Monday, May 11, 2020

IN NEW ZEALAND DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, Part 1: ABEL TASMAN and PAPAROA NATIONAL PARKS, Guest post by Caroline Hatton




New Zealand. Sunrise on Little Kaiteriteri Beach
near Abel Tasman National Park

My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton visited New Zealand in March 2020 (late summer in the Southern Hemisphere), arriving before the World Health Organization declared the spread of coronavirus a pandemic. She took all the photos in this post.This is the first of three posts. Parts 2 and 3 will post on the following Mondays.

In March 2020, my husband and I set out on a trip we had planned before the novel coronavirus surfaced in the news. We were headed to New Zealand and Australia. At home, California had eighty-nine COVID-19 cases. New Zealand had five (less than half the percentage of California) with none on the South Island where we would spend our first two weeks. In the U.S., the only advice was to wash hands, not touch face, cough in elbow, and stay home if sick. I hoped that by being abroad for five weeks, we would avoid the worst of the outbreak in the U.S., which had seen it coming for two months and would be prepared to contain it. Right?

Our Los Angeles stores had run out of disinfectants except for one box of two hundred individually-wrapped, two-square-inch, alcohol (70% isopropanol) wipes, so we packed it, along with our last twelve individually-wrapped disinfecting Wet Ones wipes and one Lysol canister of eighty more.

Air travel and tourism had already dwindled, leaving the Los Angeles airport empty. In the plane, one passenger disinfected his spot with wipes and a few wore masks. I used my tiny alcohol wipes to disinfect my seat belt buckle, and the light and seat control buttons. I had carried a book in a disposable paper bag, which I slipped in the seat pocket, so I could get my book in and out without touching anything but my own bag, which I left behind. Landing in New Zealand, life seemed normal, except for airport greeters offering hand sanitizer and flyers illustrating how to wash hands.

Abel Tasman National Park
We planned to visit Abel Tasman National Park at the north end of the South Island, a coastal subtropical wonderland with birds and marine mammals. When we checked into our one-bedroom cabin in nearby Little Kaiteriteri, we washed our hands, then whipped out our Lysol disinfecting wipes to scrub everything we might touch, including room keys, door handles, light switches, power outlets, faucets, toilet flush handle, tables, counters, plastic chairs, and the swinging lid of the wastebasket (called a rubbish bin in New Zealand.) Then we requested no housekeeping for the duration of our stay. We did all this everywhere we stayed, to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection for us and for the staff.

Kaiteriteri Estuary
In the morning, we strolled around the Kaiteriteri Estuary, a sandy expanse smeared with water. The sun came out! But half the loop trail (or track) was pleasantly shaded by an exuberant mix of trees. Loud, jungle-sounding birds kept us craning our necks until we finally spotted one.

Around midday, we were stunned to see the vast estuary fully flooded, while even more sea water rushed inland from the Tasman Bay as a king (extra large) high tide rose. In the afternoon, we climbed up and down a rocky, treesy promontory with beach views on the 550-m (~600-yard) Kaiteriteri Track.

Abel Tasman National Park granite cliffs
For the next day, we had picked the 9 a.m. boat tour with Abel Tasman SeaShuttles to cruise round-trip along the national park coast, except for disembarking at 11:30 a.m. to hike (tramp) the most diverse portion of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, 11.5 km (~7 miles) to where we would board the last, 5 p.m. boat back.

Tree Ferns (Cyathea sp.)
On the boat, we didn’t touch anything and we sat where empty rows physically distanced us from others. On the port side, lush hillsides looked like award-winning gardens, granite fissures like secret passages, and sleeping NewZealand Fur Seals (Arctocephalus forsteri) like they owned the islands. The Tree Ferns (Cyathea sp.) caused the most photography. We passed kayakers paddling against the cold wind. The boat captain delivered commentary with a Kiwi accent, fun to hear but hard to understand.

Abel Tasman National Park
On the track, signage was perfect. Listed times assumed marching at a good clip like the rare trampers who passed us.

View from Abel Tasman Coast Track to Tasman Sea
We slowed down often to look or listen, paused to take in the tranquility of the beech and fern forest, and stopped only to eat sandwiches we had made and brought with us.

Weka or Woodhen
(Gallirallus a. australis)
Three times, a rust-colored chicken-like thing startled us, walking up to inspect our boots and even tap, tap, tap my trekking poles. They were wild, fearless, flightless Wekas, as known by their indigenous Māori name, or Woodhens (Gallirallus a. australis), famous for patrolling picnic areas and stealing gear from tourists.

Stay away from this stinging Bluebottle or Portuguese Man o' War (Physalia physalis)
~10 cm or 4 inches across
On the beach where we waited for the return boat, we were dazzled by the vivid cobalt color of a life form barely moving on the sand. This natural wonder, a Bluebottle (also known as Portuguese Man o' War, Physalia physalis), is not a true jellyfish. But it’s a true sea monster that stings on contact, even long after washing ashore, and the burning pain can wreck a perfectly good outing by the sea. After a full day outdoors, we were glad that the boat sped non-stop all the way back.

Pancake Rocks
Paparoa National Park
Leaving Abel Tasman National Park, we drove down the west coast to Paparoa NationalPark to see the geologically curious, aptly-named Pancake Rocks, watch waves explode skyward against them, and marvel in disbelief at the accompanying, booming, thunderous noise.

Pancake Rocks ~ 5 cm or 2“ thick
The white is not snow.
Then we stopped overnight on the way to Mount Cook National Park . We had reserved the only lodging option at the ideal location, a cabin much like a hard tent. Not a problem, since we love camping. But shared showers and a community kitchen are not exactly contagion-proof.  And by then, the spread of coronavirus had gotten bad enough for the World Health Organization to declare it a pandemic. What had we gotten ourselves into?

To be continued…

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2 comments:

goformule said...
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goformule said...

Very nice post. You can also visit ALPINE FACTS for tourism information