September 5, 2019 … road trip

Mary and I are just back from a South Island road trip. We decided that our youngest grandson, Otis’s ninth birthday was a good reason to go, and so we did.

Kaiarahi
Kaiarahi was standing in for the larger Kaitaki which was in Australia for an overhaul

After several weeks of ugly weather, the day we crossed the strait dawned clear and still. How lucky is that? We arrived nice and early but to this day I have never figured whether there is science or merely mysticism in how the crew decide the loading sequence. Of course it doesn’t really matter, the ship never leaves until the doors close behind the last person with a ticket. Nevertheless, I hate it when they let all the &@#$%@# motorhomes out onto the highway ahead of me.

We spent two pleasant nights at an AirBnB in Greymouth. I was disappointed that recent weather patterns and some dire forecasts prevented fishing vessels from crossing the notorious Greymouth Bar as they present a spectacular sight when they do so in big swells. Likewise, the weather was not conducive to birdwatching on Cobden Lagoon. But our accommodation was warm and dry and sufficient for our needs.

Magical Lake Ianthe

Our next destination was Tarras, just a little out of Wanaka so that meant a long drive from Greymouth with rest breaks here and there for photographic purposes. One of my favourite lakes in the South Island is Lake Ianthe about 55 km South of Hokitika. It is a smallish lake with few access points, but when it is still, it is just perfect. There are others such as Brunner, Mapourika, Mahinapoua, Kaniere, and each is beautiful in its own way.

Roadside wetlands as we neared Haast

It’s a long and seemingly endless 480 km from Greymouth to Tarras, and as the signs say, New Zealand roads are different and you should expect to take longer. The road has its charms, and where it was possible to stop safely we did. I rather liked the various wetlands on the road between Fox Glacier and Haast.

Towards Hawea from Tarras

Our accommodation in Tarras was a modern cottage with all of the usual facilities and to Mary’s delight, a log burner for warmth. The next morning, looking back towards Lake Hawea, the rising sun lit up the snow capped peaks. I am unsure which range this might be, but is is a spectacular view to wake up to.

Sunset at Lake Hayes Estate

We got to our son’s house in Lake Hayes Estate without incident and settled in. A spectacular sunset was experienced on our first night. This view is to the South West. I am guessing that those peaks are Ben Lomond and Bowen Peak in the range behind Queenstown township.

Opposing forces

I rather liked Andrew’s chess set which is apparently modelled on the one used in a Harry Potter movie. I don’t play the game myself, so my interest was purely aesthetic.

Murky weather on the Remarkables

As the ski season winds to its close, most of the schools in the region seem to spend some time up on the ski fields. Both grandchildren had two full days up there in each of the last two weeks. Otis spent his school day up there on this particular day, but in conditions like these, it was apparently not very pleasant. I suppose that is a good lesson to learn in itself.

Lake Wanaka

I was turned loose with the car and my cameras so I spent the day going over the Crown Range to Wanaka, then along Lake Dunstan to Clyde and then back through Cromwell to Queenstown. I came within a few hundred metres of “the tree” at Wanaka but chose to ignore it. The lake was still, so I spent some time there. I was a little sad to see the intensive development happening to the town since I last looked.

Look the other way

I have mentioned before, the 180˚ rule … if there is something interesting in front of you, don’t leave without checking behind you. A spectacular sunset over Queenstown was nicely reflected in the clouds over the Crown Range to the North East.

Near Glenorchy

The kids were at school, Andrew was at work, so Mary and I went along the Glenorchy road. We did a bit of a walk along the track towards Bob’s Cove and then carried on to Glenorchy itself. The spectacular mist in the far corner of the lake behind Pig and Pigeon Islands would appear to be sand from the Dart River delta being picked up by a vicious wind. In fact I struggled to open my car door against the wind to make this image.

At Lindis Summit

All too soon, it was time to leave Queenstown, so we set out early in the morning to our next booked accommodation in a farm stay near Rangiora. We took the route through the Kawarau Gorge and Cromwell, across the river to Tarras and over the beautiful Lindis Pass. I had been anxious that conditions might require snow chains. Happily that didn’t happen.

Across Lake Pukaki to Aoraki/Mt Cook

It was great weather for travelling and the view across Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook was irresistible even if the image has been made a million times before by almost every tourist who passed this way. Aoraki/Mt Cook is New Zealand’s highest peak at 3,724 metres (12,218 ft)

On the road from Fairlie to Geraldine

South Canterbury’s lovely landscape was nicely displayed on the road from Fairlie across to Geraldine. We paused there for lunch and resumed the journey to Rangiora.

Terra Cotta and Rust

We enjoyed two nights at the farm stay before completing the journey home from Picton. Regrettably I seem to have acquired an outbreak of pre-patellar bursitis which happens from time to time and is uncomfortable rather than dangerous. It tends to limit my mobility but “this too shall pass”

February 23, 2015 … the lofty mountain grandeur

That was a stunner of a day.

Wakatipu

Lake Wakatipu from Drift Point

The weather was perfect. It was crystal clear to begin with and a few small puffy cumulus clouds formed later in the day. There was almost no wind most of the day. Beginning in Queenstown, we went down towards Invercargill beside beautiful Lake Wakatipu which was at its magnificent best.

