adversity Bay of Plenty Family Lakes Landscapes Light mountains Rotorua Whakatane

July 1, 2016 – past the halfway mark

We are in the second half of the year now, and on the long slow haul through the worst months of our Southern winter. Mary and I are just back from a sudden trip to Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty to attend a funeral. There had been a lot of very heavy rain in the last few days so the landscape was looking clean and well washed.

Derelict house near Bulls

Just North of Bulls is one of those frequently photographed derelict houses. The light and the sheep made it interesting to me on this trip.

The largest mountain in the North Island, and an active volcano, Ruapehu always impresses me (when I can see it).

But we were travelling with purpose, so I limited the stops, passing many fine opportunities and attempting to make a mental note to visit again when time was not pressing. Everyone who ever followed the Desert Road with a camera has probably taken a shot of Ruapehu, but despite having a bag full of such images already, the cloud around its mighty shoulders and the light demanded yet another try.

Aniwhenua (1)
An extension to Lake Aniwhenua looking South

Google maps recommended that we turn off near Waiotapu and follow SH 38 around the Southern edge of Kaingaroa Forest and then turn North through Galatea, Matahina and Te Teko to emerge on SH2 at Awakeri. The idea had a lot of appeal, not least because there are fewer trucks on the narrow back country roads. Where the road crosses the Rangitaiki River at the top (Southern) end of lake Aniwhenua, the river was running fast and brown with the burden of the recent downpours. But beside the road on the South Eastern side of the bridge there was a flooded area, that I think is part of the lake only after such heavy rain. Though separated from the turbulent river by a few metres, the lake was a perfect sunlit mirror, reflecting its surrounds beautifully. The Ikawhenua range in the background was still wreathed in the heavy clouds.

Standing on the narrow strip of land separating this lovely lake from the racing brown water behind me


Before we resumed our journey, I snatched a few shots, marvelling at the lake’s perfect stillness.

The funeral the next day was a wonderful tribute to Mary’s aunt, Natalie Ella Keen, a very gracious and talented lady now at peace. After a delightful if somewhat sad gathering with rarely seen family, we returned to the lovely farm cottage we had rented, And then the heavens opened. Listening to the hammering on the roof overnight, I began to wonder if the roads we had taken would be above the water when we returned the next day. So I determined that we would travel via Te Teko and Rotorua and thence down SH5 to Taupo and home from there.

Lake Rotoma … just after daybreak and my only serious attempt at photography on a heavy grey day.

It was a grey sullen day with a lot of heavy traffic, and being stuck behind trucks with thirty-four tyres pumping water off the road into the air is not fun. There was a break in the rain as we approached Lake Rotoma just after sunrise, so I paused and snatched a shot of the bush reflected in its still surface, From there it was unremittingly grey all the way home. From the desert road, the rain limited visibility to about a hundred metres in all directions. We got home safely.


Adventure Bay of Plenty Lakes Landscapes mountains Ohiwa Reflections Rivers Whakatane

January 26, 2016 … road trip and relaxation

Mary and I are on a road trip.

Ruapehu from the Desert Road

Our purpose is to visit relatives in Whakatane and New Plymouth,but also to have some rest and relaxation on the way. We left Wellington early on Sunday Morning, travelling up SH1 and across the Desert Road from where we had a great view of mighty Ruapehu. Despite a gloomy forecast, we were lucky to get a clear view of the mountain before that cloud shrouded its summit.

Oturere stream passing under the road bridge on its way to the Tongariro River

On the way down into Turangi, the road takes some very sharp turns and one of them crosses the Oturere stream, which tumbles its icy way from high on the mountain to join the Tongariro river on its way to Lake Taupo.

Near the Matahina Dam

We enjoyed a picnic lunch beside the lake near Motuoapa and then carried on towards Rotorua. Turning off at Waiotapu, we went through Murapara and turned North to Whakatane. This was a road I have not previously travelled, so I was watching for new landscape opportunities. Since the road passes through Kaingaroa Forest, it was quite some while before I saw a chance as we came down from Lake Aniwhenua towards the Matahina dam. The haze looked like that of a forest fire, but I have not heard any news of one.

The end of the line

Our accommodation for four nights is a delightful cottage on a farm us to the West of Whakatane. It is well clear of the main road and offers amazing pastoral tranquility and open views to the South. There are some cattle on the farm, and a wonderful assortment of old farm implements and a very ancient motor home in a state of picturesque disrepair.

Oystercatcher and chick

After settling in for the night, we used Monday to visit the Ohiwa spitĀ  where the dotterels and white-fronted terns nest in large numbers. Sadly I saw neither but I did enjoy this Oystercatcher and its chick.

Fernbird … the first one I have ever seen

In case I didn’t mention it, the Ohiwa Spit is at the Eastern end of the stunningly beautiful Ohiwa harbour. On the way home we passed the Nukuhou Salt Marsh and saw a sign that suggested a useful lookout. The visitor information at the sight urged a lookout for the Australasian bittern and the very rare fernbird. To my great joy, I saw both, though the bittern was just a glimpse of its disappearing tail feathers as it crashed into the reeds to get out of sight. And there suddenly, was the notoriously shy fernbird. Fantastic.

Reflections in one of the many streams near the harbour

This morning we went back again in hope of seeing the bittern. We didn’t, but the scenery alone made the trip worth while.

Pied stilts on parade

It wasn’t a total loss for birds, as we spotted a colony of pied stilts standing in the shallow water, milky calm reflecting the sea-mist behind.

Mangrove reflections

As I have said on many previous occasions, I love still water, and as I sat watching the stilts, I saw the tips of some mangroves peeping above the very high tide. As I said, the water was absolutely still.

I am loving this trip.