Tuesday, 19 December 2006
Jet Skis and Wild Poppies
Californian poppies growing wild at Bannockburn, Central Otago.
On Saturday the 9th, we went through to Bannockburn for ABM's twin nephews' 21st party. Here is a photo I took of Bannockburn and part of Lake Dunstan which was formed when they constructed a dam on the Clutha River.
ABM's sister and husband hired a camping ground for the event. Over a hundred people were there and we were all fed to the max. Some people have a gift where food is concerned - ABM's sister certainly does. She produced platters and platters of it. The hams were massive. I've never seen such gigantic ones. Being farmers, they believe in produce.
The surroundings were stark and brown - Bannockburn proclaims itself as the 'Heart of the Desert', which is a bit of over the top. However, it can fairly be described as bare; but rocky rather than sandy. The rainfall is very low as well and it gets very hot in summer. It is generally described as having Mediterranean temperatures and is a grape-growing area.
The sign is a little misleading though because after the tra-la-la! ... and drumroll please ... there appears to be nothing there!
Wild flowers are growing there in abundance. I couldn't stop taking photos. This photo shows the prevalent Californian poppy. The purple, low-growing flower is wild thyme which covers the hills just like heather covers the hills in Scotland. Being thyme, it fills the air with a smell like the stuffing for a goose! Small, nudging honeybees smother every bush. The pink flower in the background is rose-hip which also clambers over the rough, bare hillsides.
I should've been taking photos of family, but kept getting sidetracked by the flowers.
My favourite part of the weekend was sitting up on a high bank surrounded by a carpet of the fragrant thyme and a profusion of orange and yellow Californian poppies, rose-hip and other lichen and dried-moss-like desert-plants. I perched there looking down on the party guests cavorting in the water and 'doing stuff' with bikes and boats and cars.
This photo is one I took from my perch and shows the carpet of flowers at my feet. The photo looks a little dusty because the car being driven past as I snapped the photo, is churning up a white cloud of dust.
It was warm rather than hot. The party-goers were a crowd not interested in drinking (this is unusual for kiwi 21st parties believe me.) They preferred to be alcohol-free and to just enjoy Lake Dunstan, boating and tearing around dirt roads in cars and on bikes. There was a jet boat, a jet ski and a wave rider as well as an assembly of motor bikes. They were very active.
However, I always think there's something a little ironic about enjoying the countryside - getting away from the city - in order to ride noisy machines. I was more interested in the landscape. I kept escaping from the hustle and bustle and conversation to find quiet spots in which to savour the deep silences, which in a place like that, are never far away.
Back at base, in the kitchen, there were many practical people who liked nothing better than to make salads and generally ensure plates were piled high. I have to say, I always feel slightly out of my depth in such situations. But, I hasten to add - I did my bit. Pulled my weight. Lent a hand.
As we travelled home, I enjoyed seeing the change from Central's brown and bare rocky landscape (Ruth Dallas has described it perfectly in a poem as 'moonscape') to the green paddocks of Lawrence and beyond. I said to ABM that if we ever moved to Central - as we are sometimes tempted to do - I would miss the ocean. I think I would also miss the colour green. Although there is always green to be seen in the shelter belts that scramble over the rocky landscape.
I was particularly struck by the poplars. Rows and rows of them, sinewy and lithe and elegantly painting strong, green stripes against the sky.
NOTE: This one isn't my photo.