Buzzstop Honey Centre: Loving Our Bees

The beautiful Buzzstop Woolshed

The little Buzzstop honey sign sits on Queenstown’s busy state highway. The traffic streams past unaware that just over the paddock lies a sweet, rural delight. Recently, I went to visit Nick Cameron of Buzzstop Honey Centre to get the buzz on his latest venture.

A Tale Of One Woolshed

The old girl was sagging at the seams. 70-years worth of bird droppings encrusted every beam. An ancient smell of sheep wafted up through the open floor grating. Even in the thin winter light, Nick could see the thick piles of dung below. He kicked at the thin, slippery boards which covered the floor.

“Whose crazy idea was this, anyway?” he grumbled.

“Yours, mate” the others chorused, hoisting the wheeled scaffold through the gaping doorway.

Nick clambered up the ladder, heaved the first bucket of hot soapy water and disinfectant up behind him and took out his scrubbing brush. It was time to start work.

Buzzstop’s Restoration Begins

Not everyone can take a derelict building and realize its possibilities. But Nick Cameron had a bee business idea buzzing in his brain. In fact, he’d been looking for the right place for months.

When he spotted the old woolshed Nick knew his search was over. Covered in grime, sure, but the rural location was perfect. And it was only 2 minutes drive from Queenstown’ s international airport. Now he just had to muster up the courage to approach its owners.

Perhaps the Grant family were surprised to find a complete stranger knocking on their door asking for their woolshed. But Nick’s enthusiasm is contagious so they came on board.

Flooring Matters

Looking at Buzzstop’s gorgeous wood and concrete floor you’d have no idea of the work that went into it.

In winter, it was horrible. To clean this I was in here with no power, in the middle of winter, with the wind just charging through. On my hands and knees with a hammer and chisel.

The grimy grating of a woolshed floor.
This is where the sheep stand while they wait to be shorn. That’s why the floor is a grating, so their dung can fall through the gaps. But the grime grinds into the boards. I would hate to try and clean this grating in our woolshed.

But cleaning was only the first part of the job. The whole expanse then had to be lined underneath with plywood.

The renovated wood and concrete Buzzstop floor.
Nick and his helpers poured the concrete by hand.  Next came the sanding, then grinding. They took the whole lot back to the hardwood before finally coating and polishing it.

“Looking at it now,” says Nick, “you’ve got no idea of the hard work that went into it. It was epic.”

Returning To His Beekeeping Roots

Nick grew up with beekeeping in his blood. Over 100 years ago his mother’s family began tending hives in Otago’s Ida Valley. And the family’s passion has continued through the generations.

“My grandfather’s 93 and still kicking. He was a beekeeper as a lad and his father was a beekeeper before him. My brother is a beekeeper as well.” But Nick had no ambition to join the “family firm.”

Aged 17 he got his first job as a guide and loved it. That combination of interacting with people and being outdoors was Nick’s dream lifestyle. So he began to travel the world as an adventure guide.  

Eventually, Nick landed in Sydney. He set up business offering Whale watching and rigid inflatable tours. Guiding on the sea sounds perfect, so what brought him home to Queenstown?

A lady, of course.

“I met my wife, Trace, on Manly wharf. She was from Stewart Island. One of us had to give, so I sold up my business and moved back to New Zealand.”

And that was when Nick’s beekeeping roots kicked in, and the Buzzstop story began.

Buzzstop Honey Centre Sign

Building The Buzzstop Concept

Nick’s vision was clear. He could see there was a tailor-made niche for him, combining beekeeping with guiding.

I could see so many shops selling honey, but we wanted to add in experiences … to give people the back story of how the honey got into the jar.

People are beginning to care about where their food comes from. At the same time, as more and more of us cram into cities, we actually know less and less about it.

But there’s even more to it than that. These tiny heroes have a critical role to play as pollinators.  Without them many of our current food plants are unlikely to survive. So Buzzstop’s mission is very much about encouraging knowledge and respect for bees.

Being a parent of young children himself, Nick also wanted a place where everyone could feel at home. So he created a garden for adults and children to enjoy.

Buzzstop garden and trampoline
This was once 2 sheep pens full of 8 foot high weeds and took 6 months to clear and plant out. Hard to imagine now, but easy for everyone to enjoy. Most of the plants are bee-friendly — think manuka, thyme and lavender to name a few — and are part of Buzzstop’s learning experience.

What’s In The Buzzstop Experience?

Nick and his team have such a variety of bee experiences at Buzzstop. Surely there’s something for everyone here.

Beekeeper suits and observation hives.
  • Eat And Enjoy

Buzzstop is not exactly a cafe: they don’t have a kitchen and bring in most of their food from local eateries. But they do have a few specialities which the staff make onsite. Light and tasty Belgian waffles are one, and delicious homegrown salads are another.

  • Drink ROAR Coffee

“We’ve got good baristas and people will go the extra distance to get good coffee,” says Nick. “We wanted something that wasn’t here already so we were ROAR’s first outlet in Queenstown.”

Honey spinning and maker spaces

Thanks To The Grant Family

Nick is beyond grateful to the Grant family who have allowed him to run with his Buzzstop vision.

