Adventure Balloons Birds Camera club Canterbury Christchurch Cook Strait Dunedin Family insects Lakes Landscapes Machinery mountains Museum Queenstown Weather

May 2, 2018 … A South Island Ramble

For the last two weeks, more or less, Mary and I spent time in the South Island. We visited the family in Queenstown, though I also had the ulterior motive of the Photographic Society of New Zealand’s  annual convention in Dunedin. The weather forecast was gloomy but somewhat ambiguous as we set out.

The Kaiarahi comes in to berth in the place our own ferry has just vacated.

I am always baffled by the loading process on the Interislander ferries. I imagine that they attempt to distribute vehicles fore and aft, port and starboard so that the vessel is properly balanced. However, the selections of who goes next and who goes where is seemingly quite random.

An elegant white swan at Liffey wetlands near Lincoln

We stopped on the way South at a nice AirBnB in the Lincoln district, near Christchurch. It was a lovely rural location that I might never have found without the aid of a GPS. As we left there on our way to Dunedin, we passed Liffey Springs, a spring-fed creek that flows into the Lincoln wetlands where there are a lot of waterfowl of one sort or another.

The broad flat lands of South Canterbury bump into the distant Southern Alps

Despite the forecast there was a clear view Westward to the snow-capped Southern Alps, seen here from somewhere near Dunsandel. Our travels took us to Musselburgh in Dunedin where we spent the night before I loaded Mary onto a bus bound for Queenstown the next day.

The harbour in Otago looking out towards Port Chalmers and the Taiaroa Heads

Prior to the opening of the convention, I took the road out to Port Chalmers and marvelled that the Otago harbour is more often than not, very calm when I meet it.

A white-capped or shy albatross cruises past the boat

The convention was well enough, offering a number of pre-booked field trips, each suited to one of the many genres of photography. My first such adventure was on the charter-vessel Monarch which took us down the placid harbour , offering some nice landscape opportunities, and then past Taiaroa Head to the open sea. There, as expected, we encountered a variety of the great pelagic seabirds including various petrels and gulls, as well as the Buller’s Mollymawk, the White-capped or Shy Albatross, and the greatest of the all, the Southern Royal albatross with its wings spreading over three metres.  Despite my notoriously queasy stomach, my only difficulty on the voyage was maintaining my balance as the vessel pitched and rolled in a swell that seemed to be around two metres. One hand for the ship and one for yourself is the ancient maritime wisdom, which leaves little for the camera.

A stationary steam engine spinning almost noiselessly at the Gasworks Museum

The trip I chose for the following day was to the Gasworks Museum in South Dunedin. The host club had laid on a local group of steam punk enthusiasts to liven up the trip. To my engineering-oriented mind, they simply got in the way and obstructed my view of the wonderful old steam machinery.

Millers Flat
From the bridge at Millers Flat looking North up the Clutha River

The convention came to its conclusion at lunchtime on Sunday and I set out to rejoin Mary and the family in Queenstown. I took the Southern route in the belief that the weather was going to be miserable. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and the Autumn colours at Millers Flat and Clyde were just magical.

Lake Hayes
Lake Hayes in Autumn

A few days in Queenstown with the family were a delight. I also managed a few side trips to Lake Hayes and even managed some times when the lake was flat calm. All to quickly, it was over and we began the journey homeward.

Hot Air balloon near Arrowtown

First we crossed the Crown Range, pausing as we climbed the hill to admire the hot air balloon settling into a paddock near Arrowtown and then it was around Lake Hawea and over the Haast Pass and up the West Coast.

Lake Paringa, with another 230 km to Hokitika

A lunch break at lonely lovely Lake Paringa was well worth the hassle of the flying pests. We paused for a travel break spending two nights in Hokitika.

Near Reefton
Near Reefton

As we set out on the long last leg, there was mist and rain, and as day broke, we were near Reefton. The road from there to St Arnaud is narrow and winding and having a logging truck ahead of you is no fun. You just have to wait patiently for a “slow vehicle bay” and you are past, only to find another one ahead of you.

