11 May
04
 
   I owe a huge amount to the wonderful people I met along the way. Unfortunately I can't thank them all personally so I've put together a set of photos of a few faces I met along the way (hopefully ordered chronologically). If I've missed you or your friends out, send me a picture.
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   Craig
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Feels like home

Craig
New Zealand
May 09, 2004

   The weirdest thing about being home is that everything feels normal. I've been woken up by my little brothers to talk about dinosaurs, I've been out to a pub quiz with friends and I've sat in my room and surfed the net. It's as if I never left. Sure the little ones have grown a year older and are into different things, but everyone else seems pretty much as I left them and we are carrying on where we left off a year ago.

   My motorbike is back in action, though I still need to get it a warrant and pay the road tax to make it legal. Riding that home yesterday it felt really good to have my own wheels once again. The difference between just driving a car and riding a bike, being part of the machine, is something I have missed. Even a scooter in Greece couldn't quite capture the same feeling. Mark and I went for a cruise yesterday, he got a bike licence while I was gone so some things have changed. One of the things on my list to do in NZ is another tour of the south island, but this time with someone else. Indoor soccer started last weekend and I'll be in my first match tonight, hopefully I'll get to catch up with most of the gang there.

   As for what I am going to do after that I don't know. I am still deciding whether I want to go get a serious job or go back to university. I even looked at volunteering overseas but I think I should reacquaint myself with New Zealand first and I'll get back to thinking of overseas next year. I have a truck-load of photos to look at, upload and print.



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   Craig
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  5 May
04
 

   So I have come full circle. I am home in my parent's house in New Zealand. What an amazing year it has been but now it is all over. I know I owe everyone a big thank you but right now I am too tired to do it properly, so I will leave it for now and get back to you in the morning.

Home Again
Back home with (most of) the family


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   Craig
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Halfway back

Craig
Singapore
May 04, 2004
Packed up at Heathrow
Packed up at Heathrow
   I'm in Singapore enjoying the free internet but not really liking the humidity in here. With a bit of luck I'll find a way to get an ethernet cable so I can get my own computer online because I really need something to do with my stopover here, and shopping isn't for me. I could buy a 'travel' cable but they are charging way too much and it would defeat the purpose of free internet. Not long now....
final farewell
My final farewell

updated a little while later
   OK so I have myself a seat and I can take a moment to upload photos. Marko, James and Sarah came to say goodbye at the airport. It was a pretty scary drive with the windows all fogged up and really heavy rain cutting visibility, but we got there with loads of time to spare so we wandered the halls for a while. I managed to get away without paying for any excess baggage. My secret? Sending stuff as 'books' made it cheaper in England, and then I put all my heavy stuff into my small backpack and then I got a bag labeled Duty Free into which I dumped my generic white bag (containing loads of sweets) and some spare clothes. No questions, no fees :-)
   I guess it is time I left here and started the long trek back to terminal 2, I wish I had a pair of these.


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   Craig
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  3 May
04
 

   The last week has been a blur things have happened very quickly and now I am left with just over 36 hours until I land in New Zealand after the most amazing year of my life. I'll try to cover what I have been up to but I will probably forget a thing or two.

   On Sunday Lorraine and I went to Ditchling Beacon for a walk. It was a little hazy out there but generally nice to be outside. On Monday I walked from Lewes to Ringmer over the top of the Downs and past the golf course. Again very nice to be out in the country side. Bluebells were appearing in small patches along my way, so to lengthen it out I took the long way back down to the village. I tried packing that afternoon. In total I am trying to bring back 40kgs. According to Singapore Airlines I can bring back 25kg free (plus hand luggage) but after that it is 32 per kilo! So I sent some things back via sea mail, things I won't need for 2-8 weeks I hope, and am planning to wear all my heavy clothes onto the plane.

