Brick | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Source: Brick | The Daily Post

These one word daily prompts still strike me as quite lazy: possibly that is why I so often have a similarly motivationally deficient response in reverting to imagery for my post…

DSCF0139 Paving bricks that we pulled up from a pathway bordering the house to make way for a deck from the new (in 2007) bifold doors…the deck still isn’t in but the stacking bricks are becoming  a feature in their own right…DSCF0140

A build brick recovered from somewhere – we often still find things that were tossed off the old highway that is now our driveway – now home to a new strawberry plant, under a blanket of maple leaves…DSCF0141 Bricks in the workshop add weight to a laminating sandwich…

Beets, feta and rice

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

Source: Dream | The Daily Post

This is one of those kitchen experiences where everything just came together perfectly…a dream to prepare and more so to consume…

The foundation was another of Jen Rice’s cracker recipes, Roasted Beets With Goat Cheese And Honey…if you have any interest at all in spicing up your kitchen and your diet, you really must check out Jen’s site Sugar Soil: it’s chock full of great ideas and cues to try different ingredients. Living in rural New Zealand, our local shops don’t have the same range of more exotic items as larger centres: at the moment, I’m making regular purchases from Happy and Healthy for things like root tumeric, agar, black rice and bulk almonds and chia seeds.

Anyway…as I’ve discussed on a couple of occasions previously, my green journey is driven by a desire to eat and be more healthy and less by any philosophical issues – although the Hot Doc’s insights into what gets pumped into commercial chicken and cattle gives me pause – so I’ve not gone entirely vegetarian or diary-free, just adjusted my habits for more healthy outcomes…which is why I’m quite comfortable with the dairy content of this particular dish…

As you can see, it is quite simple to prepare but I did make some minor changes:

I thought that I was buying baby beets at the supermarket: I was but it was only when I opened the packets to actually use them that I realised that they were precooked. I should have and will in future just buy normal beetroot.

Jen’s cooking time for this is up to four hours in the oven – I don’t get home from work til around 6 and there is no way that I will be waiting til after 10PM for dinner. My cunning plan was to just toss it all in the slow cooker while I was at work. This sounded like a good plan until I found that the beets were precooked.

I wanted a rice base to bulk it out as a meal – as writ in the original recipe it is more a snack or an entree than a meal in its own right – so set up a cup of black rice to pre-soak through the day so that the only cooking and delay in the evening would be cooking the rice.

I couldn’t find any goat feta locally so opted for the stuff from cows…I think I’ll survive.

I used black sea salt instead of normal salt – I bought some of this just to try but then found I had run out of normal salt any way so it is going into anything calling for salt.

I warmed the honey so it would mix better with the balsamic and spread over the beets.

I was worried that the precooked beets would just turn into mush after a day in the slow cooker. I needn’t have worried as they were still nice and firm when I nervously lifted the lid off that evening.

From there it was just a matter of flicking the rice cooker to ‘cook’ and dicing up a third of the feta…and then racing up to the National Park Village just before it closed to get the Greek yogurt that I had forgotten on my way home – they had none so I had to settle for natural yogurt: not a biggie for this non yogurt connoisseur. They only had a mega container though so will be applying yogurt to the next week or so of meals just to burn it up…


Yes, my plating still needs work but OM-bloody-G!!! Did this taste good or what??? The best meal I have eaten in a long time – if I do say so myself – even better than the coriander tacos from Eat in Ohakune or my meal at Kokako the last time I was in Auckland and I COOKED IT!!!!

The challenge now is to be able to recreate this success next time. yes, it is possible that the sugars in the beets and the honey contributed to some extent to my sky-rocket level of satisfaction and enjoyment but then my serving also filled me up…

Whether by accident, chance or skill (most likely one of the first two!), this meal offers a great combination of texture and flavour:

The soft smooth beet, yoghurt and cheese is offset by the texture of the black rice.

The sweetness of the beets and rice is balanced by the more tart cheese and yoghurt.

Even the colours work well with the dark red of the beets and the black of the rice contrasted nicely by the lighter cheese and yoghurt.

There’s not really anything that I would change about my ingredients or preparation of this dish – if it ain’t broke… – other than use raw beets next time and see if I can find some Greek yoghurt…This was the first time that I had used the black sea salt and the black rice but both performed well: many recipes mention the need to soak the black rice overnight but it came out well after soaking through the day and also came out of the rice cooker, even after presoaking, better and cleaner than normal white rice…

15 out of 10 on the yummilicious scale!!!!

