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Peter Braun

Assistant Superintendent
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  • Club/Course/Company
    Intern at Mt. Juliet Golf Club
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    Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland

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  1. I’ve made my way back to Minneapolis after a wonderful two weeks in Australia. My time spent at Royal Melbourne Golf Club volunteering was incredible and educational. Richard Forsyth, Craig Anthony and the rest of the staff were so accommodating to the volunteers and really appreciated our time there. A special thank you to Sonia Robertson, Links Administration, who coordinated all the volunteer information, schedules and uniforms! We always felt welcomed. Thank you for the hospitality! During my time in Australia I met many greenkeepers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. As I mentioned in a previous post four other Americans (in addition to Paul Van Buren) came to volunteer: Mike Stell, Parker Henry, Kyle Hegland, and Andrew McDaniel. By having a rotation on the jobs I was able to get around the course working and networking with more than just one person. I worked with volunteers such as Duncan Begley, a past employee of RMGC who is now a Superintendent at Horizons Golf Resort just north of Sydney, and we chatter about his time at RMGC and how he had to come back for the tournament. Also I worked with Jeremy Clarke, an assistant at Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club that just finished a massive renovation project to the two courses. We chatted while he mowed the greens, since they are electric mowers, about a trip he took with other Australian greenkeepers to the USA. I love hearing about the work and trips fellow turf people do. This industry is truly “a global brotherhood,” as Richard said one morning. Others I met included Sam Keets, who came on The Ohio Program to intern at Merion for two seasons including the US Open and is currently at Tara Iti in NZ. Tara Iti sent two more volunteers as well, part of a six-person group from NZ. Then there were the twins Luke and Mitchell Driver, who have been around the world working at some of the top courses such as The Old Course, St Andrews, and Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, and now work at Royal Sydney and New South Wales. Each of them has quite the resumes but just love talking turf and golf you could spend all day just chatting. Me with Richard Forsyth (c) and Paul Van Buren. The staff had great camaraderie and loved to work on the course. One thing I remember from my time in NZ was that courses seem to have a lot of qualified turf workers or apprentices working there. RMGC had no shortage of turf people. Starting with Richard and the course superintendents: Craig, Paul Thomas, and Nic Staff, there were close to a dozen and a half employees who went or are going to school for turf, including a few past trainees from The Ohio Program. What a wealth of knowledge to use! Just being at Royal Melbourne for The Presidents Cup would have been great, but actually working on the famed grounds was so special and I cherished my time here. I love volunteering for golf tournaments and this was an exceptional one. Richard and Craig were so open to questions about the maintenance program and answered all of the questions I had. From the unique style course to the thought out maintenance program and to the work/life balance used during the tournament I learned more than at any conference I have been at. I hope others can see how a world-class tournament can be achieved while keeping employees and volunteers fresh and ready to go. On the final morning as we sat in the break room Richard talked about how the global audience loved the course and that it looked beautiful on TV and that was a testament to the hard work everyone put in. Then he offered the book The Royal Melbourne Golf Club: History of Courses as a parting gift to all volunteers and a party back in the shop after the closing ceremonies. We had our photos taken as a group on the 9th green and with the winning American team. After saying my goodbyes to new friends and colleagues I headed back to the AirBnB with satisfaction in my time at Royal Melbourne. The final day was one to remember. This limited edition club history was our gift for volunteering at The Presidents Cup. Below, the entire maintenance staff. The maintenance staff with the victorious American team, in red.
