Friday, December 28, 2007

Office Boy turns Farm boy

with Stephe Crabbe

Apple Thinning

Hi Everyone! And welcome to the Christmas edition of our wild journey in New Zealand. From Alpine to Jungle we traveled the North Island in style. A land where beer is bottled cheaply and good times are around every corner, mountain, river bend or wherever the hell you may find yourself. First I would like to apologize for the unnecessary latency time between blogs. Back by popular demand I am about to take you on a trip into the mind of an office boy turned farm boy. You are traveling not only through a dimension of sight and sound but of the mind. Where the brain is not being used but is it? What happens to a man when it is just him and a row of trees for ten hours? Read on to see…

Over the last four weeks Patrick, Simon and I have been focusing on getting some money in our New Zealand bank accounts as our Canadian accounts are now empty. Pat’s rough calculations on our newly planned trip to Melbourne, Australia for the Aussie Open Tennis Major were 2200 NZD. Ground passes are available for the very affordable price of 99 AUS Dollars per week! The recent currency hike has come at a very convenient time in an equinox of sorts as we transition from one currency valuation to another. We were looking forward to getting work primarily for the money but also in a hope that it would give us a temporary routine. After living on a boat for a month to living out of a car and a tent for two, you being to appreciate things that are normality’s to your average person. The thought of having fresh cold milk, perhaps a couch in front of a television set seemed like amenities from a past life. A dream land where a man could shower and shave in the morning in his own space…wow that would be special, I thought.

We were four people south bound to Wellington, the capital of NZ in our car which was getting less reliable as the days progressed. Hannah, a good friend, was with us as we were crammed into the car like sardines. Sometimes it the car wouldn’t start, not that the engine was going but the battery kept mysteriously dying. Fortunately jumping our car is very easy and when the battery was too dead to jump start someone was always there with a boost. The road curved and undulated as we progressed over a mountain range back toward the east coast of NZ and the South Pacific Ocean. The Whangenui River is the most central geographical location in NZ, a whopping 100 kms to either ocean. We spent a few days in Wellington, one of which was relaxing and the other a bit more exciting. We boarded the ferry with our car heading to the South Island early afternoon, destination Nelson. A costal city of 40 000 Kiwis with a vibrant tennis community and the most sunshine on either Island! Where the water is an aqua blue color that North Americans only see in an artificial state. Mullets are as cool as Dave Beckham and every young man is striving to have the loudest, fastest car. Simon and I purchased racquets in Wellington and we were all more than eager to start playing tennis. Fortunately we landed at the Palace hostel where we score our own apartment. 20 per night for a flat with a private kitchen and living room. Our initial days in the Nelson region were spent on the tennis court. Morning, Afternoon, and night we were tearing it up. For the 1st time in our lives we had a close friend that was a very competent player. Simon’s ability to consistently execute a powerful inside-out forehand had us scrambling around the court to stay in sets. His elite background in nationally accredited German table tennis was shining through. Patrick’s elbow is feeling excellent and he can absolutely “schmammer” the ball. We soon found ourselves immersed in the local tennis community playing the best tennis of our lives.
A Classified Ad and a phone call later and we were heading into the country side for an informal interview with “Nick”. Bronte Farms Ltd. was looking for apple thinning employees on a 4 contract. Perfect! Work until just before Christmas on a farm. I didn’t want to be in a factory or in a restaurant; I wanted to be outside earning money the way a man should; with his hands. Patrick, Simon and I sprung out of the car on a balmy Saturday afternoon and Nick, our boss was washing his dirt bike. A burly man in his mid thirties with unassuming good looks hidden behind a ball cap and a morning of dirty work. There were several dogs milling around looking for a hard pet as he tried to feel us out. Ten minutes later he told us to show up at eight on Monday morning to start work. With a firm country boy handshake we were heading back to our Hostel with jobs!

Monday morning came quick and with a cooler full of ham sandwiches and trail mix we were off. The training and orientation was very brief, Nick’s father Bruce had a few words of wisdom for us and we were given a daunting row of apples trees to be thinned. You may be asking yourself what is involved in the process of thinning an apple tree? It is simple; you must eliminate clusters of apples as well as purge any apples that have russet (frost damage) on them. These trees are quite tall so you are given a special ladder which becomes an extension of you legs. Each row is given a specific tree valuation depending on the size and maturity. One of their veteran thinners picks a tree from a row and thins it. Usually at a superhuman pace he sets the piece rate to determine the monetary yield for each tree. If it takes ten minutes then the tree is worth 2 dollars. If it takes ½ hour then it is worth 6 dollars etc. The ambiguity associated with this valuation process gave people rows that could be gold mines, but that was never the case for me. My first morning is a fairly accurate depiction of how the four weeks went for me in the luck category. I was assigned to an end row, like a partridge in the morning; naive ness overlooked the fact that the additional sun that an end row receives turns trees into sprawling jungles. The first day was trying but at the same time very gratifying. On the drive back to Nelson I was invigorated knowing I had a net positive gain for the day. I had also been outside in the warm Kiwi sun working with my hands and using my brain in a way which wasn’t connected to my work at all.

