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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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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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The Light Is Shining Through On You..a trip through time, valentine & sunshine

16835792_10154591122044737_1903745541043622057_oI’m still in love with Waitomo. It seems it’s becoming more interesting the longer I spend here. It’s a joy to drive through the quiet, windy roads around the lush green hills and limestone karsts that dominate the landscape. I’m at that in-between stage where part of me feels like a resident here, I feel very comfortable, and yet I still enjoy playing the tourist, going on cave tours and hanging out in the cave museum. I genuinely appreciate every day I have here, and they really do pass by so fast. After a visit to the Waitomo museum one day I picked up a few vintage information books, one about cave formations and cave fauna, one on glow-worms and one titled ‘A Trip Through Time; A Guide to Landforms Waitomo Caves – Marokopa Coast’ the book explores Waitomo by car, with stop offs en-route, all presented in a charming 80’s fashion with unrealistic illustrations and a friendly personable narrative. I love it, and decided I would take a pilgrimage to retrace these steps, also it would prove interesting to see how much, if anything, it had changed over the years. u 

I was joined by Hendrik for the weekend’s adventure starting at The Natural Bridge. I visited this area almost a year ago on my 30th  Birthday with my friend Luke, and the weather was reasonably better this time around. We walked through the awesome gorge, taking the track a little further this time to have some fun climbing in and around the karsts. Further along the road is the Piri Piri Cave. I hadn’t ventured inside before, but after a conversation with pro-caver Nick (mentioned in the last blog) I realised there was some pretty cool stuff to see down there. Armed with our head torches we took the steps leading down in to the darkness then climbed over to venture further inside. We could see there was a suggestion of steps leading us through a small passage towards what is referred to on the map as the ‘Oyster Room’ (it didn’t disappoint). It was a dry and muddy cave and we managed to find old graffiti and untouched stalactite formations.

Next stop along the road was the magnificent Marokopa Falls. A short bushwalk leads you down to the viewing platform for the waterfall, not quite satisfied enough we decided to slide on down through thick sticky mud to get to the foot of the falls. It was all part of experiencing the power close to hand, much like when you find the perfect spot for watching your favourite band from the audience- too far away and you are removed from the feeling. Returning home to remove some of the mud, we drove out to Pirongia and finished the great day over drinks with Heath & Colette.

16300439_10154540776299737_8094714491832667594_oTime for some sunshine, summer seems to have kicked in at last. Apparently it’s an unusually unsettled mix of weather here in Waitomo at the moment, days of blazing sun, then in the next moment thunderstorms, rain, and fog. Personally, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, I’ve always enjoyed variety. The Cicada’s have started singing their calling song in the trees and the tarmac is warming up under barefoot.

Myself and Heath have always been pretty keen to enhance our photography skills, particularly in low-light and capturing the glow worms is really quite a skill. We take photographs throughout each tour that then get sent to the customer the next day, but the results vary due to the cheaper waterproof cameras we use and tricky changing conditions. Michelle had suggested we partake in a photo walk workshop around Raglan to hone our skills a little. It was really just a good excuse to have a play, Heath captured some particularly fine shots. It’s like anything, experience and practise will enhance the results.

SONY DSCI received a message from Hendrik offering to take a drive over for the night of the 14th from Matamata (Hobbiton) to cook me a special dinner. I didn’t realise at first that this coincided with Valentine’s Day (I’ve never been one to celebrate such an ‘occasion’) but the thought was touching and I decided I’d like to return a gesture, in the form of a childlike treasure hunt for when he arrived! I did have doubts as to whether it was going to all be a bit much, either a genius or ridiculous idea- it was hanging in the balance as I finished tea staining the papers ready for the treasure map illustration and clues. After some thought I decided that if I would enjoy the game myself then he probably would too…

received_10154556454349737The idea was that we could venture toward the nearby rock climbing wall, on the site of the old farm, which made for an interesting and historic walk. After an early start placing the clues in position I had a day of touring before I got to find him busy in the cottage getting dinner ready (I could get used to this?) It was time to begin the hunt, in and around the old fireplace, underneath the bridge, before leading us up the ‘stairway to heaven’ to the ‘hidden place’. Leaving the farm my car gave an almighty crunch sound, somehow I was expecting this as it was beginning to get creakier by the day. We pushed it into the layby all the while 3 cars from nowhere offered to help (don’t you just love this country). Reluctant to continue driving causing more damage we started to take a walk home. Another car soon pulled up beside us offering help, complete with farmer hat, friendly smile and offering us a cold beer-our new friend Gavin kindly dropped us home.  I’m pretty sure we’ll stay in touch as he was keen to visit Hendrik’s pub and also he has a cave on his land (would be rude not to visit sometime, right?). It was somewhat of a silver lining, knowing the car may cost a bit, but this didn’t matter now- we still had that lovely cooked dinner to look forward too- fresh fish and mussels no less. dsc_1410

There was also another bonus to my darling car breaking- that I got to spend another day with Hendrik whilst sorting it out (well, having lots of fun too) we bought some camping supplies in anticipation for the weekend ahead.

