Its great to have family around and our 1st Christmas in NZ since 2013 is celebrated this year with Robins parents and brother visiting. It is good to show them a kiwi Christmas that promises to be a warm day.
However before that I have just completed a 11 day wilderness expedition with 2 colleagues and 11 high school students in the Mt. Aspiring National Park & surrounding area. This expedition is called E3, bringing together Yr. 12 & 13 students, 3 organizations Scripture Union Arocha & Adventure Specialities Trust who all combine to play to their strengths of providing faith-forming experiences framed around wilderness adventure activities and the environment. All seeking to use the best teacher of all… the outdoors to help frame leadership, faith formation and community.
This post is Part 1, and I will post pics as I write more.
Day 1 was a big pick up & logistics day, that was spent packing food and picking up the youth from Queenstown airport and bus stops. We spent the evening outlining the expedition and how our time would be spent hiking, kayaking and mountain biking. Furthermore we decided what words we were going to use to describe our community and what was going to be important to us.
After a long day we were happy to be sleeping inside that night. Sunday was more prep and making sure we had the right gear, clothing and equipment. This was an expedition not a camp and we needed to ensure we had the right stuff for what ever the back-country was going to give us.
We would spend the 1st 6 days hiking in Mt. Aspiring NP completing the Young Valley- Gillespie Pass- Siberia- Wilkin Valley Route. Then we would re-supply with food and paddle for 2.5 days in sea kayaks down the Makarora River into Lake Wanaka and onto Minaret High Country Farm station. Finally rounding out our journey with 2.5 days of mountain biking along the shores of Lake Wanaka through various high country stations to finish in the town of Wanaka 11days later.
This journey had an element of certainty and mystery about it. With the knowledge that the students would be challenged in every way. However with some mystery in what the weather would throw at us and the by-products of life together in such close quarters and the simple things in life (like food, water, shelter) really now becoming super important. Then framing all those good, challenging and surprising circumstances around leadership, faith, outdoors and God’s creation and what that means for me and us.
This past weekend I completed in the “Molesworth Run” and 38miles/62km run through Molesworth Station, NZ’s biggest sheep & beef station (or farm) at almost 450,000 acres. This race has been happening for 22years.
Last year it was cancelled due to the nearby Kaikoura earthquakes. And this year proved to be no different. Molesworth is a wild, barren and raw part of NZ and this past winter a major storm took out a bridge over the Clarance River where runners would pass over. Rather than cancel again the organizers decided to re-route the course. Still in Molesworth but another part of this massive farm.
Most participants complete the race as part of a 4 person relay of the same distances but spilt 4 ways.
Then some of us elect to run the WHOLE thing solo…AKA me. An exercise in misery but with scenery like this why turn it down. The race is book ended with a mountain pass near the start and one at the end. Finishing with a quad burning run down a dirt road from the pass in the town of Hanmer Springs to a nice cold beer.
We (Robin, moana & my sister Louise) took the long 90min drive in on Friday evening from the mountain town of Hanmer Springs. We camped out at the start line to save the long drive in early Saturday morning. We woke to a dying chilly southerly wind which prevented the day from getting super hot which Molesworth is well know for. However had to grapple with a slight headwind all day.
Started running at 9am and quickly got into a rhythm. Was flicking back between 1st & 2nd however was eventually dropped into 2nd place. The 4 person relay runners started an hour later to give us a head start and to have people finishing closer together.
The 1st pass was steep and quite the climb. After ironing out a few of the kinks with my family support crew we were a well oiled machine. Support I could not have done without.
Molesworth is a very dry and arid place & inaccessible in the winter time. As the run unfolds the pain increases a lot in part due to the location and climate, but we don’t sign up to do these sorts of things on treadmills, so enough whinging.
This is a beautiful race set in a beautiful part of the country. The toughest part of the race came in 2 places for me. Around the later half of what would be leg #2 for relay runners. My right hip was giving me fits and honestly I had under-cooked my training a little with my longest run coming into the race only being around 21miles. I took about 800mg of ibuprofen and after about 30mins (of still running) it numbed up and made life a little easier. The second tough place was of course going up over Jacks Pass only about 45mins-1hr from the finish line. As I approached the climb I was mentally over the race, however it was nice to see Robin get out of the truck and run alongside me for a while… super helpful… super wife.