  2. The Presidents Cup was a huge hit globally as Royal Melbourne showed the unique sandbelt style of golf that included extremely firm greens and approaches. The Internationals played inspired golf before succumbing to a comeback by the Americans, making for an intense final round and much talk about tour events coming back to the Melbourne Sandbelt. Agronomically, RMGC was in top condition and ready to test the best professional golfers around the world. Social media was lighting up with threads on firm and fast, the work that goes into the course, and best management practices for your courses members. After working many tournaments around the world and seeing how those courses were set up, this was a unique course. Fish mouth spraying. First off not many courses deal with three types of grasses on the short grass but RMGC has Bermudagrass fairways, fine fescue approaches, and Sutton bentgrass mix on greens. All of these have been selected for the proper reason and desired result by the agronomy team. Fescue/Bermuda interface. Bermudagrass will withstand the summer temperatures in Melbourne that can exceed 100°F and by choosing common Bermuda there is a natural look to the grass when compared to other varieties. Fescue and colonial bentgrass are used to achieve firm conditions while still being healthy as hand watering is used the majority of the time. Also these grasses allow for Poa annua control as selective herbicides can be used without harm to the desired grass. The second way RMGC is unique is the sand that the course is built on. Being native to the area the sand is unlike any other, hence the name of the area is the Melbourne Sandbelt. This sand is very fine becoming a powder when dry, but with some water the sand can be used to rebuild bunker faces. Paul helped with a bunker rebuild earlier in the tournament and said it was almost hydrophobic at first before becoming mortar like. After drying the sand will stay hard, so hard indeed, that you can walk up the faces of bunkers and not even see footprints. Greenside bunker at Royal Melbourne. With that in mind it is very easy to see why firm conditions can be achieved here. Another great benefit to an abundance of sand means no drainage is needed as it drains naturally through the soil profile. When you see the natural look of the rough with grass, native plants, and sand this is very desired and that sand will allow for the course to continue evolving over time. Grass will fill in and die out but the sand that is exposed is still playable. This is a huge reason RMGC can achieve the look they desire. Most courses around the world can’t deal with bare ground as it becomes so hard or muddy it is ends unplayable. Green profile. Just by watching on TV you can see how beautiful and great Royal Melbourne is. Until walking the course and feeling the firmness beneath my feet I never knew how firm a course could get. The Clegg Impact Tester, or firmness reading, says a value of 130 Gravities (Gmax) is very firm for greens, but the firmness at RMGC was easily 130 Gmax and upwards of 180 Gmax at times. That is very firm for the average golfer. Staff bounce golf balls off the greens to test firmness usually to see if the result is what they want and where to go from there. A stimpmeter is not used, as they believe if the course is firm speed will follow.
  3. Thanks for the kind words Aidan. I’m so happy to hear the putting course is being brought back! That was a highlight of my time in Ireland. We should go back and give some insight into the build of it!
  4. Royal Melbourne created a set of President Cup 2019 Group Goals to help the maintenance staff achieve the desired results by following set guidelines. The first goal is to Own Your Job, meaning do the best you can do and when you walk away from it put your name on it. I just love this goal! How simple to get across the message of doing your best on every job every day. The second goal is Communication. This starts with the morning meetings led by Richard giving instruction and laughs to begin the day. TaskTracker is used for the job board showing jobs, vehicle and equipment numbers, and section leads. After the meeting everyone grabs their radio — yes, every staff member and volunteer has a radio — and meets with their section lead. In the section meetings out in the shop more information is conveyed to the crew about the specific jobs. Section leaders are the course superintendents and assistants. Unlike other tournaments I’ve been to where management looked over front 9/back 9 or had four groups with four to five holes each and all the mowers for that hole in the group. The course is broken up into: Greens, Fescue (Approaches), Fairways, Tees, and Bunkers. Each section has a lead checking in on all the work done to that area. I’ve been assisting greens mowers by moving turning boards so I’m in the Greens Section. Craig Anthony, East Course Superintendent, is the lead overseeing all greens mowers, greens assist (me), course set up, and rollers. Morning meeting. Section meeting. Another goal is Safety, which is huge in Australia. We are required to wear steel toe work shoes and had to pass an online safety exam before we could qualify to volunteer. The first day we had to have an orientation of the shop and PPE before doing any work. Employee scheduling is very important to Australians. Some different rules apply like overtime after a certain amount of hours in one day, a meal stipend after certain hours, asking for volunteers on weekends before scheduling employees and other rules make for a favorable work environment. This has carried over into volunteer schedules. taskTracker is used for staff organization and assignments. All volunteers are required to work the entire 11 days for the tournament. Five were full days 6am-2pm, and the rest split shifts. Of the split shifts most have three slots; AM, PM and an on-call mid-day shift. Each volunteers works every AM shift, but only one PM shift, which I find so refreshing, and one or two on-call shifts. This is one of the most unique schedules I have seen and a model from which to work from with future tournaments. Other goals are concentration on the task at hand, being organized, supporting each other, and to lead when necessary. The final goal is to have FUN! Get satisfaction out of owning your job and enjoy the experience of setting up the famous Royal Melbourne for 24 of the best golfers in the world.
  5. The first few days at Royal Melbourne showcased a beautiful natural Melbourne sandbelt course and great Australian hospitality. Richard Forsyth explained in the orientation meeting that the goal is to show sandbelt golf to the world by keeping the course firm, fast, and rugged. Short grass surfaces will be pristine but the rough and bunkers will look very natural. Paul and I have gotten used to the course and the jobs over these days. Mowing surfaces, watering, divoting, and detail work have been the priority so far. The course is very firm and fast already. I’m excited to see how much better it can get by the first round. We have been able to meet much of the staff and volunteers, who are mostly Aussies or Kiwis, as we learn our tasks. We have also met the other four Americans; Mike Stell and Parker Henry are from Quail Hollow, host of the 2021 Presidents Cup, Kyle Hegland from Sand Hills, and Andrew McDaniel, an American superintendent at Keya Golf Club in Japan. This is off to a fun start to the Presidents Cup! Andrew McDaniel on the TruTurf roller. Paul Van Buren, Craig Anthony and Mike Stell.
  6. Back in 2014-15 I wrote for TurfNet’s Greenkeeping: The Next Generation as an intern at Mount Juliet in Ireland and The Hills in New Zealand. I admit I was nervous at first to write a blog that anyone could see and read, but by the end I was having a blast sharing my experiences and thoughts. When Jon Kiger asked me to blog at The Presidents Cup, along with Paul Van Buren, I jumped on board. Prior to 2014 I had completed internships at Westchester Country Club and Vineyard Golf Club. After my wonderful year abroad at Mount Juliet Golf Club in Ireland, host of the 2020 Irish Open, and The Hills Golf Club in New Zealand I landed a job at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Coming in the year before the Ryder Cup gave me and a few other guys a chance to really learn the course so the 2016 Ryder Cup would run even more smoothly. I interned at Mount Juliet Estate in Kilkenny, Ireland (above) and at The Hills Golf Club in Queenstown, New Zealand (below). In between seasons at Hazeltine I headed to Los Angeles Country Club to work there in the winter. With two courses and one undergoing a complete redesign by Gil Hanse, LACC was very busy during the six months I was there. Up to this point all of my jobs had been shorter stints 3-6 months at a time so I knew I needed a full time job after 2016. Around this time an assistant’s position opened up at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. For almost three years I worked under Jeff Johnson learning and improving my knowledge of turf and crew management. Minikahda was a fun place to work and we accomplished many things in three years; host of the 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur, re-grassing the golf course ’18-19 to pure bentgrass and working with Kyle Franz on a master plan. Just over a year ago Ryan Moy, assistant at Hazeltine, became the Head Groundskeeper for the Minnesota United at their new stadium and I helped on the field a little that fall. This got my mind thinking about professional sports turf again, as my associate’s degree is in sports turf. A month ago I came on as an assistant groundskeeper following the season where I helped during matches and when I could. I’m excited to work in professional sports turf and new challenge. I spent three years with Jeff Johnson at the Minikahda Club (above) before shifting to sports turf at Minnesota United FC. Last February when Jon contacted me about volunteering at this year’s Presidents Cup I was very excited. Finding out it was at Royal Melbourne made it so easy to say yes. My time in NZ was amazing and I’ve wanted to go back since. While not NZ, Australia is a place that I never made it to on my other trip so I can’t wait to experience the culture and sights. I know there won’t be much time to explore since I only have a day before and one after but anything will be great. Most of all I’m excited to see how Richard Forsyth and his crew set up the course on a daily basis. I’m interested in the similarities and differences between the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup as a golf tournament as well as turf conditions. I’m eager to meet many new people and possibly a few friends.
