Kenya | Exploring a new world

An opportunity to travel to Kenya does not come up very often. Especially with some adventurous people and the destination being a luxury Eco-lodge nestled on a remote ridge called Borana. We were 4 hours north of Nairobi and close to Mt Kenya. With lions and hyena calling during the early hours of the morning, it was easy to wake up and enjoy the view.

Set high on Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau, Borana’s 32,000 acre conservancy was about to treat us very well. Owned by Michael and Nicky Dyre and managed by Flick (Hollie’s sister) & Sam Taylor. Sam has an important job of looking after many of the rangers that patrol Borana protecting the animals, specifically the Rhino. Lewa conservancy neighbors Borana and the two of them combine is a massive 100,000 acres, home to countless species.

Most days started with enjoying the sun rise and a game drive. Many of the animals are fairly active during the early hours, especially the cats and it made for some great photo opportunities. Hollie, Jacqs and I were treated to many of the ‘Big Five’ which was a real treat.  Water Buffalo, Lion, Rhino, Leopard and the Elephant. Countless Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu and other beautiful animals were a familiar sight. Every now and then we would come across a carcass – often a Zebra being eaten by Vulchers or if we were lucky, a leopard up a tree with her cubs near by.

A sun rise yoga session (with Rianto our armed guard of course) was usually followed by either a game drive or spending the morning horse riding looking for animals. The wildlife did not seem to mind us riding near by, so long we kept our distance. My riding skills from growing up with horses came in handy, we were able to get close to most animals snapping photos while hanging onto the reins.

One of the highlights of the trip was driving north and hiking up Ololokwe sacred mountain in the Samburu national park. Jacqs, Flick, Hollie and I had the fortune of a guide, poters, donkeys and a guard who looked after our truck. After a few hours hiking (at altitude) we reached the top standing 2000m above the plains and set up camp. The summit of Ololokwe has high altitude mist forest with giant cycads and diverse birdlife including Kenya’s largest nesting colony of Ruppell’s vultures.  Super-sized eagles also swooped above us enjoying the updraft.

We sang and danced the traditional way with our entourage around the camp fire. This involved a lot of jumping and just repeating what the Masai would say. The local food is mostly beans and meru a tasteless grain mush, not a whole lot of flavor – just cooked with love!

Everywhere we seemed to go the locals were very friendly and accommodating. They were so happy to help and make sure we had everything we needed, a smile and wave was once again  internationally recognised. While wandering the deep into the streets of Nanyuki (45 min drive from Borana) I was often the only white boy on the street. Feeling pretty safe, it was great bartering with the shop owners and experiencing a glimpse into their way of life.

Suddenly, shots fired! Fortunately they were using blanks as they peered through their night vision toward us terrible ‘poachers’ and we hit the deck.

One night the girls and I were involved in an anti-poaching exercise. After being dropped off in the middle of the bush with a ranger, our task was to fire shots and make our way toward the direction of Somalia! We soon heard a helicopter start searching for us as we stumbled through the undergrowth scattering a small family of warthog. The spotlight was blinding as the heli searched the ground  and eventually spotted us while we ducked for cover. A laser pointer blasting down at us alerted the Rangers who were on foot searching for us. Suddenly, shots fired! Fortunately they were using blanks as they peered through their night vision at us terrible ‘poachers’ hit the deck.

A successful training exercise for the boys that work so hard protecting the Rhino. Over 95% of Rhino in Africa have been poached since the 1950’s and the rate of which they are being killed does not seem to show any sign of slowing. The poachers prefer a full moon and typically do the deed at night. Fortunately Kenya has tougher protection and a shooting a poacher on sight is common.

It is great to see Borana and other conservnacys’ using tourism as a major way to fun the protection of wildlife. Money from the guests is channeled into local health care, education, employment and animal protection from the poachers.

Armed poachers slaughtered double the number of Kenyan rhinos in 2013 compared to the year before, according to government figures. At least 59 rhinos were killed for their horns last year, compared to 30 in 2012, while 16 rhinos have been killed already this year.

Visiting the Rhino was one of the best moments of the trip. Their skin felt course and firm and they were very sensitive to noise. I had the fortune of visiting a couple of Rhino who were rescued by their blind mother. Only a couple of years old these guys had plenty of character!

The travel time from Chistchurch, NZ to Borana, Kenya was almost 40 hours and well worth it. Yes, it’s a long way to go to explore a new world. Opportunities like this are rare so I wanted to share with people how important it is to appreciate an area like this. The relationship between wildlife, land and people is in a delicate balance. If the current demand of black market ivory and horn continues the way it is, there will be no more precious species like Rhino.

