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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Stewart and Ulva Islands‏

March 15th, 2010 · 2 Comments

At 47 degrees south of the equator, Steward Island is the furthest south of the New Zealand islands that has a permanent population. About 390 people live here, almost all of them in one town, Oban. So we really can’t compare it with the North Island, where most Kiwis live, or even the scenic South Island, which I have been visiting for the past three weeks.

But Steward Island and nearby Ulva Island strongly attracted me. Their isolation makes them a paradise for both birds and for those of us who love nature.

The usual way to get to Stewart Island is to take the ferry from Bluff, a few miles south of Invercargill, where I stayed in a campground. The heavy winds of the past three days, which cancelled yesterday’s ferry service, have died down. So more people wanted to go to and from Stewart Island than the ferry could carry. Anyway, the campground is just a couple of miles down the road from the Invercargill Airport. I also decided to fly across Foveaux Straight to Stewart Island so that I would have more time for my day trip.

The flight takes just a quarter of an hour. In so many ways this is the way to fly! No long lines, no Transportation Safety Administration, no formalities at all. Half an hour after arriving at the airport without a reservation I was airborne.

I even had the seat next to the pilot, Gerald. Eight other passengers sat in the back of the two-engine Normand Islander aircraft. I wanted to have the co-pilot’s seat to take pictures, but the morning drizzle made most of them impossible and actually made it a bit difficult to see the Stewart Island landing strip.

I did get this shot of some homes near Oban:

Some Stewart Island Homes

Some Stewart Island Homes

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Down on the ground and quickly into town I walked along the waterfront.

The Stewart Island Harbor at Oban

The Stewart Island Harbor at Oban

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Then I walked over to the visitor center, which is the long red building below. Most helpful people there helped me make the arrangements I needed.

The Beach at Oban on Stewart Island

The Beach at Oban on Stewart Island

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Posted in: New Zealand

The Royal Spoonbill‏

March 14th, 2010 · No Comments

The Otago Peninsula has so much wildlife — penguins, albatross, sea lions, and fur seals especially — that I originally decided not to show you the two shots that I took of a royal spoonbill. But I relented.

As Sean, the Elm Wildlife Tour guide, drove us by one beach he noticed one royal spoonbill up ahead and suggested that we get a shot now before the bird flew off. I did:

Now We Know Why They Call It a Spoonbill

Now We Know Why They Call It a Spoonbill

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Sure enough, as Sean drove parallel to the royal spoonbill, it took off. But I was ready:

The Spoonbill Takes Off

The Spoonbill Takes Off

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Posted in: New Zealand

The Catlins

March 14th, 2010 · No Comments

The Catlins is an especially beautiful area of New Zealand, combining native forest, sheep and cow ranches, and the wild southern sea. The Catlins are in fact as far south as you can go on the South Island of New Zealand, and I went the distance on Sunday.

Avoiding the faster main road between Dunedin and Invercargill, I drove along miles of a very stormy coast. Winds in excess of 55 miles an hour accompanied me all the way between those two cities. Sometimes I had to fight to keep the camper van on the road. But much harder was walking in the wind as I did for an hour at a couple of points.

Nugget Point was the first, and I walked to this old lighthouse:

Nugget Point Lighthouse

Nugget Point Lighthouse

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Near Nugget Point

Near Nugget Point

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Tautuku Beach

Tautuku Beach

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At Slope Point I reached the southernmost point of the South Island, latitude 46 degrees 40 minutes south. It is 673 miles from the northernmost point, Cape Fairwell, which I visited a couple of weeks ago. This is no small island!

Far South

Far South

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The Seas Were So Rough that the Ferry to Steward Island Was Cancelled Sunday

The Seas Were So Rough that the Ferry to Steward Island Was Cancelled Sunday

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One of the reasons why I left Boulder this winter was to avoid the wind. We seldom get wind this wild at home. The good news is that I was able to stay on my feet.

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Posted in: New Zealand

Royal Albatross‏

March 14th, 2010 · 2 Comments

The people here keep talking about the roaring forties. These are the  winds that circle the globe between 40 and 50 degrees south of the  equator. Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula are more than 45 degrees  south and has much more wind than I previously experienced in New  Zealand.

I arrived here Friday, driving south into the cold wind from the  south. The showers were only intermittent, and even though I spent  hours walking to beaches where I could see wildlife, I didn’t get wet  (except when I failed to watch the incoming tide once).

Have you noticed that anything can be positive or negative, depending  on your outlook? The wind Friday was ideal to see albatross flying, as  a tour guide at the Royal Albatross Centre noted. These big birds with  a wingspan of more than 10 feet simply can’t take off without wind.

The Royal Albatross Center is at the very end of the Otago Peninsula,  and its observatory offers a superb site for seeing these magnificent  birds in flight. Albatross are the largest of the world’s seabirds,  with the Royal being the largest of all.  And this is the only  mainland place in the world where albatross bred.

These five photos need no captions:

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Posted in: New Zealand

New Zealand Fur Seals‏

March 14th, 2010 · No Comments

The one disappointment Friday was that we got to the fur seal colony near the tip of New Zealand’s Otago Peninsula so late in the day. I had to crank my camera all the way up to 12,800 ISO, which necessarily introduced digital noise in the images. That’s quite a bit more than than the 100 ISO I usually use, but the time was 8:06 p.m., and my camera could see what my eyes couldn’t.

My, What Big Flippers You Have!

My, What Big Flippers You Have!

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On Saturday morning, however, I had better light to see the fur seals. I cruised along the coast of the peninsula in a ship that approached a seal colony.

Looking out to Sea

Looking out to Sea

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These seals have a dense layer of fur underneath their visible hairs. We do it the other way around.

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New Zealand Sea Lions‏

March 14th, 2010 · No Comments

The New Zealand (or Hooker) sea lions are the rarest of the five species of sea lions. I didn’t hope to see any, and the tour guide was also surprised when we found four of them on the beach Friday as we walked to the yellow eyed penguin colony near the tip of the Otago Peninsula.

We were able to get as close as we liked to the sea lions, which didn’t pay any attention to us. While they have no fear of humans, we are rightly cautious around them because if we got too close they would charge. I was careful because I had no desire to face a 900 pound beast.

Most interesting was the mating dance that a much smaller female was carrying on with a huge male.

Dancing with a Sea Lion

Dancing with a Sea Lion

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I Wonder if She Thinks He is Handsome?

I Wonder if She Thinks He is Handsome?

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True Love on the Beach

True Love on the Beach

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Three's a Crowd

Three's a Crowd

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Posted in: New Zealand

Penguins Closeup‏

March 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment

When I saw my first penguins at a distance a few days ago near Oamaru, I was thrilled. So imagine my joy Friday at being able to get within a few feet of them at a private beach on the Otago Peninsula, further south on New Zealand’s South Island.

Not only were the penguins close but I also saw more of them, at least a dozen. These yellow eyed penguins are one of the rarest penguins in the world and certainly are one of the most beautiful.

The Maori Call this Penguin the Hoiho Because They are so Noisy

The Maori Call this Penguin the Hoiho Because They are so Noisy

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Mates

Mates

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Another Couple

Another Couple

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The couples are darker than the young penguin on the beach. That’s because they are at different stages of moulting, the guide told me. At either stage, however, yellow eyed penguins are beautiful.

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Posted in: New Zealand

Fleurs Place‏

March 13th, 2010 · No Comments

On Tuesday morning I went back to Fleurs Place for breakfast. This idiosyncratic little restaurant in far away Moeraki on New Zealand’s South Island attracts me like no other. It combines simple, wholesome preparations of the freshest food with an utterly unpretentious atmosphere. Besides that, it specializes in fish that Fleur buys daily off the Moeraki dock.

Some Moeraki Fishing Boats with Fleur's in the Front

Some Moeraki Fishing Boats with Fleur's in the Front

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This classy restaurant fits right in with this unspoiled village. Fluers Place doesn’t even have a sign, unless you count the blackboard that you can see here.

Fleurs Place in Moeraki

Fleurs Place in Moeraki

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Here is Fleur, standing at the counter surrounded by some customers and staff.

Downstairs in the Restaurant

Downstairs in the Restaurant

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I ate in the less crowded upstairs room. When I asked Fleur if she could help me name the crested bird that I couldn’t identify at the Willowbank reserve, she got a copy of a New Zealand bird book and sat down at my table where I was reading a book that a couple of New Zealand authors wrote about the restaurant a couple of years ago.

Fleur at My Table

Fleur at My Table

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While we couldn’t find a photo of that bird in the book, we identified the colorful pair of different ducks I found at the Christchurch Botanic Garden. They are paradise shelducks, which are endemic to New Zealand.

My perfect breakfast was eggs en cocotte with smoked fish, spinach, and toasted rye bread (I skipped the bread, as I always do). Fluer told me that the smoked fish was trumpeter and moki, which is “doubly good because it eats seaweed.”

Maybe next year I will spend my whole vacation in Moeraki and eat all my meals there, except when Fleurs Place is closed on Monday and Tuesday. I could fast on those days.

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Posted in: New Zealand

Moeraki‏

March 11th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Without Graeme’s suggestion, I probably would have bypassed the unspoiled fishing village of Moeraki on Thursday. And that would have been a shame.

The night before I left his home in Christchurch to hit the road again, Graeme and I discussed my travel plans for the second half of my visit to New Zealand. My first tour of the South Island was a northern loop. This tour is the southern loop.

The first leg of the trip took me back down to Oamaru along what may be the busiest and least scenic highway on the island. But it made sense to make the trip on Thursday, because the weather report called for a storm to blow in from the region of the South Pole. In fact, it arrived just as I left Christchurch and continued to rain heavily until 2 p.m., so my timing was perfect.

However, a windshield wiper blade didn’t hold up to the heavy use I put it today. Fortunately, the first service station that I spotted in the little town of Winchester had the right type, and a helpful mechanic immediately installed it. He asked me where I was from, and when I told him Boulder, I think that he said that he knew of our Flatirons. Because of his heavy accent, that was one of his few words that I understood.

By the time I reached my destination of Moeraki the rain had stopped, the wind calmed, and the sun came out from the clouds. Just before I reached Moeraki I came to the turnoff to the Moeraki Boulders. They are large spherical boulders that sit scattered at random on a stunning stretch of beach. Since I come from Boulder, Colorado, Graeme thought that I might appreciate the way boulders are in his country.

Some of the Moeraki Boulders on the Beach

Some of the Moeraki Boulders on the Beach

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This Boulder Looks Like a Big Globe to Me

This Boulder Looks Like a Big Globe to Me

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No, She Didn't Break It

No, She Didn't Break It

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These Birds Frolic Near the Boulders

These Birds Frolic Near the Boulders

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Graeme also thought that because I love seafood so much that I shouldn’t miss what may be the best that his country has to offer. Fluers Place, managed by perhaps New Zealand’s best restauranteur, Fluer Sullivan, looks at first glance like a rundown timber hut. In fact inside it is stylish and served me by far the best meal that I have enjoyed in New Zealand.

The seafood is fresh off the boats that are tied up just a few yards away. They offered a half dozen different fish, all but two that I had earlier on this trip. But I selected one that I had never heard of before, trumpeter. The French waiter told me that it would be firm and flavorful and served with organic steamed vegetables. My meal was everything that it promised to be.

 The Port of Moeraki and Fluer's Place in the Photo's Center at the End of the Spit

The Port of Moeraki and Fluer's Place in the Photo's Center at the End of the Spit

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After dinner I told Fluer that I was on a quest to eat as many different New Zealand fish as I could while visiting her country. I said that almost all of them were new to me and that the only New Zealand fish we can get in the U.S. is orange roughy, but I noticed that restaurants in New Zealand don’t serve it. I asked if orange roughy is an endangered species, and in reply she gave me a New Zealand “Best Fish Guide.” This guide lists orange roughy as the absolute worst ecological choice. Somebody should tell Kroger. I guess that somebody is me, and I’ll do it when I return.

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Posted in: New Zealand

Christchurch’s Botanic Garden‏

March 10th, 2010 · No Comments

Graeme and I ate lunch Wednesday on the esplanade by the beach at Sumner Bay just down the hill from his home on Scarborough Road. The restaurant, Scarborough Fare, served me delicious fare of fresh Sumner Bay scallops.

Then I was on my way downtown, or to the city centre as the call it here. But I got hopelessly lost several times, finding myself again and again driving north when I should be driving south or the other way around. Since I pride myself on my good sense of direction, my difficulty in navigating the roads of Christchurch surprised me. But then I came to the conclusion that the problem was my being in the southern hemisphere. Somehow, like birds in flight, I was taking subtle clues from the position of the sun.

Eventually I arrived downtown, and right at its edge Christchurch has a huge, parklike botanic garden where I wandered for more than an hour.

A Pond and Flowers in the Botanic Garden

A Pond and Flowers in the Botanic Garden

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The Avon River Borders the Botanic Garden on Three Sides

The Avon River Borders the Botanic Garden on Three Sides

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One of a Pair of Different Ducks

A Male Paradise Shelduck

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The Mate

The Mate

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The botanic garden does, of course, have huge banks of flowers. But this little thistle-like flower shining in the late afternoon sunshine, was my favorite.

My Favorite Flower of the Day

My Favorite Flower of the Day

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Posted in: New Zealand