Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sailing--Abel Tasman National Park (January 23, 2010)



I'd always wanted to visit this National Park, and here I spent the day on a sailboat (small catamaran actually) being steered around the coastal areas. We started at Kaiteriteri with about ten people on board, almost all of whom were from the same Stray bus that I'd joined at Picton the day before.

After the lunch break on a beach (I had a quick swim), a number of people opted to hike back while about three of us stayed on the boat and we were joined by two new "passengers", a middle-aged Canadian couple from Alberta.

This picture was taken on the afternoon leg of the trip. The front of the boat did not have a solid 'floor' for sitting; rather, there was a flat black synthetic mesh, slightly springy, which was very comfortable for sitting or lying (as shown above).

The only issue was that water could permeate it, so you had to be careful if you didn't want to get splashed. Since there were very few waves large enough to produce that effect, several of us ended up relaxing on the front of the boat in the sun. The fellow in this photo ended up with an impressive sunburn in irregular stripes across his legs and feet.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fog, Interislander--Cook Strait (January 22, 2010)



In keeping with the theme involving water (and in the last post--mist), this picture shows a real sea-fog that fell on us like a blanket as we passed through Cook Strait (between Wellington and Picton).

It was a sparklingly clear morning otherwise--in fact, you can see the sun shining on the ocean, something I also noticed happening at Abel Tasman National Park a couple of days later (but with light overhead cloud cover rather than fog). The weather in New Zealand is pretty variable, as captured in a well-known expression used for a song title by Crowded House (even though Neil Finn supposedly wasn't referring to NZ!).

It also changes by region. The Central Plateau in the North Island can be covered with snow (and the highway iced up), while in the area where I lived, about two hours' drive south-west, a frost on the lawn in the morning was the sign of a cold night. Certainly I'd never seen snow fall in the Manawatu by the time we moved to Canada. My guess is that New Zealand's diverse geography contributes to the variability of the weather.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

State Highway 1--Kapiti Coast (January 21, 2010)



As we drove down SH1 towards Porirua and Wellington, I saw that further up ahead on the highway the cars were shrouded in what appeared to be smoke, perhaps from a house fire. Once we reached that part of the road, I realised that in fact we were driving through the salty cloud created as the strong west coast sea pushed against the rocks that met the water by the highway. The effect was fairly dramatic even where the road wasn't built right alongside the water (as you can see in this picture).

Light was also low since it was late in the day, near sunset; travelling down the west coast we caught some of the last light in this sea-mist.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beach--East Coast (January 20, 2010)



Yet more seascape, this time on the east coast in the north, on the way back down to Auckland. I think it was Uretiti Beach.

One of the things I've always loved about New Zealand is the diversity of beaches and coastal areas, and the (probably consequent) lack of crowding at the seaside. This is a country where you can never be more than (something like) 92 kilometres from the ocean; and as a result, the more you travel, the more you get to know its various faces.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Te Rerenga Wairua (January 19, 2010)



In New Zealand the stories associated with Cape Reinga are relatively well-known, as is its traditional Maori designation--the "leaping-off place of spirits", the last place where the immaterial remnants of the dead touch the soil of their land. At its point a pohutukawa tree, said to be 800 years old, clutches the rocks still.

I think the odd mists drifting over from the east side of the Cape are a reminder of those leaping spirits; to the west, these 'clouds' disappear and the bright sun beams down unfiltered on to the two blue-green oceans, Tasman and Pacific, where they converge in a line that you can imagine stitching almost invisibly back towards the curved edges at the horizon, all blue, all filled with the gigantic and ever-present sea. At your feet are cliffs that meet the ocean with thinly scrub-clad red volcanic soil, or pale sand.

I'd looked forward to visiting for a long time, and I felt I was well-rewarded.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Drive to Paihia (January 18, 2010)



This image reminds of the area where I grew up, but it was taken much further north--on the drive up to Paihia in the Bay of Islands, after leaving the marine reserve at Goat Island. The tree's shape (it's some kind of pine, not sure I can tell whether it's Marcrocarpa), the farmed hills and the shade of the sky all mimic the much rainier weather in the Manawatu region, though we happened to be driving through rain-deprived Northland.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Auckland City, View from Devonport (January 17, 2010)



On the Sunday after I arrived, I took the ferry over to Devonport, an area of Auckland on the North Shore. Another perfect day, I had to be careful not to inadvertently add to my already serious sunburn, even while indulging my love of rock-pool exploration (there were some nice lava rocks further along the beach). It was nice to see so many people out enjoying the day, browsing in the little shops on the main commercial street, eating lunch at the caf├ęs and restaurants, or just basking on the beach (as shown above).

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Symonds Street Cemetery--Auckland (January 16, 2010)



I found this place by accident, the day after I arrived. I'd set out to return to the Auckland Domain and the War Memorial Museum, since by the time I'd arrived the day before, the museum was only open for one more hour (I knew it wouldn't be enough time). Now thoroughly sunburned, I looked forward to a day spent in the shade, under a layer of 50+ sunblock.

Just before the entry to the Grafton Bridge, at "K' Road" and Symonds Street, I noticed there was an iron gate leading to a graveyard. Always morbidly fascinated by burial places, I decided to take a look; the gate stood open and there appeared to be no restrictions on entry.

I ended up spending about 45 minutes walking through this cemetery and taking pictures. It turned out to be very old, by New Zealand standards especially--in use only between 1842 and 1886 (the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840), and originally divided into five different burial grounds for the various different faiths, with Anglicans taking up the most room.

What made the place really fascinating, yet somehow haunting at the same time, was the air of dilapidation about it. Old stonework crumbled below while lush pongas (tree-ferns) spread themselves over the graves with their usual umbrella-like protectiveness. Cabbage trees and palms grew next to decaying bricks and mouldering, unreadable lettering on broken headstones. The place looked like a Victorian graveyard falling victim to encroaching jungle, which I suppose is a fair enough description. Quite lovely in its mournfulness.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Roots and Rock--Rangitoto (January 15, 2010)



Taken on Rangitoto Island, the day I arrived in Auckland. I decided to go for a boat tour of the harbour. Such an easy indulgence there, but a rare treat for me, loving boats and the wind and the sunshine as I do. There was no real humidity and the day was bright and colourful.

I love how it looks as if almost nothing will grow on Rangitoto other than these pohutukawa trees, which manage to squeeze sustenance out of this igneous volcanic (though distinctly cone-shaped) lump perched off Auckland's east side. In fact there is a broad range of plant life that's already taken hold in the 600 or so years since Rangitoto's formation, but the determined-looking trees are the most visible sign of this colonisation of lava by flora. I love the way the tree here seems to have become a part of the ground to which it clings.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Long Sunrise--Pacific Ocean (January 14-15, 2010)



Taken in that odd timespace in which we go back in time for hours and then, suddenly, jump forward a day, all the while experiencing only one long night and a slow-dawning morning. Until the sun rises, there's no sign of anything below. Even in the darkness there are no pinpoint lights standing out; not even the whitecaps on the large Pacific are visible, nor can one see whether or not there is cloudcover between the plane and the water.

Only the airplane's information system can tell you the time (at departure and arrival points, and in the current time zone), both the hours that have passed and the number of hours estimated until landing. The map on the screen substitutes for any physical sense that might help us to 'place' ourselves.

The best part about seeing the sun here is knowing how close you are to your destination, even if you can't see it until the last moments because it's such a small, shining thing, compared to all this sky, cloud and sea.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Koru--Los Angeles Airport (January 13, 2010)



Since the end of December, I've taken a break from posting in my blog. To make up for it, for the next month or so each day I will post one photo from the one-month trip to New Zealand that I took over January and February (this trip was part of the reason for my blogging hiatus).

In general each photo is the one I chose as "best of the day" for each day of the trip, though you'll notice that a few days of the trip are represented by two photos and a couple of days aren't shown at all (one was the day I spent in Invercargill, I think).

It was difficult to choose most of the time, since I took so many hundreds of pictures and so many turned out beautifully (I credit the landscape!). I also tried to choose some that were less stereotypical 'scenery' photos, but which had something unique about them, or an unusual story involved.

Today's picture, the first in the series, reflects something of the latter goal. I took it at LAX, walking around outside the international terminal; so it reflects that part of (what I consider to be) the oddness of L.A.'s airport, the fact that you have to leave the secure area and walk outside to the terminal you need, then pass through full security procedures again (no laughing matter). Since I had a seven-hour stop, later extended to over eight hours thanks to a flight delay, I was glad to be able to step outside. Even if the 'security' line-up had snaked its way outside the building. The temperature was so much higher than at Toronto, I found myself peeling off my winter coat and hoodie and trying to find creative ways to stash mittens and hat in my small laptop bag.

Most importantly, this picture also captures the first moment of excitement I feel when I'm travelling this way and I see the first glimpse of something 'kiwi', something familiar that means I'm closer to home--in this case, the distinctive 'koru' design on the back of an Air New Zealand plane.

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