Sunday, June 30, 2013

Internetless Week

Tomorrow begins another chapter of this journey: a week at a yoga retreat center overlooking Golden Bay. I've been looking forward to this for a long time, and although I have spent many hours in yoga centers on retreat, this one promises to be special. For the location, for the company of like-minded souls and for the Swami who resides there.

I met Swami Muktadharma in Baltimore many years ago and he impressed me deeply. My first encounter with him involved a set of rollerblades. He was sitting in the front room of Yama Studio and was asking his assistant to help him find a pair so that he might go skating down York Road, saffron robes trailing behind. I've intended to study with him in NZ ever since.

Anahata Yoga Center is off the grid, so there will be no internet service for me (or anyone else). It's been a long time since I've gone without my daily twitter fix, but somehow I'm looking forward to the break. Hopefully I'll have time to do some writing while I'm there.

In the meantime, stay well and know that you are all in my thoughts!

Dancing Light

A quiet day today, and one of the sunniest to date, I decided to take it easy and visit some very local sights. In my stubbornness to get moving after a late start, I chose the WRONG bike from the Barefoot Backpackers bicycle shed: this one was the only fully functional bike (by that I mean that the brakes worked AND the gears shifted on cue, instead of at random), however, it was a child's bike. This translated into excruciatingly painful thighs after only about 10 minutes of riding. To alleviate the pain I rode most of the way out of the saddle - the equivalent of using a variable speed Stairmaster for an hour straight. I earned my keep today.

The culmination of the trip was worth every drop of sweat: PuPu Springs is the clearest water source and river that I have ever seen. The Maori have names for the spirits of many things. One of them is Ko Hine Korako. She is the spirit of "springs and rivers of the Eastern seaboards" and said to be embodied by morning light dancing on the surface of moving waters. I met her today and am so pleased to know her now by name.

waters so clear that you can see 27 mitres down

The sound of bubbling underground springs

Sea level to clack height

I realize that it's been a bit quiet around here lately. Lots of moving of late: one night here, two nights there. This translates into a quick unpacking of essentials, instantaneous determination of the best things to take advantage of in a particular area and then absorbing as much as possible in a short amount of time. Days are shorter here: it's Winter and we just passed the Solstice. Anyway, I'm not complaining, but if I do this again, I will plan a longer stay and will spend more time in each place.

And on this trip I look forward to my travel days because I can see such vastly differing landscapes in a short span of time. Yesterday was the best example so far: I went from Wellington (basically sea level) to the mountains within hours. Then it was back to sea level again in Takaka on the northern end of the South Island. Sunrise on the ferry and sunset a few minutes from my hostel. Here's my journey in a few snaps:

crossing Cook Strait

clacks spotted between Picton and Nelson

While all snaps on this post were taken from moving vehicles, this one came from the drive between Nelson and Takaka... gives you some indication of the driver's speed!

Sunset near Takaka after crossing a mountain with the most switchbacks (and craziest driving) to date - reminded me of India for a moment

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Fantail

I met Luciano in the room with a view of distant snow-capped peaks. His back to the window, shrouded in black puffy down, crouched studiously over his computer, he was ready with a welcoming nod for all who entered the hostel's dining room. After a brief "hello," I quietly went about the business of setting up house (the near-daily ritual of unpacking, packing, and re-packing goods carrying the scent of familiarity), and preparing lunch. I didn't know it then, but Luciano was starving. Not for food. No, Luciano was resourceful. After all, he knew how to make espresso in the Australian Outback for Italian newlyweds gifted with bush walks courtesy of well-meaning relatives.

No. Luciano was starving for conversation. Or at least a chance to loose his verbiage on any willing ear. And what a bunch of words it was: full of wonderings, insight into the underbelly of international politics and friendships made and lost. His words were the equivalent of Huka Falls, fast, clear and bright. The cadence of his tongue lingered long after meaning faded.

I don't think that Luciano really cared if anyone was listening. I think that most people were charmed by his smile, his genial nature and his eyes: deep, black pools that might swallow you up in an act of merciful kindness. Others (myself included) were often willing to withstand a few extra minutes of chatter in light of his charm. And I was, indeed, charmed. And fascinated by this 25 year old Italian man in search of a life unrestricted by the confines of his homeland, which for him meant marriage, and having to answer to his father, the Doctor.

