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Tim Mulholland's Illuminata Photo | 2013 | May

Monthly Archives: May 2013

Von River Valley, Eyre Mountains

[landscapephotograph description=”Von River Valley, Autumn” photoname=”Von River Valley” photo=”http://www.timmulholland.com/wordpress1/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Von-River-Valley-Pan-8b.jpg” photourl=”http://timmulholland.photoshelter.com/image/I0000U20kis5uIXA”][/landscapephotograph]

  

I’m a person who loves to read maps, especially finely detailed topographic maps. First, I like to discover places that are new and interesting to me, and hopefully interesting photograph. With the plethora of maps on the internet (Google Maps and Google Earth, to name a couple), it’s really interesting to start to see someplace and then dig deeper. When I’m performing my research on US locations, I then find that deeper level of detail by pulling up USGS topographic maps on the Libre Map Project. I suspect that there are other, similar resources in the US, but I’ve been using Libre Map Project for years, so it’s my “go to” resource. My GPS is also a really good resource when I’m in the field, but I love these computer sites when I’m doing my research before I get into the field because it’s so much easier to see things on the bigger computer screen.

  

  

Fortunately for me, there’s a similar resource in New Zealand – NZ Topo Maps. When we’re planning our trips and tours in New Zealand, I’ll check out Google Earth for a start, and then head to NZ Topo Maps for a different view. I just love to pour over a good topo map and discover nooks and crannies that I didn’t know exist before.  For example, that’s how I “discovered” The Branches and made the trip further up Skippers Canyon.

  

  

Over the past few months, we’d heard about a place called the Mavora Lakes and it has been on our radar as a place to visit, maybe hike, maybe camp. It’s only a couple of hours from Invercargill and it’s not a major tourist area like Milford Sound, Te Anau and Queenstown. It seemed like a nice place to get away for a day and to relax.

  

  

I then hit the maps and “discovered” that, yes, Mavora Lakes looks like an interesting place. But the road to Mavora Lakes keeps going further and further from civilization – that’s my kind of road to explore!!! In fact, the road to Mavora Lakes and beyond goes all the way to Lake Wakatipu, which is the lake on which Queenstown is situated. There are no towns or villages on the road beyond Mavora Lakes. The only signs of civilization in this area on the map are a couple of sheep stations at the end of the road on Lake Wakatipu. These two stations are remote. The nearest town, Mossburn, is about a two-hour drive from them, although it’s only a eighteen kilometers by boat to Queenstown.

  

  

When we went to Mavora Lakes, the weather didn’t seem like it might be the best. It’s late autumn here and there was a lot of fog as we started the drive. The fog eventually lifted and we made it to Mavora Lakes uneventfully. The lakes were nice and pleasant, and it did seem like it would be a good place to relax. Of course, the sandflies were there, too. There were even a few people camping and exploring the area like us, so this is likely a reasonably popular place to visit in Southland during tourist season. We were contemplating lunch (actually, the kids were more like demanding it) when I suggested that we drive further on the road. It looked like it might be “only” another hour until we reached Lake Wakatipu.

  

  

A few kilometers further north of Mavora Lakes is when the good scenery and clouds really kicked in! Asta and I were oohing and aahing all of the time. When we finally came over a rise and saw Lake Wakatipu, we both blurted out WOW! at the same time. I have to say that this drive is one of my top three drives in New Zealand. Driving from Te Anau to Milford Sound is likely my favorite drive, and Skippers Canyon is my second favorite. The autumn foliage and dark, majestic clouds really set off the Von River Valley and the Thomson and Eyre Mountain Ranges, as well as Lake Wakatipu. At the end of the road, there wasn’t much to see in terms of civilization, but the views were spectacular! We stopped and enjoyed our lunch surrounded by a few hundred sheep who were hoping that we might want to share with them.

  

  

At the end of the road, there are two sheep stations, plus a resort.  One of the sheep stations, Mount Nicholas Station, also doubles as a nice, small, remote getaway place. The resort is the Colonel’s Homestead and is operated a resort by RealJourneys, which is a major tourist operator in southern New Zealand. We didn’t get close to the Colonel’s Homestead and just enjoyed our lunch views of Lake Wakatipu.

  

  

On the way back, the skies looked a little dark and blustery. These dark clouds made for excellent photographs and also for a bit of angst – would it start raining and make it difficult to ford the streams before we got past the last ford? Obviously, we made it, again with lots of oohs and aahs.

