29 February 2016

A trip to New Zealand's South Island

We've been to New Zealand a couple of times before, but never to the Otago region in the south-east. It was time to correct that.

We flew to Christchurch, exactly five years to the day, after the devastating earthquake ruined this beautiful city. Slowly the place is being restored to what it once was. But there are still a lot of damaged buildings everywhere.

Still lots of damaged buildings in Christchurch
But interesting renovations
On the second day, we hopped on the new TranzAlpine Express that goes daily from Christchurch to Greymouth. The brand new panoramic carriages offer great views over Arthurs Pass. We left the train at Moana as we had been to Greymouth on a previous trip. We took the opportunity to re-visit the town's only cafe for lunch.

The Station Cafe at Moana overlooking Lake Brunner
 After lunch we boarded the returning TransAlpine Express, back to Christchurch

The TranzAlpine Express has new carriages with bigger windows providing great views
The following morning, Diane's blogging friend Marja and her husband William. picked us up at the hotel and took us to the airport where we picked up a hire car. We had ordered a little Mazda and were pleasantly surprised when they upgraded us and gave us a near new Holden Malibu at no extra cost.

With our new friends we drove to Akaroa for the day. Akaroa is a wonderful tourist area with lots of bays.  Akaroa has a French connection. It was settled by French colonialists in time gone past.

Overlooking Akaroa and one of the many bays.
A pebble beach outside Christchurch
We left Marja and William and headed south towards our final destination. But we did stop at the
 Moeraki Boulders at Koekohe Beach on the way. These boulders are an attraction to photographers all around the world. Unfortunately it was very overcast and the lighting conditions were not very good.

I refrained from the cliche shots everyone takes, making the sea look milky and unnatural, that's not my cup of tea. I prefer the natural realistic look.

Moeraki Boulders at Koekohe Bach
After a night in a B&B in Timaru, we drove to Dunedin where we had booked into a B&B on the Otago Peninsula. To get there we had to drive on the dangerous Portobello Road following the Bay. It is a very narrow and unprotected road and local told us that at least one car a week drives off into the bay. What I couldn't understand is the authorities marked it as 70km/hr when it should have been 50km/hr. No wonder people lose control and end up in the drink.

The view from our bedroom at the B&B
On Friday we were booked on the Taieri Gorge Scenic Railway from Dunedin to Pukerangi.

This is one of the best rail journeys in the world. See a one minute video below.

The famous Taieri Gorge Railway
The historic Dunedin Railway Station
While on the Otago Peninsula, we also visited New Zealand's only castle, Larnach Castle and Gardens. The castle was built by William Larnach, a Scottish merchant baron and politician, for his first wife Eliza. The castle is still privately owned  by the Barker family. 
Larnach castle on the Otago Peninsula.
On the last day, we drove to the end of the peninsula, with the road getting even more dangerous the further we went. At the end is the Royal Albatross Colony and Centre. It was getting on dusk, and i was able to capture an albatross returning from a day's work out at sea, to feed it's chick.

An albatross returning from fishing out at sea.

A short video of the Taieri Gorge Railway


  1. What a great trip and the video is fantastic. Nice to see a country that I know I am not likely to get to. Have a good week t'other Diane

  2. It looks as if you had a fabulous trip. I enjoyed your video and would love to take that train trip, although I'm less enthusiastic about the road you had to drive. Thanks for taking us along.

  3. You got to a few places I missed when I visited. I really like the treatment you gave your photos, makes them look a bit olde world and is especially effective on the first shot from Christchurch. Love the composition of the railway station shot. Very dramatic.

  4. Well done Bill. Very picturesque as is expected in the South Island of NZ.
    Nice clean train with terrific large windows for viewing.
    I wonder what the young Asian pair were looking at on their phone?
    I would have thought the views from the windows would be more interesting.

  5. It was a super trip and we should do more.

  6. I'm envious. I'd love to see this place. Love the film dramatic music to match a dramatic landscape x


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