Friday 29 November 2019

Millennium Track- Lake Wanaka


Well, that was a bit of a long unintended break and now I'm even more behind than I was before. We've been on the move quite a lot recently and it's been a little difficult catching up on photo processing and writing blogs at the same time as we've been 'Out There' exploring and I've been shooting even more photos. 

I'll carry on and finish off a couple more blogs from our winter stay at Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka during August (which seems so long ago now that summer is on our doorstep) and then perhaps try doing a few blogs long on photos and short on words to catch up. 

I had David drop me off at an entry point to the Millennium Track which follows the shoreline of Lake Wanaka from the town centre right around to Glendhu Bay, a distance of about 18kms. I thought the entry near the Roys Peak carpark was about half way but in fact it turned out to be quite a bit more and I ended up walking about 12kms. 

Roys Bay looking back towards Wanaka town with Ruby Island in the centre.
I hadn't allowed for all the small bays and promontories of land that the track follows. Not that I was complaining, at least not until the end was in sight that is. The walk has spectacular vistas of the lake and surrounding mountains and it was a brilliant winter's day to walk it. 

The entry track I take is off the Mt Aspiring-Glendhu Bay Road and crosses farmland passing by this derelict house (and perfect photographers subject) before reaching the lake.

Once on the track proper the views over the lake are stunning- this is looking towards The Peninsula (on the left), Dublin Bay and the Clutha River outlet.

The track is also an intermediate cycling trail and quite narrow in places so I need to keep a look out for cyclists too. Although I needn't have worried I have the track to myself for most of the way.

Looking up Lake Wanaka past Mou Tapu Island on the left to Mou Waho Island in the distance, this is the island we visited in our boat on a previous stay at Glendhu Bay. Mou Waho Island is famous amongst tourists because it has a quirky point of difference, you can read about it here, in my blog from our visit.

A sign post indicates that a short track down to a gravel beach has something interesting for me to see. When I get there there's just a information panel telling me a little of the history of the previous landowners. Of more interest to me is the driftwood hut someone has built.

A snow covered Roys Peak overlooks the lake and going by the number of cars in the carpark when we passed, there will be quite a few (unequipped) people fighting their way through the white stuff to reach the peak today.

I head back up to the track and as I climb higher, I can see the beach and the driftwood hut below me.

It's a beautiful peaceful walk and I feel like I'm the only one in the world today. I'm enjoying the bird life flitting about in the scrub and watch as numerous rabbits bound off into the undergrowth.

The views open up ahead of me as I round each bend A snow covered Mt Alta forms the backdrop to the western side of Lake Wanaka.

Below me the water is crystal clear and inviting. Some of the small beaches I pass would be ideal places to stop and have a cooling swim in the summer.

In other places the water is a deep green as the lake depth drops away close to shore. I also spot the odd trout sunbathing in the shallows. The mountains across the lake are The Peninsula, a fat finger of land that shelters Stephensons Arm and Dublin Bay on the east side of the lake.

The clouds are rolling in over the mountains and I'm hoping I reach Glendhu Bay before a) they obliterate the view to Mt Aspiring, and b) any rain arrives.

Behind me I can now see Ironside's Hill named after the landowner, and the small Wellingtonia Pine atop it. The pine was planted on the summit in 1957 by the owner and is remarkable in that it remains a relatively small tree considering how old it is (the hill is also where Jim Ironside's ashes are scattered).  

Around the next bend the perfect lunch spot appears before me; a picnic table on a small point with expansive views over the lake. I hurry down the side track to the table; I'm looking forward to having my lunch and also giving my wary legs a rest.

In the quite stillness I hear a boat coming long before they round the corner and speed across the water in front of me, as they head towards Wanaka.

After a long lunch and short rest I head back up to the main track and there's a little bit of consternation when I round the next corner and see that I still have a long way to walk; I can see the track running along the bottom of the hill on the otherside a large bay. The snow covered mountains behind, which include the Treble Cone Skifield, are the backdrop to Glendhu Bay.

I also see a couple of cyclists heading away from me, they must have passed me as I walked up the lunch track back to the main track.

Damper Bay is a much larger bay and would be a pleasant place to anchor a boat in, have a picnic and a swim. That's part of Roys Peak range up behind.

When I reach the middle of the bay it's obviously that people do spend their summers here, there's an abandoned campsite and a hut in the trees, it's a bit spooky so I don't hang about. 

I wonder if this is where the owners of the farm that borders the bay (and friends) have holidayed over the years.

Some of the nearby tree plantings, including fruit trees in blossom (yay, spring is on it's way) indicate that there may have been a large homestead in the bay in days gone by.

Down close, Damper Bay beach is rather rugged with lots of diftwood and 'tide' lines indicating the frequent rise and fall of the lake due to the hydro dam activity on the Clutha River.

 A little further on and a few moments of welcome respite (or quiet contemplation) await the weary walker.

