Strange Notations and Ruminations

mattonmilford
 

Milford Track, 2009. Looking out from under a long felled tree trunk I look as though I am wondering where to go or what to do next. Of course it is very much a posed photo and I knew exactly where I was, or, I hoped the guides from Ultimate Hikes Adventures  knew where we were! I found this photo today on Facebook, in the “On This Day” section that has suddenly popped up on my Timeline. It’s a metaphor for my life today as I look out from the safety of my cozy world towards the future and wonder what it will bring.

If you read my last post you may recall me mentioning I had applied for another job. Unfortunately I didn’t get it; not that I was judged on lack of perceived qualification or ability. I didn’t fill out the application form properly!! Doh! Rookie error! I was momentarily crushed and all the hope I had of swanning into the Production Manager’s office at work, swagger in my step, hoping to gaily and disingenuously  sing my regrets at having to leave the employ of his fine company, putrefied into the sprawling morass of unfulfilled promise which I seem to have been flailing in for much of my life.

No matter. The other mob didn’t deserve me! The thought of another twenty of so years in my current job did momentarily fill me with dread and a sense of foreboding. I felt suffocated and trapped, like a flailing man being dragged out to sea by a rip in the ocean, all hope abandoned, a life of tedium and the company of knaves all I could look forward to at work. However, I am nothing if not resilient nowadays and I have bounced back, ready to face the world once more on this dank and dark Monday.

I should have started perusing the job adds for something else I could do but given the disappointment of my previous failed attempt to find different work I felt something more creative to be appropriate. So I did an Australian Writers Centre course on “How to Get More Blog Readers”! It was a two hour online course with plenty of info, some of which I probably needed a teacher to explain properly but here I am today, reinvigorated, trying to get my Blog out there and recognised.

I will look at the employment pages again soon. There will be something of note to come up which will tickle my fancy I’m sure. I can at least relax now on my impending holidays without worrying about whether I would be required for a job interview or even if I was expected to start work elsewhere. Perhaps it’s time to write a book, a memoir of sorts. “The Secret Lives of Postal Workers” is what it would be called. Boy, do I have some fodder for that tome! Something to think about.

So, life goes on in with the same gentle cadence as always for me. Slow and steady, laborious yet sometimes fruitful. I hope you enjoyed this strange little notation.

Until next time, keep on smiling.

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A Day on the Milford Track/Conquering the MacKinnon Pass

It’s January 2009 and I have been traipsing through the wilderness on New Zealand’s  Milford Track for a couple of days. The track is flat, relatively easy for anyone with a modicum of fitness but there is one major obstacle to negotiate on the second last day. Mackinnon Pass.

 My recollection of how I ended up walking the Milford Track differs somewhat to how Linda, my lovely partner recalls it. A close friend of ours who is mad keen on running, walking, hiking and cycling had done the trip a couple of years beforehand and was telling us one night after having dinner with us how wonderful it was.


 I nodded and assured her that I believed what she said. Next thing I know we were booked to go, Linda interpreting my interest as a sure sign of my enthusiasm. Although I was really impressed by our friend’s experience and made sure I shared her enthusiasm I don’t recall ever saying I actually wanted to do it. That is not to say I wouldn’t like to but the  physical pursuits of my younger days were some years behind me and my sedentary life was quite pleasing to be living. Getting fit for a major hiking trip wasn’t on my agenda.

 In any case I was soon on the plane to the Land of the Long White Cloud enjoying the company of an eclectic group of people. There were Aussies of course and some New Zealanders, some Danes, some Japanese and Americans who were obviously Republican voters as they recoiled when I congratulated them on the recent and historic election of Barack Obama to the Presidency. Never bet that anyone is going to be pleased with what you say! They were nice people in anycase.

 My own little party included Linda, my sister Susan and Barb, another close friend of ours. We were booked with Ultimate Hikes, the pre-eminent company for guided walks in this part of New Zealand and our guides included local Kiwis, Aussies and Japanese.

 I had done a major hiking trip before having cleared the Kokoda Trail in New Guinea some years ago but I had been much younger and fitter. That being said, the Milford Track held few terrors.

 Anyone who has been to Southern New Zealand will tell you that the scenery is stunning and they would be right on the button. Flying into our rendezvous point in Queenstown dodging and weaving through the mountain range they call “The Remarkables” is spectacular enough along with the rest of the scenery in the town which is probably the adventure capital of the world. “Lord of the Rings”, the film series based on Tolkiens’ epic fantasy novels was filmed near here.

 As I said, the walk itself is not particularly hard, the main benefit is the majestic scenery which is delivered with spectacular regularity as the well kept trail snakes it’s way alongside the crystal clear waters of the Clinton River, the lush canopy of bush parting occasionally to reveal the stunning vistas.

Halfway up the MacKinnon Pass

Waiting, on the second last day is the formidable obstacle of the MacKinnon Pass. It is named after a Scottish explorer who was the first to scale the heights of the pass and who later disappeared, presumed drowned while exploring one of the local lakes a few years after the climb up the mountain which has made him immortal.

 A few of our party anticipated the climb with various degrees of consternation but all made it in the end without too much difficulty, albeit in their own good time.

Monument to MacKinnon at the top of the Pass.

 I reached the top with one of the Ultimate Hikes guides where he advised me that he had done this walk over thirty times and this was only the second trip that the summit of the MacKinnon Pass wasn’t shrouded in fog! We were lucky. The tour group which had passed this way only days before had been hit hard by the weather and actually had to be taken out of the valley beyond the pass by helicopter as they were nearly drowned by the overflowing Clinton River!

Made it to the top!

 I waited with my sister Susan at the top of the pass as the stragglers came in and we later walked to the saddle where there is a hut for shelter and admired the views back down the valley from whence we had come. Kia birds had great fun trying to steal the lunch from backpacks and were successful on a few occasions.

 Linda made it to the top in pretty good time for someone who detests walking uphill and it was great to have conquered the major obstacle on the Milford Track and to do it on such a glorious day. But then, we had to descend!

 The track to the bottom of the pass where we would find our guest house and stay for the night was a little less well defined than we found it on the trip up.

The hut and the saddle.

Rocks and stones littered the path and the ominous signs warning that you were walking through a known avalanche region and advising you not to stop certainly kept us moving along rather than pausing to admire the scenery.

 Down below in the valley we could see the speck nestled among the trees which was our accommodation for the night but all in all the trip down the pass was uneventful and the party made it in one piece. That evening a side trip to a spectacular waterfall was distraction from the usual boredom of nights at the guest houses and the next day we made our way to Milford Sound, not without difficulty but that is a story for another time.

On the way down!

Why have I related a story of a trip I took nearly seven years ago? Because I am going back! Yes, part of the team that successfully completed the Milford Track is returning to Queenstown to hike the Grand Traverse. The Traverse is the Grrenstone and Routeburn Tracks combined and will take about six days. My sister Susan and friend Barb will partake whilst Linda has decided that the comforts of a sedan and motel room are more important when travelling and will tour New Zealand while we hike.

 For anyone thinking of going to New Zealand and doing something a little adventurous that doesn’t include bungee-jumping, jet-boating or anything else which may leave your stomach in your throat, then hiking the Milford Track could be for you. You won’t have to be super fit but you will need to prepare. It’s a pleasant hike for the reasonably fit. Ultimate Hikes prepares everything for you even providing backpacks and other equipment. They practically do everything except walk for you!

 Hope you have enjoyed this little slice of New Zealand and I hope it has given you a little taste of what you can expect should you ever walk the Milford Track.

 Have a nice day.

Cruising on the Milford Track

I have been perusing photos on my computer this morning trying to find an image which will liven up this post and make it a little more attractive on the eye. Of course some may say that any photo with me in it will never achieve such a goal but here I am on top of the McKinnon Pass in the region of New Zealand they call Southland, three quarters of the way around the Milford Track.

 Linda and I walked the Milford Track in 2009 and I have been roped into returning to the South Island in February next year to do a walk called “The Grand Traverse” which ranges through similar countryside. This is the combination of the Greenstone Track and the Routeburn walk, both popular but in this case they are joined together for a six day, 84 kilometre hike. Linda will not be joining me. She officially retired from tramping after the Milford Track trip. Walking through the wilderness is not her cup of tea.


  The Milford Track is not a hard slog for anyone use to doing a bit of physical activity. The only obstacle of note is the McKinnon Pass and though it is relatively tough going through the foothills and on to the pass itself, anyone with a decent condition should clear it with no problem at all although I must say, I am looking a little haggard in the photo which was taken by my sister after we crested the summit.

 Linda has an allergy when it comes to walking up hills and the McKinnon Pass didn’t agree with her at all yet she struggled on and crested the summit in good time. This is a shot of her arriving at our lunch stop on top of the Pass. A great achievement for someone who really wasn’t keen on doing the walk.

 One of the guides who was taking us on the trek told us that he had done the Milford Track trip in excess of forty times and this was probably the third instance where the sun was shining and the mountains were clear of frost and fog and the views to the valleys below were clear and the magnificent scenery could be enjoyed in all it’s glory. We were lucky.

 The tour group who had passed this way a mere five days before had been forced to endure a deluge in the valley beyond the pass and had to be evacuated due to flooding. Funny how things turn on a dime and we found a small window of perfect weather to enjoy our trek.

The picture to the left is the Milford Track leading down the flip side of the McKinnon Pass. The stone track is cut into the side of the mountain and you can see the trail snaking down the valley in the top left of the photo. This was in fact a landslide zone and I didn’t waste any time taking photos while walking through that particular part of the track.  Our lodge was an hour or so further on.

 A great trip and I look forward to traversing that part of the world again February.

 Unfortunately, here in the present, things are rolling along like a deflated tyre, just as they usually are. Work awaits me and another long, boring slog through the day is all I can look forward to.

 I have just finished a course which I did online with the Australian Writer’s Centre, a magazine and newspaper writing course which ran over five weeks. It was quite entertaining and informative and I surprised myself by completing all the assignments in the allotted time. A first for me!

 I am not sure if feature writing is my cup of tea. I have no doubt I could do it but interviewing people, sourcing information and talking to magazine and newspaper editors is all a bit too daunting for a social phobic like me. Perhaps I should hire a research assistant? Anyone interested? Can’t promise that the pay is going to be any better than what Gina Rhinehart would pay a Chinese coolie but it might be fun. No takers?

Another problem is that for someone who spends half his life daydreaming I seem to be bereft of ideas which may be turned into a feature article. This is where my readers are welcome to help me. If anyone feels they have an idea worth exploring and a publication worth sending it to, drop me a line. I can’t promise I will be proactive and write an award winning article but who knows. You may see your idea transferred to print someday. I look forward to your submissions.

 I am going to give myself a one week break and do the Writer’s Centre short story course. I think that sort of writing suits my sensibilities more than feature writing. Sharpening one’s mind is always good for the soul in any case.

 So, as this dull and dreary Canberra day closes in around us and the chill of winter begins to envelope us, I will once more bid you all good day and wish you all the best until next time. Adieu.