Just So Festival

A festival aimed at families where we get to camp in the beautiful Kaitoke Regional park and take part in all sorts of events including a madcap tribal tournament? Sounds great! The inaugural New Zealand edition of the Just So Festival took place over the last weekend of February and we had a blast :)

We had left work early so we would have time to put up our tent and get settled before the festivities started at 5pm on the friday night. There were no queues and plenty of parking and from the car it was a short walk over to find our friends and pitch our tent. Once we had somewhere to sleep and everyone was ready it was time to head over to the festival site.

That evening and over the next couple of days we danced, crafted, paraded, rested, ate, marvelled, collected golden stones, played, talked, sang, dressed up, roasted marshmallows, chased bubbles, went inside bubbles, pillow fought and smiled. Hopefully you’ll see below some of the enjoyment and wonder that we experienced. We can’t wait for the next one!

Puppet dinosaur feeding

Puppet dinosaur feeding with String Bean Puppets

Learning some circus skills

Learning some circus skills

Campfire tales

Campfire tales

Kakapo shenanigans

Kakapo shenanigans

Misty morning camping

Misty morning camping

Conga line!

Conga line!

Dress up fun

Dress up fun

Festival buddies

Festival buddies

The lantern parade

The lantern parade

Campfire marshmallows

Campfire marshmallows

Fire dancing

Fire dancing

Inside camp curious

Inside Camp Curious

Inside a bubble

Inside a bubble

Checking out the aliens

Checking out the aliens

Knocked over by Fraser Hooper

Knocked over by Fraser Hooper

The penguin tribe leader

The penguin tribe leader

Pillow fight time!

Pillow fight time!

Let the feathers fly

Let the feathers fly

Tribal tournament

Tribal tournament

February highlights

It’s been a busy February so far with lots of things happening including my 40th birthday. Rather than go into any detail here’s a few photographic highlights instead.

Walking at Zealandia:

Taking in the view

Taking in the view

Happy wee girl

Happy wee girl

Curious robin

Curious robin

Takahe

Takahe

Camping at Kaitoke:

Testing the bounce

Testing the bounce

The new Kaitoke arch

The new Kaitoke arch

Dragonfly girl

Dragonfly girl

DInner

Dinner

Kaitoke camping

Kaitoke camping

Breakfast

Breakfast

Chinese New Year:

Year of the Snake

Alayna was born in the Year of the Snake and Keryn is decorating a snake mask

Plimmerton fish and chips:

Plimmerton sunset one

Plimmerton sunset one

Plimmerton sunset two

Plimmerton sunset two

Walking in Wellington on my birthday:

Cricket highlights

Cricket highlights

Performance space

Performance space

The start of something

The start of something

Te Papa art

Te Papa art

Daylight flotsam Venice & The Drop

Daylight flotsam Venice & The Drop

Back to Zealandia:

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Exploring Zealandia

Exploring Zealandia

Tieke

Tieke

P?wakawaka

P?wakawaka

Korimako

Korimako

Night time at the Pauatahanui Inlet:

Pauatahanui night

Pauatahanui night

Stars and harakeke

Stars and harakeke

The Plimmerton kite festival:

Plimmerton kite festival

Plimmerton kite festival

Alayna's favourite

Alayna’s favourite

Killer whale encounter

Killer whale encounter

Friday and Saturday

For a long time now we had been planning to go camping last Friday. As it happened the weather forecast was really good and earlier in the week Keryn started sending me suggestions of things we could do. One of these suggestions was to visit Kapiti Island and it took me all of 10 minutes to read the suggestion, look it up and then book our boat and sign up for the required DOC permits.

I also emailed (well, Facebooked, is that a verb yet?) our friend Lydia to see if she wanted to come along. Lydia is a lady of leisure until the school term starts in January and as such has time on her hands. She agreed to come along as well.

Now, everyone knows I like taking photos and I carry a camera with me everywhere. On Thursday night this saw me taking photos from the roof terrace of a restaurant on Oriental Parade while a quite wonderful fireworks display took place. It looked like this:

Oriental Bay viewPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Wellington Fireworks.

Upon getting home I downloaded the photos and started charging the batteries. I realised I had left the camera and batteries next to the computer the next morning as I bend down to look in my bag and found only sunglasses where the camera should have been. Damn.