A massive thank you to Sam, Flick, Finley and the staff at Borana Lodge. Thank you to Michael and Nicky Dyre and the support from Icebreaker. Looking forward to the next adventure to Kenya already!

Sunset on Borana Conservancy, Kenya

Hiking Mt Kenya to 16,300 feet blog to come….

Say Yes to Adventure | The magazine

Say Yes to Adventure – the magazine has come to life. Hollie Woodhouse has been dreaming of producing a magazine for over 10 years and last week her dream came true. I can happily say that I have have a part to play with some photography and my very own 4 page story being published! Hollie needed a snowboarding story, so I shared my Japanese adventure which happened a year ago.

What she has produced is a high-quality print magazine featuring inspiring stories, photographs and illustrations all based around a common theme; adventure. The magazine is designed to capture everything that is epic, challenging and emotional about exploring the outdoors… and to inspire people to seek their own.

Looking for a creative way to raise funds for Running for Rangers, an organisation which supports the rangers welfare across the private wildlife conservancies in Kenya, a niche in the market was discovered for a beautifully-designed magazine based around exploring the outdoors and adventure.

The Black Rhinoceros teeters on the edge of extinction. Little over 5,000 rhino roam Africa today as the international poaching trade relentlessly hunt down these noble beasts.

By engaging the locals and showing them that the animals have a purpose is very important. If their combat training continues, they will have greater confidence and power against the poachers. Spreading the word about the Rhino and the amazing land they roam is something I look forward to… In a week we will board a plane bound for Nairobi, Kenya! It will be a trip of a lifetime for me and I very much look forward to seeing the Rhino and experiencing east Africa. Enjoy reading Volume 1, which can be ordered here.

The Untouched Line - Richie Johnston
The Untouched Line – Richie Johnston
Say Yes to Adventure - Contributors
Say Yes to Adventure – Contributors
Say Yes to Adventure - Hollie Woodhouse
Say Yes to Adventure – Volume One

Welcome Rock | Mountain biking New Zealand’s finest water-race

While on assignment for 360queenstown-wanaka, I had the pleasure of  exploring the Welcome Rock and Roaring Lion cycle trail. Described by the Kennett Brothers as “New Zealand’s finest water-race”, I was in for a treat. 

With clear blue skies ahead of me I drove from Wanaka to the Nevis road, which took a little over two hours.
Ski hut is the first of three huts, which offer accommodation high up in the hills of the Central Otago high-country. After parking there, I wrote my intentions in the guest book and started riding anti-clockwise around one of the best Central Otago rides today. There were enough supplies for two days with plenty of chocolate and curiosity.

Historic Ski hut - getting ready to ride
Historic Ski hut – getting ready to ride
Welcome Rock - a place to meet
Welcome Rock – a place to meet

The first part of the trail is a gentle up hill toward Welcome Rock. Smooth berms and corners lined with local schist stone made for fun riding, as I made my way up to the historic meeting point. Welcome Rock was an iconic place of trade over 100 years ago when Chinese miners lived there in search of a fortune. As the story goes, a bottle of whiskey was stashed among the mossy rocks for an emergency drink… After a few minutes of searching, none was to be found!

Slate Hut - Welcome Rock
Slate Hut – Welcome Rock
Welcome Rock staff patrolling and working the trail
Welcome Rock staff patrolling and working the trail

As I continued along the trail down from Welcome Rock, Slate hut was the first accommodation I visited. With space for 3 guests and a bathtub facing the west, whoever is lucky enough to stay there was certainly in for a treat.

A few corners and rollers later, I was greeted by Tom and his Woofer Marcello. We chatted about the rich history of the area, as well as his passion for biking; seeing people enjoy the trails was an obvious motivation for Tom. It was exciting for me to know that he wants to share this area with other biking and walking enthusiasts. He described it as a 27km intermediate biking and walking trail with beautiful scenery and opportunities for environmental awareness.

Welcome Rock on sunset
Welcome Rock on sunset
Mud Hut sleeping arrangements
Mud Hut sleeping arrangements
Mud hut under the moon - Welcome Rock
Mud hut under the moonMud hut under the moon – Welcome Rock
Welcome Rock on sunset
Welcome Rock on sunset

I continued along the trail around to the eastern side of the Hector Mountain Range and found my accommodation for the night, Mud Hut. It felt like a step backward in time as I pulled aside the wooden latch and entered the 140 year old refurbished 4-bunk hut. The floor was covered in cool stone rock and the walls an earthy mixture of grass and something special to hold it all together. Otherwise known as Blackmore Hut, it also had a bathtub, which I filled to half way and heated with the gas rings. At 3,000 feet, I was alone and naked, soaking up the wilderness.

