Winter Months

The Book Fair The once a year second hand book fair held at the Founders park is always interesting. Maybe it is more in anticipation as one never knows what you might find.  I usually head straight for the UK book tables to see if there are any books on ole England, especially of Cumberland history and such. Also of interest is British nature writings, not lists of their native animals but their feelings of the natural world and the open spaces in those early days. Here we have protests about land and colonisation but what they have been through is nothing compared to my ancestors. Many invasions, destruction, rape, slavery and pillage by foreigners, almost continual scrapping with other nearby clans, tribes, and kingdoms, not to mention famines and plagues! Every treaty or agreements broken. My native language gone. This is all well into the past and now is the present. It is good to know certainly but, maybe strangely by today’s ‘standards’, I have or feel no animosity to this past.   On Rabbit Is looking over Rough Is with Mt Arthur in the distance. Richmond Hills Walk Shirl & I lead our 50+ walking group for a month and our first walk was out in the Richmond Hills. We all met at the start of the Jimmy Lee Track, past the bird hide, over Cypress Road then turned off the main track into the Upper Jimmy Lee. This section is through all good native bush but the track is almost a route with some parts a little difficult for some. Upward to the Matai Ridge, a spot which is quite special. A large matai stands sentinel near the base of the ridge and I guess most of its offspring cover the ridge as smaller specimens. In fifty or sixty years time these younger matais will transform the ridge similar to walking through a cathedral of columns.  We had morning tea upon the on top of the ridge. After we continued on to Fowler Road and then went into the Top Jimmy Lee, through some pines to the top ridge and along to the fire lookout for lunch. A weka came along looking for a free food handout. It was quite tame or perhaps aggressive in this endeavour as one had to be careful with any food in the hand. It readily took any offered food from ones hand.  Any...
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A Week at Picton

This was to be five days with our 50+ walking group, leaving home on a Monday morning for Havelock to meet up with the rest of the group. Just out of Havelock we turned off towards Picton on the Queen Charlotte Drive, stopping at Ngakuta Bay for morning tea. After that, most started to walk along the fairly new Link Walkway, heading towards Picton. Drivers of the cars then set off for Picton, parked the cars and then headed back along the pathway to meet up with the others at The Wedge arriving just five minutes late. We all then went down a short track to a World War 2 lookout and signal station. Not much remained, just some broken concrete foundations here and there. Seating arrangement on the Link Pathway. A good spot to have lunch with a view out down the sounds though.  We then headed back to the cars and Picton. This Link Pathway is fairly new with the idea of having a walking track from Picton to Havelock following or linking the different parts of the Marlborough Sounds, via some old bridle paths, and the Queen Charlotte Track. Each group walked about 11 km and then we were off to the Waikawa Bay Holiday Park to settle in for our stay.  Barnes Dam. Barnes Dam & then over the Tirohanga Track The next day was a walk up the Essons Valley track to the two dams that supplied water to Picton. Some of the group went to the Humphries dam while the rest went to the Barnes dam. The walk was through native bush following a pipeline with a good selection of native plant species. The Barnes dam itself looked to be leaning downhill but they said it was an optical illusion. It still looked to be sloping the wrong way to me. It was a pleasant walk even if one had to be stepping over the water main pipe all along the way to the dam. Once back at the cars we then walked up the nearby Tirohanga Track to the lookout for lunch with a good view looking down on Picton, the inter-islander ferry wharfs and the Picton Harbour in Queen Charlotte Sound. We watched one of the inter island ferries berthing too.  One of the ferries berthed: from the lookout, Tirohanga Track. The Wairau Lagoons  A good sunny day for the next walk around...
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A Week on Molesworth Station

