The South Island exclusive files: mountainside

In the past few months, I extensively wrote about my peregrinations around the South Island of New Zealand, from beaches to mountaintops. Between November and April, I volunteered, I climbed, I hid, I drove… I had a good time!

I published a great many articles, but they didn’t cover everything: sometimes I didn’t feel like I had enough material to write anything, or I just didn’t feel like it. That said, I still have pictures I’d like to show you. The previous article was dedicated to coastal areas, so here we go with the mountains!


The Remarkables

I arrived there after my trip to Stewart Island. It’s a ski resort, but in December, it was summer and so it was closed. At the end of a steep dirt road (has anyone ever seen a dirt road to access a ski resort in the Alps?), a chaos of rock and old snow greeted me. Some scenes from the exit of Moria were filmed in the area for Lord of the Rings.

Lake Wakatipu

Queenstown, a well-known tourist resort, lies on its shore. I only drove through, but the town looked exactly like what I expected it to be: crowded and pretentious. Not for me. I much preferred the northern end of the lake, the scenery was spectacular.

I spent one evening with friends, watching the sunset before driving over the mountains to Wanaka.


Haaa, Wanaka… it would have been a lovely stop, if the reason for my extended stay there hadn’t been a broken car. Indeed, after I left Queenstown, my transmission broke down and left me stranded on a winding mountain road, in the dark, without signal. Fortunately, I was only 800m from the pass, so I climbed there, where I managed to call the roadside assistance. The tow truck took me to Wanaka, where I ended up staying some 10 days. I was lucky to find an amazing hostel there, with a great internet connection that allowed me to update my website.

I didn’t find much motivation to do anything, so I relaxed, went to the cinema and enjoyed the views from town. All in all, it was no so bad a time.

Kawarau Gorge

This was later, in the end of January. After a week on the West Coast, I was heading to Fiordland and had to go through Wanaka again. To reach Lake Wakatipu, I carefully avoided the road where my car had collapsed and instead stayed in the valley. I took a break in the Kawarau gorge, to watch bungy jumpers drop from the old bridge. New Zealand is paradise if you like this kind of activity (and also skydiving, speedboating and the like). It’s also where the LOTR Anduin river scenes were shot.

Have you got your parachute?


Not a very interesting town in itself, except for a free camp located in its center, where I could park my van and sleep. I stopped there twice, both times on the way from Fiordland to Dunedin.

Black-billed gull (Chroicocephalus bulleri)
Eurasian greenfinch (Chloris chloris)

The Whisp

Fellow photographer Glenda Rees had taken me there in search for Yellowheads (Mohoua ochrocephala). I visited 4 more times, but never saw them again. That means I never got proper pictures of that bird 😦 .

Oh well, at least there I made my best fantail image!

New Zealand fantail (Rhipidura fuliginosa)
Tomtit (Petroica macrocephala)
New Zealand fantail
New Zealand fantail


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