01.01.17. Leah & I'd whizzed over Burkes Pass many times during the last 3 years, along SH8 to & from Fairlie & Lake Tekapo. Over the 3 years that Leah worked at Lake Tekapo School, we'd seen Lake Tekapo become Lake Tackapo, a plague of tourists passing through - cars, freedom campers, hitchhikers, busloads of gawpers overloading carparks, public toilets, motels, hotel, campsites & buying tourist junk. Tourists also drove poop vans, er campervans & locals' SUVs towed boats & caravans en route to Aoraki / Mt Cook, Twizel, Wanaka & Queenstown.
Tourists bought expensive gewgaws at Lake Tekapo tourist trap shops & expensive junk food at cafes, restaurants & bars. Despite the overloading, Lake Tekapo was developing a new supermarket, new self cleansing toilets, revamped Youth Hostel, new star gazing & mountain gazing businesses, taking over the Domain, near the new footbridge crossing over Lake Tekapo outlet to Church of The Good Shepherd.
Most tourists didn't stop at Burkes Pass village, about half way between Fairlie & Lake Tekapo. We stopped at St Patrick's Church, 1872 & wandered the Heritage Walk beside SH8 to Burkes Pass Cemetery, a favourite spot for the local traffic cop catching tourists speeding down Burkes Pass. The Cemetery had settlers' graves, farming families' graves, mountaineers' graves, even the Lupin Lady's grave. She'd polluted Mackenzie Basin with nitrifying, Russel lupin plants, scattering lupin seeds all over the place. Never mind Mackenzie Country also polluted with rabbits, hares, stoats, weasels, tourists, Himalayan tahr, chamois, grassed paddocks, wilding conifers, red deer, sheep & cattle. Farmers had to make their millions somehow in the Southern Alps.
We wandered back past the church, past Paddys Market Homestead (now private), site of the Blacksmiths Shop (private) & Motel, which doubled as a local Artist's Studio, near the faux Musterers Hut, filled with old, musterers' junk. Just after the wooden Musterers Hut was built by locals, a truck missing the corner smashed the hut to smithereens, while the builders were boozing at the hotel across the road. The Musterers Hut was rebuilt again.
At the site of old Burkes Pass Hotel & Stables was a cafe & tourist trap shop, a shed selling coffee & expensive, wooden, garden furniture. The shed posed as an old garage, selling Yank motorist gewgaws, mostly painted aluminium.
Along SH8, we wandered past The Stone House, the Rabbit Board House (now both private) & the School House where farm students had paddocked their horses. Burkes Pass School, now a Community Centre, had several classrooms to accommodate 50 students during its heyday. The school had a wooden porch & first floor balcony, designed for spectacular views of Mt Burgess & Mt Maud. Nowadays those mountain views were obscured by trees.
Further down SH8 were 3 restored cob cottages: Elm Tree Cottage & Alma Cottage (now private). Anniss Cobb Cottage, a roofless ruin with a tree growing inside for decades, by a swamp, was semi restored with a corrugated iron roof, wooden doors, sash windows. Cob bricks made of mud & straw were left on a verandah for all to see. Outer walls showed raw mud plaster. The cob cottages reminded us of millions of mud huts we'd seen in Africa.
Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.