And then I spot the two cyclists heading back towards me, they're struggling to get up the slight rise, weaving from side to side as they push on. I wait until they reach me before I move. They stop to talk and I ask if they made it to Glendhu Bay. Yes they did they say. But I suspect, as I had only just seen them heading the other way, they made it around the last corner into the bay and then turned around and headed back. It's still about 3kms from the corner to the camp as I was about to find out.

The woman says she's only just started cycling with her husband and they had been told it was a fairly easy and level track. She was struggling with the climbs and some of the narrow sections along the cliff edges.

 I say goodbye to them and the top of the lake and continue on... I finally see what must be the last corner...

...before I'm heading into Glendhu Bay. And unfortunately I can see that Mt Aspiring is being coy again and is hiding behind the clouds.

 I press on, it can't be far now... I take one last look behind me. The track ahead is at lake level and mostly flat although it has several boggy patches from the burns that flow off Roys Peak and some areas are covered in larger rocks which makes it hard to walk over when your legs are weary. I put away my camera, my arms are starting to ache from carrying it and I carry on....and on... as the track winds it's way through the scrub...

...until finally I can see Glendhu Bay camp and home across the water. Not too far now but I'm so tired and my legs ache. I call David up to see if he can come and get me when I reach the walkway carpark. I'm not worried about the last kilometre to the camp, I don't need to join the dots this time.

Well, at least that's what I think. David answers his phone and he's in the boat bobbing about over the far side of the bay! There's nothing for it but to continue on. One kilometre feels like three by the time I reach home. I drag myself to the van and can hardly lift my legs to pull by boots off as I sit on the step very weary. It was a awesome but tough 12kms in the middle of winter, especially when my fitness isn't the greatest. All the same it's a great feeling to reach the end. Mission accomplished! 

A fews days later I stop at the Mt Aspiring View carpark so I can take a photo of that elusive mountain. It's that tiny peak way at the back on the right, in the V of the mountains in front. It's tiny because it's over 50kms away! 

PS-and no that is not me on the rock! 

Friday 8 November 2019

Winter at Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka


From Cromwell we headed to one of our favourite holiday parks, Glendhu Bay Motor Camp on the shores of Lake Wanaka, for a couple of weeks of relaxation.

Glendhu Bay is 8kms from Wanaka town on the road to Mt Aspiring National Park. This is overlooking Parkins Bay, across to Glendhu Bay which is behind the point of land, with Roys Peak up behind.

And speaking of Roys Peak, I took the photo below on our way to Glendhu Bay. This is the carpark for the 16km return 'walk' (steep climb) to Roys Peak, a very popular day walk thanks to Instagram posts of travellers standing on the narrow peak with the lake and mountains behind. And no, I can't post a photo because I haven't done the walk yet. I was building up to do it this time but chickened out when I nearly died walking 12kms of the Millennium Walk around the lake. My winter fitness hasn't quite been up to scratch. 

This new carpark is nearly full and it's only the middle of winter albeit a beautiful midwinter's day. Cars used to spill out of the old carpark and along both sides of the narrow road for a few hundred metres in the summer. Somehow I don't think they've solved the problem. 

We were able to park very near our regular site right on the lake front. It was great to be plugged into power and have a break from running the generator every day. Solar intake is just about non-existent in the bottom half of the South Island during winter when the sun sits low on the horizon and the days are short. 

Regular chores of filling with fresh water and dumping grey water in the chilly daytime temperatures are much easier to do in a campground too. Although, for the first time in 7 years we had a very rude neighbour who wanted to hog the water supply tap all to himself. 

David put the dinghy up and while he went fishing...

Mt Alta after a good coating of snow overnight
...I caught up on photos and computer work, although it was a hard not to be distracted by this beautiful view from my seat.

We certainly had some beautiful winter sunshine and blue sky days during our stay; the lake was often a millpond and especially as the sun dropped towards the mountains.

Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka

Glendhu Bay and Mt Alta-

With no clouds in the sky the setting sun turned the sky a stunning pink.

But my favourite sunsets were when the fiery colours were reflected off the cloud in the sky.

Some nights were extra chilly and in the morning we knew that when the low cloud lifted a dusting of snow would be revealed on the surrounding mountains, including Roys Peak above us.

On August 14th (yes, I'm that far behind in my blogs), between midnight & 5am the Perseid meteor shower was due to pass over New Zealand. It was described by Nasa as 'One of the best meteor showers of the year', 'The nightsky would be lit up by a fireball meteor shower' others said.

So with a stunningly clear night sky (and temperatures hovering around zero) I headed down to the lake edge to see if I could shoot the meteor just after midnight. The one negative was that there was a full moon which doesn't help with astrophotography as it lights up the sky too much. I had my wide angle lens on, camera on the tripod, found the direction the meteor shower was meant to be following and started shooting some long exposure shots.

When I looked on the back of the camera I could see a bright flash at the top of the photo. 'Woohoo' I thought, 'How's that?', I managed to shoot the meteor first shot. I clicked off a few more shots and a bright flash appeared in every one. In exactly the same spot. So I looked closer at my camera back and zoomed in on the streak. That's when I realised it wasn't a meteor at all, it was a flamin' lens flare off the moon! It's going to be a long night I thought.

I went and got a deck chair and sat out on the beach for over an hour but I still didn't see a thing! I did have fun though, shooting left, right and centre as I moved about trying to keep warm- this photo was taken at 1:10am, look at all those stars in the sky (and the neighbours outside light, it was brighter than the moon!)

By 1:30am and with no sign of a meteor shower, I decided it was time to head back inside before I froze to death. Other than the cold though, it was extremely peaceful sitting on the edge of the lake in the dark looking at masses of twinkling stars above and hearing the gentle sounds of nature sleeping around me. And I say it was peaceful and it was, until I walked along the water's edge and disturbed a pair of Paradise Ducks snoozing in the shallows. And you know how loud they are, the male kept up his honking long after I retreated.

On one particularly calm day we headed out in the dinghy for a tiki-tour across to Paddock Bay, a tiny sheltered bay tucked into the corner of Lake Wanaka.

As we move into the bay, the peak of Mt Aspiring came into view (the peak on the right). It looks small here but that's because it's at the far end of Matukituki Valley, about 40kms away.

There were several pairs of Australasian Crested Grebes on the lake and one lone male who David had seen several times in the bay while fishing. And just as I was asking where he'd seen him, as if on cue, he popped up right beside us.

He'd been feeding along the edge of a massive underwater forest of the invasive lake weed lagarosiphon. Nearly half the bay is covered in the weed. Further on we could see where divers had laid in previous years, and were laying again this year, hessian mats on the lake bed to starve the plant of sunlight. It takes about 5 months for the weed to die off and while it looks to have worked in areas, we could see the matting has either rotted or broken apart in places and it was growing back through the holes. 

After we'd done a circuit of  Paddock and Parkins Bays, we pulled the boat up onto the shingle beach across the bay from the campground to have some lunch.

From there I zoomed in on the Harris Mountains (behind the boat in the photo above) and found Treble Cone Skifield, which we can see from our campsite too (click the photo to enlarge). You can see the access road zig-zagging up the mountain bottom left, base buildings and carpark just as the road reches the snow and the trails zigzagging up the slopes above. At night we could see the lights of snow groomers moving around the trails, I thought what a lonely, cold job that would be.

After lunch we headed back to camp, David dropped me off and then motored off to do some fishing. He doesn't have much luck on Lake Wanaka and once again he failed to hook up even after several 'hot tips' from a few locals. We saw plenty of large trout while we were exploring, many of them sunbathing in the shallows so we know they're there.

Two small kowhai trees beside our van were in full flower and each day there was a tussle between the local Bellbird/Korimako population to be the only one to feed in the trees. If they spent as much time feeding as chasing each other there'd be enough for everyone to share and they'd all be finished feeding by lunch time. 

I staked out the tree several times and after many bum shots (the bane of a bird photographers' life, they turn so quick) and a photo when he looked like he was checking to see if I was still there, I finally managed to photograph him side on. 

But the best encounter I had was with a male New Zealand Falcon/Karearea. We were standing outside the rig late one afternoon when David spotted a smallish bird zipping through the sky heading to the top of one of the lakeside trees near us. Against the bright backdrop it actually looked like a large blackbird but after landing we could see that it was in fact a falcon. 

Falcons are our number one favourite bird and we report any sightings to the New Zealand Falcon organisation. Over the 7+ years we've been on the road we've seen at least 60 birds and while they are 'Nationally Endangered', they're more common than you'd think and in more urban areas than you'd imagine too. I love their call and am fine tuned to it, while David knows their flight pattern and these often alert us to a nearby bird.

This one sat in the top of the tree for about 10 minutes preening & cleaning, watching smaller birds fly past and surveying the surrounding area. I like how his tail is spread to hold him steady while he's resting on one foot, you can see his other foot tucked up to his chest. After a few photos I thought this was as good as I was going to get. 

How wrong could I be. He suddenly swooped down out of the tree and into a nearby old kowhai tree, I followed him over to it and found him walking along a branch just above my head. He seemed to be looking for something as he moved along the branch...

...then he jumped up to a higher branch and disappeared into a tangle of leaves and seed pods. Next second he flew out with something in his talons. He'd stashed dinner in there!

He flew over to a large willow...

...and proceeded to  pull apart one very dead starling. Falcons very rarely eat carrion but will cache their catch for later. Perhaps they've already eaten, or are being harassed by other birds so they wait until it's a little quieter and then return for their catch later. I couldn't believe my luck to see this happen and I was even more thrilled that he was quite happy to have me standing nearby. 

Once I had enough photos, I left him to it and walked back to the rig. On Cloud 9!  
Isn't he just a lovely looking boy?