Sunday, July 22, 2018

Jensen Bay

Right; more from Stewart Island. It's really not that big of an island, but in the same breath, it's huge. There's simply no chance that we'll come close to seeing everything in a few days. Instead, we focus our efforts on becoming acquainted with our neighborhood, which is Jensen Bay.

We've returned to the AirBnb that Ethel and Nate discovered on their trip a few months prior. Not only is the house amazing, but the host and his family are first-rate human beings.


Our digs at dusk

The hospitality and warmth shown to us by Manfred and his sons far exceeds our expectations. Should any of my seven readers be contemplating a visit to Stewart Island, I'd insist on making a recommendation...

The house is solar- and wind-powered, fed with captured rainwater, and heated with pipes in the walls. Necessity, it turns out, is the mother of invention, and Stewart Island's climate tends to breed necessity.


From the balcony at dawn

One whimsical aspect of their house that really makes it cool is the family of kaka that have made it their adoptive home. Not as destructive as the kea but equally clever and curious, the kaka is a gorgeous parrot with tons of personality. The family that lives here knows where the treats come from, and they really only get unruly when the treats run out.


Oh HELLO

Also a feature of our neighborhood of Jensen Bay is a notable lack of light pollution. On an exploratory run not long after our arrival, I scope a few spots for photos should we win the veritable lottery of a clear night.

Astonishingly, our lottery ticket hits and we spend maybe an hour and a half wandering the 'hood with necks craned skyward.


Dry-docked


Acker's Cottage


Nearby :)

Visible in that last photo are the Southern Cross, Jupiter, the Milky Way, Ethel, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, a shooting star, and some airglow. Not bad for a single frame.

Our decision to strike when the iron is hot is a good one, as we won't see the sky again during our stay; such are the whims of high-latitude coastal NZ weather during autumn!

We finally go to bed wholly unencumbered with plans for the following day; sometimes it's important to plan lots, and other times, it's important to plan absolutely nothing.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

IVC-SZS

IVC. SZS.

Good chance you've never heard of at least one of those airports, and probably both.

Before this getaway, I had never been to Invercargill's airport...at least, by choice, that is. Unfortunately, I've graced it with my presence a few times, because it's where Air New Zealand diverts some of the flights that can't get into Queenstown when the weather is shit. If there's a lottery where winning means sitting on a goddamn bus from a godforsaken city in godawful weather, then by god, I'm excellent at playing the lottery.


IVC

But I digress. I'm at IVC by choice today because Murphy and I are going to Stewart Island for a long weekend, and when presented with the choice of lurching about on a boat for a couple hours or being strapped into a plane for twenty minutes, I'll take the aerial tour ten times out of ten, thankyouverymuch.

So anyhow, 6 months prior to this, I was overseas for work while our mate Nate was visiting, and Nate and Murphy went to Stewart Island and had an awesome time and stayed with an awesome host and we'd been looking for an opportunity to go visit the place ourselves, as I'd never been, and Murphy would go back at the drop of a hat.


Half of Stewart Island Flights' fleet

While there's plenty to talk about and show with regards to Stewart Island itself, the flight was cool enough that it warrants a post of its own. Stewart Island flights operates a small fleet, and their workhorse is the Britten Norman Islander.

NZ's regional airports are nostalgic enough as is, as you get to stroll across the tarmac like you own the place, or like it's fifty years ago, or maybe both. IVC is no different, except that it's even smaller and quieter than some of the others. And when your whip is an Islander instead of an A320...well...


Analog

We're directed across the tarmac and shown the door of the plane by a fresh-faced young lad, who then gives us a short safety briefing ("look at thus card uf you want to know about thus plane's safety fittures"), and then, to our astonishment, climbs into the left seat, buckles up, and starts the plane. We four passengers (capacity 9, so we're light) exchange a glance and a chuckle.


Up the duff of an A320

We're sharing IVC today with (surprise surprise) a diverted ANZ A320, and it pulls out right in front of us, much to our pilot's dismay, as he'd like to get outta dodge without waiting for it. However, much to our collective delight, while the A320 has to taxi all the way to the end of the runway, as soon as we're far enough down to make our takeoff, Captain McFreshstripes just spins the Islander around and buries the throttle. We're airborne in seconds.


Raw power

Our prescribed altitude is a scant 1500ft, so we're treated to an intimate view of the last shreds of Invercargill and Bluff and then a bunch of whitecaps and kelp and stuff. It's not too long before we can make out features on Stewart Island, and then our pilot performs a manual inspection of the tower-less runway. Apparently a flyby is frequently needed to clear deer from the runway, as they don't interface too well with a tin can preceded by a propeller. Oh dear.


Inspection


On final for SZS

After this inspection, he lines up for final and we bounce down to an assertive stop. We're met by ye olde airporte shuttle, which has conveniently delivered the passengers for his return trip. Thus ends our flight down memory lane and begins our visit to Stewart Island.

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mavora Lakes

In our part of NZ, we're frequently graced with winter days that are completely missionable, and dare I say, nicer than a lot of "summer" days. It was 6degC and snowing down to ~1200m a couple weeks ago, for instance. Midsummer, they said!

Lest I digress, a cool spot for one of these aforementioned missions are the Mavora Lakes (South and North). The lakes, as the crow flies, are very close to Queenstown, but of course take a couple hours to drive to, because mountains.


Looking north over North Mavora

Remember, our winter days are mighty short, so unless you're in search of a spicier dawn-to-dusk (or beyond) mission, short walks or runs or bikes in new places hold a certain allure as bite-sized adventures.


Perfect forest light (and subject)

We choose to drive to South Mavora, hike along its west shore, and then continue for a bit along the east shore of North Mavora. The road actually continues to North Mavora, so it's possible to choose to get further in depending upon what you've got planned. Like, for instance, if you're linking Mavora to the Greenstone.

What we've bit off is an easy walk in beautiful country, and it's far enough off the beaten path that it's pretty quiet; always a bonus. There's copious deep forest, and the Southland forests always feel a bit Jurassic Park-y to me.


Calm water and schist

One benefit of tramping around in the wintertime is that you're less likely to forget long clothes for weather reasons, and that means better protection against sandflies. Especially when the wind's not up!

For good measure, here a couple photos from the drive home.


Looking north over Wakatipu towards Devil's Staircase


Super sneaky bonus winter sunset light between Jacks Point and Cecil Peak

Good (albeit short) day out; better than a stick in the eye!

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

YVR-ZQN

By virtue of flying southwest at the end of a northern hemisphere summer day (assuming you aren't a flat earther...), and by sitting on the right side of the plane, one can end up with an extended period of sunset, dusk, and twilight.

On this particular flight from Vancouver to Auckland on such a northern summer evening with right side window seats, we also have the benefit of excellent atmospheric conditions for a light show. Score.


Just getting started


Perfect 22deg halo, complete with sun dogs


I'd pay extra for clear windows

You could extend the fun by flying northwest instead, like for instance from LHR to KEF, but maybe we'll save that for another time. Or even further by having a faster jet, but I'm not sure I'm able to scratch that itch.


Surreal


Almost there

777 windows are pretty good for photography, but the darker it gets, the more challenging it becomes to control reflections from inside the cabin. Or you can embrace them.


Just keeps on giving


Time to get comfy

And just for fun, a couple from a domestic A320 to get us the rest of the way home. Sometimes, flying down the spine of the country is amazing sightseeing, and other times, it's just white and blue.


Always clear up high


Photogenic Koru


Puffies

Thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Vancouver

After our therapeutic stint at Dunton for Beth and Ed's wedding, Murphy and I traipse northwest to Vancouver to meet up with Lauren and Chase for a few days of reindoctrination into civilization.


Arrival

I had not been to Vancouver save for driving through it late one night on the way to Whistler (and back), so this is all new to me; it has always held a certain allure for me, and I guess that consistently only hearing positive things about a place will do that to a guy. So with minimal hesitation, we sign up to contribute to the local economy for a handful of days.

We provide ourselves with a cool little Airbnb in the Point Grey neighborhood, so we're able to walk to a few things and are close enough to have quick drives to the rest as Chase and Lauren have brought their car from Portland.


Skyline from Point Grey-ish


Girlz time

When we visit big cities, we tend to fall into a pattern of coffee-food-cocktails-run-rinse 'n repeat, and this trip is no exception. So rather than beating that horse to death, maybe it's worth noting some stuff that falls outside that pattern, with a few exceptions of course.

