Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008

All three children were home for Christmas: Brian from Boston, Emily from New Zealand and Laura from Colorado. It was the first time they were all home together since Laura's graduation last June.

Brian bought himself a Wii this fall, which he brought with him. We enjoyed auto racing! Brian took this photo on his new iPhone:

Pager came over for breakfast on Christmas Day (note the matching Yankee Farm Credit jackets and caps):

The fluffy thing on the chair behind Pager is a piece of sheepskin for him from New Zealand:

Laura decided that she didn't like our home printer, and so she and Brian bought a new printer/copier/scanner for me for Christmas. Now I can scan items for the blog! As a Christmas present for Nancy and me, Emily made a wonderful scrapbook of our two weeks in New Zealand. Here is a scanned page from the scrapbook with some items that didn't make it onto the blog:

The spiral stone stairway is what we climbed inside the steeple tower of Christchurch Cathedral. (See this post.) The "cage" is at the top of the 134 step climb—note the view of the city behind us. The ticket is from the Christchurch Tram.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Zealand Posts

We are now back from New Zealand. It was a wonderful trip!

I put up a few posts while we were there, and am adding new posts as I have time. The post date for each entry is the date we did that part of the trip, not the date I published the post.

All of the New Zealand posts are in November, so a good way to read them is to use the Blog Archive for November 2008 (see the right side of the blog), or use the "table of contents" at the end of this message, or click this link and read from the bottom up:

Click on any picture to enlarge (especially useful for the maps).

We only visited the South Island. We started in Christchurch, spent two nights there, then spent seven nights on the road touring around the South Island in a campervan before returning to Christchurch for two more nights and the flight home. Well, OK, we did visit the North Island briefly, but only the Auckland airport. Our flights were Boston - San Francisco - Auckland - Christchurch, and the reverse.

There are presently (as of 11/30/08) 15 posts about New Zealand. As I post new entries about New Zealand, I will note it in an UPDATE on this post, to help you figure out if anything new has been added since the last time you looked.

UPDATE 12/27/08: Published posts for Nov. 20 and 21 and finished the posts for Nov. 22. Now complete through Nov. 23. There are now 29 posts about New Zealand.

A "table of contents" for completed and planned posts:
Nov. 18 - Christchurch
Nov. 19 - Christchurch to Oamaru
Nov. 20 - Oamaru to Mount Cook
Nov. 21 - Mount Cook to Te Anau
Nov. 22 - Doubtful Sound
Nov. 23 - Te Anau to Lake Paringa
Nov. 24 - Lake Paringa to Greymouth (not done yet)
Nov. 25 - Greymouth to Hanmer Springs (not done yet)
Nov. 26 - Hanmer Springs to Christchurch (not done yet)
Nov. 27 - Christchurch again (not done yet)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Haast Pass to Lake Paringa

State Highway 6 follows the Haast River down to the Tasman Sea, and then crosses the river on the longest one-way bridge in New Zealand. The bridge is so long (737 meters or 2,400 feet) that it has two passing bays:

The river here is tame. It is hard to believe it is the same river we saw at the Gates of Haast.

Continuing north along the coast we came to this beautiful overlook at Knights Point:

The picture doesn’t convey the weather. While it was not cold (maybe 60 F), there was a heavy, driving rain. This is one of the most scenic spots on the west coast, but we were the only car in the parking lot on this fine afternoon.

Because of the weather we decided not to camp, but to stay at the Lake Paringa Lodge:

Our host was Ken Holliday, and it was wonderful to have a warm, dry place to stay indoors. This was the view from the window in our room, with Lake Paringa through the trees:


It started raining as we approached Haast Pass, and it rained most of the time until we returned to the eastern side of the Southern Alps two days later.

It rains a lot on the western side of the Southern Alps. Prevailing westerly winds pick up moisture from the Tasman Sea. The moisture-laden air tries to go up and over the mountains—which rise from sea-level to 12,000 feet in just a few miles. The air cools as it rises and cannot retain all the moisture, which falls as rain on the western slopes.

The Southern Alps truly define the weather on the South Island. From the tops of the Southern Alps down to the Tasman Sea is a rain forest, one of the wettest places on earth. East of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury Plain receives less rain than at home

Here are some rainfall amounts:

The chart above was in the Haast Visitor Centre on the west coast. The chart shows rainfall of 4.5 meters (180 inches) at Haast Pass and 6.5 meters (257 inches) at Milford Sound—similar to Doubtful Sound where we were yesterday. That’s a lot of rain! And we have been told that some spots high on the western slopes of the Southern Alps receive even more rain.

