a blog about seeing the world

Archive for October, 2011

A Fiordland teaser

A few images from two beautiful days in Fiordland:  beech forest, the colorful kea, snowmelt, Milford Sound, and frigid Lake Marian.  Words and photos coming soon!


A penguin stakeout

Many beaches along New Zealand’s southeast coast are known habitats for rare varieties of penguins, but after several unsuccessful viewing attempts we were beginning to think it was just a hoax to keep the tourists occupied.  It became clear that we would need to step up our efforts and stage a stakeout.

Yesterday at dusk we headed for the far end of a long, windswept beach, and sat out of sight among some dune grass. Eventually, two tiny penguins emerged from the surf and waddled up the beach one by one, no more than knee height. Slowly shuffling across the beach to their nests, they looked remarkably like the unsteady drunk students wandering Dunedin the night before after the All Blacks Rugby World Cup victory.

Fit for a Queen

Bounded by Lake Wakipitu on one side and the imposing wall of The Remarkables on the other, Queenstown is a big-budget resort town on the to-do list of nearly every New Zealand traveler. The center itself is a predictable collection of hotels, bars, cafes, and gift shops, but most people come here to play in the mountains and jump off of bridges or out of planes. Think Whistler Village on a Red Bull high. Alex had already gone for a skydive on the North Island and it was well out of our budget range so we opted to do what we do best— walk.

Queenstown's waterfront

The summit of Ben Lomond, a peak just out of sight from town, is a full day hike. The lower reaches of the mountain are shrouded in a dark, dense forest, interlaced with a web of mountain biking trails. Emerging onto the upper slopes, the forest abruptly gave way to low bushes in muted greens and deep reds. Ben Lomond loomed in the distance, looking imposingly big, craggy, and further away than we expected.

The Remarkables are an incredibly aesthetic mountain range, especially in morning light, and the sawtoothed wall of peaks constantly attracted our gaze across the valley. (more…)

The sunny side

New Zealand’s west coast is a captivating collection of lonely beaches,  emerald rainforest, soggy sheep, and impressive glaciated peaks (when the sun’s out).

On this day we woke to wind-driven rain, but thankfully the Southern Alps often cast a formidable rain shadow on their leeward lowlands. After a brief walk in the woods we drove east in hopes of emerging on the sunny side.

You’ll also notice we finally have a friend!  Our good friend Alex from Vancouver, BC will be joining us for the rest of our time in New Zealand.

A jeweled coast

In New Zealand a change of scenery is never far away. A few hours drive or even a few bends in the road can bring an abrupt, and usually striking, change in surroundings.

Within a day of leaving the frosty and rugged Canterbury high country, we found ourselves enveloped in the lush, near-tropical beauty of Abel Tasman National Park.  A 52-kilometer long trail follows the playful curve of coastline, and it’s deservedly and famously popular.

Early spring proved a perfect time to walk the trail—warm enough that it feels summery, but early enough that the crowds were absent. And we also chose to walk sections of the track in a couple day hikes, craftily avoiding burdensome overnight packs and the $35 nightly fee to stay in the plush huts along the way.  Sometimes, the lazy way is the best way.

It only took a few minutes to reach our first of many spectacular views. The water is a tropical aquamarine, perfectly complemented by the cool, green forest spilling down to the waters edge. Golden beaches and rocky islets dot the coastline, all perfectly framed at thoughtfully cut viewpoints.

It’s clear that the parks service rakes in a pretty penny in hut fees.  The trail is perfectly drained, graded and maintained. Wooden bridges span even the tiniest trickle of water and freshly painted signs mark every minor point of interest. It made for quick miles and an easily enjoyable walk.

Te Pukatea beach provided a gorgeous spot to rest at the farthest point of our hike. Nate clambered up some boulders at the edge of the beach, while I relaxed on the smooth sand, as yellow as cornmeal. (more…)

A thousand doorways

For the past three days water has been falling from the sky in a consistent and gloomy manner, and we’ve finally had time to catch up on some long overdue videos.

Here is the first of three short pieces from our last month in Southeast Asia.