Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

South Island

The end is in sight!


The last six weeks have been a trial.  In February we sold our home of the last 32 years.  We built it then to replace the home that my wife grew up in until we were married 44 years ago. Thirty two years of raising three sons and accumulating life’s possessions, plus those possessions that flowed out of the old house, have made the last few weeks difficult at times as decisions needed to be made on to what to keep and what to re-house elsewhere.  Yesterday we left the house with just three small cartons to top-up and close.  Our life is now housed in a storage facility awaiting rediscovery when we find a new home some time in the next year.  Finding a view of the end over the last two weeks has been difficult, but yesterday it emerged.

In two weeks we leave for a three month holiday that will take us to China, Europe, the USA and Canada.  Needless to say, we are really looking forward to the adventure. Just like the last few weeks, transmission over the next three months may be a bit patchy as we search for internet connections and time to update posts. Every attempt will be made to create a regular stream of posts and express views on what we discover.


Purakaunui Falls Revisited

Some time ago I posted an image of the Purakaunui Falls that I took on a trip to the Catlins in the Southland region of the South Island of New Zealand.  That image was taken on my second visit to the falls, the first visit being when in the early 1980s we took our (then) three young sons on a touring holiday of the South Island.  Both visits were prompted by a photograph we had seen of the falls that appeared in a calendar, I think, which was taken by the well known New Zealand landscape and nature photographer Craig Potton. The striking thing to me back then was how Craig had captured a silky looking waterfall in his image.  At that time I had no idea how he had made the image, but over the years I too learned how it is done.

Since that first post I have been wanting to revisit the image and render it differently, and maybe add another view of the falls as well.  So, here is take two.

Purakaunui Falls, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Purakaunui Falls, Catlins, Southland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

No, it’s a dog!

Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

It’s interesting how we humans try to see shapes of things we know in the features that nature present to us.  Does that cloud look like a bird? Or, that mountain looks like Queen Victoria lying in state, you can tell by the nose. Here at Punakaiki the shape that nature presents to me is a dog, but you may see something else.

Punakaiki is on the road between Westport and Greymouth (or is that between Greymouth and Westport, because it is closer to the former?) and is a geological feature of stratified rock formations created more than 30 million years ago.  The feature is known as the Pancake Rocks.  That’s not unusual really.  There’s that shapes in nature thing again.

Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Punankaiki is actually the nearest village to the rock formation at Dolomite Point in the Paparoa National Park.  The pancakes are formed from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants that landed on the seabed some 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify into hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed and mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes seen today.

Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

In wild weather, which is very common on the West Coast, the blowholes that form part of the Pancake Rocks are said to be spectacular.  Unfortunately in all the visits I have had to the area over the years I have never seen them in action in any serious way.

Punakaiki, Paparoa National Park, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The rocks rare are a very popular West Coast tourist attraction and on a good day the walking paths provided and maintained by the Department of Conservation are busy with people trying to get the best views.

I still think its a dog!

Boom Town

It is hard to envisage in 2013 that the Westland town of Hokitika was once one of the most important towns in New Zealand.  Today its economy relies on the surrounding dairy farms that feed the Westland Cooperative Dairy Factory, and tourism-based ventures. In 1866 however, Hokitika was the second biggest town in New Zealand after Auckland.  Gold had been discovered on the West Coast in 1864 and the town grew rapidly as people flooded into the area to seek their fortunes.  On one day in 1867 it was reported that 41 vessels were tied up at the Hokitika wharf, with more waiting off shore.  How times have changed.

Clock Tower, Hokitika, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Ever since my first visit to the town way back in the 1960s I have been fascinated by the connection of the town with Andrew Carnegie.  How could this rich American philanthropist have become aware of and have an interest in this far-flung isolated town in a distant corner of the southern Pacific Ocean?  On a corner, one block away from the main street of Hokitika, is a grand building with “Free Public Library” emblazoned across the frieze above the columns at the entrance.  It’s in that sign that the connection is made.

Andrew Carnegie made his fortune in the iron and steel business.  While still a boy working in his father’s cotton milling business, he and other boys working in the mill were granted free access the library of a local businessman. Carnegie became an avid reader devoured most of the 400 books in the collection.  After he sold his steel milling business to banker J P Morgan in 1901 for $200 million, he set out on his philanthropic endeavors.  In recognition of the help received from free access to books in his youth, Carnegie established a grant system to assist towns and cities in the English-speaking world to build library buildings on condition that access to and lending of books was free.  Eighteen such libraries were built in New Zealand, including the one in Hokitika which was opened in 1908.

West Coast Memorial Museum, Hokitika, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The building ceased to be a library in April 1975. It was later restored and reopened in May 1998 as home to the West Coast Historical Museum. So that’s how Andrew Carnegie came to be connected to the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

In researching for this post I discovered another interesting fact about Hokitika.  It has a digital 3D cinema, in a town with a  population of  just 3,078 (2006 census), plus another 828 people in the surrounding district.  The Art-Deco Regent Cinema was built in 1936 and has served the town ever since.  When in 1975 it was threatened with demolition due to its state of repair and lack of patronage, a group of concerned citizens lobbied for its retention and formed a trust for its preservation.  Funds were raised to refurbish the building back to its Art-Deco heritage style and it has been turned into a successfully functioning cinema again – a digital 3D cinema to boot.

