Yesterday evening I went to bed early (22:00) to be able to get out early this morning. I get up at 06:00 and the sky is partly clouded outside, not a good sign really. I notice a large star, most likely Venus. Lake Matheson is the objective for this morning. There it’s possible to get nice reflections of Mt Cook and the surrounding mountains before sunrise and after sunset. Around this time, the water surface is as smooth as a mirror because there is usually no wind. As soon as the sun has risen, the surface is warming up and then wind starts blowing. The reflections here are perfect because of the dark tannine water.
I usually like to scout an area before I go there in total darkness but yesterday this was not an option because of the rain. I can find it easily though and now I’m much too early, because the sun rises at 07:40 today. It’s quite chilly, only 11 degrees Centigrade, but luckilly not as cold as yesterday. It’s about a 20 minute walk to the lake and if I’m right there is a trail around it. There’s no sense to stand there waiting in the cold, so I stay in the car for another 45 minutes. Without falling asleep this time, because I do not want to repeat the Moraine Lake disaster in Canada.
The cloud cover is quite thick and I don’t see Venus anymore. Around 07:00 I start following the trail, without hope for nice reflections, because there are too many clouds blocking the sun, but one never knows. Moraine Lake suprised me also with vivid colors. The sky is getting lighter already and I can follow the trail quite well, despite the fact that it’s still dark in the forest. Arriving at the lake it’s more than clear that I won’t see mountain reflections (the same as the previous time, 10 years ago).
Very beautiful photographs have been made here, but you really have to be lucky with the weather or be here for weeks or even months on end every morning to be succesful. With all that moisture in the air these last days, chances were already very slim.
After having waited for about 10 minutes, suddenly a lady-on-bike emerges from the forest. She has a look around and asks whether this is ’the place’. I say ‘Think it is, but could be as well a bit further down the trail. If you have a look at photographs from here, the mountains usually seem to be a bit more in the center and that just doesn’t seem possible from here’. She disappears in the forest again and I shout after here ’Just give a yell if you find a better spot’. And she will.
There was something strange with her face, but I’m not sure what it was I just noticed. Then it’s quiet again and still reasonably dark. I set up the tripod because you just never know. Surprises are not surprises for nothing and always come unexpected.
After a while Jen (as her name turns out to be later) appears again from the forest. This seems to be ’the place’ after all. Good. The sun is about to rise, so I better prepare for the ’spectacle’. Camera on tripod and ready for action. Jen is from the States and has been doing research for the last 6 weeks in environmental policies (or something like that) and she continues to stay for another two weeks. Again that strange thing in her face, seems to be something with her eyes.
Around sunrise there is just enough light in the sky for a few photographs.
These photographs are completely different than what I came here for, but they are good.
While talking with Jen, she keeps looking at me for a bit longer and only now I see what I have noticed before but didn’t understand. She’s unable to keep here eyes still. Both eyes vibrate from left to right if she looks at me. There is an actor that can do this as well (forgot his name). Typical, wonder whether the image she sees, vibrates as well, but maybe she doesn’t see this herself at all.
Now the sun is in the sky, it’s clear to me that we are not going to see a glacier anymore. That mirror can be disturbed any minute now. No more colors and from now one it will just get lighter. Jen stays here for a while and I start walking back to the car. It’s already half an hour after sunrise and I encounter one hasty group after the other that intend to shoot that famous mirror image. Tssk, tssk, first stay lazy in bed and then start running if the ’show’ is already over.
Walking to the car I enter an open space and suddenly see…mountains coming through the clouds. Damn, I start walking back to ’the spot’ but then it occurs to me that it will be completely crowded overthere.
When I think of it, this new spot is actually quite good. Nice foreground and the mountain peaks can be isolated very well with a tele lens. I keep waiting here for a while and new groups keep coming, ’Ten minutes, that way’ I shout at them. Just get out of here (-; Some shoot the same photograph as I am working on while walking and looking behind only to disappear in the forest moments later.
’You see this big tree here on the left side? He’s a bit alone and he needs a friend, everybody needs a friend, so we give him a liiiiiittle friend, just heeeeeeere on the other side’ a la Bob Ross (-;.
A bit later the sun shines through and sprays warm light on the land, to disappear again only seconds later.
