New Addition

Minty sprogged this morning:

We’re going to have a tough time telling her (yes, it’s a her !) apart from her cousin Nabaztag — when she gets bigger, anyway:

The boys look on, no doubt anticipating a new playmate:

Trip photos

Prepare to have your bandwidth usurped.

So looking through the raft of trip photos, I realized that I am guilty of doing the typical tourist thing, and taking lots of photos of pretty landscapes, when some of you might (hah hah) be just as interested to see, say, streetscapes, people doing things, what your typical pretty antique house looks like in New Zealand, the classic Kiwi woolshed, a forestry block — the sorts of things that make up our own personal mental conceptions of “New Zealand”.

It also occured to me that, really, some of the most memorable aspects of ths most recent trip were the interesting people we met: Pat & John from Lake Huron, whom we met on the ferry, and who are scouting out NZ to help their friends back in Canada plan *their* vacations; the Scottish couple who run “The Flying Haggis” pub in Picton, who’ve spent their lives living (and quite possibly running Scottish pubs) in various places around the globe (and who serve a mean grilled cheese-and-haggis toastie); Russell Gent, one of the “oldtimers” in the NZ alpaca industry, who once spent five years hunting deer and possum to make ends meet after a bad winter killed off two-thirds of his cattle; Pagan, a microbiologist who left a career developing transgenic mammals to teach high school science in Japan after a rat with a particularly ferocious zest for life inspired a crisis of conscience; Steve, another alpaca hobby farmer who moonlights as a wilderness guide in the wilds of Alaska; the garage-owner who sold us petrol and ice cream in Windwhistle, who says the wild country behind the town reminds him of his native Dartmoor…. and all the others. But I didn’t get photos of any of *them*, either.

Here’s some of what I *did* get.

The historic bridge over the Rakaia river, running blue after rains on the glaciers:

The road down to Queenstown — it gets quite dry in the middle of the island, and some places are really bleak-looking when they’re not covered in snow, or flushed with spring grass:

Lake Tekapo, one of the many pretty lakes down this way:

One of the restored Chinese miner’s huts at Arrowtown — tiny little home-made things, with a schist floor to sleep on, and a chimey made of mud and corrugated iron:

Our token Lord of the Rings site — the ford of Bruinen, complete with German backpackers panning for gold:

Three (count ’em!) shots taken on the 20km gravel road to Mount Aspiring Station — two of the Matukituki river (Stephen waded out in search of pretty purple rocks for me — isn’t he great ?), and one of the slanting light on the weirdo rock formations on the way back:

We made it to Stewart Island ! The South South Island ! Here’s a shot of one of the many pretty little coves we saw on our hike, and also one of the village cat, asleep in a file tray in the grocery store. The sign reads: “Hi, my name is Koru. Yes, I am real. I am the village cat, I live in and around the bay. I come into the shop to be fed and sleep. I am about 4 years old — Sorry I know I am beautiful — but I am not for sale.”:

A couple of moody shots of the south coast. Got wind ?

Here’s something we were sorry we missed on our first trip here — the Moeraki Boulders. Aren’t they freaky ? Gigantic spherical boulders just strewn along the beach. Oh, and a particularly friendly local cormorant. The local term for a cormorant is a “shag”, by the way.

I will be kind, and spare you photos of other people’s alpacas. :^)

We took a vacation!

Yay! We actually got off the farm and took a vacation. First time we have been off the farm in 12 months, and it was nice.

We took the Ferry over to the South Island, planning to tour around, especially down in Otago and Southland.

But of course while we were there we had to look at alpacas. Lots of alpacas. Every day but one of our 10-day trip we stopped on at least one farm filled with either alpacas of llamas. From Picton to Invercargill, we saw a bunch- and it was a lot of fun. Seeing so many different animals, hearing the opinions of the owners, and seeing the pirces being charged, was all very informative. We also learned about some of the petty politics between various big and small breeders in the region. Boy, some people can sure hold vociferous grudges!

I think the highlight was getting down to Stewart Island, which is south of the South Island, about an hours ferry ride from Bluff. We took the glass-bottom boat and saw lots of seaweed, sea-tulips, fish, sear stars and other bottom life. (And while we were down there the cell phone rang! “Sorry, can’t talk, I’m uderwater right now!”) After the boat we walked around a bit, taking trails connected to the town. Saw plenty of Kereru (wood pigeons), and heard oodles of Tui and Bellbirds. We spotted no Kaka though. They would have been fun. Stewart Island is about 98% national park, with one tiny little town (Oban).

And while we were staying with Andy in Dunedin we got to help a maiden female birth a pretty little white girl. As we were there at birth, we got to name her. The mother’s name was “Elitist”, so I suggested “Condescension”. Hee-hee. Now she is stuck with the name. Andy is hoping she may be good enough to show next year, and I think that is a great name for a show animal. But then again, I have always been a trouble-maker. Andy has also learned the danger of letting us pick names.

While we were away a huge storm ripped through Wellington, of course. 120 kph winds and heavy rains. Kerry did a great job moving the girls to cover before the storm. Many text messages were passed back and forth as we tried to convey where we wanted everyone for that sort of storm.

That same storm caused quite a shift in the weather down south. One day is is sunny and 26. The next day it is 4 C and hail is falling. After the storm all the southern alps were covered with a layer of snow. Tam was very glad she had bought lots of Merino wool clothing on sale at the Wanaka A&P show. And now we will be forever convinced that Dunedin is perpetually cold, windy and raining. It was like that in 1999, and again in 2007. Surely from those two data points we can infer it is always like that!

We got back to find that the water system had conked out in our absence, and the horses were out of water and the alpac only had a smigen left in their troughs. So Monday morning I went up and cleared the blockage, which was right at the head of the spring. But the water is flowing again, now. I also discovered we have a cute little 4-inch long crayfish living in the sediment tank. Next time I am up there I will scoop him out into the stream, where he can live out his little crayfish life.

people are cool

I left my jacket on the train Tuesday afternoon, without even realizing I’d done it. I remember looking for it the next morning in the bedroom, and assuming I’d just left it somewhere else in the house, or at work. I think it probably would’ve taken me a good while to even realize I’d *lost* it.

Except that another woman on the train *saw* me leave it on the seat, picked it up, and hung onto it for me, hoping I’d take the same train the next day. Yesterday afternoon, she waylaid me on the platform to give it back.

How cool is that ?

I’m going to buy some chocolate and hope *she* takes the same train today…