The Sounds of the Community

As an excuse to get out of the house a bit, and away from the distractions of needy dogs, Redbull TV and over-elaborate lunches, I frequently write at an area known as Community 101. Provided by the helpful people at BNZ bank, the space has been set up for people who need somewhere to work that isn’t the office, or the library, or the garage, or anywhere else that may be considered a place of grind. For the princely sum of $0, you are provided with a desk (c/w comfy seat), power sockets, Wi-Fi, printing services and smashing tea and coffee making facilities. It also allows as a means for networking with other people in the same solitary position. I guess it’s a bit like a well-funded orphanage for easily distracted, lonely professionals. Plus, if nothing else, it’s a useful alternative to sitting on the sofa, with the laptop resting on my lap, wondering what impact the battery radiation will have on my long term fertility.

In recent weeks I’ve been working on another writing outlet, that of attempting to self-publish an e-book. There’s just a small matter of actually writing a book to publish, which is where the Community 101 comes in. I think the final word count of the e-book is technically pushing it into Novella territory, as opposed to a short story or dabble, but I’m trying to steer clear of that term during conversation (obviously referring to it on a post that goes up on the internet is totally fine). Similar to my earlier concerns about pretentiousness when it comes to writing, saying I’m penning a novella is definitely beret wearing, espresso drinking territory. And I can’t afford a type writer.

Anyway, the reason I bring this all up is because there was a slight disconnect on Friday morning when I was using the area. The smiling, working people around me, networking away, and Justine Timberlake’s ‘Got That Feeling in my Body’ playing on the speakers, was in slight contrast to the horror scene I was attempting to put together, involving a psychopath repeatedly beating a dead teenagers face with a rock – the scene makes more sense in context. The point being that I had to replace Justin’s fun time tune by listening to a band called Decapitated to balance things out a bit – the song ‘Kill this Cult‘ rocks if anyone is interested. Worked a treat if anyone finds themselves in a similar situation. You’re welcome.

Cuckoo Creek – Craigieburn

I bounded over fallen branches and spindly, green vegetation. The tall, skinny trees passed me as a blur, as I ran deeper and deeper into the forest. The scent I had detected was becoming clearer and more pungent as I homed in on the source. Finally, after all these hunting trips, I was able to showcase my ninja-like hunting skills, and prove to Rusty that the ‘Hunt’ in ‘Huntaway’ was completely justified. Rotten branches exploded under paw, and a loud rustling echoed through the trees, as I landed in a clearing to come face to face with… nothing. Just an empty, grassy clearing, enclosed by moss covered trees. I looked around, confused. I was convinced that this was where the scent was coming from. Rusty, the ever-annoying Labrador would once again put the ‘La’ in ‘laughing at me’ at my inability to catch anything. I took a moment to concede that the ‘La in laughing’ comment didn’t really work on any level, and then begrudgingly turned around to join the others.


Positioned within the centre of the circular clearing, I quickly realised that I had no idea which direction I had arrived from. The surrounding trees and undergrowth all looked the same, acting as a barrier to the shaded forest behind. ‘Not to worry, I’ll just follow my nose’, I smirked to myself, and looked around to see if anyone else got the joke, confident that it was an improvement on the previous attempt. Remembering that I was on my own, I instead raised my nose into the air, attempting to detect the stench of Ian’s tuna fish sandwiches, or the condescending aroma of oxidised iron. Smirking to myself yet again from a joke at Rustys expense, and again remembering I was on my own and no-one was here to witness my return to comedy form, my smirk turned to concern as I could detect neither scents. It started to dawn on me that I might be lost…

Several hours earlier, Ian, Rusty and I had arrived at the Mt. Cheeseman ski field access road, located in Craigieburn, 1.5 hours’ drive from Christchurch. It was another fresh day, with blue skies, no wind, and a radiant sun hanging high above us. Parking at Texas Flat – which is a bit of an odd name I know – we would the walk up the Cheeseman access track – which also is a bit of an odd name, I know – and then turn off onto the newly signposted Cuckoo Creek trail – I’ve heard worse names – and return via the Dracophyllum Flat track – it’s a native New Zealand plant before you ask.

