Russell Kirkpatrick's Journal
My latest novel, with the working title 'Silent Sorrow', is progressing, albeit slowly. I'm trialling a new way of writing, with much less forward planning. The result has been a fair degree of under-writing (quite the opposite of my first series) and a much more enjoyable experience for me.
And that's what it's all about, in the end. There are easier ways of earning money, but I haven't found one that offers as much fun and satisfaction.
I find I'm learning about the characters as I write - which means I have to go back and make them consistent - and I just don't give enough background. Again, that is solved by going back and doing a second draft.
Beta reader feedback so far is very positive.
We were supposed to be on the road by 8am. And we would have been but for a pair of drunken hoons. No, not Stuart or myself, two Monaro-driving morons who were working on the roof of the local hotel and who fled after leaving a $500 bar tab. They went north to Franz Josef and smashed into the only power pole between here and the black stump, taking out all the power between Franz and Haast.
So we had to wait until it was light to pack, and this delayed us for over an hour.
We got a good close look at Franz Josef Glacier, now much higher in my books than Fox - at least you can approach it. Got some nice close up shots.
Then the fun began. We arrived at Otira in the rain at about 4.30, but Arthur's Pass was closed by snow. We raced north to the Lewis Pass - having been told it was clear - only to encounter heavy snow on the Rahu Saddle (700 feet lower than the Lewis). We barely made it to Springs Junction, having passed a truck jackknifed in the snow.
By this time we had acquired a convoy, of one. Gemma had been at Otira, and like us she was trying to make a plane connection in Christchurch. There are a number of passes through the Alps, but none lower than at St Arnaud. Trouble is, that was seven hours out of our way. Still, we didn't want to get caught in the snow or get trapped on the West Coast. We managed to get through at St Arnaud by dint of some superb driving (by Stuart, who took it all in his stride) and outstanding navigating (by me). We eventually arrived exhausted in Christchurch at 3am. Fifteen hours on the road.
We entertained each other (and kept each other awake) with a combination of outrageous dialogues in foreign accents, including some creepy southern states stuff, by singing along to 70s albums and by me fussing about road conditions.
Today we flew ot Auckland, then I drove Stuart to Hamilton and he conducted himself admirably at the Penny's event given his lack of sleep. I said goodbye to him there - awkward, as I couldn't quite tell him what a lovely man he is.
Today would have to be classified as a disappointment, as nothing fulfilled its promise. The drive through to the West Coast from Queenstown was magic, with a stop to take a photo of Arrowtown and later on of the Haast River – boulders the size of cars – but once on the Coast, things were abrupt and somewhat underwhelming. This from the place that usually surpasses itself.
We arrived at Fox Glacier about 1.30 and decided to do a glacier helicopter flight, including a walk on the neve (ice plateau) at over 2000 metres up the mountain. It was a great flight – we flew past Mt Cook (3754 metres, the highest in New Zealand) and landed under the shadow of Mt Tasman (3497 metres), having flushed a mountain Tahr and enjoyed lots of snowy excellence. So why did it feel so flat? Well, it was over far too quickly. We were back on the ground a bare 30 minutes after we left. Worse, the pilot did not switch off the helicopter while we walked on the ice, so there was no sense of being in a pristine environment. We felt very much the intruders.
So we decided to drive to the snout of the glacier to see it up close. Problem was, the access track is closed. No access closer than one kilometre. This outrageous state of affairs is because two clowns got themselves killed by an icefall at the beginning of the year. I’m a damn geography lecturer, I know how to handle myself, so why should I be forbidden access? Truth is, this is convenient for DoC staff who can ease back a little with no track to maintain.
Argh. Well, let’s go and walk around Lake Matheson and see if we can see the famous reflection. I enjoyed this but Stuart, with some childhood idea of primordial forest, was rather underwhelmed. I think the West Coast rainforest is very beautiful, myself. Photographic evidence attached.
Wish I could tell you how good that was. I knew it would be good, but I had no idea it would be magnificent.
Stuart agrees - he is gobsmacked. We're going around with silly grins on our faces and speaking in silly French accents like a couple of schoolchildren.
Didn't begin so well - the flight was delayed. But at 11 we set off, and the moment the plane lifted off the vistas opened up for us. I got a shot of the Remarkables with Lake Johnson in the foreground. Up and over the mountain ranges we went, and I took a good photo of the Hollyford Valley halfway between Queenstown and Milford. We flew straight at Mt Tutoko, the highest in Fiordland at just under 3000 metres, and it seemed so close we felt we could reach out and touch it.
We flew to the coast, affording a glance back at Tutoko, and then down Milford Sound to the airstrip.
Then the money shot - Mitre Peak, the most photographed mountain in New Zealand.
The cruise lasted two hours. I must have done it a dozen times, but never in mid-winter, and it was freeeeeezing. But good. Photos are largely a waste of time. 2000 metre mountains rise straight from the ocean, and you sail in between them. Waterfalls galore, both Bowen and Stirling falls are over 150 metres tall. This is what waterfalls should look like, Australia! (Even then, it's been dry recently and they only have about a quarter of their normal flow.) We saw seals too.
After the cruise came the flight home and my real treat. I told the pilot I was a fantasy author, and as the centrepiece of my second book I'd written about a lake above a waterfall where the Jugom Ark is found, based on Sutherland Falls and Lake Quill near to Milford. He agreed, for the price of the book - I'll send it to him - to take us there on the way home. I wrote about it but I've never seen it - until today! He took us right to the lake and flew us all around it. Magnificent!
The rest of the flight home was beautiful, with the view to the north of Lake Wakatipu, encompassing yesterday's Dart River Safari, the bst moment. All finished by 3.30pm.Gobsmacked, I say.
The day began early with Stuart complaining bitterly about - well, let's say men are men and sometimes smell like men. Too tough for you, Stuart? Take a drink from Hard Man's Creek, that's what I say.
We were taken from Queenstown to Glenorchy by bus, then by 4WD to the Mt Aspiring National Park. Must say, the weather was stunning and the vistas impossibly gorgeous. For those who know the movie The Two Towers, the Dart River valley was used as the backdrop to Isengard.
Photo opportunities stumbled over each other.
The jetboating was very enjoyable - a little tame for someone who's done quite a bi of it in the past, but still much beter than the standard Queenstown fare. But the highlight has to be the scenery. Truly otherworldly.