24 January 2019

Crested Grebes on Lake Lyndon.

If you're traveling from South Island's east coast to the west coast (or vice versa), via Arthurs Pass, you'll pass Lake Lyndon. It's a small, high country lake beside SH73, near Porters Pass in Canterbury. On a recent trip to Kumara (West Coast) we decided to stop for a lakeside lunch.

Many travellers stop here to take a break during their journey. The positive online reviews, prove it's a good spot to spend a few hours. With spectacular scenery, picnic tables available, and plenty of grassy areas for picnics, why wouldn't you want to call in.

Being only an hour from Christchurch, this high country lake is handy for fishing and boating. Rainbow trout thrive here, thanks to the dense beds of oxygen-weed. North Canterbury Fish and Game keep Lake Lyndon well stocked with rainbow trout, making it a popular spot for anglers. 

Being near the Southern Alps, snow frequently falls to the lake's edge. And, during the colder winter months, when the temperature drops, parts of the lake ice over. The barren landscape, with tussock covered hills, make this picturesque lake appealing through all seasons.

While we were there, cars and campervans were coming and going. People would hop out, stretch their legs, take some photos and either drive off again or stay for a few hours to relax and admire the serene surroundings.

The Acheron River flows from the southern end of Lake Lyndon into the Rakaia River. Not to be confused with the other Acheron River (located in Marlborough), which flows into the Clarence River. 

There must have been some heavy deluges of rain recently, because the daisies and blue borage that normally border the lake were mostly under water.

For me, one of the highlights while visiting Lake Lyndon, was seeing Australian Crested Grebes on the lake. These protected water birds are easy to spot with their distinctive crest and chestnut and black cheek frills. 

It would have been a bonus to have seen some chicks - the juveniles have black and white striped checks, and are carried around on their parents' backs. Adult grebes lay between five to seven eggs, and use the vegetation around the edge of the lake for nesting (and shelter). Their floating nests are attached to underwater vegetation.
Grebes are excellent swimmers and divers but are particularly clumsy on land. Their legs are set near the rear of their body, which benefit their water activities but the position isn't so helpful when they go ashore.
These birds are also known for elaborate mating displays, they rise vertically out of the water and shake their head about. 
Oh, and another thing I discovered about these birds, which I found interesting ... they swallow their feathers, hundreds of them and feed them to their young. The feathers protect their stomach by padding the sharp fish bones, this prevents injury and slows down the digestion process. Nature certainly is amazing!

Although I only caught glimpses of the Crested Grebe, it was enough to pique my curiosity. When we arrived home, I starting reading up about them - now I'm on a mission to get some better photos and discover more about them.

We tossed up whether to spend the night, but in the end decided to carry on. I'd love to visit again during winter to see the snow on the hills. On a day without wind, I imagine the reflections would be amazing.

21 January 2019

A Rapid Escape

Rakaia Gorge is one of Canterbury's gems. Bernie and I, stayed overnight at the Rakaia Gorge Camp, which is perched above the magnificent Rakaia River. 
The Rakaia River is one of New Zealand's largest braided rivers, traveling 150kms before entering the Pacific Ocean, south of Christchurch. It's a fast flowing river, which runs through wide shingle beds for most of its length before being forced through a 7km - long, narrow canyon (gorge) as it approaches the Canterbury Plains.

The camp is run by the Rakaia Gorge Society and offers easy access to the river. There's a manager on site during the high season and outside of these months, payment can be made using an honesty box ($10/person). Although there are no powered sites there's a shower block, toilets, a kitchen shelter and running water. The sites are spacious - no cramming up of campers here. Plus, it's dog-friendly, pooches are welcome provided they're on a lead.

After Bernie had had his hundredth cuppa for the day, we headed to the river. A track, overlooking the Rakaia Valley, runs along the back of the camp, leading down to the water.

In former times, the Rakaia River was known as O Rakaia, which means 'The place where people were ranged in rank". It was an area where food was grown and cultivated (mahinga kai) for the people of Ngai Tuahuriri. Near the mouth of the river, earth ovens used for cooking Moa have been found.

