Changing Landscape – Arthur Pass, New Zealand Trip #6

March 28, 2011 at 11:59 am | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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Remember one milk powder ad some years ago that claimed that the number of milk cows in New Zealand is the same as the population of Singapore? When Itchyfingers were self-driving around the South Island of New Zealand, couldn’t help but start to believe it cos the number of cows (and sheeps) we saw along the way was indeed more than the number of people or cars encountered! Hahah….

A grouchy looking cow staring at us…maybe she was unhappy that she
had to be tagged with a
number for life…

Sheeps seemed to be more camera shy than cows…the moment we stepped
outta the car to take picture they would move away, showing us their
rounded bums…

The vast landscape can be void of trees sometimes…especially at the
eastern side of the Arthur Pass National Park. Arthur’s Pass is the highest
pass over the Southern Alps, marking part of the boundary between the
West Coast and Canterbury regions, 140 km from Christchurch and 95 km
from Greymouth

Can see the snow-capped mountain…

These fire warning signs are commonly seen along the road…Shot it in the
car that’s why it is so blur…hahah…

The landscape turned lusher as we approached the western side towards
Arthur Pass

Saw this sign and decided to stop the car to take a look…

A momument erected for Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson (1841–1934), who led
the first party of Europeans across the pass in 1864

Gosh…the windy road we have driven up along Highway 73…

There were many of these bright red flowers blooming…

So these are called the
Southern Rata (Metrosideros umbellata). These
are threatened by the
Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula), an
introduced species from Australia in the 19th century

A closer view…so beautiful

This is where we would be driving towards Greymouth…looks scary…
This is called the Otira Viaduct

The reasons for the Otira Viaduct being built through Arthur’s Pass was because Highway 73 meanders through the Southern Alps of New Zealand and it was the safest way for travellers. The area is subject to rockfall, landslides and winter avalanches, so to build above and out of the way of nature’s rumblings was the most logical.

One of the most ambitious recent engineering projects in New Zealand, it
joins the roads from Arthur’s Pass in Canterbury to Otira on the West Coast,
forming one of three routes over the Southern Alps. Construction on the Otira
Viaduct began in 1997. It is 440m long and curved to fit in with the surroundings.
It was completed in 1999

So no wonder it deserves to be regonised with this award

Not too long later, a ear-piercing scream caught our attention…

Something colourful flew down!

It’s the Kea (Nestor notabilis)! It is one of the few alpine parrots in the world
and one of the ten parrot species endemic to New Zealand

The Kea is a large parrot around 48cm in length…When it is not flying, the
plumage is mostly olive-green

Sharing a piece of dried grass…hahah…Note both are ringed…Kea only
received full protection in 1986

Like many parrots, the Kea are highly intelligent, friendly, playful and curious…

So a sign has to be put up to remind visitors not to feed them and warn them
of the potential destructive acts these cute parrots are capable of!

True enough we saw one Kea landed on a car to the amusement of visitors!

But soon the naughty fella also started to peck and chew on rubber parts…
Kea are known to carry away small items from people as they are so
playful and curious!

The temperature dropped pretty fast for the few minutes we were out there taking photos. We also didn’t wanna have our rented car raided by the naughty mountain parrots. So Itchyfingers continued our journey, heading towards Greymouth…

Also see related posts:
Seal with a Kiss – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #5
Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4
Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1


Seal with a Kiss – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #5

March 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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The next morning Itchyfingers decided to catch the seals before leaving Kaikoura. Unfortunately we were too tired to wake up earlier…

Since we saw the seals far away from the sea the previous evening, and also saw people walking up and down the hil, we thought there must be some way to get closer to the seals from there. So we followed the path from the carpark up the hill…

It seemed like a short climb and we thought by passing the hill, we might
be able to get a better spot to get closer views of the seals…We only gave
this signage a passing glance, though I took a photo of it as usual for my
own future reference…It did point to a Point Kean Viewpoint though…

The carpark (right) where we took photos of the sea birds and seals the
previous night…This view was halfway up the hill showing the Kaikoura
Range as the backdrop

It was mostly flat ground…

Close up

There were a lot of these among the grasses…looks like wheat…

The path opened up by earlier trekkers…

The landscape up the hill was almost flat, except this lone tree..

Saw a flock of cute
Silvereyes here…

These reminded us of the ‘beancurd rock’ in Taiwan’s Yeliu Geological Park..

We realised that we had walked for more than 20 minutes and still no sight of any path or viewing point for seals, though there were a few explanatory signs along the way on the mountain range. I reviewed my photo of the sign at the beginning of the walk and it was then we realised that to walk the full distance of this Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway and back would take us at least two hours!

On zooming into the map photo, we realised that only one point had the ‘seal’

symbol…which was where we came from at the bottom of the hill!

Alamak! Itchyfingers had overlooked the details! Although the Walkway was a nice and easy walk, we didn’t have so much time left at Kaikoura as we had planned to reach our next destination by mid-afternoon to check into the next motel…Also the main aim was to look out for seals…Itchyfingers decided to head back…

Turning back…

Back at the bottom of the hill, at the carpark again, we walked towards the right down a few steps to find this sign…

The seal colony sign sat at the corner…so does it mean we would be able to
see them here?

Found more kelps on the beach. The oval-shaped stuffs are gas bladders.
These keep the kelp blades close to the surface, holding up the blades by
the gas they contain

Some dried up kelps…looked like tyres…hahah…

It didn’t take long for Itchyfingers to spot the seals… :D!!! This time they were much closer!

There! Two lazy fat Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), or kekeno in Maori,
sleeping under the sun!!!! Itchyfingers had walked one round to find them
so easily spotted just here… :p

Opening a slit to check us out…

They flapped their flippers for a few seconds before returning to their

Though it was only two Fur Seals that we managed to see, and that both were just sleeping without much activity, Itchyfingers still felt quite happy to see them. If we were to continue walking on the hill, we might not be able to see any of them. With the spotting of these sleepy heads, Itchyfingers had to seal it with a kiss and say goodbye to Kaikoura!

Also see related posts:
> Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4
Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1

Freezing Sunset – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #4

March 16, 2011 at 12:13 am | Posted in itchy backside | Leave a comment
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When we reached Kaikoura in the late morning, we passed by this whole stretch of beautiful sea that we had to try to stop somewhere to take photos…

I love the intense blue-coloured sky! Hmm…what’s those brown thing in the

I happened to have just watched David Attenborough‘s Life of Mammals and
recognised these when looking through the binos. Sea Otters were shown
in one of the episodes wrapping themselves in these when they sleep so
as not to be drifted away by the waves. :p These seaweeds are called
and belong to the brown algae group.
Bull Kelp or rimurapa (Durvillaea
species) is the dominant seaweed of exposed rocky coasts around New
Zealand and the subantarctic islands. Its thick flexible stipe supports a
spongy broad blade that is usually divided into narrow straps

Among the kelps were these big gulls…

Further away was a lone Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos).
They are called the Little Shag in New Zealand

We had to drive off shortly as we needed to check into our motel before going for the whalewatching.

After our ‘sumptuous’ alfresco dinner, Itchyfingers were rejuvenated and decided to go look for some birds to photograph.

The same huge gull we saw earlier. This is thBlack-backed Gull
(Larus dominicanus)
, also known as karoro in New Zealand

Not sure what caused these formation, but they looked beautiful…

More kelps! These can grow to 10metres! They feel a bit rubbery and hard…

Lotsa gulls on the beach! It was getting really cold and windy, but these
guys were just standing around or sitting on the beach or the carpark…

More gulls on the rocky shore…

Red-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus scopulinus), Tarapunga or Akiak
in Maori is a fairly small gull with red bill, red eye ring, red legs and feet,
pale grey wings with black wingtips

The juvenile Red-billed Gull has a dark brown bill with only hints of red.
The legs are also brown and there are brown spots on the grey wings. Legs
look duller and the eye rings seem to look darker too

Witnessed a juvenile begging for food from an adult shown here…too bad
I only got a blur shot of the feeding from the back…

From far we saw oystercatchers…Initially we thought the one at the right
was a
Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus finsch) but after
reading through bird guides, I think they might all be the
Oystercatchers (Haematopus unicolor), so called for their variable
colouration…Actually the difference between the Pied Oystercatcher
and the Variable’s pied phase is really a challenge to differentiate, especially
when they were so far away! :O

Not too long later, the sun started to set…the temperature also got lower…
felt so cold I gotta run back into the car….

But the gulls were still around…

More gulls out in the open…dun they feel cold? My hands were freezing!

Then through my binos, I saw something moving on the rocks far far away…
Seals! Seals  are supposed to be easily spotted here but we only saw their
silhouettes… 😦

As it got colder and darker, we decided that we would come back tomorrow to try our luck…It was such a beautiful but freezing sunset…

PS: Within a year after our visit, New Zealand’s Christchurch suffered two big earthquakes. Itchyfingers feel sad looking at the devastation caused; the numbers of human and animal lives that perished. Never would anyone expect that an even bigger disaster to strike Japan last Friday, 11 March, just days after China’s Yunan earthquake. Mother Nature can be so beautiful and yet fearsome at the same time…Rest in peace, for those unfortunate victims, and for those living, be strong…

Also see related posts:
> Alfresco Dining – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #3
> A Roller Coaster Ride – Kaikoura, New Zealand Trip #2
> Mass Exodus – Christchurch, New Zealand Trip #1

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