Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Indic Civilization

The Indic civilisation

When you have lived and worked in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh for many years, you try not to hurt sensitivities by referring to the greater Indian sub-Continent. Thus, when I read this article is Saturday's Pakistani newspaper The News, I found this article fascinating as it explains what happened when the Aryans crossed into the Indo-Gangetic Plain where they established their stronghold, but the whole region from Afghanistan to the lower Ganges was named by them as Aryavarta. That name, however, did not get established. Rather this region became famous as Hindustan.

I post the article written by Ishtiaq Ahmed

Today's article coincides with India's declaration as a republic in 1950. The civilisational roots of modern India are always worth discussing, because despite all the odds against it -- the caste system, poverty and hunger, illiteracy and other such debilitating factors -- it became a democracy and has remained so.

Civilisation denotes a complex society with distinct cultural and ideational features that takes shape in the long, historical process through the division of labour and a concomitant social hierarchy. Therefore, civilisations cannot be understood only in contemporaneous terms; historical antecedents and legacy weigh heavily in forming the present. On the other hand, civilisations are also dynamic and change, adjust and transform, while retaining links with the past.

Studying civilisations is a daunting task. I admire the courage of the veteran journalist and writer, Reginald Massey, born in Lahore to a Punjabi Christian family of Sikh Jatt origin, educated at the St. Anthony's High School in Lahore and later in India, and who now lives in an idyllic village in Wales. He has taken up the challenge and acquitted himself admirably.

His book, India: Definitions and Clarification (Hertford: Hansib, 2007) is a tour de force of truly encyclopaedic proportions. The book, however, is not exclusively about the current geographical entity called the Republic of India; it is about the historical, cultural and civilisational entity: the Indic civilisation. It includes not only India but also Pakistan and other states in this region. The Indic civilisation bears influence of not only Hinduism but also Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity and indeed the modern period of secular rationalism and scepticism. It is pluralistic in its deepest ethos.

The author makes the interesting observation that the Aryans called the main river they confronted when they entered the plains of the subcontinent, Sindhu, which is known as River Sindh and is the lifeblood of today's Pakistan. However, in Persian and Greek usage it began to be pronounced without the "s" at the beginning and over time the people who lived in the valley of the Indus River and east of it began to be called Hindus.

The Aryans crossed into the Indo-Gangetic Plain where they established their stronghold, but the whole region from Afghanistan to the lower Ganges was named by them as Aryavarta. That name, however, did not get established. Rather this region became famous as Hindustan.

The central thesis Massey sets forth is that the caste system has been the ultimate organising principle of the social, political and economic life in the subcontinent. The author condemns it in the strongest terms as it compartmentalised, society and established strict hierarchy. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, himself a Kashmiri Brahmin and thus belonging to the highest place in the caste hierarchy, made no secret of his abhorrence for the caste system.

Therefore, Nehru saw to it that Dr Ambedkar, the leader of the so-called Untouchables, who prefer to be called Dalits, was made chairperson of the committee that prepared the Indian Constitution. The constitution gives equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of caste. That has been the basis for India becoming a democracy, though in the wider society prejudices against the Dalits and lower castes still abound. The author narrates many anecdotes that highlight the continuing humiliation faced by the Dalits in contemporary India.

He observes that the caste system continued to fashion social hierarchy even among the followers of Islam and Christianity. Thus, among Muslims the distinction between the ashraf (superior) and the ajlaf (low-born) meant that they existed as two separate communities, while Christians who converted from Brahmin or other superior castes avoided contact with low-caste Christians.

The author examines northern and southern Indian societies over the historical period. We learn about important dynasties that came to power and what legacy they have left behind. Some Hindu dynasties were founded by men of humble origin who had themselves promoted to the second highest caste of the Kshatriyas through bribery and coercion.

The book compares the three leading personalities of the freedom struggle -- Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru. Each is treated with fairness. The author thinks that Jinnah was a brilliant leader, without whom Pakistan would most probably never have come into being, and it is Nehruvian secularism which he believes has helped India remain a democratic polity.

He reserves scathing criticism for the ruling classes of both India and Pakistan. He writes: "The corrupt ruling classes of both India and Pakistan have done an excellent job in that they have succeeded in fooling the masses of their respective countries. Their success in this enterprise was, of course, assured since the majority of the people on both sides of the border are poor, superstitious, gullible, illiterate and an easy prey to state propaganda and the poisonous rantings of religious bigots"

Reginald Massey is currently writing a follow-up volume, in which he wants to probe the directions the South Asian region could take in the future. He is optimistic about the youths of this region, who he believes want to move on, rather than remain hostage to past conflicts and rivalries.

In this regard, it would be interesting to examine more closely if the Laws of Manu or the Constitution of Ambedkar is winning. Also, I hope he visits Lahore where he was born and about which he is so very proud. It would be interesting to know what he thinks happened to Jinnah's Pakistan.

The writer is a professor of political science and a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore. Email:

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Freedom to do what you like in Mt. Cook National Park, but who pays when things go wrong ?

Mt. Sefton (l) and Mt. Footstool (r). The climber fell on Mt. Footstool.
Photo provided by: Gottlieb Braun-Elwert

There was an intresting article posted by NZPA today about a young Italian climber who had his hand partially amputated by a falling rock in Mt Cook National Park today had ignored advice not to climb in The Footstool area. This raises an issue that dates back to the early 70's when I worked for a few years as part of a professional mountain rescue team at Mt. Cook. Frequently we would give strong advice, or warnings, to climbers not to climb in a particular area, but they would ignore the advice and go out and climb a route. Once I gave advice to a young New Zealand climber who told me he was going to climb Mt. Wakefield. He had a lethal home-made ice axe which I told him was dangerous. 15 hours later we carried his body off the mountain after he fell and speared himself with the ice axe. Should the New Zealand taxpayer have to pay for rescues where climbers go against the advice of experienced National Park staff ?

Don Bogie one of New Zealand's most experienced mountain rescue experts said yesterday "people could go where they wanted in the national park, but our advice to them is that a lot of routes traditionally on at this time of year have got less snow on them than usual".

"The routes with more stable rock are the ones to do."

The 23-year-old was flown to Timaru Hospital this morning after his two companions alerted emergency services by cellphone about 8.45am.

Department of Conservation (DOC) acting Aoraki/Mt Cook area manager Don Bogie said initial reports that the climber was injured after sliding some 300m on ice were incorrect.

Instead, it appeared the injured climber was belaying his companions on the east face of The Footstool when a falling rock crushed his hand.

The DOC Aoraki/Mt Cook alpine rescue team co-ordinated the rescue using a helicopter with a strop to recover him, then returned for his companions.

"It's a very unpleasant place," Mr Bogie told NZPA.

"The previous day, two of our mountaineering staff had advised them not to try that climb because it's in poor condition."

It appeared the Italians ignored the advice.

Mr Bogie said the climb the party was attempting was "only really on" when it was well covered in snow and ice.

"At the moment it's mainly bare rock and poor-quality rock."

Mr Bogie said the Mt Cook area was experiencing a "very dry summer" and a lot more rock was exposed than usual at this time of year.

"Most people are making good decisions and going to where the rock is sound," he said. "These guys didn't."

It is my strong belief that mountaineers who go against the advice of professional national park staff and later require rescuing, should be charged fully for the rescue. Who was it that said "liberty is the right to discipline ourselves before being disciplined by others."


Monday, 28 January 2008

Teen scores NZ's first Winter X Games medal

Wanaka skier Jossi Wells (pictured left) made history by becoming the first New Zealander to score a medal at the Winter X Games, winning a silver in the slopestyle event in Aspen, Colorado.

Wells, 17, completed a successful outing when he also placed fifth in the superpipe event yesterday.

The slopestyle gold was won by Norwegian Andreas Hatveit (centre in picture) who only overtook Wells in the last run, scoring a near-perfect 94 to Wells' 90. Third place went to Jon Olssen, also of Norway, on 87.

Wells said winning an X Games medal was a dream come true.

"But this is not enough for me... I am going to train really hard this year and come back and win it next year.

"My life goal is to win X Games gold in both slopestyle and superpipe in the same year."

Having been a keen skier most of my life I remember the day when Annelese Coberger won our first ever winter Olympic medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics. Today is another great day for New Zealand Skiing.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Off to the Himalaya in 18 days

Top photo: Rikhy Ram right, me on the left.

Lower photo: Sidhbari, HImachal Pradesh looking at the Dhaula Dhar mountains

Over the years I have visited Sidhbari at least six times and I am planning to go back in 16 days time. Here I describe my first visit in July 2003. The job I am doing is quite stressful and by going to the high mountains and resting at their feet, I gain a sense of full relaxation and rejuvenation. Before I used to climb or conquer mountains, today I let the mountains engulf and conquer me.

I got back Tuesday night from Sidhbari in Himachal Pradesh where one of my friends, Anuj Bahri, (bookseller and publisher) has a house overlooking the Dhaula Dhar mountains, Norbulinka Tibetan Institute, Gyuto Monastery and only 30 minutes from Dharamsala and 50 minutes from McLeod Ganj. A very famous Hindu temple is nearby on a river bank and not far away is the Chinmaya Mission Trust where Swami Chinmayananda, a very enlightened Swami, lived until his death.