One of the first things you'll notice about the Rakaia River is its milky turquoise coloured water. The source of the Rakaia River is the Southern Alps, making it glacier and snow fed. As the water is derived from glaciers, silt is created when rocks underneath the surface of the ice, grind from the movement of the glacier. This results in rock flour, which is very light and stays suspended in water. The sunlight reflects off the rock flour, giving the water a spectacular turquoise blue or green colour.

The single lane, Rakaia Gorge Bridge, constructed between 1880 and 1882, is one of the oldest wrought iron bridges in New Zealand.

The day was a scorcher, so the best place to be was beside (or in) the water. We tested the water and decided it was a tad too chilly for us Nelsonians to be swimming, so we sat on the river bank, with our feet submerged. Oakly did what he loves doing - digging! And Boo, well, she rolled and then inspected the holes that Oakly had dug.

Other people nearby, weren't as wimpy as us, and were enjoying a swim. A shallow pool to the side of the river, provided a safe spot to swim. The Rakaia River is very fast flowing and one could easily get into strife - as we were soon to find out!

While we were enjoying our tranquil surroundings, we spotted, what we thought, at first glance, were two soccer balls floating down the river. One white ball and one black ball. However as they came closer, we were surprised to see, the 'black ball' was actually a person's head!

This 'mysterious black-bearded man' was midstream and quickly approaching fast flowing rapids. He didn't appear to be at all bothered, nor was he making any effort to move to the side of the river. He just rapidly floated by. It was bizarre, the milkiness of the water hid the rest of his body, making it look like a disembodied head drifting downstream. 
We wondered if he was okay, it seemed strange that he wasn't moving his arms. Did he have hypothermia? After all, the river was freezing! Was he caught in a current, exhausted and unable to get to the river bank? My mind raced for an explanation.
On the other side of the river, a man picnicking with his family, was clearly concerned. He wasn't about to sit and watch things unfold, he ran downstream trying to catch up with 'the head'. Everyone had their eyes glued to the scene, wondering if he was going to make it out in time. And ... fortunately, with only seconds to spare, this perilous swimmer, swam to the side. Just in the nick of time - rocky rapids were merely metres away.

After that bit of drama, we went to check out the stone stacks, I love finding rock towers people have created, I think they add an eye-catching, feature to riverbanks. And in case you're wondering ... nope ... Oakly did not lift his leg on any of them. He gave each stack his sniff of approval before moving on to the next.

Later that evening, we were treated to a maevey sunset. The tussock gained a rosy glow and the river turned a salmon-pink colour. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. 

If you're in the area and have a few hours to spare, there's a walkway that runs along the edge of the Rakaia River. The views are breath-taking, plus there's some geological and historic aspects that may interest you. To read the post I wrote when I walked the track a couple of years ago, click here on Rakaia Gorge.

19 January 2019

Gentle Giants of Loburn

Loburn is a small, rural community in North Canterbury. This peaceful little settlement has two schools, a hall, a holiday park and a domain. Although there aren't any shops in Loburn, Rangiora is only 10 kms away.

Loburn was named after John Macfarlane's sheep station, which was originally named Lowburn. The river flows between steep banks, so the river (or burn) was low.
Between 1914 and 1916 small orchards were planted in the area, which made it one of Canterbury's few fruit growing areas. Nowadays the local industries around Loburn are a cheese factory and orchards. The farms in the area include sheep, cattle and emus.

We stayed overnight behind the Rangiora Leigh Holiday park. The owners of the park, have put aside a special area for NZMCA members to use (for a small cost per person).

It was a stunning day when we arrived. We were the only ones there, although a caravan and bus had been left, while the owners were away.

Not long after arriving, Rob (the owner) came by with his tractor & mower. He whipped around the grass and in no time at all we had a freshly mown patch of lawn to spread out on.

Before: Lots of clover & lots of busy bees.

I noticed a sign saying 'River Access' so Oakly and I went for a walk. Boo wanted to stay at the bus with Bernie. And of course Bernie wanted a cuppa! 

Although it wasn't deep enough for a swim, it was enough to wet our ankles and cool us down. The wild flowers (a mixture of blue borage, poppies and daisies) growing along the riverbank were beautiful.