Regent Theatre, Hokitika, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

So there you have it, a boom town of the 19th century is booming again in the 21st century (albeit in a much different way).

Rugged Westland

Coastal Westland is a pretty rugged and sparsely populated place. Between Haast in the south and Hokitika in the north there are few towns and a thinly spread population.

“The District consists of a long thin strip of land between the crest of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. The low-lying areas near the coast are a mixture of pastoral farmland and temperate rainforest. The eastern part of the District is steep and mountainous. Many small rivers flow down from the mountains.

The southern part of the District notably contains the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers.

Westland is one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country, with an area of 11,880.19 square kilometres and a population of 8,403 people (2006 census). Approximately 45% of the population lives in Hokitika (popn.3500). The remaining 55% lives in small villages such as Ross, Franz Josef and Haast, or in rural areas”. Wikipedia

From Wanaka we travelled beside Lake Hawea and over the Haast Pass to reach the West Coast at the mouth of the  Haast River. Our destination for the night was Fox Glacier Village, from where we planned to visit the nearby Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers.


Some 25 km north of Haast is the Arthur’s Point lookout from where views of the Tasman Sea and the coastline can be seen.

In the year I left high school I hitch-hiked around the South Island of New Zealand with a friend. It was almost a right of passage between high school and university.  We had travelled down the West Coast to Lake Mapourika, which at the time was almost the end of the road.  To join up with the road from Haast to Wanaka we had to walk the newly formed but far from finished section of the road from the lake to Arthur’s Point, a distance of about 10 km in wet sticky mud.  In the distance we could hear heavy road building machinery.  As the time ticked far too slowly towards “knock off time” of 5.00 pm we were afraid we would miss any chance of a ride to Haast and have to sleep the night in the bush.  At last gasp we reached the work party just as they were packing up to leave for the night.  Happily we flopped onto the back of a truck for the final leg of the day’s journey.

Heading north from Arthur’s Point the road travels inland for a distance before touching the coast again at Bruce Bay, a rugged pebbly beach strewn with driftwood. If you like rugged storm-lashed beaches, this is the place to be. It was fine on the occasion of our visit, but it is easy to imagine the chaos when a south-westerly storm is raging – cold, wind-blasted, with wild surf and horizontal rain!


At the northern end of the bay the trees stand defensively against the weather, stripped of their lower branches and clinging to the eroding boundary between land and beach.


You have to be hardy to live in these parts.  It’s little wonder that the coasters have that steely weather worn look  that comes from living everyday with the elements.

Click on any image for a larger view.

Rest Home

Rest Home, Cardrona Pub, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

On the high road between Queenstown and Wanaka over the Crown Range is the small settlement of Cardrona.  To reach Cardrona from Queenstown one has to drive through two sets of switchbacks to reach the summit before descending through the Cardrona Valley to the village. For first-time drivers on this section of road, it is quite an experience.  There are several lookout points along the road that give great views back towards Queenstown and Lake Whakatipu, and across the valley to the Remarkables (a jagged mountain range that is a feature of the evening view from Bob’s Peak in Queenstown).

Cardrona has a pub that is a mecca for skiers after a hard day at the nearby Cardrona Ski Resort. Established in 1863 and still bearing its original wooden facade, this character pub once featured in a TV commercial for a well-known Southland beer. While some gather in the bar to drink their apres ski beers, many migrate to the garden to sit at picnic tables or huddle around the outdoor open fireplace to recount their day and enjoy a gluhwein or two.

On the far side of the garden an old blue Model T Ford truck rests at home in a tumble-down shed.  It looks the part in these surroundings, which are rather laid-back. It all adds to the character of what a visit to the Cardrona Pub is all about.

Daisies at the Lower Reaches

Imagine for a moment the letter “S”. Now stretch it horizontally until the connection between the upper and lower arms of the S is almost vertical. and then rotate it 90 degrees to the left.  It now looks a bit like a fork of lightning. Are you still with me?  That is the distinctive shape of Lake Whakatipu in Central Otago’s “Lakes” region. Imagine then that the popular tourist town of Queenstown is near the corner of the zigzag before the vertical drop.

This image was taken near the southern end of that vertical drop.

Kingston Arm, Lake Whakatipu, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The southern arm of Lake Whakatipu “below” Queenstown is known as the Kingston Arm, named after the small town that used to be the terminus for the railway line from Dunedin. Kingston is also the place where the famous lake steamer TSS Earnslaw was brought in parts, assembled and launched .  The Wikipedia account of this remarkable story is shown below:

“At the beginning of the twentieth century, New Zealand Railways awarded 21,000 pounds to John McGregor and Co shipbuilders of Dunedin to build a steamship for Lake Wakatipu. TheEarnslaw was named after Mount Earnslaw, a 2889 metre peak at the head of Lake Wakatipu. She was to be 48 metres long, the biggest boat on the lake. Transporting the Earnslaw was no easy task. When construction was finally completed she was dismantled. All the quarter inch steel hull plates were numbered for reconstruction much like a jig-saw puzzle. Then the parts were loaded on to a goods train and transported across the South Island from Dunedin to Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu.

