Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Week 10 & 11. Mt Gerald Station, Farewell, Mackenzie Country

Late Thurs night, 22.09.16: Luke & Jake were on their way to visit us at Mt Gerald Station when at Rolleston, Luke's van broke down, radiator boiling. Luke & Jake got help from a friend & AA to tow the van back to Luke's Christchurch rental.

Fri 23.09.16: After texts & phone calls from Luke & Jake, I drove from Mt Gerald Station to Christchurch to fetch Jake & Luke for their visit to Mt Gerald Station. Jake & Luke stayed in the 2 classrooms reconverted to bedrooms in our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

Sat 24.09.16: Stream willows, spring leaves sprouting. At the end of Lilybank Rd, Leah & I wandered moraine hummocks with Jake & Luke, showing them: Lake Tekapo SW; snowy Hall Range, The Island, Godley River W; snowy Sibbald Range, snowy Two Thumbs Range, Macaulay River, N & E.

E side of Lilybank Rd, we climbed a tablelands hill for better views of Mt Erebus, Razorback, Mt Ajax, N & Mt Gerald, E. From that 800 m height I pointed out several walks I'd done on Mt Gerald Station: to tablelands hut; in hummocky moraine country, across Ninety Five Stream; up Ribbonwood Stream, up Mt Gerald; up Stone Hut Stream; up Macaulay River...

Returning to our lake house, in roadside paddocks we saw red deer & Hereford & Angus calves with their mothers. It was spring calving & lambing season.

Sun 25.09.16: I drove Jake to Christchurch for his 4 pm shift at Woolston Club, then I drove back to our Lake house at Mt Gerald Station. Return trip, 540 kms.

While I was away, Leah & Luke tried to find the tablelands hut, off Lilybank Rd, on Mt Gerald Station, but turned back due to mist. Instead, with Jimmy dog, they wandered wetlands where Mt Gerald streams & Coal River merged at the NE end of Lake Tekapo. They saw rare kakis, other waterfowl & Luke found a pair of rams horns drying in the sun.

Mon 26.09.16. Quiet family morning at our lake house, Mt Gerald Station, as it was Leah's sister's last day with us before flying back to Sydney.

Afternoon: I drove us along Lilybank Rd to Tekapo Spa for a farewell meal at the Tahr Bar.

Tues 27.09.16. I drove Leah's sister from Mt Gerald Station to Christchurch airport for her flight back to Sydney. Over the last 5 days, I'd driven 3 return trips from Mt Gerald Station to Christchurch.

En route, as Luke's van was bung in Christchurch, I dropped Luke off at our Fairlie rental for him to drive our Honda car back to Christchurch for him to use till his van's radiator was fixed. By the time Luke got to Geraldine our Honda's radiator was boiling due to a perished rubber hose. Luke fixed the hose at a Geraldine garage & continued safely to Christchurch. He dubbed himself "the destroyer of cooling systems."

Wed 28.09.16. Quiet morning at Mt Gerald Station tidying up, ready to farewell our lake house.

Afternoon: With Jimmy dog, Leah & I wandered Coal River wetlands at the NE end of Lake Tekapo. We threw sticks for Jimmy to fetch in streams. Jimmy, a rock hound, dived into streams & dug up stones which he carried in his mouth. We saw 11 juvenile kakis, still with their black & white plumage & DOC tags on their red legs. Other waterfowl seen: banded dotterels, gulls, terns, paradise shelducks, pied oyster catchers.

Using our binoculars, we watched a distant, black Angus cow give birth to a calf. The calf lay exhausted & didn't rise. The cow was protective so we couldn't approach across the wetland. Later that afternoon we reported the difficult birth to the farm manager.

Thurs morn 29.09.16. Tidied up Leah's teaching materials, preparing for relocation back to Lake Tekapo School & our Farlie rental.

Afternoon: I drove from Mt Gerald Station to Lake Tekapo School then our Fairlie rental, to relocate some teaching materials & belongings. Bought chicken fried rice at Mt Hutt Chinese takeaway, Fairlie. Returned to Mt Gerald Station. For the next few days, we were in limbo land, betwixt & between Alpine valleys.

Fri 30.09.16. From the carpark at the end of Lilybank Rd, Leah & I walked to Stone Hut at Stone Hut Stream, 7 km return. Grand Alpine & river views while a nor'wester, rain storm brewed over Sibbald Range, Mt Erebus & Razorback.

Domestic trivia at our lake house, Mt Gerald Station, involved much cleaning, tidying & washing of clothes & bedding before our return to Fairlie. Over the last week, Jimmy dog adopted us, abandoning the farm manager's house, scavenging food from us & sleeping at our lake house.

