Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Week 10 & 11. Mt Gerald Station, Farewell, Mackenzie Country

Late Thurs night, 22.09.16: Luke & Jake were on their way to visit us at Mt Gerald Station when at Rolleston, Luke's van broke down, radiator boiling. Luke & Jake got help from a friend & AA to tow the van back to Luke's Christchurch rental.

Fri 23.09.16: After texts & phone calls from Luke & Jake, I drove from Mt Gerald Station to Christchurch to fetch Jake & Luke for their visit to Mt Gerald Station. Jake & Luke stayed in the 2 classrooms reconverted to bedrooms in our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

Sat 24.09.16: Stream willows, spring leaves sprouting. At the end of Lilybank Rd, Leah & I wandered moraine hummocks with Jake & Luke, showing them: Lake Tekapo SW; snowy Hall Range, The Island, Godley River W; snowy Sibbald Range, snowy Two Thumbs Range, Macaulay River, N & E.

E side of Lilybank Rd, we climbed a tablelands hill for better views of Mt Erebus, Razorback, Mt Ajax, N & Mt Gerald, E. From that 800 m height I pointed out several walks I'd done on Mt Gerald Station: to tablelands hut; in hummocky moraine country, across Ninety Five Stream; up Ribbonwood Stream, up Mt Gerald; up Stone Hut Stream; up Macaulay River...

Returning to our lake house, in roadside paddocks we saw red deer & Hereford & Angus calves with their mothers. It was spring calving & lambing season.

Sun 25.09.16: I drove Jake to Christchurch for his 4 pm shift at Woolston Club, then I drove back to our Lake house at Mt Gerald Station. Return trip, 540 kms.

While I was away, Leah & Luke tried to find the tablelands hut, off Lilybank Rd, on Mt Gerald Station, but turned back due to mist. Instead, with Jimmy dog, they wandered wetlands where Mt Gerald streams & Coal River merged at the NE end of Lake Tekapo. They saw rare kakis, other waterfowl & Luke found a pair of rams horns drying in the sun.

Mon 26.09.16. Quiet family morning at our lake house, Mt Gerald Station, as it was Leah's sister's last day with us before flying back to Sydney.

Afternoon: I drove us along Lilybank Rd to Tekapo Spa for a farewell meal at the Tahr Bar.

Tues 27.09.16. I drove Leah's sister from Mt Gerald Station to Christchurch airport for her flight back to Sydney. Over the last 5 days, I'd driven 3 return trips from Mt Gerald Station to Christchurch.

En route, as Luke's van was bung in Christchurch, I dropped Luke off at our Fairlie rental for him to drive our Honda car back to Christchurch for him to use till his van's radiator was fixed. By the time Luke got to Geraldine our Honda's radiator was boiling due to a perished rubber hose. Luke fixed the hose at a Geraldine garage & continued safely to Christchurch. He dubbed himself "the destroyer of cooling systems."

Wed 28.09.16. Quiet morning at Mt Gerald Station tidying up, ready to farewell our lake house.

Afternoon: With Jimmy dog, Leah & I wandered Coal River wetlands at the NE end of Lake Tekapo. We threw sticks for Jimmy to fetch in streams. Jimmy, a rock hound, dived into streams & dug up stones which he carried in his mouth. We saw 11 juvenile kakis, still with their black & white plumage & DOC tags on their red legs. Other waterfowl seen: banded dotterels, gulls, terns, paradise shelducks, pied oyster catchers.

Using our binoculars, we watched a distant, black Angus cow give birth to a calf. The calf lay exhausted & didn't rise. The cow was protective so we couldn't approach across the wetland. Later that afternoon we reported the difficult birth to the farm manager.

Thurs morn 29.09.16. Tidied up Leah's teaching materials, preparing for relocation back to Lake Tekapo School & our Farlie rental.

Afternoon: I drove from Mt Gerald Station to Lake Tekapo School then our Fairlie rental, to relocate some teaching materials & belongings. Bought chicken fried rice at Mt Hutt Chinese takeaway, Fairlie. Returned to Mt Gerald Station. For the next few days, we were in limbo land, betwixt & between Alpine valleys.

Fri 30.09.16. From the carpark at the end of Lilybank Rd, Leah & I walked to Stone Hut at Stone Hut Stream, 7 km return. Grand Alpine & river views while a nor'wester, rain storm brewed over Sibbald Range, Mt Erebus & Razorback.

Domestic trivia at our lake house, Mt Gerald Station, involved much cleaning, tidying & washing of clothes & bedding before our return to Fairlie. Over the last week, Jimmy dog adopted us, abandoning the farm manager's house, scavenging food from us & sleeping at our lake house.

Sat 01.10.16. Relocated teaching materials & belongings from our lake house, Mt Gerald Station, to Lake Tekapo School & our Fairlie rental.

Sun 02.10.16. Spring larch needles flushing green, poplars still bare. Final cleaning, tidying & packing at our lake house. Left Mt Gerald Station for good. Drove along Lilybank Rd & down Burkes Pass back to our Fairlie rental.

See Cows stomp in critically endangered bird habitat (The Press / Stuff Co).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Week 9. Mt Gerald Station, Family Visit, Mackenzie Country

Fri 16.09.16. I drove Leah from our Fairlie rental to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for Leah to teach there. I wandered around Fairlie. Grey rain clouds loured over Two Thumbs Range & Sherwood Range.

Sat 17.09.16. I drove us to Academy Motel, Creyke Rd, Christchurch, so we could pick up Leah's Durban sister at Christchurch Airport. (Rangitata River & Rakaia River flowed full after Friday's Alpine rains). Leah's sister had visited her Sydney grand children & would stay with us a week at our lake house at Mt Gerald Station, NE end of Lake Tekapo.