  7. Being called the 5th major tournament is one thing, but to play and look like one is much harder. TPC Sawgrass Stadium course was very well conditioned making for a fantastic finish. from eventual winner Ricky Fowler. The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is only 5 years old, but is so well run that Superintendents come from all over the world to be part of the amazing agronomy team for the tournament. For the tournament over 70 volunteers came to help from places as close as Georgia and South Carolina to places further away such as the UK and Ireland, Argentina, Canada, and even South Africa. That is a testament to the quality of the program put on by TPC Sawgrass Agronomy. Everything was very well organized. The volunteers stayed at a nearby college and had shuttles running back and forth. https://vimeo.com/126804546 The days started and finished in darkness, but no one seemed to care. Everyone arrived to the volunteer tent by 4:30AM to have a team meeting at 4:45AM. By 5:00AM everyone was out the door and one their way to making the course look its best. The crew was split into four groups: Front 9, Back 9, Practice Facility, and Landscape. I was on the Back 9 team raking bunkers in the morning and rotary mowing green surrounds at night. PM jobs were started based upon play so any where from 5PM to 6PM. Being a PGA tournament and one of the best agronomically on tour everything is done with attention to detail. Being on bunkers I did not know how much went in to raking a perfect bunker. Using a double leaf rake the bunker has to have no blemishes, so no clumps, ripples, or curved lines. To walk a straight line is much harder than you would think but we all picked it up pretty fast. If the angle of the rake is off or the line curves then the bunker needs to be done over so we watched for any problems and fixed them before the bunker was finished. A quick over view of went on each day for maintenance. Greens were double cut in the morning and back track mowed at night. Two pairs of mowers went out on each 9 so the greens could be cut in time. Greens were then rolled, sometimes double rolled or just a single roll. A few afternoons two rollers went out before greens mowers as well as after. Fairways were cut morning and night by four guys on each 9. Approaches were single mowed in both the morning and night by two guys on each 9. Tees were cut once in the morning by two guys on each 9. Everything but greens were burnt in. So 18 people were used to cut and roll the course in each day. The practice facility did the same but with less people. On bunkers and rotary mow usually there were 8-10 guys working. Various other jobs were done like watering, cup cutting, moisture meter, and stimp meter. From Monday to Sunday the middle of the day was free to do what every you wanted. Some guys went back to sleep, while others stayed and watched golf. Just before dinner there were some talks from leaders in the industry. One talk was on calibration, one on turf apps, and another on chemicals/diseases. While there was some pressure to get everything perfect we did have time for fun. This made the event much more enjoyable. Check out this dance video put together by Turf Republic and fellow crew member Cole. Turf Republic was brought in to capture the work that goes into the tournament on film. Bill Brown and Sam Bauer did a fantastic job. The videos in this blog were created by them. I thank them for doing such a wonderful job to capture the best Players Championship ever. Check out Turf Republic website for more videos or their youtube page. Coverage of the tournament and for a great turf blog (one of my favorites) go to TPC Sawgrass Agronomy's blog. https://vimeo.com/127392281 Ian Poulter (yellow) Thanks the Agronomy Team 2 Guys from South Africa The volunteer program at TPC Sawgrass is world renown. By working my third tournament of the year I had a little clue of what to expect but the agronomy team surpassed my expectations. I really enjoyed meeting new friend from all over the world, talking turf with everyone, and just having fun. Even though I was a volunteer I did work so some may say it was not really a holiday, but for turf people this is the pinnacle of maintenance. For a comparison I think for volunteering at TPC Sawgrass like the week at a county fair for farm people. Hours are long if not longer than normal, but it is so fun to do that people keep coming back. I was really surprised to see Sean Charles, one of my classmates from SUNY Cobleskill, volunteering. That was a nice surprise. Another really fun part to volunteering is playing the famous 17th hole on Monday morning. I put two balls in the water, but was glad to see some guys actually hit the green and get very close to the Sunday pin. I want to thank all of the TPC Sawgrass agronomy team for putting on a great performance to bring the best conditioned golf course to the best players in the world. Without course Superintendent Clay Breazeale or Agronomy Director Tom Vlach having a vision for the best volunteer program five years ago this could not be possible. All the staff at TPC was kind and welcoming. I had only the best interactions and everyone was professional. This was a great finish to a year long global journey in turf. I could not have asked for a better finish. From the volunteer program to the playoff on Sunday I was in turf heaven. This will conclude my blog for TurfNet. Later this week I head to Chaska, Minnesota to work at Hazeltine National Golf Club. I appreciate everything that TurfNet and Jon Kiger did for me to help get me to where I am today as well as Mike O'Keeffe and The Ohio Program. I encourage everyone to come back and follow two new student bloggers this summer on TurfNet.