Camping and live music were the social events I’d really missed from back home. It was the epitome of fun for our group of friends to have a good old knees up over a few days. It was Hendrik’s best mate Amy’s 30th party, in the form of camping on a friend’s vast land over in Matamata. Good job I didn’t need my car for the weekend! I was picked up and we headed to the Garden Art Studio in nearby Cambridge that was going to exhibit my artwork. A diverse little gallery in wealthy Cambridge, it felt good to have my work on display and to inform me to start producing new pieces. Onward to the party and we were greeted by a pretty, smiling Amy. We pitched our tent and began meeting everyone including lovely hosts Rachael and Grant, who happen to have a superb record collection including a rare Tim Buckley vinyl (respect soared at that moment) J. Amy also had a gorgeous VW Beetle to die for- a really cool chick. dsc_1437

Adding a whole mix of fire poi, lush food, dancing to Fleetwood Mac and of course drinking, it’s fair to say it was a pretty decent occasion indeed. We were sent to sleep by the eccentric musings of Jim Morrison being piped through the window.p1090883A pleasant trickle of rain hitting the tent sent us to sleep and within a few hours we were back on the road to meet my old housemate and our ex Hobbiton co-worker Ellis. Dropping in I briefly saw Cathie (my landlord during my time at Hobbiton) and it was all smiles and hugs seeing Ellis again. We planned to hit the Karangahake Gorge walkway on this super-hot day, to view the immense towering bush and find our way through the many gold mining tunnels, each offering wonderful viewpoints when hitting the daylight again.

16836030_10211823186316009_3372041470325125618_oSeeing that we were much nearer the sunny east coast I had decided to take Michelle up on her kind offer of letting out her Bach for myself and Hendrik to stay in for a couple of nights. It is located over in Waihi – the gold mining town I visited nearly a year ago whilst WWOOFING. It has an incredibly large mining pit that raises mixed opinions from the locals, but we couldn’t help but stand fascinated and in awe of it. The Bach is just out of the township and boasts a scenic estuary outside the back door, leading towards a popular surf beach. It was yet another haven for us to spend some extended quality time together, playing games, dancing and enjoying each-others company. This would be the longest time we had spent together, and it felt very comfortable.

p1090959All this road tripping was pretty tiring (especially for the passenger who just sits there taking in the view) 😉 we found ourselves a nice pub to get some grub and beers and I lost Hendrik to a vintage pinball machine for about 30 minutes J it’s nice that we’re both into our games and geek fun. We spent around an hour constructing the best models we could make using counters, chess pieces and straws! We’d also found a very simple looking gamed called ‘Mancala’ using a basic wooden tray with hollows containing glass nuggets – it’s now my favourite game ever (I kept winning somehow) to keep it balanced though we’d hit the dartboard every so often where I’d get a beating. We had a dartboard at home for a time and I have distinct memories of our beloved cat Martin sitting comfortable directly below when we were playing, it’s a miracle those darts didn’t rebound onto him. Bless him. We also had opportunity to rekindle our love of finding interesting pieces around Waihi, souvenirs, books, and gathering ideas, particularly for his pub. It’s fun to have somewhere to design, plan and invigorate and the ideas are endlessly flowing into that place, it’s inspiring. We took a short drive out to Bowentown from a recommendation from Amy and again had a beautifully sunny day to explore the beach with it’s sea caves and soft creamy sand. We were joined only by a family catching crabs (yes, there were a few catching crabs jokes that day). Hendrik began to remove clothes and head in to the sea! It was magic, I knew we both wanted to hit the water, it was the perfect environment so I just marched on in as well. Spotaneous-happy-sunshiny-days.

p1090995It was time to head home, with the ute full of blankets, camping gear, booze and his plants in and around the dash (his babies). We took a de tour to Mount Mauganui (still on the east coast) and enjoyed a drink in a lovely colourful bar I’d been to a few times before. A pit stop at a yummy New York pizza place in Hamilton (detoxing was imminent for the next few days) and finally we headed back to the cottage. An evening was spent listening to the haunting yet uplifting voices of the Bulgarian Choir, as we had realised the night before through chance that it was something we both really enjoyed listening to and had accessed through different sources, that’s the beauty of music. What a truly amazing few days, I felt the light was truly shining through on us.

