Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our Road To Friendly Fairlie, Mackenzie Country

In a southern Alpine valley, friendly Fairlie is the junction town between coastal Pacific settlements and high Mackenzie Country. Our old flax mill cottage in Talbot Rd has grand views of snowy mountains.

Our road to friendly Fairlie began 19 years ago when we emigrated from East London, South Africa, to Christchurch, New Zealand, where our sons grew up. Over the years in Christchurch, we rented 3 houses in Sumner, Halswell & Burnside.

After Leah accepted a teaching post at Lake Tekapo School, 43 kms from Fairlie, we relocated to Lake Tekapo, where we were accommodated in a holiday home until we found suitable housing.

We mingled with tourists at shops & restaurants on the lake shore & at Tekapo Springs below Mt John. We went for walks around The Cairns golf course & up Mt John to the Observatory & Astro Cafe.

We went on school excursions - ice skating at Tekapo Springs; skiing at Round Hill ski field; watching DOC release rare black stilts at Glenmore Station wetland, between Lake Tekapo & Lake Alexandrina; seeing stars & planets at Mt John Observatory; a scenic flight over Southern Alps; Albury cross country.

Lake Tekapo Alpine views are magnificent - western Ben Ohau Range going to Mt Cook & eastern Two Thumbs Range going to Mt Sibbald, with Mt Stevenson, Gammack Range & Hall Range in the middle, forming the Mackenzie Basin.

Lake Tekapo is tourist oriented and many houses are expensive holiday homes, closed for most of the year. We looked at "cheap" $400 pw rentals, unaffordable for us.

Down Burkes Pass, in the middle of winter, we relocated to a $200 pw rental at friendly Fairlie. Having endured Christchurch damp winters, I prefer Fairlie's crisp frosts. With supplied stove, heat pump, wood burner & washing machine, our Fairlie rental is better value than our old Christchurch rentals, which were only supplied with stoves.

Comparing our Christchurch and Fairlie electricity bills, the latter reduce about 70% in winter, as we use a wood burner with wet back for heating. Example:

               Our Sept 2013, Meridian bill for our Christchurch 3 bedroom rental - $298.45
               Our Sept 2014, Meridian bill for our Fairlie 2 bedroom rental - $91.67

From our kitchen window we see golfers' mighty swipes, as they tee off at Fairlie Golf Course. As our back garden gate enters the course we regularly wander the course. Along nearby Opihi River, a walkway goes all the way to Kimbell.

We visit our adult sons who work & rent in Christchurch. Their individual rents in quake-damaged houses are more than twice our Fairlie rent. During post-quake years, Christchurch rents inflated astronomically, like Lake Tekapo rents - unaffordable.

Returning from Christchurch, on the road to Fairlie, we stop at Geraldine for petrol, or to dine at a cafe, or re-supply our juices, jams and chutneys at Barkers factory shop. We explore gorges near Geraldine: Te Moana Gorge; Waihi Gorge; Orari Gorge.

On the road to friendly Fairlie - Valley Brewing Company, Gapes Valley, we quaff local brews. On top of Mt Michael, at Farm Barn Cafe, we savour delicious food & Alpine views.

Near Farm Barn Cafe, a roadside plane table shows the panorama around Fairlie - High Claytons, Mt Walker, Devils Peak, The Brothers Range, Albury Range & beyond to Dalgety Range, Mt Nessing & Mt Nimrod, on the way to Timaru. In the opposite direction, Southern Alps seen from our Fairlie home - Mt Edward, Mt Maud, Tekapo Saddle, Two Thumbs Range, Mt Dobson, Mt Fox, the latter two with ski fields.

Our old Toyota Corolla chugged up Mackenzie Pass, where sheep rustler James Mackenzie was caught on 4 March 1855, then escaped. Our Toyota is serviced at Mackenzie Country Motors in Fairlie, where I bought snow chains, just in case.

Leah buses to Lake Tekapo School. Some days I drive her there. While waiting for her to finish teaching, I ramble - Cowans Hill; the pine forested Regional Park by Lilybank Rd; azure Lake Tekapo shore; larch forested Mt John.

Leah teaches four days a week at Lake Tekapo School & teaches on Fridays at St Joseph's School, Fairlie. We leave our footprints in both Alpine towns. As Leah's students & colleague are involved in farming, we visit some sheep stations in Mackenzie Country - Mt Hay; Mt Gerald; Haldon Arms; Holbrook; Blue Mountain.

We visit the Community Library at Mackenzie College next to Fairlie Primary School. There's a kindergarten and play group too.

There's a swimming pool, a bowls club, a squash club, a rugby club. There's shops and accommodation establishments. There's Fairlie Heritage Museum and art galleries at Kimbell and Burkes Pass.

On Main St, near a bronze statue of James Mackenzie & his sheep dog, we buy pies at Fairlie Bakehouse; fish 'n chips at Fairlie Country Cafe; Thai Takeaways at at Kai 'n Thai. [1915. Overstayer owners left]. We enjoy pub grub and pool at Fairlie Hotel & restaurant fare at the Red Stag, aka Rimuwhare.

We do minor shopping at Four Square supermarket, Fairlie. Major shopping, twice a month we drive to Timaru, about 60 kms away. At Pleasant Point we drop into Legends Cafe for a meal, by the revamped railway line and museum. En route to Timaru or Geraldine we explore country roads, hills & valleys, like Raincliffs, Kakahu Bush, Totara Valley, Monavale, Pareora Gorge.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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