I have recounted the walk in a manner of a braided stream meandering, digressing, wandering and diverting —Frank Yardley

Fiordland on the ground

By Tony Orman

In 1973 New Zealander Frank Yardley and his friend and mentor “Shorty’ Biddle decided to walk the length of the South Island. In those days Frank was a self-confessed “hippie” and Shorty a returned World War Two serviceman. Together during 1973-74 the duo made a traverse of Fiordland National Park as part of the plan.

Basically this book is Frank Yardley’s account of the transit of the remote, often untracked Fiordland region. But in the telling of the trek, this intriguing modest looking book branches beyond the journey out into the history and myths of Fiordland.

The author writes in the introduction, “to liven the tale of an unlikely pair of adventurers trudging through mountain valleys, clambering over mountain passes on end, I have recounted the walk in a manner of a braided stream meandering, digressing, wandering and diverting, including historical events of interest, personal and family sides, rumination on the flora, fauna and ecology, the impact and footprint of man pre and post-European arrival.”

Plenty of interesting history

Frank Yardley does this well in an often revealing, absorbing and informative way, delving into early Maori raids, the mythical lost tribe of Fiordland, early European explorers as well as relating about his and Shorty’s previous experiences. In philosophical vein, he muses about wider matters such as Man’s relationship to the ecosystem. 

Photos had been previously lost but use of sketches and imaginative layout could have compensated. Frankly, overall the book lacks good editing; as an example, the use of paragraphing could have been more judicious.

But don’t let that put you off. It’s a great read. Despite shortcomings in production, it’s highly recommended.

Published by Austin Macauley Publisher (London), Available in NZ from online sources. Price approximately $43.