Sat 01.10.16. Relocated teaching materials & belongings from our lake house, Mt Gerald Station, to Lake Tekapo School & our Fairlie rental.

Sun 02.10.16. Spring larch needles flushing green, poplars still bare. Final cleaning, tidying & packing at our lake house. Left Mt Gerald Station for good. Drove along Lilybank Rd & down Burkes Pass back to our Fairlie rental.

See Cows stomp in critically endangered bird habitat (The Press / Stuff Co).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Week 9. Mt Gerald Station, Family Visit, Mackenzie Country

Fri 16.09.16. I drove Leah from our Fairlie rental to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for Leah to teach there. I wandered around Fairlie. Grey rain clouds loured over Two Thumbs Range & Sherwood Range.

Sat 17.09.16. I drove us to Academy Motel, Creyke Rd, Christchurch, so we could pick up Leah's Durban sister at Christchurch Airport. (Rangitata River & Rakaia River flowed full after Friday's Alpine rains). Leah's sister had visited her Sydney grand children & would stay with us a week at our lake house at Mt Gerald Station, NE end of Lake Tekapo.

Christchurch Airport parking was horrendous, as Christchurch Council owned Christchurch Airport & had a monopoly on ripoff parking. (Minimum $12.50 for the first hour...) Car hire firms like Hertz clogged the airport carpark with rental cars. Surrounding airport businesses all had private carparks making it impossible for the public to get free parking anywhere near the airport. Nearby roads had yellow dotted lines roadsides, stopping free parking for miles around. Christchurch ratepayers thus subsidised tourist parking & out of town business parking at Christchurch Airport, without free parking for ratepayers or locals like ourselves.

Evening: Had a Corianders takeaway supper with Luke in our Academy Motel room. Leah & her sister enjoyed telling Luke how he resembled his Durban grandfather in tallness, kindness & work ethic.

Late evening: We visited Jake at his Woolston Club restaurant to arrange a visit to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station. Jake had moved flat again, this time to Shetland St to be close to his Woolston Club work. Despite work & study setbacks during quake years 2010-2013, our sons persevered & stayed in Christchurch for the long haul. They stayed in disgustingly expensive rentals, the rental market inflated by greedy landlords, grasping real estate agents & rental managers.

Sun 18.09.16. Morning: Wandered Christchurch Botanic Gdns, viewing blooming magnolias & daffodils. Leah's sister enjoyed seeing post quakes resumed, punters on Avon.

Midday: Shopping at Northlands Mall.

Six years post quakes, Christchurch still had a long way to go, repairing quake trashed roads, repairing quake damaged bldgs & building new ones. Although NZ govt's Blueprint Justice & Emergency Services Precinct, Hereford St, was being completed, NZ govt & Council still dithered over building other Blueprint anchor projects, like Central Library, Convention Centre, Stadium, Performing Arts Precinct, Metro Sports Facility in the CBD, the latest excuse being asbestos pollution buried in Blueprint demolition sites by errant demolishers. Fence cordoned, Christchurch Cathedral ruin was a blot on the landscape, symbol of Council's & NZ govt's botched quake recovery. Never mind EQC's repeat repairs of 10 000 botched house repairs & EQC trying to get repeat repairs cash settled instead of insisting on proper repairs by Fletcher's contractors.

By September's end, EQC boss Simpson was promoted to GNS Science, another govt agency. What a farce! Since the 2010-2013 Canterbury quakes, Simpson had bossed EQC with all its faults & insults to Cantabrians.

During our Mackenzie Country sojourn, over the last 3 years, every time we returned to Christchurch we were caught in traffic jams due to road detours & road cone obstructions. A lot of Christchurch CBD had 30 km speed limit to protect cyclists. Council was trying to make the post quake CBD pedestrian & cyclist friendly, but unfriendly to motorists, a recipe for slow CBD recovery.  

Afternoon. After a pit stop at our Fairlie rental to pick up bedding & drinking water, I drove us back to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

Evening: TV watched Sat highlights of ABS vs Springboks Christchurch test match. ABs thrashed Boks. Late evening: TV watched Rio Para Olympics, Men's Sitting Volleyball, Bronze Medal, Egypt vs Brazil. Egypt won.

Mon 19.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. Last week of the school term.. Cool weather forecast this week. Snow patches still on surrounding high Alps, like Mt Gerald, Mistake Peak, Pikes Peak. Deciduous willows showed spring leaves. Other deciduous trees, like larches, were still bare. Mountain paddocks were greening after spring rains.

