For Brenna

Brenda is a lovely friend of mine who lives in ‘Away’- that’s that country that is anywhere that is not The Coast. The Coast? That’s the narrow strip of land between the Southern Alps and the sea on New Zealand’s South Island. I took a niece and her daughter on a wee trip to ‘The Glaciers’ and I promised Brenda I would show her some perdy pictures of this lovely part of Aotearoa New Zealand. So……

Just south of here is a lovely wee lake, Mahinapua.

It’s just wee thing but is a good illustration of our glacial history. It’s perhaps 30-40 kilometers to the Alps but many thousands of years ago the ice rivers that flowed off them reached the sea, just a couple of hundred meters away.

Down The Coast is Okarito- and this sign is a real warning. Kiwi live in the area in large numbers.


Okarito is a beautiful lagoon where the famous white heron or kotuku rookery is situated. They can’t be seen from the road but the lagoon is very pretty.


The beach here at Okarito is showing how steady erosion is becoming a factor in many places.

WP_20150308_018[1]The black sand is a good source of alluvial gold which is mined in many places on The Coast. Hard work but rewarding.

But our main purpose was to visit the two principal glaciers on this side of The Hill- Fox and Franz Josef. I’ve been visiting these on and off since the late 60s and it is astonishing how far they have receded in that time, but more scarily over the last decade or so!

We went to the settlement of Fox Glacier first, deciding to have a look at one of our iconic NZ lakes- Lake Matheson that has become world famous for its wonderful reflections.

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This pic is from an earlier winter trip. It’s a pretty special place, winter or summer!

We then visited Fox Glacier itself. It’s probably less spectacular than Franz, but it used to be the better one to view- the track to the viewing point climbing along the valley wall so you were able to look down on the lower parts of the ice flow. Not so much nowadays as the glacier has gone so far up the valley it is now difficult to reach it, let alone get to view it from above. (This is possible of course from the air and the buzz of helicopters is constant from 8am until 6pm every day.)

fox glacier
You get an idea of the pace of melting that’s happening given these two photos are separated by no more than 12 months!!!

It is an awesome valley with wonderful cliffs and beautiful waterfalls- even after a long period without rain.




After a very pleasant sojourn in one of the hostelries in Franz Josef, where Chontelle’s steak was awful (the first one and the redo!!) and my braised lamb-shanks were superb!! we slept the sleep of The Just and then headed to Franz Josef Glacier. The day didn’t dawn all that well but breakfast was going to give it a chance to improve!!


Our first visit was a side track to one of my favourite places- Peter’s Pond. What a gorgeous quiet place to gather one’s thoughts and reflect on how lucky we are! This was formed by ice-melt when the glacier broke up hundreds of years ago. It is now some way up that valley in the distance.

peters pond reflection

It is certainly an eye-opener when you see illustrated so clearly how far the glacier has receded over the years!

WP_20150309_009[1]When I first came here the glacier was filling the area at the head of the river. Now the track winds past that for another 4-500 meters. I guess it’s easy to blame global warming but I wonder what the next ice-age will bring?
The glacier itself is still magnificent but best seen from the air. From the valley floor you see just a tiny fraction of the ice flow which starts in earnest at the top of this view then heads back up the valley to the right, almost to the summit of The Alps.
It is majestic country and we are sort of shown our significance somewhat when we wander here. Just to think that just a few hundred years ago all of this valley was covered in a river of ice hundreds of feet thick, so let’s not put ALL of the glacial-melt down to our folly and global warming- they’ve been receding for much longer than we’ve been buggering things up!!

From Franz we headed homeward taking a wee detour just out of Hokitika to view the beautiful Hokitika Gorge, a narrow chasm the beautiful blue river flows through. The river is always this colour (or brighter when the sun is shining brightly) because of the origins in the ice-fields just a few hundred feet up the Alps.
And so a pleasant wee bush walk to end a lovely two days with my niece and grand-niece from the North Island.
They enjoyed the scenery, I enjoyed their company.



“As The Sun Sinks Slowly In The West…”

“As the sun sinks slowly in the West, we say a fond farewell to…”

There seems to be some disagreement over who first said these (almost immortal) words, but, quite frankly, I DON’T CARE! I do know I thought it was some American commentator at the end of a South Pacific travelogue back in the fifties, but if this is not the case- such much! It is however a fair description for a special time of the day down here on ‘The Coast’. (For those who haven’t read other posts on this blog and have missed me rabbiting on about ‘The Coast’, it is the western side of the Southern Alps of New Zealand, running the whole length of the South Island from the Kahurangi National Park in the north to Fiordland in the south.)

I live in Greymouth now, having spent all the rest of my life living in various places in the North Island, and I have the good fortune to have a place on a hill with a clear view to the Tasman Sea- The West that the sun sinks slowly in.

