Saturday, 18 February 2012

Day 321: Boulder Bank

Over by Nelson is a long natural spit of boulders with a lighthouse at the end. We decided to walk along it, but it proved to be much harder than we thought. There was no real path for most of the way, just boulders. On one side of the bank was the flat expanse of mud of the empty estuary. On the other was the sea. The sun blazed down on us and there was no shade at all. We were glad to shelter in the driftwood cabin above at lunchtime. If I was going to do this walk again, I would pick a cloudy day!!

We certainly didn't make it all the way to the lighthouse, but we did discover that the rocks are rich in sea urchins on the seaward side.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Day 320: Ngarua Caves

Ngarua Caves is just up the hill and as well as the usual stalagmites and stalactites it has a little collection of bones from animals that fell in over the years.  This is a small moa (small species, not a young animal).  It would have been maybe a bit smaller than Antonia.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Day 319: More hiking and kayaking

Penny went hiking on the coastal track again and Mike and Antonia went kayaking around the bay at Kaiteriteri.  I don't think any of us took our cameras so here's a picture of a 'museum' we made at the beach the other day.  It's made up of tiny things we found mixed in with the grains of sand.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Monday, 13 February 2012

Day 316: Abel Tasman Coastal Track

The Abel Tasman Coastal Track takes several days, so we just went to Anchorage and back.  That's already about 25 km. It's a really beautiful forest and beach type of walk.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Day 315: Antonia's engineering project

Drawing the roads
The engineering project

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Day 314: Hanmer Springs - Marahau

What I love about New Zealand is that even the main highways look like little country roads.  Today's driving probably wasn't even on a main highway.  It's the sort of territory where you check the location of the next petrol station carefully, but when you're ready for a picnic lunch, you just pull off on a little track and find yourself on a pebble beach by the side of the river.  We eventually arrived at Marahau on the borders of the Abel Tasman park and it is just as lovely as it was when we left it.  We are going to take a couple of days off now.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Day 313: Hanmer Springs

Today is the day we intend to spend all day sitting in hot thermal waters of Hanmer Springs pools.  It turns out to also be the first rainy day for quite a while.  For some reason, we find this disconcerting, as if we weren't planning to get wet anyway.  The pools turned out to be fabulous, even in the rain.  I had suspected the brochure of magnifying the size of the complex, but it really didn't.  There are still some parts I haven't been in, because I can't be bothered to walk that far in the rain.  I spent most of my time between the super hot hexagonal pools and the cool swimming pool where you can do laps.  Mike and Antonia bought a pass for the slides which they say are good, and Mike enjoyed the sulphur baths, though they irritated my skin.

Eventually we were starving so we went to the deli across the road where Antonia and I shared the breakfast called The Heartstopper, while Mike ate a roasted vegetable salad full of vitamins.  We sat around and worked on our computers until we felt like returning to our cabins for a nap.  After a quick supper, we were back in the pools for another go at getting warm and wet. I actually felt like I was on holiday!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Days 311 & 312: Dunedin to Hamner Springs

We spread the driving over two days.  This is perhaps the least spectacular part of New Zealand we have been in, but it is pleasant enough.  We stopped to look at the Moeraki boulders.

I thought the Top 10 holiday park we stayed at on Tuesday was OK but a bit spartan.  The one in Timaru turns out to be vastly nicer and the one in Hamner Springs is a bit aged, but cute.  They make the Dunedin one look like a prisoner of war camp conversion.  In the last two cases, our campground cabins have a separate bunk room for kids, a sitting room/kitchen area and a double bed round one corner.  They don't have bathrooms, but they do have microwaves, kettles, toasters....  This latest one has a sink.  Funny how they vary.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Day 310: Dunedin Public Art Gallery

