What happened to June?

It’s been a long time since we hiked with our friends to Rod Donald Hut.  What happened to June?

It rained.  It was cold.  My back turned bad again, suddenly and for no reason.  We prepared for our month-long trip to the states.

This is what Zealandia Horticulture looks like on a foggy winter’s morning. I puzzled my boss by quoting the old nursery rhyme that seemed appropriate to the day: “One misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather, I chanced to meet and old man, all dressed in leather. All dressed in leather, with hair upon his chin. “How do you do?” “How do you do?” “How do you do again?”
The grow lights for the hydroponic plants look cozy, which is not an empty promise. The biomass boiler keeps that part of the greenhouse at a comfy 18 C.

Other parts of the greenhouse are unheated, and the frost decorates the glass. A frosty morning promises that a good sunny day will follow, far better than a slightly warmer but grey day.

Winter is a good time for fire-building. One of the hunting brotherhood set this competition up–because what is a gathering of guys without a competition? They had identical lathe-smoothed logs to start with, which they reduced to piles of kindling with axes. Fires were to be started with flint, and the winner was the first one to burn through their string. Jeremiah won. It’s good to be married to a pyromaniac.

The last of the leaves fell from our Japanese maple trees. I procrastinated raking them, and in the end the wind blew them off the grass and into the nooks and crannies of the porch.

Milo had rugby practice at 4:00 every Wednesday. Look at that, there WERE a few sunny days in the mix, as documented by photography.

Luckily for little siblings, there is a playground near the rugby field. Naomi is fearless in her climbing. Fortunately, she’s also quite capable.

Luckily for little siblings, there is a playground near the rugby field. This picture was taken on the winter solstice. I guess winter is not so bad after all.

This is the classic Kiwi way to spend the winter, in full puffy attire sucking on hot drinks INDOORS. We’ve been shopping hard for a house that we can buy and make warm, but haven’t succeeded yet.

Speaking of Naomi, we celebrated a major accomplishment with a flower-topped cafe treat–the end of night time diapers. Hurray! No nostalgia over the diaper phase.

Naomi has started the birthday party circuit–this one was princess themed. Parents were encouraged to dress the part as well, but I didn’t see any other dresses among the adults. My garb wasn’t queenly enough to be blatantly a dress up, so I spent the party feeling awkwardly unfashionable for either group.

Even Milo got into the dress-up mode. This will be a good picture to pull out on his 21st birthday.

Here’s Milo in his normal clothes, proudly bringing his school classroom’s tuatara on a trip to the grocery store.

A week before our flight to the USA my back got all tight, and I spent a couple days laying on the couch hoping it would resolve itself peacefully. It didn’t, and instead developed into the same squashed-nerve pain as last year. Jenny cat appreciated the quiet day I had at home, the first time I’ve ever sent the kids to school and stayed home myself.

It was an interesting experience, staying home without the kids. Milo walked home himself at 3:00, and Naomi even got the preschool bus home at 4:15. I’ve craved alone time without the kids home for ages, but when it actually came down to it, I didn’t like it. Not that laying-on-the-couch time is that desirable…but it was a good reminder that I do like the kids and their company after all, and I should cherish the last year+ that I have Naomi home before she starts school.

A tramp with our Weatherproof Brits

“I know a really great hut, up on the Banks Peninsula, an easy walk in for kids–want to book it for a weekend with the families?” It was probably three months ago that Ian suggested the plan. This particular DOC hut is so enormously popular that it has a booking system, so you must lock in a weekend trip well in advance, and you can’t reschedule in the event of rain. Good thing we were going with the Weatherproof Brits. Come rain, hail, cloud or shine, they will cheerfully follow through with the plan.

First off, one must wear one’s best pink attire for hiking. Fashion makes for happiness.

It doesn’t matter that the pink gets covered up in red wet weather gear–it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
These totara trees aren’t flexibly blowing in the wind. They are permanently deformed, buffeted by near constant wind until only the shoots that emerge on the leeward side survive.

It was only an hour’s walk to the hut, but the blustery sky was starting to glower and spit, and it was good to duck inside–still warm from the previous residents.

The kids carried in fire wood and we stoked the pot belly stove all afternoon, watching clouds envelope the hut until it felt truly remote.

It turns out that logs make good fort building materials, and the kids contentedly set up shop. Adults drank coffee, I knitted on a hat.

