Sunday, 16 December 2012

Kea, the amazing dancing bird

Jackie doesn't think that's a very good title, but we saw Kea's on our trip up to Arthur's Pass yesterday and last night on our camp and they are just the most mischievous, lovable birds ever! I've always had a soft spot for parrots and these are the nearest I've got to them in the wild.

I'm posing!
We're told they are very rare, with only between 1000 and 5000 in existence, but we got mobbed by 5 of them! We pulled into a lookout high on the pass and they came hopping over, posing for photos and pecking at anything they could get their beaks into, the tyres on the van, the waste outlet on the van, all rubber surrounds to the windows and the vents on the roof had a special attraction. They look so appealingly at you and you want to feed them, but all the signs say its forbidden. If they are fed they get too reliant on it and then, when humans are in short supply in the winter they can starve. It also encourages them close to roads where they can get run over.

We had an amazing 15 minutes or so with them before we feared for the future of the van and had to drive off with one of them still chewing at the roof vent! He finally hopped off as we drove off.
I'm cute!

Later that evening a couple of them visited us in our camp at Arthur's Pass Village and posed around to the delight of everyone there (until they took a liking to someone's tent and got chased off!). One hopped onto a table outside of van parking site that was cluttered with shells someone had previously left there. He sifted through them, chucking out one's he didn't like, moving others over.

I'm destructive! But look, I've got water out...

What are you doing? Can I see?
Look at my wings, can you see my highlights?
Jackie was very good and didn't feed them, even though it was very hard for her!

Anyway, Arthur's Pass was extraordinary. It runs right over the Southern Alps, across the Indo-Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, high up in the sky and then down the other side. The views are absolutely to die for, as well as the Kea's and I would recommend anyone to go there. It must rank amongst one of the best places in the world, certainly in my top three, after the Himalaya and European Alps, even higher for me than Scotland (and that's saying something).

We took photo after photo but they don't really do it justice. Here's a few:
The Devil's Punchbowl waterfall
A meadow of violet lupins beneath snow capped peaks

My attempt at 'art'. Shows a wide open glacier formed valley
A view the other way. The railway bridge is just visible, apparently one of the best railway journeys in the world

More views - and our little camper!
We drove on an on through this, stopping for little walks and to take photos. The great thing about this is that it is accessible to all, if you're super fit there's caving, climbing, mountaineering, kayaking, white water rafting, horse-riding, to name but a few and if you can't get about you still get fantastic views from a car.

After a bit more driving we came to the Cave stream scenic reserve, a place I'd read about in our 'Rough Guide'. Its a crazy cave traverse that almost anyone of reasonable fitness and a bit of adventure can do. You wander down a track, equipped with a headtorch and woolen/synthetic clothing and trainers you don't mind getting wet, find the entrance and wade in! You go in where the river comes out of the cave and follow it upstream through a system of narrow twisting caves, accompanied by thundering waterfalls. Jackie wasn't sure - you start off waist deep, and she was just thinking how long trainers would take to dry, when this German girl walked passed, off to do it on her own! 

Having talked her into it we went and put lots of clothes on, spoke to some locals who arrived, and took most of them off, went down the track, met the young lady, who'd got waist deep and decided it wasn't sensible on her own, even though the girl who'd told her about it had done it on her own! We offered to take her back with us, and I think we were all glad she hadn't gone on her own, it was pitch black obviously, and our head torches were fine, but her hand held wasn't so good, she also seemed a bit unsteady at times! It was amazing, the roof glittering with iron pyrites (fools gold) and the water rushing down, it never got as deep again, but certainly groin level, and it was jolly cold! At the end, just as feet were going a bit numb were some metal staples to get you up beside the waterfall and a chain to hold on to to get you along the ledge!

Really enjoyed it, but it certainly wasn't in the plan when we got up this morning!

No photos I'm afraid as Jackie told me I couldn't take my camera in case it got wet!

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