Anuj's house also overlooks a spread-eagled slate-roofed village surrounded by beautifully sculptured rice fields on sickle-shaped terraces. Women in bright coloured clothing often or not yellow and red, work in the fields.
It was fun to travel and live with Anuj for a few days in an Indian village where you have the 'real local village people' living side by side with 'the pretenders' - artists, writers and other interesting people who have left big city life behind to come to the tranquillity of this green, fertile mountain region to write, paint and find the 'truth,' or to get screwed up in thought and mind by not finding it.

But like every house in India, you need a Bamri: cook, watchman and bottle washer, who brings a character of Baldrick proportions into the household. A Sad Sack figure with sallow cheeks and missing teeth, looking as if he is in the advanced stages of TB. However Anuj assures me he is not ill, but has made a skeleton of himself through his regular encounters with local village women who cheat him of his hard-earned money, with the promise of marriage. His first wife deserted him and the proposed second, ran away with his money. Now he is on the prowl for a third.

Bamri; bumbling, clumsy and likeable, brought a sense of humour that only a hill village man can do.

The day after I arrived I met Rikhy Ram who worked 26 years in the Indian army intelligence service as a photographer on border patrols and spent most of his time in the mountain region of Bhutan, Sikkim, North Eastern Indian border areas and these local mountains.

On 8 and 9 March 1959 Rikhy was in Tawang Gompa when the 14th Dalai Lama crossed from Tibet into Arunchal Pradesh via Bhimla. He was part of the group that ensured the team crossed safely. I later found out that the 6th Dalai Lama was born in Tawang Gompa which is now inside India and not far from the border of Bhutan.

He later spent 3 years on the Tibetan border between 1973 and 75. He climbed 3 peaks in Bhutan, Chomolasari, 23,997 feet, not far from Phari Dzong, which is across the border in Tibet, He also did the first ascent of two other smaller peaks, Kungphu 22,300 ft, Chachiphula 20,702 ft(formerly called Yala) and Wagyala (20, 163 ft).

It seems his work was intelligence of a sort, or as I would say in my parlance the 'modern great gamer'; checking the borders between the Tibet/China and Bhutan and India, getting good photographic information. In later life he worked in Himachal Pradesh in the Pir Panjal and Dhuala Dhar, mapping mountains on foot and through aerial surveys. Interestingly enough, he was in the Congo from 61 to 63 and was a member of the search and rescue mission which helped bring the body of Dag Hammarskjöld, the then Secretary of the UN, from Angola back to Leopoldville. He also spent four month in New York and I am sure he wasn't working for McDonald's although Kohli in his book 'Spies in the Himalayas' would believe this suggestion.

Anuj and I had lunch with Rikhy in his home where he lovingly brought out old and worn maps of all the areas he had worked in and the maps were neatly, and lovingly, made into a book, and all carefully arranged and numbered. The maps on Bhutan were particularly interesting with all the places he stayed and visited, the peaks he climbed and the routes he took, all neatly marked in red dotted lines.

As he unfolded the maps, he unfolded his past locked in his heart and mind for years. Sharing journey's with a fellow mountain wayfarer over a map doesn't need a common verbal language because maps and markings tell a story visually. Remnants of curries and dahl had in mountain camps were evident by the stains on the map which only added to the inuendo behind the intrigue. I am sure no one will ever know precisely what Riky did. Maybe he didn't know exactly the nature of his missions, planned in Lurgan Sahib's house in Shimla.

Not far from Anuj's house lives Khosa and his wife Lakshmi, a famous Indian artist, A Kashmiri pandit, whose painting represent the journey and transition from this life to the metaphysical and he gets a lot of his inspiration from the Upanishards,(sp) early Hindu literature and Rumi the famous Islamic Sufi poet. Anuj's immediate neighbour is a Gorkha, Onkar, whose grandparents moved from Nepal to Himachal Pradesh. On the first night we arrived an impromptu party started as Onkar arrived, then Khosa. At first Onkar turned up at his nose at the wine I had brought, saying "that's a woman's drink, we drink whiskey or rum here."

But as the night wore on, there were lots of empty bottles of the "women's drink" I had brought from my local wine shop in Delhi as Khosa drifted into a spirit-inspired trance where in front of our eyes, he made a transition journey to the metavinacal, a journey even Bachhus would have envied. In his trance, we couldn't communicate with him and Anuj had to escort him home to ensure night-flying Nun's from the nearby Tibetan Monastery, didn't capture his Hindu spirit.

We spent one day going to Dharamsala and onto McLeod Ganj where the Dalai Lama lives. Dharamsala is a typical dirty hill town but once you leave the town, and climb up towards McLeod Ganj, the landscape becomes quite spectacular when looking down to the lowland rice fields shrouded in morning mists, and then upwards, nestled on a tree-clad ridge at over 7,000 feet, is McLeod Ganj, the residence of the 14 th Dali Lama. We spent time at the Tsuglagkhung complex where the Dalai lama lives, visited the temple, watched the monks in their daily debating contests and generally imbibed the ambiance. For a head of state, a people who are exiled in a foreign country, the Tibetan's have established a powerful cultural and economic presence in this area.

However, I made the mistake of visiting the Norbulinka Monastery the day before which is a superb piece of Tibetan architecture, with a Japanese Buddhist influence which gives an air of tranquillity stemming from a combination of elements, the gardens and its trees, waterfalls, streams and the sky and recent rain puddles, and, at the end of a shady walk, is a wonderful temple with a huge golden Buddha. A photo of the Dalai Lama is placed over a covered pulpit from where he delivers sermons when he visits. The elevated situation of McLeod Ganj was impressive, but I found little of inspiration. Norbulinka radiated more of the aura I had expected.

Other interesting places close to Anuj's house in Sidhbari is a place called YOL, which stands for 'Your Own Lines' and was the place where Italian prisoners of war were transported to during the second world war. You can still see they houses build out of stone. Another special place not far from McLeod Ganj is a small English-built church called ' St John of the Wilderness.' It was built in 1853 and many famous soldiers, explorers and surveyors are buried here. James Bruce, Earl of and Elgin and Kilcardine K.T.G.C.B.G.M.S.I. VICEROY AND GOVERNOR GENERAL OF INDIA was buried here and a memorial erected by his wife.
A number of other young British soldiers in once bloody, now romantic battles of a past long gone, have either commemoration tablets of graves. One that I recall was Lieutenant R.D.Angelo 'who died at Wano, Wazirstan 30 November 1894 of wounds he received in action against the Mahsuds.' (I am sure many of their descendants are still rabble-rousers)

It took me back to the lines from Kipling

'A scrimmage in a border station -
A canter down some dark defile -
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail -
The Crammer's boast, the Squadron's pride,
' Shot like a rabbit in a ride !

As I work in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, I am fascinated by the mountain river systems. With partition, these mighty rivers had international boundaries pushed on them. Punjab - the land of five rivers were originally referred to as the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas, but with partition, the Beas flows only in India, so to keep the name Punjab correct, Pakistan added a fifth river to replace the Beas, the Indus. I have crossed the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab and the Ravi, so it was a thrill to travel for more than an hour alongside one of the main tributaries to the Beas River, and to cross it twice to and from my trip to Sidhbari.

This is definitely my favourite spot in the whole Himalaya.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary Poem

The last time I met Sir Ed was on a street corner in Delhi on a sweltering May day, 44 oC, in 2003. There he was in a suit and tie to inaugurate Tenzing Norgay Marg (street) and Sir Edmund Hillary Marg as part of the 50th celebrations of the first ascent of Everest. The New Zealand High Commission is aptly situated in Sir Edmund Hillary Marg. I was so inspired to see Ed that afternoon, that I wrote a poem that night.


Fifty years ago you stood atop Big E
Now it’s on a street corner in Del-hi
With the State Minister called Sheila Dikshit
You in a black suit, you looked a misfit

Why don’t you turn that thief of a clock back
Change the stick for an ice axe and back pack
And stride across the Himalayas again
And rid yourself of Delhi’s indignity and pain

You’re Ed my hero since fifty-three
Saw you in the National Geo on my Mother’s knee
I want to remember you in the photo on Mt Ciook
And with Tenzing on Everest in my very first book

You did it for Tenzing and warped loyalty
You got qualities that surpasses anyone in Royalty
So lets return to the Kaikoura’s where it all began
And enjoy your last days in New Zealand

Poetry about Sir Ed.

PATERIKA HENGREAVES, Poet Laureate said...
Great read Bob. I'm a great admirer of Sir Edmund Hillary. This global inspirational hero is dead but is still alive.

As a citizen of Barbados I am moved by the generosity of this great mountaineer and the enduring legacy he has left behind. This above all else has motivated me to write an epic poem of 44 stanzas in heroic couples when I visited New Zealand in 2005

The epic poem, "Tuakua Honey Jar First to Ever Rest" is found on this link or in the book, "Poetry for all Seasons:Poems, Forms and Styles" first published in New Zealand 2005and by AuthorHouse in 2007.

Paterika Hengreaves, Poet Laureate

Thursday, 24 January 2008

First flurry of snow

First flurry of snow
Spirals into spindrift
Sparkling on refracted prisms

I wrote this for you Maki

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

My old comrade died - Hone Tuwhare

"I hope when I die the sky is grey" one of New Zealand's best poets once wrote, and as he was laid to rest today it was.


