Monday, 7 February 2011

Oxfam Trailwalker 2010

In brief, I realize I forgot to write about doing the Trailwalker last year and it is coming up again. This post is my feeble attempt to right some wrong and promote this amazing event.

Every year teams of four descend on Lake Taupo to take on a decent team challenge, walking 100km in under 36 hours. Entries are now open for Oxfam Trailwalker 2011 (April 9-10), interested?

In the middle of March last year I got an email to president (at) that looked a little something like this:
Mariana and I have joined a team to do the Oxfam Trailwalker (, a fundraising event in Lake Taupo on April 10th. The goal for each team is to raise $2000 and walk 100 kms in 36hrs. It seems doable, but it will much easier with the help from the tramping club.
I was wondering if the club has sponsored teams like ours for this kind of events before. I'm not sure if the club as an organization can help directly with fundraising, but at least I was wondering if I can make announcements through the mailing list, forum, or meetings.
Also, we are looking for another walker (one of our teammates decided to get pregnant!) and people for the support team.
We really appreciate any help that the club can provide us.

Obviously the usual thing would have been to forward the email to the club as part of our weekly newsletter; being selfish though, I was far to eager to join the team myself so I jumped at the opportunity before someone else could. Yes I know, what an abuse of power!

We managed to raise lots of money from the generous people in the CUTC. We had lots of direct donations as well as organizing training/fundraising tramps where people would donate money in order to come along. R&R Sport jumped on board as well - giving us a brand spanking new pack to raffle off. 

I was luckily already going to be in the north island for a computer science conference the following week so I managed to change my university provided flights. A couple of weeks later we were meeting up in Wellington and squeezed into the NZEGA car - a tiny excuse of a vehicular device if ever I saw one. Here are a few photos from the event, I highly recommend reading the account on stuff I link to at the end.

The start line at 5am

The team above Huka Falls (yes I went and had a good look)

The north island is weird, half of it is on fire...

At a checkpoint - time for lots of food and drink

Meandering along with the hordes

Still going...

The sun rises and we are still going strong

At the 99th km marker, feeling good!

Walking the 100kms wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, not that I got blisters or anything, in fact I could still run at the end of it, but I was a touch stiff the next day! We were walking solidly for 28 hours. I'd like to do it again, but in a more competitive way - only a few teams tried running the entire thing, but it is clearly possible... just saying.

The team managed to raise just over $2500, thank you very much to all who donated! All up 1200 people walked it, raising over $600,000 for poverty relief! Our team's page is:

Advice for anyone doing the trailwalker: take plenty of pairs of socks, your feet will love you for it, stay hydrated and have fun.

Oh and someone I was walking with for a while was actually a reporter, her account is far more entertaining to read than my year late write up: - Note the reference to me: "I strike up a conversation with a 22-year-old engineering student from Canterbury, who doesn't look a day over 16. I'm convinced of this when he leaps a fence."

[Image: Oxfam Unwrapped: Change the present. Change a future.]Not entirely unrelated Oxfam Unwrapped is a far easier way to help out if you don't feel like walking 100kms! With Oxfam Unwrapped, you can give something special to friends and family, and something extra special to people who haven’t got much at all. So start shopping now and enjoy the ultimate stress-free, feel good, life-changing Christmas! (I'm told there is a Lama somewhere)
Change the present. Change a future. 

Saturday, 5 February 2011


Today Terra and I took Parapro up on their offer to NZAC members - $120 for an introductory course in para-gliding. We drove out to Cashmere hills early in the morning and I got some strong coffee to help with the hangover. We were taken to a dairy farm with low, gentle hills where we got to take our first short flights. We started barely on the slope, practicing our forward launch with our own paraglider - which simply means running forwards with the wing inflating behind like a kite. Once we could easily get the wing above us we started from further up the slope and learnt how to take off! We had a few short take-offs - flying at very low altitudes, to get used to the handling of the wing and learning how to land safely with a solid flair. As our skills progressed (or just as confidence leaving the ground increased) moving on to steeper and higher hills while being given simple instructions like “turn left”, “flair flair flair” and my favorite “RUN”!

After Cashmere we went out to Taylor's Mistake and got a quick go in a Flight Simulator before gracefully walking off the side of the hill! We wore radio's so the instructors could communicate with us. Even though it was my first real flight I felt like the instructor should occasionally just keep quiet as the constant stream of “left left LEFT, good, good, right... right, right, good” was a touch annoying. Unfortunately that one amazing flight was the end of the course but we had the oportunity to go for a second flight for an additional $40 - wasn't going to pass that one up so we drive back up to the top of the port hills. We went through the checklist and did a radio check and I took off, this time I didn't hear a single instruction. I assumed pretty quickly that they didn't suddenly trust me as a pro and that the radio was malfunctioning. Despite my desire to get the radio out and prove my technical competence by changing channel etc I decided that focusing on the task of steering my paraglider took precedence. I had an amazing solo flight down, turning when I wanted, going where I wanted. There was a line in the grass that I aimed to land on from the top, I managed to get within two meters of it and touched down with silky softness as I flaired the wings just before the line.

The instructor on the ground was rebuking me about the fact I hadn't been following his commands exactly but switched to being very concerned when I mentioned I didn't hear a thing. Another paraglider pilot who was there with him mentioned I'd turned the correct way and followed my approach pattern on about 80% of the calls anyway so that made me feel pretty good!

I'll put a couple of photos up when I get them, I also took a video from my helmet on the first flight - I should get that DVD in a week.

To get an idea of what I would like to try next take a look at this video: