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2019/01/31 Company Outing at Northstar
π 2019-01-31 01:01 in Snow
This was my 2nd outing to Northstar with my group. This year we had snow at least, unfortunately it was mostly freeze/thaw snow, but Northstar did a good job grooming it so that the trails were ok enough to ride. Anyting outside of that was sheer misery and ice, though.

The sad part was leaving just as a storm rolled in, bringing in 2-4ft of snow...











See more images for Company Outing at Northstar
2019/01/28 Christchurch's Antarctic Center
π 2019-01-28 01:01 in Museums, Trips
Across the street from RNZAF's and USAF's Antarctic launch bases in Christchurch is the Antarctic Center. I did'nt have super high hopes for it, but it was better than I thought and worth a good 3-4H in the end.




NZ is indeed not that far from the antarctic:



You could get a ride in Hagglung, the all terrain carriers they use there. They can handle quite rough terrain









Of course, they had penguins:




Another room was the cold/wind chill room:




brr...
brr...


Other misc stuff, including movies:



two kinds of planes to get there, 5 to 8H trip due to the lack of real jet runway on the ice
two kinds of planes to get there, 5 to 8H trip due to the lack of real jet runway on the ice


See more images for Christchurch's Antarctic Center
2019/01/26 Chillingworth Road Fine Dining Restaurant in Christchurch
π 2019-01-26 01:01 in Dining
Jennifer found a nice find dining restaurant around Christchurch. It was not too fancy looking, but still had a nice multi course dinner:









2019/01/26 Taking the NZ Tranzalpine Train Coast to Coast from Christchurch to Greymouth and Back
π 2019-01-26 01:01 in Trips
-

It's a nice train inside:




Soon after leaving Christchurh, we started getting alpine views:










There was a longer stop at Arthur's Pass:







there is a long tunnel to cross the continental divide
there is a long tunnel to cross the continental divide


Eventually we arrived in Greymouth where we had a 1H stop:









Their highlight was the brewry which had interesting sliders/burgers as well as nice ciders:









Then was time for the trip back:




Locals at Arthur's pass were protesting use of a poison designed to kill the mammals that don't belong and that have been killing all the birds:










2019/01/24 Linux.conf.au 2019: Using Open Hardware from my shirt to OS testing for Google's Fuchsia
π 2019-01-24 01:01 in Arduino, Electronics, Linux
I've been going to linux.conf.au for 18 years now (since 2001), and presented a fair amount of linux talks related there, but the big change for me was the open hardware miniconf that started in 2010. Thanks to its projects every year, I got to learn a lot about microcontrollers and some about electronics.
This talk was my first non linux talk which detailled everything I learned from those miniconfs and projects I worked that stemmed from them. I presented it at LCA 2019 Christchurch.

you can find the talk pdf here: http://marc.merlins.org/linux/talks/Using_Open_Hardware/Using_Open_Hardware.pdf (you'll want this one to get all the clickable links in the slides)
you can view the talk slides in html here or below:

Talk video below:

I arrived the sunday before the conference and helped out the open hardware organizers with a bit of last minute setup. I also got to do some last minute testing and tuning of my panels:

hacked up ESP32 with level converters on breadboard to run 3x 64x32 SmartMatrix panels with SmartMatrix::GFX
hacked up ESP32 with level converters on breadboard to run 3x 64x32 SmartMatrix panels with SmartMatrix::GFX

64x64 P3.8 SmartMatrix::GFX panel vs 3x 64x32 SmartMatrix::GFX P4 flexible panels vs 4x 16x16 FastLED::NeoMatrix P10 panels
64x64 P3.8 SmartMatrix::GFX panel vs 3x 64x32 SmartMatrix::GFX P4 flexible panels vs 4x 16x16 FastLED::NeoMatrix P10 panels

After finishing the code tuning and demos just in time, gave a 20mn miniconf talk on the history of linux.conf.au hardware miniconf. I went through how much I learned from those confs and what I was able to achieve as a result. I sure got to learn a lot about microcontroller and driver programming:




I wasn't able to bring my burning man 4096 neopixel matrix, it doesn't even fit in my car, but the irony is that my small 64x64 rgbpanel has the same resolution and fits easily in my backpack
I wasn't able to bring my burning man 4096 neopixel matrix, it doesn't even fit in my car, but the irony is that my small 64x64 rgbpanel has the same resolution and fits easily in my backpack

The 64x64 compact display is showing the hand X-ray here
The 64x64 compact display is showing the hand X-ray here

A few days later, I gave the longer version of my talk at the main conference. By then it had grown to over 160 slides in a 45mn slot, or 16 seconds per slide. Ooops...

