Saturday, January 31, 2009
But I digress. At the beginning of this year I did something long overdue - I joined my local gym to get myself into better shape. I figure if I can shape up a little, my tramping trips will be less painful, more enjoyable and I can consider a wider range of tracks because I'll be able to go farther faster.
Good theory, but just what can you do at the gym to achieve that result? Obviously I don't have enough time on my hands to build up to an eight hour slog on the treadmill (or I'd just do it outdoors anyway) so I have to make do with shorter, more intense workouts.
My main machine so far is the elliptical crosstrainer. I figure of all the cardio machines, this one most closely emulates tramping. It's a bit like climbing a hill, and the pivoting arm poles are kind of like hiking poles.
I've also been using a Swiss ball to try to improve the strength in my core muscles, which are the muscles of the abdomen and back. A strong core should improve by balance, and make it easier to carry the weight of my pack.
So far I've been avoiding the group classes. The instructors just seem way too obnoxious, and most of the classes look very hard on the knees.
Anyway, that's me so far. But I'm curious to know what other people do at the gym to make their tramping better or easier. So leave all your tips as comments, and maybe we call all learn a thing or two about getting fit, avoiding injury, and wearing leotards with matching leg warmers. (OK, maybe not that last one...)
Saturday, January 24, 2009
New Zealand fur seals are always a treat to see. They're a pretty laid back bunch, assuming you don't try to get right in their faces. On this particular day they were splitting their time between sunning themselves on the rocks (and scratching the occasional itch)...
Thursday, January 22, 2009
"The breakthrough came about through the design of a fuel cell in which a specially coated form of Goretex is the key component. A fine layer of highly conductive plastic - a mere 0.4 of a micron thick or about 100 times thinner than a human hair - was deposited on the breathable fabric as part of a fuel cell with electrodes and a catalyst. Just as waste water vapour is drawn out of the Goretex to make hikers more comfortable and less prone to hypothermia, it is also able to 'breathe' oxygen into the fuel cell and into contact with the conductive plastic.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
We spent our afternoon walking in the reserve. There is a loop track along a bush track, up to a lookout over the Pinnacles, and then back to the campground via the stream bed. That was a bit short for us, so we carried on after the turn off to the lookout, and joined up with a 4 wheel drive track in Aorangi Forest Park (or Haurangi Forest Park - it seems to have two spellings.) This track, I believe, is mainly used by hunters. However, the track turns into a foot-only track before you get to the first hut.
We turned around where the track narrowed, and headed back to the lookout. It's a wood platform with a view of the largest section of eroded hoodoos. (There are other little sections visible as you head up the valley.)
For those who have seen these in the LOTR, it's a bit surprising to see that they are so surrounded by green hillsides. The Pinnacles themselves cover quite a small area. It's a landscape you might expect to find in a desert, rather than a forest. I guess the extent of the erosion is a testament to the kinds of winds that whip through the valley! No wonder the campground was so gusty.Despite the wind, we managed to light our stove and make dinner in the shelter of a flax plant. If you're thinking of camping out there, bring lots of water with you. The only water source appears to be the trickle of a stream. Since we were car camping anyway, we just filled up some extra containers at home.
The rest of our trip in Cape Palliser coming soon to this very blog...
Friday, January 16, 2009
A couple of days ago, an Auckland teenager (that's right - an actual Kiwi and a tourist!) fell while about half way up the cone. He slid about 50 metres down the hill, and brought a lot of loose rocks down on top of himself.
Thankfully, he didn't get knocked out by any of the rocks. But by the time a rescue helicopter got to him he was in a lot of pain from head, shoulder and neck injuries and was also coughing up blood. Not the best way to cap off your summer vacation!
In a related story, someone we met while doing the Round-the-mountain track told us about another teenager who did the side trip up Ngauruhoe. Apparently there was still quite a lot of snow on the mountain at the time, so after reaching the top she decided it would be fun to glissade down on her bum. She had no ice axe or other means of stopping or slowing her descent and soon lost control. Her walk also ended with a helicopter ride to the hospital.
Having said that, rest assured that thousands of other people have climbed and descended Ngauruhoe without incident, and many consider it to be one of the highlights of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. It does add extra time to an already long day, but if you've got the experience and the fitness, there's no reason not to go for it. Just be careful up there!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
We each have our preferences. Some prefer the calming patterns of water, others enjoy the simplicity of the desert, and many of us can't get enough of the majesty of the mountains or the oxygen-rich greenery of the forest.
If you're the sort of person who likes to ask "why", a new study out of the University of Michigan has looked into the way in which walking through a city affects our brains differently from walking in a park or wilderness setting. The Boston Globe ran an article on it early in the new year.
Apparently all of the little things we need to think about in the city - not walking into other people, not getting run over crossing the road - and all of the distractions we need to filter out because they aren't important - other people's conversations, contents of shop windows etc. - just wear us down. It's a constant strain on our brains processing all of that input.
Out in nature, there is much less to process, and it becomes much more obvious what we need to focus on. For instance, following a track or climbing a mountain clearly require your attention. Blocking out details like assessing each individual tree is much better hard-wired into our brains than the recently introduced urban landscape.
So the next time you decide to head out of town for the weekend, think of it as an opportunity to recharge your brain's batteries. You should see improvements in your mood, your attention span, and your memory. And if you can't make it out of town, apparently it's even helpful to go look at a tree for a while.