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The White Stuff ☃

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.rangienviroartscentre.org

 

Soundtrack: Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

 

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The Wide Window

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It was time to get back to the original plan of heading south. After a vibrant 2 months spent in Hobbiton I was ready to start travelling to explore more of this amazing country. It is quite the drive down to Wellington so the pit stop along the way would be Mount Ruapehu, to explore some caves and a good chance to catch up with Steven who I’d met a few months prior, on my last visit to Wellington. We met at Skotel Alpine resort (think of The Shining) in some..curious weather, it was incredibly overcast and windy, enough to close off the nearby Tongariro Alpine Crossing for the weekend. It was exciting anticipating seeing Steven again as we’d only met for 4 hours previously but had managed to stay in touch despite life going on. It wasn’t long before the first bottle of wine was opened and we had chance to get used to each others company in a small wooden room. The ‘guest room’ had a wide selection of…VHS tapes, complete with annoying shaky lines and reluctance to play, we managed to dig out Jason and the Argonauts, I thought this may be fitting given Steven’s job role at Weta Workshop-we both decided it still looked pretty good for its age. Talking of age, the room also housed the saddest looking coin operated funfair game with around 10 out of date chocolate bars ready to be won, Wahooo!

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The Okupatu caves situated in the Tongariro Forest were our main destination for the weekend. We took some crazy ‘roads’ until we finally made it to the entrance (thankfully Steve had a 4×4, my automatic would have had a hissy fit). The entrances seemed pretty log-jammed at first but with a bit of careful manoeuvring thankfully we were able to enter. It was quite a network and we didn’t even discover all of it. It was rather beautiful, we had a glow worm display just for us. Steve was very mindful to create markers along the way so as not to get lost, I couldn’t help thinking of the Father Ted episode with the wool from Dougal’s jumper ‘guiding’ them. P1070201

We continued our journey to Mount Ruapehu as the sun began to set and cast beautiful long shadows across the unusually piled rocks. The short walk began at the bottom of the Centennial Chairlift and then on up to Meads Wall. This was one of the Lord of the Rings filming locations for around 5 weeks for a few different scenes. Think steep sheer cliffs, impressive views, and time to sit on a rock and feel small and insignificant in the landscape.

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The Tangiwai disaster on 24 December 1953 happened when the Whangaehu River bridge collapsed beneath a Wellington to Auckland express passenger train at Tangiwai, in the central North Island of New Zealand. The locomotive and first six carriages derailed into the river, killing 151 people. The disaster remains New Zealand’s worst rail accident. It was at this memorial we decided to part ways (on a nice cheery note!) However, it was only to be for one night…

To break up the 6 hour drive down to Wellington I decided to stop over in Featherston and stayed with a kind man who very much enjoyed talking about the Hobbit and listening to my tales of Hobbiton (that made me sound like I lived there didn’t it?). The following day I took the coast road all the way down to Cape Palliser lighthouse . The road to Cape Palliser is dramatically scenic. P1070272 This area of New Zealand has a rich history of early Maori occupation and heritage sites are part of the fascinating landscape. For the final part of the journey, the road clings to the edge of the coast, providing unstoppable views of Palliser Bay. I climbed the lighthouse and enjoyed the sun and wind on my face as I sat there with not a person (or seal for that matter) in sight.

Taking the state highway through busy Wellington across to Miramar I arrived at Steve’s small and quirky home later that day, nestled in bush up a hill- the view from the deck was inspiring. I started to gain a better appreciation of just how many films and incredible creations he has made along the way, it really is quite positively intimidating and thoroughly fascinating. Although work was to swallow him up for the week, it was my time to settle and have a few days of exploring –the places I didn’t get to see the first time around. One of these was Zealandia, a protected natural area in Wellington, a real sanctuary full of incredible birds that I enjoyed spending the day hanging out with.

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One weekday evening Steve took us around some creepy WWII army bunkers, and took great pleasure in creeping me out (it was a fun week of usual mocking of my height and accents- his was a South African/Kiwi/Irish hybrid). We also enjoyed PS4 Star Wars action, maybe more than we should’ve..

Wellington was also home to some other great friends to meet up with. One night I spent with Dana (Auckland/Raglan chum) and Lauren (Auckland/Welly chum). We drank some tasty cocktails in an interesting bar named Motel in Courtney Place while Dana told us her best Tinder experiences ever. The following evening, along with Steve this time, we headed out to Goldings with it’s Sci-Fi colourful décor to meet a good friend of my brother’s wife, Dan. What a lovely guy! We chatted, drank and ate ‘the best pizza in New Zealand’. DSC_0053 I was really beginning to love spending time in Wellington, everything was buzzing and so creative and I felt a great connection with Steve, much more so than I anticipated.

Ultimately, it’s all very fleeting, these amazing moments are there to be enjoyed and then they’re gone. It’s a strange mind-set when everything is so temporary, but it does make me appreciate even the smallest moments. I felt quite emotional discussing my love of music discussing Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, Kate Bush and I hope some of my passion for music has rubbed off. Our response to certain kinds of noise is something so profound in us that we can’t switch it off. I have found myself in a strange headspace unable to distinguish quite what it is I am doing here, heavy I know, but true. Most of the time I am riding the waves, but I do touch down every so often and feel a little lost, I am trying to get used to this and embrace it as part of the process of growth.

