Wednesday 28 June 2017

Crank Up- 2017


This one's been waiting in the wings for a long while- since Saturday, January 28th, 2017 to be exact, a Saturday that turned out to be the hottest day in the whole of Southland's poor excuse for a summer. 

Crank Up is one of the biggest vintage machinery events in New Zealand and is held in the shadow of the huge Edendale Dairy factory that dominates the landscape in the Southland country town of the same name. This year was the 30th anniversary.

Our Winton family have made it one of their 'must visits' each year and were keen to have us share the day with them this time round. We packed up a picnic lunch and folded ourselves into the people mover and headed off across country to Edendale. Ollie & Ruby were so excited, they spent the whole 55km road trip rattling off a long list of what they thought we should see and what they wanted to have a go at this year.

Once we found ourselves a car park. we hailed a 'taxi' and clambered aboard the quadbike-trailer combo, along with another couple, for an exhilarating ride weaving our way through and down the row upon row of vehicles already parked. I hope we can find our way home later...

Of course first up (and to curtail the excited chatter), were the mini jeeps. Last year Dad drove Ruby's jeep, this year she was determined to do it herself (see the tongue). 

I've never seen so many tractors in one place! I wonder where they all hide for the rest of the year. There were rows and rows of tractors lined up across a couple of large paddocks.

Southland certainly has more than its fair share of vintage tractors and trucks. It's great to see New Zealand's history and heritage is being so well looked after.

The tractor pull was happening near the dairy factory. Tractors in their respective classes pull a set weight on a sled. When a tractor gets to the end of the 100 metre track, it's known as a "full pull". When more than one tractor reaches the end, more weight is added to the sled and the competitors that moved past 100 metres compete in a pull-off; the winner is the one who can pull the sled the farthest. There seems to be a David & Goliath competition going on here. 

Various unusual contraptions trundled and shook their way along the walkways on their way to and from the parade ground. Before this traction engine made it into the alleyway, I had visions of excited kids (not our kids) falling underneath as they pushed each other out of the way and ran across in front of it.

Look at the face on this guy!

Either the guy is very tall (bottom right) or that's a truckie's version of a lowered car. Check the number plate out too. And we certainly knew when the tractor was making it's way through the crowd by its throaty roar, even if you couldn't see it.

Southern police need this secret weapon to chase crims across muddy fodder paddocks and maize fields. Ruby enjoyed climbing up into the cab and pretending to drive the tractor. And, it's a gimmick, the police don't really chase criminals in it, the tractor is used for PR at shows like this one.

These steampunkers wandering through the crowd certainly turned a few heads in conservative Southland.

And I have the feeling that this guy belongs with the others...or he's an extra in a Mad Max movie and has lost his way.

This guy (and his owner) certainly look like they belong with the others but they don't, this Macaw parrot is one of only two privately owned in New Zealand. His owner is a local magician who does shows and children's parties. Aren't those colours just stunning, nature sure is amazing.

Time for where did we park the car and more importantly, how the hell do we tell our taxi driver where to go (shout at him loudly) .

After lunch we visited the stationary engines display...

Obviously there are plenty of people who enjoy owning and looking at these engines but personally I prefer something that moves. Fast.

Although I did try to convince David I'd be in seventh heaven towing this generator behind the rig! I don't think our neighbours would be though.

To add to their ever growing list of experiences at Crank Up, Ollie and Ruby were interviewed and videoed for a local newspaper. I'm not sure a ride in the mini jeeps was quite what the reporter was expecting from them when she asked what was the best bit of Crank Up. And 'Frankie' the teddy bear got a starring role.

Next came the parade, first a mock battle between....I'm not too sure, but they made a lot of noise. And don't ask, I have no idea what the Ninja Turtle was up to.

Someone won....but like the Turtle, I'm not so sure the Porta-loo quite fits the scene either.

Next came the steampunk people...

...some of whom didn't look too happy to be walking around the oval. I'm sorry, but I can't contain myself anymore. I wondered if they might have stolen a few subjects from the local rest home. Good on them for doing something outside the norm though.

Then came the Vauxhall parade and a few old memories- Dad's sister's husband was a Vauxhall fan and had many of these models. 

And I drove a few of the later models during my teen years.

It wasn't long before the kids got bored, the sun climbed higher and the queue for an icecream snaked across the yard. We decided to head for home, we missed the dancing tractors and another whole field of diggers and dozers and the kids were most upset that they didn't get to have a go at the 'digger dig' like last year. Cameron thanked his lucky stars we didn't find it, he had to queue with them and the queue was double the length of the ice cream line! 

And the reason why I hadn't done a blog before now? Once again I had to process the photos and as per usual I had far too many of them. I've uploaded them to a Flickr Album, click this link if you'd like to see more.

Sunday 25 June 2017

The Lady Behind The Lens


I know many of you are NZMCA members and will have already read the following article but for those that aren't members, here's the write-up that appeared in the latest Motor Caravanner magazine.

At first I was a little reluctant to come out from behind my camera when Katrina (a friend and fellow 5th-wheeler) asked if I'd mind if she wrote a item about me and our lifestyle. It didn't take too long for her and David to convince me that people would be interested in reading a 'behind the scenes' article. Katrina sent me 101 questions to answer and I was away typing- you know me, I can't stop my fingers once I start typing (and she didn't really send 101 questions, just sufficient to glean enough relevant information).