  • The full talk went into details on what I learned in the hardware hacking field, a lot of it was simply electricity, U=RI, wires, pre-made components (small inline volt/amp meters, DC-DC converters, and so forth).
  • I also gave a is a quick summary of my hacking an arduino board to turn it into a sleep analysis machine, a longer talk I gave elsewhere in 2012.
  • There is a section on what I learned from Tridge and RC planes with ardupilot
  • I had to mention microcontroller hacking and driver writing for IoTuz on ESP32 given how much I learned from it
  • And IoTuz got me to write a primitive Neopixel driver for ESP32, a very slippery slope that led me to many LED projects
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2015-01-06_Driver-for-direct-driving-single-to-3-color-LED-Matrices-with-software-PWM.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2017-04-03_Arduino-328P-Uno-Teensy3_1-ESP8266-ESP32-IR-and-Neopixels.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2017-04-24_Adafruit-GFX-on-NeoMatrix-and-RGB-Matrix-Panel-Demo.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2017-06-02_LED-Pants-and-Shirt-Programmed-With-Arduino-on-ESP8266.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2018-04-23_FastLED_NeoMatrix-library_-how-to-do-Matrices-with-FastLED-and-Adafruit_GFX.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2018-05-29_EDM-Party-Shirt-powered-with-FastLED_NeoMatrix-and-Adafruit_GFX_-plus-160Wh-_10Ah-4S_-worth-of-lipos.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2018-07-13_AnimatedGIFs-for-SmartMatrix-or-NeoMatrix-_Neopixel-WS2812B_-from-SDcard-or-SPIFFS_-on-Teensy-3_x_-ESP8266_-or-ESP32.html
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino/post_2018-07-30_Building-a-64x64-Neopixel-Neomatrix-_4096-pixels_-running-NeoMatrix-FastLED-IR.html
  • https://github.com/marcmerlin/SmartMatrix_GFX
  • and for good measure the talk ends with how I was able to apply some of that knowledge to design simple solutions for hardware testing racks for Google's Fuchsia on arm platforms.


  • Hopefully the talk and/or slides are useful to you. Links:

  • http://marc.merlins.org/linux/talks/Using_Open_Hardware/Using_Open_Hardware.pdf
  • http://marc.merlins.org/linux/talks/Using_Open_Hardware
  • http://marc.merlins.org/perso/arduino
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqeBXCCabo0
  • 2019/01/22 Christchurch's Air Force Museum of New Zealand
    π 2019-01-22 01:01 in Flying
    Another country, another flight museum. New Zealand doesn't have an airforce anymore, so they have more planes they can show off now. A nice docent gave me a private tour of their restauration area:
















    2019/01/22 Christchurch's Canterbury Museum
    π 2019-01-22 01:01 in Museums, Trips
    Christchurch's Canterbury Museum has a very good central museum with multiple sections all worth seeing.

    The section on Mauri started with their early lives:

    sadly they hunted the Moa to extinction
    sadly they hunted the Moa to extinction



    They had a very nice section on their sacred stone, the Kura Pounamu:







    One corner had a nice section on a house filled with pretty shells:





    Another section showed the old streets:




    The 2nd floor talked about the antarctic expeditions that have been launched from NZ's Christchurch:






    Other random sections:






    the Kakapo, the world's biggest parrot, is quite cute
    the Kakapo, the world's biggest parrot, is quite cute



    All it all, it was worth a good 4H, and was well worth a good donation (entrance is free)

    See more images for Christchurch's Canterbury Museum
    2019/01/21 Donkey Car with Tensorflow Video Analysis at Open Hardware Miniconf at Linux.Conf.au 2018
    π 2019-01-21 01:01 in Arduino, Linux
    This year, the Open Hardware Miniconf team designed a donkeycar for us at LCA 2019 Christchurch. It's a car that navigates by itself using its onboard camera connected to a Raspberry Pi using training video data gathered and analysed offline by tensorflow. That sure was an ambitious project!

