New Zealand Travelogue Episode 9

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A day out on Milford Sound

We delayed our trip to Milford as long as possible so that mum was more mobile to enjoy it and the time had now arrived for us to explore the beautiful New Zealand Fiordland. After a brief stop near Methven we began our mammoth 8 hour drive to Te Anau. The road from Methven took us through familiar towns and scenery.

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Lake Tekapo from Mount John Observatory

We took a brief detour to the observatory above Lake Tekapo (which I recommend for both the views and the food at the cafe!) before heading past Lake Pukaki, down the Lindis Pass, past Queenstown and the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu. As we drove down the side of Lake Wakatipu, the weather began closing in and by the time we reached the road to Te Anau, my wipers were on full speed with the rain bouncing off the windscreen. The weather forecast had predicted this followed by a clear day tomorrow, so we were more than happy that the forecast appeared correct -fingers crossed that tomorrows was also spot on.

We were told that the road to Milford was very pretty so the next day we left early (ish) to give ourselves plenty of time to get there before our scheduled cruise departed at 15.45.

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Scenery on the road to Milford

The views from the road are indeed very pretty, but there are few places to stop and photos of the area don’t really do it justice. Along with lots of beautiful views we also had a close encounter with a Kea.

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A Kea

To get to Milford you have to travel through the Homer Tunnel. Some of the scenery close to the tunnel reminded me of Iceland.

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Imposing mountains

Worryingly we did spot a notice at the side of the road saying the tunnel would be closing at 18.30 for the night but we assumed the Cruise company would have told us if there were any problems. So we continued….

The Homer Tunnel is a traffic-light controlled, one-way, single-lane road tunnel 1.2km long (0.75 miles) with a slightly eerie downward gradient (when heading to Milford).

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The Homer Tunnel

Leaving the dark tunnel we emerged into beautiful rain-forest-carpeted canyons descending to the sound. The often steep, winding mountain road, traversed through stunning scenery (again with very few places to stop), down to the parking area and visitors centre in Milford. On arrival at the Southern Discoveries desk, they informed us that the cruise was departing a bit earlier so that we’d be back in time to drive the 30 mins back to the tunnel before it closed for the night. All good then…

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Mitre Peak, Milford Sound

The cruise was lovely and the scenery stunning – although there were far more boats than the last time I was here 10 yrs ago.

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Milford Sound

Milford Sound is actually a fiord with sheer rock faces rising 1,200 metres or more from the sea and many waterfalls with the fiord eventually reaching open sea.

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Milford Sound – Waterfalls

The fiord is relatively narrow and the cruise takes you up one side and down the other. It does get a bit samey after a while but that’s quite nice as you can put your camera down and just enjoy being within such a wonderful landscape. It was so nice to be out on a boat again… incredibly relaxing and peaceful.

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Milford Sound Waterfall

Unfortunately we didn’t see any dolphins but we did see some fur seals.

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Fur Seals

On our return to shore, the staff were sadly not very helpful with mum and we had to wait until last to get off the boat. The cruise was late back and the clock was ticking until the tunnel closed thus stranding us in Milford for the night (this wouldn’t be an issue except Milford is tiny with only a couple of places to stay – which I knew, having looked before, were fully booked). So juggling all our stuff and pushing mum in her rented wheelchair, we negotiated the boardwalk to the check in bit and out into the drop off area. Our car was parked in the car park which should have been a pleasant 10 minute stroll along a wooden walkway. With no time to stroll and mum hanging on, I ran, pushing her in her wheelchair back to the almost deserted car park. Red faced and out of breath, I threw our stuff in the car and we hit the road. Thankfully all the driving I’ve done in New Zealand had given me a lot of experience negotiating hills, bends, and hairpins but we were still up against it. We arrived at the tunnel in the nick of time and waited in line behind one other car…Phew!

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Lake Te Anau

As we arrived back in Te Anau, the sun was setting, soon to fall behind the mountains.

Next up Manapouri and the awesome and less touristy Doubtful Sound.

