From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Server Bug Zapping Call for Participation!

In October 2009, just before the release of Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic), Mathias Gug, Dan Nurmi, and I holed up for a couple of very long days, working on the Ubuntu Eucalyptus package. Over the course of 72 hours, we uploaded Eucalyptus 7 times, fixing over 30 bugs! While Mathias, Dan, and I were co-located, we were also greatly assisted by Thierry Carrez (located +7 hours ahead) and community member Joseph Salisbury. Thierry and Joe helped tremendously with regression testing of the rapid fire uploads, triaging and squashing any new issues as they arose. This "push" was essential to delivering UEC for Ubuntu 9.10!

Well, the Server Team is going to do it again, for Ubuntu 10.04, and covering several other important server packages in addition to Eucalyptus, and we're hoping to get your help this time!

We're calling this effort Server Bug Zapping. The plans are detailed here:
The idea is that rather than waiting around for bugs to "get fixed" ...
We're going to take a more proactive approach ...

We're arming a platoon of Ubuntu Server Developers, Community Members, and Triagers, deploying them out on timed, coordinated missions, focusing our efforts on a particular packages for about a week at a time.

The first mission commences next week, March 1 - 5, 2010, targets our Virtualization stack, focusing on:
Anthony Liguori (upstream QEMU maintainer) will be helping us a bit next week, too.

If you have a particular interest in seeing these packages solid and successful in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS Server, then please lend a hand! Even if you're not a developer, we need quite a bit of help triaging the bugs, testing the new Lucid packages, confirming old bugs against the latest code, and verifying the the latest code fixes others!

Here's the plan:
  • Monday - total bug triage
    • prioritize all bugs according to a defined formula
    • confirm/reproduce any bugs in the "new" state
    • triage any bugs in the confirmed state, ie, identify the problem, test workarounds or solutions
    • expire any bugs that are invalid
    • fix-release any bugs that cannot be reproduced on the latest code
    • assign yourself (or others) triaged bugs that they can fix
    • time permitting, start working on fixes
  • Tuesday
    • bzr branch (or apt-get source) the latest lucid code
    • work on fixes, pushing to lp:~yourname/thepackage/bugnumber
    • build a package in your PPA for testing
    • get some else to verify your PPA build
    • uploader will roll all fixes into an upload for that day
  • Wednesday
    • same as Tuesday
  • Thursday
    • same as Tuesday, rolling toward a "final" release by the end of the day
  • Friday
    • Comprehensive regression testing
    • Generate status report on total uploads, bugs triaged, bugs fixed, participation
    • Post to ubuntu-server@ mailing list and the ubuntu-server blog
If you would like to get involved, please:
  1. Join the ~bug-zappers team in
  2. Subscribe to the specification and the blueprint
  3. Communicate with us in #ubuntu-server on
  4. Participate in the triage on Monday, and the bug fixing/testing Tuesday - Friday, from March 1st - April 8th
Finally, the schedule of targeted packages is not yet set in stone. The only two that are confirmed right now are March 1-5 (qemu-kvm, lxc, libvirt), and March 22-26 (eucalyptus, euca2ools). If you have suggestions of packages we should consider targeting, please let us know on the Ubuntu-Server mailing list. Please consider packages that meet the following criteria:
  • heavily used, high value
  • large number of (fixable or un-triaged) bugs
  • active upstream
  • and perhaps an upstream that's interested in participating in a week of bug triage/fixing


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Attention Encrypted Home Users...

We're rapidly pushing toward an excellent Ubuntu 10.04 LTS release, and we have made a few improvements in the way your Encrypted Home's metadata is stored.

If you configured your Encrypted Home with Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic) or Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid), then no action is required, -- you may stop reading here.

If you're not sure, and you want to check if you need to read this article, take a look at your /var/lib/ecryptfs directory. If that directory is empty, or it does not exist, you may stop reading here. If that directory has contents, then you may want to continue reading...

Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) Encrypted Home installations stored eCryptfs metadata in /var/lib/ecryptfs/$USER. This information is absolutely required to mount your Encrypted Home Directory. Actually, everything in here can be re-created if you wrote down your randomly generated mount passphrase!
Big fat reminder here ... please be absolutely certain that you have recorded your mount passphrase, on a piece of paper, stored somewhere safely, separate from your computer! You can retrieve your randomly generated passphrase by running the ecryptfs-unwrap-passphrase utility.
For Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic), new installs actually put this metadata in /home/.ecryptfs/$USER. This is far more convenient for users who put all of /home on its own partition, or for users who just simply backup all of /home.

