Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category

A Restored Mountain Hut Getaway with Good Energy

11/01/2012

A New Zealand Farmer Does Good by Following His Passion

Tom O'Brien of High Country Walks

Tom O’Brien, owner of Blackmore Farm and founder of High Country Walks has followed his passion by offering up a little hut on the back side of his 5000 acre farm. Called the Chinaman’s Hut, it was restored some years ago, by local volunteers, Tom and his father. The hut is situated on the rolling mountains of the Slate Range,  just south of the Remarkables Mountains, on the border of Otago and Southland. Tom took the afternoon to show me his farm, the backcountry and the Chinaman’s Hut. below is a short piece on the hut, and a chat with Tom about his philosophy and passion of sharing this part of the world with others.We’re in hopes, here at Mountain Spirit Institute of collaborating with Tom by running some programs on the Slate Range and Blackmore Farm. We chatted about providing Solo’s and other types of programs.
Thanks for the time you took to show me around Tom!
Note: I’ve met one of the volunteers who helped restore the Chinaman’s Hut, a neighbor of ours here in Kingston named Dusty, who I’ll see if I can get on tape in the next few days. He has an interesting story to tell of not only this restoration project by many others.

How do You Move?

29/11/2011

Andrew Lees - Moves!

3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage… all to turn 3 ambitious linear concepts based on movement, learning and food ….into 3 beautiful and hopefully compelling short films….. = a trip of a lifetime.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Along the Road to Milford Sound, NZ

01/11/2011

Nothing to see here, keep moving..

Milford Sound is renowned for its world class beauty, its fjords, hikes, and waterfalls, wildlife and dramatic alpine terrain. It’s something to put on your “must do” list, despite its popularity with so many that come to New Zealand. However, the drive through (and under) the mountains,  on NZ Highway 97 and its  the 1270 meter Homer Tunnel also got my attention. I’m looking forward to getting out into the Darran Mountains soon, where there’s granite and lots alpine adventure to be had.

A sense of perspective and vertical relief from our sunroof

A sense of perspective and vertical relief from our sunroof

We took a day off, and drove over to Milford last month, and thought we’d share a few images.

Heading back to Kingston, we caught a glimpse of the wind farm, which is somewhat controversial in this area, and stopped to take an image of the huge blades above the fields of sheep.

Yep, we did get out of the car, these are just some images taken along the road. More on the backcountry and Milford Sound in another post.

Windmills in New Zealand

The Ugly American Turns Beautiful

18/09/2011

Outsourced - A great source for cultural awareness

Outsourced
By R Richards
Says one movie critic about the movie Outsourced, “It does for cultural differences with humor, what ‘Crash’ did with intensity and violence.” I found it to be a wonderful treatise on the Ugly American turned good. Using the metaphor of outsourcing, Yankees are forced, through humor, to reassess the American way of life.  According to United States Government Accountability Office, about 28 percent of the U.S. population has a passport, and the main character in Outsourced is no different. But he eventually awakens with his first trip to India to learn not only about a rich country, but about himself.  See this movie.

Outsourced is a modern day comedy of cross-cultural conflict and romance. Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton) spends his days managing a customer call center in Seattle until his job, along with those of the entire office, are outsourced to India. Adding insult to injury, Todd must travel to India to train his new replacement. As he navigates through the chaos of Bombay and an office paralyzed by constant cultural misunderstandings, Todd yearns to return to the comforts of home. But it is through his team of quirky yet likable Indian call center workers, including his friendly and motivated replacement, Puro (Asif Basra), and the charming, opinionated Asha (Ayesha Dharker), that Todd realizes that he too has a lot to learn – not only about India and America, but about himself. He soon discovers that being outsourced may be the best thing that ever happened to him.

See the Trailer

Outsourced debuted with its world premiere at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, and following a successful run at festivals around the world, ShadowCatcher Entertainment, the production company behind Outsourced, has chosen to distribute the film independently in select theaters around the US and on DVD

Three Good Websites

14/08/2011

From Mountain Cams worldwide and Avalanche Forecasting to Sending Money, here are a few sites I’ve come across lately

While it’s a bit too focused on the frontcountry scene, the worldwide reports and  list of snowcams can’t be beat.  Check out MountainWatch.com for snow conditions, news and forecasts.

