March 10, 2019 … out into the provinces

Restlessness is not a good sign. I find myself wanting to do something, but not sure exactly what. Perhaps it is a signal or trigger that I should change directions for a while, or do something different.  Sometimes I follow the signs, and sometimes not. I can feel a change in the images I make, and to some degree, in the images I choose to show.


The Hutt River, drifting down towards the Melling Bridge

My week began at home, with a mild dose of cabin fever. The weather has been somewhat dismal, neither fully fair nor fully foul. Sooner or later, something snaps and I have to get out looking for images. At the beginning of the week I went as far as Waikanae, but returned empty-handed . Then just as I pulled into Block Road at the entrance to Normandale, the state of the Hutt River caught my eye. Not a masterpiece, but it rescued my trip from being a total loss. That’s the Melling Bridge just downstream.  Then Mary decided we needed to spend a few days away, so we booked an Airbnb in Whanganui.


Lovely land forms near Turakina in the Manawatu/Whanganui district

I have always loved the gentle undulating landscape between Bulls and Whanganui. These trees just North of Turakina and South of Ratana  invited my attention. I really must revisit that area at dawn or sunset to catch those long shadows and distant mountains in the golden hours.

Sunset (1)

Spectacular sunset off the beach at Castlecliff

We reached Whanganui and found our quirky Airbnb accommodation in the far reaches of Castlecliff. I mean no offence when I say the Castlecliff is perhaps the last bastion of the 1950s working-class houses. Many of them have that home-constructed look, but they always assert their identity as someone’s home. Anyway, working-class or not, it is but a few minutes’ walk to a sea view that anyone would be glad to see.

Paddle steamer

Waimarie – Whanganui

The next day, Mary and I went on the two-hour return cruise up the river to Upokongaro aboard the paddle steamer Waimarie. As we were waiting for time to board, I caught the swirling exhaust and some wisps of steam from her funnel.


The whole engine room is run by one man, and all commands from the wheelhouse are just yelled down through the opening above the boiler. That’s a very good fire.

If you are sufficiently agile, and willing to take the risk upon yourself, the Waimarie’s engineer will let you climb down the vertical steel ladder to the engine-room floor. The chief engineer is also the stoker and cleaner and he does a superb job of keeping an evenly spread fire in the firebox. His deft flicks of the shovel scatter the coal where it most needs to be.


This 74 year-old beauty ZK-AWP belonging to Air Chathams still snarls as the throttles are opened, Isn’t she a beauty?

While we were aboard Waimarie, we discovered that there was a party of twelve Australians participating in a luxury tour of the North Island by DC3, stopping at various places for side-trips of interest. Their immediate side-trip was the Waimarie. Mine instantly switched out to the North end of Whanganui airport to enjoy a picnic lunch, and to watch their fabulous old plane depart. There was a  time when  they were the common-place air transport. Now the snarl of those two R1830 Twin Wasps is increasingly  a memory to be treasured.

Sunset (2)

Another sunset, this time from beside the North Mole at the river mouth. The young lady walked into my field of view so I waited until she was in the sun’s path

Later that night, there was another sunset. Who knew? It wasn’t as spectacular as the one the previous night, but I sat on a piece of driftwood at the North Mole and enjoyed the changing light.

Kowhai Park

Kowhai Park is one of the jewels in Whanganui’s crown

The next day reminded me of Jane Morgan (1958) singing “Le jour où la pluie viendra” … or perhaps in the words of Sister Rosetta Thorpe, “Oh didn’t it rain“. Eventually it eased, and so I went wandering into Kowhai Park. All five of our kids knew and loved the park for its playground, but on this trip, I was staying in the arboretum.


I have no idea whether the decor is officially sanctioned on this utility cabinet, but I like it

Whanganui has the same graffiti and vandalism issues as most other towns. but I liked the way they approached utility cabinets, covering them with whimsical art. At the very least, it seems to discourage the mindless tagging.


