Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taranaki Daytrip

This poor blog has been quite neglected- but I am finally reporting here about a daytrip I made up to Taranaki some weeks back now- mainly so I can show off Mt Egmont, that wondrous volcano that dominated my childhood landscapes. (You wonder how I could walk a Camino? I became quite beguiled as a child with landscapes outdoors- who wouldn't be living under such a mountain?!)
It was a bit of a tiki-tour down memory lane. Here is the headstone of my parents, with the mountain behind.
And here is St Joseph's Church, where I remember singing in Latin in the choir loft with my father when I was 5. Apparently the choir loft is now 'dangerous' and they are raising funds to repair it.)
Here is Arohanui posing outside my old primary school. (Arohanui was going to have a post all her own about this trip, but it seems a little bit too much time has gone by since the adventure now!)
This is a beautiful statue of Our Lady in St Joseph's Church, New Plymouth.

And now we return to the mountain. Here is Arohanui posing in front a view near New Plymouth, just to prove she's been there, done that, doesn't need the guidebook!

And now my beautiful Mt Egmont, complete with lush fertile grass growth in front, befitting such a wet spring.And here is a slightly closer version: yes, I was experimenting with the telephoto lens on my new camera.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Red Rocks, Wellington

For the second part of our bus trip we were heading to Red Rocks on the South Coast if it was fine (or Te Papa if it wasn't). Amazingly, in the midst of the all the **** weather we have had recently, the weather seemed to behave itself 'sort of' so we could explore the coast!

First up we had a talk from a Forest and Bird Marine person who had come down on her Saturday to a place she is passionate about: a marine reserve was created just over a year ago on part of this coastline, and she explained how it had come about and the rationale for it.

This coastline is quite wild- Cook Strait has a confluence of various currents, and the wind is able to whip through the gap between North and South Islands.
As someone who grew up near the coast (Waitara) and who now lives 'inland' in New Zealand terms, I was glad to have the chance to be near the sea.
And even more so I revelled, as there was a chance to see the waves doing some wild things in the wind!
The bus driver told us we were lucky it was a northerly. We might have got windblasted at times as the afternoon moved on, but he said if it was southerly we would also have been drenched and cold!
I didn't walk as far as where the seals were reported to be: in the time we had I preferred just to make it to Red Rocks and then to spend some time watching the wild waves!

There was a Visitor's Centre where there were displays explaining various aspects of the reserve, including how the rocks in just a small section came to be red, when most of the surrounding rocks were grey sedimentary greywacke. It seems that in the midst of the sedimentary layers under the sea millions of years ago, there was an extrusion of volcanic basalt. So some of the rock ended up having iron included in it, and some of this has oxidised to red...
I asked this Brit tourist to pose, so you could see some of the red rocks are quite large. She offered to take my photo, but I am certain you would rather see her!!!
So that was my Saturday: thanks to Forest and Bird for all the organisation that made this trip possible. I found both places fascinating, and will make my way back to the Karori Wildlife Centre before long for sure!

Karori Wildlife Sanctuary- Zealandia

I had to set the alarm on Saturday morning earlier than usual..... had to be in town by 7.20am for the Forest and Bird bus trip down to Wellington. First off in the morning we were visiting the Karori Wildlife Centre, then it was going to be a walk to Red Rocks and maybe some seal viewing. For photo purposes I am breaking the day into two posts....

I first heard about the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary two years ago when I was studying a paper in NZ fauna. A "mainland island" has been created, with an extensive anti-predator fence, so that some species that have disappeared from this area might be able to live here again. It is a dream that has 500 years of restoration ahead.....
Here is the piece of the fence that you see as you enter the sanctuary. The fence disappears up a hill and you lose sight of it in the distance: this sanctuary really is quite vast.

There is a low level sealed track that has been made accessible for pushchairs and wheelchairs. After you have walked a little way, you come to another area where they have fenced it off so they can keep weka out while they establish a population of tuatara and also lizards. Just past this fence I had a lovely conversation with Erin, who was working nearby. She told me two places where I might see tuatara if they had come out, but it seemed it was a bit windy for them today.
The sanctuary is also interesting for its historical role in Wellington. There was a display that recalled old goldmining efforts that I had been completely unaware of happening in Wellington. And you could walk along the dam.

A swing bridge linked to some other trails across the valley. This sanctuary has been conceived on a grand scale!

