Friday, May 31, 2013

Barry's Bay

Easy pickins on the way out to Akaroa for Brett and Hollis' wedding.

Barry's Bay pano (click for beeeeger)

Yes, the water really is that color.

I had only ever been out this way once for Epic Camp, and our ride to and fro from Chch on our first day was a rude awakening full of what.the.fuck.did.I.get.myself.into and other fun revelations. I must say it's much more enjoyable to drive over these hills than it is to ride a bike over them.

Also, Akaroa is awesome, and the next few posts are from out thatta way.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rapaki and Cashmere (aka Solo NZ Running Camp Pt. 7)

The day after finishing my 100-mile week (what's a rest day?), I decide to explore some new territory with beta graciously provided by Bevan and Jo, my amazing hosts.  The Cashmere Hills rise somewhat anticlimactically above Christchurch, but the views they afford are pretty stunning.  There're miles and miles of roads, dirt roads, and singletrack trails to explore up there, and they're heavily trafficked by Christchurch's recreating citizens.

I head from Bevan and Jo's house down a stupid hill and along the river to Rapaki Road, which ascends rapidly into the Cashmeres.  I'm feeling frisky, so I smash it uphill without having a good understanding of how far up the climb goes or how far away from home I am, as they've sent me on a loop.

I'm rewarded with near-360-degree views of Christchurch and Lyttleton Harbor, and I'm surrounded by miles of grass swaying gently in the wind.  By "swaying gently," I mean "thrashing violently," motion courtesy of the same gusts that bring me to a few near-standstills and also move me sideways a couple feet at a time.

Eh, it's all worth it. The loop is fairly epic, including windswept grassy hills, deep forest, panoramic views, singletrack, and smooth dirt roads. Not too shabby for a neighborhood run!

View into Lyttleton Harbor

By the time it's all over, another 12 miles have ticked by. Not to sound too jaded, but this ain't a bad way to go through life.

Continued reminder that all these posts cover my trip to NZ in January. Back to present time, you may or may not be aware that Murphy and I got engaged a few days ago; good stuff! I've got a couple more weeks' worth of NZ stuff to share and then we'll work back towards real-time :)


Tuesday, May 28, 2013


As previously noted, Christchurch is in a transitional state.  Now that we're done with the understatement, we can get on with things.

Victoria Streetscape Project

There are entire city blocks that are essentially desolate, and it's super sad to see that.  Never far away, though, are signs of life.  In many instances, somebody had to go first, and whatever bar/food shack/coffee shop/clothing store happened to take that distinction has become the epicenter (bad pun) of activity in that particular neighborhood.

Frozen at quake time

One such instance is Revival Bar, constructed from shipping containers plunked down in what used to be an abandoned neighborhood.  Within months, other businesses had sprung up around them, and now it's a bustling little zone of goodness.

Brett raises a glass

Awesomely, Revival is owned by my mate Brett, whose wedding just so happens to coincide with my trip.  He's one of many who are determined to start on the ground floor of bringing Chch back to life, so getting to see his creation in the flesh is pretty cool.

Shipping containers put to good use

Another sweet example is C4 Coffee, who relocated after the quake and keep busy slinging coffee that they roast on-site and ship all over the country.  They've made spectacular use out of a space that was at risk of becoming decrepit like so many others.

Roasting and serving happiness

Anyhow, there's not time to detail all the signs of rebirth in Christchurch, but it's happening, and they've committed to making the most of reinvent themselves.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Christchurch Zombie Zone (aka Solo NZ Running Camp Pt. 6)

My time in Christchurch is very focused, so fun 'n games have to take a back seat.  That being said, there's still time to run every day, and one afternoon, my mate Sean takes me for a tour of the earthquake-ravaged CBD.  I've kept in touch with Sean ever since living in Queenstown, and he and his wife Steph are awesomely gracious in letting me crash at their house in Chch.

Meet Sean

Within minutes, we're running through Hagley Park, a gigantic green oasis in the middle of Christchurch.  This is not a bad resource to have nearby.  Minutes later, we're in the CBD, and evidence of the earthquakes is never more than a few steps away.

