Plunging Mercury

Today we left Queenstown to head east across country to Moeraki. Where? Moeraki as in the Moeraki Boulders. The Moeraki Boulders are large, marble-like lumps of rock on a beach, much beloved of landscape photographers and are one of Francine’s bucket list items.

We left the mountains behind in brilliant sunshine and headed into the centre of South Island. The sky remained clear blue and, as the day progressed, the temperature rose accordingly, hitting 27°C at its height.

En route, we spotted three different places that looked as if they might be candidates for odonata, and so they proved, though one site produced only a single species, the good ol’ Common Redcoat. Still, it was good to be having some opportunity to spot things again after several days of abstinence. My research before departing had shown that New Zealand has a paucity of dragonflies and damselflies – just 17 species in all but really 15 if the rare migrants/vagrants are removed. I have now begun to suspect that one problem is that it also has a paucity of suitable habitat. There are a lot of cold, fast flowing mountain streams but they ain’t any good. Calmer, still, warm fresh water seems scarce. We do pass what look like good ponds every now and then but most are behind fences on private land, being rather like what the Australians call dams on farm properties.

_17C9608In the centre the land was unspectacular but very pleasantly rural, much more me than would be, say, a city. If there were ever to be a new Zealand campsite that was designed to relax in, this would be an environment in which it would be worth relaxing. There isn’t, of course, but it’s a nice thought: pasture, cows, sheep, no traffic to speak of, sparsely populated except for the occasional homely, single street towns … [Sigh]

As we made our way through another range of hills towards the east coast, the horizon began to appear as an ominous grey mass. As we drew closer we began to descend towards the coastal plain and our sun disappeared behind the grey overcast. Busby’s temperature read out fell from 27°C to 14.5°C in about 10 minutes. Bugger!

I suspect that what we were now experiencing was equivalent to summer in San Francisco. Was it mark Twain (it usually is) who famously said, “the coldest winter I ever experienced was summer in San Francisco”? Here’s the way it works: Very hot air from California’s central valley, crosses the coastal mountain range, descends and bumps into cold air coming in off the Pacific Ocean. Result, fog. Under the fog, the temperature plummets. We’d just left hot air over the higher central ground, crossed some hills and descended towards the east coast of New Zealand. Well, it’s a theory. That could be complete bollocks, of course – probably just cloud. 🙂

Poor Francine, she’d been so looking forward to photographing her Moeraki Boulders with either good sunsets or good sunrises, or both, and the weather was socked in and as flat, grey and lifeless as we can ever remember seeing it. Bugger again! Still, we have two nights here so conditions may improve.

We did go and look, though. The boulders are not as large as I imagined. I was personally left distinctly underwhelmed. I blame the low angles and wide angle lenses. I felt very sorry for Francine, though.

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Posted in 2017 New Zealand, 2017 The Antipodes

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