    I arrived the day before to help finish up the kits for the next morning:



    the cars were eager to perform :)
    the cars were eager to perform :)

    Andy and Jon who ended up working all night to make sure the kits would work the next morning
    Andy and Jon who ended up working all night to make sure the kits would work the next morning


    The next morning, we showed up to build the kit:




    rPi with custom last minute hat for the donkey car
    rPi with custom last minute hat for the donkey car

    done!
    done!

    Jon gave a talk about the car design
    Jon gave a talk about the car design

    Nice way to support 5V neopixels on 3.3V microcontrollers
    Nice way to support 5V neopixels on 3.3V microcontrollers

    We then had a few talks:



    Including mine on the history of linux.conf.au hardware miniconf


    After the miniconf, we had a few tries at getting our own cars to self drive after training:


    I decked out my car with neopixels, because bling! :)
    I decked out my car with neopixels, because bling! :)


    2019/01/21 Linux.Conf.au 2019 in Christchurch
    π 2019-01-21 01:01 in Linux
    This year, LCA was back in New Zealand in the city of Christchurch.


    nice car parked outside
    nice car parked outside



    The first day, I went to the Open Hardware Miniconf to build a monkey car with video analysis fed to tensorflow

    LCA had lots of attendees as usual, enough ot overfill the main keynote room. The usual suspects/friends were there as usual:







    Ah yes, the shirt and glasses, that's because of my talk Using Open Hardware from my shirt to OS testing for Google's Fuchsia

    Lots of talks, thankfully they were recorded as there were 2-3x as many talks as I was able to see:



    really nice keynote showing how to hack insulin dispensers to deliver the right amount at the right time
    really nice keynote showing how to hack insulin dispensers to deliver the right amount at the right time



    Commodore 65 slide presentation program
    Commodore 65 slide presentation program

    fpga based cell phone running alongside a commodore 65 fpga, awesome
    fpga based cell phone running alongside a commodore 65 fpga, awesome







    Rusty's keynote for the win :)
    Rusty's keynote for the win :)



    the first LCA in 1999
    the first LCA in 1999

    Rusty gave a few talks since then :)
    Rusty gave a few talks since then :)


    very interesting talk on how painful it was to take over grsecurity maintenance
    very interesting talk on how painful it was to take over grsecurity maintenance

    Random pictures:

    love this little laptop I found
    love this little laptop I found

    As usual, nice parties in the evenings: speaker dinner, professional DNS, Penguin Dinner, and nice adhoc BBQ on friday:











    And just like this, it was conference close:




    next year will be the Gold Coast
    next year will be the Gold Coast

    thank you, come again :)
    thank you, come again :)

    2019/01/20 A Week in Christchurch
    π 2019-01-20 01:01 in Trips
    This year's linux.conf.au was in Christchurch, so we went there and had a few extra days to look around. -

    I started with Christchurch's Air Force Museum of New Zealand which was actually quite good:


    After that, we went to Quake City which gives a good overview and explanation of the big earthquake they had more recently, but it was just one in a list of many over the centuries:


    many quakes
    many quakes




    stone buildings did not fare well, the church was heavily damaged
    stone buildings did not fare well, the church was heavily damaged


    They have a nice river going across the city and botanical gardens, the avon:


    Other city pictures:


    8 years later, many buildings are still being fixed
    8 years later, many buildings are still being fixed
















    They had a nice botanical garden next to the Christchurch's Canterbury Museum












    After the botanical garden we had a good visit of the Christchurch's Canterbury Museum


    Given that the cathedral was destroyed by the recent earthquake, the transitional cathedral is interesting:






    Downtown is otherwise slowly being rebuilt:





    A highlight was Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, lots of eager and hungry animals :)




    this one got lost
    this one got lost











    the Keas are quite curious and hungry too if you have food :)
    the Keas are quite curious and hungry too if you have food :)



    They then had a Maori show, was came from the heart but was not up to the same level than some nicer ones we've seen elsewhere, but it was still nice:




    Jennifer needed a bit more practise with their pon pons :)
    Jennifer needed a bit more practise with their pon pons :)




    Various dances and demos they did for us:

    Jennifer tried their dance, had a few issues with it :)

    I'm not sure if I did better, I hope I did :)

    And that was it for Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Ko Tane Maori show and dinner.

