Travels: Around Glenorchy

March 18, 2017 • 8:30 am

Today (yesterday when you read this, though remember that if you’re in the US or UK, it’s tomorrow already!), we toured the environs of the small (population 300) town of Glenorchy, about 45 km north of Queenstown. Our first stop was the beginning of the Routeburn Track, a very famous 32-km (usually 3 day) hike through the southern Alps. Kevin and I (see Kevin’s previous two photo contributions here) just did the first hour up the track, as we were doing a general tour of the area.

It rained during the night, and was still very overcast at dawn, but later the clouds broke up completely and now (4 pm) it’s completely sunny and clear.  This is the view from Kevin’s deck at dawn.

The same view just now, at 4:30 pm. I’m told the weather is extremely changeable here.

The beginning of the Glenorchy end of the Routeburn Track:

There’s a small exhibit showing the birdlife of the park at the entrance; many of the endemic birds are endangered—often by introduced Australian possums and by stoats. They poison and trap the predators to protect the birds, but many are declining or on the edge of extinction, including the Mohua or yellowhead (Mohoua ochrocephala) shown on the poster:

It’s mossy and wet for the first part of the track, even now in the dry season. No wonder this area was used in the film “Lord of the Rings”:

Then a dear little gray bird with a black beak and feet hopped onto the trail in front of us. It turned out this was a bird famed for its inquisitiveness and fearlessness: the South Island Robin (Petroica australis). There are two subspecies, one on the South Island and one on Stewart Island, 30 km south of the South Island. As I photographed it, it moved closer and closer:

Then it hopped on my shoe and began pecking at my shoelaces! It was so light that I couldn’t feel it land on my foot, but the pecks were gentle and perceptible. My guess is that it mistook them for either a worm or nesting material.

Then it hopped on Kevin’s foot and tried to steal his shoelace! What an adorable little creature it was.

Kevin, my genial host:

We saw another bird in a tree at the track entrance. I don’t know what species it was, but I’m sure a reader will identify it below:

Dew in the grass:

New Zealand is of course full of sheep, but seems almost as full of cows. The dairy industry in this area is famous, and produces good ice cream. Here’s a big bull that got out of the field and was lying by the road. Intrepid as ever, I approached him to take his photo:

Meanwhile, a cow urinated in the field nearby. Notice how daintily she lifts her tail to avoid soaking herself:

Although there doesn’t seem to be a problem with biting mosquitos in New Zealand, the replacement in that niche is sandflies. There are 13 species in the genus Austrosimulium, but just two species bite: the New Zealand blackfly (A. australense), and the West Coast blackfly (A. ungulatum). I’m told that in some places they make camping very difficult, and in once place I was bitten many times almost instantly. Below are two bites at the base of my thumb; you can see where the fly just drills a hole in the skin, and quickly! Fortunately, the swelling and itching abate within an hour or so:

There are two named places of note in the area. The first, as one reader pointed out yesterday, is the village of Paradise, which seems to consist of only one house—the residence of the family who owns the adjacent sheep station. You can see it behind me in this photo:

Now I almost share the plight of singer Charlene, who, in one of the world’s worst pop songs, sang these words (among many others):

Oh I’ve been to Nice and the isle of Greece
While I sipped champagne on a yacht
I moved like Harlow in Monte Carlo and showed ’em what I’ve got
I’ve been undressed by kings and I’ve seen some things
That a woman ain’t s’posed to see
I’ve been to Paradise, but I’ve never been to me

Remember that godawful song? (“I’ve been undressed by kings.” Really??) It may in fact be the worst pop song I know of. If you wish, you can hear Charlene’s version, a paean to antifeminism, here. Well, now I’ve been to Paradise, but I’m not sure if I’ve been to Me.

The other place of note is the River Jordan, which most of the year is a small, dry, and rocky creekbed:

Because I wanted to be baptized in the River Jordan, which inconveniently offered no water, I had to pour water over myself while standing in the creek bed (all photos of me are by Kevin):

Now I iz baptized in River Jordan. I can haz Hevin now?

After a long day of walking and touring, Kevin and I repaired to the Glenorchy Cafe for lunch. His repast was a BLT, mine a pork steak sandwich on a cibatta with grilled onions, vegetables, and cheese, served with fries. We both washed down our food with a local brew, Speight’s. The food was superb, especially for a town so small. It’s a highly rated place.

Thus endeth yesterday’s (Saturday in NZ) jaunts. I’m writing this the day before it’s posted; when you read this, I’ll be moving to a backpacker’s hostel in Queenstown (the town is packed out for lodging) and getting ready for Monday’s all-day tour (by boat) of the Milford Sound. Of the 12 hour trip, 10 hours involves getting to the sound and back by bus and only 1.5-2 hours is on the boat. Still, it’s supposed to be one of New Zealand’s most spectacular sites, and has whales, three species of porpoises (porpoi?), and penguins. I’m excited because of its reputation; Wikipedia says this:

Milford Sound / Piopiotahi is a fiord in the south west of New Zealand’s South Island within Fiordland National Park, Piopiotahi (Milford Sound) Marine Reserve, and the Te WahipounamuWorld Heritage site. It has been judged the world’s top travel destination in an international survey (the 2008 Travelers’ Choice Destinations Awards by TripAdvisor) and is acclaimed as New Zealand’s most famous tourist destination. Rudyard Kipling had previously called it the eighth Wonder of the World.

The world’s top travel destination! (I would have thought the Taj Mahal was a contender.) Stay tuned for my report.

45 thoughts on “Travels: Around Glenorchy

  1. Great scenery. Reminds me of home (coastal Washington State.) BTW, I believe the yellow-breasted bird is a Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala) common throughout NZ.

  2. The trend away from sheep and toward intensive dairy farming is having severe negative effects on water quality. It quite a controversial topic in NZ (as is the use of 1080 poison).

    Milford Sound is lousy with sand flies. Be prepared. By the way, my experience was that their bites kept itching for about three days.

        1. My experience over many years is that DEET is the better repellent.
          By the way, there are mosquitoes.

          1. I use DEET in as strong a concentration I can find. You have to be careful not to get it on plastics. It will melt glasses frames, flylines, etc.

            As far as I know, it’s considered safe for use on the skin. I wouldn’t drink it. Some people are afraid to use it because it’s a scary chemical (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), a fear exploited by alternative lifestyle mavens.

            1. Agreed here. In the Midwest, where chiggers are the worst thing that can happen to a human, far worse than mosquitoes, deet is the best. Spray it on your socks and around the waist area where the chiggers will get you. But I have also had success with picaridin. Hard to find it in levels higher than 15 to 25 percent.

            2. I dissolved the plastic on the grip of my first DSLR – the original Digital Rebel – just by having some DEET on my hands when I picked it up.

              It’s bad for lenses too. I put everything in my car before I spray down with that stuff then once the spray cloud has settled, then I open up the car to get out my equipment….I’ve learned to wipe my hands now.

      1. Deet is certainly the best repellent, but it does not work on tsetse flies. Picaridin is OK for mosquitoes, but not ticks. I had a link on my old computer to some studies of deet that showed that above 40% deet in a repellent did not add to effectiveness.

        Here in Albuquerque we have The Bugman, who used to be at the University of New Mexico. He recommended a repellent made with catnip. I tried it out only to find that the mosquitoes around my house must have been cross breeding with cats, as they found me irresistible when I used it–the one and only time.

        1. There are no tsetse flies in NZ, and ticks don’t get on humans. The only things to worry about are sandflies and mosquitoes. The repellents sold in chemists, supermarkets, dairies (corner stores) etc are all effective.

          1. I was “speaking” in general about deet.

            Ticks are nasty critters here in the US and there are several species that can transmit a variety of diseases to humans.

              1. The deer around my house drop their ticks all over & my dog likes shoving her face in the grass so I’m always pulling them off her in the summer. So gross when they get on me.

    1. We do get a lot of mosquitos up here in North Island. Fortunately they don’t seem to carry malaria or filaria.

      1080 poison seems to be regarded in some areas almost with anti-vaxxer-like superstition and hatred. IMO if it’s the best way to kill off the possums that would otherwise destroy the bush then it’s entirely justified.

      The spread of intensive dairy farming has had detrimental effects on river water quality in many areas. Cows do just two things continually – eat huge amounts of grass at one end, and the other end ….
      And they are getting fed with antibiotics which threaten us all when antibiotic-resistant diseases increase.
      Meanwhile intensive irrigation is threatening to deplete the flow in many rivers.

      That cow is as artificial as a chemical factory.


  3. I came off the Routeburn track here on 2 March 1992 and while waiting for the bus into Glenorchy a South Island Robin came and sat on my foot!
    I remember the date because when I got to Glenorchy, I rang my brother to wish him a happy birthday for March 1, which it still was where he was.

  4. I find all towns, no matter how small, in NZ have delicious food on offer at the smallest places. The cheese is superb there so eat lots of cheese!

    1. This ? This re, Ms MacPherson, the bagazillion of such small Iowa towns and the ability to find within countless numbers of them superbly tasty comestibles is utterly t r u e.

      For that reason alone and with the grandkiddos along, I shall purposely traverse its Back Roads in order to come across a specific joint (in)famous, say, for its pork tenderloin sandwich.

      eg, case in point: The Lucky Pig of owners who were formerly swine – producing aficianodos, Ogden, Iowa, current population of record: 2,044.


      ps Plus, then, one needs to end one’s visit by sampling a la mode and prehending along with 100% skimmed – off cows’ cream within their (barn – style) lattes these Backwaters’ just tree – picked and pitted tart cherry pies !

    2. Things have changed then. When I toured (A great big slice of) NZ in 1991, the food outside of the cities was pretty dire.

