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New Zealand Pacific Studio ❥ House Manager/Artist in Residence

 

907259-14350-14‘Together, we build personal and collective creative capability and solidarity.’

Greeted by a warm smile and a hug, Kate welcomed me to the New Zealand Pacific Studio. Driving though a mostly rural area with an off-the-beaten-track charm, I was now destined to reside in the Wairarapa.

After much research, changing dates, toing and froing of emails with owner Lynette, I was pleased to be offered the opportunity at an amazing art residency hub in the historic home Normandell. Rather than a solo artist residency, my role was to be the House Manager, alongside continuing my own art practise. The House Manager essentially is the first port of call for artists, providing information, transport…and was to become so much more.

20170725_092255NZPS offers a welcoming home for the arts in the hills of the Wairarapa. A non-profit international residency centre founded in 2001 by Kay Flavell, who purchased the somewhat derelict home after viewing just 2 photographs online. Kay had a vision and lovingly restored this historic home. The 5-acre facility has 7 work-spaces and is open year-round. It welcomes applicants living in New Zealand or abroad, promoting cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary dialogue.

An artist residency – what is that exactly? Much like my experience at Earthskin Muriwai, an artist residency provides writers / artists / environmentalists / researchers with space to work on a project of their design. Offering dedicated time and headspace for the work to emerge. They often also run workshops, performances, exhibitions, and Open Studio Days with the community.

The unique pull of this particular artist residency a few minutes from rolling hills and the Tararua Mountains was the history of the house and family that had lived there. The Normandell House, built in 1911, serves as the centre of the facility and is surrounded by woodland gardens that are beautiful in any season. Summers can get very warm, and winters quite chilly, but nothing that a cosy fire can’t fix. There are seven unique work-spaces. Since 2001, about 500 artists from New Zealand and abroad have lived and worked at the centre.  They have made connections that enrich their practice and the local and shared communities.

20170724_153246Kate, House Manager from Canada was passing the torch after enriching the space with her support and vision for half the year. A few days handover and training and I began to settle into the Burton Room – named after Christopher Burton the British clockmaker to whom the house was built. There was instant feel good energy and a pleasant few days spent with Kate who was a joy to be around, opening up and sharing almost weirdly parallel ways in which our lives and relationships were working out. Together we ate beautiful food (Kate is a real foody) and enjoyed a hike up Mount Bruce, which soon became a ritual in my time at NZPS (along with feeding the gigantic eels!). The views are spectacular after around a 2 hr loop track through the wonderful Pukaha Wildlife Centre, and native bush. It also houses many protected birdlife including the one and only white adorable Kiwi – Manukura.

John, a painter from LA arrived late after travelling from a previous residency in the Blue Mountains of Australia. At heart, a traditional painter of plein air that touches upon his Mexican heritage with symbolic Frida Kahlo-esque imagery and narrative. Very comfortable in his own skin he emerged from the Mason room late the following day in a poncho and green cowboy hat. We took a trip out to Masterton to pick up Tomoko Yamashita also a painter, this time from Japan.

P1110619Tomoko was a sweet gentle presence, her studio was the beautiful loft space, which still has Christopher’s Burton’s desk and tools beside the window overlooking the woodland garden. Sometimes lost in translation, although quietly keen to sing and dance, Tomoko wanted to play games and enjoy as much New Zealand sightseeing with us as possible. Myself, John and Tomoko spent the next week together, the guys settling in to some work and most mealtimes enjoying getting to know each other. The dynamics of the house were beginning to change as we started to become a little family, gathering around the fire each night, sharing life stories and work in progress.

FB_IMG_1501315152443Although still relatively quiet in the house, all of that was about to change as we welcomed Rodji Munoz and Leah Milanovic on the same day. Rodji was a super talented photographer from, well funnily enough, around 20 minutes away from John in the US! A commercial photographer having taken shots for popular brands as well as awesome live music captures. She was taking only a few days at NZPS to work on a more personal project. We were later that day joined by a new force of kooky energy- Leah a writer from Australia who had been awarded the Lavinia Winter fellowship at the studio.

All of a similar age and mind-set, it wasn’t long before we were dancing around the lounge together. Pot luck dinners were my new favourite thing and we found any excuse to do them. It’s the perfect fun way to socialise, helping each other with cooking, learning about dishes and foods you’re often unfamiliar with, all helped down with a good drink or three, card games and a boogie. Rodji and Leah’s first night involved all of these fine things over a Mexican meal cooked by John, later joined by Hendrik for an unforgettable gathering with perfectly posed photos, representing just how synchronised we were 🙂

FB_IMG_1502262170767I’d become somewhat of a mother hen, which I enjoyed really. I had my routines in place with firewood, laundry and admin, with enough time to finish of a series of art work. These guys really wanted to have so much fun on their first trip to New Zealand and I was more than happy to be the tour guide for them. A quiet conversation with Hendrik that night I suggested it would be sad if these guys didn’t get to experience the beauty of glow-worms whilst in New Zealand. After approximately 30 seconds of deciding I offered them a daytrip up towards the Apiti Tavern and a chance to see the glow-worms ‘Beers n worms’ was born. After talking about my caving adventures it would’ve been a terrible loss if these guys didn’t get to experience them whilst in New Zealand.

20728277_10211661355102767_779043106674261474_nThe SH2 heading towards Wellington offers a selection of quaint little towns offering good coffee shops, op shops, art galleries and heading toward Martinborough you reach the wineries. Although not the prime time of year, we still gave these a ‘taste test’, with a wooden lodge offering delicious wood fired pizza and free cider nearby!
The studio has a board of 12 members each helping towards the running of the residency, who often came round for pot luck meals (yup pot luck again) they were always fun to converse with and offered an opportunity for Leah and John to have an impromptu audience before getting involved in The National Poetry Day reading at the nearby Aratoi Museum of Art & History. Leah was great! If a little nervous, she was natural and engaging with her reading. I felt like a proud mum.

Over the 2 months I have met so many different people, enriching the experience much more than I could have ever imagined. Karen the housekeeper paid a visit each week to discuss usually the most random topics over a cup of coffee, I’ll miss this routine. Michelle from Glowing dropped by for a cuppa one morning, revisiting nearby Eketahuna – where she grew up, this should be the last time I see Michelle…for a while now anyway 😉
Sad goodbyes were inevitable, it’s all part of the process. In my downtime I did find opportunity to finish a series of artworks, which are now to be exhibited in the Consignment Gallery in Feilding. I used the studio of the self-contained Norwegian-style Cottage whilst no one was residing in there, and it felt good to have
found a way of creating that resulted in a more cohesive group of works.

21368690_1446200482124878_6232047358836039164_oResidents Kaye, a painter from Australia and Antonia, a writer from Wellington joined the house for a week. A much quieter, reflective time was had – one of the lasting pieces of information Kate gave me was that everybody will be ‘going through something’, how right she was. We were joined one evening by Janina who I’d met in Kaitaia whilst mandarin picking and happened to bump in to in Masterton, where she was now staying with her partner Theus.
Owners Lynette and Ian were busy putting some love and maintenance back in to the property as spring had sprung. Such a sweet couple who I feel sad to leave – they made me feel so welcomed. I was only short of a couple of hours away from Hendrik now, meaning we’d get to see each other most weeks, funnily enough he was quite keen to join in when lush food, tasty drink and fun company was involved. We got a couple of hikes in, including the glow worm cave in the daylight, it was so special to see this incredible space we’d only imagined existed in the darkness of the worms.

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It was the last time I’d see the Tavern.. we gave it an overhaul, cleared, tidied, fixed and made it homely for a hectic but exciting summer. We took the opportunity of a local horse ride (I was an avid rider many years ago). As we galloped through ice and snow, like we’d been riding together for years, I began to think of closure as this adventure comes to an end.P1120244Tomorrow we head to the South Island for 2 weeks, adventuring and exploring the most beautiful sights. It is with a mixture of excitement and anxiety that I think about the path afterwards, the journey home for a different chapter.

Until then, here’s to enjoying every moment ❤

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Soundtrack: Gladys Knight – Midnight Train To Georgia, Ben Howard – The Fear,  Fleet Foxes – Blue Ridge Mountains, The XX – On Hold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The White Stuff ☃

20170712_150131Time to find myself grounded in comfortable surroundings again for the next 3 weeks. It was great to catch-up with Michelle and Stefan before they headed off on their big American adventure. I was fortunate enough to be given more time at Glowing Adventures which I was more than happy about, I had missed the place and the people very much. I also had the bonus of house-sitting and looking after little Milly the dog and affectionate Izzy the cat, little did I know at the time how much they disliked each other. It wasn’t too long before I realised the cat stalked the cat flap ready to pounce on Milly each time she wanted to come back indoors. It made for amusing company for the small amounts of time I’d spend at the house, I decided I’d work pretty much every day and with the Lions tour bringing in many tourists it was a full on 3 weeks ! In true unpredictable style I wound up giving a tour despite being in the office – sometimes people have different ‘needs’. Heath needed to split his tour up due to extremely different abilities within the 6 people, so I headed on down and took the hardest ever, due to the lack of balance mainly of the parents of the family and lack of English spoken, but they had a great time and you have to get on with it, rather than question why they had booked in the first place! Working in tourism I have realised how little people (not little people) actually research in to the tour they book, whether they are distracted by pretty pictures, discounts, or such I’m unsure but we’d often find people pleasantly surprised with no idea what they had booked themselves in to.

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Scottish Michael who I’d befriended in Kaitaia had since left the mandarin picking and was touring the north island. Of course, unable to switch off my tour guide head I suggested he visit for a tour- which he did! Getting him to smile in the photograph wearing his stripy thermals was another matter (!) 20170628_122220
Michelle had suggested a few more creative projects to work on whilst I was back, so over the best part of 3 days we had designed a fun mural for the side of the shed. It was essentially a photo spot for when groups had completed (survived?) the tour and wanted a pit stop to capture the moment. The muddy footprint logo continues the mural around the side of the shed. Nice to leave another piece of work in New Zealand.

20170710_155126Time for farewells again, it had become a bit of a joke as we kept seeing each other again so we’d say ‘see you in a couple of months?’…
I had a bit of free time on my hands before heading down to the tavern so had decided to explore more of the National Park area home of the 3 peaks and picturesque alpine surroundings. Little did I know how much of a treat I was in for. On the approach of Whakapapa I had read about a 2 hour hike to Taranaki falls Heading closer, the surroundings changed to a grey stillness and the snowflakes began to cover the windscreen of the car. I pulled over, eager to capture the beautiful sight of snow which always feel magical, particularly as it’s a rare occurrence on the South Coast of England.

P1110384Seeing the iconic Tongariro Hotel on the horizon the snow was getting plentiful now, along with cars parked on the road with families making the very most of this massive snow dump that was happening, it was wonderful! The Chateau Tongariro Hotel is surrounded by a stunning natural playground bursting with diverse landscapes for visitors to the Tongariro National Park to discover. c761c3384cb613a95f3429fc4fa0b41b--boston-public-vintage-travel-posters
Grinning from ear to ear I began to wander, deciding whether the hike would be good/safe in this now quite extreme weather. The stillness surrounding the hotel began to pick up pace and show itself in snow showers almost making me consider turning back – by this time is was getting rather later in the day and no-one else was around hiking that I could see. Much as I enjoyed that, it’s sometimes nice to have somebody on the horizon just in case there was a major change in weather, but I was well layered up and determined. It was a stunning barren landscape, mostly unrecognisable and gave me the same pangs of longing that the hike around Mount Cook did that snowy day.  The upper and lower tracks form a loop with the waterfall situated around the half-way point. Tumbling 20 metres over the edge of a large lava flow, which erupted from Ruapehu 15,000 years ago, Taranaki Falls plunge into a boulder-ringed pool. From below the falls there are spectacular views into the water-worn gorges of the Wairere Stream.

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Glowing red cheeks (face cheeks that is) and enjoying the anticipation of sipping from the flask of coffee in my car I began the remainder of the trip down to Apiti. Leaving National Park it was apparent the snow was localized and I was greeted in the Manawatu with a grey drizzle instead.

Blown away by the experiences of the day, together myself and Hendrik decided we’d make an early start and head up to do the hike together this time around, he was as excited about the snow was as I was, it just may be our favourite thing.
Waking at 6am peering out of the window I let out a squeak of excitement which accidently/on purpose woke Hendrik ‘Look out the window !! Wowwwww’ -this was the deepest untouched cleanest beautiful snow we’d ever seen and it had completely covered Apiti, we were in excited shock.

P1110434Deciding to enjoy this rare sight (it hadn’t snowed like this in Apiti since 1975 ) we walked around crunching the snow beneath our feet, watching as the snow fell from the sky increasing the weight on the trees, hearing almighty ‘flomps’ (thanks for the adjective Leah) as it fell down on to big piles of the white stuff. We shortly realised however that while beautiful, it had caused a power outage in the pub and the surrounding area. The snowfall was so thick and heavy it had taken out power lines. That lovely community spirit you dream of came in to place, the neighbour brought round soup to cook on the fire top and the food from the previous days delivery was being buried outside in a new natural freezer to keep fresh. 20170713_150221 Drinking booze by candlelight, surrounded by locals unable to do very little in the extreme conditions we enjoyed a simple pleasures kind of a day, it’s amazing how time slows down without the ‘distraction’ of power. Heading into the next day of no power and no hint of the snow clearing for some time. Trying to set up a friend’s generator to power the pub’s fridge was needed, and as you can guess pretty much a few moments after this being set up the power came back on. Although only 2 days without power, internet, hot water and lights it was a relief to have the comforts back as the cold was becoming uncomfortable.
I was somewhat biding my time before I was due to begin an arts residency I had been planning some 2 years ago. Helping out as much as I could at the pub I decided after a few days I would do another stint of WWOOFING at the nearby Rangiwahia Environmental arts centre.

