art, Uncategorized

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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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