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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  1. Wow qotn! It looks as though NZ has got the lot.

    Lupins on the beach, fantastic mountains and look at the skies and the colours of those ferns. The trees at Lake Wanaka with the kayaks look very interesting, I don't recognise them.

    Michael O'Brian seems to have the right idea, we could do with a lot more of this in the world. I'm glad he has found a place that is heading in such a direction. Thanks very much for showing us these QOTN. Marvellous!

  2. Thanks for your comments, john. Yes, I was astounded by the scenery and skies in New Zealand. I'm not sure what those trees are on Lake Wanaka either; I'll ask a Kiwi mate of mine if he can identify them for me.

    I think I was lucky to meet Michael. When You travel it's very common to meet other tourists and hotel staff, but it's not often you meet someone with such an unusual story, living an examined life.

  3. qotn, your back and you have your luggage!!
    New Zealand is really gorgeous, and Michael does sound interesting, a back to basics kind of person.

  4. I missed you mention the examined life.

    For the longest time I had a magnet on the fridge that said

    the unexamined life is not worth living.

    something like that, sadly the magnet is long gone...

  5. Yes Penny, who did write that? Not sure.

    But I'm glad I examined my blog today. Some bed & breakfast in Virginia has been using it to post ads. My god. Surely there are more highly trafficked, lucrative areas of the Internet on which to advertise.

  6. queenofthenile,
    I happened upon you at John's.
    We both liked the red rock so I decided to follow you over here.
    What beauty you have captured here.
    I have been wanting to visit New Zealand for ever. Every South African does - last hope in a way.
    A friend of mine immigrated there some time ago and returned 2 years later.
    When I asked her why she said the light - the light was different to the light that shone in Africa and she just could no longer cope with it.
    And yet the light I see in your images is absolutely magical. And I loved the way you captured the scents of the land.
    So please I happened here.

  7. Hi Su,

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Yes, NZ left me gaping. Almost had an accident driving over the Southern Alps on a wet road when I looked at the glory all around me. Fishtailed 3 times, but managed to right the car. Luckily for us, mine was the only car on the road at that time, or I wouldn't have written the blog entry you read.

    The light is magical, you're right, and also the perfume of the country.

    When I was younger, never thought of crossing the ditch (the Tasman Sea) to visit. Too close, too mundane. Everyone speaks English. What's the point? But now, I really want to go back. Do a long walk when I can.

    Interesting what your friend said about the light. Something we don't think about until we encounter something totally different. Very poetic, that thought: the light she "could no longer cope with. . ." I'd like to know more about the light in South Africa and how it's different to that in NZ.

    BTW, did you see "Disgrace" with John Malkovich? Based on the novel of the same name by JM Coetzee, born in South Africa, but now an Australian. Love to hear what you thought of it.

    Thanks again for coming round!

  8. Hi Queen,

    Well I have just been soaking in the magic of your images again.
    I loved the ferns and forest - so hot and dry here currently.
    The 2nd image - is that a dam or a lake neighbouring the vineyard?
    The 5th image is somewhere I have to go - please tell me more.
    And that huge round rock on the beach - that is stunning - the way it landed there and nestled into the sand.

    About the light - I don't know what she meant. At the time I imagined she meant the intensity of the light but now I realise I was just making it up.

    Disgrace - no I did not see it and I have the strangest foible of avoiding south african writers. No idea why - there are some very gifted ones out there.

  9. Hi Su,

    Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. I've been distracted with my photography lately and barely look at my emails. My blog languishes. And I spend hours on my photos: taking them, messing with them, uploading them to Flickr & checking out the photos of other members.

    Thanks for coming back to look at the photos. Now, I'm ashamed to say that I can't remember exactly where I took that 5th photo, of the waterfall. It was somewhere on the South Island of NZ and I think it may have been somewhere on the road between Te Anau and the east coast. (I do remember stopping the car and taking the 5 minute walk to the waterfall.) In any case, NZ is just full of beauty. Anywhere you are, that's where you'll see it.

    As far as the boulder is concerned, it's just one of the many on the beach there at Moeraki, (see the photo above it) which are of volcanic origin, were buried in the cliffs, and as the cliffs are eroded, pop out and are strewn (over many, many years) on the beach.

    I can understand what you say about avoiding writers who write from the same background. Sometimes it's just too painful, at least that's how I find it. I'm happy to read about the experiences of someone from an exotic culture but not one too close to home.

    For example, growing up I went to many Greek engagements,kitchen teas, weddings and christenings. I could nearly recite the Greek Orthodox service myself. (A little exaggeration here, but you know what I mean.)

    Some people I know (including my son) loved the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". I could not stomach it. It made appear quaint and pleasantly comical the culture that I'd grown up rebelling against. It brought back the angst of my teenage years and all the disagreements with my mother.

    Another example of my reluctance to dredge up my experience relates to a novel that's become very popular here over the last year: "The Slap" by Christos Tsiolakis, a Greek-Australian. I dutifully reserved it and got it from the local library after a couple of weeks wait, and then didn't manage to force myself to finish it in the three weeks allowed. Instead, I read another novel by an Irish writer, Niall Williams. So after three weeks I tried to renew the loan, but, as I knew would be the case, the library wouldn't allow it. It was too popular and others were on the waiting list. For me,though, it was a relief. (I do hate giving up half-way through a novel, but it was a pleasure with this one.) The culture, the dialogue, the characters: too close to home.

    So, thank you again for dropping by. And thanks for reminding me about my poor abandoned blog. I have been germinating the idea for my next one. In fact, the idea is already fully-formed and a month old, but I still haven't birthed it. Very uncomfortable. If I don't get it out soon, my body will just reabsorb it. (Oh dear, sorry about all this. Must stop now. Hope you'll stop by for the christening.)


  10. Oh, sorry Su, forgot, the lake is Lake Wanaka. A magic lake by a nice little town in the south of the South Island.