My Green Journey so far…the next bit…

I must have made more progress than I thought as I need to flow over into a new post…my previous post talked about the results of reducing caffeine and dairy from my diet…

Smoothing out the rough edges

DSCF9624I usually drink 2-3 smoothies a day now, almost certainly two, and three perhaps if it has been a long day…I’m learning what makes a good smoothie and how to keep it affordable. Part of affordability is keeping on top of what fruit and veges are in season and steering away from more expensive out of season items. Coconut water is less bland than the plain rainwater that comes out of our taps but @$5/litre kinda pricey so it’ll become an occassional. Rather than using storebought juice (if it is really juice!), I’m going back to making my own from whatever fruit and veges are cheap…it’s only a week or so before the ‘Kune Eclair shop re-opens with its cheapest bags of carrots and parsnips, heralding a mega juicing and freezing effort…

kune ecalir shop

Being clever with meat

I’d already been reducing my meat intake over the last couple of years, a step partially driven by simple economics: it doesn’t take too much in the way of smarts to be able to stretch half a kg of mince from 1-2 meals to 4-5 without feeling that something’s missing…

Lighten up

I used to rely heavily on potato in my old diet, mainly mashed or fried, i.e. chips but now that all feels just way too heavy…Living rurally, I tend to buy a lot in bulk and so this year I have slowly consuming those stocks down to zero and either not replacing them or substituting a healthier alternative.

A lot of the time now, rice is the new spud and the Irish in me is comfortable with that. The chips, potato, fried, chunky that used to be a staple of my diet are now an occasional treat, usually with fish…


It does mean, however, that I will need to experiment with some new roles for the air fryer beyond healthy(er) means of making chips…

Turn to the dark side

As much as possible I am moving away from processed food and ingredients, getting as close to the raw material as possible…I’m not sure whether “if it’s white, it’s bad” is a solid rule (maybe just not as good), but white food like bread, sugar, flour, salt has generally been uber-processed….is the white just what’s left after all the good stuff is taken out?

For the most part, a healthier alternative is easily sourced and at not much additional cost, if any…

Yes, I do still mainly buy white flour, but offset this by adding bran flakes when I’m baking…summa-summa for baking bread;

Raw sugar instead of white sugar (+ banana is often a good sub-in),

Sea salt instead of common kitchen salt,

Brown or black rice instead of white rice: if you use white rice, rinse it first: all the sediment that comes off after the first rinse may be a good argument in favour of darker rices…

Spice up your life

A little spice goes a long way…spices and herbs make for tasty meals without the need for sugar to taste…it is now so easy to use spices and herbs to spice up what might otherwise be quite mundane…adding a chunk of ginger totally vitalised my juices last winter…and jalapeño in bread adds a whole new dimension of flavour…




A study in growth…

On Thursday, I conducted an unintentional but educational experiment.


In the interests of science

Mid-afternoon, I decided to drive to Taupo to do some shopping.

Having skipped lunch – not intentionally, I was just doing stuff and not feeling particularly hungry to that point – I stopped at the Turangi BK for a Big Feed; Whopper, fries, nuggets, caramel sundae and big Coke. I must admit I did hesitate slightly when the TV screen asked me “Coke for the drink?” – I would have opted out if I could have remembered what else BK had to offer but went with the flow, which is probably the whole idea of such a leading question. Later thought: I could have asked what other options they had to offer…

For old me, stopping for lunch at the Turangi BK was pretty much a habit on my way to points further…new healthy me had a brief think about the options – there aren’t many in Turangi and less when you’re hungry NOW and in a hurry (to get to Taupo before 5) – but habit won out..

Shopping in Taupo completed, once again habit took the helm and I found myself in the drive-in queue at the Taupo KFC – in the full knowledge that every time I have KFC, it reminds me why I don’t have KFC…a three piece quarter pack and a Big Snack burger…all that grease suppressed healthy conscience’s pricking as I drove back west…

Two things I noticed.

Firstly, how absolutely sweet both the BK and KFC offerings tasted to Way Less Sugar Me…coming up to six months along my green journey and this cynic is pretty much sold on the notion that there is a direct connection between sugar/sweetness in food and food craving…

Secondly, by the time I got home – 90 minutes max and that includes stopping at the Turangi New World and stocking up – on healthy food, I might add: baby beets, pineapples ($2.99 each!!!), pumpkin, kumara, ginger (yes, it’s time for that ripper soup again) and more, more, more bananas…Depending on my smoothie mix for the day and less any consumed in cooking, I’m averaging three bananas downrange each day now…Oh! And, almonds, in quantity as well: after reading the label on my store-bought almond milk  – all the words to big to pronounce in a hurry  – I am somewhat motivated to try my hand at making my own…


Compensatory healthy stuff

Oh, I distract myself…hey, look, groceries..! do I need to get out more, I wonder..? So anyway, secondly, by the time I got home, my belt was distinctly tight and uncomfortable and I had this craving for sweet, sweet, sweet stuff. Now, when I stick to my healthy options, I can and do consume a lot but never, never, since I started this journey have I felt so bloated, yuk and uncomfortable as then…lesson identified…time will tell about it level of learnedness…

