Monday, June 10, 2013

Lake Lillian

The annual lads tramp - every year since 1981 - 33 in total now and two of the lads have completed every one. Most of these lads are now gold card holders (pensioners to those of you who are not familiar with Winston's gold cards). The wheels are beginning to wobble a bit - knee operations, gout, cancer, arthritis.... to name a few.
The annual trip is not so much about the destination (and we have had some mighty trips over the 33 years - even with the help of a helicopter) but more about the camaraderie with a multi day tramp (hike) thrown in.
The 2013 trip was planned to be one of these events. Lake Minchin at the head of the Poulter River was to be the destination. However on the day, the weather was to have a say, plus one member's recent knee op put some doubt on whether he would make the distance, particularly in light of the atrocious weather forecast.
Now these fully grown lads sometimes have difficulty making decisions. Packs in the 4WD and off to Darfield for coffee, one hour out of town. Coffees in hand, the discussion commenced - "What are the alternatives?". "We got the 4WD to Lochinvar Hut behind Mt White Station many moons ago. We can base ourselves there". A quick call to Mt White Station ended that proposition. They were mustering and using the hut, plus didn't want the 4WD disturbing the stock. A few other possibilities were aired.
"What about the field station at the junction of the Harper and Avoca rivers behind Lake Coleridge" I asked. "Worth a try" was the answer and we headed around Lake Lyndon to Glenthorne Station who now control the area and run the old field station - now called "the Retreat'.
We were in luck and booked the place for a several nights. The 4WD had no trouble with the track and riverbed and we were soon parking 3 metres from the front door!
I have a secret passion for this quintessential area of High Country Canterbury. My Dad took me up here in 'Old Austin' (see '353' post) way back in ~1958 when I was 10 years old to visit my big brother who was working up here on a fencing contract for the NZFS.

Me outside the Fitzwilliam hut in 1958
The same hut in 2013 - the mice are still there!

The Fitzwilliam hut is only a few hundred metres from "The Retreat". The hut is where we stayed in 1958, and I have visited it several times since on my solo trips, including the Trans South Island venture a few years ago. Immediately behind the hut is a small creek which is the outlet of Lake Lillian, a beautiful tranquil tiny mountain lake only a few hectares in size. The walk up the creek takes ~20 minutes and opens up another world.

Lake Lillian the afternoon we arrived

Lake Lillian 24 hours later after a day's hiking in the area
Here endeth the story - a very long winded epistle to tell you about one of my favourite places in the hills. A place with good memories of many visits. And I am confident there will be be more visits to come. Go check it out for yourself. There is much to explore in the area.
Out of interest, I mentioned Triangle Hut in one of my previous posts on graffiti - it is only ~1 hours hike from Lake Lillian.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Graffiti #3

Where was I?
Arctic rocks, hut walls.
How about ancient rock art from Maori and other cultures that are centuries old?

And petroglyphs...........

Are these not forms of graffiti art too? In my mind, yes they are - of course. Many of these go back to ancient times.
Now come forward to the twenty first century - what do we invariably see today?
More often than not, achieved with spray cans...............But it is not all bad.

For years I biked to school past the Canterbury Sale Yards by South Hagley Park in Christchurch - a huge hive of activity many days with auctioneers and farmers in abundance. Sadly this have gone, but the old yards and buildings remain there - but not for much longer. It has become a popular for wedding photos. I have photographed models in there, and recently I have occasionally started taking my granddaughter there with our cameras. There is some great graffiti in there and, if you go back there every few months, it is constantly evolving.

Most of this graffiti is clever and to a large extent welcomed and appreciated, albeit illegally on abandoned walls. But it is not immediately removed - invariably it is left there for all to view over time, and fellow graffiti artists do not spray over it, at least not in the short term. Go back up to the image above (looking through the windows) - here you are beginning to see what I call tagging. Notice that it is not covering the arty forms of graffiti - yes sometimes, but more often avoided - directly proportional to the number of brains cells owned by the tagger.
And this is where the difference comes by. Yes, tagging is just another form of graffiti - but here I find that tagging is almost always unacceptable and definitely not appreciated.
The true graffiti artists are frequently very clever and truly artist - and their skills need to be honed. Taggers need to be put away!
Late last year Chris and I took the van down to Lake Alexandrina for a break. In the morning we spotted a large rock on a distant and remote ridge up towards the Cass Valley, so headed up to it after breakfast. Another Parry's Rock I wondered silently.

My disappointment was huge. All I could see here was tagging with no graffiti artistry in evidence at all. It angered me immensely. Mindless vandalism.
A far cry from Parry's Rock graffiti almost 200 years ago.
On that note I'll end this subject. I acknowledge that I may have it all wrong and that my definitions of graffiti and tagging are likely off the mark, but at least I feel better for airing the subject and writing about some history.

Graffiti #2

I was talking of graffiti in the High Arctic and its relation to history, exploration, etc.
So back home to New Zealand.

Now about high country huts here - I have a conflict here which I can't seem to resolve. My problem entirely. The above image is from a hut in the upper Mathias Valley not too far from the Main Divide. This hut is all but abandoned - the bunks are knackered and there is a newer hut across the riverbed a half hour tramp away. But it does provide shelter with an intact roof. But look at the walls. Many of these contributions go back to the 1930s, 1920s and beyond. It is great to stand there with your brew of tea and browse the history of the hut and the area - just like the hut books (which have a far greater risk of disappearing over time - through damage, loss, vandalism, fire, removal for archiving, etc). The remoter the hut the better the wall 'graffiti' I have found.

 I was doing a solo tramp not too many years ago in the Harper/Avoca area of inland Canterbury and was about to bypass the earthquake damaged Triangle hut (1994 Arthur's Pass quake) when memories of a visit there as a nine year old lad with my Dad whilst we were visiting my big brother who was working for the NZFS as a fencing contractor with a couple of other chaps (we got up to the Avoca River in the old 1929 Austin written up in a previous blog). I dropped my pack and wandered over to the hut with my camera. Again a hut with history etched into its walls. Just as I was about to depart I noticed a bright area high on a wall lit by a reflection through what was left of the window. Investigating the spot closer, there was my brother's name along with his fencing mates. I did photograph it but can't access the slides at present (more earthquake shite - not living in my house whilst being repaired). A great find thanks to a shaft of light directing me to it. Warm memories of one of my first tramps - and of some early tramps and climbs in the mountains with my big brother.

But here is my issue - with myself! The hut above is the new Hawdon hut as it was a few years ago, several months after it was rebuilt by DOC after a fire destroyed the previous hut. We tramped up the the valley in the late afternoon, past the old hut site and on for 20 minutes to a clearing at a turn in the river. I literally stopped in my tracks as I saw this brand new hut - a grand edifice far removed from the style of yesteryear. On entering and looking around before even dropping my pack, I commented to my tramping mate Graeme.
"What do you notice?' I said.
"It still smells new" he replied.
"There is no graffiti at all - yet" I responded.
And there wasn't - nothing at all. Impressive considering the number of people who had already visited in the few months since it had been open, including a number of school groups.
And somehow, graffiti does not seem appropriate in this new hut. I was relieved that the walls were bare, but I can't quite explain why I no longer want to see history continue in new huts as it has for well over a century in high country huts. I'm baffled - with myself.
Maybe I need to go walkabout in the hills again to cogitate this matter!!
But wait, there's more on this graffiti subject - tune in again soon.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Graffiti #1

Graffiti - this post has been in the making for a long time - a very long time - since July 1997 to be exact.
At that time I was up on Melville Island in the high Arctic participating in "In The Footsteps of Parry" expedition. Edward Parry was a British naval explorer sent out by the British Government in 1819-20 to try and find a way across the top of Canada to the Bering Sea - what we now know as The Northwest Passage. Parry with his two ships, got as far as Melville Island before the sea ice prevented any further progress - and soon after retreat. He chose to winter over in a sheltered bay on the south side of Melville Island - aptly named by him Winter Harbour. The story of Parry's expedition is a grand one and was obviously the reason we were there - but that is not why I'm writing this.

The image above is Parry's Rock - an erratic at the entrance to Winter Harbour. This rock stands ~3 metres high and stands out from the relatively flat terrain from a great distance. Its presence was to become significant in subsequent years. In 1820, whilst Parry's two ships were ice bound in the harbour, Fisher, the expedition surgeon, engraved details of the expedition on the rock. The details are not so easy to read here in the image but they are very clear close up.

 This led me to thinking about graffiti at the time. I'm guessing it is - it is no different from what people do today in huts. Humanity has a thing about leaving their mark. I'm not anti graffiti (read on) - don't get me wrong.
To my mind, there was a very good reason for Fisher to record their presence on the erratic rock in Winter Harbour. They were explorers at the cutting edge and I would roughly equate this with filling out a hut book in the mountains here in NZ - to record your presence and intentions - a means of being found if the proverbial hits the fan!
This proved to be true in the case of Parry's Rock. Subsequent expeditions spotted this rock and used it to record their presence. Explorers such as McClintock, McClure, Kellett, Bernier -a few of these were searching for the ill fated Franklin expedition.

The rock became an 'Arctic Post Office'. Many lives were saved as a result of recordings on this rock. Messages were left in a small metal cylinder at the base of the rock and the cylinder remains there today.

In the 1970s the cylinder disappeared - fortunately to the Yellowstone Museum. The original meesages are now carefully cared for there, but copies have been put back into the cylinder and returned to Parry's Rock on Melville Island.
And thus my interest in graffiti was rekindled, and I will continue this subject soon.
If you are keen to learn more about Parry's Rock and the Parry expedition, there is plenty on Google.

Do You Know Who I am?

No, not me silly. With a name like mine how could you know - even if you wanted to know - if I wanted you to know! There are a few of us around and I've met a good number over the years. Surely my lovely parents would not have burdened me with the name if it was so common (popular is the word I prefer) 65 years ago. But I guess it must have been.
But I'm not talking about me - I'm referring to Aaron "Do you know who I am" Gilmour. A list MP until a few days ago - a plonker who taught us (or should have) all a lesson.
For anyone who does not know who he is - and that is likely even if you live here in NZ - simply google the name and I'm sure the details of his recent plonkish activities will be revealed.
The Perspective editorial in this morning's Press was brilliant and summed the plonker up succinctly.
Words like honesty, responsibility, humility, acceptance come to mind.
I'll waste no more of my time with this - nor yours. Enjoy today and learn from this plonker (not the word I'd usually use but perfectly acceptable and expressive in this media.

Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm Still Alive!

It has been a long time - a very long time. Almost 7 months to be exact.
My sincere apologies - although I'm not sure who I am apologising to as any followers have likely given up on me now.
Chris and I are now homeless - our house is having earthquake repairs done. The majority of our belongings disappeared in a container last Friday morning. We camped on the floor Friday night in our expensive hut and moved into the campervan for Saturday night parked up at Rachael's munted house. Yesterday afternoon we moved what is left of our belongings into a wee studio rental for about a month. A cosy little place - a comfy big hut!! This situation we have been forced into has certainly got us thinking about downsizing.
Anyway, I now hope to have time to do a few blogs over the next few weeks. Stay tuned in!!