Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Four Hours At The 14-Day-Old Invercargill Airport

We spent the afternoon at the shiny new Invercargill Airport Tuesday, awaiting a Stewart Island Airlines flight that never departed. Lots of wind and nasty weather on the island and, let's face it,  nobody wants to end up in the Foveaux Strait.

Nice airport. Quiet, with one gate. Good chance to catch up on my Scrabble plays with pals in Boise, Chicago, Mexico City, and San Fransisco (Camille, Holly, Carole, and Merci--you were all online at once!).

What will we find when (if) we make the 19-mle crossing to Rakiura/Stewart Island? Its permanent population is 381 people, and we're looking forward to more remote hiking and birds.
The original Māori name, Te Punga o Te Waka a Maui, positions Stewart Island/Rakiura firmly at the heart of Māori mythology. Translated as The Anchor Stone of Maui’s Canoe, it refers to the part played by the island in the legend of Maui and his crew, who from their canoe, the South Island, caught and raised the great fish, the North Island. Rakiura is the more commonly known and used Māori name. It is usually translated as Glowing Skies, possibly a reference to the sunsets for which it is famous or for the aurora australis, the southern lights that are a phenomenon of southern latitudes.
The ferries weren't running today either, and the woman I called last night to reserve a room for a few nights didn't take my credit card. "Well, let's wait until you actually arrive," she said. Nobody's surprised when flights are cancelled.
"NZStewardIslandAreaMap". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NZStewardIslandAreaMap.png#/media/File:NZStewardIslandAreaMap.png

More maps. Next stop south is...

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bluff NZ

Bluff is best known for two reasons, near as I can tell: its oysters and a signpost indicating the southernmost point of the South Island (oh, and aluminum). However...
Bluff is Invercargill’s port, 27km south of the city. It's also home to NZ's only aluminum smelter, but the main reason folk come here is to catch the ferry to Stewart Island/Rakiura or to pose for photos beside the Stirling Point signpost, which signifies that you've reached the furthest southern reaches of NZ. Sorry to disappoint you, but you haven't, for despite the oft-quoted phrase 'from Cape Reinga to Bluff' and the fact that SH1 terminates at Stirling Point, the South Island’s southernmost point is Slope Point in the Catlins with Stewart Island/Rakiura and remote dots of rock lying even further south.
 Still, it's exhilarating to be here

Here's Bluff's location, south of Invercargill and just across the water from Stewart Island/Rakiura (trouble viewing click here).
We took a vigorous hike along the Foveaux Straight in big winds.

Look at those distances.

Cold going.

 Have we earned our lunch yet? This resto has location x3.

Flat whites served in bowls, now there's a concept we can endorse. The man sitting at rear was from Aberdeen, Scotland. We had a fine chat.

Some say that Bluff oysters are the finest in the world. They are grown slowly in the cold clean waters of the Foveaux Strait. March through August, the dredgers are out hauling them in. This season the boats have had fewer days on the water due to some wild weather.

Large and meaty, a half dozen were nirvana

Sunday, June 28, 2015

That's The Way That The World Goes Round

That's the way that the world goes 'round
You're up one day, the next you're down
It's a half-an-inch of water and you think you're gonna drown
That's the way that the world goes 'round

That kind of day, with John Prine's lyrics on repeat. We thought we were leaving Invergargill Sunday, heading out with the caravan on a sunny warm morning for the Catlins, on the southeastern coast of the South Island. Click here for some pretty pictures, not our own. Here's a map of the area (trouble viewing click here).


Instead we drove for two hours plus to Curio Bay in lashing rain only to discover the destination campsite wasn't workable for us. The bay, however, was a violent beauty in the wind.

It was slow going, with twisty roads, low hills, and lots of sheep. I can imagine it would have been beautiful in a clear light. Still pouring, we headed out to find that the only road east was closed. Following a detour until it turned into miles and miles of gravel road (so my mapping program told me), there was nothing for it but turning back the way we came. And that's how we spent four long hours getting back to where we started.

Yesterday we walked Queens Park in Invercargill, stopping to wander the museum there. 

