Tongariro by air


One of the really great things about working for DOC on Mount Ruapehu is that opportunities arise to participate in some of the activities available around the Park. Last month, my planned trip to the rim of the crater lake on Mt Ruapehu was foiled by poor weather so when Mountain Air called to say they had a spare seat if anyone was interested, I was on the road immediately…DSCF7897

Even by midday this bank of cloud was still sitting just short of the base of the Mountain and more importantly for the day’s unplanned activity, just short of the end of the Chateau Airport runway.
DSCF7899Our destination…DSCF7900

Our chariot…

DSCF7903 The Mangatepopo car park in the lower right, the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing…DSCF7909

The other side of the Alpine Crossing on the long descent from the Blue Lake to the Ketetahi Carpark which is the finish point of the Crossing…DSCF7907

A small patch of cloud mingling with steam from one of the volcanic vents on the north side of Mt Tongariro…DSCF7911

A closer look down on those steam vents…


Looking west over the Blue Lake which is a bout the halfway point on the Crossing walk…DSCF7932

The Blue Lake with the Emerald Lakes on the lower left and the majestic bulk of Mt Tongariro in the background…DSCF7926

Looking closer at the Emerald Lakes with the Crossing track running from top right to lower left…DSCF7928Looking over the Emerald lakes and Red Crater towards Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). Just to the right of Red Crater, you can just make out the Crossing track: Red Crater marks the highest point on the Crossing at around 1780 metres, a good half kilometre above the 1200 metre start point at Mangetepopo…


Mt Ngauruhoe …you can’t see them but on a good day like this, there were dozens of ambitious visitors clambering their way to the summit – they said that they waved but I didn’t see them. The journey to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe is probably the most challenging of the three peaks in summer as the slopes are very steep (a constant 30 degrees), covered in loose material so that you may spend as much time sliding back as you do pushing forward, and there is always a risk of getting clocked by a rock or stone dislodged by climbers ahead of you….DSCF7968

Between Mts Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu lies Whakapapa Village, home of the Chateau Tongariro the main DOC base for administering the Park. The light coloured roofs on this side of the Village are the Skotel accommodation complex, and the tracks to the north of it run to Tama Lakes and Taranaki Falls…DSCF7993

Last but not least the splendour of Mt Ruapehu, with a glimpse of the Crater Lake. In a few months this will be covered in metres of snow but at the moment it is still relatively easy to trek up to the crater rim as a day trip form the Village.

Just after taking this picture, i switch my camera to video mode and recorded the remainder of the flight back around all three mountains and back to the airfield. I meant to convert it to MP$ and upload it to Youtube before I came away this week but I am afraid that you will have to wait until the weekend for me to get that down…

I’d really like to thank the lads at Mountain Air for taking me up. I’ve been in and out of aircraft of all sizes over the last three decades and i would have to say that their presentation and performance was as good as any other top-line aviation activity that I have been involved with. If you visit us on a nice day (and most of them are), Mountain Air offers a great way to see the Park and its attractions in a way that  a ground based perspective simply cannot match…


Tunnels, tunnels, tunnels….

I’be been sitting one this one for over a month, just waiting for a spare moment in which to get it written up in my next installment of Around and About…other things have gotten on top of me and it is only this week that I find myself with a little time on my hands and able to draw it together…

The old saying is ‘Don’t Leave Town Til You’ve Seen the Country’ and I have found myself sadly lacking in my knowledge of the area in which I have lived for the last decade. When an opportunity arose for me to drove over the New Plymouth for a business trip, I opted for the more adventurous route through Taumarunui and over State Highway 43, the Forgotten Highway over the longer but faster routes north or south along SH4 and SH3 (they are kinda like a loop road).