Strutting my Stuff on the Access Track

The access track was typical of most access tracks, a winding rocky road that gradually made its way skywards. While Ian busied himself photographing every possible angle of it, Rusty and I inspected a new type of medium under-paw. Not quite snow, and not quite frost, a glassy film coated the road in several places still protected from the sun’s rays. It would either shatter with a satisfying crunch under our weight, or instead provide entertainment as we watched, with our heads cocked to one side, as Ian attempted to walk across it, his arms flailing and shouting words that I shall not repeat here. The amusement was eventually brought to a close an hour of wobbly walking later, when we arrived at a signpost indicating the start of the Cuckoo Creek trail.

The trail abruptly dropped away from the road, and we were immediately immersed in browns and greens, as the squidgy, earthy trail disappeared into the woodland. White, crystallised frost lined the fallen trees and branches where the morning sun hadn’t taken affect yet, as slivers of light penetrated the canopy where it could, illuminating small patches of undergrowth. Rusty and I darted around, exploring this territory full of new scent and sounds. As our names were called, we returned to Ian, who was making his way along the slowly descending path, to collect another delicious Bitchin Beer Treat, before heading back out on our investigations, which so far were proving fruitless. After thirty minutes and 2km of this, we arrived at the Dracophyllum Flat track.

We turned right and headed back towards the direction of Texas Flat. A little disappointed by my hunting endeavour, I was close to giving up, but then detected a faint scent emanating from somewhere through the trees. I sprang to attention and sprinted off to track it down.

Now stood in the clearing, it became evident that I may have been a little too ambitious with the exploring, and I found myself in a bit of a predicament. Unable to hear or smell where Ian and Rusty were, I frantically looked around, attempting to recognise something that would lead me back to where I came from. I cast my mind back to the blur that was the forest when I was dashing through the trees, and it quickly became obvious that my memory was going to be of no help. As my nose was failing me, I stood still and held my breath, trying to make as little noise as possible while I flexed my ears to detect any Ian or Rusty related sounds.


I thought I heard something in the distance, coming from somewhere behind me.

‘God damn it. Where are you? Katrina is going to kill me’.

That was definitely Ian. There was only one person I knew who lived in such fear of his partner’s wrath. Suddenly I was able to detect the unmistakable smell of terror, as Ian’s sweat glands went into overdrive. Acting as a homing beacon, I chased the scent down to finally be reunited with a relived Ian, and a nonchalant Rusty. Re-joining the path exactly where I had enthusiastically left it several minutes ago, Ian immediately clasped a leash on me and we walked in silence, with a smug Rusty up ahead, walking with that annoying swagger that he does.

The Look of a Canine Still Trying to Work out the Oxidised-Iron Joke

The remainder of the Dracophyllum Flat track climbed steeply out of the forest and into a grassy clearing, providing views over the surrounding mountains. By this point Ian had calmed down and released me from the leash so I could play with Rusty, as he spent several minutes photographing our every move. Which I will admit, was a little creepy.

The final obstacle before we made it back to the Texas Flat was crossing Tims Stream – I don’t know who Tim is before you ask. What should have been a straightforward exercise in fording a watercourse, was instead dragged out and complicated by Ian’s insistence of not getting his feet wet. Rusty and I stood, chest deep in the slowly moving water, with our heads cocked to the side once again, as we watched Ian pick his way over slippery rocks. Sadly not falling in, I was instead comforted by the fact that no matter how bad I think I’ve got it, Ian will always have it worse.

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 8.5km

Height Gain: 273m

Time: 2.5hrs


Route can be mountain biked in the Summer

Map courtesy of

Stilted Conversations and Mumbled Responses

‘So, what is it that you do?’

‘Oh, I’m a, er, freelance writer… I guess’

‘Cool. What sort of stuff do you write?’