Inspiring Max liked my post Earth  this evening so, as I try to do, I checked out Max’s blog, it’s a tit for tat, you scratch my back bloggie thing for me…in  Coffee Catchup #6, Max asked readersIf we were having coffee I would ask you what you have been up to this last week, let me know in the comments.” Since the question had been posed, I did…and this discovery popped out as I burbled out my week in response…then I thought (it happens sometimes) “…well, if this is profound enough to contribute to someone else’s blog, it’s good enough for me as well…”

So here I am, at 8-30 in the PM, writing a post, after my first day back at work after three weeks off – and it went very well, thank you very much – when I should have dinner well under way…which is how I get to skip meals and then conducting unintentioned experiments like that above…still, dinner tonight will be quite simple: a reheat of the korma I made last night where I learned how much tastier food is when cooked in coconut oil than vegetable oils like Canola…

OK, now it’s time for food and a rewatch of Spectre, surely one of the better Bonds in the last five decades…?

spectre 007

A day in the Desert

DSCF0024-001Zone 1 of the Waiouru Military Training Area is one place that I never thought I would find myself again…

Zone 1 is one of about three dozen zones that the New Zealand Army’s main training area is divided into; it extends from State Highway 1 to the eastern slopes of Mt Ruapehu and provides an open country manoeuvre and live firing area for Army units. It has been used for live firing since the early 20th Century, in the days before unexploded munitions were tracked and recorded and thus remains an area closed to the public – unless escorted by Army staff.


Hazards…if you don’t know, don’t touch it…these are each the size of a can of baked beans…do you know what they are..?


…possibly safe…but what lies beneath…


…shiny…don’t touch…

One of its claims to fame is that it starred as Mordor in many scenes from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, mainly Return of the King, including the physical Black Gates at the entrance to Mordor and the final battles that concluded the saga. Mt Ngauruhoe lies physically in about the same relation to Zone 1 as Mt Doom did in relation to the Gates.

Today I was fortunate to have been invited to attend a seminar to discuss the volcanic dunes in the Rangipo Desert, with a series of research-based presentations followed by a field trip into Zone 1 to view the dune environment directly. Our group was admirably hosted by the Army – very good to renew my acquaintance with Major Pat Hibbs who I’ve known since my days as a very young soldier in 2/1 RNZIR –  firstly at the National Army Museum, and then our escort as we forayed into the desert.

The four presentations at the Museum set the scene for our diverse group and provided a valuable opportunity to either clarify or raise any questions before we set out:

Graeme La Cock – a synthesis of information on the volcanic dunes of the Rangipo Dunefield

Harry Keys – disturbance role of lahars and eruptions, Japanese research interest generally and revegetation issues, including the disturbed area near SH1 and the bund.

Mark Smale – The age, vegetation and formation of the volcanic dunes

Angelina Smith – The impact of vehicles on the Rangipo Desert, and suggestions to mitigate these impacts.

What did I learn…

Lots…first to remember a pen and paper next time to write it all down…I’ve deliberately left out all the scientific terms because my memory just wasn’t up to remembering it all but I may rewrite this if the morning’s presentations are shared and OK’d for release.

Many agencies cooperate and share research on the dune fields. These include the Department of Conservation, NZ Army, Landcare Research, The University of Waikato and Massey University. In addition, overseas researchers also conduct and share studies on the volcanic dune fields.

Volcanic dune fields are very rare, existing only in Iceland, Peru, the coast of California, Indonesia and New Zealand. Although there are other inland dune fields in New Zealand, the only volcanic dune field is at Rangipo.

The Rangipo Desert isn’t really a desert: it has too much rain…the annual rainfall in Waiouru is around 1200mm, and on Mt Ruapehu around 2400mm, actually quite wet by New Zealand standards and certainly well above that for any definition of desert to stand.


If not technically a desert – even though it may appear like one to the untrained eye i.e. lots of sand – it most definitely does qualify as a dune field, basically an area of shifting sands forming terrain features.

It is not considered that the military use of the area over the last 100 years has affected it one way or another. Although Zone 1 has been and still is used as an impact area for artillery, bombs and rockets, and is a manoeuvre area for armoured vehicles ranging from 17 tonnes (NZLAV) to 50 tons (Centurion) it does not appear any different visually from the adjacent section of the dune field that lies within Tongariro National Park. The theory is that the whole area i.e. the surface, is so unstable anyway that the impacts of shells and vehicles is actually negligible compared to the effects of wind and rain, snow and ice.

