NZ2020: Days 7 and 8, Queenstown

January 31, 2020

After our morning hike near Lake Wanaka, and then our drive over the Crown Range Road, our guide dropped us off at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Queenstown, at about 3 pm. We were directly across from the waterfront, in a walking friendly area of restaurants, shops, and booking agents for any amazing outdoor activities one could wish. My husband was able to schedule a quick dental appointment for a tooth that was acting up. We did our laundry, had a delicious dinner at Bombay Palace, and walked around the harbor area.

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Queenstown Harbor and the Remarkable Mountains from our hotel lobby.

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Choose your adventure here!

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Lots of people enjoying buskers along the waterfront.

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Pier walk.

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The Wakatipu Vessel by Virginia King depicts a waka (Maori canoe). This is just across the street from our hotel.

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February 1, 2020

The next day we wandered around, and explored this beautiful setting. We were surrounded by views of Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkable Mountains, and Ben Lomand. Dan was able to get a haircut, and we did a little shopping in a craft fair that was set up in the park.

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The poem Waipounamu by David Eggleton is inscribed in a long ribbon along the harbor wall.

 

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Each phrase evokes an image or a moment in history of this place.

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Local geology is highlighted in this plaza.

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Kiwi imagery.

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A giant Kiwi sculpture.

After lunch we  walked through the arboretum.

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Fern sculpture.

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Lily pond

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Carved support for a huge tree.

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Another view…

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We looked back to see the Skyline Gondola going up Bob’s Peak, gateway to the Ben Lomand Trail, which was on our agenda for later in the week.

My google map showed me a “Bench with a beautiful view” at the far end of the peninsula. That seemed a worthy goal for our wanderings.

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It was a bit windy, but felt good to sit for a bit.

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Looking east from the bench.

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Looking west from the bench.

Later, we ate dinner at a Thai restaurant with a window overlooking the harbor and mountains, and then took an evening stroll westward along the shore of Lake Wakatipu.  It had been a relaxing day filled with beautiful views and about 5 miles of walking.

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The TSS Earnslaw, a 1912 coal powered steamship.

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Double Cone Peak, Remarkables.

We carefully repacked our luggage. Tomorrow, the first day of the rest of our guided tour, would include an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound.

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The Remarkables beyond The Wakatipu Vessel in evening light.

NZ2020: Day 7, Lake Wanaka

Friday, January 31, 2020 –

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Sunrise in Makarora

We left Makarora after an early breakfast, for a drive inland and our first look at some of the enormous glacial lakes that line the landward side of the Southern Alps.

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The first of these was Lake Wanaka, whose shores we drove by for a while. To the east we could see Mt Aspiring in the Southern Alps.

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Lake Wanaka

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Mt Aspiring

The highway crosses over to the shore of Lake Hawea, another vast body of water, beyond what I was expecting. The lakes look huge on the map, but driving along them for many miles gives a true sense of their vastness.

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea

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Cabbage Tree near Lake Hawea

We arrived in the town of Wanaka, at the south end of the lake, for a short stop.

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Curious attraction outside Wanaka…

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Lake Wanaka waterfront, Southern Alps view.

We then drove up the west side of the lake to our hike of the day – the Diamond Track up Rocky Mountain.

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Rocky Mountain

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It was windy, and in some areas the trail was very steep, with ladders up the cliffs.

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Trail up the glaciated schist cliffs.

Views from the Diamond Lake overlook:

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We continued upward through strong wind to the very top of the mountain, where the golden grass of late summer lay nearly flat in the wind.

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Almost to the top…

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Panorama from the summit.

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Windy view of Lake Wanaka

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Southern Alps

After taking a few quick pictures from the top, we descended a short way down the return trail to a sheltered spot where we could eat lunch and enjoy the view back toward Wanaka.

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Coming down out of the wind…

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Lunch view of Lake Wanaka from Rocky Mountain.

This was our hardest and steepest hike so far, and a good warm up/conditioning hike for a couple of more challenging hikes ahead.  (Hike #8, 5 miles, 1400 feet.)

We made another short stop in Wanaka.

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The Southern Alps again, from Lake Wanaka waterfront.

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Tourists and sea gulls

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Geese

Next, we drove south over the high Crown Range Road with amazing views in all directions.

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Looking east – we are on the dry side of the mountains now – no rainforest in sight.

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Queenstown ahead, from the Crown Range Road.

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From the pass, the road descends two thousand feet into Queenstown, situated on lovely Lake Wakatipu. Our guide dropped us at our hotel, and we now had the next day off from the tour to explore Queenstown on our own. That will be in the next NZ2020 post.

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The well named Remarkables on the far skyline are the backdrop to beautiful Queenstown.

