The Homer Tunnel

There’s a tunnel in New Zealand which is 1.2 km long and connects Milford Sound to Te Anau and Queenstown.

It goes straight through a mountain and took 19-years to dig. Much of it began by hand.

Opening of the tunnel was delayed by World War II and several avalanches in the area which resulted in multiple men losing their lives.

Workers had to camp out in tents on the edge of the tunnel during construction. The camp areas were known not to receive sunlight for months at a time.

Inside the tunnel was cold, wet and dark. Up to 40,000 litres of water had to pumped out every hour.

In 1953, The Homer Tunnel was officially opened and named after the man who suggested the tunnel was possible, William H. Homer.

I went through the tunnel a few months ago. I’ve thought about it since. 19-years of digging through solid rock. Interrupted by a World War and avalanches.

Every time I think I’m pushing through something or get annoyed at being interrupted from my work, I remind myself of The Homer Tunnel.

Experience is relative but I know for sure, I’d rather be here working on what I’m working on than digging through solid rock with a pickaxe whilst a World War is going on.

At the end of the tunnel is one of the most beautiful jewels in the world. Milford Sound. It’s in the Fiordland region. A region in which a glacier carved its way through the mountains centuries ago but has since melted. What’s left is a collection of vast and nearly vertical cliff faces rising out of beautiful lakes.

The area is as beautiful as it is remote. One man fell so in love, he decided to live there on his own. Well, at least he was the only human, he brought his dog along too. Donald Sutherland originally came from the Scottish highlands but decided to travel the world and ended up calling Milford Sound home. His story is worth reading about.

After being there, I’m not sure which impressed me more. The tunnel or the cliff faces.

Nature is beautiful.

The beginning of Milford Sound from the top deck of a tour boat.

The beginning of Milford Sound from the top deck of a tour boat.

But so is hard work.

The beginning of The Homer Tunnel. Look at the surroundings of the opening. Imagine if someone said to you, “I think we can dig through here.” What would you say?

The beginning of The Homer Tunnel. Look at the surroundings of the opening. Imagine if someone said to you, “I think we can dig through here.” What would you say?

5, 4, 3, 2, 1

Your heart thumps. Thump. Thump. Thump. 

You don’t know whether you can do it. 

More thumping. 

You’re walking out. It’s safe. People have gone here before. People have done it. People will do it after you. 

Thump. Thump. Thump. 

Your hands cling the guardrails. 

How you feeling?

Excited. 

You remember someone told you feeling nervous comes from the same place as feeling excited. 

You feel both. But saying excited helps. Excited and nervous. 

Thump. 

The harness goes on. Left leg, then hop on the left foot to get the right foot in. 

How’s it feel? Not too tight? 

It’s perfect. 

Strapped in. 

Do you want to look over the ledge? 

No. 

You sure?

You look over the edge. 

I shouldn’t have done that. 

The guide speaks. 

I’m going to count down from 5 and then you’re good to go. 

5

Thump. Thump. 

4

The thumps get faster but you can’t feel them.

3

No thumps. No nothing. You and and the edge. This is it. 

2

You’re body is ready. It’s not ready. It’s ready. Not ready. Ready.

1

Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. You’re moving. Moving fast. There’s the edge. You look out. Keep moving. Left foot, right foot, push off. You’re in the air. Arms spread floating through. Time stands still. This moment is perfect. Everything stops. Everything is clear. Moving fast but clear.

Gravity kicks in.  

The floating is over. You’re falling. Thump. Thump. Thump. The ground is moving towards you. Moving fast. 400 metres, 300 metres, 200.  

Then the cord pulls tight. Tight enough to suck up all the gravity into its strands. The ground starts slowing down. The cord is getting tighter, tighter, tighter stop. It hits its limit. 

All the gravity is inside the cord. It has to go somewhere. Gravity cannot be contained. It ejects itself out. It can’t be contained. All the gravity gets shot out as the cord shrinks you feel it feel it all you’re going back up. Then back down. It repeats, ground tight gravity eject ground tight gravity eject.

Back on the platform the thumps come back. Thump. Thump. Thump.  You speak.

My hands are shaking. 

Everything is shaking. 

How was it brother? 

Unreal. You can’t describe it. 

You can’t. There’s no words for fear escaping the body in such a way. 

All it takes is 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 

It might not be bungey jumping or anything requiring a harness. But when the fear arises, use the countdown to turn it into energy. Then direct the energy where it needs to go. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

Shout out to the team at Queenstown Ledge Bungey. Today was unreal. 

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When a fire starts to burn (workout)

After walking around Queenstown all day Ludo and I decided to do a workout. He’s studying sports science and I’m into health so we’ve had plenty to talk about movement, the body and different kinds of training.

We started playing When a Fire Starts to Burn by Disclosure as pump up music.

Then we got into it. 

All these require are your body and about 20-minutes. 

1. 30 burpees no rest

Burpees get the whole body moving. To the ground, push up, up to your feet, jump reaching hands in the air and then back down to the ground. Do 30 straight as quick as you can with minimal rest. Your fire will be starting to burn after these.

2. 100 Push ups, 50 dips

We did 20 push ups on the ground then 10 tricep dips on the picnic table then 30-seconds rest. And repeated it 5-times to get the totals. 