Eastern sky after the rain has passed

As the day cleared up after its many downpours, I enjoyed the view to the North East, and knowing that if I went over to that ridge I would probably get a good view of Ruapehu.


In Virginia Lake, or Rotokawau, is the Higginbottom fountain, gift of a local philanthropist. At night it is illuminated as it plays.

On our last morning in the river city, I went up St John’s Hill to Virginia Lake. The water was not quite flat calm, nor yet fully ruffled. It’s a very pretty spot.

Te Anau

The hulk of the Te Anau sitting on the sandbar.

My final shot this week stirs me. I have said before that I have a passion for ships and the sea. As we were leaving Castlecliff, I noticed a side road down to the river and poked my nose in. There was a boat ramp and a view of the commercial wharf, but most interestingly, a rusting hulk on the sandbar in the middle of the stream. I asked some local boaties about its history and was told it was just some old barge of no particular significance, just dumped there to straighten the river flow. I did some searching and found that she was the Te Anau, once a proud express liner of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Ltd. She was launched in 1879, and carried passengers across the Tasman 204 at a time. She served 45 years until 1924 when she was sold to serve as a breakwater. It is amazing to me how such an old ship in such a hostile environment still keeps the form of her hull after 140 years.

Back to normal next week.

August 24, 2018 … nice to be home again

Mary and I spent a few days at the tiny settlement of Mowhanau (also known as Kai Iwi Beach) just North of Whanganui. It was a delightful break, though the lack of promised wi-fi caused me some withdrawal symptoms. Anyway, here we go.


Whitebaiters in the Mowhanau stream at Kai Iwi beach

Despite a somewhat gloomy forecast we drove up SH1 to Bulls and then SH3 to Whanganui, and through some back roads to Mowhanau. As soon as we unloaded the car, we walked the few minutes down to the beach where the whitebait season had just opened. There are blue skies in the image but believe me when I say there was a nasty bleak wind and the thermometer was reading 8°C. These guys were standing in water of varying depth for hours and getting meagre rewards in terms of the whitebait harvest. It seems the whitebait are critically endangered and near to extinction so time to re-evaluate.


Looking Northward along the Whanganui River near Pungarehu

The next day was surprisingly fine and we set out to travel the road beside the Whanganui River to Hiruharama (Jerusalem). This view is from the ridge soon after leaving the main road at Upokongaro. The road traverses some wild and beautiful country, but after some recent floods is in a very mixed state of repair.  Mary wanted to walk and enjoyed about 12 km leading up to the little settlement of Atene (Athens) while I played with landscape shots. When we reconnected we drove on through the even smaller settlements of Koroniti (Corinth)  and Matahiwi. We navigated the slippery grey mud of the road works and arrived at Hiruharama where we had a look at the historic church of St Joseph. From there it was on to Pipiriki where we enjoyed lunch by the river with no sound but singing birds and the fast flowing river.

Waverley Beach

Waverley Beach blocked off by driftwood

The next day was grey and a bit dull, but we drove up to Waverley to visit my brother and sister-in-law, and from there went down to Waverley Beach. When I first went there, some fifty years ago, this was a popular swimming beach with a well-known sandstone arch at the mouth of the river. The arch collapsed long ago (2012), and the beach is currently clogged with thousands of tonnes of driftwood.

Patea River

Patea River near Hurleyville

On day three, we explored the road to the Patea hydro scheme, some forty km by road from Patea through some of the wildest and loneliest countryside in the North Island. Like most of these West Coast North Island rivers, the water is brown with silt and often carries big logs out to sea. Lake Rotorangi, was formed by the dam completed in 1984 and meanders Northward for some 46 km towards Eltham. It is a magnificent land.


Terns and Piles in the Patea River

We came back to Patea for lunch, eating our sandwiches down by the river mouth. A set of piles near the Mole provided a resting place and launch-pad for a group of white-fronted terns.

