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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
More steam
29/01/2008, Shantytown

Shantytown is a 'theme village', set up to illustrate the gold mining history of the region. A little steam train takes you up the hill to the sawmill and then the 'gold claim'. The logging and forest clearance was also very important here.
Pip got an invaluable lesson in panning from the guys who run the 'claim'. They bring in loads of gravel and water and from it a few crumbs are extracted. So much of the hills here have been mined three, four or five times. They have surrounded the 'claim' area with copies of the sluices, gullies, waterwheels and pumps of alluvial gold mining on an industrial scale. We (or at least Sarah) had never realised how fantastically destructive such river mining was; it's not an old codger with a back pack and pan. Or rather, it's thousands of old codgers, with pumped water and endless gullies and sluices.
The other fascinating element of Shantytown is the recreation of Chinatown. Such a settlement existed on the sites of all the gold rushes, as Chinese would come in to the fields. Many (the most prosperous) worked to service the miners, and the Chinese ownership of market gardens and grocery businesses testifies to their success. Others worked over the areas already abandoned by the Europeans. Patience and persistence paid off, often providing reasonable yields from areas deemed as worked out.
For the Chinese men (and the vast majority were men), even this hard life was preferable to the appalling prospects back home. China, particularly Canton where many came from, was ravaged by war and famine. The Opium wars (forced on China by the British in the name of free trade) had also generated massive addiction with accompanying violence and disease.
Despite their industriousness and low profile in NZ, many Europeans resented and feared the Chinese. A poll tax, initially £50 then £100, was imposed on them, along with other legislative discrimination. For instance, the State Pension introduced before 1900 was not paid to Chinese residents till late in the 1930's.
The little area in Shantytown (of which we shamefully neglected to take pix) was very well done and moving. We think there must still be a reasonably powerful Chinese presence in the area, to pressure for or pay for the exhibit, which we enjoyed.

Places and people
Panning for gold
28/01/2008, Jones Creek

On leaving Okarito, we stopped at Ross, a famous old goldmining centre, where Pip finally got to try her luck.
Not with huge success, unfortunately, and we discovered that gold panning is an opportunity for intimate acquaintance with midges.
For the night, we went to the DOC site at Lake Mahinapua. This was a major pleasure centre during the gold rushes of the west coast, and the info boards are decorated with photos of Victorian pioneers boarding paddle steamers and all sorts of smaller vessels, well supplied with bulging hampers for picnics.

Places and people
28/01/2008, Afloat mostly

Here are two more of these endearing diving ducks.
We hired a kayak from the charming Richard, Edwina and (six year old) Monty and had a splendid morning paddling up the river and through the creeks and streams that feed the lagoon. Once out of the main stream, it was beautifully calm and still, the peace disturbed only by cicadas, tui and our own splashes.
It was not entirely without adventure; the dropping tide meant we had to get out and pull the kayak a couple of times. Excellent experience.
The woods around here are an important kiwi reserve, one of their few remaining breeding grounds. It was very distressing to read in the paper, a couple of days later, that someone had deliberately set fires in their habitat. According to one of the local guides (who we had met), none of the kiwi were killed, but it is tragic assault nonetheless. With so little habitat left, any more loss is significant risk.

Places and people
28/01/2008, Afloat with very little freeboard

The white heron is a rarity in NZ, though common enough elsewhere. They breed only at the northern end of the Okarito lagoon, and come down to the southern end to feed. This is one, knowing that we, in our kayak, will not come close enough to his fishing post.

Places and people
Looking west

Sitting on a bench overlooking the Tasman Sea, the water showed a distinct change in colour. This might be where the glacial rock-flour in the water becomes diluted, or where the seabed suddenly dips. As the sun moved across the sea, the effect faded.
In the distance, clouds sit on the horizon. Of course, it's not land, as Australia is rather too far away to see.

Places and people
Gossamer and rock

On the way back through the forest, we saw this enormous dragonfly. It posed for us on rocks beside the path.
The forest was loud with cicadas. They buzz incessantly, and click too, like rattles. The birds were quiet though, for it was very hot and everyone was drowsy.

Places and people
Possibly Paradise
Sarah & pip
27/01/2008, Well now, there's a thing

We are reluctant to name our next stop, because it is such a lovely place and doesn't need to be too popular! After we had parked Puff in the campsite, the first words we heard, from the next door van, were 'welcome to Paradise'.
The tiny village of Okarito sits at the end of 13km of road off the state highway. It has a big inland waters system of lagoons and rivers, of which more later, and an enormous beach. You can walk along the beach to Three Mile Lagoon and then back through the woods along an old pack track. This is the view back to the Southern Alps from the river mouth, about three miles from the camp site. Magnificent.
This was one of the very few places where the gulls were not immediately begging for food, even when we sat down with sandwiches. That's how quiet and unfrequented the place still is.

Places and people
Inside the cave

Deep blue. Just a hint of what it might be like.
Would I do it again? You bet. In fact, next time, I'd do the full day hike to get much higher up the glacier.

Places and people

This is the mouth of an ice cave, showing the changes of colour. I climbed down into it and had an interesting time getting out again. That's how I know about sitting in the puddles.
You can see that at the centre of the cave, it begins to get white again. This is thinning ice. Luke hacked at it from the far side, saying that in a couple of days there would be a fine tunnel for visitors to walk through.

Places and people
On the ice

When you first reach the ice, after the climb in the muggy heat of the forest, it feels really cold. Jackets on. But then you get used to it, and it's really sunny, and you're hot again. It's always cold to the touch, of course, and if you sit in a puddle, your backside will feel the chill.
Amazing experience. The ice is white in the sunshine, but in the winter, or in shade is the purest blue. It is broken into spires and buttresses, and eaten out by water.
The glacier is quite a noisy place. Quite apart from our own noise (boots scrunching, Luke's ice-axe, excited voices, camera clicks), there is the constant sound of water. The surface of the ice is covered in runnels and streams, and they tinkle and whisper inside the glacier or running in tiny waterfalls across the shattered edges. Every now and then there's the clink of moving rocks, stones rubbing against each other or the hard crystals of the ice. And occasionally, remote and muffled, there is a boom. Somewhere, below, at the tongue, ice is cracking and falling.
We were in the 'mellow middle', higher than the constant abrasion at the outer end, and below the changing pressure and ice falls of the high reaches. A good place for complete novices.

Places and people
Ice and more ice

We were lucky with the weather; it rains, on average, 200 days a year on the Fox Glacier, but we were in hazy sunshine. The ice reaches back up into the mountains, where it is fed by several smaller glaciers forming in the high snowfields.
Global warming is having the paradoxical effect of increasing the glacier. Little rain is falling in Australia, even less at the moment because it is a La Nina year. The water comes west to New Zealand in the prevailing winds of the Roaring Forties, and hits the Southern Alps. So more snow is falling than usual into the névés; glaciers are made of compacted snow and so they're growing. Our guide, Luke, said they would be growing (moving) at 1m a year, but erosion, including melting, reduces that to 10cm a year. However, the ice is also getting thicker, so there's definitely a lot more of it.
Incidentally, no-one had heard of the statement, which is earlier in this blog, that the glaciers were tiny 800 years ago. We got this from one of our guidebooks (which is 30 years old), so we will have to check it when we get a googling opportunity.

Places and people
Ice and Trees
26/01/2008, Fox Glacier

There are only three places in the world where you can look out of temperate rainforest, down on to glacial ice. Here at Fox, just down the road at Franz Josef, and in Patagonia.
It was quite a haul up the hill; we climbed 250m in one and a half hours. Not much, I know, to some readers of this blog, but plenty for me. Even so, we were only 450m up. An intriguing feature here is how low the glaciers come, to within 200m above sea level. In winter, it is very rare for the tongue, or even where we walked on the ice, to get any snowfall.

Places and people

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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