  8. New Zealand is home to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy movies. Peter Jackson sought out the best place for the movies and decided on New Zealand. He really enjoyed the Alexander sheep farm where he had a vision for The Shire, home of the hobbits, to be built and filmed. What a place it is! The tour took me around the Shire explaining parts of the filming, locating, and tour process. Below is some of the history and information I was told. Located in Matamata, Hobbiton as it is now referred to, the Shire was built. For the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit trilogy movies the Shire has a small role and is used little. Since LOTR was filmed first the set was made up mostly of cheap material. As I was told on the tour today, after filming the scenes the crew started to take it down. However the rain came forcing them out. They would try to be back during the dry season, many months later. During that time the family was having some questions about seeing the hobbit holes. So they decided to try to get the contract with the filming company to allow for some tours. This worked, but the holes were only temporary. With the success of LOTR, Peter Jackson decided to make the Hobbit into three parts. With this new filming the Alexander family had some stipulations, the set must be remade to be permeant. Jackson agreed and Hobbiton is 100% true to the films. The set is located within the sheep farm and the Alexander family does not want anything changed so the drive in on the tour bus is through roads with sheep wandering around. Even the gates are still just metal and chains. Not even an automatic gate at the entrance. The vegetable patches are kept up by gardeners and the place is fully irrigated. This would be a cool place to work. As you will see in the pictures a problem with the hobbit holes being so small is that people are much taller than them. To keep the image of small, but normal proportion, actors of heights 5'2" or smaller were cast. Only Frodo, Elijah Woods, was taller at 5'4". Perspective was a huge part of the movies to make someone like Gandalf look much taller than the hobbits. We got to see a little of that today. The hobbit holes are really cool, but most have not insides and the ones that do have only a few feet inside. Still cool to walk into a hobbit hole. The same goes for the windows and the chimneys. There were a lot of people at Hobbiton today, but it was still a magical place. A really interesting fact I learned today is that the tree above Bilbo Baggins house is fake. In the LOTR films a tree was brought in piece by piece and had all of the leaves removed. Then 200,000 fake oak leaves were brought in and tied on to make the tree look real. At the completion of LOTR the tree was removed and destroyed. So for the Hobbit a new tree was erected. This one completely fake, but very sturdy. As the Hobbit takes place some 60 years before LOTR the tree was made smaller and more juvenile looking. Again 250,000 leaves were brought into make the tree look real. This time the Peter Jackson got sick just before shooting so it was postponed eight months. When they got back with two weeks till filming it was noticed that the leaves had faded, so workers had to paint each leaf individually to get the proper look. The things done to get a perfect piece of art. The final stop was the Green Dragon Inn. The local pub for the Hobbits and our final event. In one scene in LOTR Frodo see the Shire being burnt down. The Green Dragon Inn actually was burnt down. So for the Hobbit movies an new one was created with it being a fully functional pub. Here everyone on the tour gets a free drink of their choice. I got ginger beer, kinda like a root beer or birch beer, but really good. I thought it was amazing. Another cool fact is that the Green Dragon Inn "sells" the most beer out of any place in New Zealand. I just loved this place. Watching the movies and then starting the books made me want to see what this place looked like. When I first got to the Shire I thought, "this is a place I could actually see people living." I half expected to see someone come out of a hole. Maybe in the future they should carve out few more holes that are complete for living and allow nightly stays in a hobbit hole. That would be cool. This was a great way to end the trip to Auckland. Just a day and morning till I get on a plane bound for the States. For the day I drove 343.3km (213.3 miles) making my full trip 3273km (2033.7 miles). What a trip this was. Hopefully I get to go it again.
