Monday 30 November 2015

Beautiful Lake McGregor

Hi everyone, miss me? This is just a short post before we move back off the radar for a few days. I have so much to tell you about, so many beautiful photos and not all of them are of the lupins.....although you can safely assume that I have added to them aplenty too!

We've spent the last few days at beautiful Lake McGregor, a tiny perfectly formed lake sandwiched between Lake Alexandrina and Lake Tekapo. We're parked on the edge of the stream that flows between Lake Alex and Lake McGregor, to the far right of those green willows on the right (don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge).

Before we came to the Mackenzie Basin chasing lupins, I had a vision of where I'd like to be parked for a few nights and this was it. The perfect spot in amongst the lupins and wildlife.

The smell was divine and colours glorious.

And just over the hill and across the lake were the snow capped mountains of the Southern Alps. 

Sorry, this is short and sweet but we're on our way again....Mt Cook here we come. See you in a few days.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Blooming Lupins- Lake Tekapo

I've had these lupin (Russell Lupines) photos ready to post for a few days, actually nearly a week, they were taken the day after we arrived at Lake Tekapo. But each day I've shot so many more amazing photos that I kept thinking I'll wait and add some of them to the blog too. But now I have a few hundred (actually over 1000 photos to sort- can you tell I really love the lupins!) 

We're still at the Lake Tekapo NZMCA Park. Most days the wind has been horrendous and we've not wanted to move until the weather settles, even though we've had a few sand storms through the camp. I'm sure there can't be much sand left on the lake front after the blasting we've had.

We're now waiting for rain to join the gale force winds but at least the wind is blasting the sand in a different direction tonight, and if it is heavy rain, it'll give the vehicles a damn good wash. Even the air tastes of dust.

And of course the wind has made it a nightmare to shoot the lupins; a fast shutter speed is needed to 'freeze' the stems but often they're on a 45 degree angle. You've got to catch them between gusts. A fast shutter speed is fine during the day but it takes a bit of maneuvering at sunset and sunrise to let in enough light without catching any movement.

It has been windy most days, although it tends to build up during the day so I've been able to shoot in the morning, and during the last couple of days I've managed to shoot two sunsets, one moon rise and one sunrise! Needless to say, I'm buggered; burning the candle at both ends of the day is not a good idea. After a stunning sunset last night I was on a high and didn't get to sleep until after 12am, then I was awake at 4am and out the door by 4:30 to catch the sunrise at the church. A-mazing! But you'll have to wait to see those photos.

And it's not all been- lupins, lupins, lupins, we've also done some serious tiki-touring too. The colour of the ute will attest to this- dust, dust and more dust. It's a dry and dusty MacKenzie Basin at the moment. We've taken the back road to Lake Pukaki (and scored more lupins), we've driven over MacKenzie Pass(no lupins) and driven up to the end of the Godley Peaks Road, along the western side of Lake Tekapo (many more lupins). We've managed to score a couple of firsts in the bird world too, but you'll have to wait for those blog posts to see what they were.

Of course the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd, which is surrounded by lupins, has been attracting people from far and wide. Which does mean you're fighting for a clean shot most of the time, although I quite like people in the shot occasionally. I'm lucky though, I have all the time in the world. I'm able to come back later or tomorrow or the next day. I can wait for the perfect people-less shot. Most people wanting to capture the church at it's best are either passing through Lake Tekapo or just staying overnight and have to take what's dished up, whether it's crappy weather or the masses wandering about the church.  

I had to put my bossy hat on this morning- there were at least 7-8 photogs lined up about where the photo below was taken. All waiting patiently for the sunrise shot to beat them all. Most had been there for at least an hour slowly watching the sky and clouds turn a beautiful pink when around the corner of the church wandered a handful of 'totally oblivious to the situation' people, stopping and clicking their own close up shots. We waited a short while, muttering to each other, expecting them to see us all below and click(no pun intended) that they were photo-bombing our shots but no, they chatted and stood about, even taking photos down towards us. That was until I called out to them. And politely suggested they MOVE!!! Well I was the only Kiwi in the group and I know the others were too polite to speak up and they did thank me. 

The lupins around the church and river are mostly different shades of blue although there's a few clumps of other colours too. Out and about the mix is much more noticeable with some stunning colours and some very unusual colour combinations too. My next lupin shoot, when this wind stops, is macros of the different colours. 

Most days so far and often all day, the Southern Alps at the end of the lake have been covered in cloud only poking their heads out every now and then. I also haven't seen the lake this blue again since I shot these photos last Saturday. 

You just don't know what you're going to find hiding in amongst the lupins; rabbits, endangered birds, wedding parties and odd men, I mean, the odd man or two!

