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)

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