Now it has to be said that one of the features of The Coast besides magnificent glaciers, beautiful lakes, superb coastal vistas and majestic mountains is rain forest and we all know you can’t have rain forest without rain! Naturally this phenomenon gives plenty of people living in all other parts of our lovely country the reason/excuse/justification for seriously maligning the weather down here, and they are happy to announce, generally with tons of conviction that “…it always rains on The Coast!”

Well, you make up your own minds as you browse this selection of images all shot within that lovely segment of time that is “as the sun sinks slowly in the west.” It must be said that most of these are winter photos because the geography of my situation has us losing the sun (as it dips into the sea) behind the shoulder of a hill just around the street sometime in late spring and it doesn’t return until autumn is with us. It is a source of extreme pleasure to look off my deck and see…these!







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sunset 2

sunset 3I love this place.

“14 Mile”


The point at 13 Mile looking back towards Greymouth (coincidentally 13 Miles away!!)

I had an inquiry from an ‘associate’ this morning regarding “seaside holiday baches for rent” so I thought I’d put this page together- BECAUSE I KNOW OF 1!! (Before we go any further, don’t growl at me for my spelling of ‘bach’- that’s what we call them in Godzone- bach or crib, which is normally a holiday abode at the beach or at some favourite recreation area- river, lake etc..)

I live on ‘The Coast‘ and I have made reference to how lovely this part of Aotearoa New Zealand is in a number of ways- I’m sure if you dredge through previous posts on this blog you might find some of those!! Suffice it to say it is a very special part of the country and is a place that one could do MUCH WORSE than to visit. It is served by good quality roads from the Kohaihai River north of Karamea (and one anchor point of The Heaphy Track, the longest of NZ’ Great Walks) to Jackson’s Bay, a tiny fishing village south of Haast (the point at which SH6 leaves The Coast to head east to Central Otago.) You will have heard of a number of the ‘most important’ (best known) sites on The Coast- Punakaiki, The Glaciers or any of many other ‘iconic’ places.

13 mile bach

“GoogleEarth” view of the bach at 14 Mile. Yes, that’s it between the road and the rocks!

And thereby I pin the tale (tail?) of the wee bach at 14 Mile.

14 Mile? That’s how far it is from Greymouth in the old steps, and relates back to when places in New Zealand were often named by just that- how far they are from a more notable centre of population. (Not infrequently this ‘other notable place’ didn’t amount to much more than a settlement but at least had permanent buildings!) Not surprisingly the place nearer Greymouth that has homes and baches is ’10 Mile’!!

The bach at 14 Mile is remarkable for one pretty notable feature- it is just metres (vertical, not horizontal) from the Tasman Sea. The narrow deck on the front actually extends over the high tide mark!


The deck at ’14 Mile Bach’ extends over the high-tide mark….EXCITING!

Next to the bach is a fresh-water pool, achieved by the simple expedient of building a wall across the wee stream that runs out of the ranges over the road (which runs from Greymouth to Westport.)


The fresh water pool is always bracing!

It is pretty much a ‘traditional’ bach in that it’s very utilitarian and has been added to on occasions- ‘indoor plumbing’ and sleepout and extra storage and such. There is the usual large communal kitchen/dining/living area with a lovely big open fireplace for the chilly nights, (and of course re-stocking the wood supply can be a fun sideline of beach walking! You’ll be guaranteed to find some driftwood if you don’t find any pounamu cobbles or pebbles!)

Have a wee browse through the gallery and see whether you agree with me- this place is SPECIAL!

(PS- I am not their agent!)

Fuzzy The Kiwi

Once upon a time a furry wee kiwi named Fuzzyfluffyleft the comfort of her dark forest floor for the BIG WIDE WORLD. It was a pretty daunting prospect for this seemingly timid wee bird with no wings and a big nose but kiwis are, if nothing else, gutsy! As if to prove this point Fuzzy chose to go The Long Way, that is instead of ‘jump on a plane at Auckland, skip through Australia, SE Asia, Middle East to London’, she elected to ‘jump on a plane at Auckland (there aren’t too many alternatives to THIS) and get off the plane in Beijing’!summer palace beijing

While there Fuzzy did what all self-respecting visitors to Beijing do- she had a McDonaldsmacdonalds beijingand went and checked out a wall!great wallHaving practiced her ‘sher sher’ and ‘ni hao’ for a few days, she got on a train (not just any old train but ‘The Vodka Train’), left Beijing, and set off for places West! The first proper stop was Ulan Bator in Mongolia where Fuzzy visited what she thought was a yurt camp but was told was something else!ger camp Ulam Bator-it was a ger camp! She reckoned it was a lot warmer than the burrow back in the bush even though the snow was thick outside! (Snow, what is that!!) The Vodka Train stopped off near Irkutsk to visit Lake Baikal to see ‘the nearly midnight sun’ and Fuzzy took this neat photo of his travelling companion holding the sun in her hand!983642_10152370513757905_2694208329901715258_nClever little Fuzzy! It was just about another 4000 kilometres to her next stop, Moscow where one of the ‘must see’ places was Saint Basil’s basils moscowShe reckoned this one was aaawsome, but the travelling companion said she liked the onion-topped church in their next stop better- having a bit of a ‘classical romantic’ bent Fuzzy had decided to take a train ride to St Petersburg.soul kitchen st petersThis snazzy wee eatery, the ‘Soul Kitchen’ was a place that was a ‘must do’ to remove from the bucket list but Fuzzy wasn’t completely taken by the salty pickle- it spoiled the taste of the vodka, she said!

Now it was get on another plane and head to Spainspainwhere she had a relaxing time playing with some cats on a wee farm in Orgiva before popping across the Mediterranean to exotic Marrakesh! Wow!marrakesh moroccoBazaars, souks, markets and lots of coffee bars and fragrant smells! Having got REALLY laid back for a while Fuzzy wondered where to go next, and thinking that ANZAC Day wasn’t far away Turkey was an enticing destination. blue mosque hagia sophia istambulFrom the Hagia Sophia Fuzzy was able to see the minarets of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and, of course if she looked the other way she could see where she’d been!!! Sort of- Asia, anyway!)

Still determined to take the long way Fuzzy then made her way through some of the Balkan countries before arriving among the tulips of Amsterdam!amsterdam flower stallShe then crossed into Belgium to to see what the European Capital had to offer,Brusselsbecause it HAS to be an important place to be! (…and it was best viewed from the hat of one’s travelling companion!) Moving on, and because it wasn’t too far to go Fuzzy trained to Gay Paris! It was funny but she had thought that the leaning tower was elsewhere! You learn something every day, huh!!leaning tower of eiffel

While in this supposedly gay but definitely somewhat grubby town Fuzzy paid a visit to a very famous lady, who some call Mona and others La Giaconda.

smiling back at la giaconda

She didn’t say much so after a quick baguette and a carafe of wine it was on another train and north- to Norway! Fuzzy had heard of a place that was supposedly just like Fiordland back in Aotearoa-New Zealand so after she got off the train and just escaped a horrible fate in Oslooslo norwayshe made her way up the ocean coast to Lysefjord where she climbed up to what is known as Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen.preikestolenShe knew that the family back home would be scared out of their wits by it so she got her travelling companion to take a view from the pulpit. Thinking a base-jump might be a step too far Fuzzy then went a-wandering around Norway a bit and while there made a quick side-trip around a lake to Sweden!swedenThat’s Swedish lichen that Fuzzy’s sitting on with Norway across the lake in the background. Next time up this way this lichen would be under several feet of snow and she and the travelling companion would walk across the lake!

There was a bit of a lull in the clouds of volcanic ash that was drifting across Europe from Eyjafjallajokull Volcano that had been popping off a bit so Fuzzy decided to go to this mythical land of ice and volcanos. She found that EVERYTHING was unpronouncable

reykjavikand quite expensive but she put this down to the fact that everything has to be imported. Their only export was volcanic ash.

Luckily the aeroplanes were still flying and one of them took Fuzzy back to London for her to start the British part of her OE. London was great, and being an artistic bird with a bit of dramatic flair she took her travelling companion along to The Globe and she tried treading The Bard’s boards. It was a wonderful experience but the audience were a bit hard to please-The Globe Londonthey kept walking around!!!

After London Fuzzy visited a couple of acquaintances at Beatrix’s placemy mate peter at beatrix potter worldbefore going down the road to a school that New Zealand has a special connection with-rugby school rugbyRUGBY! Without the influence of this school and the crazy antics of one of its pupils, William Webb Ellis Aotearoa-New Zealand would probably have a national pass-time that involved little more than horse-racing and beer!on a rugby ball in rugbyHer travelling companion helped Fuzzy to visit the playing fields and the museum where she recognised a few other kiwis, sorry- Kiwis.more kiwis

After trying a few tries, and kicking a few goals Fuzzy moved on to visit the Eden Projecteden projectto see how we should be doing things. Fuzzy was DELIGHTED to see that what we were doing in Aotearoa-New Zealandeden project refreshmentwas bang on!! Having had it confirmed that the world was in good hands in Godzone (God’s Own- get it?) Fuzzy moved down a road, and down a road and down a road until she came to Land’s Endlands end cornwallwhere the Cornish people made her a few pasties and poured a pint or two.

