Saturday, January 23, 2016


Piwakawaka at Tauperikaka, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

After Bruce Bay, Route 6 turns again towards the interior, until it goes back to the coast in proximity of Ship Creek. The real name of the creek is the Māori Tauperikaka, but since 1871 it has acquired its anglo-saxon name due to an unusual story. In that year, a section of a ship wreck of uncommon built was found in a creek. More pieces were later found, and it was determined they were part of the bow of the “Schonberg”, a sailing ship of the Black Ball line. Additional pieces where found in subsequent years, until 1920. The rest of the hull was finally discovered by divers in 1973, off Adelaide in Australia.

The Schomberg was wrecked at the end of its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne, the day after Christmas, 1855. As another famous ship that didn’t complete its maiden voyage, the Schomberg was hailed as the fastest and finest ship in the world, and its captain James ‘Bully’ Forbes boasted that he would set a new record traversing from England to Australia in 60 days. After 80 days the cruise had still to reach the intended destination, and it is rumored that the disgruntled captain purposely wrecked the ship on the infamous Shipwreck Coast off Victoria (the 300 passengers walking ashore, unharmed). The surprising part of this story, is that the fragments of this ship managed to travel over 2,000 km across the Tasman sea, to end up on a desolated Westland beach.

We didn’t stay long at the beach, which is just on the side of Route 6, but we did climb the observation tower at the end of the parking lot. The tower offers a nice view of the beach. On the top we weren’t alone, as we were joined by the little bird in the photo above. This little yellow bird wasn’t at all afraid of humans: it was actually flying back and forth, sometimes so close that I though it would collide with my camera (the photo is in a rare moment in which the bird was calmly sitting on the tower window rail). Our friend Kendra later said that it is typical for that bird to dance that way around people, to eat the (numerous) mosquitos that clouds around people. She also told us the name of the bird: fantail, or piwakawaka in Māori.

Tauperikaka, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Bruce Bay

Bruce Bay, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

After leaving Fox Glacier and the reflection of Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook in Lake Matheson, we drove on Route 6 in the direction of the West Coast, facing the Tasman Sea. The road starts with a pleasant drive hopping from one glacial valley to the next, within the boundaries of the Westland - Tai Poutini National Park. The Māori have a poetic legend to explain the presence of the glaciers in the area of the park. They say that once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Hinehukatere that was living in the mountain. She and her lover Tawe used to climb the peaks until one tragic day he fell to his death. Hinehukatere cried for the loss of her love, and the glaciers we still see are her frozen tears. The area is known to the Māori as “Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere”: the tears of the avalanche girl.

The road along the coast

As we drove along Route 6, we suddenly entered into a native forest. The vegetation on this side of the island was quite different than on the Eastern side. The tidy rows of cultivated pine trees common on the Pacific coast were nowhere to be seen. Ancient trees contorted by the constant winds were prevalent, and made a thick canopy almost engulfing the road, winding as it followed the profile of the hidden coast. Even though it was a beautiful clear winter day, a thick mist exhaled from the forest and lingered on the road. Had we arrived in Fangorn?

Well, I don’t know how many Ents there were on the forest, but at least the mist had a more mundane explanation, which became clear after a few miles, when the forests cleared opening the view: just to the right of the forest there lie the coast, roaring with the breaking waves just a few yards from the road. As you can see in the photo on top, the mist was not fog, but rather spray from the mighty waves. After two days of mountains, the coast was a welcomed new sight. We lingered there (the place is called Bruce Bay) for some time, until some annoying mosquitos decided that we were good enough for an impromptu meal. I don’t know if it was for the mosquitos, or maybe for the strength of the waves, but I was surprised that nobody was there, either sunbathing in the very long beach, or maybe riding the very long waves.

The long Tasmanian Sea coast, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

Sunday, January 10, 2016


Horokoau from Lake Matheson, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

Mt. Tasman (Horokoau in Māori), with the height of 3497 meters is the second tallest mountain in New Zealand. I photographed it next to its neighbour Mt. Cook (Aoraki) from the shore of  Lake Matheson.

Fox glacier
The Māori name of the mountain means "the cormorant that swallows), comparing its profile to the swelling in the neck of a shag, as it is swallowing a fish. Mt. Tasman is not the tallest mountain in New Zealand (Aoraki is taller), but it is nevertheless impressive. Its climb seems to be very technical, requiring advanced skills in ice climbing. Il you do a quick search on the web, it is pretty obvious that climbing Mt. Tasman is not a simple hike. There are several companies that offers guided trip to the summit, assuming that you are fit and experienced enough, that you have the required 7 days to spend on the enterprise, and that you can pay the NZ$5,000 fee... We didn’t have any of the above, so we contented ourselves to watch the rock and ice beauty from below.

The finger of ice on the left of the photo is the Fox Glacier, that descends in the valley between the two mountains in the foreground, and that was responsible, once upon a time, for the formation of lake Matheson. From the the village where we had spent the night, one can go with a short hike to the base of the glacier, or rent (hire) a helicopter trip to actually “walk” on the ice. This is also something we didn’t do, but we still got a pretty good view of the glacier from a vantage point along the road, as we left the lake and the mountains, directed towards the west coast.

Horokoau and Aoraki from Lake Matheson, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Lake Matheson

Lake Matheson, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)

Probably the most photographed lake in New Zealand, lake Matheson offers a splendid view of Aoraki/Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman in its mirror waters. We went to the lake “early” in the morning (well, early for us), leaving Fox Glacier village as soon as we were ready. When we arrived, the lake was still covered in mist, and completely still like a glass surface (as in the panorama below).

The path to the lake
By the time we reached the place were the two mountains are mirrored (it is a 20 min walk in a dense forest) the mist had lifted, but an almost imperceptible breeze had also started to create ripples in the water, ruining the mirror effect. I actually liked it anyway, as the added texture in the water was creating interesting games of scattered light. The water of the lake is very dark (and that helps the mirror effect) due to the organic matter depositing from the surrounding forest. It is home of many waterfowls (we saw a lot of ducks and geese) and the mysterious (for us, as we didn’t see any) long finned eels. The lake was created by Fox Glacier itself, that before retiring at the end of the last ice age left the depression that is now occupied by the water.

The path going around the lake was full of tourists. Among them there was a nice asian family that asked if we could take a picture of them in front of the lake. At first I thought they were Japanese, but as soon as they started talking among themselves we realized they were Chinese. The difference being that we couldn’t understand a single word (while if they were Japanese the language should not have been so alien, given that Mayli and I at the time of the New Zealand trip were -supposedly- studying it). Well, we did find two Japanese girls later on on the path, cute in their very fashionable striped long socks with individual fingers, and had a chance of listening to them. Well... even in Japanese we still couldn’t understand a single word!

Lake Matheson, New Zealand (June 1, 2008)