Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement


Go North Turn Left

With our pending three month journey to Europe and North America about to begin in just under two weeks, my wife Valerie and I have established an companion blog to this one called Go North Turn Left.  In this blog we will relate tales of our travels (hopefully not travails) as we venture forth on the various legs of our journey.

So, where did the blog name come from?


We have a very dear friend who believes that everything in the world is up and to the left of New Zealand. Her view of the geography of the world dates back to primary school days when she first looked at a map of the world. On that map New Zealand was at the bottom right corner. This view of the world has always intrigued us, especially Valerie who was a former geography teacher. So, to honour this unusual view we have named the blog “Go North Turn Left”

Our travels this year start at the end of July 2013.  We trust you will enjoy the journey with us.

Posts will also continue here as time and internet connections permit.


Piebald Skies

If ever I am called to go to another town or city for pleasure of for business I try to get out for an early morning walk.  For me, it’s the best time of the day.  It’s the time before most people begin to move, and the time when the light is clear, the sun is still low, and the air is fresh.

It was on such a morning that I took my morning walk along the coastal walkway at New Plymouth in the Taranaki region of New Zealand.  Taranaki occupies that area of the large western cape of the North Island of New Zealand.  Its central feature is Mt Taranaki, a Fuji look-alike that dominates the landscape throughout the region.  The coastal walkway stretches 11 km from the Port Taranaki, past the New Plymouth CBD, then on around the cliffs and beaches in a northerly direction. It’s popular with walkers, runners and cyclists.

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Fitzroy Beach from the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Resting and viewing area beneath the cliffs just north of the New Plymouth CBD

New Plymouth Coastal Walkway, Taranaki, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Port Taranaki and New Plymouth CBD. The “wand” on the foreshore next to the rectangular white building is an installation art piece designed by artist Len Lye.

On this particular morning there was a lovely piebald sky that added to the enjoyment of the walk.

Fireflame Chillies

I love street markets, no matter where in the world they are. Its the combinations of colors, activity and people that make them so fascinating. Here is a selection of images taken at the Matakana Market, a farmers’ market held during the summer at Matakana Village, an hour’s drive north of Auckland.

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Fireflame, that’s on medium please!

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

“Now you need to understand some of the finer points about chillies”

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

“Which one would you like to try first?”

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

You’ll need to visit Puhoi to see the “Big Cheese”

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

“And now for a we spell to turn this into the perfect organic crepe”

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Why can’t I grow basil like that?

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

“This, Monsieur, is the perfect pastry for you”

Now Closed … Sorry for any inconvenience

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Well, that’s what the sign said!  Clearly this wasn’t the case on the day of our visit to the Matakana Market.  Perhaps the sign had been turned around?

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

How about some organic beans, or spray-free tomatoes?  This is a farmers’ market afterall, and we have t cater for all tastes.

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Baby Royal Gala apples as well, you know, the ones on the bike! Or is the man on the bike chasing the apple? But, I’ll take some special capsicums, please. And is that pumpkin $4, or is it Number 84?

Market Minstrels

Because I haven’t had much time lately to get out and photograph anything, because of packing our house full of belongings into a storage unit, so I have revisited my library of images to get inspiration for posts.  The next few posts will contain images taken at the Matakana Market located about an hour’s drive north of Auckland.  The farmers’ market runs on Saturdays through the summer months and attracts large numbers of visitors from Auckland and the surrounding district, especially from the holiday homes at the nearby beaches.

One of the features of the market is the small group of musicians who play there during the opening hours to entertain shoppers. Occasionally they leave their “stand” and wander through the market. Here are a couple of images of the market minstrels.