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 8

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Back to Christchurch through the middle of the stunning South Island

We ended up doing 2107km in the campervan which took us from Dunedin down the East coast around the bottom bit (the Catlins) to Invercargill and the Southernmost point of the South Island – Bluff.  From there we headed North to Queenstown where it got all ‘Lord of the Rings’ again. Lake Wakatipu is New Zealand’s longest lake at 80 kms. If you travel on SH6 to Queenstown, as we did – several times – you will drive along the side of this beautiful lake.

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Lake Wakatipu

From our campsite in Frankton – near Queenstown – we drove along-side Lake Wakatipu to a little place called Glenorchy.

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Lake Wakatipu

The scenery is stunning and apparently there was the odd bit of filming done here for LOTR. The road then heads towards Paradise (I kid you not – this is a place). Unfortunately we couldn’t get all the way as there had been a lot of flooding – but what we did see, was lovely. The views from the road were spectacular so the extra height of the campervan enabled us to see over the tops of bridges and further than you’d be able to see from a car.

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Glenorchy

From Queenstown, we headed further North on our round trip to Christchurch. This route takes you on the Lindis Pass which has to be one of my favourite roads. I love driving next to mountain ranges and the undulating mountains were very picturesque with pink and purple lupins lining the winding road.

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Lindis Pass

Still heading North via Twizel we arrived at the surreal blue lakes of Pukaki and Tekapo. They are almost a milky blue – a really vivid turquoise that appears opaque. From the shoreline of Lake Pukaki you can see the snow capped peaks of Mount Cook in the distance which is pretty cool.

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Lake Pukaki

One of the best campsites we stayed at was at lake Tekapo simply because of the lovely view across the lake. An ideal spot for some photography (I thought) but as seems to keep happening, the weather had other ideas and no stunning sunrise or sunset materialised. I managed to take a couple of photographs at dawn before the rain clouds rolled in, the nice light disappeared and I got drenched.

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Dawn at Lake Tekapo

Somewhere en-route to Christchurch we passed this lovely view

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As we had previously been unimpressed by the scenic-ness of the ‘scenic route’ between Methven and Christchurch, we decided to try SH1 instead. This is the main road which runs the length of New Zealand. We’d driven sections of it many times before on our travels and it was a nice fast road – how bad could it be? Well, it was horrible. Because of it’s proximity to Christchurch it’s stupidly busy. The ‘scenic route’ was indeed very scenic in comparison to this!

So that’s it for our campervan adventures. It’s a great way to see New Zealand especially if you have a broken ankle! It gives you that much more visibility than a car and there is so much to see (fortunately) from the road.

Next up… we head back the way we’ve just been to get further South to visit the Fiordland National Park and the beautiful scenery of both Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound.

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 7

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The East Coast & Southern Scenic Route

Our stay in the Abel Tasman National Park ended rather abrubtly as we were air-lifted out to Nelson hospital.  I’m travelling around beautiful New Zealand with my mum and unfortunately during our walk she slipped on a rather dusty mud track and dislocated & broke her ankle. Fortunately this is a very popular walking track and we are so grateful to the many people who stopped and helped us and especially to those who got word to the rescue air ambulance crew. Mum was unable to walk at all, so the feeling of relief was immense when we heard the whup whup whup of the helicopter. Whilst mum was given morphine, I was air-lifted, using (what felt like) a tiny cable, through the trees and into the helicopter. I was so relieved when mum appeared in the helicopter too and we flew away over the tree canopy and sea towards Nelson.

The views were pretty special and the water looked so beautiful. In hindsight I wish we’d taken a scenic helicopter trip rather than going for a walk!

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The Abel Tasman National Park from the air

At this point I thought we would be in and out of the hospital and we would just be able to carry on with our trip. We were supposed to be in Kaikoura on the East coast in a couple of days for some dolphin watching. Unfortunately it was worse than I had thought – mum had broken both her tibia & fibia and needed an operation to insert some metal work. That, together with the doctors words “the break is as bad as it could be without the bone coming through the skin” (euwwwww) changed everything and our route for the remaining 4-5 weeks of our holiday had to be ammended.

After a couple of days in hospital followed by a couple of days recuperating in a motel in Nelson we continued our journey. We headed South back into the land of beautiful ridged mountains and vineyards towards Kaikoura and then on to Christchurch. As soon as I saw the turquoise sea of the kaikoura coast at the end of the road, I felt as though our holiday had really resumed and the pressure of the last week drifted away.

The Kaikoura coast has grey sand or shingle against bright turquoise water. I love driving along roads like this! The road snakes around the coastline next to a railway line (although we didn’t see any trains) and the sea. There are a couple of places where you can see seals on the shoreline rocks.

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Kaikoura Coast

We picked up our campervan in Christchurch which was our home for the next 2 weeks. From here we drove along scenic road 77 which took us to the lovely town of Methven. Driving down the scenic road we couldn’t help thinking “really? this is the scenic route??!” It was so boring to drive. The road was pretty straight which we were totally unaccustomed to. There were fields on both sides of the road and it was very green. Although there were some pretty cool mountains in the distance I thought…wow SH1 (the main road) must be awful. As I later found out, this is definitely the scenic road and a joy to drive – SH1 is horrible to drive in comparison! Funny how your opinions change.

Methven is where I met up with New Zealand photographer Bill Irwin. He showed me some of his favourite locations, which were very beautiful. I love the mountains in this area, It must look spectacular covered in snow. At one of these locations I had my first encounter with what felt like a very angry swarm of sandflies. We were surrounded by clouds of the horrible things – definitely not a productive environment for a relaxing photo shoot!! I had a great time and it felt good to be out taking photographs and chatting to a fellow photographer.

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Around Methven

On the plus side Methven has some very lovely cafes that serve great cake and puds but on the down side, it’s the only place in New Zealand where I suffered from hayfever. After a few days of itchy eyes it was nice to get back on the road as we headed towards the coast and the surreal Moeraki boulders. These boulders are scattered across the beach and are either solitary or in groups. They are a pretty major tourist attraction and the beach is rarely empty of people.

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Moeraki Boulders

From here we headed down the East coast stopping off briefly to see the seals and birds at Shag Point…

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Shag Point

…and sample the hospitality of Dunedin A&E for a check up on mums ankle. Dunedin is the home of the world’s steepest street so it should have been no surprise that it is an incredibly hilly city. I’m not a fan of city driving anyway let alone a hilly one in a big van so I was happy to head out onto the Otago Peninsula to Taiaroa Head for a bit of Albatross spotting.

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A Royal Albatross

With over 2000 km’s to travel we had to keep moving and besides, we had a lot to see – starting with the very pretty Catlins coast. Unfortunately there were a few things we couldn’t see as mum couldn’t walk far on her crutches and wheelchair access is impossible on gravel paths which was a bit disappointing. Fortunately there were lots of pretty views from the road across wide sandy beaches and beautiful seas, and we did enjoy a walk to the Purakaunui Falls.

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Purakaunui Falls

Due to not finding anywhere we liked the look of to camp for the night, we found ourselves at the delight that is the Curio Bay campsite. This is quite simply the most quirky campsite I have ever stayed at (both in the UK or NZ). Everyone has been so helpful and accommodating with mum, giving us pitches close to the facilities and here was no different. Our pitch was close enough for mum to dolphin spot – albeit unsucessfully – from the cliff top. The showers and toilets were…interesting…that’s all I’ll say – they have to be seen to be believed!! And as for the pitch, well I’ve never had a pitch quite like it (see photo below).

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Campsite, Curio Bay

Curio Bay is the site of one of the world’s finest & best examples of 180 million year old Jurassic Fossil Forest in the world. The platform of petrified stumps, fallen trees and fern imprints are easily accessible at low tide and if you don’t fancy chancing your luck on the slippery rocks there is a viewing platform above.

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Petrified Forest, Curio Bay

The viewing platform is also a great place to watch the Yellow Eyed Penguins from a safe distance. We didn’t see many but you feel very priviledged so be able to watch them wandering around on the rocks.

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Yellow Eyed Penguins, Curio Bay

One thing that did catch my attention was the lovely patterns the kelp was making as the water rushed in and out with each wave.

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Kelp, Curio Bay

Well that’s it for the Catlins and the Southern Scenic Route. We carried on to Invercargill, popped down to Bluff and took some pics of us at the signpost at Stirling Point which marks the southern end of State Highway 1 (which runs the length of New Zealand). From there we began our journey Northwards stopping off for the night in Kingston at the Southern end of Lake Wakatipu, ready to start  exploring the next area on our route through this stunning country.

