Tag Archives: New Zealand

Bay Watch

On the South Island coast I’m on the alert for local fauna.  My first sighting is a sea lion flinging an octopus about in Blueskin Bay.  That dark shape in the water is the sea lion’s head, octopus dangling from mouth.  (If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can make it out.)

Next morning I see the sea lion again.  This time breakfast is flounder (so I’m told).

…down the hatch it goes…

On the Otago coastline between Oamaru and Dunedin is an outcrop of rocks called Shag Point.  There, all year round, you can see a colony of New Zealand fur seals.  On this day it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale.  I can’t step out of the car without getting soaked so I take these photos from my car window.

At the turn off to Shag Point is a cottage.  Wow!  What an outlook.  Location Location!!

The next day we return to Shag Point as the rain has stopped.  I take a five minute walk from the car park and look down over the cliff.  Can you make out the seals on the rocks?  (It can be hard to tell a seal from a rock.)

This must be the nursery.

…and this is surely Father.  “Wake Up Father“.

After a few days in Otago we find ourselves back in Canterbury.  We stay in this heavenly homestead near Little River (not far from Christchurch).  The house was built in 1900.  We feel we are in a Katherine Mansfield short story.

I am always drawn back to Birdlings Flat, a beach entirely made up of stones.  A group of South Island pied oystercatchers make their way along the beach.

A black-backed gull ruffles his feathers.

Red-billed gulls rest and think about what to do next.  (My aim is to photograph without disturbing the birds, which I succeed in doing.)

The surf continuously pounds this southern-facing coastline.  I lie in the stones and watch the white-fronted terns as they preen themselves…

…call to one another…

…fly in…

…and fly out.

In the lagoon behind the beach a solitary white heron sounds an alarm.  Is it me he is worried about?  There is quite a body of water between us.

But still he flies away.  (Perhaps he always meant to fly away and it is nothing to do with me.  I hope so.)

Driving over the hills of Banks Peninsula we encounter a flock of sheep.  The farmer looks like Jed Clampett.

The view from the top of the hill is outstanding.  That must be Akaroa on the far side.

I suggest to Matthew he might like to check out some Barry’s Bay cheese.  While he is sampling the famous cheeses I hop across the road to photograph the birds.

A paradise shelduck forages during low tide.

On a small island in the bay birds not of a feather stick together.

Toi toi.

A pukeko takes me and my camera in her stride.

…and the next day we fly back to Australia.

 

 

A box of birds

“A box of birds” means happiness.

One morning two weeks ago my sister-in-law Clare, Matthew and I sit outside at Blueskin Nurseries Café in Waitati.  Clare suggests taking us to Orokonui Ecosanctuary just up the hill as we all love birds.  The sparrows watching us think this is a good idea.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary is an ecological island wildlife reserve developed by the Otago Natural History Trust in the Orokonui Valley, 20 km north of Dunedin.  The 307 ha nature reserve was surrounded by a predator fence in 2007.  The forest is being restored to its former glory by keeping pests out, revegetating and bringing back species that were locally extinct. 

The first birds we see are takahe.  These flightless birds were for a long time thought to be extinct.  What a joy to see a species of bird for the first time ever.  Here is the chick!

The following three photos show one of the parents feeding this chick.  Look how they use their legs, scooping up grass.

New Zealand forests are too often eerily quiet as populations of songbirds have been decimated by introduced predators over the decades.  But the forest at Orokonui is an absolute symphony of song.  No words of mine can describe what it is like to hear this orchestra of birdsong.   Here are some of the musicians.   First – the tui whose loud song is interspersed with clicks and rattles…

The melodious bellbird or korimako…who is belting out a tune while I photograph.

I have written a post about a New Zealand parrot called the kea, but here is a parrot I had never seen before called the kaka.  These gregarious birds are extremely entertaining to watch as they get up to their various antics.  I want to capture the red under-carriage during flight but they are too fast for me.

The brave little robin likes to come very close to us because she is after the insects we disturb as we walk along.

A bird who evades my camera most of the time because he is so quick is the fantail.  This bird flits and teases as he pursues flying insects.  Only when he ever-so-briefly perches do I have any hope of a photo.

How I love the tomtit – a tiny bird with enormous presence.

Even when we can’t see any birds at any particular moment, we can always listen to their music.

…and enjoy the scenery…

When our excursion is over we descend back down the hill to Waitati.

A pony walks over to be patted.

A spoonbill flies across Blueskin Bay.

The day is a box of birds.

Happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

It doesn’t matter what the weather turns on in New Zealand.   Blue sky and sunshine can be delightful but clouds add drama to a landscape.  My first post of photos from a two week trip in March celebrates the beauty of autumnal weather in Aotearoa – The land of the long white cloud.

High on the Port Hills overlooking Christchurch with Matthew – husband and travel companion.

From Christchurch we travel to Waitati, near Dunedin.  Here is Blueskin Bay.

Blueskin Bay patterns – land, water and sky.

Matthew and our sister-in-law, Clare, walk ahead of me.  Huge tides mean that later, all this expanse of sand will be covered with water.

Residents of Blueskin Bay in a haze of morning mist and sea spray.

The weather closes in as we explore the Otago coast.

A southerly cold-front blasts the South Island and temperatures plummet.

Next day, on the trip from coast to mountains, I take this photo out of the car window as we drive in the rain.

Pine Cottage, our accommodation at Lake Pukaki (near Mt Cook). Matthew would like it to be known that it is 4 degrees C.

Sheep, snow and clouds on the high country sheep station where we stay.

The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo.

Matthew in his soul place; Mackenzie Country.  The clouds part a little for Aoraki Mount Cook.

Matthew on the braided river-bed where icy water flows from glacial melt of Tasman Glacier.

The milky-coloured water contains ‘flour’ – particles of rock ground down by glacial action.  Above, the clouds seem to be a boiling mass.

A rainbow over the Rakaia River at Coleridge.

Just us at Lake Coleridge.

Into the eye of the sun, Lake Coleridge.

“That’s a bright flag”, says Matthew as he drives. Simultaneously I am photographing the scene from the passenger seat.

“A drive to the end of somewhere”, is Matthew’s description of our wanderings.

Mountains framed by clouds – revealing, concealing.

A cloud’s attraction to a mountain…one so ethereal, the other so solid.  Opposites attract.

“Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air / and feather canyons everywhere, I’ve looked at clouds that way…”  Joni Mitchell

The weather wasn’t totally inclement.  There was sun – and there were birds (OH! THE BIRDS!!).  So more photographic essays will follow shortly.

Small Country, Big Heart

a sign at Lake Matheson on the west coast of New Zealand.

A quote at Lake Matheson, South Westland.

Matthew and I have just returned from 12 days in the South Island of New Zealand.   Though we have traveled globally over the years, our country of birth never fails to inspire us.  I invite you to partake in some South Island landscapes.

Birdlings Flat is a wildly atmospheric beach near Christchurch. Here people fossick for semi-precious stones. A couple of white-fronted terns fly overhead.

Birdlings Flat is a bleak yet atmospheric beach on Banks Peninsula, near Christchurch. Here people fossick for semi-precious stones. A couple of white-fronted terns dart overhead.

Succulents thrive at Birdlings Flat.

Succulents luxuriate in the arid conditions of Birdlings Flat.

Wherever you are in the world, you may have heard about the fires this week on the Port Hills of Christchurch. Here is an evening view of the Port Hills which I took only 24 hours before the fires began.

A sunset view of the Port Hills of Christchurch taken from Tai Tapu.

Inland Canterbury is known as high country. This is Matthew's soul country. Near Lake Heron Station.

Inland Canterbury, west of Christchurch, is high country.   Near Lake Heron Station.

Up near Erewhon Station on the Rangitata river bed.

Matthew, in the distance, walks on a shingle river bed.   Rangitata river at Erewhon Station.

It was a long way across the shingle until we finally got to the Rangitata river. (On braided rivers, most of the river flows under the stones.)

One has to walk a long way across shingle until one comes to actual flowing river. (On braided rivers, most of the river flows under the stones.)

Finally, the flowing river, which we sat beside with flasks of coffee and home-made cake.

Finally, the flowing river, where we picnic on coffee from flasks and home-baked cake.

Patterns made by a river and patterns made by clouds.

Patterns made by a river and patterns made by clouds.

The hill beyond this stream is called Mt Summer, but you may well have seen it as the location for Edoras in "Lord of the Rings".

The hill beyond this stream is called Mt Sunday, but you may well have seen it on film as Edoras in “Lord of the Rings”.

A return to the coast. This is Blueskin Bay; an estuary 25 kms north of Dunedin.

A return to the coast.  Blueskin Bay; an estuary 25 kms north of Dunedin.

Coastal birds on the other side of the inlet at Blueskin Bay.

Coastal birds on the other side of the inlet at Blueskin Bay, Otago.

Later that day at Lake Hawea, a nearly-sunset rainbow formed.

Later that day at Lake Hawea, a nearly-sunset rainbow forms against a mountain backdrop.

View from the road at Lake Hawea. Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon were being filmed close by for "A Wrinkle in Time". No, I didn't see them - but I knew they were about.

View from the passenger seat of the car as Matt speeds along beside Lake Hawea.  (Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon are being filmed in this area for “A Wrinkle in Time”.  They have been spotted, some say, at Wanaka.)

We stayed at Lake Hawea Station, a farm which has been in the same family since 1912.

We stay at Lake Hawea Station, a farm which has been in the same family since 1912.  I endure the strong wind to check out their sheep-with-view.

Just over a hill from Lake Hawea is Lake Wanaka.

Just over a hill from Lake Hawea is Lake Wanaka.

Over on the west coast of New Zealand is another thoroughly wild beach named Bruce bay. Actually the whole west coast coastline is untamed. Waves are extraordinarily powerful and the winds howl.

On the West Coast is another thoroughly wild beach named Bruce Bay.  Waves are extraordinarily powerful and the winds howl.  Acres of driftwood cover the sands.  Above the shoreline is majestic Rimu rainforest.

In the path of the force 10 westerly gale is a friendly coffee cart which makes terrific coffee and sells - ICE CREAMS.

In the path of the force 10 westerly gale is a friendly coffee cart which makes terrific coffee and sells – ICE CREAM!

North from Bruce Bay is the Franz Josef glacier and Lake Matheson. The lake is famous for its reflections of the Southern Alps. We came along slightly too late in the morning for the lake to be still like a mirror.

North from Bruce Bay is the Franz Josef Glacier and Lake Matheson. The lake is famous for its reflections of the Southern Alps. We arrive slightly too late in the morning for the lake to be still like a mirror.  Even with a slight ripple, the scene is awe-inspiring.

At Lake Matheson there are a few quotes on plaques.  One reads, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her” – William Wordsworth.  Another reads, “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in tune once more” – John Burroughs.   Albert Einstein is also quoted, “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better”.  (Later, I faithfully copy these quotes into my art journal.)

A view of the ever-retreating (due to global warming) Franz Josef glacier.

A view of iconic Franz Josef Glacier.

We returned to the east coast via Arthurs Pass. What an astounding feat in engineering is the Otira viaduct! Can you imagine building a viaduct in such a precarious and actively seismic environment?!

We cross the Southern Alps via Arthurs Pass. What an astounding feat of engineering the Otira viaduct is!  Every time we drive on this seemingly floating road, we stop at the viewing platform to admire the audacity of its existence.

Matt and I stopped at Otira to pay homage to a view which I had once painted. Happily for us, a coal train appeared.

Matt and I stop at Otira to pay homage to a view which I once painted. Happily for us, a coal train appears.

And here is that old painting…

"Track and Field" - an oil painting from 2002.

“Track and Field” – an oil painting from 2002.

On our two week journey we also met and photographed many birds and animals.  They will be the subject of my next post.

 

 

 

 

Christchurch:  Now’s Good

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When is a good time to visit Christchurch?

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In 2010 and 2011 Christchurch suffered catastrophic earthquakes.

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It still hasn’t recovered.  You can see huge empty spaces right in the city centre.

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Perhaps you should have visited prior to 2010.

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Perhaps if you wait long enough until you are old, Christchurch’s scars will be completely healed.

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It is certainly a city compromised.  But then again, who isn’t compromised in some way; place or person?

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Meanwhile, this is Christchurch right now.

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The beauty is here…

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…all around.   It is up to each of us to find it.

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When is a good time to visit Christchurch?  Now’s good.

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(See also “Nothing but Flowers” written on 14 January 2016.)

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Nothing but Flowers

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Down beside the Avon river there used to be genteel houses set among lush gardens.  I used to think that if I lived in Christchurch, I would like to live in one of these old houses.   Now look.  The houses are gone.

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The river is still there, flowing peacefully in summer.  What used to be suburban houses in established gardens are now lumpy fields containing grasses, flowers, weeds, flowering bushes and trees.  Wilderness is taking over.

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It is just impossible not to look, open-mouthed, at the transformation.  Whole suburbs, damaged by the 2010 earthquake and then decimated by the following 2011 quakes, were eventually demolished.  What I show is just a minuscule area of “Crown Clearance Zone”; huge tracts of land proved to be too dangerous for people to inhabit, now owned by the Crown.  The thing is, these spaces are kind of beautiful.  If you didn’t look too closely, you’d think you were driving through parkland.

Every time I visit Christchurch I end up singing to myself the Talking Heads song “Nothing but Flowers“.  Here are a few lyrics, “This used to be real estate / now its only fields and trees / Where, where is the town? / Now it’s nothing but flowers…”

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“Don’t leave me stranded here / I can’t get used to this lifestyle.”

Five years after the most major quake, much of Christchurch is thriving.  But some areas, such as this piece of Dallington, won’t be populated by people any more.  Birds sing and the odd cat stalks through the undergrowth…

Click on Welcome to Christchurch (September 2013) and Christchurch Revisited (April 2014) to see my photo-essay posts from two former visits to the Garden City.

You might also be interested in This is New Zealand (April 2014) and Have You Been to New Zealand?   (July 2015)

 

“Have You Been to New Zealand?”

I have just listened to Marc Maron interview Sir Ian McKellen on Maron’s podcast “WTF”(Episode 621, 20th July 2015).  Here is a snippet of their conversation which I faithfully wrote down in my journal.

Sir Ian McKellen: “Have you been to New Zealand?”

Marc Maron:   “No.”

Sir Ian McKellen: “Oh.  Well if you like living where you do, surrounded by sky and weather, go to New Zealand – because they have more of it.”

Marc Maron:   “It’s beautiful, right?”

Sir Ian McKellen:  “Overwhelmingly beautiful!  As you drive down some of those empty roads and surrounded by rapidly changing scenery; mountains and glaciers and volcanoes, you hear yourself saying I believe in God because this couldn’t just have happened.”

Marc Maron:  “Wow”

Sir Ian McKellen:  “Yes, wonderful!”

This post illustrates Sir Ian McKellen’s point.  I have just returned from New Zealand and here is a selection of photos – all taken on my I-Phone.  Here goes…

View from our apartment in Christchurch. Fresh snow on the Southern Alps.

View from our apartment in Christchurch.  Beyond the Canterbury plains there is fresh snow on the Southern Alps.

A hill in the suburb of Cashmere, Christchurch, with the Alps in the distance.

A hill in the suburb of Cashmere, Christchurch, with the Alps in the distance.

New Brighton beach, Christchurch just before dusk.

New Brighton beach, Christchurch just before dusk.

A selfie of my shadow in the grasses of New Brighton. (Don't I look nice!?)

A selfie of my shadow in the grasses of New Brighton. (Don’t I look nice!?)

Matt and I took two separate trips into the mountains. Here he is at Arthur's Pass.

Matt and I took two separate trips into the mountains. Here he is at Arthur’s Pass.

New Zealand's mountain parrot, the kea, at the viaduct lookout above Otira.

New Zealand’s mountain parrot, the kea, at the viaduct lookout above Otira…not minding at all the gales and horizontal snow.

Otira township. This is a railway junction between Christchurch and the West Coast town of Greymouth. It is rather forbidding but I love it.

Otira township. This is a railway junction between Christchurch and the West Coast town of Greymouth. It is rather forbidding but I love it.

These engines are waiting for the Transalpine train to arrive from Greymouth. They are needed to haul the train up the steep incline to Arthur's Pass.

These engines are waiting for the Transalpine Express train to arrive from Greymouth. They are needed to haul the train up the steep incline to Arthur’s Pass.  (The train goes through a 20 minute tunnel under the mountain – which I always find a bit daunting.)

We stayed at Bealy. Here it was at sunset.

We stayed at Bealy. Here was the landscape at sunset.

Signpost in the mountains. The river is the Waimakariri which flows to Christchurch.

