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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

 

 

 

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>> Towards the Within <<

p1090693You know you’re in a good place when you no longer are interested in looking back, you prefer to enjoy the journey. It felt good to feel the sunshine on my face again. It was such a challenge to stay awake on the bus ride home, I was that annoying person that kept passing out and waking up far too near to the stranger sat next to you. Luckily for me she was nice, and offered me sweets and snacks for energy. I was being picked up by Michelle to return to her lovely home for a restful night’s sleep. I had the following day to recover, and to nest into the cottage again, along with the thoughtful items I’d been given from friends and family including those sensory items like incense and candles, tasty chutneys and glazes, photographs and books that would ultimately make it feel more like home. img_20170106_200639_900

I’ve struggled since the residency finding time and headspace to be as creative as I would like. Now that I am comfortable with the job routine it’s clearing my mind a little, and gaining a workspace in the cottage has enabled me to access the progress of the artwork so far. I know that as soon as I get the fire burning I will be up and running again. I have made a few taster sketches of pieces I want to work on, including delicate studies of venturing through the cave, particularly with very low light. img_20161222_205026_605

At work we offer photography tours, which I always love to guide, I enjoy learning from the artist’s, and can feel that deep creative connection which reminds me of why I am doing the job in the first place. When exploring and taking time to sit and look at the incredible surroundings, although a daily occurrence, it is still a meditation that I do not take for granted. Of course the connection is stronger when the customers are having the same intense feelings (which is fairly often) -it’s a beautiful thing to be part of that with them.

Yosuke Kashiwakura is a Japanese photographer who had booked in to take photographs of the glow worms for a National Geographic article. Myself and Heath took him down to the main glow worm cavern and watched him setup his sweet looking camera, with limited English we let him figure out what he wanted, which took no time at all. He had Heath stand down stream of the river, head torch glowing, and created an astonishing portrait shot of him. Capturing the cave formations the glow-worms were clustering in an around, and Heath standing enigmatically in the distance.

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The Christmas celebrations were complete at home and I felt a strange emptiness as it approached Christmas Eve back in New Zealand. I was working and the sun was shining, I was afraid I was masking emotions of the first experience of Christmas time without loved ones around me. I decided that because everything was ‘upside-down’ to what I was used to in the UK that I would embrace the surreal couple of days ahead and try and make it memorable for different reasons. Having previously enjoyed spontaneously exploring with Heath I asked if he’d like to join me on a Christmas Eve exploration- a chance to locate those areas that have drawn curiosity, and to experience the cave in quite literally, a new light. We enjoy each other’s easy company and are able to talk and climb freely, stopping from time to time to reflect and enjoy a celebratory beer. The glow worms really put on a performance, the best we’d ever seen, they began to gently light our faces as we opened up to each other. It was a real buzz to find areas even Heath hadn’t been to before, despite his growing up with the cave in ‘his garden’. A particular highlight after crawling over stalagmite formations was an inviting tunnel in blue and copper hues, we took it as far as we could.

p1090703It’s an addiction- the natural high of exploration, wanting to fulfil curiosity, playing around down there for what turned into around a 5 hour trip. The last area on my ‘checklist’ was to take a dip in the crystal clear water of the Lime Cave, and of course to see where it lead to. It was very muddy! But freeing all the same. My thoughts were heavily distracted in the best possible way as the night drew to a natural close and Christmas Day arrived.

I was kindly invited to Bevian (Heath’s father) and his partner Myra’s home for a Christmas lunch in Te Awamutu, along with Michelle and Stefan. I still fall in love with the landscape and immense amount of space around New Zealand properties (that is out of the cities I mean). They were all sitting in the sunshine of the garden as I was presented with kind gifts and a tasty BBQ lunch.

dsc_1398After a little deliberation I headed back to Heath’s in Pirongia. As kind as the offer was I was concerned at feeling like a spare part due to his kids and girlfriend staying there. Nobody likes to be the gooseberry, but I knew for the first time I didn’t want to head back to the cottage on my own and that I needed to be around people- I run away too easily. Well the bottle of wine stopped me driving anywhere and as I relaxed Colette and Heath were great company and a phone call from Hendrik was comforting after so long not hearing each other’s voices. I left early morning, still feeling heady and emotional and enjoyed a long drive in the sunshine of Boxing Day. I still struggle with the shift from closeness and then the emptiness upon parting…even if I’m not so sure on what I want in the first place.

Settling back into work for the next few days the time had come to plan my upcoming days off. I would be heading down to Apiti on the Sunday so decided to book myself in for a treat 5 hour cave tour, with another company here in Waitomo. It is of course great to experience, compare, research, but mainly just for the love of adventure and to see some more beautiful places so nearby. The tour was a 7am start (ouch) and included an abseil to start the trip, something I haven’t done since I was 11 years old on a trip to an adventure park near Corfe Castle 🙂  followed by ‘tubing’ which is essentially floating through the cave tunnels in a big rubber ring. The group I was in were fit, young men, meaning that we were powering through the trip and gaining access to other areas due to our speed and ‘skill’. Tight squeezes in darkness and of course the glow-wormies were in abundance. Not so much of a diverse mixture as our cave but an enjoyable experience all the same. If I’m honest, somebody carrying me back up afterwards would’ve been nice rather than the impending final rock climb (I’ve never been good/happy with vertical climbing) it was safe to say my body was done.

