Rainy day Zealandia

It has been cool and wet today so what better time to head into Zealandia? Yeah, perhaps not the ideal visiting conditions but we still had a good time. The wildlife doesn’t get the option to avoid the rain and we saw plenty of birds going about their business. The forest was often a scene of swaying trees and dripping leaves with the noise of the weather being challenged by the calls of the birds. Kaka especially seemed to be camped in the canopy kawing and calling loudly.

We were largely alone in the valley with the only people encountered being staff. Nio and Orbell seemed surprised to see us when we came down to the takahe lawn but were soon going about as usual and stoically ignoring the wind and rain.

Eye to eye with a takahe

Eye to eye with a takahe

Nio (front) & Orbell

Nio (front) & Orbell

Raindrop spider web

Raindrop spider web

In the shadow of the upper dam the kaka feeders were abuzz with kaka flying in and a bevy of other birds scurrying around trying to catch the scraps from the pellets the kaka were eating. All the birds were a bit sodden, well other than the pateke who were probably wondering what the fuss was all about.

Singing in the rain

Singing in the rain

Wet lunch

Wet lunch

So it was wet but we were wrapped up in our raincoats and rugged up in our layers so we were fine. It’s always nice to visit Zealandia and see a different side. Life goes on no matter the weather :)

Mum’s birthday and driving north

Our final day in Timaru and the main reason we’d come down, Mum’s birthday. The morning was spent preparing food and getting everything ready for brunch as a bevy of family arrived. There were copious pancakes and croissants, fruit and Christmas mince pies. And then it was time for a birthday cake to be presented.

Time for cake

Time for cake

Blow out the candles

Blow out the candles

As is traditional there were a number of family photos taken. Frances and Helen were excellent photographers standing in my Richard and myself.

Uncle Richard

Uncle Richard

Siblings

Siblings (Alayna standing in for Patricia )

Family photo

Family photo

Alayna and the birthday girl

Alayna and the birthday girl

Early afternoon saw as saying our goodbyes and taking to the road once more. We were splitting up our journey with our Ferry not sailing until the following evening and we would be spending the night in Cheviot. Getting there we somehow managed to avoid most of the thunderstorms and hail that was threatening, only getting hailed on just north of Christchurch for a few minutes though it was loud enough to wake Alayna and concern her a little.

Stormy skies

Stormy skies south of Christchurch

We arrived in Cheviot and our accommodation at the Cheviot Motels and Holiday Park in good time. There was a trampoline, guinea fowl, rabbits, chickens, geese, horses, a donkey and a friendly cat so Alayna was set. I could see the heavy weather coming our way so dashed up to the next door Church as the front same in and got some photos of moody clouds before the wind kicked in, shortly followed by heavy rain. It blew through quickly thankfully, much to the relief of the cyclist who had just set up his little pup-tent.

The storm comes over

The storm comes over St. Johns at Cheviot

Here comes the rain

Here comes the rain

Morning rainbow

Morning rainbow

Timaru for a few days

From Hanmer Springs we continued on towards Timaru with a couple of stops in Christchurch, one to pick up some duplo we’d bid for on TradeMe and a second stop at Riccarton Mall to stretch the legs. We were looking for some new shoes for Alayna and found a pair on big discount at Rebel Sport that did the trick, even if they were a bit more bling than we’d normally buy. Alayna loved for sparkle shoes so that’s the main thing I guess (and they were a good fit and were made well of course).

We arrived in Timaru in the evening and it was good to see Mum and Dad. Not so good was Dad being hospitalised later that evening with what turned out to be food poisoning. This meant in the end that Dad missed being at home fro Mum’s birthday but there was a silver lining of sorts with some planned tests for other complaints being brought forward because of being in hospital already but it was a long week for Dad to be in an isolation room. Thankfully there was plenty of family around so we were all visiting every day, dutifully putting on out gloves and plastic aprons each time before sitting down for a chat. Dad’s much better now which is good.

Alayna loves new places and toys which are different to those we have at home so she was kept interested by the things available at my parents place. Exploring was also on the agenda and Alayna liked looking around and finding things to look at, touch and feel.