   James has very kindly lent me his car for a few days so to get me used to its little oddities Marko and I went cruising on Wednesday night. It is a really big car for me, and I am still nervous about parking it. Thursday saw the arrival of Bex and just to prove a point, the sky opened and tipped it down for most of the day. The two of us met Lorraine at Glyndebourne and she gave us a little walking tour of the grounds. The opera building was completely new since I was there but the grounds remained the same. The only thing I wasn't sure about was the punga ferns. Perhaps I just didn't know what to look for.

   On Friday Bex and I saw a bit of Brighton, but due to the bad weather it wasn't a particularly great show. We missed The Royal Pavilion which in hindsight was a mistake. I had forgotten how interesting it was inside until I checked out the website. In the afternoon we went passed my old primary school in Laughton. It had just finished for the day so we poked around inside. I couldn't see the head master who is possibly the only staff member remaining from my time so we left and cruised back to Marko's place.

   Saturday looked like it was going to be another misty dull day as the three Kiwis set off for Ashdown Forest, a.k.a. Hundred Acre Wood. It was six months exactly since Bronwyn, Lorraine and I tried the same ting, in the same weather no-less. We stopped at Gill's Lap and walked much further than I have done here before, but then again I was much smaller when Mum and Dad would bring the family here to play Pooh Sticks and pick blackberries. We saw The Enchanted Place, Roo's Sandy Pit, Gill's Lap, the ex-bracken field, the tree that Peter climbed (and unofficial landmark) and all the way down to Pooh Bridge.

   For lunch we ate at The Six Bells. While we were inside the sky underwent an amazing transformation and we emerged into proper sunlight for the first time in days.

Bluebell Wood
Bluebell Wood
After unsuccessfully trying to find the land owners we decided to go to bluebell wood anyway. I couldn't have wished for better. The bluebells were out in force, just like I remembered them. A soft purple carpet stretching on for miles. Neither of the other two had seen anything quite like it, and I honestly doubted it could have been as good as that. There are a few commercial bluebell walks around Sussex, but they are bound to be overrun with crazy kids and prams and old people. Here in this wood it was silent, save for us three. Small paths snaked in and out of the trees and we were free to wander around. Totally idyllic. Eventually we had to leave so we went to The Long Man Of Wilmington and then back to Lewes via a quick stop at The Mill Post. Near there was a field of Oil Seed Rape. We are not toally sure what it gets used for, but it does turn Sussex bright yellow for a while and we took the chance to get up close to it for a bit of exploring in plants that came past our waists.

   That night we went out to Brighton and had a good time at Creation again. Lots of fun, though I thought a bit less of the place when Bex said it reminded her of Leftfield in Auckland. I had totally forgotten about that place. As we sat on the beach waiting for the last bus home I ducked into a new club to use the facilities (luckily the bouncer was looking the other way because he wasn't supposed to let people in after 1am). I really liked what I saw inside, and really loved what I heard, a bit of Franz Ferdinand. What a pity I only discovered that place in the last minutes of my last time out in Brighton.

   Yesteday was a frantic rush around to get my photos devleoped from the night before, see Devil's Dyke and drop Bex at the airport. I did all that and came over to Jo's place for dinner. Which brings me to where I am now, sitting here filling in possibly my last entry in England (I expect to get online in Sigapore). The last year has been too good to put into words.


   To everyone I have met along the way, thank you all, thank you so much.


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   Craig
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  26 Apr
04
 

   The weather here is perfect, brilliantly sunny, a bit of a breeze and long evenings. We took the chance to have a barbecue on Saturday evening. Sitting on Marko & Emma's patio we cooked up a feast of chicken, pork, beef and vegetarian thingies for Lorraine. There were a couple of incidents which saw salad cream being splattered across the concrete, mostly-cooked hamburgers being smeared across peoples necks and I even spent a while waving the watering can at James daring him to try coming up the stairs.