My journey started mid-morning after I put $40 into the mighty Ssangyong to get another 6 cents/litre loaded into my AA Fuelcard (it really does all add up). I crossed the bridge north out of town and took the hard left up past the hospital onto the Forgotten Highway. The first section is just through rolling farm country…DSCF7741

…which slowly gives way to more and more thick native bush…DSCF7743I caught up with this guy and his mate – quite an unusual vehicle to see on a road like this – but I couldn’t wait to get past them both as they were clearly not used to driving a left-hand drive vehicle on such narrow roads and were all over the place. I wanted to get well shot of them before their centreline-hogging habits collected someone coming the other way…DSCF7745…this gives you some idea of the narrowness of the road….DSCF7749…and why staying well left is a really good idea.DSCF7752Navigating one;s one side of the road is also complicated by a reasonably long stretch of unsealed gravel road, where the centreline is not marked at all and where occasional drifts of gravel encourage the inexperienced out over the centreline…DSCF7757I like tunnels…they always seem to be an indication of adventure and times gone by…DSCF7798…and it is just neat bursting out into the sun on the other side.DSCF7765Whangamomona’s main claim to fame is that it used to declare itself a republic for a day as a bit of a tourist gimmick. I’m not sure if it still does that but on this day its claim to fame was clearly hosting…DSCF7769…the annual Americana pageant…Loads of cool heavy metal parked up here and I would have liked to have stopped and had a closer look but I was running a little behind time. I would have to question the wisdom of holding such an activity in a location that can only be accessed via narrow winding country roads – and not a member of the constabulary in sight, of course – when most of the drivers have a real problem staying on their side of the road…DSCF7770Some of the few that were able to stay on their side of the centreline…DSCF7778

A ways on and I’m closing in on Stratford on the Taranaki Plains…that darker patch just to the right of the road in the distance is Mt Taranaki, climbable in summer and ski-able (just) in winter.DSCF7780

My business in New Plymouth done, I headed north on my homeward leg, heading for Ohura and back into Taumarunui from the north…DSCF7789

This part of SH3 is very nice as it winds through another tunnel…DSCF7790

…and bush-covered hills…DSCF7782

…before levelling out again.DSCF7794

This opportunity was just on the turn-off from SH3 onto the Ohura road…I burrowed into the parking meter money and exchanged some coins for two decent sized banks of tangelos…DSCF7795I saw this and figured that I was still sweet for fuel having at least enough for another 200 km in the tank.DSCF7796Yep…another tunnel…DSCF7802

All this winding up and over these roads with some quite long unsealed section ate into my fuel reserves more than I expected…DSCF7803

By the time, I reached this head-hunting bridge at Ohura, I was becoming quite interested in the movement of the little orange needle as the closest fill-up point was Taumarunui. I opted not to carry-on exploring – the are at least three different routes from Ohura to Taumarunui and I took the discretion option and went for what I thought would be the most direct route.DSCF7804This took me back over 40-odd km of the route I had taken in the morning – but repetition beats walking – and after a longish wait at some of the inevitable summer road works, I cruised into the Taumarunui BP with about 50km of fuel left in the tank. That would have just been enough to get me home but would probably have left me with a walk to National park if I had wanted to go any further…Note for next time: toss in another $40 in new Plymouth…

sh43Here’s a map of my journey…south west in the morning to Stratford and north east to Ohura in the afternoon. Ohura is not marked on the map but is where the dark line of my trip cuts the yellow line at the top of the map before I drifted south back onto 43 towards Taumarunui…

If you are on The Central Plateau and looking to head across to Taranaki, and you have the time, take the Forgotten Highway. If you have a good GPS and strong forearms for all the corners, an even better (IMHO) route is the back road through Ohura…go adventuring..!


Unmanned aircraft for Search and Rescue: not quite that simple, TV3…

(c) TV3 2014

(c) TV3 2014

There was an interesting item on Campbell Live last night about the use of ‘cutting edge’ unmanned aircraft for search and rescue applications (note the video in the linked article may not work for overseas readers). While it all looked very cool and exciting, it was a little misleading when it presented these small UAs as ‘…running on the spell of an oily rag…’, beyond the blindingly obvious fact that all the UA shown were electrically-powered and thus rather unimpressed by the proffered ‘oily rag’!

A reliable UA of any size is not cheap…your average Toyworld flying camera device may last for a while, but eventually you will end up with a large number of them scattered over the land- and seascapes. In addition they tend not to have the endurance necessary for any practical employment for search and rescue other than perhaps peeking into nearby spots not easily accessible by a person. You get what you pay for and if lives are relying on it, the device must be reliable and have sufficient endurance to be useful.

