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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Jerusalem in the bush
20/03/2008, Whanganui River Road

Leaving Ohakune, we headed to Raetihi, from which the backroad known as the Whanganui River Road begins. The Whanganui itself is the longest navigable river in the country and a place of great history. The road runs alongside it, about half of it now sealed and a lot of work underway to seal the next section.
The first town after Pipriki (where the road proper begins) is Hiruharama, the Maori version of Jerusalem (originally a larger village known as Patiarero). In the later 1800's missionaries, particularly Roman Catholics, were very active in this area, and here the Frenchwoman Mother Aubert founded a school, orphanage and farm. This church was built in the 1890s, and is noted for its altar.
Jerusalem has another claim to fame. NZ's arguably greatest Pakeha poet is James K Baxter. He founded a commune here in the 1970's, and about 200 people congregated here. The poet was a fervent Roman Catholic, but also a great believer in free love and is believed to have fathered quite a few. He died in 1972 and the commune disbanded; his grave is in the village.

Places and people
The view from the mountain
19/03/2008, Mt Ruapehu

We spent two pleasant nights in the DOC site on the Mangawhero River, a couple of miles up the slope from Ohakune. There were lots of morepork (NZ owls) in the woods, giving their distinctive cry all through the night. On Wednesday we drove to the top of the road, which is the base for the To Turoa ski-field. It's not that big; the western fields above Whakapapa are much larger, but these are popular too. At this time of year, they are pretty much deserted, with lots of work being done as Autumn begins to draw in.
This is the view from just below the ski fields, looking South towards the central area of the North Island. It makes it look deceptively flat, but actually there seems to be nowhere in NZ from which you cannot see mountains. It's just that we're so high up, above the trees.

Places and people
Carrot with Pip
18/03/2008



Ohakune is the self-proclaimed carrot capital of NZ, and Pip had been excitedly waiting to revisit this monumental statement of the vegetable's importance.
The first market gardens in the area were established by several Chinese families back in 1925, helped by the railway, a late growing season, inexpensive land and a cold winter. (It's over 500m up, on the slopes of Ruapehu.) Much of the land was cleared by hand and explosives (the first bulldozer didn't get here until 1937) and the food was needed to feed troops. After the war, land was converted to rehabilitation farms for returning soldiers, but now the farms have been consolidated into less than a dozen large holdings. Although there is diversification, the carrot is still the most important crop.

Places and people
Sunset over Taranaki
18/03/2008, Ohakune

On Tuesday we drove South, probably our second longest single day (Christchurch/Nelson was longer), and our longest single motorway haul. We arrived at Ohakune in time to see this glorious sunset over the isolated volcano of Taranaki, which is over 100km away. Back on the Central Plateau, this time on the slopes of Mt Ruapehu.

Places and people
Green Fire Islands: total magic
17/03/2008, Auckland

Last night we went to Auckland's Aotea Centre to see the full performance of Green Fire Islands, the Maori/Celtic musical collaboration we had watched at WOMAD.
Wow! Fantastic and inspiring
The picture is the best of a bad lot from WOMAD; we were too far from the stage, and, crucially, all the musicians are moving around a lot. The project brings together top level traditional musicians from Eirann/Ireland and Aoteoroa/NZ to explore the sounds, music, songs and traditions of the two cultures. The 'story' is one of creation, fall from grace, conflict, lament and rebirth, and is a complex conversation of music, dance and poetry. There are rapid whirligigs, stately taiaha, amazing poi. Richard Nunns and others played Maori instruments that reflect and invigorate the sound of water, birds, the wind and echoed the haunting voice of Whirimako Black. The astonishing Nollaig Casey was a virtuoso on the fiddle. Donal Lunny, the Irish musician who directed the project (and was also behind the great Afro-Celt Sound System) was fantastic, and obviously completely blissed out by the success of the collaboration.
Yesterday being St Patrick's and the last night of the tour, some additional musicians joined in after the end of the performance proper: Anika Moa, King Capeesi (a Samoan rapper) and most famous (though musically least interesting!) Tim and Neil Finn. Definitely a Kiwi cream of the crop evening, and their participation showed the impact of this project on NZ musicians.
They promise a film, and hopefully a CD, which we can't wait for. Definitely one of the peak experiences of our trip. To find out more, see www.greenfireislands.com

Places and people
Sunset Beach
16/03/2008, Port Waikato

The northward route comes to a halt at the Waikato river. We turned into Port Waikato, at the river mouth. This small settlement is a somewhat sad mixture of extravagant Aucklander second homes, and rather run-down smaller properties.
There is a truly spectacular beach, beloved of surfers. (This whole coast is dude heaven, especially Raglan which has a world-famous 'left hand break'. We think this describes the way the waves curl, but we're only guessing.)
The sun sets, as you can see, directly ahead. We sat on a bench, eating our dinner (lovely local mince cooked by Pip) and watching the show. Then we drove off looking a for a good spot. We weren't very successful, and ended up driving halfway across New Zealand to our previous spot at Miranda Beach. It took less than two hours though, and we were in bed by half past ten.