‘Ah, well, um, all sorts really. Like, stories and stuff…’

This has generally been the exchange for the past couple of weeks, when the inevitable subject of what I actually do for a living comes up when meeting new people. I used to be able to say that I was an engineer, which swiftly killed the conversation. We would then stare at each other in an awkward silence before I broke, and attempted to show an interest in the average day of a curtains salesman. Some professions are just more fascinating than others. I have a mate who is an animator, and another who is an alpine guide, and I used to talk about their professions to other people, vicariously living through their careers. I’d be referred to as the guy who knows an animator, as opposed to the guy who is an engineer.

However, now that I refer to myself a writer (which for some reason can have an air of pretentiousness about it. Sometimes I lead with ‘dog biscuit maker’. That’s not a euphemism by the way, it is something I do on the side while try to decide what to write about) it’s a subject that people are curious about, yet I don’t really have a great deal of further information to hold up my end of the conversation. As I’m currently in the process of dabbling, experimenting and skiing, in an attempt to establish a niche, there’s nothing concrete to elaborate on, resulting in a bit of a mumbled fade out.

Similar to the expectation while I was an engineer that I should have an interest in cars, and/or have a large adjustable spanner on my person all times, there also seems to be an assumption that I should be carrying around a pad and pencil, for feverishly scribbling down details and minuting all conversations. Putting aside the fact that a phone will suffice these days, this has now been mentioned on so many occasions that I’m starting to think that is what I should be doing, as opposed to relying on my significantly diminishing memory. Which may explain why all my stories seem to end in a car chases and explosions.



That’s Right Pete, it is

This weekend was my first attempt at selling strangers homemade dog biscuits face to face. Unlike the veil of social media, or getting shops to sell them on my behalf, this time I actually had to make eye contact, read body language, build rapport, and generally mill around in the cold for hours on a chilly Sunday morning.

As I stood, feeling the cold slowly moving up through my shoes and into my feet, I started to think about how niche my product actually was. For a start, the punter – embracing market speak – really needs to have a dog. Secondly, said punter has to have an inclination to feed said dog a mysterious new food. This is about where my excellent sales skills should step in, to convince said punter that said new mysterious new food is the best thing said dog has ever had. I may be complicating this a little, but you get the idea.

The first ‘proper’ job I ever had was selling cutlery in a department store in Cardiff, Wales. I was desperately hoping I would be able to draw on this honed sales technique: creating a need, mirroring body language, creepily using their first name unnecessarily in sentences ‘That’s right Pete it is’ etc.

That was until I remembered that I sucked at selling cutlery. Long story short, I sold two bags. Apparently it was a slow day for everyone, which made me feel a bit better. The majority of the day was spent staring out into the void, watching a guy with a small dog circle the market, mentally willing him to come over in my direction – he did in the end, lovely guy, second sale of the day, Whoo! – and trying to get Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ song out of my head, which was stuck on repeat for some unknown reason.

All that aside, I’m still chalking it up as a success. I managed to get my arse in gear and sort the stall out for future endeavours. And when factoring in the $10 that some random lady, for no reason that I could make out, gave me towards the cost of the stall, I roughly broke even. Plus, that random lady reminded me of the kindness of strangers, which was probably worth the mornings effort alone.



The Mega Multi Sport Day II

I sat on the wooden deck, stared out at the coloured remains of the set sun, and reflected on the day’s events. We’d completed the majority of the activities, the weather had been fantastic, and my choice of celebratory craft beer was, to put it mildly, a triumph. Generally speaking, this had been a massive improvement on the previous effort nine months ago. I sunk a little deeper into the Cape Cod chair, took another swig of my frankly delicious pale ale, nodded to myself with the smallest of grins, and decided to chalk up the day as a success. Granted, my top lip was still painful, and there was the small matter of Ed’s broken back, but you can’t win them all…

In August of the previous year, we attempted a Mega Multi Sport Day, which involved completing seven activities during one long day, that included; skiing, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing, bouldering and caving. The weather was against us for that effort, and in addition to dealing with a horrendous downpour, I spent the majority of the day stressed as I attempted to keep the group on schedule, allowing us to complete all the activities in time. Learning from that experience, I had planned a similar event in early summer, mid-summer, late summer, early autumn (admittedly we did encounter some slight scheduling difficulties) to improve the weather odds, with an itinerary of more modest ambition. Friday night we would camp a short walk from Rakaia Gorge, located in the shadow of Mt. Hutt, in Canterbury. The fun would really start on Saturday, consisting of mountain biking at Mt. Hutt, followed by deep water soloing and bridge jumping at the Rakaia Gorge. We would then drive to Charteris Bay, located on the outskirts of Christchurch, for some rock climbing and pump track racing. The day would be rounded off with a victory BBQ.

