New Zealand: Along the Ben Lomond Trail.


Hike-about is an adventure that commenced June 2010. After storing our household movables, ridding ourselves of a house but retaining our 'home' together, we set off with the purpose of hiking in different parts of the world, not forgetting the home country, the USA.

Our primary focus is hiking to mountain peaks but any challenging hike will do just fine. Extended stays enable us to enjoy and experience living in various places amongst differing cultures. Hike-about has evolved into a way of life. It's also a process of discovery, both the world and ourselves.

We work and live 'on the road' but return to the city in which our grandchildren reside, every couple of months. This provides us the wonderful opportunity to be with them as well as a child or two, even three and of course, friends.

By the end of 2022, the blog contained over 1,470 hikes, each a set of pictures with stories and anecdotes from the trails. An index to the right allows the viewer to identify earlier experiences.

Finally, we are often asked about the journey's end.
ur reply, as accurate as we can state, is: "When we are either forced to cease through health issues or the enjoyment level no longer reaches our aspirations, we will hang up the boots."

"A Life Experience As No Other: Dare to Seize the Day Together", published by Fulton Books, depicts our life on the road and mountains until the beginning of 2017. It has developed 'exponentially' since then.

Jenni and Jeffrey Lazarow

Whereas we continue to update the blog regularly, we no longer circulate email notifications.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Towards Mt. Tongariro Summit

Images of a Spectacular day

Hello Mates,

Wednesday 29th

After a night of rest and hike in Whakapapa (we should not pronounce it—it is not ‘pretty’) we moved to Turangi. We’re sure this is illuminating to any reader. Nevertheless, we tackled the elusive Tongariro Alpine Crossing today, the canceled hike of earlier in the week. It’s rated as the best day hike in New Zealand. Should we never hike again, it would be satisfying to know that we undertook this one.
An Incredible 'High'
We ‘walked’ and climbed over twelve miles in all types of terrain, over 7 hours and accumulated elevation gain of 3,500 feet. Please accept the next comment with a ‘pinch of salt’. We are of the opinion that to discover the Garden of Eden, one does not have to pass through this life. It’s here. One just needs to search in the right places.
Slippery Steep Slope
New Zealand has suffered a few mishaps recently as you may have read. What with the mining disaster and earthquakes, it could hardly be reassuring for the Kiwis to endure another drought. It may be early to go on record but after yesterday’s continuous soaking, better times may be ahead. We heard the proverbial collective sigh of relief yesterday following the return of wet weather. After two very dry spells, one last Sunday and the other, the three hours between 9am and 12 on Monday, it was ‘touch and go’. Fortunately, one can always rely on the wind to come through for the locals. The velocity on the Tongariro Pass last night reached 100 mph. We smile when people tell us about the great summer period of December through March in New Zealand. We don’t understand it but we are far too polite to call for further explanation. Today, we were shocked and delighted to welcome the return of the sun without wind.
Eruption? Gulp
Romance at Emerald Pools
To those who have expressed concern about wearing short pants in cold weather, we thank you for your interest. However, it is important that we first find the money for rent and food before luxury items. We also thought our legs were somewhat attractive but there seems to be an element of doubt. Perhaps we should wear them lower like some teenagers we see. (Heaven forbid!) Maybe the real reason is that our editor mentioned that she is ‘wearing the pants’ in our home. We never like to contradict her. (Today, funnily enough, when they were not necessary, we wore them.)
We met many interesting and terrific people on the hike. We approached a family, which included three young kids. The children could show up much of the adult population in their endurance and stamina. Not surprising, the father is a marine based at Camp Pendelton. The young girl told us ‘we live 35 minutes north of San Diego’. Then the little guy of six, Conner, mentioned his birth date of July 14th, same as the fellow in short-pants. Doesn’t sound like much of a story. However, it was a warm experience. We also had exchanges with a few other hikers, which proved to be stimulating. As a Kiwi mentioned and we fully concur, the slopes are filled with nationalities from all over the world—not many locals. The Europeans, particularly the Germans, dominate the trails.
Editor Stepping Up

Hide & Seek above Valley
The accommodation in New Zealand is terrific. We currently have two rooms, full kitchen facilities and a couch in the second room for occasions when our behavior fails to meet our editor’s expectations. We love having windows in all rooms including the bathroom. They might have to drag us out of here tomorrow. Fortunately, we have practised our ‘kicking and screaming’—so we’re ready.
Sulphur fumes at Red Crater
We are continually stunned by the beauty of the natural surroundings here and in so many places. We understate it when we mention that the Western United States is a great favorite of ours. Today, we witnessed volcanoes and consequent damage. The Master has a way of supervising destruction with results that are beautiful in their own way. The mountains were overpowering, the climbs on exposed edges and rocks were very steep but a delight. We looked at the lava rock, lakes, pools colored by volcanic chemicals, steaming earth, wide-open valleys and more. When we sat on the summit of Mount Tongariro, some 3,000 feet of elevation gain, we began to count…our blessings…again. When we returned to the car park, our muscles were tired but our spirits were still soaring way above in the mountains. B’ H’.
Down into the Valley
The pictures, unfortunately, don’t tell the whole story. Maybe they will improve in the future. Today is the second anniversary of our decision to improve the camera equipment we carry. Hopefully, this will be the catalyst for us to spring into action and get rid of our ‘Brownie Box’.
Smoking? No, just letting off steam.

Jenni and ‘Shorts’

Monday, December 27, 2010

Volcano Country with some Wind on the Side

Monday 27th: Hike 11

Volcano-created Lake

Upper Tama Lake Part of Tongariro Range

Wow! What a day. It turned out differently from planned and expected. Twelve grueling miles, five hours non-stop in volcano country—an active volcano area—and we enjoyed every moment. Anyway, that’s what our editor says. After almost recovering from her recent illness, she ‘coughed’ at that volcano with vigor—she was intimidating. (Jenni intimidating?) Every time we felt our muscles crying out for relief, we looked to our editor and remembered to keep the mouth shut. If nothing else, we are learning, albeit slowly.
Edgy Editor
We reached Queenstown, the one town we can pronounce without hurting our mouths. We had come from Tutukaka, Wanaka, Te Anau and ‘camped’ there for Shabbos. The setting of the town ranks as one of the nicest we have seen anywhere. “Shall we compare thee to a summer’s day?” Probably not. We can only imagine the magnificence should it bask in a warm, cloudless day, for a change.
Pleased Jen's Returned

Shabbos ended at 10:30pm—we enjoyed every minute of it. We then flew north to Auckland, drove five hours south, passing through WhataWhata to arrive at Whakapapa Village, the trailhead for the famous Tongariro Pass. This was to be one of the highlights of the trip, a four-day tramp. However, man plans and G-d laughs. The weather has turned awkward in this region. Expectations are for winds on the mountaintop of 80-90 miles per hour with freezing temperatures. In case that is insufficient to deter us, the rainfall will be high. We canceled the tramp with reluctance.

Half-way up Mountain

Nevertheless, we did do part of the hike which, as mentioned earlier, was outstanding. We experienced craters, volcano-created lakes, steep climbs, wind, waterfalls, bog, forest, rocks and cliffs. It had everything. With Jen back in action and many rocky outcrops at cliff edges, we were able to enjoy ourselves immensely as well as show off again. Can life be better? Whenever we stand on mountaintops or cliffs, we think of a young man from San Diego who likes nothing better than to jump from mountains using para-sails, hang-gliders, bird wings? Sean Bradford from TD Ameritrade is a daredevil in the sky and a gentleman on the ground. Rather him than us.
How do you suppose that works?
No short-cut down
We had prepared for the tramp; we were raring to go. The ranger said, “Tuesday will be impossible. We advise you to cancel the hike. The weather is so bad that we are even offering refunds—something done only in exceptional circumstances”. We did not expect a refund for the three night sojourn but were happy to accept it. A while later, the conversation tone changed ever so slightly. “As the weather is not bad today, there can be no refund. It should be fine on Wednesday so there will be no refund for that day either. For Tuesday, you qualify for a refund but you have to be present at the office to get it.” Based on that logic, we ‘considered’ hiking five hours to the hut, running down in the 90 mile an hour winds and storm on the next day to claim the refund, then hiking on the third day back to the first and on to the second and third huts, some forty miles, in one day. The woman, embarrassed by the bureaucratic logic, allowed us a smile; we said that whatever worked for New Zealand would be just fine with us. Some things are the same universally.

