Archive for April 30, 2017

Glacier Sightings

Day 9: April 27 – Fox Glacier to Franz Josef Glacier*

*Got a ride for this 23km

After some decent climbs over the last few days, I decided to make today a rest and sightseeing day.  We had a late start to the morning which allowed me to spend a bit of time working on the blog and getting some pictures uploaded (depending on wifi speed this can be a lengthy process, fortunately this morning I had a good connection).

Around 10:30am we packed up and headed down the road to take a look at Fox Glacier from the viewpoint recommended by the lady who owned the hotel we stayed at.  We tend to agree that this was the best view of Fox Glacier out of the two viewpoints we went to.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier and the snowcapped mountains to the right are Mount Cook

Fox Glacier and the snowcapped mountains to the right are Mount Cook

Fox Glacier from the second viewpoint we went to

Fox Glacier from the second viewpoint we went to

 

After exploring Fox Glacier, we drove the 23km to Franz Josef.  We directly headed to the glacier hike where we spent a couple of hours.

Start of the Franz Josef Glacier hike

Start of the Franz Josef Glacier trail

Our first sighting of Franz Josef Glacier and the riverbed where the glacier used to reach many years ago

Our first sighting of Franz Josef Glacier and the riverbed where the glacier used to reach many years ago

 

It sounds like the glacier has receded quite a bit in recent years.  This sign showed the amount it had receded in just 4yrs between 2008 and 2012:

It might be hard to see from the two inset pictures, but from what we could tell they were taken from the same general location. That is a lot of deteriorating of the glacier in just 4 yrs!

It might be hard to see from the two inset pictures, but from what we could tell they were taken from the same general location. That is a lot of deteriorating of the glacier in just 4 yrs

 

A waterfall as we hiked the trail for a closer view of the glacier

A waterfall as we hiked the trail for a closer view of the glacier

Continue to walk to get a closer view of the glacier

Continue to walk to get a closer view of the glacier

At this point we are where the glacier extended to in 2008

At this point we are where the glacier extended to in 2008, it’s hard to believe this would have been the glacier less than 10yrs ago

This is the view looking back from where we came

This is the view looking back from where we came

This is as close as we could go to the glacier via the trail

This is as close as we could go to the glacier via the trail

And a closeup of Franz Josef Glacier

And a closeup of Franz Josef Glacier

 

After the glacier hike we checked into our accommodations for the evening; a cabin at a Top 10 Holiday Park chain.  I settled in and started uploading some pics (my connection was much slower today) while my parents went into town to check things out.  They came back with some hokey pokey ice cream for me, which is apparently a flavour of ice cream (I thought it was a brand).  I have now learned that hokey pokey is honeycomb toffee.  It was yummy!

 

 

The Edge of Wilderness

Day 8: April 26 – Haast to Fox Glacier*

Daily Distance = 86.92km, Trip Total = 218.75km, Today’s Climb = 570m

*Cycled 13km south of Haast to Bruce Bay, drove Bruce Bay to Fox Glacier

 

One thing I have noticed that now exists on google maps which I didn’t realize with the last trip: is the bike option which shows elevation ascent and descent.  For example, here’s the google cycle route from Queenstown to Wanaka:

It's probably small and grainy, but on the left hand side of the screen you can see the elevation ascent and descent

It’s probably small and grainy, but on the left hand side of the screen you can see the elevation ascent and descent

 

I’ve only been on the road two days, but every night before the next days ride it has become a necessary habit to check out the following ride.  How much does it climb?  Where are the climbs?  Is it gradual or quick?  Given our spotty wifi last night and no cell service to create a hotspot for my laptop (I’ve only been able to get this info using my laptop, I can’t seem to find it on my iPhone or my folks tablet).  Regardless, I wasn’t able to get the info for the upcoming day and felt a little lost.  I knew the first 13km would be flat because I’d be backtracking the road we came in on.  After that it’s hard to say.  Terrain can change quickly with each km in the mountains.

So I headed out with the mindset that every km of flat and downhill is a bonus!

One lane bridge and flat terrain south of Haast

One lane bridge and flat terrain south of Haast

 

Mom had noticed the previous night that some of the trees along this stretch of the road must really feel the impact of a dominate wind as they have a lean and in some cases are barren:

I wonder which way the wind blows here?