Christchurch Airport parking was horrendous, as Christchurch Council owned Christchurch Airport & had a monopoly on ripoff parking. (Minimum $12.50 for the first hour...) Car hire firms like Hertz clogged the airport carpark with rental cars. Surrounding airport businesses all had private carparks making it impossible for the public to get free parking anywhere near the airport. Nearby roads had yellow dotted lines roadsides, stopping free parking for miles around. Christchurch ratepayers thus subsidised tourist parking & out of town business parking at Christchurch Airport, without free parking for ratepayers or locals like ourselves.

Evening: Had a Corianders takeaway supper with Luke in our Academy Motel room. Leah & her sister enjoyed telling Luke how he resembled his Durban grandfather in tallness, kindness & work ethic.

Late evening: We visited Jake at his Woolston Club restaurant to arrange a visit to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station. Jake had moved flat again, this time to Shetland St to be close to his Woolston Club work. Despite work & study setbacks during quake years 2010-2013, our sons persevered & stayed in Christchurch for the long haul. They stayed in disgustingly expensive rentals, the rental market inflated by greedy landlords, grasping real estate agents & rental managers.

Sun 18.09.16. Morning: Wandered Christchurch Botanic Gdns, viewing blooming magnolias & daffodils. Leah's sister enjoyed seeing post quakes resumed, punters on Avon.

Midday: Shopping at Northlands Mall.

Six years post quakes, Christchurch still had a long way to go, repairing quake trashed roads, repairing quake damaged bldgs & building new ones. Although NZ govt's Blueprint Justice & Emergency Services Precinct, Hereford St, was being completed, NZ govt & Council still dithered over building other Blueprint anchor projects, like Central Library, Convention Centre, Stadium, Performing Arts Precinct, Metro Sports Facility in the CBD, the latest excuse being asbestos pollution buried in Blueprint demolition sites by errant demolishers. Fence cordoned, Christchurch Cathedral ruin was a blot on the landscape, symbol of Council's & NZ govt's botched quake recovery. Never mind EQC's repeat repairs of 10 000 botched house repairs & EQC trying to get repeat repairs cash settled instead of insisting on proper repairs by Fletcher's contractors.

By September's end, EQC boss Simpson was promoted to GNS Science, another govt agency. What a farce! Since the 2010-2013 Canterbury quakes, Simpson had bossed EQC with all its faults & insults to Cantabrians.

During our Mackenzie Country sojourn, over the last 3 years, every time we returned to Christchurch we were caught in traffic jams due to road detours & road cone obstructions. A lot of Christchurch CBD had 30 km speed limit to protect cyclists. Council was trying to make the post quake CBD pedestrian & cyclist friendly, but unfriendly to motorists, a recipe for slow CBD recovery.  

Afternoon. After a pit stop at our Fairlie rental to pick up bedding & drinking water, I drove us back to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

Evening: TV watched Sat highlights of ABS vs Springboks Christchurch test match. ABs thrashed Boks. Late evening: TV watched Rio Para Olympics, Men's Sitting Volleyball, Bronze Medal, Egypt vs Brazil. Egypt won.

Mon 19.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. Last week of the school term.. Cool weather forecast this week. Snow patches still on surrounding high Alps, like Mt Gerald, Mistake Peak, Pikes Peak. Deciduous willows showed spring leaves. Other deciduous trees, like larches, were still bare. Mountain paddocks were greening after spring rains.

Late afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her lesson preps. While returning to our lake house Leah's sister snapped pics of the Alpine sunset over Lake Tekapo. Clouds pouring over Tekapo Saddle showed that Fairlie had a cloudy day.

Tues 20.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. The 2 boys rode their Honda motor bikes to school.

I parked my car at the end of Lilybank Rd by the carpark. Like my Macaulay River Valley walk last week, I crossed Ribbonwood Stream & Ninety Five Stream, but instead of wandering Macauley River's true left bank again, I crossed two paddocks, passed a farm shed & wandered uphill towards Stone Hut Stream.

It took me 1 hour 15 mins to reach Stone Hut by Stone Hut Stream. Distance from Lilybank Rd carpark: 3.5 kms. As it was cloudy I deigned climbing higher up Stone Hut Stream gorge towards Beuzenberg's Snake Ridge. Instead I scoffed my biltong & mandarin lunch in Stone Hut & read the visitors' book: ferret & possum trappers; geology surveyors; deer, tahr & bunny hunters; X country skiers; school tramping groups; wanderers like myself & locals.

In reality Stone Hut was an old, corrugated iron hut, with 6 bunk beds; a wood burner stove; wooden table & two wooden benches; kitchen sink, motley kitchen utensils & an outside corrugated iron, long drop toilet with grand Alpine & river views.

On my return to my car at the end of Lilybank Rd, a cold wind blew from Lake Tekapo & western ranges, so I was glad of my trusty, brown wind cheater. In my absence a wag had written PRIVATE CAR PARK in the dust on my back windscreen. Irony: I drove the station owner's Subaru Outback. Not a soul in sight, in a vast Alpine landscape.

Late afternoon: I drove Leah & her sister to the end of Lilybank Rd for snowy mountain & river views. In a chilly wind, we wandered moraine hummocks overlooking braided Godley River, Macauley River & streams from Mt Toby & Mt Gerald. We watched the sun setting over Pikes Peak.

Wed 21.09.16. Last school day Mt Gerald Station. Treasure hunt around farm bldgs for the children & a visit to the horse paddock. I tidied up the 2 ex school rooms to morph them into bedrooms again for our sons' visit to Mt Gerald Station.

