Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rainy Day

Today is our first really rainy day. It has been raining all day. We went out and drove to Te Anau, the next town North of Manapouri. We visited the information center, dropped in on a couple of stores, had a coffee break and lunch and saw a short movie on the Fiordland Area. Hard to do much sightseeing in constant continuous rain.

Here are the pictures we did take and some comments.

Dock area in Manapouri. You can catch a boat to head to Doubtful Sound from here. To get to Doubtful sound you take a boat across a lake, a bus over a pass and then get on a boat to cruise the sound. We did not take this trip, but are going to Milford Sound tomorrow.

Shopping area in Te Anau. It is a small but active area. It is the gateway to Milford Sound. Lots of shops in the area.

Typical planted area along the street/sidewalk in the shopping area of Te Anau

Another view of the shopping area, Te Anau

A wet and disgusted Katie in Te Anau

Chinese Restaurant, Te Anau

Typical Coffee shop, Te Anau

Phone booths. We see these all over New Zealand. A real rarity in the US anymore.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is for the rain to slacken off in the Milford Sound area. Although we hear the sound it beautiful any time, we hope there is less rain tomorrow. If so, there will be lots of pictures.

Alexandra to Manapouri

Today was the first driving day that I wasn't following a little red Miata. We are on our own for the next few days as my sister and brother-in-law went their own way. They have been to this area before.

We started by stopping by the information center in Alexandra to take a picture of a Kiwi. I doubt very much that I will see a live one where I can take a picture. We did see them live in New Zealand, but it was in a dark room with only dim red lighting. Not conducive for pictures. So I am incuding one that was on display at the information center mesuem.

We drove generally West to Queenstown and then south and west to Manapouri. The terrain changed as we proceeded west. We drove through a beautiful gorge and by the time we got to Queenstown, we were reminded of "middle earth" as seen on the Lord of the Rings. Of course Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, so it should have looked familiar.

We also stopped at one Winery/Cheesery. We did not try the wines, but the cheeses were really good and purchased some to eat with our loaf of bread.

South of Queenstown we stopped at Kingston to look at the old railroad that is there. It used to run tour steam trains, but went bankrupt a few years ago and now is just a display in the town. It looks like it could have been a fun ride, so we were sorry it isn't running anymore.

From Kingston we drove south to Lumsden and west to Manapouri via Mossburn. (We had lunch in Lunsden at a "Bafe".....part bakery and part cafe. Katie asked for crisps (chips) but was reminded that they were a bakery and only did bread. The bread there was escellent. This area is rolling hills and is mainly cattle, sheep, and deer farms (they raise deer for the venison that is a common menu item here).

We had nice driving conditions until west of Mossburn when it started to rain. Unfortunately that is the forecast for the next few days. Manapouri Lake looks just lovely, even in the rain. There are mountains on the far side that had clouds sitting between the peaks. We are looking forward to exploring this area for the next couple of days.

More as we continue to explore and enjoy this beautiful country.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Alexandra Area

I am going to take a different tac at the blog today. We had a very leserly day. We started at the local information center. One thing we are impressed with is the information centers at most towns. They all have lots of information about the local area, can book special trips (like biking, or a wine tour here in Alexander), and usually have a small museum that has historical information and displays from the local area. It is also a source of souvenours. In this case they had a nice museum and lots of information. We ended up deciding to do a historical drive through some of the little towns.

This area used to be a gold mining area until it was mined out and then turned into a major fruit production area. We found a fruit stand and picked up som wonderful pears, nectarines, peaches, apples, and plums. They are just ripening and they were wonderful to snack on during our drive today.

I'm not going to point out locations of the following, but will provide a short description and then some pictures. Hope this format works, because I don't know of better way to do todays blog.

Mail box found in a wee town well off the beaten path (up a gravel road even).

Bird house found next to a local pub. Obviously not used by the birds, since there were lots of cob webs on it.

This is a lean to added on to a pub in another town. The brick wall is the original outside wall. There were a few "merry" people at the bar!

An original post office.....well actually the second one for this town. The first (for many years) was a tent with newspapers on the walls for insulations. This is an active postoffice as it was brought back to life not many years ago.

Hydroelectric dam near Clyde. A lot of the electricity for New Zealand is generated by water power.

The pub section of the Vulcan Hotel

The outside of the Vulcan Hotel. This town has a population of maybe 20 to 30. During the gold rush it was a pretty good size town.

Suspension bridge (single lane) built in 1880. It is still in use today.

Sheep in a paddock. They had recently been moved here. We think they were going to be sheared.

Sheep in a field. We see lots of sheep and cattle in the country side here.

Tailings from a mining operation. They used water under pressure to separate the gold from the dirt. This is what is left over. The lake was formed accidently. Somehow in the process of mining they created a dam.

The clock face on the side of the hill at Alexandra. This is one of the two items the town is know for. It is a market town for the region however. It is a pretty town with lots of services available.