Six months later, after being rebuilt, on 24 February 1912, the TSS Earnslaw was launched and fired up for her maiden voyage to Queenstown, with the Minister of Marine as captain.”

She then became a valuable vessel for the New Zealand Railways (NZR) and was known as the “Lady of the Lake”.

But that’s another story.

It was late in the afternoon as we approached the lake from the southern end.  After stopping briefly at Kingston to look at the “Kingston Flyer” steam train (sadly mothballed at the time),  made famous in the 1980s in a TV chocolate advertisement, we recommenced our journey to Queenstown. Just as the lake came into view we were presented with this field of daisies between the brown seeding Dock weeds. It was the contrast between the white of the daisies and the green and brown of the pasture that first caught the eye.  The slopes of Mt Dick fall to the lake on the left of the image, and in the distance the Remarkables drop to the lake on the right.  Queenstown is around the corner to the left at the far end of the view.

Let the River Run

A small distance from the eastern portal of the Homer Tunnel as you head towards Te Anau is a road on the left that leads to the Homer Hut and the start of the Gertrude Saddle track.  Just after entering of the road is a car park beside the upper reaches of the Hollyford River.  At this point the valley is quite wide.  Further downriver the the valley narrows markedly and the river runs more swiftly. The Milford Sound Highway follows the river before the road veers away to pass through “The Divide” between the Darren and Livingstone mountain ranges.

Hollyford Valley, Fiordland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

This image was taken from the car park on the Homer Hut Road.  At this point the flow is quite placid. The river flows from the Gertrude Valley (out of picture to the left) and follows the main Milford Sound Highway for some ten kilometers before the road turns towards Te Anau.

Side Stream, Fiordland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Side streams enter the flow all down the river, especially after heavy rain. There is no vegetation to retain the water on the mountain slopes so there is only one way for it to go – down. As the water dissipates after a storm many of the side streams dry up until the next deluge, as has happened here.  This view is directly behind the one above.

Hollyford River, Fiordland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013Several kilometers down the road the mood of the river changes markedly as rapids impede the flow. It now looks like the kind of mountain river that reflects the looming power of the steep mountains that feed it. After heavy rain the water powers through the narrow valley and rages over the rapids. All obstacles are swept away. All that can be done is to let the river run.

Moody Mountains

As anyone who has traveled to Milford Sound in the Fiordland National Park on the southwestern side of New Zealand’s South Island will know, the further up the Hollyford Valley you travel, the steeper the surrounding mountains get. They loom above you as you approach the famous Homer Tunnel. In winter this road can become impassable because of snow avalanches cascading down the near vertical mountain faces.  In spring, as the snow thaws, rock avalanches can also close the road as a result of ice shattering rock during the winter freeze.

This extract from from the New Zealand topographical map of the area clearly shows the gradients of the surrounding mountains. (Click on link for larger view)

Homer Tunnel Topo, Fiordland, New Zealand

It was at the eastern entrance to the Homer Tunnel that these images were taken. The tunnel is the only way through the mountains to reach the Milford Sound by road. Entrance to the tunnel is controlled by traffic lights as there is just a 1.2 km single lane road through the Darren Mountains at the Homer Saddle. Until 1954 there was no road access to the Milford Sound.

Moody Mountains, Homer Tunnel, Fiordland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Moody Mountains, Homer Tunnel, Fiordland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Waterfall, Homer Saddle, Fiordland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Moody Mountains, Homer Tunnel, Fiordland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

On the day we left Milford Sound via the Cleddau Valley and through the Homer Tunnel it became more overcast as we climbed further into the mountains.  By the time we reached the tunnel it was threatening to rain and the temperature had dropped considerably. As we exited the tunnel and into the beginning of the Hollyford Valley we were presented with these views.

Luxmore Grunt

Let’s get it out up front. Some people are masochists; either that, or plain stupid (or more kindly – very determined)!

We had heard of the famous “Luxmore Grunt” from friends who do lots of walking whenever they are on holiday.  I wouldn’t call them serious hikers (or trampers, as they are commonly known in New Zealand), but keen day-walkers.  They keep a book listing all their completed walks, which they respectfully call their “Alzheimers Book” in case they forget which walks they’ve done.

