Auckland and The Brown Kiwi

On my previous trip to New Zealand three years ago I stayed at a number of places called The <adjective> <animal>. The Brown Kiwi is to the North Island what The Green Monkey (in Nelson) is to the South.

There has been a slowly changing mix of people staying with the Germans and the French vying for supremacy. The mix is leavened by the odd Italian, Kiwi and some Dutch. To do the French justice they have taken their defeat in the Rugby pretty well.

Partly as a result of all the help and new information I have received (my Thanks to Kim, Judith and Madeleine) I have spent a while longer than planned… but finally I think I am as ready as I will ever be. I also owe some Thanks to the Auckland Public library which has been a haven of peace and connectivity.

My training has consisted almost entirely of trying to eat more and slowly reduce the caffeine intake. But if you are going to have a coffee near here… then there is no better place than Cafe 121 Ponsonby Road. There is an elderly and friendly cat called Rhonan who may grace you with his presence on your lap. That alone is a fine excuse to stay longer.

Tomorrow I have a lift north in a “spaceship” with a Frenchman touring the two islands. After that the road leads north to Kaitaia where I will prepare the food I’ll need (or rather the food I will have to make do with) for the first two stages.

Now off for a final bit of retail therapy… and the word is Icebreaker!

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I am still in the throes of getting ready so this will be short.

Physical gear:
For me this is the easy bit. I had most of it already, and it was largely a matter of reducing weight. To that end I bought lighter versions of two of the “big three” items (sleeping bag and tent). In the end the need to carry a certain volume and weight comfortable lead me to keep my current pack.

I’ll post a full (weighed) list on another page – perhaps after the first stage (The Cape to Auckland). There’s a chance I’ll make some changes, and I’d rather post a fairly definitive list.

Digital and luggage:
Assembling the information I need has been harder work, but I think I am getting there. I don’t want this to be a trip that is overly dependent on technology, but have adopted a belt and braces approach, if it does not add much weight.

Again I’ll post a full list later, but for now here is an outline.

I printed (double sided and only on A4) the GIF format maps that a British guy had assembled (I’ll try and find the link). Thanks to him!

This made is really easy to download all of them in one go. The advantages of these maps are that the grid is always straight up the page, and there are useful notes on many of the pages referenced to markers. The disadvantage is that the borders have been trimmed so that the grid references need to be added again – or worked out manually on the spot.

As well as the printed maps I have them in two digital formats. As JPGs these are now loaded into my Canon S95 camera. This required some technical work, but was not that hard, and the thumbnails I see in the camera now tell me the map number clearly. Hint: On Linux use mogrify and jhead.

These maps are also in PDF format in iBooks on my iPod touch, where they can be zoomed in great detail. It was useful to keep these PDF files from getting too big. Hint: On Linux I used pdftk to split and merge PDFs.

To put the PDFs into the touch I used Dropbox, which meant I could do this without needing iTunes!

I did the same with the full maps set (version 29) from the main Te Araroa site. It was necessary to split the two huge PDFs into separate pages and convert one page at a time. I also included the index map.

So now I have two sets of maps. One set is printed. Both sets are in PDF and JPG format loaded into two devices.

Track notes:
I laboriously  printed every track page to PDF, then went through the conversion process as per the maps. I have printed the notes 4 pages to a sheet and double-sided. The Cape to Auckland is only 12 A4 pages to carry and I can get rid of a sheet every so often.

As back up I have them in the camera and the iPod touch. All this stuff is also in the Cloud and on hard drives.

Track note summaries:
With great effort I built a spreadsheet summarising all the basic track details: Section, Name, Distance, Track Grade, Time and some space for comments. The comments were filled from a rather quick first reading of all the track notes.

I thought it useful to be able to get an overview and be able to see when a problem area is coming up – eg the need to phone and book something.

The spreadsheet was printed onto paper and also as a PDF. The PDF went into iBooks and a JPG version went onto the camera card.

These summaries will be updated as I get real information along the trail and I will (finally) post them online for others to use.

GPS points:
Thanks to a mate I have been lent a Garmin eTrex Legend CX. I came with just the base map for NZ. To this I have added the trackpoints from the Google Earth file on the main site (Version 29 in KMZ format). I used GPSBabel to convert this to Garmin’s GPX format. Then by a combination of Unix and a Spreadsheet I massaged this into 48,960 Points of Interest. The nearest 30 of these can be seen at any point and easily converted to waypoints. These reside on an external MicroSD card. I am carrying a backup for this card.

To charge the electronic gear I have a PowerMonkey-eXplorer. It remains to be seen how much use the solar panel part of this is in reality. It is slow to recharge, but the extra power one can carry in it’s “module” is useful. This can also be charged from the mains and from USB.

With this gear I can charge a Nokia phone, both iPods and run the GPS. So only my headlamp is totally dependent on batteries. For the GPS I’ll carry some AAs as spares in addition to the two that are in it.

The main use of the iPod touch is to look at maps and notes, though it also holds several novels and music, of which I can avail myself when near electricity. I also have a Nano with rather better battery life which hold some Podcasts, audiobooks and a bit of music.

All of this will be reviewed, refreshed and re-assessed after stage one.

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