It was a lovely surprise to find out that Chris (editor) had also chosen one of my photos for the cover of the latest magazine- Autumn in Bannockburn, Central Otago. This is my 6th cover and because I've now run out of room on our lounge's tiny wall space, I'm now having to hang the older framed covers in the toilet! Framing them is not something I'd normally do but it just seems to fit in with our nomadic lifestyle (and cover some crappy wallpaper).

And here's the article- the first two pages were a double spread of the sunrise photo from Hinahina in the Catlins. I've increased the size of the other pages so you'll be able to read the article a little better, remember to click on the photo to enlarge. But if you're still struggling to read it, there's a link to a PDF at the bottom of the page.

Enjoy! And a big thankyou to Katrina, who did an awesome job in gathering it altogether and asking the right questions.

The Lady Behind The Lens- PDF

Thursday 22 June 2017

The Remote Ahuriri Valley- Part 2

Continued on from Part 1

Several times during the night I opened the door to check on the magical scene outside. In the crisp clear atmosphere of the high country, millions of twinkling stars greeted me, sparkling their way in a great swathe across the sky to form the Milky Way. I was also greeted by two Paradise Ducks gently honking at me in alarm, as they rested on the gravel beside the river. 

The temperature outside dropped sharply through the night, ice forming on the handrail, the steps and along the sides of the van. There was going to be a beauty frost in the morning. Thankfully the diesel heater kept us toasty warm until we went to bed, and then we left it running at about 12c overnight, just enough to keep the chill from the interior.  

We always turn our water pump off overnight and tonight we'll also drain the water from the pipes, there's likely to be no water in the morning due to it freezing somewhere in the workings. Most of our pipes are towards the centre of the van and protected with corflute covering underneath, it's only in heavy frosts that we've had it frozen. So far we've had no damage *touch wood*.

A winter wonderland greets me when I look outside at daybreak, the river is a cool green, the side streams and pools are frozen, stones and rocks have a thick layer of ice over them. The ducks are still honking at me and are now keeping warm by swimming in a large pool on the next bend.

The tussock grass is white and laden down with ice crystals. I check the temperature gauge and it reads -16c. The coldest we've experienced since we had -12c in the Maniototo a couple of times, it's very cold especially and with no sun to warm us up yet.

The few matagouri bushes growing on the side of the river bank are covered in ice crystals too.

Finally, I have myself a mini hoar frost.

It's just as well there's no one about, I'm stomping about taking photos with my trackies tucked into David's oversized gumboots, wearing my fluffy white dressing gown (blending in very well), fingerless gloves (good for photographers), and a thick black woolly beanie. 

The beauty of the valley is breathtaking...literally! (click the photo to enlarge. You can also open any photo to view more detail, just remember to use your back arrow to return to the blog or click the x in the top right to close the photo)

Even the Crack Willows across the river are coated in white.

The sun starts to creep down the range in front of us around 8:30am...

...but it'll be another two hours before the valley is filled with sunlight. Here are a few more photos to enjoy while we wait.

I think that is Mt Enderby at the head of the valley.

It's coming! So close, yet so cold!

Finally the sun pokes a point above the mountain, I spot it from inside the van and quickly grab by camera and race along the river bank, fiddling with settings as I stumble through the icy tussock in my oversized gumboots. I'm trying to keep just a tiny spark of sun on the edge of the ridge so I can capture a sunburst before the whole sun appears over the top. It rises pretty quickly when you don't want it to! 

For sunbursts, the trick is to have a very narrow aperture (large f/ number); the blades on the aperture inside the lens close down to form the sunburst and also a narrow aperture doesn't let the extremely bright light of the sun long as you keep most of the sun hidden. You can do this during the day too by hiding most of the sun behind a tree trunk or branch. For those that would like to know, the settings for this photo were  f/22, ISO200, 1/50 sec- handheld too. I tend to do most of my shots handheld, I'm in too much of a rush to worry with a tripod most of the time. 

With the sun comes the big wet, as many of the ice crystals on the tussock start to melt.

Here are a few more photos now the valley has filled with sunlight

The photo below made it onto the TV weather....I actually sent it by mistake, it was meant to be the one above.

And as predicted there was no water flow in the van come morning. Even our water bottles inside the ute had frozen solid. It pays to have a spare container of water available inside for ablutions (boil some hot water) and flushing the loo. Hot drinks aren't a problem for us as we have a separate drinking water container but if you use your tank water for drinking make sure you have spare available if you're camping in extreme conditions over winter. There's nothing worse than not being able to warm up with a hot drink! 

We eventually pulled out around lunch time. Most of the tussock is now weighted down with water droplets. If the sun doesn't get too warm before it disappears over the mountains and the weather stay cold and clear, these droplets will form into ice crystals again overnight and moisture in the atmosphere will also settle and freeze on them too, and so grows the ice that turns the landscape into one long hoar frost.

It was a surprise to see that one of the streams we crossed on the way out, had frozen edges even though it was quite fast flowing.

Further down the valley we spotted a helicopter, and as we got closer, could see these guys sorting through their deer kill. One guy was wielding a large knife in one hand and holding a hind quarter in the other. Using my photos I counted roughly 30 deer. 

We're back at the bottom of the valley, ahead of us is the plateau we camped on the first night...

We stop so I can check out the abandoned musterers or fishing hut we could see from our first camp site. 

There's access from the road down to the river beside the hut.

We head back to civilization, and as soon as we turn onto the main road, we have a steady stream of trucks, hire campers and cars passing in both directions. The spell is broken.