So, for photos (and a description of the day) you’re going to have to look at Lydia’s blog which is here:

http://lydsadventures.blogspot.com/

The moral of this story: always take someone else with a camera with you when visiting islands covered in interesting birds.

We camped at Otaki Beach and managed to put our new tent up with a minimum of fuss. Dinner was fish and chips, sitting outside our tent on camp chairs with a cold beer (me) and cold cider (Keryn). We sat on a driftwood log and watched the sun setting, taking a break to go grab some ice-creams before returning to the beach and this time a more comfortable bench.

The tent came down the next morning with only a little fuss, though it doesn’t quite fit in it’s bag anymore. We took the advice of our neighbours and drove to Otaki Forks where we had a pleasant walk for an hour or so and then went back to Otaki for some retail time. We ended our trip with a drive around the Queen Elizabeth Park further south – looks like a nice spot for camping and BBQ in the future.

Day 137 : El Calafate to Torres del Paine

We drove from El Calafate to the Torres del Paine national park in Chile today. Lunch was had outside a petrol station and a few of us took the opportunity to photograph one of the iconic Ruta 40 road signs found in Argentina. We have been travelling on the main highway under different names on and off for months now, right down the west coast from Ecuador.

Ruta 40
Ruta 40

The border crossing was fairly straightforward which made a nice change, though we did have to have all of our bags individually inspected when we reached Chile. We had some time in the town of Puerto Natales to stock up for our four nights in the park and it was at a bookstore that I bought a really good book; Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler. The book tells of Sara’s time in Antarctica and mixes her travels with history about the continent. It’s a fascinating read and tied quite nicely in with some of our travels through Chile and Argentina, I now have a small list of other books I want to read now I’ve finished this one.

It started to rain as we drove from Puerto Natales to the national park. We were staying in a campsite, Camp Pehoe, and arrived to grey skies and drizzle. Tents were set up giving as much cover as possible, we’d been told that the weather here and especially the wind at this time of year can be horrendous so we were preparing for the worst. Dinner was cooked underneath a shelter and the cool temperature and wet conditions saw most off to bed reasonably early.

Day 132 : Baraloche to Bush Camp

The next stop was a region of Argentina known for its glaciers and it would take us two days to drive to the town of El Chaltãn. The highlight of this travel day was getting a flat tire, our first breakdown in four months. The tire was changed quickly enough and it wasn’t too long after this that we pulled up at a clear area by the road for a bush camp.

Drive day survival equipment
Drive day survival equipment

A rainbow seen in the clouds
A rainbow seen in the clouds

Antonio and Jimmy work to remove the flat tire
Antonio and Jimmy work to remove the flat tire

Waiting while the tire is changed
Waiting while the tire is changed

Taking photos while we wait, this is Katie and Peta
Taking photos while we wait, this is Katie and Peta

An approaching vehicle as we set off again
An approaching vehicle as we set off again

Another clear day was followed by a clear night and thankfully not much wind. The starry night sky contained the southern cross, it’s always good to see this particular formation and for me I feel that I’m that much closer to home. We had marshmallows around the campfire after dinner and then found our way to our tent, drive days always tiring.

Setting up bush camp as the sun sets
Setting up bush camp as the sun sets

Around the camp fire
Around the camp fire

The southern cross appears
The southern cross appears

Day 131 : Baraloche

We had grand plans today to head out to a nearby national park for some walking but didn’t quite get there in the end. First up I dragged myself out of bed very early to meet up with Margie for some sunrise shots down at the lake. We were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise, colours or red, orange and yellow covering the sky before the sun crested the horizon.

The beautiful sunrise
The beautiful sunrise

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun

We had planned to take a bus out to a small mountain on the way out to the national park but ended up walking the seven kilometers almost by accident. I wanted to stop off at a photography gallery but it was further away than I thought and we just kept on walking (the gallery was shut).

Heading to the summit the lazy way
Heading to the summit the lazy way

Part of the expansive view
Part of the expansive view

Keryn smiles for the photo
Keryn smiles for the photo

The view from the mountain takes in almost 360 degrees over beautiful lakes and forest and to get to the top a cable car is used. We queued for the cable car and then were slowly heading up seated comfortably and watching people come back down the other way. The views were great and we were again lucky with the weather it being clear for miles letting us see to the snow covered peaks in the distance. We ate at the cafe at the top and had some a wonderful slice of chocolate and dulce de leche (caramilised sweetend condensed milk) cake. Once done with the view we headed back down, passing Connie and Kate coming up the other way.

