The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

New Zealand – travelogue entry 4

Well, my time with the world’s angriest sewing machine has come to an end, much to my disappointment and I’m now at home nice and warm. I must admit, though, I did take great delight in laying down on my bed last night without having to assemble it first. Right after having to dismantle the dinning set. Civility is a good thing.

All in all, 18 days and around 3,300km added up to 1 fantastic holiday that ended far too soon. I’ve taken to think of New Zealand as like a box of chocolates – it’s best to leave some for later. Certainly when I’ve had more than my fair share of Kiwi adventure. And all this in a van that looked as though it couldn’t get to the end of a driveway – even if it was down hill!

On my way to Mt. Cook, I did some impromptu bushwalking trying to get into some waterfalls. I was successful for 1 of the 3 walks. Stairs are bad! It turned out to be a good thing that I didn’t hang around. About an hour later, it appeared a weather front had moved in, and it looked very dark from  a distance.

It was a long drive towards Mt. Cook. Especially when I had to come off the go pedal yet again for strong cross winds. I stopped for the night at a tiny town called Omarara where I found a warm welcome at the holiday park. Again, I’m astounded at how little attention Kiwis pay to my disability and just take me as they find me. The woman at the holiday park commented it was good I was getting around on my own. I responded by saying that no one is mad enough to come with me. She laughed with a manner of understanding. I find this very perplexing after visiting the disabled community in New Zealand – and I use that term deliberately, and politically. Listening to people’s experiences outside the disabled community gives the impression that the wider New Zealand community is full is discrimination. I have found that discriminatory attitudes are far less in New Zealand than what they are in Australia. I can only think of 3 explanations for this disconnect: 1) monogamous groups emphasis minor elements outside the group to justify remaining inside the group; 2) the accounts of discrimination I have heard are given within a church context, and if the philosophical presuppositions of pentecostalism are shared among other Christian traditions, this could bare some explanation. It would be interesting to survey the theological landscape of New Zealand some more; or 3) the way I present invariably blows apart any presuppositions of disability people may have, and I don’t cop the same discrimination. That is, I’m on my own, in a rented van, visiting from Australia. Not exactly what you’d expect of a ‘disabled person’. More thinking required.

Me on an Argo - scary!

Me on an Argo – scary!

Mt. Cook was an interesting experience. I went to the Sir Edmund Hillary Museum, and learned about his life. I also learned more about Mt. Cook. I joined an Argo tour in the hope of getting up close to a glacier. An Argo is an 8-wheeled ATV that can also go in the water. (See attached photo. Just when you thought I couldn’t get anymore dangerous, I have the controls! I didn’t get to drive it. It was just a pose). Before I booked, I asked about walking. I was told the track was steep, but the guide would be able to help me up. The woman said nothing about a vertical goat track! The guide was up for the challenge, but 10 steps up the track, I said, “Nah. This isn’t gonna work!” And he helped me back down. Sensing my disappointment, he made sure I got a refund on the basis of wrong information. I don’t think those who know how to get me into difficult places would not have got me up this track. It was a shocker! So, still no glacier…

A snowy evening at Mt. Cook

A snowy evening at Mt. Cook

But Mt. Cook had a special treat for me that night. As I was about to start preparing dinner, it began snowing – proper snow! Not saga snow, not sleet, SNOW! I hadn’t seen snow fall before, so this was special. To think I had thoughts of staying in the hotel instead of camping. I would’ve missed out on this. Staying warm wasn’t a problem. I went to bed with up to 4 layers on, plus my sleeping bag and a duvet over the top. I slept soundly, provided I kept all body parts inside my sleeping bag. The next morning, I woke to find the van covered in snow and ice. A totally awesome experience. To think 36 hours later, I was going to land in Sydney with the temperature in the mid 30s. What a contrast.

The drive out to Akaroa

The drive out to Akaroa

After Mt. Cook, I headed for Akaroa for the night and to have a quick look around. This provided a short drive for the flight out the next day. I got the impression that Akaroa is where the Christchurch yuppies hang out, and is not for the budget conscious traveller. Still, I would like to come back here, and have a good look around. Just not staying in Akaroa.

This has been an awesome, and yes, I’m going to make a big call, this has been my best holiday yet. Yes, I complained allot about the world’s angriest sewing machine, and the driving experience was compromised far more that what I had preferred. But it did provide an excellent camping experience. I put this down to the table being small and light, so it was easy to put up and pull back down. And the cushions for the bed were lighter than what was in the van I had last year. This made things so much easier. Eventually, I did get use to the noise, and driving like a grandpa. In it’s own way, the van added to the adventure. It certainly wouldn’t have been the same without it!

 

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November 15, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

New Zealand – travelogue entry 3

Slope Point

Slope Point

I have traveled south til I can go no further – at least not without getting very wet! I have attached a photo of myself at Slope Point – the southern most point of mainland New Zealand. It was a bit of a hike to get there as well. But at least it was over a couple of paddocks, so it was an easy walk. (If the photo appears to be at a strange angle, I had my iPad on the ground, propped up by my backpack to take the shot.) So now I start the long journey back to Christchurch to fly out on Friday. But I’ll be going via Mt. Cook.

Thunder Creek Falls

Thunder Creek Falls

I returned towards Haaste from Wanaka, and the day did not start well. I was on the foreshore at Wanaka in the van on compacted gravel, and saw a good spot to take a photo. Except the gravel there wasn’t as compacted. In actual fact, it was a gravel beach. Fortunately, one of the locals was happier enough to drag me out – on the third attempt. Note to self: this is not a Delica.

After all that wind and rain, New Zealand really turned on the sunshine, and I enjoyed a splendid day of photography. But the day ended as it began, stuck! This time for reasons not my doing. The Haaste Pass is having roadworks done, and at some point in the afternoon the road is closed completely for the night. I didn’t know what the times were, and became stuck on the Haaste side of the range, and spent a second night at Pleasant Flat. I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to

Haast River

Haast River

spend the night at Cameron Flat. That valley would be spectacular to see in the first and last light of the day.

After further delays due to the road still being closed, it was on to Queenstown. I took a less traversed route from Wanaka that climbed over a range with the road summit at 1081m above sea level. I could just about eyeball the passengers on the planes coming in to land at Queenstown airport. If there was ever a time I wanted my trike, it was then. The road down to the other side was full of sharp elbows and hairpin bends. And I was in one of the worst handling vehicles. Oh the injustice of it all!!! I still had fun.

Crown Range Pass

Crown Range Pass

Queenstown was a buzz with activity, and there was nothing to encourage me to hang around. I camped just out of town and met a couple with the same van. So I took the opportunity to compare notes. Their van wasn’t in much better condition as mine. I think I won ‘my camper rules’ in that department. Although, mine had a working table – what a bonus! I felt much better about my van, and seeing they had come to the same conclusions as me – yes, it’s a bucket of rusty bolts, but it’s doing the job, so enjoy. It’s just how it is with this rental company. The next day, I was even happier when I got my music going. At least I can now add some variety to the monotonous noise of the world’s angriest sewing machine (more widely known as the Toyota Diesel engine).

Lake Te Anua

Lake Te Anua

From Queenstown, it was on to Milford Sound. What a mysterious corner of the world that is! Again, New Zealand really turned on the sunshine, and I enjoyed a full day of bushwalking and photography. I didn’t get to cover the whole area that day, and finally arrived in Milford Sound the next day when New Zealand well and truly had turned off the sunshine, and the snow capped mountains were once again enveloped in cloud and rain. I was very disappointed. I could have pushed on the day before, but I like to call it a day when I’m feeling tired, and make camp for the night. I tend to enjoy things more when I’m not tired. I didn’t envisage the weather hampering my enjoyment. Even still, I was able to appreciate just how unique this place is. I don’t imagine they’d be too many places in the world where you can stand on the edge of the sea, and be immediately surrounded by snow capped mountains in spring.

