Sunday, March 7, 2010

Christ Church

Blog Entry Sunday 7th 2010


            Had breakfast at the hotel before heading out on our bus with Dawn, our bus driver, after a brief tour of Christchurch's Cathedral Square we left Christchurch and passed through the suburbs and out of the Canterbury Plains through a tunnel and into the town of Lyttelton. This port was the original landing site of English settlers in New Zealand. This small town perched on the hillsides of an old volcanic crater looking out over the mineral rich turquoise water had a quaint small town feel and lots of logs waiting on the wharf to be shipped off on container ships. After Lyttelton we had a brief stop on the lip of the old crater to look out over the Canterbury Plain, and Christchurch, towards the distant Southern Alps.

            Returning to Christchurch we passed through some wetlands in which bird life abounded, we saw a flock of the oystercatchers, Pukeko, black swans, white faced herons, and assorted species of ducks. Back in Christchurch we toured the University of Canterbury and viewed the historical homestead of the Dean family which were amongst the first to settle the area, the LARPers, live action role players, were displaying their swordsmanship on the lawn and kindly included a few whacks to certain group members helmeted heads, all caught on film of course.

            Traveling past the heavily populated cricket fields we returned to the center of Christchurch were we toured the museum taking in the local history and facts surrounding New Zealand, I especially found their bird collection excellent and allowed a close up view of all the species both extinct and those which eluded me. Hitting the streets in search of lunch the group spread out, some towards the botanical gardens others drawn toward a street performer giving a spirited juggling performance including high unicycles, flaming torches, and a knife. After the performance we hit up street vendors for lunch before wandering off to do some shopping, or wandering perilously close to becoming lost.

            Three-thirty found the group gathering at the hotel and getting on our bus to go the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and Ko Tane Maori Cultural Center. We began by getting a tour of the conservation section of the park we were allowed to meet such denizens of New Zealand as the Weka, a flightless rail, the New Zealand pigeon and others. Going inside the Kea aviary was awesome as the parrots, with a little honey bribe, came quite close and actually landed on some of the group or just sampling a finger here or there. The next native was a pig with a unique squashed in face that made it look they had experienced horrible skateboarding accidents and no amount of plastic surgery could repair the damage, but despite this they were friendly and had a certain charm about them. Then we were allowed into the Kiwi house in which they had six North Island Brown Kiwi with a switched day night cycle, so they were moving around during the day and could be viewed. The first few were asleep then we had a close up encounter with a very active representative of the race who showed us first hand Kiwi's method of interacting with the surrounding environment which is to probe and smell through the tip of their beak, somewhat like a blind person just using scent to guide them. While some of the group continued on the tour two of use stayed back to further observe the Kiwi and were not disappointed in their nocturnal roving as they kindly demonstrated their power of smell in detecting our camera, or blowing bubbles in the stream they proved to be fascinating personal creatures that I did not tire of watching. We finally had to bid them goodbye and run quickly past the Kaka, Blue Duck, and a family of Pukeko to make it to our Maori cultural experience. We were led by our guide, a native woman dressed in a fur robe, through the reserve and told the importance of some animals to Maori culture, before being accosted by a fierce warrior and narrowly avoiding a fight, we then were invited into their village where they performed a native greeting and then showed us the Maori version of the Hokey-pokey. Then the boy's learned and performed a somewhat questionable version of the Haka before we were sung farewell too and left the reserve for our hotel.

            Dinner was fun and full of laughter with a spirited conversation and playful banter being bandied about. It was a little sad to bid our awesome bus driver farewell but the group photo was hilarious and we parted with promises of her looking us up if she ever came to America.

Farmhouses of Fairly

At this stage the tream was split up into two groups, each was staying with their own hosts at the farming community of Fairly. 
               Friday. We woke up early at 8 and travelled in our bus for the next 8 hours. We traveled along Lake Wakatipu and went through Kawarau Gorge. We also traveled past Lake Dunstan and Lindis Pass. We also saw the Waitaki hydro electric plant. We passed Queenstown and did not stop at the ever so loved Arrowtown regretfully.  Along the way we stopped whenever there was interesting nature scenery and whenever someone needed to use the louve.
                Saturday. We left the farmhouse after having a delicious breakfast and then boarded the bus to continue our track to Christchurch. We crossed the Canterbury Plains and finally arrived in Christchurch after a couple more hours.

Friday, March, 5, 2010


            Arrived at our host farm. After having a bit of tea and coffee Bracken, Joel, Stewart, Laird and I went with our host for a tour of the farm. We had seen and fed a couple alpacas. Also fed some sheep, one of them was bottle fed as a baby so it was quite people friendly, to a point where it jumps up on people with food. Also managed to see a dairy farm milking in progress.


