NZ2020: Day 17, Onawe Peninsula Trail

February 10, 2020

Today we began our independent travels after two weeks on guided tour.  We slept in bit, then decided to walk the Onawe Pa Track (2.7 miles, 300 feet), on the Banks Peninsula. We drove about an hour to the carpark, then spent most of the afternoon looking at the rocks, tide pools and views along the trail.

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Route from Christchurch to the Banks Peninsula, an eroded volcano.

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View from the Hilltop Lookout showing the long narrow Onawe Peninsula in Akaroa Harbour.

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Location Sign at the Hilltop Lookout

The far end of the Onawe Peninsula is an island at high tide. We began by walking along the tidal flats on the west side of the peninsula, on a dark cobbled beach with iron-stained yellow and orange volcanic tuffs in the adjacent cliffs.

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Trailhead

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Walking south along the westside of the peninsula

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The low point that is flooded at high tide. We walked through the gap and saw a few birds.

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Cormorant

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Heron in the tidal flats

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Closer view of the heron

We walked back through the gap, and continued walking south and up onto the hill to the top of the peninsula.

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Track going up to the top of the peninsula.

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Looking south as we walk up the road/trail

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Continuing on

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Grey boulders at the top of the peninsula

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View to the south of Akaroa Harbour, including a cruise ship

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View back to the north, showing the coastline and skyline of the Banks Peninsula.

On our return, we explored the beaches and cliffs on both sides of the peninsula, looking at marine life in the tide pools, and ‘picture rocks’ in the cliffs.

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Back down to the beach

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Tide still out…

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Through the gap again.

Tidepools:

We enjoyed photographing the differentially stained tuffs, or ‘picture rocks’:

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I decided to climb up the first hill, to look at the view from there:

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Me, atop the hill.

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View from the top…

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Looking back at Onawe Pa

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Tide coming in on the tidal flats, as we make our way back to the car park.

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Last view from the Hilltop Viewpoint on our way return drive.

Back in Christchurch, we had dinner at a Thai restaurant. We had done well with left-side driving, and were ready to make our way to Lake Tekapo tomorrow.

NZ2020: Day 16, Aoraki/Mt Cook to Christchurch

February 9, 2020

After the beautiful views of the mountains the previous night, we awoke to even clearer skies and a view of Aoraki/Mt Cook from our Chalet window.

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Aoraki/Mt Cook from our room

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Wider view from the Chalet balcony

We visited the the museum, which had informative displays of Maori culture:

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natural history:

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Geology of Aoraki Mt Cook

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Some of the rocks

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A rock from the top of the mountain

and art related to the mountains:

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paintings

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windows

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After one last look at these beautiful mountains we began the drive back to Christchurch.

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Last look at Mt Sefton and Aoraki/Mt Cook from the parking area.

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Our route to Christchurch.

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Clear view back up Hooker Valley

Photo stop:  The Southern Alps rose clear and shining in the cloudless sky above the stunning aqua blue waters of Lake Pukaki.

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Lake Pukaki, Southern Alps

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Zoom in on Aoraki

I continued to watch the mountains out the bus window:

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Southern Alps still in view

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View across Lake Tekapo, with the white peak of Aoraki still visible above the mountains on the left.

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Golden grasslands and lower mountains as we continued eastward.

After lunch in Geraldine, we continued east, sharing last stories with our guide, as he gave us tips about some locations we might visit during our next two weeks.

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Vintage car in Geraldine

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Crossing the wide braid plain of the Rakaia River as we approached Christchurch

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Once in Christchurch, we rented a car, checked into our motel, found a laundromat and grocery store, and were ready to continue our adventures. Tomorrow we would explore nearby Akaroa Harbour.

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Meanwhile, notifications on my cell phone pull me back into news of the day…

NZ2020: Day 15, Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

February 8, 2020

After the beautiful evening views at Lake Ohau, clouds were hiding Aoraki/Mt Cook this morning. The wind was up, and Lake Ohau was a steel gray. We drove back around Ben Ohau and its landslip-streaked mountain face. Slight rain was in the forecast, but we pressed on to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

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Lake Ohau in the morning

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Our driving route to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

The road follows the shores of Lake Pukaki, up the Hooker Valley toward Aoraki/Mt Cook. We will hike the Sealy Tarns/ Mueller Hut Track, and stay the night at the Mt Cook Chalets.

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A rainbow in Hooker Valley, as we approach Aoraki/Mt Cook Village

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Trail map showing our location in orange.

Sealy Tarns Track / Mueller Hut Route

This trail is famous for having about 2000 stair steps up to the tarns. It is one of the hardest I have done, but somehow I keep my legs going up. I count steps in sets, counting up to one fewer number each time (20-19-18-17…), with planned breathing/rest stops between sets. There should be 210 steps per set, 10 sets in all…some of the steps are almost ladders. There are clouds blocking some of our views and spitting rain; cold wind, then warming sun.

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Trail stairs

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Looking down at the Kea Point Lookout on Lake Mueller (circled in blue). Beyond Lake Mueller is a huge moraine, then Hooker Lake.

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Kea Point Lookout on Lake Mueller.

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Looking toward the camp on Mt Sefton, circled in orange.

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Zooming in on a tent at the foot of the glacier on Mt Sefton.

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Looking back down Hooker Valley to where we started the hike.

When we arrive at the tarns, I feel surprisingly strong. We eat lunch at the picnic tables, take some pictures of glaciers, then decide to go higher.

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Sealy Tarns

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Glacier on Mt Sefton

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crevasses

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wildfire dust?

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rockfall

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The Mueller Route, going up beyond the tarns.

Above the tarns the track is rougher, a bit cliffy. I miss the stair steps here! We continue up the rocky, “choose your own adventure”, anastomosing trails, until I decide I can go up no more. We take in the view, eat a snack, then go down.

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From our high point we had a good view of Hooker Lake, the terminus of Hooker Glacier, and Aoraki/Mt Cook, still in the clouds.

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Closer look at Hooker Lake, and the Hooker Valley Trail

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Ice bergs in Hooker Lake.

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Looking south down the Hooker valley from our high point.

We saw a few flowers and some interesting flora along the trail.

We returned back down the 2000 murderous steps, knees and legs a little wobbly. On the way down, we stopped often to admire the views of the glaciers, lakes, moraines, and the unveiling summit plateau of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

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Down the steps…

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Another view of the terminus of Hooker Glacier

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Close up of Hooker Glacier

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The peak of Aoraki/Mt Cook, coming out of the clouds!

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Closer views…

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The curved southern edge

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Northern slopes

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So beautiful!

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Aoraki/Mt Cook, completely unveiled by the time we reached the bottom of the trail!

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and Mt Sefton, too!

We make our way back to the bus, and check into our room at the Mt Cook Chalets, having hiked about 6.5 miles and 2800 feet. But we are not done with the mountain yet! After dinner in the cafe, we relax in the lounge, where we can see the triple triangle face of Aoraki/Mt Cook glowing bright white, then pink with alpenglow, in the pinky blue cloud streaked sky. Phenomenal!

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Lounge with a view…

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Mt Sefton, Aoraki/Mt Cook

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Aoraki/Mt Cook

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Tomorrow we are going back to Christchurch – our last guided tour day. The next two weeks in New Zealand will be on our own – with many more adventures that I am excited to be reliving with these blog posts!

NZ2020: Day 14, To Lake Ohau

February 7, 2020

Today began with an easier hike (than yesterday) near Queenstown, then we drove north to the vicinity of Aoraki/Mt Cook.

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Driving route to Lake Ohau

Queenstown: After breakfast at a local cafe, we took a last walk through Queenstown and along the Lake Wakatipu waterfront.

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Wall art in our breakfast cafe

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Quiet morning in Queenstown

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Queenstown waterfront

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Sam Summers’ Hut Hike – 5.4 miles, 800 feet

Then we drove west along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the Mt Crichton Loop Track trailhead.

