February 29th, 2004

full steam ahead

The 700 megawatt hat: or doubtful and hatless

I have no cobwebs: nor do I have a hat any more as it blew off crossing the lake this morning on the way to Doubtful Sound. I'd have given fifty hats for the weather we got today but it's a new record in hat-losing for me.

Actually I thought today was going to be grey again judging by the sky at breakfast and the way the cat hugged the radiator and corled up on the sheepskin throw. Managed half my organising phone calls before the coach arrived, so I'm organised as far as Dunedin.

I don't much like organised tours because they end up full of middle aged women complaining about the beds and rthwir husbands fussing that someone has sat in their place on the coach and all of them trying to work out who got on the trip without sigbing up properly. We had a few too many of them today, herded in sand out of endless hotel miramars, slapping Timothy Whites insect repellant on (cont Tribute to Eric Idle My Idol).

The trip across the lake was still nice: it's full of islands and it only rained a little - but the wind snatched my hat right out of my hand. Next we drove down a spiral tunnel into the hydroelectric power station which is entirely deserted: the control room is miles away. We got to see the excitors on top of the generators which get the output up to 700 megawatts (and if my hat gets sucked into the turbines it can help them along!), but not what the coach driver called the whizzy spinny things themselves. Most impressive thing about the tunnel: turning an 11 metre coach in a 6 foot tunnel with a 5 foot bay :-)

The drive down goes over the most expensive gravel road around: $5 an inch! It runs through beech rain forest and then conifer where the trees are draped with moss and orchid and even shrubs growing out of them, twisting round the flanks of the mountains. where they blasted the road through the moss and lichen have colonised the bare rock face and trees are starting to cling: waterfalls galore and bare rock from treeslips and the earthquake last year.

Doubtful sound is more welcoming than Milford and it's not just that we had warm sun and bottlenosed dolphins cavorting amd curvetting in the water. The mountains are lower and less forbidding, the crinkly edges more inviting, the place less quiet and more peaceful. A lovely cruise out, down the sound and out into the choppy Tasman to see an island with basking fur seals, then back past the dolphins again. Drifting, drowsing, resting...

Spent some time chatting to a couple from Colorado: Bob used to work in the calculator division at HP and we nattered about gadgets and I gave them directions to the two LotR souvenir shops in Queenstown :-)

Picked the Redcliffe Cafe for dinner: (rib eye steak and a glass of wine, which came with a side order of live music from The Valentes (formerly the Gypsy Pickers) and fancy dress (geeks and freaks!). The usual standards (brown eyed girl follows me around the planet, the bells rang out, marimba rhythms start to play): plus banjo and mandolin when one of the pair swaps instruments. A nice background for sitting on the porch in the breeze thinking back on a good day's sail.

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors
full steam ahead

Night sights

The sky is thick and clotted with stars in a great wide band that I think must be the milky way. I don't recognise anything except faithful Orion (mem to self: learn some astronomy!). I looked up and saw a shooting star. The half moon is fat and yellow through the trees. And while my torch didn't help me find my eararing, I did spot a hodgepig and a frog :-)

Mary on a Blackberry so pardon typing errors