Because the dunes are constantly changing it is very difficult to measure their age. This is complicated in Zone 1 because the very real risk of buried unexploded munitions prevents digging and core-sampling. One of the recent studies found that the best way to tell the age of a dune is by measuring the age of the vegetation on it…


Some of the more mature trees in the dune field although only 3-4 metres high, and 3-400 years old

The event that has had the most impact on the Rangipo area was the Taupo eruption some time between 182 and 250AD. It is not really known what this area was like before this eruption but it was certainly scoured clear of vegetation as a result. Since that event, man-made fire has probably been the biggest impactor on the state of the dune field, with periodic large lahars, on average about every 500 years or so, having the next most impact.

The dunefield is slowly expanding north and no one is quite sure why …

The dune field is a rugged challenging one for plant life and there is a clear succession that starts with growths like this…


…around which the sand drifts and builds up. simple grasses like bristle tussock may then develop followed slowly, often over years or decades by more complex vegetation.


It is a harsh unforgiving process…as dunes the surface is constantly shifting: the risk to developing vegetation is that it may be simply buried under the shifting sands, or have the sand around it uncut, exposing its roots…


…either way not good for ongoing survival…

Even though there are substantial beech forests only a few kilometres away, the beech forest will probably not regenerate in the dune field because a fungus necessary to its growth is not in the soil there and is very difficult – read, close to impossible – to establish artificially.

The desired future for the Rangipo dune field is for it to regenerate naturally i.e. to its pre-settlement state. Replanting is not considered necessary, more a tool of last resort and it is considered of greater benefit to focus conservation efforts on the control of invasive weeds and pest animals like deer, rabbits, hares and possums.

The Army conducts its own pest control programmes across the Training Area, all 63,000 hectares of it, targeting pests like possums, rabbits and hares, and invasive weeds like the various forms of weed pines. Because the Area has an 85% usage rate – there were only three days this month in which we were able to get into Zone 1 for this study trip – and due to the number of hazards on and under the ground, much of this work is done by helicopter. As a part of this programme, the Army is also investigating source vectors for invasive weeds and sharing the results of this work.


Smoko and networking


The road home…

In another life, I trudged all over the dunes ‘by day and by night, regardless of season, weather or terrain’…environmentally then, my main concern was the fine grit that, when wet, would stick to everything…one particle being all it took to convert rifle into not much more than a blunt instrument…none of us back then had any notion of the rarity, vulnerability or real harshness of this unique environment…I’m glad of this one last wander in my old stamping grounds…

Solitude | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt: solitude.

Source: Solitude | The Daily Post

This morning, I had big plans to clean up, do vacuuming and other such boring stuff…the sun streaming in, though, was too much of a temptation and I went off on another wander…this time, a little closer to home, Tupapakurua Falls just up the road in National Park Village…

There is a good, albeit slightly out of date, description of the route on the Taupo Tramping Club site, and also a good summary in the latest version of the DOC Walks in and Around Tongariro National Park (page 24). The track is pretty well-marked and does not pose any great navigational challenges so longs as normal common sense is applied, especially on the leg down to the base of the Falls.

The track starts in National Park Village. Park where you like but you need to be looking at this in Carroll Street to get underway:


Cross the railway tracks – the BUSY railway tracks so take appropriate care – and follow the road round to the left…DSCF0012 …taking the first right down Fishers Road where…DSCF9968…after a couple of kilometres, you come to the start of the trail proper. Yes, you could just drive here but it’s a nice walk along the road and you wouldn’t want to drive only to find that the freedom campers have taken up all the parking:


A short way along the track there’s a sign:


This is a great way for walkers to contribute to the maintenance and ongoing development of tracks like this one: all you have to do is pick up a couple of buckets and carry them to the next bucket depot. Don’t stress: the depots are only a few hundred metres apart and the buckets aren’t too heavy.


Grab two and start walking…

Along the sides of the trail, you’ll occasionally see traps for rats and stoats. Unless you are part of the community trapping programme, leave them alone…


The track is well-marked and very easy to follow; the gradients are all quite gentle and after twenty minutes, I got to the Taranaki Lookout:DSCF9978

…with Mt Taranaki clearly visible on the coast about 120km away…DSCF9976-001

From the Taranaki Lookout to the Tupapakurua Falls lookout is about an hour of easy walking. The track is not quite so well-defined, marked or developed and there are a few roots and other potential hazards for the carelessly-placed foot. The climbs are a little less gentle but still doable for walkers with average health and fitness: just take care where you are placing your feet. This is original New Zealand rain forest that does not get a lot of sun through the canopy – the sort of environment over which Von Tempsky pursued Tītokowaru – smooth surfaces, wood and rock, can be slick and slippery: there is no cell coverage here and even satellite access can be dodgy at the bottoms of the canyons: if you are on your own you may have a long wait for assistance if you have a whoopsy.

