Wednesday, October 8, 2008

While the P is away...

P's off at horse camp, and her varmints have been up to all sorts of shenanigans in her absence, fighting loneliness and boredom with frantic activity. (Rodents!)

Just like P, both the pigs beat me at Quiddler.
Can't wait for P to come home!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Skiing on a volcano

An active one, too. Welcome to Whakapapa Ski Resort, on lovely Mt. Ruapehu. Why, this place hasn't erupted since last year! Let's go!

The place was packed due to the glorious weather. This is the closest skiing to Auckland (I hear that the real NZ skiing is in the Southern Alps...) so it's packed on a good weekend. This year has been very good for snow - they might even be skiing as late as New Year's! (this might not sound so novel to some of my UT friends...)
I can report that they have a lovely cafe - complete with venison burgers and delicate pastries. Beer and mocchiatos were available next door. Men and women were happily coexisting. Not a bread-bowl of chili in sight, alas.
I went with R and C and, of course, P. C is one of those "free your heel, free your mind" backpack-toting types from the wilds of Oregon. He stood out. I blended in with my rentals and video-session of P's skiing.
This is Mt. Ngaruhoe (I think). This area is in Tongariro National Park and is home to the famous Tongariro Crossing. Trekking anyone?
Here's P. Nice tongue kid... better think twice before ruining the picture again! It's going on the internets along with all of those embarassing potty-pics we have from when you were 2! Ha!

MTB Racing - the Taupo Day-Night Thriller

P and I went down to Taupo to race with "The R**inator" in the Taupo Day-Night Thriller. It's apparently one of the biggest MTB races in NZ. A few things to note - there is no scramble for spots (as there is in Moab or OP) as they assign you a "section". I think this might be a feature of Kiwi culture - many of the Europeans came here (and I suppose the Maori initially as well) as part of a land grab - and having a "section" or small plot of land was the goal. Another feature of Kiwi culture is really nice grass, and I can report that I've never camped on nicer. It was a superb mix of cushy moss and thick turf. Here was our little chunk of the land for the weekend:
Note that the neighbors had some of those fantastic, huge Kiwi tents. These put Springbars to shame (sorry Jem and Clem). We had our backpacking stoves and tents, they had teak deck furniture, full beds, heaters, etc. Our camps at Moab and OP with CTR were definitely larger and more robust, but, man - it would have been out of place to have a cuppa and discuss the cricket scores in them. How very civilised.
P raced as well - in the "Little Devils' Fun Ride". It was sponsored by the local demonic pizza chain. She stood out in her pretty blue outfit. That guy to her right was at least 13 years old, the cheater.
R (baldy in background) gave some thoughtful advice on race tactics before she was off. ("make sure your bike makes lots of creaking sounds...") I rode alongside and can report that she's a fantastic trail rider (it was her first real MTB riding). I'm so proud of her! Here's some video:

Next was the race start. It goes off at 10:30AM and ends at 10:30PM - R and I were racing in the duo category so we were looking at 6 hours of riding each. He did the start in good form - more of an uphill prologue than a LeMans style jog.
Here's R doing a double lap - that's right, the course went right through the campsite! In fact, of the ~8km course, I think half was spent winding through the pits (the other half was beautiful forest above a fantastic river). We each rode 11 laps (umm, actually I did 12 including the one with P ;) and finished in the middle of the pack even with a hour-long soak midway through at the nearby thermal pools. That's the way to race! The race ended with a very cold awards ceremony. The emcee was genuinely funny (this is rare for MTB races), but mostly he was engaging due to a loose tongue, lots of cussing up the Aussies (there was an All Blacks rugby game on that night), and I suspect, no small amount of beer. Afterwards the crowd watched the rugby game on the big screen.

I was warned before I raced that this was one to do once, and I think that will be the case. The course was second-rate and was too crowded for my taste. After 11 laps I was ready to just veer off to explore more trails. R and I are planning to race another 12hr event in November before heading to the South Island for this MONSTER in February.

Tirau: Corrugated Metal Capital of Central North Island

On "Flight of the Conchords" there is a running joke about a "toothbrush fence". As in, hey, Oz might have Uluru, but we've got a nice toothbrush fence. Up 'till a few minutes ago, thanks to the wonder that is the internet, I was not able to verify through querying the locals. It turns out that indeed there is. There is also a bra fence.

Where I grew up the best we had was a "The THING?" and a large cow skull.

Pascal and I encountered another extravagant tourist trap oddity on a recent trip. A town near the famous toothbrush fence is the corrugated metal capital of central north island, here's the evidence:

I want one of these. This is the second one I've seen... (the mower-bike, not the kid, she's already mine).
P getting eaten by a large, in case you didn't notice, corrugated-metal sheep. Afterwards she found a public toilet in the innards.

The corrugated-metal dog seems more interested in chasing cars than keeping the local corrugated-metal sheep in line. He also houses tourist information and knick-knacks.

Perhaps this is why - the corrugated-metal shepard is about 1/10th the size of the sheep and dog.Hubba-hubba. That's a nice corrugated-metal pukeko.

Adventures at Trolley Bay and Trundler Park

Among other adventures, P and I have spent some time at Trolley Bay this week on Holiday (aka school vacation):

We've also been to Trundler Park:

It's been a shopping kind of week as P has outgrown all of her clothes, and summer is on its way!