I had long wanted to take photographs from a helicopter. I have no idea why, it’s just always been one of those things that seem like a fun thing to do. So, having woken early full of excitement and then signing a form saying I wouldn’t touch anything, follow all the pilots instructions while ensuring my pockets were zipped up, we took off. What made this trip even more thrilling was the fact that the helicopter had no door. It had been taken off so I could get cleaner, clearer shots without any annoying windows or glass being in the way. I don’t think I have ever gripped my cameras so tightly and been so grateful to be wearing a harness in all my life. Flying through the air with nothing between myself and the Pacific Ocean 1000 feet below, it was wonderful! It was as we reached Blackhead Beach that I hoped I would spot someone I knew, then I would be able to say ‘I just photographed the top of your head!’
The flowers at the railway station reminded me of Dunedin’s town belt and other bush areas. I couldn’t remember the last time I had walked through some sort of bush and so I set off to discover some sort of path that zigzagged it’s way up from the city through the townbelt to the hill suburbs of Roslyn, Maori Hill and over to Kaikorai.
I remembered passing the Dunedin Railway Station on one of my walks and contemplating how different a building looks when half of it is covered in scaffolding and plastic wrap. What hasn’t changed are the gardens out the front. At one point in time when it was called ANZAC Square it was a major junction point for the busy Railway Station. Now it has been transformed into a splendid garden that changes with the season. It was these gardens I had come to see and the blues, greens, soft pinks and yellows that had carefully been planted gave the whole place a cool, elegant yet understated feel. I almost forgot half the building was covered in wrapping paper
I eventually made my way along Princes Street to a line of buildings that sat near an area known as ‘The Exchange.’ In recent times there has been a substantial investment in restoring the old buildings in this area of the city and so I’d had it in mind to photograph a number of them. On this occasion it was the address of 201 Princes Street I was capturing.
Setting up my tripod and making the two gentlemen sitting in the window feel a tad uncomfortable, I set about capturing the scene in front me. It was at some point during this time that it occurred to me that in one building I had the ability to tuck into a lovely breakfast of eggs bene accompanied with a deliciously tasty hot coffee, and then head upstairs where I could get a haircut and beard trim, all in one building! Now if that’s not convenient, I don’t know what is!
I pushed on up Princes Street as the light morning rain gave way to a stunning hue of pink. I passed restaurants, cafes and bars that wouldn’t yet open for many hours. There were takeaway outlets, barbers and art galleries that sat in darkness and faded blue and red dots of all shapes and sizes covered the road. I came to a stop on the corner of an intersection and watched time pass in the city. Directly across me, the Savoy Restaurant which was once considered the finest dining room in the Southern Hemisphere sat beneath a sky that continued to shift and changed in colour.
I arose and enjoyed spending a few minutes watching the city come awake. The air had a fresh untouched feel to it. I watched barista’s carrying out tables and chairs happily singing away to themselves, delivery vans came and went as signatures were quickly scribbled. That’s what I love about mornings, they have a fresh, new, anything is possible feel to them. Unless of course you’re wildly hungover. Fortunately I wasn’t and so as the rain started, I savored watching the city stretch and yawn. Just then the smell of fresh coffee hit my nostrils.
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I spent an afternoon wandering with no particular purpose. I had set out from home with really no intention other than to walk to the edge of the harbour. The sun was shining, the city was still, the temperature a lovely 21 degrees and I had no plans at all. Now, some 6 kilometers I found myself wandering past empty student hostels that were receiving some much need TLC before the yearly invasion started in a few months time. It was then that I came across this painting of a Hoodwinker Sunfish which is part of the Dunedin Street Art scene. At one point there used to be a map locating every piece of art that had been added to the city and where to find them. Now however there are so many you can walk around a corner and discover something you completely forgot about.
To be honest with you, I can’t ever imagine using horse manure to light a property. However, that is exactly what William Larnach did at his house which is set in 14 hectares of grounds on Otago Peninsula. The Castle was built in 1871 by Australian banker and politician William Larnach for his family. To light the Castle, horse manure was piped underground from the stable to a purpose built chamber outside, directly behind the music room. Above this, Larnach built a privy for the use of family and staff so human manure could be added to the mix.
The brew of methane gas was then captured in a glass bubble and pumped up to the castle by a boy working a foot pump.
According to Local legend, Tunnel Beach is the scene of a tragic drowning. The story goes that after John Cargill made the private beach for his family, one of his daughters drowned there on her sixteenth birthday at high tide. Overcome with grief, John Cargill was so heartbroken that he left New Zealand and never returned. However, there are no sources to prove this story is true.
Finding myself watching a storm roll in from Dunedin’s south coast, I decided a good vantage point to watch it from would be Mount Cargill. Mount Cargill is named after Captain William Cargill, an early leader of the Free Church Settlers to Dunedin. It is situated around 15 kilometers north of the city and gives a panoramic view of the whole city which is simply astonishing. As I stood and watched the darkening clouds engulf the harbour, I had to admire the geographic location of Dunedin. On one side of Mt Cargill a summer storm was bringing wind and rain, while the other stood in beautiful sunshine.
One of the delightful aspects of Dunedin is that it doesn’t have a cluttered skyline. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how the city would look with a large collection of buildings more than 20 stories high. That’s one of Dunedin’s charms, it’s big enough while not being overly big.
What I have always found slightly confusing about Tunnel Beach is that it is there at all. As spectacular and interesting as Tunnel Beach is, it is hard to imagine the Cargill children getting excited by a visit. Let me explain. Tunnel Beach was commissioned to be built for John Cargill and his family in the 1870s. This was so that his family could visit a private beach, away from the ‘peeping’ eyes of the general public. To me, this is where the confusion starts to happen. To get to the beach his family would have had to go by either foot, cart or horse alongside the high, steep cliffs, which couldn’t have been a pleasant trip. The beach is shaded by the sun from the steep cliffs and is small and rocky with a small low tide window. Hardly a place you could spend all afternoon at while the kids built sandcastles! So, somehow I can’t imagine the Cargill children leaping with joy when their father would announce they are ‘going to the beach’ for the day.
Upon exiting the Museum I was pleased to see that the fog had lifted and I could now see more than a meter in front of me. Unfortunately, it was still raining. So, once again I made a decision to capture an image that I had wanted to do for some time, that being the old Tiger Tea trolley bus at the Early Settlers Museum. I bundled everything into my car and drove off through as many puddles as I could.
Having arrived at the Early Settlers Museum via nearly slipping on the wet entrance floor, I then spent several minutes fumbling around to find my vaccine pass. When this was completed, I was just about to venture off to the exhibits when the lady on the front desk informed me she’d have to take my tripod.
‘I’m sorry?’ I replied
‘Your tripod, I’ll need to take it while you’re inside”
‘I’m sorry? Why is that?’ I replied again.
‘I’ll need to take it’
‘It’s never been a problem before?’
‘Sir, it’s fairly busy this morning and it might get in the way of others trying to enjoy the exhibits.’ she explained.
Reluctantly, and nervously I handed my band item and went off to find the transport section. It wasn’t long before I noticed something rather odd. Here was I, having to hand in an item that would stay perfectly still and connected to me at all times, as it would ‘get in the way of others trying to enjoy the exhibits’, whereas parents were allowing children to freely run around the museum and climb all over objects that clear had signs on them saying, ‘please do not climb.’ For a moment I wondered if their policy of not allowing items that would ‘get in the way of others trying to enjoy the exhibits’ could be extended to families who couldn’t control their child. I made my way through the museum, admiring this newly created center for family chaos, until I found what I was looking for. Trolley Bus No 10, registration number DK3158.
There are certain things you need to be my age or at least in Dunedin in the late 1970’s and early to mid 1980’s to appreciate about Dunedin. One is the Star Fountain that used to light up in the lower Octagon and another is the Trolley Bus service.
The trolley buses commenced operation in Dunedin in 1950, with the final route closing in July 1979, 42 years ago. At the time of their axing, Dunedin residents vigorously opposed their termination, but it happened anyway! And so, just like the Star Fountain, the Dunedin’s Trolley buses are now a distant memory.
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I awoke to rain! I stood at the window gazing out to a white mist, where a city used to be. Judging by the ground, it had been raining for some time and the lack of wind indicated that these conditions were settling in for a long stay. Watching the rain fall into large ponds that would probably start attracting wildlife, I stood somewhat dumbfounded in Dunedin’s summer weather. You would think after all these years it would be something I was used to, alas no. Every year when December rolls around I prepare myself for the best summer ever, hoping for long, hot, warm days lasting for weeks on end. However, usually by the end of January I’m resisting the temptation to light a fire, lamenting a summer that never really got started. On this occasion, I gave up all hope of seeing a beach, instead I opted for the museum. I had been wanting to photograph a lion display and this seemed like as good a time as any.
I finished my walk in bright sunshine at the Rongo Stone Memorial located on a large grass verge of road connecting the city’s harbour to the Otago Peninsula. The stone named Rongo is from Taranaki which commemorates the Māori prisoners transported to Dunedin between 1869 and 1879.
As I read the inscriptions after visiting the nearby caves, I remember the stories I had heard as a child. Growing up my understanding was that Māori prisoners were held inside at night while building the road to the harbour during the day. This was in fact not true. The caves were used for storage while the groups of men sent down from Taranaki were prisoners who had supported an uprising against the Crown over unjust land confiscation in the 1870’s.
The 74 prisoners were originally sentenced to death for high treason, but had their sentences commuted to imprisonment and hard labour and transported to Dunedin. Over the 25 months they spent in Dunedin, 18 men died, mostly from illness caused by the damp prison conditions and the sleeping arrangements.
Ten years later at Parihaka in the Taranaki, following another confrontation between government officials and local iwi, more arrests were made and a further 200 prisoners were sent to Dunedin, sentenced to hard labour.
The men from Taranaki ended up making significant contributions to Dunedin’s transport network as they cut through stone and hill to make a connection between Maitland Street and Princes Street and built portions of the main road from Dunedin to Port Chalmers. In the sunshine as I reflected on some of the shameful acts in New Zealand’s history, I was glad I knew the truth.
When I was younger there were all sorts of myths surrounding what the blocked up caves on Portobello Road were used for. These I passed as my walk came near to an end. When the causeway was under construction in the 1870’s, they were used for storing explosives. I prefer to imagine they had some sort of shady link to the notorious Victorian Pleasure Gardens that once sat directly above it.
One of the truly genius ideas of recent times has been the addition of a walking and cycling path along the peninsula road. No more are long lines of traffic held up by a slow moving cyclist holding up traffic as they battle a head wind down rocketing down the harbour. Now the locals can happily slalom their way into town in cars, using the center line as nothing more than guide, leaving walkers such as myself happy and safe to enjoy the delights of the harbour. At one point I rounded a bend to meet a slight headwind, not strong enough to spoil the day but enough to make it difficult if you were on a bike. Just then, a family on bikes appeared. Watching families on outings like these is always a curious thing. In general, the Dad is always out the front having a wonderful time while the mum is left trying to encourage an unhappy child who looks ready to give up at any moment. On this occasion there was a second child desperately trying to keep up with Dad while a third trailed the mum with a look that suggested this wasn’t the ‘fun day out’ that had been promised. As they passed, I mentioned what a great day it was to get an ice cream at Mac Bay. It didn’t seem to help matters!
The camp track was used as an access point to get building materials from Broad Bay, up to the castle. I tried to imagine the motivation that would have been required to transport some of the stone and timber up the hill to what was then known as “The Camp.” My attention soon quickly turned to Broad Bay. Known to local māori as Whaka Oho Rahi (meaning ‘a place of plenty’) it was once a location where food was gathered like kaimoana. After European settlement populated the area it became a popular ‘holiday resort’ and boating location. In the early 20th century Broad Bay hosted an annual New Year’s Day Regatta where crafts sailed from Dunedin to the bay.
Leaving Broad Bay behind my walk now took me to Macandrew Bay which is another delightful peninsula community. There’s an art gallery, a playground, a boating club, a popular family beach and a dairy which happily satisfies the ice cream cravings of many youngsters.
Pleased with my decision to walk down hill instead of up, it wasn’t long before I reached the beginning of the camp track. Like most tracks on the peninsula it crosses private land, something I wasn’t entirely sure would happen in other countries. I couldn’t help but reflect how fortunate I am to live in a society where landowners are happy to freely let people walk on tracks over their land, as long as the gate is kept shut. I always think it’s one of the most joyous signs to see in New Zealand, old faded signs that are partially covered in long grass that say “please shut the gate.” The next while was spent enjoying the splendid views from the Camp track that took me down to Broad Bay.
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When Larnach’s Castle was being built in 1871 it was named “The Camp.” Today the name lives on in not only the road leading up to the castle, but the track that leads up from Broad Bay to the Castle. After leaving the castle, I continued along the road that went around the side of the expansive property and headed down hill to where the track started. Along the way I couldn’t help but stop and admire the view that took in the sweeping surrounds of Harbour Cone and out to Taiaroa Head. It truly is a majestic sight.
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Next, I decided to return to the peninsula as there were many places that I wanted to revisit while the weather was good and I had the time. Having already ventured around the Soldiers Monument, I now decided to continue along Highcliff Road to Pukehiki where I would turn onto Camp Road, heading around Larnach’s Castle before meeting up with the camp track which would take me down to Broad Bay. From there I’d walk along Portobello Road to Andersons Bay Inlet. This was a distance of some 18 kilometers and with the sun shining it seemed a perfect day for an adventure.
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I had a look around Bethunes Gully which is a wonderfully charming area at the north end of Dunedin. I spent an afternoon wandering along tracks, dodging mountain bikes, walking over bridges, splashing in streams, watching the light shift in the trees and listening to birdlife. How pleasant and agreeable Dunedin is.
In 1872, English author Anthony Trollope landed in Bluff from Melbourne and looked over a somewhat raw port town to begin his two month trip around the colony. While there were many memorable moments in his journey, it was his coach ride from Queenstown to Dunedin that lasted long in his memory.
The journey from Queenstown to Dunedin usually took three days via coach, and while it wasn’t the most comfortable of trips, it certainly was better than walking. Trollope’s party setout from Queenstown but due to the winter weather, their progress was slow. It took several days to travel as far as Roxburgh where they stopped for the night. The next day, not long after departing at 6am, they encountered a furious snowstorm that slowed their progress even further, forcing them to call in at the small town of Beaumont for the evening. After resting for the night, Trollope’s party and their heavy load proceeded to Lawrence. Unfortunately the heavy snow was too much for the horses who were left to pull the coach while all the passengers walked for five hours through snow and mud until they reached their lodgings in Lawrence. The following day, they continued their travels to Milton which included Trollope having to get out twice to dig first the coach and then the horses out of the snow.
Once arriving in Milton, their journey was made easier by way of a made road through to Dunedin. So it was that at 8:00pm – fourteen hours after leaving Lawrence, Trollope’s weary party arrived in Dunedin, which he described as “a remarkably handsome town.”
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Having left the village of Taieri Mouth and returning to Dunedin, I found the next day reasonably calm and clear. A cold front was meant to roll up the coast however since the sun was out, it seemed a perfect chance to find an out of the way path to stroll along. I soon found a walking track along the St Clair coastline that seemed ideal. The only problem was that at this precise time the fine summer spell of calm, hot days was broken and out of nowhere a south westerly change brought wind, and rain. At that moment summer seemed to change.
I always liked the idea of walking to Moturata Island. I’ve read on more than one occasion that you can do so when the tide is low. The only trouble with this plan is that I’m not completely confident I would make it back in time. Māori tribes called the island Rata Island due to the dense forest of giant rata that covered the island from crown to sea shore. Traveling tribes use to stop at the island as they sailed up and down the coast in waka. Then, from 1839 to 1841 Edward and George Weller operated the Taieri Whaling Station from the Island. Johnny Jones temporarily revived the station in 1844, employing more than twenty men. Later, from 1862 to 1864 pilots on the island flew signals concerning the state of the river mouth to warn vessels proceeding up the river with passengers and goods for the goldfields. These days the island is a native reserve and is home to many protected seabirds, notably yellow-eyed penguins. Even migrating whales are making a comeback, occasionally being seen in the area.
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As I wandered around the small village of Taieri Mouth, again I found myself taking in a monument to soldiers who lost their lives in war. This one was decoratively made out of stone, stood about waist high, featuring a compass and included the words ‘for those who left and never returned.’ As I read and took in my surroundings, I let my thoughts drift, not settling on anything in particular until my attention was drawn to Moturata Island.
I like wandering around fishing boats, they seem to hold a noble calling that dates back to the romantic age when everyone traveled by sea. This is something I like more in theory than practice as I certainly don’t have sea legs, nor do I have a stomach for fresh fish, so spending any time on a fishing boat holds no appeal at all. However, I can see why others might like it. I guess it’s the aged look fishing boats have that I find interesting, and what stories they could tell.
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When I was younger, we often went to the beach at Taieri Mouth. I remember always asking if we could stop for an ice cream at the shop on the way home. Usually we did, this was then followed by attempts to stop it dripping all over the back seat of the car until we reached Dunedin or a towel was needed. It had been a considerable time since I had last been to the small finishing village and I was keen to see it once more. I remembered there being bush walks to do, a long beach to explore, old fishing boats to gaze at and all the charms that small villages by the sea hold.
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Eventually I arrived at Tomahawk Lagoon where a number of families were happily enjoying their day. They were playing fun games like, try and stop the kids from getting in the pond and let the McDonalds wrappers blow everywhere and hope someone else picks them up. I left the lagoon and headed for the suburban streets. It wasn’t long before my attention was drawn to an old community hall. I walked through the carpark and discovered out the back an area of serene tranquility. The day had cleared to be warm, sunny and still. Here I found myself, not more than 1500m from home, facing a lagoon with mirror-like reflections, my only company being some swans and a few ducks. The place seemed altogether very untroubled, and that made me smile.