History

A long way to go to church

I’m not sure when I learnt of it, or when the desire set in, but I have wanted to visit the Serpentine Church for many years. It was the highest church [about 1030 metres] in New Zealand, and is situated in a snow tussock basin 90 mins. drive south of the Old Dunstan Rd. or between Poolburn Dam and Lake Onslow The road is only open for a few months of the year, and is only easily negotiable, with no harm to the environment, when it’s dry.

A plan for a landscape photography expedition was hatched with my good friend Roger, and it deemed we approach via the Ida Valley and Poolburn Dam [thanks to advice from Gilbert of Clean Green Images], using my favourite route: The Old Dunstan Road.

Poolburn Dam is host to many Kiwi cribs and batches…
#alttext#

Owner of one batch, Dick, shows off his day’s work…
#alttext#

We were enthralled by the weather…
#alttext#

It was a stunning evening for 4wd travel and we stopped often to enjoy the landscape and make some images…
#alttext#

The local farmer is obviously a skilled metal worker…
#alttext#

One of many stops to take in the immensity of the landscape…
#alttext#

The track meanders down to where we thought the church to be…#alttext#


There is no way you can hurry on this track though, and we barely made it to catch the best light we’ve seen for many years…
#alttext#

#alttext#

#alttext#

Around midnight we finally finished the photo shoot, and here Roger examines the fruits of his labours now on his laptop…
#alttext#

I slept a troubled sleep though: there was something about this place I found very odd, and on discussing it with Roger, he felt the same. We certainly noted, that unlike other historic gold mining sites in Central Otago, there is just no evidence of other buildings – just a church literally in the middle of no where!

Dawn saw us under different weather…
#alttext#

#alttext#

#alttext#

#alttext#

#alttext#

From the the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust web site: “The church was built at the forlorn site of the Serpentine Goldmine. The Serpentine Union church opened in July 1873, the minister was late attending and by the time he arrived the miners gathered had already been down to the hotel for refreshments and had been drinking heavily. After the first hymn was sung the miners in their drunken state demanded an encore, the minister was not impressed, he cut short the service and said that he would never return there for another service. It was later sold to a couple of miners, and has recently been restored by the Department of Conservation”

http://www.nzsouth.co.nz/goldfields/dunstrai.html


With rain threatening we thought it wise to get up on the tops again, rather than grapple with extreme four wheel driving on a wet and slippery track…
#alttext#

#alttext#

#alttext#

A rabbiter’s hut – two bunks, probably constructed in the 1940s, and still in mint condition…
#alttext#

On the roof again to get a photography perspective that shows the hut in the context of the immense landscape…
#alttext#

Back at Poolburn, and on a better road in the wet, we had a nine to noon snooze to catch up, and awoke to yet more stunning weather events…
#alttext#

And on down to the Ida Valley and refreshing rain…
#alttext#

#alttext#

Thanks Roger and Mylee for yet another memorable adventure

#alttext#

Merry Christmas dear readers

Huts and dwellings on the Nevis Valley route Garston to Bannockburn

Every year or two I like to do a trip through the Nevis Valley in Central Otago, and on every occasion I end up taking longer and longer, as it’s just full of history and points of interest.

So working our way from Garston back to Bannockburn here are a few of the dwellings in the valley…

The historic Southland Ski Club hut near the top of the Nevis Saddle…Southland Ski Club hut

This hut has been restored, but being beside a road can leave it open to abuse. Still it is dry and clean enough…home-chairs.jpg

The carpark beside what is a public 4wd road [closed over winter though]…Southland Ski Club hut car park

This style chair was a product of the 60s. My parents had a set, so this took me right back down memory lane. This one even made the same noise as I placed it by the light…still-life-chair.jpg

The above’s out-house…out-house Southland Ski Club.jpg

Sadly this state of disrepair of a hut down in the head of the Nevis river, and up a side stream, could easily be put right…messy-hut.jpg

Modern day miner’s cottages I suspect, turned bach /crib/ holiday home…miners-cottages-nevis.jpg