Gulls leave their signature

Soon enough, we were at Picton where I discovered the ultimate in primitive art, or as I prefer to think of it, a seagull selfie. And then we were home, sad to leave the family behind, but glad to be in our own environment.

Seed head

Photography took a very brief rest, and then a little still life took place. Who knows what will follow from there.




Adventure Canterbury Christchurch Cook Strait Family Landscapes Maritime mountains Picton Retirement Wellington

April 6, 2017 … in chilly Southern parts

Prematurely, it seems to be winter. And here in Karitane where Mary and I are currently staying in a borrowed “crib” (Southern word for a small holiday home), it is especially bleak as the remnants of a tropical storm cause havoc in the Northern parts of the country.

Waiting in line at the Wellington terminal to board the ferry Kaitaki to Picton.

But let’s begin at the beginning. On Thursday last, we set out in the predawn darkness to catch the ferry from Wellington to Picton. The voyage across the strait on the Kaitaki was pleasant enough. and then we began the long, long journey through Blenheim and Murchison to get to our first stopping point at Hanmer Springs. State highway 1 from Picton to Kaikoura is still firmly closed and likely to remain so for at least another year consequent to the earthquake in November. The detour is also heavily damaged and there were dozens of places where traffic was limited to 30 km/h for road works, and often stopped entirely to permit one-way traffic to operate.

Organ Range in the Hurunui District

Unlike many, however, we had no pressing need to adhere to a schedule, so despite the mild inconveniences of the journey, we could enjoy the undoubted grandeur of the South Island’s scenery. I neglected to record exactly where this  image was taken, but I think it is somewhere in the Hurunui district a little way out of Hanmer Springs.  I think we are looking across the Hope River at the Organ Range with the Glynn Wye range to the right

New Brighton Pier with the curse of the scaffolding. Presumably this is post-earthquake remedial work

We spent two days in Hanmer Springs before resuming our journey to Christchurch. Check-in time at out next accommodation in St Alban’s was mid-afternoon, so Mary and I went to the New Brighton Pier to enjoy lunch beside the sea. I seem to cause scaffolding to be erected, and whether it’s the Washington Monument or the Castlepoint Lighthouse, I seem to put a visual curse on well known landmarks.

The horizon is actually in this picture, near the top and the sky is almost indistinguishable from the sea.

The surf at New Brighton was slight, but there were many enthusiasts out there in their wet suits enjoying various forms of their sport and waiting patiently for the right wave.

War Memorial
Citizens’ War Memorial, Christchurch

We settled in to a superb apartment (thanks Airbnb), and the following day I wandered around the CBD. Six years after the big earthquake, it is apparent that though much has been done, the damage to this still beautiful city will be visible for many years to come. Apparently a decision on the fate (replace or rebuild) of the iconic cathedral is imminent, but as of this week, it sits forlornly inside the fence with weeds growing up through its once clean and well swept paving. I liked the statue on the Northern side, and was surprised to learn that it is unrelated to the Cathedral, but is in fact, the citizens’ War Memorial, funded by public subscription after WWI.

Flooded demolition site, corner of Colombo St and Oxford Tce

As I said, the damage lingers on, and despite all the new buildings going up, there are many fenced off sites where remediation or replacement has yet to begin.  This one is on the corner of Colombo St and Oxford Terrace.

Leaving Lyttelton bound for Diamond Harbour. This was as good as the weather got

We enjoyed some time with Mary’s brother and his wife, and after a wonderful dinner with them decided to go to Diamond Harbour the next day. Sadly, the weather deteriorated, but we went anyway. A nice lunch was had in Lyttelton on our return from a grey and wet Diamond Harbour.

A lookout on the old coast road looks Northward along the coast with Karitane as the first promontory and Waikouaiti next along. I liked the drama of the clouds, if not the bleakness of the weather.

