Watery victory in the Fjordlands

No good adventure would be complete without Cat exclaiming "Frankki, we're losing power...." as we were hurrying toward Christchurch to pick up our 3rd partner in crime...luckily, running out of gas can be fixed by hitchhiking with the first German surfer in a van who stops to take you to a gas station.
On our drive from Christchurch to Queenstown (that same day) we stopped for a nice dinner before going into the world of freeze dried and pre-packaged meals. It turns out trouble makers #2 and #3 actually knew each other from the bay area way back in the day, which always adds to the feeling of fulfilling a prophesized quest for human greatness in the Fjordlands.
Here is us at Time = 0
about T = 3 hours...first (and only) fresh horse carcass. I am smiling here, but I admit that this image lingered with me through the afternoon...especially because the hoof was the only thing not fully decomposed....gross...
T  = ~7 hours...already looking a little crazy, in my opinion.
T = 20 hours...we have no idea what is in store for us on this brutal day 2. My camera battery died, so I don't have documentation of the grim challenges that followed, let it suffice to say that at my low point I yelled into the forrest "I am not playing your water mind games and more!" and proceded to make my 30th river crossing by just walking through - without any hope of keeping my lower half dry
T = ...umm, sometime on the 3rd day...you'd never guess from these pictures that we just spent the last 40min climbing and slipping up a "trail" covered in ice/snow and flowing ice water. Wow, did it feel good to get to the top...so good.
Fly Frankki!
Fly Steve!
Fly Cat!

Total bliss in wine country

Frankki and I designed to have 2 days of luxury and indulgence between camping trips, which turned out to be an amazingly good call.
We ate divinly fresh lunches at wineries bathed in sunlight paired with our favorite white wines from the tastings before lunch!
We biked like crazy kids between the wineries to visit as many wineries (and chocolatiers) as we could :)...I don't think this picture captures fully how exhausted and gross I am at this point in the day...it turns out Frankki is a much stronger biker than I am and I had to draft behind her to keep up:)...yay for drafting
...I can't believe we got to stay here for 2 nights...it was incredible down to every detail. I can't recommend it highly enough if you ever visit the Marlborough wine region
This is Jo, our BandB host, feeding her little pack of alpacas in the morning. The alpacas keep the grass in the olive orchard nice and short....did you know alpacas only go to the bathroom in a specific area?
Jo brought us breakfast of our choosing up into our separate B&B house every morning at the time of our choosing...you can't get much better taken care of than I felt here

Bring on Abel Tasman, New Zealand

The first camping venture that Frankki and I did together was in Abel Tasman on the northwestern corner of the southern island. Abel Tasman is one of New Zealand's 7 designated "great walks" and we knocked out the 40km+ venture in 24 hours...not that we didn't want to enjoy the beautiful scenery...but because we are fit and crazy and we can :)
One of the aspects of the Abel Tasman hike that makes it so interesting is that there are multiple sections of the trail that can only be crossed within 2 hours of low tide. Here are Frankki and I on the morning of the second day crossing a long flat stretch that would be under several feet of water within hours.
Some parts of the crossing were already under water and we took off our boots and walked through the chilly morning water over a bed of small shells. This picture is of Frankki making her way in the early morning sunlight.
The ripples in the sand were beautiful
I am not really in a chronological kind of mood, so thank you for bearing with me. Here is dinner the first night. Upon inspection it appears to be some sort of pasta with alfredo sauce and tuna fish...and a bottle of wine. I can tell you we were less appreciative of the bottle of wine after walking 20+ miles of up/down terrain, but were determined not to carry it any further and shared it with some young french friends at our camp site who showed us a magical glow worm cave just off the beach. We went into this cave and were under a mini starry sky and then emerged into the universe and were under a much larger starry sky.
Here is a picture of Frankki standing in the ocean waiting for the ferry taxi that will pick us up on this beach in another 20min. The cold water felt good on our joints.
I am very fond of this picture...I feel all smily inside


The man I get to marry

WARNING: This blog contains shameless celebration of my fiance and may not represent the views of a neutral observer.

Nate is a hybrid of Leonardo DaVinci and Iron Man
Like Leo, Nate is also an engineer and an inventor, winning MIT's biggest prize for student inventors. This past January, distant Singapore University invited him to speak about creativity and entrepreneurship to their students. He was also a host for a children's engineering reality TV show for 3 seasons and won a Peabody award in 2007. Here is Nate with another guy who does stuff on TV.
For a listing of Nate's accolades, I was shocked to find out I can look him up on wikipedia:

However, the real reason I like him is that he is a model he has filled his life with activities and people he loves and that give him energy. He is guided by his values as strongly as anyone I know, and finds inspiration all around him. He brings his best to everything he does with a thankfulness for each opportunity.

When he is in the gym, people stare and try desperately to comprehend how it is possible to do pull ups with 60 extra lbs and then do push ups with his hands balancing on pointy-spikes, one foot on a rubber ball and the other foot on nothing.

Nate's dedication to pushing his own physical limits has become art in itself. See Nate in a tux on the pole vault run way at last years MIT Prom Vault , Nate running up the tree (!?what!!?) before flipping off backward and Nate doing a "flagpole" in Boston.

He also loves nature and what more natural way to celebrate it than ice climbing at sunset.
 In the evenings, Nate tries to make time for his music and plays piano in a jazz trio and practices his beat boxing. If you are interested in beat boxing, or don't know what it is, you can find him on YouTube, and be the1,417,798th viewer:

You would think that "DaVinci" Nate would feel pretty good at this point, but it turns out he also has a full time job! He co-founded Atlas Devices 5 years ago with friends who he respects and cherishes. The company creates rescue equipment for the military, and -naturally -Nate has to test their products out of moving helicopters.

