Leaving NZ – Revisiting Marlborough Sounds (and Hawke’s Bay)

Snow on the mountains; view from our Ruby Bay houseIt’s getting rather cold, now that it’s autumn (end of May); this picture was taken from the balcony of our house in Ruby Bay, looking in the direction opposite the bay.  Snow on the mountains.  And, alas, time to leave NZ.  We’ve gotten 3 email reminders from Immigration that our time to leave is fast approaching (efficient, that office).   So we’re off to Auckland to sell back our car.  We get to do the Marlborough Sounds/Cook Strait ferry trip again – hopefully in sunshine this time – but our primary aim on the way back to Auckland is to see the Tongariro National Park – and maybe hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the most popular day hike in NZ.  We’ll see; it’s pretty iffy this time of year, when snow can make it impassable.  Oh yeah, and we’ll visit (or revisit) some wineries on the way back – why not??

We finish cleaning the house, pack everything into the car, and head off to Picton to connect with the ferry.  We’ll be making the same trip between the North and South Islands that we did in December, but in reverse.  That first trip was made through the middle of a fog bank (Dec. 12; “Marlborough – The Sound, The Wine“). Hopefully this time will be different!  As we pull away from Picton, early early in the morning, we are greeted by bright sunshine fore and aft.  All Right!!!

The water is calm, the temperature cool, the air crystal clear; it’s a perfect morning.  We’re navigating the same Queen Charlotte part of the Marlborough Sounds as before, but the view is strikingly different from our earlier trip; the view of the mountains meeting the water is very pretty, but it’s missing the atmospherics of the fog that I had so decried on our first trip.  Below are pictures from along the route.  At one point Ginger finds me (it’s a big boat!) to that say there are dolphins playing in our wake; alas, when I get to the stern they are gone.

Suddenly, around a bend (there are many bends!), I can see a clear demarcation in the water; we are about to enter Cook Strait, and our calm water is going away!  Pretty dramatically!

Oh yeah, there is a (pardon the pun) sea change in the water!  The waves are crashing on the rocks, and this big lumbering boat is swaying pretty hard.  Perhaps in the upper right picture below you can get a feeling for the large swells, although it feels much rougher than it looks in the picture.

There are some very pretty views to be had as we pull away from the South Island, and these help take our minds off the rolling ship.

The middle of the Strait is pretty uninteresting unless you like to count the swells rocking the boat.  Some of the passengers soon take to fresh air, hanging over the railing, but we’re good.  Ginger took a Bonine before boarding, and I buy a ginger beer as therapy.  A couple of rocking hours later we approach Wellington and its bay on the North Island, and the water becomes both calmer and prettier.

We showed you Wellington before (Dec 5, 2013, “Wellington City and WOW!”), so I’ll just On the road to the Waipara Valley - and wine!end this section with a shot of the beautiful mountains (and winding road!) on our way to a quick stop in the Martinborough wine region.  We plan to have lunch there and revisit a couple of our favorite wineries.  We can’t stay long because (1) I’m driving and can’t drink much, and (2) we’re due in Napier where we’ve scheduled a few days to further explore wineries in our favorite wine region, Hawke’s Bay.  Work, work, work!



We covered these wine regions in a previous post (Dec 6, 2013; “Napier, Hawke’s Bay, and … Martinborough?“).  Martinborough is not small, it’s tiny; but they do have some wonderful wines.  They’re almost on the way to Napier and Hawke’s Bay, so the small detour won’t cost us too much.  One of our Martinborough favorites, Murdoch JamesBesides, we really want to revisit some of our favorites.  Alas, Coney Wines was closed, but we did find Murdoch James open.  Yummmmmmm!  Fortified Pinot Noir may sound weird, but it’s really good!  Then off to Hawke’s Bay.  The wineries here are spread over a large area, and we missed a lot of them the first time through; but we’ll make up for that now!

Map of Hawke's Bay WineriesAs you can see from the map, the wineries (the small numbered squares) are scattered over a large area.   Intervening cities and the distance between wineries make it hard to visit very many in a day.  The first time through we concentrated on the northern ones (as well as sight-seeing in Napier), so didn’t cover much territory – but we loved what we covered!!  This time we’ll concentrate on the more southerly wineries.  Alas, there’s no way we can do them all; next trip, right?  Below are pictures of a couple that we really liked  – Alpha Domus and Elephant Hill, and below that the elegant Craggy Range.

Some of our favorites are shown below, but we shouldn’t forget Black Barn, and certainly not Church Road.

Next post, Tongariro National Park – for me, the highlight of our NZ trip!

Revisiting Nelson Lakes, with company

Brian and Janaki, Mt Roberts to the rightI’ve shown you Nelson Lakes National Park before (post of Dec 29 2013, “Nelson Lakes National Park“).  It’s a pretty area, nestled at the northernmost limit of the Southern Alps and serviced by the sleepy village of St. Arnaud, population 100.  This time we are revisiting with company – similar to our last post on Abel Tasman National Park.  First to visit is our son Brian and his girlfriend Janaki.  When last we were here, Ginger climbed the challenging Mt. Robert (that mountain on the right), a 2,000 foot ascent up the Pinchgut Track, correctly labeled “steep”.  Due to the lateness of the day and impending clouds, on that climb we had backtracked down the Pinchgut rather than complete the slightly longer 6 mile loop.  This time we plan to do the reverse climb, doing the 6 mile loop and only going down the Pinchgut.  Alas, when we get there, that trail head has signs saying it is temporarily closed.  Rats!  So off we go, once again up the Pinchgut.

What makes the trip more interesting for us is that Janaki, bless her heart, has never hiked up a mountain, much less one that’s a hard 2ooo feet up.  The path starts gently, but rapidly turns into a series of steep switchbacks.  Early on, Ginger realizes that this is not her day to hike and decides it would be wise to turn back, particularly since she’s done this hike before.  The rest of us continue on,  but as we look out from the trail, we discover that the high clouds (visible in the first picture) are not quite so high anymore; they’re lower, and they’re coming our way.  Nooooooooooo!

We keep climbing, and the clouds keep lowering.  As you may remember, the trail goes in and out of the woods, but when it comes out, the view below is increasingly and disappointingly obscured.  Janaki, however, is doing great and is plowing uphill just fine,

in spite of the impressive incline.  The view is crap, but the kids are enjoying being inside a cloud.  OK, but what about the view you’re missing?

Janaki and the view (or lack thereof) from the topFinally we clear the woods for the last time and shortly we’re at the plateau top.  Yeah, the loop continues up a little further, but what’s the point?  The view won’t change!  So back down the Pinchgut we go, still stuck inside that darn cloud!  I’m grumbling in my beard, but the kids still think being in a cloud is cool.

