Monday, February 20, 2012

Jude's place

We got to visit our new friend Jude's house that used to be an elementary school. Can you tell?

Big spacious rooms

Chalkboard covered with quilt!

Windowside bathtub!

There's Jude and Mark, who picked us up hitchhiking and invited us to his house at Cosy Nook!


Mark is a panelbeater, here's his workshop

More Farm Pictures

On the Farm!

Cows, cows, cows!!! They're so cute and silly! But also very stinky.

I am writing from a dairy farm in Edendale, where James and I have been milking cows for the past two weeks. There are only 150 cows on this farm, which is very small for New Zealand standards. Most farms in this region have 500 to 1000 cows. Because our farm is so small the owner Graham knows all of his cows by name.

They are milked on a carousel-type machine which we have learned operate. A cow climbs up a concrete ramp onto one of the 22 available spots, and  is rewarded with a bucket of treats, sticky oats and grains sweetened with molasses. Then Graham rotates the carousel so there is room for the next cow to climb into the next section. Then he attaches teat cups to the udders of the cow in front of him, turns the carousel a bit more, and does the same with the next cow. The teat cups suck milk from the cow rhythmically, like a calf would do naturally, and transfers it by pipe through several filters and into a large metal vat.

The carousel is a lot cleaner before the milking. Before each milking, a hot water chemical rinse cleans out the tubes. After each milking, the whole room is sprayed with a high-pressure hose.

It sounds simple enough but there is a lot that can go wrong. Just by looking at their rear ends Graham can recognize which cows have unsatisfactory milk, so he puts their milk into a seperate container and uses it to feed the calves. Sometimes a cow can kick the tubes off its udders, which causes the whole system to start malfunctioning - the tubes can start sucking the dirty, poopy water into the vat. During the milking, cows are constantly shitting and peeing, and there is no way to avoid getting poop on your hands and clothes.( I wore gloves for the first few days but realized that they are too annoying and get in the way.)

There are three jobs - putting the teat cups on, taking them off, and standing on the carousel with the cows refilling their containers of food.  James and I usually take turns taking the cups off and feeding them. Being with them on the carousel is nice because you get to look at their silly faces instead of their pooping butts.  One particular golden cow always tries to stay on the carosel to trick you into giving her more treats, I usually have to push her off!

The more agressive cows steal food from their neighbors.
Notice "Big Red" picking his nose with his tongue.

The cows are constantly licking and nudging you encouraging you to feed them again.

Despite the not-so-pleasant smells - even while feeding them you have to put up with their stinky breath -  the milk turns out great.  James and I sometimes take some home in a pitcher. It's so rich, we eat it with Wheet-Bix (the most popular cereal in New Zealand) and we've used it to make pancakes and a quiche.

The cows are milked twice daily, once at 5AM and once at 5PM. Each milking takes about three hours.  Their daily milk production is picked up by a truck and delivered to the nearby Fonterra Milk Factory. Each day the cows produce about $1200 worth of milk, but Graham says there are from $35,000 to $40,000 worth of monthly expenses. Grahm's parter Debbie works at another local dairy farm. They also sell meat locally, adult bulls and calves for veil. Once a year they kill one of their bulls and then have meat to last them the whole year.

After milking, I get to feed the calves, which is my favorite farm activity! Jack (also known as James the Second) is a 1-week old calf with a big personality. His mother died when he was born, and they took her away in a truck. Jack, only a few hours old, chased the truck down the road! Luckily Graham had some cholostorum in his freezer, which is special nutrient-infused milk cows produce right after they give birth. Jack has been doing fine, I love spending time with him!

He hasn't quite mastered the muscles in his tongue yet.

Jack's ears are tattooed green to identify him. Graham doesn't use tags because they can rip them off against the fence.
I got to feed the 24 calves milk twice a day, and gave them hay in the morning.

Even though there are 8 places to drink from and 8 calves, they always shove and headbutt each other to get a spot.

Thirsty calves getting splashed with milk.

After you feed them, you get a stick and wipe it in some poop and rub it on the girls' udders. This is to prevent them from sucking each others udders, which they do instictively.  This can damage them and cause problems in the future.

 Grahm and Debbie left for four days, leaving James and I to help run the farm while they were gone. We had help milking the cows from Grahm's brother. We had a great time and felt like real farmers for a few days!

