Saturday, March 30, 2013

Driving to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Today we have a fairly long drive from Christchurch to Mt. Cook. Google had planned a route that headed back toward the demolished inner city. I took issue with that and put us on a simpler route out of town. Only one time did William pause at an intersection and say “Which way do I go?” I answered with all the confidence I could muster “Right.” Success.

We drive between the same hedgerows we could see dividing the fields from the air. The hedgerows are 5-20 feet wide and are great refuges for small animals and great windbreaks. When the fields need new hedgerows they replant trees or bushes.
Farm fields behind these hedgerows

When we can see fields we see lots of beets or beetroot as they say here. William is going to have to learn to like beets better than he does. He pulled the slices of beet off of his steak sandwich the other day in disgust and gave them to me. Good thing I like beets.

We also see lots of corn, hay, alfalfa, pasture land full of cows, sheep, hogs! and alpaca. As we get into the foothills we see lots of patchcut forests.
We lunched by the side of Lake Pukaki.
Mt. Cook is in the distance

We drive up to the Hermitage Hotel as the Visitor Center is next to it. Very fancy hotel with mountain views. Rooms start at only $350.

We talk about doing an hour hike. It looks like the start is near our rooms, so we go to check in first.
GRL in front of our room

As we set out William goes to get specific directions to the trailhead and is talked into a different hike. I think if we had actually done all of this hike it would have been 4 hours instead of the 2 hours we spent hiking over rocks and coarse gravel. There were three suspension bridges. These were very strong bridges but they still make me nervous. I went over the first one and almost to the second. William went over 2 and decided he had gone far enough.

above the first lake, Lake Mueller, and bridge

The first bridge

The second bridge

Mt Cook with Mt Tasman behind

Resting near the end
I took this further away and magnified
Silly duck resting at the edge of the parking lot.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Slow touring in Christchurch

Today was a slow day of ambling through the Botanic Gardens in Christchurch and touring the museum.
We can spend a full day doing activities like this. A lot of the town was out doing the same thing as everything else is closed on the official holiday of Good Friday.  Only the garden stores stay open and just pay the fine the government levies for opening on the holiday. A few restaurants open but charge a 15% holiday tax.

I am turning on the water to run this kinetic water sculpture.

William liked the World Peace bell. It had a nice tone.
Trees are a favorite. Living or stumps.

I was looking for Stuart Little, but he was not on board today.

A big droopy evergreen

Holding up a tree

Sitting on a Gigantea. One of many in a row.
Maori carving

Guess what happened to the now extinct giant Moa?

In Fred and Myrtles Paua Shell House.

Me and Moa skeletons. No fore limbs at all and weird pelvic structure.

We walk through more of the gardens as we head back to the car.  

the river Avon
This town was a celebration of all things English.  They are going to try to bring the town more up to date with post earthquake planning.  They plan to take advantage of the river that curls through the town with bike and people paths. 
Tomorrow we head to Mt. Cook. Captain Cook is as revered here as he is in Australia. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

To Christchurch, New Zealand

Flying days as we go from Australia to New Zealand. We change from semi caravaning in a rental car to flight mode. Some food is discarded and some packed in suitcases which have to meet weight and size limits for checked and carry on. Checked bags have to be 23 kg or less and carry on luggage 7 kg or less. You are also limited to one item other than your carry on. We fudge a little here. I have my coat in a cloth bag, covering some other items and William has our “lunch” bag/small cooler chest. William's check in is over weight so he stuffs some heavy items in my check in. Both our carry on bags are over weight so William piles heavy items in his back pack/purse and I can barely zip my purse. Good thing they don't weigh your other item.
 We fly from Cairns to Auckland on Wednesday. Spend the night in an airport hotel and Thursday fly to Christchurch, New Zealand. We are beginning our New Zealand adventure in the south then flying home out of Auckland.
Barry likes his special seat

I am amused by the signs in the toilet stalls in the Cairns airport. They do get international travelers who may be accustomed to squat toilets, some of which are raised a little.
The sharps containers are in all toilets in Australia and labeled as such. In New Zealand the containers are on the walls in the toilets, but are not labeled. In the USA we would consider having sharps containers in toilets as encouraging drug use. We prefer to have drug users throw their used syringes in parks, on beaches or in the regular trash for children and sanitation workers to run the risk of getting a needle stick.

