Nevis on Fire

It’s just as well we had a hearty afternoon tea of coffee (Craig opted for tea) and some of my brandy infused fruit cake before Craig took us up the Nevis Range, because we worked it off quickly once we were out in the wild and chilling winds taking photographs.

What would a venture up one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Central Otago be without the strong winds?  Not as much fun . . .  says she after the fact!

Clouds, curves, textures on the Nevis.

Although we had heard about the Nevis Range before Chris and I had not been into it.  However, it delivered all our expectations of spectacular high-country landscapes.  We started at Bannockburn where we were all camping and drove up a 14km grade three track, heading over the Duffers Saddle, which at 1300 metres is the highest public road in New Zealand. As we climbed, the Old Woman Range was on our left and the Carrick Range to the right.  Across the Nevis Valley we were looking at the Hector Mountains with the back of the Remarkables at the northern (left) end.

Neville moves his mobile photography studio to the next location.

Once again Craig seemed to know where every rut, hole or curve in the road was and we really were ‘putty in his hands’.  We appreciated Craig’s superb, almost rally driving skills as the terrain is not for the faint hearted and only suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles.  Moti will never experience such lofty heights!

The mounds of the Nevis.

The surrounding vista is something to behold because of its natural, untouched beauty, From the massive rock faces of the mountains to the white wisps of feather-like clouds; from the golden tussocks to the darkest greys of weighty clouds, one never tires from the scene.

As photographers looking at the landscape it was interesting to see that we all dispersed in different directions once we were out of the truck.  Each person sees things in a different way and some aspect of the landscape will catch one’s eye and draw them to take a photograph … that’s what makes an excursion like this so enjoyable.

The clouds of the Nevis.

One of the interesting facets of being with other photographers, is that each one has their own concept or idea of what they want to photograph, so that really, no image turns out identical.  Naturally there may be similarities of a scene, or vista, but the personality of an image comes through one’s take on post processing.

Dunedin based Craig says he feels completely at home and relaxed in the tussocks with the schist tors sticking out.  He says he “loves poking about the tors.” However when the sunset “kicks off” (like it did), he says he feels more like a ‘headless chicken running around’ to make the most of the photographic opportunities.  Yup, I think we all felt like that on that night Craig!

Earlier in the day an Auckland photographer friend from his Queenstown base, let Chris know he was venturing up the Nevis.  Imagine our surprise when Chris recognised a bronze-coloured VW California campervan sitting among the tussocks on the Old Woman Range.  With the door wide open and a tripod at the opening there was Neville, warm and comfortably seated inside making his award-winning landscape photographs! 

We unwittingly followed each other over several locations, and now know the secret locations to revisit later!


With the sun going down and the skyline changing dramatically, we then bumped into two other photographers who happened to be friends and PSNZ colleagues – Mark Stevens and Ann Stewart from Invercargill!  Three became five which then became six, as we all chased the red glow and ended up in the same location to witness the most stunning sunset. Nevis was on fire – literally.  We’ve never witnessed such a rapid change in the colours, clouds, reflections and landscape. Once again, each camera was pointed in a different direction – it was exciting, exhilarating but still bitterly cold.

Reluctantly we left the mountain as the light ran out and headed back to Bannockburn for what we thought was going to be a well-deserved meal at the local pub.  Unfortunately, due to the long weekend and a shortage of hospitality venues being open, there was no room at the pub.  Plan B kicked into place with Mark and Anna going back to their accommodation, and Moi donning the chef’s apron to turn out a gourmet ‘Moti meal’ for Craig, Chris and I complimented with a good dose of fine red wine, compliments of Craig.

Which way? Spectacular sunset photographed by Craig McKenzie.

Everyone slept soundly that night.

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