Castlepoint

It’s a place I heard about on Instagram only, with a pic from a kiwi photographer. It’s a bit off the beaten (tourist) track, on the Eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand, 3 hours from Wellington. It’s the first place I visted after leaving the South Island, and it completely blew my mind. Welcome to the end of the road. Welcome to Castlepoint.

The place was named by James Cook in 1770, when the captain discovered that huge chunk of a rock that reminded him of a castle’s battlements. The 162-meters high hill stands at the southern end of a limestone reef, creating a unique geological scenery that attracts holiday goers.

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2019 in review

It might be a bit late to have a look back at year 2019, but life has been very busy since I came back to Finland in the beginning of the month and I haven’t had much time for the blog.

I started the year in Jaipur (India) with my family, taking a plane on that day to spend a few days by the sea in Goa. After that, I flew back to New Zealand for 9 more months of working holiday. I stayed on the South Island until mid-April, visiting wonderful Fiordland twice and living 2 months in Dunedin to volunteer for penguins on the peninsula. I then migrated north, visiting wonderful Castlepoint before reaching Rotorua, where I stayed for a month and gave a talk at the Rotorua Camera Club about my travelling through New Zealand.

I then had a three-week tour of the North Island with Vivien, visiting Taranaki in the process, and closed my year in kiwiland by a 1.5 month stay in the largest city, Auckland, exactly where it all started in August 2018. I spiced up that last stage with a week of volunteering on wonder island Tiritiri Matangi.

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Taranaki

Mount Taranaki is one of the most stunning mountains of New Zealand, with its elegant narrow cone pointing straight to the sky. In fact, it looks so much like Japan’s Mount Fuji that scenes of The Last Samourai were shot with Mount Taranaki in the background…

Located at the Eastern corner of the North Island, it’s only the last in line in a series of older volcanoes that extend to the North-West. The reason is that the Indo-Australian plate is slowly moving compared to the magma source. The oldest volcanic activity in the area dates back to 1.75 million years ago. The second to last, the Pouakai complex, was active between 500 000 and 240 000 years ago, before Mount Taranaki started 135 000 years ago. Nowadays, the latter reaches 2 518 meters above sea level, almost a perfect cone but for the low bump of Pouakai on its North-Western side.

Mount Taranaki, with the Pouakai complex on the left

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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!

Ready?

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The South Island exclusive files: seaside

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, hence this article, dedicated to coastal areas of the island, and its follow up, dedicated to the highlands.

Ready?

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The north of the south

After an exhausting but exhilarating climb to the top of Saint Arnaud Range, I continued north to explore the shore of Tasman Bay and Golden Bay. In the former, I had little interest: too much agriculture, too many people, too little nature, it wasn’t for me! I slept a night in Motueka because I badly needed a shower, then continued on. My first stop was at the Riwaka Resurgence, a lovely dale sacred to the local Maori where a newborn river carved its way through forest and boulders.

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Painted with gold

As the crow flies, it would have been straight north from Christchurch. However, Maui’s canoe wasn’t flat, and the Southern Alps run from one end of the South Island to the other. After I left the cultivated plains, I was taken left and right, east and west, up the passes and down the valleys, sometimes accross the forest, sometimes accross meadows, in the shadows of high peaks dusted by snow. It was the end of summer.

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Birding near Christchurch

Christchurch is the largest city on the South Island of New Zealand, and it’s there that I took my flight to India in the end of last year. I came back early in January, and spent some time in the region before heading to Arthur’s Pass. I spent a day on the Banks Peninsula (more about that in a future article), then hit the shore of Lake Ellesmere.

This lake, the 5th largest of New Zealand, is in fact a brackish lagoon, sometimes linked to the Pacific Ocean when the channel is open, sometimes not. It’s an important site for wildlife, despite high pollution levels from agriculture runoff.

I explored a bit the south-western end of the lake, but couldn’t find a favourable spot for photography. I had time before sunset (remember, January equals summer and long, warm days :p), so I tried my luck at the Selwyn River estuary. At the end of an unpleasant gravel road, there was a small settlement and a car park. From the car park, a path led to the edge of the lake. A careless dog owner gave me a fright, but, apart from that, there were not many visitors in that area.

The path was lined by dense hedges of New Zealand flax and other bushes that attracted countless songbirds, mainly Silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) and introduced species.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

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The road to Milford Sound, part II

After the Divide, the road turns left, gets narrow and goes down in a steep ramp that ends at the bottom of the Hollyford Valley. Long ago, glaciers carved this place from the rock, leaving behind vertical walls that form a corridor for the intrepid visitor to follow.

To the right starts the Hollyford Track, a dirt road that follows the Lower Hollyford River for a while. Right at the start, a path leads up through the forest to Lake Marian. In April, I wanted to climb to Key Summit, but the walk, which starts at the Divide, was impossible because a bridge was damaged. So I chose Lake Marian, a 3-hour hike as well.

I started early, and it was freaking cold. I kept a swift pace on my ascent, so quickly, I was boiling. I didn’t slow down, and arrived to the lake faster than expected. The sun was lighting the east-facing slopes while frost still covered vegetation on the banks. The reflection was superb, but as the air warmed, a slight breeze broke it. I waited for the sun to reach me, then started to make my way down to the car.

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