Pulling up to Bridgette and Jim’s home I could see the historic dairy building. In April 1898 the Rangiwahia- Ruahine Cooperative Dairy Company, Limited was formed. In December 1898 the Rangiwahia Butter factory was built 600m south of the village and was opened for business. It was built on a sloping section using gravity to save labour and pumping. It was great piece of history and was home to the workshop of the REACT art centre that Bridgette and Jim had set up some years previously. 2081338_orig The ethos behind the charity organisation is promoting sustainability in creativity, reusing projects to promote waste minimisation with resources that are found locally. Bridgette and Jim are a great buzzy couple and it wasn’t long before myself and British Jim realised we had worked with the same festival art makers in the UK. Hard working, travelling, anarchistic and driven, it was an insightful few days. Their world travelling truck ‘Beattie’ has taken them both around the world enhancing the connection between community and art, Bridgette showed me the giant puppets designed, created and performed by a diverse range of inspiring women for International Women’s Day.

P1110461Another offshoot of the organisation is what they refer to as Junk and Disorderly:-
‘Junk refers to the stuff we use, and Disorderly is how we can get when we’re let loose on the streets’ Full of wonderful ideas, for the greater good – how inspiring indeed.

‘Something we’ve made a name for ourselves with,
Lighting up the Night with Community Spectacles.
Made by the People, Enjoyed by the People.
Intergenerational, Multi cultural, Very Pleasurable.’

Willow provided the base material for many projects. I found myself harvesting the willow crop and planting willow cuttings alongside the nearby gorge which will provide workable willow in the next year or two. There is something so simple and rewarding about becoming part of the whole process, from willow shoot to creative joyful projects enhancing imagination and connections between people. It is humbling to be immersed in such a selfless idea, turning passion into reality and creativity.

http://www.rangienviroartscentre.org

 

Soundtrack: Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

 

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The Manawatu > Apiti, locals & community

P1110103Arriving at Muriwai beach I was to be greeted by a text… ‘I’m stuck’, and an ominous looking photograph of the sea. Hendrik had gotten a bit over excited arriving in Muriwai before me and taken to the beach on the 4×4 tracks. Thankfully his Ute pulled him through and we met by the local shop just up from Earthskin. It had been almost a month so we had a lot to catch up on. After a brief cuppa I had been in contact with Robin regarding our visit and how a reunion would be a lovely idea – and who wouldn’t want to taste those famous scones again? We were greeted with a warm welcome from Robin, Sue, Pipi, Benny, Thaddie and doggy Danny. Sue showed me around her ‘nest’ project which she was working on last time I was over, creating a space for herself to escape in a characterful wooden clad room. I had wanted Hendrik to meet the family and to also soak up some more Muriwai sites he hadn’t managed to see in his last memorable if short visit.

18882007_10154895419914737_8349896375278981996_nWe headed out with the kids down to the beach along the iron rich black sand toward the caves and gannet colony. The tide was the furthest out I’d seen it so we able to venture in to caves I hadn’t seen before, as Pipi told us her lifeguard tales about the occasions they all leap in the water and would get swept in to the cave (I’ll pass on that one thanks !) Pipi had since become a fully trained life guard and all the kids were doing so well at school. I wasn’t surprised one bit, they’re beautiful kids. Another reason for revisiting Earthskin was because this time around the ‘owner’ Veronique was back from her travels. Veronique was the lady I had been in touch with from the start about the residency so it was a really good opportunity to touch base with her in person. We chatted over wine as Hendrik brought in a monster of a pie he had pre-cooked for us all to dine on later that evening. It was delicious under the warm glow of the fire and moon shaped lights.

P1110066An early night beckoned, myself and Hendrik walked over to the yurt, lit a fire and relived that wonderful atmosphere that such a simple structure gives. After a good night’s sleep, I became over excited about the previous day’s adventure in the Ute and I wanted to experience beach driving too! It felt very exhilarating to drive so close to the crashing waves in a vehicle that could actually handle it, and like many spots in New Zealand we pretty much had the place to ourselves that morning – a perfect way to leave Muriwai and head back down collect my things to ‘properly’ move out of the cottage in Waitomo. Having a space to nest and to create in inevitably invites the collecting of ‘stuff’ all of which I had to work through and condense back down to the basics as we continued a rather long day of driving back down the tavern – I would be staying with Hendrik for the next 2 weeks.

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The northern Manawatu is a beautiful, scenic area of New Zealand unknown to many throughout New Zealand it hosts the headwaters of the Oroua River, which divides the Rangiwahia and Apiti regions beside the Ruahine Ranges. These Ranges divide Manawatu and Hawkes Bay. Before it makes its way into farmland it speeds up through a narrow gorge between sheer-rock walls named by the early settlers as The Iron Gates. The Iron Gates experience was a hike we threw ourselves in to after a few days settling back in. Undeterred by a rather damp grey morning with heavy rain forecast we really needed a good tramp, so we layered up and armed ourselves with grub (I ate Hendriks). We took roughly a 3 hour hike through steep bush down toward the awesome Iron Gate rock walls, wading through rather deep river crossings. Over some lunch Hendrik handed me a greenstone he had been holding on to, ready to pass on. The Greenstone is for luck and to help you in your travels, when you feel you have been helped out by it’s energy, it is time to move it on to the next person, it was my time to look after it.

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Hendrik’s best mates from Matamata, Amy, Rachael and Jasmine were well over due a visit to the tavern, thankfully times finally synchronised and they headed down together for a weekend of fun and well, of course, drink. I had met Amy and Rachael during Amy’s 30th Birthday party at Rachael’s earlier that year (written about in a previous Blog Light Is Shining Through On You..). I immediately felt comfortable around them both, in awe of their ‘coolness’ I was super-excited to see them again. I hadn’t met Jasmine before but with her candyfloss pink hair and dry wit it didn’t take long for us to bond. Staying in an old ‘quirky’ house (Amy was freaked out) up the road from the tavern, we all hung out whilst waiting on Hendrik to escape his shift at the pub. In a break from the merriment we drove down towards the glow worm cave on Table Flat Road to show the ladies the wonderful hidden treasures in and around the surrounding area. The pub to ourselves on our return was not a bad thing, we enjoyed creating new cocktails with a lush bubblegum syrup, I think I just ended up drinking Vodka and the syrup as I was enjoying it so much and got less imaginative after a whole day of drinking. We played crap darts listening to some sweet tunes and some of us ended the night a little worse for wear (details purposely excluded Amy ;), the icy decking turning in to the perfect skating rink and.. then.. doof!, Hendrik was down. A giggly walk back to the pub together.. it had been a great couple of days.