I've previously written about how to move your metadata out of /var/lib/ecryptfs. Particularly if you're planning a Lucid upgrade of a system that was originally installed with Jaunty's Encrypted Home Directory, I strongly recommend that you follow these instructions:


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Have you taken Lucid for a testdrive yet?

Ubuntu Lucid Lynx is in Feature Freeze, and Alpha3 is right around the corner, releasing next week.

If you're running Ubuntu 9.04, 9.10, or 10.04, it's trivial to testdrive Lucid in a virtual machine, without modifying your current installation!

If you're already running Lucid, congrads! All you need to do is add the testdrive ppa, and install testdrive, and either kvm or virtualbox-ose.

Just pop open a terminal and run:
  sudo add-apt-repository ppa:testdrive/ppa && \
sudo apt-get update && \
sudo apt-get install testdrive
Then you can either run testdrive from the command line, or use the menu, Applications -> System Tools -> Testdrive.

Then, a menu will pop up, with a menu of Lucid daily images. If you have previously downloaded any of these, you should see a timestamp of the cached file. If you run testdrive everyday, your cache will stay up-to-date, and the incremental download will be much faster!

Select one of the offered ISOs, or enter a URL to another one of your choosing, and you should be off and running. Help us make Lucid Lynx the best Ubuntu to date!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I have created a handful of Google Custom Searches over the past couple of years. These are really handy ways of narrowing your search to a particular field, or set of websites.

When I first joined the Ubuntu Community, I found it difficult to comprehensively search Launchpad, and the Forums, and all the wiki's, etc. So I created the Ubuntu Developer Documentation Search.

The leaders of the Ubuntu Documentation Team found it more effective than the search they were previously using, so I created the search used at the top of the official documentation site,

During the course of my daily development activities as a Canonical Ubuntu Server Developer, Ubuntu Community Member, and Upstream Free Software Maintainer, it is often useful to search for patches, bugs, or documentation in other Linux distributions, such as Debian or Fedora. While I know the available Ubuntu resources very well, I may not necessarily have Gentoo's bugtracker or Arch's forums at my fingertips.

Thus, I created!

For each of the seven Linux distributions where I most often find useful developer documentation:
I identified the websites providing their:
  • Documentation, Wikis, Forums, Mailing Lists, Package details/sources, and Bug trackers
Let's walk through an example...
  1. Search for a term at, such as "ext4 corruption". The default results are for the entire web, without narrowing the focus. Perhaps you find what you're looking for.
  2. Next, you can focus your search by choosing one of the 7 distributions, perhaps Fedora. Now, you are only looking at results from Fedora-related websites.
  3. Finally, you can refine your search even further, by only looking at entries from, say Fedora's Documentation.
  4. Now, if you want to broaden your search once again, you can click any of the links across the top, similar to Google's home page, searching the Web, Images, Videos, Maps, News, or Shopping. And there's one bonus that Google doesn't provide across their top bar -- Wikipedia ;-)
Or just give it a shot yourself.

There's also support for a browser plugin. If you click "Install the Browser Search Plugin", you can add to your search engine tool bar (ctrl-k).

I'm using this tool every day, and it's very much helping me tread through volumes of disparate Linux documentation resources, track down patches, and correlate bugs. I hope you might find it useful too!


p.s. If there are resources or websites that I missed (as I'm not an expert in any of these distributions besides Ubuntu, please leave a comment below!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 Austin Marathon - I'm Running Ubuntu!

So yesterday was Valentine's Day, of course. Let's hope you treated your sweetheart extra sweet. Kim bought me a bottle of 14 year old Oban single malt Scotch whisky. Mmm, peaty.

But February 14, 2010 has been marked on my calendar for the last 6 months as the date of the the Austin Marathon! A couple of brilliant billboards advertised the race in Austin over the last few weeks. One said Love Austin, Run Austin. Another one said Love Hurts. :-)

I've trained with Steve Sisson's Rogue Training Systems (and Runtex University) in the past. These guys have excellent programs for new runners. They can absolutely get anyone who can run/walk 3 miles to completing a marathon with about 6 months of hard work.

