Monday, May 30, 2016

New Zealand, Part IV: Timaru and Mt. Cook

Friends. They are one of life's chief rewards, especially when you are traveling. We were so pleased to catch up with our friends on New Zealand's North Island, and having spent about a month in Australia, seeing our old friend Stu, on the South Island, added to our pleasure.  Kevin worked with Stu in England, but while we were only there a year, Stu stayed on for 22 years. (Stu had a grandparent that was born in England, so, as a New Zealander, he had patrial rights*.)

We checked out this charming pub in Timaru with Stu.

Timaru is a pretty town located between Christchurch and Dunedin on the east coast. 

We stayed downtown at the Grosvenor Hotel, built in 1875. It was not the accommodation that Stu recommended, but his choice was booked. Reportedly, Queen Elizabeth II stayed there, but it must have been not long after her coronation, because I'm sure the decor has changed since her visit. I don't know who the Grosvenor had as a designer, but it was definitely uniquely decorated. Take a look at the lobby with its combination of Victorian, 60s Mondrian, and contemporary styles:

I don't know what this rooster poster in the hallway with Mao-era images is trying to say:

However, our room was spacious, comfortable, and clean, so we had a relaxing stay there. And the free parking was a bonus.

Near Timaru, we explored the ancient Maori rock paintings.

The age of the rock art, from what I could find out, is thought to be "only" about 500 years old. But I am always entranced by such depictions and wonder about the people who made it and why they felt compelled to leave this images. It is also thrilling to see them at sites that are not over-run with tourists.

Stu also accompanied us on a day trip to Mt. Cook, where we stopped at Lake Tekapo to view the Church of the Good Shepherd, an old rock chapel constructed in 1935 at a lovely spot on the lake. 

 Nearby is a statue that is a memorial to all the sheep dogs working in the Mackenzie Country, as the area is known.  Mackenzie was a Scottish settler and sheep rustler who discovered the basin that now bears his name. With the help of his dog, Friday, he drove the sheep up into the mountains. The story is that after Mackenzie was arrested, Friday continued to manage the flocks until the authorities disabled him. Poor faithful Friday! But it is supposedly his likeness that the statue resembles.

Even on the cloudy day, the scenery on the drive was impressive.

The views around Mt. Cook, or Aoraki (cloud-piercer) in the Maori language, did not disappoint.

When we reached a viewpoint overlooking the Abel Tasman Glacier, the beauty of the area was only surpassed by the startling realization of how much the glacier has retreated in recent years. If anyone wants evidence of global climate change, come here!

The last time Stu visited here over 20 years ago, the areas covered by meltwater in the photograph were covered by the glacier. Here's a panorama showing the area in the photos above.

Panorama courtesy of Stu McCusker. Sorry, I couldn't reproduce it larger.

According to Wikipedia, the Abel Tasman Glacier is New Zealand's largest glacier at 27 kilometers (17 miles). But between 2000 and 2008, the glacier retreated 3.7 kilometers (2.29 miles). In the 1990s, it was retreating about 180 meters (590 feet) per year, but now the rate of loss has increased, and it is calculated to be between 477 to 822 meters (1,565 to 2,697 feet) per year. In the next 10 to 20 years, the glacier is expected to be entirely gone.

After the sobering experience of seeing the glacier's retreat, we returned to Timaru, which also has the distinction of being one of the few places in New Zealand where the Little Blue Penguins , the world's smallest, come ashore. We did not have time to look for them until much later, when we returned from Dunedin (next post), but sadly, when we did, this was the only penguin we saw:

We waited till the moon rose, and it began to get chilly. But while we did not see the little penguins, we were happy to know they were coming there, and we took in the glittering view of the port at night.

*When we lived in England in 1989-90, I asked the Immigation Service if I had any patrial rights, because my grandmother was born in England. "I'm sorry," the immigration officer said, "But you're an American, and there was that little incident about all the tea in Boston Harbor." I remarked that the British have long memories. "Yes," he said, "And we haven't quite forgiven the Danish yet for all their raping and pillaging either!" 

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