Sunday, June 30, 2019

Wellington to Picton NZ on the Interislander Ferry

We never tire of this journey from North Island to South, the last part through the Queen Charlotte Sound. The seas were smooth as silk on this last day of June--early winter here. A stunning morning to board the ferry.

I'm always surprised by how much these beasts can hold.

Interislander - linking New Zealand's North and South Islands. The 92 km journey between Wellington and Picton takes only 3 hours and has been described as "one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world". Interislander's 3 vessels give you a wide choice of sailings. Passengers can walk on or take a vehicle. Take a virtual tour here. We look forward to meeting you onboard!

Coffee beckons. This sign made me chuckle.

With full sun and temps near 60F, we spent most of the journey outside.


It's always illuminating to zoom and see just exactly what's on shore or near it. Sweet little bach here.

I was standing in an alcove out of the wind enjoying the sun when Max and Jack from Denmark stopped to talk. They're having a huge adventure, starting in Denmark and traveling to Iran before  splitting up, one going to Japan and the other to Malaysia and Thailand. Here's their instagram account

We laughed a lot as the ferry pulled in to Picton. They're heading next to a dairy farm in Blenheim, here on the South Island, on work visas.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Otaki Beach To A Ferry-Adjacent Campground

From the clay cliffs we headed south to Otaki Beach on the Kapiti Coast, where daytime air temperatures push 50 and the sun warms everything. On the horizon is Kapiti Island, the entire place a nature reserve. One day we'll visit.

We're making tracks, campers. Art and I well-matched in that we rarely plan ahead for any portion of our NZ trip. But today we're excitedly making reservations to cross the Cook Strait, bound for NZ's South Island, via an Interislander ferry.

Tomorrow we'll drive to a campground just eight minutes from the ferry terminal, location likely their main selling point. (Click here to view map if reading in email):

And on Sunday we'll be up early drinking instant coffee and making our way to the ferry terminal by the 8 am check-in time. 

Otaki Beach, dog heaven (people too)

Today we walked for five miles on the beach, just a block from our campground.

And then sought out a flat white at the only cafe in this little settlement.

There's a pretty little eatery next door, though not serving until 6 pm (too bad--I would have happily devoured their lamb shanks after our walk, at 3).

We sat in the sun talking to the cafe's proprietor, who formerly worked for Quantas, and the friendly Kiwi woman in the shadows, whose daughter left NZ on an Idaho State University basketball scholarship. You meet the nicest people here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

With DNA from a museum specimen, scientists reconstruct the genome of a bird extinct for 700 years

Via STAT...
Scientists at Harvard University have assembled the first nearly complete genome of the little bush moa, a flightless bird that went extinct soon after Polynesians settled New Zealand in the late 13th century. The achievement moves the field of extinct genomes closer to the goal of “de-extinction” — bringing vanished species back to life by slipping the genome into the egg of a living species, “Jurassic Park”-like.
(An 1870 artist's conception of New Zealand fauna, living and extinct, including some of the nine moa species. British Library/Science Source)

“De-extinction probability increases with every improvement in ancient DNA analysis,” said Stewart Brand, co-founder of the nonprofit conservation group Revive and Restore, which aims to resurrect vanished species including the passenger pigeon and the woolly mammoth, whose genomes have already been mostly pieced together.

For the moa, whose DNA was reconstructed from the toe bone of a museum specimen, that might require a little more genetic tinkering and a lot of egg: The 6-inch long, 1-pounder that emus lay might be just the ticket. more here
Paleontologist Richard Owen, in 1879, with a skeleton of the largest of nine extinct species of moa. Wikimedia commons

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Stop the Car! The Chocolate Eclair Shop

What would you do if you were cruising through the ski town of Ohakune on the southern edge of Tongariro National Park and you saw this.

Of course we pulled over, caravan and all, in a convenient three-fer parking spot. Was there really such a thing in NZ (we know we're not in France)? Turns out yes, depending on your definition of chocolate eclair.

This gent's father started the bakery 80 years ago to bake bread for the war effort. I asked him how many eclairs he sold daily. "Depends on who's asking," he said. "If it's the taxman, just a few. But honestly, about 1000."

These were dreamy eclairs--cream puffs, really, made of actual pate a choux pastry, filled with real whipped cream (none of that plastic stuff, the owner said), and slathered in light chocolate icing. You can see some of all this stuck to my face. 

Big thanks to Phyllis for the Lakeview Pantry hoodie, the ideal outerwear these days and a worthy place to make a donation.

The alternate title of this post is To Mangaweka and the Rangitikei River.
Here's our route (click here if you can't view) from Tongariro to Mangaweka.

We left the DOC campsite in Whakapapa at 10:30, frost still apparent on the road shadows.

This is another beautiful part of NZ, one we haven't driven before.

We stopped for groceries. Most New World groceries have these charging stations now.

Third in a series: Dogs in Trucks

Our Mangaweka campground sits right on the Rangitikei River, which runs through an enormous clay canyon. The campground is beautifully landscaped and we're the only ones camping here. The scale makes our rig look like a toy.

On a little walk, I longed to be a fly-fisher on this river.

What, no recurring goat feature?

We roasted a chicken for our first meal, enjoyed with beet and cabbage stir fry.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Avec Video: Taranaki Falls Walking Track, Tongariro National Park

 (If you're reading in email, click here to go to our site to view the videos.)

One last hike before leaving this magnificent park. On a sunny Monday, we went after this 6 km loop track in the wonderland that is Tongariro.

Remember this volcano from our other walk? Now it's fully shrouded in snow.

Let's let the pictures do most of the talking...


It's a lovely day, but that sign still feels ominous


On the way to the falls, Wairere Stream in action.

Taranaki Falls coming into view

 The return started with a steep upward climb, quickly leveling out to a glorious stroll.

Shout out to the NZ Dept of Conservation (DOC) for spending god only knows how much time on these tracks to keep them not only passable, but tidy. Remember, one million people visit annually, most in summer because these hikes are a serious draw.