Adventure Bees Family Landscapes Napier

November 30, 2015 … from Clive towards the Kaweka Ranges

Yesterday was the day of wedding.

A seemingly electric bottlebrush flower with a honey bee lurking within

It dawned fine and clear, and the bottlebrush tree outside the motel window was almost electric in its colouration.  Bees were humming around, and all was well with the world.

Landscape near Puketapu

We weren’t needed for the wedding until 4 pm, so with Mary and her brother Vincent, I drove westward though Taradale, Puketapu, Rissington, Patoka and out to Puketitiri  and the Mohaka river at the foot of the Kaweka Ranges.  The landscapes were a delight all the way, but I had made a major blunder and left the chargers for my camera batteries at home. One of my spare sets of batteries was flat. I had to conserve shots for the wedding reception, so took far fewer images than I would normally consider.

Landscape near Patoka

Another panorama was made soon after we passed through Patoka. I love the way the character of the landscape changes so swiftly as you move about our country. From the openness of the Heretaunga plains to the folded landscape of the Kawekas it’s all a wonderful spectacle.

The wedding was a delight, but that’s a family matter.


Architecture Birds Clive Masterton Weather

November 29, 2015 … to Hawkes Bay in the rain

Our niece is getting married today.

Old house
Farm building a little North of Masterton

As a consequence, we drove  to Clive, near Napier, yesterday. Unkind weather made the trip less pleasant than it usually is,but on the other hand offered some opportunities for mood shots. Most photographers at some stage have the “original” idea of photographing old farm buildings.So did I.

Hawk circling in the rain

Somewhere South of Dannevirke, I saw a distant possibility for a misty panorama. I took the shots, but was then distracted by a circling Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans) and decided it was a more interesting shot.


The temperature when we left Wellington was showing as 9 degrees on my car’s instrument panel. When we arrived in Napier, it was showing 29 degrees. A trip to the Clive Estuary was called for. Though there was less variety than I hoped for , I enjoyed an encounter with a New Zealand Pipit (Anthus novaeseelandiae).

White-faced heron in flight

White-faced herons were visible, but wary as always. This one made a rapid departure to the other side of the waterway.

More tomorrow.

Airport Aviation Cook Strait Landscapes Lyall Bay Waves Weather Wellington

November 28, 2015 … wild and woolly weather

We arrived back from Queenstown on Thursday into the teeth of a rising Northerly gale.

Oriental bay
Oriental Bay in a gale

Yesterday’s winds peaked at about 133 km/h.  In Oriental Bay, there was an odd combination of grey cloud, green water and some thin sunlight.

A wider view of the harbour. The Navy’s logistics ship, HMNZS Canterbury is tied up at Queens Wharf.

I wondered if I could get away with a multi-shot panorama, as they are remarkably fussy when it comes to getting smooth  transitions between the waves on each of the images. I seem to have got away with it, though you might have to click to see the larger image to be sure.

Second time lucky

I got some lunch at the Kilbirnie shops and ate in the car at the airport end of Lyall Bay. I should have known better than to put my camera down, because I watched an apparently normal approach by a Jetstar A320 turn pear-shaped. A vicious gust rolled it 10 or 15 degrees from horizontal which looked much more terrifying than it sounds. The pilot obviously thought so too as the throttles were slammed open and it executed a very decisive go-round. When it returned for another try about ten minutes later the landing was much less dramatic, but I suspect it was one of those flights where the relieved passengers burst into applause when the wheels touch down.

Fast and straight, and no waiting for the bags.

Smaller planes seemed to suffer less for some reason, and the ATRs and the Q300s came in quite steadily, despite the heavy gusts rocking my car. Then a smaller aircraft still came into view. The Cessna 510 Citation Mustang has the words Robert Jones Holdings Limited on its side so I win no prizes for identifying it as ZK_RJZ, the private business jet of Sir Robert Jones who no longer has to suffer the indignities of safety briefings, cockpit announcements and security checks. It came in fast and steady. Personal business jets are still a rarity in New Zealand.

That’s all today.



Adventure Cook Strait Lakes Landscapes Light Queenstown

November 27, 2015 … clicking my heels together*

We flew home yesterday.

Lake Hayes
Lake Hayes on its best behaviour, and there was a clear view across the top of Deer Heights Park to Cecil Peak. The mountain slopes to the left is the Northern face of the Remarkable range.

Andrew and Abbey are wonderful hosts, and I miss our grandchildren already, but after a while there is an insistent call summoning us home. Our flight was at 2 pm, so the morning was free. For the first time since we arrived, there was no wind at all. With the aid of Abbey’s little car, I went round to Lake Hayes, to see if my hopes were realised. Lake Hayes has been shot a million times, but when it sets up that mirror, I can’t resist it.

Looking down the Frankton Arm towards Queenstown township at the right, with Kelvin Heights on the left.

In due course, after an airport lunch, we were airborne, looking down the lake towards Queenstown.

Treble Cone
The road to Treble Cone skifield. It is much harder to see in Winter.