Eglington Valley

Eglington Valley

By the time I had driven back to Te Anua for my cruise, the sun was back out again in full force. I could only wonder what it was like back at Milford Sound. At 2 hours drive up the road, I wasn’t that interested in finding out. The cruise took me to a glow worm cave on the other side of the lake. This involved a 200m walk into the cave on a raised platforms by guided tour. Walking in I managed to bang my head on some very low overhangs a couple of times. Not recommended. And if anyone is wondering, no, it didn’t knock any sense into me. The cave had a river rushing through it at a rate of 300l/min. It also had a waterfall! The tour went another 50m into the cave by boat. From what I could see in the low light, the boat looked like a big aluminium bath tub. Our guide stood on the side, and dragged the boat along by chains bolted to the cave walls. Not for the faint hearted. It was pitch black. The only light came from the glow worms themselves. It was an awesome experience.

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park

From Te Anua, I’ve spent a few days rounding the south coast, which I must say is a bit boring after Milford Sound and Mount Aspiring National Park. But it was still very scenic. Today ended in a bit of frustration when I tried to get into McLean Falls. It was a very well formed track, but 700m in I came to some steps with no handrail, and I didn’t feel steady enough to take them on. So, disappointed, I turned back. I did get to see some very nice rainforest though.

Humboldt Falls

Humboldt Falls

I’m looking forward to returning to the mountains, and hopefully, I can get up close to a glacier on a guided tour. This really has been a fantastic trip.

November 15, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

New Zealand – travelogue entry 2

I’m now in the southern parts of the South Island where rivers flow vertically and rain falls horizontally. I expect some folk down here wouldn’t know what summer is. It’s very cold.

IMG_0804

Lake Wanaka

I have arrived at a little town named Wanaka, and for some reason it’s rather taken my fancy. It’s a tidy little town, with friendly people, but very busy, out in the middle of nowhere. Yet surrounded by new housing estates. People here seem to build their houses any way they want, which has given the local architecture great variety. It’s refreshing to see a whole community take pride and pleasure in their residents. And to complete the scene, the town is surrounded by snow-capped mountains – big ones! It’s a little surreal for me to see so much snow in late spring. I was so pleased to find this little town. It meant I could re supply without having to drive another 100km to Queenstown. Waking up here has been like waking up in a postcard.

The word's angriest sewing machine - a Toyota Hiace Campervan

The word’s angriest sewing machine – a Toyota Hiace Campervan

The van – oh boy! I knew this wasn’t going to be good from the moment I clapped eyes on it. This was straight out of the bargain bin and further discounted… Scratches and surface rust bumper to bumper. The interior not fairing any better. All but one of the plastic nobs is missing from the ventilation controls, exposing the metal lever and making it very hard (and painful) to adjust. When I hit the air conditioner button, the light comes on, and that’s about it! There’s no change in engine idle speed, I can’t hear or feel the compressor clutch engaging or disengaging. And given it takes a very long time to demist the windscreen, I think the air conditioner isn’t working at all. I just about need a crowbar to open the side door. Obviously it has been around NZ several times with 349,000km on the clock. So if I don’t know where I’m going, it will!

I’ve never driven a vehicle with that many kms! But the really good thing is, if something does happen to the van (and something has happened! More in a minute) the hire company will never be able to tell!

The kitchen. The WHOLE kitchen.

The kitchen. The WHOLE kitchen.

