Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Devil's Punchbowl Falls

Devil's Punchbowl Falls, New Zealand (May 31, 2008)

When we arrived at the Arthur's pass village it was raining. After parking next to the visitor center (which was closed), we found refuge in the Wobbly Kea Cafe & Bar, where we got some food and something warm to drink. If you search on the internet you will find some reviews of the cafe (even though, mind you, this is a small saloon at the end of -Middle- Earth... power of the internet) complaining about the dismal service. We actually didn’t have any issue. Sure the service maybe wasn’t the fastest but really, who cares? We were in a holiday, right? Plus, it was wet outside.

The Falls
name of the place is a good excuse to talk about the eponymous bird, the kea, that apparently is quite common at the pass. I say apparently because I am not sure we met any, even though we saw some large birds flying along the road that may fit the description. On the other hand it was raining, and keas are all but stupid and were probably hiding in some dry place. Keas, in fact, are quite smart, to the point of being annoying. They fear nothing (and humans even less), so they are commonly seen stealing whatever it pleases them from tourists backpacks. Closing the zippers does not help, they know how to open them with their beaks. They are large green parrots, and when not hunting tourists they like to steal the rubber parts from parked cars, like the wipers and the seals around the windows. Due to its character the kea has been persecuted in the past, and it is a vulnerable species. Fortunately is now protected, even though the New Zealand government had to promise compensation and relocation of troublesome birds to appease the people living in the areas where the parrots are common.

The Falls
When we finished our lunch we went for a short walk to the Devil's Punchbowl Falls, which are at the end of a 15 minutes trail. The trail crosses the river at the center of a glacial valley, and then climbs on a dense rainforest where everything is completely covered by mosses and ferns. It is not difficult to see why the fern is the cultural icon of New Zealand: it grows everywhere in the island's forests. At that point it was only drizzling, and the thick canopy above the trail was enough to prevent us from getting wet. The fall is shown in the background of the photo above. What I really liked of the place, more than the fall, was a huge tree in front of it, with a complicated fractal structure. The part shown in the photo is just one of the branches. It reminded me of the trees in Japanese gardens. You can see more of the majestic tree in the little photos above and on the left.

It soon started to rain again, so we went back to the car to complete our daily drive. Originally the plan was to arrive as far as Haast, almost 350 km further down the road from Arthur’s pass along the West coast. That was clearly too much, so we stopped at the Fox Glacier village. When we arrived there it was pouring, and dark. And I was dead tired for all the driving, so all we could do was to find a motel where to spend the night, and a place still serving fish & chips at that late hour.

Approaching Devil's Punchbowl Falls, New Zealand (May 31, 2008)

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