After the second day of thinning on Bronte’s main farm we were gratefully transferred to another location which was closer to Nelson, Redwood Valley. It was a Wednesday morning which was progressing very similar to that of the days before. The temperate evenings deposited an unpleasant layer of dew on the trees which would relentlessly drip on you until the sun had time to evaporate it. I was working alongside a young Swedish chap who informed me of his travel plans and other customary small talk. He also told me an odd story of his travel friend, also a Swede getting drop kicked in the face. Intrigued but the scenario he went on to tell me it happened mid-day at a vineyard on the North Island. His friend suffered a broken jaw and many stitches. After getting to know this travel partner if his I understood what type of a personality warranted a drop kick in the face. Our boss Nick dropped by in his truck to see how things were going. He greeted me with his consistent “how u doin’ awlright?” I replied in a very cheerful manner and we got to talking. A few minutes later and he informed me that a few people with whom he had accommodations for never showed up for the contract. He said if we wanted to stay we could for 20 a week to simply cover the electricity. I held back my joy and calmly said that would be great. He went around to Pat and Simon and explained the situation also. Since we had already paid for the night in Nelson we commuted back into the city to retrieve our personal effects and tell our friends of the change. Packing our belongings was somewhat harder than usual as we had been getting comfortable in our flat which means all our shit was everywhere. Another day, another dollar but Thursday was different. Today after work we were going to our new flat. Our supervisor had informed us with a raised eye brow that there was a dart board, pool table, living room with TV. You can imagine the excitement brewing amongst the three of us. Interstellar alignment of what we had wanted to accomplish while working. We were sure bridging the gap between ideas and results. Days end came quick as usual and were pleased to see that our new flat was right in the orchard. Expecting much more grandeur we were introduced to an old tomato packing barn. The tin roof was radiating heat like a paved road as we walked through a wood stack which was our entrance. We looked inside to see a stack of mattresses in the corner riddled with mice shit, mold, and cobwebs. There were a few couches in the opposite corner which looked as bad. Exposed rafters revealed netting used to interrupt bird flight as well as heaps of cobwebs. The walls and floor were like dirty cottage cheese as I noted at least a dozen sizeable holes. Quarter inch spacing was average between eight inch planks of wood making up the walls. The entire floor was carpeted, every ten square feet the carpet color and texture changed. We all looked at each other and despite everything optimism seemed to be shining through. We were then brought to the cooking area which was a barbecue. The kitchen wasn’t a kitchen, rather a room with a fridge and a washing machine. Hmmm…cooking should be interesting. Attached was also a toilet and shower. Bonus. I was keeping a positive outlook on everything but Pat and Simon we surprisingly pessimistic about the whole deal. After a quick meeting we were all on the same wavelength and this place would be more than fine. The barn had a true Kiwi experience written all over it. How cool is this going to be? The three of us in a barn, picking apples all day and hanging around in the evenings drinking beer, playing darts and shooting the shit! In the midst of warm air circumventing freely through the walls I was ecstatic as the potential of this space rushed through my brain. The first order of business for us was to purchase a T.V and Stereo system. After shopping around we became educated in the subject of return policies in New Zealand. An afternoon later and we had both, receipts closely behind as they were merely rentals soon to be returned due to falsified problems. With a major rearrangement and a quick cleaning our barn had transformed from a shit hole into a pretty cool spot! A man camp if I may.

We all progressed at different levels while working. Simon scorched through his row making upwards of 160 NZD per day as Pat and I struggled to make over one hundred. Pat and I worked Thursday and Friday side by side, talking away like best friends should. Questions and memories flowed freely as discussions jumped from the mystery of our basement on Ernest St. to the time when drug dogs invaded the high school during a dance. We touched on love, the future, hockey, business prospects, if the worlds problems could be solved in an afternoon could have done it. There was something about the freedom of it all which unlocked a certain something in us. We were conjuring memories which we distant to us for many years. Fortunately for me when we moved apart as our rows deviated in time per tree I had my Ipod. Music has always evoked emotion in me but this was different. With headphones you hear every lyric, ever thread, you notice that base line or effect that has been overlooked through the years. The worse thing that could happen is a dead battery. No music, no motivation. The Ipod took me through an emotional rollercoaster all day were I could relate to hip hop icon Usher when he sang “Let it burn”. Feelings of euphoria would come over me when listening to “We’re all in this together” by Old Crow Medicine Show. And let’s not forget about “Streets of San Francisco” by the Global DJ’s which would make my fingers and body move like wildfire as I squirreled up and down my ladder watching the money fall into my pocket.

So that is how our days went. Nothing spectacular. Five O’clock mornings, a bowl of muesli, a few ham sandwiches, BBQ every night, and hard work. Work that freed my mind to look into a happy and prosperous future. I though of family, friends, SWP and how this experience was exactly what I need to return to normal life and begin to focus less of party and life “out there” and more on career and my passions. Patrick said that if he could have had a personal assistant to write down his thoughts it would be unbelievably productive. Evenings at the barn were consistent, after dinner and a shower to wash off some of the pesticides we usually watched a film, listened to music read, talked. Four of the most impactful weeks of my life to date.

So…it is now between Chrstmas and New Years. We spent a perfect three days oceanside at “Shambala” which is a meditation hostel on the Northern tip of Golden Bay. A place so serene that I could run out of superlatives very fast in a description of the property. The main house reminded me of Pete Puelston’s with a comfortable alternative feel. Its only power was solar and rain water was to only source of H2O. It was so cool. There were cabins and meditation areas scattered throughout the mature property. Simon, Pat and I were joined by Leanna Davis (Josh’s younger sister) and her friend Jackie both from Vancouver. The Swedes. And six other Germans, Hanna, Eta, Elena, Doro, Karsten, and Stefan. We found ourselves swimming and snorkeling on a sunny, warm 25th and meeting some truly genuine people. It was tough talking to everyone back home and dreaming of turkey, snow, and eggnog. Being away during the holidays sure makes a man appreciate how special and important family is.

Go Giants Go! Someone have a glass of Eggnog and a box of Kraft dinner for me!


Monday, November 26, 2007

Father Nelson

Canoing. A tramper’s luxury. Rather than eating one course meals consisting of instant noodles or chunky soup and drinking only tea and water, you can nourish your body with perishable items and evening cocktails. It was time to give our blistered heels and sore backs time to recuperate so the next leg of our journey led us to the last great walk on the north island which is a 5 day, 145km canoe trip down the Wanganui river.

A little background……….The Wanganui is fed Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ruapehu (Mt. Doom) – both are mountains that we climbed on the previous great walk. This river was the nucleus of all trade between the early European settlers and Maori (the largest Native tribe). The land surrounding the river is very young, roughly 1 millions years old. Formed of soft sandstone and mudstone from the ocean bed, it has been eroded by water to form sharp ridges, deep gorges, cliffs and waterfalls.

Our group consisted of 8 people, filling 4 canoes. Six of them were Germens – 3 guys and 3 girls. Stephen and I were the only experienced paddlers and we were riding together, therefore we knew the trip was going to be full of hilarious bails. A German expressionless face + cold water = priceless. The river had a similar skill level to that of the Saint Croix later in the summer when water levels are low. The majority of the canoes were 16’9” Old town discoveries, “Canadian canoes” they called them. Taking advantage of the fact we didn’t have to carry any belongings on our back, we had heaps of gear - coolers and barrels full of food and piss. Steve our chauffer suggested that Stephen and I take the largest boat to accommodate all or our stuff. The boat was not an old town; it was a meter wide, 17’ Feelfree. Talk about a piece of shit! I think we would have been better off taking a bath tub.

The trip began at 10:00 from Cherrygrove. After a crash course from Steve about hut locations, major rapids and dangers on the river, Stephen and I were very excited to make passage but the germens had faces riddled with uncertainty. About 20 minutes in we hit our first set of rapids. We were paddling like mad men but were still minutes behind the streamline Old towns. Coming around the corner where you could see the fast breaking water, two Germens were down. Their canoe was wrapped around a rock and both of them were hanging on for dear life as their heads were bobbing in and out of the freezing cold water. “Lift your feet up and let go” I yelled. In the meantime our tub was taking in so much water because of the shallow sides that we almost joined them. Upon reaching shore Stince and I grabbed one of the old towns and paddled to the “U shaped” canoe. We loaded all of their gear into our boat and freed the capsized boat. I had to swim with it while Stephen paddled the gear to shore. After a few solid foot stomps to pop out pressure wounds, the old town was back in working order. Again the Canadians saved the day.

