Round Trip

Black swan in Black Swan cafe, Waihola, Otago. Our first stop for coffee.


As a child, to suddenly see a black swan
for the first time, slow
and silent on a small dam,
was to learn what beauty was

and how shocking,
how much of a thief, stealing
time to fix me forever
to that memory of a coal-black swan
and its blood-red beak.

Dis-used rail tunnel, Catlins, Otago


Enter the dark, stone
underfoot. Imagine shovels
and picks; dynamite. Rain. No sun
even when it’s there
somewhere out in the green. It took
two years to build this tunnel.
Smell the moss and damp rock. Listen out
for missing trains.

Tautuku Beach – can you spot the car? Access to cribs / baches/ holiday homes located in upper left end of bay, is by beach at low tide

Catlins beach

Cars creeping up the sand.
Wild hens in the sand dunes, their feathers
disturbed by the wind. Watch out. That rooster
looks like he’s about to go on the attack.
Cars. Hens. Making no sense; out
of place; on a beach
with its well-behaved waves
that have come all the way from Chile.

One of many waterfalls in Catlins. One waterfall (previously visited on another trip) eluded us. No matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find it. We now think it was a figment of our imaginations.

water falling

Water falling into white noise.
A ghostly drape. The fulsome veil
of a bride with no dress sense.
Our niece Rebecca has lived in Holland
now for years, a country where it’s so flat
there is no such thing as a waterfall.
She misses them, she said, even though
as a kid when on road trips
her Dad insisted on stopping at each one.
‘Not another waterfall,’ she’d groan.
It was as if he knew.

Waipapa Point lighthouse


Out there they drowned, so many
bodies they had to bury them
where they were beached.
Then built a lighthouse (too late)
so it wouldn’t happen again. Still
it stands. Electrified.

Clematis – everywhere we looked we caught sight of the snowy flowers tossed like stars among the trees


Jill told us about her and Dave once tramping for miles
to find a patch of clematis, only
to discover upon returning home
that it was in the bush
all around their house. Clematis
strung like fairy lights, stars, pearls.
There. There. And there.

Cosy Nook, Southland
Te Puka O Takitimu – ‘anchor stone of the Takitimu canoe’ -Monkey Island, Orepuki, Western Southland
At low tide it is possible to climb to the top – but as the tide was coming in fast, we didn’t chance it this time.
Farther along Te WaeWae Bay, gem stones, at least 20cms deep and stretching for miles
Looking, looking, looking for the elusive sapphire
Clifden Bridge – just sitting pretty, no longer used as a road bridge but maintained for the history.


We used to drive over the bridge. Not now,
the road going somewhere else altogether.
Bolts, rivets, wire ropes and iron struts.
River, mountain, island, stones.
There is much to stand on.
And we do.

Clifden Caves – not explored today.
Right by the caves – Happy Valley, Western Southland – so very green
So very, very green.

limestone country

The land sinks into caves
Where the grass is so green
It doesn’t look real. Falling
into fountains of grass.

‘Our’ awa / river – the Waiau – flowing out from Lake Manapouri
In the background, our mauka / mountains – the Takitimu range
Takitimu range
Lake Wakatipu. Cecil Peak with a cloudy shoulder wrap.
Remarkables mountain range.
Sunset reflecting off the Remarkables.
The view from where we stayed in Queenstown, Lakes District, Otago.
Spring tree Gibbston wineries, Central Otago
Wine tasting in the sunshine
R driving to Queenstown from Dunedin through the Teviot Valley, stopped to take this shot of an outlook where my poem, ‘near Alexandra’ is set.

near Alexandra

A western sky suggests
the promise of air loosely tethered
and space and light. Of breath
blowing through
the pleat of mountains.
Warm wind through wire.
Of opening out
an accordion of sun.

Alone in Queenstown (my sisters and niece having headed home that morning) I had time on my hands to take photos of a very quiet Queenstown – a very pleasantly quiet Queenstown. Covid restrictions on travel has resulted in less tourists than usual. I was not complaining.
Waiting for R to arrive, I drank in the view from our accommodation for the weekend … a view very familiar as it is situated right next to R’s childhood home. The house has been replaced by motels, but we could easily imagine where the silver birch trees stood in the front yard (… just … there …)
Arrowtown; also extremely quiet
Bob’s Cove – the water looked very inviting. I did have a paddle.
This pounamu mauri stone. Sourced from a high mountain peak at the head of Whakatipu-wai-māori, the accompanying sign states, ‘This stone connects all who touch it to its source.’


Writer from Dunedin, New Zealand.

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