The road on the Rainbow at Hell’s Gate. We travelled to Molesworth via the Rainbow Valley road and through Rainbow Station. There has been a recent change of ownership but it is still a toll road with a steep increase in the toll; now $40 per car, one way. The road was in the worst condition that I’ve seen it.  Very rough especially around the Hell’s Gate area. It’s a real pity this road isn’t an open public road and maintained to a good standard as it’s almost a direct route from Nelson to Christchurch. It is public land too but leased. We read about people wanting to make new roads through wilderness areas; (Heaphy Track and Milford etc) but what’s wrong with the Rainbow? Keep Out of the Rainbow! Molesworth: the largest station in New Zealand of about 180,787 ha, with the largest herd of cattle  too (10,000 head), owned by the public and run by the Department of Conservation. A road runs through the station, linking Hanmer and Blenheim which is open to the public during the summer period. It has a DoC camp ground at each end and the campgrounds are monitored by rangers to make sure people pay their camp fees, collecting rubbish, cleaning toilets and generally assisting campers and through traffic. I joined Karla in giving a hand at the Hanmer Springs end, at Acheron. The old Acheron Accommodation House. The last time we came, the bridge across the Clarence was closed as one of its approaches had been washed away, but it’s all okay now. Our ranger’s hut was nearby the old, partly restored Acheron Accommodation House and within the camping area. The ranger’s hut is quite small, has a shower, gas hob and frig, plus a couple of beds, sink, table and such. Pretty compact but not very well laid out. What it did have though was a wood burner!  The view from Mt Isobel looking down on Hanmer. The next day we headed back on the road to Hanmer Springs but stopped on the way to climb Mt Isobel of 1342m. The track is a bit rough and through scrub at the start but soon one comes out along an exposed ridge, gradually climbing up to the steeper parts.  Once on the main rocky ridge there are good views of the area around Hanmer Springs township. It was late Autumn so...
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Wanderings on the Way Home

Wanaka What a strange place it is now from when I first wandered by. At least it does have a shopping area. Retrograde ‘progress’ with all the expanding houses scattered right out to Hawea Flat. From my observations many small towns have simply burst their boundaries with no forward planning at all. With all the talk of conserving the world, why are there so many so called life style blocks? It seems to me to be an extravagant waste of land conservation wise.  Lake Wanaka after leaving Makarora. I remember an old saw miller telling me once that a local couple wanted rimu for their new house so he sourced a supply for them.  A couple of years later another couple nearby wanted to build a house using rimu but the first couple protested and stopped them using rimu.  Now it’s reasonable not to use rimu like this, but it seems to many, it’s ok for me but not anyone else. The same sort of thinking goes for large sections? ….  Councils seem to be intent of these subdivisions to garner taxes for their little empires?  Bendigo One has to really look to find Bendigo and the historic and scenic reserves nearby. They are more historic but well worth seeking out. It was gold that they found here in 1862 and the remains of their workings and huts are scattered around. Once the alluvial gold was taken they started digging so here and there are abandoned mine shafts. The remains of the old miners stone huts seem to appear whenever one looks closer along the gully sides. Most have maybe one or two walls left standing but there are also some that mainly just have the roof missing. Pengally Hotel is in a similar state. I think it is a shame that DOC doesn’t keep things properly maintained. At least stop any further deterioration to the stone work and other relics like the old drays.   Logantown relics, Bendigo area. Pengally Hotel, Bendigo area. This is the country where the ‘world famous’ sheep Shek wandered about and he must have had some good hiding places to evade being rounded up and shorn like the rest of the flock. Grape vines creep up higher to this area than before and one wonders how they can survive in such dry rocky country. Water  from our reducing supply pumped up to them I guess. ...
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Visiting An Old Hunting Ground

It was to be a fixed wing fly-in with Karla and friend Alan, to wander around some of the places that I had hunted fifty three to fifty seven years to ago. Unfortunately, Alan withdrew due to a family illness. After the long drive down we arrived at the Makarora Tourist Centre at the head of Lake Wanaka, were welcomed by the owner, Rhondda Osmers, then checked with pilot Ryan of Southern Alps Air about our flight the next day. Then we settled into one of the A-Frame cabins for the night. I first came to work on Mt Albert Station, across the Makarora River in 1962. I was employed as a carpenter but also helped with the general station work; mustering, docking and such like. In those days there was no power, all gravel winding roads with fords (small streams flowing across the roads) and always that river. In good weather an old ex army GMC truck or a tractor was used to cross the Makarora. If the river was too deep for them, a dray and horse; if too deep for that, just one of the station horses and if it was too deep and swift for a horse – that was it, no access to the outside world. It didn’t seem bad at all, one just went with the flow, or just watched it! With any real emergency one of the local jet boats could be called upon. The road through to the upper West Coast didn’t open until late 1965.   It was when working on Mt Albert that I first met Dave Osmers. He had a sort of shop or shelves stocked with various items that one could buy off him and he also bought venison, velvets, sinews and such like. It didn’t take long before Dave asked if I could give him a hand with shooting deer on ‘his’ hunting blocks on Mt Albert Station. He hunted all the way up the Wilkin, Young, and the Makarora river flats. Over the years I came down a number of times to do some carpentry work on the Station and to work with Dave, commercial hunting, over the roar period. I remember him once enthusiastically saying, ‘let’s get a hundred stags this roar’. I can’t remember if we did or not but we did shoot a lot anyway. In the gaps with the hunting I...
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The Start of 2019

