Mount Climie

With a few days left before I start work I’ve been taking some time to get outside. Today I went out past Upper Hutt to walk up the Mount Climie track. Accessed from the Tunnel Gully area of Pakuratahi Forest the gravel road provides service access to communication equipment at the summit. The track is steep, I wasn’t really prepared for the relentless upward grind and it didn’t take long before I was sweating profusely. It’s a 600m ascent and just over 11kms return. About half way up the surrounding forest changed to predominately beech and became much more interesting to look at with lots of native birds. It was nice to take my mind off the constant trudging to watch families of rifleman flitting through the trees.

Hitting the cloud level

Hitting the cloud level

Further interest was then provided by the low cloud level adding a misty fog to the forest. The higher I ascended the more wind there was and the swirling mist was great to watch during my frequent rest stops. After an hour and a half I came across the first of the communication towers. There are towers for TV transmission, cellular communication and apparently something for the NZ Police as well. There are two trigs, the first at 830m and the second at 860m. From the first trig the landscape changes again with the track following an exposed ridgeline that occasionally is snow-covered (some photos of that can be seen here). Not in the middle of summer but for my visit the cloud level was such that there were no views, just wind and white all around. It was eerie to be alone on the summit track, at times it was like something out of a horror movie (The Mist anyone?) but thankfully there were no scary or unexplained events. I ate lunch in a sheltered area by the trig and then spent the return trip taking my time, enjoying the general lack of climbing and taking a lot of photos.

The first trig

The first trig

Made it to the top!

Made it to the top!

The track disappears

The track disappears

Wind sculpts the summit vegetation

Wind sculpts the summit vegetation

A rata stump, the summit rata apparently all killed by possums

A rata stump, the summit rata apparently all killed by possums

On the set of a horror movie?

On the set of a horror movie?

More foggy infrastructure

More foggy infrastructure

Goblin forest

Goblin forest

A mountain cabbage tree

A mountain cabbage tree

All up it was around 4 hours return including my lunch and photo stops. I think it’ll be a few years before I take Alayna up there, she’ll need some practice on shorter climbs first. There is a definite sense of achievement in reaching the summit and I think I’d be more interested in regular visits if it wasn’t a gravel road but rather a track that had a better sense of travelling through the forest. That said I will have to return to see the summit under snow and also on a clear day to see some of the promised views.

Mist and trees

Mist and trees

New Years wandering

I had been planning a quiet New Years Eve as I had a concrete pad to construct the next day but then it started looking like the aurora could show so plans changed. For months I’ve been meaning to walk the Rimutaka Trig track (now named Te Ara Tirohanga: “The view that improves as you climb the ascending pathway”) in the evening to see if the views would be good for star gazing but I’ve never quite been organised enough. I made a snap decision and got ready to finally give it a go. The stunning weather also helped with it being warm and calm with clear skies, hopefully this would be the case at the trig as well.

The road was mostly clear, everyone either on holiday, out partying or at home. I reached the carpark at the base of the track just after 9pm and was soon walking uphill. Its a short but relentless slope to the trig and I was taking frequent stops to rest and check out the view (improving as suggested). After about 20 minutes I reached the top to good if not great views, the Wairarapa side was very hazy.

Taking in the view at dusk

Taking in the view at dusk

Looking towards Lake Wairarapa

Looking towards Lake Wairarapa

As dusk settled into night the weather also changed and misty cloud started forming. I persisted for a while but the view was quickly disappearing and photographic opportunities were becoming few and far between. I entertained myself with shots of cars travelling SH2 and lighting up the road leaving trails through the mist but it was getting colder and there was no longer any chance of aurora being captured so I was soon enough packing up and walking downhill to the car. I stopped a couple of times for photos and got a few nice shots of stars through the low canopy of trees near the bottom of the track, first having to wipe away the condensation building on the lens.

Traffic along SH2 as the mist rolls in

Traffic along SH2 as the mist rolls in

Misty trig

Misty trig

Stars through the trees

Stars through the trees

Looking at the time when I was back in the car I realised I might be able to make it to Petone in time to see the New Years fireworks over Wellington. I managed to get to the beach in time but the fireworks in Wellington were far to far away to be photographed so I took a few photos of fireworks on the beach before returning to the car.

Rocket launch!

