Saturday June 11, 2016
Lake Waikaremoana marks the fourth of nine Great Walks that I've completed. Situated in the Te Ureweras, the three day version of the Great Walk circumnavigates approximately 75% of the lake. Most trampers opt to do it "forwards", starting from Onepoto and ending up near the Wanganui Hut, where they're picked up by a water taxi, but we went in reverse so that the final leg of the walk would be the uphill part, and our packs would be the lightest.
The drive there is pretty treacherous, a winding snaking gravel road a couple of hours south east of Rotorua. Mat, Tom and I started our journey from Auckland on the Thursday down SH2 and SH27 and picked up lunch at Matamata. I'd never been there before, so it was nice to see all the Lord of the Rings-related stuff there. We took away some food from the bakery and continued on to Rotorua to get supplies for the tramp. We arrived at nightfall at the Lake Waikaremoana Holiday Park. After finding our cabin, we cooked our garlic bread and steaks, and settled in for the night with Love Letter. Though it was cloudy and raining, the weekend would bring some of the clearest skies and sunniest days ever.
On Friday morning, I walked down to the lake front for an explore. The sun was out, but it was pretty cold. The ducks were on the water, quacking loudly, ignoring the hum of the water taxis buzzing to and from the holiday park. We had breakfast and packed our bags. The water taxi was due to pick us up at 1.30pm, so we had plenty of time to walk around. We visited the DoC Office and secured our bookings for the huts, and then drove down to Onepoto - mostly for the 3G coverage. We arrived back at the holiday park and took the water taxi across the lake, picking up two trampers from the Onepoto carpark. We made our way through the bush, closely following the lake perimeter, to Waiharuru hut where we stayed the night. After pasta and salmon for dinner, we played a few rounds of Love Letter, Up and Down the River, and Golf, the card game. On the way back to cabins, I paused to admire the crystal clear skies, and three meteors shot by. Amazing!
Our Saturday walk would be the longest, covering over 17km over seven hours from Waiharuru to Waiopaoa, via the Marauiti Hut and the Korokoro Campsite. Though the terrain is mostly flat, the sheer distance that we covered made this a very tiring day indeed. A lot of the ground we trekked over was still frozen, crystals of ice making the ground very solid indeed, where normally it would be soft or squishy from mud. In addition, the lake was shrouded in fog, making it quite majestic and almost eerie to look at. We took a breather at the Marauiti Hut, talking to the hunters there who had arrived by boat, and had the luxury of a massive gas cooker that was frying up some delicious sausages, bacon, eggs and hash! In the afternoon, we took a one hour detour to the stunning Korokoro Falls. The final stretch to Waiopaoa was shorter than expected, but as we reached the hut just after 5pm, we discovered that it was practically full, but thankfully we managed to squeeze in - even if I was on the floor. We played cards and Headbangers with the others there - a couple of German girls, a group of six Auckland flatmates and a lone traveller from the UK. The Aucklanders were pretty prepared, with bags of vodka, rum and whisky, and a sodastream too!
We parted ways in the morning and made our way up to the Panekire Hut. Though the walk was only four hours, it was an awful steep incline with a bad knee that I had injured on the first day. Once we got to the top though, the scenery was fantastic - a beautiful panoramic view of the lake in all its glory. We met the Housewives of Palmerston North, who had been mentioned by a couple of the hunters from the Marauiti Hut, and two of them accompanied us for an explore to the bluff. In the end, we didn't really see much and it was a bit too far and we wanted to be back for the sunset, so we ended up heading back before we'd hit the end. We watched the sun disappear over the hills of the Te Ureweras, very reminiscent of the sunsets I see at Makara - just beautiful colours and serenity away from civilisation. I ended up going to bed around 8.30pm because I was so tired - the next day would be an early start to catch the water taxi back to the holiday park at 10.30am.
We were up before the sun had risen, but it was still relatively light. We saw the sun beginning to rise but I had to start making my way down to the Onepoto carpark. The track partially follows the ridgeline to the Bluff, providing some stunning views of the fog covering the lake. As the sun rose higher and higher into the sky, the fog began to illuminate, producing some very picturesque moments. The walk was relatively easy and thanks to one of the Palmy Housewives, I had taken some Voltaren to ease the pain on my knee. We would have left Waikaremoana just before noon, hitting Rotorua for lunch around 2pm. There was a lot of traffic heading through Huntly and Rangiriri, and later on as we headed through Papakura and Takanini, but I made it back to my parents' place for dinner. Whew!