Down we go
Down we go

We caught a bus rather than continue walking and got off at a point where a large hotel dominated the view being situated on a hill with the mountains as a backdrop, a golf course in the foreground. We walked to a ferry terminal in search of information and found out that the park started a futher long walk down the road and we didn’t really have time to do this walk and then walk in the park and finally find our way back to camp.

The stairs to the church
The stairs to the church

Instead we walked to a pretty wooden church we had recently passed while travelling on the bus. The church was a nice diversion while we waited for the next bus and there were also a few stalls selling local crafts outside for us to peruse. One guy was selling coins that had been made into pendants. Each coin had part of the inside cut out leaving just a main feature; for instance there was an old NZ fifty cent that had the Endeavour (ship) standing out, the background removed. We hadn’t seen this done before and spent a while looking at the different coins, the Argentinean peso with the sun picked out in the center being especially attractive.

We took the bus all the way back to Bariloche and spent the afternoon walking around shops and not buying anything other than a few supplies at the supermarket. An early rise meant an early return to the tent after dinner, the usual packing taking place as we were leaving the next day.

Day 126 : Santiago to Pucon

We met our new truck today, Famoo being the name. We loaded all our bags and boarded in the morning before driving out of Santiago and heading south towards the town of Pucon in the Chilean lake district. Famoo is an older truck than Tranquilo and while the layout inside is the same there are lots of little differences. One other difference is that Famoo is a bit slower than Tranquilo, Rhys and Vanessa passing us as we left Santiago.

As we approached the Lake District the scenery got very pretty, pine forests lining the hills around attractive blue lakes and the odd snow capped volcano appearing on the horizon. The campsite was pleasant with a stream bubbling along next to the place where Famoo was parked and we set up our tents on the grass underneath the many trees. Across from where we parked Tranquilo was sitting at the center of a hive of activity, everyone working at tents, cooking or cleaning.

We went into Pucon to book our activities for the next day and then had our first meal cooked off the truck. It was strange seeing things done differently but that’s part of the journey and we’ll get used to it all. Tomorrow we would be climbing a volcano so we went to bed nice and early to prepare, it has been a while since we’ve done any exercise.

Day 119 : Mendoza

We had a wine tour booked today but first had to pack all our bags on to the truck as we would be camping later in the day. The tour took us to three different wineries for some tasting followed by a big lunch at a restaurant.

The wineries were of different sizes, the first being the biggest. At each we were shown around the vats and machinery and then past the barrels at each place. The guide at the first winery was terrible, her descriptions free from inflection or even interest and her face barely moved as she spoke. At the second winery the guide was full of enthusiasm but the machinery drowned out a lot of what he was saying. The third guide was very attractive and full of life, she was easily the best of the three.

Messing around with the barrels
Messing around with the barrels

When it came to the tastings the first two wineries gave us a small glass of their cheapest wine, not very exciting. We got an award winning wine from the last winery and it was really nice, guess which winery we bought an expensive bottle from.

The meal was the best part of the day. We sat down at a table laden with what seemed like hundreds of plates full of food; meats and vegetables in all sorts of interesting sauces. It was very filling and really good, well worth the poor wine tastings (and we got plenty of wine with lunch as well).

Our massive lunch
Our massive lunch

We then went to our new campsite just outside of town. There was another truck, a Toucan one, at the site and we got to know a few of the people over the course of the night. Danny broke out the swimwear and pink hot pants to give them all a surprise and surprised they were.

Danny gives a show
Danny gives a show

Day 116 : Talampaya to San Juan

I’m happy to say I enjoyed the Talampaya tour. A large national park Talampaya has within its boundaries landscape varying from plains to mountains and has many interesting rock formations and an abundance of wildlife (the animals being very good at hiding from us humans). We drove into a canyon, the walls rising up a hundred meters or so, and stopped off to have a look at some rock carvings made centuries ago by the people of the time. Before heading up to the carvings we saw some local animals; a couple of small ones called Patagonian Mara that looked like a cross between a rabbit and a tiny deer and also a rhea. The carvings reminded me of the Brantberg rock carvings, though these ones were a bit more stylised; animals and symbols scraped into the surface of rocks that had fallen from the heights above.

