Monday, May 5, 2008

Triumphant: Final Walk Update

Dear Friends,
The journey is over and reached a perfect ending in the snowshine in the happiest valley I have ever known with seven friends in a warm comfortable yert, enjoying a hot meal and cups of tea and a bottle of wine, well appreciated with the knowledge it was carried in on someone's back, just like everything else that made us warm and comfortable in such a wet, muddy place.
Since then myself and Matt hitched back to Motueka, watching the distance I had covered over the last couple of weeks flash past in merely a couple of hours. I currently sit in a comfy internet cafe in Motueka. Sorry it's taken a few days for me to get myself onto the internet but here I am.
Since we left the laughing horse, we pushed through what seemed like the longest 9 days of the entire journey. It's always the last 2 k in the day that takes the longest, the last 5 minutes in the working day last an know how it is. The first day past the laughing horse we camped up at Kawatere junction in a rest area only about 10 k on, having waited till lunch time to see if Micky might just turn up before we left. He didn't, so we set off with the prams again, which were somewhat dangerous to be pushing once we got back on the main road. We had a few angry, shocked beeps and honks. Those prams were a real eyecatcher!
I put up the banner I made out of the tarp I had been using to cover my stuff in the pram, drawn on with a permanent black marker "Climate Camp" decorated with foliage and other hippy stuff, a bit of an artpeace that looked interesting enough from afar to take a closer look at. Micky ended up showing up after we had both gone to bed and were nearly asleep. As soon as he arrived I recognised the chip wagon noise strait away and we both leapt up and stuffed our faces, enjoying the creature comforts provided by our indespensable support vehicle.
The next night we camped in a tiny little round patch of grass next to a stream called "Coal Creek" and were met in the morning by Happy Valley supporters Brian and Lynley, who donated a bag of food and some cash. Much appreciated guys, and great to finally meet you too!
From there it was a days walk to Murchison, where we camped at the war memorial. The next day was somewhat frustrating with me spending hours writing a press release that got deleted when I was just about finished because I was running out of internet time and went to get some more coins from the cafe but they were all out of gold so it cut me off before I could feed the slot and I lost all my work. It had already been extremely difficult to condense the entire journey into such a short peice of writing and decide what stories to tell.
Meanwhile Micky had been back at camp being accosted by an angry man with a big white bird on his shoulder about disrespecting the war memorial. Micky told him that he had much respect for the memorial and prayed for the dead before he went to sleep that night.
Still, it had to be done, so we walked on about another 11 K to the turnoff (Westport/Christchurch) and camped beside the bridge, not far into the beginning of the Upper Buller Gorge. I spent hours and hours the next day writing it all out again by hand, then gave it to Mick to take back to town and type up.
While we were at that campsite we had two very interesting meetings. The first was just between me and a Morepork (Ruru). I had never actually seen one before, only heard the familiar call. I just saw the sillhouette of it standing right above the W on the Westport sign, right out in the open by the road. I was pretty sure from about 100 metres away of what I was looking at, so I slowly walked over until I was only about half a metre away and started talking to it: "Hello little one, you've got big beautiful eyes" I stood there for quite some time, I can't say how long looking into those big round eyes until Em came along and he swooped off into the trees beside the river. Just one of my many close personal encounters with bird life in the South Island. They are surprisingly friendly.
The next was with a guy called Steven from the Newton Livery about 9k up the road, who Harvey from the Laughing horse had mentioned we should visit on the way through. When he pulled over we weren't sure what to expect, as there had been a mixture of angry and supportive beeps and shouts from passing cars on the busy intersection, but we were pleased to find a friend. He said we could pop in and help ourselves to his orchard, but we said we probably wouldn't come to stay because it was a bit too close, we had wanted to get further the next day.
Of course we didn't get further that day because that was the day I spent all morning writing out the same thing I had written the day before by hand, but we ended up being very comfortably lodged for a night in a cozy little house on a hill overlooking the river all to ourselves, with a wood burning range to cook dinner and heat the water for a shower in the morning. Steven is another travelling horseman and owns several horse carriages, which he takes out for long journeys around the country, coming back to the Livery, which has provided a base and stop off point for him and other travelling horse people "and others" for many years.
After a good nights sleep we were able to cover a good distance the next day, about 26 to 27 k. We walked on past the Lyell campground and over another bridge across the Buller River, walking until just before dark trying to find a decent place to camp, but never coming across anything but small, rocky and rough patches of ground with big pylons that felt rather precarious between the road and the river. So when micky arrived in the chip wagon after leaving us waiting in the dark until about 7.30 because he'd gone back to town again to do more interwobbling, we drove back to the Lyell campground for the night, me sitting on Emilie's knee because the car was so full of stuff and things.
It rained all night and most of the next day and intermittently for the next few days until we reached Westport.
From Lyell we drove back to the spot we had stopped at the night before, which we had marked. We stopped for a long lunch in Inangahua as a respite from the rain before ploughing out into the unknown wetness for another 12 or so K's to another inhospitable place, again having to jump back into the chip wagon as dark closed in and head back to a barn we had stopped in for a short break earlier. Mick and Em went down to the farmhouse and asked the farmer if we could stay in the barn, a large, open ended, empty building next to the road where we could park the chip wagon and put up our tents out of the rain. The farmer was only to happy and we appreciated the dry night, being able to cook a hot meal out of the rain with the hobo stove and even dry our wet socks! The next day we went past the Berlin's Cafe and on to a small rest area only about 2 K from the end of the gorgey bit of the road. Only a short, 15 K walk to Westport.
Despite the constant wetness, which should be expected on the West Coast, the Buller Gorge road was definitely one of the most beautiful parts of the country we have had the pleasure to appreciate at walking pace. Every single corner we turned, we found ourselves gazing at yet another towering, bush clad mountain, ragged cliff, rushing waterfall, turmultuous turn in the river, dissapearing into the mist. Emily gave up putting her camera back in her pocket and just kept it out. If you ever want to photograph the Buller Gorge yourself, make sure you bring a water proof camera like hers!
On the morning of the last day of walking to Westport, we left at about 8.30 and got in at about 12. As soon as we arrived we waltzed up to the Solid Energy office, erecting a tent on their lawn and holding up banners for the Westport News. Within a couple of hours the photo showed up on the front page of the evening paper, holding two short sweet Messages: "Communities Not Corporations" and "People and Planet B4 Profit".
We had no hassles from Solid Energy but we didn't see the need to camp there when we could have a nice hot shower and a comfy bed at Jonah's barn in Waimangaroa so we went there for the evening before walking on (officially) to Waimangaroa again the next night.
Matt from Mot met us here aswell and Emily and I left at 9.30 the next morning, up the bridal path to the top of the incline and along the four wheel drive track to a little old miners hut at the beginning of the track in to the valley. There we waited for Jonah, Micky and Matt in the chip wagon from 1.15 until about 3.15. We were on the way into the valley from about 3.45 and had to hurry ourselves to get through the roughest and most dangerous bits of the walk before dark.
Luckily the walk in was dry and sunny, then it snowed the next day and melted before we had to walk out, by which time the sun had come out again to melt away the snow from the day before.
All in all Walking the Walk has been an amazingly positive experience for everybody involved and has spread positivity, hope, inspiration and awareness throughout the country. We had a surprisingly welcoming reception in Westport, which we had had dire warnings about, as we all know the general population there support the mine. We had a quiet stall and a few very reasonable conversations with miners. We listened to them and they listened to us and we didn't necessarily agree but we all understood each other a bit better. At the end of the day, we have no more say in these matters than they do. We just want to make sure there is a future for the next generation, from Westport to Auckland and all around the world.
There is so much more to write that you would never read in an email, but my next job in Auckland is to write the Novel, so you can all look forward to a true story entitled "Just around the Corner," with much more details, stories, descriptions, revelations, conversations, trials and tribulations, fart jokes and songs.
Ah, yes, what would the journey have been without the fart jokes and the songs.
So much love goes out to all our friends who have been following this journey and walked beside us in spirit all the way, and all the people who fed us, sheltered us and helped us along the way. Without you, we would have been nothing but broke, stranded tourists.
Keep on walking the walk everybody, you know what you have to do.
Peace out,
Heather, Micky and all the Walkers.

They Made It! Walkers Arrive in Happy Valley

We have only heard by the briefest of text messages from Heather so far that she has reached her destination, having walked into Happy Valley on the 2nd May. As there may not be computers there, more news may take a few days to filter through but we will display it here when we receive it. Phone coverage does not seem too reliable either or perhaps there are battery problems. However, we can tell you that the weather was fine on the day they walked in but two days later it snowed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Now in Westport

The walkers have arrived in Westport, having negotiated some pretty bad weather and they are finding it much colder now too. They have a real roof over their heads for a day or two (courtesy of a kind supporter) to ride out the rest of the storm in comfort. This is the first proper shelter they have had for some weeks now. Westport is still two more days walking away from their final destination which is of course Happy Valley. They plan to reach Waimangaroa on Wednesday and Happy Valley Thursday.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

From the Buller Gorge...

The South Island leg presented different challenges and adventures. There is is a much greater awareness of the "Save Happy Valley" campaign in the South Island. Unlike the North Island where most people had never heard about it and were shocked and dismayed that it is being allowed to happen, South Islanders are aware of the issue and have already formed opinions for or against. The challenge is to inspire the ones who already oppose the mine into taking action to prevent it and taking action to make their own lives and communities more sustainable and self sufficient.

The main reason some people support the mine is because coal mining is one of the main industries providing jobs to the West Coast towns like Westport. It's very difficult to convince these people the detriment to their community of environmental degradation and climate change. I say, “ We dont have any ill feelings towards coal miners or workers in other environmentally damaging industries like commercial fishing or steel production. Its their CEOs and profiteers that we disapprove of. The workers are doing what they feel they have to, to pay the rent and feed their families. “

If a corporation can find a way to save money by laying off a hundred workers they won't bother to think about the well being of families and communities. Even though these people see “greenies” as a threat to their jobs, in reality we care a lot more about their survival than the companies who pay their wages. I am concerned for any community that relies too heavily on one major source of employment. The coal industry has had its day. I would ask these people if for any reason solid energy stopped providing these jobs and wages what will you fall back on? At present all the eggs are in one basket. That basket is lined with poisonous coal dust and its contents will turn to ash in their mouths.

As an environmental activist I devote my life to campaigning to ensure we will have healthy fertile land, clean water, fresh air and means for sustainable food production to pass on to future generations. If we continue to destroy our environment and pump CO2 into the air, our very survival is at stake. Humanity will literally sink or swim in the next hundred years depending on what action we take now.

We believe the best way to ensure a future for our children is to work towards small scale sustainable self sufficient communities. We have the intelligence and technology as well as the imagination and ingenuity to achieve this. All we have to change is the course of our efforts from accumulating wealth and profit to simple survival.

The physicality of the journey was different in the South Island too. It was April so the weather was getting colder and that added even more dificulty in getting a good night's sleep. In Havelock the local policeman targeted the walkers doing everything he could to sabotage their efforts. He approached a walker Joshua asking to move the car because it had been in a 60min parking zone far too long. Then as soon as he moved the car he pulled him over to check his license. Although Josh had had a learners license it turns out his learners license had been disqualified in 2003 and he had never renewed it. This allowed the officer to impound the vehicle for 28 days regardless of the fact that it didn't belong to Josh and contained all the walkers possessions and campaign equipment for the trip. We had 5 minutes to get whatever we needed before it was towed.

The officer took great pleasure in asserting his authority and openly denounced the cause, saying “Nobody in my town cares about climate change”. Mick hitched to Blenheim 40km away, to where the car was towed and by explaining the situation and paying the $260 towage fee, retrieved the vehicle. At Pelorous Bridge the walkers were told to “get their walking shoes back on and hit the road” by the management of the camp ground at one of NZ's most beautiful nature reserves. We had approached them thinking they would be supportive nature lovers but discovered they were climate sceptics who believed in every South Isander's right to destroy land for profit and took great offence to Heather's use of Te Reo Maori slipped into conversation. “We don't talk like that around here, we're New Zealanders. We speak English”.

Not feeling any great need to go to any trouble to hang around with small minded racists the walkers continued another 8 km down the road to Rai Valley where the campsite was by koha , a much easier and more beautiful way to say donation.

Nelson was sunny as usual and the walkers came across a great deal of support and very little negativity. While they were there they also showed support for a Free Tibet demonstration taking place on the day the controversial new free trade deal was signed.

Chip-wagon Problems Require Ingenuity of all of us
When we got to Motueka the chip wagon broke down, a problem which ended up keeping us there for a whole week, while Mick exercised all his ingenuity to fix it. It was a good place for it to happen though because there are a lot of supporters there.

The walkers were made very welcome and supported local activists by setting up our climate camp on the proposed site of the new Macdonald's franchise in town. Walk the walk oppose this because of the unsustainable large scale, cruel factory farming methods of production used by the massive corporation and the difficulty it places on small local businesses to compete. Motueka and the surrounding areas have everything they need to be self supporting, they simply don't need huge fast food franchises that come at such a cost to our health and the environment.

Saved by a re-cycled Pram!
After a week when the car was still being fixed, the walkers went on ahead pushing everything we needed and nothing we didn't in a couple of prams scoured from a reycling/refuse centre down the road. We walked without the support car for 6 days pushing the prams along. Two of those days were on gravel roads. It was empowering to realise we could do it without the car but we were glad when Mick finally showed up because we were missing some things.

Beware The Power of Prayer
In Tapawera we had been complaining about having nothing to read. We were going to bed at 7 oclock because it was too cold to stay up but there was nothing else to do in the evenings in the wilds. The very next day some Jehovah's Witnesses stopped and gave us some literature. Not exactly what we had in mind but we had been asking the universe for something to read !!

LOTR Parallels Continue as More Hunger Looms
We had been without cellphones for days unable to charge them and with very weak reception anyway, we had no way of knowing when and if Mick would show up. When we ran out of Tahini and couldn't buy more we really started to worry how long it would take because the meals were getting very plain and would soon run out completely. On the second to last day with the prams we went through the Sherrywine Valley and were given accomodation in a teepee at a place called ”the Laughing Horse” which was a farm set up as a trust for travelling horse people and others, I guess we were the “others.

We had planned to meet Mick here and when he didn't show up it reminded me very much of the Lord of the Rings when they cross the Brandywine Bridge and stay at an inn called “the Prancing Pony” where they were supposed to meet Gandalf but he doesn't show up. The next day Mick finally arrived and I was very pleased to have my pillow back and plenty of fresh food.

A few days later while packing camp outside the Murchison War Memorial, one very irate local with a white beard and white bird on his shoulder, who thought he owned the place told us we were very dispespectful and to “f-off” several times. But like all abusers never stayed. This shows when you have fixed ideas about people you aren't interested in their point of view or open to learning from them. In fact at every War Memeorial we stayed at we paid respects and Mick who follows a Japanese Buddhism always includes a prayer for the dead in his chanting.

Heather Simpson
Walk the Walk Organiser

Friday, April 11, 2008

Merry Motueka

Walk the Walk is Currently in Merry Motueka.

We will now be here for a few extra days because we now have as yet undefined technical problems with our chip wagon. We will certainly keep ourselves busy while we are here and our arrival seems timely.... Malcolm, (AKA Gandalf) is currently elbow deep in grease trying to figure out the problem and solve it, but it is quite possible we may need to spend some money on the car. After the ferry and the impoundment in Havelock and now having to take walk funds for food because we're all pretty cash strapped ourselves at this point of the journey, funds are looking really lean again.

So, if you were just about to give us a donation before I let you all know you could hold off for a while because I thought we had enough then, now would be a really good time! I am doing my best busking too, but anything you can afford would be greatly appreciated. Please spread the word widely!

This will be our last appeal as we only have another 2 weeks to go once we get back on the road, but at this point we can't leave Mot without a bit more cash.

Arohanui, Keep sending those messages of support too! --

Heather Simpson
Walk the Walk Organiser

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chip Wagon Issues in Havelock

We got this email from Heather today, saying -

Our chip wagon has been impounded, Joshua told us he had a restricted license but it turns out he is a disqualified driver. He was kicked off the walk today anyway. We had put conditions on him staying, all of which he broke in one day and got our car taken off us to boot.... Malc let him move the car closer to the camp and that was it. Cop seemed racist and unhelpful.

They were in Havelock, the car had been taken to Blenheim. A lot of their gear was still in the car, including cell phone chargers and all their food.

Then we heard that Gandalf (Mick) was charging to the rescue. While the hobbit (Heather) was stuck up the burning tree, with wolves and goblins all around her, and her pony had run off and left her, Gandalf was far away concocting spells to send the Eagles to her rescue, which means Mick managed to hitch to Blenheim and retrieve the Chipwagon. Only one day lost and a few sanity points.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Update from The Capital

Dear Friends,

Walk the Walk is currently chilling in Wellington, enjoying the hospitality of the community centre at 128 Abel Smith St. We arrived on Thursday evening and had a delicious dinner prepared for us there and a meeting with Happy Valley supporters in Welly. We had a discussion about the best areas to put efforts into at this stage of the campaign and for our part, encouraged people to try to get to Westport when we arrive in late April, as we will need as much support as we can muster there. So please tell anybody you know who might be able to get there, that the last week of April is an excellent time to visit the West Coast and Happy Valley!

Yesterday (Friday) we arrived at Parliament at 12pm with a small group of supporters (quality, not quantity!) and presented our "Dear Helen Clark" book to a representative from Trevor Mallard's office to pass on to the woman her self, along with our banner signed by Massey Uni students from Palmy and our letter to Trevor Mallard, signed by people in Petone when we visited his office on Wednesday. We spoke to whomever was listening about our journey and our campaign, stressing the hypocrisy of the government, talking about carbon neutrality while destroying pristine native habitat for coal to export over seas. Our climate camp was not received well by Parliament security, who were on top of us before we even managed to get one tent erected. There is apparently a rule to say no "structures" shall be erected on the grounds. We argued that we were staging a legitimate, peaceful protest and were simply doing what we have done in every town we have visited along our 8 1/2 week journey, but they called in the police, who trespassed one of our supporters from parliament grounds for two years. He left the grounds peacefully to avoid arrest and we set up our camp just outside the gates on council property beside two giant Pou Whenua, or Maori tribal boundary marking posts.

We remained at the camp until 12pm this afternoon when we packed up to go and sort out some issues with our passage across cook strait and have a bit of chill time for ourselves, busking time and such things.

Unfortunately the skipper of the sailing ship which we were to travel across cook st. on has had work commitments come up at the last minute and has had to cancel. He could not manage to do the passage for another two weeks. As we have certain time constraints and it seems Solid Energy has began making movements and marking out areas in the valley for work to begin in preparation for the mine, we have decided to catch the ferry across with the chip wagon tomorrow. The walk must go on! The skipper Jimmy clearly felt terrible to have to cancel at the last minute but it was out of his hands, and he very kindly donated us enough money for the two of us who would have been sailing to cross on the ferry. Thanks Jimmy! We may be able to organise to sail back with him on the return journey, Micky and I are both really keen to experience the sounds in a yacht.

Jimmy also dropped us off the "climate relay" baton to bring over Cook St with us. We are really happy to be a part of this climate journey too, and will drop it off in Picton for the next person to bring it to the next town using a mode of transport as carbon friendly as possible. It is a shame we couldn't sail it over using the power of the wind, but public transport is the next best thing.

For more information about the climate relay, check out

Keep sending those messages of support,

Catch you all in the South Island leg!

Peace out,

Heather Simpson
Walk the Walk Organiser