Getting Crafty

It’s finished! For the last 7 months I have been working on a Zoo playmat for Alayna and the final finishes were completed on Saturday.

Alayna happy on her new playmat

Alayna happy on her new playmat

Back in my long distant past I use to do a lot of crafts; sewing, knitting, cross stitch, making teddy bears and other bits and pieces. For various reasons I stopped doing any crafts about 10 years ago. When I was pregnant with Alayna and in nesting mode, I started to feel like I should be making her things rather than buying everything. These thoughts were also triggered by Mum knitting up a storm (producing lovely cardies etc), Dad building a beautiful crib and my good friend Pauline making a cool bird mobile.

With baby steps, I dug out my old cross stitch supplies to see if this craft thing would take again. I managed to complete 3 small cross stitch critters without too much hassle. Not a bad start. Brendon then suggested I make some bunting for Alayna’s room, so the sewing machine was dusted off. Then patterns for funky soft toys were found. Lets just say that I kept myself occupied, while on maternity leave, waiting for our bundle of joy to arrive.

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Mum was also staying with us while waiting for Alayna’s arrival. While I was sewing Mum kept herself amused with knitting, also branching out into knitted cats. We had a habit of feeding each others creative habit and soon found ourselves looking for the next project. Mum was searching for knitted animals (with me looking over her shoulder) and found a pattern book for crochet zoo animals that we both really liked, but neither of us really crochet. The next day I was having another good hunt around for knitted animals and stumbled across a free pattern for a playmat to go with the crochet a zoo book we found. Well, that did it, we both just loved the whole idea, so the book was purchased.

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Originally I suggested Mum make the blanket, since wool was more her domain and she had some crochet experience. Plus I was about to have a baby, who knew how much free time I would have in the future! After a while, the idea of tackling the playmat myself grew and grew, until I decided to give it a go. So, back in late October I ordered the yarn (nearly 3 kg for the playmat and some animals!) from the UK (sad to say, but it was so much cheaper to buy from the UK than NZ even with postage) and I started to learn how to crochet. The book had pretty good instructions, but watching videos on YouTube helped a great deal.

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My aim was to complete it by Christmas (always need a deadline!). I worked out how many rows I needed to complete on average per day and fitted in the crochet around Alayna sleeping. In the early days this was sometimes with her cuddled up to me, and while the blanket was small enough not to disturb her. As the blanket grew and Alayna grew (and was more easily disturbed), I could only work at night while she was tucked up in bed.

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Christmas came and went, so her 6 month birthday was the new deadline. I actually completed the crochet before the 6 month deadline, but didn’t realise how long it would take me to hand sew all the landscape items onto the playmat; I estimated a week, it took me over a month.

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My friend Pauline came to visit while I was busy sewing and suggested a quilt back. No no, I can’t do that. Hmm, maybe. OK, why not. After all I taught myself to crochet, surely I can give quilting a go.

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Then started the research; I needed to learn about quilting, how to attach to the crochet blanket, a suitable pattern, and find some fabric. Lucky there is a whole lot of information out there for quilting and others have figured out how to join fabric to blankets, so I started figuring it all out.

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Due to the dimensions I required I couldn’t find a suitable pattern, so I played with a grid (in Excel, alas nothing more suitable at home) to design one myself. I decided to use a Jelly Roll for the quilt design, since I had no experience in cutting to the accuracy required for quilting. I then found a range of fabric called Giraffe Crossing, which pretty well suited the colours of the playmat while also having highly suitable content. Time to order fabric from the US (again it appears to be cheaper to buy abroad rather than NZ, postage is expensive but still cheap if you buy enough, so added a few more nice fabrics for good measure).

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Planning, researching  and designing the quilt took much longer than actually sewing it. Finally I just needed to assemble it, by tying all the layers together and then hand sewing the edges around the border. Final step was to hand sew the sign, which was embroidered by a local company, and then it was all done.

Zoo playmat all complete

Zoo playmat all complete

I am pleased that I decided to add a quilt back to the playmat; the playmat now feels more substantial and solid and as a extra bonus it helps the wool to keep shape.

Quilt back for the playmat

Quilt back for the playmat

Now I just need to fill the zoo with some animals. These can be gradually added over the next few years!