Friday evening was spent in high spirits as we sat in a circle and discussed the various activities that lay ahead. Conversation routinely returned to the various potential outcomes, good and bad, of jumping off the Rakaia Gorge bridge. None of us had actually done it before, and minor details such as; bridge height, water depth, water temperature, if sharks swam this far up river etc. were unknown. The only advice we had was from a mate who had jumped off it while at university, who described it as ‘high enough that once you have jumped, you have time to regret it before you hit the water’. A nervous laugh was the last sound to be made before we retired, in silence, to our tents.

Predictably, morning arrived and it was decided to move the bridge jump and deep water soloing to before breakfast, the reason being that as it was hanging over us, it was better to just get it out of the way. One by one, the group reluctantly got changed into wet suits and we nervously walked the short distance to the bridge – a scene that resembled the final moments of the condemned walking to the gallows, if they had capital punishment in Atlantis. Looking over the side of the bridge, the turquoise water below seemed further away than when I last checked, and somehow colder than I remembered too.

No one wanted to be first, due to the unknowns potentially lurking under the pale blue surface. After much nervous joking and not a lot of action, Steve muttered ‘screw this’ and a few seconds later there was a large splash. Thankfully seeing him rise to the surface smiling, this set the standard, and one by one we took it in turns to leap from the bridge. As I plummeted from the skinny, wooden structure, arms flailing frantically, I had plenty of time to reflect on why exactly I had suggested the bridge jump in the first place. It was meant to be a joke, which had somehow gained traction and worked its way onto the itinerary. My thoughts then drifted towards what I was going to have for breakfast after, and having to remember to mow the lawns the following day, until eventually my train of thought was promptly interrupted by impacting the river. A combination of cold, shock and endorphins coursed through my body, as I swam to the surface to free myself from the icy depths. A quick body scan revealed no broken bones or general pain, which I indicated to the onlookers with a broad smile and a ‘Whoop!’-ing noise.

We finished the pre-breakfast shenanigans with a group jump, predominately for photo and video purposes. The second time was just as scary as the first, and as I hit the water my jaw slammed together, cutting the inside of my mouth. As we swam to rivers edge, I noticed that Ed was struggling to swim, appearing to have been winded from the jump. As I selflessly helped him out of the water, in spite of my painful top lip, it became apparent that he may have done slightly more than just wind himself. As he lay on the rocky shore, every now and again attempting and failing to stand, concern mounted as the situation gradually grew more serious. After 20 minutes of a slowly deteriorating condition, an ambulance arrived, shortly followed by the Westpac helicopter. After explaining to several different emergency service workers what had happened, generally followed by a tutting and shaking of their heads, we decided to forgo the deep water soloing activity in light of recent events, replacing it instead with skimming stones. As emergency crews knelt over Ed, preparing him for a heli-evac, we busied ourselves scouring the shore line for suitably skimmable pebbles.  A brief skim-off then ensued, quickly highlighting my inability to bounce stones over water, and bringing out several other people’s competitiveness at what I now considered a trivial task of bouncing stones over water. As morphine coursed through his body, we helped stretcher an upbeat Ed into the chopper, who was (thankfully) reiterating his request not to cancel the rest of the day’s activities, and to continue on without him. With the sound of the rotor blades disappearing into the distance, we shrugged our shoulders and retired for breakfast.

