Tuesday 31 December 2019

The Best of 2019


Hopefully I'll manage to get this last blog for the year uploaded, telecommunications have been overloaded the last week with the influx of holidaymakers here at Ohau C Camp on Lake Benmore in Mackenzie Country where we've been parked up for the last six weeks (something of a record for us, we decided to stay on over the holiday period as we have a good site and the fishing had been good until the masses arrived).

After eight years on the road, we're still loving the lifestyle and the freedom to come and go as we please, stop when and where we like and move on whenever we get itchy feet. Well, we must still love it considering we initially told ourselves we'd give it a go for two years and here we are eight years down the track still living our dream.
We've travelled the length of the country this past year; from Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island to Bluff, at the bottom of the South and visited many places in between. And while I feel like we haven't moved about as much this year, when I look at my photos I can't believe the number of places we have visited. 

Once again it's been very hard to choose 'the best of' photos, we do live in such a stunningly beautiful country where around every corner there's another fabulous view/lake/beach/mountain/building or event. So you'll have to excuse me, I've taken a few liberties, there are some ' A Few of the Best' listings.

Once again many thanks for your continued support over the past year. Happy New Year to you all and all the very best for 2020, safe and happy travels no matter where in the world you are. here we go...

Best Reflections-

This would have to go to my old favourite; the Blue Lake at St Bathans in Central Otago.

...follow a close second by another favourite; Lake Ruataniwha in Mackenzie Country.

Best Nature Encounter-

Was when a NZ Falcon/Karearea pulled his dinner from it's hiding place near me and flew to a nearby branch to eat it.

This has now been equaled as I am following the trials and tribulations of a Australasian Crested Grebe/Kamana family that nested and hatched here at Ohau C Camp on Lake Benmore. You can follow their progress on my Facebook Page

Best Day Walk- 

Back to Blue Lake again, I finally did the Circuit Track around the lake on the most perfect winter's day, it certainly showed the 'Glory Hole' in a whole new perspective.

Another walk I had not managed to do on previous visits was the 45th Southern Parallel Track in Cromwell, I ticked that one off this winter too- it has fabulous views out over Lake Dunstan & Lowburn.

Best Natural Phenomenon- 

Moeraki Boulders; we have visited the Boulders before but this time I was able to shoot them at sunrise.

Boulders abounded this year, I also visited the Wairere Boulders(photo below) and the often overlooked Koutu Boulders near the Hokianga Harbour. Unfortunately I haven't managed to do blogs for the west coast of Northland & the Far North yet but I will get to them one day (when I get a break in taking photos).

Best DOC Camp-

Mavora Lakes by default because we actually haven't stayed at too many DOC camps this year. Our latest visit to Mavora Lakes (one of our favourite lakes in the South Island) turned out to be a bit of a fizzer, the weather turned nasty and we found out we really needed to have contact with the outside world due to a few things happening in the family. So we only stayed two nights and then headed back out. We'll go back later in the summer.

Best Freedom Camping-

A 'secret' spot near Garston in Southland and one that we headed to after leaving Mavora Lakes. The nasty weather we experienced at Mavora Lakes turned to snow overnight and we opened the door in the morning to a winter wonderland.

Best Commercial Campground-

The beautiful Waitaki River Motor Camp at Glenavy, with it's park like grounds and convivial hosts, it's the perfect place to base yourself if you're visiting Riverstone Castle or fishing the nearby Waitaki River. Highly recommended!

Best NZMCA Park

This would have to be the relatively new Lowburn Park in Cromwell, a conveniently placed park we stayed at regularly over winter as we criss-crossed back and forth through Mackenzie Country, Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes and Southland. And we had it mostly to ourselves for much of the time. Though that would probably be on account of the temperatures rarely rising above five degrees most days and often hovering around zero! 

Best NZMCA POP/CAP (members only parking)

Damfam Vineyard at Spring Creek near Blenheim #7011 wins this one, a wide open grassed area beside a vineyard and on the banks of the Waiau River with excellent hosts; it was the perfect place for us to relax after crossing over and before we began our South Island journey.

Best Lake- 

Kai-Iwi Lakes in Northland wins this one hands down this year. We had the perfect weather and spent much of our time swimming in the crystal clear waters of the dune lake and marveling at the striking blue colour around it's edge (caused by the soft white sand below)

Best Waterfall-

Not quite a waterfall, more a tumbling stream surrounded by beautiful emerald green mosses and ferns. We came across this stream while exploring the Hollyford Road in Fiordland National Park. 

In stark contrast and just a few hundred metres along the road was this dramatic scene. This is what happens when there's a major slip in the mountains.

Best Lunch Spot (on water)- 

Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka- we pulled up on a gravelly beach in the middle of winter overlooked by the Treble Cone mountains. And with not another soul in sight it's pure bliss (and why we love winters in the South Island- blue skies, crisp temperatures and hardly anyone around).

(And on land)- just a couple of weeks ago; 20kms up a gravel Glen Lyon Road in Mackenzie Country overlooking Lake Ohau and the Hopkins & Dobson River Delta.

Best Flowers Displays- 

I hit the jackpot with this one for the year (and I've reluctantly whittled the list down to just four); first off I did a 400km road trip from Winton in Southland to check the spring blossoms in Cromwell, Alexandra & Roxburgh followed by a visit to the Weatherston Brewery Daffodil display in Lawrence and then back to Winton. It was a long day.

Crab Apple Blossom- was my pick over the fruit blossoms
I'd wanted to catch the frost protection icicles on the fruit blossoms too but missed the first couple of times the sprinklers went off and then when I was all set to go after a 4am start and with another 400km round trip ahead of me to Cromwell, the frost didn't settle much below zero degrees so there was no need for any protection. 

Luckily, just a couple of weeks later we were in Cromwell when I heard the helicopters and frost fans start up around 2am. This time I was up and ready to go and the best bit, it was only a 4km trip down the road.

A few weeks later again and we were back in Winton and this time it was just a short road trip across Southland to Edendale to attend the one and only open day (Labour Day) that Triflor Tulips holds for the public each year. Along many road frontages and around every corner was another paddock of beautiful tulips in every colour imaginable. Just a few days later these stunning flowers were gone, cut off to allow the bulbs to develop for export.

And to finish with; the mass flowering of the Mackenzie Country lupins (my 4th visit to the lupins in 8 years), these ones were on the Lake Tekapo waterfront at sunset. It's hard to believe but just a week later they were obliterated and at least a foot under water after a major rain event which saw record rain fall and all the high country lakes full to overflowing.

Best Sunrise-

Oh so many, how do I choose. I couldn't so here's one that I like because of the sacrifice I went through to get it; middle of winter in the high country, -5c with a windchill factor of what felt like -20c, heavy frost on the ground, 5 layers of clothing, climbing up a small hill in gumboots trying to beat the sun to the horizon, and then another climb up the hill when my battery went flat & I'd forgotten to bring the spare, frozen fingers despite two pairs of gloves, the list goes on.... - Ohau C Canal, Mackenzie Country 

Best Sunset- 

Again there are far too many too choose from but this one from Glendhu Bay, Lake Wanaka proved to be very popular on social media.

Although I did like this one from last summer on the Hokianga Harbour in the Far North.

Best Event-

First equal would have to be my visit to Gibbs Sculpture Farm on the Kaipara Harbour (with thanks to a lovely Dutch couple we met at Muriwai and who had spare tickets to the open day).

Along with a visit and tour of Riverstone Castle in Waitaki, something that has been on my bucket list ever since I saw the start of the building five long years ago. Of course the tour had to be followed by lunch at Riverstone Kitchen which was closed on our last visit- another 'to'do' ticked off my list.

Most Amazing Sight- 

After a short sharp climb, the view over the herringbone tailings at Quartz Point Reef near Cromwell. 

Best Iconic Sight

Being Napier born & bred and with relatives living in Havelock North  'Buck House' has always been a familiar sight but this time I managed to capture it surrounded by autumn colours. 'Buck House' sits in the Coleraine Vineyard which was started by John Buck as part of his Havelock North Te Mata Estate Winery. The house was designed by the late Sir Ian Athfield for the Buck family, was built in 1980 and is a NZ Heritage listed building. Buck House is an important example of Modern Movement architecture in New Zealand.

Best View from the Front Door

Cascade Creek DOC Camp, Milford Road, Fiordland National Park after a light dusting of snow overnight (and the whole camp to ourselves, in other words no other silly buggers spending winter out the back of beyond).

Best Road Trip

And alongside the Nevis Valley, possibly the best road trip that we've done in our eight years on the road. A two part road trip along my beloved Hawkdun Range and a visit the Falls Dam cribs (fishing huts) in the Maniototo. And just in time too, three days later a heavy winter snow fall covered the whole area.

Best Night Sky

I was lucky enough to witness three auroras this winter, the first over Lake Dunstan near Cromwell...

...the next one from Winton (visiting the family again)...

...and the last one a few nights later when I made a 50km dash to Riverton to try for a different view. The colours on this last one were amazing, I managed to capture a range of colours as twilight exited stage right. I still have a lot to learn with taking and processing the Southern Lights, every display is different and it is incredibly hard to manage settings and composition in a pitch black night. Then there's the processing, that's a whole nother ball game. But I have the bug and if there's any hint of Lady Aurora visiting I'm out there honing my skills. 

And to top the Riverton aurora off I 'snapped' this shot of the Riverton Wharf on the way home. No planning, I opened the door, clicked a couple of shots, slammed the door and headed home! It wasn't until I saw it on my laptop screen that I realised I hadn't done too bad, in fact I was more pleased with this than the aurora shots!

Best Weather Event-

Anyone that has been following my blog or Facebook page will know that this winter I was hunting a hoar frost. This was our fourth winter down South and while I had seen several small localised hoar frosts I had never managed to shoot the 'money shot',  bright blue sky and white frosted trees dripping in icicles. 

And this time, due to a tyre blow-out on the fifth-wheeler and an extended stay in Fairlie waiting for a replacement, I failed in my bid again, by just six hours. Several days after the blue sky hoar frost in Twizel I managed to catch another hoar frost, with no blue sky, along the Ohau River. This photo was also used on the Oct/Nov NZMCA Magazine cover along with an article inside that I wrote for the magazine.

And while I'm at it, I'll just slot this photo in here. Many people will recognise it, perhaps because it's the road to Port Jackson at the top of the Coromandel (which just happens to be our favourite DOC camp and beach up North). Or perhaps because it now adorns the front cover of the latest NZMCA Directory which came out at the same time as the magazine.Talk about a Shellie Evans benefit fest! 

Back to the weather. I witnessed another couple of interesting weather phenomenons during winter too, this one is of a fog bank rolling up Lake Dunstan from Cromwell. It travelled at quite some speed, blanketing me in a cold wet mist at Lowburn before continuing on up the lake leaving sunshine and blue sky once again in it's wake.

A day before the devastating Timaru hail storm in late November, I had two encounters with similar- although nowhere near as destructive- hail storms; one in Waimate town & this one near Kurow. The noise and strength of the hail stones falling was quite terrifying. Both times I was driving and pulled over quickly, waiting until the storm had passed. 

The Best Vista

The amazing view over Lake Wanaka to my Hawkdun Range from the skifield at Treble Cone.

The Best (Biggest) Tree Shot

This would of course have to go to Waipoua Forest's Tane Mahuta. At 51 metres high with a girth of 14 metres this is New Zealand's largest living Kauri and it's thought to be at least 1500 years old. It was quite distressing to see the number of dead and dying kauri trees in the Waipoua Forest and also many very near Tane Mahuta. Hopefully Kauri Die-back doesn't reach this magnificent specimen.

And now before I show you my favourite photo of the year, here are a few others that have made an impression or made me smile;

The look on the little girls face as she watches the Victorian Fete's 'Best Beard' competition, held in Oamaru's historic Victorian Precinct (remember to click on the photos for a larger view). 

A rugby scrum of sheep at St Bathans Domain

Jeff the Giraffe gets a lick from the Gibbs Sculpture Farm's dominant real life male giraffe (salt forms on the sculpture from the salt laden Kaipara Harbour air). There are 3 male giraffes, they are big animals and very tall, it's just that Jeff is much taller!

Whangamata's Beach Hop

Cardrona Valley's Bra Fence lives on (now off the main road with a large parking area)

Direct and to the point, that's Southerners for you....

The Flotsum & Jetsam House at Te Kopuru, near Dargaville in Northland.

A winter view of Lake Ruataniwha, Twizel

My favourite Blue Lake at St Bathans in a wide angle shot and not looking so blue. Check for the pair of paradise ducks on the lake edge.

Our favourite seafood restaurant in all of New Zealand; Fleurs Place at Moeraki in Otago.

Says it all don't you think? 

And last but not least, my favourite photo this year is of the rustic Falls Dam cribs which we visited on our epic day out exploring Grahame Sydney's 'Timeless Land' and my favourite Central landscape of blue skies, golden tussocks, merino sheep & the beautiful Hawkdun Range. 

This photo is also the header on my Shellie Evans Photography Facebook page at the moment. I am still writing my Two Go Tiki Touring blogs but they tend to be a few months behind so if you'd like to keep up with our travels and current photos please visit my Facebook page and 'Like' to follow.

Phew! And that is it from me for 2019, have a great New Year.
With best regards
Shellie & David