“They’ve been very supportive… they’re happy and I’m stoked. They’ve been great.”

Buzzstop works beautifully with its next door neighbour, The Barn.

This charming little shop has been on Hansen Road for nine years. Inside there’s an eclectic mix of vintage and new furnishings. Wander in a little further too. You’ll find rooms of clothes, gorgeous knickknacks and more. It reminded me of Aladdin’s cave, alas without the gold.

Nick Cameron in his honey crafts space.
Nick in the Buzzstop Maker space.

Just Getting Started

2018-19 is just Season One for Buzzstop. They’re still growing and getting their name out there. But Nick has big plans.

“So far, we’ve only had bee tours onsite. That’s all I’ve had time for. But over winter we’ll try to get ourselves some wheels. I’ve got some really nice apiaries set up in beautiful scenic spots and that’s where we’d like to take people next.”

Driving out to see the apiaries around rural Queenstown would be awesome, but Nick’s also got some high-end plans.

“We’re also hoping to partner with local helicopter companies,” he says,  “to fly people to our hives in more remote locations such as Mt Nicholas Station, or Halfway Bay.”

Buzzstop Is Keeping It Local And Real

Nick may have big plans for visitors but he’s focused on serving local tastes too.

“For a long time Queenstowners had no way to access local honey but now they can find it here,” he says. You can too — the shelves are full of honey jars from small, family-run honey businesses all over Otago.

He has other local initiatives too.

There are plans afoot to open a Community Apiary in Spring, 2019. How good would that be? You could keep your hive there and get help whenever you need it.

Nick and his team are doing a great job of bringing bees with a difference to Queenstown.

Next time you’re there, buzz in and check them out.

Local honey sold at Buzzstop
One of many shelves full of local honey products at the Buzzstop Honey Centre

Address and Contact details

Address: Hansen Road, Queenstown, New Zealand

Website: https://www.buzzstop.co.nz

Email: tours@buzzstop.co.nz

Phone: 021 942 808

More Honey Stories To Enjoy

The Garston Hunny Shop: Bene and the Bees

Athol Valley Market: A Delightful Day Out

The Athol Valley Market is a welcome addition to the summer scene in the Upper Mataura Valley villages. I went along to talk to local organiser Amanda McMillan about her latest venture.

Athol Valley – A Community Market

At the heart of a local market is the sense of community. People want to come together and support their local artisans and businesses. It’s less about dashing in and out to grab groceries and more about lingering to chat and chill.

And that perfectly describes the laid back vibe of the Athol Valley Market and its host The Hide. In fact,  Amanda and Hide owner Meegan have a shared goal to support local enterprises and the diverse community found within the Upper Mataura Valley.

Meegan, Amanda and cheese at the Athol Valley Market.
Meegan and Amanda with The Hide’s latest delicious offering. You can buy Gibbston Valley Cheeses at the Athol Valley Market on Sundays and at The Hide every day of the week.

This cosy market is for all the locals of Athol, Garston, Kingston and beyond as well as the passers-by who know a good thing when they see it. Most Sundays you’ll see tourists, as well as locals, browsing the stalls, and relishing the opportunity to stop and shop.

Indian bags at Hillary's Athol Valley Market stall.
Hillary’s an Athol local. When she left India she stocked up on sturdy, beautiful Indian bags which she now sells at local markets. These colourful bags are hard to resist.

Talented Locals Offer Their Wares

The stall holders are a varied bunch and the goods on offer change from week to week. You never know quite what you’ll get at the Athol Valley Market.

Vegetables for sale at the Athol Valley Market.
Gardens Without Borders: Recently relocated from busy Queenstown to laid-back Lumsden, Josie’s just starting out on her gardening dreams. I love the philosophy behind her passion and her produce was so fresh and inviting, I wanted to buy the lot!

Fresh food stalls are the stars of a local market. The fruit, vegetables and eggs stalls have come and gone as summer became autumn. Some gardeners’ produce is coming to an end but Matt Menlove has been a stalwart, bringing his sweet honey and garden vegetables to sell every week.

Stall holders Brie and Matt with their local honey for sale at the market.
There’s no shortage of honey around the Upper Mataura Valley, thanks to an enthusiastic group of local beekeepers. Matt Menlove and young Brie are often found selling their sweet jars at the Athol Valley Market.

The local children have had their first taste of business this summer, too. They’ve industriously set up a wide-ranging variety of stalls over the season.

We’ve seen honey, vegetables, flower bulbs, cakes, sweets, toys, face painting and — winning the prize for most unusual child stall — painted rocks, kina and paua shells for sale.

Hunter manning his stall at the busy Athol Valley Market.
I’m not sure which is more winning, the produce or the kids’ beguiling smiles but they all seem to have gone home happy.

All In It Together

One thing that Amanda’s learned while organising her first market season is that market people are a helpful lot. She’s been chatting to market organisers from markets around the area and they’ve given her many tips of the trade. She’s incredibly grateful for their help, because organising a weekly market is no easy task.