My brother-in-law Josh and I trained for and ran the 2006 Freescale Austin Marathon with Rogue. We decided back in September to do the 2010 Austin Marathon, training ourselves and our friends with the techniques we learned in the past. Here's our team, at 6am morning of the race, looking sleepy, but fresh...

My personal best marathon time was 4:08 in the 2006 Austin Marathon. I was hoping to beat that time, but simply enjoying the race was the real goal.

For the first time, I actually ran the race with my camera/phone (Palm Pre). This was pretty cool, as I was able to communicate with my wife, and help coordinate the places where she'd meet us along the way. I was also able to snap some pictures along the way.

The race started at 7am, with a temperature of about 40F (4C), a bit chilly for Austin, but still pleasant running conditions. Clear, clear, clear, without a cloud anywhere to be seen.

Some people ran in costume, such as Batman...

Of course, I ran in my I'm Running Ubuntu t-shirt. Let me just say that Ubuntu is live in strong in Austin! I must have gotten 30+ Ubuntu catcalls over the course of the run!

Josh and I first saw our support crew (Kim and Gerri) having run uphill for about 2 miles, but still feeling great!

After another mile or so uphill, we hooked around, and headed back downhill toward downtown Austin.
We were supposed to see Kim again around mile 7-8, but with the roads blocked, she couldn't make it. About an hour into the race, the temperature had increased a bit, and it was time to peel off a layer. Miles 1-3 were uphill, but 4-8 were nice and downhill.

Miles 8-13 were the toughest of the race from a topography perspective, with lots of rolling hills, up and down. It was getting a bit warmer, and the first hints of exhaustion started setting in, usually on the uphills ;-)

Moreover, the density of runners split in half between miles 10 and 11, as the Half Marathoners motored on toward the finish line, leaving us Marathoners to a few more hours of fun.

Up until the 13 mile mark, three of us (Josh, Steph, and myself) ran together, chatting it up. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be the rest of the race. Josh had some severe leg cramps, dropping behind right around the 13 mile mark. Steph and I picked up the pace a bit (per our race plan) for the next 3 miles or so, but I could tell that I wouldn't be able to hold that for the rest of the race, unfortunately. So I wished her luck, and we each slipped into our own pace, just trying to make the finish line.

Just after mile 16, I had to smile when I saw a gal with an Easy button :-)

I think miles 16 and 17 were the hardest two of the race for me. These were along Great Northern Drive, a 2 mile, perfectly straight, perfectly flat, perfectly boring stretch that any technical runner in Austin probably knows. It eats your psyche.

Thankfully, Kim and Gerri were cheering me on at mile 17, and boy did I need it!
I was already a bit off my goal time, so I decided to just enjoy the race. I stopped for a good 60 seconds or so to wish my wife a happy Valentines Day, thank her for being there, and find out how my friends ahead of me were doing.

It was nice to get a bit of a recharge, and I was able to ride that for a mile or two. But around mile 20, I started to feel fatigued. For each of my previous 3 marathons, I ran at least one 22 mile long run before the race. I missed my team's 22 miler (while I was trekking through New Zealand).

Fortunately, I made a random friend. It's a great thing to do during a race. Find someone else to chat with. I met a guy named Ed. This was Ed's 53rd marathon, and 3rd in the last two months! Holy smokes. Ed was also a class of '82 Aggie (myself being a class of '01 Aggie). We Howdy'd and Gig'Em'd and Whooped our way through the next few miles. And I tried to learn as much as I could from a guy who had run 52 previous marathons.

I lost Ed during one water stop, and started struggling a bit, until I made it to mile 24, where Kim, Gerri, Steph, Josh who had to drop out of the race due to leg cramps :-( and my newest nephew Jackson!

Again, I was well out of contention for breaking my best time, so I stopped running, and spent a minute thanking everyone for their support. They encouraged me to hit the road, which I did for the best miles 25 and 26 of any marathon I've ever run.