Mike and Antonia went off for another Cadbury's chocolate factory tour.  I went to Dunedin Public Art Gallery instead.  The piece I liked best was The Pressure of Sunlight Falling, by Fiona Pardington.  Here is the simple explanation of what I was looking at, from the gallery's site:
Fiona Pardington's The Pressure of Sunlight Falling is a series of photographs that depict life casts made by medical scientist and phrenologist Pierre Dumoutier during one of French explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville's South Pacific voyages from 1837-1840.
It's rare to find images of 19th century people from anywhere in the world that are as 'photorealistic' as this. The casts were made in the belief that humanity could be explained and categorised according to head shape, but now those pretensions have been stripped away.  Instead of a set of scientific data we see individual people memorialised by the casting process.  It is very moving.

When I got talking with the lady at the front desk of the museum, she was very interested in the process itself, what the casts were like today as physical objects.  I didn't feel quite the same way she did.  I noticed one of the casts was crumbling a bit and one had a definite seam as if it hadn't been finished completely.  The casts were coloured (or left uncoloured) for the most part in a way that was more, errr... black and white literally than naturalistic, but which people recognise as being a nod in the direction of naturalism.  The tattoos on the Maori show up as indentations but then someone decided to draw a fine black line in the bottom of the identation which looks nothing like a real tattoo.  For the most part, I was more interested in looking through the artifice to the meaning. Sometimes the process of making the casts contributes to that.  All the people had their eyes closed for the mould-making and it gives them a very spiritual, meditative appearance.  The cast making process (and the photography) also tends to equalise people.  It removes most of the signals that indicate social context.  Not entirely, because the cast labels tell us one man was a slave and I am pretty sure that the tatoos of at least one of the Maori indicate high status.  In the exhibition, slaves, high status Maoris and European scientists get the same treatment and are reduced to basic humanity.  It's curious, because part of the process of cast making also involved getting people to agree to be cast, and in the 19th century, I doubt the terms and understanding of the agreement were the same for slaves, Maori chiefs and the captains of European ships. For most of them the casts were made as part of a cultural practice that was not theirs, and which was being used to demonstrate their supposed inferiority. 

On the wall of the exhibition is a poem by Ariana Tikao that I really liked.  In English, it starts:

What were you thinking
Behind timeBeyond the husk
It's a shame I can't reproduce it all because it said how I felt how about the images better than I could.  It was even better in Maori (the sound patterns worked better) and I had fun deciphering the meaning from the translation.  I think this must be the same Ariana Tikao. I like her music as much as her poems.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Day 309: scenic route from Invercargill to Dunedin

Today we drive from Invercargill to Dunedin.  Stop one on the Catlin heritage trail: Waipapa lighthouse, with rolling mists off the sea and a small family of sea lions.  Two of the females went into the sea when they noticed us and hung around there playing.  This last one eventually decided to join them, but I guess she was favorite wife, because the guy there didn't want to let her go and spent his time trying to herd her back.

Stop two: petrified forest at Curio Bay:  well it's not quite like the petrified forest in Arizona but it's still pretty cool.  The signboards say that the forest was petrified in months after volcanic mud floods covered it.  One of the coolest things here is a long bore channel type of thing on which you can watch the kelp rise up and down as the waves come in.

Stop three: Purakanui Falls and Jack's Blowhole.  The falls were easy to find and pretty enough, though actually, the ten minute walk through the forest around them is more interesting. I tried to learn to draw fern trees.   Jack's Blowhole was at the end of a 20 minute walk starting from Jack's Bay, which is a 20 minute drive through a network of badly signposted unsealed tracks.  It is a deep hole with vegetation growing on the cliff walls that line it.  Very beautiful and worth hunting for.  I don't know if Mike got a good picture of it, I just got more kelp. The coast here is gorgeous with lots of wide empty beaches we didn't quite have time for.  We were photographing one when we met some people who came off a cruise ship in Dunedin.  They told us the Zaandam, the ship we took across the Pacific is in port.  We were excited at the thought of seeing it again, but we soon realised we wouldn't make it to Dunedin in time.

We were going to stay with a guy we met up with yesterday, but he wasn't well, so we just checked into the local campsite and went out for Thai food. Today was one of the most fun days I've had road touring, but I was still exhausted, barely coherent and starving.  I think it is the first time in a Thai food restaurant that our family has actually finished all the food we ordered.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Day 308: Bluff, Invercargill, Waitangi Day

Now, we're off on a six-day driving tour of South Island, aming to end up in Marahau on Saturday.  We are really not going the short way. We had an uneventful drive from Queenstown to Invercargill.  All we can say is that the traffic cops in New Zealand are pleasant and polite (ahem).  We got to Bluff, which is the point from which the ferries go to Stewart Island at the very southern end of South Island.  The Maori legend goes that Steward Island is Maui's anchor, South Island is his canoe, and North Island is the fish he pulled out of the water.  This is the anchor chain.

We had fish and chips in a little cafe just above the anchor change, and when we came out we got chatting with some people who were also having fish and chips just outside.  Before we knew it we had an invite to stay at Terra's house in Invercargill for the night, then at Jeff's in Dunedin the next night.  First we were going for a couple of short strolls, along the coast, then through the woods, then a quick drive and a walk over to the ship's graveyard.  There were lots of people around today, but I honestly hadn't quite realised it was Waitangi Day until I saw it in the newspapers.  The Waitangi Treaty founded New Zealand as a nation, and since it is essentially a treaty with the  Maori they are at the forefront of making sure it gets respected.  Therefore sometimes thing get a little rough on Waitangi Day and this year was not an exception.

We had a very nice peaceful time getting to know Terra and her daughter and finding out all about the New Zealand education and health systems.  We went out for burgers at Devil's Burgers which must exist to match Hell's Pizza, I think.  I was so tired, I think I went to bed about 9.00pm but Mike and Antonia stayed up chatting till just after 11.00.   Wow!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Day 307: In which they run us out of Arrowtown (just kidding)

Last night I finished my book on ancient Australian archaeology and I was thinking I would have a nice relaxing day, pack my bag, have an aperitif with our new friends in Arrowtown, stuff like that.  In the morning I did a bit of writing and set off for a little walk along the gorge and river.  When I got back, I found Mike and Antonia shovelling our things into the car as fast as they could.  Whoops! It turns out we are checking out today, not tomorrow.  Actually, it was not such a hassle.  Nothing is really a hassle in NZ.  We checked into the hotel next door, rearranged the location of our aperitif and went for a picnic by Lake Hayes. Antonia and I went swimming in the lake.  After realising that the water was very clear, we got the masks and snorkels out and went swimming over the weeds.  At some points we were swimming through forests of tall thin stalks with golden leaves, then occasionally we'd get into places where the mud was churned up for some reason and it was like swimming through a blizzard.  Lots of fun, but we didn't see any fish.  It's a very nice warm Sunday and quite sociable down at the lake today, so I expect all the fish have gone to hang out at the other end.

Unfortunately, I forgot to ask Mike to take a picture of me looking like a Bond girl in my wetsuit, but I realised we haven't included any pictures of Arrowtown so far, so here's a couple.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Day 305: Moonlight Track

Our host gave us a lift to the start of a walk called the Moonlight track which follows the curves of a river to Moke Lake.  Then he picked us up at the other end which is ultra nice of him.  The walk is fairly flat so we found it extremely pleasant and easy.  Whilst not exactly crowded, it was surprising just how much was going on.  There were jet boats on the river, a bungee jumping station arranged just above it, some groups of horse riders and a few people in four wheel drives who were doing something, but we weren't sure what.  There was also a smalll flock of young sheep who looked as though they thought it was all a bit much.  When we got close to the lake, the valley opened out into something really beautiful, all golden and dark greens with a bright blue lake.  These days the kiwis know exactly what to do with an environment like this - make films in it!  Sure enough there was a film crew at Moke lake.