Although I wish we hadn’t had to experience New Zealand health care, I can’t praise them highly enough. The Nelson Air Ambulance crew, Nelson Hospital surgeons, doctors and nurses, Dunedin A&E dept and Nurses at Methven Medical Centre were all wonderful and we can’t thank them enough for their high standard of care, friendliness and positive attitude.

Next up Lake Wakatipu, Pukaki & Tekapo.

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 6

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Beaches and Bays…

After leaving Nelson we headed West towards the Abel Tasman National Park and the very small village of Marahau where we would be based for the next 5 days. Needless to say it was at the end of a winding road! It was a pretty little place with a very tidal beach. When Christmas Day arrived we headed to the beach and after the tide went out we noticed people taking their afternoon stroll way out on the beach so we too went for a lovely walk through the warm shallow water from one sandy island to another. A surreal experience.

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Marahau Beach – People taking a stroll on Christmas Day

Whilst in the area we visited the lovely sandy beach of Kaiteriteri and the famous ‘Spit Apple Rock’ – which is a rock a bit apple shaped which has split in half (and is reached at the end of a winding road!)

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Split Apple Rock, Abel Tasman National Park

We also took a 4WD bus tour on Farewell Spit. The sand spit is around 35km long and public access is restricted to the first 4km so if you want to see all of this beautiful nature reserve you have to go on an organised trip. Farewell Spit is in the Golden Bay area at the far North-western side of the South Island. The Maori name for Farewell Spit is “Onetahua” and translated means “heaped up sand”. Another trip highlight!

 

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Farewell Spit

Farewell Spit is beautiful with stunning scenery and was incredibly peaceful. With the sun shining and a blue sky we had great weather for an awesome day out. I loved the gorgeous white sand dunes which looked like peaks on a meringue, they had so many patterns and shapes and needless to say I spent as much time as I could photographing them!!

 

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Farewell Spit Sand Dunes

I’ve seen loads of seals before, but not this close and I hadn’t realised they smell so much, a kind of pongy, musty, musky smell!! We also saw lots of different birds including Oyster Catchers and Gannets.

 

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A Gannet

After the trip we headed to the lookout at Cape Farewell…there was a signpost and a hole in a rock archway in the headland jutting out into the sea… and then on to Wharariki beach – which was gorgeous. More lovely sand dunes and rock stacks and a nice walk there too…a little winding and undulating but very nice 🙂

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Wharariki Beach
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Evening light at Wharariki Beach

As we passed through Golden Bay on our journey back to Marahau, the sun began to set and I couldn’t resist photographing the reflections and light on this bit of coastline.

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Golden Bay Sunset

Next up…things take an unexpected turn…

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 5

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To the South… 

Leaving windy Wellington behind in windy, rainy weather, I was looking forward to starting our explorations of the South Island. The journey across the Cook Strait was much calmer than I’d anticipated so I was able to enjoy the journey and read up on our next region. Entering the Queen Charlotte Sound – which forms part of the greater Marlborough Sounds – is very pretty. The tree-covered hills appear to emerge out of the water as you sail between fingers of land and small islands.

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The Marlborough Sounds

Our journey to the South Island felt like a journey to a new land. The low fog was nicely atmospheric and gave the feeling of entering the unknown.

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Picton is a lovely waterfront town – there’s not a lot to the main town, just a couple of streets with shops and eateries. It has a really pretty harbour, lots of houses, and I imagine, holiday homes, and has a really pleasant relaxed vibe. It’s a great place to stay to explore the Queen Charlotte Sound which is a popular area within the Marlborough Sounds.

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Picton

A great way of exploring some of the other, more isolated, parts of the Sounds is to jump on the mailboat cruise. We joined the postie as he delivered mail & parcels to his customers who lived in the far flung reaches of the sounds. As we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, he regaled us with stories about his customers and the Queen Charlotte Sounds.

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Delivering the mail

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Queen Charlotte Sound

Leaving Picton we passed by some stunning views looking down on to the hills and water as the road wound round the hills then down to the coastline. Fortunately we had some nice weather for a few photo stops too!

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Next up, Abel Tasman, Golden Bay & Christmas!!

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 4

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The Bay of Plenty and beyond… 

Continuing our journey from the beautiful Coromandel, our first stop was the small town of Katikati. Murals adorn the walls of a variety of businesses some of which are pretty big and very detailed artwork.

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Mural…the people are painted too!!

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Next up is a favourite holiday spot for Kiwis and surfers, Mount Maunganui. It’s a pretty big beach town with a long sandy beach and Mount Maunganui at the end.

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Mount Maunganui

Moving on and we arrived at the small town called Te Puke (I kid you not!!) and a giant plastic kiwi at kiwi360. This a kiwi orchard with attached cafe, which was closed, so we had to make the most of the ‘samples’ area. We tasted fresh & dried kiwi and also the golden kiwi – both were very yummy and far sweeter than the ones we get at home. Sadly there was no kiwi cake, muffins or cheesecake to try which was a bit disappointing.

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Our last stop for the day and the place we stayed for the night was Whakatane – the home of ‘White Island’ the active volcano which sits off the coast. On a clear day, you can see the plumes of steam etc…apparently. We saw the outline of it once before it vanished behind the cloud. The next day and another 4 hour drive from Whakatane on the North coast via Taupo in the middle to Napier on the East coast. We stopped off at the green and blue lakes in Rotorua which apparently – if the light is right – look very different – well one looked blue and one looked green so I guess that was ok – they just weren’t vastly different.

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Green Lake

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Blue Lake

Napier was devastated by a massive earthquake in 1931 and the buildings were re-built in the Art Deco style, a lot of which remain today. It’s a very pretty town with a grey pebble beach (wasn’t expecting that), an awesome and very large play area for kids and a very impressive skate park right near the beach.

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Next up was windy Wellington. Only a 4 hour drive from Napier!! We were told we had to visit Te Mata lookout in Havelock North before we left the area as this was the “best view in New Zealand”. To be fair it was a very good view, found at the top of a really big hill up a very winding mountain-side road with a big fall either side. Good job I’d had the practice of the roads around The Coromandel or I might have chickened out of this one!!

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We were advised to drive the scenic mountain route which was far more ‘interesting’ than the coast road. To be honest it was a relief to arrive in Wellington. It certainly was an ‘interesting’ drive and involved negotiating more twisting mountain roads…they do love them over here!! Wellington is a lovely city and certainly lives up to it’s ‘windy’ name. We visited the brilliant Te Papa museum, the botanic gardens, a few cafes and the Embassy Cinema where we watched the Hobbit in glorious 48 frames/sec 3D.

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The Embassy Cinema, Wellington

Next up, the South Island!!

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 3

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Back to the coast…

Leaving the volcanoes and the rain behind, it’s SOOOOO nice to be back by the sea. It’s time to explore The Coromandel on the North of the North Island – It’s a peninsular and although it looks like a small area it takes a really long time to get anywhere due to the really winding undulating roads. We’ve explored most of the peninsular and it doesn’t matter which route you take, they all involve twisting roads, some hairpins, go up and down mountain passes, through gorges or by the coast. I’ve never driven such winding roads! but it’s all very beautiful. Both east and west coasts have lots of pretty white sandy beaches and the fatter areas in the valleys contain small hamlets, small holdings, large cattle farms and fruit orchards. The majority of the inland areas are covered with forests.

But before I talk about our time here, I have to mention that we went to Hobbiton on the way here. It’s soooo good!! I’m not a Lord of the Rings nut (although there were a few on our tour) but even I had a silly grin as we went to Bilbos house and walked around this wonderful location. I thought there might be a few hobbit holes but because of the new movie, ‘The Hobbit’, the set is all still there. We went to Bag End and stood by the party tree. It was so much better than I thought it might be – definitely another trip highlight!  I took a silly amount of photos and tasted the best Ginger Beer I’ve ever had in my life…the normal ale was pretty good too!

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Hobbiton

So back to The Coromandel. We’re staying in Pauanui which is a lovely little town. It’s probably only really a village but there are hundreds of holiday homes. It’s a bit off the beaten track accessed by only one road which is a bit winding…no surprise there!  Below is a photo of my first New Zealand sunset. Not the best location but I love the reflections.

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Pauanui Sunset

We have been to so many gorgeous white sandy beaches. The weather is glorious, it’s hot, the sun has been shining all day every day and the sky has been blue…..with no clouds (still!!) which is really rubbish for landscape photography!!

The red flowering Pohutukawa trees dominate this coastline and can be found at the edge of most of the beaches around The Coromandel. There is a really pretty coastal drive down the Thames Coast Road on the west coast. The road winds around the coast right next to the ocean separated only by white beaches, some rocks and glorious Pohutukawa trees. They are in full flower during December and symbolise the festive Christmas period.

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Pohutukawa Tree

Another highlight was a trip on a little gorge railway (Driving Creek Railway near Coromandel Town). One guy built this on his land as a way of digging out clay and transporting it to his pottery to work with. The railway is now open to the public and travels through a lovely area of NZ bush making it’s way up to a viewpoint (The Eyefull Tower) which gives spectacular views out to sea across the tree canopy.

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Driving Creek Railway

Now, I’m not great at wildlife identification, but I love hearing birds sing. The Tui’s song has followed us around New Zealand. It’s such a lovely sound. Before I knew anything about the Tui or the Pohutukawa tree, I photographed them both right at the beginning of our trip.

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The Tui

Okay, so I’m not great at flowers either, but these were everywhere. I’ve been reliably told they are alliums but that’s all I know. They seemed to grow everywhere; road side verges, wooded areas, by beaches. They were just very pretty.

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Alliums

A visit to Cathedral Cove was not quite what I expected – starting off with the long walk to get there! The walk did take us through some really pretty scenery but it was a very hot day and the path went up and down a lot (I should have expected that really!!). The shelter of the trees was appreciated but the popularity of the beach wasn’t.  One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that not every ‘beautiful’ place photographs well. Views can often look better to the eye and just don’t record well as a photograph. I’ve been very spoilt with all the beautiful scenery I’ve visited in New Zealand and although I thought Cathedral Cove was pretty, it didn’t ‘wow’ me as some other locations have. I don’t really go for ‘busy’ popular locations, it just took the shine off it for me. Nevertheless after I’d cooled down a bit I took a few pictures and I like this one.

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Cathedral Cove

Well, that’s all for The Coromandel, next up is the whistle stop journey from the Bay of Plenty via Napier down to Wellington.

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 2

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In the shadow of Mount Doom

Based in the small town of Turangi just south of ‘The Great Lake’ – Lake Taupo (pronounced toe-paw) and in the Tongariro National Park, this area is dominated by two huge mountains. Mount Ngauruhoe is Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings and Mount Ruapehu is an active volcano which has errupted recently. A new vent has opened on the mountain releasing a constant white plume of steam.

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Mount Ruapehu

A loop road circumnavigates these two impressive mountains. The west side has pretty barren scenery – soily with grassy-style plants and the east side is lush and green with cattle grazing.

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Mount Ruapehu

It was a week of mixed weather (mostly rain!) but during the brief spells of sunshine we checked out Huka falls and the Aratiatia rapids. A vast amount of really blue water rushes through a narrow gorge at an amazing speed. I’ve never seen so much water!! I considered using a 10 stop filter here to blur the water but I didn’t think it would do it any justice. It really is amazing to watch.

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Huka Falls

We watched in awe as the Aratiatia dam was opened releasing a huge amount of water into the river. This makes it’s way down to the Huka Falls.

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Aratiatia Rapids

Although it wasn’t as sudden as I’d imagined, it didn’t take long for the still water to turn into bubbling rapids as the water forced it’s way downstream and over the rocks.

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Aratiatia Rapids

Another gap in the weather and we went North a bit towards Rotarua to “Wai-o-tapu thermal  wonderland”. Here there is Lady Knox geyser which errupts on cue every day after a bag of soap powder is dropped into the top!  It’s a really interesting area to walk around and has boiling mud pools which are great to watch – and attempt to photograph!! and a lot of hot water pools of varying colours – sadly all with the same eggy fragrance!!