And just to show you that it's not all lupins along the lake front, this is part of a wetland on the east side of the lake, not far from our camp. And out there on the point just to left of that little willow you'll see a mass of colour- more lupins! And a really good patch because most people can't be bothered walking all the way out there.

That's it for now but I can guarantee you're going to be seeing plenty more lupin shots before too long. You'll be all lupined out by the time I'm finished with you! 

Sunday 22 November 2015

A Surprise Opening- Tekapo

The lupins will have to wait! There was a bridge opening in town today and guess who was there to capture the moment? Moi of course! We timed that well, I'm here to shoot the lupins, a bridge opening is a bonus.

The Lake Tekapo Footbridge has been many years in the making with much fundraising and sponsorship. Initially it was thought that $1 million would be required; it will eventually cost over $2 million. (Click on the photos to enlarge)

On a beautiful sunny afternoon with a cool wind blowing, locals gathered beside their bridge to await the formalities.

As Chairwomen of Genesis Energy, a major sponsor of the bridge, Dame Jenny Shipley (a former & NZ's first female Prime Minister) had the honours of opening the bridge.

After speeches the official party moved to the bridge entrance where a Maori blessing was given...

... before a lone Scottish piper crossed the bridge (wearing MacKenzie tartan of course)...

...the ribbon was cut (MacKenzie tartan again) by Dame Jenny, Colin MacLean- bridge architect and Lake Tekapo Footbridge Chairman, and Clair Barlow- MacKenzie Mayor. (Good position there Shellie!)

Then the piper led the way back across the bridge with the official party behind followed by the general public. 

I slotted in the middle somewhere and am very proud of the fact that I can now say that I was one of the first people across the bridge.

The view from the middle of the bridge up the river and out over the lake to the Southern Alps is spectacular...

...with the Church of the Good Shepherd taking pride of place on the rocky point amongst the flowering lupins.

Behind is the road bridge over the Tekapo Hydro Canal dam with the old (and still used) footpath on the far side.

A steady trickle of people were still making their way across the bridge after I arrived on the other side...

...many checking out their family 'planks'- a $1000 donation bought an engraved plank on the bridge.

The Parish Minister was waiting to greet the dignitaries and officials and led them down to the church carpark where he also blessed the bridge. He then made his way back to the middle of the bridge to check out the view. He looked like he was about to do a parachute jump the way his robes were blowing about.

I wandered off to shoot some lupins...

....while the locals wandered off to the "White House" for refreshments. 

I crossed back over the bridge to find the minister still reading the engraved planks.

The opening plaque which will one day be attached to the landscaped stone entrance to the bridge.

And guess who else was at the opening? Not one....

...but three precious Australasian Crested Grebes! All looking a little perturbed at the activity on their stretch of water. The one above swam up to the dam wall but these two just could not bring themselves to swim under the bridge even though it was a long way up. The centre of the bridge is 125 metres off the water.

The Lake Tekapo Footbridge will be a major asset to the village not only joining the two residential sections of the town but also allowing easy access for visitors and tourists to the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Sheepdog Memorial. It will also form part of the 'Alps 2 Ocean' cycle trail and Te Araroa New Zealand's Trail. Well done Tekapo!

Friday 20 November 2015

The Final Leg- Tekapo

Compared with the last blog, this one is going to be pretty ordinary…..except nothing is ever ordinary when you’re on the road!

We left Peski’s POP in Gearldine with a jar of pickled onions ($4.50) and a dozen fresh free-range eggs ($5) in the pantry; 11 laid the day before and one on the morning of our departure- you can’t get fresher than that. David also gave me a big handful of broccoli florets and Maureen passed on a large pottle of fresh Apple & Cinnamon yoghurt which came from a grateful movanner who had left a tray after they had certified his bus self-contained. Maureen & David are self containment officers for NZMCA.

Tui came to farewell us too-

The day started out sunny and fine but by the time we pulled out an ominous big black cloud was hanging over the mountains in the distance, the wind was blowing a gale and very soon big fat drops of rain were splattering on the windscreen. Not long after the rain started we had another idiot pass us on a yellow line, that’s two in two days. It must be the start of the silly season. And just in case you’re wondering, on main roads we travel at 85-90kph (90 is our legal limit) and David is forever pulling over to let traffic pass. These are just impatient drivers.

I’ll be passing both photos onto the police to follow up. Some of you may think that’s a bit over the top, but not only are they putting themselves and us at risk, they are also risking the lives of people in any approaching vehicles. Vehicles that could contain family or friends of any one of us. I believe in being proactive, we can’t turn a blind eye to dangerous driving. It’s hard enough travelling on our roads, being alert and aware at all times without other people adding to the stress.