Rob, Jan and slippers at the Athol Valley Market.
Kozi Toez: Handcrafted Footwear for the Whole Family
Rob and Jan from Dipton sell their handcrafted, sheepskin, wallaby or possum-fur slippers online and at markets all around Southland and beyond, They inherited their pattern from its 92-year-old creator and are proud to be able to continue his tradition.

If you haven’t taken the chance to chill out at the Athol Valley Market over the past few Sundays take heart. There are still a few market days to come. Amanda and Meegan are hopeful that the sunny days will hold and the market can continue till Easter.

The Robinson Family with Robbies sauces and pickles.
Robbies Pickles and Preserves
Josie Robinson, from Tuturau makes pickles, relishes and sauces — mostly from organic ingredients. First-time customers quickly become raving fans. You can find Robbies online or at many of the markets around Southland-Otago.

So pick up your purse and cruise on down to the Athol Valley Market this Sunday.

Take in a little food, chill to the music, soak up the sun – or shade – and take the chance to buy fresh food, art and crafts or that little luxury you’ve always wanted.

We’d love to see you there.

Update: Motors At The Market

Amanda’s been experimenting with themed days at the Athol Valley Market over the summer. She had a great response from restored vehicle enthusiasts for her Motors at the Market Sunday in March. Here are just a few of the beauties on display.

More Athol Stories To Enjoy

Craft Keepers is a cute little container store full to the brim of locally-made crafts and The Coffee Bomb is even tinier – a trailer selling delicious coffee, burgers and snacks. Both businesses may be in Garston but their owners are Athol locals. You can read Tabatha’s and Kylie’s stories here on the blog.

Living The Dream At Craft Keepers

You Can’t Beat A Great Coffee Bomb

Athol’s Graceland: A Hand-Built Home Infused With Love

Dwane Herbert: A Spearfishing Legend

Shane Matheson: Training Horses With Love

Shane Matheson trains racehorses — pacers to be precise. I could say he does it in his spare time, but he really doesn’t have any.

I’ve never been to a racing stables before but I’m fascinated by the whole horse training process. So it was thrilling to visit Shane and his partner Lisa at their Balfour stables to find out what makes a racehorse trainer tick.

A Good Trainer Knows His Horses

Shane Matheson shares a quiet moment with his horse after training.
Shane Matheson shares a quiet moment with his horse Charlton Reactor after training.

It’s easy to tell that Shane Matheson loves to train horses.

He speaks about them the way a good teacher talks about the children in their class. You can hear love and affection, frustration and pride. And, most of all, a deep understanding of each individual personality and what makes them tick.

The frustration comes from seeing potential go unrealised.

“I know it’s in there,” he says of one horse. “It’s just how to help him get it out.”

But that’s a skill that Shane has honed over years, and it seemed to me that he is pretty good at it.

Horses And Sheep — Somehow Shane Does It All

Racehorse training is a time-consuming life, and yet only the big guns can afford to make it a career. Smaller trainers have to fit the horse work around their other full-time jobs.

We see Shane several times a year, when he brings his crutching trailer to the farm.

Shane Matheson at his day job: crutching sheep on the trailer.

When you crutch a sheep you shear around their back end and legs. It clears off any dirt or dags and helps to keep the sheep clean. Most farmers can do it themselves, but for big mobs, it’s easier to call in experts like Shane and Lisa with their crutching trailer.

Crutching sheep day after day is hard physical work — and the travel time takes its toll too. Shane and Lisa start early and often arrive home late.

But no matter how full of sheep the day is, they always have time for their horses.

How Do They Do It?

That’s why on most days of the week you’ll find Shane rolling out of bed at four in the morning. His first priority is always feeding the horses. Then, all too soon, it’s time for the truck and crutching trailer to roll out the gate.

Usually the horses are out in the paddocks — they thrive on being outside with freedom to move. It gives Shane extra distance to cart the feed buckets, but less time mucking-out the stables.

However, dishing out up to 17 breakfasts isn’t the only morning chore.

“The horses need to build up their fitness,” he explained, “so they go jogging most days.”

A Racing Stable Needs A Team

Shane doesn’t have the time to exercise the horses in the morning. So, usually, friend and neighbour Jane Orr comes in to help.

“We simply couldn’t do it without Jane,” Lisa told me, and Shane nodded a fervent agreement.

Jane and Lisa are largely responsible for keeping the horses fit.

Separately or together, they hitch the horses to the jogging trailer which tows behind the ute. That way they can lead up to seven horses around the track at the same time.

Each one needs between 10 and 30 minutes of jogging time a day depending on their stage of fitness.

You can see how getting fit could take a good chunk out of the morning.

Lisa and Shane’s son Tristan is another vital team member. With so many of their daylight hours taken up with crutching, Tristan’s often the one you’ll find doing the night-time feeding round.

The teamwork continues onto race days as well. Sadly, for Shane, he often finds himself crutching on racing days while Lisa does the trainer duties at the track. That’s where 19-year-old Tristan comes to the rescue once more, by taking Lisa’s place as chief rousie and sheep-mover.

