Tag Archive for Wanaka

Five months – many changes

Hi all

I’ve not posted much since early in the year because I decided to make some changes. “Down sizing” I believe some call it. As some of you may recall for quite a few years I’ve been re-modeling the inside of a very large 32ft. 3 axle caravan.

It’s now back on the road. Getting it there took a big push of many weeks, most especially as I went through everything I own and threw out literally over a ton of it.

Right from that moment when we take a deep breathe and utter “right”, the work has had a magical flow to it. All I could deduce from this [with my mouth often hanging open] was that it affirmed I was doing the right thing.

This sort of process I realise looking back from the delightful solitude of the Hawea River, where I’m now parked up for awhile, creates space of a somewhat spiritual flavour.

But what it may all be about, is by getting rid stuff and simplifying life I feel ready and able to easily adapt to opportunities and change!

At times my tank was running near on empty and then as is often the way you realise:

1] who has the inclination to “be there” for us, but can’t

2] those who can and are , and may not even realise it, as it’s just what they do.

Either way I felt supported one way or another by everyone who knew and I managed to not cherish any opinions while developing a deepening sense of gratitude for how it’s all worked out – and still is. Thank you everyone!

First stop [which maybe for awhile] on my new journey is by the lower Hawea River just 5 mins drive from Wanaka. Yes, it is chilly, but I’ve now a total of 120mm of insulation layered in my still tall ceiling. That took a bit of work too, but well worth it!

Actually that the technology is now available has been a significant factor in deciding to try some “change” in life.

My Land Cruiser camper supplies the electricity [which even powers my old washing machine now fitted in a spare corner behind a curtain], and also now hosts the highest speed Internet I’ve ever had, and my landline phone, via a radio link to Hill End by the mouth of the Cardrona River. All for a monthly cost a third that I’d been paying Telecom…
Hawea River

The same spot in the warmth of yesterday afternoon. That’s me to the left in the distance. The grey house near the center is another house on wheels. Just by coincidence [that flow again!] it belongs to an old climbing/tramping and ski touring mate Bruce from Ranfurly, and he is on his first prolonged “roadie” after building it for about a year. His setup is very different to mine [wood stove v. my hi tech diesel heater, height v. the length of mine, and possibly I’m lighter, but both demand the use our larger 4wd vehicles. It’s been fun to have brews at each other’s home and swap ideas as to how to live this way – experimentally for both of us. Btw this site costs us $7/person/night – no facilities except for “long drop” DOC Kiwi style toilets, which I find just fine…
Hawea River Swing Bridge

In the months it has taken to make these changes, and to keep my clients happy as I’m still working [not quite full time], I made an effort to get away regularly to keep my batteries charged. Thus I made two trips to Southland on photographic sorties. This shipwreck is near Bluff…
Shipwreck at Bluff

My cousin’s son got married in town too, and I was asked to do photos in her amazing garden…
Wanaka Wedding

I also kept up my regular volunteer work for the Dept. of Conservation. This kea was a bit sick – recovering I think from an injury in the West Matukituki Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park, and while cautious did not mind me getting up close…
Kea

My other trip to Southland was to Milford Sound for an overnighter in the back packers. I’d never visited this crazy tourist infected spot before for more than an hour or two. It turned out to be a delightful thing to do!…
Mitre Peak Milford Sound

Homer Tunnel en-route to Milford Sound
Homer Tunnel - Milford Sound

For both trips to Southland I was able to bypass Queenstown on my return by taking the public 4wd drive road through the remote Nevis Valley to Cromwell. It always takes me several hours as it is just so beautiful and photogenic, reeking of gold mining history too…
Nevis Valley

On another weekend I lived in style in a motel in Queenstown and did the long mt. bike ride up the Arrow River into the old historic gold mining ghost town Macetown [semi restored by DOC] to sample the autumn colours…
Macetown

Once again I attended the annual Autumn Art School in Wanaka in order to push my photography learning along. This was my best shot for the week. That is a chainsaw dangling – minutes later the tree top above the guy toppled down past him.

Earlier I mentioned “making space”. Well, it can be filled with creativity I think, which seems to be happening to me One way it manifests I suspect is in these photos! And somehow I seem more able to work very fast making them, probably because I’m not thinking much, yet taking time to let whatever story is inherent to reveal itself…
Wanaka Autumn Art School

More DOC volunteer work trapping predators in the Grandview Range between the Lindis and Clutha valleys…
Grandviews

Yet again more DOC volunteer work checking trapping tunnels in Matukituki Valley…
Matukituki Valley

Ice Puddle Matukituki Valley

A grab shot in rain and good light while driving through Wanaka, that I applied some new techniques to…
Plantation Road Wanaka

Another application of new found skills on trees in Lake Wanaka…
3 Lake Trees Wanaka

I made a couple of trips to Dunedin to see my son and do some other things, and found him in fine fettle. He now has a degree in chemistry and is continuing on doing papers in botany, archaeology and anthropology. A professional student methinks – I’m very proud of him…
Dougal Dunedin

Up the Matukituki Valley again – whew I now realisie the days in there have added up – delightful times!Matukituki Valley Matagouri

Rob Roy Mt Aspiring National Park

Local shots around Lake Wanaka again – often taken on my evening bike rides…
Lake Wanaka

Lake Wanaka Tree with Shags

A more recent trip into the Cromwell end of the Nevis Valley to experience it winter wise…
Nevis Valley

Nevis Valley

And now that cross country skiing is again possible I duck up to the Snow Farm regularly, but not this weekend as I have a mild head cold, and I think need a rest!…
Snow Farm

The Hawea River out my door is raging filling Lake Dunstan so us NZ’ers enjoy having power, except I’m now off the grid. I have to be quite careful getting my water by bucket…
Hawea River

A self portrait at the Snow Farm last Wed…
Snow farm nz

Lastly for photos, a delightful fantail on the Hawea River last evening…
a delightful fantail on the Hawea River

So now at last with space it is time to stay aware of self and the surroundings so as to follow that flow I talked of that just may come about when we follow our hearts, and don’t over think things!

Recently I was talking to my friend Bob McKerrow wayfarer and of International Red Cross and telling him of my changes and straight away he suggested I look up the work of Sterling Hayden. Bob quoted below in part, and I found it verbatim on the web.

So I here on-pay to you all Bob’s consideration and compliment:

From Sterling Hayden:

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… cruising, it is called.

Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

“I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by, the dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer?

In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

and…

From Hayden’s introduction to Wanderer’s 1977 edition

“So it is no wonder that the mass of people regard the wanderer as a cross between a romantic vagabond and an irresponsible semi-ne’er-do-well who can’t – or won’t – fit in. Which is not to say that those who are fated to stay at home and toe the line do not look at the wander with envy and, yes, even awe, for he is doing what they would like to be doing, and something tells them they will never do it unless they either “strike it rich” or retire – and once retirement rolls around, chances are it will be too late. They know that too…..

It would be remiss if I didn’t add that if you want to wander, you’re going to have to work at it and give up the one thing that most non-wanders prize so highly – the illusion of security.

I say “illusion” because the most “secure” people I’ve encountered are, when you come right down to it, the least secure once they have been removed from job and home and bank account. While those unfortunate enough to be locked into some despised and unrewarding job are even worse off.

And if I have been favored with good luck all down through the years, I can also quickly single out scores of men and women spread around this beleaguered old world who, without “luck” have managed to live lives of freedom and adventure (that curious word) beyond the wildest dreams of the stay-at-homes who, when fresh out of school, opted for that great destroyer of men’s souls, security….

“They never taught wandering in any school I attended. They never taught the art of sailing a vessel, either. Or that of writing a book. It’s all so mysterious and – yes- enchanting. And that is what I suppose this book is all about. For whatever its merits, I would like to think that there is just as much of frustration and failure (call it lostness if you will) as there is of the free-swinging, far-rolling time when, however rough the going, you have the feeling, F*** it! I wouldn’t swap places with anyone else for anything on this earth.

Which is how I feel now, aged sixty-one and still more or less broke, slowing down in some ways and picking up steam in others, still with a roller skate on one foot and an ice skate on the other, yet only too well aware of the wisdom of the words:

“…But I think he swaggered
So he could pretend
the other side of Nowhere
Led Somewhere in the end.”
_H. Sewall Bailey

A significant 21st and a trip to a church in the back of beyond

Twenty one years of being a dad, and what a privilege!

There are many versions of the story – here is one:

Redford [aka Dougal – he legally changed his name a couple of years ago] had a sense of style and fun from day one…
Hats on Dougal Lousley

And a significant sense of curiosity in all things natural. Here it’s obvious, with a more cautious mother in tow on some ice on Lake Benmore, while Sarah our lovely lab at the time checks the wind for rabbits…
Ice on Lake Benmore

Sarah had eight pups and until we found homes for them all, we had a very willing small helper…
Dougal Lousley and Sarah the lab with pups

There came a day when his interest and love of animals manifested with an award at the local Wanaka Show Pet Parade, with a subsequent picture in the local newspaper of the day…
Dougal Lousley and pet parade

From an early age I was blessed to have him as my “expedition” companion, and we joined up on one trip with an old friend Sarah Glasson and her family for a 4wd trip into Macetown one autumn…
Macetown in autumn

An agenda for fun, but at this point I was not sure just how gathering leaves was going to play a part…
Macetown in autumn, playing in leaves

And why not make the pile deep enough to dive into!
Macetown in autumn, playing in leaves

Trips on foot slowly got more ambitious as he grew. Tramping in West Matukituki valley, Mt. Aspiring National Park…
Tramping in West Matukituki valley, Mt. Aspiring National Park

