Whenever I arrive in Queenstown, one of my first photo locations is Bendemeer Bay on Lake Hayes where, if the water is calm, I hope to see grebes. Alas, no grebes, but there was a nice view back towards the Remarkables.
On Monday, I went over the Crown Range to Wanaka. The weather in Queenstown was grey with low overcast, and as I followed the zig-zag up the Southern face of the range,I entered the cloud and the visibility dropped to about 50 metres and only the tail lights of the car ahead were visible. With almost no warning, I emerged into clear sunlight and arrived at the lookout. Behind me to the South, the valley leading down to Queenstown was invisible.
The road to the North, along the Cardrona river was bathed in golden light under a clear blue sky. Just a little past the Cardrona Hotel, there was a view to the West which warranted a panorama.
And then to Wanaka. As almost every photographer in New Zealand knows, there is a tree in the lake that has become the great cliché. Some refer to it as the Wanaka Tree, but more commonly, it’s just “that bl**dy tree”. Normally it is a little off shore, and is surrounded by water. On this occasion, the lake level was low and tourists can walk up to the tree and drape themselves over it to make their infernal selfies. It took twenty minutes of increasing blood pressure before there was a gap in which the tree was captured on its own.
Yesterday, our son, Andrew took Mary and I with grandchildren Billie and Otis, down Skippers Canyon. The road is sometimes easy, and sometimes sheer terrifying. Yesterday was relatively easy, dry and firm though far from smooth. No matter the state of the road, the landscape is always magnificent.
In winter, the countryside in the canyon is bleak and inhospitable and it is hard to believe that miners lived down here, scratching at the frozen soil, looking for the elusive gold. Their accommodation was largely fashioned from materials on site, and anything else was hauled in over the range on horse and wagon.
I went inside one of the remaining huts and was delighted to see it seems to be still used from time to time. I couldn’t catch the two fantails flitting about inside, but just loved the atmosphere. I suspect I would have a different opinion in the dead of winter.
We went down the old Skipper’s schoolhouse and visited the nearby cemetery. It had a lot of unused space, and the planners obviously expected the town to be bigger and last longer. One grave caught my eye, it was that of father and son, John and James Mitchell, aged 46 and 15 respectively, killed together in the Phoenix mine.
After the long haul back up the canyon, we paused at the top to capture the view down to the Remarkables and Queenstown. More next week.