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. Map ref: BY17 061532. 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 to 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 Macaulay River, Stone Hut Stream, Ribbonwood Stream & Ninety Five Stream below. Map ref: BX17: 047557. A vast, magic place where Godley River gathered waters with Macaulay River below, while Hall Range, Sibbald Range & Two Thumbs Range soared above, 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 Macaulay 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 a 834 m tablelands hill & watched 2 helicopters land near the carpark at the end of Lilybank Rd. Map ref: BX17 052547. 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 Macaulay River Valley. Was it a LANDSAR exercise, or a tramper in difficulties, or someone needing medical attention at a remote Macaulay 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 Macaulay 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 tussock land & 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 skied, as we grew up in sub-tropical Durban. During my youth, I'd body surfed 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. Map ref BY17 116459.

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 tussock lands & 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. Map ref BY17 071464.

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 public 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 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 fences & a row of undulating, moraine hills intersecting tableland terraces to about 900 m, where I found a locked, corrugated iron hut. Map ref BY17 078522. (Unmarked on Topo50 map). 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, 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. A farm track went up Mt Gerald N end beside Ribbonwood Stream. In future, it was the track I would use to climb 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 during the meeting. Later that morning the helicopter whizzed 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 fences 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. After snow thaw, climbing Mt Gerald via Ribbonwood Stream 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. Map ref: BY17 061532. 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 showed 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 across grassy, moraine hills on Mt Gerald lower slopes till I came to a meandering tributary in a ravine going down to Coal River. Map ref: BY17 057478.

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 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. The SUV owners were cross country skiing snowy heights, 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. Daft, 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 before I attempted higher climbs. Terrain was too icy & dangerous for high wanders. 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. It was easier sidling the head of steep ravines than crossing them.

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. Map ref: BY17 075481. At the start of ravine 3 at a farm track culvert, I refilled my empty water bottle. I followed a fence towards Coal River. 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. Map ref: BY17 071464 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 Coal River N bank, steep & eroded at that point. Map ref: BY17 069462. 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 Round Hill Ski Field.

Afternoon: Below Mt Gerald homestead, Leah & I did a 5 km, circular walk by the trout stream to the broken wooden bridge by 3 poplars on The Island. Continuing stream side, we saw 2 black swans taking off from the wetland, NZ pipits pecking for insects & a grey heron complaining we invaded its territory. Map ref: BY17 048532. 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.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Week 3. Mt Gerald Station, Frozen Pipes, Mackenzie Country

Fri 05.08.16. It snowed all day at Fairlie. Leah's lessons were cancelled at St Josephs School, as half the snowbound students didn't arrive at school. Buses were cancelled due to snowfalls. We glamped in our Talbot Rd lounge beside our log burner. We lunched at Eat cafe. Fairlie & Alpine ranges were covered in snow: Albury, Mt Maud, Mt Edward, Mt Dobson, Sherwood, Mt Fox, Mt Michael, Devils Peak, The Brothers. It snowed all night, 10 cms.

Sat 06.08.16. Leah's Geraldine student lessons were cancelled at St Josephs School due to snowfalls, In our rental, we'd left our fin heater on in the bathroom & kept our log burner going for most of the day & night to stop pipes freezing. We'd had similar freezing winter conditions during last year's big snows in June. The year before 2014, our first year in Mackenzie Country, the winter was mild, no snowfalls in Fairlie.

We lunched at Fairlie Bakery & exchanged books at Mackenzie College Community Library. Throughout the day there were snowfalls, which soon thawed due to scudding clouds, intermittent sunshine & blue skies.

Sun 07.08.16. Before driving back to Mt Gerald Station I turned off our Fairlie rental's Toby (water main tap) to stop water pipes freezing in our absence. Mackenzie Basin was covered in thick snow. Beside Lake Tekapo, Lilybank Rd was icy in places due to compacted snow caused by Round Hill Ski Field traffic.

Our lake house water pipes were frozen, despite our leaving heat pump & fin heaters on in our absence. All water pipes were frozen except bathroom & kitchen cold water pipes. We had no hot water. Our shower didn't work. Over the next couple of days, we bucketed bathroom water to our toilet cistern to enable flushing. We boiled drinking water we'd transported from Fairlie & Lake Tekapo village. We put fin heaters near frozen water pipes to thaw them.

Evening: I TV watched Rio Olympics cycling road races: several burnouts & crashes. Before bed time, as our toilet was bung, I pissed in the snow in our garden. Minus 10 degrees Centigrade.

Mon 08.08.16. Lake house water pipes still frozen. Had to boil bathroom bucketed water to wash dishes in the kitchen sink. School day, Mt Gerald Station.

I walked the icy north bank of Coal River & watched a tractor driver feed hay to cows in the snow. I returned to the lake house via 2 icy streams, snowy cattle, red deer & horse paddocks. I checked out a neighbouring farm house, pipes were frozen too.

Afternoon: I drove along snowy Lilybank Rd to Lake Tekapo School for Leah's computer course. Evening: Return drive to Mt Gerald Station, car's temperature gauge showed outside temp minus 5 degrees Centigrade.

Tue 09.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. Cold water pipes still frozen. Drinking water & dish wash water still being boiled. No shower. Hot water pipes still frozen. Toilet still bung.

I did a 4 hour, 9 km circular walk from Mt Gerald homestead, past snowy cattle & red deer paddocks by Oregon Pine shelter belts up Mt Gerald snowy & icy lower slopes. I wandered through snowy matagouri, shoving pricks aside with my walking stick. I wandered across icy swampland, myriads of icy puddles, Given icy Mt Gerald, no wonder our lake house pipes were frozen.

I watch a circle of ice, about 1 m diameter, swirl round and round in a Mt Gerald Stream eddy. I crossed Mt Gerald Stream, boots & socks sopping the next 3 hours, to a snowy farm track going up Mt Gerald slope to a low moraine ridge & an old fence line. Map ref: BY17 058524. From the ridge I had grand Alpine views of Godley River Valley & Macaulay River Valley.

I followed the snowy fence line between snowy red deer & cattle paddocks to Lilybank Rd & back to Mt Gerald Station homestead.

Meanwhile a plumber arrived to thaw the frozen pipes. He banged pipes, sawed a hole through the decking to find the Toby & left taps on inside & outside the house, to encourage water flow. After two hours most pipes flowed, but it took another day for kitchen hot water to flow. We left taps dripping all night to stop water pipes freezing again. Our heat pump & fin heaters stayed on days & nights, for weeks.

Wed 10.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: Leah & I went on a 2 hour, 6 km snow & ice walk on Mt Gerald Slopes, a shortened version of my yesterday's walk. On the icy farm track we bounced on a bog bubble covered in frozen alpine plants & grass. How did it form? - Decomposing organic matter? Explosive methane? Hydrogen sulphide?

Evening: I TV watched Rio Olympic highlights: Sevens rugby, hockey, soccer, rowing, cycling on Rio roads, weightlifting, medal ceremonies.

Thurs 11.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. Afternoon: I drove along Lilybank Rd for Leah to teach a student at Lake Tekapo School & for her Pilates class. Afterwards I drove down Burkes Pass to Fairlie for the weekend, the Alps still covered in deep snow.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Week 2. Mt Gerald Station, Power Cut, Mackenzie Country

Fri 29.07.16. Leah taught at St Josephs School, Fairlie. Afterwards I drove to Christchurch where we stayed at Academy Motel, Creyke Rd, by Canterbury University.

Sat 30.07.16. Leah attended a teachers' literacy course at Halswell Library, a new post quakes library. I did a circular walk past 40 Nottingham Ave where we'd lived for 8 years after emigrating from RSA. to NZ. I wandered Westlake & saw exotic & native trees grown bigger since we saw them planted years ago while Westlake transformed from quarry swamp to parkland. I returned to Halswell Library via Halswell Junction Rd, huge post quake housing developments along Halswell Junction Rd.  

Evening curry meal with our sons at Nobannos Restaurant, Ferrymead, the first Bengali restaurant in NZ. Nobannos Bengali owner told us he battled for customers at Ferrymead, post quakes, whereas pre quakes in Christchurch CBD he'd easily filled 90 tables / night with customers. That confirmed what we knew about post quake hospitality collapse. Jake had battled to find permanent chef jobs post quakes & shifted through several chef jobs & flats post quakes, His last job was at Cassels Brewery, The Tannery. Woolston. When the owner's CBD restaurant folded he transferred his CBD staff to Cassels Brewery, Woolston, thus cutting Jake's work hours. Jake shifted to Woolston Working Mens Club with guaranteed work hours.

Sun 31.07.16. I drove from Christchurch to Mt Gerald Station via Rakaia, Geraldine, Fairlie, Burkes, Pass, Lake Tekapo.

Mon 01.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. I wandered swampland on Coal River S bank to Coal River mouth flushing Alpine waters to the NE shore of Lake Tekapo. I counted 11 kaki, 2  southern pied stilts, a multitude of dozy, paradise shelducks & Canada geese.

Mt Gerald Station owner reclaimed his 4WD Suzuki Jimny & lent us a Subaru Outback runabout. The Subaru proved to be a good gravel / snow  / mud car on corrugated Lilybank Rd - big snow wheels, anti skid tech, good traction. After school I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School to prep teaching aids.

Tues 02.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. I crossed Coal River Bridge on Lilybank Rd & wandered S for 3 kms to the DOC turnoff to Lake Tekapo shore. Map ref: BY17 038463. There I saw 2 kaki & many paradise shelducks. I wandered across Coal River delta back to our lake house.

After school, a windless, sunny afternoon, Leah & I wandered Coal River bank to Coal River mouth. A chamois bolted across a swamp when it saw us. We saw no kaki, but saw an Australasian harrier soaring, hunting. The snowline on Mt Mistake & Pikes Peak above us was 1200 m. Thaw waters glistened on lower slopes.

Wed 03.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. Great excitement when 2 electricians arrived from Fairlie in a snow storm to fix the 2 classrooms' power. They made a separate circuit for the 2 classrooms & another circuit for our dining room / lounge to reduce electricity overload. Mt Gerald Station owner came along to check a generator for emergency electricity during grid power cuts.

School break: The children made snowmen in the garden while farm dog Jimmy gnawed a rugby ball. The snow storm had dumped snow on the Alps from the peaks down to Lake Tekapo shore.

After school from Coal River Bridge, Leah & I wandered along snowy, DOC Kahui Kaupeka (Gathering of the waters) road which followed Coal River N bank about 800 m to the DOC carpark for walks up Mt Gerald. Along the snowy, muddy road several snow melt streams flowed through culverts to Coal River. Last summer when I'd wandered the carpark road the streams were bone dry.

Thurs 04.08.16. School day, Mt Gerald Station. Morning snow storm.

Afternoon: I drove along snowy Lilybank Rd to Lake Tekapo School for Leah to teach a lesson. Afterwards she attended a Pilates class at the Community Hall, Aorangi Cres. Late afternoon: I drove down snowy Burkes Pass to our Fairlie rental.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Week 1. Mt Gerald Station, Settling In, Mackenzie Country

Fri 22.07.16. Last weekend July holidays. I drove Leah's school stuff & our baggage from Fairlie to Mt Gerald Station, 30 kms along Lilybank Rd, a gravel road along the east side of Lake Tekapo. Mt Gerald Station was at the NE end of Lake Tekapo below snowy Mt Gerald & snowy Two Thumbs Range in the east. Snowy Mistake Peak, snowy Pikes Peak & snowy Hall Range soared westwards above Godley River.

On Monday Leah would start home schooling at Mt Gerald Station & would continue during term 3. The 3 farm children would have 4 days' home schooling, Mon - Thurs each week, then return to Lake Tekapo School every Friday for sports, like skiing at Round Hill ski field. Normal schooling for the 3 farm children would resume at Lake Tekapo School in term 4, after home schooling ceased at Mt Gerald Station.

We arrived & unpacked at our 5 bedroom, lake house on Mt Gerald Station. It had grand views of Lake Tekapo, snowy Mistake Peak & snowy Pikes Peak in the west & snowy Mt Gerald in the east. Our nearest neighbours were 2 sheep in a paddock. Mt Gerald Station homestead, other dwellings & farm bldgs were further away, giving privacy to our lake house.

Sat 23.07.16. We unpacked new school chairs & tables & shoved shelves & tables around to prep 2 bedrooms as 2 classrooms for Mt Gerald School. Motto: WORK HARD. DREAM BIG. The farmer's wife produced a motto board which we placed on top of a cupboard for the children to see. Leah hung balloons & welcoming charts on the front, double glazed door, where wet snow boots & farm boots were left on entry.

Leah had taught at Lake Tekapo School for 2.5 years & considered Mt Gerald School another highlight in her long, international teaching career. Other highlights: Acting principal at Tomlinsons Pre Primary, Northdene, Durban, RSA; Relief teacher, Haringey primary schools, London, UK; Relief teacher Durban south primary schools; Started 2 pilot Reception Classes, Montclair Junior Primary, Durban, RSA; Taught sub b class, De Beers, Kleinzee Private School, Namaqualand, RSA; Started infant play groups & primary maths classes at QwaQwa & East London, RSA; Started primary classes at Jean Seabrook Memorial School, Seabrook Mackenzie Centre, Christchurch, NZ; (SMC taught children with severe learning difficulties); Lectures & seminars for teachers interested in severe learning difficulties, SMC, Christchurch NZ. In 2014, Leah was seconded from Seabrook Mackenzie Centre to Lake Tekapo School.

Sun 24.07.16. We continued prepping Mt Gerald School for the arrival of the 3 children on Monday. Mt Gerald Station owner lent us a Suzuki Jimny 4WD as a runabout. It saved our Toyota Corolla being destroyed by Lilybank Rd ruts. I drove along Lilybank Rd in a snowstorm for Leah to prep teacher aids at Lake Tekapo School.

Mon 25.07.16. Early morning, the farmer buzzed our lake house by helicopter while mustering stock: The station farmed sheep, cattle & red deer. Arrival of the 3 farm children & farm dog Jimmy at Mt Gerald School for the start of term 3.

I walked 1 km from our lake house on Coal River N bank to Lake Tekapo NE shore, where Alpine waters gathered from Coal River delta, several Mt Gerald streams, Godley River & Macaulay River. Our lake house overlooked Coal River delta opposite Mistake Peak. The distance from our lake house across Macaulay River, The Island & Godley River to Mistake Peak on Lake Tekapo W shore was 4 kms, a vast braided river wetland. Further N beyond The Island wetland, where Godley River Valley & Macaulay River Valley gathered waters below Mt Erebus & Razorback Peak by Lilybank Station, the distance across the braided rivers was 7 kms, a vaster wetland below snowy Alps.

On Lake Tekapo shore I saw a dozen rare kaki, black stilts foraging in shallows at the confluence of Coal River & Mt Gerald streams. Other waterfowl I saw: black back gulls. paradise shelducks, a flock of Canada geese.

I introduced myself to the DOC trapper, setting his traps & baits to catch weasels, stoats & ferrets preying waterfowl. On mornings when I walked the icy lake shore, I saw the DOC trapper inspecting his scores of traps.

After school, I drove Leah along Lilybank Rd to Lake Tekapo School for Leah to prep teacher aids & fetch more shelving for Mt Gerald School.

Tues 26.07.16. School day, Mt Gerald School. Honeymoon with children enjoying the novelty of walking to school & home schooling. The main homestead, amongst two other houses, flats & shearers' quarters, was 5 minutes walk away from our lake house.

From the homestead, situated on Mt Gerald lower slope, I wandered N below Lilybank Rd, beside icy waters flushing Mt Gerald slopes, to a trout stream meandering beside The Island. I wandered 4 kms beside The Island, parallel to snowy Mistake Peak, then snowy Pikes Peak, as I wanted a closer look with my binoculars at Sutherland Creek on the opposite Godley River bank. John Scott Lodge was hidden amongst pines where Sutherland Creek fanned into Godley River. My paternal grandmother was a Sutherland from N Scotland & my middle name is Sutherland. My Sutherland ancestors would've farmed Godley River Valley before my arrival.

After school, I walked with Leah to Coal River mouth to show her kaki, reputed to be the rarest water bird in the world.

Evening: Power tripped in our lake house. We found our lounge, dining room & 2 classrooms power circuit was overloaded with TV, heaters, computers & telephone. (Heaters were left on all night to stop water pipes freezing).

For the next few school days, until Fairlie electricians arrived, we heated the 2 classrooms with fin heaters connected to an extension cord, connected elsewhere in the lake house.

Wed 27.07.16. School day, Mt Gerald School. After school, the children went skiing at Round Hill ski field. I drove the Suzuki Jimny to Lake Tekapo garage for a WOF. The garage boss lectured me how to drive a 4WD, while another customer stood grinning. Prats who confirmed my belief Lake Tekapo village was a money grubbing tourist trap.

Thurs 28.07.10. School day, Mt Gerald School. After school, I drove to Lake Tekapo School for Leah to prep teaching aids, then have a Pilates class at the Community Hall, Aorangi Cres. Afterwards I drove down Burkes Pass to our Fairlie rental for the weekend.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.