Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Mandarin Duck Alphonso on Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes

Good Chicago friend Edward solved the mystery of the well-plumed waterfowl on Lake Rotoiti. It's a Mandarin duck...and his name is Alphonso.

Via wiki: The mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) is a perching duck species found in East Asia. It is medium-sized, at 41–49 cm (16–19 in) long with a 65–75 cm (26–30 in) wingspan. It is closely related to the North American wood duck, the only other member of the genus Aix.

But there's more, via this 2015 story in The Nelson Mail...
Alphonso is a duck of mystery.

The lone male Mandarin duck arrived out of nowhere at Lake Rotoiti in the Nelson Lakes National Park last November, and has stayed in the Kerr Bay area since.

The exotic visitor has attracted plenty of interest from locals and visitors because of his striking colouring. One of the local rangers even came up with a suitably exotic name befitting the enigmatic visitor -  Alphonso.

Nelson Lakes Department of Conservation partnerships ranger Tracey Grose said: "We have no idea where he has come from. He is an exotic breed that is not normally seen here."

Mandarin ducks in New Zealand are believed to be only privately owned and because of this she was unsure how many were in the country. She said the Mandarin was able to co-exist with other breeds of duck in the area and settled in well to its new home.

"The most frequently asked question in the (Nelson Lakes) visitor centre at the moment is 'what sort of duck is it?'," DOC Nelson Marlborough communications advisor Trish Grant said.
Mandarin ducks are native to east Asia but have also been introduced to some European countries. The males are distinguished by their red bills, large white crescents above the eye, reddish face and "whiskers" and large orange panels on their backs.

When I caught up with Alphonso today he was hanging out with the mallards on the grassy waterfront embankment, having apparently learned there's no end to the delicacies local campers will hand out from their bread bags...

Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park

Morning light on Lake Rotoiti

Here's the route from Kaiteriteri to Nelson Lakes National Park (trouble viewing click here).

The park lies at the northernmost portion of the Southern Alps, the backbone of the South Island. Here's a good illustration of the location of the lake (Tasman Bay at top, Lake Rotoiti #4) and the elevation surrounding it. That white line running through indicates the meeting point of two massive plates, the Pacific and Australian.

A quick look at the geology of the Nelson Lakes area reveals how young New Zealand is. On a geological time scale the country is still undergoing immense change as the Australian and Pacific plates continually crash and grind into each other forming the jagged mountains as they are thrust upwards from the continental collision. As you hike through the park the major fault lines can be traced across the landscape, including the main Alpine Fault which passes right through St Arnaud.

The air here is so fresh it feels like breathing cool silk. A portion of this park is designated a "mainland island" due to intensive conservation efforts that include native plant regeneration and eradicating stoats and possum. They've returned the roa--giant spotted kiwi--to the area with the hope it can re-build its population.

Birdsong surrounds us on our walks, and we took two today. Three types of beech dominate the tree presence.

Yes, I'm hugging a giant tree.

Granite-tree partnership

In the shade of the pier the longfinned eels congregate. They are likely the longest-lived eels in NZ, if not the world, according to info at the visitors center. The cold water here slows their growth and many females don't reach maturity until they're 90. Maori call them tuna and once hunted them in summer for drying and later consumption.

Eels are fully protected in Lake Rotoiti.

Between walks, we paused on the pier because who can get enough of that backdrop. The sun felt good too. 

We met a man going out to fish for brown trout, introduced to the lake for sport fishing in the 1870s. I asked if he caught and released or took them to eat. He laughed and said he thought it disrespectful not to eat the fish he caught (save some for me...).

Next we met a group putting their lunch together on the pier. I was impressed with this guy's sammo. He laughed and urged me to get a closeup.

I'm not sure what the pink spread is, but the green pepper and cheese look just right.

Aren't you going to make a picture of my tunafish, this guy asked. Of course I am.

Hailing from Austria, France, Sydney, and elsewhere, part of this group had picked up another couple hitchhiking, so when I asked if they were all friends one said: for about 15 minutes.

 Cereal works for lunch too

On our second walk we ran into a university professor from Wellington whose students were researching those fault lines mentioned above, specifically the vertical displacement.

This is a beautiful Department of Conservation campground, and a handful of sites offer electricity. We can operate without it, but it's nice to be plugged in.