NZ2020: Day 6, Franz Josef Glacier

January 30, 2020 –

After our rainy drive yesterday, we were delighted to see the mountains above Franz Josef this morning.

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Blue sky and snow capped peaks, Franz Josef, New Zealand.

Franz Josef Glacier hike

We had an early start for our walk to the Franz Josef Glacier viewpoint. I remember thinking, as we walked up the Waiho Valley, that this was our best hike so far!

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Waiho River Valley

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The glacier is filling the valley on the left.

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The trail emerges from the forest at an overlook that marks the advanced position of the glacier in 1908.

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We still have a bit of a walk to get closer to the glacier.

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Zooming in on the glacier from the 1908 overlook.

We continued walking up the glaciated Franz Valley on sediment eroded from the mountains above.

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Haast Schists – beautiful metamorphic rocks!

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We reached the river crossing, and continued walking up the valley.

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A huge waterfall is gushing out of rocks below the glacier on the right – we can see the mist cloud from here.

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Jagged glacier surface

We passed waterfalls and beautiful, glacially polished schists in the valley walls.

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The last viewpoint is ahead, on the low hummocks.

We reached the end of the trail, the closest viewpoint, due to safety concerns.

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From here we can see the waterfall mist cloud, but not the waterfall. Helicopter tours were landing in front of the dark rocky area on the left side – they looked like ants from here.

The bare scraped rocks and talus piles were covered in colorful lichens and mosses.

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Turbulent water full of glacial dust in the outflow stream.

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View down the Waiho Valley from the upper endpoint of the trail.

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Last look back at the Franz Josef Glacier from the valley trail.

We continued walking on the local trail network to a couple of other viewpoints, first to Sentinal Rock.

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Franz Josef Glacier from Sentinal Rock.

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Winding Waiho River.

We continued on a short distance to Peter’s Pool.

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Reflections in Peter’s Pool

By the time we were leaving the area, the clouds had moved in again among the peaks. I’m glad we got an early start to our day! (Hike#6, 5 miles, 400 feet)

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Car park view: I love that this tour bus has kiwi-shaped grill openings.

Alpine Fault geology interlude. I loved learning about New Zealand geology on this trip. I didn’t research much before our travels. As the landscape unfurled before me, I enjoyed looking, learning and speculating. Now I am investigating in more detail as I process my photos and thoughts. I learned in Franz Josef that the giant, active Alpine Fault runs right through the center of town. The Alpine Fault is a major transcurrent fault and tectonic plate boundary between the Pacific and Australian plates. The Southern Alps are constantly rising along the fault zone that connects subduction zones to the north and south. The metamorphic rocks I saw along the Waiho River were deformed along the plate boundary.

On with our tour:

After our hike we continued south on Hwy 6, with much beautiful scenery ahead for the day. Our guide spotted and pointed out many recent land slips in the mountains, and we had several road repair delays. There had already been flooding this year, with more to come! But we didn’t know that yet.

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Lake Matheson

We stopped for a walk around Lake Matheson.

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Hike #7, 3 miles, 200 feet.

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New Zealand pigeon (kereru) posing near the trailhead.

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At this viewpoint, the Southern Alps may be seen reflected in the lake.

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We were not so lucky today – the clouds had moved in.

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It was a lovely hike, with beautiful lunchtime views of the lake, and interesting foliage to admire.

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Kidney ferns

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Lancewood

Knights Point

Farther south on Hwy 6, we stopped at this clifftop viewpoint over the Tasman Sea.

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Treeferns, lancewood and flax covered the coastal cliffs to the north.

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To the south we could see to a headland. When I zoomed in, I could see that some of the ‘rocks’ were actually Elephant seals.

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Elephant seals

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Ship Creek

The highway descended back to sea level. Our stop at Ship Creek was our last chance to walk on a West Coast beach before we turned east to cross the mountains at Haast Pass. We climbed up the Observation Tower for a wide view, then spent a little time on the beach.

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View of the beach from the Observation Tower.

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View inland from the tower.

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Sand dunes

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Beach boardwalk, going north.

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Pebbly shingled beach – great skipping stones!

Onward! Our views were diminished by clouds as we headed east into the mountains.

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Driving view as we cross over the Haast River on the longest one lane bridge in New Zealand .

 

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In Haast Pass, where rivers change direction.

We made a brief stop in Mt Aspiring National Park to see Thunder Creek Falls.

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Thunder Creek Falls

Our overnight destination was a lodge at Makarora.

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Evening sky above Makarora.

We would be headed to Lake Wanaka tomorrow.

Note: The most difficult thing about these posts is paring down the photos. I love to remember every view!

