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.