That night treated me to one of the best sunsets I have ever seen in the region. As the light faded, the landscape gave a performance of contrasting colours of reds browns and oranges. I was sure to take a couple of photos, then place the camera at my feet. Time to sit back and enjoy the show.

Waterfalls were common from the half way point - Welcome Rock
Waterfalls were common from the half way point – Welcome Rock
 One of the locals - Welcome Rock
One of the locals – Welcome Rock
Mud Hut perched along the Hector mountain range
Mud Hut perched along the Hector mountain range
Excellent trail maintenance - Welcome Rock
Excellent trail maintenance – Welcome Rock

Up at 6am and off at 7, the bike and I were ready for more. I continued along the historic water-race and passed by mining flumes and an array of pipes. The shear weight of these pipes must have caused huge transportation issues back in the day, many pipes had consequently been crushed by land-slides. Waterfalls and the swimming pools beneath them looked inviting, but I had to push on. After a total of 27km and many photo opportunity stops I had made the circuit back to Ski Hut and my truck parked alongside it.

It was good to know that even in the winter months, this iconic trail can still be enjoyed in the colder conditions by snow-shoeing or ski touring. As the entire operation is run by a Trust, visitors are directly supporting the building and maintenance of trails like these and we look forward to seeing the new additions in future.

If you like riding on two wheels, no matter what flavour, you’ll enjoy Welcome Rock. Less than two hours drive from Queenstown, go check it out!

The homeward track - Welcome Rock
The homeward track – Welcome Rock


Flying high | A joy ride over the local rivers with Dad

While hanging out with Dad, we decided to go for a last minute flight over the local rivers. He flew in the red & grey Moth and for much of the flight we flew side by side.

Classic Flights Wanaka took us on a flight of a lifetime. These Tiger Moths bring the soul back to flying. In total over 8,700 Tiger Moths have been built, 4,200 for the RAF alone. This type is credited with training thousands of pilots for the Allied war effort and remained in service until as late as 1951 in the UK and 1955 in New Zealand.

They were developed in the 1930’s and had 120 – 145hp engines. These particular Tiger Moths were built in New Zealand in 1941.

Check out this 50 second clip of the Tiger Moth experience.
#sayyestoadventure #shareyouradventure

Camphill Surfers | Bringing the coast to Central Otago

There are may things in this wonderful world that makes me tick. Without a back-to-back winter this year, snowboarding has taken the back seat and surfing stepped forward. Well, not the salty kind but the next best thing.

Getting the snowboarding fix in fresh water. Good times!
Getting the snowboarding fix in fresh water. Good times! Image: Stoked4Saturday

River works started and the wave was built in late 2012. Located on the Hawea River at Camphill Bridge, the Hawea Whitewater Park (or Hawea Wave as it’s called by most) is a man-made structure within the Hawea River itself. The park has two river waves for kayakers and rafters, bodyboarders and surfers, to play and train on. When the Hawea Dam is released, the correct water flow provides the perfect standing wave.

The Hawea River flow is managed by Contact Energy, specifically for electricity generation. Releases are made based on power requirements. From the 1st of September to 31st of January Contact Energy are required to ensure that the flow is kept between 10 to 60 cumecs. About 50 cumecs is one of the best flows and has helped me learn to surf on a Rincon 6ft board.

Great crew and banter to match
Great crew and banter to match

If there is a community group with enough momentum behind it, they can request flow rates. Join and support Camphill Surfers and we can get the waves we need! An unexpected bonus this summer. With a fun crew to challenge each other we have spent hours at the wave till dusk searching for the next best slash or trick.

Walking NZ for Kidneys

My Dad calls me up and tells me he there are some special guests coming to stay at the B&B. Being my curious self, I wondered who it could be. While on a break from cycle touring, I was fortunate to meet Ros and Hugh Cole-Baker. They are traveling the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa Trail to raise awareness for the need for more live kidney donors. Ros gave one of her kidneys to her husband Hugh October 2013 and have almost completed a challenge worth sharing.

The duo set off late September 2014 from Cape Reinga and have been walking and biking the length of New Zealand on the Te Araroa trail. During their visit in Wanaka, my Dad hosted them while the enjoyed local walks and rides around town. I Was fortunate to meet up with them for a hike up Mt Iron followed by an interview with the Otago Daily Times.

Rob Johnston & Ros Cole-Baker, supported by husband Hugh
Rob Johnston & Ros Cole-Baker, supported by husband Hugh
Walking NZ for Kidneys | Prevention – Support – Research
Walking NZ for Kidneys | Prevention – Support – Research

If you would like to find out more about Kidney Health New Zealand they are more than willing to answer any questions ranging from dialysis to transplants.

