Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 2 - The Milford Track

The second day we we're making our sack lunches by 7 am and on the trail by 8. Between waking and hitting the trail, the clouds dissipated and blue skies appeared. Our group included about 30 walkers from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan. Once on the trail we all spread out. Some took off at a brisk pace and we didn't see them until the dinnertime. Most of us, however, leap-frogged along the trail, stopping to take photos and marvel at vistas and wildlife.

Colin and Liam took off ahead of us with their new friend Lucy, an 11-year-old from California. Doug and I walked quietly along, just the two of us. We were amazed. No more bribing with chocolate treats and energy bars at every rest stop. The boys and Lucy were gone, almost flying down the trail. We finally caught them, when they stopped to check out a magnificent, huge red beech tree. At that point with Lucy’s parents, we set some hiking guidelines. The kids could hike ahead but had to stop before all river crossing and forks in the trail or any other unusual features. With streams every few minutes, we decided they wouldn’t get too far ahead.

Day 2 was nine miles of easy walking, a warm up for the climb over McKinnon Pass on Day 3. It was also Colin’s longest day of walking ever! Most of the day we walked sheltered in the beech forest alongside the Clinton River. To reach Pompolona Lodge, we climbed into grasslands passing through many avalanche paths. The U-shape canyon walls loomed on each side and were striped with waterfalls.

Pompolona Lodge perched on the side of the canyon in the treetops was my favorite lodge. At night tucked in out bunk beds, Doug told us a “ghost” story of sharing a bunk bed with his brother Dan and of vomiting on Dan from the top bunk. We fell asleep to that cuddly image.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday warm-up on the Milford Track

With Doug traveling for most of the last month, we all wanted some time together. So at the last minute, we decided to kick off the holiday season with a tramp along the Milford Track. You can hike the track independently or walk the track as part of a guided Ultimate Hikes group. Reservations for independent walkers usually have to be made months to a year in advance. We booked just several days in advance with Ultimate Hikes. My sister had told me a while back about a new camping trend call glamping (a.k.a. glamorous camping). Walking with Ultimate Hikes is definitely glamping. All we carried was a change clothes, a few toiletries, our lunch and water bottle. Everything else was waiting for us in each hut. Along the trail the guides set up rest stops with hot drinks and soup. Each night our family shared a bunk room. There were hot showers. And sinks to wash hiking clothes and amazing drying rooms that dried our hiking clothes by bedtime. After a hot shower, we'd head to the lodge for a beer and snack to play games, chat and read until dinner.

The first day we joined our group in Queenstown for the bus ride to Te Anau. In Te Anau we boarded a boat to cross the lake to the trail head. I was feeling a little sheepish about the glamping. Worrying that I was softening my boys for "real" camping. Reminding myself that I had been an "A" camper in high school and didn't need to be babysat by guides.

We were heading deep into the Fiordland National Park. Our final destination would be Milford Sound, which has an average annual rainfall of more than 22 feet. I was actually amazed that Doug had agreed to the hike. Doug hates hiking in the rain and getting wet. But he succumbed to the lure of the wild lush landscape, abundant waterfalls, hidden lakes and U-shaped glacial valleys.

Rain was pouring down as the boat reached the trail head. All walkers pulled out their rain jackets. Almost everyone was off the boat and I had Colin and Liam zipped up in full rain gear. Doug was missing. I found him on the corner of the boat deck frantically pulling everything out of his pack. With round, panicked eyes he turned and gasped, "I can't find my rain jacket! It isn't in my bag." I didn't know what to do. I wanted to laugh or run far away. Instead, I prudently checked through the rest of our packs. No rain coat. In fact, we haven't found Doug's rain coat to this day! Doug took off at a very brisk pace for the first hut. Luckily the first day's hike was all of a mile. At Glade House, one of the guides magically appeared with an extra raincoat. I quickly changed my tune and decided that maybe a little bit of babysitting/coddling would be okay.

Merry Christmas!

With the holidays, we are thinking of our family and friends spread far and wide. We hope you the new year brings you laughter and peace.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

NZ One

Flying out of Queenstown early Monday morning, Liam and Colin were we seated right in front of NZ Prime Minister John Key. Liam introduced himself and Colin to Mr. Key. They chatted about their trip. Mr. Key was genuine and engaged with the boys and recommended some sites in Singapore that his own sons enjoy. As we were disembarking the plane, Mr. Key gave each boy a silver fern pin. Walking to our next flight Liam announced if he were old enough to vote he would vote for Mr. Key.

We decided that flying with Mr. Key was an auspicious beginning for our round the world trip, as if we had been flying on the NZ version of Air Force One.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy 9th Birthday Colin!

Colin had two Birthday parties. First he took his best mate Cole out on the town. The played mini-golf, hung out in the video arcade and ate pizza and ice cream. (Unfortunately Liam couldn't join his brother because he was home with the flu. Bummer.)

On Colin's real birthday, he woke early to find the Easter Bunny had unexpectedly visited and set up a treasure hunt. It was a little out of season but Colin took it in stride. Liam was feeling better and joined in too.

Colin planned the meals for the whole day.

Breakfast: Happy Hens scrambled eggs, fresh baked croissants, and peaches (luckily, the hens started laying again this week)

Lunch: Black bean burritos

Dinner: Macaroni and cheese, big, greasy sausages (a salad was added for the rest of the family) and of course mint chocolate chip ice cream birthday cake (we had to have mint chocolate chip ice cream made at a local shop because it is not sold in local grocery stores)

We played Life and had friends over to share the birthday cake!

The big hit of the day were the Fart Bombs from Auntie Allison and Uncle Stephen!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sugar Plum Possum Fairy

One of our neighbors, Grant McMaster, is always telling tall stories to the Kirkpatricks. For example, he told me that chicken eggs are called bumnuts. So with my newly acquired Kiwi lingo, I asked the grocer where the bumnuts were and received a startled and confused look. I returned to Grant to discover bumnuts is a word coined by Grant's grandfather and used only by Grant and his grandfather. We are all wary of any information we receive from Grant. His stories sound authentic, despite their absurdity.

Colin and Liam have been planning a practical joke for Grant for months. To perform their joke they have been waiting to trap a possum. We still haven't caught one, but another neighbor aware of the boys' plans, who has also no doubt been the victim of a Grant joke, left a dead possum on the bench by our front door. The boys spent an evening creating a costume for their stiff creature dubbed the Sugar Plum Possum Fairy! Colin and Liam snuck down under the cover of darkness to Grant's house and positioned their fairy outside Grant's front door, terrified as the automatic garage light illuminated them. They ran all the way home. Once home they began to worry whether Grant would see the fairy possum that night. The suspense was too much for them. They snuck back to Grant's circling around the yard to avoid setting off the garage light. While Liam remained hidden in the bushes Colin raced to pound on the front door and then tore back into the bush with Liam. They didn't wait for the door to open. Grant is the type of adult that both fascinates the boys and slightly terrifies them. They love to hang out with Grant, but they can't read him. They can never discern the truth and seriousness from jokes and play with Grant.

Both boys wait expectantly with giggles and a bit of trepidation for Grant's retaliation. Colin peaks out the front door when he wakes. The boys say they are fortunate that they can stealthily pass Grant's house, shielded from his windows by the manuka, on their way to their hens. They aren't sure what Grant's next move will be. The suspense continues uncomfortably.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Swimming with fur seal pups

This weekend I left my boys to fend for themselves. I came home on Sunday and noticed the pizza boxes in the recycle bin. Liam gleefully reported, "We didn't eat any meals at home. We had pizza and Turkish kebabs and ice cream!"

While the boys were on the fast food frenzy, I was at the top of the south island, in Marahau, for a NZ UWC meeting. As a team building activity to start the weekend, we went snorkeling with fur seal pups in the Abel Tasman National Park. Snorkeling trips are not usually offered at this time of year because the water is a wee bit chilly (12 degrees Celsius or in the low 50s Fahrenheit). I wore two pairs of long undies and two 5 mm wetsuits. With the two wetsuits, I was warm and toasty and stayed in the water about 40 minutes.

