Once, when I told a four-year old what my name was, he said, "That's not a name, that's a letter of the alphabet".

Friday, 27 February 2015

Staying on the Road South - Part Two

Lake Monowai - its character appeared to be more reclusive than the other two lakes we'd visited that day. Maybe because it is a bit off the beaten track. The lakes featured in this post (and the previous) may all look the same but believe me, they have very different personalities.

On this trip south, my sister was determined to stop off at places she hadn't seen since childhood - if ever. Lake Monowai was one of of these.
It is a boomerang-shaped lake and we could only see part of it before it took off round the corner into the mountains. Popular with fishermen, campers and trampers, it is off the tourist trail and one gets the distinct impression that it's happy to keep it that way.
There is a free DOC camping ground there. I imagine it would be extremely peaceful - but bring insect repellent to ward off those pesky sandflies. A suit of armour, or bee keeper's regalia, or a fencing costume - or even a simple balaclava and gloves - would be even better!
On the way into the lake we passed the place where a small hydroelectric power station is situated, at the junction to the rivers Monowai and Waiau. Built in 1925, it is one of NZ's oldest power stations.

My auntie and me by the historic Clifden swing bridge - a feat of engineering. (The bridge, that is, although my late parents - and indeed, my grandparents on behalf of my auntie - may have argued that we both are too!) 

Lake Hauroko - mysterious, moody 

A long road (most of it shingle / gravel) that led off the main highway, eventually took us all the way to Lake Hauroko, surrounded by native bush and holding tightly to its secrets. There are burial grounds in the locality, so it is a place that is tapu (sacred) to Maori.
We didn't linger after making our greetings.

Memorial Library, Tuatapere

Next stop was the town of Tuatapere - birthplace of me and my six siblings. Every small town in New Zealand has a war memorial (as in other countries, I'm sure) to honour the dead in the First and Second World Wars. However this may be the only war memorial that also serves as a library.

Otautau Hotel

Our last stop for the day was the Central Southland town of Otautau. We stayed the night in the hotel here after enjoying one of the most delicious pizzas (made on the premises) that we've ever tasted, we reckon.

Otautau, the heart of Southland, is a place that is important to our family for more than one reason and on more than one level ... Happy, sad and where a missing piece (or pieces) to a family tree puzzle may be held.

It was good to spend time in this town.  For me, its sense of pride and friendly, welcoming nature is the memory that remains the strongest.

There is a lot more to tell about our trip - family tree moments, the revival of memories and even some mishaps; mostly funny. But (for now) what happens on the road, stays on the road.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

February Flurry (Part One)

gentians from Robert's parents' garden 

We were treated to Central Otago's warmth again when we travelled through to Queenstown to visit Robert's parents on Waitangi weekend. I left my camera behind there, the photos on it yet to be downloaded, so the gentians from their garden (taken with the Iphone) will have to be the only souvenir of that stay, for now.

Lawyers Head, Dunedin

shades of blue - St Kilda looking out to White Island

so much depends

We are getting a self-contained flat built under our house, resulting in an assortment of building paraphernalia - wheelbarrows and gravel, timber, tools, pipes ... When the builder leaves, the gumboots and upside down wheelbarrows are abandoned in situ, looking exhausted.


Last week my sister and I went on a roadie south, taking our aunt with us.

on the road to Te Anau

Once again, Iphone  photos to tell the story rather than the Canon ... but the phone does a pretty good job. I also had an Ipad to take photos with ... so was pretty well-equipped (thanks to another of my sisters, who keeps me equipped with these devices, bless her).

Takitimu mountains - mountains my family (whanau) claim as part of our ancestral story (whakapapa). What looks like snow on the screes is sunlight reflecting off sheer rock.

protected scientific research area featuring bog pine and moss (the grey plant carpeting the ground is a spongy, dry species of moss). This area is located down the road a bit from the little town of Mossburn, so it'd be a safe bet that this moss is what Mossburn is named after?

Lake Te Anau - taken from a look-out on the road to Milford Sound

After arriving in Te Anau we quickly settled into our motel (which was a cottage in an attractive setting of trees, but due to misleading information when I'd booked, was short on beds for the three of us. My sister and I were going to have to share a fold-out divan. Our elderly aunty was okay; she had the double bed. Annoying, especially considering what we paid.) Never mind, we couldn't think about that just then, as we were keen to get on the road and travel to Milford Sound and back.

Eglinton Valley - one of my favourite sights on the Milford road. Parts of Lord of the Rings were shot here, but for me, it is land that holds more mana as Aotearoa landscape and home-ground, than as background for a film.

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound - the mountain we came to see

It is always a nerve-wracking drive, the one that takes you through the sheer mountain-face via the rather primitive, rough granite-walled Homer Tunnel, The tunnel was opened in the 1950's. The road through is 1.2 kilometres-long and is one-way.
We were following a nervous tourist who kept putting the brakes on (to add to the anxiety, the road bends and goes downhill) which was frustrating my sister's desire to reach the other end as soon as possible. Because of the bend, it isn't possible to 'see the light at the end of the tunnel' for quite some time into the journey. (At the back of our minds was that we still had the return trip to make).
At least now tunnel traffic is controlled by lights at each end and the road is sealed. When we went through it as kids with our father driving, it was a gravel road with no guarantee that you wouldn't meet a vehicle coming in the opposite direction; you just had to trust that drivers would obey allocated times on the board at each end.
Milford Sound is notorious for sandflies, a tiny biting insect which go for the blood vessels close to the skin - wrists, ankles, hands and faces; causing highly irritating, itchy bites which swell; and turn into sores from being scratched.
There are all sorts of complicated deterrents, such as eating Marmite or Vegemite (a dark yeast-y sandwich spread popular in New Zealand) or taking vitamin B tablets, or mixing dettol with baby oil ... but long-sleeves and trousers are the most effective.
Sandflies really go for the fresh, sweet blood of visitors; probably because over time, residents tend to develop a resistance to sandflies (must be some sort of survival mechanism).
Needless to say we didn't linger, only briefly stopping for a photo and to go to the loo, before we turned tail and set off for the return trip back to Te Anau.

