Day Eleven – Milford Sound to Te Anau- New Zealand

Today……was……the …..best…..day……EVER!!! We had booked the JUCY tour of Milford Sound – being the proud JUCY people we are! Plus the lady at the travel desk said it was an early tour that wouldn’t be crowded and too touristy – so we were in! Bright and early at 8.30am we arrived at the Milford Sound ferry terminal, all set to board a big boat for a tour of Milford Sound. Now, Milford Sound contrary to popular belief is not really a Sound (in Geology, a Sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord), but is actually a fjord – just a bloody great big one! Some Ningkompoop named it Milford Sound instead of Milford Fjord – and the name has just stuck. So for now, we will refer to it by it’s known name and just ignore the fact that in strict Geology, it’s not a sound, but a fjord…… Anyways, we began our cruise with the drizzle surrounding us, but not dampening our spirits! Once again I dragged Long-Suffering Mentor onto the top of the boat to enjoy the liquid sunshine that is New Zealand weather, and […]

Day Ten – Queenstown to Milford Sound – New Zealand

It was f*&^ing cold! I think my face froze off overnight! It was so cold that I had to hover over the dunny seat to stop myself sticking to it! Bloody hell New Zealand can get cold…. Anyways, having warmed my nethers over the gas stove, we set off towards Milford Sound. Along the way were more lakes that went on forever, Highland cows that looked mean and hairy, roadkill hedgehogs that I was itching to stop and get a look at (I’ve never seen a hedgehog before!) and even more clear rivers and streams.   We stopped for lunch at Te Anau, a beautiful little town right on the HUGE Lake Te Anau. At the coffee shop there were alpacas that you could feed for $1. If you rustled the paper bag they would all come ambling over and expect you to give them treaties. One fella got a bit miffed with the look of me and spat – but other than Mr Grumpy-pants they were all rather friendly and enjoyed some attention. I got my animal fix a little….   Something that is somewhat unnerving here in New Zealand is the air raid siren that periodically goes off! […]

Day Nine – Franz Josef to Queenstown – New Zealand

Having thoroughly had my tanty overnight regarding the cancelled helicopter trip to Franz Josef Glacier, Long-Suffering Mentor (also known as Cardio Cathy!) decided we would do the Franz Josef Summit walk – one and a half hours walk return but most of it uphill (of course – we ARE going to see a glacier!) and most of it on very uneven surface. Glaciers leave moraines as they retreat, and these moraines are made up of really, really, REALLY unconsolidated rocks. Big rocks, little rocks, really big rocks, really small rocks. Not a walk conducive with recovering from a broken foot. But being the stubborn lady I am, I instructed LSM (aka Cardio Cathy!) to walk ahead of me and wait for me at the glacier. If I didn’t turn up in half an hour she was instructed to come down the mountain and find me! So off she tore like a mountain goat, and I toddled off behind. The first bit was ok. Up hill at times and panting (so unfit!). But then we hit some river crossings which didn’t involve wet feet but did involve me stumbling over rocks, which may have resulted in a small cracking sound from […]

Day Eight – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Today was the day of adventure……. …..until we woke up and realised the weather was really shit! Like so shit that we couldn’t see the top of the mountain let alone where the glacier was! So we were kind of expecting the bad news…… Still, ever the optimist I set off for my first adventure, quad biking through the terminal moraine! After a quick run through of how to use the quad bike, and a test drive around the course to make sure you weren’t some nufty who would take out the whole group because they forgot where the brake was, we set off at a hefty pace over the river beds. The terminal moraine of Franz Josef glacier looks like a moonscape. Kilometres of unconsolidated rock. All this rock had been transported either by the glacier or by the river which is fed by the glacier. It was a barren, harsh landscape.   But it was also incredibly fun to ride over on a quad bike. Dodging large rocks and trying to make sure you didn’t fly off when your tyres hit a rock and your handlebars slid out from under you, we flew over the moraine until we […]

Day Seven – Queenstown to Franz Josef – New Zealand

I woke up – and I could move!! This was a bloody good thing! After a thoroughly enjoyable morning walk along the beautiful braided river I felt even better. We managed to get on the road by 10am after a quick stop to the petrol station, the supermarket AND the pharmacy where I almost had to bend over for a rectal examination to get my extra strength codeine – but I got it! So off we set for Franz Josef! The road to Franz Josef is known as the famous Haas Pass and there’s a reason it is so famous! Hours and hours of winding roads, sometimes at the very precipice of huge valleys. It was reminiscent of the Great Ocean Road but on steroids! Instead of cliffs and ocean, the Haas Pass has craggy snow topped mountains and rushing rivers through glacial valleys that had been carved out many, many years ago. We stopped at a look out to walk out over the mountains to look right down into a valley. It gave you a quiver in your waim but was just breathtaking. You can see the tundra in the background. These mountains are in a rainshadow and are […]

Day Six – Dunedin to Queenstown – New Zealand

I knew something was wrong as soon as I opened my eyes! I couldn’t move! I was busting to go to the loo and my back had completely seized up in the JUCY van! I was packed into my bed with no way of manoeuvring out to the bathroom. I panicked! I called out to Long-Suffering Mentor who was snuggled up and asleep in her upstairs tomb (the double bed up over the drivers seat is so small it looks like a coffin!) but because she was packed in like a sardine she couldn’t hear my desperate cries! After some shouting and swearing she finally woke up and before she could be fully conscious she was out of her coffin and trying to unbend me like a pretzel! After copious amounts of drugs and expletives we finally managed to get me out of the bloody JUCY van and making a somewhat uncomfortable and crippled run to the toilet! I was stoned by 9am and sitting in the front of the JUCY van, very happily alongside our newfound passenger John, who was hitching a ride with us from Dunedin to Queenstown. Being a captive audience he had no choice but to come […]

Day Five – Post Conference Trip – New Zealand

Having woken early in our lovely little room, I noticed when bending down that my back was twinging a bit. I made myself promise I would take it a bit easier today as I didn’t want any nasty incidences or surprises. Making our way downstairs we enjoyed a simple continental breakfast with lots of cups of tea, and quickly packed up the JUCY van in preparation for what Ewan promised would  be an action packed and very full-on day. The scenery was so picturesque as we drove out to Hakataramea Valley to a huge quarry. The quarry was Late Oligocene limestone and greensand and was an important vertebrate site. Lots of bone had been found at this site so we all piled out of the bus and JUCY van and immediately started scratching through the piles of dirt!   My back was not cooperating but I did manage to find some lovely gastropod fossils. Some of the other more experienced and limber palaeontologists found some lovely samples of bone, including this fish vertebra! Very impressive! Long Suffering Mentor took pity on my crippled state and found me a shark tooth! Imagine the choppers on this thing! With great trouble, Ewan […]

Day Four – Post Conference Trip – New Zealand

Being the totally organised travellers that we are, my LS Mentor set an alarm for 6.30am allowing us a leisurely time for showers and breakfast before trotting across the road to the bus for the airport, having checked out with minimal hassle. Unfortunately LS Mentor’s clock was still on Victorian time, so I woke up thinking there is way too much light coming through my window, grabbed my watch and immediately began screaming “we’re late” and rushing around like a mad woman. We eventually made it out of the hotel and across the road – dragged all our luggage onto a bus – realised we hadn’t eaten breakfast or even had a cup of tea! But we quickly arrived at the Queenstown Airport and there she was……. Our JUCY van…… The van is great! Fully self contained complete with dunny and shower, kitchen and two double beds……well? We will work it out! After a quick run through on how to use the sink, shower, how to empty the toilet (eww!) and how to drain all our waste water especially while travelling – we seemed pretty impressed by our setup and were confident enough to meet with the rest of the […]

Day Three – Queenstown, New Zealand

This mountain changes every day! The different light and sunshine makes it alive!! Today was a full day of CAVEPS – bird, mesozoic and dinosaurs, macropods, and New Zealand cenozoic. Lots and lots of dinosaurs and crocodiles. The highlight of the day though, was the Plenary speaker – Senior Professor Jingmai O’Connor spoke about the rise of birds. Jingmai is the coolest Palaeontologist I have ever met! She’s dynamite in a small package, covered in tattoos of birds and dinosaurs! She spoke with such passion and intellect, I was so impressed with her presentation. I actually met her afterwards in the gift shop and she showed me more of her tattoos. Such a down to earth young woman but so smart and lovely. The poster session was held in the evening with beautiful wine provided by The Bone Line (how appropriate!). A pleasant evening was spent looking around at the posters. I marvel and how smart people are – and the different things people are studying, and how their results will lead to more exciting research. Palaeontology is such a broad field and their is so much still to discover. Exciting times….. I decided to leave My Long-Suffering Mentor to […]

Day Two – Queenstown, New Zealand

Having had a long and restful sleep, we clambered up the inclines of Queenstown, New Zealand towards the Skyline Gondola, to get to our conference location high up on a mountain overlooking the beautiful town and lakes. Long-Suffering Mentor (who is afraid of heights) managed to hide her conniptions with white knuckles and distracted chatter, as we ascended up the mountain in a small gondola. The views were incredible. Breathtaking! The snow capped crags of mountain ranges blending in with mountains that look like green velvet. Sometimes it just looks fake – like a painting! The geology of the South Island is completely different to that of the North Island. The South Island is mudstone that has been metamorphosed with all the tectonic movement. Combinations of the most beautiful shales, slates and foliated mudstone offers a very different look to the rock. The mountains have been totally created by uplift and tectonic movement – which when you see the scope and height of the landscape, really blows your mind!     The conference began with a plenery speaker, Professor Ewan Fordyce from the University of Otago. He spoke about Zealandia – a southern Rosetta stone for 85 million years of […]