Thursday, December 17, 2009

Godley Head Hike

On Thursday, two days before I head down to Antarctica, I decide the weather is too fine and I will be gone for a while so taking an afternoon off work and packing to go hiking is a great idea.

I had been to the New Zealand Antarctic Clothing distribution centre that morning and had loaded up on down jackets, snow pants, mittens and gloves galore, and boots the size of my head (all of which I'm sure you will see pictures of later). Although there were images of vast expanses of ice and snow floating around in my head, the sun was shining down and the temperature was just wonderful. So on the way back to school as I drove down Memorial Ave. and sighted the Port Hills through the trees, I knew there was only one thing worth doing that afternoon.

I got home from school at around lunch, wolfed down some leftover tourtiere and Stephen and I packed some water and a couple of apples into the bag and headed out the door. The car was warm from soaking up the suns rays all morning, so we were down to our shorts and t-shirts already (especially sitting on our sheep skin seat covers). The drive is about 20 minutes from our house, and the last 10 minutes are the best as it winds along the spine of the ancient volcanic rim covered now with grasses and the odd thistle. We parked at a little pull off before the actual parking lot, where a trail met up with the road briefly before dropping down to the far side of the crater. With our water and my camera over our shoulders, we set forth under the sun.

Walking along the winding trail was wonderful. We watched ships come and go into Lyttleton Harbor, fishing boats being harangued by gulls, little pockets of flowers tucked into the wind protected nooks and crannies between rocks, and absolutely no one else. Half an hour later (I stopped a lot) we came up over a crest and were looking down into the parking lot at Godley Head. Godley Head is an old gun emplacement put there during the second world war to protect Lyttleton Harbor from the enemy. There are old cement bunkers littered all over the place, and down below (where we were heading) there was a small system of caves that went through the cliffs.

We wandered through the three buildings along the trail and then wove our way down towards the sea. Back and forth we followed the switch back track almost to the rocks being blasted by waves at the bottom. Before we could feel the spray however we found the trail disappearing into the hillside. Looking into the darkness, you could see a tiny prick of light at what I presumed was the far end, and little shadows of light trickling in along the entire length. The wind coming from the tunnel was cool on our hot faces and chilled the thin veneer of sweat on my face. I put on my cardigan adn stepped into the cool dark passage. The walls were rough and crumbled when you touched them. Every so often there was a side passage that took you a few meters and opened out to the sea a surprising distance below. At one of the openings we found a small birds nest tucked up into a rocky hole in the wall. Further down a sock lay wet and lonely on the floor.

We emerged minutes later back into the bright sun and onto a hill side covered with daisies, foxgloves and many more flowers. We ate our apples at the end of the trail, a small concrete pillbox nestled safely into the rocky wall of the cliff, and then headed back up the trail.

The return hike was wonderful with a faint wind at our backs helping to push us along the trail. We walked over the top of the rim this time and looked back towards Sumner and Christchurch and further out the Southern Alps as they climbed the back of the South Island. We sprawled out in the grass back at the car and watched the wisps of clouds moving overhead. A wonderful afternoon. But now I was exhausted and had LOTS of work and packing to do (in fact I still do).

One more sleep til I take off for the most southerly continent. I'm both excited and nervous. Lots of work to do there and a completely new experience. I'm sure it will pass by far too quickly and before I know it I'll have only the pictures and stories left. But really, that's all we ever have left from any experience and that's what makes us . . . us.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Tastes & Sights

Here are some of the things you might see at our place this Christmas. Buttons, pukekos, our first Christmas Cake, the truly Canadian tourtiere (with apple sauce), harakeke, and the sky still bright at 9:30pm.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming and we're both having an interesting time wrapping our minds around sun, warmth, and summer days coinsiding with this celebratory time. So on Tuesday this past week, I convinced Stephen to come out with me to the nearby mall where a man was selling little Christmas trees from his trailer.

An interesting thing to note is that when you go christmas tree hunting in the Yukon you go out in the cold. In fact, you have to be careful it's not too cold or as soon as you hit the tree with the axe all the needles will fall off. Not so here in New Zealand. In fact, if you don't go on cooler days the trees tend to be droppy and sad looking from the heat. We were given a hint from a friend of mine at stitch that the trees to get are the ones planted in pots with dirt which keeps them happier for longer.

Fortunately, the trees at the mall were in pots. And in the shade. And would fit both our tiny abode and budget. We (well, I) carried the tree across the parking lot, stuffed it into the back of the car and drove home, with a goofy smile plastered across my face.