That evening we tented along the river at the designated department of conservation (DOC) camp site. For dinner we fried some burgers and made a garden salad. We sipped cold beer with a few veteran canoers’ and played a germen card game called two heads (similar to that of Oh Hell) with the entire crew. Many good stories were exchanged and our group became close very quickly. The night was a great pace setter for the remainder of the trip.

The sleep was shit! Trying to share a 2 person tent with Stephen is next to impossible. You cannot pass the centre of the tent into his territory or he will wake from a dead sleep and viciously chop you. You cannot snore or breathe to heavy and recently I have developed a horrible snoring problem so sleeping had been unpleasant for the both of us. We were on the river by 10:00 just in time for the rain. It’s amazing how frequent the weather can change from ten minutes to the next. All day we were paddling in down pours, catching sunny breaks and getting thrashed by south westerly winds. I hooked two beautiful rainbow trout but both raised and spit out the hook. The waters were a murky brown due to the rain fall, making fishing conditions poor so we showed up the Whakahoro (pronounced “fuck a whore oh”) hut empty handed. The hut was located in a sheep farm below the main lodge of our canoeing company. As usual the Germens began “guganheiming” back and forth so Stince and I decided to walk up to the lodge. Gou-gan-heiming is the word we use for German conversation because it is a suitable word that depicts most words used in the German language. If only we knew what the night had in store for us.

Just as we put our foot in the door a squirrelly looking Kiwi ran to greet us. He spoke very quickly with a heavy accent and used so many actions to accentuate his conversation that it was almost impossible to understand him. His name was Dave and boy was he ever a character. I would compare his presence to a camp fire. You could sit there and watch him and be entertained for the entire evening. After the hand shakes and small talk he invited us in to his living space. Pete his other friend introduced himself and handed out beer. I noticed a guitar resting in the corner so I picked it up and began to strum quietly. Immediately I was bombarded with requests so I began to play like nobody was watching. Stince was singing along, Pete was stomping his feet and Dave was snapping and clapping. The musical setting catalyzed an unforgettable evening. They treated us to spaghetti and we all shared stories which had great impact on our lives. Within an hour of meeting them I felt as though I have known them my entire life. Just when things couldn’t have gotten any better one of the rare species of Owl called a Morepork flew in the illuminated room. He was catching the meaty moths that were circulating the outdoor light. After many escape attempts while blinded by the light he rested on the centre truss of the high ceiling. Its intelligent eyes were jetting around the room, studying the surroundings. Rarely a Moreprok is seen by the human eye so we were all memorized by its presence. We burned our midnight oil dry and upon dispersing, many times one mentioned how special the evening was.

The next day we were storm stayed. The heavens were pissing and the wind was blowing. Dave was very excited to have us stay an extra day so he called Pete to bring his 454in3 300hp jet boat to the landing to take us for the ride of a life time. As much as I hated being in a deafening motor boat traveling in waters that should only be navigated by canoe, it was a hell of a time. This boat could accelerate from 0 to 80km in two seconds and turn on the dime. The hull of the boat went as deep as a canoe so you should literally jump rapids when flying up river. Normally a jet boat ride costs $150 a person but for us the only condition was to have a fire with them later that evening. The Germens joined us for the fire and again the night was fulfilled with great stories and ab-busting laughs. We all were fortunate to witness the sport of sheep bumping. Sheep bumping is a native sport which involves getting on a 4-wheeler, extremely pissed in the wee hours of the morning and knocking over sheep as they run for their lives. Dave was very experienced so no sheep were harmed during the show.

Staying the extra night was not anticipated so everyone’s food supply was behind a day. Being the amazing host’s that they are Dave and Pete drove two hours into town to buy a list of food items we needed in order to complete the trip. It was hard saying goodbye to our new mates but I guess all good things must come to an end. They insisted that we come back during our travels to work with them and stay at Pete’s house. What generous men.

The trip that day was very slow. The water was high which hid many of the challenging rapids beneath the surface creating many swirling eddies. Again the water was murky so fishing was like dropping a line in a mud puddle. The bath tub did not fair well in these waters, if we stopped paddling for a moment our momentum would shift in the opposite direction. Reaching the John Coull hut was a great relief. That evening I cooked pasta and we sat around the kitchen table commenting on an outdated People magazine and playing who am I. Our body’s were exhausted from hours of paddling and spending two nights the crazy Kiwi’s so we were all in bed by dark.

The water was clear the next morning so I was looking forward to catching the trophy Rainbow trout I dreamt about. We were on the river very early because we had 40km to paddle. This morning Stephen put everyone’s name in his hat and drew out new canoe partners. Our current travel buddy Simon had been working on the beautiful German in our group and you could tell he was praying that his name would be picked with Hanna’s. Stephen rigged the draw and when their names were picked together you could almost see him jump out of his skin. Stephen was picked to canoe with another girl Stephanie and I was fortunate to partner with the clown of the group named Carsten. Carsten was a powerful lad so manning the back of the canoe was a pleasure. All day we paddled together like a four pontoon catamaran. Carsten snagged my only fishing lure, so again I was not able to fulfill my promise of fish for dinner. We shared songs back and forth, raced around many corners and had some splashing fights. It was definitely the most beautiful and entertaining day on the river so far.

Our hut site that evening belonged to the Maori tribe (native Indians). There were beautiful hand carved totem poles around the perimeter of the property, a large cooking hall and sleeping area. Carsten, Stephen and I made the traverse to the other side of the river after dinner to check out a luxurious building on the crest of a hill that we could see from the river. It turned out to be a comfortable lodge equipped with a bar, guitar and large deck with a panorama of the river. We had very interesting conversations, sipped a few toddies and watched the sun descend below the horizon before heading to bed.

All of the Evenings are very peaceful in the wops of New Zealand. There is never the constant sound of clicking crickets or bubbling frogs. It seems as though every species enjoys a peaceful evening.

It was the last day on the river and roughly 2 hours in we pulled ashore to hike an hour to the famous Bridge to Nowhere. The landscape felt as though we were trekking through the lush rain forest of the Amazon. Ferns were towering 15ft in the sky and moss covered vegetation was aimlessly growing in all directions. The combination of sunshine and sounds of exotic birds melded to create a setting only one could dream of. An elevated concrete bridge was doing exactly what it was famous for – leading to no where. While throwing many objects off the bridge I decided to make things a little more exciting and pee a waterfall. The Germens were now beginning to understand our humor.

