I am still to find a more beautiful country than our neighbouring NZ. From a photographic point of view, it has everything.
I would move there if I didn't have such strong roots to my home town, even with all its tectonic instability.
The main reason, however, for this sixth visit of mine to the land of the long white cloud, was to follow my sister-in-laws bucket list item for her 60th birthday (along with 4 other crazy women) and complete (should say attempt) the Queen Charlotte Track in Marlborough Sounds and the Otago Rail Trail. The only easy thing was they were both on the same island.
Since this was more an adventure rather than a photographic journey, the 1DX stayed home - it being a bit "obese" and hated cycling for starters, but also we had to keep our weight limit to under 15 kgs AND bring winter clothing, hiking gear, boots, poles, and cycling gear. So I purchased Canons 200D Mark II. VERY GOOD DECISION.
This camera did fine.
It came with a 18-55mm lens, f4-5.6. I LOVED the swivel screen and used it a lot...especially when my legs were aching from the daily bout of cycling and I didn't want to squat. It was amazingly light, though remember I am used to carting the equivalent of a piano with my usual gear. It fitted nicely into the provided bike saddle bags so it was easy to stop and pull it out at regular intervals.
We flew into Queenstown from Sydney, spent the night there, then caught a bus to Clyde. Our bus had a see through ceiling and as we weaved between high sharp edged slabs of the Otago Schists, it was almost surreal. On arrival at Clyde we collected our gear and bikes from the depot and began our journey. We spent the next 6 days cycling the trail with 5 nights at amazing accommodation. Our packs got transferred each day and we would find them waiting for us on arrival at the next comfy abode.
The ride itself was fairly flat with some long uphill sections and what seemed like BRIEF downhill sections, though sheep paddocks, deer, cows, bulls, furry horses, ducks, and rabbits...so many rabbits. The track is compacted gravel and wide enough for two bikes to ride together. Since it was October, there wasn't too many others on the track. Us and three other small groups who we made friends with and crossed paths many times. Most days we only rode around 30 - 34 kms but due to the pubs, scenery, photo stops, diversions of sites recommended in our trail book, it took until mid afternoon to get to our next destination. I was always the last one in, but I took a LOT of photos. Also I managed to pick up a cold, and struggled with a constant running nose and coughing.
There's a few bridges like this one, cattle grids, and gates to cross/negotiate, but nothing too scary.
Every now and then, and placed to scale according to distances from the sun (which was placed at Ranfurly) we would stumble upon a planet sculpture.
The 200D has a few cool functions that I know my 18 yr old daughter would love. It has a range of built in special effects filters. There's a classic grainy b&w film, HDR, a tilt shift filter, and retro effects that can also be used in movie mode. I didn't use any of them as I prefer to do these things in post. The battery life was fine, only charged it up every second night.
I took quite a few images from the town of Omakau. The others decided to do more cycling to the nearby town of Ophir, and I spent some time exploring Omakau on foot. There's a remnant station platform, beautiful church out of town up on the hill, lots of old buildings, and all the cherry blossoms were out on display. October is lambing season in NZ so there was plenty of brand new wooly bundles frolicking about, even saw one being born as we rode passed. We stayed at Mandy's Cottages.
The temperatures were usually quite comfortable to nippy at night. Most of the beds had electric blankets, and some places had fireplaces. Mornings were always cold so we had to start the ride off with jackets, though by mid morning we had stripped these off.
At Oturehua, was the best accommodation at the Inverlair Lodge. Great rooms, breakfast, hospitality, and VIEWS FROM THE HOT TUB over the snow capped mountains were unbelievable. In fact the accommodation and hospitality at each one was outstanding. We felt very welcomed and nothing was a problem. They all had little sheds to stash our bikes, wash down bays, air for our tyres and either provided breakfast or the ingredients to make our own. We had dinner at local pubs each night and the regions vino flowed easily.
Ranfurly, we stayed at HawkDunn Lodge.
That afternoon we booked a lesson and three games at the world class Curling Arena in the historical town of Naseby. Curling is not what I thought it was, and actually a lot of fun. After 3 games we were kicked out so others could play (and possibly so the guide could go and drink herself stupid). We were really bad at it, but laughed A LOT!
Our last full day was a very scenic one. Loads more sheep paddocks but a great way to TRULY see the country and take in all its beauty. Most of the small towns we passed through are by-passed by the main routes so they really appreciate the tourist dollar that the rail trail has brought in.
The very last day on the bike was only a 2 hour downhill slide into Middlemarch.
The one good thing about the early rise was the reward of the sunrise over the hills. I could have spent a lot longer here, but we had to get to the end of the line in time for our transfer.
From the depot at Middlemarch we were transferred to the Pukerangi train station about 45 mins away and slithered our way through the stunning Taieri Gorge to Dunedin. From here we overnighted and hired a car to get us up to part 2 of our adventure from Picton.
On-Route we stopped at Moraki Boulders and a great little place for dinner on the North Canterbury coast called Kaikoura where we could see snow capped mountains from the ocean.