Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kakahu Bush near Geraldine

On the Geraldine - Fairlie road, about 16 kms from Geraldine, there's the Kakahu Bush turnoff, which goes about 1.5 kms along a dirt road to Kakahu Bush.

The approx 8 km Kakahu Bush walk starts at a Victorian lime kiln, built of stone in 1876. The surrounding hilly geology is mainly limestone & some low grade coal, which Victorians burnt with limestone to change calcium carbonate to calcium oxide in the lime kiln. Nowadays lime fertilizer is just crushed limestone without kiln heat. Several birds, like sparrows, use the poke holes in the lime kiln wall as nesting places.

The walk is as long or as short as one wants. It consists of 3 stages:

1. Approx 30 minutes - From the lime kiln car park, along Kakahu River bank, the track goes beside crack willows to the Sanatorium glade, signified by two large pines & an old oak. In spring there's gorse pollution in the bowl of hills surrounding the Sanatorium site.

2. Approx 40 minutes from the Sanatorium glade through steep Kakahu Bush to Hanging Rock. Kakahu Bush consists of kanuka forest, Kunzea ericoides, with the usual understorey & birdlife, like fantails. Some understorey plants: prickly mingimingi, Leptecophylla juniperina; soft mingimingi, Leucopogon fasciculatus; tree fuchsia, Fuchsia excorticata; five finger, Pseudopanax arboreus; broadleaf, Griselinia littoralis; whiteywood, Melicytus ramiflorus; various lancewoods, pittosporums & ferns... In places gorse pollution, Ulex eoropeus & blackberry pollution abounds.

3. The track continues upwards through kanuka forest to The Pinnacles, seen from a hilltop paddock across a bushy valley. A track direction board shows the last loop of the walk around The Pinnacles as 1 hour duration. From Hanging Rock, within 10 minutes we'd wandered onto the hilltop paddock, where we had lunch overlooking The Pinnacles, great lumps of limestone rock in thick bush. We opted not to go around The Pinnacles, as it was windy, so we returned the way we came. Friends texted us that it had snowed that morning at Lake Tekapo & Twizel, so The Pinnacles wind had a cold bite.

Return to the lime kiln car park was easy downhill. In all we walked about 4 hours.

The Pinnacles & Kakahu Bush can be glimpsed from Geraldine - Fairlie road.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

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.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Rare Black Stilt / Kaki Release, Glenmore Station, Mackenzie Country

Tues 02.09.14. Pierce Pond, a Glenmore Station wetland by Lake Tekapo, off Godley Peaks Rd, we watched 55 rare black stilts / kaki being released. Black stilts are raised in captivity at the DOC Breeding Centre near Twizel.

DOC staff, volunteers, members of the public, girl Guides from Geraldine & school groups from Waituna School & Lake Tekapo School attended the release. DOC staff laid the black stilt, release boxes in a line by Pierce Pond then school children simultaneously released the black stilts.

With excited chirping the 2-9 months black stilts flew up in groups, then flew around the wetland looking for feeding & nesting sites. DOC staff had already laid plates of food on grass around the wetland. Staff said they would return periodically to feed the black stilts & check on them.

Each black stilt had an aluminium ring on one leg for ID & research purposes. DOC staff said only about 30% of black stilts would survive predators like feral cats, stoats & hedgehog egg thieves. Black stilt eggs are brown with dark green speckles. Without culling predators, DOC was dumb supplying stilt snacks for predators. The wetland fence was predator proof, but that didn't stop black stilts nesting & breeding elsewhere, in wetlands around Lake Tekapo, below Two Thumbs Range in the east & Stevenson Range, Gammack Range & Hall Range in the west.

A DOC info sheet read: 

Black stilt / kaki  - Rarest wading bird in the world - population fluctuates - generally around 80 adults. Once found throughout NZ but now only in Mackenzie / Waitaki. Lay 3-4 eggs. Feed on mayflies, caddis flies, midges, water boatmen, snails & small fish. 

DOC staff said black stilts were at The Cairns golf course in Lake Tekapo town. I walked around The Cairns golf course many times, but saw no black stilts there. Paradise shelducks & mallards yes, but no black stilts.

Coda: July-Sept 2016, when we lived on Mt Gerald Station, NE end of Lake Tekapo, we saw adult kakis foraging in shallow, fast running waters by Coal River delta, which joined waters flowing from Mt Gerald streams & McCauley River & Godley River waters flowing into Lake Tekapo. On Mt Gerald Station wetlands, DOC staff placed predator traps to catch weasels & stoats.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Black stilt / kaki (DOC)