I baked rolls for dinner. I like the Pittsburgh stove, a little reminder of home, and warm winter houses. I like New Zealand, really I do, but the home heating is furnaceless, mired in the dark ages of single pane windows,and uninsulated floors.. It was a treat to make a room warm enough to comfortably wear short sleeves.  The windows in the hut are better than those in our house.

Jeremiah baked ziti for dinner. Our English friends had to google ziti during our email planning to figure out what it was. “Lazy man’s lasagna,” we described it. It was yummy, again done on the Pittsburgh stove.

The composting toilet was very civilized, and didn’t smell, despite heavy usage. The only improvement I’d suggest would be to turn the window to the view side.

Bed time for Bonzo. We put the younger kids to bed in the top bunks and took out a deck of Quiddler and a bottle of beer for the evening.

Emma said we were the noisiest family she has ever shared a room with. Jeremiah snores (clearly), and apparently Naomi and Milo talk in their sleep. I slept through nearly all of it.

The stars came out during the night and the next day “dawned clear and fresh as could be, blue sky and never a cloud, with the sun dancing on the water.” Now we could fully appreciate the view from the hut windows.

A short walk into the hut means we can really go luxurious with the breakfast. Sausages and eggs with cinnamon rolls (again, complements of the wood stove).

Here’s the whole gang, ready to roll out in the morning.

A family weekend, enhanced all-round by the company of friends.

Capable kids

It’s fun when your kids are good at stuff.  I mean, I spend so much energy worrying about how my kids are BAD at stuff (manners principally) that it’s a relief to be happy about something.  Proud of something, even….though I know that their skills have little to do with my influence.

Still, I’m proud that our kids are damn good bikers.

Naomi is 3.  Three!  Plenty of her peers are wobbling around on training wheels.  She’s negotiating hills and turns for 10 kilometers of trails around McClean’s Island bike trails, out by the Waimakariri River.  Milo made it an extra 5 kilometers.  I think we’ll be doing some multi day family bike trips next summer.

I’m also proud of Milo and his rugby.

I complained bitterly (in my head) about the start of the sports era.  “I’m NOT a soccer mom!  I’m not a good cheer leader.  I don’t want every Saturday consumed with sports.  I don’t bring orange slices and granola bars to practices.  THIS IS NOT MY ZONE!”

But actually, it has not been all that bad.  I’ve met a mom that I can exchange a few pleasantries with on the side lines.  I’ve even enjoyed watching the kids run around the field.  They’re funny.  They sometimes run the wrong way.  Do you know how confusing it is to switch end zones half way through the game??

And it turns out that Milo’s good at rugby. He’s focused. He’s competitive. He’s coordinated. And at this age, that makes him good.  He won Player of the Day after one game, and Player of the Month last month.  

Go kiddo.

Chill out, Mom

The sound of heavy items being dragged over the wooden floor made a small blip on my consciousness, but no big waves.  The kids must be getting into something.  What’s new?  One thing was for sure, emerging from my warm cocoon of down bedding was not going to improve my peace of mind.  I stayed put.

Eventually little giggles were heard at my door, then the bandits broke into my sanctuary.  “Let’s jump on her feet!” Milo suggested gleefully.

“No!  DON’T get on my bed!” I commanded, kicking my feet vigorously under the covers to discourage boarders.

“Come see what we’ve done!  We’re really strong!” Milo boasted.

“Yeah, we’re really strong,” Naomi echoed.

I pulled on my pants and made the bed before leaving my room.  It sounded like it might be a while before I was finished “admiring” their handiwork.  Thankfully my door opens inwards, because the hall way was choked with dining room chairs.  I clambered over the green stuffed chair to reach the bathroom door.  The dining room table sat squarely in the kitchen, blocking the way to the kettle.  I sighed.  Then I thought of Kyla.

We define normal by what is familiar.  Not what is good by some higher standard of truth, but just what we have experienced.  That’s one of the things I find the hardest about parenting.  How do I know if I’m doing it right?  Whether I’ve been strict enough, or too lenient….the very subjectivity makes I impossible to be sure my approach is good.  The second-guessing and uncertainty is draining.  And besides, I don’t often get the chance to watch other parenting styles in action.

“Hi Molly.  Just wondering if you would like to come to ours for a playdate this arvo.”  Kyla had texted me one Thursday morning inviting Naomi over to play with her preschool friend Summer.

