Friday, November 03, 2006

South Siyeeed!

mexico in christchurch

big flower at oamaru's public garden

this is what i have to deal with

oamaru is victorian

oamaru is blue penguins

spherical boulders at moeraki

queenstown: i forgot these mountains existed

Arrived in Christchurch a few days ago. Bummed about town there. No sign of the Wizard, a man who dresses in a wizard costume who stands on his soap box and rails about the social ills of humanity. Apparently he's in semi-retirement. Good, cheap asian food abounds. There are a ton of art galleries about as well. The town itself feels like an amalgam of New England and English cities. Found a copy of Cathedral by Raymond Carver at a local 2nd hand establishment. Brendan and I also purchased a rugged two-person tent, which we have subsequently slept in twice. Camping is kind of fun, even if the camp sites around here lack fire pits. (Malm, if you're reading this, I haven't showered in four days. I thought you'd be proud.)

Hey. I'm using capitals again. Just realized. Weird.

Anyway, we rented a car in Christchurch and drove down the east coast to Oamaru, where we planned to do some penguin spotting. Oamaru is known for being a good place to see both the blue and yellow-eyed varieties. We managed to see the former, but not the latter. Oamaru apparently also has a bit of a Victorian theme to it, lovely public gardens, and a magnificent bakery.

From there we cruised on to Queenstown, stopping briefly in Moeraki, where we ambled around perfectly spherical boulders. Queenstown is known for being a booming tourist town, but I have to say that the town center isn't much bigger than I remember it when I was here 12 years ago. The number of swanky houses, apartments, and hotels has vastly increased though. And the town has spread outwards. It's been infected with suburbs. There are also mountains about that I don't recall being here. I'm pretty sure they were imported from Colorado, but don't quote me on that.

This morning I awoke at 7:10 am voluntarily. Around 10 we hiked up a hill somwhere around town and took in the views. That was pretty much it for todays activities. Tomorrow we're bussing down to Te Anau where we'll prepare ourselves for the Milford Track, a four day hike through fiordlands. At some point we'll probably end up back in Queenstown.

* * *

Backtracking a little bit (just for you, dad), we did a jaunt out to White Island a couple of weeks ago. White Island is an active volcano a few miles off of the east coast of the North Island. It was mined for sulfur a number years ago. The sulfur mining was ultimately abondoned I believe because the conditions were too harsh. The atmosphere is extremely acidic, the winds whip through the island at consistently high speeds, and of course, the operation was perpetually at risk of being 'sploded. The island itself is kind of like a hyperactive Rotorua. There are steam vents and sulfur depsits all over, as well as mud pools, a boiling lake, and streamlets filled with sulfur. There are some remains of the mining operation there. The metal objects--some large gears, beams, container drums--are all completely rusted and corroded. The only thing left that seems like it's in any kind of decent condition is a rubber ring around a train wheel. All in all it's not a particularly pleasant place to hang out. Interesting though.

There really isn't much to say about the Tongariro Crossing. The first half is pretty difficult. The section nicknamed the Devil's Staircase is a strenuous, near-vertical, natural stairway. We were rewarded for that by a beautiful view of cloud covering. Then things get cold and windy. We hiked through slush, which did not do my feet much good as they were wrapped in very not waterproof shoes. I had to stop and quickly wring out my socks and then get them back on so I could get moving again in order to avoid my feet from going numb. I didn't notice the dampness after a while. And once we got to the Emerald Lakes, it was all worth it though. The views were spectacular (as I hope my photos show). The rest of the walk was nice, but nothing in comparison to the views at the saddle. I wish we'd known how quick the rest of the walk had been so we could've enjoyed the top more. We ended up finishing an hour before the bus arrived to pick us up. Bummer. But maybe we can do it again later this summer.

* * *

Speaking of backtracking, here's a video from the Tamaki Tours gig in Rotorua. It's a welcoming ceremony for unknown visitors (us) to their village. Apologies for the shoddy sound and camera work.

* * *

Don't know when I'll get to post again. Be thankful for what you got.


Per Henningsgaard said...

Ah, the Milford Track. I remember that hike. It's been a while since I last checked your blog, so I'm afraid you're probably already on the trail. "Tramping," as they say. Always sounded rather perverted to me. Not that I would have much useful information for you, even if I had posted this comment sooner, before you left on your hike. I spent three weeks on the South Island, must have been four years ago now. The majority of my time was spent hitchhiking around the island, taking in the sights, spending a couple days here, a few days there, etc. I was similarly disillusioned with Queenstown, though its setting and the mountains are certainly beautiful. I have particularly fond memories of a day hike on Fox Glacier, as well as an overnight trek on the Milford Track. I wanted to do the full, four-day hike, but it was winter when I visited, so the pass was snowed in and no one was allowed through. In fact, the last couple kilometres of my hike to the hut where I spent the night were entirely covered in a one foot-deep blanket of snow. An extremely cold night was spent up there in that hut, as it was well above the treeline and no wood was to be found with which to stoke a fire in the stove. I really should have thought ahead and brought some up with me, but I was all right with the cold. The solitude, too. Only one brave couple ventured up that way on the same day as me, and they quickly retired to their sleeping bags in another room in an effort to stay warm. Leaving all that gorgeous view of mountainsides and ravines and water running far below to little ol' me. Wish I could remember the name of that hut now. It was near a cave, I remember that much, because I went exploring in it (not too deep, though!). I'm afraid my diary from that time (about the only period in my life during which I made a significant attempt at diary-keeping), where I would surely have written such information down, is at my folks' house in the States. Too bad. Anyway, I hope you had/are having a brilliant time. Milford Track. A special place, indeed. I hope the weather is gorgeous and the fellow hikers are few.

Shiny said...

The stony pouting in the flower bush is priceless. Find and photograph more Chewbacca cats and mystical mountains so that we can learn more of this alleged land of New Zealand.

Emiko said...

check this out, i am going to go try!!