Summer days part 1: Otari-Wilton and Titahi bay

The last few days have blessed us with lovely weather so we’ve been out and about. On friday afternoon we took a walk at Otari-Wilton Bush. There was abundant birdlife with dozens of tuis and kakariki flying overhead, plenty of kereru around and also a pair of k?rearea circling around a tree on the other side of a valley. We encouraged Alayna to walk as much as possible partially by having her count the steps we ascended, she did really well and also enjoyed crossing bridges, throwing leaves into streams for races and walking over rocks whenever possible. We ended up at the flax clearing which would have been better described as the daisy clearing for our visit, a carpet of flowers punctuating the dry grass.

Crossing the stream

Crossing the stream

Family in the daisies

Family in the daisies

Daisy Alayna

Daisy Alayna

Keryn made Alayna a daisy head dress and Alayna chased me around the clearing while I snapped away. We took a few family photos after clearing some (but not enough apparently) of the more intrusive grass stalks. We had some of the gingerbread that was left over from Christmas and watched a procession of birds fly overhead. There was a large pohutukawa covered in fading but still resplendent red blooms and the tree positively humbed with its audience of bees. There was time for some silliness and then we were off back towards the parked car.

Fading summer red

Fading summer red

The happy frog

The happy frog

It being such a nice evening we took the opportunity to purchase fish and chips in Porirua and then head over to Titahi Bay beach for a picnic dinner. We sat on some steps near the middle of the beach and watched the people wandering along the beach, the paddleboarders crossing the bay and the brave few playing in the water while the southerly breeze keep the temperature a little cool. We attracted a growing flock of seagulls and Alayna took great delight in chasing them away, at least until the numbers got so great that they just circled around behind her. It was a very pleasant evening.

Titahi Bay

Titahi Bay

The seagulls were persistent

The seagulls were persistent

Alayna chasing seagulls

Alayna chasing seagulls

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

A Summer Holiday – Whangarei

Our most northward destination was the Bainbridge home near Whangarei and we had a relaxing week with family around Christmas. From watching the daily antics of the numerous quail families, checking out the other wildlife such as the kereru after seen visiting the big puriri tree at the bottom of the front yard or the swallow nest in the shed converted from an old water tank, following Alayna around as she played in the little hut made from a laundry tub box or distributed sand from her sandpit boat on the back deck, walking the tracks in the bush next to the house, relaxing, opening presents on Christmas day, preparing food for Christmas day, eating all that food on Christmas day and the following days, visiting friends and family in and around Whangarei, and going for walks we kept ourselves busy.

There were three or four families of quail seen every day wandering through the gardens. The male in each family could often be found at a high point like the dead tree in the front garden keeping an eye out for dangers such as the harrier hawk that would often swoop by. The chicks ranged in size from tiny bumblebees of fluff to near full grown birds ranging with more independence from their parents.

Dad quail keeping a lookout

Dad quail keeping a lookout

There was plenty of other wildlife to find from the native copper butterflies found flitting between the various garden flowers to the tui regularly visiting the flowering flax.

A copper butterfly

A copper butterfly

Tui visiting the garden flax

Tui visiting the garden flax

The puriri tree was full of berries and this brought kereru to the tree in ones and twos to clumsily bundle from branch to branch seeking ripe fruit. At night there would be plenty of huhu beetles flying around seeking the lights of the house. In the mornign there would always be a few tired beetles crawling around.

Kereru in the puriri tree

Kereru in the puriri tree

Huhu bettle

Huhu bettle

Tracks have been created in the bush on the property and we took a few walks with Alayna to show her the sights of the forest. Alayna likes touching leaves and branches, feeling the textures and looking at the shapes. We also show her the different views, looking up at the canopy and down to the undergrowth.

Walking in the bush

Walking in the bush

Looking up at the pine canopy

Looking up at the pine canopy

An old plastic water tank that sprung a leak has been converted into a garden shed and we found a swallows nest constructed out of mud and situated at the top of a umbrella leaning against the wall. A short stepladder allowed a good view of the three or four chicks bunched together and keeping very still. The mum and dad zoomed around outside in some distress at the human intrusion so I didn’t spend long taking photos.

