Walks and Thoughts

of Michael Simes

An old Man's Tale:



West Vale

Clay House


Cragg Vale



Pecket Well

Luddenden Dean

Jerusalem Farm

Catherine Slack

Stone Chair

It's Just Like Home:

Hong Kong





Marlborough Sounds


Milford Sound



Blue Mountains

Northern Beaches


A City Of Revolution:




Notre Dame

Discovering New Zealand

Travelling Round New Zealand Sightseeing and Exploring

Marlborough Sounds

Water taxi with Beachcomber Boats to our start of the tramp. Call into Ships cove where our Jimmy Cook has a monument and where he made home brew for his crew. A beautiful and serene cove of fern and beech trees. Drop walkers for a day trek on Motuara Island, famous for being predator free. A spectacular trip with lush coastal forest carpeting the surrounding ridges. One of natures wonderland with high rising hills to the skyline protecting the tranquillity. Queen Charlotte knew a thing or two.

Furneaux Lodge tucked away at the end of a huge inlet. We glide on glass into this wonderful shore resort. We booked the Possum, a cramped damp garden hut by the toilets for $80 per night. The Dutch manager, Vos, gives us a tour of resort. Area was owned by sea captain, Harry Howden, who donated to Department of Conservation as a scenic reserve. It has become The Jewel of the Sounds. There’s a selection of basic to luxury nestled on the foot of Mount Furneaux. Named after Jimmy’s Captain, Tobias of the Resolution. Still accessible only by foot or boat. The kids here were taught by correspondence.

Vos persuades us to take the honeymoon suite. The best in the house for $245 with access to its own beachfront, patio and picnic area stretching to the sea. No evidence of last night’s bridal suite. Warm sunshine by the lake. Staff thrilled we are in honeymoon suite.

Remote enough it could be a Buddhist retreat. Meditation should be easy. Tranquillity built into the substance. A heavenly place where bush meets the Sound. You could stay here longer in this hide sanctuary. Sit back and take the ambience. You get the Howden restaurant, bistro bar, kayaking, cruises and scuba. The Bell Iron casted by John Warner of London in 1869 has a piercing and reverberating middle C.

The Queen Charlotte track measures 67km. Sampled the waterfall walk in the proper bush. No light enters the cooling shade from midday sun. Path too uneven, too rooted for broken toes so turn back. It’s like the jungle where you mistake logs for crocodiles. Try another track that is too muddy and slipping. Return to our sea garden for more basking, sucking in the scene, tea and chocolate nut bars for energy.

There’s a cricket colony next door. I can hear the mosquitoes planning for tonight’s feast. Our host promises sandfly season is over. Cannot lock our lodge as previous bridal party left keeping their memento keys. It proves you did it. You could come to this place for a holiday. What a wonderbar opportunity for sedate sea kayaking. Carolyn yet to be convinced. I fancy a double, she wants guarantee you can’t tumble.

Enforced rest means there’s no escape from meditation. This is a place to be buried. Cool winds propel gentle waves from the Sound. Boats rock silently, parked for another day. There could be thousands of trampers on the track. They remain unseen immersed in dense forest.

Having difficulty keeping focus on budget. Seem to be exceeding planned expenditure and enjoyment. Not yet seen whales or dolphins. Perhaps they perform only for tourists in designated reserves. No television or mobile signals here. Carolyn nods off in the sun consumed with pain, weariness and serenity. Didn’t know where she was as startled awake. It’s a form of meditation. Think of lying on a warm beach, eyes closed, listening to rhythm of the sea. No evidence of Maoris here apart from a gigantic cooking pot displayed on foreshore. There’s a little entrance door at the side so meat can be shovelled in easily.

The Pakeha epidemics had mown down Maoris. National hegemony undermined by cultural tribalism of Maoris’ history. They learnt English and western way. No pressure on Pakeha to reciprocate, spaces filled with performances.

Found a hammock strung between trees shaded by palms and ferns. Never been hammocked before. Does it swing constantly or is there a relaxed equanimity? Ideal repose but biting creatures strip away your confidence to drift.

Marlborough Sound a flooded valley system of tranquil coves and bays. Vos reports visitors down 30%. Staff are overseas students living in resort. He does not think it will recover for five years.

Maori a rural people urbanised after World War II. Their remaining land characterised by steepness, remoteness, high rainfall and unstable surfaces. A depopulation of rural communities through forced urban migration. Cultural and emotional dislocation with a long apprenticeship of adjustment. Both sides renegotiate relations between crown, Maori and Pakeha. There’s a renaissance, a revival of Maori in 1970’s as tourism growth and shift in power impact.