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Free Range Eggs

Matakana Market, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

“King Bill’s” Hall

Just south of Rarawa Beach is the small settlement of Houhora.  When I first visited Houhora in my youth I was able to visit  the Wagener Museum, which housed an eclectic collection of artifacts relating to the early settlement of the district  in an old stables building.   Sadly the museum burned down In the 1980s and some of the collection was lost. The remainder of the museum closed in 2003, but a down-sized version has since reopened.  The old museum was a great place to visit and was known to many Kiwis of my age (that’s telling you a bit!).

Not far from the old museum, and next to the Houhora Pub, are several old buildings that have fallen into disrepair but have a strong local historical interest.

King Bill's Hall, Houhora, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

One of them is the old hall which was owned by “King Bill”. “King Bill” Evans was a trader, publican, land owner and general entrepreneur in the 1890s.  The local hall was a centre of activity in those days and was variously used for meetings, dances, weddings and church services. Today it is slowly rusting away in the field near the pub.

Air Conditioned, King Bill's Hall, Houhora, Northland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

“Air conditioned, with views of the sky”

These images were taken in the late afternoon as the sun was sinking towards the horizon in the west.  Click on images for a larger view.

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).

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?

Green Balloon

Green Balloon, Takapuna Christmas Market 2009, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

A few years ago, 2009 to be precise, a Christmas market was held in the main street of our local town.  There were street stalls outside the main street businesses, as well as craft stalls, and a bouncy castle for the kids.  Throughout the day a number of groups entertained visitors to the market, including a Tai Chi group from a neighboring suburb.  It was during the Tai Chi demonstration that this wee girl caught my attention – totally absorbed with her green balloon while the demonstration carried on behind her back.  As you can tell from the surfing Santa on the pole in the background, Takapuna is a seaside township.

Can we have some rain please?

Kaweka Drought, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

This year New Zealand has had one of the hottest and driest summers on record. Most of the country has had temperatures some 2-3 degrees Celsius above normal monthly averages since December, and record low rainfall.  As a result all of the agricultural lands in the North Island and on the west coast of the South Island have been declared drought areas.

Last weekend we traveled to Napier in the Hawkes Bay region of the North Island to attend a meeting and also visit a forest in the Kaweka Ranges, some 50 km inland from Napier. All of the areas we passed through on the 420 km drive from Auckland showed clear evidence of no rain, resulting in brown and dusty pastures.  Farmers are having to feed their animals either with feed normally reserved for winter, or from feed stocks purchased from outside suppliers.  Some suppliers have already run out of their reserve stocks.  Farmers are having to de-stock to ensure that animals don’t suffer, and to allow pastures to recover when the rain finally arrives.

Because New Zealand is primarily an agriculture-based economy, the impact of the drought has flow-on effects into the wider economy.  Already a predicted milk shortage has caused prices to rise on international dairy markets, and dairy farmers are receiving early payouts from the country’s biggest dairy products exporter to assist with drought relief.

The above image was taken from the road leading to the forest we visited in the Kaweka Ranges.  There had been as light rain shower in the day or so before our visit which allowed a small amount of green to show.  Mostly though, the pasture is brown, and what green there is is of little use to the animals.  The green field in the distance is irrigated by the local farmer who has a water right to draw from a nearby stream.

It’s now autumn here in this far flung corner of the South Pacific, a time when we normally expect to get regular rain.  So far it hasn’t arrived in any meaningful amounts.  Farmers are concerned about grass regeneration to see them through winter and into the next spring.

There is one consolation from all this heat and dryness though.  The Hawkes Bay region is one of New Zealand’s major wine producing areas.  The long hot summer has produced a high quality crop of grapes this year which the wine producers are very excited about.  It promises to be a great vintage.

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.

Harbour Street

Harbour Street in Oamau, after years of decline, has become a magnet for tourists and locals because of its transformation in recent times. To provide some context, a bit of history about Oamaru and its old port area might be useful.

Harbour Street, Oamaru, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

In European  historical terms New Zealand is a very young country, being settled well after North America, Southern Africa and Australia. New Zealand’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, some 50 years after the first European settlent in Australa. The first European to settle in the Oamaru district  arrived some time in the late 1840s. In 1859 the town of Oamaru was first surveyed, and the Otago Provincial government declared “hundreds” there on 30 November 1860. The town grew as a regional service-centre for the agricultural/pastoral hinterland and rapidly became a major port. As pastoral farming developed, so too did the frozen meat industry which had its historical origins in this part of New Zealand.  Oamaru flourished during this period and many of the significant buildings in the town were built using the locally plentiful limestone (Oamaru stone), which lent itself to carving. As a result Oamaru has a distinctive and “solid” feel to it which reflects it importance in the historical development of the surrounding Waitaki District . According to Wikipedia,  By the time of the depression of the 1880s Oamaru had become the “best built and most mortgaged town in Australasia”.

Oamaru, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Tyne Street, Oamaru

When the New Zealand economy stalled in the 1970s the port was closed and Oamaru found itself hard hit. In response it started to re-invent itself to become one of the first New Zealand towns to realise that its built heritage was an asset.  in 1987 the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust was formed, and work began restoring the historic precinct beside the port to become one of the most atmospheric urban areas in New Zealand.

Harbour Street, Oamaru, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Harbour Street, much as it looked in its heyday

On the weekends the old harbour area of the town comes alive as tourists and local visitors fill the area and explore the old warehouse buildings that now house craft workshops, cafes, small museums, curio shops, and the “Slightly Foxed Bookshop” dealing in quality secondhand books on exploration and other topics near the Harbour Street Market and Birdlands Wine Company. During our visit in February we spent time exploring the nooks and crannies along the street.

Harbour Street, Oamaru, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Harbour Street with bunting and weekend visitors


Signs, Harbour Street, Oamaru, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


signs, Harbour Street, Oamaru, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


Harbour Street, Oamaru, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Fly Me to the Moon …

Parapenting, Kennedy Park, Castor Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

… Let me swing among those stars

Let me see what spring is like

On Jupiter and Mars

In other words …

These words from the 1954  Bart Howard song made famous by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and many others came to mind when I watched this parapenter seem to soar towards the moon at Kennedy Park on Auckland’s North Shore last week.

I first saw another parapenter riding the thermal air currents off the cliffs with Rangitoto Island, the major landmark at the entry to Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour, in the background.  Minutes later he joined the moon flyer to circle and swoop above the cliffs.

Parapenting, Kennedy Park, Castor Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Training Ground

When New Zealand’s famous mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay made the first successful ascent of Mt Everest on 29 May 1953, and thus unlocked the gateway for hundreds of others since, Hillary could attribute a large part of his success to many days climbing the peaks of the Southern Alps that form the backbone of the South Island.  A bronze statue of Hillary gazing towards a distant Mt Cook, to commemorate his many achievements, is found at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre attached to the Hermitage Hotel at Mt Cook Village.

Sir Edmund Hillary, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Sir Edmund Hillary looking towards Aoraki Mt Cook with Mt Sefton and the Mueller Glacier in the background

Alpinists of the 1950s were in some ways a different breed from their modern counterparts. Their clothing and equipment were very basic when compared with that in use today. Under garments were made of  either wool or silk, outer garments, socks, hats and gloves also of wool, rain and windproof jackets, over-trousers and outer mittens of oiled Japara cotton. Climbing packs were not of the highly technical designs seen today, but were made of canvas with steel or wooden frames, leather straps with metal buckles and corded cotton adjustment cords. Keeping the contents dry was a major problem.  Climbing boots often had leather soles with hob-nails and metal cleats, and canvas gaiters or cotton-knit “puttees” kept the stones or snow from getting inside. Finally, climbing ropes were made of hemp and tents of light cotton canvas with wooden poles.  The statue of Sir Edmund Hillary shows him holding a wooden-shafted ice axe.  It was with clothing such as this that I first ventured into the mountains in the 1960s as a high school student. What a change there has been in the intervening fifty years.

On the way to the summit of Mt Cook Hillary would have over-nighted in huts similar to the old Empress Hut that is displayed in the precinct of the Department of Conservation Information Centre in the Mt Cook Village. These corrugated iron shelters were often placed in the mountains by volunteers from mountain clubs and provided basic bedspace, cooking space and, maybe, an emergency radio for picking up weather information or reporting emergencies.

Empress Hut, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Empress Hut

Inside Empress Hut, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Inside Empress Hut with modern and old mountaineering equipment

Inside Empress Hut, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Inside Empress Hut with emergency radio and gas cooker

Thus it was that successive generations of New Zealand mountaineers ventured into the mountains of the Southern Alps to learn their craft and prepare for other cold remote areas such as the Himalayas or the South Pole.

Pilot Run – Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook National Park

Six months after Valerie broke her leg skiing we had made our way to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park.  Mt Cook had been one of the stops we made during our honeymoon 45 years ago and we had only visited the Mt Cook Village once in the intervening years. Part of our plan to “complete” the holiday that was interrupted by weeks in hospital and months of recovery was to stay for two nights in the village on our way to Wanaka.

We had never before walked in the Hooker Valley that leads from the Mt Cook Village to the terminal moraine and glacier lake  at the foot of Aoraki Mt Cook, so we decided to (in Kiwi parlance) “give it a go”. It is not a difficult walk, but we had an encumbrance – Val was still walking with a limp and had only been off crutches for a month. Being a very determined person, she wanted to do the whole walk. Although it starts from the village, a shorter version starts at the Department of Conservation camping ground that reduces the posted return time by 1 1/2 hours. This is what we did, a pilot run for things to come.

Camping Ground, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Department of Conservation Camping Ground, Hooker Valley, Mt Sefton (L) and La Perouse (R) in background

The DOC camping ground provides a magnificent view Mt Sefton and La Perouse with their ice fields tumbling down the granite walls into the Hooker Valley.  This makes a great place to start the walk, the most popular in the area.  A short 15 minute stroll up the valley brings you to the Alpine Memorial.  Aoraki Mt Cook is a technically difficult climb.  More than 200 climbers have lost their lives over the years attempting the ascent since the mountain was first climbed in 1894.

Alpine Memorial, Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Alpine Memorial, Hooker Valley

The view of the Hooker Valley from the memorial is stunning.

Hooker Valley and Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Hooker Valley Panorama, Mt Sefton (L), La Perouse (C), Aoraki Mt Cook (R)

There are two swing bridges to cross during the walk, and the first one comes shortly after the memorial.  The hill above the bridge provides a view of the Mueller Glacier Lake at the base of Mt Sefton.

Swing Bridge, Hooker River, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Swing Bridge, Hooker River, Mueller Glacier Lake on Left

Mt Seton and the Mueller Glacier Lake, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Mt Seton and the Mueller Glacier Lake

The walk continues on up the Hooker Valley beside the river, with the occasional stretch of boardwalk …

Hooker River and Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Hooker River and Aoraki Mt Cook

Boardwalk, Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Boardwalk, Hooker Valley, Aoraki Mt Cook

… finally reaching the Hooker Glacier Lake at the end of the terminal moraine.

Hooker Glacier Lake and Terminal Moraine, Aoraki Mt Cook, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Hooker Glacier Lake and Terminal Moraine of Aoraki Mt Cook

The walk is described as being of easy to moderate difficulty, and most people complete the round trip from the DOC Camp in two and  a half to 3 hours.  We took 5 hours, but had a very happy lady at the end – tired, hot, a bit sore, but very satisfied.