Training On The Home Track

Of course, Shane would rather be in the sulky than crutching sheep so each day he’s the one you’ll find behind the harness doing the training runs. The horses love their newly-sanded home track. Since Balfour’s so far inland this is the closest they’ll get to training on the beach.

There are many things for a pacer to learn, but the most important is to love the whole experience.

Shane Matheson in the sulky training a horse on his home track.

It’s exhilarating to watch a horse and sulky zoom past at close range on the practice track. I bet Shane is feeling it even more in the sulky.

Keeping The Horses Fed And Happy

Every trainer has his own magic mixture to feed his horses. Shane’s includes crushed barley, Betabeet, various oils and plenty of seaweed.

Seaweed is said to prevent mud fever* in horses. Shane can’t swear that’s true. But he can say that the horses haven’t had mud fever since he started them on seaweed.

The horses may be lucky enough to spend much of their time in paddocks but they’re still fed morning and night.  And not all the horses get the same mixture.

What they eat depends on a whole lot of other factors. This one’s ready to race; that one’s looking off-colour. Another horse is pregnant… each one has a different brew.

And occasionally a new horse will arrive with some interesting foibles.

Shane pointed to the farthest-away tree in the paddock.

“One horse would only eat over there when he first arrived,”

It’s the coldest, windiest spot on the farm. But every morning Shane had to lug the heavy feed bucket across the wet grass to that chosen tree. In every other spot the horse turned up his nose.

“We got him out of that habit pretty quick, Shane admitted. “He’ll eat anywhere, now.”

Where Do They Come From?

It’s expensive to own and train a racing horse and many people want their horses to win early on. So quite a few of the Matheson’s horses are ‘cast outs’ from bigger stables.


Shane, on the other hand, takes a longer view.

We went to see another horse who’d lately arrived at Shane’s stables a little depressed and refusing to eat. Now, he gobbles his food along with the best of them.

“The potential’s there,” Shane said.

“But this year my priority is getting him fit, healthy and enjoying himself. We’ll give him lots of joyful experiences now so that he’ll be raring to go out and reach that potential.”

We watched as Shane harnessed him into the training sulky. “I’m not sure how he’s going to go,” he admitted. “This is his first run in a while.”

Shane must already be working his magic. Two minutes later that horse was flying around the track and loving every minute of it.

2004 — A Race To Remember

When you’re running late something is bound to go wrong. Take the day that Happy Gilmore was entered into the Tuapeka Cup.

“We got a speeding ticket dashing through Clinton.”

That’s enough to put anyone in a tizzy, but worse followed on the Dunedin motorway. Happy Gilmore began rearing in the box.

You can’t scream to a halt in a horse box, and by the time Shane had pulled over Happy Gilmore’s leg was completely stuck, and his stablemate was not impressed.

“So we had take the other horse out — with cars zooming past — so we could manoeuvre the leg back out.”

It was no easy task.

“By the time we finished he was holding up his leg, looking really sorry for himself. And I thought ‘Damn, we’ll have to scratch him.’”

But they still had another horse — and his race came first.

Gradually, Happy Gilmore seemed to improve so into the sulky he went. Horse and driver galloped off down the course. Enough was enough! Shane decided to go for a drink.

As it turned out, it was just as well he did.

Happy Gilmore refused to settle. The stipes (stewards) decided that Shane would have to withdraw him from the race. So the call went out over the loudspeaker: “Shane Matheson, report immediately.”

In the bar, Shane was oblivious to the fracas holding up the whole race.

Eventually the driver took matters into his own hand and galloped the horse back to the start. This time, as soon as racing got underway, Happy Gilmore paced beautifully.

And, in the best of horseracing traditions, after all that, he won the race.

What’s Next For Shane

Shane’s cautiously excited about his current team — both horse and human.

He can’t say enough about Sheree Tomlinson, his regular driver, and with good reason. Sheree’s the top junior driver in Australasia, and Shane thanks his lucky stars that she’s an integral part of his racing team.

The horses are pacing out of their skins too.

Hurricane Banner set the scene at Gore on February 9th with a come-from-behind win in the last race of the day.

I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Shane standing with his horse Hurricane Banner.
Shane and Hurricane Banner relaxing at home before the big race.

Reading More On The Blog

Shane’s day job is running a busy crutching trailer business. He’s an expert who makes our farming lives easier by doing the job quicker and better than we ever could. You can read more about life on the farm here.

Our communities are full of people who bring great things into the world by following their dreams. Some create beautiful or useful things. Others – like Shane – bring joy through sport or entertainment. Still more own small businesses which serve others with useful and innovative products. You can read some of their stories here.

“The Shane and Jane Show” by Harness Link

Sheree Tomlinson at the 2018 Australasian Young Driver’s Championship

*Mud fever causes irritation and dermatitis on a horse’s legs. Wikipedia, as usual, has a comprehensive explanation.

The Great Rides App: Gary Patterson

The Tracks We Take

The Great Rides App is the brainchild of Kingston’s Gary Patterson. The app’s a super resource to guide cyclists along the greatest bike trails in New Zealand. It’s a brilliant idea — but where did it come from?