Swallow chicks near bursting from their nest

Swallow chicks near bursting from their nest

The next day I noticed something odd in the entrance to the shed and closer inspection found the umbrella on the ground and the nest in pieces on the floor. We suspect a cat found the nest and knocked the umbrella down in an attempt to get to the chicks. The chicks must have been about to fledge as I found one chick on the roof of the garage across from the shed. Later in the day I was looking in the shed and found another chick perched near the entrance inside. After a few photos the second chick unsteadily flew outside and into a tree. I think the other chicks ended up as cat victims.

The first escaped swallow chick

The first escaped swallow chick

The second survivor

The second survivor

Travis was also staying for Christmas and I joined him one evening for a walk he was doing with some tramping friends from Auckland. The plan was to see some glow worms on the Ross Track that led up one side of Mount Parihaka in Whangarei. Everyone else ended up walking to the summit while I stayed back to try photograph the glow worms and the waterfall that fell through the valley. I think I’ll now be seeking out good glow worm spots for more photos as the end result was quite cool (if I do say so myself).

A wall of glow worms

A wall of glow worms

A waterfall at night

A waterfall at night

Back at the car we were leaving when Travis spotted something in the headlights. It turned out to be a large kauri snail glistening brown and black on the bank next to the road. It was a pity we didn’t think to put something next to it to show the scale, the shell would have been about 10 centimetres across.

A kauri snail

A kauri snail

Christmas day was a relaxed day at home. Most of the presents were for Alayna and she had a great time ripping paper and inspecting all her gifts. There were books and clothing and duplo and a soft toy cat, a bucket and spade for sand play, toys for the bath, a buzzy bee and plenty of other things which will be keeping Alayna amused for months to come.

Alayna happy on the deck

Alayna happy on the deck

Christmas day presents

Christmas day presents

More presents!

More presents!

Alayna really enjoyed playing in the sandpit/boat on the back deck. The most fun thing ever was picking up sand with her hands or using her new shovel and throwing it everywhere but into the boat. I’m pretty sure she could have spent all day happily redistributing sand.

Sand play

Sand play

On Boxing Day we took Alayna to the beach at Wellingtons Bay just south of Tutukaka. Alayna had been to the beach before but this was the first time visiting during a warm summers day. The beach was busy with people enjoying the weather and we got Alayna into her swimsuit and took her to the water. Once we put her down at the waters edge she tentatively put a hand to the water and watched as small waves came up beach. She was soon smiling and slapping the water, giggling as waves came up over the feet.

Alayna gets acquainted with the beach

Alayna gets acquainted with the beach

Settling in on the sand

Settling in on the sand

A few days later we visited Karyn at Taurikura Bay on Whangarei Heads. It was good to catch up and see how Lexi is growing up, Lexi started walking on Christmas Day and we think Alayna has got much more interested in walking seeing Lexi still learning how to walk around with confidence. We went for a walk along the coastline and after lunch we all went down to the beach where Alayna loved being floated in the water and then playing in the sand.

More beach fun

More beach fun

On one of the final days we went for a walk on the recently opened Hatea loop which heads from the Whangarei marina to the fancy Te Matau a Pohe road bridge over the Hatea River. There were sculptures dotted along the walk including a large concrete Waka and Wave and stone gull seats.

Walking the Hatea Loop

Walking the Hatea Loop

Mangroves and boatsheds

Mangroves and boatsheds

The waka and the waves sculpture

The waka and the waves sculpture

Te Matau a Pohe is an impressive structure, dynamic and striking with its bold design being both sculptural and practical, the bridge hinging on the sculptural arms to open up and allow boats through to the Marina.

Looking across to Te Matau a Pohe

Looking across to Te Matau a Pohe

Up close with Te Matau a Pohe

Up close with Te Matau a Pohe

It was great to be up north and have a peaceful week away from the concerns of work and the normal routine. It had to come to an end and after a final brunch at the town basin we headed south once more for another night in Hamilton with the Burdetts (including a wonderful nachos dinner followed by black forest gateau desert and the a very good walk around Hamilton lake in the morning before we left) and from there over to Napier for the final part of our trip.

Red Rocks

Saturday was a stay inside away from the howling wind and constant damp kind of day. We got some baking done and a few other things around the house but didn’t really get any fresh air. Thankfully Sunday was calm and dry so we headed out mid-morning to the Wellington South Coast for a walk to Red Rocks.

There were lots of people out along the coast walking or cycling and with a slight breeze and high cloud it was perfect walking conditions. Alayna loved her first view of the rugged coastline and spent a lot of time checking out the tall cliffs and crashing surf. The sun burnt through the cloud as we wandered the coastline leaving us warm but not too warm.

Pied Shags

Pied Shags

Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher

We found some birdlife to check out; three pied shags resting on a rocky outcrop, oystercatchers flying and walking along the shoreline and constant seagulls passing back and forth in search of food. We also heard our first cicadas since last summer, a sure sign of a beautiful and sunny day.

Red rock

Red rock

Alayna was getting tired by the time we got to the volcanic russet stone of Red Rocks so we turned around rather than see if there were any seals further up the coast (there wouldn’t be many as the season had finished).

At Red Rocks

At Red Rocks

The trip back was good with many more people seen, kids climbing up talk rock stacks and lots more mountain bikers passing in both directions. There was also the regular buzz of a helicopter flying past taking punters on short flights from the nearby Owhero Bay School Fair. I stopped a few times to get some shots of the textures and colour found around the path. This wild coastline may have been timid on this mild day but it was still spectacular in scale, all we were missing was dolphins or even a whale or two to make it a perfect little walk.

Waves over the rock

Waves over the rock

Hardy greenery

Hardy greenery

Dusty flax

Dusty flax

Coastal colour

Coastal colour

Sun-bleached wood

Sun-bleached wood

The stars from Makara

We had a weekend of wonderful weather with clear skies and little wind. The moon was rising late on Sunday night so I headed out to Makara to shoot the stars. It was a glorious, a little cool but calm and only a few people about the beach. Heading along the coastal path I could see a torch swinging in the distance but otherwise I was alone. With no moon it was very dark and the myriad stars were clearly spread across the sky.

The milky way over the Makara hills

The milky way over the Makara hills

Walking partway up the hill I stopped at the point where the path met the cliff. In the darkness I could just make out two guys in sleeping bags and another standing with a guitar in hand. They were simply taking in the view and chatting so after a short conversation I left them to their stargazing and I took the path north to overlook Makara beach.

Driftwood, lights and the stars

Driftwood, lights and the stars

From there it was back down to the beach and time for some experimentation with a flash and the torch function on my phone. There were a few driftwood constructs along the shoreline so I used one as a focus point, placing a flash inside and lighting the outside with a short burst of torchlight. It look a while to figure out exposures that worked but I got some acceptable photos. Next time I’ll need some gels (or something simple like cellophane) to add some colour.

Shining a light

Shining a light

Walking back to the car I took a few more photos using my actual torch to add some interest to some portrait shots. With the camera on my tripod and the timer set I’d hit the shutter button, run down the beach (trying not to lose anything from my pockets) and then stand looking skyward and pointing the torch upwards. How else was I meant to spend a Sunday night?

The kiwi jumped over the moon

On a clear and still night last week I headed out for some astrophotography. Driving north I ended up at Paekakariki and parked near the surf club before walking north up the beach. There was a minor issue in that moon was bright in the sky and the light was not helpful when photographing stars but I figured I’d give it a go anyway.

The moon and the milky way

The moon and the milky way

See if you can spot the galactic kiwi in the above photo. For an hour or so I was wandering around the beach taking photos. The moonlight lit up the landscape leading to some interesting foreground illumination. A nearby stream provided some good subject matter with piled up driftwood and logs though the occasional slap of sand collapsing into the water left me a little jumpy.

The stream leading to Kapiti Island

The stream leading to Kapiti Island

At times the long exposures rendered the night time landscape looking more like day time with a starry sky. I’ll have to head out again and experiment some more. It will also be good to return with a new moon to see what its like without the brightness of the moon.

The bridge

The bridge

Mothers Day

This mothers day Keryn had a good sleep-in, a bubble bath and breakfast made for her. Unfortunately she also had quite the cold with a scratchy and sore throat so the sleep in was needed and couldn’t be enjoyed. Alayna and I kept each other entertained to allow Keryn some peace and rest.