Unmanned aircraft systems are not really unmanned: it’s just that the flying component lacks seats in most cases. They all require at least one person to operate them and, for safe operation, generally at least two are required: one to control the aircraft, and others to observe the airspace for any other users and these may include not just other aircraft but para-surfers, kites and any of our feathered friends that may take offence at this noisy intruder into their domain. If operating at very low altitudes as shown in the video clip, the ground observers may also have to watch for vessels on the surface as well. Relying on volunteers is all very nice but UAS operators need to be trained and accredited to conduct any but the most limited flying.

The supporting infrastructure costs as well, not just in the cost of initial setup and acquisition but also in the ongoing maintenance including the regular replacement of critical components as they reach the end of their defined life. If supporting a SAR operation in a remote area, the unmanned aircraft system will probably need to include some form of vehicle, also not cheap.

All those video visors, laptops and viewing screens seen in the video clip? Again, not cheap.

It appeared that all the UA shown in the clip were flown directly from a controller similar to that used by the remote control aircraft community. While this may be practical for short (in time and distance) flights, this form of control for longer flights is inefficient and places a greater burden on the operator. All the flights shown in the clips appeared rather ad hoc and ‘zoomy’ i.e. all very cool looking but lacking the methodical search pattern essential in a for-real search and rescue operation. An effective autopilot allows the UA to maintain controlled flight and follow a methodical search pattern without constant operator input. Again, this necessary technology is not cheap; it’s not THAT expensive either but has to be reliable and also professionally integrated into the other systems that make up the UAS.

While I think that it is great that the national search and rescue community are researching the potential of unmanned aircraft for this role, and that there is a great potential for UA in this role, I also think that they would get a better return on their investment in time and money by not seeking to design their own UA or supporting the ‘I built a UAV in my garage‘ community and instead engaging directly with the existing (and growing) commercial UAS community both in New Zealand and overseas. I think that they would find that there would already be existing mature reliable designs that would meet all the requirements shown in the video item…and that reliability comes at a cost…

Strawberry Crisp in a Mug

#2 in the challenge after feeling suddenly peckish and all out of carrots and celery late on Saturday night…it is a very nice feeling to be able to just stroll out into the garden at night with a torch and pick some lovely fat juicy strawberries for a quick dessert…

My first go-round with this recipe came out OK but I cooked it in my Cosman cup just in case it went a bit crazy in rising or boiling over…I needn’t have worried as it didn’t but it was difficult to photograph as it lay in the depths of the cup…

For my second go-round, I decided to use up some blueberries, also from the garden, that were sitting in the fridge awaiting use or freezing…

Strawberry-Crisp-in-a-MugThis is how the original recipe with strawberries should come out…


Before cooking…DSCF7838

When it came out of the microwave…I realised beforehand that the extra juicy blueberries would come out differently to the strawberries and they all by absorbed the crispy topping. Next time I will beef up the topping to counter this, preferably in some way that doesn’t involve proportionately increasing the sugar content…

…and immediately pre-consumption with a dob of ice cream…

Tasted great and the once topping was even spread amongst the blueberries but as above, I would like to work some more on the topping…

What you need:

1/2 cup strawberries or blueberries – will try it with blackberries too

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp brown sugar

2 Tbsp flour

1 1/2 Tbsp melted butter

What you do:

Sprinkle the sugar over the berries in a microwavable cup.

Mix the other ingredients together in a separate bowlette and spread over the berries.

Microwave for two minutes on high.

Serve with ice cream and/or cream.


30 Cake in a Cup Challenge


After my success with the chocolate dessert in a cup, I stumbled across a trove of microwave dessert in a cup recipes, and I have resolved to work my way through them this year.

As I am not really a desserty-type person when I am on my own, and I usually mighty only feel like a dessert if my main has left a bit of a space, this may take some time but I am determined to complete the challenge by New Year’s Eve.

While it is all about making desserts in a mug/cup, I opted for the cake in a cup challenge because it is more alliteratively aesthetic.

Watch this space…

So who didn’t pay the subscription for summer??

So here we are….only the fourth of March, with only two really summery days all year (a really summery day being one where it feels too hot to do anything), and already we have had our first snow for 2014…I guess the ‘crust’ on the water in the wheelbarrow from yesterday’s rain and the brittle white grass on the lawn should have been a clue at home this morning….