Old Comrade

Like frightened girls, the years
ran in thickening to panic-stations
and the days ran out for Jim
as he walked past them. and beyond

Why, only a few days ago, hatless
immaculately tied and overcoated,
tied on , Jim shouldered his way out
of the Crown into the wind
at the corner of Rattray Street: he
didn't hear me call out. Jim was

Shoulders bunched, tartan scarf whipping
Jim leaned into the wind. The wind leaned
right back and then pulled away. Jim fell.
He didn't feel the hardness or coldness
of the pavement, for, like an old friend
come back, the wind held him as he fell.

Well, there was no magic tolling of the
bell, and the skies never opened up, But
the ground did...
At the graveside, no one wanted to add
or subtract. No one - except the capitalist
who never even looked up from the counting
his worthless paper money. But, you know

I reckon old Marx would make room for him
Lenin, throw another log on the fire,
and, Mao, like a full moon rising poor a bowl
of tea, offer Jim a cigarette. Bet on it

Hone Tuwhare, 85, was buried this afternoon at his mother's urupa (burial place) alongside his three other siblings at Wharepaepae at Kaikohe.

He died in Dunedin last week after a long illness.

Mr Tuwhare won national and international recognition for his work.

His 1964 collection No Ordinary Sun was the first book by a Maori poet published in English.

Tuwhare was buried at his family's Marae, Te Kotahitanga, at 3pm today.

His body had been flown from Dunedin to Auckland on Sunday and was then driven by family to Kaikohe.

Tuwhare's grand niece, Joe Tongotea (nee Rapatini), said more than 400 actors, writers, artists, students and whanau attended the funeral.

Tuwhare had been buried on the peak of the hill at the cemetery – the tranquillity surrounding the area would bring peace to him, she said.

She said the sunshine had always meant so much to Tuwhare and just after he had been buried today the sun had come out.

Mrs Tongotea said Tuwhare had always called everyone "bro".

The common theme that had come out of today's farewell was that he always treated people as equals.

He had received people with open arms – "regardless of their religion, regardless of race, regardless of anything", she said.

Mrs Tongotea said he was certainly a leader, not just a poet.

She said there had been a real mixture of people at the tangi and she said Tuwhare had "managed to bring Pakeha and Maori together as one".

For her the most special moment of the tangi had been the four families from Tuwhare's four siblings all coming together.

She said there had been "speech after speech after speech" and many pieces of his work had been read throughout the day.

After Sir Ed, another great tree has fallen. I will always treasure his poems.

Monday, 21 January 2008

No more tractor driving for Sir Ed.

Ed is no more driving tractors. Today his casket arrived at 10am in Auckland to a brief and moving ceremony. It began with Armed Forces pallbearer team which marched in to a slow drum beat.

Representatives of Ngati Whatua, the local Maori tribe, issued a karanga as the body was slowly carried across the windswept Cathedral Forecourt.

Watching on was Governor General Anand Satyanand, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Opposition Leader John Key and other politicians. Also there were representatives of the Nepalese community.

Lady June Hillary and family waited inside the Cathedral.

Once the New Zealand flag-draped casket was put in place, the Governor General led in the laying of wreaths.

Representatives of the Indian community placed flower garlands around a framed painting of a young Sir Edmund that sits beside the coffin.

Indian women wore sky blue saris to symbolise "the top of the world".

The ceremony was conducted in silence.

When it was finished all but Sir Edmund's family left for a period alone with the casket.

We all remember Ed in different ways. I met him for the first time in 1975 in Kathmandu, shortly after the tragic death of his wife and daughter. I met him a number of times after that. He was always direct, humble and strong in his opinions. He was generous of his time and spirit. I remember him agreeing to be patron of our 1986 North Pole expedition and again in 2003, agreeing to write a Foreword to my book on Ebenezet Teichelmann. A truly generous man.

The last time I met him was on a street corner in Delhi on a sweltering May day, 44 oC, in 2003. There he was in a suit and tie to inaugurate Tenzing Norgay Marg (street) and Sir Edmund Hillary Marg as part of the 50th celebrations of the first ascent of Everest. The New Zealand High Commission is aptly situated in Sir Edmund Hillary Marg. I was so inspired to see Ed that afternoon, that I wrote a poem that night.

Tomorrow Chris Kinder told me there is a service for Sir Ed in Dublin, and he wants to read the poem I wrote about Sir Ed.

Last week we had a small wake for Ed in the Everest Bar in Jakarta, a couple of Kiwis and nepalis attended.

For me my favourite photo is of Sir Ed practicing driving tractors at Mt. Cook before they went to Antarctica and he led a New Zealand team to the South Pole. 12 years later I was driving the very same tractor at Vanda station in 69-70 when we wintered over at Vanda station in Antarctica.

Ed and Fergusson tractors will be my lasting memor

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Greatest adventure feat this century ?

Good eveing. It is almost midnight in Jakarta and I went to crossing the ditch website and was so pleased that Justin and James are telling us what is happening after that epic feat of kayaking across the Tasman Sea. I rate it as the greatest feat of daring, courage and adventure of this century, possibly in the last 20 years. What do you think out there ?

Have a read of James' report written yesterday.

Congratulations again to you James and Justin.


Back in Oz.
Sat 19 Jan 2007 - 14:57 (GMT +11)

Wow.. back on land. It's funny, when out there land became a distant memory just as Ol Oiler from the forum advised early on in the expedition.
Thanks for the amazingly overwhelming support. The last couple of days since our arrival I think we have slept just as much as during some of those storms that we got engulfed by! Fortunately, we've had close family and friends to rub shoulders with rather than sharks, dance floor lights instead of lightening and fresh food to eat rather than mouldy nuts!

We are really excited to have 60 Minutes on board who will be screening an "exclusive" between Feb 7-14. Some of the footage they have captured is phenomenal and we cant wait to share it with you guys.

Yesterday we had a DXA Scan carried out by Jarrod at Body Composition Australia ( in which a detailed analysis has been carried out on our physiological composition pre and post expedition. A full medical report is being written. The results are truly astonishing.

As you can imagine, we are completely exhausted at the moment. The stress that we put our bodies through, will take sometime to recover. It's going to take many months or R&R to get back to our former selves. Walking up and down stairs we still need assistance.

We'll be keeping the website updated and forum going. As you can imagine, we have been inundated by emails, phone calls, letters and the list goes on. In good time, we'll try and get back to each of you as life calms down a little.

Finally, an enormous thank you to New Zealand (especially the folk of New Plymouth!) for the most amazing reception we could've ever dreamt of and all our sponsors (especially the Team at Unwired) for making this expedition happen. Please jump on our sponsor's page and send some of them an enormous thank you- they deserve it- they backed us right from the start.

Love you all.

Happy Paddling!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Three-month climate change march planned

Caption: The Whataroa River and the Southern Alps

I lived on New Zealand's beautiful West Coast of the South Island for almost ten years and over a forty year period climbed many of the high peaks in the Southern Alps. It is my Turanawaewae, "my place to be humble yet stand tall.". It's beauty is unsurpassed anywhere in the world and I was delighted to see this article about a committed group of New Zealanders protesting about the extraction of coal and its terrible effects on global warming. In a country with so much clean hydro electric power, why do we need to ruin the world's environment by mining and using coal ?
I wish I was there to march with them.

The environmental group which has occupied a proposed coal mine site on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is planning a three-month march to raise awareness about climate change.

The Save Happy Valley Coalition plans to march from Auckland's Sky Tower to Happy Valley, on the West Coast, beginning January 28.

The marchers chose that date to begin the walk as it marks the second anniversary of the date the coalition began occupying Happy Valley.

A statement from the coalition said a peaceful protest would be held outside Prime Minister Helen Clark's electorate office at 1pm today.

A fundraising event will be held in Auckland on January 26, two days before the walk begins. They hope to complete the march in April.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

New Zealand whitebait


Red-hatted Sue
How well I remember
Your beauty on opening day
Last September.

You hold your net
With such grace and poise
And scoop with a rhythm
Not a sound, not a noise.

When the bait was running
A few weeks ago,
You showed no emotion
How my admiration grows.

Red-hatted Sue
I can never forget,
Watching kilos of whitebait
Running into your net.

My heart jumped with envy
For you and your style,
But I am still waiting
For that first smile.

I’m dying to ask you
How you cook your bait,
With egg or onion
Or do you eat them straight ?

I’ve got some good recipies
In my refurbished kitchen,
And would love to serve you
Inanga and pigeon.

So Red-Hatted Sue
I fantasise when I’m baiting,
Every day at the river mouth
While you are waiting

For you clearly
Are the best catch
There’s no net big enough,
No man that’s your match.

I seriously think
I’m the one for you,
We could live in a baiters shack
Just me, and you
Red-Hatted Sue

An explanation on New Zealand White Bait which you eat in a pattie or a fritter, will help you understand my poem about Red Hatted Sue. O, she was so beautiful.

New Zealand Whitebait
New Zealand whitebait are the juvenile of certain galaxiids which mature and live as adults in rivers with native forest surrounds. The larvae of these galaxiids is swept down to the ocean where they hatch and the sprats then move back up their home rivers as whitebait.