Just two final photos: the view back at the trailhead, with victorious climbers Brian and Janaki; and the view of the lake and the mountain from St. Arnaud, showing Mt. Robert being sat on by a cloud – which, on the right side of the mountain, funnels right down the Pinchgut track!

Those clouds are just mean!


The trail in a pretty birch tree forestNext to visit Nelson Lakes is John Chang, our California friend.  This time we’ll climb the mountains on the other side of Lake Rotoiti, the St. Arnaud range; it’s a tougher climb, a longer and higher up-and-back.  A disadvantage of this climb is that, unlike Mt. Robert where the trail goes in and out of the woods, offering panoramic views as you go (if you’re not inside a cloud), this climb is all woods most of the way until you finally emerge onto treeless tundra.  At the start the trail is pretty smooth and gentle, and the birch forest is beautiful.  Soon, however, the trail heads up – rather steeply – and becomes rough, peppered with rocks and roots.

On the rocky outcrop with a view of Mt RobertsWe finally clear the forest – we’ve been working hard! – and not far away is a rocky outcrop with a view.  This is the turn-around point for many climbers, and we decide to stop here for our well-earned lunch as we catch our breath and cool our heels.  It’s a pretty view, Mt Robert and Lake Rotoiti in front of us, and the valley heading north off to our right, as shown below.

The view up from our rocky outcropWe, of course, will not be deterred from reaching the top.  No wimps, we!  You will note, however, from the picture to the side, that the terrain is wickedly steep.  We’ll actually be climbing up the mountain to the left of this picture, but it’s no less steep!  The picture below shows some pretty flora on the mountainside Pretty plants on the mountainsideas we hike up – I’m taking pictures of flowers, not catching my breath, honest!

Going up the steep incline, we occasionally stop and turn around to catch the increasingly awesome view of our stoney outcrop, Mt Robert, Lake Rotoiti, St. Arnaud, and the mountains in the distance.Half-way up the steep part

Near the top it gets really steep (it wasn’t before?) and we have to use our hands as well as our feet to go up; we’re crawling!  And then we’re there.

It’s bloomin’ Awesome!  Unlike Mt. Robert, this ridge top is sharp, so there is a nearly 360º view – including the other side of the mountain that we have never seen.  To start off, let me show you the view you’ve been seeing, that of Mt. Robert.  Note in the foreground that it looks like you’ll fall off a cliff if you take a step forward.  Yep, the climb up was steep!  The trail continues at a right angle along the ridge, but that must be for hikers spending the night somewhere.  We’re

happy not to be going further!  Pictures can’t capture the whole gorgeous scene, but I’ll show you a few.

A strange plantSome of the plants up here are pretty interesting – for example, this thing growing on the rocks.

Time to go back down, and Surprise!  Going down that steep part turns out to be more of a challenge than going up!  The pictures below don’t do the steepness any justice – pointing the camera downhill flattens the terrain.  We find that walking this section is impossible, sliding is not a great option, and the only thing that works is to sidestep/slide/fall without a lot of control, heading toward a big rock or clump of grass (hopefully anchored) to stomp on to arrest the downward momentum.  It’s more tricky than it sounds, and – ah – not always successful!

One last view of Mt Robert and Lake Rotoiti from above, and the tough trail going down.

We are, in fact, getting very tired navigating the hard trail, which is more step down and jump than walk a path.  Our legs are getting shaky and threatening to cramp, but The St Arnaud range; we hiked up the middle foldwe finally make it back, tired but happy.  Our hike took us up the middle fold of that St Arnaud range – reasonably impressive, yeah?

A final look at lake Rotoiti – and one of its inhabitants, an eel.

Next post – leaving the South Island.

Abel Tasman National Park

You may remember that, early in our sojourn on the South Island, we traveled to the west side of Abel Tasman National Park but only hiked a piece of one of the inland trails due to Ginger recovering from back issues (Dec 30, “Abel Tasman National Park and Golden Bay“).  We had no real views of the beaches that Abel Tasman is famous for; now we intend to do better!  This time we’ll approach the park from the east, take a trip by sea kayak, and hike the seaside trails above the beaches.  Abel Tasman is NZ’s smallest national park, and one of it’s most popular, with stunningly beautiful golden sandy beaches, crystal-clear water, lush green bushland, striking granite outcrops, and an abundance of wildlife.  Sounds good to us!  It is also only 20 miles away from our house, one of the many attractions that led us to this area.

I’m going to show you this pretty part of the world via three of our trips with visitors: my sister Linda, our son Brian with his girlfriend Janaki, and a good friend, John Chang.


Kaiteriteri beach, looking out to the Tasman BayOn our first foray, we take my sister sea kayaking from Kaiteriteri, a small village just south of the Park.  Looks nice and peaceful, doesn’t it?  After a brief lesson we gear up and, just us with guides, head into the park waters.  It’s really pleasant – all the short way to that island on the left, whereupon we enter Tasman Bay and encounter wave swells higher than the kayaks!  We’re going to Split Apple Rock, about an hour’s paddle away, but how to get there is an issue – we need to take the waves head on, but heading directly toward Split Apple Rock  Split Apple Rockputs the kayaks broadside to the waves; so we compromise and make an arc, taking the waves at an angle.  Tough paddling!!!  Our outing rapidly becomes hard work!  With great perseverance we make it to Split Apple, and calm water.  It’s a pretty place; the water is a beautiful color; the rocks are interesting; and we get to paddle through a small cave.

Then it’s time for a well-deserved lunch break, and we land at a nearby gorgeous beach.  Look at that water!

Groan, now we have to kayak back!  Thankfully, the waves and wind actually help us on the return, but the quiet bay is a welcome end to the trip.  In spite of waterproof jackets and kayak skirts, we find we’re thoroughly drenched; our muscles ache in places we didn’t know we had, and we’re beyond tired!  We’ll sleep like the dead tonight.  We decide we’ve have had enough of sea kayaking – at least in rough water!


Abel Tasman has a Coast Track and a number of Inland Tracks, but most people opt for the coastal route with its idyllic beaches.  To do the complete Coast Track  would take 3-5 days, but there are several water taxis that will take you to different drop-off points and pick you up at appointed times at the end of your hike, giving you 6 different choices for day hikes – although several of these hikes are time-critical due to sections of the trail being under water at high tide.  With Brian and Janaki now along, we decide to simply start at the beginning and hike until somebody decides it’s time to head back.

At the start, the tide is out – impressively ‘way out!  The tidal flats keep going, and the Tasman Sea is off in the distance, resulting in interesting bands of color.  I can picture

us lounging on that sandy beach and wading in the rivulets of that ephemeral land, but there is more to see that beckons us on. It’s tempting, though!