The seal nursery was perfectly round rocky and shallow inlet of the Tonga Island Marine Reserve. A few of the inattentive moms lounging on the rocks above seemed to be the designated babysitters. The rest of the cows were off hunting. I felt as buoyant as a fur seal pup. I could barely submerge myself. While we bobbed in the nursery, the pups swam out to investigate. They reminded me of typical puppies - silly, playful and clumsy. One head-butted my stomach. I wished I had taken pictures, but I was lost in the moment rolling in the water with the pups.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

If is going rain, could we at least have snow?

It has rained every day for so long I can't remembered when it started. I am not sure how the ground here absorbs all the water. In California, we would have washed away by now. We live right on the edge of the snow line. Flakes fall and melt on contact with the ground or maybe in the air just above. The mountains are tipped in snow and then melt to green and browns about half way down to the lake.

We all have skiing on the brain. We were racing into Queenstown early one morning last weekend. As we zoomed past a car that was pulled over on the side of the road, Liam yells "that's Natalie and Goran!" Natalie and Goran are two ski team instructors that stayed with us last winter for a while. First Natalie from Canada, then her friend Goran from Slovenia. Eventually spring arrived and Natalie headed off overseas. Goran's mom, Lidija, came to visit. Lidija and Goran left as the season ended. It ends quickly in Queenstown. One day there's snow and the next it melts.

I guess just thinking about skiing and snow, made Liam think of our ski friends from last season. We miss them. As we drove into town, the air was cold and felt like snow. I u-turned to return to the parked car to see if we had found Natalie and Goran. As we slowed and pulled next to the car, I said Liam, "those guys don't look anything like Natalie or Goran!" They were two young guys with long hair in ponytails sitting on the back of their car at the edge of the lake, one of them strumming on his guitar looking towards the rising sun. We said hi and mentioned we had mistakenly thought they were some friends of ours. They smiled, nodded and kept playing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Routeburn Hike - Day One

Last Wednesday Mom, Colin and I (Pop had to work) went on an overnight hike up the Routeburn. The Routeburn starts a couple miles above Glenorchy and heads into the mountains, ending in Milford Sound. Mom, Colin and I went only for one night so we only went to the first hut about 4.5 miles from the trailhead. The hike was slightly uphill, which I thought was nice because we had large packs.

We left the car at 10:30, later than planned. We knew we had to hurry because a storm was suppose to come in at 1:00 or 2:00. The hike started with a bridge over a river and meandered through a beech forest, now and then crossing streams on swaying bridges. Around one third of the way, we met the river we crossed in the beginning. Walking along the river was amazing. The water was stunningly blue and there were many small waterfalls. We tramped up the river for what seemed like a century. Just about the time I wished I had not put all that weight in my pack, we crossed the river and emerged on a large, grassy plain enclosed 360 in snowy topped, jagged mountains. We knew we were close. The map showed the second river crossing was over two-thirds the way there. After hauling our bags another 25 minutes across the flats, we arrived at the hut. Yippey!

The complex consisted of 3 summer toilets (it is winter here in N.Z.), 1 winter outhouse, the main hut and the Department of Conservation personnel hut. Inside the main hut there was 1 kitchen (without running water) the main room (3 benches and 1 fireplace) and 2 bunk rooms (each with 5 bunks).

Free of the weight of our packs, we went down to the river and had lunch. It was the typical hiking lunch - cheese crackers and salami. It was a really good lunch due to the fact we had been hiking for 2 hours. That afternoon Colin and I played by the river while Mom napped and then did something, I do not know what. Before long the valley started to get dark, the sun blocked by one of the mountain peaks.

We tried to start a fire and failed. The only things we could get to burn were candles and some leaves Colin found. After the fire episode we prepared diner- freeze-dried beef stroganoff. Sounds great, doesn't it? Not. Once we added water it started to resemble brown mush. It tasted OK. To cap of our excellent dinner, Mom brought out the chocolate. Yum!

That night we slept in our sleeping bags, on foam mats, under the moon (we could only see it out the window though). I fell asleep right away.

Day 2 will be posted soon.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Hens' egg blows away competition

Happy Hens farmers Colin and Liam compared one of their eggs to a free range, organic store bought egg and determined their egg blows away the competition! See what you think.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Good on ya, mate!

Parts of the video were shot above Moke Lake, over the hill from our house.

