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


Milford Sound


Picked up at 7:15am outside holiday park for BBQ tour to Milford Sound on purpose built 20 seater coach with driver/guide.

Stop at Te Anau for the Pop-In Café. There’s a creek and mirror lake. A whispering sort of place at latitude 45 degrees. Te Anau the gateway world heritage access to Fiordland. The service base to Milford Sound. Local delicacies of lobster and venison.

Weaving through hanging valleys with beech forest slipping down mountainside. A creek and walk in bush walk for our BBQ lunch. Bush walk to Lake Gunn carpeted in lime moss creeping up dense trees. It is eerily quiet and subdued. North American Diddymo silently chokes the creeks.

Mountains peaking through drifting cloud sitting in the valley. Waterfalls streaming and carving their path down mountain rock. A living museum of water worn environment. Packed in brief at the Chasm, a powerful place where water sculpted surround rock. Constant drizzle from clouds clutching the mountainside. A Lord of The Rings location.

Rural New Zealand runs on beta blockers. The Tuatara endemic species of lizard has heartbeat of ten to the minute. It takes one breath an hour and is as old as the dinosaur. Characteristics would be useful for us asthmatics and professional athletes.

Arch imperialist Kipling describes Milford Sound as the eighth wonder of the world. It is one of the wettest areas on earth, up to 22 feet each year. Named by sealer Captain John Grona who was born in Milford Haven. It’s a wild romantic place abounding in skyscraper mountains. Fiord is an ice-carved valley flooded by the sea after glaciers retreat. Discovered by Maoris thousands of years ago.

Huge mountains erupt out of the Sound gushing waterfalls into the sea. Watching over and feeding the Sound in a magnanimous and maternal gesture. As mist envelops necks are craned to view the summit.

There’s a kind of hushed reverent silence amongst the spectators. It’s an amazing place. Light changes constantly. God had a busy day with proper perpendicular fiord.

Boats dwarfed into dots by magnitude of fiord. Our boat chunters along with touching distance at the hard rock face. Gigantic showers offer to overwhelm boat and passengers. There’s more than a pinch of adrenalin here. Next adrenalin invention could be abseiling down these water chutes into freezing Sound.

It’s a dark, damp, windy and chilling space but possibly unique. Clouds must enjoy themselves as immortality bestowed upon them.

Out to the open sea you could go all the way to Australia via the Tasman. Soak up the atmosphere and mysticism. Baby seals displaying on rock, content but complacent with their nature. Steered into waterfall bigger than Niagara with excited drenching of passengers. It’s all good fun. A spiritual location to slip into oneness with the majesty of its nature.

Seaside café spotlighted on the edge as we perimeter along. It’s a wonderland. A trip to die for.

Deserted top observation deck. Some passengers skip and run round viewing. Most withdraw below for complimentary coffee and shelter. Clouds follow us back obscuring the Sound behind. Returning to be sucked into a veiled black hole. A marvellous trip orchestrated by our driver, guide and chef. Not to be missed.

Kawarau Bridge/Lake Pukaki

The world home of the Bungee. If you come to Queenstown you must have a peep where pioneers Henry and Al started the first commercial jumps. They were emulating their observations of Maori recreations.

Kawarau Bridge built in 1880 crossing the gorge deep below. Jumping chords over woven thread of latex rubber contraception. Each jump costs $165. You get the t-shirt.

Viewing decks crowded by family and friends encouraging and daring. Most get harnessed and launch. Some get to ledge to become conscientious objectors and retire wounded. Lots of kids brave their way down to swirling river. Virgins earning their rite of passage, a sort of bar mitzvah for everyone. We’ve past it already.

Continued on road to Lake Pukaki. Directed to primitive Department of Conservation camp site round the lake. A tap, boghole and stupendous vista. Afternoon walk on the kettlehole track up the headland. Windswept views fill your nostrils and take your breath away. Mount Cook is there but shrouded. Aoraki stands at 3,754 metres.

Another full independence day of catering and toileting. Shared this wilderness site with man from Nelson who’d emigrated in 1971. Seemed horrified that we teased him about origins in our Nelson. He’d never go back home although he enjoyed English trip four years ago. Once again we defend our community and tell of the wonders of our doorstep Pennines. We have our own Tranzpennine express. A certain breed emigrate. We’re just globe trekkers and professional athletes on holiday. He can’t launch his boat in this gale as waves would crash him against the shore. He lives in a luxury converted coach. He must have a bathroom in there. He references himself by declaring that he has a penny or two. Seems like a nice man. We don’t see him again.

Settle down for tea and more La Carré. Proust is waiting patiently.

Run along track focusing on sunrise radiating Lake Pukaki. A friendly greeting from fellow jogger gets me off to a good start. Other people make me run faster bringing on asthma and gasping.

Timaru

Back to basics, chucky eggs and soldiers. Exercises by the shore saluting lake and sun. Melt into the environment and wildlife plays unaware of the mobile hide. Sun begins to colour shade the lake.

Off to Timaru searching for sun and sea. We’re beginning process of disengagement with four more nights in New Zealand East Coast to prepare us for heat of Sydney. We have now started our sluggish track back home. Each move gets us closer to Bradford. Sent email congratulations to Pauline and Trish for their twinned birthday.

Unpleasant trip up the hill to boghole thick with buzzing insects and smell of potent mixture of disinfected toilet material. Technique requires holding breath, covering nose and mouth and straddling with eyes closed. The bush is much healthier and easier.

Timaru is a two hour drive to a spacious camp site for $32. It describes itself as having an “olde worlde charm”. It’s just like South Shields. A little town by the sea, an old fashioned resort not swamped with tourists. A town owned by its residents, not sold to commercial interests. You can enjoy and move on, take it or leave it. Safe beach, regular sunshine, a haven for the older element. It could do with some development.

It’s siesta time, tired by heat, early start, driving and sleep disturbance from rocking gales. I was 60 five weeks ago, apart from family. If its three score years and ten the remainder is one-sixth. Zest for life provides the path for an enlightened second youth. Naked yoga by the sea is one to emulate. Irreverence is revitalising to the spirit. “He’s not half the man his father was” – how do they get a grasp of that?

The spine burns, objecting to crunched travelling and dearth of therapeutic exercising. Bad backs a curse to be endured and lived.

Le Carré has the doctor announcing that orphanages are sanctuaries for children of the dead. A silenced refuge of the hurt. Dad lived the Barnado’s experience. We should have had the courage to talk to him more.

A warm sunny day. Circular walk by sea, creek and parkland recommended by tourist board. The Otipma creek walkway of two hours duration. Lost in docks but found Patiti Point. A whaling station and look-out now a reserve of benches, BBQ, views across Pacific with anchor and whaling grypot for decoration. Dock leaves odour of fish, diesel and pre-morbid sheep hanging in the air.

Proper track opens out to sea and circles to the creek. On a heavy humid day enclosing bush captures the sauna. Path winds by tributary encompassing landfill site, scrapped car dealers and factories as well as ponies and cattle.

Carolyn set off tired with legs gone already. Still drags me around for 6 ½ hours although struggled in last hour. No mention of broken toes.

Communal showers peel off paste of matured sweat, dust, sunscreen and repellent. Hard laboured walk earns privilege of slumping, dips in the sea and soothing tea and chocolate cake. Not one of our best walks. Legs and feet pulsating as they recover.

Dined at local New Zealand restaurant. Enjoyed lamb shanks but over sauced again. Arrange last night accommodation in Christchurch.

Christchurch

Drove to Christchurch. We continue to alternate driving in two hour stretches. Carolyn has driven herself into a relaxed expertise.

Carolyn up at crack of dawn emptying surreptitiously into dump station. Booked into Amber Park Holiday Park at $36 per night. Small, friendly with good facilities. Ten minutes bus service to town centre.

Walked through Hagley Park following river of canoeists and punters to Cathedral Square. Refreshing tea in garden of Curate’s House.

Not seen or heard TV for ages, nor read newspaper. Don’t want to get too far behind. I’d like to keep up with how many Palestinians they’ve killed now. I had planned to work in a kibbutz. I should have gone to the Lebanon.

Christchurch is the garden city. The most English of cities. It was a vast track of wetlands and an early Maori settlement.

Past the boathouse café at site of the punting station. For half an hour guided tour you’d pay $20. “Its just like Saltaire”. Bought souvenirs for kiddiwinks. Licked real fruit ice cream in Cathedral Square. Photographed silver cone sculpture named as Chalice by artist Neil Dawson in the millennium. It has become an emblem and inspiration for anti-war protestors. Spiritual solidarity with the dead in Iraq. There’s a plaque commemorating New Zealand’s women’s franchise in 1898. Emily would have been pleased but frustrated.

Next door tenant arrived and commandeered our table and chairs. Still not comprehend the custom. Maybe its rule of the tenderfoot. Packing for flight to Auckland tomorrow. When we arrive in Sydney we may unpack for the first time. Cleared out at dump station and extinguished grey water.

Spent morning packing, cleaning and preparing campervan for depot return. No scratches, bumps or breaks to report. It’s breezy, cool and raining. Our wetland walk two days earlier in 39°C was hottest day in New Zealand since 1970. Campervan business holding up as more people booking late for long trips. The last shot before being crunched by jobs, mortgages and debts.

Abrupt, sharp shop worker shares nothing but the negative. It’s out of proportion but it shouldn’t shape your world view. Kind generosity and friendliness paints the world in much brighter colours.

Christchurch offers a little plane with propellers. Everything on time, some turbulence and pleasant staff.

Stayed at Centra Hotel, Auckland. Busy relaxed airport hotel with facilities. Bed bigger than our campervan. She will miss us, got to know her very well in last two weeks of shared intimacies and experiences. We’ve nurtured her along. Enjoyed our $36 buffet meal. Telephone calls to John and Cath.