The tail is relatively flat and easy – and attractive, often with a view of the water and

Pretty beach beaches.  We explore some of the beaches, and then choose a pretty one to host our lunch.  Although the trail itself is easy, getting down to some of the beaches is a bit of a challenge.  There are paths going to them, but they’re invariably steep; definitely worthwhile, though!  We are sharing “our” beach with a handful of other people, but it’s such a big, long beach that we feel as if we have it to ourselves.  Nice!

It’s really beautiful!  The sand is wonderful, the water gorgeous, the beach comes with caves and rock formations to explore, and there are picturesque islands and mountains in the distance. The large rocks make nice tables and chairs; the view is hard to beat.

Further down the beach are some quite pretty shags that are not at all afraid of me; one tells me that I’m trespassing, in no uncertain terms.

Islands in the bay


Back on the trail again, we wander a bit further, with more views of beaches and islands offshore.  Then, alas, it is time to turn back.




Next to visit us is a friend from California, John Chang.  Before going back to Abel Tasman, we of course had to visit a few nearby wineries – consider it fuel for the hike!  Maybe you notice that life isn’t bad here?

We have a habit of not being early risers, and this time it bites us; when we arrive at the Abel Tasman water taxis, we’ve missed the outgoing trips to parts unknown.  The only option is to start hiking from the beginning of the trailhead again; rats!  But this time we’ll go further, and zoom past the early regions.  The repeat trip is still pretty!

Beach with a viewIt’s a cool, cloudy, windy day (it’s early autumn here), and there are not many people on the trail; the golden beaches with their crystal-clear waters are deserted.  We find a beach that’s big and looks gorgeous from up above.  It’s quite a scramble down the steep path – coming up will be a struggle – but it’s worth the effort.


Beach flowersWe even find a patch of late-blooming beach flowers before we scramble back up to the trail.  It’s getting late, though, and time to head for home – with maybe a stop at a local pub for a thirst-quencher.  Hope you enjoyed this part of Abel Tasman.  Our only regret is that we weren’t able to spend more time hiking in this beautiful park.

Next post – back to Nelson Lakes National Park!

Haast Pass and the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

We’re making a mad (long) dash between Queenstown and the West Coast’s Fox Glacier, so there’s not too much time to observe the sights along the way – short hikes only.  We will take a last look at Queenstown as we leave it.

Note the landing strip in the last picture, which you saw in the video from the previous post (June 24, “Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Routeburn“).  After leaving the mountains, the road passes the pretty Lake Hawea and the northern part of Lake Wanaka.  As usual, New Zealand’s water/mountain/cloud combos are special – a visual treat.  Lake Hawea pictures are below.

Lake WanakaTo the left is a view of the northern reaches of Lake Wanaka (I showed some of its southern parts in an earlier post – April 7, “Wanaka and the Rob Roy Valley“).


The Haast Pass goes though the upper regions of Mt. Aspiring National Park (visited in the Rob Roy trip mentioned above).  It’s a pretty area; the road follows an old greenstone trading route and the cascading Haast River.  We take time to do some short walks, such as the Blue Pools Walk below.  Note how unbelievably clear the water is!  We see large fish (not shown) that seem to be practically swimming in air.

Another short walk was to Fantail Falls.  Yes the waterfall is pretty, as is the associated stream-in-a-hurry, but look at the river rocks!  Even the rocks in NZ are gorgeous!

We also visit the impressive Thunder Creek Falls.  Again, there are attractive veined rocks.  The surrounding forest wasn’t too bad either.

We finally arrive at the stormy West Coast and make a beeline for Fox Glacier.  As I noted in an earlier post, the West Coast is stormy and wet, getting 12-30 feet of rain a year.  It is not sunny today, and one can certainly tell which way the wind blows!


Brochure picture of Fox GlacierWithin a few horizontal miles the terrain drops from 10,000 feet to a rain forest just above sea level, and both the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers creak down the steep incline at world-record pace, aided by the snow pack on top getting about 120 feet of new snow each year.  It should look something like that picture to the left, but the sky is all swirling cloud, visibility is limited, and we’re behind a mountain.  What we do see from afar is impressive enough, though!

We learn that it is supposed to rain tomorrow; if we want to see the glacier, now is the time (and it’s getting late).  So off we go.  The glacier has receded nearly 2 miles since 1750, and that’s the walk ahead of us.

As we slog along, we are greeted by a number of small waterfalls and creeks coming down from the mountains.

Again, the rocks along the trail are veined and beautiful!  Even the little pieces of gravel are too pretty to resist taking a piece home.

We arrive at trail’s end and find that Kea (alpine parrots) are already there, trying to help us get closer by untying barricade lines and eating warning signs.  Two of them are working the warning signs together, one trying to eat it from the top, one from below.  They really seem to be gremlins, disguised as pretty birds.

As it turns out, we can’t get very close to the glacier – two teenagers were recently killed when pieces broke off and buried them (they’re still there, impossible to retrieve).  The glacier also makes a right-angle turn, and we can only see up to that point.  Still it’s impressive enough, and pretty as the sun sets.

Nothing to do but hike out in the increasing gloom – and gather pretty rocks, of course.

One last look back, from a higher vantage point on the way out.

The weatherman got it right, and the next day it’s raining.  I had wanted to do a Glacier walk, picture from brochure guided 4-hour glacier walk, such as shown in this picture from a brochure, but we are short on time, the ladies are far from enthusiastic, and the rain clinches the “nope”.  Instead we’ll do the popular Lake Matheson Walk, with it’s iconic view of Mt Cook and Mt. Taman reflected in its water.  Or in our case, the reflected rain clouds?

In spite of the drizzle, it’s a lovely walk, with mountains in every direction.

Then it’s into the woods to drip our way through the ferns and mosses.

As shown in the first picture below, the “iconic view” of Mt Cook and Mt. Taman is not reflected in the lake today, alas.  Near the end of the walk the rain clears briefly, and we do get a reflection; just not of the big mountains.  Still, it’s worth the price of admission.


The walk in to Franz JosefFranz Josef is nearby, so we’re there quickly, and the rain has come with us.  We start the hike to the glacier, and discover there’s a benefit to this wet stuff; there are a lot of waterfalls along the trail, and nice ones at that!  They’re not huge waterfalls, but hey, I’ll take small and picturesque!

A wall of waterfallsFurther along the trail we encounter a region with a multitude of waterfalls cascading down the cliff face.  Although most of the waterfalls come prettily in and out of view on their way down, the falls on the far right remains in sight quite a distance and is impressive indeed, as shown in the pictures below.

As we hike further in, the dark cliffs and gray skies become a bit forbidding if not downright sinister.