Petone Beach

Southerly drama at Petone

Home once more, and yesterday was interesting in the morning. The harbour was calm at Petone beach, but the clouds in the South suggested a change was on its way.


Petone wharf and the incoming front

Looking for a different viewpoint I moved to the West and the clouds became more intense.


Cloudburst leads the way

From there I went up Ngauranga Gorge to Newlands and as I reached a new subdivision, the front was moving up the harbour dropping an intense burst of rain on the way.

It’s always nice to go away, but even better to come home.

October 20, 2013 … it never sleeps

Having slept well after our mountain adventure, we set out for home.

The weather was more settled than the previous day, though there were tendrils of mist in the bush and the gulleys as we drove down SH4 on the Western side of Ruapehu. I might have paused to capture that in the gully near the Makatote viaduct, but there are few places to stop safely and I had some loon tailgating me.

A little down the road, we came to Horopito, and Mary spotted some of the derelict cars in the famed Horopito Car Yard, setting for the fondly remembered (in New Zealand) movie, “Smash Palace”.  I had heard from others that visitors were welcome, and the place was unlocked, so I wandered through a tiny fraction of the many acres of decaying vehicles. mary stayed in the car and got on with her knitting … “for her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs, 31:10)

Great opportunity for a home handyman

A Holden EH wagon of about 1964

Despite the advanced state of ruin, and the seemingly anarchic layout and methods of storage, I was absolutely enchanted with the place. I loved every inch of it.

Red rust everywhere

Lots of old friends here

Of course the predominant colour was red rust, though faded paint of days gone by shone through in some cases.

The arrangement seems haphazard

Look just to left of centre in the foreground … a wheel with wooden spokes

For me this place was about memories of  boyhood. When our family came to New Zealand in 1954, many of the vehicles here were in their prime. There were makes and models I have not thought of for years.

In those long ago days, most of the vehicles on our roads were British, with names like Austin, Morris, Singer, Triumph, Humber, Hillman, Vauxhall, Ford (the British variants), Bradford, Jowett, Jaguar and Armstrong-Siddely. Of course there were some American cars a Studebaker, a Chevrolet and a few Fords or Mercury sedans. There were a few Europeans as well, including Renault, Simca, Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, and Citroen, and even some early Skoda.


Suddenly I had memories of downtown Auckland in the mid-fifties. There were still trams, and some of the older vehicles from the late 1920s with their wooden-spoked wheels were not unusual. These were the fami;iar vehicles of that era.

I took about fifty images, and unusually for me, have not discarded any of them. It’s not that they are all great pictures, but rather that they are the last visual link with a time that I remember well.

A Standard Vanguard

That car had a four-cylinder engine that would make the vehicle climb walls. It was the same engine as that used in the Massey Ferguson tractors. Is that a touch of blue on her bonnet (US = hood)

I could go to Horopito every day for a month, spend all day there each day, and not run out of things that interest me. You are lucky that you are seeing just five of them.

Then it was down “the Parapara”, the winding and often treacherous section of SH4 between Raetihi and Upokongaro near Whanganui. This road winds its way through steep  hillsides, following the course of various rivers including the Whanganui River. The road is prone to slips and washouts because most of the green landscape through which it passes sits on soft soapy grey rock and it just lets go after heavy rain.  Road crews had done a good job of clearing recent blockages, but there was still plenty of grey mud on the road, and thus, by transference, thickly coated all over my car.

Raukawa falls

They are not where they used to be but you can see that grey rock I referred to

We came to the Raukawa falls on the Mangawhero River. I remember these as thunderous falls which were spectacular. Now, due to collapses in the same kind of rock discussed above, the waterfall has retreated upstream quite a way, and the lookout platform has been left behind.

Bar-tailed godwits at Foxton Beach

To far for anything other than proving I saw them

Back on SH1, I turned off to see what was happening in the Manawatu estuary at Foxton Beach. A bunch of bar-tailed godwits was present on the sandbar, but too far away at high tide to make much of.

That’s it. We are back home now.