Monday, February 4, 2007 6:03 PM
part 2

Some time later, I was reminded of a television show that I used to watch, called "Monkey". It was loosely based on a Chinese book whose English title is "Journey to the West". It begins with the birth of the Monkey spirit, from a stone egg from a special mountain. Another explanation for the Moeraki boulders: Monkey's brothers and sisters. Perhaps the broken ones have hatched. :-)

The hotel in Dunedin was our first experience with the seemingly arbitrary hotel rating system in New Zealand. The place was advertised as a three star establishment, but it was worth only two stars. We also had a lot of trouble finding it - the weather was dark and raining, it even hailed for a while, and the narrow one-way streets closely lines with large trees...

The next morning we drove again along that windy road out of Dunedin, this time past the penguin sanctuary, another 15 kilometres to the Royal Albatross colony at Taiaroa Head. It's the only colony of albatrosses in the world that's on the mainland.

The albatross is an interesting bird - its wing-span can be up to three metres. It spends years in the air, perhaps landing only occasionally on the water (no-one really knows), so it "forgets" how to walk properly and landing on the ground is a problem (achieved most often by crashing into the ground, but at low speed). Given so much time at sea, the albatross has developed a way to desalinate sea water in order to drink. The bird has a special duct that separates the salt from the water, whose exit is near the nostrils, so the bird appears to have a constantly runny nose.

Amazingly, it didn't rain while we were at the colony, but the wind was bitterly cold, especially at the top of the hill where the albatross nests were. Fortunately, the observation huts were well insulated.

We left the albatross colony and headed for Lanarch Castle, "only 15 minutes drive from Dunedin City". That is, after driving back *in* to Dunedin City from the albatross colony. sigh. And it rained.

Lanarch Castle is a big house surrounded by themed gardens - South Seas garden, which contains native plants from all over New Zealand, Rock Garden, Rainforest Garden, among others. The upper floor of the house is said to be haunted by a ghost. Aren't they all?

Later that day day, we drove 300 kilometres drive to Manapouri. We stayed at a motel by Lake Manapouri. The view was great when the cloud went away, which happened for a short time.

The next day we took a cruise across Lake Manapouri, to the Manapouri hydroelectric power station. We got off the boat and took a bus into the station itself. The bus drives on the right-hand side of the road, unlike everywhere else in New Zealand. The driver jokingly suggested that it was because station was built by Americans, but apprently the real reason is because the tunnel is so narrow that drivers need to be able to see the wall beside them to know how much clearance they have.

The access tunnel is over two kilometres long, in a spiral, to a depth of more than 200 metres. The turbine shafts go even lower than that, but the viewing gallery allows people to see only the control floor and nothing below it. The first thing that one might notice about the tunnel itself is that there are no structural supports of any kind - the tunnel walls are made of granite, and geologists consider them to be sufficicently solid that nothing more is needed.

Very reassuring.

There isn't much to see in the power station itself, since the action is happening even further underground. Meanwhile, the nine-metre-long bus managed to turn around in the six-metre-wide tunnel, by backing and filling in a short side tunnel. That was fun to watch.

After leaving the power station, the bus took us over Wilmot Pass, through the rainforest and past many waterfalls, to meet with the boat that would take us for a cruise along Doubtful Sound.

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