Alayna at play

Alayna at play

Checking out cobwebs

Checking out cobwebs

We had a look around the Timaru shops and spend a morning down at the Caroline Bay playground and then playing around at the Timaru aquatic centre where we managed to get the childrens areas mostly to ourselves.

Around and around

Around and around

Horse riding

Horse riding

Drive time

Drive time

My brother’s family is down the road from my parents place and we had a few afternoons there as well and Alayna loved to play with her cousins. Again there was an array of new-to-Alayna toys to check out and play with. There was also a trampoline so it was perfect really.

Keira and Alayna

Keira and Alayna

One night there was a chance of Aurora activity so I ended up picking up my brother and he showed me a good local spot for photography out on Adair Road. While we didn’t get to see or photograph an Aurora it was a beautiful night with plenty of stars which reflected nicely in the hood of the car. We did attract the attention of one curious local who drove past us at least three times, turning around and coming back slower each time while presumably trying to figure out what we were doing.

Star reflections

Star reflections

The kiwifruit incident

We left St Arnaud in the morning with a plan to do a morning walk before lunch. This worked out quite well other than a couple of incidents, one during the walk and one afterwards. Lake Rotoroa was the first stop and we had lovely views from the pier and got to watch a swan family on the grassy area next to the carpark. The fluffy grey signets were very cute. We also came across Fergus again with his pax. Alayna obliged with some cuddles for her doll while I took a few photos and then it was a short drive to the start of the Braeburn Walk, followed closely by Fergus and his passengers. We parked off the road and I thought it odd that the ground was hissing underneath one of the rear tyres but I figured it was just air from the wet ground, I made a mental note to check it on our return.

Cuddles at Lake Rotoroa

Cuddles at Lake Rotoroa

The Braeburn Walk started with a wide path, once an access road, that wended its way through groves of tree fuscia before heading uphill through more beech forest. It was again very attractive in the dappled light, moss and ferns covering the ground between decaying fallen trucks and tall trees. The ground was covered in leaves which came in useful later on.

There was an optional branch in the track which took us up to a tall waterfall and we stopped for a snack while I clambered down the steep slope to try and get a decent photograph. Fergus and his two passengers turned up as well and Fergus adroitly navigated his way to the stream bed, something I didn’t manage with my tripod in hand and camera gear weighing me down. Keryn and Alayna were eating while seated on a convenient tree root and when Keryn got up she knocked over the lunchbox tipping out a couple of kiwifruit. One did a cartoon bounce and tumble done the slope, narrowly avoiding being caught by Fergus before landing in the stream and floating away. All thoughts of the previous days alarm were temporarily forgotten as Alayna contemplated the new disaster and as we walked out of the forest there were constant queries about the missing kiwifruit; would it be coming back? where was it now? could we find it? Sad to say we never say that kiwifruit again.

Playing with leaves

Playing with leaves

We stopped for a while and played with the fallen leaves on the track, piling them up and then throwing them into the air over Alayna. This was great fun and I’m sure Alayna would have happily played the game all day.

Walking the forest

Walking the forest

Glen and grove

Glen and grove

Once back at the car I had a look at the tyre again and it looked a little soft but the wet ground made it look OK. Once we were driving I quickly realised it wasn’t OK and we had an unscheduled stop for lunch back at the lake carpark while I changed the tyre. Other than the attendant sandflies taking a few bites this happened without fuss.

Fixing the flat

Fixing the flat

With a good tyre in place we were back on the road and heading towards Hanmer Springs through the Lewis Pass. We stopped a few times, once so I could photograph an interesting sign and another at Maruia Falls.

No Shooting

No Shooting

Maruia Falls

Maruia Falls

As we climbed Lewis Pass the temperature dropped and snow was visible on the taller peaks, rain falling and threatening to become sleet. Perfect timing for a walk. We stopped at the St James Carpark and had a look at the small tarn and walked a short way along the Alpine Nature Walk. The rain stopped and we got some sunshine but it was still very cold with a stiff breeze ripping along.