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Trailhead map – our trail circled in light blue

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Dipping schist along the trail

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View back to Lake Wakatipu

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Juvenile lancewood, or horoeka

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Adult lancewood

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A bog near our turnaround junction

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Small lake

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Lake Dispute, Lake Wakatipu

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Waterfall on Twelve Mile Creek

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Quartz layers in the rocks behind the waterfall

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Sam Summers’ Hut

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An old gold mining lodging

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Rustic…

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The history

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Interior…

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Meadows and sandstone outcrops on the return hike

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Twelve Mile Creek

I enjoyed the hike, and it was good to stretch our legs on an easier trail, after the challenging hike yesterday, and another challenging hike planned for tomorrow.

Arrowtown: Next, we drove back through Queenstown, and on to Arrowtown, where we stopped for a picnic lunch in the park, and a short wander around the western style gold rush town.

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Western facades in Arrowtown

DSC07124DSC07125DSC07128Driving north: For the next few hours, we drove north along Hwys 6 and 8, with several short stops, and lots of interesting scenery along the way.

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Last glimpse of The Remarkables as we leave Arrowtown

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Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge

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Wine country near Gibbston

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We stopped at a fruit stand near Cromwell, with orchards of ripe nectarines (southern summer!), and delicious homemade ice cream.

At Lindis Pass, over 3000 feet in elevation, we walked up to a viewpoint over the dry tussock landscape. The golden rolling hills reminded me of the high deserts of eastern Oregon and California.

DSC07143DSC07144DSC07146DSC07147 We took one last break in Omarama, where I found a few post cards, but no knitting wool.

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Lake Ohau:  We arrived at Lake Ohau around 5 pm. Once again, I was taken by surprise, by the startlingly turquoise blue of the lake, and the barren mountain slopes streaked with colorful landslips beyond. I was not expecting anything so stunning, as we had just been passing through the dry summer landscape of the Mackenzie Basin. And into my mind came memories of the southwestern US, where I spent a fair amount of time geologizing in my younger days. Here in New Zealand, I was seeing glacial lakes such as those that filled many of the basins of western North America in the ice ages. It was like going back in time, in a way, and I was grateful to see a version of this ‘geologic setting’ in real life. So striking in starkness and color. Another of the amazing experiences I would have on this trip. And there would be more beautiful images later today!

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Lake Ohau, Ben Ohau

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Our lodge room had ‘picture’ windows overlooking Lake Ohau and the near and distant mountains. Standing beyond but higher than all was the stunning Aoraki/Mt Cook, 12,218 feet tall, the highest mountain in New Zealand. From our vantage, it was a giant chunk of glistening white, it’s peak plateau about a mile long, it’s faceted shear white slopes facing us, calling attention to itself, and I felt lucky to see it.

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Our lodge room

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Lake Ohau

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Aoraki/MtCook

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Aoraki/MtCook

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The other glaciated mountain at the end of Lake Ohau

After a dinner in the lodge of pumpkin miso soup, salmon, and chocolate mousse, we returned to our room to see the moon rising and the the mountain glowing in the twilight, then in alpenglow. I seemed to be sitting in a picture postcard.

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Later, the rising moon was reflected in the lake, and Aoraki/Mt Cook shone with moon glow.

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We also saw Orion in the sky, but have not yet seen the southern cross. This day ended well, and tomorrow we were looking forward to getting closer to Aoraki/Mt Cook.

NZ2020: Day 13, Ben Lomond hike

February 6, 2020

After two days of being sidetracked by flooding, heavy rain and road damage, the road north was opening for limited time windows while being repaired. We departed from Te Anau at 5:30 am to drive to Queenstown. We waited in the dawn at Five Rivers for the 7 am opening.

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Queue waiting for the partially flooded road to open

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Sunrise with llamas

We arrived at the Queenstown Skyline Gondola on schedule for the 9 am opening.

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A ten minute gondola ride took us up the first 1500 feet of the Ben Lomond trail.