The last two miles were downhill, through the University of Texas. Here, there was a radar speed sign, which correctly identified me as running 6 miles per hour ;-)

A few blocks later, then past National Museum of Texas, the Texas History Museum (great exhibits, if you're ever in Austin looking for something interesting to do)!

And just past the Texas History museum stands the enormous Texas State Capitol in its gleaming pink granite. The finish is near!

After a half lap around the capitol building, the finish line stood two blocks down, at Congress and 10th Avenue. A huge crowd awaited on the south side of the capitol, cheering all the way to the finish. Four hours and thirty minutes later, I had covered twenty six point two miles on foot. I had just completed my fourth marathon. Not my fastest time, but not my slowest time either. But I was proud, happy, and healthy.

And finally, back to Josh's house where we started oh so long ago that morning for the post race banquet and beers!

What's next? New Orleans in two weeks, maybe ;-)


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Byobu Icon Contest!

You might have noticed that I took a crack at designing an icon for Byobu a few months back.

While I consider myself a decent hacker, and a reasonable photographer, I'm pretty bad at vector graphics, sadly.

So I'm reaching out for your help! Have you always wanted to contribute to an open source project? Are you pretty good at vector graphics? Here's your chance ;-)

So here are the rules...
  1. Submissions must be in SVG (scalable vector graphics) format. You might want to use the Inkscape package to do your drawing.
  2. Images must be square in overall dimension.
  3. Images must scale well, being recognizable as a 16x16 pixel icon, while also looking sharp at 1200x1200.
  4. Submissions must be made via bzr and Launchpad. You should branch lp:byobu, add your SVG file, commit, and push to Launchpad. These commands might help.
    bzr branch lp:byobu
    cd byobu/icons
    cp /path/to/your/foo.svg .

    bzr add foo.svg
    bzr commit
    bzr push lp:~yourname/byobu/byobu-icon-contest
  5. Submissions must also be contributed under the GPLv3 (same license as Byobu). You can find the GPLv3 on your Ubuntu system in /usr/share/common-licenses/GPL-3.
  6. I really like the idea behind the icon that I did (a three-panel folding screen), it's just kind of ugly ;-) You are welcome to start with that .SVG and simply improve it. Or start from scratch with a design of your own!
  7. When you're satisfied with your submission, please use Launchpad's "Merge Proposal" feature.
You're also welcome to link to your submissions in the comments below for feedback from other readers!

Assuming we get some good submissions, I'd like to select a few finalists around Feb 25, and then a winner by March 1st. What does the winner receive? Well, besides bragging rights of having designed Byobu's logo, I'm going to print a few Byobu t-shirts with the new logo to show off my favorite free software project, and the winner will receive two of these shirts in whatever sizes he or she wants.

Good luck!


Saturday, February 6, 2010

KSM Now Enabled in Ubuntu Lucid

I just uploaded a qemu-kvm package that enables KSM by default on Ubuntu Lucid.

KSM is a bacronym, for Kernel SamePage Merging. Previously KSM stood for Kernel Shared Memory. KSM is a new feature of KVM, which can provide more efficient memory utilization on virtualization hosts. Basically, the host kernel tracks identical pages in memory, and stores only one copy when possible. If you're running several basically identical virtual machines, then you will likely have some identical pages in memory.

Ubuntu inherited these features from upstream with the merge of the Linux 2.6.32 kernel and the qemu-kvm 0.12.2 package. Fedora 12 shipped with the KSM kernel pieces backported to their kernel.

You can disable KSM, if you like, by editing /etc/default/qemu-kvm and then restarting qemu-kvm with sudo restart qemu-kvm.

I did a bit of very rough testing of KSM in a test deployment of Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud. I had 1 Eucalyptus Node, a simple laptop, with a dual-core 2.4GHz and 4GB of memory. I registered a single Ubuntu 9.10 64-bit server image, and started instances with 256MB of memory apiece.

With KSM disabled:
  • Running 0 VMs, the Node's memory utilization was steady around 12%
  • Running 1 VM, the Node's memory utilization was steady around 18%
  • Running 14VMs, the Node's memory utilization spiked and stabilized at 88%
With KSM enabled:
  • Running 0 VMs, the Node's memory utilization was steady around 12%
  • Running 1 VM, the Node's memory utilization was steady around 18%
  • Running 14VMs, the Node's memory utilization was steady at 60%
    • with 18,000 - 20,000 pages shared
It looks to me that KSM "saved" me about 28% of my host's memory, which is a little over a gigabyte.