Luciano was searching for another way. A way that was honest and ideal and true. It's no wonder that we got along so well in spite of the years between us. Or maybe because of them. Because in that span of time I have learned at least one thing: how to listen. To others. To the river rippling over rocks. And to my heart.

So I listened to Luciano. And I offered a mirror so that he might see himself clearly, because he was a bit lost in a blur of daily worries. He didn't yet see what was plain to the rest of us: his talent for making people smile.

That Luciano was searching for love, there is no question, but he knew full well that love would find him regardless of the search. More pressing than love was his need for a job. His working holiday visa was used up during his year in the Outback and now he needed sponsorship. The local Presbyterian church was offering as much in exchange for elder care, but he doubted his ability to deal with the messy bits and was flat out unwilling to "sell his soul" to the church. He had only known the stigma of Roman Catholicism and was loathe to be part of any organisation wielding such vast socio-political power. All attempts to explain theological differences fell on deaf ears. 25 is an uncompromising age. I remember it well.

It was at 25 when I decided that I'd had enough of the seemingly endless cycle of love and heartache and a life defined by partnership. I cut loose the bonds of love and went into free fall, flitting about like the Fantail, and diving deep into the real of the unknown and into un-knowing. I have yet to land because, like Luciano and the Church, I am highly suspicious of the power that love wields. That, and I'm in search of a wider definition of love, one that doesn't involve selling my soul.

In Luciano I recognised familiar searching, longing for partnership and a mutual understanding that love can be found even in fleeting friendships like ours. I also recognised the price that we pay for our uncompromising natures: our stubbornness can blur the lines between the forest and the trees. Often what we seek is standing there, right in front of us, clear as the Waikato River, if only we choose to clear our sights of the ideal and focus on the real.

Yesterday, as I returned to the hostel in Taupo for my belongings, I met Luciano on his way out. Momentarily distracted by a text from a girl that he met the night before, he expressed worry about how to proceed, not wanting to confuse her with signals of friendship. With a twinge of jealousy, I told him to take it slowly (advice which I've never heeded). Then we embraced, momentarily compressing fluffy black down, and wished each other well.

On the way to gather my bags, the hostel caretaker, a woman about my age, asked if Luciano was putting the moves on me. "No," I replied, not wanting to limit the sentiment of our parting. "He's quite charming," she said with a mix of genuine concern and a hint of judgement. And for a moment I wondered about what might have been had I been willing to cross a straight and narrow line for the blurring of social norms. And left content with this unknowing.

I hope that you find what you are looking for, dear Luciano. I hope we all do.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Clacks spotted in Taupo!

My first day in Taupo was a bit of a wash. Hungover from the full moon, I think. Anyway, magic hour made up for it when I spotted more than a few clacks on distant snow-clad peaks.

Then, with beer and wine pouring freely, Italian, Scottish, Irish, German, New Zealand and American accents mingled in the communal kitchen. Now we're cooking with gas! This is what hostelling is all about.

same spot, in the morning with cloud hoovering over Lake Taupo

Near sundown, Lake Taupo, clacks in distance (you'll have to take my word for it)

Everything changes after dark

An afternoon dip in geothermal pools at the Polynesian Spa in Rotorua was so relaxing that I decided to return to soak up super moon rays after dark.

Everything changes after dark.

While the afternoon soak was shared with Asian couples, in the evening I found myself surrounded by large parties of New Zealanders. Blending in was out of the question, so I shifted into mermaid mode, gliding through steamy waters like Esther Williams in an Ed Wood film.

Needless to say, I was singled out by a chatty gentleman from Dunedin who sidled over to my quiet corner when his friends departed for cooler climes. Seemingly oblivious to the near-boiling sulphurous puddle, he proceeded to embark on an hour long diatribe that seamlessly connected the war in Afghanistan to dairy farming to Hokey Pokey ice cream (yet another endorsement for the treat which I have yet to try).

