Thursday, April 28, 2016

Continuing our South Island Road Trip

This black (ass) llama was my South Island nemesis. We drove across the bottom of the South Island to the west coast and onto Lake Manapouri at the edge of Fiordland National Park.
I saw this llama with his buddy in a small fenced in area across the parking lot of the motel we were staying in. Thought I’d take a short walk over and check them out. As I approached the fence the llama walked over toward me and suspiciously eyed me with those black llama eyes. He got within about 10 feet of me and stopped. I figured that was fine with both of us. Then Chris and Di walked over to the fence about 10 feet further down. This llama gigolo immediately walked over to the fence right next to the girls and gave them the charismatic eye. I decided to walk up and join the coffee clutch. As I got 3 or 4 feet away this guy lifted his head, pointed his black pupils at me, inhaled a short swift breath and proceeded to spit in my face. I was not amused and he wasn’t joking. I had always heard that llamas spit, but this was the first time I had been brutally attacked up close by a llama. Being so totally emasculated in front of the girls was tough to take.
This wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t wake up the next morning with a nasty case of llama flu. It’s pretty clear that the US flu shot I got when we were back in the states, or as they say in NZ ‘flu jab’, did not cover this strain. I spent the next week spreading the flu virus around all the tourist’s stops on the south island.
siIMG_5121We took this ship for an overnight run through Doubtful Sound, one of the famous fjords of SW New Zealand. The west coast and the fjords border the Tasman Sea which separates NZ and Australia. Doubtful was originally named by Captain Cook as Doubtful Harbour. He named it that because he was doubtful if he sailed into it with the prevailing winds he’d be able to get back out. Latter explorers and exploiters changed the name to Doubtful Sound.
I’m not sure why they bothered to put those three masts on the boat with their hydraulic sail furlers. The duel Yanmar engines on board do all the heavy lifting on this ship.
To get to Doubtful Sound you take a boat ride across Lake Manapouri. Then you get on a bus that travels over the most expensive to build road in NZ because of the terrain it crosses, which pretty much goes straight up and down. Then you pick up your vessel to tour the sound.  Check the air vent holes in the rear of the bus – Kiwis.
The road wasn’t built for the tourist trade. It was created to assist in the construction of the 850 mega-watt Manapouri Hydroelectric Power Station, which was completed in 1971 largely to supply power to an aluminum smelter.
Ken and Di enjoying the rare sunny day in Doubtful Sound while I take pictures from inside the cabin and drink hot-tea to nurse my flu.
Being from the Pacific Northwest, the sights of the seals lazing around the rocks was so-so. What we really wanted to see were the different kinds of penguins. We did, but they were little white dots in the distance – way too shy to get in a photograph.
Either way we were compelled to take pictures of the fury critters
An evening view of the fjords
No shortage of waterfalls around the sound
After our boat trip we headed north up the west coast in our first bad weather day – heavy rain. This is a pic of Roaring Billing Falls. Those are large full sized trees next it. One of many, many falls we saw from the road.
We stopped for lunch and a break from the driving rain at place with this enticing sign. The sandflies are almost invisible biters who inhabit the coasts of NZ.
Inside it was a little more inviting with lots of dead deer antlers hanging from every rafter.
Continuing on in the pouring rain we made it to a short trail that took us out to the lookout to view the famous Fox Glacier. If you look really closely at this picture, right in the V of the mountains, just under the white out sky is a small glimpse of the glacier.
This is actually a famous spot for photography in NZ, Lake Matheson. With a lot of imagination you could see Mt. Cook on the far right beautifully shown in an exact replication on the mirror like surface of the lake. Without the playful imagination it is a picture of a nice lake taken on a nice hike in light drizzle.
Still getting used to this new camera, here’s a native fantail swooping by at a speed clearly faster than I set the shutter speed.
There was a short gold rush, 1864-1867, on the west coast of the south island. This little bit of signage shows that they weren’t good swimmers -  as 47% died from drowning.
That took us to a tourist town on the coast, Hokitika. The place is known for its jade –  ‘greenstone’ to the Maori carvers here. I’m not quite ready to publicly reveal the details behind my accidental taking of this picture of this kiwi bird we saw n the kiwi rescue centre (I’m a little afraid they might deport me). They are hard to see, much less photograph, in their wild state- they’re rare, shy and nocturnal.
But even better was this near rusty stuff in the Sock Museum. These are old and some newer sock knitting machines. Does it get much better than that?
Next day we stopped at the Buller Gorge. It claims the longest swing bridge in New Zealand at 360 feet. Swing bridge is Kiwi talk for a suspension bridge. I call a swing bridge one of those rotating railroad bridges over water ways. But this one does swing when you get on it.
The river was fairly tranquil
Chris and Di braved almost sure death – earning their Cabernet Sauvignon that evening.
Along with the cab came this Kiwi special- the Commercial Burger. The Kiwis like a lot of stuff on their  burgers. Butter mostly, but along with that an egg, bacon, a large slice of beet and some various secret cholesterol-adding ingredients. Yummy!
Next stop on our tour is wine country.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Dunedin, The South Island

We’re getting a little behind on our blog posts. Been too busy working on boat projects. The big one right now is installing an ITR Hurricane/Zephyr boat heater/hot water heater. It always takes some time to get photos ready for a blog post. This time we had some technical issues caused by the chief photographic assistant. We have new, hand-me down, Canon camera body. Our son-in-law, Tyler, passed this one on. He was using it to take night sky long exposure shots. I failed to reset the ISO setting on the camera. The result being a lot of grainy photos. Oh well.
After a few days in Auckland we flew out to the southern end of the south island with our friends Ken and Di, visiting from southern California. First stop was a few days in Dunedin (Doo-neee-din in Kiwi). In the 1860s this was the largest city in New Zealand. It was populated with a bunch of Scots, mainly the Free Church of Scotland missionaries. Now it is a major university town, including a medical school and the University of Otago (Otago being the region that Dunedin is in). Dunedin, at 46° South, is a lot colder than the north island and a lot rainier. While we were there it had the look of an overcast,rainy Scottish day. No wonder the Scots thought it was good place to settle.
Downtown in the evening drizzle.
Painting the exterior walls of buildings is big in NZ. They seem to mostly reserve the graffiti to railroad cars. I’m not sure how they find the time to get these murals painted while it isn’t raining.
The car parks aren’t that great, but the wall murals make up for it.
Here’s a close up of the detail they put into these murals.
I wanted to take a train ride, so my traveling companions agreed to head to the train station – appropriately dressed in Scottish rain gear.
We took the 1920’s rail cars on the Taieri Gorge Railway to Pukerangi, at the head of the gorge.
A remote farmstead along the rail route.
The rain lightened up as we crossed one of several long steel bridges that span this gorge.
When we arrived at Pukerangi station, you get a little walk around while they shuttle the engine from one end of the train to the other for the trip down the gorge. Not much at Pukerangi – OK, really nothing, but nice to walk a bit.
The railroad opened up these gorge areas to sheep farming and logging. After I got my train trip I had to agree to pretty much anything else the travelling companions wanted to do for the rest of the trip.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Big City Visit–Auckland

Our friends Diane and Ken, flew in from Southern California, via Hawaii, to do some touring with us in New Zealand. After doing a quick round of the Northland we spent a few days in Auckland. This is the famous Auckland Space Needle reflected on the side of a downtown office tower. Actually, it’s not the Space Needle, but the iconic Auckland Sky Tower. If you include the mast at the top it is the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere at 328 metres or 1,076 feet. It was built over 1994 to 1997. I’m still partial to Seattle’s Space Needle. It gets points for age and aesthetics. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair at 605 feet or 184 metres. When built it was the tallest structure west of the Mississippi.
We timed our visit for the Pasifika Festival held at Western Springs Park, the home of the Auckland Zoo. The festival has been running since 1992. I’m not sure how its name came about, maybe a phonetic Polynesian spelling of Pacific.
The festival wasn’t as a good as we had hoped. In the Pacific islands we saw many great multi-day contests where elaborate groups from different villages would compete against each in judged dances. The festival in Auckland had lots of representatives from the various islands, but no direct competitions. There are very large ex-pat communities from Niue, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa living in Auckland. Almost 20 times as many Niueans live in New Zealand than in Niue.
Not exactly from the Pacific, but the Indonesian booth had some fancy getups.
Maybe escapees from the zoo, a native Pukeko (above) and a sort-of-native Black Swan. Apparently swans were present when the first humans settled New Zealand. By the time the Europeans arrived they were gone, along with the Moa (a kind of giant kiwi). In the 1860’s Swans were re-introduced, Moa are unfortunately extinct.
The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement has some pretty strong dissenters in NZ. Billed as a free-trade agreement between the Pacific Rim countries, like all the other ‘free trade agreements’ it is in reality a tariff agreement. It defines what will trade with low or no tariffs and what each country can protect. One issue for the Kiwis is that the US government’s massive subsidies for agriculture are still allowed by the TPPA – dairy and lamb being a huge part of NZ’s exports.
See those fighting Kiwis?
One highlight of a visit to Auckland is the New Zealand Maritime Museum. The museum is very well done with displays on the early Polynesian arrivals as well the Euro explores like Tasman and Cook. A good bit of space is dedicated to Russell Coutts and Peter Blake’s led Kiwi victory in the 1995 America’s Cup in San Diego where the Kiwis broke the 144 year run of all American wins. Above is one of the sleek trial boats in the museum.
Coutts was famous for wearing his lucky red socks when he competed. Kiwis all over the country got behind him and started wearing red socks to cheer on each race. One farmer reportedly had his entire herd walk through tubs of red dye so they would all have red socks. I thought it would be pretty easy to have Mr. Google find the image of those 1995 red socked sheep. The best I could come up with was the running of the sheep in Merriwa, Australia where for some reason they put red socks on the sheep.

Auckland seemed to have a pretty easy to use public bus system. Certainly easier than parking downtown. I spotted this sign at the bus stop while we were waiting for our bus back to the hotel. Seems like weekday commuters have some issues with the bus system