The most common whitebait species in New Zealand is the common galaxias or inanga, which lays its eggs during spring tides in Autumn on the banks of a river amongst grasses that are flooded by the tide. The next spring tide causes the eggs to hatch into larvae which are then flushed down to the sea with the outgoing tide where they form part of the ocean's plankton mass. After six months the developed juveniles return to rivers and move upstream to live in freshwater.

New Zealand whitebait are caught in the lower reaches of the rivers using small open-mouthed hand-held nets although in some parts of the country where the whitebait is more plentiful, larger (but not very large) set nets may be used adjacent to river banks. Whitebaiters constantly attend the nets in order to lift them as soon as a shoal enters the net. Otherwise the whitebait quickly swim back out of the net. Typically, the small nets have a long pole attached so that the whitebaiter can stand on the river bank and scoop the net forward and out of the water when whitebait are seen to enter it. The larger nets may be set into a platform extending into the river from the bank and various forms of apparatus used to lift the net.

Whitebaiting in New Zealand is a seasonal activity with a fixed and limited period enforced during the period that the whitebait normally migrate up-river. The strict control over net sizes and rules against blocking the river to channel the fish into the net permit sufficient quantity of whitebait to reach the adult habitat and maintain stock levels. The whitebait themselves are very sensitive to objects in the river and are adept at dodging the nets.

The New Zealand whitebait is small, sweet and tender with a delicate taste that is easily over-powered if mixed with stronger ingredients when cooked. The most popular way of cooking whitebait in New Zealand is the whitebait fritter, which is essentially an omelette containing whitebait. Purists use only the egg white in order to minimise interfering with the taste of the bait. Foreigners frequently react with revulsion when shown uncooked whitebait, which resembles slimy, translucent worms.

New Zealand Whitebait

The combination of the fishing controls, a limited season and the depletion of habitat as a result of forest felling during the era of colonisation results in limited quantities being available on the market. Whitebait is very much a delicacy and commands high prices to the extent that it is the most costly fish on the market, if available. It is normally sold fresh in small quantities, although some is frozen to extend the sale period. Nevertheless, whitebait can normally only be purchased during or close to the netting season.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Alexander the Great and Hannibal's mountains

Hannibal (above) and Alexander the Great (left)

The more I research Hannibal and Alexander the Great, the more I see similarities in their enormous self-belief and their use of early or late ill-judged winter crossings of mountain passes, with the enormous loss of life to men and animals. For Alexander, it was the crossing of the Khawak Pass in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush. I repeated Alexanders crossing of the Hindu Kush in 1995 and was astounded that he chose this route in late winter, early spring 328 BC. For Hannibal, he chose a high Pass in the European Alps with 90,000 men, 12,000 horses and 37 elephants in 218 BC.

I will first tell the story of Alexander.
It was now late November and Alexander wisely decided not to cross the Hindu Kush and instead wintered over in another city named after himself, Alexander ad Caucasum, modern day Jebal Seraj, 35 km north of Kabul.. Alexander had the choice of crossing the Hindu Kush by a number of passes. But being a shrewd tactician he speculated that his enemy Bessus would have expected him to come by the easiest pass, so to confound him, he chose the more difficult Khawak Pass.

Alexander waited until the worst of the winter weather had passed but he couldn't wait any longer and set off before the winter snows had melted (Probably late March) His army marched up the Panjcher valley and suffered terribly from cold and severe food shortages. Marching through the sheer-sided Panjcher gorge which marks the entrance of the long valley, there would have been layers of frost as the sun touches the ground for a mere few minutes at this time of year.They climbed up to the Khawak Pass where many soldiers fell by the wayside with snow blindness or exhaustion and were abandoned. The Khawak Pass is 11,640 feet and on a cold windy March day temperatures can drop to - 30oC. Dodge describes it thus: "The ancient historians dismiss this march with a few words; but it has no parallel, except Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, and it is the first undertaking of the kind of which we have any record. Hannibal, from unexpected delays, started too late in the fall; Alexander from overeagerness, started too early in the spring. Both contended with heavy snows, and suffered from their attendant trials."

The snow was still deep, the cold was intense, food was scarce and fuel non-existent. The men, struggling through drifts up to their armpits, suffered terribly from exhaustion, snowblindness and frostbite. Literally in their thousands they were frozen solid to the rocks as they leaned against them. The horses and pack-asses suffered an even higher ration of casualties, but at least their bodies, eaten rawbecause there was no fuel to cook them, provided the troops with food. Alexander lost more men and more animals crossing the Hindu Kush than all his subsequent campaigns in central Asia.

After reading Alexander's crossing of the Hindu Kush, one speculates as to whether Hannibal had read of Alexanders crossing of the Hindu Kush 110 years earlier. The comparisons are remarkable.

Here is the story of Hannibal's crossing of the European Alps in 218 BC

Because it was undertaken in late fall – which is early winter in these high Alps – the Pleiades constellation could be easily viewed at a certain recorded point in the night sky, a journey that would have been daunting even in the summer became all the more dramatic. As Polybius wrote (Hist. 3.53-4):

"After a journey of nine days, Hannibal gained the summit pass. He camped there and stayed for two days to rest the survivors of his army and wait for stragglers...As it was now almost the time for the setting of the Pleiades, snow had already settled on the summit...He noticed that his men were in a state of low morale for all that they had suffered and tried to cheer them up. He depended on the actual view of Italy, which lies so close under these mountains that when they are seen together, the Alps stand to Italy in the same way a citadel does to a city...He restored their spirits by showing them the plain of the Po..."

Unfortunately, the specific name of the pass Hannibal used was never mentioned in any sources or presumably by the informant, who may never have known its Celtic name anyway. Some of the Celts aided Hannibal and his Punic and mercenary army with guides and provisions; others were hostile and some may have tried to lead him into an Alpine trap, from which he escaped by clever resources and brave fortitude at some expense of men, animals and supplies to the surprise of both Celts and Romans.

The Stanford Alpine Archaeology Project has attempted to track Hannibal since 1994, using near contemporary sources like Polybius (History, Book 3, esp. 50-60) in the mid-second c. BCE who claimed his informant’s account was directly compiled from one of Hannibal’s veterans who would have been very young during the march, and Livy (History XXI-XXXIX) who used Polybius and other possible sources nearly two centuries later. I refer herein mainly to Polybius because Livy often appears mostly derivative of Polybius, with more descriptive language but without more ample topography as his is so far after the fact where Polybius seems to have possibly known this landscape. On the other hand, Livy adds some accurate comments about the improbability of some of the often-suggested northern Hannibal routes such as the Grand-St-Bernard pass then known as Poeninus. Because this Poenine alpine region is one with which our Stanford project has spent considerable time, we concur with Livy on this (XXI.38), because as he notes this was Salassi territory, not Taurini. Additionally, this route would have added far too many days to Hannibal's journey being so far northward and requiring Hannibal to travel all the way around Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) likely from Geneva, adding far more than 600 stades distance up the Rhone almost regardless of where his army crossed, possibly with another 900-1000 stades and at least a week more total time in passage, which is negated by Polybius and Livy both agreeing on a nine day journey from the Rhone crossing to the Taurini.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Speights beer for Justin and James

This picture was taken by my beautiful and highly intelligent sister-in-law, Barbara mcKerrow

To Tom Mitchell and the Media and Public Relations Team - Crossing the Ditch

Dear Tom

i would like to congratulate you and your team for managing one, if not the greatest, adventures in the world. For 60 days I was riveted. I checked the website at least once a day. Wrote quite a few stories for my blog too. I attempted it in 1989 with Paul Caffyn and we were basically arrested by the Tasmanian Police.

Hard on the heels of Andrew McAuley's tragic crossing, it was so good that two real gutsy guys have finally "knocked the barstard off". as Sir Ed would say. Now we can get on to other challenges, humanitarian and otherwise.

The tracking map was great and the website superb. Well done guys.

I have my brother and his wife living in New Plymouth so I was able to get first hand accounts. The latest was a few minutes ago. You'll love this:

"It was good to see that the first beer the kayakers had was SPEIGHTS it was
on the TV one new tonight ,

Go SPEIGHTS , they must be good blokes ."

All the best guys, and thanks Tom.

Bob McKerrow from Indonesia.

First hand account of arriving in New Plymouth for Trans Tasman Kayakers

My sister in law Barbara McKerrow was at the landing in New Plymouth for the two Trans Tasman kayakers. Here is her story and above, two of her photographs. The first is James and Justin arriving, and below a Maori welcoming party. Thanks Barb.

Kia ora Bob

I have just returned from a great event at New Plymouth's Ngamotu Beach
where the intrepid cross-Tasman kayakers arrived just after midday. I was
part of the welcoming party with our Mayor and it was bedlam down on the
beach. The boys were in high spirits and seemed in good shape after such an
ordeal. They could walk (just) and I stood next the mother of one of them
(James)who wept to see her son arrive to such a fantastic Taranaki/New Zealand welcome. The Mayor said the estimated crowd up and down the coast out to greet them was 45,000. Attached are 3 of the better photos I managed to get - the arrival, the kapa haka group and the 2 men speaking to the media. They were overwhelmed. I hope this is useful to you.