Thurs 22.06.16. Drove Leah & her sister from Mt Gerald Station to Geraldine for shopping & lunch. Stopped en route to look at the daffodil farm. Afternoon: Detoured off SH8 to Pioneer Park for tea. Pit stop at our Fairlie rental to collect drinking water for our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

See Christchurch anchor projects plagued by land contamination (The Press / Stuff Co).

See EQC looking to cash settle remaining remedial work (The Press / Stuff Co).

See Outstanding EQC boss Simpson quits (The Press / Stuff Co).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Week 8. Mt Gerald Station, Macaulay River Valley, Mackenzie Country

Fri 09.09.16. I drove from Mt Gerald Station to Fairlie for Leah to teach at St Josephs School, Fairlie. I did my circular walk around Fairlie.

Afternoon: I drove us to Timaru for banking & shopping. There were no ANZ bank branches at Fairlie nor Lake Tekapo. Our nearest ANZ branch was at Geraldine. Rural NZ was poorly served by ANZ. Recently Westpac threatened to close its Fairlie branch, just leaving an ATM, like at Lake Tekapo. Customers like me who liked dealing with people had to deal with machines!

Sat 10.09.16. Leah taught her Woodbury & Kurow students at St Josephs School, Fairlie. Afterwards, I drove us back to our lake house, Mt Gerald Station.

Sun 11.09.16. Lake Tekapo School principal & his family visited us at Mt Gerald Station. Leah had worked with the principal for nearly 3 years. He was impressed with Mt Gerald School & the children's progress.

Mon 12.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. Great jubilation as the 3 children had all come first in their ski races at Round Hill ski field on Saturday. Leah hung a congratulations poster on the school door. I gave Jimmy the school dog a bowl of water to celebrate.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to teach there & for lesson prep.

Tues 13.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. A teacher from Lake Tekapo School visited Leah at Mt Gerald Station.

In Macaulay River Valley, between Razor Back, 1570 m & Mt Toby, 2222 m, I walked the true left bank of Macaulay River as follows:

I parked my car at the end of Lilybank Rd by Mt Gerald Station carpark, overlooking Lilybank Station & the merging of Macaulay River & Godley River below Alps, a remote area with magnificent Alpine & river valley views - Hall Range westwards, Sibbald Range northwards, Two Thumbs Range northwards & eastwards.

Below Mt Gerald, 1551 m, I crossed Ribbonwood Stream & Ninety Five Stream merge & wandered a track on the left bank of Macaulay River to Mt Gerald Station deer fenced paddocks. Many paddock gates along Lilybank Rd & near tourist areas were padlocked to stop wandering stock due to careless trampers & tourists.

I crossed several fences & paddocks till I came to a farm track on the 800 m contour going up the left bank of Macaulay River. I crossed Stone Hut stream fan with Stone Hut nestling by willows, higher up at the top of the fan at about 1000 m. I'd visited Stone Hut in April, during my trek up Stone Hut Stream gorge between Mt Gerald & Mt Toby.

I crossed another stream below another gorge on Mt Toby lower slopes. Looming above the true right bank was Razor Back which I tramped past in about 2 hours.

I crossed Macaulay River flats below Mt Toby. The track then undulated along the left bank past cattle paddocks & matagouri / tussock lands with Macaulay River braiding through shingle below. In Macaulay River Valley, the braided river I passed was about 1 km wide. It narrowed further up. At one point I went down to Macauley River, but it flowed too fast & deep for me to cross, so I stuck to the left bank.

I crossed several streams flowing down to Macaulay River & saw weather station apparatus surrounded by barbed wire. The weather apparatus: 2 bucket, rain gauges, 2 padlocked steel boxes on poles, the boxes had sticker warnings not to interfere with the apparatus, giving early flood warnings for Mackenzie District Council. One of the boxes had a solar panel & aerial on top.

I crossed First Waterfall Stream by another padlocked, deer fence gate. The waterfall was high above, falling into a gorge from about 1300 m. It reminded me of Howick falls I'd often visited near Pietermaritzburg.

I crossed several more streams. Razor Back receded behind me on the right bank. Razor Back ended abruptly in Stony Stream gorge. With my binoculars I saw a farm road zig-zagging above the S end of Stony Stream gorge towards the 1300 m contour on Razor Back & Observation Hill, 1689 m.

I continued along the left bank of Macaulay River till I came to a private hut by Second Waterfall Stream below Mt Toby. Outside the hut were horse hitching posts & a barbed wire, horse paddock. The hut was locked, but I used the long drop toilet by the stream. The long drop had grand views of the bend up Macaulay River Valley, Third Waterfall Stream, Two Thumbs Range, including Mt Ajax, 2319 m, Razor Back, Observation Hill, Stony Steam gorge & snowy Sibbald Range.

I returned to my car at Lilybank Rd carpark, the way I'd came.

Walking Times: 3 hours to the Second Waterfall Stream hut. 3 hours return.
Distances: 8 kms to Second Waterfall Stream hut. 8 kms return. Total 16 kms.

Tramping fitness, food, water, maps, all weather gear, safety gear, farmer's permission required.

Wed 14.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Thurs 15.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to teach there & for her Pilates class at the Community Hall. Afterwards I drove us down Burkes Pass to our Fairlie rental.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Week 7. Mt Gerald Station, Mt Gerald Climb, Mackenzie Country

Fri 02.09.16. I drove Leah from Mt Gerald Station to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for Leah to teach there.

I drove to Timaru for shopping, including round balloons for Leah's students to stuff with sensopathic play dough.

Sat 03.09.16. I drove Leah to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for her to teach her Woodbury students there.

