The Journal Vol.9
Since we arrived in New Zealand, the world as we know it has been turned upside down and reshaped over the space of two months. We were ordered to six weeks of strict lockdown, with only a local walk and drive to the supermarket permitted. No other shops were open, we couldn't see our friends, we couldn't buy a coffee, and we could only stick to our 'bubble' of five. Crazy times!
It's now July which means we've been on the road for just over 12 months. In this time, we've done so much, seen places we'd only dreamed of previously, met incredible humans along the way, sparked new friendships, and grown in our relationship together further and further. For me, it's been my best year yet and even with the pandemic causing issues around the world, we've managed to get through in an even stronger position than before.
The last few weeks we've been in level 2, which means we can safely travel anywhere in New Zealand and do what we please. It's crazy that life has essentially gone back to normal, like nothing ever happened. This has meant we've been able to hike and revisit spots like Milford Sound and Mount Cook and we've been so stoked about that. Here's a recap on the last few months in the land of the long white cloud.
Alert Level 4 Lockdown, New Zealand
In late March, the entire nation of New Zealand entered the alert level 4 lockdown, which ordered everyone to stay in their homes for a minimum of four weeks, with only local walks of less than a couple of kilometres allowed. No scenic driving, no backpacking, no climbing. The only driving allowed was to go to the supermarket. It was a weird experience, but we were fighting for the greater good.
We watched the seasons change from our window. From warm days in March to peak autumn in late April to the beginnings of winter in mid-May. Slowing down meant we could see the whole natural process of changing seasons and it was so beautiful.
From too much screen time, to reading books in the sun, we became completely domestic.
Larch needles changing colour as autumn sweeps through while we're locked up inside.
Looking up to the mountains every day from our window knowing they were so close yet so far away was hard, but we knew they'd always be there.
Exploring Local Tracks
Being ordered to stay close to home, we had no other choice but to explore locally, which became a blessing in disguise. Being based in Arthurs Point (10 minutes outside of Queenstown), we're at the base of Coronet Peak, Bowen Peak and other walks like the Moonlight Track etc. There's an absolute abundance of walks here, so we were very lucky. I had my eyes on Mount Dewar, the mountain right above our home. It ended up being a relatively easy hike with only 400m of gain, with views that encapsulate the true wilderness and nature of New Zealand's rolling brown mountains. Have you ever underestimated a particular hike or a place and then when you finally get there it's better than you could have imagined? This was it for me.
The rolling brown mountains of New Zealand provided freedom and respite once we were free to roam again.
In a time when airports are shut and international travel on hold, it's been a wonderful time to really digest our surroundings and appreciate where we live. One of our favourite walks is the summit of Bob's Cove, about 20 minutes' drive out of Queenstown. The view from the top gives widespread views of Lake Wakatipu and the distant Remarkables mountain range. You can witness a variety of weather changes out at this point, because of the position being exposed to southerly winds. The waves can rise in the space of 20 minutes and snow can fall at any time. I love being in a place with so much varying weather. It keeps it interesting and you never know what you're going to get.
Shot on our descent from Mount Dewar. Sometimes you get lucky and the elements align, all at the same time. This has ended up being one of my favourite images from New Zealand. Shot on the Canon EOS R and the RF 70-200mm 2.8L.
Scenes en route to the summit of Bob's Cove, with views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables.
Time in isolation afforded us the opportunity to reflect upon our time in New Zealand.
The mountains feel better now than they ever have before. Maybe it's because we've been away for so long, or maybe it's the mental aspect being more appreciative and grateful for having access to wild places. All I can say is that the air feels better up high and I'm all about it! Winter is upon us.
Photographers Tip: We recently took a trip to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park for an afternoon day hike to a lesser known vantage point over Mount Cook and the Tasman Valley. When planning hikes, I often scour Google Earth for interesting features like tarns, scattered rocks or unique points to change the perspective. Google image search is great for finding new places, it just requires time to dive deep into finding something new. Below shows the view I found on Google Earth and you can see I created one of my photos from the perspective I found on Google Earth. Such a powerful tool.
Images courtesy of Google Earth, which is a powerful tool for any photographer's pre-trip planning.
I've recreated the Google Earth image that I looked up, but with a slightly different perspective and with my own touches on it.
The Gear You'll Need For A Day Hike
Let me introduce you to my favourite day hike pieces. It's important to be confident in your equipment when venturing out into the wild. Having gear that's adaptable to changing weather and terrain is even better! For the last 6-12 months, this gear has been my go-to when hitting the mountains in any conditions.
- Escape Hike 30L Day Pack - Great size pack for small to medium trips with room for poles, water, food and additional gear.
- Tread Carbon Hiking Poles - Really lightweight yet durable, and have helped me in the stickiest situations.
- Larapinta Hiking Pants - The convertible style is a versatile option to zip off into shorts when hot, and long pants when the wind picks up.
- Pro-Elite Climber Fleece - My absolute favourite fleece, with high neckline for warmth. Plus the fleece dries incredibly fast.
- Women's Kodiak Fleece - The perfect mid-layer to combat cold.
Geared up for day hiking, through Coronet Peak backcountry and Breast Hill, Lake Hawea.
A warm mid-layer fleece, like the Kodiak or Pro-Elite Climber, is a smart choice for day hikes in locations where the weather changes quickly.
The absolute freedom and beauty of the outdoors, captured perfectly in a single frame.
Mount Aspiring NP Sunrise Flight
I've only done a handful of scenic flights in my time, but this one takes the cake. We booked in for a sunrise flight over Mount Aspiring/Tititea and Mount Earnslaw. We asked the pilot for a weather recommendation on which day we should fly. We wanted direct golden and pink light and low cloud in the valleys. In a photographer's world, that's a lot to ask for as we're always at the hands of mother nature. Luckily for us, the pilot knew his weather forecasting and picked the right day for us. We definitely trusted his judgement.
Getting up to 9,000 feet we circled the summit of Aspiring twice, while shooting distant mountain layers with foreground glacial ice. Such a dream come true. It was truly one of the most spectacular and beautiful moments of my entire life. Words can't describe the beauty of these Southern Alps.
A sunrise flight over Mount Aspiring/Tititea and Mount Earnslaw, revealing some breathtaking sights.
Aoraki/Mount Cook standing prominently in the distance at 3,754m.