We traversed the Southern Alps, spending a couple nights near Arthur’s Pass, an afternoon on Franz Josef Glacier, and a couple nights on the West Coast on Lake Moeraki.

Our first view of the Southern Alps…rising off of the Canterbury Plains. Some of this snow was fresh from the night before.

Castle Hill Basin is located in the Canterbury high country, characterized by its distinctive limestone rock formations. This is just one very small section.

Bouldering is very popular at Castle Hill Basin. This is not us. We did not try EVERY New Zealand adventure!

At Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge, we had an opportunity to visit a Merino Sheep farm. The Merino is a type of sheep known for having some of the finest and softest wool of any breed. One strand of its fleece is 1/4 the thickness of a human hair. This is not the scratchy wool of our grandmothers’ sweaters!

Merinos can be recognized by their crimped fleece and distinctive facial features, along with the large, curled horns (this fellow’s horns have been cut). Even though most Merinos appear deceptively gray, their fleece is bright white just beneath the surface.

Shauna feeding a little newborn.

An older cousin gets pushy with the newborn.

The views of the Alps from the Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge were stunning.

These mushrooms were so bright they looked fake. Brightness in mushrooms = STRANGER DANGER… DO NOT EAT!!

A hike up one of the local hills on the ranch was rewarded with terrific views of the Waimakariri River Valley.

Down on the West Coast, rainforest meeting the Southern Alps makes mixed-‘media’ pictures from the valley: evergreens (brought in by European settlers) and native rain forest.

These are life-sized statues of Moas. The Moa was a flightless bird endemic to New Zealand. The largest species reached about 12 ft in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 500 lbs. When Polynesians settled New Zealand around 1280, the Moa population was about 58,000. Moa extinction occurred around 1400, primarily due to overhunting by the Māori tribes. These two look like they have some cankle issues.

Found in one of the women’s stalls at the helicopter boarding station for the Franz Josef Glacier. Info for Chinese tourists who may be new to Western ways (sorry, had to post…).

A view of the Franz Josef Glacier from the helicopter.

oops…..someone didn’t get out of the way of the helicopter’s downdraft.

An upper ice flow on the glacier. This short video on the retreat of the glacier is really cool and helpful. Shows 2 years of retreat in 15 seconds via time-lapse.

Crawling through an ice tunnel on the glacier……. she fit!

He didn’t, but acted like he did. 

One of the many caves created as the glacier makes its way down the valley. How fast does a glacier grow during snowy times? It sometimes moves up to 5 meters a day!

This crevice was only 6-8 feet deep. Some of the crevices are hundreds of feet deep.

The guide made me do it…

…….and finally, the river created by the Franz Josef Glacier makes its way to the Tasman Sea.

A hike up the rain-forested mountain toward the Fox Glacier. The rainforest ferns are ubiquitous at the lower levels of the mountains.

The view from our room of the grounds of Lake Moeraki Wilderness Lodge. This Lodge is a sister lodge to the Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge we stayed in a couple of days before.

Dr. Gerry McSweeney, the owner of the Lake Moeraki Lodge, is also a well-known, and extremely committed, conservationist. It was an absolute joy to have him as our guide for a couple of walks, one under more stars than we’ve ever seen, including the Magellan galaxies.

One of the beautiful (and deserted) beaches on the western coast of the South Island.

The Fiordland Crested Penguin goes into the rain forest (video) to molt.

A close-up of a smaller Fiordland Crested Penguin.

Getting up close and personal with a fur seal (really, a sea lion). Sea lions are brown, bark loudly, “walk” on land using their large flippers and have visible ear flaps. Seals have small flippers, wriggle on their bellies on land, and lack visible ear flaps. New Zealand fur seals can be distinguished from sea lions by their pointy nose and smaller size. In New Zealand, fur seals also tend to be found on rocky shorelines, whereas sea lions prefer sandy beaches.

She’s going in….

…..going……

……gone.

This rock formation looks it might have been a statue of an ancient Maori maiden.

The climb up from the beach was along an overgrown cliff face, perhaps 400 feet high.

We were well rewarded with this quintessential view.