Friday, December 19, 2014

Once In A Blue Moon Socks

Any knitter will attest to the fact that they will always bring more knitting and yarn with them on vacation than they can possibly use. We all do this because we have heard the horror story of the one time a knitter didn't do that and had absolutely no knitting with them. That should not ever be allowed to happen, hence the overabundance of projects. While in New Zealand, I finished an already started pair of socks, a hat, and a whole new pair of socks. Wei Siew so sweetly gave me the yarn for this pair.
The one time I remembered to get a picture with the both of us in it. Thanks for taking the picture Eric!

A few days before leaving New Zealand, I managed to finish the pair. Yay!

The yarn is by Stray Cat Socks and is in the Blue Moon colorway.

I was quite happy to not only finish them in New Zealand, but to wear them on my last day in the country.
 Thanks for taking the pictures Connor. It was so much easier than contorting myself in order to get them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Patuna Chasm

When I first came to Wellington, Chris told me about an amazing hike at Patuna Chasm. He told me that since half the hike is in water, we would need to wait until the weather warmed up so that we wouldn't be frozen the whole way. During my last week in Wellington, Chris, Owen, and I made the trip out. A French couple also was there, so the five of us did the hike. Adele and Martin were quite sweet. When I lost my sunglasses, Martin ran back to look for them with me. We were lucky that they weren't too far down the trail.

The first half of the hike is through farm land and near some amazing rock formations. This bit is optional, and I considered walking around because of the bees. That's right. The hole right above Chris' head contains a whole swarm, honeycomb and all. Owen made fun of me for not having a sense of adventure (but not a sense of self preservation) so I went ahead and walked this bit as well.

We walked along narrow trails, including some bits that had rope attached so you could pull yourself up difficult portions, until we reached the ladder that lead into the chasm. Not pictured is the really slick mud that was along the narrow trail.

We first walked upstream to a waterfall. Martin and Adele went back down while Owen, Chris, and I had lunch. We agreed to meet up at a spot downstream. Bits of the stream were pretty deep and I walked tip toe at parts in a desperate bit to keep my underwear dry.

We scrambled around, eventually reaching this large rock that had split. The only way through was so narrow that I climbed up the rock to see if we could get down another way. We couldn't, but as I came down I slipped, fell hard on my side and arm, and proceeded to slide another meter or so. I was ok, but it took me a minute to feel it. We all eventually shimmied through the narrow rock opening. Because Owen and Chris are such gentlemen, every time we got to a slick portion of the trail where they thought I might fall, they whipped their cameras out waiting for the perfect moment. That moment came (the one time they didn't pull out their cameras) and I fell on the same side again. It was a slower fall, so I laughed. But I fell into the river, so my underwear got wet despite my best efforts.

We continued downriver, admiring the limestone formations and overhanging trees. I felt like I was in The Jungle Book. Part of the hike was through a cave. I had heard that there might be eels around, so I was a little nervous. Of course Owen asked me to stay standing in the dark water for a bit while he took pictures. There were some neat pictures to be had because despite there being a cave, there was just enough light from the other end. 
Chris entering the cave

I knew that eels liked the dark, but near the end of the hike, we found two eels who were swimming around in daylight. One of them was quite curious and came right up to us. I didn't like how he looked at my shoes, so I continued on to find a dry patch to stand on. Chris put his hiking stick near the eel and the eel obliged him by biting the stick! I was less inclined to go into deeper water after that.

We met back up with Martin and Adele and walked through the pasture to get back to the car. It was a vigorous hike, but one of the best I had ever done. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Crow's Nest

I've been back home for a week now and finally have time to sit down and relate the last two weeks of my NZ trip. After Blenheim, I went back to Chris' in Wellington where we went on several more hikes before the last leg of my trip. From the window of the room I was staying in, I could see the Crow's Nest. I asked Chris if we could hike it. Little did I know that we would end up doing it twice: once from each direction.

It was quite windy the first time we went up. On our way down Chris spotted a plant he didn't recognize (a rarity) so we picked a sample. Neither of us were able to figure out what it was beyond that it was from the mint family. Chris had a friend that was particularly good at identifying plants, but our sample was pretty wilted, so we climbed back up. (It ended up being Balm of Gilead)

Since we were so close to the top, Chris asked if I'd like to continue on. Of course I would!

We sat at the top, ate some chocolate, and headed back down. We were pretty lucky to have such great weather. As we headed back down, we took in the view of Wellington harbor.

Once we had descended back into the bush, I noticed that a few trees were full of holes. Chris told me about the Puriri moth.

The grubs burrow into trees and spend a few years maturing. They create camouflaged caps over their holes. We were able to spot a few. The moths themselves only live a few days and are uncommon to see.

