Poor Jamie, she realised, would be hoping to put together a proposal that she would accept – unless he’d decided that she was a hopeless case and had already found someone less demanding – someone like Arabella, Fiona or that Belinda they’d mentioned.
“Oh, God!” she thought, “I really hope that he hasn’t done that.”
She berated herself, unable to sleep for hours – sometimes in tears – worrying that he was okay; that he wasn’t worrying; that he still loved her enough to wish to marry her.
Return to Twizel.
The following morning, she awoke bleary- eyed, washed her face, dressed and made her way to the dining area to make some breakfast. Some of the people who she’d met the previous night were there. Everyone seemed to want to make a fuss of her and, by the time she’d finished talking to them, it was mid -morning – time to return to the campsite at Twizel. She thanked her lucky stars that she hadn’t seen the man from the previous night. She couldn’t imagine what she’d have said or done if they’d met that morning. She wondered also what had happened to him after the whole campsite had been woken up and surrounded him.
The holiday park at Twizel seemed to Mel like a hotel after the more basic facilities at the Mount Cook place. It also felt safer with less chance of encountering the pest from the previous evening. It would be a longish drive to Queenstown, but she’d decided to stay another night on the campsite and have a final look at Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki before she continued her journey. The fine weather was holding – the gods of the skies were looking after her.
Once she’d completed her photography for the day. She returned to the holiday park and prepared for the next stage – cleaning the van, topping up fuel, checking tyre pressures, and purchasing some food supplies. That done, she decided to spend the remainder of the day relaxing, chatting to other tourists in the communal dining area and getting to bed early. She had originally intended to do a night shot at Tekapo using the Church of the Good Shepherd as foreground, but she was tired and needed the sleep.
She phoned home the following morning – Thursday – it would still be Wednesday evening there. Ten more nights remaining before the final leg of her flight home. She spent longer than usual speaking to Jamie and felt relieved that he still spoke as if he missed and loved her.
She sat for a while looking at a photo of the two of them that a customer had taken at a restaurant using her smartphone. She felt sick thinking about what could have happened at Mount Cook, and it now seemed more urgent to her than ever that she get back soon to Jamie’s safe arms.
The journey to Queenstown back along the Lindis Pass was uneventful. There was a lot of cloud with only intermittent sunshine breaking through, but when it did, the colours she saw – in roadside lupins, in the hills either side of the road – were amazing. On a couple of occasions, where it was possible, she stopped the van and got out to take photographs.
She took just two rest and toilet breaks on her journey – at Tarras and, not long after, at Cromwell.
She’d pre-booked a slot in north Queenstown at the same site where she’d stayed on her previous visit. This visit was mainly to ensure that she was rested and properly prepared for seven nights in the wilderness around Doubtful Sound and Milford Sound.
She wouldn’t be wild-camping in a tent or anything like it, but she really wanted some night shots of the fjords – especially one of Mitre Peak across Milford Sound. Nonetheless, just the mental image of being in such lonely places in pitch darkness worried her after her Mount Cook experience.
Her personal attack-alarms would be a lot less useful out there and she wasn’t sure how far she’d be from her campsite at the lakesides. She planned to get as close as possible in her van to her viewpoints.
Mel spoke to several other people at the holiday park to discover whether anyone there had tried already to do what she was planning, but no-one was thinking along those lines. She drove into the city and asked the staff at the visitor information centre. They looked at her as if she were crazy. They asked also if she were aware that the Milford Sound area received seven metres or so of rain each year and that the forecast was awful. It would be up to her alone – with inadequate information – to decide whether the photos truly justified the potential risk.
Eventually, sitting in a city coffee bar, she decided that she’d come so far on her trip – and this next outing would be the Big One – the “Money Shot” as they say – her main reason for being in New Zealand at all. She’d almost certainly never get another chance like this. She’d go for it.
Into the Wilderness
The following morning, in pouring rain, she set off early for Manapouri, where she’d board the lunchtime cruise trip to Doubtful Sound. She dressed for the weather in waterproof trousers and her hooded, waterproof hiking jacket. Most of her route followed the road that the coach had taken on her earlier day trip from Queenstown to Milford Sound. She remembered, from that trip, where the main passing places were that she’d wanted to photograph, but given the downpour, she decided against any tripod shots for such short stops. She was glad that she’d packed the rain cover for her camera – she’d almost certainly need it.