The Terracotta Warriors and Weta Workshop Visits We had three days visiting Wellington city in January, with the aim to have a look through the Weta Workshop (of Lord Of The Rings fame) and to also visit some of the Terracotta Army being displayed at the Museum of New Zealand.  After an early arrival and getting settled into our motel, we caught a bus and headed out to the Weta Workshop complex. To get this far one has to book onto one of the six or so tours, which vary from $28 to $145 for an adult. We chose the more modest Weta Cave Workshop Tour at $65. It was enough for me and it covered much of how they made all the different items for the various films; from monsters, medieval armour, swords and the like, models, and, well, just about anything really. The attention to the detail on any item made was really impressive. Some 48,00 items were made for The Lord of the Rings, 6623 weapons and armour were crafted for The Great Wall film, and I like the comment that the swords made looked real enough but as actors soon got tired if they had to swing the real things around so they made them a lot lighter. Apparently, the Queen’s people heard of this and now if you happen to watch the Queen bestowing a knighthood on someone, it just might be one of those lighter swords made by Weta Workshop! In all it was interesting but just over priced I feel.  The Terracotta Warriors craftsmen could easily get a job at Weta Workshops I’d say. The eight life sized 2300 years old warriors, part of 8000 or so sculptures of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China, were on display at the Museum of New Zealand so we went and had a look. Every sculpture was different, perhaps replicating the men in the army? It did make me wonder if each soldier was copied from real life, what happened to the living after? They may have been substitutes instead of being made a sacrifice  but if I was one of them, I’d be a little nervous after my ‘duplicate’ was finished! Also on display were many other items, made of gold, jade and bronze too. The detail on each item was really something special. One really needs to stop awhile, not 2000...
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November Travels

Kaikoura Visit (5th – 9th November) Early November we joined our walking group for five days visiting Kaikoura. We headed off through to Pelorus, but stopped for a coffee there, then on to Blenheim and out to Ward Beach for lunch. Before the earthquake of 2016, we had visited and stayed at Ward Beach and watch people launch their boats with the aid of bulldozers. Not now though as the earthquake seemed to have lowered the beach while pushing up other areas. It was hard to remember what it was like but I didn’t see any bulldozers on the beach this time. After lunch we had a short walk along the beach to the south. The earthquake of November 2016 certainly changed a lot of landscape on the way to Kaikoura.  My car gps gadget didn’t have any speed limits noted on this section of the road as there were a number of hold ups, but not for long. The earthquake destruction of this highway and railway was massive but the recently re-opened road (and railway later) still had road working machines and people galore, in action at various places along the route.  Shipping containers lined some sections of the road for the protection from falling rocks but generally, the road was pretty good.  Some parts of this coast was raised more than six metres and a drop of more than two metres in others. Some land was shifted horizontally as much as twelve metres along one fault and vertically as much along another. Nearby Cape Campbell is now 350mm closer to the North Island while back near home, Nelson slipped 50mm South East!  This doesn’t sound much – unless you are standing on the actual spot.  We stopped at Ohau which had some major road works done and still underway. Before the earthquake, one could walk a track beside the stream to a waterfall with a pool at its base in which young seals frolicked around while waiting for their mothers to return. Now it appears that the young seals wait out among the rocks along the sea shore at Ohau. A new car park and view point  had been formed from which it seemed as if we could see hundreds of seals about the rocks. All shapes and sizes and thinking that if each seal ate a number of fish each day, there must be a lot...
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I’m Just Wondering – Am I One of the Last New Zealanders?