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   Craig
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Keep on trucking

Craig
England
April 24, 2004

   I'd been back in the country only a few hours when I called James and found that he needed a second person to help crew his lorry and move a mobile home up towards Hull and bring another one back down. Because of the laws on the number of hours one can drive in a single sitting and the distance to Hull etc etc, we set off from Sussex at about 4am. I was a little sleep deprived at that point having recounted my adventures to Marko, Emma and Lorraine so I crawled into one of the bunks and slept until James had to repair an injection

james Driving
James Driving
pipe that involved tipping the whole cab over. I couldn't help at all when we were driving, but when we got to the first stop I help set up the trailer and it's skids (ramps to pull the mobile home up). It felt really good to be doing some real work even when crouched under the home trying to lift a metal plank weighing more than I do. We ate at some little food caravan along the way and stopped at The Stockyard for the night. Certainly a proper welcome back to English cuisine, full roast beef dinner, yorkshire puddings, apple sauce and mashed potatoes mmmmmm. James' cab has two bunks and there is a big heat difference between them. He was on the lower one so he kept blasting the heater on and off during the night. Sometimes I needed my sleeping bag, and sometimes I didn't.

   At 6:49am we pulled into the yard to pick up home number two. It took all day and another replacement injector pipe to drop it off in Eastbourne by which time we were running on fumes. Another load of huffing and puffing to get the sleds out and the home down before we could get back to home base.



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  24 Apr
04
 

   I said goodbye to Levi and Sarah on Tuesday morning. They're so cool, and it is definitely their turn to come to visit me next. I slept a fair amount of the way from Denver to New York, and after faffing about at JFK for a few hours I slept a fair amount of the way from JFK to Heathrow. Not good sleep but at least it passed the time. Once back on the ground I got myself around to check-in under the weight of my enlarged bags that now include a few more t-shirts, some I heart NY mugs and a climbing harness. Before long a familiar face popped up. Bex and I talked for a while and I got caught up on all the news from back home, hard to believe it is only two weeks until I'll be back there. She flew off to Turkey and I took the underground to Victoria, where a Kiwi girl approached me for directions. I guess the big bags and 'fun pants' give me the traveller look. Lucky she was trying to get to Heathrow or I'd have been very little use.


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Rocky Mountain High

Craig
America
April 20, 2004
A tree icicle
An icicle on a tree
   It was 5am before I got to sleep on Sunday morning, which put a bit of a dampener on our plans to go snowshoeing up to the Continental Divide. Instead we opted for a later start and a drive to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a really sunny drive all the way there, so we were a little surprised (and I was very excited) to find it snowing for the last few miles to the car park. We sat in the car for a while, eating our lunch and debating whether we should get out since we weren't really prepared for the cold. But get out we did and I got to play around in the snow for quite a while as we walked around the lake. Last time Levi and Sarah came here they were able to walk straight across the iced
levi and his shiny glasses
Levi and his shiny glasses
lake, but on that day it was really slushy and it was too dangerous to go too near the edge. We walked around and played in the snow as we went. In one part it was deep enough for Levi to sink below his waist in the powder. The snow came and went, some times really heavy and sometimes there were blue skies. After we circled the lake and had a little fun sliding on the compacted snow (video 2.5Mb)
A rock in the blizzard
A rock in the blizzard
we drove further into the park to try to get a look at Long's Peak. That was the one part of the park that seemed to be permanently hidden in the clouds. I got to see a few elk roaming the fields. They really are like big beefed-up deer, there were even some wandering across the road very calmly just like the beginning of Northern Exposure and the moose.
   We stopped for mexican on the way home. At Juanita's (who do great margaritas) in Boulder we were discussing who should drive home. I offered but said that since they drive on the wrong side over there I could only turn right or go straight through intersections, no left turns for me. They debated whether it was possible or not for a while and eventually decided it was. It didn't seem easy and we'd have to go via a car park or two and a side alley next to a hotel, but eventually we got back with only right turns. I hope I've spread a little of the student spirt and that someday they'll write to tell me that it is possible with only left turns too :-) That night we watched Finding Nemo, so I was halfway there on understanding the funny little quotes that Levi and Sarah had been saying all week. We saw The Emperors New Groove on Monday night and that had me fully up to date. During the day on Monday I hiked back up to the saddle just below the First Flatiron. From there I took some photos which I added to the rock climbing story showing the route we took. It seemed pretty crazy looking at it there in the sunlight, and being able to turn around and walk back down at any moment. There was no one on the rock that day so I had to guesstimate the scale. I spent a fair part of the afternoon writing up the rock climbing adventure and piecing together the images I have uploaded, until the others came back from work, then we got Thai take-out and watched movies.