From Manapouri – a relatively short hop from Te Anau – she boarded a ship for a coach and cruise trip across the visually stunning Lake Manapouri to the West Arm inlet from Doubtful Sound. She’d had to do this part of the journey this way because there was no road access to the fjord.
Hoping for opportunities to expand the types of shots she could take, this time, she carried her tripod. Her camera and lenses she kept dry in her backpack that had a built-in rain-cover.
Close to the Power Station, where she disembarked from the ship, she boarded a coach that took her along the sub-alpine road over Wilmot Pass. The driver stopped from time-to-time along the ever-twisting road to allow passengers to savour and experience the impenetrable Fjordland rainforest. Cascading waterfalls, fed by the rain had to be seen to be believed. At last she was able to see Doubtful Sound shimmering far below.
Doubtful Sound, or Patea she’d been informed by the driver, dwarfs Milford Sound, spanning 40 kilometres or 25 miles from the head of the fiord to the Tasman Sea. She learned that it’s the deepest of New Zealand’s 14 fjords.
On arrival at the Fjord, she boarded a second cruise ship for a three-hour long cruise through some of the Sound’s most dramatic scenery. A guide provided a helpful and informative commentary during the cruise and pointed out some of the wealth of wildlife. She saw, and was able to photograph, kekeno – the New Zealand Fur Seals, and tawaki – the rare Fjordland Crested Penguin plus a pod of bottlenose dolphins.
Around her she felt dwarfed by the huge, sheer cliff faces, and was moved to tears by the all-pervading silence, broken only by echoing birdsong or cascading waterfalls. She had all the photographs she could have desired, but she was sad to leave such a beautiful place, one that had left her feeling humbled.
On the journey back to Manapouri, Mel fell into conversation with another passenger – a woman of a similar age to herself. She’d noticed her earlier when she’d been stood together with a man – possibly in his mid-thirties – who also joined them after a while. She’d spotted that they too were using tripods and professional-looking cameras.
During conversation, they exchanged details of where they’d been, where they were going and so on. When the man heard her name, he asked her whether she was the person who’d been featured in one of the major magazines. He’d recognised her name and had seen some of her other work. Mel soon realised that she’d seen some of his images in magazines and competitions. They exchanged screen names for a well-known web portal for photographers and it turned out that they were following each other’s work anyway. He asked if she’d followed him to New Zealand based on his plans that had been published on his website. She politely rebuked his arrogance, explaining that she was funding her trip out of the proceeds of the competition prize money.
He hadn’t realised though that she wasn’t a full-time professional. His female companion, who’d listened patiently to the conversation asked Mel about her Milford Sound intentions. She outlined her timetable and the list of shots that she regarded as her bucket-list. They’d already done the Milford Sound trip in a similar way to what Mel was planning to do.
Mel told them of her fears about personal safety and related her experience at Mount Cook. Lorna, the young woman was horrified. Mel learned that Lorna and Jimmy, the young man, weren’t travelling together – they’d only met while they were both photographing around Milford Sound. She quizzed them about matters such as being able to park close to the lakeside, how many other lone travellers she was likely to come across, and so on.
Jimmy tried to convince her that the risk was worth taking with her skills, and Lorna also suggested that she hadn’t felt in any danger out there – even before she’d teamed up with Jimmy.
Mel had noticed the way that Jimmy had been looking at her – appraising her was how she thought of it. That evaluation made more sense now that she knew that the two weren’t together except as fellow travellers who’d be on separate paths from then on. Nevertheless, she didn’t feel threatened – she was quite flattered, but not enough to encourage his attentions. The only man she wanted to see now was Jamie.
When they all arrived back at Manapouri, they parted company – Lorna would be driving back to Queenstown, Jimmy was staying on the boat – which was also returning to Queenstown.
Mel returned to her hired van and headed off to Te Anau, where she’d booked a powered space on a holiday park with a communal kitchen and lounge.
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.
The next set of shots will show scenes from around the town that I saw that Saturday. This image is of Hebden Bridge Train Station
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 1/160 secs @ f/11, focal length 16 mm, and ISO 400.