Rocket launch!

Messy fireworks

Messy fireworks

Looking at my phone I could see on Facebook that the aurora was showing for some down south so I took a chance and drove to Red Rocks on the south coast. I was lucky enough to capture a faint aurora but the rising moon (big and yellow above the horizon) was wiping out the colour. Thankfully there were plenty of meteors (likely part of the Quadrantids Meteor Shower) to also spot and I was lucky enough to catch a large one in camera. To the eye it flashed across the sky leaving a brief smoking trail waving behind it.

Contemplating the milky way

Contemplating the milky way

Meteor, milky way and aurora australis

Meteor, milky way and aurora australis

All up it was a good end to 2015 and a great start to 2016. Happy New Year everyone!

South Island: The Hokitika Gorge and Lake Kaniere

The forecast today wasn’t that great as as we drove towards the Hokitika Gorge in the morning the mist and low cloud turned to drizzle and mist. There were a few cars at the gorge walk car park and more than a few large sandflies as well, maybe the bites distracted me as I set off up the service road rather than along the path to the gorge. It didn’t make a lot of difference in the end, we just didn’t get the gorge views until the return.

We walked to the end of the track, passing over the swing bridge over the gorge and taking a good look at the milky aqua coloured water. At the end of the track a few photos were taken as the rain fell, I tried not to take too long.

Crossing the bridge, Hokitika GorgePhoto by Brendon & Keryn

A family returns across the swing bridge.

MG 8025Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Glacial water, rock and forest.

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Water drops on moss.

We walked back up the correct path and stopped to watch a few more people crossing the bridge below. One couple had a bright pink umbrella which looked like it’s be a nice focal point so I sat for ages waiting for them to get onto the center of the bridge.

MG 8059Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Pink umbrella.

Rather than return the same way we took a different route which went around the eastern shore of Lake Kaniere. We stopped to take a couple of very short walks, first to see the Dorothy Falls and then following the steam to the shore of the lake.

MG 8063Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Dorothy Falls.

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Lake Kaniere shoreline.

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There we are.

That was about it for the touring for the day. Given we were in Hokitika we spent some of the afternoon wandering around the various shops, specifically the Pounamu (New Zealand Greenstone or nephrite jade) stores. We didn’t buy much, just a few off cut lumps rather than any nice sculpted pieces. There was a photo gallery called the Wilderness Gallery that I wanted to visit in Hokitika but unfortunately it was being refurbished.

After shopping and relaxing we had dinner at Stumpers, a strong recommendation from many people who had written in the cottage guest book. The food was very good and the portions were large, I can see why many people went back multiple times during their stay in Hokitika.

After dinner I got Phil to do me a favour and drive the car around the Hokitika clock tower a few times to help with a photo. No one seemed to bat an eyelid at the photographer and the car going around and around. Mind you there was another car that seemed to be spending a lot more time going back and forth around the tower which seemed a little strange as they didn’t have the photography excuse. Maybe they were just lost.

MG 8098Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The Hokitika clock tower and war memorial

This was our last night on the West Coast, the next destination Arthur’s Pass.

South Island: The Heaphy Track & Oparara Basin

We got a fair bit of walking down today, even though the weather wasn’t the best with occasional showers getting more frequent as the afternoon wore on. Driving north from Karamea we headed towards the start of the Heaphy Track, passing farmland seemingly populated more by pukeko and weka than cows and sheep. We were also getting acquainted with that well know friend of the West Coast, the sand fly.

Arriving at the DOC car park and camp site there were only a few vehicles there already, including a couple of nice looking caravans that obviously belonged to serious whitebaiters. Over the next week we would see dozens of vehicles parked near by to rivers and streams as the Coasters took their chance to catch whitebait. Timing our exit between rain showers we got our wet weather gear on and headed off on the Heaphy Track.

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Crossing over the Kohaihai River.

We had no intention of walking any significant distance on the Heaphy. Instead we took our time around the Nikau track which loops near the start of the track and then walked a way up the track towards a lookout over the beach in the next bay. It was wet but under the forest canopy we kept mostly dry. We looked at Nikau palms and large trees that were often being slowly killed off by the strangling rata that had taken root in their upper reaches. The Kohaihai river was flowing past the track quite fast, the water a dark brown colour.

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Checking out a tree growing between all the Nikau.