I wonder which way the wind blows here?

 

Shortly after I got back on Hwy 6 I came up to a rather lengthy one lane bridge.  I usually ride right down the middle of these to prevent vehicles from trying to edge past me.  Fortunately this bridge which was probably just over 1/2km long had a couple of passing bays.  This is a pretty remote area, so I only encountered two vehicles while on the bridge and fortunately I was close to a passing bay at the time so I didn’t have to slow traffic down too much.

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View of the river from the passing bay on the bridge

View of the river (or the rocky bed of the river) from the passing bay on the bridge

 

We have also noticed between Queenstown and here that the majority of the rivers are currently without water and mostly just rocky footbeds.

My route for the next several days

Heading to the glaciers

I say a few of these signs along the west coast, all with slightly different wording

I saw a few of these signs along the west coast, all with slightly different wording, like ‘NZ roads are different, allow extra time’

 

Around 25km’s into my (so far flat) ride my parents had passed me and were pulled into a rest spot.  I stopped to chat and grab a quick snack and they told me they had stopped at an I-site (tourist info) in Haast.  They asked the lady working there to bring up the elevation info between Haast and Fox Glacier and took a picture of it for me.  I now had intel on the ride ahead!  We didn’t stop for long as we were getting bitten like crazy from sandflies.  This would be the trend for the day.  Fortunately they didn’t bother me when cycling, but at almost every stop they were there!

About 5km’s later I was climbing again until I reached Knight’s lookout which was a pretty busy spot.  Mom and dad were chatting to a group that they had bumped into at a previous lookout point earlier in the day.  Apparently there was an area that a pod of dolphins could be seen, but I completely missed it.

Starting to get glimpses of the Tasman Sea

Starting to get glimpses of the Tasman Sea

The road ahead

The road ahead

Knight's lookout point

Knight’s lookout point

 

From Knight’s lookout it was a blissful descent followed by lots of flat road.

Another rocky river bed

Another rocky river bed

 

Given the lack of daylight hours compared to when I had done the Canadian trip and the number of km’s between towns in this area, the days on the bike feel a bit rushed.  It seems almost like a bit of a race to get as much cycling in during daylight as possible and still reach our destination during daylight as well.  I’m hoping when I get to the north island there will be more towns closer together and I don’t have to worry about covering as much ground in a day.  At my slow cycling pace it would be difficult to cover this area of the country on my own at this time of the year.  I would definitely have to split the days into shorter distances and camp along the way.  Fortunately I have my parents with me and I get a more spoiled version of the trip: I can hitch a ride when I want, I don’t have to carry my gear, I have meals made for me, etc.  Thanks parents! :)

A view of the mountains while taking a break on the side of the road

A view of the mountains while taking a break on the side of the road

 

When I arrived in Bruce Bay, we packed the bike in the car and drove the last stretch to our accommodations for the night at Fox Glacier.  In Fox Glacier we had the luxury of having cell service and wifi again!

Haast Pass

Day 7: April 25 – Wanaka to Haast*

Daily Distance = 62.00km, Trip Total = 131.83km, Today’s Climb = 713m

*Cycled Wanaka to Makarora, drove Makarora to Haast

 

Today I had over 150km to cover to our next available accommodation and about 10hrs of daylight (it’s generally light enough to start cycling around 7:30am and gets dark after 5:30pm).  I usually assume I can cover about 10km/hr and cycling in the dark in the mountains is out of my comfort level so, mathematically the numbers didn’t add up.  Fortunately I have parents who have a vehicle with me for this stretch of the trip!  So we agreed that I would head out in the morning and then I would stop cycling at 3pm, they would pick me up wherever I was at that point and we’d drive the rest of the way to our next night’s stop.

After a bagel and Nutella for breakfast, I was on the road by 9am.  I took Hwy 84 out of Wanaka and in a couple short km’s I turned left on Hwy 6.