What is Kidney disease?

  • Your kidneys clean your blood by working as a filter to remove water and wastes from your body. Kidney disease damages these filters so they don’t do their job properly.
  • Kidney disease usually affects both kidneys and may also damage other parts of your body, such as your heart.
  • When enough of the filters are damaged, the body will fill up with excess wastes and water. This is called kidney failure. It can happen when you have kidney disease for a long period of time (chronic kidney disease).
  • Kidney failure is fatal if not treated by either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

The role of KHNZ:

  • To fund research into the prevention, early detection and cure of kidney disease.
  • Provide education and support in the recognition of the symptoms of kidney disease.
  • Provide resource information concerning the treatment and management of patients with kidney disease.
  • To promote the donation of kidneys and other organs and tissue for transplantation.
  • Liaise with and support patient Support Groups

It is becoming increasingly likely that anyone of us or family members will be in some way affected by Kidney disease. To learn about a donation to help with prevention, support and research please visit here.

Icebreaker | Ambassador

2014 finished of with fun travels and great news! I have been fortunate create a relationship with a company born and bred here in New Zealand that I have looked up to and respected from day one. Icebreaker have chosen me as one of their ambassadors leading into the new year. Stoked!
It all started when they needed snowboarders for a commercial during the winter. I put my hand up! Before I knew it I was sitting down with their Marketing Co-ordinator and Inhouse Producer a few weeks later. They kindly sent me new merino threads which will be great for the antics ahead – and because it does not hold odor, I will be doing less laundry. Happy days…

Some other good news is finding out that my story on Japan has been selected to feature in Say YES to Adventure Magazine! An amazing New Zealand publication that is raising money to help protect the Rhino and Elephant on the Laikipia Plains in Kenya. Read more about it here. Perhaps your story will feature in Volume 2?

Kid’s Bush | Lake Hawea


Biking the rainforest | Exploring the West Coast

We parked up the truck next to some of the deepest rain-forest in New Zealand. Neither of us had been here before and we curious about the ride ahead.  While leading a VBT trip down the west coast I was able to scope out some of the local mountain bike trails. Ross (another VBT guide and I) found some fun lines nestled beneath the Southern Alps snaking through the rain-forest. Even on the isolated west coast there are still some die-hard bikers that are passionate enough to create some fun trails.

A 4km loop track is accessed only 3 minutes drive north of Frans Josef township. What looks like an old mining pit, you can ride up beside it and the trail starts from there.

Map to paradise
Keen to return one day…  head for the red pin

Aside from the rain & sand flies, there is so much potential for  amazing riding there. I hope DOC turns more walking trails into bike trails… Bring on Summer!

Demos | SBINZ demonstrations

A clear visual picture will always help a learning process. It definitely helps when the delivery is clean, simple and gives the student a solid understanding of the task. It was a privilege to not only present these tasks, but to do them on a world-class mountain like Treble Cone. The following video was a project the SBINZ team and I worked on during a couple of days during the NZ season of 2014.

Great work by and the SBINZ Trainer crew. Cheers boys!

Please excuse the out-takes at the end… they insisted on including them!

Countdown to Interski, Argentina

To represent SBINZ and travel with such an awesome team gets me stoked. Especially when the next trip will be to Argentina 2015 during September! Earlier in 2014, myself and 5 other fortunate souls were chosen to represent the hard work that the SBINZ team have put in over the years.

Every four years the world of snow-sports instruction sends a team to the Interski conference. Up to 35 nations will showcase their development in skiing, snowboarding and telemark. It is an exciting time for us because we will showcase to the world the teaching theory, riding style and our unique outlook on snowboarding and it’s instruction.

For me, it will be the most unique learning environment I have ever been in. The opportunity to discover new tactics and technical information is literally world-class. With over 10 years in the instruction world I have had the pleasure of meeting many inspiring instructors, athletes and management that have all taught me something unique. In Argentina, we will have the chance to further out skills and bring home to our New Zealand instructors a fresh insight on how we can better the sport.


Bring part of Interski will also be a massive celebration for snowboarding and the people that make it what it is! The count-down has started and we are stoked to be part of it. Stay tuned on the New Zealand blog over the next year and follow the path we take with NZSIA. If you are intersted in sponsorship opportunities please get in touch with me.

SBINZ Interski team 2015
SBINZ Interski team 2015: Rhys Jones, Sean Thompson, Sam Smith, Dan Burton, Richie Johnston & Keith Stubbs

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