We enjoyed our few days in the garden city and have now moved South to Karitane. This is a tiny coastal village on the southern side of the Waikouaiti River where it flows into the Pacific. In normal times it is a popular weekend destination for people getting out of Dunedin, but as of this moment, with rain lashing the windows and the trees whipping about in the garden, it seems a little less attractive. However, the weather is predicted to improve. We did a small tour of the area yesterday and I got this view of Karitane from a lookout on a hill to the South of the town. More of our journey next week.


Birds Canterbury Cook Strait flowers Kaikoura Lakes Landscapes Rivers

October 31, 2014 … and fair as these green foreign hills may be*

Home is best.

Rakaia Gorge
The road coming down towards the bridge is SH72 from Methven. In the foreground, where the car lights can be seen, is the same highway heading towards Christchurch, Oxford, Rangiora and Amberley

Of course I loved every moment of the visit to the South Island and the precious time with family. All five of our children were there to celebrate Andrew’s 40th birthday, and I like to think it says something that they all came. But that was last week, and now it was time for the journey home. I decided that the inland scenic route (SH72) from Windwhistle to Amberley, and then up SH1 through Kaikoura to Picton was the best way to get to the ferry for a mid-day check-in time. So for the second time in recent weeks, I rediscovered 6 am.  We were staying at the Mt Hutt Lodge in Windwhistle, and it is beautifully situated overlooking the Rakaia Gorge. The snow was even more spectacular against the flawless sky at dawn.

Rakaia River
Looking down the Rakaia River from the Mt Hutt Lodge

Looking downstream for one last shot before we got on the road, first light on the bluffs across the river was worth recording. Then it was on the road driving straight into the blinding light of the new day.

South Canterbury panorama – near Sheffield

About half an hour later, a little North West of Sheffield, the landscape demanded a serious attempt at a panorama. Click to enlarge (as for all of the images I post).

Shoveler duck near Cheviot

A little North of Cheviot, Mary said “there’s a wetland, do you want to go in?”. I dithered, she was driving, we went in. The first bird I saw was a New Zealand Shoveler. I have a real soft spot for these ducks with their seemingly disproportionate beaks. They have real character.

St Anne’s Lagoon and Wildlife refuge, near Cheviot

The lagoon itself is a thing of exquisite beauty though we didn’t have enough time to linger, so a few shots of the reflections, and we were off again.

Rampant broom near the Kaikoura coast

Coming down the long hill beside the Conway River towards the Kaikoura coast, I was struck by the prolific and vivid flowing of broom over the steep hills.  We paused for morning tea at the excellent Albatross discovery cafe in Kaikoura, and then I resumed driving duties.

Tapuae-o-Uenuku towers above the South end of Clifford Bay

By now I was getting anxious about getting to the ferry before check-ins closed, so I passed up opportunities on the magnificent Kaikoura coast, and we did in fact get there with about 40 minutes to spare. The marshalling yard is a dull place, so my final shot of our “overseas adventure” is a nostalgic look back towards Kaikoura from the upper deck of the Kaitaki as it emerged from the Tory Channel into the Cook Strait.

And now we are home.

*A Scottish Soldier by A Murray “and fair as these green foreign hills may be, they are not the hills of home”




Canterbury Lakes Landscapes Light mountains Queenstown Seasons

October 30, 2014 … homeward bound

Our booking to cross the strait is for today, so yesterday we drove from Queenstown to Windwhistle.

From the Gibbston Valley into the Kawarau Gorge, this is more like winter than early summer

As we pulled out of Queenstown in drifting drizzling rain, we caught glimpses of the Remarkables and they clearly had a fresh coat of snow. We went though the Kawarau Gorge early enough that we seemed to be the only vehicle on the road.

Near Tarras, heading North

From Cromwell, we drove along the Eastern shore of lake Dunstan to Tarras and then began the long climb towards the Lindis Pass. The higher we got the more glimpses we had of solid white snow over sharp black rock.

Lindis Pass Summit in unseasonal snow

And then we were at the summit of the pass. The snow was not deep, but it was spectacularly beautiful. We stopped and took a few shots and were pulling out just as a bus load of overjoyed visitors from China pulled in. Down the hill to Omarama, and on to Twizel for some hot coffee and tea to offset the chill. I have to say that the Lindis Pass is one of my favourite pieces of road anywhere.