The mountains coming through low hanging cloud

My view as I turned on to Hwy 6: mountains coming through low hanging cloud

 

Although the weather was a bit chilly in the morning, it was completely clear when I left.  Within 5km’s I ran in to a pretty heavy fog…

Bridge in Albert Town through the mist

Bridge in Albert Town through the fog

 

And on the other side of the bridge the fog got heavier, but I could see the sun starting to peak over the mountains so thought it would burn up quickly.

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I debated briefly picking up a trail that runs from Albert Town to Lake Hawea.  However after checking out the trail I thought it would be best to stay on the road.  While I was checking out the trail, the tour cyclist I met yesterday went rolling past with a wave!

Once I got back on the road the fog quickly dissipated.  After some small climbs and getting passed by a cyclist out on her road bike I found myself at a rest stop in Hawea where I grabbed a quick snack and carried on.

Looking over Lake Hawea from my rest stop in Hawea

Looking over Lake Hawea from my rest stop in Hawea (still some low hanging clouds)

 

I continued up Hwy 6 and pulled off at another scenic lookout overlooking Lake Hawea where I had a brief chat with an elderly man from the north island.

Another view of Lake Hawea

Another view of Lake Hawea

Here's the general view on this part of the highway; mountains to one side, road, lake to the other side

Here’s the general view on this part of the highway; mountains to one side, road, lake to the other side

 

The next 5km’s or so I felt the need to stop at every possible pullover and lookout point there was.  At the time I couldn’t understand why; but when I got to enjoy about 10km’s of pretty steady downhill later in the day, I realized I must have been climbing earlier!

The road veers from Lake Hawea and picks up the north shore of Lake Wanaka pictured here

The road veers from Lake Hawea and picks up the north shore of Lake Wanaka pictured here

Another view of Lake Wanaka

Another view of Lake Wanaka

 

Around the 40km mark I started to realize I was running out of water.  And because I was carrying limited supplies as the majority of the gear was in the campervan with my parents I didn’t have my water purifier on me.  Fortunately I was able to pick up cell reception at a lookout point at Lake Wanaka and text my parents to let them know where I was (this is a remote area, so I’d lost cell reception for a couple hours until this point).  I biked another 10km’s or so (mostly the downhill noted earlier) and with only 1/2 a bottle of water left I decided to stay put at a picnic/lookout area approx 50km into my ride.  Within 5min my parents pulled up and re-filled my water.  Note to self: going forward I’ll have to keep extra water or the water purifier on hand.

Mom and dad kindly cooked up some soup for lunch and about an hour later I was back on the road.  I was able to make it to Makarora by the time 3pm rolled around and we packed the bike into the van for the rest of the drive to Haast.

Waterfall at a scenic pullover point along Haast pass

Waterfall at a scenic pullover point along Haast pass

Snow topped mountains in the distance

Snow topped mountains in the distance

 

Haast is a pretty small town (300 people), so we were a bit surprised when our GPS took us past Haast and off Hwy 6 down a small sideroad about 13km’s where it told us our destination was located in a random field with some logs.  We continued down the road another couple hundred meters where we saw a house with a little sign indicating this was our motel for the evening.  Our hotel consisted of two small buildings each having 2 units.  The place itself was quite nice other than having spotty wifi access (apparently it has been an issue for about 4 wks, but given how rural they are, they are not high on the priority list).  I will say, these accommodations where probably just a little too remote for my liking.  It seems at this point I still like to be amongst people!

And it begins!

Day 6: April 24 – Queenstown to Wanaka

Daily Distance = 69.83km, Trip Total = 69.83km, Today’s Climb = 1077m

 

After a rather restless night, I woke up and headed to the continental breakfast at the hotel with my parents.  I was anxious to get on the road and see what lay ahead.

It was about 8:30 when I set out.  I blindly followed the directions through Queenstown on my phone which led me through a rather hilly route (note to self, next time check elevation gain on routes in hilly towns!).  I spent about 2kms climbing and then made a quick steep and windy downhill to Hwy 6 (I can now confirm my brakes work!).

Lake Wakatipu from the edge of Queenstown

Lake Wakatipu from the edge of Queenstown

 

The first 20km heading north from Queenstown had light and manegable rolling hills, it felt good to start my journey!  A few km’s in I realized my back wheel was a little low on air, so I was a bit concerned I might have a flat, but after a quick top-up I was good to go again.  I’ve now tested that all my gears, both brakes and my tire pump work!

Lake Hayes

Time for a snack at Lake Hayes

 

Just past Arrow Junction I turned left on Crown Range Road to start heading up my first set of switchbacks and my first mountain.  It took about an hour to go the next 3kms, mostly walking with breaks every 100-200 meters, usually on the side of the road perched on any guardrail I could find.

 

Time for a snack and sunscreen re-application at the top of the switchback lookout

Time for a snack and sunscreen re-application at the top of the switchbacks

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The switchbacks which take approx 1hr to walk with a bike ;)

The switchbacks which take approx 1hr to walk with a bike ;)

 

After the switchbacks the road went to a steady uphill grade for the next 5km, which I could at least get back on the bike for.  The following 3km was back to walking as the road made another steady climb.  It was during this last 3km climb that I was overtaken by another tour cyclist also walking his bike up the mountain.  This encouraged me for two reasons: 1) I wasn’t the only tour cyclist on the road and 2) I wasn’t the only one walking this stretch!

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Each bend in the road I tried to convince myself that the next one would be the top.  Finally I started to see a carpark with some hiking trails leading from it so I started to hope that was the peak and guess what?  It was!

10km's and several hours of climbing later I'd conquered my first mountain

10km’s and several hours of climbing later I’d conquered my first mountain

View from the summit, around the middle of the frame there is a lake - that's Lake Wakatipa (where I had started the day)

View from the summit, around the middle of the frame, nestled between the valley of the mountains there is a lake – that’s Lake Wakatipu (where I had started the day)

 

After summiting the mountain I had a quick drop for about 4km followed by about 35km’s of gradual descent through the valley and into Wanaka.

Valley ride on the way into Wanaka

Valley ride on the way into Wanaka

Stopped for a quick photo op in Cardrona along the valley road

Stopped for a quick photo in Cardrona along the valley road

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Otherwise, I made a speedy ride to Wanaka.  The owner of our hotel for the night didn’t really want me to park my bike in the room, but when I explained that I have gadgets attached to it, she seemed more open to the idea.  Once we got checked in I prepped my snacks for the next day, showered and cleaned up while mom made dinner.  After dinner we took a quick walk into town and called it an early night.

Overall, I was happy with my first day on the road, it felt great to get back on the bike and move myself from point A to point B.  I almost cycled 70km’s and climbed 1,000m.  Not bad considering this is the longest ride I have done in about 1.5yrs and definitely the most climbing I have done in 4yrs (have I mentioned that I haven’t really trained for this adventure???).  Time really did get away from me prepping for this trip, so I figure I’ll have to train up on the way!

Time to think of cycling

Day 5: Sun. Apr. 23 – Queenstown

So here I am, day 5 of what is supposed to be a cycling trip and my bike is still sitting in its bike box.  To be perfectly honest, I’m a little overwhelmed by the thought of cycling through the mountains that surround me given I only have about six 2hr bike rides under my belt so far this year and that was all on flat terrain.  And I’m getting more than a bit nervous about the road condition reviews my parents are providing from their pre-scouting (they have spent the past week and a bit driving from Auckland to Queenstown and deem the roads narrow, in some cases steep with no shoulder/guardrails and fast drivers).  Oh well, I’ve come all this way, so might as well give it my best shot and if I can’t do it OR I feel like it’s too dangerous or not enjoyable, than I will shift the focus of the trip :)

Our breakfast was spent chatting with a gent and his daughter who were in town from Sydney Australia to do some hiking.  Over the course of breaky we were able to get some more useful info about what lays ahead in Australia.

After breakfast it was time to finally pull the bike out of the box and see if I could get it back in one functioning piece.  With some help from my folks, we were actually able to do this way quicker than I expected – under 1 hr.  And even better: at first flush the brakes and gear shifters still seem to be working, altho tomorrow when I start riding will be the true test!