Meanwhile, I managed to avoid lobster syndrome by slithering to the teak sitting wall with each shift in subject. Perhaps this was his plan all along (which would explain the increasingly rapid subject changes). Or was he hoping that I might be wooed by the romantic setting and cemented in place by the minerals seeping through my pores? We'll never know. Departing with the "meeting a friend" excuse, I slipped right out of his hands.

After all, there's no hokey pokey allowed in the Polynesian geothermal pools ;-)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Just in case you don't see new posts here...

There are times when posting to this blog is difficult, but I can usually post to my google plus profile (I think that you can access it from this blog).

There may be other times when I can't post at all. At these times, if I have any internet access, I will usually be posting on twitter @DorothiesAll

Then there are those times (few and far between) when I have decided to go internet free. Those are very difficult days (as much as I hate to admit it).

"Perfect love comes softly, if at all."

Waikato Bus Trip Highlights:

Verdant rolling hills peppered with sheep and cattle: The cows must have velcro for hooves #PrecariouslyPerched

Bus tag: "Perfect love comes softly, if at all."

Like a box of birds

22 June Things that I am ever so grateful for (in chronological order):
1. The ferryman who replied, "Like a box of birds" when I asked how he was doing.
2. The creamy mushroom and aubergine tart purchased at the Waiheke ferry dock (36degree Cafe, you rock!)
3. Turquoise waters embraced by volcanic, oyster clustered rocks.
4. Rainstorms that pass by within minutes.
5. Lightweight wind proof rain gear and layers of clothing, removed and replaced several times over.
6. The wine-touring group who shouted, "Female power!" as I passed by on the coastal track.
7. My new moss coloured hiking boots, purchased from a perfect Kiwi gentleman (why didn't I ask for his number?!?)

8. Trees straight out of The Lorax and little birds the colour of Neil Finn's Les Paul.
9. Whittaker's Music Museum: an oasis at the end of a long journey. Filled with kind souls and kindred spirits, including a giant music box and New Zealand's oldest Steinway. Special note: Larry Whittaker plays a mean show tune.

10. A seat by the fire as I indulged in a lovingly prepared meal at the Oyster Inn, Oneroa: Lightly battered delicate white fish and thick, triple-fried chips, delicious local Pinot, cardamom-infused chocolate truffle. Thank you, Andy Harris and Sally Richardson of Stonecrop wines for the suggestion!

So good.
Have a listen to this magical music box from Whittaker's Music Museum

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Daily Flat White

Off in search of my daily flat white. Wonder what the message on top will be today? An image of the

Supermoon, perhaps? Stay posted!

Hills (and more hills)

Auckland is one hilly city. I have been up and down so many hills that I've forgotten what "flat" looks like (my daily flat white is the closest resemblance). Fantastic views today up close at Roundhead Studios / Sharondalier and from a great volcanic height: Mt. Eden/Maungawhau. Photos to follow...

Greetings from Auckland!

Auckland greeting: a double rainbow and Donovan on the radio. An auspicious beginning! Photos pending (if I can figure out how to coordinate my technology)...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Message if the day: Wing it!

Today I met with two friends of my father: one true New Zealander and one near-NZer. Both had great suggestions about things to do and see, and the gist overall was to just wing it. The reason being: more fun can be had when one is open and flexible during travel, especially in a country with highly variable weather.

When all was said and done and my head filled to overflowing with names like Takaka, Whangerei, Taupo, and Bulls, I was most intrigued by the list of foods not to be missed:

Green-lipped mussels ...the name evokes visions of cartoon-faced crustaceans
Marmite, yeasty spreadable substance, thick like tar
White bait ...tiny, translucent eel served in a fritter
Fish & chips ...try the blue cod
Pies ...flaky, filling meals, found in every town's bakery
Hokey Pokey ice cream ...left foot in
Peanut slabs ...chocolate + nuts = love
Pavlova ...creamy, fruity merengue
Feijoa juice ...aka Simply Squeezed pineapple-guava
Tui beer ...named after a native bird
Wine wine wine ...local, delicious & delightful (ill be keeping an eye out for Stonecrop and TwoPaddocks myself)