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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Glorious sunset
15/01/2008, Kakanui Point

Driving along the coast road to Dunedin is a delight. Low cliffs and pretty beaches. We finally found Kakanui Point, where we have parked under some low pines for a little shelter. Turkish sauce with lamb, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms and the last of our broccoli and courgette. Yum!

Places and people
Scolding penguins
15/01/2008, Bushy Bay

The penguins come right up the cliff, to their nests laid throughout the scrub and bush. One came up to the fence and spent several minutes scolding all the viewers. They are obviously used to the barrier, but still vigorously defend their territory.

Places and people
Battling penguins
15/01/2008, Bushy Bay, Oamaru

From the Waitaka valley we turned south to Oamaru. This was a major port and is the first town-sized Scottish settlement in this most Caledonian of colonies. The names are redolent of trout in granite streams; Usk Street and Glendale. (Though someone has also been here from the East of England, given the presence of the Yare and Lynn in the street atlas.) The architecture has decorations often foresworn in the dour North but is unmistakably Scottish in its churches and grand public buildings. Much of it is in the lovely whitestone of this area, a bright limestone which wears remarkably well and is easy to quarry.
Just outside Oamaru there are colonies of both Little Blue and Yellow-Eared penguins. The latter are now rare and protected, and we've never seen them before, so we went to Bushy Bay. Here DOC have created a cliff top walkway and hide, to stop people frightening these nervous birds off their nests. It's an excellent facility with a grandstand view of the penguins emerging from the kelp and surf.
The Maori name is hoiho, which means noisy bird. Very apt as the penguins are loud! The chicks on the well-hidden nests scream loudly, sometimes sounding like a baby abandoned in the bush. The adults talk, and often launch into loud screams, trills and trumpets. They can be aggressive. We saw two birds fighting on the beach and despite being perhaps 25m above could hear them clearly.

Places and people
Maori rock art
15/01/2008, Takiroa

Further along the Waitaka valley we passed Takiroa. This huge limestone bluff lies on the Maori route from the sacred mountain of Aoraki to the sea. It used to have lots of paintings in red and black, showing sinuous taniwha (water monsters) and birds, people riding horses and boats rigged in the European style.
Many of these were carved out by early settlers and are now displayed in various museums. Today the remainder are protected as taonga (treasure) by the local Maori iwi (tribe) Ngai Tahu.
No-one really knows why the pictures are here. Was the place sacred and thus decorated? Or were the pictures drawn to make the resting place protected? Maybe they were drawn by bored lads passing the time during a rain storm. It's a beautiful spot.

Places and people
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

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