15940490_10154469719949737_4247798651540657387_nI’d been following (that does sound pretty creepy doesn’t it) an interesting caving chap on Instagram as I realised after caving all around the world, posting incredible diary photographs along the way, Nick was now in the Waitomo area- I was very keen to meet. I obviously wanted to pick his brain about all of his incredible discoveries and adventures and plus it was a good excuse to get out and have a pint. Nick was sat looking pretty intriguing as he studied his notebook, scribbling down his finds of the day. As I approached, conversation came easy (of course we did talk about a cave or two) he’s an interesting and passionate character who I think will be a lot of fun to be around, we’ll meet up again and hopefully do some exploring together sometime. As perfect timing had it, my friend Luke who is now back in Southampton knew of a girl heading to New Zealand from our home town, called Lauren. Lauren and I exchanged messages on Facebook and the evening I was with Nick was when her Kiwi Experience coach was staying in Waitomo (good hey!) So she came over for a chat and drink, a lovely sociable bouncy character spending a year in New Zealand on a Working Visa, I’m sure we’ll meet up again for a yarn.

15965061_1214016078676654_8092223788433813616_nThe day had arrived and I took the long scenic drive down to Hendrik’s tavern with a good mixture of excitement and anxiety thrown in. It had been around 2 months since we last saw each other, and although in reasonable contact, things change and feelings can change, it’s just the way it goes. Trying to be realistic I kept this in the front of my mind and was happy to spend time with him regardless. Things were a little different in the sense I now know I am staying here for a time, so the road ahead is less uncertain in that sense. We have a great connection and are very aware of living our own lives and yet, when we come together, it’s magic. After a short meeting I headed down the road to start work on reinventing the Apiti Tavern road sign, complete with updated logo and directions. I should’ve relaxed the day before, I have felt very restless of late, haven’t been sleeping well and emotions have been up and down, trying to make sense of what I really do want and need, recent situations and people close to me have made me question this.

p1090743I returned back to the pub, calling it a day and looked forward to some quality time together. To my surprise I was cooked a beautiful seafood chowder and we saw the night in with red wine. This was the start of things to come, the following day we exchanged gifts and later on he had booked us into the local Makoura Lodge, in a beautiful secluded dip of land was our very own Riverside Cabin for the night. Complete with huge fire pit, BBQ and super comfortable lodging. I was overwhelmed at the thought and effort- it left me a bit speechless. It’s fantastically exciting to share hopes and ideas together I love hearing his enthusiasm for the pub and what he intends to do, it’s really quite great how well it’s going there for him, it’s lovely to hear someone talk about something they are passionate about. Oh, and he said he took time to listen to Dead Can Dance (that’s special).

p1090737To be with someone whose eyes light up when yours do, whose heart races when your blood also pounds, who is enticed and inspired by the same forces that drive you forward, is a gift many of us never truly get to experience. Because we settle. We settle for the person we love over the person who could push us- to be bigger, stronger, greater versions of ourselves. We tell ourselves that love is enough. That it conquers everything. But we forget that love shouldn’t be the thing that conquers our lives – we should be. And we should do it deliberately, triumphantly, by the side of somebody who shares all our joys and successes. So how do we meet such a person? That’s simple – we do more of what we love. We give ourselves up to uncertainty, to searching, to pursuing what we want out of life without the certainty of having somebody beside us while we do it. We throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the things that we love and we consequently attract people who love what we love. Who value what we prioritize. Who appreciate all that we are. We throw ourselves into the heart of possibility instead of staying comfortably settled inside of certainty. Because we owe it to ourselves to do so. We owe it to ourselves to live the greatest life we are capable of living, even if that means that we have to be alone for a very long time. At the end of the day, love is wonderful but it isn’t enough to make up for an entire lifetime of compromising your core values. You don’t want to spend forever gazing into somebody’s eyes expecting to find all of the answers you need inside of them. Wait for the person who is gazing outward in the same direction as you are. It’s going to make all of the difference in the world.’

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Soundtrack: The Orb – COW (full album), Clannad – The Hunter, Throwing Muses – Teller

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There be gold in them there hills ◮…the Wild West & re-visiting friends

DSC_0780It made sense to travel back up the island through the rugged west coast. Renowned for its damp and lush green rainforest like landscapes it didn’t disappoint. I crossed the Haast pass in murky wet weather, stepping out to climb over some giant rocks and take in the energy of my new surroundings. Heading north along the coast line, I left the snow behind and began to see waterfalls and rockslides.