Soundtrack: Fleetwood Mac – Dreams, Moby – Inside, UB40 – Rat In Mi Kitchen, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices – Mir Stanke Le

Book: Moby – Porcelain (autobiography)

 

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The next Glowing chapter

Glow Worm Caving AdventuresThe next chapter sees me in a settled location, much like I have been at Earthskin for the past month. This makes it a little tricky when it comes to blog writing as it all becomes information and sensory overload, also it gives me a hard time remembering all of those smaller details that ultimately play such a part in the overall impression of a place. So, towards the end of my residency at Earthskin I was trying to decide how to spend my time in the last couple of months left in New Zealand, and how to sustain myself for that time (money was getting a little tight after so long without a job). A quick dabble in job searching and I landed upon an un-missable opportunity, to work as a tour guide again, but this time in a cave! But this was also much better as it was a new business, on a family farm with tour groups no larger than 8 people (slightly different to Hobbiton experiences). After an enthusiastic few emails back and forth we arranged to have the first part of the interview, which consisted of joining a tour and seeing what the job really entailed. It was extra important to make a good impression as this was the first person the business were planning to employ outside of their family. The interview involved wading through deep river around the impressive gorge, this was going to be unlike any cave experiences I’d had before, far purer, more natural and unspoilt. p1090326 With the cold water and mud rushing in my gumboots (wellies) the idea that this could be an ‘office’ was surreal, but exciting. Heath, one of the sons of the caving family was one of two tour guides working for the company. He seemed an easy going, quiet type that took going through the cave in his stride, he had been exploring the family cave as an adventure playground since he was 5. He was also responsible for putting in the roped pathways that ran through the surrounding forest and at the top of the river for the harnessed dry tour, as well as planning the whole guiding route. I enjoyed the tour very much and soaked up the changeable surroundings and challenges, as there was water wading, climbing and crawling though tight squeezes throughout. Feeling optimistic I chatted with the family afterwards and agreed we’d have a follow up interview via phone or Skype, it was time to get on the road (in my wet underwear) and hit the Auckland traffic en-route back to my beautiful abode in Muriwai.  Just a couple of days later I had an informal chat with Michelle on the phone and was later offered the position. Thrilled and also reasonably anxious at all the changing of plans for the immediate future. Accommodation was all sorted for me, as the family members living some 5 minutes away from the farm had a cottage/out house that would be just perfect for me to stay in. img_20161002_111909 In deep isolated green rolling hills I found my new home. It is a working farm that has awesome views from my simple deck and also the sounds and smells you’d expect from a farm. There are around 6 farm dogs sharing the land beside me, beneath a beautiful tree that fills my bedroom window lookout. If I’m really lucky the dogs take it upon themselves to form a choir and let me know of their presence (!) It’s simple, but it’s all I need. I have weeded the garden and began to grow a garden of my own complete with veges, herbs and flowers, as it’s now springtime here. I like nothing more than to sit on the deck with a glass of wine of a sunny evening, enjoying the view and feeling grateful for the place I am in and the truly memorable experiences I am having.

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I am isolated here, I have very little signal, no Wi-Fi, but honestly I enjoy it. Many of the travelling friends I have met along the way in New Zealand have made their way back home or on to new destinations, it is indeed a new chapter. However, within a couple of days of moving in Hendrik took the trip north to come and stay for a couple of nights. It was again really lovely to be able to share another of these spectacular locations I’d managed to land myself in. I hadn’t began work yet but it made perfect sense for us to join on a tour while he was here, to show him how I would be spending my days underground. This time around we joined the other tour-guide Ash’s tour. Full of cheesy jokes and a very approachable character, it gave a different spin on the tour, and of course it was good for me to view it from another perspective. The cave is a short walk away from the office through lush green woodland towards the gorge which is around 30 metres below ground.

p1080768A walk around the gorge begins the tour, negotiating the river and rocks and taking in the sweet surroundings, before heading deep in to the cave. There are parts that the water reaches the upper thigh (you soon learn the technique of emptying water from your gumboot), crawling and climbing over undisturbed rocks, there are no pathways, lights, everything is left just as nature intended. There are a couple of optional ‘squeezes’ to challenge the more eager of the group before we arrive up close and personal with the glow worms. The river then leads us up to the main stunning display of glow worms that we all enjoy in darkness for a good amount of time. The whole tour is unhurried, and is about creating a true experience and memorable escape from reality- can you understand why I enjoy it so much yet?! Buzzing, myself and Hendrik headed back to cook up some food on the BBQ and enjoy some red wine on the deck, a nice start to make a house a home.