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   Craig
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  18 Apr
04
 

   Today's life risking adventure is The First Flatiron, da da dummmm.
   We figured we needed an early start to get all three of us up the flatiron on Saturday but it was 9am before we left the carpark below, and another hour and a half before Levi went up the rock (video 3.8Mb).

Looking down to Boulder
12:35pm Looking down to Boulder
He was lead climbing which gave him the incredible responsibility of going up ahead sans-protection and placing cams, tricams, nuts and all manner of small metal wedges into little holes in the rock for the safety of Sarah and I. Once each piece is in, he would then hook his own rope through it and then, if the worst were to happen, he would only fall as far past that point as he had climbed above it (since Sarah and I were belaying him from below). Sarah was the second climber, so she went along and cleaned the route. Which meant she was taking out the protection and dragging a rope behind for me. Levi belayed her from above so she would only fall as far as the rope stretched. I came up last and could take which ever route I wanted to reach them since my rope was hanging straight down and didn't go through anything else. The fact that I wasn't carrying any extra clips or rope, and that I had seen two people go before me a real speed advantage. The first climb wasn't too bad, there were decent enough holes and the angle didn't scare me too much. We all tied in together at the first pitch and felt pretty good about the whole idea. Now we were up there, all ropes pulled in from the bottom and Levi set off above us. We were wedged in under a wall that forced us left across the rock face, it was also providing good grip for our magic climbing shoes that
Sarah climbing ahead
12:39pm Sarah climbing to our lunch spot
really can seem to grip to anything, they put my hiking boots to shame, pity that you have to wear them so tight you can't walk around in them. Soon Sarah was on the route and out of sight. I was left alone until I heard the shout from above.
Looking down the first Flatiron
1:14pm My scariest foot photo yet
I unclipped all the protection, hung it from my harness and began edging my way upwards. at the second pitch there was room to move around and we stopped for lunch. It had taken us three hours to get there, but we were only on the second pitch out of six so we really had to move. The climb to pitch three ended with some pretty terrifying climbing, I found myself
Levi and Sarah stop for lunch
1:31pm Levi and Sarah stop for lunch
lying as flat as possible to fit my back pack far enough under a big slab so that I could make use of the hand holes under there, and then came the drop off. There was a five foot drop running almost directly up the rock, which we needed to go diagonally across. If I was mucking around on boulders anywhere else I would have just jumped, but when landing on a surface angled at about 60° and there being a huge drop at the bottom I had to be a little more careful about things.

   When I got to the belay station I was a little apprehensive about the set up there. Even though I knew that each of the three devices that supported us could hold at least a tonne I really didn't feel like putting all my weight on them.
Levi traversing from the third pitch
3:49pm Levi traversing from the third pitch
Levi reassured me and eventually I sat back in my harness and was able to belay him as he disappeared from sight almost instantly. A little while later he popped back into view traversing across to another drop off. It was another half hour at least before we heard him calling for Sarah to follow him. At that drop off she slipped a bit, but not very far, and it gave me advance warning that the lichen in that area wasn't entirely stable. When it was my turn I had to undo all the clips that I had been afraid to lean on. I really shouldn't have worried because they weren't going anywhere. I took a different route than the other two. I went across first and then up. Getting across was the hardest part of the entire day. I really had no idea of where my rope was secured, so had I fallen I would have been dragged sidewards off the little drop. I spread myself as flat as possible and with arms and legs outstretched, my face right on the rock, I edged across very slowly. I truly expected to fall at that point. There weren't any decent holes and I was pretty much just using the rough surface of the rock to grip on to. I passed the point where Sarah slipped very carefully and by now I could see the tree that the other two were waiting under (video 3.4Mb). Levi had made it all the way there without any extra clips, quite a feat if you were to think about where he would have gone if something had happened. The station was another decent space to move around in, but we remained tied to the tree just in case.