Having been away from home for quite a while now Fuzzy was delighted that she was easily able to remind herself of what she was so far away from by simply going to a store and picking up one treatwhat else would a kiwi drinkor another. These sustained Fuzzy and her travelling companion as they headed northwards to their roots. Along the way Fuzzy picked up another friend, who paid for the drinks do ya thinkHairy Coo. While Hairy Coo was a quietly spoken wee bovine it quickly became obvious that he had one or two vices!!only single malt thanksOf course Fuzzy is always ‘up for it’ so she joined in!gizza straw my nose isn't THAT bigShe couldn’t understand why they made bottles so deep! Of course it was little better for Hairy Coogive hairy a couple and hes a show offbut they had some REALLY good timesfuzzy and hairy coowending their way through Bonnie Scotland.May ye ne'er want a frien', or a dram to gi'e him! Tir nam beann, nan gleann, nan gaisgeach“May ye n’er want a frien’, or a dram to gi’e him! Tir nam beann, nan gleann, nan gaisgeach!” Some VERY good times! Some of the mornings weren’t too flash but Hairy Coo showed Fuzzy a GREAT remedy for a cotton-wool head-a round at the royal and ancient at St Andrewsgowf! Fuzzy and Hairy Coo golfed a golf or two at the Old Courseparred itat St Andrews, the home of another one of the ‘traditional’ games of the Home Land. Fuzzy shot a couple over par and blamed the caddy, sorry, the travelling companion for providing bad advice for the couple of slips that happened ‘tween tee and cup.

The next step on the journey of our brave wee kiwi was across the Irish Sea to The Emerald Isle, for it is almost certain that the roots of the roots grew deep in Irish ireland doing irishdespite the fact that Fuzzy was no great fan of Jamiesons. Obviously Hairy Coo was prepared to work at blending the single malt and the juice of the bogs though.

Fuzzy bid a fond farewell to the Celtic Lands and prepared for the journey home by going into the frozen wastes of Norway to ‘chill out’ for a while before getting on a big silver bird. She decided to take the short westerly route home and was doing very well until she got hijacked on the way by some tropical fruits and juicesaloha from hawaiiand exotic vegetation on the islands of Hawaii. Having thawed out (after the snow of Norway) Fuzzy made a final boarding at Honolulu and jumped a day arriving back in the bosom of her flightless family for a slightly delayed Merry Christmas.

What a bird!! Welcome home.

Ships In The Night?

I took a wee trip down to The Glaciers a few weeks ago and I’m so glad I did!

The drive down the West Coast of the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand is one of the finest in the world. This isn’t my claim, it is according to Total Travel and you can view what they say here. In my opinion the best part of the drive is actually between Charleston and Greymouth (where I started my journey) but even so the further south you go the more impressive the views become and the whole trip is a truly memorable one.

Southwards I went until I came to a place south of Hari Hari where it appears the locals have discovered a new cash-crop-

2013-09-20 16.59.45ragwort!! Some years ago this was declared to be a noxious weed but it would appear that local councils have put its eradication into the ‘too hard’ basket as it is as rampant on road verges as it is in this paddock! I hate the bloody stuff as do stock so one wonders why cockies wouldn’t be a bit more proactive in controlling its spread on their land. Oh well, their choice, I guess, seeing councils don’t seem to give a damn!

I also took a side trip in to see what the glacier flight setup was just north of Whataroa. It’s some way from Franz and Fox glaciers but I guess they have access to a few lesser known ones close by. It wasn’t an operation that would set the world on fire but I guess they must make enough helicopter flights to keep them in fuel with a bit left over for the groceries!! (Or until they sell their crop of ragwort, maybe?) The old road-bridge pillarsWP_001004were quite impressive but the really impressive thing about the place was the lock they had on the door of their dunny! For those unfamiliar with the term, a ‘dunny’ is a lavatory, toilet or, for our American friends, ‘bathroom’ [even though there’s not a bath within cooey!!]2013-09-19 19.48.20This the sort of security every littlest room should have! If you were REALLY pretencious you could always use a greenstone boulder!

South of Whataroa I took a side trip out to the Okarito Lagoon. People know this for the iconic kotuku or white heron that nest and breed there, but it is also a special place just to visit for views both of the lagoon

okaritoand the beach. (If you of a mind to you can contact my mate Ian Cooper and arrange to view kiwi in the wild!)

On south to the glaciers. I went through to Fox Glacier first and did a wee bit of business before taking a run out to Lake Matheson. This is a special wee gem but usually best visited in the calm of the morning because its claim to fame is the view of Aorangi Mt Cook (New Zealand’s highest mountain which is just 17km from Fox in The Alps) that is reflected in the lake’s calm waters, a bit like this.matheson1cmprssdIt is a famous view sometimes depicted on various NZ stamps and is much more impressive in winter with the snow on the mountains, but… you see what I mean.Lake-Matheson2From Matheson I drove out to Gillespies Beach, an area that was mined for gold for many years. There is a nicely kept wee cemetery that’s worth a visit if you go there,

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many of the headstones with dates going back well over 100 years. One gets the impression that not all of the graves have had much care lavished on them2013-09-19 23.27.50and that there are many unmarked graves on the fringes or even in the surrounding bush. There are old gold workings to be seen further down the beach and the beach itself is typical of the West Coast- long, sweeping and worth investigative rambling!

