1 August 2016

Grand Canyon - Colorado River

Hunter and I sharing a moment on one of the many side hikes after a day on the river.

How to begin and what to say? This is a super famous trip and for good reason. Over 200 miles of runnable river, countless rapids that never get too stressful, amazing camping, and escaping the reality of society for 21 days with 16 great friends.. sound good? I can now say from first hand experience that it is soo good!

I must admit, going into this trip I was a little nervous because I didn't personally know everyone on the trip and I had nothing to do with the organising because I was a bit of a last minute ring in. Being quite a long trip with the same people stuck in an amazing canyon may not be everyones idea of fun. For me, I was willing to trust Taylor, Kelly and the others who organised everything and I was pretty stoked on the outcome. They had hired a professional outfitter who gave us all of our group gear, food and the rafts. All that was left up to us was our personal gear and other fun things. My dress ups totalled half of my personal gear..

Once we had made the drive from Sacramento, CA to Flagstaff, AZ was when it really felt like things were happening. Sixteen of us staying at the same Hotel about to embark on a grand adventure together. The only thing left to finalise was the buying of the booze for 21 days of fun!

Here I have a few of the photos that I took. After having my proper camera stolen only a few weeks prior I thought it would be fun to take a different approach and get some instant gratification with a polaroid camera. It was pretty fun with over 200 photos to choose from here are a few of my favourite moments. I feel like I got better at using the thing as the trip went on.. maybe.

So fresh and so clean. About to enter the canyon and say goodbye to civilization for a few days.

The first few days were pretty much about getting used to the nice heavy rafts, learning our roles and how the kitchen/ food systems worked, and everyone relaxing and getting into the groove of the three weeks on the river.

Being such a sort after trip and so well travelled, there is a lot of information out there. Every river mile is described in a guide book camp sites and history to the grade and lines down almost all of the rapids described in detail. This was pretty handy as not one person out of our group had been down the river before.

The first famous spot that we reached was a huge cave called Red Wall. We stopped there for an extended lunch with swimming, music, and a few games of Koob.

As well as cool totally natural places like Red Wall, there were some pretty incredible remains from the Native Americans that were great to visit. Our first historical site that we arrived at was the Nankoweep (tribe) Granaries. These were high up off of the valley floor where they stored their grain that was grown down on the valley next to the river.

River life. Hide from the sun, have a beer, and enjoy the scenery and company.

Another one of the highlights was getting to the Little Colorado River (LCR). We had a relatively short day on the water so that we could go an explore up the side valley. The LCR was quite a lot warmer than the main river because it isn't coming out of a huge dam and it is also where most of the sediment comes from which changes the colour of the Colorado River.

Mary and Karen admiring old old pottery that's so old I forgot how old it is. Leftovers from the native tribe that used to live there.

Caveman found in one of the side canyons.

One of the more famous hikes down there is a full day walk that takes you up one side creek, over a ridge that is hot as fuck, to a few really cool springs that pump out of the sides of the canyon walls, then down another canyon getting back to the main river just below where we started where there was a great waterfall to rinse off in. Because we are all pretty confident outdoors we got a little led astray by the low water route and a few of us took the straight up a cliff option that seemed to work out just fine albeit just a little exposed.

Austin, Cara & Colby being all mountain goaty.

Playing the waiting game while our fearless trip leaders were making good decisions on our behalf.

After such a long walk and it being Bucky's birthday we may have used beer to rehydrate after a long day hiking in the desert heat and we may have become a little useless. We were hanging out, proceeded to hydrate some more all tied together above the longest rapid in the canyon as the responsible ones made sure it was just class II and there was good camping below.

I was lucky enough to have my 28th birthday only a few days later right in the guts of the canyon. Here we are with all five boats tied together having a grand ol' time!

I suppose if you have heard of the Grand Canyon you may have also heard of Havasu Creek or a place called Havasupi. This was another full day hike that was up a beautiful creek to an amazing waterfall. The only catch is that at the very top of the hike just before you get to the waterfall there is a ranger from the reserve. This ranger's job is to collect a fee of $45 or turn people back. We had missed that vital piece of information so no body had any cash on them. We got skunked! It was still pretty and funny.

