For this reason, this edition is posted a little ahead of schedule so that precious family time is not cluttered with a belated scramble to produce a late post. With all this in mind, and with packing not yet complete, I took the Wainuiomata coast road yesterday. We have had some rain recently but as you can see from the dust behind the harrow, the ground has little moisture in it.
In the Rimutaka Forest Park, there was a nice rock reflecting in the Catchpool stream.
Just before the river reaches the coast, there is a gully where the toetoe plumes wave in the fierce winds that channel in from the sea or out from the North. Either way the toetoe get thrashed.
Having found nothing of immediate interest on the coast I was just starting the return journey when this parapenter came whistling overhead and disappeared behind Baring Head.
I seem to have lost my birding mojo (whatever that is). It won’t stop me trying, of course, but when I went to Zealandia yesterday, I struggled to take good shots in the very dark shadow of the bush canopy. I ended up with vast amounts of digital noise and a great deal of frustration. I got a shot that I liked that illustrates the contrast between the bright sun overhead and the intense shade under the trees.
Even in quite wide avenue, the edges were dark, so I was quite pleased to catch this female blackbird (the females are brown) but even in this relatively open space, I had to push the settings to get the required detail.
Apart from that, none of the images I made of stitchbird, bellbird and robin were useable. Sadly I didn’t discover this until I got home. Clearly some re-learning is required. I had more luck in the open air, and enjoyed the contrast of the duck’s dark plumage against the lurid green of the water in the lower dam.
At the edge of that dam is a tree much favoured by the local population of pied shags, and I was delighted to meet a very young chick in a nest just a few metres from the stairway.
Tomorrow, a shuttle will take us to the airport at 03:50 … things may get delayed.
Seeking high places often gives some nice results.
Yesterday I gritted my teeth, and climbed up the scaffolding that currently surrounds our house as it is repainted. Like most scaffolding, this is a system that all locks together and at least in theory, nothing can go wrong. Of course, nothing did go wrong but given my oft-asserted fear of heights I was pleased to get up there, grab the shots I wanted and then hasten back to the blessed relief of being at ground level. The result is a panorama of the Hutt Valley on a moist morning. I am not sure it was worth the agony, but having endured the agony, I am not going to let it go to waste.
I went up the road leading to Mt Crawford on the Miramar Peninsula. A little short of the old prison, there is a knoll on which there are two water reservoirs, and a mountain biking park. There are views in all directions. My first shot from here is down into the heart of Miramar which is nestled between two ridges and further South to the heights of Seatoun.
On the Western side of the Peninsula, on the isthmus, is Wellington Airport, the suburb of Kilbirnie and beyond that Lyall Bay and then the Cook Strait and the Pacific Ocean all the way to Antarctica. I liked the cloudscape.
As I turned to walk back to the road I had to dodge as I was perilously close to the designated mountain bike track.
Having survived the near miss with the bike, I got back in the car and drove along the ridge towards Seatoun. As I did so, a tanker arrived from China carrying who knows what. It had the weirdly prosaic name “FPMC 20“. As I was lining up for the shot, the interisland ferry Kaitaki burst into view and proceeded to overtake the tanker. With the foreshortening effect of the long lens, it probably looks more dramatic than it really was.
Grey sky and ruffled water are not my preferred setting.
Nevertheless, I began yesterday’s search at the Hutt River estuary. The only thing moving was the little fishing vessel, J.Vee. As far as I know she doesn’t leave the harbour, but her owner takes her out regularly and usually comes back with some crates of fish. I suspect Earnest Hemingway would have enjoyed meeting him.
From there a bit of backstreet wandering brought me to a car-wrecker’s yard that I had not previously seen. I liked the view of the stacked vehicles and took a few shots. I then found myself accosted by a worker inside who thought I needed the companies permission to take photographs. I didn’t. The law in New Zealand generally says that if I can see something from a public place I can take a photograph of it unless it involves something where privacy is reasonably expected such as through the window of a dwelling. It’s a different story if I cross the line onto private property (which I hadn’t). Nevertheless, I showed him what I had taken and explained that there was nothing contrary to the interests of his company and he wandered off, muttering.
On Waione Street, in Petone, there is a view of the stream that leads around Gear Island into the Hikoikoi reserve. Technically, it is the Western arm of the Hutt River Estuary. Anyway, the water was sheltered from the boisterous breeze and presented some nice reflections.
On the other side of Waione St, are the mud flats of the Hikoikoi reserve. A vast and seemingly inexhaustible supply of mud crabs keeps the wading birds happy and this white-faced heron was taking regular catches as I watched.
The scenic route home took me up Dowse Drive to the water tank at the top of the hill and a splendid view over Matiu/Somes out to the harbour entrance.
My first subject was a pukeko or swamp hen (Porphyrio porphyrio). These colourful big-footed birds can be very shy, depending on the environment. This one’s partner made a lightning fast exit into the reeds. This one was either brave or slow on the uptake.
From the hide I could see some juvenile pied stilts and I suspect they are the ones that hatched just prior to Christmas.
At first, the bird was browsing for food, but it seemed to suffer from an inaccessible itch, or perhaps in infestation of parasites. Splashing about looked like normal ablutions at first but it soon launched into some amazing contortions verging on flight as it attempted to ease whatever was causing the discomfort.
Waitangi Park was my start point. The first thing I saw was a young man spraying a concrete wall with aerosol paint cans. This was not the mindless vandalism that I so despise, but rather some artistry om a wall set up for the purpose. With his permission, I took a few pics and he even asked me to take one for him on his smartphone. I still tend to dislike most forms of “street art”.