Places and people
More limestone
16/03/2008, Ask Peter Jackson

The road from Kawhia heads up towards Raglan. We didn't go into the town itself but turned right and left across the main road that connects to Hamilton. The back roads twist through a series of tiny places with long names, up and down over the curving whale-backs of limestone. The stations are huge, with sheep and goats scattered across the thin grass, but there are marae in each fold in the hills.
The small village of Limestone Downs sits on a great escarpment; looking south there is a great weald, a flat valley running down to the Tasman. North, the land is crumpled and folded. Rocks and bluffs loom alongside the road, sculpted by the wind and rain into shadowy faces that sneer at the passer-by. In places, huge overhangs have formed into eyebrows, or yawning mouths. This is one small segment of an escarpment maybe a mile long, a site where Peter Jackson came to film some segment of the Lord of the Rings.

Places and people
Kawhia harbour
16/03/2008

Kawhia had no power; fortunately we could buy some very fresh flounder from a local fishing vessel, which we fried up and ate for lunch in the park. As you can see, there are yachts on bouys here, but unsurprisingly there are many warnings posted about the sand bars.
The harbour here is huge, a many lobed inland sea. The entrance, however, is tiny, and Cook missed it completely. Many generations before, the Polynesians arriving on the canoe Tainui had found it. The chief and tohunga refused to land elsewhere, believing in a vision of their landing on this coast; they cruised up and down until they recognised the entry and came through to claim the area. The canoe is supposed to be buried in the hills above the town, behind the marae.

Places and people
The road to Kawhia
16/03/2008

We retraced our steps to Ta Anga and turned inland. This is also a rather splendid main road, with fantastic views across to Ruapehu and Tongariro. We turned off on to the unsealed Hauturuturu (haw-tru) road, which twists 35km through the hills. And they are fantastic hills, filled with limestone outcrops, and secret streams meandering through valleys.
Most of this road we didn't see another soul. Until we crossed the path of the Kawhia safari, a two-day four-wheel drive club event. Fortunately, they stopped off at Te Koraha a tiny hamlet on the road and we were alone again.

Places and people
North again
15/03/2008, Waiharakeke


15/3

We left New Plymouth after finally sorting out some business. While we've been away the UK government has introduced new money laundering regulations which mean our business must be registered with HMRC for supervision. Just in case we are dangerous terrorists or funding the drug trade! The deadline for these blasted forms is 1 April, when, of course, we will still be here. So we've downloaded forms and checked information and blah, blah. Finally, we sent these off registered post from New Plymouth, and they should get to Southend in time!
Looking at the map there are lots of little roads that wiggle up the coast towards Auckland. Rather than hammer up the motorway for the four hour trip, we decided to go the long way. The first bit of the side roads runs through gorgeous farming country, and could be called the pukeko route; these stupid birds are everywhere.
We had aimed to get to Kawhia (pronounced ka-fee-ah) or maybe even as far as Raglan for the night. However, the bridge at Waiharakeke was destroyed and you cannot get through. It's been out since early January and there's no confirmed date for completion. It must be driving the local people mad. Anyway, we stopped for the night beside the harbour in a beautiful, serene spot.

Places and people
Susannah Baca
14/03/2008

The lovely Afro-Peruvian singer gave a great set. So did Black Grace, the NZ contemporary dance troupe, reminding us why we like such performances so much.

Places and people
Election year
14/03/2008

Helen Clarke (NZ prime minister) opened the event. This was remarkable, at least to Sarah, on at least three separate accounts. Can you imagine Gordon Brown kicking off Glastonbury? Still less, with opening remarks in Gaelic? Yet she gave several comments in Maori, incidentally the only Pakeha speaker from the platform to acknowledge the iwi and the powhiri (welcome) with which they had started the proceedings. Then she went for a wander around the stalls, greeting several craft people she obviously knew. That in itself isn't surprising but the incredibly light security was refreshing. NZ is not exempt from the various threats against all state leaders yet there she was. Good stuff.

Places and people

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