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The Champagne Pool

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A green pool

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Boiling Bubbling Mud

That’s about all for this region, next up is The Coromandel.

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

New Zealand Travelogue Episode 1

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LHR to Hong Kong – What a knackering flight!!

Hong Kong was warm and relaxing and from our base in Kowloon we were just minutes from the harbour. Every night at 8.15pm there is a very impressive “Symphony of light & sound” which you can watch for free at the harbour. Music is played while lots of the harbour-side skyscrapers light up with different colours, some with patterns and some project coloured strobes into the sky. Our first night we had only just arrived & checked in when it began so we just watched the lights from the elevated vantage point of our room. The following evening we watched from the harbour and it is really an experience to see – and so much better with sound!!

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Symphony of Light & Sound

We went up to Victoria Peak on Hong kong Island for a view across Hong Kong and the water to Kowloon and went on a harbour boat trip. A really great stop-over and I can recommend the YHA Salisbury for it’s location, rooms, view & buffet breakfast!!

New Zealand…The adventure really begins!!

The Hong Kong to New Zealand flight was horrible. Seats were uncomfortable, I couldn’t sleep and there were a few problems with the in-flight entertainment. We arrived tired…but in the sunshine. After a couple of nights in Auckland (which grew on me in the time we were there), we spent most of the time walking around in a sleepy daze!!  (Not too sleepy to notice the horrible hotel – Ibis Styles – don’t stay there!). We had our first NZ ice-cream and booked our car for the next 38 days.

The Northland

We were based in Paihia (translated means good here) a little coastal town with lots of places to eat and visit close by. It’s very relaxing place, the people are lovely and it’s just a nice place to be. We visited the Waitangi Treaty House, Haruru Falls, Kawakawa toilets, Whangerei Falls, Gumdiggers, a glowworm cave and the very Northern tip of the Northland – Cape Reinga. This is where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.

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Cape Reigna, New Zealand

A trip up to the North isn’t complete without some dune surfing (climb a massive sand dune, jump on a boogie board to slide down) & a trip down 90 mile beach (which is only about 60 miles). Another must for the Northland is a visit to the Kauri forests to see both the Lord & Father of the forest. Amazing trees and huge!!

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Giant Kauri Tree – The Lord of the Forest

A trip out on a boat in the Bay of Islands took us out to the hole in the rock – which is a hole in a rock island in the sea – which we sailed through – then on to an idyllic little island with turquoise water and golden sand.

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The Bay of Islands

I’m enjoying the NZ ice-cream (hokey pokey) and foosh & chups!! and have sampled some very nice sav blanc vino 🙂  It’s lovely to be by the sea. The sun has shone the whole time we’ve been in Paihia which has been lovely – although a bit hot – and there haven’t been enough clouds for landscape photography!! The next installment will be from the mountainous & volcanic area of Turangi near the Tongariro National Park just south of Lake Taupo.

Thanks for stopping by

Cath

Iceland – Challenging & Inspiring

My first trip to Iceland was in September 2011 on a landscape photography workshop. I’d always wanted to go. I didn’t know much about the landscape, but really wanted to see the Northern Lights. In hindsight I was photographically spoilt!!  I saw the Northern Lights on two consecutive nights for several hours and mistakenly thought that it was pretty much a given to see them in Iceland.  I was wrong. I was simply incredibly lucky.  Aside from the Northern Lights, this area is amazingly photogenic and has a location which has become my favourite to photograph.

Northern Lights Iceland

Rather than this being a once in a lifetime trip, I fell in love with the beautiful landscape of Southern Iceland and have been back several times.  I was blown away by the landscape and the surreal locations. I had never seen a volcanic black beach or a glacial lagoon before and as for icebergs on a beach…well all I could do was stare in wonder. I didn’t know where to point my camera first.

Landscape Photography is a funny old game. On the whole, when you arrive at a location, you know what you’re going to get. Landmarks stay the same and views don’t really change.  The only changeable factors are light, weather and seasons which shape my vision and choice of composition. This is not so with my favourite locations of Jokulsarlon glacial lagoon and the nearby ice beach. It’s a living landscape and by that I mean that it changes on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. You never know what is awaiting you at these locations and from a photographers point of view, it’s always a challenge and an inspiration.