Late afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her lesson preps. While returning to our lake house Leah's sister snapped pics of the Alpine sunset over Lake Tekapo. Clouds pouring over Tekapo Saddle showed that Fairlie had a cloudy day.

Tues 20.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. The 2 boys rode their Honda motor bikes to school.

I parked my car at the end of Lilybank Rd by the carpark. Like my Macaulay River Valley walk last week, I crossed Ribbonwood Stream & Ninety Five Stream, but instead of wandering Macauley River's true left bank again, I crossed two paddocks, passed a farm shed & wandered uphill towards Stone Hut Stream.

It took me 1 hour 15 mins to reach Stone Hut by Stone Hut Stream. Distance from Lilybank Rd carpark: 3.5 kms. As it was cloudy I deigned climbing higher up Stone Hut Stream gorge towards Beuzenberg's Snake Ridge. Instead I scoffed my biltong & mandarin lunch in Stone Hut & read the visitors' book: ferret & possum trappers; geology surveyors; deer, tahr & bunny hunters; X country skiers; school tramping groups; wanderers like myself & locals.

In reality Stone Hut was an old, corrugated iron hut, with 6 bunk beds; a wood burner stove; wooden table & two wooden benches; kitchen sink, motley kitchen utensils & an outside corrugated iron, long drop toilet with grand Alpine & river views.

On my return to my car at the end of Lilybank Rd, a cold wind blew from Lake Tekapo & western ranges, so I was glad of my trusty, brown wind cheater. In my absence a wag had written PRIVATE CAR PARK in the dust on my back windscreen. Irony: I drove the station owner's Subaru Outback. Not a soul in sight, in a vast Alpine landscape.

Late afternoon: I drove Leah & her sister to the end of Lilybank Rd for snowy mountain & river views. In a chilly wind, we wandered moraine hummocks overlooking braided Godley River, Macauley River & streams from Mt Toby & Mt Gerald. We watched the sun setting over Pikes Peak.

Wed 21.09.16. Last school day Mt Gerald Station. Treasure hunt around farm bldgs for the children & a visit to the horse paddock. I tidied up the 2 ex school rooms to morph them into bedrooms again for our sons' visit to Mt Gerald Station.

Thurs 22.06.16. Drove Leah & her sister from Mt Gerald Station to Geraldine for shopping & lunch. Stopped en route to look at the daffodil farm. Afternoon: Detoured off SH8 to Pioneer Park for tea. Pit stop at our Fairlie rental to collect drinking water for our lake house at Mt Gerald Station.

See Christchurch anchor projects plagued by land contamination (The Press / Stuff Co).

See EQC looking to cash settle remaining remedial work (The Press / Stuff Co).


See Outstanding EQC boss Simpson quits (The Press / Stuff Co).

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Week 8. Mt Gerald Station, Macaulay River Valley, Mackenzie Country

Fri 09.09.16. I drove from Mt Gerald Station to Fairlie for Leah to teach at St Josephs School, Fairlie. I did my circular walk around Fairlie.

Afternoon: I drove us to Timaru for banking & shopping. There were no ANZ bank branches at Fairlie nor Lake Tekapo. Our nearest ANZ branch was at Geraldine. Rural NZ was poorly served by ANZ. Recently Westpac threatened to close its Fairlie branch, just leaving an ATM, like at Lake Tekapo. Customers like me who liked dealing with people had to deal with machines!

Sat 10.09.16. Leah taught her Woodbury & Kurow students at St Josephs School, Fairlie. Afterwards, I drove us back to our lake house, Mt Gerald Station.

Sun 11.09.16. Lake Tekapo School principal & his family visited us at Mt Gerald Station. Leah had worked with the principal for nearly 3 years. He was impressed with Mt Gerald School & the children's progress.

Mon 12.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. Great jubilation as the 3 children had all come first in their ski races at Round Hill ski field on Saturday. Leah hung a congratulations poster on the school door. I gave Jimmy the school dog a bowl of water to celebrate.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to teach there & for lesson prep.

Tues 13.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station. A teacher from Lake Tekapo School visited Leah at Mt Gerald Station.

In Macaulay River Valley, between Razor Back, 1570 m & Mt Toby, 2222 m, I walked the true left bank of Macaulay River as follows:

I parked my car at the end of Lilybank Rd by Mt Gerald Station carpark, overlooking Lilybank Station & the merging of Macaulay River & Godley River below Alps, a remote area with magnificent Alpine & river valley views - Hall Range westwards, Sibbald Range northwards, Two Thumbs Range northwards & eastwards.

