Category Archives: New Zealand


In mid-December, we went on a family adventure and tramped (hiked) across New Zealand along with several of our crazy friends here. Yes, I know that that sounds very impressive, especially something to be accomplished over a weekend with two children in tow, but I’m making it out to be more than it was. Yes, we did hike “across” New Zealand, but it was one of the narrowest possible spots, and it also involved a water taxi taking us from the end of our hike to the nearest town…



Just a few kilometers south of Invercargill is the town of Bluff, and then south of Bluff is… The Southern Ocean. The first stop in the Southern Ocean south of Bluff is Stewart Island – or, Rakiura, the Maori name for the island. The wikipedia article to which I’ve linked provides a nice writeup about the Maori mythology surrounding Rakiura and the two main New Zealand islands. I believe that Rakiura owes its existence to volcanoes and near volcanoes pushing up the earth’s surface in that area. On a clear day, we can see the mountains of Rakiura from our house in Invercargill. It looks so close and inviting, but there’s the issue of the Foveaux Strait with which to contend. Now, some crazy person or people have actually swam the thirty kilometers or so from Rakiura to Bluff, but that wasn’t our style. We flew out of the Invercargill airport on a puddle jumper and landed on the beach at Mason Bay on the west side of Rakiura. It was a beautiful, clear morning for a flight and the views of the ocean and Rakiura were spectacular. Landing on the beach was breathtaking, too!  When most every other flight that you’ve taken involves taking off and landing at a proper airport, it’s pretty interesting to land on the firm, but softer, sand of the beach with the waves crashing not too far away.



Flight path from Invercargill to Mason Bay Beach
Flight path from Invercargill to Mason Bay Beach



As a bit of an aside, the beach at Mason Bay is very long and it’s an excellent place to walk and explore – which we did. One of the more remarkable aspects about Mason Beach is how far up the sides of the hills that the sand extends – a couple of hundred meters up the side of the hills and several hundred meters inland. When we were flying in, I noticed this and was struck by how high and far back the sand extends from the beach and shore. I later learned that there’s a very good explanation for why the sand extends so far inland – a meteorite! Actually, earth scientists believe it was a comet – the Mahuika comet. The comet struck just west of Stewart Island in about 1443 AD and caused a tsunami that was ten times larger than the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. This comet strike and the resulting tsunami wave pushed the sands way up and into Stewart Island. More importantly, there are reasonable hypotheses that the tsunami may have wiped out a significant portion of the low-lying Maori settlements all over New Zealand (which would have been most of them), and a very large tsunami would also help to explain why there is so little evidence of Maori settlement in New Zealand prior to about the 16th century.



The weather was warm, windy and pleasant on the beach at Mason Bay and we had most of the first day available to explore it. We walked up and down the beach and found many treasures. The most interesting treasures were several pilot whale skulls that we found toward the south end of the beach, and then a minke whale skull at the north end of the beach.  When you lift one of these skulls (or, try to lift) and find out how heavy they are, you realize why it’s better for a whale to enjoy the buoyancy of saltwater.  We also saw our one (and only?) kiwi while near Mason Bay!  It just sort of appeared on the track to the hut in mid-morning, which is unusual since kiwis tend to be nocturnal.



After a long day of walking, exploring and swimming, we spent a pleasant night camped near the hut and enjoyed a large meal with our local friends as well as the local wildlife – a.k.a., “sandflies.” Sandflies are one thing that we won’t miss at all about New Zealand!



