Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Hey to all,
Well this has been a while, but here are a few photos of
my last holiday in Italy. Just me and my parents this time.
I flew into Venice from Amsterdam, where my mum and dad
picked me up and took me to a campsite on a peninsula full of
campsites, near Venice. We took a ferry to Venice for a day,
which was much nicer than I had expected and then moved on
to an area North-East of Venice in the foothills of the Dolomite
We did some nice walks there and visited Verona, one of the
many old cities in Italy. Then we drove up to a campsite in the
heart of the Dolomites, with a stunning view from the campsite.
There we did more stunning hikes, sometimes dressed with gloves,
beanie, rainpants, jacket and fleece jersey but the views were
fantastic. Sometimes we took a Gondola up and simply walked
the hillsides without having to go through the gruelling climb to
get there.
The Achensee, a lake in Austria, was the next stop where, besides
a disappointing Soccer match where Russia kicked Holland's arse,
we did a great hike afterwhich we stayed in an Austrian Bed &
Breakfast/Hotel type place where we had a great dinner outside and
chilled out in the sun. Next day we hiked for 9 hours, a 1000 meter
climb to the top of a hill with a view over the entire area, and then
down to the campground.
Finally, I persuaded mum and dad to visit Wendela in Strasbourg
and so I had a great last few days there, hanging out with Wen before
going back to Holland and finding a job.
Here's some Pics, they say more than words after all right?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Thursday night BBQ

One thing very much worthy of mentioning about our stay at Dick's house is:
This BBQ is the reason we met Dick quite a few weeks ago now, and has kept us entertained ever since. I'm sure Dick is now wishing he never did tell us we could stay in our van on his driveway, because you see, we're still there!!! Too much fun, we are simply unable to leave.

Every Thursday night a whole bunch of Fairbankiers gather at Dick's house for a night of food, wine and loads of very interesting conversations. This social event has been happening for years and there's even a website with photos and stories created especially for this weekly gathering:
All it takes is a group email every week by Dick to a whole list of people and the request to bring some wine and food along and of course the willingness to entertain whoever else decides to show up. What a great idea, I will certainly start a similar event after this trip, but it may involve some tequila and very loud music, just to personalize it a wee bit.
The best key to success of this BBQ night, I believe, is the consistency in which it is organized. For example, last week Dick was not even going to be home on Thursday night, but still sends out an email inviting people to just show up and have a good time. How cool is that! Anyone keen to start a similar weekly social night back in NZ?

Ever changing plans

Plan A: Dick and Amy flying to Anaktuvuk Pass on Thursday august 16Th for a 5 day tundra-hike, returning Tuesday 21st
Plan B: Duane and Dan will join them on this wilderness adventure
Plan C: Dick is sick on departure day so will be leaving Friday instead, no worries according to the airline
Plan D: Anaktuvuk Pass is cancelled when: we get to the airport to find out the flight is actually full and because Dick and Amy had gift vouchers they had to fly stand-by. Duane and I could go, just not our gear we were told....
Plan E: No worries, let's drive up to the Brooks Range instead because that is where Amy really wanted to go hiking. No trees just tundra. So we jumped in Dick's car and set off for a short 9 hour drive up north... back on the Haul road. We camped next to the car on the North Slope and would head out on our hike in the morning.
Plan F: Amy wakes up miserable with a sore throat and thus is not up to a big adventure. Ohh well let's drive up to a nice spot to park and we'll do day-hikes instead. So we drove south a little and decided to go for a little hike into this amazingly beautiful valley with a stream and camp there, just out sight from the road.
Plan G: Well we had a great afternoon lazing around camp, chilling out, eating and reading books. Duane built dams of course! But Amy hardly slept that night as her cold got worse and now Dick was starting to feel bad too, so when we got up in the morning plan G was formed: Let's drive back home! Forget about hiking up to this little glacier we had planned to do that day and end this madness. Maybe it was just not meant to be!! How plans can change...

(last photo shows bear digging, probably looking for a squirrel or some other small creature)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Crawling through the Castner Glacier

Last weekend, August 11/12 Duane, Dick and I drove down South for the 2nd weekend in a row for some weekend fun. The previous weekend we went to Valdez, a 6 hour drive, because Dick was after some Salmon to stock his freezer for winter. Not much luck they had on that trip as all there was were a few million pinks, which apparently are not worthy of eating according to Alaskans: bottom of the range.

So this time Dick took us on a ice caving excursion inside the Castner Glacier, off the Richardson Highway. Well this was just an amazing experience for Duane and I. Having never done such a thing before, we were very lucky to be in the company of a seriously knowledgeable ice-caver. Dick has been exploring this glacier and many others for a very long time. He used to do these trips with his son Tyson (now 23), when he was a little boy and still does them many times a year. He's even mentioned in the book The Reader's Companion to Alaska, a gathering of some of the best travel writing ever about America's last great frontier, edited by Alan Ryan. (This particular story is written by Kris Capps and is called: Ice-caving Beneath the Castner Glacier, Alaska Range. I bought the book straight away after reading that story and recommend reading it if at all interested in Alaska!)

We walked a short distance off the highway until we reached the large entrance cave to the glacier. After having a quick look inside we continued our way, exploring the glacier and climbing all over it. Now don't think of this glacier as being a crystal clear moving mass of ice with blue ice tunnels. No this glacier you can actually walk over the top without realizing you are on a glacier. Loads of gravel and rock has made its way up and now covers the glacier with blueberry bushes growing amongst the rubble.
So finding a cave entrance is quite and exciting activity. We found a little entrance and had an explore without much success so we walked on searching for more. And we found more!
A large heart-shaped entrance was waiting for us to explore its dark depths....
The cave went from light-filtered and large to a crawling space where one needs a proper army-crawl to get through. By now the light is fading fast and headlights are switched on. In the middle of the cave we took a moment to enjoy the darkness by turning off our lights and staring into the absolute pitch black of the inside of a glacier. How amazing to be inside a GLACIER!
After some more crawling and walking we found ourselves once more in a large cave where light streamed in and we could walk out to the other side. We had a quick look outside and stood in the sunshine before making our way back through the darkness and cold of this fascinating cave. What a good time!
That night we stayed at Dick's cabin, where we drank wine and ate cheese-fondue (with soy for me of course) while watching the sun set on the snow-capped mountains to the west.