Somewhere between the photo above and the one below, I took the ‘naked men’ photo and going by the response to that blog post, I think I’ve found the key to increasing reader traffic on my blog. Find more photos like it! Over 800 people read that post within the first 12 hours, this was helped along by me posting a censored version of the photo and a link to the blog post on a forum I contribute to and a Motorhome Facebook group I belong too. Curiosity killed the cat! People just can’t resist.

I loved some of the comments too-
From Jimu, one of my blog followers and regular commenter- ‘I'd say those blokes were proper Burkes......’ Very clever considering the photo was taken near Burkes Pass.
From Bartis, on my forum- ‘Fresh water version of "Free Willie"??

Anyway enough of that, moving right along…..

The lupins finally made an appearance as we passed through Burkes Pass. Just a few small clumps here and there and then this bank full, but most of them were small plants and still in bud. Hopefully the lupins at Lake Tekapo will be further along with their flowering.

It was early afternoon when we pulled into the NZMCA Tekapo Park, another property that we’re very familiar with. There were a few others parked up but luckily for us none had nabbed our favourite spot. The park is large but the ground is quite undulating with very few level areas and then some of the level areas are under the trees which means no TV reception.

Once set up, David had to do a bit of repair work. Last time we were here this area had deep ruts from a bulldozer that had been doing some work. Each time we left or arrived we drove over them to try and flatten them out. This time we made the ruts!

While David was scouting around near the van he came across this fledgling cheeping away in the long grass. We think the strong wind must have blown him out of the nest a few days too early as he could only flap along the tops of the grass. I think it’s either a green finch or a yellowhammer chick.

There’s a lovely view of the lake from our site and I can see through the camera zoom that the lupins are indeed flowering on the lake front. They’ll keep, it’s too cold and windy and we’re just happy to rest up for the afternoon after the last few days of travel.

Later in the afternoon I happened to look out the window and got the surprise of my life (again) to see three horses and a couple of ladies at the check-in kiosk. This certainly is not usual and I’m sure they didn’t have ‘wings’ attached to their pack boxes. Red wings are the NZMCA membership symbol that all members have on their motorhomes.

I wandered down to take some photos of the horses, two beautiful appaloosas and a lovely palomino. I got talking to the women and they told me they are riding the length of the South Island, they started at the most northerly point, Cape Farewell (Golden Bay) and were finishing at Slope Point in Southland, the most southerly point. They live in Invercargill so they were now entering familiar country.

They’d ridden through high country stations and over mountain ranges down the centre of the island for most of the way. They had arrived here at the park by coming down the eastern side of the lake via a sheep station at the end of the road. When they saw all the motorhomes they thought it must have been a holiday park and were hoping to tether the horses and set up their tent at the end of the park.

They led their horses off to graze in the grass while they decided what to do.

I saw them disappearing along the path later on, they were hoping to stay in Tekapo for a few days to give the horses a break and this morning we saw them in a paddock near town so they must have worked out a solution.

And then to top it all off,  I happened to glance out the window this morning to see three people passing through the camp on Segeways!

I tell you, life on the road is never boring.

And just a to let you know, the lupins on the lake front are definitely in full bloom! Here’s a taster for the next blog.

A River Surprise - Naked...

.... men!

It’s amazing what I see out the window while we’re driving the main roads or exploring the back roads and byways of New Zealand. As a passenger there’s plenty of time to marvel at the views, look for quirky buildings or historic sites, wave at a fellow movanner or shout at an inconsiderate driver, wonder at various lifestyles, watch out for farm animals and their babies, look for birds flying by or just sitting back and soaking up the scenery.

One thing you don’t expect to see as you’re cruising along in the middle of nowhere are four naked men standing in a river bed, in the wind and pouring rain.  Somewhere, not too far from Burkes Pass, I happened to glance out the side window as we approached a bridge and I saw a fully clothed guy standing near the water.

At first I thought he was fishing, until I saw he was pointing a camera towards the river. ‘Lupins!’ I thought as I swivelled in my seat. Which I just about fell off when it registered what I was seeing.

Those are the funniest looking lupins I ever did see. What’s with that, it must be a bloke thing. Getting naked with your mates and recording it for posterity. And tucking ‘the package’ away, that’s just weird. Or maybe it was that cold, they disappeared of their own accord!

I think they spotted me as we fast disappeared off the end of the bridge and out of sight. But not before I managed to click three shots, the last one, way out of focus as I shot over my shoulder! All I could do was shake my head in disbelief. I’m pretty confident anything I see out the window again will never surpass this.

Never trust this vehicle’s passenger, she always has a live camera on her lap.