The next day, I got a haircut from my new favourite place on Dominion Road while my parents dropped their car off for some servicing. We had yum cha for lunch at Lucky Fortune in Three Kings, before heading to Jadan on Dominion Road for some groceries. I purchased a 1.5L bottle of 100 Plus - yeeeeee! So happy! I spent some time at the sauna at Les Mills New Lynn just trying to recuperate and knead out all those tight muscles, but I had to get to the airport early because I knew traffic would be a problem getting there. My flight was at 6.45pm but we ended up leaving the house at 5pm. Back in Wellington, I grabbed some KFC for dinner and picked up some supplies from Pak n Save before heading home for a well deserved rest.
What an exhausting weekend... I need another holiday.
Saturday May 28, 2016
Things have been insanely busy, as usual. Where do I even start? So much as happened since the last blog post.
Doomsday Clicker has been performing well, and we managed to hit all our deadlines - but not without some troubles along the way. The v1.3 Android release saw a torrent of negative reviews reporting the game would not boot properly, and since we were lined up for featuring, it was of utmost priority to fix the issues. The Game Sync implementation wasn't as robust as we had initially tested, and pretty much my fault, so we scrambled to build stability around all those systems. Thankfully, things came together in the end, and we secured our featuring on Google Play and the iTunes store. I've had a lot of feedback from friends who have enjoyed the game - especially the amazing and catchy soundtrack.
In honour of its successes, the PikPok 19th birthday party was completely Doomsday Clicker themed, with an amazing volcano cake with Monkey and the Red Button on the top, and three cocktails and two shots bearing the names of some of the doomsdays you can cause in the game. The atmosphere was fantastic and it was good to see heaps of people there. There was arm wrestling - we even managed to convince Mario and Tyrone to go head to head. There was dancing and shenanigans but all in all, I think lots of people had a good time.
There was an exciting thunderstorm a few days ago, lightning illuminating the night sky just after midnight, with some heavy rain accompanying the storm. I would have counted 30 flashes of light in the five minutes I was watching, some strikes being very close to the city itself. Wellington's geography means it doesn't get many thunderstorms, so it's always such a delight to see them - as long as you're indoors and warm.
Mat was down last weekend for some 30th birthday parties. We met up with Tim for his at Spruce Goose, and afterwards Mat went for board games with that crew while I went to Phil and Will's for their flatwarming. They had moved into their new place over Anzac weekend - I helped them shift a lot of their bulky furniture and drove the truck for them. Mana and Vix rocked up with some ingredients for making mulled wine, and what a fun time that was! I didn't realise it was so simple - create your syrup first with a little bit of wine, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, orange peel, lemon peel, and any other spices or fruit you want to throw in. When the syrup is the right consistency, pour the rest of the wine in and let it warm without boiling, or the alcohol will evaporate. Easy!
Strawberry Fare's last day is tomorrow. It is truly the end of an era. They have decided to close their doors while the owners look to focusing more on their other restaurants. The past couple of weeks have seen hundreds of loyal fans trying to get the last desserts, myself and Mat included. They weren't taking any bookings, so I decided that I would try going at 11am on Sunday morning to secure my final Devil's Dream Cake. Sure enough, no one was stupid enough to have dessert for breakfast except for Mat and myself, so we enjoyed our final meal at Strawberry Fare forever. You could say that it was...a bittersweet experience.
At the start of the month, I was in Auckland for Mel and Jarrod's wedding - number four of seven this year. The weather was stunning and the location was picturesque. I was on parking warden duty, so had to be there early, but with my swanky haircut and sharp suit, I was exuding confidence and style as I greeted the guests and directed them down the driveway. The wedding was really nice, given they had only a month to plan it. Everything fell into place and it ran smoothly. The next day was Mother's Day, so we went out for yum cha to Sun World in Newmarket, and then back to my sister's to see my two nephews. They're growing up so fast, especially the little one. He's not as moody as he was the last time I saw him, so it's good to see him being more sociable and having more fun. So cute!
There's been karaoke, Andrew's 30th at Five Boroughs, NZIF shows - Eli Matthewson of Jono and Ben fame, and Taking off the Bird Suit - we had hotpot, Ghibli movie nights, Iron Giant at the Embassy, Formal Friday at work, Dianne's birthday and Vix and Tessa's flatwarming. There's been plenty of Louis Sergeant desserts, lunch at the Crab Shack and a massive seven-tiered rainbow cake for Keir's farewell. I need to remember to blog more often or I'll forget all these memories.
Wednesday March 30, 2016
I cleverly took the four days after Easter off so I could enjoy ten days away from work. Last Thursday, we released an incremental called Doomsday Clicker for iOS and Android. It's been a pretty short burn project, starting on the first week of January and taking two months to soft launch, and another month to hard launch, but the team and I are very proud of what we achieved.
March rolled in pretty quietly, save for a surreptitious boozy karaoke the weekend before, as well as an historical barbeque at Rob's house and Sam and Hannah's engagement party at SFBH. There were some glorious days too, and we took advantage of the brilliant weather one afternoon by cycling around Oriental Bay and the waterfront in a Crocodile Bike. There was Newtown Fair, Cuba Dupa, Tim's stag do, Bobby's leaving and the Dreamworks Exhibition at Te Papa. It's been action-packed.
Over Easter, I was in Auckland where I caught up with Mat, Will and Tom at Circus Circus for lunch on Friday, then joined by Graeme for some board games at Will's later that night. I got a sharp-looking haircut at Hairport on Dominion Road before meeting Charlotte in Newmarket for lunch, and then rushing off to the real reason I was in Auckland - Amy and Vincent's wedding at Nathan Homestead in Manurewa, where I played Lana del Ray's Young and Beautiful as Amy walked down the aisle. It was a beautiful sunny day with a mild breeze, so cue panic when one of my piano sheets fell off the stand. Thankfully I recovered and improvised for a set of four bars before someone very kindly put the music back. Cue more panic when I realised I couldn't see Amy walking down the aisle as everyone was standing in the way, so when she suddenly appeared at the front, I had 15 seconds to wrap up the song - and again, thankfully I nailed the transition to the coda and ended gracefully. The bride and groom were both happy with how things turned out and apparently no one noticed that I had two panic moments, so job well done!
We were at the Heritage Hotel's Tearoom for the reception - a marvelous dining hall with a spectacular view over the harbour. The food was good and the company was great, but even as the reception drew to a close, people were still amped to head out for more festivities. I had to decline, because I had a flight back to Wellington the next day... for another wedding!
My bro Phil took me to the airport early on Sunday morning to catch a surprisingly on-time Jetstar flight to Wellington. Once off the plane, I was home immediately to shower, and off to Timothy and Andrea's wedding at the Island Bay Presbyterian Church. As a groomsman, my task is simple: make sure the groom gets married. As a side though, I was also helping to set up the church and pack down the reception areas, as well as smile pleasantly for the photographs. Again, the ceremony and reception were heaps of fun, and I got to catch up with heaps of people and meet new people too.
It was a tiring two days and I was exhausted come Easter Monday. I took it easy and rolled out of bed after 11am, getting KFC for lunch and doing my grocery shopping for the week. I managed to fit in some squash too, just to make sure I wasn't a complete vegetable the whole day. Yesterday I even made it to the gym, and made chizza - a pizza where the base is chicken. Today was even more productive: I went for physio, returned my suit, practiced piano for this Sunday and did leg day at the gym. And I have so much time leftover today that I even wrote a blog post.
Monday February 22, 2016
Been back in the country for a full week now, having had an amazing time over in Melbourne seeing the sights, eating the food, seeing old friends and of course, the Final Fantasy: A New World concert which was the main purpose of the trip. I arrived on Thursday night and spent it at Andy's house, eating some teriyaki chicken burgers and the best onion rings I'd ever had, while watching his friend play Final Fantasy X for the first time - great way to get into the mood for the weekend. On Friday, I met up with Sonny at Madame Squint where I had a soft shell crab bao, and did some shopping around DFO South Wharf, H&M and Emporium. I ended up at Lygon Street, because I really wanted something from Brunetti, the delicious desserts place with cabinets of cheesecakes, fondants, macaroons, pralines... every imaginable sweet. After that, I wanted some steak, but because it was the Friday night before Valentines and I was sweaty and gross and #ForeverAlone, I felt intimidated going into one of the Italian restaurants and dining by myself, so I went to good old Chin Chin and dined like a king.