Hooker River swing bridge Mt Cook National Park…
Tramping in West Matukituki valley, Mt. Aspiring National Park

Winter activities included cross country skiing competitively at the Snow Farm, up the Cardrona Valley…
Snow Farm Youth Academy member Dougal Lousley

Good friend Riley Wilson and D. decide to barbecue a chicken. Yes, its a snow chicken and if I recall it melted faster than it cooked…
Riley Wilson and Dougal Lousley cooking a snow chicken

When he was about 10 yrs. old I decided to take a punt. Since I’d been the inseparable house dad until this time of divorce from his mum. I bought us an expedition type vehicle so as to not only keep up the bond, but build on his growing curiosity in nature. It worked a treat…
Seeries 90 Land Cruiser camper in NZ snow

And so the expeditions began in earnest and for a few years incorporated the adventure yacht Elwing as we headed south each holidays. Me indulging my romance with the wilderness, him exploring under every rock, fishing, plant identification. And most of all being exposed to great male mentors such as my friend the skipper Arthur White.

Heading out of Doubtful Sound enroute south to Dusky Sound in July 2005…
Entrance Doubtful Sound, Fiordland coast NZ

At the helm off the most exposed wildest and remotest coast in New Zealand…
Fiordland coast NZ

But this evening the world in terms of westerlies, swells and waves was at peace…
Fiordland coast NZ

The fishing is pretty good down there in places – Dusky Sound…
Dusky Sound fishing

Keeping shipshape – Duck Cove in Dusky Sound…
Duck Cove Dusky Sound

On this adventure we were literally following in the footsteps of Capt Cook. While taking a break from nearly circumnavigating Antarctica in the 1773 he and the crew rested in Dusky for a month, and charted Dusky naming such places as Wet Jacket Arm, Luncheon Cove, Pickersgill Harbour etc. Each name telling a story, and one we followed with enthusiasim

The best photo on that trip was taken by Redford, a selfie really, as that is his reflection – Acheron Passage Dusky Sounddolphin pod Acheron Passage Dusky Sound

Bedraggled in the rain he and I wait for a pickup by the Elizabeth river in Doubtful Sound after we made an attempt to find a lake upstream – we ran out of time in the dense wet bush. Still it was good to get some exercise…
Elizabeth river in Doubtful Sound

It was a magical trip due to the cold, and consequently some to the sounds were iced over. Here we are on a recce to check the ice thickness, as even the thin ice was wearing into the paint on the kauri hull..
Crooked Arm Fiordland - in winter

It felt very lonely [not helped by the noise] in a rubber boat in sharp looking ice this far away from Elwing…
Crooked Arm Fiordland - in winter

What allowed us to explore further was a Real Journeys steel hull tourist boat, that passed us and broke the ice. But neither of us got much further, as it rapidly became easily 300mm thick…
Crooked Arm Fiordland - in winter

Before enlightenment do the laundry, after enlightenment do the laundry…
100 2104

The next trips we headed further south – Redford surveys Port Pegasus on Stewart Island from Magog…
Port Pegasus on Stewart Island from Magog

The summit of Bald Mt., Port Pegasus Stewart Island…
Bald Top, Port Pegasus on Stewart Island

So that was the “real” world, back here other activities were pursued. Dance and drama every Friday night has worked wonders for a whole generation of Wanaka young folk…
Dance and drama Wanaka

Which instilled a familiarity with social skills – school formal here with his good friend of old, Anna. Now they flat together with another Wanaka local – they’ve always been so supportive of each other since primary school and earlier. I think this is a blessing during the teenage years…
Mt Aspiring College school formal

And before I knew it he was in Dunedin living at a hall of residence and doing a three year degree in chemistry [achieved this year]…
St Margarets Dunedin

And occasionally I’d be on bus duty, as he’d come and go occasionally…
Wanaka bus service

Frequent fishing trips to nearby Poolburn in Central Otago, but a pleasant memory, often escaping the summer heat. This was his first really significant “catch”…
Brown trout catch Poolburn

A blast from the past…

So on Redford’s 21st birthday last week I suggested a trip in the camper truck, and lo… mid week we headed off and due to the forecast Poolburn seemed a good bet, but I also suggested that if the track was dry we could visit the elusively remote Serpentine church he’d never seen. A restored relic from our rich gold mining history.

I say “elusive” as there are no sign posts – just rumour and farm tracks at a moderately high altitude and so some local knowledge is required. I’m not sure where I got mine from, but probably “a little bit here, a little bit there”. The road is an off shoot from the old Dunstan Road which I use quite often time permitting – it was the first access route for wagons into Central Otago and the Lakes, as apart from going up and down it heads pretty much in a straight line from Outram near Dunedin through to Tarras and it essentially avoids having to cross the Clutha River. The down side is of course snow closes it in winter.