Stone, crumbled

The last of two big quakes struck Chch in February of 2011, and it further destroyed what was left of many parts of the city hit hard by the first quake in September of 2010.  Sadly, almost all of the awesome old architecture crumbled, but even more sad is that recovery and rebuilding has taken an inordinate amount of time.


A lot of the difficulty simply lies in finding the manpower needed to tear down condemned buildings (and neighborhoods).  There's a lot more that plays into what it'll take to rebuild this city, but it's more than a rebuilding; it's a rebirth.  More on that in another post.

Barely standing cathedral

Jogging through the CBD is pretty bizarre.  It's largely devoid of any activity, and detritus is everywhere.  Popping in and out of the Red Zone is even worse; it just feels eerie with no people, no activity, piles of rubble, and blocks of buildings waiting to be demolished.  Total zombie apocalypse.

More destruction

Most places, though, we're also not far away from signs of rebirth/recovery/rebuilding.  It's a city in a unique phase of its life, even though its awesome old architecture is reduced to memory.

Evidence of search efforts

This run brings me to 100 miles for the week, a new record for this bag o' bones.  Special thanks to Sean for shepherding me through the final few miles and taking me on a tour of the CBD.  Cheerio!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Mt. Cook is frequently hidden from view, but every now and then, her majesty comes out to play.


View from Lake Pukaki.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Pukaki (aka Solo NZ Running Camp Pt. 5)

After my stop at the Clay Cliffs, I choose to interrupt my journey to Christchurch once more, this time for a run.  My legs are still supremely damaged from my romp in the Remarks, and sitting in a car all day can't be great for that.

Lake Pukaki presents itself as a perfect opportunity to stretch the legs and take another jaunt through paradise.  Pukaki is wildly colored from glacial runoff, and its unique hue is visible from space.  I recall approaching it by car a few years back on an overcast day: from ~50km away, I began to see that the undersides of the clouds above the lake were glowing turquoise from the water below, and all the other clouds in the region were the customary dull-gray.  Unforgettable sight.

Pukaki also lies along the partially-completed Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, a ~300km-long trail that's being constructed from Mt. Cook to Oamaru.  This means fresh and perfect trail to run on!

On a scale from 1 to Smashed, I feel about like an 8 when I start, but I'm swiftly overwhelmed by the beauty of this shoreline and forget the awkwardness.  The water itself is otherworldly, and the views across to the Southern Alps are nothing short of inspiring.

Thus, it's no big surprise that I'm not really paying attention to how far I've gone, so when I finally feel Half Used Up and turn around, my GPS-dealie says 6 miles.  Haha whoops.

I make it back to the car with another glorious 12 under my belt and promptly chuck myself into the ice-cold water.  Full rejuvenation instantly accomplished.  There's a chance that my stunt interrupted a Japanese couple's wedding photography session, but I can only hope they enjoyed the show.

Next stop, Christchurch!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Clay Cliffs

On the road from Queenstown to Christchurch (and near Omarama), there's a prominent geological feature that's very enticing but that always seems like too much of a detour.  This time, however, I refuse to drive past and decide to check this off my mental list of must-dos.  I'm talking about the Clay Cliffs:

Clay Cliffs pano (click for stupid big)

They are a pretty good detour, but I guess that keeps the riff-raff out.  Also, they're on private property, but the public is allowed to access them for a small fee (totally worth the $ and trouble).

As I get closer to them, I see that there are some demoiselles in there, and while that's true, they aren't super well-isolated like the ones in France.  From a distance, the cliffs look pretty imposing, but they kind of mush together upon approach.  However, there are little paths and crevices among them, and entering them opens up a whole new realm.  Like, holy cow:

Barely shoulder width (this is looking up at a veritable sliver of daylight)

Looking up again

The serpentine channels go every which way, but thankfully they all go slightly uphill, which means that getting out shouldn't be a problem.  "Go downhill until you're in the open."

Wall detail

In short, the natural maze/cathedral is stunning in its intricacy.  I'm not sure I'd want to be in there while it's raining, though...