Outside it was a beautiful day so once Keryn was feeling a bit more human we headed out in the afternoon for a late lunch in Petone. Caffiend in Petone was busy but had a few tables free so we were able to squeeze in and order good food. Alayna sat on my lap and was happy and playful for our time at the cafe and she surprised us with her skillful mastery of straw usage on the first attempt, her reward a good taste of a nice berry smoothie.

There was a blue sky and little wind so we made our way to the foreshore for a walk along the beach.

Petone foreshore

Petone foreshore

Alayna was having a good look around and was especially interested in the birdlife, craning her head to see the seagulls and oystercatchers standing at the waters edge. We walked to the wharf where Alayna was happy for some time out of the backpack carrier to check out the stones of the wharfs surface.

On the wharf

On the wharf

Mother and daughter

Mother and daughter

Happy wee girl

Happy wee girl

Keryn was a little puffed from the walk so she and Alayna sat on a sun-lit seat watching the harbour and the people walking by while I headed back to get the car. It was nearing sunset and the golden light was lovely across the calm water across to Matiu-Somes Island. Wellington on a good day is, as they say, hard to beat.

Oncoming evening

Oncoming evening

ASB Gardens Magic: Jess Chambers

Monday was a holiday here in Wellington and it was nice to spend the day together, especially as I had been working on the weekend. We spent the morning with Sam and Jules checking out some wedding venues in the Wairarapa. It looks like a decision has been made on where they’ll be getting married, they’ve just to to finalise all the important details like a confirmed date with the venue. Exciting stuff as I’ll be taking the photos on the day. An extra bonus was the owner at one site (Tarureka Estate) taking my card and I’m now listed as a photographer on their website, which is nice. We also had good coffee/tea/hot chocolate/milkshake at the Cuckoo Cafe in Greytown, lunch at the Royal Hotel in Featherston (my beef curry was very good) and walked along a south coast beach near Lake Onoke.

2011-01-24 13.42.15.jpgPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Taking Tolix for a run on the beach.

In the evening we were back in Wellington for another ASB Gardens Magic concert. Jess Chambers was the performer this time and we enjoyed an hour of good music while sitting in the sun. We last saw Jess perform at St Peters Hall in Paekakariki in May last year and this time things were very similar with Jess on stage accompanied by Peter Hall. There were a few covers thrown in to vary the set and a few new numbers as well. After a half hour or so Jess and Peter were joined by Billy Earl (one half of the following act Rosy Tin Teacaddy) and Al Fraser. The backing vocals from Billy and Al and Al’s whistle playing on songs such as Island added another dimension to the music and I very much enjoyed the set.

MG 5767Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Jess in the sun.

MG 5796Photo by Brendon & Keryn

From the left: Al Fraser, Billy Earl, Peter Hill & Jess Chambers.

MG 5841Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Al plays the tiny whistle.

MG 5850-2Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Peter Hill.

MG 5854Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Billy Earl.

MG 5844Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Jess Chambers.

We didn’t stick around for Rosy Tin Teacaddy largely because Keryn wasn’t felling the best and we also needed to go have dinner. I did stop us at Plimmerton so I could take a few photos of the sunset.

MG 5891-2Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sunset through the grass.

MG 5900Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The sun heading down behind the clouds.

Sunset & St Peters Hall

Saturday just gone we took a break from packing and headed to the Kapiti Coast. Local songstress Jess Chambers was performing at St Peters Hall in Paekakariki and I decided we should attend, I’ve been meaning to catch Jess play for a long time but the dates just haven’t worked out to date.

We drove over the Haywards and took a short diversion past our soon to be home (rental, we move in later this week) in Camborne. Then it was up state highway one before turning off and arriving at Paekakariki. My plan was to catch the sunset and then find something to eat and the first part came together nicely, the sun setting over the ocean with some nice colour and some interesting clouds in the sky.