I suppose that it’s since the election that has brought it to the fore plus all this Kiwi stuff,  but thinking back over the years, it seems to me that we are going backwards. Oh, for sure there are many that are sitting pretty but it appears to be at the expense of others and the majority at that. We used to have a democracy but  that’s now long gone.  Years ago there were many who protested against apartheid but now they think that’s okay here now? Going back many more years, they said that with progress, we would be working four day weeks but now for a household, it’s the norm for two adults to work full-time five days a week, sometimes even more and they are scratching to save. In those older days, it was just one person who earned enough to support a family – nothing like today.   A forty hour week was the law, except it wasn’t quite in 1962 (when working on an orchard Mapua, Nelson. It was 44hrs there, even though the law said it was 40 hours everywhere else). Maybe they just took a while to catch up with the rest of the country? We were told that computers would cut costs and save a lot of work so why have costs risen and the hours of work?  Why is it that indigenous races seem to think that they are the only ones to have an attachment to nature and the wild lands?  I can recall, thinking, soon after leaving school, that all of New Zealand should be a National Park! My theory was that instead of us trying to protect wild places from speculators and the like, have them spending time trying to withdraw their properties from the National Park. It is interesting to note that in the UK some of their national parks are indeed similar to this.  Why do I have an affinity with the natural world? Is it the freedom? The space? Once you get away from the huts of course – and it’s not raining! Just who can ‘own’ a mountain? Or a river? Or a lake? Will these  people soon claim ownership of clouds, sunshine or the raindrops? Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that? But then if they claim to own a river, what if it floods? Are the ‘owners’ liable for any damage done?  I...
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Out and About in September

Around Mt Robert   Nelson Lakes National Park    With our walking group we started out along Paddy’s Track heading up towards the Bushline Hut arriving just before 11am. We had stopped for morning tea high up, on a rock outcrop and just about out of the native bush. The light was a little different somehow and very still. The cloud reflections on the lake were quite something. The open ridge heading up towards that last steep climb before reaching the hut is one of my favourite spots. After a brief spell at the hut, it sits right on the bush edge at 1290m asl, with a great views towards the North and East, we continued on up to the main ridge over patches of snow to reach the  Relax Shelter for lunch.  After that it was along the Mt Robert Ridge downwards to the bush edge but no old little hut there. Taken away, gone and a pity as quite often it was a good sheltered place to don wet weather gear or a windproof coat or jacket.  Down the zig zag track or Pinch Gut as they call it, to the car park and then home.  Waimea River Stopbank  Walk  It’s better to do this by bike I think. However, we walked from the Brightwater end to the Appleby Bridge and Highway and back and it sure seemed to be longer going back! The best part is the fishing ponds by the river and they hold trout too but they were built especially for children.  The local Fish & Game stock the ponds with trout and then run special children fishing days.  The ponds looked a lot different from when a friend and I had helped with some planting way back in 2011. I forget the species planted but they were around the edges and in shallow water. The ponds have been extended too and walking around the edges, we watched a number of trout swimming around. The pond water was remarkably clear, no doubt fed and filtered from the Waimea River running nearby. We had lunch here under the watchful eyes of a pair of kingfishers.  A Little Bit of Estuary Walking    We started off with a walk around Dominion Flats Reserve where a lot of native planting is going on. Then we went down to the end of a side road, parked, and walked...
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August Wanderings

The Moon Eclipse.   I’ve seen the odd one during my life time but this one was the best.  It was sort of creepy though especially after watching it for awhile.  One can easily understand how earlier folk got all superstitious about eclipses.  Luckily, the clouds kept away.  The shadow of Earth seemed to take a long time to pass over the moon and then suddenly the moon was almost covered and I was still fiddling with my camera!  Anyway, it was worth getting up during the night to watch the rare event.    Conservation Work? I’ve worked up the gully for 13 mornings during August (which mean anything from 4 to 6 hours each day) and most days with Kevin too. This year we have planted just over 1000 plants which is the highest number for any year.  Now how about some of those carbon credits for all this work? When one thinks of all the conservation work of planting in our area alone being completed over the years, surely this must mean something in the way of helping with carbon credits, even if to offset excesses in other areas? If not, is the whole thing just political mumbo-jumbo? Another reason to tax people more?  We don’t even get any discount with our local body taxes! And these are set to sky rocket to pay for behind closed door deals. The countries overall public service, both national and local,  is something from the ‘good ‘ole’ days’ it seems.     Those Old Slides Over the years, I’ve taken many photo slides. Remember those Kodachrome slides? I’ve taken hundreds and hundreds of them. I’ve had some scanned and after hearing that our local library has a new film scanner, I thought it should be worth while checking it out. It was and after three visits, I still have some more to do. Still, it’s a start and now the sorting of dates, place names and people’s names. Fortunately, I have in the past kept a number of diaries and these are a big help. A number of these slides are quite historic too like photos of the flying boats of TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Ltd) the early days of Air New Zealand, at their base in Auckland as are a number of photos of gravel (shingle) roads, old roadside buildings, since disappeared,  and the old way of loading cars onto...
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Five Days Around Takaka 

