You can contact LEARNZ, part of CORE Education, at:
PO Box 13 678,
Kia ora koutou,
Autumn is my favourite time of the year and the perfect time to explore the high country. During this BioBlitz field trip you will journey to Ō Tū Wharekai, a protected wetland area in the heart of the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.
Are you prepared?
No matter what the time of year, the weather in the high country can be unpredictable. You had to think carefully about what to bring on this field trip to ensure you were prepared for any conditions. After some thoughtful packing you and the ambassadors were finally ready to hit the road. You will be staying in Mount Somers, a small village east of Ō Tū Wharekai. It takes about three hours to drive from Dunedin to Mount Somers. You enjoyed a relaxed journey north and made time to explore some sights along the way.
The first place the ambassadors wanted to stop was the famous Moeraki Boulders. The Moeraki Boulders are almost perfectly round boulders nestled in the sand on Koekohe Beach near Hampden. The boulders formed on the sea floor around 60 million years ago but the sea wore away at the cliffs above the beach and exposed these boulders. They are surprisingly large and look like giant basketballs. Local Māori legends describe the boulders as the remains of eel baskets and kumara washed ashore from the wreck of Arai-te-uru, a large sailing waka. The high tide and huge swell stopped you from getting too close to the boulders and made the walk that much more exciting.
You had to stop in Oamaru to check out the old buildings. These buildings were built during the gold rush, when Oamaru was a bustling, wealthy place. Now thousands of tourists visit this area each year. The ambassadors enjoyed looking around the steampunk playground. Unfortunately, you did not have time to look for the kororā - little blue penguins that come ashore in Oamaru each evening. I felt a little sorry for these penguins today because they would have to battle huge waves to make it back home.
Braided river country
You drove across the bridge above the mighty Waitaki River and left Otago behind. The Waitaki River is a braided river. Braided rivers support a high level of biodiversity. They provide lots of yummy food, such as insects, for native birds and fish. Braided rivers form when rocks fall down mountainsides and are carried by rivers downstream. As the rocks and sediment build up, new river channels form. Only a few places in the world have braided rivers. Some plants and animals have adapted to life in these ever-changing river beds. You will be able to see some of these unique plants and animals during the field trip.
You turned off State Highway 1 and headed inland towards the foothills of the Southern Alps. You passed through the small town of Geraldine and headed on towards Mount Somers. You crossed the Rangitata River which was a raging torrent after all the heavy rain in the mountains. Hopefully the weather will improve so you can make the most of your time here. The Māori name for Mount Somers is Te Kiekie, and Māori travelled through this area gathering food. Mount Somers towers above the township and further west you could see even taller mountains.
Tomorrow you will head up the valley in search of biodiversity. I wonder what curious creatures you will find.
See you in the morning,
Shelley, the LEARNZ field trip teacher.
Looking out over the coastal town of Karitāne north of Dunedin. You could see huge swell lines coming into the bay. Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.
You had time to visit the famous Moeraki Boulders during your drive north. Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.
The Moeraki Boulders are very old. They formed on the sea floor, this area was then uplifted. The sea has worn away at the cliffs, returning the boulders to the sea. Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.
Oamaru is the Steampunk Capital of New Zealand. Can you describe what steampunk is? Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.
The historic buildings of Oamaru have become a tourist attraction and are a great place to explore. Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.
Oamaru is also home to kororā or little blue penguins. A colony on the edge of the harbour attracts tourists from all over the world. Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.
The braided Rangitata River was in flood after all the heavy rain in the mountains. Image: Shelley Hersey, LEARNZ.