Alayna enjoying her new playmat

Alayna enjoying her new playmat

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 4

Portage Bay to Anakiwa
This was going to be another tough day; we had over 20km to cover with large hills first thing and a deadline of 3:30pm to catch our water taxi from Anakiwa back to Picton. I was a little concerned we were actually going to make this deadline, as we were walking loosely to the pace of the DOC signs (depending which ones you looked at – we needed the generous estimate) and today was given 8 hours to complete.

Again we arrived at the restaurant on opening to eat breakfast as early as possible, then headed off straight up the road, seemingly ever upwards to the first peak of the day at nearly 500m. I have to say I was struggling for the start of the day; probably a little dehydrated and lacking energy. After drinking lots of water and putting the steeper sections behind us, I felt much happier tackling the remainder of the track.

Unfortunately the views weren’t as rewarding as the previous day, this was mostly due to the forest being more mature and obscuring the views. The tree cover was appreciated though as it was turning into a very hot and humid day.

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Views down to Waterfall Bay and Onahau Bay

We started meeting people walking in the opposite direction, they’d all come out for a day trip from Mistletoe Bay to Portage. The first couple we met at the turn-off to a lookout, they were evaluating if they wanted to walk up. We had already decided to give the hour side-trip a miss since we were pushed for time, I think they gave it a miss too. We started seeing more and more people, at first looking hot a sweaty from their uphill climb, until the people were more grouped together and fresher looking. At this point we figured we must be close to Mistletoe Bay. It is a nice (if somewhat vindictive) feeling seeing other people struggle up-hill when you have the leisure of steadily walking down – I guess at least we had done the hard work earlier in the day. We also had to bypass the side-trip to Mistletoe Bay, due to time.

We steadily and gradually headed back down to sea level, meeting another couple on the way; the woman having completed the full walk the previous day, was taking her husband on a small walk from Anikiwa to the lookout over Grove Arm.

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Almost done. Lookout over Grove Arm

We pushed on past Davies Bay seeing several families playing in the water and on the beach. Just before 3pm we saw the 1km sign, another welcome marker, we dug deep to push past the hurting feet to make it to the end. We were looking forward to the 0km marker so we could get another joint photo, disappointed there wasn’t, we settled for photos at the Queen Charlotte Track sign. We did it!!

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We made it to the end!

We made it to the dock with 20min to spare, so took the opportunity to eat a nice cold Popsicle and a rest in the shade to wait. Another woman was waiting for a water taxi too, she had just completed the whole track too, but she had the luxury of taking a week complete with 2 rest days in between too. This seemed like a magic idea after the last 2 big days.

Our water taxi collected us on time and took us back to Picton. I had fun trying to spot where we had walked and it was amazing to see how far we had actually walked in that one day. Once in Picton we picked up our bags (they had found their way back to the Wilderness Guide office), and immediately dug out our comfortable shoes.

Janet and I said our goodbyes; we were going our separate ways, Janet had a shuttle to Blenheim airport and I was heading to the ferry terminal. The shuttle driver was kind enough and dropped me off at the terminal. At the terminal I freshened up in the ladies with deodorant & clean clothes. Checked in my bags and after a short wait was on the ferry back to Wellington.

This time I stood at the front of the boat to take in the cooler air and watch the sounds go by. Again I was trying to mark our progress and it was amazing to see how far we had walked over the past four days. The ferry seemed to interrupt some slower boats in a yacht race around Allports Island.

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A couple of the leading yachts

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Looking back to the Landscape of the Queen Charlotte Track – Torea Saddle

Once it got too cold outside I headed back in and grabbed some dinner and explored the boat. I gave up looking outside once in the Cook Straight since it was covered in fog and all I could see was white through the windows. I was amused for a while watching a young family; a teenage boy was trying to build card towers on the floor, while, I assume, his little sister was doing her utmost to annoy him. He actually did very well getting to 4 stories.

I was alerted to our arrival by Brendon ringing me, telling me to look outside at the interesting cloud formations over Mirimar and the airport.

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 3

Punga Cove to Portage Bay
Today was a big day; we had 25km to cover travelling up to and along the ridge between Queen Charlotte Sounds and Kenepuru Sounds.

We started the days walk straight after breakfast, since the restaurant is part way up the hill. Breakfast was lovely overlooking Endeavour Inlet as we ate. Unfortunately we couldn’t find the track from the restaurant, the signs to the track disappeared and all we could see was a car park & road. Confused we had to ask for directions at the restaurant; eventually one of the staff members knew where to go. Apparently the track is in fact further up the road, So we were in the right area, we just needed to continue past the car park and up the road for about 10 minutes.

On the road we saw a pair of quails pecking for food, flying away once we got too close. We also saw tuis, wood pigeons, and what we thought was a kokako fly overhead into the trees. Turns out it was extremely unlikely to be a kokako, since they were deemed extinct in the South Island a few years by DOC, plus they are not very good flyers. Even after researching other likely candidates I’m not sure what we saw.

The road and path continued steadily upwards, our efforts being rewarded with great views down Kerepuru Sound. Still further onwards and upwards we saw amazing views at what seemed like every corner over both Queen Charlotte & Kerepuru Sounds. It was great walking weather with high cloud cover and a light breeze moving over the ridge. The high cloud resulting in both sounds looking steely grey.

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Kenepuru Valley leading to Kenepuru Sound

One of the better view points high up on the ridge was signposted as “Magic View” with beautiful views over Deep Bay. We spent some time here taking photos, watching the ever present weka, and polishing off a piece of carrot cake for morning tea – yum.

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Yacht coming into the Deep Bay

Pressing onwards we passed a weka nest, we assumed it was a weka nest by the weird grunting coming from the undergrowth, which almost sounding like pigs. Our theory was confirmed once the male weka popped out; unfortunately we didn’t see the chicks. We also had the pleasure to watch a family of fantails; I was confused at first by the black one, I thought it might have been a NZ robin until the tail was displayed and another fantail gave it some food. After some research it turns out that the south island has a black variation of the fantail – learnt something new.

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Half Way; another milestone complete

We stopped at the Bay of Many Coves shelter for lunch. We joined other walkers that were resting for lunch too, they were all doing a one day walk from Torea Saddle to Punga Cove; two of which were a UK couple (English & Welsh) doing their OE in NZ.

This is the first day we saw cyclists on the track. We didn’t mind the cyclists (other than the very noisy family disturbing the peace at the Magic View), since they generally just passed by without any hassle. We did decide though that you would get more out of the track with walking opposed to cycling; a few times we were passed at a lovely view where the cyclists just carried on past, we were there to take in the environment while the cyclists would not hear the bird song over their own noise, neither of us are mountain bikers so the thought of cycling some of that track was just down right scary. The advantage cyclists had over us though is the 25km day would go past much quicker. Funnily we were overtaken by a couple of cyclists while we stopped to take in the view, only to overtake them shortly afterwards as they pushed their bikes up a steeper section of the track, they commented on the fact we wouldn’t see them again once they got to the downhill, they were right.

The rest of the afternoon we walked along the undulating ridge, marking off the 5km milestones as they went past. Our views over Queen Charlotte changed from Bay of Many Coves to Ruakaka Bay, Blackwood Bay, then Kumutoto Bay. We also spotted 3 ferries making their way through the sounds. Over on the Kenepuru side we started seeing Mussel Farms – marked by the dark black lines in the water.

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Blackwood Bay with Picton in the distance

We were aiming to have afternoon tea at Blackwood shelter, but it seemed to take forever to arrive. The backup plan was to settle for a bench somewhere with a view, but this didn’t materialise either; we came to the conclusion that several more benches need to be installed along the track as they are very few and far between. In the end we settled for sitting in the grass on top of one of the hills. A small group of cyclists stopped to chat, they were heading towards Torea Saddle too and confirmed, what we suspected, that we still had about 8km to go. We must have looked knackered as they checked up if we were OK and if we needed anything. We were just fine – just needed to rest the feet.

We had calculated that when the last marker (21km) for the day arrived, it would mean we only had 500m left on our poor sore feet. But when we got to the end of the track at Torea Saddle we discovered that we had an additional 700m to reach our accommodation.

Our poor tender feet made the extra distance to the hotel. Again we were warmly greeted by the hotel staff, shown to our comfortable room where our bags were safely stowed. After a long day we were pretty hungry and tired so made an early reservation at the restaurant, just enough time to have a shower and freshen up.