old fisherman's crib at north end of Te Anau on Milford Road 

Te Anau waterfront

Next day we strolled the shops and waterfront, stopping for morning-tea in a cafe playing lively South American music (we asked what the music was and were told by the Italian waiter that it was Chilean, as the place was owned by Chileans). I just love how cosmopolitan NZ is.
We then set off for Lake Manapouri, which is just down the road from Te Anau, stopping on the way at the bird park. (Peaceful and interesting).


couldn't spot her - probably asleep inside her hollow log - but the info. on New Zealand's little native owl was interesting

my sister overcoming her fear of bridges ... especially swing bridges ...

No surprise really but this trip was starting to become all about mountains, lakes and rivers. All about our turangawaewae.

just as the Takitimus are our maunga, the Waiau is our awa (river) Here at Rainbow Reach the Upper Waiau leaves Lake Te Anau and enters Lake Manapouri. Love its strong, deep green.

waiting for lunch - Manapouri

Pearl Harbour, Lake Manapouri - where the Upper Waiau leaves Manapouri 

Takitimus, on the Blackmount road


Friday, 30 January 2015

These January Days

succulents defying this summer's lack of water

Aggie basking on our bare lawn. She lies between stone steps that lead to the clothes-line. I think they look a bit like rocks or islands with the tide out. 

Summer's sun and wind have sapped our lawn of green.
A steam train doing a novelty run the other day, caused over twenty grass fires.

It has been for us a month of sprucing up the garden; pruning back over-grown areas and untidy corners.
Also, we've been tidying and clearing, ready for a build. We are converting the end of our very long garage into a self-contained flat. After a frustrating wait of almost a year for the plans to be completed, at last we are underway.

From March on we are expecting two lots of family from overseas, along with offspring. For quite some time, our skinny, long house is going to have to take on the properties of a fat teapot. Cheerfully so.

I was figuring out the other day that this doorknob from my childhood home (the house itself long-gone) must be about 100 years old. As a child, my hand reached out for it many times. Attached to the inside of an outside door, it allowed me entrance into the wider outside world. It is still outside. Where it belongs.

After taking a month off, it is time to start writing again.
Poetry seems easier to achieve than prose at this stage. The poems have been arriving relatively effortlessly (although the wastepaper basket full of paper-balls from all the discarded drafts I've done for each poem, makes a lie of that statement).

Meanwhile, my novel's plot and characters have been left hanging. Poor things. Little do they know that when I do eventually get back to them, I'm going to mercilessly shake the plot all about in order to see who falls out.

For my last two books, I used a laptop to write the poems, cutting out any need to transcribe.
However, the process of writing by hand has again become my preferred method. This has been helped by a recent purchase. A purple compendium. Note: not to be confused with, or for the purposes of, 'purple prose'.

Writing outside is one of life's pleasures. And it's free.

These January days of no sleeves and bare legs. Tanned, bare feet. Walking on cool, wet sand.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Feeling Fine

Christmas at my in-law's is always a splendid affair.

Every Christmas, despite warm, summer temperatures, a roast mutton meal is always served (above, new potatoes and peas to go with)

with snowball turnips in white, parsley sauce

and gravy in the Johnny Walker jug

and pavlova to follow (as well as Christmas pudding, fruit salad, trifle ... etc.) This year, the pav. was a three-layered extravaganza! The photo above was taken before Marg had added the third layer.

Crown Range, on the way to Wanaka

This year Robert and I went over the Crown Range to Wanaka for a couple of days.

Lake Wanaka

verge-side garden, Wanaka

looking towards Southern Alps behind Wanaka

Some of you may be familiar with the Southland towns of Te Anau and Waikaia.
Te Anau is a mountain-lake town and Waikaia is a small Northern-Southland town with a Central Otago landscape and temperatures.
Somehow Wanaka reminds me of both of these places. To me, it is Te Anau meets Waikaia (or the other way around).
Even though Wanaka is on the Tourist Trail and a popular summer-holiday spot for kiwis, thankfully it still manages to maintain its small-town New Zealand character.

While in the area, we went for a walk around Bendigo - a historical site with relics from the mining for gold and quartz that was carried out here in the 1860's and '70's.

local fauna

and flora ...

manuka - the air was alive with the industrious buzz of bees busily gleaning pollen from the flowers

a large display of lichen (scabweed)

part of a man-made road cut from the cliff when this area was being mined for quartz 

The hot, summery air of Central Otago seeps into my body like a tonic.

Now that we are back home in Dunedin with its refreshing, coastal breeze, I find I'm not missing the heat of Central Otago as much as I usually do when we arrive back. The fact that this year Dunedin is actually having a summer, is certainly helping. Long may it continue.


'how this all harbours light'