"Go Aussies!" roared the massive crowd


Two Australian kayakers have completed their journey across the Tasman Sea.
James Castrission, 25, and Justin Jones, 24, reached shore at Ngamotu Beach, about 4km west of New Plymouth on NZ's West Coast, at 1220 local time
The pair, who have spent the last two months paddling across the Tasman Sea, were given a heroes' welcome after completing their epic crossing today.
More than 10,000 cheering onlookers watched as the pair paddled to Ngamotu Beach inside Port Taranaki. At 12.20pm they stopped paddling and sat about 10 metres off the shore as a local kapa haka group treated them to a rousing welcoming haka.
Supporting each other, they gingerly stood up from their seats to cheers of "Go Aussies!" from the massive crowd.

Then they jumped into the waist-deep water and, arm-in-arm, they waded ashore for a tearful reunion with waiting family.
"This feels bizarre - I can hardly walk," said Castrission after stumbling at one stage before he could reach his family.
And when asked by the Taranaki Daily News what their first thoughts were on finally landing, Justin Jones said "Thank you so much New Zealand - you guys rock."
Addressing the crowd a few minutes later the pair expressed their thanks to the people of Taranaki for their support over the last few days.
During the past 62 days the pair travelled more than 3,300 kilometres and battled strong winds and tides that saw them go round in circles for part of the trip and arrive 20 days later than originally expected.
As they approached shore today a fleet of Maori wakas sailed out to welcome them, as did dozens of local kayakers.
A New Zealand tug boat gave them a "spray welcome" by shooting water over their kayak, and a giant television screen was set up on the beach so those in the crowd could watch proceedings, entertained by a live band.
After greeting their families, they were expected to complete a customs check before being taken by ambulance to a local hospital for a check up.
There were fears Jones would be unable to stand because of the deterioration to his leg muscles, which have not touched dry land in two months.
The pair are thought to be the first to kayak across the Tasman, and have taken part in the longest two-man kayaking voyage ever.

"Thanks Taranaki - you kept us going," said Jones.
The crowd reacted by breaking into song, roaring out a huge rendition of Waltzing Matilda.
The crowding is so severe that authorities have been forced to close all road entrances to the port - forcing onlookers to foot it to the kayak's landing point, Ngamotu Beach.
But they are still pouring to the scene. Several thousand people are waiting at the beach, and many more are lining the lee breakwater at the port's entrance.
"It's absolutely huge - the place is crammed with people," says Taranaki Daily News reporter Leighton Keith, who was aboard a boat following Justin Jones, 24, and James Castrission, 25, as they made their way to the finish.
Small boats, yachts, kayaks, surf club IRBs, coastal vessels, and even the Port Taranaki tugs joined a flotilla that accompanied the pair to the finish - with the tugs are adding to the festive atmosphere by spraying water into the air from their fire-fighting hoses.
"There are lots of video cameras out, helicopters overhead. It's all developing into something special," Keith said.
Jones and Castission paddled all yesterday until 1am today, then slept for two hours before picking up the paddles again at dawn today for their final run to shore.
Before they started their adventure they had hoped Sir Edmund Hillary would greet them on their arrival, but were told he was too sick.
Expedition spokesman Tom Mitchell said the pair were gutted to hear of Sir Ed's death on Friday, but were used it as inspiration to paddle without rest until their arrival.
(Thanks to the Taranaki News and Stuff for using parts of their reports and one or two photos in this and past blogs on the kayakers)

The arrival of the Trans-Tasman kayakers in a few hours.

Justin top and James below

It is 3 am in Jakarta. A beautiful night and the stars dancing heel and toe. I am so excited about James and Justin arriving in New Plymouth soon.On crossingtheditch website they have just under 10 km to go.

My brother Barry, who lives in New Plymouth, has just sent me the latest update. Thanks brother.

" A great cloudless sunny day , no breeze to think of , no swell either At Ngamotu beach 5 km from NP they will come through the breakwaters into the inner harbour past the 8 restaurants up onto a sandy beach 1 km long backed up with a grassy area which is full of picnic tables, where the first NZ company ships arrived from Devon / Plymouth areas on my birthday not yours as it was in Otago .

Action plan .

Security has been dispatched in rubber duckies to clear a path for the
Kayakers. The port is full of Oil Tankers , Drilling ships , container ships, the fire tug boat.

People have been told by radio to park their cars far away as possible and
walk to Ngamotu beach .

Police & Venture Taranaki staff will be on hand .

2 Chairs have been put near the water so they can be carried up the beach on
the them . (High Tide 12.30 aprox )

Entertainment & food,drink stalls have been set up with Mr Whippy & Snowcone
in attendance (a good NZ tradition ).
The Parahaka festival of peace is on 60km away so theIR will be a rush on for
cultural performers between venues .

The media have been looked after and given their accreditation passes .

It will be a great welcome. "

Thanks Barry. I hope you will be taking down some shoes for James and Justin.

What a remarkable chapter in world adventure and exploration. It is right up there with the great Kayaker Franz Romer who on March 31, 1928, set out alone from Lisbon, Portugal, to make the first recorded crossing of the Atlantic in a sea kayak.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Barry, give the kayakers some of your shoes

They may have no shoes and no money when they arrive in the next 24 hours in New Plymouth but who cares ? The early Polynesians arrive barefooted after their early kayak voyages. The people of New Plymouth are generous and will lavish them with hospitality and at least give them a pair of shoes each. I am watching the countdown on crossing the ditch website and they have paddled 1.05 km in the time it took me to drink my tea. Two Bangladesh wickets fell during that time in the test match at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.
With many of us still reeling today after the death of Sir Ed yesterday, I couldn’t help but think how he would have approved of the raw courage, determination and doggedness of Justin Jones, 24, and James Castrission, 25, as they close in on New Plymouth.

They were deeply moved last night when they sighted Mt Taranaki about an hour before sunset last night.

At 0700 Jakarta time, 1300 NZ time, they had cracked the 60 km mark, with 59.9 km to go. This is real adventure bought into your living room or office. For me it is a small office on the 19th floor of an apartment in Jakarta.

During their last broadcast the two kayakers said it was a starry night, with calm seas "and the lights of New Plymouth are starting to twinkle".
The sighting followed a vexing two days in which winds and currents turned them round in a loop to the north, when they were actually trying to paddle southwest to reach New Plymouth.

My brother Barry McKerrow and my two nephews Sean and James are surfers and have been sending me the sea, current and wind conditions during the past two days so I feel I am out with James and Justin. I am going to call Barry in a few minutes and see if they can take a few pair of shoes down to the harbour to give to James and Justin.

How times have changed since Paul Caffyn our famous New Zealand Kayaker did the first circumnavigation of Australia in around 360 days, There were no bugles, no drums and virtually no publicity for Caffyn when he finished all his major kayaking adventures..

Technology, and I am proud to say it is from a company, TracPlus, in my home town Dunedin, is able to track them every centimeter of the way.

Yesterday they stayed in the tiny cabin of their 9m kayak until the wind became more favourable, and put themselves back on full food rations, after halving their daily meals 30 days from mid-December. They began paddling again about 3pm.
"The guys are so frustrated at today's progress they have decided to paddle into the night," Mr Brothers said after the sighting of Mt Taranaki-Egmont. "They are steaming for NZ".
The pair have already covered more than 3000km, weaving across the Tasman on a trip which was planned to take 42 days to cover about 2200km on an approximate straight-line route.

As I conclude this piece, another wicket has fallen in the test match and they have only 58.55 km to go.

C’mon James and Justin. Bloody great efforts guys.

Thanks to the Daily News in New Plymouth for the photo ( I sent an email asking for permission)

Sir Ed a second Dalai Lama

I found it a fascinating and emotional day. Being a holiday I watched TV and scanned websites and the overwhelming reports on Sir Edmund Hillary were astounding. Best, I believe was CNN who gave such brilliant coverage. The quote I like the best was from a Nepali politician who said Sir Hillary "was like a second Dalai Lama."

It is a comment that Ed would have either rocked with laughter or modestly said, " he is a greater man than me."

In Jakarta we have cafe called the Everest Cafe. Tomorrow we are going to have a wake, The Cafe/bar is owned by Anish Shakya. The walls are draped with photos of Everest and nepal. We will think a lot about Sir Ed. My Nepali friends here are very emotional about his death. A secong Dalai Lama? I am sure Ed will find another role in the next life.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary Dies

I woke up early this morning to check the progress of the two young Australians kayaking across the Tasman to see the headline 'Sir Edmund Hillary dies.'

My first thoughts were 'the mighty Kauri has fallen.' What an amazing role model he was for my generation. I remember my dear Mother reading me the story of Tenzing and his ascent of Everest out of a National Geographic and I was thrilled by it. At 15 I bought his book High Adventure and met him for the first time in 1975 in Kathmandu, shortly after the tragic death of his wife and daughter. I met him a number of times after that. He was always direct, humble and strong in his opinions. He was generous of his time and spirit. I remember him agreeing to be patron of our 1986 North Pole expedition and again in 2003, agreeing to write a Foreword to my book on Ebenezet Teichelmann. A truly generous man.

The last time I met him was on a street corner in Delhi on a sweltering May day, 44 oC, in 2003. There he was in a suit and tie to inaugurate Tenzing Norgay Marg (street) and Sir Edmund Hillary Marg as part of the 50th celebrations of the first ascent of Everest. The New Zealand High Commission is aptly situated in Sir Edmund Hillary Marg. That was the High Commission that Robert Muldoon closed down much to the disgust of so many Indians and New Zealanders. I was so inspired to see Ed that afternoon, that I wrote a poem that night.

