May: waiting for reviews; Tasmania and South Island trips

Posted by Patrick Lam on Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Table Of Contents

OK, well, let’s get started on this month’s summary a bit earlier. This is easier since I’m in Wellington right now and not on a trip. (It doesn’t seem to imply that I finish the summary earlier, though, somehow; I went super long on the South Island trip report).

Cheeky currawong that tried to steal food; Cradle Mountain; Barn Bluff; wombat; broad-toothed mouse; view from near Ben Lomond saddle; bottlenose dolphin; Buller's mollymawk.


FluTracking now asks “Have you received your 7th dose?”. There’s a rumour that COVID boosters will no longer be free in NZ for non-high-risk people. Boo! A recent study shows that repeat COVID vaccinations broaden the immunity base, i.e. for this pathogen, imprinting is positive. suggests that, overall, the NZ wave is cresting now. Apparently Ontario is discontinuing wastewater testing, which is terrible.

There was some misinformation about masks. But it’s true: masks do work! [actual journal paper]


Didn’t put pen to paper (keyboard) writing any research papers this month: the ones that were sent off are under review, and the new ones aren’t quite there yet (hopefully SCAM in mid-June). Did work on the EDI part of the NSERC Discovery resubmittal as well as internal RIF funding (NSERC booby prize).

There was also some mandatory cybersecurity training. It was pretty close to accurate, though pretty generic (“contact your manager”: who?). I understand why they instituted the requirements, after last year’s attack, but I didn’t learn anything. I chuckle at imagining my colleagues (e.g. Canada Research Chair in cybersecurity) doing this training.

Worked on 13 days. There are 22 work days in May. Definitely there was some vacation time there.

Grad students/mentees/collaborators

I was talking to my students and collaborators on 9 days, which is about normal, though a lot given how often I was away. My new grad students are new but hopefully we’re converging on actual research projects for them soon.


Not too much. Checked revisions on the master’s thesis, participated in a PhD comprehensive exam. Refused to do a 4am PhD final exam; I’m on sabbatical after all.


None this month. Our program design continues to move through committees.


Once again. This time, beginning of month=Tasmania and end of month=South Island. I guess I stay in town in the middle of every month!

Overland Track

Last month, I wrote about the pre-Overland Track days: flying via Melbourne, and then to Hobart and Launceston. After I finish this post, I will continue to write about the Overland Track experience itself. The park documentation says that it can be “life-changing”, and maybe it wasn’t that, but it was definitely a great walk. We went straight back to Wellington the day after getting off the Overland Track.

Here’s the first part of the trip report that I posted last month:

and the highlight pictures from that report:

First navigational sign on the Overland (not DOC green!); view from Cradle Mountain; mountains in distance; Cathedral Mountain; Fergusson Falls; swingbridge (like NZ); end of our walk; MP and me; the boat out.

Not the Cascade Saddle again: Christchurch, Queenstown, and Doubtful Sound

We had moved our Cascade Saddle trip from March to May, but we thought the weather might be questionable in May, so we moved it again to December. So, we had another week in Queenstown where we could do more outdoors activities.

Christchurch & Canterbury Open, May 17 to 19

On this trip, I first went to Christchurch (well, Lincoln) to referee at the Canterbury Open, with a stop at Uprising, the bouldering gym, on the Friday.

MP came on Saturday and visited Willowbank again while I was reffing the kids on Sunday. The Canterbury Open was pretty small this year and I was back in Christchurch by noon on Sunday, exactly when MP made it back from Willowbank. (She had some trouble getting there on the bus, with delays and misconnects, and the Uber she eventually took was just as long as it would’ve been from the hotel, oh well. Go figure.)

We wandered around Christchurch some more (we stayed at centrally located Hotel Give, which is nice), getting Bluff oysters at Cellar Door before taking the bus to the airport and flying to Queenstown. The Air New Zealand CHC lounge was good as usual.

Queenstown outdoors, May 20 to 23

Our planned activities were Ben Lomond and riding bicycles around. The weather forecast suggested that Tuesday would be a better day for Ben Lomond, so we swapped the days, and Around the Basin was cool with that.

