The 2016 Tararua Calendar – a trip through the Tararuas from January to December
By Harry Smith
When you are an unemployed layabout, living on boiled rice and scavenged apple cores and reusing teabags six or seven times over, you will accept any freebie you can get your hands on. So when Tony Gazley offered me a free copy of his Tararuas calendar if I would write a review of it for him, I wasn’t slow to accept – instantaneously putting aside any moral qualms I may have had about aiding and abetting the promotion of such a cesspit of mud and misery. Can I be sarcastic I asked Tony? Can I be cynical? Can I tell the truth? Tony assured me I could, so here goes.
This is, I think, the second Tararua calendar Tony has produced. I know I bought one last year but I don’t know what I did with it. I know I didn’t put it up on the wall – I think I would have found it just too depressing seeing all those stunning shots of the Tararuas in nice, sunny conditions. It’s never like that when I go there.
This year’s one is just as depressing – one stunning, majestic photo after another. Most of them show blue skies and sunny weather. None of them appear to have been photoshopped, as far as I can tell (although the pink clouds over the new Kime Hut look just a little bit too pink to my eye…). How is this possible in the Tararuas? The answer is of course that Tony clearly spends a lot of time there, and hunts out those special locations and freak weather windows that most of us will never experience.
Each month of the calendar is illustrated with a large photo, with another smaller one on the same theme to accompany it. These cover a range of subjects, from landscapes and huts, to tubing and mountain-biking trips. My favourite, curiously enough, is perhaps the least Tararua-like of all, a self-portrait of Tony mountain-biking amongst giant pine-trees on the Mikimiki to Kiriwhakapapa track. This is a stunning shot – the gnarly tree-trunks stand in massed ranks looming over the tiny figure on the bike, with sunlight filtering through the green vegetation in the background. I’ve never actually been there and it makes me want to go – something I didn’t think I would ever find myself saying about the Tararuas! Another favourite shows Marie Henderson jumping down a waterfall on the club canyoning trip to Chamberlain Creek earlier this year. This is a trip I’ve wanted to do for a long time – in fact I even signed up for this one but somehow mysteriously found myself not on it… This is a perfectly-timed action shot and the red jackets and orange helmets stand out dramatically from the wet spray of the waterfall, the mossy cliffs, and the deep and freezing-looking pool at the bottom. And then there is the one of tubing in a pristine, deep green Tararua gorge, the one of a tramper relaxing in front of the fire in Sayers Hut, and the one of snowshoeing on the crisp, clear Tararua tops… Over the course of a year these photos illustrate just what a great place the Tararuas can be on a (rare) good day, and the wide range of outdoor activities you can do there. Tony is of course an excellent photographer (so much so that he has been banned from the club photo contests in order to allow mere mortals like you and me a chance), and this shows in every shot.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to the stunning photos, this year’s calendar comes with an unintentional bonus puzzle – where is the cover photograph taken from, which direction is it looking in, and what are the various peaks and ridges in it? Despite studying it for over an hour with my maps spread out in front of me I’m not sure I know the answers. Whenever I think I have confidently identified one peak or another, one ridge or spur, I am left with some unexplained peaks, ridges, and spurs which just don’t seem to make sense. I think there is some vital information hidden under the cloud band which stretches strategically cross the middle of the photo, and that I may be erroneously matching up features from one side of the band to the other. As good as a jigsaw puzzle and much more educational!
There are two great advantages to having a Tararuas calendar: (1) you are removed of the necessity of actually visiting the place, and (2) you actually get to see some views, rather than just the inside of a rain cloud. Oh, and of course (3), you don’t get wet. So buy the calendar, hang it on the wall, save yourself the pain, the misery and the agony. And avoid getting wet. Available from Tony or from Bivouac Outdoor in Mercer Street for $20.
(How’s that Tony? Do I get to keep the review copy?)
PS you can look at the calendar photos (and a few extra) at www.tararuaphotos.com