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Posts tagged ‘coromandel’

How to boil an egg: it’s all in the timing

Last week, my parents set off on a road trip.

Even to minor excursions – going to the shops, picking up mail – Dad brings the same measure of care and precision as he might to, say, invading a small country. There are maps to be consulted, schedules to be drawn, checklists to be ticked, bags to be packed, socks to be pulled up.

Undoubtedly, Dad is thorough and organised – but he likes to keep his options open. When Dad is ready to go, he’ll stand around roaring, “I THOUGHT WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE LEAVING AT <INSERT CURRENT TIME MINUS X MINUTES TO THE NEAREST HOUR>!” even though nobody can remember seeing that particular bulletpoint in the circulated itinerary.

Now, while Dad sits in the car beeping and occasionally bawling, “VERA!” up the stairs, Mum pootles around achieving very little in comparison to the impressive acreage she covers. She’ll tootle downstairs with a bag of apricots, a whisk and a bottle of suntan lotion, wedge them into a non-existent gap in Dad’s painstakingly packed car, then womble off again to hunt down picnic blankets or savour a cup of tea while she envisions Dad going mad with the impatience.

I seriously thought her life might be in jeopardy when, after Dad had been downstairs fine-tuning the luggage for twenty minutes, she decided to boil an egg. (You think I’m making this up, don’t you? Bear this in mind: I did not spring from a vacuum.)

“Why didn’t you boil it yesterday?” asked Dad reasonably and admirably mildly.

“You know how to boil an egg as well as I do,” responded Mum defensively and undeniably perversely.

I don’t know whether Dad has mellowed, or merely appreciates that attempting to increase the tempo of Mum’s internal beat would be an exercise on the same scale as bailing out a boat with a fork. He might feasibly have dissuaded her from boiling her egg, whereupon she would have undertaken some emergency darning or decided to make an omelette.

Husband and I follow a similar pattern when leaving the house. I have never been innovative enough to boil an egg, but I find that sitting on the loo is an extremely defensible position. Andrew has been known to rev the car in the garage, but thankfully these days he does a spot of motorbike maintenance instead.

Leaving for Onemana last Friday, the roles were reversed when Andrew first spent half an hour wrapping up a PABX, and then decided to check the oil differential on the Toyota Surf. Evidence suggests Andrew didn’t spring from a vacuum either.

We finally arrived in Onemana at four o’clock.

06:13 hrs in Onemana

Me and Jed, still asleep

Dad in his pyjamas at sunrise. If I DID spring from a vacuum, you can assume this is photographic evidence of it

Husband, action shot. What are you asking me for? No idea.

(L-R) Mum and Dad. Not sure what's going on here but it's undoubtedly smutty.

That's my mum.

This is me dad.

Dad shows off the famous Shaw toes.

Andrew, Jed and tennis ball.

Out for a walk at Wentworth Falls, Whangamata.

07:00hrs: the road home, just outside Onemana.

Chillin, Onemana

My idea of a perfect holiday: people you love, light glinting on waves, sun-scorched sand, damp togs, ice-cream melting down your fingers, camp chairs on a deck, salads and chilled wine, early afternoon siestas, spending not too much time with an excellent book, ambling along the beach at dusk, sandy feet, the mild Cajun heat of sunburn on your shoulders, falling asleep to a chorus of cicadas.

Andrew’s idea of a perfect holiday: propelling himself over rough terrain at vast speeds and making up words for ‘bored’.

Hard to find a middle ground.

Biting off more than he can chew: Jed attempts to fetch the swing.

Nuttier than a bucket of walnuts

Crazy times here in Casa del Deadlyjelly.

By ‘crazy’, everything is relative. Husband didn’t go on the rampage with a chainsaw – although that may be just a matter of time. I have not resorted to licking the walls – most likely a matter of time too; or a natural response to Andrew coming at me with a live chainsaw. Jed is madder than a barrel of frogs, but relatively speaking? No change there.

The copyeditor came back to me with her feedback on About Time, so I’ve spent the last few days clenched onto my laptop trying not to smear it in blood, sweat and tears. Mostly tears, which are at least more sanitary than the other two.