A few weeks before this, Wei Siew had brought over one she had found. I didn't realize how lucky I was to see one in person. It was quite large. We let it loose in Chris' back yard and it flew off drunkenly, hit a tree branch, and disappeared.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bud Rubbing

After the adventure at Sawcut Gorge, Chris and I returned to working on Jon's vineyard. Chris was quite gleeful that he was going to go back to Wellington before me, so he would not have to keep working. By this time we had finished all the wire lifting and moved on to bud rubbing. Bud rubbing consisted of knocking off all the canes that are growing along the main stalk of the vine. 

As I was going up and down the rows, I heard this strange cheeping sound. It seemed as if it was simultaneously in front of me and far away. I stood for a bit, listening carefully.

Eventually I determined that the sound was right under my nose. These four guys were hungry and waiting for mum. Every time I tapped the vine, they would open their mouths. Jon had told us to take out any nests we found. I wasn't sure what to do in this case. He told me we turn a blind eye to nests with personality.

However, nests where there weren't personalities living, we still took out. I must have pulled out a good seven nests. Some empty, some not. In one case, I found a nest because a bird flew out of it right in front of my face. It gave me a serious fright!

After three days, we finished the bud rubbing. At some point, I asked why there were roses by so many of the the vines. I was informed that the roses catch disease faster than the vines, so if a rose is unwell, it is possible to treat the vines before they die.

I had a great time with Jon and Bev and I learned quite a bit in a short amount of time. On my last day, they both took me back out to Picton to catch the ferry. The view along the Marlborough Sounds is breath taking. It was the reason I took the ferry rather than fly. Unfortunately, I was so tired after a solid three weeks of activity that I passed out during a good part of the Sounds leg of the journey. Ah well. What I saw was still worth it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Sawcut Gorge

Whenever I agree to go with Chris on a hike, I go knowing full well that anything could happen and that the track could be in any condition.

As usual, I was treated to one of New Zealand's finest tracks. And by finest track, I mean that there was none. We just scrambled over rocks looking for orange triangles that would prove we were going the right direction.

We crossed the river multiple times. Chris said that the water was cold enough to allow boys to be mistaken for girls. I told him that girls didn't like being in water that cold either.

After all the scrambling we did, we eventually reached the gorge. A Spanish couple was sitting and having lunch by it. I was impressed that there was anyone else out there since the drive in was long, winding, and dangerous followed by a hike that was long, winding, and dangerous. 

We walked up the gorge, through the river, and had lunch. 

As we walked back down, the light started to shine right down into the gorge. I marveled that we could have come at any time of the year at any time of the day and could have missed this phenomenon.

I was tired, cold, wet... and I didn't want to be anywhere else in the world in that moment.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Vineyards Of Blenheim

After two wonderful weeks in Christchurch, I flew on to Blenheim to stay with Dennis and Chris' brother, Jon.
Above Christchurch

Jon owns a vineyard that is contracted out to a winery.

He has 10,323 vines and over the course of the week I spent there, I had the pleasure of meeting them all.... twice.

We started with the job of wire lifting. It gets quite windy in Blenheim. The wires help protect the canes from snapping off in the wind. It took Chris, Jon, and I two days to lift all the wires. Later on, another set of wires get lifted. The wire lifting wasn't too difficult, but what I hadn't realized was how much walking we'd be doing. Chris and I measured the longer rows. It was 250 meter and took up an average of 10 minutes to do.

Between the work at the vineyard, Chris and I had a few excursions. One day we spent time out in Picton. We caught sight of one of the ferries that goes between the north and south island.

We had also seen this place earlier. I just had to eat there. It was too funny to see a place called Kentucky in a place so far from Kentucky. It was a fish and chips kind of place. My official impression was while the food was enjoyable, the most Kentuckian thing about it was the name.

We spotted a WWI monument as well. In the States, monuments tend to commemorate WWII. But in New Zealand, they all seem to be related to WWI. Even the smaller towns have monuments. It is quite clear that New Zealand gave many men to the Great War.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Akaroa

Dennis and Diane had some guests come and visit from Australia. So the day after finishing the post and rail, we all headed out for a day at Akaroa. First was a stop at the top of a vista before driving down to the harbor.

Sometimes I just think to myself, "Only in New Zealand."

We separated for a bit and I walked up and down the main street before going into the local museum.

We were suppose to meet at the car, but I must have been a little too long because when I came to where the car was suppose to be, it wasn't. I walked along the water front in the general direction that I thought they said the restaurant was going to be. I'll admit to being a little shaken up, but thankful I had a cell phone that was getting coverage.

We had a nice lunch and I volunteered myself as the designated driver. On our way towards the car we got another, "Only in New Zealand" experience. This man was walking a lamb and a dog. Too funny!
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