Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to Base with Fond Memories

Arrived back on Sunday. Luggage turned up a week into the trip. Jetstar couriered it to our motel in Wanaka. By then, we'd realised that it was much more comfortable traveling with only one small case between us, a good lesson for the future. Less is more.

I was stunned by the glory of New Zealand. What struck me first was the wild beauty of the mountains. Australia's mountains are all very old, rounded plateus, weathered over aeons. The bush here is beautiful, but mostly shades of brown. In New Zealand, the mountains are high and sharp. The land is painted all the shades of green. I expected those features from watching "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. What I didn't expect and hadn't read about was the fragrance of the country. Everywhere outside the cities and towns, the land smells beautiful. The scent of fragrant ferns and wildflowers bathes the breeze, infuses the bush, seeps into the car.

We came to the beach at Moeraki to view the giant boulders. As we walked back across the beach, I saw Michael O'Brien. I complimented him on his kilt and he told me that in fact what he was wearing was a filimore (my approximation at spelling)--a precursor of the kilt, and not, as is the kilt, tailored. He told me he'd made all his clothes by hand without the use of a sewing machine. He said he was a bookbinder: not an occupation one encounters every day. I asked if I could take a photo of him and he agreed. I asked if it was OK to put it on a photo sharing website and he said it wouldn't be the first time.

Most of his life, Michael O'Brien told me, he'd been trying to find a community of like-minded folks, who believed that consumerism was to be rejected, a community of tradespeople who could live together and trade in their services and skills and be self-sufficient. He said that the world's resources were finite and unsustainable. He told me he'd lived in Auckland, the most populous place in New Zealand and not found one other person who thought as he did, but in the town where he now lives there are many others who think as he does. I didn't like to show my ignorance of the local geography by asking which town he was referring to. I let it go, shook hands, exchanged names and walked back to the car. We still had a long drive before we could rest for the night.

The next town was Oamaru, a place I didn't know much about, but the sign to "Victorian Oamaru" drew me in the direction of the arrow and the stately white buildings which lined the street. There I saw the signboard, in the photo. The only regret I have about that day was that I didn't take another photo of Michael O'Brien. The one I got is a little out of focus, although I think the exposure, the colours, the background are satisfying, and Michael's posture reveals something of his personality. I did upload Michael's photo to Flickr & someone who saw it told me about this Youtube video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSRcyh0XLao .

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