The “Luxmore Grunt” is a mountain running event sponsored by the Asics sports shoe company and is run each year in December. The full race runs over the complete 60 km of the Kepler Track (another of  New Zealand’s “Great Walks”), a circuit that starts and ends at the control gates outlet of Lake Te Anau. Part of the track between Brod Bay on the lake shore and the Department of Conservation operated Luxmore Hut is normally a 4 1/2  hour, 8.5 km one way walk, and part of that rises from lake level (210 meters) to the hut at 1085 meters, the first 3 1/2 hours of which is steeply uphill. The course record for the full 60 km Kepler Challenge is 4:37:41 for men, and 5:23:34 for women! For the Luxmore Grunt from the control gates to Luxmore Hut and back (27 km) is 1:52:30 for men, and 2:04:18 for women!

With only part of this knowledge available we set out to walk the return trip to Luxmore Hut, on the day after dropping our son and his wife at the start of the Routburn Track. Starting at the Lake Te Anau control gates at 9.45 am we thought we had plenty of time to complete the walk, given the long evenings experienced in this part of the country during summer.

Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Following the lake shore we made our way to Brod Bay which, according to the walking guide was a gentle hour and a half walk through forest of mountain and red beech.  The problem when two people walk with cameras is that time gets stretched out – one and a half hours turned into two.

Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Knowing we had a steep climb ahead of us, we stopped for an early lunch to fuel us for the next stage of the walk. With energy levels duly topped up we set out on the climb, gentle at first, but then into an unrelenting 750 vertical  meter grind.  About one third of the way into the climb we glimpsed a view of the Te Anau township across the lake through the trees.

Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Onwards and upwards for another hour we reached a limestone bluff, a suggested lunch stop in the walking guide.  Having already eaten lunch, we stopped anyway for a drink and some trail mix.  Hikers making the downward journey informed us there was still another hour before the track cleared the treeline, so back into the grind we trudged.

Luxmore Grunt, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Finally, four and a half hours after leaving the car we emerged from the forest onto alpine meadow-land.  The immediate reaction was one of relief. After catching breath the scenery came into focus.

Alpine Grasslands, Kepler Track, Lake Te Anau, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

There before us were panoramic views of the Te Anau Basin, Takitimu Mountains, and the Snowdon and Earl Mountains. We never did reach Luxmore Hut. It was another 45 minutes further up the hill.  That didn’t really matter as we achieved what we set out to do, which was to get a high alpine view of the lake, township, and surrounding mountains.

Being late in the afternoon we needed to commence our return journey after only a short rest.

Long stretches of downhill walking are very tiring.  After a long day of walking legs turn to jelly. It was tempting to stop on reaching Brod Bay, but we were still ninety minutes away from the car. Switching to auto-pilot and brains into neutral we stumbled our way to the car park and collapsed into the car, ten and a half hours after setting out.  Back to the motel we drove, dived into a hot bath, grabbed some food for a quick dinner and fell into bed, exhausted!

The Luxmore Grunt had lived up to its reputation.

(Click on images for a larger view)

Rain Forrest

After dropping our intrepid walkers at the start of their rain-soaking three day walk of the Routeburn Track, we decided to have a walk of our own before setting out on the journey to Te Anau. At the end of  a small gravel road near the Routeburn Shelter there is a swing bridge that marks the entrance to the Sylvan Lakes Track.  The rain was steady, but light as we set out across the bridge. Already swollen from the overnight rain, the river below the bridge heaved its way over boulders in the river bed in a tumultuous journey towards Lake Wkakatipu.

As we entered the rain forest the rain began to get heavier. The ground underfoot was already soaked with water and the track had become an endless series of puddles connected by islands of slightly higher ground.  It was no use trying to keep your boots dry – may as well splash on regardless.

Rain Forrest 1, lake Sylvan Track, Glenorchy, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

A walk in a rain forest, in the rain, is magical.  Overhead the green canopy glistens and the moss on the ground is almost luminescent against the fallen and decaying leaves on the forest floor. Wetness turns the tree trunks almost black, speckled with green lichens clinging to their bark.

Rain Forrest 2, Lake Sylvan Track, Glenorchy, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Scattered across the forest floor are branches that have fallen as a result of past storms, now decaying and acting as host to more lichens and mosses.

Rain Forrest 3, Lake Sylvan Track, Glenorchy, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Thunder was starting to clap overhead and the rain became even heavier.  Camera gear was getting wet. The temperature was dropping.  It was time to retreat and head back to Glenorchy and a nice cup of hot coffee and a bite to eat.

(Click on images for a larger view.)

The End of the Lake

There has been a drama on television in New Zealand recently called “The End of the Lake”.  It has been a collaborative effort by a local production company and the BBC and is centered on Glenorchy, a small township at the western end of Lake Whakatipu.  For those who have visited New Zealand, you will probably know the lake better as the place where Queenstown is situated.

Lake Whakatipu is surrounded by spectacular mountains, and Queenstown is the place known best because as the center of all of the tourist activity in the area. Many however, like to leave the hustle and bustle of Queenstown behind for a while and take the 46 km drive to Glenorchy.  The road follows the eastern shore of the lake, weaving in and out of numerous small bays, and at various viewpoints offers spectacular vistas of mountain scenery in all directions.