Well, that wasn’t there when I went home last night…


Not as low as the office yet but it was hailing when I left this evening which doesn’t bode well for this summer thing…


…and a good dusting on Ngauruhoe and its offsider, Tongariro…

OK, so, yes, perhaps we were a little spoilt last year with a three month summer aka drought but SNOW IN MARCH! REALLY?

At a guess, this dusting won’t last long – although more is forecast for tonight – and normal summer services may be resumed but if you’re planning on visiting the Park, pack an extra layer of woollies, some really warm sox, good gloves and a decent beanie and take a few deep breathes before opening the door to step outside…

Cake in a cup

971094_10201520677445764_1832991792_nYou may have seen this image and the accompanying recipe doing the Facebook rounds…


4 tbsp. flour
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg
3 tbsp. milk
3 tbsp. oil
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)


Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.

Add the egg and mix thoroughly.

Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed!

Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

It works!!! Out of the box, straight off the paper, it works!! No facebook scam here…


The cake will rise A LOT out of the cup and totter in a Pisa-esque manner until slightly subsiding…DSCF7717

Serve with lots of ice cream and a dose of cream (forgot the cream the other night!)DSCF7719

This is seriously enough cake for at least two people…

Daily Prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me | The Daily Post

I used to have a jumper like that...

I used to have a jumper like that…

Daily Prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me | The Daily Post.

Just for a change, this post isn’t about me…well, maybe it is…

In Love Letters in the Attic, Caron mentions the destruction of what are now considered priceless items of cultural heritage…

“…I’ve been thinking about the idea that things must be saved for posterity since I was reminded recently of how much TV footage the BBC taped over or destroyed, including most of the British coverage of Apollo 11’s moon landing in 1969, which was the first time it had broadcast all night, for a start.

Today, it seems incomprehensible that the BBC also destroyed 97 early episodes of Dr Who in the 1960s and 1970s to save space…”

At the time, I intended (and still do) to base a post on the broader themes in her post, but these lines about the loss of early Doctor Who episodes has stuck with me in the month or so since Caron posted Love Letters in the Attic. There has been a lot of coverage of this issue since the recent recovery of some of the lost episodes from a vault in  Africa and this has highlighted the factors contributing to the loss of this material…

Ultimately, it seems that this was simply a case of the bureaucratic mindset the grows in monolithic organisations – not necessarily solely government-run agencies but they can provide lots of good case studies – when in the absence of a rule saying something is to occur, it simply doesn’t regardless of the short- or longer-term potential consequences. While at first glance, it may be considered that the commercial potential of older black and white material might have been minimal once colour television became common and affordable in the early 1970s, one only has to look across the Atlantic at the sheer quantity of American television that was archived in the same period and which is now still be both re-released AND watched, to wonder what exactly was being put into the water in the UK in the 60s and 70s…

While, in fairness, video tape in the early days of television, probably into the early 80s was a valuable AND reusable commodity, one would really thank that there might have been a plan to archive material onto film – and, that there would be a controlled environment storage vault for such archived material. In 1976, my school had a big find raiser activity to purchase its first video-based audio-visual system…I remember trudging door to door many afternoons after school selling chocolate bars for this. It wasn’t an unwanted task as I was highly incentivised by the prizes offered to the top sellers – I think I made the top ten – and what else was I going to do after school excerpt watch stuff like The Tomorrow People before Mum kicked us outside for fresh air and energy burning. The next year, one of our 3rd Form art projects was to make our own Doctor Who movie – I think, the class was split into groups of 5-6 for this and each ‘movie’ had to be around ten minutes long…move over, Sundance!!

I don’t remember much about our group’s version other than we filmed alot of it in the squash courts, a plotted struggle got out of hand and it featured the flaming demise of one of these…

RevellBoeingSSTPanAm BOX ART

…which I lamented for many years and. like many such Revell releases, it became a collector’s item until re-released a few years back (and, yes, there is one sitting safely in the garage stash!). Sadly, in true Beeb Doctor Who tradition, these creations were all erased at the end of the year so that the expensive video tape could be reused. I think that perhaps some photographs may have been taken of the screens as I have a vague memory still-shots of some of the scenes appearing perhaps in a school magazine around that period…

What prompted this post was the first screening of the rebooted The Tomorrow People series here last night. Having been a fan of the original series, I was dubious of how well it might survive translation into 21st Century television values i.e. ratings and profit, profit and ratings. While my jury is still out after the first episode, on doing a little research to jog my memory on the original this morning (I was looking for the same of the teleportation belts from the original series which have now been written out – jaunting belts, is what they were) I was surprised just how much of the original concepts have carried over. Even the inability of homo superior to kill (which I had rolled my eyes at last night as 21C ‘niceism’) was actually part of the original concept.