The funny thing was that just a few days before R’s birthday an old mate Bruce called in while doing a road test of his 3 tonne house on wheels he’s been building in Ranfurly. Apart from getting caught up in a tree on the footpath all went well…
House on wheels Rata St Wanaka

Then a few days later as R and I topped the ascent to Poolburn in the dusk, he said “is that Bruce?”. And lo… it was. So we stopped off for a few laughs and cuppa with some Xmas fruit cake we had with us, and some banana cake B had. All quite special really…
Poolburn

After the cuppa we carried on to camp a bit closer to our destination. I could have got to the church in the dark, but no point as it’s quite a scenic drive, and besides we had plans to bike parts of it.

A perfect Poolburn dawn with no wind – a rarity…
Poolburn

There is an old rabbiter’s hut enroute to the church
Poolburn to serpentine church 17

Poolburn serpentine church rabbiter's hut

Biking change over…
Poolburn serpentine church  road

Lots of sky…
Poolburn serpentine church country side

Poolburn serpentine church track

Poolburn serpentine church road

Poolburn serpentine church road fence

The wind returns…
Poolburn serpentine church 9

The Serpentine Church…
serpentine church central otago

Note the rocks holding the roof down…
serpentine church

serpentine church interior

serpentine church sign

serpentine church sign

serpentine church altar

All too soon we had to leave – the decision was a little bit weather driven as the track would be a slithery nightmare when it’s wet…
Serpentine church track

We stopped for a “look-see” by this intriguing gully where the tors are closer together than normal…
Poolburn serpentine church tors

While placing my last photo above what strikes me is those are the shoulders of manhood… and how elegantly he got there!

I’ve learnt much wisdom from him during my part in the process – much to be grateful for. Given the chance I think I’d do it again!

Predator research in the West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

I’m just back from some more delightful NZ Dept. of Conservation volunteer work near Mt Aspiring. You may recall a recent posting about setting out tracking tunnels. Well this time we used them to find out the nature and types of predators relentlessly decimating the native bird population.

Birds we met, and my lines…

The yellow around the eye of this Kea means this is a young bird – in about four years time it’ll be black…
Kea West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

We were just leaving Aspiring Hut on our tasks, when three Kea came to check us out. They’d already woken us at 5.30 am so we were not surprised…
Kea - West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

They posed and played with us for about 45 mins. Maybe they knew we were there to make the continuation of their species less fraught with risk…
Kea by Aspiring Hut, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Kea - West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Each morning before snow melt might have affected river levels two of us would cross the West Matuki to do some more remote lines, but the weather having turned from it’s recent unsettled patterns made for a playful river, meaning the day was hot enough for the river to be enjoyable and “at home”…
Cascade Creek, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

One of my lines would take me onto the hillside opposite Cascade Saddle and Aspiring Hut, and I always enjoy looking across at the more trodden valley side, from the remote one…
Cascade Saddle, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Over there, a bit more remote from the normal tourist tramper track, I encountered three robins on different occasions. They’re quite rare so each was a treasured “find”. Each was difficult to photograph, but I did get close to another breed – a chirpy little fellow…
West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

And a happy oyster catcher…
oyster catcher, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

On my return one afternoon I found my friend Paul installing a new sign ordered by the Dunedin Coroner in response to yet another recent fatality on Cascade Saddle. Paul, not long ago the manager of the Wanaka office and wider areas was recently made redundant by Govt. conservation moves I don’t care for. He so impressed me this trip that he’s stepped forward for volunteer work. His knowledge and skill goes without saying!…
Cascade Saddle Warning Sign. West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

The old sign, now removed. The above mentioned latest victim of the Saddle [of himself really] apparently had a photo of it on his camera, so go figure… human nature being what it is, and I’m as guilty as anyone – nothing tends to save us from ourselves perhaps. However I can’t help but feel for the families, and the Coroner trying to deal with making a route safe that’s long been known as one that is difficult to traverse in less than ideal conditions even with skill and the right equipment. Fixed cables over a 20 mt snow section is often mooted, but trouble is snow accumulation is so deep in winter it’d take some serious engineering to keep it there as tons of snow tend to want to follow the laws of gravity…
Cascade Saddle Warning Sign. West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Which leads to the People side of our work…

Gillian, Martin, Flo, Sharon and myself. It’s a joint venture between Gillian and her husband’s Matukituki Trust, that they both formed recently [Bear Grylls donated a cool $K10 too] and DOC, so Flo and Sharon are the organisers of resources and the restoration plan and Gillian, on top of keeping the bigger marketing picture happening, does a superb job catering…
Matukituki Trust, DOC and volunteers. West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

It was the hut warden’s birthday, so a cake came in and a few beers appeared…
Matukituki Trust, DOC and volunteers. West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Yours truly and Rod in the best chairs for awhile with everything at hand…
Matukituki Trust, DOC and voluteers. West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

On our return to DOC headquarters in Wanaka, Martin and myself suddenly realised that the old Liverpool Bivy from across the valley from Aspiring French Ridge Hut is in their work yard so we stepped inside briefly for a walk down memory lane…
Liverpool Bivy,