This shockingly adorned waterfowl was busying itself right off the pier. I did a little research on NZ Birds Online but haven't identified it yet. Ideas?

Because of the very low light in this camp, at night the stars just rip across the velvet black sky. Swaths of the milky way are visible and to me it's more thrilling than just about anything.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Goodbye Kaiteriteri, Hello Nelson Lakes

We decamped this morning after a glorious full-sun week in Kaiteriteri. Breakfast at the surprisingly good (and only) waterfront restaurant. This flat white says it all.

As we were hitching up the caravan, we saw this German family taking off in their own transport: two bikes and a carriage for their daughter. They had folded up their tent and were setting out to ride the twisting uphill road to Motueka. Camping comes in many forms!

We made stops for a minor hose repair and groceries before heading south to the Nelson Lakes Kerr Bay campground (new territory for us), arriving just in time to capture a moment.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Awaroa Bay in Abel Tasman National Park

Today we walked six miles on the Abel Tasman, from Tonga Quarry to Awaroa Bay, where the boat picked us up. The Awaroa beach was immense, virtually vacant, and deeply soothing.

Give it some volume and best viewed full screen because this keyhole size is annoying (trouble viewing click here).


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Walking The Abel Tasman Coast Track

Little wonder the Abel Tasman Coast Track is one of the most popular of NZ's Great Walks. It's utterly accessible. We wrote about our 2015 walk here, including pictures of the impressive new overnight campers "hut."

The Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand's only coastal national park – and its golden sandy beaches and clear turquoise water make it one of the most popular. The sheltered bays are popular for cruising, sailing and sea kayaking. On land, the Abel Tasman Coast Track follows the coastline through lush native bush, over limestone cliffs and along golden sandy beaches. This is one of the Department of Conservation's "Great Walks". The 53km track can be walked in its entirety over three to five days. Smaller sections of the track can be easily accessed by the network of water taxis operating from Kaiteriteri and Marahau in the southern end of the park, and Totaranui at the northern end.

Where we're staying, in wee Kaiteriteri, there are several operators who will ferry you to different drop-off points on the coastal trail and pick you up later, either at that location or another one you hike to. You can also kayak or take a sailboat or even fly in. Here's part of the group lining up to board.

You can walk the whole trail, certain segments, or, as our neighboring campers told us the other day: we like to take a few bottles of Champagne out to Anchorage and stay there for hours on the beach. Why didn't we think of that? Kiwis know how to live...and are the loveliest people.

Anchorage beach

I had to laugh at how many of you commented on the coffee cruise photo yesterday. In fact, when you sign up to be taken out to the coastal track via boat, you get a bonus mini-tour in the process, always with a pause at Split-Apple Rock. The captain says it's 100 million years old and probably split when water infiltrated a vein of quartz running through it and froze, expanding and contracting.

The seals lounging on Adele Island are another highlight. (No coffee, though.)

There's a backstory to our trip to the Anchorage drop-off. When we were in Nelson City and walked 13+ miles over two days, I bunged up my left hip somehow, so that walking the wrong way produced a nerve-jangling yelp. My own rx for this was rest, something I'm discouragingly poor at.

Benefits of not walking: muffin and flat white
(FYI, this is a taut, masterful Le Carre from 2013, found on the camp's free shelf.)

No walking? I was not the happiest camper, but after a couple days the pain eased and I hatched a plan, based on the Champagne people's concept, to take a boat out to one of the drop-offs and just wander a bit without purpose, which I'll add is challenging for both Art and me, we who prefer a destination. The wandering started off uphill, and no body parts screamed at me.

We ended up walking around a low-tide area, fascinating it its own right for the temporal nature of it all.

Met these three German guys on the trail. They were psyched and happy to be walking the entire track.

Snack time is the best time.

Back to the beach to meet up with the boat.

Our wander earlier this week was fun, but we'd like to do a proper hike, so tomorrow we'll take the boat up to Tonga Quarry and walk to Awaroa, just a couple of hours. There's a great-looking lodge up there (click here for info)--not a hiking hut--that we thought we'd explore until we learned it closed for the season...two days ago. No worries, though. We'll be walking a fresh piece of this magnificent coast.

I DIdn't Do It, But I Thought About It