I took a nights rest in Hokitika, famous for its abundance of sacred greenstone and gold mines. I finally made the commitment of buying a beautifully carved jade fishhook, as I didn’t want the regret of not owning a piece of this unique green jewellery. The following beautiful sunny morning I craved a walk after so much driving, I found myself on a mysterious track through old gold mining tunnels, head lamp at the ready, I was far too curious to not enter. I came out in one piece :). Heading further north that same day (time was getting tight) I made what was to be one of my finalP1080468 stops on the south island. Punakaiki- a small community between Westport and Greymouth, home to amazing rock formations which were formed 30 million years ago from minute fragments of dead marine creatures and plants landed on the seabed about 2 km below the surface. Immense water pressure caused the fragments to solidify in hard and soft layers. Gradually seismic action lifted the limestone above the seabed. Mildly acidic rain, wind and seawater sculpted the bizarre shapes. Fierce water pressure pushes through the rocks and blow holes causing a chimney like effect, a real wow moment.P1080496Further on up the road there was a ‘cavern’, just like the ‘chasm’ in the previous blog, this word is far too interesting for me to not visit. Curiousity sparked, head torch at the ready (always) I made my way in. It was a dry and peaceful cave, a few areas to climb and crawl into, and a wonderful inky black haze surrounded me. I sat for a while and enjoyed the atmosphere. P1080514The hostel I’d booked into couldn’t check me in for a while, sadly for me it was right next to a pub overlooking the sea as the sun was setting. A cold pint of Waikato beer in hand, I reflected on the day, realising my southern trip was nearing an end, but what an excellent high I was on! I made my way back to Nelson, to catch up with Renee for a couple of goodbye drinks. One of the most rewarding things about travelling alongside the incredible sites you see are the amazing people you meet along the way. I feel so humbled to have friends I can visit all over New Zealand and create memories with. The ferry was very choppy back up to the north island, so much so it was turning into a Monty Python sketch with everybody making heaving noises due to sea sickness (nice image eh?). Arriving in Wellington that evening it felt a great comfort to see Steve again. He was putting me up/putting up with me in Mirimar for the week. He had a good friend Jason from South Africa staying too as they were both working on a big film together -I’m not going to tell you which one of course 😉 we had a fun week of chatting, drinking and playing computer games, when they weren’t working their arses off at Weta of course. Jason is a cool dude with a fro, very easy going, super talented and has recently worked on films such as Mad Max.

DSC_0677It was the time of year my great friend Dan from back home hosts his annual Gig In The Garden. It is a gathering of family, friends, great music, tasty grub, and being the amazing friend he is, he set up a live stream so I could enjoy the action as it happened, with interludes of people coming up to the webcam to talk to me, it really was the next best thing to being there. Another random meet up happened that week in Mirimar, with Dana, a drama teacher from the school I used to work at. He was over visiting his son Alex, who now lives in Auckland. Dana happened to be at the Weta Workshop with Alex- so being up the road I decided to tag along! It was fun to see Dana and he very much enjoyed meeting Steven and finding out about his crazy Weta lifestyle. On the final evening myself and Steven took a walk through a ambient pinky violet sunset to the Mirimar ‘cave’, it’s a bit of a secret, and home to a self-made bed structure and eerily a pair of sandals. Walking back through the sand he told me of his adventures back in South Africa with his daughter, it was poignant and inspiring, I’m really happy to know him.

P1080573I had received an email from a John Brebner through the WWOOFING site asking if I would like to help out and experience a residency at his gorgeous studio in Feilding (roughly a couple of hours north of Wellington). I tried to make the timing work so that I could visit John on my slow trip up north for my Earthskin Muriwai art residency starting in September (much more info on that in a later blog) I arrived at Homeprint, welcomed by a lovely hug and introduction to John and Allison’s quirky old home, complete with vintage printing presses, letterpress fonts, art gallery walls, historic library- an absolute art lovers dream. John and Allison have a lifetimes experience of printing and teaching art and it was a pleasure to help them out for the week. A particular highlight was cataloguing famous NZ artist Michael Smither’s fantastic screen prints- oh how I’d like to have taken a few of these home with me. I slept in the printing cottage, meaning that after lighting myself a comforting fire for the evening, I would crack on and print until the wee hours, mainly drypoint, I realised how much I’d missed the medium since my university days. IMG_20160818_185051I was enjoying the daily routine of helping John with the practical side of his business then continuing my artwork later in the day. I did however enjoy a visit from Hobbiton (it’s that word again) friend Hendrik, who had recently taken over a tavern in nearby Apiti. We’d not really formed much of a friendship at Hobbiton, but curiosity and regular contact afterwards happily inspired us to meet again. Another South African (!) with a gentle, charismatic presence, I showed him around the studio, the pieces I was working on, and had a coffee before planning to meet at his pub a few days later.

Moving on up to Apiti up to Hendrik’s gaff, the scenery begins to change, the rolling green hills pass me by and I can see the snowy peak of Ruapehu in the distance. To be honest I was a bit anxious about spending the day with somebody I barely knew, I can get a little shy, but it all adds to the excitement. I needn’t have worried -we had surplus natural highs in store. To settle in we took a walk through a nearby forest, I never tire of its wonderful charm. I love the glinting sunlight and the mysterious gloom, we shared a smoke and talked about family. Later in the day we drove out to a somewhat secret glow worm cave, which in the mellow darkness of the early evening was incredible. IMG_20160829_205321We walked through mazes of shallow water guided further in by the lights. We took a seat on a dry rock and could see both the stars of the night sky and the glow worms surrounding us. We made our way back to the tavern and continued to talk, drink and smoke for hours and hours. It was sad to part the next morning, driving up towards Rotorua with a car full of tunes recommended by Hendrik, and a day of great memories, I was in a happy place. The next few days were about revisiting friends on my way back up to Auckland. I found a great hostel in Rotorua with a collection of fun travellers, amazingly all into great music, think Pink Floyd, Led Zep, Doors, so in the midst of rather uninspiring weather we hung out, drank and played games for a few days, while I took time out to prepare and research for the residency. Matamata was next, where I was really pleased to catch up with Luke from Southampton who has been there working since I left in May. We had a pint and lunch in Megan’s parents pub in Te Poi (Megan ex. Hobbiton) and wandered up the Kaimai range for a Kauri tree walk. It was more of a very deep river walk! we had fun negotiating these, getting wet underwear and laughing lots. 14102292_10154070565749737_1969560709872382206_nA lovely day was rounded off by a drink with Megan and Stephanie in the Redoubt (where else) and then back to the holiday park with Luke to sit in the hot pools in darkness staring and the stars listening to great tunes. A beach day with Linda at Mount Maungani was next on the ‘great reunion tour’, on the most summery of days we had a great chat and spent time on the beach. Just a few more days until I needed to be up at Muriwai Beach, so on the recommendation from Linda I planned a few sunny chilled days on the Coromandel, and chose a location I hadn’t yet visited in Tairua. Well it was so beautiful that I spent 3 nights there, trekking, paddling and enjoying the view.DSC_0848

There were a couple of interesting guys at the hostel one of which gave me a list of ‘classical music I have to listen to’ (he also had the best beard ever) and the other (we didn’t do the name exchange) was studying geology in the area and suggested I visit Hamilton Gardens on my way back up. Sat in the sunniest café garden in Hamilton I awaited a lunch date with Matt (Christchurch, Kent) and this time around he was much healthier! I had a pretty flowery salad and we reminisced on funny festival experiences together. He really is a great friend, we have had many good memories. After this reasonably quick lunch I was spending my last night before the residency in the smallest hostel ever (thank god it was the last I thought) and escaped in the evening to share a lush dinner and drink with Hobbiton chum Jessica.  _20160831_194456I was soon realising that this may well be the last time I see these great friends which is bittersweet, but I’m never one to waste time on regrets, you just have to go for it 🙂

Soundtrack: Jenny Lee – Boom Boom, Lamb – Lusty, REM – Nightswimming, Led Zeppelin – Going To California, Leftfield – Leftism

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Into The Great Snowy South ❆

DSC_0519As previously mentioned in the last blog, I finally made it back to Auckland, despite the cancelled flight and the best part of 2 days spent in the airport terminal. It was all ok really, I wound up staying in much smarter accommodation than I had booked , complete with room service (4 toasties at 2am no less) I was in no rush to get back to Christchurch either, but I was getting pangs of helplessness and just wanted to get back into my trusty car and drive off.

The next port of call on this southern trip was leading me towards Lake Tekapo, this worked out well as Hobbiton friends were working on Mount Dobson ski field and living nearby in Fairlie – their adopted second home. Hannah and Luke had been in New Zealand for getting on for 2 years now, and this is the place they spent their last winter – they loved the community atmosphere there. It was great to arrive at their cute little home they were sharing with 3 cool flatmates. It wasn’t long before we greeted each other with a hug and a cheer and began to fill in on our time after Hobbiton.

Hannah was a fellow tour guide and Luke worked in the Green Dragon Inn. They began working at Hobbiton around the same time and also left Hobbiton shortly after myself. They are a great fun-loving couple from ‘up-north’ in the UK (everything is ‘up-north’ to people from Southampton) complete with good strong accents we got on immediately and I’m sure we will share some wine and beers when we all get back home (probably in The Hobbit pub of course).P1080010

As we began to catch up over some lush NZ navy rum it was apparent they had been through a fair bit, with lingering illness issues and a recent car crash giving them prolonged insurance grief, loss of their car, but thankfully they were fine. We were hoping to ski the following day, due to a fresh bout of snow arriving, although sadly the road up to the mountain was closed, due to ever-changing weather conditions, it just wasn’t meant to be! We took a trip out to Mount John instead taking in some of those amazing snowy mountains I had so far only had mere glimpses of. We stopped at a discreet art gallery shack, which wound up to house some incredible pieces by a local artist that Hannah and Luke knew, although they did not know the talent he was hiding! (often the case for creatives). After a day of eating, drinking, chilling and being merry I drove off into the night to the Geraldine Observatory. Now I have a deep lack of knowledge when it comes to astronomy, but what I do have is a deep fascination and curiosity. I was greeted by fellow brit Peter who offered the chance to star gaze from his garden’s observatory (that’s such a lovely word too) Peter has a lifetime experience of astronomy and still works closely with NASA in search of supernovas. He houses 2 observatories, one solely robotic set up with a Celestron C14 specifically for supernova hunting. The two observatories are 2 of 7 that he has built over the years. I was drawn to stargaze here as it is one of the ‘dark sky’ areas of the world, also because Peter offers the tours out of pure passion and loves to share his experience and findings, and his photographs? they’re mind-blowing. With the help of Luke and Hannah I began to have a plan for the next couple of weeks, including the best places to visit and stay. That is the beauty with meeting new people all the time is that you can be selective as to where to visit due to their experiences and of course, what you personally feel like doing at the time. I left Fairlie early (see what I did there?) back towards Tekapo as this is a usual scenic route, picking up some good photos of the well photographed Church of the Good Shepherd. DSC_0492I was heading towards Mount Cook, wow what a landscape. All of this beautiful fresh snow had really painted a picture, I was staying at a wooden clad youth hostel, one of only a handful of accommodation in the area. I began a hike the following day along the Hooker Valley Track. It was beautiful sunlight that day, becoming very cool indeed when traversing swing bridges closer and closer to the glaciers. This day will forever be in my memory, it was so unlike anything I’d experienced before, lacking in colour, the landscape was a stunning charcoal sketch I’d dreamt of experiencing.

P1080143Senses fulfilled, it was on to Wanaka for the night. I made a pit stop at the touristy Puzzling World exhibition. It was rather kid-tastic as expected, but provided some decent holograms and a particularly strange wonky room experience. I was happy I visited, I’ll try anything once, but I was also happy to be leaving the kids in there :). Wanaka was very ski orientated, as it would be this time of year, I found myself wandering aimlessly but did crave a bit of company I must admit, especially in a sociable town environment. P1080230Finding the balance of enough of a plan to look forward to and aim for, and not scheduling things down to a tee is tricky. I work well knowing that I have somewhere to go the next day, but at the same time I end up making it up as I go along anyway. This seems to work most of the time, I have had moments of anxiety, particularly on my drive down to Queenstown. Signs were up reminding me to carry snow chains (something I had no experience with and certainly didn’t own) I was approaching the famously picturesque Crown Range Road and I started to doubt my rather powerless automatic (sorry car). I turned back and headed down a not-so pretty road to Queenstown.

Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town, not far from Queenstown, and was worth a stop. A really dreamy feel to this place, up-market shops and restaurants, everything had style. I had a cuppa, walked around the nearby historic Chinese settlement which was pretty interesting and got back on the road down to Queenstown.P1080257I arrived in the evening and after a beer and awkward moment with an over-enthusiastic Swiss guy at the pub, I started to do the rounds on the ski shops and garages for advice (they opened late). The advice was rather conflicting! a big load of snow was due the next day, so after a demo or two I decided to rent some chains just in case. I found time to also sample the famous Fergburger, the place was heaving, apparently this is pretty common, oh my, what a mighty fine burger it was! The kind of food you crave from that day onward even when you’re not hungry! I enjoyed the buzz of Queenstown, not so much the sweaty ‘young person’ hostel I stayed in, but hey you have to take the rough with the smooth.

The next day held yet another scenic drive (you can’t really go wrong on the south it seemed) up towards Glenorchy. This is a drive I had researched last year, sadly for me it was the most overcast and rainy day yet! I made the drive anyway due to time constraints and hoped for better weather on the way back. On the advice from Hannah and Luke I stopped at the Glenorchy General Store and picked up a rather delicious arty mug souvenir before continuing onto Kinloch Lodge- a serenely beautiful stay for a night in the middle of nowhere it seemed. The best thing about the stay, apart from the great company from room mate Lucas, was that snow started to fall overnight, meaning I woke up like a giddy child to a winter wonderland.P1080311Due south some more I made my way to Te Anau, which is basically the place you start in and return to after a trip to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a fiord in the south west of the island and a World Heritage Site. It is one of New Zealand’s must-sees and people travel from worldwide to experience a cruise around the spectacular rock forms, countless waterfalls, varied sea life and awesome atmosphere. I had a boat cruise booked for the next day and in the meantime I was in a town with a pretty lake and about 3 shops, oh but it did boast a cave the other side of the lake. Now it’s preferable that I locate a cave, with nobody else around so I can explore and soak it up in my own time, but the Aurora cave network did lure me in with an interesting story, complete with evening boat ride, I was sold. After a few worried minutes being on a boat with so many people, I escaped to top deck where it was cold, windy, empty and the sky was full of stars. We were split of into groups of around 8, where we witnessed incredibly powerful cave waterfalls (Te Anau literally means cave of rushing water) alongside a silent drift through to the glow worm filled grotto. Feeling warm and fuzzy back at the nice hostel, I peacefully drifted off into sleep ready to wake up early and hope the Te Anau road was open to Milford Sound. The road hadn’t been open for 9 days, but much to my delight it re-opened on the following morning. The 2.5hr road trip to Milford is known for being just as picturesque and sometimes more remarkable than the boat ride itself. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Our driver Frank took us through a damp lush green landscape until we hit the snow, approaching the Homer Tunnel, you can’t stop due to avalanche risk, in fact it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the world.

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Absolutely stunning.

It was a Mount Cook moment all over again, I could actually begin to see avalanches forming as we wound our way down what seemed like an impossibly high road. Again, everything was like a beautiful drawing, my eyes couldn’t comprehend where the mountains ended and the sky began. The boat trip was serene, once again after people left the top deck that is. A little overcast, but we saw dolphins and seals swimming around us as soon as we departed, it was 2 hours of peaceful drifting taking in the awesome scale. Top deck got me pretty cold and I looked forward to the ride back to be honest, to see all the amazing sights from a different perspective. Frank made many stops to and from Milford, my absolute stand out was at a place called The Chasm (do you love it already?) Everything on this adventure was messing with my perception and the camera can’t do the scale any justice! Sometimes though, you get those winning shots that are worth the risk, like this mystical waterfall cascade that yes, I got drenched taking, but it captured it, that feeling.

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Time for a Western adventure…(not John Wayne style)

Soundtrack: Mark Pritchard – Sad Alron, Lamb – Lusty

art, art studio, carly mann, Uncategorized

Redwood ➸ Harwood ↞The Lost Woods

P1070808Leaving behind friends and a memorable experience at Willow Creek Farm I was greatly anticipating getting stuck into an art project. A lovely roast lamb cooked by farm co-worker/new friend Annie made for a great evening’s grub and company before heading to Motueka to meet Barbara. Myself and Barbara had exchanged many emails regarding an exhibition she had ideas for one gallery or maybe more…

DSC_0272Barbara was a kind soul, deeply interested in philosophy and art- particularly important shifts in art movements pre 20th century. I arrived after a scenic bridge drive over to the other side of Motueka where I was welcomed into Redwood Cottage. This was to be my home for the next week, and how perfect this turned out to be. I felt instantly comfortable and in a great mind-set to discuss the artworks Barbara wanted me to create. We had interesting discussions about our ideas and where to begin, I was very much in a position of planning, curating, and offering my advice and experience. Barbara had many intriguing books particularly focussed around Paleolithic and Neolithic art- right up my street. The Lascaux cave paintings situated in France seemed like a fitting starting point given the chronological date and my deep interest in caves and sacred stone structures. The very next day I began work armed with all the materials I could possibly need, listening to The Pentangle, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen to set the tone.

Work flowed organically. I played with texture, different scales, a limited colour palette, as well as metallics to produce a coherent set that I believe evoke the feel of the caves and invite the viewer to experience a unique insight. I was on a creative buzz all week, enjoying down time chatting to friendly Japanese and German wwoofers staying in Barbara’s house, and friends back home over a gin or 3 in the cottage that felt so like home.

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Renee was staying in nearby Nelson and joined me for my last night, drinking gin (a theme?) and playing board games- we had previously enjoyed the Light Nelson event, which was a free event creatively lighting up the city. It was pretty impressive  (what I can remember of it!) But I wanted one last trek up Abel Tasman way, and managed to twist Renee’s arm into joining me. This place was called Harwoods Hole, at 176 metres deep it is the known as the ‘biggest vertical shaft’ in New Zealand (tee hee) The walk to it was also used for filming scenes of ‘Chetwood Forest’ in Lord of the Rings.

P1070820We walked, Renee with her melodica in hand (we found it at the cottage) and decided to play Zelda tunes as we walked around (we’re too cool) when approaching the semi circle of immensely high rock formations we could feel this was a special place, egging each other on to get nearer the edge and peer down, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Awesome, enigmatic, and bloody scary all at the same time. A look out point on the way down proved to be a justified detour, that is until I fell onto very sharp angular rocks, giving myself a good few good cuts and bruises. It’s moments like this that it’s important to have a mate around- I was glad to have Ren there as I concerned my knee had given up the ghost.

P1070857Time to depart through the famously scenic Queen Charlotte Track, gradually heading south towards Kaikoura, situated on the east coast. Kaikoura is predominantly known for its whale and seal watching and was a beautiful first glimpse of those famous snow capped mountains. I stopped off at the Ohau Stream Walk to watch baby seals swimming playfully, it’s also where I happened to bump into Danny- the super cool bus driver from Hobbiton , well met with a hug and quick catchup, this lifted my spirits even more. P1070904After a night in Kaikoura it was time to swing on down to Christchurch. Christchurch was a place I certainly wanted to at least pass through whilst in New Zealand. It is another large city, but this one experienced a devastating earthquake, a 6.3 on the richter scale in fact, killing many and destroying the surroundings and leaving the city unrecognisable. When I arrived it was a grey day and I was moved by the mess of it all. People I’d met on my journey so far had spoken about the optimisim and creative regeneration emerging through shipping containers, and impressive ‘cardboard cathedral’ and the like- sadly, it certainly had a long way to go in my opinion. As a diversion from isolating feelings of walking around a now soul-less city, it was to be a sociable few days ahead.

