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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Notes on a peak
21/03/2008

Sarah took a heavy pack up the hill, both to keep our valuables safe (it's an isolated road) and for practice. At the top, the bench was a welcome opportunity to recover.

Places and people
Another sacred mountain
21/03/2008

In the morning we climbed to the Atene viewpoint (just outside the village of Atene or Athens.) At this point, the river Whanganui used to make a classic meander around this peak. At some point in the distant past, the river cut through the narrow neck of this oxbow lake, leaving this wide green valley.
The peak is called Puketapu. Puke is Maori for hill or mountain, and tapu is of course sacred or taboo. So this is another sacred hill.

Places and people
Culvert
20/03/2008

Just off the road is one of the large culverts cut by hand when the road was constructed. Seriously hard work!
We stopped early to enjoy the area, camping at the (free!) DOC site at Otumaire. We had it completely to ourselves. This is a friendly area; as people drove by they tooted at us, but fortunately stopped after it got dark.
Sadly, although this is a National Park, the possums were all around us, screaming and fighting the dark. Even so, we think we heard the shrill cry of the kiwi.

Places and people
Koriniti
20/03/2008

This village, named Corinth by the missionaries, was formerly a large Maori kainga (village) called Otukopiri. The marae, seen here from a bluff a little further down the river, showing its superb position, had two particularly well-maintained wharenui (meeting houses). One was Koriniti's own home; he was an important Chief in this area during the Pakeha settlement. The Anglican church was built in 1920.
Between Jerusalem and Korinit is the Moutoa Island, which was the scene of a major battle in 1864 when upriver Hau Hau warriors attacked. Iwi from down river fought them here, primarily to protect the mana of the river from their incursions, but in the process saving the lives of European settlers in Wanganui at the estuary.

Places and people
Continuous change
20/03/2008

The papa breaks off in sheets under the erosive power of water. You can see here the slabs of clay that have come off the walls and are being dissolved into the water.
This clay is cut away to form the sides of the road; when you see this you realise it's best not to hang around under the sheer bluffs. The road must get covered in slick mud when it rains.

Places and people
Walled streams
20/03/2008

This road takes us back into the steep, geologically young landscape we had seen on the Forgotten World Highway. Soft papa, pushed up from the sea about one million years ago, is being rapidly eroded by water. Here is the Motuaruhe Stream, which runs through these high white walls of the clay/rock.
This tributary is considerably wider than many, some of which are thin enfilades in the hills, with precipitous walls covered in obstinate bush that hangs down over the bare rock.

Places and people
Letter Boxes
20/03/2008

A feature of NZ rural areas is the letter boxes at the ends of roads and driveways, as houses may be quite a way off. Some people create ornate and amusing boxes, beloved of photographers, painters and post-card makers. This is one of the best we've seen.

Places and people
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

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