Since this was our last night together (we were both heading home at the end of the last day), we decided to celebrate our achievement tonight with a small bottle of bubbly each. We chose the Lindauer Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, which was very nice and drinkable. The meal was lovely, but I did have problems with my lamb salad where the lamb was overcooked to the point of being very dry and chewy. Unfortunately I had to send the salad back twice before changing to a different dish. The chef apologised saying that the lamb was from a different source to normal and that the dish would be removed from the menu for the evening. I don’t normally send back food, but for the prices we were paying I wasn’t going to settle for tough meat! After waiting for the 2 extra dishes to be cooked, it turned into a late night and sleep was calling.

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 2

Furneaux Lodge to Punga Cove
It was a relaxed start to the morning; since we only had a short days walk ahead of us with all day to do it in. Breakfast didn’t start until 8am and our only deadline was to return our bags to reception by 9am for their journey to the next night’s accommodation.

The weather didn’t look too good upon waking but, as we pottered around with morning preparations and took time to explore the grounds & beach, the clouds cleared away and the sun appeared resulting in a sunny day.

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Morning view from Furneaux Lodge

We decided to check out the waterfall track behind Furneaux Lodge before continuing on the main track. It was an hour return walk on what turned out to be an overgrown narrow and very muddy path. We got as far as what we think was the start of the falls, to see more of the falls required us to scramble down the bank and then cross the stream, neither of us were feeling particularly enthused at this point to continue so we headed back to the main track. I’m not really a morning person, so extra effort in the morning really does require some convincing :)

Today’s path took us further around Endeavour Inlet passing more holiday homes and farms, through open land and bush. It was a nice flat, easy & peaceful days walking in the sun. Parts of the path were still muddy from the previous day’s rain, so we had an interesting time walking down the hill to Camp Bay where the track was more mudslide than track – all part of the adventure.

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Rickety Bridge

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Abandoned Tractor

We really did take our time today; we would stop to listen to the bird’s song, take photos of flowers, watch the wekas and generally take in the atmosphere. On route we were lucky enough to get very close to a talkative Bellbird. Also a pair of weka took interest in us, though the female got a little too inquisitive and took a peck at Janet’s leg.

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Tree-Fern Forest

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Clear aqua waters of Big Bay

We put on a burst of speed, when a light shower appeared, to arrive at Punga Cove before getting too wet. The resort is set into the hill side overlooking Punga Cove. The resort came across as a friendly laid back travellers retreat; there was a grassy area for people to sit and relax or for the more energetic to play games, a pool to cool off in and a cafe/bar overlooking the water. There was also a very strong contingent of Irish on the staff.

The receptionist informed us that other people had got a taxi rather than walking today, they must have been put off by the previous days weather and cloud cover in the morning. We struggled to understand why someone wouldn’t walk the easy day of the track, especially when it was such a nice day!

Our room, called the Bach, was across the grounds and up the hill from the reception. It was in a peaceful spot overlooking the cove. We had a wee kitchen, living area, single room & double room. I won the toss for the double bed – lucky me! Once we had rescued our feet from our shoes and sorted through our bags (which again had magically arrived to our room), we decided that a swim in the pool was in order to cool off from the heat of the day.

The bar was putting on a BBQ that night, so we decided that would fit the bill nicely. They provided a selection of meats; steak, chicken fillets and sausages, there was also baked potatoes, salad and not to forget Pavlova for dessert. It was a very relaxing evening sitting down on the Jetty with a drink, BBQ fare and watching people arriving from the boats moored in the cove, sometimes by a taxi service the staff provided.

After dinner we walked around the grounds with cameras in tow. We came across three wood pigeons chasing each other around making a huge racket; we assume that it was two males fighting over a single female. After the photo session we went back to the room and relaxed in front of telly for a short while before retiring to bed.

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Seagull resting on the Jetty at Punga Cove

Queen Charlotte Track: Day 1

Just before Christmas I realised that Brendon was working most of the upcoming Wellington Anniversary weekend. Miffed that we couldn’t take advantage of the long weekend I decided to get in contact with Janet (friend we met while travelling through South America) and asked if she would like company while walking the Queen Charlotte track, and could it possibly be on this anniversary weekend.

We decided that we would take the more luxurious option and booked the 4 day unguided walk with Wilderness Guides. This meant that our main luggage would be moved for us each day and we would stay in nice hotels not to mention be provided with packed lunches each day. This is the way to do a big walk.

Picton
Straight after work I headed to the Interislander Terminal to catch a ferry crossing after 6pm. It was an uneventful crossing, though it was a little strange travelling alone as there was no one to guard my bag & seat if I wanted to go walkies. Towards the end of the trip I decided to head outside to watch the Queen Charlotte Sounds go by. It was a beautiful evening in the sounds with the sun setting and calm waters.

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Picton Lights

I was picked up by a shuttle from Sequoia Hostel and met Janet in our room. After a quick catch-up it was off to sleep.

Ship Cove to Furneaux Lodge
It was an early start this morning with Wilderness guides picking us up at 7:30am. We were taken to the water taxi, given our yummy packed lunch and had our luggage labelled for their upcoming journey, then we were off to Ship Cove.

Our taxi journey was more eventful than expected with the driver giving us a commentary along the way. We saw a Salmon farm (with jumping Salmon); apparently the farm had problems at the start with the seals stealing the Salmon, also we saw some seals basking on the rocks, a blue penguin swimming past and even an endangered King Shag.

Once we were dropped off at Ship Cove we decided to potter around the area checking out the Memorial to James Cook and reading the history behind his favourite base in NZ. We also visited the waterfall nearby that was only a 30 minute diversion.

Waterfall near Ship Cove

I have to say I was impressed by the attention to detail in the Cove with nicely designed tables, chairs, bridge, shelter etc. We were hoping that this was an indication to the upcoming track; after all it is one of NZ’s great walks.

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Tiki at the entrance to Ships Cove

It was time to start our trek over the hill; once we had waited for a small shower to pass and photographed a few of the local cheeky weka. We decided to take our time as there wasn’t any hurry to reach our accommodation. We would stop to listen to the bird song, try to figure out what caused the rustle in the undergrowth (normally a weka) or try and spot the noisy wood pigeons as they flew overhead. We met a few people along the track including a couple of Canadian girls that were interested in the wildlife we may have spotted, and a group of mature walkers that were checking out a pair of seats installed at the Resolution Bay lookout in memorial to an old friend.

After a while the rain set in for the day and the raincoats had to come out (even though it was still very warm). The view point over Resolution Bay was a little dissapointing since all we could see was white clouds, though after a short while an outline of the land did appear and I did see a large number of wood pidgeons fly past too. Lunch was eaten in a spot that provided a small amount of shelter from the rain and we were lucky as a New Zealand robin graced us with his presence.

Luckily we got a break in the rain as we were passing through some open private land. There was evidence of a working farm with some sheep skins drying and a collection of free range chooks. We spent time with the chickens as they were curious of us and came up close ever hopeful we had something for them (which we didn’t).

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Inquisitive Chooks

Soon we arrived at Endeavour Inlet and also civilisation where children’s laughter announced sea level as they played in the water and rain. The inlet has holiday homes everywhere so surely Furneaux Lodge must be just be around the corner. We put on a burst of speed to get out of the rain but disappointment ensued when we finally came across a sign to Furneaux Lodge that informed us that we still had 25 minutes to go!

We arrived at the Lodge dripping wet and covered in mud, the check-in staff welcomed us in mud and all saying we didn’t need to remove our boots. The lodge was kind enough to offer us a free upgrade to a Suite since they were quiet. After a short walk we arrived at our suite to find our bags had arrived safely in our room. The suite was very comfortable with a nice big shower, twin room and lounge area to chill out in. Luxury after a day in the mud!

After feeling human again from lovely warm showers and dry clothes, the room was turned into a Chinese laundry to dry out all the wet gear. We then headed to the bar for a well deserved drink and a little after to the restaurant for a lovely steak meal (which, when starving, seemed to takes ages to come out, but in fact probably came out in good time). We went back to the room for dessert as there was left over ginger crunch from our packed lunch.

Upcoming Trip

Time seems to be moving very quickly now and before we know it we will be all packed up and heading off on our big trip!