“Sure, we’d love to, what time suits?” I had responded.  I was interested in Kyla.  She had had her children a bit later in life than I had mine, and she genuinely seemed to enjoy them.  Before kids she had been quite athletic with tennis and biking, but seemed unembittered that those days were over.  Despite her career being put on hold with the advent of the kids, she didn’t seem to be resentful.  So different from myself.

When we arrived the girls had quickly disappeared into Summer’s bedroom, and I waited for them to emerge dressed to the nines in pink and sparkles.  Kyla and I sat sipping some tea, talking about work, our families, and what to make with minced turkey for dinner.  Faint noises could be heard from Summer’s room; no squabbling, so things must be going well.  A few gentle bumps indicated some activity or another.  “I might just go check on the girls,” Kyla murmured, tipping her ear towards the rustling.

She didn’t come back immediately.  I glanced around the living room; it was a sparsely decorated house, new and modern with neutral colors.  Not very interesting.  I decided to go see what was up.

Kyla was just gathering an empty laundry basket and a cardboard box, and heading out the back door.  I followed her around the side of the house to a giant pile of bedroom debris heaped under the open window.  Blankets and pillows, infant clothes and socks, puzzle pieces and picture books all in a giant mound.  Kyla calmly started gathering up handfuls, pushing the bigger items back through the window and scooping the smaller ones into the boxes.  I followed suit.  “Come on girls, let’s get these things picked up,” she said.  The girls just stood there and tittered, obviously revelling in the mess they’d made.

“Naomi, here!” I thrust a pillow into her arms.  “Bring that back to Summer’s room…”  “…Please.”  I added, as an afterthought.

Kyla proceeded without hurry and without any visible annoyance.  I glanced at her.  Was she on extra good mommy behavior because we were present?  Or was she genuinely not incensed that the girls had purposely emptied the entire contents of Summer’s closet out the bedroom window into the rain?  I certainly couldn’t get growly with Naomi in the presence of a saint, so I bit my tongue and in pretend calm sorted out at least 10 separate puzzles whose pieces had all been mixed.

The clean-up took the remainder of our visit time, and it was with relief that we departed to collect Milo from school.  I needed some time to think.

If Naomi and Milo had pulled that stunt at my house, they would have been told in no uncertain terms how disgusted I was with their behaviour.  Every item tossed through the window would have been confiscated, even if it meant that they slept with no pillows or blankets for the next week.  There would have been tears and gashing of teeth, because that’s what remorse for such a sinful act should entail….right?

Or did Kyla have it right?

Who was enjoying their motherhood experience more?

Kyla, obviously.

Then whose parenting technique was working better?

Perhaps I had better work on chilling out.

“How did the play date with Summer go?” Suzie asked at preschool the next day.  It’s one of the fantastic things about the little Montessori preschool the kids attend; the teachers are so good at remembering details.

“Good,” I said automatically, then my memory caught up.  “Actually,” I said, conspiratorially, “Naomi and Summer were super naughty.  They emptied every item they could reach out of Summer’s closet and dumped it through the window onto the ground outside!  They even shook the puzzles out of the boxes!”  Suzie’s eyes widened and she drew in her breath.  Gemma paused to get an earful of the juicy story.  “Kyla didn’t even bat an eye!” I continued, betraying the debate that had been fermenting in my mind.  “She just calmly gathered up all the stuff into boxes!  If Naomi had done that at MY house I’d have been LIVID!  I would have said “NAOMI!” “  I smacked my palms together, indicating vindictive action.  Then I asked the snoopy question that had been on my mind: “Is Kyla really that chill?”

“Kyla is the most chilled out person I know,” Suzie admitted.  “But don’t feel bad, I would have been as angry as you.”  That’s some consolation, I thought.  Suzie is still a good preschool teacher.

“Yes, we can’t be who we aren’t,” Gemma added.  Not such good consolation.  We all have room for improvement.  We can reframe our “normal.”  Maybe my normal should be more relaxed, slower to anger, quicker to see the humor in a situation.  Maybe I’d be happier that way.

“Thanks for the idea of turkey pumpkin soup.  It was delicious.  Kids loved it J” Kyla texted later that evening.

“Yay, good for you!” I texted back.  “Thanks for having us over today, and I’m sorry for the naughtiness the girls got into.  That was likely a Naomi move.”

