Monday, December 31, 2007

New Zealand Road Trip - December 9, 2007 (6)

December 9

Te Anau

Why did we want to get to Te Anau? It is the staging area for tours of Fiordland National Park. Mountains in the area reach elevations of up to 2,750 m (9,020 ft) and plunge to deep fiords - 14 of them. We all thought this was the most breathtaking scenery we encountered on our trip. Craig had booked us for a day trip on Milford Sound. It was about a 2 hour drive from Te Anau to the launch site of the cruise boat we went on.

The town of Te Anau is situated on one of the largest lakes in the country - aptly named Lake Te Anau.


Lake Te Anau from the town waterfront area.

Milford Sound

Following are all from Milford Sound - comments only where required. Most are self explanatory - just great scenery shots! This was a long day so there are lots of pix. Enjoy!

The peak on the right is Mitre Peak "so called because of its resemblance to a bishop's mitre." It is one of the most famous landmarks of Fiordland and probably the most photographed. We took a few pix of it ourselves. And it appears on the front cover of BOTH the tour books that I bought before we left!




This is the boat we were on. The masts are "decorative" - not functional. We were out on the top deck for the trip. It was a nice day, as you can see by the pix. It did get windy further out.


Mary.



Mitre Peak.


Mary and Craig.


This one is supposedly shaped like a lion and I believe the name reflects that fact in Maori.


Craig and Mary.

Craig, Mary and Joe. This may be the only pix of the three of us. We just didn't think about getting too many.
Fur seals.

New Zealand Christmas tree.
The pohutukawa or New Zealand Christmas Tree, metsiderosis excelsa, is one of the most outstanding plants of the entire New Zealand flora. A tougher or more adaptable coastal tree would be hard to find, for the pohutukawa will gain a foothold in the most inhospitable of rock crevices where continual lashings of salt-laden winds and drenchings of salt water are the norm, and life giving fresh water and nutrients are scarce in the extreme.

(from http://www.opotiki.com/data/pohutuka.htm)
Fiordland Crested Penguins. This is not an excellent pix, but they were far away - at least that's our excuse. The point is that these are "wild" and as the name suggests, local to the area.
As we reached open water at the mouth of the fiord, the next land would be Australia. Here Craig is waving to girlfriend Rhonwyn, who is back at home in Tazmania working for the summer.
Now a few words about my dopey raincoat. As it turned out, it was probably the best thing that I brought. As you can see from the pix, it was a very sunny day. What you can't see is that when we got close to the open ocean, the wind was very strong and nippy. This coat kept me nice a warm. I wasn't the fashion queen on this trip!
Now we are heading back.
Fur seals.
Waterfall. We went right up to it so the spray would hit us. One Maori legend is that if you get in the spray you will wake up looking ten years younger. In my case, I don't think it worked!

Another waterfall. There had not been rain for a couple of weeks, which apparently is a long time for the area. Usually, with more rain, the falls we saw are more voluminous and there are usually more of them.
Here we are back to Mitre Peak.
Craig - on the way back to Te Anau.
Waterfalls.
Windy road - yup - this is what we were driving on - on the "wrong" side!
Mirror Lakes
Craig had us stop at Mirror Lakes on the way back. It seemed more like "mirror swamp" to me, a lowland. But it was very pretty and if you look closely you'll see that the water is crystal clear. We could see fish swimming and all the plants, etc. below the surface.

Paradise Shelducks.


Back at Lake Te Anau

New Zealand Road Trip - December 8, 2007 (5)

December 8



Invercargill

Invercargill is the most southern and western major centre in New Zealand. At 50,000 people, it's a bit less than half Dunedin's population of 115,000.

The thing that struck me about Invercargill is that it is FLAT. When there, you would be forgiven if you thought you were in a prairie town, grid streets and all. In Dunedin you would be either going uphill or downhill. There is no "flat."

We stayed at a really nice motel - argueably the nicest accomodation of the trip. We found they have a pleasant custom of walking you to your room with a pint of milk for your morning tea. We stayed at the Tower Lodge right across from the water tower shown in the previous posting.



Southland Museum and Art Gallery (Invercargill)

New Zealand is home to a "living fossil" - the tuatara.



The tuatara is only found in New Zealand and is in danger of becoming extinct! It is a reptile but not a lizard. It is the last remaining member of the ancient group of reptiles, Sphenodontia. Tuatara is a Maori word meaning "peaks on the back". It is easy to see why. The tuatara is famous because it is a very ancient – it is the only survivor of a large group of reptiles that roamed the earth at the same time as dinosaurs. It hasn't changed its form much in over 225 million years! The relatives of tuatara died out about 60 million years ago which is why the tuatara is sometimes called a ‘living fossil’ - cool.

(from http://www.kcc.org.nz/animals/tuatara.asp)

Naturally, with Craig along, we HAD to go see the tuataras housed at the Museum.




This one is not real - it's about four feet long.


These are the real ones. There were a couple of adults and a few younger ones. They look just like the four foot statue! But they are shorter - the adults we saw looked about 18 - 20 inches, the younger ones were half that.



Another tuatara website.

There is also a botanical garden and an aviary in Invercargill, hence the following pix.









Bluff

We left Invercargill late in the morning and proceeded further south. We were so close, we decided we should go to Bluff, which is THE most southerly point you can get to on the South Island. I expect it's the furthest south on the planet that I shall ever be. Joe too, since we usually go together. Can't speak for Craig.

The Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter is located at Bluff.

At the southern tip of South Island is a large aluminum smelter which processes bauxite from Queensland using power from nearby hydroelectric stations. The output from this smelter accounted for 4.2 percent of exports in 1999.
(from http://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/economies/Asia-and-the-Pacific/New-Zealand.html )

To make aluminum, aside from the bauxite, a lot of electricity is needed. We were able to tour the impressive hydro electric facility referenced above - this will be featured on another day's post - stay tuned. And given that the aluminum production comprises 4.2 % of exports, it is also useful that the smelter is situated at a port site.


Mary and Craig.
Joe and Craig.



This was taken from the Bluff lookout.


Lookout again, with Stewart Island in the distance.

Leaving Bluff, Heading North
Our goal was to get to Te Anau by the evening. Craig had booked a couple of tours for us, which began the next day so we had to get there. The next two pix indicate the sort of landscape we were passing through.
In this pix, it is really clear that the island is volcanic. The hill in the distance is the classic volcanic cone shape. There is a herd of cows in the forground. For the most part, it was very green in this part of the country.

If you look closely on the top of the ridge of the hills, you can see some wind turbines. We saw wind farms in a number of places throughout our travels. Our experience suggests that New Zealand certainly has the potential to develop a significant amount of wind power - it was very often windy!

At the end of 2006 the total installed and operational capacity of wind turbines in New Zealand was 170.8 mega watts (MW). According to Ministry of Economic Development data in 2006 these turbines produced 617 GWh of electricity, or around 1.5% of New Zealand’s total electricity generation. This is enough electricity to provide for the annual requirements of around 77,000 typical households.


151 MW of new capacity has been installed during 2007, nearly doubling the total installed capacity in New Zealand to 321.8 MW. While this will lead to a proportionate increase in the amount of electricity generation from wind power the percentage share is unlikely to rise as 385 MW of new gas-fired generation has also been installed this year (E3P at Huntly).

At the start of 2004 the total installed wind generation capacity was just 36.3 MW, so this total has increased by a factor of nearly 10 times in the last 4 years. Most of this growth occurred in 2004 and 2007.

While wind energy’s growth in NZ has been highly variable (i.e. little growth in 2005 and 2006 and only modest growth forecast for 2008) the industry has ‘taken off” internationally. The total worldwide capacity has grown at a compound rate of around 25% per year for the past six years. The global total is now over 70,000 MW, leaving New Zealand (at less than 0.5% of the total) some way behind the installed capacity for other developed countries. In 2006 over 15,000 MW of new wind energy capacity was installed worldwide. This is nearly twice NZ’s total capacity from all sources.

(from http://www.windenergy.org.nz/FAQ/proj_dom.htm#current)