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The fast flowing Kohaihai River.

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A patch of light in the forest.

Leaving the Nikau grove the path headed uphill after first crossing a small stream. The stream led out to the river via a sandy beach that was quite pretty in its seclusion. We walked up until we got to a picnic table and viewpoint, a good time to hide under some trees and have a snack before returning the way we had came.

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The small beach.

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Tiny berries in the track side vegetation.

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All growing on a small section of branch.

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The view from the bridge.

Coming back to the car park I spotted a couple of weka so watched them for a while. They didn’t seem much interested in me, they did get close at times but mostly were just looking through the grass for something to eat. We had lunch at the car and then Keryn and I went for a short walk to the beach. The rain was holding off but there was a good wind blowing foam across the beach. The brown river emptied into the ocean causing the waves near the river mouth to be the colour of tea as they crashed towards the beach.

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The car park weka.

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Keryn on the beach.

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Tea coloured waves.

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Foam on the beach.

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West Coast Forest from the beach.

With plenty of time left in the afternoon we took a road inland to visit the Oparara Basin and its various limestone features. We took walks to the Oparara Arch, the Crazy Paving and Box Canyon caves and one final wet walk to the Mirror Tarn.

The forest in this area was dense and lush, this was definitely some of the most attractive forest I’ve ever walked in. The light rain actually helped with the atmosphere, I don’t think it would have been quite so nice looking on a sunny day. walking up some stairs we were joined by a friendly South Island robin who seemed especially interested in Elaine’s shoes. We passed moss covered trees and the track followed the Oparara River upstream towards the arch. At one riverside spot a tree reached out over the water and in the branches pretty little orchids were flowering. Nearer the arch we passed a small chocolate box waterfall and further on we were briefly joined by a pair of tomtit. The arch itself was massive and impressive, and underneath its cover we could watch a dramatic waterfall falling into the river.

MG 7341Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking to the Oparara River through the lush forest.

MG 7348Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The visiting robin.

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Flowering orchid.

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The waterfall underneath the arch.

MG 7397Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Keryn underneath the arch.

On the return I diverted and climbed through the bush to photograph the small waterfall seen earlier. It really was almost a cliché with the chocolate water, hanging ferns and mist in the air. Still, even a cliché is worth a photograph or two.

MG 7409Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The chocolate box waterfall.

MG 7420Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A glossy fern.

We decided not to walk to the other nearby arch, the Lord of the Rings referencing Moira Arch, and instead drove a short way up the road to the track for the two caves. Only a few minutes from the road and with torches to hand we explored first the Box Canyon cave. A large opening was entered via stairs and then we were on the dry cave floor walking into the darkness as the cave turned in a large S bend. At the end it was pitch black and we could see a few glow worms above. The walls were high and smooth, carved out by long gone water.

MG 7425Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Inside the Box Canyon cave.

The next door Crazy Paving cave was smaller and tighter. Mud on the floor had dried out and cracked to leave uneven patches of crazy looking paving.

MG 7432Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Some of the crazy paving.

Done with caves it was back to the car. We had one more walk to the Mirror Tarn and I set off ahead of the others in what looked like a break in the rain. This wasn’t the case and the Mirror Tarn was more like a rain covered black lake than any sort of mirror. It was still worth a visit.

MG 7439Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The not-so-Mirror Tarn.

A little wet and with darkness coming we headed back to Karamea. Rather than cook we visited the local pub, the Karamea Village Hotel, for a meal. I wasn’t expected much but my nachos were really good and everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals. With whitebait fritters on offer a few were ordered and I tasted them for the first time. They were OK, perhaps in need of some kind of sauce. There weren’t many people in the bar and most left as we ate. Paying for drinks at the bar I spied a book on top of the till, “From Timaru to Stalag VIII B” by Jack Hardie. I nearly bought a copy, I would have earlier if I’d realised that the author was one of those that had recently been at the bar. If you follow the link you’ll read that Jack is “Now living in Motueka, he still goes whitebaiting on the West Coast for a few weeks each year”, so I guess this was his yearly whitebaiting trip. I’ll have to pick up a copy sometime. Dinner was followed by decadent desert, I’ll be eating at the Karamea Village Hotel next time we’re back this way.

