There’s something about letter boxes on a gravel road that create an intriguing scene, particularly when there’s an intersection. Having left my car some way back, I’d been walking along the road for some time through a valley surrounded by hills and bush. Apart from the company of a few birds and a stream that occasionally followed me, I had the place to myself.
How I like the world in the early hours before sunrise. The only problem is that I like sleeping in so therein lines the problem. Every so often I tell myself I’m going to get up early and shoot in the morning. That lasts for about three days before I find an excuse to give it a miss. Maybe I need to change my routine slightly.
According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite is said to have created the rose when her tears mixed with the blood of her dying lover Adonis. The mixture of tears and blood created a stunning red rose bush when they hit the ground. When the Romans identified Aphrodite as the Goddess of Love, they also adopted the rose as a symbol of love and beauty. However, Shakespeare once wrote, “Of all flowers, methinks rose is best” and that sounds good too.
I found myself walking around the Otago Motors Exhibition at Toitu Museum on a Wednesday morning in December near Christmas. Since I was shooting inside at a museum on a summer’s day, it tells you all you need to know about the weather that day. It must have been raining because if it was any decent type of day I would have been outside somewhere. That, or I had an idea in my head I really needed to explore.
The thing about exploring abandoned buildings is that you never know when you might bump into the owners and they generally want to know what you’re doing and why you’re there. This usually starts an awkward conversation with me having to give a reasonable explanation as to why for all intents and purposes I’m trespassing. Fortunately on this occasion the owner was pleased I wasn’t stealing firewood and ended up wanting some photography tips which I was more than happy to answer.
I can’t say I found this by accident because it simply isn’t true. I did however quite deliberately choose the day I went exploring around it. Old buildings like this are always fascinating and this one I looked at for some time before I found what it was that I wanted to capture, in essence I was looking for the passing of time.
It’s amazing how the weather can change over the period of a day. Take this photo I took this morning at about 8am at St Clair with the sky full of colour. A few hours later the day was grey, overcast and rain was falling. Unless you saw it, you’d never guess there was such a nice sunrise.
Since it was such a still and warm winter’s day here in Dunedin I went for a stroll. This is one of the images I took looking across the harbour to Portobello Road, Waverley and Otago Peninsula. How can you not love Dunedin in conditions like this!
Having spent a decent period of time taking in the light show called Mana Moana: Otepoti on Otago Harbour at the Steamer Basin, I headed for South Dunedin. King Edward Street to be more precise. For some unknown reason I felt the desire to wander along familiar streets that I hadn’t spent any recent time on. I started on the corner of Sullivan Avenue and King Edward Street and headed east in the direction of the beach. My intention wasn’t to get to the beach yet I wasn’t completely sure what my intention was at all. All I knew is that at some point I would find what I was looking for. I strolled for some time passing windows of pubs and restaurants that were filled with patrons who watched and followed my movements with suspicious eyes. I passed teenagers that were huddled in small groups in the light of an alleyway, busily vaping and taking long swigs out of soft drinking bottles that I suspected was some alcoholic concoction of rocket fuel.
After an unknown period of time I stopped on the corner of Macandrew Road and King Edward Street. In one direction a police car raced, flashing its red and blue lights while in the other an ambulance weaved its way through the intersection in front of me which had come to a halt for a few seconds. Watching a bus disappear into the distance, a lady drew up beside me, she caught my eye before remarking ‘oh well, nice night for a walk.’ As she headed off in the direction of the bus that had long since vanished, a man from across the street had come a little closer and remarked ‘I dropped my chip money, lucky I found it aye.’ He smiled a joyful grin and ambled down the street in the direction of the chippy.
Since today is all about stars and gazing to the sky I thought this Aurora Australis image might be somewhat appropriate.
Mānawatia a Matariki
Mānawa maiea te putanga o Matariki.
Mānawa maiea te ariki o te rangi.
Mānawa maiea te Mātahi o te tau.
Celebrate the rising of Matariki.
Celebrate the rising of the lord of the sky.
Celebrate the rising of the New Year.
Streets take on a completely different complexion at night when there’s limited light. I took this photo while out exploring some of Dunedin’s streets taking in the night vibes. In the town belt I found this bend in the road lit up by a single street light which I thought looked rather interesting.
It’s not hard to imagine that in the last moments of William Larnach’s life, he took a moment to say a prayer in the dark as he sat in Committee Room J of the Parliament Buildings in Wellington. The mail had come from the South just before 3:00pm and it was evident to all that he had expected important news. Now, with the letters in his hands, it was even more evident to those around him that the contents of the letters were of an unsatisfactory nature. He knew the outgoing mail would be leaving soon and with a look of extreme agitation, he quickly wrote responses to all three letters, put them in the out going mail and then retired to Committee Room J, locking the door behind him armed with a revolver.
If I’m being completely honest, I can’t tell you anything about these bands. I have no idea who the ‘Age Of Dog’ are or ‘The Clean’ or ‘The 3 D’s’ or any other of the groups that appear on this poster. I have no idea if people really did have fun on Zippy’s Last Tour, if ‘Go Purple’ were any good or if ‘The Bats’ performed before ‘The Verlaines’ or even if those are the correct names of the bands. I have however heard of ‘The Chills’ and I do know where The Crown Hotel is, so that’s a start. This only confirms my deduction that I should really know more about the Dunedin Sound than I really do.
I ended up exploring on the incoming tide and during mid afternoon below the Harrington Point Gun emplacements. It’s an amazingly fun and interesting coastline. It has all sorts of fascinating points to discover including the local wildlife which are forever close to hand.
Am I alone in thinking that I should really know more about Flying Nun Records and the Dunedin Sound than I really do? I came to this deduction after having to find out who ‘Snapper’ was. For the record, Snapper were a Dunedin band made up of Alan Haig, Peter Gutteridge, Christine Voice and Dominic Stones. I feel it’s rather sad that I had to look that up! This is part of the Dunedin Street Art Trail by Bruce Mahalski and can be found at the Crown Hotel.
How I like wandering looking at the space and shape between objects, it makes me think about the experience of seeing. Take buildings for example, buildings are great to photograph because you can do all sorts of things with them. They’re fascinating to explore at all sorts of angles from all sorts of positions and points of view. New buildings have different characteristics than old buildings which means that they interact with light differently and they are loads of fun to process in whatever programme you use. Personally, I think I like old doorways the most, however I thought this building corner in Dunedin was kinda funky with its dark windows.
This is a large-scale artwork done in charcoal and acrylic paint by artist Jon Thom which is on display at Toitu Museum which is called ‘Company Of Strangers.’ If you want to see more of his work checkout his instagram feed: https://www.instagram.com/jonthom_art/
These steps are one half of all the remains of the old vehicle bridge that once spanned the gap from the warehouse precinct to the harbourside. Originally made of Port Chalmers bluestone, the vehicle bridge was built between 1883 and 1886 and demolished in 1977 when it was replaced by the Jetty St overbridge.
I called in to the Dunedin Railway Station to have a look around while the rain passed overhead. Inside, one of my favourite things to look at is the wonderful stained glass window that sits above the entrance foyer on the second floor. Dating back to 1906, it was lovingly restored in 2013 at the cost of $24,000 and took over 200 hours to bring back to its former glory.
Englishman Sir John Coode had a plan. To protect Otago Harbour’s entrance from silting by directing the tidal flow, in 1880 Sir John cleverly designed two moles at the head of the harbour; one jutting out from Taiaroa Head and the other at Aramoana. Unfortunately the Harbour Board had over extended their budget at the time and consequently only the mole at Aramoana was built. Even then it was built to only half the height of Sir John’s specifications and by the 1920’s storm damage had destroyed a large portion of it.
It’s 2:35pm on a Saturday afternoon. I’ve been standing in the rain in town since 1pm and now I’ve relocated to a rugby ground in the Dunedin hill suburbs. The temperature is sitting around 0, the rain has turned to snow as flurries drift across in the wind which only drops the temperature further. Kick off is only a few minutes away. At the top of the bank, which is usually full of spectators, there are only a handful of people. As the snow sweeps across the ground, match referee Logan Whitty cuts a lonely figure completing his warm-ups in solitude, battling the wind, rain and snow. Already my fingers are going numb and for reasons that even I question at times, I’ll be choosing to stand in these conditions for the next 100 minutes.
