Just before the final drive into Wanaka you arrive at the State Highway 6 turnoff to Lake Hawea, and the Haast Pass which eventually takes you all the way to the West Coast of the South Island. Having left Alexandra earlier that day, and after passing through the towns of Clyde and Cromwell, I had found myself wanting to stretch my legs and had considered stopping off at the National Transport and Toy Museum which is just after the town of Luggate on the way to Wanaka. I was also tempted to call in to Puzzling World, another tourist attraction on the way to Wanaka that features an outdoor maze and multiple rooms filled with optical illusions. Puzzling world was started by Stuart and Jan Landsborough in 1973 when they sold their house and brought a barren piece of land on the outskirts of Wanaka (which had a population of just 800 people at the time) and told everyone they were going to build a lifesize maze made out of wooden planks. Everyone quite rightly thought they were crazy, however before Covid 19 hit in 2020, the maze was drawing 200,000 visitors a year. Which just goes to show that people will happily pay $27.50 to voluntarily get themselves confused and lost!
Resisting the temptation to stop at some of the local tourist attractions, I took the Haast Pass turn off and followed State Highway 6 towards Albert Town Lake Hawea and my final destination of Makarora. It only took a few moments to reach Albert Town. A place that isn’t really a town at all. To me, the name sounds like it should be an historic gold mining town or a settlement fashioned on the American West that is filled with saloon’s that have hitching posts out the front. In fact, it is little more than an oversized housing development that started in farmland to satisfy the need for more accomodation in the area. After Albert Town is Lake Hawea. With a town at the foot of the lake, Hawea is quickly becoming an alternative holiday destination to nearby Wanaka and Queenstown. An ominous sign to anyone who enjoys its tranquillity. The lake itself is fairly impressive as it’s the ninth largest in the country, it is 35 km in length, it covers 141 km² and is 392 metres deep. Which makes it a pretty decent place to visit all things considered. I carried on State Highway 6 which followed the line of the lake, occasionally stopping at viewing points to take in the scenery, eventually reaching the head of the lake where the road passed between the mountains and for a brief time I travelled alongside the head of Lake Wanaka before leaving it behind heading into Makarora.
In the morning I awoke with that feeling of dread that overcomes you the second you first open your eyes and realise the first few moments of the day are going to encompass dealing with your own stupidity. I’d forgotten to leave the heating on and as such my room was like a ice box. The only way to solve this problem was to either brave my way across to the heat pump and set it so the room temperature resembled a Caribbean Island as quickly as possible, or dash straight for the shower and the instant awakening from a blast of hot water.
I braced myself and got up, heading for the shower, stopping only momentarily to flick both the kettle and heat pump on. A short while later, having readied myself for the day which included packing, I headed out into a fine Central Otago morning. The streets were quiet with the only signs of life being parents desperately trying to get their children into the family car for Saturday morning sport. I headed across town and five minutes later I was crossing the Manuherikia River and driving up Little Valley Road into the hills above Alexandra where I would be able to enjoy seeing the Alexandra Clock up close. The clock was installed in 1968 and has been keeping regular time ever since, apart from a brief period in 2020 when someone swung on the arms of the clock during lockdown and it stopped, forcing repairs to be made. To get to the clock there’s a very steep track that can be navigated, something I wasn’t prepared to do on this trip, however you do get to glimpse the clock as you head to the observation deck and lookout in Little Valley. I headed there now and found myself with views that simply are outstanding. As I took in the view in the crisp morning air I noticed most of the activity seemed to be coming from runners heading out of town onto one of the many dirt roads that surround the town. The smoke from chimneys started to drift across the valley and in the distance the traffic heading further inland seemed to already be growing. I suspected most people forget about views such as the one in front me.
I spent the night in Alexandra, Central Otago, a small town with a population of 5,500 which is 195 km north-west of Dunedin at the junction of the Clutha and Manuherikia Rivers. Alexandra was founded during the Central Otago gold rush of the 1860s and has steadily grown to be a major junction point for people travelling to popular destinations further inland such as Cromwell, Wanaka and Queenstown. The town is a pleasant place that is always filled with both travellers and locals from the surrounding farms stopping off for refreshments and supplies on their way through which gives it a busy, bustling sort of feel. It also has a clock on the hillside that lights up at night which I rather like. However, since I had left Dunedin late in the day, it was already dark by the time I arrived at my motel. I’d have to wait to see the clock until morning.