Signs of life

Back on the outside, it's still super awesome.  There's a great view of the braided Ahuriri River as it runs towards its outlet at Lake Benmore.

Ahuriri towards Omarama

Turning back around to look at the cliffs reveals tons of intricate details, textures, and shades.

Dark sky

Light sky

No sky

Here's another panorama of a smaller zone as a parting shot:

Clay Cliffs pano (click for larger)

I easily could spend a full day crawling around exploring (and waiting for good light), but there's ground to cover and other goals to tend to, so I just feel like I've gotten my first trip there out of the way!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Showdown at the Remarkables (aka Solo NZ Running Camp Pt. 4)

With Race the Train a distant memory from the day before, my brain figures out that this is still supposed to be a big running block, and the past two days have barely seen 11 miles between them.  Uh oh...time to go big again.

Monday includes some pretty wild progress on the life-planning front, which a) takes a bunch of time, and b) makes me feel invincible.  Thus, it's fairly predictable how things will turn out when I finally get out the door to run at about 7:00 that evening.  By "fairly predictable," you could consider a safe assumption to be "getting home well after dark with no lights, food, or water."

I leave Brett's house under stormy-ish skies and head for the Remarkables, water bottle in one hand and GoPro in the other.  Tragically, I had spent no time up there when I lived here, so it's bound to be an enlightening run no matter what.  The first three miles are flat enough and decent for warmup, and then I get to the bottom of the dirt road that climbs to the Remarkables Ski Area.  This road, in a word, is destruction.

High above the airport

It climbs 4300 feet over 8 miles.  Hahahahahahaha.  None of it is particularly horrible, but it's simply unrelenting.  Up, up, and up that bastard road goes, sometimes rocky enough to warrant placing feet carefully.

A couple kilometers before reaching the top, the sun disappears behind some mixture of clouds and ridgeline, so it gets really cold really fast.  Shortly thereafter, it starts snowing.  Lovely.  Topping out the road is pretty anticlimactic as the view is limited to the inside of a snowcloud.  Also, I know darkness isn't far off and I'm 11 miles away from home.  Well, time to point 'em downhill and make something happen!

Shotover River meets Kawarau River

The 8 miles of steep rocky descent are generally horrible, but at least gravity is on my side.  A couple miles down, I eat my second (and last) gel, and my water is gone a couple miles later.  Hey, on the bright side, it's cold, so I don't really need to drink any more anyway.  Within a couple miles of the bottom of the road, it's technically and functionally dark, so I'm officially in epic territory.  Well, maybe not, since I don't have a headlamp to meet the accepted definition.

Dusk over Wakatipu and Jacks Point

My pace downhill has been good, but that takes a toll on the ol' meat sticks, so when I finally reach the road and start the 3-mile "cooldown" back to Brett's, I'm pretty well shredded.  Those last few miles aren't super enjoyable, as I'm largely propelled by hunger, hate, and a desire to evolve night vision.

By the time I make it home 22 miles and something like 3-1/2 hours after I started, I'm toasted.  My mind is one-track and wholly focused on Dinner, Immediately.  Without showering or changing, I stumble into my car and drive into Queenstown, where I stagger into Fergburger and get stuck into something fantastic.  My recollection of this meal is zilch, but that's OK.  I drive back home in a stupor, shower, and collapse into bed.

One heckuva good way to cap off my last day in Queenstown.  The next day brings Christchurch and more serious work on the life planning front.  Cheerio!


Monday, May 13, 2013

Rough Surf

When the surf's up on Wakatipu, it's not a pleasant place for anybody to be.

Maybe later

Assembled masses

Preparing for seasickness

Unfortunately, it's a near-daily occurrence.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Race the Train (aka Solo NZ Running Camp Pt. 3)

So the last time I wrote about running, I had discovered a local race that was starting less than 48 hours after a 37-mile block of destruction.  I awaken the next morning to absolutely THRASHED legs, like "not getting out of bed legs," but hobble out to the street in my cute little shorts and awkwardly "run" 3 miles to "shake out," by which I mean feeling like an uncoordinated idiot the entire time.

The rest of the day is spent licking my wounds and psyching myself out for Race the Train.

Meet the Kingston Flyer, age 120

Sunday morning presents itself as warm and clear, and my legs are still totally shattered.  However, I had signed up for the race the prior afternoon, and those 30 bucks are not going to waste, so I drive out to Kingston (working the clutch hurts) and enter the fray.

Race the Train is in its second year, and it's a 12k cross-country race that comes with the added motivation of having a train chase you.  Unfortunately, you don't run on the tracks, so it's not a matter of life and death, which would make it way more cool, but it's still a neat setup for a race.  We ride the train from Kingston to Fairlight (fare included in our race entry fee), watching the countryside go by at a nice clip while the train belches black smoke into the ether.  I begin having visions of running alongside the train while it fills my lungs with Gradual Death.  Once in Fairlight, we scatter for a quick warmup before toeing the line.  My legs still really hurt, and my only idea of the course is what I've seen from the train window.  Eh, whatever.  Time to toughen up!

So it turns out that the train doesn't actually go THAT fast, and I hope I can say as humbly as possible that you're only Racing the Train if you're mid-pack.  If you're faster than mid-pack, it's a running race just like any other, which for me, means that I'm getting my ass kicked by -actual- runners while I lurch violently in the general direction of the finish line.

The gun goes off, my muscles shriek in protest like perishing wraiths, and the fast doods immediately disappear, along with a few others that I don't believe can hold their pace.  My legs have pretty clearly dictated that no speed will be happening today, so there's no way I can match the opening clip; I have to be patient.  The surface varies from packed dirt road to loose-ish dirt to shin-high grass fraught with rodent holes.  Within the first kilometer, I start praying for a broken ankle, as it means the pain will be over sooner.

No glory save for avoiding Black Lung

The leaders are long gone, but those questionable ones are starting to come back to me.  I'm working really hard, and my legs have strangely accepted what I've asked from them.  Resignation works wonders for the oppressed.

As the kilometers tick by, I learn that shin-high grass is surprisingly tough to run through, and also that tailwinds are only nice below certain exertion levels (which I am not).  Above those certain exertion levels (which I am), a tailwind is the equivalent of a superheated death chamber (albeit with nice scenery), which is cute and all, but also mildly unpleasant.

By the time the last couple kilometer signs come 'round, I'm spent, which means Good Pacing, and I've caught most everyone except for the actually fast ones (I'm 30s a km slower than the winner...).  I reward myself with a plunge into Wakatipu (yep, still cold) and hang out while everyone finishes; there are some awesome sprint finishes right as the train arrives.  The true winners in my mind are the 2 guys who ran with STROLLERS over that beat-up terrain and managed to not kill their kids in the process.

Awesome race, awesome day, and a good excuse for a thorough thrashing of the ol' meat kebabs!  Also, didn't get chicked :)


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Queenstown Hill

This trip to paradise is not all fun and games; its true purpose is some serious life planning and networking. However, I had wandered in while nearly the entire country was in the midst of a lengthy holiday, so the few days that I have to recreate before I get down to business have to be lived to the fullest.

I spend one evening hiking up Queenstown Hill. It wasn't a place I visited frequently last time 'round, but when I did, I was generally treated to some pretty special sights. And I suppose I should come clean; there was a particular photo in a particular spot that I've always been a -little- unhappy with, and I was hoping to get lucky with the light on this evening. I'll kill the suspense now; I found the spot again but the light wasn't meant to be. However, there is still plenty to point a camera at while enjoying a mellow walk in the woods.

Cairn guarding its brethren

Metamorphic rock


Not starving


Relic from a movie set against the Remarkables

Whump whump


Same cairn, different light

Probably damaged my eyes for this one; direct defocused sun at 300mm...

Earnslaw chugs home

Making the turn

With another evening well spent doing stuff, sleep comes easily, especially knowing that the view out the bedroom window in the morning will be the first splashes of sunlight on the Remarkables. Curiously, as this trip coincides very nearly with the summer solstice there, it will be nearly a week and a half before I successfully see darkness, not being a night owl and all. It makes me feel like some sort of anti-vampire.

Next...more running.  Yay!


Past Detritus