After a swim, 5 hours of paddling and one last pitch of large rapids we reached the pick up point where Dave was waiting for our arrival. We unloaded the canoes, tied them down and headed back to Tongariro National park. This trip was definitely the best great walk so far.

Currently we are staying at a hostel in Nelson. Nelson is a city with the population of 40,000 located on the northern tip of the south island. It receives the most sunshine out of any city in New Zealand. Tomorrow we begin our first day of work on an apple farm, thinning the trees.

Thank you all for reading. The blog from our great walk (the 4day northern circuit) before the canoeing trip should be posted in a few days.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Courtesy Flush

With Stephen Crabbe

The Courtesy Flush is a highly effective method of reducing the smell of feces when you are in a situation when it may be offensive to one of more person(s).

How it works:

When the unfortunate circumstances become a reality first study the ventilation system present in the lavatory as well as the proximity of other person(s). Time your bowel movement when you feel the others will not use the “area” until time has erased the odor of your stool. The optimal timing is achieved when person(s) have used the facilities and you are certain you have ample time. Examine the toilet to ensure the flushing lever is accessible from a comfortable sitting position. If time permits perform a test flush to assess the magnitude of water flow, you have to accept the fact you may get slightly wet. If everything mentioned above is in order you are ready. As the log(s)/loose matter hit the water you must flush immediately for a floater bobbing or other consistencies can dramatically increase the pungency level of your stool. Repeat flush if necessary to ensure the foreign dirt does not fester in the water.

In conclusion if the “Courtesy Flush” is executed in proper fashion it can be a handy tool which can turn a messy situation into a mere blip on the radar. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

That Will Rip Your Undies

With Stephen Crabbe

The next lag of our journey began after some great rest and relaxation at Jordan Walkers flat in Whangerai. We were treated to 3 square meals and some great company. Props go out to Jordan, Shelley and Wendy thanks! Box of Birds!

We drove Midnight Special from Whangerai to Auckland where we stayed another night at the fat camel hostel, groovy place. As we drove to Te Urewera National Park I couldn’t help but think about how much has happened since we arrived in New Zealand. Every day and night is so different, the people, the scenery. Hostel rooms are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. It could be empty; it could smell like Rodney’s jeans after he wore them for three weeks with no underwear. There may be someone sleeping, or a foreign exchange student learning English. One thing remains constant regardless of who your bunk mates are for the evening, everyone wants to have a good time. The conversation always starts out the same way. “Where are you from?” That opening question brings me to another rant altogether; nationalities can be quite deceiving…New Zealand being the global soup that it is can be a phenomenal place for people watching. Just when you have someone pegged as a Russian they end up being from Brazil. The hoards of German girls, aside from being quite fit are hard to nail down until they talk. And locals, Aussies, and Brits all have that same beaky demeanor making them impossible to distinguish. There is one exception though, Swedish guys. Usually riddled with pimples and of course blond hair they stick out like a sore thumb.
You look out on the dance floor “Look at the Swedish guy go”
Walking down a crowded city sidewalk “Look! It’s a couple Swedish backpackers”
“Hey Swedish guy! Can you pass the marmite?”

Anyways, enough about that let me set the scene in Te Urewera National Park. One of the last large parcels of land owned by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand it was squeezed from their control in the 70’s and turned into a national park. It is located in the central North Island sitting around a half of a kilometer above sea level. According to Maori legend the forest is inhabited by “little people” whom move nomadically with the abnormally thick fog that swirls and meanders around Lake Waikaremoana. A good word to describe the lake is mystical. The water is very deep and dark but as it gets shallow toward the banks it takes on a jade green hue which is very beautiful to look at. Since the altitude is high the area typically gets high volumes of rain, snow, wind and generally pear shaped weather. A week before we began our hike it got dumped with eight inches of snow. Towering trees and aggressive rock faces add to the overall majestic nature of Lake Waikaremoana. Our drive into the park was quite eventful. Not knowing what to expect we entered the north side of the national park at a round dusk. The road quickly transitioned into an unsealed winding passage with livestock everywhere! Sheep, cows and horses were plentiful, lying on the road, running about. After sixty minutes of driving deeper into the heart of possibly the most remote place we have ever been we started to see shanties that looked like something out of the Blair Witch Project, it was creepy. You could almost hear dueling banjos twanging in the darkness. Finally after two hours of driving we spotted a small sign that indicated that there was a campground fifty kilometers away! Three hours after we entered the boundaries of the park and several dozen possum spottings we finally came to a campground. It was late, around eleven we pulled midnight special in and pitched our new tent! This one was mosquito proof. A cold night filled with battling for inches and listening to Pat saw logs wasn’t the most ideal sleeping situation but it did the trick.

The next morning we were woken up at sunrise by two very territorial male paradise geese locking horns for an impressive sounding battle as a female squawked in the background. I wanted to kill these fuckers, they never shut up making what could have been an amazing camp site irritating. We took a sun soaked day to organize our packs, buy our great walk pass, check out some waterfalls, and cook one last semi nutritious meal. We arranged our shuttle to the entrance of the walk for the next morning at eight AM.

A brisk morning with scattered clouds and sun greeted us as we got dropped off at Onepoto, the starting point of our tramp. My cheerful demeanor soured quickly as we ascended 532 meters over four kilometers. I kept looking up to see Pat’s bulging calf muscles scampering up the trail, hazed by lack of oxygen I kept thinking I was following a half breed mixed between Morgie McElman and Mike England. Two and a half hours after our inception onto the trail we reached the highest altitude of this hike at 1181m. We had climbed the spine of Panekiri bluff and the view was our reward. Looking down at the colossal lake we could see all the facets of the water outcropping into areas like spider legs. There was dramatic rock faces scattered around breaking up the thick, lush forest. We stopped at a hut where we filled our water bottles with collected rain water. We also met Simon and Stephan there, two German trampers which we are still traveling with two weeks later. The rest of the day we descended closer to the water, crossing several impressive suspension bridges. We stopped hiking at around 4pm at a Waiopaoa hut on the lake edge and set up our tent in a lovely secluded area with a fire pit. Luckily we got to see some of the thick fog that gives the lake its mystical reputation. It was so dense and packed in individual pockets that it looked like smoke. If you had Pink Floyd “Echoes” on your ipod and a hit of bathtub acid you would be in for a mind melting evening. Soon after we set up a few other trampers entered the site and we had a relaxing evening filled with light conversation and warmth from a wood stove in the hut. At around nine we retired to our tent after an hour of non-consequential rain to pack it in. Sleeping was easy after a day of rigorous exercise in the wops of New Zealand. We laughed ourselves to sleep listening to the comical owls scream “More Pork” Pat kept saying “I don’t have any fucking pork!” We didn’t have any pork so they screamed for it into the wee hours of the morning. And we would laugh, the other campers must think we are abnormally gassy, crazy Canadians…wait, we are.

The next morning was a late one starting; I don’t think we got onto the trail until after ten. We strapped on our packs and hit the trail with a vengeance. Our strides were powerful as we carefully stepped the trail in our usual formation of Pat setting the pace and myself doing everything I can to keep up. We were crushing estimated trail times by hours with conversations that made hours seem like minutes. Something about tramping makes you have the most lucid thoughts. We were both remembering things about our childhood that we hadn’t though of in years. There was an optional hike off the trail into Korokoro fall which was signed at one hour thirty return. We set our packs down and minus 20 kilos we scorched the trail to the waterfall and back in an impressive 45 minutes. By mid afternoon were we both moving like snails. We had bad blisters which was making any change in elevation excruciating. A little confused as to where we were on the trail we pushed on to Marauitu hut and set up shop lake side, close to a fenced off Kiwi reserve. Pat started a small fire and had a great moment on a makeshift bench which he noted “this is the life!” As darkness fell upon us the birds were sounding calls that were very different and amusing. We also got to hear a female kiwi calling after dark which sounds like a terrified woman screaming. The Kiwi is a nocturnal bird so the call is probably the closest contact we will encounter but we are passionate about seeing one.

Yet another late morning as we hit the trail after ten in an attempt to make our water taxi at 1:30pm. Surprisingly after an hour of slow and steady tramping we came to a sign that had the water taxi only 45 minutes away. With this great news we stripped down and enjoyed an hour in the sun relishing the accomplishment of another multi-day hike. Pat tried some fishing, I finished yet another book and we walked to our taxi spot were a sweet boat was waiting for us. The boat ride was great because we got to scope out where we had hiked from the perspective of the water. Looking up Panekiri Bluff which was a towering monstrosity of rock, we got to see why it seemed like a never-ending ascend on the first day. Pat and I sat back and smiled the whole way across the lake.

Thanks for reading the blog, I hope you enjoyed it. Pat and I are having the time of our lives!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

From Ballers to Backpackers

After catching unexpected Labor Day sales – Shopping in a frenzy for camping necessities as though it were Christmas Eve – Stince and I were fully equipped for our cherry popping outdoor adventure in New Zealand. It was difficult deciding on which trail to tackle first, we have no experience, cheap new gear, and could be great supporting actors in a Super Size Me sequel for all the Mc Donald’s we have been eating. How could anyone pass up on the Mac Attack deal (2 big macs, 2 large fries and 2 large drinks) for $10, especially when you’re on a backpacker’s budget? All that aside, with reference to our Lonely Planet guide we decided on a 3 day, 41km tramp around Cape Regina. Cape Regina is labeled as New Zealand’s most northern point where over two hundred miles of white sandy beaches surround the coast and sub tropical forests occupy the mainland. It was only a 300km drive, Auckland was cold and it was about time we got a little color before we were mistaken as British backpackers.

The drive was very entertaining but extremely long. If you were driving you were blessed with the smooth shifting of Midnight Special (the name of our car) through twisty, undulant roads with similar composition of a video game. If you were riding passenger your head was on a swivel trying to capture all of the beautiful sites and strange looking creatures. It took longer than expected because with the profile of these two way highways you’re lucky to reach highway speeds of 80km. Not factoring this in, we had to pull into a campground as the Midnight Special was having a hard time illuminating the road.

Setting up for the evening was very exciting. It was like Christmas. We had been accumulating so much stuff throughout our days in Auckland that it was a surprise to open the large bags full of new gear. Our Moral was soon dampened once our erected tent displayed a mesh that a fucking bumble bee could fly through. Now it makes complete sense as to why it was 50% off. The bugs were non existent that evening but all we could do was pray that the Woods of Cape Regina are nothing like the Bush of northern New Brunswick.

We reached the Cape Regina check-in point early afternoon on the 24th, expecting to spend the rest of the day organizing our gear, planning meals and strategically packing our packs with intentions of leaving the next morning. No deal. They insisted we catch our shuttle to Te Paki stream two hours after we landed. We made the deadline but our packs were extremely disorganized.

After a quick orientation with our driver named Honey, at 17:00 we were tramping. It was a feeling I cannot describe. My boots were grazing fine white sand of the famous ninety mile beach, barreling waves of the Tasman Sea were crashing to my left, 300m wind sculpted sand dunes to my right and a mountain of tropical vegetation ahead. I turned to my side to look at Stince and followed by a big high five was gut wrenching laughter.

There were only a few spots along the way where fresh water ran to the ocean so our options were limited as to where we could camp. We purchased an ionic carbon filter that could make any water but sea water drinkable. While filling up at these streams it was important that the unfiltered water didn’t make contact with your mouth piece or drip into to your bottle because there is a bacterium called Guardia that thrives in these streams. If you ingest it, I guess you will not stop shitting until you shit your intestines out.

We tramped up and over two mountains to the fresh water destination of Moon Light Bay. The sun was beginning to set so we needed to set up camp quickly. We nestled behind a sand dune and pitched our tent in a bed of knee high field grass to escape the high winds. The sunset at this point was so beautiful it distracted our growling bellies until dark. Our main course for the evening consisted of mixing 5 hot dogs into a boiling pot of canned spaghetti. Boy was it ever good. At this point I was just waiting for a hatch of sand flies (black fly) or a swarm of mosquitoes to invade our site and penetrate the tent, but luckily there were none.

The sleep was fabulous. The sound of crashing waves accompanied by memory foam field grass caused us to sleep in. It was a must that we reach our next freshwater destination and time the tide at Tapotupotu Bay, so we packed up on empty stomachs and hit the trail at 09:10. It was a beautiful day for tramping, the sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky. For brunch we ate almonds and a bevy of granola bars. Everything was seamless until the Te Werahi descend. The tide was quite high and there was not a dry passage to the beach. We searched and searched and walked in circles to avoid having to take off our boots and wade across the estuary. In these areas you had to watch for quick sand. The grain of sand is very fine and the current of water runs beneath the sands surface, creating suction and no resistance for the step. After hours of searching for a shallow passage we unlaced our boots and made the cross safely. The hike was very tiring along Te Werahi beach because most of the energy from our steps was lost in the movement of the sand. After the beach we began a very steep ascends up a narrow trail to the peak of cape Regina’s highest mountain. The scenery at the most northern point was breathtaking. The South Pacific and Tasman Seas was crashing together catalyzing large waves with a tropical blue hue.

After many serene yet grueling climbs and descends we reached our camp site at 16:00, much earlier than expected. At this point we were both moving like old men, our legs were filled with lead, our feet riddled with blisters and our asses raw with chafe. The campsite was at a secluded campground you could reach only by traveling hours on dirt roads. We had the campground to ourselves until two beautiful Germen women pulled up in a van next to us. The tide was moving in quickly and this was where we had to make the crossing but Stephens’s infatuation with the German babes caused us to miss our window. Nothing more escalated from this scenario and in order for us to make our pickup point the next day we had to wade across the bay at 02:00. A full moon helped us make a safe passage through the bay where we quickly re-set up the tent and fell back asleep.

You would think that wading in salt water and walking through a field of waist high grass at 02:00 is a little unnerving but here in New Zealand it gives you peace of mind to know that there are no snakes, ticks, spiders or insects that will harm you.

The next morning arrived early. Both of us were awake in time to have a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal. Again we were blessed with another gorgeous day. The hike began at 09:00 with a 1.5 hour climb that caught us by surprise. Throughout the entire afternoon the trail slowly descended along the spine of a 500m mountain giving us a clear view of the south pacific on one side and Hobbit like terrain on the other. By the time we reached the final stretch of Pandora’s beach, our bodies were dipping into the Big Mac fat reserves. Shrieking with joy thinking that we only had another hour beach walk left we took off our shoes and decided to soak in all the elements of our victory lap. The finish point was visible but it seemed as though we were not getting any closer. After an hour of walking we put our boots back onto speed up the process because the finish point was not getting any closer. The hour beach walk ended up taking three hours, later to find out it was 9km long.

Reaching the end point an hour ahead of schedule (15:30) gave us both a great sense of accomplishment. What a life changing experience it was. The ice has now been broken and a new chapter in our lives has started to unfold.

Stephen and I are now in Taupo after finishing the first great walk around Lake Waikaremoana. It took 3 day to tackle 46km of moderate terrain. The blog on this tramp will be uploaded by the weekend. Today we are traveling to Tongariro National Park to complete the second great walk through snow capped mountains that are volcanically active. Currently the trail is closed due to heavy snow fall but by tomorrow it may open.

Thank you all for reading. All the best!


Friday, October 19, 2007

Puke Green Dream

with Stephen Crabbe

Apparently Stephen Crabbe was a famous NZ swimmer, most older local get real kicks from my name.

Pat and I have landed in NZ safe and sound. So far it has been all biz but still very exciting! We have been staying at X Base ACB (Auckland Central Backpackers) which is the largest hostel in NZ which has 500 rooms, a night club, and a very exuberant global atmosphere. The cost is 25 per night which is expensive but we are in the heart of the city and this is touted as the best place in NZ to begin your adventure. There is talk everywhere about place to get cheap food, drink specials etc.

Believe it or not but we didn’t get jetlag. We left LAX at around 10:30 PM which was a 13 hour flight to Australia, we managed to get a solid nights sleep. I still haven’t figured out the time change but I know we are a day or so ahead?!?

Our room has 8 beds, it is a complete fucking mess and it seems everyone is on a very odd sleeping schedule. I am already used to hearing other people have sex. I mean what are you supposed to do? I have adopted the ear plug/ignore strategy; I don’t think there is any other way. The girl underneath me took my bunk for quite a ride early this morning which was very uncomfortable/humorus/liberating…? I ignored it and tried not to believe I was listening to another man grunt to climax.

The weather is very similar to a Canadian spring here right now with the exception of a warmer sun when it is exposed. The vegetation is tropical and even in the heart of Auckland there is an abundance of trees, grass and parks which are just lovely. People are playing rugby, throwing Frisbees, smoking the reefer, drinking beer, dancing, singing and everything else you can imagine.

We have just purchased a faded puke green 1990 Nissan Sentra wagon for $1800 NZD! We got a $200 inspection and background check for security. We purchased the car at a packpackers car exchange where people like us showcase their car for 3 days for $65. The staff is very helpful and it was a phenomenal experience. We wanted to buy a camper van but they where more like 5G’s for a decent one. The insurance is only $120 for 3 months and gas is about the same price as Canada once you figure out the exchange rate of around 25-30% We are losing our shit thinking about our 1st car and how much of the island this opens up to us. A bus pass for the whole island is over $1000 each. Now we have a sleep able wagon with the steering on the right side…haha.

So apparently Pat has taken up the sleep all day mentality because we need to get going but he won’t get out of bed. I have to try and wake him again because if we don’t go get our car from the garage then we will have to wait until Tuesday (Monday is Labor day).

The world cup rugby game is on tonight which is possibly a bigger deal than the superbowl. The NZ all blacks lost in the quarter finals and the country is still in a state of mourning.

It is everything I imagined and more so far and we haven’t got out of the city! Apparently people like the way we look and talk down here. That’s ok with us.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Welcome to Jamrock

I've finally made it to NZ!

After getting royally shitfaced last night Pat, Graco, Alberta and I strolled the city with heads like coconuts. I came across a sign that said:

"We are 2 girls from Check Republic with a van and we look for 2 men to travel north island this this number..."

I looked at Pat, he grabbed the sign and we are meeting for coffee in a few hours...

Our hostle is ballin' We are in a room with 6 others (3girls, 3 guys)

Internet access is expensive so I will write more on my computer and paste it over in the cafe I am sitting in right now.

Peace out


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Changes in Latitude; Changes in Attitude

Stephen Crabbe

Watching gail force winds scream down the Northern California coast in the outskirts of San Francisco was bittersweet. We were buoyed in Sausalito, a posh town with an artsy feel, fine dining, a watering hole and a ferry terminal to San Fran. Looking West from our boat you could see the golden gate bridge funnel into a city skyline where “anything can happen, and your wildest dreams do come true”

There we were, waiting for the Pacific Ocean to die down and become sailable.

Then it happened.

Unpredictably after two days and adopting the group name “yager-bomb boys” we got the phone call from Captain Rick Whiteing. “We’ve got the weather window, let’s try and get to Bodago Bay; we’ll see how the seas are.” Last minute preparations began, all the port holes closed, nothing left unsecured, lines checked, radar on, wind reading, depth gauge, GPS software, marine radio on channel 16, it was time to go.

I couldn’t fight the haunting voices in my head “You should have gotten scopolamine patches” (small tabs that when applied behind your ear, numb the inner ear which is responsible for motion sickness)
“I was sea sick once…” Captain Rick boasted.
“How bad was it?” I nervously quizzed.
“Oh man…I would have chopped off a finger if it gave me relief, I wanted to jump off the boat” He said in a serious, sympathetique tone.
There I am thinking… “Why did I sign up for this?”
Rodney was springing around like Kosmo Kramer, Josh was very monotone, and Pat was excited but I could tell his balls were in his stomach. We pulled the anchor, put the boat in gear, and I shit my pants.