Biking from Queenstown to Gibbston was, according to MP, just pure Type 1 fun. Nothing sketchy at all. The 300m of elevation gain along the 45km was a bit harder for me, even though the bike I’d rented was better than my usual commuter. MP’s ebike made things very easy for her. Anyway, there is really good off-track bicycle infrastructure around Queenstown—the Queenstown Trail—and the routes along the rivers are highly scenic.

These tourist businesses—Around the Basin, Tamaranui Canoe Hire—do have a lot of infrastructure, and guys driving vans around a lot. It is definitely hard to avoid needing to drive vans around when there is inadequate public transit. Moving canoes is hard anyway, but moving bicycles shouldn’t necessarily need so many vans.

Our chosen day turned out to be a beautiful day for a Ben Lomond hike. We left at 7:55, slightly before sunrise, given the 1400m of elevation gain and short days. Back in town by 16:15, an hour before sunset and in time to get to the airport to pick up the rental car by 17:00 (though GO rentals does do after-hours pickups and we actually had set ours up as one).

Skyline sign before dawn; hiking pole assembly; almost clear view of Ben Lomond summit; lake Wakatipu and track and slopes; many valleys (Moke Creek?); us on Ben Lomond summit.

We brought ice axes and crampons but they didn’t help and we gave up on the crampons pretty soon. Some others before us thought they would be needed and turned back, but they totally could have continued. The dozen Nepalis just walked up the mountain very fast.

Ben Lomond summit pic 2; snowy; NZ pipit on kea sign (35mm lens!); toilet and Lake Wakatipu; hill with cloud behind.

Welcome Rock, May 22 to 23

After that, we went to Welcome Rock, which is another easy and relatively flat, though long (25km), private track. We did most of it on the first day, looping around the long way to the Slate Hut. It’s impressive that the track was constructed with hand tools, though there isn’t the terrain of the Paparoa to contend with: there was only a small amount of rock moving to do. I would be a bit worried about doing this track on a bicycle (kind of narrow at times), but it’s well graded for walking.

The scenery was epic, especially near sunrise/sunset. Since we were walking until sunset, we did get to appreciate that scenery too.

At Welcome Rock trailhead; Eyre Peak (?); helicopter at work; not working wagon; clouds under us; snowy hills; snowy shaded; disconnected pipes; MP; gentle slope; one of 3 waterfalls; Mud Hut; inside Mud Hut; gently sloping landscape (again); moonrise; mound; MP; MP at Slate Hut; sunset; stars (Orion).

On our way from Welcome Rock to Te Anau, we stopped in Garston for breakfast at The Coffee Bomb, since we had decided to not have breakfast at Slate Hut (didn’t want to deal with water, gas, and cleaning). Highly recommended. We had thought about going past Te Anau to walk the Lake Marian Track, but that would have been a lot of driving. So, we did our laundry at the Te Anau TOP 10 Holiday Park, which was good to do before going on the boat for 3 days. We also stopped by the Punanga Manu o Te Anau / Te Anau Bird Sanctuary to see more takahē as well as brown teal/pāteke (both at Zealandia, though I hadn’t seen the male breeding plumage) as well as the Antipodes Island parakeet (not at Zealandia; insurance population).

MP with the takahē statue in Te Anau; pair of brown teals/pāteke; Antipodes Island parakeet; one of a half dozen takahē; starling (introduced); sparrow (introduced).

Doubtful Sound, two nights, May 24 to 26

I have a lot of photos from this cruise. It’s going to take some time to sort through them. I discovered that the 12mm lens is actually pretty useful here, because one is often too close to the fjords. And the 100-400 is indispensable for albatross pictures. But most of the time I was using the fixed 35mm (on APS-C, so 52mm equivalent).

Skipper Dave (with an open-bridge policy, so I dropped in to say hi a few times) arranged it so that we’d be out on the Tasman Sea around sunset on both days. You can definitely feel it when you’re on the open ocean. There were about 10 Buller’s mollymawks, a few shags, and a couple of bottlenose dolphin encounters.

There was a mix of people on the boat, with some pro photographers and a handful of serious amateurs; mostly New Zealanders, I think, with some Australians living in New Zealand, and some from overseas (notably the US). There was a distribution of ages, too, though it probably skewed older than the population average. May is not high tourist season in NZ.

The first day was just motoring around to the Tasman Sea (way farther than Crooked Arm, which is as far as one gets on a day trip), looking at the scenery and at the wildlife, and then heading back to Christmas Cove (Precipice Cove on the map) to moor for the night. We went through the Malaspina Reach and Thompson Sound, for a total of 80km on the Fiordland Navigator.

Once we docked, Cesar and his kitchen staff had prepared one of our two amazing dinners on the boat. The first day included mussels, beef, ceviche, and tasty salads.

On Lake Manapouri; Manapouri hydro station and infrastructure; my bunk; Navigator's ship's bell; underway on Doubtful Sound; Chamberlain Falls; some peaks; weird visual effect; shag; cliffs; bottlenose dolphin; Tasman Sea coastline (with bird).

While Day 1 was bluebird, Day 2 was cloudy, and it had rained overnight, so we got more waterfalls. But first, we paddled around Christmas Cove for 5km (or some people took the tender and got narration). There were seals and there was a double rainbow. When we drove around to waterfalls, I found that I was often too close for 35mm, but 12mm captures more of the walls. Also, there was swimming. The water was cold.

Apart from that, we navigated around to Crooked Arm, Patea Passage and the Tasman Sea, then behind the Shelter Islands for more albatross spotting, and in to First Arm for the night. That is a total of 92km on the day, plus 5km in a (not sit-on-top!) kayak.

Rooms below deck; MP paddling off; tree trunk; MP and rainbow; seal; MP and Navigator; furled jib and rainbow; mast and three falls; more falls in Crooked Arm; to the Tasman Sea again; underneath stormclouds; Buller's mollymawk; looking out; mollymawk.

Our second and final dinner was delicious again, with slow-cooked meat and a seafood mix, and of course salads.

On Day 3, we left before sunrise and motored over to Hall Arm (where the day cruise goes). We saw the day cruise sailing out as we came in to Deep Cove, actually. All of the Real Journeys trips do a Sound of Silence in Hall Arm, so we did that, and heard bellbirds and, I think, a kea. I’d also heard bellbirds on the kayaks.

Then we reversed the journey, back over Wilmot Pass Road and Lake Manapouri, taking us back to town at noon as advertised.

Behind Elizabeth Island; Mount Troup; slab; entering Hall Arm; kayak landing/campsite; end of Hall Arm; on Lake Manapouri, dusting of snow towards Lake Norwest; back at Manipouri Village; Southern Alps from the air; Kaikouras.

Two hours of driving later, we got to Queenstown, returned our car, and took our flight back to Wellington without any complications. Well, getting gas is always a bit annoying, but not a huge complication. Arriving at 5pm it’s easy to take the number 2 bus from WLG. Sometimes one can even transfer to the 21 and avoid the walk up the hill.

Travel planning

Some upcoming trips:

  • Auckland: oops, I bought a plane ticket, but it’s for the wrong weekend. The Auckland International Open is actually on a weekend where I’m in Melbourne.
  • Melbourne/Cairns: It’s not March 2020, so maybe we’ll actually manage to have some time in Melbourne. But I also figured this is the time to see the Great Barrier Reef. So, weekends in Melbourne, and then to Cairns during the week.

Movement statistics

Back from Australia and then one week in the South Island. There was a long hike (Overland Track) and a shorter tramp (Welcome Rock). Also had a longer-than-usual bike ride.

  • 🚶 Walking: 194km on 27 days (near the top of the range)
  • 🚲 Biking: 15km on 9 days (not while travelling)
  • 🚗 Driving: 471km on 8 days (South Island)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 16km (to HBA and from WLG)
  • 🚌 Bus: 313km on 9 days, including 177km of a shuttle from Lake St. Clair back to Hobart
  • ✈ Plane: 4,577km (HBA-MEL-WLG, WLG-CHC-ZQN-WLG)
  • 🚣 Boat: 307km (Lake St Clair ferry, Doubtful Sound/Lake Manapouri boats)
  • 🚣 Kayak: 5.2km
  • 🚡 Cable car: 0.7km (1×)


  • Overland Track: side trips make this arbitrarily challenging, good people on the track when we were there
  • (on a bike) Queenstown to Gibbston on the Queenstown Trail Great Ride: there is a lot of off-road infrastructure; it’s recreation, not commuting infrastructure
  • Ben Lomond Track: Tiki Trail kind of annoying, first part of track super easy, second part almost as easy
  • Welcome Rock Track: well graded track, moved super fast on some parts, melty ground made things a bit soggier


Negative progress this month, but still did at least process some pictures. Running out of room for photos on my laptop again.