For the trip we had been put into four groups of four and these were the different food groups. We would take turns at cooking for the group, setting up the Groover, filtering the drinking water, and having a day off. It would happen quite often that the food group would make up rules or conditions of eating if you will. One day a champ who will not be named labelled our last Monday on the river as Mandatory Monday. So at 7:30am, before breakfast was served it was mandatory to drink a beer. Needless to say this then set the scene for the rest of the day and it turned out to be quite memorable!

This is a "Groover". An ammo can that you poop in. I can tell you the first thing I missed after getting off the river was the view that you had every morning as you took care of business.

As you can see, fun is being had. Then we caught up to another group..

They liked our unicorn so from here we became friends and we ended up camping together and having a party attempting to get through our supplies days before the end of the trip.

Paying tribute to the river gods.


The last night was also a good time. We could celebrate although we hadn't quite reached the take out, we were only just upstream of it and we had made it through with no carnage and no drama. Taking three weeks out of day to day life to live simply on the river was incredible. If you ever get the chance to do a trip like it, I'd say of course do it! I'm sure I'll be back and the trip will be completely different but just as good.

A huge thanks to Kelly and Taylor for inviting me along and everyone on the trip who made it what it was.  AMAZING!!

21 July 2016

A sneaky mission in the Kaweka range

Yet another of Sanga's grand plans was to do an over night trip in the Kawekas the day before flying out to the USA to meet up with a group of friends to raft the Colorado River down the Grand Canyon. With timing a little tight and it being one of Sam's grand plans I agreed with a bunch of skepticism as to how this was all going to come together. Small details like the weather being nothing else but perfect, not breaking myself before a big trip, and whether I was fit enough after just spending three months on a ship. But like I said, small details!

This was looking like it was going to be quite the adventure. I had two days between finishing a kayak camp and catching a plane so for this to work everything really did need to fall into place. Of course it did. It all started fairly early in the morning with meeting a friend of his who helped us drive a pretty long shuttle which saved us loads of time at the end of the trip. Cheers Rick! Once the shuttle was set we started riding. About 10 minutes in we started walking, and about 10 minutes later our bikes were on our shoulders. 
Tim and Sanga grinding their way up. 

The trail was steep, steppy, and dropped away a couple hundred meters down to the bush line so it was a little hairy at times but we were promised some of the most amazing riding we could imagine so we grit our teeth and got on with it.

Sanga up in the tussock. Nearly at the top..

Once we reached the top of the ridge we were instantly rewarded with views out over the Hawke's Bay toward the Pacific ocean out one side, and out the other was a view of the Central Plateau with Mt Ruapehu, Ngaruahoe etc. Spectacular to say the least.

Sanga and Tim happy to be on their bikes finally letting gravity do the work.

Now on the main ridge, the real reason for all that work was obvious. Pick a low point and ride at it. With it just being what's called a 'polled route' up there, we could be creative with our lines riding the scree and trying not to cause too much damage to the tiny little plants, ourselves, or most importantly our bikes.

Sanga and Tim pickering their lines through the loose/ rocky/ planty terrain.

Sam with more ridge.

Tim and I with more ridge

More ridge.. Some spots were a tad terrifying because A) It was loose as fuck and B) If you blew it, it was a loooong way dawn!

After a good day of busting ass and riding some ridge lines that just went as far as you could see we climbed down off of the main ridge to our amazing accommodation for the night. A little 4 bunk hut in the middle of nowhere.

Couldn't be more happy with myself after a great day, and the next was promised to be even better.

Hiking my bike back to the top of the main ridge.

As you can see, just a little steep.

As the day went on we began to find our rhythm skidding and wheelying our way down to the bush line.