By this time there were a number of 4-person teams that were over-taking me and they along with their support vehicles were a great encouragement to me. Topping out at the saddle was filled with lots of support as I begun the steep decent down the other side of the pass into Hanmer Springs. After almost 6hrs of running on a dusty road with cars kicking up even more dust the view is quite cloudy and even tastes a little gritty. By now the quads were burning and my lower legs were cramping quite badly resulting in me having to adjust my running gait to cope.
A left hand turn onto a real road and a short run into town was a welcome relief. With the approach to the finish line and lots of cheering for a solo runner (me) who managed to pull out a 2nd place was quite fulfilling. Last time I did this race 4 years ago it was just Robin there, I was in a relay team and actually drove into town to greet our last runner. This time I was a solo runner, greeted by Robin & Moana (& my sister Louise) proved to be more exciting.
4 years later I was back, 4 years of moving to the USA, having a beautiful daughter and now moving back, full circle but a happy circle in all respects.
In the October school holidays we (SU) started a brand new camp in Marlborough called Gain Camp. Its been a long time since SU had a presence there… and now we are back & here are some of the highlights.
This thought dawned on me today as we watched yet another mass shooting in the US happen. So much has been written and reported about them. Lines drawn, sides picked and blame assigned. Most of the time it has fallen along political lines. But really who cares, that’s cold comfort to people for whom a loved one was shot dead.
However, there’s a demographic that’s missing here, a really really small one for whom nothing (or that I am aware of) is said about. Not even a demographic really (thank goodness) but I had to call it something. And it goes something like this.
In the past 15-20 years, there have been some quite big natural disasters in the USA. Mostly around hurricanes, wild fires, floods etc. Then at times occasionally (& I use the word occasionally intentionally) soon after the previously mentioned event some person (usually a middle/old aged white male) who is known as a Christian will roll out some “I-heard-from-God-On-This-One” statement that (Insert city/region here) is suffering or had this natural disaster occur because God was judging them. In most cases, they (well let’s face it…he) draws parallels to Sodom & Gomorrah from the Old Testament and makes a connection between the natural disaster and the “Sins of that city”. Usually pointing at the amount of gay people or to use an old word promiscuity in that city. 1000’s believe them and we assign that event to that city’s evilness and move on, putting all our stock in the “fact” that this guy heard from God on this one.
Here’s where the wheels fall off for me. If these men are soooooo in tune with God and heard from God on some connection to this horrific event or that horrific event, why don’t we seemingly EVER hear from them on mass shootings. I could be wrong and this is a total anecdotal observation. However, the pulpit is empty, the microphone silent, the podium vacant, the crickets are chirping when it comes to these so-called men of God who regularly hear from God on evil making a connection between “that town” and “their sins” lead to this happening. They remain silent when it comes to making a connection between a weapon that is designed only to kill humans being used. We don’t hear them saying such & such a town or city is bad and had this mass shooting coming to them when it comes in the form of a gun. We don’t appear to hear much from them tying the “sins of that city” lead to this mass shooting at the hands of an assault weapon.
Why can they tie natural disaster to a city and its so-called “sins” but not a mass shooting and a city’s so-called “sins”
Where are you Mr. Preacher-man? I didn’t hear you today making connection to that poor town of approximately 400 in Texas, guns and its “sins”.
Today was one of those days. No not a bad one but perhaps a perfect one. The day started amazingly with this view.
Then we decided to get out as a family for the day. Which for us means something active. Before we left Pittsburgh we bought a 2.5 person sit-on-top kayak and today was actually the 1st day we used it. We drove over to Akaroa and had an early lunch then hit the water.
Both being water people it has always been a hope for Robin & I that Moana would love the water. While her name means ocean certainly helps, we are certainly doing all we can to encourage her. Between swimming lessons for almost over a year and a half and today this wee girl loves the water.
I’ll get out of the way and let the videos do the talking. A Humphreys family day is an active one for sure. But knowing that she had so much fun today on a sit-on-top. Our backyard “boat yard” (as Robin calls it) of numerous boats is sure to be well used.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being part of a staff development trip with some of the staff from Adventure Specialities. An organization that SU works closely with.
