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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.

Originally uploaded by Waynem.

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.


Becky said...

Beautiful photos, Chief!! Every time I've been in Cali, I've been struck by the amazing color of the flowers. I'm like, what color was THAT, as we go zipping by.


Jan said...

HOw NICE to meet someone else who is honest enough to declare feeling slightly out of her depth in other people's kitchen situations...I know EXACTLY what you mean!
Have A MERRY CHRISTMAS and look forward tp more contact after the holidays.
Good Wishes from Jan.

Camille said...

yeah for "californian poppies." I had no idea they grew anywhere else, especially in a place as exotic as New Zealand. They are ubiquitous here, and I generally take them for granted. I am glad you appreciate the little buggers.

DebR said...

It looks like a beautiful place!

Pip said...

My husband's father has just bought a section at Bannockburn! He's going to be building a barn on it with accommodation above. In April we'll be having a barn dance/harvest/60th birthday celebration there for him, however my husband and I will also be there in early January, after we've spent New Years in Golden Bay...

Catherine said...

The wild thyme fragrance is beautiful, but I believe it is regarded almost as a pest weed. I think it might have arrived with the Chinese gold miners. I think it would be a brave soul who would hire a camping ground for a party (or was there an inside hall?) with the weather we are having in Christchurch at the moment. Torrential rain today. Maybe it is drier in Central

mcdinzie said...

Well I am impressed you were in a family situation and didn't have a drop of booze to drink to survive!!!! I would never have done that!!!

Nice place :)

pepektheassassin said...

Doesn't look much like my great American desert, does it? Fun post! Nice pictures, too.

chiefbiscuit said...

becky - I just love those poppies ... the colour is so brilliant and deep.

jan - Glad to have company! (Does not liking to lend a hand in someone else's kitchen make us bad people?)

camille - Oh yes I certainly do appreciate the little buggers! ;)

debr - Around there is certainly different and special, I think.

pip - Glad to meet you! I'll look out for the number-plate!

catherine - it is probably a pest - it's everywhere - but I love it as it reminds me of summer so much.

mcdinzie - I have to resort to relying on my wits!

pepek - That's why i thought it was so funny to call it the Heart of the Desert! ;) I knew my American buddies would find it rather funny.

Jan said...

I just feel " Oh dear I've put that in the wrong place!" OR " Oh dear should I be cutting this (meat potato apple wotever ) like this ?" and other folk's kitchens are always so organised and mine so isn't!!

chiefbiscuit said...

jan - Yep, that's just what I think too.

pepektheassassin said...

I wish you a Happy Christmas, my friend. It has been a good year, and you have made it all the better! Thanks for your friendship--looking forward to 2007!

chiefbiscuit said...

pepek - Thanks - caught this comment Christmas eve when I checked back. Ditto the comments you made, and You have a great Christmas too.


'how this all harbours light'