Upper Tama Lake
With aching muscles, our spirits soaring, we left Tongariro Park and headed for Lake Taupo, the country’s largest. We still intend making a run at the Tongariro Crossing this week. However, the answer to that we think is ‘blowing in the wind’.

Jenni and her Windbag.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Summer in the City (brrrrrrr)

Queenstown-Wakatipu Lake

Hi All,

Friday 24th
We’re back in Queenstown after leaving the very attractive town of Wanaka. Both places are surrounded, joined, linked and separated by many mountains and large lakes. It’s a paradise for anyone with an affinity for mountaintops, bottoms and in-betweens. New Zealand, particularly the southern part, is very attractive. However, there are aspects of this land that are puzzling. The time change of twenty-one hours between it and the west coast of the USA takes getting used to, especially when conducting business between the two. One is always a day ahead or maybe behind, depending where you stand. Then there is the season business. Yes, we understand the hemisphere issue, summer in the south and winter in the north. What is the season in New Zealand when it is winter in America and cold in Kiwiland? Got you there. The weather has us flummoxed. One of the best kept secrets in this part of the world, we think, is: ‘When does summer begin?’
Summer in 'Dem Hills'
Our editor finally added her two bits: “It seems like there is a lot of wind in this region. What do you make of it?” she wanted to know. “Perhaps Antarctic?” she guessed.
“Could be something in the food,” we answered. We know that’s a dangerous comment to make to her but from time to time, we need to ‘chance’ our luck. Why we do that, we do not know. Go figure!
Ice-capped 'Hills'

We reached the peak of Mount Lovemore the other day. It was cold and very windy. There were three fellow hikers sitting on the summit, taking in the gorgeous view. We wished to be friendly and offer a greeting. Bear in mind, the jaw was cold and so it was not easy to form words. In a friendly tone, we managed to utter a greeting and add: “We’re very pleased it’s summer,” we shivered. “You want heat, take yourself off to the beach in Florida,” the woman retorted. We were most surprised at this outburst. We think she misses the spirit of the surrounding beauty or the climb was just too tough.

While sitting and gazing into the distance, doing our best to ignore the humorless hiker, we continued to pursue one of our favorite pastimes—pondering and thinking—in no particular order. We thought of our visit to the movies recently when we stayed in Point Loma, San Diego. By the way, it is very pretty in that area with a spectacular view of the lights of downtown San Diego. However, we are off point. We like stories and movies of endeavor, challenge and heroic actions. The problem with this film is that the director is not quite with it. Firstly, he omitted all ugly and foul language. Then he forgot to insert nude and sexual scenes. Finally, no violence. How he expects success is beyond us. Could this be kosher entertainment? Nevertheless, it’s our type of movie. To watch ‘Big Red’ run was an absolute thrill. It reminded us of another favorite, Seabiscuit. We enjoyed watching Secretariat gallop and confound the critics. A triple-crown winner has our respect.
Editor Returns
General MacArthur said ‘I’ll return and did not; Arnie the Terminator did and we are sorry for that; Jenni Laz returned after illness and hiked Thursday in Wanaka and Queenstown on Friday, both steep climbs. The ‘kid’ is back and ready for a four-day hike, the Tongariro Northern Circuit, one of New Zealand’s ‘great tramps’.

We’ll be back…we hope, N’H’.

