Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Orana Wildlife Park, Shakespeare, and Chinese lanterns

We had our last round of visitors scheduled to come during our program, and we got the chance to go to a new place that we'd been meaning to visit before we even moved here: Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch a little ways past airport. The day we went, we had a very packed day with the park in the early afternoon, an outdoor Shakespeare play 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' in the early evening, and the Chinese Lantern Festival in the late evening.

Some highlights at the park were the lion feeding where the lions climbed onto the enclosed truck to get some scraps, some fun birds like a talkative tui and a mischievous kea, and a lot of tuatara lizards, including one that was just perfectly positioned for a close-up. The cheetahs had also recently been fed and were pacing around and looking so graceful and lean. Big cats really are so similar to domestic ones and so beautiful. The Shakespeare play included one of my former students, and it didn't rain on us so that was good. We popped over to the lantern festival and the timing was good because it was by then dark enough to see the lanterns lit up nicely and we saw lots of new ones -- it's a nice annual tradition in the park downtown.

Now we are nearing the final stretch of completing our theses, which means long hours and getting frustrated at having to go back and re-edit and re-write and cut words and add them and patch holes in arguments and all of the other work to put together an 80,000-word tome. We're not planning other travel or conferences or much of anything to be able to focus on the writing. It will be a challenge for sure.

caught this little critter with its tongue out!

my favorite NZ bird: the tui with two voiceboxes and fun warbles

the very intelligent kea

"Two Gentlemen of Verona" with a swingin' sixties theme

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Aoraki Mt Cook on a sunny, clear day

This was my third visit to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, and the weather was absolutely incredible -- sunny and clear and reasonably warm! It was such a lucky opportunity that we were there on that day, and it really made a good final day of our roadtrip. I took lots of photos of Aoraki, since it is the first time I have seen it so clearly and for so long. Doing the Hooker Valley Track walk offered us incredible views the whole way in and out. And there were still a few icebergs on the glacial lakes to check out.
view from Mt Cook Village

our first 'peak' at Aoraki/Mt Cook :)

view looking back at Lake Pukaki with its gorgeous turquoise water

this kind of reminded me of the shape of NZ

Hooker Glacier

Monday, January 30, 2017

Stewart Island

The ferry ride to get from Bluff (at tip of the South Island) to Stewart Island was terribly rocky, and people were getting sick left and right (yes, some threw up). It's an hour-long ride, too. There was a storm going on so we couldn't see much outside of the windows with the crashing waves and rain. I usually don't get seasick, but I did this time and almost lost it. The boat was battered hard several times by big waves -- I suddenly had even more sympathy for the people who immigrated to New Zealand via a three-month boat ride that we had just learned about at the Otago Settlers Museum in Dunedin. There's a recreation of the sleeping quarters there -- no windows, just a small hard bunk.
little town of Oban, the only on Stewart Island
We made it to the hostel (a small, quaint place where they don't even give you keys because there is a trust policy that seems to work alright) after toting our luggage in the rain and later headed down to the dock again to see the little blue penguins come in for the night. There were only three, but they were cute to watch as they swam up then hurriedly slipped behind the rocks to make it to their hidden nests on shore. We came back the next day too and saw three again, but one did a little show and jumped off a rock into the water before disappearing.

The next day we lingered in the hostel waiting for the rain to let up. We darted over to the visitor center, me trying in futile to use an umbrella and having it not work at all and then expressing my anger at NZ weather. I'm not a fan of being wet. By mid-day the rain had cleared enough that we suited up in our rain gear and went out for a walk along one of the shore paths. It was nice enough and we saw some NZ birds along the way and some cool seaweed on the rocks. At dusk, we went to a nearby area that is known for kiwi sightings, but unfortunately we didn't get to see any -- just lots of other birds hunting for worms in the rain-soaked field. The short rainforest trail we took was cool though, and haunting at night. It's nice to not have to worry about predators here.

naughty kea birds about to be fed on someone's porch
New Zealand wood pigeon (so big!)
rainforest walk


treated ourselves to fish & chips after the hike

The ferry back the next day was much better and calmer. We all stood at the back in the fresh air to avoid the claustrophobic feeling of the cabin, and it seemed to work and no one got sick this time.