Apart from the time pressure (not all self-inflicted – I spoke to my editor the other day and she sounded mildly panicked about getting About Time into production) I’ve actually enjoyed revising the book. Which is a first for me: reading through my own work and not thinking it sucks lemons genetically modified for extra acidity. I actually felt quite smug. Not sure I’m over it yet.

Now we’re about to embark on a little road trip to the Coromandel. Normal service will resume on Sunday.

The Pinnacles

Now, I can’t report JohnO’s contribution to the conversation verbatim, because I don’t listen to him much. The gist of it is that he said, “The Pinnacles? Are you sure you’re able for it?” And I said, “*scoff!* YOU walked it, didn’t you? How difficult can it be?”

On occasion, JohnO says something that is relevant and/or important. In retrospect, this was potentially one of those rare occasions; and instead of saying, “The DOC says it’s only 5 hours and we’re pretty fit. So, you’re building a shed? That sounds pretty uninteresting,” I should perhaps have said, “Able for it? Why do you say that, JohnO? Is the walk particularly challenging from a distance, climb, terrain or predatory animals perspective? Please impart the specifics while I pay attention and perhaps take notes.”

Thereupon he might have told me that most of the 759m climb to The Pinnacles takes place along a ½ km section that redefines the word ‘savage’.

Whereupon I would most likely have said, “Eh, we’re hardy.”

Evidently, I was going to have to learn from experience.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We woke at about 05:00 hrs on Friday morning to a sullen day with low cloud cover. Having packed the tent, we struck out for The Pinnacles. Minor detour back to the car to retrieve the suntan lotion, just in case the sun made a guest appearance.


For a while, we were stuck behind a couple who persisted at walking at the same pace as us. Thankfully, they had an absolutely rip-snorting argument about who had forgotten to pack the map, and we passed them when they stopped to point at each other.

After a gentle 3km meander up the valley criss-crossing Webb Creek, we hit a series of steps hewn into the natural rock. In the early 1900s, packhorses used this trail to carry supplies up to the logging camps of the back country. They must have been fairly gnarly back in the days, since some of the steps required pitons to scale.

We stopped at Hydro Camp to catch a few gasps, then pushed on to the Pinnacles Hut and Dancing Kauri Dam, where we had ‘smoko’ (coffee break to the rest of the world).

Kauri dams allowed kauri logs to be flushed out of the inaccessible back country using a tripping mechanism that released the front gate of the dam and blasted logs down the floods. A plaque advised us that Dancing Kauri Dam was built in 1924 by Jim Angel, who happens to be Husband’s maternal great great great uncle. For the sake of posterity, it is worth mentioning that the bauld Jim was a champion two-man saw master in his day.

He is immortalized in the famous song, Jim Angel (really needs to be accompanied by a fiddle):

When Jim Angel was a baby
He was the size of three grown men
Could pound rocks to rubble
With the flat of his bare hand

Oh! Jim Angel he’s a mighty man <fiddle fiddle fiddle>
Washes his face in a rusty can <increase fiddle tempo>

When Jim Angel was a boy
He was the size of two pack mules
And could do the work of three or four
Made other boys look like fools


When Jim Angel was a man
He built the Dancing Kauri Dam
Kept the leftover trees for picking his teeth
Just because he can


In the book, Tramping in New Zealand (40 great New Zealand tramping trips by Shaun Barnett), kauri dam technology is described as ‘ingenious but destructive’. Evidently his mother’s bloodline is prevalent in Husband.



It is another kilometer and a half to the top of The Pinnacles, a pretty steep climb involving steps, rungs hammered into the rock, and – in two instances – ladders. Because I’m weird, I counted the steps from The Pinnacles Hut to the peak. It was 555 on the way up (I was gutted when I counted only 552 on the return).


The track up to The Pinnacles, photo taken from the hut

I followed Husband, concentrating more on hauling air into my flaming lungs than where I was going, which is probably how I ended up scaling a fairly sheer rock stabbing out of the side of the mountain. Balanced precariously on top, I looked around for any sign of the track.

“Husband!” I quavered, and his head popped up over a rock about 200m beyond me. “Hey! How the hell did you get up there?”