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Great views from the Upper Gondola complex.

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Views below to Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

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We still had about 4 miles, and 3400 feet to hike to the top of Ben Lomond. We started up, through sun, mist, and a little rain. The weather got better through the day, but many of the surrounding mountains retained a high cloud cover. The cooler temperature was perfect though, as it gets warm hiking continually up. This was a challenging hike for me! We took a steady pace, with rests.

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Lower trail. Ben Lomond is the high peak on the skyline.

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Looking back toward Lake Wakatipu.

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Getting closer to our destination.

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First we have to get to the saddle,

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then up the rocky and steeper ridge.

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Looking back down at the saddle.

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Up the rocky section, with mist wafting in and out.

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A feral goat below on the rocky crags.

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The last steep pitch…

At the top, my relief of making it to the peak was almost completely sidetracked by the surprise of finding mountain parrots at the summit!

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Kea, or mountain parrot, perched on the summit cliff of Ben Lomond.

There were five or six of these large birds (about 18 inches tall), flying around, undaunted by the people, and fairly aggressively scrounging for hiker lunch crumbs. I am accustomed to seeing marauding chipmunks where I come from, so this was an unexpected reward for the last three hours of steady upward effort.

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Kea and hikers on summit of Ben Lomond

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Kea, metamorphic rocks

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Kea, flashing orange back feathers while flying.

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Face close up

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Mists rolling in

I watched the keas for a while, and rested, while clouds rolled in and out from the steep southern cliffs. We looked around as much as possible before beginning the hike down. I would have liked to stay longer, but it was very cold and windy.

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Lake Wakatipu

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Clouds wafting across

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The view!

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Southern alps to the west

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Starting down – view back to The Remarkables and Queenstown, with our trail in view.

(Geology interlude) As we looked back toward Queenstown on our return hike, I noticed the effects of the rain on the rivers downstream from Lake Wakatipu. The very brown and muddy Shotover River flows into the deep blue Kawarau River (the Lake Wakatipu outlet). Downstream farther, the Kawarau River is muddier in color.  (I saw this happen a long time ago at the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers in the Grand Canyon, on a once in a lifetime river trip.)

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Confluence of Shotover and Kawarau Rivers

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Wider view, muddier Kawarau downstream.

We continued down the mountain, on tired and satisfied legs.

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Resting, Southern Alps beyond.

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Clouds have lifted, this peak finally exposed.

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Last look at Ben Lomond

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and the tiny people enjoying the summit.

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The down trail crosses over the luge track at the Gondola Complex.

We took the gondola back down to town, then checked back into the Crowne Plaza Hotel. We had a group dinner in town, and said goodbye to our additional tour members and guide. We still had two more days with our guide Kaleb, and we were going north toward Aoraki/Mt Cook.

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NZ2020: Day 12, Southland improvisation; Te Anau Bird Sanctuary

February 5, 2020

After the previous few days of constant rain, we were happy to see blue sky this morning. The roads in most directions were still closed by flooding. Fortunately, our guides had grown up in the area, and chose some of their favorite places for our day’s adventure in Southland.

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Snow on the mountains near Te Anau

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Today’s route, and stops in Southland.

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Clearing skies above the Southern Alps as we drive south.

Clifden Suspension Bridge

We stopped here to stretch our legs, and to look at the historic bridge over the Waiau River as it continues south to the sea. We had been walking along its banks yesterday near Lake Te Anau.

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Historic Bridge

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Clifden Bridge

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Muddy river – from the recent storms

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The Waiau River is connected all the way upstream to Doubtful Sound.

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Feral rooster

We continued driving south on the Southern Scenic Route, eventually reaching Te Waewae Bay near the mouth of the Waiau River.

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Quintessential New Zealand scenery – sheep and mountains,

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Te Waewae Bay, muddy from the recent storms.

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My Google maps image – showing that I am the closest I have ever been to Antarctica!

We stopped at several beaches and took two longer hill walks while in Southland.

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Southland stops

Gemstone Beach

Once on the coast, we stopped first for a walk at Gemstone Beach.

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Gemstone Beach

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Caves in the sandstone

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seaweed

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beach rocks

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oyster catcher

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sandstone erosion

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Orepuki

By this time, we were ready for a coffee break at the Orepuki Beach Cafe.

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Lovely setting and delicious cakes!

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Monkey Island Beach

We took a short walk at another beautiful beach – at low tide one can walk out to the island.

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Monkey Island Beach

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Monkey Island

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Westward view

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Long Hilly Walking track

Next we went on a short hike on the Long Hilly Walking Track to Round Hill, through historic gold mining areas of the 1870’s.

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Tree fern forest

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Tree fuchsias

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Historic mining ventures

Riverton

We continued our drive along the southern coast to the town of Riverton,

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Riverton, Pourakino River Bridge

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Surfer crossing 

then to a beach cove along the drive to Howell’s Point for our lunch break.

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Cove with picnic bench along Rocks Road

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Lunchtime

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Exploring the cove…

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After lunch, we stopped to see the view to the south from Howell’s Point:

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Bluer water away from the river

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Red billed gulls on the beach

Hilltop Lookout

Next, we took another hill walk over the headland – past cows and Balancing Rock.

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Balancing Rock

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And a cow…

After the hike, we drove back to Te Anau, with our guides keeping touch with the flood status of the roads for tomorrow.

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Driving back through Riverton

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View of the flooding rivers and the southern alps beyond

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Sheep again, and the Tasman Sea

Te Anau Bird Sanctuary

We arrived back in Te Anau with time to visit the Bird Sanctuary. Here was a chance to see some of the endangered birds that are endemic to New Zealand. It was a challenge to get good photos through the chain link fencing.

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Entrance to the Birdpark.

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First, the parakeet/kakarike:

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Next, the parrot/kaka:

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We walked past the lake area, and saw some waterfowl…

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Paradise shelduck

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And last we spent quite a bit of time admiring the flightless Takahe, who were running around free range in their enclosure. There were several adults and a chick. they were very odd and fascinating to watch, and gave us a good final interesting new thing for the day.

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Takahe are about the size of a chicken

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Takahe chick being fed

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Both beaks and feet look formidable!

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Takahe

I enjoyed our improvised day in Southland. It was all new landscape to me, and as with everyday day so far, brought me surprising new views and experiences. Tomorrow, we were returning to our originally scheduled tour, and going back to Queenstown to take a hike up a mountain called Ben Lomond.

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The only kiwi bird we saw at the bird sanctuary. It is extremely rare to see one anywhere, as they are nocturnal and almost extinct. There are a few refuges one can visit, but we did not seen on our trip.

NZ2020: Days 10 and 11, Walking the Kepler Track near Te Anau, lots of rain, and a film

February 3rd and 4th, 2020 – Te Anau, New Zealand. After returning from our Doubtful Sound cruise, we were supposed to go to Milford Sound. As described in my earlier post, we were experiencing extreme rain and flooding throughout Fiordland. Many roads were washed out. Our guides improvised some other adventures for us, based near Te Anau.

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Trail sign, locations of our next two hikes circled. The diagram shows how these lakes are interconnected to the huge hydropower scheme that ends up at Doubtful Sound, where we were the previous day.

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Yes, it rains!

February 3, 2020

After lunch, we zipped up our rain gear and set off on a 6 mile hike near the shores of Lake Te Anau on the Kepler Track.  We passed through beautifully green rainforest, and crossed a river that was swollen with runoff. We paused at Brod Bay on Lake Te Anau, our turnaround point, then walked back the way we came.

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Starting off on the Kepler Track in our rain gear.

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A swollen creek entering the lake.

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Brod Bay beach, turnaround point.

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Walking through the rain forest.

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Another view toward Te Anau across the lake.

February 4, 2020

The next morning, with rain still falling, and many surrounding roads still closed, we set off on a different stretch of the Kepler Track, this time along the Rainbow Reach to Moturau Hut, a 7.5 mile hike.

We crossed the Waiau River bridge, above a swollen river.

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Waiau River

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One of the highlights was passing through a wetland near Spirit Lake, with amazingly colorful plantlife and beautiful reflections in the water. On a nicer day I could have spent a lot of time here playing with the lights and reflections with my camera. 

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Wetland side trip

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Spirit Lake, rain.

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We arrived at Moturau Hut, near Lake Manapouri, where we paused long enough to eat lunch. The rain continued to fall during our return hike, again through the lush and green rainforest.

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View from Moturau Hut to Lake Manapouri

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Rainforest trail with possum trap.

 

I took two pictures from the same vantage point, about three hours apart, that show how Waiau River still rising.

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9:20 am

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12:30 pm

Later that afternoon, after we had dried off, we visited a pub in the town of Te Anau, and then went to the Fiordland Cinema, and watched a film called Ata Whenua – Shadowland. The movie was made by some of the Lord of the Rings film makers, and included gorgeous cinematography and ethereal music depicting the beautiful Fiordland landscape that we could not see because of all the rain.

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Serious Jenga at the Redcliff Cafe.

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Another map of our Kepler Track hikes.

Meanwhile, our guides were creating a new agenda for the next day, an impromptu tour of Southland, since all the roads in every other direction were closed by flooding.

 

NZ2020: Days 9 and 10, Deluge in Doubtful Sound

February 2nd and 3rd, 2020: Overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound, Fiordland, NZ

After our day off in Queenstown, we began the second part of our tour by meeting three new tour members, and an additional tour guide, in our hotel restaurant. We drove south and west, from Queenstown to Manapouri, in a steady rain, with two stops along the way.

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Our first break was in the town of Garston – a small inland village with a speciality in honey production. We sampled some honey, then resumed our journey. Mountains, clouds, green fields full of sheep, elk and deer whizzed by, through the rain.

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We next took a short leg stretching break at a wilderness reserve that demonstrated the native plant communities that are typical of this cold, mountainous inland area before European settling and agriculture. We took in what we could, but the rain and clouds obscured mountain views and much exploring.

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View to the Southern Alps.

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Closer view of some of the plants.

Off we went again, this time to our final tour bus destination – Pearl Harbor in Manapouri, where we began our overnight in Doubtful Sound adventure. We said goodbye to one of our guides for the moment, as he was staying with the bus. To get to Doubtful Sound, deep in the mountains of the Southern Alps, one must take a ferry boat across Lake Manapouri, to the far shore.

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Crossing Lake Manapouri by ferry.

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Next we boarded a bus that took us over the steep, 13 mile long Wilmot Pass Road, then down to Deep Cove Dock at Doubtful Sound. There, we boarded the Fiordland Navigator, our home for the next 24 hours.

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Fiordland Navigator, from the bus window, in the pouring rain.

The Navigator was a very comfortable ship with an experienced, multitasking crew that choreographed our time on board with a well crafted schedule. The 42 passengers were shown into the main cabin/dining salon. We received our safety briefings, and were assigned our sleeping accommodations – for us, a private cabin, but for most, four bed bunk rooms.

Then we were free to explore and wander, and hopefully see all the views, while the naturalist pointed out various features of interest. Steep glaciated gneiss walls rose up on both sides of the fiord, draped in brilliant green foliage, and streaked with tumbling white waterfalls in every direction. Our naturalist told us that they usually see a lot of waterfalls, but because of the steady downpour, we were seeing more than usual, and more volume than usual. We could see fairly well from the large windows in the dining salon and forward viewing cabin, and even from under covered walkways on the lower deck. How lovely it would have been to stand or sit on the upper deck as we passed through the fiord, but the drenching rain made that uncomfortable. We did go out for short forays, and longer moments during rain breaks, but really, it did rain most of the time this first day. We made the best of it, constantly, not always successfully, trying to keep water off camera lenses. We assumed that this much rain was typical. Later, we learned that this was a particularly wet stretch of weather – more so than usual, and that it would affect the next few days of our tour. Our intrepid naturalist spent most of her time out on the deck, narrating the landscape, seemingly unphased by the drenching.

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Waterfall after waterfall…

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Our intrepid naturalist…

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A rain pause as we continue west toward the Tasman Sea.

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We travelled all the way to the entrance of the fiord with the Tasman Sea. We stopped to watch fur seals basking on the rocky islands in the sound entrance – also unphased by the constant rain. But of course, they are creatures of water and cold.

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Fur seals on rocky islands near the mouth of Doubtful Sound.

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We turned back inland, still watching the waterfall-striped walls of the fiord go by. We reached the “activities” location and weighed anchor for a while. Here, most of the crew switched to guide mode. Most of the passengers, despite the rain, opted to go out in kayaks or rafts, to get a closer view of the walls and waters of the fiord. I might have joined in better weather, but it was still rainy and cold. I felt that just being where I was, in the middle of a fiord in the wilderness was a fairly extreme adventure for me. We watched the kayakers and boaters from the deck.

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After they all returned safely, the crew changed roles again, and became ushers/servers for a delicious, many options, buffet dinner. It was all run like clockwork, yet not pressured or uncomfortable. Our little group sat in a booth with windows and enjoyed getting to know each better as the beautiful landscape drifted past. Later, we retired to our tiny stateroom and slept very comfortably in crisp white sheets. I peeked out our window occasionally, to see rain and dark and gray.

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Dining salon.

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Sleeping cabin.

The next morning, breakfast was run again in buffet fashion, extremely efficiently, and we packed up, ready to enjoy another morning of viewing in Doubtful Sound.

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Morning waterfall viewing.

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We traveled into the Hall Arm of the Sound, where we experienced a quiet moment – engine off, passengers in a preselected spot, five minutes of complete silence, during a break in the continuous rain.

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Afterward, the boat motored up again, dipped its snout into a flowing waterfall, and we eventually made our way back to Deep Cove.

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Return to Deep Cove.

During both journeys across Wilmot Pass by bus, the drivers expressed concern about the river ford being washed out. Both times we made it across, but there was plenty of heavy equipment at the crossing keeping the road clear. We reboarded the ferry to Manapouri, ready for our next adventure.

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Waterfall from the bus windows on Wilmot Pass.

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Wilmot Pass river crossing, from the bus.

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Pearl Harbor – return to Manapouri.

Our next stop was supposed to be Milford Sound – a place we really wanted to see. We were supposed to drive to Milford Sound via Hwy 94, with a hike up Key Summit on the Routeburn Track enroute, and a short cruise on Milford Sound the next morning. Over the past 24 hours there had been over a half meter of rain in the area and more than a meter of rain during the four day deluge. All roads to Milford Sound were flooded. People there were stranded and moving to higher ground – no one could get in or out by land. It was several days before they were finally able to open the roads. Meanwhile, our guides and tour company had formulated a new plan for our tour. They found lodging in nearby Te Anau, accommodations that were open because the people with those reservations were trapped in Milford Sound, or because so many of the usual tourists from Asia this time of year were beginning to cancel travel due to a spreading coronavirus in that part of the world.  (I am finally writing this account about a year later, after almost a year of global pandemic. That was one of the early signs of it, though we didn’t really think too much of it in the moment.) Meanwhile, we had a new agenda for our tour, starting with a rainy walk on the Kepler Track near Te Anau.

We loved our Doubtful Sound experience. I might have liked it more had we had sun, but we had soo many waterfalls – I don’t imagine I will ever see more in such a short time. We got to experience an extreme rain event – a different sort of bucket list item, I guess. I am very glad we were with an experienced tour company for this time, because they very swiftly arranged new plans. I had been expecting a more rustic experience on the boat, but it was actually fairly luxurious – delicious hot meals, a dry viewing cabin, extremely comfortable bed with privacy, and amazing scenery. It was a beautiful immersive adventure!