It turns out that Gary’s own trail has been an adventure-filled ride all the way.

Gary Patterson with his cycle and phone using the Great Rides App
Gary Patterson with The Great Rides App.

A Map-Filled Life

Gary Patterson has loved maps as long as he can remember.

“It’s just the way my brain works,” he says. “I’m terrible with names and don’t ask me to tell you anything about the book I read last week. But I can remember every last detail about trails that I rode months ago.”

As a kid, he constantly pored over maps — any sort would do. “I spent ages following the contour lines on topographical maps,” he says.

Given all that, it now seems inevitable that he would do a degree in cartography.


I love that word, cartography. It has that association with history, with crafting maps.

Gary Patterson

Pioneer cartographers have been crafting maps all over the world for centuries and it turns out that Gary has been adding his own adventurous maps to that treasure trove.

From Suit and Tie to Green Fleece and Boots:

Gary Patterson grew up in the Waikato and never dreamed that one day he’d be settling in the South Island. But destiny called when he and his wife Kim decided to take a road trip. As they drove through the tiny township of Fox Glacier Kim turned to Gary.

“We could live here!” she said.

Gary just laughed. After all, they lived in the winterless north, Whangarei to be exact. He had a comfortable job as a planning consultant. What could they possibly do in Fox?

Yet within a year, he’d swapped his suit and tie for a sturdy DOC “green fleece” and he and Kim were firmly ensconced at Fox Glacier.

Most DOC people only manage a year or two in Fox but Gary bucked the trend and spent ten happy years on the West Coast, project managing the huts and tracks and monitoring pest control in the great forests and mountains which surround the area.  

Innovating with GIS

He did have a few frustrations, mainly around the outdated systems he had to use. After a bait mission, Gary might wait weeks to get the data he needed from the busy helicopter pilots.

It was desperately inefficient.

But, if he used GIS (Geographic Information System) software he’d be able to combine mapping and other data. It would be easy to make a quick, detailed analysis. And he could spot any holes that the pilots had missed.

Gary and his manager, Woody,  thought it was a no-brainer to use GIS technology in the delicate environment around Fox — and eventually, the powers-that-be agreed.

And it was also in Fox Glacier that Gary and Kim bought a pair of cheap mountain bikes and started riding wherever they could find a track. Gary didn’t realise it then, but it was a purchase that would change their lives.

To Portugal …

One day Gary ’s mate said, “I’ve got an awesome chance to join a cycle-trail gang in Portugal. Want to come along?”

It turned out to be not just riding a trail but hand-building it from scratch; surely an opportunity too good to miss.

But Gary nearly didn’t get the job.

The application form asked, “How much is your cycle worth for insurance purposes?” Wow, apparently he would be biking the trails he built.

Gary scratched his head. He hadn’t paid much for his slightly battered bike so he guessed $100 and carried on down the form.

“I think you’ve left a 0 off your cycle estimate” came back the reply.

“No,” Gary confirmed. “That’s pretty much what it’s worth”

Later he discovered that they seriously wondered, for a minute, if a $100 bike owner was the right person for this mission.

But his skills and mapping experience won the day and Gary became the team manager of a Kiwi trail-building gang. It wasn’t an easy job wielding a grubber day after day but the remote location and the friendships formed made this an experience beyond words.

… And Beyond!

Building a cycle trail with shovels and grubbers, high in the mountains of Chile.

Trail building by hand — this time not in Portugal but in Chile.

One trail-building job led to another, and each year Gary found himself working in some of the most remote and beautiful locations on the planet. The mountains of Portugal, Canada, NZ, Australia and Patagonia became home, for a while.

In time he was offered his ideal job: the chance to be the “manager of the trail managers.”


“ It was a once-in-a-lifetime job. Who wouldn’t want to ride trail amongst the coffee plantation of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, whiz downhill past cedar giants [in Canada], or bike around remote and pristine glacier lakes in the Patagonia Andes with condors soaring overhead?”

Gary Patterson
Trail-builders on the cycle track in the Chilean mountains, cooking dried bread to make it more palatable.

Cooking dry bread in Patagonia, to make it easier to eat.

But, incredibly, this wasn’t the only job taking Gary abroad. He also had another chance of a lifetime, helping to eradicate pests in the subantarctic islands.

By now somewhat used to extreme temperatures and remote locations, Gary couldn’t resist. So he headed south to the Furious Fifties, home to marine life beyond compare — and the weather to match.

Ridding The Sub Antarctic Of Rodents

Macquarie Island

Rodents were wrecking the delicate ecosystem on Macquarie Island. Gary’s job in the eradication mission was mapping, monitoring and recording what actually took place using GIS software.

“It’s vital not to miss any little pockets of land because of the different rodent ranges,” he told me. “Rats, for example, have a larger range than mice, which tend to stick to one small area. If you happened to miss a pocket where mice were they could easily spread again and ruin all the hard work.”

Administered by Tasmania, Macquarie Island has now been declared predator-free after seven years of monitoring. It’s a magical place, once more filled with elephant seals, penguins and oftentimes foul weather.

“We had eight days work to do on Macquarie,” Gary remembers, “We spent three months there and the winds never let up enough for the helicopters to fly. In the end, we had to leave and go back another time.”

Elephant seals and Gentoo penguins on Macquarie Island.

Gentoo penguins and massive elephant seals on Macquarie Island.

South Georgia

South Georgia — home to spectacular glaciers and teeming with wildlife —  stole Gary’s heart.

The little cemetery and Shackleton's grave at South Georgia Island.

This is the island renowned as Shackleton’s final resting place. He is buried within cooee of the whaling station which saved his life — and that of his crew — during their ill-fated Antarctic expedition. (You can read more about Shackleton here.)

“We had three-ton elephant seals roaring and cavorting in the night, whole pods of whales – seven different kinds. Then you have the penguins!”

Penguin poo, however, was something that Gary could have done without. “You wouldn’t believe how bad a penguin colony can smell.”

But it was the scenery; mountains and huge ice caps which made South Georgia so special — and global warming which made the pest eradication mission so urgent.

With 70% of the island covered in glaciers at that time, the Norwegian rats and other rodents were kept in relatively small, isolated pockets. But with the glaciers shrinking there was a very real danger that the rat populations could join and explode.

Helicopter flying into land on a ship's helipad at South Georgia Island. Glaciers and mountains in the background.

Helicopter coming landing on the HQ ship’s helipad at South Georgia. The island has recently been declared rodent free.

Too Much Travelling

Even the most seasoned travellers can have too much of a good thing and it was hard being away from Kim so much.

One year Gary worked out that he’d spent a month hanging around in planes and airports trying to get from one place to another. And another month just on boats.

Just at that time, Tom O’Brien had a brilliant idea to build a cycle trail at Welcome Rock. What a good excuse to stay home. Gary was delighted to help.

Other New Zealand opportunities followed until one day he found a new venture— one that, despite all his skills — he had never imagined doing.

Developing the Great Rides App

“We were riding the Alps to Ocean trail,” says Gary, and got a bit disoriented. I pulled out my phone thinking ‘There’s bound to be an app for this’ — but there wasn’t.”

So, Gary decided to build one, and The Great Rides App was born.

Gary and Kim Patterson on their cycles GPS mapping the Old Ghost Trail for the Great Rides App.

GPS mapping the Old Ghost Road Track for the Great Rides App.

Working on the App

You wouldn’t believe the work that’s gone into this app. I was spellbound by the detail and I’m not even into biking. It’s such an asset for a modern day trail cyclist.

For the Great Rides App, Gary has ridden and mapped every one of the 22 major New Zealand cycle trails — and eight bonus trails to boot.

Creating it was six months of great adventure and intense work.

“There can be patchy GPS coverage in isolated spots,” he explained. “So I took three trackers which marked the trail every one second. That way if one unit seemed to be ‘off-course’ I knew the other two would be right.”

He also took photos at every point of interest along the way. These, along with Gary’s concise, informative notes are available as part of the app. It’s a phenomenal achievement.

What’s Next For The Great Rides App?

Even once you’ve developed an app it seems there’s a lot of on-going work to do. Gary is now busily updating info, changing pics, and double-checking that all his maps are aligned with those of DOC and his official partner The New Zealand Cycle Trail.

He also maintains the App’s links to the gear, food and accommodation providers along the path of each trail. Gary’s also proving to be quite a prolific writer, as he writes regular articles for several cycling print and online publications.

If You’re A Trail Cyclist, You’ll Love This Free App

Download button for Apple App Store.

More Pattersons On The Blog

Kim Patterson is also a go-getter who knows how to follow her dreams. She’s one half of the talented woodworking duo at The Cusp. You can read about them on Time Of My Life at The Cusp: Graceful Furniture Designs

And, of course, Gary is the co-designer of the Welcome Rock Trail, which also features as a bonus trail on his Great Rides App. You can find Welcome Rock featured on Time Of My Life at Welcome Rock: Trails and Tributes

Aaron Abernethy: Starlight Metal Art and Sculpture

There are many things I admire about Aaron Abernethy.

I know he has courage. It took guts for his family to move from Auckland to our little valley to live their self-sufficiency dream. And he’s a multi-talented engineer who can solve countless problems big and small. Many farmers in the valley will tell you that. Finally, anyone who’s eaten one of Aaron’s famous barbeque meals will agree that he cooks up a superb spit-roast.

But I didn’t know until very recently, that behind the engineer lies a talented artist and sculptor

Artistic Beginnings

Can you remember the very first-time that inspiration struck way back in your childhood? Not many will be nodding here, I bet, but Aaron is one who can.

“I remember very clearly the first time I did art. We had picked some flowers and I started rubbing them on the path. You can get some good colours from the centre of flowers, and the pictures last for ages on the pavement.”

From there Aaron kept on drawing and experimenting. His parents must have been exceptionally easy-going because as a teenager his experiments took the form of drawing with black Vivid Markers ALL OVER HIS BEDROOM WALLS! You can always paint over a wall, I guess, but I’m not sure that I’d have been so tolerant.

