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.

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