Then I’m finished here, it’s 08:30 now, almost an hour after sunrise. Back at the car I return to my hotel for a shower and halfway a bus spills a group of Japanese people in the middle of the road. They see nothing around them, only the sun that peaks through the clouds. Funny.
Yesterday I had thought of spending time at the terminal of both glaciers. Little walks of 1 to 1.5 hour a piece. Thinking about that idea now, I decide to go to the Fox Glacier only. Going back to the Franz Josef Glacier, walking there and driving back, will cost the good part of the morning, while the Fox is very closeby. I’m amazed that all my clothes are still wet, this has been the case now for 2 days. The sky is very moist here. I throw everything in the car and return to the Fox Glacier. The terrain overthere has become very dangerous because of all the rain. The melt water river has changed it’s course and there is an instable wall where large rocks are coming down. I think it’s a bit too much on the safe side to close down this whole area and that the main reason for doing it is to provide extra work for the guides. But well the terrain up to a kilometer before the terminal is completely closed for public. So nothing rests me than to leave the glaciers for what they are. I did take some good photographs yesterday.
The next objective is Munro Beach where you can find seals and penguins. Penguins will be here only early morning and late in the evening, so I’m going to miss these. The beach can be reached via a 40 minute walk throug a beautiful forest.
Arriving there it’s a very small pebble beach and there is no seal to be seen anywhere. I walk a bit over the beach and wonder why the whole beach is wet. Then I’m surprised by a monster wave and I have to run fast back to the dunes to keep things dry. Ah….that’s the reason. 1 in so many (7?) waves covers the complete beach while the others don’t. Meanwhile I got covered completely by these f…… sandflies and decide to return.
At the car I’m hit by the stench that’s coming out of it: wet dog. Yuck, my wet clothes are starting to dry. Almost unbarable.
Along the Haast Pass there are a couple of promising sightings, primarily small waterfalls and the Blue Pools. All waterfalls are in full light. One of them, Roaring Billy, can be reached via a short hike through a nice rain forest, where all trunks and branches are covered with moss, comparable to the forest at Munro Beach. I have a look for unique photographs but do not find them. The waterfall is nice but not more than that.
Here again the air is full with sandfiles and I’m completely covered by them. It’s difficult to not get irritated by them. One time, my tripod almost tumbles, because I’m hitting at them, while my tripod is not standing firm yet. I’ am able to grab it just in time. Would have cost me a lot if that fell down.
I have a look at another waterfall but I don’t shoot photographs here. It’s a nice one on the eye but far too high to shoot properly. This is a typical touristic route. At every stop you encounter the same people. Blue Pools sounds interesting and that’s the last I visit. The walk takes 30 minutes or so, but it has not been worth it. Two joining rivers with some blue water in the middle, well…
At the end of a quite nice route I end up in Wanaka, which is really touristic. I find a hotel quickly having an owner with a real sense of humor this time. I can barely keep up with her (-; She warns me that the hotel is not haunted with ghosts, but that the wooden hotel makes a lot of noise in the evening when it’s cooling down. And later I hear what she meant: a lot of very loud bangs during the rest of the evening.
Tonight I have not a lot of inspiration. The only thing you can do out here is to climb a couple of hills, but I do not feel like such another torture track tonight. I’ll have a sit on my balcony in the warm sunlight with a Stephen King and a Sweet and Sour Chicken, yummie. Quite nice after all the wetness of these last days. I dry my clothes in the sun and after a while they are finally all dry again. That awefull stench I smelled earlier today came from my boots. They also have been very wet. Brrrrr. The clothes are okay now.
For tomorrow morning I am not exactly sure what to do. I will go to Queenstown and overthere is a lake that’s used often by calendar photographers because of the good reflections. the first idea was to go there early in the morning but a small calculation learns me that I’ll have get up at 04:30 or earlier and look for a good spot in the dark. Better to arrive there in the afternoon and go to the lake both tomorrow evening and the next morning.
I only have to drive 130 kilometers tomorrow and there are other things to see. In the morning I had liked to go to the Fighter Pilot Museum overhere at Wanaka, but I just saw on the internet that it has been closed since March 1 because of a renovations. Think that I will start driving tomorrow around sunrise just to see what I will find.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file gpx file here.