Colin has already been offered his first Speights. The farm manager said he earned one after a day's work helping with lamb tailing. I took his beer and gave him a piece of chocolate instead. Luckily Colin thought it was a fair trade.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

No, Doug didn't get tattooed

And, Carolyn has not perfected the round hickie.

Doug is seeing an incredible chiropractor in Queenstown for a ski injury. The chiropractor sent Doug to a acupuncturist who performed this suction technique. The photo shows Doug's back after the second round of suction. The first round of suction produced much deeper and more colorful bruising and covered his entire back. This time he got a half-back treatment. According to Doug, the suction is supposed to draw dried blood out of the muscle tissue which allows the body to flush out the muscle. Doug was skeptical at first, but now admits his shoulder and back are feeling much improved! Who would have guessed Doug would be a poster-boy for alternative medicine?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

New Zealand Golf Open

You most likely thought the we gave up the blog. We didn't. We just have not updated it. Now that we have started homeschooling we will post a lot more blogs. This blog is about the NZ Golf Open.

A few weekends ago Pop and I went to the New Zealand Golf Open which has been held in Queenstown the past 2 years. Both years it was played on a course owned by Michael Hill, owner of the jewelry store chain named Michael Hill.

We arrived on the grounds at around 11:00 AM. After eating a small snack we went and looked around the golf course. It was as well kept as the year before, which meant tons of spectacular water features. Also the grass was mowed so low it was like a well made carpet.

In 2008, Pop and I had discovered a spot were we where able to, with only walking a few feet, watch the golfers hit the ball in the hole and then we would watch the same golfers tee off on the the next hole. As well a having great views of the golf, we were able to collect a few golfballs. On that day alone I got 4 balls from the golfers Fisher of England, and Curtain, Bowdich and Jeffres from Australia.

This year, after wandering around the extensive golf course we ended up in the same place we had been at the previous year. This year I only had half the luck of the last year and I only collected 2 balls. However I was excited because Joe Daley, a U.S., golfer signed his ball before he gave it to me. An Australian named McKenzie gave me my second ball.

After the golf ball episode we wandered over the fresh grass-smelling course back to the food area and had lunch. We decided to have sushi, which was not the best but it was OK. After lunch we headed back out onto the course.

While we were watching a golfer hit a ball, behind us a loud roar erupted, as loud as if a jumbo jet had flown overhead. When I turned around I saw a crowd of people by a hole who seemed very excited. Later we discovered that a golfer from Wales had hit a hole in one on a par 4 course. Wow!

At that point we decided to go home because the heat of the sun on our face and shoulders was getting slightly uncomfortable. I am looking forward to next year and I hope to get more golfballs.

Now that my blog on the Golf Open is done I have a important reminder: keep posted for more blog entries.

Liam Kirkpatrick

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sunrises and Sunsets

In this blog I will tell you what the view is like waking up and going to bed from our station in New Zealand. I think you will like this because there are some good-looking sunrises and sunsets. I did this blog so you could see what it feels like to be in New Zealand.

This morning I woke up to see dark gray clouds right above our house, and heard the heavy tipper-tapper of rain on the roof. Tonight I looked up to see one billion stars shining bright above my head.

This morning I looked out my window to see clouds being made orange by the blazing sun over the Remarkables. Tonight I looked outside the kitchen window to see a line of pink clouds across the Remarkables.

This morning I looked out my window and saw white clouds covering the peaks of every mountain and the lake almost glowing blue under the clouds.
Tonight I felt like I could see all the stars in the whole Milky Way.

This morning I had an early breakfast I looked outside and saw a faint orange glow behind the jagged Remarkables. Tonight I looked outside I felt I was looking a painting because the view seemed to have a faint gray glow around everything.

This morning when I woke up and saw a dim yellow light that seemed to be a liquid. Fluffy white clouds everywhere. This night the mice in the roof woke me up. I looked out the window and saw so many stars that it looked like it was day because there was so much light.

This morning I saw nothing but a dim blue light and no clouds. Last night I looked outside and saw no stars because there where dark black clouds everywhere.

This morning we went to the cattle yards. As we past Lake Kirkpatrick (my favorite lake), we saw lots of steam rising from the lake. Tonight I looked up and saw 400,000,000,000,000,614,568,073,570 stars.

The end.

100% By Colin Kirkpatrick