Monday, January 21, 2013

Fishing expedition to Cook Strait

A colleague (Gavin) has been trying to catch some plankton for some experiments and wanted to test if their is the right kind of plankton (foraminifera) in Cook Strait. Another colleague (Peppe) has a new boat and is a mad keen fisherman. So we decided to combine the two. The weather was very calm when we set off. We got out into the strait and did a couple of plankton tows with our newly made nets - which worked very nicely. At the end of the 2nd tow we were suddenly surrounded by brown water. We thought it might be kelp, but it turned out to be a large school of krill, or some kind of bright red crustacean. Then a pod of dolphins visited us and fed and played around us for 30 minutes or more, and came back several times later. After the plankton tows, Peppe and Gavin broke out the fishing rods and dropped a line. Within minutes of the line hitting the bottom Peppe was pulling up 2 fish - a perch and a blue cod. Then Gavin caught a spiny dogfish (shark), which was pulled on board and was held down while the hook was removed and we could throw it back. Unfortunately the wind was picking up and the waves were getting a little uncomfortable in the 5 m boat. So time to head back. Pretty good morning. Thanks Peppe for giving me the only edible fish for our dinner. I just had to learn how to gut a fish. 

Peppe in his happy place - fishing. 

Gavin waiting a little more patiently for a bite.

A quite spectacular looking perch. 

Onda (means waves in italian) Peppe's shiny boat
Video of the dolphins is on my facebook. It isn't very pretty - but you get the picture.....

Friday, January 18, 2013

More work in the garden

Back from summer break and straight back into the garden. I did a bit of destructive landscaping on the bench that was part of the retaining wall in front of the north slope.


Bascially, I removed it and the top layer of wall to make it even straight across. I also added another layer of bricks to help bring the brick wall up to a similar height.


Another thing that has always bothered me was how the top terrace sloped down on one side. It made mowing a pain and was a little dangerous as there was a fairly significant drop down to the bottom. The green house made it a little better, but more could be done.

I had a liberated a bunch of grey blocks when I started digging out the hill for the new retaining wall so I figured out a way to reuse them and level the top terrace. There was a small attempt a retaining wall by the previous owner that I worked off of to build the new wall.

The new wall from below

The wall goes from being one brick high on the left (in the picture above) to four bricks high to the right. Helen was most impressed that I managed to keep it fairly level given the change in height.

And from above

I still have a bit of fill to add to get it a bit more level. it will never be flat, but it is heaps better than it was! The dirt is coming from where I have been digging out the hill for the retaining wall.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wakamarina Track

The Wakamarina track goes from Renwick to Canvas Town. Aaron has wanted to ride it for a while, but it is a bit out of the way and requires either to be done as part of a bike tour, or a car shuttle. The track also needs to be dry as it is clay and gets very slippy and impossible to ride when wet. The last few days of our holiday in Nelson the weather was great and we needed to head back to Picton for an early morning ferry. We had a bit of an issue to get to the start of the track as the main road in was closed due to logging. So we had to drive another 30 km around to Bartletts Creek Track. 

The track started with a short downhill and then a bit of traversing, before a steady, and sometimes tricky, climb up to Foster's clearing. It took about 1 hour to ride the 6 km, through some beautiful beech forest, with some views down on to the Wairau Valley and across to the Kaikoura Range.

Mount Tapauenuku in the Kaikoura Range

Fosters Clearing
At Fosters Clearing we had lunch and then walked up to Fosters Hut. The section after Fosters Clearing is renowned for being a bit of a hike and then some technical single track. So while Aaron continued on, Helen rode back down to the car to drive around to the Wakamarina road end.

Fosters Hut

A section of the track

One of the many switchbacks on the descent

Finally at the bottom of the hill

Doom Creek

It was a fun day riding, but I'm not sure Aaron would make the effort to ride it again....

Friday, January 4, 2013

Paragliding in Nelson

For many years I have wanted to try paragliding. So as the weather conditions improved in Nelson I jumped on the opportunity to do a tandem jump from the hills of the Richmond Range just above Stoke. I got to dress up in this very flattering and slightly oversize fly suit, which I didn't really need as it wasn't cold - but at least I looked the part. Aaron got to wear a slightly more flattering suit that was straight out of Top Gun. 

Helen in her oversize flying suit.

After several safety checks that the many buckles on the harness were done up and checking the wind conditions Stu, the instructor, and I took off. It was a strange sensation. It was hard to tell you were moving unless you looked at the ground. It just felt like you were hanging out. We flew around the tops and down towards the valley and then caught some thermals to take us back up high. The views were amazing down over the turquoise Tasman Bay, over to the Abel Tasman and the Kahurangi National Park in the distance.

In the process of taking off.

Up in the air. 

Views over Tasman Bay with Abel Tasman and Kahurangi National Park.

After about 45 minutes we landed back up at the top of the hill and it was Aaron's turn. Vincent took Aaron  up on a flight, and instead of playing in the thermals they headed down the hill and landed on the edge of town. It was a slightly odd sensation at times - not too great on your stomach....

Aaron in a slightly oversize air force flying suit. 

Photo taken while flying. Supposedly you have to have your feet in it to show you were up there!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years at Rocks Hut

As the weather forecast for the Kahurangi National Park was looking so nasty, with lots and lots of rain forecast. So instead we headed back up the Dun Mountain track and into the Richmond Range, to Rocks Hut. Aaron joined us and rode his bike to the hut, riding up the Dun Mountain track to Coppermine saddle and then he managed to ride about half of the last 2 kms across to Rocks Hut. He hadn't planned on going tramping, but wanted to test out riding with a pack and some overnight stuff. Helen, however, carried some extra stuff in her tramping pack for him.

Rocks Hut

Aaron rode his bike to the hut

We had dinner and then played cards. Then just before sunset we headed up to the Rocks lookout. We had some great views up to Dun Mountain (famous for the fact that Dunite rock is named after). Interestingly not much vegetation likes to grow on it, so it stands out from the surrounding hills. We also had great views back on the Richmond Range.

Dun Mountain near sunset

Richmond Range

Just on sunset we opened a bottle of bubbly and celebrated the new year (just a few hours early). 

Florian, Dave, Kareen and Helen toasting the new year (a little early)