Christchurch New Zealand

I have a had a fantastic week in Christchurch NZ. It has  been tremendously interesting to travel here and find out how technology development and commercialization is done in a different part of the world. On a personal level it has been very interesting to go intercontinental again and discover what travel is like now that I have a growing family of my own.

First off, the city of Christchurch was hit extremely hard by the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and there are still many visible signs and daily reminders of this destruction for New Zelander’s. I was staying in the central business district (CBD) which was hit very hard and where the majority of the deaths occurred. Walking around at night was spooky, in a very other-worldly and post-war sense. The people here are friendly and I certainly didn’t feel unsafe, rather the spookiness comes from the dark buildings, the empty streets and the rubble of buildings all around. I did have the good fortune to spend time with some friends from Denver that have moved to Chch as a change of pace. Kea and Jason, with their son Porter showed me around the city and we took a short drive out into the country as well. it was fun to re-connect with people from my past and to hear a familiar accent upon arriving here in NZ.

On the second day here I rented a car and drove out to Mt. Cook. This wasn’t my first time driving on the left, but it’s been a few years since I was in Scotland so the skills were a little rusty. The roads here are great in the narrow and windy sense of the word. I was able to cruise along and the enjoy the scenery while still maintaining enough concentration to keep the car on the correct, eg left, side of the road. Particularly impressive are the hedges, they grow they massively tall to act as wind-breaks I suppose. Many a prairie farmer would be envious of these hedges, some of which were solid walls of green towering 20 feet high or more!

After a few wrong turns (that’s just how I navigate) I stopped at Lake Tepako for lunch, leg stretching, and great photo opportunities. Lake Tepako is an enormous and beautiful lake with a glacial aqua-marine colour that would rival Lake Louise. In fact, picture Lake Louise and Moraine Lake crammed together and you’ll get a good image of the colour. Now imagine 108.75 Lake Louises all squished together and you’d have the 87 sq km Lake Tepako. Simply gorgeous. From Lake Tepako I continued on to Lake Pukaki and took the road that winds up along the west side. This road leads to the Hermitage and ultimately to Mt Cook.

Mt Cook is an inspiring place set into a verdant and familiar feeling valley. When I was there the summit was wreathed in clouds and all-but inaccessible to mere mortals. We did have a great view of some sub-peaks and the large gaping crevasses that have opened up in the Kiwi spring. I took a short walk up the Hooker Valley trail, across swinging bridges, and decided to climb up Hooker Bluff. My goal was to get as high up the bluff as possible and to change my view of the towering Mt Cook, even so slightly. On the way up the bluff I passed a group of Japanese tourists that had pulled of for tea and I smiled when their leader told me “this is not the trail” – that’s precisely the point! My grin turned to a grimace before long as the bluff became a frustrating mix of loose scree and tight thorny vegetation. Finally, I reached a suitable and respectable stopping place and sat down to enjoy the view. I peeled an orange, saved from breakfast, and looked out over the Hooker Valley trail. The well groomed and graveled path led a steady stream of tourists through the scraggly valley bush to the cool blue Hooker Lake and above it all stood the giant of Mt. Cook. Finishing the orange and taking some water I put my camera away and headed back down the bluff and thence back along the path to my rental car.

The drive back to Chch was largely uneventful and my stomach started to rumble right around the local dinner time. It was then I also discovered some small amount of big-city snobbery that I seem to have developed. Despite being quite hungry I passed up many grungy looking small-town restaurants in hops that I would find one more suitable. I suppose flexibility and openness are skills that need to be practised. Finally, I asked a girl working at the local gas station if they “had any restaurants that were any good”, yes, those were my exact words. I cringed inwardly when I heard them but she didn’t seem offended and after paying for my fuel ($2.12/litre!) directed me to a local pub/restaurant. It had all the signs of a small town place, furnished in the 70’s and only a handful of clearly regular customers inside. However, i was immediately struck by how warm and friendly the owner was, she struck up a conversation with me and I felt myself smiling and changing my attitude. The roast lamb dish was excellent with flavourful gravy and a heaping side of potatoes, squash, and fresh vegetables. The dinner included a huge helping of a banana caramel cream pie on a biscuit (cookie) crust, which was also amazing. The rest of the drive back was uneventful and I enjoyed the short walk from the rental car place to my hotel.

The next day, Tuesday, was the official start of the conference I was here to attend; however it was primarily focused towards students. I decided to walk from the hotel to the university, a delightful 6km walk that took me through the Botanic Gardens, Riccarton Bush, and a number of residential areas. The Botanic Gardens are amazing. With the mild climate and reputation as “The Garden City” they have the ability and desire to grow fantastic gardens. There were flowers of the like I’d never seen, towering trees from the 1870s, and rose blossoms larger than my hand! In the residential areas it was refreshing to see something that hadn’t been impacted by the earthquake and to know that life was somewhat normal for most people. The campus of the University of Canterbury is well established and  buildings coincide with gardens in a very natural way. Like most of the CBD the campus was under some level of reconstruction and the site was swarming with men and women in bright orange vests blazoned with “Earthquake Reconstruction Team” and then in a smaller font below “Safety is no accident”. I didn’t spend much time at the student-focused conference, I did introduce my to the organizers and get the lay of the land though which helps for the following days.

The rest of the day was spent walking and wandering and generally touristing, albeit in a low key kind of way.

The conference was enjoyable, I met many new and interesting people including a large number of Canadians over here for work or school. It was interesting to hear their stories, fill them in on local news, and get a real perspective on what life in AUSNZ is like. Mostly they agreed that life is slower paced in Aus, and slower yet again in NZ; there was no consensus on whether this was good or not and I suppose is up to personal taste. Given that it’s winter at home right now I was envious of their ability to live outdoors most of the year and the ease with which they can blur the lines between inside and outside. I was staggered  to learn that Aussie houses of a certain vintage do not have central heating/cooling or proper insulation, in fact one fellow mentioned wearing a down coat in the house because the winter was so cool and the house so drafty. It’s always good to hear things that change the default point of view.

At the start of the conference they had a Maori invocation and good wishes to open the conference. I’ve noticed that Maori is very integrated in the life of NZ even coming first on many official signs and structures. A few times during the conference they referred to New Zealand as “bi-cultural” which I found to be very interesting given that Canada is purportedly “multi-cultural”. So I assume then that the two cultures are Maori and “New Zelander” (my term, I don’t know of a proper one to use) and I would be curious to find out more about how immigrants from other cultures are integrated into NZ society. Does they need to fully adapt and integrate? Does the definition of “New Zelander”  change over time to reflect a changing demographic? Does it retain a traditional anglo-Caucasian definition leaving cultural immigrants to exist in a shadow-culture? I don’t know, but I’d be interested to find out.

The first night we had a dinner in the Cardboard Cathedral, a transitional structure designed by a Japanese architect after the local Cathedral and traditional city icon was nearly destroyed in the 2011 earthquake. It was a fun and social time with a great group of industry and domain level peers. The food, drinks, and setting really set a positive and fun mood.

All in all I have very much enjoyed this short trip and the opportunity to see a new part of the world. I often find myself reflecting on the adventures and travels contained in this blog and sometimes lamenting how little travel or “adventure” we have these days. However, being away has highlighted so many of the good things that I have in this life, my family, kids, friends and colleagues. Sometimes it is hard to accept that one phase of life is over and that we are entering a new lifetime. Sometimes we need a reminder that the old phase like an old jacket, no longer fits in the way that it used to. I am thankful for all of my previous adventures, travels, and experiences. I am excited to be in this phase where I can watch our children grow and marvel at the world. And finally, I look forward to a day when Logan and Riley are of an age that we can travel with them, show them the world, and experience it through their eyes as well.

(I’m in an airport so can’t upload photos… for now check them out on Facebook link)

2009-11-29 Arches National Park: Turret Arch and North Window

One last morning in Arches before heading home and we couldn’t even stay in bed until the sun was up! After playing with night exposures for a while it was early to bed and then rolling out to Turret Arch before the sunrise. One of the guys we’d met while photographing Double Arch had said there was a great view of Turret Arch looking through North Window and with that in mind we set off.


Turret arch seen through North Window, pre sunrise

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2009-11-28 Canyonlands National Park: Murphy Loop

After our night out in Moab and a warm comfy hotel room the last thing we really wanted to do was to get up early! Our original plan had been to get up, drive the 2.5hrs down the Needles district of Canyonlands and hike in to Druid Arch. Well, after the disappointment of the Syncline Loop and not really wanted to waste 5hrs driving we decided to hit the Murphy Loop in the Islands in the Sky district and what a great choice!


Looking down into the valley with the trail visible

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2009-11-26 Arches National Park: Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop and Delicate Arch

Arches National Park in Utah is without a doubt one of the most awe inspiring places I’ve ever been to. With a four-day weekend over the American Thanksgiving, and having already gorged on turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving Jamie and I decided to take a mini-vacation and head out to the desert.

The drive out from Denver was decent and holiday traffic wasn’t too bad and we left right after work heading up and over the mountain passes and down into the desert. My first thought after passing through Grand Junction and over the Colorado/Utah line was “wow, look at all those stars!” and my second though was “I really should have filled up in GJ” (c: Fortunately after only 30min with the gas light on we rolled into a Shell station and I put 17.2 gallons into an 18 gallon tank!

Camping in Arches was easy to find, there is one campground in the entire park and it was only about half full as we cruised through at 10:30pm. The vacation had a few goals

  1. Relax and be outside without worrying about summits
  2. Enjoy the warm(er) weather
  3. Get some really good photographs

Since #3 generally requires sunrise or sunset I had looked up the good times and locations for Arches and Canyonlands and the first on our list was Double Arch, at sunrise.


Double Arch before sunrise

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San Fran – Day 3

Today was another day of “MBA” classes with a focus on financial stuff.  Again, it was really interesting and if nothing else certainly opened my eyes to a lot of the financial goings-on in the world around me. I did have one flash-back to my University Econ class when we started talking about “Net Present Value” but it passed quickly and fortunately we weren’t being tested on it! The fire-alarm system however was being testing and it made for a very long day.

For my tourist-ing adventure tonight I figured I’d head out to the Pacific Ocean proper and see if I could get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unlike yesterday though it was surprisingly cold (~60F, 15C) but it was a “wet” cold, with all of the fog. I hopped on the 38 bus and travelled up Geary toward the ocean. In a Jon Classicâ„¢ move I got off the bus a little early when I saw some park area north of the bus and figured I could walk from there (c: I couldn’t… it was a lot further, so I stretched my legs a little and then got back on the bus (c:

Land’s End was as expected, rocky with ocean slamming into it. It was pretty sweet 😉

Land’s End

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San Fran – Day 1

I landed in San Francisco tonight, I’m here for a 5 day course and get a little near-vacation time on the side (c: I spent the evening walking around the area of the hotel. Market St and Yerba Square were fun and I managed to net get myself lost too badly either!The Museum of Modern Art is right down the street from me and I snuck in 20min before they closed. There really wasn’t anything earth-shatteringly exciting but it was neat to see none the less.

Hopefully there are some fun people in the course who are up for some touristing after the course is done. I’d like to get out to the Legion of Honor and get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Trip to Canada: Climbing, Family, and Friends

Our week long trip to Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper was excellent! It started off with a bit of a low point though, our original flight was canceled and we got bumped to the next one at 9:30pm which meant we didn’t get in until nearly 1am! My mother was there to pick us up at the airport and it was great to see her again. We stayed up chatting until nearly 2am before finally crashing out.

Saturday brought a relatively early start and Jamie and I met up with Sean and Leigh Ann, another couple that would join us on this adventure. We set off for the grocery store, the beer store (of course), MEC and finally some lunch. I must be completely used to living in the US by now because the cost of everything seemed much higher to me. Alchohol and food were the two glaringly obvious ones but fortunately MEC remained less expensive than REI.

Once we were fully provisioned we set off for Lake Louise and the first camp of the night. At camp we had great weather for prepping gear and cooking dinner, but come time to eat dinner the skies cracked open and we scurried into our borrowed 6-man tent that I can almost stand up in! It was with high expectations and much excitement that we went to bed that night; with the sun still up I might add, yet another vast difference from Colorado. The next few days would be bring some excellent mountain terrain our way.

July 19 – Mt. Victoria

July 20 – Mt. Athabasca

After Athabasca we took a rest-day in Jasper. The hot tub at the hotel was magnificent, despite the arguing German couple we shared it with, and the food at the pub that night was passable for starving folks while the beer was simply amazing. We spent the day sleepinng in, then out at the Miette hot springs, and finally on a roof-top patio with poor service and worse food! That night we slept at the Wabasco (wah-bas-co, or wahb-a-sco you decide) campground in preperation for Mt. Edith Cavell.

July 21 – Mt Edith Cavell (W Ridge)

On our rest day we had decided to swap out an icy Skyladder route up Andromeda for a more forgiving route up Snow Dome. But after our 14hr epic on Edith Cavell we found ourselves re-evaluating even the updated plan once the alarm went off at 3am. Sean and Leigh Ann had decided that they had had enough and were just going to head home and given our physical and mental exhaustion it just didn’t seem safe for the two of us to be on out the glacier in the pitch of night. Instead we went back for more sleep and settled on a leasuirely hike up to Helen Lake instead.

July 22 – Helen Lake

That night we found ourselves sweaty and dirty on the doorstep of sister’s place in Calgary. We had a quick dinner and met her and her husband at their softball game where at least one beer was had 😉 We retired to their hot tub and soaked sore muscles, told stories and lies, and generally kept the neighbours awake far into the night.

The rest of the weekend was a blur of visiting family, grandparents, aunts, and of course mom and dad. We went floating down the Elbow river on a raft, took in the new Bass Pro Shop out at Balzac, played lots of bocce, and sat on the deck chatting and eating and socializing.

It was definitely great to be back in Calgary, and great to see everyone again. We had some great climbs and a weekend of family that was just far too short! Can’t wait to go back.