A sad day for New Zealand. The big Kauri's memory lives on and will continue to inspire future generations. My aroha and sympathy go out to his family.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

126.13 KM to go. Kayaking the Tasman Sea

What can you really say, except sit in awe as you look at the map on crossing the ditch website ? As I write Justin Jones and James Castrission probably have around 100 km to go to reach New Plymouth and on arrival,will be the first people to complete an Australia to New Zealand kayak journey across the unforgiving Tasman Sea.

I have found the website brilliant and it has brought the dangers, fears, tears, frustration, pain,joys and beauty into my appartment in Jakarta. I have felt I have been doing it with them as the live updates, maps and news put you right in the kayak with the boys. Check the website out:

I have ordered my brother who lives in New Plymouth to get out there and greet them when they arrive over the weekend. He is on strict instruction to take some good photos and to send them to me.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting I had a crack with Paul Caffyn to do this trip in 1989 as well as doing a lot of solo kayaking over the years, and can really identify with these two brave and modest guys.

Justin and James, I will pray for a safe arrival and you are a real inspiration to an aging kayaker.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Tribute to Anton Wopereis

I received a very moving comment from cragrat, a close friend of Antons, who said:

I have just got back from Antons service in Wanaka - yet another Wanaka memorial gathering of old friends to celebrate old friends passing.

I was sorting out slides before the service and suddenly realised that I had probably climbed more peaks with Anton than with any of my other friends - from peaks at the head of the Murchison glacier (NZ) on a ski touring trip in the early 1980's - Phyllis, Acland, Broderick, Mannering and Cooper - back then Anton couldn't ski !!

.... to a summer Chamonix in 1986 - Aig du Moine, Aig d'Argentiere, Aig du Peigne, Nth spur Aig du Chardonnet, two of the best days in the hills ever where we climbed the Frontier ridge on Mt Maudit and next day the Brenva spur on Mt Blanc (with Jen) back to a huge feed of icecream (but the weather stopped us getting onto the Matterhorns Nth Face)

.... then there was some cragging at Smith Rocks in the US - with Julie Brugger, Todd Bibler and Beth Wald.... some summits in Peru - Artesonraju (with Roger Gocking and Thor) and Chopikalki and backing off the West Ridge of Santa Cruz before we really started because it didn't feel right to me at the time.

Unfortunately we hadn't seen one another lately so the goodbyes were even harder...

that such a small slip and small blow to the temple should have taken such a solid mountaineer will always make me wonder on the vagaries of life. Thanks for those wonderful days Anton.

January 7, 2008 8:32 PM

Monday, 7 January 2008

Kayaking the Tasman Sea

I listened this morning utterly fascinated at being able to tune in to Justin Jones reporting on their progress in attempting to be the first people to kayak across the Tasman Sea.

James Castrission, 25, and Justin Jones, 24, left Australia on November 18 heading for Auckland but have struggled strong headwinds, mechanical failures, powerful currents and now, bruised with and sore bodies, they appear to be rapidly running out of energy. deteriorating. (photo above of the start)

This morning their progress chart was showing they were 167.83 kilometres out from New Zealand with a predicted landing at New Plymouth on 13 January 2008, as currents drag them south. Yesterday landing at Cornwallis Beach in the Manukau, was an option but no longer.
Listening to Justin today, you can hear and feel the end of trip lethargy and depression setting in as he says, “it is a bleak grey day” and “we have to grind it out.” But again, you can feel patches of sharpness as he says “ we have to stay focused.”

Referring to their state of health, expedition spokesman Tom Mitchell said.
"There are certain health issues that have come up."
"They have continuing skin infections, deterioration in the legs."
While the men have exercises that they are meant to do regularly for their legs, they are often too exhausted to do them properly.
"They have a lack of muscle co-ordination from not standing up for a long time," he said.
"It's definitely an issue that will become apparent once the boys attempt to walk on ground again. Go to to read more:

But I can’t get that haunting picture out of my mind of Andrew McAuley’s partner crying as she kneeled on his upturned kayak. Paddling by day, drifting at night when he slept in a protective cocoon, McAuley, 39, crossed 1500 kilometres of ocean. On Friday, February 9, 2007, he was within 30 nautical miles or 54 kilometres of the South Island of New Zealand, close enough to take photos of high mountains.
Some time the next day, he expected to make landfall and achieve a long-held ambition to become the first man to take a kayak across the Tasman Sea. At 7.15pm, the New Zealand Coastguard picked up an almost indecipherable distress signal from a vessel that identified itself as Kayak 1. There were two clear words: "help" and "sinking". Then silence.
The following evening, his upturned seven-metre kayak was seen from the air. It was recovered but McAuley's body has never been found, and it is believed he drowned in 15-degree water when the kayak capsized while he was asleep. My prayers and thoughts go out to Justin and James for a safe landing.

Then there was the other trans-Tasman rowing success on the second last day of 2007 when Steven Gates, Andrew Johnson, Kerry Tozer and Sally Macready arrived in Australia on December 30 after completing a trans-Tasman row in 31 days. They set out from Hokianga Harbour, north of Auckland, on November 29.

And another wonderful kayaking achievement was by the German kayaker Freya Hoffmeister who became the first woman to paddle around the South Island.
Hoffmeister returned to Okiwi Bay near Nelson a few weeks back, setting a new record of 70 days for the 2500km trip and finished with a flourish, doing two rolls as onlookers cheered and opened a bottle of bubbles.

"I feel well done, like a good steak," Hoffmeister said as she climbed out of her trusty black kayak and patted her butt. "I want a shower and dry clothes, but first I must go for a swim."
The 43-year-old then floated on her back, stretching her tired muscles.
She had paddled the final 169km through the night from Big River east of Kahurangi Point on the West Coast, taking 10-second power naps. She had planned to rest overnight at Farewell Spit but decided to keep going and with a tail wind reached Okiwi Bay at 3pm.
West Coaster Paul Caffyn, the first kayaker to circumnavigate the South Island, was there to hug Hoffmeister, who beat his record by six days.
"It's an outstanding accomplishment," said Caffyn. "I don't think there is anybody with quite the same 100 per cent determination for achieving a trip like this.
"You have to be so strong mentally as well as having the physical skills."
Christchurch kayaker Fiona Fraser, who greeted Hoffmeister with a pavlova, said: "She is so brave and inspirational. She has battled huge seas, doing 60 or 70km some days."

Adventure in New Zealand

Caption: Starting a ski run from Pioneer Pass, down the Fox neve and glacier.

In 1994, I was asked to write an article on Adventure in New Zealand for a friend who was starting up a new magazine. I am not sure whether it was ever published so thought I would put it on the blog as a reference document

In a country where its normal to jump off bridges with rubber bands tied to your ankles, raft in dark underground caves, get dumped with skis by helicopters on mountain tops and go paragliding from local hilltops or scoff champagne breakfasts in a hot-air balloons, its no wonder that 71% of our visitors are coming to our shores specifically to share our outdoor experiences. And being a nation upholding the notion of "Manakitanga", the Maori word describing the relationship between caring and sharing, we're happy to share our treasures and care for you. Whether you want a wet and dirty time in Waitomo or a white, pristine experience in the Glacier region of New Zealand, adventures in Aotearoa can guarantee to keep your adrenaline pumping all day<

We're perched on the top of an 8000 ha skifield. Roy my ski mountaineering guide and I are the only ones here today. At just a spit below 3000 metres on Pioneer Pass, half of my skis are in Canterbury, the other half in Westland. Within a few kilometres and not much higher than us are New Zealand highest mountains: Aoraki (Mt. Cook), Tasman, Dampier, Douglas, Haast, Lendenfeld, Torres, Vancouver, Malaspina, Graham and Teichelmann; named after early navigators and explorers. Dropping below my bootsoles on the western side of the Southern Alps are 8000 ha of seldom skied snow fields of the Fox and neighbouring Franz Josef glacier neves. Looking further we see rapidly advancing rivers of ice, glaciers grinding the bedrock to dust as they slither through primeval rainforests on their way to the rough and messy Tasman Sea, less than 20 km away. Turning to the east on Pioneer Pass we look onto the mighty Tasman Glacier.

My gut knots. My fingers tingle as the adrenaline begins to pump. I have a nervous pee. We're going to ski a minimum of 1500 vertical metres in the next hour. Roy Smith, my guide from Fox Glacier village, coolly leads off, carrying an array of emergency equipment that fills a large back pack. The run begins with a blood rushing drop under cirques where we carve through soft, crisp powder snow leaving a plume of snow arching behind. Next we ski around bergshrunds and weave through crevasses with my heart pumping all the way as my knees object to their role as shock absorbers. We careen over steep and endless snowfields before reaching the top of Chancellor ridge overlooking the spectacular Fox Glacier. Sweating and breathless we look back to the patterns we have etched in the snow and marvel at the absence of human beings. Resting, we look up at Mt. Tasman, known to the Maori as Horokoau, the white shag drying its wings.. An American mate of mine Leo Geary parapented off the top of Tasman four years ago and boasted "it was the best jump he had in his life." So far this has been the best ski run of my life .