p1000387Settling into training in both the office and with guiding I’ve fully immersed myself in this experience and feel I am creating a great bond with the family and the interesting people from around the world I get to meet on a daily basis. I love the can-do attitude here and how hands on everything is. I enjoy buzzing around in the mule around the farm, not to mention cutting the grass on the ride on mower. I spend a lot of time in Heath’s company as he has predominantly been the one training me on the tours. We enjoy a healthy amount of piss-taking and jobs around the farm such as fixing rope, laying water pipe, it sounds dull but with him it really is quite fun. p1090421 We have adventured together through the waterfalls on the river too, it’s nice to get out and around the area with somebody as adventurous and curious as myself. We found the remaining part of his Triumph toy bike he rode as a young boy, just washed up on the side of the river.  Michelle predominantly runs the business and is good fun and easy to learn from, she has been filling my brain with all the finer details that keep the business ticking along. Working 10 days on and 4 days off provides me with enough time to get away and enjoy mini breaks, the next one saw me heading back to nearby Raglan to Solscape, where I visited at the start of my New Zealand journey. It was essentially Hendrik’s birthday treat. We booked ourselves into a mud formed Earth Dome for the night and enjoyed the ambience of the gentle light and flowing round structure. p1090145The following morning we followed each other driving the windy gravel laden roads around Pirongia and Kawhia (yes there was drifting involved) then onto a hike up Mount Pirongia (ok so the morning fry-up may have affected my walking ability somewhat) on a blazing hot day we took to laying in the grass and soaked up the amazing view that surrounded us, it was never very hard for us to create an enjoyable experience together, it was effortless.

p1090171It had become a case of planning the next adventure together and I was very happy to find myself back at his pub in Apiti on my next days off. I was introduced to a traditional South-African braai and had a great time chatting and drinking with his chef/friend Bruce too. It’s fair to say I didn’t need to eat or drink for around 2 days after this visit.

glowing-adventures2So now, I find myself waiting on the outcome of a visa extension application. The future is very up in the air for me at the moment and if I am fortunate enough to be offered the extra time here I know that I have an amazing job to return to and people I want to spend much more time with. Fingers crossed…

Soundtrack: The Imagined Village – ‘Ouses, ‘Ouses, ‘Ouses, Dreadzone – Cave of Angels, Radiohead – Identikit

 

 

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Earthskin Muriwai

Creativity is about living life as a journey into seeing and communicating the extra-ordinariness of the simplest, most every day acts. It makes life infinitely interesting and fulfilling.

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And so I arrived. The only confirmed plan I had for my New Zealand trip this time last year was the art residency I was selected for at Earthskin Muriwai.

This was going to take some time to sink in, after a very steep drop down the driveway I began to see the yurt and 3-storey house that was to be my base for the next month. I’d lusted over living in a yurt for many years, sparked by an amazing experience whilst art-working on the band The Levellers first ever music festival when I was 17. In the drizzly rain I was greeted by local artist and musician Judy who showed me around the beautiful Grand Designs-esque house, open plan, full of windows and curiosities and situated outside were my very own 2 chickens to take care of (I was quite pleased to have chickens around again!). img_20160908_145952There was a lovingly created vegetable garden using resourced flora from the surrounding Nikau palm trees and forest. On the lower level housed the studio fit for painting and wood chopping and gardening tool area complete with enough webs to house approximately 3000 spiders. The trees around the back of the house took you on a path through Wiggley woods through pine, Nikau and wonderfully enigmatic Pohutukawa trees, also known as Christmas trees from their seasonal red flowers. The walk leads you down to wind-swept Muriwai Beach famous for its iron rich black sand and rugged good surf.

p1080914This was to be so much more than an art residency, it was a month for quiet reflection and restoration, as most of the time was spent on my own. Earthskin isn’t over-looked, it is a portal that lies deep in a forest channelling some pretty strong energy. Two days in and I received a call from a neighbour asking if I’d like to meet him and his family over tea and scones. After a couple of days to nest and form a routine and familiarity with the surroundings I welcomed this offer with open arms and was greeted by Pipi, Robin’s daughter and family dog Danny. Robin had taken it upon himself to form a link from the artist in residence to the local community of Muriwai. A wonderfully friendly and interesting older chap who has lived and still lives a life full of adventure. He was OIC of the weather station on Campbell Island 1966/67 as well as leader at Scott Base, Antarctica 1968/69. He has run many marathons and triathlons and managed Turoa Skifields on Mount Ruapehu for 8 years, not forgetting he has 7 children ranging from 9-53! His energy and attitude was inspiring.