  9. The second part of the trilogy package was at Waitomo. Here there are caves and many of them. In these caves and in the area are glowworms. Worms that give off a glow in the dark kinda like a firefly, but with no movement. Neat to see and can be found in the wild on sides of rocks and near rivers. You can save a few dollars and go looking for them. At the Waitomo Glowworm cave I got to see what the cave looked like as I walked around it with the guided tour. I was fortunate to have a host who is a descendant of the original Maori finder, Tane Tinorau. I have been in a cave before at Howes Cavern in Cobleskill, NY so the formations were not new to me. The glowworms were. This cave has more than just the walking tour with a boat ride finish. At certain times of the year you can hear music in the cathedral room. Famous singers such as Glen Campbell have sang down there and the local children do Christmas songs every year. Unfortunately no photography is allowed in the cave. The next stop was the Ruakuri cave just down from the Waitomo cave. Operated by the Black Water Rafting Company this is another cave walk with glowworms, but in this one I could take pictures. Also in the cave is the ability to do black water rafting, cave climbing and much more. More on the glowworms now. Glowworms are worms that are attached to the rock glowing from their waste material. The worms hang with sticky threads hanging down to catch any insects to eat. Then when ready undergo a metamorphosis to become a fly. These do not eat and cannot eat as they have not mouths. At this point in time their objective is reproduction. Within three days the fly will die from starvation. Hopefully her eggs, laid in clusters of 20 or 30, will survive. Why clusters of 20 or 30? The first to hatch eat the other so that provides some food to get them started. Spiral entrance to the cave A rock in middle at bottom of entrance that has had water pouring on it for 10 years. Showing the effect of water on rock over time. Curtains Glowworms. Hard to get good picture. Glowworm threads After I decided to go to another animal preserve and Kiwi House. This was nice and I got to see the animals up close. A main attraction for the preserve is the bird dome where you get to walk amongst the native birds and they are protected from predators. I saw another Kiwi, a few Tuatara, some Kea and Kaka. Most of the animals here are endangered or becoming endangered. A nice place to see some animals that are not in America and not your typical zoo animals. Tuatara Dome over the birds
  10. Rotorua and the area is named the Bay of Plenty as it has many resources such as timber, water, and geothermal heat. Due to Earth's crust being much closer to molten magma at only 6km down and having water at 4km down lots of steam builds up. This creates pressure that needs to be released so a geyser was formed. This has brought up lots of sulphur and the area has a distinct smell like rotten eggs where the steam is released. The Redwood forest has a few hikes ranging from a half hour to a full day as well as mountain biking and horse trails. I have only seen a few Redwood species and saw Giant Redwoods in Ireland and these ones were just as spectacular. I love how the trees are so tall, but there is very little undergrowth. One reason they can grow so tall, no competition. I did two hikes the short one and a Quarry track. A nice view of an old Quarry. The highlight of the day was the Te Puia geothermal valley and the Te P? indigenous M?ori experience. Te Puia has a three geysers and many hot water and mud pools. One thing I would have done was get to the site earlier. Since I had booked this as part of a package deal I thought the guided tour would take me all over the park. It did not, but I did get to see the main attractions and hear about the culture and area from a real M?ori. The pools can be 30°C to 100°C. So swimmable to boiling hot. Very cool to see the geysers going off during the day and at night after the cultural experience. Hot Mud Pool Wood carver in the 3 year carving school Te P? is a M?ori experience where we got a full on tribal greeting as would happen back in the day. Then a great show with music, dance, weapons, and the Hakka. The Hakka has become world known from the NZ All Blacks rugby team and I'll post a video below. Great to see this first hand and that the M?ori allow us a little look into their lives. After the show we got a fantastic meal that was prepared in an underground oven using the thermal heat to cook the food. It was tasty. As I stated before after we went back to the geyser and saw it erupt under the night sky. Lots of cloudy steam though. A fantastic experience. I did not do that much travel so I won't post the distances. As part of the Middle Earth Trilogy package I am going to the Waitomo glow worm caves tomorrow. Dinner coming from the ground Hakka dancing Night time geyser blowing
