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Tim Mulholland's Illuminata Photo | 2013 | March

Monthly Archives: March 2013

Rakiura

In mid-December, we went on a family adventure and tramped (hiked) across New Zealand along with several of our crazy friends here. Yes, I know that that sounds very impressive, especially something to be accomplished over a weekend with two children in tow, but I’m making it out to be more than it was. Yes, we did hike “across” New Zealand, but it was one of the narrowest possible spots, and it also involved a water taxi taking us from the end of our hike to the nearest town…

 

 

Just a few kilometers south of Invercargill is the town of Bluff, and then south of Bluff is… The Southern Ocean. The first stop in the Southern Ocean south of Bluff is Stewart Island – or, Rakiura, the Maori name for the island. The wikipedia article to which I’ve linked provides a nice writeup about the Maori mythology surrounding Rakiura and the two main New Zealand islands. I believe that Rakiura owes its existence to volcanoes and near volcanoes pushing up the earth’s surface in that area. On a clear day, we can see the mountains of Rakiura from our house in Invercargill. It looks so close and inviting, but there’s the issue of the Foveaux Strait with which to contend. Now, some crazy person or people have actually swam the thirty kilometers or so from Rakiura to Bluff, but that wasn’t our style. We flew out of the Invercargill airport on a puddle jumper and landed on the beach at Mason Bay on the west side of Rakiura. It was a beautiful, clear morning for a flight and the views of the ocean and Rakiura were spectacular. Landing on the beach was breathtaking, too!  When most every other flight that you’ve taken involves taking off and landing at a proper airport, it’s pretty interesting to land on the firm, but softer, sand of the beach with the waves crashing not too far away.

 

 

Flight path from Invercargill to Mason Bay Beach
Flight path from Invercargill to Mason Bay Beach

 

 

As a bit of an aside, the beach at Mason Bay is very long and it’s an excellent place to walk and explore – which we did. One of the more remarkable aspects about Mason Beach is how far up the sides of the hills that the sand extends – a couple of hundred meters up the side of the hills and several hundred meters inland. When we were flying in, I noticed this and was struck by how high and far back the sand extends from the beach and shore. I later learned that there’s a very good explanation for why the sand extends so far inland – a meteorite! Actually, earth scientists believe it was a comet – the Mahuika comet. The comet struck just west of Stewart Island in about 1443 AD and caused a tsunami that was ten times larger than the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. This comet strike and the resulting tsunami wave pushed the sands way up and into Stewart Island. More importantly, there are reasonable hypotheses that the tsunami may have wiped out a significant portion of the low-lying Maori settlements all over New Zealand (which would have been most of them), and a very large tsunami would also help to explain why there is so little evidence of Maori settlement in New Zealand prior to about the 16th century.

 

 

The weather was warm, windy and pleasant on the beach at Mason Bay and we had most of the first day available to explore it. We walked up and down the beach and found many treasures. The most interesting treasures were several pilot whale skulls that we found toward the south end of the beach, and then a minke whale skull at the north end of the beach.  When you lift one of these skulls (or, try to lift) and find out how heavy they are, you realize why it’s better for a whale to enjoy the buoyancy of saltwater.  We also saw our one (and only?) kiwi while near Mason Bay!  It just sort of appeared on the track to the hut in mid-morning, which is unusual since kiwis tend to be nocturnal.

 

 

After a long day of walking, exploring and swimming, we spent a pleasant night camped near the hut and enjoyed a large meal with our local friends as well as the local wildlife – a.k.a., “sandflies.” Sandflies are one thing that we won’t miss at all about New Zealand!

