Thursday, August 4, 2016

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.

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