Sunday, December 30, 2007

Go Camping in Nude Zealand

Somehow nudity and camping seem to go hand-in-hand. I guess it makes sense to be getting back to nature, au naturel.

Anyway, I've just learned of a campground here in New Zealand with a clothing-optional policy. It's called Wai-natur, and is located near Blenheim, in the beautiful Marlborough district. They offer bed and breakfast, caravans or camping. They claim that several of their tent sites are secluded, in case you're feeling a bit shy.

The campground is run by Kay and Brian Hannam, naturists who are heading off to a big tourism trade show in the Netherlands in a few days to promote New Zealand as a great place to get 'yer kit off.

If you want to find out more about going nude in New Zealand, or about Wai-natur, check out their website.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Buy a Book - Save The World

Okay, you can only do so much about saving the world. But thanks to a new online book-selling site called "Good Books" you can pitch in a little more.

All of the profits from books sold on "Good Books" go to Oxfam, who set up all kinds of charity projects in developing countries. So instead of adding to the coffers of some online mega-corporation, your purchase is feeding a starving child, building a well for clean water, or some other such feel-good goal. Just when you thought shopping was self-indulgent!

And yes, they're selling Sex in a Tent - so feel free to make your purchase also contribute to the well-being of a struggling author in the wilds of New Zealand ;o)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

December's Delightful Dayhikes

Penn Creek near Otaki Forks

OK, so the plan was to go for a tramp last weekend. The near-perfect weather forecast seemed to practically demand it! But then on Thursday I came down with a cold, and by Friday G was also getting sniffly - so we decided to scale back and do a couple of day hikes instead.

Our first hike was to Field Hut in the Tararuas. A return journey up the ridge and down again. The second was a more subdued wander around the Rimutakas, along the Orongorongo and Big Bend tracks. We walked about 5 hours each day, so we're slowly getting our legs ready for more serious endeavours.
Slip along the Orongorongo Riverbed, and flowering Northern Rata tree above

No matter how often you hike, there are always new things to learn. So here are some of the things I learned last weekend:

You can't just rely on your map:
I had been eyeing what appeared to be a convenient loop route from Otaki Forks up to Field Hut, then down the Penn Creek Track to Penn Creek Hut, and continuing along the creek back to the start. I couldn't understand why I'd never heard about people doing this loop, when it looked so perfect for a weekend. When we arrived at Field Hut, however, we saw a big sign explaining that the Penn Creek Track was unstable in places and several people had recently been rescued from there. Aha! The map doesn't always tell t he whole story.
Field Hut

An ounce of prevention is worth your left foot:
My new boots are rubbing against my heels, which is annoying and potentially very painful. To prevent it getting too bad, I've been using some first aid tape on my heels whenever I hike. But when I put it on Saturday, I put it too high on my left foot, so the boot rubbed off all of the skin below it. Ouch! Needless to say, that had a lot to do with our choice of a flatter hike on Sunday. Uphill had become a rather painful prospect.
The Orongorongo River

Look out for lawyers:
Well at least in New Zealand there aren't any ambulance chasers. But there is a rather nasty plant I'm told is called "Bush Lawyer" (not its botanical name, but I can never remember those anyway.) As I was coming down from the ridge on Saturday, this thorny plant grabbed onto my pant leg and pulled several threads out of place. How rude!

I miss the ozone layer:
Down here in New Zealand the sun's rays are crazy strong. It seems no amount of sunscreen will completely protect my skin, especially once I start sweating from a big hike uphill in the heat! So most of the time I wear long sleeves and keep most of me covered up. It's a shame. I used to get such a nice tan in the summer. Sigh...

Anyway - ho ho ho and all that. Enjoy the sun or snow or whatever you're getting this holiday season!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wildebeat, Society Hikers and NYC Booklovers

Apologies for my absence lately. I've just returned from a trip to Christchurch and Dunedin for research on my upcoming book Living Abroad in New Zealand. Just a quick update for the moment, and I promise more blogging soon!

The photo above is a friend of the family, Ariel Fenster, perusing Sex in a Tent at Barnes and Noble in New York City. It's great to find out where the book is sitting on shelves, so if you spot it in your corner of the world, let me know!

In other news, the interview I did with Steve Sergeant for The Wildebeat podcast is now available on their website. Here's the link. The edited interview runs about 10 minutes, and if you're a member there's an "adult" version available.

And a bit of surprise publicity - the American Hiking Society ran a story about my book on their blog a few days ago. Here's the link for that one.