End of Lake, Whakatipu, Queenstown, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

On the occasion when this image was captured we were driving our eldest son and his wife to the start of the Routeburn Track, one of New Zealand’s designated “Great Walks”.  As we approached Glenorchy it was clear that we were heading into wet weather as the clouds at the end of the lake were low and rain could be seen in the valleys.  By the time we reached the Routeburn Shelter at the start of the track it was raining steadily with very wetting large drops of water falling from the sky, although the light through the clouds was still warm, not the usual oppressive grey.

Little did the two walkers know what they had let themselves in for. On their first day’s walk they had to cross flooded streams and cope with heavy drenching rain.  Not long after arriving at  the Routburn Falls Hut for the first night winds reached gale force and heavy rain was driving down the valley, horizontally! The rain continued for the following days and was still falling lightly when we met them at the Lake Howden Hut, after we walked in from “The Divide” at the end of the track two days later. We had driven back to Queenstown and on to Lake Te Anau for a two night stay, before driving to “the Divide” on the road to Milford Sound. Click on image for a larger view.

Information …

Wooden Jetty, Okarito, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The sign on the shed said Information, but none was to be found. So, instead of taking information, I took this photograph. The shed was on a jetty at the edge of the lagoon at Okarito, a small coastal settlement on the South Westland coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Okarito Lagoon is a coastal lagoon that covers an area of about 12 square kilometers, the largest unmodified wetland in New Zealand.  The lagoon is home of many species of wading birds, notably the extremely rare (in New Zealand) Kotuku (Eastern Great Egret). Okarito is the Kotuku’s only New Zealand breeding place. Wikipedia

The jetty is at the southern end of the lagoon. Okarito was originally a gold mining township of over 1,500 people – it is now permanent home to only about 30 residents. Apart from housing the locals, the settlement also has a small number of holiday cottages.

On the day we visited, the settlement was pretty deserted. Only a small number of kayakers were evident, getting ready to paddle up the lagoon in the hope of sighting some Kotuku – possibly in vain as kayaks are not allowed into the nesting reserve established by the Department of Conservation to protect the Kotuku’s habitat. There is a possibility of sighting birds outside the reserve however, but the numbers are small and resident only between September and march.Visits to the reserve are possible only by an officially sanctioned tour.

This view rather appealed to me, The jetty had that old weather-beating look that photographers crave for. Sure, it looks like its been renovated recently (for safety reasons no doubt), but the essence of the original is still very evident. (Click on the image for a larger view).

Receding Iceline

I was just eighteen years old when I first visited the two big glaciers on the western side of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. New Zealand scenic calendars and the covers of school stationery had depicted images of the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers all through my childhood.  At that time the terminal moraine of the Fox Glacier could be seen through a window behind the alter table in the village Anglican church. Sadly, that is no longer the case.

Fox Glacier, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Fox Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacer, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Franz Joseph Glacer – Note the size of the people

When I first visited the area in 1964 the glaciers were more than a kilometer further down their respective valleys than they are today.  Because they are susceptible to climate change and terminate close to sea level in a temperate climate, they tend to advance and recede quite rapidly.  The glaciers began receding in the 1930s but reversed their flow in 1985, since which they have been advancing at the rate of about one meter per week. Now the build-up at the face of the glaciers creates  vertical  overhanging faces which are continually collapsing, making them dangerous to approach.

The valleys down which the glaciers flow at just 25 km apart, allowing both to be easily visited in one day.

Striding Out

I have a bit of a fun image today. In the summer of 2012 our eldest son and his wife visited us from Canada, where they live. Together we toured part of the South Island of New Zealand.  The specifically wanted to take in some of the popular sites of Westland, including both the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers.

Striding Out, Franz Joseph Glacier, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Franz Joseph Glacier

It was on the walk from the car park to the glacier face that I captured this image. David is a keen outdoors person, and particularly loves the mountains. In order to capture the scene I asked him to walk across the bridge.  Just to be different, he decided to approach the task with this exaggerated stride. I bit different from your normal scenic shot of a popular tourist attraction, don’t you think?

Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day …

Its one of those wet and dreary days in Auckland today.  The rain has been dribbling down all day and the sky is leaden gray. A heavy rain warning was issued at midday for the next three hours. Two hours have gone but the rain continues to dribble.  Could be worse, I suppose!

In order to cheer myself up I have worked on another image of Lake Mathieson to remind myself that there is a different kind of weather. God knows, we need the rain but it has been hanging around for nearly a week now.

Mirror Image, Lake Mathieson, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

As you can see, it was a beautiful morning when we visited the lake for its famed reflections of the Southern Alps, especially Aoraki Mount Cook on the left.  As it is on the itinerary of all the coaches that travel the West Coast tourist route, we made sure we got there early.  Even so, there is always someone there before you, but that’s OK. I love mornings like this when the air is still cool and the breeze hasn’t yet broken through.  However, even as we walked around the lake the breeze began to arrive as the morning air warmed.