Top of the pass

Top of the pass

Family photo time

Family photo time

Cute as a button

Cute as a button

From the top of the pass it was plain sailing down the other side and on to Hanmer. We were staying at the Alpine Adventure Holiday Park and Alayna was once again entertained by a set of bunk beds. They also had a good playground and Alayna got to enjoy a trampoline all to herself. In the future travel accommodation may be booked on the availability of a trampoline I think (if Alayna was deciding).

Out the other side

Out the other side

Cloudy with a chance of Aurora Australis

The last couple of weeks have had a few opportunities for some interesting night time photography. There have been a few nights with a good chance of Aurora Australis activity and on clear nights there have been some final chances to capture the brightest part of the milky way low in the night sky before it disappears below the southern hemisphere horizon until next year.

Viewing stars and aurora is heavily dependant on the weather and specifically a lack of cloud. When I got out to try and capture aurora action I knew the weather forecast wasn’t great but if I stayed at home then I’d definitely not see anything. As it happened I got to see almost no aurora but viewed a lot of cloud and frequent bouts of rain so there was plenty of time spent in the car trying to predict when it would be safe to take the camera out for some photography.

Stormy viewing from inside the car

Stormy viewing from inside the car

Once out of the car it was then a patient wait to see if the cloud would clear enough for some star and aurora viewing. The sky did mostly clear for a brief period but not long enough or at the right time for the aurora to show. Better luck next time perhaps.

Waiting for the cloud to clear at the Red Rocks carpark

Waiting for the cloud to clear at the Red Rocks carpark

Another night saw me driving north to try and get a photo of the milky way over Kapiti Island. Initially I stopped at the lookout on the Paekakariki hill road and then the beach at the north end of Paekakariki but in both places the bulk of the milky way was sitting to the left of Kapiti Island. Driving further north I settled on a spot at Peka Peka beach, deserted and mostly free of any lights. It wasn’t perfect and there was a haze of thin cloud in the sky but I got some interesting photos and was able to try capturing a panorama or two as well.

Viewing the milky way and Kapiti Island from Peka Peka beach

A panorama of the milky way over Kapiti Island from Peka Peka beach

A longer exposure over Kapiti Island

A longer exposure over Kapiti Island

The reverse view looking back towards the Tararua’s was also good and I spent some time watching the International Space Station moving across the sky. Next time I try this I’ll have to try this earlier in the year and go further north. Better preparation! By this time next year we might even have helpful applications like Photopills and the updated version of TPE available for Android (both containing useful tools for visualising the location of the milky way for photography amongst other things).

Stars over the Tararua's from Peka Peka beach

Stars over the Tararua’s from Peka Peka beach

Wellington Lux 2013

The annual Wellington Lux festival of light took place from the 21st-24th June 2013 and for the general public the attraction was a number of installations set up around Wellington city. Due to the stormy weather earlier in the week the first night where the installations could be viewed was on Saturday 22nd. Saturday night wasn’t very pleasant in the city with a cold wind and intermittent showers that occasionally turned to rain. Starting on the waterfront I quickly had mostly numb hands and had to set up my camera so it wasn’t facing into the wind to help prevent water spots on the lens. The one benefit of the rain was lots of water on the ground which created good reflections, which led to some more interesting photography. I also returned on Sunday evening for a walk around with Keryn and also as part of a Wellington Photography Meetup. Sunday being the much more pleasant evening with clear skies, almost no wind and a super moon to keep us company.

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2449Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tūrama Pou by The Interrupt Collective

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2460Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Digital Wattle by Fresh Concept (Saturday night)

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2567Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Digital Wattle by Fresh Concept (Sunday night)

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2472Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Social Firefly by design the future

The installations were all interesting though naturally I had my favourites. T?rama Pou was quite dramatic and totem like. Digital Wattle could be watched for a long time, the changing lights and patterns quite mesmerizing (especially on the Saturday with the stronger wind).

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2486Photo by Brendon & Keryn

BELUGA by Antony Nevin

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2495Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Lightweight by Cornelia Erdmann (Saturday)

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2508Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Blend by Sabine Marcelis and Rob Hebing

Next up on the favourite list was Blend. This one required interaction with a crank connected to three light strips. Turning the crank rotated each of the light strips and when photographed they appeared as three blended circles of light. Lots of people were having fun with this one, though on the Sunday night it appeared to be broken with one of the chains missing which was a pity.

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2522Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2538 HDRPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2525Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tracing Transience by Courtney Norman (Saturday)

Down an alleyway the architectural installation Atmospheric Tessellation hid around a corner and was popular with passers by. A strange glowing construction it seemed to sit like a misplaced piece of some alien hallway that had landed in a dirty back corner of the city. On Saturday night with the sounds of dripping water and broken reflections it was quite eerie.

A short way further along the alleyway the Tracing Transience installation hung between two buildings. The strung up lines of doves pulsed with light in sequence giving a sense of movement. It was harder to photograph on the Saturday due to the rain but the extra glow and smears from the later on the lens add to the atmosphere of the photo.

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2556Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tracing Transience by Courtney Norman (Sunday)

Wellington Lux Festival 2013 - 2587Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Lightweight by Cornelia Erdmann (Sunday)

The festival has been getting bigger and brighter each year, I’m already looking forward to what might be shown next year.

Pirates for a day

On Sunday Keryn and I took part in the Adventure Wellington Great Pirate Treasure Hunt. In teams (crews) of five we all raced around the Wellington waterfront and beyond competing in tasks to be rewarded with coins. We were part of the crew of the Gabriel along with Suzanne, Sue and our Captain Robyn. The Gabriel had put some effort into costumes, we all had matching t-shirts and suitably pirate themed accessories like tattoos and bandannas, but we we’re left behind in the costuming stakes by many other teams. The organisers of the day were also impressively dressed and it was good fun running around as part of the pirate horde, with lots of appreciative comments from others sharing the waterfront. There was also the opportunity before the event started to get extra make-up effects applied for a small fee, so a number of pirates sported ugly scars, bleeding wounds and extravagant tattoos.

IMG 6231Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Admiral Keith ready for some pirating.

IMG 6256Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Chief organising pirate Alison with our Captain Robyn in the background.

IMG 6257Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Another organiser in chief, Linc made a fine pirate.

We were sent off from Frank Kitts Park, each crew having a map showing the first and subsequent destinations. During the day we took part in statue dressing, snorkelling, digging, sailing, puzzling, kidnap, escaping, climbing, hack sack, caving, hill climbing, bobbing for fruit (and rum and a severed foot), practical angry birds, dodge-ball, hopping for rings, music making, dancing and knot tying. There was also a fair bit of skulduggery, piratical behaviour and more than one sword fight to be had all in the name of good fun.

IMG 20120916 100158Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Keryn admires out teamwork in dressing up the Solace in the Wind statue.

IMG 20120916 102854Photo by Brendon & Keryn

We dug for treasure on the beach and Keryn then snorkelled to identify a mysterious object.

IMG 20120916 151411Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Captain Mick of Sudden Death fighting one of his crew on the plank.

IMG 6282Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sudden Death are announced as winners.

We ended up coming a respectable 17th out of 29 crews, not a bad effort. The winning crew were transported to an island in Wellington Harbour where they had to locate and dig up their chest of treasure and the rest of the crews were split into two boats to head out and watch. As we ended up in the lower half of the rankings we were on the bread and water boat, our betters being fed pizza instead. Before we all headed out the final announcement was of the losing crew, and as it was a tie there was a pirate vote to see which Captain would walk the plank with Captain Gary of Sea King the unlucky soul sent to the sea.

IMG 6287 BPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Captain Gary takes his responsibilities as a true pirate, no hesitation.

IMG 6342Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Pirates having a good time.

IMG 6346Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sudden Death with their treasure.

Coming up in the next few months are many more Adventure Wellington events, with the horror filled Zombie Island the biggest highlight.

The day after

A more relaxed day was had following the Wedding. In the morning Keryn and I walked around Bondi, checking out the beach and views from the rocky headland nearby. We saw lots of people surfing, a guy fishing from the rocks with good success, crashing waves and plenty of dark clouds. The rain came in as we headed back to the shops but thankfully didn’t last too long. We checked out the local market, bumping in to Sam and Jules and later Eleanor and Aaron as we debated finding something to eat (which turned out to be ice cream filled pancakes, eaten under cover as the rain came back).

