On our way to Orepuki, Jenny and I stopped at the fishing-port town of Riverton for a bit of a look at what was on offer as far as the shops went.
We found a second-hand bookshop called The Cosy Book with a gift shop next door.
When we asked about the buildings that the shops are in, we were told that they are probably the oldest shops in New Zealand.
From Cosy Book, to Cosy Nook.
Jenny had never seen the little cove called Cosy Nook. She was suitably impressed, even if a little wind-swept.
We were on another 'JnK Rolling' road trip; delivering and picking up poetry in the southern coastal town of Orepuki (which also just happens to be my old home-town, having spent the first ten years of my life there).
Two Orepuki-ites, Penny and Brian, have restored an old Orepuki house (which co-incidentally was where my great-aunt; Aunty Mary Simpson nee Hirst; used to live) and have successfully turned it into an attractive and popular cafe called, Orepuki Beach Cafe.
This is where Jenny and I were reading.
Penny offered us a complimentary meal - whatever we wanted to choose from the menu. How generous. We both chose the flounder, which didn't disappoint. Delicious. They've got a gifted chef at Orepuki Beach Cafe.
People had started to drift in. A quiet buzz started up with the friendly, un-pretentious atmosphere that I associate with Southland.
Then it was time for the Open Mic part of the evening to begin.
Below are photos of a sample of the ten or so readers who took part.
The Open Mic part was then followed by Jenny and myself as featured poets.
One couple had come over from Te Anau, someone else had driven there from Invercargill. The atmosphere was lively and entertaining.
Once again - as we have found at all of these heartland-in-the-hinterland readings we've organised - the response was positive and the poetry great.
The cafe has become a repository for Orepuki's social history, with information available for customers to read. Orepuki has a history of gold-mining and other industries such as sawmilling.
On the wall is a large photo taken at Orepuki's Jubilee in 1952. Among the people shown in the photo, are my late parents. It was nice feeling that they were there with me.
It was weird for me 'returning home' - it always weird going back to this place I once considered was my whole world. (Part of me still believes that about Orepuki).
The attachment to this place that I formed when I was small, goes extremely deep. Not surprising when you consider how many of my ancestors hailed from here.
looking towards Te Waewae Bay with the Princess Range in the background
Very cool to wake up in Orepuki. Because there hasn't really been much in the way of accommodation for many years, it was the first time I'd stayed in Orepuki overnight since I was a child.
Memories of mornings as a child flooded in. I remembered Dad's morning factory-run, driving the tractor to the local dairy factory with a wagon-load of milk cans behind. I remembered Mum getting us ready to go to school. I remembered walking to school, taking for granted how beautiful the surrounding country-side, how spectacular the view out over Foveaux Strait.
The people who still live here - lifelong residents and in-comers alike - along with such places as the Orepuki Beach Cafe and the tavern, are what keeps Orepuki's bruised old heart beating.
Quartz Cottage is a great place to stay in Orepuki. (Recommend it!) I awoke to a still, peaceful morning that the sunlight was kindly painting-in. Magical.
Last night it was as loud as a train. In the morning it sounded even louder. The sound woke me up in the early hours and once I homed in (pun intended) on its loud roar, I couldn't get back to sleep.
looking towards the Takitimu mountains
... all that's left standing of the railway station platform where the steam train regularly called in to Orepuki station
After an astonishing, very yummy and generous 'Orepuki Grill' for breakfast ...
... it was time to bid Orepuki adieu.
Jenny was smitten with my old home-town and says she's coming back. Everybody knows that it won't be too long before I'm back. Just try and keep me away.