Beside an old gold dredging hole/lakehut-remains-nevis.jpg

Fireplace in above remains…fire-place-nevis.jpg

Again a modern day miner’s cottage…corrugated-iron-hut-nevis.jpg

Up a side valley – new lean-to on the side of a really old mud and stone hut…stone-cottage-nevis.jpg

The perfect situation for those roasting summer days, where shade is everything…hut-in-willows.jpg

Selwyn’s house has been lovingly restored and inside is lined with hi-tech astro foil for insulation that was developed by NASA…selwyns-hut.jpg

Ken’s house was built by his grand-father, and is over a hundred years old with the roof still the original iron bought here from Scotland…kens-house.jpg

A Deed of Recognition, from the Crown for a taonga [treasure of Ngai Tahu]

“Hikurangi and Manawapopore [upper and lower Mavora Lakes] are an integral part of a network of trails which were used by Ngai Tahu in order to ensure safe journeys. Activities along the way including camping overnight and gathering kai [food].

The trails were part of summer-time pursuits such as kai-hau-kai, whanaungatanga [the renewal and strengthening of family links] and arranging marriages with hapu from the neighboring area of Otago and further afield. Such strategic marriages strengthened the kupenga [net] of whakapapa [genealogy].

The mauri [life force] of the two lakes represents the essence that binds the physical and spiritual elements of all things together, generating and upholding life.

All elements of the natural environment possess a life force, and all forms of life are related. Mauri is a critical element of the spiritual relationship of Ngai Tahu Whanui with this area.”

Copied two days ago from a Dept. of Conservation sign in the area

Lower Mavora Lake…
mavora-1.jpg

Craig and Nic construct a new Dept. of Conservation swing bridge by the mouth of the Lower Mavora Lake…
mavora-4.jpg

Lower Mavora Lake…
mavora-2.jpg

My first visit to this area was several years ago with my son Dougal [aged 9 years at the time]. It was our first significant holiday post separation/divorce, and I somehow knew some significant insights would come our way if we checked out this place known more to Southland locals than tourists.

Lower Mavora Lake…
mavora-3.jpg

We arrived in the dark, erected the tent and in the morning woke to snow on the ground. By the time we were the 30 Kms back on the main road the next morning much had been learnt with few words – in fact none except the usual to facilitate what needed doing. I had the sense the place had bought us both a much needed equanimity.

Beech Forest by the Lower Mavora Lake…
mavora-5.jpg

A few years later I returned, alone this time with a problem: I’d been asked to express some ideas on our friend Riley’s education and where he should live, given his mum’s pending return to homeland Canada. He had his dad there and yet had bonded very significantly with my son’s friends at school in Wanaka. Through his association with Dougal and myself over the years I’d inadvertently become a significant other male figure in his life – a privilege I might add!

Lower Mavora Lake…
mavora-6.jpg

So in Nov. 2007 I found myself back at Mavora Lakes, and in the dark parked up by the water’s edge in my camper truck, well up the upper lake away from the usual camping areas. At the edge of the water and the beech forest I settled down to making some decisions while cooking tea to the melody of water lapping the shore and the sigh of wind in the forest: basically arriving with giving advice consistent with the needs of a teenage boy, that would see him much less in our lives and back in Canada near his dad for 2008 and onwards.

Night time snowstorm, Upper Mavora Lake…
mavora-7.jpg

The next morning, after negotiating a 4wd track back at the normal camping area I saw a new DOC sign, the contents of which I’ve quoted to begin this post, and I stopped to read it.

Upper Mavora Lake…
mavora-8.jpg

I was simply stunned to learn the Maori locals of old had used this place for similar purposes to my own, and most of all that I’d been drawn to the place. You could say “called” if you like, to the energy of “renewal and strengthening of family links”! On this trip I was also en-route to a family reunion day in Invercargill!

Lower Mavora Lake…mavora-9.jpg

Night time snowstorm, Upper Mavora Lake…
mavora-10.jpg

The above selection of landscape photos of the area were all taken over the last 2-3 days on a road trip through Northern Southland to Invercargill, to visit my friends Roger and Kara in Invercargill.

I always make the time now, in light of the above, to be kind to myself and gather in the essence of this special place whenever possible.

… on this visit determined to make photos expressing what calls me here, or for other purposes?!

PS: A couple of hours after posting the above one of my distant relations I hardly ever hear from rang me up requesting family genealogy details for an update of a family book, and lo there is another family reunion coming up in Southland in Jan. 2011! And the connection to myself: in the generation preceding my grandmother Elizabeth Harris, three Soper family brothers married three Harris family sisters. Both are very well known and large family names in Southland. The Sopers once fielding a complete rugby team

The distant relation who rang me up, well her mum’s name is Mavora. She is my late dad’s cousin, and was born at Lake Mavora!

A little bit of an adventure many years ago

I’ve just been exploring yet another function of a new scanner I bought awhile back – this time doing colour negatives. I’ve done a few hundred old colour slides, but the negs. take a bit more time, as for starters they’re not so easy to eye-ball and identify what they’re of.

Anyway I was quite excited to find the negs. below. They are of what was a very complex Wanaka Search and Rescue mission under the West face of Mt Aspiring, probably about 1989. It’s a little topical right now too, as in the mountains we’re getting a few avalanche events due to the new snowfalls and changes in the weather pattern from settled to fronts coming through regularly.

We needed to get many people up there to find the bodies of an unfortunate couple who fell off the mountain, so the Air Force got involved. Operating one of these 4.5 ton machines at altitude involves great skill, and here one of our team provides a visual point of reference. Although it appears the machine has landed it’s actually still being flown. Settling that much weight down can cause many problems if the skids sink in too far…
bonar-sar-3.jpg

Subsequent snowfalls and avalanches since the accident gave us cause to be very careful. We were also aware they may have buried the bodies to quite a depth…
bonar-sar-2.jpg

It was quite a saga: a local mountaineer was up there doing his own solo ski tour, and simply came across the two victims, a couple, who had fallen, roped together, off the Nor West Ridge, from just above the The Ramp. To his credit in a very unsettling situation to be alone in, he managed to descend the complex French Ridge route safely to raise the alarm. Over the next few days three of us had many spooky trips in cloud to the site, in between fronts, in a Hughes 500, looking for them, however they were buried by snowfall after the first front went through. So when the weather allowed about 10 days later, we actioned a typical avalanche rescue plan – a probe line. After a few hours of what has to be a very pedantic grid pattern search we succeeded and they were found just a little way away from all the debris in the pictures. Mostly this was due to the initial “discoverer” being able to identify the area. All-in-all it was hard on him, from go to whoa!

We tried a search dog first, but Rosella had never trained on dead person smells, but she tried her best for an hour, while we kept warm readying the area for the doz. or so people yet to arrive…
bonar-sar-4.jpg

Job over I made one last photo before boarding – very glad to be out of there where so much was hanging above us, and an aircraft operating on the very edge in every way [rotor noise/ air displacement is thought to be able to trigger avalanches too], never giving riding with the body bags a second thought!…
bonar-sar-1.jpg

We had to refuel down in the valley – I still recall how sweet the greens and browns were, and the smell of living – reminding me there is so much to be grateful for! These machines use a 40 gal. drum worth every half hour, and the tanks had to be near empty up on the mountain working at about 8000 ft., to keep the weight down…
bonar-sar-5.jpg

There were many fine decisions made on this day by all concerned – fine in every sense of the word!

The Nevis – just like the Clutha, another wild river at risk

In my last two posts I’ve written about the threat of four new dams, and published landscape photos of the Clutha River. While I gather steam on this one I’d like to draw your attention to yet another proposed travesty of our wild rivers and places. The nearby Nevis Valley – one of my favourite haunts.

Looking across to the backside of the Remarkables Mountains from the Duffers Saddle – the spectacular mountain range that Queenstown sits underneath of…
nevis-1.jpg

The first use of the Nevis Valley was as a trail route for the Maori. When the gold rush arrived in the 1860s, two small settlements appeared in the lower Nevis. Now only the family at Ben Nevis Station occupies the valley.

Due to the remoteness of the valley, miners’ workings have been left largely untouched and now provide an excellent representation of an original goldfield. These remains include everything from the cemetery and settlement buildings through to a woolshed and the first ski hut…. more>>

Apart from outstanding and unique landscapes, remoteness verging on wilderness, and historic examples of the gold era, the river itself is cherished by trout fisherman…
nevis-4.jpg

The river valley is subject of New Zealand’s Tenure Review process and in this instance it seems to be flawed… more>>

It becomes even more remote in winter…
nevis-3.jpg

Gold dredges left modest pools of water behind…
nevis-7.jpg

And the landscape was compromised years ago – back when it was thought OK to plunder the resources leaving a mess behind…
nevis-6.jpg

In our quest for energy we’re not alone. It’ll become the currency of this world we live in, but it seems pathetic to flood our heritage and landscapes for what in the case of the Nevis is a very small generating capacity. Instead we have to embrace technology and think in new ways e.g. Auckland has to be the place in New Zealand that has one of the highest energy needs so it seems it is time to harness the energy in the tidal differences between east and west coasts on-site, so power is not lost through transmission line loss.

The old miners in the Nevis knew about wind energy [vexing as it is these days of huge examples also cluttering up unique landscapes] – these are 40 gal. drums cut in half and arranged on a shaft to capture the wind. This example still turns squeakily…
nevis-2.jpg

The local newspaper the Otago Daily Times has published two articles if you wish to read further. Article 1, Article 2

Those of us who have the foresight to see beyond the dead water of artificial lakes need to spread awareness!

Note: Phil Lloyd commented on posts relating to the Nevis Valley and gold mining, and has since been in touch via email. Here is his story:

“I spent two summer holidays in the 1970’s with Lex Maclean and his parents working a goldmine just after the gorge in the upper Nevis. His parents were quite elderly even then and had moved to Milton after the population in the Nevis had dwindled away but they still came back to work the mine each summer.

I met up with Lex in Clyde last winter and he said they have no photos of those days, despite having many travellers call in and take photos.

I undertook to try to track down some of those photos but have had no luck so far.”

If you can help Phil please contact him:

+64 9 573 0421 or Phil.Lloyd@visy.co.nz

Meandering looking at gold mining history and more New Zealand high country

The weather has been so unsettled this summer break, and with this and my son’s part time job, we’ve not done the longer tramping trips I had in mind pre Christmas, however this means we just utilise the camper truck to good advantage and use local weather knowledge to minimise exposure to heavy rain and strong winds.

So a few days ago we travelled an old favourite of mine: the road from Cromwell to Garston, which essentially takes you from Central Otago’s dry golden climate, through serious winter snow high country to pastoral Southland province. The route follows the Nevis valley and involves about 24 river crossings – challenging, if not crazy for a car, but not too serious for a judicially driven four wheel drive.

First stop – to catch a fish…
nevis400-1.jpg

An hour or two later we’re deep in gold mining history – this was once a gold dredge pond…
nevis400-2.jpg

nevis400-3.jpg

With a weather forecast predicting heavy rain I once again thought it wise to get the river crossing out of the way and camp on the saddle above Garston. This was the landscape we woke up amongst…
nevis400-4.jpg

Before descending we spent a few hours wandering about exploring the unique New Zealand High Country landscape photography potential before the rain came in again. This first photo below is a Spaniard plant – sadly they proliferate where there has been too much burning off at the expense of snow tussock and soil values. They’re unpalatable and the ends of the leaves are like hypodermics…
nevis400-5.jpg

nevis400-6.jpg

This lone pine, a noxious weed in this landscape, intrigued me and sensing a photo I hounded it, but did not get the shot I’d hoped for, so interestingly I “let go” of the idea and wandered elsewhere, but coming back the same way I made this “grab shot”, and as is often the case when the mind is freed of labeling and preconceived ideas it turned out to be the one capturing the essence I had in mind…
nevis400-7.jpg

A very youngNew Zealand Pipit, which I think maybe quite rare, but I’m not sure as they frequent the high snow tussock areas which by nature are very “open”, and I’ve never seen one this close ever before despite all the time I’ve spent in this environment. They can also be mistaken for the Skylark. I did get much closer for more photos, but I like this first one as it shows something of the nature of the bird’s environment…
nevis400-8.jpg

On the descent, and heading post-haste to the tea rooms that I love to have a coffee at in Athol, the track goes past the old and historic Southland Ski Club hut…
nevis400-10.jpg

nevis400-9.jpg

I have a thing about the land forms of this part of Southland – maybe it’s the contrast to the flat land, or maybe it’s because being near The Nokomai there is a genetic link with my ancestors who were born there and frequented the area…
nevis400-11.jpg

The rain caught up with us so we drove back via Queenstown and got home early to dryer climes. It was the day of the huge and growing annual Challenge Wanaka race, and as Mike a neighbour was one of the helper/organisers he had a drink station opposite the house. The race went on until midnight so we had quite different noises and energy in the neighbourhood for a few hours…
nevis400-12.jpg

Note: Phil Lloyd commented on posts relating to the Nevis Valley and gold mining, and has since been in touch via email. Here is his story:

“I spent two summer holidays in the 1970’s with Lex Maclean and his parents working a goldmine just after the gorge in the upper Nevis. His parents were quite elderly even then and had moved to Milton after the population in the Nevis had dwindled away but they still came back to work the mine each summer.

I met up with Lex in Clyde last winter and he said they have no photos of those days, despite having many travellers call in and take photos.

I undertook to try to track down some of those photos but have had no luck so far.”

If you can help Phil please contact him:

+64 9 573 0421 or Phil.Lloyd@visy.co.nz

Cascade Saddle Search and Rescue operation in Mt Aspiring National Park

Last Sunday I had the opportunity to take a few more shots while helping search for a missing tramper [Irina Yun – now presumed drowned – if you wish to read a comprehensive overview of the scenario then Bob McKerrow a highly respected and experienced NZ mountaineer has compiled an overview on his blog].

The Cascade Saddle is actually the low point on the middle to top right of this photo. The original route way back in the days of my boyhood was called the “Ernie Smith route” if I recall correctly, and it was replaced by improving on what was to be a new evolving [safer?] route known as the “Cullers Route” which exited higher up at or near where I took this photo at “the Pylon”. The current incarnation and improvements of that line descends from this point to the Cascade Stream [or river – take your pick], and then ascends again to the Cascade Saddle. Yes, lots of ups and downs, but an infinitely more straightforward route on relatively easier ground [as long as it’s not wet]…
cascade400-0.jpg

All week I have been pondering the sad fact that far too many people have died or come to grief in this “hard country”, which can be so delightful on a good day, yet diabolical in any other sort of conditions, especially those featuring rain, wind or snow.

I don’t recall the exact date as again it would have been when I was a youngster, but a person went missing in the bluffs back then, and a Royal New Zealand Air Force pilot by the name of Christopher Johnson was called on to search, and he did in a Harvard fighter plane, but unfortunately crashed and perished in the lower Cascade Stream, and so the initial tragedy was compounded! He has had a glacier named after him, but this is a sad “2nd best” to a life lost in the prime…

Of course I never knew Christopher, but I was to get to know people who knew and loved him, and I often have reflected how life would have worked out differently for many had he not perished at such a young age. On another level at the time of this tragic event he’d already had quite an influence on the climbing scene of the day in the NZ Alpine Club, where my outdoor skills were nurtured by those who knew him too. We live in a funny world of connectedness!

A sample of the terrain we searched between the Cascade Saddle and the Pylon…
cascade400-3.jpg

Cascade Stream [which has to be crossed – and shelter is a scant commodity if you cannot] drops maybe 500 meters vertically where it goes out of sight in this photo. A drop so awesome it’s totally beyond capture on camera, however there is a taste of it about five photos down…
cascade400-4.jpg

Plunket Dome, despite the easy accessibility from the Saddle it’s not frequented often – maybe it’s the cumulative distance…
cascade400-5.jpg

Upstream view of some of “our task” to poke our noses into: up Cascade Stream – some wild country and big…
cascade400-6.jpg

The last time I was on a Search and Rescue mission on the Cascade Saddle route back in about the late 1980s, was when we were responding to the fact that early one morning a young student had run down to Aspiring Hut and raised the alarm. His companion had slipped on snow the evening before and slid head-first into some rocks just above bush-line sustaining head injuries. He’d got her [unconscious] onto safe flat ground somehow, then erected their tent, and he’d looked after her all night essentially ensuring a clear airway in a situation where he could not sleep. Our pick-up was far from simple as we had to carry her across the same 30 degree ice/snow she’d slipped on. The Jet Ranger, which at least was “shut-down” on an area the size of it’s skids precisely on the very edge of a vertical drop-off into the bluffs, was a welcome sight on our return! I’m glad it was not windy, and it could park up, ’cause it could well have been!

Our helicopter heading into the Dart Glacier to pick up one of our group – we had to wait quite sometime for our pickup and we discussed anything but what we’d have to do if it could not make it back before more cloud drifted in and night became a reality, not just a promise…
cascade400-7.jpg

The Dart Glacier again – on the right is the drop off for Cascade Stream as mentioned earlier…
cascade400-8.jpg

Mt Rob Roy, second only in height in the area to Mt Aspiring which is hiding on the left…
cascade400-9.jpg

Plunket Dome as the sun sets…
cascade400-10.jpg

I’ve only touched on three tragedies on this route, but there have been countless others despite education attempts and warnings. In fact at least 3 people, with significant local knowledge advised Irina to not attempt the crossing in heavy rain – especially not alone. Regularly there is a theme of disregard for conditions accompanied by a goal deemed to be pressing! Search and Rescue personal do their best in what are all-to-often “fine” [in every sense of the word] scenarios heightened by short weather windows, for time is of the essence!

Experience and respect for weather and terrain with good team work and decision making is essential and I’m posting this blog to bring these concepts onto the radar of all those who browse the web for information, while planning to enjoy our amazing New Zealand mountains and landscapes!

The comments of Marg, one of my blog readers says it nicely:

“It is a grim reality that no matter how awe inspiring , beautiful and breathtaking the mountains are we would be fools to ever call them friends or expect the elements to deal kindly to us just because we expect it to be so. I am so dreadfully sorry that these beautiful photos are inspired by a search and rescue operation. It makes the sights all the more staggering and also more reverent I suppose if that is the right word.”

Some points for people to keep in mind when planning some tramping in New Zealand:

1] The terrain in geological terms and weather is far more dynamic than most realise – even those with experience in other countries fail to grasp this! History repeatedly reinforces this in the minds of us Kiwis dedicated to education and Search and Rescue [as far as I’m concerned the latter is in the “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” catagory – it’s better we’re all on the top!]

2] Just because high profile [irresponsible?] travel guides tout gems of trips to promote readership, don’t believe what you read. Seek local advice! The Dept of Conservation and New Zealand Mountain Safety Council are great resources.

3] Make sure all experiences a small ones, and thus survivable. The big ones don’t enhance learning [maybe in the next life]!

4] All actions, or in-actions in life have consequences. If we’re traveling alone in New Zealand mountains expect those consequences to be dramatic if we’re not mentally prepared and “trained up”.

5] Be very aware of our capabilities, and the potential for good and bad times on New Zealand walks. I’ve seen too many in our hills with one foot on a banana skin and the other one in the grave! The sad thing to observe is that there is often no self perception of the lack of knowledge and experience.

6] In retrospect many of us have been “saved” by bad weather. By this I mean we have all had ill conceived ideas, but never had the chance to try them because the weather intervened!

7] Leave a record of intentions [I find the written word to be best]. This is called “signing in”, so be it with the Dept of Conservation or a friend or whomever, don’t forget to sign out! If I’m doing a solo trip I plan it well and make the plan part of the intentions. On the trip I always do my best to stick to this plan [which often will incorporate a backup or retreat option], so that if anything happens I’ve left the best clues possible behind. I’d also leave messages en-route, and if things were getting tough I’d leave even more e.g. an arrow made of stones or sticks incorporating my name.

Wanaka bound…
cascade400-12.jpg

This was another memorable mountain day in the New Zealand Southern Alps, but I would have much rather have had a different reason to be in this area once again! A nice quiet trip in light airs and sunshine with my son, with lots of rests, light fluffy clouds and good cheer, with time to indulge in some serious landscape photography would be my pick for a perfect crossing!

Sharks Tooth from the air…
cascade400-11.jpg

Preservation Inlet inc. Puysegur Point – Fiordland National Park New Zealand

My son Dougal and myself recently had an expedition holiday with friends Arthur and Barbara on board their yacht Elwing down in Fiordland National Park, one of the last of the great wilderness areas in the world in a temperate climate.

Rather than telling the tale chronologically I’ve created a few headings, which give a better idea of the flavour of this enchanting place.

Flying in and out

We started our trip in Tuatapere in rural Southland by staying in our camper truck at Clifden, where we awoke to this pretty sunrise…
flying1.jpg

Arthur and Barbara sailed from Stewart Island and we flew into meet them on Kisbee Beach in Preservation Inlet – here is Dougal in the front seat of the Squirrel helicopter…
flying2.jpg

It was a very long flight over one of the largest tracts of total wilderness in the country, and into a headwind with lots of turbulence. It was very interesting though e.g. Lake Hauroko is very large, “S” shaped and 40 Kms long, and the deepest lake in New Zealand, but it is hard to see it’s extent from the road or tramping, so this view was fascinating…
flying4.jpg

Kisbee beach where we boarded [and departed] Arthur and Barbara’s yacht Elwing…
flying7.jpg

The flight out was done via a landing at Coal Island [the latest pest eradication/conservation project in the area], in the midst of a cold front, accompanied by low cloud and heavy rain, and so we had to contour New Zealand’s remote and wild southern coast line on the way out so the pilot had an horizon. The weather was much worse than this shot of same taken a few days earlier from Puysegur Point lighthouse…
flying9.jpg

Elwing

Our home – 46 foot and 20 tons worth of beautiful ship Elwing [Tolkien: Lord of the Rings princess named after the spray of a waterfall glistening in the moonlight]…elwing2.jpg

A couple of inflatable boats are invaluable on expedition holidays, and here we’re going back to Elwing on one of them, from the Oil Shed [so named as storage building for oil to keep the light house light going in the old days] near Puysegur Point. The gap in the reef ahead was blasted many years ago just for this reason, but it’s still a tricky passage conditional on tides and swells…
elwing3.jpg

Arthur [Skipper] gives the helm instructions while choosing an anchorage for the night…
elwing5.jpg

Lunch, and cuppas are usually served often on this white cabin top in the foreground…
elwing6.jpg

A magical anchorage by Spit Island…
elwing9.jpg

Some of my best friends and son Dougal…
elwing10.jpg

With twin keels and therefore only needing as little as 1.5 meters of water, here we take advantage of the Elwing’s design to get in close to take on fresh water…
elwing12.jpg

When we went in close to this bluff, just for the fun of it, we were to find it was twice the height of our mast. The scale of Fiordland seems typified by this shot, as it looked “pint size” from this vantage point…
elwing13.jpg

Last Cove – another magical anchorage…
elwing15.jpg

Dougal at the helm and Darrell looking on…
elwing16.jpg

At every anchorage Arthur spends some time making us secure and thus safe, because this a wild land that takes no prisoners. Here he is sorting out some old mooring lines installed by fisherman back in the busy cray fishing days…
elwing17.jpg

