30 September, 2008

Old Beer, New Beer

Erich, Bruno and I had a go at brewing some of our own beer the other day. Drawing on Erich's prior knowledge, we went for the full traditional technique buying only malted barley, hops and yeast and doing the rest ourselves: milling the barley, cooking the barley to extract the sugars, filtering, infusing the hops, more filtering, cooling (and building our own cooling coils from copper pipes) and bottling (including emptying out the Grolsch that was inconvieniently stored in the bottles we wanted to use). The beer is almost ready to drink now I think. Last night's sample revealed that it tastes a bit like a flat, old ale --- it still needs to produce a bit more fizz and then it should be tasting pretty good. It would have been even better if rather than buying yeast we had been able to grow our own culture. Or extract one from a 45 million year old sample in an amber encased weevil like this guy did.

08-09 Beer Brewing

Tramping: Jumbo - Angle Knob - McGregor - Broken Axe Pinnacles - Baldy

I've been wanting to try and get to the geocache in the plane wreck in the Tararuas ever since Jen told me about it last winter. It as at the back of my mind all through the time when a group of us walked the Holdsworth-Jumbo circuit in Autumn. With N. in Korea and Kelly in the U.S. Chris and I planned an attempt on the wreck a couple of weekends back. We left on a Friday evening and took advantage of the very smooth track from Holdsworth to Atiwhaktu hut, walking it in the dark.

The next day we made good time up Rain Gauge Spur to Jumbo hut, the weather was pretty good by Tararua standards: windy saddles but calm other spots, a bit of clag about but enough visibility to see at least 100m or so ahead. And a rainbow.

It was easy walking from Jumbo along the ridge to Angle Knob with some pretty looking trans formed from the snow melt. I hadn't been sure how much snow we would find here and we'd brought crampons. Although there were deep drifts off the side of the ridge (I'd say at least a metre deep in places) the track was clear apart from the odd patch. The cloud got a bit thicker about Angle Knob and the route seemed to vanish about ten metres after the peak.

We'd seen a few reports in the Atiwhakatu hut book of people planning to visit the wreck so I'd expected the route from Angle Knob to continue as it had been up till then. We spent an hour or so scrambling about on some pretty steep and slippery (a nasty mix of snow and mud) pinnacle like things, making detours down the steep ridge sides and climbing back up when things didn't look any better down low. Eventually we decided that the cloud was too thick for us to be sure we were in fact on the easiest path, and the path itself was nasty enough for us to decide to back off and beat a retreat to the delightful two mattress McGregor Biv. Finding the biv itself was hard enough.It sits just at the bush line at the end of a spur from the ridge between Angle Knob and McGregor peak. The turn off down the spur isn't particularly marked and the valley between the ridge and the biv was full of cloud so Chris and I spent a while climbing about in tussock and Spaniard before a brief clearing in the cloud gave a view to the biv (I love forest service orange) --- on the slope opposite the one we were descending.

We reached the biv about two so we had plenty of time to enjoy the atmosphere of the cold, damp box that it was. Cloud meant still no views and little inclination to explore.

Sunday's weather was better with fewer clouds about. We had decided not to make another attempt to go to the wreck but by the time we had regained the saddle below Angle Knob the weather was looking so nice and we had such a good view of the route ('It doesn't look that bad at all!') that we were compelled to have another quick try. Once a again we scrambled about on the crumbly Tararua rock before deciding that the easiest route was just as steep and dodgy as we had previously thought (we hadn't dropped our packs for some reason) and we backed off again in favour of making a loop along McGregor Ridge and the Pinnacles to the South King and then to Baldy. If only we had known what was in store for us. The going at first was great. Nice views, plenty of sun and a route that felt isolated without being too difficult.

