PANDEMIC DIARY FROM MT. COOK, NEW ZEALAND: WEEK 16-17

News Update: As of Sunday, March 7 at 6am (New Zealand Time), Auckland will drop to Level 2 and the rest of the country to Level 1

Global news can change quickly, especially with the pandemic roulette swinging wildly. This up-to-now, COVID worry-free country has stepped up its vigilance. A couple of troubling community cases in Auckland near the airport last week has moved the city into an Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country to Level 2. That affects those of us living in Christchurch on the South Island.

Here’s a snippit from a recent news article on the recent changes:

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/437329/covid-19-auckland-back-in-alert-level-3-the-rest-of-new-zealand-alert-level-2

While there are renewed restrictions such as the wearing of masks on public transportation, social distancing and contact tracing, the general population was initially slow in responding to any changes. Now, there are visible differences. The news reports progress openly and transparently, and reminds everyone to follow instructions.

Public service messages also remind everyone to be kind and not to excoriate those who may have extenuating circumstances for not following the rules. Except for uniformed kids hitting town after school, fewer people populate the streets of Christchurch. Local travelers encouraged to see New Zealand are putting intercity travel on hold.

Shops, cafes, museums and cinemas are once again threatened with a downturn in the struggling economy just as it has in other parts of the world. With a chain of events that include the Mosque bombing, the earthquake, and recurrent COVID fears , the people of Christchurch have demonstrated incredible resilience and acceptance of circumstances beyond their control

As the tide was turning, we were in the midst of a weekend outing to Mt. Cook in the Southern Alps. Mt. Cook is high on the list of quintessential outdoor destinations in New Zealand.

Tasman Glacier

The east side of the Southern Alps on the South Island are accessible from Christchurch within three hours. We drove through classic rolling hill countryside, passing an occasional car headed in the opposite direction. After pit stops in Fairlie and Geraldine, the snow-capped mountains appeared.

You can take a boat tour to see the Tasman Glacier on the back side of Mt. Aoraki (known as Mt. Cook). After a short one-mile hike to the lake, we arrived at the shoreline for our excursion. I had expected a big ferry with big picture windows, but the light, open-air raft awaiting at the dock was a surprise!

The German-born guide quickly sorted us into small groups to balance the boat and off we went. She described the history and formation of the lake from the ice melt. In just the past few months and years, the lake capacity has been increasing in volume.

The ice floes show only 10% of its body mass. The rest lies below the surface. On larger floes and along the glacier, you can see the water line where the waves meet the ice form. The floes have lives of their own. They play like otters when they roll over and as the mass underneath changes.

The Tasman Glacier, like those in Alaska, relies on ground cover to insulate the ice from further deterioration. The visible river of ice was only a small rendition in scale with those we saw in Alaska, but nevertheless impressive for its peaceful and serene environment. We could only get partial peeks at Mt. Cook, but we were satisfied at having seen its peak the day before.

Zoom Sketching Live Musicians

The Tuesday night jam sessions with live musicians originating from Andronico’s continues.

And a quick sketch in the Christchurch Gallery of a favorite sculpture–you can compare it to the real thing in the following slide!

4 thoughts on “PANDEMIC DIARY FROM MT. COOK, NEW ZEALAND: WEEK 16-17”

  1. Glad to hear there are still mountain glaciers and lake ice flows to visit amid all this climate change. Stay safe and enjoy your travels!

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    1. Hi Janet! I wish we were able to sketch here together! I don’t know if you saw the live feed on the boat during the SF Portrait Party. It coincided with the same time I was on the boat, so could only stream a glimpse of being on the raft. Hope to see you real time at the next event in SF!!

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  2. You are (have been) in Craig Country..!!
    I’m sorry, I should have set you up with a list of contacts.
    My brother Gavin lives on a hilltop farm just outside of Geraldine. We’ve driven the road from Geraldine to Fairlie a million times. And being simple country boys, we’re still amused each time we see the road sign for Hanging Rock—maybe you saw the rock hanging below the road sign on a piece of rope?
    For us as children, the winter weekend landmarks in this area were the ice skating rinks. One in Albury; one in Fairlie; another at Burke’s Pass; and another at Lake Tekapo.
    Until about ten years ago, we had a holiday house at Lake Tekapo, with views over the church, the lake and the (in)famous statue of MacKenzie’s sheep dog (at the end of our driveway). We spent most of our childhood holidays there. Several family weddings took place in that church.
    The same brother, Gavin, still a helicopter pilot at 68 years old, lived for many years in another house on the shores of Lake Tekapo. A lot of his work at that time was search & rescue in the Mt Cook area. He started flying when he was 18. He sold his VW Beetle to get a down payment on a small plane, a Piper Cub. For years it was parked (tied down) in an open field near his house. He would take off from this field (“paddock”) then fly to wherever he was working that day. On one occasion, he landed the plane between two rows of parked cars at Lake Tekapo skifield.
    My youngest brother, Paul, worked on the various hydroelectric projects in the MacKenzie basin—notably the canal that takes water from below Lake Tekapo across to Lake Pukaki. He drove these giant earthmoving machines (“scrapers”), mainly at night, although I’m not sure why. He now lives alone on a launch in a cove just north of Sydney.
    You probably noticed the small astronomy observatory on the top of Mt John, that little hump that looks down over Lake Tekapo. In the 1960s it used to be a joint venture between the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Canterbury (our alma mater). At one point, the Canterbury University Students’ Ass’n, which was led by self-described Maoists, decided that the observatory was being used for US espionage. So they organized a protest at Mt John. The police defended the observatory with dogs (German Shepherds), one of which bit a protestor in his private parts. The protestor was then arrested. The following edition of the student newspaper ran a banner headline: “Protestor Arrested for Attacking Police Dog with his Penis”. Ah, the good old days of our miss-spent youth 😊😊

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    1. Ah those were the innocent days of noble protests with nibble outcomes! Thanks for posting–we certainly got the flavor of your native origins and its beauty. Tekapo was turquoise blue and Glacier Lake was smooth as a mirror when we were there. Unfortunately could not join the star walk as it was fully booked. Contemplated a sky dive but they were also indisposed at the time (no reply–whew!!) but these are definitely popular activities from the Heritage Hotel and environs. Great walks and too many to complete but a wonderful holiday spot for locals and international tourists. I can also see the extent of civil engineering opportunities in such a small countries–the roads would be enough to keep everyone busy, let alone the power stations, river canals and diversions, embankments, and other infrastructure widespread throughout such a tiny country! Good job from which all benefit. It’s only concrete…and rocks seem to be plentiful in all the riverbeds and coastline before even mining the earth!

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