“No worries at all.  They are just being kids.  Pretty funny.  Totally should have taken a photo J”

Yeah…I need to chill out.

So this morning when faced with a tangle of chairs baring my way to the toilet and the teapot, do you know what I did?  I chilled out.

“That’s quite a project you’ve been doing, Milo,” I observed.  “Why are the chairs in the hallway?”

“We wanted the dining room to be empty so we could play round and round,” he informed me.

“Well, did you find that missing game piece under the rug when you moved it?” I asked, hopefully.

“What game piece?” Milo said.  “We were really strong to move all that stuff, weren’t we?”

“Yes, you sure were,” I agreed.  “While the floor is clear maybe I’ll vacuum, and we could take the opportunity to rearrange the furniture.  But we have to do it before you go to school.”

“Alright, the chairs feel even easier to move on the way back because I’m getting stronger!” Milo announced, all confidence.

The chairs, tables and rugs were moved back with no tears. No gnashing of teeth.  No punishments.  I still got a cup of tea, and I never sit down to eat my breakfast anyway.  Maybe there’s something in this chilled out thing after all.

Alpine again: Hawdon to Edwards

“We could walk in to Hawdon hut Friday night,” Jeremiah suggested early in the week.  I recoiled.  It’s autumn now, and nights are Cold.  And Dark.  River crossings would be in the cold dark….  Late entry to a cold, dark hut….  Ug.

“Um, that doesn’t sound like very much fun to me,” I grimaced.

“Ok then,” Jeremiah acquiesced, raising his eyebrows.  “But if you want to do that hike, it might be worth the three hour walk in the dark.”

And I really did want to do that hike.  I’ve been eyeing it for a couple years now, ever since I walked in to the hut by myself one warm summer evening and peaked up over the edge of the trees to the alpine meadow beyond.  It had been sunny and calm, idyllic conditions that rarely happen in the mountains, and the little tarn with the path wending through the tussocks had been so inviting….  The book said the route continued over a couple mountain passes and then down into a valley beyond.  It would entail two nights out and lots of climbing, and a hitch hike at the end.  It would be a good one to do with a capable mountain man like Jeremiah.

“Well, maybe if the weather for the next two days is perfect, then it would be worth the wretched Friday night walk in,” I consented.

We planned two other less ambitious routes, and I waited until Wednesday to look at the weekend forecast.  I was shocked to see a big fat high pressure system sitting over the whole of the Southern Alps.  Sunny and calm for three days straight.  Probably worth that three hour walk in the dark!

Jeremiah’s frozen breath shown in a ragged cloud in my head lamp. Cold dew drops sparkled on the grass, and the riverbed rocks clattered under our feet. We were looking for the four-wheel-drive track up the river bed, but more often than not we lost it. Not that it mattered….the hut was three hours up the river. We turned off our lights and the moon lit the world in silver and black. We tromped through the water, then turned and splashed through the winding river again. We heard a noise and stopped to listen. It was the chirpy chortle of a kiwi bird. “I’ve never heard one in the wild before!” I exclaimed.

“I smell smoke! The hut must be close!” Walking in the dark had been a lot more pleasant than I expected, but I was still ready to shuck the wet boots, and smoke held the promise of a warm hut. We clomped up the steps and a startled face peered out the window. Poor guy. It’s disconcerting to have newcomers show up during the night when you have been sound asleep. We apologized and moved our stuff quickly to the adjoining bunk room. It was cold, and I snuggled into my sleeping bag fully dressed, a wooly cap on my head.

The next morning we slept in until 7:30, cooked our oatmeal, and slid our feet into our wet boots. Just as the sun reached the hut, we set off.

Selfie! Jeremiah and Molly were here, Hawdon Hut, May 5th, 2017.

We climbed in the dappled sun through the beech trees until we reached the alpine zone. The hut would be somewhere on the right of the valley there.

It was frosty in the shadow of the mountain when we turned on to the alpine meadow this time, and the icy rocks were slippery.  We passed a couple picturesque tarns, but they were NOT enticing for a swim. This one had its first delicate coat of ice crusting the top.

We waited until rounding the next bend before we stopped to admire this view and have our morning tea (or morning hot tang, as Jeremiah chose), airing our damp socks in the sun.

It’s a good thing that the man has a sense of humor. He almost “stepped in a puddle up to his middle and never was seen again!” Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the patch of mud that looked solid turned out deeper than expected, and I couldn’t stop giggling. I never have
been a very sympathetic soul.