Me terrified

After an hour or so on the ridge the bush line was within reach. Down down down 

Once we made the trees, the surface changed from rocky to beach forest which was like riding through a layer of cornflakes. Bliss! But a little too dark and too much fun to bother taking any pictures.

Before we knew it we were back in scrub and therefore nearly back at the road. This section was different again and terrifying in its own way as it was still steep, there were still corners, and the surface was either slick clay or slick clay with loose little rocks like marbles..

Tim and I trying to stay on the trail and on our bikes.

Over the two days we covered a few Km's, sweated, swore, laughed, and rode it one of the coolest spots in the North Island. Not for the feint hearted but I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Thanks to Sam for dreaming up another epic mission and I even managed to catch my flight!

If you're interested on coming on a mountain biking trip with me check out my tour company.

Antarctic season on the Ocean Nova

From November to March there is a pilgrimage of roughly 30,000 tourists all heading down to Antarctica one way or another to see what it's like at the end of the world. For me, this was my third season down there at the real bottom of the world.

Originally I went down to kayak and to be honest I had no idea what I was going to find. That season I flew down to meet the ship and then flew back when my time was done without ever having to sail across the Drake Passage. Lucky for me because I'm terrible at sea and am one of those people who are useless for two days as I try to do as much horizontal time as possible to avoid the spew as soon as the going gets rough.

Since then I have experienced multiple Drakes, flights and lots of time hanging out down on the Antarctic Peninsula where all of the action happens. I have also diversified. No longer just a sea kayak guide but also ripping people around in Zodiacs and most recently as the photographer. After spending the majority of the season refusing to take my camera off the ship I was just rocking the cell phone in the pocket for those extra ordinary moments that it's a crime to not try to capture the moment. This was pretty fun because for my first trip I could just focus on getting some nice pictures for the passengers to take home at the end of the trip. 

One of those moments that words can't describe.. Just warming up the zodiacs when out of the blue a Humback came to say hi to us.

So the Southern Ocean - or more specifically, the Drake Passage. This is the stretch of water that separates Cape Horn (South America) and the Antarctic Peninsula. Many people dread this stretch of water. Notorious for huge swell, gnarly storms, and BIRRRDS! If you can hold it together then the Drake will show you some amazing birds. Of these, my favorites are the albatross. Huge huge birds that just ride the wind that very rarely ever stops.

Black-Browed Albatross in the Drake Passage.

 Once down on the Peninsula the seas calm down and this is where most of the action is. Ice, penguins, whales etc - all of the things that again, are very hard to describe. All in all it was another amazing season with lots of incredible moments that are impossible to forget! I'll let some photos say the rest and try to give the place some perspective.

Once we arrive at our location Zodiacs are dropped from Deck 5 - Gerlache Strait

One of the greatest challenges down there is access. This is a common scene as the glacier reaches the ocean you get these huge terminal faces that could calve at any moment.

 Kayaking gets it's own 'safety' zodiac. As you can see I'm being super safe! 

 Bombs from Deck! It's OK, the Dr is on my right and a tough Danish girl on my left.. safety first.

 A Skua trying to steal my eyes.

Anvers Island

 It's not all beauty - This is an old whaling station on an active volcano - Deception Island.

Ruslan showing his folks some ICE with a Leopard Seal just hanging out on a floe in behind at Neko Harbor.

A couple of South Polar Skuas fighting.

Daniel supervising the penguins at Dorian Bay. Scenic as always!

A chinstrap Penguin with an itch!

A Humpback in the Gerlache Strait.

 A southern Giant Petral on Useful Island. believe it or not that wingspan is about 3m.

Snow fights floating around on some old sea ice

From the left: Daniel (Chile), Ruslan (Russia), Pernille (Denmark), Chica (Chile), Agustina (Argentina), Olle (Sweeden), Karen (Chile), Me (NZ), Mariano (Argentina) Loli (Argentina), Ben (NZ), Bob (USA), Nico (Chile). - Halfmoon Island.
Tthe Expedition Team at the end of the season. It wouldn't be the same without this bunch of beauties! Sad to be leaving but happy to be going home.