Our 50 plus walking group had five days staying in Takaka and visiting several spots in the Golden Bay. But first we had to get over there so on the Monday I left after lunch a little apprehensive due the predicted rain, heading up the Takaka Hill. The recent storm had caused many slips along the highway with the road closed while they were cleared away. Most of the road had been cleared except for one bad section and it was here I had to wait about 25 minutes before being allowed to proceed slowly. I then drove through mist and fog along the summit and down to the valley floor on the other side to the motel in Takaka, meeting up with the rest of the group later in the afternoon.  The next day (Tuesday) we all headed out to visit the Aorere Goldfields with clear skies and sunshine above but a little mushy underneath after all the recent rain. We followed the track through patches of bush and scrub, passing an old 1880’s gold sluicing claim then stopping to inspect a couple of caves. The first, Stafford’s Cave, had a large sunken entrance but it looked to be too tricky to venture very far while the second cave was quite something. This, The Ballroom Cave, was down a short side track and one could walk a couple of hundred metres or so down into the cave itself.      Druggans Dam  Further along the track we soon came to Druggan’s Dam which was formed around 1873 to provide a water supply for sluicing for gold. The dam was enlarged during 1900 for more gold seeking, but only 1152 ounces of gold were recovered, and by 1909, it was all over. At one of our stops a fernbird was seen and watched until it disappeared into the undergrowth. On the dam lake were Paradise ducks and black swans but otherwise, all was quiet and still. Down the track and a short drive to call in on the grand old Langfords Store.   The Old Langfords Store A cup of tea or coffee was a good idea most thought but with fourteen people in our group turning up the store, they were a little over burdened so it was suggested that he take some orders (hot buttered scones, jam and cream, etc) and we would visit a waterfall not...
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Little Autumn Excursions

Rabbit Island Schools’ Talk  Kevin and I took “Our Gully” out to Rabbit Island to talk to several schools from around our area, about the work that we do up Will’s Gully. Things like cutting out weed vines, trapping pests, having cups of tea, clearing weeds, having cups of tea, and planting natives plants. Stopping now and then to watch a hawk soaring above and to have a cup of tea now and then. Actually, it’s a lot harder than that at times! The day was called Enviroschools ~ “Building Resiliency for a Changing World” which had 5 to 8 year students from various schools from around our region. We showed them the different traps and baits that we used – along with a “pet” stoat plus a small collection of older type traps too. The trapping and traps were of more interest than the pest weeds, especially to the boys.  We had a test at the end of the talk in which the children were to name the pests that we trap and to link them to the baits and the traps that we use. The baits were in a container and we asked them to guess by the smell of the bait, which animal pest, and which trap to use. We didn’t tell them about all the cups of tea.  Another Day Another School     This time it was a class of about 28 or so (year 8) from St Paul’s School, in Richmond, which we guided up into the Richmond Hills to show them about the trapping and revegetation work that we have been doing over many years.  We worked in with Whenua iti Outdoors, walked up to Grassy Saddle, and then children started planting some native plants that Kevin and I had collected beforehand. Kevin took most of the children up into the pine forest to collect some more native plants growing alongside the forestry road too. Lunch, a little talk about what else we do up the gully along with a trapping demonstration, then we all walked out down Will’s Gully back to Hill Street, doing a round trip.   Kevin asked them to put their name and the plant species on the markers and put them besides what they had planted. The plants were sourced from the edges of the gully walking tracks and also from up in the pine forest. A couple of times...
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A Couple Short Walks