 

NZ 2020: Day 5, Point Elizabeth, Hokitika, Lake Mahinapua

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

After our relatively dry day yesterday in Punakaiki, we encountered more of the rain of the rainy West Coast on our way south to Franz Josef.Image 4-14-20 at 5.55 PM

Point Elizabeth Track in the rain – palms and seals

We started the day with a hike through rainforest to a coastal viewpoint at Point Elizabeth.  Highlights were lots of blooming nikau palm trees, and then our first sighting of fur seals for the trip.

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View north toward Rapahoe

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Landward mountains

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View south toward Point Elizabeth

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Into the rainforest

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Tree fuchsias

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Nikau palm trees

Views from Point Elizabeth:

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Looking down at the fur seals near the cliffs.

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Still misty as we hike out.

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Hokitika

We stopped to eat lunch and browse the shops offering Maori greenstone carvings.

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Views from the Hokitika River Quay.

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I discovered a yarn shop with a sock knitting machine museum, here near southernmost part of the settled world!

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Sock knitting machines

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And a Carnegie Library, here on the far side of the world.

Lake Mahinapua

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Another hiking stop – we took the Jum Michel Walk, in the rain, and saw some interesting plants. Once again our guide dropped us at the trailhead, and met us on the other side.

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Into the rain forest

Then we wandered over to Lake Mahinapua to look at what could have been a view to the peaks of the Southern Alps.

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Lake Mahinapua

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Total hike stats for the day: 6 miles, 300 feet.

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Tree Ferns and mountain views, Franz Josef

Our final stop was our lodging in Franz Josef. Tomorrow, if the weather cooperated, we planned to see the Franz Josef glacier.

NZ 2020: Day 4, Punakaiki

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The sun was still shining when we woke up to a beautiful morning in Punakaiki!

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Morning view from our lodging.

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Southern rata and cabbage tree

We spent the day hiking in Paparoa National Park.

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Our destinations for the day.

Pororari Punakaiki River Track

We had our first chance to fully immerse ourselves in the rain forest. It was beautiful, and very different from our usual forests in Oregon.

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The red line shows our trail. Our guide dropped us at the Pororari River, then hiked in to meet us from the Punakaiki car park.

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Limestone cliff above the Pororari River.

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Tree ferns

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Nikau palms

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Each turn in the trail revealed interesting views.

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Palm trunk

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Cut trunk of a tree fern?

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Pororari River, looking west toward the ocean.

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We were learning the unusual (to us) foliage – this is the Rimu, or red pine, a member of the native Podocarp family. We would see these throughout our travels on the South Island.

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The red blooming tree is the Southern Rata, a native evergreen tree.

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Our guide had us taste the inner core of the supplejack vine – a bit like asparagus.

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We were excited to see a few weka birds running across the trail and in the parking area. They are flightless native birds about the size of chickens, sometimes regarded as nuisances, but are a protected species, as are all the native birds.

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Weka

Punakaiki Pancake Rocks

After lunch we visited the famous Pancake Rocks. The tide wasn’t quite high enough for spouting during our visit, but we admired the weirdly eroded limestone rock formations and ocean views.

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View to the south.

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Closer look

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Limestone layers

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Red-billed gull

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Imaginative viewing.

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View north to the next destination – the Truman Track.

Truman Track

The Truman Track leads through rainforest to the beach.

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It was a little misty in the forest.

By the time we reached the beach the sun was out.

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View to the south back toward Punakaiki.

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Truman Cove beach to the north.

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The tide was going out as we walked along the sand.

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Pebbly “sand”

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Marine fossils in the sandstone cliffs and ledges

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Overhanging sand stone cliffs, and view to the beach stairs.

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Stairs up through New Zealand flax back to the trailhead.

We had a lovely day exploring interesting rocks, fossils, pebbly beaches, and rainforest palms and tree ferns of Paparoa. Tomorrow we would go south along the West Coast toward Fiordland. Our three hikes for the day added up to about 7 miles/600 feet (#3 for 2020).

NZ 2020: Day 3, Christchurch to Punakaiki

January 27, 2020

Our guide picked us up in the morning in Christchurch to begin a two week guided hiking tour of the South Island of New Zealand.  The agenda for the first day was to cross the Southern Alps at Arthur’s Pass, and to arrive in Punakaiki on the West Coast by the end of the day.

Image 3-22-20 at 11.10 PMThe South Island is about 500 miles long, and 150ish miles wide, with steep mountains along the west coast. The mountains create a rain shadow for the eastern part of the island. We were on our way to experience the rain forests and wetter climate of the west coast.

Castle Hill

Our first hiking stop was Castle Hill. We walked up the hill and through the maze of giant, weirdly eroded limestone boulders and knobs that standout in the landscape.