Punga Cove

Early matins jogrise in the jungle. Passed No Road Inn, seemed very quiet. Drenched in sweat and Deet to protect.

Relax and meditate. Endorphins sedate as circulate. Golden Agers slip easily through meditation to snoozing, a sort of therapeutic sleeping.

Breakfast at side of lake with leftovers of bread, nob of brie, apple with chocolate nut and honey combine a delicious filling. Vos recounts some of cabins have turfed roofs where goats tethered to mow the grass.

Water taxi to Punga Cove for Christmas. Never arrived for Yuletide by boat. Never had Christmas away from home. Never had hot sun. There had been no evidence of celebrations at Furneaux Lodge. Punga Cove is its sister. “Lift up mine eyes unto the hills”.

Arrived at Punga Cove and shown our small narrow A-shaped chalet. Bit drab set in side of hill in bush with startling view. Fridge retains green slime. Mouth watering samosa and pancake roll at jetty café. People arrive with lots of luggage for friend and family. Trampers off the track can be recognised by caked shoes, aching limbs and feet soaked in soothing sea. They don’t look happy. Getting your room early is welcomed as awesome.

Walked up to Kenepuru Saddle and back through Charlotte Track. Two hours walking over rough terrain with broken toe is impressive and booster.

Carolyn swims in cold pool believing ice will recover broken toe. Restaurant has stunning vista over Sound and fiords. Two dollars for 10 minute internet seemed excessive. Solitude is the order of the day. A lovely sunny day.

Marlborough Sound is rich in Maori mythology. The water god, Kupe, settled here. The Queen Charlotte Track was named after King George III’s wife.

Morning run exploring the jungle to Camp Bay. Revenge of the sandflies and mosquitoes with legs and hands pulsating with circulating poison. Tea tree will help.

Chalet resembles living in loft eaves. Crouching, hunched and crunched and bending sideways to wash and closet. It’s camping luxury in idyllic setting for $185 each night at Punga. Pinched roof, it ain’t no place for claustrophobics.

Raining monotonously, trees palmed off with cold. Raid luggage for layers and sit in coat and hat and swill hot tea with toasted jam. We had to get teaspoon, knife and toaster from Ann last night. Another bridal party had souvenired them last week.

Clouds plunder down the mountains into the sea. It becomes steam at the shoreline. It’s just like Wales. Return to bed for warmth and bundle of comfort and joy.

No shelves, drawers or wardrobes to unpack and tiny corridors of floor space. We’ve not unpacked anywhere yet. Will the biting creatures give us relief in this dank. Hay fever has gone, even in midst of vegetation. Our Maori guide was wrong.

Read paper revealing Leeds sacked McAllister. Surprised as he is one of us. He won’t be happy, widowed and with children. Oliver Besoncenot the rabble rousing cyclist and postman is leading an eclectic coalition of former communists and climate activists. He delivers critique of unbridled capitalism and promotes collective ownership. Fresh ideas dormant for a generation. I would like to be a French postman.

Have to keep cleansing trainers in sea to keep seemly for café and restaurant. Will have to decide if Christmas is BBQ lunch on the jetty or dinner in restaurant clutching the mountainside. Plump for the restaurant. Need to shave my legs for Christmas.

The gods of rain have had their day. Set off with borrowed golf umbrellas up, up and beyond cloud onto Kenepuru Saddle. Along the valley towards the other Sound. These remote areas characterised by inquisitive but frightened sheep, cows, deer and horses. Why do they need so much electrified fencing? Isolated cars wave as they pass.

Sheltered in a ditch under tree by roadside making tuna sandwiches and segmenting oranges. Standing lunch stiffens back and arthritic toes which resonate from dull ache to sharp darting pain. Us professional athletes pay the price for previous indiscretions. We are trained to absorb the pain barrier. Carolyn sets off back with renewed vigour and pace. Wish I had a broken toe. Wild cows have to be shepherded off our road. It’s wet cold and windy. Dead sheep with coat plucked off. Stepped over smashed prostate possum. At corner of zenith manage to cut inside for final descent.

Today we rescued a lone Ukrainian backpacker weighed down by large watering can and sent him on his way to the next misty section of Queen Charlotte. Rescued Sydney couple with their camper van mired in muddy ruts softened by the downpour. Engineered a new road of discarded planks and stones to launch them back up the Saddle. Invited them for Christmas dinner. Where were the Kiwis? Our Sydneysiders tell us that Sydney will be in drought and 40°C in January. Rescued a lost German couple and escorted them to reception.

