Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's already New Years Day here in Nelson, New Zealand, but I know it's still not quite the New Year back in Los Angeles yet.

Since our last entry, we've been socked in by flooding and heavy rains en route to Westport from Fox Glacier before finally getting some decent weather (i.e. partly cloudy with on-and-off squalls) the next day. That allowed us to visit the impressive Mangatini Falls as well as the Oparara Arch and Moria Gate Arch near Karamea. That day ended off with a blustery late afternoon sighting of a fur seal colony at Cape Foulwind by Tauranga Bay.

On New Year's Eve, we left Westport for Hanmer Springs. We visited powerful Maruia Falls, the Maruia Hot Springs, and the Thermal Pools at Hanmer Springs. The Maruia Spring brought us back to our onsen experiences in Japan. It was also the first day in probably over a week that we finally got a day without rain.

Today, we left Hanmer Springs before dawn to catch a morning whale-watching tour in Kaikoura (that prevented us from staying up to do the countdown with the rest of the tourists and kiwis in town). Even though we were waitlisted with no guarantee of joining this tour, we were fortunate to be the last ones called, and boy were we glad to have done it. That's because we saw three sperms wales plus a massive school of dusky dolphins doing various jumps and backflips.

The rest of the day was spent trying out a couple of local crayfish dives while walking to Ohau Falls while seeing another fur seal colony nearby. Then, we concluded the day with a long drive all the way to Nelson. Julie had a little bit of food poisoning over dinner, but for the moment, she seems fine now. Tomorrow, we're expecting a long day exploring the Abel Tasman National Park area...

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Monday, December 28, 2009

The West Coast of New Zealand

Since Christmas Day, we've been busy continuing to visit some familiar haunts as well as some new places we missed five years ago. We were also busy playing the role of salespeople in an effort to make bookstores and information centers more aware of our New Zealand Waterfalls book.

But in terms of sightseeing, we went to Queenstown on Boxing Day. It was a very busy place and certainly not nearly as dead as we remembered it five years ago. It also seemed to be a bit more developed though we kind of expected that since just about everything these days has to keep pace with the population increase and increased tourism.

It rained pretty relentlessly in town so we didn't go up the gondola and get that classic view of Queenstown fronting Lake Wakatipu fronting the Remarkables.

The next day, we left Queenstown and headed to Fox Glacier through the Haast Pass Highway cutting through Mt Aspiring National Park. We revisited Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls. However, the wall of waterfalls tumbling down the mountains weren't seen this time around because the clouds were hanging low and thus obscuring our views of them.

The fog turned into rain when we got right onto the West Coast. So we didn't bother stopping at Haast Bay nor at Knights Point. When we got to Fox Glacier, we spent some time checking out the glacier itself which was something we hadn't seen in the past. The walk to the glacier seemed shorter than we remembered it for Franz Josef Glacier, but the glacier was no less spectacular. We also got to see some of the waterfalls coming down both sides of the valley. I made a return visit to the glacier later in the evening when the weather had improved significantly. However, even despite the better weather towards the end of the day, the mountains of the Southern Alps were still blocked by clouds so we didn't go for a walk around Lake Matheson.

Today, we went to Franz Josef Glacier, but not before stealing a few looks at Mt Cook as the clouds briefly parted just enough for us to see it from our motel before the clouds obscured it again. Back at Franz, we noticed the walk was much easier and more popular than before, but it was also disconcerting to see how much the glacier had retreated in five years. At the end of the day, we finally decided to walk around Lake Matheson in the hopes of getting that postcard view of Mt Tasman reflected in the lake, but the clouds refused to cooperate and reveal the snowy mountain when we were on the other side of the lake.

I guess that's how it is sometimes when sights like these are weather dependent. And this is especially true of New Zealand's notoriously rainy West Coast...

Hugo Chavez Renames Angel Falls

This bit of news maybe a few days old, but when you're in New Zealand, it's not like you're actively paying attention to the news as the days are very busy.