Avalanche.org

Avalanche.org is what your really want to get access to local avi conditions worldwide. With a click, you can jump from North America to New Zealand and zero in on your region before you head out.

Xoom.com

On a completely different note, I just stumbled upon what appears like a good site for transferring money. MoneyGram only works if you’re in the U.S and God bless Western Union for being around longer than Greyhound, but their online system has never worked for me, and by god, they’re expensive. So check out Xoom.com, it’s who I’ll be using the next time I need to send some funds across the ocean blue.

Limiting Machu Picchu Visits?

01/08/2011

Machu Picchu ©Mtnspirit.org

Peru Gov’t looks to increase visitor limit to Machu Picchu
From: Andean Air Mail & PERUVIAN TIMES
Peru’s Ministry of Tourism and Foreign Trade said Tuesday that a recent study supports more than doubling the number of visitors to Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca citadel perched on a mountain top in Cusco region.

Currently, the daily limit on tourists that can enter the Machu Picchu site is set at 2,200. According to state news agency Andina, the ministry’s study suggests the citadel can withstand 5,479 visitors a day. This would allow Machu Picchu, a World Heritage Site, to receive approximately 2 million tourists a year.

The study is in direct contrast to the opinion of UNESCO, read the rest of this story..

Loving Linquistics

07/07/2011

By R. Richards

You probably know about Google Translator but I thought I’d briefly write about it here, just in case you’ve never used it. If  you haven’t, check it out.

Use this to write to friends old and new in foriegn lands

It’s a great tool for reaching out across cultures and languages to those you may have met while doing your overseas expedition, and kept their address but never wrote to them because of the language barrier. It also features on-the-fly translation for those using gmail, and for other email clients, quick cut and past from the website into emails works effortlessly.

I must admit, my Spanish grammar isn’t the best, (I’ve been told I speak “Tarzan Spanish”). One of these days, I’ll get my conjugations down, but for now, in order to write a somewhat grammatically correct email to my friends in Peru, I admit it, I often use Google Translator.

Another cool site I stumbled upon yesterday is Freelang.net where I found a free downloadable Quechua English Dictionary. How cool is that?

I’m sure this  particular dictionary hasn’t been around that long, so I was excited to see and download it. It works quite well. I haven’t checked out the other languages but you can, at  here.

So get out there and start writing to someone, anyone and bridge the language gap. Enjoy.

Elitism in the Mountains

27/05/2011

By R. Richards

The "Lodge" at Routeburn!

Fellow MSI board member Bob Stremba and I recently decided to spend a  couple of days on New Zealand’s Routeburn walk, one of the famous tracks in the Southern Alps. We did it last week, during the shoulder season so there were only a handful of people on the trail. But I can imagine the numbers grow exorbitantly during the summer months. Fair enough, that’s how New Zealand has decided to funnel foreign hikers, and showcase tourism into a few of the well-known tramps. Milford Sound not far away is another.

Hi There!

All went well, aside from a bit of rain. We met some nice hikers, one from Ireland, Australia, Switzerland and four from Canada. We stayed at the small Routeburn Flats hut, and the next day proceeded to the Routeburn Falls hut for a quick lunch break . That’s when something seemed out of place. First, the size of the Department of Conservation (DOC) hut was quite impressive, equipped to handle large amounts of hikers. I then noticed above me, and pondered what in the world, could the huge building possibly be that stood above the DOC hut? Since it was the off season, this larger upper building was closed, bit we could peek in the windows . As I approached,  a big wooden sign in front of the building called out  the “Routeburn Falls Lodge”.  I saw a smaller sign behind it, mounted on the wall stating: “Strictly Guided Walkers Only” adding “Independent walkers please continue on to the DOC Hut.”

Private Rooms for the Gentry

The irony of first class and coach system arriving in the mountains struck me immediately with the thought that there should be a sign on the DOC hut stating, “Strictly Independent Walkers, Guided hikers should continue on to the nearest Hilton”. Of  course I don’t really feel that way, but it was the first thing that came to mind. Better yet, maybe the cognoscenti should overthrow the highfalutin hut and invite the coach class to join them, (and possibly even have a food fight).