This is the remarkable view from the top of Puketapu in Palmerston. Standing nearly 350 metres high, the summit offers stunning 360 degree views out to sea and inland to the Shag Valley. During World War II, local Palmerston town constable Bert Kelly ran up Puketapu every morning in full uniform to watch for enemy ships.
The amazing thing about Central Otago is that you can find yourself in some wonderfully isolated areas. On one occasion, having based myself in the Ida Valley, I spent a day driving roads I hadn’t been down before. My rule was simple, where possible I wanted to take turn-offs that would lead me to the unknown.
It was late in the day and I had set myself the task of making it up to Observation Rock above the Stewart Island town of Oban before sunset. When I first read the title of Observation Rock, I’d imagined it being the end point of a long, mountain hike in a remote part of the wilderness. Instead, I discovered it was a short 20 minute walk from the town that resulted in magnificent views over Thule and Golden Bay and out to Paterson Inlet. The only issue being the short but steep walk to get there!
While staying at the haunted Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans, I took the time to wander around the Blue Lake. Situated directly across the road from the pub, the lake is 800 metres long, 50 metres deep and completely man made. During the Otago gold rush, around the time of 1887, Saint Bathans transformed into a bustling town with nearly 2,000 miners living in the immediate vicinity. When the town was flooded with miners during the gold rush, the nearby Kildare Hill was transformed into a pit due to extensive sluicing operations. The pit was later filled with water and man into a lake.
The lake really is amazing and it was while walking along one of the tracks that I started to ponder what St Bathans would be like without the lake. Would the town still hold the attractive quality it does if it didn’t have the lake? I think it would!
I had spent the morning visiting spots on the North Coast of Dunedin. Having explored places like Long Beach, Aramoana and Deborah Bay, I briefly called in at Port Chalmers before starting my journey home. On the way back towards the city, I decided to take a few of the roads I usually pass by without giving a second thought. Most of the roads were overgrown with trees and bushes that occasionally gave way and offered views across the harbour.
There are many amazing and magnificent features about Central Otago. My favourite being that it feels like another world. It really does have its own characteristics and qualities that make it such a special place. I hope it remains the unspoiled beauty it is now.
I found my way to Kaka Point in the Catlins and parked near the beach. It was one of those days where the wind seemed to swirl across the top of the water and washed waves ashore onto the beach at strange angles.
The drive from Dunedin had taken over an hour. After passing through Balclutha I turned off State Highway 1 and headed towards the coast. As I passed houses and farms I noticed the weather seemed to be turning a dark shade of grey. Once the coastline came into view, I followed it for some time before arriving in the small village of Kaka Point. Leaving my car parked near a sign advising visitors like myself of the local wildlife, I went for a stroll.
Happy Birthday June
June is a lovely lady who comments every day on my blog posts. She’s been doing it for several years now and it’s always great to hear from her. You can read her comments by scrolling to the bottom of each post. So, since today is her birthday I wanted to take a moment and say June, I hope you have a lovely day.
Russell or Kororareka as it was once known, had the reputation of being the ‘hell hole of the Pacific.’ This was mainly due to the drinking, brawling, prostitution and general lawlessness of the town. As the port grew to be one of the biggest whaling ports in the Southern Hemisphere, so too did the town’s reputation for unruly disorder.
One of the early drinking establishments was known as “Johnny Johnstons Grog Shop”. The owner being Johnny Johnston, an ex-convict. In the late 1820’s, Johnson purchased land which he turned into a hotel and to give the place a touch of class he named it after the richest man in the world, the Duke of Marlborough. Today, The Duke of Marlborough sits elegantly on the waterfront in Russell and holds the distinction of being New Zealand’s oldest licenced hotel.