IMG 8416Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Sunset from Paekakariki Beach

Sunset lights the clouds over Kapiti IslandPhoto by Brendon & Keryn

Colour in the clouds over Kapiti island

Once done on the beach it was back into the township to find something to eat. We had planned to use a voucher from our Entertainment Book at the Paekakariki Cafe but discovered the opening hours on the voucher disagreed with the actual opening hours, the place was shut for the day. We had a look at the pub across the road but this didn’t suit (I was grumpy, Keryn was non-committal, it didn’t work out). After deliberation (i.e. random driving) we eventually headed up the coast to Paraparaumu and had pleasant pizza at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse.

Back to Paekak and we parked up near the Hall and waited in the warmth of the car. We saw other people entering the Hall so went in ourselves. St Peters Hall is next to the Church from where it gets its name and is a fairly traditional small town hall in that its of wooden construction, has a large open space inside and a stage at one end. The Hall also contains the local library in a partitioned section at the front, making good use of the space available. We paid for our tickets with a comment on the distance we had travelled “All the way from the Hutt, wow!” and then found a seat. There were short trellis tables set up with a mixture of chairs arranged around them. We sat near the back right and watched as the crowd grew to obviously larger than expected size. More chairs were squeezed in and when there was no more room a rolled up carpet was taken to the front and laid out so people didn’t have to sit on the bare wood of the floor. There were tea lights on the table and it was BYO, all very cosy and comfortable.

The opening act was a guy named Fraser Ross and he played inoffensive songs with weird little twists, the humour of his on-stage antics getting more attention than the music. He was entertaining, but I can’t remember much of the songs.

IMG 8446Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Fraser Ross

After Fraser was done Jess Chambers and Peter Hill were straight on to the stage. We were told that the PA system was borrowed from the Wellington Ukulele Orchestra and had been set up by Jess and Peter themselves. There was an awkward moment when they found out the left hand speaker wasn’t working but no one seemed to mind that much, the hall intimate enough that one speaker did the trick.

IMG 8455Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Jess Chambers & Peter Hill

Jess sang well, playing acoustic guitar while Peter filled out the sound with his electric guitar on some songs, mandolin on others. The country-folk vibe was perfect for a Saturday evening and the effect was only mildly spoilt by one lady who insisted on talking throughout the night. Not owning any Jess Chambers songs (other than some Fly My Pretties stuff) I was surprised at how many of the tracks I did recognise. The set was closed with the ARPA Silver Scroll nominated track Island which is a favourite of mine (which I do now own thanks to a quick itunes download). We had a good time and it was nice to feel like a local, if only for one evening.

IMG 8460Photo by Brendon & Keryn

And that’s a wrap

A month around Wellington

So, we’ve been in Wellington a while now and we’ve been checking out our new home region. We’ve been up to Otaki for some Icebreaker factory shop loving and along the way took a few back roads. We found a view along the Kapiti coast so took a few photos:

IMG 0722Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking towards Kapiti Island

Keryn’s parents flew down from Whangarei and bought two of our cats down with them. Cadbury, Earl and Penny have been up near Whangarei for 8 years and we’ve pinched back Cadbury and Earl to come live with us in Epuni. They’re taking the relocation cautiously so far, Earl having what seemed to be a few panic attacks yesterday but they’re acting better today.

IMG 0807Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Cadbury

IMG 0815Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Earl

My parents were also here for the weekend and on Saturday we went to Catherine’s place for a pancake lunch. Afterwards we went for a drive down past Seatoun (well not really, actually it was more like Lyall Bay, at least I didn’t call Petone Porirua this time) and I got to take some photos. On Sunday I went with Keryn and her parents for a walk and we ended up driving up the hill that leads to Wainuiomata. At the lookout we could see mountains of the South island so I convinced everyone that we needed to get a closer look and we drove again to the south coast of Wellington and I took more photos. The sea was very calm and the sunset muted but still pretty.

IMG 0844Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Pink light on distant peaks

IMG 0849Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Interesting underwater landscape

Today I suggested another late afternoon drive and this saw Keryn and I drive past Wainuiomata along the Coast Road to the beach where the Wainuiomata River meets the sea. It was windier today but the sky was almost perfectly clear and the view to the South island was unimpeded. We had a good walk along the beach, giving the leg muscles a good work out traipsing over the stones and sand.