We had a chatty cockpit crew and they warned us that there would be a lot of turbulence as we climbed to cruising altitude. I think the persistently winding road below runs from the Cardrona Valley to the Treble Cone skifield.

Lake Hawea in the foreground. I have camped on its foreshore, and almost been abducted to an alien spaceship by gangs of sand-flies working in unison. Lake Wanaka is at the back.

It’s fun picking out places you have been by road. The next image is “The Neck” where Lake Hawea is closest to Lake Wanaka. That road along the lakeshore in the foreground, passes over the neck and then clings to the Northern shore of Wanaka until it heads West over the wild road to Haast and the West Coast.

Aoraki Mt Cook (Left), Mt Tasman (Right) with the Hochstetter ice flow in front of Mt Tasman.

Before long, our loquacious first officer was back and being informative about the mountains to the left. Aoraki Mt Cook and Mt Tasman were pointed out, as  was the amazing Hochstetter Ice Flow pouring down the mountain towards the Tasman Glacier at a rate of up to 10 metres a day.

Lake Grassmere salt ponds

Nearer to home, we crossed the coast just South of Lake Grassmere which is New Zealand’s principal source of table salt.  I am fascinated by the pink hue of the evaporating pans.

Island bay
Almost home, with Island bay visible from a different angle.

And then, after crossing an obviously wild and  windy Strait it was a bouncing and slightly uncomfortable descent into Wellington. Tapu Teranga Island sitting out there guarding Island bay was a welcome sight.

Normal service should resume tomorrow.

  • a vague reference to the Wizard of Oz
Adventure Bees flowers Glenorchy Lakes Landscapes mountains Queenstown

November 26, 2015 … Westward into the mist

Andrew and Abbey were both working yesterday, but were kind enough to lend us a car.

Looking Westward on Lake Wakatipu towards Glenorchy. Pig and Pigeon Islands are to the left.

Mary and I took some lunch and set out along the shore of Lake Wakatipu in the direction of Glenorchy. It was a grey and moody day that intensified as we went Westward. I am not entirely sure it wasn’t snowing on those ranges to the South beyond Kinloch.

Honey bee on clover in the Glenorchy wetlands

After a coffee at one of the local hostelries, we went out on the walkway through the Glenorchy lagoon. This is a swampy area with extensive boardwalks, lots of birdsong, and a delightful range of local flora.  I believe that as yet the pestilential Varroa mite has not yet reached this far South so it was a joy to see honey bees in good numbers.

Honey bee on lupin

Also plentiful were the lupins which officialdom regard as a pest weed. The bees don’t care.

This is wild bleak country when the weather is rough

Regardless of the imminent rain, it was a very pleasant hour=long walk around the lagoon, followed by lunch in the car at the lakeside near Glenorchy jetty. I was amused to watch an elaborately staged wedding shoot taking place with three still photographers and one videographer. It was certainly a dramatic backdrop. I am told that many couples come here to have their wedding photographs done weeks or months after the actual wedding back in China.

Now we are home in Wellington  and I am tired so that’s all for now.

Adventure Birds Landscapes Maritime mountains Queenstown

November 25, 2015 … thunder in the gorge

Random wandering was yesterday’s plan.

Californian Quail

It started at the home of Andrew and Abbey where a strange bird call caught my attention. A Californian Quail was perched on a large transmission insulator which is a feature object in their garden.

Lupins in full bloom

On the back road between Arrowtown and Arthur’s Point there were lots of the seasonal displays of lupins.

Green valley

Closer to Arthur’s Point, there is a nice view down the  green valley towards Queenstown.

Shotover Jet at full throttle

A little time at the Shotover Jet base is always fun as the huge growling engines of the jet boats bring thunder to the gorge. An added feature yesterday was the strong wind which launched most of the sand on the point into the air and into the passengers waiting for their ride.

At the pool

In the evening we were babysitting the children while their parents went to a concert. It was swimming lesson night and I liked the texture and reflections on the water.

It was a long day.

Adventure Animals Gibbston Valley Kawarau Gorge Landscapes Light

November 24, 2015 … following the river

Views from the Crown Range on the previous day prompted me to explore the Gibbston Valley.

The grapevines absorb the sunlight and impart it to the resultant wines

I went up Coal Pit Road, as far as the first closed gate and then, mindful of the sign warning that this was a back country road that could result in damage to vehicles, turned back. Despite the nice view of it from the Crown Range Rd, Coal Pit Road did not return the favour. Never mind, I liked the light under the canopy of one of the many vineyards in the Gibbston Valley.

Though I was travelling at walking pace, the sheep panicked

The Gibbston Back Road looked interesting, though narrow and with a dry gravel surface. Around a corner, I encountered a ewe with three lambs. Sheep are not the brightest of animals and the four of them clattered off down the road, kicking up dust ahead of me.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t persuade them to move sideways onto the grass verge until at last we came to a small patch of bush where, exhausted, they clambered into concealment.

Roaring Meg in the Kawarau Gorge

I expect that the valley would be more productive in the golden hours at dawn or dusk, but it wasn’t doing a lot for me, so I carried on down the road into the Kawarau Gorge and on to “Roaring Meg” which is variously, two small hydro-electric power stations, and the creek that feeds them, flowing into the Kawarau.