DSCF9984 The lookout is a nice spot for the break…DSCF9980 …with good views of the Falls in the distance.DSCF9985

The Taupo Tramping Club notes recommend pushing a few minutes south-west of the lookout to the end of the ridge for a better view of the Falls and the valley. I really recommend doing this as the views are much better. Not mentioned in the notes is the more-recently developed track down to the base of the Falls. I almost gave this a miss as my destination for the day had been the Falls lookout but it was still morning, still sunny and I had come all this way…I’m glad I did as it was the highlight of my walk!!

The track down to the base of the Falls is marked with the standard blue poles and orange arrows. It is not nearly as well-marked as the track to the lookout and walkers really need to be able to see the next marker before stepping off: there are many animal and hunting trails here as well and it is so very easy to follow what you think is the trail and find yourself geographically-embarrassed with no clue as to how to get back onto the actual trail…

Having said that, I found myself at the base of the Falls after a descent of around 15-20 minutes. Wow!! I need a better camera with a decent wide-angle lens to capture scenery like this…

The sun only gets into the valley later in the afternoon and it was not at all warm down in the base of canyon, plus the Falls throw up a fine mist that further drops the temperature: definitely NOT the spot for lunch..(or a swim!!)! But very much worth the extra walk and really made my impulsive activity worth the undone housework…

The climb back up to the lookout was not as arduous as I thought it might be on the way down BUT you do have to take care that you are actually on the trail as I found a couple of times

I still wasn’t that hungry when I got back up to the Falls lookout so pushed on back to the Taranaki lookout. I still wasn’t that hungry but felt I should eat something since I had carried it all this way: lunch was my standard walking lunch of a bannofee smoothie – tastes a lot more bananary with fresh bananas – and a couple of Jen Rice’s chewy spicy apple cookies – I always carry more but, as advertised, two is enough for a quick meal on the go.

From the lookout back to Fisher’s Road was only about ten minutes. Walking back down the road, I was welcomed back by a spectacular view of Mt Ruapehu through the trees…


My total time for this walk was just under four hours: obviously I could trim this down quite a bit if I wanted but what would be the point. This is the first walk that I have done in this series where it was just me and the outdoors – solitude – and it was there to enjoy. The last two adventures that I have done, on Tongariro and Ngauruhoe, have been in open terrain and I was surprised just how comfortable I felt today returning to the close country of my roots…oddly, although was was the least strenuous of my three adventures to date, it is the only one that has left me with quite sore shoulders…really wish that I had that spa pump repaired now…

Carry a big stick…

…or to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt “Tread carefully and carry a big stick“…two concepts directly related to my summit of Mt Ngauruhoe yesterday…


This is Stick. Stick is a little miffed that it missed out on going up Mt Tongariro last week, but that’s kinda what happens when you hide away in a dark corner of the garage. Stick is way more useful than lightweight aluminium walking poles which are too flimsy to brace your weight against. Stick is also really good as a counter-balance and a brace when descending scree slopes…


Tuesday and yesterday offered the best weather windows for another go at Ngauruhoe; yesterday had the least wind and Tuesday was off the list when I remembered that I had to speak to a visiting Duke of Edinburgh group from Karamu School. The day opening with a beautifully clear sunset that boded well for the day’s adventure.

Mt Ngauruhoe (thrower of rocks) is technically ‘only’ a vent on Mt Tongariro but because it is now higher than its parent and such a prominent feature, it is counted as a mountain in its own right. Don’t be fooled however, it is still an active volcano and carries with it, its own unique hazards: it is very steep (a consistent 30 degrees), very smooth and covered in loose rock.


It was pretty brisk at Mangatepopo car park with the normal number of Alpine Crossing walkers milling around. The sky was clear, and the sun beaming down but the temperature was barely above zero…the best way to keep warm: get moving…

Many walkers were way over-dressed and already shedding layers in the first couple of kilometres…a number, by Soda Springs, were already quite oblivious of their surroundings and had to be asked to allow faster walkers past…I don’t really see the point of doing a walk like the Crossing if you are going to zone out before the end of the first leg…


A decent frost crisped up parts of the track lying in the shadow of Mt Tongariro, a good reminder that winter is drawing closer and with it, winter ground conditions. Although there was quite a bit of frost on the board-walks, they weren’t slippery but that won’t be too far away…DSCF9893

I made good time up to the top of the Devil’s Staircase, about 90 minutes. At this sign, turn right…in summer ground conditions, i.e. no snow on the ground, a trail has been worn from the sign towards the base of the volcano.


We’re not kidding!!

Because the sides of Ngauruhoe are so steep and smooth, any rocks knocked loose – and many of the surfaces aren’t that stable to start with – can roll hundreds of metres, picking up a lot of speed along the way. On my way up, I saw two torso-sized boulders crashing down the scree slopes: if they collected anyone on their way down, the results would be serious injury and a free helicopter ride…


As this peters out, a series of blue and orange track markers indicates the route to the beginning of the real climb…

The trick to a safe and successful ascent of Ngauruhoe is to work your way up the solid rock formations, avoiding the scree slopes as much as possible: they are really hard work going up and unstable to such a point that upwards motion, slipping and sliding, will generate lots of mini rock slides.

