Saturday, August 31, 2019

Waking Up In Okarito

Each day as we awaken into consciousness the roar of the water is the first sound we hear. The campground is just a block or so from the Tasman Sea and its pounding incoming tide.

This tiny village of about 30 people clings to the water's edge. Morning light.

Okarito history

Banded dotterels nest on the beach. Read more about them here.

The Okarito Community Campground is very sweet, well managed, and spotless. 

We've been virtually alone here until today, Saturday, when a couple other weekenders arrived. In the summer months, there can be up to 100 campers here. One of the reasons we so enjoy NZ in winter.

Art's doing the dishes in the outdoor kitchen

There is an airfield (just a piece of mowed grass, really) adjacent to the campground, which I thought was part of the campground. Whoops!

Yesterday we walked the beach at lower tide. The air off the water is as pure as we've inhaled.

Even after six months here, we forget about fur seals basking in the sun.  Art surprised one. Can you see it moving into the surf?

Here: I'll enlarge it.

Warming myself against a rock. We've had some gorgeous spring weather along this temperate coast--in the high 50s/feels like 65. Who stenciled that fern on the rock next to me?

Every walk here is gasp-worthy for its enormity. Today we saw more of the Okarito Lagoon, NZ's largest unmodified coastal wetland, and now that camp wifi has been restored we'll report on that tomorrow.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Morning, Okarito

Yesterday when we arrived the rain and wind had blown out the community campground's wifi. Even cell reception was out until last night, when the storm broke and clear skies made it look like a planetarium.

Aoraki/Mt Cook to the east

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Haast to Fox Glacier for a Little Fluff

We left Hasst yesterday. A vast, virtually impenetrable place that captures my heart each time I visit.

On the road north, Knights Point.

Elephant seals from the Antarctic!

The road south to Haast has a lot more glamour shots, but yesterday morning's drive was sweet as.

Roadside stand--quick, pull over. Art's used to me stopping at every one we see. This time, for honey.

Speaking of honey, I learned something about manuka honey, which is that you should enjoy a little spoonful on its own and not stir it into hot tea because that deactivates the good bits. For tea we've been deeply enjoying the rata flower honey at right.

It takes about 2.5 hours to drive north to Fox Glacier, our destination, but what a drive.

Here in Fox Glacier we're at a Top Ten campground--the sort of Hilton of NZ campgrounds, with extra nice facilities for showering, laundry, and everything else. You can also stay in a little bach. See the small buildings in this picture?

Here's the communal kitchen, big enough for many many cooks and eaters.
Today's produce

After first meal we're off on a little walk to Lake Matheson, which my map says is two hours round trip on foot. We passed this wee church.

A friend (hi Rob) who visited NZ before we started coming here told me New Zealanders were well-traveled and I've found that to be true. We're now at the end of NZ winter and lots of lodgings have out their NO VACANCY signs, but that doesn't mean they're full. It means the people who run them are off in Tahiti, Bali, or the US on holiday.

They're serious here about no drones. Fox Glacier has several helicopter outifts that take people up to see the (blub, ever-shrinking) glaciers.

After the long walk here Art starts walking to the lake. Hmmm, I think. It's a long way back, but maybe just this one bridge.

It's an exquisite day, the low clouds and mist giving the impression of a painting.

A rock slab covered in sphagnum moss.

I call to Art to turn around. The Queen of Flat Whites is overdue. Look at this polished stone, which sits in the self-serve drinking water fountain.

Too warm for me inside so I step out.

On the return, patina and texture.

After seven miles, we're finally back and the rainbows come out. We're clean and our clothes are laundered for the drive tomorrow to Okarito, a wee beach outpost on the west coast with a sweet community campground that has no electricity. We visited for one night last time, but now we're ready with inverters and solar panels and everything we need to stay longer.

See you down the road, campers (click here to view map if reading in email)...

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Lake Ellery Track + Southern End of the West Coast Road

Yesterday we drove south out of Haast along the coast to Lake Ellery and then on some metal (gravel) roads beyond it to Martyr Hill, the effective end of the West Coast road. The sun graced us.

Here's a map (click here to view if reading in email.)

The Lake Ellery Track wound through a beech forest, burbling Ellery Stream alongside, and was by turns easy and rough. I often feel here like I'm in the Boreal forest of Canada, where we've spent so much time camping. The Boreal forest has different characteristics, though. Perhaps it's the bogs and other wetlands that bring it to mind.

The Canadian boreal region spans the landscape from the most easterly part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to the border between the far northern Yukon and Alaska. The area is dominated by coniferous forests, particularly spruce, interspersed with vast wetlands, mostly bogs and fens. The boreal region of Canada includes eight ecozones. While the biodiversity of regions varies, each ecozone has a characteristic native flora and fauna.

Sadly and dangerously, the Boreal forests are burning more often.
Carbon reservoirs in the soil of boreal forests are being released by more frequent and larger wildfires, according to a new study involving a University of Guelph researcher.

Back to our path.

Glacier-formed Lake Ellery (calling out for a canoe)

From there we pointed the Rover south along the Arawate River.

The road stops atop Martyr Saddle (a saddle is the highest point between two valleys) at something called Cascade Viewpoint. You can go on for a mile or so farther to a farmer's gate, but you need his permission to move onto his land down in the flat, which has been farmed for generations.

Because it had clouded up the view wasn't as spectacular as we'd hoped, but we chuckled reading the 100-year-old words of this geologist/explorer, who almost assuredly was prescient.

Cheers to the driver

Heading home north. Goodnight campers.