Behind me, there was an artificial wetland, and some very large boulders brought in to help clean up the Waitangi Stream which until the park was built had been in an underground culvert. To my sorrow, some idiot had to “tag the back of the boulder.
Nearby, is the National Museum, Te Papa. It is fashionable to disparage the architecture of the building . I have always quite liked it. It has all sorts of shapes and interesting viewpoints.
Moored nearby is the old steam-powered floating crane, the Hikinui. The old girl has come in for some adverse publicity recently when foolish young men have ignored exclusion signs climbed to the tip of its boom and jumped more than 40 metres into the harbour. Sadly, the second of the two known attempts ended badly when the diver hit the water on his back and failed to surface. His friends have created something of a shrine beside the vessel on the wharf.
Yesterday the Sea Princess and the Sun Princess arrived more or less together and berthed stern-to-stern at the cruise terminal. I imagine the retailers in the city’s golden mile were delighted.
While I was in Oriental Bay, the Interisland Line’s ferry, Arahura was leaving port and I liked the contrast with the Hong Kong registered log carrier, Yangtze Classic. Arahura is at the end of her life and is due to be discontinued this year, I recall seeing her enter harbour on her delivery voyage way back in 1983, in her original green and cream colour scheme and the tugs doing the tradition water cannon welcome. Her replacement will be the Stena Alegra which was chartered last year while the Aratere was out of service. That will reduce the capacity for interisland rail traffic.
Also from Oriental Bay, there is a nice view of the textures of the CBD. It’s terribly unfashionable to make urban landscape images. I love rural landscapes too, but have a fascination for the shapes and colours of the city.
Later in the morning, I was above Newtown in Finnimore Terrace, looking back towards the harbour. I always enjoy finding a new place from which to view our city, and am continually surprised at how different the view is when you move just a few hundred metres.
History in New Zealand tends to be much shorter than it is elsewhere.
As a town, Wellington didn’t exist prior to 1865. In its early days, prior to reclamation in the central city and the expansion to Northern Suburbs, dwellings were erected first in the places that were easiest to get to, nearest to the city centre. Anyone who wants to get a sense of old Wellington should read the various works of Pat Lawlor (1893 – 1979) who really brings the colonial town to life. He is to the literature of early Wellington as E.M. Blaicklock was to Auckland’s Western suburbs. Wonderful writers both. But I digress. I went for a wander in the back streets of the Aro Valley yesterday, enjoying warm sunshine and relative stillness.
Houses spread from the relative flatness of each valley floor up the steep sides. Houses of the working classes were built cheek by jowl, on increasingly difficult sections. In the first half of the twentieth century there was a tendency to larger sections and almost every new house had a quarter acre section in which families could raise children or vegetables as they chose. In its founding days, Wellington did not have the luxury of accessible flat land and houses were crammed close together.
It seems a miracle that some of these houses have survived Wellington’s frequent storms and its susceptibility to significant earth tremors. There is visible evidence that things have moved or are moving.
Not all is decay, though, and there are some rather beautiful restorations to be seen. My main regret in these cases is that the electricity and telephone wires were not put underground. Perhaps precisely because of our seismicity, they clutter the landscape with unsightly webs of wire. And then of course there are the satellite dishes, one for each subscriber.
My eldest son used to live in a student flat (US = apartment) in this area, and I did some nostalgic wandering, recalling being conscripted to help with relocations, and shuddering at the memory of lugging household appliances up or down the steep and ramshackle steps that characterize the area.
Somehow it sill seems to capture the character of Wellington’s Cuba Quarter. I had been in the city to return a camera to the vendor after a series of unresolved problems. Since I was close to Cuba Street, I went walking with my trusty, if battle-weary, Canon. I like the architecture in this part of town, or most of it, anyway.
Sometimes, the interest lies not in the architecture itself, but in what the occupants have done with it. Espressoholic is a well known coffee shop in the city, but its building is unremarkable except for the spray-can work.
A little further down road, a more deliberate restoration job makes this old building quite attractive.
Around the corner, a tiny side-street of Dixon street houses a quirky old building which the well-dressed occupant assured me was 110 years old. I have no clue what kind of business is conducted from there, but I had the sense that I was unlikely to have been a patron.
Despite the persistent drizzle, Mary and a friend went walking around the hills. When they came back, Mary persuaded me that it was worth coming back with her to where she had seen a patch of nasturtiums gathering water droplets in large jewels until the weight of water caused the leaf to tip and then the process would start all over. I wonder if this was a predecessor to Wellington’s Bucket Fountain. Next time there are similar conditions I should see if I can catch the tipping mechanism in action.
We had some shopping to do and decided that when we had finished, it would be nice to have a light lunch and a glass of wine. Unfortunately, it seems everyone else get the same idea when it rains. By now the rain had increased markedly, so each time we stopped we ran from the car to the restaurant doorway only to find a queue of equally soaked patrons. With a ten minute wait for a table and a forty minute wait after that for food we looked elsewhere. After failing at three of our favourite restaurants we gave up and were driving through Oriental Bay when I noticed that the Beach Babylon restaurant appeared to have empty seats. Happily they were welcoming and served us some great food and a nice Cabernet Sauvignon. When we were done, I took the opportunity to cross the road and try to capture the spirit of the day.
Oriental Bay was almost deserted and apart from the odd wandering pedestrian, the only sign of life was a disconsolate lifeguard sitting at his post guarding a beach where no-one was swimming .
Back at home in the afternoon, I enjoyed a brief siesta, and then relaxed until I noticed the clouds wreathed over the hills across the valley. This is pretty much the same view as my sunrise image from yesterday.
Now that the painters have arrived to work on our house, the forecast is much the same for the next week.