Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thinking of this song a lot at the moment :)
It was funny to note the change in wording of the electronic billboards after our non drought ending rain last week too :).

People are actually taking it seriously which is good to see, including the guy at the car yard who apologised for our new car not being washed before we took delivery of it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Free Treasure

One of the things about living in NZ is the ubiquitous green and yellow Department of Conservation markers you see around, particularly in rural areas, and how easy it is to ignore them, or think you'll come back to them some other time. Try not to; you might miss out on some cool stuff.

Near Marokopa there are three such signs, and on one of our days there we decided to check them out, knowing little or nothing about what they described. "We" being my wife and the old friend brothers we were in Marokopa with (seen here in best adventuring/don't-take-my-photo poses), brother's parents minding the kids for the afernoon:
The landscape around this part of the country is very limestone-y and prone to interesting erosion, as this appallingly lit photograph typifies. I love the view from the backyard of this house:
Our first stop was at the intriguingly named Natural Bridge at Maungapohue. For a few minutes you walk down an average little river canyon, like so:
Then suddenly you walk around a corner and are confronted with this, and involuntarily say "Wow" or words to that effect:
If you are wondering about scale, there is a person at the bottom of this shot. It's cathedralistic.

As to how it was formed, it's basically a cave with a collapsed roof. If you want to know more, click on this pic and read the info board :) :
And just a few steps out the other side and you wouldn't know it was there at all.
Also around the cave are littered eroded rock formations, including fun rocks for offspring to climb through, and intrepid explorers to conquer (note aforementioned DOC marker).

There are also rocks that look like they escaped from a Jim Henson movie and are about to wake up and start talking to you.
Moving on from the collapsed cave, a few minutes along the road at Piripri there is an intact one. This photographs about as well as you'd expect a large cave with only ambient lighting to photograph. On a hot and humid summer day descending into the cool gloom is incredibly refreshing.

And lastly a few minutes back along the road to Marokopa, and the last stop, are the magnificent Marokopa falls:
All of these things are pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but I love that these things are just freely available to explore and discover at your leisure. I knew nothing about these three things until we stumbled across them, and (taxes notwithstanding), no-one charged us an entry fee to go and look at them, or made us take a tour. We could just take it in on our own terms and in our own time.

Including family selfies when we took the children to see the sights on our way to our second camping destination the next day:
 I am smiling, it's just hard to concentrate on taking the photo as well :).

Just a splash

So I blog the other day about a drought being declared, and this happens
Lightning near Palmy, about 100 miles from where I live. Photo credit T.Hamilton, via Dompost. Yoinked because I wish I'd taken it.

It rains for a couple of days straight :).

This is just a splash rather than an actual drought breaker though, since there isn't any more rain of significance in the forecast for the next ten days at least.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Comet Chasing

One benefit of our current drought is that it ensured clear skies when I went looking for Comet Panstarrs last week. It was faint, but I managed to capture it on film CCD, mostly by boresighting the camera since while I could see the comet with the naked eye, I couldn't through the viewfinder.
Comet Panstarrs over Wellington and Makara West-Wind windfarm from Wainuiomata Hill Road lookout, 08 March 2013.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Endless Summer

Listening to: Foals - Holy Fire (2013)

Back in January we had our big fine spell of 10 days with no cloud or rain, and we all thought that was a big thing. Five and a half weeks ago I blogged about getting a month's worth of rain overnight to end it.

We haven't had any real rain since.

Today we in Wellington joined the rest of the North Island in officially being declared a drought zone, with water use restrictions applying from tomorrow. We've come close to this once or twice in my memory, but this is the first time I can recall it actually happening: even with the restrictions there is only an estimated 20 odd days supply remaining. There is some rain forecast for this weekend, but it isn't hanging around; given how dry everything is it will mostly run-off anyway before the next high takes over. It's the complete opposite of last summer. Long fine days with clear skies and little wind, and lots of evening swims at the beach. Last summer we barely got outside, except when we went camping and merely got wet somewhere other than home. Weirdly though we haven't used our barbecue all season - we have been too busy going to other peoples. I've gotten so used to the weather that for a while I stopped looking at the forecast.

This NIWA sourced satellite image quite dramatically shows the difference between the summer of 2011/2012, and 2012/2013:

About halfway up the east coast in those images is Hawke's Bay, traditionally one of the driest parts of the country anyway. Here is the view from Te Mata peak in central Hawke's Bay on New Years day, before the drought really took hold.