We drove the farm truck into a nearby town to pick up 20 bales of hay. 
One of the cows took this picture.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mout Aspiring

We spent a few days at Mount Aspiring National Park which is just outside of Wanaka. Drive down a gravel road for an hour and you end up at the trailhead to the famous Rob Roy Glacier hike and dozens of other hikes.

Notice the bag of plums hanging from the backpack. They was a tree at the campground we were staying it, so we put some in a bag and put them in our oatmeal the next morning.

We hiked in to a campsite 3 hours in, past the first hut, and left our packs in our tent the next day and did a steep day hike up to Liverpool Hut, where we saw mountain climbers starting their climbs with their crampons.

Mount Aspiring Hut, the first hut in the valley, $25 per night in peak season. In every mountain hut there is a book where trampers write their intentions so the Department of Conservation knows where to look if someone goes missing. There is also usually a book with the history of that particular hut which is always interesting. This one, located 10K from the parking lot, took a few years and a few hundred volunteers (mostly young students) to cart all the materials and put it together.

James was stoked.

Self-timer again. It was really hot!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Routeburn Track!

And finally: the Routeburn Track! It's a world-renown New Zealand trail known as a "Great Walk." It took us 2 nights and 3 days to walk the 32k (28 miles), but this was after we had already been hiking for 4 days on the Greenstone Caples Track. Some athletes start with the sun, jogging the whole trail with day packs. (That's probably what my dad and James' mom Rosalind would do.)

The trail is carved into the mountainside.
 You can see the Mackenzie Hut in the lower lefthand corner of the screen.

Just a few kilometers from the top! Set the camera on a rock to take this one.

We were so lucky to get a clear day! It felt like we were inside Lord of the Rings.


Icicles on the shady parts of the trail




Over the saddle!

A landslide took out all the trees for this section, giving us this amazing view!

Our second night we camped in the valley at the Routeburn Flats campsite.

For the last few days of our 7-day trek, we talked a lot about food and what we would eat when we made it back to civilization. Down to the last of our  instant soup, we decided that when we got back, we would eat at Fergberger, the most popular burger joint in Queenstown. This is James' $17 "Big Al" - beetroot, 2 patties, cheese, 2 eggs, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, aioli. He ate it all.

I had a "Bun Laden," falafel patties dressed with lemon yoghurt and chipotle chilli sauce, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber, avocado and aioli. Yummmmmm.

Greenstone Caples Track

After Milford Sound we got a ride to the Divide, which is the start of the Greenstone Caples and Routeburn Track. Our plan was to do the Greenstone Caples loop track and then the Routeburn. We had a big bag of food with us, mostly canned tuna, crackers, trail mix, dried fruit, and instant noodles, and also water purification tablets. 

The Greenstone Caples Track took us 4 days.

Our first night camping. We like this track because you are allowed to camp anywhere 50 meters from the trail, which is not allowed on the New Zealand Great Walks, like the Milford Track and the Routeburn.

Our backpacks were heavy the first few days, but we planned it so we did the easiest flattest part of the trail first. As our food started to diminish and our backpacks got lighter, we were ready for the steeper trails.

We each carry half of hte tent, which isn't too bad. James didn't have hiking boots, but he usually walks barefoot anyway, so he got these super lightweight shoes with vibram soles. They worked great except when he stepped in a puddle, then they got wet. Mine didn't! But it was okay because they dry pretty fast.

The hikes were mostly in the valley but to switch from the Greenstone to the Caples you had to hike up and over the saddle

Second night camping

A large part of the Caples track was through this extremely mossy forest. The only way to find the trail was to follow the little orange triangles; it was quite wild in there! By this point I had picked up a walking stick. And we had put our raincovers on our backpacks too because it was drizzling, but the forest provided excellent protection from the wet.

Cool trail!

Finally we made it to the start of the Routeburn! You can see the hut in the bottom righthand corner of the above picture. 

That night we had planned on camping next to the hut, but it was pouring rain and there were snow warnings. So we were warming ourselves and drying our wet clothes by the fire in the cozy hut when the warden approached us and asked us if we wanted to upgrade to sleep insinde. I said yes until he told us the price: $50 per person! And that was just to sleep inside on the floor of the kitchen because all of the dormitory beds were full. So we decided to save $100 and sleep in our tent and spend the money on a nice room when we made it back to civilization, which we did.

And it didn't snow that night, but some mice did try to take refuge in between our tent and our rainfly (outside the tent!). Good thing we have nice sleeping bags!