We met our group in Cathedral Square and were on the road by 10:30. Two couples and a single woman plus Ellen, EAP and me, all in their fifties and early sixties, I would say. It seems a quiet but congenial group. We drove over the flat, flat Canterbury Plan and soon enough the foothills of the southern Alps loomed ahead.
After lunch we did our first hike - short but steep, over a clear-running glacier-fed river and into a beech forest, up and up and up stairs and trail until debouching at a platform overlooking a waterfall. The water leapt over the edge and out from the rock, swirling and braiding its way down to the pool below.
A great feature was the active group of birds feeding in bushes just across the stream. A black and white bobwhite swooped halfway across the water after a delicious insect, hovered for just a second and swooped all the way across. Silvereyes fed (on insects, we assumed) and allowed us a good look at their distinctive silver-encircled eyes and green, brown and cream coloring. A fantail fluttered about along the trail, showing off its fantail to great effect.
Best of all was the kea that lumbered around the parking lot. They are very active, curious birds, parroty green above but with red under their wings that shows only when they fly. This one didn’t do much, but it was a treat to see it walking around with its sailor’s rolling gait.
After lunch came the long drive to the west coast.
Here is Castle Rock(?), a natural formation important to the Maori.
Then the terrain changed AGAIN as we veered west and then north along the coast. Just north of Greymouth, where the terrible mine disaster happened last fall, the road suddenly opened up and the Tasman Sea was beating against the shore.
We are now holed up in the Punakaiki Cottage Motels, consisting of spacious units very close to the shore. EAP is doing a load of laundry while I update the pictures and pore over the atlas. Soon we’ll gather for an orientation talk and then dinner in the tiny little village. A good first day!