Saturday, March 27, 2010

Book Review: Every Day's A Good Day

Here in New Zealand, we are sometimes a bit blasé about using active vocanoes for our recreational activities. Mt. Ruapehu has had fairly major eruptions as recently as 1996, but we continue to ski, climb and hike on it year-round.

William Pike is a Kiwi who found himself in just the wrong place at the wrong time. During a climbing trip with a friend on Ruapehu in 2007 they stopped for the night at Dome Shelter, a small hut just below the crater lake. That night, the mountain had a severe case of indigestion and sent a lahar (powerful stream of mud and rocks) straight through the hut on its way down the mountain.

William's companion was miraculously unhurt, but William was blasted by rocks, and had one leg pinned in what amounted to natural concrete. Every Day's a Good Day is the story of William's ordeal on the mountain, rescue, and recovery.

I really wanted to like this book, because I admire those who take such a major setback in their lives (in the case the amputation of his right leg below the knee) with such acceptance and optimism. Throught the story, William never seems to feel hard done by with his extreme bad luck, despite being the ONLY person hurt by the eruption. Nor does it alter his love of the outdoors or of mountaineering. There's no doubt that faced with similar circumstances, I would hope to find that kind of strength and positive attitude in myself.

Unfortunately, William is not a particularly strong writer. Although his story is compelling, he fails to make the readers feel like they are living through it with him. It also seems that he couldn't find enough to say about the actual incident to fill out a book, so instead he tells us irrelevant stories about his childhood firing a pea-shooter and his youth on the school water polo team.

Coincidentally William has just been in the news here again. (No he hasn't lost another limb!) He has just launched the William Pike Challenge Award for students. Participants will do a mix of community service, such as helping clean up ski areas, and take part in outdoor activities such as climbing the central plateau mountains, Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.

William is a school teacher and wanted to encourage more young people to gain new skills and confidence by participating in outdoor activites. Good on ya William!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Bus to Paradise

I've never owned a car. I'm not a big fan of driving, and I have always been fortunate enough to live somewhere with public transit good enough to get me where I want to go most of the time.

However, as a person who loves getting away to wilderness areas, not having a car is a real problem sometimes. Public transit doesn't tend to reach the wilderness. So I have worked around this in the past by relying on friends, clubs, etc. to get me out of town.

Now, a group in Toronto is trying to get a bus service up and running on summer weekends between the city an Algonquin Provincial Park. For those unfamiliar with Algonquin, it's an absolutely HUGE park around 3-4 hours north of Toronto. It has campgrounds, cabins, and a very extensive backcountry, most of which is only accessible by canoe.

The idea of getting dropped off at the park by bus, and picked up again to return to the city, would have been like a dream come true for me when I lived in Toronto! So I'm really hoping this gets off the ground, even though it's too late for me. I'm also hoping it sets an example that others may follow - making it easier for those without their own cars to access the wilderness, and also giving people the "greener" option of leaving their cars at home.

If you want to find out more about the proposed "Park Bus" service - check out their website:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hills over the Harbour

First of all, my apologies for not posting anything for so long. I'm afraid it hasn't been a very tramping-heavy summer for me. Too much non-blogworthy stuff to do!

Today, though, we decided we were long overdue for a decent walk. On my insistence, we checked out a track we've never walked before. This track went from Lowry Bay to Days Bay via the Main Ridge Track in Wellington region's East Harbour Regional Park.The first challenge was to find one of the trailheads so that we could get started! The one we aimed for first didn't actually exist, or at least we couldn't see it. Instead we went to an alternate trailhead which turned out to be the wrong one.

So we begin our hike by walking up one side of a big hill and down the other, just to get to what should have been our starting point. Ah well, we needed the exercise, right?

We walked up to the ridge again, and found an opening in the bush which allowed for a nice view south, towards the entrance to Wellington harbour. As you can see in the photo, we are quite close to civilization here, and at times you could hear traffic from the track - but considering we drove less than 30 minutes from our house to get there, it did feel pretty remote most of the time we were up there. The bush is dense and until you get a view like this, you could be deep in the forest!Rather than do something pretty close to a loop in the park, we descended towards Days Bay, which is a few kilometres south of our starting point. After stopping to use a washroom and buy a couple of Popsicles (well, Fruju really, but you can't get Popsicle brand here) we headed back along the harbour to Lowry Bay.

All in all we walk for about four hours, which was quite enough once we hit the sunshine along the beach. It's amazing how quickly the sun can sap your energy!

A nice walk for the most part - although the "track maintenance" we waded through on our way down was a bit of a mess. Considering the convenient location, we're likely to hit the East Harbour again!