Sunday, November 30, 2014

East Coast Adventure: Oamaru Surrounds

For the final entry of Erin and Cole's East Coast Adventures, allow us to share with you some of the fantastic geologic wonders of NZ.

Let's start with the Elephant Rocks.  This is a large paddock full of big boulders that could kind of look like elephants if you squint.

Regardless of their likeness to actual elephants, the area was really fun to climb around on, and the views were as magnificent as any we've all come to expect from New Zealand.

For scale, that is Erin back there on that rock in the middle.

 Here's a closer look:
We ended up with a really beautiful day to explore the area.

Like a kid in a candy store.

This one doesn't look like an elephant even if you squint, but I'm still a fan.

After soaking it in thoroughly, we decided to move along to explore more of the  'Earthquakes' region, just inland from the Oamaru area.  I'm not sure if  Elephant rocks is considered a part of the Earthquakes or if they are officially two separate natural wonders, but they are relatively close to eachother.  Either way, the Earthquakes area is known for significant geologic 
wonders, including some whale fossils and some Maori cliff paintings:

We had to walk through this canyon to look at some whale fossils....  or I should say we walked through this canyon after looking at some whale fossils and just kept walking. Erin was not happy with my 'trespassing' at first, but it was such a nice walk, she soon forgot all about 'laws' and such.

This little canyon was tricky because just off the edges of the path (sheep trails) there would be holes big enough to fall into and never be seen again. Well, maybe not quite that big, but big enough to hurt yourself. There was a pretty abrupt gorge off to the right of this picture, so I think all the holes were wash-outs that connected to that. Luckily we didn't fall in any of them, and got to enjoy our walk without injury.

Here's one of the whale fossils. We actually stopped to look at two different ones in separate locations. This one is from the second location where we once again trespassed. I will admit that this second one was a bit more of an actual trespass. The land-owners for all of these sites are very cool and allow people to respectfully come on their property to view these points of interest. There are small signs that guide you to the wonders, but I missed the fact that the sign for this whale meant it was just right off the road, and thought I was supposed to drive way down by this guy's house, past his barn, and down into his field, just to come up to the fossil from the other side. But it was all good. no harm, no foul.

Then it was on to go find some cave painting type stuff. Turns out, most of them have been removed and taken to museums, but there are a few around still. I think the sunset lighting up this cliff was probably the most impressive cliff painting at this particular location.

You'll have to squint again.  But, if you look closely, you can see what appears to be a 'white man's' ship at that bottom of the photo. So this was likely late 1700s?  The top of the picture has what appears to be a circus performer standing on the back of a horse. Just squint, you'll see it.

As you can see, this series of paintings is a lot more red, and isn't in great condition. I think the strip along the bottom was just a decorative scroll-work band. The big red thing on the upper left is what can only be called an alien face.

And speaking of aliens:
Moeraki Boulders was one of the last stops for our trip. We swung by these guys on our way back to Southland. We also cut through the Catlins for a look at the Nuggets, but you've all seen that enough times by now.
Back to these boulders:
They are the strangest things. There are a lot of them. Just  big round rocks sitting at the edge of the ocean. 
There are many theories for how they got here or what they are. 
My theory is that they are giant prehistoric sea turtle eggs from a nest up on the shore in the hill behind, and they have now fossilized and spilled out onto the shore.
Tell me that's not an egg of some kind....

Aliens also get a lot of credit for their existence.  As does Mother Nature. 

I guess it will remain a mystery (since I don't remember what the official answer was). Oh well. They're neat.

And they make for some fun photos:

And that concludes Erin's visit and our East Coast Adventures!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blue Cliffs Floundering!

So sitting at George's one night (I have tea at his house a lot of evenings since I've been down here), I met some of his friends the McKenzie's.  It turns out that they own a hut down on the ocean at Blue Cliffs.  They have nets and go floundering right in the ocean in front of their hut.  They invited me to come on a weekend to go floundering with them and spend a few nights at the hut!

The trip to the hut was down old roads that aren't maintained anymore.  George and Ian took their trucks in separate, bouncing down the pitted out road, but Ola and I decided to enjoy the walk instead.  We hiked the first part of the Humpridge Track to get down to the hut.

The bush always looks the same, and always offers something different.  Large native growth grew high into the air.  I couldn't even get this ancient tree into the shot it was so huge.

The track stretched threw to bush a few kilometers and then went down a steep set of stairs.  We randomly met a couple of Americans hiking their way out of Humpridge Track who were feeling the incline on the stairs.  They had counted 165 steps.  I counted on the way out when it was wearing me out and I got 167.  Either way enough to get the heart pumping.

 We came to a clearing and got our first view of the beach.  Beautiful clear day to start. The rain was to come later... :)

 The track ran the edge of the sea.  It was a nice walk.  No sand flies yet...

We came to the swing bridge over the Waikoua River, dumping tons of tannin stained water into the sea.

A blue stained clay cliff overlooked the dark river...

Past the bridge we started seeing peoples huts and ran into the old roads.  Some of these huts have been here a long time.  They don't really let people build here anymore, so those lucky enough to get a land lease or get grandfathered in don't let them get away.  Most are outfitted with chimneys and fires.  Many have rain catch water.  Ours they even had buried a septic tank for a flush toilet and had solar panels for some 12V lights.  They even had a hot water heater hooked to the stove so we weren't really roughing it...

The road ends here and the trucks drive the rest of the way on the beach.  There used to be a road on the tree line that has long since washed away by the tide.  We walked it today since the weather was still nice.  A cloud of sand flies did follow us here, but the bug spray was doing its work.

We arrived at the hut and settled in for the night.  This was the view from the "drive-way."  Good seascapes and good company.  The clouds started rolling in and we got a ton of rain overnight.  We went to sleep dreaming of fresh flounder.

 The next morning I decided to take a quick walk.  The Tuis were singing.  Georges truck was in the ditch.  He hauled in the weekends firewood and most of our supplies for the weekend.  Everything was in "chilly bins" (coolers), as there was no power for a fridge in the hut.

The hut was tucked into the bush, it encroached on all sides trying to swallow us up.  The canopy overhung far above is up the hill.

 The sun was up and showing off the colors of the bush and the stony beach.

There were lots of chunks of old sea shells glued together with dirt into big hard concrete balls scattered on the shore.

I decided to carry on up the track a little bit further.  I came to another small swing bridge, this one only big enough for one person at a time.

The creek was raging underneath.  All the heavy rain from the night before.  They say muddy water is better for floundering so we had to be optimistic.

 I went back for a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, stewed tomatoes, beans, and toast.  A hardy meal to prepare for floundering.  I squeezed into my borrowed wet suit and we went into the surf.  George taught me the basics to keep me out of trouble, but everyone giggled as they gave me "the deep end."  We both had an end of the net strung around us and we hauled it parallel to the beach for a distance.

After 10 or 15 minutes of dragging we pulled it out of the sea.  You had to be careful not to step in underwater holes out there.  It was pretty smooth for the most part, but people have gotten in trouble before stepping in holes and getting tangled in the net.  The net got a lot heavier was we brought it into shore.  You had to time it with the waves so you weren't fighting the water...

And the catch?  On the first pass we caught only ONE fish!  I'm told a good pull is somewhere from 6-10 on a good day.  So we went for another pass.  We pulled it through the see for another go for awhile.  How many the second time?  NONE!  Everyone agreed that pulling a net through the ocean only works if the fish are there to catch, so we called it a day.  Headed in to warm up by the fire.

Me in my wet-suit...  Look at those legs...  Sorry ladies, he's taken...  :)

 George and I with the McKenzies and the Gills.  Thanks for taking pictures while we were out there Gills!

And here he is!  Our single flounder.  We took him straight back to the hut for cleaning.  My company was kind and insisted I eat him since I was the guest...

George taught me how to gut him.  They are a strange bottom feeding fish.  All of his guts are up by the head.  Believe it or not this one has already been cleaned out.

Fried up in a skillet the skin peeled away.  Delicious!  He went from swimming to my plate to my stomach in about 3 hours.  Sorry guy, but thanks for a beautiful dinner...

 George wanted to do a little deer stalking after dinner, and I was happy to tail along.  He had sighted one the night before but it got away before he could get it.  We weren't out for long though before we ran into another group of hunters, so we decided there were too many people out and headed back in.

I decided to stay out to watch the sunset come in.  We came all this way to be in the wilderness, it seemed a pity to give up on the outdoors too early.  The rain was pretty steady most of the afternoon and the clouds were still rolling in over the hills.  

 You could see the blue cliffs in the distance across the bay.  I didn't make it over there this trip, but they are what the area is named for.  A few years ago a group of orcas was actually beached in the area, I'm not sure if anyone every figured out why...

 The sun started to set and the colors started to show up...

Rain isn't always fun, but you can't have a beautiful sunset without a few clouds...

I borrowed George's gum boots so I could walk out into the surf a little.

A bright sunset lit the water on fire.

Another great day in the record books, off to bed, leave in the morning.

 On the hike back out noticed a few young lupins starting to flower on the way to the swing bridge.  A good sign for my upcoming lupin trip (which I just returned from, you will see those next!).  I figured if they were starting this far south they must be out where it is warmer.

One last look at coast before heading back into the bush.  167 steps awaited before we met the truck and headed back to town. 

Not very successful at fishing, but still a VERY successful weekend.  Thanks everyone for inviting me along.  It was a great time.