Martin [Curtis] is a very well known folk singer from up the Cardrona, and his signature song long known by myself and others and now the huge US market is “The Gin and Raspberry”…
Martin Curtis

THE GIN AND RASPBERRY
(Martin Curtis)

While hunting for Fox, we first came this way
From Lake Pembroke township took many long day
To cut through the bush and we found a new rush
With a mine called the Gin and Raspberry

Chorus
Oh but it’s hard, cruel and cold
Searching Cardrona for nuggets of gold
An ounce to the bucket and we’ll all sell our souls
For a taste of the Gin and Raspberry

The rumours went out and the thousands poured in
A handful grew rich and many grew thin
They all hoped to find their own patch of tin
As rich as the Gin and Raspberry
Oh but it’s hard . . .

At first it was summer, and we all thought it grand
No shirts on our backs as we sluiced and we panned
But then came the snow and the southern winds blow
And there’s ice in the Gin and Raspberry
Oh but it’s hard . . .

(Young) Billy McGrath, he worked hard and worked long
(Always) ready to smile and to sing us a song
But then he struck gold and was found dead and cold
Down in the Gin and Raspberry

So I’ll work out my time and I’ll stay out of strife
I’ll save all me tin to send home to me wife
And when the job’s done, I’ll leave at the run
And to hell with the Gin and Raspberry.
Oh but it’s hard . . .

Come and drink up your Gin and Raspberry.

Listen to a sample by Martin>>

The task – tracking tunnels…

My thoughts on how more native birds can find a home in this valley is fairly simple and based on what I’ve learnt from Flo:

As data comes in from the head of the valley [lines established for monitoring every three months from Pearl Flat down to the where the Rob Roy stream flows into the Matuki] we’ll probably find that the prevalence of predators decreases from the head down.

Therefore since the valley is somewhat “enclosed”, species could be reintroduced into the head of the valley first and with trapping lines in the right places downstream, stand a very good chance of flourishing. Indeed robins have already been released near Aspiring Hut, and they seem to be holding their own.

Sure stoats could traverse Cascade Saddle, but trapping lines there too could help. By contrast trying to reintroduce species in the likes of the Makarora area is almost doomed to failure as the highway will always be an easy access corridor.

It’s better I think to use an area like the Matuki watershed and the expand it outwards down valley

After having laid the tunnels a few months back, we now had to find them again using memory, maps and GPS. The lines are straight so finding the 1st tunnel was ideal and sometimes elusive. Once on the trail our pink ribbons help, but of course the keas will eventually destroy them all in play…
Matukituki Trust tracking tunnels, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

A blue triangle we nailed above each each tunnel helps identify it’s number…
Matukituki Trust tracking tunnels, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

To wander quietly alone in these rarely visited places is a privilege, but we do share it with a very busy sometimes fascinating eco system…
fungi on a silver beech tree, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Tracking tunnel in situ…
Tracking tunnel in situ, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

This time round we anointed the centre section of a cardboard with ink that won’t dry quickly, and place a dob of peanut butter in the center, then place it on the wooden base inside each black plastic tunnel. Over night as critters big and small are lured to the bait, they leave foot prints when backing off, and the next day we collect the cards. There are wires at each end to discourage weka getting in, but this does not always dissuade opossums…
Tracking tunnel in situ, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Gillian and Flo examine some tracks…
Tracking tunnel tracks, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Mice! You might think they are not big enough to harm native bird chicks and eggs, but they do compete for food. The relationship between mice, insects, rats, stoats and opossum and the beech “mast” that varies the amount of food per season from Silver, mountain and red beech trees is complex and I believe not yet fully understood…
Tracking tunnel tracks, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

On the way home I took yet another photo of what is probably New Zealand’s most walked bush path to look at a glacier cirque, typical of many in our Southern Alps. The Rob Roy Valley and Glacier…
Rob Roy Glacier, West Matukituki Valley Mt Aspiring National Park

Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise in the north branch of the Matatapu Valley

Every year at this time just before we enter the busy season in the outdoors we have what is called a SAREX [Search and Rescue Exercise], so all various skills needed get a refresh. This year there were three scenarios: alpine cliff rescue, white water searching/rescue, and the one I went on loosely known as bush, where we search then bundle the patient[s] up for evacuation to the appropriate resource.