Under the Maps menu I’ve added maps of the trip and also under the Calendar menu I’ve put in where I think we will be day by day. Both of these are my best guess of what we will be doing over our 6 month journey.

Morning at Brandberg

November 9th – Day Forty Six

Waking up pre-dawn under the Brandberg Mountain
Waking up pre-dawn under the Brandberg Mountain

A bit of a sleep in today with a departure time of 8am. Those on the tarp all woke up before dawn and seeing as I was awake I got my camera and tripod and climbed up a nearby slope of loose rocks to get some elevated views of the rising sun. The sunrise itself was nothing special but the light just after the sun appeared was golden and softly illuminated the Brandberg slopes so I spent an hour or so moving around and taking photos. The view was beautiful with the peaceful landscape rolling off into the distance on this still morning. While this was happening Joe was getting up and then preparing breakfast so by the time I got back down to the campsite the smell of freshly cooked pancakes was wafting through the still air. Breakfast eaten we packed up and drove off to the place where the others had spent the night.

Bush camp on the edge of no-where
Bush camp on the edge of no-where

All together again we headed to the coast through an overcast landscape of white sands and rocks which tended to merge into a vista of shifting shades as we drove along. Eventually we came to the coast road and headed up north towards Cape Cross to visit the resident seals and learn a little about the installed crosses which are some of the many crosses found down the coast. Reaching the site we stopped briefly for a toilet stop and then headed down to the seal colony to take some photos. We had been warned that the colony would smell (seals not known for having showers) and it was a bit whiffy but because of the cooler temperatures and offshore winds not to bad. We watched the seals; males asserting their dominance, females watching their pups and the majority of animals just staying in one place and not doing much of anything. There were a couple of females with dead pubs, one protecting the carcass from a ring of hungry seagulls and the other dragging the dead pup with her across the rocks. There was also a jackal ripping into the abandoned corpse of another baby seal, quite unconcerned by the watching people or other seals in the background. We saw seals swimming, coming to shore and leaving again and in the near distance we saw flocks of birds flying low through the troughs of the waves, using the water to keep out of the wind. We also saw one flock of bright pink flamingo fly past which contrasted nicely with the white and black environment.

Seals at Cape Cross
Seals at Cape Cross

A Jackal eating a dead seal pup
A Jackal eating a dead seal pup

Once done with seal watching everyone headed back to the truck and we had a short drive a little bit back towards the site entrance and we stopped at the picnic area for lunch. It was getting a bit windy by the time lunch was prepared and the cloud cover was quickly being blown away so it began getting hot. Eating fast everything was quickly put away and once more we travelled the roads of Namibia this time heading to the town to Swakopmund.

Our Cape Cross lunch stop
Our Cape Cross lunch stop

It was a few hours drive, the Atlantic on our right and desert on the left, before we arrived in Swakopmund which is a very western looking seaside town of wooden buildings and wide streets. We headed straight to the offices of Outback Orange, an adventure activity centre near the centre of Swakopmund. Out of the truck we spent a while waiting in a nearby hotel reception (some getting fancy coffees from the adjacent cafe) before all being led into a room upstairs where we watched a presentation on all the activities available to us during our three night stay. I had been wanting to do a balloon ride over the desert and was disappointed to find out that the available flights were over the Brandberg ranges so I declined that opportunity. We signed up for a buggy ride through the desert and dunes and Keryn signed up for a skydive along with five others. Activities booked we had time for some quick shopping and then it was a two minute drive down the road to our accommodation at the Swakopmund Rest Camp and A-Frames.

We all had bungalow accommodation, Keryn and I shared with Bindi and Corey. The first bungalow in our row was used by the crew and this was also where meals were cooked so the first nights dinner preparations were soon underway. Everyone got their gear and rooms organised while also exploring the campsite – the adjacent laundry mart also contained an ancient array of arcade games, convenience food, a pizza restaurant, pool table, nightclub and some noisy children’s ride-on vehicles. After dinner most people went into town and spent time at a pub where we tried our best to reacquaint ourselves with civilisation, this being the first non-camp pub we had been to in a very long time. After a few drinks Keryn and I headed back to camp and soon after to bed, sleep always being welcome.