Note the rainfall for Christchurch on the Canterbury Plain east of the mountains—26 inches. The average for Burlington is 33 inches.

Yet we were also told that while the West Coast of the South Island receives a lot of rain, they don’t have a lot of rainy days, except at this time of year. They say that winter is a nice time of year on the west coast. We were also told that the weather changes a lot, that it was common to have "six seasons in a day," but we did not see much variation in the weather.

Here is another interesting chart from the Franz Josef Glacier Visitor Centre farther north on the west coast:

I think we were there during a period of moderate, steady rain.

I was surprised at the amount of agriculture on the west coast. In spite of the rain, we saw sheep farms, dairy farms, beef farms and deer farms, the same as on the eastern side of the mountains. Didn’t see any irrigation.

Haast Pass

We soon entered Mount Aspiring National Park and climbed to Haast Pass at 564 meters (1,850 feet). Interesting woods at Haast Pass, the beginning of the rain forest:

On the west side of the pass the Haast River tumbles down to the Tasman Sea. This section of the river is known as the Gates of Haast:

There are several beautiful waterfalls west of Haast Pass. This one is Fantail Falls, 15 meters high (50 feet):

And this one is Thunder Creek Falls, 29 meters high (90 feet):

Te Anau to Haast Pass

First we backtracked from Te Anau to Queenstown, stopping at the Five Rivers Cafe on SH 6. We are enjoying stopping mid-morning at a cafe for coffee. They rarely have our kind of coffee (which they call filter coffee) but I am developing a taste for flat white. There are sheep in the fields beyond the signs (of course):

Farther north on SH 6, but still south of Queenstown, we stopped again at Lake Wakatipu. This is looking back south:

Just east of Queenstown we left SH 6 on a shortcut to Wanaka. The view of the surrounding countryside from Crown Terrace was impressive:

At Wanaka we rejoined SH 6 and stayed on it the rest of the day. We had lunch at the Lake Hawea Lookout. The mountains are the Mckerrow Range and the Young Range:

Just after Lake Hawea we came to Lake Wanaka. The mountains at center-left are the Minaret Peaks:

Mount Aspiring is not visible in the photo above, but would be behind and perhaps slightly to the right of the Minaret Peaks if it were. Mount Aspiring National Park is between Fiordland National Park to the south and the Westland and Mount Cook National Parks to the north. Haast Pass is in Mount Aspiring National Park.

Traveling as we are, we meet many other tourists. At the campground yesterday we met a couple from Denmark. Today at the Lake Wakatipu lookout we met two couples from Toronto, and at the Crown Terrace lookout we met a couple from Israel. All interesting people.

Nov. 23 - Te Anau to Lake Paringa

Today we traveled from Te Anau to Lake Paringa, about 260 miles:

Posts for today:
Te Anau to Haast Pass
Haast Pass
Haast Pass to Lake Paringa

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Doubtful Sound

We toured Doubtful Sound for three delightful hours onboard the Patea Explorer:

Doubtful Sound is more properly called a fiord (or fjord), since it was created by glacial action. Much of our cruise was on narrow waterways between steep hills, as in the photo below. It was unusual, however, to see another ship:

We saw many, many waterfalls. Some of the waterfalls were permanent because their source was a lake. But many of the waterfalls were temporary, as it had rained the day before, and they would dry up in a few hours.

You can see still more waterfalls behind us:

Below are fur seals basking on an island. We watched one poor seal try to climb up on the rocks and get washed back by the waves at least half a dozen times.

We saw Fiordland crested penguins both in the water and on land (Wikipedia entry, NZ DoC link). You can just barely see one in the crevice:

Here is a better photo from Google Images:

Before humans came to New Zealand (Maori in the 1200s, Europeans in the 1700s) there were no native land mammals. There were many, many birds. Humans and the small mammals they brought caused the extinction of many bird species. Stoats (ermine) have proved particularly bad for birds, and hard to get rid of. We saw many stoat traps on the road over Wilmot Pass. In Doubtful Sound near the Tasman Sea is a large island called Secretary Island. The New Zealand Department of Conservation has engaged in a substantial project to rid Secretary Island of all mammals and make it into a bird sanctuary.