The 1st few hours weren’t too bad, we motor sailed by the Rock, under the Golden Gate Bridge and soaked in the city skyline as the mild fall sun ascended down over the open ocean. The sky was so clear in fact, I witnessed something magical. As the sun sunk over the horizon the very instant it disappeared a green flash occurred. Later learning that the flash was a result of scattering and refracting light I was delighted to experience this beauty on earth. Taken back by the green flash I was reluctant to realize that the sun had descended and the swell was 8-10 feet with 30 knot winds. To make matters worse, the wind was coming from the North and we were pounding into the waves going a meager 5 knots. Do you know the feeling you get in your stomach when you are driving fast and you hit a steep decline and your stomach drops making you laugh? Well the humor is gone when this happens every ten seconds. Imagine the worst airplane turbulence you have ever encountered and multiply it by 100. Add the screaming noise of a massive motor, throw salt water dripping EVERYWHERE, and come to the realization that this is your life for the next seven days…fun.

We worked in tandem watches, one in the AM, one in the PM covering 24-7. Pat and Carey were 8-12, Josh and Rodney were 12-4, and Rick and I were 4-8. This meant that for 8 hours a day you were expected to be up in the cockpit very alert as to what was happening in the ocean. A master log was filled out every two hours which monitored information such as Latitude and Longitude, course over ground, Wind Speed and direction, Wave size and frequency, magnetic direction, etc. One of the biggest fears was plowing into an errant log bobbing in the water waiting to puncture a hole in the keel. Making matters worse we didn’t have frontal sonar so at night we were basically risking it. Another danger possibility was the thousands of ocean containers roaming the earth which have flung off freighters and lay just under the surface of the ocean, out of human sight. If you hit one of these you are done.

Minutes felt like hours, hours felt like days as we all sat in the cockpit fighting off the hot water swirling in our mouths like just getting pressured into taking a double shot of white rum. The next 48 hours of my life can be easily documented. I didn’t have an intelligent thought, I didn’t laugh, smile or even string together a coherent sentence, I was a zombie. The waves kept getting bigger and we were being thrashed around. When smaller power boats would go by they were only visible when we were at the top of a swell, otherwise your peripheral vision was a very short sighted. Moving around the boat was a task in itself, even harder was taking a leak. Contributing to this state of agony was the over-the-counter motion sickness pills which were making me drowsy and bunged up. Meals were chocolate bars and chips because going into the galley for more that five minutes and you felt like you were going to hurl. On the bright side because of my 4-8 shifts I got to see every sunset and sunrise which are very cool when you are sailing along, 25 miles off the coast of California.

Then the third day hit, seas were somewhat calm and we all seemed to be talking a little bit more. I even made a chicken sandwich in the galley which was divine. The sun was shining, Rodney and Pat were unsuccessfully trolling for Albacore tuna and Josh and I were relaxing in the outside cockpit exchanging stories of times past.
“Look over there boys” Pat yelled, pointing East.
“Wow…” We all murmured looking over to see a group of Dolphins trailing the Wanderer. Some as close a two feet others a half a mile away, all chasing our boat, it was exciting. Every time you looked you would see more, after a few minutes they were on both sides of the boat. You could tell they were having a blast, every once an a while there would be a frisky one that would explode out of a wave and with an exhale he would turn on his side and make a loud slapping noise on the water. After five or ten minutes of the first sighting there were dozens of dolphins all following us, something that I dreamed of seeing if I ever got the chance to sail.

They say 72 hours is when the average person starts to get his sea legs. For me it was 48. I was cooking up a storm, playing backgammon, reading, watching DVD’s, it was really quite relaxing. I was getting into the routine of waking up at 4am to start my day with naps here and there but never any more than three hours at a time. Kerry also introduced us to a Jimmy Buffet album “Banana Wind”. With a very Caribbean feel to it we played it all day and it really added to the atmosphere of being at sea. It will always remind us of the days we spent motor-sailing the Pacific Wanderer back to Vancouver.
That afternoon which happened to be my 24th birthday the propane stove crapped out and we made the decision to stop in Brookings, Oregon. We pulled into the small fishing village which had a feel to it much like that of Maine. Stepping on solid ground after 50+ hours of rolling and tumbling was nauseating in itself. Pat, Rod, Josh and I went for a stroll to the local pool hall and I still didn’t feel like I was off the boat. We were having a game of pool and it felt as though the floor was moving just like the boat, an unusual sensation. After a great meal and a random entry into a Texas hold-em tournament it was back to the boat for sleep.

The next morning we were off again, saying goodbye to dry land the second time was much easier, in fact I was glad because I had become accustomed to the perpetual movement. Back out on the ocean it was more of the same except for the fact we were coming up on Cape Mendocino which is notoriously one of the worst stretches in the North Pacific Ocean. Our laptop/GPS unit had us making our way around the cape at midnight. When I woke up at 4am for my shift and looked at the two posts on the Captains log the seas were calm! The wind was non-existent and the waves were down to a very comfortable 3-5 feet. Now that we were all salty dogs with sea legs the days were fantastic, filled with fishing, backgammon, decent food, interesting conversation and best of all a tremendous learning experience. This leg of the trip took us just over 72 hours. Days melted into each other and your time became more orientated around your watches. Everyone stopped sleeping as much and we all seemed to be up for most of the day. This became a problem for me because I was only getting maximum three hours a day; I was finding it very hard to fall asleep.

On the sixth day we were slated to round the corner, leave the Pacific Ocean and turn east into the straight of Juan de Fuca. When the sun rose we were experiencing a strong southerly wind which changed the dynamics of the ocean. We rolled out the mizzen, cranked out the furler and rode huge ten foot swells as 30 knot winds sent us screaming North at 12 knots. We took the boat off Autopilot and took turns at the wheel; it was phenomenal! When the boat rose to the apex of a huge swell the 5 ton vessel picked up momentum and jolted forward with the wave. At the wheel it was challenging to keep the boat going the ideal magnetic direction, the waves were so powerful that a few swells could knock the boat off course as much as 20 degrees before you could counteract it. The southerly wind put us into the straight hours before we were slated to be there so we made the turn and kept pushing on to Vancouver. The waters were riddled with massive logs everywhere, we hit one dead on, making three loud cracks as it rolled under the boat but no visible damage was sustained. After a very long day of sailing we decided to anchor 50 miles south of Vancouver because winds were picking up and there were so many islands that we had to maneuver in the dark. At this point in the trip the movement wasn’t bothering any of us, it was more the constant noise of the engine always present, you couldn’t escape it. When the engine was finally turned off after 80+ hours I was a happy man. I laid on my bed which was more like a sliver of space and got 4-5 hours of sleep at once. I still woke up at 4am and had a rough time getting back to sleep but I managed to do so.