Below Mt Gerald, 1551 m, I crossed Ribbonwood Stream & Ninety Five Stream merge & wandered a track on the left bank of Macaulay River to Mt Gerald Station deer fenced paddocks. Many paddock gates along Lilybank Rd & near tourist areas were padlocked to stop wandering stock due to careless trampers & tourists.

I crossed several fences & paddocks till I came to a farm track on the 800 m contour going up the left bank of Macaulay River. I crossed Stone Hut stream fan with Stone Hut nestling by willows, higher up at the top of the fan at about 1000 m. I'd visited Stone Hut in April, during my trek up Stone Hut Stream gorge between Mt Gerald & Mt Toby.

I crossed another stream below another gorge on Mt Toby lower slopes. Looming above the true right bank was Razor Back which I tramped past in about 2 hours.

I crossed Macaulay River flats below Mt Toby. The track then undulated along the left bank past cattle paddocks & matagouri / tussock lands with Macaulay River braiding through shingle below. In Macaulay River Valley, the braided river I passed was about 1 km wide. It narrowed further up. At one point I went down to Macauley River, but it flowed too fast & deep for me to cross, so I stuck to the left bank.

I crossed several streams flowing down to Macaulay River & saw weather station apparatus surrounded by barbed wire. The weather apparatus: 2 bucket, rain gauges, 2 padlocked steel boxes on poles, the boxes had sticker warnings not to interfere with the apparatus, giving early flood warnings for Mackenzie District Council. One of the boxes had a solar panel & aerial on top.

I crossed First Waterfall Stream by another padlocked, deer fence gate. The waterfall was high above, falling into a gorge from about 1300 m. It reminded me of Howick falls I'd often visited near Pietermaritzburg.

I crossed several more streams. Razor Back receded behind me on the right bank. Razor Back ended abruptly in Stony Stream gorge. With my binoculars I saw a farm road zig-zagging above the S end of Stony Stream gorge towards the 1300 m contour on Razor Back & Observation Hill, 1689 m.

I continued along the left bank of Macaulay River till I came to a private hut by Second Waterfall Stream below Mt Toby. Outside the hut were horse hitching posts & a barbed wire, horse paddock. The hut was locked, but I used the long drop toilet by the stream. The long drop had grand views of the bend up Macaulay River Valley, Third Waterfall Stream, Two Thumbs Range, including Mt Ajax, 2319 m, Razor Back, Observation Hill, Stony Steam gorge & snowy Sibbald Range.

I returned to my car at Lilybank Rd carpark, the way I'd came.

Walking Times: 3 hours to the Second Waterfall Stream hut. 3 hours return.
Distances: 8 kms to Second Waterfall Stream hut. 8 kms return. Total 16 kms.

Tramping fitness, food, water, maps, all weather gear, safety gear, farmer's permission required.

Wed 14.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Thurs 15.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to teach there & for her Pilates class at the Community Hall. Afterwards I drove us down Burkes Pass to our Fairlie rental.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Week 7. Mt Gerald Station, Mt Gerald Climb, Mackenzie Country

Fri 02.09.16. I drove Leah from Mt Gerald Station to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for Leah to teach there.

I drove to Timaru for shopping, including round balloons for Leah's students to stuff with sensopathic play dough.

Sat 03.09.16. I drove Leah to St Josephs School, Fairlie, for her to teach her Woodbury students there.

Afternoon: I drove to Timaru for Leah to buy a new laptop at Warehouse Stationery, as her old laptop was bung. She used her laptop a lot for teaching prep & reports. We had tea at Pak 'n Save's Sticky Cafe. At the garage, I did our Subaru's tyre pressures, as I didn't want a blow out on rutted Lilybank Rd.

Late afternoon: I drove up Burkes Pass & along Lilybank Rd, back to our lake house at Mt Gerald Station. Our two green, plastic, rubbish bins were blown over by Alpine winds. They were blown over several times a week. Despite mature oregon pine & larch shelterbelts the homestead was prone to Alpine winds, as Mt Gerald Station was in a variable weather zone N of Lake Tekapo, high Alps on 3 sides - snowy Two Thumbs Range E, snowy Sibbald Range N, snowy Hall Range W.

Sun 04.09.16. Rainbow over N end of Lake Tekapo, due to showers over Mt Gerald Station & Godley River Valley. Intermittent wind & showers all day.

Afternoon visit by SA expat friends from Cape Town, living in Blenheim. They regularly motored to Fairlie to maintain their son's property near Farm Barn Cafe at the top of Mt Michael. Their son lived in Canada.

Mon 05.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Afternoon: I drove Leah to Lake Tekapo School for her to teach a student there & for her computer class. I wandered round The Cairns golf course.

Tues 06.09.16. School day Mt Gerald Station.