Soon after that the trail took a turn up another shady valley with a steep rocky stream, crisp with frost. We did eventually pop out into another alpine platueau, Walker’s Pass, where Jeremiah spotted the second chamois of the day.

What better thing to do in a pristine alpine meadow than a head stand? Well, a cart wheel would be better, but I’m rubbish at those. Those tough little mountain plants may look soft and inviting, but they’re actually quite prickly on the scalp.

At the end of the meadow the trail drops off abruptly to this massive scree field below. This is on the Divide, the watershed between the east coast and the west coast, and also the location of the biggest fault line in New Zealand. The scree slope we slid down is in front of the appropriately named Falling Mountain. The landscape is bizarre, like a gigantic pile of rubble in a war zone or maybe Mars. Not a lot of stability in the environment here.  It is ridiculously fun to slide/walk DOWN a scree slope, but punishing to traverse.  Thankfully, our route went down.

We paused for lunch out of the rock fall zone (we hoped), realizing that it would be an unfortunate place to be should another earthquake happen. The low autumn sun tucked behind the surrounding mountain peaks, and we spent the next two hours in the shade, poking around for the trail under overgrown tussocks and crossing the river repeatedly.

A cloud pushed ominously down the valley behind us as we walked.

Finally we saw trees ahead, and the hut just beyond some wonderfully constructed over-marsh walkways. There was smoke coming from the chimney–the promise of warmth.

That cloud never did extend all the way down the valley to the Edwards Hut where we spent the night, and the next morning was again blue sky. The hut was inhabited by two Frenchmen and an Irishman, all working in Christchurch. I like the company in the huts; it often has an international flavor, and the accents are as colorful as the opinions.

My phone battery died in the cold of the night, so I have no photos of the walk out down the Edwards valley.  It’s a shame, because the beech forest was green and inviting, and at the bottom we rounded a bend into an eerily frosted section of the river that never sees the sun at this time of the year.  A mist hung over the frozen rocks and I half expected to come across a kea picking at a dead deer or something even less savory and more haunting.  I was glad when we finally turned the last corner back into the sun and I could shake off the spooks.

The guys we had spent the night with at the hut had a car at the Edwards Valley end, and they generously offered to give us a lift back down to the Hawden.  No need to even hitch a ride.

We picked up the kids at Emma and Ian’s house, and it turns out that they had enjoyed their weekend in town as much as we had enjoyed ours in the mountains. Check out this cake decorating! Milo had picked up a book from the library all about elaborate Christmas cake designs with reign deer made from frosting and other such horrors. I advised him that I’m not good at cake decorating, least of all Christmas cake decorating, and he would have to consult with Emma for that skill. Thanks heaps, Emma!

 

The world keeps turning, turning

School holidays have once again come and gone. I coped better this time. Other moms talk about the relaxation of the school holidays, a break from the scheduled life, contented home days….it all sounds so nice. Except that it doesn’t work for Milo. And what doesn’t work for Milo won’t work for me either. You see, a bored Milo very quickly becomes an incredibly naughty Milo. And a mother beset by a tyrannically rude six year old quickly reaches the end of her tether. This time I made a plan for every day that he and I were home together. We were lucky that the weather cooperated, so our plans involved some nice outtings.

This was our Hagley Park day, with friend Stella (and her little sister Nina). The leaves were perfect, sun dappled and dry.  The girls hatched out of their egg nest repeatedly.

Japanese maple, in fall glory. I once when I was in college I sent a pressed Japanese maple leaf to my grandmother, and she wrote back wondering if I had sent her a marijuana leaf. The subsequent letter included both a maple leaf and a marijuana leaf (it doesn’t take much figuring to guess which classmates to ask for said leaf). I still giggle every time I admire these frilly maples.

Naomi and Stella tucked themselves away in the tree crevice to hide. The botanical garden has some great specimens.

We basically spent the whole day roving from one climbing tree to the next, occasionally adding to our collection of pretty feathers and leaves and petals while stopping frequently to eat peanut-butter-honey sandwiches.
As we were heading at last to our car we passed an elderly couple strolling along. “Four?” the old lady asked. “Yes, but two are mine and two belong to a friend,” I responded. “Oh, that’s easy,” she gloated. “I had five.” I smiled and nodded, but inwardly fumed. What was that snide comment meant to accomplish? Does it make her feel more respected to make me feel less so?