On my first visit, the conditions were calm and serene….

Reynisdrangar Sea Stacks, Vik
On my second visit they were the opposite. It was incredibly windy and the waves were huge.

Reynisfjara Beach, Vik

The Vik coast is usually a great place for long exposure photography but on this occasion shutter speeds had to be kept as short as possible. Wind that fierce made it impossible to use a tripod, my camera was being buffeted around in my hands and it was a struggle to even stand still.  I loved every minute of watching the barrage of waves batter the shoreline, it was so exhilarating. With my adrenalin pumping, I had to respond quickly to what I was seeing.  I’ve got so many pictures of crashing waves!  Another visit just two days later and the wind had mostly subsided. The waves although bigger than usual were nothing like they had been previously.

Reynisfjara Vik Coast

September 2012 and a return to calmer conditions. Great light made the sea appear turquoise.

Reynisfjara Beach Vik

The ice beach came with it’s own set of photographic problems. The icebergs which are usually strewn across the shoreline with gentle waves lapping around them, were getting tossed around by the sea like ice-cubes and thrown against the sand.  The waves were big and powerful which meant that not only did you have to have your wits about you and be very aware of incoming waves that might get your feet wet, but you had to be aware of ice being thrown in your direction! The waves also came in a lot further than on a calm day. This caused no end of problems. Just as I had composed my shot and was about to press the shutter, the waves would either move the ice into a different position or snatch it away completely only to throw it back out somewhere else.  A very challenging environment for landscape photography!!

Ice beach jokulsarlon

The photograph above is one of my favourites from this particular visit.

Jokulsarlon Lagoon

Jokulsarlon Glacial lagoon has been used on many films including James Bond “Die another Day”. Icebergs break off the main glacier and slowly make their way out to sea where they are washed up onto the black sandy ice beach and gradually melt.  It is a spectacular location.  On this trip, we returned several times to these locations over several days and each time the size and amount of ice was different. We spent many enjoyable hours hunting out icy compositions. We had beautiful sunlight, contrasty light and soft flat light. We had rain, wind, sunshine and even snow.  There is a saying in Iceland   “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes and some more will be along”. On this trip, that was certainly true!!

Jokulsarlon Lagoon
In September 2012 the conditions were different again. I had never seen so much ice or such massive icebergs. Jokulsarlon lagoon was full of icebergs, some of which must have been 50-60ft high above the water. This is even more amazing when you consider that 7/8 of an iceberg is under water. This meant that the ice on the beach was larger too and there was a lot of it – almost too much!

Iceberg Jokulsarlon Beach

I always have an idea of the kind of photograph I want to capture, but at a living location like this you just have to respond to what you see before you.  I always take my time here and walk along the beach searching for ice I like the look of.  There are so many textures, colours, sizes and shapes of ice to choose from.  It’s definitely a location that has to be seen to be believed.

Jokulsarlon Beach

A return visit to the beach the same afternoon blew us away. A lot of the large ice had gone which we didn’t expect. The beach looked totally different from just a few hours earlier.  Of course this meant that we were all happy to spend a few more hours searching out new compositions.

One of the reasons I love taking photographs here is that every photograph is unique. The shape, size, texture and colour of ice, composition, light, and weather conditions won’t be the same again.

Jokulsarlon Black Beach Ice Sculptures

After my first trip to Iceland, I knew I wanted to return. I love being out in locations like this with other people but I don’t need the tuition available on photography workshops.  I had been co-leading workshops in the UK for Tripods at Dawn which is a company I set up with a friend and fellow photographer.  After a long discussion we agreed to run trips to Iceland but in a different way. Our trips are for people like us. Photographers who don’t require tuition but   enjoy mixing with other people. So far, we have run two successful and very enjoyable trips to Iceland and our third will be in 2013.  One of my favourite moments is watching the faces of people arriving at the lagoon and beach for the first time. The look of amazement and disbelief followed by a massive grin is wonderful. If you are a photographer whether pro, amateur or hobbyist, know how to use your camera and would like to experience this amazing landscape for yourself, then please have a look at our website: www.tripodsatdawn.com

Thanks for stopping by

Cath