Large tracts of dead wilding pines in the gorge

Looking back upstream, I was somewhat saddened by the dead pine trees. There is a programme designed t eliminate wilding pines by poisoning them. In principle, I approve, but the dead trees left behind are an eyesore in an otherwise magnificent landscape.

More tomorrow.

Adventure Aviation Landscapes Museum Queenstown

November 23, 2015 … over the range

Billie was at a camp for guides at Lake Hawea.

One of the few vehicles that gave a clear view

The family set out to retrieve her at the end of the camp, and dropped me in Wanaka at a transport and toy museum. This place has an amazing collection, but is hugely frustrating because they have so many items they have insufficient space to display anything well. Nevertheless, some items can be seen in part, if not in whole.

Trucking back in time

If they have attempted to organize the collection in any way, their plan eludes me. Trucks facing a glass cabinet full of clocks were a surprise but allowed for a little whimsy.

Mary Poppins?

A random collection of bicycles hung in the rafters made an interesting opportunity to make some passing reference to ET and/or Mary Poppins.

The C60A Lodestar

In another hangar, a beautiful Lockheed C60A Lodestar was backed up so tightly that its tailfin was actually in contact with the fuselage of a de Havilland DH104 Devon. Every space was filled with vehicles, spare parts, armoured fighting vehicles.

Fokker Friendship … flaps lying atop the wing

In the adjacent hangar, the centre piece was a Fokker F27 Friendship complete except for the tailfin. Parking vehicles between the fuselage and the undercarriage legs was an act of bravery. Don’t be put off. It’s a fantastic collection.

Through the Dry Cardrona*

We took the road over the Crown Range to get home, and I tried a slow exposure through the windscreen.

Looking down the Queenstown runway from the top of the Crown Range

At the top of the hill, looking down on Queenstown is a splendid reward for the long trip through the winding road of the Cardrona valley.

That’s all for now.


By the Dry Cardrona by James K Baxter and D. Tomms


Adventure Arrowtown Children Family Queenstown

November 22, 2015 … a stranger in a strange land

Queenstown was inundated yesterday with people in Lycra.

The Arrow River in Arrowtown

It was the running of the annual marathon, and there were over 9,000 participants in the various stages from 10 km, half and full marathons. I am told that 80% of the competitors were from out of town, so the sudden influx of visitors with their companions put a huge strain on everything. The race itself required significant closures of various roads and tracks, so I looked in the other direction for my images. I went to Arrowtown, where the race started, since they had all long since gone South, and went to the Arrow River and Tobin’s Track.

Looking down Tobin’s Track through unremitting greenery towards the Arrow River

In April, the area is ablaze with Autumn colour, but for now, everything is still a luscious green.

Pretty flower that soon becomes a pest

I am unsure what the tree is with the little white flowers, but it seems to release what seems like puffs of snow or cotton wool. The roadsides gutters are full of the white remains.

The mean-spirited matagouri in blossom

Later in the day, Mary persuaded me to come out for a walk with Otis to see another flowering tree she had found, with vicious spikes. I was baffled, but my Internet friends soon enlightened me. Any Southerner is probably familiar with the matagouri (Discaria toumatou) or “Wild Irishman”. It is reputedly the only native plant with thorns. And what thorns they are.

Otis with all the joy that a five year old boy has on a wild ride down a gravel track

This bush was growing on a popular path leading from Lake Hayes Estate towards the lake itself. Otis was scooting along with us on his bicycle, and he really enjoyed the hairy downhill ride from the shrubs back to the valley floor.

And that is enough for this edition.

Architecture Birds Lakes Landscapes Queenstown

November 21, 2015 … Southern colours

Despite the forecast, it was a fantastic morning for photographs.

Lake Hayes
Looking across Lake Hayes to the Remarkables

The water on Lake Hayes was almost still, and there were low clouds drifting around the mountains.  And as the morning progressed, the water acquired that viscous oily look rather than a chop.

Papango or New Zealand Scaup

Waterfowl were plentiful, especially the New Zealand scaup, or papango. These are diving ducks so as often as not, I caught nothing but tail feathers as they dived.

Another scaup on a lovely yellow background

Increasingly, as the water settled,  the reflections of bright yellow broom on the hills around the lake added colour to the images.

Australian Coot

Another prolific inhabitant of the lake is the Australian Coot. They are not particularly attractive birds ,  but they were plentiful.

Scaup (3)
Male and female scaup on a sea of green

The colours on the lake were becoming more magical as the waves flattened out, and another pair of scaup obliged by swimming into this lovely green patch.

Thurlby Domain ruins

From there I went along Speargrass Flats Rd to Thurlby Domain. I have visited there before but each day and each set of lighting conditions are different. The old buildings are not getting any younger, but the owners seem to have stabilised the ruins.

Well preserved ruins

If you are in the region and have a taste for history and gracious gardens, Thurlby Domain is well worth a visit. It is frequently used as a wedding venue.

That’s all for today.