Mirror Image

Lake Mathieson, Westland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Over the last few months a number of my posts commented on the long dry summer we had experienced in New Zealand and how everyone was looking forward to some rain to relieve the drought.  I guess one shouldn’t wish too hard because we now have an autumn that has brought plenty of the wet stuff. along with some more southerly temperatures.  I know this may sound strange for all who live north of the equator, but down here we live in an upside-down world.

So, what’s this all to do with the above image? Well, Lake Mathieson is situated on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, just west of Aoraki Mount Cook, our highest mountain. That’s the left peak of the two in the photograph.  This part of New Zealand is also known for being the one of the wettest regions in the country, with South Westland having an annual rainfall, ranging from 3400–4900 mm ( approximately 135 – 195 inches) in the lowlands.

Fortunately it doesn’t rain all the time in Westland, and on mornings when the skies are clear and there is no wind Lake Mathieson presents itself as a mirror to reflect the Southern Alps just for photographers like me.

Musseled Espresso

I’ve been searching back catalogues of images as recently I haven’t had much opportunity to shoot new ones.  Packing up a house ready for a move has rather taken over my time in the past two weeks.  However, in a bit of space in my schedule today I found some images taken on an afternoon trip to Aramoana in August last year while filling in time between hospital  visits with my wife after her accident.

The return journey brought me back through Port Chalmers, the principal port for the City of Dunedin.  The Port Chalmers township consists of a short strip of low-rise  shops, offices and pubs on the main road that leads to the port. It has that gritty feel to it which many port areas seem to acquire. By the time I drove back through the town my stomach was telling me it was time to stop and find something to eat.  The only option available was the grandly named Port Royale Cafe situated in a narrow three story building, the window of which was emblazoned with the seal of “Musseled Espresso”.

Port Royale Cafe, Musseled Espresso, Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Port Royale Cafe, Musseled Espresso, Port Chalmers, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

This visit proved that one shouldn’t judge an establishment by it’s surroundings. Inside the cafe exuded a comfortable “lived-in” ambiance with a modern cafe overlay.  Even at 4.oo pm the food selection was still good, and the coffee very acceptable.  In one corner a port worker sipped his coffee while reading the newspaper, in another a group of local ladies chatted around a table near the window.

I liked the look and feel of the place, and it certainly set me up for the next hospital visit.

Take 2

After leaving the rain behind us at Naseby the day before we drove directly to Wanaka to resume our holiday that was interrupted in August by my wife taking an unexpected trip to hospital in a rescue helicopter.  We had two days still available to us that had already been paid for, which was the whole reason for this trip.

The next day dawned beautifully fine so we decided to take another drive up the western side of Lake Wanaka and then follow the west branch of the Matukituki River to the end of the road at Raspberry Flat, some 50 km from Wanaka.  We visited Raspberry Flat last year while taking a day off from skiing but didn’t do any walking then as we had arrived late in the afternoon and did not have enough daylight available. The last 30 km of the road is unsealed, and the last 10 km section to the car park is a fine weather road only and subject to washouts. Sometimes flooded creeks can make it impassable.

The aim this day was to do the Rob Roy Valley Walk.  Having proven herself at Mount Cook four days earlier, Valerie was determined to attempt this 3-4 hour return, 10 km walk.

West Branch Matukituki River, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

From the Raspberry Creek car park it is about a 15 minute easy walk to a swing bridge across the West Matukituki River, downstream from the junction with Rob Roy Stream. These cable and plank swing bridges are common in New Zealand National Parks and provide safe crossing points on popular walking tracks over swift flowing mountain rivers. They can be a bit un-nerving for people who are afraid of heights and walking surfaces that move up and down, as well as sideways.  Lateral cables tied to the river banks attempt to minimise the latter.

Swing Bridge, West Branch Matukituki River, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

After the river crossing the track climbs steadily upstream to a lookout where the Rob Roy Stream can be seen flowing into the Matukituki River.

Rob Roy Stream and West Branch Matukituki River, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Shortly after the lookout there is an unstable slip on the track which has a steep drop-off that requires care when crossing. The track then follows the course of the Rob Roy Stream and climbs through a small gorge into beech forest, then into alpine vegetation at the head of the valley.

Rob Roy Stream, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Beech Forest, Rob Roy Glacier, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

After emerging above the treeline you get the first uninterrupted views of the glacier and waterfalls for which it is famous.

Rob Roy Glacier, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013
Finally the track ends in an alpine meadow revealing the full glory of the Rob Roy Glacier and its seven waterfalls.  Vast granite cliffs rise above the opposite side of the valley to the glacier which hangs above, seemingly ready to tumble over the edge at any minute.  From high in the cliffs a succession of waterfalls cascade down the rock face to end in the Rob Roy Stream in the valley below. This walk is a favorite with several of our friends. It has now become a favorite for us as well.

Rob Roy Glacier, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Waterfalls and Rob Roy Glacier, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Waterfalls, Rob Roy Glacier, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Waterfall, Rob Roy Glacier, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

After nearly an hour taking in the scale and beauty of our surroundings it was time to leave and return to the valley below.  By this time the effort of the climb was beginning to catch up with Val and the descent was slow as she negotiated her way over the uneven track and across the muddy slip. Finally, almost seven hours after leaving the car park I towed a very weary walker back to the car. It had been a very memorable day which marked a second major milestone on the road to recovery.