I began somewhat of a routine each morning of tending to and collecting eggs from the chickens- providing a tasty breakfast, a session of yoga on the sunshine deck then down to the studio to start some paintings. I’d often wander off to break from the concentration, luckily the surrounding landscape was so inspiring I had a good balance.

dsc_0929Over the first weekend I had an impromptu visit from lovely Apiti chum Hendrik. The anticipation of touching base with a good friend and being able to show him around my lovely abode was such a pleasure. I found myself fantasising about the house being mine as most elements were just as I would like for my own place one day. Hendrik rocked up in his super-cool Ute and didn’t take long to feel comfortable and inspired by the lush surroundings. We walked down to the beach, back through the forest, cooked a heart-warming meal and listened to great music over red wine. The evening wasn’t complete without a log fire burning away in the yurt with incense and candles, a perfect moment. img_20160907_125613

Short and sweet, I was on my own again, and ready to get tucked into some work, I found the next few days hard, feeling a pressure to produce outstanding work because I’d finally been given the idyllic place and time for it, and felt judgemental about everything I had created. I felt very distracted and spent far more time gardening and wandering around to try and gain some clarity. An out-of-the-blue phone call from owner of the property Nancy put me back in to shape- an inspiring and deep conversation discussing the changing shift in energy when you are in such a place and how often after a week you begin to understand where you are, and then the work starts to come easily, a natural process. A creative person allows themselves to be their true self, without worrying about being judged. Creativity becomes ingrained in your very essence as an individual and your creation is a projection of you and your deepest thoughts, translated into a beautiful work that adds to the value of not only your life, but also that of others.

dsc_1119The following weekend I was joined by Southampton chum Luke, which I knew would make for an enjoyable and restful few days. I felt particularly happy that he decided to visit as he needed a break from his work and location, and boy, did it do him good! It was as though people who visited were somehow cleansed and rejuvenated- powerful stuff! We jammed on guitar, had a dance and fair few drinks over a game of truth or dare, simple wholesome pleasures. When you know that you needn’t rely on external factors for mental stimulation, it is a major personal triumph. When you know that you are living up to your true potential, you are truly happy.

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Every once in a while I’d meet with Robin and his family for a meal (they were so hospitable) and other times I’d just hang out with the kids and go on a bit of an adventure. Pipi, Bene and Thaddie showed me this sites of Muriwai Beach, including the huge gannet colony and incredibly powerful rock formations, blow holes and surrounding caves. This wasn’t a place to mess with.

p1080928I did have a reasonable structure to the residency in that the following Sunday I had an open invitation for locals to come and visit me at the house for a discussion and an informal presentation of my work (with cake). I gave a talk on my background, inspirations and work produced in Muriwai as well as throughout my (almost) year in NZ. It turned into an inspiring afternoon of likeminded creatives and lovely souls having a good yarn- a nice boost as sharing is such an important element in the creative process, something I miss about my old studio at The Sorting Office. img_20160925_112040

The locals kids and I wanted to go on one last adventure before I left and their idea was a hike through Goldie’s Bush. A 9km hike through Kauri forest, taking in the impressive Mokoroa Falls, it was quite the challenge at this time of year! The water was rough and deep on the 20+ river crossings we needed to make, but we managed it as a team, and Pipi and Bene couldn’t have been better company. At the local Muriwai Surf Club Robin and Pipi were lifeguards (Pipi at 14yrs still in training but nearly fully qualified!). Robin had a monthly supper club with lifeguards past and present and I was kindly invited along to meet them all. Some true characters, a wholesome meal and a stunning sunset rounded off the day perfectly.

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On my final day at Earthskin I was greeted by new resident artist Sam Heydt from New York. A big ball of energy (despite her tiredness from travelling) we spent a fun evening together chatting over a drink until I tucked myself into the yurt for my final night. We were both involved in a community event happening in Muriwai the following morning, called the Fun Palace. Myself alongside 30+ other artists/performers/creatives were offering free workshops with anybody who wanted to join in. It’s a great initiative that was started in the UK and is an ongoing campaign supporting culture at the heart of every community. Danielle the organiser and all-round great sort did a wonderful job-it was super busy and buzzing.

Leaving Muriwai on a high, in the quiet reflection of the drive onward I felt changed by this place. Plans outside of the residency were starting to fall into place for me, an exciting new door had opened…I was too curious not to venture on in…

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Soundtrack: Type O Negative – Cinnamon Girl, Led Zeppelin – Going to California, Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

 

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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