Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Is Tekapo the Most Beautiful Lake in NZ?

We visited four years ago and returned to make sure. Finely ground rock in the glacial meltwater renders Lake Tekapo turquoise. Sadly, there's a lot of development going on behind the camera.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Talbot Forest Bat Roost Trees

A most pleasant walk in Geraldine's Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve this morning.

The Canterbury long-tailed bat lives here. 
South Canterbury supports the only known long-tailed bat population on the East Coast of the South Island. Bats are limited to a small area from Peel Forest in the north, southwards through the foothill gorges of the Orari, Waihi, and Te Moana Rivers, Geraldine, and the Kakahu and Opihi Rivers.

Geraldine is one of the few towns in New Zealand where it is possible to see long-tailed bats. They flit like large butterflies at dusk as they emerge from giant totara and matai in Talbot Forest.

Bats are dependent on old-aged trees that provide cavities with the correct conditions for breeding. They prefer to roost in the native trees that are now scarce. However, they will roost in introduced trees that are allowed to get old and large enough for natural cavities to form.

Predator control. Smooth aluminum bands prevent cats, possums, rats, and stoats from climbing to where the bats roost.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Ukefest in Geraldine

We're camping in Geraldine and...I'll let the Ukefest people tell it. Here's everything you need to know.
It may be the middle of winter in July, but Geraldine, a picturesque village in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island, promises to give you a warm and friendly welcome. Geraldine Ukefest brings the whole town to life over the four-day festival - The Big Strum, Ukes in Cafes, Workshops, Concerts, OpenMics - providing plenty of learning and performance opportunities. Rated one of the top six ‘not-to-be-missed’ ukulele festivals by Ukulele Magazine in their Summer 2016 issue, Geraldine Ukefest is guaranteed to have something for everyone.

The winter Ukefest has been running since 2013 and has grown exponentially each year with ukulele enthusiasts travelling from around the world to attend alongside hundreds of Kiwis. 

Today was closing day, with a final concert at the church this morning followed by an informal gathering at the local pub. Since we're not regular pub goers (or, for that matter, church goers), it was a fine chance to stroll over, soak up some ambiance, and sing along. I think these uke people have a lot of fun.

This friendly woman is one of a dozen or so staying in our campground. There are all kinds of people walking around here with uke cases, heading off for their workshops. She was excited to see us at the pub event, since I'd stopped her this morning and asked for the location. "A lot of people came straight from church to the pub," she told me with a naughty wink.

Afterward, a flat white at this pretty cafe, Verde.

I bought Talbot Forest red deer milk havarti from a shop here. It's yummy. Here's the back story.

A sweet history museum beckoned on a rainy day.

NZ's pride.

Kate Sheppard

Geraldine in earlier times.

We're here tomorrow, too, for work and then a good walk along the river.

To The Southern Alps

It will take a few days to reach the alps, but every mile on this Inland Scenic Highway was new to us, even if today's low cloud ceiling made it less scenic than it might have been.

Here's what I had in mind, Mt Hutt as the backdrop:
 Photo courtesy of Sabine Osthorst

 And here was the reality:

First meal in the car is cheese and raw vegetables, the three-cups-of-color-daily portion of the neuro-protective Dr Terry Wahls protocol (this is the part I rarely achieve). Also possibly a few potato chips, definitely not part of the Wahls recs but delicious nonetheless.

We're reading and hearing about Chicago's extreme heat and humidity. As an antidote, we're happy to be heading toward the mountains, especially the mother of them all, NZ's Mount Cook/Aoraki. 

On our longer-than-usual drive today we passed a cafe/bar in Mayfield (pop. 200) and stopped for a carry-out flat white.

 How does a town of 200 sustain a lovely cafe like this?

This charming woman has relatives in Chicago who visited her in NZ last year. She told me her kids love growing up here and have no interest in moving to the US. She and I talked about how incredibly safe it feels to be a woman in NZ.

I ordered a slab of ribs to go.

The Queen of Flat Whites is on the move

We're spoiled for choice on next destinations. Four years ago we visited the Banks Peninsula and the charming town of Akaroa, but going there is a week's commitment. On our first visit we waited for frozen roads to thaw before driving the perilous road out. Next time...

A favorite picture of Akaroa

Catching up:
A few days back we left Kaikoura with a campsite in mind at Gore Bay. When we arrived there was no wifi and neither of the cell services on our phones worked (all that rock below blocking signals?). We each use a different carrier to provide fairly complete coverage and ability to set up a hotspot, but hey not this time. 36 hours without any online connection was a worthy lesson--have you ever tried it?

Lo-fi Gore Bay, not a bad view to compensate

Our route since Kaikoura (click here to view map if reading in email). Tonight we're in Geraldine, which reminds me of Flip Wilson--do you remember those skits?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway

That up-close seal photo I posted last time was taken with a long lens. You're supposed to keep 10 meters (30 feet) away from these beasts because, contrary to their big blubbery visage, they can move surprisingly quickly and they also have some serious jaws.

A daunting task, later in the walk, was trying to stay even three feet away from the seals, which had hauled themselves up close to the path.

Here's the trek, the red dotted line at the left edge of the bluff.

You don't have to read the geology, but it explains a lot.

The cliff-edge path was extraordinarily satisfying.

We looked down at the seal blobs basking in the sun on white limestone.

There are lots of seals down there

 Whaling: then a bloody whale-killing business, now a thriving whale-watching tourist trade.

 Soon we descended to sea level. 

And wound our way back through all the action we'd seen from above.

This was a path of many textures.

It was startling to see the seals so close, and in some segments not possible to keep far away.

The path, decorated with seals.

This one was eyeing Art as he stood quietly making a video. I didn't like the look of it.

Meanwhile, herons?

Art's good at using his homemade walking stick (with the horn handle) to negotiate changing terrain. This was an amusing moment, since I was waiting below to see if he needed a hand and he shoo-ed me off, which is typical. The next thing I knew, a sweet young Asian couple was hurrying over to see if we needed help. I laughed and said no, but thanked them sincerely. (Clearly, good home training.)

What's the only thing for a hunger built by such a grand trek? This food truck on the way back to our campground.

Half a cray (lobster) for Art, with rice and salad.

For me, a cray fritter with the same sides. Speaking of adorable, the young women making all this happen were a delight.