Unconsecrated Ground

The story of Chinese immigration into New Zealand at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is not a happy one, as witnessed by a Government Apology in 2002 by the then Prime Minister Helen Clark.  Chinese immigrant stories, especially around the goldfields of Central Otago, went generally untold and therefore unnoticed by the general population until well into the twentieth century.  From 1977 – 1987  the New Zealand Historic Places Trust commissioned an archaeological study of Chinese gold mining sites along the Clutha River near Cromwell before it was dammed and flooded, and in 1993 Chinese physician Dr James Ng produced Volume 1 of his four volume definitive work “Windows on a Chinese Past”. These two documents brought many of  the issues and hardships that faced the hard working Chinese settlers into public view.

The Alaskan, Californian, Australian and then New Zealand gold rushes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries attracted fortune seekers from all over the world, with many moving from one boom to the next as hopes of hitting pay dirt diminished. Among those numbers were peasant men from China seeking another means of supporting their families. Because few spoke English they tended to cluster together and there was only a minimum of interaction with other miners. They were generally no more of less successful in their search for gold than any others however. At best they were tolerated, but when times toughened and the gold ran out they were ostracised. As a result of intense lobbying to politicians by “European” settlers the Government introduced a Poll Tax of £10 at the border for new Chinese immigrants, which was increased to £100 in 1896. It was for this and other discriminatory laws that the Government apologied in 2002.

Chinese miners were represented in many of the early gold fields in Central Otago, the best known and documented site being at Arrowtown near Queenstown. So also it was the case at Naseby and nearby Blacks.  But what happened to them when they died?

Luey Mee Hok, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Luey Mee Hok

In some settlements  grave sites were established by the Chinese communities themselves, but in others such as Naseby they were buried at the local cemetery – sort of. Being non-Christian, and considered by many therefore to be heathen, they were interred in unconsecrated ground outside the boundary of the normal cemetery.  Such was the fate of Luey Mee Hok in 1907, whose grave can be found under the trees with other members of his Chinese fraternity.  Its a sad reflection of former less tolerant times.

Bentley Surprise in Naseby

We have visited Naseby a number of times over the years, the most recent time just two years ago. We were therefore not expecting anything out of the ordinary when we came off the end of the Danseys Pass Road and into the old gold mining town.  Imagine then the surprise at finding three vintage Bentley Open Tourers parked outside the Black Forest Cafe as we turned into the main street!

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Nearly every schoolboy of my era in the British Commonwealth knew of the reputation of these cars during the 1920s and 30s – it was legendary.  There were some three thousand Bentley cars of this style built between 1922 and the early years of the 1930s with various engine sizes ranging between 3 litres and 8 litres.  By far the most popular was the 4 1/2 litre model built between 1928 and 1931. The great claim to fame for these cars was winning the Le Mans 24 hour race in France in  1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930.

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013So there they were, a 4.0 litre, 4.5 litre and 3 litre model parked beside the only cafe in town.  And magnificent they were too.  Why were they in Naseby?  They were part of a Bentley Owners 2013 New Zealand Tour. That morning the cars had left Dunedin and had made their way to Naseby en-route to Mt Cook.  Not being the types to take the easy road, they had chosen to travel over Danseys Pass in the opposite direction from which we had just come.

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Shortly after our arrival they departed with a chorus of gutsy engines and and a flurry of leaves as they headed into rain and colder temperatures in the Kakanui Mountains.

Bentley, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Curiously, across the street is an antiques shop whose owner has a small collection of cars from the 1930-1950 era.

The Road to Naseby

Overnight the temperature had dropped to 4 degrees Centigrade at Kyeburn Diggings.  After rain for most of the day before, the morning sun made a welcome reappearance.

Danseys Pass Inn, Kyeburn Diggings, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Just 29 km from Naseby, the settlement of Kyeburn Diggings is where the Danseys Pass Inn is situated. The hotel was built in 1863 and for a time was the centre of all activities in the district. Apparently a stonemason called Happy Bill built the stone building in schist in 1863 and took his payment in beer, a pint for every schist boulder shaped and laid on the thick walls! Remnants of some of the other stone buildings of the settlement are across the road from the inn.

Kyburn Diggings, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Kyburn Diggings, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

“The gold fields in the Kyeburn area known as the Kyeburn Diggings were well underway before the main discovery of gold at nearby Naseby. The Upper Kyeburn gold fields once boasted hotels, stores, a butcher, a baker and in the 1860’s a school opened.  Sadly the only reminder of the Upper Kyeburn settlement is that of the Upper Kyeburn Cemetery and the scars of sluicing and dredging that went on the area.  Like many of the early gold mining towns photos are all that remain of what was once a bustling area.” (Visit Central Otago)

It is always sobering to visit old cemeteries, especially those of settler times or in old battlefields.  People died very young in those days, and sometimes whole families died within relatively short spaces of time when compared with today’s life expectations. I also find the inscriptions on some of the old gravestones interesting, and sometimes “quaint”.

