DAY 148 – Justin is slowly but surely transitioning into a massive bird nerd. Nothing will stop him from capturing these feathered creatures on his camera. Send help.
To be fair, you don’t just travel to New Zealand and nót become a bird nerd.
For those of you that haven’t figured out yet that New Zealand is a pretty magical country, let me tell you this. New Zealand isn’t just a magical place because of its insane lanscapes and overwhelming scenery, it also has to do with its wildlife, birds especially.
New Zealand is a bird country. Before humans ever reached the country, New Zealand evolved for over 65 million years without land mammals. Which means it was a land of birds, really special birds that you won’t find anywhere else on the world. These birds evolved without mammals hunting them, and with plenty of good food near the ground; many species gradually lost the power of flight. Its most famous example being the iconic Kiwi.
A few weeks ago, we spotted a funny looking bird in Rotorua, which is when the obsession started. It turned out to be a Tui, which is one of the birds that can only be found in New Zealand. To clarify; this post is mainly about our South Island journey, but I wanted to share this photo anyway. This post felt most suitable as I’ll be bird nerding some more later in this post.
Now, back to our journey. Next on our itinerary was Arthur’s Pass National Park. The passes through the Southern Alps were used by Maori to trade greenstone (pounamu) from Westland to Canterbury. Maori told explorers about the location of Arthur’s Pass. Arthur’s Pass Village and Arthur’s Pass National Park are named after Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson. Arthur was tasked by the Chief Surveyor to find out if there was an available pass out of the Waimakariri watershed into valleys running to the West Coast. In 1864 Arthur’s brother Edward joined him and accompanied him into the valley of the Otira River. A West Coast Maori Chief told Arthur of a pass that Maori hunters occasionally used. When Arthur returned to Christchurch, he sketched the pass and included it in a report to the Chief Surveyor.
Arthur’s Pass became a national park in 1929 and can now be easily reached from both Canterbury and the West Coast. #sorrynotsorry for throwing all that history in your face! I just always like to know where certain names come from, hope I’m not boring you and otherwise just skip to the photo’s.
As we drove in to the national park, we were amazed by our surroundings right away. So as soon as we saw a lookout spot on the side of the road, we pulled over to take some photo’s. Then THE BEST THING EVER happened, as we were welcomed by two cute -but cheeky- Kea birds! Is it weird to get so excited over two alpine parrots? Maybe. Do we care? In kiwi slang: yeah nah.
Justin started feeding them some crackers (Polly did in fact, want a cracker) and soon after that they were all over our car. Kea are a parrot found only in the mountains of the South Island. They’re insanely intelligent, inquisitive and resourceful- qualities that are pretty cool but can also be very annoying. Kea are known for wrecking cars and tearing up tents, and they keep going until they’ve had ALL your food. Luckily the ones we met weren’t annoying at all, just a lot of fun to see them play around.
After our Kea encounter we spent our time driving around the national park and doing some walks. One of them being the walk up to the base of the ‘Devils Punchbowl’ waterfall. Devils Punchbowl is a 131 metre fall that, thanks to the heavy rainfall, looked extra spectacular this day.
At night we stayed at a holiday park that happened to be across the road from a glowworm dell. As if the day couldn’t get any better! When it started to get dark we crossed the road and after only a few meters into the bush we were amazed by the view around us. Hundreds of little green glowing lights all over the place. And the best thing of all; it was for free! Compared to the Waitomo Caves this was a much cooler experience, it was free, we could take all the photo’s we wanted and we were so close the worms we could pretty much touch them.
(We stayed in a place called Hokitika, this photo was taken at the Hokitika Gorge.)
After Arthur’s Pass National Park we headed to the West Coast Glaciers. Sadly, by then the weather had gotten so bad we couldn’t do anything and just spent the day in the lounge room of a holiday park charging all our electrical devices and playing Pokémon (because we’re 5).
The next day we decided to brave the rain and go for a walk to Lake Matheson, also known as ‘reflection lake’. It turned out to be quite a waste of time as it was so cloudy there wasn’t really anything to reflect into the lake.
We decided to continue our journey towards Wanaka, by taking the Haast Pass Highway. The Haast Pass Highway is a 140-km section of State Highway 6, linking Haast and Wanaka. Along this road we crossed rivers and drove past lakes, waterfalls, hills and rainforest. Every 10-or-so km there’s either a walk, a waterfall, a lookout, or just an amazing view that made us pull over every time. Definitely one of the coolest roads in New Zealand. Also, the view when you approach Wanaka is breathtaking, but I’ll save those photo’s for my next post!