Signpost in the mountains. The river is the Waimakariri which flows to Christchurch.

View from the balcony of our cabin at Bealy.

View from the balcony of our cabin at Bealy.

In the morning Matt and I wandered beside Waimakariri river just below our cabin.

In the morning Matt and I wandered beside Waimakariri river just below our cabin.  The air and waters were freezing and pristine.

Gazing into the still waters of the Waimakariri river.

Gazing into a still pool of the Waimakariri river.

Going off road up to Mount White. I do enjoy the exclamation traffic signs in New Zealand. They seem to me to exclaim at the views. "Look at this!" they say.

Going off road up to Mount White. I do enjoy the exclamation traffic signs in New Zealand. They seem to me to exclaim at the views. “Look at this!” they say.  “Awesome”.

Selfie at Mount White. The Waimakariri is a perfect example of a 'braided river'. Most of it runs underground.

Selfie at Mount White. The Waimakariri is a perfect example of a ‘braided river’. Most of it runs underground.

Cass station - made famous (at least in New Zealand) by our iconic artist, Rita Angus.

Cass station – made famous (at least in New Zealand) in a painting called “Cass” by our iconic artist, Rita Angus.

I flew from Christchurch to Wellington and back. This photo illustrates why the Maori called New Zealand Aotearoa - which means land of the long white cloud. Note the alps poking up through the clouds.

I flew from Christchurch to Wellington and back. This photo illustrates why the Maori called New Zealand Aotearoa – which means land of the long white cloud. Note the alps poking up through the clouds.

A closer view of the Southern Alps as we flew north.

A closer view of the Southern Alps as we flew north.

Beautiful blues of Tasman ocean and sky on the return flight.

Beautiful blues of Tasman ocean and sky on the return flight.

The township of Kaikoura is below. (The plane was an ATR 72.)

The township of Kaikoura is below. (The plane was an ATR 72.)

Kaikoura mountains and gorgeous colours in the sea.

Kaikoura mountains and gorgeous colours in the sea.

Matthew picked me up from Christchurch airport and we drove straight out to Lake Coleridge where we stayed overnight. View from Harper Road. Good old New Zealand SHEEP! (Their coats are much cleaner than Australian sheep.)

Matthew picked me up from Christchurch airport and we drove straight out to Lake Coleridge where we stayed overnight. View from Harper Road. Good old New Zealand SHEEP! (Their coats are much cleaner than Australian sheep.)

Late afternoon at Lake Coleridge. The winter sun in New Zealand sits low in the sky as we are so far south.

Late afternoon at Lake Coleridge. The winter sun in New Zealand sits low in the sky as we are so far south.

Matt and I pushed ourselves on a big walk up Peak Hill. Gosh it was hard work but worth it for the views. Here is Lake Coleridge.

Matt and I pushed ourselves on a big walk up Peak Hill. Gosh it was hard work but it made us feel that there is life in us yet.  Here is Lake Coleridge.

The Rakaia river from Peak Hill.

The Rakaia river from Peak Hill.

Raikaia River again.

Raikaia River.  (There’s my selfie shadow again.)

Matthew in front of the Wilberforce river. There is that low winter sun again - and it is only around midday.

After our climb, we drove down another gravel road.  Matthew in front of the Wilberforce river. There is that low winter sun again – and it is only around midday.

We took an off-road detour to get back to Christchurch. Lyndon road is unsealed and takes one past the totally frozen Lake Lyndon.

We took an off-road detour to get back to Christchurch. Lyndon road is unsealed and takes one past the totally frozen Lake Lyndon.  The dirt road (which was actually mud and ice in places) takes one between Coleridge and Porters Pass.

Lake Lyndon.

Lake Lyndon.  Actually, Lyndon Road was closed – as it is a ‘fine weather’ road so we shouldn’t have been there at all.

We don't EVER see such a thing as a frozen lake in Western Australia, so this was mesmerizing to us.

We don’t EVER see such a thing as a frozen lake in Western Australia, so this was mesmerizing to us.

As we drive back across the Canterbury plains, the mountains recede in my rear view mirror and the sun sets. Goodbye New Zealand. See you next time!

As we drive back across the Canterbury plains, the mountains receded in my rear view mirror and the sun set behind them. Goodbye New Zealand. See you next time!

Yes.  I have been to New Zealand.

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