At the gate of the cemetery at Upper Kyeburn is a tariff board showing service charges for burial which were current in the gold mining era in the late nineteenth century. In those days £1 represented a lot of money.

Kyburn Diggings Cemetary, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Kyburn Diggings Cemetary, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

From the cemetery the road continues to Naseby through farmland and the sluiced banks of the nearby river, with views to the Kakanui Mountains to the right. Rain clouds still hung over the hills, but as the day progressed and we moved further into the Maniatoto Basin it got warmer as the weather improved.

Road to Naseby, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Kakanui Mountains, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Finally, with just a few kilometres to go the sign pointing to Naseby lead us to an unexpected surprise! More on that in the next post.

Naseby This Way, Central Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Naseby This Way

Danseys Pass

Crossing the Danseys Pass between the Waitaki Valley in North Otago and the Maniatoto Basin in Central Otago has been on our list of things to do again since we last made the crossing in the early 1980s.  That time we crossed from west to east.  It was memorable for several reasons, one being the nature of the road, and the other being the accommodation we used (more about that later).

Our east-west journey over Danseys Pass in February began at the small village of Duntroon in the Waitaki Valley.  For the first 12 km the road was sealed, but from that point onwards it turned to gravel for the rest of the journey over the Kakanui Mountains all the way to Naseby some 30 km further on.

At about 6 km into the journey, on a side road, are the Elephant Rocks.

Elephant Rocks, Duntroon, Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Over 24 million years ago this whole area was under the sea. Whales and other marine life sunk into the soft sand which then rose to the surface during the last few million years. The result is an area of fossils and dramatic limestone outcrops which have been weathered into unusual shapes. This area is favored by climbers and is taken as a side-visit by people touring in the area.

On the day we journeyed over the Danseys Pass road it was raining.  In order to get the above image I had to crouch behind a small umbrella to prevent the driving rain from soaking my camera.  The rain persisted until we reached the summit and began our descent.

Danseys Pass Road narrows to almost a single lane not long after leaving the seal.  For a while it follows the valley before rising on a twisting road through steep tussock covered hills.

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Close to the summit at 935 metres the rain became heavier …

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

… and so too did our encounters with free-roaming sheep that often blocked our way.

Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

The summit is reached at the 23 km mark and the road then descends steeply through Upper Kyeburn to the Maniatoto Basin.

Not far from Upper Kyeburn and the Danseys Pass Coaching Inn, still surrounded by steep hills is a lavender farm and gift shop.  It was a surprising find in the middle of a high country sheep farming area, well off the normal tourist route.

Lavender Farm, Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Lavender Farm, Danseys Pass, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Our destination for the day was the old coaching inn at Upper Kyburn. We had last stayed at the Danseys Pass Coaching Inn some 30 years ago.  On that occasion it was also cold and raining.  At that time one could fairly describe the inn as eclectic and in need of some TLC (tender loving care).  One of the more unusual features then was that the road took a sharpish turn right at the corner of the inn.  If one had a bedroom on that corner (as two of our sons did), it was rather disconcerting at night as felt as if cars approaching from up the hill would crash into the room before passing the front of the hotel to continue down the hill.  Fortunately that feature has now been corrected.

Danseys Pass Coaching Inn, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Danseys Pass Inn has had a major makeover since we last stayed and it now operates as a boutique get-away hotel and a place to hold small conferences and functions.  One of the nice things is that it has all been done in keeping with old character of the place and it makes for a pleasant overnight experience.  A feature of the large lounge is a big open fireplace.  This was very welcome as it was cold and wet outside, with the temperature dropping to 4 degrees C overnight (in the middle of summer!). The lawn you see in the foreground is where the road used to be.

Danseys Pass – the settlement – is located approximately halfway between the pass and Duntroon on the eastern side. Confusingly, however, the historic Danseys Pass Coaching Inn is located on the western side, at the locality known as Upper Kyeburn.

The next day we traveled on to Naseby, and then Wanaka.

Giant Marbles – Moeraki

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


I first saw the boulders at Moeraki in the year I left high school when I was hitch-hiking around the South Island of New Zealand with a school friend.  The next time was when we were camping in the South Island with our three young sons in the early 1980s. Finally, some 30 years later we visited them again.  Each time I see them they remind me of giant marbles.

The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast of New Zealand near the fishing village of Moeraki. They can be seen  as isolated boulders, or as clusters of boulders within a limited stretch of beach where they have been protected in a Department of Conservation reserve. Wave erosion of mudstone cliffs at the edge of the beach frequently exposes embedded isolated boulders. Needless to say, they are a great attraction for the many visitors to the beach.

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Picture This

Koekohi Beach is a wonderful stretch of golden sand that allows for easy access to the boulders. They have been photographed from every angle, climbed on, posed on or with, closely inspected and marveled at. Individually or together , they make wonderful subjects.

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


Moeraki Boulders, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013