As a very young volcano, a lot of the rock on Ngauruhoe is very rough and sharp and this is more pronounced the closer to the summit that you get. Hard shell gloves are a good idea – your nice wool Icebreaker gloves will last about five minutes – and I’ll be digging out my leather shooting gloves before I come back up here.

Another incredibly highly recommended piece of kit for Ngauruhoe is a climbing helmet. Unless you are fortunate to strike a day when you have the mountain to yourself (unlikely to occur with decent weather conditions), there is a consistent trickle of small (and not so small) rocks coming down from climbers ahead of you. In addition some of the rock faces on the way up are quite steep with potential drops of a few metres: you may be the best rock scrambler in the world, the that mightn’t help you if you get wiped out by someone less experienced ahead of taking a tumble.

climbing helmet

Something like this…

…and, no, I didn’t wear a helmet myself…something that a. my school group from Karamu School called me on when I caught up with them at Soda Springs on my way back and b. that I intend to do something about before I return…I only saw one group up there with helmets but lots of near misses…

Stick was really useful as a brace on the ascent and there was only one time where I needed to use both hands for climbing…everybody that I saw with walking poles struggled with them: they are too flimsy to be used as a brace and, more often than not, tend to just get in the way: you do need at least one hand free for climbing. I carried a set of poles up for a young American lady who had come expecting a walk not a climb and who was reduced to throwing her poles ahead of her as she used both hands to climb…

This young lady had also been left behind by the rest of her group which is pretty untidy – if you start as a group, you go as a group and finish as a group – more so, when she did not have any water on her. I carry heaps and was happy to share, bolster her confidence and encourage her to the summit but she was not prepared for this sort of activity and was having a pretty miserable time – which defeats the whole point of doing things like this…


It took me about two hours to the summit: spectacular views!! But all that rock is very hard and very sharp with a some big potential drops of the unwary or unsteady of foot..


The top of the cloud was sitting around 1400 metres but all the good stuff was visible, looking here across Red Crater to Blue Lake; lower centre, you can see the Tongariro Alpine Crossing heading up towards its highest point of 1868 metres, and the trail to the summit of Mt Tongariro. climbing off to the left…


There are active vents (fumaroles) on Mt Ngauruhoe and steam was clearly visible from this one on the summit: you can just make it out at four o’clock from the left-hand figure on the skyline…


Without wanting to repeat myself, this volcanic rock is hard and sharp…about three steps into my descent, I slipped and slip a couple of metres and have some nice skin to grow back on my left wrist…slow and steady is the way…


The easiest and safest way to descend Mt Ngauruhoe is down the scree slopes to the west of the rock that you climbed up on. Avoid the rocky surfaces: they are not very stable and you WILL set off rock slides!! Stick to the channels of already disturbed scree where there are less rocks.


Stick was really useful for bracing myself on the scree…this is soft and loose…if you are wearing ankle boots or runners/trainers (really?), gaiters would be a good idea as you will be sinking into this stuff up to and over your ankles. Don’t be an idiot and leap your way down the scree slopes: not only are you kicking loose a lot of loose material that hazards those below you, but if you strike a fixed rock beneath the surface, you are likely to lose your balance and become your own rock slide…you can descend quickly and safely without being an idiot…

Be aware of your surroundings…I spent a lot of my descent time watching behind me for rocks knocked loose by other people…not everyone calls ‘rock’ when they set one loose…think a couple of steps ahead as to where you will go if a rock comes in your direction…

Mt Ngauruhoe Summit climb April 2016 -026

…and finally back on the trail just before the junction with the Alpine Crossing…I was tempted to carry on up to Red Crater, across to Mt Tongariro and come back down the way I went up last week but I didn’t fancy descending down through that cloud on an unmarked trail…

Mt Ngauruhoe Summit climb April 2016 -028

A final shot from just short of Mangatepopo car park…perversely the view was clear with that little cloud rolling in in the time it took me to get out my camera…

Total time was about 6 1/2 hours but that includes a decent break for lunch, assisting the young American lady and stopping to talk to groups along the way. My total walking time, with just breather breaks would have been in the region of 5 1/2 hours…


  • Gloves – a good set of well-fitting leather gloves will save you skin
  • Helmet – may save your life.
  • Decent sturdy footwear – not runners! Consider gaiters to keep the scree out of your boots/shoes.
  • If you must take walking poles: either take only one of have a backpack that will let you carry them if you don’t need them.
  • Tread carefully: be sure you are stepping onto firm ground before you transfer your weight…
  • Jeans make the climb – and it is a climb not a walk – hard work. I was comfortable in shorts and an Icebreaker T-shirt all day BUT I had good clothing for cold/wet weather on me if I needed it…