Jenni and Jeffrey

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh, Solo me

Haunting without Sun
Entrancing--Over 4,000 feet up-Roy's Peak
“I can’t get out of this sick bed,” our editor complained. We were very worried about her remaining in bed. After all, who knows what you can catch from a sick bed. We felt poorly about our dear editor, especially as we probably passed our ‘flu on to her. There is some downside to this share and share-alike philosophy. Our editor suspected that if she did not send us out to climb, there might be some whining taking place in the room today. Everyone loves a winner but who likes a whiner? “You go do it for us,” she encouraged. We were in two minds. We did not want to be without our dear editor. Who would carry the backpacks? How would we determine when and what to eat…what about when to go potty. We were concerned being without her. Had we recovered our own strength? Nevertheless, we put on a brave face and strode off to climb Roy’s Peak.
View of Lake Wanaka from hidden side

Jenni-less at Peak

When we arrived in the town of Wanaka, we noticed the surrounding mountains. We were fascinated. Something about them caught the eye. We were determined to find a way to the top. The statistics are breathtaking. Elevation gain of over 4,000 feet in a little under 2.5 hours. It amounts to over 1,600 feet gain per hour, the steepest climb we have encountered. Frankly, it was straight up without respite. Really tough and unforgiving. However, it was also one of the most rewarding. One just never seems to reach the peak when climbing to this type of elevation. Hikes like it test one’s mettle as well as ‘titanium’. We don’t say it often but we think it much of the time. We are very grateful for the skill and competence of Dr. Norman Kane.

Looking towards Mt. Aspiring
Family vacation with View
The ‘lambing’ season has just ended. What a delight to see the little ones romping with their moms. We think of Ellie often. She transposes sheep into ‘peesh’. While this works with ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’, not quite so well with New Zealand’s finest. Last week at Kepler, the ranger warned us of two things. “When the gale blows on the mountaintop, you should get down on your knees and crawl,” he said. Wonderful! The other point he made was to avoid relieving ourselves on the track. We wanted to point out that perhaps he should also lecture the peeshes…pardon us, the sheep. Today, for the first 2,000 feet, the track was well covered by peeshes’ excess. However, after that elevation, the sheep are smart—they stop climbing—the dummies continue.
5200ft above sea level
We had more time today. Without the editor around, we were unable to show off much. Instead, we pondered. We realize there are more sheep than people in New Zealand. So what! What does that mean? Our thinking goes something like this. We can make New Zealand into the Switzerland of the southern hemisphere. How do we do that? Well, in Switzerland, every goat, sheep and cow carries a bell around its neck but not ‘Down Under’. Therefore, let’s establish ‘a bell of rights’. Think about it. How happy will those hikers on the mountains be when they too can hear ‘jingle bells’ played every other minute of the day. By the way, we did not mention that we are going into the bell manufacturing business, did we?

From below Roy's Peak--View of town
Reunited Again

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Odds, ends and Chesed

Tea on our 36th

“Give me your hand before you slip…just a little more. Okay, hang on…don’t release…got you. Ease up. I think you’re going to make it. Do you need the rope?” we suggested to our brave editor. We undertook not to take chances when climbing. Let’s hope nothing happens when we try to get off the bed and back down to the bathroom, we thought after hauling our editor on to the three feet high bed in our hotel room.
Serious Rock back There--Nice on the finger
You may laugh and think that the sixteen miles on the last day of our hike extended us. It may have, indeed. However, that’s not the cause of our current malady. Prior to the commencement of the hike one of us got the sore throat and ‘weak muscles feeling’ while the other, in sympathy, achieved the same state after the hike. So, we are now what is termed: sick-on-the-road not to be confused with sick-of-the-road. This is a real pity because we are ‘raring’ to go. Instead, we are a pair of crocks. What can we do? Nothing but sleep. We gave Shabbos a new meaning of rest yesterday. We kept waking so that we could get back to sleep. We woke late for davening and then slept; we woke for lunch and then slept; we woke for Torah study and then slept. We think you could probably discern a pattern. It is probably the first time in all our travels that we did not leave the room in thirty-six hours. By the way, Shabbos came out at 10:29 pm. Theoretically, it’s possible to go to sleep for the night before the night begins.
Swiss-like Milford
The accommodation in New Zealand has been superb. The rooms are bright and cheery, windows front and back. We have enjoyed time-share type accommodation including ground-level access to beautiful flowering gardens. We like quiet areas and thus far, it is just what we have experienced. In Te Anau, for example, the road is so quiet that a person is ‘forced’ to sleep the whole night without being wakened. We end up missing the goings-on in the outside world—what a sacrifice.