 If you would like to watch any of Nate's Danger Club videos (the ones with the flipping) or Design Squad (the ones with the children with power tools) episodes...you can find links on his website:

So, how did I unwittingly land the love of my life?
Nate and I met for the first time weight lifting during preseason by the indoor track at MIT in 2001. We lived in the same dorm that year and I remember helping him with his German homework. Over the next 3 years we trained together 2-3 hours a day for 8 months a year. My respect for and trust in Nate grew every day as he showed up early to practice, helped support the pole vault women at meets, helped me organize pole vaulter dim sum outings, and would offer to spot me while lifting. As time passed, our shared history grew along with our commitment to the pole vault team. Spending time together became so natural that we often ate dinner, played table tennis, and watched movies after practice. 

After finshing undergrad, we continued to go to dim sum and see the occasional movie or art exhibit. When I defended my PhD in Nov 2007, the pole vault team showed up to support me and after I answered the last panel question, they took off their shirts to reveal: "Dr. Cat!" written on their chests... I couldn't have been more surprised or thrilled at this climax to my academic adventure.

After my PhD, I moved to Philly for work. Nate and I spoke on the phone every month or two sharing the new challenges and goals we were taking on in our lives. I always got off the phone feeling inspired and energized, wanting to run like mad through a park and jump around.
In November of 2009, Nate and I were simultaneously single for the first time since we met in 2001. In the past 8 years, we have seen each other at our best and worst in our respective relationships, and are incredibly thankful for all the experiences we have had individually. Although we had never discussed being in a relationship before, we knew that our trust and respect for each other guaranteed that our friendship would only be deepened through being vulnerable and open with each other. 
We cleared our schedules for Dec 9 and 10 and although we were frightened, spent two days imagining what it would be like to spend our lives together. Although we understood that we weren't making any commitments, I left with the feeling - "where can I sign up for this?". Nate must have felt the same way since he flew to Tahoe for 2 days before New Years so we could see each other before I left for my four months of traveling. 
On Jan 21, I met Nate at the airport in Siem Reap, Cambodia. At sunset on Jan 22 we sat on top of some ruins and agreed that although our minds couldn't rationalize it, we both knew that we wanted to get engaged here. We had dinner reservations watching traditional Cambodian dances and at 8:30pm we decided we'd try to find a ring. We found a jewelry store open for another 20min and I had the lady take out about 20 sparkling and brightly colored rings: light blue, gree, red - most of them set with lots of little stones around them...we wanted something simpler. The woman offered us a ring with a large white sapphire ("cambodian diamond") for $160. We bargained her down to a bitterly low $100, which she agreed to if we paid in cash, at which point Nate turned to me.Once we were back in the hotel, Nate confirmed on-line that white sapphires actually exist.

The next morning at breakfast we we were amused at how nervous we were despite us literally being the only ones in the world to know that we were going to attempt an engagement that day: "I don't know how this is supposed to work...I haven't gotten engaged before"...."Should I get down on one knee?" / "I think that would be nice - not too long though" / "Good, that was what I was thinking too"....and so we wandered around Ankor Wat until around 9am we found a spot in the inner courtyard that was quiet and shady and Nate got down on one knee and asked: "Catherine Anne Tweedie, will you marry me?" "Nathan Barker Ball, I will."

After the sliding on of the ring, we spent the rest of the day climbing over carved ruins, periodically forgetting and then enthusiastically remembering. For the next two months I wrote Nate letters in my journal by beaches, on cliffs, in jungles and would email him images of the letters when I came to a computer. Although I shared the news over skype with my parents and sister, we waited to announce our engagement until  we could do it together in April.

I returned to Nate in Cambridge on March 31, 2010. Within 10 days we had announced our engagement and found our dream home to share for the next few years. We will move into our sunny, industrial loft, two blocks from Davis Square on May 22nd and look forward to inviting everyone to our housewarming / engagement party the weekend of June 4th.

So, there you have it. I am tumbling in love.


And finally with a huge grin....I am engaged

more details to come

Hail beautiful Kiwi Land. Add one Frankki.

I am back in the US now, but I spent so much of my time in NZ hiking that these pictures are about 3 weeks old - but I assure you they were worth the wait. Above is the view from the Pinnacles hike in Coromandel park about 2 hours from Aukland.
After finishing the 20km pinnacles hike by 3pm, I decided to drive 5 hours south so I could start the 24km Tongariro crossing the next morning. This was some of the most beautiful driving I have ever enjoyed. No cars. Just me, the car, the road and beautiful landscapes.
I arrived in the town that I planned to stay in to find that all the reception desks seemed to be closed for the night. In the spirit of independence and ruggedness I decided to put on all the clothes I had (Frankki had not yet arrived with my camping gear) and spend the night in the car....lets just say that I had to run the car every 90min throughout the night to bring my body temperature up....BUT, the reception desk opened in the morning and the hot breakfast above was incredible!
After the breakfast I was blessed with clearing skies and some of the most beautiful weather for the Tongariro crossing that could possibly be hoped for.
I don't know..it was just so beautiful
After the second day hike I drove back north to pick up Frankki from Aukland and we traveled north to the Bay of Islands and then all the way to the tip of the northern island  where the Maori spirits are believed to depart the human world.
On the way back, we took a bus along the 90 mile beach and stopped for some tobogganing on giant sand dunes.
Ahhh....seeing this after being home for over a week melts my heart