Once we had packed up camp it was onto Mt. Hutt. There are a number of bike trails that litter the mountain side, and are best accessed via shuttling bikes to the top, while taking it in turns to drive down. I originally had grand plans for doing several runs, but due to the earlier inconvenience we revised our intentions to a single run from top to bottom. As we ascended the Mt. Hutt ski field access track, the view over the Canterbury plains, with its patchwork of greens, stretched out to sea. Cycling the short, rocky climb to the start of the Scott’s Saddle Express trail, we then set off on a blast down the mountain, whizzing around corners and rattling down the straights, for a good 20 seconds before Adam got a puncture… which resulted in us hanging around making small talk for 10 minutes… before we were off again! The adjectives continued to fly as we negotiated our way through jumps, drops, rocks, roots and berms. With only several crashes to be had, most of which were mine, we made it to the bottom without heli-assistance, and the third activity was in the bag.

The first stage of the day was now completed. Admittedly, things may not have gone exactly to plan, but the afternoon was fast approaching and it was time to drive to Charteris Bay for the second phase. As I drove through the endless, flat Canterbury landscape, I couldn’t help feel that, from a literary point of view, it would have been more convenient if Ed had injured himself at the end of the day, as it was unlikely we would top a helicopter incident this afternoon. The account of the day was going to be front loaded, with all the drama before breakfast. I tongued my cut mouth, which was still painful and starting to swell somewhat. I’d mentioned it several times while we were biking but no one seemed to care. Maybe it’ll develop into something noteworthy by the end of the day, I mused, to help keep the level of drama up. My train of thought was broken – terrible pun intended – with news of Ed’s condition. He had a compression fracture on his T12 vertebra, requiring surgery to insert several bits of metal plate in and around his spine. The surgeon had mentioned before the surgery that ‘most people we see with this injury aren’t moving their legs ever again’. I returned to tonguing my top lip.

Rock climbing was planned for a crag known as The Altar, located adjacent to Charteris Bay, whose name seemed apt considering the day’s previous events. The spot consists of a large over hang, complete with spectacular views over the estuary and the rugged Port Hills in the distance. The area also doubles as a sun trap, and sunshine poured in as we set about putting some ropes up. As none of us were actually able to do any of the higher grade, over hanging, hard as nails routes, we instead opted for the more palatable and conquerable lines, affectionately known as ‘the easier routes’. Enjoying our time in the sun, we casually took it in turns attempting to scale the limestone rock face. I basked in the warmth of the afternoon glow, enjoying the fact that we were ahead of schedule and were in no rush to make it to the final activity. That was, until I nonchalantly glanced at my watch and saw what time it was. Jumping to my feet and pulling the sombrero from my head, I began barking orders: ‘The sun is setting and we still have pump track racing to complete. Let’s move people! Come on, come on!’. Now we were back in familiar territory.

Our final event would be at Orton Bradley Park, also located in Charteris Bay. Seeing as we had had an action packed day full of drama, activities and long drives, it seemed only fitting to save the most energetic sport to the end. We still had the mountain bikes with us from the earlier session at Mt. Hutt, so our list of activities was to end with a number of racing variations around the pump track. Nestled between the forest and a large grassy area, the gravel pump track completes a small, bumpy loop, with plenty of space to sit on the grass and shout encouragement. It didn’t matter whether it was Time Trial, Pursuit or Le Mans, I was terrible at them all, as fatigue from the day was starting to creep in.

With the sun now firmly below the horizon, we retired to Steve and Jackie’s house at Charteris Bay, for a victory BBQ and time to reflect on the day’s activities. The subject of risk and reward was discussed at length. Was the bridge jump any riskier than driving between the activities? Is risk assessment subjective or objective, based on an individual’s perception? Was Ed just unlucky? I considered mentioning that my mouth still hurt at various points during the conversation, but thought better of it.



Mt. Potts – Hakatere Conservation Park

That’s weird, Rusty doesn’t normally bark that much, I thought. I turned back to look up the glistening, snow covered track. Rusty was either standing or lying in front of Ian. It was difficult to tell seeing as the snow came up to our bellies. Our paws were constantly breaking through the crusty top, and sinking through the fluffy centre to the harder pack below. I bounded over, through the snow and barking loudly, so as not to creep up and startle them. Appearing at Rusty’s side, I saw red liquid staining the whiteness around him, and Ian’s eyes had grown wide.