25 days after I left Canada with Dad and Pat, I was about to come back to our nation via the Pacific Wanderer. That last day was filled with as sense of accomplishment and camaraderie among all gentlemen onboard. The trees surrounding the metropolitan area of Vancouver are changing color filling the scenery with reds, oranges, and yellows that remind me so much of New Brunswick. I couldn’t help but think of years past making the road trip home from Fredericton for thanksgiving weekend. The trees color rushed back memories the drive home, the smell of crisp fall air, turkey, and great company.

My thanksgiving “road trip” this year is one I will never forget.

I could say so much more but I don’t want to take anymore of your time. We are now in the process of getting to the South Pacific. Vancouver is sure full of obstacles that sidetrack you from getting organized but we hope to be flying to New Zealand by next week.

Thanks for reading the blog.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

No more trips to the Berkley Campus

With the crackling of a monotone marine radio voice gurgling "Winds 10 knots northwest from San Francisco...wave frequency at 13 seconds...” We make the final preparations for our 12 day journey. The general consensus from the sun spotted faces of veteran sailors around the yard. “It will be hairy” Word from Captain Rick Whiteing is that there are four capes spanning the coast that are always nasty this time of year. Our hired mechanic Carry sips his fifth coke of the AM and grimaces at the perfect weather we have received over the last three days. “You know she is gonna turn for the worse as soon as we set sail...that’s the way it always goes when you get a span of weather like this in late September.”

The main sail has finally been rolled into the boom and our lines are marked for optimal raising and lowering tensions. We have a test sail around Alcatraz and pending weather and engine/sail adjustments we should depart on Friday morning. No more afternoon beer or cocktail hour everything has become extremely serious. We are working a 4 on 8 off schedule with two men always on watch, a log has to be filled out every hour. This will stay constant for the duration of the sail as we crash through the waves 15 to 20 miles off the pacific coast, heading north.

This will most likely be the last log for many days. We are projecting to make a stop somewhere after five or six days at sea. Check back in 10 days to see.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wagon Wheel

Well another weekend has come to a close and more of this “dream land” state has been traveled by the entourage. From wine country to surf city the diversity of this land continues to boggle our minds.

The word that best explains the nature of this leg of the trip is “spontaneity”. After the useless KKMI shipyard crew finishes a days work, we hit the road and drive wherever our SUV will take us. On Thursday we found our selves in carousing through the fertile hills of wine country. Rolling through Napa valley and Rutherford, making a stop at the Moet Chandon vineyard and Winery. Upon establishing a great relationship with our hostess and Stince volunteering to be the sober driver, we were bombarded with samples. Mingling with middle aged couples stinking like the unmistakable smell of American money and picking from a list of the finest bubbly in the country was amusing. Put us four in a situation like that and the details stop there. After purchasing a few fine bottles of pinot noir we hit the road to the Rutherford grill to have one of the better meals of our lives (not to mention no corking fee).

A busy Friday came early as we were awoken to the mast being lowered into the living room. Putting in a solid 9 hour day of cleaning battery conneticions and stringing sails, one of the workers suggested we spend our weekend in Monterey Bay. At around 5pm we made the decision to pack an overnight bag and head south. Some bad traffic, a meal, and a few hours later we were checking into the Ramada in Santa Cruz. To our delight Santa Cruz was just infused with 30 000 college students and the night life was vibrant. Vibrant enough that when morning came around we though it would be in our best interest that we check out the famous pier, ride a few coasters and keep heading South.

Next destination Monterey. The coast was absolutely spectacular, red and yellow vegetation commingled with wind sculpted dunes and ferocious waves . The odd pack of surfers bobbing in the water was quite amusing. We ate a great meal, watched some College Fatball at a classy sports bar and had a relaxing night. The next morning we woke up early in anticipation of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was a world class place highlighted by a great white shark and sea and river otters playing around. After the aquarium we drove further south to Pebble Beach where we drove the famous 17 mile drive. It was hard to fathom the pace of life in a place with so much money, Pebble Beach, and Spy Glass Hill (US Open golf courses).

With a formidable drive ahead of us and lots to accomplish back at the boat we hit the road mid afternoon going North on the scenic HWY 1 to Oakland. It will be remembered as the most angelic drive of our lives. We stopped at several lookouts and beaches as well as the worlds largest hay bail maze.

Our hired hands Rick and Carey are now on the clock and we hope to get a test sail in tomorrow.


Pat and Stephen

Thursday, September 20, 2007

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Thursday Sept 20th

Patiently waiting at the KKMI boatyard for the hired help to step the mast, Pat, Josh, Rod and I spend our days at leisure cooking big breakfasts/dinners, doing no exercise and having the occasional cocktail.

My perception of the “Pacific Wanderer” has completely changed since the cold dark Monday night when we arrived to a boat with no power or plumbing. My sleeping quarters, the “Chart Room” has transformed into a very peaceful place for me. When I get up from my room, go through the kitchen and enter the living room it is beginning to feel more like an apartment than a sail boat. It is a great feeling, one that not many will experience. All the modern amenities are present here on the Wanderer, just in a compact rudimentary form. Hopefully this relaxed feeling will stay with us as we expose ourselves to the power of the ocean. Colossal waves and the hum of a huge diesel engine may change the water on the beans.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Here I am back in Oakland after one of the craziest weeks of my life.

Despite overpopulation in parts, California is truly a beautiful place. Over the last week we have went from North-South and then East into Nevada travelling over 1000 miles through tropical coastlines, fomritable mountian ranges, and desert. What a trip it is to be on the pacific coast making stops in Sanfranscico, Hollywood, and then over to Sin City where anything goes...

Rodney joined us on Friday night in Las Vegas where we had a 1500 sq. ft suite at the Luxor. That was hard to swallow.

Right now we are kicking back and laughing about all that craziness that has transpired over the last 8 days.

We have hired a captian who is going to help us charter to boat back to Vancouver, now it is a waiting game until the repairs are done on the boat. In the meantime there is a signifigant amount of planning and work that has to be done to the boat...mostly preparing meals for 6 men on a 12 day adventure. We have been warned that this trip can get quite hairy but that is something that we have already accepted. The weather out here is fantastic, we still havn't had any rain. As of right now our plans after the boat is successfully powered to Vancouver are still up in the air.

I miss you all, wish us luck!