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.
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.
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.
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.
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 herons were visible, but wary as always. This one made a rapid departure to the other side of the waterway.
We arrived back from Queenstown on Thursday into the teeth of a rising Northerly 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In due course, after an airport lunch, we were airborne, looking down the lake towards Queenstown.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Andrew and Abbey were both working yesterday, but were kind enough to lend us a car.
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.
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.
Also plentiful were the lupins which officialdom regard as a pest weed. The bees don’t care.
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.
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.
On the back road between Arrowtown and Arthur’s Point there were lots of the seasonal displays of lupins.
Closer to Arthur’s Point, there is a nice view down the green valley towards Queenstown.
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.
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.
Views from the Crown Range on the previous day prompted me to explore the Gibbston Valley.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A random collection of bicycles hung in the rafters made an interesting opportunity to make some passing reference to ET and/or Mary Poppins.
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.
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.
We took the road over the Crown Range to get home, and I tried a slow exposure through the windscreen.
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
Queenstown was inundated yesterday with people in Lycra.
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.
In April, the area is ablaze with Autumn colour, but for now, everything is still a luscious green.
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.
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.
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.
Despite the forecast, it was a fantastic morning for photographs.
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.
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.
Increasingly, as the water settled, the reflections of bright yellow broom on the hills around the lake added colour to the images.
Another prolific inhabitant of the lake is the Australian Coot. They are not particularly attractive birds , but they were plentiful.
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.
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.
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.