Regarding Melissa #84


Each night she had sent home news of her day and had attached a couple of her favourite images – ones that she’d edited in the tablet version of her processing software. The feedback that she’d received, especially from Jamie, had been ecstatic. Everyone wished that they could be with her.

Stacy and Jamie both arranged with her wi-fi video calls for the following morning – or evening their time.


On to Lakes Wanaka and Hawea

The following day she drove, taking New Zealand’s highest main road through Arrowtown, one of the country’s most atmospheric old towns where she stopped to take some photos. From the road, she was able to keep stopping to take yet more shots.

There was a moment during the ride that was to remain in her mind for the remainder of her stay in New Zealand. On a quiet, straight stretch of the road, she saw two backpackers ahead, turning and hoping to thumb a lift. Her instinct was to stop and offer them a ride – at least as far as Wanaka. After less than a second, she decided against it.

At home, she was sure that she would have agreed to help, but then again, even there, she’d read about increased incidents of carjacking. That was at home, in an urban setting. Here, on the other side of the world, she was a woman alone. She remembered something that Sam had said when they’d met in Queenstown that first day.

‘Listen,’ she’d told her, ‘In most of the areas you’re planning to visit you’ll be in the wilderness. You’ll be vulnerable to all kinds of risk, and the dangers of car crashes and falls are not the worst of them. Be prepared.’

After a moment’s thought about what those risks might include, Mel had realised that Sam was right.

‘What am I supposed to do, Sam,’ she’d asked, ‘Should I buy some pepper-spray?’

‘God no!’ Sam had said, ‘Here in NZ, it’s illegal to sell, buy or possess that stuff. If you get attacked, you’d have a better self-defence claim if you used a gun. But do you really want to risk your time waiting to be tried for defending yourself anyway?’

Sam had, however, made one suggestion that Mel had acted on while she was shopping – and that was to buy a personal attack alarm. In fact she purchased a pack of three 140 decibel rape alarms that she’d be able to clip to a belt-loop on her hiking trousers.              

Mel had processed all this in her mind before she even reached the hitchhikers, and she didn’t even slow down.

“It could be an ambush,” she thought, “they could be druggies who’d steal my kit even if they didn’t actually attack me. I’ll risk a bad conscience rather than my life or my gear – especially my gear.”

She continued after that, via Cardrona, to the city of Wanaka where she parked-up for a couple of days in a Holiday Park while she explored the area. Because it was not yet mid-day, once she’d registered with the site, she carried her larger, full-frame camera and her tripod down to the city’s scenic lakeside.

She intended to take some shots of the world-famous Wanaka Tree, but called into a restaurant first to have something to eat, and to familiarise herself with her surroundings and bearings. From where she was there was a wonderful view across the lake to Mount Aspiring. She decided that she’d certainly capture some images of that after lunch.

She picked her gear up and made her way down to the lakeside, walked up and down for a while to choose a suitable viewpoint, then set up her tripod and photographed the beautiful scene. Even from there, she thought that she could just make out the Wanaka Tree to her left and around the bay.

After only a few minutes’ walk further on, she passed a signpost confirming that she was headed in the right direction. As she neared her objective, she could see that several people were already taking photographs of the tree. Some were using smartphones, some compact cameras, while others had their cameras mounted on tripods using a variety of lenses depending on the image they wanted to frame in their viewfinder.

Mel had photographed other instances of “lone trees” at home – two at Buttermere, and others on the limestone pavement at Malham and beside Llyn Padarn at Llanberis, Snowdonia. In each of the home-grown variety though, tree stems were spindlier and had fewer leaves. None of them had a mountain backdrop quite as dramatic as this Wanaka tree.

She moved her tripod several time between shots. It seemed almost impossible to take a bad image of the tree – unless someone photo-bombed your shot by walking in front of your camera while your shutter was open.

She didn’t expect to get decent sunrise or sunset shots from where she was but expected that there would be opportunities elsewhere in the course of the next couple of days. Once she’d taken as many shots as she wanted from the local lakeside, she decided to buy something she could take back to the holiday park with her. They’d told her at Reception that there was a communal kitchen & lounge with a toaster, an oven and hotplates.

On her return, she cooked herself the food she’d purchased, then went to sit in the shared lounge and watched the evening news on the large, flatscreen television. She got talking to some of the other people in the room and exchanged stories about where they’d been and where they were headed next.

