Last night we had a total lunar eclipse. The weather-gos were kind, and the clouds did not roll in until it had gotten to the full phase, all red and dark. Since we have 3+ years to wait until the next one, I am glad we caught this one. One can never tell what the clouds will do down here. Just 6 hours earlier the clouds had been whipping by- at ground level. Well, ground level for us up in the hills. It is very dramatic to have the wisps of white moving ghost-like across the landscape. Reminds me of many scenes from Miyazaki films.
In some parts of the world, signs of impending Spring are things like, oh, birds returning, or the first crocuses coming up through the snow. Here, where it’s always green and something’s always blooming, it’s the appearance of the first crew teams sculling out on the still morning harbor, and increasing flocks of backpackers making their bleary way to the morning ferry sailings.
The first week Holly was here I was her assigned entertainment provider. This involved a trip over to the Wairarapa and a walk up the Putangirua Pinacles (site of the “paths of the dead” from the LoTR). We also had another visit to Te Papa, a morning of walking a llama and an alpaca up the valley, and a trip to the Nga Manu nature sanctuary. I think Nga Manu might have been the best, as when we went into the Kaka enclosure one young males decided that the scented soap Holly uses was the best thing ever. He sat upon her shoulder, and rubbed his rather large beak against her neck with manic glee, then preened his own feathers to transfer the scent. When I tried to get him off her shoulder, he just pushed me away withh his beak. Very amusing.
On Friday morning Tam, Hollly, Emily and I hopped in the car and drove north, to Rotorua. Renting a hotel room where you have your own private hot-spring mineral bath in the back- brilliant. Going to the Hangi was also fun, Tam and I realized after the fact that it was the same place we went to 8 years ago when we first visited NZ. On the way back from Rotorua we swung east through Napier, the art deco city (flattened in 1931 by a huge earthquake and rebuilt in the “modern” style off the time, the city then sunk into a lengthy economic malaise which preserved that nifty architecture long enough for it to be appricated, and protected as historic landmarks). We returned home Sunday night.
Tuesday we were off on our next big trip- this time on the Ferry for the South Island portion with Tam, Holly, me, and a well-packed little car.
Tuesday- Took morning ferry acorss, drove to Nelson, visited the Wearable Arts Museum (WoW).
Wednesday- A morning of art&craft shopping in Nelson, we then drove to Westport.
Thursday- We visited cape Foulwind just south of Westport and saw the fur seal colony there, drove down to Punakaiki and saw the pancake rocks, drove down to Hokatika where Tam and Holly left me in a cafe to read as they shopped for carved jade jewlery for hours. Then down to Franz Joseph for a hotel.
Friday- Walked up to the face of Fox glacier. Drove to Haast where we bought a nifty rack of deer antlers+skull. Drove up over the Haast pass, stopping to admire the raging torrents of water. Had dinner in Queenstown, and fled the crowded over-development as quickly as possible. Ended up in Te Anau.
Saturday- We had planned to go to Milford Sound, but rain and landslips had closed the road. Luckily we managed to get on one of the tours to Doubtful Sound. More expensive, but totally worth it. A 45 minute both ride across lake Manapouri to the power station (nifty underground hydroelectic station), then a bus ride over the pass to Doubtful Sound, whereupon we had a 3 hour cruise on the sound (Technically it is actually a fjord, but the old incorrect name of “sound” has stuck). Thankfully the rain, which was pouring at start, lightened up considerably towards the end. The mountains of Fjordland are steep and rocky, so the water comes off immediately. So we were presented with the most amazing array of waterfalls. Hundreds of them, and they were vast in scale. 500+ meter drops were so common they stopped being remarkable. Clouds hid the mountaintops, so it looked like rivers of water were just pouring out of the air in places. A great experience.
Sunday- Drove to Dunedin. Stopped for lunch in Gore. What more can I say. Gore. Whee! We determined that it is impossible when driving across Southland on a Sunday morning to know if Z-day has come or not. The towns are empty, and what little movement can been seen looks all to much like the shuffling restless dead. In Dunedin we drove out to the end fo the penninsula to see the albatross colony, which was fully of young but very large chicks that were just getting ready to take first flights, so they stood in the wind, wings spread, practicing the feel of it. That evening we stayed with our friend Andy.
Monday- The big drive northwards. Saw the Dunedin railway station before we left, as it is a world heritage site and worth the visit. We then motored north, stopping to visit the Moeraki boulders, and ending up in the Christchurch area. We had some time to explore downtown as the sun was setting. We then drove up to Amberly to spend the night.
Tuesday- Took the inland route to Kaikoura, which put us abover the snow-line for a time. About 2 inches of fresh snow made for a landscape different from the persistent green (and maybe brown in summer) which is the NZ norm. In Kaikoura we went out on the noon whale-watch. Great success! Where they expect you to normally spot 1-2 whales, we spotted 5! There were also wandering albatross about (largest wingspan bird), plus plenty of other seabirds. We also spotted fur seals and a small pod of dusky dolphins. All the whales were young male sprem whaes, which spend much of the year off Kaikoura diving into the deep trench looking for squid, trying to bulk up so that one day they will be big enough to compete in the mating game.
Wednesday- Drove up towards picton. Stopped off to chat with Russel at Totara Grove. Had a great meal in Picton, where you can get some fabulous home-made Haggis at the local pub, called “The flying haggis” of course. The pub is for sale, if anyone is interested. Then it was on a ferry back acorss to Wellington.
Thursday- Tam took Holly up to Waikinae to visit the studio of the potter that did most of the clay-ware for LoTR.
Friday- Took Holly to the airport. We were sad to see her go, it was a great trip.