Then there’s driving it. I was pleased to learn it was diesel, since diesel over here is so much cheaper than petrol. So I get it out on the road, and my first thoughts were, “OK… clearly this diesel isn’t turbocharged…” (My delica is). And, it sounds like I’m sitting on top of a very angry sewing machine. For what it achieves, the noise is just not warranted. But, I have worked out how to get the most out of the engine without overworking it by ignoring the speedo, and let it ‘torque’ its way up hills. I’m consoled by the fact it’s still quicker than walking. I’m not sure if it’s quicker than cycling, though. It will do 100km/h, provided I find a high enough cliff. Fortunately there are plenty of those around. Also, the slightest puff of wind is enough to push it off line at speed, and there’s lots of wind noise. It’s cost me around $1,700 to hire for 18 days. That’s about what I’d be prepared to pay buying it outright… I expected the van to be a bit rough around the edges being 9-15 years old, and paying much less than the common rate for this level of equipment for this time of year, but WOW!

Still, I am impressed what you can do in such a small space! It’s just a regular Toyota Hiace with a raised fibreglass roof, and someone has jammed in here a toilet and shower, a kitchen, and a dinning set which converts to a double bed, complete with running hot (part time) and cold water. And everything is usable! I’m not sure how 2 people could comfortably travel in here. But for one person (minus their recumbent trike) it’s perfect!

Kiwi’s do have a habit of doing the strange and the bizarre. Having reached the S6 – the main road along the west coast, I found myself negotiating a roundabout with the main train line going through the middle of it. But that was just the appetiser. Not too far up the road going into Greymouth, I was driving ON the main rail line! Oh yes… Kiwi’s often find that half a bridge is enough of a bridge. This bridge is single lane, with oncoming traffic giving way both sides, and it also services the main rail line. So, when a train does come, traffic comes to a halt. I guess we don’t build bridges like that in Australia any more – OH&S wouldn’t allow it! With the mountains so close to the sea, there’s plenty of steams, creeks and rivers to cross. I’ve seen river beds before in the Hunter Valley, and they’re kind of cute. But some of these stretch for several hundred meters across. It’s incredible to see.

As you might expect, weather has been a big factor. On Thursday morning, I woke up on the main range with frost on the ground. That was kind of cute. But that was not to be compared to Sunday. I knew something was up when the daylight looked like late afternoon, and it was only coming up to midday. 2 hours later, I stopped at Haast to refuel, and the wind ripped the drivers door from my hand and tried wrapping it around the front of the van. Thankfully it failed. But the van now has a new noise every time you open the door. The door still works, and that’s all that matters…

I sheltered in a nearby pub for a later lunch. After which the storm was still raging. I pressed on hoping if I came far enough inland, the mountains would shelter one of the valleys from the wind. At times, I had to slow to 60km/h just to keep the van from being blown off the road! The next day, I heard an unofficial report of a camper van on the Mt. Cook road being blown onto its side. I can well believe it, especially if the driver had not slowed down. Happily, my hopes were fulfilled, and I found a sheltered spot for the night at Pleasant flat. Now I know why the west coast is known as the ‘Wild West’… When visiting NZ, you expect a bit of wind and rain. But even by NZ standards, this was wild!

The next day saw plenty of rain, hail, and wind. Which was frustrating given I was passing over the main range again through some very scenic country. Pending weather conditions, I’ll retrace today’s route tomorrow. Receiving advice from a local Department of Conservation officer (what we call National Parks and Wildlife Service) confirmed my decision.

Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier

I’ve also been visiting some of the natural attractions. I visited Frans Josef Glacier on Saturday which involved a 5.3km return walk. I was thinking the last time I knowingly walked this distance, I was 8 years younger! But then, I’m now 8 times fitter. So hopefully I’ll be ok. Thankfully the fitness won out, and to my surprise, I easily covered the distance. Although I was very tired when I returned to the van, and I knew about it the next day. But the day after, it was as though nothing had happened – I was fine! Much to my disappointment, I didn’t get to the end. Toward the end, the track became very steep. I stood there for 5 mins watching other people gingerly negotiating the section. I thought all it would take is a momentary loss of balance, and the next thing for me to grab was the ground. I had a long walk back to the van, and my wrist was still sore from having rolled my trike two weeks ago. I thought conservation was the order of the day and turned back. I was still able to get a nice short of the glacier a bit further back. The other issue I had was much of the walk was on the river bed, and I could feel every rock through my joggers. After

a while, this became quite uncomfortable. I must do something about hiking shoes…