19059190_10154914724074737_8476452394941222783_nJordan lives up the road from the tavern, working at his parents farm, he often worked a weekend shift at the pub. Another day off together and Hendrik had planned to shoot some clays over the duck pond on Jordan’s farm. A young cheeky fella, the day started with loading up his new 4 x 4 beast with ammunition, guns and clays. Something I’d never tried, getting the technique right towards the end of the shoot, and after a decent bruise had already begun to appear on my upper arm. The boys were good, and a just joy to watch. Time to cook up some venny (which seems to be far fresher and tastier than I had ever tried back in the UK) followed by a cold Corona, a play on the digger (I was far better at manoeuvring this than shooting clays) it was a lovely insight in to simple pleasures and of course, trying new things.

P1110108Jordan was also on the Apiti pool team and within the next few days they had a game against local pub The Cheltenham (Chelty), sadly not winning this time around, but watching Hendrik play a mean game was worthwhile. The 2 weeks flew by, but a lovely experience to end on a high was to meet up with Hendrik’s sister Jarinda and her English boyfriend Richard, to watch the British Lions taking on the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua. Of course myself and Richard were cheering on the Lions – I enjoy the fact the crowd supporters are mixed up in rugby and not separated in to definite sides like that in football, and to me it seemed no where near as aggressive or loutish (it was my first rugby experience).

20170617_192553It was that time again to part ways. I was heading back to Waitomo (would I ever really leave that place?!) The owners Michelle and Stefan had sweetly got in contact offering me work to cover for 3 weeks while they headed off to America for a working holiday. Rather than heading straight up there I stayed in Taupo with the idea I’d see some more intriguing geothermal sites in Rotorua that I had read about, and couldn’t shake from my mind. In typical predictable fashion the one that drew my attention was Orekei Korako ‘Cave’ and Thermal Park (did you spot the magic word?) whilst researching, I saw images of an incredible icy white and mustard coloured dominated formation glowing in the surrounding bush landscape.

P1110240Like the surface of another planet, identifying incredible rich colours and textures that are an artist’s dream. Thinking to myself, if I can even begin to replicate the beauty I am seeing in these natural formations I will be very happy. My head was bursting with inspiration and the timing was perfect as I had just the right canvasses in mind that were heading towards a similar conclusion to the things I had witnessed that day.

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Northland ❧ Sacred Fragile Roots

P1100669It was time to consult the New Zealand travel itinerary – something I hadn’t done for a while having being stationed in the same areas for 7 months, that’s not to say I didn’t get my fair share of travelling in though. Northland and the Bay of Islands was somewhere I hadn’t ventured yet and in the free weeks after Glowing it seemed the perfect area to head. I must say that being renowned as the ‘winterless north’ too was also very appealing, given the frosts and general lack of heat in Waitomo. With a few months left to support myself, I was keen to do some paid work or at least gain experience and save funds with some more WWOOFING. Within a couple of days of leaving Glowing I had secured a few weeks paid work mandarin picking in the very north of the country, in a town called Kaitaia. Fruit picking is something I have shied away from if I am honest, hearing about slave labour conditions, poor treatment and crap money, and after the run of luck I’ve had you could guess why I wouldn’t be too keen. However, the job was advertised for just a few weeks work and a decent hostel to reside at, plus I bloody love mandarins.

P1100619I was staying up to date with Facebook posts from my new UK friend Lauren, and after a lengthy discussion about how isolated she was feeling au-pairing down near Wellington, I offered my hand out and asked if she wanted to join me on my trip up north. Very last minute, it suddenly all started to fall into place – if the work was bad at least we’d have the comfort of each other, a bit of extra monies coming in and most importantly the chance to hang out and have fun road tripping around the north. It didn’t take long to convince Lauren, and the next thing we know we’re heading to Kaitaia, a whole day travelling needless to say we were happy to hit the bed that night. We were greeted by a cheeky friendly Scot, Michael, who we’d wind up sharing a room with for the entirety of our north shore trip. An evening of Lord of the Rings based chat and Family Guy impressions with Michael, and the discovery of a ping pong table made the anxiety about the impending work the next day more bearable. P1100856

 The following morning we took a short drive and were ‘greeted’ by the heads in charge at the orchard (greeted is putting it politely) then it was a case of jumping on the back of the ute or tractor and being driven down at life threatening/super exciting speed down to one of the orchards..I learned later that day there were some 60,000 trees there, we’d be busy.

Shiny luscious green leaves and pops of striking orange covered the orchards, they were a beautiful sight and happily for me, pretty small trees:

‘Grab these, stick your bucket there, don’t fackin’ cut the fruit, if it’s fackin’ cut it’s facked. Don’t fackin’ chuck it in the bucket, it’s PUFFY alright? 2 to a tree and off you go…’ – friendly Alan

18527373_10154845229239737_1685141325044755722_oThe work certainly wasn’t difficult, I was happy to let my mind wander, meeting a new faces each time half of the tree was stripped. A break or ‘Smoko’ after a couple of hours, it certainly was that, about 90% of the workers smoked. I was surprised to realise out of the 50 or so of us working each day most were locals, rather than us foreigners, so it made for quite an insight in to their lives and comings and goings (whether you wanted to know the details or not!) Singing Bob Marley songs, traditional Maori songs, telling stories of drunken or drug related happenings, often in fits of giggles their optimism was inspiring.

Living a different, honest lifestyle, it was hard to connect on some levels but they were totally welcoming and accepting in other ways. The work was the most community spirit I have felt in a group of people – sometimes I’d daydream and the thoughts would wander and imagine we were all at some kind of prison camp, with the limited talking, humming, singing of songs and team attitude. There were also characters in charge that would refer to us as Jokers ‘Hey girl!’ ‘Eh Cuzzie’ ‘Auntie’ we laughed and endured a bit of shouting, getting a grilling and telling off every so often. We all soon had our established nicknames ‘Pinky’ was mine due to the pink edging on my jacket, and Lauren became ‘Magic Hands’..I’m still not quite sure how that came about. As the days rolled by in strong sunlight and torrential downpours we began to form a bit of a fruit picking ninja clan, the idea of doing this for 3 weeks became less depressing. In a weird way I quite enjoyed the discipline of it, the simplicity of the work leant itself to long moments of thought and it became an endurance test, but these tests I quite enjoy, I enjoy the feeling of pushing myself out of my comfort zone further and further to see how I will cope, pretty well it seemed. Then there came the day the heavens opened and we all got a soaking, mud, rain pouring in under waterproofs, dripping down our legs onto our socks, in to our shoes, wet foliage, slippery fruit, sharp branches, hard to reach mandarins, yeah 3 weeks was enough.

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We became a great friend group at the hostel, we’d often cook meals together, play ping pong and pool and other games beginning with the letter P. Lauren hosted her Lord of the Rings film night where regulars such as lovely Italian cook Bruno and super friendly Marian amongst others would drop in. We’d enjoy endless banter from Michael, sweet if a little odd conversations with Japanese Ken, and general feel good fun with Janina and Patrick from Germany. We’d also get the occasional free day/afternoon off work together and this was the perfect excuse to go to the beautiful coast – the 90 mile beach and play Frisbee (it’s winter remember!) plus we had the beach to ourselves (I’m trying not to get too used to this feeling) .

18738493_812880968887181_2335751152192012230_oIt was a happy day when we were lucky enough to be in the presence of one of the most ancient of trees. On the weekend we took a trip south, Michael joining us for the ride. We headed for Tane Mahuta meaning Lord of the Forest, the largest living Kauri tree in New Zealand, estimated to be over 2000yrs old…what a sight! These enigmatic trees have lived for thousands of years and yet their roots are now heavily protected and so sensitive, sadly many trees have been lost due to contamination. Tane Mahuta had a beautiful glowing presence along with the damp lush forest walk to the viewing platform to the Cathedral Grove – like something out of Zelda, it captured my heart.

P1100735On the trip up to Kaitaia we drove through a small town called Kawakawa when I noticed a familiar site. The colourful whimsical curves reminiscent of the artist Hundertwasser, sure enough we’d stumbled upon public toilets (!) designed and created by himself and the local community. Little did we know that Austrian born Hundertwasser visited Kawakawa in the 1970’s and fell in love with the local area so much he moved in until his last day. The town is somewhat of a shrine to his work with it’s very own cute steam train, it all just seemed so random, but this made it all the more poignant. P1100559We’d taught the pupils in the days I was working at the school about Hundertwasser, they had a project where they created their own buildings inspired by his paintings – it was a joy to see one in real life!

 

The same day we also did I guided tour of the Kawiti family caves, a nice little fix and trip through a fascinating 200 metre limestone cave system.

 

On another free day from mandarin picking we headed to the northernmost point in New Zealand – Cape Reinga lighthouse. For Maori Cape Reinga is the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand. We were so close by and on the great recommendation from Lauren we decided to head up late afternoon to capture the sun setting. The weather wasn’t the ‘best’ in that it was incredibly windy and stormy for most of the day, undeterred we believed it would add to the atmosphere. I was also very aware that we should be kept as busy as possible in our downtime to reconnect with the reasons we’d travelled to this amazing country. Stepping out of the car for photo opportunities we were nearly swept off our feet, there was something in the air that day (starts humming Phil Collins). Peering over the cliff edge witnessing two oceans collide we discovered the place of leaping, where Maori spirits begin their final journey.  It is here that after death, all Māori spirits are believed to travel up the coast and over the wind-swept vista to the pohutukawa tree on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua. They descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root into the sea below. The spirits then travel underwater to the Three Kings Islands where they climb out onto Ohaua, the highest point of the islands and bid their last farewell before returning to the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui.

P1100695Speaking of history and spirituality on site at the hostel was a gorgeously carved marae. In some modern Polynesian societies, notably that of the Maori of New Zealand, the marae is still a vital part of everyday life. A marae is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes, and in my case I used it for yoga 🙂

We’d become a bit of a family at the Mainstreet Hostel and as our last day approached we were joined by a lovely friend Rachael from the orchard and headed to the nearest pub for karaoke! Where Lauren got her song on and I well, drank more… leading to a full day of hangover…it was time to go.

P1100867Whangarei offered time to heal and isolate myself for a couple of days. Since leaving Kaitaia and dropping Lauren off in Paihia to continue her journey back to Auckland to stay with extended family, I had developed a cold and needed to rest. Whangarei offered sunshine, caves and waterfalls – just the pick me up I needed. Being a little less adventurous than normal (my temperature was fluctuating between shivers and sweats) I took a stroll around 2 areas of caving interest, Waipu Caves and the Abbey Caves. Waipu Caves were particularly flooded out, it was an unguided trip and without the proper clothing and being a bit shaky on my feet I was content venturing inside the entrance and surrounding bush walk. It was on this day that I realised how I still feel that rush when ‘discovering’ a cave entrance, so much so that venturing inside is not even the most exciting part. At first I didn’t know if I liked this feeling (!) but realised that it’s the curiosity that drives me, the shift from light to dark, a portal to another world, another time, it fires up my heart. Well rested, in a quaint little home with a comfy bed and mother figure Air BNB host I was re-energised, and ready to head back down to the sanctuary, Earthskin Muriwai

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 ‘There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart, pursue those.’

Soundtrack: New Zealand Folk Song – Pokarekare Ana, Bob Marley – Satisfy My Soul, Thomas Newman – Anokhi

 

 

 

Uncategorized

My Sleeping Bag is You, Seeking Comfort

18318559_10212752394585909_945597278_oWaiheke Island, just east of Auckland, known for its vineyards and vibrant art community, was a place high on Hendrik’s and my list of must-sees. It also offered itself as the perfect day trip to meet and hang out with his lovely sister Jarinda, who currently resides in Auckland. We took the boat across to the island as Hendrik’s face grew brighter and brighter, I thought he was just excited about the wine, turns out it was the Beemer he had booked as a rental car that was really getting him excited! Buzzing around giggling and making our way around 3 vineyards in total (at least I think so – hic!) one particular favourite was the Casita Miro Spanish inspired and Gaudi themed vineyard. We began with 6 different sherrys to sample and ordered a plate or two of appetizers to enhance the taste sensations. The day was bright and happy and it truly felt as though we were on holiday. 18198546_10154795161669737_693092646169687781_nAs the sun began to set we headed back to Jarinda’s abode where a braai (BBQ) was on everybody’s mind. A plate full of venison and other fresh tasty meats filled us up, perfectly cooked by the braai- master himself. Drinks were flowing freely as I remember trying at least 3 different gins that night (and continued to fall asleep on the bed fully clothed and shoes still on, the perfect end to a great day I reckon 😉

P1100407The next day myself and Hendrik set off up north to see a few more sights, making the most of our few days together we headed for Warkworth. We had booked a cute little outside room with a friendly older couple with sweet doggie that soon befriended us. We were very happy there as we made the place our own and enjoyed the relaxation together. The original plan was to head to Tane Mahuta, the oldest Kauri tree still standing estimated somewhere between 1250-2500 years wise…however it was much further from us than first realised, so we settled for a cuddle with a 800yr old one in nearby Warkworth. P1100464Heading back to Auckland the next day, Warkworth was to be as far north as we’d head this time around. The reason being that bigger exciting plans were forming between us and the first step was an interview in Auckland for Hendrik to receive his full NZ citizenship. It was time to tell friends and family of my decision to come home early October this year. My extended visa ends in November and after a lot of thought and consideration and sleepless nights I made up my mind. New Zealand is a happy bubble and some of the best things have happened to me since I’ve been here, so to let that go is…scary. I know that I am capable of carving out the kind of future I want and have gained the experience and confidence to do it. It comes down to passion and choice and I seriously believe anything you want is in your grasp, if you focus everything you have in to it.

P1100291ANZAC Day – 25th of April –marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian troops, popularly known as ANZACS (the acronym for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps), on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey in 1915. While the campaign ended in military defeat, it is widely claimed that the Gallipoli experience helped foster a sense of nationhood in both New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand first observed ANZAC Day in 1916 with processions, church services and public meetings attended by large crowds. In 1920, the Anzac Day Act made 25th April a public holiday to help commemorate those who had died in the First World War. Now the day honours all New Zealanders who have served in wars overseas. Heath was participating in the dawn parade in Pirongia, as part of his voluntary rural fire service position, and I was keen to be an onlooker and pay my respects in this country I’ve grown to love. In moonlight I wandered through towards Pirongia memorial hall and listened in on the tributes and touching conclusion in the haunting melody ‘the last post’ being played on trumpet. 20170425_063736 The rest of the day was at our disposal, and a gorgeously sunny day it was too, we decided to go on a road trip. We headed out to the nearby west coast, through dense bush and gravel roads, the sun lighting up the steepest of rolling hills, popular with motorbike trail riders. This was also a great excuse to grab some more photos together, we rather enjoyed this hobby, exploring and adventuring together and now capturing the moments too. We came across low flying planes doing fertiliser (lime) drops over the farmland, chasing them down in the car and then with our cameras we watched them circle around through our lenses trying to snap the perfectly timed shot with plane, dust cloud and rapid movement. P1100321We ventured on to Marokopa beach where Fran and Larry have a Bach, with the sunlight hitting the water it was easy to get some lush shots. Then on to Waikawau Tunnel, dug by hand, which is the only accessible link between Marokopa and Awakino – which are almost 60km apart by road.

P1100337Time slipping through our fingers like grains of sand, making the most of every opportunity at the cave myself and Heath took to the cave to collaborate in achieving the most special images we could compose together. It was becoming exciting, with each trip the photographs were becoming more successful in capturing the rare and remarkable moments in the cave, so much so in fact it was amazing to be creating these shots and the effort and planning used to create them was addictively rewarding. Glowworms are charismatic and the stuff that fairy tales are made of. Our lives and worries are forgotten as these tiny and slimy creatures cast a spell upon us, leaving us awestruck with the beauty of their lights. It’s with sadness I said goodbye to the Glowing family with a photobook of memories.

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The day after my last working day we were treated to the ‘Hairy Feet Hobbit Tour’ in nearby Pio Pio. Hairy Feet is a filming location of the Hobbit films offering a stunning limestone bluff as it’s main feature. Suzie took us around her piece of paradise explaining how and where scenes were filmed along our journey. It was a funny situation as the Boddie caving family hadn’t seen the films so didn’t really have a great deal of interest in that side of things, saying this, when props and costumes were brought out their enthusiasm started to show a bit more 🙂 My passion for the tales in this incredible place was re-ignited and I buzzed from having the opportunity to share this tour with great friends.

P1100500Being the solo traveller and having to say goodbye over and over is lonely. Yes you meet people at every moment that inspire, thrill and excite you, but the lingering thought is not to make too much of a connection being that there will be the inevitable goodbye and thoughts of loss. Encountering new emotions disguised as other things, particularly when it comes to seeking comfort and enduring loneliness. Actively seeking cuddles and body contact which isn’t ordinarily me. I believe being alone can heighten thoughts and feelings, particularly of attachment and loss along with that, that’s what I’m feeling now, and it’s ok, it’s totally ok because I’ve recognised it this time. It’s been a heavy month emotionally, encountering real euphoric highs filled with love and also extreme negativity and unwanted drama from nowhere.

It re-affirms that I am becoming far more comfortable in my skin and it’s only in recent situations I have become aware of this and I can deal with more crap than initially first thought, by removing myself from the situation and staying true to my thoughts and actions.

‘Today I woke up worried and was lonely through and through

With weepiness and weariness of things I had to do

But there you are and in your arms my sleeping bag is you

No longer sick and worrying my home again is you..’

Soundtrack: This Is The Kit – Sleeping Bag, London Grammar – Oh Woman, Oh Man, First Aid Kit – Cedar Lane

Uncategorized

Birthday ❀✿ WOMAD ⇝ The Gentle Storm

P1100117WOMAD is a wonderful festival founded in 1980 by (genius) Peter Gabriel. From the outset, the WOMAD name has reflected the festival’s idea; to be embracing but non-definitive, inspiring and outward looking; and more than anything, enthusiastic about a world that has no boundaries in its ability to communicate through music and movement. WOMAD has always presented music that they felt to be of excellence, passion and individuality, regardless of musical genre or geographical origin. WOMAD encourages collaboration amongst the artists they invite to perform. Rocking up in my car on the Friday, this WOMAD New Zealand would be different this time around, I’d be on the other side of the world, and spending the majority of it on my own. In the UK it had started to become an annual holiday- heading to WOMAD, it had evolved from spending time at the Leveller’s Beautiful Days festival in previous years. Fun times were spent with friends and also my parents enjoyed the weekend away in their caravan, meeting up over a wine and beer to have a ‘jig-about’ to a band or two. A couple of particularly strong memories from WOMAD UK was when myself and friend Vikki sat in the blazing sun enjoying an acoustic set by singer/songwriter Martin Simpson, glancing behind at the entranced audience I saw a familiar face- the legendary Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant was watching his friend Martin play. I can certainly blame my parents for my love of Led Zeppelin, a band that I heard throughout my childhood and Robert Plant is still a firm favourite for my Mum to play loudly. We went to see Robert Plant play in an arboretum a couple of years previously and I have been lucky to see ‘Bobby’ sing a few times over the years.

17389130_10154533761477428_3184738847655392670_oIt was quite a joy arriving on what was set to be a beautiful sunny weekend, something that is often lacking at festivals in the UK. I parked up on the racecourse, pitched the tent and gazed at the majestic silhouette of Mount Taranaki on the horizon. It would be a few hours before the site was open, so I poured myself a vodka and began to build an itinerary of the bands I was interested in seeing. The beauty of not knowing most of the bands beforehand is that you can just go with what you feel at the time, often pleasantly surprised by the quality and unusual new experience on the senses. Making my way in I took myself around the site of the Bowl of Brooklands, cold beer in hand. The first thing I noticed was the amphitheatre encircling the main stage, complete with a peaceful lake in front of the stage, it looked so elegant in the sunlight. Taking a seat I was waiting to hear the traditional Indian vocal talents of highly regarded singer Sudha Ragunathan – the most celebrated of South India’s devotional Carnatic singers, this sounded too intriguing to miss. I’d always choose unusual vocal talents over a middle-of-the-road band any day. India, is up there with the countries I most want to visit and it’s been amazing following friend Shontae’s blog as she makes her way through the inspirational country….one day 🙂

P1100087The site was smaller than WOMAD UK, hosting 6 stages and small collection of stalls selling various beautiful items from around the globe, and food from everywhere you can imagine – it would’ve been rude not to try and sample as much as possible. A few bands watched, a bit of solo dancing done I retired back to the tent after a pleasant first day to the quietest festival campsite I have ever experienced- bliss.

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Second day in and I was having a thoroughly enjoyable time but did feel like something was missing, sometimes you just get a little bored of your own company. Yet at other times it’s quite a joy to sit, content in your own space with nothing else needed. I’ve had to get used to my company in the past 15 months, sometimes it’s great, sometimes it isn’t. Not one to easily idly chit-chat it can get lonely, but you do get away with pulling dodgy dance moves when you’re on your own at a festival, you become THAT weirdo (there’s always one). IMG_20170322_123502_760 1

Day 3 and the anticipation of Hendrik arriving was exciting. Leaving early he arrived as the gates opened, together again under a sunlit tree. Soaking up eachothers company, re-connecting and finding our place in the gentle atmosphere of WOMAD we rested our heads with the sounds of poetry making it’s way into our subconscious. The energy beginning to pick up a little we happily walked around the site as though we’d always been there together. It wasn’t long before he found treasures in the form of gemstones and crystals and began to add to his collection, what a wonderful thing to collect. Drinking stepped up a gear as we shared tequila with a stranger and the dancing began to Canadian folk band The East Pointers. We sang, danced, ate, explored and joined in on the magic. P11001243 days camping and drinking, we took a ride out in the morning to New Plymouth and enjoyed a sleepy cultured look around the museum, gallery and impressive street art, treating ourselves to a sweet cabin for the night with a BED! it was a Birthday celebration afterall 😉

P1100144So it was my birth month again, usually the first signs of spring are all around and I am blessed with a sunny daffodil filled Birthday. However, being on the flip side of the world it is now autumn, and the changeable weather has really kicked in – after a particularly unsettled summertime. Learning to embrace different seasonal holidays I was treated to a meal with the whole adopted caving family, including Larry & Fran, whose farm I live on, and cousin of family and fellow tour guide Ash (always great fun). It felt so lovely to have everyone together, especially as my time at Glowing is drawing to a close- I have until the end of April here.  They were kind enough to gift a sacred Greenstone necklace, carved into a triple spiral symbolising everlasting friendship, I was made up, it’s gorgeous. It is traditional to wear Greenstone if it is gifted to you and ideally blessed by a Maori elder. Happily for me, Fran’s neighbour Tiwi was more than happy to bless the necklace for me, something to remember forever.

17493164_10154687834219737_8008831724795426999_oI’d met fellow Brit Lizzie a year ago on a hilltribe trek in Northern Thailand, she is mentioned in a previous Blog post ‘Chiang Mai Pt II Hilltribe Family’ and here she is again! We had stayed connected via Facebook and she informed me of her travels to New Zealand. I offered Lizzie a place to stay, convinced that the Kiwi Experience tour she was on was bound to stop in Waitomo at some point. Happily for both of us it did so we arranged to meet at the Waitomo bar Curlys. Loaded with backpack and fresh sunburn we hugged and enjoyed a catch-up over a meal and beer. On the Kiwi Experience coach tours, you can pick and choose what you want to do with each day, depending on taste and budget, and Lizzie had decided not to go on a glowworm tour (I think I gasped when she told me this) a glass of wine later I offered to take her down the cave – as she couldn’t leave New Zealand without seeing the glowworm caves (not if I was anything to do with it anyway!) all suited and booted we headed down late that night, seeing so many more down through the bush as well as inside the cavern, and there we were, meeting only once before in the middle of nowhere in Thailand, and then again on the other side of the world in a cave. Life is beautifully unpredictable like that. 17362860_10154681178354737_5414296004122190014_n

One guiding day at work saw me taking a fellow cave guide called Alex on tour. Alex had rang from the Black Water Rafting company wanting to experience a tour at Glowing, which of course was totally cool. A vague sense of anxiety crossed my mind as I obviously wanted to impress a fellow guide. It’s funny, I often joke about how I seem to get all of the pro-cavers on my tours 🙂 thankfully they’ve all been amazing to learn from and have thoroughly enjoyed their tours, so it’s always a privilege. Alex had a gentle friendly face, also from the UK, we had many things in common. He is on his own journey that has seen him travelling for 4 years so far and has had some incredible experiences like guiding through caves in Mexico and tour guiding on Ayers Rock. We both knew we’d see each other again, especially with him camping down the road from Waitomo. He stayed at the cottage after a fun evening of drinks and life stories. 17546722_10154707928099737_2732191283612970990_oAlex was also kind enough to provide tickets for the main 3 cave attractions at Waitomo, that I needed to see before I left (albeit along with all the other tourists) they were still an incredible sight and the history and stories of their discovery stole my imagination. So it’s all winding down…or perhaps it’s winding up…it’s been a tough few weeks of soul-searching and anxiety about what comes next. Push and pull, reasons to stay and reasons to leave, I’m beginning to form some kind of plan. Watch this space…P1100030

Soundtrack: Jackie Leven – Call Mother A Lonely Field, Elbow – The Gentle Storm, William Orbit – Spiral, Parov Stelar – Catgroove

 

art, Uncategorized

The Light Is Shining Through On You..a trip through time, valentine & sunshine

16835792_10154591122044737_1903745541043622057_oI’m still in love with Waitomo. It seems it’s becoming more interesting the longer I spend here. It’s a joy to drive through the quiet, windy roads around the lush green hills and limestone karsts that dominate the landscape. I’m at that in-between stage where part of me feels like a resident here, I feel very comfortable, and yet I still enjoy playing the tourist, going on cave tours and hanging out in the cave museum. I genuinely appreciate every day I have here, and they really do pass by so fast. After a visit to the Waitomo museum one day I picked up a few vintage information books, one about cave formations and cave fauna, one on glow-worms and one titled ‘A Trip Through Time; A Guide to Landforms Waitomo Caves – Marokopa Coast’ the book explores Waitomo by car, with stop offs en-route, all presented in a charming 80’s fashion with unrealistic illustrations and a friendly personable narrative. I love it, and decided I would take a pilgrimage to retrace these steps, also it would prove interesting to see how much, if anything, it had changed over the years. u 

I was joined by Hendrik for the weekend’s adventure starting at The Natural Bridge. I visited this area almost a year ago on my 30th  Birthday with my friend Luke, and the weather was reasonably better this time around. We walked through the awesome gorge, taking the track a little further this time to have some fun climbing in and around the karsts. Further along the road is the Piri Piri Cave. I hadn’t ventured inside before, but after a conversation with pro-caver Nick (mentioned in the last blog) I realised there was some pretty cool stuff to see down there. Armed with our head torches we took the steps leading down in to the darkness then climbed over to venture further inside. We could see there was a suggestion of steps leading us through a small passage towards what is referred to on the map as the ‘Oyster Room’ (it didn’t disappoint). It was a dry and muddy cave and we managed to find old graffiti and untouched stalactite formations.

Next stop along the road was the magnificent Marokopa Falls. A short bushwalk leads you down to the viewing platform for the waterfall, not quite satisfied enough we decided to slide on down through thick sticky mud to get to the foot of the falls. It was all part of experiencing the power close to hand, much like when you find the perfect spot for watching your favourite band from the audience- too far away and you are removed from the feeling. Returning home to remove some of the mud, we drove out to Pirongia and finished the great day over drinks with Heath & Colette.

16300439_10154540776299737_8094714491832667594_oTime for some sunshine, summer seems to have kicked in at last. Apparently it’s an unusually unsettled mix of weather here in Waitomo at the moment, days of blazing sun, then in the next moment thunderstorms, rain, and fog. Personally, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, I’ve always enjoyed variety. The Cicada’s have started singing their calling song in the trees and the tarmac is warming up under barefoot.

Myself and Heath have always been pretty keen to enhance our photography skills, particularly in low-light and capturing the glow worms is really quite a skill. We take photographs throughout each tour that then get sent to the customer the next day, but the results vary due to the cheaper waterproof cameras we use and tricky changing conditions. Michelle had suggested we partake in a photo walk workshop around Raglan to hone our skills a little. It was really just a good excuse to have a play, Heath captured some particularly fine shots. It’s like anything, experience and practise will enhance the results.

SONY DSCI received a message from Hendrik offering to take a drive over for the night of the 14th from Matamata (Hobbiton) to cook me a special dinner. I didn’t realise at first that this coincided with Valentine’s Day (I’ve never been one to celebrate such an ‘occasion’) but the thought was touching and I decided I’d like to return a gesture, in the form of a childlike treasure hunt for when he arrived! I did have doubts as to whether it was going to all be a bit much, either a genius or ridiculous idea- it was hanging in the balance as I finished tea staining the papers ready for the treasure map illustration and clues. After some thought I decided that if I would enjoy the game myself then he probably would too…

received_10154556454349737The idea was that we could venture toward the nearby rock climbing wall, on the site of the old farm, which made for an interesting and historic walk. After an early start placing the clues in position I had a day of touring before I got to find him busy in the cottage getting dinner ready (I could get used to this?) It was time to begin the hunt, in and around the old fireplace, underneath the bridge, before leading us up the ‘stairway to heaven’ to the ‘hidden place’. Leaving the farm my car gave an almighty crunch sound, somehow I was expecting this as it was beginning to get creakier by the day. We pushed it into the layby all the while 3 cars from nowhere offered to help (don’t you just love this country). Reluctant to continue driving causing more damage we started to take a walk home. Another car soon pulled up beside us offering help, complete with farmer hat, friendly smile and offering us a cold beer-our new friend Gavin kindly dropped us home.  I’m pretty sure we’ll stay in touch as he was keen to visit Hendrik’s pub and also he has a cave on his land (would be rude not to visit sometime, right?). It was somewhat of a silver lining, knowing the car may cost a bit, but this didn’t matter now- we still had that lovely cooked dinner to look forward too- fresh fish and mussels no less. dsc_1410

There was also another bonus to my darling car breaking- that I got to spend another day with Hendrik whilst sorting it out (well, having lots of fun too) we bought some camping supplies in anticipation for the weekend ahead.

Camping and live music were the social events I’d really missed from back home. It was the epitome of fun for our group of friends to have a good old knees up over a few days. It was Hendrik’s best mate Amy’s 30th party, in the form of camping on a friend’s vast land over in Matamata. Good job I didn’t need my car for the weekend! I was picked up and we headed to the Garden Art Studio in nearby Cambridge that was going to exhibit my artwork. A diverse little gallery in wealthy Cambridge, it felt good to have my work on display and to inform me to start producing new pieces. Onward to the party and we were greeted by a pretty, smiling Amy. We pitched our tent and began meeting everyone including lovely hosts Rachael and Grant, who happen to have a superb record collection including a rare Tim Buckley vinyl (respect soared at that moment) J. Amy also had a gorgeous VW Beetle to die for- a really cool chick. dsc_1437

Adding a whole mix of fire poi, lush food, dancing to Fleetwood Mac and of course drinking, it’s fair to say it was a pretty decent occasion indeed. We were sent to sleep by the eccentric musings of Jim Morrison being piped through the window.p1090883A pleasant trickle of rain hitting the tent sent us to sleep and within a few hours we were back on the road to meet my old housemate and our ex Hobbiton co-worker Ellis. Dropping in I briefly saw Cathie (my landlord during my time at Hobbiton) and it was all smiles and hugs seeing Ellis again. We planned to hit the Karangahake Gorge walkway on this super-hot day, to view the immense towering bush and find our way through the many gold mining tunnels, each offering wonderful viewpoints when hitting the daylight again.

16836030_10211823186316009_3372041470325125618_oSeeing that we were much nearer the sunny east coast I had decided to take Michelle up on her kind offer of letting out her Bach for myself and Hendrik to stay in for a couple of nights. It is located over in Waihi – the gold mining town I visited nearly a year ago whilst WWOOFING. It has an incredibly large mining pit that raises mixed opinions from the locals, but we couldn’t help but stand fascinated and in awe of it. The Bach is just out of the township and boasts a scenic estuary outside the back door, leading towards a popular surf beach. It was yet another haven for us to spend some extended quality time together, playing games, dancing and enjoying each-others company. This would be the longest time we had spent together, and it felt very comfortable.

p1090959All this road tripping was pretty tiring (especially for the passenger who just sits there taking in the view) 😉 we found ourselves a nice pub to get some grub and beers and I lost Hendrik to a vintage pinball machine for about 30 minutes J it’s nice that we’re both into our games and geek fun. We spent around an hour constructing the best models we could make using counters, chess pieces and straws! We’d also found a very simple looking gamed called ‘Mancala’ using a basic wooden tray with hollows containing glass nuggets – it’s now my favourite game ever (I kept winning somehow) to keep it balanced though we’d hit the dartboard every so often where I’d get a beating. We had a dartboard at home for a time and I have distinct memories of our beloved cat Martin sitting comfortable directly below when we were playing, it’s a miracle those darts didn’t rebound onto him. Bless him. We also had opportunity to rekindle our love of finding interesting pieces around Waihi, souvenirs, books, and gathering ideas, particularly for his pub. It’s fun to have somewhere to design, plan and invigorate and the ideas are endlessly flowing into that place, it’s inspiring. We took a short drive out to Bowentown from a recommendation from Amy and again had a beautifully sunny day to explore the beach with it’s sea caves and soft creamy sand. We were joined only by a family catching crabs (yes, there were a few catching crabs jokes that day). Hendrik began to remove clothes and head in to the sea! It was magic, I knew we both wanted to hit the water, it was the perfect environment so I just marched on in as well. Spotaneous-happy-sunshiny-days.

p1090995It was time to head home, with the ute full of blankets, camping gear, booze and his plants in and around the dash (his babies). We took a de tour to Mount Mauganui (still on the east coast) and enjoyed a drink in a lovely colourful bar I’d been to a few times before. A pit stop at a yummy New York pizza place in Hamilton (detoxing was imminent for the next few days) and finally we headed back to the cottage. An evening was spent listening to the haunting yet uplifting voices of the Bulgarian Choir, as we had realised the night before through chance that it was something we both really enjoyed listening to and had accessed through different sources, that’s the beauty of music. What a truly amazing few days, I felt the light was truly shining through on us.

Soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac – Dreams, Moby – Inside, UB40 – Rat In Mi Kitchen, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices – Mir Stanke Le

Book: Moby – Porcelain (autobiography)