Chromite Mine Walk  It was a new track that had been cut to make a visit to the old mine shafts a circular tramp from a short way along the Hacket Track in the Mt Richmond Forest Park, so off we went. We chose to do the steep part first which was also the first junction off the main track to the Hacket Hut and beyond. It was steep too and still fairly rough, that went through scrub with some native trees and after climbing and scrabbling along we came to the Lunch Pine, a large radiata pine, so we stopped for morning tea. After this we carried on, reaching the Serpentine Saddle where we had lunch. We were on the mineral belt and walking over rocks which contain traces of copper, chromium and nickel plus small deposits of Dunite and serpentine.  Here during the mid 1860’s, they mined for the chromite which was used to make a mauve coloured dye in the cotton industry and the blue chrome salts were used for tanning leather. The American civil war caused a collapse in the price of chromite, the result of the Southern States being blockaded  by the North so the mining here came to an abrupt stop. From here on we where walking on an old cutline, the Old Chromite Road, that carried the ore out by bullock drawn carts for transport to the Nelson port. To make this track for the carts, considerable effort went into building up one side of the track with stone work which is mostly still in place today. Two species of flowering Gentians (one maybe Gentianella stellata?) were growing here and there along the edges of the track.   Up a Hill and Down a Bit St Arnaud Range   Buddy and Jet asked if I’d like to come with them for a walk up to Parachute Rock at St Arnaud, Nelson Lakes National Park, then up to the ridge above and down the other side a bit to stay the night.  We left after lunch for St Arnaud and then started the steady climb through the beech forest to Parachute Rock. From here the beech give way to tussock but the climb didn’t seem to take very long as we browsed  along looking for any alpine plant that was still flowering. Up on the top ridge the choice was to find an...
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Recent Wanderings

Rabbit Island, Motueka and Lake Rotoiti Walks Mid January we lead our walking group towards the Eastern end of Rabbit Island on a cloudy coolish day. Along the beach to the end of the island for morning tea, then around into the inlet a little before finding one of the traplines, following it along for away and then back along to beach to home. Then we had a walk around the reserves of Motueka, noting that the wreck of the Janie Seddon seems to be rusty away faster now. Another week we walked to the head of Lake Rotoiti on a lovely day. It’s funny this walk as although it’s the same distance either way, it always seems to be a lot longer coming back?  Up Will’s Gully We have had trouble with a person pulling out some of our plants, having lost around 15 to 20 natives. Some we found later and replanted only to have them pulled out and thrown aside. We had a pretty good idea who the culprit was but thought the best to do, was to go to the press and tell our story, which we did. Since the article appeared in the local Nelson Mail, we have been left alone – so far. Green fingers crossed!  Normally at this time of the year, we are keeping the long grass down around our young plants but due to the very hot spell, we had to keep away due to the fire risk. Naturally the grass kept growing! But we have been back, clearing the foot track and doing work on some of the steps. The recent cyclone didn’t do too much damage with the trees that did topple, we were able to clear them from the tracks fairly quickly.  With the recent heavy rain quite a number of fungus sprouted with the Orange Pore fungi being the most colourful. A relative stranger to our shores and it probably drifted over from Australia.  Top Valley Walk and the Wellington Battery  Gold, Gold, Gold. They came for gold and in 1880 one man found seven ounces in two weeks. Soon after in another side valley, a party gathered 14 ozs in a morning and a little later a 1¼ oz gold nugget was found. It was certainly enough gold found to cause some excitement.  Top Valley, along with it’s side streams, is one of the streams...
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A Week In Hokitika

Shirl and I had a week visiting Hokitika on the Wild West Coast with our walking group and went on some nearby walks around the town and a little beyond.  The day after we arrived and settled in we visited the Hokitika River gorge. Doesn’t sound much but this part of the gorge is really something special. It’s the colour of the water, a sort of azure blue. Sort of but much more stunning. It’s typical of a glacier fed river with the ice grounded rocks producing  a powder that gives the water that tender pastil colour. You really have to see it. At the start of the track to the gorge lookout point parking was in short supply and much more crowded when we came out too. They want the tourists but they will need to pull their finger and provide for them! There is a good podocarp forest along the track to the bridge over the river and along a little upstream to come to another view point. One tourist even had a drone flying upstream taking photos. Back to the overflowing carpark and along the road to a memorial  to those that died at the hands of E. S. Graham. This tragedy occurred in 1941 when during World War 2, the government required people with firearms to surrender them for the war effort. Police were sent to seize his firearms but Graham turned violent  and in the end he murdered seven police and Home Guard personal.  On to Ross a few kilometres South. When we last passed by this little village they had dug a large hole with a road running around the sides to the bottom extracting gold, but now the large hole has been formed into a small lake and no doubt it’s very deep. Up a little from the lake on a grassy bank a  young lady was offering for $5.00 a small container of ‘golf’ balls and a golf club and if one landed one of the balls onto a small floating barge on the lake I guess you received a prize. The golf balls floated and were collected later.  We went for a walk along the Ross Water Race Walkway, and all to do with gold. We passed some old gold mining relics here and there and followed the old water race with still some remains of structures standing. We stopped...
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Molesworth