“More to the point, how the hell did YOU get up THERE?” enquired Husband. Then he laughed at me as I tried to get off it without tumbling to certain death.

After lunch at the top, we returned to the carpark via the Billygoat Track. I didn’t notice very much about it, because I was distracted by my thighs screaming in agony.

Since they’re still at it three days later, my ears are now ringing too





Pinnacles Hut from the summit

Largely leech like lips


Camping: the ultimate romantic adventure. Playing harmonica by the light of the campfire’s dying embers, watching shooting stars from the warm embrace of nature’s verdant bosom, just a couple of layers of nylon between yourself and the great outdoors, lulled to gentle slumber by the distant roar of rutting stags.

At least, that’s how it always is in my head – and we all know how acrimoniously divorced from reality that space is.

On Friday afternoon, Husband and I drove east and turned right onto Kauaeranga Valley Road about 2km south of Thames. There are numerous campsites, but we chose the one at the head of the road where The Pinnacles Trail starts.

Things started going wrong before we even parked. First, there was a bloody big sign stating that dogs were forbidden in the area. Naturally, I was offended on behalf of our imaginary pooch.

Then, in one awful moment, we realized we had forgotten the pump for inflating the airbed. Being blessed with a surfeit of hot air, I attempted to blow it up by hand (as it were). Unfortunately, the valve was positioned in such a way that, not being possessed of an ape-like protruding jaw, I could not wrap my gob around the valve.

Since Husband has a pair of amazing, rubbery, largely leech like lips, he took over airbed blowing duties while I wrestled with the tent. Unfortunately, although Husband could form a seal around the valve, he did not have enough puff for maximum inflation.

Around about the time Husband attempted to affix the airbed to the car’s exhaust pipe – which had little effect except to prove that he is mad – I was entangled cocoon style in the tent and realized our camping trip was Doomed.

Eventually a fellow camper, Ted – an old boy with a startling, white corkscrew beard – took pity and loaned us his car battery powered pump. Ted’s timing was unfortunate, since I had to ask Husband for the car keys. He was negotiating a tense situation at the long drop.


Airbed inflated, we decided to go for a swim. The river was really more of an extremely long puddle.

“Isn’t this nice?” said Husband, spread-eagled in about 2 inches of water.

Afterwards, unrolling the towel with a flourish, he accidentally flung my underwear into the river. There may not have been sufficient water for swimming, but there was enough to soak my spare underwear. Looking on the bright side, at least it wasn’t swept away in a roil of whitewater. No danger of that at all.

Back at camp, we settled in with a bottle of wine and citronella candle to watch the sun go down. Regrettably, the sun had departed two hours previously. For a while, we sat in the gloom slapping ourselves miserably, until at around 9:30pm Husband said, “Bed?”

I took him seriously since it was the first thing he had said in about an hour. It might even have been vaguely suggestive, had we not been fighting a losing retreat against battalions of mosquitoes on all sides. We made one last, desperate dash for the tent. Once inside, Husband unloaded a full barrel of Raid.

We lay in the dark listening to the death throes of various flies, insects and bugs.

“Look,” said Husband softly, pointing. “The stars.”

“Are they any different than normal? Because otherwise I’m not going hunting for my glasses, dude.”

Airbeds are great fun, there’s no question. Of course, fun is not completely conducive to sleep – especially when you share a bed with a Twitcher. Every time Husband rolls over, he launches himself off the mattress to execute a mid-air twirl. The effects of this are minimal in a king-size fully sprung mattress, where your dreams interpret it as a soothing rocking motion. On an airbed, you spend the night being periodically fired around like a pinball.

We did not sleep well

A medium adventure

This afternoon, Husband and I are driving to the Coromandels, camping overnight, and walking the Pinnacles Track tomorrow. So if, by remarkable coincidence, you are also walking the Pinnacles Track and spot us, be sure to stop and say hello and share your biscuits.  Deadlyjelly – that’s the blog, not me referring to myself in the third person – will be back on Sunday morning with photos.

Hope the weather improves a bit; Auckland is overcast and a bit sullen at the moment

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