Anyways, Hugo Chavez is not a very shy guy when it comes to making headlines, and this is one that is certain to shakeup the waterfall world a bit. Chavez decided to rename Angel Falls to Kerepakupai-merú, which is derived from the indigenous Pemón language.

You can read this development from a New York Times article here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wet and Busy Christmas

Today was a very busy day. We started off by heading straight for Milford Sound from Te Anau. It was partly cloudy down here, but it was raining when we got there. We arrived just in time for another Milford Sound Cruise, but this time it didn't seem as good as the first time when the weather was clearing and we were visited by fur seals, penguins, and dolphins. This time, the weather remained uncooperative but we did get to see fur seals and some dolphins that weren't in the mood to show off.

Afterwards, with the bad weather, we decided against doing a day walk on the Routeburn Track towards Earland Falls and maybe Key Summit. Instead, we drove back to the end of the Lower Hollyford Road and hiked the Hollyford Track to Hidden Falls and back. Hidden Falls was gushing, but it was hard to take a photo of it given the massive amount of spray. It was a long hike, but mostly flat and comfortable despite the rain. Plus, it was nice and quiet, which was something we missed in our previous trips to Asia this year. As the afternoon progressed, the rain lightened up and eventually gave way to sun.

When we finished the hike, we decided to capitalize on the weather and return to the Milford Sound. That was when we finally got to see the spectacular scenery on the Milford Sound Highway that we never really got to see due to rain and low hanging clouds. With ephemeral waterfalls still draping the towering snowy peaks and steep U-shaped valleys very reminiscent of Yosemite, we really looked forward to seeing Milford Sound in afternoon light. But when we got there, it was still cloudy though not as disappointing as this morning.

Oh well, we tried. We ended up having dinner at one of the few places in Te Anau still open for Christmas day. And so ended a very long day. We're headed to Queenstown tomorrow, but we might take a break from the waterfalling to recuperate from today.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Inside the Octagon!

After spending yesterday doing a couple of hikes in the Peel Forest (basically the Acland Falls and Emily Falls hikes), and then enjoying Mt Cook under beautiful skies, today we had a real busy day going from Mt Cook to Dunedin and then sightseeing both the city and the nearby peninsula. We also managed to squeeze views of Wakefield Falls in the Tasman Valley.

Our day in Dunedin was spent visiting the familiar Octagon (basically a city block shaped like an octagon with a pair of attractive buildings and a lawn area perfect for picnics), but this time, we had time to walk around and enjoy the place since we're spending the night here instead of just zooming by like last time. So we also managed to visit a charming railway station just east of the Octagon (right in the city centre) while stumbling into a farmers market where we loaded up on fresh cherries as well as a delicious galette (a gluten- and wheat-free type of crepe) made by a French family.

Later in the day, we drove all the way out onto a peninsula where we visited the Larnach Castle, saw a couple of sea lions resting on the beach at Sandfly Bay, and then unsuccessfully tried to spot penguins at Pilots Beach.

Before we knew it, we were back in our motel at 10pm. There was still daylight at this hour since we're far south in latitude. Still, we have yet another long day of driving ahead of us tomorrow as we go to Te Anau.

With the weather going from warm and sunny to rainy (albeit brief) at the very end of the day, we're expecting the weather to deteriorate into the typical wet New Zealand weather we've come to know. We hope we're wrong, but considering Fiordland is one of the rainiest spots in the country (let alone the world), we're not holding our breath for blue skies. At least, NZ is a place I'd rather be than inside an octagon, MMA style!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Diaoshuilou Waterfall Man

It thought it was strange to see an article written by the China Daily about the man who jumps off the top of Diaoshuilou Waterfall in the Mudanjiang Province in the northeast of China.

When we were there, the falls was dry. But we still witnessed the waterfall diver dutifully doing his dive, which he apparently does twice a day. I guess he didn't have to worry about whirlpools or turbulence on the day we went. But from the photo in the article, it seemed like they came at the right time of year. Amazing that this guy has been doing it for 20 years.