The only site I can remotely remember seeing like this was in the Alps. Of course high living gentiles are still staying in the hotels just below the faces of the Matterhorn and Eiger. The only class arrangement I can remember seeing was in the Alpine Club huts of the Alps where the mountain quide’s quarters, were separated from us chattel climbers. But this, here in New Zealand was a whole other matter. I’m sure Oliver James, author of Affluenza would be proud of most Kiwis who shun this sort of thing in their mountains. I then found my tolerance level further tested with another sign telling “independent hikers” to a) turn around, b)  march their little butts down to where they belong  c) and stay there, all with the Orwellian salutation of “Hi There!”  See the actual text in the image above.

Bob Stremba, overlooking the Backcountry (?)

I hope that “haute couture” in the backcountry stops with this hut. I’m assuming there may be others though.  Even  though this super-duper hut sits in the heart of the Routeburn,  in the real backcountry, we’re still all the same. The problem is, having such a lodge like this goes a long way in destroying the very experience the concession is trying to offer. By its very nature, it removes itself from the backcountry. It brings the virulent virus – the epidemic of affluenza to the doorstep of paradise.  Tell us what you think about allowing such multiple uses on government land such as  luxury lodges (such as this one  run by Ultimate Hikes) Is it a bad idea? Are we missing something about the land use plans of NZ?

If you’re thinking of taking a  guided hike, suggest to your guide that he put you up with the rest of us. You’ll find it much more inspiring. Also suggest that they could change their signs to a less snooty sort.

A Small World Indeed

07/03/2011

An email from some good folks in Sunapee NH
Dear Randy,
Bill and I just returned yesterday from an amazing trip to Ecuador (Galapagos Islands) and Peru (Lima, Cuzco, Machu Pichu).  Our tour group was treated to a performance by Chimu Inka at a local restaurant in Cuzco for our farewell lunch…we thoroughly enjoyed their music.

Chimu Inka photo shoot 2004

I purchased their CD but didn’t open it until we were back at our hotel.  Little did I know I’d see Sunapee, NH on the inside cover…the name Dexter didn’t ring a bell, but I suspected it was you as I recalled your last name.  Sure enough, I called Carol and she confirmed it.  Wish I’d opened the case while at the restaurant.  Our tour guide was an amazing guy, born and raised in Cuzco, G. Walter Rodriguez, in case you might know him.

They had a group of 4 dancers performing with them…I was privileged to be pulled into the dance with one of the guys…it wasn’t easy at that altitude!  But what a great memory! It was exciting to have that connection and a great memory of our trip.

My Response..

Hi Sharon,

 

Chimu Inka Album #3

Thanks for your email, and great to read your story! I do remember you both, and was thrilled to read of your experience in La Ratama restaurant with Chimu Inka. Yes…too bad you didn’t know about the connection while you were there, as the band  would have loved to know that you’re  from Sunapee, and would have given you a real local connection. They are like family to me. (more…)

The Kiwi Vagabond Travelers?

15/02/2011

Kiwis and Aussies Travel Footloose Around the Globe, Right?
Not so fast…

A Surprising Read about NZ's OE

Young Americans on their trip abroad, usually see, in amazement,  the Aussies and Kiwis on their “OE” or Overseas Expedition, as they tick off another year, another country. It’s so different than the Yankee program, where we might take a semester abroad or a summer backpacking  and Eurail trip through Europe. The Australians and Kiwis really have it good. “How do that do that?” we ask ourselves.   The article below by Anna Hart gives a perceptive glimpse into the mindset of the Kiwis and how they value an overseas expedition. This story might surprise you as it did me.
From:
Sunday Star Times Magazine

January 23, 11
By Anna Hart
This time last year, I decided to chuck in my job at a fashion magazine in London and spend a year in New Zealand. I wanted a break from the London Underground, I wanted an adventure and I wanted some sunshine. I chose New Zealand simply because every friend who had ever visited raved about the place. I was hopeful that I’d find freelance writing work over here, but if I didn’t, well, I could still remember how to froth a cappuccino. (more…)