Discovered more punctures, itches and bumps. Carolyn pinched one of my anti histamine. Checked emails but not working properly because of the rain. Catherine managed a sparkling self-portrait in festive hat. Off to mass tomorrow, baby Jesus would be pleased. Will we be celebrating Christmas on the beach?

Wet clothes and shoes need warm hairdryed heating. Promised fish and chips not materialise as café shut with no customers. Where has everybody gone? Excellent cut of meat delivered by French chefs at the restaurant. Booked the first meal of the day for tomorrow. Early to bed listening to carols from Bethlehem and reading Le Carré.

Rise to phone home from public telephone on the jetty at 7:00am. Christmas breakfast a selection of muesli, fruits, yogurts and breads. Checked email Christmas messages. My Christmas present is double kayaking with Carolyn. Another first as a joint endeavour skirting the beach. It’s 40 meters deep away from beach. Wind creeps up creating rollers. Kayaking very popular this morning.

Huge amounts of soup, meats and desserts on offer at BBQ. French chefs on show consuming and organising buffet. Notices demand 15% surcharge as it’s Christmas Day, the government demands it.

Met Mrs Rowntree and commiserated on closure of chocolate factory. They might be sober philanthropists but they’re not really one of us. Later drink addles their conversation and appeal. I’d rather go to bed. Met Andrea who worked as Tyersal teacher eight years ago. Met another Aussie who is setting off tomorrow on 23 km section of the track. We are tempted but Carolyn’s broken toe necessitates caution.

Carolyn does not know the meaning of repose but sleeps through the afternoon drifting after heavy laden lunch. People talk of dolphins but none are spotted. We aspire to the purity of the victim, not guilt of the perpetrator.

Stretch along the track to next bay. These resorts are tiny clearings and minimalist chalets camouflaged and lost in gigantic sea and mountain. Sandflies are in control but no one seems to mind. You could drift anywhere. A time of thoughts for friends and family and snow. A day to endure with Christ. A midnight mass on the beach could have been welcome.

Only one taxi today. Staff get 2 ½ times normal pay, and our tips. What else would they do? Maybe you need to work this environment, not just be a passenger.

Arranged for Carolyn’s toe to be splinted with cardboard and plaster by volunteer ambulance man.

Portage Resort

Caught the mailboat cruise to Torea Bay for Portage via drops to small coves on Marlborough Sound. Pure waters in sunken sea valley. Excitement as seals spotted by Captain Bob. Fleeting visit to salmon farm netted in the sea. Road walked over Saddle to Kenepuru Sound and Portage Bay. What a space! What a wonderful place to be! Luxuriant with straight walls, high ceilings and sitting areas watching wide stretch of beach and stunning surround views. A resort with facilities. There’s no sandflies on me. Three Indians arrive kayaking the 23 km from Punga.

Phoned home where Bobby’s Christmas dinner and family quiz a roaring success. We have Boxing Day on the beach. Receptionist is from Hertfordshire who’s been travelling in Australia. A touch of Christmas and a beautiful place evokes tearful nostalgia for lost and separated souls.

Enforced abstinence must be good spiritually and physically but hedonism wins on points. Meditation sidelined once again. Did the laundry for $2 and wore my Peter Storm safari, anti mosquito shirt for first time. No tuna sandwiches for lunch as fail to break into tin.

Paddle on the crescent, cooling and soothing pitted punctures on my legs. Gentle tepid pushing of the sea welcomed by the feet. Deeper sorties provokes trepidation and fear of what the sea can reveal. Youthful swims in the black rushing midnight sea at Yarmouth failed in mastering the sea. It should be my friend as I’m well disposed. Are sandflies an infestation?

Water-skier squeals with infectious delight as she is yanked round at high speed. You can keep the jungle. Unadulterated luxury on hot summer’s day, even denied an ozone layer, seems just fine. Maybe you don’t need meditation. It could be anywhere in the world. It’s taken me sixty years to get here. Best times start at 6:00am until eleven. There’s serenity at 4:00pm until eight. The space filled with siestas, meals and thirst quenching.

Request for housekeeping to unfold stuck blinds. No action, or apologies from Hertfordshire. Piercing sun escalates room into an oven. Paradise tarnished and fluctuates by disappointments in relationships.

Delicious Cajun chicken fresco adjacent to the beach. Tripods lined up for capturing stunning sunset. We should give people a second chance to recoup. Palm, ferns and Norfolk pine shadow the beach. A cracking day, not much walking.

Te Mahia

Maybe after sixty, all you need to do is make sure you wake up every morning. Run on road round the Sound away from muddy, mozzie jungle. First swim in New Zealand in over four weeks. Cold and refreshing, no sign of crawling slimy limpet things. The sea was kind today. Rain again but forecast sun. Carolyn secreting all my anti-histamine. I may need injections of the stuff. Walk on road for 12 km nursing broken toe to Te Mahia. Two and half hours with packed lunch and scroggle overlooking Mistletoe Bay. There are glimpsed viewpoints for Kenepuru Sound. It’s my favourite Sound. It’s just like Scotland looking over the loch to Glencoe.

Arrived at Te Mahia resort and moved into our retro waterside apartment raised above the sea. 1950’s décor and furbishment magically reminiscent of the Brits seaside flats.

Wind, sea and sun weave a changing picture as you absorb frozen gourmet meals available. Kitchen dining room and bedroom provide a frame of the Sound. Noise and smell of the sea waft through the windows.

Reports of the death of Harold Pinter. He’s one of us, an Irish working class lad. It seems a sad going. His war criminals were Bush and Blair. What a wonderful script.

This place is scattered with prone jelly fish. They don’t sting as sea rolls them in droves. It’s funny when you’re swimming. I don’t swim and I don’t paddle. Surfeit of medicaments brought to the healing process.

A picture postcard through every window. Is it all too grand a scale, too beautiful, untouchable, to admire at a distance. Is there aloofness? Where do you get your ticket of entry? Awesome keeps you on the edge. It’s only the periphery that’s shared. You remain off-cummens for ever. It’s only the female sandflies that can bite.

Weathered sailors reach an accommodation. You couldn’t do that as a novice boy sailor in Gravesend. You just had to fit the fags. Three days in the Navy, that’s my heritage. I could do a lot in a week. A man in a hurry to engage.

Home-made poached egg and beans on toast. Focusing on sailor manoeuvres. Stowed away in rucksacks Pam’s butter gets you round New Zealand. Bought native repellent as ours not deterring, spray every two hours. What’s the message if nature not compatible?

How many beds have we slept in since 24 November? There’s relief it’s with the same woman. Security and excitement hold it together. Staring out to sea for hours there are no dolphins only bobbing buoys and boats. Dolphin farms do not yet exist. Scratching and raw itchings interfere with meditation. No one speaks, there’s no need as sea cannot stop her hypnotic murmurings.

Discovered by observational experiment that a high flying V-shape in the mountains is the barometer and forecast for next day. Tomorrow it will be fine. Earthquake in fiordland. Cyclists next door announce that they felt it.


Sun creeps quietly in the east, illuminating the range. Hard run up the mountainside, knees hurt on steep descent. Sleep disturbed by itching, overheated blood. Potions and creams to the fore. Your toilet starts with anti-histamine cream for pores, layer of suncream, finished with spray of repellent.

A proper tramp to-day on Queen Charlotte Track. Last leg to Anikiwa and return Picton by water taxi. Luggage delivery and collection efficient and safe.

Seascapes glistening and shimmering in the sun. Mistletoe Bay is just like Paleocastritsa. See the confluence of the Sounds.

Track is a canopy of Manuka, Tea Tree and fern sheltering trampers from blazing heat.

Irritated that no chance of being scorched. Carolyn set off high tempo for two hours. Later I will have to carry her. Sweat dripping which can ill afford after spilling pints running up mountains. Us professional athletes need muesli, yogurt, fruit, local honey and isotonic with feet raised to recover.

Track dried out except long jumping mud baths. No toilets for miles. They don’t measure points by sixty year old bladders. Overtaken by young couple geared up. Everyone shows walking boots. It will be a sad day if I ever need walking costume. We passed them. They’d done a double section setting off at dawn. Their feet swamped in embrocation, straps and bandages. They know they’re alive.

After a couple of hours second wind kicks in and legs and back loosen up. Side track to Davies Bay is rewarded with boating fraternity enjoying the sounds. Discovered toilet in glass topped booth swarming with sandflies. A sweltering sauna with banana down the bog hole.

Proceed to end of track at Anikiwa. You can tell grandchildren you completed the renowned Queen Charlotte Track. There’s a long jetty and two berth caravan café serving tea and ice-cream. Lots of Kiwis on the Sunday beach picnicking, frolicking and swimming.

Final taxi cruise to Picton staying at Harbour View again. Carolyn’s bites worsen, will consider medical tomorrow. Host supplies Dettol and swabs to soothe. Blue cod and chips on our return to The Barn. Quality and value at $58 for two. Dettol pervades restaurant but no complaints are made.

Booked Tranzalpine rail excursion as New Year treat. Phoned Ann in Christchurch, a colleague separated by five years and 12,000 miles to arrange a meal on first day of 2009. She sounds like a bouncy English radical.