About 30 intermediate school students fly on our plane from Auckland to Christchurch. They are part of a track and field team who will be participating in a weekend long tournament. They arrived at the airport quite early and were not scheduled to fly until noon. Air New Zealand had room for them on an earlier flight at 10:10, so we sat just in front of them. We had already moved in the lounge to get away from the loud giggle screech.

When we were in Australia someone had said, “why do you want to go to Christchurch? It was all knocked down in the earthquake.” It was an earthquake I don't remember. But we have been learning about it since we got here.
William thinks he feels another quake. The display here in the quake city museum was great.
Photo of part of the destroyed cathedral

Historically there have always been quakes here. The town is in a volcanic area with lots of faults and a lot of the town is subject to liquefaction, where the sandy soil just turns to mush and water and or sand may boil up. The series of quakes started in September of 2010. But in February of 2011 the quake was right under the town and whatever bad that could happen did happen.
You can be arrested if you go beyond the chain link fence

The most obvious part of the damage is the destroyed downtown. Most of the buildings are being taken down. A few have been rebuilt. There are a lot of temporaries.
Steel storage containers have been used to make some banks and stores

steel containers appear to be holding up a facade

A new building built by a group of tech companies who now work together here

Why is this being held up?

Christchurch had a huge Gothic style cathedral that is destroyed, So they are rebuilding this. It is called the Cardboard Cathedral by locals.

The 185 people who died are remembered in this art structure, composed of 185 unique white chairs.

But the unseen part is the damage to the homes. So many people are still facing a third winter in damaged houses or living in caravans or garages because they cannot get insurance companies to pay anything. The attitude is that the insurance companies are just waiting until the people just give up or die so they will take dime on the dollar of what they are due. Why is that the story everywhere?

On a lighter note, I should try to write more like an Aussie or Kiwi. We will be making our own brekkie in the morning. Maybe we will have some buttered toasts. Really in a magazine lipstick is lippies. Diapers are nappies. Every other thing has some cutsie abbreviation. Avocados are avos. Sunglasses are sunnies. Pretty funny to me.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cairns Snorkeling

Snorkeling out of Cairns

At least it is not raining. Still it is a bit windy and the sea will not be flat. The desk clerk gives us a ride to dive central where we check in at 7:30. The Passions of Paradise is a maxi catamaran.

We speed out to Michaelmas Cay where we are driven onto the beach in a glass bottomed boat.

The waves are enough to tumble me around as I struggle with my flippers. Lots of birds live on this cay and you are only allowed on the beach in a roped off area, so you don't bother the birds.

It is hard to stay with a partner and I lose William as I finally manage to get out of the beach zone and head out over the reef.

William takes some lovely pictures and I remember some of the same coral animals.

I swim back to the boat while William heads back to shore. I make sure that he gets the message that I am on the boat.

After a nice lunch we head to Paradise Reef. The water is too rough for the Bakers. We decide not to go in. Even some of the younger set come out quickly saying it was too rough. We hear the water is quiet off Bali. Maybe we will snorkel there someday.

There are people from everywhere on the boat. We meet Irish and people from Northern Ireland, Germans and a sizable group of French who are making a documentary of their travels.

William makes friends with all of the staff. They decide he looks just like an actor, Ron Perlman? So they comp him drinks.

The sail is up for the trip back to the harbor.

One of the staff gives me a card good for a $5 pizza at a nearby pizza bar. Sounds good to me, so we find it and order pizza and beer. They put strange combos on vegi pizza here. Red onions, black olives, red peppers (which they call capsicum), spinach and pineapple. Pineapple, really? A strange young man buys William a beer and sits and chats with us for a while in an incoherent manner. Never really did figure him out. Time to walk back to the hotel. We need to get ready to fly to New Zealand tomorrow.