Another waterfall or two, and then we’re there.

We are looking at one BIG front of ice!  It’s very impressive.

Surprisingly, some of the clouds suddenly clear, and we have patches of blue sky!  How about that!

On the way out, we see another waterfall that was hidden behind one of the cliff walls.  Also some cute wildflowers.  As the sky clears – which it’s doing quickly – the force of the wind up there on the top is revealed in the sweeping curved sculpture of snow peeking above the mountains.  It may not be friendly up there!  We pass again the twin waterfalls shown earlier, still very pretty.

Looking back at the glacier and scoured valleyFinally, a look back – in sunlight! – at the glacier with its scoured-out valley and waterfalls on both sides.  Hopefully you’re impressed!

Oh, and one last picture below of snow on a mountain top, with an appealing shape.  Snow on the mountain

The next day, it is time to head “home” to Nelson.  Below is a last shot of this pretty area of Franz Josef – and just for good measure, a picture of the ladies enjoying sculpture on the beach in Hokitika (notice the crashing waves in the background!).

Next stop – back to the Nelson area, and Abel Tasman National Park.

Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Routeburn


Ah, Queenstown.   It’s one of NZ’s best-known destinations, and it’s certainly Queenstownthe country’s premier commercialized resort town.  It’s also beautiful, nestled at the base of mountains and looking across gorgeous Lake Wakatipu to the craggy Remarkables range (see image from the internet to the left).  You might enjoy a pilot’s video of the area as he lands a small plane at Queenstown airport.  The link below will open the video in a new window – it’s about 4 minutes long.  http://www.chonday.com/Videos/pilotnewzdalnd1.

Quite a location, but we thought the city itself was a flawed jewel, at least for old fogies like us: it was crowded, touristy, and filled with stores heavily marketing every adrenaline-fueled activity known to man.  It’s a place for young people with a lot of  money to spend on flying, falling, floating, speeding events – and the price for each was hundreds of dollars.  Ginger wasn’t really keen on any of it.   So we took a pass on the adrenalin rush, and went instead for the surrounding beauty:  the Routeburn track and a visit to historic Arrowtown.  In this case “we” is three of us; my sister Linda, from Albuquerque, joined us in Queenstown and will travel with us for awhile.

First, some pictures of the area coming into Queenstown.  It’s austerely beautiful.

Next a few pictures from the Queenstown shore.  The last two pictures show the same scene under different light – always amazing how different the colors are on different days.  The light is somehow special in New Zealand – a painter’s light, often with a golden glow.

While we’re discussing Queenstown and light, let me show you some views from our apartment as the sun starts to set.  It was pretty nice.


Miners' cottages, Avenue of Trees, ArrowtownArrowtown, only 10 miles from Queenstown, was born when gold was discovered in the Arrow River in 1862 – lots of gold.  One of the early prospectors was able to keep his lode secret while recovering 200 lbs. of the stuff.  The area became known as the richest for its size in the world, and at its height it was a town of 7000.  Today the population is 2400, surviving on the tourist trade and doing quite well.  It’s a nice-looking New Zealand town, with one of its highlights being the Avenue of Trees shown above.  Those trees were planted in 1867 along the line of tiny miners’ cottages that have been preserved.  More views of the town are shown below.

One of Arrowtown’s claims to fame is its Chinese history.  After a few years gold became harder to mine, miners left for newly discovered gold fields on the West Coast, and Arrowtown was left with businesses but few customers.  The solution was to import Chinese to the gold fields – as stated in the local newspaper, “An increase in population, even were it in the shape of chimpanzees, would be preferable to no population at all.”  By 1870 there were 5000 Chinese in Arrowtown, living in a segregated community, forced to work abandoned mining claims or the tailings of European miners, or working for half what a European earned.  Despite the racism, the Chinese were known for their “sober, upright and straightforward” conduct.  Arrowtown has the best preserved Chinese community in New Zealand.  Ah Lum's Store The best preserved building is Ah Lum’s store, built in 1883.  Ah Lum was literate in English and became a pillar of the Chinese community; his store sold both European and Chinese goods, operated as an opium den, and was a bank for the Chinese.  The loft also provided accommodation for travelers.  The compact floor plan, and an interior area, are shown below.

The (restored) Chinese miners’ huts are incredibly small, intended as temporary structures, with tin, sod, stone and timber the principal materials.  The huts became permanent as the miners aged and were unable to return home.  Pictures below.


Linda and Ginger at the trailheadIf you remember, we “did” the Routeburn Track in a previous post  (April 20, “Leaving Milford Sound – the Routeburn Track to Key Summit” [clicking on the title will take you there in a new window]).  “Did” meaning we climbed part-way up one end of the trail.  Now we will go part-way up the other end of the trail – unfortunately leaving unseen the really, really pretty part in the middle.  Alas, such is the sad fate of those unwilling to carry heavy backpacks for days.  Still, the trip promises to be pretty.  The Routeburn is one of NZ’s Great Walks, and one of its finest.

Actually, just getting to the trailhead is pretty spectacular!  It’s at the other end of the long Lake Wakatipu, and the lake’s color changes along its length, and undergoes amazing

changes from day to day (that NZ light!).  The head of the lake is even more beautiful, as shown below.  In fact, it’s beautiful enough to have caught the attention of movie

producers, and the area appears in films like The Chronicles of Narnia, X-Men Origins, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

The Routeburn trail at this end goes steadily uphill following the beautiful Route Burn river, which is very clear with a somewhat turquoise cast.

 I love being serenaded by a musical river, so this is a treat!  The trail itself is a regular highway, but a little rocky.  However. it’s sides are very green, covered by an enormous variety of ground covers and moss.  Very large mossy rocks are common, along with some rougher rocks that, typical of NZ, have veins of different materials, making them interesting.

The water coming gallumphing down over rocks is beautiful.

We’ve been walking for a couple hours now, and the ladies need a restroom break.  We’re not the only ones on the trail, so this is a bit tricky, but we find some house-sized boulders close to the trail that will provide the needed cover.  Okay!  Biology attended to!  Off we go, Luxury, just 25 steps too fara whole 25 steps around the boulders, and lo and behold what should we see before our eyes?  Yep, the luxury of a very nice outdoor toilet, the distance from the trailhead almost perfectly calibrated for the needs of a female walker.  Almost.  Maybe 25 steps too far, actually.  How funny was that?

After a bit more we come to a pretty part of the river and the ladies decide they have had enough hiking.  I decide to hike up to the first hut, which should have a nice view.  The trail continues to be pretty, with a forest of ferns under the trees, and a nice beech forest.