This will have your upper body ignited. Mix the sets of push ups by doing one set slow and the next fast. 

By set 3 I got to 11 push ups before I had to stop. Rest when you need but keep the rest time between sets short. We’re trying to keep the fire alive here.

3. 10 hill sprints

Find a steep hill. Then run 40 metres up it and walk back down to where you started. As soon as you hit where you started, sprint back to the 40 metre mark. 

If you don’t have a hill, stairs or flat ground works as well as long as you’re sprinting. 

By number 7 your fire will be burning.

Movements don’t have to be completed. Get your heart rate up. Keep it there for a while.

After the workout, we went for a 20-minute walk for warm down.

Dinner was chicken, spice, potatoes, onions, mushrooms and broccoli all mixed together in a pan. 

Bonus points if you listen to the song to get started. The film clip is worth a watch.  

The Unshakable Adventuring Spirit

I picked up 3 hitchhikers today. 

Angelica from Poland was heading from Lake Te Anau to a hiking track. She moved from Poland to the US after meeting her husband on a Summer trip of climbing. She’s excited to go back to school in September to study International Business.

Ludo from France is wrapping up a 6-month stay in Australia with a couple weeks hiking around New Zealand. We met on a cruise boat through Milford Sound.

”I’m heading to Queenstown later today,” I said.

 ”Me too.”

 ”Want a ride?”

”Sure.” 

On the way off the cruise Joey from Holland started talking to Ludo. They talked about each other’s backpacks. These big gear carriers with zips and pockets everywhere.

 ”Where are you heading?”

”Queenstown.” 

”So are we, want a ride?” 

”Yeah man!” 

Queenstown is 4-hours from Milford Sound. We stopped on the way to eat bananas, apples and nuts.  The stereo was broken so we shared stories and looked out the window to pass the time.

Joey, Ludo and I went for burgers tonight. Ludo and I are sharing a room. Room number 4 at the lodge. 10-minutes up the hill.

3 different hitchhikers from 3 different countries all with different stories.

The one thing in common?

An unshakable adventuring spirit.

Reading the reviews

I went for a hike today.

Last night I was looking for the car park to start on Google Maps. I found it and the Google Reviews of the hike.

The one voted most helpful was one which said ‘The view is much the same on the way up, won’t interest regular hikers too much.’

I kept reading. Many had heavy positive views. But the ones which said ‘Too hard’, ‘Not the greatest’, ‘Not enough shade’ had the most upvotes.

Why?

The hike was a challenge. 2 and a half hours up hill. And then 2-hours down hill. Down hill is as much of a challenge as up hill.

Were the people reading the reviews looking for a way out. An excuse to say, ‘I read the reviews and it doesn’t look like it’s worth the effort.’

When someone else says it, it’s easy to agree and take their word for it. Sometimes reading the reviews can save time and effort.

Other times, they can get in the way. Get in the way of you having your own experience. After all, everyone who leaves a review has a different worldview to you.

The view at the top was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Starting in the dark and having frozen hands was worth it. Ever better than the view was getting to the bottom by 10 am and being able to say I’d climbed 5-hours and it wasn’t even lunchtime.

All these things I picked up from the reviews. Start early. The breathtaking views from the top. The hard climb. Cold winds at the peak.

Even the most helpful review was right. You could see the entire landscape the whole way along.

But that doesn’t mean you should always take someone’s word for it. Take it in. Absorb it. If it’s good advice, listen. If not, don’t.

I usually never read reviews. I don’t want the views of others to hold me back. I already do that enough myself.

Not this time.

Sunrise at Roy’s Peak, Wanaka. 

Sunrise at Roy’s Peak, Wanaka. 

You don’t have to damage the trees

Bruce started talking.

I built a pathway through the forest. I made it so none of the trees were damaged so it winds a bit. You might have to watch out for some overhanging leaves and branches.

We walked along the pathway. The forest was pitch black but Bruce had a torch. 

There were some stairs. Bruce stopped and turned off his light. 

You could see them everywhere. Thousands of them. Scattered across the rock wall, their tails glowing like stars in the night.  Bruce started telling us about them.

The glow worms build a little nest in the rock wall and from the nest they lay out strings of a web like substance. It looks like fishing lines hanging off the side of a boat. The fishing lines are used to catch insects for food. 

We all listened to Bruce.

I’m not sure where the cave came from but it might’ve been from the gold rush. 

I asked a question. 

How did you find it? 

I was walking along the river one day and got lost in the forest. And I stumbled upon it. Then I came back at night and got bushed.

The group chuckled. We assumed bushed meant lost.

We got closer to the glow worms. Saw some of the fishing lines hanging off. Some of them had lines as long as your finger, others not so long. They weren’t as bright if someone turned their light on. You had to make sure it was dark pitch black dark to really see them.

It started raining. Bruce started talking.

Well if you’ve had enough of the glow worms, we can head back. 

Everyone turned around and started back on the pathway. 

The pathway was well made. Really well made. I told Bruce. 

This pathway is well made. 

Thank you. It’s been a fun project getting it through the trees. 

It snaked around trees and weaved through the forest back to the opening.  It went where it had to go.

The path you’re building can to. It doesn’t have to damage the trees either. If there’s something in your way, you can always build around it.