I came back from Gillespies and decided to have a look at the glacier as I hadn’t been to it for many, many years and all of the talk of our glaciers receding at alarming rates has made me wonder for some time what the difference of some decades would be. It was just short of dusk and as I drove into the car-park I saw a pair of young ladies walking in the middle of the road towards the glacier. They separated as I drove up and thus I stopped, wound down my window and jokingly said “You realise that by doing that I won’t be able to run you both over together!!” Luckily she laughed, her friend joined us and we walked together to view the face of the glacier.

What a shock. My hazy recollections had the face of the glacier being closer to the road than where the car-park was now, and that it was quite high and broad and ran from side to side of the valley!2013-09-20 02.09.00Now the terminal face isn’t a face at all and the volume of ice-field that ran up to the entrance to the valley proper is paltry. It was really quite sad. I probably bored the lovely company with my teacher upbringing coming to the fore and acting the glacier guide -a bit presumptuous seeing I hadn’t see the bloody thing for about 40 years! Very kindly they didn’t opt to eject me from the group and their company was very welcome.

I suppose the glacial melting will get worse before it gets better but the following gives some idea of what has happened up the road at Franz Josef over the decades and it is logical the same graphic for Fox would be just as awful.2013-09-20 13.51.07 2013-09-20 13.50.56 2013-09-20 13.50.45 2013-09-20 13.50.34 2013-09-20 13.50.12More about that soon.

I offered the young ladies a lift back to Fox Glacier township with the idea we have a coffee which they accepted as it was now past sundown and getting a bit chilly. After proper introductions it transpired Nicole was a young German lassie and Frida hailed from Sweden, and both worked at the local tourist hotel as part of their OEs. It was delightful to chat with them for a while and find out a wee bit about each other.  I made hollow threats of dire consequences if they didn’t contact me when next in Greymouth before I took my leave and set off to  find a place to stay.

Next morning I was in Franz Josef by about 7:30 and made myself a cup of coffee in the glacier carpark. It has to be said that the road in,2013-09-20 15.05.30the presentation of facilities, the information boards and so on are MUCH better at Franz Josef, although this didn’t impress me much (nothing to do  with DOC, of course!) On the wall in one of the toilet cubicles-

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Not impressed, tourist people!!!

The walk up to the terminal face was too far for me to contemplate that morning but the walk out onto the river flats was pleasant but again quite a shock.2013-09-20 14.04.27 The series of pics above shows very graphically what has happened and it was alarming to picture where the face had been and how far it had moved up the valley.2013-09-20 13.49.19‘Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere’ has now disappeared around a corner and it is not until one completes a several km trek or takes to the air that the glacier is actually properly seen. One of the logical consequences of this is how people now experience the glacier- nowadays it is largely by air as it is getting to be a bigger and bigger tramp to even reach the glacier and today’s tourists desire things to happen somewhat quicker than can be achieved by foot! The buzz of helicopters and higher flying ski-planes is constant competition to the birdsong- I’d prefer just the birdsong!

One must do is a short excursion into the bush at the carpark, along a well-formed path2013-09-20 13.46.44to reach Peter’s Pond, Franz’s answer to Lake Matheson.peter's pondWhat a gem! It is a kettle lake which is simply where melt water from a glacier ice-block has been trapped in a natural erosion bowl in solid rock. This one is not very large but as you can see it’s beautifully positioned to give some gorgeous reflections!

Having done most of what I’d gone South to do I headed back home and kept pondering on the highlights of the trip. The weather was typical of the West Coast- brilliantly fine. The new places I visited were interesting. The glaciers were food for thought (although I think I am of the opinion that while global warming/greenhouse gases/ozone depletion are all buzz-wordy convenient excuses/explanations for glacial retreat we should not completely lose sight of the age-long cyclic nature of climate Earth. Don’t get me wrong, man’s influence on the planet is far from blameless in this regard but I have an optimistic bone or two that tell me that the glaciers will return. Doubtless I won’t be around to welcome them back!!!) The silence in some areas in the bush was a worry (1080?).

But doubtless the highlight of the trip was people. I met a couple of Yanks and we chatted about greenstone (they didn’t buy any of mine!) I picked up a hitch-hiking Israeli and our conversation was quite enlightening- I am not a fan of what the Israelis do on their own doorstep but this young lady had quite a refreshing attitude and this I found interesting because she was doing an OE having just completed 3 years of compulsory military conscription! I met an Argentinian couple who I chatted to about memorabilia and souvenirs, having seen them browsing displays of awful home-produced kitsch. (They didn’t buy any of my stuff either!!) And then, of course I met a young German and a young Swede. And that was the highlight. Two young visitors with perfect English who were happy to chat about this, and that, and the other, and who were effusive in their opinions of Aotearoa New Zealand. I had the impression that they weren’t peeing in my pocket, either, but were honestly happy to be here and enjoying the company of Kiwis they met. To have my home and fellow Kiwis praised so readily by visitors was balm to the soul!!

My time with Frida and Nicole was limited but it was a delight to be contacted by Frida a few weeks later to be told she was coming to Greymouth for the day, and would I like to meet her for coffee? Would I!!?? We met, completed her few errands then I took her home for lunch as she said she hadn’t had breakfast and was starving! We chatted for what was far too short a time and I then took her to meet her friends. It wasn’t until we had taken our leave of each other that it dawned on me that I might never see this young person again. Ever. This really gave meaning to the saying, “Ships that pass in the night”.

How often do we have such brief encounters and then go our separate ways? I know it is in the nature of the mobile world we live in, but…

Jag kommer att sakna dig.

World’s Cleanest Lake?

This pictorial article appeared in The Guardian in the UK- it is a simple little article but what a great wee story!!on New Zealand’s South IslandNew Zealand is made up of many islands but two comprise the majority of the country and they are prosaically named North Island and South Island– I’ll let you work out the geography inherent in these names. (We also have a West Island but the people who live there call it Australia!!)

At the ‘top’ of the South Island is the Nelson Lakes National Park. It is among the western ranges of the Southern Alps and apart from the main two lakes, Rotoiti and Rotoroa contains many more smaller and much smaller lakes, one of which can claim to be The Clearest Lake In The World. Some claim!!on New Zealand’s South IslandDistilled water has a visibility range of between 70 and 80 metres! The visibility in Blue Lake in the Nelson Lakes National Park has been scientifically verified as having in-water visibility of 76 metres!!on New Zealand’s South IslandThis extraordinary clarity is due to the very simple process of filtration. Practically all of the water that arrives in Blue Lake originates in Lake Clarence just a kilometre or so away to the south and water leeches out of Clarence and seeps through the glacial moraine material before seeping into Blue Lake- excruciatingly sediment free.on New Zealand’s South IslandOf course when it rains water flows into the Blue Lake from the surrounding mountains and as a consequence the water becomes less clear but remarkably all of the water in the lake drains out and is replaced over a period of about 24 hours!on New Zealand’s South Island

The Department of Conservation has strict guidelines in place to preserve the pristine nature of this body of water even to the extent that visitors are prohibited from diving in it, and of course obvious restrictions as regards tramping, camping and associated water activities.on New Zealand’s South Island

A wonderful place.

Thank You, Oamaru (and Thank You Lee.)

During the Oligocene, conditions were rather quiescent; widespread thin bioclastic limestones formed, associated with glauconitic and occasionally phosphatic terrigenousstarved sediments. These biogenic and authigenic sediments are an important source of marine invertebrates and vertebrates.

To paraphrase-

A long, long, loooong time ago a whole bunch of things died and fell to the ocean floor and over many, many, maaany years were covered by successive layers of other ‘stuff’ which served to compress the thingy stuff and turn it into stone. We call the kind found around Oamaru in NZ ‘limestone’ and it was to this fun material that my stone carving course turned its attention.

Our design brief required that the creation was to have God, god or gods as the inspiration and so…we went to pencil, paper and planned. Lots of ideas, either inspired by lore or imagination. (One of my classmates developed a somewhat cynical but humorous design based on avarice and greed and featuring a large jug with a $ sign on the side and a key suspended around the neck- key, Key…get it?) I initially thought of my son’s association with the Maori god of war, Tumatauenga but none of the designs really gelled so I moved to an arguably more pleasant realm, that of Tangaroa, the Maori god of the sea. This ‘inspiration’ persisted but was modified. Tangaroa had a son, Punga who in turn had a son, Ikatere. Ikatere fled to the sea to escape land-based threats and became the ‘father of fish’. I gave Ikatere an offspring and named it (gender neutral, me) ‘He-Uri-O-Ikatere’ (An Offspring Of Ikatere.)

In our ‘stone room’ we were given our choice of stone and this is what I chose.


It was a pretty daunting prospect to see this huge block of stone and picture the quite delicate and flowing model one had drawn hidden within. How to get it out!! First things first- remove the BIG volume of unwanted stone. My dear limestone tutor, Lee said this was an easy operation- first put in some deep saw-cuts that define the stone to be removed, then a few judicious blows with a mallet and the block would fall away. Simple. (I warned Lee this wasn’t going away any time soon.) She decided to show me exactly what she meant so gave the end of the block a few ‘judicious blows’ with the mallet and… off fell the whole end of the block instead of just the surplus section!!

Haha- sorry Lee!

She was super sorry and super apologetic but I looked at this as being a salutary lesson that at any time things can go wrong and not to become complacent when things are breezing along (never suggesting, of course that Lee was in any way complacent!)cmprssd4

Now it was a matter of following the guidelines I’d drawn and continue to remove bulky chunks, working gradually towards the form I’d planned. I don’t know whether my dear friend Lee had a pang of conscience or not but she introduced me to the reciprocating saw and what a great tool for quick removal of waste stone it was. A few cuts and then taps with the mallet and large chucks fell away. Thank you, Lee!cmprssd5

From there on it was saw, chisel, chisel, saw, mallet, chisel, and so on gradually removing more and more stone and getting closer and closer to the desired form. I hadn’t realised, of course how easy the stone was to work with- chiselling, sawing, rasping, sanding, drilling- all of these quickly removed varying quantities and fairly quickly it became easy(ish) to get close to the stage where finer detail emerges and more delicate methods are called for.cmprssd6

Something that was always at the back of my mind (and not TOO far back, either!) was what happened with the first bulk removal and I wondered how strong the stone was in the thinner areas and what danger there might be to chisel and mallet chipping away, a technique I fairly early on decided I wanted to use in order to preserve a very coarse texture on many parts of the work to contrast with some finer features- the ‘arms’ face and ‘offering bowl’. My fears were unfounded and although I was probably very tentative the nearer the point of the shell I got, the shell was indeed completed without ending up with integral bits on the carving room floor!!

As I worked towards the final details I had an inspiration- (I do like the way designs continue to ‘evolve’ as one sees new possibilities!!). I wondered whether I could excavate a line completely through below the head and behind one of the arms…I thought it could look quite good! Go for it!

Yes it did look good! Yes, it did require a lot more work but it did achieve another feature element. It also gave me all sorts of issues with finishing, but…

I intended some carving on the face- very simple stylised lines only and when these were done they did have the desired effect of new shadows and lines. After I’d done these however my friend of the $ jug suggested the moko might be improved by sanding and softening. Initially I didn’t like this idea but after sleeping on it I tended towards his view and so it proved- there was still line and shadow but the softer look suited the face.

The final feature to the carving was to place the paua shell eyes and it was pretty much done!

All that was left, apart from checking this, that and the other for fine touching was to place some ‘offerings’. I had intended simply going to the beach and placing what shells, bones, weed and any other detritus I might find but as I had already carved a couple of nice stone mussel shells I decided that making a bit of a feature of the fascinating stones of our beaches would suit (remember ‘evolving’?) This I did- I have a number of colourful ‘shells’ I carved from various coloured stones and now I await He-Uri-O-Ikatere’s verdict- does he/she find favour with what I’ve made herim, or…
The new experience of working limestone was fascinating, (although it was VERY dusty and messy!) and I reckon I did OK for a first effort! What do you think, He-Uri?

Thanks Lee.

Assignment The Second!

After getting my results back for the ‘free form’ assignment I moved on to the next challenge on my CJA10 Jade & Hard Stone Carving course. This time we were required to produce 4 ‘asymmetric drops’ and to present 2 for assessment. Asymmetric? OK! Piece has balance but no symmetry.

I took a few lessons from my last assignment in that I had tried to run before I had learned how to walk, (or perhaps crawl before I could walk?) I had probably over-designed some of my first efforts despite the two assessment pieces- this one???????????????????????????????and this one???????????????????????????????being pretty basic and largely lacking in any ‘intricacies’.

This time I consciously ‘stuck with the plan’ and used the KISS principle, our tutor indicating that these first challenges are more about the tools than they are about the design and learning how the various point-carving attachments and sanding/polishing tools work and interact with the stone.

So, how’d I do?
asymm3 cmprssd

This piece made from Marsden jade is one of my assessment pieces because I think it conforms with the design criteria, but I just love the colours!!

asymm1 cmprssd

This piece has developed into a quite nice piece – another piece of Marsden- great colours!. 2003-01-01 00.00.00-11

This is also a piece made from Marsden- simple although getting the curve right across the face was the main hurdle- think I did it!2003-01-01 00.00.00-12I’m using this as my other assessment piece. It’s a nice simple form made from NZ jade. I am pleased with the simple form and have developed nice curves on front and rear. 2003-01-01 00.00.00-14

This is a nice piece of Polar jade from British Columbia- nice colour and picturesque speckles inside feature in the translucence.

I didn’t stop there but also made this pendant.2003-01-01 00.00.00-18It is a wee bit special because there’s a story that goes with it! When my wife and I moved into our new home several years ago there was a large green stone door stop in the lounge. I always wondered whether it was there because it was greenstone or just a green stone. We cut it the other day and this is what was inside! Lovely buttery yellow Marsden stone with a wide variety of other colours- greens , blues, pinks, browns. I am delighted that this stone has proven to be ‘proper’ jade.

Oh, by the way- I got 88% for my free forms!! Did OK!!


I recently added a post on going back to ‘school’ and I am now an old hand of 2 weeks and 1 day’s experience! The group I share the ‘Jade and Hard Stone Carving Course’ with are a somewhat disparate group who include second year ‘Diploma’ students who completed the ‘Certificate’ course last year and are working at the next level up, and we ‘cert’ students, maybe with some prior knowledge of jewellery or lapidary, or bone carving, or who have no previous experience at all.

Our first week sessions were comprised mainly of safety and safe workshop practices, precautions to maintain good health and being introduced to the equipment we will be using. We were also introduced to varieties of stone ranging from what excites us most- jade, to ‘lesser’ stones that we may very well consider our ‘bread and butter’ while we hang out for some of the ‘real’ stuff to come along.

We have touched on design elements and principles (or should that be design principles and elements?) and looked at the work of some of the notable stone carvers we have in New Zealand. These people are extraordinary and to be in awe of. They are people who create works of art that we can only dream of creating. Some of the pieces they have made are internationally recognised for the skill and beauty that are embodied in them. One in particular comes to mind- a piece by Ian Boustridge, a Greymouth artist who has been at the forefront of the jade industry in New Zealand for many years. It is a remarkable piece- a fabulously entwined tendril of pure kawakawa pounamu called ‘Sonic’ that when struck produces a pure sound that is audible for a full 35 seconds!Ian-Boustridge-Tendrils-of-Jade1-300x204Such a piece one can only aspire to tame imitation of.

Our first assignment was pretty simple and straightforward- design and make six free-form ‘pieces’. We were allowed to choose our own pieces of stone from a collection of off-cuts that previous students have trimmed off the larger stones they have produced advanced assignment works from. There were large(ish) pieces, straight(ish) pieces, chunky pieces, flat pieces and almost everything in between. There were pieces of jade, both New Zealand and  overseas (much of the ‘pounamu’ sold in New Zealand is, in fact jade from British Columbia or Siberia- or elsewhere in the world) and other stones such as serpentine, jasper, tiger eye and  such. The idea was for the student to see the potential in a piece and then allow the form that lay within to emerge through their working. It was also a chance for the emerging carvers to get their first experiences of the various tools they have available- how to remove stone most efficiently with both a ‘point carver’ and a hand-piece.

Of course the untrained eye just saw pieces of stone and was hopeful that something lay within and could be brought out.

We have 3 more days to complete our pieces with shaping, grinding, sanding, polishing and hanging to be mastered. (Mastered? You must be joking!) Anyway here is where I am at.

This piece I chose more for the interesting flecked texture that I saw in it and a feeling that it would polish up really nicely.pendant cmprssdIt is probably the nearest to what was the intention of the design brief- a simple free-form with no straight lines or surfaces. I still haven’t made up my mind where I will suspend it from! This stone is a piece of ‘Douglas Creek jade’, which I’m informed isn’t jade but is a form of a serpentine.

I picked out a lovely piece of Siberian ‘inanga’ stone that has beautiful milky colour and had some interesting patterning which took my eye.siberian cmprssdUnfortunately the patterns were ‘de-laminations’ or cracks in the stone and these caused flaking off around one end. I think I will end up with a pretty piece though.

I have a bit of design history from my bone-carving days of course and as a consequence got a bit carried away with ‘over-designing’ but… It meant that I set myself extra challenges but that can’t be such a bad thing, huh?

jade cmprssd

This piece of stone is true jade and has some beautiful colours and patterns. The off-cut I made this from had a large fracture running through it but I thought I could make s0mething of it.

This piece has been quite problematic and this is due to choosing a symmetrical design that involves removing mass evenly.pendant3 cmprssdI don’t know that it has quite worked, but there are again some very nice patterns in the stone that will look good when it is finished.

‘Manu’ has emerged from a really scrappy off-cut.crappy off cutOr is that ‘crappy’ off-cut? I saw the fractures in it but thought that something could be salvaged. As I carved one bit broke off, then another and I nearly walked away from it.manu cmprssdI’m glad I didn’t because what I think is a nice bird-like design has come out of it.

When I thought the symmetrical piece wasn’t going to work I decided I’d better make a back-up piece and this black spike is the result.tooth compressedI’m going to suspend it with a hidden attachment and it should hang very nicely.

And my last piece (at this stage) is ‘tuna’,tuna cmprssda neat wee design that started as a simple coil which developed a personality and led me, with advice from the tutor to add a hint of gills and fin to end up with an eel which will be suspended from the ‘shoulder’ (if a fish has a shoulder?)

So here I am, 3 days from presentation day and with a bit to do but so far I’m not displeased.

Waddaya reckon?

I Love This Place


By ‘this place’ I might be meaning Greymouth, or the West Coast, or my home. I think I probably mean ‘my home’ in this instance because each of these images was taken from the deck on the front of the house.morning greymouth1It is a very roomy addition and if I’m truthful it is one of the features that sold the place to my wife and I just under a decade ago. That it sits on the hills behind Greymouth and has a beautiful view westward is just icing on the cake.sunsetI’m so delighted that the trip from my chair to the deck takes all of 3 seconds and as one of my cameras is always nearby it takes little more than that time to be snapping awayDSC04161in response to great light in our lounge, or glorious colours sneakily viewed from my lounge-chair, or a comment from my wife something along the lines of “Oh! Look at THAT sunset- isn’t that gorgeous?”???????????????????????????????Whatever the motivation the ends pretty much speak for themselves.DSC04116Any and all seasons, mornings or evenings- I love this place.