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Christmas newsletter  22/11/03

Hello everyone!

Its nearly Xmas again, and I’m heading to the Auckland Islands again next week. That’s in the frigid sub-antarctic for those of you still under the impression that they are somewhere near Auckland.

The Auckland Islands are a group of islands in the southern ocean, roughly 300km south of the southern tip of the New Zealand mainland. That’s about the same latitude as London, but with the climate of the Shetland Islands. (Last year we didn’t manage 24hours without rain, and midday temperatures were around 11 or 12 degrees). However, it was like living in a wildlife documentary. Stuffed full of sealions, fur seals, elephant seals, albatross, and land birds rare or extinct on the mainland. Makes you realise how humans have wrecked the ecology of the mainland.

I’m going there with the Dept. of Conservation, as part of the Sea lion team. My job is to autopsy pups of the (threatened) New Zealand sea lion, and count adult animals and tagged animals, as part of the ongoing population study (getting basic biological data for the species). I’ll be with 3 other people for 6 weeks.  Last year’s pictures and report are on my website www.madvet.homestead.com

This last 12 months has been a good one for travel to Australia. Kris and I went to Manila (northern NSW) for 3 weeks last March for 2 paragliding competitions- the Australian Open, and the New Zealand Nationals. Despite coming 132nd out of 147 in the NZ nationals, and an only slightly better 116th in the Aussie Open, I came within 1 kilometre of my personal best (50km), and did my 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 7th longest flights. We enjoyed it so much we entered the Canungra Cup in October (near Brisbane), and had wonderful weather. I came 37th out of 47 (Kris came 45th), and Chris came along as a groupie. However, I did win the ‘Miss Canungra up’ drag contest (as Helen Earth- a very scary apparition! )_so at least came away from the contest with a bottle of bubbly , a tiara, and a feather boa!

Next March, Kris and I return to Aussie for a month to do two more contests- the Victorian Open in Bright, and the Aussie Open in Manilla again. This time I have a new secret weapon- a new glider! On the principle of blaming tools for bad workmanship, I’m hoping a better tool will improve my placement!

Whilst on the sports front, this has been a mixed season for skiing/ boarding. The early part of the season was hampered by lack of snow. I took 2 weeks with friends (Colin and Jo, Mark and Jude) in the South Island in August. We had a great holiday, but snow was thin, and off piste was limited at the Canterbury skifields (we stayed at Porter Heights, near Christchurch). However, later season was great. I got October skiing in Porter Heights (after the official ski season closure), and even later skiing at Turoa, on Ruapehu (North Island) in November! At this time, the sun is so strong the reflection from the snow burnt my gums – a small price to pay for fresh tracking powder snow at that time of year!
I did suffer a snowboarding related injury this year, though. I snapped a tendon in my middle finger (mallet finger), and had to wear a finger splint for 2 months. The irony is, this happened whilst I was stationary in the lift queue!

On the home front, our biggest news is that we became landlords. With the final payment of my mortgage finished, I decided we needed a pension scheme, and property seemed the safest option. We have a one bedroom flat in a tower block near the city centre- which we are redecorating in the hope of getting a good rent from.

Our garden is now nearing completion (as least as near as gardens ever get!) My pride and joy is the cactus garden, which has flourished despite our temperate- rainforest climate here (I only lost a small number to rot). The newly-completed shed overlooks it- the most expensive and luxurious shed in the world (!!) Unfortunately, it immediately filled up with tools, bikes, sports gear and junk, so we’ve had to buy a (pre-fab) overflow shed. This has been cantilevered over the terrace below to save space. Doubtless, we’ll then need an overflow shed for the overflow shed and so on….

Work wise, I’ve been doing locum work here in Wellington. There has been enough to keep me busy, and too much sometimes! Chris has been working as a consultant at DoC (Dept of Conservation), as an indispensable consultant for CSL (Conservation Services Levy). He’s getting more work than he wants, as he could easily work full time working on  house maintenance, shed building etc.

Kris, meanwhile, has been doing a little contract work, but has been mainly focusing on his invention of a new design of cycle seat. Its meant to stop men’s tackle getting damaged by pressure, and give greater pedalling efficiency. Time will tell if its successful (but I’d like to be a kept man!). In the meantime, Kris has had initial encouragement from being a winner in Wellington’s innovation awards, and getting a development grant of several thousand dollars.

Adventure Out is having a rest this year- No bookings so far! However, Koromiko Homestay, our B&B business, is going from strength to strength. Bookings are up, it’s a tidy extra income, and socially its great (most guests are interesting , sociable people). Our commercial website is www.adventureout.co.nz – Check it out.

So, overall, our lives proceed in the usual exciting  and adventurous way that lives should  go. It’s a shame we have to go to work to earn money, as there is far too little time to fit in all those things I’d like to do (such as kayaking, mountaineering etc)

Hope all is hunky-dory with you folks too

Big hugs


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