Afternoon: I drove to Timaru for Leah to buy a new laptop at Warehouse Stationery, as her old laptop was bung. She used her laptop a lot for teaching prep & reports. We had tea at Pak 'n Save's Sticky Cafe. At the garage, I did our Subaru's tyre pressures, as I didn't want a blow out on rutted Lilybank Rd.

Late afternoon: I drove up Burkes Pass & along Lilybank Rd, back to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station. Our two green, plastic, rubbish bins were blown over by Alpine winds. They were blown over several times a week. Despite mature oregon pine & larch shelterbelts the homestead was prone to Alpine winds, as Mt Gerald Station was in a variable weather zone N of Lake Tekapo, high Alps on 3 sides - snowy Two Thumbs Range E, snowy Sibbald Range N, snowy Hall Range W.

Sun 04.09.16. Rainbow over N end of Lake Tekapo, due to rain showers over Mt Gerald Station & Godley River Valley. Intermittent wind & rain showers all day.

Afternoon visit by SA expat friends from Cape Town, living in Blenheim. They regularly motored to Fairlie to maintain their son's property near Farm Barn Cafe at the top of Mt Michael. Their son lived in Canada.

Mon 05.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to teach a student there & for her computer class. I wandered round The Cairns golf course.

Tues 06.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Weather forecast: 10 degrees Centigrade, clear, no wind. Perfect for climbing Mt Gerald, 1551 m. Snows had thawed on Mt Gerald west faces & up Ribbonwood Stream gorge.

Mt Gerald climb: I parked my car at the end of Lilybank Rd, crossed Ninety Five Stream & several sown grass paddocks to hummocky, moraine country at the bottom of Mt Gerald & Ribbonwood Stream gorge. Steadily rising, I crossed fences & streams & followed a vague farm track up Ribbonwood Stream gorge. Tributary streams, cutting through moraine hummocks, joined Ribbonwood Stream & Stone Hut Stream further N. My Topo50 map showed a paper road zig-zagging up Ribbonwood Stream gorge on the south side of the gorge.

About 1000 m height I left the farm track, as it would take a long time zig-zagging up the gravel track. Instead I made a beeline up sunny, N facing, tussocky, moraine terraces above Ribbonwood Stream. Above 1000 m there was still snow on the N side of Ribbonwood Stream - S facing slopes.

At about 1300 m, the border between farm lands & DOC lands, I crossed a deer fence & the farm track, which had climbed out of Ribbonwood Stream gorge then descended southwards through Mt Gerald tussock land on moraine terraces towards Mt Gerald Stream. The farm track also went N towards Stone Hut Stream through patchy snowfields on moraine tussock lands by the 1300 m contour. Mt Gerald Station's deer fence gates were padlocked at the border between farm lands & DOC lands, to stop recreationists leaving gates open for stock to escape to higher Alps controlled by DOC.

Above glacier terraces, the stiffest part of my Mt Gerald climb was the last 200 m, past rock outcrops & scree, interspersed with matagouri & snow tussock. I aimed for the wireless mast on top of the N face of Mt Gerald. The wireless mast was a power pole, a metal aerial on top. A long drop sized aluminium hut contained 2 car batteries on a wooden shelf & wireless equipment attached to a wall. The seat was a DOC trap, wooden box. Previous denizens left empty plastic bottles & other junk in the hut, too small a shelter for camping. The hut had a solar panel on top.

Mt Gerald top was a snow tussock plateau, sloping to a long, snowy hollow, forming Mt Gerald Stream catchment. Eastwards, on the other side of Mt Gerald Stream, snowy Beuzenberg Snake Ridge rose above Mt Gerald, going N all the way to snowy Beuzenberg Peak 2070 m.

As it was still sunny & windless, I wandered Mt Gerald top for 2 hours towards Beuzenberg snowy Snake Ridge. (On a sunny March day, I'd started along Snake Ridge via Rex Simpson Memorial Hut, but turned back as I'd run out of time). Northwards, across Ribbonwood Stream gorge, below Beuzenberg's Snake Ridge & between a lower snowy, Mt Gerald ridge was Ribbonwood Stream catchment, where Ribbonwood Stream meandered down through snowy tussock land to Ribbonwood Stream gorge.

A clear day, I had grand views of Macaulay River Valley, Godley River Valley & snowy Alpine Ranges: N, S & E - Two Thumbs Range; N - Sibbald Range; W - Hall Range & Gammack Range; Sublime Mt Cook & Mt Tasman beyond.

I descended to my car via the steep, N facing, tussock slope below the wireless mast & the zig-zag farm track in Ribbonwood Stream gorge. The farm track was badly eroded with tumbled rocks, top soil lumps & crossing streams. Little horse or vehicle traffic went up there anymore, as farm helicopters were de rigueur.

My Mt Gerald climb times: Ascent 3.5 hours, 800 vertical metres. Plateau top wander 2 hours. Descent 2.5 hours. Total distance 13 kms. I didn't see a soul all day. Two paradise shelducks circled me high above Mt Gerald N slopes. A chamois darted through snow tussock near the top.

Tramping fitness, food, water, maps, all weather gear, safety gear, farmer's permission required.

Wed 07.09.16. It rained most of Tuesday night, a fresh snowfall down to 1000 m on the Alps.

School day Mt Gerald Station. Variable winds & squally rain from the S.

Thurs 08.09.16. Overnight powder snow down to 700 m surrounded our lake house.

School day Mt Gerald Station.

Morning snow flurries blown horizontally by southerlies. Mt Gerald I'd climbed on Tuesday was snowy from top to toe.

I drove Leah through a snow storm to Lake Tekapo for her lesson preps at Lake Tekapo School & for her Pilates class at the Community Hall, Aorangi Cres. We had supper at Tahr Bar, Tekapo Spa. Grand views of Mt Edward, snowy from top to toe.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Week 6. Mt Gerald Station, Round Hill Ski Field, Mackenzie Country

Fri 26.08.16. Rainy day. I drove Leah from Mt Gerald Station to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for her to teach there.

Afternoon: I drove to Timaru WINZ office, Strathallan St, for me to sign on for superannuation. Two uniformed, security men stood at the front door. A friendly one with clipboard took my appointment details. Both had squiggly wires in their ears. Two unsmiling, male receptionists directed Leah & me to waiting chairs. Security had ramped up since last year's fatal shootings at Ashburton WINZ office. Timaru WINZ office was a clone of depressing WINZ offices we'd encountered over the years at Sydenham, Riccarton & Papanui, Christchurch - sour office workers, open plan offices with no privacy for clients & many intrusive CCTV cameras.

A SA immigrant dealt with my superannuation application. He hailed from SWA - Kuruman - Parow & spoke fluent German, Afrikaans & English. He offered to interview us in English or Afrikaans. We opted for English & nattered a bit in Afrikaans, At the end of the interview I said, "South African immigrants are taking over running NZ."

Shopping at Timaru Pak 'n Save, then I drove back to Fairlie.

Sat 27.08.16. Rainy day. I drove Leah to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for her to teach her Geraldine students there. Leah's specific learning difficulties teaching expertise was in high demand in Mackenzie Country, yet the MOE had no employment options for Leah in Mackenzie Country. There were so-called resource teachers hovering in Timaru, but too far away for the needs of rural children & small schools.

When Leah had attended vague job interviews in Timaru, Pleasant Point & Ashburton, principals made the right noises about teaching & learning needs for behaviour & learning difficulties children, but had no funding nor facilities for Leah's expertise. An Ashburton principal insultingly sniggered he could only give Leah teaching space in the school kitchen, as his school was crying out for more classrooms. An indictment of MOE's & school principals' planning & organization.

After more than 2 years' teaching at Lake Tekapo School, leah received a letter from the principal & BOT chairman saying they would advocate for her, whatever that meant? Last year during an ERO inspection at Lake Tekapo School, an ERO inspector told Leah, "The school is lucky to have you." The luck didn't come from the school's initiative, but came from a concerned local farmer / parent who'd head-hunted Leah, obtaining her secondment to Lake Tekapo School from Seabrook Mackenzie Centre, Christchurch. A private arrangement with the farmer / parent, Lake Tekapo School & Seabrook Mackenzie Centre. Nothing to do with MOE nor ERO.

Leah's private students from Kurow, Twizel, Fairlie, Woodbury & Geraldine were all obtained by her personal marketing & referrals from her professional network & satisfied parents. Concerned parents drove long distances transporting their children from Woodbury, Geraldine, Twizel & Kurow for Leah to teach their children at Lake Tekapo or Fairlie. It would be uneconomic for Leah to travel to teach their children. Most of her secondment in Mackenzie Country required her to commute daily between our Fairlie rental & Lake Tekapo, as it was too expensive to rent in Lake Tekapo tourist trap. Return commuting by car from Fairlie - Kimbell & bus via Burkes Pass added more than 2 hours to Leah's teaching day at Lake Tekapo School.

After a late lunch at Farm Barn Cafe, Alandale Rd, I drove us up Burkes Pass to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

Sun 28.08.16. Buzzed awake by the farmer flying his helicopter close to our lake house. Helicopters, busy during mustering, were quicker & more efficient than horses & dogs & less destructive of the Alpine environment by farm vehicles on farm tracks.

A sunny, nor'wester day, snows still on the high peaks. Leah & I did the 3 hour, 7.5 km, circular walk from Lilybank Rd to the 895 m tableland hill. The nor'wester was strong, so we sheltered by top rocks & scoffed our scroggin. After snow & ice thaws there was lots of mud about. We looked at the nearby tablelands hut - 4 bunk beds, log burner, dining table & chairs, double glazed windows, respite from the nor'wester. Snow topped, Mt Gerald west face loomed above, beckoning. Returning down Lilybank Rd, I slipped in mud, cracking my head, protected by my parka hood & hat. My back, bum & arms were covered in cow shit!

Mon 29.08.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. I'd refrained from blogging school activities & teaching for privacy / professional reasons. Besides classroom furniture & stationery, we had 3 laptops, a laminator & paper guillotine which occupied our big, dining room table while Leah prepped lessons. I joked, "I can add classroom cleaner, teacher aide, office manager & taxi driver to my CV." I did all that to support Leah while she taught at Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove to Lake Tekapo School for Leah to prep teaching aids & for her computer class.

Tues 30.08.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Morning: Sunny, cloudless, windless. Favouring my sciatica, left leg. I drove to the carpark at the end of Lilybank Rd. I did a short walk over moraine hummocks to a row of pines, planted to stop moraine sand erosion at a high point where waters gathered from Macauley River, Stone Hut Stream, Ribbonwood Stream & Ninety Five Stream below. A vast, magic place where Godley River gathered waters with Macauley River below & Hall Range & Two Thumbs Range soared above, the high peaks covered in snow.

I watched the farmer & his brother, both flying helicopters, mustering cattle below Mt Gerald from paddock to paddock. I watched a tractor / trailer & a SUV ford Macauley River, forming wakes as they crossed from Lilybank Station to the carpark at the end of Lilybank Rd.

Afternoon: Leah & I did the same circular walk to take in magnificent views at the end of Lilybank Rd. It was a good time to snap pics of the mountains, moraines, braided rivers & Lake Tekapo. I though the area could be a good place for a movie set.

We climbed an 800 m tablelands hill & watched 2 helicopters land near the carpark at the end of Lilybank Rd. Soon afterwards, a fire engine & two SUVS arrived, all flashing hazard lights. With our binoculars we watched goods transferred from the vehicles to the bigger helicopter. The farmer's helicopter flew S over The Island to Mt Gerald homestead. The bigger helicopter flew NE up Macauley River Valley. We quessed it was a LANDSAR exercise, or a tramper was in difficulties, or someone needed medical attention at a remote Macauley River hut?

Wed 31.08.16. Early morning: Lake Tekapo village & Mt John were covered in brown smog from the village all the way up the E side of Lake Tekapo, covering lower slopes of Mt Edward, Mt Ardmore & Mt Richmond. It petered out as white smog over Mt Gerald. A DOC worker had burnt rubbish near a hut up Macauley River Valley. The "LANDSAR exercise" we saw yesterday at the end of Lilybank Rd was locals trying to sort out the DOC fire. (The fire burnt scores of hectares of tussockland & smouldered several days). A film crew was at Lake Tekapo for the day, pissed off by smog. So much for Lake Tekapo being the International Dark Sky Reserve of the world.

 School day Mt Gerald Station. Sunny, cloudless, windless.

Afternoon: As Round Hill Ski Field closed for the season next week, it was time we visited. Neither of us were skiers, as we grew up in sub-tropical Durban. During my youth, I'd body surfed a lot at Durban's North beach. From our lake house, the other side of Coal River we saw 1588 m Round Hill nestling below snowy Mt Richmond.

In the afternoons, when we travelled back from Lake Tekapo to Mt Gerald Station we counted cars & SUVs returning from Round Hill Ski Field. In the half hour it took us from SH8 on Lilybank Rd to Round Hill Ski Field turnoff we counted more than 40 vehicles per trip. A popular ski field, but ski traffic chewed up Lilybank Rd leaving it mega rutted & potholed. After the ski field turnoff, Lilybank Rd was relatively smooth to Mt Gerald Station.

From Roundhill Ski Field turnoff on Lilybank Rd, I drove 8 kms up the steep, gravel, ski field road above Coal River S bank. The road climbed moraine terraces from Alpine red tussock & matagouri scrub to snow tussocklands & scree, from 700 m to 1350 m. I parked our car by the ski field, still lots of snow there. We had toasted sandwiches & coffee in the cafe, while Leah chatted to the farmer's wife & I checked out skiers & Alps with my binoculars.

Westwards, DOC smog hung low to about 1000 m on Mistake Peak & Pikes Peak, so the snowy peaks, cols, & couloirs of Mt Stevenson, Hall Range, Mt Joseph, Mt Haszard & Gammack Range were visible above. Snowy Mt Cook loured above the lot. Eastwards, DOC smog had cleared over Two Thumbs Range & Richmond Range.

Some Roundhill Ski Field facts & ski runs sourced from a Roundhill Ski Field info board:

Above 1500 m to Richmond Range top 2133 m

Ridge Run
The Pipe

Heritage Express Rope Tow

The Bowl
The Long Drop
How's Your Daddy

T2 Lift above 1500 m to 1620 m

Ozzi's Way
Schatzy's Way
Mik's Way
Outer Speedway

T Bar Lift

Aud's Way
Karl's Way

Platter Lift

Learners' Area

Base Area 1350 m

I drove down Roundhill Ski Field road & from the DOC Richmond Trail carpark we did a short walk on Coal River S bank to braided Coal River. I showed Leah the matagouri ravine I'd descended by a deer fence on Coal River N bank two weeks ago.

Thurs 01.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove to Lake Tekapo School for Leah to teach a student there & for her Pilates class. Thereafter I drove down Burkes Pass to Fairlie for the weekend.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Roundhill Ski Field, Mackenzie Country

See Hot spots being assessed after fire burns Mackenzie back country (Timaru Herald)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Week 5. Mt Gerald Station, Tablelands, Mackenzie Country

Fri 19.08.16. While Leah taught students at St Josephs School, Fairlie, I drove to Timaru for shopping. At $2 Shop, Stafford St, I bought six squishy balls for Leah's students. She said the sensopathic feel of the plastic balls calmed students' nerves. Calmed Leah's too.

Sat 20.08.16. Leah taught Geraldine students at St Josephs School, Fairlie

Evening: We went to Carnegies, Allandale Rd, for so-called gourmet pizzas, The owner turned us away saying: "We're full." She lost our goodwill. Carnegies was another tourist trap with expensive, crap food. It was the last time we supported Carnegies. On Main St, recently opened Mt Hutt Chinese Cafe was cheaper, healthier & friendlier. We'd rather support them.

Sun 21.08.16. I chopped wood for our Fairlie rental log burner.

Afternoon: I drove along Lilybank Rd back to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

Evening: Rio Olympics TV watching; Women's rhythmic gymnastics. Men's double canoe 1000 m - gold medal Germany, silver medal Brazil, bronze medal Ukraine. Men's kayak four 1000 m. Women's kayak four 1000 m - gold medal Germany, silver medal Slovakia, bronze medal Czech Republic. Women's kayak four 500 m - gold medal Hungary, silver medal Germany, bronze medal Belarus. Women's triathlon - gold medal USA, silver medal Switzerland, bronze medal Great Britain. Men's marathon - gold medal Kenya, silver medal Ethiopia, bronze medal USA.

It rained all night at Mt Gerald Station. I hoped it would thaw top snows so I could climb Mt Gerald soon.

Mon 22.08.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. Snows still high on Mt Gerald, Two Thumbs Range & Hall Range. Low slopes' snows had thawed.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to teach a student there & for her computer course. I wandered around The Cairns golf course. There was lots of building activity since I'd last wandered that way: New house almost completed at The Cairns development. Another house half built. Seven weeks ago it was bare land. A new road was dug at the N end of the golf course, all the way to a new house overlooking Mt John & SH8. Heaps of gravel was dumped on a moraine hilltop overlooking The Cairns golf course. Was it foundation stone for a golf club house, or for a posh, new house?

Evening: I TV watched Rio Olympics closing ceremony, which included Men's marathon medal ceremony.

Tues 23.08.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. We were half way through our stay at Mt Gerald Station, as the school term was 9 weeks.

Mt Gerald Tablelands: Cloudy & cool, a good day for tramping. I wanted to recce the farm track going up Ribbonwood Stream gorge at the N end of Mt Gerald. There was no road connection from Lilybank Rd to the farm track going up Ribbonwood Stream. Mt Gerald tablelands above Lilybank Rd & Ninety Five Stream catchment blocked the way.  

On Lilybank Rd, I parked my car 3 km N of the homestead & wandered east up Mt Gerald slopes through grassy, matagouri, moraine country to grassy tablelands above Lilybank Rd. Good cattle country with grand Alpine views & views of Lake Tekapo. Two weeks ago, Leah & I'd wandered some tablelands when it was covered in icy puddles & snow. The snow had thawed, but there were still icy pools & streams en route.

Along a vague farm track, I followed fence lines & a row of undulating, moraine hills intersecting tableland terraces to about 900 m, where I found a locked, corrugated iron hut. No one home. Grand views of Mt Gerald steep slopes above. Past the hut, at the end of the moraine hills, the farm track petered out in boggy catchment for the Ninety Five Stream.

Following a fence line, I tramped N over rough, moraine hummocks below Mt Gerald & over Ninety Five Stream catchment, past prickly matagouri, over bogs & icy streams. Wet feet again. The main stream was aptly named. I crossed many icy streams, a world of pain for an unfit tramper on Mt Gerald west slopes.

Beyond Ninety Five Stream catchment, a huge hollow between Mt Gerald tablelands & Mt gerald N slopes going to Ribbonwood Stream, I crossed Ribbonwood Stream way down Mt Gerald slopes & came out at cattle paddocks near the braided confluence of Ninety Five Stream & Ribbonwood Stream. High above I could see the farm track going up Ribbonwood stream at the N End of Mt Gerald.

Near the end of Lilybank Rd I recrossed Ribbonwood team & Ninety Five Stream & wandered back to my parked car via Mt Gerald tablelands. The 11 km circular walk took me 4 hours.

Wed 24.08.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. Leah had a report back meeting with parents. As farm staff were away, the busy farmer landed his helicopter on our front lawn & left the engine & rotor idling while the meeting proceeded. Later that morning, I saw the helicopter whizz low over The Island.

Mt Gerald tablelands: Clouds hung about 1000 m, low over Mt Gerald & Hall Range. I parked my car 4 km N of the homestead along Lilybank Rd. I followed fence lines east through moraine, matagouri country to grassy tablelands above Lilybank Rd. I watched several flocks of Canada geese arrowing S towards Lake Tekapo.

From the tableland I saw a bee line across the lower end of Ninety Five Stream catchment & cattle paddocks to the farm road going up Ribbonwood Stream, N end of Mt Gerald. The N facing slopes were snowless, but there was still snow on south facing slopes & higher up Mt Gerald towards Beuzenberg ridge. A radio mast stood on top of the N end of snowy Mt Gerald. If I climbed Mt Gerald via Ribbonwood Stream, that was the way I'd go.

I returned to my car via a Mt Gerald tablelands high point, marked 895 m on my Topo50 map, near the 900 m hut. The 6.5 km circular walk took me 3 hours.

During our Mt Gerald Station stay, I had a game left leg, which I favored on our walks. A couple of months back, I'd sprained my left glute while chopping wood for our Fairlie log burner. I'd had glute & thigh pain for months. A Google search told me I had sciatica, a pain in my ass. Pinched sciatic nerve pain went from my ass down the side of my left thigh, to the back of my left knee, to my left toes, giving me painfully disturbed nights & a tingling left leg after sitting. When my endorphins kicked in on my Mt Gerald walks, sciatic pain disappeared, till I cooled down...

Thurs 25.08.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo for her Pilates class at the Community Hall. Afterwards I drove down Burkes Pass to our Fairlie rental for the weekend.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Week 4. Mt Gerald Station, Wet Feet, Mackenzie Country

Fri 12.08.16. I did shopping at Timaru while Leah taught students at St Josephs School, Fairlie. Grand views of snowy Alpine ranges, including Two Thumbs Range, Dalgety Range. Mt Nessing, Mt Nimrod. I chopped wood for our Fairlie log burner.

Sat 13.08.16. I chopped wood for our Fairlie log burner again, as we glamped in our lounge to stay warm. Leah taught Geraldine students at St Josephs School, Fairlie.

We lunched at Farm Barn Cafe, Allandale Rd, top of Mt Michael. Grand views of snowy Devils Peak, Sherwood Range, Mt Fox, Mt Dobson, Mt Maud & Albury Range.

Sun 14.08.16. I drove along Lilybank Rd to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station. Low snows had thawed in Mackenzie Basin, but the peaks were still snowy. Lilybank Rd snow & ice was gone, the road dusty ruts again. chewed by Round Hill Ski Field traffic.

I TV watched Rio Olympics: 100 m sprint heats, cycling events & NZ hockey & rowing events.

