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.

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.

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.



Soundtrack: Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow



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.


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