Thursday, March 13, 2014

Temple Basin

Where are we heading?
This past week, Stephen volunteered to help out on the annual biology trip up to Temple Basin. This is a three day trip all year 12 biology students go on to examine alpine plant ecology and complete a test on the subject. While Hector and I were welcome to come along, I felt it might be a bit busy for us so on Monday morning Stephen headed off for Arthur's Pass without us. Hector and I spent the day playing, shopping, and constantly asking about Dada.

In the evening, I received an email from Stephen re-inviting us out to join them - apparently, they had power, internet, and a lack of small children. So, after putting Hector to bed (again, constantly asking where Dada was), I put together some clothes, the backpack, and a lunch to eat on the road to Temple Basin. The next day, despite (or perhaps because of) a tough night of wakefulness, we got into the car and drove out of town.

Heading up towards the basin.

Coming up to the old DOC hut.
Hector and I left a cloudy and drizzly Christchurch mid-morning and arrived in full sun at the Temple Basin parking lot by lunch time - just in time to see Stephen coming off the bottom of the trail to meet us. So while Stephen got all our gear out and ready, Hector and I ate a quick lunch. Then we gathered ourselves up and headed up the trail.

Looking back into Arthur's Pass halfway up the trail
The trail up to the Temple Basin lodges runs up the top of a ridge in a steep zig-zag. Loose stone paves the often precarious feeling trail, lined on either side with tussocks and craggy stone. On some of the steeper parts, old rail ties have been banged into the slope to form steps. While I'm sure these were meant to help, they were sometimes quite high and challenged even the most persistent of pregnant ladies. Despite this, we eventually made it to the first of the three huts at the base of the basin, built by DOC (Department of Conservation), but now owned by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club. The hut has fallen into disrepair and completely belie the state of the other two huts owned by the Temple Basin Ski Club and the University of Canterbury Ski Club.

Temple Basin Lodge

Scrambling up the hill
We arrived while most of the students were still out on their guided hike up to the top of the ridge. This meant we could settle in and get our bearings without 60 kids around. Hector loved scrambling about on the rocks, completely different from walking at home. We explored around the back of the huts and watched as the students came down from their hike.

After dinner, we stepped out while the students did their test and we got onto the bedtime routine. The steep mountain valley made for a darker evening than usual, but it also meant we got to admire the stars a little earlier than we would at home (let alone see a few more).

Heading back down into the valley
The next morning, after a busy morning of cooking and cleaning and packing up, Hector and I headed down the mountain with two of the slowest students. We finally made it down along with everyone else, chasing the fog as it was blown out of the valley. Once all the students were on the bus, Stephen, Hector, and I packed up the car and headed back into town. It had been an awesome two days and we were all glad we had made it out.

One happy, sweaty family

Sunday, March 2, 2014

La Grande Ocean Swim 2014

After 3 years of thinking about doing the La Grande Ocean Swim in Akaroa, I finally stopped coming up with excuses and signed myself up. The swim is part of a nation wide series of ocean swims held every summer. Having grown up hating swimming lessons, since moving to New Zealand I have come to love swimming. Perhaps this arises from living on an island and being so close to the beach (plus it is the best exercise while pregnant). Whatever the reasons, I had always wanted to take part in the race, and then come up with excuses not to do it - earthquake, nauseous and tired while pregnant with Hector, have a new baby. . . . . Finally, this year, 4 months pregnant with number two, I realized that I would never run out of excuses if I kept making them, so I decided to stop making them. And I had a fantastic time.

The swim is held in Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula, about an hour and a half drive from Christchurch. I had signed up for the 'Give it a go' 300m swim, being 4 months pregnant, I decided to start small. This resulted in me feeling rather old at the race start being surrounded by a rather younger crowd. But with a gloriously sunny, blue sky up above and Stephen and Hector cheering me on from the beach, I had a great time and didn't worry too much about the age of my fellow racers.

After the race, we wandered down to the playground and sandy beach to have some lunch and play in the waves. Hector found some abandoned shovels and set about digging a hole. He was soon joined by a young girl, who instructed him in making pools and planting potatoes (because why not?). Eventually, we packed ourselves up and headed back to the car to explore some property for sale on the way home. . .