If you want to try out KSM on your Lucid host:
  1. Upgrade to the latest qemu-kvm package
  2. Make sure that /sys/kernel/mm/ksm/run is set to 1 (the qemu-kvm upstart job will do this for you now)
  3. Launch two Ubuntu LiveCD ISOs
    • testdrive -u ./lucid-desktop-amd64.iso
    • testdrive -u ./lucid-desktop-amd64.iso
  4. Once they're running, you can see how many pages are shared with
    • watch cat /sys/kernel/mm/ksm/pages_shared

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Techie's Trek Across New Zealand

I had the opportunity to attend LCA2010 in Wellington, New Zealand in January of 2010. It was an amazing conference, in an awesome city. You can read all about it here.

But as soon as the conference was over, I struck out for the southern island to really get to know New Zealand.

My goal -- the Routeburn Trek -- one of the Five Great Walks of New Zealand, a 33km hike between the Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.

Readers who follow my blog know how much I like a good long walk, having written before about my treks through Scotland, Yosemite, and numerous other hikes I haven't yet written about (Grand Canyon, Big Bend, Interlaken, Cinque Terre, etc).

Leaving Wellington

I left Wellington late on Friday evening, flying Air New Zealand to Christchurch. I must say, my experience on 6 flights in 2 weeks on Air New Zealand was very impressive. These guys run an excellent operation. All of my flights were on time, no bags damaged or lost, and I was able to trivially bump my flights to earlier ones on 3 occasions, flying stand-by for no charges or extra fees (errm, Continental -- take some lessons). And their in flight safety video is genius!

I couldn't catch the direct Wellington -> Queenstown without missing some of the conference, so I had to stop over for a night in Christchurch. I didn't see any of Christchurch except the Sudima Hotel, but my even was not entirely uneventful. My bus driver noticed my Ubuntu baseball cap and proudly told me that he and his son run Kubuntu. And after checking in at the Sudima, I noticed that their internet Kiosks in the lobby were running Hardy ;-) So I watched an episode of Dexter and called it a night.

I took the first flight from Christchurch to Queenstown on Saturday morning, on a noisy little propeller aircraft. The flight was beautiful though, cruising just a bit over gorgeously carved mounts and fiords.

The landing was interesting, as we sort of spiraled down to the little Queenstown runway.

I took the bus to Queenstown's center, where I needed to checkin in person with New Zealand's Department of Conservation (DOC) office and retrieve my hiking and camping permits.

With that done, I needed to pick up a few groceries and provisions. I was traveling pretty minimally, without pots or pans, so I avoided foods I had to cook. Two containers of hummus, some tortillas, salami, granola bars, chex mix, and a small bottle of New Zealand single malt whiskey (10 year old Milford Sound). Unfortunately, the hypersensitive New Zealand biosecurity terror prevention force seized my Texas Jalapeno beef jerky when I passed through customs. Damn.

So then I hooked up with my transportation to the start of the Routeburn Trek, some 70km away from Queenstown. The drive was absolutely picturesque, driving along Lake Wakatipu for several hours.

I met a fun Canadian couple (Matt and Stephanie) on the bus, who had taken a 6 month sabbatical from work, spending the whole time hiking around New Zealand. Sounds like fun! We stopped in the tiny hamlet of Glenorchy for a few minutes, to pick up a few more hikers. The visitor center had a couple more kiosks running the same Ubuntu Hardy systems ;-)

And another half hour later, I was at the start of the Routeburn Trek for a bit of relaxation in the form of hiking twenty-something miles.

Now the end of the trek is a good 250km from Queenstown. Yeah, strange. But that's how it goes in the mountains.

