My aspirations as a landscape photographer lead me often to the Wairarapa, that often dry and rugged province that occupies the bottom right-hand corner of the North Island. It is a large rectangle aligned to the North East, bounded on the West by the Rimutaka and Tararua ranges, and on the East by the vast Pacific Ocean. From Wellington, unless you walk the long coastal track, the only sensible access is on State Highway 2 which heads east from Upper Hutt to Pakuratahi, and then South up the long winding hill to the Rimutaka summit. From there, the road heads East to Featherston down yet another stretch of Narrow and winding road. It is a narrow road, sometimes closed by wild winds, landslips, forest fires or snow. For many older Wellingtonians it was a road of fearsome memory, of unsealed road, and unfenced edges. It was a road that saw many a car stopped at one of the few flat spots to let the car-sick kids throw up. There was a “greasy spoon” restaurant at the summit, and some ill-kept rest rooms which provided a half-way break point on the arduous adventure of crossing the hill. These days, the road is wider, smoother, has safety barriers and occasional passing lanes and takes just over half an hour to cross from Upper Hutt to Featherston. What’s all the fuss? Crossing it is still a psychological hurdle and a significant dent in the petrol budget, but I love it in all weathers.
Particularly I like it when there are low drifting clouds and even some rain. Actual fog is less useful, and probably more hazardous, but swirling broken clouds get me out. Last week I got as far as Pakuratahi, near the Kaitoke Waterworks reserve at the Wellington end of the hill and was lured up a short side-road by the mist in the Kaitoke valley to the West. It was a still morning and the only sound was in the adjacent paddock where a recently milked dairy herd was steadily ripping and chewing the grass. Heavy breathing, heavy footsteps and rhythmic chewing were a great accompaniment to my efforts. I chose long slow exposures, knowing that the cows would move but thinking they would add to the story. All went fine until I finished and my car wouldn’t start. I had left the headlights and fog lights on, and it was flat. Fortunately, there was cellphone coverage. Thank goodness for the Automobile Association. Within 20 minutes, a roadside assistance agent was there with his portable jump-start battery and a bank of diagnostic equipment. And I was on my way again.
From Featherston, I went down the Western Lake road where again, I enjoyed the misty conditions and the contrast of the lakeside trees with the bank of cloud to the East.
Later that same week we were in the midst of a heat wave wherein the mercury in the Hutt Valley reached an unprecedented 31ºC . I know that heatwaves are relative things, but in a normal year, it is a really hot day in the valley when we get 27ºC. Anyway, Mary doesn’t do heat, so she sent me off unsupervised. That darned hill called me again, so I want over to Martinborough and then headed off down the White Rock road where I paused at the Hau Nui wind farm. Despite the warmth, there was sufficient breeze to spin those turbines fairly briskly. By the way, Hau Nui is Maori for “Big Wind”.
The road to White Rock is somewhat primitive in places. It is unsealed, often unfenced, winding and steep in places, but there are great views. Your teeth chatter as the road crosses cattle-stops and sometimes the road itself is corrugated, but the place is worth the journey.
I think I have mentioned that our house is currently on the market and with an open home due last Sunday, we needed to have the lawns tidy. However, I had to capture the weeds before they were cut. I always think of these as dandelions but a knowledgable friend tells me they are not … apparently this is a hawksbeard.
We continued to have wonderfully warm days and spectacular evenings and one evening a few days ago, I wandered down the road as the giant cruise ship “Ovation of the Seas” was setting sail for Sydney. She has just dropped the pilot. The two vessels closer in are a drilling barge looking for a clean access to the fresh water aquifer under the harbour, and beside it, her attendant tug is at anchor.
My last shot in this edition is one of my favourite views in the region. As you drive around Evans Bay towards the city, you finally round Pt Jerningham and there it is in all its glory. I love the various colours and textures in our cityscape, and I always love that first visual impact as you round the corner.