First I visited a couple of cemeteries where I knew relatives were buried. The plot for my Scettrini family in Kumara has recently been redone, and is now very clear to read.
I also drove to the Catholic Church in Kumara which has obviously had a lot of recent maintenance.
From Kumara I initially took a route I had never travelled on, to Mitchells then Lake Brunner. It was beautiful, past lots of regenerating native forest, and over many small rivers and streams. When I reached Lake Brunner it was very peaceful with just a few fishermen. I doubt the noise from the JetSki would be very welcome here.
The journey became more personal again. As children we had several times come on the railcar and had stopped at Rotomanu, basically a goods shed that felt like it was in the middle of nowhere. There Uncle Arthur was waiting with the car to take us all on the gravel/dirt road journey to his farm at Bell Hill.
I reached Rotomanu and worked out where the road to the station was. As I headed down there, I saw the Tranz Alpine Pass in the distance. There are no more rural stops... and you can't even see where the shed was that carried the Rotomanu label. But I remember.
I continued on then to find Bell Hill, and I found the farm. There have been huge changes. Gloriavale now own it, and they have ploughed it flat to make it more productive- and fenced it. But with my childhood eyes I knew I was at the right place. The house led back to the shearing shed that we played in on rainy wet days, and the stream was nearby. So many summer memories.
Next I drove down the Haupiri Valley where I knew Gloriavale had their settlement. Another beautiful Lake with native bush all around. I could just make out the sect's base in the distance at the head of the valley, and at one stage I passed a tractor being driven by two men obviously from Gloriavale with their long blue overalls and wide brimmed blue hats.
Truly, they are very isolated. For anyone leaving, it is a long walk down the Haupiri road to the Bell Hill intersection, then even further down to Nelson Creek, and still another 7km or so to the main highway.
And at Nelson Creek I had a late picnic lunch, while watching kiwi kids have adventurous summer fun by the river. And yes these three kids jumped off- in fact a fourth joined them, and they all jumped off together.