I didn't try to take many bird photos- time was a bit short for my experimental efforts- but I did take my dslr out for these shots. I know I missed the tip of the duck's beak, but I was excited to see how much feather detail I could capture.
And I will just leave you with this kaka perched on a feeding station....

Monday, October 19, 2009

A cycling expedition for KiwiNomad

We had a marvellous start to spring, but things have deteriorated: we have all been suffering 'cabin fever' with the rainfall, wind, cold, even sleet in the city.... Plus last week I was revising for my genetics exam. My body was screaming for exercise.
But today the sunshine finally reappeared, without the wind. I had planned to go to an aquaerobics class, but my bicycle started calling my name... I cycled off down Napier Rd where there was ample evidence of recent rainfall- and a 'river' where one doesn't usually run...
Today the 'windmills' were in plain view on the Tararuas. We have been acquiring more and more of these industrial monstrosities over recent years. And at present, Mighty River Power is arguing to put even more up, with many of its turbines planned to be in our Turitea Reserve where the local water supply is sourced. There is a David-Goliath battle on to try and stop these beasts. Enough is more than enough: our ridge lines have been defaced already.I turned off down Te Matai Rd, peaceful in the sunshine. But this is yet another area where environmental madness threatens. Some of the best remaining horticultural soil left near the city lies here, and there has been talk of taking land for a bridge here, as well as building houses. It floods here people, that's why it's so fertile...... let's leave it for the farmers to plough in the springtime, and put in the next lot of crops....

Finally, I headed off along the Bridle Track down by the river. I hadn't been here for ages, as last time I came I got a puncture! I was surprised to see how much fresh erosion there had been in some places. The little picnic table where I used to sit down for a break is now 'off-limits'.
It was about a 20km round trip, welcome exercise on a lovely sunny morning. But I have to confess that in the last few kilometres I could feel it in my muscles. There was a time this cycle ride would have been easy, but fitness now needs to be re-built!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

a curious cat

Finally, my Massey essay was done and the sun was shining- so I went visiting a friends' farm with my new dslr in hand for a bit more practice. Their cat seemed rather curious about my endeavours.....

..... and kept appearing around different corners...... Did the cat know I was a novice? I have lost some of my initial trepidation about using the camera....but still have a lot to learn before I feel I am in control of the camera, rather than randomly receiving its automatic offerings!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Unseasonable Cold and a Reunion

Last Thursday here in Palmerston North was just Freeeezing. The temperature was low enough at 9am and just dropped from there. We seemed to spend a large part of the day hovering around 4C. Plus it rained and rained...... It didn't seem like much consolation to say "It must be snowing in the Ranges."(Actually, it felt about as cold as it was on the day I walked across the Aubrac Plateau in France which is at a much higher altitude.)But come Friday morning there were these tempting glimpses of snow on the Tararuas....
It was well worth enduring the cold of Thursday to see these views on Friday morning.
Just as well the rain stopped, as I was due to drive north for the Sacred Heart reunion in New Plymouth, 125th Jubilee. (For my overseas readers, believe it or not, that is quite 'old' in New Zealand terms!!!)And it was a great weekend. Lots of my former classmates were there, and the decibel rating was high throughout!!! We are already planning the next reunion...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Road trip to Tekapo

One of the reasons I took my car south was that I was hoping the weather might be suitable for a road trip closer to the winter mountains. I was not to be disappointed on this occasion!
Friday morning I escaped Christchurch city, heading for the inland tourist route south, quickly discovering that the frost was much heavier inland. There were glimpses of the mountains at this stage, but they were largely draped in mist, and I wasn't sure if I was going to be lucky or not. However, somewhere around the region of Mt Hutt, the mist all cleared. I headed southwards with the sight of glorious snow-covered mountains to my right.

At Geraldine I turned inland again in the direction of the Alps. I loved this drive, seeing the white of the mountains ahead of me, and already I was in heaven.

Then heaven got even better. I know I have driven over Burke's Pass before in the summertime, but didn't find it at all remarkable. It lies at about 700m. As I came to the Pass this day, I entered a winter wonderland, where the snow had obviously covered the road a few days before. Snow was still covering the fields right down to the roadside.

It was all so bewitching that I decided I might even drive on as far as Mt Cook, even though that would make a very long driving day. However, somewhere not too far west of Tekapo, I could see cloud draping the bottom of the mountains, and soon I entered thick fog.

After 15 minutes in the fog, I decided that it was time to be sensible and retreat, and I later heard that this fog extended all the way down to Queenstown.