Later, as I watched the time pass, the clouds began to break and sunshine slowly started to appear through the bleak clouds until the ground was bathed in sunlight. The sunshine hung around before dropping behind the hills that surround Dunedin until eventually the ground was left in the shadows. The forecast was for rain and strong gales in expsoed places. It must be winter!SEE FULL POST & MORE PHOTOGRAPHS
The story goes that once a fellow called Mr Green had built two small boats at the homestead of local William Rees, he then decided to try and get by horse down the lake to Kingston (something that had never been done). The task proved extremely difficult and after successfully navigating the rocky bluffs to the south of the lake, and upon arrival at his destination he told people of the dangerous journey. In his retelling he remarked that “It came on as dark as blazes, and I tried my best to get down the hill, but it seemed to me I was stepping down to hell by the devil’s staircase; so I held on to the rock by the skin of my teeth till day-dawn.”
So it was that I ended the day on the Esplanade at St Clair in Dunedin. It seemed a long way from the imposing mountain range of ‘The Remarkables’ where I had started the day and the surroundings couldn’t be more contrasting. The familiar smell of salt air coming off the sea spray as the ocean waves hit the Esplanade wall filled the air. It was good to be home.
The morning air was once again cool with a light layer of frost covering the ground, although not as thick as when I had first arrived. After several injections of caffeine, I began the 280km trek back to Dunedin but first I wanted to call in to see St Paul’s Church in Arrowtown. A building dating back to 1871, making it the oldest church of any denomination in the Arrowtown area.
Like most things in Arrowtown, the church sits on a lovely tree lined street, set back into the property to allow a grassy area out front where presumably the congregation would gather both before and after the services. As I looked around the church gardens, which were small yet lovely, I became aware that the morning was already pushing on and the traffic on the road behind me was steadily building. Yet despite the occasional passerby on foot, I seemed to have the place to myself.
Afterwards, fancying a bite to eat, I found a few tasty treats to eat in the car at a nearby shop and followed the Arrow River into the Gibbston Valley, through the Kawarau Gorge and beyond to Cromwell, Clyde and Alexandra. I passed familiar places like Fruitlands, Roxburgh and Millers Flat while pondering that one day I should leave enough time to stop and wander around these towns rather than simply driving through them.
Several hours later I found myself happily in the familiar surrounds of Dunedin as the city came into view from over Lookout Point. The light was beginning to fade and I still had a number of jobs at home that needed attending to before the day was done. At some point while driving along the southern motorway I glanced over towards the coastline that was becoming a sea of lights. For a moment I considered taking a detour out to the beach (not that I would see much), it would only be 10 minutes out of my way I reasoned. I thought about the beach and then the jobs that still required my attention at home, ‘well, why not!’ I thought.
I arrived in Queenstown and immediately began the battle to find a parking space. It wasn’t long before I realised this was a futile exercise I was never going to win. Reluctantly, I opted for a parking building. This in itself was a curious adventure as mathematically it wasn’t possible for the people at Wilsons to fit so many parking spaces into such a small area, but somehow they managed it. To make the problem more complex, all the spaces seemed to be occupied by large 4 wheel drives, making it almost impossible to manoeuvre between them, an achievement I was quietly proud of.
I spent some time wandering the various streets that make up the town’s centre, I walked along the lakefront and took in the splendid scenery that surrounds the town. When I was younger, I remember Queenstown being a place with spectacular scenery, full of wonder and excitement. As you approached there was always an air of eagerness in the backseat of the vehicle my Dad was driving. Firstly you’d drive through Frankton, then the housing developments would become less frequent and almost non-existent until we passed the bottle house which was a marvel in itself. The famed Bottle House was always a clear sign that the magical place of Queenstown wasn’t too far away, until we rounded a bend and caught sight of the gondolas making their way up through the trees to the Skyline Restaurant. This was always the cue to look in amazement out the car window at the most mysterious of towns. Although it always did seem to be packed with people, rather expensive (so my parents told me) and full of construction everywhere we went.
Nowadays, while the scenery remains undoubtedly spectacular and completely breathtaking, the town has long since reached capacity. The Bottle House (which was actually a lodge) was demolished in 2005 and every conceivable space is now filled with shops, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and places to book activities like skydiving and bungy jumping.
So, here’s the thing about Queenstown: it has long been looked at as the goose that laid the golden egg in the tourism industry. However thanks to Covid-19 and the country’s international borders being shut, the goose has stopped laying. It’s a perfect example of what happens to a tourist destination when you take away all the tourists, it just feels a little bit ho hum, like something is missing. The streets felt a wee bit unkempt and a general malaise hung in the air. It’s almost as if without a heaving mass of tourists to keep the party going, everyone suddenly noticed that the balloon had burst, and when that happens the only thing left to say is ‘oh poop!’.
I can’t say I wasn’t pleased to leave Queenstown because I was, but I knew I’d be back. I’m just not sure why.
When The City Bank of Glasgow in the United Kingdom collapsed in 1878 through a combination of fraud and speculative investments in Australian and New Zealand the effects were catastrophic. One of which was a period of depression that lasted from the 1870’s till the early 1890’s which was called the ‘Long Depression’ for obvious reasons. During this time in New Zealand there was widespread hardship as working conditions in factories were exploitative, farmers went bankrupt and there was a severe lack of jobs in the rural sectors. Eventually, as overseas conditions improved and partly due to New Zealand’s move into exporting meat overseas through refrigeration, the country started to move out of the depression. One of the moves out of the depression was to replace the slow mixed trains that carried both passengers and freight on the Kingston Branch and Waimea Plains Railway lines between Kingston, Gore, Dunedin and Invercargill with a faster and more frequent service through to Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu. As the locomotive used was considered the fastest timetable train in New Zealand at the time, the service became known as ‘The Kingston Flyer’ and Kingston was where I was heading today.
Once known as St Johns until the early 1860’s, the town of Kingston lies at the southern most end of Lake Wakatipu, 47 kilometres south of Queenstown and according to the 2018 census, it has a population of 348. I arrived early in the afternoon as the darkening clouds started to spit with rain and a bracing wind rocketed off the lake. Large clouds of steam bellowed from a railway yard close to the train station as workmen were busy polishing every part of the famous train. For a moment I thought I might be in luck to see ‘The Flyer’ in action, however after inquiring a workman informed me that it was;
“simple maintenance checks as she’ll be heading out tomorrow. Just takes a while to build up all the steam needed ya see. We’ll be moving some carriages around later on tho.”
“Oh really. When would that be?”
“Probably in a few hours”
Now Kingston is a nice spot however apart from drinking lots of tea, reading a book or going for a walk, I didn’t know how on earth I’d fill two or three hours in the tiny town! Deciding that I wasn’t that interested in trains, I thanked them and spent some time wandering on the lakefront before returning to my car. On the way, I discovered the second thing Kingston is famous for (the first being the train). It was the launching place for the grand lady of the lake herself, the TSS Earnslaw.
After being built in Dunedin, The Earnslaw was transported in sections to Kingston via train where it was rebuilt before completing her maiden voyage on October 18th 1912 when she sailed from Kingston to Queenstown – still gliding Lake Wakatipu to this day.
Happy that I had seen the famous Kingston Flyer as well as the launching place for the TSS Earnslaw and having spoken to 5 of the town’s 348 residents (that’s 1.5% I’ll have you know), I pointed the car towards the Devil’s Staircase and Queenstown.
I have a history with supermarket’s which means that I am rarely allowed to go in them without supervision. The sum total of my shopping experiences up to this point in my life have led me to form the opinion that life can be tough, being a modern male. It all starts by being expected not to yell at morons who have forgotten how to drive in car parks and insist on holding up traffic for ten hours while they wait for a car to leave a parking space, just because it’s three spaces closer to the shop’s main entrance! Then, we have to remember face masks, reusable shopping bags, shopping lists, manoeuvre shopping trolleys without pretending they’re race cars, workout where the hell they’ve moved the alcohol section too and then be expected to speak politely to checkout operator who will be either overly enthusiastic or won’t say a word. Yes, it’s fair to say that as my age increases each year, my tolerance for Supermarkets diminish. Still, on this occasion, apart from making a few wheelie noises as I was going around the corner of the biscuit aisle and remembering that I had forgotten a list, I survived the Frankton Pak n Save somewhat unharmed. It must have been something to do with the mountain view, if there is a more picturesque location for a Supermarket, I would like to see it. Every time I turned down a new aisle and felt my frustration levels rising, I would happily gaze out the windows to the mountains. Eventually I successfully escaped the Supermarket, and the carpark for that matter with my carefully selected items safely tucked away and headed off to find the Old Lower Shotover Bridge. Tracing my steps back towards Arrowtown for a distance, I turned off the main road until 300 meters down a side road I came across a car park with a sign that read “Carpark for Old Lower Shotover Bridge.” I guessed this must be the place.
I’m not usually that curious about bridges, however I had driven past this one many times and so I was very intrigued to see it up close. The original Shotover River bridge was built in 1871 so farmers, miners and merchants could access the Wakatipu area however it survived a mere 7 years before it was washed away by flooding in 1878. A new bridge was then erected before the building of the current structure was completed in 1915. This bridge then lasted until 1975 when it was decided that it no longer met requirements and so a new bridge (a forth) was built further downstream. It was the 1915 structure that I was now standing on as following years of neglect it was restored to its former glory in 2003.
Nowadays, the very fine bridge is enjoyed by walkers, runners and cyclists who take in the sweeping views of The Remarkables to the South, Coronet Peak to the North and the river below. I spent some time looking both up the river and down the river. For a few moments, hypnotized, I watched the river pass below me before walking back to my car.
The rest of the day I spent wandering beside streams, walking in leaves, strolling through the local museum (which is quite lovely may I added although a tad expensive at $10) and looking at old buildings, I dined at the New Orleans Hotel where I fought with the visiting ‘Vocal Collective’ (whoever they are) for a table and I watched the Highlanders loose to the Blues at Eden Park before walking back to my cottage guided by street lights, in a not altogether straight line. There ending my day as a tourist in Arrowtown.
The next morning I awoke to the sound of birds chirping and a temperature gauge reading -2. So, after sorting myself for the day which included donning the thickest pair of socks I had, I headed out into the crisp morning air. It was early enough that most people were still tucked up somewhere warm, so the streets were all but empty and it wasn’t long before the shops came into view. I crossed at the corner of Centennial Ave and Bedford Street when suddenly I found my feet involuntarily giving way beneath me and I was no longer in control of my own equalibrum. Doing my best to imitate a drunken giraffe on roller skates, I eventually came to rest beside a conveniently placed handrail. Turning to view the sparkling patch of ice that had broken my stride, I found that my balancing act had been witnessed by a small group of early morning walkers. As they generously applauded my efforts, in return I assured them that yes, I do in fact do my own stunts!
A while later and back in the warmth of the cottage, armed with the morning paper, coffee and deliciously fresh croissants I sat down to examine the state of world affairs. One of the main features was a news item outlining that The Queen did not attend the Jubilee service at St Paul’s Cathedral because of discomfort and that she didn’t feel up to it. If we read between the lines, what this really means is that the night before her majesty got whammed on gin and forgot all about it! My guess is that after waking up some time mid morning with a stonking hangover and discovering a list of abusive phones calls and text message she’d sent to Prince Andrew the night before, she order McDonalds via Uber and settled into binge watching Sex Education on Netflix in her dressing gown with a cigar for the afternoon. Then, sometime around 5pm after being told by Prince Charles that “Oh mummy you’re such an embarrassment,” she poured herself a pint of Tetley’s and did donuts on a mobile scooter in the throne room for the rest of evening. It was at this point that I noticed the plants outside were defrosting as the sun peeked over the surrounding hills. This, I took as my cue to leave as I had to stop by Pak n Save Supermarket (something I was not looking forward to) and I was also wanting to see the former Lower Shotover Bridge.