Mighty mountain
Mt Cook and companions behind lake Pukaki

Beside Lake Pukaki., I paused for the traditional shot of Aoraki/Mt Cook which was hiding in the clouds.

Yellow crop and white snow near Fairlie

My last shot from yesterday was taken as we climbed the hill out of Fairlie bound for Geraldine. My alpine geography is shaky at best, but I suspect we are looking towards Mt Dobson. The wonderful yellow of the rapeseed crop in the foreground is really the photo, though. And so to the magically named Windwhistle.

More tomorrow.


Birds Canterbury Family Food Lakes Landscapes Light Queenstown

October 25, 2014 … a stranger in a strange land

On the road again, this time we were driving from Rolleston to Queenstown.

Landscape near Fairlie

It’s a wonderful landscape all the way, though the necessity to be somewhere at a certain time is the enemy of any landscape enthusiast. I passed a million opportunities knowing that it was just impossible to do that kind of thing while in purposeful transit. My first serious shot was on the hill descending towards Fairlie on the road from Geraldine. In the distance, the stunning gold of fields of rapeseed or canola caught my eye.

Rapeseed crop at Fairlie

On the way from Fairlie to Tekapo I stopped for a closer look.

Lake Pukaki

After a coffee break at Tekapo, I paused again on the shores of lake Pukaki, peering up the turquoise lake towards the place where Aoraki/Mt Cook was lurking in the clouds.

Chickens, recently deceased

In the afternoon, we called in at our son’s house. There were lots of people there and food was being prepared. I couldn’t resist a shot of one pan that emerged from the oven, only to be mocked by someone who said they were unaware I would even photograph dead birds.

Queenstown landscape

Driving back to our motel at Frankton, I paused for this shot of the misty hills behind Queenstown

And that’s enough for one day.

Architecture Art Aviation Canterbury Christchurch Family mountains Queenstown

December 4, 2013 … homeward bound

The last day of a visit is always a bit clunky.

There are bags to be packed, and insufficient time to do any of the great things  that are on offer in the adventure capital of the country. On the other hand, my need for adventure is small anyway. I had to drop Andrew off at a work function while Mary and Abbey took Otis for a swimming lesson, so on a perfect Central Otago day I had an hour to spare and a car at my disposal.

Elegant ruins
Thurlby domain (again)

I went to Thurlby Domain and revisited the ruins of the grand old homestead.

Lake Hayes Estate
The lake itself is at the upper left

All too soon we were airborne, and passing over Lake Hayes Estate. As a suburb, it is still pretty new, and as yet there are neither shops nor schools, and its inhabitants have to drive in to Remarkables Park shopping centre at Frankton, some 8.5 km away. These things will come.

Rakaia River
A large number of these braided rivers flow from the Southern Alps Eastward to the Pacific

The ATR does not reach great altitude, so apart from the slightly opaque windows, offers a good sightseeing platform. The great braided rivers of the South Island are very impressive from up there, and I think this one is the Rakaia River.

Lining up for the final approach
These various crops and paddocks present a lovely picture form the air.

Soon we were on the approach to  Christchurch across the exquisite quilt that is South Canterbury.

We were travelling on opportunistic cheap fares so had to wait a while in Christchurch. Then we were taken on an Airbus A320 configured for international flights, being repositioned for its duties the next day. All very fine, especially the complimentary wines and snacks, and it is no mean feat to serve 168 passengers on a flight that lasts a mere 35 minutes. It was well done.

New art in Wellington Airport
The wizard Gandalf astride Gwaihir the Windlord … I think Gandalf is about half life size, so the bird is still enormous. Weta Workshops are amazing

In the few days we had been away, Wellington Airport had been adorned with another of the mighty “Hobbit” sculptures from Weta Workshops. This time it is Gandalf on the back of the Eagle lord, Gwaihir and another eagle. They are enormous, perhaps scary to children and superbly done.

Back to earth now