            After that we returned to the house and chatted a bit before dinner. The meal consisted of some chicken, some fried vegetables, some broccoli and some kind of Maori potato. Had Pavlova for desert. Overall it was the best meal I had so far in New Zealand. After dinner after a little more discussion Laird, Stewart, Bracken and Joel went out on a possum hunt. I was tired so I decided to go to bed instead.


Saturday, March, 6, 2010


            Got up and had breakfast. Consisted of cereal, toast, scrambled eggs, some fruit and yogurt. Had some cereal, toast and a bit of eggs. Passed up on the fruit and yogurt. During breakfast we learned that our host also has other people who come by for rest on their way to some fishing trip with an expensive guide. A rough estimate of $700 a day, not something I would ever pay for.


            After breakfast we packed up then talked to pass the time until we left. After a bit of time we left to meet up with the rest of the group.



Milford Sound trip and gloworms

            Today we left Queenstown and headed for Milford Sound. It was about a two hour trip south to Te Anau, than north again for a few hours to get to the sound. As we went north, the landscape got more and more mountainous. The tops of the mountains were often covered with clouds, and lots of little waterfalls ran down the sides. Closer to the road, there were jungle-like forests. At one stop, we saw a waterfall that had shaped the rock into smooth curves. After passing through a dark tunnel through a mountain, and a steep road in a forested valley, we arrived at the Sound.

            We boarded a ship, and set off. After an onboard lunch, we made our way out onto the deck at the front. Mountains rose directly out of the water on all sides, with many waterfalls. The first animals we saw were dolphins playing in the water. We got close enough that they were leaping practically right in front of us. We continued on our way, and saw some seals lying on a rock. The scent was not pleasant, to say the least. The ship continued all the way out to the mouth of the Sound opening onto the Tasman Sea. The whole way, the mountains were absolutely amazing.

            On the way back, we saw the dolphins again. This time they were even closer, and they swam right in front of the ship for a while. Every once in a while they would leap out of the water right in front of us. We then approached one of the larger waterfalls. We got right up against it, enough that we all got sprayed. The force of it was intense.

            When we pulled away from that, we docked at an underwater observatory. We descended into a cylinder with windows all around at the bottom. We saw all kinds of fish and undersea plant life. We came up, returned to the dock, and headed back to Te Anau.

            In the evening, we headed across Te Anau Lake to the Gloworm Caves. We spent most of the journey on the top deck. The wind was really intense. When we arrived, we were disappointed to discover that no photography was allowed in the caves. We entered the cave with a guide, and walked along the side of an underwater river. The guide pointed out the saliva strands of the glowworms. In the light, they looked like tiny strands of pearls. At the top of a waterfall, we got into a boat and headed into the darkness of the cave. We entered the chamber with the glowworms, and all we could see were scattered collections of shining pinpoints of light. At times we could also see their reflection in the water. When we returned, we again spent most of the time on the top deck. The stars were amazing! One of the crewmembers helped us find the southern cross in the sky. It was also just moonrise.

            All in all, it was an amazing day. Some people were a little natured-out, but it was still an awesome experience. In the evening, we relaxed and reminisced about our time spent in the quaint village of Arrowtown, and discussed its fascinating history.

Glenorchy trip

Wednesday March 3 2010

                Today was our free day. Our coach would not drive to Glenorchy, which was a place we all wanted to visit. Last night when we were considering what to do about this Hannah suggested renting a van. We all agreed that was a great option and rented a van for the day. We drove to Glenorchy and saw some of the best scenery I've seen on the trip so far. Mountain vistas, Glaciers, Lakes, Waterfalls, Rivers . . . etc.

                We found a nice trail, called the Rathbourn, in the Aspiring National Park. This was the event of my trip thus far. This forest was like I have never seen before. Against Hanna's advice I ventured off the trail along the trap lines. I got some nice photos of 1080 poison traps for ferrets, stoats, and possums. Since my study is on possums as a pest in New Zealand. The ground was all covered in moss and felt like walking on a sponge. The group walked much farther than I expected them to be able to go, but I caught up with them further up the trail. We returned to the van and got some lunch at a local diner.

                After lunch we went to the Glenorchy black marshes and Glenorchy lake and viewed  black swans. There were also other waterfowl such as New Zealand Scaup. The walk around the marshes was quite nice and very scenic. We returned to the Hotel that evening and most were too tired to continue, but I still had a mission and we had a van to do it with.