This year I decided to have a go at documenting the many aspects from start to finish…

On the Friday night the Incident Management Team made a plan ready for us to implement. We started kitting ourselves out with clothing, GPS, radios, torches, stretchers, ropes/anchors and tracking kits at the new Police Station in Wanaka at 7.30am…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

Then we assembled for a briefing…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

I always like to photograph the white board as you never know out in the field what you might need to recall, and if comms. are problematic, as they often are, then it’s good to have all info on hand…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

All names are real, but as it’s only an exercise I feel comfortable displaying them here as there won’t be any worried families re media considerations to consider…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

The good thing about the white board is that any off us can just walk in and gather info. without needing someone’s time to brief us. And of course it’s not accessible by the public in the real thing…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

Next we drove up the road towards Aspiring National Park to the Aspiring Helicopter’s new hanger, and here the first load is in the air. Their first “tasking” is to land on a central high point/mountain and set up a radio link box, with solar panels, batteries and aerials, then test same. This then becomes a “repeater” so out in the field deep in the complex valleys we can talk to search HQ in Wanaka, and advanced field HQ, helicopters and other teams. Getting the placement right is critical and sometimes this takes trial and error, and valuable time. Then working with same, even then can be complex as there are different frequencies for different jobs. In a worst case scenario the helicopter pilot can become the “relayer”, but this is not ideal…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise Aspiring Helicopters

And then it’s our turn. My team leader Heather in the front ready to make decisions on where to land near a hut so as not to contaminate the scene. Our first tasking is to gather “intel” such as did they stay in the hut, is their gear still there, did they leave an “intentions” note, what gear might they have with them etc…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

Pilot James…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise Aspiring Helicopters

The next load in…
sarex-out-of-LR.jpg

While we searched in great detail around the hut, they headed off immediately downstream. The other link box team having successfully set up the radio repeater had gone up-steam. All three parties contain people with tracking skills…
sarex-out-of-LR-2.jpg

As a sub tasking Eric, an old mate from way back that I ski with a bit, and I have to “cut” a 50 meter circle around the hut, looking for entry and exit signs. We have to try to also find the direction of travel [DOT] of anything we find. While doing this we mark our own tracks by scuffing and tying coloured paper to whatever, and also endeavour to NOT walk in the obvious easy places – which often sees us jumping from tussock to tussock so as to not disturb clues. This is painstaking but worthwhile intel gathering, and as it turned out we found every track they’d left, even to get water from the river, or toileting, but we were always looking for DOT…
Aspiring Helicopters

While Eric radios in a good footprint “find” including it’s size, I GPS it and we note the latitude and longitude. We of course wonder if it’s there from a water filling trip to the creek, or did they cross and head off hunting!? We decide on the former, as there were no signs of scuffed grass on any possible exit points on the opposite bank. So we have dry feet and the crossing looked a bit sketchy anyways at this narrow point. It’s very “electronic” these days too, and we even use very small radios for comms person to person over up to 1 Km apart – very handy as we’re then not cluttering up the “bigger picture” network, but of course none of this gear likes being submerged so there goes another time consuming dry-bag task/detail to be attended to when crossing!
wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise north matatapu

We also found an old Emerates sachet, GPS’d it too, despite it looking quite old. In some scenarios that could be a clue to be followed up to learn more about our client’s arrival in NZ etc. and luggage/intentions they had etc….
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

I really love these high country rivers, but they’re never warm enough to swim in for long, even on the hottest summer day…
sarex-out-of-LR-6.jpg

It’s BIG country I realise…
sarex-out-of-LR-5.jpg

At this point we learn via the radio that 1] the most experienced hunter has been found some distance away and is currently being airlifted out via the ACR team’s assisting with a strop, and 2] our downstream team has found prints. So we are then picked up and dropped down stream further so that our three teams now leap frog each other until we either find the other missing two, or find tracks where they left the river or went up a side creek. And this is what the underside of a two ton helicopter looks like flying away from us…
IMG_9797.jpg

Then it’s all quiet again…
sarex-out-of-LR-7.jpg

But while Eric and I link up to cross the river Sparky and Heather find the best print yet. We have DOT! We also carry acetates and felt marker pens to trace the outline – this can be invaluable in a some search scenarios to help identify who maybe where…
Search and Rescue Exercise Tracking

Again I note it’s BIG country as I look back upstream! Who would have guessed so close to town and Treble Cone ski area…
North Matatapu

In the last drop-off we were alarmed we’d acquired an extra pack – as it turns out it was full of ropes, and I’d unloaded it by mistake. We could have split up it’s contents as the pilot decided not to return, but Sparky offered to carry it on his front for awhile. Here he jokingly points “onwards” team. And you know what; he was pointing exactly in the direction of the two missing boys…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise

But having found a print, we then got picked up again and deposited at the confluence of two branches of the river, with another team. As we were starting to get on top of each other, and the barbecue was to be at 4 pm, we knew we were getting hot. And we found more prints in the area, and none down stream, so we looked up, and Heather spotted, believe it or not, a brief glimpse of an elbow up in the nasty bluffs to right. She grew up in the hills, the daughter of a high country farmer up at Makarora… so she knows her stuff [and is one of my special friends]…
North Matatapu

Just as I was beginning and near the last person, the rather awkward ascent up all-too-slippery snow grass, the helicopter returned to unload the stretcher so I went down to it to help with carrying parts of…
Aspiring Helicopters Squirrel