The first few pinnacles were good too; a bit exposed and scrambley with some steep ascents and descents that changed my opinion that this would be a route to take someone for their first trip in the tops. As we dropped off what we thought was the last pinnacle I was feeling that we had had a good amount of exposure and was looking forward to the route opening out a bit for the climb towards South King. As we climbed what I thought was the ridge a notch opened up in front of us. The knife blade we were walking along stopped pretty suddenly leaving us about 15 metres above the rest of the ridge. The sides of the ridge were steep enough to not look any easier than the climb down the face so with some reluctance and wishing that we had a rope to use with the iron ring that was hammered in at the top --- even if only for lower packs --- we slide, scrambled and generally squirmed our way down the face clutching at tussock and the wobbly rock features that pass for a good hold in the Tararuas. On reflection, the climb down was made much worse than it need have been by the fact that our heacy packs kept catching on things and pulling us off balance. The exposure made things feel worse too, below any of the ledges we climbed on to were large drops with nothing of substance to stop you if you were to slip, or a tussock hold was to let go.

Thankfully this really was the last difficult patch and was followed by a relatively easy climb up to a flat area where a spur split off the ridge, running down to Baldy. We needed a spot of lunch by this point.

From the spur down to Baldy we had nice views of the next valley, between South- and Mid-King and of ridge we had just walked along including the nasty notch. Baldy gave great views too --- in all directions.

From here the track headed for the bush line and dropped down the the Mitre hut track, following the Atiwhakatu stream back to the hut and the carpark, just as the moon was rising.

Here's the Picasa gallery to go with the trip:
08-09 Angle Knob

29 September, 2008

Tony's 80th Birthday

A few of pictures from Tony's 80th birthday party at Anderson's Bay, North of Auckland.

And, the Picasa gallery with a few more photos.
08-08 Tony's B'day

24 September, 2008

Apartment Hunting in Wellington

The view from N's current place in Wellington is very nice

but recently we have been wondering if it might be better to move to somewhere a bit more stable --- when no one has to dig their car out of a landslide to get to work in the morning (and somewhere with just a little more space).

This place looks nice and big; grotty and poorly maintained, but it's got lots of room and plenty of windows...

More uninspired photos of dirty carpet and beige walls.

Doctor Deglaire

Amelie's a doctor now (a doctor of philosophy that is!) so we took he to Napier to drink wine and eat cheese on the beach.

Picasa gallery with the same three photos. You can use it to share with your friends!


From Quy Nhon, Tamsin and I flew to Hanoi, via Da Nang. The airport at Da Nang must be one of the nastiest, dullest airports I've seen and so T. and I took advantage of the linguistic abilities of Alan, a VSA worker who was traveling that far with us, to arrange a trip to the Cham museum for a couple of hours between our flights.

Besides the Cham museum (and China Beach) Da Nang's other highlight is it's canyfloss pink church --- though if you arrive at lunch time you won't be able to get in on account of the guard taking a break from lunch and locking the entrance gates.

Ha Noi has a different look and feel from HCMC and Quy Nhon. A lot of this stems from the colonial architecture that still survives, albeit in increasingly dilapidated states. This spans from the grandiose buildings like the opera house and metropolitan hotel, though to streets of small shops and houses with rusting fretwork and crumbling balconies. We were fortunate that our hotel was in the centre of the old-quarter where the concentration of these buildings is greatest.

We also had an excellent vegetarian cafe directly opposite us. This served some of the tastiest food we had in Vietnam, some of the tastiest drinks too with excellent fruit cocktails (with the odd bad one mixed in for variety). We visited a couple of cultural sites during our two days there. The Temple of literature which touts itself as the oldest university in Vietnam was a collection of carved stone tablets.

Its surrounding gardens were pretty and the whole thing worth visiting but it didn't catch my attention the same way that the forest of steeles at Xi'an in China did
The museum of Vietnamese art was good though it was depressing to see works stored and shown in such bad conditions (both the roof and the floor were letting in water) and with such little information. Are my museum expectations now a product of the Te Papas of the world where every article come accompanied by an interactive educational display?

Most of the time, however, we spent just wandering around the city. Looking at the markets with their amazing stalls of pirated DVDs, pet rabbits and turtles for making into a tasty soup.

And admiring the government propaganda; Uncle Ho may be dead (and interred on display in a public mausoleum) but his spirit lives on particularly strongly in Ha Noi

Here's the Picasa gallery with more Ha Noi photos.