The Plan
  • Day 1, Saturday, January 23, 2010
    • Start the hike at Routeburn Shelter around 2pm
    • Hike about 10km uphill past Routeburn Flats Hut
    • Spend the night at the Routeburn Falls Hut
  • Day 2, Sunday, January 24, 2010
    • Big day of hiking
    • Climb to the summit of Harris Saddle and Conical Hill
    • Traverse downhill past the Lake Mackenzie Hut
    • Spend the night at Lake Howden hike
    • Cover a goodly 20km+ of distance
  • Day 3, Monday, January 25, 2010
    • Finish the hike at the Divide Shelter
    • Catch my bus back to Queenstown at an early 10:15am
    • Done!
Hiking Day 1

Day 1 was almost entirely uphill. I prefer to start hikes like this (as oppose to hiking into canyons), as it's nice to do the uphill work on fresh legs, feet, and back. The weather was gorgeous on Saturday, sunny and clear. As the Kiwis say, the weather was 'fine'. I crossed several swing bridges (always brings me back to a playground as a kid, somehow).

Most of these span swift-moving streams.

Waterfalls appear near the trailing about every 15 or 20 minutes of walking, it seems.

About an hour into the walk, I started getting my first sweeping views of the mountainous landscape.

And another couple of hours later, I had arrived at Routeburn Flats.

Here, there's a shelter at the bottom of a "burn", specifically, Routeburn, the namesake of the trail.

I stopped for a bit, having a late lunch, brewing a tea in a borrowed pot, and filling (and treating) my water bottle from the stream. I also visited a bit and said my goodbyes to Matt and Stephanie, my mates from the bus ride from Queenstown.

Having rested my feet a bit, I started the much steeper climb up to Routeburn Falls Hut. I was in no rush, having plenty of daylight and time to reach the hut.

So I hiked comfortably, stopping to take lots of pictures, rewarded by some outstanding views of the burn below and the peaks above.

I arrived at Routeburn Falls Hut a few hours before sunset, and managed to watch the mountains glow in a clear twilight.

The views of the valley below, from the hut, were simply spectacular.

The evening's ranger talk was fun and interesting, hearing a bit about the history of the trail and the wildlife. Our ranger left us with a challenge for the evening, which I found quite interesting! There was a huge canvas on one of the walls with "Welcome to Routeburn Falls, Merry Christmas) written in 30 languages. He offered a huge bar of chocolate to the first person or team to identify 25 of those languages correctly!

Well, I had dinner with a young couple named Gary and Kylie, and Gary's mom -- all locals from New Zealand's southern island. And managed to team up with another couple (Nico from Italy and Rochel from Australia) for the language challenge. What a fun way to spend the evening! We managed to get 22 answers correct. Unfortunately, we mixed up Chinese/Japanese, and Norwegian/Swedish. We did manage to get a ton of them right, though. I recall having identified at least French, German, Dutch, Celtic, Spanish, Catylan, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Maori, Danish, Hebrew, Arabic, Korean. I know that we missed at least Slovenian, Ukranian, Punjabi. In any case, we didn't win the chocolate. But I did learn to play a card game called 500 (similar to Euchre, 42, Hearts, or Spades). Eventually, I called it a night, and turned in to my bunk.

Hiking Day 2

I didn't get a particularly good night of sleep, as it rained quite a bit. I had every intention of starting my hike by 7am, but it was raining pretty hard. I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and tried to get a few more ZZZs. By 8am, I realized that the rain wasn't necessarily going to pass, and I had a solid 20km to cover. Time to don the rain gear. But first, coffee!

So I started out a bit after 8:15am on Sunday morning. The hut was absolutely packed the previous night, with a huge group of 27 hikers in a commercial outfit. Unfortunately, the trail was rather packed with some 35+ hikers trying to cover the next few miles uphill at basically the same time. There was a lot of passing and being passed, on very narrow, very steep trails. Oh, and it was raining. Only occasionally a driving rain. But more regularly a misty, soaking rain. It was an uphill climb, gaining over 2000 feet of altitude, basically hiking into a wet cloud!

Wet, crowded, cold, uphill hiking -- not exactly ideal conditions. But all that changed once I passed over 4000 feet, and stood above the rain clouds.

The skies were clear, and the views of Lake Harris were simply spectacular.

I took a few hundred pictures in the next hour, of Lake Harris and the dozens of snow covered peaks in every direction. The rain ceased, and I was able to peel off my rain gear and start drying off, now that I was basically above the clouds.

Near the top of the saddle is another hut. Members of the big group were trickling into the hut where their organizers were boiling water for tea and hot chocolate.

At the Harris Saddle Shelter, I decided to drop my pack for a bit...