We cruised along Secretary Island out toward the Tasman Sea, and turned around near the Nee Islands. The wind and waves picked up considerably here. This was as far out to sea as we got:

On the way back the boat crew handed out cups and positioned the boat under a small waterfall. It was delicious!

Wilmot Pass

After touring the Manapouri Power Station, our bus took us over Wilmot Pass between Lake Manapouri and Doubtful Sound. This is the same bus that took us down into the power station:

Wilmot Pass Road is 14 miles long and reaches an elevation of 2,200 feet. The gradient on the west side is 1 in 5. This dirt road connects to no other road. (So how did the bus get there? By barge across Lake Manapouri.) The road was built in the 1960s expressly for the construction of the Manapouri Power Station. Heavy equipment to build the power station, including the generators, were shipped by sea to Deep Cove on the eastern end of Doubtful Sound and then trucked over this road to the West Arm of Lake Manapouri.

The bus driver stopped several times to let us get out and take pictures:

The vegetation was temperate rain forest:

The dominant tree was the silver beech. This tree, like most native New Zealand trees, is an evergreen tree, even though it is deciduous:

We saw many beautiful waterfalls. I wish I could remember their names. This one was on the south side of the road, about midway:

And this one was on the north side of the road closer to Deep Cove:

Our destination—Doubtful Sound:

Manapouri Power Station

The Manapouri Power Station is located on the West Arm of Lake Manapouri. Our boat ride across the lake ended there. Above ground only the transmission towers and intake tunnels are visible:

Lake Manapouri is 178 meters above sea level. It is this difference which provides the power to drive the turbines. The turbines are located underground, 176 meters lower than the surface of the lake. Water falls down the nearly vertical penstocks to power the turbines, and then 10 km out to sea, at Doubtful Sound, through two nearly horizontal tailrace tunnels.

Access to the turbine room is by tunnel. We rode a coach bus down this tunnel:

The tunnel is 2 km long and spirals around one and a half times while dropping 200 m.

In the turbine room at the bottom are seven generators:

Each generator is rated at 121.5 MW which puts the total capacity at 850 MW. For reference, Vermont Yankee is 620 MW and the Hoover Dam is 2080 MW.

The Manapouri Power Station is the largest hydroelectric plant in New Zealand and generates about 14% of the total electrical power in the country. The facility was built specifically to power an aluminum smelter 171 km away in Bluff on the south coast. The smelter uses most of the station's output, and the rest goes into the national grid.

The Visitors Center had this scale model of the facility:

Note the curving access tunnel, the seven vertical penstocks (the larger vertical tubes), and the two nearly horizontal tailrace tunnels. The turbine room is the orange horizontal cylinder at the bottom of the penstocks. The seven smaller vertical tubes are cable shafts to bring the power to the surface.

Click here for more info.

Lake Manapouri

The first leg of our trip was a one hour boat ride across Lake Manapouri. These are the Kepler Mountains:

We had a generally overcast day with occasional glimpses of sunshine and sometimes a rainbow:

Everywhere were mountains, water and mist:

It was generally warm (60s F) but windy and wet. Jackets (and sometimes hats) felt good:

Lake Manapouri is 178 meters above sea level and over 400 meters deep, so the bottom is below sea level.

Nov. 22 - Doubtful Sound

Today we took a tour across Fiordland National Park in southwestern New Zealand. We started in Manapouri on the east side of the park and traveled to Doubtful Sound on the west side of the park, and back:

(Map source.)

Posts for today:
Lake Manapouri
Manapouri Power Station
Wilmot Pass
Doubtful Sound

Friday, November 21, 2008

Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park

We stayed two nights at the Te Anau Top 10 Holiday Park. It was nice to stay in one place for two nights. We were right in town, within walking distance of stores, shops and the lakefront. Campervans were parked cheek-by-jowl in campgrounds, but it did not matter. This photo shows our Spaceship before it was set up:

For the first time we extended the bed out the back and set up the "tent" over it:

Top 10 Holiday Parks come with many amenities. This one had outdoor grills and a lounge/TV room. And they have wireless internet access!

They have extensive kitchen areas. We had several meals here. Evening meals usually included at least one kind of wine:

Tomorrow we head out on a tour of Doubtful Sound. A bus will pick us up at the campground, take us to where the tour starts about 30 minutes away, and return us to the campground at the end of the day.