Molesworth Visit “Do you want to come and help with being a patrol ranger at Molesworth Station” Karla asked. Well now, that sounded interesting. Except for the dusty road to get there. The only answer once I’d self consciously  dusted my sleeve in preparation, was of course, – ‘when?’  We had to check in and be brainwashed at the department offices in Renwick first so we stayed the night before in a tavern at Renwick. After all this, the next day, we left Renwick, passed through Blenheim and met up at the Hodder River bridge for lunch. We finally arrived at the Molesworth Ranger Station around 2 pm.  Molesworth Station is the largest farm in New Zealand comprising of 180,787 hectares in South Marlborough and winters about 10,000 beef cattle. It ranges from 549 metres to over 2100 metres above sea level with the homestead about 900 metres the same as our home for the next week. It is owned by the government, administered by the Department of Conservation with Landcorp running the farming side. Lots of recreational activities are permitted but there are restrictions  depending on farming operations and the weather. A metal or shingle surfaced road from the homestead to Hanmer Springs and further south, with the homestead about 100 km from Blenheim. The Ranger Station is nearby the homestead and the old historic Cob Cottage (the original homestead). The road is only open during the summer season and from one end to the other is about 60 km taking about 2 hours to drive through from one campground to the other. All vehicles must be out by 7 pm each day. The gates are opened at 7am and close at 7pm. At each end is a camp ground and we were to look after the northern end campground.  It is wilderness country; no telephone coverage, no shops or petrol stations, only a long dusty road.  Great country though and big country with wide valleys and rivers that control everyone’s travel. So we settled into our new accommodation for the next week. It was just one main room of dining room, kitchen and bedrooms (bunks) plus a separate shower. We had to use the public or camping ground toilet but it wasn’t too far away.  Our job was to monitor anyone camping nearby (translation – make sure they paid the camp ground fees), keep a tabs on...
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Early Spring Walks

Takaka Hill Walk Mid October we lead our walking group around the tracks on this farm walk at the top of the Takaka  Hill. It is open to the public and has a shorter loop walk of about two hours or one can walk the longer loop taking two and a half to three hours. This is all through a marble karst landscape with some interesting shapes and formations. The large native land snail Powelliphanta live here and we found a number of empty shells about 60mm to 70mm diameter, as we walked along the tracks.  A lot of the marble in the area around Takaka Hill and is around 435 million years old which was formulated North of the equator before we left Gondwanaland. Animals called Crinoides are found in the marble also corals, worms, bones and shells. There are many different types of marble/limestone in the area, some formed when attached to Australia, some formed in the Takaka valley and altered by tectonic forces, earthquakes, glaciers and such. Different species of the large extinct Moa bird lived in the area over time too.  All gone now except for their skeletons that are sometimes found in the sinkholes and caves.  Lodestone  and a climb to 1462 metres above sea level.   Just by the Flora Car Park, Kahurangi National Park, the track starts for the steepish climb up to Lodestone. About an hour later a rocky viewpoint is reached but then it’s a little downhill and a sidle before the main climb starts. There is one part that is very steep and the track sidles around some rocky bits. The track had recently been cleared, a bit too much I think as some native plants that had been cut should not have been. It also meant that there were not many trees to hang onto especially going back down over the steep parts. And it is steeper coming down that going up. I’m sure if you do the climb you will agree with me!  We had lunch on the summit or just down a little to get out of the cold wind. Some native buttercup had started flowering and going up the ridge some of the trees were covered with white lichen with long strands of growth that seem to flow from the branches in the wind.  Some of the group went down via Flora Hut but I...
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Late Winter Walks

Not too long ago we had a walk up the Eastern side of Lake Rotoiti to the Lakehead Hut and back. It was a good clear skies late winter’s day with a little snow on the tops but very pleasant walking. Another short walk that we did out to Kaiteriteri and calling down to Split Apple Rock but the clouds hung low that day. There were some interesting sand patterns on the beach. This was followed some time later with a walk to Akersten Bay along the track in the Abel Tasman National Park. It’s the best time of the year to go along this track so as to dodge all the summer tourist and foot traffic.  It’s a good walk along the path – it’s not a bush track all the way so it can be quite hard on the soles especially when it’s hot. Every so often a little track leads down to one of the golden sand beaches. We stop for morning tea at one of them, Appletree Bay, and then had lunch at Akersten Bay and were intrigued with what was lying all along the sandy beach. It appeared that the translucent little forms were some species of fish eggs that had washed up.  In a way it could be a good sign that fish were breeding but it seemed a waste to end up like this.   Along the side of the track were some clumps of mushrooms and returning over the causeway to the car park at Marahau in the mudbanks tourists had been using stones on the mud to layout messages. It might be cute to some but I’d say go back to your own country to do that, certainly not here and to add to the insult, someone had formed a love NZ in the mud. I consider this stone graffiti vandalism in our natural places and we can well do without it.  On the other hand consider the cavemen drawings – maybe in 400 years or so, archaeologists might ponder about the people  who made these funny shapes and just what does ZN or NZ mean? Motueka Reserves Walk We had another walk sort of around Mot but using the town’s reserves in a zig zag fashion. From the town centre a short street walk to enter Thorp Bush, follow the path through to Goodman Recreation Area, cross the road...
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Winter Months

