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. 


  1. I admire your (almost) pioneering nature :) Beautiful photos making it difficult to choose one but I think I like the final one, with the terracing which caught my eye.

    1. Haha....'almost' being the operative word! Glamping more like it :) That last photo is David's favourite too.

  2. George Randell22 June 2017 at 21:55

    Very beautiful photos. Reminds me of the time we spent at the Ohau skifields last year. Just breathtaking views, and the drive to get to the ski field just amazing.

    1. Thanks George, glad you enjoyed the photos and that they reminded you of your trip to Oahu. The road was closed to the skifield when we explored along there last year, but as you say the landscape is stunning up near the mountains.

  3. I knew you'd get a Hoar frost view from my toastie cave is much appreciated, only second best to the real thing, thanks for the wintering and sunburst tips....ain't nature astounding!

    1. Yes, but it's just a mini one Jimu, I want one that lasts a week, where the ice crystals just keep on building up every night. Though I suppose beggars can't be choosers and I am pleased with the shots that got. One day...

  4. Hello Shellie,I was wondering if you would mind if I used some of your pictures on a South Island page we have on Facebook.They are just breath taking and so many folk would love to see them.
    Many Thanks

    1. Hi Zephyr, can you tell me a little more about the Sth Island FB page- is it a closed group? Not Southproud by any chance?.


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