MG 4301Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The swimming pools at Icebergs on Bondi Beach.

MG 4303Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Bondi Beach.

MG 4322Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Watching the surfing.

MG 4355Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Fishing.

MG 4360Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking back from the headland.

Kate and Roger had organised some afternoon entertainment at the Bondi Lawn Bowls club and we were first to arrive. We sat on the club veranda and had a drink while watching the rain come and go, it didn’t look like there would be much bowling taking place. More people arrived and someone bought with them some better weather and we were able to get out for a few ends of bowls, sunshine even making an appearance. I turned out to be quite good at bowls, the odd throw with the bias the wrong way aside. The afternoon passed pleasantly and plans were made for a final get together at the Icebergs restaurant for dinner so it was back to the apartment to get changed.

MG 4388Photo by Brendon & Keryn

At the bolo.

Having consulted our Australia guidebook I was a little nervous about dinner and not being dressed appropriately. The Icebergs Restaurant is one of the fancier eating establishments in Bondi, apparently a place to be seen. It was with relief that we found a somewhat less salubrious bistro downstairs, the dress code somewhat lower. We arrived just in time, it being announced that last orders were being taken for dinner as we found our table, so quick decisions were made on food and then we sat down to talk with the waves below a constant hum in the background. Dinner was good, plenty of good food leaving everyone happy. It was a fitting end to our fleeting Sydney visit, the next day we were off to Melbourne for an even shorter stay.

Kate and Roger are Married

The rain persisted and it bought along some strong winds to party with, which ruined the planned peninsula cliff-top ceremony. Plan B was enacted. Kate was staying at the Hotel Bondi and the new plan was to have the ceremony on a balcony overlooking the beach, so at least there would be a feel of the outdoors and a view of the ocean. It was only close friends and family at the ceremony, we got in because I was asked to take some photos. Everyone pitched in as plans fell into place over the morning. Chairs were found and arranged, and then re-arranged as the wind and rain conspired to soak the outer areas of the large balcony. Flowers were arranged in vases on a table and then artfully draped across another table when the wind blew the vases to the concrete with a crash of breaking glass. People huddled as much out of the wind as could manage, beautiful dresses clasped between legs to prevent impromptu Marilyn Monroe moments. It sounds chaotic but there was no panic and everyone was in a good mood, all the more so with the arrival of the bride when all the background details around weather faded away and we watched the couple say their vows in a beautiful ceremony.

MG 3629Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Mr and Mrs Kate and Roger.

We had some time taking photos in the hotel while the wedding party had a few drinks at the bar. Then we were around the corner to Roys Tapas for the reception.

MG 3896Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Happy.

MG 3958Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Very Happy.

MG 4056Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Hotel art.

MG 4082Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Fun in the elevator.

The reception was a good time for all, whether inside drinking and eating incredibly tasty food, talking with others or exploring the strange little back yard that was home to beanbags, some tables and a large tepee. The cake was a lovely collection of cupcakes and the cutting ceremony involved the couple feeding each other after having lit sparklers. Before this we had good, heart felt speeches involving much laughter and tears. All in all it was a great day and evening and it was a pleasure to attend.

MG 4142Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Cake and makers, Rochane & Georgie.

MG 4240Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Celebrating the couple.

The 2011 NZI Wellington Sevens

Beware, photo overload follows.

Friday and Saturday were spent at the Wellington Seven’s tournament, a sporting event that is really just an excuse for a huge costume party. Keryn and I are generally far too reserved for dressing up (unless we’re on holiday with like minded people) so it was just as well we were going with four others who were both more willing and better organised than ourselves.

Travis and Sophie ended up buying most of the costumes which you’ll see later on. Any reservations I had about heading into down dressed up as a colourful yet clinched Hawaiian were thrown out the window at Mana station where we caught our train in to the city, a bunch of Tui boys and two tennis players the start of what turned out to be a weekend of costume invention.

We arrived at Wellington Station and headed out the front to catch the end of the Sevens fashion parade, and the photos started being taken. It was then on to the stadium concourse where we stopped for a while to watch and photograph the people walking by.

MG 6363Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Straight away the tone for the day is set.