  11. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a very popular 19km day walk in New Zealand as the scenery is amazing and many scenes and locations in Lord of the Rings were filmed here. However this is not the easiest and can be dangerous. As I found out today the crossing can be extremely windy at higher elevations making it cold as well. This hike can be done from either end to the other, but transport is needed in between. I was lucky to stay at a lodge with a shuttle so I got first class service to and from the hike. The hike can take between 7-9 hours for the average person, but somehow I did it in 5:45. The morning part was very cloudy and misty. I could not even see much of the surrounding mountains and as I was crossing from Soda Springs to the South Crater and the Red Crater I could not see much. It felt very desolate and seemed like something the moon may be like. The climb to the Red Crater was so windy I was afraid if I fell I would not stay on the trail. At one point you have to use a chain attached to the side of the hill to climb up and keep you footing. The shuttle driver said that less than an hour after I crossed a gust of almost 100km was recorded on top. Soda Springs The views were much better as I descended to the Emerald Lakes. This area is an active volcano and volcanic area so there was only volcanic matter and the climb was very loose so at times everyone was sliding. Once I got to the Emerald Lakes in a few minutes the clouds lifted a bit and a short while later the sun came out. The Emerald Lakes are blue/green and have the rotten egg smell from sulphur. Their color is from minerals being leached out from the mountain side. Emerald Lake The final part is a walk through the Volcanic active zone. So there are many warning lights to let you know if it is safe. The volcano has not been very active but erupted in only 2012. So precaution has to be taken. That eruption even sent rocks and boulders over 2km away and actually crushed rooms in a hut for sleeping. No one was in it that time and not the hut is closed for camping. The Volcano is still active Damage from the 2012 eruption Glad no one was in there This was an incredible walk that could have been better if the clouds were not there in the morning. Still to be walking on a volcanic site is pretty incredible. New Zealand is amazing, in three days I have seen a glacier, rain forests, and a volcano. A short drive from the National Park Village to Rotorua that took only 218.8km (135.9 miles) so now I have 2708.3km (1682.8 miles) on my journey. Due to my procrastination and not sure of where the trip would take me each night as well as this being Easter weekend I am staying in a holiday park where I get to sleep in the car. Oh well the facilities are really nice and it is cheap.
  12. Lots of driving, a ferry ride and a walk around. I did not have anything planned today, but to take the Cook Straight Ferry from Picton to Wellington. After walking around the beautiful harbor town of Picton I got on the ferry for my 1:15 ride. The ferry ride was just over 3 hours and the ferry was very cool. From wireless internet for purchase, to food courts, and even a movie theater the ferry ride has everything for anyone. In some areas there were tv's setup that could be watched. The ride was smooth and the views amazing. I have left the South Island and am on the North Island. The hardest part today was knowing that after my ferry landed in Wellington, the capitol of NZ, I would have to drive almost 4 hours north to the National Park Village for my lodging tonight. As I was coming in the road was very windy meaning that a 100km road was now about 75/80 max and around some turns 30km. That took a little longer than planned. For the day I drove 469km (291.4miles) bring the total to 2489.5km (1546.9miles). A similar ferry I took. Loading the ferry Goodbye South Island! Oh hello North Island. Good to see ya!
  13. Today I headed to the National Kiwi Centre, the Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki, and a Seal colony. Not a bad day for it and an easy drive up the coast. Tonight I have stopped in Nelson and am spending the night at a backpackers. The National Kiwi Centre is more than just Kiwi's. There are fish, frogs, a lake for catching crayfish, and the second most popular attraction, eels. The eels are in a large tank where they can swim around, eat, and relax. All of the 40 eels are females. I got to see the feeding of them. These eels are quite receptive to it, but I would not trust myself with them in the wild. Since eels are blind any loud movement in the water is though to be prey and they will attack. The most popular attraction is the kiwi house. In there the kiwi's are in the dark because they are nocturnal creatures. Hard to see in there, but I managed to see one of the Kiwi's active. A little bigger than a chicken the kiwi does not fly, but runs around on the ground looking for food. Very cool indeed. No photography is allowed inside. The grandma. Notice the curve in her back. That is from old age and not being in the wild to breed. After I drove up the coast to the Pancake Rocks. Carved out over time by wind and water the rocks resemble stacks of pancakes. Under these are caves and openings that allow water to be blown up and out when the tide is right. The blows can be small or very large. I was lucky to see them at the tide and some of the blows were magnificent. There is even a hole where just air comes out very loud. Another attraction here is a cave just down the road. Not very big, but still cool. I only had my phone's light so I could not see the further back I went. I'm not sure if the cave kept going once it got quite low to the ground. A Weka After the Pancake Rocks I decided to find a Seal Colony I had seen posted. When I found it the walk to the seals was short and easy, but the weather had changed and rain was starting. Still the seals were awesome and enjoying the weather. They were lying on the rocks and in the water playing around. Seals surround the water in the middle of the picture. Hard to see them as they blend in very well. A few more pictures from Hokitika and the drive. For the day I drove 394.3km (245miles) bringing my four day total to 2020.5km (1255.5miles). I head to the North Island tomorrow so come back to see more on the travel up New Zealand.
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