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We learned early on that most of the wildflowers we would see are non-native, and considered weeds. (“If it’s pretty it’s a pest!”) The national effort to remove alien wildlife, both plants and animals, was an ongoing theme during our trip.

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Wandering among the limestone boulders.

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View back to the car park.

Hike #2 of 2020, 2.2 miles, 150 feet.

Arthur’s Pass National Park

We could see we were headed for clouds and rain as we continued west toward the mountains.

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We stopped to look at the Waimakariri River, one of the largest of many broad, braided glacial outwash rivers that cross the eastern plains of the South Island.

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Waimakariri River

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We made a quick stop to view Devil’s Punchbowl Falls, 131 meters high.

Rain began as we drove through Arthur’s Pass.

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One of many road preservation structures and roadworks we would see in this geologically active country.

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Rata tree blooms – these are native!

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Quintessential New Zealand green pastures with sheep and cows.

We reached the west coast near Kumara, then headed north to Punakaiki, admiring the beautiful beaches and lush green, misty slopes along the way. It had been a lovely first day of our tour.

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Driving north along the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

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West coast sun, clouds and beaches!

Trip note: Our tour was with the New Zealand company Active Adventures. I have only good things to say about our experience with them. Amazingly, because of some last minute changes, we were the only two people on the first five days of our tour. We had been expecting up to twelve people, and instead we had a private tour, with an entire small bus and guide to ourselves. This is the first time we have taken this type of tour, and we were not sure what to expect, but we soon became good friends with our guide. We appreciated being able to simply enjoy the adventure without worrying about  the logistics of meals and lodging, or the left-sided driving.  As the trip went on, there were challenges from the weather, and we were very glad that our local, experienced guides could nimbly create alternative itineraries – more about that later.

Tomorrow we would explore the landscape around Punakaiki.

NZ 2020: Christchurch

Days 1 and 2, January 25 – 26, 2020

We arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand, on a summery Saturday morning, having left winter and Friday behind at the International Dateline somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. We spent the next two days wandering around central Christchurch while adjusting to the 21 hour time leap, the left sided traffic, and the northern sun.

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Arts Center

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Small bookstore

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Bridge of Remembrance

Christchurch is rebuilding after two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. New buildings are interleaved with earthquake damaged buildings and construction sites.

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Back side of the Arts Center.

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Artistic fencing around a construction zone.

The Cathedral has a long way to go:

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There were plenty of people about enjoying the parks, shopping, dining and museums. We also came across street performances connected to the International Buskers Festival

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and Chinese New Year.  

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We visited the Canterbury Museum to get an introduction to Maori and natural history:

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Maori and Moa

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Greenstone

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A bit of geology!

One of the curiosities in the museum was an small intact house decorated abundantly with abalone shells (Paua) by an enthusiastic couple:

We walked through Hagley Park a few times to get to our hotel.

New Zealand Gardens in the Hagley Park Arboretum:

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Cabbage tree

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Beech

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Tree fern

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Tilia

Other sites in Hagley park:

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Peacock Fountain

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Rose garden

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Herbaceous border

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echinacea

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Punting on the Otakaro/Avon River

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Sundial in the rose garden

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magpie

We didn’t have enough time to see everything, but we knew we would be back in Christchurch in two weeks, so maybe we would see more then!

 

 

A month in New Zealand…

Kia ora! I am back from a month in New Zealand! I prescheduled a few posts to publish while traveling, including three long overdue quilt history posts, which were the whole reason I started this blog in the first place. We never know how life will surprise us – the blog turned into something completely different, and the trip to New Zealand brought me more surprises than I could have imagined!

A year ago, when my husband and life partner of 40 years was planning his exit from a more than full time career of work in the medical field, he wanted to go far away for a long time. New Zealand had been unattainable to us because he always had to check in to work, even when on vacation. New Zealand is 21 hours ahead of Oregon. Today there hasn’t happened yet here – almost like time traveling! We booked a tour with an adventure hiking company for the first two weeks, and planned independent travel for the second two weeks, then let it all rest in our internet files until the January 2020 retirement date arrived.

We were on the South Island of New Zealand from January 23rd to February 23rd, and enjoyed every minute! Every day brought new surprises – mountain landscapes, active glaciers, active earthquake faults, metamorphic rocks, fiords, foliage, birds, whales, volcanoes, rainbows, different groceries, different stars, different social norms; all keeping me alert and invigorated with daily doses of novelty to wake up the slumbering brain cells of the gray Oregon winter.

It will take me a long time to fully process and write about it all, as we rejoin life on our side of the world. It was a completely refreshing experience, in a place I could never have imagined, and now will never forget!

Next NZ2020 Post: Christchurch, days 1 and 2