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December 28, 2016 … aimless wandering

Wai Aniwa
Wai Aniwa – once a world champion

After settling back in  from our trip to Waiheke, I have tried to get back into some sort of photographic rhythm, with marginal success. I am still working on my marina-based project, but the weather has not only been unkind, but downright cruel. The wind has been almost unrelenting, so in a brief period of calm I made my way to the marina, but saw little that was new. You can rarely go wrong with a splash of red so I went to the pier where I found Wai Aniwa. Last time I saw her she was in the basin at Oriental Bay. This cup was a world champion way back in 1972, racing in the One Ton Cup, which was held in Sydney that year. Skippered by Chris Bouzaid, she won and was briefly the talk of the nation, long before we dreamed that America’s Cup  could ever leave America.

Orchid Mantis … this model is about a metre across

Later that week, our Son Anthony and grandchildren Maggie (whose 12th birthday is today) and Cooper invited me to accompany them to “The Bug Lab”, an exhibition at Te Papa put on by Weta Workshops. It is about some interesting and exotic aspects of various insects, and as is often the case with Weta, involves hyper-real models scaled up to several times life-size.

The dragonfly exhibit was rotating under strobe lights and was astonishingly realistic as a simulation of the dragonfly’s darting flight

Of course, with school summer holidays just started the place was absolutely buzzing even with the insects. It was an interesting exhibition and I always love time with the grandchildren.

Fascinating in its own way, but my worst nightmare – the Ovation of the Seas

A few days before Christmas, the cruise-liner, Ovation of the Seas visited Wellington. The weather was a surly grey with a bitter wind and intermittent rain. All of  the worst stereotypes of Wellington confirmed for 4,900 passengers. She is the biggest vessel ever to have visited New Zealand and for that reason I made an attempt to record the event, bu was not particularly impressed with the resulting image, but she was here.

Christmas flowers

Christmas was quiet for us, though the local family came for breakfast, and we had friends around for Dinner.  In the quiet part of the day I recorded a bouquet received from our family in Brisbane.

Tui and the flax flowers

I think I said recently that with the flowering of the flax we are absolutely saturated with the Tui which is here gathering the nectar, and the more it gets, the less fear it seems to have.


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December 21, 2016 … an island, a wedding, some volcanoes and home

Man o'war Bay
Man o’war Bay, Waiheke Island

The day before the wedding, Mary and I explored the Eastern end of Waiheke. I suppose the woeful state of the roads in what is legally part of the city of Auckland is some sort of social engineering mechanism to keep the peasants at bay. Well it got us to at least one bay – after 20 km of narrow, uneven edge-crumbling single-lane road we arrived at Man o’War Bay. There is a restaurant vineyard  and upscale accommodation, but we were just touring. The view to the East is delightful on such a day as this. Tarakihi Island and Pakatoa are in the foreground with the Coromandel Peninsula a hazy blue in the distance. We completed the loop back to the suburbanized part of the Island and had a picnic lunch on a quiet part of Onetangi Beach.

The distant city … Auckland across the blustery Hauraki Gulf and Brown’s Island

Mary did a long walk in the afternoon while I explored some of the bays and side roads near our accommodation. Somewhere above Kauaroa Bay, there was a long view back towards Auckland City. Just above Brown’s Island the Sky Tower and Auckland’s high-rise buildings were visible through the wind-driven salt haze.

With this ring, I thee wed. Neil places the ring on Jo’s finger with the blue waters of the Hauraki Gulf as a backdrop

The day of the wedding was fine and calm. It was an absolute picture post card day, and all that any bride could wish for. Our niece, Jo married Neil in a nice lodge above Palm Beach  in a joyful ceremony combining his Indian and her Kiwi heritage. Their ceremony was a happy mix of tradition and modern elements, and the hundred or so guests from near and very far were treated to some wonderful hospitality as they celebrated with Jo and Neil.  We were privileged to be there.

“When you come to the end of a perfect day” … looking down on Rocky Bay, Waiheke

Mary and I left younger guests to carry on and went back to our accommodation about 8 km to the East. As we get near to our Summer solstice, the sunsets happen late in the evening and this view from our balcony looking back towards Auckland brought the day to a perfect close.

Honey bees and pohutukawa – Waiheke

The next day we began the journey South and after a coffee with the happy couple, and Jo’s dad, Mary’s brother and his wife, we went to wait for the ferry at Kennedy Point. Summer comes to Auckland early and perhaps even earlier to Waiheke. Pohutukawa were in prolific flower, and I was happy to see what I believe to be many feral honey bees. Then we drove across the South Eastern suburbs of Auckland and onto SH1, all the way back as far as Tokaanu.

Early morning drizzle at Tokaanu, Lake Taupo

Next morning, the last day of our round trip dawned soft and grey over the lake. There was no wind and the lightest of drizzles. The old Tokaanu wharf seemed like a place to start. The Southern end of the lake was covered with black swans grazing on the weed below. There were scaup and dabchicks, shags and swallows and in the reeds behind me I could hear bitterns booming. Spoonbills flew overhead and it was just a wonderful place to be.

Black scaup pops to the surface

Despite its somewhat rickety state, I braved the wharf and walked as quietly as I could along its ancient creaking structure. Occasionally a scaup would emerge alongside me from a long dive, take a moment to realise that there was a human very close before squawking and flapping off.

Welcome swallow on ancient wood

Another frequent flyer in the neighborhood was the Welcome Swallow. They flit about with regular changes of direction harvesting airborne insect, and then resting on the wharf. This one was as close as it could be while still in focus, but for some reason when it flew it came towards me. It would have been a great shot if it had not come inside my focus ability.

And then we drove home.


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December 15, 2016 … home and gone again

From the heat of Queensland and Victoria, I came home to rain and wind and the flax in full bloom.

Singing in the rain … tui on the flax

Flax flowers bring about peak tui season and the rain deters them not one bit. In fact I suspect that the rainwater assists in the extraction of the nectar from the flowers.

The multi-theatre cinema complex and underlying car park are unsafe after the earthquake so they must come down. Note the “pop up” arrow in the bottom corner

The earth was still moving regularly, though from my perspective, the tremors were small and of of more interest to the seismographs than to real life.  The consequences of the big shake on November 14 are still being felt in Wellington and elsewhere. Many thousands of city workers are unable to return to their normal places of work because they are deemed unsafe, or are yet to be proven safe. Some are already being demolished including the movie theatre complex and the Eastern half of the car park at the Queensgate shopping mall in Lower Hutt. This is unfortunate for the owners of the New World supermarket across the road. Though their store was undamaged, they were not allowed in because of risk posed by the weakened building and the mandated demolition process. A large marquee has been erected in their car park behind the shop and they have created a “pop-up” supermarket to tide them over for the next week or so.

Weather is happening before my very eyes, near Turangi

Mary and I are in Waiheke at present, to attend the wedding of a niece.  We decided to drive to Auckland and then catch a ferry across to the island. but to have a day’s stopover in Tokaanu, just to the North of the mountains. The wet weather persisted and we caught no glimpse of the mountains from the Desert Road. However, as we neared Turangi the weather started to improve and I saw the spectacular cloud above through the windscreen.

Clear morning from the Ponanga Saddle lookout

Mary is a great walker, so she wanted to do the walk around Lake Rotopounamu on the South side of the Ponanga Saddle. Early on our layover day, we drove up the saddle from where I paused to construct a panorama if the view to the North over Lake Taupo.

Bush track leading to Rotopounamu

Then we reached the walkway to Lake Rotopounamu. Put this on your bucket list as one of those small jewels to see before you pass on. It sits inside the Tongariro National Park which is itself a World Heritage site. The track to the lake climbs steadily for twenty minutes through some of the most breathtakingly beautiful bush I have ever seen. Mighty trees and beautiful ferns are made more special by the unceasing birdsong all around.

Lovely Lake Rotopounamu … the only sounds are the birds and the wind in the treetops

Down at the lake all was still and peaceful. I set about making images while Mary set off around the 5 km lakeside track. As you can see, the weather had significantly improved.

Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and far in the background, Ruapehu

Since we were on the South side of the saddle, we decided to visit the mountains. There is a Maori proverb or whakatauki which goes “Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei!”  …. seek what is really important and let nothing but a mighty mountain get in your way. There in front of us, were three mighty mountains, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. But out here the wind was bitter and there was moisture in the air. We went up the mountain past Chateau Tongariro to the “Top of the Bruce”. Since the ski lifts were running for tourists, the restaurant was open, and we were told the ride on the lift was $35 per adult but quietly advised “don’t go, it’s too darned cold”. We agreed and settled for our tea, coffee and hot scone and then headed back towards Tokaanu.

Mapuhia Rapids

Just past the junction with the mountain road and highway 47, we came to an unspectacular bridge across the Whakapapanui River and the quite spectacular Mahuia rapids which is apparently popular with people in kayaks with a death wish. It was lovely to look at but nothing on Earth would persuade me to get in.

Sunset from the deck of our Waiheke accommodation

Yesterday we set out early from Tokaanu bound for Auckland and Waiheke. From Karapiro onwards, the roads are so changes since I was last in the North that I felt like a foreigner in my own land. We followed SH1B (whatever that is) and emerged at Taupiri Mountain beside the Waikato river without ever sighting Cambridge or Hamilton. The GPS in my smartphone guided us through an Auckland that I never knew, to Half Moon Bay and an unmemorable trip on the vehicle ferry to the island. The greyness and the wind did not offer the welcome I hoped for but the sunset was a delight.

City Lights
Auckland’s night sky from the deck. These are the Eastern suburbs, Howick, Beachlands and Maraetai.

I had gone to bed but chose to look out the window back towards the city and decided I needed one more shot.

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December 7, 2016 … a happy conclusion

Now I am home. No matter how much I love being with my sons and daughters and grandchildren, there is an inevitable time when being home is the right place to be.