After the bike was put together, we headed out for groceries.  Groceries have proven to be a bit of sticker shock.  I’d been forwarned that things would be pricey, but I guess I wasn’t expecting just HOW expensive!  Needless, groceries are a necessity and we were able to drive to a local Pak and Save which has some of the better prices around.  This would be the last Pak and Save that we’ll come across on the South Island given our route, so we stocked up as much as we could.  After a couple hours of grocery shopping we then spent about an hour chasing down a fuel canister for my portable camping stove.  We spent another 1/2hr or so looking for a cheap bike rack that we could attach to our campervan, but when we weren’t having any luck on this front we decided to not look any further (I was getting tired and hangry! lol!).  

I had considered doing some (or at least one) of the many adventure options that Queenstown has to offer, in particular the shotover jet boat, but given my motion sickness from the day before I decided to keep my day low key and mellow.

Overlooking Queenstown from our hostel

Overlooking Queenstown from our hostel

 

Back at our hostel, I started portioning out some food servings for the next few days lunches and organizing my gear into what I’ll carry on my bike with me and what will ride in the van.  Given my parents are joining me for this leg of the trip I have the luxury (and will take advantage) of carrying minimal supplies on my bike. :)

Next I started looking at accommodation options for the next night, and to our surprise there weren’t a lot of options left.  Given it’ll be a weekday and we suspect we are not in the main tourist season we didn’t think accommodations would be an issue.  However, given the limited selection for the following night, we actually decided to research and book our accommodations for the next 4 nights (instead of waiting until the day before or day of as originally planned).

I spent the rest of the night updating my blog.  Given it is close to midnight, pictures will have to wait for another day!

Time to get some R&R and see how my first day on the road goes tomorrow!!

Milford Sound

Day 4: Sat. Apr. 22 – Milford Sound

Suffering from a bit of jet lag, I was WIDE awake today from 2am – 4am.  So when my alarm went off at 5:15am I wasn’t an overly happy camper.  My parents and I grabbed a quick breakfast of toast and peanut butter, packed up our vehicle, checked out of our hotel and dropped off our campervan at our next nights accommodation just up the road about 1km.  Sidenote: In a later post I will provide a story (including pictures) on the campervan that my parents rented for their New Zealand trip.  Second sidenote: at some point I’ll get some pictures inserted in the posts as well – as of yet I haven’t spent anytime to move pictures to my laptop to insert into the site.  Stay tuned! [Update – pics are now inserted into posts!]

By 6:30am we were at our designated bus tour pick up location for the 5hr+ trip to Milford Sound.  We had an awesome bus driver/tour guide for our journey, who provided us with a pile of information along the way.  Unfortunately I was actually feeling some motion sickness (in hindsight, I think spending 10+ hrs on a bus the day after stepping off a 30+hr flight/layover wasn’t wise).  So I wasn’t able to enjoy the scenery along the drive or absorb as much of the info as I normally would like.

My parents chatting with our bus driver/tour guide for the day

My parents chatting with our bus driver/tour guide for the day

 

Mirror Lakes - notice the sign above the lake showing a pretty perfect reflection in the lake

Mirror Lakes – notice the sign above the lake showing a pretty perfect reflection in the lake

 

The mountains reflected in mirror lake

The mountains reflected in mirror lake

 

Believe it or not, a 1km tunnel runs through this part of the mountain

Believe it or not, a 1km tunnel runs through this part of the mountain

 

Here's the view from the other side of the tunnel!

Here’s the view from the other side of the tunnel!

 

Mountains

Mountains

Regardless, when we arrived in Milford Sound we had a 2hr boat cruise travelling out the fjord to the Tasman Sea and back.  The mountains on both sides of us were massive and breathtaking.  Words really can’t do it justice, so I’ll provide an update when I have some pictures inserted into this post.

A view from our boat tour dock

A view of Milford Sound from our boat tour dock

 

My parents taking in the views at Milford Sound

My parents taking in the views at Milford Sound

 

Some pics along our boat tour in Milford Sound:

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Trying to show a little perspective on the sheer size of the mountains, that tiny dot slightly to the right of centre in the water is a kayaker

Trying to show a little perspective on the sheer size of the mountains, that tiny dot slightly to the right of centre in the water is a kayaker and this pic only shows a small fraction of the mountain

 

This shows the same area of the mountain, the kayaker is now a tiny spec above my dad's glasses

This shows the same area of the mountain, the kayaker is now a tiny spec above my dad’s glasses

 

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We arrived back in Queenstown around 7:30pm, went for a quick walk to pick up some food, I had a gravol to ease my woozy head and had another early night.