Regular readers of these articles may be able to guess where we were. If the title didn’t give it away, then the law of averages will have – it’s Hakatere time. We had a new human pack today, consisting of Ian, Denz, Alex and Meegan, and we were back where the Ice Cream Vans lurk. Arriving at the start of the Mt. Potts track, the pack faffed about, or chatted among themselves, or did whatever is traditionally done before setting off on an adventure. To kill time, Rusty and I scouted the area for ICV’s but alas, none were to be found. Returning to the pack, I noticed that all the humans had large, rectangular boards strapped to their bags. It suddenly occurred to me, this was a hunting party! Ian had returned with reinforcements and ICV clubs. I had underestimated him. With renewed enthusiasm, we set off towards the mountains.

Armed and Ready to Crush some ICV’s

The day was fresh and crisp, with uninterrupted views down the valley towards the snow topped Cloudy Peak range. The area was incredibly different to how I remembered it several months ago, now that the greens and browns were replaced with whites and blacks. Wispy white clouds hung above us, making it seem as if the mountains were extending into the sky.

It was only several weeks ago that I wondered what snow was, and now I was surrounded by the stuff. Sometimes soft, sometimes hard, or crunchy, or tasty, it seemed to cover a lot of bases. The pack seemed happy enough, with smiles all round. Beaming, Rusty bounded around, seemingly intent on rummaging through every bit of available white stuff.

Poor Guy, He Just Can’t Help Himself Sometimes

Overhearing the pack’s conversation, the intention was to follow the track to the old Erewhon Ski Field, at which point we would presumably be at a vantage point to pick off any stray ICV’s. Rusty and I would then get an opportunity to see the ICV kill boards in action. The track we were following was the old ski field access track, which was 4km long and ascended 600m into the surrounding peaks.

Yes… Obviously not all Photos of me are Adorable

The higher we climbed, the less the pack talked, as conversation was replaced with the crunching of snow underfoot. After two hours of marching up the track, we eventually came to a plateau, providing an excellent view into the valley below and over Mt. Sunday. The snow became thicker and crispier, and the surrounding mountains grew in size, as we crept deeper into the valley. Mt. Potts was on the right hand side, and some nameless peak on the other. With no confirmed sightings of ICV’s, the pack stopped and began to take the boards off their backs. Finally, we were going to see how these mighty, powerful, boards of destruction were meant to be used…

By strapping it to your feet???

Confused, I watched as one by one the pack set off down the track we had spent so much time walking up. And one by one I watched them fall over. As I chased after Denz, politely enquiring as to how sliding down a snowy track would help with locating ICV’s, I heard Rusty bark behind me.

I just don’t get it…

It appeared that the front edge of Ian’s obliteration board had collided with Rusty’s back leg, cutting it above the paw and causing a torrent of red stuff to spill out everywhere. Ian looked concerned as he inspected the leg, which then turned to worry. He set off down the mountain, instructing Rusty to run ahead. I followed the trail of bloodied paw prints down the track to where the humans had eventually gathered, huddled around Rusty. Wrapping a thin bit of cloth round and round Rusty’s crimson coloured leg, tension hung in the air. I did my best to break it by shouting loudly that everything was going to be OK, but this just seemed to make the situation worse.

With red juice now prevented from leaking everywhere and making an awful mess, Ian, Rusty and I set off down the track with Ian running ahead, board under his arm, in preparation to smack out the way any advancing ICV’s. What a guy. The rest of the pack descended behind us on the boards. Occasionally I could hear a shout or yelp, and a body fall to the floor; presumably another ICV had been taken out by the boards. After all the effort it had taken to get up here, all the failed hunting trips, it was typical that I would miss out on a kill because of Rusty.

Making it to the Bottom in One Piece. Mt. Sunday in the Middle Ground

Rusty and I followed closely behind Ian, as he ran the entire way down to where we had parked. Arriving at the cars out of breath and tired, he opened up the truck and we both jumped in. Rusty was happy enough, and Ian’s facial expression seemed to be a little more positive. Shortly afterwards, the rest of the pack arrived. Judging by the amount of snow they were covered in, I reasoned that it must have been one hell of a battle with the ICV’s.