 

 

Hiking path from Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Landing, and then the water taxi route to Oban
Hiking path from Mason Bay Hut to Freshwater Landing, and then the water taxi route to Oban

The next morning, we got up at a decent time and slowly started to meander the fourteen kilometers from the Mason Bay Hut to the Freshwater Landing Hut. The track wasn’t particularly difficult.  It was relatively flat and level, with several hundred meters crossing swamps on elevated boardwalks that are basically wide enough for one person. Every so often, there’s a slightly wider portion so that trampers walking in the opposite direction can pass. The weather was quite warm and the winds that we enjoyed on the beach weren’t quite reaching inland.  So, this long of a hike, with backpacks and whining (or, as they say in New Zealand “wingeing” [(Australia, New Zealand, UK, slang) To complain whiningly])  kids, warm/hot weather, a beating sun and not enough drinking water was not exceedingly pleasant. The kids dropped their tiny backpacks early and dad carried them most of the way, at his own pace, leaving mom to enjoy those wingeing kids.

 

 

It only took maybe four hours to make it to Freshwater Landing, but it was a long four hours. The good news is that there’s a nice dock there and it was EXCELLENT and REFRESHING to jump off the dock and into river! After about an hour’s rest at Freshwater Landing, our water taxi picked us up and we made our way to the landing on the south side of Oban. After one last little hike over the hill from the south side to the main part of Oban and finding the ferry terminal, we made a merry retreat to the local pub and enjoyed the incoming rain and libations from the confines there. And, from Oban, we enjoyed the hour-long ferry ride back to Bluff, and then a bus ride back to Invercargill.

 

 

For those of you who might be wondering, would I recommend a trip to Stewart Island/Rakiura?  YES!  🙂

 

 

Enjoy the gallery!

46 S EnZed signing off…

 

 

Posted in hike, New Zealand, Rakiura, Stewart Island, tramp, whale Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Purakaunui Bay

In late January, I was able to dash over to The Catlins for part of a day to a place that I hadn’t yet visited – Purakaunui Bay, which is just downstream from Purakaunui Falls. I love to look at topographical maps, Google Earth and any resource like that where I can get a bit of a view of the land and a sense as to whether it might be photogenic. And, in this case, while we were visiting Curio Bay once, I asked a Department of Conservation warden where her favorite places to visit could be found, something that might be a bit off the beaten track, and she mentioned Purakaunui Bay.

The weather in Invercargill was wonderful that day – blue skies, warm and a bit of a breeze blowing in from the Southern Ocean. Driving to Purakaunui Bay is only about 75 minutes on the main road, but then another fifteen minutes or so down some gravel roads. The closer that I got to the coastline, the more low-lying clouds and fog that I could see hanging over the sea. I was beginning to think that maybe my trip was for nought…

Oh, but I was so wrong!!! Yes, I didn’t get the spectacular landscape vistas of which I’d been dreaming, but I did find a very interesting, eerie, ethereal setting – and it was wonderful and inspiring! The cliffs, waves and beach were coming into and going out of view depending upon the thickness of the fog. The creative side of my mind recognized the non-landscape, non-nature possibilities of this setting and I was not disappointed.

In the following gallery, yes, you’ll certainly see nature and landscape photographs. But, I also felt the “tug” to go a bit more “zen” on these photographs and I’m quite pleased with most of the results. Enjoy and if there’s one that particularly speaks to you, stop the slideshow and just breathe it in…

46 S. EnZed signing off….

Posted in Catlins, Invercargill, New Zealand, Purakaunui Bay, zen Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Lake Marian

Just a few days before Christmas and a couple of days after Muir arrived (and, he still had a bit of jet lag), we took a day trip to Fiordland National Park with the intent of tramping (hiking) to Lake Marian.  In October, we had hiked to Marian Falls, which was only about a half mile, but we got drenched in the process.  Hiking to Lake Marian has been on our radar ever since.

