This is what is called a flat white coffee. (I THINK it is a cappucino)
Monday, December 31, 2007
What I found instead was an isolated, narrow two lane road that in some areas lacked pavement. Almost ALL the bridges of any consequence on this road were one lane and there was no consistent rule about who had to “give way” … it was different at each bridge. On one bridge just outside of Hokitika there was a one lane bridge that also served as a railroad bridge. I have NO idea how THAT was supposed to work. And there are no houses overlooking this remarkable landscape. Where ARE all the people?
The other thing I didn’t expect was all the tropical vegetation. Especially tropical vegetation nestled up against glaciers. These ferns are everywhere in West Coast (which is the name of the province.)
The Silver Fern
So yesterday we started at the Franz Joseph Glacier. I like the Maori name and story better. The Maori call it Hine Hokitawa. Long ago Hine Hokitawa, who was an adventurous sort of girl who loved mountain climbing, invited her not so outdoorsman boyfriend, Tawe, to go hiking. Sadly, Tawe slipped and fell to his death and Hine Hokitawa shed a million tears that froze and became the glacier.
reflection at Franz Josef Glacier
When we turned the car east again at Haast, it had started to rain. We ascended along the
Where IS everyone?
Sunday, December 30, 2007
It is 9:30 at night. It is still light. I am sitting on the back deck of our motel looking out at the mountains surrounding the Franz Josef Glacier. There are exotic birds singing and I can hear the roar of a glacial stream nearby. The crazy thing is, that this alpine setting is filled with rainforest flora like giant ferns. It is so incongruous. It is unique.
The eastern side view
But as soon as we started to descend the western slope there were palms and ferns everywhere and a solid mass of forest. We have spent the day on the finest roads the south island has to offer. They are two lane. The bridges are for the most part one lane and you never know until you get to it whether your direction is expected to yield (“give way” is the term they use) or has the right of way. And, of course, all of this is done on the left side of the road driving a standard shift. It has been a challenging day.
When we got to Hakitawa I turned in and left Hunter sleeping in the passenger seat while I walked out to view the Pacific. Huge tree trunks and other fabulous driftwood littered the beach. The West Coast is decidedly funky and laid back.
The geological story of these mountains is very interesting. While at lunch we browsed through a book at the inn about how these mountains were formed. A few interesting facts: Before it eroded, this chain of mountains shot up 20 kilometers into the sky … that is into the stratosphere. All this erosion has left a deposit of sand and silt in the ocean that does much to form off shore
Tonight at dinner I tasted
And speaking of United Airlines … the bag has not been found despite numerous calls to
The New Bag
We also began driving today … on the left side of the road. Very strange indeed. Requires constant concentration. It’s like learning to drive all over again.
Oh … and it’s chilly here. I was not expecting chilly.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
And for those interested, the bag remains elusive. Hunter is slowly acquiring an entire Billabong wardrobe. [Cowabunga!] First stop in Christ Church ... the pharmacy.
It was quite a treat to float above this magical world of parrot fish, and angelfish and batfish and giant clams. And what a collection of coral there was. When I am snorkeling I lose all track of time and really become entranced with the view I have below me. There is something almost meditative about it as you focus on a world you cannot be a part of and you focus on “the breath.” Some of these pictures are not mine, but were taken with an underwater camera by our crew.
The first stop was an opportunity to see the rain forest from the river’s edge. And while we didn’t spy any crocs, we saw a roost of maybe 1,000 leathery fox bats hanging in the forest making an enormous racket.We saw the yellow bellied sun catcher in its nest which is made from old leaves and feathers and hangs out over the river’s edge suspended from a tree. And there was a stork known as the Jabiru that was circling above the river.
On our walking tour of the rain forest, we learned about cycads … some of the most primitive trees on the planet. They grow VERY slowly and this Macrozamia cycad is probably nearing 1,000 years old. But it looked like a pup next to some of the Mahogany trees we saw stretching up into the canopy. Near the end of our walk we spied a dragon lizard just hanging out on a tree trunk.
And the sounds … they were at the same time familiar and exotic. The high canopy buzz of cicadas was familiar, but there were screeching birds whose call penetrated the forest like a trumpet … a real contrast to the silence of the outback.
But what we were really looking for was the elusive Cassowary. Emu or ostrich like in its size and shape (over 6 feet), the Cassowary is the gardener of the forest floor. When it eats the fruit on the ground and moves along and excretes the seed elsewhere, it increases the likelihood that the fruit trees will survive in the competitive environment of the rain forest. They estimate that there are about 1,500 of them in Daintree. Their greatest threat now is the automobile and the dog.
At lunchtime I got to meet my first wallaby and my first kangaroo. We visited them at a wildlife rescue center near where we ate our barbeque. The kangaroos remind me of greyhounds. They are graceful and gentle creatures with large padded paws. And the wallaby seemed almost fragile.