  • Sets of pictures posted: 10 (3 on the last day)
  • Total pictures posted: 365
  • Total pictures in selection pool: 1635
  • Accept rate: 22% (min 11%, max 50%)

As always, pictures are clickable to go to the full gallery.

Paradise shelduck/pūtangitangi mama and chick (Zealandia); black-fronted dotterel (Launceston); moon near Crater Lake; through the window; night sky with tree and hut (Waterfall Valley); platypus near Windermere; tarn and Mount Pelion West; New Pelion Hut; newborn sheep baby (credit: MP; Willowbank Wildlife Reserve).

May posts

I’ll reiterate that I posted a first part of an Overland Track report:

I figured I’d write this May report and have the first day of photos processed before writing more about the Overland. While writing this report I also got to writing the South Island report, which ended up being substantial (it was a substantial trip!).


Let’s say that I was in Wellington about half of this month when I wasn’t away for the Overland or South Island trips. I also got a (free) tetanus shot: probably a good idea after taking a boardwalk fall while running on the last bit of the Overland Track.


I was thinking that my thin Arc’teryx Rho gloves wouldn’t cut it in the actual snow on Ben Lomond, so I got some thicker gloves. I figured that wool would be lower environmental impact than plastic. And they were pretty cheap.


I counted 17 away days in May, so making it to judo 5× is not bad. There was also refereeing at the Canterbury Open, but that’s not actually doing judo.

Climbing was 4× at Faultline and 1× at Uprising. Let’s see what I can do in June with fewer planned away days. Hard to say if I’m making progress with climbing.




  • Miss Saigon: super extroverted, upbeat owner and good pho.
  • Smash Palace: tasty burger, fries average.
  • Sampan House: old-school Chinese restaurant (actually Cambodian), relatively affordable, had fried sampan noodle.
  • Number Six Bar & Bistro: breakfast quiche was a good start to the day; doesn’t come up on Google Maps under cafes, which makes it hard to find.
  • Hachi Hachi: “Japanese fusion”, was not terrible but not awesome. It was fine.
  • Cellar Door: wine bar, way better Bluff oysters than the ones we had in Invercargill; also chicken liver parfait.


  • Kinross: ordered flavourful pork belly and venison, and of course wine (also brought some back to Wellington).


  • Blue Kanu: medium fancy place in Queenstown, would go back.
  • The Exchange: I seem to have sausage rolls for breakfast in Queenstown often; typical specimen here.


  • Coffee Bomb: “paddock to plate”, really tasty; I had “The Bomb”, a pork belly sandwich.

Doubtful Sound:

  • Fiordland Navigator: yummy food on-board.


  • Havana Bar & Restaurant: was not our first choice but deserves to be one; yet another tapas-style menu, but good choices on the menu and well executed.
  • Sri Penang: great new Malaysian place near MP’s new work.
Pho from Miss Saigon; Bluff oysters from Cellar Door; wallaby wings from Bar Wa Izakaza; tuna tartare, croquettes, patatas brava from Havana; burger and fries from Smash Palace; sampan noodles from Sampan House; quiche from Number Six; fresh doughnuts in Lincoln; salmon bowl from Hachi Hachi; sandwich from Coffee Bomb; noodles from Sri Penang.


As-usual, remote volunteering. Also went to a Quarterly General Meeting for the Wellington Judo Academy.


I went to a talk by Dr Ian Griffin of the Otago Museum about aurora hunting, hosted by the Royal Society Te Apārangi Wellington Branch, the main Royal Society Te Apārangi, and the Wellington Astronomical Society. Astrophysicists can, it turns out, become museum directors and get a hobby aurora hunting. A few days later there was a lot of solar activity but also clouds in Wellington. Oh well.


Did some work, lots of travel in Australia and on the South Island. Will do more work and less travel in June, the first month of winter.