Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Walking In the Mountains

The trip down south for Christmas is usually an opportunity for a welcome bout of outdoor activity. On a bright sunny Monday, my Dad took my sister Cecilia and I up into the mountains, to the border of Arthur's Pass National Park. From there we climbed up the Bealey Spur, through shady mountain beech forest, along the rim of a canyon dropping into a river gorge, and into the fragile alpine grasslands from where there were spectacular views across the mountains and the deep, glacier-carved valleys below.

These photos have been uploaded at full resolution, and can be enlarged to full screen size with a click.

This view from the Arthur's Pass road looks back east, following the Waimakariri river downstream. This stretch is part of the kayaking section of the Coast to Coast race in March.

At a rest stop climbing up the Bealey Spur just above the treeline, a fat blue mountain dragonfly was very taken with Cecilia's backpack, perhaps spying a family resemblance in its colours.

A herbfield's eye view towards the mountains of the main divide, in which the camera overruled my view that its focus should be on the mountain daisies in the foreground rather than the distant peaks.

Cecilia and my Dad feature in this view looking west towards the headwaters of the Bealey river, which flows out of this valley and joins up with the Waimakariri (first picture in this post). They are seated at the edge of an alpine herb field, which the GPS told us was just over 1,000 metres above sea level. The mountains at the head of the valley form the main divide between Canterbury and the West Coast, with the highest peaks in this picture reaching around 2,300 metres.

The rata vine winds its way parasitically around the trunk of its host tree (in this case a southern beech), stealing its nutrients and gradually strangling the host plant, until it has built up enough of a structure to support itself.

In a spirit of ironic intertextuality, the author inserts himself into a scene made famous by painter Rita Angus, near the main highway between Arthur's Pass and Craigieburn Forest. The lonesomeness suggested by the solitary railway station building against the backdrop of a sombre pine and brooding hills is emphasised by the weighty, post-impressionist brushstrokes of Rita Angus. Here, the effect is slightly undermined by the daytripper from Christchurch who has wondered over from the nearby parked car.

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