IMG 0865Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Movement in the sea

IMG 0873Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The sun sets over the hill

IMG 0880Photo by Brendon & Keryn

The water rushes back to the sea

IMG 0884Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Looking towards the mountains near Kaikoura

On the return I also took some photos of the lights of Wellington and Petone.

IMG 0895Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Wellington and Matiu (Somes) Island

IMG 0896Photo by Brendon & Keryn

Seaview and Petone

Day 128 : Pucon

We spent the day doing a bit of shopping, eating ice-cream and wandering around Pucon. It was a stunning blue sky summers day and the only problem we had was most of the shops were closed, it being a Sunday. In the afternoon we found a stony beach that was packed with thousands of people. This probably explained why there weren’t many people in the town. The water was cold but this didn’t seem to deter the masses who were either lying in the sun or playing in the water.

Looking to Volcan Villarreca in the morning
Looking to Volcan Villarreca in the morning

Arriving at the beach
Arriving at the beach

The Pucon hoards
The Pucon hoards

We stayed out of the water; to be honest we hadn’t even considered swimming was a possibility having discounted it due to the water temperature. Walking back to the campsite we passed a little market and there were some enterprising teenagers selling gerbils from a large cardboard box which was a little odd. When we left camp in the morning we were followed out by a cute little black Labrador puppy that had spent the night sleeping under the fly of Antonio’s tent, having followed him home from a night out in town. We didn’t see it again, plenty of other stray dogs (as everywhere in South America) but hopefully the little guy had found his proper home. No dogs followed anyone home today.

Day 75 : Huanchaco

For once I managed to actually get up for a sunrise. Unfortunately due to the location there wasn’t actually a sunrise to see. Huanchaco sits very near the point where the Humboldt Current rises from the Antarctic and the California current coming from the north meet. The confluence of currents causes an almost every day fog throughout the majority of the year and this is what greeted me this morning.

I walked in the white and grey conditions along the coastline heading towards the main beach. I hoped to see the local fisherman heading out to sea for the morning catch. Huanchaco fisherman are known for their fishing craft, a canoe made out of reeds much the same as they have been for hundreds of years. These reed boats are called Caballitos de Totora after the Totora reeds used in their construction.

Caballitos de Totora lined up on the beach
Caballitos de Totora lined up on the beach

I reached to beach, just past the towns pier, to find all the boats lined up along the shoreline above the high tide mark. Each vessel was leaning against a sea wall, point to the sky. There were a few men around undertaking maintenance such as cleaning the reeds or untangling nets but there was no sign of any movement towards the sea. I sat on some steps leading down to the beach and waited to see if anyone would go out.

One man saw me and came over to have a talk. As I knew little Spanish (you’d think I’d have picked up more by now) and he knew no English we struggled to have a meaningful conversation but we persisted and I learnt (I think) that the fisherman were waiting for the right weather conditions before heading out. David showed me his three boats and also the nets used to catch and hold crabs. I took some photos of the boats and David and he also took a shot of me standing amongst the standing vessels. We chatted for half an hour or so before I decided to head back to the Hotel. David was very friendly and more than happy to struggle along communicating to me about his work, it was the nicest conversation I’ve had in a long time and I wish I knew more Spanish so I could let him know how grateful I was for his spending time with me.

David demonstrates the use of the crab net
David demonstrates the use of the crab net

David's photo of Brendon with the Caballitos de Totora
David’s photo of Brendon with the Caballitos de Totora

Walking back along the beach I did get to see a couple of fisherman out fishing off the shore near the hotel. The two men were in their boats casting out nets in the calm spot between where the waves were crashing down and the shore. It was still quite misty and the light was flat and grey meaning there wasn’t much variety in the photos being taken so I left and walked back to the hotel.

Morning fishing
Morning fishing

A football pitch on the beach
A football pitch on the beach

Tranquilo was parked outside the hotel and I came back to find a hive of activity. It had been such a long driving day the previous day that Melissa and Shaun had decided that a reward was due to Rhys. As such they had thought that cleaning the truck would be a nice surprise and there were half a dozen people crawling over Tranquilo scrubbing, washing and rinsing off the dirt and grime. I helped out for a while and then headed back to the room to see if Keryn was up yet.