Later, she used the communal facilities to have a shower then returned to her campervan to get an early night. Before she slept, she checked her messages and sent replies. One of the messages had been a fairly long one from Jamie. In it he said that he was glad that she was safe, that she was enjoying her trip and taking lots of great photos, but that he was missing her. Lucy and Tony had asked to be remembered to her also. He told her that he loved her very much and was counting the days until she returned.

The following day, after using the communal facilities at the holiday park for a wash and some breakfast, she set off early, westwards then to the north, to get some photos from Roy’s Peak Lookout before heading further north later in the day. She’d been advised that there would be a hike of up to three hours each way from the Roy’s Peak car park, but that the views would be worth it. They were, but she couldn’t stay long after she’d taken her photos before making her way up to Glendhu Bay Lookout for some sunset shots.

Mel stayed overnight back at the holiday park because she planned a long day around Lake Hawea the following day. Once more, because she wasn’t confident about the facilities at her next overnight stop, she did her laundry at the holiday park laundromat. She couldn’t risk having wet or even damp clothes in the van because of possible condensation problems.

Lake Hawea was near to, and was similar in size to, Lake Wanaka and ran parallel to it on its western side. She started at a car park, taking photos at the southernmost point of the lake, then made her way northwards on Highway 6 to a viewpoint about halfway up towards The Neck – her next photo-opportunity. The Neck itself was a narrowing of the gap between the two lakes and was said to be the point at which they were once joined. It was there that she got some stunning shots with pebbles beneath the clear water as the foreground to her image of the lake and the mountains beyond.

Thanks to the empty road and lack of tourists to obstruct her shots, she returned earlier than she’d expected to the holiday park campsite. When she’d consulted her itinerary and her maps, she decided to rest up at the campsite, refuel and stay overnight there rather than undertake what she expected to be a tiring drive northward to her next campsite. Since the site had free facilities, she took the opportunity to tidy up, vacuum the inside of the van, use the car wash and check tyre pressures. She paid once more to get her laundry done there – it was becoming a significant unforeseen cost of her trip, but she couldn’t see any alternative.

With those chores out of the way she ate, touched base with folks at home and snuggled into her bed for the night.

Twizel – Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and Mount Cook

Mel had an early breakfast, checked her packing and set off for Twizel, her next base. According to her map it was only ninety miles or so – just over 140 kilometres via the Lindis Pass, so she guessed that she’d be there by lunchtime, even if she stopped every now and then to take yet more photographs – which she did, stopping for a while at a roadside parking place on the highest point of the pass. The views were breath taking. She also paused briefly to take some shots of a huge number of lupins in and around a dried-up riverbed. The lupins were to become a feature of her time in the area, stretching for mile after colourful mile. Someone had told her that some New Zealanders called tourists “Lupies” because of their constant cries of “Look at the lupins”.

Twizel itself was quite a small town, though it seemed to be the largest town in the Mackenzie District. Its usefulness to Mel was that it was the nearest sizeable own to Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo, where she planned to spend the next couple of days. The holiday park where she was expected, had a hard-surface powered base with adequate facilities for the time she’d be staying there, including a communal kitchen and dining area, an ablution block, laundry, dump point and wi-fi.

She booked-in, had some lunch then drove-off for a detour from her planned itinerary to look at Lake Benmore. Her viewpoint wasn’t as scenic as any of the other lakes she’d been looking at until then, though she could see what she believed to be her first sight of the Southern Alps north of Mount Cook. She sat by the lakeside for a while watching anglers fish from their boats, power boats speeding around the lake and gliders flying overhead.

Her second diversion of the afternoon was to the Clay Cliffs of Omarama. These were spectacular “Badlands” scenes and easily rewarded the extra mileage. They looked like something out of a science fiction film set. When she got back to the holiday park, she cooked her evening meal in the communal area and ate it at the picnic table where she got talking to a couple from Kent, England, who were heading southwards to Cromwell the following day. They were in New Zealand for three months and had been visiting family in Turangi, near Taupo in the North Island.

After eating, Mel prepared a packed lunch to take with her the following day. She didn’t expect that there would be any places to buy lunch where she was going. She then returned to her van to check her phone for messages and to reply where needed. She also wanted an early night in bed.