I'm always amazed at how some flowers can survive growing in shingle. I picked a bunch of these 'Californian Poppies' to put in the bus. Californian Poppies thrive is poor, stony or sandy soils and love a hot, dry climate. Their orangey-yellow petals open in the sun and close at night.

A few friendly Clydesdale horses were grazing in the paddock beside us. I love these draft horses' gentle natures and the feathering on their ankles, along with their giant hooves - such majestic creatures. 

As you may already know, Clydesdale horses are one of the largest horses in the world and were originally derived from the farm horses of Clydesdale  (a county in Scotland). They are an active horse with a high stepping action. Their primary role was being used for agriculture and haulage and are still used today for draught purposes. These gentle giants are also used for showing, riding and kept as pets for pleasure.
The most common colours are bay and brown, usually with a white face or 'blaze' and lots of white on the lower legs. One of the Clydesdale's most distinctive features is the silky feathering on the legs.

The Holiday Park was immaculate. The area near us was like a small village of permanent caravan and fifthwheel dwellings. Each was set up with a carport, outdoor decking and manicured gardens. Every property had paving and fences or a hedge partition, making the area look established and very well cared for.

As the sun began to set, Boo spotted a hare bobbing across the paddock and spent the rest of the night, glued to the window, on rabbit-watch. It was a peaceful place to stay - if you're looking for a spot that isn't crowded and one that you can put your feet up and relax, then I'm sure you'll enjoy staying here.

There's Boo keeping an eye on the comings and goings. And Oakly in the driver's seat taking it all in. It looks like there's a cracked window behind Oakly, but its actually a string of solar lights.

And on that note - speaking of solar lights, the day before we arrived at Loburn, we called into Rangiora for some supplies. Seeing a Bunnings store nearby, Bernie couldn't resist popping in for a look. Ten minutes later he appeared with some solar lights, not just a few, but 800 of them! He thought the bus needed brightening up at night! Really??? A little 7metre bus with 800 fairy lights, ... we were well lit up.

18 January 2019

Amberley Beach

I have fond memories of the Amberley Beach Camping Ground. It's the first beach we stayed at when we began living on the road in 2017. Wow - a lot has happened since then.
This time we pulled up in our Toyota Coaster. We stayed at the southern end of the camp as it's the area where dogs are allowed. It's a basic campsite run by the Hurunui Council, with clean facilities, a dump station, fresh water and plenty of room for larger vans. There weren't many other campers while we were there, which made finding a spot away on our own nice and easy.

We set off for a walk along the beach but didn't go for long as a cool wind whipped up. Amberley's shingle beach is a popular swimming spot for locals. The safest condition to swim is when the surf is under one metre - conditions can change rapidly and strong undertows and rips can occur. Fishermen also flock to the beach and each year a surfcasting competition, attracting hundreds of keen anglers, is held. 
Tuatara can be found on Amberley Beach, and paddle crabs are also known to populate the area. Surfers also enjoy this beach, saying it's punchy and fun.

Looking north
And south

Once the sun went down we decided to have an early night, no Netflix for a change! 

The next morning I climbed out of bed to watch the sunrise. My two furry friends wanted to join me, but Bernie wasn't as keen. So we left him snuggled up in bed and set off for the beach.

We wandered along the path through the pine trees that runs alongside the beach. The dogs were on high alert, hoping a rabbit would appear. Eventually, the path crossed over a road and led to a lagoon. A wooden walkway ran to the north of the lagoon, leading to another path through trees.

The sun was casting a golden glow through the tree trunks - it was shaping up to be a great day!

When the sun was up, I walked onto the beach and found a log to sit on. It gave the dogs some time to forage around and explore. And it gave me time to sit and appreciate the stillness, the peacefulness and that special feeling of watching a new day unfold.

Time was marching on and I didn't have my cellphone with me, so I couldn't text Bernie to let him know we were on our way back. We retraced our steps, stopping beside the lagoon to admire the reflections.

A brood of ducklings quietly paddled across the water, with their mother carefully escorting them from behind.

If you do decide to stay at Amberley Beach, put aside some time to walk through the trees. It's an easy path to follow and dogs are allowed. They (and you) will love it.

If you'd like to read about the first time we stayed here in 2017, click here on Amberley Beach, and it will link you to my other post.