It was disappointing to observe the number of people who were physically and psychologically unprepared for Mt Ngauruhoe…many thought it was just a walk and struggled with the climb and the height – one loud American complained the whole way up about his fear of falling – others got up all right but had no idea how to get down…here’s a hint: it’s easy to climb UP the rock; climbing down the same way is not nearly as easy and you’re making people still coming up work around you…

This, I think, puts a lot of the responsibility back onto us locals to ensure that we are setting visitor expectations appropriately in all our contact with them, and through our websites, and social media engagement…Mt Ngauruhoe is not a place where ‘just do it’ is a good or safe philosophy…



Sadness and gladness of the Last Post

anzac poppy 2016

This was an editorial in one of the national newspapers for Anzac Day 1997…I can’t find any notes I may have made identifying the paper or the author…

The Last Post always makes me cry. I can’t help it. There is something in those crisp clear notes ringing out in the sharp-edged air of ANZAC morning that takes my breath away. It sets up a curious chemical reaction in the soul, where sadness and gladness are fused together and one is lifted out of oneself and into the unending reverberations of history.

The bugler speaks to the dead – the “glorious” dead – inscribed on countless cenotaphs and roadside memorials from one end of New Zealand to another. Not that there is anything glorious about dying. In the paintings of our country’s battles, the death of young men, far from home, in agony and fear, is seldom portrayed with much accuracy. We spare ourselves the horrors of war – and rightly so. Veterans of the real thing seldom speak of what they have seen and heard lest their words conjure up again the screams, the blood, the shattered flesh, the cries of “Mother!”.

The Last Post speaks to the silence beyond death; the space in which we contemplate the meaning of the final “sacrifice”. The Last Post asks us to ask ourselves “What did these young men die for?”

When I was a little boy, I would spend my ANZAC Days drawing pictures of soldiers climbing up the rocky hillsides of the Dardanelles. And, over the vivid colours of the battle scenes, I would print in the laborious hand of the young: “For King and Country”.

I do not think that there are many today who would die for the House of Windsor. But, in the silent crowds of young New Zealanders – more every year – who join the old diggers on ANZAC morning, I sense a longing to serve, to sacrifice, to give something back to their country.

The generations of New Zealanders born after World War II have been spared what the United Nations charter calls “the scourge of war”. It is a mixed blessing. To be sure, we have never had to hold our friends in our arms and watch them die or receive a telegram informing us of the death of a loved one. But neither have we experienced the powerful sense of unity with which a nation at war is infused, not the bonds of comradeship forged when men and women from all walks of life are brought together and transformed into a  fighting force.

Most importantly, the post-war generations will never know what it feels like to play for history’s highest stakes – when the issues of ultimate significance hung in the balance.

I often ask myself: “Is political activism a substitute for war?” “What is it that we go on protest ‘marches’?” “Why do we seek out those moments of ‘confrontation’?” When we see that line of helmeted police officers, their long batons drawn; when we experience that lonely thrill of fear, that sudden rush of adrenalin, are we not, in our own way, playing soldiers?

People often ask me: “What’s wrong with today’s young people? Why aren’t they protesting like we did?” My answer is brutally simple: “Because of what we did” Our generation has reduced those “issues of ultimate significance ” – Roosevelt’s “four freedoms” (freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom from want, freedom from fear) down to just one: the freedom to buy and sell. Once a year, on ANZAC Day, we call forth the dead and invoke the myths that animate our nation. In the half-light of dawn, as the bugler draws out our tears and we “remember them”, remember the living also, and never forget that there are greater things to die for than a balance sheet.

And remembering other young soldiers in other wars…

Object | The Daily Post

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt: object.

Source: Object | The Daily Post

Draw a picture of a chair by looking at a real chair not a photograph. ~Pre-instruction drawings; Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain; Betty Edwards

I had thought the original task was to draw a picture of any object by looking at it but it was 1999 that I started this so I may be excused for a minor memory lapse. This was the period that I was working closely with Wingnut Films and the Lord of the Rings crew and my uber-latent arty side was being nudged daily. Drawing and screen-writing were the two main areas in which I took an interest up to the day that people started flying planes into buildings…

Being much more comfortable with writing and story-telling, these became my comfort zone and while my interest in drawing remained, my discipline for the exercises waned. I unearthed my drawing pad recently during a clean-out and then, only a week or so, stumbled across the subject of one of those early exercises.


Wow…seventeen years ago…so much water under the bridge since then…I’m quite keen on restarting this programme…it’s all based on the book so no enrolments or administration necessary just some willpower and motivation…



This is the original on which the drawing is based. It has some history.

Until July 1989, this chair was occupied by the Officer Commanding, Charlie Company, the First Battalion, the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment, or, in military shorthand, OC C Coy, 1 RNZIR. From this seat, that individual dispensed justice, ‘offered’ guidance to young officers, and oversaw with ruthless scrutiny, the development and training of a hundred or so lean and keen infantry soldiers.