    During our time in Christchurch, we picked a day with nice weather, and took the Tranzalpine train coast to coast


    We then had a nice dinner at Chillingworth Road Fine Dining Restaurant:


    The next morning, we went to the Antarctic Center:


    They also had an Art Gallery in a nice building:







    A local attraction is the Christchurch Gondola, which wasn't bad, but it's a 30mn bus/shuttle ride away: it gives you an elevated view and the option of what looked like a not so stellar hike in high sun, so we ended up skipping that and only spent 1H to get the next shuttle back:




    They have a back in time tunnel ride which was ok-ish:



    We then had a bit of time left to go through a half hidden science museum: Rutherford's Den in the old university. It was actually quite good and I wish it had been easier to find so we would have scheduled more time for it.












    And then, it was time to fly back. I ended up in an AirNZ flight after my United flight was cancelled due to engine trouble before takeoff:




    [rigimg:1024:702*|got a "free" stop in LAX, which I usually try to avoid :)]

    United Polaris Lounge
    United Polaris Lounge

    See more images for A Week in Christchurch
    2019/01/18 Day Flight From Queenstown to Mt Cook, and Glacier Heli Hike
    π 2019-01-18 01:01 in Flying, Trips
    -

    We were supposed to fly to Franz Joseph Glacier, but we ended up with bad weather there, so we redirected to Mt Cool instead (took a lot of advance planning to make that happen, but I had spent days looking up both locations, had all the phone numbers on hand, and the cell phones to call for go/no go decisions).
    True South Flights confirmed with us that weather would allow them to pick us up again later that day, and they flew us to Mt Cook as the clouds were lifting:









    Mt Cook airport
    Mt Cook airport


    We then got some basic gear and transfered to the heli hike:



    Jennifer helped taking pictures since she had a better seat
    Jennifer helped taking pictures since she had a better seat


    hard to tell that this is all a glacier with the dirt on top
    hard to tell that this is all a glacier with the dirt on top

    but it looks like this
    but it looks like this




    we got nice crampons to walk on the ice
    we got nice crampons to walk on the ice



    Jennifer showed us how to use a pick axe :)
    Jennifer showed us how to use a pick axe :)



    nice cave
    nice cave










    And after a good time on the ice, it was time to fly back off the glacier. I got a front seat for the flight back, so I got better pictures:





    this is the edge of the glacier that melts into a lake, with a few visible icebergs
    this is the edge of the glacier that melts into a lake, with a few visible icebergs




    We had a bit of time before our glacier explorer (boat tour on the ice lake), so we went to the visitor center, which was quite good:


    nice picture of the glacier
    nice picture of the glacier



    Next, we took the our tour bus for the glacier explorer to go look at the melting glacier in the lake it created:








    I tried to take a souvenir home, but somehow it didn't quite make it
    I tried to take a souvenir home, but somehow it didn't quite make it

    that's what the glacier actually looks like at the point it breaks into icebergs
    that's what the glacier actually looks like at the point it breaks into icebergs




    We then spent a bit of time in the lodge museum while waiting for the plane:





    Last, but not least, a few pictures of the plane trip back:





    back in queenstown airport
    back in queenstown airport

    This was a good day, not cheap with the plane ride, but awesome visit of the glacier.

    2019/01/15 Kepler Track
    π 2019-01-15 01:01 in Hiking
    After finishing the Routeburn track just a day prior, the plan was to go back to Te Anau and do the Kepler in 2 days. I had found by then that the DOC definitely stretches the time you really need to do those tracks. They recommend 3 to 4 days and I ended up doing the Kepler in a day and a half with still a moderate pack (10kg when light could probably have been 5kg given that you don't have to bring a tent, or sleeping pad, or gas). I was carrying a bit more necessary mostly in gadgets and extra clothes (layers) I ended up not needing, but that in Fiordland are always a good idea given how changeable the weather can be.

