Wrapping it up in New Zealand
Trip Start Feb 17, 2008
8Trip End May 08, 2008
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Just to pass on a bit of information so that I may not only remind myself, but also prove that we are not completely inebriated day and night, Milford Sound is not actually a sound, it is a fiord. The difference between a fiord and a sound is that a sound is a valley that has been created by a stream or river which flows out to sea and is then flooded. Because of this, a sound is usually not extremely deep and is shaped like a V. A fiord on the other hand, is carved out by glacier then flooded, resulting in a deeper and more expansive body of water due to the valley being shaped like a U. There is the technical section of this blog and a lesson for the day. There are a few brain cells left yet....
Anyway, we again lucked out with optimal conditions at Milford Sound, as it is typically raining there. Not only was it warm and sunny, the previous three days saw continuous rain. Normally, there are only a handful of permanent waterfalls running down the mountains into the valley, then out to the sea. The vast amounts of rain from the previous days created many runoff falls which would only last a couple of days. Imagine being completely surrounded by 3,000 foot tall rock faced cliffs that had dozens of falls pouring off them and hundreds of trickling fingers of water making there way down the sides like wet brush strokes on gray canvas, it was truly majestic and unexplainable in words.
Starting to head back up to the north island, we decided to check out Mount Cook (highest in NZ), and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, this was the only time we got weathered out. We were really looking forward to visiting a large lake near the mountain, which is normally frozen over, but during the end of summer has large icebergs floating around in it, giving it the appearance of the Antarctic. We were still able to see some magnificent lakes in the region, some of which had a milky, fluorescent turquoise water due to mineral content from glacier runoff.
From here, we headed east to the coastal town of Dunedin which is know for it's wildlife, particularly sea birds. After a failed attempt to view the only colony of nesting albatross on inhabited land, we took a tour of a yellow eyed penguin refuge. This is the third largest penguin, under the emperor and king located in the Antarctic (think knee high instead of hip high). Again, we lucked out were somehow the only two people on the tour...don't ask me how because the one the hour before us had 25 people and the one during the following hour had 30. Apparently, this is the time of year the the penguins "moult", or get their new waterproof feathers after rearing the young, so there was not a lot of activity. There were approx. 70 penguins in this coastal colony and we saw 5. Because of the moulting, the penguins are very inactive to conserve energy and pretty much sleep all day. All 5 we saw looked dead... You can view these pictures in our picasa album which is linked on the site, they are the photos with the dark blob in the grass. We were actually very excited to see them at all as it is not always a given. This was not a type of zoo, but an area of beach with hidden bunkers and camouflaged paths to walk around as not to disturb the natural environment of the penguins. It was quite impressive...like a giant fort for adults (and kids).
I need to start wrapping this up because we are headed to a rugby game in just a bit, but I will fill you in on the few other things that led us up here to Auckland and probably give some last NZ notes in the next entry (We will be in Australia then). We did some excellent wine tasting before taking the ferry back up to the north island, and expect to do some more once we get to Hunter and Barossa valley in AUS.
After some winding down and enjoyment from just being out of the car back in Oakura, we headed to a world music festival called WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) in New Plymouth. This was one of the most impressive festivals I have ever been to, Karla loved it as well. So diverse, such great music, wonderful vibe, great for families, and probably the cleanest I have ever seen. After another couple of relaxing beach days, we sadly had to leave and are now in Auckland, a very diverse and "hip" city. Next stop, the enormous and deadly country/continent of Australia!! (just kidding mom's and dad's, it's perfectly safe...)
Until next time!
Love and happiness,
Jesse and Karla