The following day Rusty was taken to the vet to have the cut looked at, and was stitched up. Funny story – after all the piss taking he has given me for being ever so slightly camp, guess who ended up having a finger up his arse. I have no idea why exactly the vet felt it necessary, but who cares.

Not Smiling Anymore More are we Buddy

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 9km (To the ski field and back would be around 15km round trip)

Height Gain: 600m

Time: 4hrs (walking up and running down)


The trip highlighted the importance of being prepared. Luckily we had a first aid kit with us. The nearest population is Lake Clearwater. Although judging by all the anti-dog signs there, I doubt you’d get much sympathy if anything was to happen to a fellow canine.

Map courtesy of

Can’t Win em All

‘Well, the thing is, we’ve not got much space… and we normally limit it to grown produce… and I’m not sure if that’s overly suitable… and did I mention that we’re limited for space. So, you know… not sure if it would fit with – ‘

‘Is this just another way of saying that dog biscuits aren’t suitable’ I asked

‘… yes’

This wasn’t a good start. Mindful that I really should get making more of an effort to get the dog biscuits into the markets, I thought as a starting point I’d contact the local weekend market near where I live. The exchange didn’t exactly go as I had hoped.

Not to worry, I thought, I might still be able to sell them at the dog park. I opened up my email, and read the response from the council,

“Applications are considered on a case by case basis, and in this case your application to trade at Halswell Dog Park has been rejected”

Not the most productive start to a Monday morning I thought, as I walked Rusty down to the vet to get his leg looked at.

The previous day we had gone looking for snow at Mt. Potts in Hakatere Conservation Park, on the outskirts of Canterbury.

‘I’ll bring Oshy and Rusty’ I helpfully informed my mates who were coming too. Who doesn’t love a barking, unpredictable animal running around, trying to grasp the concept of snow, when you’re attempting to snowboard? I’ll tell you who, most of my mates.

As you may have guessed, it didn’t go overly well. The snowboard went into the back of Rusty’s leg, spilling blood everywhere. The surrounding, pure white snow did nothing to help the situation, as it kind of amplified the crimson tint of the blood, making it look as if there had been some epic battle on the mountain side. Luckily we had a first aid kit, and were able to temporarily patch him up until his visit to the vet today.

Several stitches, two dressings and one cone of shame later, the vet bill arrived. My heart sank. It’s going to take a lot of dog biscuits to sort this out I thought to myself.

‘Still, a bit of drama to write about for the Dog Tails entry aye Rusty’ I said, looking over at a despondent dog, his drooping head buried within the plastic cone. ‘Well Oshy enjoyed himself anyway’.


Lake Emma – Hakatere Conservation Park

I leapt forward again, hoping this time to land on firmer ground, but to no avail. Once again I was up to my furry chest in marsh water. I sighed and looked over towards Rusty, who was opting for the ‘head down and go’ approach, weaving his way through the pedestals of reeds. Glancing up at Ian, who was currently fighting with the marsh over who had ownership of his right shoe, I reminisced of a another time, all of ten minutes ago, when we were on a lovely dry path, enjoying our day.

Today’s exploration would be of Lake Emma, located within Hakatere Conservation Park. Ian had come across it on an earlier trip to Mt. Sunday, and from what he told us on the drive over, it was going to be an easy walk following a 4×4 track around the lake, ending at the unimaginatively named Lake Emma Hut.

Lake Emma Hut

However I was more concerned about the weather, as I stared out of the truck rear window into the dark and damp morning. ‘Maybe it won’t be that bad once the sun comes up’, I hopefully mentioned to Rusty, who stretched himself out further across the back seats in agreement, and fell back to sleep. The morning light of the rising sun served to only dash my optimism, as the moody looking grey clouds above us were illuminated. Undeterred, Ian continued to point us in the direction of the mountains and we sped across the flat, flat Canterbury Plains.

I drifted in and out of concentration, as the hypnotic properties of the endless fields spread out in all directions. I casually looked ahead and saw what appeared to be a thin slither of blue sky on the horizon. With a small sense of hope growing inside me, I nudged Rusty to show him the exciting new development. Barely lifting his head from the seat, he took one look out the window, and then at me with a facial expression of ‘you woke me for this?’, and went back to doing what he does best.