Before the rush

Keryn’s parents are here to celebrate their 40th Wedding anniversary and Travis and Sophie came down as well so we’ve had a busy few days. Zealandia was open for free to Wellington residents and I’ve heard it was crazy busy on Saturday (today has been strong winds and a bit of rain, so maybe wasn’t as popular) and guessing this would be the case we went to Zealandia on Friday, even though it was overcast, drizzling and with low mist sweeping through the city. There was however almost no wind and because it didn’t look nice (and being a weekday) there was next to no-one at Zealandia which made it the perfect time to visit.

We saw all sorts of wildlife, there was even one tuatara out braving the not so warm weather. Spring was in evidence as well with a couple of ducks out leading their broods of ducklings around. While visiting Zealandia on a nice sunny day may be slightly more pleasant I think that visiting on a grey day is better as there will be less people and the light is generally better for photographs of the flora and fauna.

MG 6470Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A tui feeding amongst the kowhai flowers.

MG 6425Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Mum and ducklings.

MG 6539Photo by Brendon & Keryn

One of the recently released red crowned parakeets (Kakariki).

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An obliging Californian quail.

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Kowhai flowers with a coating of water.

With the weather on Saturday much better in the Wairarapa we headed over to visit a few wineries. We had a ho-hum lunch in Martinborough before heading out to sample the vino and I have decided that next time we’ll eat at Vynfields, the location is just so lovely.

MG 6648Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tasting at Vynfields Organic Winery.

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The heart of the wine.

East Coast Holiday: Panekire Bluffs

We didn’t have time to do the full Lake Waikaremoana great walk but I still convinced Keryn that we should do a section of the track. The Panekire Bluff rises high above the southern shoreline and promised great views, if only the weather would play along. It didn’t look good as we drove to the starting point, the top of the bluff shrouded in cloud.

The intention was to walk to a point called the Bald Knob and then turn back, 3 hours one way. We shared the track with a family who were starting the great walk, planning on taking 6 days to complete the circuit. There was plenty of motivation in seeing three kids (the youngest would have been about 8?) walking with their parents up the relentless slope that was the first hour, everyone loaded up with gear (Mum and Dad having far more than the kids).

We huffed and puffed out way uphill and then along the ridge which meandered up and down with viewpoints appearing regularly. One attraction for me was the so called goblin forest found on the back of the ridgeline, the trees draped with moss and fading into a white distance when the clouds were low.

IMG 2345Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking along the rising bluff

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Keryn stands in the goblin forest

IMG 2366Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Clouds claim the forest

We walked for about 3 and a half hours before finally taking an extended break for lunch. Along the way we stopped often to look for birds and were rewarded with sightings of whitehead (popokotea) and tiny rifleman (titipounamu). I’m not sure if we ended up at the Bald Knob, the area we found was just off the main track in an area of eroded clay and rock and there were a couple of trampers there who had come from the hut a few hours further on. The views were very good, though I got nervous every time I looked at the edge of the cliff a few feet from where we sat.

IMG 2397Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A lunchtime view

IMG 2409Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Its a long way down

The return journey was faster, we stopped less and had more down than up to contend with. The sun even came out a few times and the cicadas were in full chorus as we walked down to where the car was parked.

IMG 2412Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A mountain cabbage tree spotted on the bluff

IMG 2416Photo by Brendon & Keryn

More interesting trees (you do like trees don’t you?)

IMG 2424Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Taking in the view

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The cloud now higher

Showers were taken and food cooked while we avoided the crowds of kids being served their dinner. One more night and then we’d be off towards Gisborne.

Once more to Zealandia

I’ve got my replacement camera via insurance and Noel Leeming so decided to head out and try it out. I headed to Zealandia and wandered around for a good three hours, taking a few tracks I hadn’t been on before and naturally taking lots of photos. New for me this time were saddleback on the round the lake track and a tuatara on the outside of the fenced off area where they are normally seen.

IMG 0277Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A saddleback interrupted while searching for food.

IMG 0395Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Found under the big log at Tui Terrace.

It was overcast and there was low cloud on the hills, which meant it was bright and the light was good under the trees. Perhaps it was a little dark for decent photography, by it was good low light practice.

IMG 0128Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Misty hills.

IMG 0366Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A robin with its lunch.

It was a good visit, its very nice to be here mid week with less crowds. And the new camera performed well, which was also good.