I drove back into the sunshine. Here you can see just a wisp of the fog, a hint of what lay ahead on the route south.
Instead of driving south I enjoyed a relaxed lunch by the lakeside at Tekapo, walking over frozen snow to get to the lake edge.

The views were just magnificent. What bliss!!

And the historic church at Tekapo had quite a backdrop. What a beautiful road trip it was, a truly magical day.

Christchurch and the seaside

I had been told that Christchurch had seen hardly any sunshine at all during June, so I had packed all my thermals. But luckily the sunshine arrived about the same time as I did, and stuck around for the whole week! My friend had somewhat of a family laundry backlog to catch up on though as a result of the recent inclement weather.......

One of the things I love when in Christchurch is the chance to walk along some long beaches. Tuesday saw three of us embark on the walk from Spencer Park to the Waimakariri River mouth, sometimes walking along the sand beside the beach, and sometimes slightly inland amongst the dunes closer to the lagoon. The sunshine lulled me into leaving my good windjacket behind, just taking my raincoat in case of need, but the risk paid off, and I enjoyed walking in the gentle winter sunlight in calm conditions. Once we reached the lagoon at the estuary end, we spotted some spoonbills and shags hanging out. It was quite muddy in places walking back on the inland track, which had unfortunately been rather torn up by some recent 4WD activity. It was sad to see the damage inflicted on areas where crabs etc clearly abounded.
Two days later I had another beach walk with some other friends. We started by the Waimakariri rivermouth this time, but on the opposite bank. Another lovely day for another great beach walk. Winter heaven.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Heading to the South Island

School holidays! And I decided this time that I would head south and hopefully catch sight of both friends, family, and some snowy mountains.

First though there was a performance of Starlight Express to see in Wellington. I knew little about the musical, but Georgia, who was one of our young Sound of Music stars, was having her debut into professional theatre so I was hoping to catch sight of her. And catch sight of her we did: turns out there was some illness in the cast, and she was performing the role of Ashlea. And didn't she do well!! I loved the show- it was such a vibrant spectacle. The cast were incredibly well drilled and energetic, tearing around on skates for the whole show. The costumes were stunning, and the lighting was really effective. The songs, that were of various 'pop' styles, gave me plenty to laugh about, and there was all the melodrama of cheering for the underdog! We all loved it.

Next morning it was time to rise earlyish for the ferry across Cook Strait. I have to say, I quite liked watching all the commuter car lights stream by, knowing that I was heading off on a wee adventure rather than to work.
Given some of the weather recently, I was hoping it wouldn't be too rough.... and as it turned out, the Strait was almost like a millpond.

Before I knew it, we were sailing in past the treacherous looking bits of land at the edge of the Sounds
and we were soon sailing through Tory Channel where we saw the other Interislander ferry heading northwards.
Hardly any time later we had docked at Picton, and the ferry doors opened ready for us to drive off.....

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Kinship and compassion

From the commencement address for Creighton University Graduation
by Fr Greg Boyle, SJ

"And you go from here to create a community of kinship, such that God might recognize it. You go from here to bend the world to grace. You imagine a circle of compassion. And, then you imagine nobody standing outside that circle. And, to that end, you walk to the edges of the circle and you walk with those on the margins. And, you stand with the poor and the powerless and the voice-less. You stand with the easily despised and the readily left out. You stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear. You stand, in fact, with the demonized, so that the demonizing will stop. You stand with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away. You seek, as you leave this place, a kind of compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry, rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it. And, a great many people will look at you, standing at the margins and will accuse you of wasting your time.

The Prophet Isaiah writes, “In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste,’ there will be heard, again, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voices of those who sing.” You go from Creighton University to make those voices heard – in a sense new belonging and kinship. "

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Lilac Fairies

Recently I had the opportunity to become a Lilac Fairy. Surely not, you say? Weeeellllll, I guess not really. But we all found the chalkboard description on our dressing room door so delightful, nobody wanted to replace it....
This is actually how I looked in full regalia. Yes indeed, I entered the convent. Well, er um, briefly, just for a few weeks.
And here are some of my companions in crime in the alto seconds. Yes, of course, we were involved in a very famous musical. And I am certain you can probably guess which one. (No, not Sister Act.)

And here are some wee miniature versions made by a couple of my fellow nuns in 'recreation time' in the dressing room.
Regretfully we have now all left the convent, miniatures included. But I am sure if an opportunity for a reunion came along, eg Sister Act.... we'd all take up the habit again in a flash!!!