Sunday, April 30, 2017

Flashback: Abel Tasman Great Walk

We've been without enough wi-fi to upload a record of our second walk on the Abel Tasman, but here we are a week later on a rainy day, doing laundry at an unlimited wi-fi campground on the Buller River in Murchison, so the time is right to post these to our online scrapbook.

Our walk started with the boat drop-off at Tonga Quarry.

This is a famous arch. The captain told us a couple was married inside it.

Much diversity on this hike, and plenty of fern trees.

Walking uphill soon pays off with this view of turquoise, translucent water.

A short walk later we traverse Onetahuti Bay, one of the longest beaches on the Abel Tasman.

Handy trail marker on the beach leads to a boardwalk that takes us up and over Tonga Saddle.

Great river flows and ebbs with the tides.

Onetahuti Bridge and boardwalk opened 17 November 2013 with a dawn blessing by local iwi.
(Ed. note: Iwi are the largest social units in NZ Māori society. The Māori word iwi means "people" or "nation," and is often translated as "tribe" or a confederation of tribes).

Shaped to represent a traditional Maori waka (canoe), this bridge over the tidal Onetahuti stream and boardwalk through the wetlands behind the beach add a new dimension to the coastal track north of Onetahuti. It is no longer necessary to wait for low tide to cross the stream.

After a lovely boardwalk trek and an uphill path we reach Awaroa Lodge, closed for the season but fun to explore nonetheless. There are lovely organic food gardens and this outdoor space with a grand fireplace.

We're ready for shade and find a cool nook. It's utterly quiet except for birdsong. If you stay here, you step away from phone and internet.

Lunch is the heavily favored Whitestone Probiotic Camembert, fruit, veggies and crackers. I always have a Penguin Little Black Classic in my pack to offset my fear of being stranded somewhere with nothing to read.

From the lodge it's a short walk to Awaroa Bay, another glorious beach and one we posted a video of not long ago.

The tide's out, but I can hear it returning.

The handsome variable oystercatcher makes quick work of lunch. 

Beach architecture.

Art glued the sheep's horn we found on a trail onto his walking stick. He's always getting compliments on it and always responds: trail-made.

Soon we're picked up and speeding back down the coast, stopping three times to retrieve walkers from other points along the trail.

It's our private ride for the first leg, but will be near capacity by the time we arrive back in Kaiteriteri.

We picked up a small group of volunteers from the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, out trapping stoats and possums who kill birds and eat their eggs. Bless their hearts.

The tui is their proud symbol.

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.