The Lindis Pass is another stunning area of New Zealand and vastly different in winter and summer. During winter, it’s often full of snow and ice with caution being advised when the road is open. In summer, it’s a landscape from another world with its dry, sun burnt textures.
Set between the Lindis and Ahuriri Rivers, the pass was often used by Māori as they travelled around the land. Then, in 1857 surveyor John Turnbull traversed the area and named it after his home, Lindisfarne island in north-east England.
It was a sunny May day, yet at this time of year in Central Otago, the warmth that the sun brings can be fleeting. Winter was just around the corner and in the small town of Arrowtown, pockets of autumn colour were still visible. Fairly shortly the area would start to take on a distinctly winter feel however, for now I decided to enjoy the last of the autumn leaves.
The morning was unbelievably cold. That was until the first sign of sun appeared over the Campbell Hills in the Hakataramea Valley. Tucked away in the Waimate District, the Hakataramea Valley sits between the Kirkliston Range and the Hunter Hills in the South Island of New Zealand.
Before dawn, The Stewart Island town of Oban must be one of the quietest, inhabited places on earth. It’s a wonderful place and walking the streets in the early hours as the dawn light is starting to appear, it feels like you have the whole place to yourself.
As a settlement, local Maori who often visited the island named it Rakiura, meaning “Land of the Glowing Skies”. After European arrival, the town grew due to the demands of the sealing, whaling, saw-milling and fishing industries.
The Glenorchy Lagoon Boardwalk is an amazing place. On a calm day, the mountain peaks reflect in the lagoon, while native bird life such as the pied stilt and the South Island pied oystercatcher fill the area. If you’re lucky you might even spot The New Zealand falcon soaring above the wetlands.
There’s a wonderful feeling of semi-isolation about this hut. I say semi, due to the fact that it’s on a DOC walking trail so quite a few people end up walking past it. However, if you can look past that and concentrate on its location and connections to the environment it speaks volumes.
When I was on Stewart Island I came across this bus that had been parked for some time, yet it held a deep fascination. Maybe it was the advertised ‘Sam and Billy the Bus – take a scenic tour (03) 219 1269’ that was painted on the side. Or, it could have been that you simply don’t see many Ford buses of that vintage anymore. On some level, I think it was a combination of both.
Recently, I discovered ‘Sam’ was a much loved figure and local icon on the Island who spent 20+ years taking people on sight-seeing tours around the Island in his much loved bus, Billy.
While I was in Wellington, one night I found my way to Jervois Quay near the waterfront and harbour. Really, what I was after was an interesting viewpoints to capture city lights at night and I thought the view from the City to Sea Bridge looking down to Jervois Quay might just do the trick.
What a tranquil place Lake Hayes is. For the life of me, I can’t recall ever seeing it anything but placid and serene. Even when the weather has been miserable, all around the lake manages to remain reposeful. I’ve seen it when it’s windy, when it’s raining, when it’s hailing and snowing. I’ve seen it in the morning and the evening, at dawn and at dusk yet it really is quite remarkable how untroubled it always seems. I wonder why that is!
I was heading to Clover Hill in South Bray, not that I really knew where that was. Even on the way there, I can’t say I was completely sure where I was going. I’d left Dublin by train and around 40 minutes later I arrived at the train station in Bray. From there, I walked down Quinsborough Road, which took me past the lovely Duncairn Terrace which was lined with multi-storey houses that were filled with lights and while Christmas decorations hung in the window. Further on, as Quinsborough Road turned into Herbert Road and the terraced houses turned into shops the last of the sunlight disappeared on what was an usually warm, winters evening.
My final stop of my night walk in Brisbane was ‘The Wheel of Brisbane’ located in Southbank Parklands. I had started out before dusk at the Brisbane Central Railway Station and spent the rest of the time simply wandering aimlessly from place to place, looking at nothing in particular. After a while, I made my way through King George Square, headed along Ann Street and crossed over the Brisbane River on the Kurilpa Bridge. From there, I made my way along the South Bank which was busy with cyclists who seemed to have no regard for anyone but themselves. So, I filled some time walking at annoying angles so they’d have to swerve to miss me. Eventually, with no more cyclists to irritate, I turned my attention back to my walk and the Wheel of Brisbane which was glowing in the distance.