Peter’s Lookout to Aoraki Mt Cook

Road to Mt Cook, South Canterbury, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Aoraki Mt Cook from Peter’s Lookout

One of the best views of Aoraki Mt Cook that is available along the road  from Tekapo to the Mt Cook Village is from a layby on the side of the road called Peter’s Lookout. For such a prominently signposted viewpoint it is a disappointment to drive onto a rough gravel car park  with no information boards to explain the surrounding scenery, especially the mountains at the end of the lake.  In the foreground is a newly cut pine plantation littered with the remains of the forestry operation.  However, if you can overlook the immediate negative impressions, you are presented with this magnificent vista which features New Zealand’s highest mountain which towers to 3,754 metres (12,316 ft).

Aoraki Mt Cook is head and shoulders higher than the surrounding peaks.  It is a technically difficult mountain to climb and a favourite challenge for the climbing fraternity.  The first European ascent was on 25 December 1894.  New Zealand’s famous mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary made his first ascent in January 1948. On 29 May 1953 he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first people to successfully climb Mt Everest.

Dog and Church

I have somewhat irreverently called this post “Dog and Church”.  It sounds like a British pub, but its not.  On the shores of Lake Tekapo in the area known as “Mackenzie Country” in South Canterbury are two key attractions on every tourist coach journey through the South Island of New Zealand.  Apart from early morning and late afternoon there is a steady stream to tour coaches, campervans, rental cars and other miscellaneous vehicles which arrive at the lake shore to visit the Church of the Good Shepherd and a bronze statue of a sheepdog. If one arrives during the tourist period in the day it is almost impossible to capture images of the church, especially, without people filing into and out of the building and wandering around it’s perimeter.

Dog and Church, Tekapo, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Church of the Good Sheperd, Tekapo, New Zealand

In this image there is only one coach.  When we arrived there were three others and twice as many cars.

The little stone church is a gem.  Some twenty five years ago we had the privilege of attending a Christmas Day service there with our three boys while on a camping holiday in the South Island.  It was a very local service, with families from the town and surrounding farming community gathering together to celebrate the Christmas story.  There were tourists and tour coaches then also, but not in the numbers you see today.  One of the unique features of the church is the window behind the alter that gives a view of Aoraki Mt Cook in the distance at the farthest end of Lake Tekapo.  Despite the many thousands of travelers who visit the church every year, it is still used for active worship and is a focal point for the Mackenzie Country families.

Dog and Church, Tekapo, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

View without people

Dog and Church, Tekapo, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Quiet Space

Outside the church is a bronze statue of a border collie sheepdog. Quoting from the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, “In the 19th century, Scottish shepherds came to work on the pastoral runs of the eastern South Island. The high country could not have been farmed successfully without the border collies they brought with them. To honour these ‘canine Scots’, a statue of a collie has been raised at Lake Tekapo.”  The statue is a much loved attraction, and many a honeymooner and visitor has a photograph of themselves with the dog.

Dog and Church, Tekapo, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Settler’s Dog Memorial – Border Collie

The Mackenzie Basin was named in the 1850s by and after James Mackenzie (or in his native Scottish Gaelic: Seumas MacCoinneach), a shepherd and sheep thief of Scottish origin, who herded his stolen flocks in what was then an area almost totally empty of any human habitation, though Māori previously lived there intermittently.  After his capture, the area was soon divided up amongst new sheep pasture stations in 1857 (Wikipedia).  The Mackenzie story is one that captured the imagination of many a young school child when I was small and we were closer to the living history of European settlement than we are today.

Street Markets

Whenever I visit a new country I try to find where the street markets are.  There are so many interesting people there – ordinary people going about their normal daily business.  So it was in Istanbul.  While the tourists thronged the Istiklal Caddesi along with the young and glamorous, we found the street markets away from the main drag.

Fruit and vegetable stalls and sellers are among my favorite subjects; colorful characters selling colorful produce.

Pride, Istanbul Street Market, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


Presenting, Vegetable Vendor, Istanbul Street Market, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


Waiting, Istanbul Street Market, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


Meanwhile, back in Istiklal Caddesi we found this chestnut seller with his cart getting ready for a busy evening.