Mon 15.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. I did a 5.5 km circular walk from our lake house along Coal River N bank from the Kahui Kaupeka DOC carpark. I got wet feet crossing thawed, tributary streams & wet, muddy paddocks. I followed a fence line across grassy, moraine hills on Mt Gerald lower slopes till I came to a meandering tributary in a ravine going down to Coal River.

Along the way I met a NZ falcon with a crook left leg. It perched on a fence pole on its right leg, holding its left claws against its speckled, brown chest. It flew off, then allowed me a closer look at another fence post.

Along the 800 m contour, I followed another fence line above the ravine till I came to a farm track / DOC pole marked track going up Mt Gerald glacial terraces to Rex Simpson Memorial Hut & Camp Stream Hut. I'd tramped to both huts during the summer, I spotted the farmer's helicopter flying low over matagouri, moraine country on Mt Gerald lower slopes - checking cattle & red deer stock below the snow line

I returned to our lake house via the DOC carpark, where several SUVs were parked. They stayed there for days. Presumably the SUV owners were cross country skiing snowy heights, as the parked SUVs all had ski boxes on top.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to prepare teaching aids & to attend the staff computer course run by a South African immigrant.

Dusk: During our Lilybank Rd return drive beside Lake Tekapo, I braked hard to avoid an Australasian harrier guarding its rabbit prey in the middle of the road.

Digression: DOC staff placed many predator traps in wetlands at the N end of Lake Tekapo to protect their released, rare, kaki black stilts, which DOC staff bred at Twizel. It seemed daft to me, as ferrets & stoats were originally introduced to cull pestiferous rabbits. If DOC killed all the ferrets & stoats at the end of Lake Tekapo to protect their rare kakis, what would DOC do when rabbit & hare populations exploded again?

Evening: I TV watched Rio Olympics: Women's final heavyweight weightlifting - gold medal China; silver medal N Korea; bronze medal USA. I watched the women's marathon - 1st Ethiopia; 2nd Bahrain; 3rd Kenya. NZ men's hockey were thrashed by Germany in the last 5 minutes of play, score 3-2. NZ women's hockey did better beating Australia, score 4-0.

Tues 16.08.16. I woke & looked out of our bedroom window & watched the sun washing shadows down snowy Mistake Peak & Pikes Peak towards Lake Tekapo & Godley River Valley. A great way to start the day on sunny winter mornings.

School day, Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: Leah & I repeated yesterday's 5.5 km circular walk along Coal River N bank. We got wet feet crossing tributary streams & muddy puddles. Wandering lower Mt Gerald slopes, I patiently waited for snows to thaw on Mt Gerald higher slopes. Farm roads up there on western faces were all icy.

Evening: I TV watched Rio Olympics. Men's heavyweight boxing - gold Russia; silver Kazakhstan; bronze Cuba & Uzbekistan. Women's kayak 200 m sprint - gold NZ; silver Poland; bronze Azerbaijan.

Wed 17.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. A technician arrived & sorted WIFI & internet connections, so we could use our laptops.

On lower Mt Gerald, moraine slopes I did a 11 km circular walk along the N bank of Coal River from our lake house, past the DOC carpark, crossing paddocks, crossing a tributary ravine higher up, then 2 more deeper, tributary ravines in matagouri grassland paddocks, streams going down to Coal River.

After the first ravine I crossed a fell field, getting wet feet then followed deer fences to about 900 m beyond the beginnings of the next two ravines. At the start of ravine 3 at a farm track culvert, I refilled my empty water bottle. Beyond a gate I saw a dead red deer, mummified by snow & ice. It would rot in spring thaw. Further down a chamois ran away behind a moraine hill. Grand views of Lake Tekapo, Godley River Valley, Mistake Peak, Pikes Peak, Big Rough & Little Rough.

At a 4th ravine I inched my way down a steep, icy section of Coal River N bank, using the deer fencing as hand grips. I marvelled at how fencers sunk heavy, wooden poles & fenced the steepest slopes. It took 3 hours along N bank for me to reach Coal River from our lake house.

Wet feet again, I crossed Coal River opposite the Round Hill Ski Field carpark. The water was so cold it pinked my legs. I returned to our lake house via Coal River S bank a flattish bank on Coal River delta, unlike precipitous N bank. Return time 1.5 hours. As Coal River braided it became wider with views over Coal River delta to Lake Tekapo. From S bank I saw that ravines 2 & 3 I'd wandered past both mouthed at the same place on N bank, steep & eroded at that point. Coal River N bank continued more steeply past the 4th ravine mouth towards Round Hill, forming a gorge with ever steepening S bank. A S bank, road cutting above the gorge climbed to the ski field.

Afternoon: Leah & I did a 5 km circular walk by the trout stream below Mt Gerald homestead to the broken wooden bridge by 3 poplars on The Island. We saw 2 black swans taking off from the wetland, NZ pipits pecking for insects & a grey heron complaining we invaded its territory. A month ago when I first did the walk I crossed many icy pools. Now after the thaw, we got wet feet sludging through mud. Through matagouri we returned to the lake house via the airstrip parallel to Lilybank Rd.

Leah took snowy peak pics while I scrutinized Mt Gerald upper snowy slopes with my binoculars. Farm roads were still icy above the 1100 m contour.

Evening: After my 16 km wandering Mt Gerald today, my TV watching Rio Olympics put me to sleep on the couch.

Thurs 18.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove Leah along Lilybank Rd to Lake Tekapo School for Leah to teach a student there. I checked our PO Box for post & had a pie & coffee at the Chinese cafe. Thereafter I drove down Burkes Pass, sans snow, to our Fairlie rental for the weekend.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.