We drove a short distance out of Christchurch to Glentui Bush where we spent the morning looking at various flora from a herbal & medicinal perspective and its relationship from a Te Reo/Tangata Whenua perspective. The outcome here is that as we work with youth in various programs we can pass on knowledge about the food value and medicinal value of many of NZ indigenous plants. Their properties offered remedies in everything from Asthma to Heart Disease, hormonal balance, stopping infections and dysentery and more. It was very informative.
The highlight of the afternoon was that we got to go and make our way through a canyon. This included 2 abseils (rappels) numerous slides and lots of jumps into pools of water, some of which were very high. We were certainly dressed for the water with wetsuits, paddle jackets and helmets along with all the appropriate climbing gear. The abseils were amazing as we inched our way down into some fast flowing water falls, behind and alongside. We spent about 2hrs in there and it was certainly a highlight.
I have done various canyon trips in South Africa and France as part of some adventure races however it wad good to do one back on home turf.
Here are some pics from the day,
Last weekend was Labor Day weekend here in NZ. And while many got to take Monday off. I had to work.
And when describe work you might just roll your eyes.
I got to help plan & particulate in a 5 day rafting trip down the Clarence River, essentially from source to sea. A river that starts high up in the mountains and ends in the Pacific Ocean. One of the truly great wilderness & remote adventures in NZ.
After gathering with 16 other friends, colleagues & Board Members from Scripture Union, Arocha & Adventure Specialities we drove the 2.5hrs to the put in.
Logistically this trip was massive with 17 people on 3 rafts for 5 full days with enough food, personal gear, cooking gear, tents & safety stuff. A lot of thought was given to it all. Not to mention the transportation challenges of getting us to the put in. Then arranging how we were going to get home. That part was an 11 hour bus ride. Double what it should have taken us. But due to the kaikoura earthquakes almost a year ago & 100s of road slips meant frustratingly that we were really close to the now reopened section of road but far enough away that we had to effectively drive north before we could drive south.
Meanwhile we got on the water around 330pm Friday afternoon & paddled until we ran out of daylight around 8pm settling for a less than ideal campsite on the side of the river.
We all slept well after a good dinner of beef stir fry that was conveniently “thawing” on the top of one of our rafts as we floated down stream. That first afternoon had its fair share of decent rapids.
Saturday morning came after a really good nights sleep (in a tent of course) Which after 4 nights one gets really good at putting a tent up, especially one thats not personally yours.
Each morning we aimed to be up around 700am. It was quickly established that I was the designated coffee person. In part because I like it strong, and my argument for strong coffee is that you can always add hot water to weaken it, but when it comes to weak coffee and making it stronger… insert the crickets chirping here. We have a lot of big coffee drinker or coffee snobs and 3 big plunger pots therefore each morning around 700am there was a flurry to get the date on the gas rings or the recently lit fire and “get the coffee on”.
Packing up camp each morning is quite a task. Pulling down tents, packing our big blue waterproof barrels (2 people/barrel). They are the barrels in the picture above. Eating breakfast, cleaning up, loading all that gear on 3 rafts for 17 people. We were on the water by 930am each day. which didn’t leave for much idle time. A big pot of porridge/oatmeal was made each morning and dutifully consumed.
Saturday was our first all day paddle and the chance to enter the first of 3 big canyons on the Clarence. This trip has so many highlights however one would have to be a amazing and dynamic geology and demonstration of tectonic forces (nerd alert!)on show. The rocks had some incredible faulting and folding lines that often ran parallel to one another creating a plowed field look yet no where near straight in their appearance.This often found us looking up as much ad enjoying the rapids of the day.
Our 2nd day ended with a sweet campsite of river right, a little up from Muzzle Station where as we were paddling into camp a farm worker from the station was heading cattle with ….
Tells you a little about the terrain and its inaccessibility. See video below and look hard and listen.
This camp site provided good shelter from the forecast gales that were predicted and we were kept up to date on each day with our daily Sat phone check in. On this night we also sat and had a facilitated discussion about Faith Formation and what that looks like in our context. And you can imagine with 3 very intentional faith-based non-profits and a faith based funding group there was lively conversation.
Day 3 saw continue continue our float to the ocean as we began to float through the middle of the Seaward Kaikoura’s to our left and the Inland Kaikoura’s to our right. The later have peaks that are much higher including one of my favorite mountains in NZ. Tapuae-o-Uenuku, or known as Tapi. Having climbed to its summit and been denied its summit more times than I care to remember it was good to see “an old friend”. Click here for more info. This mountain is the first real mountain Sir Edmond Hillary Climbed and from there got the bug.
This brought us to our 3rd campsite but not before some drama. On November 14th last year a violent 7.8 earthquake shook this region. Creating all sorts of destruction and damage. Including State Highway 1, which to this day is STILL closed from 100’s of slips and the. Click here to read more stories about the quake. One of the lesser known effects were on this mighty river. A series of huge slips blocked the river and created a lake for some time until the power of the river punched through the rock wall to continue its path to the ocean. It would have been impressive to see the rock fall and blocking of the river (from a safe distance of course) and then even more so when the river punched its way through. Well anyways we saw the effects of the landslide and the river reasserting itself. As we paddle this section there were house-sized boulders all around and still little slides and slip going on. Couldn’t help but feel very small at that point and put in our place in the universe. A good reminder of the sovereignty of God too. This video shows us rafting through this new section that none of us had paddled before. Rafting this section was optional for us, of course I said yes, and we “lined” the heaviest raft through the rapids for fear or it flipping with people and all our heavy gear aboard.
Just below this piece of God’s handiwork we found our next campsite and set up for the evening. This time to enjoy a pasta dish and peach cobbler for dessert. Yes we ate well. Before dinner that night I got to take a wee run up towards Tapi and stretch my legs after effectively have them sit in a raft for 3 days. It was good to be running and even running uphill.
Day 4 or Monday (Labor Day) had us in the raft and off again around 930am. Into more rapids and another gorge/canyon. This is the only day we lost 2 people over board as we entered a rock-garden like section of rapids that saw us ping pong off a few rocks, some seen some unseen which caused 2 members of my raft to get thrown across the boat and into 2 other people and over he side into the river. Soon after getting them back on board, one with a throw bag we parked up to lick our wounds and stretch our legs.
One thing about this trip was a the amazing weather we had. Forecast rain never came and gale force winds never really blew. We were in a weather no-mans land though as far as reading forecasts which had us drawing from 3 different areas to try and syphon what part of that 1 forecast from each of the 3 might mean for us. With good weather on our side we were even more excited to be on the river.
If the weather was good, something had to give and that was the geological weather. Apparently we had an earthquake centered not far from where we were. The same faults that gave way here almost a year ago. This sent some family and friends into enquiry and wonder. Only to be responded with “What earthquake?” from us.
Day 4 ended as the most amazing campsite. A place called Matai Flat and oasis of old podocarp forrest on river left at a sharp left had turn in the river. Matai flat provided great comforts, the opportunity to swim, rest some and be awoke to the most amazing dawn chorus of birds. Not before landing in some strong wind gusts in the mid afternoon sun.
As we set out on our last day, we were up early to get done so we could get into that 11hr bus ride home. After the brilliance of the bird song start we were expecting to wind down for the morning to our take-out late morning.
This was not the case as we witnessed more quake devastation, mostly in the form of impacts to humans activity. Including a destroyed bridge and a major re-challening of the river. In the quake some major uplift occurred. This caused the river to find a new low point. Remember gravity and rivers a best mates. This caused the Clarence to move approximately 200m to the north and away from the old river bed as it would now we required to go uphill. The new path was cut without care or feeling across a sheep farm and multiple paddocks. To witness this and see what had occurred was again a “we are really small moment”. After seeing this new section of river we continued down stream passing where the river use to go and seeing its now dry river bed behind us joining the new channel sitting about 4-5m above us from the uplift. This old channel forever changed in a matter of moments after flowing that way for who knows, 1000’s of years.
From here we made the short rest of the way, still enjoying some big raids and long wave trains. So much for staying dry that day.
Upon arrival at the take out, a mere several hundred meters from the Pacific Ocean we took photos, high-5’d, and begun the packing up, this time for the last time.