In reading the wiki on the original series, I came across mention of Timeslip which is a series that I have been trying to track down for a long time – another memory of 1970s black and white science fiction (although in our home in the 70s, ALL TV was B&W regardless of its source format!). I had been searching – not very hard admittedly – for variations on The Time Tunnel (which is, of course, the Irwin Allen series from the same stable as Lost in Space and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea). In reading the wiki piece about the almost total loss of the original colour videotape of the series, I though immediately again of Caron’s comment above…as it turns out, the wiki piece does not quite tell the whole story – how surprising – seeking a title image for this post, I discovered that the full 26 episode series is available via Amazon, albeit only in B&W but that’s not a biggie for me as that is how I remember it…

So…coming back on topic, I think that it is important that we do today preserve as much as we can as, just like the Beeb drones of the 60s and 70s, we don’t really have any idea of what value may be seen in today’s apparent dross in decades to come…

Who really knows what their legacy to the future may be…?

My child has a peanut allergy. This is what a lunchbox did to her


My child has a peanut allergy. This is what a lunchbox did to her.

I’m sorry but, while not unsympathetic, this just annoys me…yes, it is really sad but trying lump responsibility on to the rest of the world for what happened to this little girl is just wrong. It is symptomatic of the “my problems are everyone’s problems” attitude that typify our growing inability to take responsibility for our own problems.

In this instance, the little girl did not eat any nuts but her allergy was triggered by exposure to another child who had eaten something nut-based.

Sorry, Mum, but if your children has a disability is is YOUR responsibility to keep them safe and ensure that they can live as normal a life as possible. Wrapping your little girl in cotton wool or glad wrap is not going to help prepare her for life especially if she does not  eventually outgrow her nut allergy. Even if all daycares, preschools, schools and after-schools totally ban all nut products and derivatives of nut products and and apply bio protective measure that CDC would be proud of, that will still not protect her from casual contact with nuts, nut derivatives or nut byproducts…

It may be that she does need to become like The Girl in the Plastic Bubble in order to avoid contact with the elements that trigger her allergy but it is your responsibility as a parent to implement the measures necessary to protect her from exposure to those triggers. Reasonably one might expect those with whom she is in regular contact to work with you to implement and apply those measures and to reduce as much is reasonably possible the opportunities for such exposure…But is is not reasonable, especially when it appears that she is so sensitive to the allergenic triggers to expect everyone that she may encounter during a day at school to also avoid all exposure to nut-based elements that may trigger her allergy…

We need to stop simply following our emotions in sharing such links and start thinking about what we are actually doing. This is a family that may actually be in need of some serious assistance to mitigate  the effects of this little girl’s allergy but that assistance is not going to come from some knee-jerk Facebook link sharing…use your brains, folks, they are there for more reason that to keep your ears apart…

Three things



Paul Henry is back. Excellent! More excellent when they reunite him with Pippa to keep him honest…



Stephen Hoadley has suggested that the best future for Afghanistan may be one split into North (for the normal people) and South (for the rabid nutjobs). This is one of the more coherent options to be put forward so far, especially as ongoing Karzai intransigence draws the US and NATO ‘zero option’ closer to reality…

dm claus…and in a timely and related comment, Doctrine Man reminds us that we need to think about outcomes before we launch into any knee-jerk good ideas for military deployments post- 2014 Afghanistan…like they used to say at the Tactics School “…every task must have a purpose…” i.e. it is not enough just to be or, worse, to be nice…


whaleHa-bloody-ha…there is such a thing as karma after all…while I don’t condone death threats at all – be nice to see proof of said threats though, Cam – I think that it is funny-as that this guy who quite happy lips off at all and sundry has been taken to take for being a dick…I can not believe that he had the gall to refer to someone else as ‘feral’…