      The hamburgers were good (though I would skip the beetroot and pineapple). Otherwise, it seemed like the tastiest things we could buy (on the savory side) were savloys — which are simply not very interesting (if you grew up in the US Middle West amongst sausage makers of German, Polish, and Czech ancestry).

      Now the dairies were great. Loved the ice cream!

      Very glad to hear things have changed!

  5. Oh and I really hate sandflies. I was once bitten by one when I was just standing on the beach, in sneakers, in winter!

    1. Agreed about the sandflies.

      They seem to swarm everywhere in otherwise deserted* places like the West Coast of South Island.

      (*except for occasional swarms of tourists on certain days in summer.

      Which leads me to wonder – what do the sandflies live on all the time when tourist isn’t on the menu? )


  6. Love all the pictures of scenery (and food!) and reading about your adventures in New Zealand! I found that the itching and irritation from sand fly bites last for days. Try not to scratch them!
    Looking forward to more pictures when you can post them!

  7. The black and yellow bird looks like a tomtit(Petroica macrocephala). The name is a contraction of tom titmouse.

  8. So Galápagan of your darling charcoal – hued South Island robins ! What a sweet, sweet critter !

    These travelogues of Dr Coyne’s are so mightily intriguing.

    Circa that (sorta polled but not really) Hereford dude (of course, of Herefordshire, England – ancestry), .that. ! closeness ! is quite pluckily gutsy ! While this one beef breed is unrivaled
    in its Bovidae docility of temperament, … … s t i l l !

    Its head butt (say, from inside a cattle chute !) , unlike a wee kitteh’s head butt,
    upon a human’s persona ? ‘d do a lotta.lotta. damage !
    Lovely of Mr Kevin to host such a day’s pilgrimage ! and the noms after ?
    The Good Sandwich, the BLT, is my (and, of course, Iowa’s piggishly) most favored one.

  9. So Galápagan of your darling charcoal – hued South Island robins ! What a sweet, sweet critter !

    These travelogues of Dr Coyne’s are so mightily intriguing.

    Circa that (sorta polled but not really) Hereford dude (of course, of Herefordshire, England – ancestry), .that. ! closeness ! is quite pluckily gutsy, Dr Coyne ! While this one beef breed is unrivaled in its Bovidae docility of temperament, … … s t i l l !

    Its head butt (say, from inside a cattle chute !), unlike that of a wee kitteh’s head butt, upon a human’s persona ?

    ‘d so do a lotta.lotta. damage !

    Lovely of Mr Kevin to host such a day’s pilgrimage ! and the noms after ? The Good Sandwich, the BLT, is my (and, of course, Iowa’s piggishly) most favored one.


  10. The bird is the South Island tomtit (P. m. macrocephala. Maori name: ngirungiru

    Robins, tomtits and fantails are the most prevalent native birds you will see in this area Gerry.

    Enjoy your stay!

  11. Dear Jerry, After reading your latest blog I was a little worried. Lately I read “The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston. On his trip to Honduras was bitten by sand flies and weeks after he had returned home he and some of the other participants developed a serious disease called “Leishmaniasis”. I’m sure you’ll be fine, but thought I would point this out.

    I enjoy your blog very much, Thank You for your effort. Dave

    David Gonzales

    1. Happily, according to the CDC, it doesn’t occur in NZ:

      In the Old World (the Eastern Hemisphere), leishmaniasis is found in some parts of Asia, the Middle East, Africa (particularly in the tropical region and North Africa, with some cases elsewhere), and southern Europe. It is not found in Australia or the Pacific islands.

  12. Ah, I am so glad we live in a country where everyone can have , and voice, their opinion. I love the song,and it was the second one out of many I bought when I got Itunes. Hugs

  13. I’ve never heard of “I’ve Never Been to Me”.

    My nominations for world’s worst pop song remain “MacArthur Park”, “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”, and “Feelings”. This last has been covered by lots of notables including Nina Simone, but WikiPedia notes that “During a lecture at Chautauqua Institution, Julie Andrews stated that she considered this song too difficult to sing because it had no meaning behind it”

    1. I have to disagree. By far the worst pop song ever is Mickey by Toni Basil. This song is truly horrid. I dare you to listen to it, or worse yet, watch the video.

  14. I’ve mixed feelings about “I’ve been to Paradise”. Musically, I think it has a great tune.

    Originally sung by Randy Crawford

    And I’m perfectly happy that the singer was a wild child and a high-class courtesan, even if she didn’t have the foresight to stash some cash while she was jet-setting. Some regrets are allowable in songs. It was Charlene who added that dreadful mawkish bourgeois spoken ‘bridge’ that hammered it into the ground.

    P.S. ‘Isle of Greece’ makes no sense at all. Should have been Isles of Greece.

  15. With all due respect, Professor (Emeritus), the right (italian) word for that kind of bread you wisely chose is ciabatta (pronounce chah-bah-tah), not cibatta.
    It literally means “slipper”.
    But an appetizing one.

    A loyal fan from the mysterious island of Sardinia, Italy (do you feel like visiting us someday?

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