I hope you've all got your last-minute gift shopping under control. Happy holidays, and I hope you get all of the new gear you've been hoping for - and a copy of Sex in a Tent of course!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Seasonal Book Publicity

I found out today that my book was mentioned on a list of Christmas gift ideas from The Times UK. It's not exactly a review, but I'll take it!

Thanks to John Hee, a UK hiker and blogger who let me know about it!

Also, over the weekend I was interview by Radio New Zealand for a piece they're putting together on "greener" ways to spend Christmas (like tramping)! Not sure when the story will air, but if I get advance notice I will post the info here for anyone with access to New Zealand radio!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Our Jumbo First Tramp of Summer

Summer has arrived, and somehow during the spring we didn't once manage to go tramping. Between me being out of the country for several weeks, and bad weather earlier in the spring, and let's face it, a bit of laziness on our part, it simply never happened.

So last weekend we were determined to get the season started right, and we did the classic "Jumbo-Holdsworth Circuit" in the Tararuas. Just a two-day tramp, but something that would have us doing a lot of climbing and getting those legs back in shape!

The weather was very nearly perfect on Saturday as we started out. Sunny, warm and calm. We started up the Gentle Annie track and immediately felt the results of not carrying a backpack for the past six months. But up and up we went, huffing and puffing our way to the Mountain House Shelter for a bite of lunch.
Then we continued on to Powell Hut (in the above picture, it's directly above my head but you can't see it), a large, newish hut just at the bushline. It was tempting to call it a day at this point and stay at Powell, since I was already tired and feeling my heels rubbing against the backs of my new boots. But it was only 2pm, and if ever there was a good day to cross the tops this was it. Clear skies and practically no wind.

No wind, that is, until you actually reach the exposed ridge! On our way up to the Mt. Holdsworth summit (pictured below), the "breeze" kicked in. I knew better than to complain. I've heard enough stories about battered trampers crossing the tops on their hands and knees because the wind was blowing too hard for them to keep their feet. But nontheless, the stillness was long gone and I was anxious to get through this part of the tramp as quickly as possible.

My legs had other ideas. (They so rarely consult with my brain on these critical matters.) It was a slow climb up Mt. Holdsworth, followed by a slightly wobbly descent to the main ridge (pictured below). Then the ups and downs along the ridge to Jumbo peak. Towards Jumbo, my left thigh decided to cramp spectacularly. It was the first time this has happened to me on a tramp, and I think may have been the result of not eating enough salt along the way. But we took a break while my leg recovered a bit, and moved on. After all, it's not like I was going to stop there. And it was a longer walk back to Powell Hut at that point than continuing to Jumbo Hut.
Once we reached Jumbo peak, we turned off and headed down a spur towards the hut. From above, the hut was a welcome sight! We arrived at the hut after 7 hours on the trails. We knew there were about 8 other trampers who had gone to Jumbo by the same route as us. (We were the last to get there, gotta get into better shape!) But you can also reach the hut from the valley below, so when we arrived there were actually about 18 people there! The hut sleeps 20 comfortably, and there were a father and son who had already decided to pitch their tent outside instead. So space was not a problem, and we settled in for the night, making dinner and relaxing.
The next day's route was theoretically much easier. A steep descent from the hut to the river valley below, and then following the track next to the river all of the way back to the carpark. Estimated time - about 4 1/2 hours. But that estimate doesn't take into account having overworked our out-of-practice legs the day before. So it actually took us 5 hours to get back to the car. Just getting down the hill turned my quads to jelly, which slowed me down for the rest of the "easy" part. The next morning, my quads were terribly stiff. Actually, they're not much better now!

On the way back to Wellington we stopped at a slightly toursity little town called Greytown. Strawberry season is in full swing here, and we picked up four plunnets of berries for $6! I've dehydrated half of them to use when we go to the South Island in February. I also bought some peppers (capsicums) to dehydrate at the same shop.

We had an overpriced lunch at a local cafe, then drove back to Wellington. All in all, a painful but successful tramp! And the weather didn't let us down, with just a few sprinkles as we finished up.

While I must say I haven't kept my conditioning up over the winter to the extent I would have liked, at least I'm in decent enough shape that when I do have an incident on the trail (a cramp, a twisted knee, etc.) my body bounces back right away. There was a time when a hike like this would have been followed by days of knee pain, and I'm sure glad I've managed to get past that!

Next week I'm off to Christchurch and Dunedin for a research trip (I'm writing a guide for migrants) but hopefully there will be more tramping soon.