  

So, we loaded up the car and made the three-hour drive to the trailhead.  One of the nice parts of the hike is that there’s a suspension bridge just as you begin that crosses the Hollyford River and gives you a little early excitement. The hike is “only” about two miles, but it felt like it was a little longer than that.  We were surrounded by the forest much of the time and didn’t realize (until recently – more in a later post) how much of an uphill trudge it was to get to Lake Marian.  Another reason that the hike seemed a little longer is that I was carrying my heavy load of camera equipment as well as food, water and some spare clothes (the weather did seem a bit cool and dodgy that day).  The Lake Marian Track is a very popular route in Fiordland National Park as evidenced by the trail erosion.  And, another factor in the trail erosion were the couple of very obvious rockslides. It’s very easy to locate rockslides on New Zealand’s trails – they have signs that say “DO NOT STOP FOR THE NEXT 200 METERS!”

  

After about an hour of sorta strenuous hiking, all of the sudden we came out into this opening with a very large glacial cirque/bowl that’s filled with a beautiful turquoise lake!  There were only a few other trampers/hikers at the lake and it was absolutely gorgeous place to enjoy a picnic lunch and lighten the rucksacks.  I think that Muir enjoyed one of his first major tastes of New Zealand’s landscape!  I hope that the gallery at the end of this post does justice to Lake Marian.  And, Lake Marian provided a beautiful setting for a very special family portrait.

  

  

After hiking down from Lake Marian, we “forced” Muir to ride to the end of the road and see Milford Sound and he did seem to be a bit impressed.  I was also able to capture one of my favorite photographs (so far) from New Zealand.  This photograph was taken looking west from near the Homer Tunnel entrance and down the Cleddau River Valley:

  

 

  

After enjoying Fiordland, we stopped in Te Anau and enjoyed supper before driving home.  Surprisingly, on the way home, Muir quickly fell asleep – so much for being a high-energy young adult (with jet lag).

  

And, we understand that our friends Jolanta, Asta and Gedis also enjoyed the Lake Marian hike when they visited Fiordland in early February – it’s a truly special place and hike!

  

  

46 S EnZed signing off…

    

Posted in Fiordland, Lake Marian, Milford, New Zealand Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

McLean Falls

 

In one of my first posts from New Zealand, I wrote about our visit to McLean Falls and other places and displayed some photographs from that trip. Over these past six months or so, we’ve driven past the McLean Falls turnoff several times and hadn’t gotten back. There are so many beautiful things to see in the Catlins that we’ve been spreading ourselves around.

 

In early February, we had guests in our home. Coming all of the way from Madison, they felt the need to visit the Catlins, in part because of our raving about it and hopefully because they had viewed some of my photographs. So, we made the trip to McLean Falls and several other places. But, this trip piqued my desire to get back to McLean Falls by myself and really “work” the area.

 

So, a few days later, I dropped the kids off at school and dashed over to McLean Falls. The weather was in my favor – overcast with a slight chance of rain. Excellent lighting for a waterfall and forest where bright sun light can create a lot of high-contrast problems (and opportunities) for outdoor photographers. It takes about an hour to drive from Invercargill to McLean Falls, and then maybe another fifteen minutes to walk up to the main fall. I’m one of these photographers who likes to enjoy these kinds of places all by myself – just like everyone else. It wasn’t surprising, then, to find that there were many cars and campervans in the parking lot. And, when I made it to the top, yes, there were several people milling about. This kind of shooting requires a little patience as people move in and out of the places that I want to shoot, as well as some other creative techniques to manage how these people appear (and don’t appear) in my final photographs.

 

It was an excellent, gratifying day at McLean Falls. The weather was pleasant and humid, with hints of threatening rain, but only threatening. There were other visitors milling around the area of the Falls, but there weren’t so many people that it was difficult to shoot. At the top of the McLean Falls walk, you can stand away from the Falls and take in the whole of the Falls. Or, you can be a bit more adventurous and climb some rocks and get closer to the base of the top, and tallest, waterfall. Further down, there are four or five cascades of various height that require some climbing (and slipping) to get into a decent position for a nice photograph. The following gallery provides some flavor of the McLean Falls Conservation Area – quaint, simple, easy and beautiful.

 

 

46 S EnZed signing off…

Posted in Catlins, McLean Falls Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

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