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I sat myself in a nearby Mexican restaurant sipping a tasty margarita, anticipating the arrival of Californian Steve. Steve purchased one of my first ever glass works I created, inspired by the band Dead Can Dance. We had been in contact since then, and the dates worked so that we could meet up on his last night in New Zealand. 13710045_10153970064979737_3232642962097901750_nWe greeted with a hug and it felt instantly comfortable with flowing conversation including his incredible life stories managing bands, running radio stations, hanging out with famous faces, his INCREDIBLE music collection oh, and he’s an award-winning racquetball extraordinaire. We spoke for hours over a tasty Asian meal, I left feeling glad we had the chance to meet.

The next day was time to meet a friend from back home, Matt, who has just recently secured permanent residency in New Zealand. We have been friends for many years, usually frequenting at the Beautiful Days festival or numerous Levellers gigs. Although he wasn’t feeling 100% when we met (more like 40% in fact) he was sweet conversation and it felt like all was well. 13690875_10153974173174737_7142613928823160983_n

The following day was The Cure day! I flew myself (I’ve grown wings) up to Auckland to meet free-spirited Linda (Hobbiton bus driver) as we had previously bonded over a love of great music and stayed in regular contact since my departure. To say I was excited to see The Cure would be an understatement. I have loved them and been inspired by Robert Smith since I was about 12. The fun, quirky, gothy, playful goodness of the band is so unique, and 40 years later they haven’t ‘sold out’, they are still attracting fans of all ages, and quite frankly write bloody good songs and perform them exceptionally well. Altogether an emotionally exilerating 3.5hr gig that confirmed my love for the band- the first time I’d seen them myself and my partner at the time cried afterwards- it was overwhelming 🙂 Linda and I sunk a few, rocked out with fellow fans, and just had a bloody good time.

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A hungover Carly, a cancelled flight, and 2 days of waiting at the airport failed to take off the shine…

Soundtrack: The Cure – How Beautiful You Are, The Doors – The Crystal Ship

Uncategorized

The Emerald Lake: Coffins, Chickens & Sowing the Seeds of Love

‘But where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet, and good tilled earth. For all Hobbits share a love of things that grow’ The Lord of The Rings – JRR Tolkien

IMG_20160616_072208I landed myself another WWOOFING location overlooking the Maitai River, just out of the city of Nelson. So far I had been choosing hosts based on common interests, type of jobs required, and also relatively small families or lone people. When I arrived, Kristine and her friend greeted me after returning from a dog walk, we enjoyed a tasty cup of coffee and started to get to know each other. I must mention at this point that I hadn’t yet noticed the coffins on my arrival. We were sitting around a relatively small space filled with music and books and it didn’t take long for Kristine to begin to tell me about her life and the business that she runs. Her business specialises in ‘family led’ funerals, which to my understanding is, trying to educate people to bridge the gap between someone dying, and being ‘handed over’ to a company to deal with all of the aftercare of the body behind closed doors. Instead this aftercare and burial is dealt with naturally by the family. It is unusual that this very natural event suddenly takes on an unnatural and clinical process, something has certainly been lost along the way. It all seems to skirt over the very vital element of the grieving process. It is a very western idea that we hand over a body to somebody else to ‘deal with’. We just have to look to countries such as India, in Hindu religion where the bodies are ceremonially burned and sent down the river by the close families. Festivals like the Day of the Dead overthrow all of this and celebrate the lives of those no longer with us. So the business is essentially Kristine planning and educating people into learning the preservation burial ‘process’ for themselves.

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Now this isn’t mentioned on the WWOOFING page (!) as I guess some people could be quite uncomfortable with the idea of it all, however, I was very interested. I watched Six Feet Under obsessively during my teens (HBO series, well worth a watch) which is a series based around a family running a funeral home and the dark, complex and often funny situations that this put the family in. In a influential time of my life it did spark my interest in the industry, it is so vital, and to be able to provide a special service run on love not money sounded ideal. Now realistically a few years later I have since shaken this off, I have been fortunate/unfortunate so far to not have many dealings with the death of a loved one, I say unfortunate as I am unsure the impact this inexperience will have with my grieving when it does inevitably happen.

IMG_20160606_171251.jpgSo far as the ‘death stuff’ we chatted about it most nights over dinner, and Kristine’s own struggles in her life, but what really struck me about a week with Kristine was her sheer determination and strength (both physically and mentally), she has a wonderful ‘can do’ attitude. The house was split in 2 in order to rent so I had the top apartment to stay in which was flooded with light and more than comfortable next to a lovely log fire. It also enabled me to have space and light to paint, I made some small oil sketches which were successful and mark the start of an interesting body of work.

