Thursday, April 26, 2012

Rocking geology and some geologic wonders!

March 15th – 28th
We stayed at South Brighton Beach Holiday Park for five days – where Darrell could work and I could walk on the beach and go to the library where there is free wifi and a spectacular view of the ocean.  We also had Maria over for chicken fajitas (definitely our “signature” meal of the NZ sabbatical) and she made brownies for us. She is now off sailing in New Caledonia but I’m sure, someday, we will bump into her again!

On the 19th we returned to Waipara, just north of Christchurch, and collected samples at the incredible loess exposure we had seen earlier. Our reward after a day of climbing up and down the steep silt cut was a Pinot Noir tasting at Mudhouse Winery. Lovely wines, and we also learned about the council campground at Amberley Beach. Council campgrounds are fantastic as they are usually in nice, uncrowded places, and are inexpensive.

The next morning I sieved the silt and shells Darrell had collected (just call me geology slave) and then we headed to the other huge cliff exposure at Glenafrick Station and collected more shells. This is a 90-meter cliff exposure, but thankfully there was a slump at the top so we could work where falling wouldn’t be fatal.

90 meter drop to the ocean!
That night we camped at Waipara Sleepers where there are old converted train cars, and the camp owner prepared bread each night to pop out of the bread oven at 8 am! Plus there were fragrant flowers and hedges to divide the sites that really enhanced the normal campground ambience.

Being a complete hot spring junkie I convinced Darrell to drive to Hamner Hot Springs, a small resort town with a developed hydrothermal area. The drive itself was one of the nicest we’ve been on, winding along a river valley with spectacular terraces and nice autumn colors.

And the hot spring complex was amazing. Though of course I love natural undeveloped hot springs the best, these were quite tastefully done. Plus there were three aquatherapy pools with a variety of jets, waterfalls, showers, etc. so you could focus on almost any muscles you wanted to with a jet blast or something more gentle. I alternated between just soaking in the 42 degree C (almost 108 F) pool and then getting massaged under waterfalls in the aquatherapy pools where the water was the same temperature as your body. You literally couldn’t tell where your body ended and the water began. Heaven.

Google image of one of the aquatherapy pools
We camped one night near the pools so I could enjoy them again in the morning, and then the second night we camped at a DOC site by the river near Lewis Pass. The pass itself was shrouded in rain and clouds so we didn’t have good visibility, but camping by a river is always a treat.

As soon as we descended from Lewis Pass we were back in the sun. On the way south we stopped in the small town of Geraldine where I bought myself some birthday presents at the farmer’s market; good cheese, some possum-merino blend wool, and a little purse. I may not be into shoes, but I definitely have a bag fetish…

From there we continued on to Twizel (for the third time!) and found Heidi Roop and her new colleagues from GNS and the University of Victoria in Wellington. GNS (originally the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences) has been around since 1865. Considering New Zealand straddles two tectonic plates (earthquakes anyone?) and was the home of Ernest Rutherford, they have a long and successful history in science.  Their Māori name is Te Pū Ao, which means “the foundation, origin, and source of the world”. Cool name, eh?

Heidi is beginning her PhD with a project based on understanding more about the glacial geology and sedimentation at Lake Ohau. She could tell you a lot more about it!

Heidi is excited to begin her PhD!
This area around the big lakes (Tekapo, Pukaki, and Ohau) reminds us some of Wyoming. See what you think of the view framed by the wooden fence.

Twizel "Wyoming"
When they damned the river near Twizel for the beginning of a series of hydroelectric dams, they formed a large lake that is now used for national canoe and rowing races. It was too windy for the races when I was there, but there were over 40 team tents set up for the South Island competition!

Racing lake to the left and team tents to the right.
Darrell took the day off for my birthday (I take every day off) and we had a great hike on the South Branch trail off Lake Ohau. We had to cross some huge talus fans on the trail.

Darrell crossing one of many talus fans
After three hours of hiking, we reached the hut and a view of one of the melting glaciers sending water to the Lake.

South Branch hut and glacier
We didn't stay at the hut, so walked back across the talus fans and crossed the river to our van. You can barely see our white dot of a van in the middle of the landscape as we returned from the hike!

Lost in the landscape
We camped at the trailhead, and the next morning drove to the Clay Cliffs that we also read about in the NZ Frenzy book. These crazy pinnacles formed after 2 million years of erosion along an active fault line.

Darrell in the shadow of the clay cliffs
Our last stop before we met up with Chris again in Dunedin was a campground in Hampden, just north of the Moeraki boulders.  In fact, you can walk all the way along the beach to the boulders, so I was able to get this sunrise view. Some people end with sunsets, but I'll end with this!

Moeraki sunrise

1 comment:

  1. I was going to edit my "damned" to say "dammed" but decided it was fine either way!