Relatively ancient history

Before this trip I simply had no idea of the legacy of this land, and that thousands of people lived in the town of Cromarty on the again pristine Kisbee beach, around the turn of the 20th century. Earlier you saw Kisbee beach shots, and I found this fascinating photo in a Hall-Jones book on the area…
history1.jpg

The same site in the present day…
history2.jpg

More contrast…
history3.jpg

There’s an old rhododendron [on above site] covering a quarter acre. It must be amazing when in flower…
history4.jpg

An old gold mining sledge track high up in the misty hills behind and south of Kisbee/Cromarty, near the Morning Star mine [shaft] leading to and from the Alpha stamping battery further south…
history7.jpg

Bogs, water and difficulties abounded on any historic track or line that we followed…
history8.jpg

The Wilson tram line to Kisbee – it’s 3-4 Kms was nice to encounter as previously we’d doing steady and wet bush bashing on an old historic route down from the Alpha battery…
history9.jpg

An old sawmill boiler where the Wilson tramline meets Kisbee beach…
history10.jpg

The 1920’s [restored] cemetery by the Oil Shed near Puysegur Point, with the poignant grave of a baby on the left, …
history11.jpg

Puysegur Point light house [now decommissioned]. In it’s day three families lived on-site along with a few sheep, and chickens – the later reputedly were often blown away. I did see some fresh pig sign nearby, which surprised me…
history14.jpg

The Puysergur Point light house Oil Shed in Preservation 3-4 Kms from the light house…
history15.jpg

Cuttle Cove and One Tree Island, site of New Zealand’s first whaling station. The island was used as a spotting base…
history17.jpg

Spit Island notable not only for it’s beauty, but also for the unassailable Maori Pa that was sited on the island’s flat top, which was the site of some interesting battles three hundred years ago – a very rich story that ties in with Capt. Cook meeting a Maori family on Indian Island in Dusky Sound in 1773…
history18.jpg

Caves used not only by Maori on Step-To Island, but later by early sealers, as homes and places to build canoes and boats. Maybe favoured because the prevailing winds would blow into their dry interiors, thus ensuring less harassment from sandflies…
history20.jpg

The Tarawera Smelter reclining chimney, abandoned in the early 20th century after attempts to refine not only gold on site but other minerals such as copper. An amazing example of the skill of brick layers…
history21.jpg
history22.jpg

More recent history

Kisbee Lodge built in the seventies, and now a private sort of holiday home, with permanent caretakers, a surreal anomaly in this regenerated beach front landscape…
NewHistory1.jpg

In the later half of the 20th century over a hundred fishing boats plied this coast, now it’s down to a doz. or so, and here is one of them just having uplifted all the cray pots [on the rear deck] for placement somewhere else…
NewHistory2.jpg

Wildlife

I was really hoping to see some calving Southern Right Whales, but was not so lucky. Also being winter the bird life was quiet, but I did see a few things…

Primal waterways…
wildlife1.jpg
wildlife3.jpg

A surprising number of Paradise Ducks…
wildlife4.jpg

Mollyhawk…
wildlife5.jpg

Jock Stewart, apparently in ill health – we did try putting him in deep water, but he persisted in posing for this shot…
wildlife6.jpg

Seals accompanied us – they seem to love just lolling about in the sea being cute and uncaring about us…
wildlife7.jpg

Shags were everywhere, but due to isolation totally at ease with humans setting anchors and pottering as they fished under our noses…
wildlife8.jpg

My friends on the voyage

People1.jpg
People2.jpg
People3.jpg
People7.jpg

And lastly the best beach landscapes I’ve ever seen in New Zealand – a landscape photographer’s art heaven and something I did not expect to find in Fiordland

beach2.jpg
beach4.jpg
beach6.jpg
beach7.jpg
beach8.jpg
beach9.jpg
sealersBeach400.jpg

Thanks Arthur and Barbara for making it possible.