Hiking path from Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Landing, and then the water taxi route to Oban
Hiking path from Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Landing, and then the water taxi route to Oban

The next morning, we got up at a decent time and slowly started to meander the fourteen kilometers from the Mason Bay Hut to the Freshwater Landing Hut. The track wasn’t particularly difficult.  It was relatively flat and level, with several hundred meters crossing swamps on elevated boardwalks that are basically wide enough for one person. Every so often, there’s a slightly wider portion so that trampers walking in the opposite direction can pass. The weather was quite warm and the winds that we enjoyed on the beach weren’t quite reaching inland.  So, this long of a hike, with backpacks and whining (or, as they say in New Zealand “wingeing” [(Australia, New Zealand, UK, slang) To complain whiningly])  kids, warm/hot weather, a beating sun and not enough drinking water was not exceedingly pleasant. The kids dropped their tiny backpacks early and dad carried them most of the way, at his own pace, leaving mom to enjoy those wingeing kids.



It only took maybe four hours to make it to Freshwater Landing, but it was a long four hours. The good news is that there’s a nice dock there and it was EXCELLENT and REFRESHING to jump off the dock and into river! After about an hour’s rest at Freshwater Landing, our water taxi picked us up and we made our way to the landing on the south side of Oban. After one last little hike over the hill from the south side to the main part of Oban and finding the ferry terminal, we made a merry retreat to the local pub and enjoyed the incoming rain and libations from the confines there. And, from Oban, we enjoyed the hour-long ferry ride back to Bluff, and then a bus ride back to Invercargill.



For those of you who might be wondering, would I recommend a trip to Stewart Island/Rakiura?  YES!  🙂



Enjoy the gallery!

46 S EnZed signing off…



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Purakaunui Bay

In late January, I was able to dash over to The Catlins for part of a day to a place that I hadn’t yet visited – Purakaunui Bay, which is just downstream from Purakaunui Falls. I love to look at topographical maps, Google Earth and any resource like that where I can get a bit of a view of the land and a sense as to whether it might be photogenic. And, in this case, while we were visiting Curio Bay once, I asked a Department of Conservation warden where her favorite places to visit could be found, something that might be a bit off the beaten track, and she mentioned Purakaunui Bay.

The weather in Invercargill was wonderful that day – blue skies, warm and a bit of a breeze blowing in from the Southern Ocean. Driving to Purakaunui Bay is only about 75 minutes on the main road, but then another fifteen minutes or so down some gravel roads. The closer that I got to the coastline, the more low-lying clouds and fog that I could see hanging over the sea. I was beginning to think that maybe my trip was for nought…

Oh, but I was so wrong!!! Yes, I didn’t get the spectacular landscape vistas of which I’d been dreaming, but I did find a very interesting, eerie, ethereal setting – and it was wonderful and inspiring! The cliffs, waves and beach were coming into and going out of view depending upon the thickness of the fog. The creative side of my mind recognized the non-landscape, non-nature possibilities of this setting and I was not disappointed.

In the following gallery, yes, you’ll certainly see nature and landscape photographs. But, I also felt the “tug” to go a bit more “zen” on these photographs and I’m quite pleased with most of the results. Enjoy and if there’s one that particularly speaks to you, stop the slideshow and just breathe it in…

46 S. EnZed signing off….

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Lake Marian

Just a few days before Christmas and a couple of days after Muir arrived (and, he still had a bit of jet lag), we took a day trip to Fiordland National Park with the intent of tramping (hiking) to Lake Marian.  In October, we had hiked to Marian Falls, which was only about a half mile, but we got drenched in the process.  Hiking to Lake Marian has been on our radar ever since.


So, we loaded up the car and made the three-hour drive to the trailhead.  One of the nice parts of the hike is that there’s a suspension bridge just as you begin that crosses the Hollyford River and gives you a little early excitement. The hike is “only” about two miles, but it felt like it was a little longer than that.  We were surrounded by the forest much of the time and didn’t realize (until recently – more in a later post) how much of an uphill trudge it was to get to Lake Marian.  Another reason that the hike seemed a little longer is that I was carrying my heavy load of camera equipment as well as food, water and some spare clothes (the weather did seem a bit cool and dodgy that day).  The Lake Marian Track is a very popular route in Fiordland National Park as evidenced by the trail erosion.  And, another factor in the trail erosion were the couple of very obvious rockslides. It’s very easy to locate rockslides on New Zealand’s trails – they have signs that say “DO NOT STOP FOR THE NEXT 200 METERS!”


