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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Aoraki/Mount Cook
15/01/2008, Lake Pukaki

The iconic New Zealand view. Aoraki/Mount Cook from the other end of Lake Pukaki.
This is another glacial lake, though the levels were raised in the late 1970's as part of a complex hydro-electric power scheme.

Places and people
Sunshine
15/01/2008, Afloat

This morning was very beautiful. A slight cooling breeze, alpine clarity in the air and a hot sun. Kayaks!
By 1100 we were on the water. Pip was in an open kayak, which she prefers, but found it a bit difficult because it had no decent back straps. It was easiest to paddle lying flat backwards! Sarah had a longer, yellow kayak, and could experiment with a rudder for the first time. Great fun.
The water in Lake Tekapo is opaque and milky, with rock flour ground down by the glaciers that feed the lake. You can dip your oar in and barely see the blade. The edges are very sheer, straight down into the valley ground out in the last Ice Age, and at the deepest reach 120m down. That's a lot of ice.
Lake Tepako is competing with the jewels of the Southern Mackenzie area, Queenstown and Wanaka. It's got a long way to go (its permanent population is under 400), but there's a huge amount of building going on. On the Lake itself, this translates to a lot of water-skiers and jet boats. You can always hear an angry engine going round in circles somewhere.
Nonetheless, it was great to paddle at last in the high lakes of New Zealand, knowing the drips from the oars onto our hot skin came from the ice of the Southern Alps.

Places and people
Southern Cross
Cold and windy
15/01/2008, 1000m up, Mount John

The day started with the trip to Mount John. The bus got us up there at 2330, and we stayed till well after 0100. Our tour leader was the Dutchman Renee, an experienced astronomer who loves the skies. With his amazing laser pointer he showed us the Southern Cross (only four stars visible from here), Orion, Regel, and the Magellanic Clouds.
The tour company own one of the telescopes up there which can be pointed at all sorts of objects in the sky. We looked at the Keyhole Nebula and the bright globule of stars called 47 Toucanni. The most extraordinary thing was Saturn, bright in the scope with its rings just as if a child's transfer had been stuck on the lens. Magic!
We were lucky; it was very wet and windy earlier in the evening, but between 0000 and 0100 we had a lovely clear night, with Saturn just high enough in the eastern sky to be seen. After that, black clouds came up from the south, bringing a vicious wind with them, so less could be seen and it got very cold. We were glad to collapse into bed at 0200. A really worth while trip and our amateur astronomer friends (Sally, we'll send you the postcard) can eat their hearts out.
Mount St John is the most southerly such observatory apparently, as Patagonia has nothing to compete. Amateurs are not allowed to take pictures (because the flash screws with the serious science being done up there), so this view of the Southern Cross comes from the local photographer Fraser Gunn, a disc of whose photos we found irresistible.

Places and people
Fog in the hills
Drizzly and cold
14/01/2008, Lake Tepako

After the heat of the coast we decided to visit the mountains. Tonight we are on the shores of the glacial Lake Tekapo, about 713m above sea level. Hopefully the fog and rain of this picture will lift as tonight we hope to visit the observatory on Mount John, above the lake, and be shown how to read the skies of the Southern hemisphere. And tomorrow, wind permitting, we might even kayak.

Places and people
Lakes and birds and blooms
14/01/2008, Forsyth Lake, Little River

On the way round the Banks Peninsula we stopped at Little River. There's a line of shops there, where we filled up Puff, and bought some splendid frittata and quiche for lunch. We ate at the lovely little picnic spot on the edge of Lake Forsyth. This widening of the river is caused by the amazing shingle barriers that the sea has built at Birdlings Flat.
On the lake are these birds, which we haven't identified yet. From a distance they look like big grebes, or maybe black swans. But their necks are too long for the grebes we know, and their bodies are too big. The necks are even long for swans and they are not black all over, showing greys and whites under their spread wings.
Sadly this lake is badly polluted by toxic algae blooms, so you cannot swim in it, nor allow your dog to do so. And you can't eat fish caught in it either, so goodness knows what that means for the birds.

Places and people
Heroism again
14/01/2008, Akaroa

Commander Frank Arthur Worsley was the captain of the ship Endurance, which took Shackleton to the Antarctic and was lost in the ice. He was a very great navigator, sailing for rescue in the tiny James Caird. Worsley did all the navigation, often snatching sights through his sextant while kneeling in freezing water, held in place against the rollers of the Southern Ocean by his crew-mates.
The 23-foot long James Caird (the same size as our old boat Hushwing) had been the Endurance's life boat, and the ship's carpenter built extra decking and covers for her. She is now in the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth having survived the Southern Ocean and landing on the rocky north coast of South Georgia.
Shackleton is rightly recognised today as a great leader, who put the safety of his men before his ambition to reach the Pole. He brought them all back alive through great danger. He couldn't have done it without Worsley, who was born in Akaroa.

