It's been a bit of a whirlwind for us since the start of the year. Even before, actually. A big trip takes lots of planning. Some of that began more than a year ago. It's trite to say it's trite there is so much much to see here. (a little recursion is never a bad thing.)
But there is so much so much. We've talked to locals who have never been to the other island. I was chatting with one lady about photography, wanting to pick her brains about local stuff, when she learned I'd been to Doubtful Sound and started to pick my brains. That was a new one for me.
In any case, we've seen only a fraction of what there is to see. A small fraction. There's a lot of 'to see' packed into a small place. We know from experience that it's easy to exhaust ourselves on vacation, and we knew going into this that we'd have to pace ourselves. We try to do one thing a day, usually starting at a reasonable hour, and trying to be done by suppertime, with lunch often on the go.
We've tried to. We assumed we'd be jet lagged at the start and built in some recovery days at the start. Turns out we didn't need them. We were up and going. However it turns out the internal travel days took more out of us than expected. Not sure why. The flights are short, the airports relatively small, the drives before and after are short. But we still essentially collapsed in a heap at the new place.
I think there are two strategies. One is to pick a place, and explore thoroughly. Scout great locations for the photos you want. Wait for the light. Ride out some bad weather days. Live with the idea that everyone you talk to is going to tell you that you missed the best thing. Problem is that everybody's ideas about the best thing are different. The other is to do as we did, spend a week or so in a bunch of different places. Hope for good weather, and finding some good locations and getting lucky with the light. FLY from place to place, it's cheap by Canadian standards. New Zealand might look small on a map, but it's huge when trying to drive from place to place. Plus it's tough driving, with narrow winding roads, and impatient locals on your tail.
All of our rentals were through Airbnb and it's all worked out really well! The places are all different, but all are as we expected from what we saw on the web. Several places were more than expected. I could easily see myself living in several of our rental places. Remembering all the details to get in, finding them, dealing with car rental, packing carefully (weight limits) for the internal flights, probably adds to the first day collapse in a heap.
The art deco weekend was a big one. Wow! Then we moved into Napier, and in one sense I wish we'd had the apartment during the parade. The view is perfect, photographically speaking. The noise would be something else, however. Just had an idea, maybe see if the owner will introduce is to the people that rent during the next time we come here, and bribe them to let us visit during the parade.
We haven't done much since getting here. Some gentle strolls, checked out the lap pool, rode bikes to the driftwood beach, took a day trip to Ocean beach and nearby. I think the active vacation has caught up with us. Our mornings here have been starting slow, which is nice. I started writing this last night, to this view of the sky.
This morning I'm adding to it, drinking coffee on the balcony, listening and watching as the main street wakes up and starts another day. See below for my writing and editing nook. We haven't discussed what we are going to do. The forecast said rain, and we have some indoor activities planned out. Except it doesn't look like rain. Who knows? (It turned out to be only the tiniest of spatters.)
For photographers thinking about coming here, rest assured there are awesome photos just about everywhere. Beaches, gardens, scenic lookouts, mountains, dark sky, cultural stuff out the ying yang, and lots of just about anything else you might want to shoot. The light can be tricky, though. Many of my photos are in ordinary light because that's when we've been up and about. I was chatting to one guy about Wellington sunrise and sunsets. He's seen some spectacular ones, but you have to be in the right place at the right time, ready to shoot. A minute later is too late.
The other thing that can be tricky is the roads to get there. Holy Doodle! In an earlier blog I said that my driveway at home is wider than some of the roads, and I wasn't kidding. Uphill traffic has the right of way, usually, but you often can't tell if a car has started up when you want to go down. Scout your locations in daylight. If you can, drive there in daylight, and hang out while you wait for the light, or lack of it. If you're on a beach, you also want to check for tides. Each beach is different, but mid-tide is probably best.
Bring your favourite photographer's hat, and lots of your best sunblock cream. It's expensive here, and you can't get the sprays. Not sure if they confiscate sprays at the airport. Pro tip, wash your glasses before you put on sunscreen. And you WILL need it. Think of a big UV day in Calgary, that's run of the mill here.
SD cards are about 2x the price at home, so bring lots. You'll need them sooner or later. (Did I mention I'm well past 10K photos taken?) I thought a lot about lenses, and brought 3 (24-150, 70-400, and 14mm. The one I missed was the 100 mm macro. If you love flowers and are here the right time of year you will want that one, or similar. There's been a few shots where I wanted the 150-600 behemoth, but not so many it was worth carrying it around.
I resigned myself to carrying around all three lenses, an extra chip, and the extra battery, just in case. Get a bag that does that for you. Plus a pocket for keys, sunglasses, and anything else you might need. Make sure it's comfortable. Today's walk was a brisk half hour to get to the falls. That's pretty common.