There's one neat evening along the water in Stanley Park, including a run and all sorts of people-, ship-, and wildlife-watching through dusk.


Stanley Park sunset


Commerce


The waiting game


Dusk from Stanley Park


Stalking

Then there's the clothing-optional Wreck Beach near the university, which is massive and full of characters. We arrive late in the day and it's starting to empty out, but it's a pretty cool scene nonetheless, with everyone using the big logs on the beach for shelter. There are plenty of normies here too, so we don't feel out of place by virtue of not disrobing; anyhow, it closes at sunset and we'd have nowhere to put the car keys...much less the camera...


Ninja Warrior episode in the making


Along the path to Wreck Beach

Another highlight is the Kitsilano Pool, which is a gloriously-odd 137m in length, which means that a few laps might be all you need. There's really only one lane for the lap swimmers, but there's so much passing room that it's ludicrous to suggest that you might need more organization. Murphy and Lauren get chatted up by an Olympic swimmer, so they're all starstruck by the time we leave.


Kitsilano Pool in all its glory

There are several memorable meals, spanning sushi, multiple examples of excellent ramen, fish 'n chips, and of course many many pastries.


You had me at hello

Without a doubt, the culinary high point is a post-run late-evening sushi experience, wherein we believe the menu contains an adorable translation mistake on some special shrimp:

"Tell waiter if you want fried after"

Which we interpret as "you can get the shrimp fried or unfried, and we've used the word 'after' like 'after all' or something like that, which the Irish and British tend to do."

When actually, the menu was exactly correct in meaning:

"After you eat the shrimp, your waiter will appear and ask you if you want him to take the shrimp heads away, deep fry them, and return them to you to eat, because nothing goes to waste."

The only problem with this is that the deep fryer melts the little tchotchkes we've attached to the shrimp heads to say whose is whose as though they're wine glasses, but that means that the deep fryer also melts Chase's syphilis away, so I guess the correct one to eat is the one closest to you, you goddamn germaphobic numpty.

Also, deep fried shrimp heads taste pretty much like you expect them to: broken light bulb, laden with arterial plaque, and with a faint hint of ocean.


Pastries within

Another day, we make a day trip to Squamish, specifically for a visit to a recommended fish 'n chips shop, but also for a run up in the mountains in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Award for the most un-Canadian but still hilarious moment of the trip comes at the Park's information center just off the highway. I patiently wait for a full ten minutes while the sole ranger chats with a pair of hikers about every trail and camping option in the park without even acknowledging my existence or "hey gimme a minute to finish up with them" or "hey do you just have a quick question." After I finally give up and hold my phone in obvious photo pose above the section of the counter with their big laminated map on it so that I don't die in the woods, the ranger spots me out of the corner of her eye, sprints over, and, I shit you not, dives to cover the map with her body, shrieking at me that it's copyrighted and if I want a map I have to pay for one. She is -dead- serious. I have an amazing photo of her fast-moving arm starting to cover the map, but I won't share that because it's copyrighted. However, it serves the purpose of not letting us get lost in the woods, thankyouverymuch.

We have an awesome run, and the weather and views are picture-perfect. Could totally go for days up there, but alas, we're short-timers. Afterwards, we make a hasty retreat for our fish and chips and beer, proper reward for propelling ourselves up a mountain.


Quick mish in Garibaldi; find the Chase

Award for the most Canadian and hilarious moment of the trip comes at the chippy when I hold the door open for an exiting Canadian couple, who greets me with "Sorry! Sorry!"

On another day, we feel obligated to visit the tourist trap of Granville Island, but the fine merchants there include a distillery, so not all is lost, and food markets make for great people watching, anyway.


"Sightseeing"


Bridges and fancy flats

Oh yeah, and mind those fuckin' seagulls; they're total gangsters.


Safety first, kids


Utilitarian architecture


Twinsies

All in all, we have a lovely few days and leave there with fond memories and appropriately-lightened wallets. Another benefit of visiting Vancouver is that we can hop on a nonstop flight to AKL from YVR, which softens the blow of being on the wrong side of the equator.