The distant slice of blue steadily grew in thickness as we approached, and in no time at all we had broken through the greyness and into dazzling blue sky. Ian nodded in approval and slipped his sun glasses on, no doubt attempting to imply that he knew this would happen all along. Or he was attempting to look cool. Whatever he was attempting, it really wasn’t working.

We turned off the gravel road that had previously taken us to Mt. Sunday, and followed a bumpy 4×4 track for several minutes before coming to a stop and being released. The cold, miserable climate of Christchurch had been replaced with the fresh, crisp air of Hakatere. Rusty and I did a quick perimeter check for Ice Cream Vans – a reference that will only make sense if you’ve read the Mt. Sunday adventure – and happy that the coast was clear, we embarked (clever pun intended) on the walk.

Setting off towards Lake Emma Hut

Located at the base of the Harper Range and hidden from the road, Lake Emma is peaceful and sedate. Mt. Harper is reflected in the calm of the lake, and views all the way to the snow-capped Cloudy Peak Range can be enjoyed. However Rusty and I had no interest in this, as we set about playing in the morning frost – ‘poor man’s snow’ as Rusty calls it – and gradually made our way round to Lake Emma Hut.

The ramshackle hutThe 4×4 track slowly undulated its way round to the hut, providing excellent views over Lake Emily and down into the valley. Arriving at the ramshackle hut, Ian disappeared inside while Rusty and I busied ourselves with a spot of swimming and general, good-natured frolicking. Which was fine until I jokingly referred to it as such, at which point an evidently sexually insecure Rusty decided he was done and it was time for lunch. Ian emerged from the shack, shrugged his shoulders unimpressed and sat himself down to enjoy the view and the warmth of the day.

Took this when they weren’t looking 🙂

Suddenly he announced that we were going to arrange a Bitchin’ Beer Treats photo shoot, requiring Rusty and I to join him by the lake. Obviously not looking my best, as a result of the aforementioned manly frolicking, I decided to freshen up by jumping into the lake. Emerging from the frigid water, I gestured to Ian to bring over some grooming products and kindly spruce me up so I was able to look my best. He, and Rusty for that matter, just stared at me blankly. I’d obviously underestimated the hut’s facilities. In typical, obstinate fashion, Ian continued with the photo shoot regardless, as I sat there looking ridiculous next to Rusty, who spent the whole time with a stupid grin on his face.

God I hate that dog

The shameless product placement exercise over with, Ian took out his map and began ruffling his brow. He looked left down the track we had just walked in on. Then right, up the track that traversed around the other side of the lake. Then back at his map. With a nod of his head, he confidently folded it up and we set off to the right, to continue on around the lake, which is about where things went from bad to worse.

The 4×4 track continued, and started well enough, but it became evident that it was beginning to take us away from where we had parked. As the path continued off perpendicular to the truck, Ian decided that instead of just turning around and heading back the way we came, using the easy to follow, well defined path, he’d just straight line it through what was clearly marked on the map as marshland. ‘Can’t be that bad’, announced a still confident Ian, evidently rhetorically as he set off before Rusty or I could object.

The view further around the lake with Mt. Taylor in the background (and some lovely reflective work in the foreground)

After twenty minutes of wading through belly-deep water, I felt it was probably as bad as I had expected, seeing as it was a marsh, located next to a lake, in a depression in the landscape. Undeterred, most likely out of stubbornness, Ian pushed on, occasionally getting his walking poles stuck or stumbling forward into the brown, cold water. ‘I’m fine…’, informed Ian. Neither of us looked up, or frankly cared at this point, as we fought our own battles negotiating the reeds as we inched closer to the truck.

Emerging from the marshland muddy, out of breath and with a renewed dislike towards Ian and everything he stands for, we were ushered into the truck and driven back to Christchurch in silence. It could have been such a nice day.

Taking a moment to contemplate how much I hate Ian right about now

Approximate Track Stats

Distance: 7km

Height Gain: 20m

Time: 2.5hrs (walking)