Later, as adult life and responsibilities took over, Aaron’s art faded into the background. Little did he know that in becoming an engineer and honing his welding and metalwork skills over the years, he was sowing the seeds for a new passion.

At first, Aaron was busy establishing his home and business, DBE Engineering Ltd. But then animal sculptures and figures began to form in his brain. Tentatively he began to create them using the tools of his trade — metal and a welding iron.

Into The World

It’s a huge leap from making art to putting it out for others to see. But gradually other people began to see and love Aaron’s work. In July 2018 he made a leap of faith and submitted a beautiful stag head to the Riversdale Art Exhibition.

“Why don’t you put your highland cattle sculpture at The Ivy Box” a friend suggested. “

That was a nerve-wracking thought. However, Lynda Hensman, the Queenstown artist/owner of the gallery made everything easy.

“She was so enthusiastic and professional,” says Aaron.

Over time Aaron began to feel easier offering sculptures to local businesses such as The Athol Gallery and Craftkeepers too. Then as his reputation grew, people began to offer commissions and his art expanded with a new life and direction.

It’s one thing to see Aaron’s work in a photo. It’s quite another to see it in real life. I was bowled over when I visited The Ivy Box to see Aaron’s famous stag and highland cattle heads in person.

Inspiration — Animals and Beyond

If you ever tour around Aaron and Bonnie’s little farm you’ll quickly realise that they love animals. There are hens, ducks, Kune Kune pigs — and piglets — sheep, cows, dogs, cats … a veritable menagerie.

Added to that, Aaron’s a keen hunter. But these days he’s likely to be up in the hills to shoot with a camera rather than a gun. Sure, he still brings home meat to eat, but he’d rather re-create an animal from metal than kill just to get a trophy.

Small, intricately-worked goat sculpture by Aaron Abernethy of Starlight MetalArt and Sculpture.
This small goat sculpture is proudly owned by Stacey Edmonds. Her husband commissioned it from Aaron in 2018 as a special birthday present.

So animal sculptures came first, but as commissions started to trickle in Aaron began to find inspiration in other ways. Now, when he talks to a client it is to establish their vision. It can take a while, but eventually, a theme emerges. That’s when shapes and patterns begin to form in Aaron’s mind.

Sometimes he draws them out first. At other times the vision is so clear he’ll go straight to the metal to start cutting, shaping and welding.

Koru

Large metal koru (curling frond) sculpture by Aaron Abernethy of Starlight MetalArt and Sculpture.
This sculpture was my retirement gift from Garston School, presented at the end-of-year school concert and prize giving in 2018. I’m sure the whole audience could see how delighted and surprised I was with their gorgeous gift.

Aaron was given carte blanche for my sculpture — which is often harder than meeting a specific request. Aaron says:

“I started by drawing because I’d been given a blank canvas. And I  thought about things you’ve been teaching and how you seem to love Maori, so I started with a koru shape.

But, then I was also thinking about the land and the connection between land and sea, and about being grounded and nurturing new things.

So, you can see the wave in the koru, and then all the little extra shapes are the new growth. And if you look through it (the koru wave) you can see the garden beyond.

Also, that one can stand in different ways and each way it will look different. I like that about it.”

A Special Family Gift For Garston School

"Our Family" a towering metal tree, with 5 branches, representing the Abernethy family. Presented to Garston School by Aaron Abernethy.
Clearly visible from the road as you drive by, this beautiful metal tree by Aaron Abernethy has a lovely story behind it.

Aaron wanted to acknowledge and thank Garston School for educating and nurturing his kids. He and Bonnie love Garston’s caring vibe. So, when Quinn finally graduated, Aaron created a very special family sculpture for the school.

Kathryn O’Loughlin, Garston’s Principal couldn’t have been happier with Aaron’s gift. After all, the whole Abernethy clan was a huge part of Garston School for many years.

Even dashing past on the busy highway below you can see the rising branches of Aaron’s rusty-red metal tree. But when you know the story behind it, the sculpture seems all the more beautiful for it represents the Abernethy family.

In many families, Mum is the foundation. Her love and support for her family allow all the members to grow. So Aaron has shown Bonnie as the trunk of his family tree.

Aaron is the largest branch and then the other branches flow out. The Abernethy children have grown and are going out into the world.

It’s a beautiful sculpture and personally, this is my favourite of all of Aaron’s work.

Tools of the Trade

I don’t know much about working with steel so this was all new territory for me, and fascinating to learn.

Aaron uses metals such asZintec — which is steel thinly coated with zinc to protect it from rusting — and Corten, which seems to be the opposite.  Corten is weathering steel. It doesn’t need to be painted but instead, weathers to give a rust-like appearance over time. It’s not really deteriorating or rusting away, it just goes an interestingly rusty colour. You can certainly see this in action at Garston School. Already the Family Sculpture, which arrived as a shiny grey piece, is now a beautiful rusty red.

One of Aaron’s main tools is his MIG (Metal Inert Gas), welder. This has a continuous wire electrode feeding through the welding gun, which melts into the join as the welder fires up. This is a great tool for artists, I’m told, and seems to be a little like using a super-powered fiery metal glue gun. The “MIG” certainly allows Aaron to create some interesting effects on his sculptures.

Shaping The Sculpture

Of course, Aaron has many different techniques, depending on what type of sculpture he’s making.

The initial shape of Aaron's latest, rusty-red koru sculpture.
Every sculpture starts with a basic shape. Since he made my Koru last year, Aaron has been experimenting with many different koru styles. 

For this koru sculpture, Aaron cut out the basic shapes, “tacked” them together and then began to beat and shape the flat metal shapes to give them curves and contours. Then he welded them together. That’s when I took the photo (above.) Of course, this koru’s still a blank canvas. There’s a lot of detail yet to come.

Some of Aaron’s animals look as if they’re covered in fur or hair, and for this technique Aaron welds and melts hundreds of tiny pieces of metal onto the main body. It takes hours and hours of concentrated work to produce such a stunning effect.

Close-up detail of the goat sculpture showing the layers of metal and weld that creates the hairy effect.
Close-up detail of the goat sculpture showing the layers of metal and weld that creates the hairy effect.

Q & A

I had a couple of burning questions for Aaron:

“I know you’re flat out in your engineering business, so when on earth do you get time to create?”

“Tuesday nights are art nights. Even when I’ve had a bad day and I’m tired when the workshop becomes my studio then I’m in my happy place. It’s funny when you’re creating you lose all track of time. Hours go by and I have no idea.”

I love the name Starlight MetalArt. Where did that come from?

“We found on a very old map that this (mountain) range above our house was named Starlight. I just loved the name.”

Into The Future

Now that he’s finally giving his art a place in his life, Aaron’s finding that more and more shapes, sculptures and possibilities are lining up in his mind, waiting to see the light of day.

I hope they make it out — we’ll all be just that little bit richer with Aaron’s lovely sculptures to enjoy in our world.

Contact Aaron

Facebook

Cellphone: +6421861042

More Artists On The Blog

Embroidery Artist Amy Baker

Furniture with flair – The Cusp

Locally made arts and crafts – Craft Keepers

Whimsical Watercolours – Michelle Goggans

Back to Basics: Who’s Who on the Revenant?

View over the mountains from Welcome Rock Trails, home of the Revenant

Here’s a quick overview, with all you need to know about The Revenant Ultra Adventure Run… When, What, Who, Where and Links to all the websites.

Nuts and Bolts – What You Need To Know

WHEN:    January 18-20, 2019

WHERE:  Welcome Rock Trails, Garston

WHAT:     The inaugural running of the Revenant, the first-ever race of its kind in New Zealand.                    

WHO…


Race Directors: Leroy de Beer

Leroy de Beer is an ex-military man with a passion for fitness and running. Originally from Pretoria, he owns PT Central  — a gym in Alexandra — as well as being a sought-after long-distance-running coach. Now, with his new business Off The Grid Events NZ first race, Leroy’s causing waves of excitement in the running community with the Revenant’s extreme challenge.

Scott Worthington

Scott Worthington’s a businessman and longtime runner, Ironman and Adventurer. Originally from Auckland, Scott and his family now love to call Alexandra their home.

He’s passionate about the outdoors and loves the synergy between The Revenant race and Welcome Rock Trails. You can read more of Scott’s story at Behind the Revenant.

Want to see a little bit more of The Revenant and its directors? Leroy and Scott give a few clues in their Race Hints video series here on Facebook.

Competitors

Many of the names of the hardy souls who’ve been selected for entry into this inaugural Adventure Run are currently a secret, but they’re a diverse bunch of men and women from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the USA.

I’ve heard hints that one’s a professional cyclist. Others are runners or come from the Ironman fraternity. Some are from the military, others are passionate Adventure racers. I’m willing to bet there’s at least one who’s raced in the Godzone before.

All will be revealed at the race briefing on January 18th.

SPECIAL UPDATE: Meet the competitors at the Garston Hotel from 4pm Thursday, 17th January.  

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to meet these legends of adventure.

Hosts/Venue: Tom and Katie O’Brien and Welcome Rock Trails

Welcome Rock Trails is a unique and special part of the Southland High Country. Within its boundaries, you’ll find almost every sort of terrain available in this area — river, mountain, bush, tussock, valley and a special history that’s been loving preserved and celebrated in the creation of the Welcome Rock Cycling Trail.

The Revenant fits well into the ethos of Welcome Rock. Both have a sense of the special history in the hills above Garston, a desire for minimal impact on the environment and a passion to create an experience that lasts well beyond the moment.

You can read more about Welcome Rock here in Trails and Tributes.

Sponsors

Leroy De Beer standing beside a VW Amarok V6 Ute.
Leroy De Beer and the trusty VW Amorak V6

The Revenant Race Directors are thrilled to welcome Giltrap VW Commercial as the sponsor for their inaugural Ultra Adventure Run. VW is providing vehicles for the shuttle service up to the race start, and as you can see from the Revenant Facebook page, Scott and Leroy have been using one of their super smooth and reliable Amarok V6 utes to get around on their Revenant duties.

Not Long To Go…