The South Island of New Zealand is very quiet. We travelled from Te Anau to Milford Sound and back and then on to Wanaka. These trips amounted to some seven hours. Queenstown is the only meaningful size town that we came across. Nobody is home on the Island. One can travel for hours and only see the occasional farmhouse and fellow travelers on the road. Sheep and cattle are aplenty. The scenery, of course, is exquisite. Mind you, the North Island is not that busy outside of Auckland either. If you thought there was only tension between Yankees and Southerners in the USA, follow this. We mentioned to a ranger in the south that we were amazed how quiet and unpopulated it is. ‘That’s how we like it—the northerners should stay put’. We were taken aback slightly. ‘What about the tourist income?’ we asked. ‘Okay’, she conceded, ‘they can spend their money here and then return immediately to the north.” This was a ranger on duty in the Information Booth. We’d like to believe that’s not the official position.
Milford Sound Area
Random acts of chesed touched us. In the ‘coffee picture, the Israelis presented us with a cup when we arrived at the rest station, 4000 feet up. Another Israeli, when he saw our flimsy sleeping bags, fretted about us being cold during the night, showing genuine concern. He has just completed his 3-year army stint. A young woman from Slovenia, offered to take the upper bunk and give us the lower ones. Our pride was ‘insulted’; our human side was touched. Two Swiss youngsters, Adrian and Todd, offered us hospitality in Switzerland without qualification. Acts of chesed bring Hashem back into the world and we, closer to our neighbors.
Israeli Prepared coffee at 4,000 feet
With some luck tomorrow, we are expecting an exciting experience in the mountains. Of course, we have to be able to get out of bed first.
Near-miss birds at Lake Te Anau
Crick and Crock.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kepler Track, Te Anau - The Fiordlands

Kepler Track, South Island

Rugged, rough but so wonderful

Good Day All,

The day dawned, heavy with clouds, but no rain…yet. We made our way to the trailhead, locked the car and set off on the Kepler Track, one of the ‘Nine Great Walks’ of New Zealand. The locals have a wonderful sense for understatement. A walk? We notice the Kiwis are a hardy bunch. Think of it. Less than 5 million people and they have dominated world rugby for years. Okay, off to the track. We had no idea what to anticipate.
A Special Place, wind and all

At 3300 feet & rising

First hour in the forest along Lake Te Anau, followed by a steep climb lasting three hours, all but forty-five minutes in that forest. Breaking the tree line was incredible—like a line drawn separating the forest from the open mountainside. We had immediate views of the lake below and the surrounding mountains and cliffs. Staggering. 9 miles, mostly uphill, 3300 feet elevation gain. When we arrived at the hut, we chose our bedroom suite. A beautifully furnished set of rooms, all in pastel shades toning in beautifully with the alpine setting. We were ready to stay a week. Upon awakening from a combination of altitude sickness and fatigue, we opened our sleeping bags and grabbed two bunks. Our roommates for the night were forty-five others. Above Jenni’s bunk and around us were five Israelis, four young men and a woman. When we heard them conversing, we decided to show-off our command of Hebrew. In well structured, grammatically correct and a rather sophisticated manner, we asked the question: ‘Do you speak English?’ As an aside, the hut ranger mentioned that the two most prevalent nationalities visiting New Zealand AND ‘tramping’, are Israelis and Germans. We were also surprised (pleasantly) to find a set of instructions for the cabin in Hebrew.
Approach to base of peak

Peak--Mt Luxmore

Day-two began with a solid four-hour heart-pumping climb reaching the highest point on the track, Mount Luxmore. The ‘walk’ along the saddles, mountaintops and ridges was spectacular. We particular love the combination of outside edges and ridges. One needs to visualize the 360 degrees effect as the camera is unable to capture its essence. It’s like living in a different world, on another planet. We then proceeded down and up the mountains for another two hours, but mostly in descent. This was a further ten miles with an estimated elevation gain before declines of 900 feet. We had gained well over 4,000 feet.
Pretty Exciting stuff

