Sunday, 29 May 2016

I got some free chain

Just a short post today to show off my latest score.

Our chain block in the factory was decommissioned due to severally damaged chain. It's no longer safe for lifting anything with, but that doesn't mean I can use it for lifting. So I pulled apart the chain block and took the lifting chain and hooks (the chain used to turn the block is staying in the factory as it isn't damaged).


To get all the old grease off I washed the chain in a bucket with dish washing powder which seemed to work quite well, however I didn't take off any of the surface rust. I was going to soak it in a bucket of Coka Cola however I will wait as I currently have my eye on some more chain I might get and I'll wait until then. One quick note: Don't leave the chain in the bucket with any water, surface rust will form overnight.


So I got 7kg of chain for free, the goal is to have two, 10kg sets of chain for some compensatory acceleration.


The point of this post is to keep an eye out for things which might be useful and keep an open mind, you'll probably find a lot of good stuff. For an example of other throw away's I got from work see the straps on my lifting platform.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Book Review: Tracks by Robyn Davidson

So clearly I have missed being punctual on this book by nearly 40 years, but its defiantly worth the read. Tracks is the story of Robyn Davidson, who in 1977 traveled 1700 miles across Australia with four camels and a dog. I first heard about this journey and book only recently when Wildboy announced his plan to cross Australia and someone mentioned this book. The story sounded so interesting I decided to get to book to find out more.

The book covers quite a bit about her struggles in Alice Springs trying to find someone to train her, dealing with the locals, dealing with camels, and procuring all that she needed for the trip (including the camels). This takes up about the first third of the book but in the movie of the same name makes up very little of the story.

This section clearly shows the racism and misogyny in Australian at the time. As an aside I have seen little difference in some areas of Australia today. The book at times makes commentary of the current (1977) treatment of the Indigenous population, the politics and culture surrounding it and generally a lot of interesting back ground information on the state of Indigenous affairs of the time. While these sections are interesting and paint a picture of the culture, and the time, the transitions to these sections aren’t particularly well organised and so almost feel like side rants (that might be a bit harsh). That said the epilogue mentions the rough nature of the write, but choosing not to edit it, rather that it remains real. Note: This may not be the exact phasing, but I no longer have the book for reference.

Now for something I really liked. Unlike other travel type books I have read Davidson outline a lot of the equipment see was travelling with, the camp set up, break downs, how she stripped out gear she didn’t need. I found this all very interesting. Personally I like to get an idea of these things, the equipment they like/deem necessary or unnecessary. I find these details to be an informative education, but also help to see the scene for me, I doubt this is the same for everyone. I also really enjoyed the writing on the journey and the desert itself, I found these sections to be well written and descriptive, without becoming overly elaborate poems about rocks. The psychology of traveling alone and with others was interesting to observe, and I find if interesting that people always asked her why she was making the journey? (I would have though the answer “why not?” would be more than sufficient).

So the raw structure of the book means that it jumps around a little bit with commentary on the Indigenous people, and the desert environment the book it still very captivating holding my interest to keep reading more of the journey. I recommend this book as a book on travel and adventure in a novel form, and for me, a novel setting. Well worth reading.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Book Review – Wild

Book Review – Wild, From lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Often when I’ve done book reviews I have tried to be somewhat current with the release date of the book, for this review not so much. I decided to read Wild by Cheryl Strayed (I had previously seen the movie) after the round the mountain walk, when I met some Americans on the walk who had walked the PCT in 2014 and loved it (the PCT, not so much the book).

The book is the story of Cheryl Strayed’s PCT hike in 1995 as well and introspection about her life leading up to the hike.

Right of the bat I’m going to say I found someone who suggests that Strayed did not walk the PCT and fabricated the whole thing. I’m not particularly fussed either way so I didn’t look too much into it; however the little I did read seems to have some merit. That said I’m always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt.

I found the book to be rather jumpy, it moved from past to present within a chapter fairly often without any clear train of thought to the transition, and the past sections didn’t necessarily tell a coherent story within a given chapter. It felt at times like a grab bag of ideas, this may have been intentional as that may have been as things came to mind on the hike, however it often felt jarring while reading. The movie is similar, in this manner. That said the writing was often very descriptive with some sections difficult to read due to their graphic nature. So in terms of the writing itself I didn’t find it particularly compelling, mostly due to the structure of the book.

As for the hiking, this was quite interesting at times, however not particularly detailed or descriptive. The start was interesting to hear about the gear she packed, and later who she pared her pack down in weight. This point is the part that makes me wonder the most about the authenticity of the story. Given the gear she outlines packing I estimated the pack weight to be 30kg if not more, and given how hard it was to hike with a 20kg pack I find this difficult to believe, but like I said I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. The rest of writing on the hiking side of things was interesting enough but for me lacked substance. It seems primarily a story of how much her feet hurt.

