Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pictures from South Island camping and hiking

Cicadas are everywhere we have hiked. They make such a din that at times one is tempted to cover one's ears.

A typical vineyard planting close to Blenheim

On the 12 km twisty gravel road to the Sawcut Gorge hike.  Ure River down in the valley 

Chris rock-hopping in Sawcut Gorge - the hike requires you to walk up a river bed, making frequent crossings.

Freedom camping on a beach

Enjoying the view of turquoise water and golden hills 

Kelp and castle-like rock outcroppings  

A fur seal sunning itself
Lovely clear fresh-water pool for a cool bath in the privacy of a deserted beach

Wellington and ferry to Picton

Wellington is where one catches the ferry to the south island. Our ferry was cancelled due to engine problems, so we had a few hours to spend before we boarded the competitor's (InterIslander) ferry.

Rani at the parliamentary library in Wellington

Not my cup of tea, but the 'Bee Hive' is the executive wing of New Zealand's parliament.

NZ parliament's library

InterIslander ferry arriving in Wellington

View from deck entering Marlborough Sound

Rani met Shashi and her husband in the ferry line-up. They are from a village close to where Rani's Mum lived in Punjab. 

In Marlborough Sound.

Approaching Picton where the ferry docks.

Cape Palliser lighthouse and fur seals

This post is dedicated to my friend Chris Mills, a former lighthouse keeper living in Ketch Harbour, Nova Scotia. Chris loves all things related to light keeping and lighthouses and has written some great books on the subject.

Cape Palliser light - reached by 250+ steps. It still sports an 1897 Fresnel lantern.

Bulldozers are used to launch and retrieve fishing boats on the loose shingle beach nearby.

Rani on the long climb to the light

Light detail - note the cast iron frames, lovely copper(?) dome, and Fresnel lens

Just down the road is a colony of fur seals.

These baby fur seals appeared to be quite unconcerned with us.


Near Cape Palliser on the south end of the North Island, we camped adjacent to an area of Hoo-doos or pinnacles. 

This was all seabed, which has been eroded into towers and buttreses

We found partially fossilized tree trunks eroding in one gully. The centers of these ancient trees have been mineralized while the outsides are still tree.

Rani scrambles among the pinnacles

We also came across layers of burned wood that had also been compressed under dozens of meters of rock and was now incredibly dense and rock-like. 

Rani sprouts a new pair of wings.

Huts, Loos, and Churches

I have always enjoyed seeing how building is done in different cultures. Here are a few pictures from along the way during our north island travels.
Rani inspects the bunk arrangements in the Blue Range Hut.

Most tramping huts have wood heat/cooking. Gas appliances have been recently removed.

A very BLUE hut.

Hut builders have a sense of humour, given that this hut is at the end of a 2-3 hour hike along a narrow and steep trail. Note the small cistern to collect and store roof run-off.

We have stayed in a mix of Dept of Conservation campgrounds and 'freedom campsites', where one camps for free. This site had a fantastic picnic table made from old growth wood. The top is one piece nearly 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide.

Our own piece of architecture - a 45 dollar dome tent that bends alarmingly in any sort of wind, but has kept us dry for two nights of rainy weather to date.

We found this classic iron paneled loo in one of the towns we passed through.

Modern stainless urinals but with elegant shadows cast by piercings in the panels.

I did not have a dress on, so no need to adjust :)

Immediately opposite the antique convenience is a completely automated touch free loo, complete with musac ('What the world needs now is love...')

Burnside church

Tramping Mount Fyfe in the Seaward Kaikoura Range

Hiking north from the summit of Mount Fyfe
We have been enjoying a couple of camping-free days visiting with our new friends, Ralph and Ali, who emigrated from the US to New Zealand and now live in the little coastal town of Kaikoura. We were introduced to this couple by Kurt and Nancy from S/V Raven whom we sailed with in Mexico and Canada. Ralph reminded us immediately of Kurt - both men are social and environmental activists and an evening in the company of either man is invigorating because they both challenge one's views on so many issues. Rani and Ali hit it off immediately and both our hosts made us feel completely welcome. They have a lovely home on a knoll looking out over the mountains and sea. The back yard has been transformed into a richly productive garden and we had the most diverse meal last night almost entirely from their own vegetables.

Our hosts in Kaikoura - this view is from a lookout a few minutes walk from their house.

Yesterday we left our comfortable base to climb Mount Fyfe. A inversion layer had formed over the town and surrounding valley and a bank of fluffy white low-hanging cloud was scudding across the base of the Kaikoura mountains. We decided to go for the hike anyway, despite the risk of zero visibility at the top, and were rewarded by spectacular views when we climbed out of the cloud about half an hour up the trail.

Rani hiking up out of the clouds

The trail soon gave us stunning views on either side.

The hike runs up a well maintained 4WD road and is a bit of a grind for the first half hour, but then opens up onto a series of ridges. To the east, the low clouds gave the illusion that we were flying far above the earth, but to the west the land dropped away and rose and fell in a series of ridges leading to the 2000 meter peaks of the Seaward Kaikoura Range.

Rani re-adjusting the fit of her brand new hiking boots.
Rani had decided to break in a pair of new leather boots on this walk, but had left her good hiking socks in the UK. The pair of socks borrowed from me were too slippery and she was soon suffering from chafe. I gave her my socks so she could create more padding and with two layers and some tissue paper, she was able to make things comfortable enough to continue to the hut.

Ryan snapped this shot for us at the hut.

We met Ryan - a Newfoundlander from the Corner Brook area - at the hut and we all decided to push on for the summit after a rest to eat lunch and refill water bottles at the hut's cistern. Ryan proved to be an enjoyable companion and we had a good chat en route to the summit (still following an increasingly rough 4WD track) and then beyond along a series of ridges that gave stunning views down into a valley of clouds on one side and across to the main Seaward Range on the other. Ryan is working and travelling in NZ for 7 months and has a well written blog that you can read here.

Ryan and Rani with a backdrop of the Seaward Kaikouras

Perched like two seals on a rock high above the Kaikouras

View looking north toward the trail that continues along this ridge and then drops back to the south and down to the next hut (part of a 3 day traverse)

Rani points out the route, which is marked by poles and cairns.

A bouquet-like cluster of blossoms near the summit plateau.

The descent was easy and we returned in time for a late supper with our hosts. I would rate this tramp as a real bargain in terms of views for effort, at least on a nice sunny, windless day like the one we enjoyed. Return time was 7 hours including dealing with hiking boot issues, a generous lunch stop, and about an hour spent exploring beyond the summit.