Departure

If you're nice, I'll share some more photos from the flight home, during which we get treated to a pretty amazing and lengthy sunset on our way out of town.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

MTJ-YVR

I have yet to get tired of the photographic opportunities afforded on flights.


Airplane light

Two windows are better than one. #symmetry

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Soiree at Dunton

Recently*, our dear friends Ed and Beth got married in Colorado, and circumstances made it just possible enough for us to make the trek from NZ to be there, so we closed our eyes, booked everything, and made the most of it.

* means two and a half years ago, and in the intervening era, they've moved, we've moved five times, they've visited us in New Zealand, so on and so forth, but still, "recently."

I'll admit that they did a pretty good job of incenting us by getting married at a remote resort featuring hot springs in southwestern Colorado, which might be just a tick above ye olde average strip mall hitchin'.

The remote resort in question is Dunton Hot Springs, and it's a couple hours away from either Durango or Montrose (your choice). Dunton is a real mining town from 1885 that was then a ghost town and then a working ranch, and then it underwent a 7-year renovation starting in 1994 to achieve its current form of five-star all-inclusive remote resort.

To kick things off, here are two images that kind of sum up Dunton Hot Springs for me:


Stunning grotto-esque pool house


Night sky triumphs

Right. More photos and words.


More pool house


Aggressively rustic


Mess hall

While the resort is masterfully restored to feel like it hasn't been touched in a century,  except with all the modern stuff hiding beneath the surface, we are met at every turn by truly five-star service. It's a bit of a trip, but something a guy could get used to. The service is unprecedented (at least through my lens of inexperience with high-end travel).


Old things abound


More old things

Case in point, and our first impression: I'll admit that it feels funny to, after driving on dirt roads for a while, arrive at something that looks like a decrepit ghost town but to be met before the car turns off by a trotting and very concerned umbrella-wielding host lest we find ourselves on the business end of a rogue raindrop.


Pool house view


What wonders lie upstairs?

Actually, this little interaction would set the stage and our expectations for the entire duration of our stay (we revelers are the only guests at the resort for the few days leading up to and including the wedding). Everything is available all the time; it's mildly nuts and pretty cool to experience. They stop short of giving us little silver bells to ring, but that would have been a mere formality.


One of the larger guest cabins


Smaller guest cabin


This'll do (our cabin's outdoor shower)


San Juans stand guard


Best altar ever

The resort consists of a couple of main buildings and then a healthy collection of guest cabins and other outbuildings (like the yoga studio, obviously), all of them very different in character. For instance, Murphy and I have been assigned a wee little cabin that only has an outdoor shower (actually, this was a selling point for me), but of course has wi-fi, because we all need to keep in touch with our stockbrokers while we're here or something.


Library


More library


Wedding crasher

For our time here, we treat it fully as a guilt-free zone: all manner of food, drink, activity, inactivity, and assorted shenanigans are regarded with equal aplomb, and it's pretty cool to be in that environment with a like-minded collection of new and old friends, especially since we've got the whole place to ourselves.


Meadow found on a run at 10100'


Returning to Dunton from said run

I fill my days running in the mountains (oh, Dunton is at 8600'/2600m, and everything goes up from there...), and gleefully return each time to top-notch food and delicious cocktails. Win.


Nightly party grounds


Party rages inside


Beth's brother gets nailed in the nuts with a sparkler (really)


Zombies

No need to revisit every moment of every day, but suffice it to say that the merriment runs deep and we all leave with fond memories of Dunton. All fifty of us or whatever find our own ways to fill our days and nights and we all cherish the time away from the rest of civilization.


Morning formal wear



Healing waters

Far better record of all the debauchery at Dunton is thanks to Team Theilen...Matt and Tara made the trip from Reno and served as embedded war-zone photojournalists (aka wedding photographers extraordinaire, plus some) for the duration. Please check out their work here!


Matt waxes poetic


Mean little bastards


Bonus guest

So I guess that's a good rundown of Dunton. Long story short, should you ever find yourself with an opportunity to go there, take it! Many thanks to Ed and Beth for including us and throwing the party of the century.

From Dunton, we've decided to go a slightly longer way back to NZ and leave Colorado in the direction of Vancouver, where we've got a few days to do city things and outdoors things with Chase and Lauren. So maybe that'll be next.

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Past Detritus