Burt Munro is Invergargill's favorite son. Anthony Hopkins played Munro in The World's Fastest Indian, a film that made me smile for 90 minutes straight. If you haven't seen it, make a note. You don't have to love motorcycles to love this film, which is really about Munro's kindness and tenacity. Here's what his motorcycle shell looked like.
For 25 years in Invercargill at the south end of New Zealand, Burt Munro (1899-1978) has been working on increasing the speed of his motorcycle, a 1920 Indian. He dreams of taking it to the Bonneville Salt Flats to see how fast it will go. By the early 1960s, heart disease threatens his life, so he mortgages his house and takes a boat to Los Angeles, buys an old car, builds a makeshift trailer, gets the Indian through customs, and heads for Utah. Along the way, people he meets are charmed by his open, direct friendliness. If he makes it to Bonneville, will they let an old guy on the flats with makeshift tires, no brakes, and no chute? And will the Indian actually respond?
 Munro's handmade motorcycle bits
Also in the museum, look at this leg (taller than I am) of a giant moa, now extinct.

The moa[4][5] were nine species (in six genera) of flightless birds endemic to New Zealand.[6] The two largest species, Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezelandiae, reached about 3.6 m (12 ft) in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 230 kg (510 lb).[7] When Polynesians settled New Zealand in CE 1280, the moa population was about 58,000.[8]

T'was a lovely day for a walk in the park.

At the tea shop near the bandstand, I reminded my travel partner that the Queen of Flat Whites still hasn't slurped at least a dozen of the famous Bluff Oysters, but a trip there is on the agenda, just 15K south of Invercargill.
Each March, oyster lovers descend on the catch of Bluff’s best bivalves – a seasonal delicacy from one of the last remaining wild oyster fisheries on the planet. The Bluff oyster season opens on Sunday, March 1 and runs until August 31, or earlier if the annual harvest limit is reached.

More fish for late lunch Saturday, gearing up for our Catlins road trip that turned into a round-trip. That's the way that the world goes round...

Blue cod, Chinese style: stir fried with ginger and green onion.

Friday, June 26, 2015

NZ Rainbow: Love Wins

"Sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."   
President Barack Obama

"This morning, the Supreme Court recognized that the constitution guarantees marriage equality. In doing so they have reaffirmed that all Americans are entitled to equal protection of the law, that all people should be treated equally regardless of who they are or who they love."

Countries where gay marriage is legal nationwide

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Weather Or Not, We're Together

You've been asking about the weather. It's been colder than usual all over NZ. In Te Anau, one night we hit a low of -7C (19F), which produced a couple of days that were utterly clear and, with the sun out, in the mid 40s. The nice guy we're renting the caravan from, who lives in the warmer top of the South Island, said they'd had -2C (28F) this week, the coldest he's seen in his 10 years here.

After much conversation Thursday (read: brisk discussion--OK, arguing), we postponed our drive out yesterday due to icy roads. I don't mess with road conditions. A day to get propane, then, and stock up on food, and find a new pair of socks for me. Oh, and more books.

Propane powers the stove and second heater
(also the fridge and water heater when we're not plugged in)

Te Anau the town.

After shopping, time for a treat: a flat white and late lunch. This story discussed the sociological and legal implications of farms being handed down in families.

The Olive Tree Cafe, with a surprisingly wide-ranging menu.

Including our blue cod.

After lunch, we went to the wee Fiordland Cinema/bar (people here say "wee" a lot, and it is endearing), showing the exquisite 40-minute film Ata Whenua/Shadowland, essentially a grand copter ride through the Fiordland World Heritage Area. I learned that the park is larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined. Here's a clip (trouble viewing click here):

We had the theater entirely to ourselves.

Friday we awoke to 46 degrees F and it felt downright balmy. We hitched up the caravan and drove to Invercargill (pop. 50,000), at the very bottom of the South Island.
Invercargill (Māori: Waihōpai)[2] is the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world. It is the commercial centre of the Southland region. It lies in the heart of the wide expanse of the Southland Plains on the Oreti or New River some 18 km north of Bluff, which is the southernmost town in the South Island. It sits amid rich farmland that is bordered by large areas of conservation land and marine reserves, including Fiordland National Park covering the south-west corner of the South Island, and the Catlins coastal region. Many streets in the city, especially in the centre and main shopping district, are named after rivers in Great Britain, mainly Scotland.

The NZ landscapes alter dramatically region to region. Less than half an hour outside Fiordland, here's what we saw.

And heading south.

An angry sky just ahead, in Invercargill.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

More Fiordland National Park From Floatplane

Kia ora, friends!  Your flight boards now...
 (trouble viewing click here

Flying Fiordland National Park + Doubtful Sound

We climbed into a little floatplane Wednesday and had an exhilarating ride into Fiordland National Park and Doubtful Sound (click here if problem viewing).

This vast park is all but unreachable except via air or boat. What joy.

Doubtful Sound,
looking west to the Tasman Sea

Lake Manapouri