Monday, June 23, 2014

Short stopover in Barcelona

Barcelonetta (down by the sea) was heaving with tourists and locals as it was the first few days of the school holidays. I took a stroll along the beach, people watched and paddled in the sea. Then enjoyed a Sangria and Tapas. In the morning I headed over to the marine institute to catch up with a student that is hoping to work on some of the marine cores from New Zealand. She showed me around the labs and we had a good chat about some options. 
The Barcelonetta esplanade

One of the random sculptures on the beach

Then in the afternoon I headed over to the Plaza del Espana to visit the famous Barcelona Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohes. This is one of the buildings that Aaron has had to draw for his new architecture technical course, so I took lots of photos for him. I then walked to Plaza de Catalunya and down Las Ramblas to the beach. A short visit to Barcelona and a shame I couldn’t stay a day longer as that evening is their big fireworks on the beach.... 
The Barcelona Pavilion by Mies van der Rohes

Looking across the pond 

Inside the pavilion - with some of Mies van der Rohes furniture

The other reflective pool

Looking either side of the back wall

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The city of Zaragoza, Spain

The hotel where the workshop was held was on the outskirts of Zaragoza, so we didn’t see much of the city. Despite the ultra modern surroundings of the hotel, Zaragoza is a very old town with a lot of history. On Friday night after a day in the field our wonderful Spanish hosts decided it was time to see a bit of the city and taste some traditional tapas. They also showed us a few sights of the old town including the main Plaza de Pilar and the remains of the Roman amphitheatre. 
One of the old traditional tapas bars

The remnants of the Roman Amphitheatre

However, after the meeting I stayed an extra day in Zaragoza to explore some more. So after finding a central hotel in Plaza d’Espania, I headed to the Basilica de Pilar. It was great to escape the heat of the day. Then when it cooled down a little more after 5:30pm I walked around the town and went to the Pablo Gargallo art gallery and checked out some of the Moorish influenced architecture. A little later there was a music festival with lots of different stages in the different plazas with local musicians and dancers of different flavours. A fun evening wandering between different plazas checking it all out.
The castle

Lots of Moorish influenced buildings

The basilica from the river side

Sunday morning before it got too hot I did a little more exploring around the city before taking the fast train (>250 km/hr) to Barcelona. (There should be more fast trains in the world - great way to travel). 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Field trips in Aragon, Spain

As with many geology workshops there is usually a field trip to the surrounding area. This sounds like a good jolly – but actually I think it is where a lot of the networking goes on while sitting on the bus and also for me I learn more in the field than sitting listening to people talk in a lecture room.
The first day we set off very early and drove up to the Pyrenees to see the glacial morphology. We had perfect weather and the views were spectacular. It would have been great to do some hiking – hopefully next time! We also saw a series of moraines further down the valleys showing the extent of the glaciers during previous glacials. The big mystery is that there is no evidence of the last glacial....? Was it too dry?
Spectacular views of large U-shaped valleys in Ordesa National Park

An explanation of the geology and geomorphology

The second day we headed in to the Iberian Range, to karst country. We spent the day around the Monastery of Piedra, now a hotel, but previously owned by a wealthy family. This region is surrounded by limestone and the river waters are so concentrated with carbonate that they are precipitating limestone as they go over water falls (like stalagmites and stalagtites in caves). These tufa deposits are growing rapidly at almost 10 cm per year... so the waterfalls are actively managed in the park to make sure they don’t grow too big... or start to cause flooding.... It was very cool and lush in the park, an oasis compared to the surrounding dry and hot karst plateau.
One of the many water falls in the Monastery de Piedra park

The largest waterfall which you walk down behind

The fish ponds in the limestone gorge

On the final day we went west into the “Badlands”. I will have to look up the origin of this name – but it is basically very soft sediment that is eroding rapidly. There is a cap of hard mudstone on the top of the sediments which has protected some of the sediment below to form mesas and pillars. But we were here to look at the fluvial erosion and deposition during the Holocene (the last 12,000 yrs). It is amazing that people live here and grow crops as it is a highly changeable landscape. Of course it is usually very dry... but there was rain the night before so there was a very muddy river flowing and we couldn’t get up close to the sections we had hoped to get to see.
One of the almost eroded mesas...