Weather forecast: 10 degrees Centigrade, clear, no wind. Perfect for climbing Mt Gerald, 1551 m. Map ref: BY17 099538. Snows had thawed on Mt Gerald west faces & up Ribbonwood Stream gorge.

Mt Gerald climb: I parked my car at the end of Lilybank Rd, crossed Ninety Five Stream & several sown grass paddocks to hummocky, moraine country at the bottom of Mt Gerald & Ribbonwood Stream gorge. Steadily rising, I crossed fences & streams & followed a vague farm track up Ribbonwood Stream gorge. Tributary streams, cutting through moraine hummocks, joined Ribbonwood Stream & Stone Hut Stream further N. My Topo50 map showed a paper road zig-zagging up Ribbonwood Stream gorge on the south side of the gorge.

About 1000 m height I left the farm track, as it would take a long time zig-zagging up the gravel track. Instead I made a beeline up sunny, N facing, tussocky, moraine terraces above Ribbonwood Stream. Above 1000 m there was still snow on the N side of Ribbonwood Stream - S facing slopes.

At about 1300 m, the border between farm lands & DOC lands, I crossed a deer fence & the farm track, which had climbed out of Ribbonwood Stream gorge then descended southwards through Mt Gerald tussock land on moraine terraces towards Mt Gerald Stream. The farm track also went N towards Stone Hut Stream through patchy snowfields on moraine tussock lands by the 1300 m contour. Mt Gerald Station's deer fence gates were padlocked at the border between farm lands & DOC lands, to stop recreationists leaving gates open for stock to escape to higher Alps controlled by DOC.

Above glacier terraces, the stiffest part of my Mt Gerald climb was the last 200 m, past rock outcrops & scree, interspersed with matagouri & snow tussock. I aimed for the wireless mast on top of the N face of Mt Gerald. The wireless mast was a power pole, a metal aerial on top. A long drop sized aluminium hut contained 2 car batteries on a wooden shelf & wireless equipment attached to a wall. The seat was a DOC trap, wooden box. Previous denizens left empty plastic bottles & other junk in the hut, too small a shelter for camping. The hut had a solar panel on top.

Mt Gerald top was a snow tussock plateau, sloping to a long, snowy hollow, forming Mt Gerald Stream catchment. Eastwards, on the other side of Mt Gerald Stream, snowy Beuzenberg Snake Ridge rose above Mt Gerald, going N all the way to snowy Beuzenberg Peak 2070 m.

As it was still sunny & windless, I wandered Mt Gerald top for 2 hours towards Beuzenberg snowy Snake Ridge. Map ref: BX17 104548. (On a sunny March day, I'd started along Snake Ridge via Rex Simpson Memorial Hut, but turned back as I'd run out of time). Northwards, across Ribbonwood Stream gorge, below Beuzenberg's Snake Ridge & between a lower snowy, Mt Gerald ridge was Ribbonwood Stream catchment, where Ribbonwood Stream meandered down through snowy tussock land to Ribbonwood Stream gorge.

A clear day, I had grand views of Macaulay River Valley, Godley River Valley & snowy Alpine Ranges:N, S & E - Two Thumbs Range; N - Sibbald Range; W - Hall Range & Gammack Range; Sublime Mt Cook & Mt Tasman beyond.

I descended to my car via the steep, N facing, tussock slope below the wireless mast & the zig-zag farm track in Ribbonwood Stream gorge. The farm track was badly eroded with tumbled rocks, top soil lumps & crossing streams. Little horse or vehicle traffic went up there anymore, as farm helicopters were de rigueur.

My Mt Gerald climb times: Ascent 3.5 hours, 800 vertical metres. Plateau top wander 2 hours. Descent 2.5 hours. Total distance 13 kms. I didn't see a soul all day. Two paradise shelducks circled me high above Mt Gerald N slopes. A chamois darted through snow tussock near the top.

Tramping fitness, food, water, maps, all weather gear, safety gear, farmer's permission required.

Wed 07.09.16. It rained most of Tuesday night, a fresh snowfall down to 1000 m on the Alps.

School day Mt Gerald Station. Variable winds & squally rain from the S.

Thurs 08.09.16. Overnight powder snow down to 700 m surrounded our lake house.

School day Mt Gerald Station.

Morning snow flurries blown horizontally by southerlies. Mt Gerald I'd climbed on Tuesday was snowy from top to toe.

I drove Leah through a snow storm to Lake Tekapo for her lesson preps at Lake Tekapo School & for her Pilates class at the Community Hall, Aorangi Cres. We had supper at Tahr Bar, Tekapo Spa. Grand views of Mt Edward, snowy from top to toe.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.