For The Fallen With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free.
Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres, There is music in the midst of desolation And a glory that shines upon our tears.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted; They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England’s foam.
But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain; As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain. By Laurence Binyon
I went here on advice and I was really pleased I did. Known as ‘The Crown Bar’ but also the ‘Crown Liquor Saloon’, it’s one of the most famous pubs in Belfast. Dating back to 1826 and refurbished in 1885, it had the reputation as one of the finest Victorian gin palaces in the British Isles that features stained glass windows, mosaic tiling, an amazing carved ceiling. There are also 10 snugs that were made for the more reserved customer in the Victorian area that still has the original gun metal plates for striking matches and antique alarm bell system for alerting staff for service. It’s a true masterpiece in bar design and architecture.
The last time I was in Melbourne I went exploring along the Yarra River to look at all the different bridges, which are quite amazing. There are so many of them, I must have filled at least an entire morning simply walking across bridges taking photos as each one is uniquely different in its design and construction.
The first bridge I found was the Webb Bridge which allows pedestrians and cyclists to cross over the Yarra River in the area of the Docklands and Southbank. Its design was modelled on a traditional Aboriginal Koorie fishing trap that was used to catch eels. Like most bridges, it also lights up at night, which made me think that exploring bridges that cross the Yarra River at night would make a good photowalk.
The Symphony of Lights show in Hong Kong really is something quite amazing. Starting nightly at 8:00pm, it’s a 15 minute spectacular of light and sound that luminates Victoria Harbour. The best viewing locations for the nightly spectacle are the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, the Avenue of Stars, the promenade at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wanchai or from sightseeing ferries in the harbour.
Originally started by the Hong Kong Tourism Board in 2004, the show is set to an orchestra of music and features lights, lasers, fireworks and other multimedia light and sound displays from over 50 buildings that participate in the show. It also holds the world record for the largest permanent light and sound show.
I had the bones of this photo sitting for a while before I eventually finished it. The idea of crossroads is a wonderful metaphor for so many ideas and themes. I particularly like the idea of a tarseal road crossing beyond the edge of the frame, while an alternative gravel road stretches off in the distance. It also has the added human elements of power poles, a giveaway sign, far off farm sheds and two hawks circling above on a summer afternoon in late December.
At first glance the low cloud that was covering the city in the morning looked like it could clear. However, several hours later it was apparent that the gray rain clouds weren’t going to move anywhere soon, so with that, I decided a trip to the library was in order. Also, just like the large pile of books by the front door, somewhat overdue!
When I got to the library car park it was hard not to notice a 2017 Suzki Swift that seemed to be having a little trouble with steering, reversing, braking, finding the accelerator, doing three point turns and generally not blocking traffic! Parking with caution, I took some time to admire one of the many scaffolding features that seem to be a permanent feature of the inner city before heading for the depth of the library.
If you leave Dunedin and travel in a north-west direction, after 195 kilometers (or 121 miles) you’ll reach a town that started life being called “Lower Dunstan”. These days, it’s better known as Alexandra. Named after Princess Alexandra of Denmark by town survivor John Connell, it sits at the junction of the Clutha and Manuherikia rivers.
In 1862, the Otago Gold Rush stretched into the Cromwell Gorge and later towards the Kawarau Gorge and Lake Wakatipu when Horatio Hartley and Christopher Reilly collected 34 kilograms of gold from the Cromwell Gorge. The discovery brought thousands of miners over the Rock and Pillar from Strath Taieri into the town of Lower Dunstan which became known as Alexandra.
Tucked away in the Waimate District is the Hakataramea Valley which sits at the foot of the Kirkliston Range. If you like hiking and adventuring into the wilderness there is a walk up to Pearson Hut. A basic four-bunk hut, getting to Pearsons Hut requires a nearly 3 hour, 6 kilometer walk up to an elevation of 1176m.
… from a Small City. My daily musings from Ōtepoti to get you inspired. Read the blog, view the photos, embrace the creativity.
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