Picking Up Where We Left Off

We're now on day 2 of our return to New Zealand.

Day 1 involved us arriving in Auckland where it was raining. We then caught a connecting flight to Christchurch, where we began our trip in earnest.

Five years ago, we only had time to spend the night near the airport. That was because we started that day in Invercargill, drove through the Catlins Forest seeing five waterfalls along the way, then drove all the way up the South Island to Christchurch. Over the years, we've learned a lot about pacing ourselves and planning better over the years. So now, we're planning to cover this same stretch over a period of five days instead of one long hectic day.

When we arrived in Christchurch yesterday, it started off sunny. So we spent some time walking around the city centre. Unfortunately, our GPS/netbook combo failed. I wasn't sure if it was the GPS or the netbook software that failed. In any case, we forked over money to buy a Kiwi version of the Nuvi. It wasn't cheap, but at least we weren't traveling blind.

We then spent the afternoon driving all the way to Akaroa. It was too bad that it was Sunday because many places were closed. Plus, the weather deteriorated quickly as it rained pretty hard the rest of the night. I guess Summer hasn't started yet.

Today, we visited Ryde Falls as well as the Lyttleton area by way of the scenic Summit Road. The weather was much better today as it was sunny all day long.

Tomorrow, we're headed to Aoraki, otherwise known as Mt Cook. We're also making a stop to the Peel Forest along the way where we can possibly see three waterfalls there. Hopefully, the weather continues to hold up, but we're well aware that New Zealand can see four seasons in a day. So maybe we're just hoping against hope...

Validation of Our Cherrapunji Observations

I knew we weren't crazy or seeing things based on our recent visit to the Sohra area back in early November to see Nohkalikai Falls among others.

Back then, we were wondering whether the "wettest place on earth" claim was warranted, because all we noticed were a bunch of moors covered in dry grass and trickling or disappointing waterfalls.

Well, I just chanced upon this BBC article, which confirmed our suspicions. It just goes to show you that when you see something in person, you get educated even well before someone tells you about it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Coming Full Circle In NZ

We're now headed back to the place that essentially changed our lives; to the place that expanded our waterfalling into a worldwide endeavor; to the place that empowered us to believe in ourselves and embrace the beauty and diversity of our world.

Just a little over five years ago, Julie and I got married and honeymooned in New Zealand.

I still smile and remember fondly the memories acquired on that trip. And tonight, we're about to see different parts of the Land of the Long White Cloud while revisiting a few old haunts.

Even though no one really knows what the future holds, I can say for certain that this trip will be the end of our crazy globetrotting and the start of the next chapter in our lives. While I warned at the start of the year in our newsletter that the winds of change were coming in 2009, they will have made their mark in 2010.

Indeed, life will be different, but we'll still be waterfalling just at a little more deliberate pace.

In the mean time, you can follow our musings and happenings during this "end of the extended honeymoon" by following this blog or get updates via Twitter or our Facebook group.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Peru Waterfalls To Be Sacrificed?

An article caught my attention regarding a deal between Peru and Brazil where Peru is supposed to export hydroelectricity to Brazil. In order to generate the needed electricity, Peru needs more hydroelectric schemes while capitalizing on the steep terrain of the Andes Mountains. What's not clear yet is whether any of the major waterfalls in the country will be adversely affected.

While we can appreciate the need for energy to try to meet ever-increasing demands, we worry whether losing waterfalls (which we predicted in this article) is the way to go in light of less expensive options (though politically unpopular) like using less energy or population control.

Click here to see the news article regarding this development.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hikers Rescued from Eaton Canyon

We don't get much rain in Los Angeles. When it does, it wreaks havoc. After the recent Station fires in August, the hills are more prone to landslides. Yesterday, 4 people were rescued from Eaton Canyon after they were trapped by water and fallen debris. They were probably hiking to Eaton Canyon Falls because it's a popular day hike on the weekends.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Waterfall of the Week

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Waterfall of the Week