Classes

After almost a full week of classes, I thought I would write a little bit to let you guys know what I'm taking and perhaps discuss how tertiary school in NZ differs from the US and A.

Courses are called "papers" here, and I am enrolled in four different papers: Environmental Management (Geography 397), Introduction to Land Administration and Planning (Surveying 114), ANZAC and Its Legacy (History 224), and Introduction to Formal Logic (Philosophy 222). I'll discuss each a little bit.

I decided to take Environmental Management after dropping Maori Studies, which was seeming like a destined-to-be-a-joke class. I also realized I was taking zero major classes here, so I thought I would contribute to my GEOG major at Midd by doing a little work here. The class is taught by a Professor who specializes in coastal geomorphology and European invasive species. He spent a large amount of time in the late 80s and early 90s writing the Resource Management Act of 1991, which basically redefined New Zealand's environmental protection laws, some of which dated from before 1910. It created some new agencies while dissolving the old bureaucracy, and overall represented an important shift in NZ's enviro-policy.

The course centers around a few aspects of EnvMan, especially how policy is created, considered, and implemented. With first-hand knowledge of the legal proceedings behind the RMA 1991, it seems the professor is well-equipped to discuss the subject extensively. The class is also made up of older students, which is quite nice compared to my first-year Surveying paper. The students seem for the most part engaged and focused, as one would expect in an upper-level paper.

Introduction to Land Administration and Plannign is a Surveying class that I decided to take due to my interest in the workings of land laws and how land is allocated throughout the world. I have a working knowledge of his this works in Vermont, but even from VT to NY there is a huge difference in how things are set up legally. Thus, examining NZ's law structure sounded enticing and a good way to find out a few things about the country's inner political workings. I walked into the lecture room on the first day of class to see 170 freshers looking down at the professor, and I was instantly reminded that I was no longer at my 'Small East Coast Liberal Arts School,' and that these students had no idea what the difference was between my "Uni" experience and theirs.

The first day of class, the professor started off by stressing that his portion of the class (the first six weeks) would be devoted to teaching us all how to write well for Uni. I was a little confused before I realized two things: this was a freshman class, and we all needed help as freshmen, but also that there are no entrance requirements for New Zealand Universities, so this was not a 'competetive' class to get into, and the level of academic rigor and New Zealand secondary schools was nowhere near the competetive nature of the USA education system.

I think it'll be pretty straightforward judging that our first assignment is a one-page essay about "how the law affects us personally."

The history class about ANZAC refers to the Australian and New Zealand forces that fought on the side of the allies in World War I. This is a big part of New Zealand history as they had a massive number of young men volunteer and pass away in Europe, fighting a war 20,000 kilometers away. It was a strong reminder of NZ's ties to the United Kingdom, and deeply affected this small island country. The paper covers the effects on New Zealand as well as the effects and situation in other Commonwealth countries such as South Africa, Canada, and Australia.

The Philosophy class is about Formal Logic, which is basically relating prepositions and conclusions with lots of complicated little symbols. Pretty fun, haven't made my judgement yet.

In all, it is really strange to be at a huge school, where between classes you can look around and see a thousand people bustling. 170-seat lectures are commonplace, every class has either two instructors or a TA. Students sport mullets and horrible facial hair, yet everyone is also remarkably attentive considering they spent the last ten days staring a the bottom of a beer bottle. So far, good on ya mate! for being a student and populating this great school.

That's all for now, I'll concoct some plans for the weekend, and get back to you.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Week's Events

Well, I'm looking at my watch and feeling that it's time to update on some of my recent activities. After our arrival home from Wanaka on Sunday we realized that the city was a completely different place from the quiet college semi-city we had left. The students had arrived. 20,000 undergraduate students arrive each year at Otago, and a huge number of those are "freshers."

The freshman or first years arrive for what is commonly called O-Week, Orientation week, which is an orgiastic festival of alcohol, debauch and free stuff. All the bars have specials, there's plenty of live music, and about 500,000 bottles are broken in the streets every night. It provides quite an interesting backdrop to our first few weeks in New Zealand, but luckily I was able to get away from the city a few times this week, which is the real subject of this blog.