Paul took on one of the more awkward loads…
Wanaka Search and Rescue ExerciseEX Ferno Washington Stretcher carry

On arrival and after a rest, I got asked to help a bit with a belay, and suggested we have two of, as the direction of travel was to change just under where I was standing. The others did a great job First Aid wise and were preparing to walk one of the young men down [sprained ankle], and had “stretchered” the other who had had a diabetic event…
Wanaka Search and Rescue ExerciseEX Ferno Washington Stretcher lower

Steep yes, but mostly slippery due to old snow-grass stalks. Bad enough in good weather but lethal if it’d been wet…
Wanaka Search and Rescue ExerciseEX Ferno Washington Stretcher lower

sarex-out-of-LR-15.jpg

At this point I headed down in time to be close to the first load flying out to the sausage sizzle. Having proved the “lower” was do-able, the patient was evicted from the stretcher above and we all made our way down and home…
Aspiring Helicopters pickup

Another good friend Mike K looking like a bull thar. He used to muster wethers on this block 30 years ago, so he was right at home…
sarex-out-of-LR-18.jpg

For the flight back I had a front seat so it was just the best bonus as we flew up to towards Treble Cone and across alpine tarns and river flats I’ve actually ski toured on years ago…
Treble Cone above the north Matatapu

Coming over the ridge to End Peak I realised we’d been quite high all day as I looked across at Lake Wanaka and Diamond Lake in the foreground…
sarex-out-of-LR-20.jpg

Debrief and sausage sizzle back at the hanger…
Wanaka Search and Rescue Exercise de-brief

What impressed me on this wonderful day out was how effective tracking can be, and interestingly it’s very effective at night when you can shine a good torch beam across a detail so the shadows give more relief. Of course in this type of country it may have been possible to locate the missing people faster by helicopter on such a good day, but good days are not always the domain of emergencies!

If I’m ever unlucky enough to get into trouble in the hills, then I want it to be near Wanaka – my friends in SAR have very strong and diverse skills, and I’d be in the best of hands! So-much-so they set a standard that always inspires me to try harder to add to my own tool-kit.

Wanaka Autumn Art School part 2, and my unrequited love

Well what a wonderful experience it’s been attending a learning and creative intense week on all aspects of landscape photography with such a good tutor as John Doogan and an outstanding group of fellow students. Here are a few of my images:

Each afternoon we’d go to a different Wanaka location and spend a couple of hours making some images, which later we’d have to distill down to two, and the next day we’d critique each other’s selection. This one took awhile to set up, with tripod in the creek etc. by the airport, and thanks to being fussy there was not much post production work needed…
Autumn Lake Wanaka

For our last two assignments the weather was sunny with more contrast between light and dark than I care to work with, so I spent sometime “seeing” and working in the middle of shady thickets…
Wanaka Autumn

Playing with tension between objects at the Lake Wanaka Outlet, illustrates my above comment on the extreme contrast in light around 3 pm…
Wanaka Lake Outlet

I’m a sucker for autumn with the carpet like potential of fallen leaves. On this occasion I hung about until the light got lower and more tangental just as the sun dipped below the western horizon…
Wanaka Autumn Leaves

A sculpture at the Lake Wanaka Outlet by fellow cross country skier Ernie Maluschnig, a Wanaka metal worker and artist…
Wanaka Laughter Art Work at Lake Outlet

Wanaka Outlet Art Work

I went back to the Lake Wanaka Outlet to catch the ANZAC day dawn light, and froze my butt off doing the “landscaper’s wait” perched on top of my camper truck for this shot…
Wanaka Outlet Autumn

When the course finished on Friday afternoon I was a bit of a lost soul coming back to the “unreal world” from working with light and very special people for five days, so I wandered the Lake Wanaka shoreline on dusk to begin to assimilate many feelings arising out of the dichotomy of art [from the heart/gut feelings] and craft [the technical skills needed to make an image].

Readers here might wonder at my comment that it had aspects inherent in it of being in love in a never ending creative unrequited sense, but my heart was opened somewhat by the experience!

Can our creative urges in their many guises ever truly be satiated?

“Wandering” at least often leads us to other kindred spirits…
Lake Wanaka Tree

Snow Farm fencing, Pisa rambles, and rain at last

I had to go up to the Snow Farm yesterday [Sat] for a meeting or two, a barbecue and a working bee. It was great to be back in my winter wonderland!

Snow Farm NZ

After the barbecue [above] and meeting I decided I’d enjoy doing some physical work, which I plan to extend over the next few months, repairing snow retention and trail fences, so I made a start here…
Snow Farm NZ

I’ve long had a very simple winch, modeled on wire fence strainer, and found it really handy to pull poles leaning due to soil subsidence and snow build up. It’s a very simple device, employing a long handle for leverage and two ratchets…
Snow Farm NZ

There are a lot of fences to tidy…
Snow Farm NZ

In the evening I headed off in my 4wd camper to spend the night high up on terrain I often ski tour on each spring…
Snow Farm NZ

The same area as of Sept. last year…
Snow Farm NZ

Mt Aspiring, and the weather looking threatening…
Mt Aspiring from Snow Farm NZ

Very fragile alpine vegetation and soils higher up. There is only one track so the idea is to never deviate from it, as it’d take hundreds of years for such vegetation if damaged to regenerate…
Snow Farm NZ

Just on dark…
Snow Farm NZ

The lights on the right are of the Lake Hawea township, the glow on the left the light from the larger Wanaka community. I could also see the glows of Cromwell and Queenstown reflected off the bottom side of the thickening cloud ceiling…
Lights of Wanaka from Snow Farm NZ

Dawn, and more rain to follow the start of same at 2.30am…
End Peak from Snow Farm NZ

Snow Farm NZ

Gathering clouds on the background Pisa Range are a sure sign of weather closing in…
Cloud on the Pisa Range

Same spot as of last Sept…
Snow Farm NZ

Since it’s not rained for several weeks until now, the rain just beginning to fall again as I was leaving gave a rich colour tone to the “browned off” vegetation…
Alpine vegetation Snow Farm NZ

The bent steel of this fence is caused by snow buildup each winter, The fence was probably built in the 1930’s…
Snow Farm NZ fence line

The same fence line as of last Sept…
Snow Farm NZ fence line

It’s been a great summer for snow grasses…
Snow Farm NZ snow grass

Alpine Bog land…Snow Farm NZ alpine bog

The same spot as of last Sept…
Snow Farm NZ Tranquility

Snow Farm NZ alpine bogland

Although not obvious as I descend into the Cardrona Valley it’s been raining for about an hour. Love the light that this brings on…
Mt Cardrona from Snow Farm NZ

And I headed next to the Cardrona Hotel for a coffee and choc. muffin with cream by the fire. I was chilly and damp after my follies so it was nice to warm my knees, before heading off home to Wanaka. The guy who restored it many years ago suffers from migraines, and maybe this is why it’s dark inside…

Cardrona Hotel

And a few hours later it’s still raining! The drought, if such a thing ever exists in a Central Otago summer, would appear to be over.

Minaret barge pusher boat out of Lake Wanaka for survey

Some years ago Wanaka local identity and business man Sir Tim Wallis commissioned a huge barge to be built to service his Minaret Station up the lake from the Wanaka Makarora highway [the popular tourist route and only road to Haast and the West Coast]. The barge and pusher boat were built and assembled near Wanaka on a gently sloping beach and boat launching area called Waterfall Creek. It was quite an event in more ways than one!

So when I heard recently the unit was being serviced there again I took a drive to check it out:

Minaret Station Barge Lake Wanaka

Minaret Station Barge Lake Wanaka

The local newspaper based in Dunedin, the Otago Daily Times did an article on it as well:

For the first time since its launch in Lake Wanaka almost 18 years ago, the pusher boat for the Minaret Station barge was taken out of the water this week to be surveyed.The 15m by 6m, 65-tonne vessel has attracted plenty of attention from the […]

more via >> Barge boat out of lake for survey | Otago Daily Times Online News : Otago, South Island, New Zealand

Five years ago today my inspirational friend and mentor Rika passed away…

RIP Hendrika Josephine Couwenbergh 22.10.1935 – 18.12.2007

I posted this after her Wanaka farewell ceremony on 1/2/2008, and here I do it again as she left me with inspiration and much personal work still in progress..

Spreading of ashes ceremony Waterfall Creek, Wanaka [Rika’s favourite colour was blue – hence the flags which I believe got there thanks to Kaz and Greg]
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Miek [grand daughter] with her father Rudy [son-in-law], and her daughter Nevada [obscured]. The place was chosen as one of Rika’s favourites to “walk the doggies” as she used to put it – old Jenny in the photo of course…
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Jenny and flowers on the rock Rika preferred to sit on for contemplation and meditation…
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After it was all over…
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For the ceremony this was Rika’s choice of reading [St Therese of Lisieux]…

“May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God and let his presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every one of us.”

_________

The day started wild, but as Rudy said whatever the weather it would be perfect. It was!

Everyone who attended was there to not only honour Rika, but I think in recognition of the unconditional love and wisdom she gave. They ranged from the likes of janitors to high flying achievers, such was the breadth of her work to our community

__________________

You may also be interested in this excellent eulogy crafted today by her grand daughter Miek:

Tomorrow it will be five years since you, Rika – my grandmother – slipped away from this earthly existence. When I consider five years it seems such a long time; if someone had said “you will not see nor speak with her for five years”, I would’ve considered that an interminable age.

But that‚Äôs the funny thing: although it has been half a decade since I have touched you […]

More via >> The Eulogy That’s Been Five Years Coming… « miekblogged.