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2020 Review / 2021 Preview

Well, that was a year! When I reread my New Year’s post from last year, I wince and remember the saying about someone laughing when you make plans. I know that everyone in the world can relate – we did not forsee a global pandemic shutting everything down. We still don’t know what life will look like on the other side of the pandemic when we all have been vaccinated.  Nevertheless, I managed to accomplish about half of the things on my list of intentions. 

Travel: The  high point of the year was our month in New Zealand before everything shut down. Our plans to go to Washington DC and Italy were cancelled. We were able to take four midweek trips to hiking destinations within a few hours drive of our home – to Sisters, Yachats, and Prineville in Oregon, and Packwood in Washington (following all Covid-19 precautions). 

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Hiking: I hiked almost 400 miles last year, almost 63000 feet of elevation gained, on 76 different adventures, 26 of which were in New Zealand. The hikes up Ben Lomond near Queenstown, and to the Sealy Tarns in Mt Aoraki National Park were my favorites there. Back home, we found a way to continue hiking in pandemic mode. At first we took several long urban hikes through Portland neighborhoods to high points or parks. We have hiked about half of the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, and we have gone to farther flung, less popular trails, midweek. I feel lucky we can still get into nature.

Reading: I met my goal to read 64 books last year.

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Knitting: I knit over 5000 yards of yarn into 20 different projects: 2 shawls, 1 scarf, 5 pairs of socks, 3 hats, 2 pairs of mitts, 2 sets of wash cloths, 4 gnomes, 2 acorn ornaments, and a toy dog sweater. 14 of the projects were gift or charity knitting.  Knitting was a main source of anxiety relief to get me through the chaos and unpredictability of this year. My knitting group has continued to meet on line, pulling each other through. I am so grateful I found this group in 2019, as it has been a great source of comfort for me this year.

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2020 was a difficult year which tested resilience. I know I am privileged to have made it through in good health in a safe and comfortable home. I miss my family and friends. The worst part of the year was losing a brother-in-law to a noncovid illness in May, and not being able to travel to grieve with family. That loss haunts me every day, however correct the decision is/was for safety reasons. 

 2021 – The political upheaval and tension have been excruciating. The good news that we will have our new president, vice president and senate majority does not discount how hard it will be to undo all the harm caused by the lies, selfishness, and evil intent of the outgoing president. But it gives us reason for hope.  I hope for healing through an honest truth and reconciliation process. I hope it becomes widely accepted that racist agendas going back to the founding of our country have been used to convince the less advantaged to hate amongst themselves rather than to support government that is fair to all of the people. 

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At some point, we will be vaccinated and be able to travel again. I hope to be able to see my farther located family members and friends. Meanwhile, I will keep on knitting, reading, quilting, hiking, and blogging. My blog has been evolving since I started it in 2017, as a way to document my life and my quilts – mostly as a scrapbook for personal use. I wrote my 200th post last year. I still have more than a dozen unfinished posts from our New Zealand trip, and a number of quilt story posts to finish. Those are my modest goals for the New Year. I hope when I look back next year, I will have had some new wonderful adventures in a calmer world.

The rest of December, 2020

Holidays in Pandemia: We were able to enjoy the holidays, though one day seemed like every other, by modifying our traditions. We had Christmas tamales on Christmas Eve, with our sons, in our  backyard, socially distanced. Our daughter and her partner in DC joined us via Facetime. We celebrated together, and avoided the pouring rain of Christmas Day. We very much missed our elaborate traditional Christmas dinner we have shared with good friends for at least the past ten years. We contacted other family and friends via internet. We sent New Years cards, and received many in return. We got through the season, if not with the usual festivities, with enough of a connection to feel and share hope for a better 2021.

Holiday decor: 

Christmas trees:

Knitting:

More holiday cheer:

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Our traditional anise, ginger, and chocolate cookies.

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New reading, writing and listening.

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Our holiday card photo.

Good omens for the New Year:

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We could just see the astronomical event of the season one night – the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter.

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A closer view.

Vaccines are coming!

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And January 20th!