Population Ten

On my recent trip to the South Island of New Zealand, I had the pleasure to discover and stay in the wonderful little historical town of St Bathans, located in the middle of Central Otago.

The origin of the town dates back to the early 1860s when gold was discovered and migrants came from as far afield as Ireland and China to seek their fortune.  It was originally named Dunstan Creek and by 1864, approximately 1000 people lived in the immediate area.

As a legacy of the mining, the amazing Blue Lake was formed.  Named after the distinctive blue colour which was caused by minerals in the water, it was created by miners digging away at a 120 metre hill until all that was left was a deep pit. When the mining stopped, the hole filled with water forming the lake.  Today, the lake is popular with weekend visitors who swim and jet ski in the lake.  There is a two kilometre walking track around Blue Lake so you are able to see the amazing colours and reflections from many different viewpoints.

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Blue Lake

Today there are only ten permanent residents, which include the owners of the haunted historic Vulcan Hotel, Mike and Jude Kavanagh.    You wont find a website to advertise the charming digs of this hotel accommodation, but you will find wonderful hospitality and have the opportunity to hang out with the locals when they drop in for a beer at the end of the day.

A couple of times a year, they run sheep through the main street in order to move them to different pastures.  I saw an amazing photograph on the wall of the pub which showed this happening.  The image had one sheep standing up in protest in the middle of the mob which really made the shot.  I was chuffed when Mike gave me a postcard of this image to keep.

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Many images of the renowned artist Grahame Sydney hang on the wall in the Vulcan Hotel.  Grahame has spent a lifetime painting and photographing the Central Otago landscape.

Little has changed in the town and it is easy to imagine how things might have been in its hey-day.  Historical St Bathans is now managed by the Department of Conservation and the only currently operating buildings are the pub and the post office.   I found it interesting that there were two cemeteries.  One for the catholics which took pride of place in town near the church, and one for non catholics which was located out of town.

I wandered through the township of historical buildings and found many items of interest to photograph, including vintage bicycles and old farm equipment.

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The Catholic Church and Cemetery

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Bike and Rabbit Trap

Only 17 kilometres away is the amazing Central Otago Rail Trail at Oturehua .  I was surprised at the number of families who were out riding parts of the trail.  It is such a wonderful landscape though to keep you distracted from the pain of cycling up the many hills.

St Bathans is a wonderful little place to put on your ‘must see’ places if you are travelling in the South Island of New Zealand.

A gallery of my St Bathans images is now able for viewing on the Getaway Images website.

North Stradbroke Island – A Little Gem Close To Home

It is hard to believe that I have lived in Brisbane for 15 years and had not visited beautiful North Stradbroke Island.  Last weekend I decided to bite the bullet, jump on the car ferry and explore ‘Straddie’ as the island is affectionately known by locals.

A very short 45 minutes later and the island was all mine.  It turned out to be a great time to visit as the holiday crowds had all left.

The RAV didn’t need to leave the bitumen as I made my way around the island from Dunwich to Amity Point, where a few of the local fishermen were dropping in their tinnies, and then on to Point Lookout where I was staying.  Every apartment at Samarinda Jewel By The Sea has a view to the ocean so that was a nice surprise.  I had forgotten how loud the ocean can be though!

It was sobering to see how much of the island had suffered through recent bushfires in December, and how close the fires had come to the township of Point Lookout.  On the upside, the burnt areas are now regenerating and are creating a beauty of their own.

A highlight on the Straddie trip was my hike out to Blue Lake where I almost tripped over a swamp pheasant who was sitting by the side of the track.   At first I thought he was injured, but he was just chilling like a villain and scuttled happily away after eyeballing me for a bit.  It is always a wonderful experience to get so close to wildlife in their natural habitat.

Another gem of a moment came when I met a pretty spritely old local as I was finishing up a sunrise shoot at Deadmans Beach.  He hobbled down the beach on crutches and came towards me with a camera swinging proudly around his neck.  He commented on my good choice of camera and told me how he walked this beach every morning, but just not as fast as he used to.  He then proceeded to guide my shot and told me to use the log in the foreground.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had framed that shot up and had already taken a few shots.  The morning light was just gorgeous hitting the rocks.  Anyway, I took a further ten shots and then showed him my favourite image on the back of the camera.  I waited for the seagulls to mill and a wave in the background to add a bit more interest.  He was chuffed and squealed out with delight ‘Wow, you are going to publish that aren’t you”.

Well in honour of that fine chap, here is that shot, published in the Getaway Images blog!   He also provided me with some good advice and told me that if I came back in a couple of months time,  the sand heaped high on the beach by the recent super tides would be gone, and that I would be able to walk right around the point.

I think I might just have to visit ‘Straddie’ again and I hope to run into him again.  Love salt of the earth people!

Deadmans Beach

My images from Stradbroke Island will be posted on the website by the end of this month.


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