    Jennifer was sadly still battling a cold and resulting poor sleep, so she took the time off and stayed in Queenstown to rest while I did the track. As a result, I just took the convenient tracknet bus to Te Anau which saved me over 4H of driving (return) and removed the need for any rental car.
    When I arrived in Te Anau the day before my departure, the bus barely arrived in time for me to pick up my permit at the DOC and look at their exhibits again (I had a faint recollection from our trip on the Milford track some years back).

    the kakapo is so cute, but critically endangered (about 130 birds left in the world)
    the kakapo is so cute, but critically endangered (about 130 birds left in the world)

    The kepler track was able to do a better job killing most of the mammals that eat the native birds and their eggs, which means it has a lot more bird life:


    there were plenty of these on the track
    there were plenty of these on the track


    After getting my DOC hut permit (and sadly losing all the money for Jennifer's due to their non generous cancellation policy on a sold out track, I'm not sure if they tried to give the permit to someone else or not), I went to the nearby bird sanctuary to check out birds that would be easier to find :)






    I spent the rest of the day in Te Anau and got an early night:




    The next morning, with good weather in the forecast, I went bright and early. I got dropped off at the track start by 06:30, and got started around 06:45 when it wsa still overcast. I started early because the first day ended up being 36km with the side trips, making a long day (a bit over 12H) out of a massive 15H of sunlight.



    Here is what the track looks like: -




    I got in Brod Bay in no time, where a few peole were camping
    I got in Brod Bay in no time, where a few peole were camping

    Then was time to go inland and uphill through the forest with some nice birds:




    I got a tui to make fun noises for me
    I got a tui to make fun noises for me


    I finally got to the top ridge in the middle of clouds, thankfully the sun burned through while I waited a short while:



    the peaks started showing up slowly
    the peaks started showing up slowly





    eventually got to luxmore hut
    eventually got to luxmore hut


    the added pads in the room very packed together, must suck to sleep with so many people in the same room
    the added pads in the room very packed together, must suck to sleep with so many people in the same room

    I went to nearby luxmore cave. I went as deep as I could before I could not fit through holes anymore while still wearing my fanny pack. Having gloves would have been nicer for my hands on the rough ground:












    eventually got back out after about 1H
    eventually got back out after about 1H

    I went back on the track since I still had a long distance to Iris Burn:

    those pretty fearless birds were all over the track
    those pretty fearless birds were all over the track


    by the time I came back, the fog/clouds had fully lifted
    by the time I came back, the fog/clouds had fully lifted



    interesting rocky ground lifted up and cracked
    interesting rocky ground lifted up and cracked

    with picture perfect weather, I went from peak view to peak view
    with picture perfect weather, I went from peak view to peak view

    eventually got to luxmore peak, an easy climb
    eventually got to luxmore peak, an easy climb




    emergency weather hut
    emergency weather hut


    I ran into a googl gfit personal trainer from Isreal :)
    I ran into a googl gfit personal trainer from Isreal :)

    more views
    more views

    the 2nd hut had keas waiting to steal food from you
    the 2nd hut had keas waiting to steal food from you




    instead of having it destroy my pack to steal my food, I just gave it some :)
    instead of having it destroy my pack to steal my food, I just gave it some :)


    last peak view
    last peak view

    After the last peak, I did a long set of switchbacks down to Iris Burn (they must suck on the way up):




    lovely birds
    lovely birds

    eventually made it to Iris Burn in 10.5H or so (plus the 1H detour to Luxmore cave)o
    eventually made it to Iris Burn in 10.5H or so (plus the 1H detour to Luxmore cave)o

    I arrived by 18:12; total was 33.6km in 11.3h. After quickly selecting the last bunk in a smaller room with fewer people, I went to the waterfall:


    the waterfall was not fantastic, but eh, it was closeby :)
    the waterfall was not fantastic, but eh, it was closeby :)

    the way back had lots of birds, here a fantail
    the way back had lots of birds, here a fantail


    the fearless NZ robin
    the fearless NZ robin

    I then spent a bit of time in the hut, listening to the ranger's talk, a quick dinner, and time for well deserved sleep after more than 13H on my feet and 36km walked total:





    our ranger for the night
    our ranger for the night

    The next morning, I went to check the nearby river to see if the elusive NZ ducks were here, but they were not, so I went for my day2 hike:



    these robins were all over the track, checking us out
    these robins were all over the track, checking us out


    valley back down to the river
    valley back down to the river


    robins came back to check out my feet
    robins came back to check out my feet



    eventually made it to Moturau hut in just 4h13 at a moving average of 5.4km/h
    eventually made it to Moturau hut in just 4h13 at a moving average of 5.4km/h






    final bridge to rainbow reach carpark which I got in just 6H, including a lunch stop
    final bridge to rainbow reach carpark which I got in just 6H, including a lunch stop

    yeah, done! :)
    yeah, done! :)

    took an earlier tracknet bus back to Te Anau
    took an earlier tracknet bus back to Te Anau

    still managed to get a bit of sun despite sunscreen :)
    still managed to get a bit of sun despite sunscreen :)