After about an hour of sorta strenuous hiking, all of the sudden we came out into this opening with a very large glacial cirque/bowl that’s filled with a beautiful turquoise lake!  There were only a few other trampers/hikers at the lake and it was absolutely gorgeous place to enjoy a picnic lunch and lighten the rucksacks.  I think that Muir enjoyed one of his first major tastes of New Zealand’s landscape!  I hope that the gallery at the end of this post does justice to Lake Marian.  And, Lake Marian provided a beautiful setting for a very special family portrait.



After hiking down from Lake Marian, we “forced” Muir to ride to the end of the road and see Milford Sound and he did seem to be a bit impressed.  I was also able to capture one of my favorite photographs (so far) from New Zealand.  This photograph was taken looking west from near the Homer Tunnel entrance and down the Cleddau River Valley:




After enjoying Fiordland, we stopped in Te Anau and enjoyed supper before driving home.  Surprisingly, on the way home, Muir quickly fell asleep – so much for being a high-energy young adult (with jet lag).


And, we understand that our friends Jolanta, Asta and Gedis also enjoyed the Lake Marian hike when they visited Fiordland in early February – it’s a truly special place and hike!



46 S EnZed signing off…


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Looking west across Invercargill; Fiordland National Park's mountains are in the background; the Water Tower is on the left side.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for several months.  But, being the photographer, I also wanted some nice photos to go along with my story. Which brings me to the first piece of the story – Invercargill’s weather.



I do have to write that the weather the past six weeks or so has been marvelous.  It’s wonderful to enjoy the long, warm days here while reading about blizzards, snow storms and cold weather back in the States.  Yes!, we do miss our “normal” seasons, but not so much so that we’re going to deprive ourselves of enjoying life here.  During the austral spring, the weather here was fine, especially if you’re a duck.  Seriously, it rains more than back in Madison.  And, the wind blows quite a bit harder than there, too. But, the nice thing about the rain here is that there will be a pleasant (or hard) shower for just a few minutes, and then it’s over for a few hours, and the sun will break through the clouds.  People here tend to not get too worked up by the rain – it’s a part of life.  Some people will be wearing rain gear, while others are just grinning and bearing it in their “normal” clothing.  Also, it’s our understanding that if it doesn’t rain for three days in a row, then they consider it a drought.  The weather in the Invercargill area should be pretty pleasant through February.  It’s certainly not at all hot, but it is nice to run around in shorts & t-shirts, and to then occasionally put on your warmer clothes.  And, it’s still not so warm that I’ve brought myself to swim too much in the cool southern Pacific waters, although Aras & Julija have certainly taken advantage of the opportunities.  But, the common grey periods did keep me from getting out and collecting a nice gallery of local photographs in a more timely manner.



Invercargill reminds me of many midwestern towns/cities.  It’s one of the major cities in New Zealand and the largest in the southern part of the country, south of Dunedin (which is a very beautiful city!!).   Invercargill is primarily an agricultural center for the region’s sheep and dairy farms, and row crops.  In this way, it sort of reminds me of Platteville, Wisconsin and Dubuque, Iowa.  There’s a large aluminum smelter, Tiwai, just to the south of Invercargill that is a major regional employer, and Tiwai consumes about 85% of the electricity produced by the Manapouri Hydropower Plant. Invercargill sits on the coastal plain and it’s pretty flat, and there are a lot of stream/drainage channels around town because of rain and the flat topography.   And, with all of the flat topography, on a clear day, you can see the snow on the mountains in Fiordland National Park in the west, as well as all of the mountains to the north.



Invercargill also feels like a safe place to live. Asta’s been walking a kilometer to and from work without any complaints other than the occasional rain. And, we don’t miss the gun violence of the US – ugh! In fact, US gun violence is one of the most common things that locals bring up with us. I’ve left the garage door open while we’re away from the house more times than I’m willing to admit and we’ve not had an intruder – whew!



Our home, like most homes, is small relative to American standards, but it’s also very pleasant and tight having been built in the past couple of years. Most houses in Invercargill are single story; I’m not certain why, but it might have something to do with the strong winds, the possibility of earthquakes, heating or just culture.  Speaking of heating, most homes here are heated with either a small heat pump or a wood- or coal-fired stove.  In most cases, the heat pump or stove resides in or near the living room.  In colder weather, you hope that the heat migrates to your bedroom!  Electricity is relatively expensive, compared to the States, as is LPG (liquid propane gas).  Our home uses LPG to heat our water, and we’ll have to replace about a bottle a month. Now, with the expense of heating and understanding how windy it is here, it also is very interesting how many people will have windows opened in their homes, even on some of the coldest days, just to let fresh air circulate!  I’ve asked a couple of people why and they don’t know why – it’s just a custom.  And, they do think twice when I ask them about leaving the windows open and the cost of heating.  But, it is a nice custom because the air in our Fitchburg home does get kind of stale during the winter!



All of the coal and wood heating does produce an interesting issue here that you don’t find much any more in the States – localized air pollution.  There are many cool, quiet mornings when you can wake up and smell the smoke and sulfur in the air.  I’ll end up sneazing a time or two most mornings, usually because of something in the coal smoke.  Fortunately, the wind picks up and it’s not a major issue through the rest of the day.   But, it is a significant enough issue that air quality is measured and reported here in Invercargill by Environment Southland.



In Invercargill, we’re easily able to find everything that we need for a comfortable life.  Now, “everything” might be slightly different from what we know in the States, but it’s still here.  And, if it’s not here, then we don’t need it.  If you’re interested in visiting Invercargill, we have a McDonald’s and Burger King, Pizza Hut, Subway sandwiches, television, radio and internet (off course we have internet or you wouldn’t be reading this!).  Just because we’re at the end of the earth doesn’t mean it’s not civilized!  I’ve found the national classical music station, but do miss my Wisconsin Public Radio fix! The local cuisine is nice and pleasant, and might also be described as “understated.” 🙂 We’ve come to enjoy our times of eating at Little India restaurant and have learned to order our food’s “spicieness” as “Indian medium to hot” rather than “Kiwi hot” (which is mild to medium, according to our palates).



Invercargill also seems to be a very sports-minded town, but that’s probably true for most Kiwi cities.  Muir played at Queen’s Park golf course when he was here, which is in the biggest park in town, where you can also find cricket fields and lawn bowling (gotta remember that English heritage!).  The Southland Stags rugby team are an important part of the local scene and we’re looking forward to taking in a match or two during the upcoming season.  One of our favorite places is the Splash Palace, a beautiful indoor pool/aquatic center where the kids took lessons through school in October and November.  We also have access to the ocean via Oreti Beach, which is about a twenty-minute drive west of town.



Bicycling is also a very important past time for many people in Southland. You’ll see quite a few bicyclists out enjoying the open country on any given day.  The major local bicycle club is Cycling Southland and Invercargill is home to it’s own velodrome.  More importantly, Invercargill and Southland are the home for several London 2012 Olympic and Para-Olympic cyclists. While visiting her parent’s Niagara Fall’s Cafe in Waikawa a few days ago, we were very fortunate to be able to gently hold Laura Thompson‘s gold, silver and bronze medals that she won in tandem cycling this past August.



And, Invercargill is home to Southland Hospital and the Southern District Health Board, Asta’s place of employment:

Health wise, Invercargill seems to be “typical” to me, but you should talk with Asta.  What I can tell you is that there are fewer morbidly obese people in Invercargill when compared to Wisconsin!



Finally, here’s a gallery of photographs so that you might briefly appreciate Invercargill like we do!



If you’d like to enjoy your own little piece of Invercargill, I’d encourage you to watch the movie “Two Little Boys.”  It was filmed in and around Invercargill. You’ll particularly enjoy this movie if you like dark, childish comedies…  But, don’t blame me if you don’t like it (although, I enjoyed it!)…



Again, thank you for reading and viewing!



46 S. EnZed signing off…

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(or, thoughts on atmospheric chemistry…)



As usual, we were out tramping this weekend.  We hiked across New Zealand! To be more precise, we sorta hiked across Stewart Island/Rakiura from Mason Bay to Freshwater Landing – a whopping 14 kilometers!  I’ll write more about that at a later date when I figure out a way to make it sound more exciting and adventurous than it really was…



So, yes, sunburned.  You know, when your skin receives a bit too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and then turns red and hurts a little or a lot.  In my case, the pain is relatively mild.  I’ve had terrible sunburn in my life, like the time when I fell asleep in a canoe in the middle of the Missouri River reservoirs in Montana – that was a bad one!  Or, at the beginning of the summer when I was a swimming pool lifeguard about 35 years ago.  As I reflected on this sunburn, I wasn’t too surprised.  I’m not a person who enjoys wearing sunscreen unless I know that I’ll be able to take a shower and wash it off – I just don’t like the feel of it on my skin, clogging my sweating pores.  I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt, shorts and my ever-present cap while we were hiking, here at the beginning of the austral summer.  The season here is akin to June in the northern hemisphere, and I lost the bit of sun tan that I had from my boreal summer before we moved to New Zealand in August.  It’s time to get my skin back in shape.



The other reason that I reflected on my sunburn is because I had a bit of sunburn back in September here – at the end of the austral winter, when the daylight periods are so much shorter – and I remember being surprised that I had a sunburn.  I know that a lot of people get sunburned in the winter in the States, particularly when they’re skiing and the sun is reflecting off of the snow and up into their exposed faces.  But, in our winter in New Zealand, there wasn’t any snow and the sunburn on my hands, face and lower lip only came from direct, overhead exposure to the sun.  I remember in August and September that there were various admonitions to put on sunscreen, particularly coming from the teachers at our kids’ school.  And, I also remember thinking at the time that this was quite odd – why would folks put on sunscreen in the winter??  Yes, I’ve been exposed to many cultural  differences here in New Zealand, but this one just didn’t quite click for some time…



And then, in late October/early November, it struck me why I had received a sunburn in September here!  Ozone depletion!  I learned quite a bit about ozone depletion back in the day when I was a real environmental scientist and I’ll try to share a bit about ozone depletion.  The difference now is that I’m living in a place where ozone depletion has consequences!



Way back in the 1970’s, we all became aware of the likelihood of ozone depletion and then the actuality of it.  If you’re about my age or older, you’ll likely recall that aerosol containers, like deodorants sprays, were pressurized with chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases and refrigerators and freezers used halocarbon gases in their vapor compression/energy exchange cycles.  I once visited a US Department of Energy installation that was losing a million pounds of CFCs a year!  (I can’t say where because they might terminate me!)  Most of these CFCs were lost to the atmosphere. (We still use CFC-like gases in our refrigerators and freezers, but they’re now more benign and we’ve gotten much better about capturing and recycling these gases.) Once in the atmosphere, sunlight dissociates the CFCs into chlorine and bromine radicals (I’ll try to keep the chemistry to a minimum).  Basically, though, a chlorine radical is extremely reactive and it loves to react with an ozone molecule and destroy the ozone molecule.



The ozone is in our atmosphere and is created when the high energy sunlight (UV radiation) reacts with oxygen molecules (O2) to form oxygen atoms (O).  These oxygen atoms react with oxygen molecules to form the ozone (O3).  This whole cycle goes on and on, creating and destroying oxygen and ozone molecules.  The UV radiation is absorbed in the process and releases infrared/thermal energy.  In this way, the ozone molecules protect us from excessive UV radiation: continuously (and slowly!) absorbed by various forms of oxygen- pretty cool, huh?  [And, if any of my former professors are reading this, yes, I know that my ozone chemistry presentation here is simplistic…  🙂 ]  So, if something comes along and destroys the ozone, which is a good absorber of UV radiation, then we have a problem.



Now, here’s the really interesting part of all of this chemistry (yes, I know that you’re on the edge of your computer chairs, heavily panting) – these ozone-destroying reactions occur at a greater rate/frequency in the Arctic and Antarctic atmosphere! Why? you ask…  Catalysis!  (Here we go again with the chemistry stuff!) A catalyst is a compound that accelerates a chemical reaction, but doesn’t participate in the reaction and isn’t changed by the reaction. As atmospheric scientists were monitoring atmospheric ozone concentrations back in the 1970’s, they were (unpleasantly) surprised to find that ozone depletion was greatest over the North and South Poles, and that “ozone holes” were forming in the respective winters of the Poles.  During these polar winters, the cold atmosphere more readily formed ice crystals in the earth’s stratosphere (between about 20 kilometers and 50 kilometers above the earth’s surface) and these ice crystals provided a “catalytic” surface on which chlorine atoms very readily destroyed ozone.  The quantity of ozone destruction is so great over the Poles that we now have seasonal “ozone holes.”  When these ozone holes appear, greater quantities of UV radiation reach the earth.   And, when people (and any organism, for that matter) are beneath these ozone holes, we are at risk for sunburn and other UV-inspired damage.



I don’t know why (I can’t find the information, but I hope that someone knows), but the Arctic ozone hole does not seem to be as large as the Antarctic ozone hole.  This means that those people who live in the Southern Hemisphere, and particularly those live as far south as we are currently living (~ 46 degrees southern latitude) have greater potential for UV exposure than folks in the Northern Hemisphere who live at ~46 degrees northern latitude.  Since we are living as far from the South Pole as someone who lives in northern Wisconsin lives from the North Pole, you’d expect to see ozone hole/UV issues in northern Wisconsin, if the ozone depletion was the same in each hemisphere, but we I don’t recall anyone in northern Wisconsin being told to put on sunscreen in the winter.



Here’s a time-lapse ozone monitoring animation from over the Antarctic, starting on 1 July 2012, courtesy of NASA on a separate page (please “click” on the link below to open it).  The dark blue area represents the extent of the ozone hole.



2012 Antarctic Ozone Monitoring Animation




I hope that you’ll notice that in the lower right-hand corner, down by the date, that’s the southern tip of New Zealand – where we’re living!  We’re definitely NOT under the worst area of the ozone hole, but occasionally the fringe of the hole floats over southern New Zealand, which helps to explain (in part) my September sunburn.



This has been a long post about sunburn and ozone depletion…  But, this isn’t the point of the post.  Read on, if you dare…



When the science of ozone depletion was being discussed in the 1970’s, there was quite a group of naysayers.  Yes, I know – GASP!  How can that be?   Here’s are some lines that I’ve copied from the Wikipedia page regarding ozone depletion:


“The Rowland–Molina hypothesis was strongly disputed by representatives of the aerosol and halocarbon industries. The Chair of the Board of DuPont was quoted as saying that ozone depletion theory is “a science fiction tale…a load of rubbish…utter nonsense”.[66] Robert Abplanalp, the President of Precision Valve Corporation (and inventor of the first practical aerosol spray can valve), wrote to the Chancellor of UC Irvine to complain about Rowland’s public statements (Roan, p 56.) Nevertheless, within three years most of the basic assumptions made by Rowland and Molina were confirmed by laboratory measurements and by direct observation in the stratosphere.”



Does this sound remotely familiar to you???  Does this sound like a position that’s similar to the contemporary climate change denial community??   I’ll readily grant you that proving that the annual cycles of ozone depletion are real was a whole lot easier than proving that slow and noisy climate change is real.  Ozone depletion and changes to how we use CFCs were a whole lot easier to tackle than making the necessary changes for climate change.  But, climate change is real.  Deny it, if you will, not at your own peril, but at the peril of your children and your children’s children.



In the twenty plus years that I’ve been living in Wisconsin, there are too many anecdotes of my life there that have changed in that short period:


  • Winters are warmer; it used to be common to spend a week in the -20 degrees F range; now, we hardly see -10 degrees F;

  • The winter and spring of 2012 that wasn’t – have we ever had such a warm spring?

  • Superstorm Sandy – tell it to New York City and the East Coast.

  • We went to Glacier National Park in 2011 – the glaciers are receding and may be gone in fifty years.  The glacial retreat in New Zealand is similar.

  • Polar bear lives are seriously disrupted by the lack of Arctic sea ice, which means that they’re unable to fish, feed and survive as in the past.



These are all just anecdotes – points on the noisy, discontinuous, apples & oranges continuum…  And, I’m as guilty as anyone else about the size of my carbon footprint.  I don’t always make the best choices.  But, I’m also not able to make as good as choices as I’d like to make because of the society in which I live and the technologies and ways of living that it encourages (like our increasing use of natural gas and the loss of methane [another extremely strong component of global climate change] through our new found interest in “fracking” – and, don’t get me started about all of the groundwater pollution that comes from fracking!) and the technologies and lifestyles that are not encouraged like more solar power and a focus on more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly communities.



If you haven’t seen it and are so compelled, I highly recommend the movie An Inconvenient Truth.  As a person who enjoys charts and graphs, the charts and graphs presented by Al Gore seem to me to be beyond compelling – and that was in 2006!



So, my blog about CFCs and ozone depletion is over.  Unfortunately, global climate change is just beginning.  Which leaves me with the question: how will your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren survive?  I’m scared for my offspring…  toasted and roasted…



Dr. Tim Mulholland (a.k.a. 46 S EnZed) signing off…



Also posted in climate change, ozone depletion Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Mt. Burns Tarns

Like many of our weekends, we were off hiking recently – this time to the Mt. Burns Tarns.  A tarn is a small pond or lake that sits on the side of a mountain and they are formed by glacial activity, freeze-thaw conditions and erosion by ice.  Photographers and hikers are drawn to them because they tend to be a little remote, they’re very picturesque and they’re also very relaxing and serene.



Unlike in the United States, a great deal of New Zealand’s more remote country is not very accessible by land vehicles.  These Kiwis like to tramp!  But, the Mt. Burns Tarns are easily accessible from the Borland Road in Fiordlands National Park.  Borland Road is basically a utility service road so that the electric company can keep track of its transmission line pylons from the Manapouri Hydro station up and over the Hunter Mountains as the line works its way south and east towards Invercargill and the Tiwai Aluminum Smelter.



Driving to the Mt. Burns Tarns parking area on the Borland Road is pretty straightforward.  But, once the hike starts, it’s fairly vertical.  The hiking is through mounds of tussock grass along the ridge of a hill; it’s a long kilometer from the car park to the beginning of the tarns and even longer when your kids are whining.  But, once you get up to the tarns, the views are wonderful!






46 S EnZed signing off…




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A few weeks ago, we finally made it to the nearest big city of Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula.  As usual, the weather was alternately windy, sunny, rainy and grey.  We had been looking forward to visiting Dunedin as it was our first choice of a place to temporarily live in New Zealand, based on a visit our friends Marian and Eric made here several years ago.  But, it also seems that there are a lot of people who would like to live in Dunedin, so it didn’t come to fruition for us.



Dunedin is a more cosmopolitan city than Invercargill, but that’s expected.  Invercargill is a smaller and more agricultural city.  Dunedin also has the oldest university in New Zealand – University of Otago.  I’ve been trying to encourage the older son to study there for a semester, but I don’t think that it’s going to happen while we’re here.  And, Dunedin is nestled amongst the hills and harbor and has a more three-dimensional feeling to it.   But, some of those hills are pretty steep.  In fact, Dunedin boasts the steepest street in the world – Baldwin Street – which we walked up & down and drove up & down (driving was much more fun).  The main reason that we did visit Dunedin was because it was raining on the Otago Peninsula.  🙂



Most of our time was spent on the Otago Peninsula, which bills itself, along with Dunedin, as New Zealand’s ecotourism capitol.  Getting around the Otago Peninsula is slow – the roads are narrow and winding.  But, that’s OK because the views were spectacular!  We drove on the harbor side coast rode through Portobello a few times, and up and over Highcliff Road which sort over crosses on the central spine of the Otago Peninsula.  At the tip of the Otago Peninsula, Tairoa Head, we visited the Royal Albatross Centre.  But, our favorite places to visit on the Otago Peninsula were Sandfly Bay (twice) and Allan’s Beach.  Why?  First, the kids could run around to their hearts content, dig in the sand and enjoy a bit of the surf (even if the water is a bit chilly).  Second, we were able to see yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho) returning to their nests (keep your distance!), and there were Hooker’s Sea Lions (whakahao) basking on the beach and even a New Zealand Fur Seal (kekeno) enjoying the rocks.  In spite of his ugly teeth and terrible hygiene, the old bull sea lion was the highlight of my weekend…



As usual, enjoy the galleries!



46 S EnZed signing off…







New Zealand Fur Seal




Hooker’s Sea Lions


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Christchurch Milford Tour Gallery

I’m not going to write a whole lot in this posting, and I’ll leave it to my photographs to tell the story.  Returning to our saga, in the first half of October we went on a campervan trip from Queenstown to Mount Cook/Aoraki, Lake Tekapo,  Christchurch, Arthurs Pass, Hokitika, Franz Josef Glacier, Fox Glacier, Haast and back to Queenstown, and then on to Milford Sound for a cruise.  Along the way, though, we got sidelined in Milford Sound by a rockslide.  Since we’ve been so busy with travels, I never really got around to posting any of my landscape photographs of this trip, although I did publish a quick gallery of our fun photos at Holiday Photo Gallery.

Here’s the gallery of landscape photographs taken from that trip.  Turn the screen size up to Full Screen, sit back and enjoy!  This will take a few minutes…  🙂

46 S EnZed signing off…

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We were fortunate to spend some time in the area of Queenstown and north of there a few weeks ago.  As with most of New Zealand, it’s a stunning place – lakes, rivers, mountains, glacial outwash, forests – and rain.  🙂  Queenstown and Wanaka are two of my favorite cities to visit and use as a central base in southern NZ, but it’s even better to leave them behind and head out into the wilds and the parts of NZ that are less visited, like Glenorchy and Kinloch…

46 S EnZed signing off…




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Catlins IV

Here’s another post about The Catlins!  It’s nice to have this pleasant area so relatively close to us, starting less than an hour to the east of Invercargill.  There are hikes in the forests, hikes to waterfalls and a lot of coastline to explore, along with the wonderful small towns and cafes.



Our goals for this trip were to go to Matai Falls and hopefully to Cathedral Caves.  Well, Cathedral Caves was still closed because of lambing season and the higher winter/spring tides, but we did get to enjoy Matai Falls.  Matai Falls is about a twenty-minute walk from the car park, and it’s worth the bit of effort.  It’s character is that it’s smaller than some of the other waterfalls and more intimate.  It’s sorta tucked into it’s little valley rather tightly and pleasantly.



After Matai Falls, we drove over to Nugget Point so that Asta could enjoy her first taste of it.  The weather wasn’t as nice as the first time that we were there, but Asta got the idea.  We also managed to see some New Zealand Fur Seals, and that’s always a treat.  And, again, we enjoyed the small communities along the way!!!






46 S. EnZed signing off…



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