A bright day in downtown Brisbane

Last Wednesday in Brisbane started off in spectacular Queensland fashion, with bright sunshine and high temperature. I went to town to meet my son, David and the day seemed perfect. After lunch, he went back to work, and I set out to take in the sights.

Bush Stone Curlews in Brisbane’s botanic garden

The Botanic Gardens in Brisbane are intrinsically beautiful but are also a place where you can find exotic wild life such as water dragons and lizards of various types. For me, the greatest joy was coming across a family of the somewhat rare bush stone curlew. I got down on my belly and wriggled close. These birds have as their first line of defense the habit of freezing in place when disturbed, so I was doing quite well. Then a pair of lead-footed runners came galloping through and scattered them.

storm (1)
Coming back towards the city on the River Cat, into the approaching storm

From there I used my Brisbane transport card and boarded one of the River Cat ferries and went upstream to St Lucia and then back down to the city terminal. Remember that perfect weather? It disappeared before my very eyes and the sky got dark very quickly.

Victoria Bridge and everyone knows the rain is coming

I got off at the North Quay and looked over my shoulder across the Victoria Bridge from Queen Street. This was starting to look serious.

There are a lot of gaps in the verandahs in Brisbane. I think I found most of them

Then there was a flash and the stunning crash  to signify that the skies were now officially open.Oh Lord, didn’t it rain!  I was unwilling to stand out in the open with almost continuous lightning strikes and a calamitous downpour.  By the time I got back to David’s work, I was drenched.

Brisbane Panorama from High over Southbank

The next day, the family took me out to dinner on the city’s Southbank area where we were able to look at the brand new workplace where my daughter-in-law Rowena works. Outside another storm was threatening but I took the opportunity to compile a nine shot panoramic stitch of the the view from her floor. I like Brisbane very much.

Port Melbourne
On the beach at Port Melbourne

The next day I flew out to Melbourne to visit my elder daughter Catherine and her husband, Mark. Though still warm by Wellington standards, Melbourne was being gentle with me. Port Melbourne is a delightful suburb and gives access to some wonderful views out over the vastness of Port Phillip Bay.

Prince’s Pier, Port Melbourne

One of the great cliché photos from Port Melbourne is Prince’s Pier which was once a busy working wharf, but is now a mixture of preserved piles and a work of art. My stay was over all too soon, and it was back home. I loved visiting the kids, but being back home with Mary and in our own house just feels right.

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November 30, 2016 … on the West Island

Here I am in the big brown island next door. It’s 8:20 am and already the thermometer is telling me it’s 26 deg C, and heading for 28. I am enjoying the hospitality of my eldest son David and his wife, and loving being here with them and our two beautiful grandchildren. Apart from the weather, a slight bonus is that the earth has not moved at all while I have been here.

Sunset at Bald Hills

I came over on Wednesday, flying into the Gold Coast airport at Coolangatta. An old friend and former colleague kindly transported me the 20 km or so from the airport to Varsity Lakes railway station, which is the southern limit of Brisbane’s commuter rail network. It was a pleasant run of about 90 minutes into Brisbane Central station where I met up with David who drove us home. Nearing Bald Hills in the heavy evening traffic, I enjoyed the magnificent sunset.

Swan plants
This was a tiny part of a vast field of swan plants

On Friday, David took me to a favourite location nearby, the Tinchi Tamba wetlands. Unlike Wellington, South East Queensland has been experiencing a prolonged dry spell, so the “wetlands” were not so fruitful as they have been in the past. However, there was a large open area full of swan plants, that favourite food of the monarch butterfly. It seems we missed the peak event but there were still a lot of butterflies flitting about.

Grace’s art project

The next day, David, Grace, Isaac and I went to Kelvin Grove where Grace is a student at the Queensland Academy of Creative Industries. I can’t say I understood the assignment, but she got very high marks for the project, and she produced a piece made with cane and tissue paper … as I understood it, the mark was for the exploration in writing of the artist(s) who inspired the work and analysis of the creative process.

Scarborough Harbour

On Sunday, with Isaac, David and I drove North to Redcliffe. We had a great fish and chip lunch at the Scarborough harbour where you can be sure the fish in your lunch is fresh.

Brisbane Port
Brisbane is a big city and has a big port whose cranes are visible across Moreton Bay

We came back along the coastline from where there was an interesting view of the distant cranes of Brisbane’s port.

Restoration nicely done

Yesterday, Grace and I went to Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art (more her thing than mine, but you don’t often get an excuse to hang out with your 15 year-old granddaughter. The museum is on Southbank and has some interesting architectural neighbours.

Reflections in a table

From the third floor of the gallery, I spotted a reflection of the city across the river. It wasn’t the river doing the trick though, but a large glass-topped table up against the window. Brisbane’s river is customary brown and silt laden, so the glass did a better job.

The two islands of New Zealand? A piece by Michael Parakowhai who is also responsible for a statue of an elephant standing on its head outside the gallery.

A piece in the gallery was eye-catching. It was by New Zealand artist, Michael Parakowhai and according to the tour guide it referenced the two islands of New Zealand with all the culture in the North and all the fun bits in the South.