   From here we could see the ridge, and with the map we had we could identify exactly where we were. The climb started easy but the rope got caught near the top so Levi had to climb back down to untangle it and then get back into his safe spot before Sarah could set off. As I sat there and waited for them to call me I watched the shadow of the mountain get longer and longer below me, covering Boulder and heading towards Denver (which could be seen pretty well for a city that was about 40 miles away). Finally it was my turn and I got up there as quick as I could, confident that they would catch me, and mindful that it was about to get very, very dark.
Sarah and Levi huddle together in our cubby hole above Boulder
7:40pm Sarah and Levi huddle together in our cubby hole above Boulder
We were all together by 7:40pm, huddled into a little open-topped cave on the ridge. I was glad to be out of the wind because it was another two hours before I left that place. Sarah and I waited together for ages before hearing Levi shouting over the wind. He had made it across the saddle and found the eye-bolts from which we were going to rappel to safety. During that time it got dark, and there was no moon. At one point I heard him calling to Sarah saying that he was coming down to her. I had a terrible feeling that something bad had happened and I would be watching sunrise from my seat. Both of the others had cool LED head lamps, but I was going to rely on a mini-maglite tied around my wrist. What worried me more than the dark was loosing feeling in my hand, so I kept myself busy by moving the cord around and checking for numbness. The wind was stopping me from hearing Levi, but finally I heard the magic words

"You are on belay"
"Climbing"
"Climb on"
   I couldn't set off straight away as there were safety devices to collect first. I struggled with one of them for ages, even pulling some rocks apart to get to it, but I was getting tired and cold so I left it there and began my ascent. Since it was dark and I couldn't point my torch at my feet I just trusted my toes and let them find their own holes. I was on the ridge pretty quickly but moved slowly along it because of the huge risk of falling from that point. Once again I was struck by how easy these rocks would be if they were on the ground. I'd have been bouncing around like crazy. But at 10 o'clock at night, high above the lights of Boulder, I was playing it really safe. I was so happy to see their head lamps as I came over to the saddle, but the climb down to them was pretty hairy. I ended up leaving some equipment in the rocks above and belaying down to them. Then began the intricate operation of getting us all over the saddle and up to the eye bolts. We did that without incident and we gathered again at the very peak of the rock, the highest things around (apart from Green Mountain behind us). We tidied up the rope and knotted them together. We were about 90ft above flat ground on a vertical drop, and our torches could only just make the trees visible. I hurled the rope over and Levi was the first to step out in to the dark. Part of the way down the rope had tangled so he had to hang there and untie it while swaying in the wind. Sarah and I heard him cheer when he reached the ground, even though for Sarah it meant it was time for her to tie in, unhook and trust the rope. She did it without a problem and I was left at the top, what a view (video 1.8Mb). It was midnight by the time I had all the pieces together and the ropes running through my harness. Well one of them was. I nudged around to the edge with my torch hanging around my neck. I leant over backwards putting my trust into the equipment and twang! one of the ropes popped out. I could see their silhouettes, one came down, through my ATC and into my hand, the other went straight in to my grip. Panic! I was able to pull myself back up and to a point where I could sit down again. I double checked everything, even triple checked most things before trying again. Once I knew everything was right I rappelled to the 'sand-painting' as described by the guy in the climbing shop. The free rappel was amazing. I could see two bright spots below, and hear them encouraging me on as I went past the over hang and smoothly glided to the bottom. We were down, we could walk to the car from here (over an hour down the hill). Three cheers for our fearless leader Levi!





Back on the hiking trail at last Our route up the Firstflatiron The route along the Flatiron ridge
12:58am Back on the hiking trail at last
Our route up the First Flatiron
Our route along the ridge (done in darkness)


best wishes from
   Craig
Wish you were here?     (7 replies so far)




Art work and site design by Craig Stanton. Entries written by Craig Stanton, Bronwyn Leak and Nina Lindsay. All rights reserved. © 2003