Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mt. Ruapehu - The Dome and Crater Lake

We were determined to bag one more peak before returning to Ladybug, so we chose Mt. Ruapehu in the Tangariro National Park. Well, we didn't actually hike up to the summit of Mt. Ruapehu as it requires alpine skills and crampons, but we did get up to the Dome and Crater Lake. This is recommended as a guided hike due to lack of a signed trail. However, with some directions from the D.O.C. and other avid hikers, we were able to navigate to the rim of the Crater Lake and the Dome Emergency Shelter. We were prepared for adverse weather, carried a good First Aid Kit, a compass and warm/waterproof clothing. There were no warnings of volcanic activity when we checked at the i-site on the night before our trek, so that was a good sign.

Below the Waterfall Express Chairlift, Whakapapa Village

Chris and I went our own way but we both arrived at the same place 

Mist rising from the valley threatens to obscure views of the crater 

Chris hiking on the crater rim

Emergency shelter 

Crater Lake and galcier below us

Beware of volcanic hazards!

Brrrr! The wind began to blow at the dome

On the way back - the dome in the background

Thick ice in this crater camouflaged by covering of silt 

Chris below one of the private club huts on the ski slope

Arthur's Pass and miscellaneous photos

Chris almost caused me a breakdown when he slipped off a rock at Castle Hill, bouldering while I was not looking. As the weather forecast for Arthur's Pass was a bit gloomy, we decided not to hike up Avalanche Peak but continue up the coast towards Nelson. Thankfully, Chris's ankle was not sprained. It didn't stop him from criticizing my driving, anyway!

Castle Hill - Arthur's Pass 

Rock sculptures at Castle Hill

Surreal landscape 

Paekakariki beach at sunset 

Pancake Rocks 

Some places reminded us of home - timber shipping operation at Picton 

Rani in her hot pants at Otaki Beach - Kapiti Island in the background

Organic reflections in a stream

A photo for our friend Chris Mills, a former lighthouse keeper:

 Nugget Point 

Mount Somers, Canterbury Plains

We stayed two nights at the Mt. Somers Domain campsite, a very reasonably priced campground with good facilities located close to the Mt. Somers Track. There are two huts on this track and it is recommended as a two day hike. However, due to lack of time, we planned to see the best of it in one long day. We started at the Sharplin Falls carpark, went up Staveley Hill, summitted Mt. Somers (1687m), crossed the tussocky ridge, then followed a scree trail down to the saddle above the Pinnacles Hut, joined the Mt. Somers Track to the Pinnacles Hut and finally arrived at Sharplin Falls.

It was not an easy hike as the trail was washed out, muddy and slippery in many places due to recent rain, overgrown in other areas and required good footwork and lots of stamina. However, we enjoyed the challenge, the views of the valleys below us and the fleeting glimpses of the snow-covered Southern Alps whenever the clouds drifted away.

View of the Canterbury Plains from Staveley Hill

The clouds are rising from the valley, just in time to obscure the view from the mountain top

Chris, if you look really carefully, you might see Mt. Cook! 

Somewhere over there is a trail down to the saddle, we think!

Limestone rock columns above the Pinnacles Hut

Pinnacles Hut

Rani decided to wash her hair along the way

Oamuru - An Architectural Delight

We were enamoured with the port town of Oamuru, North Otago. The nineteenth century  buildings in the town centre were constructed from local limestone, Oamuru stone, and are tastefully ornate. Some house civic offices, some pay homage to Oamuru's past as a shipping port for wool and the whaling industry and many have become art studios.

Corinthian columns adorn many of the stately buildings 

Rani loves the fire engine red phone booths 

The dragon prow of the engine at the steam museum

Our driver didn't get his morning cuppa!

We were fortunate to see the 100th anniversary exhibition of Scott's Antarctic Expedition at the Forrester Gallery, showcasing photos by Herbert Ponting. The black and white photos were crisp in quality and showed his artistic talent.

Scott's ship Terra Nova in the antarctic

Gorgeous lion fountain that would have pride of place in a Sikh mansion!

Rani  looking at the bales of wool in the wharfside warehouse

Moeraki Boulders at Sunrise

The owner of the Moeraki Boulders Campground advised us to get to the beach at sunrise. Somehow we woke up on time, dragged ourselves from the warm blankets and ever so quietly drove out of the campsite. There were several photographers there already and we tried to respect each other's presence as we vied for the best shots. Chris and I both had cameras, so you be the judge...

Penguins and more

 Chris finally checked off " I want to see penguins " from his bucket list. The best sighting we had was at Curio Bay, from the penguin blind at the lovely clifftop campsite. We spent several hours getting soaked in the rain, taking endless photos and videos of Yellow-eyed Penguins on the shore below. They can play "statues" for hours, interrupting the monotony by a bit of preening and scratching to the delight of the crowd.

The best time to see them is at dawn or dusk when they go out to fish or return to the nest. One parent stays with the young chicks while the other goes fishing, changing roles every one to two days. There were not many to see as this is also the molting season. Losing all their feathers at one time means they cannot swim during this process, which can take 2-3 weeks. They prepare by gorging on fish and building up a fat reserve several weeks before they start losing their feathers. And they fast until they have a brand new water-proof suit.

The rare Yellow-eyed Penguin (Hoiho) at Curio Bay 

I can stand like this for hours.

 No privacy anywhere..Oh, that feels so good!
Sometimes I wish I could fly away from these paparazzi!

Hippity, hop. I wonder if I can give them the slip!
 At various lakes and lagoons, we saw a variety of ducks and many black swans. The zoom on our camera could not capture their colours and graceful movements.

Grey Ducks appear to be cemented but are swimming in a blooming algae pond

Keas at a lookout on the Arthur's Pass route 
 We may have mentioned that these colourful parrots are naturally curious and can be a pest, investigating loose bits of rubber on cars and prying it away, taking out rubbish from over-flowing bins etc.  We found these two quarreling over an empty Mcdonalds' glass in a car park.

Weka mooching off the tourists at the Pancake Rocks Visitor Centre
Wekas, or woodhens, are large flightless birds about the size of a chicken endemic to New Zealand. They are quite tame and approach tourists for tidbits in many places.

And, now for something furry and cuddly....

Bunnies playing in the flax at the campsite