The Patagonian Mara
The Patagonian Mara

The rhea
The rhea

Rock carvings
Rock carvings

Stories in the carvings
Stories in the carvings

Further into the canyon we stopped beside an area of trees and very high walls. We walked along a path where all the trees and plants were labelled and came to the valley wall to find some more carvings. The guide then led us to a huge depression in the canyon wall formed by falling water and carved out by wind carried dust. The vertical channel was big enough to take us all and our guide got us to face the wall and then shout. The sound reflected off the wall and then echoed loudly down the canyon, it was a startling effect and we enjoyed ourselves sending messages into the valley.

Looking up the channel
Looking up the channel

Lined up in the channel
Lined up in the channel

Coming out of the valley we passed a rock formation called the Cathedral but the decision was made to come back on the return. Instead we continued to one more place where we could look out and see the distant mountains, closer at hand the rock again sculptured by the wind and rain much like the Valley of the Moon structures. We had a group photo and then headed back, stopping at the Cathedral and then making our way back to camp.

Rhys takes a rest
Rhys takes a rest

A group photo with the rock formations
A group photo with the rock formations

The cathedral
The cathedral

The driving continued in the afternoon and we made our way to the town of San Juan. On the way in to the town we stopped off at a small winery where the specialty was champagne. It took a while to get Tranquilo down to the winery from the road, the path narrow and tree lined on one side with the vines on the other. Halfway down the road the truck had to wait while the owner of the winery, a man in his 80’s, manoeuvred his small fiat out of the way. Vanessa had to get out and talk the guy through reversing to get out of the way, I’m not sure that he uses reverse very often (and I don’t really think he should have been driving).

The wine and champagne was good and we all bought a few bottles to open at Christmas. In the town we ended up camping at a municipal sports ground, the woman at the winery had phoned to make sure this was OK. We had another BBQ and other than a scare with rising water (the grounds man was watering some of the park) had a good night.

Day 115 : Bush Camp to Talampaya

From our bush camp we drove on, arriving at a place called the Valley of the Moon in the early afternoon. Here we joined a convoy of vehicles on a guided tour of the valley. The valley is full of interesting rock formations and in different areas there are fossils, large sandstone structures, sculptured valleys and ancient rocks. The guide spoke only in Spanish so Vanessa did her best to translate as he talked about when the rocks were formed, the erosion that has created the formations and the work being done at the various sites we were shown around.

Our guide talking about the rock formation
Our guide talking about the rock formation

The mini-boulder field
The mini-boulder field

Sculpture in the valley
Sculpture in the valley

Keryn, Vanessa and Lucy were enjoying themselves
Keryn, Vanessa and Lucy were enjoying themselves

Maybe travelling for this length of time was getting too me, I didn’t really think the landscape was that interesting and struggled to stay interested as we drove around. The erosion sculptured rock called the mushroom was interesting and I liked the area full of small round stones like a giant marble game but otherwise followed everyone around and didn’t pay much attention.

The Mushroom
The Mushroom

We travelled on to another campsite, this one in the Talampaya national park. We very exposed to the wind at this campsite, the landscape flat and devoid of meaningful cover. A good shower seemed to bring me awake and I went to bed looking forward to the tour the next morning.

Camping at Talampaya
Camping at Talampaya

Day 113 : Salta Rafting to Cafayate

There are two main reasons to come out to Salta Rafting; the rafting and also zip lining. We had all signed up for zip lining and around 9am we were all kitted out and climbing up a steep valley towards the first line. We had two guides, the main one being Frank who was originally from Germany but had been working for Salta Rafting for many years now.

A very friendly dog and cat at the campsite
A very friendly dog and cat at the campsite

The system here was the same as we had seen in Monteverde; there were zip line cables to which we were attached by a pulley wheel and carabineer and we stopped ourselves by using our gloves. The main difference here was the height, we were attached to lines over the canyon. The highest cable was over one hundred meters above the river below. Everyone got used to the stopping system quite quickly but a few of us, me included, came in too quickly at the end of the first short but fast line. I bumped my knee, nothing serious, but Angie came in hard feet first into a large rock and spent the rest of the time hobbling. Angie’s ankle was very sore for a number of days, it got to the point of nearly taking her to a hospital to have it checked out but in the end this wasn’t required.