MG 6427Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Pohutukawa girls on the catwalk.

MG 6461-2Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Hmm, the costumes often bordered on the strange.

MG 6472Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Plenty of beautiful people.

MG 6481Photo by Brendon & Keryn

One line from a foosball table.

MG 6494Photo by Brendon & Keryn

There were kids as well.

MG 6504Photo by Brendon & Keryn

And gingerbread men.

MG 6534Photo by Brendon & Keryn

An array of characters.

MG 6546Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Often referencing culture, some Black Swans.

MG 6562Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Everyone watching.

Inside the stadium there were plenty of things to keep people entertained outside of the sport and the people watching. There were AirNZ staff giving out necklaces of beads for kisses (and plenty of people, usually guys, going around exchanging beads for more kisses), a few action events including dodge-ball and giant hamster wheels. Of course there were plenty of places to buy food and drink. I had thought that wandering around inside the stadium would be the way to get good photos of all the people but in the end it was much simpler to stay in one spot most of the time at our seats and watch people from there.

MG 6520Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Beads.

MG 6574Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The flash runs on the wheel.

MG 6581-2Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Still early, the games on the pitch have started.

We watched people, wandered a little, talked, ate, drank, cheered and occasionally watched some rugby. This was pretty much the recipe for the next day and a half. Keryn, Lydia and Will arrived in the evening after work on the first day and we we all arrived within a half hour of each other on the Saturday. New Zealand won the rugby tournament which put everyone into a great mood. We also caught up with Marty and Bevan who we used to work with all those years ago at the Warehouse. The rest, you can just look at the photos.

MG 6626Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Each team had a set of cheerleaders who were in a public vote to win $7000. We were sat in the Canadian section.

MG 6631Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Next door were the Kenyan supporters.

MG 6724Photo by Brendon & Keryn

It’s a pity there wasn’t an Italian team.

MG 6731Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The New Zealand cheerleaders (and many others) were dressed as Crazy Horse gang members from the movie Boy.

MG 6736Photo by Brendon & Keryn

As you’d expect people were largely happy to have their photo taken.

MG 6778Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The rugby wasn’t all going NZs way on the first day, but they still won all their games.

MG 6786Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The crowd gets enthused.

MG 6801Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Taking a call.

MG 6826Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Happy.

MG 6886Photo by Brendon & Keryn

It’s not every day you see Wolverine talking to Zorro and his missus.

MG 6838Photo by Brendon & Keryn

They’re not talking about food.

MG 6920Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A troll needs his club.

MG 6970Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The Argentinian team took a shine to one of their cheerleaders during the parade of nations.

MG 6991Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Cheerleaders during the parade of nations.

MG 7026Photo by Brendon & Keryn

There we are ready to go in for day two.

MG 7090Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Supporting team England.

MG 7099Photo by Brendon & Keryn

My favourite costume.

MG 7136Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The lads and a friend.

MG 7166Photo by Brendon & Keryn

A costumed relay race that was hilarious.

MG 7240Photo by Brendon & Keryn

I think she had lost her casino friends.

MG 7337-2Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Bevan, Lydia and Marty.

MG 7448Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The England team head in to get their runners up medals.

MG 7465Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Celebrating victory.

MG 7550-2Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Seven hakas were performed to thank the crowd.

There are plenty of photos on Flickr, you can check out our here: 2011 Wellington Sevens photos on Flickr, or click through the gallery below:

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.

MG 8029Photo by Brendon & Keryn

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.

MG 8075Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Lake Kaniere shoreline.

MG 8083Photo by Brendon & Keryn

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.

MG 7104Photo by Brendon & Keryn

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.

MG 7122Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Checking out a tree growing between all the Nikau.

MG 7138Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The fast flowing Kohaihai River.

MG 7147Photo by Brendon & Keryn

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.

MG 7236Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The small beach.

MG 7245Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tiny berries in the track side vegetation.

MG 7247Photo by Brendon & Keryn

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.

MG 7270Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The car park weka.

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Keryn on the beach.

MG 7325Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Tea coloured waves.

MG 7328Photo by Brendon & Keryn

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.

MG 7362Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Flowering orchid.

MG 7392Photo by Brendon & Keryn

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.