Chestnut Seller, Istanbul Street Market, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Chestnut Seller

A Word A Week Photo Challenge: Round

All images for this post are from Turkey and represent art through history in various forms, but all in the round.

Blue Plate, Capadoccia, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Isnik Pattern Plate

Cappadocia in Eastern Turkey is steeped in history and tradition.  One of these traditions is pottery and ceramics.   Tiles and plates decorated with the patterns of Isnik and other areas are made here for the flocks of tourists that pass through the region. These are the patterns favoured by the Ottoman emperors of old. Here at Firca Ceramik in Avenos a current day artisan decorates an ancient Hittite pattern ceramic jug in an underground studio.

Vase Painter, Capadoccia, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

For me the best image for “round” comes from the Chora Church in Istanbul. The Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora is considered to be one of the most beautiful surviving examples of a Byzantine church. In the 16th century, during the Ottoman era, the church was converted into a mosque and, finally, it became a museum in 1948. The interior of the building is covered with fine mosaics and frescoes. One of the best of these is in the  painted dome of the parecclesion (side chapel) of the church.

Chora Dome-1

The Virgin and child, painted dome of the parecclesion of Chora Church

It is a truly wonderful fresco.  The Chora Church is worth going out of your way to visit if every you have the good fortune to visit the wonderful city of Istanbul.


We had read and had been told also that Turkey was a secular country, but the predominant religion was Islam.  As such we expected and experienced a degree of conservatism in dress and behaviours during our two week visit in 2006.  Yet despite this underlying conservatism, we encountered a number of things that surprised us.  Imagine if you can our reaction to seeing this poster mounted prominently on a pole in one of Istanbul’s busiest shopping streets, Istiklal Cadesi.

Cinema Poster, Istanbul, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Istanbul is described as the crossroads between the east and the west.  It is an amalgam of modern and old.   For every young woman in the streets wearing up-to-date western fashion, there is probably an equal number wearing traditional conservative Islamic dress.  The modern women are not provocative in their dress, but are as stylish as you would see in Paris or London.  This poster therefore seemed to be an aberration and completely out there. Just one block away from this very fashionable street most of the women had their heads covered with scarves and their arms and legs covered  in the usual Islamic fashion.


Listening, Kaikoura, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

Listening is something many of us are not good at.  We say we are listening but our minds are somewhere else. The words go in but are filtered or not heard. Little wonder then that relationships become strained.  Not listening is not being engaged.  So many things are missed.  Nuances are left unrecognised.  Noticing those nuances can mean the difference between understanding, or not. Its like seeing but not comprehending.

The above image is about listening.  The Watch Captain is listening for the sounds emitted by whales so that he can take his passengers to where these wondrous creatures of the sea can be seen.  His passengers are relying on him.  He needs to be able to filter out the sounds that don’t matter to discern those that do.

Image taken off Kaikoura on the north eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island.

Weekly Photo Challenge – My 2012 in Pictures

Driftwood, Lake Ferry, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

All washed up

Many of the joys of life come from exploration, its one of those things that keeps you alive and interested. Whether it is exploration of new places near or far from home, new ideas, new hobbies, new techniques in pursuit of improvement or perfection, or whatever it is that satisfies your curiosity, finding interesting things keeps you moving forward.

The image above, taken in February at Lake Ferry in the Wairarapa District near New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, prompted these thoughts.  How would I feel if I reached a point in life when I felt all washed up.  Here the remnants of a once thriving tree are left stranded in a stony shore, bleached grey by the sun and apparently useless to anyone. Yet that is what happens to many people in our societies – left abandoned and all washed up.  What ever happened to their desire for exploration, or were they never given a real chance to start with?

As we move into 2013 let’s keep our drive to explore alive, and maybe even help someone who has lost their sense of direction to explore new ways to become alive again.