Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:

Shelf

Brighouse

West Vale

Clay House

Ripponden

Cragg Vale

Todmorden

Heptonstall

Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong

Auckland

Rotarua

Napier

Picton

Marlborough Sounds

Kaikoura

Milford Sound

Sydney

Manly

Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches

Thailand

A City Of Revolution:

Paris

Versailles

Sacré-Cœur

Notre Dame

Discovering New Zealand

Travelling Round New Zealand Sightseeing and Exploring


Kaikoura


Ran to Bob’s Bay a narrow ledge of fiord perched above the sea. It’s named after a local fisherman. Breakfast with the Harbour View overlooking Port and ferry turn round.

Collect our campervan for two weeks self-catering touring in South Island. Apprentice from Cardiff takes us through rules and regulations for an hour and a half. It’s an oversized Transit fit for purpose. Campervan novices, we will become connoisseurs of wonders and mysteries of grey water and dump stations. Not driven an automatic since 1968, it’s all push button and go. It’s extra for table and two chairs. Extra for excess free insurance. There’s a limit.

Head bang windscreen on first left foot braking. Strained focus to make left foot redundant. Incident free cruising on the open road. Destination Kaikoura for whales and dolphins. Stall at the seal colony at Ohau Point. Maoris name them Kekeno and eat them, skin for clothing and utilise for medicines. Hundreds lumbering over rocks feasted on squid and octopus. They can dive to 250 metres and stay under for ten minutes. On surface smell is pervasive. Their whiskers are antennae.

Internet booked Top 10 Holiday Park at Kaikoura. Hook up and explore facilities. This place is for the masses. Ignorant of local custom we let the German party claim the picnic table. There’s the dramatic backdrop of the snow capped Kaikoura range. Pondering what it will be like cooped in hot stifling insect cage.

Go off site for an Indian. We’re told all whale discovery tours at $140 each are fully booked. Waiter explains that Vindaloo compulsory if you’re from Bradford. Curry disappoints and inform waiter nothing like what I’m used to. “Each chef cooks it in their own way”.

Watching Whales

Not bad at all. Slept flittingly, reasonably comfortable and not too hot. No further bites evident. Are we escaping from worst pandemic areas? Sleep disturbed by heavily laden goods trains railing along a few feet away. At 3.00am nuclear war siren shrieks for ten minutes. It could be an earthquake or a volcano. No-one around us aroused to panic, return to sleep. Kiwis in camp announced it was siren call to bring in volunteer fire fighters.

Book Whale Watch tour. There’s a swell out there. Digest sea legs before embarking into Pacific. Seals on the rocks are resting. They can inflict painful and infectious bite. Resident sperm whale is largest living carnivore, equivalent to four elephants.

In 1840 the Irish famine killed one million. Another 1¼ million emigrated. Some came to Kaikoura. It’s hot, I can feel skin burning through layers of sunscreen. Mountains are streaked with snow. They’ve had a hard winter here.

Strong chance of sea sickness forecast, advised to sit at back and suck on mints. Carolyn falling asleep as excitement builds. Start the journey with crowded bus to South Bay to pick-up boat. Set off rushing and rolling, dropping in crashing motions. Carolyn fills four disposable bags. Spotted and cornered two sperm whales. They surface for restocking and spitting, remaining largely submerged. There are two boats, two choppers and light aircraft circulating like vultures identifying their prey. We know we do it but it diminishes them and us. They’re gentle giants who wish us well. We’ve nearly destroyed them. They’re awesome as tourist fodder. Sold as eco-tourism and re-cycling it is shameful really. It makes you nauseous. I took lots of photos.

Carolyn recovers laying debilitated on shaded platform of railway station. Unable to re-live her trauma. She sleeps two hours in campervan under influence of another sea leg. Vows never to crash in the sea again. She has her memories.

Eat fish and chips in the crescent moon with red sky covering the towering peaks. Waiters still unable to interpret what bread is.

Christchurch

Dawn sun welcomes the mountains with bloodshot, glowing light. Jutting stump felled me and injured hip. There’s dangers everywhere.

Packed up campervan and set off for Christchurch. Another hot day. Ann and David’s impressive two storey house built unto hillside looking over Christchurch. They offered their house as they went to New Year’s party on the peninsula. We stayed downstairs in granny flat and had run of house. With space, high ceilings, picture windows and stairs there’s so much room. Campervan left deserted at roadside.

New Year to be designated as Year of Retirement. First part will be following my memory genes to Sydney where my grandfather died prematurely from pneumonia. His wife and two toddlers returned destitute to England. My father and his sister handed over to Barnardo’s where the late Queen Mother asked to be kept informed. His education to be paid for by the brother corn chandlers in Gravesend. Roots run deep with hidden tentacles underground. Ageing process dignified by the certainty of heritage so inevitability of birth and death can be comprehended and endured. A completion of the circle.

Early New Year breakfast to rail station for Transalpine on two and a half hour track to Arthur’s Pass, return for $280. Stunning dramatic scenery, edge of gorgeous through tunnels and viaducts. Tea and muffins served alongside commentary. The stage coach road emulates Wells Fargo. No life exists here in sparse population. Heavy murky clouds embrace tallest summits. It’s just like Wales. Lupins lined up by the track. When you ride over Takaka Hill you leave your troubles behind.

Arthur’s Pass is cold, windy, shiveringly damp and drizzle. It’s no stranger to earthquakes. There’s severe weather warnings with some Passes closed. Before tramping you complete an intentions form at the Visitors Centre and carry a personal locator beacon. There’s a series of walks from easy, demanding, to suicidal. You could sample the 23 km Southern Alps run on March 7th. Arthur’s Pass is 737 metres above sea level. Super savers book in advance and leave at 8.15am.The open air viewing carriage is jam packed with photographers.

Met Tennessee marine biologist who just finished six day mountain walking. Deluge is forecast tomorrow with storms in the west. He is escaping to Christchurch.

Wind rattles you down this valley. Layers are no protection. Keas chased by irate car owners to prevent them stripping rubber.

We advance on the Punchbowl and falls track. There’s hundreds of wooden steps to 131 metre waterfall but worth the climb. Lunch taken on picnic benches below waterfall shared with Japanese party and sandflies.

On return journey lots of weathered, sleeping, recovering tourists slumber on way back to Christchurch. A few laptop screens, and knitting seems popular. “One of the world’s great railway journeys”. French Tourettes youth disturbs with angry shouting and punching. Beer, crisps, pop, chocolate and Geoffrey Archer crowd our table. Israeli woman complains of desertion by her companion two days earlier. Difficult accent is tiresome, and whining repulses. “I’m on the train in New Zealand”. Surely it’s a quiet coach.” Same to you, happy New Year.” Our friends slip in and out of Indian and English as though both compatible.

A Thai green curry served by Ann and David. We provide special New Zealand white for the celebrations. Middle Earth is on the doorstep. Nurse friend Carol joins for sparkling and Reisling. Share stories of colleagues and foibles and Ghengis tendencies of psychiatrists. Carol identifies immigrants as problem for the infrastructure. She’s Scottish and we’re all immigrants now, and globe trekkers. We’re no problem to anyone.

Lake Tekapo

Ann is happy and enjoys life in New Zealand. She has no close friends. Psychiatrists are authoritarian, retarded with no concept of teams. Oligarchs with all the answers and decisions.

Drove to Lake Tekapo, the place of legends. Lost in labyrinth of Christchurch. Parked in car park on edge of beautiful, breathtaking turquoise lake. It’s the rock flow which gives the colour intensity. We have our own power and independence next to the University observation bus. A delightful alpine village by the glacial lake surrounded by mountains. Not at its sparkling best in the rain. The church of the good shepherd is nearby and well visited. Built to the glory of god in 1935.

Sky is huge and alive with clear constellation of Taurus, Orion, Gemini and Cancer, Wiener Schnitzel in adjacent hotel opening to the lake. Slow service, disappointing rubber food and tiny, reducing menu. Cheap, staff pleasant and helpful, left a tip entranced with view of recurring semi-circular rainbow.

Queenstown

Early light run round Lake Tekapo. Breezy and cold but good track around lake past hot springs and spa. Finished off with icy wash in lake.

We begin our journey to Queenstown on flat straight roads cruising the alpine plateau. Revealing atmospheric snow capped mountains and precious emerald and blue expanse of Lake Pukaki. Scenery changes as green and browned mountains flow like resting giants’ fingers from the sky. Warming glow as descend with clouds playing with peaks, shaping shadows and exposing rugged shrubbery. Scenery overtakes the destination.

Through the Lindis Valley some of these caps frightening in their primitive intensity and closeness. Who made these roads? Each film set rolls seamlessly into the next. Splattered hedgehogs litter the road.

Met Queenstown with shock of cars trafficked together and shoppers cascading down bulging streets. Biting bitter wind blows unforgiving over the lake. Beauty of Queenstown yet to seduce and entice. Lovely Top 10 Caravan Park on periphery of town at $50 per night. Usual comprehensive facilities. Some gay Frenchmen commandeered our picnic table. This is tolerated within the camper’s code. Not yet used dump station. Look for opportunities to watch experts. Looks like rubber gloves, bucket, cloth and disinfectant are central. Women do cleaning and partners manhandle the cartridge in a joint stereotyped endeavour. Carolyn can do all this, it’s her dump. Linking up to site electricity a symbolic act as Freud would describe.

The adventure capital of New Zealand. Adrenalin rushes out of every pore. We book a leisurely 13 hour coach and cruise affair to Milford Sound. We need to use laundry and toilet facilities.

Queenstown sits on the shore by Lake Wakatipu backed by the towering Remarkables. It’s just like Galway. Jet boats, steam tours, white water rafting and bungees are available. The adrenaline epicentre of New Zealand. Some people do shopping and cuisine. It’s a delight for the taste buds.

Dined at proper bustling Italian for tasty ravioli. Trip to Milford Sound includes coaching cruising and BBQ for $170 each.

Queenstown voted as friendliest place in world and a dream for nature lovers. We should visit Arrowtown just 20 minutes away. Born of the gold rush in 1862 with many original buildings and opportunities for gold panning.

Exposed run along the lake, breathing laboured by asthma. Had to escape Saturday night rowdies. Comments fuelled by alcohol and lack of sleep. My sleep disturbed by loud disinhibitions of club set. They’ve enjoyed themselves. How much does it cost for twelve hours of drinking? We pay $50 at the holiday park and $7 to wash and launder stale, dirty clothing.

Lazy slow morning with picnics on shore walk to Frankton. It’s a cool, blown sort of place. Reprimanded by some German person for not abiding by the left. I saved and bundled him away from raging cyclist. No thanks were audible.

Magical ley lines intersect at Queenstown. Commercial considerations subdue their effect. Family outings on bikes prominent with helmets and recalcitrant children. There’s catering for the jet-skis, yacht and tourist steamer. Where’s the adrenalin rush? Trainers holding up well to pounding New Zealand terrain. A mental note to read Proust and contemplate meditation again. Exercises to loosen and stretch have broken rhythm of routine. You can’t fit everything in. Caress on neck keeps me content and happy for rest of day. I think I’ll be a yoga specialist when I get back.

Enjoy your chores, do them well, there’s no rush. Have a night in with sardines, toast and packet soup. Have a rota to make sure women not domesticated. It’s easier to just do it. The sea beckons yet it is unfamiliar to me. In Galway the Irish bring an affinity with them. It’s an outdoor sort of life for adrenaline junkies. Who could live in a house like this? It’s a series of city-states, not a new country.

Queenstown grows as wind moderates and sun magnifies. All the ingredients need to be mixed. “This is the best view in the house” “well come and join us”. Enjoyed the sandwiches but missed the condiments. The poplars and willows grow bent into the wind. Enjoy while you can.

William Rees explorer, runholder and first European settler and founder of Queenstown. His sculpture on waterfront befriended by a ram. Looks like a dude. How could he explore and sell the land? He is set in stone and averts his eye from the lake and your gaze. Maoris didn’t enclose so have no consideration. Rees sold up for pot of gold.

Sunday papers headline key to effective learning is quality of relationship between teachers and students. Thatcher’s children have not known this for a generation. Unseasonable weather plagues holiday makers across North Island. Hailstorms and snow affect Rangiora Trots and cricket. Maria de Jesus died on Friday in Portugal at age of 115. “It’s in the DNA.” There’s a nasty wave coming but we don’t know the date or size. A week ago Israel launched devastating strike at Palestinian enclave with Palestinians 430 dead and 2,250 wounded, Israeli 4.

TSS Earnshaw, the twin screw steamer continues its cruise.