    See more images for Kepler Track
    2019/01/11 Routeburn Track with Ultimate Hikes
    π 2019-01-11 01:01 in Hiking
    For our 2nd trip in Queenstown, I looked at other great walks we didn't do. By the time I looked, it was too late to book DOC Huts, which still cost more than $100 per person per day, but that's nothing compared to Ultimate Hikes, which charges $1000+ for the whole trip. On the plus side, the huts (which contain gas and water, but where you sleep in bunks very close to other people in a big room), are replaced with lodges what could be multiple star hotels in the middle of the wilderness with a choice of dishes for the 3 course dinner. They also include guides on the trail, convenient transportation, equipment loans, and more. Compare with DOC huts:

    DOC Huts often look like this. Many people in one big room. One person snoring is probably guaranteed
    DOC Huts often look like this. Many people in one big room. One person snoring is probably guaranteed

    Here is a picture of the 3 days we did in 3 different colors:: -

    The Routeburn as I found out a bit too late, is actually only 32km, and I ended up hiking more than that in a single day on the kepler track 2 days later, so in hindsight we could also have done the routeburn in a long single day, except maybe for the transportation issues (getting dropped off soon after sunrise on one side and picked up end of day on the other side, may have been more challenging). Actually, I just found this page that shows how to do it with one day
    Another interesting bit I didn't know was that the routeburn and the milford track actually were only private tracks for many years where you had to use the private (and expensive) lodges as the sole option. It's only after enough people complained that the DOC (Department of Conservation) added public huts and allowed regular hikers/backpackers to enjoy the tracks by being able to stay overnight too. That bit of history aside, given that we had just flown in to NZ the afternoon before, and Jennifer was still battling a cold and resulting poor sleep, doing the routeburn in 3 days with short days, plush accommodations and nice meals, as opposed to a very long day with few breaks, made things easier for her :)

    For the price, ultimatehikes still offers a convenient package that takes you to/from queenstown, lends you gear so that you don't have to fly it in or rent it, and in case of problems like a track being flooded to a point that it's not safe to cross, they have at times flown their customers across an impassable points where the other hikers had to turn back and cancel their hike.
    Ultimatehikes is more of an obvious choice for people who don't hike as fast, feel more comfortable with guides who can help them out if they run into trouble, and also benefit from not having to carry as much (you can do the hike with a mere 5 to 10kg given that you don't have to carry any food, bedding, tent, just your clothes and personal items).

    In my case, it felt like so little weight and cheating so much that I took my laptop and extra stuff I really didn't need (I knew we'd have short hiking days and I had lots of pictures to sort as well as a talk to write for the conference I was attending), which added another 5kg to make it a bit more challenging. I had around 15kg and it still felt super light compared to what I'm used to carrying :)

    this is so wrong that I had to do it :)
    this is so wrong that I had to do it :)

    this was also wrong enough that I had to take a picture :)
    this was also wrong enough that I had to take a picture :)

    All the pictures are GPS tagged, so if you click on them, you'll see where they were taken

    Anyway, back to the routeburn. On the first day, we met at the ultimatehikes location in Queenstown at 06:30 and they drove us over 3.5H to Te Anau and then the track start north of that:



    By 11:00 we were finally on the track and started our first day. It was an easy 15km, 500 meters uphill (including a detour to key summit for views):







    After a short while, we had a break at Howden Hut



    the routeburn lost many birds due to introduced mammals, we only got to see a few
    the routeburn lost many birds due to introduced mammals, we only got to see a few




    We then resumed the rest of the hike for the day:


    little puffball :)
    little puffball :)






    eventually we arrived at the lodge, pretty early in the afternoon
    eventually we arrived at the lodge, pretty early in the afternoon

    the lodge is much better than the DOC huts of course :)
    the lodge is much better than the DOC huts of course :)


    the generator output went into a room that became a drying rack, nice idea
    the generator output went into a room that became a drying rack, nice idea

    you could even do your laundry
    you could even do your laundry

    the lodge was spacious of course
    the lodge was spacious of course

    you could even pay more to get a private room
    you could even pay more to get a private room