The trail opens out to a beautiful meadow, and then I’m there.  I didn’t take a picture of it,

but the hut itself was pretty spiffy.  I’m used to rustic lean-to structures.  This was a four star fancy building, doors and wood bunks and all!  The surrounding meadow is gorgeous, with clear stream, impressive mountains and a waterfall.

As I head back, the Route Burn River is illuminated by beautiful, slanting late afternoon light.  An added bonus, I see several diminutive Rifleman birds.

That’s it!  Pretty but not spectacular.  Alas, the truly gorgeous views are in the middle section that we did not hike, but I am content.

Next stop, the glaciers!

Dunedin – Chinese Scholar Garden, and Polynesia


Chinese Garden bridgeThe Chinese Garden is a recent – and fabulous – addition to Dunedin.  It is one of only 3 Ming Dynasty scholars’ gardens outside China.  A scholar’s garden is the creation of a “spiritual utopia”, a contemplative space, an escape from daily concerns where one can re-connect with nature, the ancient way of life, one’s true self.  The gardens try to capture the look of traditional Chinese paintings and the imagery created in poetry.  To create this authentic garden, its wooden houses and structures were made in Shanghai using 4th century BC techniques – no nails, just mortise and tenon joints.  The granite plinths and facings were hand chipped, the columns free-standing and not pinned.  Terracotta roof tilesThe buildings needed 380,000 terracotta roof tiles, handmade in Suzhou, China.  After being assembled in Shanghai, the buildings were taken apart and shipped to Dunedin, along with 970 tons of rock and 130 tons of granite.  Forty Chinese artisans from Shanghai did the installation in Dunedin.

The Chinese word for “landscape” literally Chinese garden mountainmeans “mountains and waters”, and the mountain built here is from prized Lake Tai rock (from near Suzhou), a rock that represents wisdom and immortality; during the Song dynasty this sculpted rock was the most expensive object in the empire.

We felt this Scholar’s Garden was indeed a wonderful, soothing, contemplative, fabulous place.  By intent, there are visual surprises around every turn and corner (of which there are many!).  Beckoning niches, contrasting colors and textures, or repeating patterns are traps for your eye and give you pause.  Every window has a different intricate and marvelous grating.  Let us take you on a tour.  I’m just going to put a bunch of pictures below, as we walked around.


This is a small but interesting museum that covers a number of subjects, but we were mostly Polynesia/Melanesiacaught by the Polynesia/Melanesia wing – we really didn’t know much about the island regions of our world, and since we’re living in one of them, NZ, with Maori inhabitants, we thought we’d take a closer look.  For orientation, here’s a map.  As you can see, Polynesia is ‘way out there, specks floating in a big ocean!

Before starting the Polynesia section, we took a quick look at some very nice Maori carvings that the museum had.  They were made for a meeting house near Napier (North Island), and were carved in the 1870’s.  We’re impressed!

For us, there are two very fascinating aspects of Polynesia.  One is that the islands were settled one-by-one by seafarers using basically a canoe with a sail; these islands are anything but close, so the utter audacity of sailing off into the unknown is amazing.  A sail and a prayer – if not a death wish – for a family or couple!  I can see it now – “Hey sweetie, how about we sail off into that sunset and get away from here?  We’ll find an island just for us.  I mean, how big can the Pacific ocean be?  You bring the water, I’ll paddle.”  Yeah, not sure that pick-up line would work with Ginger.

The other fascinating aspect is the subsequent developmental changes (or their lack!) that occurred from a common culture.  The islands were far enough apart that there was no chance for communication early on and,  like Darwin’s finches, the cultures evolved in isolation.  Alas, the museum does not directly address this topic, but it’s visible in the displays.

Boats of the PacificLet’s start with migration.  Polynesian culture goes back 3 or 4 thousand years in some areas, originating from Southeast Asia and Taiwan.  The far-flung areas we now call Polynesia were occupied by the late 1200’s AD.  The picture to the left shows typical boats from different regions, and mostly they are riffs on the same theme, with a couple of exceptions that I’ll show first.  China is the biggest exception – really not a Polynesian Typical Chinese shipplayer, but interesting nonetheless.  A very different boat!  China had a permanent navy in the 1100’s during the Song Dynasty, with 52,000 marines!  They were the leading maritime power in the early 1400’s, until subsequent emperors lost interest, eliminated their navy, and turned inward.  Their boats had a different purpose (not island hopping/fishing) and thus had nothing in common with Polynesian boats.  The other exception in this display is a Peruvian boatKon-Tiki-like boat/raft from Peru, but there is little evidence that South America contributed much to Polynesia (except possibly to Easter Island).  You may notice from the overall display at the start of this paragraph and in the pictures below that the New Zealand boat is different from most of its cohorts, having no sail and no outrigger.  Its evolution is likely due to the shore-hugging short-distance travel around these large two islands, though sails and outriggers would have been used for the initial ocean crossings.  You can also see that the war canoes of the Solomon Islands were very similar to that of the Maori, including the dramatically upraised prow.  The other boats all have  outriggers or a double hull, many have sails, and all are structurally similar.

Differences in tattooingWe thought the NZ Maori tattooing was extensive!  This painful process was primarily done on Maori males, the females usually just doing their chins.  For the Maori, tattooing was a mark of puberty as well as conveying information on a person’s lineage, tribe, occupation, rank, and exploits.  Well, as you can see in this display, tattooing is obviously a Polynesian thing!  And the Maori were conservative!  Look at the Easter Island women, or the Samoa or Marquesas extensive tattoos (Ouch)!  In these other cultures tattooing was also a mark of puberty, courage, rank and status.

Decorative art such as combs and pendants, shown below, also show similarities across the island cultures, perhaps due to the similarity of available raw materials.  The particular designs used in ornamentation, who wore them and how they were worn, however, varied from island to island.  For instance, the pendants in the case below were decorated clam shells; it’s the same resource, but different cultures wore them on the chest, on the neck, or on the head.

Apparently house construction varied regionally across the islands, but there wasn’t much on display.  I have two for you below, one a picture (New Caledonia), one a display (Samoa).  Samoans were the “Architects of the Pacific”.  Their houses  were built without nails, screws or pegs.  The open sides of the house allowed free circulation of air, but blinds of woven palm leaves could be lowered.  Floors were of stone.

Breadfruit splitters, Marquesas vs Tahiti

Tools had a lot of similarity.  When a particular need would be the same – say, splitting breadfruit – the solution on different islands was usually quite similar, as shown with these breadfruit splitters to the left from Marquesas and Tahiti.


Often differences in tools among the islands were directly related to the availability of raw materials, such as the adzes below in coral, stone and jade.




Not everything is easily compared between islands.  We’ll just show some bowls and interesting tools.

Music and celebrations are universal, as are drums and pipes.