Because of the time difference between Yorkshire and New Zealand, she left it until eight before she started her nightly check that all was well at home. Stacy and Connor were preparing for Christmas; her mum and dad were both getting ready for work as were Tony and Jamie. Lucy had already left to go to Tracy’s house to see to Elaine.

Mel was now into the third week of her trip, and the following morning, when she woke, she had slept well and no longer felt jetlagged. She rose early to drive to Lake Tekapo – which would be the farthest point from Queenstown that she’d be visiting in the South Island. Her first stop when she arrived was the car park, from which she walked the short distance towards the Church of the Good Shepherd. She’d heard from some of the people she’d met at the holiday park that, by mid-morning, the area around the Church would be overrun by coachloads of tourists arriving one after the other – all wanting to photograph it.

Her first impressions were again of the brilliant colours of the lupins that seemed to grow everywhere around her – and of the amazing green colour of the lake, contrasting with the snow-capped peaks of the Southern Alps beyond. The light from the partly clouded sky was bright, but the movement of the lupins in the stiff breeze would mean that she might need to experiment with her shutter speed settings and perhaps merge a couple of shots in Photoshop when she got home. She made a note on her phone of the image numbers in question and of what was needed.

The Church had the lake and the lupins as its backdrop. Rocks and tussocks of grass were its foreground. It was no wonder that so many visitors wanted a photograph of it. She was sorry that it was no longer open for tourists to enter and photograph the view of the lake through the windows at the rear of the building.

Mel had seen amazing photos of the night sky that used the Church as a foreground – but the Milky Way wouldn’t be visible during the month of her visit.

She scouted the areas close to the Church in order to select photogenic viewpoints and capture the images she wanted, then she looked around to see what else was on offer. She noticed an attractive bridge across a run-off leading to a dam from the lake and took some shots of it. She then took short walks along the shoreline of both east and west sides of the lake, selecting areas where there were pebbles below the waterline and other places where there was a rocky foreground – in both cases looking for good angles across the lake to the mountains. Of course, she took lots of photos of the lupins – often from a kneeling, or even a prone, position.

Mel was finished at Lake Tekapo by lunchtime. By that time she’d seen groups of university graduates dressed in caps and gowns as well as brides and grooms in their wedding clothes – all posing in front of the church. So, she decided to drive the short distance to Lake Pukaki to make a start on the images she wanted to take from near the car park. Getting those shots bagged on her media cards would save time for her drive towards Mount Cook the following day. She wasn’t expecting the drive to be long in distance, but she’d planned a couple of hikes away from the road while she was travelling.

She’d been hoping to photograph Mount Cook to the north of the lake from the car park, but by the time she arrived, black clouds hid most of the mountains around the lake. Mount Cook was all but invisible and white low clouds scudded across its probable position. It was also starting to rain, so she left the car and snapped a couple of shots before conditions worsened.

Back in the car, she ate her packed lunch and waited to see whether the afternoon would bring an improvement.

The afternoon had been no better, so after a couple of hours she decided to write-off the rest of the day and to spend the time at the campsite, importing images that she’d taken so far into her iPad and uploading them to the Cloud. Any remaining time, she’d use to start culling the hundreds of photos and to categorise the “keepers” into collections.

That evening – the previous morning in the UK – Jamie phoned to ask how she was, where she was up to with her photographic tour, and to tell her how much he was missing her. She asked him about his family and for any news about the shop. He told her that all was well at home and that two of the current month’s magazines contained nice articles about her. She said that she was missing him too and that she was more than halfway through her scheduled route.

Her final chore for the night was to make sure that everything that was rechargeable was recharging overnight – her next overnight stay would be a non-powered site.

Featured Photo

Today, I continue my series of photos taken in and around the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge, where I spent a Saturday earlier in June.

This next shot views the canal framed by an overhead road bridge.

For all these shots, I used my Pentax KP 24 MP cropped sensor camera twinned with a Pentax 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 mm lens. The EXIF data for this photo were 1/20 secs @ f/11, focal length 16 mm, and ISO 400.

Author: writingandphotography0531

I am a retired local government officer. At that time, I was an IT manager and had associated responsibilities for training. I have previously been involved, in various organisations, with aspects of industrial training and management development. My hobby is photography and, until recently, hillwalking in Snowdonia. I have just written my first novel, Persephone and the Photographer, published as a Kindle eBook.

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