The other difference between christmas trees here and in the Yukon is you don't need to defrost these ones. You can start throwing on decorations as soon as you want. Having decorations on the other hand is another issue. Unfortunately, packing baubles across the ocean had not been a priority so we had limited resources. Armed, however, with a plethora of paper and baking skills, Stephen and I soon whipped up a multitude of paper cranes and gingerbread bears (I did splurge on a few little glass balls as well and some lights). So with out little tree dripping with red and gold paper birds and gingery bears, we are starting to feel a little more of the christmas spirit.

I feel I must also take a moment to introduce Girard. Girard is a giraffe. In fact, he is a stuffed giraffe picked out from the multitude of plush animals pilled high at the nearby Farmers (rough equivalent to the Bay). He will be accompanying me to Antarctica and as you can see, he is taking his studying seriously. In fact, he has already told me he would like to ride in a Hagglund, see some seals and penguins, and his absolute can't-be-missed experience will be to spend the night is a snow shelter. I told him if wanted to last the night he would have to be sure to eat his Weetbix each morning to get strong. I'm sure you will all await the tales of his adventures with bated breath.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pre-Departure Session

Well, this weekend was our Antarctica pre-departure session. The PCAS (post-graduate certificate in Antarctic Studies) course I'm tutoring in spent 3 days out at the UC (University of Canterbury) geography field station in Cass (a stop along the TranzAlpine railway). We were introduced to some of the gear we'd be using, but mostly it was about getting to know one another better - bonding. With winds up in the 80-100 km/hr range we spent lots of time inside discovering the intricacies of living together and talking about all the fun things we'll be doing down in Antarctica.

Cass Field Station. In the background is the Craigieburn Range with Arthur's Pass just off to the left.

Steve showing off his weather station. While we're down on the ice, this station will be set up by the students and recordings will be taken every day. Unfortunately, due to the high velocity winds we weren't able to fly the ginormous kite he has to take up some of his other instruments.

Here's one of the tents we'll be using down on the ice. There are four poles that are put into the tough outer fly, the inner tent is then hung from inside and the white flaps are covered with snow and the guylines are anchored into the surrounding snow to keep it all on the ground.

This is the emergency tent provided for each group of two people. Whenever we go out of camp we have to carry these emergency bags with us which contain things like a shovel, a saw, food, a stove, a tent, sleeping bags and other useful things to keep you warm.

On the last day, we did a hike up Bealey Spur (overlooking the Waimakariri River). It was a 10km round trip through beech forest, grass tussocks and boasted some fantastic views.

One of the aforementioned fantastic views of the Waimakariri River.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


With our recent visit back to the Yukon I've been thinking a lot about what "home" is. Stephen and I would get into discussions about whether we were going home or leaving home, often we would be on alternating sides of the debate.

We're lucky in the sense that we both grew up in the same town and so visits back are easy-ish. We discovered though that there are other problems with having two families and multiple groups of friends in the same community, all of whom expect plenty of face time. We really enjoyed the time we did spend with everyone, but trying to do everything with everyone proved somewhat impossible. And so we had to make do (lots of driving was involved).

Much of our discussions revolved around the idea of heart. Having grown up in the Yukon we both have a deep abiding love for the vast lands of forest and mountain and river, and it is an integral part of who we are as people. It is a part of our identity. But something we've also realized is that as we've grown together and learned to be a family, we have put down various roots in the places where our relationship has developed the most; Victoria, British Columbia and here in Christchurch. These two places are the landscapes where we have shaped our relationship together and really, our lives to come. It is in these places that we can look forward more easily and find new paths to follow. And so we are left with two distinct homes, a place a rememberance, of youth, and of roots. And a place of looking forward, of new roles, and of endless possibilities.

Home, now, is about change. It is about loosing the shackles of a "role" into which we've grown and instead, making our own place in the world. It is a new and wonderful experience to be making our own way in the world, where no one has predetermined ideas about what we can or cannot do, about who we are and where we belong.

I will never forget where I have come from and will never stop calling the Yukon 'home'. But for now (and for who knows how long), New Zealand is proving to be a wonderful home in which to learn, grow, and become.

Yukon Visit

First I must apologize for being so slack on up dating this site. After my visit back to the Yukon everything here at home seems to have piled up on me keeping me very, very busy. It's been a little over a week now and I'm still settling back in. Though it is wonderful to come back to summer I must say!