After locking ourselves out on the coldest and windiest night of the week we finally got inside (thanks weary locksmith!) ready to enjoy the weekend together. The Putangirua Pinnacles or The Paths of the Dead to the Lord of the Rings fans out there was our next location. A gentle walk led us to the viewing platform of this strangely wonderful rock formation. Our walk following the river out led us to an incredible find. Perched on the edge overlooking the sea, a house had lost itself to the cliff. Like a scene from Lemony Snickets- A Series of Unfortunate Events, myself and Steve were excited to go and explore! (Ok so he was braver/crazier than me) it really did mess with my senses, seeing that state of undoing holding on by its last threads. Exploring the abandoned was soon becoming a theme …and it’s intriguing and addictive.

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On our last day we had a super breakfast, visited a terrible craft fair, and took a walk around some impressive graffiti laden bunkers-that made for some great photographs. I have an excellent signed Gandalf miniature and Neanderthal skull for keepsakes and a reminder of a truly great week with an gifted artist.

 

After a change of heart I have decided to catch the ferry to the south island tomorrow, I was tempted to explore a few niggling desires pulling me back north but no, it’s time to go now. See you on the other side…

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Soundtrack: R.E.M.- What If We Give It Away, Canned Heat- On The Road Again, Bulgarian State Choir – Mir Stanke Le

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Hobbiton & Trekking Mount Doom

‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves’

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Heading south from the Coromandel Peninsula I booked myself into a cute holiday park for one night in anticipation of visiting 2 sites that had fuelled my urge to visit New Zealand in the first place. I’d grown up like many, loving the stories of Tolkien. I have such fond memories of the excitement and anticipation of each of the films showing at the cinema each Christmas time- it was a real event. They were some of the best times I spent with both school and college friends because the stories and incredible imagination behind them are so enchanting and offer perfect escapism into a fantasy world you dream of visiting. The visuals that are truly stunning resonate with places I have visited in Iceland too- Tolkien himself drew a great deal of inspiration from Iceland as well as Great Britain. It is the diversity and richness of these perfect natural wonders and landscapes that touch me personally and stir up emotions. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t let out a childish squeal upon seeing the signs for the Hobbiton Movie Set. P1060382.JPG

The Harry Potter behind the scenes tour back home is the same, it is so much more than a film franchise, it is a creative world that’s been brought to life for you to immerse yourself in…I highly recommend a visit. So as expected, Hobbiton was a massive tourist hub, and rightly so, I think however my morning timeslot was a wise decision. P1060371 The tour began with a coach ride through the surrounding farmland, property of the Alexander family. With the rolling hills, picturesque trees and untainted views, you could see why this location was chosen as the shire. We were guided through and around each Hobbit hole and beautifully detailed part of the set, finally winding up in the Green Dragon for a pint of Girdley fine grain amber ale on a gorgeous sun-shiny day. Sipping my drink, this was definitely one of those moments I wanted to share with my friends (and I don’t mean on social media). It would seem only right that the people that I drink at The Hobbit pub with in Southampton  should be here, drinking in the Green Dragon. Merchandise bought, job application filed, I left Hobbiton very content. P1060315

It was time to drive south towards the Tongariro National Park where I planned to embark upon the famous Tongariro Alpine crossing with a new friend, Roman. By this time in my trip I am really enjoying the rhythm of spending a few days in one location and then moving on. In New Zealand everything is so changeable in the landscape, that a few hours drive can make all the difference. I booked myself into a kooky hostel (worst paintings on the walls ever) but alas, a room to myself with a double bed. P1060426I met two really cool German girls called Yanna and Rike. We had shared interests in art and spent the evening laughing and drinking beer, deciding we’d all trek together the following day. The Tongariro alpine crossing track is a 20km trek crossing stark and spectacular volcanic terrain. Among its highlights are steaming vents and hot springs, old lava flows, beautiful water-filled explosion craters and stunning views. On clear days you can see Mount Taranaki in the west, Mount Ngauruhoe, the Kaimanawa Ranges, Lake Taupo and beyond. Mount Ngauruhoe is of course the famous Mount Doom, so we were essentially trekking through Mordor, after leaving the shire the previous day! An early start was required and although there are many tourists doing the track, I was very glad to not be walking it ‘alone’. P1060448

 

Roman, a vibrant musician from Tel Aviv and all round cool guy made us many baguettes to get us through (so many that I may have taken the piss at least once an hour, and there were 8 of them ahead of us). The track was changeable as you’d expect, the sights were endlessly epic and the view of Mount Doom was goosepimple inducing. As you start to descend the track, beautiful teal coloured lakes appear from nowhere and look super imposed onto the landscape. P1060424The track was pretty treacherous at this point and we found ourselves skiing on the loose stones down to the bottom (didn’t fall over, even when attempting a selfie). Rike and I discussed our love of VW T4’s and Roman posed like Jesus over the water (Christian radio was somewhat corrupting him). After a good solid 8 hours walking we arrived at the end and I really felt accomplishment. It was an unforgettable adventure with new friends.

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Soundtrack: Enya – Aniron, Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism