As we left our campsite in Murchinson, we had a look at the cemetery. It always gives you a quick glimpse into people’s lives. Here, even now their lives can be short, with many accidents on the roads and in the fast flowing rivers. Votive offerings are left on the graves. A toy car, a bottle of beer. Travelling is in their spirit here and a call of duty to fight for country. Many have not returned.
Murchinson is a place to stock up and has been for a century or more. The last time I saw a shop with such a eclectic range on offer was in Chagford in Devon. We needed nothing but it felt wrong not to support such a shop.
We were making our way towards Lyell, a historic Gold Working town that is now mostly abandoned. The road follows the Buller Gorge, crossing the main tectonic fault line, where the earth had risen 4.5 meters in a quake in 1929.
It was also a oppertunity to walk across the longest wire walk in New Zealand. Perhaps more memorably to see a miners “cottage” from the golden times. You would have to be tough and afflicted with gold fever to be here in those conditions. We do rather have to invent hardship these days. Like riding a bike.
Lyell bought us face to face with our nemesis, the sandfly in industrial quantities. We have had skirmishes with the beast before and learned its ways a little. They do make you look like an idiot, but thank goodness we have bought our head nets from home.
antihistamine tablets to stop the mad itching are working best for us although it is an after the event response to the pest. We cooked on a wood fire, which is perhaps the most effective deterrent. Tied to the ground when these are swarming I would give you every pin number and password in my small universe and in very quick order. The life of a gold miner and his family was hard in life and even in their premature deaths they had to scratch around to find enough depth of soil to be buried in.
We both had strange dreams that night, that were slightly linked, in a couples sort of way. Our two favorite TV programs are Time Team ( an archaeology series ) and Q.I. ( a general knowledge sort of quiz ). Esther’s dream involved Mike Aston from Time Team visiting Edinburgh College of Art to look at paintings. strangely he was not there to date them or any such science stuff, not even to give an opinion as to where a test pit should be dug. Stephen Fry, the host of Q.I. , in my dream had to miss a night in a West End play. I was to step in to perform his role for the one night. We all have the dream about not having revised for an exam. Well I had not done any of the rehearsals for the play and it was agony.
The Buller River continues down to the sea at Westport following a deep gorge. Spectacular today, but utterly terrifying when it is in flood. Boulders the size of trucks are moved like ping-pong balls in your kitchen sink and the noise must be deafening. Bridges were the order of the day, and lots of them for us. We enjoyed it, and I was center of attention for German tourists who mistook my Belgian flagged arm for their own flag. They are at the wheel of oversized recreational vehicles here, and many have a sketchy understanding of driving on the left. I need them on my side, so this deception may be no bad thing.