    After dropping our gear and enjoying some welcome snacks, wine and cheese (yes, this is wrong :) ), we went to check out the lake:





    a few courageous people went in the very cold water
    a few courageous people went in the very cold water

    We also went to check out the DOC lodge:

    it's obviously less plush, but still beats sleeping outside in a potential heavy rainstorm
    it's obviously less plush, but still beats sleeping outside in a potential heavy rainstorm

    it explained how they are trying to kill the mammals have been decimating the local birds
    it explained how they are trying to kill the mammals have been decimating the local birds

    those traps are all over the track, hopefully they work
    those traps are all over the track, hopefully they work

    warning on how the keas love to destroy your hiking boots :)
    warning on how the keas love to destroy your hiking boots :)

    We then went back to our lodge for dinner:



    Day 2, we got a picture by the lake before hiking. It just 16km including detours:


    the lake by the lodge is quite big
    the lake by the lodge is quite big


    great view all the way to the ocean
    great view all the way to the ocean


    we got lucky enough to a flock of Keas fly by
    we got lucky enough to a flock of Keas fly by





    we had a lunch break by saddle shelter huts
    we had a lunch break by saddle shelter huts

    our guides made drinks for us, served with cookies :)
    our guides made drinks for us, served with cookies :)

    Now is a time to make a small segway on my hiking boots. I have a double wide foot which is very hard to fit, so when my boot soles started failing in Tasmania a couple of years ago, I worked on fixing them with glue and screws when I got home. It worked well enough for another 2 years until the filler material under the sole started disintegrating making the glue useless and even the bolts I put in started falling out (arguably my fault for not putting a nut on the other side). Thankfully I had prepared for this possibility and was carrying duct tape, other kinds of tape and enough zip ties to mostly fix it:

    my boot didn't look great, but it worked for the rest of the hike
    my boot didn't look great, but it worked for the rest of the hike

    We did a short side hike to Conical Hill and then resumed the hike:








    Routeburn Falls Hut
    Routeburn Falls Hut

    this was going to be our hike out on the 3rd day, but we never got that view again
    this was going to be our hike out on the 3rd day, but we never got that view again



    the other lodge was very nice too
    the other lodge was very nice too

    while the DOC hut was a bit more packed
    while the DOC hut was a bit more packed

    Another evening and dinner:



    my salmon was quite tasty :)
    my salmon was quite tasty :)

    This brings us to day 3 which thankfully was a mere 10km (given the weather). Now is not too late to mention that the weather in Fiordlands often sucks. It rains meters of water per year. Our guides were actually pleasantly surprised at how nice the weather and the views were the first 2 days. We apparently got quite lucky those first 2 days, but that luck ran out on the 3rd day, we got moderate non stop rain until we exited the track:

    I did manage to miss a spot with the sunscreen the previous day
    I did manage to miss a spot with the sunscreen the previous day

    [rigimg:1024:602*| he falls were more "wet" the next morning]


    view were more 'limited'
    view were more 'limited'


    sadly Jennifer's waterproof jacket didn't really keep her that dry
    sadly Jennifer's waterproof jacket didn't really keep her that dry




    And by noon, we had reached the exit, and got a ride back to Queenstown:


    my 2nd boot also failed just as I exited. I guess it didn't like the water
    my 2nd boot also failed just as I exited. I guess it didn't like the water

    bus ride back to queenstown
    bus ride back to queenstown

    And that was it for Routeburn, while the last day kind of sucked, the first 2 were very nice. This was an unusual hike given the very fancy lodges, limited things to carry, and short hiking days, but it was interesting to try something different and I guess we got lucky that we had such good weather the first few days when terrible storms, including snow, are possible or even somewhat frequent in summer.

    2019/01/10 Second trip to Quenstown
    π 2019-01-10 01:01 in Trips
    -

    We got a nice flight direct to Auckland with connection to Queenstown. Nice United plane, and AirNZ lounge:






    Jennifer made a friend right out of Queenstown
    Jennifer made a friend right out of Queenstown

    Views of Queenstown on the way in:





    Jennifer was very tired the first day, so I went out to check out a few attractions and went for a walk, while she rested:







    The next morning, we left for our trip to the Routeburn Track with Ultimate Hikes

    After that, we moved hotels and I went up the Gondola for views and luge:




    After kicking some poor tourists' ass at luge, I came back down to visit the Kiwi Birdlife Park with Jennifer:

















    After that, I took a bus to Te Anau to do the Kepler Track, and when I came back, Jennifer got some yummy lamb for us:


    The next morning, we started with a nice jetboat tour of the Dart River, up north. Very scenic:



    these backgrounds were used for many movies
    these backgrounds were used for many movies

    to kill invasive possums, they have this resetable kill traps
    to kill invasive possums, they have this resetable kill traps


    then we got on a 90kph jetboat
    then we got on a 90kph jetboat








    We then got back to Queenstown for a 4WD jeep tour:








    another place used for movies
    another place used for movies



    mhee
    mhee


    panning for gold
    panning for gold

    yet another movie location
    yet another movie location




    back for a nice dinner
    back for a nice dinner

    We then went to check an underwater fish viewing window:




    even the ducks went diving
    even the ducks went diving





    The next day, we flew to Queenstown to Mt Cook, and Glacier Heli Hike

    After that, we were supposed to see another glacier, but due to bad weather, we changed our plans. We took the shotover jet:








    Next, I went to try a new flyboard/jetpack:



    wee
    wee



    On the way back, found some ducklings:


    I picked out a furry one
    I picked out a furry one


    Next, we went for wine tasting for Jennifer:



    By then, it was raining hard, so we went to the escape room again:


    And went to get an unobtanium burger that had stupid long lines:




    nice view from our hotel patio
    nice view from our hotel patio

    The last day, the weather wasn't great (too windy), so what we were hoping to do, was cancelled. We ended up chilling at the hotel and airport lounge for our flight to Christchurch:




    Not the best weather in Queenstown, but that's on par for the course. At least we got to see some things we hadn't yet :)

    See more images for Second trip to Quenstown
    2019/01/06 Couple of Powder Days at Kirkwood with Arturo
    π 2019-01-06 01:01 in Snow
    Snow started a bit late this year. The first real snow started when I was leaving for Xmas, so I missed that. As luck would have it during a mere 4 days I was home between a France and New Zealand trip, we got a nice storm system that hit Tahoe. The storm was tricky, changed a lot, initially dumped less snow at Kirkwood than planned, and stranded a lot of people in Lake Tahoe on sunday night as the roads closed for the night.

    Day #1 was a bit busy, but not terribly so. Sadly only 6" in the morning, but more fell during the day:

    we were in line at Cornice
    we were in line at Cornice

    but the wall ended up opening first
    but the wall ended up opening first

    cornice got a bit busy when it opened
    cornice got a bit busy when it opened


    KW tried to stay open as long as they good despite hellish winds and terrible viz at the tops, and eventually had to close around 15:00. Not a big deal, we had had enough fun by then

    Day #2 got a bunch of snow overnight, but it was a bit wet (almost sierra cement), and because both roads to KW were closed. As a result, KW opened very late as the snow was dangerous and they were short staffed since somehow they still let some of their critical staff drive back to South Lake before a storm that is likely to segment KW. In the end, they only opened at 11:30 which was kind of pathetic, but they made up for it by opening Cornice just before noon, and the Wall arount 14:00, which was really good, especially given the very few crowds:



    not really crowded
    not really crowded

    that viz was still better than the viz from the previous afternoon
    that viz was still better than the viz from the previous afternoon

    by 14:30, we finally got to see the sky for a short time, while enjoying 5-6 runs off the wall
    by 14:30, we finally got to see the sky for a short time, while enjoying 5-6 runs off the wall



    Day #2 was definitely good once things opened, especially with so few people on the mountain.

    2019/01/03 More Google One Paris Office Pictures
    π 2019-01-03 01:01 in Google
    Google moved to its Office to St Lazare a while ago now, but in the new years, they opened 2 adjacent buildings: 17C and 14L



    Every year, they have a nice Xmas tree:




    Nice decors as always:








    Nice to run into friends every time :)



    Obviously the food is good :)


    The older French buildings are cool to see:





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