Rhys saw the newly cleaned Tranquilo at breakfast and apparently was suitably impressed. The good work was undone as we drove out for the days activity, first visiting the ancient mud construction that is the city of Chan Chan. It was only a short drive and we were soon disembarking near a tall wall of dried red mud. The city of Chan Chan was constructed 1200 odd years ago and work is underway restoring many of the walls ravaged by the elements over the many years. With our guide leading us we wandered the one walled area currently open to the public, the Tschudi Complex. There are eleven separate walled areas, most of which are still being excavated. A second area will open to the public in 2009.

One of the local, mostly hairless dogs at Chan Chan
One of the local, mostly hairless dogs at Chan Chan

Construction at Chan Chan
Construction at Chan Chan

Looking after the restored city walls
Looking after the restored city walls

We saw lots of restored walls and details. The people who built the city were very good at carving and the walls were covered in geometric designs and carved with symbols representing many different aspects of life and beliefs at the time. For a city of mud it was strange to come to an area containing a large lagoon full of water, reeds and birdlife. Animal representations were some of the more interesting carved reliefs including such creatures as fish, pelicans and foxes. It was a pity there wasn’t a raised platform giving a view over the site as we couldn’t get a decent sense of the scale of the place.

Wall detail at Chan Chan
Wall detail at Chan Chan

More Chan Chan carvings
More Chan Chan carvings

An egret in the Chan Chan lagoon
An egret in the Chan Chan lagoon

Posing in one of the city squares
Posing in one of the city squares

Moving on we drove for a half hour or so to reach the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) and the Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun). The Sun temple is a badly eroded hill which we were not able to visit. We did enter the excavations of the Moon Temple and very impressive they were too. The Moon Temple is actually at least six temples, each built one on top of the other and in doing so expanding the size of the structure. Each temple was carved with extensive and detailed carvings and because of the location and burial of subsequent temples much of the original colour is preserved. Extensive work is underway to excavate and restore the site, you can read more about that work on the site website http://www.huacadelaluna.org.pe/en/huacadelaluna.asp.

A section of carved wall in the Huaca de la Luna
A section of carved wall in the Huaca de la Luna

Working at restoration
Working at restoration

A lads photo: Sean, Brendon and Daniel
A lad’s photo: Sean, Brendon and Daniel

We were guided for an hour or so and shown different carvings and other excavations. The pieces we saw tended to be large, six feet high or more, and highly detailed. It would be wonderful to come back in twenty years when more of the structures are restored to get a real glimpse into a past culture. The temples were constructed in the time of the Mochica in the period 100 to 900 AD. After the tour we did a little shopping and then were all transported back to the hotel in Tranquilo.

The afternoon was free time. Keryn and I volunteered with Michelle and Albert to do some food shopping for the next days lunch. We walked through the town and saw a few sites before finding a local market to buy some vegetables. We sat for a while on the beach front and watched the busy shore front. There were lots of people out surfing, most having lessons. On the beach various people both local and tourist were relaxing and in amongst all this some of the fisherman were preparing their Caballitos de Totora and nets before heading out to sea. I took photos of all of this while the girls chatted, sitting on the wall overlooking the shore.

Heading out for a spot of fishing
Heading out for a spot of fishing

Keryn and Michelle chatting in the sun
Keryn and Michelle chatting in the sun

Surfing at Huanchaco
Surfing at Huanchaco

Late evening on the Huanchaco beach
Late evening on the Huanchaco beach

The walk back to the hotel was interrupted with the search for bread rolls. Finding these we took some time to relax before heading out in the late afternoon to catch the sunset and hopefully the fisherman coming back to shore. We didn’t see any fisherman but did see a nice sunset, surfers in silhouette on a burnt orange ocean. We visited the pier, paying our fifty cent entry and wandering along to see people fishing and watching people swimming and surfing back towards shore.

Sunset and surfing
Sunset and surfing

Evening on the pier
Evening on the pier

Night begins to fall
Night begins to fall

It was full moon and we briefly entertained the idea of eating in town, some of the restaurants were just starting up BBQ grills and it promised to be a tasty meal. We instead decided to make do with the tried and trusted food at the hotel and left as the full moon was rising in the sky. A busy day in the sun had taken its toll and most people were off to bed early.