Places and people
MIssing the dolphins
Warm
14/01/2008, Akaroa

The Banks Peninsula is indeed very beautiful. It is the remains of a now extinct volcano, eroded over millennia, and the roads twist and climb around its jagged edges and deep inlets. The coast of the peninsula is fretted into many, many bays, some of which have little boats in. The main centre of maritime activity is this harbour at Akaroa itself, on the edge of the biggest exit to the sea. This harbour is an important home to the endangered Hector's dolphin, and we had hoped to kayak with them. Unfortunately the wind got up and it wasn't to be. Maybe another time.

Places and people
Spiffy new art gallery
13/01/2008, Christchurch

On Sunday morning we paid a visit to Christchurch's gallery of contemporary art. As you can see, it's a stunning building, and very big. There are several touring exhibitions, including an interesting installation from one of the Antarctic Artists in Residence, a funny display contemplating the colour red and work by recent graduates from the 125 year old Fine Arts School. The gallery also has a good collection of contemporary NZ work, older NZ artists and a surprising amount of earlier European work.
There is a wit and playfulness in a lot of the Kiwi work that seems born from a confidence that allows jokes to propel insight and challenge. It was fascinating to see so much of it together.
After this we hit the road for the Banks Peninsula and the little town of Akaroa, an area famous for beauty and rare dolphins.

Places and people
Pedantry and peacocks
13/01/2008, Christchurch Botanical Garden

Opposite the old University buildings is the Botanical Garden, home to the Peacock Fountain. Lou showed us this with pride, and Sarah, absolutely true to form, took one look and said 'those aren't peacocks, they're herons'.
A hunt for a plaque showed the fountain was named after a nineteenth century worthy called Peacock, but Lou and Pip both felt that a little pedantry goes a long way.

Places and people
Lots of goodies
Hot
12/01/2008, Christchurch arts market

We went with Lou to the Arts Market held every weekend in central Christchurch. It is in the old buildings of Christchurch University, which are very 19th century gothic and Scottish, with quadrangles and pointed windows. The courtyard on the main street is a mass of stalls offering food and craft type goods, and buskers. (It's the World Busking Festival in Christchurch next week but sadly we're going to miss it.)
Inside the buildings is a warren of shops and studios. The bit of kit in the picture is a jump-ring maker which Pip was shown by a silversmith in a small co-operatively run studio and gallery. It was really exciting to meet and talk with them.
It is amazing to see this many creative professionals working across a wide range of mediums in both traditional (Maori and Pakeha) and contemporary ways. More astonishing is the size of the market. Obviously there were a lot of tourists, but this weekend market is one of the biggest we've ever seen, probably with as much retail space as London's Camden Lock. These artists are not surviving on tourists alone; clearly Kiwis are avid buyers as well.

Places and people
Brrr!
Cold
11/01/2008, The Antarctic (ish)

Christchurch claims the title 'Gateway to the Antarctic' and is home to several Antarctic missions, including the Americans and the Italians. The International Antarctic Centre is the check-in for flights to the continent.
It also houses a big exhibition, which kept us enthralled for over four hours. And that's without the ride on a Haggelund (a huge snowmobile) or any of the backstage tours. All those cost extra and we decided not to go ahead.
One included highlight is the feeding of these Little Blue Penguins. The Centre is home to 17 rescued penguins, all of which have been damaged by boats, toxins, nets or other predators. They're the smallest penguin species and very sweet.
You also get to go through an 'Antarctic blizzard'. Overshoes are required, because you're standing on real snow and ice; we also donned long trousers but lots of hardy souls stayed in their shorts. The room is kept at -8 degrees Celsius and then they blow wind through it so it goes down to -17! The strange thing was that they only go up to 40km/hour winds, or about 25 knots, which actually isn't very much. We've certainly felt as cold sailing at night in the Thames Estuary in January.
It's a great centre and well worth a trip. We felt they could do the penguins better (again reflecting on the success of Lisbon aquarium), and we really would have liked more up-to-date commentary on the re-negotiation of the Antarctic Treaty. This is due for renewal next year and it is very important that the continent is maintained as a centre for scientific research held in trust for the planet and the future.
Sadly and somewhat spookily, Sir Edmund Hillary died the morning we were there. In addition to being the first man up Everest he also led major exhibitions to the ice, including the first machine-based arrival at the South Pole. New Zealand, of course, was plunged into mourning, with flags flying at half mast. Where today can we find the modest adventurers, who give so very much back to the planet and people as Hillary and Sir Peter Blake?

Places and people
Reunion
Hot and getting hotter
11/01/2008, Christchurch

In Christchurch we parked in the drive of Pip's old friend Lou. They worked together many years ago, but haven't seen so much of each other since Pip left for the UK in 1996. Lou herself lived in the UK for a while but that was even earlier.
It was great to leave the bed made up, have ready access to a shower and kitchen, and enjoy Lou's wonderful cooking! We stayed three nights. Many thanks to Louise for her hospitality and great company.

Places and people

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