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The WWOOFING work mainly involved gardening- wood chopping, nut cracking (satisfying), mosaic cleaning and sorting. The most rewarding thing we achieved was moving an iron bath down the garden to a gazebo area in order to bathe outside over-looking the river! (great idea) This was one of those jobs when we doubted our strength but sure enough it worked… and we were bloody great!

I spent a few days there, all the while getting offered an interview at WOW to realise I just wouldn’t be in the country long enough to suit their needs, big bummer. It was and Irish Music Festival in Nelson, myself and Kristine went to the local pub to grab a tasty craft beer or two and enjoyed the music and said our farewells.

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Next stop- chickens, around 4000 in fact. The next WWOOFING host was a free range egg farm near Motueka, on the way to the Abel Tasman and yep, it was one of those locations that the sat nav takes you into a ford rather than your proper destination. At sunset I found the farm ok much to my relief. Willow Creek farm is a free range egg business that’s run by an incredibly welcoming and lovely family originating from South Africa. I have met more South Africans in the past 2 months in NZ than I have in my life and not wanting to stereotype but, I have got on with each of them very well and had good times. I was greeted by a very friendly Sharon and the two farm dogs Ice and Teddy. Now I only proposed to stay a week, but typing this I am still here a month later! This gives credit to how comfortable I have felt and how much I have enjoyed the work. P1070622.JPG The farm is roughly a 40 minute drive from Nelson but it hasn’t been an issue keeping occupied whilst I have been here. The daily routine would ordinarily consist of a 6am (!) feed of the chickens in 3 sheds, and the same again at around 4.30pm to begin the end of day feed/cleaning and processing routine. Some days I would help with egg collection, each egg in the nesting box is collected by myself, cleaned and stacked into trays, and at most we’d roughly get around 48 trays from a shed, depending on the age of the chickens. So it was fast paced work but therapeutic and I’m pretty sure the chickens enjoyed me talking to them about The Wizard of Oz. It was always a bit of a family joke that I resembled Dorothy from the creepy but great Oz sequel Return to Oz. Here at the farm is was nice to finally spend time with my own ‘Bellinas’ and gaze upon the ‘emerald lake’ (algae pond) in the cold frost of the morning. Here at the farm I have seen night skies like never before, so filled with stars it was a privilege to view each morning and night. We were also treated to some amazing sunrises and sunsets so working around the clock became a great way of seeing different things in a different light.

IMG_20160706_143042.jpgI had the good fortune of having lovely co-workers at the farm, I’d since been offered paid work which was a great turn of events. Annie and Cynthia in particular were good fun and made dealings with chicken poo good fun! I can honestly say I didn’t feel a ‘chore like’ moment on the farm, it felt so natural to me and offered great escapism. Due to this escapism it also provided a good state of mind for painting, I was able to get stuck into my Outdoor Room concept and produce some mixed media pieces inspired by Wellington and Kaitoke Park. OK, so I wasn’t at the farm all of the time, I had a day off each week to go and explore, and like much of Nelson, there are a great deal of artists practising nearby so I had myself a few art roadtrips. I was also very happy that my Hobbiton chum Renee had made her way back down south. We met up in a groovey Vegetarian restaurant named East Street, where we enjoyed chatting, eating, and drinking. DSC_0103.JPGI didn’t know Renee too well really, but I always wanted to hang out as I thought we may have loads in common, ever since I noticed her Zelda coin purse back in Matamata. It is going to be hard for us to fall out if you are a true Zelda fan, it had so much influence on my childhood, my desire to adventure, the creative storytelling and of course the consistently lush artwork the game creators designed. We also shared another day together hiking and exploring caves along the Maitai River (caves are becoming quite a theme). This nearly didn’t happen due to miscommunication and a high speed chase behind Ren to grab her attention as she drove off! Ha! It was fun, wet and muddy. We grabbed a well-deserved pint and sat down to hear Cynthia from the farm sing in a choir, alongside her sister Angela, in Nelson Cathedral.

P1070749.JPGGetting dirty on a daily basis, riding the quad, the ute (NZ word for pick-up) and hanging with the other animals was a great experience of a different way of living, hard work, but natural and rewarding.

Sharon cooked up hearty meals each day and was very motherly, this was the most comfortable I had felt since I left home, who doesn’t enjoy being spoilt from time to time? In the last week I worked on helping to get the vegetable bed up and running, the majority being weeding, but sowing the seeds of love too. I feel a real connection when I am gardening and feel really peaceful, I looked forward to getting outside each morning, greeting the sheep and tilling the earth. It is one of those interests I am happy to have gained from my grandparents and parents alike, I am making plans for my own garden of delights.

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So I am moving on now, making my way to the city of extreme earthquakes and sending myself healing vibes on my back that has since gone ‘twang’….

Soundtrack: Tears For Fears – Sowing the Seeds of Love, The Doors – Alabama Song