The is the "Shaky" bridge at Alexandra. It is the other thing the town is know for. The bridge was built across a local river. To provide access. Before the bridge access was provided by a small boat (punt). This bridge is shaky. It was built in 1877 and restored in 1952.

Here is a vineyard with the netting in place. Probably better than the "grab" road shots we have gotten up to now.

Finally, here is a view of Alexandra. As I stated above it is a pretty town and is fairly modern. We enjoyed our stay here.

Tomorrow we are off for the fjord area of New Zealand. Katie and I will be on our own for the next few days and will be connecting up with Sylvia and Roy again in the Duneden area. More blogs entries tomorrow or as soon as we find the internet again.
Cheers......the happy travelers!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Franz Josef to Alexandra

What a change in terrain we experienced today. We started out on the West coast, which gets lots of rain. As you saw from the pictures yesterday they even have glaciers. We drove south for a ways and then headed east over the Haast Pass. Coming down the east side of the mountain range, the terrain changed to more what you think of in the western US. Particularly California or western Montana. Instead of being a general green color, it is much more rocky and brown. Very pretty, but very different.

We made a stop at probably our last overlook for the Tasman Sea. While we were there a bird called a Fantail put on a show for us. It was fun trying to capture a picture of him as he was really quick. It is a bug catcher, and there were so many sand flies in the area he was busy haveing a real feast. I also took a picture of the four of us.....probably the only one in captivity at the moment.

As we started down the eastern side the rivers were really wild coming down the mountain. The water has a real teal color for some reason. I'm sure there is a mineral in the water causing it, but havn't found a reference to it yet.

We took a short hike to a site called the "blue pool" again showing the teal color to the water. The water is as clear as can be, just with a blue-green color.

On the way over we stopped for lunch at a very small village. They had good food, but we got a kick out of the sugar packets and the small bush airport across the road.

On the eastern side there are many large, man-made lakes that we paralleled. Against the more rocky terrain, they were really pretty.

The area is full of orchards and wineries. For some reason, they are all covered with netting.

We crossed south of the 45th parallel today.......that is 45 degrees south. Of course we have been North of 45 degrees North a few times in our lives, but believe this is our first time to be this far south. Oh, yes we have seen the southern cross. It is magnificent.

Finally, I'm going to leave this blog for today with a few pictures of some of the roads. I will say the roads are really good, and very well maintained. Their standard however, is somewhat narrower than that of the US. Of course driving on the other side of the road makes driving the mountain roads very interesting.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Franz Josef Glacier/Fox Glacier

No update yesterday due to the lack of an internet connection and unwillingness on my part to go search one out. So you get two days worth of updates today.

While we were loading our cars up at the motel in Karamea, we had a very curious Weka bird to contend with. These are a native New Zealand bird about the size of a small chicken. He/she kept wanting to come into the rooms while we were carrying luggage out.

The drive from Karamea to Franz Josef was along to West coast for the most part. Some wiggly mountain roads enroute which added to the fun. It is hard to keep up with a Mazda Miata particularly when you get a slow car between you and no chance to pass.

The main stop we made on the way down was at Pancake rocks. We didn't know what to expect but what and interesting display of rocks. They appear to have been built up with a combination of hard and soft elements, so when the sea erodes them away it leaves the layers of rocks that look like stacks of pancakes. There was constant crashing of waves while we were there. An even tough it was cloudy, the view was really grand.

We arrived in Franz Josef yesterday evening and didn't do much else except eat. On the menu last night was filet, venison, and lamb. Yum!

This morning we went out the the Franz Josef glacier. A short walk took us to Peter Pool were we could see the glacier and a reflection of the glacier. In the Southern Alps are some 60 glaciers. Franz Josef and Fox are the most easily accessable and the only to you can get to from the west side of the mountains. These are active glaciers, and are actually advancing at the moment (most of the worlds glaciers are receding).

These glaciers are similar in some ways to the ones we saw a few years ago during our Alaska cruise. Of course instead of dropping directly into the sea, these are feeding rivers. The one think I noticed, is the lack of glacial noise. In Alaska, Hubbard glacier was constantly making loud booming noises as it shifted and cracked. At these I did not hear that at all.

From the Peter Pond we continued our walk down to a swinging bridge across the Waiho River. The color of the river water is gray. It is caused by glacial flour, or the finely groud rock that is contained in the glacier itself.

At Fox Glacier (23 km south) we were able to walk within a few hunderd meters of the face of the glacier. The path actually crosses dry parts of the river (which I suspect would not be dry during flood season) and crosseda few fording places where rocks were strategically placed.

It was a fun day. Tomorrow we are off to Alexandra, which if further south and I believe we will cross the southern 45th parallel tomorrow. In North America, it crosses just south of the Northern borders between South Dakota and North Dakota. If we see it marked we will have to get a picture of that.