After our barbeque lunch we headed deeper into Daintree and took a refreshing dip in a fresh water creek while the tour guides prepared a plate of exotic fruits for us to taste. While not native to
Our final stop was at
Sunday, December 23, 2007
I was starting to become familiar with the symbols in this art scene from some of the wall paintings Wally had shown us yesterday. Wall painting is not really the right term. They were blackboards in the rock that were used to teach the children. These symbols were also painted on the body or on a shield or etched in the sand. It wasn’t until the great “assimilation fiasco” of the late 1960’s when various peoples were herded into education camps that an observant art teacher (yea for art teachers!!!) encouraged adults and children to use paint on canvas to tell these stories.
I learned so much yesterday in the two art galleries we went to that it is hard to share it all. But the result of what I learned is that I can “read” an aboriginal painting much better than I could two days ago. I know the symbols, I have a sense of what colors and symbols are used in what regions of
The landscape … the geography … in an environment as unforgiving as the outback is the reality that dictated culture. And if your culture could pass on the secrets of survival in this landscape, to the next generation, then you would survive. The Anangu as the Aboriginals refer to themselves have a cultural center at the base of Uluru and we spent the afternoon with Wally and his interpreter, Chris, learning the stories of Wally’s people. In Anangu culture the parents, who are younger and stronger, leave child rearing to the grandparents who are wiser and older. Parents go off and hunt and gather all day. It is from your grandparents that you learn all the laws and customs and religious beliefs of the society which in the Pitjanjatjura language is called Tjukurpa (chook-orr-pa). Over and over again we were told that Tjukurpa is untranslatable to a Western sensibility. It is more than a religion, more than a set of laws, more than cultural norms … it is an all encompassing way of being in the world that encompasses the past, the present and the future all at the same time.
The stories that are passed on to you by your grandparents become your stories. No one else can tell your story and you cannot tell anyone else’s story. But there are shared stories about creation and what is known as “the dreamtime.” It was this story that Wally told us at the foot of Uluru. Near a water hole at the base of the rock he told a dreamtime story about a two giant pythons where the good giant python (a female with lots of eggs) slays the bad python (a male with lots of poison). As we walked back form the water hole Wally stopped and looked back at the rock and the story again, only THIS time you could see the story in the rock face … the track the female python had taken was a darkened coloration along the rock face, the place where the bad python was slain was a crevice in the rock face, the blood from his smashed head a stain of oxidized discoloration.
The men hunted, the women gathered. When you look out over the landscape it appears there is nothing TO gather. Look again. There are grass seeds that can be made into a paste, grubs at the base of the wichetty tree, bush plums that can be stored in their dried form all year and reconstituted with water, the honey ants who carry honey in their bodies, and of course snake eggs (be sure you know that the hole you are digging in belongs to a non poisonous snake.) Supplement that with the occasional kangaroo, and you have yourself some pretty nourishing “bush tucker.”
Friday, December 21, 2007
My first impression of the Outback was to think this is
Last night we ate dinner in the desert under the stars. When we arrived in the isolated location we walked up a pathway to a rise in the desert. I felt like I was going to Tribal Council. We mingled with other guests as a skilled player of the didgeridoo played in the background. He took some time to teach us about the instrument. It is the oldest wind instrument on the planet. The aboriginals used it to accompany their chant. His particular “didge” was made form the trunk of a Eucalyptus tree. The hollowing out is done by termites and burning and termites again until you have the correct pitch. If it doesn’t sound right, you go out in the desert and find a termite mound and stick the trunk on top and let the “mites” work their magic for a few weeks. His was tuned to the key of F. A well made “didge” can cost up to $10,000. Ironically there are more players of the instrument performing in
From our little perch, we watched the sunset over Kata Tjuta as Uluru glowed red in the sun’s reflection. We then followed a path way down to our dining area under the stars. (Apperently no one was going to be voted off tonight) Long after sunset the afterglow lighted our setting. We ate by candle light with interesting companions. The theme that united the table was that each of the three couples had “lost a child to
I used the buffet as an opportunity to taste some new things. Barramundi (the ever present fish of
For those interested in the saga of the luggage … no, it has not yet arrived. We have been given a voucher for $200 to cover the things we need. Hunter has two nice new Billabong shirts suitable for our evening dining. I am not at all convinced it will show today. Well We wanted to travel lite … this is one way, I suppose.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
We spent the afternoon touring the Opera House and taking a ferry ride around the harbor. The Opera House has become THE symbol for Sydney and is now on the World Heritage List.
I have been in the air for nearly 9 hours. I have 4 and a half to go. I see now that the sun has risen. Sydney here we come.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I make no promises for what I will be able to post here ... but I will certainly try.