Thursday, April 28, 2016

Continuing our South Island Road Trip

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Either way we were compelled to take pictures of the fury critters

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An evening view of the fjords

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No shortage of waterfalls around the sound

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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.

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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.

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Inside it was a little more inviting with lots of dead deer antlers hanging from every rafter.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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The river was fairly tranquil

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Chris and Di braved almost sure death – earning their Cabernet Sauvignon that evening.

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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.

Paul

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