Bracken, Stewart, Myself and Dr. Potapov took the van and our night equipment out to find some possums. We found many rabbits (I lost count at 20), three feral cats, and four possums. We were only able to get usable photographs of the last possum that Stewart spotted. Consequently the possum is now named Stuart. By the time we found the fourth possum it was time to find our way back to the Hotel and get some much needed rest after a long day.

By, Laird Klippenstein

day2, Lord of the Rings tour

Safari of the Rings


Today we went on a Safari of the Rings tour with two awesome drivers: Malcolm driving the jeep Elrond, and Caroline driving the jeep Frodo.

Our first stop was part way up the Remarkables to see some spectacular views and some of the sights of Lord of the Rings. Malcolm pointed out to us where the Wargs attack the people of Rohan on their way to Helm's Deep, and where Aragorn falls off the cliff. He then turned around and pointed the opposite direction and said "and he lands in a river several kilometers that way, and when he finally gets out of the river it's in yet another spot." This was just an example of all the clever cutting and pasting Peter Jackson did in order to create the scenery of The Lord of the Rings.


Next we drove off toward Arrowtown and through the river. Not just across it, but for sections we were just driving along in the river. We stopped on one of the banks and Malcolm and Caroline made us tea, coffee and hot chocolate, and gave us fruitcake, shortbread and cookies. During our tea break Malcolm showed us how to pan for gold, and just about everyone found at least one tiny little flake. Not worth much, but really neat to find and get to keep! After another drive through the river we came back to the Ford of Bruinen. That's where Arwen calls the tidal wave of magic horses to flood the Nazgul. Of course, where we stopped it was just where the horses actually were standing. The scenery that you see in the movie, the backdrop, is filmed elsewhere and the two shots were pasted together.


We also got to see the sight of the Aragonath, or The Pillars of the Kings, and across the way from there we saw crazy people bungee jumping. Potapov says the only reason to do that is if you want to be able to eat again soon, or to fix your digestion since everything is backwards in the Southern Hemisphere. ;)


We got dropped back in Queenstown and ate a Hobbit sized lunch, and if you know Lord of the Rings you know that does not mean a miniature lunch. Hobbits eat tons! We ate at the Fergburger. They had huge, delicious burgers. I had a lamb burger and Hannah ate something called "Sweet Bambi". The people there were really nice too!


That concluded the group part of our morning and in the afternoon we all went our own ways. Shopping, exploring, napping and going to find Kiwi birds. This evening we take a gondola ride to the top of the mountain for dinner!


All I can think as we eat in the hotel dining room looking out over the beautiful lake Wakitipu or walking or driving through gorges and mountains is that the Lord has created a beautiful world, and too often I take it for granted. I am extremely grateful that I get to be in this beautiful part of the world with these really awesome people.


"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation…. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; the heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; and His hands formed the dry land." (Psalm 95:1,4-5)


-Alison Cole

March 2, 2010

Queenstown NZ

Flight day

We've completed the first leg of our journey.  The first flight was one of those domestic flights that have a way of grating on you.  The only technology to entertain my highly sensitive American persona was my own.  No fancy movie players, you had to pay for food and the seats reminded me of airplanes that I used to fly on as a kid.  All in all it was highly uncomfortable and boring. 

I've come to the conclusion that I would much rather fly for 20 hours with a movie player and free food every three hours than seven hours on a domestic flight any day of the week.  Without my distractions my cigarette cravings were almost out of control.


In the short time our group has been together we've managed to not lose one of our members.  Matt's bag was retrieved from security after he forgot it there and he got it before security blew it up for fear of bombs.  We haven't managed to kill each other and Bracken's uncomfortability on the last leg of the flight sitting next to a very… lets say… "in love" couple was laughable. 


Thus far its an adventure of BACON proportions.  The intercom in the airport is now paging for "passenger Pickles" …best name ever. 


Our next flight was much more enjoyable.  International flights are always epic and Air New Zealand was even better than I expected.  The long flight over had me sitting between Bracken and Laird.  Enjoyable to say the least as neither had crossed the international dateline and it was Bracken's first venture outside of the country.  The service was incredible, the meals were great, the movies were stellar and the company of the two boys made it memorable (to say the least).  We landed after 11 long hours to await a five hour layover in Auckland.


Lets just say that five hours in the Auckland airport is BORING.  But after struggling to deal with the boredom, exhaustion and need for showers we were relieved to find a warm summerish like day outside waiting for us.  The flight to Queenstown was a hop skip and a jump in comparison to the others and we landed amidst a bit of rainfall and ickyness to meet our driver Dawn who ended up being one hell of a tour guide.  Good times.  Good times Good times in New Zealand.
Birdlife included mayna, red-billed gull and house sparrows...