The Flight

Day 1 to 3: Wed. Apr. 19 – Fri. Apr. 21 – The Flight

My brother dropped me off at the Toronto airport in the morning of Wed. Apr. 19th.  I did a much better job of packing my gear this time around and was actually within the allowed luggage criteria so I didn’t have any extra baggage fees this time!  Yaaaay for living and learning!  Apparently the new Toronto oversized luggage machine no longer fits bike boxes (the old one did), so I had to undue the excellent taping job, pull out some of the loose odds and ends and have everything manually scanned.  At least they provided tape after everything was successfully scanned and cleared.

The first leg of my flight was from Toronto to Dallas.  A 7.5hr layover in Dallas, followed by an overnight flight (approx 17hrs) to Sydney.  A 3.5hr layover in Sydney and the final flight to Queenstown.  In total, I believe the time in transit was about 34hrs.  I flew out of Toronto at noon on Wed. Apr. 19th (Toronto time) and landed in Queenstown, NZ on Fri. Apr. 21st at 3pm (New Zealand time).

View from the plane

View from the plane

 

My bike being loaded into the last flight from Sydney to Queenstown

My bike being loaded into the last flight from Sydney to Queenstown

 

First glimpse of the southern alps from plane

First glimpse of the southern alps from plane

 

I had been given a heads up from multiple people that New Zealand is pretty strict about what they allow in to the country.  I believe it’s to prevent insects, disease, etc.  So it wasn’t a surprise to me that I had to have some equipment scanned in the ‘biohazard’ area.  They asked some questions about my bike, but when I explained I’d only had it for about a month and it’s had limited miles on it they said they wouldn’t need to check it.  My tent on the other hand was a different story.  This they had to pull into a separate room behind closed doors and scan/clean it.  They returned it about 15min later for me to repack.  All the security employees at the airport were super friendly and very curious about my upcoming trip.  One lady even gave me some advice on a particular road NOT to cycle.  I was also encouraged to see as I went through customs that there was another passenger coming off my flight with a bike box in tow.

My parents had flown to New Zealand the week before, so they gratefully met me at the airport (at the time that I was repacking my tent).  After getting all of my gear back together I headed over to Vodafone to pick up a travel SIM card.  The agent there was also super helpful and actually made sure my phone was up and running again before I left the counter.

From the airport we immediately went to our hotel for the night in Queenstown.  From there it was a pretty lazy evening.  A walk outside felt amazing after having so much stale air between airports and planes (sometimes it really is about the small things)!

After a walk, shower and dinner I was asleep pretty early.

Here we go again

Tues. Apr. 18th – Last minute errands in Toronto

My brother was kind enough to come visit me in the afternoon, to which I immediately put him to work helping me pack up my bike.  The bike was a bit of a tight fit in the bike box but after taking off the pedals, handlebars, front tire, front racks, seat, half of the rear rack and deflating the tires we were able to squeeze it in along with some of the empty panniers.  The rest of my gear was packed into a regular cardboard box.  Both boxes were then heavily taped at all seams.  In total the gear including bike was about 90lbs.

Next on our list was a walk to the local Rogers store to drop off the rental PVR and modem.  No luck tho, unfortunately the store was closed due to a Jay’s game, so my brother offered to drop off the equipment for me the next day.

Last on our list of errands for the day was to pack up all of Dash’s supplies and drop her off at her new temporary home for the next 4mths (I should have taken a picture, but you’d be surprised how much gear goes along with a 10lb dog for 4mths)!  We managed to fit the majority of the food, treats, peepads, bowls, bed, crate, etc in her trailer and walked the two over to her sitters home.  It was tough to say goodbye, but I know she’ll be in great hands!  I also know peeps will miss the constant Dash talk in my posts, so I’ll save the story as to why I opted to leave her at home for this trip for another post!  And I’m sure there will be updates from the sitters that I can pass along so we can all get our Dash fix 😉

All of this took longer than I expected, so it was fairly late by the time we got home.  Thank goodness my bro was in town to help me out with the last minute (or should I say procrastinated?) logistics! :)