I had a few bike rides along the Tasman Great Taste Trail, some Brightwater way and others out to Rabbit Island. They are always good on a fresh winter’s morning, especially along the Waimea Inlet. On one of the rides to Brightwater my back tyre gave up the ghost resulting in about a seven kilometre walk home. At least it wasn’t raining! The tyre itself had travelled around 3500 kilometres so I guess it was time for a change.  On the inlet rides one can expect to see a number of different seabirds and  to observe the way the native plantings are progressing. Shags, and once we watched a white heron patiently waiting for small fish going upstream with the tide.  Before the godwits took off for their long flight to Siberia we had a wander out along the Motueka Spit coming across a black shags, Canada geese, dotterels, white faced herons, pied stilts plus many knots and godwits too.   The rainfall over the winter months has seen an increase: May average was 123mm but this May we had 174mm; June was quite dry with the average 168mm but only 16mm fell; it made up somewhat in July with the average for this month being 82mm but 191mm fell and the August monthly average was 114mm but we had 139mm.    Up Will’s Gully It’s been a busy time with planting natives and to the end of July 553 but this doesn’t include a number of Hook Grass and Bush Lawyer little plants. Hook Grass? Yep, why not and the same regarding Bush lawyer too. It’s a nuisance when people or their dogs cut corners along the track especially when we have small plants growing. Anyway, the Bush Lawyer has nice blackberry type fruit besides being prickly!  The Hook Grass doesn’t have prickles but I’m sure anyone with hairy legs who tramp around the wild places will be very aware of it?   Some weed spraying around the plants and track improvements along the way. The Hollow Tree steps were put in, a small deck by McGlashen’s dam on the Bottoms Track and some repairs here and there.  Another volunteer, David B has been making lots of new signs for along the walking tracks in the Richmond Hills and now he has been installing some over our way. Hopefully, the idiots who have been damaging and removing our...
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The 1000 Acre Plateau, Kahurangi National Park

My companions were friend Alan and Karla this time.  Alan had flown in from ‘up North’ then leaving around 1 pm, a bit of a late start, and we headed for the Lake Matiri Hut.  They say from the carpark to the hut takes three hours and it took us a little under two and a half hours.  I was surprised at that time as I had suffered some heat stroke on the way in which slowed things down a bit.  New lesson: take it easy old chap, you can’t jump over rocks like you used to!  And keep drinking that water too.    The Matiri West Branch River was very low and once over along the track a little, the Department of Conservation have had installed a new shelter. This is for when anyone can’t get across the river if it is in flood and they have to wait until the flow has gone down. There is or was, an old hut somewhere nearby built for the same purpose but it has either rotted away or it’s just too covered in blackberry and fern to be seen. It was built around 1905-1909, was known as the Matiri West Branch Hut and one local hunter told me that one time the river was up and he  couldn’t get across to meet his wife and family who came along to pick him up. She didn’t like to risk driving back home for the night, along the now slippery dirt road so her husband managed to throw a string across the flooded river and then she was able to drag some  freshly shot venison to her side and was able to cook a feed for the children who were with her. It was ‘a very uncomfortable night’ she said.  The next morning we climbed up the track to the 1000 Acre Plateau, heading to Poor Petes Hut for the night. It is a pretty stiff climb of about 700 metres. Up and not much respite and I felt it after suffering a bit on the way in the day before, but was helped along by my friends. The forest we passed through was interesting though as at first we passed through beech, then rata, followed by rata with a mix of silver beech with some tanekaha and quintinia.  As you climb, the cedar are grouped in the middle altitudes (with beech below) and found with rata and silver pine etc. Maybe it was...
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