Roy points out the route to Chancellor Hut, a small wooden mountain refuge perched on a narrow ridge where we will be staying the night. Ten minutes later after a steep descent to the hut, we are snugly ensconced inside as the primus roars away. Out the window is a jumbled mass of ice slithering its way through dark green rainforest, then melting and joining a rough emerald coloured ocean. Our solitude is interrupted by scratching sounds on the roof. "It must be a Kea," says Roy. I go outside to see a cheeky green and red alpine parrot hanging by his beak from a guy-rope. He then hops onto my skis and begins pecking at the bindings. This fellow wants to wreck my skis. I shout at him to fly away. Inside Roy is calling Colin Tuck, the local helicopter pilot to pick us up in 15 minutes for a ride to Pioneer Hut, situated about 1200 metres above us, for another ski run.
At 46 years of age, a few of my old rugby injuries are playing up and I balk at another hard run. Roy, some years younger than me, initially chides me and then encourages me to have another go. This is another dream run which starts with a very steep descent from Pioneer Hut down the icy stretch called the nose-dive before striking superb powder where I am able to sit back and carve and roll on my skis as if I'm surfing down a water pipe. What a life. The scenery is overpowering and basically elemental. Going beyond the snowline engenders a survival mentality and shears life back to its basic elements. Food, shelter, warmth become my main thoughts as well as overwhelming feelings of uncontrolled excitement and enjoyment.
This was my playground in the late 1960's where I learnt to climb and ski hard. And at the pubs at Fox and Franz I learnt to play hard after weeks of pitting myself against the peaks, passes and snowfields. I love this region - a region of high mountains, limitless and snowfields, wild rivers, dark and exciting caves, rough coastline and Gondwanaland forests - so much that in 1990 I gave up an inner-city Auckland life-style and moved here permanently with Joan and our five daughters. It is now my back yard.
There are over 3200 glaciers in my back yard. Here I've taught my daughters to ski, climb, raft and kayak. After school they ride their horses along remote beaches and laugh at the killer waves mocking them. Here you feel the freedom of life, the freedom to choose your adventure, an inner peace and harmony with nature. To start the 1995 year, I canoed with my two youngest daughters to the far end Lake Kaniere where we camped, swam and caught eels under the shadow of the snow-capped southern alps.. At midnight of 31 December 1994 by a roaring log fire we drank champagne, ate freshly cooked eels and toasted to an adventurous 1995. Four days later I climbed Mt. Rolleston with close friends in the Arthurs Pass National Park and regretted leaving our skis behind as some young skiers shushed past us on the descent thumbing their noses at us. Yes it is possible to ski all year round in New Zealand.

In the late 1960's there was only one fledging mountain guiding company at Mount Cook and that was the extent of our adventure tourism business as we now call it.

But looking back through early Maori history in New Zealand there are scores of legends and stories of great adventures; canoe voyages from Polynesia to New Zealand, long overland treks and month long river trips in large canoes. One carefully recorded adventure tourism undertaking is about a Maori adventurer, Ekehu. He was paid for the longest ever journey recorded in New Zealand's history. Starting in 1846 Ekehu led an Englishman, Thomas Brunner on a 500 day adventure from Nelson down to the West Coast of the South Island and return. Brunner had few outdoor skills and on this epic Ekehu taught his client how to canoe, to raft, the climb cliffs using home-plaited ropes, to live off the land, rivers and sea, and most importantly, how to walk bare-footed. At one stage in the Buller Gorge when they had run out of food, Brunner was moved to write in his diary, " Today, I ate my dog." Such was the love and respect that Brunner had for his guide Ekehu he wrote at the end of the journey, " To Ekehu, I owe my life."

The food has improved since 1846 and if you're a glutton for adrenaline rushes, New Zealand can offer it all with more home comforts than those early days. John Woods, Editor of the New Zealand Adventure magazine gives a statistical overview of what there is to do. "In 1994 there were 377 adventure tourism operators or outdoor providers and there are probably another 300 to 400 smaller operators - many of them part-time and struggling to make a living."

A number of the world's bizarre adventure pursuits were started by New Zealanders. Bungy jumping was the invention of Queenstown's AJ Hackett, whose multi-national bungy jumping business has its world headquarters in Queenstown. Hackett's story is a classic rag to riches one with his business flourishing in France, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Black-water (cave) rafting was founded in 1987 by John Ash and Peter Chandler who run the very successful Black Water Rafting company at Waitomo Caves

The world's first kayak, cycle and mountain running` triathlon, the Coast to Coast where the art of self-flagellation was perfected by Robin Judkins in devising a crazy endurance event that takes the adventurer from one side of New Zealand to the other over the Southern Alps in one day. Or if you aren't so fit, you can try the two individual event or the two-day teams event.

With a limit of 650 competitors the race is held on the first or second weekend in February each year .First run in 1983, the event is a sell-out each year with hundreds on the waiting list. The spectacular course starts on the West Coast's Kumara Beach with a short sprint to cycles. A 60km ride takes the competitor to the Deception River for a gut-busting 26km mountain run through Goat Pass. Following the run is a 15km cycle to the start of the 67km kayak section down the Waimakariri River. From the river the final section is a 70km to Christchurch's Sumner Beach.

With such a finger-tingling adrenaline smorgasbord of adventure where do you start ?

My advice is to grab a copy of the New Zealand's adventure bible, the 'NZ Adventure Annual and Directory of the Outdoors.' It contains all the outdoor adventure options in the country.

It divides New Zealand into 18 geographical regions and has an index starting with bungy jumping and finishes with walking. As you travel around New Zealand look for the VIN signs, it has a green with the words "VISITOR INFORMATION NETWORK" These offices provide up to the minute information on a huge range of adventure activities and facilities.

If you're like me and hate going in a group or having other people organise your life, you can just start cruising when you arrive in-country and follow your nose. Whether you end up in Northland or in Stewart Island, the extremities of New Zealand, you'll find something to your liking. If you get hopelessly lost go to the nearest pub to the public bar and say " I'll have, ah, our beer." That should get you a free beer and possibly a free bed on someone's couch for the night while you reconsider your options. You can choose to veer off the beaten track or travel to the more publicised/recognised adventure centres of Waitomo, Queenstown, Wanaka, Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, Taupo, Tongariro, Twizel or Mt. Cook where you'll find something off-beat to whet your appetite for more. Don't hurry, enjoy the trail. Wasn't it the great American western novelist Louis L'amour who said, "It ain't what you see at the end of the journey that's important but what you see along the trail."

The list of off-beat nerve tingling pursuits is never ending. Sand boarding the dunes of Northland's beautiful coastline is a thrilling experience as is white-water sledging with a mad Frenchman with an unlikely company name of 'Frogz Have More Fun' on Queenstown's wild Kawarau River. It involves holding onto a miniature surfboard and shooting river rapids. The French tell us white water sledging is a French invention and they brought it to New Zealand, but we don't want to deflate their ego by telling them we've been doing it for years. Tramping, New Zealand's equivalent to Australia's bush walking or America's back packing, is a tough outdoor activity where rugged individuals often go into the rugged hills and mountain with food and outdoor gear for up to three weeks. As at teenager three week trips were the norm and often when we got stuck at the head of a sheer-sided river gorge, we'd make our canvas packs as water tight as possible and using our pack as a flotation device, we'd run the gauntlet and float or sledge through the gorge. And often like the Rainbow warrior, our packs would get holes ripped in them by fair or foul means, and we'd begin to sink.

New Zealand has an extraordinary range of surf beaches in both islands and have led to a whole sub-culture of nomadic surfies and others who think nothing of quitting whatever they are doing to drive for hours at the mere rumour of a good swell brewing. Writing about the surfing options in New Zealand is a book yet to be written. If you want more information look for the nearest car with a surfboard on the rack.

Like our love for the sea, New Zealanders are fast becoming a river crazy nation as the number of kayakers, canoeists and rafters increase dramatically. We have produced a beavy of world class white water kayakers who were raised on a diet of wild-water and spine-tingling rapids and water-falls. So if you are looking for some dramatic white-water rafting or kayaking there are a host of options to choose from short one hour trips to five day journeys.

It is our love of the outdoors, strong physique and the thrill of pushing ourselves beyond our own self-imposed limitations that as a nation we began to gain international fame for our adventure exploits. New Zealanders hold heaps of records that have faded into dog-eared record books. Few people remember Naomi James achievement in the late 1970's as a young women she became the first women to sail round the world solo. Since then New Zealander's have taken on the world in ocean racing and are becoming a force to reckon with in the America's Cup.

Mt. Everest, the measuring stick of a persons endurance, stickability and mental toughness is littered with records unconsciously set by New Zealanders. Ed Hillary, the bee-keeper from next door was the first man to climb Everest, Lydia Brady the first women to climb Everest solo, Rob Hall the first non-Sherpa to climb Everest 4 times. Only last year one of our top Maori mountaineers, Mark Whetu of Queenstown climbed Mt. Everest for the second time with Mike Rheinberger, a 52 years old Australian. As they left the summit, Rheinberger showed signs of physical exhaustion, exposure and couldn't go any further.. The pair spent a night on the summit of Everest and Whetu displayed one of the greatest feats of courage in the history on mountaineering, trying to save his dying mate Risking his life, he stayed with Rheinberger through the night, but next morning Whetu had to make a life-saving decision for himself, leaving his partner close to death near the summit. Whetu managed to get off the mountain alive, but some weeks later on his return to New Zealand had all his toes amputated.

A few weeks later he was back managing his Queenstown-based adventure tourism business, Mountain Works.

Due to the vast experience gained both overseas and in New Zealand, our adventure tourism operators have brought a high standard of safety into amateur pursuits that were once considered a little risky in the past. With professional bodies like the NZ Mountain Guides Association which holds stringent examinations to international standards and require years of progressive experiences, the risk factor is kept in the 'act of God' compartment. While bungy jumping looks dangerous to the first-timer, the operatorshave exceedingly high safety standards and checking systems second to none.

I know some of you have been waiting for elaboration on my earlier reference to a wet and dirty experience. In confidence, I can give you my contacts in the New Zealand underground. Most of these murky experiences such as a trip to the Haggas Honking Holes at Waitomo is a ripper. Haggas Honking Holes is about fun and lots of mud and water. Four underground abseils are needed before crawling your way through sticky mud and worming your way through a tight hole, called the Pooh Hole - the A.A. Milne type of Pooh. The four and a half hour journey slowly makes its way upwards to ground level before climbing steep rockfaces and ladders through sparkling water falls. If you still itching for more fun, you can cap off your trip to Waitomo with a black water rafting trip, floating on inflated inner tubes through underground caverns, jumping down waterfalls

At Waitomo there is also the possibility to go rafting on the beautiful Mokau River, a three and a half hour white water rafting trip on exciting grade four water and to visit the glow-worm caves, one of New Zealand's great natural wonders. Here, you are in the heart of Maori country, steeped in an ancient history and culture. Take time out to learn something of the first New Zealanders.

If you find that a dirty and wet weekend at Waitomo hasn't fully satisfied the thrill seeker in you, head to the South Island for the Stiff Nipple Triple at Franz Josef or the Awesome Foursome at Queenstown. The 'Awesome Foursome' is still the world's most wicked adrenaline trip which is made up of a roller coaster helicopter ride, a 240 ft bungy jump, a high speed jet boat ride and capped off with a spine-tinkling rafting trip, all in one day.

No trip to New Zealand is complete without a bungy jump. Suicide without death is a common description of this home-grown adventure. There are a number of bungy companies operating in tourist centres in both the North and South Islands. There is nothing comparable to AJ Hackett's operation at the historic Skippers suspension bridge. It takes budding thrill seekers about 90 minutes to drive to the site through spectacular river gorge country to one of the most wildest and remote settings. This is the highest bungy jump in New Zealand, 71 metres above the raging Shotover River. The hardest part, apart from paying the price, is when you're standing on the platform with a single rubber cord tied to your ankles, is willing yourself to jump.

The most beautiful spot to be early morning in New Zealand is on the South Island's wild West Coast beaches. Take an early drive down to Gillespies Beach (near Fox Glacier) or Waiho Beach ( near Franz Josef) and look at the white snaking form of the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. You can gaze across cattle- studded farmland, primeval podocarp rain forests, the glaciers, snow fields and to New Zealand's highest mountains. As you gaze to the mountaintops, the Tasman sea dumps huge waves at your feet, reminding you are not important on natures canvas. At Franz Josef glacier the guiding company can offer a 'Stiff Nipple Triple,' which starts with a guided trip on the glacier, an exhilarating glacier rafting trip down the Waiho river ,the freezing melt water from the glacier. The triple is finished with a superb helicopter flight over some of the world's best scenery.

I have walked nearly every inch of this landscape and after nearly thirty years of coming back regularly to get to know it more, I decided a few years back to see the landscape from the sea as the early Maori explorers such as Tutoko and Werita Tainui, and European explorers Abel Tasman (1742) and James Cook (1769) had. But the sea has been described by many great sailors as the roughest in the world. My plan was to kayak the coastline from Gillespies beach to Okarito, about 30 kms by sea. I got one of mates Kevin Baker, a glacier guide at Fox Glacier to join me with his surf ski, and me in my sea kayak. As we stood on the beach watching ginormous waves pounding the beach, local resident Mark Shaw came up and said, "You won't get through that surf boys." I knew we would prove the old bugger wrong. We watched, waiting and sussed out the waves patterns; every 20 or so a few calm seconds. To the horror of old Mark, who must be knocking on 80, we sneaked through before the next monster creamed us into oblivion. I was shitting myself and having an adrenaline coronary but once through the breakers, we relaxed and paddled parallel to the coastline. There lay before a landscape that Kevin described as gobsmacking. Words fail me in describing the sea to mountain vista.
A turquoise wind rippled sea joined green velvet rainforest with the whitest and highest mountains in the country. It makes a man wonder who made it all.

Sea kayaking is becoming one of the fastest growing adventure activities in New Zealand. You can choose between the security of a sea kayaking company, or if you're good, paddle with equally competent friends. In the 1994 New Zealand Adventure Annual and Directory there are 69 canoe/kayak operators listed, a number of them specialising in sea kayaking. Some of the greatest buzzes I've ever had in the outdoors is kayaking in big surf or on ocean journeys where you are battling against constantly changing rips, tidal streams and winds.

After kayaking across Cook Strait, that notorious stretch of water separating the North and South Islands, three times in two months in 1988, a double crossing and a solo crossing, I teamed up with the el supremo of world kayaking, Paul Caffyn, and went to Australia to attempt to be the first people to kayak from Australia to New Zealand. Caffyn is undoubtedly the best sea kayaker in the world. His marathon journeys include the first to kayak around New Zealand, Australia (350 days), Great Britain, Japan and most recently, he became the first person to kayak the whole coastline of Alaska.

After a failed first attempt to cross the Tasman Sea we came back to Hobart for a second try and had a detention order slapped on us by the Tasmanian Police, forbidding us to go to sea again as our kayak did not meet the requirements for sea-going vessels.
If we broke the order we were liable for a $5000 fine and a stint in prison. Knowing of Australia's early penal history and their barbaric treatment of convicts, we abandoned the attempt. So that's a challenge awaiting another devious sea kayaker.

For a memorable cultural, canoeing experience, nothing can beat a leisurely three to five day paddle down the historic Whanganui River. At every bend there is a story waiting to be told by experienced guides who know every mood and tale of the river. You can stop and places like Pipiriki, Jerusalem, 'Bridge to Nowhere' and linger for a day or two. Rivers have ruled the lives of so many New Zealanders, but nowhere as much as those hardy Maori people who live in scattered communities along the banks of the Whanganui.

There are blood rushing adventures round every corner in New Zealand waiting for you to discover.You may wonder why I haven't described the activities in fine detail ? There is nothing worse than someone taking away what is going to be your adventure of a life time. I don't want to rob you of your personal sense of self discovery and the thrill of not knowing what is round the next corner.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Lenin discovered in Antarctica

My wife and parents-in-law are from the former Soviet Union and I recall a few years back walking in Nehru Park in New Delhi with them, and they were so thrilled to see a huge statue of Lenin. My father-in-law remarked, "they are taking them down in the old Soviet Union, but outside they respect history and the past."

Well Lenin is still braving the coldest temperatures in the world in Antarctica, and his bust is reminding the rare visitors of a once glorious past of the Soviet Union.

Scientists trekking across a little visited part of Antarctica last week have discovered a bizarre relic of the Soviet Union is dominating the South Pole of Inaccessibility.

In the middle of no-where – literally the point on Antarctica furthest from the sea – an imposing bust of revolutionary Bolshevik Vladimir Lenin peers out onto the polar emptiness.

A Norwegian-US Scientific Traverse met Lenin this week while nearly a thousand kilometres to the south another group were "moving" the South Pole – literally.

A barber's pole marks the actual spot but the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station sits on top of a moving ice-sheet - so the Pole moves.

The Inaccessibility Pole marks the point on Antarctica that is furthest from the ocean. At 3718 metres above sea-level it is in the Australian zone and seldom visited.

The Scientific Traverse this week made it to the Inaccessibility Pole for New Year's Day and found a one time Soviet Union base buried under the ice.

The group's website says Soviet scientists first visited the Pole in December 1958 and built a small cabin there.

After several weeks they left, putting the bust of Lenin on top of the chimney facing Moscow.

"Today the bust is clearly visible from many kilometres away, and remains as they left it on the chimney, although the cabin itself is buried under the snow," the explorers say.

The current expedition plans to leave something more substantial in the form of an automatic weather station. They will also drill a 90 metre ice core.

One of the drillers, Lou Albershardt, told an US website that they took six weeks to reach the pole, noticing Lenin from a long way out.

They all speculated on what the bust might have been made out of; marble or concrete.
“You wouldn’t believe it. He’s plastic,” he said.

Lenin died in 1924 and his corpse was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square.

The old Soviet base sits at 82 degrees six minute south, 54 degrees 58 minutes east. The pole's actual position is disputed around how to define the coast to the north.

The Inaccessibility Pole is around 878 kilometres from the South Pole.

At the South Pole a ceremony was held this week to move the Pole and put in a marker on the spot that the pole had been.

The US Antarctic Program said in a statement the new marker was designed by base machinist Derek Aboltins. His design has 54 grooves around the edge, one for each of the 2007 winter-over staff.

The diamond shaped emblem on top replicates an old sign that used to be displayed on the old gymnasium before it was torn down. The resulting marker resembles a gear, similar to those that turn the new South Pole Telescope.

The station sits on a glacier which moves about 10 metres per year, so every January 1 a brass marker designating exactly 90 degrees South is placed