On Monday and Tuesday I did errands and puttered around the city, going to Long Beach Tuesday for an afternoon in the sun. Long Beach is north of Port Chalmers, Northeast of Dunedin, and is a fine white-sand beach backed by large cliffs that screamed to be climbed. I am lucky enough to have friends here with plenty of climbing gear, so we have been able to do some sweet things. This album of Long Beach includes photos of the first day we were there as well as a few at the end from Evan Mikkelson's camera of Evan, Bart DiFiore, and myself climbing a crack at Long Beach. Pretty exciting but I was unable to get past the overhanging ledge crux. Bart and Evan both passed it and continued the 25m to the top of the route. Evan also is shown completing a side-section of the route that was rated two points higher, where he had to basically transfer from right to left with both his hands on a nonexistent hold above the ledge. All in all, some excellent climbing on that route, another that we all topped, and in an amazing bouldering cave.

On Wednesday, the International Office took all the recently-arrived International Students on the Taieri Gorge Railway, which is a scenic old-style railway leaving from Dunedin and passing through the aforementioned Gorge, a river valley with no roads that is only traversed by a railroad track. There were some incredible images along the way, and I enjoyed meeting and hanging with numerous international students (mostly Americans actually).

Evan and Rich and myself took a little side trip when we had about an hour break at the end of the Gorge. We trekked over some scrubby pastures, jumped a couple of fences, and scrambled down a gully to try to get close to the water. It was packed with stones and scrub brush, but we moved down towards the gully with relative ease. Rounding the edge of the bluff, we saw that it was much farther than we had realized, and turned up towards the top again. We walked north towards the rest of the students, and attempted to race down an open area to the river, but heard the train's whistle and headed back. The train went back down the same tracks, which provided an interesting reverse view of the Gorge. We stopped halfway down for a free BBQ, with lamb steaks, burgers, and ham steaks, all of which were delicious. The return to Dunedin was highlighted by a setting sun and views of the valley and city shutting down for the night.

On Friday, Rich and I decided that a trip was in order, with Danny Wasserman, from Colby, and Evan Mikkelson, another Midd Kid. We wanted to go to Aoraki/Mt. Cook but were worried about bad weather, so we went South to the Catlins Forest Park, a National Park south of Dunedin about 2 hours. The Catlins is not as "extreme" as Wanaka was, but beautiful nonetheless. We got to the area around 4 PM, stopped at the visitor center in Owaka, and planned out our evening. We drove quickly out to Nugget Point, where we hoped to see seals and penguins frolicking in the cold seas. The walk out to the lighthouse skirted a steep hillside, ending at a lighthouse that was built in the mid-18th Century. It had a full-time keeper until 1989, which would have been a fairly ridiculous job. We saw a good amount of wildlife, but not in the quantities we had hoped.

After Nugget Point, we headed to Purakaunui Falls, which is a twenty-foot high multi-level waterfall a ten minute walk from the road. The falls were wonderful, and there are some pictures HERE. After our fill of waterfalls, we went to Parakaunui Bay, towards the coast from the falls, where there is a $6 DOC campground. We quickly set up the tents, locked our bags in the car, and went for a jaunt up the nearby bluffs, hoping for a good view of the ocean before either weather or darkness set in. We hiked upwards through steep sheep-encrusted meadows, scattering ewes before us. All the sheep banded together and left the paddock we were walking through in long white lines, clearly visible from up above. It felt a little like watching wild migrations on Planet Earth, and we felt a little remorse at their terror before realizing that we were far more pleasant visitors than the barking sheepdogs they were accustomed to.

The views from the top of the ridge were well worth it, and we sat on the edge of a three-hundred-foot cliff overlooking the majestic Pacific. We decided to head back in the interest of hunger, and cruised down the hillside we had labored up half an hour earlier. Dinner was cooked by headlamp, but we began by eating fresh local blue cheese with apple slices, which was pretty amazing.

In the morning, after a nice sleep, we drove away at 7:30 to head to the Catlins River Walk, a 8-10 hour flat walk along the Catlins River, with numerous swing bridge crossings and rainforest surroundings. It turned into a nice day, and the long walk was good to stretch the muscles and enjoy the serenity of the forest. We were planning to stay out that night and camp at the trailhead, but realized that there wasn't as much to do in the Catlins as we had hoped, so we headed back towards Dunedin, with a short stop at an abandoned railway tunnel through a hill outside of Owaka. Arriving home in the city felt great, as did sleeping in my own bed after a string of five nights where I either camped out or went to bed too late and a little intoxicated. A sober, sane sleep was what we all needed.

We hiked up Mt. Cargill again on Sunday with the Otago Tramping Club, where they treated us to a free bbq and keg at the bottom of the hike. Classes started today (Monday), and maybe after I've had one of each class I will write a little update about that.

All for now,