And where there is dance, there are masks.

Finally, of course there is war.  Islands are not an escape; the Maori were a warrior culture, as we have seen in earlier posts.  When it came to war, the Polynesian islands diverged considerably, depending on the political culture.  Some islands became fully developed kingdoms with little warfare, others divided into constantly warring tribes, such as NZ’s Maori.  The primary force driving the culture one way or the other, in addition to population pressure, was geography.  On level islands, where communication was essentially unimpeded, warfare was not chosen.  On mountainous islands, with distinct boundaries like mountain ridges, warring groups were the norm.  How interesting is that!  Below are instruments of warfare, starting with the clubs.

In addition to clubs, there were spears and shields.

Warrior from Tuvalu, an atollAs a last picture, this is a Kiribati warrior from Tuvalu, an atoll.  Atolls, just a few feet above the sea, support very little life other than a few trees and coconut palms (water was obtained from holes dug in the coral).  With so few resources, humans struggled.  However, here is a well-dressed warrior, on an atoll where we have been told warfare is not likely to occur!  We don’t understand the need for armor, but the armor is in itself interesting; the cloth is coconut fiber decorated with shells.  The helmet and stomach guard are of fish skin.  Sharks teeth are used in the weapons. Quite a use of what you’ve got!

Well, I hope you enjoyed that long discourse on Polynesia and its insight into cultural evolution.  My take-away is that if the resources are pretty much the same, the evolution is pretty much the same.  If everyone lives on a flat area with few natural defenses, people make peace (conversely, it there are defensible borders, it becomes us-vs-them).  I also thought it was interesting to get an insight into stone-age cultures existing into the late 1800’s!

Next post – Christchurch!

Dunedin – Architecture and Art

Dunedin is the largest city in the southern half of the South Island, with a population of 120,000 (20% of which are students).  Called the “Edinburgh of the South”, it was founded by Scottish settlers around 1850, who named it after home – DunEDIN(BURGH).  Ten years later gold was discovered nearby, and this port city quickly became NZ’s most important, spurring a building boom that resulted in a legacy of harmonious Gothic Revival architecture fashioned from volcanic bluestone and creamy limestone.  This is a city post – Dunedin’s university, churches, architecture, and art museum.


Dunedin is home to NZ’s first university (1869).  We happen to be here during the University’s Orientation Week, a big mistake!  Classes are not yet in session, and students, newly liberated from parental control, have a lot of time for beer drinking and rowdy behavior. We have unwittingly booked a motel in a student area, our walls are thin, and loud top-of-your-voice street-side “conversations” go on until 3 or 4 in the morning.  Groan!

The University looks very much like an English university to us, although it’s on a considerably smaller scale.  In the pictures below, the darker stone is bluestone.

The details are fun – the carvings, the attractive windows, even downspouts are special.


Every day we walk past this church that is not in our tour books – the Knox Church, it’s called, just a small Presbyterian church – but it is quite beautiful, reflecting the architecture of that time.

The most impressive church in Dunedin is St. Paul’s Cathedral, an Anglican church constructed in the early 1900’s entirely of Oamaru limestone (see post of Jan 20, Oamaru and Penguins).  It’s located on The Octagon, the central plaza of the city, laid out in 1846 and home to a number of well-preserved buildings.

Positively European, eh?  I’m a sucker for stained glass, and this church has a lot of it, all from the early 1900’s.

The final church is the First Church of Otago, touted as the most impressive of NZ’s earlier 19th century churches.  Praise is given to its wooden gabled ceiling and rose window, but we get there late and I am shooed out before I can even take a lo0k – just that quick picture from the door before I’m spotted.  I try to sweet-talk my way in, but it is not to be.  Still, the church is very impressive to look at, even from the outside.


First, let’s look at a grand building there in the Octagon near St. Paul’s Cathedral: the Municipal Chambers, built in the Italian Renaissance style in 1880, also from Oamaru limestone.  The lamp bases aren’t bad either!

Also on the Octagon is the Regent Theatre, home to the Royal NZ Ballet and other shows.  Built in 1874, its interior is a combination of 19th century fashion and 1920’s art deco – a stunning combination, I think; classical and classy!

Another turn-of-the-20th-century building is the Dunedin Railway Station, again built of bluestone and Oamaru limestone.  I think it’s fabulous.  Ginger is not so sure.

C’mon, isn’t this the most resplendent train station you’ve ever seen?  The interior is also quite amazing, with a foyer of tile and a porcelain mosaic floor.

Other historical municipal buildings are the court house and jail – which are physically connected for the sake of efficiency.  Not all of the historical buildings are in great shape (for example, the warehouse buildings below, right).

Some of the residential homes downtown are reminiscent of New Orleans buildings of the same period – maybe it’s all that wrought iron (but definitely not the turret).

Below are samples of downtown business buildings.

Finally, I wanted to share our experience visiting a cafe downtown.  We saw people shooting up, with big syringes, right there at tables out front, in broad daylight!  So, of course, we had to try it too.  Or at least Ginger had to, that junky in need of a (sugar) high.  You order, select from a variety of fillings, take a seat, and soon appears a warm, sugar-coated doughnut (shell) and a large syringe filled with jelly, lemon, chocolate…, whatever your “fix”.  Just to keep it low calorie, it comes with a side of whipped cream, too.  Messy, yummy, the ultimate do-it-yourself rush.  It is an interesting take on the jelly doughnut.


It’s the oldest gallery  in NZ, converted from 6 Victorian buildings into a very modern, gleaming museum, right on The Octagon.  The foyer has a work entitled “Cones” by NZ sculptor Cones by Neil DawsonNeil Dawson (his work also appears in our posts from Christchurch and Wellington, but unacknowledged).  Also note the cool spiral staircase barely visible on the left, from Victorian times. The museum has a traveling interactive exhibit of works by Seung Yul Oh that was fun; certainly Ginger got into it!  The pictures below show some of the art from this exhibition.

The Wonder Wall The core museum starts with an interesting introduction, “Wonderwall”, an entire wall of some great art!  This is the “salon style” of art display from the 1600’s.  The large room is otherwise empty, except for a full-size replica of the amazing “The Wrestlers” from 3rd century BC Greece.  The austere room and The Wrestlers, copy of 3rd Century Greek statuefabulous art is striking, and intriguing.  One of the ideas behind this type of presentation is to invite comparisons.  I note that many of these paintings show people looking out at me, looking in at them.  Ooooookay.  A little different.  In looking at art, I’m used to mentally putting myself in the picture.  Here I seem to be the picture, the gallery looking at me!  Turnabout!  Here are some pictures I like, up close.