Here are a few pictures from my visit to the North. I was so pleased to spend time with family and friends, though trying to visit everyone was harder work than I ever thought possible. Such is life once you've moved away from where you grow up I suppose. We spent lots of time outside, camping, hiking, walking, canoeing, boating, and just generally enjoying the gorgeousness of the Yukon.

Dad, Mom, Andrew, Marina & I spent a weekend camping on Egg Island, a 5-minute boatride down the Yukon River from where the Takhini River joins it. A lovely two-nights of snow, rain, sun and lots of crossword puzzles.

The wall tent proved a warm and comfortable place to spend the night. Unfortunately there wasn't room for everyone so Marina and I got to sleep in the pup tent, which was cool and damp (Photo credit: Dad).
The beer was delicious as always.

I also went up to Dawson City for a short visit to do some work. It snowed there as well.
A lot.
There are lots of old, abandonned pieces of machinery in the Yukon. The highest concentration being around the Dawson area.

We also made sure to get up to my favorite place on earth, the White Pass Summit. It was amazingly warm up there, even nicer than back in Whitehorse.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Trip Home

Sorry for the longish break. We've been home in the Yukon for the last couple of weeks and have lapsed in various regular activities (like exercising, cuddling the cat, and blogging). I thought I should probably tell you the updates may not be as regular and if they happen while I'm here, they will most certainly be more Yukon in focus.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


This past Tuesday Stephen had an interview for a teaching job in Kaikoura. Kaikoura is a small coastal town 190km north of Christchurch. Located on the coast, it is destination for albatross, sperm whales and sea lions, making it a great place for tourists to congregate as well.

It's about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Christchurch and at 7am there is hardly any traffic to worry about. We drove north between paddocks of sheep and cows, up through some hills and out to the coast where we drove into the stunning town of Kaikoura. It really is a lovely place to visit. But to live. . .I don't know, we'll just have to wait and see.

Here are a few pics from our visit there. The first one I borrowed from a local lodge in Kaikoura, you can find info for them here ( The rest are mine.

Like I said, lots of Sperm Whale congregate here.

A lovely sea anemone closed up in the hot sun.

One of many local sea lion hang outs.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Spring has arrived in Christchurch in full force. Daffodils, tulips, ducklings, and warm sunshine. Here are some pictures from our first warm spring rain.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lake Tekapo

This past weekend I went on a field trip to Lake Tekapo with a Geography course I'm sitting. The course focuses on the various ways we experience place, exploring especially the differening world views of First Nations and Western Science. This weeks trip explored the space of Mountains and Skies up at Lake Tekapo.

Lake Tekapo is about 200km Southwest of Christchurch up in the Southern Alps which run the length of the South Island. It has a permanent population of about 500 people with a large portion of the transient population in holiday home owners. Mount John Observatory sits on the nearby Mount John, and there is steady work being done to try to have UNESCO accept a proposal for a world heritage site that protects the night sky viewing possibilities.
Mount John is the southern most permanent observatory, placed here for its' altitude, latitude, and number of clear nights. Not only do people come from around the world to view the stars of the southern hemisphere here, but the Japanese and New Zealand astronomy communities have worked together to build MOA (microlensing observations in astrophysics), a 1.8m telescope that looks for planets as they cross in front of stars. I believe in its' 13 years of life so far they have found 13 planets the size of Jupiter in far off solar systems. We were lucky enough to join one of their night sky tours. Looking up at the thousands of millions of billions of stars that seem to go on and on forever - and maybe they do. You can learn more about the observatory at

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lyttleton Market

Every Saturday the Lyttleton Farmers Market fills the Lyttleton School yard with fresh produce, baking, meat, and a range of sauces, jams, pickles, sandwiches and more. Each week there is a live band and each week, a happy crowd of people doing their weekly shopping, sight-seeing, and socializing. It is a happy and jovial atmosphere with lots of little kids, even more smiles and a plentitidue of delicious foods. Last weekend I brought my camera to try and capture some of the feelings the market evokes. Enjoy!

And at the end of the day we go home to fill our pantry with the delicious goodies we purchased at the market. Our dinners on Saturday night are a constant surprise, depending largely on what looks good at the market that day. Last weekend it was the gurnard, caught fresh that morning, cooked with some lemons I found in someones compost bin after they had pruned their lemon tree and some lovely young fennel and cinnamon basil. Delicious!