Bond, James Bond!

Thu 28 Jan 2010 08:01
On the way home from Doubtful Sound we made a visit to a marvel of NZ engineering.  Or the 'bad guy's' lair depending on how we look at things.
We entered a tunnel drilled and blasted through the rock to make an access road, rough rock walls 7m wide and with a 1:10 gradient descending in a steady spiral there is a 10m turning bay at the bottom, we were in an 11m bus.... that's what the driver said!
Sucessfully turned and heading up again we stopped at the viewing level and went through a side tunnel.
James, I suppose would have used the tradesmen's entrance but the result always looks like this...
Sadly there were no overalled minions rushing about doing not very much but the noise was familiar.
These structures in the huge manmade cavern are of course the top bearings of the turbines producing loads of electricity, principally for the aluminium smelting plant in Bluff but up to also 15% goes the national grid.  Standing on the viewing platform one can only see the shafts spinning within the blue casing.
The water driving the turbines below this floor comes from the 'uphill end' of Lake Manapouri so no dam involved!  There are 7 chutes cut down through the rock to give the water a 200m drop to the level of the turbines.  After the turbine the water continues it's way downhill through 2 'tailrace' tunnels and exits into Doubtful Sound not at all where it would have ended up pre-hydroelectric power station.  Thats a bit 'bad guy' but still no JB in sight, since the conservationists are now happy that water levels are as they should be in the lake.
Turns out the only bad guy we saw that day was this naughty chap a Kea,  the Kea is a NZ native, he/she is an alpine parrot and is an inquisitive, cheeky, destructive bird.  They seem to spend a lot of time on the ground where they jump along sometimes forwards, sometimes sideways.  They will steel anything they fancy including the rubber holding windscreens in white vans.  Thankfully ours is intact as far as we know...  However they leave the best 'til last and when they finally decide to fly off the underside of their wings are bright orange, there are signs everywhere pleading with the tourists ''Don't feed the Kea'' , on your head be it!