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Monday 4 Mar 2013
Franz Josef, New Zealand

Pancakes, Penguins and Cow Bones

A few days ago I was walking along the gorgeous cliff trails in the Abel Tasman National Park.  Now I am surrounded by snow-capped mountains and some great new friends.  I arrived in Franz Josef yesterday afternoon after a long but beautiful journey through several national parks, along glacial river valleys and wild western coastline overlooking the Tasman Sea.  

Leaving Abel Tasman, we headed down through the Buller Gorge to Murchison.  All the rivers in the area are at a record low as there has been almost no rain in the last two months.  What little water remained was a stunning turquoise colour caused by the glacial deposits in the water.  The high water mark we saw at one point was level with the coach windows - the water level was a good 15 feet below the road and meandered its way along the gravel riverbed, covering less than a third of the available width.

Heading to the coast along the edge of the Paparoa National Park, we stopped at the Tauranga Bay Seal Colony, where we saw lots of fur seals basking in the sunshine on the rocks (including a few very cute baby seals!)  Next stop was at Punekaiki to see the famous Pancake Rocks and Blowholes.  Because of the geological fault lines under New Zealand, much of south west New Zealand was actually under the sea a few million years ago.  The shifts in the tectonic plates caused the ground to rise sharply, forming the Southern Alps and Southern Fiordlands.  It has left some fascinating geography and geological formations in every direction.  The Pancake Rocks get there name because of the many layers of rock that look like stacks of pancakes.  The tide crashes against these formations and has worn through the softer rock in places to form some amazing blowholes.  We arrived to find the tide in and crashing happily.  The sounds of the sea booming through the gaps and the sea spray coming out of the blowholes were an impressive reminder of the power of nature.

Our bus driver, Nat, was given a huge inflatable All Blacks beachball for Christmas.  This lead to something of a tradition at our overnight stop in the old mining town of Blackball - a Black & White Ball.  As you know, I am never one to pass up an opportunity for fancy dress, so I bought a few big sheets of black, white and yellow paper at the last stop and made myself a penguin costume!  We stayed in a 100-year old hotel called Formerly the Blackball Hilton (so named because the somewhat larger chain took offence at a sleepy little backwater town using the name and threatened to take them to court, so they renamed themselves with typical Kiwi humour!)  At 8.30pm on the dot, I presented myself in the bar for the party and found the bar empty, but for a couple of locals.  And I was dressed as a penguin...  So not at all embarrassing.

Eventually the rest of the bus materialised in a very pathertic attempt at fancy dress, but I was by far the most overdressed in the room.  Needless to say, I won the prize, which turned out to be one free beer at the bar.  All that effort and embarrassment for just one beer.  Ah well.  The costume was donated to the hotel afterwards and signed by everyone on the bus.

Next morning we left early to go to a local bone carving studio, Skeleton Crew.  The studio was tucked away in the corner of the owner's garden, so we were using grinding wheels and sanding bands while surrounded by huge tree ferns and greenery, with a very enthusiastic boxer dog sticking his nose in the door with the remains of a tennis ball for us to throw up the garden for him. I turned a chunk of cow bone into a very respectable Maori fish hook pendant, symbolic of strength, determination, abundance and security while travelling overseas.  As this really sums up my year, I added 2013 to the back, and three small holes in the front to represent my three beautiful nephews: Daniel, Charlie and Oliver.  I've worn it ery day since.



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Zobeedoo's Big World Adventure, Part I

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Marahau Bridges, Abel Tasman

Marahau Bridges, Abel Tasman

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