Ready to zip
Ready to zip

Keryn heads across the valley
Keryn heads across the valley

There were some very long lines so there was time to take in the scenery as we flew from one side of the valley to another. Sometimes we had to walk a short way from one line to another but thankfully the distances got shorter as we got closer to the end. The last set of lines saw us criss-cross the valley to finally land at the campsite, flying in over tents erected by the just arrived Oasis truck passengers.

Looking towards the campsite
Looking towards the campsite

Coming in at the campsite
Coming in at the campsite

While we were on the zip lines Mark was with another group doing some white water rafting. He was doing the zip lining straight after us so while we all got ready to leave he said his goodbyes. We were soon driving away heading for the next town Cafayate and a new campsite.

We arrived in the late afternoon and went into town to pick up some wine, the area being a good wine growing region. Back at the campsite we had good food washed down with wine, afterwards tidying up as the toads came out from their daytime hiding places.

Day 94 : The Inca Trail day 3

The early morning walk up to the Runkuracay pass (3850m) was steep and tiring. I stayed at the back and walked with Kelly for most of it, Kelly wasn’t feeling very good and was struggling a bit so needed encouragement and I was happy to take it slow and steady. Overnight it had snowed to a level a few hundred meters above where we had camped and in the morning light the views were again stunning so I was taking lots of photos.

Our campsite dwarfed by the mountains
Our campsite dwarfed by the mountains

Mist in the valley leading to the distant peaks
Mist in the valley leading to the distant peaks

The sun begins to peak through
The sun begins to peak through

We stopped at the Runkuracay ruin half way up to the pass and had a good rest, moving on as more groups of walkers started arriving. Nearer the top there were a few moody tarns, black and looking cold. Thankfully the pass wasn’t as high as the previous day’s climb and once we were over things got easier. Well, for me they did, there were a lot of downward steps today and many found these tiring to navigate.

Resting at the Runkuracay ruin
Resting at the Runkuracay ruin

A beautiful place for a fort
A beautiful place for a fort

Near the top our chuskis pass one of the tarns
Near the top our chuskis pass one of the tarns

We visited another couple of ruins along the path; Sayacmarca and Phuyupatamarca. All the old Inca sites are interesting and most of the ones we saw were very impressive with their mountain settings, I’m amazed that more isn’t made of them when people talk about the Inca Trail. We had a snack shortly after leaving Sayacmarca and then followed the Inca flat path along a ridge top, passing through a tunnel carved out of the stone and eventually arriving at another pass. While waiting for others to catch up we watched two hawks flying around the hills before being swallowed up by a rolling mist that blanketed the view. Heading downhill we stopped again at the Phuyupatamarca ruin where we could see the back of the mountain where Machu Picchu lies, the end was nearly in site.

Listening to Saul at Sayacmarca
Listening to Saul at Sayacmarca

The view at Phuyupatamarca
The view at Phuyupatamarca

I think I mentioned lots of steps...
I think I mentioned lots of steps…

Sitting and admiring the view
Sitting and admiring the view

The further we went down the warmer it got and we passed another ruin consisting of giant terraces climbing a hillside and walked a short way to the next campsite. There were shops here, a large dining room and best of all hot showers! We all had to queue up for a chance to get clean but it was more than worth a bit of a wait. After cleaning up and before it got dark Saul led us to a nearby ruin called Wiñay Wayna, the name means forever young. Wiñay Wayna was beautiful, like a small Machu Picchu nestled on a steeply sloped hill. Many people don’t visit Wiñay Wayna or even know it exists, if you’re doing the Inca Trail I recommend a visit.

Wiñay Wayna
Wiñay Wayna

Brendon the giant
Brendon the giant

After dinner we had a get together where we thanked our chuskis for their hard work and gave over a tip. It was good to be able to express thanks to these men and we were all sad to see them go. We had another early start coming the next morning for our final dash to the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu so most didn’t stay up too late, though a few beers were consumed just because we could.