We came across people from all over the world. One young man from South Africa, others from Finland, Germany, locals of course, Australia, Canada, Germany and Slovenia. It’s quite funny being the unofficial representative of the United States, especially, when we sound the way we do. We met two young men from Switzerland —everyone was young from our perspective—Adrian and Todd. It was a delight spending time conversing with them. We discussed a host of topics and left with a better understanding of the younger generation. We wish you well, young fellows. We enjoyed your company immensely. It is not surprising that we meet young people on the trails. Many are in a similar mode to ourselves (only 30 years difference), enjoying the world before settling down to a formal lifestyle. What comes next for us? We were thinking…maybe we should have more children. Maybe, we’ll reconsider that thought.
Half-way-up & still fresh

The huts are equipped with gas stovetops, toilets, bunks and flies. There are no showers, no hot water—no frills. We carried our cooking utensils and food together with clothing and essentials on our backs. Not surprisingly, we took with us the minimum. Like all things in life, it is a trade-off. Others had a different view. Some brought portable gas burners so they could eat between meals on the track. Our editor was most inquisitive of the contents of campers’ packs. There’s no accounting for taste. For one night, we each slept in the upper bunk. It was not a good idea to drink before going to sleep. Try climbing down in the darkness.
Always rising editor

Although we hiked 35 miles in under 3 days, we thought there was too much time spent in the huts. Therefore, we decided to skip the last by combining two legs and straining our four legs. We walked sixteen miles at a fast pace in a little under 5.5hours. It was quite a ‘walk’ as they say in New Zealand. We salute our editor who exceeded our highest expectations. Sometimes, we stand aside and are in awe of this gentle young woman.

It often takes one time to settle comfortably in new surroundings. Strangely, on our return, we were able to handle a hot shower, a spacious room on our own with a soft warm bed quite well. Shows you how adaptable we are!
Insights to Kepler Track


Jenni and her ‘Pack-donkey’
A bridge just in time, to the car park

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pre-Kepler Track Tramp

Twenty lbs heavier & ready

We moved south from Whangarei to get closer to Auckland. Nevertheless, we were still an hour or more from the big city. We like to position ourselves at a safe distance from places of concrete, the multitudes and noise. Of course, it has its drawbacks—we don’t often get to the ballet. Our reasoning was to have a restful Shabbos in a small town and lessen the distance to the airport for our flight to the South island. We allowed additional time in the unlikely event that we suffered a directional glitch. Not possible you might think.

Commencement: Trying to look brave
All went off very smoothly, for a change. Shabbos was terrific—it is very special ‘on the road’, too. We left early on Sunday morning, returned the rental car, boarded a plane and collected another rental in Queenstown and then drove a further two hours to reach Te Anau—our gateway to the Kepler track. We are about to traipse around the Fiordland National Park for four days, three nights to be spent in our sleeping bags. We are not prepared for low temperatures and only half-prepared for rain. Fortunately, it ‘only’ rains in these mountains two hundred days of the year. The odds are very good that we are going to be wet. It brings to mind what my Dad often said to me. “Butch,” he called me, “you should stand out in rain more often—the rain makes everything beautiful.” It’s too late for the beauty part; nevertheless, we’ll give it a ‘go’. What do we have to lose?

Here we are, in the week of our double chai (36th) wedding anniversary and embarking on this potentially exciting and breathtaking adventure. One can’t help but wonder about our editor. She flew halfway around the world, on and off three planes, traveled up north in New Zealand and back down to catch another plane to hike forty-odd miles in a few days, probably be cold and wet and forego most of life’s regular comforts. “If that ain’t love me then all I gotta say, G-d didn’t make little green apples and it don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summer time.”
Brian Marcus posed the question. ‘What have you learned of each other on your travels,’ he wanted to know. We gave him an answer but he was clearly not satisfied. Subsequently, our editor had given it some thought. “You are showing a youthful characteristic, especially since we commenced the adventures,” she mentioned. “You still find us interesting and amusing,” we answered, trying to be suave and cool. “What is this youthful characteristic that has obviously surfaced in this stage of life?” we wanted to know, trying hard to suppress a self-satisfied smile.
“You’re breaking out in pimples again,” she swiped. As the renowned detective Hercules Poirot might retort, ‘You damp the spirit.’
Always some housework 'on the road'.

We are packed and ready to go and as we write this, the night before departure, the wind is howling and the rain has joined it. Should be a ‘gas’.