The Water (and Does It Drain in the Opposite Direction?)

Water in New Zealand is plentiful. The snow on the mountain ranges that slice through the country northeast-to-southwest ensure a year-round supply. On our travel through the South Island, we saw countless snow-covered mountains. I wondered if it were ever possible to suffer a drought here.

Christchurch’s water supply is fed by aquifers under the city. Here, the water is pure enough to drink untreated, though routinely monitored. I’m betting the water becomes purified as it makes its way down from the mountains and through layers of soil and sediment. It tastes very clean and is the best-tasting water I’ve ever had. The water in the Pacific Northwest generally tastes good, too, but occasionally you detect off-flavors from chlorine treatment. The glacial melt is clean enough that we were encouraged to fill our water bottles in a melting stream on Franz Josef glacier.

So, does the water drain in the clockwise direction in the Southern hemisphere? Actually, the answer to that wasn’t so straightforward at first. The toilets here release tremendous amounts of water with relatively high water pressures that all you see is a lot of splashing. So we had to resort to draining a wash basin, which wasn’t conclusive. A little bit of research revealed that this is an old wives’ tale; the Coriolis force is not observable in a small experiment like draining a sink; it is simply too weak. It applies to much larger phenomena, like vast ocean currents or a storm system, where the Coriolis effect is much easier to see. People still claim that they can see the water draining clockwise—and counter-clockwise.

Mt. Cook National Park (NZ)

At a viewing area along State Highway 80, where the tour bus made a temporary stop, there was a breathtaking vista of a portion of the Southern Alps. Without a doubt, the snow cover made for a most dramatic effect.

The tallest peak is Mount Cook (Aoraki, in Maori), the highest in all of New Zealand, which distinction makes it a favorite destination for mountain climbers, the most famous having been Sir Edmund Hillary, a native Kiwi.

We made a brief stop at Mount Cook National Park to have lunch and admire the scenery, though any views of Mount Cook could not be equalled by what we saw earlier. Still, from the Hermitage Hotel, you could get a glimpse of this towering mountain, one of over 140 peaks in the park and a large number of glaciers. At this time of year, only the cafeteria was open for lunch. On the exit door, a sign read: “Please do not feed the kea.”

Mount Cook from the Hermitage Hotel

Our attempts to take a short hike along some the tracks near the hotel were thwarted by snow cover, except for one. Outside, the most beautiful and delicate ice crystals formed on the plants.

Ice crystals formed delicate patterns on the leaves of plants

The park would certainly be worth a return visit when the weather is nicer.