   
 
Again, enjoy the gallery – especially full screen:

  

   

  

46 S EnZed signing off…

 

   

 

Posted in Colonel's Homestead, Eyre Mountains, Lake Wakatipu, Mavora Lakes, Mount Nicholas, New Zealand, Queenstown, Thomson Mountains, Von River, Walter Peak Station Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Skippers Canyon

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Near Queenstown, New Zealand, there’s a slightly remote and very beautiful place called Skippers Canyon. Queenstown considers itself to be the Adrenaline Capitol of the World, and Skippers Canyon and its Shotover River might well be the adrenaline capitol of Queenstown.

  

Historically, Skippers Canyon was a major area for gold mining in the late nineteenth century. Today, it’s a beautiful tourism area where it’s nice to get away from Queenstown’s crowds. No, Queenstown isn’t that crowded, but it does have a moderately high “chic” factor that doesn’t do a whole lot for me, sort of like Aspen. It’s a very pleasant drive from Queenstown to Skippers Canyon by roundabout way of Arrowtown (which is much more my speed).

  

Some tourism sites call Skippers Canyon New Zealand’s “Grand Canyon.” Skippers Canyon is very nice, and it is quite “grand” by New Zealand standards, but it’s not even a close comparison to the Grand Canyon. If you rent a car or campervan in New Zealand, the Skippers Canyon road is one of those roads that’s considered to be “out of bounds,” as in you’re not supposed to drive your rental vehicle there because they won’t insure it. If you get in trouble there, you’ll have a hard time getting the car rental agency to come and help rescue you, especially since your cellphone likely won’t work there. I won’t advise anyone who rents a vehicle whether to drive this road; I will write, however, that I’ve driven on a lot more difficult gravel roads in rural Iowa (and, with a school bus).  Just don’t look down…

  

We’ve been to Skippers Canyon three times and enjoyed it every time. The first time was on a hot Christmas Day. We didn’t quite know what we were going to experience and I didn’t come fully prepared. But, we did enjoy our drive on the narrow ledges and dusty road. It also was exciting to see how some of the local youth were enjoying their Christmas celebration. These kids went to Skippers Bridge, which is near the formal end of the Canyon, set up their barbecue (or, “barbie” in the local dialect) and rigged their own private bungy jump site on this remote, quiet bridge. There’s a Christmas that you won’t forget!

  

The second time that we went, we drove a bit further and ate lunch at the old Skippers Point School, which is an historic landmark. If you want to see Skippers Canyon and don’t want to drive the road yourself, there are several different tour companies in Queenstown that will gladly take you. Three or four of these little four-wheel drive vans were at the school at the same time and their patrons were enjoying their picnic lunches with New Zealand’s finest wines.

  

The last time that we were in Skippers Canyon in early April, we drove to the far end. Before you get to Skippers Point, there’s a side road that you need to take – The Branches Road. If you drive The Branches road, then Skippers Point is about the halfway point. The Branches road was much more challenging – more ruts, narrower, and not very well maintained. The scenery beyond Skippers Point was nice, but not spectacular.  That is, until you reach the end of the formal road at The Branches Station.

  

OMG! The Branches Station must have one of the best, if not THE BEST, views and settings in all of New Zealand. The Branches sits in a broad glacial valley with the cobbled Shotover River running through it. To the southwest, the direction from which we’ve driven, the views are nice. But, to the northeast, the mountain views are amazing!!! The good news is that you, too, can enjoy The Branches Station. It’s a luxury accommodation and it seems that most people who visit likely arrive by helicopter, not in their pokey old Subarus. And, the pleasure of staying at The Branches will only cost you a mere NZ$10,000/night (I rounded up by one dollar; and, that’s for two people with a two-night minimum).

  

So, after enjoying the high life at the gate to The Branches Station, we returned back down the Skipper Road, enjoyed some ice cream in Queenstown and slowly made our way back to Invercargill.

  

Enjoy the gallery: 
  
46 S EnZed signing off…

   

Posted in New Zealand, Queenstown, Skippers Canyon, The Branches Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Moeraki Boulders

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It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a month since my last post.  Time flies when you’re having fun in Australia.

 

 

On the big trip around New Zealand in January, one of our first significant stops were the famous Moeraki Boulders, a few kilometers north of Dunedin on the South Island’s east coast. The Moeraki Boulders aren’t exactly spectacular like a lot of New Zealand’s mountain scenery, but they’re still awe-inspiring in their own way. These boulders (and other similar boulders around the world) are concretions that were formed when minerals (calcite) seeped into the interstitial spaces between mud and sand grains and “hardened.” Don’t ask me exactly why these minerals hardened; similarly, don’t ask me why these concretions are so nicely spherical in shape. Just chalk it up to some of the wonderful geological mysteries of Nature.  (Yes, I know that I’m a guy and that I’m supposed to know everything, but let’s just leave it at that.) I’m not going to write a whole lot this time and just leave you to enjoy the gallery at your own pace.

 

46 S EnZed signing off…

Posted in Dunedin, Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

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