Winter Down Under

July 5, 2016

It’s the fourth of July in America today, so it seems like the appropriate time to complain about how cold it is in New Zealand!! Actually, it’s not that cold. The weather¬†should be completely miserable: rain, wind, ice, dark. Instead we’ve gotten pretty lucky: sun, clear, ice, dark. There’s still only about 8 hours of sunlight, but those hours have been relatively¬†warm (between 12 and 2pm!). We’ve been keeping busy with work, a few bike rides, and building trails in the Christchurch Adventure Park!

Back in June we had a three day weekend for the Queen’s birthday (mighty nice of her to let us celebrate on her behalf) so we headed down to Wanaka with some friends. With a low of -3C and a high of about 5C – but probably not quite – we managed to squeeze in 3 full days of bike riding in the snow capped mountains.

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Despite it being a holiday weekend, there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic on the trails. Perhaps the frost covered tracks were a deterrent! Scott and his mates didn’t have any trouble getting the wheels off the ground though, despite some pretty icy landings. Thankfully everyone came home intact.

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The weekend after the Queen had her birthday, I had mine. Coincidence???

Scott and I agreed on taking a quiet weekend on the West Coast. The previous weekend on the coast had been gloriously sunny, so I figured we should be as lucky. We weren’t.

The rain poured furiously, as it does on the West Coast, from 2 days before we arrived through the day we left. (Sun on Monday!) But we made the best of it and did several neat hikes in the wet.

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Hokitika Gorge, pictured above, is a pretty touristy spot; when it hasn’t been raining the water glows a luminous glacial blue. Unfortunately the rain stirred up the silt making it a little more of concrete grey… but it was still a pretty beautiful place anyways. I love New Zealand’s swing bridges.

I also love the South Island fantail- a flitting little bird with lots of places to go and no time to sit while you take a photo. The fantail… wait for it…¬†fans it’s tail I assume to attract a mate which is incredibly cute and exceedingly impossible to capture on film. If you’re me. Anyways, my attempt:

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All up we did 5 or 6 different hikes in the Hokitika area. Regretfully, I didn’t bring my camera for most of them. At the end of one hike though, we had to run to the car to grab the camera, then run 100 or so meters back up the trail. Being the proud bird nerds that we are, we spotted a Morepork sleeping on a tree fern. The Morepork is a New Zealand native owl, super difficult to spot with being nocturnal, and shy, and not overly populated.

We were actually trying to identify a different funny feathered creature when I spotted an owl shaped lump sitting on a branch. No way, I thought. Far too close to the trail, far too easy to see! But it was a Morepork (which, fun fact, is named after the eerie call it makes, “Mooooooore-poooooooooork”).

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I tried to “sneak” a bit closer to the sleeping bird, but unsurprisingly I’m not very sly and she had quite good hearing. I only got a few feet closer before she started to glare intently at me and ruffle her feathers. Not wanting her to fly away- in the middle of her sleep-time no less, I took the best close photo I could, and backed off.

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That is one unimpressed owl.

So I’m a year older, and probably a little wiser than before, what with having an encounter with this creature on my birthday! I look forward to documenting more adventures here on The Bike Wife, even if they’re a bit far and few between these days.

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