Sunday, 13 April 2014

Rain in Akaroa (and a possum!)

Kinda like that, yeah. It's been raining horizontally of late. At least there were no floodings or jetskiing on the streets this time around. Went on a trip to Akaroa, with the intention of going on a boat trip and hopefully seeing dolphins. But the weather was too stormy for that, so we spent some hours investigating the area around the harbour on land instead. Learned that the British were as notorious as ever regarding the conquering of the place, raising their flag pretty much in the face of the French settlers and the Maori. More interestingly, I also learned that the whole Banks peninsula once was a volcanic island, which rose from the bottom of the sea some 12 million years ago. Rising land made it into the peninsula it is today, and the two harbours of Akaroa and Lyttleton are remnants of the volcano's two giant craters. A beautiful and interesting place, the Banks peninsula! Apparently it has a microclimate which is considerably warmer than its surroundings, so that olive trees and other mediterranean things can grow there. Although it was covered by woods when the first humans came there, it has since been mostly transformed into farmlands, and in typical New Zealand fashion sheep are grazing most of the hillsides.

Some trees were left though, so a walk among them was had. We saw fantails! And pukekos! And lots of terns by the shore. And during a walk in central Christchurch, a possum climbing a tree and then looking down at us with its large, round, black eyes. To think that such an adorable, fuzzy little creature can wreak so much havoc in the ecosystem. I heard that they stem from a population of just about a hundred, which were brought here from Australia for their fur, but when that proved unprofitable they were let loose. Now there's more than 30 million of them, and they've pretty much got a price on their heads what with all the damage they do to indigenous plant-life.

So yeah, an interesting and pleasant weekend overall, even though it didn't turn out exactly as expected. But then again, few things in life do. Now I have a wonderful thing called an Easter break for three weeks, and I'm heading off to Auckland and then Queenstown. Such a fantastic concept, why don't we have breaks in the middle of the semester in Sweden?

Enjoying the wind at Birdling beach. Notice the terns in the background.

Love and rain,

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Mount John Observatory

I joined a couple of observers on their trip to Mount John Observatory for a few nights. What a place of science, beauty and adventure! Running around on a grassy mountain, swimming in a clear and cold Lake Tekapo, watching an absolutely gorgeous night sky. The southern sky really is more interesting than the northern one: the centre of the Milky Way, the Magellanic Clouds, new constellations and star-clusters for me to discover. I have a new favourite constellation now. Surrounded by wind-swept plains, snowy mountains in the distance. The silence, the clean air. There aren't words enough for the beauty of this place. It just feels like home. If I ever want to do this settling-down thing, New Zealand certainly seems like the place to be. Life is great.

Here, have some pictures. My cellphone camera isn't up for snuff when it comes to astrophotography, so you'll have to be content with daytime photos.

Love and observations,

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Crazy birds

Early morning somewhere in the mountains of Arthur's pass. The greyish light of a world about to dawn outside the tent. I wake up to a piercing scream that makes the blood curdle in my veins. It sounds like the creature vildvittra from the Swedish movie Ronja Rövardotter. Nightmareish, bird-like creatures that hunt down humans and feed on their flesh. The screams continue, and before long several other voices come flying and join in on the screaming. Terror seizes me and I have time to think "Oh no, we're all gonna die!".

"Now the blood shall flow!"

Then I hear someone in the next tent say "It's all right, it's just keas! They're gigantic, highly intelligent parrots who kill sheep and eat their flesh." Oh all right, no worries then. ... wait, what? New Zealand and its crazy birds!

Kea in flight. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Love and birds,