Eroding Holocene fluvial muds... 

Three different landscapes and geological/geomorphological processes. Some associated with cold periods and others with warm and others probably a combination of both – as unfortunately the dating is not well constrained. A few weird features that are also still hard to explain and more work to do. It is clear that Spain has a diverse landscape. I look forward to coming back and exploring some more. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Workshop in Zaragoza, Spain

I flew in to Zaragoza and met various people going to the same workshop as me on the plane - the poster tubes and the technical conversations gave them away... The meeting was being held in a hotel built on the N side of the river Ebro. It was a bit of a strange place surrounded by lots of other new buildings and space age bridges that were built for the 2008 world expo, but due to the economic crisis now sit empty. So it felt like we were in a bit of a ghost town as we were just out of the city itself. 
 The entrance to the Hotel Hiberus

The strange cable car that never runs and various buildings on the north side of the Ebro River

The pedestrian bridge/spaceship/art gallery

The main traffic bridge

We had 3 days of talks. It was good to hear what our European counterparts have been doing and I got some good feedback on what we aim to do in our equivalent project in the Southern Hemisphere. I met lots of people and hope to have developed some new collaborations.. 

After a couple of days trapped inside we were taken on 3 days of field trips to a range of different places around the city....more in following blogs. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Quick visit to UK

A few months ago I was invited to a workshop in Spain and managed to get some funding for the flights from the New Zealand Royal Society. After a long, long, long flight via Auckland, Brisbane, Dubai – I arrived in London and caught the bus to Coventry where I was met by Grandma and Grandad. Mum and Dad arrived the next day from Aberdeen and it was great to catch up with everyone, including Aunty Irene and Uncle Jim. Then Mum and Dad and I headed down to Paul and Thalia’s to see their new house and catch up with the kids. The house is almost finished... just a few minor things to be fixed and grass to grow. It looks great and it will be amazing when it is completely finished. I was especially jealous of the enormous larder and the kids playroom with it’s lego floor! Needless to say we played quite a bit of lego – especially as Hattie got some for her birthday. We also played a lot in the garden and went for a couple of nice walks with lunch at RAF Halton – an ex-Rothschild House.
Paul and Thalia's new house

It was nice to spend a few days seeing family and getting over jetlag – greatly helped by the fact that it stays light until 10pm. Thanks for the hospitality – I hope to return it one day when you come and visit us in New Zealand.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Jumbo-Holdsworth Tramp, Tararuas

For once great weather was forecast for the long weekend, and with a big trip overseas looming and many hours sitting on a plane, I thought I would take advantage and go for a tramp – stretch the legs and clear the head. I decided it was about time that I did the Jumbo-Holdsworth Loop, which is the classic Tararuas tramp and although I had done parts of it before I had never been to Jumbo. I dragged along one of the PhD students at work that has been getting in to tramping and also needed to clear her head and escape Wellington for the weekend.

It is a nice easy walk to Aituwhakatu Hut along the river, but then from this hut it climbs very steeply – in true Tararuas style – up the Jumbo. It took us about 5 hours overall and we were one of the first groups to get to the hut. However, we were followed by many others... including granny and granddad and their two granddaughters of 6 and 7 years old... amazing that they made it as it was a pretty big climb of >1000 m. The hut continued to fill up and we ended up with 24 in a hut that can sleep 20. Needless to say it was a little bit cosy, especially with the fire going.

Steep climb up to Jumbo

View of the Wairarapa from above the treeline

Helen and Sophie at Jumbo Hut

The next morning we set off up to Jumbo and across the tops to Mt Holdsworth. It was a little windy and quite cold– but we had amazing views all the way to Mt Taranaki and down to the mountains on the south island. There was some interesting ice features on the south sides of the mountains, but no snow.
Icy tussock

Ice flowers

We reached Powell Hut for an early lunch and then descended the Gentle Annie track – which has had a lot of work on since I last did this part of the tramp. There are now a lot of stairs, which is fine for descending and made the top section much quicker than scrambling down. We cruised back down to the carpark for 2pm. A nice winter weekend in the hills.... hopefully the weather cooperates for a few more over the next few months.