The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Doug & Karen's Kiwi Adventure Part 4: Arthur's Pass & Hokitika

This blog about my trip to New Zealand is officially taking almost as long as it took Abel Tasman to reach the islands by ship in 1642 (nerd alert!). But that gives you something to look forward to.

It has also taken so long that New Zealand itself has changed since my last entry: I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to send my thoughts to my new friends in Christchurch, which was recently devastated by a major earthquake. No doubt you’ve seen the dramatic photos of the city’s eponymous church spire that collapsed? Well my hotel was right next to that spire and is clearly visible in many of the photos you’ve seen:

In fact, this was the view from my hotel window:

And this is its sad state today:

The city was still recovering from an earthquake only a few months before. We saw this sign in a supermarket:

And many buildings were already propped up or in the middle of being dismantled:

Although the more recent events in Japan were more devastating, please don’t forget about the Kiwis! If you like, you can donate to the New Zealand Red Cross here.

Now on (or back, I guess) to happier times!

When we last left, Karen and I flew from Wellington on the north island to Christchurch. Here’s a nice bird’s eye view as we left Wellington...

...and approached the very different landscape of the southern Alps (as they somewhat confusingly call them):

After picking up provisions in Christchurch we headed immediately for the West coast. The drive took us through Arthur’s Pass, a very scenic route and one of many National Parks we’d see on the wild south island:

Karen posting a letter at the expansive Arthur’s Pass Post Office:

This is also where we first encountered Kea. Apparently Karen had read about this phenomenon, but it was new to me: Kea are the world’s only alpine parrots. So the first odd thing about them is seeing colorful parrots among snowy mountain peaks:

The second odd thing about them is that they LOVE TO EAT CARS. No, I’m not kidding. They’re very cheeky (as the Kiwis would say) and unafraid and generally like to make trouble for visitors. But they have developed a particular affinity for the rubber on cars and hang out in parking lots waiting to attack any vehicle going less than 10 mph. These people were clearly natives and didn’t really seem to care:

We, on the other hand, were a little more frightened:

Here’s some actual video of the attack! (click to play):

This guy was clearly plotting his next move so we got a move on ourselves:

By nightfall we reached our overnight destination, the small coastal town of Hokitika. Here we had another encounter (this time a planned one) with some of New Zealand’s more interesting creatures: glowworms. Throughout New Zealand, where the conditions are just right, you’ll find these little guys in groups after dark. There’s a dell just off a road in Hokitika:

Since it was night, I’m still not exactly sure what a dell is (I thought it’s where farmers hang out) but it appeared to be a moist, mossy overhang, which is heaven for glowworms. As you follow the path and your eyes adjust to the darkness, you suddenly realize you are surrounded by thousands of beautiful, cerulean blue points of light, like a starry sky at night. It’s really quite breathtaking, but of course photographs don’t quite capture the magic:

The glowworms make a little burrow in the overhang and then spin these little beaded, mucousy filaments that hang down. Then they sit there and glow in hopes of attracting prey that will get caught in the filaments and make a nice midnight snack:

Using my tripod, I took a few identical photos both with and without the flash so you can kind of get a better idea:

Or here’s a little video of them:

The next day we checked out the town and hiked into the Hokitika Gorge. The town was simple enough:

Other than shopping for greenstone, this is as exciting as it gets:

Here’s Karen simply blown away by the display in one of the rooms of the museum. (Okay, it was actually the only room of the museum):

Outside of town was the slightly more exciting Hokitika Gorge, filled with impossibly blue waters and beautiful plants. It was, well, gorgeous (so that’s where that comes from!):

Next up…Karen and I take a helicopter to the top of a glacier and ALMOST DIE!!. BUT BEFORE WE GO…JUST TWO PARTING SHOTS!

Bank machines in New Zealand don’t have that little guard over the keyboard to hide your fingers when you enter your PIN...but they do instruct you to shield one hand with the other:

Since we were in the neighborhood, Karen dropped in on some relatives:

See you at the glaciers!


  • Hey Doug, just discovered your post about Chateau de Chambord. Looks like you have a lovely travel blog going on. Where are all your followers? Marsha from Texas

    By Blogger Splenderosa, at 10:50 AM  

  • Fantastic work Doug, way to go man!

    Vassilis from Athens Greece.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:08 AM  

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