Second month (plus 10 days) in Wellington

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, March 8, 2020

Table Of Contents

We’ve now passed the halfway mark for my time in New Zealand, even with an extra 3 days courtesy of Air Canada/Air New Zealand—they rescheduled my return flight from 29 Apr to 2 May and I didn’t notice until I got the seat change email. I’m totally fine with an extra 3 days in New Zealand.

Classes have started again. I guess it’s like September in the northern hemisphere. Days are only 13 hours now, on their way to 10.5 hours when we go back north.

Have I done stuff in my time in Wellington so far? Here’s my second-month-and-a-third retrospective before a pile of upcoming travel. Up for the rest of March: mostly travels in New Zealand but also including a visa run to Melbourne. (previously)


Mostly I hacked on the ongoing project at VUW, setting up a bunch of infrastructure to download, run, test, and run tools on benchmarks within a Vagrant VM. There’s some shell scripting and some Python involved here. I keep on hosing my laptop with Virtualboxes taking up all the RAM. Sometimes (when I remember) I ssh to a Waterloo computer and do compute there. We have the first results from our approach, which is great.

VirtualBox disk I/O feels super slow. Writing this post was a good way to get me to look up why Virtualbox is actually slow. Perhaps this: Terrible Virtualbox disk performance.

Number of days of getting to work on my own stuff (ie not supervising students): 6 in February, 5 so far in March; and a total of 23 days where I did significant work over the reference period, with 25 work days in that period.

I also spent a day thinking about my talk for the upcoming SINZ Workshop.

We resubmitted our JORT paper. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting, Dave!

I’ll put travel planning for Athens under “professional”. Booked plane tickets and an airbnb for May-June. Looking forward to that collaboration; hope the global situation is stable by then.

Temple of Olympian Zeus and Lycabettus Hill

Ongoing (my grad students)

Continued weekly-or-more-often conversations with students. Feels very much like an infrastructure-building phase for different projects.

Collegiality, i.e. “eat-your-vegetables”

One grant proposal reviewed, probably about 6 hours. The queue replenished itself with a resubmitted journal paper to re-review.

Sent weekly tips to SE 2024 and exhorted them to fill out the SE survey.


Walking distances:

  • February: 148.8km (plus 46km biked)
  • March 1-9: 21km (plus 8.2km biked)

We got away from Wellington this month: Wanaka with a NZAC Wellington Section trip Feb 1-5, then around Rotorua Feb 13-16 and Tongariro Feb 19-21. Some other car trips as seen below, primarily Kime Hut and North Wellington Open in Palmerston North.

Pictures posted

So far I’ve posted pictures from:

I’m trying to use digiKam to manage photos. The main difference is that I put pictures in the Pictures subdirectory instead of $HOME. It seems to support my workflow. I struggled to make it hide the photos that I reject but finally I managed to encode the right search. (My workflow: rename files to include the title; hide files that are redundant; keep more rather than less files; at best, crop and rotate images. I think that sidecars are actually sort of OK for storing user metadata like title, but I like being able to use find to find photos.)


  • more walks at Zealandia
  • Roy’s Peak: 16km, 1259m elevation gain (class 1 terrain, alpine start)
  • Paekakariki Escarpment Track: 10km, 382m elevation gain (class 1, accessible by train from Wellington)
  • small walks at Sanctuary Mountain (like Zealandia but in Pukeatua); it’s more natural than the Otoruhangu Kiwi House but we saw more birds at the Kiwi House because they’re in enclosures.
  • Rotorua redwoods walk
  • Wellington airport to home: 11km
  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing: 19.2km, 762m elevation gain (but more elevation loss; also class 1 terrain)
  • Kime Hut tramp: 23km, 1292m elevation gain (slippery tree roots on descent)

The big ones are Roy’s Peak, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, and the Kime Hut tramp. We had excellent weather for Roy’s Peak and Tongariro. I’m not sure I’d call Tongariro the best day-hike in the world but it is up there, and the views of Ngauruhoe aka Mordor are exceptional. Fit young German and French people kept on passing us, but I thought about it and ascribed it to the fact that we started as early as possible: that means that we were unlikely to pass anyone. The terrain is generally quite well-groomed and the scree on Tongariro looks as if they took a bunch of dump trucks of gravel and unloaded them. The Kime Hut tramp had fine weather on day 1 and rain on day 2. The rain made the forest look more enchanted but was also harder to walk on, with the toughest terrain so far in New Zealand.


Finally got out climbing in New Zealand.

  • South Island: around Lake Wanaka (3 days)
  • North Island: Wharepapa South (2 days)
  • North Island: Whakapapa Gorge (not at all close to Wharepapa, 1 day)

Got lost trying to find the Whakapapa Gorge which allegedly had a 15 minute approach from the ski hill. Accidentally went up the ski hill instead of around it. 2 hours later… Once you know where it is, it’s also 15 minutes to the top of the cliff, but you have to walk around to the bottom.

NZ grades are stiff. An 18 is supposed to be a 5.10a but it’s hard! We had the most fun at Whakapapa Gorge although we only did 2 climbs there. The 18 that I onsighted: everything was there but things were pretty far. It wasn’t weird like the schist in Wanaka, though.


Been consistently going to practice at the Wellington Judo Academy when in town. Entered the North Wellington Open and won senior men -66 with 3 ippons in groundwork. The sprained ankle is not 100% but it’s pretty good.

Lord of the Rings

  • Mordor (Ngauruhoe, on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing)
  • Anduin (near Arrowtown and the bungy jump centre)


MP’s father and family visited us in New Zealand, including the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Incidentally, we left a camera at an airbnb in National Park and the owners mailed it back to us for free. Thanks so much!


This felt like a good infrastructure-building month. We should be able to reap the results of this groundwork in the next months.

Coming soon: a post on travel philosophy.