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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art, Uncategorized

Big Mossy Rocks ~ Creative Unblocks –

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It was time to plan places to explore en route back up to Matamata for work, it is very easy to find places of interest in New Zealand on a road trip, the trickier part is being selective about the ones you have time to see. In a change to my normal approach, I thought I would see a couple of tourist hotspots, rather than discover the lesser well known areas, first stop was Huka Falls. The Huka Falls are a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo. A popular favourite with Instagrammers, I soon joined the club. I decided a good 20 minutes enduring the raw power of the falls and luscious teal tones of the water was enough. A tip off from Roman led me further north to Rotorua, now this was a return trip of course but this time there were more geothermal pools of colour to see – something I’d missed out on last time. I visited an area called Wai O Tapu ‘Thermal Wonderland’ unlucky for me I couldn’t read the sign without singing it to the tune of ‘Boogie Wonderland’, which made it lose it’s sacred energy somewhat 🙂 P1060742This was a really enjoyable experience, although obviously a tourist site, after entering I could roam free, escape the crowds and get a really decent walk in. What a stunner! With areas such as the ‘artist’s palette’ so called because of the spectrum of colours seen in small blobs, so unnatural looking but pure nature doing it’s best to show off. It was a super hot day as well so I felt as though I’d been thrown in a boiling pot of water, a really surreal experience. Looking down over the large expanse of blue and green pools the surrounding trees had grown accustomed to the environment and framed the water with their claw like branches and luminous leaves, they looked like a miniature creation from the Weta Workshop. One of the main things I really enjoy about New Zealand is the diverse landscape, it really has it all (and I haven’t even ventured south yet). Just on this thermal site I experienced intense colour, heat, forest walks, dramatic light and not forgetting the smell (how does anybody get used to that…it must like, get into your system or something).

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Afterwards I had another Air BnB stay in Rotorua in a lovely home, they gave me beer on arrival, which is always most excellent. I decided to head for Te Aroha to stay for the week prior to work starting, on the same holiday park as before- in a caravan. It was a bit far out from Hobbiton but offered great views and importantly solace- time to get some headspace and to continue with a series of drawings I began in Napier. I quickly befriended a guy on reception called Luke who as it turns out, is also from Southampton(!) On a working holiday too, we had lots to talk about a shared a beer or two most nights. It was a really good balance being able to actually be creative and then unwind with new friends, it seems silly but I really haven’t done a lot of drinking since being away, I can only put this down to not settling somewhere long enough, or maybe it’s a comfort thing, who knows, but it is out of character. DSC_0001It didn’t take long before work started and most of my free time I started to spend with Luke. He is very easy company with similar interests in music, creativity and gaming and I am sure we will be very good friends when we get back home too. All really positive. I spent a day climbing the nearby Wairere Falls track, the weather was pretty crazy with rain but it gave the area a completely different and almost eerie feel. Huge rocks had gathered an excellent green moss and made for a great climb. Water trickled down the imposing rock walls and an artist had been hard at work creating balance art with various sized rocks on the waters edge. Upon reaching the summit I was nearly lifted by the shear power of the falls. I couldn’t see much amongst the mist and rain but overall the trek was thoroughly rewarding and reminded me of my weeks I would spend in Dartmoor painting in any weather…P1060791

Soundtrack: The Cure – From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea, Type O Negative – Love You To Death

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Rotorua, Rotovegas, Roto.. um, nowhere?

‘Don’t drink here, traveller, from this upland flood- It’s lukewarm, full of mud

Churned by the flock-But walk a little further, go, Over the hill-top

Where the heifers are grazing, then stop

By the lone pine, and gushing from the rock

Is a spring colder than the northern snow.’ – Leonidas of Tarentum

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During my stay at Raglan I managed to arrange last minute wwoofing with a family north of Lake Rotorua. They were particularly pleased I contacted them as they were heading off for the weekend and needed a dog and cat sitter -this suited me fine. I had started to feel a little unwell and needed a couple of days to myself to plan and try and shift the sickness.

It was a straightforward drive eastward after dropping Dana off in Hamilton for her shuttle back to Auckland. I was greeted by 2 lovely dogs and a big friendly fluff-ball of a cat.P1050889.JPG Judy, the mother of the family came to welcome me and show me around their 2 acre property over a nice cup of tea. The family was Judy and Mark and sons Eben and Kim (their daughter Poppy lives in the UK).

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They established their farm in the 80’s and had built it up from nothing which was really inspiring. Although no longer housing farm animals they had an abundance of flora and a particularly well stocked veg patch. They were also trying to establish truffle growing alongside their house, which as Mark explained is a fine art and fantastically hit and miss. I found it pretty magical that a fungus can produce such a hidden valued delicacy.

A typical wwoofing day consists of 4 hours work in return for accommodation and meals. Both of which were really good! Home cooked grub and a decent nights sleep was what I truly needed. I was itching to do some work (didn’t think I’d say that) after a long time in holiday mode I really wanted to get into something practical and get some experience under my belt. It’s a win/win situation really as I can provide help for a busy family whilst I have somewhere to nest for a time.

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Amongst my tasks were weeding and tending to the vegetable plot, plaiting garlic, collecting and stacking firewood and preparation for meals. On the rainier days I was asked by Judy, who is a photo enthusiast, to scan old negatives and slides to organise her collection. Everyday was changeable and I particularly liked being outside in amongst the organically grown vegetables, with the lush smells and grubbiness there is a real job satisfaction to this kind of work. The dog Ludo and cat Tails were constant company, and I could lose myself fully into the job at hand in the warming sunlight. Talking of warming sunlight, it’s incredibly easy to get sunburnt/tanned in New Zealand due to the hole in the ozone layer. Each day is a ritual of suncream and bug spray, those relentless bugs and rose thorns have done nothing for the condition of my skin, still I’m the most tanned I’ve been in a loooooong time.DSC_0018 1

Meals were prepared predominantly from veg straight from the garden- I ate really well this week. When the daily work was done I was free to explore to many sites that were of interest nearby. My first experience of Rotorua’s beauty was in the nearby site of the Hamurana Natural Springs. With Ludo in tow we took a walk that guided us to each spring, but firstly through incredible rusty coloured redwood trees. Each spring had an unusually mysterious teal blue colour to it, and was crystal clear. So pure and endlessly interesting to watch, this really was a beautiful walk that I returned to and make sketches. Intrigued to see more woodland I also spent a day at the Whakarewarewa Forest, home to the most gorgeous redwood trees.

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After a full day of weeding (there really was an endless supply, believe me) I did the tourist thing and visited Te Puia. Te Puia is a top Rotorua attraction that boasts the world famous Pohutu Geyser, kiwi enclosure, Maori art and crafts institute and many other geothermal wonders along the way. Now, throughout the year I will wind up doing the usual tourist spots no doubt, but I also find the hidden gems through the people I meet, it’s a great balance.

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Te Puia didn’t disappoint (when I managed to finally escape the other tourists) I watched a Maori song and dance performance that was enjoyable, then spent a good few hours wandering around the chalky white and luminous green rock that housed the erupting geysers. It was alive, stunning and…smelly! a true sensory experience..

Soundtrack: Lisa Gerrard- Biking Home