The picture below is a fascinating “out there” piece of art created by Anne Ferran, an Australian artist, during a two-month artist-in-residence program at the museum.  From

Anne Ferran, Australian, 2001

Anne Ferran, Australian, 2001

across the room, it looked like a ghostly 3-D construction or a hologram.  Up close, it’s a ghostly picture of an infant’s christening gown.  It’s called a “photogram”; I suspect it’s done with x-rays using x-ray film.

OK,  on to some other art that impressed me.  Another “out there” fascinating collection by an American, Robert Rauschenberg, worked with unusual juxtapositions/allusions in color lithography, examples below.

I was blown away by the works of Frances Hodgkins.  Working in watercolor at the end of Impressionism/ beginning of Modernism, she captured the optical effects of light on water, along with movement and stillness, that I find incredibly beautiful.  Examples below.

Finally, let me show you some amazing linocuts (a woodblock-like process, but using linoleum) from the 1930’s.  Each color required one block , necessitating simple, abstract designs.  Yet this very simple, static process produced such a sense of speed and movement!  Printing was done by hand – a piece of paper was placed on the inked tile and rubbed – thus producing very affordable art for this industrial age.  The prints are grouped by artist.

That’s probably enough for one post!  The next and last post on Dunedin will showcase the fabulous Chinese Scholar’s Garden and the fascinating Polynesian exhibit at the Otago Museum.

Leaving Milford Sound – the Routeburn Track to Key Summit

On our way out of Milford Sound we plan to hike a piece of the Routeburn Track, one of the finest of NZ’s “Great Walks” (multi-day tramps).  It’s turning out to be a beautiful sunny day – we don’t know whether to cheer or curse our fate of yesterday (post of April 17, Milford Sound).  We decide to cheer – hard to stay grumpy on a sunny day!

The Routeburn track has an interesting twist.  Remember we took two – admittedly leisurely – days to drive to Milford Sound from just above Queenstown (post of April 13, Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound – Getting There) .  On the other extreme, tour buses from Queenstown drive to Milford Sound and back in one very long day.  The interesting story is that one can use the Routeburn Track to walk from Queenstown to (just above) Milford Sound over the Southern Alps in just 2 (long) days; it’s only 20 miles!  So why not build a short highway across the mountains to link the two tourist destinations?  The answer is twofold – one, Milford Sound already gets plenty of tourists in spite of the travel hurdles.  Two, if they built the highway, the city of Te Anau (Gateway to Milford Sound) would cease to exist.  So NZ wisely embraces the status quo.

The Routeburn track is very green and pretty, as one might expect from the rainfall.

As you can see in that last picture above, the banks of the trail (horizontal and vertical!) are solid with moss and ferns.  Other areas have banks that are chock-a-block full of lichen.  Sometimes the ferns are a solid mass going up the hillsides, just a forest of ferns (picture not shown).  It’s all very colorful!

Occasionally we encounter small waterfalls.

After an hour or so of steady upward climb, Ginger decides this is not her day to hike and turns back.  I’m 9DSC_0046feeling great and will push on.  Soon thereafter the trail to Key Summit splits from the Routeburn.  I take the Key Summit trail which heads up even more steeply.  Soon the forest ends abruptly, the view opens up, and I’m hiking past sub-alpine plants.  The picture to the left, below, looks back at the valley where we started, the other picture is the increasingly pretty view ahead.

The flora is interesting, with a fuzzy ground cover and a number of small wildflowers like the genetian.

Finally I’m at the top, and it’s quite a pretty view from this small summit, with mountains absolutely surrounding it.  The small tarns and yellow ground cover/grass add to the beauty!

Looking more closely, I see that there is also a lot of red here, adding to the very pleasing palette of colors.  There’s red algae in some of the tarns, red lichen on the rocks, and a thick red moss on most of the tree trunks and limbs.  I’m loving the feast of colors!

The trail doesn’t really stop here; it seems to wander off in several directions, including a “nature walk”.  I decide to wander as well, going up, of course.  There’s a hill ahead.  One of the advertised “sights” from the Key Summit is the view of three valleys that intersect here, the great conjunction.  You can sense – if not see – them in the pictures below; the first picture shows a valley over the left side of the summit, the next showing that valley joining another and falling away, the third picture showing the joining valley over the right side of the summit, and the last picture hinting at the third valley that’s coming in, but the view is blocked by the hill ahead.

Lake Marian in the cirqueAs I’m walking up the hill, I come to an opening with a bench, and a sign saying there’s a view of Lake Marian.  Sure enough, there’s a glacial cirque with a lake – always a pretty sight!  Alas, there is just a snippet of the lake showing.  As I’m watching, a guide with a customer shows up and says the trail continues up the hill for a better view.  I’m on it!  However, there is no obvious trail anywhere, things seem to Pretty tarnsend here.  As I walk up the hill, a trail does emerge – a footpath, really, and not used much.  I do pass some more quite beautiful tarns.  After some climbing the steep footpath then leaves the open tundra to go into a forest of short trees with the red moss.  The trail becomes almost hidden in the plants, and then becomes nothing but mud and roots and hauling yourself up by grabbing tree trunks – you really have to want to go here!  It is also taking me longer than anticipated.

Finally I’m out of the woods, and there is a good view of Lake Marian!  It looks like a pretty fabulous place to pitch a tent, over there.

A further benefit is the view up the hill; down in the valley there’s a big lake – probably

Lake Gunn that we visited yesterday.  Key Summit is definitely a pretty place!

Alas, I have taken longer than planned, the long-suffering Ginger is patiently (?) waiting (lucky for me she keeps her Kindle in the car), so even though the path continues up, I’d better go back.  More’s the pity!  The problem with a day hike into NZ’s multi-day Great Walks is that you do the tough vertical climbing to get to the pretty areas,  then once there, with easier hiking and all the best views still ahead, you turn around and go back down.  Still, the half-loaf is worth it (and I didn’t have to carry a heavy backpack).

Below are two pictures taken on the way down of the pretty tarns and the red ground cover with berries.

On our way back out Milford Road, we stop at Lake Gunn to see it in the sun – it’s a pretty place, with very clear water.  For comparison I’ve included our picture of Lake Gunn from yesterday.

The valleys are also much prettier in sun.

That’s it for Milford Sound!  Hope you enjoyed the trip up Routeburn.  Next stop, the Scottish city of Dunedin.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound is a famous landmark of NZ.  People fly over by plane, or travel by bus or car, or even hike in over the Southern Alps.  It is said that one needs to see Milford Sound on repeat visits: in the sun, in the rain, and under a blanket of snow.  Why one should see it in the rain is not intuitive, but my travel book says that shortly after a big downpour every cliff sports a waterfall (and the place looks even more magical as ethereal mist descends).  I say this to lift our spirits, because it is raining steadily, and the “ethereal mist” is pretty damn depressing.  I know that the famous and massive Mitre Peak is staring me straight in the face in the left picture, but someone ate it.  Still, the view has a somewhat oriental charm to it, just not the OhMyGosh! view I was hoping for.