Garston

Garston district with Eyre Range beyond

A little past Fairlight, we turned on to the Nevis road and began the long and winding climb across the Southern part of the Remarkable Range. Far below, the quilted farmland was spreading out below the Eyre Range across the lake.  Over the ridge and down to the Nevis Valley  we marveled at the vast grandeur of the landscape.

Nevis

Deep in the Nevis valley, a hut is dwarfed

A hut in the distance helps give a sense of scale to the place.

Ford

Andrew having fun crossing a ford

This is not a road for the average family sedan, it’s definitely for serious four-wheel drive vehicles. Fortunately, Andrew has a large and very capable Toyota which negotiated some of the rutted tracks with ease, and gave Andrew and the children some fun as they splashed though some of the many fords along the way.

Dwelling

Remnants of a miner’s dwelling in the Nevis Valley

We stopped for lunch on a sunny bank beside a pond near some gold tailings and some remains of old stone miners dwellings. The large fireplace at either end of the small room was a testament to the savage cold in this region in winter, as was the total absence of any surviving trees nearby.

Spaniard

“Horrid Spaniard

I walked around the small lake trying to get different angles on the remains of the mining settlement. There is a plant which is regrettably called “Horrid Spaniard” (Acyphylla horrida) and which can reputedly puncture mountain bike tyres. It certainly hurts if you wander into it.

Bannockburn

Lake Dunstan from the ridge above Bannockburn

Eighty kilometres after leaving the lake, we reached the top of the valley above Bannockburn and looked down on the lovely blue of the distant Lake Dunstan.  We enjoyed a very welcome cool drink at a pleasant hostelry called Pisa Moorings on the shores of the lake.

A truly fantastic day.

*

*”How Great Thou Art” by Stuart K Hine

 

April 23, 2013 … seasonal colours

From rain and ice to red and gold, it was a day of transition.

We left Franz Josef soon after sunrise yesterday when the mountains were still shrouded with mist and rain, and the glacier’s presence was made known only through the chill in the air.

First light at Franz Josef

Somewhere up there, a mighty glacier lurks

These misty conditions persisted throughout the drive from Franz Josef to Haast where we paused for morning coffee and refreshment.

At the confluence of the Haast and Landsborough rivers, I could tell this was not normal with very low water flow. This impression was reinforced at the “Gates of Haast” where on every other occasion, I have seen thundering cataracts of water hiding most of the massive boulders that line the river bed. On this occasion, the rocks themselves were showing off their beauty as the remaining white water stumbled down the steep course.

Abnormally low flow at the Gates of Haast

Despite the comparatively low flow, the river still put on a show

As we emerged into the Otago side of the divide, the weather improved. It was still overcast, but the rain stopped and there were occasional small blue patches.

Memories at Makarora

There are so many abandoned homesteads

At Makarora, I pulled over to capture yet another in the seemingly endless supply of picturesque abandoned houses. We drove beside Lake Wanaka, and over the saddle to Lake Hawea, and as we got closer to Hawea township, I marvelled at the increasing brilliance of the season’s colours. Red maples and golden beeches provided the bulk of the colour.

Luminous leaves at Lake Hawea

That red maple in the middle was just perfect

In Wanaka, there is a grove of trees that I suspect belong to the Acacia family and their colours were indescribably luminous.

Ornamental grove in Wanaka

Magnificent colour

From there we took the back road by Lake Dunstan heading to Cromwell and then through the Kawarau Gorge to Queenstown. At Lowburn, some reflections demanded to be photographed.

Reflecting on Lake Dunstan

Near Lowburn

At Cromwell, the many orchards and vineyards were reaching the climax of their autumn colours, and busloads of tourists were making the most of it. So was I.

Orchard near Cromwell

The fruit has gone, the leaves will follow

This is a glorious season to be here.

March 4, 2013 …mountain grandeur

Central Otago is a place of superlatives.

Queenstown itself is a place whose scale is hard to comprehend. It’s sometimes not until you see human activity that you realise just how vast the mountains are.IMG_8078

Yesterday, Andrew took us all to Bannockburn, where we all enjoyed a splendid lunch at the winery restaurant at Mt Difficulty. If you find yourself in Bannockburn, this winery combines wine tasting, great food, and stupendous views out over the valley.

Cromwell and Lake Dunstan

Site of old Cromwell, drowned when the dam was filled

After lunch, we went in search of the road which climbs up from Cromwell through Bannockburn and across the Nevis Valley to Garston (south of Queenstown). It is a gravel road 85 km long and is the highest formed road in New Zealand climbing 1,265 metres from the start. Most of the traffic on the road consisted of cyclists who have my utmost admiration … this is a serious climb.  We went to the high point on the road, and turned round.

From high on the Nevis plateau looking back towards Lake Dunstand and Cromwell

What majesty

The views from up here were just stunning in all directions. It is a vast wild rocky landscape, and I was pleased to see many Australasian Harrier hawks in flight. There were as many as six all circling in the same thermal at one point.

Australasian Harrier Hawk

In search of prey

Hard to catch them from a vehicle in such an open landscape.

Glorious sunset - Queenstown

We got back to Queenstown and enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

In theory I should have gone home today, but suffered a gastric upset so am in Queenstown till Thursday.