Two more points, one good one bad. Strayed often shows an example of poor outdoors decision making. She puts herself in danger by not having the correct supplies or gear at times, is not physically prepared for the hike and in general had poor hiking practices. By intentionally putting herself in a dangerous situation, others may have had to take risks themselves to rescue her (which luckily did not happen). That said her lack of preparation can be a warning to others, and from the amount of stuff popping up on my pinterest feed a lot of woman have got into hiking, possibly due to this book.

So it seems if you’re looking for a book on a life changing experience and introspection this is the book for you, if you’re looking for hiking, or adventure this book is okay, but maybe look elsewhere. For me, I much prefer Wildboy as a story of life changing adventure, though it’s more focused on the adventure than introspection.

Sunday, 8 May 2016



I’m not quite sure how I stumbled upon Alastair Humphreys’blog but it’s an interesting read with a really great message. After years spent doing amazing adventures like cycling around the world he has spent a lot of his time recently on micro adventures. These focus on the 5-9, the time between work. The idea is to get out in nature and have some adventure even if it is close to home.

While Alastair likes sleeping wild with a bivi sack, I quite like staying in huts and campsites. I don’t yet have a bivi sack but I have slept under a tarpaulin and really enjoyed it. So in the spirit of microadventures I thought I would share a few of the campsites I’ve stayed in, or hiked past in the Hunua ranges.

The Hunua Ranges are within an hour’s drive of central Auckland, so are more than easy enough for most people in Auckland to get to after work on Friday, or first thing Saturday morning. Most tracks have campsites right at the start or within about 2-3 hours hike of the car park. This works quite well for someone like me who likes to create a challenge and cover some distance because I can plan a route that takes me past 1, 2 or 3 sites before I get to my final destination. I have walked side to side with someone dropping me off and picking me up, and I have also walked some loops in the Ranges.

To stay at these campsites there is a fee of $5NZ payable in honesty boxes or with pre bought DoC hut passes. I really hope everyone using these sites pays as it helps fund the upkeep of the sites and the Ranges.

Piggots Campsite

This campsite has one of two huts in the park but they’re not listed on the DoC website. The hut is a small 4 person but it’s beautiful mansion after a long days hike from the other side of the Ranges. From the Hunua side the site is only 2 hours walk from the carpark on a gravel road so it’s easily walk-able at night after work. This site is meant to be good for seeing New Zealand native bats so I hope to go back one day soon to try and spot them. This can also be done as part of a loop (I hate to walk out the same way I came in).

The trig K hut

Located at the highest point in the Ranges is the trig K hut. There are only 2 bunks with no mattresses and its more of an emergency hut now, but it would be really cool to say the night in. I’ve only walked past it and its 3-5 hours hike depending on the route you take.

Workman’s campsite

This site could be done as a bit of a loop walk from the far side of the ranges with a walk along the road or coastline linking the two parts of the park. This would make for a good weekend walk with a lot of varied terrain. 

Thousand acres campsite

This is another campsite which could be done as a small 2-3 hour walk in, with a different track out the next day, or as a larger loop with 6-7 hours on the first day and 2 on the way out (I really like this type of walk, hard one day, easy the second).

For those living in or near Auckland I have given you 4 campsite within a few hours walk of a carpark, with several other campsites right next to a car park. That’s 4 weekends worth of microadventures.

The point of this post wasn’t about the Hunua Ranges, they’re just the example. My point is every city should have an area like this, it may only have one site but that’s one adventure to have. If you really don’t have anywhere in nature to go Alastair Humphreys does have an urban adventure suggestion.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Plywood technique plates

I saw someone had made a pair of plywood plates for technique work quite awhile ago, (I can’t remember where) but I had some left over 15mm plywood after building my lifting platform so I decided to make myself a pair. I’m not really sure how much use they will get from me, I’ve got a pair of 5kg plates on the way, and a pair of 10kgs and 15kg so I think any technique work will be better done with a little bit of weight. However they have already been useful in training a young athlete. The athlete is currently at a working weight of 35kg for deadlifts, so using a 15kg bar and loading up some change plates these plywood plates allow the same height off the ground warming up. This has been really handy, and I think this is where plates like these are valuable. These plates allow the athlete to practice the movement pattern and appropriately load the movement pattern, without big jumps.

The construction was super easy. I traced the outline and inside hole of a bumper plate onto two off cuts of plywood. I then cut the outline with my jig saw. The inner hole would have been much better to cut with a hole saw, but I didn’t have one so I cut it with my jig saw, it doesn’t look flash but it does the job.

The plates then fit to the bar as normal, but need the clips on tight to stop these plates from moving. I can then load the bar up in 2.5kg (5 pound-ish) increments.  

And that’s all there is to it.