One day we met friends down at the water-side walk near Govenor’s Bay. Low tide exposed the rocks, and Milo turned those rocks to expose hundreds of little crabs. Imagine the six-year-old’s joy in terrorizing the hapless critters, listening to their frantic scuttling to safety every time he lifted off their roof.

I’m sure we have posted a picture of this rock before, an ancient specimen from the time that the Lyttelton harbor was the center of an active volcano.

We splurged on treats from She Chocolate after our walk, always a nice ending to the morning. The only problem is that it leaves an electronic banking trail betraying to Jeremiah that we’ve been having decadent sweets.

We did get a tour of Daddy’s office recently, and learned that he has a machine that can make him hot chocolates or barista coffees any time he wants at the touch of a button. There are some perks to being an engineer, apparently.

Naomi and I crowned the holiday with a trip to the cushion theater (Oz was playing). Milo was a bit sad to miss out on the theater trip, but he was busy earning player of the day at his ripper rugby match, which brought him great satisfaction as well.

Actually, the real crowning of the holiday was the last rainy Sunday afternoon where I set the kids up with paper mache on the bit of lino that we keep under our dining table, then left to do a bit of shopping.  When I came back the lino had been rinsed but the carpet around it bore loads of gluey flour footprints.  I knew I should have waited for an outside day to do paper mache.  The kids were sent to a much needed early bed.

Exercising the Little Trampers

After WEEKS of rain, the weekend forecast looked spectacular.  By spectacular I mean sunny, 18 C, and still.  Not windy, even in the mountains.  It was NOT a weekend to stay in the city.

We packed up the kids Saturday morning, stopped for some pies at the Sheffield pie shop, got some candy bribery at the gas station, and drove up to Porter’s Pass through the Torlesse Range.  It’s a lowish pass on the dry side (our side) of the mountains leading up to Arthur’s Pass where a couple trails lead off into the hills.  Trig Peak was our goal, an achievable 350 meter climb starting right off the highway.

The first hurdle was the shoes. Naomi would have to wear the perfectly functional hiking boots that Milo had grown out of a few months ago. She put up a noisy rejection, which I was temped to squash with a swift “don’t be ridiculous, you’re wearing these because we have them” Mother Statement…which would have been completely ineffectual. Instead I resorted to compromise, and suggested adding some decorations. We raided my sewing box.
It took about 10 minutes to sew on a red felt flower, three purple flowers, an orange sparkly ribbon and a pink bead. The mood changed immediately. Compromise was much easier than unbending practicality after all.

Bling bling shoes not withstanding, 50 meters from the car Naomi declared that her legs were tired. “We’re not carrying you,” Jeremiah reassured her, unsympathetically. I had stashed the old Ergo carrier in my backpack just in case, but was glad Jeremiah was along to brazen it out. Milo ran ahead and hid along the trail (yes, lower down some of the bushes were big enough to conceal a small boy), and we were off on the hunt.

Mid way up the hill there was a pile of rocks. No pile of rocks will be left to molder in peace when a 6 year old boy could action them!

The walking poles don’t actually propel small bodies forward and upward, but they provide a welcomed distraction. You can see the road to the wet coast below.

Trig peak! Everyone reached the top on their own two legs! Milo made sure that he got to the very top of the old survey marker. The dog (named Fish….um, yeah….no, he’s not ours) looked on quizzically.

More rocks! These ones he built into a wind shelter. There was hardly any breeze, but the shelter was still a good idea….most days it would be welcomed. As it was, we were able to linger on the exposed top enjoying the view with our lunch. Both kids pooped in a tussock. Necessities don’t wait.

Milo uncovered a Weta, a special Kiwi bug (wait, that sounds funny….a NZ bug) that I’ve never seen in the wild before. It had these four very neat little palpae that looked like they were tasting the ground as it went along.

I can’t finish an alpine hike without a tribute to the tough plants that live up there. “It’s a nice day today,” I told Milo, “but tonight these plants are going to freeze, and last week they were whipped around by the wind, then they get baked dry by the blistering sun.” This one is a little coprosma, believe, and with the alpine form all the branches are hidden under a tight mass of leaves, making it look like a moss with pearls.

Treats back at the car, followed by a nap on the way home. Well done, kids.