And spent the next 1-2 hours hiking to the summit of Conical Hill, where last night's ranger promised breathtaking views.

About half way up, the views of Lake Harris were even more incredible.

But once I got to the top, it was totally enshrouded in cloud. I literally couldn't see anything.

I hung around for a good 15-30 minutes, waiting for the clouds to break, and they finally did, partially, and only for a few seconds. I could see a vast mountain range of gorgeous, snow capped peaks in the distance!

I could watch as clouds climbed over mountains and a seemingly accelerated pace. It was very beautiful. I have some nice video clips, too.

Eventually, I made my way back down Conical Hill, grabbed my pack, and started a long traverse around the back side of the mountain. I took a few pictures, but unfortunately most of them were in a thick fog, an don't look very good.

Eventually, I completed the traverse, rounding the side of the mountain, and was rewarded with views of Lake Mackenzie far, far below.

I could actually see the Lake Mackenzie Hut (my next stop) here, several miles away. But I was deceptively far away! It took nearly two hours to negotiate the steep, seemingly endless series of switchbacks down the hillside to the shores of the lake and the hut. My last 4 hours of hiking had been spent above the tree line, but now I was just making it back down below.

It's worth mentioning that New Zealand is the home to some 70+ species of fern, and the dense, lush rain forests are absolutely covered in them.

So the Lake MacKenzie Hut was a sight for sore legs. It was quite sunny and warm, and I was really happy to stop for a good hour or so.

I took a dip in icy (8C, 46F) Lake Mackenzie, and then hung around for a bit on the beach, drying off in the warm sun.

And after my nice respite, I set off for the end of my long day's hike. By this point, the skies had totally cleared, and the beautiful mountains of Fiordland National Park were in perfect view.

Mountain daisies covered both sides of the trail.

And I got totally sun burnt!

About half way to Lake Howden, I passed through the 174m (570 foot) Earland Falls.

And while it was certainly amazing from a distance, it looked like a scene from The Blue Lagoon up close.

And about an hour later (and 20km after I started my journey earlier that morning), I finally arrived at Lake Howden Hut.

Finally, I could get some rest, and reflect on how far I had hiked that day!

This hut was far less crowded than the previous nights' accommodation. There were only a few people, really. There was a really nice kid named Jonathan from Sydney (who, coincidentally had studied abroad at UT in Austin), traveling with his father who was an ultra-marathoner. But I really got a kick out of Carl, his sister Megan, and his girlfriend Sam, who were a lot of fun to chat with as the evening slipped away.

So I munched on my dinner, finished my whisky, and got an excellent night's sleep.

Hiking Day 3

I woke early the next morning, as I had to finish my hike and board a bus by a whopping 10:15am!

The fog rolled slowly over Lake Howden that morning.

The beginning of the morning's hike was actually quite steep! But once I made it to the crest, I could see all of the valley below, all the way down the burn, to mountains many, many miles in the distance.

After a few more waterfalls, and a nice traipse down a fern-filled trail, I had completed the Routeburn Trek!

I hung around the Divide Shelter for the next hour or so, awaiting my bus.

Near the shelter, I found some really interesting purple flowers...

With some strange patterns inside. They look like something from Avatar :-) Can anyone help me identify this plant?

And alas, my bus arrived, perfectly on time. I dozed off for a bit of the 5 hour drive back to Queenstown, but I can guarantee that the scenery was spectacular. I was just exhausted!


To close the trip, I had one relaxing day and night in Queenstown, where I stayed at the rather fancy Nomads Hostel. This place is in a totally different league from the hostels I stayed at nearly 10 years ago backpacking around Europe in 2001. The town is right on Lake Wakatipu, with a nice, clean beach.

I actually watched the end of the NFL playoff game where Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints beat Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings in overtime in a rocking Superdome. Who dat!

After I finished my fish-n-chips and a Guinness, I took a very cold dip in the lake, brrr!

I wandered around Queenstown for a bit, buying a few souvenirs, enjoying an ice cream, and passed back by the beach around sunset.

I finished my trip with a blind pub crawl organized by the Nomads Hostel, which was surprisingly fun! And that's about it. What a trip! I hope you enjoyed my narrative and pictures. I certainly enjoyed recapping it.

Kia ora,