There are some nice views before departing – a white heron fishing, a near-by waterfall – but note my difficulty in keeping my lens dry.  The minimalism of traveling does not permit many photographic accessories.  A lens hood or underwear, that’s the choice.

Finally we’re off, along with 58 other hardy souls looking a little long-in-the-face as well.  The boat is nice, although its large picture windows are not going to work for taking good photos from inside.  I’ll have to brave the elements outside, and dash inside to clean my lens – along with a lot of other photographers, but everyone plays nice.  The first views are certainly atmospheric; big mountains diving straight into the water, and tall waterfalls appearing out of the clouds.  In gray.  Sigh!  For perspective, look at the other cruise ship in the last picture.

As we motor out, there certainly are waterfalls!  When we get closer to them, there is still some color through the rain and mist, thank goodness.  They’re pretty, take a look.

Part of what is happening here is the presence of many “hanging valleys”.  In the ice age, mile-thick glaciers rumbled cross-wise across mountains and valleys, churning a trough a mile deep.  When the glaciers left, leaving nearly vertical cliffs at the trench edges, the rivers traveling down those valleys now had no choice but to hurtle lemming-like off the cliffs into the waiting Sound (fiord).  In Milford Sound, only a half-mile wide, the effect is impressive; the peaks, we are told, go up 3000 feet (alas, in the fog we only see about 100 feet of that!), and the water of the Sound is over 1000 feet deep.  Where we float, the sides of the glacier-sheared mountains are near-vertical.  What that means for us is that the cruise ships can get within a few feet of the mountainside with no fear of hitting anything, and they do that at the waterfalls with some glee.  Which you’ll see below, as we approach a single waterfall.

I saw what was going to happen and quickly bailed into the cabin, as did ginger (in the blue raincoat).  The prow went into the waterfall; the kid and dad got soaked!  And I mean drowned-rat soaked!  They were dripping their own cascades as they sloshed into the cabin.

There are more waterfalls, which are just everywhere.  It’s like the world has sprung a leak.

I hope you’re enjoying the beauty of these waterfalls!  It’s raining, and I’m having to dash in and out of the cabin to dry my lens.  Soon my lens cloth and then handkerchief are as damp as the lens, and I’m just pushing the wet and smear around.  Reality is probably clearer than what you see in these pictures – but fear not, the mist and fog you see in the pictures may be augmented by my wet lens, but for sure it is really there!

We do another close-encounter with a waterfall, shown below.  The waterfall is truly beautiful, but this time everybody retreats at the last minute.  No takers to experience becoming one with the waterfall!  Which just goes to prove that if history is close enough in time, humanity can learn from its mistakes.

That waterfall was a pretty one!  Alas, you only get to see the static view; the moving view was so much better, with the changing patterns of falling water and those white trails on the water surface zinging out at us at high speed, almost scarily.

We’re heading for a small bay where we’ll moor for the night – what little light we had is beginning to fade.

Surprise, we get to go out and explore before dinner!  On the water.  A few choose to go out in kayaks by themselves.  A couple of young ladies decide to go swimming (!).  We, along with many others, choose to go out in small rubber boats with a guide.  A good choice!  The perspective is slightly  different this close to the water, and we get to see some wildlife here at the end of the day – a NZ pigeon (large, beautiful tree-dwelling birds!), a seal practicing his diving technique, and – lucky us! – a Fiordland crested penguin coming home to his nest!  He is very cute as he hops up the rocks to his burrow.  The last picture is of our bay as twilight deepens.

Well, the day was beautiful in spite of the rain, and the waterfalls were other-worldly, but we are disappointed; the mountains should be towering above us, cathedral-like, for thousands of feet, and we see only glimpses beyond 100 ft up.  Our captain says there is a good chance the clouds will lift by morning.  We cross our fingers and go to sleep.  The late-night passengers take pictures of seals that climb on board at the lower level and sleep on the deck!

The morningThe morning brings the same low cloud cover.  Today we will head first to the mouth of the Sound (the Tasman Sea), and then head for home.  There is a chance the clouds will lift for the trip home!  In fact, the rain has stopped and things are looking lighter, especially up ahead, and certainly the views are brighter and sharper!

As we approach the Tasman Sea, we have clear skies!  As in, practically no clouds overhead at all!  There is hope!

Looking back at the low-lying funkOf course, looking backward, there is still nothing but truncated mountains as far as the eye can see.  Can the funk go away in time?  As we move further out into the Tasman Sea and look back, the cloud situation is amazingly and frustratingly apparent.  In the pictures below, look at those beautiful, commanding mountains towering above the cloud cover!  Yes!  And look at how thin that layer of low-lying white cloud is!  And look at the sun trying to shine through!  This could work!!

Well, it’s hopeful!  As we enter the Sound, the low-lying cloud cover is dauntingly there, but there are also luminous areas where the sun struggles to break through, as shown in the first image below.  As we venture further into the Sound, everything gets clearer and brighter.  The last image, looking backward, shows real sun shinning on where we were.

As we retrace our path of yesterday, we revisit the waterfall close-encounter.  The waterfall is definitely a little smaller, but the view is now even more beautiful, the colors brighter, the rocks more clearly defined.  It is again a magical view in NZ.

As we travel on, it becomes clear that we will not escape our fate of a low cloud ceiling.  The funk is lifting behind us, but not in front, and time is running out.  It is a little frustrating, knowing how thin the obscuring cloud cover is!

Horizontal scar marks from the glacier that formed the SoundWe do pass an interesting part of the Sound, where a protruding wall shows the scour marks of the glacier from so many millions of years ago.  Showing its age with wrinkles, it is.

Well, the weather continues to toy with us as we near our harbor destination; the ever-present cloud cover is getting lighter, but persists, restricting our view to just a few hundred feet up.

Mitre Peak at Milford Sound HarborAnd then we’re at the Milford Sound Harbor and disembark.  We disembark to, of course, the lifting of the funk, at least here.  Well, better late than never, I guess.  Ladies and gentlemen, we present finally, Mitre Peak in all its glory.  OhMyGosh!

Just for comparison, let us show you the before (yesterday) and after (today) pictures of the harbor, and you can judge what we missed!  The before pictures are the first two pictures  from this post.

Well, OK, I groused all through this post about what we missed, didn’t I?  My apologies.  I, of course, wanted it all.  Even so, it was pretty spectacular, wasn’t it?

Next post – Fiordland and the Routeburn Track!