Near the end of 1987, the New Zealand Government decided it was time for its own version of ‘nothing east of Suez’, announcing that the New Zealand force based in Singapore, aka NZFORSEA, would be withdrawn to New Zealand by the end of 1989. This was called OP(eration) KUPE.

The force in Singapore was a legacy of the Commonwealth intervention into Malaya in the 1950s, Borneo in the 1960s and, for Australia and New Zealand, Vietnam. For over three decades, in various incarnations, it had contributed to the secure and stable development of the states of Malaysia and Singapore: rightly or wrongly, the Government felt it was now time to for New Zealand to focus more closely on its immediate South Pacific neighbourhood. Perhaps lost in the political mix, were the second and third order effects of our presence in Singapore, particularly in providing access to prime jungle training areas in Malaysia, and opportunities for young New Zealanders to experience and mature in a foreign culture.

While we didn’t quite get to the stage of pushing helicopters off aircraft carriers – all our helicopters were safely repatriated to serve faithfully for another quarter century…

ABCA Executive Council visit to ATG 001

Still going strong in 2005…finally retired in 2015…

…many items deemed non-essential were fated to remain in Singapore, many destined for the ignominious end of the rubbish fires…


Burning off pre-RTNZ rubbish

When a whisper on the rumour advised that the company office furniture was due to be hauled away to the tip, there was competition to secure anything worth securing for repatriation as personal effects. the only time I have moved faster was when Trevor Sexton chased me down the final leg of the Burnham fitness circuit threatening to do me an impropriety with his pacestick if I didn’t pick up the pace – that was the first and only time I ever broke nine minutes on the required fitness test 2.4km run.

I seized possession of the chair seconds before company clerk, Steve Carrick, burst into the office, much miffed at missing out. I should point out, in all fairness, that, as company clerk, he already had a pretty nice chair in his own office; as a private rifleman, my issued seating was a camouflaged foot-square piece of rubber thermal mat used in the field.

The OC’s chair served me well through various roles and homes in Palmerston North, Linton, Trentham and Wellington…


The chair of power in front of the mighty Amiga 500

…but got misplaced in a house move over a decade ago. It has clearly seen better days but I was rapt to find it clearing out a storage unit last week…an object of days gone by history…


AS I SEE IT (1 April)

virgin cola blue can                  

By Terry O’Neill.

The new Springbok rugby coach is to be announced today.

After months of uncertainty following South Africa’s exit from the rugby World Cup last October and former coach Heyneke Meyer’s decision to stand down, Allister Coetzee apparently is the firm favourite although Rassie Erasmus or Johan Ackermann have support.

On a less serious sporting theme may we acknowledge today harks back to the Roman Hilaria, the Indian Holi Festival and the medieval Feast of Fools first recorded in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales in the 1300s. You know his story of the vain cock Chauntecleer who was subtly tricked by a wily fox, and it heralded that date for playing harmless pranks on family and friends.

The media have not been slow on that date to call on the good sport in us all. Back in the 1980s the evening newspaper The Oamaru Mail responded to a hot topic and published a photo of a substantial industrial building on Oamaru’s Cape Wansbrow connected by conveyor belt down to the wharf in the harbour to indicate the proposed cement works’ construction would enable cement to be exported. Absolute outrage gave a new meaning to indignation. 

It was the Otago Daily Times that pictured a tractor and plough rooting up Carisbrook’s hallowed turf. Phones scorched many ears in the furore that followed.           

And the Guardian newspaper introduced a “British Weather Machine”. This discovery would control weather within a 5000 kilometre radius – good news for the Brits with a guarantee of long summers with rain falling only at night.

The BBC’s 1957 “spaghetti tree hoax” was either a joke or hoax to newspaper. In 1996 Virgin Cola ran an advertisement in British newspapers suggesting that, in the interest of consumer safety, it had integrated a new technology into its cans so when the Cola passed its use-by date, it would react with the can to turn it bright blue. And Virgin Cola warned consumers to avoid purchasing all blue cans. Meanwhile opposition company Pepsi had recently unveiled its newly designed cans which were bright blue.  Sporting?

Recently a line of socks, “Fatsox”, was advertised as a weight loss product incorporating a nylon polymer, Flora Satra Tetrazine, previously used in the nutrition industry. Apparently as the wearer’s body heat rose and blood vessels dilated, the socks drew “excess lipid from the body through the sweat from the feet”.  So, after sweating off the fat, the wearer simply washes the socks, and fat, down the plughole. The franchise is available for these in North Otago.

But above all, after enjoying a tad of sporting fun and belly laughs, remember the Feast of Fools ends at noon today after which the instigator is the fool!