On Saturday, I went with Andy to Manchester Press for their famous bagels, then continued wandering around town for more clothing bargains. I had lunch at Mamak, and trained all the way out to Windsor where I surprised Ben for his birthday. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening at the pub there, called Windsor Castle, and even tried a chicken parma. Yeeeah. On Sunday, I met Darius for breakfast at the famous Hardware Societe and had a most delectable lobster benedict. I have so much writing to catch up on for my food blog, it's not funny. I followed him to church as well, inside the cinemas at Melbourne Central, and met some of his friends for lunch at Lentils As Anything, a vegetarian "pay what you want" establishment in East Melbourne. I was back in town to get ready for the Final Fantasy concert at the Melbourne Recital Hall.
I thought I could bring a drink into the amphitheater so I purchased a large bottle of cider from the bar while mingling in the crowd of hardcore Final Fantasy fans, some of which had brought along plushies (Tonberry, Boko, Cactuar :3) or even cosplayed for the night (Red Mage, White Mage, Auron, Cloud, Aeris). As I reached the door, I saw a sign saying no food or drink inside, so I had to scull my drink and ended up extremely drunk and emotional for the first half of the concert. But even as I sobered up for the second half, the music was still fantastic and nostalgic and powerful. There were cheers from the crowd during the most epic themes from almost 30 years of Final Fantasy music, and as the night drew to its climax, we were invited to provide a single word vocal for the final song - One Winged Angel!
I was off to the airport extremely early on Monday morning. I played To Zanarkand and Let it Go on the piano in the departure hall, but there was no applause this time around - probably because the airport was pretty empty at that time of day. Of course, Jetstar was late by an hour, which meant that once I got to Auckland, I would only have an hour to get through customs, get lunch, get to the domestic terminal and catch my flight to Wellington. That lunch I had from Auckland International Airport was the most depressing meal I've had - having spent four days in Melbourne eating the most delicious food ever and having to come back to New Zealand and eat Subway of all things... truly sad.
Since then, I've been super busy still, trying to finish the project I'm on. We were at Coenn's Provisions on Tuesday for Tim's birthday, drinking heavily at Fork and Brewer and S & M's on Friday for Bobby and Cory's farewell, I was at Pete and Bronwyn's wedding on Saturday where I was the only person to volunteer to speak, and I was at music at Central Baptist on Sunday. It's been an action packed weekend and I need another couple of days to unwind... but there's no rest for the weary. I was almost tempted to go back into work to do some loading optimisations, but I think I should stay at home and relax.
Wednesday February 10, 2016
I have been insanely busy lately. My current project is six weeks long, and we are currently in week five. Fortunately for me, I'm at Auckland airport, waiting for a plane to Melbourne while the team back in Wellington are pushing towards the final deadline. Still, I did a few nights of overtime last week to get through my huge list of tasks so it was not without my own sweat and tears.
People have been visiting. I caught up with Melburnians Ants, Jo, Ben and Jill when they were here for a wedding. My parents came and visited too, and we enjoyed much delicious food. It was dad's birthday (almost) while they were down so I took them to Matterhorn and Floriditas.
A couple of weeks ago, I was up at 5.30am to see all five classical planets in the sky at the same time. Looking out to the glow of sunrise out east was Mercury, then looking in an arc high in the sky, Venus in its dawn brilliance, Saturn, Mars, the waning quarter moon and finally Jupiter. It was a sight to see. Absolutely stunning. I've never seen all five at once like that before, and I think it speaks volumes of the kind of wonderful city I live in that I was able to walk out onto my balcony and see all of this so clearly.
Last weekend was Waitangi Day and Chinese New Year, which I spent with my parents, my sister and two nephews. I think it's important to observe tradition; it is custom to be with family on Chinese New Year's Eve for a reunion dinner. The next day, my parents were off to Malaysia with 4kgs of cherries, 2kgs of plums, a loaf of bread, wine, chocolates, smoked salmon, crackers....
So the reason I'm in Melbourne is that I am fulfilling an old dream that has been in planning for the past decade: see a Final Fantasy orchestral concert. It's going to be mega. All the nostalgia, emotion, memories and melodies. I will hopefully be stuffing my face full of delicious food too. Looking forward to it!