Thursday, 2 April 2009

Mackenzie Country

...which was named after a sheep rustler, a proud son of our clan, needless to say. It's a strangely dry part of the country, which is why it has NZ's biggest observatory (about 5 telescopes) on one of the mountains, and I spent this evening at their first ever open night (part of international astronomy year). Can now find southern cross, Alpha centauri, Sirius and Betelgeuse, and saw Saturn plus rings and moons through telescope for first time. Staggering level of ignorance in some of the questions being asked by my fellow attendees. One clearly didn't believe we'd landed on the moon, another wanted detailed instructions on how to respond to an asteroid strike.

Getting dangerously complacent about NZ weather, which has been excellent so far. Nasty feeling the weather gods are saving up for a drench on the Milford Track. Only time I've got wet so far was while swimming with dolphins, which is kind of the point. Oh, and for Lord of the Rings fans, wading the river to get to where they filmed the Edoras scenes. Casual visits aren't encouraged, but having driven 25 miles up the valley I wasn't going to let thigh deep water put me off, especially as there were girls on the summit of the hill who'd clearly forded the river ahead of me. No signs at all of film crew occupation, never mind golden halls of Meduseld, but it's a fantastic viewpoint regardless, would have been ideal for the Rohirrim to spot approaching armies, if the Rohirrim had been real, that is.

Update - 14/4: Should say more about the dolphins, everyone asks about it. Basically we were zipped into wetsuits (photo attached for those with strong stomachs), taken on a 20 minute boatride, thrown into the sea at the point where bay meets ocean, and encouraged to make lots of noise, which usually attracts Flipper's local relatives. Well, his much smaller relatives, these were Hecter's dolphins, which are the ladies handbag version. They were a little shy at first, but after us mermaids gave them some rousing renditions of the Hokey Cokey, Old MacDonald, and The Melrose Song (ok, that was just me), they started making regular spins through the group, coming within a few inches several times though never stopping to chat. It's exhilarating, though Soren tells me that his family were able to boogie board with the same species for free at beaches on the south coast on holiday, which sounds even better.

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