The walk into Franz Joseph Glacier

The walk into Franz Joseph Glacier

The next day I wanted to visit Fox glacier. This was only a 2km return walk. But I was still hurting from the effort the day before. I could sense the weather changing for the worst, so I didn’t go. There was a road going up to a viewing point. At the bottom of the road, there was a sign advising the road was unsuitable for camper vans. It was wrong. Seriously though, I think the sign is there just to keep out the big campers, and I wouldn’t want to take one of them up there.

So tomorrow I head back from whence I came to see what I missed out on today. Then I’ll press on to Queenstown and Milford Sound over there next few days.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

New Zealand – travelogue entry 1

Hello from the land of the long white cloud. Having said that, I realise not many of you would know I’m currently in NZ. And I’ve just realised I don’t have my short emailing list with me, so I’m having to use my regular emailing list.

I have just completed the first part of my trip, this being the national disability Christian camp where something in the order of 300 people attend. It was quite an experience, and I’ve received enough Pentecostalism to last me many years to come…

I presented twice during the camp. I held a workshop discussing God’s grace being demonstrated through weakness – which was one of the themes of my thesis. We had a really good discussion – much to my relief. I was slightly my concerned about giving my testimony having identified the positive semi-Pelagius philosophy that drives much of Pentecostalism, and how it differs from my conservatism, which focusses on the value of suffering. Anyway, enough with the big words. I need not have worried. My testimony was well received. Even still, it was quite an experience. I had expect people to be vocalising there endorsement throughout my talk. What I didn’t expect was, at the end of my third last paragraph where I had applied the gospel to my own circumstance, I had to come to a complete stop to let the clapping and cheering subside. In a way, this was a good thing as it gave me a moment to compose myself before applying the gospel to them. Perhaps I’m more cut out as a Pentecostal preacher!! Oh my…

Jokes aside, I was pleased to revisit Pentecostalism to think about the philosophies behind it, the reasons for it, and why people find Pentecostalism attractive, and how those needs can be acknowledged and ministered to in a conservative context.

Apart from that, I had a great time catching up with old friends, and having a good laugh with new ones. I was quite shocked to see how many people I actually know in NZ.

tomorrow I fly to Christchurch to pick up a camper van and tour the South Island for 18 days. I’m very much looking forward to having some downtime. Especially after this theologically and philosophically provoking weekends.

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

Jase’s Outback Tour ’06

G’day,

I published these updates some months ago before I began to get a handle on how dynamic this blog server is. Back then, I didn’t realise I could attach PDF’s to a post, or even multiple files! So here they are again photos and all, with a back dated time stamp. Below you’ll find the links to each account.

What I have to share is perhaps not that remarkable, except for the fact I have cerebral palsy. Cerebral Palsy greatly effects my movements and speech. While I may be able to drive a car, and ride long distances on a recumbent trike, fine motor controls such as writing with pen and paper, or tying shoe laces are either difficult or outright impossible. While I can be understood readily enough, people do need to make and effort to listen. Hence, I can never be sure of what reception I’ll get.

What I have to share is as a result of 12 years of dreaming, trying, failing, and occasionally succeeding. Hence it is only as a book that the full story can be told detailing the extraordinary work God has done in my life. No one, not even myself, would dare to have imagined I’d be wandering about the desert on my own. Without this background information, the full significance of the situations and peoples mentioned will be lost on most readers. You will also find repeated references to the Hotel Royal. This is not the local pub! It is my 4wd van which I’ve partially converted into a camper – a story in it’s own right. I hope in time, God will permit me to write such a book to his Glory and honour.

Packed 

Broken Hill Alice Springs

Alice Springs (again)

Pilba (Woomera)

Adelaide (a big update)

Ararat

Back Home

December 1, 2006 Posted by | Australia, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment