Monday, February 24, 2020

Mt Pukanui, Moorhouse Range, Summit Ridge

Mon 24.02.20. Near Mayfield, from Hinds River Gorge, I climbed Mt Pukanui, 1153m, Moorhouse Range, Map ref: BX19 562563. Moorhouse Range has Rangitata Gorge W side & Hinds Gorge E side.

Stats: From Chapmans Rd, DOC carpark easement, 10 km return hike / climb, 4 h up, 3.5 h down, 670 vertical metres climb. Beautiful cloudless day, gentle zephyrs, grand Alpine & Rangitata River views.

See Tramper NZ link for terrain pics. The Tramper time of 3 h 30 mins return for a 10 km hike / climb, 670 vertical m, was nuts!

From Chapman Rd, DOC easement carpark, for 2.5 km my hike undulated along a DOC marked farm track, sidling E around the bottom of a Mt Pukanui ridge & passing through paddocks & 6 farm gates to Hinds River Gorge, between Moorhouse Range E & Peter Range W.

2.5 km E Ridge climb: Beyond the 6th farm gate, I crossed a creek at the bottom of a tuatara-back ridge, E side of Moorhouse Range. The E ridge climb was between two more E ridges, creeks below each ridge, the S ridge, 815m, overgrazed farmland, the N ridge, 906m, bushy DOC conservation land. The "track" up the climbed ridge was not marker poled by DOC. By a creek the "track" began at the N side of the ridge before topping the ridge along a disused, overgrown, farm track, through snow tussock & matagouri, over a series of shoulders, then when the farm track petered out, the "track" followed a fence through snow tussock & Dracophyllum to Moorhouse Range summit ridge.

More alpine plants seen: Coprosmas, Porcupine Plants, Cyathodes, Wahlenbergias, Celmisias, Snowberries, Spear Grass, Geraniums, Gentians...

Moorhouse Range summit ridge was a series of knobs: Mt Pukanui S, 1145m... Mt Tripp N, 1378m... The E ridge I summited, 1153m  was closer to Mt Pukanui.

The clear day enabled 360 degree Alpine views: E: about 150 kms across Canterbury Plains, hazy Banks Peninsula. SW: Mt Peel. W: Waikari Hills, Coal Hill on Tara Haoa Range. Further W: High Claytons, Sherwood Range & Mt Fox. Beyond: Two Thumbs Range with tops of Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Mt Dobson about 150 km away... NW: Ben McCleod Range & central Alpine Ranges...

Curving far NE: Mt Grey, Mt Thomas, Mt Oxford. Mt Hutt obscured by Mt Somers. Fresh snow on Old Man Range... Just some of the Alpine ranges seen forming headwaters for Ashburton River & Rangitata River, the latter flowing through Rangitata Gorge between W side of Moorhouse Range & E side of Waikari Hills.

Caution: Hill walking fitness, backpack, all weather gear, food, water, map, walking stick(s), boots, hat needed. There was cell phone coverage on top of Moorhouse Range.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Greeting Friendship, Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia

An email exchange about Christchurch quakes:


Hi Mark,

My name is NM. I am a freelance writer and live in Palau City, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. I am very happy to find your blog and read your writings there, especially about the 2010 and 2011 Chch earthquakes. Unfortunately, I only discovered your blog when I returned from Chch last December 2019. For a week I was there to see Chch city immediately after the  earthquake, including several locations such as the CBD, the red zone around the Avon River, Bexley, and as far as New Brighton.

 I want to ask you a few things which I want to know about, and hopefully you will be pleased to give me information related to my questions.

1. Where were the residents moved / relocated in Chch after the government determined the red zone could no longer be inhabited?

2. What is the condition of the people who were moved from the red zone now? Do they have new, better life and better housing?

3. The city where I live in Palu experienced an earthquake which was followed by the tsunami and liquefaction on September 28, 2018. Some areas were decided as red zones and prohibited from being occupied. Residents in the red zone were moved to a new location with the construction of temporary shelters for them and waiting to be moved to a permanent location along with their dwellings. Does Chch also apply the same as this scheme?

4. There is an EQC in Chch, NZ. Before the earthquake, residents who have a house must pay insurance to the EQC? How much insurance costs do residents / homes have to pay EQC? Are payments monthly? or every year?

Thank you, Mark.


Hi NM,

Glad you found my blog useful. Your questions:

1. Red zone residents moved elsewhere to houses or rentals of their own choice, in Christchurch or elsewhere. Some rented government built, small houses in 2 Christchurch parks. Government temporary rentals were expensive. And there were few govt rentals, some built many months after the quakes. Many people whose houses were damaged or destroyed moved elsewhere to live with family or friends [or lived in temp rentals] while dealing with payout settlements from EQC and / or insurance companies.

2. Condition: Those who got good payouts from EQC and / or insurance companies were OK. Many people had to fight slow EQC and slow insurance companies to get fair payouts. Some court cases are still ongoing today. Slow payouts caused psychological damage to claimants. Please Google the EQC Commission of Inquiry for more details about slow EQC payouts & poor house repairs done by EQC.

3. NZ govt did not provide free housing for house damage claimants. NZ govt did supply temporary wage cover to businesses / workers who lost wages. My eldest son got 6 weeks wages paid by NZ govt for his job loss / wages lost in the hospitality industry during quakes. Thereafter he had to find another job. His house rental was smashed up in the Feb 2011 quake and he was out of work for 6 months. He overwintered in a garage with a chemical toilet during 2011, after February & June quakes. As parents we helped him with rent, cash, food, clothes, etc, till he found another hospitality job. Many families lived / survived like that during quake years 2010-13 incl - 16 000 quakes...

4. All NZ homeowners had to pay EQC premiums to NZ govt to cover some land, building, possession damages. [House contents no longer applies for EQC claimants]. Homeowners also had to pay premiums to their private insurance companies to cover more damages to housing & personal possessions, like clothes, furniture, carpets, cars, etc... I don't know the cost of EQC premiums. If you Google the EQC website you should be able to find details of EQC premiums & more information about EQC.

Hope you have recovered from the 2018 quake.

Kind regards,


Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Coal Hill, Alpine Wind Storm

Sunday 01.01.19. Via Mesopotamia Station road, after parking my car near Coal Hill Station gate & a DOC roadside sign: Coal Hill Summit 3 km 3 h, I wandered past an Oregon Pine shelter belt, through 3 undulating paddocks, & 4 gates. One terraced paddock was desertified beige by herbicides, the other 2 paddocks grassed. Another grassy paddock behind the shelter belt had a herd of inquisitive red deer. With my backpack containing my usual tramping gear, I weighed over 80 kg.

A DOC sign at the fourth gate said:

Department of Conservation
Te Papa Arawhai

Public access through
private land

Keep to marked easement
Please close gates
Do not disturb stock

No dogs. No shooting.

Further on, attached to the red deer fence a sign said:

                                                         STEW POINT STATION

                                                             NO TRESPASSING
                                                  POLICE. NO HUNTING. POLICE.

                                          TRESPASSERS WILL BE  PROSECUTED.
                                         SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS OPERATING.


I climbed Coal Hill, exposed snow-tussock ridge, Coal Creek & another steep ridge NW side & steep ridges the other, several steep shoulders, incl celmisia daisies & spear grass all the way up Tara Haoa Range to DOC Conservation Area, 600 m - 1600 m+, 6 km return. I followed a DOC goat track easement by the red deer fence, (1 shy tahr seen) 4 h up several shoulders, 5 h down. Some matagouri, coral broom, & dracophyllum scrub en route...

The hike began calm & windless with high cloud. Grand views of Canterbury Plains, hazy Banks Peninsula, Pacific, braided Rangitata River & Alpine Ranges: Waikari Hills, Moorhouse Range, Harper Range, Ben Macleod Range, Two Thumbs Range... Winterslow Range, Mt Somers Range, Old Man Range...

On the way up Coal Hill, a norwester started rippling snow tussock, soon becoming gale force. Near the top, a strong gust raked off my blue polaroids, flying them over the ridge, never to be seen again. The norwester whacked me down twice on stony ground. I ended up twice briefly dazed, after loose stones arrested my falls. I had a grazed knee, black eye, scabby nose, egged, grazed forehead. The norwester gale tried to topple me for at least 6 hours during the wind storm. I didn't make the summit, 1617 m, as it would've been fatal to continue following the red deer fence through exposed snow-tussock from the DOC Conservation Area sign to the top. Tomorrow's another day...

I returned to my car down Coal Hill, mostly crabbing alongside the red deer fance, arresting my descent, stopping me being blown off the mountain. I grabbed fence wires, full of fluttering tussock strands & grabbed fence poles thrumming in the gale. When my hands were sore, I slid on my bum on snow-tussocks, safest descent, using my booted legs to guide, like on a snow sled, watching out for castrating spear grass & prostrate matagouri. My aluminium walking sticks were useless in the gale, as the wind blew them sideways when I tried to walk. Trying to walk was too dangerous in the gale, bum-sliding & fence-grabbing was the safest way down the exposed ridge.

On the way down, when seated in snow-tussock for rests, I watched the gale making instant clouds by blowing clouds straight off the Rangitata River, the clouds hitting the NW end of Waikari Hills then veering eastwards down Rangitata Gorge. The gale blew topsoil off a tilled field near my car, the plume of dust disappearing over Waikari Hills towards Canterbury Plains. Way to go Farmer Brown, your poisoned, eroded land will soon be a desert inheritance.

On passing the shelter belt again, many wind-blown twigs were on the paddocks. On my 72 km return drive to Pleasant Point, via Peel Forest & Geraldine, many twigs, branches, leaves, cones & overturned, plastic, rubbish bins were on the roads.

Google Rangitata Gorge Images to show Alpine terrain & braided Rangitata River in the Coal Hill vicinity.


Heavy norwesters would continue to blow the next week & on Friday night, 06.12.19, a heavy rain / thunder storm in the Rangitata catchment caused the Rangitata to flood, 3 Rangitata bridges at Arundel & SH1 closed on Saturday, 07.12.19, for Civil Defence to deal with flooding.

On Friday, we'd driven to a literacy teacher meeting at Christchurch: Arundel bridge was OK Fri morning, the Rangitata flowing strongly. Late that afternoon return drive, a heavy norwester battered Canterbury Plains, rain already shrouding the Alps, so we drove back to Pleasant Point on SH1 via the lower 2 Rangitata bridges, still quite safe. Only the following day, Saturday, after heavy night rains did Civil Defence wake up & close the 3 Rangitata bridges, a State of Emergency declared in Timaru.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Little Mt Peel Climb, Peel Forest Park

Tues 12.11.19. From Blandswood car park, I climbed DOC tracks through Peel Forest, via Emily Falls & South Ridge, then dracophyllum / flax scrub to Little Mt Peel summit hut & trig beacon, 1311m. DOC Intentions book in hut. Returned via Deer Spur down dracophyllum scrub then Peel Forest back to Blandswood car park.

South Ridge Track, from Blandswood car park: 3.5 km, 900 vertical m climb. My time 5h (incl 1h to Emily Falls, 4h up South Ridge).

S & W views: Alpine foothills, Four Peaks Range, Blue Mt, High Claytons, snowy Sherwood Range, incl snowy Fox Peak, 2330m. NW glimpse, snowy Mt Peel peak, 1743m.

E views: Braided Rangitata River, braided Orari River, Canterbury Plains, farms, towns, Pacific.

Deer Spur Track: 4.5 km, my down time, 3.5h, through dracophyllum / flax scrub & Peel Forest back to Blandswood car park.

N & E views: Rangitata Valley, Alpine foothills to snowy Alpine ranges, incl snowy Old Man Range & snowy Mt Somers. Canterbury Plains, braided Rangitata River, braided Orari River, farms, towns, Pacific.

Track Conditions: Low cloud, both tracks, muddy, slippery after rains.
South Ridge Track: Steep, rough, muddy, slippery. Well sign-boarded, marked with DOC marker poles & arrows. Rock scramble near summit hut & trig beacon.
Deer Spur Track: Steep, muddy, slippery. Deep ruts in places. Some DOC duckboards through dracophyllum / flax scrub. Well sign-boarded, marked with DOC marker poles & arrows.

NB: Hill walking fitness, Topo50-BY19 map, strong shoes, walking sticks, all weather gear, water, food needed. Beware exposure & unbelievably fast, DOC sign-boarded times: 3h 30min up South Ridge! 2h down Deer Spur!

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Day Trip, Mackenzie Country, N Otago

Sun 27.10.19. Did an approx 370 km road trip round Mackenzie Country & a bit of N Otago yesterday Sat, celebrating Leah's completion of her second year UC Literacy Studies.

Asterisks * show some of the towns on her school literacy beat, "Best office in the world," we called it, taking in Alpine lakes & scenery: *Pleasant Point... *Albury... *Fairlie...

Lunched at *Lake Tekapo between Two Thumbs Range & Halls Range / Gammack Range. Checked out Lake Tekapo School rebuild where Leah had worked for 3 years. Drove over Alpine hydro-electric canals, past Lake Pukaki lookout & Alpine Ranges, incl *Mount Cook to *Twizel. Bought honey at Twizel Honey Farm.

Stopped at Lake Ruataniwha Salmon Farm for feeding salmon & salmon buys. Passed Benmore Range, via Omarama, down Waitaki Valley past hydro-electric lakes Benmore, Aviemore, Waitaki, & Alps to Ocean bike track to Kurow for tea.

Returned to Pleasant Point via Waimate Gorge, *Waimate & *Timaru. Snow still specked Alps. Hot, dry, nor'wester blew all day. Highways: Labour Weekend busy.

Blots on Mackenzie Country landscape: Too many giant irrigators for intensified cattle farming, aka overgrazing - Mary Burn stations & Ahuriri River stations, turning Mackenzie Country brown to sick green.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Waitohi - Pleasant Point Walk

04.09.19. While driving to teaching at Winchester via Temuka, Leah dropped me off, cnr Waitohi Rd / Pleasant Point Rd. I walked back to Pleasant Point past spring-green paddocks. Distant Alps looked magnificent, still with winter snows, great for skiers at Mt Fox & Mt Dobson ski fields. Lots of snow on Two Thumbs, Sherwood, Ben Macleod, Four Peaks, Mt Somers Ranges. Little snow on Albury & Rollesby Ranges. Grampian Range had lots of snow, but there was less snow on Dalgety Range & Hunters Hills, Mt Nessing & Mt Nimrod. I never tired, viewing those ranges on my Pleasant Point walks.

No hills on Waitohi Flats, so I could easily observe the shitty, brown pollution from cow excreta runoff in roadside ditches & culverts. Signs of local farmers over-stocking their cattle herds. NIWA would have a great time testing those ditches & culverts for bugs like E coli. Surprisingly, the stream below Ophi River terraces near River Rd crossing was free from cow shit, brown pollution. Braided Ophi River was low, but a fresh breeze cooled me when I crossed the bridge to Pleasant Point.

More unpleasantness on road verges was rubbish, like empty aluminium cans chucked from passing cars, most common Ranfurly Draught. I even found a green, plastic, bottle bong, a bit of hose pipe sticking out of its side. So much for locals' booze & drug free driving. The road was busy with truck & car traffic enroute to / from Temuka & Geraldine.

* 7 kms Waitohi - Pleasant Point, my time, 1.5 hours.

Alternative Waitohi - Pleasant Point walks:

* 8 kms Seven Sisters Rd turnoff - Pleasant Point.

* 8.5 kms Richard Pearce Memorial - Ophi Terraces Rd - Pleasant Point.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Brashear Telescope, Lake Tekapo. Dark Sky Indeed

Sat 06.07.19. First day of the winter school holidays, I drove to Lake Tekapo to see the Brashear Telescope at the newly opened Dark Sky observatory, Lake Tekapo, S shore. In 2014, we'd lived at Lake Tekapo & lately we'd seen two trucks at different times hauling halves of the white, plastic, observatory, dome roof past our Pleasant Point rental to Lake Tekapo, incl a trek up Burkes Pass.

Leah & I had breakfast at the new Youth Hostel's burger cafe, then lunch at the new Dark Sky cafe, food better than crap served at other Lake Tekapo cafes & Spa. After 50 years storage, then lately refurbishment at Fairlie, The Brashear Telescope was impressively installed in a concrete & glass walled observatory by the Dark Sky cafe, so customers could see the telescope while eating. Through roof to floor, cafe, front windows, there were magnificent views of Lake Tekapo & snowy Two Thumbs Range.

Brashear Telescope info seen on the Dark Sky observatory, concrete wall:

The South Island of New Zealand
has the world's largest Dark
Sky Reserve and the view of the
stars is absolutely spectacular.

The Brashear Telescope is
a masterpiece of Victorian
engineering. I hope that the
Brashear Telescope will inspire
a new generation to learn about
astronomy and reconnect with
the stars.

Our patron, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth,
Zara Tindall.

The Brashear Telescope is one of the world's most
famous Victorian telescopes. The 18 inch refractor
was created in 1894 by renowned Pennsylvanian
optician John Brashear. The pier, tube and
equatorial mount were fabricated by Warner
& Swasey Co of Cleveland, Ohio. From 1896 to
1954 the Brashear was based at the University of

The Brashear Telescope was hugely important in
the history of astronomy. During Percival Lowell's
studies of Mars, he famously used the telescope to
see sunlight reflected off the Martian polar
icecaps. The Brashear Telescope was also used by
Walter Leight in his early examination of Saturn,
where Leight first observed sub-divisions in
Saturn's rings.

In 1963 the University of Pennsylvania began a
partnership with the University of Canterbury
to establish a Southern Hemisphere astronomy
programme in Takapo / Tekapo at Mt John. The
Brashear Telescope was to be the centrepiece
of the new Mt John observatory but there was
insufficient funding to build the large building
needed and the Brashear Telescope was consigned to
storage for the next 50 years.

In 2016 the University of Canterbury made a gift
of the telescope to Tomorrow's Skies Charitable
Trust for restoration. In 2019 the painstaking
restoration was complete. We would like to acknowledge
Dallas Poll for his dedication to this task and his
incredible eye for detail.

Thank you to the Brian Mason Trust for their
support in restoring the Brashear Telescope.

                 UC                                       PENN                           BRIAN MASON                             University of Canterbury   University of Pennsylvania   Scientific and Technical Trust

Besides the high dome for the Brashear Telescope, the Dark Sky observatory bldg had a flat roof, high at the back, tilted towards the lake, with high, tilt-slab, concrete, back walls, blocking lake & mountain views for restaurants behind. An architectural cockup.

After lunch I parked at Tekapo Spa carpark & we climbed Mt John path to Mt John observatories on top. At the cafe we had tea while viewing Mackenzie Country, lakes & Alpine views. Many Asian tourists gawked & took selfies too.

Since our arrival in Lake Tekapo nearly 6 years ago, there was lots of development: Pedestrian bridge opened over Lake Tekapo outlet; revamped tourist carpark / buspark & fencing by tourist overcrowded Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo shore; more campsites at Lake Tekapo campsite, new public toilets there, by the boat club; new Dark Sky observatory & cafe; toll entry for the road up Mt John to University of Canterbury observatories; overcrowding at Tekapo Spa carpark, due to walkers up Mt John & Spa customers; new Youth Hostel & cafe; new 4 Square supermarket & public toilets; congestion at public carpark, due to few carparks, supermarket entry & busparks (no bus shelter built, cockup); The Cairns housing development; new kindergarten; massive new housing development beyond Aorangi Cres, causing Lake Tekapo School to expand with new buildings 3rd term, 2019 (school bldgs. made in Christchurch, trucked to Lake Tekapo); Godley Hotel, revamped facade; another new hotel mooted; never mind Freedom Campers crapping all over the show...

Lake Tekapo, 700m above sea level, surrounded by Alps, was a cold place. Lake Tekapo village prided itself on clear sky & no light pollution. The above developments, especially new housing, would cause massive air pollution (due to home fires' smoke) & destruction of clear sky above Lake Tekapo. Dark Sky indeed.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Brashear Telescope, Lake Tekapo.

See Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo.