Apr 20, 2007

On the Road Again

With phase one of the vacation done (whale watching and such) our expedition fell back to Dunedin to regroup. In this period we sadly lost Andrew as a travel companion as he went on to do a biking trail. This left me and Shannon on our own.

The plan initially was to go and hit Stewart Island a very recommended and popular vacation destination to the immediate South of the South Island. Due to extremely bad weather we feared that it would be a wasted trip however so we came up with an alternate route.

As we proceeded South from Dunedin on the second leg of our holiday the weather increasingly got dreadful. Only halfway to our initial goal we were getting hit with the worst rain I've yet seen in New Zealand. The decision was made to veer West and check out another very famous section of the Down Under...

Initial Route

Now to get to Stewart Island you have to proceed to the Southern most "city" in New Zealand Invecargil. Thus far in all my journeys it has to be the most boring of NZ roads and areas in the lines of terrain and scenery. Nothing more then rolling hills and Sheep paddocks. For kms and kms though! No break. This shot was taken towards AFTER we'd veered West, and still there were millions of sheep everywhere, but off on the horizon hope of better views towered!


As we drove further West into the Southland section of New Zealand (the unofficial Provinces of New Zealand. Dunedin is located in the Otago section) the scenery began to get much more enthralling. For the rest of the trip it was good times, and excellent sights and sites seen.

This is among the only rivers we saw (you'll note the 2 tiny SUVs upstream for size ref). Now before you think New Zealand has no fresh water systems the key word there was river. In our journey we crossed, passed, saw some thousand Creeks. They sure know how to name creeks down here. Among my favs were Baghdad, Siberia, Fiery, Monkey, Lost, So Big, and Unnamed Creeks.

As we entered the South Alps Mountain range little did we realize we won't leave it till close to the end of the whole trip.

Te Anau

The big centre for this region was a small town called Te Anua. Located off this lovely like bearing the same name as the town we would spend some quality time here. In addition to the tour below from Te Anua we also spent the night. Waking up in the morning we were invited to breakfast by an amazing elderly couple out of the blue which made this town something of a highlight in the trip. Helping it with this distinction was taking a tour to the...

Glow Worm Caves

Now when we got to Te Anau initially we had no idea of it's possessing one of 3 Glowworm Caves, but when we did we were signed onto a tour 10 minutes later! This was the one one on the South Island, and as of such a real treat (we'd have had to wait till the next break to see the North ones). Now sadly no pictures are allowed in the cave to protect the light sensitive worms (technically maggots). This is a simulation I threw together in my 3D program, but I'm told it is very accurate.


Next we entered our main objective for the trip. Fjordland National Park. A UNESCO world heritage site, and at present among my fav places of all time. The first interesting thing to see (about 20 min after you pass the Welcome to Fjordland sign) was the Mirror Lakes. Wonder how they got that name?

This was the initial terrain of Fjordland which was more then a little awe inspiring. However it just kept getting better and better. For once we reached our goal things got better


Pulling into the area of our main visiting objective we were greeted by this lost world. If I ever make it as a film director this is where I'm filming my Dinosaur movie...

What can I say. If a Dino was still alive this could be it's home... Which leads to a funny story we learned while in this area. Though there are no legends of Dinosaurs wandering this area unexplained there are myths of Moose. Yeah you read that right Moose.

Now it turns out there is a legacy to this, but when we first heard it I laughed. Turns out like so many other mammals around here Moose were imported and introduced in the 1900's. From Canada no less. Now for many years they were hunted and caught. However the last one was successfully shot in 1952. Apart from one blurry photo in the 70's none has been seen alive since. However there are rampant rumours that they still dwell in these woods. A clump of hair found last year underwent DNA testing which was that of Moose rather then Deer... So who knows?

Sadly we didn't see one.

As you can probably tell this picture was taken at sunset. We were about half an hour out from our destination at this time. By the time we got there it was dark, and thus we could only make out the silhouettes of the area. Let me tell you when we woke up it was quite the pleasant surprise!

Milford Sound

This picture was taken about 1 minute after I woke up. I knew I loved Milford Sound already!

Now the kicker is some people just drive up here like we did. Get out of the car take this picture (and maybe a few others), and then get back in their car and drive back the way they came (there is only ONE road into this area so it is a repeat of everything till you get back to Te Anau). This should be a criminal offense!

There are 4 companies offering boat ride tours that take you down the Sound (technically it's a Fjord, but the inappropriate name of sound stuck) all the way to where it connects with the sea for only $80. So guess what we did?

Boat Ride

So rather then have to type something for all these amazing shots I'll let you fill in your own caption

Okay so with sights like these for 2ish hours you'd think the good times would have to come to an end. Well no not true. As an extra to the boat ride you could pay a little extra and check out the under water observatory...

Under the Sea

So the observatory is basically a reverse aquarium. Instead of putting the fish into tanks, you put the people into a air filled tank and submerge it 20 metres underwater.

The big attraction of this is the Black Coral. Now this is it, and despite it's name it is in fact supposed to be this amazing white frosty color. The name Black derives from this stuff when it is found dead, and typically throughout the rest of the world that's the only state you'll typically see it in...

The thing is that Black Coral normal only occurs at a depth of 200 meters or deeper. Except at Milford Sound. The amount of rain they get here coupled with a naturally tidal barrier at the mouth of the Sound results in a thick layer of fresh water on the surface (as salt water doesn't mix with fresh unless stirred). This causes a unique light filtering effect and essentially fools deep water species like the Black Coral into coming far too close to the surface (yet they do survive).

Result a unique underwater experience. Now sadly we missed out on the big event of the week. Apparently the day before they had some bottle nose dolphins popped by the underwater section. NOOOOOOOOOOO

Well after spending 45 min down in the Octopus' garden we returned to shore, and pushed on with our trip.


Our last stop was in the town of Wanaka. Now in Central Otago we are in the land of Rohan from Lord of the Rings (as they filmed all those parts in this very area). Spending the night we needed something to kill the evening before our big morning event. So we hit the local Movie Theatre. Which turned out to be quite the exciting venture.

The Paradisio theatre turns out to be country-wide famous. Character is the best way to describe this place. It is setup the way that you'd turn a big room in your house into a theatre. Nothing but recliners and couches to sit on. We watched Blood Diamond. Not the happiest picture ever made, but definitely the best I've seen this year (in fairness I've only seen Pursuit of Happyiness in theatres thus far).

Puzzle World

Last stop was Puzzle World located in Wanaka. I had a interesting welcome when we got there...

Full of fun puzzles, optical illusions, and a giant maze it was an hour worth of amazement for all concerned. Well up until a point...

The End of the Trip

It's funny turns out I caught the moment where the trip, and more importantly the stop at Puzzle World went from fun to NOT fun. Here we see Shannon happy and care free in the "Slanted Room" which to us looks like it does in this pick.

Well in between this photo and the one below Shannon turned around and saw the swing just behind her there to the left. Seeing that...

She suddenly felt quite nauseous, and was for the rest of the day not happy anymore. In fairness this was the actual angle and state of the room we were in. Sadly our bodies didn't register it.

So I drove poor Shannon home where another few days were enjoyed in our break before we had to return to school.

That however is a different story.

Apr 12, 2007

The BIG 100th Post... About a Road Trip of Something

I couldn't have planned a better crazy subject for my 100th post if I wanted to. This was seriously a HUGE coincidence! I was going to hold off on this post till it was going to be my 100th, but looking at the counter in blogger I was dumbfound to find that I was at 99...

What are the odds I ask?

Why the hoopla though? Well not only is it my 100th post, but it co insides with my first major departure from Dunedin since my arrival in New Zealand 3 months ago (and 7 days).

Okay so the breakdown of the break thus far has been hitting many of the interesting points of the middle of the South Island. These include, but not restricted to, Christchurch (largest city of the South Island), Hanmer Springs (home of a pretty cool hot tub. Get the pun there), and Kiakoura (the top of my must see list).

Now rather then a boring LONG post which I'd have to take the time to write and you read I'm going to save us all some time and effort. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words. In which case here is my thesis of the break so far.

The Drive

During the first night a friendly debate broke as to the exact length of the lines on the pavement of the highway. I guessed they'd be about 2 metres where Andrew swore they were more on the order of 15 feet. Stopping the car for a break we proceeded to use ourselves as measuring tapes. As you can see Andrew won.

Part way through Shannon grew tired of driving the car her flatmate was extremely generous enough to lend us. That meant I got to take over and drive for the first time on the wrong side of the road. I'm glad and happy to report between the both of us driving no damage came to us or the car.

The Sights

Not much to say here other then some very nice scenery to be had around New Zealand. Letting these pics do the talking at a 1000 words per shot. With them I'll hopefully make the minimal accepted length.

Explorers and Exploration

We hit the supposed hot spot for New Zealand fossils. Now granted this was merely the claim of a tourism book we picked up, and it was only a one paragraph disclaimer. No where was anywhere marked as to look so we pulled off toward a beach in the area, and I decided we should stop here to check out this outcrop first. I indeed found a fossil...

Sadly not much to write home about (yet here I am doing it!). I found this and about 9 more of these snail shells. If I had to guess rather recent Pliocene. The whole area was a very soft mudstone strata, and not looking so ideal for major fossil preservation. Guess not everywhere can have Albertosaur Teeth and Hadrosaur bonebeds.

Despite this lack of big impressive things to find Shannon got right into the spirit of searching. As Dr. Dylke (my new nickname from this attempted fossil hunt) I decreed Shannon the Jr. Geologist and Naturalist of the day award. Here she is displaying her trophies of the day. Some rocks that contained some calm fossils and a modern bone (Andrew reckoned a whole seal. I think he might have been off in the percentage of the remains, but I agree in his overall identification).

Speaking of Andrew he had a lot of fun playing around with some of the limestone erratics around the beach on the mudstone of the hills.

Elsewhere we stopped off to check out a seal "colony". After a whole 2 hours searching I was able to find 3 seals in total. The kicker was they were all right by the car (where we hiked some 5 km around the area looking for them). It wasn't a bust though. Andrew had yet to see a New Zealand Fur Seal (that alone any seal) in the wild or alive. Here he is posed in front of it (it's right to the left of him. Part of the reason they were hard to find I think was they blended in with these rocks so perfectly).

We also stopped to check out the famous boulders north of Dunedin on the way home. Sadly they didn't live up to the size one images when hearing about them. However they were very cool being completely spherical. Andrew had fun trying to leap them in a single bound.

I owe you a video here

Examples of Andrew's death defying leaps across the boulders

The Highlight

Hopefully the name on the building says enough cause I mean please! That's hardly 1000 words.

Shannon decided she had to look her best in front of the whales and thus put on her gum boots just for the occasion.

Now as if these pics weren't doing me enough to get this entry to the size of novel how do moving pictures effect word count. Watching this you'll get an idea of why this was my favourite stop of the trip.

The luckiest bum in the world right here.

What rogues gallery line up of photos then those taken with a whale

Andrew the whale is behind you!

Was cool to see the Albatross actually in the "wild". They spend 80% of their lives at the see coming to shore only to breed. Having seen the 20% end of this time allocation it was sweet as to see them doing what they do best. These were a different species then we have nesting in Dunedin mind you.

The main whale himself (in this case indeed a male) a Sperm Whale. My childhood favourite. This may look like an artsy shoot, but was not intentionally. It was my attempt to take a pic without looking through the view finder. I say it worked out well considering that.

As though seeing my favourite whale in one day wasn't enough the pod of some 100-200 of my favourite Dolphins in the same go definitely pushed it up there. Now granted technically my fav Dolphin is the Pacific White Sided Dolphin, but the Dusky is simply the Southern (and Atlantic) equivalent. They just have a slightly different stripe pattern then the Pacific so in my book they count!

Though not as "nerdy" into Whales or Dolphins as me, Andrew and Shannon still had an awesome time. I even caught it on camera. Shannon contently watching the dozen Dolphins that played off the bow of our boat.

Well that's the end of this my 100th blog entry. Sure there is a lot left unsaid of this trip, but hey aren't you tired after reading this HUGE entry. I mean that must have been some half a million words counting the movies. I sure know I'm tired after writing it!

Apr 8, 2007

Need to Post I Know!

UPDATE: The contents of this message are now invalid. I HAVE caught my blog up to date. So check below this to find two new entries from when this was written. I'm just keeping this for my own nostalgia sake

Yes I know I haven't posted in over 2 weeks. I have been meaning to do so I assure you. However my blog is among the easiest things to put off till later unfortunately. Other then homework anyway (just kidding just kidding. If not for homework I'd actually get to this a lot more).

Placement went well with only one snag. The last week of lectures was incredibly fun as it was technology. Now I'm on break, and HAVE just learned of my travel plans, and must go pack as I leave in about an hour!

Upon my return sometime around April. 12th I will update you on the events of the last 3ish weeks I promise.

In my defense I have had a LOT of school work and stuff on the go, a slight semblance of a social life, and must distracting of all a new roommate!

That's right Traumador is STILL here in my room! If you're needing something blogwise to read I know he's had slightly more time then me lately for such things. Be sure to check out his blog in the meantime...

I promise I'll catch up on my life here in virtual form soon. So tune in later. In the meantime I'm off to enjoy a break from computers, and schedules, and most importantly Dunedin (this marks my first time REALLY leaving town!).

Till then...

Apr 3, 2007

Tech Week

Back to lectures and the college after two weeks. Since I found this huge cash trove of Bruce Timm artwork, and really liked the theme thing from my placement I'll carry it over to this entry.

This week in class we became MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE... In the form of technology.

"Hello I am Craig, Prince of Calgary, and Defender of the secrets of the Grey Curriculum. One day magical powers were given to me when I held aloft my notebook and said "By the power of Technology Curriculum!" I became HE-STUDENT the most powerful Teacher in the universe!!!"

Okay so that's about as far as I can got with this theme. I transformed and beat up all the lame challenges with the power of reuse stock footage, and Orcoo was annoying. End of the He-Man theme

What Is Technology?

Good question! Technology in New Zealand is considered any area or practise that people use to make living easier. That means in other words NOT just computers. It includes foods, construction, information, shipping, and basically anything under the sun that people do in real life.

That means that my He-Man Stilt Stalker could indeed be considered technology!

Dropping the HE-Man theme for a moment (cause I realize it is SUCH a great and suspenseful theme) I LOVED technology

Masters of Technology

Apart from foods I'm a VERY capable technologist it turns out. Maybe not the best at wood work, but I can hold my own. When it came to graphics, photos, and puters though it was nice and simple going.

For our make a digital picture book project Scott and myself decided to help out a good friend of mine with a book of his own...

Traumador Ruins This Entries Weak Theme

My roommate of the last little while seeing Scott and my's story has been bugging me and bugging me to help him make a similar product. With technology class I was finally able to do so, and thus end the whining.

I won't spoil the surprise of Traum's efforts by telling you about them. I know that he plans on putting them up on his own blog. So be sure to keep checking it to see when he posts it (at this moment he has not caught his blog up to this point in his life, but I'm sure he'll get there).